A prominent merchant in St. Paul, Minnesota, Joseph Forepaugh, built an elaborate Victorian mansion for his family; but success begat more misery than happiness. Forepaugh had a tryst with their Irish housemaid, Molly, making her great with child. When confronted with his infidelity by his wife, he swore off the affair and he moved the family to Europe to avoid a scandal. Molly, distraught and alone, hung herself before her good name could become ruined by her indiscretion. Joseph Forepaugh moved the family back to the St. Paul area after a few years away and built his loyal wife another mansion. But, he was so haunted by the sad death of his young lover Molly, he developed insomnia and eventually took his own life in the darkest hours of the night. The poem takes place on one of these endless nights of his heartbroken vigil. Joseph and Molly’s ghosts are often seen haunting the mansion, drifting disconsolately through the walls.