Anthony Sorel is a poet who lives in a remote cabin in the mountains of southern Ireland. He traveled there some years ago in an attempt to purify himself — to make his soul as simple as those of the native inhabitants. He has a theory that the faeries of Irish folklore are real — not in a literal sense, but rather the faeries one sees are a manifestation of one’s own emotion.
Anna Quartermaine is one of the natives, but not of the simple peasant class Anthony idolizes. She’s wealthy, well traveled, and anglicized. She’s loved by all men and she enjoys all men’s attention, but it’s not until Anthony arrives that she finds herself in love. Malachi, Anthony closest friend, warns him of the dangers women pose to poets. Anthony is at once smitten by Anna, but he tries to break away, at last deciding to leave the village and seek a new hermitage elsewhere.
The night before his departure, Anthony is visited by what he takes to be a faery in the guise of Anna, who beckons him to stay and love her. His resistance spent, he gives in. In the morning, Anthony discovers that the spirit actually was Anna. Disgusted at the loss of his ideal, he stabs her to death with a kitchen knife.