Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/53

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47
LADY ELEANORE'S MANTLE.

'whatever the heralds may pretend, a dead beggar must have precedence of a living queen. King Death confers high privileges.'

These remarks were interchanged while the speakers waited a passage through the crowd, which had gathered on each side of the gateway, leaving an open avenue to the portal of the Province House. A black slave in livery now leaped from behind the coach, and threw open the door; while at the same moment Governor Shute descended the flight of steps from his mansion, to assist Lady Eleanore in alighting. But the Governor's stately approach was anticipated in a manner that excited general astonishment. A pale young man, with his black hair all in disorder, rushed from the throng, and prostrated himself beside the coach, thus offering his person as a footstool for Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe to tread upon. She held back an instant; yet with an expression as if doubting whether the young man were worthy to bear the weight of her footstep, rather than dissatisfied to receive such awful reverence from a fellow-mortal.

'Up, sir,' said the Governor, sternly, at the same time lifting his cane over the intruder. 'What means the Bedlamite by this freak?'

'Nay,' answered Lady Eleanore playfully, but with more scorn than pity in her tone, 'your Excellency shall not strike him. When men seek only to be trampled upon, it were a pity to deny them a favor so easily granted—and so well deserved!'

Then, though as lightly as a sunbeam on a cloud, she placed her foot upon the cowering form, and extended her hand to meet that of the Governor. There