Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/65

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59
LADY ELEANORE'S MANTLE.

diately ascended the staircase, but, on the first landing-place, was arrested by the firm grasp of a hand upon his shoulder. Looking fiercely up, with a madman's impulse to struggle with, and rend asunder his opponent, he found himself powerless beneath a calm, stern eye, which possessed the mysterious property of quelling frenzy at its height. The person whom he had now encountered was the physician, Doctor Clarke, the duties of whose sad profession had led him to the Province House, where he was an infrequent guest in more prosperous times.

'Young man, what is your purpose?' demanded he.

'I seek the Lady Eleanore,' answered Jervase Helwyse, submissively.

'All have fled from her,' said the physician. 'Why do you seek her now? I tell you, youth, her nurse fell death-stricken on the threshold of that fatal chamber. Know ye not, that never came such a curse to our shores as this lovely Lady Eleanore?—that her breath has filled the air with poison?—that she has shaken pestilence and death upon the land, from the folds of her accursed mantle?'

'Let me look upon her!' rejoined the mad youth, more wildly. 'Let me behold her, in her awful beauty, clad in the regal garments of the pestilence! She and Death sit on a throne together. Let me kneel down before them!'

'Poor youth!' said Doctor Clarke; and, moved by a deep sense of human weakness, a smile of caustic humor curled his lip even then. 'Wilt thou still worship the destroyer, and surround her image with fantasies the more magnificent, the more evil