Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/67

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61
LADY ELEANORE'S MANTLE.

'My throat!—my throat is scorched,' murmured the voice. 'A drop of water!'

'What thing art thou?' said the brain-stricken youth, drawing near the bed and tearing asunder its curtains. 'Whose voice hast thou stolen for thy murmurs and miserable petitions, as if Lady Eleanore could be conscious of mortal infirmity? Fie! Heap of diseased mortality, why lurkest thou in my lady's chamber?'

'Oh, Jervase Helwyse,' said the voice—and as it spoke, the figure contorted itself, struggling to hide its blasted face—'look not now on the woman you once loved! The curse of Heaven hath stricken me, because I would not call man my brother, nor woman sister. I wrapt myself in pride as in a mantle, and scorned the sympathies of nature; and therefore has nature made this wretched body the medium of a dreadful sympathy. You are avenged—they are all avenged—Nature is avenged—for I am Eleanore Rochcliffe!'

The malice of his mental disease, the bitterness lurking at the bottom of his heart, mad as he was, for a blighted and ruined life, and love that had been paid with cruel scorn, awoke within the breast of Jervase Helwyse. He shook his finger at the wretched girl, and the chamber echoed, the curtains of the bed were shaken, with his outburst of insane merriment.

'Another triumph for the Lady Eleanore!' he cried. 'All have been her victims! Who so worthy to be the final victim as herself?'

Impelled by some new fantasy of his crazed intellect, he snatched the fatal mantle, and rushed from