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Excerpt from "Lady Eleanore's Mantle"

In these remarkably provocative passages, Hawthorne suggests that pride is tantamount to death. In the first the maddened Jervase wants to see Lady Eleanore one more time and proclaims, "she and death sit on a throne together." In the second the connection between the mantle that both enhances her beauty and contains the small pox and the haughty scorn she feels because of that beauty is made explicit. It is as if the pestilence that ravages Boston is the pride. The people believe that her "pride and scorn evoked a fiend" and so Hawthorne underscores the terribly destructive power of Lady Eleanore's sin.

Passage I

"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!"

Passage II

Such a banner was long since waving over the portal of the Province House; for thence, as was proved by tracking its footsteps back, had all this dreadful mischief issued. It had been traced back to a lady's luxurious chamber--to the proudest of the proud--to her that was so delicate, and hardly owned herself of earthly mould--to the haughty one, who took her stand above human sympathies--to Lady Eleanore! There remained no room for doubt that the contagion had lurked in that gorgeous mantle, which threw so strange a grace around her at the festival. Its fantastic splendor had been conceived in the delirious brain of a woman on her death-bed, and was the last toil of her stiffening fingers, which had interwoven fate and misery with its golden threads. This dark tale, whispered at first, was now bruited far and wide. The people raved against the Lady Eleanore, and cried out that her pride and scorn had evoked a fiend, and that, between them both, this monstrous evil had been born. At times, their rage and despair took the semblance of grinning mirth; and whenever the red flag of the pestilence was hoisted over another and yet another door, they clapped their hands and shouted through the streets, in bitter mockery: "Behold a new triumph for the Lady Eleanore!"




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