In this first excerpt, Hawthorne explains why Lady
Eleanore was sent to America, and his explanation shows the view
of the colonies no doubt held by many in Britain.
As he begins to describe Lady Eleanore, Hawthorne identifies her main personality
trait as pride, which will ultimately prove to
be her undoing.
In addition to her beauty, a distinctive feature about Lady Eleanore is
her mantle, which attracts the attention of all
who see her.
When a young man jumps in front of Lady Eleanore so that she may step on
him rather than walk in the dirt, Hawthorne provides a glimpse into her thought
process. Lady Eleanore explains why she chooses to walk on the back of the
young man, and thus describes her general disdain
of men (and most people). Hawthorne describes Lady Eleanore's dismount from
her carriage onto the back of the young man as a metaphor of how the heroine
glides through her own life, bolstered by the admiration of those around her.
In this excerpt, the wise doctor foretells a reckoning
for Lady Eleanore, something Captain Langford--an ardent admirer of hers--disbelieves.
In another description of Lady Eleanore's mantle, Hawthorne links its design
to the feverish delirium and death of its creator.
At a party given in her honor, Lady Eleanore surveys the crowd and reacts
with her unique brand of arrogance and misanthropy.
While at the party, Lady Eleanore begins to become positively radiant--a
characteristic possibly attributed to the early stages of smallpox, if indeed
her mantle carries the contagion.
When Jervase Helwyse approaches her at the ball, Lady Eleanore reaches
perhaps the very height of conceit.
During an exchange between Lady Eleanore and
Jervase, he begs her to throw off her mantle, which she refuses to do.
As the smallpox plague ravages the city, the
people who had once been enchanted by Lady Eleanore begin to curse her, believing
that she is somehow, through her enormous pride or her unkind ways, to blame
for the constant stream of death.
In the end, the doctor who acted neither charmed nor repulsed by Lady Eleanore
provides his theory as to how the plague came to
Finally, Lady Eleanore admits to an understanding of her scornful
ways and how her attitude brought about the suffering she herself fell
At the close of the tale, the townspeople burn an effigy
wrapped in Lady Eleanore's mantle, bringing an end to the smallpox epidemic.
The narrator speculates on Lady Eleanore's fate and describes a mysterious
figure who haunts the Province House.