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A. K. NEWMAN AND CO. LEADENHALL-STREET.

280

CASTLE HARCOURT.

CHAPTER I.

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There is a spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest ;
Where man, creation's tyrant, casts aside
His sword and sceptre, pageantry and pride.

Oh, thou shalt find, where'er thy footsteps roam,
That land thy country, and that spot thy home.

MONTGOMERY.

In the reign of king Richard the Third, a branch of the ancient family of Harcourt, which came over to England with Norman William, inhabited a castle in the northern part of the county of Leicestershire, where their forefathers had

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once exercised great power, and enjoyed a revenue far surpassing that to which their descendants were entitled.

The causes of this declension in hereditary importance had arisen chiefly from a devoted attachment to the house of York, in whose quarrels and wars with the rival house of Lancaster, sir Walter Harcourt had zealously engaged some thirty years before, though, for the last three, bodily infirmity had kept him out of active service.

Harcourt Castle was a massy, strag. gling, and inelegant edifice, built without any apparent order, or previous arrangement, each successive occupier having, as an increasing family, or his importance, required, made additions and alterations according with the fashion of his day. In this manner the building had accumulated during four centuries, until the traces of ancient regular fortification were visible only to the inquisitive military, or antiquarian observer, who might trace the inoat and limits of the outer ballium, or

court, amid gardens, orchards, and outbuildings, round three of its sides; the fourth was defended by a precipitous descent of the rock on which it stood. The walls of the inner ballium were yet standing, and, in some places, served to support part of the overgrown edifice, which, ere innovation commenced, it had encircled and guarded at a respectful distance. Within the circumference of this wall were included the court-yard and various offices of the existing establishment, and against its sides, the earth had been thrown up for a considerable distance, so as to form a broad commodious promenade round the ramparts. This latter improve. ment, they said, was made by Eustace Harcourt, an ancestor, who attended duke Robert to the croisades, fought at Ascalon with Godfrey of Bouillon, and brought home with him a young lady of exquisite beauty, whose life he had saved at the taking of Nice. We shall only add, at present, respect

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