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21 > Page 21 of Barren honour : a novel / by the author of "Guy Livingston," "The sword and gown," &c., &c., &c.

BARREN HONOUR1 healthy voices broke in. Those two ac- clamations differ from each other more strikingly than does the full round shout of a Highland regiment " doubling" to charge, from the hoarse, cracked " hour- ra" of a squadron of Don Cossacks. With these dispositions, you may con- ceive that, albeit Newmanham rather covets land as an investment (they make very fair and not unkindly seigneur, those Novi homines), she cherishes little love or respect for the landed interest, its representatives, and traditions. Yet, when a brother magnate from Tarenton or New Byrsa comes to visit one of these mighty burghers, to what object of inte- rest does the host invariably first direct the attention of his honored guest De- ferring to another day the inspection of his own factory, and of all other town wonders, he orders round the gorgeous barouche, with the high-stepping greys, overlaid with as much precious metal as the Beautiful Gate, and takes the stran- ger fifteen miles away, to view the de- mesne which, through the vicissitudes of six centuries, has been the abiding- place of the Vavasours of Dene. The house is not so ancient, nor does it stand on the site of the old Castle. All that would burn of that crumbled down in a whirlwind of flame, one black winter's night during the Wars of the Roses. There had long been a feud between the Vavasours and a neigrhbor- ing family nearly as powerful and over- bearing. Sir Hugh Mauleverer was a shrewd, provident man, and cool even in his desperation. When he saw signs of the tide turning against Lancaster, he determined to settle one score, at least, before he went to the wall. So, on New- Year's eve, when the 'drinking was deep, and they kept careless watch at Dene Castle, the Lancastrians came down in force, and made their way almost into the banqueting hall unopposed. Then there was a struggle-short, but very sharp. The retainers of the Vavasour, though taken by surprise, were all fully armed, and, partly from fidelity, partly because they feared their stern master more than any power of heaven or hell, partly because they had no other chance, fought like mad wild cats. However, three to one are heavy odds. All his four sons had gone down before him, and not a dozen men were left at his back, when Simon Vavasour struck his last blow. It was a good, honest, bitter blow, well meant and well delivered, for it went through steel and bone so deep into Hugh Mauleverer's brain that his slayer could not draw out the blade; the grey old wolf never stirred a finger after that to help himself, and never ut- tered a sound, except one low, savage laugh as they hewed him in pieces on his own hearth-stone. XVhen the slaugh- ter was over, the sack, of course, began, but the young Mauleverer, though heated by the fight, and somewhat discomposed by his father's death, could not forget the courtesy and charity on which he rather prided himself. So, when every living thing that had down on its lip was put out of pain, he would not suffer the wo- men and children to be outraged or tor- tured, magnanimously dismissing them to wander where they would into the wild weather, with the flames of Dene Castle to light them on their way. Most of them perished before daybreak; but one child, a grandson of the baron's, was saved at the price of its mother's life. She stripped herself of nearly her last garment to cover the heir of her house, and kissed him once as she gave him to the strongest of the women to carry, and then lay down wearily in the snow-drift to die. When Walter Vavasour came to man- hood, the House of York was firm on the throne, and another manor or two rewarded his family for what it had suf- fered in their cause. He commenced building on the site of the present man- sion; but it was reserved for his grand- son (who married one of the greatest heiresses at the court of Henry VIII.) to complete the stately edifice as it now stands, at the cost of all his wife's for- tune, and a good part of his own. There are more dangerous follies thanL a building mania; and perhaps it would have been well for Fulke Vavasour if he had ruined himself more utterly in its indulgence. Poveity might have kept him out of worse scrapes. If he resem- bled his portrait, his personal beauty 21