Infomotions, Inc.The Little Duke / Yonge, Charlotte Mary, 1823-1901



Author: Yonge, Charlotte Mary, 1823-1901
Title: The Little Duke
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): osmond; richard; fru astrida; alberic; lothaire; duke; normandy; fru astrida's; count bernard; little duke; father lucas; king; count
Contributor(s): Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 [Compiler]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 42,685 words (really short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 69 (easy)
Identifier: etext3048
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Title:  The Little Duke

Author:  Charlotte M. Yonge

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THE LITTLE DUKE




CHAPTER I



On a bright autumn day, as long ago as the year 943, there was a
great bustle in the Castle of Bayeux in Normandy.

The hall was large and low, the roof arched, and supported on thick
short columns, almost like the crypt of a Cathedral; the walls were
thick, and the windows, which had no glass, were very small, set in
such a depth of wall that there was a wide deep window seat, upon
which the rain might beat, without reaching the interior of the room.
And even if it had come in, there was nothing for it to hurt, for the
walls were of rough stone, and the floor of tiles.  There was a fire
at each end of this great dark apartment, but there were no chimneys
over the ample hearths, and the smoke curled about in thick white
folds in the vaulted roof, adding to the wreaths of soot, which made
the hall look still darker.

The fire at the lower end was by far the largest and hottest.  Great
black cauldrons hung over it, and servants, both men and women, with
red faces, bare and grimed arms, and long iron hooks, or pots and
pans, were busied around it.  At the other end, which was raised
about three steps above the floor of the hall, other servants were
engaged.  Two young maidens were strewing fresh rushes on the floor;
some men were setting up a long table of rough boards, supported on
trestles, and then ranging upon it silver cups, drinking horns, and
wooden trenchers.

Benches were placed to receive most of the guests, but in the middle,
at the place of honour, was a high chair with very thick crossing
legs, and the arms curiously carved with lions' faces and claws; a
clumsy wooden footstool was set in front, and the silver drinking-cup
on the table was of far more beautiful workmanship than the others,
richly chased with vine leaves and grapes, and figures of little boys
with goats' legs.  If that cup could have told its story, it would
have been a strange one, for it had been made long since, in the old
Roman times, and been carried off from Italy by some Northman pirate.

From one of these scenes of activity to the other, there moved a
stately old lady:  her long thick light hair, hardly touched with
grey, was bound round her head, under a tall white cap, with a band
passing under her chin:  she wore a long sweeping dark robe, with
wide hanging sleeves, and thick gold ear-rings and necklace, which
had possibly come from the same quarter as the cup.  She directed the
servants, inspected both the cookery and arrangements of the table,
held council with an old steward, now and then looked rather
anxiously from the window, as if expecting some one, and began to say
something about fears that these loitering youths would not bring
home the venison in time for Duke William's supper.

Presently, she looked up rejoiced, for a few notes of a bugle-horn
were sounded; there was a clattering of feet, and in a few moments
there bounded into the hall, a boy of about eight years old, his
cheeks and large blue eyes bright with air and exercise, and his long
light-brown hair streaming behind him, as he ran forward flourishing
a bow in his hand, and crying out, "I hit him, I hit him!  Dame
Astrida, do you hear?  'Tis a stag of ten branches, and I hit him in
the neck."

"You! my Lord Richard! you killed him?"

"Oh, no, I only struck him.  It was Osmond's shaft that took him in
the eye, and--Look you, Fru Astrida, he came thus through the wood,
and I stood here, it might be, under the great elm with my bow thus"-
-And Richard was beginning to act over again the whole scene of the
deer-hunt, but Fru, that is to say, Lady Astrida, was too busy to
listen, and broke in with, "Have they brought home the haunch?"

"Yes, Walter is bringing it.  I had a long arrow--"

A stout forester was at this instant seen bringing in the venison,
and Dame Astrida hastened to meet it, and gave directions, little
Richard following her all the way, and talking as eagerly as if she
was attending to him, showing how he shot, how Osmond shot, how the
deer bounded, and how it fell, and then counting the branches of its
antlers, always ending with, "This is something to tell my father.
Do you think he will come soon?"

In the meantime two men entered the hall, one about fifty, the other,
one or two-and-twenty, both in hunting dresses of plain leather,
crossed by broad embroidered belts, supporting a knife, and a bugle-
horn.  The elder was broad-shouldered, sun-burnt, ruddy, and rather
stern-looking; the younger, who was also the taller, was slightly
made, and very active, with a bright keen grey eye, and merry smile.
These were Dame Astrida's son, Sir Eric de Centeville, and her
grandson, Osmond; and to their care Duke William of Normandy had
committed his only child, Richard, to be fostered, or brought up. {1}

It was always the custom among the Northmen, that young princes
should thus be put under the care of some trusty vassal, instead of
being brought up at home, and one reason why the Centevilles had been
chosen by Duke William was, that both Sir Eric and his mother spoke
only the old Norwegian tongue, which he wished young Richard to
understand well, whereas, in other parts of the Duchy, the Normans
had forgotten their own tongue, and had taken up what was then called
the Langued'oui, a language between German and Latin, which was the
beginning of French.

On this day, Duke William himself was expected at Bayeux, to pay a
visit to his son before setting out on a journey to settle the
disputes between the Counts of Flanders and Montreuil, and this was
the reason of Fru Astrida's great preparations.  No sooner had she
seen the haunch placed upon a spit, which a little boy was to turn
before the fire, than she turned to dress something else, namely, the
young Prince Richard himself, whom she led off to one of the upper
rooms, and there he had full time to talk, while she, great lady
though she was, herself combed smooth his long flowing curls, and
fastened his short scarlet cloth tunic, which just reached to his
knee, leaving his neck, arms, and legs bare.  He begged hard to be
allowed to wear a short, beautifully ornamented dagger at his belt,
but this Fru Astrida would not allow.

"You will have enough to do with steel and dagger before your life is
at an end," said she, "without seeking to begin over soon."

"To be sure I shall," answered Richard.  "I will be called Richard of
the Sharp Axe, or the Bold Spirit, I promise you, Fru Astrida.  We
are as brave in these days as the Sigurds and Ragnars you sing of!  I
only wish there were serpents and dragons to slay here in Normandy."

"Never fear but you will find even too many of them," said Dame
Astrida; "there be dragons of wrong here and everywhere, quite as
venomous as any in my Sagas."

"I fear them not," said Richard, but half understanding her, "if you
would only let me have the dagger!  But, hark! hark!" he darted to
the window.  "They come, they come!  There is the banner of
Normandy."

Away ran the happy child, and never rested till he stood at the
bottom of the long, steep, stone stair, leading to the embattled
porch.  Thither came the Baron de Centeville, and his son, to receive
their Prince.  Richard looked up at Osmond, saying, "Let me hold his
stirrup," and then sprang up and shouted for joy, as under the arched
gateway there came a tall black horse, bearing the stately form of
the Duke of Normandy.  His purple robe was fastened round him by a
rich belt, sustaining the mighty weapon, from which he was called
"William of the long Sword," his legs and feet were cased in linked
steel chain-work, his gilded spurs were on his heels, and his short
brown hair was covered by his ducal cap of purple, turned up with
fur, and a feather fastened in by a jewelled clasp.  His brow was
grave and thoughtful, and there was something both of dignity and
sorrow in his face, at the first moment of looking at it, recalling
the recollection that he had early lost his young wife, the Duchess
Emma, and that he was beset by many cares and toils; but the next
glance generally conveyed encouragement, so full of mildness were his
eyes, and so kind the expression of his lips.

And now, how bright a smile beamed upon the little Richard, who, for
the first time, paid him the duty of a pupil in chivalry, by holding
the stirrup while he sprung from his horse.  Next, Richard knelt to
receive his blessing, which was always the custom when children met
their parents.  The Duke laid his hand on his head, saying, "God of
His mercy bless thee, my son," and lifting him in his arms, held him
to his breast, and let him cling to his neck and kiss him again and
again, before setting him down, while Sir Eric came forward, bent his
knee, kissed the hand of his Prince, and welcomed him to his Castle.

It would take too long to tell all the friendly and courteous words
that were spoken, the greeting of the Duke and the noble old Lady
Astrida, and the reception of the Barons who had come in the train of
their Lord.  Richard was bidden to greet them, but, though he held
out his hand as desired, he shrank a little to his father's side,
gazing at them in dread and shyness.

There was Count Bernard, of Harcourt, called the "Dane," {2} with his
shaggy red hair and beard, to which a touch of grey had given a
strange unnatural tint, his eyes looking fierce and wild under his
thick eyebrows, one of them mis-shapen in consequence of a sword cut,
which had left a broad red and purple scar across both cheek and
forehead.  There, too, came tall Baron Rainulf, of Ferrieres, cased
in a linked steel hauberk, that rang as he walked, and the men-at-
arms, with helmets and shields, looking as if Sir Eric's armour that
hung in the hail had come to life and was walking about.

They sat down to Fru Astrida's banquet, the old Lady at the Duke's
right hand, and the Count of Harcourt on his left; Osmond carved for
the Duke, and Richard handed his cup and trencher.  All through the
meal, the Duke and his Lords talked earnestly of the expedition on
which they were bound to meet Count Arnulf of Flanders, on a little
islet in the river Somme, there to come to some agreement, by which
Arnulf might make restitution to Count Herluin of Montreuil, for
certain wrongs which he had done him.

Some said that this would be the fittest time for requiring Arnulf to
yield up some towns on his borders, to which Normandy had long laid
claim, but the Duke shook his head, saying that he must seek no
selfish advantage, when called to judge between others.

Richard was rather tired of their grave talk, and thought the supper
very long; but at last it was over, the Grace was said, the boards
which had served for tables were removed, and as it was still light,
some of the guests went to see how their steeds had been bestowed,
others to look at Sir Eric's horses and hounds, and others collected
together in groups.

The Duke had time to attend to his little boy, and Richard sat upon
his knee and talked, told about all his pleasures, how his arrow had
hit the deer to-day, how Sir Eric let him ride out to the chase on
his little pony, how Osmond would take him to bathe in the cool
bright river, and how he had watched the raven's nest in the top of
the old tower.

Duke William listened, and smiled, and seemed as well pleased to hear
as the boy was to tell.  "And, Richard," said he at last, "have you
nought to tell me of Father Lucas, and his great book?  What, not a
word?  Look up, Richard, and tell me how it goes with the learning."
{3}

"Oh, father!" said Richard, in a low voice, playing with the clasp of
his father's belt, and looking down, "I don't like those crabbed
letters on the old yellow parchment."

"But you try to learn them, I hope!" said the Duke.

"Yes, father, I do, but they are very hard, and the words are so
long, and Father Lucas will always come when the sun is so bright,
and the wood so green, that I know not how to bear to be kept poring
over those black hooks and strokes."

"Poor little fellow," said Duke William, smiling and Richard, rather
encouraged, went on more boldly.  "You do not know this reading,
noble father?"

"To my sorrow, no," said the Duke.

"And Sir Eric cannot read, nor Osmond, nor any one, and why must I
read, and cramp my fingers with writing, just as if I was a clerk,
instead of a young Duke?"  Richard looked up in his father's face,
and then hung his head, as if half-ashamed of questioning his will,
but the Duke answered him without displeasure.

"It is hard, no doubt, my boy, to you now, but it will be the better
for you in the end.  I would give much to be able myself to read
those holy books which I must now only hear read to me by a clerk,
but since I have had the wish, I have had no time to learn as you
have now."

"But Knights and Nobles never learn," said Richard.

"And do you think it a reason they never should?  But you are wrong,
my boy, for the Kings of France and England, the Counts of Anjou, of
Provence, and Paris, yes, even King Hako of Norway, {4} can all
read."

"I tell you, Richard, when the treaty was drawn up for restoring this
King Louis to his throne, I was ashamed to find myself one of the few
crown vassals who could not write his name thereto."

"But none is so wise or so good as you, father," said Richard,
proudly.  "Sir Eric often says so."

"Sir Eric loves his Duke too well to see his faults," said Duke
William; "but far better and wiser might I have been, had I been
taught by such masters as you may be.  And hark, Richard, not only
can all Princes here read, but in England, King Ethelstane would have
every Noble taught; they study in his own palace, with his brothers,
and read the good words that King Alfred the truth-teller put into
their own tongue for them."

"I hate the English," said Richard, raising his head and looking very
fierce.

"Hate them? and wherefore?"

"Because they traitorously killed the brave Sea King Ragnar!  Fru
Astrida sings his death-song, which he chanted when the vipers were
gnawing him to death, and he gloried to think how his sons would
bring the ravens to feast upon the Saxon.  Oh! had I been his son,
how I would have carried on the feud!  How I would have laughed when
I cut down the false traitors, and burnt their palaces!"  Richard's
eye kindled, and his words, as he spoke the old Norse language,
flowed into the sort of wild verse in which the Sagas or legendary
songs were composed, and which, perhaps, he was unconsciously
repeating.

Duke William looked grave.

"Fru Astrida must sing you no more such Sagas," said he, "if they
fill your mind with these revengeful thoughts, fit only for the
worshippers of Odin and Thor.  Neither Ragnar nor his sons knew
better than to rejoice in this deadly vengeance, but we, who are
Christians, know that it is for us to forgive."

"The English had slain their father!" said Richard, looking up with
wondering dissatisfied eyes.

"Yes, Richard, and I speak not against them, for they were even as we
should have been, had not King Harold the fair-haired driven your
grandfather from Denmark.  They had not been taught the truth, but to
us it has been said, 'Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.'  Listen to
me, my son, Christian as is this nation of ours, this duty of
forgiveness is too often neglected, but let it not be so with you.
Bear in mind, whenever you see the Cross {5} marked on our banner, or
carved in stone on the Churches, that it speaks of forgiveness to us;
but of that pardon we shall never taste if we forgive not our
enemies.  Do you mark me, boy?"

Richard hesitated a little, and then said, "Yes, father, but I could
never have pardoned, had I been one of Ragnar's sons."

"It may be that you will be in their case, Richard," said the Duke,
"and should I fall, as it may well be I shall, in some of the
contests that tear to pieces this unhappy Kingdom of France, then,
remember what I say now.  I charge you, on your duty to God and to
your father, that you keep up no feud, no hatred, but rather that you
should deem me best revenged, when you have with heart and hand,
given the fullest proof of forgiveness to your enemy.  Give me your
word that you will."

"Yes, father," said Richard, with rather a subdued tone, and resting
his head on his father's shoulder.  There was a silence for a little
space, during which he began to revive into playfulness, to stroke
the Duke's short curled beard, and play with his embroidered collar.

In so doing, his fingers caught hold of a silver chain, and pulling
it out with a jerk, he saw a silver key attached to it.  "Oh, what is
that?" he asked eagerly.  "What does that key unlock?"

"My greatest treasure," replied Duke William, as he replaced the
chain and key within his robe.

"Your greatest treasure, father!  Is that your coronet?"

"You will know one day," said his father, putting the little hand
down from its too busy investigations; and some of the Barons at that
moment returning into the hall, he had no more leisure to bestow on
his little son.

The next day, after morning service in the Chapel, and breakfast in
the hall, the Duke again set forward on his journey, giving Richard
hopes he might return in a fortnight's time, and obtaining from him a
promise that he would be very attentive to Father Lucas, and very
obedient to Sir Eric de Centeville.



CHAPTER II



One evening Fru Astrida sat in her tall chair in the chimney corner,
her distaff, with its load of flax in her hand, while she twisted and
drew out the thread, and her spindle danced on the floor.  Opposite
to her sat, sleeping in his chair, Sir Eric de Centeville; Osmond was
on a low bench within the chimney corner, trimming and shaping with
his knife some feathers of the wild goose, which were to fly in a
different fashion from their former one, and serve, not to wing the
flight of a harmless goose, but of a sharp arrow.

The men of the household sat ranged on benches on one side of the
hall, the women on the other; a great red fire, together with an
immense flickering lamp which hung from the ceiling, supplied the
light; the windows were closed with wooden shutters, and the whole
apartment had a cheerful appearance.  Two or three large hounds were
reposing in front of the hearth, and among them sat little Richard of
Normandy, now smoothing down their broad silken ears; now tickling
the large cushions of their feet with the end of one of Osmond's
feathers; now fairly pulling open the eyes of one of the good-natured
sleepy creatures, which only stretched its legs, and remonstrated
with a sort of low groan, rather than a growl.  The boy's eyes were,
all the time, intently fixed on Dame Astrida, as if he would not lose
one word of the story she was telling him; how Earl Rollo, his
grandfather, had sailed into the mouth of the Seine, and how
Archbishop Franco, of Rouen, had come to meet him and brought him the
keys of the town, and how not one Neustrian of Rouen had met with
harm from the brave Northmen.  Then she told him of his grandfather's
baptism, and how during the seven days that he wore his white
baptismal robes, he had made large gifts to all the chief churches in
his dukedom of Normandy.

"Oh, but tell of the paying homage!" said Richard; "and how Sigurd
Bloodaxe threw down simple King Charles!  Ah! how would I have
laughed to see it!"

"Nay, nay, Lord Richard," said the old lady, "I love not that tale.
That was ere the Norman learnt courtesy, and rudeness ought rather to
be forgotten than remembered, save for the sake of amending it.  No,
I will rather tell you of our coming to Centeville, and how dreary I
thought these smooth meads, and broad soft gliding streams, compared
with mine own father's fiord in Norway, shut in with the tall black
rocks, and dark pines above them, and far away the snowy mountains
rising into the sky.  Ah! how blue the waters were in the long summer
days when I sat in my father's boat in the little fiord, and--"

Dame Astrida was interrupted.  A bugle note rang out at the castle
gate; the dogs started to their feet, and uttered a sudden deafening
bark; Osmond sprung up, exclaiming, "Hark!" and trying to silence the
hounds; and Richard running to Sir Eric, cried, "Wake, wake, Sir
Eric, my father is come!  Oh, haste to open the gate, and admit him."

"Peace, dogs!" said Sir Eric, slowly rising, as the blast of the horn
was repeated.  "Go, Osmond, with the porter, and see whether he who
comes at such an hour be friend or foe.  Stay you here, my Lord," he
added, as Richard was running after Osmond; and the little boy
obeyed, and stood still, though quivering all over with impatience.

"Tidings from the Duke, I should guess," said Fru Astrida.  "It can
scarce be himself at such an hour."

"Oh, it must be, dear Fru Astrida!" said Richard.  "He said he would
come again.  Hark, there are horses' feet in the court!  I am sure
that is his black charger's tread!  And I shall not be there to hold
his stirrup!  Oh!  Sir Eric, let me go."

Sir Eric, always a man of few words, only shook his head, and at that
moment steps were heard on the stone stairs.  Again Richard was about
to spring forward, when Osmond returned, his face showing, at a
glance, that something was amiss; but all that he said was, "Count
Bernard of Harcourt, and Sir Rainulf de Ferrieres," and he stood
aside to let them pass.

Richard stood still in the midst of the hall, disappointed.  Without
greeting to Sir Eric, or to any within the hall, the Count of
Harcourt came forward to Richard, bent his knee before him, took his
hand, and said with a broken voice and heaving breast, "Richard, Duke
of Normandy, I am thy liegeman and true vassal;" then rising from his
knees while Rainulf de Ferrieres went through the same form, the old
man covered his face with his hands and wept aloud.

"Is it even so?" said the Baron de Centeville; and being answered by
a mournful look and sigh from Ferrieres, he too bent before the boy,
and repeated the words, "I am thy liegeman and true vassal, and swear
fealty to thee for my castle and barony of Centeville."

"Oh, no, no!" cried Richard, drawing back his hand in a sort of
agony, feeling as if he was in a frightful dream from which he could
not awake.  "What means it?  Oh!  Fru Astrida, tell me what means it?
Where is my father?"

"Alas, my child!" said the old lady, putting her arm round him, and
drawing him close to her, whilst her tears flowed fast, and Richard
stood, reassured by her embrace, listening with eyes open wide, and
deep oppressed breathing, to what was passing between the four
nobles, who spoke earnestly among themselves, without much heed of
him.

"The Duke dead!" repeated Sir Eric de Centeville, like one stunned
and stupefied.

"Even so," said Rainulf, slowly and sadly, and the silence was only
broken by the long-drawn sobs of old Count Bernard.

"But how? when? where?" broke forth Sir Eric, presently.  "There was
no note of battle when you went forth.  Oh, why was not I at his
side?"

"He fell not in battle," gloomily replied Sir Rainulf.

"Ha! could sickness cut him down so quickly?"

"It was not sickness," answered Ferrieres.  "It was treachery.  He
fell in the Isle of Pecquigny, by the hand of the false Fleming!"

"Lives the traitor yet?" cried the Baron de Centeville, grasping his
good sword.

"He lives and rejoices in his crime," said Ferrieres, "safe in his
own merchant towns."

"I can scarce credit you, my Lords!" said Sir Eric.  "Our Duke slain,
and his enemy safe, and you here to tell the tale!"

"I would I were stark and stiff by my Lord's side!" said Count
Bernard, "but for the sake of Normandy, and of that poor child, who
is like to need all that ever were friends to his house.  I would
that mine eyes had been blinded for ever, ere they had seen that
sight!  And not a sword lifted in his defence!  Tell you how it
passed, Rainulf!  My tongue will not speak it!"

He threw himself on a bench and covered his face with his mantle,
while Rainulf de Ferrieres proceeded:  "You know how in an evil hour
our good Duke appointed to meet this caitiff, Count of Flanders, in
the Isle of Pecquigny, the Duke and Count each bringing twelve men
with them, all unarmed.  Duke Alan of Brittany was one on our side,
Count Bernard here another, old Count Bothon and myself; we bore no
weapon--would that we had--but not so the false Flemings.  Ah me!  I
shall never forget Duke William's lordly presence when he stepped
ashore, and doffed his bonnet to the knave Arnulf."

"Yes," interposed Bernard.  "And marked you not the words of the
traitor, as they met?  'My Lord,' quoth he, 'you are my shield and
defence.' {6}  Would that I could cleave his treason-hatching skull
with my battle-axe."

"So," continued Rainulf, "they conferred together, and as words cost
nothing to Arnulf, he not only promised all restitution to the paltry
Montreuil, but even was for offering to pay homage to our Duke for
Flanders itself; but this our William refused, saying it were foul
wrong to both King Louis of France, and Kaiser Otho of Germany, to
take from them their vassal.  They took leave of each other in all
courtesy, and we embarked again.  It was Duke William's pleasure to
go alone in a small boat, while we twelve were together in another.
Just as we had nearly reached our own bank, there was a shout from
the Flemings that their Count had somewhat further to say to the
Duke, and forbidding us to follow him, the Duke turned his boat and
went back again.  No sooner had he set foot on the isle," proceeded
the Norman, clenching his hands, and speaking between his teeth,
"than we saw one Fleming strike him on the head with an oar; he fell
senseless, the rest threw themselves upon him, and the next moment
held up their bloody daggers in scorn at us!  You may well think how
we shouted and yelled at them, and plied our oars like men
distracted, but all in vain, they were already in their boats, and
ere we could even reach the isle, they were on the other side of the
river, mounted their horses, fled with coward speed, and were out of
reach of a Norman's vengeance."

"But they shall not be so long!" cried Richard, starting forward; for
to his childish fancy this dreadful history was more like one of Dame
Astrida's legends than a reality, and at the moment his thought was
only of the blackness of the treason.  "Oh, that I were a man to
chastise them!  One day they shall feel--"

He broke off short, for he remembered how his father had forbidden
his denunciations of vengeance, but his words were eagerly caught up
by the Barons, who, as Duke William had said, were far from
possessing any temper of forgiveness, thought revenge a duty, and
were only glad to see a warlike spirit in their new Prince.

"Ha! say you so, my young Lord?" exclaimed old Count Bernard, rising.
"Yes, and I see a sparkle in your eye that tells me you will one day
avenge him nobly!"

Richard drew up his head, and his heart throbbed high as Sir Eric
made answer, "Ay, truly, that will he!  You might search Normandy
through, yea, and Norway likewise, ere you would find a temper more
bold and free.  Trust my word, Count Bernard, our young Duke will be
famed as widely as ever were his forefathers!"

"I believe it well!" said Bernard.  "He hath the port of his
grandfather, Duke Rollo, and much, too, of his noble father!  How say
you, Lord Richard, will you be a valiant leader of the Norman race
against our foes?"

"That I will!" said Richard, carried away by the applause excited by
those few words of his.  "I will ride at your head this very night if
you will but go to chastise the false Flemings."

"You shall ride with us to-morrow, my Lord," answered Bernard, "but
it must be to Rouen, there to be invested with your ducal sword and
mantle, and to receive the homage of your vassals."

Richard drooped his head without replying, for this seemed to bring
to him the perception that his father was really gone, and that he
should never see him again.  He thought of all his projects for the
day of his return, how he had almost counted the hours, and had
looked forward to telling him that Father Lucas was well pleased with
him!  And now he should never nestle into his breast again, never
hear his voice, never see those kind eyes beam upon him.  Large tears
gathered in his eyes, and ashamed that they should be seen, he sat
down on a footstool at Fru Astrida's feet, leant his forehead on his
hands, and thought over all that his father had done and said the
last time they were together.  He fancied the return that had been
promised, going over the meeting and the greeting, till he had almost
persuaded himself that this dreadful story was but a dream.  But when
he looked up, there were the Barons, with their grave mournful faces,
speaking of the corpse, which Duke Alan of Brittany was escorting to
Rouen, there to be buried beside the old Duke Rollo, and the Duchess
Emma, Richard's mother.  Then he lost himself in wonder how that
stiff bleeding body could be the same as the father whose arm was so
lately around him, and whether his father's spirit knew how he was
thinking of him; and in these dreamy thoughts, the young orphan Duke
of Normandy, forgotten by his vassals in their grave councils, fell
asleep, and scarce wakened enough to attend to his prayers, when Fru
Astrida at length remembered him, and led him away to bed.

When Richard awoke the next morning, he could hardly believe that all
that had passed in the evening was true, but soon he found that it
was but too real, and all was prepared for him to go to Rouen with
the vassals; indeed, it was for no other purpose than to fetch him
that the Count of Harcourt had come to Bayeux.  Fru Astrida was quite
unhappy that "the child," as she called him, should go alone with the
warriors; but Sir Eric laughed at her, and said that it would never
do for the Duke of Normandy to bring his nurse with him in his first
entry into Rouen, and she must be content to follow at some space
behind under the escort of Walter the huntsman.

So she took leave of Richard, charging both Sir Eric and Osmond to
have the utmost care of him, and shedding tears as if the parting was
to be for a much longer space; then he bade farewell to the servants
of the castle, received the blessing of Father Lucas, and mounting
his pony, rode off between Sir Eric and Count Bernard.  Richard was
but a little boy, and he did not think so much of his loss, as he
rode along in the free morning air, feeling himself a Prince at the
head of his vassals, his banner displayed before him, and the people
coming out wherever he passed to gaze on him, and call for blessings
on his name.  Rainulf de Ferrieres carried a large heavy purse filled
with silver and gold, and whenever they came to these gazing crowds,
Richard was well pleased to thrust his hands deep into it, and
scatter handfuls of coins among the gazers, especially where he saw
little children.

They stopped to dine and rest in the middle of the day, at the castle
of a Baron, who, as soon as the meal was over, mounted his horse, and
joined them in their ride to Rouen.  So far it had not been very
different from Richard's last journey, when he went to keep Christmas
there with his father; but now they were beginning to come nearer the
town, he knew the broad river Seine again, and saw the square tower
of the Cathedral, and he remembered how at that very place his father
had met him, and how he had ridden by his side into the town, and had
been led by his hand up to the hall.

His heart was very heavy, as he recollected there was no one now to
meet and welcome him; scarcely any one to whom he could even tell his
thoughts, for those tall grave Barons had nothing to say to such a
little boy, and the very respect and formality with which they
treated him, made him shrink from them still more, especially from
the grim-faced Bernard; and Osmond, his own friend and playfellow,
was obliged to ride far behind, as inferior in rank.

They entered the town just as it was growing dark.  Count Bernard
looked back and arrayed the procession; Eric de Centeville bade
Richard sit upright and not look weary, and then all the Knights held
back while the little Duke rode alone a little in advance of them
through the gateway.  There was a loud shout of "Long live the little
Duke!" and crowds of people were standing round to gaze upon his
entry, so many that the bag of coins was soon emptied by his
largesses.  The whole city was like one great castle, shut in by a
wall and moat, and with Rollo's Tower rising at one end like the keep
of a castle, and it was thither that Richard was turning his horse,
when the Count of Harcourt said, "Nay, my Lord, to the Church of our
Lady." {7}

It was then considered a duty to be paid to the deceased, that their
relatives and friends should visit them as they lay in state, and
sprinkle them with drops of holy water, and Richard was now to pay
this token of respect.  He trembled a little, and yet it did not seem
quite so dreary, since he should once more look on his father's face,
and he accordingly rode towards the Cathedral.  It was then very
unlike what it is now; the walls were very thick, the windows small
and almost buried in heavy carved arches, the columns within were
low, clumsy, and circular, and it was usually so dark that the
vaulting of the roof could scarcely be seen.

Now, however, a whole flood of light poured forth from every window,
and when Richard came to the door, he saw not only the two tall thick
candles that always burnt on each side of the Altar, but in the
Chancel stood a double row ranged in a square, shedding a pure, quiet
brilliancy throughout the building, and chiefly on the silver and
gold ornaments of the Altar.  Outside these lights knelt a row of
priests in dark garments, their heads bowed over their clasped hands,
and their chanted psalms sounding sweet, and full of soothing music.
Within that guarded space was a bier, and a form lay on it.

Richard trembled still more with awe, and would have paused, but he
was obliged to proceed.  He dipped his hand in the water of the font,
crossed his brow, and came slowly on, sprinkled the remaining drops
on the lifeless figure, and then stood still.  There was an
oppression on his breast as if he could neither breathe nor move.

There lay William of the Long Sword, like a good and true Christian
warrior, arrayed in his shining armour, his sword by his side, his
shield on his arm, and a cross between his hands, clasped upon his
breast.  His ducal mantle of crimson velvet, lined with ermine, was
round his shoulders, and, instead of a helmet, his coronet was on his
head; but, in contrast with this rich array, over the collar of the
hauberk, was folded the edge of a rough hair shirt, which the Duke
had worn beneath his robes, unknown to all, until his corpse was
disrobed of his blood-stained garments.  His face looked full of
calm, solemn peace, as if he had gently fallen asleep, and was only
awaiting the great call to awaken.  There was not a single token of
violence visible about him, save that one side of his forehead bore a
deep purple mark, where he had first been struck by the blow of the
oar which had deprived him of sense.

"See you that, my Lord?" said Count Bernard, first breaking the
silence, in a low, deep, stern voice.

Richard had heard little for many hours past save counsels against
the Flemings, and plans of bitter enmity against them; and the sight
of his murdered father, with that look and tone of the old Dane,
fired his spirit, and breaking from his trance of silent awe and
grief, he exclaimed, "I see it, and dearly shall the traitor Fleming
abye it!"  Then, encouraged by the applauding looks of the nobles, he
proceeded, feeling like one of the young champions of Fru Astrida's
songs.  His cheek was coloured, his eye lighted up, and he lifted his
head, so that the hair fell back from his forehead; he laid his hand
on the hilt of his father's sword, and spoke on in words, perhaps,
suggested by some sage.  "Yes, Arnulf of Flanders, know that Duke
William of Normandy shall not rest unavenged!  On this good sword I
vow, that, as soon as my arm shall have strength--"

The rest was left unspoken, for a hand was laid on his arm.  A
priest, who had hitherto been kneeling near the head of the corpse,
had risen, and stood tall and dark over him, and, looking up, he
recognized the pale, grave countenance of Martin, Abbot of Jumieges,
his father's chief friend and councillor.

"Richard of Normandy, what sayest thou?" said he, sternly.  "Yes,
hang thy head, and reply not, rather than repeat those words.  Dost
thou come here to disturb the peace of the dead with clamours for
vengeance?  Dost thou vow strife and anger on that sword which was
never drawn, save in the cause of the poor and distressed?  Wouldst
thou rob Him, to whose service thy life has been pledged, and devote
thyself to that of His foe?  Is this what thou hast learnt from thy
blessed father?"

Richard made no answer, but he covered his face with his hands, to
hide the tears which were fast streaming.

"Lord Abbot, Lord Abbot, this passes!" exclaimed Bernard the Dane.
"Our young Lord is no monk, and we will not see each spark of noble
and knightly spirit quenched as soon as it shows itself."

"Count of Harcourt," said Abbot Martin, "are these the words of a
savage Pagan, or of one who has been washed in yonder blessed font?
Never, while I have power, shalt thou darken the child's soul with
thy foul thirst of revenge, insult the presence of thy master with
the crime he so abhorred, nor the temple of Him who came to pardon,
with thy hatred.  Well do I know, ye Barons of Normandy, that each
drop of your blood would willingly be given, could it bring back our
departed Duke, or guard his orphan child; but, if ye have loved the
father, do his bidding--lay aside that accursed spirit of hatred and
vengeance; if ye love the child, seek not to injure his soul more
deeply than even his bitterest foe, were it Arnulf himself, hath
power to hurt him."

The Barons were silenced, whatever their thoughts might be, and Abbot
Martin turned to Richard, whose tears were still dropping fast
through his fingers, as the thought of those last words of his father
returned more clearly upon him.  The Abbot laid his hand on his head,
and spoke gently to him.  "These are tears of a softened heart, I
trust," said he.  "I well believe that thou didst scarce know what
thou wert saying."

"Forgive me!" said Richard, as well as he could speak.

"See there," said the priest, pointing to the large Cross over the
Altar, "thou knowest the meaning of that sacred sign?"

Richard bowed his head in assent and reverence.

"It speaks of forgiveness," continued the Abbot.  "And knowest thou
who gave that pardon?  The Son forgave His murderers; the Father them
who slew His Son.  And shalt thou call for vengeance?"

"But oh!" said Richard, looking up, "must that cruel, murderous
traitor glory unpunished in his crime, while there lies--" and again
his voice was cut off by tears.

"Vengeance shall surely overtake the sinner," said Martin, "the
vengeance of the Lord, and in His own good time, but it must not be
of thy seeking.  Nay, Richard, thou art of all men the most bound to
show love and mercy to Arnulf of Flanders.  Yes, when the hand of the
Lord hath touched him, and bowed him down in punishment for his
crime, it is then, that thou, whom he hath most deeply injured,
shouldst stretch out thine hand to aid him, and receive him with
pardon and peace.  If thou dost vow aught on the sword of thy blessed
father, in the sanctuary of thy Redeemer, let it be a Christian vow."

Richard wept too bitterly to speak, and Bernard de Harcourt, taking
his hand, led him away from the Church.



CHAPTER III



Duke William of the Long Sword was buried the next morning in high
pomp and state, with many a prayer and psalm chanted over his grave.

When this was over, little Richard, who had all the time stood or
knelt nearest the corpse, in one dull heavy dream of wonder and
sorrow, was led back to the palace, and there his long, heavy, black
garments were taken off, and he was dressed in his short scarlet
tunic, his hair was carefully arranged, and then he came down again
into the hall, where there was a great assembly of Barons, some in
armour, some in long furred gowns, who had all been attending his
father's burial.  Richard, as he was desired by Sir Eric de
Centeville, took off his cap, and bowed low in reply to the
reverences with which they all greeted his entrance, and he then
slowly crossed the hall, and descended the steps from the door, while
they formed into a procession behind him, according to their ranks--
the Duke of Brittany first, and then all the rest, down to the
poorest knight who held his manor immediately from the Duke of
Normandy.

Thus, they proceeded, in slow and solemn order, till they came to the
church of our Lady.  The clergy were there already, ranged in ranks
on each side of the Choir; and the Bishops, in their mitres and rich
robes, each with his pastoral staff in his hand, were standing round
the Altar.  As the little Duke entered, there arose from all the
voices in the Chancel the full, loud, clear chant of Te Deum
Laudamus, echoing among the dark vaults of the roof.  To that sound,
Richard walked up the Choir, to a large, heavy, crossed-legged,
carved chair, raised on two steps, just before the steps of the Altar
began, and there he stood, Bernard de Harcourt and Eric de Centeville
on each side of him, and all his other vassals in due order, in the
Choir.

After the beautiful chant of the hymn was ended, the service for the
Holy Communion began.  When the time came for the offering, each
noble gave gold or silver; and, lastly, Rainulf of Ferrieres came up
to the step of the Altar with a cushion, on which was placed a
circlet of gold, the ducal coronet; and another Baron, following him
closely, carried a long, heavy sword, with a cross handle.  The
Archbishop of Rouen received both coronet and sword, and laid them on
the Altar.  Then the service proceeded.  At that time the rite of
Confirmation was administered in infancy, and Richard, who had been
confirmed by his godfather, the Archbishop of Rouen, immediately
after his baptism, knelt in solemn awe to receive the other Holy
Sacrament from his hands, as soon as all the clergy had communicated.
{8}

When the administration was over, Richard was led forward to the step
of the Altar by Count Bernard, and Sir Eric, and the Archbishop,
laying one hand upon both his, as he held them clasped together,
demanded of him, in the name of God, and of the people of Normandy,
whether he would be their good and true ruler, guard them from their
foes, maintain truth, punish iniquity, and protect the Church.

"I will!" answered Richard's young, trembling voice, "So help me
God!" and he knelt, and kissed the book of the Holy Gospels, which
the Archbishop offered him.

It was a great and awful oath, and he dreaded to think that he had
taken it.  He still knelt, put both hands over his face, and
whispered, "O God, my Father, help me to keep it."

The Archbishop waited till he rose, and then, turning him with his
face to the people, said, "Richard, by the grace of God, I invest
thee with the ducal mantle of Normandy!"

Two of the Bishops then hung round his shoulders a crimson velvet
mantle, furred with ermine, which, made as it was for a grown man,
hung heavily on the poor child's shoulders, and lay in heaps on the
ground.  The Archbishop then set the golden coronet on his long,
flowing hair, where it hung so loosely on the little head, that Sir
Eric was obliged to put his hand to it to hold it safe; and, lastly,
the long, straight, two-handed sword was brought and placed in his
hand, with another solemn bidding to use it ever in maintaining the
right.  It should have been girded to his side, but the great sword
was so much taller than the little Duke, that, as it stood upright by
him, he was obliged to raise his arm to put it round the handle.

He then had to return to his throne, which was not done without some
difficulty, encumbered as he was, but Osmond held up the train of his
mantle, Sir Eric kept the coronet on his head, and he himself held
fast and lovingly the sword, though the Count of Harcourt offered to
carry it for him.  He was lifted up to his throne, and then came the
paying him homage; Alan, Duke of Brittany, was the first to kneel
before him, and with his hand between those of the Duke, he swore to
be his man, to obey him, and pay him feudal service for his dukedom
of Brittany.  In return, Richard swore to be his good Lord, and to
protect him from all his foes.  Then followed Bernard the Dane, and
many another, each repeating the same formulary, as their large
rugged hands were clasped within those little soft fingers.  Many a
kind and loving eye was bent in compassion on the orphan child; many
a strong voice faltered with earnestness as it pronounced the vow,
and many a brave, stalwart heart heaved with grief for the murdered
father, and tears flowed down the war-worn cheeks which had met the
fiercest storms of the northern ocean, as they bent before the young
fatherless boy, whom they loved for the sake of his conquering
grandfather, and his brave and pious father.  Few Normans were there
whose hearts did not glow at the touch of those small hands, with a
love almost of a parent, for their young Duke.

The ceremony of receiving homage lasted long and Richard, though
interested and touched at first, grew very weary; the crown and
mantle were so heavy, the faces succeeded each other like figures in
an endless dream, and the constant repetition of the same words was
very tedious.  He grew sleepy, he longed to jump up, to lean to the
right or left, or to speak something besides that regular form.  He
gave one great yawn, but it brought him such a frown from the stern
face of Bernard, as quite to wake him for a few minutes, and make him
sit upright, and receive the next vassal with as much attention as he
had shown the first, but he looked imploringly at Sir Eric, as if to
ask if it ever would be over.  At last, far down among the Barons,
came one at whose sight Richard revived a little.  It was a boy only
a few years older than himself, perhaps about ten, with a pleasant
brown face, black hair, and quick black eyes which glanced, with a
look between friendliness and respect, up into the little Duke's
gazing face.  Richard listened eagerly for his name, and was
refreshed at the sound of the boyish voice which pronounced, "I,
Alberic de Montemar, am thy liegeman and vassal for my castle and
barony of Montemar sur Epte."

When Alberic moved away, Richard followed him with his eye as far as
he could to his place in the Cathedral, and was taken by surprise
when he found the next Baron kneeling before him.

The ceremony of homage came to an end at last, and Richard would fain
have run all the way to the palace to shake off his weariness, but he
was obliged to head the procession again; and even when he reached
the castle hall his toils were not over, for there was a great state
banquet spread out, and he had to sit in the high chair where he
remembered climbing on his father's knee last Christmas-day, all the
time that the Barons feasted round, and held grave converse.
Richard's best comfort all this time was in watching Osmond de
Centeville and Alberic de Montemar, who, with the other youths who
were not yet knighted, were waiting on those who sat at the table.
At last he grew so very weary, that he fell fast asleep in the corner
of his chair, and did not wake till he was startled by the rough
voice of Bernard de Harcourt, calling him to rouse up, and bid the
Duke of Brittany farewell.

"Poor child!" said Duke Alan, as Richard rose up, startled, "he is
over-wearied with this day's work.  Take care of him, Count Bernard;
thou a kindly nurse, but a rough one for such a babe.  Ha! my young
Lord, your colour mantles at being called a babe!  I crave your
pardon, for you are a fine spirit.  And hark you, Lord Richard of
Normandy, I have little cause to love your race, and little right, I
trow, had King Charles the Simple to call us free Bretons liegemen to
a race of plundering Northern pirates.  To Duke Rollo's might, my
father never gave his homage; nay, nor did I yield it for all Duke
William's long sword, but I did pay it to his generosity and
forbearance, and now I grant it to thy weakness and to his noble
memory.  I doubt not that the recreant Frank, Louis, whom he restored
to his throne, will strive to profit by thy youth and helplessness,
and should that be, remember that thou hast no surer friend than Alan
of Brittany.  Fare thee well, my young Duke."

"Farewell, Sir," said Richard, willingly giving his hand to be shaken
by his kind vassal, and watching him as Sir Eric attended him from
the hall.

"Fair words, but I trust not the Breton," muttered Bernard; "hatred
is deeply ingrained in them."

"He should know what the Frank King is made of," said Rainulf de
Ferrieres; "he was bred up with him in the days that they were both
exiles at the court of King Ethelstane of England."

"Ay, and thanks to Duke William that either Louis or Alan are not
exiles still.  Now we shall see whose gratitude is worth most, the
Frank's or the Breton's.  I suspect the Norman valour will be the
best to trust to."

"Yes, and how will Norman valour prosper without treasure?  Who knows
what gold is in the Duke's coffers?"

There was some consultation here in a low voice, and the next thing
Richard heard distinctly was, that one of the Nobles held up a silver
chain and key, {9} saying that they had been found on the Duke's
neck, and that he had kept them, thinking that they doubtless led to
something of importance.

"Oh, yes!" said Richard, eagerly, "I know it.  He told me it was the
key to his greatest treasure."

The Normans heard this with great interest, and it was resolved that
several of the most trusted persons, among whom were the Archbishop
of Rouen, Abbot Martin of Jumieges, and the Count of Harcourt, should
go immediately in search of this precious hoard.  Richard accompanied
them up the narrow rough stone stairs, to the large dark apartment,
where his father had slept.  Though a Prince's chamber, it had little
furniture; a low uncurtained bed, a Cross on a ledge near its head, a
rude table, a few chairs, and two large chests, were all it
contained.  Harcourt tried the lid of one of the chests:  it opened,
and proved to be full of wearing apparel; he went to the other, which
was smaller, much more carved, and ornamented with very handsome
iron-work.  It was locked, and putting in the key, it fitted, the
lock turned, and the chest was opened.  The Normans pressed eagerly
to see their Duke's greatest treasure.

It was a robe of serge, and a pair of sandals, such as were worn in
the Abbey of Jumieges.

"Ha! is this all?  What didst say, child?" cried Bernard the Dane,
hastily.

"He told me it was his greatest treasure!" repeated Richard.

"And it was!" said Abbot Martin.

Then the good Abbot told them the history, part of which was already
known to some of them.  About five or six years before, Duke William
had been hunting in the forest of Jumieges, when he had suddenly come
on the ruins of the Abbey, which had been wasted thirty or forty
years previously by the Sea-King, Hasting.  Two old monks, of the
original brotherhood, still survived, and came forth to greet the
Duke, and offer him their hospitality.

"Ay!" said Bernard, "well do I remember their bread; we asked if it
was made of fir-bark, like that of our brethren of Norway."

William, then an eager, thoughtless young man, turned with disgust
from this wretched fare, and throwing the old men some gold, galloped
on to enjoy his hunting.  In the course of the sport, he was left
alone, and encountered a wild boar, which threw him down, trampled on
him, and left him stretched senseless on the ground, severely
injured.  His companions coming up, carried him, as the nearest place
of shelter, to the ruins of Jumieges, where the two old monks gladly
received him in the remaining portion of their house.  As soon as he
recovered his senses, he earnestly asked their pardon for his pride,
and the scorn he had shown to the poverty and patient suffering which
he should have reverenced.

William had always been a man who chose the good and refused the
evil, but this accident, and the long illness that followed it, made
him far more thoughtful and serious than he had ever been before; he
made preparing for death and eternity his first object, and thought
less of his worldly affairs, his wars, and his ducal state.  He
rebuilt the old Abbey, endowed it richly, and sent for Martin himself
from France, to become the Abbot; he delighted in nothing so much as
praying there, conversing with the Abbot, and hearing him read holy
books; and he felt his temporal affairs, and the state and splendour
of his rank, so great a temptation, that he had one day come to the
Abbot, and entreated to be allowed to lay them aside, and become a
brother of the order.  But Martin had refused to receive his vows.
He had told him that he had no right to neglect or forsake the duties
of the station which God had appointed him; that it would be a sin to
leave the post which had been given him to defend; and that the way
marked out for him to serve God was by doing justice among his
people, and using his power to defend the right.  Not till he had
done his allotted work, and his son was old enough to take his place
as ruler of the Normans, might he cease from his active duties, quit
the turmoil of the world, and seek the repose of the cloister.  It
was in this hope of peaceful retirement, that William had delighted
to treasure up the humble garments that he hoped one day to wear in
peace and holiness.

"And oh! my noble Duke!" exclaimed Abbot Martin, bursting into tears,
as he finished his narration, "the Lord hath been very gracious unto
thee!  He has taken thee home to thy rest, long before thou didst
dare to hope for it."

Slowly, and with subdued feelings, the Norman Barons left the
chamber; Richard, whom they seemed to have almost forgotten, wandered
to the stairs, to find his way to the room where he had slept last
night.  He had not made many steps before he heard Osmond's voice
say, "Here, my Lord;" he looked up, saw a white cap at a doorway a
little above him, he bounded up and flew into Dame Astrida's
outstretched arms.

How glad he was to sit in her lap, and lay his wearied head on her
bosom, while, with a worn-out voice, he exclaimed, "Oh, Fru Astrida!
I am very, very tired of being Duke of Normandy!"



CHAPTER IV



Richard of Normandy was very anxious to know more of the little boy
whom he had seen among his vassals.

"Ah! the young Baron de Montemar," said Sir Eric.  "I knew his father
well, and a brave man he was, though not of northern blood.  He was
warden of the marches of the Epte, and was killed by your father's
side in the inroad of the Viscount du Cotentin, {10} at the time when
you were born, Lord Richard."

"But where does he live?  Shall I not see him again?"

"Montemar is on the bank of the Epte, in the domain that the French
wrongfully claim from us.  He lives there with his mother, and if he
be not yet returned, you shall see him presently.  Osmond, go you and
seek out the lodgings of the young Montemar, and tell him the Duke
would see him."

Richard had never had a playfellow of his own age, and his eagerness
to see Alberic de Montemar was great.  He watched from the window,
and at length beheld Osmond entering the court with a boy of ten
years old by his side, and an old grey-headed Squire, with a golden
chain to mark him as a Seneschal or Steward of the Castle, walking
behind.

Richard ran to the door to meet them, holding out his hand eagerly.
Alberic uncovered his bright dark hair, bowed low and gracefully, but
stood as if he did not exactly know what to do next.  Richard grew
shy at the same moment, and the two boys stood looking at each other
somewhat awkwardly.  It was easy to see that they were of different
races, so unlike were the blue eyes, flaxen hair, and fair face of
the young Duke, to the black flashing eyes and olive cheek of his
French vassal, who, though two years older, was scarcely above him in
height; and his slight figure, well-proportioned, active and agile as
it was, did not give the same promise of strength as the round limbs
and large-boned frame of Richard, which even now seemed likely to
rival the gigantic stature of his grandfather, Earl Rollo, the
Ganger.

For some minutes the little Duke and the young Baron stood surveying
each other without a word, and old Sir Eric did not improve matters
by saying, "Well, Lord Duke, here he is.  Have you no better greeting
for him?"

"The children are shame-faced," said Fru Astrida, seeing how they
both coloured.  "Is your Lady mother in good health, my young sir?"

Alberic blushed more deeply, bowed to the old northern lady, and
answered fast and low in French, "I cannot speak the Norman tongue."

Richard, glad to say something, interpreted Fru Astrida's speech, and
Alberic readily made courteous reply that his mother was well, and he
thanked the Dame de Centeville, a French title which sounded new to
Fru Astrida's ears.  Then came the embarrassment again, and Fru
Astrida at last said, "Take him out, Lord Richard; take him to see
the horses in the stables, or the hounds, or what not."

Richard was not sorry to obey, so out they went into the court of
Rollo's tower, and in the open air the shyness went off.  Richard
showed his own pony, and Alberic asked if he could leap into the
saddle without putting his foot in the stirrup.  No, Richard could
not; indeed, even Osmond had never seen it done, for the feats of
French chivalry had scarcely yet spread into Normandy.

"Can you?" said Richard; "will you show us?"

"I know I can with my own pony," said Alberic, "for Bertrand will not
let me mount in any other way; but I will try with yours, if you
desire it, my Lord."

So the pony was led out.  Alberic laid one hand on its mane, and
vaulted on its back in a moment.  Both Osmond and Richard broke out
loudly into admiration.  "Oh, this is nothing!" said Alberic.
"Bertrand says it is nothing.  Before he grew old and stiff he could
spring into the saddle in this manner fully armed.  I ought to do
this much better."

Richard begged to be shown how to perform the exploit, and Alberic
repeated it; then Richard wanted to try, but the pony's patience
would not endure any longer, and Alberic said he had learnt on a
block of wood, and practised on the great wolf-hound.  They wandered
about a little longer in the court, and then climbed up the spiral
stone stairs to the battlements at the top of the tower, where they
looked at the house-tops of Rouen close beneath, and the river Seine,
broadening and glittering on one side in its course to the sea, and
on the other narrowing to a blue ribbon, winding through the green
expanse of fertile Normandy.  They threw the pebbles and bits of
mortar down that they might hear them fall, and tried which could
stand nearest to the edge of the battlement without being giddy.
Richard was pleased to find that he could go the nearest, and began
to tell some of Fru Astrida's stories about the precipices of Norway,
among which when she was a young girl she used to climb about and
tend the cattle in the long light summer time.  When the two boys
came down again into the hall to dinner, they felt as if they had
known each other all their lives.  The dinner was laid out in full
state, and Richard had, as before, to sit in the great throne-like
chair with the old Count of Harcourt on one side, but, to his
comfort, Fru Astrida was on the other.

After the dinner, Alberic de Montemar rose to take his leave, as he
was to ride half way to his home that afternoon.  Count Bernard, who
all dinner time had been watching him intently from under his shaggy
eye-brows, at this moment turned to Richard, whom he hardly ever
addressed, and said to him, "Hark ye, my Lord, what should you say to
have him yonder for a comrade?"

"To stay with me?" cried Richard, eagerly.  "Oh, thanks, Sir Count;
and may he stay?"

"You are Lord here."

"Oh, Alberic!" cried Richard, jumping out of his chair of state, and
running up to him, "will you not stay with me, and be my brother and
comrade?"

Alberic looked down hesitating.

"Oh, say that you will!  I will give you horses, and hawks, and
hounds, and I will love you--almost as well as Osmond.  Oh, stay with
me, Alberic."

"I must obey you, my Lord," said Alberic, "but--"

"Come, young Frenchman, out with it," said Bernard,--"no buts!  Speak
honestly, and at once, like a Norman, if you can."

This rough speech seemed to restore the little Baron's self-
possession, and he looked up bright and bold at the rugged face of
the old Dane, while he said, "I had rather not stay here."

"Ha! not do service to your Lord?"

"I would serve him with all my heart, but I do not want to stay here.
I love the Castle of Montemar better, and my mother has no one but
me."

"Brave and true, Sir Frenchman," said the old Count, laying his great
hand on Alberic's head, and looking better pleased than Richard
thought his grim features could have appeared.  Then turning to
Bertrand, Alberic's Seneschal, he said, "Bear the Count de Harcourt's
greetings to the noble Dame de Montemar, and say to her that her son
is of a free bold spirit, and if she would have him bred up with my
Lord Duke, as his comrade and brother in arms, he will find a ready
welcome."

"So, Alberic, you will come back, perhaps?" said Richard.

"That must be as my mother pleases," answered Alberic bluntly, and
with all due civilities he and his Seneschal departed.

Four or five times a day did Richard ask Osmond and Fru Astrida if
they thought Alberic would return, and it was a great satisfaction to
him to find that every one agreed that it would be very foolish in
the Dame de Montemar to refuse so good an offer, only Fru Astrida
could not quite believe she would part with her son.  Still no Baron
de Montemar arrived, and the little Duke was beginning to think less
about his hopes, when one evening, as he was returning from a ride
with Sir Eric and Osmond, he saw four horsemen coming towards them,
and a little boy in front.

"It is Alberic himself, I am sure of it!" he exclaimed, and so it
proved; and while the Seneschal delivered his Lady's message to Sir
Eric, Richard rode up and greeted the welcome guest.

"Oh, I am very glad your mother has sent you!"

"She said she was not fit to bring up a young warrior of the
marches," said Alberic.

"Were you very sorry to come?"

"I dare say I shall not mind it soon; and Bertrand is to come and
fetch me home to visit her every three months, if you will let me go,
my Lord."

Richard was extremely delighted, and thought he could never do enough
to make Rouen pleasant to Alberic, who after the first day or two
cheered up, missed his mother less, managed to talk something between
French and Norman to Sir Eric and Fru Astrida, and became a very
animated companion and friend.  In one respect Alberic was a better
playfellow for the Duke than Osmond de Centeville, for Osmond,
playing as a grown up man, not for his own amusement, but the
child's, had left all the advantages of the game to Richard, who was
growing not a little inclined to domineer.  This Alberic did not
like, unless, as he said, "it was to be always Lord and vassal, and
then he did not care for the game," and he played with so little
animation that Richard grew vexed.

"I can't help it," said Alberic; "if you take all the best chances to
yourself, 'tis no sport for me.  I will do your bidding, as you are
the Duke, but I cannot like it."

"Never mind my being Duke, but play as we used to do."

"Then let us play as I did with Bertrand's sons at Montemar.  I was
their Baron, as you are my Duke, but my mother said there would be no
sport unless we forgot all that at play."

"Then so we will.  Come, begin again, Alberic, and you shall have the
first turn."

However, Alberic was quite as courteous and respectful to the Duke
when they were not at play, as the difference of their rank required;
indeed, he had learnt much more of grace and courtliness of demeanour
from his mother, a Provencal lady, than was yet to be found among the
Normans.  The Chaplain of Montemar had begun to teach him to read and
write, and he liked learning much better than Richard, who would not
have gone on with Father Lucas's lessons at all, if Abbot Martin of
Jumieges had not put him in mind that it had been his father's
especial desire.

What Richard most disliked was, however, the being obliged to sit in
council.  The Count of Harcourt did in truth govern the dukedom, but
nothing could be done without the Duke's consent, and once a week at
least, there was held in the great hall of Rollo's tower, what was
called a Parlement, or "a talkation," where Count Bernard, the
Archbishop, the Baron de Centeville, the Abbot of Jumieges, and such
other Bishops, Nobles, or Abbots, as might chance to be at Rouen,
consulted on the affairs of Normandy; and there the little Duke
always was forced to be present, sitting up in his chair of state,
and hearing rather than listening to, questions about the repairing
and guarding of Castles, the asking of loans from the vassals, the
appeals from the Barons of the Exchequer, who were then Nobles sent
through the duchy to administer justice, and the discussions about
the proceedings of his neighbours, King Louis of France, Count
Foulques of Anjou, and Count Herluin of Montreuil, and how far the
friendship of Hugh of Paris, and Alan of Brittany might be trusted.

Very tired of all this did Richard grow, especially when he found
that the Normans had made up their minds not to attempt a war against
the wicked Count of Flanders.  He sighed most wearily, yawned again
and again, and moved restlessly about in his chair; but whenever
Count Bernard saw him doing so, he received so severe a look and sign
that he grew perfectly to dread the eye of the fierce old Dane.
Bernard never spoke to him to praise him, or to enter into any of his
pursuits; he only treated him with the grave distant respect due to
him as a Prince, or else now and then spoke a few stern words to him
of reproof for this restlessness, or for some other childish folly.

Used as Richard was to be petted and made much of by the whole house
of Centeville, he resented this considerably in secret, disliked and
feared the old Count, and more than once told Alberic de Montemar,
that as soon as he was fourteen, when he would be declared of age, he
should send Count Bernard to take care of his own Castle of Harcourt,
instead of letting him sit gloomy and grim in the Castle hall in the
evening, spoiling all their sport.

Winter had set in, and Osmond used daily to take the little Duke and
Alberic to the nearest sheet of ice, for the Normans still prided
themselves on excelling in skating, though they had long since left
the frost-bound streams and lakes of Norway.

One day, as they were returning from the ice, they were surprised,
even before they entered the Castle court, by hearing the trampling
of horses' feet, and a sound of voices.

"What may this mean?" said Osmond.  "There must surely be a great
arrival of the vassals.  The Duke of Brittany, perhaps."

"Oh," said Richard, piteously, "we have had one council already this
week.  I hope another is not coming!"

"It must import something extraordinary," proceeded Osmond.  "It is a
mischance that the Count of Harcourt is not at Rouen just now."

Richard thought this no mischance at all, and just then, Alberic, who
had run on a little before, came back exclaiming, "They are French.
It is the Frank tongue, not the Norman, that they speak."

"So please you, my Lord," said Osmond, stopping short, "we go not
rashly into the midst of them.  I would I knew what were best to do."

Osmond rubbed his forehead and stood considering, while the two boys
looked at him anxiously.  In a few seconds, before he had come to any
conclusion, there came forth from the gate a Norman Squire,
accompanied by two strangers.

"My Lord Duke," said he to Richard, in French, "Sir Eric has sent me
to bring you tidings that the King of France has arrived to receive
your homage."

"The King!" exclaimed Osmond.

"Ay!" proceeded the Norman, in his own tongue, "Louis himself, and
with a train looking bent on mischief.  I wish it may portend good to
my Lord here.  You see I am accompanied.  I believe from my heart
that Louis meant to prevent you from receiving a warning, and taking
the boy out of his clutches."

"Ha! what?" said Richard, anxiously.  "Why is the King come?  What
must I do?"

"Go on now, since there is no help for it," said Osmond.

"Greet the king as becomes you, bend the knee, and pay him homage."

Richard repeated over to himself the form of homage that he might be
perfect in it, and walked on into the court; Alberic, Osmond, and the
rest falling back as he entered.  The court was crowded with horses
and men, and it was only by calling out loudly, "The Duke, the Duke,"
that Osmond could get space enough made for them to pass.  In a few
moments Richard had mounted the steps and stood in the great hall.

In the chair of state, at the upper end of the room, sat a small
spare man, of about eight or nine-and-twenty, pale, and of a light
complexion, with a rich dress of blue and gold.  Sir Eric and several
other persons stood respectfully round him, and he was conversing
with the Archbishop, who, as well as Sir Eric, cast several anxious
glances at the little Duke as he advanced up the hall.  He came up to
the King, put his knee to the ground, and was just beginning, "Louis,
King of France, I--" when he found himself suddenly lifted from the
ground in the King's arms, and kissed on both cheeks.  Then setting
him on his knee, the King exclaimed, "And is this the son of my brave
and noble friend, Duke William?  Ah!  I should have known it from his
likeness.  Let me embrace you again, dear child, for your father's
sake."

Richard was rather overwhelmed, but he thought the King very kind,
especially when Louis began to admire his height and free-spirited
bearing, and to lament that his own sons, Lothaire and Carloman, were
so much smaller and more backward.  He caressed Richard again and
again, praised every word he said--Fru Astrida was nothing to him;
and Richard began to say to himself how strange and unkind it was of
Bernard de Harcourt to like to find fault with him, when, on the
contrary, he deserved all this praise from the King himself.



CHAPTER V



Duke Richard of Normandy slept in the room which had been his
father's; Alberic de Montemar, as his page, slept at his feet, and
Osmond de Centeville had a bed on the floor, across the door, where
he lay with his sword close at hand, as his young Lord's guard and
protector.

All had been asleep for some little time, when Osmond was startled by
a slight movement of the door, which could not be pushed open without
awakening him.  In an instant he had grasped his sword, while he
pressed his shoulder to the door to keep it closed; but it was his
father's voice that answered him with a few whispered words in the
Norse tongue, "It is I, open."  He made way instantly, and old Sir
Eric entered, treading cautiously with bare feet, and sat down on the
bed motioning him to do the same, so that they might be able to speak
lower.  "Right, Osmond," he said.  "It is well to be on the alert,
for peril enough is around him--The Frank means mischief!  I know
from a sure hand that Arnulf of Flanders was in council with him just
before he came hither, with his false tongue, wiling and coaxing the
poor child!"

"Ungrateful traitor!" murmured Osmond.  "Do you guess his purpose?"

"Yes, surely, to carry the boy off with him, and so he trusts
doubtless to cut off all the race of Rollo!  I know his purpose is to
bear off the Duke, as a ward of the Crown forsooth.  Did you not hear
him luring the child with his promises of friendship with the
Princes?  I could not understand all his French words, but I saw it
plain enough."

"You will never allow it?"

"If he does, it must be across our dead bodies; but taken as we are
by surprise, our resistance will little avail.  The Castle is full of
French, the hall and court swarm with them.  Even if we could draw
our Normans together, we should not be more than a dozen men, and
what could we do but die?  That we are ready for, if it may not be
otherwise, rather than let our charge be thus borne off without a
pledge for his safety, and without the knowledge of the states."

"The king could not have come at a worse time," said Osmond.

"No, just when Bernard the Dane is absent.  If he only knew what has
befallen, he could raise the country, and come to the rescue."

"Could we not send some one to bear the tidings to-night?"

"I know not," said Sir Eric, musingly.  "The French have taken the
keeping of the doors; indeed they are so thick through the Castle
that I can hardly reach one of our men, nor could I spare one hand
that may avail to guard the boy to-morrow."

"Sir Eric;" a bare little foot was heard on the floor, and Alberic de
Montemar stood before him.  "I did not mean to listen, but I could
not help hearing you.  I cannot fight for the Duke yet, but I could
carry a message."

"How would that be?" said Osmond, eagerly.  "Once out of the Castle,
and in Rouen, he could easily find means of sending to the Count.  He
might go either to the Convent of St. Ouen, or, which would be
better, to the trusty armourer, Thibault, who would soon find man and
horse to send after the Count."

"Ha! let me see," said Sir Eric.  "It might be.  But how is he to get
out?"

"I know a way," said Alberic.  "I scrambled down that wide buttress
by the east wall last week, when our ball was caught in a branch of
the ivy, and the drawbridge is down."

"If Bernard knew, it would be off my mind, at least!" said Sir Eric.
"Well, my young Frenchman, you may do good service."

"Osmond," whispered Alberic, as he began hastily to dress himself,
"only ask one thing of Sir Eric--never to call me young Frenchman
again!"

Sir Eric smiled, saying, "Prove yourself Norman, my boy."

"Then," added Osmond, "if it were possible to get the Duke himself
out of the castle to-morrow morning.  If I could take him forth by
the postern, and once bring him into the town, he would be safe.  It
would be only to raise the burghers, or else to take refuge in the
Church of Our Lady till the Count came up, and then Louis would find
his prey out of his hands when he awoke and sought him."

"That might be," replied Sir Eric; "but I doubt your success.  The
French are too eager to hold him fast, to let him slip out of their
hands.  You will find every door guarded."

"Yes, but all the French have not seen the Duke, and the sight of a
squire and a little page going forth, will scarcely excite their
suspicion."

"Ay, if the Duke would bear himself like a little page; but that you
need not hope for.  Besides, he is so taken with this King's
flatteries, that I doubt whether he would consent to leave him for
the sake of Count Bernard.  Poor child, he is like to be soon taught
to know his true friends."

"I am ready," said Alberic, coming forward.

The Baron de Centeville repeated his instructions, and then undertook
to guard the door, while his son saw Alberic set off on his
expedition.  Osmond went with him softly down the stairs, then
avoiding the hall, which was filled with French, they crept silently
to a narrow window, guarded by iron bars, placed at such short
intervals apart that only so small and slim a form as Alberic's could
have squeezed out between them.  The distance to the ground was not
much more than twice his own height, and the wall was so covered with
ivy, that it was not a very dangerous feat for an active boy, so that
Alberic was soon safe on the ground, then looking up to wave his cap,
he ran on along the side of the moat, and was soon lost to Osmond's
sight in the darkness.

Osmond returned to the Duke's chamber, and relieved his father's
guard, while Richard slept soundly on, little guessing at the plots
of his enemies, or at the schemes of his faithful subjects for his
protection.

Osmond thought this all the better, for he had small trust in
Richard's patience and self-command, and thought there was much more
chance of getting him unnoticed out of the Castle, if he did not know
how much depended on it, and how dangerous his situation was.

When Richard awoke, he was much surprised at missing Alberic, but
Osmond said he was gone into the town to Thibault the armourer, and
this was a message on which he was so likely to be employed that
Richard's suspicion was not excited.  All the time he was dressing he
talked about the King, and everything he meant to show him that day;
then, when he was ready, the first thing was as usual to go to attend
morning mass.

"Not by that way, to-day, my Lord," said Osmond, as Richard was about
to enter the great hall.  "It is crowded with the French who have
been sleeping there all night; come to the postern."

Osmond turned, as he spoke, along the passage, walking fast, and not
sorry that Richard was lingering a little, as it was safer for him to
be first.  The postern was, as he expected, guarded by two tall
steel-cased figures, who immediately held their lances across the
door-way, saying, "None passes without warrant."

"You will surely let us of the Castle attend to our daily business,"
said Osmond.  "You will hardly break your fast this morning if you
stop all communication with the town."

"You must bring warrant," repeated one of the men-at-arms.  Osmond
was beginning to say that he was the son of the Seneschal of the
Castle, when Richard came hastily up.  "What?  Do these men want to
stop us?" he exclaimed in the imperious manner he had begun to take
up since his accession.  "Let us go on, sirs."

The men-at-arms looked at each other, and guarded the door more
closely.  Osmond saw it was hopeless, and only wanted to draw his
young charge back without being recognised, but Richard exclaimed
loudly, "What means this?"

"The King has given orders that none should pass without warrant,"
was Osmond's answer.  "We must wait."

"I will pass!" said Richard, impatient at opposition, to which he was
little accustomed.  "What mean you, Osmond?  This is my Castle, and
no one has a right to stop me.  Do you hear, grooms? let me go.  I am
the Duke!"

The sentinels bowed, but all they said was, "Our orders are express."

"I tell you I am Duke of Normandy, and I will go where I please in my
own city!" exclaimed Richard, passionately pressing against the
crossed staves of the weapons, to force his way between them, but he
was caught and held fast in the powerful gauntlet of one of the men-
at-arms.  "Let me go, villain!" cried he, struggling with all his
might.  "Osmond, Osmond, help!"

Even as he spoke Osmond had disengaged him from the grasp of the
Frenchman, and putting his hand on his arm, said, "Nay, my Lord, it
is not for you to strive with such as these."

"I will strive!" cried the boy.  "I will not have my way barred in my
own Castle.  I will tell the King how these rogues of his use me.  I
will have them in the dungeon.  Sir Eric! where is Sir Eric?"

Away he rushed to the stairs, Osmond hurrying after him, lest he
should throw himself into some fresh danger, or by his loud calls
attract the French, who might then easily make him prisoner.
However, on the very first step of the stairs stood Sir Eric, who was
too anxious for the success of the attempt to escape, to be very far
off.  Richard, too angry to heed where he was going, dashed up
against him without seeing him, and as the old Baron took hold of
him, began, "Sir Eric, Sir Eric, those French are villains! they will
not let me pass--"

"Hush, hush! my Lord," said Sir Eric.  "Silence! come here."

However imperious with others, Richard from force of habit always
obeyed Sir Eric, and now allowed himself to be dragged hastily and
silently by him, Osmond following closely, up the stairs, up a second
and a third winding flight, still narrower, and with broken steps, to
a small round, thick-walled turret chamber, with an extremely small
door, and loop-holes of windows high up in the tower.  Here, to his
great surprise, he found Dame Astrida, kneeling and telling her
beads, two or three of her maidens, and about four of the Norman
Squires and men-at-arms.

"So you have failed, Osmond?" said the Baron.

"But what is all this?  How did Fru Astrida come up here?  May I not
go to the King and have those insolent Franks punished?"

"Listen to me, Lord Richard," said Sir Eric:  "that smooth-spoken
King whose words so charmed you last night is an ungrateful deceiver.
The Franks have always hated and feared the Normans, and not being
able to conquer us fairly, they now take to foul means.  Louis came
hither from Flanders, he has brought this great troop of French to
surprise us, claim you as a ward of the crown, and carry you away
with him to some prison of his own."

"You will not let me go?" said Richard.

"Not while I live," said Sir Eric.  "Alberic is gone to warn the
Count of Harcourt, to call the Normans together, and here we are
ready to defend this chamber to our last breath, but we are few, the
French are many, and succour may be far off."

"Then you meant to have taken me out of their reach this morning,
Osmond?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"And if I had not flown into a passion and told who I was, I might
have been safe!  O Sir Eric!  Sir Eric! you will not let me be
carried off to a French prison!"

"Here, my child," said Dame Astrida, holding out her arms, "Sir Eric
will do all he can for you, but we are in God's hands!"

Richard came and leant against her.  "I wish I had not been in a
passion!" said he, sadly, after a silence; then looking at her in
wonder--"But how came you up all this way?"

"It is a long way for my old limbs," said Fru Astrida, smiling, "but
my son helped me, and he deems it the only safe place in the Castle."

"The safest," said Sir Eric, "and that is not saying much for it."

"Hark!" said Osmond, "what a tramping the Franks are making.  They
are beginning to wonder where the Duke is."

"To the stairs, Osmond," said Sir Eric.  "On that narrow step one man
may keep them at bay a long time.  You can speak their jargon too,
and hold parley with them."

"Perhaps they will think I am gone," whispered Richard, "if they
cannot find me, and go away."

Osmond and two of the Normans were, as he spoke, taking their stand
on the narrow spiral stair, where there was just room for one man on
the step.  Osmond was the lowest, the other two above him, and it
would have been very hard for an enemy to force his way past them.

Osmond could plainly hear the sounds of the steps and voices of the
French as they consulted together, and sought for the Duke.  A man at
length was heard clanking up these very stairs, till winding round,
he suddenly found himself close upon young de Centeville.

"Ha!  Norman!" he cried, starting back in amazement, "what are you
doing here?"

"My duty," answered Osmond, shortly.  "I am here to guard this
stair;" and his drawn sword expressed the same intention.

The Frenchman drew back, and presently a whispering below was heard,
and soon after a voice came up the stairs, saying, "Norman--good
Norman--"

"What would you say?" replied Osmond, and the head of another Frank
appeared.  "What means all this, my friend?" was the address.  "Our
King comes as a guest to you, and you received him last evening as
loyal vassals.  Wherefore have you now drawn out of the way, and
striven to bear off your young Duke into secret places?  Truly it
looks not well that you should thus strive to keep him apart, and
therefore the King requires to see him instantly."

"Sir Frenchman," replied Osmond, "your King claims the Duke as his
ward.  How that may be my father knows not, but as he was committed
to his charge by the states of Normandy, he holds himself bound to
keep him in his own hands until further orders from them."

"That means, insolent Norman, that you intend to shut the boy up and
keep him in your own rebel hands.  You had best yield--it will be the
better for you and for him.  The child is the King's ward, and he
shall not be left to be nurtured in rebellion by northern pirates."

At this moment a cry from without arose, so loud as almost to drown
the voices of the speakers on the turret stair, a cry welcome to the
ears of Osmond, repeated by a multitude of voices, "Haro!  Haro! our
little Duke!"

It was well known as a Norman shout.  So just and so ready to redress
all grievances had the old Duke Rollo been, that his very name was an
appeal against injustice, and whenever wrong was done, the Norman
outcry against the injury was always "Ha Rollo!" or as it had become
shortened, "Haro."  And now Osmond knew that those whose affection
had been won by the uprightness of Rollo, were gathering to protect
his helpless grandchild.

The cry was likewise heard by the little garrison in the turret
chamber, bringing hope and joy.  Richard thought himself already
rescued, and springing from Fru Astrida, danced about in ecstasy,
only longing to see the faithful Normans, whose voices he heard
ringing out again and again, in calls for their little Duke, and
outcries against the Franks.  The windows were, however, so high,
that nothing could be seen from them but the sky; and, like Richard,
the old Baron de Centeville was almost beside himself with anxiety to
know what force was gathered together, and what measures were being
taken.  He opened the door, called to his son, and asked if he could
tell what was passing, but Osmond knew as little--he could see
nothing but the black, cobwebbed, dusty steps winding above his head,
while the clamours outside, waxing fiercer and louder, drowned all
the sounds which might otherwise have come up to him from the French
within the Castle.  At last, however, Osmond called out to his
father, in Norse, "There is a Frank Baron come to entreat, and this
time very humbly, that the Duke may come to the King."

"Tell him," replied Sir Eric, "that save with consent of the council
of Normandy, the child leaves not my hands."

"He says," called back Osmond, after a moment, "that you shall guard
him yourself, with as many as you choose to bring with you.  He
declares on the faith of a free Baron, that the King has no thought
of ill--he wants to show him to the Rouennais without, who are
calling for him, and threaten to tear down the tower rather than not
see their little Duke.  Shall I bid him send a hostage?"

"Answer him," returned the Baron, "that the Duke leaves not this
chamber unless a pledge is put into our hands for his safety.  There
was an oily-tongued Count, who sat next the King at supper--let him
come hither, and then perchance I may trust the Duke among them."

Osmond gave the desired reply, which was carried to the King.
Meantime the uproar outside grew louder than ever, and there were new
sounds, a horn was winded, and there was a shout of "Dieu aide!" the
Norman war-cry, joined with "Notre Dame de Harcourt!"

"There, there!" cried Sir Eric, with a long breath, as if relieved of
half his anxieties, "the boy has sped well.  Bernard is here at last!
Now his head and hand are there, I doubt no longer."

"Here comes the Count," said Osmond, opening the door, and admitting
a stout, burly man, who seemed sorely out of breath with the ascent
of the steep, broken stair, and very little pleased to find himself
in such a situation.  The Baron de Centeville augured well from the
speed with which he had been sent, thinking it proved great
perplexity and distress on the part of Louis.  Without waiting to
hear his hostage speak, he pointed to a chest on which he had been
sitting, and bade two of his men-at-arms stand on each side of the
Count, saying at the same time to Fru Astrida, "Now, mother, if aught
of evil befalls the child, you know your part.  Come, Lord Richard."

Richard moved forward.  Sir Eric held his hand.  Osmond kept close
behind him, and with as many of the men-at-arms as could be spared
from guarding Fru Astrida and her hostage, he descended the stairs,
not by any means sorry to go, for he was weary of being besieged in
that turret chamber, whence he could see nothing, and with those
friendly cries in his ears, he could not be afraid.

He was conducted to the large council-room which was above the hall.
There, the King was walking up and down anxiously, looking paler than
his wont, and no wonder, for the uproar sounded tremendous there--and
now and then a stone dashed against the sides of the deep window.

Nearly at the same moment as Richard entered by one door, Count
Bernard de Harcourt came in from the other, and there was a slight
lull in the tumult.

"What means this, my Lords?" exclaimed the King.  "Here am I come in
all good will, in memory of my warm friendship with Duke William, to
take on me the care of his orphan, and hold council with you for
avenging his death, and is this the greeting you afford me?  You
steal away the child, and stir up the rascaille of Rouen against me.
Is this the reception for your King?"

"Sir King," replied Bernard, "what your intentions may be, I know
not.  All I do know is, that the burghers of Rouen are fiercely
incensed against you--so much so, that they were almost ready to tear
me to pieces for being absent at this juncture.  They say that you
are keeping the child prisoner in his own Castle and that they will
have him restored if they tear it down to the foundations."

"You are a true man, a loyal man--you understand my good intentions,"
said Louis, trembling, for the Normans were extremely dreaded.  "You
would not bring the shame of rebellion on your town and people.
Advise me--I will do just as you counsel me--how shall I appease
them?"

"Take the child, lead him to the window, swear that you mean him no
evil, that you will not take him from us," said Bernard.  "Swear it
on the faith of a King."

"As a King--as a Christian, it is true!" said Louis.  "Here, my boy!
Wherefore shrink from me?  What have I done, that you should fear me?
You have been listening to evil tales of me, my child.  Come hither."

At a sign from the Count de Harcourt, Sir Eric led Richard forward,
and put his hand into the King's.  Louis took him to the window,
lifted him upon the sill, and stood there with his arm round him,
upon which the shout, "Long live Richard, our little Duke!" arose
again.  Meantime, the two Centevilles looked in wonder at the old
Harcourt, who shook his head and muttered in his own tongue, "I will
do all I may, but our force is small, and the King has the best of
it.  We must not yet bring a war on ourselves."

"Hark! he is going to speak," said Osmond.

"Fair Sirs!--excellent burgesses!" began the King, as the cries
lulled a little. {11}  "I rejoice to see the love ye bear to our
young Prince!  I would all my subjects were equally loyal!  But
wherefore dread me, as if I were come to injure him?  I, who came but
to take counsel how to avenge the death of his father, who brought me
back from England when I was a friendless exile.  Know ye not how
deep is the debt of gratitude I owe to Duke William?  He it was who
made me King--it was he who gained me the love of the King of
Germany; he stood godfather for my son--to him I owe all my wealth
and state, and all my care is to render guerdon for it to his child,
since, alas!  I may not to himself.  Duke William rests in his bloody
grave!  It is for me to call his murderers to account, and to cherish
his son, even as mine own!"

So saying, Louis tenderly embraced the little boy, and the Rouennais
below broke out into another cry, in which "Long live King Louis,"
was joined with "Long live Richard!"

"You will not let the child go?" said Eric, meanwhile, to Harcourt.

"Not without provision for his safety, but we are not fit for war as
yet, and to let him go is the only means of warding it off."

Eric groaned and shook his head; but the Count de Harcourt's judgment
was of such weight with him, that he never dreamt of disputing it.

"Bring me here," said the King, "all that you deem most holy, and you
shall see me pledge myself to be your Duke's most faithful friend."

There was some delay, during which the Norman Nobles had time for
further counsel together, and Richard looked wistfully at them,
wondering what was to happen to him, and wishing he could venture to
ask for Alberic.

Several of the Clergy of the Cathedral presently appeared in
procession, bringing with them the book of the Gospels on which
Richard had taken his installation oath, with others of the sacred
treasures of the Church, preserved in gold cases.  The Priests were
followed by a few of the Norman Knights and Nobles, some of the
burgesses of Rouen, and, to Richard's great joy, by Alberic de
Montemar himself.  The two boys stood looking eagerly at each other,
while preparation was made for the ceremony of the King's oath.

The stone table in the middle of the room was cleared, and arranged
so as in some degree to resemble the Altar in the Cathedral; then the
Count de Harcourt, standing before it, and holding the King's hand,
demanded of him whether he would undertake to be the friend,
protector, and good Lord of Richard, Duke of Normandy, guarding him
from all his enemies, and ever seeking his welfare.  Louis, with his
hand on the Gospels, "swore that so he would."

"Amen!" returned Bernard the Dane, solemnly, "and as thou keepest
that oath to the fatherless child, so may the Lord do unto thine
house!"

Then followed the ceremony, which had been interrupted the night
before, of the homage and oath of allegiance which Richard owed to
the King, and, on the other hand, the King's formal reception of him
as a vassal, holding, under him, the two dukedoms of Normandy and
Brittany.  "And," said the King, raising him in his arms and kissing
him, "no dearer vassal do I hold in all my realm than this fair
child, son of my murdered friend and benefactor--precious to me as my
own children, as so on my Queen and I hope to testify."

Richard did not much like all this embracing; but he was sure the
King really meant him no ill, and he wondered at all the distrust the
Centevilles had shown.

"Now, brave Normans," said the King, "be ye ready speedily, for an
onset on the traitor Fleming.  The cause of my ward is my own cause.
Soon shall the trumpet be sounded, the ban and arriere ban of the
realm be called forth, and Arnulf, in the flames of his cities, and
the blood of his vassals, shall learn to rue the day when his foot
trod the Isle of Pecquigny!  How many Normans can you bring to the
muster, Sir Count?"

"I cannot say, within a few hundreds of lances," replied the old
Dane, cautiously; "it depends on the numbers that may be engaged in
the Italian war with the Saracens, but of this be sure, Sir King,
that every man in Normandy and Brittany who can draw a sword or bend
a bow, will stand forth in the cause of our little Duke; ay, and that
his blessed father's memory is held so dear in our northern home,
that it needs but a message to King Harold Blue-tooth to bring a
fleet of long keels into the Seine, with stout Danes enough to carry
fire and sword, not merely through Flanders, but through all France.
We of the North are not apt to forget old friendships and favours,
Sir King."

"Yes, yes, I know the Norman faith of old," returned Louis, uneasily,
"but we should scarcely need such wild allies as you propose; the
Count of Paris, and Hubert of Senlis may be reckoned on, I suppose."

"No truer friend to Normandy than gallant and wise old Hugh the
White!" said Bernard, "and as to Senlis, he is uncle to the boy, and
doubly bound to us."

"I rejoice to see your confidence," said Louis.  "You shall soon hear
from me.  In the meantime I must return to gather my force together,
and summon my great vassals, and I will, with your leave, brave
Normans, take with me my dear young ward.  His presence will plead
better in his cause than the finest words; moreover, he will grow up
in love and friendship with my two boys, and shall be nurtured with
them in all good learning and chivalry, nor shall he ever be reminded
that he is an orphan while under the care of Queen Gerberge and
myself."

"Let the child come to me, so please you, my Lord the King," answered
Harcourt, bluntly.  "I must hold some converse with him, ere I can
reply."

"Go then, Richard," said Louis, "go to your trusty vassal--happy are
you in possessing such a friend; I hope you know his value."

"Here then, young Sir," said the Count, in his native tongue, when
Richard had crossed from the King's side, and stood beside him, "what
say you to this proposal?"

"The King is very kind," said Richard.  "I am sure he is kind; but I
do not like to go from Rouen, or from Dame Astrida."

"Listen, my Lord," said the Dane, stooping down and speaking low.
"The King is resolved to have you away; he has with him the best of
his Franks, and has so taken us at unawares, that though I might yet
rescue you from his hands, it would not be without a fierce struggle,
wherein you might be harmed, and this castle and town certainly
burnt, and wrested from us.  A few weeks or months, and we shall have
time to draw our force together, so that Normandy need fear no man,
and for that time you must tarry with him."

"Must I--and all alone?"

"No, not alone, not without the most trusty guardian that can be
found for you.  Friend Eric, what say you?" and he laid his hand on
the old Baron's shoulder.  "Yet, I know not; true thou art, as a
Norwegian mountain, but I doubt me if thy brains are not too dull to
see through the French wiles and disguises, sharp as thou didst show
thyself last night."

"That was Osmond, not I," said Sir Eric.  "He knows their mincing
tongue better than I.  He were the best to go with the poor child, if
go he must."

"Bethink you, Eric," said the Count, in an undertone, "Osmond is the
only hope of your good old house--if there is foul play, the guardian
will be the first to suffer."

"Since you think fit to peril the only hope of all Normandy, I am not
the man to hold back my son where he may aid him," said old Eric,
sadly.  "The poor child will be lonely and uncared-for there, and it
were hard he should not have one faithful comrade and friend with
him."

"It is well," said Bernard:  "young as he is, I had rather trust
Osmond with the child than any one else, for he is ready of counsel,
and quick of hand."

"Ay, and a pretty pass it is come to," muttered old Centeville, "that
we, whose business it is to guard the boy, should send him where you
scarcely like to trust my son."

Bernard paid no further attention to him, but, coming forward,
required another oath from the King, that Richard should be as safe
and free at his court as at Rouen, and that on no pretence whatsoever
should he be taken from under the immediate care of his Esquire,
Osmond Fitz Eric, heir of Centeville.

After this, the King was impatient to depart, and all was
preparation.  Bernard called Osmond aside to give full instructions
on his conduct, and the means of communicating with Normandy, and
Richard was taking leave of Fru Astrida, who had now descended from
her turret, bringing her hostage with her.  She wept much over her
little Duke, praying that he might safely be restored to Normandy,
even though she might not live to see it; she exhorted him not to
forget the good and holy learning in which he had been brought up, to
rule his temper, and, above all, to say his prayers constantly, never
leaving out one, as the beads of his rosary reminded him of their
order.  As to her own grandson, anxiety for him seemed almost lost in
her fears for Richard, and the chief things she said to him, when he
came to take leave of her, were directions as to the care he was to
take of the child, telling him the honour he now received was one
which would make his name forever esteemed if he did but fulfil his
trust, the most precious that Norman had ever yet received.

"I will, grandmother, to the very best of my power," said Osmond; "I
may die in his cause, but never will I be faithless!"

"Alberic!" said Richard, "are you glad to be going back to Montemar?"

"Yes, my Lord," answered Alberic, sturdily, "as glad as you will be
to come back to Rouen."

"Then I shall send for you directly, Alberic, for I shall never love
the Princes Carloman and Lothaire half as well as you!"

"My Lord the King is waiting for the Duke," said a Frenchman, coming
forward.

"Farewell then, Fru Astrida.  Do not weep.  I shall soon come back.
Farewell, Alberic.  Take the bar-tailed falcon back to Montemar, and
keep him for my sake.  Farewell, Sir Eric--Farewell, Count Bernard.
When the Normans come to conquer Arnulf you will lead them.  O dear,
dear Fru Astrida, farewell again."

"Farewell, my own darling.  The blessing of Heaven go with you, and
bring you safe home!  Farewell, Osmond.  Heaven guard you and
strengthen you to be his shield and his defence!"



CHAPTER VI



Away from the tall narrow gateway of Rollo's Tower, with the cluster
of friendly, sorrowful faces looking forth from it, away from the
booth-like shops of Rouen, and the stout burghers shouting with all
the power of their lungs, "Long live Duke Richard!  Long live King
Louis!  Death to the Fleming!"--away from the broad Seine--away from
home and friends, rode the young Duke of Normandy, by the side of the
palfrey of the King of France.

The King took much notice of him, kept him by his side, talked to
him, admired the beautiful cattle grazing in security in the green
pastures, and, as he looked at the rich dark brown earth of the
fields, the Castles towering above the woods, the Convents looking
like great farms, the many villages round the rude Churches, and the
numerous population who came out to gaze at the party, and repeat the
cry of "Long live the King!  Blessings on the little Duke!" he told
Richard, again and again, that his was the most goodly duchy in
France and Germany to boot.

When they crossed the Epte, the King would have Richard in the same
boat with him, and sitting close to Louis, and talking eagerly about
falcons and hounds, the little Duke passed the boundary of his own
dukedom.

The country beyond was not like Normandy.  First they came to a great
forest, which seemed to have no path through it.  The King ordered
that one of the men, who had rowed them across, should be made to
serve as guide, and two of the men-at-arms took him between them, and
forced him to lead the way, while others, with their swords and
battle-axes, cut down and cleared away the tangled branches and
briars that nearly choked the path.  All the time, every one was
sharply on the look-out for robbers, and the weapons were all held
ready for use at a moment's notice.  On getting beyond the forest a
Castle rose before them, and, though it was not yet late in the day,
they resolved to rest there, as a marsh lay not far before them,
which it would not have been safe to traverse in the evening
twilight.

The Baron of the Castle received them with great respect to the King,
but without paying much attention to the Duke of Normandy, and
Richard did not find the second place left for him at the board.  He
coloured violently, and looked first at the King, and then at Osmond,
but Osmond held up his finger in warning; he remembered how he had
lost his temper before, and what had come of it, and resolved to try
to bear it better; and just then the Baron's daughter, a gentle-
looking maiden of fifteen or sixteen, came and spoke to him, and
entertained him so well, that he did not think much more of his
offended dignity.--When they set off on their journey again, the
Baron and several of his followers came with them to show the only
safe way across the morass, and a very slippery, treacherous, quaking
road it was, where the horses' feet left pools of water wherever they
trod.  The King and the Baron rode together, and the other French
Nobles closed round them; Richard was left quite in the background,
and though the French men-at-arms took care not to lose sight of him,
no one offered him any assistance, excepting Osmond, who, giving his
own horse to Sybald, one of the two Norman grooms who accompanied
him, led Richard's horse by the bridle along the whole distance of
the marshy path, a business that could scarcely have been pleasant,
as Osmond wore his heavy hauberk, and his pointed, iron-guarded boots
sunk deep at every step into the bog.  He spoke little, but seemed to
be taking good heed of every stump of willow or stepping-stone that
might serve as a note of remembrance of the path.

At the other end of the morass began a long tract of dreary-looking,
heathy waste, without a sign of life.  The Baron took leave of the
King, only sending three men-at-arms, to show him the way to a
monastery, which was to be the next halting-place.  He sent three,
because it was not safe for one, even fully armed, to ride alone, for
fear of the attacks of the followers of a certain marauding Baron,
who was at deadly feud with him, and made all that border a most
perilous region.  Richard might well observe that he did not like the
Vexin half as well as Normandy, and that the people ought to learn
Fru Astrida's story of the golden bracelets, which, in his
grandfather's time, had hung untouched for a year, in a tree in a
forest.

It was pretty much the same through the whole journey, waste lands,
marshes, and forests alternated.  The Castles stood on high mounds
frowning on the country round, and villages were clustered round
them, where the people either fled away, driving off their cattle
with them at the first sight of an armed band, or else, if they
remained, proved to be thin, wretched-looking creatures, with wasted
limbs, aguish faces, and often iron collars round their necks.
Wherever there was anything of more prosperous appearance, such as a
few cornfields, vineyards on the slopes of the hills, fat cattle, and
peasantry looking healthy and secure, there was sure to be seen a
range of long low stone buildings, surmounted with crosses, with a
short square Church tower rising in the midst, and interspersed with
gnarled hoary old apple-trees, or with gardens of pot-herbs spreading
before them to the meadows.  If, instead of two or three men-at-arms
from a Castle, or of some trembling serf pressed into the service,
and beaten, threatened, and watched to prevent treachery, the King
asked for a guide at a Convent, some lay brother would take his
staff; or else mount an ass, and proceed in perfect confidence and
security as to his return homewards, sure that his poverty and his
sacred character would alike protect him from any outrage from the
most lawless marauder of the neighbourhood.

Thus they travelled until they reached the royal Castle of Laon,
where the Fleur-de-Lys standard on the battlements announced the
presence of Gerberge, Queen of France, and her two sons.  The King
rode first into the court with his Nobles, and before Richard could
follow him through the narrow arched gateway, he had dismounted,
entered the Castle, and was out of sight.  Osmond held the Duke's
stirrup, and followed him up the steps which led to the Castle Hall.
It was full of people, but no one made way, and Richard, holding his
Squire's hand, looked up in his face, inquiring and bewildered.

"Sir Seneschal," said Osmond, seeing a broad portly old man, with
grey hair and a golden chain, "this is the Duke of Normandy--I pray
you conduct him to the King's presence."

Richard had no longer any cause to complain of neglect, for the
Seneschal instantly made him a very low bow, and calling "Place--
place for the high and mighty Prince, my Lord Duke of Normandy!"
ushered him up to the dais or raised part of the floor, where the
King and Queen stood together talking.  The Queen looked round, as
Richard was announced, and he saw her face, which was sallow, and
with a sharp sour expression that did not please him, and he backed
and looked reluctant, while Osmond, with a warning hand pressed on
his shoulder, was trying to remind him that he ought to go forward,
kneel on one knee, and kiss her hand.

"There he is," said the King.

"One thing secure!" said the Queen; "but what makes that northern
giant keep close to his heels?"

Louis answered something in a low voice, and, in the meantime, Osmond
tried in a whisper to induce his young Lord to go forward and perform
his obeisance.

"I tell you I will not," said Richard.  "She looks cross, and I do
not like her."

Luckily he spoke his own language; but his look and air expressed a
good deal of what he said, and Gerberge looked all the more
unattractive.

"A thorough little Norwegian bear," said the King; "fierce and unruly
as the rest.  Come, and perform your courtesy--do you forget where
you are?" he added, sternly.

Richard bowed, partly because Osmond forced down his shoulder; but he
thought of old Rollo and Charles the Simple, and his proud heart
resolved that he would never kiss the hand of that sour-looking
Queen.  It was a determination made in pride and defiance, and he
suffered for it afterwards; but no more passed now, for the Queen
only saw in his behaviour that of an unmannerly young Northman:  and
though she disliked and despised him, she did not care enough about
his courtesy to insist on its being paid.  She sat down, and so did
the King, and they went on talking; the King probably telling her his
adventures at Rouen, while Richard stood on the step of the dais,
swelling with sullen pride.

Nearly a quarter of an hour had passed in this manner when the
servants came to set the table for supper, and Richard, in spite of
his indignant looks, was forced to stand aside.  He wondered that all
this time he had not seen the two Princes, thinking how strange he
should have thought it, to let his own dear father be in the house so
long without coming to welcome him.  At last, just as the supper had
been served up, a side door opened, and the Seneschal called, "Place
for the high and mighty Princes, my Lord Lothaire and my Lord
Carloman!" and in walked two boys, one about the same age as Richard,
the other rather less than a year younger.  They were both thin,
pale, sharp-featured children, and Richard drew himself up to his
full height, with great satisfaction at being so much taller than
Lothaire.

They came up ceremoniously to their father and kissed his hand, while
he kissed their foreheads, and then said to them, "There is a new
play-fellow for you."

"Is that the little Northman?" said Carloman, turning to stare at
Richard with a look of curiosity, while Richard in his turn felt
considerably affronted that a boy so much less than himself should
call him little.

"Yes," said the Queen; "your father has brought him home with him."

Carloman stepped forward, shyly holding out his hand to the stranger,
but his brother pushed him rudely aside.  "I am the eldest; it is my
business to be first.  So, young Northman, you are come here for us
to play with."

Richard was too much amazed at being spoken to in this imperious way
to make any answer.  He was completely taken by surprise, and only
opened his great blue eyes to their utmost extent.

"Ha! why don't you answer?  Don't you hear?  Can you speak only your
own heathen tongue?" continued Lothaire.

"The Norman is no heathen tongue!" said Richard, at once breaking
silence in a loud voice.  "We are as good Christians as you are--ay,
and better too."

"Hush! hush! my Lord!" said Osmond.

"What now, Sir Duke," again interfered the King, in an angry tone,
"are you brawling already?  Time, indeed, I should take you from your
own savage court.  Sir Squire, look to it, that you keep your charge
in better rule, or I shall send him instantly to bed, supperless."

"My Lord, my Lord," whispered Osmond, "see you not that you are
bringing discredit on all of us?"

"I would be courteous enough, if they would be courteous to me,"
returned Richard, gazing with eyes full of defiance at Lothaire, who,
returning an angry look, had nevertheless shrunk back to his mother.
She meanwhile was saying, "So strong, so rough, the young savage is,
he will surely harm our poor boys!"

"Never fear," said Louis; "he shall be watched.  And," he added in a
lower tone, "for the present, at least, we must keep up appearances.
Hubert of Senlis, and Hugh of Paris, have their eyes on us, and were
the boy to be missed, the grim old Harcourt would have all the
pirates of his land on us in the twinkling of an eye.  We have him,
and there we must rest content for the present.  Now to supper."

At supper, Richard sat next little Carloman, who peeped at him every
now and then from under his eyelashes, as if he was afraid of him;
and presently, when there was a good deal of talking going on, so
that his voice could not be heard, half whispered, in a very grave
tone, "Do you like salt beef or fresh?"

"I like fresh," answered Richard, with equal gravity, "only we eat
salt all the winter."

There was another silence, and then Carloman, with the same
solemnity, asked, "How old are you?"

"I shall be nine on the eve of St. Boniface.  How old are you?"

"Eight.  I was eight at Martinmas, and Lothaire was nine three days
since."

Another silence; then, as Osmond waited on Richard, Carloman returned
to the charge, "Is that your Squire?"

"Yes, that is Osmond de Centeville."

"How tall he is!"

"We Normans are taller than you French."

"Don't say so to Lothaire, or you will make him angry."

"Why? it is true."

"Yes; but--" and Carloman sunk his voice--"there are some things
which Lothaire will not hear said.  Do not make him cross, or he will
make my mother displeased with you.  She caused Thierry de Lincourt
to be scourged, because his ball hit Lothaire's face."

"She cannot scourge me--I am a free Duke," said Richard.  "But why?
Did he do it on purpose?"

"Oh, no!"

"And was Lothaire hurt?"

"Hush! you must say Prince Lothaire.  No; it was quite a soft ball."

"Why?" again asked Richard--"why was he scourged?"

"I told you, because he hit Lothaire."

"Well, but did he not laugh, and say it was nothing?  Alberic quite
knocked me down with a great snowball the other day, and Sir Eric
laughed, and said I must stand firmer."

"Do you make snowballs?"

"To be sure I do!  Do not you?"

"Oh, no! the snow is so cold."

"Ah! you are but a little boy," said Richard, in a superior manner.
Carloman asked how it was done; and Richard gave an animated
description of the snowballing, a fortnight ago, at Rouen, when
Osmond and some of the other young men built a snow fortress, and
defended it against Richard, Alberic, and the other Squires.
Carloman listened with delight, and declared that next time it
snowed, they would have a snow castle; and thus, by the time supper
was over, the two little boys were very good friends.

Bedtime came not long after supper.  Richard's was a smaller room
than he had been used to at Rouen; but it amazed him exceedingly when
he first went into it:  he stood gazing in wonder, because, as he
said, "It was as if he had been in a church."

"Yes, truly!" said Osmond.  "No wonder these poor creatures of French
cannot stand before a Norman lance, if they cannot sleep without
glass to their windows.  Well! what would my father say to this?"

"And see! see, Osmond! they have put hangings up all round the walls,
just like our Lady's church on a great feast-day.  They treat us just
as if we were the holy saints; and here are fresh rushes strewn about
the floor, too.  This must be a mistake--it must be an oratory,
instead of my chamber."

"No, no, my Lord; here is our gear, which I bade Sybald and Henry see
bestowed in our chamber.  Well, these Franks are come to a pass,
indeed!  My grandmother will never believe what we shall have to tell
her.  Glass windows and hangings to sleeping chambers! I do not like
it I am sure we shall never be able to sleep, closed up from the free
air of heaven in this way:  I shall be always waking, and fancying I
am in the chapel at home, hearing Father Lucas chanting his matins.
Besides, my father would blame me for letting you be made as tender
as a Frank.  I'll have out this precious window, if I can."

Luxurious as the young Norman thought the King, the glazing of Laon
was not permanent.  It consisted of casements, which could be put up
or removed at pleasure; for, as the court possessed only one set of
glass windows, they were taken down, and carried from place to place,
as often as Louis removed from Rheims to Soissons, Laon, or any other
of his royal castles; so that Osmond did not find much difficulty in
displacing them, and letting in the sharp, cold, wintry breeze.  The
next thing he did was to give his young Lord a lecture on his want of
courtesy, telling him that "no wonder the Franks thought he had no
more culture than a Viking (or pirate), fresh caught from Norway.  A
fine notion he was giving them of the training he had at Centeville,
if he could not even show common civility to the Queen--a lady!  Was
that the way Alberic had behaved when he came to Rouen?"

"Fru Astrida did not make sour faces at him, nor call him a young
savage," replied Richard.

"No, and he gave her no reason to do so; he knew that the first
teaching of a young Knight is to be courteous to ladies--never mind
whether fair and young, or old and foul of favour.  Till you learn
and note that, Lord Richard, you will never be worthy of your golden
spurs."

"And the King told me she would treat me as a mother," exclaimed
Richard.  "Do you think the King speaks the truth, Osmond?"

"That we shall see by his deeds," said Osmond.

"He was very kind while we were in Normandy.  I loved him so much
better than the Count de Harcourt; but now I think that the Count is
best!  I'll tell you, Osmond, I will never call him grim old Bernard
again."

"You had best not, sir, for you will never have a more true-hearted
vassal."

"Well, I wish we were back in Normandy, with Fru Astrida and Alberic.
I cannot bear that Lothaire.  He is proud, and unknightly, and cruel.
I am sure he is, and I will never love him."

"Hush, my Lord!--beware of speaking so loud.  You are not in your own
Castle."

"And Carloman is a chicken-heart," continued Richard, unheeding.  "He
does not like to touch snow, and he cannot even slide on the ice, and
he is afraid to go near that great dog--that beautiful wolf-hound."

"He is very little," said Osmond.

"I am sure I was not as cowardly at his age, now was I, Osmond?
Don't you remember?"

"Come, Lord Richard, I cannot let you wait to remember everything;
tell your beads and pray that we may be brought safe back to Rouen;
and that you may not forget all the good that Father Lucas and holy
Abbot Martin have laboured to teach you."

So Richard told the beads of his rosary--black polished wood, with
amber at certain spaces--he repeated a prayer with every bead, and
Osmond did the same; then the little Duke put himself into a narrow
crib of richly carved walnut; while Osmond, having stuck his dagger
so as to form an additional bolt to secure the door, and examined the
hangings that no secret entrance might be concealed behind them,
gathered a heap of rushes together, and lay down on them, wrapped in
his mantle, across the doorway.  The Duke was soon asleep; but the
Squire lay long awake, musing on the possible dangers that surrounded
his charge, and on the best way of guarding against them.



CHAPTER VII



Osmond de Centeville was soon convinced that no immediate peril
threatened his young Duke at the Court of Laon.  Louis seemed to
intend to fulfil his oaths to the Normans by allowing the child to be
the companion of his own sons, and to be treated in every respect as
became his rank.  Richard had his proper place at table, and all due
attendance; he learnt, rode, and played with the Princes, and there
was nothing to complain of, excepting the coldness and inattention
with which the King and Queen treated him, by no means fulfilling the
promise of being as parents to their orphan ward.  Gerberge, who had
from the first dreaded his superior strength and his roughness with
her puny boys, and who had been by no means won by his manners at
their first meeting, was especially distant and severe with him,
hardly ever speaking to him except with some rebuke, which, it must
be confessed, Richard often deserved.

As to the boys, his constant companions, Richard was on very friendly
terms with Carlo-man, a gentle, timid, weakly child.  Richard looked
down upon him; but he was kind, as a generous-tempered boy could not
fail to be, to one younger and weaker than himself.  He was so much
kinder than Lothaire, that Carloman was fast growing very fond of
him, and looked up to his strength and courage as something noble and
marvellous.

It was very different with Lothaire, the person from whom, above all
others, Richard would have most expected to meet with affection, as
his father's god-son, a relationship which in those times was thought
almost as near as kindred by blood.  Lothaire had been brought up by
an indulgent mother, and by courtiers who never ceased flattering
him, as the heir to the crown, and he had learnt to think that to
give way to his naturally imperious and violent disposition was the
way to prove his power and assert his rank.  He had always had his
own way, and nothing had ever been done to check his faults; somewhat
weakly health had made him fretful and timid; and a latent
consciousness of this fearfulness made him all the more cruel,
sometimes because he was frightened, sometimes because he fancied it
manly.

He treated his little brother in a way which in these times boys
would call bullying; and, as no one ever dared to oppose the King's
eldest son, it was pretty much the same with every one else, except
now and then some dumb creature, and then all Lothaire's cruelty was
shown.  When his horse kicked, and ended by throwing him, he stood
by, and caused it to be beaten till the poor creature's back streamed
with blood; when his dog bit his hand in trying to seize the meat
with which he was teazing it, he insisted on having it killed, and it
was worse still when a falcon pecked one of his fingers.  It really
hurt him a good deal, and, in a furious rage, he caused two nails to
be heated red hot in the fire, intending to have them thrust into the
poor bird's eyes.

"I will not have it done!" exclaimed Richard, expecting to be obeyed
as he was at home; but Lothaire only laughed scornfully, saying, "Do
you think you are master here, Sir pirate?"

"I will not have it done!" repeated Richard.  "Shame on you, shame on
you, for thinking of such an unkingly deed."

"Shame on me! Do you know to whom you speak, master savage?" cried
Lothaire, red with passion.

"I know who is the savage now!" said Richard.  "Hold!" to the servant
who was bringing the red-hot irons in a pair of tongs.

"Hold?" exclaimed Lothaire.  "No one commands here but I and my
father.  Go on Charlot--where is the bird?  Keep her fast, Giles."

"Osmond.  You I can command--"

"Come away, my Lord," said Osmond, interrupting Richard's order,
before it was issued. "We have no right to interfere here, and cannot
hinder it.  Come away from such a foul sight."

"Shame on you too, Osmond, to let such a deed be done without
hindering it!" exclaimed Richard, breaking from him, and rushing on
the man who carried the hot irons.  The French servants were not very
willing to exert their strength against the Duke of Normandy, and
Richard's onset, taking the man by surprise, made him drop the tongs.
Lothaire, both afraid and enraged, caught them up as a weapon of
defence, and, hardly knowing what he did, struck full at Richard's
face with the hot iron.  Happily it missed his eye, and the heat had
a little abated; but, as it touched his cheek, it burnt him
sufficiently to cause considerable pain.  With a cry of passion, he
flew at Lothaire, shook him with all his might, and ended by throwing
him at his length on the pavement.  But this was the last of
Richard's exploits, for he was at the same moment captured by his
Squire, and borne off, struggling and kicking as if Osmond had been
his greatest foe; but the young Norman's arms were like iron round
him; and he gave over his resistance sooner, because at that moment a
whirring flapping sound was heard, and the poor hawk rose high,
higher, over their heads in ever lessening circles, far away from her
enemies.  The servant who held her, had relaxed his grasp in the
consternation caused by Lothaire's fall, and she was mounting up and
up, spying, it might be, her way to her native rocks in Iceland, with
the yellow eyes which Richard had saved.

"Safe! safe!" cried Richard, joyfully, ceasing his struggles.  "Oh,
how glad I am!  That young villain should never have hurt her.  Put
me down, Osmond, what are you doing with me?"

"Saving you from your--no, I cannot call it folly,--I would hardly
have had you stand still to see such--but let me see your face."

"It is nothing.  I don't care now the hawk is safe," said Richard,
though he could hardly keep his lips in order, and was obliged to
wink very hard with his eyes to keep the tears out, now that he had
leisure to feel the smarting; but it would have been far beneath a
Northman to complain, and he stood bearing it gallantly, and pinching
his fingers tightly together, while Osmond knelt down to examine the
hurt.  "'Tis not much," said he, talking to himself, "half bruise,
half burn--I wish my grandmother was here--however, it can't last
long!  'Tis right, you bear it like a little Berserkar, and it is no
bad thing that you should have a scar to show, that they may not be
able to say you did ALL the damage."

"Will it always leave a mark?" said Richard.  "I am afraid they will
call me Richard of the scarred cheek, when we get back to Normandy."

"Never mind, if they do--it will not be a mark to be ashamed of, even
if it does last, which I do not believe it will."

"Oh, no, I am so glad the gallant falcon is out of his reach!"
replied Richard, in a somewhat quivering voice.

"Does it smart much?  Well, come and bathe it with cold water--or
shall I take you to one of the Queen's women?"

"No--the water," said Richard, and to the fountain in the court they
went; but Osmond had only just begun to splash the cheek with the
half-frozen water, with a sort of rough kindness, afraid at once of
teaching the Duke to be effeminate, and of not being as tender to him
as Dame Astrida would have wished, when a messenger came in haste
from the King, commanding the presence of the Duke of Normandy and
his Squire.

Lothaire was standing between his father and mother on their throne-
like seat, leaning against the Queen, who had her arm round him; his
face was red and glazed with tears, and he still shook with subsiding
sobs.  It was evident he was just recovering from a passionate crying
fit.

"How is this?" began the King, as Richard entered.  "What means this
conduct, my Lord of Normandy?  Know you what you have done in
striking the heir of France?  I might imprison you this instant in a
dungeon where you would never see the light of day."

"Then Bernard de Harcourt would come and set me free," fearlessly
answered Richard.

"Do you bandy words with me, child? Ask Prince Lothaire's pardon
instantly, or you shall rue it."

"I have done nothing to ask his pardon for.  It would have been cruel
and cowardly in me to let him put out the poor hawk's eyes," said
Richard, with a Northman's stern contempt for pain, disdaining to
mention his own burnt cheek, which indeed the King might have seen
plainly enough.

"Hawk's eyes!" repeated the King.  "Speak the truth, Sir Duke; do not
add slander to your other faults."

"I have spoken the truth--I always speak it!" cried Richard.
"Whoever says otherwise lies in his throat."

Osmond here hastily interfered, and desired permission to tell the
whole story.  The hawk was a valuable bird, and Louis's face darkened
when he heard what Lothaire had purposed, for the Prince had, in
telling his own story, made it appear that Richard had been the
aggressor by insisting on letting the falcon fly.  Osmond finished by
pointing to the mark on Richard's cheek, so evidently a burn, as to
be proof that hot iron had played a part in the matter.  The King
looked at one of his own Squires and asked his account, and he with
some hesitation could not but reply that it was as the young Sieur de
Centeville had said.  Thereupon Louis angrily reproved his own people
for having assisted the Prince in trying to injure the hawk, called
for the chief falconer, rated him for not better attending to his
birds, and went forth with him to see if the hawk could yet be
recaptured, leaving the two boys neither punished nor pardoned.

"So you have escaped for this once," said Gerberge, coldly, to
Richard; "you had better beware another time.  Come with me, my poor
darling Lothaire."  She led her son away to her own apartments, and
the French Squires began to grumble to each other complaints of the
impossibility of pleasing their Lords, since, if they contradicted
Prince Lothaire, he was so spiteful that he was sure to set the Queen
against them, and that was far worse in the end than the King's
displeasure.  Osmond, in the meantime, took Richard to re-commence
bathing his face, and presently Carloman ran out to pity him, wonder
at him for not crying, and say he was glad the poor hawk had escaped.

The cheek continued inflamed and painful for some time, and there was
a deep scar long after the pain had ceased, but Richard thought
little of it after the first, and would have scorned to bear ill-will
to Lothaire for the injury.

Lothaire left off taunting Richard with his Norman accent, and
calling him a young Sea-king.  He had felt his strength, and was
afraid of him; but he did not like him the better--he never played
with him willingly--scowled, and looked dark and jealous, if his
father, or if any of the great nobles took the least notice of the
little Duke, and whenever he was out of hearing, talked against him
with all his natural spitefulness.

Richard liked Lothaire quite as little, contemning almost equally his
cowardly ways and his imperious disposition.  Since he had been Duke,
Richard had been somewhat inclined to grow imperious himself, though
always kept under restraint by Fru Astrida's good training, and Count
Bernard's authority, and his whole generous nature would have
revolted against treating Alberic, or indeed his meanest vassal, as
Lothaire used the unfortunate children who were his playfellows.
Perhaps this made him look on with great horror at the tyranny which
Lothaire exercised; at any rate he learnt to abhor it more, and to
make many resolutions against ordering people about uncivilly when
once he should be in Normandy again.  He often interfered to protect
the poor boys, and generally with success, for the Prince was afraid
of provoking such another shake as Richard had once given him, and
though he generally repaid himself on his victim in the end, he
yielded for the time.

Carloman, whom Richard often saved from his brother's unkindness,
clung closer and closer to him, went with him everywhere, tried to do
all he did, grew very fond of Osmond, and liked nothing better than
to sit by Richard in some wide window-seat, in the evening, after
supper, and listen to Richard's version of some of Fru Astrida's
favourite tales, or hear the never-ending history of sports at
Centeville, or at Rollo's Tower, or settle what great things they
would both do when they were grown up, and Richard was ruling
Normandy--perhaps go to the Holy Land together, and slaughter an
unheard-of host of giants and dragons on the way.  In the meantime,
however, poor Carloman gave small promise of being able to perform
great exploits, for he was very small for his age and often ailing;
soon tired, and never able to bear much rough play.  Richard, who had
never had any reason to learn to forbear, did not at first understand
this, and made Carloman cry several times with his roughness and
violence, but this always vexed him so much that he grew careful to
avoid such things for the future, and gradually learnt to treat his
poor little weakly friend with a gentleness and patience at which
Osmond used to marvel, and which he would hardly have been taught in
his prosperity at home.

Between Carloman and Osmond he was thus tolerably happy at Laon, but
he missed his own dear friends, and the loving greetings of his
vassals, and longed earnestly to be at Rouen, asking Osmond almost
every night when they should go back, to which Osmond could only
answer that he must pray that Heaven would be pleased to bring them
home safely.

Osmond, in the meantime, kept a vigilant watch for anything that
might seem to threaten danger to his Lord; but at present there was
no token of any evil being intended; the only point in which Louis
did not seem to be fulfilling his promises to the Normans was, that
no preparations were made for attacking the Count of Flanders.

At Easter the court was visited by Hugh the White, the great Count of
Paris, the most powerful man in France, and who was only prevented by
his own loyalty and forbearance, from taking the crown from the
feeble and degenerate race of Charlemagne.  He had been a firm friend
of William Longsword, and Osmond remarked how, on his arrival, the
King took care to bring Richard forward, talk of him affectionately,
and caress him almost as much as he had done at Rouen.  The Count
himself was really kind and affectionate to the little Duke; he kept
him by his side, and seemed to like to stroke down his long flaxen
hair, looking in his face with a grave mournful expression, as if
seeking for a likeness to his father.  He soon asked about the scar
which the burn had left, and the King was obliged to answer hastily,
it was an accident, a disaster that had chanced in a boyish quarrel.
Louis, in fact, was uneasy, and appeared to be watching the Count of
Paris the whole time of his visit, so as to prevent him from having
any conversation in private with the other great vassals assembled at
the court.  Hugh did not seem to perceive this, and acted as if he
was entirely at his ease, but at the same time he watched his
opportunity.  One evening, after supper, he came up to the window
where Richard and Carloman were, as usual, deep in story telling; he
sat down on the stone seat, and taking Richard on his knee, he asked
if he had any greetings for the Count de Harcourt.

How Richard's face lighted up!  "Oh, Sir," he cried, "are you going
to Normandy?"

"Not yet, my boy, but it may be that I may have to meet old Harcourt
at the Elm of Gisors."

"Oh, if I was but going with you."

"I wish I could take you, but it would scarcely do for me to steal
the heir of Normandy.  What shall I tell him?"

"Tell him," whispered Richard, edging himself close to the Count, and
trying to reach his ear, "tell him that I am sorry, now, that I was
sullen when he reproved me.  I know he was right.  And, sir, if he
brings with him a certain huntsman with a long hooked nose, whose
name is Walter, {12} tell him I am sorry I used to order him about so
unkindly.  And tell him to bear my greetings to Fru Astrida and Sir
Eric, and to Alberic."

"Shall I tell him how you have marked your face?"

"No," said Richard, "he would think me a baby to care about such a
thing as that!"

The Count asked how it happened, and Richard told the story, for he
felt as if he could tell the kind Count anything--it was almost like
that last evening that he had sat on his father's knee.  Hugh ended
by putting his arm round him, and saying, "Well, my little Duke, I am
as glad as you are the gallant bird is safe--it will be a tale for my
own little Hugh and Eumacette {13} at home--and you must one day be
friends with them as your father has been with me.  And now, do you
think your Squire could come to my chamber late this evening when the
household is at rest?"

Richard undertook that Osmond should do so, and the Count, setting
him down again, returned to the dais.  Osmond, before going to the
Count that evening, ordered Sybald to come and guard the Duke's door.
It was a long conference, for Hugh had come to Laon chiefly for the
purpose of seeing how it went with his friend's son, and was anxious
to know what Osmond thought of the matter.  They agreed that at
present there did not seem to be any evil intended, and that it
rather appeared as if Louis wished only to keep him as a hostage for
the tranquillity of the borders of Normandy; but Hugh advised that
Osmond should maintain a careful watch, and send intelligence to him
on the first token of mischief.

The next morning the Count of Paris quitted Laon, and everything went
on in the usual course till the feast of Whitsuntide, when there was
always a great display of splendour at the French court.  The crown
vassals generally came to pay their duty and go with the King to
Church; and there was a state banquet, at which the King and Queen
wore their crowns, and every one sat in great magnificence according
to their rank.

The grand procession to Church was over.  Richard had walked with
Carloman, the Prince richly dressed in blue, embroidered with golden
fleur-de-lys, and Richard in scarlet, with a gold Cross on his
breast; the beautiful service was over, they had returned to the
Castle, and there the Seneschal was marshalling the goodly and noble
company to the banquet, when horses' feet were heard at the gate
announcing some fresh arrival.  The Seneschal went to receive the
guests, and presently was heard ushering in the noble Prince, Arnulf,
Count of Flanders.

Richard's face became pale--he turned from Carloman by whose side he
had been standing, and walked straight out of the hall and up the
stairs, closely followed by Osmond.  In a few minutes there was a
knock at the door of his chamber, and a French Knight stood there
saying, "Comes not the Duke to the banquet?"

"No," answered Osmond:  "he eats not with the slayer of his father."

"The King will take it amiss; for the sake of the child you had
better beware," said the Frenchman, hesitating.

"He had better beware himself," exclaimed Osmond, indignantly, "how
he brings the treacherous murderer of William Longsword into the
presence of a free-born Norman, unless he would see him slain where
he stands.  Were it not for the boy, I would challenge the traitor
this instant to single combat."

"Well, I can scarce blame you," said the Knight, "but you had best
have a care how you tread.  Farewell."

Richard had hardly time to express his indignation, and his wishes
that he was a man, before another message came through a groom of
Lothaire's train, that the Duke must fast, if he would not consent to
feast with the rest.

"Tell Prince Lothaire," replied Richard, "that I am not such a
glutton as he--I had rather fast than be choked with eating with
Arnulf."

All the rest of the day, Richard remained in his own chamber,
resolved not to run the risk of meeting with Arnulf.  The Squire
remained with him, in this voluntary imprisonment, and they occupied
themselves, as best they could, with furbishing Osmond's armour, and
helping each other out in repeating some of the Sagas.  They once
heard a great uproar in the court, and both were very anxious to
learn its cause, but they did not know it till late in the afternoon.

Carloman crept up to them--"Here I am at last!" he exclaimed.  "Here,
Richard, I have brought you some bread, as you had no dinner:  it was
all I could bring.  I saved it under the table lest Lothaire should
see it."

Richard thanked Carloman with all his heart, and being very hungry
was glad to share the bread with Osmond.  He asked how long the
wicked Count was going to stay, and rejoiced to hear he was going
away the next morning, and the King was going with him.

"What was that great noise in the court?" asked Richard.

"I scarcely like to tell you," returned Carloman.

Richard, however, begged to hear, and Carloman was obliged to tell
that the two Norman grooms, Sybald and Henry, had quarrelled with the
Flemings of Arnulf's train; there had been a fray, which had ended in
the death of three Flemings, a Frank, and of Sybald himself--And
where was Henry?  Alas! there was more ill news--the King had
sentenced Henry to die, and he had been hanged immediately.

Dark with anger and sorrow grew young Richard's face; he had been
fond of his two Norman attendants, he trusted to their attachment,
and he would have wept for their loss even if it had happened in any
other way; but now, when it had been caused by their enmity to his
father's foes, the Flemings,--when one had fallen overwhelmed by
numbers, and the other been condemned hastily, cruelly, unjustly, it
was too much, and he almost choked with grief and indignation.  Why
had he not been there, to claim Henry as his own vassal, and if he
could not save him, at least bid him farewell?  Then he would have
broken out in angry threats, but he felt his own helplessness, and
was ashamed, and he could only shed tears of passionate grief,
refusing all Carloman's attempts to comfort him.  Osmond was even
more concerned; he valued the two Normans extremely for their courage
and faithfulness, and had relied on sending intelligence by their
means to Rouen, in case of need.  It appeared to him as if the first
opportunity had been seized of removing these protectors from the
little Duke, and as if the designs, whatever they might be, which had
been formed against him, were about to take effect.  He had little
doubt that his own turn would be the next; but he was resolved to
endure anything, rather than give the smallest opportunity of
removing him, to bear even insults with patience, and to remember
that in his care rested the sole hope of safety for his charge.

That danger was fast gathering around them became more evident every
day, especially after the King and Arnulf had gone away together.  It
was very hot weather, and Richard began to weary after the broad cool
river at Rouen, where he used to bathe last summer; and one evening
he persuaded his Squire to go down with him to the Oise, which flowed
along some meadow ground about a quarter of a mile from the Castle;
but they had hardly set forth before three or four attendants came
running after them, with express orders from the Queen that they
should return immediately.  They obeyed, and found her standing in
the Castle hall, looking greatly incensed.

"What means this?" she asked, angrily.  "Knew you not that the King
has left commands that the Duke quits not the Castle in his absence?"

"I was only going as far as the river--" began Richard, but Gerberge
cut him short.  "Silence, child--I will hear no excuses.  Perhaps you
think, Sieur de Centeville, that you may take liberties in the King's
absence, but I tell you that if you are found without the walls
again, it shall be at your peril; ay, and his!  I'll have those
haughty eyes put out, if you disobey!"

She turned away, and Lothaire looked at them with his air of
gratified malice.  "You will not lord it over your betters much
longer, young pirate!" said he, as he followed his mother, afraid to
stay to meet the anger he might have excited by the taunt he could
not deny himself the pleasure of making; but Richard, who, six months
ago could not brook a slight disappointment or opposition, had, in
his present life of restraint, danger, and vexation, learnt to curb
the first outbreak of temper, and to bear patiently instead of
breaking out into passion and threats, and now his only thought was
of his beloved Squire.

"Oh, Osmond!  Osmond!" he exclaimed, "they shall not hurt you.  I
will never go out again.  I will never speak another hasty word.  I
will never affront the Prince, if they will but leave you with me!"



CHAPTER VIII



It was a fine summer evening, and Richard and Carloman were playing
at ball on the steps of the Castle-gate, when a voice was heard from
beneath, begging for alms from the noble Princes in the name of the
blessed Virgin, and the two boys saw a pilgrim standing at the gate,
wrapt in a long robe of serge, with a staff in his hand, surmounted
by a Cross, a scrip at his girdle, and a broad shady hat, which he
had taken off, as he stood, making low obeisances, and asking
charity.

"Come in, holy pilgrim," said Carloman.  "It is late, and you shall
sup and rest here to-night."

"Blessings from Heaven light on you, noble Prince," replied the
pilgrim, and at that moment Richard shouted joyfully, "A Norman, a
Norman! 'tis my own dear speech!  Oh, are you not from Normandy?
Osmond, Osmond! he comes from home!"

"My Lord! my own Lord!" exclaimed the pilgrim, and, kneeling on one
knee at the foot of the steps, he kissed the hand which his young
Duke held out to him--"This is joy unlooked for!"

"Walter!--Walter, the huntsman!" cried Richard.  "Is it you?  Oh, how
is Fru Astrida, and all at home?"

"Well, my Lord, and wearying to know how it is with you--" began
Walter--but a very different tone exclaimed from behind the pilgrim,
"What is all this?  Who is stopping my way?  What!  Richard would be
King, and more, would he?  More insolence!"  It was Lothaire,
returning with his attendants from the chase, in by no means an
amiable mood, for he had been disappointed of his game.

"He is a Norman--a vassal of Richard's own," said Carloman.

"A Norman, is he?  I thought we had got rid of the robbers!  We want
no robbers here!  Scourge him soundly, Perron, and teach him how to
stop my way!"

"He is a pilgrim, my Lord," suggested one of the followers.

"I care not; I'll have no Normans here, coming spying in disguise.
Scourge him, I say, dog that he is!  Away with him!  A spy, a spy!"

"No Norman is scourged in my sight!" said Richard, darting forwards,
and throwing himself between Walter and the woodsman, who was
preparing to obey Lothaire, just in time to receive on his own bare
neck the sharp, cutting leathern thong, which raised a long red
streak along its course.  Lothaire laughed.

"My Lord Duke!  What have you done?  Oh, leave me--this befits you
not!" cried Walter, extremely distressed; but Richard had caught hold
of the whip, and called out, "Away, away! run! haste, haste!" and the
words were repeated at once by Osmond, Carloman, and many of the
French, who, though afraid to disobey the Prince, were unwilling to
violate the sanctity of a pilgrim's person; and the Norman, seeing
there was no help for it, obeyed:  the French made way for him and he
effected his escape; while Lothaire, after a great deal of storming
and raging, went up to his mother to triumph in the cleverness with
which he had detected a Norman spy in disguise.

Lothaire was not far wrong; Walter had really come to satisfy himself
as to the safety of the little Duke, and try to gain an interview
with Osmond.  In the latter purpose he failed, though he lingered in
the neighbourhood of Laon for several days; for Osmond never left the
Duke for an instant, and he was, as has been shown, a close prisoner,
in all but the name, within the walls of the Castle.  The pilgrim
had, however, the opportunity of picking up tidings which made him
perceive the true state of things:  he learnt the deaths of Sybald
and Henry, the alliance between the King and Arnulf, and the
restraint and harshness with which the Duke was treated; and with
this intelligence he went in haste to Normandy.

Soon after his arrival, a three days' fast was observed throughout
the dukedom, and in every church, from the Cathedral of Bayeux to the
smallest and rudest village shrine, crowds of worshippers were
kneeling, imploring, many of them with tears, that God would look on
them in His mercy, restore to them their Prince, and deliver the
child out of the hands of his enemies.  How earnest and sorrowful
were the prayers offered at Centeville may well be imagined; and at
Montemar sur Epte the anxiety was scarcely less.  Indeed, from the
time the evil tidings arrived, Alberic grew so restless and unhappy,
and so anxious to do something, that at last his mother set out with
him on a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Jumieges, to pray for the rescue
of his dear little Duke.

In the meantime, Louis had sent notice to Laon that he should return
home in a week's time; and Richard rejoiced at the prospect, for the
King had always been less unkind to him than the Queen, and he hoped
to be released from his captivity within the Castle.  Just at this
time he became very unwell; it might have been only the effect of the
life of unwonted confinement which he had lately led that was
beginning to tell on his health; but, after being heavy and
uncomfortable for a day or two, without knowing what was the matter
with him, he was one night attacked with high fever.

Osmond was dreadfully alarmed, knowing nothing at all of the
treatment of illness, and, what was worse, fully persuaded that the
poor child had been poisoned, and therefore resolved not to call any
assistance; he hung over him all night, expecting each moment to see
him expire--ready to tear his hair with despair and fury, and yet
obliged to restrain himself to the utmost quietness and gentleness,
to soothe the suffering of the sick child.

Through that night, Richard either tossed about on his narrow bed,
or, when his restlessness desired the change, sat, leaning his aching
head on Osmond's breast, too oppressed and miserable to speak or
think.  When the day dawned on them, and he was still too ill to
leave the room, messengers were sent for him, and Osmond could no
longer conceal the fact of his sickness, but parleyed at the door,
keeping out every one he could, and refusing all offers of
attendance.  He would not even admit Carloman, though Richard,
hearing his voice, begged to see him; and when a proposal was sent
from the Queen, that a skilful old nurse should visit and prescribe
for the patient, he refused with all his might, and when he had shut
the door, walked up and down, muttering, "Ay, ay, the witch! coming
to finish what she has begun!"

All that day and the next, Richard continued very ill, and Osmond
waited on him very assiduously, never closing his eyes for a moment,
but constantly telling his beads whenever the boy did not require his
attendance.  At last Richard fell asleep, slept long and soundly for
some hours, and waked much better.  Osmond was in a transport of joy:
"Thanks to Heaven, they shall fail for this time and they shall never
have another chance!  May Heaven be with us still!"  Richard was too
weak and weary to ask what he meant, and for the next few days Osmond
watched him with the utmost care.  As for food, now that Richard
could eat again, Osmond would not hear of his touching what was sent
for him from the royal table, but always went down himself to procure
food in the kitchen, where he said he had a friend among the cooks,
who would, he thought, scarcely poison him intentionally.  When
Richard was able to cross the room, he insisted on his always
fastening the door with his dagger, and never opening to any summons
but his own, not even Prince Carloman's.  Richard wondered, but he
was obliged to obey; and he knew enough of the perils around him to
perceive the reasonableness of Osmond's caution.

Thus several days had passed, the King had returned, and Richard was
so much recovered, that he had become very anxious to be allowed to
go down stairs again, instead of remaining shut up there; but still
Osmond would not consent, though Richard had done nothing all day but
walk round the room, to show how strong he was.

"Now, my Lord, guard the door--take care," said Osmond; "you have no
loss to-day, for the King has brought home Herluin of Montreuil, whom
you would be almost as loth to meet as the Fleming.  And tell your
beads while I am gone, that the Saints may bring us out of our
peril."

Osmond was absent nearly half an hour, and, when he returned, brought
on his shoulders a huge bundle of straw.  "What is this for?"
exclaimed Richard.  "I wanted my supper, and you have brought straw!"

"Here is your supper," said Osmond, throwing down the straw, and
producing a bag with some bread and meat.  "What should you say, my
Lord, if we should sup in Normandy to-morrow night?"

"In Normandy!" cried Richard, springing up and clapping his hands.
"In Normandy!  Oh, Osmond, did you say in Normandy?  Shall we, shall
we really?  Oh, joy! joy!  Is Count Bernard come?  Will the King let
us go?"

"Hush! hush, sir!  It must be our own doing; it will all fail if you
are not silent and prudent, and we shall be undone."

"I will do anything to get home again!"

"Eat first," said Osmond.

"But what are you going to do?  I will not be as foolish as I was
when you tried to get me safe out of Rollo's tower.  But I should
like to wish Carloman farewell."

"That must not be," said Osmond; "we should not have time to escape,
if they did not still believe you very ill in bed."

"I am sorry not to wish Carloman good-bye," repeated Richard; "but we
shall see Fru Astrida again, and Sir Eric; and Alberic must come
back!  Oh, do let us go!  O Normandy, dear Normandy!"

Richard could hardly eat for excitement, while Osmond hastily made
his arrangements, girding on his sword, and giving Richard his dagger
to put into his belt.  He placed the remainder of the provisions in
his wallet, threw a thick purple cloth mantle over the Duke, and then
desired him to lie down on the straw which he had brought in.  "I
shall hide you in it," he said, "and carry you through the hall, as
if I was going to feed my horse."

"Oh, they will never guess!" cried Richard, laughing.  "I will be
quite still--I will make no noise--I will hold my breath."

"Yes, mind you do not move hand or foot, or rustle the straw.  It is
no play--it is life or death," said Osmond, as he disposed the straw
round the little boy.  "There, can you breathe?"

"Yes," said Richard's voice from the midst.  "Am I quite hidden?"

"Entirely.  Now, remember, whatever happens, do not move.  May Heaven
protect us!  Now, the Saints be with us!"

Richard, from the interior of the bundle heard Osmond set open the
door; then he felt himself raised from the ground; Osmond was
carrying him along down the stairs, the ends of the straw crushing
and sweeping against the wall.  The only way to the outer door was
through the hall, and here was the danger.  Richard heard voices,
steps, loud singing and laughter, as if feasting was going on; then
some one said, "Tending your horse, Sieur de Centeville?"

"Yes," Osmond made answer.  "You know, since we lost our grooms, the
poor black would come off badly, did I not attend to him."

Presently came Carloman's voice:  "O Osmond de Centeville! is Richard
better?"

"He is better, my Lord, I thank you, but hardly yet out of danger."

"Oh, I wish he was well!  And when will you let me come to him,
Osmond?  Indeed, I would sit quiet, and not disturb him."

"It may not be yet, my Lord, though the Duke loves you well--he told
me so but now."

"Did he?  Oh, tell him I love him very much--better than any one
here--and it is very dull without him.  Tell him so, Osmond."

Richard could hardly help calling out to his dear little Carloman;
but he remembered the peril of Osmond's eyes and the Queen's threat,
and held his peace, with some vague notion that some day he would
make Carloman King of France.  In the meantime, half stifled with the
straw, he felt himself carried on, down the steps, across the court;
and then he knew, from the darkness and the changed sound of Osmond's
tread, that they were in the stable.  Osmond laid him carefully down,
and whispered--"All right so far.  You can breathe?"

"Not well.  Can't you let me out?"

"Not yet--not for worlds.  Now tell me if I put you face downwards,
for I cannot see."

He laid the living heap of straw across the saddle, bound it on, then
led out the horse, gazing round cautiously as he did so; but the
whole of the people of the Castle were feasting, and there was no one
to watch the gates.  Richard heard the hollow sound of the hoofs, as
the drawbridge was crossed, and knew that he was free; but still
Osmond held his arm over him, and would not let him move, for some
distance.  Then, just as Richard felt as if he could endure the
stifling of the straw, and his uncomfortable position, not a moment
longer, Osmond stopped the horse, took him down, laid him on the
grass, and released him.  He gazed around; they were in a little
wood; evening twilight was just coming on, and the birds sang
sweetly.

"Free! free!--this is freedom!" cried Richard, leaping up in the
delicious cool evening breeze; "the Queen and Lothaire, and that grim
room, all far behind."

"Not so far yet," said Osmond; "you must not call yourself safe till
the Epte is between us and them.  Into the saddle, my Lord; we must
ride for our lives."

Osmond helped the Duke to mount, and sprang to the saddle behind him,
set spurs to the horse, and rode on at a quick rate, though not at
full speed, as he wished to spare the horse.  The twilight faded, the
stars came out, and still he rode, his arm round the child, who, as
night advanced, grew weary, and often sunk into a sort of half doze,
conscious all the time of the trot of the horse.  But each step was
taking him further from Queen Gerberge, and nearer to Normandy; and
what recked he of weariness?  On--on; the stars grew pale again, and
the first pink light of dawn showed in the eastern sky; the sun rose,
mounted higher and higher, and the day grew hotter; the horse went
more slowly, stumbled, and though Osmond halted and loosed the girth,
he only mended his pace for a little while.

Osmond looked grievously perplexed; but they had not gone much
further before a party of merchants came in sight, winding their way
with a long train of loaded mules, and stout men to guard them,
across the plains, like an eastern caravan in the desert.  They gazed
in surprise at the tall young Norman holding the child upon the worn-
out war-horse.

"Sir merchant," said Osmond to the first, "see you this steed?
Better horse never was ridden; but he is sorely spent, and we must
make speed.  Let me barter him with you for yonder stout palfrey.  He
is worth twice as much, but I cannot stop to chaffer--ay or no at
once."

The merchant, seeing the value of Osmond's gallant black, accepted
the offer; and Osmond removing his saddle, and placing Richard on his
new steed, again mounted, and on they went through the country which
Osmond's eye had marked with the sagacity men acquire by living in
wild, unsettled places.  The great marshes were now far less
dangerous than in the winter, and they safely crossed them.  There
had, as yet, been no pursuit, and Osmond's only fear was for his
little charge, who, not having recovered his full strength since his
illness, began to suffer greatly from fatigue in the heat of that
broiling summer day, and leant against Osmond patiently, but very
wearily, without moving or looking up.  He scarcely revived when the
sun went down, and a cool breeze sprang up, which much refreshed
Osmond himself; and still more did it refresh the Squire to see, at
length, winding through the green pastures, a blue river, on the
opposite bank of which rose a high rocky mound, bearing a castle with
many a turret and battlement.

"The Epte! the Epte!  There is Normandy, sir!  Look up, and see your
own dukedom."  "Normandy!" cried Richard, sitting upright.  "Oh, my
own home!"  Still the Epte was wide and deep, and the peril was not
yet ended.  Osmond looked anxiously, and rejoiced to see marks of
cattle, as if it had been forded.  "We must try it," he said, and
dismounting, he waded in, leading the horse, and firmly holding
Richard in the saddle.  Deep they went; the water rose to Richard's
feet, then to the horse's neck; then the horse was swimming, and
Osmond too, still keeping his firm hold; then there was ground again,
the force of the current was less, and they were gaining the bank.
At that instant, however, they perceived two men aiming at them with
cross-bows from the castle, and another standing on the bank above
them, who called out, "Hold!  None pass the ford of Montemar without
permission of the noble Dame Yolande."  "Ha! Bertrand, the Seneschal,
is that you?" returned Osmond.  "Who calls me by my name?" replied
the Seneschal.  "It is I, Osmond de Centeville.  Open your gates
quickly, Sir Seneschal; for here is the Duke, sorely in need of rest
and refreshment."

"The Duke!" exclaimed Bertrand, hurrying down to the landing-place,
and throwing off his cap.  "The Duke! the Duke!" rang out the shout
from the men-at-arms on the battlements above and in an instant more
Osmond had led the horse up from the water, and was exclaiming, "Look
up, my Lord, look up!  You are in your own dukedom again, and this is
Alberic's castle."

"Welcome, indeed, most noble Lord Duke!  Blessings on the day!" cried
the Seneschal.  "What joy for my Lady and my young Lord!"

"He is sorely weary," said Osmond, looking anxiously at Richard, who,
even at the welcome cries that showed so plainly that he was in his
own Normandy, scarcely raised himself or spoke.  "He had been very
sick ere I brought him away.  I doubt me they sought to poison him,
and I vowed not to tarry at Laon another hour after he was fit to
move.  But cheer up, my Lord; you are safe and free now, and here is
the good Dame de Montemar to tend you, far better than a rude Squire
like me."

"Alas, no!" said the Seneschal; "our Dame is gone with young Alberic
on a pilgrimage to Jumieges to pray for the Duke's safety.  What joy
for them to know that their prayers have been granted!"

Osmond, however, could scarcely rejoice, so alarmed was he at the
extreme weariness and exhaustion of his charge, who, when they
brought him into the Castle hall, hardly spoke or looked, and could
not eat.  They carried him up to Alberic's bed, where he tossed about
restlessly, too tired to sleep.

"Alas! alas!" said Osmond, "I have been too hasty.  I have but saved
him from the Franks to be his death by my own imprudence."

"Hush!  Sieur de Centeville," said the Seneschal's wife, coming into
the room.  "To talk in that manner is the way to be his death,
indeed.  Leave the child to me--he is only over-weary."

Osmond was sure his Duke was among friends, and would have been glad
to trust him to a woman; but Richard had but one instinct left in all
his weakness and exhaustion--to cling close to Osmond, as if he felt
him his only friend and protector; for he was, as yet, too much worn
out to understand that he was in Normandy and safe.  For two or three
hours, therefore, Osmond and the Seneschal's wife watched on each
side of his bed, soothing his restlessness, until at length he became
quiet, and at last dropped sound asleep.

The sun was high in the heavens when Richard awoke.  He turned on his
straw-filled crib, and looked up.  It was not the tapestried walls of
his chamber at Laon that met his opening eyes, but the rugged stone
and tall loop-hole window of a turret chamber.  Osmond de Centeville
lay on the floor by his side, in the sound sleep of one overcome by
long watching and weariness.  And what more did Richard see?

It was the bright face and sparkling eyes of Alberic de Montemar, who
was leaning against the foot of his bed, gazing earnestly, as he
watched for his waking.  There was a cry--"Alberic! Alberic!"  "My
Lord! my Lord!" Richard sat up and held out both arms, and Alberic
flung himself into them.  They hugged each other, and uttered broken
exclamations and screams of joy, enough to have awakened any sleeper
but one so wearied out as Osmond.

"And is it true?  Oh, am I really in Normandy again?" cried Richard.

"Yes, yes!--oh, yes, my Lord!  You are at Montemar.  Everything here
is yours.  The bar-tailed hawk is quite well, and my mother will be
here this evening; she let me ride on the instant we heard the news."

"We rode long and late, and I was very weary," said Richard! "but I
don't care, now we are at home.  But I can hardly believe it!  Oh,
Alberic, it has been very dreary!"

"See here, my Lord!" said Alberic, standing by the window.  "Look
here, and you will know you are at home again!"

Richard bounded to the window, and what a sight met his eyes! The
Castle court was thronged with men-at-arms and horses, the morning
sun sparkling on many a burnished hauberk and tall conical helmet,
and above them waved many a banner and pennon that Richard knew full
well.  "There! there!" he shouted aloud with glee.  "Oh, there is the
horse-shoe of Ferrieres! and there the chequers of Warenne!  Oh, and
best of all, there is--there is our own red pennon of Centeville!  O
Alberic!  Alberic! is Sir Eric here?  I must go down to him!"

"Bertrand sent out notice to them all, as soon as you came, to come
and guard our Castle," said Alberic, "lest the Franks should pursue
you; but you are safe now--safe as Norman spears can make you--thanks
be to God!"

"Yes, thanks to God!" said Richard, crossing himself and kneeling
reverently for some minutes, while he repeated his Latin prayer;
then, rising and looking at Alberic, he said, "I must thank Him,
indeed, for he has saved Osmond and me from the cruel King and Queen,
and I must try to be a less hasty and overbearing boy than I was when
I went away; for I vowed that so I would be, if ever I came back.
Poor Osmond, how soundly he sleeps! Come, Alberic, show me the way to
Sir Eric!"

And, holding Alberic's hand, Richard left the room, and descended the
stairs to the Castle hall.  Many of the Norman knights and barons, in
full armour, were gathered there; but Richard looked only for one.
He knew Sir Eric's grizzled hair, and blue inlaid armour, though his
back was towards him, and in a moment, before his entrance had been
perceived, he sprang towards him, and, with outstretched arms,
exclaimed:  "Sir Eric--dear Sir Eric, here I am! Osmond is safe!  And
is Fru Astrida well?"

The old Baron turned.  "My child!" he exclaimed, and clasped him in
his mailed arms, while the tears flowed down his rugged cheeks.
"Blessed be God that you are safe, and that my son has done his
duty!"

"And is Fru Astrida well?"

"Yes, right well, since she heard of your safety.  But look round, my
Lord; it befits not a Duke to be clinging thus round an old man's
neck.  See how many of your true vassals be here, to guard you from
the villain Franks."

Richard stood up, and held out his hand, bowing courteously and
acknowledging the greetings of each bold baron, with a grace and
readiness he certainly had not when he left Normandy.  He was taller
too; and though still pale, and not dressed with much care (since he
had hurried on his clothes with no help but Alberic's)--though his
hair was rough and disordered, and the scar of the burn had not yet
faded from his check--yet still, with his bright blue eyes, glad
face, and upright form, he was a princely, promising boy, and the
Norman knights looked at him with pride and joy, more especially
when, unprompted, he said:  "I thank you, gallant knights, for coming
to guard me.  I do not fear the whole French host now I am among my
own true Normans."

Sir Eric led him to the door of the hall to the top of the steps,
that the men-at-arms might see him; and then such a shout rang out of
"Long live Duke Richard!"--"Blessings on the little Duke!"--that it
echoed and came back again from the hills around--it pealed from the
old tower--it roused Osmond from his sleep--and, if anything more had
been wanting to do so, it made Richard feel that he was indeed in a
land where every heart glowed with loyal love for him.

Before the shout had died away, a bugle-horn was heard winding before
the gate; and Sir Eric, saying, "It is the Count of Harcourt's note,"
sent Bertrand to open the gates in haste, while Alberic followed, as
Lord of the Castle, to receive the Count.

The old Count rode into the court, and to the foot of the steps,
where he dismounted, Alberic holding his stirrup.  He had not taken
many steps upwards before Richard came voluntarily to meet him (which
he had never done before), held out his hand, and said, "Welcome,
Count Bernard, welcome.  Thank you for coming to guard me.  I am very
glad to see you once more."

"Ah, my young Lord," said Bernard, "I am right glad to see you out of
the clutches of the Franks! You know friend from foe now, methinks!"

"Yes, indeed I do, Count Bernard.  I know you meant kindly by me, and
that I ought to have thanked you, and not been angry, when you
reproved me.  Wait one moment, Sir Count; there is one thing that I
promised myself to say if ever I came safe to my own dear home.
Walter--Maurice--Jeannot--all you of my household, and of Sir Eric's-
-I know, before I went away, I was often no good Lord to you; I was
passionate, and proud, and overbearing; but God has punished me for
it, when I was far away among my enemies, and sick and lonely.  I am
very sorry for it, and I hope you will pardon me; for I will strive,
and I hope God will help me, never to be proud and passionate again."

"There, Sir Eric," said Bernard, "you hear what the boy says.  If he
speaks it out so bold and free, without bidding, and if he holds to
what he says, I doubt it not that he shall not grieve for his journey
to France, and that we shall see him, in all things, such a Prince as
his father of blessed memory."

"You must thank Osmond for me," said Richard, as Osmond came down,
awakened at length.  "It is Osmond who has helped me to bear my
troubles; and as to saving me, why he flew away with me even like an
old eagle with its eaglet.  I say, Osmond, you must ever after this
wear a pair of wings on shield and pennon, to show how well we
managed our flight." {15}

"As you will, my Lord," said Osmond, half asleep; "but 'twas a good
long flight at a stretch, and I trust never to have to fly before
your foes or mine again."

What a glad summer's day was that! Even the three hours spent in
council did but renew the relish with which Richard visited Alberic's
treasures, told his adventures, and showed the accomplishments he had
learnt at Laon.  The evening was more joyous still; for the Castle
gates were opened, first to receive Dame Yolande Montemar, and not
above a quarter of an hour afterwards, the drawbridge was lowered to
admit the followers of Centeville; and in front of them appeared Fru
Astrida's own high cap.  Richard made but one bound into her arms,
and was clasped to her breast; then held off at arm's-length, that
she might see how much he was grown, and pity his scar; then hugged
closer than ever:  but, taking another look, she declared that Osmond
left his hair like King Harald Horrid-locks; {16} and, drawing an
ivory comb from her pouch, began to pull out the thick tangles,
hurting him to a degree that would once have made him rebel, but now
he only fondled her the more.

As to Osmond, when he knelt before her, she blessed him, and sobbed
over him, and blamed him for over-tiring her darling, all in one; and
assuredly, when night closed in and Richard had, as of old, told his
beads beside her knee, the happiest boy in Normandy was its little
Duke.



CHAPTER IX



Montemar was too near the frontier to be a safe abode for the little
Duke, and his uncle, Count Hubert of Senlis, agreed with Bernard the
Dane that he would be more secure beyond the limits of his own duchy,
which was likely soon to be the scene of war; and, sorely against his
will, he was sent in secret, under a strong escort, first to the
Castle of Coucy, and afterwards to Senlis.

His consolation was, that he was not again separated from his
friends; Alberic, Sir Eric, and even Fru Astrida, accompanied him, as
well as his constant follower, Osmond.  Indeed, the Baron would
hardly bear that he should be out of his sight; and he was still so
carefully watched, that it was almost like a captivity.  Never, even
in the summer days, was he allowed to go beyond the Castle walls; and
his guardians would fain have had it supposed that the Castle did not
contain any such guest.

Osmond did not give him so much of his company as usual, but was
always at work in the armourer's forge--a low, vaulted chamber,
opening into the Castle court.  Richard and Alberic were very curious
to know what he did there; but he fastened the door with an iron bar,
and they were forced to content themselves with listening to the
strokes of the hammer, keeping time to the voice that sang out, loud
and cheerily, the song of "Sigurd's sword, and the maiden sleeping
within the ring of flame."  Fru Astrida said Osmond was quite right--
no good weapon-smith ever toiled with open doors; and when the boys
asked him questions as to his work, he only smiled, and said that
they would see what it was when the call to arms should come.

They thought it near at hand, for tidings came that Louis had
assembled his army, and marched into Normandy to recover the person
of the young Duke, and to seize the country.  No summons, however,
arrived, but a message came instead, that Rouen had been surrendered
into the bands of the King.  Richard shed indignant tears.  "My
father's Castle!  My own city in the hands of the foe!  Bernard is a
traitor then!  None shall hinder me from so calling him.  Why did we
trust him?"

"Never fear, Lord Duke," said Osmond.  "When you come to the years of
Knighthood, your own sword shall right you, in spite of all the false
Danes, and falser Franks, in the land."

"What! you too, son Osmond?  I deemed you carried a cooler brain than
to miscall one who was true to Rollo's race before you or yon varlet
were born!" said the old Baron.

"He has yielded my dukedom!  It is mis-calling to say he is aught but
a traitor!" cried Richard.  "Vile, treacherous, favour-seeking--"

"Peace, peace, my Lord," said the Baron.  "Bernard has more in that
wary head of his than your young wits, or my old ones, can unwind.
What he is doing I may not guess, but I gage my life his heart is
right."

Richard was silent, remembering he had been once unjust, but he
grieved heartily when he thought of the French in Rollo's tower, and
it was further reported that the King was about to share Normandy
among his French vassals.  A fresh outcry broke out in the little
garrison of Senlis, but Sir Eric still persisted in his trust in his
friend Bernard, even when he heard that Centeville was marked out as
the prey of the fat French Count who had served for a hostage at
Rouen.

"What say you now, my Lord?" said he, after a conference with a
messenger at the gate.  "The Black Raven has spread its wings.  Fifty
keels are in the Seine, and Harald Blue-tooth's Long Serpent at the
head of them."

"The King of Denmark! Come to my aid!"

"Ay, that he is!  Come at Bernard's secret call, to right you, and
put you on your father's seat.  Now call honest Harcourt a traitor,
because he gave not up your fair dukedom to the flame and sword!"

"No traitor to me," said Richard, pausing.  "No, verily, but what
more would you say?"

"I think, when I come to my dukedom, I will not be so politic," said
Richard.  "I will be an open friend or an open foe."

"The boy grows too sharp for us," said Sir Eric, smiling, "but it was
spoken like his father."

"He grows more like his blessed father each day," said Fru Astrida.

"But the Danes, father, the Danes!" said Osmond.  "Blows will be
passing now.  I may join the host and win my spurs?"

"With all my heart," returned the Baron, "so my Lord here gives you
leave:  would that I could leave him and go with you.  It would do my
very spirit good but to set foot in a Northern keel once more."

"I would fain see what these men of the North are," said Osmond.

"Oh! they are only Danes, not Norsemen, and there are no Vikings,
such as once were when Ragnar laid waste--"

"Son, son, what talk is this for the child's ears?" broke in Fru
Astrida, "are these words for a Christian Baron?"

"Your pardon, mother," said the grey warrior, in all humility, "but
my blood thrills to hear of a Northern fleet at hand, and to think of
Osmond drawing sword under a Sea-King."

The next morning, Osmond's steed was led to the door, and such men-
at-arms as could be spared from the garrison of Senlis were drawn up
in readiness to accompany him.  The boys stood on the steps, wishing
they were old enough to be warriors, and wondering what had become of
him, until at length the sound of an opening door startled them, and
there, in the low archway of the smithy, the red furnace glowing
behind him, stood Osmond, clad in bright steel, the links of his
hauberk reflecting the light, and on his helmet a pair of golden
wings, while the same device adorned his long pointed kite-shaped
shield.

"Your wings! our wings!" cried Richard, "the bearing of Centeville!"

"May they fly after the foe, not before him," said Sir Eric.  "Speed
thee well, my son--let not our Danish cousins say we learn Frank
graces instead of Northern blows."

With such farewells, Osmond quitted Senlis, while the two boys
hastened to the battlements to watch him as long as he remained in
view.

The highest tower became their principal resort, and their eyes were
constantly on the heath where he had disappeared; but days passed,
and they grew weary of the watch, and betook themselves to games in
the Castle court.

One day, Alberic, in the character of a Dragon, was lying on his
back, panting hard so as to be supposed to cast out volumes of flame
and smoke at Richard, the Knight, who with a stick for a lance, and a
wooden sword, was waging fierce war; when suddenly the Dragon paused,
sat up, and pointed towards the warder on the tower.  His horn was at
his lips, and in another moment, the blast rang out through the
Castle.

With a loud shout, both boys rushed headlong up the turret stairs,
and came to the top so breathless, that they could not even ask the
warder what he saw.  He pointed, and the keen-eyed Alberic exclaimed,
"I see!  Look, my Lord, a speck there on the heath!"

"I do not see! where, oh where?"

"He is behind the hillock now, but--oh, there again!  How fast he
comes!"

"It is like the flight of a bird," said Richard, "fast, fast--"

"If only it be not flight in earnest," said Alberic, a little
anxiously, looking into the warder's face, for he was a borderer, and
tales of terror of the inroad of the Vicomte du Contentin were rife
on the marches of the Epte.

"No, young Sir," said the warder, "no fear of that.  I know how men
ride when they flee from the battle."

"No, indeed, there is no discomfiture in the pace of that steed,"
said Sir Eric, who had by this time joined them.

"I see him clearer!  I see the horse," cried Richard, dancing with
eagerness, so that Sir Eric caught hold of him, exclaiming, "You will
be over the battlements! hold still! better hear of a battle lost
than that!"

"He bears somewhat in his hand," said Alberic.

"A banner or pennon," said the warder; "methinks he rides like the
young Baron."

"He does!  My brave boy!  He has done good service," exclaimed Sir
Eric, as the figure became more developed.  "The Danes have seen how
we train our young men."

"His wings bring good tidings," said Richard.  "Let me go, Sir Eric,
I must tell Fru Astrida."

The drawbridge was lowered, the portcullis raised, and as all the
dwellers in the Castle stood gathered in the court, in rode the
warrior with the winged helm, bearing in his hand a drooping banner;
lowering it as he entered, it unfolded, and displayed, trailing on
the ground at the feet of the little Duke of Normandy, the golden
lilies of France.

A shout of amazement arose, and all gathered round him, asking
hurried questions.  "A great victory--the King a prisoner--Montreuil
slain!"

Richard would not be denied holding his hand, and leading him to the
hall, and there, sitting around him, they heard his tidings.  His
father's first question was, what he thought of their kinsmen, the
Danes?

"Rude comrades, father, I must own," said Osmond, smiling, and
shaking his head.  "I could not pledge them in a skull-goblet--set in
gold though it were."

"None the worse warriors," said Sir Eric.  "Ay, ay, and you were
dainty, and brooked not the hearty old fashion of tearing the whole
sheep to pieces.  You must needs cut your portion with the fine
French knife at your girdle."

Osmond could not see that a man was braver for being a savage, but he
held his peace; and Richard impatiently begged to hear how the battle
had gone, and where it had been fought.

"On the bank of the Dive," said Osmond.  "Ah, father, you might well
call old Harcourt wary--his name might better have been Fox-heart
than Bear-heart!  He had sent to the Franks a message of distress,
that the Danes were on him in full force, and to pray them to come to
his aid."

"I trust there was no treachery.  No foul dealing shall be wrought in
my name," exclaimed Richard, with such dignity of tone and manner, as
made all feel he was indeed their Duke, and forget his tender years.

"No, or should I tell the tale with joy like this?" said Osmond.
"Bernard's view was to bring the Kings together, and let Louis see
you had friends to maintain your right.  He sought but to avoid
bloodshed."

"And how chanced it?"

"The Danes were encamped on the Dive, and so soon as the French came
in sight, Blue-tooth sent a messenger to Louis, to summon him to quit
Neustria, and leave it to you, its lawful owner.  Thereupon, Louis,
hoping to win him over with wily words, invited him to hold a
personal conference."

"Where were you, Osmond?"

"Where I had scarce patience to be.  Bernard had gathered all of us
honest Normans together, and arranged us beneath that standard of the
King, as if to repel his Danish inroad.  Oh, he was, in all seeming,
hand-and-glove with Louis, guiding him by his counsel, and, verily,
seeming his friend and best adviser!  But in one thing he could not
prevail.  That ungrateful recreant, Herluin of Montreuil, came with
the King, hoping, it seems, to get his share of our spoils; and when
Bernard advised the King to send him home, since no true Norman could
bear the sight of him, the hot-headed Franks vowed no Norman should
hinder them from bringing whom they chose.  So a tent was set up by
the riverside, wherein the two Kings, with Bernard, Alan of Brittany,
and Count Hugh, held their meeting.  We all stood without, and the
two hosts began to mingle together, we Normans making acquaintance
with the Danes.  There was a red-haired, wild-looking fellow, who
told me he had been with Anlaff in England, and spoke much of the
doings of Hako in Norway; when, suddenly, he pointed to a Knight who
was near, speaking to a Cotentinois, and asked me his name.  My blood
boiled as I answered, for it was Montreuil himself!  'The cause of
your Duke's death!' said the Dane.  'Ha, ye Normans are fallen sons
of Odin, to see him yet live!'"

"You said, I trust, my son, that we follow not the laws of Odin?"
said Fru Astrida.

"I had no space for a word, grandmother; the Danes took the vengeance
on themselves.  In one moment they rushed on Herluin with their axes,
and the unhappy man was dead.  All was tumult; every one struck
without knowing at whom, or for what.  Some shouted, 'Thor Hulfe!'
some 'Dieu aide!' others 'Montjoie St. Denis!'  Northern blood
against French, that was all our guide.  I found myself at the foot
of this standard, and had a hard combat for it; but I bore it away at
last."

"And the Kings?"

"They hurried out of the tent, it seems, to rejoin their men.  Louis
mounted, but you know of old, my Lord, he is but an indifferent
horseman, and the beast carried him into the midst of the Danes,
where King Harald caught his bridle, and delivered him to four
Knights to keep.  Whether he dealt secretly with them, or whether
they, as they declared, lost sight of him whilst plundering his tent,
I cannot say; but when Harald demanded him of them, he was gone."

"Gone! is this what you call having the King prisoner?"

"You shall hear.  He rode four leagues, and met one of the baser sort
of Rouennais, whom he bribed to hide him in the Isle of Willows.
However, Bernard made close inquiries, found the fellow had been seen
in speech with a French horseman, pounced on his wife and children,
and threatened they should die if he did not disclose the secret.  So
the King was forced to come out of his hiding-place, and is now fast
guarded in Rollo's tower--a Dane, with a battle-axe on his shoulder,
keeping guard at every turn of the stairs."

"Ha! ha!" cried Richard.  "I wonder how he likes it.  I wonder if he
remembers holding me up to the window, and vowing that he meant me
only good!"

"When you believed him, my Lord," said Osmond, slyly.

"I was a little boy then," said Richard, proudly.  "Why, the very
walls must remind him of his oath, and how Count Bernard said, as he
dealt with me, so might Heaven deal with him."

"Remember it, my child--beware of broken vows," said Father Lucas;
"but remember it not in triumph over a fallen foe.  It were better
that all came at once to the chapel, to bestow their thanksgivings
where alone they are due."



CHAPTER X



After nearly a year's captivity, the King engaged to pay a ransom,
and, until the terms could be arranged, his two sons were to be
placed as hostages in the hands of the Normans, whilst he returned to
his own domains.  The Princes were to be sent to Bayeux; whither
Richard had returned, under the charge of the Centevilles, and was
now allowed to ride and walk abroad freely, provided he was
accompanied by a guard.

"I shall rejoice to have Carloman, and make him happy," said Richard;
"but I wish Lothaire were not coming."

"Perhaps," said good Father Lucas, "he comes that you may have a
first trial in your father's last lesson, and Abbot Martin's, and
return good for evil."

The Duke's cheek flushed, and he made no answer.

He and Alberic betook themselves to the watch-tower, and, by and by,
saw a cavalcade approaching, with a curtained vehicle in the midst,
slung between two horses.  "That cannot be the Princes," said
Alberic; "that must surely be some sick lady."

"I only hope it is not the Queen," exclaimed Richard, in dismay.
"But no; Lothaire is such a coward, no doubt he was afraid to ride,
and she would not trust her darling without shutting him up like a
demoiselle.  But come down, Alberic; I will say nothing unkind of
Lothaire, if I can help it."

Richard met the Princes in the court, his sunny hair uncovered, and
bowing with such becoming courtesy, that Fru Astrida pressed her
son's arm, and bade him say if their little Duke was not the fairest
and noblest child in Christendom.

With black looks, Lothaire stepped from the litter, took no heed of
the little Duke, but, roughly calling his attendant, Charlot, to
follow him, he marched into the hall, vouchsafing neither word nor
look to any as he passed, threw himself into the highest seat, and
ordered Charlot to bring him some wine.

Meanwhile, Richard, looking into the litter, saw Carloman crouching
in a corner, sobbing with fright.

"Carloman!--dear Carloman!--do not cry.  Come out!  It is I--your own
Richard!  Will you not let me welcome you?"

Carloman looked, caught at the outstretched hand, and clung to his
neck.

"Oh, Richard, send us back!  Do not let the savage Danes kill us!"

"No one will hurt you.  There are no Danes here.  You are my guest,
my friend, my brother.  Look up! here is my own Fru Astrida."

"But my mother said the Northmen would kill us for keeping you
captive.  She wept and raved, and the cruel men dragged us away by
force.  Oh, let us go back!"

"I cannot do that," said Richard; "for you are the King of Denmark's
captives, not mine; but I will love you, and you shall have all that
is mine, if you will only not cry, dear Carloman.  Oh, Fru Astrida,
what shall I do?  You comfort him--" as the poor boy clung sobbing to
him.

Fru Astrida advanced to take his hand, speaking in a soothing voice,
but he shrank and started with a fresh cry of terror--her tall
figure, high cap, and wrinkled face, were to him witch-like, and as
she knew no French, he understood not her kind words.  However, he
let Richard lead him into the hall, where Lothaire sat moodily in the
chair, with one leg tucked under him, and his finger in his mouth.

"I say, Sir Duke," said he, "is there nothing to be had in this old
den of yours?  Not a drop of Bordeaux?"

Richard tried to repress his anger at this very uncivil way of
speaking, and answered, that he thought there was none, but there was
plenty of Norman cider.

"As if I would taste your mean peasant drinks! I bade them bring my
supper--why does it not come?"

"Because you are not master here," trembled on Richard's lips, but he
forced it back, and answered that it would soon be ready, and
Carloman looked imploringly at his brother, and said, "Do not make
them angry, Lothaire."

"What, crying still, foolish child?" said Lothaire.  "Do you not know
that if they dare to cross us, my father will treat them as they
deserve?  Bring supper, I say, and let me have a pasty of ortolans."

"There are none--they are not in season," said Richard.

"Do you mean to give me nothing I like?  I tell you it shall be the
worse for you."

"There is a pullet roasting," began Richard.

"I tell you, I do not care for pullets--I will have ortolans."

"If I do not take order with that boy, my name is not Eric," muttered
the Baron.

"What must he not have made our poor child suffer!" returned Fru
Astrida, "but the little one moves my heart.  How small and weakly he
is, but it is worth anything to see our little Duke so tender to
him."

"He is too brave not to be gentle," said Osmond; and, indeed, the
high-spirited, impetuous boy was as soft and kind as a maiden, with
that feeble, timid child.  He coaxed him to eat, consoled him, and,
instead of laughing at his fears, kept between him and the great
bloodhound Hardigras, and drove it off when it came too near.

"Take that dog away," said Lothaire, imperiously.  No one moved to
obey him, and the dog, in seeking for scraps, again came towards him.

"Take it away," he repeated, and struck it with his foot.  The dog
growled, and Richard started up in indignation.

"Prince Lothaire," he said, "I care not what else you do, but my dogs
and my people you shall not maltreat."

"I tell you I am Prince!  I do what I will!  Ha! who laughs there?"
cried the passionate boy, stamping on the floor.

"It is not so easy for French Princes to scourge free-born Normans
here," said the rough voice of Walter the huntsman:  "there is a
reckoning for the stripe my Lord Duke bore for me."

"Hush, hush, Walter," began Richard; but Lothaire had caught up a
footstool, and was aiming it at the huntsman, when his arm was
caught.

Osmond, who knew him well enough to be prepared for such outbreaks,
held him fast by both hands, in spite of his passionate screams and
struggles, which were like those of one frantic.

Sir Eric, meanwhile, thundered forth in his Norman patois, "I would
have you to know, young Sir, Prince though you be, you are our
prisoner, and shall taste of a dungeon, and bread and water, unless
you behave yourself."

Either Lothaire did not hear, or did not believe, and fought more
furiously in Osmond's arms, but he had little chance with the
stalwart young warrior, and, in spite of Richard's remonstrances, he
was carried from the hall, roaring and kicking, and locked up alone
in an empty room.

"Let him alone for the present," said Sir Eric, putting the Duke
aside, "when he knows his master, we shall have peace."

Here Richard had to turn, to reassure Carloman, who had taken refuge
in a dark corner, and there shook like an aspen leaf, crying
bitterly, and starting with fright, when Richard touched him.

"Oh, do not put me in the dungeon.  I cannot bear the dark."

Richard again tried to comfort him, but he did not seem to hear or
heed.  "Oh! they said you would beat and hurt us for what we did to
you! but, indeed, it was not I that burnt your cheek!"

"We would not hurt you for worlds, dear Carloman; Lothaire is not in
the dungeon--he is only shut up till he is good."

"It was Lothaire that did it," repeated Carloman, "and, indeed, you
must not be angry with me, for my mother was so cross with me for not
having stopped Osmond when I met him with the bundle of straw, that
she gave me a blow, that knocked me down.  And were you really there,
Richard?"

Richard told his story, and was glad to find Carloman could smile at
it; and then Fru Astrida advised him to take his little friend to
bed.  Carloman would not lie down without still holding Richard's
hand, and the little Duke spared no pains to set him at rest, knowing
what it was to be a desolate captive far from home.

"I thought you would be good to me," said Carloman.  "As to Lothaire,
it serves him right, that you should use him as he used you."

"Oh, no, Carloman; if I had a brother I would never speak so of him."

"But Lothaire is so unkind."

"Ah! but we must be kind to those who are unkind to us."

The child rose on his elbow, and looked into Richard's face.  "No one
ever told me so before."

"Oh, Carloman, not Brother Hilary?"

"I never heed Brother Hilary--he is so lengthy, and wearisome;
besides, no one is ever kind to those that hate them."

"My father was," said Richard.

"And they killed him!" said Carloman.

"Yes," said Richard, crossing himself, "but he is gone to be in
peace."

"I wonder if it is happier there, than here," said Carloman.  "I am
not happy.  But tell me why should we be good to those that hate us?"

"Because the holy Saints were--and look at the Crucifix, Carloman.
That was for them that hated Him.  And, don't you know what our Pater
Noster says?"

Poor little Carloman could only repeat the Lord's Prayer in Latin--he
had not the least notion of its meaning--in which Richard had been
carefully instructed by Father Lucas.  He began to explain it, but
before many words had passed his lips, little Carloman was asleep.

The Duke crept softly away to beg to be allowed to go to Lothaire; he
entered the room, already dark, with a pine torch in his hand, that
so flickered in the wind, that he could at first see nothing, but
presently beheld a dark lump on the floor.

"Prince Lothaire," he said, "here is--"

Lothaire cut him short.  "Get away," he said.  "If it is your turn
now, it will be mine by and by.  I wish my mother had kept her word,
and put your eyes out."

Richard's temper did not serve for such a reply.  "It is a foul shame
of you to speak so, when I only came out of kindness to you--so I
shall leave you here all night, and not ask Sir Eric to let you out."

And he swung back the heavy door with a resounding clang.  But his
heart smote him when he told his beads, and remembered what he had
said to Carloman.  He knew he could not sleep in his warm bed when
Lothaire was in that cold gusty room.  To be sure, Sir Eric said it
would do him good, but Sir Eric little knew how tender the French
Princes were.

So Richard crept down in the dark, slid back the bolt, and called,
"Prince, Prince, I am sorry I was angry.  Come out, and let us try to
be friends."

"What do you mean?" said Lothaire.

"Come out of the cold and dark.  Here am I.  I will show you the way.
Where is your hand?  Oh, how cold it is.  Let me lead you down to the
hall fire."

Lothaire was subdued by fright, cold, and darkness, and quietly
allowed Richard to lead him down.  Round the fire, at the lower end
of the hall, snored half-a-dozen men-at-arms; at the upper hearth
there was only Hardigras, who raised his head as the boys came in.
Richard's whisper and soft pat quieted him instantly, and the two
little Princes sat on the hearth together, Lothaire surprised, but
sullen.  Richard stirred the embers, so as to bring out more heat,
then spoke:  "Prince, will you let us be friends?"

"I must, if I am in your power."

"I wish you would be my guest and comrade."

"Well, I will; I can't help it."

Richard thought his advances might have been more graciously met,
and, having little encouragement to say more, took Lothaire to bed,
as soon as he was warm.



CHAPTER XI



As the Baron had said, there was more peace now that Lothaire had
learnt to know that he must submit, and that no one cared for his
threats of his father's or his mother's vengeance.  He was very sulky
and disagreeable, and severely tried Richard's forbearance; but there
were no fresh outbursts, and, on the whole, from one week to another,
there might be said to be an improvement.  He could not always hold
aloof from one so good-natured and good-humoured as the little Duke;
and the fact of being kept in order could not but have some
beneficial effect on him, after such spoiling as his had been at
home.

Indeed, Osmond was once heard to say, it was a pity the boy was not
to be a hostage for life; to which Sir Eric replied, "So long as we
have not the training of him."

Little Carloman, meanwhile, recovered from his fears of all the
inmates of the Castle excepting Hardigras, at whose approach he
always shrank and trembled.

He renewed his friendship with Osmond, no longer started at the
entrance of Sir Eric, laughed at Alberic's merry ways, and liked to
sit on Fru Astrida's lap, and hear her sing, though he understood not
one word; but his especial love was still for his first friend, Duke
Richard.  Hand-in-hand they went about together, Richard sometimes
lifting him up the steep steps, and, out of consideration for him,
refraining from rough play; and Richard led him to join with him in
those lessons that Father Lucas gave the children of the Castle,
every Friday and Sunday evening in the Chapel.  The good Priest stood
on the Altar steps, with the children in a half circle round him--the
son and daughter of the armourer, the huntsman's little son, the
young Baron de Montemar, the Duke of Normandy, and the Prince of
France, all were equal there--and together they learnt, as he
explained to them the things most needful to believe; and thus
Carloman left off wondering why Richard thought it right to be good
to his enemies; and though at first he had known less than even the
little leather-coated huntsman, he seemed to take the holy lessons in
faster than any of them--yes, and act on them, too.  His feeble
health seemed to make him enter into their comfort and meaning more
than even Richard; and Alberic and Father Lucas soon told Fru Astrida
that it was a saintly-minded child.

Indeed, Carloman was more disposed to thoughtfulness, because he was
incapable of joining in the sports of the other boys.  A race round
the court was beyond his strength, the fresh wind on the battlements
made him shiver and cower, and loud shouting play was dreadful to
him.  In old times, he used to cry when Lothaire told him he must
have his hair cut, and be a priest; now, he only said quietly, he
should like it very much, if he could be good enough.

Fru Astrida sighed and shook her head, and feared the poor child
would never grow up to be anything on this earth.  Great as had been
the difference at first between him and Richard, it was now far
greater.  Richard was an unusually strong boy for ten years old,
upright and broad-chested, and growing very fast; while Carloman
seemed to dwindle, stooped forward from weakness, had thin pinched
features, and sallow cheeks, looking like a plant kept in the dark.

The old Baron said that hardy, healthy habits would restore the puny
children; and Lothaire improved in health, and therewith in temper;
but his little brother had not strength enough to bear the seasoning.
He pined and drooped more each day; and as the autumn came on, and
the wind was chilly, he grew worse, and was scarcely ever off the lap
of the kind Lady Astrida.  It was not a settled sickness, but he grew
weaker, and wasted away.  They made up a little couch for him by the
fire, with the high settle between it and the door, to keep off the
draughts; and there he used patiently to lie, hour after hour,
speaking feebly, or smiling and seeming pleased, when any one of
those he loved approached.  He liked Father Lucas to come and say
prayers with him; and he never failed to have a glad look, when his
dear little Duke came to talk to him, in his cheerful voice, about
his rides and his hunting and hawking adventures.  Richard's sick
guest took up much of his thoughts, and he never willingly spent many
hours at a distance from him, softening his step and lowering his
voice, as he entered the hall, lest Carloman should be asleep.

"Richard, is it you?" said the little boy, as the young figure came
round the settle in the darkening twilight.

"Yes.  How do you feel now, Carloman; are you better?"

"No better, thanks, dear Richard;" and the little wasted fingers were
put into his.

"Has the pain come again?"

"No; I have been lying still, musing; Richard, I shall never be
better."

"Oh, do not say so!  You will, indeed you will, when spring comes."

"I feel as if I should die," said the little boy; "I think I shall.
But do not grieve, Richard.  I do not feel much afraid.  You said it
was happier there than here, and I know it now."

"Where my blessed father is," said Richard, thoughtfully.  "But oh,
Carloman, you are so young to die!"

"I do not want to live.  This is a fighting, hard world, full of
cruel people; and it is peace there.  You are strong and brave, and
will make them better; but I am weak and fearful--I could only sigh
and grieve."

"Oh, Carloman!  Carloman!  I cannot spare you.  I love you like my
own brother.  You must not die--you must live to see your father and
mother again!"

"Commend me to them," said Carloman.  "I am going to my Father in
heaven.  I am glad I am here, Richard; I never was so happy before.
I should have been afraid indeed to die, if Father Lucas had not
taught me how my sins are pardoned.  Now, I think the Saints and
Angels are waiting for me."

He spoke feebly, and his last words faltered into sleep.  He slept
on; and when supper was brought, and the lamps were lighted, Fru
Astrida thought the little face looked unusually pale and waxen; but
he did not awake.  At night, they carried him to his bed, and he was
roused into a half conscious state, moaning at being disturbed.  Fru
Astrida would not leave him, and Father Lucas shared her watch.

At midnight, all were wakened by the slow notes, falling one by one
on the ear, of the solemn passing-bell, calling them to waken, that
their prayers might speed a soul on its way.  Richard and Lothaire
were soon at the bedside.  Carloman lay still asleep, his hands
folded on his breast, but his breath came in long gasps.  Father
Lucas was praying over him, and candles were placed on each side of
the bed.  All was still, the boys not daring to speak or move.  There
came a longer breath--then they heard no more.  He was, indeed, gone
to a happier home--a truer royalty than ever had been his on earth.

Then the boys' grief burst out.  Lothaire screamed for his mother,
and sobbed out that he should die too--he must go home.  Richard
stood by the bed, large silent tears rolling down his cheeks, and his
chest heaving with suppressed sobs.

Fru Astrida led them from the room, back to their beds.  Lothaire
soon cried himself to sleep.  Richard lay awake, sorrowful, and in
deep thought; while that scene in St. Mary's, at Rouen, returned
before his eyes, and though it had passed nearly two years ago, its
meaning and its teaching had sunk deep into his mind, and now stood
before him more completely.

"Where shall I go, when I come to die, if I have not returned good
for evil?"  And a resolution was taken in the mind of the little
Duke.

Morning came, and brought back the sense that his gentle little
companion was gone from him; and Richard wept again, as if he could
not be consoled, as he beheld the screened couch where the patient
smile would never again greet him.  He now knew that he had loved
Carloman all the more for his weakness and helplessness; but his
grief was not like Lothaire's, for with the Prince's was still joined
a selfish fear:  his cry was still, that he should die too, if not
set free, and violent weeping really made him heavy and ill.

The little corpse, embalmed and lapped in lead, was to be sent back
to France, that it might rest with its forefathers in the city of
Rheims; and Lothaire seemed to feel this as an additional stroke of
desertion.  He was almost beside himself with despair, imploring
every one, in turn, to send him home, though he well knew they were
unable to do so.



CHAPTER XII



"Sir Eric," said Richard, "you told me there was a Parlement to be
held at Falaise, between Count Bernard and the King of Denmark.  I
mean to attend it.  Will you come with me, or shall Osmond go, and
you remain in charge of the Prince?"

"How now, Lord Richard, you were not wont to love a Parlement?"

"I have something to say," replied Richard.  The Baron made no
objection, only telling his mother that the Duke was a marvellous
wise child, and that he would soon be fit to take the government
himself.

Lothaire lamented the more when he found that Richard was going away;
his presence seemed to him a protection, and he fancied, now Carloman
was dead, that his former injuries were about to be revenged.  The
Duke assured him, repeatedly, that he meant him nothing but kindness,
adding, "When I return, you will see, Lothaire;" then, commending him
to the care and kindness of Fru Astrida, Osmond, and Alberic, Richard
set forth upon his pony, attended by Sir Eric and three men-at-arms.

Richard felt sad when he looked back at Bayeux, and thought that it
no longer contained his dear little friend; but it was a fresh bright
frosty morning, the fields were covered with a silvery-white coating,
the flakes of hoar-frost sparkled on every bush, and the hard ground
rung cheerily to the tread of the horses' feet.  As the yellow sun
fought his way through the grey mists that dimmed his brightness, and
shone out merrily in the blue heights of the sky, Richard's spirits
rose, and he laughed and shouted, as hare or rabbit rushed across the
heath, or as the plover rose screaming above his head, flapping her
broad wings across the wintry sky.

One night they slept at a Convent, where they heard that Hugh of
Paris had passed on to join the conference at Falaise.  The next day
they rode on, and, towards the afternoon, the Baron pointed to a
sharp rocky range of hills, crowned by a tall solid tower, and told
Richard, yonder was his keep of Falaise, the strongest Castle in
Normandy.

The country was far more broken as they advanced--narrow valleys and
sharp hills, each little vale full of wood, and interspersed with
rocks.  "A choice place for game," Sir Eric said and Richard, as he
saw a herd of deer dash down a forest glade, exclaimed, "that they
must come here to stay, for some autumn sport."

There seemed to be huntsmen abroad in the woods; for through the
frosty air came the baying of dogs, the shouts and calls of men, and,
now and then, the echoing, ringing notes of a bugle.  Richard's eyes
and cheeks glowed with excitement, and he pushed his brisk little
pony on faster and faster, unheeding that the heavier men and horses
of his suite were not keeping pace with him on the rough ground and
through the tangled boughs.

Presently, a strange sound of growling and snarling was heard close
at hand:  his pony swerved aside, and could not be made to advance;
so Richard, dismounting, dashed through some briars, and there, on an
open space, beneath a precipice of dark ivy-covered rock, that rose
like a wall, he beheld a huge grey wolf and a large dog in mortal
combat.  It was as if they had fallen or rolled down the precipice
together, not heeding it in their fury.  Both were bleeding, and the
eyes of both glared like red fiery glass in the dark shadow of the
rock.  The dog lay undermost, almost overpowered, making but a feeble
resistance; and the wolf would, in another moment, be at liberty to
spring on the lonely child.

But not a thought of fear passed through his breast; to save the dog
was Richard's only idea.  In one moment he had drawn the dagger he
wore at his girdle, ran to the two struggling animals, and with all
his force, plunged it into the throat of the wolf, which, happily,
was still held by the teeth of the hound.

The struggles relaxed, the wolf rolled heavily aside, dead; the dog
lay panting and bleeding, and Richard feared he was cruelly torn.
"Poor fellow! noble dog! what shall I do to help you?" and he gently
smoothed the dark brindled head.

A voice was now heard shouting aloud, at which the dog raised and
crested his head, as a figure in a hunting dress was coming down a
rocky pathway, an extremely tall, well-made man, of noble features.
"Ha! holla!  Vige!  Vige!  How now, my brave hound?" he said in the
Northern tongue, though not quite with the accent Richard was
accustomed to hear "Art hurt?"

"Much torn, I fear," Richard called out, as the faithful creature
wagged his tail, and strove to rise and meet his master.

"Ha, lad! what art thou?" exclaimed the hunter, amazed at seeing the
boy between the dead wolf and wounded dog.  "You look like one of
those Frenchified Norman gentilesse, with your smooth locks and
gilded baldrick, yet your words are Norse.  By the hammer of Thor!
that is a dagger in the wolf's throat!"

"It is mine," said Richard.  "I found your dog nearly spent, and I
made in to the rescue."

"You did?  Well done!  I would not have lost Vige for all the plunder
of Italy.  I am beholden to you, my brave young lad," said the
stranger, all the time examining and caressing the hound.  "What is
your name?  You cannot be Southern bred?"

As he spoke, more shouts came near; and the Baron de Centeville
rushed through the trees holding Richard's pony by the bridle.  "My
Lord, my Lord!--oh, thank Heaven, I see you safe!"  At the same
moment a party of hunters also approached by the path, and at the
head of them Bernard the Dane.

"Ha!" exclaimed he, "what do I see?  My young Lord! what brought you
here?"  And with a hasty obeisance, Bernard took Richard's
outstretched hand.

"I came hither to attend your council," replied Richard.  "I have a
boon to ask of the King of Denmark."

"Any boon the King of Denmark has in his power will be yours," said
the dog's master, slapping his hand on the little Duke's shoulder,
with a rude, hearty familiarity, that took him by surprise; and he
looked up with a shade of offence, till, on a sudden flash of
perception, he took off his cap, exclaiming, "King Harald himself!
Pardon me, Sir King!"

"Pardon, Jarl Richart!  What would you have me pardon?--your saving
the life of Vige here?  No French politeness for me.  Tell me your
boon, and it is yours.  Shall I take you a voyage, and harry the fat
monks of Ireland?"

Richard recoiled a little from his new friend.

"Oh, ha!  I forgot.  They have made a Christian of you--more's the
pity.  You have the Northern spirit so strong.  I had forgotten it.
Come, walk by my side, and let me hear what you would ask.  Holla,
you Sweyn! carry Vige up to the Castle, and look to his wounds.  Now
for it, young Jarl."

"My boon is, that you would set free Prince Lothaire."

"What?--the young Frank?  Why they kept you captive, burnt your face,
and would have made an end of you but for your clever Bonder."

"That is long past, and Lothaire is so wretched.  His brother is
dead, and he is sick with grief, and he says he shall die, if he does
not go home."

"A good thing too for the treacherous race to die out in him!  What
should you care for him? he is your foe."

"I am a Christian," was Richard's answer.

"Well, I promised you whatever you might ask.  All my share of his
ransom, or his person, bond or free, is yours.  You have only to
prevail with your own Jarls and Bonders."

Richard feared this would be more difficult; but Abbot Martin came to
the meeting, and took his part.  Moreover, the idea of their hostage
dying in their hands, so as to leave them without hold upon the King,
had much weight with them; and, after long deliberation, they
consented that Lothaire should be restored to his father, without
ransom but only on condition that Louis should guarantee to the Duke
the peaceable possession of the country, as far as St. Clair sur
Epte, which had been long in dispute; so that Alberic became,
indisputably, a vassal of Normandy.

Perhaps it was the happiest day in Richard's life when he rode back
to Bayeux, to desire Lothaire to prepare to come with him to St.
Clair, there to be given back into the hands of his father.

And then they met King Louis, grave and sorrowful for the loss of his
little Carloman, and, for the time, repenting of his misdeeds towards
the orphan heir of Normandy.

He pressed the Duke in his arms, and his kiss was a genuine one as he
said, "Duke Richard, we have not deserved this of you.  I did not
treat you as you have treated my children.  We will be true lord and
vassal from henceforth."

Lothaire's last words were, "Farewell, Richard.  If I lived with you,
I might be good like you.  I will never forget what you have done for
me."

When Richard once more entered Rouen in state, his subjects shouting
round him in transports of joy, better than all his honour and glory
was the being able to enter the Church of our Lady, and kneel by his
father's grave, with a clear conscience, and the sense that he had
tried to keep that last injunction.



CONCLUSION



Years had passed away.  The oaths of Louis, and promises of Lothaire,
had been broken; and Arnulf of Flanders, the murderer of Duke
William, had incited them to repeated and treacherous inroads on
Normandy; so that Richard's life, from fourteen to five or six-and-
twenty, had been one long war in defence of his country.  But it had
been a glorious war for him, and his gallant deeds had well earned
for him the title of "Richard the Fearless"--a name well deserved;
for there was but one thing he feared, and that was, to do wrong.

By and by, success and peace came; and then Arnulf of Flanders,
finding open force would not destroy him, three times made attempts
to assassinate him, like his father, by treachery.  But all these had
failed; and now Richard had enjoyed many years of peace and honour,
whilst his enemies had vanished from his sight.

King Louis was killed by a fall from his horse; Lothaire died in
early youth, and in him ended the degenerate line of Charlemagne;
Hugh Capet, the son of Richard's old friend, Hugh the White, was on
the throne of France, his sure ally and brother-in-law, looking to
him for advice and aid in all his undertakings.

Fru Astrida and Sir Eric had long been in their quiet graves; Osmond
and Alberic were among Richard's most trusty councillors and
warriors; Abbot Martin, in extreme old age, still ruled the Abbey of
Jumieges, where Richard, like his father, loved to visit him, hold
converse with him, and refresh himself in the peaceful cloister,
after the affairs of state and war.

And Richard himself was a grey-headed man, of lofty stature and
majestic bearing.  His eldest son was older than he had been himself
when he became the little Duke, and he had even begun to remember his
father's project, of an old age to be spent in retirement and peace.

It was on a summer eve, that Duke Richard sat beside the white-
bearded old Abbot, within the porch, looking at the sun shining with
soft declining beams on the arches and columns.  They spoke together
of that burial at Rouen, and of the silver key; the Abbot delighting
to tell, over and over again, all the good deeds and good sayings of
William Longsword.

As they sat, a man, also very old and shrivelled and bent, came up to
the cloister gate, with the tottering, feeble step of one pursued
beyond his strength, coming to take sanctuary.

"What can be the crime of one so aged and feeble?" said the Duke, in
surprise.

At the sight of him, a look of terror shot from the old man's eye.
He clasped his hands together, and turned as if to flee; then,
finding himself incapable of escape, he threw himself on the ground
before him.

"Mercy, mercy! noble, most noble Duke!" was all he said.

"Rise up--kneel not to me.  I cannot brook this from one who might be
my father," said Richard, trying to raise him; but at those words the
old man groaned and crouched lower still.

"Who art thou?" said the Duke.  "In this holy place thou art secure,
be thy deed what it may.  Speak!--who art thou?"

"Dost thou not know me?" said the suppliant.  "Promise mercy, ere
thou dost hear my name."

"I have seen that face under a helmet," said the Duke.  "Thou art
Arnulf of Flanders!"

There was a deep silence.

"And wherefore art thou here?"

"I delayed to own the French King Hugh.  He has taken my towns and
ravaged my lands.  Each Frenchman and each Norman vows to slay me, in
revenge for your wrongs, Lord Duke.  I have been driven hither and
thither, in fear of my life, till I thought of the renown of Duke
Richard, not merely the most fearless, but the most merciful of
Princes.  I sought to come hither, trusting that, when the holy
Father Abbot beheld my bitter repentance, he would intercede for me
with you, most noble Prince, for my safety and forgiveness.  Oh,
gallant Duke, forgive and spare!"

"Rise up, Arnulf," said Richard.  "Where the hand of the Lord hath
stricken, it is not for man to exact his own reckoning.  My father's
death has been long forgiven, and what you may have planned against
myself has, by the blessing of Heaven, been brought to nought.  From
Normans at least you are safe; and it shall be my work to ensure your
pardon from my brother the King.  Come into the refectory:  you need
refreshment.  The Lord Abbot makes you welcome." {17}

Tears of gratitude and true repentance choked Arnulf's speech, and he
allowed himself to be raised from the ground, and was forced to
accept the support of the Duke's arm.

The venerable Abbot slowly rose, and held up his hand in an attitude
of blessing:  "The blessing of a merciful God be upon the sinner who
turneth from his evil way; and ten thousand blessings of pardon and
peace are already on the head of him who hath stretched out his hand
to forgive and aid him who was once his most grievous foe!"



Footnotes:



{1}  Richard's place of education was Bayeaux; for, as Duke William
says in the rhymed Chronicle of Normandy, -

"Si a Roem le faz garder
E norir, gaires longement
Il ne saura parlier neiant
Daneis, kar nul n l'i parole.
Si voil qu'il seit a tele escole
Qu l'en le sache endoctriner
Que as Daneis sache parler.
Ci ne sevent riens fors Romanz
Mais a Baieux en a tanz
Qui ne sevent si Daneis non."

{2}  Bernard was founder of the family of Harcourt of Nuneham.
Ferrieres, the ancestor of that of Ferrars.

{3}  In the same Chronicle, William Longsword directs that, -

"Tant seit apris qu'il lise un bref
Kar ceo ne li ert pas trop gref."

{4}  Hako of Norway was educated by Ethelstane of England.  It was
Foulques le Bon, the contemporary Count of Anjou, who, when derided
by Louis IV. for serving in the choir of Tours, wrote the following
retort:  "The Count of Anjou to the King of France.  Apprenez,
Monseigneur, qu'un roi sans lettres est une ane couronne."

{5}  The Banner of Normandy was a cross till William the Conqueror
adopted the lion.

{6}  "Sire, soies mon escus, soies mes defendemens."
Histoire des Ducs de Normandie (MICHEL).

{7}  The Cathedral was afterwards built by Richard himself.

{8}  Sus le maistre autel del iglise
Li unt sa feaute juree.

{9}  Une clef d'argent unt trovee
A sun braiol estreit noee.
Tout la gent se merveillont
Que cete clef signifiont.
* * * *
Ni la cuoule e l'estamine
En aveit il en un archete,
Que disfermeront ceste clavete
De sol itant ert tresorier
Kar nul tresor n'vait plus cher.

The history of the adventures of Jumieges is literally true, as is
Martin's refusal to admit the Duke to the cloister:-

Dun ne t'a Deus mis e pose
Prince gardain de sainte iglise
E cur tenir leial justise.

{10}  An attack, in which Riouf, Vicomte du Cotentin, placed Normandy
in the utmost danger.  He was defeated on the banks of the Seine, in
a field still called the "Pre de Battaille," on the very day of
Richard's birth; so that the Te Deum was sung at once for the victory
and the birth of the heir of Normandy.

{11}  "Biaus Segnors, vees chi vo segneur, je ne le vous voel tolir,
mais je estoie venus en ceste ville, prendre consel a vous, comment
je poroie vengier la mort son pere, qui me rapiela d'Engletiere.  Il
me fist roi, il me fist avoir l'amour le roi d'Alemaigne, il leva mon
fil de fons, il me fist toz les biens, et jou en renderai au fill le
guerredon se je puis."--MICHEL.

{12}  In a battle fought with Lothaire at Charmenil, Richard saved
the life of Walter the huntsman, who had been with him from his
youth.

{13}  At fourteen years of age, Richard was betrothed to Eumacette of
Paris, then but eight years old.  In such esteem did Hugues la Blanc
hold his son-in-law, that, on his death-bed, he committed his son
Hugues Capet to his guardianship, though the Duke was then scarcely
above twenty, proposing him as the model of wisdom and of chivalry.

{14}  "Osmons, qui l'enfant enseognoit l'eu mena i jour en riviere,
et quant il revint, la reine Gerberge dist que se il jamais
l'enmenait fors des murs, elle li ferait les jeix crever."--MICHEL.

{15}  "Gules, two wings conjoined in lure, or," is the original coat
of St. Maur, or Seymour, said to be derived from Osmond de
Centeville, who assumed them in honour of his flight with Duke
Richard.  His direct descendants in Normandy were the Marquises of
Osmond, whose arms were gules, two wings ermine.  In 1789 there were
two survivors of the line of Centeville, one a Canon of Notre Dame,
the other a Chevalier de St. Louis, who died childless.

{16}  Harald of Norway, who made a vow never to trim his hair till he
had made himself sole king of the country.  The war lasted ten years,
and he thus might well come to deserve the title of Horrid-locks,
which was changed to that of Harfagre, or fair-haired, when he
celebrated his final victory, by going into a bath at More, and
committing his shaggy hair to be cut and arranged by his friend Jarl
Rognwald, father of Rollo.

{17}  Richard obtained for Arnulf the restitution of Arras, and
several other Flemish towns.  He died eight years afterwards, in 996,
leaving several children, among whom his daughter Emma is connected
with English history, by her marriage, first, with Ethelred the
Unready, and secondly, with Knute, the grandson of his firm friend
and ally, Harald Blue-tooth.   His son was Richard, called the Good;
his grandson, Robert the Magnificent; his great-grandson, William the
Conqueror, who brought the Norman race to England.  Few names in
history shine with so consistent a lustre as that of Richard; at
first the little Duke, afterwards Richard aux longues jambes, but
always Richard sans peur.  This little sketch has only brought
forward the perils of his childhood, but his early manhood was
likewise full of adventures, in which he always proved himself brave,
honourable, pious, and forbearing.  But for these our readers must
search for themselves into early French history, where all they will
find concerning our hero will only tend to exalt his character.




End of the Project Gutenberg eText The Little Duke


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