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The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge

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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

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."

"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

"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

"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

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.


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

"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

"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.


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

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

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.

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,

"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!"


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

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

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

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

"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

"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

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.


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

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

"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

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

"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

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,

"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

"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

"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

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

"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

"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

"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

"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!"

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