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The Little Duke - Richard the Fearless
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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Transcribed from the 1905 Macmillan and Co. edition by Janet Haselow, Marian Taylor and David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



THE LITTLE DUKE

RICHARD THE FEARLESS

BY THE AUTHOR OF "THE HEIR OF REDCLYFFE," ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

London MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1905

All rights reserved

RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, BREAD STREET HILL, E.C., AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.

Originally published elsewhere. Transferred in 1864. First Edition printed (S) for Macmillan and Co. November 1864 (Pott 8vo). Reprinted 1869, 1872, 1873, 1876, 1878, 1881 (Globe 8vo), 1883, 1885, 1886, 1889. New Edition 1891, (Crown 8vo), 1892, 1894, 1895, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1903, 1905.



CHAPTER I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Picture: Richard with Dame Estrida]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hate them? and wherefore?"

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

Duke William looked grave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Picture: The oath of the vassals]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard bowed his head in assent and reverence.

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And it was!" said Abbot Martin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You are Lord here."

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

Alberic looked down hesitating.

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

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

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

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

"Ha! not do service to your Lord?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Were you very sorry to come?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The King!" exclaimed Osmond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Picture: Louis of France and the Little Duke]



CHAPTER V

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

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

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

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

"You will never allow it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, my Lord."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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