List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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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!"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"There he is," said the King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They came up ceremoniously to their father and kissed his hand, while

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