List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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Lothaire used the unfortunate children who were his playfellows.
Perhaps this made him look on with great horror at the tyranny which
Lothaire exercised; at any rate he learnt to abhor it more, and to
make many resolutions against ordering people about uncivilly when
once he should be in Normandy again.  He often interfered to protect
the poor boys, and generally with success, for the Prince was afraid
of provoking such another shake as Richard had once given him, and
though he generally repaid himself on his victim in the end, he
yielded for the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark with anger and sorrow grew young Richard's face; he had been
fond of his two Norman attendants, he trusted to their attachment,
and he would have wept for their loss even if it had happened in any

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