"I feel as if I should die," said the little boy; "I think I shall. But do not grieve, Richard. I do not feel much afraid. You said it was happier there than here, and I know it now." "Where my blessed father is," said Richard, thoughtfully. "But oh, Carloman, you are so young to die!" "I do not want to live. This is a fighting, hard world, full of cruel people; and it is peace there. You are strong and brave, and will make them better; but I am weak and fearful--I could only sigh and grieve." "Oh, Carloman! Carloman! I cannot spare you. I love you like my own brother. You must not die--you must live to see your father and mother again!" "Commend me to them," said Carloman. "I am going to my Father in heaven. I am glad I am here, Richard; I never was so happy before. I should have been afraid indeed to die, if Father Lucas had not taught me how my sins are pardoned. Now, I think the Saints and Angels are waiting for me." He spoke feebly, and his last words faltered into sleep. He slept on; and when supper was brought, and the lamps were lighted, Fru Astrida thought the little face looked unusually pale and waxen; but he did not awake. At night, they carried him to his bed, and he was roused into a half conscious state, moaning at being disturbed. Fru Astrida would not leave him, and Father Lucas shared her watch. At midnight, all were wakened by the slow notes, falling one by one on the ear, of the solemn passing-bell, calling them to waken, that their prayers might speed a soul on its way. Richard and Lothaire were soon at the bedside. Carloman lay still asleep, his hands folded on his breast, but his breath came in long gasps. Father Lucas was praying over him, and candles were placed on each side of the bed. All was still, the boys not daring to speak or move. There came a longer breath--then they heard no more. He was, indeed, gone to a happier home--a truer royalty than ever had been his on earth. Then the boys' grief burst out. Lothaire screamed for his mother, and sobbed out that he should die too--he must go home. Richard stood by the bed, large silent tears rolling down his cheeks, and his chest heaving with suppressed sobs. Fru Astrida led them from the room, back to their beds. Lothaire soon cried himself to sleep. Richard lay awake, sorrowful, and in deep thought; while that scene in St. Mary's, at Rouen, returned before his eyes, and though it had passed nearly two years ago, its meaning and its teaching had sunk deep into his mind, and now stood before him more completely. "Where shall I go, when I come to die, if I have not returned good for evil?" And a resolution was taken in the mind of the little Duke. Morning came, and brought back the sense that his gentle little companion was gone from him; and Richard wept again, as if he could not be consoled, as he beheld the screened couch where the patient smile would never again greet him. He now knew that he had loved Carloman all the more for his weakness and helplessness; but his grief was not like Lothaire's, for with the Prince's was still joined a selfish fear: his cry was still, that he should die too, if not set free, and violent weeping really made him heavy and ill. The little corpse, embalmed and lapped in lead, was to be sent back to France, that it might rest with its forefathers in the city of Rheims; and Lothaire seemed to feel this as an additional stroke of desertion. He was almost beside himself with despair, imploring every one, in turn, to send him home, though he well knew they were unable to do so. CHAPTER XII "Sir Eric," said Richard, "you told me there was a Parlement to be held at Falaise, between Count Bernard and the King of Denmark. I mean to attend it. Will you come with me, or shall Osmond go, and you remain in charge of the Prince?" "How now, Lord Richard, you were not wont to love a Parlement?" "I have something to say," replied Richard. The Baron made no objection, only telling his mother that the Duke was a marvellous wise child, and that he would soon be fit to take the government himself. Lothaire lamented the more when he found that Richard was going away; his presence seemed to him a protection, and he fancied, now Carloman was dead, that his former injuries were about to be revenged. The Duke assured him, repeatedly, that he meant him nothing but kindness, adding, "When I return, you will see, Lothaire;" then, commending him to the care and kindness of Fru Astrida, Osmond, and Alberic, Richard set forth upon his pony, attended by Sir Eric and three men-at-arms. Richard felt sad when he looked back at Bayeux, and thought that it no longer contained his dear little friend; but it was a fresh bright frosty morning, the fields were covered with a silvery-white coating, the flakes of hoar-frost sparkled on every bush, and the hard ground rung cheerily to the tread of the horses' feet. As the yellow sun fought his way through the grey mists that dimmed his brightness, and shone out merrily in the blue heights of the sky, Richard's spirits rose, and he laughed and shouted, as hare or rabbit rushed across the heath, or as the plover rose screaming above his head, flapping her broad wings across the wintry sky. One night they slept at a Convent, where they heard that Hugh of Paris had passed on to join the conference at Falaise. The next day they rode on, and, towards the afternoon, the Baron pointed to a sharp rocky range of hills, crowned by a tall solid tower, and told Richard, yonder was his keep of Falaise, the strongest Castle in Normandy. The country was far more broken as they advanced--narrow valleys and sharp hills, each little vale full of wood, and interspersed with rocks. "A choice place for game," Sir Eric said and Richard, as he saw a herd of deer dash down a forest glade, exclaimed, "that they must come here to stay, for some autumn sport." There seemed to be huntsmen abroad in the woods; for through the frosty air came the baying of dogs, the shouts and calls of men, and, now and then, the echoing, ringing notes of a bugle. Richard's eyes and cheeks glowed with excitement, and he pushed his brisk little pony on faster and faster, unheeding that the heavier men and horses of his suite were not keeping pace with him on the rough ground and through the tangled boughs. Presently, a strange sound of growling and snarling was heard close at hand: his pony swerved aside, and could not be made to advance; so Richard, dismounting, dashed through some briars, and there, on an open space, beneath a precipice of dark ivy-covered rock, that rose like a wall, he beheld a huge grey wolf and a large dog in mortal combat. It was as if they had fallen or rolled down the precipice together, not heeding it in their fury. Both were bleeding, and the eyes of both glared like red fiery glass in the dark shadow of the rock. The dog lay undermost, almost overpowered, making but a feeble resistance; and the wolf would, in another moment, be at liberty to spring on the lonely child. But not a thought of fear passed through his breast; to save the dog was Richard's only idea. In one moment he had drawn the dagger he wore at his girdle, ran to the two struggling animals, and with all his force, plunged it into the throat of the wolf, which, happily, was still held by the teeth of the hound. The struggles relaxed, the wolf rolled heavily aside, dead; the dog lay panting and bleeding, and Richard feared he was cruelly torn. "Poor fellow! noble dog! what shall I do to help you?" and he gently smoothed the dark brindled head. A voice was now heard shouting aloud, at which the dog raised and crested his head, as a figure in a hunting dress was coming down a rocky pathway, an extremely tall, well-made man, of noble features. "Ha! holla! Vige! Vige! How now, my brave hound?" he said in the Northern tongue, though not quite with the accent Richard was accustomed to hear "Art hurt?" "Much torn, I fear," Richard called out, as the faithful creature wagged his tail, and strove to rise and meet his master. "Ha, lad! what art thou?" exclaimed the hunter, amazed at seeing the boy between the dead wolf and wounded dog. "You look like one of those Frenchified Norman gentilesse, with your smooth locks and gilded baldrick, yet your words are Norse. By the hammer of Thor! that is a dagger in the wolf's throat!" "It is mine," said Richard. "I found your dog nearly spent, and I made in to the rescue." "You did? Well done! I would not have lost Vige for all the plunder of Italy. I am beholden to you, my brave young lad," said the stranger, all the time examining and caressing the hound. "What is your name? You cannot be Southern bred?" As he spoke, more shouts came near; and the Baron de Centeville rushed through the trees holding Richard's pony by the bridle. "My Lord, my Lord!--oh, thank Heaven, I see you safe!" At the same moment a party of hunters also approached by the path, and at the head of them Bernard the Dane. "Ha!" exclaimed he, "what do I see? My young Lord! what brought you here?" And with a hasty obeisance, Bernard took Richard's outstretched hand. "I came hither to attend your council," replied Richard. "I have a boon to ask of the King of Denmark." "Any boon the King of Denmark has in his power will be yours," said the dog's master, slapping his hand on the little Duke's shoulder, with a rude, hearty familiarity, that took him by surprise; and he looked up with a shade of offence, till, on a sudden flash of perception, he took off his cap, exclaiming, "King Harald himself! Pardon me, Sir King!" "Pardon, Jarl Richart! What would you have me pardon?--your saving the life of Vige here? No French politeness for me. Tell me your boon, and it is yours. Shall I take you a voyage, and harry the fat monks of Ireland?" Richard recoiled a little from his new friend. "Oh, ha! I forgot. They have made a Christian of you--more's the pity. You have the Northern spirit so strong. I had forgotten it.
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