List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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hounds; and Richard running to Sir Eric, cried, "Wake, wake, Sir
Eric, my father is come!  Oh, haste to open the gate, and admit him."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So she took leave of Richard, charging both Sir Eric and Osmond to
have the utmost care of him, and shedding tears as if the parting was
to be for a much longer space; then he bade farewell to the servants

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