List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

he kissed their foreheads, and then said to them, "There is a new
play-fellow for you."

"Is that the little Northman?" said Carloman, turning to stare at
Richard with a look of curiosity, while Richard in his turn felt
considerably affronted that a boy so much less than himself should
call him little.

"Yes," said the Queen; "your father has brought him home with him."

Carloman stepped forward, shyly holding out his hand to the stranger,
but his brother pushed him rudely aside.  "I am the eldest; it is my
business to be first.  So, young Northman, you are come here for us
to play with."

Richard was too much amazed at being spoken to in this imperious way
to make any answer.  He was completely taken by surprise, and only
opened his great blue eyes to their utmost extent.

"Ha! why don't you answer?  Don't you hear?  Can you speak only your
own heathen tongue?" continued Lothaire.

"The Norman is no heathen tongue!" said Richard, at once breaking
silence in a loud voice.  "We are as good Christians as you are--ay,
and better too."

"Hush! hush! my Lord!" said Osmond.

"What now, Sir Duke," again interfered the King, in an angry tone,
"are you brawling already?  Time, indeed, I should take you from your
own savage court.  Sir Squire, look to it, that you keep your charge
in better rule, or I shall send him instantly to bed, supperless."

"My Lord, my Lord," whispered Osmond, "see you not that you are
bringing discredit on all of us?"

"I would be courteous enough, if they would be courteous to me,"
returned Richard, gazing with eyes full of defiance at Lothaire, who,
returning an angry look, had nevertheless shrunk back to his mother.
She meanwhile was saying, "So strong, so rough, the young savage is,
he will surely harm our poor boys!"

"Never fear," said Louis; "he shall be watched.  And," he added in a
lower tone, "for the present, at least, we must keep up appearances.
Hubert of Senlis, and Hugh of Paris, have their eyes on us, and were
the boy to be missed, the grim old Harcourt would have all the
pirates of his land on us in the twinkling of an eye.  We have him,
and there we must rest content for the present.  Now to supper."

At supper, Richard sat next little Carloman, who peeped at him every
now and then from under his eyelashes, as if he was afraid of him;
and presently, when there was a good deal of talking going on, so
that his voice could not be heard, half whispered, in a very grave
tone, "Do you like salt beef or fresh?"

"I like fresh," answered Richard, with equal gravity, "only we eat
salt all the winter."

There was another silence, and then Carloman, with the same
solemnity, asked, "How old are you?"

"I shall be nine on the eve of St. Boniface.  How old are you?"

"Eight.  I was eight at Martinmas, and Lothaire was nine three days

Another silence; then, as Osmond waited on Richard, Carloman returned
to the charge, "Is that your Squire?"

"Yes, that is Osmond de Centeville."

"How tall he is!"

"We Normans are taller than you French."

"Don't say so to Lothaire, or you will make him angry."

"Why? it is true."

"Yes; but--" and Carloman sunk his voice--"there are some things
which Lothaire will not hear said.  Do not make him cross, or he will
make my mother displeased with you.  She caused Thierry de Lincourt
to be scourged, because his ball hit Lothaire's face."

"She cannot scourge me--I am a free Duke," said Richard.  "But why?
Did he do it on purpose?"

"Oh, no!"

"And was Lothaire hurt?"

"Hush! you must say Prince Lothaire.  No; it was quite a soft ball."

"Why?" again asked Richard--"why was he scourged?"

"I told you, because he hit Lothaire."

"Well, but did he not laugh, and say it was nothing?  Alberic quite
knocked me down with a great snowball the other day, and Sir Eric
laughed, and said I must stand firmer."

"Do you make snowballs?"

"To be sure I do!  Do not you?"

"Oh, no! the snow is so cold."

"Ah! you are but a little boy," said Richard, in a superior manner.
Carloman asked how it was done; and Richard gave an animated
description of the snowballing, a fortnight ago, at Rouen, when
Osmond and some of the other young men built a snow fortress, and
defended it against Richard, Alberic, and the other Squires.
Carloman listened with delight, and declared that next time it
snowed, they would have a snow castle; and thus, by the time supper
was over, the two little boys were very good friends.

Bedtime came not long after supper.  Richard's was a smaller room
than he had been used to at Rouen; but it amazed him exceedingly when
he first went into it:  he stood gazing in wonder, because, as he
said, "It was as if he had been in a church."

"Yes, truly!" said Osmond.  "No wonder these poor creatures of French
cannot stand before a Norman lance, if they cannot sleep without
glass to their windows.  Well! what would my father say to this?"

"And see! see, Osmond! they have put hangings up all round the walls,
just like our Lady's church on a great feast-day.  They treat us just
as if we were the holy saints; and here are fresh rushes strewn about
the floor, too.  This must be a mistake--it must be an oratory,
instead of my chamber."

"No, no, my Lord; here is our gear, which I bade Sybald and Henry see
bestowed in our chamber.  Well, these Franks are come to a pass,
indeed!  My grandmother will never believe what we shall have to tell
her.  Glass windows and hangings to sleeping chambers! I do not like
it I am sure we shall never be able to sleep, closed up from the free
air of heaven in this way:  I shall be always waking, and fancying I
am in the chapel at home, hearing Father Lucas chanting his matins.
Besides, my father would blame me for letting you be made as tender
as a Frank.  I'll have out this precious window, if I can."

Luxurious as the young Norman thought the King, the glazing of Laon
was not permanent.  It consisted of casements, which could be put up
or removed at pleasure; for, as the court possessed only one set of
glass windows, they were taken down, and carried from place to place,
as often as Louis removed from Rheims to Soissons, Laon, or any other
of his royal castles; so that Osmond did not find much difficulty in
displacing them, and letting in the sharp, cold, wintry breeze.  The
next thing he did was to give his young Lord a lecture on his want of
courtesy, telling him that "no wonder the Franks thought he had no
more culture than a Viking (or pirate), fresh caught from Norway.  A
fine notion he was giving them of the training he had at Centeville,
if he could not even show common civility to the Queen--a lady!  Was
that the way Alberic had behaved when he came to Rouen?"

"Fru Astrida did not make sour faces at him, nor call him a young
savage," replied Richard.

"No, and he gave her no reason to do so; he knew that the first
teaching of a young Knight is to be courteous to ladies--never mind
whether fair and young, or old and foul of favour.  Till you learn
and note that, Lord Richard, you will never be worthy of your golden

"And the King told me she would treat me as a mother," exclaimed
Richard.  "Do you think the King speaks the truth, Osmond?"

"That we shall see by his deeds," said Osmond.

"He was very kind while we were in Normandy.  I loved him so much
better than the Count de Harcourt; but now I think that the Count is
best!  I'll tell you, Osmond, I will never call him grim old Bernard

"You had best not, sir, for you will never have a more true-hearted

"Well, I wish we were back in Normandy, with Fru Astrida and Alberic.
I cannot bear that Lothaire.  He is proud, and unknightly, and cruel.
I am sure he is, and I will never love him."

"Hush, my Lord!--beware of speaking so loud.  You are not in your own

"And Carloman is a chicken-heart," continued Richard, unheeding.  "He
does not like to touch snow, and he cannot even slide on the ice, and
he is afraid to go near that great dog--that beautiful wolf-hound."

"He is very little," said Osmond.

"I am sure I was not as cowardly at his age, now was I, Osmond?
Don't you remember?"

"Come, Lord Richard, I cannot let you wait to remember everything;
tell your beads and pray that we may be brought safe back to Rouen;
and that you may not forget all the good that Father Lucas and holy
Abbot Martin have laboured to teach you."

So Richard told the beads of his rosary--black polished wood, with
amber at certain spaces--he repeated a prayer with every bead, and
Osmond did the same; then the little Duke put himself into a narrow
crib of richly carved walnut; while Osmond, having stuck his dagger
so as to form an additional bolt to secure the door, and examined the
hangings that no secret entrance might be concealed behind them,
gathered a heap of rushes together, and lay down on them, wrapped in
his mantle, across the doorway.  The Duke was soon asleep; but the
Squire lay long awake, musing on the possible dangers that surrounded
his charge, and on the best way of guarding against them.


Osmond de Centeville was soon convinced that no immediate peril
threatened his young Duke at the Court of Laon.  Louis seemed to
intend to fulfil his oaths to the Normans by allowing the child to be
the companion of his own sons, and to be treated in every respect as
became his rank.  Richard had his proper place at table, and all due
attendance; he learnt, rode, and played with the Princes, and there
was nothing to complain of, excepting the coldness and inattention
with which the King and Queen treated him, by no means fulfilling the
promise of being as parents to their orphan ward.  Gerberge, who had
from the first dreaded his superior strength and his roughness with
her puny boys, and who had been by no means won by his manners at
their first meeting, was especially distant and severe with him,
hardly ever speaking to him except with some rebuke, which, it must
be confessed, Richard often deserved.

As to the boys, his constant companions, Richard was on very friendly

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: