List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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other way; but now, when it had been caused by their enmity to his
father's foes, the Flemings,--when one had fallen overwhelmed by
numbers, and the other been condemned hastily, cruelly, unjustly, it
was too much, and he almost choked with grief and indignation.  Why
had he not been there, to claim Henry as his own vassal, and if he
could not save him, at least bid him farewell?  Then he would have
broken out in angry threats, but he felt his own helplessness, and
was ashamed, and he could only shed tears of passionate grief,
refusing all Carloman's attempts to comfort him.  Osmond was even
more concerned; he valued the two Normans extremely for their courage
and faithfulness, and had relied on sending intelligence by their
means to Rouen, in case of need.  It appeared to him as if the first
opportunity had been seized of removing these protectors from the
little Duke, and as if the designs, whatever they might be, which had
been formed against him, were about to take effect.  He had little
doubt that his own turn would be the next; but he was resolved to
endure anything, rather than give the smallest opportunity of
removing him, to bear even insults with patience, and to remember
that in his care rested the sole hope of safety for his charge.

That danger was fast gathering around them became more evident every
day, especially after the King and Arnulf had gone away together.  It
was very hot weather, and Richard began to weary after the broad cool
river at Rouen, where he used to bathe last summer; and one evening
he persuaded his Squire to go down with him to the Oise, which flowed
along some meadow ground about a quarter of a mile from the Castle;
but they had hardly set forth before three or four attendants came
running after them, with express orders from the Queen that they
should return immediately.  They obeyed, and found her standing in
the Castle hall, looking greatly incensed.

"What means this?" she asked, angrily.  "Knew you not that the King
has left commands that the Duke quits not the Castle in his absence?"

"I was only going as far as the river--" began Richard, but Gerberge
cut him short.  "Silence, child--I will hear no excuses.  Perhaps you
think, Sieur de Centeville, that you may take liberties in the King's
absence, but I tell you that if you are found without the walls
again, it shall be at your peril; ay, and his!  I'll have those
haughty eyes put out, if you disobey!"

She turned away, and Lothaire looked at them with his air of
gratified malice.  "You will not lord it over your betters much
longer, young pirate!" said he, as he followed his mother, afraid to
stay to meet the anger he might have excited by the taunt he could
not deny himself the pleasure of making; but Richard, who, six months
ago could not brook a slight disappointment or opposition, had, in
his present life of restraint, danger, and vexation, learnt to curb
the first outbreak of temper, and to bear patiently instead of
breaking out into passion and threats, and now his only thought was
of his beloved Squire.

"Oh, Osmond!  Osmond!" he exclaimed, "they shall not hurt you.  I
will never go out again.  I will never speak another hasty word.  I
will never affront the Prince, if they will but leave you with me!"


It was a fine summer evening, and Richard and Carloman were playing
at ball on the steps of the Castle-gate, when a voice was heard from
beneath, begging for alms from the noble Princes in the name of the
blessed Virgin, and the two boys saw a pilgrim standing at the gate,
wrapt in a long robe of serge, with a staff in his hand, surmounted
by a Cross, a scrip at his girdle, and a broad shady hat, which he
had taken off, as he stood, making low obeisances, and asking

"Come in, holy pilgrim," said Carloman.  "It is late, and you shall
sup and rest here to-night."

"Blessings from Heaven light on you, noble Prince," replied the
pilgrim, and at that moment Richard shouted joyfully, "A Norman, a
Norman! 'tis my own dear speech!  Oh, are you not from Normandy?
Osmond, Osmond! he comes from home!"

"My Lord! my own Lord!" exclaimed the pilgrim, and, kneeling on one
knee at the foot of the steps, he kissed the hand which his young
Duke held out to him--"This is joy unlooked for!"

"Walter!--Walter, the huntsman!" cried Richard.  "Is it you?  Oh, how
is Fru Astrida, and all at home?"

"Well, my Lord, and wearying to know how it is with you--" began
Walter--but a very different tone exclaimed from behind the pilgrim,
"What is all this?  Who is stopping my way?  What!  Richard would be
King, and more, would he?  More insolence!"  It was Lothaire,
returning with his attendants from the chase, in by no means an
amiable mood, for he had been disappointed of his game.

"He is a Norman--a vassal of Richard's own," said Carloman.

"A Norman, is he?  I thought we had got rid of the robbers!  We want
no robbers here!  Scourge him soundly, Perron, and teach him how to
stop my way!"

"He is a pilgrim, my Lord," suggested one of the followers.

"I care not; I'll have no Normans here, coming spying in disguise.
Scourge him, I say, dog that he is!  Away with him!  A spy, a spy!"

"No Norman is scourged in my sight!" said Richard, darting forwards,
and throwing himself between Walter and the woodsman, who was
preparing to obey Lothaire, just in time to receive on his own bare
neck the sharp, cutting leathern thong, which raised a long red
streak along its course.  Lothaire laughed.

"My Lord Duke!  What have you done?  Oh, leave me--this befits you
not!" cried Walter, extremely distressed; but Richard had caught hold
of the whip, and called out, "Away, away! run! haste, haste!" and the
words were repeated at once by Osmond, Carloman, and many of the
French, who, though afraid to disobey the Prince, were unwilling to
violate the sanctity of a pilgrim's person; and the Norman, seeing
there was no help for it, obeyed:  the French made way for him and he
effected his escape; while Lothaire, after a great deal of storming
and raging, went up to his mother to triumph in the cleverness with
which he had detected a Norman spy in disguise.

Lothaire was not far wrong; Walter had really come to satisfy himself
as to the safety of the little Duke, and try to gain an interview
with Osmond.  In the latter purpose he failed, though he lingered in
the neighbourhood of Laon for several days; for Osmond never left the
Duke for an instant, and he was, as has been shown, a close prisoner,
in all but the name, within the walls of the Castle.  The pilgrim
had, however, the opportunity of picking up tidings which made him
perceive the true state of things:  he learnt the deaths of Sybald
and Henry, the alliance between the King and Arnulf, and the
restraint and harshness with which the Duke was treated; and with
this intelligence he went in haste to Normandy.

Soon after his arrival, a three days' fast was observed throughout
the dukedom, and in every church, from the Cathedral of Bayeux to the
smallest and rudest village shrine, crowds of worshippers were
kneeling, imploring, many of them with tears, that God would look on
them in His mercy, restore to them their Prince, and deliver the
child out of the hands of his enemies.  How earnest and sorrowful
were the prayers offered at Centeville may well be imagined; and at
Montemar sur Epte the anxiety was scarcely less.  Indeed, from the
time the evil tidings arrived, Alberic grew so restless and unhappy,
and so anxious to do something, that at last his mother set out with
him on a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Jumieges, to pray for the rescue
of his dear little Duke.

In the meantime, Louis had sent notice to Laon that he should return
home in a week's time; and Richard rejoiced at the prospect, for the
King had always been less unkind to him than the Queen, and he hoped
to be released from his captivity within the Castle.  Just at this
time he became very unwell; it might have been only the effect of the
life of unwonted confinement which he had lately led that was
beginning to tell on his health; but, after being heavy and
uncomfortable for a day or two, without knowing what was the matter
with him, he was one night attacked with high fever.

Osmond was dreadfully alarmed, knowing nothing at all of the
treatment of illness, and, what was worse, fully persuaded that the
poor child had been poisoned, and therefore resolved not to call any
assistance; he hung over him all night, expecting each moment to see
him expire--ready to tear his hair with despair and fury, and yet
obliged to restrain himself to the utmost quietness and gentleness,
to soothe the suffering of the sick child.

Through that night, Richard either tossed about on his narrow bed,
or, when his restlessness desired the change, sat, leaning his aching
head on Osmond's breast, too oppressed and miserable to speak or
think.  When the day dawned on them, and he was still too ill to
leave the room, messengers were sent for him, and Osmond could no
longer conceal the fact of his sickness, but parleyed at the door,
keeping out every one he could, and refusing all offers of
attendance.  He would not even admit Carloman, though Richard,
hearing his voice, begged to see him; and when a proposal was sent
from the Queen, that a skilful old nurse should visit and prescribe
for the patient, he refused with all his might, and when he had shut
the door, walked up and down, muttering, "Ay, ay, the witch! coming
to finish what she has begun!"

All that day and the next, Richard continued very ill, and Osmond
waited on him very assiduously, never closing his eyes for a moment,
but constantly telling his beads whenever the boy did not require his
attendance.  At last Richard fell asleep, slept long and soundly for
some hours, and waked much better.  Osmond was in a transport of joy:
"Thanks to Heaven, they shall fail for this time and they shall never
have another chance!  May Heaven be with us still!"  Richard was too
weak and weary to ask what he meant, and for the next few days Osmond
watched him with the utmost care.  As for food, now that Richard

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