made all feel he was indeed their Duke, and forget his tender years. "No, or should I tell the tale with joy like this?" said Osmond. "Bernard's view was to bring the Kings together, and let Louis see you had friends to maintain your right. He sought but to avoid bloodshed." "And how chanced it?" "The Danes were encamped on the Dive, and so soon as the French came in sight, Blue-tooth sent a messenger to Louis, to summon him to quit Neustria, and leave it to you, its lawful owner. Thereupon, Louis, hoping to win him over with wily words, invited him to hold a personal conference." "Where were you, Osmond?" "Where I had scarce patience to be. Bernard had gathered all of us honest Normans together, and arranged us beneath that standard of the King, as if to repel his Danish inroad. Oh, he was, in all seeming, hand-and-glove with Louis, guiding him by his counsel, and, verily, seeming his friend and best adviser! But in one thing he could not prevail. That ungrateful recreant, Herluin of Montreuil, came with the King, hoping, it seems, to get his share of our spoils; and when Bernard advised the King to send him home, since no true Norman could bear the sight of him, the hot-headed Franks vowed no Norman should hinder them from bringing whom they chose. So a tent was set up by the riverside, wherein the two Kings, with Bernard, Alan of Brittany, and Count Hugh, held their meeting. We all stood without, and the two hosts began to mingle together, we Normans making acquaintance with the Danes. There was a red-haired, wild-looking fellow, who told me he had been with Anlaff in England, and spoke much of the doings of Hako in Norway; when, suddenly, he pointed to a Knight who was near, speaking to a Cotentinois, and asked me his name. My blood boiled as I answered, for it was Montreuil himself! 'The cause of your Duke's death!' said the Dane. 'Ha, ye Normans are fallen sons of Odin, to see him yet live!'" "You said, I trust, my son, that we follow not the laws of Odin?" said Fru Astrida. "I had no space for a word, grandmother; the Danes took the vengeance on themselves. In one moment they rushed on Herluin with their axes, and the unhappy man was dead. All was tumult; every one struck without knowing at whom, or for what. Some shouted, 'Thor Hulfe!' some 'Dieu aide!' others 'Montjoie St. Denis!' Northern blood against French, that was all our guide. I found myself at the foot of this standard, and had a hard combat for it; but I bore it away at last." "And the Kings?" "They hurried out of the tent, it seems, to rejoin their men. Louis mounted, but you know of old, my Lord, he is but an indifferent horseman, and the beast carried him into the midst of the Danes, where King Harald caught his bridle, and delivered him to four Knights to keep. Whether he dealt secretly with them, or whether they, as they declared, lost sight of him whilst plundering his tent, I cannot say; but when Harald demanded him of them, he was gone." "Gone! is this what you call having the King prisoner?" "You shall hear. He rode four leagues, and met one of the baser sort of Rouennais, whom he bribed to hide him in the Isle of Willows. However, Bernard made close inquiries, found the fellow had been seen in speech with a French horseman, pounced on his wife and children, and threatened they should die if he did not disclose the secret. So the King was forced to come out of his hiding-place, and is now fast guarded in Rollo's tower--a Dane, with a battle-axe on his shoulder, keeping guard at every turn of the stairs." "Ha! ha!" cried Richard. "I wonder how he likes it. I wonder if he remembers holding me up to the window, and vowing that he meant me only good!" "When you believed him, my Lord," said Osmond, slyly. "I was a little boy then," said Richard, proudly. "Why, the very walls must remind him of his oath, and how Count Bernard said, as he dealt with me, so might Heaven deal with him." "Remember it, my child--beware of broken vows," said Father Lucas; "but remember it not in triumph over a fallen foe. It were better that all came at once to the chapel, to bestow their thanksgivings where alone they are due." CHAPTER X After nearly a year's captivity, the King engaged to pay a ransom, and, until the terms could be arranged, his two sons were to be placed as hostages in the hands of the Normans, whilst he returned to his own domains. The Princes were to be sent to Bayeux; whither Richard had returned, under the charge of the Centevilles, and was now allowed to ride and walk abroad freely, provided he was accompanied by a guard. "I shall rejoice to have Carloman, and make him happy," said Richard; "but I wish Lothaire were not coming." "Perhaps," said good Father Lucas, "he comes that you may have a first trial in your father's last lesson, and Abbot Martin's, and return good for evil." The Duke's cheek flushed, and he made no answer. He and Alberic betook themselves to the watch-tower, and, by and by, saw a cavalcade approaching, with a curtained vehicle in the midst, slung between two horses. "That cannot be the Princes," said Alberic; "that must surely be some sick lady." "I only hope it is not the Queen," exclaimed Richard, in dismay. "But no; Lothaire is such a coward, no doubt he was afraid to ride, and she would not trust her darling without shutting him up like a demoiselle. But come down, Alberic; I will say nothing unkind of Lothaire, if I can help it." Richard met the Princes in the court, his sunny hair uncovered, and bowing with such becoming courtesy, that Fru Astrida pressed her son's arm, and bade him say if their little Duke was not the fairest and noblest child in Christendom. With black looks, Lothaire stepped from the litter, took no heed of the little Duke, but, roughly calling his attendant, Charlot, to follow him, he marched into the hall, vouchsafing neither word nor look to any as he passed, threw himself into the highest seat, and ordered Charlot to bring him some wine. Meanwhile, Richard, looking into the litter, saw Carloman crouching in a corner, sobbing with fright. "Carloman!--dear Carloman!--do not cry. Come out! It is I--your own Richard! Will you not let me welcome you?" Carloman looked, caught at the outstretched hand, and clung to his neck. "Oh, Richard, send us back! Do not let the savage Danes kill us!" "No one will hurt you. There are no Danes here. You are my guest, my friend, my brother. Look up! here is my own Fru Astrida." "But my mother said the Northmen would kill us for keeping you captive. She wept and raved, and the cruel men dragged us away by force. Oh, let us go back!" "I cannot do that," said Richard; "for you are the King of Denmark's captives, not mine; but I will love you, and you shall have all that is mine, if you will only not cry, dear Carloman. Oh, Fru Astrida, what shall I do? You comfort him--" as the poor boy clung sobbing to him. Fru Astrida advanced to take his hand, speaking in a soothing voice, but he shrank and started with a fresh cry of terror--her tall figure, high cap, and wrinkled face, were to him witch-like, and as she knew no French, he understood not her kind words. However, he let Richard lead him into the hall, where Lothaire sat moodily in the chair, with one leg tucked under him, and his finger in his mouth. "I say, Sir Duke," said he, "is there nothing to be had in this old den of yours? Not a drop of Bordeaux?" Richard tried to repress his anger at this very uncivil way of speaking, and answered, that he thought there was none, but there was plenty of Norman cider. "As if I would taste your mean peasant drinks! I bade them bring my supper--why does it not come?" "Because you are not master here," trembled on Richard's lips, but he forced it back, and answered that it would soon be ready, and Carloman looked imploringly at his brother, and said, "Do not make them angry, Lothaire." "What, crying still, foolish child?" said Lothaire. "Do you not know that if they dare to cross us, my father will treat them as they deserve? Bring supper, I say, and let me have a pasty of ortolans." "There are none--they are not in season," said Richard. "Do you mean to give me nothing I like? I tell you it shall be the worse for you." "There is a pullet roasting," began Richard. "I tell you, I do not care for pullets--I will have ortolans." "If I do not take order with that boy, my name is not Eric," muttered the Baron. "What must he not have made our poor child suffer!" returned Fru Astrida, "but the little one moves my heart. How small and weakly he is, but it is worth anything to see our little Duke so tender to him." "He is too brave not to be gentle," said Osmond; and, indeed, the high-spirited, impetuous boy was as soft and kind as a maiden, with that feeble, timid child. He coaxed him to eat, consoled him, and, instead of laughing at his fears, kept between him and the great bloodhound Hardigras, and drove it off when it came too near. "Take that dog away," said Lothaire, imperiously. No one moved to obey him, and the dog, in seeking for scraps, again came towards him. "Take it away," he repeated, and struck it with his foot. The dog growled, and Richard started up in indignation. "Prince Lothaire," he said, "I care not what else you do, but my dogs and my people you shall not maltreat." "I tell you I am Prince! I do what I will! Ha! who laughs there?" cried the passionate boy, stamping on the floor. "It is not so easy for French Princes to scourge free-born Normans here," said the rough voice of Walter the huntsman: "there is a reckoning for the stripe my Lord Duke bore for me." "Hush, hush, Walter," began Richard; but Lothaire had caught up a footstool, and was aiming it at the huntsman, when his arm was caught. Osmond, who knew him well enough to be prepared for such outbreaks, held him fast by both hands, in spite of his passionate screams and struggles, which were like those of one frantic.
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