List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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islet in the river Somme, there to come to some agreement, by which
Arnulf might make restitution to Count Herluin of Montreuil, for
certain wrongs which he had done him.

Some said that this would be the fittest time for requiring Arnulf to
yield up some towns on his borders, to which Normandy had long laid
claim, but the Duke shook his head, saying that he must seek no
selfish advantage, when called to judge between others.

Richard was rather tired of their grave talk, and thought the supper
very long; but at last it was over, the Grace was said, the boards
which had served for tables were removed, and as it was still light,
some of the guests went to see how their steeds had been bestowed,
others to look at Sir Eric's horses and hounds, and others collected
together in groups.

The Duke had time to attend to his little boy, and Richard sat upon
his knee and talked, told about all his pleasures, how his arrow had
hit the deer to-day, how Sir Eric let him ride out to the chase on
his little pony, how Osmond would take him to bathe in the cool
bright river, and how he had watched the raven's nest in the top of
the old tower.

Duke William listened, and smiled, and seemed as well pleased to hear
as the boy was to tell.  "And, Richard," said he at last, "have you
nought to tell me of Father Lucas, and his great book?  What, not a
word?  Look up, Richard, and tell me how it goes with the learning."

"Oh, father!" said Richard, in a low voice, playing with the clasp of
his father's belt, and looking down, "I don't like those crabbed
letters on the old yellow parchment."

"But you try to learn them, I hope!" said the Duke.

"Yes, father, I do, but they are very hard, and the words are so
long, and Father Lucas will always come when the sun is so bright,
and the wood so green, that I know not how to bear to be kept poring
over those black hooks and strokes."

"Poor little fellow," said Duke William, smiling and Richard, rather
encouraged, went on more boldly.  "You do not know this reading,
noble father?"

"To my sorrow, no," said the Duke.

"And Sir Eric cannot read, nor Osmond, nor any one, and why must I
read, and cramp my fingers with writing, just as if I was a clerk,
instead of a young Duke?"  Richard looked up in his father's face,
and then hung his head, as if half-ashamed of questioning his will,
but the Duke answered him without displeasure.

"It is hard, no doubt, my boy, to you now, but it will be the better
for you in the end.  I would give much to be able myself to read
those holy books which I must now only hear read to me by a clerk,
but since I have had the wish, I have had no time to learn as you
have now."

"But Knights and Nobles never learn," said Richard.

"And do you think it a reason they never should?  But you are wrong,
my boy, for the Kings of France and England, the Counts of Anjou, of
Provence, and Paris, yes, even King Hako of Norway, {4} can all

"I tell you, Richard, when the treaty was drawn up for restoring this
King Louis to his throne, I was ashamed to find myself one of the few
crown vassals who could not write his name thereto."

"But none is so wise or so good as you, father," said Richard,
proudly.  "Sir Eric often says so."

"Sir Eric loves his Duke too well to see his faults," said Duke
William; "but far better and wiser might I have been, had I been
taught by such masters as you may be.  And hark, Richard, not only
can all Princes here read, but in England, King Ethelstane would have
every Noble taught; they study in his own palace, with his brothers,
and read the good words that King Alfred the truth-teller put into
their own tongue for them."

"I hate the English," said Richard, raising his head and looking very

"Hate them? and wherefore?"

"Because they traitorously killed the brave Sea King Ragnar!  Fru
Astrida sings his death-song, which he chanted when the vipers were
gnawing him to death, and he gloried to think how his sons would
bring the ravens to feast upon the Saxon.  Oh! had I been his son,
how I would have carried on the feud!  How I would have laughed when
I cut down the false traitors, and burnt their palaces!"  Richard's
eye kindled, and his words, as he spoke the old Norse language,
flowed into the sort of wild verse in which the Sagas or legendary
songs were composed, and which, perhaps, he was unconsciously

Duke William looked grave.

"Fru Astrida must sing you no more such Sagas," said he, "if they
fill your mind with these revengeful thoughts, fit only for the
worshippers of Odin and Thor.  Neither Ragnar nor his sons knew
better than to rejoice in this deadly vengeance, but we, who are
Christians, know that it is for us to forgive."

"The English had slain their father!" said Richard, looking up with
wondering dissatisfied eyes.

"Yes, Richard, and I speak not against them, for they were even as we
should have been, had not King Harold the fair-haired driven your
grandfather from Denmark.  They had not been taught the truth, but to
us it has been said, 'Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.'  Listen to
me, my son, Christian as is this nation of ours, this duty of
forgiveness is too often neglected, but let it not be so with you.
Bear in mind, whenever you see the Cross {5} marked on our banner, or
carved in stone on the Churches, that it speaks of forgiveness to us;
but of that pardon we shall never taste if we forgive not our
enemies.  Do you mark me, boy?"

Richard hesitated a little, and then said, "Yes, father, but I could
never have pardoned, had I been one of Ragnar's sons."

"It may be that you will be in their case, Richard," said the Duke,
"and should I fall, as it may well be I shall, in some of the
contests that tear to pieces this unhappy Kingdom of France, then,
remember what I say now.  I charge you, on your duty to God and to
your father, that you keep up no feud, no hatred, but rather that you
should deem me best revenged, when you have with heart and hand,
given the fullest proof of forgiveness to your enemy.  Give me your
word that you will."

"Yes, father," said Richard, with rather a subdued tone, and resting
his head on his father's shoulder.  There was a silence for a little
space, during which he began to revive into playfulness, to stroke
the Duke's short curled beard, and play with his embroidered collar.

In so doing, his fingers caught hold of a silver chain, and pulling
it out with a jerk, he saw a silver key attached to it.  "Oh, what is
that?" he asked eagerly.  "What does that key unlock?"

"My greatest treasure," replied Duke William, as he replaced the
chain and key within his robe.

"Your greatest treasure, father!  Is that your coronet?"

"You will know one day," said his father, putting the little hand
down from its too busy investigations; and some of the Barons at that
moment returning into the hall, he had no more leisure to bestow on
his little son.

The next day, after morning service in the Chapel, and breakfast in
the hall, the Duke again set forward on his journey, giving Richard
hopes he might return in a fortnight's time, and obtaining from him a
promise that he would be very attentive to Father Lucas, and very
obedient to Sir Eric de Centeville.


One evening Fru Astrida sat in her tall chair in the chimney corner,
her distaff, with its load of flax in her hand, while she twisted and
drew out the thread, and her spindle danced on the floor.  Opposite
to her sat, sleeping in his chair, Sir Eric de Centeville; Osmond was
on a low bench within the chimney corner, trimming and shaping with
his knife some feathers of the wild goose, which were to fly in a
different fashion from their former one, and serve, not to wing the
flight of a harmless goose, but of a sharp arrow.

The men of the household sat ranged on benches on one side of the
hall, the women on the other; a great red fire, together with an
immense flickering lamp which hung from the ceiling, supplied the
light; the windows were closed with wooden shutters, and the whole
apartment had a cheerful appearance.  Two or three large hounds were
reposing in front of the hearth, and among them sat little Richard of
Normandy, now smoothing down their broad silken ears; now tickling
the large cushions of their feet with the end of one of Osmond's
feathers; now fairly pulling open the eyes of one of the good-natured
sleepy creatures, which only stretched its legs, and remonstrated
with a sort of low groan, rather than a growl.  The boy's eyes were,
all the time, intently fixed on Dame Astrida, as if he would not lose
one word of the story she was telling him; how Earl Rollo, his
grandfather, had sailed into the mouth of the Seine, and how
Archbishop Franco, of Rouen, had come to meet him and brought him the
keys of the town, and how not one Neustrian of Rouen had met with
harm from the brave Northmen.  Then she told him of his grandfather's
baptism, and how during the seven days that he wore his white
baptismal robes, he had made large gifts to all the chief churches in
his dukedom of Normandy.

"Oh, but tell of the paying homage!" said Richard; "and how Sigurd
Bloodaxe threw down simple King Charles!  Ah! how would I have
laughed to see it!"

"Nay, nay, Lord Richard," said the old lady, "I love not that tale.
That was ere the Norman learnt courtesy, and rudeness ought rather to
be forgotten than remembered, save for the sake of amending it.  No,
I will rather tell you of our coming to Centeville, and how dreary I
thought these smooth meads, and broad soft gliding streams, compared
with mine own father's fiord in Norway, shut in with the tall black
rocks, and dark pines above them, and far away the snowy mountains
rising into the sky.  Ah! how blue the waters were in the long summer
days when I sat in my father's boat in the little fiord, and--"

Dame Astrida was interrupted.  A bugle note rang out at the castle
gate; the dogs started to their feet, and uttered a sudden deafening
bark; Osmond sprung up, exclaiming, "Hark!" and trying to silence the

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