List Of Contents | Contents of The Little Duke by Charlotte M. Yonge
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beads, two or three of her maidens, and about four of the Norman
Squires and men-at-arms.

"So you have failed, Osmond?" said the Baron.

"But what is all this?  How did Fru Astrida come up here?  May I not
go to the King and have those insolent Franks punished?"

"Listen to me, Lord Richard," said Sir Eric:  "that smooth-spoken
King whose words so charmed you last night is an ungrateful deceiver.
The Franks have always hated and feared the Normans, and not being
able to conquer us fairly, they now take to foul means.  Louis came
hither from Flanders, he has brought this great troop of French to
surprise us, claim you as a ward of the crown, and carry you away
with him to some prison of his own."

"You will not let me go?" said Richard.

"Not while I live," said Sir Eric.  "Alberic is gone to warn the
Count of Harcourt, to call the Normans together, and here we are
ready to defend this chamber to our last breath, but we are few, the
French are many, and succour may be far off."

"Then you meant to have taken me out of their reach this morning,

"Yes, my Lord."

"And if I had not flown into a passion and told who I was, I might
have been safe!  O Sir Eric!  Sir Eric! you will not let me be
carried off to a French prison!"

"Here, my child," said Dame Astrida, holding out her arms, "Sir Eric
will do all he can for you, but we are in God's hands!"

Richard came and leant against her.  "I wish I had not been in a
passion!" said he, sadly, after a silence; then looking at her in
wonder--"But how came you up all this way?"

"It is a long way for my old limbs," said Fru Astrida, smiling, "but
my son helped me, and he deems it the only safe place in the Castle."

"The safest," said Sir Eric, "and that is not saying much for it."

"Hark!" said Osmond, "what a tramping the Franks are making.  They
are beginning to wonder where the Duke is."

"To the stairs, Osmond," said Sir Eric.  "On that narrow step one man
may keep them at bay a long time.  You can speak their jargon too,
and hold parley with them."

"Perhaps they will think I am gone," whispered Richard, "if they
cannot find me, and go away."

Osmond and two of the Normans were, as he spoke, taking their stand
on the narrow spiral stair, where there was just room for one man on
the step.  Osmond was the lowest, the other two above him, and it
would have been very hard for an enemy to force his way past them.

Osmond could plainly hear the sounds of the steps and voices of the
French as they consulted together, and sought for the Duke.  A man at
length was heard clanking up these very stairs, till winding round,
he suddenly found himself close upon young de Centeville.

"Ha!  Norman!" he cried, starting back in amazement, "what are you
doing here?"

"My duty," answered Osmond, shortly.  "I am here to guard this
stair;" and his drawn sword expressed the same intention.

The Frenchman drew back, and presently a whispering below was heard,
and soon after a voice came up the stairs, saying, "Norman--good

"What would you say?" replied Osmond, and the head of another Frank
appeared.  "What means all this, my friend?" was the address.  "Our
King comes as a guest to you, and you received him last evening as
loyal vassals.  Wherefore have you now drawn out of the way, and
striven to bear off your young Duke into secret places?  Truly it
looks not well that you should thus strive to keep him apart, and
therefore the King requires to see him instantly."

"Sir Frenchman," replied Osmond, "your King claims the Duke as his
ward.  How that may be my father knows not, but as he was committed
to his charge by the states of Normandy, he holds himself bound to
keep him in his own hands until further orders from them."

"That means, insolent Norman, that you intend to shut the boy up and
keep him in your own rebel hands.  You had best yield--it will be the
better for you and for him.  The child is the King's ward, and he
shall not be left to be nurtured in rebellion by northern pirates."

At this moment a cry from without arose, so loud as almost to drown
the voices of the speakers on the turret stair, a cry welcome to the
ears of Osmond, repeated by a multitude of voices, "Haro!  Haro! our
little Duke!"

It was well known as a Norman shout.  So just and so ready to redress
all grievances had the old Duke Rollo been, that his very name was an
appeal against injustice, and whenever wrong was done, the Norman
outcry against the injury was always "Ha Rollo!" or as it had become
shortened, "Haro."  And now Osmond knew that those whose affection
had been won by the uprightness of Rollo, were gathering to protect
his helpless grandchild.

The cry was likewise heard by the little garrison in the turret
chamber, bringing hope and joy.  Richard thought himself already
rescued, and springing from Fru Astrida, danced about in ecstasy,
only longing to see the faithful Normans, whose voices he heard
ringing out again and again, in calls for their little Duke, and
outcries against the Franks.  The windows were, however, so high,
that nothing could be seen from them but the sky; and, like Richard,
the old Baron de Centeville was almost beside himself with anxiety to
know what force was gathered together, and what measures were being
taken.  He opened the door, called to his son, and asked if he could
tell what was passing, but Osmond knew as little--he could see
nothing but the black, cobwebbed, dusty steps winding above his head,
while the clamours outside, waxing fiercer and louder, drowned all
the sounds which might otherwise have come up to him from the French
within the Castle.  At last, however, Osmond called out to his
father, in Norse, "There is a Frank Baron come to entreat, and this
time very humbly, that the Duke may come to the King."

"Tell him," replied Sir Eric, "that save with consent of the council
of Normandy, the child leaves not my hands."

"He says," called back Osmond, after a moment, "that you shall guard
him yourself, with as many as you choose to bring with you.  He
declares on the faith of a free Baron, that the King has no thought
of ill--he wants to show him to the Rouennais without, who are
calling for him, and threaten to tear down the tower rather than not
see their little Duke.  Shall I bid him send a hostage?"

"Answer him," returned the Baron, "that the Duke leaves not this
chamber unless a pledge is put into our hands for his safety.  There
was an oily-tongued Count, who sat next the King at supper--let him
come hither, and then perchance I may trust the Duke among them."

Osmond gave the desired reply, which was carried to the King.
Meantime the uproar outside grew louder than ever, and there were new
sounds, a horn was winded, and there was a shout of "Dieu aide!" the
Norman war-cry, joined with "Notre Dame de Harcourt!"

"There, there!" cried Sir Eric, with a long breath, as if relieved of
half his anxieties, "the boy has sped well.  Bernard is here at last!
Now his head and hand are there, I doubt no longer."

"Here comes the Count," said Osmond, opening the door, and admitting
a stout, burly man, who seemed sorely out of breath with the ascent
of the steep, broken stair, and very little pleased to find himself
in such a situation.  The Baron de Centeville augured well from the
speed with which he had been sent, thinking it proved great
perplexity and distress on the part of Louis.  Without waiting to
hear his hostage speak, he pointed to a chest on which he had been
sitting, and bade two of his men-at-arms stand on each side of the
Count, saying at the same time to Fru Astrida, "Now, mother, if aught
of evil befalls the child, you know your part.  Come, Lord Richard."

Richard moved forward.  Sir Eric held his hand.  Osmond kept close
behind him, and with as many of the men-at-arms as could be spared
from guarding Fru Astrida and her hostage, he descended the stairs,
not by any means sorry to go, for he was weary of being besieged in
that turret chamber, whence he could see nothing, and with those
friendly cries in his ears, he could not be afraid.

He was conducted to the large council-room which was above the hall.
There, the King was walking up and down anxiously, looking paler than
his wont, and no wonder, for the uproar sounded tremendous there--and
now and then a stone dashed against the sides of the deep window.

Nearly at the same moment as Richard entered by one door, Count
Bernard de Harcourt came in from the other, and there was a slight
lull in the tumult.

"What means this, my Lords?" exclaimed the King.  "Here am I come in
all good will, in memory of my warm friendship with Duke William, to
take on me the care of his orphan, and hold council with you for
avenging his death, and is this the greeting you afford me?  You
steal away the child, and stir up the rascaille of Rouen against me.
Is this the reception for your King?"

"Sir King," replied Bernard, "what your intentions may be, I know
not.  All I do know is, that the burghers of Rouen are fiercely
incensed against you--so much so, that they were almost ready to tear
me to pieces for being absent at this juncture.  They say that you
are keeping the child prisoner in his own Castle and that they will
have him restored if they tear it down to the foundations."

"You are a true man, a loyal man--you understand my good intentions,"
said Louis, trembling, for the Normans were extremely dreaded.  "You
would not bring the shame of rebellion on your town and people.
Advise me--I will do just as you counsel me--how shall I appease

"Take the child, lead him to the window, swear that you mean him no
evil, that you will not take him from us," said Bernard.  "Swear it
on the faith of a King."

"As a King--as a Christian, it is true!" said Louis.  "Here, my boy!
Wherefore shrink from me?  What have I done, that you should fear me?
You have been listening to evil tales of me, my child.  Come hither."

At a sign from the Count de Harcourt, Sir Eric led Richard forward,
and put his hand into the King's.  Louis took him to the window,

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