| Our Little Norman Cousin of Long Ago|
|by Evaleen Stein|
|A story of Normandy in the time of William the Conqueror, giving a vivid picture of manners and customs through the eyes of two boys of the court. Describes castle life, dress, amusements, training for knighthood, and other aspects of feudal life. Also relates stories of William's early days, as well as tales of his Northmen forefathers, Duke Robert the Magnificent, Little Duke Richard, and Rolf the Ganger. Ages 8-10 |
HUGH BECOMES A KNIGHT
 The summer was wearing away and the time drawing near for
Count Bertram to go to Dives to join the expedition
Meantime Hugh had reached his twenty-first birthday and
was soon to become a knight. He had served faithfully
his seven years as page and seven more as squire, a
long and careful training; and the final ceremony of
receiving knighthood was so important that it took two
days to go through it, and the lords and ladies from
several neighboring castles had been invited to come
and help him celebrate.
In the ceremony of knighting there was much that had a
symbolic meaning; that is, that was meant to remind the
youth of other and higher things. Thus, when Hugh began
his preparations, first of all two of the other squires
took him to a special bath; and when he put off his
ordinary clothes they laid them aside, as he was
 supposed in like way to put off his old life and enter
the new with both a clean heart and clean body.
Alan and Henri were allowed to bring his new garments
to him; and as still another squire took them from the
chest in the castle hall were they had been kept ready,
the two lads looked at them with interest, for there
were three different tunics, one white, one red, and
As they watched Hugh's friends help him put on the
white tunic first, "Why does he put on a white one?"
"That is to symbolize the whiteness and purity of the
life he must lead as a knight," answered the squire.
Then over the white tunic they put the red one, "This,"
the boys were told, "is to symbolize the red blood he
must be willing to shed for Christ and the defense of
the church. And the black one which goes on last of
all, over the red, is to signify the mystery of death
which every man must bravely face."
When Hugh was thus dressed, Father Herluin came and led
him to the chapel of the castle where he must stay
until the next morning. He must
touch neither food nor drink, nor must he sleep when
night came. He was expected to
 spend the hours in
thinking over the new life he was about to enter, and
in praying God to forgive his past sins and to give him
strength to keep truly and honorably the solemn vows of
knighthood which he would take the next day.
And while Hugh watched and prayed, all the others were
busy preparing for the morrow when the guests were to
come; of course these would bring along a number of
attendants, and a great feast was to follow the
knighting. The long boards for the tables were scoured
and so were the wooden trenchers and pewter cups for
the humbler guests, while the silver flagons and dishes
for the noble folks were polished till they shone.
Fresh rushes were strewn on the floor, and plenty of
logs brought in for the great fireplace where the
cooking would go on.
"Oh, mother," said Blanchette, "isn't your new tapestry
finished so we can hang it up?"
"Not quite, dear," answered Lady Gisla, who still had a
little more to do on the hunting scene she had spent so
much time embroidering.
"Oh, but it is so near done and so pretty, please let
us put it up for to-morrrow!" begged Blanchette.
 "Very well," said Lady Gisla, and she gave orders to
have the tapestry hung on the wall over the dais, where
it looked very handsome.
Indeed, every one worked so busily and all were so
tired when night came that they slept soundly, quite
forgetting the young squire who kept his lonely vigil
in the chapel.
Hugh tried his best to keep awake and fix his thoughts
on higher things; but sometimes his head would nod in
spite of himself, and then he would have to rouse
himself with an effort and try to forget that he was
hungry and thirsty, and to remember that a knight must
bear all hardships unflinchingly and must never shrink
from any hororable task.
At last the long night wore away and the castle folk
began to wake up. Count Bertram and Lady Gisla put on
their best clothes and made ready to welcome their
guests, who soon began to arrive.
And while the bustle of welcome was going on in the
courtyard and within the castle, at the kitchen end of
the great hall the cooks were scurrying about in great
haste. "Rouse up, Towser! Hurry up, Bowser!" they would
 out to the patient dogs turning the spits by the
big fireplace. "Faster, faster! Don't you see that
venison is burning?"
And then the poor beasts would burn back their ears and
trot round and round, while the venison and woodcocks
and hares and whatnot on the long spits sputtered and
roasted and dripped savory juices over the glowing
coals. "Quick, bring me some honey and spices for these
marchpanes," called one of the cooks to a boy scullion,
who ran as fast as his legs would carry him to the
honey-pot and spice bags so that the sweetmeants might
not be delayed. "Here! Fill this flagon with cider and
bring another cheese from the store-room!" commanded
another; and so the work went busily on till all was
By this time all the guests had come, and the pages had
begun to usher them to the chapel. Heading the
procession went Count Bertram, who, on greeting Hugh at
the chapel door, hung around his neck the sword which
was to be his. When all were seated, Hugh walked slowly
up the aisle and unbuckling the sword laid it
reverently upon the altar. Then, with bowed head, he
knelt at the feet of Father Herluin, while the
priest, after praying that the sword might never be
drawn for an unworthy cause, blessed both it and Hugh
and said the service of the church.
After this the young man was taken possession of for a
few minutes by Lady Gisla nd the noble ladies, her
guests, for it was their duty to put on him the armor
he was to wear as a knight. First of all they buckled
on his spurs; and then, as Alan and Henri handed them
each piece, they arrayed him in his hauberk, girt on
his sword belt and set his helmet upon his head. Last
of all, taking his sword from the altar Lady Gisla
placed it in the scabbard at the young man's side.
When the ladies had finished their task, Hugh knelt
before Count Bertram and solemnly promised to keep
faithfully the vows of knighthood which Count Bertram
repeated to him. There were a great many of these, the
chief being that he must fear, reverence, and serve God
religiously, that he must be a loyal defender of his
native land and of its ruler, that he must uphold the
rights of the weak, must be gentle and courteous to all
women and succor them if in distress, and that he must
always speak the truth
 and make any sacrifice to keep
his faith and honor untarnished.
When Hugh had taken the vows, and while he still knelt,
Count Bertram drew his own sword from its scabbard and
with the flat of it lightly struck him three times on
the shoulder, at the same time pronouncing the words
"In the name of God and Saint Michael I dub thee
"IN THE NAME OF GOD AND
SAINT MICHAEL I DUB THEE KNIGHT!"
When Hugh rose to his feet his face beamed with joy to
think that his long years of service were ended and he
was at last a knight.
There was one thing more, however, that must be done to
finish the ceremony. For just as he had put on the
three tunics to symbolize different things, so now he
must mount his war-horse to signify that he was ready
to ride forth to do brave and gallant deeds.
Hugh's young friends had already decked the horse in
his finest trappings and led him to the chapel door,
where Alan and Henri stood holding his bridle on either
As the company came out of the chapel the young knight
mounted and rode several times around the courtyard,
the horse prancing and stepping proudly and seeming to
feel that he, too, had become of more importance since
 was no longer to be ridden by a mere squire, but
would henceforth be the war-horse of a noble knight.
When Hugh finally halted in front of the keep, and
sprang to the ground, everybody crowded around him with
smiles and good wishes for the new life he had entered,
and then Count Bertram led the way to the castle hall
and the knighting ended with a merry feast.
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