| 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 |
LITTLE DUKE RICHARD
 All morning a fine rain had fallen and the boys and girls
of the castle had been busy indoors; the girls learning
to sew and embroider, while the boys, with blunt
swords, took a fencing lesson from Hugh.
THE BOYS...TOOK A FENCING LESSON FROM HUGH.
After dinner Blanchette peeped out into the courtyard.
"It's still raining!" she called back to Marie and the
pages who were gathered around the door. "What shall
"Let's go over to Master Herve and get him to tell us a
story!" proposed Marie.
"All right!" cried the others, and darting out of the
door, they skimmed like a flight of swallows over the
wet paving stones to old Herve's tower. As the
laughing group burst into the place, "Well, well!" he
exclaimed in pretended fright, "I thought the Duke
himself was storming the castle, you made such a
 "We will storm your tower, sure enough, Master Herve,"
cried Marie, "unless you tell us a nice story right
"Dear me," answered Master Herve, "if that is so, I
will hurry and begin! What shall I tell you? About
little Duke Richard?"
"Yes," shouted a chorus of merry voices, "tell us about
little Duke Richard!"
"Well," began Master Herve, "it was a long time
ago"—"How long?" asked Henri, who always liked to be
exact,—"Oh, I don't know," replied Master Herve, "but
it must have been a good while, because it was when
Richard was a little boy only eight years old, and
Richard was the great-great-grandfather of our Duke
William, so you see it must have been nearly ninety
"There was a great deal of quarreling in Normandy then,
and Duke William Long-Sword—"
"Who was Duke William Long-Sword?" asked one of the
"Why, he was little Richard's father," put in Alan,
"and he was called Long-Sword because he always carried
a wonderful long one with a gold handle!"
"Yes," said old Herve, "you are right, Alan, he was
Richard's father, and as I began to say, when the
little lad was only eight years old William Long-Sword
was one day killed by some of his enemies."
"Tell about his hair shirt!" said Henri; for the
children had heard most of old Herve's stories before,
and did not want anything left out.
"To be sure!" answered Herve. "When they came to make
Duke William ready for his funeral, they found that
underneath his splendid ducal dress he always wore a
shirt made of coarse hair cloth next to his skin, and
that he kept a little scourge with which he often
whipped himself. For he was very pious, and you know
that is the way that many people believe they can make
peace with God for their sins."
Here the children made long faces at the idea of any
one whipping himself, and Master Herve went on: "The
funeral was no sooner over than little Richard, who was
the sole heir to the duchy, was dressed in his
handsomest red tunic and brought to the cathedral in
the city of Rouen to be crowned Duke of Normandy.
 "Richard walked up the aisle, and when he sat in the
great chair by the altar his feet didn't come anywhere
near the floor. The priest said the mass, and Richard
solemnly promised to be a good and true ruler; and then
they put on his shoulders the great crimson velvet
mantle trimmed with ermine that belongs to the Norman
dukes. But Richard was so little that it trailed all
around him, and when they tried to crown him the crown
was so big and heavy that one of the barons had to hold
it over his head. Then they gave him the long sword
that had been his father's. When it was over, and
Richard stood up to walk down the aisle, the mantle was
so long and heavy that one of the nobles picked him up
and carried him; another was about to take the sword."
"But Richard wouldn't let him! He carried it himself!"
"Yes," said old Herve, "thought the sword was longer
than he was, he would let no one take it."
"It must have been a funny sight," observed Marie, "to
see him carried down the long aisle with that big
crimson mantle trailing behind him and he clutching the
sword taller than himself!"
 The others laughed, but Master Herve did not join them,
"Yes, funny it may seem to you youngsters, but it was a
sad enough sight to the friends of little Richard to
see him orphaned and obliged to be a dike before he was
able to govern the country, and with all sorts of
troublesome affairs ahead of him and, worst of all, the
King of France wishing with all his heart to get his
duchy from him!
"Well, Richard was carried back tot he palace, and then
his vassals, the highest nobles of Normandy, all came
and kneeling before him, placed their great strong
hands between his baby ones and swore to be loyal
"Didn't Richard himself have to do the same thing to
the King of France?" asked Alan.
"Yes," said old Herve, "he did later on, the first time
he went to France, and he didn't go of his own free
will, either; but that's what I'm coming to in the
story. Of course ever since Rolf the Ganger promised
loyalty to Charles the Simple all the Norman dukes have
done the same to the kings of France. But though the
French people have kept fairly peaceable with us, they
have never liked it because Rolf took
 Normandy, and our dikes have known well enough that
behind their backs they called them 'Dukes of the
Pirates,' for so the French nick-named our brave
people. And no sooner was little Richard crowned than
the French King Louis thought it would be a fine thing
to get possession of the young Duke of the Pirates, and
then—well, King Louis had two boys of his own, and
of course if anything happened to Richard that crimson
velvet mantle and the big crown would do very nicely
for one of the little French princes." Here old Herve
shrugged his shoulders with a wise look.
"At any rate," he went on, "very soon Kind Louis came
and insisted on taking Richard home with him. He said
the boy was his godson, and his vassal besides, and
that he had a perfect right to be his guardian. The
Norman nobleman thought very differently, but as the
King had taken care to bring a large force of soldiers
with him they did not dare to refuse. Though when they
said good-by to their little duke they made up their
minds to get him back again just as soon as they could
manage it. One of their number, a young noble, was
allowed to go with him, and a faithful friend he
proved. Who of you
re-  members his name?" quizzed the old man of his eager little
"We all do! Osmond de Centeville!" cried the
children in chorus, indignant that Master Herve should
fancy they could forget.
"It was a sad journey for poor little Richard," he
continued, "away from his own home to the gloomy castle
of Laon where King Louis was then living; and when they
reached it Richard found nothing but coldness and
unkindness from all. The Queen, Gerberge, was haughty
and disagreeable, and the two young princes, Pothaire
and Carloman, were cross and hateful to him.
"Several months went on in this way; but all the while
Richard's faithful friend, Osmond de Centeville, was
keeping careful watch for the very first chance to help
his little master to escape.
"By and by, Richard fell ill; and the paler and thinner
he grew the happier it made king Louis and Queen
Gerberge, who wanted him to die so as to get Normandy
for their hateful young Lothaire."
Here Alan and Henri clenched their fists angrily, as if
they could have liked to get at
 Richard's cruel enemies, while Blanchette sighed
sympathetically, and Marie, remembering their lesson on
herbs, asked: "Didn't Osmond know any place where he
could get some herb medicine? I should think he could
have managed some way!"
"Don't you fancy Osmond de Centeville wasn't taking the
best care of Richard!" said old Herve with a chuckle.
"I dare say he got plenty of medicine for him, and gave
it to him himself up there in the tower room where he
kept him away from the castle folks. And he went right
down into the castle kitchen, too, and cooked
everything that Richard ate, because he was afraid the
King's cooks had been ordered to poison little Richard!
Well, one night everybody was so sure that the Duke of
the Pirates was going to die, that they thought there
was no need of keeping as close watch on him as they
had been doing, and King Louis and Queen Gerberge
decided to give a great banquet because they were so
happy at the idea of soon getting Normandy for
"So, while everybody was busy eating, Osmond managed to
get a big armful of straw from somewhere, and with this
he crept quietly
 up the winding stair to the tower room where Richard
was lying very white and weak.
" 'Hush!' he whispered, as the little duke started up
in surprise. 'Can you keep as still as a mouse for a
little while, and not mind if you are nearly smothered?
And can you pretend that you are not a duke at all, but
nothing but a bundle of straw?'
" 'Yes, yes!!' answered Richard eagerly, his eyes
growing bright with excitement as Osmond explained his
plan, 'I can be a stick of wood, anything ,
Osmond, if you will only take me away from here!'
"Then Osmond rolled Richard up in his little purple
mantle and stuffed him into the middle of that bundle
of straw, and, seizing it in his strong arms, he crept
out of the room, and felt his way carefully down the
winding stairs, till presently he came to the big smoky
kitchen which he had to pass through in order to get
out doors. The cooks were all so busy running to and
from that very few of them noticed Osmond at all, and
those who did were quite satisfied when he said, with a
fine careless air, 'I forgot to bed down and feed my
war horse and I'm just going out to the stable to do
 "And Osmond went to the stable, sure enough," went on
Master Herve with a laugh, but it was neither to make a
bed out of the little duke nor to feed him to the big
Normandy horse which he saddled and bridled faster than
he had ever done in all his life. Then, placing the
precious bundle of straw across the saddle bow,
carefully,—oh, so carefully,—he led the horse to
the castle gate. The keeper had had so much wine at
the banquet that his head had dropped on his breast and
he was sound asleep. And carefully,—oh, so
carefully,—Osmond slipped back the great bars, one by
one, flung open the gate, sprang into the saddle, and
away with the wind!"
Here there was a loud clapping of hands and a shrill
cheer from Herve's little audience.
"Oh," cried Henri enviously, "wouldn't I like to have
"Maybe you would," said old Herve, "but I don't believe
anybody would like to have been the Duke of the Pirates
that night, for the poor little fellow was nearly
smothered! When Osmond had galloped a safe distance
from the castle, he stopped and loosened the straw as
much as he could from around Richard's face,
 for the little lad was fairly gasping. But he was full
of pluck and without fear,—you know the name he earned
in after life?" asked Herve, who was fond of quizzing
"Yes," they answered, "of course we do, 'Richard the
"So," went on Herve, "after a short rest, on they
galloped fast and faster, clatter, clatter, clatter,
every minute drawing nearer the Norman border. Oh, but
that was a wild ride that brought the little Duke of
the Pirates back to his own! All night they rode, and
far into the next day till the good black war horse was
spent and breathless. Then Osmond somehow managed to
get a fresh one, and thud, thud, away they went again.
At daybreak the second day they came to the river Epte
dividing France and Normandy, and on the cliffs at the
far side rose the towers of Crecy castle. There was no
bridge, but that was no matter. Panting and
foam-flecked, straight into the river plunged the
gallant horse with his precious bundle. Oh, how tired
he was with that long galloping, but how bravely he
fought his way across the current and safe to the
farther side! And then, just as he had won back to his
 it seemed for a moment that all was lost for the little
duke. For the watchers of the castle walls, little
dreaming who were the riders of that brave horse, and
thinking them enemies from France, were just fitting
their arrows to their bows to shoot, when at a quick
signal from Osmond they paused, and then,--well, when
they found out that their own true duke was come back
to them, you can guess whether or not they gave his a
rousing welcome!" and old Herve's voice rose in
"But with all his bravery," added Herve, in a tender
tone, "the poor little man was scarce breathing when
they lifted him out of his straw and loosened his
purple mantle; for the long ride had almost ended his
life. But you can guess, too, whether they nursed him
carefully. And you may be sure the lady of Crecy
castle saw that he got the right herb medicine"; here
Master Herve looked at Marie with a twinkle in his eye.
"At any rate, it wasn't long till the little duke was
as fine and sturdy a boy as heart could wish and King
Louis didn't get him back again, either!"
"No," said Alan, "when he came back and tried to, the
Norman army was waiting for
 him, and he decided he would have to look somewhere
else for a duchy for Lothaire!"
"Yes, yes, youngsters," said old Herve, "I guess you
know all my stories nearly as well as I do. But I am
tired now, so go off and play. Next time you come
maybe I'll have a new story for you."
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