| 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 |
WAITING FOR THE WIND
 The two pages washed their faces next morning at the well
in the courtyard, and after an early breakfast mounted
their ponies and rode off with Count Bertram and the
All day they rode, and at nightfall came to a pretty
little stream. It was the river Dives, and close by was
a village where the party passed the night in an inn
much like that of Falaise, only smaller and smokier.
The next day they followed the stream till late in the
afternoon, when as last it spread out through flat
meadow lands and by and by emptied into the sea near
the old town of Dives where Duke William was waiting
for his forces to gather.
"Oh, look!" cried Henri, who was gazing eagerly ahead.
"Do you suppose that long white line is the sea?"
"Yes!" said Alan, with equal eagerness. "And yonder
must be the town of Dives."
 And then, as they came still nearer, "Oh, see the
ships! And all the tents and flags and horses!"
Everybody urged on their horses, and soon they had
reached the gathering place and were looking about with
wonder at the throng of soldiers, and stir and bustle
everywhere going on. Every inn and house in the town of
Dives was full, and of the hosts who had come to join
Duke William, far the greater number were camped in the
tents pitched in the grassy meadows between the town
and the sea.
Everywhere flags and pennons were fluttering, and so
many war horses were grazing in the meadows that Henri,
laughing, said to Alan, "I guess if Gilles could see
all those he wouldn't think so much of that Guibray
"No!" cried Alan. "And wouldn't his eyes get round if
he could get a glimpse of those ships!" And Alan's own
eyes grew very round indeed as he gazed at the bright
colored sails crowding the mouth of the river and
gleaming in the distance along the edge of the sea.
Count Bertram and his friends soon arranged for some
tents, and the party went into camp like the others.
Alan and Henri ran errands and helped all they could; and though they
were tired out when dark fell, they were so excited they could
hardly sleep when not long after sunset all the camp-fires were covered up and
quiet fell over the town and meadow.
The fires were all promptly covered, for Duke
William himself was hard by in a great timbered
house which he had caused to be built months
before near the river bank, as he needed a comfortable
place in which to stay while he attended
to the building of his fleet.
The next morning the two pages went to look
at Duke William's house (which is still standing),
and found it very large and attractive.
"I wonder if that is Duke William's device?"
said Henri, pointing to a carved stone
lion holding his paw on a shield and looking
down at them from the gateway.
"Yes," said some one standing near, "that
is, part of it. You know the duke's device is
three lions, the same as on the flag of Normandy;
and if you stay here a little while, you
will probably see Duke William himself. He
generally comes out about this time."
The boys ventured inside the open gateway
and into the courtyard; the house, built around
 this, had a peaked roof and many gables and
dormer windows, and around the second story
ran a wooden balcony with a flight of steps leading
to the courtyard.
Presently a door opened from one of the
rooms facing the balcony, and a man stepped
out and came down the stairway and through the
He was followed by several knights and
pages, and when one of the latter passed near
Alan, "Is that Duke William?" he hurriedly
"Yes," answered the page, as he scampered
on after the others.
Alan and Henri followed, too, all the while
looking hard at the duke whenever they got a
chance. He was a tall, handsome man, strong
and powerfully built; he had a high forehead,
and his hair and small mustache were both
closely cropped; but, though little over forty
years old, his face showed stern, careworn lines,
for Duke William's life had been full of struggles
and he had been obliged to fight his way
from babyhood up.
"He looks like a duke,—don't you think so,
Alan?" asked Henri.
 "Yes, indeed!" said Alan. "And he is
splendidly dressed, too, only I thought he would
have on the crimson velvet mantle and big crown
that Master Herve said dukes wear."
"Well," said Henri wisely, "I don't suppose
he wants to wear those things while he is attending
to his army out here. I think he looks much
better in what he has on."
The boys kept following the ducal party at a
respectful distance, and watched with interest as
Duke William went down to the water's edge
and began looking over the boats.
"They look a good deal like the dragon ships
Herve told us Rolf the Ganger came in," said
Alan, "only they aren't so gayly painted as he
said those were."
"No," said Henri, "and I guess they are
some bigger than his. But they have the red
and blue sails, and long rows of oars, and are all
curved up high at the ends and carved just like
Herve said. I don't see any dragons, but there
are some with heads carved on them!"
"I see two dragons!" cried Alan, as with
keen eyes he searched the high prows of the hundreds
of long narrow ships crowding the river.
As the boys watched, great quantities of salted
 meat and other
provisions were stored on those of the ships that were
set apart to carry supplies; and baggage and tents and
weapons of all kinds were loaded on others. For Duke
William expected to set sail within a week at most.
But though all the soldiers gathered and all was ready,
still the ships floated quietly at the mouth of the
river Dives; for there was no wind to swell the sails
and carry them toward Britain. The long oars alone were
not enough to take the heavily loaded vessels without
the aid of sails, and no one then had even dreamed of
such as thing as a steam-boat.
THE SHIPS FLOATED QUIETLY AT
THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER DIVES.
Duke William and all the fighting men grew more and
more impatient as windless day after day passed by till
almost two weeks were gone. But
though everybody else anxiously watched and waited for
the wind, Alan and Henri could not help but be secretly
glad of the delay. For as they were not old enough to
go along, they knew that just as soon as the fleet
sailed they would have to go back to Noireat, which
would be very lonely and quiet. Count Bertram had
arranged for them to return home with some young
squires from one of the neighboring castles.
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