FROM CASTLE TO COTTAGE
 IN the village, not far from the market-place, was the
home of Fulbert, made larger and more comfortable. To
keep out the cold draughts, the walls were hung with
tapestry, a refinement of luxury never seen before in
the cottage of a peasant, so that the little house was
the wonder of all the people in the vicinity. There was
also a chair, a real chair; clumsy and heavy, to be
sure, but there was gilt on it, and the arms were
carved, and, moreover, it was the only chair in the
neighborhood, and that was fame. The family sat on
stools at the table, of course; but then every one knew
that they could use a chair if they chose.
Doda was not at all averse to letting her friends have
a glimpse of her cooking utensils, and report said that
some of them were made of copper, "Just as if they were
in a king's kitchen," said the admiring people. When
Fulbert and his
 family ate their dinner, they did not use plain wooden
trenchers as did their neighbors, but a kind of pottery
with thick, heavy glazing. They drank from wooden cups,
to be sure, but the cups were edged with a rim of
silver; and most astounding luxury of all, rumor said
that they actually had all the wax candles that they
chose to burn.
More than one armful of them was burned on the night
that Duke Robert rode so furiously up and down the long
hill. By and by all was still in the cottage. The duke
was quiet in the castle, but before the sun was far
above the horizon, he was again at the foot of the
hill, and softly entering the door of the little house.
"Here he is, my lord, here he is," said the old nurse,
"and he's even a lustier boy by daylight than he was by
candlelight. It's a good thing that light of a wax
candle shone on him first, for bees gather wax, and so
he will be rich and powerful. Here's your boy, my
lord," and she put the baby into the arms of its
father, and drew aside the curtain that separated the
outer from the inner room where Arletta lay. The duke
would have known what to do on a battlefield with an
enemy before him and with a sword in his hand, but with
 his quick-witted, sparkling Arletta lying pale and
weak, and in his arms the little red bundle that seemed
heavier than a suit of armor, he was as helpless as any
other young father who is not a duke. Arletta smiled
gently, and whispered:—
"Is he not a fine boy?"
"Indeed he is," said the duke, "and I'll do more for
him than any one thinks. But what makes him shut up his
hands so tight? Is anything the matter?" he said to the
"All babies do," said the nurse composedly, "but all
babies don't do what he did last night; for when we
laid him on the straw, he clutched a handful and he
held on to it, and when he was put on the bed to sleep,
he kept it in his hand, he did; and that means
something, it does. Everybody that's had to do with
babies knows that."
"What does it mean?" asked Duke Robert, looking at the
nurse as if she alone could speak the words of wisdom.
"This is what it means—and it isn't myself alone that
says it, for I heard my mother's mother say it when I
was no higher than that—that whatever thing a child
does first, that will he always do; and this child will
reach out and take
 to himself, and what he takes he will hold, until the
time comes that he will have more than any one dreams
"That is the tree in your dream," said Robert, turning
"Yes, and dreams mean something, too," said the nurse,
who was so elated at having the duke for a listener
that she had no idea when to stop. "When the lady
Arletta told me what a dream she had had, that a tree
arose from her body, and its branches spread out till
they shaded all Normandy, I knew what it meant;
knew what it meant when the boy clutched the straw.
He's no common child."
"No, he's not," said the duke, looking at the baby with
much respect mingled with a little alarm, for it was
puckering up its face to do the duke knew not what; and
when the first cry came forth, the warlike noble who
never fled from his foes actually dropped his son into
the nurse's arms and made his way into the open air as
rapidly as possible, feeling very big and clumsy, and
really trembling and glancing around him in dismay when
his sword knocked against the heavy oaken chair in his
 One week after its birth the baby was taken to the
parish church to be baptized. Never before had there
been such an assemblage to see the baptism of any
infant. Falaise was quite an important place, not only
because of its castle, but on account of its trade in
leather and its manufacture of woollens. The people
were not all humble peasants, some among them were
well-to-do; and the country round about, rich in flocks and
herds, was the home of many a prosperous vassal. The
herdsmen left their flocks and the weavers their looms,
the peasants willingly ran the risk of fines and
penalties, and all flocked to the church to see the
baptism of the child of a great noble. What would be
his name? The crowds that pressed around the font had
been all eyes, but when the priest asked:—
"What is the name of this child?" then they were all
ears. They need not have been afraid of losing a word,
for in a great voice that rang throughout the church
Duke Robert said:—
THE BAPTISM OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
"His name shall be William, and let all men know that
he is named for William of the Long Sword, his
Just within the church door was another
 William, one William Talvas, Earl of Belesme, who stood
with angry eyes and grim, stern face.
"You have a namesake, Earl William," said the burgess
of a neighboring town, who stood near him. "How do you
like the robust son of your liege lord?"
"Shame on him, shame on him!" said the haughty
chieftain bitterly. "My grandfather was a faithful
friend of Robert's grandfather, and did him good
service; and now for the sake of the whining grandson
of a tanner, I and mine will be put to loss and
dishonor. May shame and disgrace be his lot as long as
he shall live!" and William Talvas, without waiting for
the rest of the ceremony, flung himself out of the
church and galloped furiously away, as if the very air
of Falaise was poisoned by the little child at the
Arletta was soon taken to the stone castle, together
with her father; mother, and her brother Walter, for
Robert, in his delight at having in arms the "fair
young son" for whom he had longed could not do enough
for the lady and her family.
It was a gloomy place. Thick walls
sur-  rounded it, pierced by a formidable gate. Over the
gateway was the heavy iron portcullis, ready to be
dropped in a moment at the approach of a foe or a
stranger; for in those times of sudden alarms any
unknown man was a foe until he had shown himself a
friend. Within the walls was a courtyard that might
have been bright and pleasant, had it not been for the
grim stone bulwarks that seemed to shut it away from
all the cheerful, sunny world without. Here stood the
keep. In its lowest depths were the cellars and the
dungeons, where a lord might fling his captive enemies;
and there, unless their friends were stronger than he,
he might keep them without word or interference, until
their bones strewed the damp stone floors that had been
wet with the blood of many a wounded prisoner before
Above the dungeons was the hall. The windows were mere
slits in the walls, so that the sunlight rarely
entered; but there was a great cheery blaze in the
fireplace, and it was the very heart of home to the
feudal lord. Here the family sat. Here the lady of the
castle and her maidens embroidered the lord's coat of
 his standard, or, with the bright colors gleaming in
the light of many candles, worked on the rich
tapestries that were to be the comfort and the beauty
of the home. Here the children of the family played
about the glowing fire; and here the girls were taught
to care for the sick and the wounded, to make the
decorations for robes of ceremony, and to do all that
might fall to the share of the lady of a castle. The
boys made bows and arrows and wooden spears, and held
mimic tournaments in the further corners of the great
room. Then they would all gather around the father of
the family as he told of some success in the hunting
field; and the dogs, lying as near the fire as they had
been able to press their way, would prick up their ears
as they heard their names, and understood that it was
their deeds that their master was praising.
Even more attentively did the household listen to the
lord when he told of some warlike exploit, the repulse
of an assault, or a successful attack upon some distant
castle. Then the children would gather closer, and the
lady would drop her embroidery, for when her lord was
away, she was defender of the castle; her commands
 were obeyed, and it would be her skill or her ignorance
that would save her home or lose it.
Duke Robert had made Fulbert his chamberlain, or
guardian of the ducal robes of state, while the son
Walter seems to have been a special watchman to care
for the safety of his little nephew; for even when the
child was in the cradle, there was more than one fierce
warrior who, noting the duke's fondness for his son,
feared loss to him and his, and would gladly have seen
injury or death come to the grandchild of the tanner.
In this little time of peace Robert was happier than at
any other period of his stormy life; but his happiness
was soon interrupted, and by his own relatives. Robert
was a hard rider, a ready fighter, and utterly fearless
in time of danger. There were many possibilities that
such a man would die by an early and violent death.
Several of these relatives had counted upon their
chances of succeeding to the inheritance; but with his
devotion to the child at his castle, their hopes grew
less, and they were the more ready to find cause of
resentment in real or fancied wrongs. Some one
whispered to Robert that his uncle, the Archbishop of
Rouen, was assembling large
 numbers of fighting men at his own town of Evreux.
Without waiting many days to inquire into the rights of
the case, and whether or not there was actual danger of
a revolt, Robert marched straightway against his
warlike uncle, and besieged his stronghold so
vigorously that the fighting prelate thought it best to
take refuge under the sheltering care of the king of
As a warrior he had failed to overpower his energetic
nephew, so he took what seems a rather unfair advantage
of his priestly authority, and excommunicated him as a
rebel against the church. By this decree all persons
were forbidden to offer him food or shelter. They were
to avoid him, as one whose touch would infect them with
some deadly disease; and if mortal illness came upon
him, he was to be buried without word of prayer or
religious ceremony. Nor was this all, for the
archbishop also laid Robert's duchy under an interdict.
The churches were to be closed, no bells could be rung—and
no one knew how many evil spirits might be
hovering in the air that the sound of a church-bell
would have dispersed—no marriage could receive the
blessing of the church and no burial rites could be
 Even if this decree was not carried out with the most
literal obedience, any duke, be he as fearless as the
great Rollo himself, might well wish to make terms with
an enemy who used such thunderbolts as his weapons.
Peace was made between them, the archbishop was
invited to return to Rouen—and Robert straightway fell
into similar difficulties with another priestly
relative, Hugh, Bishop of Bayeux. He, too, shut himself
up in a stronghold, but Robert besieged him so
effectually that he yielded.
More trouble was yet to come. Following the custom of
the land, Robert, on his accession, had sent for his
vassals to do him homage and swear to be faithful to
him. Among them was William Talvas of Belesme. The old
earl was not the man to change his mind lightly, and
his scorn of Robert's child was as bitter as ever. With
sullen rage the earl and his four sons debated what
should be done.
"Never will I do homage to the father of the brat that
I saw in the church!" said the earl. "There's no priest
and there's no church that can free the grandson of a
vile tanner from stain," he thundered; "and I'll swear
no fealty and I'll
 do no homage to the man whose chamberlain is a tanner,
the man who sits in his own hall beside a tanner's son,
the man who is father to a tanner's grandchild. A
tanner! A skinner of dead beasts! The meanest, lowest,
most contemptible of all trades! There is not a serf in
Alenšon that does not despise it. Call out our
fighters! Fill the castle with arms! Strengthen the
walls and the gates, and make the dungeons deeper!" and
the old man sank upon a bench, exhausted by his own
His orders were obeyed. The earl and his four sons and
many other brave fighters shut themselves up in the
stronghold of Alenšon. Robert's forces drew nearer.
They surrounded the walls. They pressed closer and
closer, so indomitable that the earl had no hope of
victory, so watchful that he had no chance of escape.
Fulk was slain, Robert, the second son, was severely
wounded; and still, drawn up closely around the
fortress, stood that line of resolute fighters. The
earl yielded, and asked permission to beg pardon and to
take the oath of fealty.
Now it had become a custom in the land that an
unfaithful vassal should be forgiven only after
 great humiliations. The earl, never yielding in
thought, whatever his lips might say, must stand before
his conqueror, barefooted, half naked, with a horse's
saddle strapped to his shoulders, and beg pardon for
his unfaithfulness. This the earl did, trembling with
cold as well as with rage.
The Duke of Normandy had become a man of power. His
duchy had a matchless sea-coast. It bordered upon
several of the great lordships that were some day to
form a united France. It manufactured arms and cutlery
and woollen goods, and it was rich in agricultural
products. Its revenues flowed in so generously that
even a lavishness like Robert's failed to affect them.
The rightful king of the district then known as France
looked upon the duke as his most potent friend. Great
need had he of friends, for his mother, his younger
brother, and a strong party were against him. The
helpless king, fleeing from his enemies with an escort
of only twelve attendants, came to Robert, his vassal,
and begged for help to gain possession of his own
Robert received the suppliant king with such honors and
such richness of entertainment that he
 well merited the name of "Robert the Magnificent"; but
no less did he deserve the title of "Robert the Devil"
from his savage punishment of those who had rebelled
against their sovereign. Henry's gratitude was equal
to Robert's services, and he gave his ally a strip of
borderland called the Vexin. Robert's dominions now
extended almost to the city of Paris; and henceforth
Normandy and France must stand or fall together.
In these stormy times the home of Arletta and her
children, for now there was also a little daughter, had
been by turns the frowning castle of grim gray stone at
the brink of the precipice, and the sunny little
cottage in the valley below it. When the duke was at
home, they were with him in the castle; but when he was
absent on his war-like expeditions, it was safer for
them to be where in case of need they could more
readily find a hiding-place among the homes of the
poor. There was also another reason. When the lord was
away, the lady of the castle must take command, as has
been said before, if her home was attacked by enemies.
When Robert was by the side of Arletta, he could bear
down upon all disobedience with a heavy hand, and
punish with the utmost severity the
 least disrespect shown to the mother of his child; but
he knew well that in his absence not one of all his
men-at-arms would obey the orders of a tanner's
daughter. There would be rebellion and insurrection. It
might be that the duke would lose his favorite castle.
So it was that the earliest memories of the little
William were of being carried hurriedly from castle to
cottage or from cottage to castle. He would hear the
din of armor and the clashing of swords and spears.
Then the duke, with a great company following him,
would ride away on his war-horse, and when the little
"But, my mother, where is my father?" the answer would
"He is fighting for the king of France," or "He has
gone away to kill the men that wanted to kill him."
"And will he come home to Adelaide and me when he has
"Yes," his mother would say.
"Then I hope he will kill a great many, and kill them
very soon, so that he will come back to see us," the
little boy would answer wistfully.
When the duke was on the return, his little son
 would listen for the first hoof-beats of his horse, and
even if it was in the night, he would awake and call
"Did you kill many men, father? Will anybody try to
kill you if you stay with us now?" Then they would go
to the castle, and there would be a feast in the great
hall. The firelight would sparkle and glow, and flash
upon the rows of shields and the clusters of spears on
the wall. The child thought that the weird pictures
which it made were the faces of the people that had
been killed, and that they were trying to come down to
sit at the long table and share the feast.
"You won't let them come down, will you, father?" he
asked, pointing to the shields above his head.
"No," said his father, "but you shall have a shield if
you like, and a sword, too." So the little boy had a
tiny suit of armor made of quilted linen with metal
rings sewn thickly over it, and a helmet and a lance
and a sword and a little shield. When they were all
on, they were so heavy that he could hardly stand, but
he would stagger about happily under their weight and
 "Now I'm a soldier just like my father, and when I'm a
man, I'm going to ride on a big horse, and go off to
kill people just as he does."
The nobles might refuse, so far as they dared, to allow
their sons to be playmates of the grandson of a tanner;
but to the children of the well-to-do burghers of
Falaise it was an honor to play with the son of a duke;
and the boys readily allowed the little fellow to take
the lead in their games, and when he said:—
"I don't want to play marbles," or "I don't want to
spin tops," they were ready to do whatever he
suggested. One day he said:—
"I don't want to play morra, I don't want to hold my
fingers up any more. I want to do what my father does
and have some soldiers."
"But we haven't any swords," said the boys, who had
often envied the son of the duke his military outfit.
"My father will give you some if I ask him," he said
confidently. And so it was, for soon every boy was
provided with some kind of weapons or armor, and the
little child became commander of a company of children.
Up and down they marched to orders which the little
 were like those that his father gave. One day he
suddenly stood still and said:—
"My father doesn't go up and down the road. He takes
castles. He said he did. We'll go and take the castle."
So straight up to the gate marched the line of boys,
led by their proud little commander. He beat upon the
wall with the hilt of his tiny sword, and the porter
began to swing open the gate.
"No, that isn't the way," said the boy indignantly.
"Shut the gate and go and tell the duke to come down."
The man obeyed, and the duke came at the command of
this new sovereign. The little boy marched up to him
with as long strides as his heavy armor and his short
legs would permit and called out:—
"Are you the duke?"
"Yes," said his father in amazement.
"We've come to take the castle, and we'll kill
everybody if you don't surrender."
The duke surrendered.