|The Little Duke|
|by Charlotte M. Yonge|
|An inspiring story of Richard the Fearless (943-996) who became Duke of Normandy at the age of 8. Relates the perils of his childhood, both at home in Normandy and during his captivity at the court of France, and how at long last he came to embrace the values his father espoused. Ages 9-12 |
THE PASSING OF A PRINCE
 AS the Baron had said, there was more peace now that Lothaire had
learnt to know that he must submit, and that no one cared for his
threats of his father's or his mother's vengeance. He was very sulky
and disagreeable, and severely tried Richard's forbearance; but there
were no fresh outbursts, and, on the whole, from one week to another,
there might be said to be an improvement. He could not always hold
aloof from one so good-natured and good-humoured as the little Duke;
and the fact of being kept in order could not but have some
beneficial effect on him, after such spoiling as his had been at
Indeed, Osmond was once heard to say, it was a pity the boy was not
to be a hostage for life; to which Sir Eric replied, "So long as we
have not the training of him."
 Little Carloman, meanwhile, recovered from his fears of all the
inmates of the Castle excepting Hardigras, at whose approach he
always shrank and trembled.
He renewed his friendship with Osmond, no longer started at the
entrance of Sir Eric, laughed at Alberic's merry ways, and liked to
sit on Fru Astrida's lap, and hear her sing, though he understood not
one word; but his especial love was still for his first friend, Duke
Richard. Hand-in-hand they went about together, Richard sometimes
lifting him up the steep steps, and, out of consideration for him,
refraining from rough play; and Richard led him to join with him in
those lessons that Father Lucas gave the children of the Castle,
every Friday and Sunday evening in the Chapel. The good Priest stood
on the Altar steps, with the children in a half circle round him—the
son and daughter of the armourer, the huntsman's little son, the
young Baron de Montemar, the Duke of Normandy, and the Prince of
France, all were equal there—and together they learnt, as he
explained to them the things most needful to believe; and thus
 left off wondering why Richard thought it right to be good
to his enemies; and though at first he had known less than even the
little leather-coated huntsman, he seemed to take the holy lessons in
faster than any of them—yes, and act on them, too. His feeble
health seemed to make him enter into their comfort and meaning more
than even Richard; and Alberic and Father Lucas soon told Fru Astrida
that it was a saintly-minded child.
Indeed, Carloman was more disposed to thoughtfulness, because he was
incapable of joining in the sports of the other boys. A race round
the court was beyond his strength, the fresh wind on the battlements
made him shiver and cower, and loud shouting play was dreadful to
him. In old times, he used to cry when Lothaire told him he must
have his hair cut, and be a priest; now, he only said quietly, he
should like it very much, if he could be good enough.
Fru Astrida sighed and shook her head, and feared the poor child
would never grow up to be anything on this earth. Great as had been
the difference at first between him and Richard, it was
 now far
greater. Richard was an unusually strong boy for ten years old,
upright and broad-chested, and growing very fast; while Carloman
seemed to dwindle, stooped forward from weakness, had thin pinched
features, and sallow cheeks, looking like a plant kept in the dark.
The old Baron said that hardy, healthy habits would restore the puny
children; and Lothaire improved in health, and therewith in temper;
but his little brother had not strength enough to bear the seasoning.
He pined and drooped more each day; and as the autumn came on, and
the wind was chilly, he grew worse, and was scarcely ever off the lap
of the kind Lady Astrida. It was not a settled sickness, but he grew
weaker, and wasted away. They made up a little couch for him by the
fire, with the high settle between it and the door, to keep off the
draughts; and there he used patiently to lie, hour after hour,
speaking feebly, or smiling and seeming pleased, when any one of
those he loved approached. He liked Father Lucas to come and say
prayers with him; and he never failed to have a glad look, when his
dear little Duke came to talk to him, in his cheerful
 voice, about
his rides and his hunting and hawking adventures. Richard's sick
guest took up much of his thoughts, and he never willingly spent many
hours at a distance from him, softening his step and lowering his
voice, as he entered the hall, lest Carloman should be asleep.
"Richard, is it you?" said the little boy, as the young figure came
round the settle in the darkening twilight.
"Yes. How do you feel now, Carloman; are you better?"
"No better, thanks, dear Richard;" and the little wasted fingers were
put into his.
"Has the pain come again?"
"No; I have been lying still, musing; Richard, I shall never be
"Oh, do not say so! You will, indeed you will, when spring comes."
"I feel as if I should die," said the little boy; "I think I shall.
But do not grieve, Richard. I do not feel much afraid. You said it
was happier there than here, and I know it now."
"Where my blessed father is," said Richard, thoughtfully. "But oh,
Carloman, you are so young to die!"
 "I do not want to live. This is a fighting, hard world, full of
cruel people; and it is peace there. You are strong and brave, and
will make them better; but I am weak and fearful—I could only sigh
"Oh, Carloman! Carloman! I cannot spare you. I love you like my
own brother. You must not die—you must live to see your father and
"Commend me to them," said Carloman. "I am going to my Father in
heaven. I am glad I am here, Richard; I never was so happy before.
I should have been afraid indeed to die, if Father Lucas had not
taught me how my sins are pardoned. Now, I think the Saints and
Angels are waiting for me."
He spoke feebly, and his last words faltered into sleep. He slept
on; and when supper was brought, and the lamps were lighted, Fru
Astrida thought the little face looked unusually pale and waxen; but
he did not awake. At night, they carried him to his bed, and he was
roused into a half conscious state, moaning at being disturbed. Fru
Astrida would not leave him, and Father Lucas shared her watch.
 At midnight, all were wakened by the slow notes, falling one by one
on the ear, of the solemn passing-bell, calling them to waken, that
their prayers might speed a soul on its way. Richard and Lothaire
were soon at the bedside. Carloman lay still asleep, his hands
folded on his breast, but his breath came in long gasps. Father
Lucas was praying over him, and candles were placed on each side of
the bed. All was still, the boys not daring to speak or move. There
came a longer breath—then they heard no more. He was, indeed, gone
to a happier home—a truer royalty than ever had been his on earth.
Then the boys' grief burst out. Lothaire screamed for his mother,
and sobbed out that he should die too—he must go home. Richard
stood by the bed, large silent tears rolling down his cheeks, and his
chest heaving with suppressed sobs.
Fru Astrida led them from the room, back to their beds. Lothaire
soon cried himself to sleep. Richard lay awake, sorrowful, and in
deep thought; while that scene in St. Mary's, at Rouen, returned
before his eyes, and though it had passed nearly two years ago, its
meaning and its teaching had
 sunk deep into his mind, and now stood
before him more completely.
"Where shall I go, when I come to die, if I have not returned good
for evil?" And a resolution was taken in the mind of the little
Morning came, and brought back the sense that his gentle little
companion was gone from him; and Richard wept again, as if he could
not be consoled, as he beheld the screened couch where the patient
smile would never again greet him. He now knew that he had loved
Carloman all the more for his weakness and helplessness; but his
grief was not like Lothaire's, for with the Prince's was still joined
a selfish fear: his cry was still, that he should die too, if not
set free, and violent weeping really made him heavy and ill.
The little corpse, embalmed and lapped in lead, was to be sent back
to France, that it might rest with its forefathers in the city of
Rheims; and Lothaire seemed to feel this as an additional stroke of
desertion. He was almost beside himself with despair, imploring
every one, in turn, to send him home, though he well knew they were
unable to do so.
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