The Count of Harcourt did in truth govern the dukedom, but nothing could be done without the Duke's consent, and once a week at least, there was held in the great hall of Rollo's tower, what was called a Parlement, or "a talkation," where Count Bernard, the Archbishop, the Baron de Centeville, the Abbot of Jumieges, and such other Bishops, Nobles, or Abbots, as might chance to be at Rouen, consulted on the affairs of Normandy; and there the little Duke always was forced to be present, sitting up in his chair of state, and hearing rather than listening to, questions about the repairing and guarding of Castles, the asking of loans from the vassals, the appeals from the Barons of the Exchequer, who were then Nobles sent through the duchy to administer justice, and the discussions about the proceedings of his neighbours, King Louis of France, Count Foulques of Anjou, and Count Herluin of Montreuil, and how far the friendship of Hugh of Paris, and Alan of Brittany might be trusted.
There was another silence, and then Carloman, with the same solemnity, asked, "How old are you?" "I shall be nine on the eve of St. Boniface. How old are you?" "Eight. I was eight at Martinmas, and Lothaire was nine three days since." Another silence; then, as Osmond waited on Richard, Carloman returned to the charge, "Is that your Squire?" "Yes, that is Osmond de Centeville." "How tall he is!"
The King looked at one of his own Squires and asked his account, and he with some hesitation could not but reply that it was as the young Sieur de Centeville had said.
In one respect Alberic was a better playfellow for the Duke than Osmond de Centeville, for Osmond, playing as a grown up man, not for his own amusement, but the child's, had left all the advantages of the game to Richard, who was growing not a little inclined to domineer.
Opposite to her sat, sleeping in his chair, Sir Eric de Centeville; Osmond was on a low bench within the chimney corner, trimming and shaping with his knife some feathers of the wild goose, which were to fly in a different fashion from their former one, and serve, not to wing the flight of a harmless goose, but of a sharp arrow.
Carloman, whom Richard often saved from his brother's unkindness, clung closer and closer to him, went with him everywhere, tried to do all he did, grew very fond of Osmond, and liked nothing better than to sit by Richard in some wide window-seat, in the evening, after supper, and listen to Richard's version of some of Fru Astrida's favourite tales, or hear the never-ending history of sports at Centeville, or at Rollo's Tower, or settle what great things they would both do when they were grown up, and Richard was ruling Normandy perhaps go to the Holy Land together, and slaughter an unheard-of host of giants and dragons on the way.
"Ay, and a pretty pass it is come to," muttered old Centeville, "that we, whose business it is to guard the boy, should send him where you scarcely like to trust my son."
To that sound, Richard walked up the Choir, to a large, heavy, crossed-legged, carved chair, raised on two steps, just before the steps of the Altar began, and there he stood, Bernard de Harcourt and Eric de Centeville on each side of him, and all his other vassals in due order, in the Choir. After the beautiful chant of the hymn was ended, the service for the Holy Communion began.
The evening was more joyous still; for the Castle gates were opened, first to receive Dame Yolande Montemar, and not above a quarter of an hour afterwards, the drawbridge was lowered to admit the followers of Centeville; and in front of them appeared Fru Astrida's own high cap.
It was not the tapestried walls of his chamber at Laon that met his opening eyes, but the rugged stone and tall loop-hole window of a turret chamber. Osmond de Centeville lay on the floor by his side, in the sound sleep of one overcome by long watching and weariness. And what more did Richard see?