Infomotions, Inc.The Adventures of Robin Hood / Pyle, Howard, 1853-1911



Author: Pyle, Howard, 1853-1911
Title: The Adventures of Robin Hood
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): robin; robin hood; hood; sheriff; will stutely; merry; little john; stout; nottingham town; sherwood forest; john; friar tuck; will scarlet
Contributor(s): Parker, William Riley [Commentator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 113,901 words (average) Grade range: 9-10 (high school) Readability score: 73 (easy)
Identifier: etext964
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Title: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Author: Howard Pyle

Release Date: February 5, 2006 [EBook #964]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD ***




Produced by Charles Keller and David Widger





THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD

by Howard Pyle



PREFACE

FROM THE AUTHOR TO THE READER


You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give
yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the
land of Fancy; you who think that life hath nought to do with innocent
laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you. Clap to the
leaves and go no farther than this, for I tell you plainly that if you
go farther you will be scandalized by seeing good, sober folks of real
history so frisk and caper in gay colors and motley that you would
not know them but for the names tagged to them. Here is a stout, lusty
fellow with a quick temper, yet none so ill for all that, who goes by
the name of Henry II. Here is a fair, gentle lady before whom all the
others bow and call her Queen Eleanor. Here is a fat rogue of a fellow,
dressed up in rich robes of a clerical kind, that all the good folk call
my Lord Bishop of Hereford. Here is a certain fellow with a sour temper
and a grim look--the worshipful, the Sheriff of Nottingham. And here,
above all, is a great, tall, merry fellow that roams the greenwood and
joins in homely sports, and sits beside the Sheriff at merry feast,
which same beareth the name of the proudest of the Plantagenets--Richard
of the Lion's Heart. Beside these are a whole host of knights, priests,
nobles, burghers, yeomen, pages, ladies, lasses, landlords, beggars,
peddlers, and what not, all living the merriest of merry lives, and all
bound by nothing but a few odd strands of certain old ballads (snipped
and clipped and tied together again in a score of knots) which draw
these jocund fellows here and there, singing as they go.

Here you will find a hundred dull, sober, jogging places, all tricked
out with flowers and what not, till no one would know them in their
fanciful dress. And here is a country bearing a well-known name, wherein
no chill mists press upon our spirits, and no rain falls but what rolls
off our backs like April showers off the backs of sleek drakes; where
flowers bloom forever and birds are always singing; where every fellow
hath a merry catch as he travels the roads, and ale and beer and wine
(such as muddle no wits) flow like water in a brook.

This country is not Fairyland. What is it? 'Tis the land of Fancy, and
is of that pleasant kind that, when you tire of it--whisk!--you clap
the leaves of this book together and 'tis gone, and you are ready for
everyday life, with no harm done.

And now I lift the curtain that hangs between here and No-man's-land.
Will you come with me, sweet Reader? I thank you. Give me your hand.



CONTENTS

     CHAPTER                                                PAGE

     I         HOW ROBIN HOOD CAME TO BE AN OUTLAW            1
     II        ROBIN HOOD AND THE TINKER                     14
     III       THE SHOOTING MATCH AT NOTTINGHAM TOWN         27
     IV        WILL STUTELY RESCUED BY HIS COMPANIONS        38
     V         ROBIN HOOD TURNS BUTCHER                      50
     VI        LITTLE JOHN GOES TO NOTTINGHAM FAIR           61
     VII       HOW LITTLE JOHN LIVED AT THE SHERIFF'S        68
     VIII      LITTLE JOHN AND THE TANNER OF BLYTH           81
     IX        ROBIN HOOD AND WILL SCARLET                   92
     X         THE ADVENTURE WITH MIDGE, THE MILLER'S SON   102
     Xl        ROBIN HOOD AND ALLAN A DALE                  115
     XII       ROBIN HOOD SEEKS THE CURTAL FRIAR            129
     XIII      ROBIN HOOD COMPASSES A MARRIAGE              145
     XIV       ROBIN HOOD AIDS A SORROWFUL KNIGHT           156
     XV        HOW SIR RICHARD OF THE LEA PAID HIS DEBTS    172
     XVI       LITTLE JOHN TURNS BAREFOOT FRIAR             186
     XVII      ROBIN HOOD TURNS BEGGAR                      202
     XVIII     ROBIN HOOD SHOOTS BEFORE QUEEN ELEANOR       222
     XIX       THE CHASE OF ROBIN HOOD                      243
     XX        ROBIN HOOD AND GUY OF GISBOURNE              262
     XXI       KING RICHARD COMES TO SHERWOOD FOREST        281
     EPILOGUE                                     300





How Robin Hood Cane to Be an Outlaw

IN MERRY ENGLAND in the time of old, when good King Henry the Second
ruled the land, there lived within the green glades of Sherwood Forest,
near Nottingham Town, a famous outlaw whose name was Robin Hood. No
archer ever lived that could speed a gray goose shaft with such skill
and cunning as his, nor were there ever such yeomen as the sevenscore
merry men that roamed with him through the greenwood shades. Right
merrily they dwelled within the depths of Sherwood Forest, suffering
neither care nor want, but passing the time in merry games of archery or
bouts of cudgel play, living upon the King's venison, washed down with
draughts of ale of October brewing.

Not only Robin himself but all the band were outlaws and dwelled apart
from other men, yet they were beloved by the country people round about,
for no one ever came to jolly Robin for help in time of need and went
away again with an empty fist.

And now I will tell how it came about that Robin Hood fell afoul of the
law.

When Robin was a youth of eighteen, stout of sinew and bold of heart,
the Sheriff of Nottingham proclaimed a shooting match and offered a
prize of a butt of ale to whosoever should shoot the best shaft in
Nottinghamshire. "Now," quoth Robin, "will I go too, for fain would I
draw a string for the bright eyes of my lass and a butt of good October
brewing." So up he got and took his good stout yew bow and a score
or more of broad clothyard arrows, and started off from Locksley Town
through Sherwood Forest to Nottingham.

It was at the dawn of day in the merry Maytime, when hedgerows are green
and flowers bedeck the meadows; daisies pied and yellow cuckoo buds and
fair primroses all along the briery hedges; when apple buds blossom and
sweet birds sing, the lark at dawn of day, the throstle cock and cuckoo;
when lads and lasses look upon each other with sweet thoughts; when busy
housewives spread their linen to bleach upon the bright green grass.
Sweet was the greenwood as he walked along its paths, and bright the
green and rustling leaves, amid which the little birds sang with might
and main: and blithely Robin whistled as he trudged along, thinking of
Maid Marian and her bright eyes, for at such times a youth's thoughts
are wont to turn pleasantly upon the lass that he loves the best.

As thus he walked along with a brisk step and a merry whistle, he came
suddenly upon some foresters seated beneath a great oak tree. Fifteen
there were in all, making themselves merry with feasting and drinking
as they sat around a huge pasty, to which each man helped himself,
thrusting his hands into the pie, and washing down that which they ate
with great horns of ale which they drew all foaming from a barrel that
stood nigh. Each man was clad in Lincoln green, and a fine show they
made, seated upon the sward beneath that fair, spreading tree. Then one
of them, with his mouth full, called out to Robin, "Hulloa, where goest
thou, little lad, with thy one-penny bow and thy farthing shafts?"

Then Robin grew angry, for no stripling likes to be taunted with his
green years.

"Now," quoth he, "my bow and eke mine arrows are as good as shine; and
moreover, I go to the shooting match at Nottingham Town, which same has
been proclaimed by our good Sheriff of Nottinghamshire; there I will
shoot with other stout yeomen, for a prize has been offered of a fine
butt of ale."

Then one who held a horn of ale in his hand said, "Ho! listen to the
lad! Why, boy, thy mother's milk is yet scarce dry upon thy lips, and
yet thou pratest of standing up with good stout men at Nottingham butts,
thou who art scarce able to draw one string of a two-stone bow."

"I'll hold the best of you twenty marks," quoth bold Robin, "that I hit
the clout at threescore rods, by the good help of Our Lady fair."

At this all laughed aloud, and one said, "Well boasted, thou fair
infant, well boasted! And well thou knowest that no target is nigh to
make good thy wager."

And another cried, "He will be taking ale with his milk next."

At this Robin grew right mad. "Hark ye," said he, "yonder, at the
glade's end, I see a herd of deer, even more than threescore rods
distant. I'll hold you twenty marks that, by leave of Our Lady, I cause
the best hart among them to die."

"Now done!" cried he who had spoken first. "And here are twenty marks. I
wager that thou causest no beast to die, with or without the aid of Our
Lady."

Then Robin took his good yew bow in his hand, and placing the tip at
his instep, he strung it right deftly; then he nocked a broad clothyard
arrow and, raising the bow, drew the gray goose feather to his ear; the
next moment the bowstring rang and the arrow sped down the glade as a
sparrowhawk skims in a northern wind. High leaped the noblest hart
of all the herd, only to fall dead, reddening the green path with his
heart's blood.

"Ha!" cried Robin, "how likest thou that shot, good fellow? I wot the
wager were mine, an it were three hundred pounds."

Then all the foresters were filled with rage, and he who had spoken the
first and had lost the wager was more angry than all.

"Nay," cried he, "the wager is none of thine, and get thee gone,
straightway, or, by all the saints of heaven, I'll baste thy sides
until thou wilt ne'er be able to walk again." "Knowest thou not," said
another, "that thou hast killed the King's deer, and, by the laws of
our gracious lord and sovereign King Harry, thine ears should be shaven
close to thy head?"

"Catch him!" cried a third.

"Nay," said a fourth, "let him e'en go because of his tender years."

Never a word said Robin Hood, but he looked at the foresters with a grim
face; then, turning on his heel, strode away from them down the forest
glade. But his heart was bitterly angry, for his blood was hot and
youthful and prone to boil.

Now, well would it have been for him who had first spoken had he left
Robin Hood alone; but his anger was hot, both because the youth had
gotten the better of him and because of the deep draughts of ale that
he had been quaffing. So, of a sudden, without any warning, he sprang to
his feet, and seized upon his bow and fitted it to a shaft. "Ay," cried
he, "and I'll hurry thee anon." And he sent the arrow whistling after
Robin.

It was well for Robin Hood that that same forester's head was spinning
with ale, or else he would never have taken another step. As it was, the
arrow whistled within three inches of his head. Then he turned around
and quickly drew his own bow, and sent an arrow back in return.

"Ye said I was no archer," cried he aloud, "but say so now again!"

The shaft flew straight; the archer fell forward with a cry, and lay on
his face upon the ground, his arrows rattling about him from out of his
quiver, the gray goose shaft wet with his; heart's blood. Then, before
the others could gather their wits about them, Robin Hood was gone into
the depths of the greenwood. Some started after him, but not with much
heart, for each feared to suffer the death of his fellow; so presently
they all came and lifted the dead man up and bore him away to Nottingham
Town.

Meanwhile Robin Hood ran through the greenwood. Gone was all the joy and
brightness from everything, for his heart was sick within him, and it
was borne in upon his soul that he had slain a man.

"Alas!" cried he, "thou hast found me an archer that will make thy wife
to wring! I would that thou hadst ne'er said one word to me, or that
I had never passed thy way, or e'en that my right forefinger had been
stricken off ere that this had happened! In haste I smote, but grieve I
sore at leisure!" And then, even in his trouble, he remembered the old
saw that "What is done is done; and the egg cracked cannot be cured."

And so he came to dwell in the greenwood that was to be his home for
many a year to come, never again to see the happy days with the lads and
lasses of sweet Locksley Town; for he was outlawed, not only because he
had killed a man, but also because he had poached upon the King's deer,
and two hundred pounds were set upon his head, as a reward for whoever
would bring him to the court of the King.

Now the Sheriff of Nottingham swore that he himself would bring this
knave Robin Hood to justice, and for two reasons: first, because he
wanted the two hundred pounds, and next, because the forester that Robin
Hood had killed was of kin to him.

But Robin Hood lay hidden in Sherwood Forest for one year, and in that
time there gathered around him many others like himself, cast out from
other folk for this cause and for that. Some had shot deer in hungry
wintertime, when they could get no other food, and had been seen in the
act by the foresters, but had escaped, thus saving their ears; some had
been turned out of their inheritance, that their farms might be added to
the King's lands in Sherwood Forest; some had been despoiled by a great
baron or a rich abbot or a powerful esquire--all, for one cause or
another, had come to Sherwood to escape wrong and oppression.

So, in all that year, fivescore or more good stout yeomen gathered about
Robin Hood, and chose him to be their leader and chief. Then they vowed
that even as they themselves had been despoiled they would despoil their
oppressors, whether baron, abbot, knight, or squire, and that from each
they would take that which had been wrung from the poor by unjust taxes,
or land rents, or in wrongful fines. But to the poor folk they would
give a helping hand in need and trouble, and would return to them that
which had been unjustly taken from them. Besides this, they swore never
to harm a child nor to wrong a woman, be she maid, wife, or widow; so
that, after a while, when the people began to find that no harm was
meant to them, but that money or food came in time of want to many a
poor family, they came to praise Robin and his merry men, and to tell
many tales of him and of his doings in Sherwood Forest, for they felt
him to be one of themselves.

Up rose Robin Hood one merry morn when all the birds were singing
blithely among the leaves, and up rose all his merry men, each fellow
washing his head and hands in the cold brown brook that leaped laughing
from stone to stone. Then said Robin, "For fourteen days have we seen no
sport, so now I will go abroad to seek adventures forthwith. But tarry
ye, my merry men all, here in the greenwood; only see that ye mind well
my call. Three blasts upon the bugle horn I will blow in my hour of
need; then come quickly, for I shall want your aid."

So saying, he strode away through the leafy forest glades until he
had come to the verge of Sherwood. There he wandered for a long time,
through highway and byway, through dingly dell and forest skirts. Now he
met a fair buxom lass in a shady lane, and each gave the other a merry
word and passed their way; now he saw a fair lady upon an ambling pad,
to whom he doffed his cap, and who bowed sedately in return to the
fair youth; now he saw a fat monk on a pannier-laden ass; now a gallant
knight, with spear and shield and armor that flashed brightly in the
sunlight; now a page clad in crimson; and now a stout burgher from good
Nottingham Town, pacing along with serious footsteps; all these sights
he saw, but adventure found he none. At last he took a road by the
forest skirts, a bypath that dipped toward a broad, pebbly stream
spanned by a narrow bridge made of a log of wood. As he drew nigh this
bridge he saw a tall stranger coming from the other side. Thereupon
Robin quickened his pace, as did the stranger likewise, each thinking to
cross first.

"Now stand thou back," quoth Robin, "and let the better man cross
first."

"Nay," answered the stranger, "then stand back shine own self, for the
better man, I wet, am I."

"That will we presently see," quoth Robin, "and meanwhile stand thou
where thou art, or else, by the bright brow of Saint AElfrida, I will
show thee right good Nottingham play with a clothyard shaft betwixt thy
ribs."

"Now," quoth the stranger, "I will tan thy hide till it be as many
colors as a beggar's cloak, if thou darest so much as touch a string of
that same bow that thou holdest in thy hands."

"Thou pratest like an ass," said Robin, "for I could send this shaft
clean through thy proud heart before a curtal friar could say grace over
a roast goose at Michaelmastide."

"And thou pratest like a coward," answered the stranger, "for thou
standest there with a good yew bow to shoot at my heart, while I have
nought in my hand but a plain blackthorn staff wherewith to meet thee."

"Now," quoth Robin, "by the faith of my heart, never have I had a
coward's name in all my life before. I will lay by my trusty bow and
eke my arrows, and if thou darest abide my coming, I will go and cut a
cudgel to test thy manhood withal."

"Ay, marry, that will I abide thy coming, and joyously, too," quoth the
stranger; whereupon he leaned sturdily upon his staff to await Robin.

Then Robin Hood stepped quickly to the coverside and cut a good staff of
ground oak, straight, without new, and six feet in length, and came back
trimming away the tender stems from it, while the stranger waited for
him, leaning upon his staff, and whistling as he gazed round about.
Robin observed him furtively as he trimmed his staff, measuring him from
top to toe from out the corner of his eye, and thought that he had never
seen a lustier or a stouter man. Tall was Robin, but taller was the
stranger by a head and a neck, for he was seven feet in height. Broad
was Robin across the shoulders, but broader was the stranger by twice
the breadth of a palm, while he measured at least an ell around the
waist.

"Nevertheless," said Robin to himself, "I will baste thy hide right
merrily, my good fellow;" then, aloud, "Lo, here is my good staff,
lusty and tough. Now wait my coming, an thou darest, and meet me an thou
fearest not. Then we will fight until one or the other of us tumble into
the stream by dint of blows."

"Marry, that meeteth my whole heart!" cried the stranger, twirling his
staff above his head, betwixt his fingers and thumb, until it whistled
again.

Never did the Knights of Arthur's Round Table meet in a stouter fight
than did these two. In a moment Robin stepped quickly upon the bridge
where the stranger stood; first he made a feint, and then delivered
a blow at the stranger's head that, had it met its mark, would have
tumbled him speedily into the water. But the stranger turned the blow
right deftly and in return gave one as stout, which Robin also turned as
the stranger had done. So they stood, each in his place, neither moving
a finger's-breadth back, for one good hour, and many blows were given
and received by each in that time, till here and there were sore bones
and bumps, yet neither thought of crying "Enough," nor seemed likely to
fall from off the bridge. Now and then they stopped to rest, and each
thought that he never had seen in all his life before such a hand at
quarterstaff. At last Robin gave the stranger a blow upon the ribs that
made his jacket smoke like a damp straw thatch in the sun. So shrewd was
the stroke that the stranger came within a hair's-breadth of falling off
the bridge, but he regained himself right quickly and, by a dexterous
blow, gave Robin a crack on the crown that caused the blood to flow.
Then Robin grew mad with anger and smote with all his might at the
other. But the stranger warded the blow and once again thwacked Robin,
and this time so fairly that he fell heels over head into the water, as
the queen pin falls in a game of bowls.

"And where art thou now, my good lad?" shouted the stranger, roaring
with laughter.

"Oh, in the flood and floating adown with the tide," cried Robin, nor
could he forbear laughing himself at his sorry plight. Then, gaining his
feet, he waded to the bank, the little fish speeding hither and thither,
all frightened at his splashing.

"Give me thy hand," cried he, when he had reached the bank. "I must
needs own thou art a brave and a sturdy soul and, withal, a good stout
stroke with the cudgels. By this and by that, my head hummeth like to a
hive of bees on a hot June day."

Then he clapped his horn to his lips and winded a blast that went
echoing sweetly down the forest paths. "Ay, marry," quoth he again,
"thou art a tall lad, and eke a brave one, for ne'er, I bow, is there a
man betwixt here and Canterbury Town could do the like to me that thou
hast done."

"And thou," quoth the stranger, laughing, "takest thy cudgeling like a
brave heart and a stout yeoman."

But now the distant twigs and branches rustled with the coming of men,
and suddenly a score or two of good stout yeomen, all clad in Lincoln
green, burst from out the covert, with merry Will Stutely at their head.

"Good master," cried Will, "how is this? Truly thou art all wet from
head to foot, and that to the very skin."

"Why, marry," answered jolly Robin, "yon stout fellow hath tumbled me
neck and crop into the water and hath given me a drubbing beside."

"Then shall he not go without a ducking and eke a drubbing himself!"
cried Will Stutely. "Have at him, lads!"

Then Will and a score of yeomen leaped upon the stranger, but though
they sprang quickly they found him ready and felt him strike right and
left with his stout staff, so that, though he went down with press of
numbers, some of them rubbed cracked crowns before he was overcome.

"Nay, forbear!" cried Robin, laughing until his sore sides ached again.
"He is a right good man and true, and no harm shall befall him. Now
hark ye, good youth, wilt thou stay with me and be one of my band? Three
suits of Lincoln green shalt thou have each year, beside forty marks in
fee, and share with us whatsoever good shall befall us. Thou shalt eat
sweet venison and quaff the stoutest ale, and mine own good right-hand
man shalt thou be, for never did I see such a cudgel player in all my
life before. Speak! Wilt thou be one of my good merry men?"

"That know I not," quoth the stranger surlily, for he was angry at being
so tumbled about. "If ye handle yew bow and apple shaft no better than
ye do oaken cudgel, I wot ye are not fit to be called yeomen in my
country; but if there be any man here that can shoot a better shaft than
I, then will I bethink me of joining with you."

"Now by my faith," said Robin, "thou art a right saucy varlet, sirrah;
yet I will stoop to thee as I never stooped to man before. Good Stutely,
cut thou a fair white piece of bark four fingers in breadth, and set it
fourscore yards distant on yonder oak. Now, stranger, hit that fairly
with a gray goose shaft and call thyself an archer."

"Ay, marry, that will I," answered he. "Give me a good stout bow and a
fair broad arrow, and if I hit it not, strip me and beat me blue with
bowstrings."

Then he chose the stoutest bow among them all, next to Robin's own, and
a straight gray goose shaft, well-feathered and smooth, and stepping
to the mark--while all the band, sitting or lying upon the greensward,
watched to see him shoot--he drew the arrow to his cheek and loosed the
shaft right deftly, sending it so straight down the path that it clove
the mark in the very center. "Aha!" cried he, "mend thou that if thou
canst;" while even the yeomen clapped their hands at so fair a shot.

"That is a keen shot indeed," quoth Robin. "Mend it I cannot, but mar it
I may, perhaps."

Then taking up his own good stout bow and nocking an arrow with care, he
shot with his very greatest skill. Straight flew the arrow, and so
true that it lit fairly upon the stranger's shaft and split it into
splinters. Then all the yeomen leaped to their feet and shouted for joy
that their master had shot so well.

"Now by the lusty yew bow of good Saint Withold," cried the stranger,
"that is a shot indeed, and never saw I the like in all my life before!
Now truly will I be thy man henceforth and for aye. Good Adam Bell(1)
was a fair shot, but never shot he so!"


     (1) Adam Bell, Clym o' the Clough, and William of Cloudesly
     were three noted north-country bowmen whose names have been
     celebrated in many ballads of the olden time.


"Then have I gained a right good man this day," quoth jolly Robin. "What
name goest thou by, good fellow?"

"Men call me John Little whence I came," answered the stranger.

Then Will Stutely, who loved a good jest, spoke up. "Nay, fair little
stranger," said he, "I like not thy name and fain would I have it
otherwise. Little art thou indeed, and small of bone and sinew,
therefore shalt thou be christened Little John, and I will be thy
godfather."

Then Robin Hood and all his band laughed aloud until the stranger began
to grow angry.

"An thou make a jest of me," quoth he to Will Stutely, "thou wilt have
sore bones and little pay, and that in short season."

"Nay, good friend," said Robin Hood, "bottle thine anger, for the name
fitteth thee well. Little John shall thou be called henceforth, and
Little John shall it be. So come, my merry men, we will prepare a
christening feast for this fair infant."

So turning their backs upon the stream, they plunged into the forest
once more, through which they traced their steps till they reached the
spot where they dwelled in the depths of the woodland. There had they
built huts of bark and branches of trees, and made couches of sweet
rushes spread over with skins of fallow deer. Here stood a great oak
tree with branches spreading broadly around, beneath which was a seat of
green moss where Robin Hood was wont to sit at feast and at merrymaking
with his stout men about him. Here they found the rest of the band, some
of whom had come in with a brace of fat does. Then they all built great
fires and after a time roasted the does and broached a barrel of humming
ale. Then when the feast was ready they all sat down, but Robin placed
Little John at his right hand, for he was henceforth to be the second in
the band.

Then when the feast was done Will Stutely spoke up. "It is now time, I
ween, to christen our bonny babe, is it not so, merry boys?" And "Aye!
Aye!" cried all, laughing till the woods echoed with their mirth.

"Then seven sponsors shall we have," quoth Will Stutely, and hunting
among all the band, he chose the seven stoutest men of them all.

"Now by Saint Dunstan," cried Little John, springing to his feet, "more
than one of you shall rue it an you lay finger upon me."

But without a word they all ran upon him at once, seizing him by his
legs and arms and holding him tightly in spite of his struggles, and
they bore him forth while all stood around to see the sport. Then one
came forward who had been chosen to play the priest because he had a
bald crown, and in his hand he carried a brimming pot of ale. "Now, who
bringeth this babe?" asked he right soberly.

"That do I," answered Will Stutely.

"And what name callest thou him?"

"Little John call I him."

"Now Little John," quoth the mock priest, "thou hast not lived
heretofore, but only got thee along through the world, but henceforth
thou wilt live indeed. When thou livedst not thou wast called John
Little, but now that thou dost live indeed, Little John shalt thou be
called, so christen I thee." And at these last words he emptied the pot
of ale upon Little John's head.

Then all shouted with laughter as they saw the good brown ale stream
over Little John's beard and trickle from his nose and chin, while his
eyes blinked with the smart of it. At first he was of a mind to be angry
but found he could not, because the others were so merry; so he, too,
laughed with the rest. Then Robin took this sweet, pretty babe, clothed
him all anew from top to toe in Lincoln green, and gave him a good stout
bow, and so made him a member of the merry band.

And thus it was that Robin Hood became outlawed; thus a band of merry
companions gathered about him, and thus he gained his right-hand man,
Little John; and so the prologue ends. And now I will tell how the
Sheriff of Nottingham three times sought to take Robin Hood, and how he
failed each time.




Robin Hood and the Tinker

Now it was told before how two hundred pounds were set upon Robin Hood's
head, and how the Sheriff of Nottingham swore that he himself would
seize Robin, both because he would fain have the two hundred pounds and
because the slain man was a kinsman of his own. Now the Sheriff did not
yet know what a force Robin had about him in Sherwood, but thought that
he might serve a warrant for his arrest as he could upon any other man
that had broken the laws; therefore he offered fourscore golden angels
to anyone who would serve this warrant. But men of Nottingham Town knew
more of Robin Hood and his doings than the Sheriff did, and many laughed
to think of serving a warrant upon the bold outlaw, knowing well that
all they would get for such service would be cracked crowns; so that no
one came forward to take the matter in hand. Thus a fortnight passed, in
which time none came forward to do the Sheriff's business. Then said he,
"A right good reward have I offered to whosoever would serve my warrant
upon Robin Hood, and I marvel that no one has come to undertake the
task."

Then one of his men who was near him said, "Good master, thou wottest
not the force that Robin Hood has about him and how little he cares for
warrant of king or sheriff. Truly, no one likes to go on this service,
for fear of cracked crowns and broken bones."

"Then I hold all Nottingham men to be cowards," said the Sheriff. "And
let me see the man in all Nottinghamshire that dare disobey the warrant
of our sovereign lord King Harry, for, by the shrine of Saint Edmund,
I will hang him forty cubits high! But if no man in Nottingham dare
win fourscore angels, I will send elsewhere, for there should be men of
mettle somewhere in this land."

Then he called up a messenger in whom he placed great trust, and bade
him saddle his horse and make ready to go to Lincoln Town to see whether
he could find anyone there that would do his bidding and win the reward.
So that same morning the messenger started forth upon his errand.

Bright shone the sun upon the dusty highway that led from Nottingham
to Lincoln, stretching away all white over hill and dale. Dusty was the
highway and dusty the throat of the messenger, so that his heart was
glad when he saw before him the Sign of the Blue Boar Inn, when somewhat
more than half his journey was done. The inn looked fair to his eyes,
and the shade of the oak trees that stood around it seemed cool and
pleasant, so he alighted from his horse to rest himself for a time,
calling for a pot of ale to refresh his thirsty throat.

There he saw a party of right jovial fellows seated beneath the
spreading oak that shaded the greensward in front of the door. There
was a tinker, two barefoot friars, and a party of six of the King's
foresters all clad in Lincoln green, and all of them were quaffing
humming ale and singing merry ballads of the good old times. Loud
laughed the foresters, as jests were bandied about between the singing,
and louder laughed the friars, for they were lusty men with beards
that curled like the wool of black rams; but loudest of all laughed the
Tinker, and he sang more sweetly than any of the rest. His bag and his
hammer hung upon a twig of the oak tree, and near by leaned his good
stout cudgel, as thick as his wrist and knotted at the end.

"Come," cried one of the foresters to the tired messenger, "come join us
for this shot. Ho, landlord! Bring a fresh pot of ale for each man."

The messenger was glad enough to sit down along with the others who were
there, for his limbs were weary and the ale was good.

"Now what news bearest thou so fast?" quoth one, "and whither ridest
thou today?"

The messenger was a chatty soul and loved a bit of gossip dearly;
besides, the pot of ale warmed his heart; so that, settling himself in
an easy corner of the inn bench, while the host leaned upon the doorway
and the hostess stood with her hands beneath her apron, he unfolded his
budget of news with great comfort. He told all from the very first:
how Robin Hood had slain the forester, and how he had hidden in the
greenwood to escape the law; how that he lived therein, all against the
law, God wot, slaying His Majesty's deer and levying toll on fat abbot,
knight, and esquire, so that none dare travel even on broad Watling
Street or the Fosse Way for fear of him; how that the Sheriff had a mind
to serve the King's warrant upon this same rogue, though little would he
mind warrant of either king or sheriff, for he was far from being a
law-abiding man. Then he told how none could be found in all Nottingham
Town to serve this warrant, for fear of cracked pates and broken bones,
and how that he, the messenger, was now upon his way to Lincoln Town to
find of what mettle the Lincoln men might be.

"Now come I, forsooth, from good Banbury Town," said the jolly Tinker,
"and no one nigh Nottingham--nor Sherwood either, an that be the
mark--can hold cudgel with my grip. Why, lads, did I not meet that mad
wag Simon of Ely, even at the famous fair at Hertford Town, and beat him
in the ring at that place before Sir Robert of Leslie and his lady? This
same Robin Hood, of whom, I wot, I never heard before, is a right merry
blade, but gin he be strong, am not I stronger? And gin he be sly, am
not I slyer? Now by the bright eyes of Nan o' the Mill, and by mine own
name and that's Wat o' the Crabstaff, and by mine own mother's son,
and that's myself, will I, even I, Wat o' the Crabstaff, meet this same
sturdy rogue, and gin he mind not the seal of our glorious sovereign
King Harry, and the warrant of the good Sheriff of Nottinghamshire,
I will so bruise, beat, and bemaul his pate that he shall never move
finger or toe again! Hear ye that, bully boys?"

"Now art thou the man for my farthing," cried the messenger. "And back
thou goest with me to Nottingham Town."

"Nay," quoth the Tinker, shaking his head slowly from side to side. "Go
I with no man gin it be not with mine own free will."

"Nay, nay," said the messenger, "no man is there in Nottinghamshire
could make thee go against thy will, thou brave fellow."

"Ay, that be I brave," said the Tinker.

"Ay, marry," said the messenger, "thou art a brave lad; but our good
Sheriff hath offered fourscore angels of bright gold to whosoever shall
serve the warrant upon Robin Hood; though little good will it do."

"Then I will go with thee, lad. Do but wait till I get my bag and
hammer, and my cudgel. Ay, let' me but meet this same Robin Hood, and
let me see whether he will not mind the King's warrant." So, after
having paid their score, the messenger, with the Tinker striding beside
his nag, started back to Nottingham again.

One bright morning soon after this time, Robin Hood started off to
Nottingham Town to find what was a-doing there, walking merrily along
the roadside where the grass was sweet with daisies, his eyes wandering
and his thoughts also. His bugle horn hung at his hip and his bow and
arrows at his back, while in his hand he bore a good stout oaken staff,
which he twirled with his fingers as he strolled along.

As thus he walked down a shady lane he saw a tinker coming, trolling a
merry song as he drew nigh. On his back hung his bag and his hammer, and
in his hand he carried a right stout crabstaff full six feet long, and
thus sang he:

     "_In peascod time, when hound to horn
     Gives ear till buck be killed,
     And little lads with pipes of corn
     Sit keeping beasts afield_--"

"Halloa, good friend!" cried Robin.

"I WENT TO GATHER STRAWBERRIES--"

"Halloa!" cried Robin again.

"BY WOODS AND GROVES FULL FAIR--"

"Halloa! Art thou deaf, man? Good friend, say I!"

"And who art thou dost so boldly check a fair song?" quoth the Tinker,
stopping in his singing. "Halloa, shine own self, whether thou be good
friend or no. But let me tell thee, thou stout fellow, gin thou be a
good friend it were well for us both; but gin thou be no good friend it
were ill for thee."

"And whence comest thou, my lusty blade?" quoth Robin.

"I come from Banbury," answered the Tinker.

"Alas!" quoth Robin, "I hear there is sad news this merry morn."

"Ha! Is it indeed so?" cried the Tinker eagerly. "Prythee tell it
speedily, for I am a tinker by trade, as thou seest, and as I am in my
trade I am greedy for news, even as a priest is greedy for farthings."

"Well then," quoth Robin, "list thou and I will tell, but bear thyself
up bravely, for the news is sad, I wot. Thus it is: I hear that two
tinkers are in the stocks for drinking ale and beer!"

"Now a murrain seize thee and thy news, thou scurvy dog," quoth the
Tinker, "for thou speakest but ill of good men. But sad news it is
indeed, gin there be two stout fellows in the stocks."

"Nay," said Robin, "thou hast missed the mark and dost but weep for the
wrong sow. The sadness of the news lieth in that there be but two in the
stocks, for the others do roam the country at large."

"Now by the pewter platter of Saint Dunstan," cried the Tinker, "I have
a good part of a mind to baste thy hide for thine ill jest. But gin men
be put in the stocks for drinking ale and beer, I trow thou wouldst not
lose thy part."

Loud laughed Robin and cried, "Now well taken, Tinker, well taken! Why,
thy wits are like beer, and do froth up most when they grow sour! But
right art thou, man, for I love ale and beer right well. Therefore come
straightway with me hard by to the Sign of the Blue Boar, and if thou
drinkest as thou appearest--and I wot thou wilt not belie thy looks--I
will drench thy throat with as good homebrewed as ever was tapped in all
broad Nottinghamshire."

"Now by my faith," said the Tinker, "thou art a right good fellow in
spite of thy scurvy jests. I love thee, my sweet chuck, and gin I go not
with thee to that same Blue Boar thou mayst call me a heathen."

"Tell me thy news, good friend, I prythee," quoth Robin as they trudged
along together, "for tinkers, I ween, are all as full of news as an egg
of meat."

"Now I love thee as my brother, my bully blade," said the Tinker, "else
I would not tell thee my news; for sly am I, man, and I have in hand a
grave undertaking that doth call for all my wits, for I come to seek
a bold outlaw that men, hereabouts, call Robin Hood. Within my pouch I
have a warrant, all fairly written out on parchment, forsooth, with a
great red seal for to make it lawful. Could I but meet this same Robin
Hood I would serve it upon his dainty body, and if he minded it not
I would beat him till every one of his ribs would cry Amen. But thou
livest hereabouts, mayhap thou knowest Robin Hood thyself, good fellow."

"Ay, marry, that I do somewhat," quoth Robin, "and I have seen him this
very morn. But, Tinker, men say that he is but a sad, sly thief. Thou
hadst better watch thy warrant, man, or else he may steal it out of thy
very pouch."

"Let him but try!" cried the Tinker. "Sly may he be, but sly am I, too.
I would I had him here now, man to man!" And he made his heavy cudgel to
spin again. "But what manner of man is he, lad?

"Much like myself," said Robin, laughing, "and in height and build and
age nigh the same; and he hath blue eyes, too."

"Nay," quoth the Tinker, "thou art but a green youth. I thought him to
be a great bearded man. Nottingham men feared him so."

"Truly, he is not so old nor so stout as thou art," said Robin. "But men
do call him a right deft hand at quarterstaff."

"That may be," said the Tinker right sturdily, "but I am more deft than
he, for did I not overcome Simon of Ely in a fair bout in the ring at
Hertford Town? But if thou knowest him, my jolly blade, wilt thou go
with me and bring me to him? Fourscore bright angels hath the Sheriff
promised me if I serve the warrant upon the knave's body, and ten of
them will I give to thee if thou showest me him."

"Ay, that will I," quoth Robin, "but show me thy warrant, man, until I
see whether it be good or no."

"That will I not do, even to mine own brother," answered the Tinker. "No
man shall see my warrant till I serve it upon yon fellow's own body."

"So be it," quoth Robin. "And thou show it not to me I know not to whom
thou wilt show it. But here we are at the Sign of the Blue Boar, so let
us in and taste his brown October."

No sweeter inn could be found in all Nottinghamshire than that of the
Blue Boar. None had such lovely trees standing around, or was so covered
with trailing clematis and sweet woodbine; none had such good beer and
such humming ale; nor, in wintertime, when the north wind howled and
snow drifted around the hedges, was there to be found, elsewhere, such
a roaring fire as blazed upon the hearth of the Blue Boar. At such times
might be found a goodly company of yeomen or country folk seated around
the blazing hearth, bandying merry jests, while roasted crabs(2) bobbed
in bowls of ale upon the hearthstone. Well known was the inn to Robin
Hood and his band, for there had he and such merry companions as Little
John or Will Stutely or young David of Doncaster often gathered when all
the forest was filled with snow. As for mine host, he knew how to keep
a still tongue in his head, and to swallow his words before they passed
his teeth, for he knew very well which side of his bread was spread with
butter, for Robin and his band were the best of customers and paid their
scores without having them chalked up behind the door. So now, when
Robin Hood and the Tinker came thereto and called aloud for two great
pots of ale, none would have known from look or speech that the host had
ever set eyes upon the outlaw before.

     (2) Small sour apples.

"Bide thou here," quoth Robin to the Tinker, "while I go and see that
mine host draweth ale from the right butt, for he hath good October, I
know, and that brewed by Withold of Tamworth." So saying, he went within
and whispered to the host to add a measure of Flemish strong waters to
the good English ale; which the latter did and brought it to them.

"By Our Lady," said the Tinker, after a long draught of the ale, "yon
same Withold of Tamworth--a right good Saxon name, too, I would have
thee know--breweth the most humming ale that e'er passed the lips of Wat
o' the Crabstaff."

"Drink, man, drink," cried Robin, only wetting his own lips meanwhile.
"Ho, landlord! Bring my friend another pot of the same. And now for a
song, my jolly blade."

"Ay, that will I give thee a song, my lovely fellow," quoth the Tinker,
"for I never tasted such ale in all my days before. By Our Lady, it
doth make my head hum even now! Hey, Dame Hostess, come listen, an thou
wouldst hear a song, and thou too, thou bonny lass, for never sing I so
well as when bright eyes do look upon me the while."

Then he sang an ancient ballad of the time of good King Arthur, called
"The Marriage of Sir Gawaine," which you may some time read yourself, in
stout English of early times; and as he sang, all listened to that noble
tale of noble knight and his sacrifice to his king. But long before the
Tinker came to the last verse his tongue began to trip and his head to
spin, because of the strong waters mixed with the ale. First his tongue
tripped, then it grew thick of sound; then his head wagged from side to
side, until at last he fell asleep as though he never would waken again.

Then Robin Hood laughed aloud and quickly took the warrant from out the
Tinker's pouch with his deft fingers. "Sly art thou, Tinker," quoth he,
"but not yet, I bow, art thou as sly as that same sly thief Robin Hood."

Then he called the host to him and said, "Here, good man, are ten broad
shillings for the entertainment thou hast given us this day. See that
thou takest good care of thy fair guest there, and when he wakes thou
mayst again charge him ten shillings also, and if he hath it not, thou
mayst take his bag and hammer, and even his coat, in payment. Thus do
I punish those that come into the greenwood to deal dole to me. As for
thine own self, never knew I landlord yet that would not charge twice an
he could."

At this the host smiled slyly, as though saying to himself the rustic
saw, "Teach a magpie to suck eggs."

The Tinker slept until the afternoon drew to a close and the shadows
grew long beside the woodland edge, then he awoke. First he looked up,
then he looked down, then he looked east, then he looked west, for he
was gathering his wits together, like barley straws blown apart by the
wind. First he thought of his merry companion, but he was gone. Then he
thought of his stout crabstaff, and that he had within his hand. Then of
his warrant, and of the fourscore angels he was to gain for serving it
upon Robin Hood. He thrust his hand into his pouch, but not a scrap nor
a farthing was there. Then he sprang to his feet in a rage.

"Ho, landlord!" cried he, "whither hath that knave gone that was with me
but now?"

"What knave meaneth Your Worship?" quoth the landlord, calling the
Tinker Worship to soothe him, as a man would pour oil upon angry water.
"I saw no knave with Your Worship, for I swear no man would dare call
that man knave so nigh to Sherwood Forest. A right stout yeoman I saw
with Your Worship, but I thought that Your Worship knew him, for few
there be about here that pass him by and know him not."

"Now, how should I, that ne'er have squealed in your sty, know all the
swine therein? Who was he, then, an thou knowest him so well?"

"Why, yon same is a right stout fellow whom men hereabouts do call Robin
Hood, which same--"

"Now, by'r Lady!" cried the Tinker hastily, and in a deep voice like an
angry bull, "thou didst see me come into thine inn, I, a staunch, honest
craftsman, and never told me who my company was, well knowing thine own
self who he was. Now, I have a right round piece of a mind to crack thy
knave's pate for thee!" Then he took up his cudgel and looked at the
landlord as though he would smite him where he stood.

"Nay," cried the host, throwing up his elbow, for he feared the blow,
"how knew I that thou knewest him not?"

"Well and truly thankful mayst thou be," quoth the Tinker, "that I be
a patient man and so do spare thy bald crown, else wouldst thou ne'er
cheat customer again. But as for this same knave Robin Hood, I go
straightway to seek him, and if I do not score his knave's pate, cut
my staff into fagots and call me woman." So saying, he gathered himself
together to depart.

"Nay," quoth the landlord, standing in front of him and holding out his
arms like a gooseherd driving his flock, for money made him bold, "thou
goest not till thou hast paid me my score."

"But did not he pay thee?"

"Not so much as one farthing; and ten good shillings' worth of ale have
ye drunk this day. Nay, I say, thou goest not away without paying me,
else shall our good Sheriff know of it."

"But nought have I to pay thee with, good fellow," quoth the Tinker.

"'Good fellow' not me," said the landlord. "Good fellow am I not when
it cometh to lose ten shillings! Pay me that thou owest me in broad
money, or else leave thy coat and bag and hammer; yet, I wot they
are not worth ten shillings, and I shall lose thereby. Nay, an thou
stirrest, I have a great dog within and I will loose him upon thee.
Maken, open thou the door and let forth Brian if this fellow stirs one
step."

"Nay," quoth the Tinker--for, by roaming the country, he had learned
what dogs were--"take thou what thou wilt have, and let me depart in
peace, and may a murrain go with thee. But oh, landlord! An I catch yon
scurvy varlet, I swear he shall pay full with usury for that he hath
had!"

So saying, he strode away toward the forest, talking to himself, while
the landlord and his worthy dame and Maken stood looking after him, and
laughed when he had fairly gone.

"Robin and I stripped yon ass of his pack main neatly," quoth the
landlord.

Now it happened about this time that Robin Hood was going through the
forest to Fosse Way, to see what was to be seen there, for the moon was
full and the night gave promise of being bright. In his hand he carried
his stout oaken staff, and at his side hung his bugle horn. As thus he
walked up a forest path, whistling, down another path came the Tinker,
muttering to himself and shaking his head like an angry bull; and so,
at a sudden bend, they met sharply face to face. Each stood still for a
time, and then Robin spoke:

"Halloa, my sweet bird," said he, laughing merrily, "how likest thou
thine ale? Wilt not sing to me another song?"

The Tinker said nothing at first but stood looking at Robin with a grim
face. "Now," quoth he at last, "I am right glad I have met thee, and if
I do not rattle thy bones within thy hide this day, I give thee leave to
put thy foot upon my neck."

"With all my heart," cried merry Robin. "Rattle my bones, an thou
canst." So saying, he gripped his staff and threw himself upon his
guard. Then the Tinker spat upon his hands and, grasping his staff, came
straight at the other. He struck two or three blows, but soon found that
he had met his match, for Robin warded and parried all of them, and,
before the Tinker thought, he gave him a rap upon the ribs in return. At
this Robin laughed aloud, and the Tinker grew more angry than ever, and
smote again with all his might and main. Again Robin warded two of the
strokes, but at the third, his staff broke beneath the mighty blows of
the Tinker. "Now, ill betide thee, traitor staff," cried Robin, as it
fell from his hands; "a foul stick art thou to serve me thus in mine
hour of need."

"Now yield thee," quoth the Tinker, "for thou art my captive; and if
thou do not, I will beat thy pate to a pudding."

To this Robin Hood made no answer, but, clapping his horn to his lips,
he blew three blasts, loud and clear.

"Ay," quoth the Tinker, "blow thou mayest, but go thou must with me to
Nottingham Town, for the Sheriff would fain see thee there. Now wilt
thou yield thee, or shall I have to break thy pretty head?"

"An I must drink sour ale, I must," quoth Robin, "but never have I
yielded me to man before, and that without wound or mark upon my
body. Nor, when I bethink me, will I yield now. Ho, my merry men! Come
quickly!"

Then from out the forest leaped Little John and six stout yeomen clad in
Lincoln green.

"How now, good master," cried Little John, "what need hast thou that
thou dost wind thy horn so loudly?"

"There stands a tinker," quoth Robin, "that would fain take me to
Nottingham, there to hang upon the gallows tree."

"Then shall he himself hang forthwith," cried Little John, and he and
the others made at the Tinker, to seize him.

"Nay, touch him not," said Robin, "for a right stout man is he. A metal
man he is by trade, and a mettled man by nature; moreover, he doth sing
a lovely ballad. Say, good fellow, wilt thou join my merry men all?
Three suits of Lincoln green shalt thou have a year, besides forty marks
in fee; thou shalt share all with us and lead a right merry life in
the greenwood; for cares have we not, and misfortune cometh not upon
us within the sweet shades of Sherwood, where we shoot the dun deer and
feed upon venison and sweet oaten cakes, and curds and honey. Wilt thou
come with me?"

"Ay, marry, will I join with you all," quoth the Tinker, "for I love a
merry life, and I love thee, good master, though thou didst thwack my
ribs and cheat me into the bargain. Fain am I to own thou art both a
stouter and a slyer man than I; so I will obey thee and be thine own
true servant."

So all turned their steps to the forest depths, where the Tinker was to
live henceforth. For many a day he sang ballads to the band, until the
famous Allan a Dale joined them, before whose sweet voice all others
seemed as harsh as a raven's; but of him we will learn hereafter.




The Shooting Match at Nottingham Town

THEN THE SHERIFF was very wroth because of this failure to take jolly
Robin, for it came to his ears, as ill news always does, that the people
laughed at him and made a jest of his thinking to serve a warrant upon
such a one as the bold outlaw. And a man hates nothing so much as
being made a jest of; so he said: "Our gracious lord and sovereign King
himself shall know of this, and how his laws are perverted and despised
by this band of rebel outlaws. As for yon traitor Tinker, him will
I hang, if I catch him, upon the very highest gallows tree in all
Nottinghamshire."

Then he bade all his servants and retainers to make ready to go to
London Town, to see and speak with the King.

At this there was bustling at the Sheriff's castle, and men ran hither
and thither upon this business and upon that, while the forge fires of
Nottingham glowed red far into the night like twinkling stars, for
all the smiths of the town were busy making or mending armor for the
Sheriff's troop of escort. For two days this labor lasted, then, on
the third, all was ready for the journey. So forth they started in the
bright sunlight, from Nottingham Town to Fosse Way and thence to Watling
Street; and so they journeyed for two days, until they saw at last the
spires and towers of great London Town; and many folks stopped, as
they journeyed along, and gazed at the show they made riding along the
highways with their flashing armor and gay plumes and trappings.

In London King Henry and his fair Queen Eleanor held their court, gay
with ladies in silks and satins and velvets and cloth of gold, and also
brave knights and gallant courtiers.

Thither came the Sheriff and was shown into the King's presence.

"A boon, a boon," quoth he, as he knelt upon the ground.

"Now what wouldst thou have?" said the King. "Let us hear what may be
thy desires."

"O good my Lord and Sovereign," spake the Sheriff, "in Sherwood Forest
in our own good shire of Nottingham, liveth a bold outlaw whose name is
Robin Hood."

"In good sooth," said the King, "his doings have reached even our own
royal ears. He is a saucy, rebellious varlet, yet, I am fain to own, a
right merry soul withal."

"But hearken, O my most gracious Sovereign," said the Sheriff. "I sent
a warrant to him with thine own royal seal attached, by a right lusty
knave, but he beat the messenger and stole the warrant. And he killeth
thy deer and robbeth thine own liege subjects even upon the great
highways."

"Why, how now," quoth the King wrathfully. "What wouldst thou have
me do? Comest thou not to me with a great array of men-at-arms and
retainers, and yet art not able to take a single band of lusty knaves
without armor on breast, in thine own county! What wouldst thou have
me do? Art thou not my Sheriff? Are not my laws in force in
Nottinghamshire? Canst thou not take thine own course against those that
break the laws or do any injury to thee or thine? Go, get thee gone, and
think well; devise some plan of thine own, but trouble me no further.
But look well to it, Master Sheriff, for I will have my laws obeyed by
all men within my kingdom, and if thou art not able to enforce them thou
art no sheriff for me. So look well to thyself, I say, or ill may befall
thee as well as all the thieving knaves in Nottinghamshire. When the
flood cometh it sweepeth away grain as well as chaff."

Then the Sheriff turned away with a sore and troubled heart, and sadly
he rued his fine show of retainers, for he saw that the King was angry
because he had so many men about him and yet could not enforce the
laws. So, as they all rode slowly back to Nottingham, the Sheriff was
thoughtful and full of care. Not a word did he speak to anyone, and no
one of his men spoke to him, but all the time he was busy devising some
plan to take Robin Hood.

"Aha!" cried he suddenly, smiting his hand upon his thigh "I have it
now! Ride on, my merry men all, and let us get back to Nottingham Town
as speedily as we may. And mark well my words: before a fortnight
is passed, that evil knave Robin Hood will be safely clapped into
Nottingham gaol."

But what was the Sheriff's plan?

As a usurer takes each one of a bag of silver angels, feeling each coin
to find whether it be clipped or not, so the Sheriff, as all rode slowly
and sadly back toward Nottingham, took up thought after thought in turn,
feeling around the edges of each but finding in every one some flaw.
At last he thought of the daring soul of jolly Robin and how, as he the
Sheriff knew, he often came even within the walls of Nottingham.

"Now," thought the Sheriff, "could I but persuade Robin nigh to
Nottingham Town so that I could find him, I warrant I would lay hands
upon him so stoutly that he would never get away again." Then of a
sudden it came to him like a flash that were he to proclaim a great
shooting match and offer some grand prize, Robin Hood might be
overpersuaded by his spirit to come to the butts; and it was this
thought which caused him to cry "Aha!" and smite his palm upon his
thigh.

So, as soon as he had returned safely to Nottingham, he sent messengers
north and south, and east and west, to proclaim through town, hamlet,
and countryside, this grand shooting match, and everyone was bidden that
could draw a longbow, and the prize was to be an arrow of pure beaten
gold.

When Robin Hood first heard the news of this he was in Lincoln Town, and
hastening back to Sherwood Forest he soon called all his merry men about
him and spoke to them thus:

"Now hearken, my merry men all, to the news that I have brought from
Lincoln Town today. Our friend the Sheriff of Nottingham hath proclaimed
a shooting match, and hath sent messengers to tell of it through all the
countryside, and the prize is to be a bright golden arrow. Now I fain
would have one of us win it, both because of the fairness of the prize
and because our sweet friend the Sheriff hath offered it. So we will
take our bows and shafts and go there to shoot, for I know right well
that merriment will be a-going. What say ye, lads?"

Then young David of Doncaster spoke up and said, "Now listen, I pray
thee, good master, unto what I say. I have come straight from our friend
Eadom o' the Blue Boar, and there I heard the full news of this same
match. But, master, I know from him, and he got it from the Sheriff's
man Ralph o' the Scar, that this same knavish Sheriff hath but laid a
trap for thee in this shooting match and wishes nothing so much as to
see thee there. So go not, good master, for I know right well he doth
seek to beguile thee, but stay within the greenwood lest we all meet
dole and woe."

"Now," quoth Robin, "thou art a wise lad and keepest thine ears open and
thy mouth shut, as becometh a wise and crafty woodsman. But shall we let
it be said that the Sheriff of Nottingham did cow bold Robin Hood and
sevenscore as fair archers as are in all merry England? Nay, good David,
what thou tellest me maketh me to desire the prize even more than I else
should do. But what sayeth our good gossip Swanthold? Is it not 'A hasty
man burneth his mouth, and the fool that keepeth his eyes shut falleth
into the pit'? Thus he says, truly, therefore we must meet guile with
guile. Now some of you clothe yourselves as curtal friars, and some as
rustic peasants, and some as tinkers, or as beggars, but see that each
man taketh a good bow or broadsword, in case need should arise. As for
myself, I will shoot for this same golden arrow, and should I win it, we
will hang it to the branches of our good greenwood tree for the joy of
all the band. How like you the plan, my merry men all?"

Then "Good, good!" cried all the band right heartily.

A fair sight was Nottingham Town on the day of the shooting match. All
along upon the green meadow beneath the town wall stretched a row of
benches, one above the other, which were for knight and lady, squire and
dame, and rich burghers and their wives; for none but those of rank and
quality were to sit there. At the end of the range, near the target, was
a raised seat bedecked with ribbons and scarfs and garlands of flowers,
for the Sheriff of Nottingham and his dame. The range was twoscore
paces broad. At one end stood the target, at the other a tent of
striped canvas, from the pole of which fluttered many-colored flags and
streamers. In this booth were casks of ale, free to be broached by any
of the archers who might wish to quench their thirst.

Across the range from where the seats for the better folk were raised
was a railing to keep the poorer people from crowding in front of the
target. Already, while it was early, the benches were beginning to fill
with people of quality, who kept constantly arriving in little carts or
upon palfreys that curveted gaily to the merry tinkle of silver bells at
bridle reins. With these came also the poorer folk, who sat or lay upon
the green grass near the railing that kept them from off the range.
In the great tent the archers were gathering by twos and threes; some
talking loudly of the fair shots each man had made in his day; some
looking well to their bows, drawing a string betwixt the fingers to see
that there was no fray upon it, or inspecting arrows, shutting one eye
and peering down a shaft to see that it was not warped, but straight and
true, for neither bow nor shaft should fail at such a time and for such
a prize. And never was such a company of yeomen as were gathered at
Nottingham Town that day, for the very best archers of merry England
had come to this shooting match. There was Gill o' the Red Cap, the
Sheriff's own head archer, and Diccon Cruikshank of Lincoln Town, and
Adam o' the Dell, a man of Tamworth, of threescore years and more, yet
hale and lusty still, who in his time had shot in the famous match
at Woodstock, and had there beaten that renowned archer, Clym o' the
Clough. And many more famous men of the longbow were there, whose names
have been handed down to us in goodly ballads of the olden time.

But now all the benches were filled with guests, lord and lady, burgher
and dame, when at last the Sheriff himself came with his lady, he riding
with stately mien upon his milk-white horse and she upon her brown
filly. Upon his head he wore a purple velvet cap, and purple velvet was
his robe, all trimmed about with rich ermine; his jerkin and hose were
of sea-green silk, and his shoes of black velvet, the pointed toes
fastened to his garters with golden chains. A golden chain hung about
his neck, and at his collar was a great carbuncle set in red gold. His
lady was dressed in blue velvet, all trimmed with swan's down. So they
made a gallant sight as they rode along side by side, and all the people
shouted from where they crowded across the space from the gentlefolk;
so the Sheriff and his lady came to their place, where men-at-arms, with
hauberk and spear, stood about, waiting for them.

Then when the Sheriff and his dame had sat down, he bade his herald
wind upon his silver horn; who thereupon sounded three blasts that
came echoing cheerily back from the gray walls of Nottingham. Then the
archers stepped forth to their places, while all the folks shouted with
a mighty voice, each man calling upon his favorite yeoman. "Red Cap!"
cried some; "Cruikshank!" cried others; "Hey for William o' Leslie!"
shouted others yet again; while ladies waved silken scarfs to urge each
yeoman to do his best.

Then the herald stood forth and loudly proclaimed the rules of the game
as follows:

"Shoot each man from yon mark, which is sevenscore yards and ten from
the target. One arrow shooteth each man first, and from all the archers
shall the ten that shooteth the fairest shafts be chosen for to shoot
again. Two arrows shooteth each man of these ten, then shall the three
that shoot the fairest shafts be chosen for to shoot again. Three arrows
shooteth each man of those three, and to him that shooteth the fairest
shafts shall the prize be given."

Then the Sheriff leaned forward, looking keenly among the press of
archers to find whether Robin Hood was among them; but no one was
there clad in Lincoln green, such as was worn by Robin and his band.
"Nevertheless," said the Sheriff to himself, "he may still be there, and
I miss him among the crowd of other men. But let me see when but ten men
shoot, for I wot he will be among the ten, or I know him not."

And now the archers shot, each man in turn, and the good folk never saw
such archery as was done that day. Six arrows were within the clout,
four within the black, and only two smote the outer ring; so that when
the last arrow sped and struck the target, all the people shouted aloud,
for it was noble shooting.

And now but ten men were left of all those that had shot before, and
of these ten, six were famous throughout the land, and most of the folk
gathered there knew them. These six men were Gilbert o' the Red Cap,
Adam o' the Dell, Diccon Cruikshank, William o' Leslie, Hubert o' Cloud,
and Swithin o' Hertford. Two others were yeomen of merry Yorkshire,
another was a tall stranger in blue, who said he came from London Town,
and the last was a tattered stranger in scarlet, who wore a patch over
one eye.

"Now," quoth the Sheriff to a man-at-arms who stood near him, "seest
thou Robin Hood among those ten?"

"Nay, that do I not, Your Worship," answered the man. "Six of them I
know right well. Of those Yorkshire yeomen, one is too tall and the
other too short for that bold knave. Robin's beard is as yellow as gold,
while yon tattered beggar in scarlet hath a beard of brown, besides
being blind of one eye. As for the stranger in blue, Robin's shoulders,
I ween, are three inches broader than his."

"Then," quoth the Sheriff, smiting his thigh angrily, "yon knave is a
coward as well as a rogue, and dares not show his face among good men
and true."

Then, after they had rested a short time, those ten stout men stepped
forth to shoot again. Each man shot two arrows, and as they shot, not
a word was spoken, but all the crowd watched with scarce a breath of
sound; but when the last had shot his arrow another great shout arose,
while many cast their caps aloft for joy of such marvelous shooting.

"Now by our gracious Lady fair," quoth old Sir Amyas o' the Dell, who,
bowed with fourscore years and more, sat near the Sheriff, "ne'er saw
I such archery in all my life before, yet have I seen the best hands at
the longbow for threescore years and more."

And now but three men were left of all those that had shot before. One
was Gill o' the Red Cap, one the tattered stranger in scarlet, and one
Adam o' the Dell of Tamworth Town. Then all the people called aloud,
some crying, "Ho for Gilbert o' the Red Cap!" and some, "Hey for stout
Adam o' Tamworth!" But not a single man in the crowd called upon the
stranger in scarlet.

"Now, shoot thou well, Gilbert," cried the Sheriff, "and if thine be the
best shaft, fivescore broad silver pennies will I give to thee beside
the prize."

"Truly I will do my best," quoth Gilbert right sturdily. "A man cannot
do aught but his best, but that will I strive to do this day." So
saying, he drew forth a fair smooth arrow with a broad feather and
fitted it deftly to the string, then drawing his bow with care he
sped the shaft. Straight flew the arrow and lit fairly in the clout, a
finger's-breadth from the center. "A Gilbert, a Gilbert!" shouted all
the crowd; and, "Now, by my faith," cried the Sheriff, smiting his hands
together, "that is a shrewd shot."

Then the tattered stranger stepped forth, and all the people laughed as
they saw a yellow patch that showed beneath his arm when he raised his
elbow to shoot, and also to see him aim with but one eye. He drew the
good yew bow quickly, and quickly loosed a shaft; so short was the time
that no man could draw a breath betwixt the drawing and the shooting;
yet his arrow lodged nearer the center than the other by twice the
length of a barleycorn.

"Now by all the saints in Paradise!" cried the Sheriff, "that is a
lovely shaft in very truth!"

Then Adam o' the Dell shot, carefully and cautiously, and his arrow
lodged close beside the stranger's. Then after a short space they all
three shot again, and once more each arrow lodged within the clout, but
this time Adam o' the Dell's was farthest from the center, and again the
tattered stranger's shot was the best. Then, after another time of rest,
they all shot for the third time. This time Gilbert took great heed to
his aim, keenly measuring the distance and shooting with shrewdest care.
Straight flew the arrow, and all shouted till the very flags that
waved in the breeze shook with the sound, and the rooks and daws flew
clamoring about the roofs of the old gray tower, for the shaft had
lodged close beside the spot that marked the very center.

"Well done, Gilbert!" cried the Sheriff right joyously. "Fain am I
to believe the prize is thine, and right fairly won. Now, thou ragged
knave, let me see thee shoot a better shaft than that."

Nought spake the stranger but took his place, while all was hushed, and
no one spoke or even seemed to breathe, so great was the silence
for wonder what he would do. Meanwhile, also, quite still stood the
stranger, holding his bow in his hand, while one could count five; then
he drew his trusty yew, holding it drawn but a moment, then loosed the
string. Straight flew the arrow, and so true that it smote a gray goose
feather from off Gilbert's shaft, which fell fluttering through the
sunlit air as the stranger's arrow lodged close beside his of the Red
Cap, and in the very center. No one spoke a word for a while and no one
shouted, but each man looked into his neighbor's face amazedly.

"Nay," quoth old Adam o' the Dell presently, drawing a long breath
and shaking his head as he spoke, "twoscore years and more have I shot
shaft, and maybe not all times bad, but I shoot no more this day, for
no man can match with yon stranger, whosoe'er he may be." Then he
thrust his shaft into his quiver, rattling, and unstrung his bow without
another word.

Then the Sheriff came down from his dais and drew near, in all his silks
and velvets, to where the tattered stranger stood leaning upon his
stout bow, while the good folk crowded around to see the man who shot so
wondrously well. "Here, good fellow," quoth the Sheriff, "take thou
the prize, and well and fairly hast thou won it, I bow. What may be thy
name, and whence comest thou?"

"Men do call me Jock o' Teviotdale, and thence am I come," said the
stranger.

"Then, by Our Lady, Jock, thou art the fairest archer that e'er mine
eyes beheld, and if thou wilt join my service I will clothe thee with a
better coat than that thou hast upon thy back; thou shalt eat and drink
of the best, and at every Christmastide fourscore marks shall be thy
wage. I trow thou drawest better bow than that same coward knave Robin
Hood, that dared not show his face here this day. Say, good fellow, wilt
thou join my service?"

"Nay, that will I not," quoth the stranger roughly. "I will be mine own,
and no man in all merry England shall be my master."

"Then get thee gone, and a murrain seize thee!" cried the Sheriff, and
his voice trembled with anger. "And by my faith and troth, I have a good
part of a mind to have thee beaten for thine insolence!" Then he turned
upon his heel and strode away.

It was a right motley company that gathered about the noble greenwood
tree in Sherwood's depths that same day. A score and more of barefoot
friars were there, and some that looked like tinkers, and some that
seemed to be sturdy beggars and rustic hinds; and seated upon a mossy
couch was one all clad in tattered scarlet, with a patch over one eye;
and in his hand he held the golden arrow that was the prize of the great
shooting match. Then, amidst a noise of talking and laughter, he took
the patch from off his eye and stripped away the scarlet rags from off
his body and showed himself all clothed in fair Lincoln green; and
quoth he, "Easy come these things away, but walnut stain cometh not so
speedily from yellow hair." Then all laughed louder than before, for it
was Robin Hood himself that had won the prize from the Sheriff's very
hands.

Then all sat down to the woodland feast and talked among themselves
of the merry jest that had been played upon the Sheriff, and of the
adventures that had befallen each member of the band in his disguise.
But when the feast was done, Robin Hood took Little John apart and said,
"Truly am I vexed in my blood, for I heard the Sheriff say today, 'Thou
shootest better than that coward knave Robin Hood, that dared not show
his face here this day.' I would fain let him know who it was who won
the golden arrow from out his hand, and also that I am no coward such as
he takes me to be."

Then Little John said, "Good master, take thou me and Will Stutely, and
we will send yon fat Sheriff news of all this by a messenger such as he
doth not expect."

That day the Sheriff sat at meat in the great hall of his house
at Nottingham Town. Long tables stood down the hall, at which sat
men-at-arms and household servants and good stout villains,(1) in all
fourscore and more. There they talked of the day's shooting as they ate
their meat and quaffed their ale. The Sheriff sat at the head of the
table upon a raised seat under a canopy, and beside him sat his dame.

     (1) Bond-servants.

"By my troth," said he, "I did reckon full roundly that that knave Robin
Hood would be at the game today. I did not think that he was such a
coward. But who could that saucy knave be who answered me to my beard
so bravely? I wonder that I did not have him beaten; but there was
something about him that spoke of other things than rags and tatters."

Then, even as he finished speaking, something fell rattling among the
dishes on the table, while those that sat near started up wondering
what it might be. After a while one of the men-at-arms gathered courage
enough to pick it up and bring it to the Sheriff. Then everyone saw
that it was a blunted gray goose shaft, with a fine scroll, about the
thickness of a goose quill, tied near to its head. The Sheriff opened
the scroll and glanced at it, while the veins upon his forehead swelled
and his cheeks grew ruddy with rage as he read, for this was what he
saw:

     "_Now Heaven bless Thy Grace this day
     Say all in sweet Sherwood
     For thou didst give the prize away
     To merry Robin Hood_."

"Whence came this?" cried the Sheriff in a mighty voice.

"Even through the window, Your Worship," quoth the man who had handed
the shaft to him.




Will Stutely Rescued by His Companions

NOW WHEN THE SHERIFF found that neither law nor guile could overcome
Robin Hood, he was much perplexed, and said to himself, "Fool that I am!
Had I not told our King of Robin Hood, I would not have gotten myself
into such a coil; but now I must either take him captive or have wrath
visited upon my head from his most gracious Majesty. I have tried law,
and I have tried guile, and I have failed in both; so I will try what
may be done with might."

Thus communing within himself, he called his constables together and
told them what was in his mind. "Now take ye each four men, all armed
in proof," said he, "and get ye gone to the forest, at different points,
and lie in wait for this same Robin Hood. But if any constable finds
too many men against him, let him sound a horn, and then let each band
within hearing come with all speed and join the party that calls them.
Thus, I think, shall we take this green-clad knave. Furthermore, to him
that first meeteth with Robin Hood shall one hundred pounds of silver
money be given, if he be brought to me dead or alive; and to him that
meeteth with any of his band shall twoscore pounds be given, if such be
brought to me dead or alive. So, be ye bold and be ye crafty."

So thus they went in threescore companies of five to Sherwood Forest, to
take Robin Hood, each constable wishing that he might be the one to find
the bold outlaw, or at least one of his band. For seven days and nights
they hunted through the forest glades, but never saw so much as a single
man in Lincoln green; for tidings of all this had been brought to Robin
Hood by trusty Eadom o' the Blue Boar.

When he first heard the news, Robin said, "If the Sheriff dare send
force to meet force, woe will it be for him and many a better man
besides, for blood will flow and there will be great trouble for all.
But fain would I shun blood and battle, and fain would I not deal sorrow
to womenfolk and wives because good stout yeomen lose their lives. Once
I slew a man, and never do I wish to slay a man again, for it is bitter
for the soul to think thereon. So now we will abide silently in Sherwood
Forest, so that it may be well for all, but should we be forced to
defend ourselves, or any of our band, then let each man draw bow and
brand with might and main."

At this speech many of the band shook their heads, and said to
themselves, "Now the Sheriff will think that we are cowards, and folk
will scoff throughout the countryside, saying that we fear to meet these
men." But they said nothing aloud, swallowing their words and doing as
Robin bade them.

Thus they hid in the depths of Sherwood Forest for seven days and seven
nights and never showed their faces abroad in all that time; but early
in the morning of the eighth day Robin Hood called the band together and
said, "Now who will go and find what the Sheriff's men are at by this
time? For I know right well they will not bide forever within Sherwood
shades."

At this a great shout arose, and each man waved his bow aloft and cried
that he might be the one to go. Then Robin Hood's heart was proud when
he looked around on his stout, brave fellows, and he said, "Brave and
true are ye all, my merry men, and a right stout band of good fellows
are ye, but ye cannot all go, so I will choose one from among you, and
it shall be good Will Stutely, for he is as sly as e'er an old dog fox
in Sherwood Forest."

Then Will Stutely leaped high aloft and laughed loudly, clapping his
hands for pure joy that he should have been chosen from among them all.
"Now thanks, good master," quoth he, "and if I bring not news of those
knaves to thee, call me no more thy sly Will Stutely."

Then he clad himself in a friar's gown, and underneath the robe he hung
a good broadsword in such a place that he could easily lay hands upon
it. Thus clad, he set forth upon his quest, until he came to the verge
of the forest, and so to the highway. He saw two bands of the Sheriff's
men, yet he turned neither to the right nor the left, but only drew his
cowl the closer over his face, folding his hands as if in meditation.
So at last he came to the Sign of the Blue Boar. "For," quoth he to
himself, "our good friend Eadom will tell me all the news."

At the Sign of the Blue Boar he found a band of the Sheriffs men
drinking right lustily; so, without speaking to anyone, he sat down upon
a distant bench, his staff in his hand, and his head bowed forward as
though he were meditating. Thus he sat waiting until he might see the
landlord apart, and Eadom did not know him, but thought him to be some
poor tired friar, so he let him sit without saying a word to him or
molesting him, though he liked not the cloth. "For," said he to himself,
"it is a hard heart that kicks the lame dog from off the sill." As
Stutely sat thus, there came a great house cat and rubbed against his
knee, raising his robe a palm's-breadth high. Stutely pushed his robe
quickly down again, but the constable who commanded the Sheriffs men
saw what had passed, and saw also fair Lincoln green beneath the friar's
robe. He said nothing at the time, but communed within himself in this
wise: "Yon is no friar of orders gray, and also, I wot, no honest yeoman
goeth about in priest's garb, nor doth a thief go so for nought. Now I
think in good sooth that is one of Robin Hood's own men." So, presently,
he said aloud, "O holy father, wilt thou not take a good pot of March
beer to slake thy thirsty soul withal?"

But Stutely shook his head silently, for he said to himself, "Maybe
there be those here who know my voice."

Then the constable said again, "Whither goest thou, holy friar, upon
this hot summer's day?"

"I go a pilgrim to Canterbury Town," answered Will Stutely, speaking
gruffly, so that none might know his voice.

Then the constable said, for the third time, "Now tell me, holy father,
do pilgrims to Canterbury wear good Lincoln green beneath their robes?
Ha! By my faith, I take thee to be some lusty thief, and perhaps one of
Robin Hood's own band! Now, by Our Lady's grace, if thou movest hand or
foot, I will run thee through the body with my sword!"

Then he flashed forth his bright sword and leaped upon Will Stutely,
thinking he would take him unaware; but Stutely had his own sword
tightly held in his hand, beneath his robe, so he drew it forth before
the constable came upon him. Then the stout constable struck a mighty
blow; but he struck no more in all that fight, for Stutely, parrying the
blow right deftly, smote the constable back again with all his might.
Then he would have escaped, but could not, for the other, all dizzy with
the wound and with the flowing blood, seized him by the knees with his
arms even as he reeled and fell. Then the others rushed upon him, and
Stutely struck again at another of the Sheriff's men, but the steel
cap glanced the blow, and though the blade bit deep, it did not kill.
Meanwhile, the constable, fainting as he was, drew Stutely downward, and
the others, seeing the yeoman hampered so, rushed upon him again, and
one smote him a blow upon the crown so that the blood ran down his face
and blinded him. Then, staggering, he fell, and all sprang upon him,
though he struggled so manfully that they could hardly hold him fast.
Then they bound him with stout hempen cords so that he could not move
either hand or foot, and thus they overcame him.

Robin Hood stood under the greenwood tree, thinking of Will Stutely and
how he might be faring, when suddenly he saw two of his stout yeomen
come running down the forest path, and betwixt them ran buxom Maken
of the Blue Boar. Then Robin's heart fell, for he knew they were the
bearers of ill tidings.

"Will Stutely hath been taken," cried they, when they had come to where
he stood.

"And is it thou that hast brought such doleful news?" said Robin to the
lass.

"Ay, marry, for I saw it all," cried she, panting as the hare pants when
it has escaped the hounds, "and I fear he is wounded sore, for one smote
him main shrewdly i' the crown. They have bound him and taken him to
Nottingham Town, and ere I left the Blue Boar I heard that he should be
hanged tomorrow day."

"He shall not be hanged tomorrow day," cried Robin; "or, if he be,
full many a one shall gnaw the sod, and many shall have cause to cry
Alack-a-day!"

Then he clapped his horn to his lips and blew three blasts right loudly,
and presently his good yeomen came running through the greenwood until
sevenscore bold blades were gathered around him.

"Now hark you all!" cried Robin. "Our dear companion Will Stutely hath
been taken by that vile Sheriff's men, therefore doth it behoove us to
take bow and brand in hand to bring him off again; for I wot that we
ought to risk life and limb for him, as he hath risked life and limb for
us. Is it not so, my merry men all?" Then all cried, "Ay!" with a great
voice.

So the next day they all wended their way from Sherwood Forest, but by
different paths, for it behooved them to be very crafty; so the band
separated into parties of twos and threes, which were all to meet again
in a tangled dell that lay near to Nottingham Town. Then, when they had
all gathered together at the place of meeting, Robin spoke to them thus:

"Now we will lie here in ambush until we can get news, for it doth
behoove us to be cunning and wary if we would bring our friend Will
Stutely off from the Sheriff's clutches."

So they lay hidden a long time, until the sun stood high in the sky. The
day was warm and the dusty road was bare of travelers, except an aged
palmer who walked slowly along the highroad that led close beside
the gray castle wall of Nottingham Town. When Robin saw that no other
wayfarer was within sight, he called young David of Doncaster, who was
a shrewd man for his years, and said to him, "Now get thee forth, young
David, and speak to yonder palmer that walks beside the town wall, for
he hath come but now from Nottingham Town, and may tell thee news of
good Stutely, perchance."

So David strode forth, and when he came up to the pilgrim, he saluted
him and said, "Good morrow, holy father, and canst thou tell me when
Will Stutely will be hanged upon the gallows tree? I fain would not miss
the sight, for I have come from afar to see so sturdy a rogue hanged."

"Now, out upon thee, young man," cried the Palmer, "that thou shouldst
speak so when a good stout man is to be hanged for nothing but guarding
his own life!" And he struck his staff upon the ground in anger. "Alas,
say I, that this thing should be! For even this day, toward evening,
when the sun falleth low, he shall be hanged, fourscore rods from the
great town gate of Nottingham, where three roads meet; for there
the Sheriff sweareth he shall die as a warning to all outlaws in
Nottinghamshire. But yet, I say again, Alas! For, though Robin Hood and
his band may be outlaws, yet he taketh only from the rich and the strong
and the dishonest man, while there is not a poor widow nor a peasant
with many children, nigh to Sherwood, but has barley flour enough all
the year long through him. It grieves my heart to see one as gallant as
this Stutely die, for I have been a good Saxon yeoman in my day, ere
I turned palmer, and well I know a stout hand and one that smiteth
shrewdly at a cruel Norman or a proud abbot with fat moneybags. Had good
Stutely's master but known how his man was compassed about with perils,
perchance he might send succor to bring him out of the hand of his
enemies.

"Ay, marry, that is true," cried the young man. "If Robin and his men
be nigh this place, I wot right well they will strive to bring him forth
from his peril. But fare thee well, thou good old man, and believe me,
if Will Stutely die, he shall be right well avenged."

Then he turned and strode rapidly away; but the Palmer looked after him,
muttering, "I wot that youth is no country hind that hath come to see
a good man die. Well, well, perchance Robin Hood is not so far away
but that there will be stout doings this day." So he went upon his way,
muttering to himself.

When David of Doncaster told Robin Hood what the Palmer had said to him,
Robin called the band around him and spoke to them thus:

"Now let us get straightway into Nottingham Town and mix ourselves with
the people there; but keep ye one another in sight, pressing as near
the prisoner and his guards as ye can, when they come outside the walls.
Strike no man without need, for I would fain avoid bloodshed, but if ye
do strike, strike hard, and see that there be no need to strike again.
Then keep all together until we come again to Sherwood, and let no man
leave his fellows."

The sun was low in the western sky when a bugle note sounded from the
castle wall. Then all was bustle in Nottingham Town and crowds filled
the streets, for all knew that the famous Will Stutely was to be hanged
that day. Presently the castle gates opened wide and a great array of
men-at-arms came forth with noise and clatter, the Sheriff, all clad in
shining mail of linked chain, riding at their head. In the midst of all
the guard, in a cart, with a halter about his neck, rode Will Stutely.
His face was pale with his wound and with loss of blood, like the moon
in broad daylight, and his fair hair was clotted in points upon his
forehead, where the blood had hardened. When he came forth from the
castle he looked up and he looked down, but though he saw some faces
that showed pity and some that showed friendliness, he saw none that
he knew. Then his heart sank within him like a plummet of lead, but
nevertheless he spoke up boldly.

"Give a sword into my hand, Sir Sheriff," said he, "and wounded man
though I be, I will fight thee and all thy men till life and strength be
gone."

"Nay, thou naughty varlet," quoth the Sheriff, turning his head and
looking right grimly upon Will Stutely, "thou shalt have no sword but
shall die a mean death, as beseemeth a vile thief like thee."

"Then do but untie my hands and I will fight thee and thy men with no
weapon but only my naked fists. I crave no weapon, but let me not be
meanly hanged this day."

Then the Sheriff laughed aloud. "Why, how now," quoth he, "is thy proud
stomach quailing? Shrive thyself, thou vile knave, for I mean that thou
shalt hang this day, and that where three roads meet, so that all men
shall see thee hang, for carrion crows and daws to peck at."

"O thou dastard heart!" cried Will Stutely, gnashing his teeth at the
Sheriff. "Thou coward hind! If ever my good master meet thee thou shalt
pay dearly for this day's work! He doth scorn thee, and so do all brave
hearts. Knowest thou not that thou and thy name are jests upon the lips
of every brave yeoman? Such a one as thou art, thou wretched craven,
will never be able to subdue bold Robin Hood."

"Ha!" cried the Sheriff in a rage, "is it even so? Am I a jest with thy
master, as thou callest him? Now I will make a jest of thee and a sorry
jest withal, for I will quarter thee limb from limb, after thou art
hanged." Then he spurred his horse forward and said no more to Stutely.

At last they came to the great town gate, through which Stutely saw the
fair country beyond, with hills and dales all clothed in verdure, and
far away the dusky line of Sherwood's skirts. Then when he saw the
slanting sunlight lying on field and fallow, shining redly here and
there on cot and farmhouse, and when he heard the sweet birds singing
their vespers, and the sheep bleating upon the hillside, and beheld the
swallows flying in the bright air, there came a great fullness to his
heart so that all things blurred to his sight through salt tears, and he
bowed his head lest the folk should think him unmanly when they saw
the tears in his eyes. Thus he kept his head bowed till they had passed
through the gate and were outside the walls of the town. But when he
looked up again he felt his heart leap within him and then stand still
for pure joy, for he saw the face of one of his own dear companions of
merry Sherwood; then glancing quickly around he saw well-known faces
upon all sides of him, crowding closely upon the men-at-arms who were
guarding him. Then of a sudden the blood sprang to his cheeks, for he
saw for a moment his own good master in the press and, seeing him, knew
that Robin Hood and all his band were there. Yet betwixt him and them
was a line of men-at-arms.

"Now, stand back!" cried the Sheriff in a mighty voice, for the crowd
pressed around on all sides. "What mean ye, varlets, that ye push upon
us so? Stand back, I say!"

Then came a bustle and a noise, and one strove to push between the
men-at-arms so as to reach the cart, and Stutely saw that it was Little
John that made all that stir.

"Now stand thou back!" cried one of the men-at-arms whom Little John
pushed with his elbows.

"Now stand thou back thine own self," quoth Little John, and straightway
smote the man a buffet beside his head that felled him as a butcher
fells an ox, and then he leaped to the cart where Stutely sat.

"I pray thee take leave of thy friends ere thou diest, Will," quoth he,
"or maybe I will die with thee if thou must die, for I could never have
better company." Then with one stroke he cut the bonds that bound the
other's arms and legs, and Stutely leaped straightway from the cart.

"Now as I live," cried the Sheriff, "yon varlet I know right well is a
sturdy rebel! Take him, I bid you all, and let him not go!"

So saying, he spurred his horse upon Little John, and rising in his
stirrups smote with might and main, but Little John ducked quickly
underneath the horse's belly and the blow whistled harmlessly over his
head.

"Nay, good Sir Sheriff," cried he, leaping up again when the blow had
passed, "I must e'en borrow thy most worshipful sword." Thereupon he
twitched the weapon deftly from out the Sheriff's hand, "Here, Stutely,"
he cried, "the Sheriff hath lent thee his sword! Back to back with me,
man, and defend thyself, for help is nigh!"

"Down with them!" bellowed the Sheriff in a voice like an angry bull;
and he spurred his horse upon the two who now stood back to back,
forgetting in his rage that he had no weapon with which to defend
himself.

"Stand back, Sheriff!" cried Little John; and even as he spoke, a bugle
horn sounded shrilly and a clothyard shaft whistled within an inch of
the Sheriff's head. Then came a swaying hither and thither, and oaths,
cries, and groans, and clashing of steel, and swords flashed in the
setting sun, and a score of arrows whistled through the air. And some
cried, "Help, help!" and some, "A rescue, a rescue!"

"Treason!" cried the Sheriff in a loud voice. "Bear back! Bear back!
Else we be all dead men!" Thereupon he reined his horse backward through
the thickest of the crowd.

Now Robin Hood and his band might have slain half of the Sheriff's men
had they desired to do so, but they let them push out of the press and
get them gone, only sending a bunch of arrows after them to hurry them
in their flight.

"Oh stay!" shouted Will Stutely after the Sheriff. "Thou wilt never
catch bold Robin Hood if thou dost not stand to meet him face to face."
But the Sheriff, bowing along his horse's back, made no answer but only
spurred the faster.

Then Will Stutely turned to Little John and looked him in the face till
the tears ran down from his eyes and he wept aloud; and kissing his
friend's cheeks, "O Little John!" quoth he, "mine own true friend, and
he that I love better than man or woman in all the world beside!
Little did I reckon to see thy face this day, or to meet thee this side
Paradise." Little John could make no answer, but wept also.

Then Robin Hood gathered his band together in a close rank, with Will
Stutely in the midst, and thus they moved slowly away toward Sherwood,
and were gone, as a storm cloud moves away from the spot where a tempest
has swept the land. But they left ten of the Sheriff's men lying along
the ground wounded--some more, some less--yet no one knew who smote them
down.

Thus the Sheriff of Nottingham tried thrice to take Robin Hood and
failed each time; and the last time he was frightened, for he felt how
near he had come to losing his life; so he said, "These men fear neither
God nor man, nor king nor king's officers. I would sooner lose mine
office than my life, so I will trouble them no more." So he kept close
within his castle for many a day and dared not show his face outside of
his own household, and all the time he was gloomy and would speak to no
one, for he was ashamed of what had happened that day.




Robin Hood Turns Butcher

NOW AFTER all these things had happened, and it became known to Robin
Hood how the Sheriff had tried three times to make him captive, he said
to himself, "If I have the chance, I will make our worshipful Sheriff
pay right well for that which he hath done to me. Maybe I may bring him
some time into Sherwood Forest and have him to a right merry feast with
us." For when Robin Hood caught a baron or a squire, or a fat abbot or
bishop, he brought them to the greenwood tree and feasted them before he
lightened their purses.

But in the meantime Robin Hood and his band lived quietly in Sherwood
Forest, without showing their faces abroad, for Robin knew that it would
not be wise for him to be seen in the neighborhood of Nottingham, those
in authority being very wroth with him. But though they did not go
abroad, they lived a merry life within the woodlands, spending the days
in shooting at garlands hung upon a willow wand at the end of the glade,
the leafy aisles ringing with merry jests and laughter: for whoever
missed the garland was given a sound buffet, which, if delivered by
Little John, never failed to topple over the unfortunate yeoman. Then
they had bouts of wrestling and of cudgel play, so that every day they
gained in skill and strength.

Thus they dwelled for nearly a year, and in that time Robin Hood often
turned over in his mind many means of making an even score with the
Sheriff. At last he began to fret at his confinement; so one day he took
up his stout cudgel and set forth to seek adventure, strolling blithely
along until he came to the edge of Sherwood. There, as he rambled along
the sunlit road, he met a lusty young butcher driving a fine mare and
riding in a stout new cart, all hung about with meat. Merrily whistled
the Butcher as he jogged along, for he was going to the market, and the
day was fresh and sweet, making his heart blithe within him.

"Good morrow to thee, jolly fellow," quoth Robin, "thou seemest happy
this merry morn."

"Ay, that am I," quoth the jolly Butcher, "and why should I not be so?
Am I not hale in wind and limb? Have I not the bonniest lass in all
Nottinghamshire? And lastly, am I not to be married to her on Thursday
next in sweet Locksley Town?"

"Ha," said Robin, "comest thou from Locksley Town? Well do I know that
fair place for miles about, and well do I know each hedgerow and gentle
pebbly stream, and even all the bright little fishes therein, for
there I was born and bred. Now, where goest thou with thy meat, my fair
friend?"

"I go to the market at Nottingham Town to sell my beef and my mutton,"
answered the Butcher. "But who art thou that comest from Locksley Town?"

"A yeoman am I, and men do call me Robin Hood."

"Now, by Our Lady's grace," cried the Butcher, "well do I know thy name,
and many a time have I heard thy deeds both sung and spoken of. But
Heaven forbid that thou shouldst take aught of me! An honest man am I,
and have wronged neither man nor maid; so trouble me not, good master,
as I have never troubled thee."

"Nay, Heaven forbid, indeed," quoth Robin, "that I should take from such
as thee, jolly fellow! Not so much as one farthing would I take
from thee, for I love a fair Saxon face like thine right well--more
especially when it cometh from Locksley Town, and most especially when
the man that owneth it is to marry a bonny lass on Thursday next. But
come, tell me for what price thou wilt sell me all of thy meat and thy
horse and cart."

"At four marks do I value meat, cart, and mare," quoth the Butcher, "but
if I do not sell all my meat I will not have four marks in value."

Then Robin Hood plucked the purse from his girdle, and quoth he, "Here
in this purse are six marks. Now, I would fain be a butcher for the day
and sell my meat in Nottingham Town. Wilt thou close a bargain with me
and take six marks for thine outfit?"

"Now may the blessings of all the saints fall on thine honest head!"
cried the Butcher right joyfully, as he leaped down from his cart and
took the purse that Robin held out to him.

"Nay," quoth Robin, laughing loudly, "many do like me and wish me well,
but few call me honest. Now get thee gone back to thy lass, and give her
a sweet kiss from me." So saying, he donned the Butcher's apron, and,
climbing into the cart, he took the reins in his hand and drove off
through the forest to Nottingham Town.

When he came to Nottingham, he entered that part of the market where
butchers stood, and took up his inn(2) in the best place he could find.
Next, he opened his stall and spread his meat upon the bench, then,
taking his cleaver and steel and clattering them together, he trolled
aloud in merry tones:

     (2) Stand for selling.

     "Now come, ye lasses, and eke ye dames,
     And buy your meat from me;
     For three pennyworths of meat I sell
     For the charge of one penny.

     "Lamb have I that hath fed upon nought
     But the dainty dames pied,
     And the violet sweet, and the daffodil
     That grow fair streams beside.

     "And beef have I from the heathery words,
     And mutton from dales all green,
     And veal as white as a maiden's brow,
     With its mother's milk, I ween.

     "Then come, ye lasses, and eke ye dames,
     Come, buy your meat from me,
     For three pennyworths of meat I sell
     For the charge of one penny."

Thus he sang blithely, while all who stood near listened amazedly. Then,
when he had finished, he clattered the steel and cleaver still more
loudly, shouting lustily, "Now, who'll buy? Who'll buy? Four fixed
prices have I. Three pennyworths of meat I sell to a fat friar or priest
for sixpence, for I want not their custom; stout aldermen I charge
threepence, for it doth not matter to me whether they buy or not; to
buxom dames I sell three pennyworths of meat for one penny for I like
their custom well; but to the bonny lass that hath a liking for a good
tight butcher I charge nought but one fair kiss, for I like her custom
the best of all."

Then all began to stare and wonder and crowd around, laughing, for never
was such selling heard of in all Nottingham Town; but when they came to
buy they found it as he had said, for he gave goodwife or dame as much
meat for one penny as they could buy elsewhere for three, and when a
widow or a poor woman came to him, he gave her flesh for nothing; but
when a merry lass came and gave him a kiss, he charged not one penny for
his meat; and many such came to his stall, for his eyes were as blue as
the skies of June, and he laughed merrily, giving to each full measure.
Thus he sold his meat so fast that no butcher that stood near him could
sell anything.

Then they began to talk among themselves, and some said, "This must be
some thief who has stolen cart, horse, and meat;" but others said, "Nay,
when did ye ever see a thief who parted with his goods so freely and
merrily? This must be some prodigal who hath sold his father's land, and
would fain live merrily while the money lasts." And these latter being
the greater number, the others came round, one by one to their way of
thinking.

Then some of the butchers came to him to make his acquaintance. "Come,
brother," quoth one who was the head of them all, "we be all of one
trade, so wilt thou go dine with us? For this day the Sheriff hath asked
all the Butcher Guild to feast with him at the Guild Hall. There will
be stout fare and much to drink, and that thou likest, or I much mistake
thee."

"Now, beshrew his heart," quoth jolly Robin, "that would deny a butcher.
And, moreover, I will go dine with you all, my sweet lads, and that as
fast as I can hie." Whereupon, having sold all his meat, he closed his
stall and went with them to the great Guild Hall.

There the Sheriff had already come in state, and with him many butchers.
When Robin and those that were with him came in, all laughing at some
merry jest he had been telling them, those that were near the Sheriff
whispered to him, "Yon is a right mad blade, for he hath sold more meat
for one penny this day than we could sell for three, and to whatsoever
merry lass gave him a kiss he gave meat for nought." And others said,
"He is some prodigal that hath sold his land for silver and gold, and
meaneth to spend all right merrily."

Then the Sheriff called Robin to him, not knowing him in his butcher's
dress, and made him sit close to him on his right hand; for he loved a
rich young prodigal--especially when he thought that he might lighten
that prodigal's pockets into his own most worshipful purse. So he made
much of Robin, and laughed and talked with him more than with any of the
others.

At last the dinner was ready to be served and the Sheriff bade Robin say
grace, so Robin stood up and said, "Now Heaven bless us all and eke good
meat and good sack within this house, and may all butchers be and remain
as honest men as I am."

At this all laughed, the Sheriff loudest of all, for he said to himself,
"Surely this is indeed some prodigal, and perchance I may empty his
purse of some of the money that the fool throweth about so freely." Then
he spake aloud to Robin, saying, "Thou art a jolly young blade, and I
love thee mightily;" and he smote Robin upon the shoulder.

Then Robin laughed loudly too. "Yea," quoth he, "I know thou dost love
a jolly blade, for didst thou not have jolly Robin Hood at thy shooting
match and didst thou not gladly give him a bright golden arrow for his
own?"

At this the Sheriff looked grave and all the guild of butchers too, so
that none laughed but Robin, only some winked slyly at each other.

"Come, fill us some sack!" cried Robin. "Let us e'er be merry while we
may, for man is but dust, and he hath but a span to live here till the
worm getteth him, as our good gossip Swanthold sayeth; so let life be
merry while it lasts, say I. Nay, never look down i' the mouth, Sir
Sheriff. Who knowest but that thou mayest catch Robin Hood yet, if thou
drinkest less good sack and Malmsey, and bringest down the fat about thy
paunch and the dust from out thy brain. Be merry, man."

Then the Sheriff laughed again, but not as though he liked the jest,
while the butchers said, one to another, "Before Heaven, never have
we seen such a mad rollicking blade. Mayhap, though, he will make the
Sheriff mad."

"How now, brothers," cried Robin, "be merry! nay, never count over your
farthings, for by this and by that I will pay this shot myself, e'en
though it cost two hundred pounds. So let no man draw up his lip, nor
thrust his forefinger into his purse, for I swear that neither butcher
nor Sheriff shall pay one penny for this feast."

"Now thou art a right merry soul," quoth the Sheriff, "and I wot thou
must have many a head of horned beasts and many an acre of land, that
thou dost spend thy money so freely."

"Ay, that have I," quoth Robin, laughing loudly again, "five hundred and
more horned beasts have I and my brothers, and none of them have we been
able to sell, else I might not have turned butcher. As for my land, I
have never asked my steward how many acres I have."

At this the Sheriff's eyes twinkled, and he chuckled to himself. "Nay,
good youth," quoth he, "if thou canst not sell thy cattle, it may be I
will find a man that will lift them from thy hands; perhaps that man may
be myself, for I love a merry youth and would help such a one along the
path of life. Now how much dost thou want for thy horned cattle?"

"Well," quoth Robin, "they are worth at least five hundred pounds."

"Nay," answered the Sheriff slowly, and as if he were thinking within
himself, "well do I love thee, and fain would I help thee along, but
five hundred pounds in money is a good round sum; besides I have it not
by me. Yet I will give thee three hundred pounds for them all, and that
in good hard silver and gold."

"Now thou old miser!" quoth Robin, "well thou knowest that so many
horned cattle are worth seven hundred pounds and more, and even that is
but small for them, and yet thou, with thy gray hairs and one foot in
the grave, wouldst trade upon the folly of a wild youth."

At this the Sheriff looked grimly at Robin. "Nay," quoth Robin, "look
not on me as though thou hadst sour beer in thy mouth, man. I will take
thine offer, for I and my brothers do need the money. We lead a merry
life, and no one leads a merry life for a farthing, so I will close
the bargain with thee. But mind that thou bringest a good three hundred
pounds with thee, for I trust not one that driveth so shrewd a bargain."

"I will bring the money," said the Sheriff. "But what is thy name, good
youth?"

"Men call me Robert o' Locksley," quoth bold Robin.

"Then, good Robert o' Locksley," quoth the Sheriff, "I will come this
day to see thy horned beasts. But first my clerk shall draw up a paper
in which thou shalt be bound to the sale, for thou gettest not my money
without I get thy beasts in return."

Then Robin Hood laughed again. "So be it," he said, smiting his palm
upon the Sheriff's hand. "Truly my brothers will be thankful to thee for
thy money."

Thus the bargain was closed, but many of the butchers talked among
themselves of the Sheriff, saying that it was but a scurvy trick to
beguile a poor spendthrift youth in this way.

The afternoon had come when the Sheriff mounted his horse and joined
Robin Hood, who stood outside the gateway of the paved court waiting for
him, for he had sold his horse and cart to a trader for two marks. Then
they set forth upon their way, the Sheriff riding upon his horse and
Robin running beside him. Thus they left Nottingham Town and traveled
forward along the dusty highway, laughing and jesting together as though
they had been old friends. But all the time the Sheriff said within
himself, "Thy jest to me of Robin Hood shall cost thee dear, good
fellow, even four hundred pounds, thou fool." For he thought he would
make at least that much by his bargain.

So they journeyed onward till they came within the verge of Sherwood
Forest, when presently the Sheriff looked up and down and to the right
and to the left of him, and then grew quiet and ceased his laughter.
"Now," quoth he, "may Heaven and its saints preserve us this day from a
rogue men call Robin Hood."

Then Robin laughed aloud. "Nay," said he, "thou mayst set thy mind at
rest, for well do I know Robin Hood and well do I know that thou art in
no more danger from him this day than thou art from me."

At this the Sheriff looked askance at Robin, saying to himself, "I like
not that thou seemest so well acquainted with this bold outlaw, and I
wish that I were well out of Sherwood Forest."

But still they traveled deeper into the forest shades, and the deeper
they went, the more quiet grew the Sheriff. At last they came to where
the road took a sudden bend, and before them a herd of dun deer went
tripping across the path. Then Robin Hood came close to the Sheriff and
pointing his finger, he said, "These are my horned beasts, good Master
Sheriff. How dost thou like them? Are they not fat and fair to see?"

At this the Sheriff drew rein quickly. "Now fellow," quoth he, "I would
I were well out of this forest, for I like not thy company. Go thou
thine own path, good friend, and let me but go mine."

But Robin only laughed and caught the Sheriff's bridle rein. "Nay,"
cried he, "stay awhile, for I would thou shouldst see my brothers, who
own these fair horned beasts with me." So saying, he clapped his bugle
to his mouth and winded three merry notes, and presently up the path
came leaping fivescore good stout yeomen with Little John at their head.

"What wouldst thou have, good master?" quoth Little John.

"Why," answered Robin, "dost thou not see that I have brought goodly
company to feast with us today? Fye, for shame! Do you not see our good
and worshipful master, the Sheriff of Nottingham? Take thou his bridle,
Little John, for he has honored us today by coming to feast with us."

Then all doffed their hats humbly, without smiling or seeming to be in
jest, while Little John took the bridle rein and led the palfrey still
deeper into the forest, all marching in order, with Robin Hood walking
beside the Sheriff, hat in hand.

All this time the Sheriff said never a word but only looked about him
like one suddenly awakened from sleep; but when he found himself going
within the very depths of Sherwood his heart sank within him, for he
thought, "Surely my three hundred pounds will be taken from me, even
if they take not my life itself, for I have plotted against their lives
more than once." But all seemed humble and meek and not a word was said
of danger, either to life or money.

So at last they came to that part of Sherwood Forest where a noble oak
spread its branches wide, and beneath it was a seat all made of moss, on
which Robin sat down, placing the Sheriff at his right hand. "Now busk
ye, my merry men all," quoth he, "and bring forth the best we have,
both of meat and wine, for his worship the Sheriff hath feasted me in
Nottingham Guild Hall today, and I would not have him go back empty."

All this time nothing had been said of the Sheriff's money, so presently
he began to pluck up heart. "For," said he to himself, "maybe Robin Hood
hath forgotten all about it."

Then, while beyond in the forest bright fires crackled and savory smells
of sweetly roasting venison and fat capons filled the glade, and brown
pasties warmed beside the blaze, did Robin Hood entertain the Sheriff
right royally. First, several couples stood forth at quarterstaff, and
so shrewd were they at the game, and so quickly did they give stroke
and parry, that the Sheriff, who loved to watch all lusty sports of
the kind, clapped his hands, forgetting where he was, and crying aloud,
"Well struck! Well struck, thou fellow with the black beard!" little
knowing that the man he called upon was the Tinker that tried to serve
his warrant upon Robin Hood.

Then several yeomen came forward and spread cloths upon the green grass,
and placed a royal feast; while others still broached barrels of sack
and Malmsey and good stout ale, and set them in jars upon the cloth,
with drinking horns about them. Then all sat down and feasted and drank
merrily together until the sun was low and the half-moon glimmered with
a pale light betwixt the leaves of the trees overhead.

Then the Sheriff arose and said, "I thank you all, good yeomen, for the
merry entertainment ye have given me this day. Right courteously have ye
used me, showing therein that ye have much respect for our glorious King
and his deputy in brave Nottinghamshire. But the shadows grow long,
and I must away before darkness comes, lest I lose myself within the
forest."

Then Robin Hood and all his merry men arose also, and Robin said to the
Sheriff, "If thou must go, worshipful sir, go thou must; but thou hast
forgotten one thing."

"Nay, I forgot nought," said the Sheriff; yet all the same his heart
sank within him.

"But I say thou hast forgot something," quoth Robin. "We keep a merry
inn here in the greenwood, but whoever becometh our guest must pay his
reckoning."

Then the Sheriff laughed, but the laugh was hollow. "Well, jolly boys,"
quoth he, "we have had a merry time together today, and even if ye had
not asked me, I would have given you a score of pounds for the sweet
entertainment I have had."

"Nay," quoth Robin seriously, "it would ill beseem us to treat Your
Worship so meanly. By my faith, Sir Sheriff, I would be ashamed to show
my face if I did not reckon the King's deputy at three hundred pounds.
Is it not so, my merry men all?"

Then "Ay!" cried all, in a loud voice.

"Three hundred devils!" roared the Sheriff. "Think ye that your beggarly
feast was worth three pounds, let alone three hundred?"

"Nay," quoth Robin gravely. "Speak not so roundly, Your Worship. I
do love thee for the sweet feast thou hast given me this day in merry
Nottingham Town; but there be those here who love thee not so much. If
thou wilt look down the cloth thou wilt see Will Stutely, in whose eyes
thou hast no great favor; then two other stout fellows are there here
that thou knowest not, that were wounded in a brawl nigh Nottingham
Town, some time ago--thou wottest when; one of them was sore hurt in one
arm, yet he hath got the use of it again. Good Sheriff, be advised by
me; pay thy score without more ado, or maybe it may fare ill with thee."

As he spoke the Sheriff's ruddy cheeks grew pale, and he said nothing
more but looked upon the ground and gnawed his nether lip. Then slowly
he drew forth his fat purse and threw it upon the cloth in front of him.

"Now take the purse, Little John," quoth Robin Hood, "and see that the
reckoning be right. We would not doubt our Sheriff, but he might not
like it if he should find he had not paid his full score."

Then Little John counted the money and found that the bag held three
hundred pounds in silver and gold. But to the Sheriff it seemed as if
every clink of the bright money was a drop of blood from his veins. And
when he saw it all counted out in a heap of silver and gold, filling a
wooden platter, he turned away and silently mounted his horse.

"Never have we had so worshipful a guest before!" quoth Robin, "and, as
the day waxeth late, I will send one of my young men to guide thee out
of the forest depths."

"Nay, Heaven forbid!" cried the Sheriff hastily. "I can find mine own
way, good man, without aid."

"Then I will put thee on the right track mine own self," quoth Robin,
and, taking the Sheriff's horse by the bridle rein, he led him into the
main forest path. Then, before he let him go, he said, "Now, fare thee
well, good Sheriff, and when next thou thinkest to despoil some poor
prodigal, remember thy feast in Sherwood Forest. 'Ne'er buy a horse,
good friend, without first looking into its mouth,' as our good gaffer
Swanthold says. And so, once more, fare thee well." Then he clapped
his hand to the horse's back, and off went nag and Sheriff through the
forest glades.

Then bitterly the Sheriff rued the day that first he meddled with Robin
Hood, for all men laughed at him and many ballads were sung by folk
throughout the country, of how the Sheriff went to shear and came home
shorn to the very quick. For thus men sometimes overreach themselves
through greed and guile.




Little John Goes to Nottingham Fair

SPRING HAD GONE since the Sheriff's feast in Sherwood, and summer also,
and the mellow month of October had come. All the air was cool and
fresh; the harvests were gathered home, the young birds were full
fledged, the hops were plucked, and apples were ripe. But though time
had so smoothed things over that men no longer talked of the horned
beasts that the Sheriff wished to buy, he was still sore about the
matter and could not bear to hear Robin Hood's name spoken in his
presence.

With October had come the time for holding the great Fair which was
celebrated every five years at Nottingham Town, to which folk came from
far and near throughout the country. At such times archery was always
the main sport of the day, for the Nottinghamshire yeomen were the best
hand at the longbow in all merry England, but this year the Sheriff
hesitated a long time before he issued proclamation of the Fair, fearing
lest Robin Hood and his band might come to it. At first he had a great
part of a mind not to proclaim the Fair, but second thought told him
that men would laugh at him and say among themselves that he was afraid
of Robin Hood, so he put that thought by. At last he fixed in his mind
that he would offer such a prize as they would not care to shoot for.
At such times it had been the custom to offer a half score of marks or
a tun of ale, so this year he proclaimed that a prize of two fat steers
should be given to the best bowman.

When Robin Hood heard what had been proclaimed he was vexed, and said,
"Now beshrew this Sheriff that he should offer such a prize that none
but shepherd hinds will care to shoot for it! I would have loved nothing
better than to have had another bout at merry Nottingham Town, but if I
should win this prize nought would it pleasure or profit me."

Then up spoke Little John: "Nay, but hearken, good master," said he,
"only today Will Stutely, young David of Doncaster, and I were at the
Sign of the Blue Boar, and there we heard all the news of this merry
Fair, and also that the Sheriff hath offered this prize, that we of
Sherwood might not care to come to the Fair; so, good master, if thou
wilt, I would fain go and strive to win even this poor thing among the
stout yeomen who will shoot at Nottingham Town."

"Nay, Little John," quoth Robin, "thou art a sound stout fellow, yet
thou lackest the cunning that good Stutely hath, and I would not have
harm befall thee for all Nottinghamshire. Nevertheless, if thou wilt go,
take some disguise lest there be those there who may know thee."

"So be it, good master," quoth Little John, "yet all the disguise that I
wish is a good suit of scarlet instead of this of Lincoln green. I will
draw the cowl of my jacket about my head so that it will hide my brown
hair and beard, and then, I trust, no one will know me."

"It is much against my will," said Robin Hood, "ne'ertheless, if thou
dost wish it, get thee gone, but bear thyself seemingly, Little John,
for thou art mine own right-hand man and I could ill bear to have harm
befall thee."

So Little John clad himself all in scarlet and started off to the Fair
at Nottingham Town.

Right merry were these Fair days at Nottingham, when the green before
the great town gate was dotted with booths standing in rows, with
tents of many-colored canvas, hung about with streamers and garlands
of flowers, and the folk came from all the countryside, both gentle
and common. In some booths there was dancing to merry music, in others
flowed ale and beer, and in others yet again sweet cakes and barley
sugar were sold; and sport was going outside the booths also, where some
minstrel sang ballads of the olden time, playing a second upon the harp,
or where the wrestlers struggled with one another within the sawdust
ring, but the people gathered most of all around a raised platform where
stout fellows played at quarterstaff.

So Little John came to the Fair. All scarlet were his hose and jerkin,
and scarlet was his cowled cap, with a scarlet feather stuck in the side
of it. Over his shoulders was slung a stout bow of yew, and across his
back hung a quiver of good round arrows. Many turned to look after such
a stout, tall fellow, for his shoulders were broader by a palm's-breadth
than any that were there, and he stood a head taller than all the other
men. The lasses, also, looked at him askance, thinking they had never
seen a lustier youth.

First of all he went to the booth where stout ale was sold and, standing
aloft on a bench, he called to all that were near to come and drink
with him. "Hey, sweet lads!" cried he "who will drink ale with a stout
yeoman? Come, all! Come, all! Let us be merry, for the day is sweet and
the ale is tingling. Come hither, good yeoman, and thou, and thou;
for not a farthing shall one of you pay. Nay, turn hither, thou lusty
beggar, and thou jolly tinker, for all shall be merry with me."

Thus he shouted, and all crowded around, laughing, while the brown ale
flowed; and they called Little John a brave fellow, each swearing that
he loved him as his own brother; for when one has entertainment with
nothing to pay, one loves the man that gives it to one.

Then he strolled to the platform where they were at cudgel play, for he
loved a bout at quarterstaff as he loved meat and drink; and here befell
an adventure that was sung in ballads throughout the mid-country for
many a day.

One fellow there was that cracked crowns of everyone who threw cap into
the ring. This was Eric o' Lincoln, of great renown, whose name had been
sung in ballads throughout the countryside. When Little John reached the
stand he found none fighting, but only bold Eric walking up and down the
platform, swinging his staff and shouting lustily, "Now, who will
come and strike a stroke for the lass he loves the best, with a good
Lincolnshire yeoman? How now, lads? Step up! Step up! Or else the
lasses' eyes are not bright hereabouts, or the blood of Nottingham youth
is sluggish and cold. Lincoln against Nottingham, say I! For no one hath
put foot upon the boards this day such as we of Lincoln call a cudgel
player."

At this, one would nudge another with his elbow, saying, "Go thou,
Ned!" or "Go thou, Thomas!" but no lad cared to gain a cracked crown for
nothing.

Presently Eric saw where Little John stood among the others, a head and
shoulders above them all, and he called to him loudly, "Halloa, thou
long-legged fellow in scarlet! Broad are thy shoulders and thick thy
head; is not thy lass fair enough for thee to take cudgel in hand for
her sake? In truth, I believe that Nottingham men do turn to bone and
sinew, for neither heart nor courage have they! Now, thou great lout,
wilt thou not twirl staff for Nottingham?"

"Ay," quoth Little John, "had I but mine own good staff here, it would
pleasure me hugely to crack thy knave's pate, thou saucy braggart! I wot
it would be well for thee an thy cock's comb were cut!" Thus he spoke,
slowly at first, for he was slow to move; but his wrath gathered headway
like a great stone rolling down a hill, so that at the end he was full
of anger.

Then Eric o' Lincoln laughed aloud. "Well spoken for one who fears to
meet me fairly, man to man," said he. "Saucy art thou thine own self,
and if thou puttest foot upon these boards, I will make thy saucy tongue
rattle within thy teeth!"

"Now," quoth Little John, "is there never a man here that will lend me
a good stout staff till I try the mettle of yon fellow?" At this, half a
score reached him their staves, and he took the stoutest and heaviest of
them all. Then, looking up and down the cudgel, he said, "Now, I have in
my hand but a splint of wood--a barley straw, as it were--yet I trow it
will have to serve me, so here goeth." Thereupon he cast the cudgel
upon the stand and, leaping lightly after it, snatched it up in his hand
again.

Then each man stood in his place and measured the other with fell looks
until he that directed the sport cried, "Play!" At this they stepped
forth, each grasping his staff tightly in the middle. Then those that
stood around saw the stoutest game of quarterstaff that e'er Nottingham
Town beheld. At first Eric o' Lincoln thought that he would gain an easy
advantage, so he came forth as if he would say, "Watch, good people, how
that I carve you this cockerel right speedily;" but he presently found
it to be no such speedy matter. Right deftly he struck, and with great
skill of fence, but he had found his match in Little John. Once, twice,
thrice, he struck, and three times Little John turned the blows to the
left hand and to the right. Then quickly and with a dainty backhanded
blow, he rapped Eric beneath his guard so shrewdly that it made his head
ring again. Then Eric stepped back to gather his wits, while a great
shout went up and all were glad that Nottingham had cracked Lincoln's
crown; and thus ended the first bout of the game.

Then presently the director of the sport cried, "Play!" and they came
together again; but now Eric played warily, for he found his man was of
right good mettle, and also he had no sweet memory of the blow that he
had got; so this bout neither Little John nor the Lincoln man caught
a stroke within his guard. Then, after a while, they parted again, and
this made the second bout.

Then for the third time they came together, and at first Eric strove to
be wary, as he had been before; but, growing mad at finding himself so
foiled, he lost his wits and began to rain blows so fiercely and so fast
that they rattled like hail on penthouse roof; but, in spite of all, he
did not reach within Little John's guard. Then at last Little John saw
his chance and seized it right cleverly. Once more, with a quick blow,
he rapped Eric beside the head, and ere he could regain himself, Little
John slipped his right hand down to his left and, with a swinging blow,
smote the other so sorely upon the crown that down he fell as though he
would never move again.

Then the people shouted so loud that folk came running from all about to
see what was the ado; while Little John leaped down from the stand and
gave the staff back to him that had lent it to him. And thus ended the
famous bout between Little John and Eric o' Lincoln of great renown.

But now the time had come when those who were to shoot with the longbow
were to take their places, so the people began flocking to the butts
where the shooting was to be. Near the target, in a good place, sat the
Sheriff upon a raised dais, with many gentlefolk around him. When the
archers had taken their places, the herald came forward and proclaimed
the rules of the game, and how each should shoot three shots, and to him
that should shoot the best the prize of two fat steers was to belong.
A score of brave shots were gathered there, and among them some of the
keenest hands at the longbow in Lincoln and Nottinghamshire; and among
them Little John stood taller than all the rest. "Who is yon stranger
clad all in scarlet?" said some, and others answered, "It is he that
hath but now so soundly cracked the crown of Eric o' Lincoln." Thus
the people talked among themselves, until at last it reached even the
Sheriff's ears.

And now each man stepped forward and shot in turn; but though each shot
well, Little John was the best of all, for three times he struck the
clout, and once only the length of a barleycorn from the center. "Hey
for the tall archer!" shouted the crowd, and some among them shouted,
"Hey for Reynold Greenleaf!" for this was the name that Little John had
called himself that day.

Then the Sheriff stepped down from the raised seat and came to where
the archers stood, while all doffed their caps that saw him coming. He
looked keenly at Little John but did not know him, though he said, after
a while, "How now, good fellow, methinks there is that about thy face
that I have seen erewhile."

"Mayhap it may be so," quoth Little John, "for often have I seen Your
Worship." And, as he spoke, he looked steadily into the Sheriff's eyes
so that the latter did not suspect who he was.

"A brave blade art thou, good friend," said the Sheriff, "and I hear
that thou hast well upheld the skill of Nottinghamshire against that of
Lincoln this day. What may be thy name, good fellow?"

"Men do call me Reynold Greenleaf, Your Worship," said Little John; and
the old ballad that tells of this, adds, "So, in truth, was he a green
leaf, but of what manner of tree the Sheriff wotted not."

"Now, Reynold Greenleaf," quoth the Sheriff, "thou art the fairest hand
at the longbow that mine eyes ever beheld, next to that false knave,
Robin Hood, from whose wiles Heaven forfend me! Wilt thou join my
service, good fellow? Thou shalt be paid right well, for three suits of
clothes shalt thou have a year, with good food and as much ale as
thou canst drink; and, besides this, I will pay thee forty marks each
Michaelmastide."

"Then here stand I a free man, and right gladly will I enter thy
household," said Little John, for he thought he might find some merry
jest, should he enter the Sheriff's service.

"Fairly hast thou won the fat steers," said the Sheriff, "and hereunto
I will add a butt of good March beer, for joy of having gotten such a
man; for, I wot, thou shootest as fair a shaft as Robin Hood himself."

"Then," said Little John, "for joy of having gotten myself into thy
service, I will give fat steers and brown ale to all these good folk, to
make them merry withal." At this arose a great shout, many casting their
caps aloft, for joy of the gift.

Then some built great fires and roasted the steers, and others broached
the butt of ale, with which all made themselves merry. Then, when they
had eaten and drunk as much as they could, and when the day faded and
the great moon arose, all red and round, over the spires and towers of
Nottingham Town, they joined hands and danced around the fires, to the
music of bagpipes and harps. But long before this merrymaking had begun,
the Sheriff and his new servant Reynold Greenleaf were in the Castle of
Nottingham.




How Little John Lived at the Sheriff's

THUS LITTLE JOHN entered into the Sheriff's service and found the life
he led there easy enough, for the Sheriff made him his right-hand man
and held him in great favor. He sat nigh the Sheriff at meat, and he ran
beside his horse when he went a-hunting; so that, what with hunting and
hawking a little, and eating rich dishes and drinking good sack, and
sleeping until late hours in the morning, he grew as fat as a stall-fed
ox. Thus things floated easily along with the tide, until one day when
the Sheriff went a-hunting, there happened that which broke the smooth
surface of things.

This morning the Sheriff and many of his men set forth to meet certain
lords, to go a-hunting. He looked all about him for his good man,
Reynold Greenleaf, but, not finding him, was vexed, for he wished to
show Little John's skill to his noble friends. As for Little John, he
lay abed, snoring lustily, till the sun was high in the heavens. At
last he opened his eyes and looked about him but did not move to arise.
Brightly shone the sun in at the window, and all the air was sweet with
the scent of woodbine that hung in sprays about the wall without, for
the cold winter was past and spring was come again, and Little John lay
still, thinking how sweet was everything on this fair morn. Just then he
heard, faint and far away, a distant bugle note sounding thin and clear.
The sound was small, but, like a little pebble dropped into a glassy
fountain, it broke all the smooth surface of his thoughts, until his
whole soul was filled with disturbance. His spirit seemed to awaken
from its sluggishness, and his memory brought back to him all the merry
greenwood life--how the birds were singing blithely there this bright
morning, and how his loved companions and friends were feasting and
making merry, or perhaps talking of him with sober speech; for when
he first entered the Sheriff's service he did so in jest; but the
hearthstone was warm during the winter, and the fare was full, and so
he had abided, putting off from day to day his going back to Sherwood,
until six long months had passed. But now he thought of his good master
and of Will Stutely, whom he loved better than anyone in all the world,
and of young David of Doncaster, whom he had trained so well in all
manly sports, till there came over his heart a great and bitter longing
for them all, so that his eyes filled with tears. Then he said aloud,
"Here I grow fat like a stall-fed ox and all my manliness departeth from
me while I become a sluggard and dolt. But I will arouse me and go back
to mine own dear friends once more, and never will I leave them again
till life doth leave my lips." So saying, he leaped from bed, for he
hated his sluggishness now.

When he came downstairs he saw the Steward standing near the pantry
door--a great, fat man, with a huge bundle of keys hanging to his
girdle. Then Little John said, "Ho, Master Steward, a hungry man am I,
for nought have I had for all this blessed morn. Therefore, give me to
eat."

Then the Steward looked grimly at him and rattled the keys in his
girdle, for he hated Little John because he had found favor with the
Sheriff. "So, Master Reynold Greenleaf, thou art anhungered, art thou?"
quoth he. "But, fair youth, if thou livest long enough, thou wilt find
that he who getteth overmuch sleep for an idle head goeth with an empty
stomach. For what sayeth the old saw, Master Greenleaf? Is it not 'The
late fowl findeth but ill faring'?"

"Now, thou great purse of fat!" cried Little John, "I ask thee not for
fool's wisdom, but for bread and meat. Who art thou, that thou shouldst
deny me to eat? By Saint Dunstan, thou hadst best tell me where my
breakfast is, if thou wouldst save broken bones!"

"Thy breakfast, Master Fireblaze, is in the pantry," answered the
Steward.

"Then fetch it hither!" cried Little John, who waxed angry by this time.

"Go thou and fetch it thine own self," quoth the Steward. "Am I thy
slave, to fetch and carry for thee?"

"I say, go thou, bring it me!"

"I say, go thou, fetch it for thyself!"

"Ay, marry, that will I, right quickly!" quoth Little John in a rage.
And, so saying, he strode to the pantry and tried to open the door but
found it locked, whereat the Steward laughed and rattled his keys. Then
the wrath of Little John boiled over, and, lifting his clenched fist, he
smote the pantry door, bursting out three panels and making so large an
opening that he could easily stoop and walk through it.

When the Steward saw what was done, he waxed mad with rage; and, as
Little John stooped to look within the pantry, he seized him from behind
by the nape of the neck, pinching him sorely and smiting him over the
head with his keys till the yeoman's ears rang again. At this Little
John turned upon the Steward and smote him such a buffet that the fat
man fell to the floor and lay there as though he would never move again.
"There," quoth Little John, "think well of that stroke and never keep a
good breakfast from a hungry man again."

So saying, he crept into the pantry and looked about him to see if he
could find something to appease his hunger. He saw a great venison pasty
and two roasted capons, beside which was a platter of plover's eggs;
moreover, there was a flask of sack and one of canary--a sweet sight
to a hungry man. These he took down from the shelves and placed upon a
sideboard, and prepared to make himself merry.

Now the Cook, in the kitchen across the courtyard, heard the loud
talking between Little John and the Steward, and also the blow that
Little John struck the other, so he came running across the court and up
the stairway to where the Steward's pantry was, bearing in his hands the
spit with the roast still upon it. Meanwhile the Steward had gathered
his wits about him and risen to his feet, so that when the Cook came
to the Steward's pantry he saw him glowering through the broken door at
Little John, who was making ready for a good repast, as one dog glowers
at another that has a bone. When the Steward saw the Cook, he came to
him, and, putting one arm over his shoulder, "Alas, sweet friend!" quoth
he--for the Cook was a tall, stout man--"seest thou what that vile knave
Reynold Greenleaf hath done? He hath broken in upon our master's goods,
and hath smitten me a buffet upon the ear, so that I thought I was dead.
Good Cook, I love thee well, and thou shalt have a good pottle of our
master's best wine every day, for thou art an old and faithful servant.
Also, good Cook, I have ten shillings that I mean to give as a gift
to thee. But hatest thou not to see a vile upstart like this Reynold
Greenleaf taking it upon him so bravely?"

"Ay, marry, that do I," quoth the Cook boldly, for he liked the Steward
because of his talk of the wine and of the ten shillings. "Get thee gone
straightway to thy room, and I will bring out this knave by his ears."
So saying, he laid aside his spit and drew the sword that hung by his
side; whereupon the Steward left as quickly as he could, for he hated
the sight of naked steel.

Then the Cook walked straightway to the broken pantry door, through
which he saw Little John tucking a napkin beneath his chin and preparing
to make himself merry.

"Why, how now, Reynold Greenleaf?" said the Cook, "thou art no better
than a thief, I wot. Come thou straight forth, man, or I will carve thee
as I would carve a sucking pig."

"Nay, good Cook, bear thou thyself more seemingly, or else I will come
forth to thy dole. At most times I am as a yearling lamb, but when one
cometh between me and my meat, I am a raging lion, as it were."

"Lion or no lion," quoth the valorous Cook, "come thou straight forth,
else thou art a coward heart as well as a knavish thief."

"Ha!" cried Little John, "coward's name have I never had; so, look to
thyself, good Cook, for I come forth straight, the roaring lion I did
speak of but now."

Then he, too, drew his sword and came out of the pantry; then, putting
themselves into position, they came slowly together, with grim and angry
looks; but suddenly Little John lowered his point. "Hold, good Cook!"
said he. "Now, I bethink me it were ill of us to fight with good
victuals standing so nigh, and such a feast as would befit two stout
fellows such as we are. Marry, good friend, I think we should enjoy this
fair feast ere we fight. What sayest thou, jolly Cook?"

At this speech the Cook looked up and down, scratching his head in
doubt, for he loved good feasting. At last he drew a long breath and
said to Little John, "Well, good friend, I like thy plan right well; so,
pretty boy, say I, let us feast, with all my heart, for one of us may
sup in Paradise before nightfall."

So each thrust his sword back into the scabbard and entered the pantry.
Then, after they had seated themselves, Little John drew his dagger and
thrust it into the pie. "A hungry man must be fed," quoth he, "so,
sweet chuck, I help myself without leave." But the Cook did not lag far
behind, for straightway his hands also were deeply thrust within the
goodly pasty. After this, neither of them spoke further, but used their
teeth to better purpose. But though neither spoke, they looked at one
another, each thinking within himself that he had never seen a more
lusty fellow than the one across the board.

At last, after a long time had passed, the Cook drew a full, deep
breath, as though of much regret, and wiped his hands upon the napkin,
for he could eat no more. Little John, also, had enough, for he pushed
the pasty aside, as though he would say, "I want thee by me no more,
good friend." Then he took the pottle of sack, and said he, "Now,
good fellow, I swear by all that is bright, that thou art the stoutest
companion at eating that ever I had. Lo! I drink thy health." So saying,
he clapped the flask to his lips and cast his eyes aloft, while the good
wine flooded his throat. Then he passed the pottle to the Cook, who also
said, "Lo, I drink thy health, sweet fellow!" Nor was he behind Little
John in drinking any more than in eating.

"Now," quoth Little John, "thy voice is right round and sweet, jolly
lad. I doubt not thou canst sing a ballad most blithely; canst thou
not?"

"Truly, I have trolled one now and then," quoth the Cook, "yet I would
not sing alone."

"Nay, truly," said Little John, "that were but ill courtesy. Strike up
thy ditty, and I will afterward sing one to match it, if I can.

"So be it, pretty boy," quoth the Cook. "And hast thou e'er heard the
song of the Deserted Shepherdess?"

"Truly, I know not," answered Little John, "but sing thou and let me
hear."

Then the Cook took another draught from the pottle, and, clearing his
throat, sang right sweetly:


THE SONG OF THE DESERTED SHEPHERDESS

     "_In Lententime, when leaves wax green,
     And pretty birds begin to mate,
     When lark cloth sing, and thrush, I ween,
     And stockdove cooeth soon and late,
     Fair Phillis sat beside a stone,
     And thus I heard her make her moan:
     'O willow, willow, willow, willow!
     I'll take me of thy branches fair
     And twine a wreath to deck my hair.

     "'The thrush hath taken him a she,
     The robin, too, and eke the dove;
     My Robin hath deserted me,
     And left me for another love.
     So here, by brookside, all alone,
     I sit me down and make my moan.
     O willow, willow, willow, willow!
     I'll take me of thy branches fair
     And twine a wreath to deck my hair.'

     "But ne'er came herring from the sea,
     But good as he were in the tide;
     Young Corydon came o'er the lea,
     And sat him Phillis down beside.
     So, presently, she changed her tone,
     And 'gan to cease her from her moan,
     'O willow, willow, willow, willow!
     Thou mayst e'en keep thy garlands fair,
     I want them not to deck my hair_.'"

"Now, by my faith," cried Little John, "that same is a right good song,
and hath truth in it, also."

"Glad am I thou likest it, sweet lad," said the Cook. "Now sing thou one
also, for ne'er should a man be merry alone, or sing and list not."

"Then I will sing thee a song of a right good knight of Arthur's court,
and how he cured his heart's wound without running upon the dart again,
as did thy Phillis; for I wot she did but cure one smart by giving
herself another. So, list thou while I sing:"


THE GOOD KNIGHT AND HIS LOVE

     "_When Arthur, King, did rule this land,
     A goodly king was he,
     And had he of stout knights a band
     Of merry company.

     "Among them all, both great and small,
     A good stout knight was there,
     A lusty childe, and eke a tall,
     That loved a lady fair.

     "But nought would she to do with he,
     But turned her face away;
     So gat he gone to far countrye,
     And left that lady gay.

     "There all alone he made his moan,
     And eke did sob and sigh,
     And weep till it would move a stone,
     And he was like to die.

     "But still his heart did feel the smart,
     And eke the dire distress,
     And rather grew his pain more sharp
     As grew his body less.

     "Then gat he back where was good sack
     And merry com panye,
     And soon did cease to cry 'Alack!'
     When blithe and gay was he.

     "From which I hold, and feel full bold
     To say, and eke believe,
     That gin the belly go not cold
     The heart will cease to grieve_."

"Now, by my faith," cried the Cook, as he rattled the pottle against
the sideboard, "I like that same song hugely, and eke the motive of it,
which lieth like a sweet kernel in a hazelnut."

"Now thou art a man of shrewd opinions," quoth Little John, "and I love
thee truly as thou wert my brother."

"And I love thee, too. But the day draweth on, and I have my cooking to
do ere our master cometh home; so let us e'en go and settle this brave
fight we have in hand."

"Ay, marry," quoth Little John, "and that right speedily. Never have I
been more laggard in fighting than in eating and drinking. So come thou
straight forth into the passageway, where there is good room to swing a
sword, and I will try to serve thee."

Then they both stepped forth into the broad passage that led to the
Steward's pantry, where each man drew his sword again and without more
ado fell upon the other as though he would hew his fellow limb from
limb. Then their swords clashed upon one another with great din, and
sparks flew from each blow in showers. So they fought up and down the
hall for an hour and more, neither striking the other a blow, though
they strove their best to do so; for both were skillful at the fence;
so nothing came of all their labor. Ever and anon they rested, panting;
then, after getting their wind, at it they would go again more fiercely
than ever. At last Little John cried aloud, "Hold, good Cook!" whereupon
each rested upon his sword, panting.

"Now will I make my vow," quoth Little John, "thou art the very best
swordsman that ever mine eyes beheld. Truly, I had thought to carve thee
ere now."

"And I had thought to do the same by thee," quoth the Cook, "but I have
missed the mark somehow."

"Now I have been thinking within myself," quoth Little John, "what we
are fighting for; but albeit I do not rightly know."

"Why, no more do I," said the Cook. "I bear no love for that pursy
Steward, but I thought that we had engaged to fight with one another and
that it must be done."

"Now," quoth Little John, "it doth seem to me that instead of striving
to cut one another's throats, it were better for us to be boon
companions. What sayst thou, jolly Cook, wilt thou go with me to
Sherwood Forest and join with Robin Hood's band? Thou shalt live a merry
life within the woodlands, and sevenscore good companions shalt thou
have, one of whom is mine own self. Thou shalt have three suits of
Lincoln green each year, and forty marks in pay."

"Now, thou art a man after mine own heart!" cried the Cook right
heartily, "and, as thou speakest of it, that is the very service for
me. I will go with thee, and that right gladly. Give me thy palm, sweet
fellow, and I will be thine own companion from henceforth. What may be
thy name, lad?"

"Men do call me Little John, good fellow."

"How? And art thou indeed Little John, and Robin Hood's own right-hand
man? Many a time and oft I heard of thee, but never did I hope to set
eyes upon thee. And thou art indeed the famous Little John!" And the
Cook seemed lost in amazement, and looked upon his companion with open
eyes.

"I am Little John, indeed, and I will bring to Robin Hood this day a
right stout fellow to join his merry band. But ere we go, good friend,
it seemeth to me to be a vast pity that, as we have had so much of the
Sheriff's food, we should not also carry off some of his silver plate to
Robin Hood, as a present from his worship."

"Ay, marry is it," said the Cook. And so they began hunting about, and
took as much silver as they could lay hands upon, clapping it into
a bag, and when they had filled the sack they set forth to Sherwood
Forest.

Plunging into the woods, they came at last to the greenwood tree, where
they found Robin Hood and threescore of his merry men lying upon the
fresh green grass. When Robin and his men saw who it was that came, they
leaped to their feet. "Now welcome!" cried Robin Hood. "Now welcome,
Little John! For long hath it been since we have heard from thee, though
we all knew that thou hadst joined the Sheriff's service. And how hast
thou fared all these long days?"

"Right merrily have I lived at the Lord Sheriff's," answered Little
John, "and I have come straight thence. See, good master! I have brought
thee his cook, and even his silver plate." Thereupon he told Robin Hood
and his merry men that were there, all that had befallen him since he
had left them to go to the Fair at Nottingham Town. Then all shouted
with laughter, except Robin Hood; but he looked grave.

"Nay, Little John," said he, "thou art a brave blade and a trusty
fellow. I am glad thou hast brought thyself back to us, and with such a
good companion as the Cook, whom we all welcome to Sherwood. But I like
not so well that thou hast stolen the Sheriff's plate like some paltry
thief. The Sheriff hath been punished by us, and hath lost three hundred
pounds, even as he sought to despoil another; but he hath done nought
that we should steal his household plate from him."

Though Little John was vexed with this, he strove to pass it off with a
jest. "Nay, good master," quoth he, "if thou thinkest the Sheriff gave
us not the plate, I will fetch him, that he may tell us with his own
lips he giveth it all to us." So saying he leaped to his feet, and was
gone before Robin could call him back.

Little John ran for full five miles till he came to where the Sheriff of
Nottingham and a gay company were hunting near the forest. When Little
John came to the Sheriff he doffed his cap and bent his knee. "God save
thee, good master," quoth he.

"Why, Reynold Greenleaf!" cried the Sheriff, "whence comest thou and
where hast thou been?"

"I have been in the forest," answered Little John, speaking amazedly,
"and there I saw a sight such as ne'er before man's eyes beheld! Yonder
I saw a young hart all in green from top to toe, and about him was a
herd of threescore deer, and they, too, were all of green from head to
foot. Yet I dared not shoot, good master, for fear lest they should slay
me."

"Why, how now, Reynold Greenleaf," cried the Sheriff, "art thou dreaming
or art thou mad, that thou dost bring me such, a tale?"

"Nay, I am not dreaming nor am I mad," said Little John, "and if thou
wilt come with me, I will show thee this fair sight, for I have seen
it with mine own eyes. But thou must come alone, good master, lest the
others frighten them and they get away."

So the party all rode forward, and Little John led them downward into
the forest.

"Now, good master," quoth he at last, "we are nigh where I saw this
herd."

Then the Sheriff descended from his horse and bade them wait for him
until he should return; and Little John led him forward through a close
copse until suddenly they came to a great open glade, at the end of
which Robin Hood sat beneath the shade of the great oak tree, with his
merry men all about him. "See, good Master Sheriff," quoth Little John,
"yonder is the hart of which I spake to thee."

At this the Sheriff turned to Little John and said bitterly, "Long ago
I thought I remembered thy face, but now I know thee. Woe betide thee,
Little John, for thou hast betrayed me this day."

In the meantime Robin Hood had come to them. "Now welcome, Master
Sheriff," said he. "Hast thou come today to take another feast with me?"

"Nay, Heaven forbid!" said the Sheriff in tones of deep earnest. "I care
for no feast and have no hunger today."

"Nevertheless," quoth Robin, "if thou hast no hunger, maybe thou hast
thirst, and well I know thou wilt take a cup of sack with me. But I am
grieved that thou wilt not feast with me, for thou couldst have victuals
to thy liking, for there stands thy Cook."

Then he led the Sheriff, willy-nilly, to the seat he knew so well
beneath the greenwood tree.

"Ho, lads!" cried Robin, "fill our good friend the Sheriff a right
brimming cup of sack and fetch it hither, for he is faint and weary."

Then one of the band brought the Sheriff a cup of sack, bowing low as he
handed it to him; but the Sheriff could not touch the wine, for he saw
it served in one of his own silver flagons, on one of his own silver
plates.

"How now," quoth Robin, "dost thou not like our new silver service? We
have gotten a bag of it this day." So saying, he held up the sack of
silver that Little John and the Cook had brought with them.

Then the Sheriff's heart was bitter within him; but, not daring to say
anything, he only gazed upon the ground. Robin looked keenly at him for
a time before he spoke again. Then said he, "Now, Master Sheriff, the
last time thou camest to Sherwood Forest thou didst come seeking to
despoil a poor spendthrift, and thou wert despoiled thine own self;
but now thou comest seeking to do no harm, nor do I know that thou hast
despoiled any man. I take my tithes from fat priests and lordly squires,
to help those that they despoil and to raise up those that they bow
down; but I know not that thou hast tenants of thine own whom thou hast
wronged in any way. Therefore, take thou thine own again, nor will I
dispossess thee today of so much as one farthing. Come with me, and I
will lead thee from the forest back to thine own party again."

Then, slinging the bag upon his shoulder, he turned away, the Sheriff
following him, all too perplexed in mind to speak. So they went forward
until they came to within a furlong of the spot where the Sheriff's
companions were waiting for him. Then Robin Hood gave the sack of silver
back to the Sheriff. "Take thou thine own again," he said, "and hearken
to me, good Sheriff, take thou a piece of advice with it. Try thy
servants well ere thou dost engage them again so readily." Then,
turning, he left the other standing bewildered, with the sack in his
hands.

The company that waited for the Sheriff were all amazed to see him come
out of the forest bearing a heavy sack upon his shoulders; but though
they questioned him, he answered never a word, acting like one who walks
in a dream. Without a word, he placed the bag across his nag's back and
then, mounting, rode away, all following him; but all the time there
was a great turmoil of thoughts within his head, tumbling one over the
other. And thus ends the merry tale of Little John and how he entered
the Sheriff's service.




Little John and the Tanner of Blyth

ONE FINE DAY, not long after Little John had left abiding with the
Sheriff and had come back, with his worship's cook, to the merry
greenwood, as has just been told, Robin Hood and a few chosen fellows of
his band lay upon the soft sward beneath the greenwood tree where they
dwelled. The day was warm and sultry, so that while most of the band
were scattered through the forest upon this mission and upon that, these
few stout fellows lay lazily beneath the shade of the tree, in the soft
afternoon, passing jests among themselves and telling merry stories,
with laughter and mirth.

All the air was laden with the bitter fragrance of the May, and all
the bosky shades of the woodlands beyond rang with the sweet song of
birds--the throstle cock, the cuckoo, and the wood pigeon--and with the
song of birds mingled the cool sound of the gurgling brook that leaped
out of the forest shades, and ran fretting amid its rough, gray stones
across the sunlit open glade before the trysting tree. And a fair sight
was that halfscore of tall, stout yeomen, all clad in Lincoln green,
lying beneath the broad-spreading branches of the great oak tree, amid
the quivering leaves of which the sunlight shivered and fell in dancing
patches upon the grass.

Suddenly Robin Hood smote his knee.

"By Saint Dunstan," quoth he, "I had nigh forgot that quarter-day cometh
on apace, and yet no cloth of Lincoln green in all our store. It must be
looked to, and that in quick season. Come, busk thee, Little John! Stir
those lazy bones of thine, for thou must get thee straightway to our
good gossip, the draper Hugh Longshanks of Ancaster. Bid him send us
straightway twenty-score yards of fair cloth of Lincoln green; and mayhap
the journey may take some of the fat from off thy bones, that thou hast
gotten from lazy living at our dear Sheriff's."

"Nay," muttered Little John (for he had heard so much upon this score
that he was sore upon the point), "nay, truly, mayhap I have more flesh
upon my joints than I once had, yet, flesh or no flesh, I doubt not that
I could still hold my place and footing upon a narrow bridge against
e'er a yeoman in Sherwood, or Nottinghamshire, for the matter of that,
even though he had no more fat about his bones than thou hast, good
master."

At this reply a great shout of laughter went up, and all looked at Robin
Hood, for each man knew that Little John spake of a certain fight that
happened between their master and himself, through which they first
became acquainted.

"Nay," quoth Robin Hood, laughing louder than all. "Heaven forbid that
I should doubt thee, for I care for no taste of thy staff myself, Little
John. I must needs own that there are those of my band can handle a
seven-foot staff more deftly than I; yet no man in all Nottinghamshire
can draw gray goose shaft with my fingers. Nevertheless, a journey to
Ancaster may not be ill for thee; so go thou, as I bid, and thou hadst
best go this very evening, for since thou hast abided at the Sheriff's
many know thy face, and if thou goest in broad daylight, thou mayst get
thyself into a coil with some of his worship's men-at-arms. Bide thou
here till I bring thee money to pay our good Hugh. I warrant he hath no
better customers in all Nottinghamshire than we." So saying, Robin left
them and entered the forest.

Not far from the trysting tree was a great rock in which a chamber
had been hewn, the entrance being barred by a massive oaken door two
palms'-breadth in thickness, studded about with spikes, and fastened
with a great padlock. This was the treasure house of the band, and
thither Robin Hood went and, unlocking the door, entered the chamber,
from which he brought forth a bag of gold which he gave to Little John,
to pay Hugh Longshanks withal, for the cloth of Lincoln green.

Then up got Little John, and, taking the bag of gold, which he thrust
into his bosom, he strapped a girdle about his loins, took a stout
pikestaff full seven feet long in his hand, and set forth upon his
journey.

So he strode whistling along the leafy forest path that led to Fosse
Way, turning neither to the right hand nor the left, until at last he
came to where the path branched, leading on the one hand onward to Fosse
Way, and on the other, as well Little John knew, to the merry Blue
Boar Inn. Here Little John suddenly ceased whistling and stopped in
the middle of the path. First he looked up and then he looked down, and
then, tilting his cap over one eye, he slowly scratched the back part of
his head. For thus it was: at the sight of these two roads, two voices
began to alarum within him, the one crying, "There lies the road to
the Blue Boar Inn, a can of brown October, and a merry night with sweet
companions such as thou mayst find there;" the other, "There lies the
way to Ancaster and the duty thou art sent upon." Now the first of these
two voices was far the louder, for Little John had grown passing fond
of good living through abiding at the Sheriff's house; so, presently,
looking up into the blue sky, across which bright clouds were sailing
like silver boats, and swallows skimming in circling flight, quoth he,
"I fear me it will rain this evening, so I'll e'en stop at the Blue Boar
till it passes by, for I know my good master would not have me wet to
the skin." So, without more ado, off he strode down the path that lay
the way of his likings. Now there was no sign of any foul weather, but
when one wishes to do a thing, as Little John did, one finds no lack of
reasons for the doing.

Four merry wags were at the Blue Boar Inn; a butcher, a beggar, and two
barefoot friars. Little John heard them singing from afar, as he walked
through the hush of the mellow twilight that was now falling over hill
and dale. Right glad were they to welcome such a merry blade as Little
John. Fresh cans of ale were brought, and with jest and song and merry
tales the hours slipped away on fleeting wings. None thought of time or
tide till the night was so far gone that Little John put by the thought
of setting forth upon his journey again that night, and so bided at the
Blue Boar Inn until the morrow.

Now it was an ill piece of luck for Little John that he left his duty
for his pleasure, and he paid a great score for it, as we are all apt to
do in the same case, as you shall see.

Up he rose at the dawn of the next day, and, taking his stout pikestaff
in his hand, he set forth upon his journey once more, as though he would
make up for lost time.

In the good town of Blyth there lived a stout tanner, celebrated far
and near for feats of strength and many tough bouts at wrestling and the
quarterstaff. For five years he had held the mid-country champion belt
for wrestling, till the great Adam o' Lincoln cast him in the ring and
broke one of his ribs; but at quarterstaff he had never yet met his
match in all the country about. Besides all this, he dearly loved the
longbow, and a sly jaunt in the forest when the moon was full and the
dun deer in season; so that the King's rangers kept a shrewd eye upon
him and his doings, for Arthur a Bland's house was apt to have aplenty
of meat in it that was more like venison than the law allowed.

Now Arthur had been to Nottingham Town the day before Little John set
forth on his errand, there to sell a halfscore of tanned cowhides. At
the dawn of the same day that Little John left the inn, he started from
Nottingham, homeward for Blyth. His way led, all in the dewy morn, past
the verge of Sherwood Forest, where the birds were welcoming the lovely
day with a great and merry jubilee. Across the Tanner's shoulders was
slung his stout quarterstaff, ever near enough to him to be gripped
quickly, and on his head was a cap of doubled cowhide, so tough that it
could hardly be cloven even by a broadsword.

"Now," quoth Arthur a Bland to himself, when he had come to that part of
the road that cut through a corner of the forest, "no doubt at this time
of year the dun deer are coming from the forest depths nigher to the
open meadow lands. Mayhap I may chance to catch a sight of the dainty
brown darlings thus early in the morn." For there was nothing he loved
better than to look upon a tripping herd of deer, even when he could
not tickle their ribs with a clothyard shaft. Accordingly, quitting the
path, he went peeping this way and that through the underbrush, spying
now here and now there, with all the wiles of a master of woodcraft, and
of one who had more than once donned a doublet of Lincoln green.

Now as Little John stepped blithely along, thinking of nothing but of
such things as the sweetness of the hawthorn buds that bedecked the
hedgerows, or gazing upward at the lark, that, springing from the dewy
grass, hung aloft on quivering wings in the yellow sunlight, pouring
forth its song that fell like a falling star from the sky, his luck led
him away from the highway, not far from the spot where Arthur a Bland
was peeping this way and that through the leaves of the thickets.
Hearing a rustling of the branches, Little John stopped and presently
caught sight of the brown cowhide cap of the Tanner moving among the
bushes.

"I do much wonder," quoth Little John to himself, "what yon knave is
after, that he should go thus peeping and peering about I verily believe
that yon scurvy varlet is no better than a thief, and cometh here after
our own and the good King's dun deer." For by much roving in the forest,
Little John had come to look upon all the deer in Sherwood as belonging
to Robin Hood and his band as much as to good King Harry. "Nay," quoth
he again, after a time, "this matter must e'en be looked into." So,
quitting the highroad, he also entered the thickets, and began spying
around after stout Arthur a Bland.

So for a long time they both of them went hunting about, Little John
after the Tanner, and the Tanner after the deer. At last Little John
trod upon a stick, which snapped under his foot, whereupon, hearing the
noise, the Tanner turned quickly and caught sight of the yeoman. Seeing
that the Tanner had spied him out, Little John put a bold face upon the
matter.

"Hilloa," quoth he, "what art thou doing here, thou naughty fellow? Who
art thou that comest ranging Sherwood's paths? In very sooth thou hast
an evil cast of countenance, and I do think, truly, that thou art no
better than a thief, and comest after our good King's deer."

"Nay," quoth the Tanner boldly--for, though taken by surprise, he was
not a man to be frightened by big words--"thou liest in thy teeth. I am
no thief, but an honest craftsman. As for my countenance, it is what
it is; and, for the matter of that, thine own is none too pretty, thou
saucy fellow."

"Ha!" quoth Little John in a great loud voice, "wouldst thou give me
backtalk? Now I have a great part of a mind to crack thy pate for thee.
I would have thee know, fellow, that I am, as it were, one of the King's
foresters. Leastwise," muttered he to himself, "I and my friends do take
good care of our good sovereign's deer."

"I care not who thou art," answered the bold Tanner, "and unless thou
hast many more of thy kind by thee, thou canst never make Arthur a Bland
cry 'A mercy.'"

"Is it so?" cried Little John in a rage. "Now, by my faith, thou saucy
rogue, thy tongue hath led thee into a pit thou wilt have a sorry time
getting out of; for I will give thee such a drubbing as ne'er hast thou
had in all thy life before. Take thy staff in thy hand, fellow, for I
will not smite an unarmed man.

"Marry come up with a murrain!" cried the Tanner, for he, too, had
talked himself into a fume. "Big words ne'er killed so much as a mouse.
Who art thou that talkest so freely of cracking the head of Arthur a
Bland? If I do not tan thy hide this day as ne'er I tanned a calf's hide
in all my life before, split my staff into skewers for lamb's flesh and
call me no more brave man! Now look to thyself, fellow!"

"Stay!" said Little John. "Let us first measure our cudgels. I do reckon
my staff longer than thine, and I would not take vantage of thee by even
so much as an inch."

"Nay, I pass not for length," answered the Tanner. "My staff is long
enough to knock down a calf; so look to thyself, fellow, I say again."

So, without more ado, each gripped his staff in the middle, and, with
fell and angry looks, they came slowly together.


Now news had been brought to Robin Hood how that Little John, instead of
doing his bidding, had passed by duty for pleasure, and so had stopped
overnight with merry company at the Blue Boar Inn, instead of going
straight to Ancaster. So, being vexed to his heart by this, he set forth
at dawn of day to seek Little John at the Blue Boar, or at least to
meet the yeoman on the way, and ease his heart of what he thought of the
matter. As thus he strode along in anger, putting together the words he
would use to chide Little John, he heard, of a sudden, loud and angry
voices, as of men in a rage, passing fell words back and forth from one
to the other. At this, Robin Hood stopped and listened. "Surely," quoth
he to himself, "that is Little John's voice, and he is talking in anger
also. Methinks the other is strange to my ears. Now Heaven forfend that
my good trusty Little John should have fallen into the hands of the
King's rangers. I must see to this matter, and that quickly."

Thus spoke Robin Hood to himself, all his anger passing away like a
breath from the windowpane, at the thought that perhaps his trusty
right-hand man was in some danger of his life. So cautiously he made his
way through the thickets whence the voices came, and, pushing aside the
leaves, peeped into the little open space where the two men, staff in
hand, were coming slowly together.

"Ha!" quoth Robin to himself, "here is merry sport afoot. Now I would
give three golden angels from my own pocket if yon stout fellow would
give Little John a right sound drubbing! It would please me to see him
well thumped for having failed in my bidding. I fear me, though, there
is but poor chance of my seeing such a pleasant sight." So saying, he
stretched himself at length upon the ground, that he might not only see
the sport the better, but that he might enjoy the merry sight at his
ease.

As you may have seen two dogs that think to fight, walking slowly round
and round each other, neither cur wishing to begin the combat, so those
two stout yeomen moved slowly around, each watching for a chance to take
the other unaware, and so get in the first blow. At last Little John
struck like a flash, and--"rap!"--the Tanner met the blow and turned it
aside, and then smote back at Little John, who also turned the blow; and
so this mighty battle began. Then up and down and back and forth they
trod, the blows falling so thick and fast that, at a distance, one would
have thought that half a score of men were fighting. Thus they fought
for nigh a half an hour, until the ground was all plowed up with the
digging of their heels, and their breathing grew labored like the ox in
the furrow. But Little John suffered the most, for he had become unused
to such stiff labor, and his joints were not as supple as they had been
before he went to dwell with the Sheriff.

All this time Robin Hood lay beneath the bush, rejoicing at such a
comely bout of quarterstaff. "By my faith!" quoth he to himself, "never
had I thought to see Little John so evenly matched in all my life.
Belike, though, he would have overcome yon fellow before this had he
been in his former trim."

At last Little John saw his chance, and, throwing all the strength
he felt going from him into one blow that might have felled an ox,
he struck at the Tanner with might and main. And now did the Tanner's
cowhide cap stand him in good stead, and but for it he might never have
held staff in hand again. As it was, the blow he caught beside the head
was so shrewd that it sent him staggering across the little glade, so
that, if Little John had had the strength to follow up his vantage, it
would have been ill for stout Arthur. But he regained himself quickly
and, at arm's length, struck back a blow at Little John, and this time
the stroke reached its mark, and down went Little John at full length,
his cudgel flying from his hand as he fell. Then, raising his staff,
stout Arthur dealt him another blow upon the ribs.

"Hold!" roared Little John. "Wouldst thou strike a man when he is down?"

"Ay, marry would I," quoth the Tanner, giving him another thwack with
his staff.

"Stop!" roared Little John. "Help! Hold, I say! I yield me! I yield me,
I say, good fellow!"

"Hast thou had enough?" asked the Tanner grimly, holding his staff
aloft.

"Ay, marry, and more than enough."

"And thou dost own that I am the better man of the two?"

"Yea, truly, and a murrain seize thee!" said Little John, the first
aloud and the last to his beard.

"Then thou mayst go thy ways; and thank thy patron saint that I am a
merciful man," said the Tanner.

"A plague o' such mercy as thine!" said Little John, sitting up and
feeling his ribs where the Tanner had cudgeled him. "I make my vow, my
ribs feel as though every one of them were broken in twain. I tell thee,
good fellow, I did think there was never a man in all Nottinghamshire
could do to me what thou hast done this day."

"And so thought I, also," cried Robin Hood, bursting out of the thicket
and shouting with laughter till the tears ran down his cheeks. "O man,
man!" said he, as well as he could for his mirth, "'a didst go over
like a bottle knocked from a wall. I did see the whole merry bout, and
never did I think to see thee yield thyself so, hand and foot, to any
man in all merry England. I was seeking thee, to chide thee for leaving
my bidding undone; but thou hast been paid all I owed thee, full
measure, pressed down and overflowing, by this good fellow. Marry, 'a
did reach out his arm full length while thou stood gaping at him, and,
with a pretty rap, tumbled thee over as never have I seen one tumbled
before." So spoke bold Robin, and all the time Little John sat upon the
ground, looking as though he had sour curds in his mouth. "What may be
thy name, good fellow?" said Robin, next, turning to the Tanner.

"Men do call me Arthur a Bland," spoke up the Tanner boldly, "and now
what may be thy name?"

"Ha, Arthur a Bland!" quoth Robin, "I have heard thy name before, good
fellow. Thou didst break the crown of a friend of mine at the fair at
Ely last October. The folk there call him Jock o' Nottingham; we call
him Will Scathelock. This poor fellow whom thou hast so belabored is
counted the best hand at the quarterstaff in all merry England. His name
is Little John, and mine Robin Hood."

"How!" cried the Tanner, "art thou indeed the great Robin Hood, and is
this the famous Little John? Marry, had I known who thou art, I would
never have been so bold as to lift my hand against thee. Let me help
thee to thy feet, good Master Little John, and let me brush the dust
from off thy coat."

"Nay," quoth Little John testily, at the same time rising carefully,
as though his bones had been made of glass, "I can help myself, good
fellow, without thy aid; and let me tell thee, had it not been for that
vile cowskin cap of thine, it would have been ill for thee this day."

At this Robin laughed again, and, turning to the Tanner, he said, "Wilt
thou join my band, good Arthur? For I make my vow thou art one of the
stoutest men that ever mine eyes beheld."

"Will I join thy band?" cried the Tanner joyfully. "Ay, marry, will I!
Hey for a merry life!" cried he, leaping aloft and snapping his fingers,
"and hey for the life I love! Away with tanbark and filthy vats and foul
cowhides! I will follow thee to the ends of the earth, good master, and
not a herd of dun deer in all the forest but shall know the sound of the
twang of my bowstring."

"As for thee, Little John," said Robin, turning to him and laughing,
"thou wilt start once more for Ancaster, and we will go part way with
thee, for I will not have thee turn again to either the right hand or
the left till thou hast fairly gotten away from Sherwood. There are
other inns that thou knowest yet, hereabouts." Thereupon, leaving the
thickets, they took once more to the highway and departed upon their
business.




Robin Hood and Will Scarlet

THUS THEY traveled along the sunny road, three stout fellows such as you
could hardly match anywhere else in all merry England. Many stopped to
gaze after them as they strode along, so broad were their shoulders and
so sturdy their gait.

Quoth Robin Hood to Little John, "Why didst thou not go straight to
Ancaster, yesterday, as I told thee? Thou hadst not gotten thyself into
such a coil hadst thou done as I ordered."

"I feared the rain that threatened," said Little John in a sullen tone,
for he was vexed at being so chaffed by Robin with what had happened to
him.

"The rain!" cried Robin, stopping of a sudden in the middle of the road,
and looking at Little John in wonder. "Why, thou great oaf! not a drop
of rain has fallen these three days, neither has any threatened, nor
hath there been a sign of foul weather in earth or sky or water."

"Nevertheless," growled Little John, "the holy Saint Swithin holdeth the
waters of the heavens in his pewter pot, and he could have poured them
out, had he chosen, even from a clear sky; and wouldst thou have had me
wet to the skin?"

At this Robin Hood burst into a roar of laughter. "O Little John!" said
he, "what butter wits hast thou in that head of thine! Who could hold
anger against such a one as thou art?"

So saying, they all stepped out once more, with the right foot foremost,
as the saying is.

After they had traveled some distance, the day being warm and the road
dusty, Robin Hood waxed thirsty; so, there being a fountain of water as
cold as ice, just behind the hedgerow, they crossed the stile and came
to where the water bubbled up from beneath a mossy stone. Here, kneeling
and making cups of the palms of their hands, they drank their fill,
and then, the spot being cool and shady, they stretched their limbs and
rested them for a space.

In front of them, over beyond the hedge, the dusty road stretched away
across the plain; behind them the meadow lands and bright green fields
of tender young corn lay broadly in the sun, and overhead spread the
shade of the cool, rustling leaves of the beechen tree. Pleasantly to
their nostrils came the tender fragrance of the purple violets and
wild thyme that grew within the dewy moisture of the edge of the little
fountain, and pleasantly came the soft gurgle of the water. All was so
pleasant and so full of the gentle joy of the bright Maytime, that for a
long time no one of the three cared to speak, but each lay on his back,
gazing up through the trembling leaves of the trees to the bright
sky overhead. At last, Robin, whose thoughts were not quite so busy
wool-gathering as those of the others, and who had been gazing around
him now and then, broke the silence.

"Heyday!" quoth he, "yon is a gaily feathered bird, I take my vow."

The others looked and saw a young man walking slowly down the highway.
Gay was he, indeed, as Robin had said, and a fine figure he cut, for
his doublet was of scarlet silk and his stockings also; a handsome sword
hung by his side, the embossed leathern scabbard being picked out with
fine threads of gold; his cap was of scarlet velvet, and a broad feather
hung down behind and back of one ear. His hair was long and yellow and
curled upon his shoulders, and in his hand he bore an early rose, which
he smelled at daintily now and then.

"By my life!" quoth Robin Hood, laughing, "saw ye e'er such a pretty,
mincing fellow?"

"Truly, his clothes have overmuch prettiness for my taste," quoth Arthur
a Bland, "but, ne'ertheless, his shoulders are broad and his loins are
narrow, and seest thou, good master, how that his arms hang from his
body? They dangle not down like spindles, but hang stiff and bend at
the elbow. I take my vow, there be no bread and milk limbs in those fine
clothes, but stiff joints and tough thews."

"Methinks thou art right, friend Arthur," said Little John. "I do verily
think that yon is no such roseleaf and whipped-cream gallant as he would
have one take him to be."

"Pah!" quoth Robin Hood, "the sight of such a fellow doth put a nasty
taste into my mouth! Look how he doth hold that fair flower betwixt his
thumb and finger, as he would say, 'Good rose, I like thee not so ill
but I can bear thy odor for a little while.' I take it ye are both
wrong, and verily believe that were a furious mouse to run across his
path, he would cry, 'La!' or 'Alack-a-day!' and fall straightway into a
swoon. I wonder who he may be."

"Some great baron's son, I doubt not," answered Little John, "with good
and true men's money lining his purse."

"Ay, marry, that is true, I make no doubt," quoth Robin. "What a pity
that such men as he, that have no thought but to go abroad in gay
clothes, should have good fellows, whose shoes they are not fit to tie,
dancing at their bidding. By Saint Dunstan, Saint Alfred, Saint Withold,
and all the good men in the Saxon calendar, it doth make me mad to see
such gay lordlings from over the sea go stepping on the necks of good
Saxons who owned this land before ever their great-grandsires chewed
rind of brawn! By the bright bow of Heaven, I will have their ill-gotten
gains from them, even though I hang for it as high as e'er a forest tree
in Sherwood!"

"Why, how now, master," quoth Little John, "what heat is this? Thou
dost set thy pot a-boiling, and mayhap no bacon to cook! Methinks yon
fellow's hair is overlight for Norman locks. He may be a good man and
true for aught thou knowest."

"Nay," said Robin, "my head against a leaden farthing, he is what I say.
So, lie ye both here, I say, till I show you how I drub this fellow."
So saying, Robin Hood stepped forth from the shade of the beech tree,
crossed the stile, and stood in the middle of the road, with his hands
on his hips, in the stranger's path.

Meantime the stranger, who had been walking so slowly that all this
talk was held before he came opposite the place where they were, neither
quickened his pace nor seemed to see that such a man as Robin Hood was
in the world. So Robin stood in the middle of the road, waiting while
the other walked slowly forward, smelling his rose, and looking this way
and that, and everywhere except at Robin.

"Hold!" cried Robin, when at last the other had come close to him.
"Hold! Stand where thou art!"

"Wherefore should I hold, good fellow?" said the stranger in soft and
gentle voice. "And wherefore should I stand where I am? Ne'ertheless, as
thou dost desire that I should stay, I will abide for a short time, that
I may hear what thou mayst have to say to me."

"Then," quoth Robin, "as thou dost so fairly do as I tell thee, and dost
give me such soft speech, I will also treat thee with all due courtesy.
I would have thee know, fair friend, that I am, as it were, a votary at
the shrine of Saint Wilfred who, thou mayst know, took, willy-nilly,
all their gold from the heathen, and melted it up into candlesticks.
Wherefore, upon such as come hereabouts, I levy a certain toll, which
I use for a better purpose, I hope, than to make candlesticks withal.
Therefore, sweet chuck, I would have thee deliver to me thy purse, that
I may look into it, and judge, to the best of my poor powers, whether
thou hast more wealth about thee than our law allows. For, as our good
Gaffer Swanthold sayeth, 'He who is fat from overliving must needs lose
blood.'"

All this time the youth had been sniffing at the rose that he held
betwixt his thumb and finger. "Nay," said he with a gentle smile, when
Robin Hood had done, "I do love to hear thee talk, thou pretty fellow,
and if, haply, thou art not yet done, finish, I beseech thee. I have yet
some little time to stay."

"I have said all," quoth Robin, "and now, if thou wilt give me thy
purse, I will let thee go thy way without let or hindrance so soon as I
shall see what it may hold. I will take none from thee if thou hast but
little."

"Alas! It doth grieve me much," said the other, "that I cannot do
as thou dost wish. I have nothing to give thee. Let me go my way, I
prythee. I have done thee no harm."

"Nay, thou goest not," quoth Robin, "till thou hast shown me thy purse."

"Good friend," said the other gently, "I have business elsewhere. I
have given thee much time and have heard thee patiently. Prythee, let me
depart in peace."

"I have spoken to thee, friend," said Robin sternly, "and I now tell
thee again, that thou goest not one step forward till thou hast done as
I bid thee." So saying, he raised his quarterstaff above his head in a
threatening way.

"Alas!" said the stranger sadly, "it doth grieve me that this thing must
be. I fear much that I must slay thee, thou poor fellow!" So saying, he
drew his sword.

"Put by thy weapon," quoth Robin. "I would take no vantage of thee. Thy
sword cannot stand against an oaken staff such as mine. I could snap
it like a barley straw. Yonder is a good oaken thicket by the roadside;
take thee a cudgel thence and defend thyself fairly, if thou hast a
taste for a sound drubbing."

First the stranger measured Robin with his eye, and then he measured the
oaken staff. "Thou art right, good fellow," said he presently, "truly,
my sword is no match for that cudgel of thine. Bide thee awhile till
I get me a staff." So saying, he threw aside the rose that he had been
holding all this time, thrust his sword back into the scabbard, and,
with a more hasty step than he had yet used, stepped to the roadside
where grew the little clump of ground oaks Robin had spoken of. Choosing
among them, he presently found a sapling to his liking. He did not cut
it, but, rolling up his sleeves a little way, he laid hold of it, placed
his heel against the ground, and, with one mighty pull, plucked the
young tree up by the roots from out the very earth. Then he came back,
trimming away the roots and tender stems with his sword as quietly as if
he had done nought to speak of.

Little John and the Tanner had been watching all that passed, but when
they saw the stranger drag the sapling up from the earth, and heard the
rending and snapping of its roots, the Tanner pursed his lips together,
drawing his breath between them in a long inward whistle.

"By the breath of my body!" said Little John, as soon as he could gather
his wits from their wonder, "sawest thou that, Arthur? Marry, I think
our poor master will stand but an ill chance with yon fellow. By Our
Lady, he plucked up yon green tree as it were a barley straw."

Whatever Robin Hood thought, he stood his ground, and now he and the
stranger in scarlet stood face to face.

Well did Robin Hood hold his own that day as a mid-country yeoman. This
way and that they fought, and back and forth, Robin's skill against the
stranger's strength. The dust of the highway rose up around them like
a cloud, so that at times Little John and the Tanner could see nothing,
but only hear the rattle of the staves against one another. Thrice Robin
Hood struck the stranger; once upon the arm and twice upon the ribs, and
yet had he warded all the other's blows, only one of which, had it met
its mark, would have laid stout Robin lower in the dust than he had ever
gone before. At last the stranger struck Robin's cudgel so fairly in the
middle that he could hardly hold his staff in his hand; again he struck,
and Robin bent beneath the blow; a third time he struck, and now not
only fairly beat down Robin's guard, but gave him such a rap, also, that
down he tumbled into the dusty road.

"Hold!" cried Robin Hood, when he saw the stranger raising his staff
once more. "I yield me!"

"Hold!" cried Little John, bursting from his cover, with the Tanner at
his heels. "Hold! give over, I say!"

"Nay," answered the stranger quietly, "if there be two more of you,
and each as stout as this good fellow, I am like to have my hands full.
Nevertheless, come on, and I will strive my best to serve you all."

"Stop!" cried Robin Hood, "we will fight no more. I take my vow, this
is an ill day for thee and me, Little John. I do verily believe that
my wrist, and eke my arm, are palsied by the jar of the blow that this
stranger struck me."

Then Little John turned to Robin Hood. "Why, how now, good master," said
he. "Alas! Thou art in an ill plight. Marry, thy jerkin is all befouled
with the dust of the road. Let me help thee to arise."

"A plague on thy aid!" cried Robin angrily. "I can get to my feet
without thy help, good fellow."

"Nay, but let me at least dust thy coat for thee. I fear thy poor bones
are mightily sore," quoth Little John soberly, but with a sly twinkle in
his eyes.

"Give over, I say!" quoth Robin in a fume. "My coat hath been dusted
enough already, without aid of thine." Then, turning to the stranger, he
said, "What may be thy name, good fellow?"

"My name is Gamwell," answered the other.

"Ha!" cried Robin, "is it even so? I have near kin of that name. Whence
camest thou, fair friend?"

"From Maxfield Town I come," answered the stranger. "There was I born
and bred, and thence I come to seek my mother's young brother, whom men
call Robin Hood. So, if perchance thou mayst direct me--"

"Ha! Will Gamwell!" cried Robin, placing both hands upon the other's
shoulders and holding him off at arm's length. "Surely, it can be none
other! I might have known thee by that pretty maiden air of thine--that
dainty, finicking manner of gait. Dost thou not know me, lad? Look upon
me well."

"Now, by the breath of my body!" cried the other, "I do believe from my
heart that thou art mine own Uncle Robin. Nay, certain it is so!" And
each flung his arms around the other, kissing him upon the cheek.

Then once more Robin held his kinsman off at arm's length and scanned
him keenly from top to toe. "Why, how now," quoth he, "what change is
here? Verily, some eight or ten years ago I left thee a stripling lad,
with great joints and ill-hung limbs, and lo! here thou art, as tight a
fellow as e'er I set mine eyes upon. Dost thou not remember, lad, how I
showed thee the proper way to nip the goose feather betwixt thy fingers
and throw out thy bow arm steadily? Thou gayest great promise of being a
keen archer. And dost thou not mind how I taught thee to fend and parry
with the cudgel?"

"Yea," said young Gamwell, "and I did so look up to thee, and thought
thee so above all other men that, I make my vow, had I known who thou
wert, I would never have dared to lift hand against thee this day. I
trust I did thee no great harm."

"No, no," quoth Robin hastily, and looking sideways at Little John,
"thou didst not harm me. But say no more of that, I prythee. Yet I will
say, lad, that I hope I may never feel again such a blow as thou didst
give me. By'r Lady, my arm doth tingle yet from fingernail to elbow.
Truly, I thought that I was palsied for life. I tell thee, coz, that
thou art the strongest man that ever I laid mine eyes upon. I take my
vow, I felt my stomach quake when I beheld thee pluck up yon green tree
as thou didst. But tell me, how camest thou to leave Sir Edward and thy
mother?"

"Alas!" answered young Gamwell, "it is an ill story, uncle, that I
have to tell thee. My father's steward, who came to us after old Giles
Crookleg died, was ever a saucy varlet, and I know not why my father
kept him, saving that he did oversee with great judgment. It used to
gall me to hear him speak up so boldly to my father, who, thou knowest,
was ever a patient man to those about him, and slow to anger and harsh
words. Well, one day--and an ill day it was for that saucy fellow--he
sought to berate my father, I standing by. I could stand it no
longer, good uncle, so, stepping forth, I gave him a box o' the ear,
and--wouldst thou believe it?--the fellow straightway died o't. I think
they said I broke his neck, or something o' the like. So off they packed
me to seek thee and escape the law. I was on my way when thou sawest me,
and here I am."

"Well, by the faith of my heart," quoth Robin Hood, "for anyone escaping
the law, thou wast taking it the most easily that ever I beheld in all
my life. Whenever did anyone in all the world see one who had slain a
man, and was escaping because of it, tripping along the highway like a
dainty court damsel, sniffing at a rose the while?"

"Nay, uncle," answered Will Gamwell, "overhaste never churned good
butter, as the old saying hath it. Moreover, I do verily believe that
this overstrength of my body hath taken the nimbleness out of my heels.
Why, thou didst but just now rap me thrice, and I thee never a once,
save by overbearing thee by my strength."

"Nay," quoth Robin, "let us say no more on that score. I am right glad
to see thee, Will, and thou wilt add great honor and credit to my band
of merry fellows. But thou must change thy name, for warrants will be
out presently against thee; so, because of thy gay clothes, thou shalt
henceforth and for aye be called Will Scarlet."

"Will Scarlet," quoth Little John, stepping forward and reaching out his
great palm, which the other took, "Will Scarlet, the name fitteth thee
well. Right glad am I to welcome thee among us. I am called Little John;
and this is a new member who has just joined us, a stout tanner named
Arthur a Bland. Thou art like to achieve fame, Will, let me tell thee,
for there will be many a merry ballad sung about the country, and many
a merry story told in Sherwood of how Robin Hood taught Little John and
Arthur a Bland the proper way to use the quarterstaff; likewise, as
it were, how our good master bit off so large a piece of cake that he
choked on it."

"Nay, good Little John," quoth Robin gently, for he liked ill to have
such a jest told of him. "Why should we speak of this little matter?
Prythee, let us keep this day's doings among ourselves."

"With all my heart," quoth Little John. "But, good master, I thought
that thou didst love a merry story, because thou hast so often made a
jest about a certain increase of fatness on my joints, of flesh gathered
by my abiding with the Sheriff of--"

"Nay, good Little John," said Robin hastily, "I do bethink me I have
said full enough on that score."

"It is well," quoth Little John, "for in truth I myself have tired of
it somewhat. But now I bethink me, thou didst also seem minded to make a
jest of the rain that threatened last night; so--"

"Nay, then," said Robin Hood testily, "I was mistaken. I remember me now
it did seem to threaten rain."

"Truly, I did think so myself," quoth Little John, "therefore, no doubt,
thou dost think it was wise of me to abide all night at the Blue Boar
Inn, instead of venturing forth in such stormy weather; dost thou not?"

"A plague of thee and thy doings!" cried Robin Hood. "If thou wilt have
it so, thou wert right to abide wherever thou didst choose."

"Once more, it is well," quoth Little John. "As for myself, I have been
blind this day. I did not see thee drubbed; I did not see thee tumbled
heels over head in the dust; and if any man says that thou wert, I can
with a clear conscience rattle his lying tongue betwixt his teeth."

"Come," cried Robin, biting his nether lip, while the others could
not forbear laughing. "We will go no farther today, but will return to
Sherwood, and thou shalt go to Ancaster another time, Little John."

So said Robin, for now that his bones were sore, he felt as though a
long journey would be an ill thing for him. So, turning their backs,
they retraced their steps whence they came.




The Adventure with Midge the Miller's Son

WHEN THE four yeomen had traveled for a long time toward Sherwood again,
high noontide being past, they began to wax hungry. Quoth Robin Hood, "I
would that I had somewhat to eat. Methinks a good loaf of white bread,
with a piece of snow-white cheese, washed down with a draught of humming
ale, were a feast for a king."

"Since thou speakest of it," said Will Scarlet, "methinks it would not
be amiss myself. There is that within me crieth out, 'Victuals, good
friend, victuals!'"

"I know a house near by," said Arthur a Bland, "and, had I but the
money, I would bring ye that ye speak of; to wit, a sweet loaf of bread,
a fair cheese, and a skin of brown ale."

"For the matter of that, thou knowest I have money by me, good master,"
quoth Little John.

"Why, so thou hast, Little John," said Robin. "How much money will it
take, good Arthur, to buy us meat and drink?"

"I think that six broad pennies will buy food enow for a dozen men,"
said the Tanner.

"Then give him six pennies, Little John," quoth Robin, "for methinks
food for three men will about fit my need. Now get thee gone, Arthur,
with the money, and bring the food here, for there is a sweet shade in
that thicket yonder, beside the road, and there will we eat our meal."

So Little John gave Arthur the money, and the others stepped to the
thicket, there to await the return of the Tanner.

After a time he came back, bearing with him a great brown loaf of bread,
and a fair, round cheese, and a goatskin full of stout March beer, slung
over his shoulders. Then Will Scarlet took his sword and divided
the loaf and the cheese into four fair portions, and each man helped
himself. Then Robin Hood took a deep pull at the beer. "Aha!" said he,
drawing in his breath, "never have I tasted sweeter drink than this."

After this no man spake more, but each munched away at his bread and
cheese lustily, with ever and anon a pull at the beer.

At last Will Scarlet looked at a small piece of bread he still held in
his hand, and quoth he, "Methinks I will give this to the sparrows." So,
throwing it from him, he brushed the crumbs from his jerkin.

"I, too," quoth Robin, "have had enough, I think." As for Little John
and the Tanner, they had by this time eaten every crumb of their bread
and cheese.

"Now," quoth Robin, "I do feel myself another man, and would fain enjoy
something pleasant before going farther upon our journey. I do bethink
me, Will, that thou didst use to have a pretty voice, and one that tuned
sweetly upon a song. Prythee, give us one ere we journey farther."

"Truly, I do not mind turning a tune," answered Will Scarlet, "but I
would not sing alone."

"Nay, others will follow. Strike up, lad," quoth Robin.

"In that case, 'tis well," said Will Scarlet. "I do call to mind a song
that a certain minstrel used to sing in my father's hall, upon occasion.
I know no name for it and so can give you none; but thus it is." Then,
clearing his throat, he sang:

     "_In the merry blossom time,
     When love longings food the breast,
     When the flower is on the lime,
     When the small fowl builds her nest,
     Sweetly sings the nightingale
     And the throstle cock so bold;
     Cuckoo in the dewy dale
     And the turtle in the word.
     But the robin I love dear,
     For he singeth through the year.
     Robin! Robin!
     Merry Robin!
     So I'd have my true love be:
     Not to fly
     At the nigh
     Sign of cold adversity_.

     "_When the spring brings sweet delights,
     When aloft the lark doth rise,
     Lovers woo o' mellow nights,
     And youths peep in maidens' eyes,
     That time blooms the eglantine,
     Daisies pied upon the hill,
     Cowslips fair and columbine,
     Dusky violets by the rill.
     But the ivy green cloth grow
     When the north wind bringeth snow.
     Ivy! Ivy!
     Stanch and true!
     Thus I'd have her love to be:
     Not to die
     At the nigh
     Breath of cold adversity_."

"'Tis well sung," quoth Robin, "but, cousin, I tell thee plain, I would
rather hear a stout fellow like thee sing some lusty ballad than a
finicking song of flowers and birds, and what not. Yet, thou didst sing
it fair, and 'tis none so bad a snatch of a song, for the matter of
that. Now, Tanner, it is thy turn."

"I know not," quoth Arthur, smiling, with his head on one side, like a
budding lass that is asked to dance, "I know not that I can match our
sweet friend's song; moreover, I do verily think that I have caught a
cold and have a certain tickling and huskiness in the windpipe."

"Nay, sing up, friend," quoth Little John, who sat next to him, patting
him upon the shoulder. "Thou hast a fair, round, mellow voice; let us
have a touch of it."

"Nay, an ye will ha' a poor thing," said Arthur, "I will do my best.
Have ye ever heard of the wooing of Sir Keith, the stout young Cornish
knight, in good King Arthur's time?"

"Methinks I have heard somewhat of it," said Robin; "but ne'ertheless
strike up thy ditty and let us hear it, for, as I do remember me, it is
a gallant song; so out with it, good fellow."

Thereupon, clearing his throat, the Tanner, without more ado, began to
sing:


THE WOOING OF SIR KEITH

     "_King Arthur sat in his royal hall,
     And about on either hand
     Was many a noble lordling tall,
     The greatest in the land.

     "Sat  Lancelot with raven locks,
     Gawaine with golden hair,
     Sir Tristram, Kay who kept the locks,
     And many another there.

     "And through the stained windows bright,
     From o'er the red-tiled eaves,
     The sunlight blazed with colored light
     On golden helms and greaves.

     "But suddenly a silence came
     About the Table Round,
     For up the hall there walked a dame
     Bent nigh unto the ground.

     "Her nose was hooked, her eyes were bleared,
     Her locks were lank and white;
     Upon her chin there grew a beard;
     She was a gruesome sight.

     "And so with crawling step she came
     And kneeled at Arthur's feet;
     Quoth Kay, 'She is the foulest dame
     That e'er my sight did greet.'

     "'O mighty King! of thee I crave
     A boon on bended knee';
     'Twas thus she spoke. 'What wouldst thou have.'
     Quoth Arthur, King, 'of me_?'

     "_Quoth she, 'I have a foul disease
     Doth gnaw my very heart,
     And but one thing can bring me ease
     Or cure my bitter smart.

     "'There is no rest, no ease for me
     North, east, or west, or south,
     Till Christian knight will willingly
     Thrice kiss me on the mouth.

     "'Nor wedded may this childe have been
     That giveth ease to me;
     Nor may he be constrained, I ween,
     But kiss me willingly.

     "'So is there here one Christian knight
     Of such a noble strain
     That he will give a tortured wight
     Sweet ease of mortal pain?'

     "'A wedded man,' quoth Arthur, King,
     'A wedded man I be
     Else would I deem it noble thing
     To kiss thee willingly.

     "'Now, Lancelot, in all men's sight
     Thou art the head and chief
     Of chivalry. Come, noble knight,
     And give her quick relief.'

     "But Lancelot he turned aside
     And looked upon the ground,
     For it did sting his haughty pride
     To hear them laugh around.

     "'Come thou, Sir Tristram,' quoth the King.
     Quoth he, 'It cannot be,
     For ne'er can I my stomach bring
     To do it willingly.'

     "'Wilt thou, Sir Kay, thou scornful wight?'
     Quoth Kay, 'Nay, by my troth!
     What noble dame would kiss a knight
     That kissed so foul a mouth_?'

     "'_Wilt thou, Gawaine?' 'I cannot, King.'
     'Sir Geraint?' 'Nay, not I;
     My kisses no relief could bring,
     For sooner would I die.'

     "Then up and spake the youngest man
     Of all about the board,
     'Now such relief as Christian can
     I'll give to her, my lord.'

     "It was Sir Keith, a youthful knight,
     Yet strong of limb and bold,
     With beard upon his chin as light
     As finest threads of gold.

     "Quoth Kay, 'He hath no mistress yet
     That he may call his own,
     But here is one that's quick to get,
     As she herself has shown.'

     "He kissed her once, he kissed her twice,
     He kissed her three times o'er,
     A wondrous change came in a trice,
     And she was foul no more.

     "Her cheeks grew red as any rose,
     Her brow as white as lawn,
     Her bosom like the winter snows,
     Her eyes like those of fawn.

     "Her breath grew sweet as summer breeze
     That blows the meadows o'er;
     Her voice grew soft as rustling trees,
     And cracked and harsh no more.

     "Her hair grew glittering, like the gold,
     Her hands as white as milk;
     Her filthy rags, so foul and old,
     Were changed to robes of silk.

     "In great amaze the knights did stare.
     Quoth Kay, 'I make my vow
     If it will please thee, lady fair,
     I'll gladly kiss thee now_.'

     "_But young Sir Keith kneeled on one knee
     And kissed her robes so fair.
     'O let me be thy slave,' said he,
     'For none to thee compare.'

     "She bent her down, she kissed his brow,
     She kissed his lips and eyes.
     Quoth she, 'Thou art my master now,
     My lord, my love, arise!

     "'And all the wealth that is mine own,
     My lands, I give to thee,
     For never knight hath lady shown
     Such noble courtesy.

     "'Bewitched was I, in bitter pain,
     But thou hast set me free,
     So now I am myself again,
     I give myself to thee_.'"


"Yea, truly," quoth Robin Hood, when the Tanner had made an end of
singing, "it is as I remember it, a fair ditty, and a ballad with a
pleasing tune of a song."

"It hath oftentimes seemed to me," said Will Scarlet, "that it hath a
certain motive in it, e'en such as this: That a duty which seemeth to us
sometimes ugly and harsh, when we do kiss it fairly upon the mouth, so
to speak, is no such foul thing after all."

"Methinks thou art right," quoth Robin, "and, contrariwise, that when we
kiss a pleasure that appeareth gay it turneth foul to us; is it not so,
Little John? Truly such a thing hath brought thee sore thumps this day.
Nay, man, never look down in the mouth. Clear thy pipes and sing us a
ditty."

"Nay," said Little John, "I have none as fair as that merry Arthur has
trolled. They are all poor things that I know. Moreover, my voice is
not in tune today, and I would not spoil even a tolerable song by ill
singing."

Upon this all pressed Little John to sing, so that when he had denied
them a proper length of time, such as is seemly in one that is asked
to sing, he presently yielded. Quoth he, 'Well, an ye will ha' it so,
I will give you what I can. Like to fair Will, I have no title to my
ditty, but thus it runs:

     "_O Lady mine, the spring is here,
     With a hey nonny nonny;
     The sweet love season of the year,
     With a ninny ninny nonny;
     Now lad and lass
     Lie in the grass
     That groweth green
     With flowers between.
     The buck doth rest
     The leaves do start,
     The cock doth crow,
     The breeze doth blow,
     And all things laugh in_--"

"Who may yon fellow be coming along the road?" said Robin, breaking into
the song.

"I know not," quoth Little John in a surly voice. "But this I do know,
that it is an ill thing to do to check the flow of a good song."

"Nay, Little John," said Robin, "be not vexed, I prythee; but I have
been watching him coming along, bent beneath that great bag over his
shoulder, ever since thou didst begin thy song. Look, Little John, I
pray, and see if thou knowest him."

Little John looked whither Robin Hood pointed. "Truly," quoth he, after
a time, "I think yon fellow is a certain young miller I have seen now
and then around the edge of Sherwood; a poor wight, methinks, to spoil a
good song about."

"Now thou speakest of him," quoth Robin Hood, "methinks I myself have
seen him now and then. Hath he not a mill over beyond Nottingham Town,
nigh to the Salisbury road?"

"Thou art right; that is the man," said Little John.

"A good stout fellow," quoth Robin. "I saw him crack Ned o' Bradford's
crown about a fortnight since, and never saw I hair lifted more neatly
in all my life before."

By this time the young miller had come so near that they could see
him clearly. His clothes were dusted with flour, and over his back he
carried a great sack of meal, bending so as to bring the whole weight
upon his shoulders, and across the sack was a thick quarterstaff. His
limbs were stout and strong, and he strode along the dusty road right
sturdily with the heavy sack across his shoulders. His cheeks were ruddy
as a winter hip, his hair was flaxen in color, and on his chin was a
downy growth of flaxen beard.

"A good honest fellow," quoth Robin Hood, "and such an one as is a
credit to English yeomanrie. Now let us have a merry jest with him. We
will forth as though we were common thieves and pretend to rob him of
his honest gains. Then will we take him into the forest and give him
a feast such as his stomach never held in all his life before. We will
flood his throat with good canary and send him home with crowns in his
purse for every penny he hath. What say ye, lads?"

"Truly, it is a merry thought," said Will Scarlet.

"It is well planned," quoth Little John, "but all the saints preserve us
from any more drubbings this day! Marry, my poor bones ache so that I--"

"Prythee peace, Little John," quoth Robin. "Thy foolish tongue will get
us both well laughed at yet."

"My foolish tongue, forsooth," growled Little John to Arthur a Bland.
"I would it could keep our master from getting us into another coil this
day."

But now the Miller, plodding along the road, had come opposite to
where the yeomen lay hidden, whereupon all four of them ran at him and
surrounded him.

"Hold, friend!" cried Robin to the Miller; whereupon he turned slowly,
with the weight of the bag upon his shoulder, and looked at each in turn
all bewildered, for though a good stout man his wits did not skip like
roasting chestnuts.

"Who bids me stay?" said the Miller in a voice deep and gruff, like the
growl of a great dog.

"Marry, that do I," quoth Robin; "and let me tell thee, friend, thou
hadst best mind my bidding."

"And who art thou, good friend?" said the Miller, throwing the great
sack of meal from his shoulder to the ground, "and who are those with
thee?"

"We be four good Christian men," quoth Robin, "and would fain help thee
by carrying part of thy heavy load."

"I give you all thanks," said the Miller, "but my bag is none that heavy
that I cannot carry it e'en by myself."

"Nay, thou dost mistake," quoth Robin, "I meant that thou mightest
perhaps have some heavy farthings or pence about thee, not to speak
of silver and gold. Our good Gaffer Swanthold sayeth that gold is an
overheavy burden for a two-legged ass to carry; so we would e'en lift
some of this load from thee."

"Alas!" cried the Miller, "what would ye do to me? I have not about me
so much as a clipped groat. Do me no harm, I pray you, but let me
depart in peace. Moreover, let me tell you that ye are upon Robin Hood's
ground, and should he find you seeking to rob an honest craftsman, he
will clip your ears to your heads and scourge you even to the walls of
Nottingham.

"In truth I fear Robin Hood no more than I do myself," quoth jolly
Robin. "Thou must this day give up to me every penny thou hast about
thee. Nay, if thou dost budge an inch I will rattle this staff about
thine ears."

"Nay, smite me not!" cried the Miller, throwing up his elbow as though
he feared the blow. "Thou mayst search me if thou wilt, but thou wilt
find nothing upon me, pouch, pocket, or skin."

"Is it so?" quoth Robin Hood, looking keenly upon him. "Now I believe
that what thou tellest is no true tale. If I am not much mistook thou
hast somewhat in the bottom of that fat sack of meal. Good Arthur, empty
the bag upon the ground; I warrant thou wilt find a shilling or two in
the flour."

"Alas!" cried the Miller, falling upon his knees, "spoil not all my good
meal! It can better you not, and will ruin me. Spare it, and I will give
up the money in the bag."

"Ha!" quoth Robin, nudging Will Scarlet. "Is it so? And have I found
where thy money lies? Marry, I have a wondrous nose for the blessed
image of good King Harry. I thought that I smelled gold and silver
beneath the barley meal. Bring it straight forth, Miller."

Then slowly the Miller arose to his feet, and slowly and unwillingly he
untied the mouth of the bag, and slowly thrust his hands into the meal
and began fumbling about with his arms buried to the elbows in the
barley flour. The others gathered round him, their heads together,
looking and wondering what he would bring forth.

So they stood, all with their heads close together gazing down into the
sack. But while he pretended to be searching for the money, the Miller
gathered two great handfuls of meal. "Ha," quoth he, "here they are, the
beauties." Then, as the others leaned still more forward to see what he
had, he suddenly cast the meal into their faces, filling their eyes and
noses and mouths with the flour, blinding and half choking them. Arthur
a Bland was worse off than any, for his mouth was open, agape with
wonder of what was to come, so that a great cloud of flour flew down his
throat, setting him a-coughing till he could scarcely stand.

Then, while all four stumbled about, roaring with the smart of the meal
in their eyeballs, and while they rubbed their eyes till the tears
made great channels on their faces through the meal, the Miller seized
another handful of flour and another and another, throwing it in their
faces, so that even had they had a glimmering of light before they were
now as blind as ever a beggar in Nottinghamshire, while their hair and
beards and clothes were as white as snow.

Then catching up his great crabstaff, the Miller began laying about him
as though he were clean gone mad. This way and that skipped the four,
like peas on a drumhead, but they could see neither to defend themselves
nor to run away. Thwack! thwack! went the Miller's cudgel across their
backs, and at every blow great white clouds of flour rose in the air
from their jackets and went drifting down the breeze.

"Stop!" roared Robin at last. "Give over, good friend, I am Robin Hood!"

"Thou liest, thou knave," cried the Miller, giving him a rap on the ribs
that sent up a great cloud of flour like a puff of smoke. "Stout Robin
never robbed an honest tradesman. Ha! thou wouldst have my money,
wouldst thou?" And he gave him another blow. "Nay, thou art not getting
thy share, thou long-legged knave. Share and share alike." And he smote
Little John across the shoulders so that he sent him skipping half
across the road. "Nay, fear not, it is thy turn now, black beard." And
he gave the Tanner a crack that made him roar for all his coughing. "How
now, red coat, let me brush the dust from thee!" cried he, smiting Will
Scarlet. And so he gave them merry words and blows until they could
scarcely stand, and whenever he saw one like to clear his eyes he threw
more flour in his face. At last Robin Hood found his horn and clapping
it to his lips, blew three loud blasts upon it.

Now it chanced that Will Stutely and a party of Robin's men were in the
glade not far from where this merry sport was going forward. Hearing the
hubbub of voices, and blows that sounded like the noise of a flail in
the barn in wintertime, they stopped, listening and wondering what was
toward. Quoth Will Stutely, "Now if I mistake not there is some stout
battle with cudgels going forward not far hence. I would fain see this
pretty sight." So saying, he and the whole party turned their steps
whence the noise came. When they had come near where all the tumult
sounded they heard the three blasts of Robin's bugle horn.

"Quick!" cried young David of Doncaster. "Our master is in sore need!"
So, without stopping a moment, they dashed forward with might and main
and burst forth from the covert into the highroad.

But what a sight was that which they saw! The road was all white with
meal, and five men stood there also white with meal from top to toe, for
much of the barley flour had fallen back upon the Miller.

"What is thy need, master?" cried Will Stutely. "And what doth all this
mean?"

"Why," quoth Robin in a mighty passion, "yon traitor felt low hath come
as nigh slaying me as e'er a man in all the world. Hadst thou not come
quickly, good Stutely, thy master had been dead."

Hereupon, while he and the three others rubbed the meal from their eyes,
and Will Stutely and his men brushed their clothes clean, he told them
all; how that he had meant to pass a jest upon the Miller, which same
had turned so grievously upon them.

"Quick, men, seize the vile Miller!" cried Stutely, who was nigh choking
with laughter as were the rest; whereupon several ran upon the stout
fellow and seizing him, bound his arms behind his back with bowstrings.

"Ha!" cried Robin, when they brought the trembling Miller to him. "Thou
wouldst murder me, wouldst thou? By my faith,"--Here he stopped and stood
glaring upon the Miller grimly. But Robin's anger could not hold, so
first his eyes twinkled, and then in spite of all he broke into a laugh.

Now when they saw their master laugh, the yeomen who stood around could
contain themselves no longer, and a mighty shout of laughter went up
from all. Many could not stand, but rolled upon the ground from pure
merriment.

"What is thy name, good fellow?" said Robin at last to the Miller, who
stood gaping and as though he were in amaze.

"Alas, sir, I am Midge, the Miller's son," said he in a frightened
voice.

"I make my vow," quoth merry Robin, smiting him upon the shoulder, "thou
art the mightiest Midge that e'er mine eyes beheld. Now wilt thou leave
thy dusty mill and come and join my band? By my faith, thou art too
stout a man to spend thy days betwixt the hopper and the till."

"Then truly, if thou dost forgive me for the blows I struck, not knowing
who thou wast, I will join with thee right merrily," said the Miller.

"Then have I gained this day," quoth Robin, "the three stoutest yeomen
in all Nottinghamshire. We will get us away to the greenwood tree, and
there hold a merry feast in honor of our new friends, and mayhap a cup
or two of good sack and canary may mellow the soreness of my poor joints
and bones, though I warrant it will be many a day before I am again the
man I was." So saying, he turned and led the way, the rest following,
and so they entered the forest once more and were lost to sight.

So that night all was ablaze with crackling fires in the woodlands,
for though Robin and those others spoken of, only excepting Midge, the
Miller's son, had many a sore bump and bruise here and there on their
bodies, they were still not so sore in the joints that they could not
enjoy a jolly feast given all in welcome to the new members of the band.
Thus with songs and jesting and laughter that echoed through the deeper
and more silent nooks of the forest, the night passed quickly along, as
such merry times are wont to do, until at last each man sought his couch
and silence fell on all things and all things seemed to sleep.

But Little John's tongue was ever one that was not easy of guidance,
so that, inch by inch, the whole story of his fight with the Tanner and
Robin's fight with Will Scarlet leaked out. And so I have told it that
you may laugh at the merry tale along with me.




Robin Hood and Allan a Dale

IT HAS just been told how three unlucky adventures fell upon Robin Hood
and Little John all in one day bringing them sore ribs and aching bones.
So next we will tell how they made up for those ill happenings by a good
action that came about not without some small pain to Robin.

Two days had passed by, and somewhat of the soreness had passed away
from Robin Hood's joints, yet still, when he moved of a sudden and
without thinking, pain here and there would, as it were, jog him,
crying, "Thou hast had a drubbing, good fellow."

The day was bright and jocund, and the morning dew still lay upon the
grass. Under the greenwood tree sat Robin Hood; on one side was Will
Scarlet, lying at full length upon his back, gazing up into the clear
sky, with hands clasped behind his head; upon the other side sat Little
John, fashioning a cudgel out of a stout crab-tree limb; elsewhere upon
the grass sat or lay many others of the band.

"By the faith of my heart," quoth merry Robin, "I do bethink me that we
have had no one to dine with us for this long time. Our money groweth
low in the purse, for no one hath come to pay a reckoning for many a
day. Now busk thee, good Stutely, and choose thee six men, and get thee
gone to Fosse Way or thereabouts, and see that thou bringest someone to
eat with us this evening. Meantime we will prepare a grand feast to do
whosoever may come the greater honor. And stay, good Stutely. I would
have thee take Will Scarlet with thee, for it is meet that he should
become acquaint with the ways of the forest."

"Now do I thank thee, good master," quoth Stutely, springing to his
feet, "that thou hast chosen me for this adventure. Truly, my limbs
do grow slack through abiding idly here. As for two of my six, I will
choose Midge the Miller and Arthur a Bland, for, as well thou knowest,
good master, they are stout fists at the quarterstaff. Is it not so,
Little John?"

At this all laughed but Little John and Robin, who twisted up his face.
"I can speak for Midge," said he, "and likewise for my cousin Scarlet.
This very blessed morn I looked at my ribs and found them as many colors
as a beggar's cloak."

So, having chosen four more stout fellows, Will Stutely and his band set
forth to Fosse Way, to find whether they might not come across some rich
guest to feast that day in Sherwood with Robin and his band.

For all the livelong day they abided near this highway. Each man had
brought with him a good store of cold meat and a bottle of stout March
beer to stay his stomach till the homecoming. So when high noontide
had come they sat them down upon the soft grass, beneath a green and
wide-spreading hawthorn bush, and held a hearty and jovial feast. After
this, one kept watch while the others napped, for it was a still and
sultry day.

Thus they passed the time pleasantly enow, but no guest such as they
desired showed his face in all the time that they lay hidden there. Many
passed along the dusty road in the glare of the sun: now it was a bevy
of chattering damsels merrily tripping along; now it was a plodding
tinker; now a merry shepherd lad; now a sturdy farmer; all gazing ahead
along the road, unconscious of the seven stout fellows that lay hidden
so near them. Such were the travelers along the way; but fat abbot, rich
esquire, or money-laden usurer came there none.

At last the sun began to sink low in the heavens; the light grew red
and the shadows long. The air grew full of silence, the birds twittered
sleepily, and from afar came, faint and clear, the musical song of the
milkmaid calling the kine home to the milking.

Then Stutely arose from where he was lying. "A plague of such ill luck!"
quoth he. "Here have we abided all day, and no bird worth the shooting,
so to speak, hath come within reach of our bolt. Had I gone forth on
an innocent errand, I had met a dozen stout priests or a score of pursy
money-lenders. But it is ever thus: the dun deer are never so scarce
as when one has a gray goose feather nipped betwixt the fingers. Come,
lads, let us pack up and home again, say I."

Accordingly, the others arose, and, coming forth from out the thicket,
they all turned their toes back again to Sherwood. After they had gone
some distance, Will Stutely, who headed the party, suddenly stopped.
"Hist!" quoth he, for his ears were as sharp as those of a five-year-old
fox. "Hark, lads! Methinks I hear a sound." At this all stopped and
listened with bated breath, albeit for a time they could hear nothing,
their ears being duller than Stutely's. At length they heard a faint and
melancholy sound, like someone in lamentation.

"Ha!" quoth Will Scarlet, "this must be looked into. There is someone in
distress nigh to us here."

"I know not," quoth Will Stutely, shaking his head doubtfully, "our
master is ever rash about thrusting his finger into a boiling pot; but,
for my part, I see no use in getting ourselves into mischievous coils.
Yon is a man's voice, if I mistake not, and a man should be always ready
to get himself out from his own pothers."

Then out spake Will Scarlet boldly. "Now out upon thee, to talk in that
manner, Stutely! Stay, if thou dost list. I go to see what may be the
trouble of this poor creature."

"Nay," quoth Stutely, "thou dost leap so quickly, thou'lt tumble into
the ditch. Who said I would not go? Come along, say I." Thus saying,
he led the way, the others following, till, after they had gone a short
distance, they came to a little opening in the woodland, whence a brook,
after gurgling out from under the tangle of overhanging bushes, spread
out into a broad and glassy-pebbled pool. By the side of this pool, and
beneath the branches of a willow, lay a youth upon his face, weeping
aloud, the sound of which had first caught the quick ears of Stutely.
His golden locks were tangled, his clothes were all awry, and everything
about him betokened sorrow and woe. Over his head, from the branches of
the osier, hung a beautiful harp of polished wood inlaid with gold and
silver in fantastic devices. Beside him lay a stout ashen bow and half a
score of fair, smooth arrows.

"Halloa!" shouted Will Stutely, when they had come out from the forest
into the little open spot. "Who art thou, fellow, that liest there
killing all the green grass with salt water?"

Hearing the voice, the stranger sprang to his feet and; snatching up
his bow and fitting a shaft, held himself in readiness for whatever ill
might befall him.

"Truly," said one of the yeomen, when they had seen the young stranger's
face, "I do know that lad right well. He is a certain minstrel that I
have seen hereabouts more than once. It was only a week ago I saw him
skipping across the hill like a yearling doe. A fine sight he was then,
with a flower at his ear and a cock's plume stuck in his cap; but now,
methinks, our cockerel is shorn of his gay feathers."

"Pah!" cried Will Stutely, coming up to the stranger, "wipe thine eyes,
man! I do hate to see a tall, stout fellow so sniveling like a girl
of fourteen over a dead tomtit. Put down thy bow, man! We mean thee no
harm."

But Will Scarlet, seeing how the stranger, who had a young and boyish
look, was stung by the words that Stutely had spoken, came to him and
put his hand upon the youth's shoulder. "Nay, thou art in trouble, poor
boy!" said he kindly. "Mind not what these fellows have said. They are
rough, but they mean thee well. Mayhap they do not understand a lad like
thee. Thou shalt come with us, and perchance we may find a certain one
that can aid thee in thy perplexities, whatsoever they may be."

"Yea, truly, come along," said Will Stutely gruffly. "I meant thee no
harm, and may mean thee some good. Take down thy singing tool from off
this fair tree, and away with us."

The youth did as he was bidden and, with bowed head and sorrowful step,
accompanied the others, walking beside Will Scarlet. So they wended
their way through the forest. The bright light faded from the sky and
a glimmering gray fell over all things. From the deeper recesses of the
forest the strange whispering sounds of night-time came to the ear; all
else was silent, saving only for the rattling of their footsteps amid
the crisp, dry leaves of the last winter. At last a ruddy glow shone
before them here and there through the trees; a little farther and they
came to the open glade, now bathed in the pale moonlight. In the center
of the open crackled a great fire, throwing a red glow on all around. At
the fire were roasting juicy steaks of venison, pheasants, capons, and
fresh fish from the river. All the air was filled with the sweet smell
of good things cooking.

The little band made its way across the glade, many yeomen turning with
curious looks and gazing after them, but none speaking or questioning
them. So, with Will Scarlet upon one side and Will Stutely upon the
other, the stranger came to where Robin Hood sat on a seat of moss under
the greenwood tree, with Little John standing beside him.

"Good even, fair friend," said Robin Hood, rising as the other drew
near. "And hast thou come to feast with me this day?"

"Alas! I know not," said the lad, looking around him with dazed eyes,
for he was bewildered with all that he saw. "Truly, I know not whether I
be in a dream," said he to himself in a low voice.

"Nay, marry," quoth Robin, laughing, "thou art awake, as thou wilt
presently find, for a fine feast is a-cooking for thee. Thou art our
honored guest this day."

Still the young stranger looked about him, as though in a dream.
Presently he turned to Robin. "Methinks," said he, "I know now where I
am and what hath befallen me. Art not thou the great Robin Hood?"

"Thou hast hit the bull's eye," quoth Robin, clapping him upon the
shoulder. "Men hereabouts do call me by that name. Sin' thou knowest me,
thou knowest also that he who feasteth with me must pay his reckoning. I
trust thou hast a full purse with thee, fair stranger."

"Alas!" said the stranger, "I have no purse nor no money either, saving
only the half of a sixpence, the other half of which mine own dear
love doth carry in her bosom, hung about her neck by a strand of silken
thread."

At this speech a great shout of laughter went up from those around,
whereat the poor boy looked as he would die of shame; but Robin Hood
turned sharply to Will Stutely. "Why, how now," quoth he, "is this the
guest that thou hast brought us to fill our purse? Methinks thou hast
brought but a lean cock to the market."

"Nay, good master," answered Will Stutely, grinning, "he is no guest of
mine; it was Will Scarlet that brought him thither."

Then up spoke Will Scarlet, and told how they had found the lad in
sorrow, and how he had brought him to Robin, thinking that he might
perchance aid him in his trouble. Then Robin Hood turned to the youth,
and, placing his hand upon the other's shoulder, held him off at arm's
length, scanning his face closely.

"A young face," quoth he in a low voice, half to himself, "a kind face,
a good face. 'Tis like a maiden's for purity, and, withal, the fairest
that e'er mine eyes did see; but, if I may judge fairly by thy looks,
grief cometh to young as well as to old." At these words, spoken so
kindly, the poor lad's eyes brimmed up with tears. "Nay, nay," said
Robin hastily, "cheer up, lad; I warrant thy case is not so bad that it
cannot be mended. What may be thy name?"

"Allen a Dale is my name, good master."

"Allen a Dale," repeated Robin, musing. "Allen a Dale. It doth seem to
me that the name is not altogether strange to mine ears. Yea, surely
thou art the minstrel of whom we have been hearing lately, whose voice
so charmeth all men. Dost thou not come from the Dale of Rotherstream,
over beyond Stavely?"

"Yea, truly," answered Allan, "I do come thence."

"How old art thou, Allan?" said Robin.

"I am but twenty years of age."

"Methinks thou art overyoung to be perplexed with trouble," quoth Robin
kindly; then, turning to the others, he cried, "Come, lads, busk ye and
get our feast ready; only thou, Will Scarlet, and thou, Little John,
stay here with me."

Then, when the others had gone, each man about his business, Robin
turned once more to the youth. "Now, lad," said he, "tell us thy
troubles, and speak freely. A flow of words doth ever ease the heart
of sorrows; it is like opening the waste weir when the mill dam is
overfull. Come, sit thou here beside me, and speak at thine ease."

Then straightway the youth told the three yeomen all that was in his
heart; at first in broken words and phrases, then freely and with
greater ease when he saw that all listened closely to what he said.
So he told them how he had come from York to the sweet vale of Rother,
traveling the country through as a minstrel, stopping now at castle, now
at hall, and now at farmhouse; how he had spent one sweet evening in a
certain broad, low farmhouse, where he sang before a stout franklin and
a maiden as pure and lovely as the first snowdrop of spring; how he had
played and sung to her, and how sweet Ellen o' the Dale had listened to
him and had loved him. Then, in a low, sweet voice, scarcely louder than
a whisper, he told how he had watched for her and met her now and then
when she went abroad, but was all too afraid in her sweet presence to
speak to her, until at last, beside the banks of Rother, he had spoken
of his love, and she had whispered that which had made his heartstrings
quiver for joy. Then they broke a sixpence between them, and vowed to be
true to one another forever.

Next he told how her father had discovered what was a-doing, and had
taken her away from him so that he never saw her again, and his heart
was sometimes like to break; how this morn, only one short month and a
half from the time that he had seen her last, he had heard and knew
it to be so, that she was to marry old Sir Stephen of Trent, two days
hence, for Ellen's father thought it would be a grand thing to have his
daughter marry so high, albeit she wished it not; nor was it wonder
that a knight should wish to marry his own sweet love, who was the most
beautiful maiden in all the world.

To all this the yeomen listened in silence, the clatter of many voices,
jesting and laughing, sounding around them, and the red light of the
fire shining on their faces and in their eyes. So simple were the
poor boy's words, and so deep his sorrow, that even Little John felt a
certain knotty lump rise in his throat.

"I wonder not," said Robin, after a moment's silence, "that thy true
love loved thee, for thou hast surely a silver cross beneath thy tongue,
even like good Saint Francis, that could charm the birds of the air by
his speech."

"By the breath of my body," burst forth Little John, seeking to cover
his feelings with angry words, "I have a great part of a mind to go
straightway and cudgel the nasty life out of the body of that same vile
Sir Stephen. Marry, come up, say I--what a plague--does an old weazen
think that tender lasses are to be bought like pullets o' a market day?
Out upon him!--I--but no matter, only let him look to himself."

Then up spoke Will Scarlet. "Methinks it seemeth but ill done of
the lass that she should so quickly change at others' bidding, more
especially when it cometh to the marrying of a man as old as this same
Sir Stephen. I like it not in her, Allan."

"Nay," said Allan hotly, "thou dost wrong her. She is as soft and gentle
as a stockdove. I know her better than anyone in all the world. She may
do her father's bidding, but if she marries Sir Stephen, her heart will
break and she will die. My own sweet dear, I--" He stopped and shook his
head, for he could say nothing further.

While the others were speaking, Robin Hood had been sunk in thought.
"Methinks I have a plan might fit thy case, Allan," said he. "But tell
me first, thinkest thou, lad, that thy true love hath spirit enough
to marry thee were ye together in church, the banns published, and the
priest found, even were her father to say her nay?"

"Ay, marry would she," cried Allan eagerly.

"Then, if her father be the man that I take him to be, I will undertake
that he shall give you both his blessing as wedded man and wife, in the
place of old Sir Stephen, and upon his wedding morn. But stay, now I
bethink me, there is one thing reckoned not upon--the priest. Truly,
those of the cloth do not love me overmuch, and when it comes to
doing as I desire in such a matter, they are as like as not to prove
stiff-necked. As to the lesser clergy, they fear to do me a favor
because of abbot or bishop.

"Nay," quoth Will Scarlet, laughing, "so far as that goeth, I know of a
certain friar that, couldst thou but get on the soft side of him, would
do thy business even though Pope Joan herself stood forth to ban him. He
is known as the Curtal Friar of Fountain Abbey, and dwelleth in Fountain
Dale."

"But," quoth Robin, "Fountain Abbey is a good hundred miles from here.
An we would help this lad, we have no time to go thither and back before
his true love will be married. Nought is to be gained there, coz."

"Yea," quoth Will Scarlet, laughing again, "but this Fountain Abbey is
not so far away as the one of which thou speakest, uncle. The Fountain
Abbey of which I speak is no such rich and proud place as the other,
but a simple little cell; yet, withal, as cosy a spot as ever stout
anchorite dwelled within. I know the place well, and can guide thee
thither, for, though it is a goodly distance, yet methinks a stout pair
of legs could carry a man there and back in one day."

"Then give me thy hand, Allan," cried Robin, "and let me tell thee, I
swear by the bright hair of Saint AElfrida that this time two days hence
Ellen a Dale shall be thy wife. I will seek this same Friar of Fountain
Abbey tomorrow day, and I warrant I will get upon the soft side of him,
even if I have to drub one soft."

At this Will Scarlet laughed again. "Be not too sure of that, good
uncle," quoth he, "nevertheless, from what I know of him, I think this
Curtal Friar will gladly join two such fair lovers, more especially if
there be good eating and drinking afoot thereafter."

But now one of the band came to say that the feast was spread upon
the grass; so, Robin leading the way, the others followed to where
the goodly feast was spread. Merry was the meal. Jest and story passed
freely, and all laughed till the forest rang again. Allan laughed with
the rest, for his cheeks were flushed with the hope that Robin Hood had
given him.

At last the feast was done, and Robin Hood turned to Allan, who sat
beside him. "Now, Allan," quoth he, "so much has been said of thy
singing that we would fain have a taste of thy skill ourselves. Canst
thou not give us something?"

"Surely," answered Allan readily; for he was no third-rate songster
that must be asked again and again, but said "yes" or "no" at the first
bidding; so, taking up his harp, he ran his fingers lightly over the
sweetly sounding strings, and all was hushed about the cloth. Then,
backing his voice with sweet music on his harp, he sang:


MAY ELLEN'S WEDDING

(Giving an account of how she was beloved by a fairy prince, who took
her to his own home.)

     "_May Ellen sat beneath a thorn
     And in a shower around
     The blossoms fell at every breeze
     Like snow upon the ground,
     And in a lime tree near was heard
     The sweet song of a strange, wild bird.

     "O sweet, sweet, sweet, O piercing sweet,
     O lingering sweet the strain!
     May Ellen's heart within her breast
     Stood still with blissful pain:
     And so, with listening, upturned face,
     She sat as dead in that fair place.

     "'Come down from out the blossoms, bird!
     Come down from out the tree,
     And on my heart I'll let thee lie,
     And love thee tenderly!'
     Thus cried May Ellen, soft and low,
     From where the hawthorn shed its snow.

     "Down dropped the bird on quivering wing,
     From out the blossoming tree,
     And nestled in her snowy breast.
     'My love! my love!' cried she;
     Then straightway home, 'mid sun and flower,
     She bare him to her own sweet bower.

     "The day hath passed to mellow night,
     The moon floats o'er the lea,
     And in its solemn, pallid light
     A youth stands silently:
     A youth of beauty strange and rare,
     Within May Ellen's bower there.

     "He stood where o'er the pavement cold
     The glimmering moonbeams lay.
     May Ellen gazed with wide, scared eyes,
     Nor could she turn away,
     For, as in mystic dreams we see
     A spirit, stood he silently.

     "All in a low and breathless voice,
     'Whence comest thou?' said she;
     'Art thou the creature of a dream,
     Or a vision that I see?'
     Then soft spake he, as night winds shiver
     Through straining reeds beside the river.

     "'I came, a bird on feathered wing,
     From distant Faeryland
     Where murmuring waters softly sing
     Upon the golden strand,
     Where sweet trees are forever green;
     And there my mother is the queen.'

     "No more May Ellen leaves her bower
     To grace the blossoms fair;
     But in the hushed and midnight hour
     They hear her talking there,
     Or, when the moon is shining white,
     They hear her singing through the night.

     "'Oh, don thy silks and jewels fine,'
     May Ellen's mother said,
     'For hither comes the Lord of Lyne
     And thou this lord must wed.'
     May Ellen said, 'It may not be.
     He ne'er shall find his wife in me.'

     "Up spoke her brother, dark and grim:
     'Now by the bright blue sky,
     E'er yet a day hath gone for him
     Thy wicked bird shall die!
     For he hath wrought thee bitter harm,
     By some strange art or cunning charm.'

     "Then, with a sad and mournful song,
     Away the bird did fly,
     And o'er the castle eaves, and through
     The gray and windy sky.
     'Come forth!' then cried the brother grim,
     'Why dost thou gaze so after him?'

     "It is May Ellen's wedding day,
     The sky is blue and fair,
     And many a lord and lady gay
     In church are gathered there.
     The bridegroom was Sir Hugh the Bold,
     All clad in silk and cloth of gold.

     "In came the bride in samite white
     With a white wreath on her head;
     Her eyes were fixed with a glassy look,
     Her face was as the dead,
     And when she stood among the throng,
     She sang a wild and wondrous song.

     "Then came a strange and rushing sound
     Like the coming wind doth bring,
     And in the open windows shot
     Nine swans on whistling wing,
     And high above the heads they flew,
     In gleaming fight the darkness through.

     "Around May Ellen's head they flew
     In wide and windy fight,
     And three times round the circle drew.
     The guests shrank in affright,
     And the priest beside the altar there,
     Did cross himself with muttered prayer.

     "But the third time they flew around,
     Fair Ellen straight was gone,
     And in her place, upon the ground,
     There stood a snow-white swan.
     Then, with a wild and lovely song,
     It joined the swift and winged throng.

     "There's ancient men at weddings been,
     For sixty years and more,
     But such a wondrous wedding day,
     They never saw before.
     But none could check and none could stay,
     The swans that bore the bride away_."

Not a sound broke the stillness when Allan a Dale had done, but all sat
gazing at the handsome singer, for so sweet was his voice and the music
that each man sat with bated breath, lest one drop more should come and
he should lose it.

"By my faith and my troth," quoth Robin at last, drawing a deep breath,
"lad, thou art--Thou must not leave our company, Allan! Wilt thou not
stay with us here in the sweet green forest? Truly, I do feel my heart
go out toward thee with great love."

Then Allan took Robin's hand and kissed it. "I will stay with thee
always, dear master," said he, "for never have I known such kindness as
thou hast shown me this day."

Then Will Scarlet stretched forth his hand and shook Allan's in token
of fellowship, as did Little John likewise. And thus the famous Allan a
Dale became one of Robin Hood's band.




Robin Hood Seeks the Curtal Friar

THE STOUT YEOMEN of Sherwood Forest were ever early risers of a morn,
more especially when the summertime had come, for then in the freshness
of the dawn the dew was always the brightest, and the song of the small
birds the sweetest.

Quoth Robin, "Now will I go to seek this same Friar of Fountain Abbey of
whom we spake yesternight, and I will take with me four of my good men,
and these four shall be Little John, Will Scarlet, David of Doncaster,
and Arthur a Bland. Bide the rest of you here, and Will Stutely shall be
your chief while I am gone." Then straightway Robin Hood donned a fine
steel coat of chain mail, over which he put on a light jacket of Lincoln
green. Upon his head he clapped a steel cap, and this he covered by one
of soft white leather, in which stood a nodding cock's plume. By his
side he hung a good broadsword of tempered steel, the bluish blade
marked all over with strange figures of dragons, winged women, and what
not. A gallant sight was Robin so arrayed, I wot, the glint of steel
showing here and there as the sunlight caught brightly the links of
polished mail that showed beneath his green coat.

So, having arrayed himself, he and the four yeomen set forth upon their
way, Will Scarlet taking the lead, for he knew better than the others
whither to go. Thus, mile after mile, they strode along, now across a
brawling stream, now along a sunlit road, now adown some sweet forest
path, over which the trees met in green and rustling canopy, and at the
end of which a herd of startled deer dashed away, with rattle of leaves
and crackle of branches. Onward they walked with song and jest and
laughter till noontide was passed, when at last they came to the banks
of a wide, glassy, and lily-padded stream. Here a broad, beaten path
stretched along beside the banks, on which path labored the horses that
tugged at the slow-moving barges, laden with barley meal or what not,
from the countryside to the many-towered town. But now, in the hot
silence of the midday, no horse was seen nor any man besides themselves.
Behind them and before them stretched the river, its placid bosom
ruffled here and there by the purple dusk of a small breeze.

"Now, good uncle," quoth Will Scarlet at last, when they had walked for
a long time beside this sweet, bright river, "just beyond yon bend ahead
of us is a shallow ford which in no place is deeper than thy mid-thigh,
and upon the other side of the stream is a certain little hermitage
hidden amidst the bosky tangle of the thickets wherein dwelleth the
Friar of Fountain Dale. Thither will I lead thee, for I know the way;
albeit it is not overhard to find."

"Nay," quoth jolly Robin, stopping suddenly, "had I thought that I
should have had to wade water, even were it so crystal a stream as this,
I had donned other clothes than I have upon me. But no matter now, for
after all a wetting will not wash the skin away, and what must be, must.
But bide ye here, lads, for I would enjoy this merry adventure alone.
Nevertheless, listen well, and if ye hear me sound upon my bugle horn,
come quickly." So saying, he turned and left them, striding onward
alone.

Robin had walked no farther than where the bend of the road hid his
good men from his view, when he stopped suddenly, for he thought that
he heard voices. He stood still and listened, and presently heard words
passed back and forth betwixt what seemed to be two men, and yet the two
voices were wondrously alike. The sound came from over behind the bank,
that here was steep and high, dropping from the edge of the road a half
a score of feet to the sedgy verge of the river.

"'Tis strange," muttered Robin to himself after a space, when the voices
had ceased their talking, "surely there be two people that spoke the one
to the other, and yet methinks their voices are mightily alike. I make
my vow that never have I heard the like in all my life before. Truly, if
this twain are to be judged by their voices, no two peas were ever more
alike. I will look into this matter." So saying, he came softly to the
river bank and laying him down upon the grass, peered over the edge and
down below.

All was cool and shady beneath the bank. A stout osier grew, not
straight upward, but leaning across the water, shadowing the spot with
its soft foliage. All around grew a mass of feathery ferns such as hide
and nestle in cool places, and up to Robin's nostrils came the tender
odor of the wild thyme, that loves the moist verges of running streams.
Here, with his broad back against the rugged trunk of the willow tree,
and half hidden by the soft ferns around him, sat a stout, brawny
fellow, but no other man was there. His head was as round as a ball, and
covered with a mat of close-clipped, curly black hair that grew low down
on his forehead. But his crown was shorn as smooth as the palm of one's
hand, which, together with his loose robe, cowl, and string of beads,
showed that which his looks never would have done, that he was a friar.
His cheeks were as red and shining as a winter crab, albeit they were
nearly covered over with a close curly black beard, as were his chin
and upper lip likewise. His neck was thick like that of a north country
bull, and his round head closely set upon shoulders e'en a match for
those of Little John himself. Beneath his bushy black brows danced a
pair of little gray eyes that could not stand still for very drollery
of humor. No man could look into his face and not feel his heartstrings
tickled by the merriment of their look. By his side lay a steel cap,
which he had laid off for the sake of the coolness to his crown. His
legs were stretched wide apart, and betwixt his knees he held a great
pasty compounded of juicy meats of divers kinds made savory with tender
young onions, both meat and onions being mingled with a good rich gravy.
In his right fist he held a great piece of brown crust at which he
munched sturdily, and every now and then he thrust his left hand into
the pie and drew it forth full of meat; anon he would take a mighty pull
at a great bottle of Malmsey that lay beside him.

"By my faith," quoth Robin to himself, "I do verily believe that this
is the merriest feast, the merriest wight, the merriest place, and the
merriest sight in all merry England. Methought there was another here,
but it must have been this holy man talking to himself."

So Robin lay watching the Friar, and the Friar, all unknowing that he
was so overlooked, ate his meal placidly. At last he was done, and,
having first wiped his greasy hands upon the ferns and wild thyme (and
sweeter napkin ne'er had king in all the world), he took up his
flask and began talking to himself as though he were another man, and
answering himself as though he were somebody else.

"Dear lad, thou art the sweetest fellow in all the world, I do love thee
as a lover loveth his lass. La, thou dost make me shamed to speak so to
me in this solitary place, no one being by, and yet if thou wilt have me
say so, I do love thee as thou lovest me. Nay then, wilt thou not take a
drink of good Malmsey? After thee, lad, after thee. Nay, I beseech thee,
sweeten the draught with thy lips (here he passed the flask from his
right hand to his left). An thou wilt force it on me so, I must needs
do thy bidding, yet with the more pleasure do I so as I drink thy very
great health (here he took a long, deep draught). And now, sweet lad,
'tis thy turn next (here he passed the bottle from his left hand back
again to his right). I take it, sweet chuck, and here's wishing thee as
much good as thou wishest me." Saying this, he took another draught, and
truly he drank enough for two.

All this time merry Robin lay upon the bank and listened, while his
stomach so quaked with laughter that he was forced to press his palm
across his mouth to keep it from bursting forth; for, truly, he would
not have spoiled such a goodly jest for the half of Nottinghamshire.

Having gotten his breath from his last draught, the Friar began talking
again in this wise: "Now, sweet lad, canst thou not sing me a song? La,
I know not, I am but in an ill voice this day; prythee ask me not; dost
thou not hear how I croak like a frog? Nay, nay, thy voice is as sweet
as any bullfinch; come, sing, I prythee, I would rather hear thee sing
than eat a fair feast. Alas, I would fain not sing before one that
can pipe so well and hath heard so many goodly songs and ballads,
ne'ertheless, an thou wilt have it so, I will do my best. But now
methinks that thou and I might sing some fair song together; dost thou
not know a certain dainty little catch called 'The Loving Youth and the
Scornful Maid'? Why, truly, methinks I have heard it ere now. Then dost
thou not think that thou couldst take the lass's part if I take the
lad's? I know not but I will try; begin thou with the lad and I will
follow with the lass."

Then, singing first with a voice deep and gruff, and anon in one high
and squeaking, he blithely trolled the merry catch of


THE LOVING YOUTH AND THE SCORNFUL MAID

     "_Ah, it's wilt thou come with me, my love?
     And it's wilt thou, love, be mine?
     For I will give unto thee, my love,
     Gay knots and ribbons so fine.
     I'll woo thee, love, on my bended knee,
     And I'll pipe sweet songs to none but thee.
     Then it's hark! hark! hark!
     To the winged lark
     And it's hark to the cooing dove!
     And the bright daffodil
     Groweth down by the rill,
     So come thou and be my love.

     SHE
     "Now get thee away, young man so fine;
     Now get thee away, I say;
     For my true love shall never be thine,
     And so thou hadst better not stay.
     Thou art not a fine enough lad for me,
     So I'll wait till a better young man I see.
     For it's hark! hark! hark!
     To the winged lark,
     And it's hark to the cooing dove!
     And the bright daffodil
     Groweth down by the rill,
     Yet never I'll be thy love.

     HE
     "Then straight will I seek for another fair she,
     For many a maid can be found,
     And as thou wilt never have aught of me,
     By thee will I never be bound.
     For never is a blossom in the field so rare,
     But others are found that are just as fair.
     So it's hark! hark! hark!
     To the joyous lark
     And it's hark to the cooing dove!
     And the bright daffodil
     Groweth down by the rill,
     And I'll seek me another dear love.

     SHE
     "Young man, turn not so very quick away
     Another fair lass to find.
     Methinks I have spoken in haste today,
     Nor have I made up my mind,

     And if thou only wilt stay with me,
     I'll love no other, sweet lad, but thee_."

Here Robin could contain himself no longer but burst forth into a mighty
roar of laughter; then, the holy Friar keeping on with the song, he
joined in the chorus, and together they sang, or, as one might say,
bellowed:

     "_So it's hark! hark! hark!
     To the joyous lark
     And it's hark to the cooing dove!
     For the bright daffodil
     Groweth down by the rill
     And I'll be thine own true love_."

So they sang together, for the stout Friar did not seem to have heard
Robin's laughter, neither did he seem to know that the yeoman had joined
in with the song, but, with eyes half closed, looking straight before
him and wagging his round head from side to side in time to the music,
he kept on bravely to the end, he and Robin finishing up with a mighty
roar that might have been heard a mile. But no sooner had the last word
been sung than the holy man seized his steel cap, clapped it on his
head, and springing to his feet, cried in a great voice, "What spy have
we here? Come forth, thou limb of evil, and I will carve thee into
as fine pudding meat as e'er a wife in Yorkshire cooked of a Sunday."
Hereupon he drew from beneath his robes a great broadsword full as stout
as was Robin's.

"Nay, put up thy pinking iron, friend," quoth Robin, standing up with
the tears of laughter still on his cheeks. "Folk who have sung so
sweetly together should not fight thereafter." Hereupon he leaped down
the bank to where the other stood. "I tell thee, friend," said he, "my
throat is as parched with that song as e'er a barley stubble in October.
Hast thou haply any Malmsey left in that stout pottle?"

"Truly," said the Friar in a glum voice, "thou dost ask thyself freely
where thou art not bidden. Yet I trust I am too good a Christian to
refuse any man drink that is athirst. Such as there is o't thou art
welcome to a drink of the same." And he held the pottle out to Robin.

Robin took it without more ado and putting it to his lips, tilted his
head back, while that which was within said "glug!" "lug! glug!" for more
than three winks, I wot. The stout Friar watched Robin anxiously the
while, and when he was done took the pottle quickly. He shook it, held
it betwixt his eyes and the light, looked reproachfully at the yeoman,
and straightway placed it at his own lips. When it came away again there
was nought within it.

"Doss thou know the country hereabouts, thou good and holy man?" asked
Robin, laughing.

"Yea, somewhat," answered the other dryly.

"And dost thou know of a certain spot called Fountain Abbey?"

"Yea, somewhat."

"Then perchance thou knowest also of a certain one who goeth by the name
of the Curtal Friar of Fountain Abbey."

"Yea, somewhat."

"Well then, good fellow, holy father, or whatever thou art," quoth
Robin, "I would know whether this same Friar is to be found upon this
side of the river or the other."

"That," quoth the Friar, "is a practical question upon which the cunning
rules appertaining to logic touch not. I do advise thee to find that out
by the aid of thine own five senses; sight, feeling, and what not."

"I do wish much," quoth Robin, looking thoughtfully at the stout priest,
"to cross yon ford and strive to find this same good Friar."

"Truly," said the other piously, "it is a goodly wish on the part of one
so young. Far be it from me to check thee in so holy a quest. Friend,
the river is free to all."

"Yea, good father," said Robin, "but thou seest that my clothes are of
the finest and I fain would not get them wet. Methinks thy shoulders
are stout and broad; couldst thou not find it in thy heart to carry me
across?"

"Now, by the white hand of the holy Lady of the Fountain!" burst forth
the Friar in a mighty rage, "dost thou, thou poor puny stripling, thou
kiss-my-lady-la poppenjay; thou--thou What shall I call thee? Dost thou
ask me, the holy Tuck, to carry thee? Now I swear--" Here he paused
suddenly, then slowly the anger passed from his face, and his little
eyes twinkled once more. "But why should I not?" quoth he piously.

"Did not the holy Saint Christopher ever carry the stranger across the
river? And should I, poor sinner that I am, be ashamed to do likewise?
Come with me, stranger, and I will do thy bidding in an humble frame of
mind." So saying, he clambered up the bank, closely followed by Robin,
and led the way to the shallow pebbly ford, chuckling to himself the
while as though he were enjoying some goodly jest within himself.

Having come to the ford, he girded up his robes about his loins, tucked
his good broadsword beneath his arm, and stooped his back to take Robin
upon it. Suddenly he straightened up. "Methinks," quoth he, "thou'lt get
thy weapon wet. Let me tuck it beneath mine arm along with mine own."

"Nay, good father," said Robin, "I would not burden thee with aught of
mine but myself."

"Dost thou think," said the Friar mildly, "that the good Saint
Christopher would ha' sought his own ease so? Nay, give me thy tool as I
bid thee, for I would carry it as a penance to my pride."

Upon this, without more ado, Robin Hood unbuckled his sword from his
side and handed it to the other, who thrust it with his own beneath his
arm. Then once more the Friar bent his back, and, Robin having mounted
upon it, he stepped sturdily into the water and so strode onward,
splashing in the shoal, and breaking all the smooth surface into
ever-widening rings. At last he reached the other side and Robin leaped
lightly from his back.

"Many thanks, good father," quoth he. "Thou art indeed a good and holy
man. Prythee give me my sword and let me away, for I am in haste."

At this the stout Friar looked upon Robin for a long time, his head
on one side, and with a most waggish twist to his face; then he slowly
winked his right eye. "Nay, good youth," said he gently, "I doubt not
that thou art in haste with thine affairs, yet thou dost think nothing
of mine. Thine are of a carnal nature; mine are of a spiritual nature,
a holy work, so to speak; moreover, mine affairs do lie upon the other
side of this stream. I see by thy quest of this same holy recluse that
thou art a good young man and most reverent to the cloth. I did get wet
coming hither, and am sadly afraid that should I wade the water again
I might get certain cricks and pains i' the joints that would mar my
devotions for many a day to come. I know that since I have so humbly
done thy bidding thou wilt carry me back again. Thou seest how Saint
Godrick, that holy hermit whose natal day this is, hath placed in my
hands two swords and in thine never a one. Therefore be persuaded, good
youth, and carry me back again."

Robin Hood looked up and he looked down, biting his nether lip. Quoth
he, "Thou cunning Friar, thou hast me fair and fast enow. Let me tell
thee that not one of thy cloth hath so hoodwinked me in all my life
before. I might have known from thy looks that thou wert no such holy
man as thou didst pretend to be."

"Nay," interrupted the Friar, "I bid thee speak not so scurrilously
neither, lest thou mayst perchance feel the prick of an inch or so of
blue steel."

"Tut, tut," said Robin, "speak not so, Friar; the loser hath ever the
right to use his tongue as he doth list. Give me my sword; I do promise
to carry thee back straightway. Nay, I will not lift the weapon against
thee."

"Marry, come up," quoth the Friar, "I fear thee not, fellow. Here is thy
skewer; and get thyself presently ready, for I would hasten back."

So Robin took his sword again and buckled it at his side; then he bent
his stout back and took the Friar upon it.

Now I wot Robin Hood had a heavier load to carry in the Friar than
the Friar had in him. Moreover he did not know the ford, so he went
stumbling among the stones, now stepping into a deep hole, and now
nearly tripping over a boulder, while the sweat ran down his face in
beads from the hardness of his journey and the heaviness of his load.
Meantime, the Friar kept digging his heels into Robin's sides and
bidding him hasten, calling him many ill names the while. To all this
Robin answered never a word, but, having softly felt around till he
found the buckle of the belt that held the Friar's sword, he worked
slyly at the fastenings, seeking to loosen them. Thus it came about
that, by the time he had reached the other bank with his load, the
Friar's sword belt was loose albeit he knew it not; so when Robin stood
on dry land and the Friar leaped from his back, the yeoman gripped hold
of the sword so that blade, sheath, and strap came away from the holy
man, leaving him without a weapon.

"Now then," quoth merry Robin, panting as he spake and wiping the sweat
from his brow, "I have thee, fellow. This time that same saint of whom
thou didst speak but now hath delivered two swords into my hand and hath
stripped thine away from thee. Now if thou dost not carry me back, and
that speedily, I swear I will prick thy skin till it is as full of holes
as a slashed doublet."

The good Friar said not a word for a while, but he looked at Robin with
a grim look. "Now," said he at last, "I did think that thy wits were of
the heavy sort and knew not that thou wert so cunning. Truly, thou hast
me upon the hip. Give me my sword, and I promise not to draw it against
thee save in self-defense; also, I promise to do thy bidding and take
thee upon my back and carry thee."

So jolly Robin gave him his sword again, which the Friar buckled to
his side, and this time looked to it that it was more secure in its
fastenings; then tucking up his robes once more, he took Robin Hood upon
his back and without a word stepped into the water, and so waded on in
silence while Robin sat laughing upon his back. At last he reached the
middle of the ford where the water was deepest. Here he stopped for
a moment, and then, with a sudden lift of his hand and heave of his
shoulders, fairly shot Robin over his head as though he were a sack of
grain.

Down went Robin into the water with a mighty splash. "There," quoth the
holy man, calmly turning back again to the shore, "let that cool thy hot
spirit, if it may."

Meantime, after much splashing, Robin had gotten to his feet and stood
gazing about him all bewildered, the water running from him in pretty
little rills. At last he shot the water out of his ears and spat some
out of his mouth, and, gathering his scattered wits together, saw the
stout Friar standing on the bank and laughing. Then, I wot, was Robin
Hood a mad man. "Stay, thou villain!" roared he, "I am after thee
straight, and if I do not carve thy brawn for thee this day, may I never
lift finger again!" So saying, he dashed, splashing, to the bank.

"Thou needst not hasten thyself unduly," quoth the stout Friar. "Fear
not; I will abide here, and if thou dost not cry 'Alack-a-day' ere long
time is gone, may I never more peep through the brake at a fallow deer."

And now Robin, having reached the bank, began, without more ado, to roll
up his sleeves above his wrists. The Friar, also, tucked his robes more
about him, showing a great, stout arm on which the muscles stood out
like humps of an aged tree. Then Robin saw, what he had not wotted of
before, that the Friar had also a coat of chain mail beneath his gown.

"Look to thyself," cried Robin, drawing his good sword.

"Ay, marry," quoth the Friar, who held his already in his hand. So,
without more ado, they came together, and thereupon began a fierce and
mighty battle. Right and left, and up and down and back and forth they
fought. The swords flashed in the sun and then met with a clash that
sounded far and near. I wot this was no playful bout at quarterstaff,
but a grim and serious fight of real earnest. Thus they strove for an
hour or more, pausing every now and then to rest, at which times each
looked at the other with wonder, and thought that never had he seen so
stout a fellow; then once again they would go at it more fiercely than
ever. Yet in all this time neither had harmed the other nor caused his
blood to flow. At last merry Robin cried, "Hold thy hand, good friend!"
whereupon both lowered their swords.

"Now I crave a boon ere we begin again," quoth Robin, wiping the sweat
from his brow; for they had striven so long that he began to think that
it would be an ill-done thing either to be smitten himself or to smite
so stout and brave a fellow.

"What wouldst thou have of me?" asked the Friar.

"Only this," quoth Robin; "that thou wilt let me blow thrice upon my
bugle horn."

The Friar bent his brows and looked shrewdly at Robin Hood. "Now I
do verily think that thou hast some cunning trick in this," quoth
he. "Ne'ertheless, I fear thee not, and will let thee have thy wish,
providing thou wilt also let me blow thrice upon this little whistle."

"With all my heart," quoth Robin, "so, here goes for one." So saying,
he raised his silver horn to his lips and blew thrice upon it, clear and
high.

Meantime, the Friar stood watching keenly for what might come to pass,
holding in his fingers the while a pretty silver whistle, such as
knights use for calling their hawks back to their wrists, which whistle
always hung at his girdle along with his rosary.

Scarcely had the echo of the last note of Robin's bugle come winding
back from across the river, when four tall men in Lincoln green came
running around the bend of the road, each with a bow in his hand and an
arrow ready nocked upon the string.

"Ha! Is it thus, thou traitor knave!" cried the Friar. "Then, marry,
look to thyself!" So saying, he straightway clapped the hawk's whistle
to his lips and blew a blast that was both loud and shrill. And now
there came a crackling of the bushes that lined the other side of the
road, and presently forth from the covert burst four great, shaggy
hounds. "At 'em, Sweet Lips! At 'em, Bell Throat! At 'em, Beauty! At
'em, Fangs!" cried the Friar, pointing at Robin.

And now it was well for that yeoman that a tree stood nigh him beside
the road, else had he had an ill chance of it. Ere one could say "Gaffer
Downthedale" the hounds were upon him, and he had only time to drop his
sword and leap lightly into the tree, around which the hounds gathered,
looking up at him as though he were a cat on the eaves. But the Friar
quickly called off his dogs. "At 'em!" cried he, pointing down the road
to where the yeomen were standing stock still with wonder of what they
saw. As the hawk darts down upon its quarry, so sped the four dogs at
the yeomen; but when the four men saw the hounds so coming, all with one
accord, saving only Will Scarlet, drew each man his goose feather to his
ear and let fly his shaft.

And now the old ballad telleth of a wondrous thing that happened, for
thus it says, that each dog so shot at leaped lightly aside, and as the
arrow passed him whistling, caught it in his mouth and bit it in twain.
Now it would have been an ill day for these four good fellows had not
Will Scarlet stepped before the others and met the hounds as they came
rushing. "Why, how now, Fangs!" cried he sternly. "Down, Beauty! Down,
sirrah! What means this?"

At the sound of his voice each dog shrank back quickly and then
straightway came to him and licked his hands and fawned upon him, as
is the wont of dogs that meet one they know. Then the four yeomen came
forward, the hounds leaping around Will Scarlet joyously. "Why, how
now!" cried the stout Friar, "what means this? Art thou wizard to turn
those wolves into lambs? Ha!" cried he, when they had come still nearer,
"can I trust mine eyes? What means it that I see young Master William
Gamwell in such company?"

"Nay, Tuck," said the young man, as the four came forward to where Robin
was now clambering down from the tree in which he had been roosting, he
having seen that all danger was over for the time; "nay, Tuck, my name
is no longer Will Gamwell, but Will Scarlet; and this is my good uncle,
Robin Hood, with whom I am abiding just now."

"Truly, good master," said the Friar, looking somewhat abashed and
reaching out his great palm to Robin, "I ha' oft heard thy name both
sung and spoken of, but I never thought to meet thee in battle. I crave
thy forgiveness, and do wonder not that I found so stout a man against
me."

"Truly, most holy father," said Little John, "I am more thankful than
e'er I was in all my life before that our good friend Scarlet knew thee
and thy dogs. I tell thee seriously that I felt my heart crumble away
from me when I saw my shaft so miss its aim, and those great beasts of
thine coming straight at me."

"Thou mayst indeed be thankful, friend," said the Friar gravely. "But,
Master Will, how cometh it that thou dost now abide in Sherwood?"

"Why, Tuck, dost thou not know of my ill happening with my father's
steward?" answered Scarlet.

"Yea, truly, yet I knew not that thou wert in hiding because of it.
Marry, the times are all awry when a gentleman must lie hidden for so
small a thing."

"But we are losing time," quoth Robin, "and I have yet to find that same
Curtal Friar."

"Why, uncle, thou hast not far to go," said Will Scarlet, pointing to
the Friar, "for there he stands beside thee."

"How?" quoth Robin, "art thou the man that I have been at such pains to
seek all day, and have got such a ducking for?"

"Why, truly," said the Friar demurely, "some do call me the Curtal Friar
of Fountain Dale; others again call me in jest the Abbot of Fountain
Abbey; others still again call me simple Friar Tuck."

"I like the last name best," quoth Robin, "for it doth slip more glibly
off the tongue. But why didst thou not tell me thou wert he I sought,
instead of sending me searching for black moonbeams?"

"Why, truly, thou didst not ask me, good master," quoth stout Tuck; "but
what didst thou desire of me?"

"Nay," quoth Robin, "the day groweth late, and we cannot stand longer
talking here. Come back with us to Sherwood, and I will unfold all to
thee as we travel along."

So, without tarrying longer, they all departed, with the stout dogs at
their heels, and wended their way back to Sherwood again; but it was
long past nightfall ere they reached the greenwood tree.

Now listen, for next I will tell how Robin Hood compassed the happiness
of two young lovers, aided by the merry Friar Tuck of Fountain Dale.




Robin Hood Compasses a Marriage

AND NOW had come the morning when fair Ellen was to be married, and on
which merry Robin had sworn that Allan a Dale should, as it were, eat
out of the platter that had been filled for Sir Stephen of Trent. Up
rose Robin Hood, blithe and gay, up rose his merry men one and all, and
up rose last of all stout Friar Tuck, winking the smart of sleep from
out his eyes. Then, while the air seemed to brim over with the song of
many birds, all blended together and all joying in the misty morn, each
man raved face and hands in the leaping brook, and so the day began.

"Now," quoth Robin, when they had broken their fast, and each man had
eaten his fill, "it is time for us to set forth upon the undertaking
that we have in hand for today. I will choose me one score of my good
men to go with me, for I may need aid; and thou, Will Scarlet, wilt
abide here and be the chief while I am gone." Then searching through
all the band, each man of whom crowded forward eager to be chosen, Robin
called such as he wished by name, until he had a score of stout fellows,
the very flower of his yeomanrie. Besides Little John and Will Stutely
were nigh all those famous lads of whom I have already told you. Then,
while those so chosen ran leaping, full of joy, to arm themselves with
bow and shaft and broadsword, Robin Hood stepped aside into the covert,
and there donned a gay, beribboned coat such as might have been worn
by some strolling minstrel, and slung a harp across his shoulder, the
better to carry out that part.

All the band stared and many laughed, for never had they seen their
master in such a fantastic guise before.

"Truly," quoth Robin, holding up his arms and looking down at himself,
"I do think it be somewhat of a gay, gaudy, grasshopper dress; but it
is a pretty thing for all that, and doth not ill befit the turn of my
looks, albeit I wear it but for the nonce. But stay, Little John, here
are two bags that I would have thee carry in thy pouch for the sake of
safekeeping. I can ill care for them myself beneath this motley."

"Why, master," quoth Little John, taking the bags and weighing them in
his hand, "here is the chink of gold."

"Well, what an there be," said Robin, "it is mine own coin and the band
is none the worse for what is there. Come, busk ye, lads," and he turned
quickly away. "Get ye ready straightway." Then gathering the score
together in a close rank, in the midst of which were Allan a Dale and
Friar Tuck, he led them forth upon their way from the forest shades.

So they walked on for a long time till they had come out of Sherwood and
to the vale of Rotherstream. Here were different sights from what one
saw in the forest; hedgerows, broad fields of barley corn, pasture lands
rolling upward till they met the sky and all dotted over with flocks of
white sheep, hayfields whence came the odor of new-mown hay that lay in
smooth swathes over which skimmed the swifts in rapid flight; such they
saw, and different was it, I wot, from the tangled depths of the sweet
woodlands, but full as fair. Thus Robin led his band, walking blithely
with chest thrown out and head thrown back, snuffing the odors of the
gentle breeze that came drifting from over the hayfields.

"Truly," quoth he, "the dear world is as fair here as in the woodland
shades. Who calls it a vale of tears? Methinks it is but the darkness in
our minds that bringeth gloom to the world. For what sayeth that merry
song thou singest, Little John? Is it not thus?

     "_For when my love's eyes do thine, do thine,
     And when her lips smile so rare,
     The day it is jocund and fine, so fine,
     Though let it be wet or be fair
     And when the stout ale is all flowing so fast,
     Our sorrows and troubles are things of the past_."

"Nay," said Friar Tuck piously, "ye do think of profane things and of
nought else; yet, truly, there be better safeguards against care and woe
than ale drinking and bright eyes, to wit, fasting and meditation. Look
upon me, have I the likeness of a sorrowful man?"

At this a great shout of laughter went up from all around, for the night
before the stout Friar had emptied twice as many canakins of ale as any
one of all the merry men.

"Truly," quoth Robin, when he could speak for laughter, "I should say
that thy sorrows were about equal to thy goodliness."

So they stepped along, talking, singing, jesting, and laughing, until
they had come to a certain little church that belonged to the great
estates owned by the rich Priory of Emmet. Here it was that fair Ellen
was to be married on that morn, and here was the spot toward which the
yeomen had pointed their toes. On the other side of the road from where
the church stood with waving fields of barley around, ran a stone wall
along the roadside. Over the wall from the highway was a fringe of young
trees and bushes, and here and there the wall itself was covered by a
mass of blossoming woodbine that filled all the warm air far and near
with its sweet summer odor. Then straightway the yeomen leaped over the
wall, alighting on the tall soft grass upon the other side, frightening
a flock of sheep that lay there in the shade so that they scampered away
in all directions. Here was a sweet cool shadow both from the wall and
from the fair young trees and bushes, and here sat the yeomen down, and
glad enough they were to rest after their long tramp of the morning.

"Now," quoth Robin, "I would have one of you watch and tell me when he
sees anyone coming to the church, and the one I choose shall be young
David of Doncaster. So get thee upon the wall, David, and hide beneath
the woodbine so as to keep watch."

Accordingly young David did as he was bidden, the others stretching
themselves at length upon the grass, some talking together and others
sleeping. Then all was quiet save only for the low voices of those that
talked together, and for Allan's restless footsteps pacing up and down,
for his soul was so full of disturbance that he could not stand still,
and saving, also, for the mellow snoring of Friar Tuck, who enjoyed his
sleep with a noise as of one sawing soft wood very slowly. Robin lay
upon his back and gazed aloft into the leaves of the trees, his thought
leagues away, and so a long time passed.

Then up spoke Robin, "Now tell us, young David of Doncaster, what dost
thou see?"

Then David answered, "I see the white clouds floating and I feel the
wind a-blowing and three black crows are flying over the wold; but
nought else do I see, good master."

So silence fell again and another time passed, broken only as I have
said, till Robin, growing impatient, spake again. "Now tell me, young
David, what dost thou see by this?"

And David answered, "I see the windmills swinging and three tall poplar
trees swaying against the sky, and a flock of fieldfares are flying over
the hill; but nought else do I see, good master."

So another time passed, till at last Robin asked young David once more
what he saw; and David said, "I hear the cuckoo singing, and I see how
the wind makes waves in the barley field; and now over the hill to the
church cometh an old friar, and in his hands he carries a great bunch of
keys; and lo! Now he cometh to the church door."

Then up rose Robin Hood and shook Friar Tuck by the shoulder. "Come,
rouse thee, holy man!" cried he; whereupon, with much grunting, the
stout Tuck got to his feet. "Marry, bestir thyself," quoth Robin, "for
yonder, in the church door, is one of thy cloth. Go thou and talk to
him, and so get thyself into the church, that thou mayst be there when
thou art wanted; meantime, Little John, Will Stutely, and I will follow
thee anon."

So Friar Tuck clambered over the wall, crossed the road, and came to the
church, where the old friar was still laboring with the great key, the
lock being somewhat rusty and he somewhat old and feeble.

"Hilloa, brother," quoth Tuck, "let me aid thee." So saying, he took the
key from the other's hand and quickly opened the door with a turn of it.

"Who art thou, good brother?" asked the old friar, in a high, wheezing
voice. "Whence comest thou, and whither art thou going?" And he winked
and blinked at stout Friar Tuck like an owl at the sun.

"Thus do I answer thy questions, brother," said the other. "My name is
Tuck, and I go no farther than this spot, if thou wilt haply but let me
stay while this same wedding is going forward. I come from Fountain Dale
and, in truth, am a certain poor hermit, as one may say, for I live in a
cell beside the fountain blessed by that holy Saint Ethelrada. But, if
I understand aught, there is to be a gay wedding here today; so, if thou
mindest not, I would fain rest me in the cool shade within, for I would
like to see this fine sight."

"Truly, thou art welcome, brother," said the old man, leading the way
within. Meantime, Robin Hood, in his guise of harper, together with
Little John and Will Stutely, had come to the church. Robin sat him down
on a bench beside the door, but Little John, carrying the two bags of
gold, went within, as did Will Stutely.

So Robin sat by the door, looking up the road and down the road to see
who might come, till, after a time, he saw six horsemen come riding
sedately and slowly, as became them, for they were churchmen in high
orders. Then, when they had come nearer, Robin saw who they were, and
knew them. The first was the Bishop of Hereford, and a fine figure he
cut, I wot. His vestments were of the richest silk, and around his neck
was a fair chain of beaten gold. The cap that hid his tonsure was
of black velvet, and around the edges of it were rows of jewels that
flashed in the sunlight, each stone being set in gold. His hose were
of flame-colored silk, and his shoes of black velvet, the long, pointed
toes being turned up and fastened to his knees, and on either instep was
embroidered a cross in gold thread. Beside the Bishop rode the Prior of
Emmet upon a mincing palfrey. Rich were his clothes also, but not so gay
as the stout Bishop's. Behind these were two of the higher brethren of
Emmet, and behind these again two retainers belonging to the Bishop; for
the Lord Bishop of Hereford strove to be as like the great barons as was
in the power of one in holy orders.

When Robin saw this train drawing near, with flash of jewels and silk
and jingle of silver bells on the trappings of the nags, he looked
sourly upon them. Quoth he to himself, "Yon Bishop is overgaudy for
a holy man. I do wonder whether his patron, who, methinks, was Saint
Thomas, was given to wearing golden chains about his neck, silk clothing
upon his body, and pointed shoes upon his feet; the money for all of
which, God wot, hath been wrung from the sweat of poor tenants. Bishop,
Bishop, thy pride may have a fall ere thou wottest of it."

So the holy men came to the church; the Bishop and the Prior jesting and
laughing between themselves about certain fair dames, their words more
befitting the lips of laymen, methinks, than holy clerks. Then they
dismounted, and the Bishop, looking around, presently caught sight of
Robin standing in the doorway. "Hilloa, good fellow," quoth he in a
jovial voice, "who art thou that struttest in such gay feathers?"

"A harper am I from the north country," quoth Robin, "and I can touch
the strings, I wot, as never another man in all merry England can do.
Truly, good Lord Bishop, many a knight and burgher, clerk and layman,
have danced to my music, willy-nilly, and most times greatly against
their will; such is the magic of my harping. Now this day, my Lord
Bishop, if I may play at this wedding, I do promise that I will cause
the fair bride to love the man she marries with a love that shall last
as long as that twain shall live together."

"Ha! is it so?" cried the Bishop. "Meanest thou this in sooth?" And he
looked keenly at Robin, who gazed boldly back again into his eyes. "Now,
if thou wilt cause this maiden (who hath verily bewitched my poor cousin
Stephen) thus to love the man she is to marry, as thou sayst thou canst,
I will give thee whatsoever thou wilt ask me in due measure. Let me have
a taste of thy skill, fellow."

"Nay," quoth Robin, "my music cometh not without I choose, even at a
lord bishop's bidding. In sooth, I will not play until the bride and
bridegroom come."

"Now, thou art a saucy varlet to speak so to my crest," quoth the
Bishop, frowning on Robin. "Yet, I must needs bear with thee. Look,
Prior, hither cometh our cousin Sir Stephen, and his ladylove."

And now, around the bend of the highroad, came others, riding upon
horses. The first of all was a tall, thin man, of knightly bearing,
dressed all in black silk, with a black velvet cap upon his head,
turned up with scarlet. Robin looked, and had no doubt that this was Sir
Stephen, both because of his knightly carriage and of his gray hairs.
Beside him rode a stout Saxon franklin, Ellen's father, Edward of
Deirwold; behind those two came a litter borne by two horses, and
therein was a maiden whom Robin knew must be Ellen. Behind this litter
rode six men-at-arms, the sunlight flashing on their steel caps as they
came jingling up the dusty road.

So these also came to the church, and there Sir Stephen leaped from his
horse and, coming to the litter, handed fair Ellen out therefrom. Then
Robin Hood looked at her, and could wonder no longer how it came about
that so proud a knight as Sir Stephen of Trent wished to marry a common
franklin's daughter; nor did he wonder that no ado was made about the
matter, for she was the fairest maiden that ever he had beheld. Now,
however, she was all pale and drooping, like a fair white lily snapped
at the stem; and so, with bent head and sorrowful look, she went within
the church, Sir Stephen leading her by the hand.

"Why dost thou not play, fellow?" quoth the Bishop, looking sternly at
Robin.

"Marry," said Robin calmly, "I will play in greater wise than Your
Lordship thinks, but not till the right time hath come."

Said the Bishop to himself, while he looked grimly at Robin, "When this
wedding is gone by I will have this fellow well whipped for his saucy
tongue and bold speech."

And now fair Ellen and Sir Stephen stood before the altar, and the
Bishop himself came in his robes and opened his book, whereat fair Ellen
looked up and about her in bitter despair, like the fawn that finds the
hounds on her haunch. Then, in all his fluttering tags and ribbons of
red and yellow, Robin Hood strode forward. Three steps he took from the
pillar whereby he leaned, and stood between the bride and bridegroom.

"Let me look upon this lass," he said in a loud voice. "Why, how now!
What have we here? Here be lilies in the cheeks, and not roses such as
befit a bonny bride. This is no fit wedding. Thou, Sir Knight, so old,
and she so young, and thou thinkest to make her thy wife? I tell thee it
may not be, for thou art not her own true love."

At this all stood amazed, and knew not where to look nor what to think
or say, for they were all bewildered with the happening; so, while
everyone looked at Robin as though they had been changed to stone, he
clapped his bugle horn to his lips and blew three blasts so loud and
clear, they echoed from floor to rafter as though they were sounded by
the trump of doom. Then straightway Little John and Will Stutely came
leaping and stood upon either side of Robin Hood, and quickly drew their
broadswords, the while a mighty voice rolled over the heads of all,
"Here be I, good master, when thou wantest me;" for it was Friar Tuck
that so called from the organ loft.

And now all was hubbub and noise. Stout Edward strode forward raging,
and would have seized his daughter to drag her away, but Little John
stepped between and thrust him back. "Stand back, old man," said he,
"thou art a hobbled horse this day."

"Down with the villains!" cried Sir Stephen, and felt for his sword, but
it hung not beside him on his wedding day.

Then the men-at-arms drew their swords, and it seemed like that blood
would wet the stones; but suddenly came a bustle at the door and loud
voices, steel flashed in the light, and the crash of blows sounded.
The men-at-arms fell back, and up the aisle came leaping eighteen stout
yeomen all clad in Lincoln green, with Allan a Dale at their head. In
his hand he bore Robin Hood's good stout trusty bow of yew, and this he
gave to him, kneeling the while upon one knee.

Then up spake Edward of Deirwold in a deep voice of anger, "Is it thou,
Allan a Dale, that hath bred all this coil in a church?"

"Nay," quoth merry Robin, "that have I done, and I care not who knoweth
it, for my name is Robin Hood."

At this name a sudden silence fell. The Prior of Emmet and those that
belonged to him gathered together like a flock of frightened sheep when
the scent of the wolf is nigh, while the Bishop of Hereford, laying
aside his book, crossed himself devoutly. "Now Heaven keep us this day,"
said he, "from that evil man!"

"Nay," quoth Robin, "I mean you no harm; but here is fair Ellen's
betrothed husband, and she shall marry him or pain will be bred to some
of you."

Then up spake stout Edward in a loud and angry voice, "Now I say nay! I
am her father, and she shall marry Sir Stephen and none other."

Now all this time, while everything was in turmoil about him, Sir
Stephen had been standing in proud and scornful silence. "Nay, fellow,"
said he coldly, "thou mayst take thy daughter back again; I would
not marry her after this day's doings could I gain all merry England
thereby. I tell thee plainly, I loved thy daughter, old as I am, and
would have taken her up like a jewel from the sty, yet, truly, I knew
not that she did love this fellow, and was beloved by him. Maiden, if
thou dost rather choose a beggarly minstrel than a high-born knight,
take thy choice. I do feel it shame that I should thus stand talking
amid this herd, and so I will leave you." Thus saying, he turned and,
gathering his men about him, walked proudly down the aisle. Then all the
yeomen were silenced by the scorn of his words. Only Friar Tuck leaned
over the edge of the choir loft and called out to him ere he had gone,
"Good den, Sir Knight. Thou wottest old bones must alway make room for
young blood." Sir Stephen neither answered nor looked up, but passed out
from the church as though he had heard nought, his men following him.

Then the Bishop of Hereford spoke hastily, "I, too, have no business
here, and so will depart." And he made as though he would go. But Robin
Hood laid hold of his clothes and held him. "Stay, my Lord Bishop," said
he, "I have yet somewhat to say to thee." The Bishop's face fell, but he
stayed as Robin bade him, for he saw he could not go.

Then Robin Hood turned to stout Edward of Deirwold, and said he, "Give
thy blessing on thy daughter's marriage to this yeoman, and all will be
well. Little John, give me the bags of gold. Look, farmer. Here are two
hundred bright golden angels; give thy blessing, as I say, and I will
count them out to thee as thy daughter's dower. Give not thy blessing,
and she shall be married all the same, but not so much as a cracked
farthing shall cross thy palm. Choose."

Then Edward looked upon the ground with bent brows, turning the matter
over and over in his mind; but he was a shrewd man and one, withal, that
made the best use of a cracked pipkin; so at last he looked up and said,
but in no joyous tone, "If the wench will go her own gait, let her go. I
had thought to make a lady of her; yet if she chooses to be what she is
like to be, I have nought to do with her henceforth. Ne'ertheless I will
give her my blessing when she is duly wedded."

"It may not be," spake up one of those of Emmet. "The banns have not
been duly published, neither is there any priest here to marry them."

"How sayst thou?" roared Tuck from the choir loft. "No priest? Marry,
here stands as holy a man as thou art, any day of the week, a clerk in
orders, I would have thee know. As for the question of banns, stumble
not over that straw, brother, for I will publish them." So saying, he
called the banns; and, says the old ballad, lest three times should not
be enough, he published them nine times o'er. Then straightway he came
down from the loft and forthwith performed the marriage service; and so
Allan and Ellen were duly wedded.

And now Robin counted out two hundred golden angels to Edward of
Deirwold, and he, upon his part, gave his blessing, yet not, I wot,
as though he meant it with overmuch good will. Then the stout yeomen
crowded around and grasped Allan's palm, and he, holding Ellen's hand
within his own, looked about him all dizzy with his happiness.

Then at last jolly Robin turned to the Bishop of Hereford, who had been
looking on at all that passed with a grim look. "My Lord Bishop," quoth
he, "thou mayst bring to thy mind that thou didst promise me that did I
play in such wise as to cause this fair lass to love her husband, thou
wouldst give me whatsoever I asked in reason. I have played my play, and
she loveth her husband, which she would not have done but for me; so
now fulfill thy promise. Thou hast upon thee that which, methinks, thou
wouldst be the better without; therefore, I prythee, give me that golden
chain that hangeth about thy neck as a wedding present for this fair
bride."

Then the Bishop's cheeks grew red with rage and his eyes flashed. He
looked at Robin with a fell look, but saw that in the yeoman's face
which bade him pause. Then slowly he took the chain from about his neck
and handed it to Robin, who flung it over Ellen's head so that it hung
glittering about her shoulders. Then said merry Robin, "I thank thee, on
the bride's part, for thy handsome gift, and truly thou thyself art more
seemly without it. Now, shouldst thou ever come nigh to Sherwood I much
hope that I shall give thee there such a feast as thou hast ne'er had in
all thy life before."

"May Heaven forfend!" cried the Bishop earnestly; for he knew right well
what manner of feast it was that Robin Hood gave his guests in Sherwood
Forest.

But now Robin Hood gathered his men together, and, with Allan and his
young bride in their midst, they all turned their footsteps toward the
woodlands. On the way thither Friar Tuck came close to Robin and plucked
him by the sleeve. "Thou dost lead a merry life, good master," quoth he,
"but dost thou not think that it would be for the welfare of all your
souls to have a good stout chaplain, such as I, to oversee holy matters?
Truly, I do love this life mightily." At this merry Robin Hood laughed
amain, and bade him stay and become one of their band if he wished.

That night there was such a feast held in the greenwood as
Nottinghamshire never saw before. To that feast you and I were not
bidden, and pity it is that we were not; so, lest we should both feel
the matter the more keenly, I will say no more about it.




Robin Hood Aids a Sorrowful Knight

SO PASSED the gentle springtime away in budding beauty; its silver
showers and sunshine, its green meadows and its flowers. So, likewise,
passed the summer with its yellow sunlight, its quivering heat and deep,
bosky foliage, its long twilights and its mellow nights, through which
the frogs croaked and fairy folk were said to be out on the hillsides.
All this had passed and the time of fall had come, bringing with it its
own pleasures and joyousness; for now, when the harvest was gathered
home, merry bands of gleaners roamed the country about, singing along
the roads in the daytime, and sleeping beneath the hedgerows and the
hay-ricks at night. Now the hips burned red in the tangled thickets and
the hews waxed black in the hedgerows, the stubble lay all crisp and
naked to the sky, and the green leaves were fast turning russet and
brown. Also, at this merry season, good things of the year are gathered
in in great store. Brown ale lies ripening in the cellar, hams and
bacon hang in the smoke-shed, and crabs are stowed away in the straw for
roasting in the wintertime, when the north wind piles the snow in drifts
around the gables and the fire crackles warm upon the hearth.

So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in
time to come, while we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and
are soon forgotten.


Quoth Robin Hood, snuffing the air, "Here is a fair day, Little John,
and one that we can ill waste in idleness. Choose such men as thou dost
need, and go thou east while I will wend to the west, and see that
each of us bringeth back some goodly guest to dine this day beneath the
greenwood tree."

"Marry," cried Little John, clapping his palms together for joy, "thy
bidding fitteth my liking like heft to blade. I'll bring thee back a
guest this day, or come not back mine own self."

Then they each chose such of the band as they wished, and so went forth
by different paths from the forest.

Now, you and I cannot go two ways at the same time while we join in
these merry doings; so we will e'en let Little John follow his own path
while we tuck up our skirts and trudge after Robin Hood. And here
is good company, too; Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, Allan a Dale, Will
Scathelock, Midge, the Miller's son, and others. A score or more of
stout fellows had abided in the forest, with Friar Tuck, to make ready
for the homecoming, but all the rest were gone either with Robin Hood or
Little John.

They traveled onward, Robin following his fancy and the others following
Robin. Now they wended their way through an open dale with cottage and
farm lying therein, and now again they entered woodlands once more.
Passing by fair Mansfield Town, with its towers and battlements and
spires all smiling in the sun, they came at last out of the forest
lands. Onward they journeyed, through highway and byway, through
villages where goodwives and merry lasses peeped through the casements
at the fine show of young men, until at last they came over beyond
Alverton in Derbyshire. By this time high noontide had come, yet they
had met no guest such as was worth their while to take back to Sherwood;
so, coming at last to a certain spot where a shrine stood at the
crossing of two roads, Robin called upon them to stop, for here on
either side was shelter of high hedgerows, behind which was good hiding,
whence they could watch the roads at their ease, while they ate their
midday meal. Quoth merry Robin, "Here, methinks, is good lodging, where
peaceful folk, such as we be, can eat in quietness; therefore we will
rest here, and see what may, perchance, fall into our luck-pot." So they
crossed a stile and came behind a hedgerow where the mellow sunlight was
bright and warm, and where the grass was soft, and there sat them down.
Then each man drew from the pouch that hung beside him that which he
had brought to eat, for a merry walk such as this had been sharpens
the appetite till it is as keen as a March wind. So no more words were
spoken, but each man saved his teeth for better use--munching at brown
crust and cold meat right lustily.

In front of them, one of the highroads crawled up the steep hill and
then dipped suddenly over its crest, sharp-cut with hedgerow and shaggy
grass against the sky. Over the top of the windy hill peeped the eaves
of a few houses of the village that fell back into the valley behind;
there, also, showed the top of a windmill, the sails slowly rising and
dipping from behind the hill against the clear blue sky, as the light
wind moved them with creaking and labored swing.

So the yeomen lay behind the hedge and finished their midday meal; but
still the time slipped along and no one came. At last, a man came slowly
riding over the hill and down the stony road toward the spot where Robin
and his band lay hidden. He was a good stout knight, but sorrowful of
face and downcast of mien. His clothes were plain and rich, but no chain
of gold, such as folk of his stand in life wore at most times, hung
around his neck, and no jewel was about him; yet no one could mistake
him for aught but one of proud and noble blood. His head was bowed upon
his breast and his hands drooped limp on either side; and so he came
slowly riding, as though sunk in sad thoughts, while even his good
horse, the reins loose upon his neck, walked with hanging head, as
though he shared his master's grief.

Quoth Robin Hood, "Yon is verily a sorry-looking gallant, and doth seem
to have donned ill-content with his jerkin this morning; nevertheless,
I will out and talk with him, for there may be some pickings here for
a hungry daw. Methinks his dress is rich, though he himself is so
downcast. Bide ye here till I look into this matter." So saying, he
arose and left them, crossed the road to the shrine, and there stood,
waiting for the sorrowful knight to come near him. So, presently, when
the knight came riding slowly along, jolly Robin stepped forward and
laid his hand upon the bridle rein. "Hold, Sir Knight," quoth he. "I
prythee tarry for a short time, for I have a few words to say to thee."

"What art thou, friend, who dost stop a traveler in this manner upon his
most gracious Majesty's highway?" said the Knight.

"Marry," quoth Robin, "that is a question hard to answer. One man
calleth me kind, another calleth me cruel; this one calleth me good
honest fellow, and that one, vile thief. Truly, the world hath as many
eyes to look upon a man withal as there are spots on a toad; so, with
what pair of eyes thou regardest me lieth entirely with thine own self.
My name is Robin Hood."

"Truly, good Robin," said the Knight, a smile twitching at the corners
of his mouth, "thou hast a quaint conceit. As for the pair of eyes with
which I regard thee, I would say that they are as favorable as may be,
for I hear much good of thee and little ill. What is thy will of me?"

"Now, I make my vow, Sir Knight," quoth Robin, "thou hast surely learned
thy wisdom of good Gaffer Swanthold, for he sayeth, 'Fair words are as
easy spoke as foul, and bring good will in the stead of blows.' Now I
will show thee the truth of this saying; for, if thou wilt go with me
this day to Sherwood Forest, I will give thee as merry a feast as ever
thou hadst in all thy life."

"Thou art indeed kind," said the Knight, "but methinks thou wilt find me
but an ill-seeming and sorrowful guest. Thou hadst best let me pass on
my way in peace."

"Nay," quoth Robin, "thou mightst go thine own way but for one thing,
and that I will tell thee. We keep an inn, as it were, in the very
depths of Sherwood, but so far from highroads and beaten paths that
guests do not often come nigh us; so I and my friends set off merrily
and seek them when we grow dull of ourselves. Thus the matter stands,
Sir Knight; yet I will furthermore tell thee that we count upon our
guests paying a reckoning."

"I take thy meaning, friend," said the Knight gravely, "but I am not thy
man, for I have no money by me."

"Is it sooth?" said Robin, looking at the Knight keenly. "I can scarce
choose but believe thee; yet, Sir Knight, there be those of thy order
whose word is not to be trusted as much as they would have others
believe. Thou wilt think no ill if I look for myself in this matter."
Then, still holding the horse by the bridle rein, he put his fingers
to his lips and blew a shrill whistle, whereupon fourscore yeomen came
leaping over the stile and ran to where the Knight and Robin stood.
"These," said Robin, looking upon them proudly, "are some of my merry
men. They share and share alike with me all joys and troubles, gains and
losses. Sir Knight, I prythee tell me what money thou hast about thee."

For a time the Knight said not a word, but a slow red arose into his
cheeks; at last he looked Robin in the face and said, "I know not why I
should be ashamed, for it should be no shame to me; but, friend, I tell
thee the truth, when I say that in my purse are ten shillings, and that
that is every groat that Sir Richard of the Lea hath in all the wide
world."

When Sir Richard ended a silence fell, until at last Robin said, "And
dost thou pledge me thy knightly word that this is all thou hast with
thee?"

"Yea," answered Sir Richard, "I do pledge thee my most solemn word, as a
true knight, that it is all the money I have in the world. Nay, here is
my purse, ye may find for yourselves the truth of what I say." And he
held his purse out to Robin.

"Put up thy purse, Sir Richard," quoth Robin. "Far be it from me to
doubt the word of so gentle a knight. The proud I strive to bring low,
but those that walk in sorrow I would aid if I could. Come, Sir Richard,
cheer up thy heart and go with us into the greenwood. Even I may
perchance aid thee, for thou surely knowest how the good Athelstane was
saved by the little blind mole that digged a trench over which he that
sought the king's life stumbled."

"Truly, friend," said Sir Richard, "methinks thou meanest kindness in
thine own way; nevertheless my troubles are such that it is not likely
that thou canst cure them. But I will go with thee this day into
Sherwood." Hereupon he turned his horse's head, and they all wended
their way to the woodlands, Robin walking on one side of the Knight and
Will Scarlet on the other, while the rest of the band trudged behind.

After they had traveled thus for a time Robin Hood spake. "Sir Knight,"
said he, "I would not trouble thee with idle questions; but dost thou
find it in thy heart to tell me thy sorrows?"

"Truly, Robin," quoth the Knight, "I see no reason why I should not do
so. Thus it is: My castle and my lands are in pawn for a debt that I
owe. Three days hence the money must be paid or else all mine estate is
lost forever, for then it falls into the hands of the Priory of Emmet,
and what they swallow they never give forth again."

Quoth Robin, "I understand not why those of thy kind live in such a
manner that all their wealth passeth from them like snow beneath the
springtide sun."

"Thou wrongest me, Robin," said the Knight, "for listen: I have a son
but twenty winters old, nevertheless he has won his spurs as knight.
Last year, on a certain evil day, the jousts were held at Chester, and
thither my son went, as did I and my lady wife. I wot it was a proud
time for us, for he unhorsed each knight that he tilted against. At last
he ran a course with a certain great knight, Sir Walter of Lancaster,
yet, though my son was so youthful, he kept his seat, albeit both spears
were shivered to the heft; but it happened that a splinter of my boy's
lance ran through the visor of Sir Walter's helmet and pierced through
his eye into his brain, so that he died ere his esquire could unlace his
helm. Now, Robin, Sir Walter had great friends at court, therefore
his kinsmen stirred up things against my son so that, to save him from
prison, I had to pay a ransom of six hundred pounds in gold. All might
have gone well even yet, only that, by ins and outs and crookedness of
laws, I was shorn like a sheep that is clipped to the quick. So it came
that I had to pawn my lands to the Priory of Emmet for more money, and
a hard bargain they drove with me in my hour of need. Yet I would have
thee understand I grieve so for my lands only because of my dear lady
wife."

"But where is thy son now?" asked Robin, who had listened closely to all
the Knight had said.

"In Palestine," said Sir Richard, "battling like a brave Christian
soldier for the cross and the holy sepulcher. Truly, England was an
ill place for him because of Sir Walter's death and the hate of the
Lancastrian's kinsmen."

"Truly," said Robin, much moved, "thine is a hard lot. But tell me, what
is owing to Emmet for thine estates?"

"Only four hundred pounds," said Sir Richard.

At this, Robin smote his thigh in anger. "O the bloodsuckers!" cried
he. "A noble estate to be forfeit for four hundred pounds! But what will
befall thee if thou dost lose thy lands, Sir Richard?"

"It is not mine own lot that doth trouble me in that case," said the
Knight, "but my dear lady's; for should I lose my land she will have
to betake herself to some kinsman and there abide in charity, which,
methinks, would break her proud heart. As for me, I will over the
salt sea, and so to Palestine to join my son in fight for the holy
sepulcher."

Then up spake Will Scarlet. "But hast thou no friend that will help thee
in thy dire need?"

"Never a man," said Sir Richard. "While I was rich enow at home, and had
friends, they blew great boasts of how they loved me. But when the oak
falls in the forest the swine run from beneath it lest they should be
smitten down also. So my friends have left me; for not only am I poor
but I have great enemies."

Then Robin said, "Thou sayst thou hast no friends, Sir Richard. I make
no boast, but many have found Robin Hood a friend in their troubles.
Cheer up, Sir Knight, I may help thee yet."

The Knight shook his head with a faint smile, but for all that, Robin's
words made him more blithe of heart, for in truth hope, be it never
so faint, bringeth a gleam into darkness, like a little rushlight that
costeth but a groat.

The day was well-nigh gone when they came near to the greenwood tree.
Even at a distance they saw by the number of men that Little John had
come back with some guest, but when they came near enough, whom should
they find but the Lord Bishop of Hereford! The good Bishop was in a fine
stew, I wot. Up and down he walked beneath the tree like a fox caught in
a hencoop. Behind him were three Black Friars standing close together in
a frightened group, like three black sheep in a tempest. Hitched to the
branches of the trees close at hand were six horses, one of them a
barb with gay trappings upon which the Bishop was wont to ride, and the
others laden with packs of divers shapes and kinds, one of which made
Robin's eyes glisten, for it was a box not overlarge, but heavily bound
with bands and ribs of iron.

When the Bishop saw Robin and those with him come into the open he
made as though he would have run toward the yeoman, but the fellow
that guarded the Bishop and the three friars thrust his quarterstaff in
front, so that his lordship was fain to stand back, though with frowning
brow and angry speech.

"Stay, my Lord Bishop," cried jolly Robin in a loud voice, when he saw
what had passed, "I will come to thee with all speed, for I would rather
see thee than any man in merry England." So saying, he quickened his
steps and soon came to where the Bishop stood fuming.

"How now," quoth the Bishop in a loud and angry voice, when Robin had so
come to him, "is this the way that thou and thy band treat one so high
in the church as I am? I and these brethren were passing peacefully
along the highroad with our pack horses, and a half score of men to
guard them, when up comes a great strapping fellow full seven feet high,
with fourscore or more men back of him, and calls upon me to
stop--me, the Lord Bishop of Hereford, mark thou! Whereupon my armed
guards--beshrew them for cowards!--straight ran away. But look ye; not
only did this fellow stop me, but he threatened me, saying that Robin
Hood would strip me as bare as a winter hedge. Then, besides all this,
he called me such vile names as 'fat priest,' 'man-eating bishop,'
'money-gorging usurer,' and what not, as though I were no more than a
strolling beggar or tinker."

At this, the Bishop glared like an angry cat, while even Sir Richard
laughed; only Robin kept a grave face. "Alas! my lord," said he, "that
thou hast been so ill-treated by my band! I tell thee truly that we
greatly reverence thy cloth. Little John, stand forth straightway."

At these words Little John came forward, twisting his face into a
whimsical look, as though he would say, "Ha' mercy upon me, good
master." Then Robin turned to the Bishop of Hereford and said, "Was this
the man who spake so boldly to Your Lordship?"

"Ay, truly it was the same," said the Bishop, "a naughty fellow, I wot.

"And didst thou, Little John," said Robin in a sad voice, "call his
lordship a fat priest?"

"Ay," said Little John sorrowfully.

"And a man-eating bishop?"

"Ay," said Little John, more sorrowfully than before.

"And a money-gorging usurer?"

"Ay," said Little John in so sorrowful a voice that it might have drawn
tears from the Dragon of Wentley.

"Alas, that these things should be!" said jolly Robin, turning to the
Bishop, "for I have ever found Little John a truthful man."

At this, a roar of laughter went up, whereat the blood rushed into the
Bishop's face till it was cherry red from crown to chin; but he said
nothing and only swallowed his words, though they well-nigh choked him.

"Nay, my Lord Bishop," said Robin, "we are rough fellows, but I trust
not such ill men as thou thinkest, after all. There is not a man here
that would harm a hair of thy reverence's head. I know thou art galled
by our jesting, but we are all equal here in the greenwood, for there
are no bishops nor barons nor earls among us, but only men, so thou must
share our life with us while thou dost abide here. Come, busk ye, my
merry men, and get the feast ready. Meantime, we will show our guests
our woodland sports."

So, while some went to kindle the fires for roasting meats, others ran
leaping to get their cudgels and longbows. Then Robin brought forward
Sir Richard of the Lea. "My Lord Bishop," said he, "here is another
guest that we have with us this day. I wish that thou mightest know
him better, for I and all my men will strive to honor you both at this
merrymaking."

"Sir Richard," said the Bishop in a reproachful tone, "methinks thou and
I are companions and fellow sufferers in this den of--" He was about to
say "thieves," but he stopped suddenly and looked askance at Robin Hood.

"Speak out, Bishop," quoth Robin, laughing. "We of Sherwood check not an
easy flow of words. 'Den of thieves' thou west about to say."

Quoth the Bishop, "Mayhap that was what I meant to say, Sir Richard; but
this I will say, that I saw thee just now laugh at the scurrilous jests
of these fellows. It would have been more becoming of thee, methinks, to
have checked them with frowns instead of spurring them on by laughter."

"I meant no harm to thee," said Sir Richard, "but a merry jest is a
merry jest, and I may truly say I would have laughed at it had it been
against mine own self."

But now Robin Hood called upon certain ones of his band who spread soft
moss upon the ground and laid deerskins thereon. Then Robin bade his
guests be seated, and so they all three sat down, some of the chief men,
such as Little John, Will Scarlet, Allan a Dale, and others, stretching
themselves upon the ground near by. Then a garland was set up at the
far end of the glade, and thereat the bowmen shot, and such shooting was
done that day as it would have made one's heart leap to see. And all the
while Robin talked so quaintly to the Bishop and the Knight that,
the one forgetting his vexation and the other his troubles, they both
laughed aloud again and again.

Then Allan a Dale came forth and tuned his harp, and all was hushed
around, and he sang in his wondrous voice songs of love, of war, of
glory, and of sadness, and all listened without a movement or a sound.
So Allan sang till the great round silver moon gleamed with its clear
white light amid the upper tangle of the mazy branches of the trees. At
last two fellows came to say that the feast was ready spread, so Robin,
leading his guests with either hand, brought them to where great smoking
dishes that sent savory smells far and near stood along the white linen
cloth spread on the grass. All around was a glare of torches that lit
everything up with a red light. Then, straightway sitting down, all fell
to with noise and hubbub, the rattling of platters blending with the
sound of loud talking and laughter. A long time the feast lasted, but at
last all was over, and the bright wine and humming ale passed briskly.
Then Robin Hood called aloud for silence, and all was hushed till he
spoke.

"I have a story to tell you all, so listen to what I have to say," quoth
he; whereupon, without more ado, he told them all about Sir Richard, and
how his lands were in pawn. But, as he went on, the Bishop's face, that
had erst been smiling and ruddy with merriment, waxed serious, and he
put aside the horn of wine he held in his hand, for he knew the story of
Sir Richard, and his heart sank within him with grim forebodings. Then,
when Robin Hood had done, he turned to the Bishop of Hereford. "Now, my
Lord Bishop," said he, "dost thou not think this is ill done of anyone,
much more of a churchman, who should live in humbleness and charity?"

To this the Bishop answered not a word but looked upon the ground with
moody eyes.

Quoth Robin, "Now, thou art the richest bishop in all England; canst
thou not help this needy brother?" But still the Bishop answered not a
word.

Then Robin turned to Little John, and quoth he, "Go thou and Will
Stutely and bring forth those five pack horses yonder." Whereupon the
two yeomen did as they were bidden, those about the cloth making room
on the green, where the light was brightest, for the five horses which
Little John and Will Stutely presently led forward.

"Who hath the score of the goods?" asked Robin Hood, looking at the
Black Friars.

Then up spake the smallest of all, in a trembling voice--an old man he
was, with a gentle, wrinkled face. "That have I; but, I pray thee, harm
me not."

"Nay," quoth Robin, "I have never harmed harmless man yet; but give it
to me, good father." So the old man did as he was bidden, and handed
Robin the tablet on which was marked down the account of the various
packages upon the horses. This Robin handed to Will Scarlet, bidding
him to read the same. So Will Scarlet, lifting his voice that all might
hear, began:

"Three bales of silk to Quentin, the mercer at Ancaster."

"That we touch not," quoth Robin, "for this Quentin is an honest fellow,
who hath risen by his own thrift." So the bales of silk were laid aside
unopened.

"One bale of silk velvet for the Abbey of Beaumont."

"What do these priests want of silk velvet?" quoth Robin. "Nevertheless,
though they need it not, I will not take all from them. Measure it off
into three lots, one to be sold for charity, one for us, and one for the
abbey." So this, too, was done as Robin Hood bade.

"Twoscore of great wax candles for the Chapel of Saint Thomas."

"That belongeth fairly to the chapel," quoth Robin, "so lay it to one
side. Far be it from us to take from the blessed Saint Thomas that which
belongeth to him." So this, also, was done according to Robin's bidding,
and the candles were laid to one side, along with honest Quentin's
unopened bales of silk. So the list was gone through with, and the goods
adjudged according to what Robin thought most fit. Some things were
laid aside untouched, and many were opened and divided into three equal
parts, for charity, for themselves, and for the owners. And now all the
ground in the torchlight was covered over with silks and velvets and
cloths of gold and cases of rich wines, and so they came to the last
line upon the tablet--"A box belonging to the Lord Bishop of Hereford."

At these words the Bishop shook as with a chill, and the box was set
upon the ground.

"My Lord Bishop, hast thou the key of this box?" asked Robin.

The Bishop shook his head.

"Go, Will Scarlet," said Robin, "thou art the strongest man here--bring
a sword straightway, and cut this box open, if thou canst." Then up rose
Will Scarlet and left them, coming back in a short time, bearing a great
two-handed sword. Thrice he smote that strong, ironbound box, and at the
third blow it burst open and a great heap of gold came rolling forth,
gleaming red in the light of the torches. At this sight a murmur went
all around among the band, like the sound of the wind in distant trees;
but no man came forward nor touched the money.

Quoth Robin, "Thou, Will Scarlet, thou, Allan a Dale, and thou, Little
John, count it over."

A long time it took to count all the money, and when it had been duly
scored up, Will Scarlet called out that there were fifteen hundred
golden pounds in all. But in among the gold they found a paper, and this
Will Scarlet read in a loud voice, and all heard that this money was
the rental and fines and forfeits from certain estates belonging to the
Bishopric of Hereford.

"My Lord Bishop," said Robin Hood, "I will not strip thee, as Little
John said, like a winter hedge, for thou shalt take back one third
of thy money. One third of it thou canst well spare to us for thy
entertainment and that of thy train, for thou art very rich; one third
of it thou canst better spare for charity, for, Bishop, I hear that thou
art a hard master to those beneath thee and a close hoarder of gains
that thou couldst better and with more credit to thyself give to charity
than spend upon thy own likings."

At this the Bishop looked up, but he could say never a word; yet he was
thankful to keep some of his wealth.

Then Robin turned to Sir Richard of the Lea, and quoth he, "Now, Sir
Richard, the church seemed like to despoil thee, therefore some of the
overplus of church gains may well be used in aiding thee. Thou shalt
take that five hundred pounds laid aside for people more in need than
the Bishop is, and shalt pay thy debts to Emmet therewith."

Sir Richard looked at Robin until something arose in his eyes that made
all the lights and the faces blur together. At last he said, "I thank
thee, friend, from my heart, for what thou doest for me; yet, think not
ill if I cannot take thy gift freely. But this I will do: I will take
the money and pay my debts, and in a year and a day hence will return it
safe either to thee or to the Lord Bishop of Hereford. For this I pledge
my most solemn knightly word. I feel free to borrow, for I know no man
that should be more bound to aid me than one so high in that church that
hath driven such a hard bargain." "Truly, Sir Knight," quoth Robin, "I
do not understand those fine scruples that weigh with those of thy kind;
but, nevertheless, it shall all be as thou dost wish. But thou hadst
best bring the money to me at the end of the year, for mayhap I may make
better use of it than the Bishop." Thereupon, turning to those near him,
he gave his orders, and five hundred pounds were counted out and tied up
in a leathern bag for Sir Richard. The rest of the treasure was divided,
and part taken to the treasurehouse of the band, and part put by with
the other things for the Bishop.

Then Sir Richard arose. "I cannot stay later, good friends," said he,
"for my lady will wax anxious if I come not home; so I crave leave to
depart."

Then Robin Hood and all his merry men arose, and Robin said, "We cannot
let thee go hence unattended, Sir Richard."

Then up spake Little John, "Good master, let me choose a score of stout
fellows from the band, and let us arm ourselves in a seemly manner
and so serve as retainers to Sir Richard till he can get others in our
stead."

"Thou hast spoken well, Little John, and it shall be done," said Robin.

Then up spake Will Scarlet, "Let us give him a golden chain to hang
about his neck, such as befits one of his blood, and also golden spurs
to wear at his heels."

Then Robin Hood said, "Thou hast spoken well, Will Scarlet, and it shall
be done."

Then up spake Will Stutely, "Let us give him yon bale of rich velvet
and yon roll of cloth of gold to take home to his noble lady wife as a
present from Robin Hood and his merry men all."

At this all clapped their hands for joy, and Robin said: "Thou hast well
spoken, Will Stutely, and it shall be done."

Then Sir Richard of the Lea looked all around and strove to speak, but
could scarcely do so for the feelings that choked him; at last he said
in a husky, trembling voice, "Ye shall all see, good friends, that Sir
Richard o' the Lea will ever remember your kindness this day. And if ye
be at any time in dire need or trouble, come to me and my lady, and the
walls of Castle Lea shall be battered down ere harm shall befall you.
I--" He could say nothing further, but turned hastily away.

But now Little John and nineteen stout fellows whom he had chosen for
his band, came forth all ready for the journey. Each man wore upon his
breast a coat of linked mail, and on his head a cap of steel, and at his
side a good stout sword. A gallant show they made as they stood all in a
row. Then Robin came and threw a chain of gold about Sir Richard's neck,
and Will Scarlet knelt and buckled the golden spurs upon his heel; and
now Little John led forward Sir Richard's horse, and the Knight mounted.
He looked down at Robin for a little time, then of a sudden stooped and
kissed his cheek. All the forest glades rang with the shout that went up
as the Knight and the yeomen marched off through the woodland with glare
of torches and gleam of steel, and so were gone.

Then up spake the Bishop of Hereford in a mournful voice, "I, too, must
be jogging, good fellow, for the night waxes late."

But Robin laid his hand upon the Bishop's arm and stayed him. "Be not so
hasty, Lord Bishop," said he. "Three days hence Sir Richard must pay his
debts to Emmet; until that time thou must be content to abide with me
lest thou breed trouble for the Knight. I promise thee that thou shalt
have great sport, for I know that thou art fond of hunting the dun deer.
Lay by thy mantle of melancholy, and strive to lead a joyous yeoman life
for three stout days. I promise thee thou shalt be sorry to go when the
time has come."

So the Bishop and his train abided with Robin for three days, and much
sport his lordship had in that time, so that, as Robin had said, when
the time had come for him to go he was sorry to leave the greenwood. At
the end of three days Robin set him free, and sent him forth from the
forest with a guard of yeomen to keep freebooters from taking what was
left of the packs and bundles.

But, as the Bishop rode away, he vowed within himself that he would
sometime make Robin rue the day that he stopped him in Sherwood.

But now we shall follow Sir Richard; so listen, and you shall hear what
befell him, and how he paid his debts at Emmet Priory, and likewise in
due season to Robin Hood.




How Sir Richard of the Lea Paid His Debts

THE LONG HIGHWAY stretched straight on, gray and dusty in the sun. On
either side were dikes full of water bordered by osiers, and far away
in the distance stood the towers of Emmet Priory with tall poplar trees
around.

Along the causeway rode a knight with a score of stout men-at-arms
behind him. The Knight was clad in a plain, long robe of gray serge,
gathered in at the waist with a broad leathern belt, from which hung
a long dagger and a stout sword. But though he was so plainly dressed
himself, the horse he rode was a noble barb, and its trappings were rich
with silk and silver bells.

So thus the band journeyed along the causeway between the dikes, till
at last they reached the great gate of Emmet Priory. There the Knight
called to one of his men and bade him knock at the porter's lodge with
the heft of his sword.

The porter was drowsing on his bench within the lodge, but at the knock
he roused himself and, opening the wicket, came hobbling forth and
greeted the Knight, while a tame starling that hung in a wicker cage
within piped out, "_In coelo quies! In coelo quies!_" such being the
words that the poor old lame porter had taught him to speak.

"Where is thy prior?" asked the Knight of the old porter.

"He is at meat, good knight, and he looketh for thy coming," quoth the
porter, "for, if I mistake not, thou art Sir Richard of the Lea."

"I am Sir Richard of the Lea; then I will go seek him forthwith," said
the Knight.

"But shall I not send thy horse to stable?" said the porter. "By Our
Lady, it is the noblest nag, and the best harnessed, that e'er I saw in
all my life before." And he stroked the horse's flank with his palm.

"Nay," quoth Sir Richard, "the stables of this place are not for me, so
make way, I prythee." So saying, he pushed forward, and, the gates being
opened, he entered the stony courtyard of the Priory, his men behind
him. In they came with rattle of steel and clashing of swords, and
ring of horses' feet on cobblestones, whereat a flock of pigeons that
strutted in the sun flew with flapping wings to the high eaves of the
round towers.


While the Knight was riding along the causeway to Emmet, a merry feast
was toward in the refectory there. The afternoon sun streamed in through
the great arched windows and lay in broad squares of light upon the
stone floor and across the board covered with a snowy linen cloth,
whereon was spread a princely feast. At the head of the table sat Prior
Vincent of Emmet all clad in soft robes of fine cloth and silk; on his
head was a black velvet cap picked out with gold, and around his neck
hung a heavy chain of gold, with a great locket pendant therefrom.
Beside him, on the arm of his great chair, roosted his favorite falcon,
for the Prior was fond of the gentle craft of hawking. On his right hand
sat the Sheriff of Nottingham in rich robes of purple all trimmed about
with fur, and on his left a famous doctor of law in dark and sober garb.
Below these sat the high cellarer of Emmet, and others chief among the
brethren.

Jest and laughter passed around, and all was as merry as merry could be.
The wizened face of the man of law was twisted into a wrinkled smile,
for in his pouch were fourscore golden angels that the Prior had paid
him in fee for the case betwixt him and Sir Richard of the Lea. The
learned doctor had been paid beforehand, for he had not overmuch trust
in the holy Vincent of Emmet.

Quoth the Sheriff of Nottingham, "But art thou sure, Sir Prior, that
thou hast the lands so safe?"

"Ay, marry," said Prior Vincent, smacking his lips after a deep draught
of wine, "I have kept a close watch upon him, albeit he was unawares of
the same, and I know right well that he hath no money to pay me withal."

"Ay, true," said the man of law in a dry, husky voice, "his land is
surely forfeit if he cometh not to pay; but, Sir Prior, thou must get a
release beneath his sign manual, or else thou canst not hope to hold the
land without trouble from him."

"Yea," said the Prior, "so thou hast told me ere now, but I know that
this knight is so poor that he will gladly sign away his lands for two
hundred pounds of hard money."

Then up spake the high cellarer, "Methinks it is a shame to so drive
a misfortunate knight to the ditch. I think it sorrow that the noblest
estate in Derbyshire should so pass away from him for a paltry five
hundred pounds. Truly, I--"

"How now," broke in the Prior in a quivering voice, his eyes glistening
and his cheeks red with anger, "dost thou prate to my very beard,
sirrah? By Saint Hubert, thou hadst best save thy breath to cool thy
pottage, else it may scald thy mouth."

"Nay," said the man of law smoothly, "I dare swear this same knight
will never come to settlement this day, but will prove recreant.
Nevertheless, we will seek some means to gain his lands from him, so
never fear."

But even as the doctor spoke, there came a sudden clatter of horses'
hoofs and a jingle of iron mail in the courtyard below. Then up spake
the Prior and called upon one of the brethren that sat below the salt,
and bade him look out of the window and see who was below, albeit he
knew right well it could be none but Sir Richard.

So the brother arose and went and looked, and he said, "I see below a
score of stout men-at-arms and a knight just dismounting from his
horse. He is dressed in long robes of gray which, methinks, are of poor
seeming; but the horse he rideth upon hath the richest coursing that
ever I saw. The Knight dismounts and they come this way, and are even
now below in the great hall."

"Lo, see ye there now," quoth Prior Vincent. "Here ye have a knight with
so lean a purse as scarce to buy him a crust of bread to munch, yet he
keeps a band of retainers and puts rich trappings upon his horse's hide,
while his own back goeth bare. Is it not well that such men should be
brought low?"

"But art thou sure," said the little doctor tremulously, "that this
knight will do us no harm? Such as he are fierce when crossed, and he
hath a band of naughty men at his heels. Mayhap thou hadst better give
an extension of his debt." Thus he spake, for he was afraid Sir Richard
might do him a harm.

"Thou needst not fear," said the Prior, looking down at the little man
beside him. "This knight is gentle and would as soon think of harming an
old woman as thee."

As the Prior finished, a door at the lower end of the refectory swung
open, and in came Sir Richard, with folded hands and head bowed upon his
breast. Thus humbly he walked slowly up the hall, while his men-at-arms
stood about the door. When he had come to where the Prior sat, he knelt
upon one knee. "Save and keep thee, Sir Prior," said he, "I am come to
keep my day."

Then the first word that the Prior said to him was "Hast thou brought my
money?"

"Alas! I have not so much as one penny upon my body," said the Knight;
whereat the Prior's eyes sparkled.

"Now, thou art a shrewd debtor, I wot," said he. Then, "Sir Sheriff, I
drink to thee."

But still the Knight kneeled upon the hard stones, so the Prior turned
to him again. "What wouldst thou have?" quoth he sharply.

At these words, a slow red mounted into the Knight's cheeks; but still
he knelt. "I would crave thy mercy," said he. "As thou hopest for
Heaven's mercy, show mercy to me. Strip me not of my lands and so reduce
a true knight to poverty."

"Thy day is broken and thy lands forfeit," said the man of law, plucking
up his spirits at the Knight's humble speech.

Quoth Sir Richard, "Thou man of law, wilt thou not befriend me in mine
hour of need?"

"Nay," said the other, "I hold with this holy Prior, who hath paid me my
fees in hard gold, so that I am bounder to him."

"Wilt thou not be my friend, Sir Sheriff?" said Sir Richard.

"Nay, 'fore Heaven," quoth the Sheriff of Nottingham, "this is no
business of mine, yet I will do what I may," and he nudged the Prior
beneath the cloth with his knee. "Wilt thou not ease him of some of his
debts, Sir Prior?"

At this the Prior smiled grimly. "Pay me three hundred pounds, Sir
Richard," said he, "and I will give thee quittance of thy debt."

"Thou knowest, Sir Prior, that it is as easy for me to pay four hundred
pounds as three hundred," said Sir Richard. "But wilt thou not give me
another twelvemonth to pay my debt?"

"Not another day," said the Prior sternly.

"And is this all thou wilt do for me?" asked the Knight.

"Now, out upon thee, false knight!" cried the Prior, bursting forth in
anger. "Either pay thy debt as I have said, or release thy land and get
thee gone from out my hall."

Then Sir Richard arose to his feet. "Thou false, lying priest!" said
he in so stern a voice that the man of law shrunk affrighted, "I am no
false knight, as thou knowest full well, but have even held my place
in the press and the tourney. Hast thou so little courtesy that thou
wouldst see a true knight kneel for all this time, or see him come into
thy hall and never offer him meat or drink?"

Then quoth the man of law in a trembling voice, "This is surely an
ill way to talk of matters appertaining to business; let us be mild in
speech. What wilt thou pay this knight, Sir Prior, to give thee release
of his land?"

"I would have given him two hundred pounds," quoth the Prior, "but since
he hath spoken so vilely to my teeth, not one groat over one hundred
pounds will he get."

"Hadst thou offered me a thousand pounds, false prior," said the Knight,
"thou wouldst not have got an inch of my land." Then turning to where
his men-at-arms stood near the door, he called, "Come hither," and
beckoned with his finger; whereupon the tallest of them all came forward
and handed him a long leathern bag. Sir Richard took the bag and shot
from it upon the table a glittering stream of golden money. "Bear in
mind, Sir Prior," said he, "that thou hast promised me quittance for
three hundred pounds. Not one farthing above that shalt thou get." So
saying, he counted out three hundred pounds and pushed it toward the
Prior.

But now the Prior's hands dropped at his sides and the Prior's head hung
upon his shoulder, for not only had he lost all hopes of the land,
but he had forgiven the Knight one hundred pounds of his debt and had
needlessly paid the man of law fourscore angels. To him he turned, and
quoth he, "Give me back my money that thou hast."

"Nay," cried the other shrilly, "it is but my fee that thou didst pay
me, and thou gettest it not back again." And he hugged his gown about
him.

"Now, Sir Prior," quoth Sir Richard, "I have held my day and paid all
the dues demanded of me; so, as there is no more betwixt us, I leave
this vile place straightway." So saying, he turned upon his heel and
strode away.

All this time the Sheriff had been staring with wide-open eyes and mouth
agape at the tall man-at-arms, who stood as though carved out of stone.
At last he gasped out, "Reynold Greenleaf!"

At this, the tall man-at-arms, who was no other than Little John,
turned, grinning, to the Sheriff. "I give thee good den, fair gossip,"
quoth he. "I would say, sweet Sheriff, that I have heard all thy pretty
talk this day, and it shall be duly told unto Robin Hood. So, farewell
for the nonce, till we meet again in Sherwood Forest." Then he, also,
turned and followed Sir Richard down the hall, leaving the Sheriff, all
pale and amazed, shrunk together upon his chair.

A merry feast it was to which Sir Richard came, but a sorry lot he left
behind him, and little hunger had they for the princely food spread
before them. Only the learned doctor was happy, for he had his fee.


Now a twelvemonth and a day passed since Prior Vincent of Emmet sat at
feast, and once more the mellow fall of another year had come. But the
year had brought great change, I wot, to the lands of Sir Richard of the
Lea; for, where before shaggy wild grasses grew upon the meadow lands,
now all stretch away in golden stubble, betokening that a rich and
plentiful crop had been gathered therefrom. A year had made a great
change in the castle, also, for, where were empty moats and the
crumbling of neglect, all was now orderly and well kept.

Bright shone the sun on battlement and tower, and in the blue air
overhead a Hock of clattering jackdaws flew around the gilded weather
vane and spire. Then, in the brightness of the morning, the drawbridge
fell across the moat with a rattle and clank of chains, the gate of the
castle swung slowly open, and a goodly array of steel-clad men-at-arms,
with a knight all clothed in chain mail, as white as frost on brier and
thorn of a winter morning, came flashing out from the castle courtyard.
In his hand the Knight held a great spear, from the point of which
fluttered a blood-red pennant as broad as the palm of one's hand. So
this troop came forth from the castle, and in the midst of them walked
three pack horses laden with parcels of divers shapes and kinds.

Thus rode forth good Sir Richard of the Lea to pay his debt to Robin
Hood this bright and merry morn. Along the highway they wended their
way, with measured tramp of feet and rattle and jingle of sword and
harness. Onward they marched till they came nigh to Denby, where, from
the top of a hill, they saw, over beyond the town, many gay flags and
streamers floating in the bright air. Then Sir Richard turned to the
man-at-arms nearest to him. "What is toward yonder at Denby today?"
quoth he.

"Please Your Worship," answered the man-at-arms, "a merry fair is held
there today, and a great wrestling match, to which many folk have come,
for a prize hath been offered of a pipe of red wine, a fair golden ring,
and a pair of gloves, all of which go to the best wrestler."

"Now, by my faith," quoth Sir Richard, who loved good manly sports right
well, "this will be a goodly thing to see. Methinks we have to stay a
little while on our journey, and see this merry sport." So he turned his
horse's head aside toward Denby and the fair, and thither he and his men
made their way.

There they found a great hubbub of merriment. Flags and streamers were
floating, tumblers were tumbling on the green, bagpipes were playing,
and lads and lasses were dancing to the music. But the crowd were
gathered most of all around a ring where the wrestling was going
forward, and thither Sir Richard and his men turned their steps.

Now when the judges of the wrestling saw Sir Richard coming and knew
who he was, the chief of them came down from the bench where he and the
others sat, and went to the Knight and took him by the hand, beseeching
him to come and sit with them and judge the sport. So Sir Richard got
down from his horse and went with the others to the bench raised beside
the ring.

Now there had been great doings that morning, for a certain yeoman named
Egbert, who came from Stoke over in Staffordshire, had thrown with ease
all those that came against him; but a man of Denby, well known through
all the countryside as William of the Scar, had been biding his time
with the Stoke man; so, when Egbert had thrown everyone else, stout
William leaped into the ring. Then a tough bout followed, and at last he
threw Egbert heavily, whereat there was a great shouting and shaking of
hands, for all the Denby men were proud of their wrestler.

When Sir Richard came, he found stout William, puffed up by the shouts
of his friends, walking up and down the ring, daring anyone to come and
try a throw with him. "Come one, come all!" quoth he. "Here stand I,
William of the Scar, against any man. If there is none in Derbyshire to
come against me, come all who will, from Nottingham, Stafford, or York,
and if I do not make them one and all root the ground with their noses
like swine in the forests, call me no more brave William the wrestler."

At this all laughed; but above all the laughter a loud voice was
heard to cry out, "Sin' thou talkest so big, here cometh one from
Nottinghamshire to try a fall with thee, fellow;" and straightway a tall
youth with a tough quarterstaff in his hand came pushing his way through
the crowd and at last leaped lightly over the rope into the ring. He
was not as heavy as stout William, but he was taller and broader in the
shoulders, and all his joints were well knit. Sir Richard looked upon
him keenly, then, turning to one of the judges, he said, "Knowest thou
who this youth is? Methinks I have seen him before."

"Nay," said the judge, "he is a stranger to me."

Meantime, without a word, the young man, laying aside his quarterstaff,
began to take off his jerkin and body clothing until he presently stood
with naked arms and body; and a comely sight he was when so bared to
the view, for his muscles were cut round and smooth and sharp like
swift-running water.

And now each man spat upon his hands and, clapping them upon his knees,
squatted down, watching the other keenly, so as to take the vantage of
him in the grip. Then like a flash they leaped together, and a great
shout went up, for William had gotten the better hold of the two. For
a short time they strained and struggled and writhed, and then stout
William gave his most cunning trip and throw, but the stranger met it
with greater skill than his, and so the trip came to nought. Then, of a
sudden, with a twist and a wrench, the stranger loosed himself, and he
of the scar found himself locked in a pair of arms that fairly made
his ribs crack. So, with heavy, hot breathing, they stood for a while
straining, their bodies all glistening with sweat, and great drops of
sweat trickling down their faces. But the stranger's hug was so close
that at last stout William's muscles softened under his grip, and he
gave a sob. Then the youth put forth all his strength and gave a sudden
trip with his heel and a cast over his right hip, and down stout William
went, with a sickening thud, and lay as though he would never move hand
nor foot again.

But now no shout went up for the stranger, but an angry murmur was heard
among the crowd, so easily had he won the match. Then one of the judges,
a kinsman to William of the Scar, rose with trembling lip and baleful
look. Quoth he, "If thou hath slain that man it will go ill with thee,
let me tell thee, fellow." But the stranger answered boldly, "He took
his chance with me as I took mine with him. No law can touch me to harm
me, even if I slew him, so that it was fairly done in the wrestling
ring."

"That we shall see," said the judge, scowling upon the youth, while once
more an angry murmur ran around the crowd; for, as I have said, the men
of Denby were proud of stout William of the Scar.

Then up spoke Sir Richard gently. "Nay," said he, "the youth is right;
if the other dieth, he dieth in the wrestling ring, where he took his
chance, and was cast fairly enow."

But in the meantime three men had come forward and lifted stout William
from the ground and found that he was not dead, though badly shaken
by his heavy fall. Then the chief judge rose and said, "Young man, the
prize is duly thine. Here is the red-gold ring, and here the gloves, and
yonder stands the pipe of wine to do with whatsoever thou dost list."

At this, the youth, who had donned his clothes and taken up his staff
again, bowed without a word, then, taking the gloves and the ring, and
thrusting the one into his girdle and slipping the other upon his
thumb, he turned and, leaping lightly over the ropes again, made his way
through the crowd, and was gone.

"Now, I wonder who yon youth may be," said the judge, turning to Sir
Richard, "he seemeth like a stout Saxon from his red cheeks and fair
hair. This William of ours is a stout man, too, and never have I seen
him cast in the ring before, albeit he hath not yet striven with such
great wrestlers as Thomas of Cornwall, Diccon of York, and young David
of Doncaster. Hath he not a firm foot in the ring, thinkest thou, Sir
Richard?"

"Ay, truly, and yet this youth threw him fairly, and with wondrous ease.
I much wonder who he can be." Thus said Sir Richard in a thoughtful
voice.

For a time the Knight stood talking to those about him, but at last
he arose and made ready to depart, so he called his men about him and,
tightening the girths of his saddle, he mounted his horse once more.

Meanwhile the young stranger had made his way through the crowd, but, as
he passed, he heard all around him such words muttered as "Look at the
cockerel!" "Behold how he plumeth himself!" "I dare swear he cast good
William unfairly!" "Yea, truly, saw ye not birdlime upon his hands?" "It
would be well to cut his cock's comb!" To all this the stranger paid no
heed, but strode proudly about as though he heard it not. So he walked
slowly across the green to where the booth stood wherein was dancing,
and standing at the door he looked in on the sport. As he stood thus, a
stone struck his arm of a sudden with a sharp jar, and, turning, he saw
that an angry crowd of men had followed him from the wrestling ring.
Then, when they saw him turn so, a great hooting and yelling arose from
all, so that the folk came running out from the dancing booth to see
what was to do. At last a tall, broad-shouldered, burly blacksmith
strode forward from the crowd swinging a mighty blackthorn club in his
hand.

"Wouldst thou come here to our fair town of Denby, thou Jack in the Box,
to overcome a good honest lad with vile, juggling tricks?" growled he in
a deep voice like the bellow of an angry bull. "Take that, then!" And of
a sudden he struck a blow at the youth that might have felled an ox.
But the other turned the blow deftly aside, and gave back another so
terrible that the Denby man went down with a groan, as though he had
been smitten by lightning. When they saw their leader fall, the crowd
gave another angry shout; but the stranger placed his back against the
tent near which he stood, swinging his terrible staff, and so fell had
been the blow that he struck the stout smith that none dared to come
within the measure of his cudgel, so the press crowded back, like a pack
of dogs from a bear at bay. But now some coward hand from behind threw
a sharp jagged stone that smote the stranger on the crown, so that he
staggered back, and the red blood gushed from the cut and ran down his
face and over his jerkin. Then, seeing him dazed with this vile blow,
the crowd rushed upon him, so that they overbore him and he fell beneath
their feet.

Now it might have gone ill with the youth, even to the losing of his
young life, had not Sir Richard come to this fair; for of a sudden,
shouts were heard, and steel flashed in the air, and blows were given
with the flat of swords, while through the midst of the crowd Sir
Richard of the Lea came spurring on his white horse. Then the crowd,
seeing the steel-clad knight and the armed men, melted away like snow
on the warm hearth, leaving the young man all bloody and dusty upon the
ground.

Finding himself free, the youth arose and, wiping the blood from his
face, looked up. Quoth he, "Sir Richard of the Lea, mayhap thou hast
saved my life this day."

"Who art thou that knowest Sir Richard of the Lea so well?" quoth the
Knight. "Methinks I have seen thy face before, young man."

"Yea, thou hast," said the youth, "for men call me David of Doncaster."

"Ha!" said Sir Richard, "I wonder that I knew thee not, David; but thy
beard hath grown longer, and thou thyself art more set in manhood since
this day twelvemonth. Come hither into the tent, David, and wash the
blood from thy face. And thou, Ralph, bring him straightway a clean
jerkin. Now I am sorry for thee, yet I am right glad that I have had
a chance to pay a part of my debt of kindness to thy good master Robin
Hood, for it might have gone ill with thee had I not come, young man."

So saying, the Knight led David into the tent, and there the youth
washed the blood from his face and put on the clean jerkin.

In the meantime a whisper had gone around from those that stood nearest
that this was none other than the great David of Doncaster, the best
wrestler in all the mid-country, who only last spring had cast stout
Adam o' Lincoln in the ring at Selby, in Yorkshire, and now held the
mid-country champion belt, Thus it happened that when young David came
forth from the tent along with Sir Richard, the blood all washed from
his face, and his soiled jerkin changed for a clean one, no sounds of
anger were heard, but all pressed forward to see the young man, feeling
proud that one of the great wrestlers of England should have entered the
ring at Denby fair. For thus fickle is a mass of men.

Then Sir Richard called aloud, "Friends, this is David of Doncaster; so
think it no shame that your Denby man was cast by such a wrestler. He
beareth you no ill will for what hath passed, but let it be a warning
to you how ye treat strangers henceforth. Had ye slain him it would have
been an ill day for you, for Robin Hood would have harried your town as
the kestrel harries the dovecote. I have bought the pipe of wine from
him, and now I give it freely to you to drink as ye list. But never
hereafterward fall upon a man for being a stout yeoman."

At this all shouted amain; but in truth they thought more of the wine
than of the Knight's words. Then Sir Richard, with David beside him and
his men-at-arms around, turned about and left the fair.

But in after days, when the men that saw that wrestling bout were bent
with age, they would shake their heads when they heard of any stalwart
game, and say, "Ay, ay; but thou shouldst have seen the great David of
Doncaster cast stout William of the Scar at Denby fair."

Robin Hood stood in the merry greenwood with Little John and most of his
stout yeomen around him, awaiting Sir Richard's coming. At last a glint
of steel was seen through the brown forest leaves, and forth from the
covert into the open rode Sir Richard at the head of his men. He came
straight forward to Robin Hood and leaping from off his horse, clasped
the yeoman in his arms.

"Why, how now," said Robin, after a time, holding Sir Richard off and
looking at him from top to toe, "methinks thou art a gayer bird than
when I saw thee last."

"Yes, thanks to thee, Robin," said the Knight, laying his hand upon the
yeoman's shoulder. "But for thee I would have been wandering in misery
in a far country by this time. But I have kept my word, Robin, and have
brought back the money that thou didst lend me, and which I have doubled
four times over again, and so become rich once more. Along with this
money I have brought a little gift to thee and thy brave men from my
dear lady and myself." Then, turning to his men, he called aloud, "Bring
forth the pack horses."

But Robin stopped him. "Nay, Sir Richard," said he, "think it not bold
of me to cross thy bidding, but we of Sherwood do no business till after
we have eaten and drunk." Whereupon, taking Sir Richard by the hand,
he led him to the seat beneath the greenwood tree, while others of the
chief men of the band came and seated themselves around. Then quoth
Robin, "How cometh it that I saw young David of Doncaster with thee and
thy men, Sir Knight?"

Then straightway the Knight told all about his stay at Denby and of the
happening at the fair, and how it was like to go hard with young David;
so he told his tale, and quoth he, "It was this, good Robin, that kept
me so late on the way, otherwise I would have been here an hour agone."

Then, when he had done speaking, Robin stretched out his hand and
grasped the Knight's palm. Quoth he in a trembling voice, "I owe thee
a debt I can never hope to repay, Sir Richard, for let me tell thee, I
would rather lose my right hand than have such ill befall young David of
Doncaster as seemed like to come upon him at Denby."

So they talked until after a while one came forward to say that the
feast was spread; whereupon all arose and went thereto. When at last
it was done, the Knight called upon his men to bring the pack horses
forward, which they did according to his bidding. Then one of the men
brought the Knight a strongbox, which he opened and took from it a bag
and counted out five hundred pounds, the sum he had gotten from Robin.

"Sir Richard," quoth Robin, "thou wilt pleasure us all if thou wilt keep
that money as a gift from us of Sherwood. Is it not so, my lads?"

Then all shouted "Ay" with a mighty voice.

"I thank you all deeply," said the Knight earnestly, "but think it not
ill of me if I cannot take it. Gladly have I borrowed it from you, but
it may not be that I can take it as a gift."

Then Robin Hood said no more but gave the money to Little John to put
away in the treasury, for he had shrewdness enough to know that nought
breeds ill will and heart bitterness like gifts forced upon one that
cannot choose but take them.

Then Sir Richard had the packs laid upon the ground and opened,
whereupon a great shout went up that made the forest ring again, for lo,
there were tenscore bows of finest Spanish yew, all burnished till they
shone again, and each bow inlaid with fanciful figures in silver, yet
not inlaid so as to mar their strength. Beside these were tenscore
quivers of leather embroidered with golden thread, and in each quiver
were a score of shafts with burnished heads that shone like silver; each
shaft was feathered with peacock's plumes, innocked with silver.

Sir Richard gave to each yeoman a bow and a quiver of arrows, but to
Robin he gave a stout bow inlaid with the cunningest workmanship in
gold, while each arrow in his quiver was innocked with gold.

Then all shouted again for joy of the fair gift, and all swore among
themselves that they would die if need be for Sir Richard and his lady.

At last the time came when Sir Richard must go, whereupon Robin Hood
called his band around him, and each man of the yeomen took a torch in
his hand to light the way through the woodlands. So they came to the
edge of Sherwood, and there the Knight kissed Robin upon the cheeks and
left him and was gone.

Thus Robin Hood helped a noble knight out of his dire misfortunes, that
else would have smothered the happiness from his life.




Little John Turns Barefoot Friar

COLD WINTER had passed and spring had come. No leafy thickness had yet
clad the woodlands, but the budding leaves hung like a tender mist about
the trees. In the open country the meadow lands lay a sheeny green, the
cornfields a dark velvety color, for they were thick and soft with
the growing blades. The plowboy shouted in the sun, and in the purple
new-turned furrows flocks of birds hunted for fat worms. All the broad
moist earth smiled in the warm light, and each little green hill clapped
its hand for joy.

On a deer's hide, stretched on the ground in the open in front of the
greenwood tree, sat Robin Hood basking in the sun like an old dog fox.
Leaning back with his hands clasped about his knees, he lazily watched
Little John rolling a stout bowstring from long strands of hempen
thread, wetting the palms of his hands ever and anon, and rolling the
cord upon his thigh. Near by sat Allan a Dale fitting a new string to
his harp.

Quoth Robin at last, "Methinks I would rather roam this forest in the
gentle springtime than be King of all merry England. What palace in the
broad world is as fair as this sweet woodland just now, and what king in
all the world hath such appetite for plover's eggs and lampreys as I for
juicy venison and sparkling ale? Gaffer Swanthold speaks truly when he
saith, 'Better a crust with content than honey with a sour heart.'"

"Yea," quoth Little John, as he rubbed his new-made bowstring with
yellow beeswax, "the life we lead is the life for me. Thou speakest of
the springtime, but methinks even the winter hath its own joys. Thou and
I, good master, have had more than one merry day, this winter past, at
the Blue Boar. Dost thou not remember that night thou and Will Stutely
and Friar Tuck and I passed at that same hostelry with the two beggars
and the strolling friar?"

"Yea," quoth merry Robin, laughing, "that was the night that Will
Stutely must needs snatch a kiss from the stout hostess, and got a
canakin of ale emptied over his head for his pains."

"Truly, it was the same," said Little John, laughing also. "Methinks
that was a goodly song that the strolling friar sang. Friar Tuck, thou
hast a quick ear for a tune, dost thou not remember it?"

"I did have the catch of it one time," said Tuck. "Let me see," and he
touched his forefinger to his forehead in thought, humming to himself,
and stopping ever and anon to fit what he had got to what he searched
for in his mind. At last he found it all and clearing his throat, sang
merrily:

     "_In the blossoming hedge the robin cock sings,
     For the sun it is merry and bright,
     And he joyfully hops and he flutters his wings,
     For his heart is all full of delight.
     For the May bloometh fair,
     And there's little of care,
     And plenty to eat in the Maytime rare.
     When the flowers all die,
     Then off he will fly,
     To keep himself warm
     In some jolly old barn
     Where the snow and the wind neither chill him nor harm.

     "And such is the life of the strolling friar,
     With aplenty to eat and to drink;
     For the goodwife will keep him a seat by the fire,
     And the pretty girls smile at his wink.
     Then he lustily trolls
     As he onward strolls,
     A rollicking song for the saving of souls.
     When the wind doth blow,
     With the coming of snow,
     There's a place by the fire
     For the fatherly friar,
     And a crab in the bowl for his heart's desire_."

Thus Friar Tuck sang in a rich and mellow voice, rolling his head from
side to side in time with the music, and when he had done, all clapped
their hands and shouted with laughter, for the song fitted him well.

"In very sooth," quoth Little John, "it is a goodly song, and, were I
not a yeoman of Sherwood Forest, I had rather be a strolling friar than
aught else in the world."

"Yea, it is a goodly song," said Robin Hood, "but methought those two
burly beggars told the merrier tales and led the merrier life. Dost thou
not remember what that great black-bearded fellow told of his begging at
the fair in York?"

"Yea," said Little John, "but what told the friar of the harvest home in
Kentshire? I hold that he led a merrier life than the other two."

"Truly, for the honor of the cloth," quoth Friar Tuck, "I hold with my
good gossip, Little John."

"Now," quoth Robin, "I hold to mine own mind. But what sayst thou,
Little John, to a merry adventure this fair day? Take thou a friar's
gown from our chest of strange garments, and don the same, and I will
stop the first beggar I meet and change clothes with him. Then let us
wander the country about, this sweet day, and see what befalls each of
us."

"That fitteth my mind," quoth Little John, "so let us forth, say I."

Thereupon Little John and Friar Tuck went to the storehouse of the band,
and there chose for the yeoman the robe of a Gray Friar. Then they came
forth again, and a mighty roar of laughter went up, for not only had the
band never seen Little John in such guise before, but the robe was too
short for him by a good palm's-breadth. But Little John's hands were
folded in his loose sleeves, and Little John's eyes were cast upon the
ground, and at his girdle hung a great, long string of beads.

And now Little John took up his stout staff, at the end of which hung
a chubby little leathern pottle, such as palmers carry at the tips of
their staves; but in it was something, I wot, more like good Malmsey
than cold spring water, such as godly pilgrims carry. Then up rose Robin
and took his stout staff in his hand, likewise, and slipped ten golden
angels into his pouch; for no beggar's garb was among the stores of the
band, so he was fain to run his chance of meeting a beggar and buying
his clothes of him.

So, all being made ready, the two yeomen set forth on their way,
striding lustily along all in the misty morning. Thus they walked down
the forest path until they came to the highway, and then along the
highway till it split in twain, leading on one hand to Blyth and on the
other to Gainsborough. Here the yeomen stopped.

Quoth jolly Robin, "Take thou the road to Gainsborough, and I will take
that to Blyth. So, fare thee well, holy father, and mayst thou not ha'
cause to count thy beads in earnest ere we meet again."

"Good den, good beggar that is to be," quoth Little John, "and mayst
thou have no cause to beg for mercy ere I see thee next."

So each stepped sturdily upon his way until a green hill rose between
them, and the one was hid from the sight of the other.

Little John walked along, whistling, for no one was nigh upon all the
road. In the budding hedges the little birds twittered merrily, and on
either hand the green hills swept up to the sky, the great white clouds
of springtime sailing slowly over their crowns in lazy flight. Up hill
and down dale walked Little John, the fresh wind blowing in his face and
his robes fluttering behind him, and so at last he came to a crossroad
that led to Tuxford. Here he met three pretty lasses, each bearing a
basket of eggs to market. Quoth he, "Whither away, fair maids?" And he
stood in their path, holding his staff in front of them, to stop them.

Then they huddled together and nudged one another, and one presently
spake up and said, "We are going to the Tuxford market, holy friar, to
sell our eggs."

"Now out upon it!" quoth Little John, looking upon them with his head on
one side. "Surely, it is a pity that such fair lasses should be forced
to carry eggs to market. Let me tell you, an I had the shaping of things
in this world, ye should all three have been clothed in the finest
silks, and ride upon milk-white horses, with pages at your side, and
feed upon nothing but whipped cream and strawberries; for such a life
would surely befit your looks."

At this speech all three of the pretty maids looked down, blushing and
simpering. One said, "La!" another, "Marry, a' maketh sport of us!" and
the third, "Listen, now, to the holy man!" But at the same time they
looked at Little John from out the corners of their eyes.

"Now, look you," said Little John, "I cannot see such dainty damsels
as ye are carrying baskets along a highroad. Let me take them mine own
self, and one of you, if ye will, may carry my staff for me."

"Nay," said one of the lasses, "but thou canst not carry three baskets
all at one time."

"Yea, but I can," said Little John, "and that I will show you presently.
I thank the good Saint Wilfred that he hath given me a pretty wit. Look
ye, now. Here I take this great basket, so; here I tie my rosary around
the handle, thus; and here I slip the rosary over my head and sling the
basket upon my back, in this wise." And Little John did according to his
words, the basket hanging down behind him like a peddler's pack; then,
giving his staff to one of the maids, and taking a basket upon either
arm, he turned his face toward Tuxford Town and stepped forth merrily, a
laughing maid on either side, and one walking ahead, carrying the staff.
In this wise they journeyed along, and everyone they met stopped and
looked after them, laughing, for never had anybody seen such a merry
sight as this tall, strapping Gray Friar, with robes all too short for
him, laden with eggs, and tramping the road with three pretty lasses.
For this Little John cared not a whit, but when such folks gave jesting
words to him he answered back as merrily, speech for speech.

So they stepped along toward Tuxford, chatting and laughing, until
they came nigh to the town. Here Little John stopped and set down
the baskets, for he did not care to go into the town lest he should,
perchance, meet some of the Sheriff's men. "Alas! sweet chucks," quoth
he, "here I must leave you. I had not thought to come this way, but I am
glad that I did so. Now, ere we part, we must drink sweet friendship."
So saying, he unslung the leathern pottle from the end of his staff,
and, drawing the stopper therefrom, he handed it to the lass who had
carried his staff, first wiping the mouth of the pottle upon his sleeve.
Then each lass took a fair drink of what was within, and when it had
passed all around, Little John finished what was left, so that not
another drop could be squeezed from it. Then, kissing each lass sweetly,
he wished them all good den, and left them. But the maids stood looking
after him as he walked away whistling. "What a pity," quoth one, "that
such a stout, lusty lad should be in holy orders."

"Marry," quoth Little John to himself, as he strode along, "yon was no
such ill happening; Saint Dunstan send me more of the like."

After he had trudged along for a time he began to wax thirsty again in
the warmth of the day. He shook his leathern pottle beside his ear, but
not a sound came therefrom. Then he placed it to his lips and tilted it
high aloft, but not a drop was there. "Little John! Little John!" said
he sadly to himself, shaking his head the while, "woman will be thy ruin
yet, if thou dost not take better care of thyself."

But at last he reached the crest of a certain hill, and saw below a
sweet little thatched inn lying snugly in the dale beneath him, toward
which the road dipped sharply. At the sight of this, a voice within him
cried aloud, "I give thee joy, good friend, for yonder is thy heart's
delight, to wit, a sweet rest and a cup of brown beer." So he quickened
his pace down the hill and so came to the little inn, from which hung a
sign with a stag's head painted upon it. In front of the door a clucking
hen was scratching in the dust with a brood of chickens about her heels,
the sparrows were chattering of household affairs under the eaves, and
all was so sweet and peaceful that Little John's heart laughed within
him. Beside the door stood two stout cobs with broad soft-padded
saddles, well fitted for easy traveling, and speaking of rich guests
in the parlor. In front of the door three merry fellows, a tinker, a
peddler, and a beggar, were seated on a bench in the sun quaffing stout
ale.

"I give you good den, sweet friends," quoth Little John, striding up to
where they sat.

"Give thee good den, holy father," quoth the merry Beggar with a grin.
"But look thee, thy gown is too short. Thou hadst best cut a piece off
the top and tack it to the bottom, so that it may be long enough. But
come, sit beside us here and take a taste of ale, if thy vows forbid
thee not."

"Nay," quoth Little John, also grinning, "the blessed Saint Dunstan hath
given me a free dispensation for all indulgence in that line." And he
thrust his hand into his pouch for money to pay his score.

"Truly," quoth the Tinker, "without thy looks belie thee, holy friar,
the good Saint Dunstan was wise, for without such dispensation his
votary is like to ha' many a penance to make. Nay, take thy hand from
out thy pouch, brother, for thou shalt not pay this shot. Ho, landlord,
a pot of ale!"

So the ale was brought and given to Little John. Then, blowing the froth
a little way to make room for his lips, he tilted the bottom of the pot
higher and higher, till it pointed to the sky, and he had to shut his
eyes to keep the dazzle of the sunshine out of them. Then he took the
pot away, for there was nothing in it, and heaved a full deep sigh,
looking at the others with moist eyes and shaking his head solemnly.

"Ho, landlord!" cried the Peddler, "bring this good fellow another pot
of ale, for truly it is a credit to us all to have one among us who can
empty a canakin so lustily."

So they talked among themselves merrily, until after a while quoth
Little John, "Who rideth those two nags yonder?"

"Two holy men like thee, brother," quoth the Beggar. "They are now
having a goodly feast within, for I smelled the steam of a boiled
pullet just now. The landlady sayeth they come from Fountain Abbey, in
Yorkshire, and go to Lincoln on matters of business."

"They are a merry couple," said the Tinker, "for one is as lean as an
old wife's spindle, and the other as fat as a suet pudding."

"Talking of fatness," said the Peddler, "thou thyself lookest none too
ill-fed, holy friar."

"Nay, truly," said Little John, "thou seest in me what the holy Saint
Dunstan can do for them that serve him upon a handful of parched peas
and a trickle of cold water."

At this a great shout of laughter went up. "Truly, it is a wondrous
thing," quoth the Beggar, "I would have made my vow, to see the masterly
manner in which thou didst tuck away yon pot of ale, that thou hadst not
tasted clear water for a brace of months. Has not this same holy Saint
Dunstan taught thee a goodly song or two?"

"Why, as for that," quoth Little John, grinning, "mayhap he hath lent me
aid to learn a ditty or so."

"Then, prythee, let us hear how he hath taught thee," quoth the Tinker.

At this Little John cleared his throat and, after a word or two about a
certain hoarseness that troubled him, sang thus:

     "_Ah, pretty, pretty maid, whither dost thou go?
     I prythee, prythee, wait for thy lover also,
     And we'll gather the rose
     As it sweetly blows,
     For the merry, merry winds are blo-o-o-wing_."

Now it seemed as though Little John's songs were never to get sung, for
he had got no farther than this when the door of the inn opened and out
came the two brothers of Fountain Abbey, the landlord following them,
and, as the saying is, washing his hands with humble soap. But when the
brothers of Fountain Abbey saw who it was that sang, and how he was
clad in the robes of a Gray Friar, they stopped suddenly, the fat little
Brother drawing his heavy eyebrows together in a mighty frown, and the
thin Brother twisting up his face as though he had sour beer in his
mouth. Then, as Little John gathered his breath for a new verse, "How,
now," roared forth the fat Brother, his voice coming from him like loud
thunder from a little cloud, "thou naughty fellow, is this a fit place
for one in thy garb to tipple and sing profane songs?"

"Nay," quoth Little John, "sin' I cannot tipple and sing, like Your
Worship's reverence, in such a goodly place as Fountain Abbey, I must
e'en tipple and sing where I can."

"Now, out upon thee," cried the tall lean Brother in a harsh voice,
"now, out upon thee, that thou shouldst so disgrace thy cloth by this
talk and bearing."

"Marry, come up!" quoth Little John. "Disgrace, sayest thou? Methinks it
is more disgrace for one of our garb to wring hard-earned farthings out
of the gripe of poor lean peasants. It is not so, brother?"

At this the Tinker and the Peddler and the Beggar nudged one another,
and all grinned, and the friars scowled blackly at Little John; but they
could think of nothing further to say, so they turned to their horses.
Then Little John arose of a sudden from the bench where he sat, and ran
to where the brothers of Fountain Abbey were mounting. Quoth he, "Let
me hold your horses' bridles for you. Truly, your words have smitten my
sinful heart, so that I will abide no longer in this den of evil, but
will go forward with you. No vile temptation, I wot, will fall upon me
in such holy company."

"Nay, fellow," said the lean Brother harshly, for he saw that Little
John made sport of them, "we want none of thy company, so get thee
gone."

"Alas," quoth Little John, "I am truly sorry that ye like me not nor
my company, but as for leaving you, it may not be, for my heart is so
moved, that, willy-nilly, I must go with you for the sake of your holy
company."

Now, at this talk all the good fellows on the bench grinned till their
teeth glistened, and even the landlord could not forbear to smile. As
for the friars, they looked at one another with a puzzled look, and knew
not what to do in the matter. They were so proud that it made them feel
sick with shame to think of riding along the highroad with a strolling
friar, in robes all too short for him, running beside them, but yet they
could not make Little John stay against his will, for they knew he could
crack the bones of both of them in a twinkling were he so minded. Then
up spake the fat Brother more mildly than he had done before. "Nay, good
brother," said he, "we will ride fast, and thou wilt tire to death at
the pace."

"Truly, I am grateful to thee for the thought of me," quoth Little John,
"but have no fear, brother; my limbs are stout, and I could run like a
hare from here to Gainsborough."

At these words a sound of laughing came from the bench, whereat the lean
Brother's wrath boiled over, like water into the fire, with great fuss
and noise. "Now, out upon thee, thou naughty fellow!" he cried. "Art
thou not ashamed to bring disgrace so upon our cloth? Bide thee here,
thou sot, with these porkers. Thou art no fit company for us."

"La, ye there now!" quoth Little John. "Thou hearest, landlord; thou art
not fit company for these holy men; go back to thine alehouse. Nay, if
these most holy brothers of mine do but give me the word, I'll beat thy
head with this stout staff till it is as soft as whipped eggs."

At these words a great shout of laughter went up from those on the
bench, and the landlord's face grew red as a cherry from smothering his
laugh in his stomach; but he kept his merriment down, for he wished
not to bring the ill-will of the brothers of Fountain Abbey upon him
by unseemly mirth. So the two brethren, as they could do nought else,
having mounted their nags, turned their noses toward Lincoln and rode
away.

"I cannot stay longer, sweet friends," quoth Little John, as he pushed
in betwixt the two cobs, "therefore I wish you good den. Off we go,
we three." So saying, he swung his stout staff over his shoulder and
trudged off, measuring his pace with that of the two nags.

The two brothers glowered at Little John when he so pushed himself
betwixt them, then they drew as far away from him as they could, so
that the yeoman walked in the middle of the road, while they rode on the
footpath on either side of the way. As they so went away, the Tinker,
the Peddler, and the Beggar ran skipping out into the middle of the
highway, each with a pot in his hand, and looked after them laughing.

While they were in sight of those at the inn, the brothers walked their
horses soberly, not caring to make ill matters worse by seeming to run
away from Little John, for they could not but think how it would sound
in folks' ears when they heard how the brethren of Fountain Abbey
scampered away from a strolling friar, like the Ugly One, when the
blessed Saint Dunstan loosed his nose from the red-hot tongs where he
had held it fast; but when they had crossed the crest of the hill and
the inn was lost to sight, quoth the fat Brother to the thin Brother,
"Brother Ambrose, had we not better mend our pace?"

"Why truly, gossip," spoke up Little John, "methinks it would be well to
boil our pot a little faster, for the day is passing on. So it will not
jolt thy fat too much, onward, say I."

At this the two friars said nothing, but they glared again on Little
John with baleful looks; then, without another word, they clucked to
their horses, and both broke into a canter. So they galloped for a mile
and more, and Little John ran betwixt them as lightly as a stag and
never turned a hair with the running. At last the fat Brother drew his
horse's rein with a groan, for he could stand the shaking no longer.
"Alas," said Little John, with not so much as a catch in his breath, "I
did sadly fear that the roughness of this pace would shake thy poor old
fat paunch."

To this the fat Friar said never a word, but he stared straight before
him, and he gnawed his nether lip. And now they traveled forward more
quietly, Little John in the middle of the road whistling merrily to
himself, and the two friars in the footpath on either side saying never
a word.

Then presently they met three merry minstrels, all clad in red, who
stared amain to see a Gray Friar with such short robes walking in the
middle of the road, and two brothers with heads bowed with shame,
riding upon richly caparisoned cobs on the footpaths. When they had
come near to the minstrels, Little John waved his staff like an usher
clearing the way. "Make way!" he cried in a loud voice. "Make way! make
way! For here we go, we three!" Then how the minstrels stared, and how
they laughed! But the fat Friar shook as with an ague, and the lean
Friar bowed his head over his horse's neck.

Then next they met two noble knights in rich array, with hawk on wrist,
and likewise two fair ladies clad in silks and velvets, all a-riding on
noble steeds. These all made room, staring, as Little John and the two
friars came along the road. To them Little John bowed humbly. "Give you
greetings, lords and ladies," said he. "But here we go, we three."

Then all laughed, and one of the fair ladies cried out, "What three
meanest thou, merry friend?"

Little John looked over his shoulder, for they had now passed each
other, and he called back, "Big Jack, lean Jack and fat Jack-pudding."

At this the fat Friar gave a groan and seemed as if he were like to fall
from his saddle for shame; the other brother said nothing, but he looked
before him with a grim and stony look.

Just ahead of them the road took a sudden turn around a high hedge, and
some twoscore paces beyond the bend another road crossed the one they
were riding upon. When they had come to the crossroad and were well away
from those they had left, the lean Friar drew rein suddenly. "Look ye,
fellow," quoth he in a voice quivering with rage, "we have had enough
of thy vile company, and care no longer to be made sport of. Go thy way,
and let us go ours in peace."

"La there, now!" quoth Little John. "Methought we were such a merry
company, and here thou dost blaze up like fat in the pan. But truly, I
ha' had enow of you today, though I can ill spare your company. I know
ye will miss me, but gin ye want me again, whisper to Goodman Wind, and
he will bring news thereof to me. But ye see I am a poor man and ye are
rich. I pray you give me a penny or two to buy me bread and cheese at
the next inn."

"We have no money, fellow," said the lean Friar harshly. "Come, Brother
Thomas, let us forward."

But Little John caught the horses by the bridle reins, one in either
hand. "Ha' ye in truth no money about you whatsoever?" said he. "Now, I
pray you, brothers, for charity's sake, give me somewhat to buy a crust
of bread, e'en though it be only a penny."

"I tell thee, fellow, we have no money," thundered the fat little Friar
with the great voice.

"Ha' ye, in holy truth, no money?" asked Little John.

"Not a farthing," said the lean Friar sourly.

"Not a groat," said the fat Friar loudly.

"Nay," quoth Little John, "this must not be. Far be it from me to see
such holy men as ye are depart from me with no money. Get both of you
down straightway from off your horses, and we will kneel here in the
middle of the crossroads and pray the blessed Saint Dunstan to send us
some money to carry us on our journey."

"What sayest thou, thou limb of evil!" cried the lean Friar, fairly
gnashing his teeth with rage. "Doss thou bid me, the high cellarer of
Fountain Abbey, to get down from my horse and kneel in the dirty road to
pray to some beggarly Saxon saint?"

"Now," quoth Little John, "I ha' a great part of a mind to crack thy
head for thee for speaking thus of the good Saint Dunstan! But get down
straightway, for my patience will not last much longer, and I may forget
that ye are both in holy orders." So saying, he twirled his stout staff
till it whistled again.

At this speech both friars grew as pale as dough. Down slipped the
fat Brother from off his horse on one side, and down slipped the lean
Brother on the other.

"Now, brothers, down on your knees and pray," said Little John;
thereupon, putting his heavy hands upon the shoulder of each, he forced
them to their knees, he kneeling also. Then Little John began to beseech
Saint Dunstan for money, which he did in a great loud voice. After he
had so besought the Saint for a time, he bade the friars feel in their
pouches and see if the Saint had sent them anything; so each put his
hand slowly in the pouch that hung beside him, but brought nothing
thence.

"Ha!" quoth Little John, "have your prayers so little virtue? Then let
us at it again." Then straightway he began calling on Saint Dunstan
again, somewhat in this wise: "O gracious Saint Dunstan! Send some money
straightway to these poor folk, lest the fat one waste away and grow as
lean as the lean one, and the lean one waste away to nothing at all, ere
they get to Lincoln Town; but send them only ten shillings apiece, lest
they grow puffed up with pride, Any more than that that thou sendest,
send to me.

"Now," quoth he, rising, "let us see what each man hath." Then he thrust
his hand into his pouch and drew thence four golden angels. "What have
ye, brothers?" said he.

Then once again each friar slowly thrust his hand into his pouch, and
once again brought it out with nothing in it.

"Have ye nothing?" quoth Little John. "Nay, I warrant there is somewhat
that hath crept into the seams of your pouches, and so ye ha' missed it.
Let me look."

So he went first to the lean Friar, and, thrusting his hand into the
pouch, he drew forth a leathern bag and counted therefrom one hundred
and ten pounds of golden money. "I thought," quoth Little John, "that
thou hadst missed, in some odd corner of thy pouch, the money that the
blessed Saint had sent thee. And now let me see whether thou hast not
some, also, brother." Thereupon he thrust his hand into the pouch of the
fat Friar and drew thence a bag like the other and counted out from it
threescore and ten pounds. "Look ye now," quoth he, "I knew the good
Saint had sent thee some pittance that thou, also, hadst missed."

Then, giving them one pound between them, he slipped the rest of the
money into his own pouch, saying, "Ye pledged me your holy word that ye
had no money. Being holy men, I trust that ye would not belie your word
so pledged, therefore I know the good Saint Dunstan hath sent this in
answer to my prayers. But as I only prayed for ten shillings to be sent
to each of you, all over and above that belongeth by rights to me, and
so I take it. I give you good den, brothers, and may ye have a pleasant
journey henceforth." So saying, he turned and left them, striding away.
The friars looked at one another with a woeful look, and slowly and
sadly they mounted their horses again and rode away with never a word.

But Little John turned his footsteps back again to Sherwood Forest, and
merrily he whistled as he strode along.

And now we will see what befell Robin Hood in his venture as beggar.




Robin Hood Turns Beggar

AFTER JOLLY ROBIN had left Little John at the forking of the roads, he
walked merrily onward in the mellow sunshine that shone about him.
Ever and anon he would skip and leap or sing a snatch of song, for pure
joyousness of the day; for, because of the sweetness of the springtide,
his heart was as lusty within him as that of a colt newly turned out
to grass. Sometimes he would walk a long distance, gazing aloft at the
great white swelling clouds that moved slowly across the deep blue sky;
anon he would stop and drink in the fullness of life of all things, for
the hedgerows were budding tenderly and the grass of the meadows was
waxing long and green; again he would stand still and listen to the
pretty song of the little birds in the thickets or hearken to the clear
crow of the cock daring the sky to rain, whereat he would laugh, for it
took but little to tickle Robin's heart into merriment. So he trudged
manfully along, ever willing to stop for this reason or for that, and
ever ready to chat with such merry lasses as he met now and then. So
the morning slipped along, but yet he met no beggar with whom he could
change clothes. Quoth he, "If I do not change my luck in haste, I am
like to have an empty day of it, for it is well nigh half gone already,
and, although I have had a merry walk through the countryside, I know
nought of a beggar's life."

Then, after a while, he began to grow hungry, whereupon his mind turned
from thoughts of springtime and flowers and birds and dwelled
upon boiled capons, Malmsey, white bread, and the like, with great
tenderness. Quoth he to himself, "I would I had Willie Wynkin's wishing
coat; I know right well what I should wish for, and this it should be."
Here he marked upon the fingers of his left hand with the forefinger of
his right hand those things which he wished for. "Firstly, I would have
a sweet brown pie of tender larks; mark ye, not dry cooked, but with
a good sop of gravy to moisten it withal. Next, I would have a pretty
pullet, fairly boiled, with tender pigeons' eggs, cunningly sliced,
garnishing the platter around. With these I would have a long, slim loaf
of wheaten bread that hath been baked upon the hearth; it should be warm
from the fire, with glossy brown crust, the color of the hair of mine
own Maid Marian, and this same crust should be as crisp and brittle as
the thin white ice that lies across the furrows in the early winter's
morning. These will do for the more solid things; but with these I must
have three potties, fat and round, one full of Malmsey, one of Canary,
and one brimming full of mine own dear lusty sack." Thus spoke Robin to
himself, his mouth growing moist at the corners with the thoughts of the
good things he had raised in his own mind.

So, talking to himself, he came to where the dusty road turned sharply
around the hedge, all tender with the green of the coming leaf, and
there he saw before him a stout fellow sitting upon a stile, swinging
his legs in idleness. All about this lusty rogue dangled divers pouches
and bags of different sizes and kinds, a dozen or more, with great,
wide, gaping mouths, like a brood of hungry daws. His coat was gathered
in at his waist, and was patched with as many colors as there are
stripes upon a Maypole in the springtide. On his head he wore a great
tall leathern cap, and across his knees rested a stout quarterstaff of
blackthorn, full as long and heavy as Robin's. As jolly a beggar was he
as ever trod the lanes and byways of Nottinghamshire, for his eyes were
as gray as slate, and snapped and twinkled and danced with merriment,
and his black hair curled close all over his head in little rings of
kinkiness.

"Halloa, good fellow," quoth Robin, when he had come nigh to the other,
"what art thou doing here this merry day, when the flowers are peeping
and the buds are swelling?"

Then the other winked one eye and straightway trolled forth in a merry
voice:

     "_I sit upon the stile,
     And I sing a little while
     As I wait for my own true dear, O,
     For the sun is shining bright,
     And the leaves are dancing light,
     And the little fowl sings she is near, O_.

"And so it is with me, bully boy, saving that my doxy cometh not."

"Now that is a right sweet song," quoth Robin, "and, were I in the right
mind to listen to thee, I could bear well to hear more; but I have two
things of seriousness to ask of thee; so listen, I prythee."

At this the jolly Beggar cocked his head on one side, like a rogue of
a magpie. Quoth he, "I am an ill jug to pour heavy things into, good
friend, and, if I mistake not, thou hast few serious words to spare at
any time."

"Nay," quoth jolly Robin, "what I would say first is the most serious
of all thoughts to me, to wit, 'Where shall I get somewhat to eat and
drink?'"

"Sayst thou so?" quoth the Beggar. "Marry, I make no such serious
thoughts upon the matter. I eat when I can get it, and munch my crust
when I can get no crumb; likewise, when there is no ale to be had I wash
the dust from out my throat with a trickle of cold water. I was sitting
here, as thou camest upon me, bethinking myself whether I should break
my fast or no. I do love to let my hunger grow mightily keen ere I eat,
for then a dry crust is as good to me as a venison pasty with suet and
raisins is to stout King Harry. I have a sharp hunger upon me now, but
methinks in a short while it will ripen to a right mellow appetite."

"Now, in good sooth," quoth merry Robin, laughing, "thou hast a quaint
tongue betwixt thy teeth. But hast thou truly nought but a dry crust
about thee? Methinks thy bags and pouches are fat and lusty for such
thin fare."

"Why, mayhap there is some other cold fare therein," said the Beggar
slyly.

"And hast thou nought to drink but cold water?" said Robin.

"Never so much as a drop," quoth the Beggar. "Over beyond yon clump of
trees is as sweet a little inn as ever thou hast lifted eyelid upon; but
I go not thither, for they have a nasty way with me. Once, when the good
Prior of Emmet was dining there, the landlady set a dear little tart of
stewed crabs and barley sugar upon the window sill to cool, and, seeing
it there, and fearing it might be lost, I took it with me till that I
could find the owner thereof. Ever since then they have acted very ill
toward me; yet truth bids me say that they have the best ale there that
ever rolled over my tongue."

At this Robin laughed aloud. "Marry," quoth he, "they did ill toward
thee for thy kindness. But tell me truly, what hast thou in thy
pouches?"

"Why," quoth the Beggar, peeping into the mouths of his bags, "I find
here a goodly piece of pigeon pie, wrapped in a cabbage leaf to hold the
gravy. Here I behold a dainty streaked piece of brawn, and here a fair
lump of white bread. Here I find four oaten cakes and a cold knuckle of
ham. Ha! In sooth, 'tis strange; but here I behold six eggs that must
have come by accident from some poultry yard hereabouts. They are raw,
but roasted upon the coals and spread with a piece of butter that I
see--"

"Peace, good friend!" cried Robin, holding up his hand. "Thou makest my
poor stomach quake with joy for what thou tellest me so sweetly. If thou
wilt give me to eat, I will straightway hie me to that little inn thou
didst tell of but now, and will bring a skin of ale for thy drinking and
mine."

"Friend, thou hast said enough," said the Beggar, getting down from
the stile. "I will feast thee with the best that I have and bless Saint
Cedric for thy company. But, sweet chuck, I prythee bring three quarts
of ale at least, one for thy drinking and two for mine, for my thirst is
such that methinks I can drink ale as the sands of the River Dee drink
salt water."

So Robin straightway left the Beggar, who, upon his part, went to a
budding lime bush back of the hedge, and there spread his feast upon
the grass and roasted his eggs upon a little fagot fire, with a deftness
gained by long labor in that line. After a while back came Robin bearing
a goodly skin of ale upon his shoulder, which he laid upon the grass.
Then, looking upon the feast spread upon the ground--and a fair sight it
was to look upon--he slowly rubbed his hand over his stomach, for to his
hungry eyes it seemed the fairest sight that he had beheld in all his
life.

"Friend," said the Beggar, "let me feel the weight of that skin.

"Yea, truly," quoth Robin, "help thyself, sweet chuck, and meantime let
me see whether thy pigeon pie is fresh or no."

So the one seized upon the ale and the other upon the pigeon pie, and
nothing was heard for a while but the munching of food and the gurgle of
ale as it left the skin.

At last, after a long time had passed thus, Robin pushed the food from
him and heaved a great sigh of deep content, for he felt as though he
had been made all over anew.

"And now, good friend," quoth he, leaning upon one elbow, "I would have
at thee about that other matter of seriousness of which I spoke not long
since."

"How!" said the Beggar reproachfully, "thou wouldst surely not talk of
things appertaining to serious affairs upon such ale as this!"

"Nay," quoth Robin, laughing. "I would not check thy thirst, sweet
friend; drink while I talk to thee. Thus it is: I would have thee know
that I have taken a liking to thy craft and would fain have a taste of a
beggar's life mine own self."

Said the Beggar, "I marvel not that thou hast taken a liking to my
manner of life, good fellow, but 'to like' and 'to do' are two
matters of different sorts. I tell thee, friend, one must serve a
long apprenticeship ere one can learn to be even so much as a
clapper-dudgeon, much less a crank or an Abraham-man.(3) I tell thee,
lad, thou art too old to enter upon that which it may take thee years to
catch the hang of."

     (3) Classes of traveling mendicants that infested England as
     late as the middle of the seventeenth century. VIDE Dakkar's
     ENGLISH VILLAINIES, etc.

"Mayhap that may be so," quoth Robin, "for I bring to mind that Gaffer
Swanthold sayeth Jack Shoemaker maketh ill bread; Tom Baker maketh ill
shoon. Nevertheless, I have a mind to taste a beggar's life, and need
but the clothing to be as good as any."

"I tell thee, fellow," said the Beggar, "if thou wert clad as sweetly
as good Saint Wynten, the patron of our craft, thou wouldst never make
a beggar. Marry, the first jolly traveler that thou wouldst meet
would beat thee to a pudding for thrusting thy nose into a craft that
belongeth not to thee."

"Nevertheless," quoth Robin, "I would have a try at it; and methinks I
shall change clothes with thee, for thy garb seemeth to be pretty, not
to say gay. So not only will I change clothes, but I will give thee two
golden angels to boot. I have brought my stout staff with me, thinking
that I might have to rap some one of the brethren of thy cloth over the
head by way of argument in this matter, but I love thee so much for the
feast thou hast given me that I would not lift even my little finger
against thee, so thou needst not have a crumb of fear."

To this the Beggar listened with his knuckles resting against his hips,
and when Robin had ended he cocked his head on one side and thrust his
tongue into his cheek.

"Marry, come up," quoth he at last. "Lift thy finger against me,
forsooth! Art thou out of thy wits, man? My name is Riccon Hazel, and I
come from Holywell, in Flintshire, over by the River Dee. I tell thee,
knave, I have cracked the head of many a better man than thou art, and
even now I would scald thy crown for thee but for the ale thou hast
given me. Now thou shalt not have so much as one tag-rag of my coat,
even could it save thee from hanging."

"Now, fellow," said Robin, "it would ill suit me to spoil thy pretty
head for thee, but I tell thee plainly, that but for this feast I would
do that to thee would stop thy traveling the country for many a day to
come. Keep thy lips shut, lad, or thy luck will tumble out of thy mouth
with thy speech!"

"Now out, and alas for thee, man, for thou hast bred thyself ill this
day!" cried the Beggar, rising and taking up his staff. "Take up thy
club and defend thyself, fellow, for I will not only beat thee but I
will take from thee thy money and leave thee not so much as a clipped
groat to buy thyself a lump of goose grease to rub thy cracked crown
withal. So defend thyself, I say."

Then up leaped merry Robin and snatched up his staff also. "Take my
money, if thou canst," quoth he. "I promise freely to give thee every
farthing if thou dost touch me." And he twirled his staff in his fingers
till it whistled again.

Then the Beggar swung his staff also, and struck a mighty blow at Robin,
which the yeoman turned. Three blows the Beggar struck, yet never one
touched so much as a hair of Robin's head. Then stout Robin saw his
chance, and, ere you could count three, Riccon's staff was over the
hedge, and Riccon himself lay upon the green grass with no more motion
than you could find in an empty pudding bag.

"How now!" quoth merry Robin, laughing. "Wilt thou have my hide or my
money, sweet chuck?" But to this the other answered never a word. Then
Robin, seeing his plight, and that he was stunned with the blow, ran,
still laughing, and brought the skin of ale and poured some of it on the
Beggar's head and some down his throat, so that presently he opened his
eyes and looked around as though wondering why he lay upon his back.

Then Robin, seeing that he had somewhat gathered the wits that had just
been rapped out of his head, said, "Now, good fellow, wilt thou change
clothes with me, or shall I have to tap thee again? Here are two golden
angels if thou wilt give me freely all thy rags and bags and thy cap
and things. If thou givest them not freely, I much fear me I shall have
to--" and he looked up and down his staff.

Then Riccon sat up and rubbed the bump on his crown. "Now, out upon it!"
quoth he. "I did think to drub thee sweetly, fellow. I know not how it
is, but I seem, as it were, to have bought more beer than I can drink.
If I must give up my clothes, I must, but first promise me, by thy word
as a true yeoman, that thou wilt take nought from me but my clothes."

"I promise on the word of a true yeoman," quoth Robin, thinking that the
fellow had a few pennies that he would save.

Thereupon the Beggar drew a little knife that hung at his side and,
ripping up the lining of his coat, drew thence ten bright golden pounds,
which he laid upon the ground beside him with a cunning wink at Robin.
"Now thou mayst have my clothes and welcome," said he, "and thou
mightest have had them in exchange for thine without the cost of a
single farthing, far less two golden angels."

"Marry," quoth Robin, laughing, "thou art a sly fellow, and I tell thee
truly, had I known thou hadst so much money by thee maybe thou mightst
not have carried it away, for I warrant thou didst not come honestly by
it."

Then each stripped off his clothes and put on those of the other, and as
lusty a beggar was Robin Hood as e'er you could find of a summer's day.
But stout Riccon of Holywell skipped and leaped and danced for joy of
the fair suit of Lincoln green that he had so gotten. Quoth he, "I am a
gay-feathered bird now. Truly, my dear Moll Peascod would never know me
in this dress. Thou mayst keep the cold pieces of the feast, friend, for
I mean to live well and lustily while my money lasts and my clothes are
gay."

So he turned and left Robin and, crossing the stile, was gone, but Robin
heard him singing from beyond the hedge as he strode away:

     "_For Polly is smiling and Molly is glad
     When the beggar comes in at the door,
     And Jack and Dick call him a fine lusty lad,
     And the hostess runs up a great score.

     "Then hey, Willy Waddykin,
     Stay, Billy Waddykin,
     And let the brown ale flow free, flow free,
     The beggar's the man for me_."

Robin listened till the song ended in the distance, then he also crossed
the stile into the road, but turned his toes away from where the Beggar
had gone. The road led up a gentle hill and up the hill Robin walked, a
half score or more of bags dangling about his legs. Onward he strolled
for a long time, but other adventure he found not. The road was bare
of all else but himself, as he went kicking up little clouds of dust at
each footstep; for it was noontide, the most peaceful time of all the
day, next to twilight. All the earth was silent in the restfulness of
eating time; the plowhorses stood in the furrow munching, with great
bags over their noses holding sweet food, the plowman sat under the
hedge and the plowboy also, and they, too, were munching, each one
holding a great piece of bread in one fist and a great piece of cheese
in the other.

So Robin, with all the empty road to himself, strode along whistling
merrily, his bags and pouches bobbing and dangling at his thighs. At
last he came to where a little grass-grown path left the road and,
passing through a stile and down a hill, led into a little dell and on
across a rill in the valley and up the hill on the other side, till it
reached a windmill that stood on the cap of the rise where the wind bent
the trees in swaying motion. Robin looked at the spot and liked it, and,
for no reason but that his fancy led him, he took the little path and
walked down the grassy sunny slope of the open meadow, and so came to
the little dingle and, ere he knew it, upon four lusty fellows that sat
with legs outstretched around a goodly feast spread upon the ground.

Four merry beggars were they, and each had slung about his neck a little
board that rested upon his breast. One board had written upon it, "I
am blind," another, "I am deaf," another, "I am dumb," and the fourth,
"Pity the lame one." But although all these troubles written upon the
boards seemed so grievous, the four stout fellows sat around feasting
as merrily as though Cain's wife had never opened the pottle that held
misfortunes and let them forth like a cloud of flies to pester us.

The deaf man was the first to hear Robin, for he said, "Hark, brothers,
I hear someone coming." And the blind man was the first to see him,
for he said, "He is an honest man, brothers, and one of like craft to
ourselves." Then the dumb man called to him in a great voice and said,
"Welcome, brother; come and sit while there is still some of the feast
left and a little Malmsey in the pottle." At this, the lame man, who
had taken off his wooden leg and unstrapped his own leg, and was sitting
with it stretched out upon the grass so as to rest it, made room for
Robin among them. "We are glad to see thee, brother," said he, holding
out the flask of Malmsey.

"Marry," quoth Robin, laughing, and weighing the flask in his hands ere
he drank, "methinks it is no more than seemly of you all to be glad
to see me, seeing that I bring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb,
hearing to the deaf, and such a lusty leg to a lame man. I drink to your
happiness, brothers, as I may not drink to your health, seeing ye are
already hale, wind and limb."

At this all grinned, and the Blind beggar, who was the chief man among
them, and was the broadest shouldered and most lusty rascal of all,
smote Robin upon the shoulder, swearing he was a right merry wag.

"Whence comest thou, lad?" asked the Dumb man.

"Why," quoth Robin, "I came this morning from sleeping overnight in
Sherwood."

"Is it even so?" said the Deaf man. "I would not for all the money we
four are carrying to Lincoln Town sleep one night in Sherwood. If Robin
Hood caught one of our trade in his woodlands he would, methinks, clip
his ears."

"Methinks he would, too," quoth Robin, laughing. "But what money is this
that ye speak of?"

Then up spake the Lame man. "Our king, Peter of York," said he, "hath
sent us to Lincoln with those moneys that--"

"Stay, brother Hodge," quoth the Blind man, breaking into the talk, "I
would not doubt our brother here, but bear in mind we know him not. What
art thou, brother? Upright-man, Jurkman, Clapper-dudgeon, Dommerer, or
Abraham-man?"

At these words Robin looked from one man to the other with mouth agape.
"Truly," quoth he, "I trust I am an upright man, at least, I strive to
be; but I know not what thou meanest by such jargon, brother. It were
much more seemly, methinks, if yon Dumb man, who hath a sweet voice,
would give us a song."

At these words a silence fell on all, and after a while the Blind man
spoke again. Quoth he, "Thou dost surely jest when thou sayest that thou
dost not understand such words. Answer me this: Hast thou ever fibbed a
chouse quarrons in the Rome pad for the loure in his bung?"(4)

     (4) I.E., in old beggar's cant, "beaten a man or gallant
     upon the highway for the money in his purse."  Dakkar's
     ENGLISH VILLAINIES.

"Now out upon it," quoth Robin Hood testily, "an ye make sport of me by
pattering such gibberish, it will be ill for you all, I tell you. I have
the best part of a mind to crack the heads of all four of you, and would
do so, too, but for the sweet Malmsey ye have given me. Brother, pass
the pottle lest it grow cold."

But all the four beggars leaped to their feet when Robin had done
speaking, and the Blind man snatched up a heavy knotted cudgel that lay
beside him on the grass, as did the others likewise. Then Robin, seeing
that things were like to go ill with him, albeit he knew not what all
the coil was about, leaped to his feet also and, catching up his trusty
staff, clapped his back against the tree and stood upon his guard
against them. "How, now!" cried he, twirling his staff betwixt his
fingers, "would you four stout fellows set upon one man? Stand back, ye
rascals, or I will score your pates till they have as many marks upon
them as a pothouse door! Are ye mad? I have done you no harm."

"Thou liest!" quoth the one who pretended to be blind and who, being the
lustiest villain, was the leader of the others, "thou liest! For thou
hast come among us as a vile spy. But thine ears have heard too much for
thy body's good, and thou goest not forth from this place unless thou
goest feet foremost, for this day thou shalt die! Come, brothers, all
together! Down with him!" Then, whirling up his cudgel, he rushed upon
Robin as an angry bull rushes upon a red rag. But Robin was ready for
any happening. "Crick! Crack!" he struck two blows as quick as a wink,
and down went the Blind man, rolling over and over upon the grass.

At this the others bore back and stood at a little distance scowling
upon Robin. "Come on, ye scum!" cried he merrily. "Here be cakes and ale
for all. Now, who will be next served?"

To this speech the beggars answered never a word, but they looked at
Robin as great Blunderbore looked upon stout Jack the slayer of giants,
as though they would fain eat him, body and bones; nevertheless, they
did not care to come nigher to him and his terrible staff. Then, seeing
them so hesitate, Robin of a sudden leaped upon them, striking even as
he leaped. Down went the Dumb man, and away flew his cudgel from his
hand as he fell. At this the others ducked to avoid another blow, then,
taking to their heels, scampered, the one one way and the other the
other, as though they had the west wind's boots upon their feet. Robin
looked after them, laughing, and thought that never had he seen so fleet
a runner as the Lame man; but neither of the beggars stopped nor turned
around, for each felt in his mind the wind of Robin's cudgel about his
ears.

Then Robin turned to the two stout knaves lying upon the ground. Quoth
he, "These fellows spake somewhat about certain moneys they were taking
to Lincoln; methinks I may find it upon this stout blind fellow,
who hath as keen sight as e'er a trained woodsman in Nottingham or
Yorkshire. It were a pity to let sound money stay in the pockets of
such thieving knaves." So saying, he stooped over the burly rascal and
searched among his rags and tatters, till presently his fingers felt a
leathern pouch slung around his body beneath his patched and tattered
coat. This he stripped away and, weighing it in his hands, bethought
himself that it was mighty heavy. "It were a sweet thing," said he to
himself, "if this were filled with gold instead of copper pence." Then,
sitting down upon the grass, he opened the pocket and looked into it.
There he found four round rolls wrapped up in dressed sheepskin; one of
these rolls he opened; then his mouth gaped and his eyes stared, I wot,
as though they would never close again, for what did he see but fifty
pounds of bright golden money? He opened the other pockets and found in
each one the same, fifty bright new-stamped golden pounds. Quoth Robin,
"I have oft heard that the Beggars' Guild was over-rich, but never did
I think that they sent such sums as this to their treasury. I shall take
it with me, for it will be better used for charity and the good of my
merry band than in the enriching of such knaves as these." So saying, he
rolled up the money in the sheepskin again, and putting it back in the
purse, he thrust the pouch into his own bosom. Then taking up the flask
of Malmsey, he held it toward the two fellows lying on the grass, and
quoth he, "Sweet friends, I drink your health and thank you dearly for
what ye have so kindly given me this day, and so I wish you good den."
Then, taking up his staff, he left the spot and went merrily on his way.

But when the two stout beggars that had been rapped upon the head roused
themselves and sat up, and when the others had gotten over their fright
and come back, they were as sad and woebegone as four frogs in dry
weather, for two of them had cracked crowns, their Malmsey was all gone,
and they had not so much as a farthing to cross their palms withal.

But after Robin left the little dell he strode along merrily, singing as
he went; and so blithe was he and such a stout beggar, and, withal, so
fresh and clean, that every merry lass he met had a sweet word for him
and felt no fear, while the very dogs, that most times hate the sight
of a beggar, snuffed at his legs in friendly wise and wagged their tails
pleasantly; for dogs know an honest man by his smell, and an honest man
Robin was--in his own way.

Thus he went along till at last he had come to the wayside cross nigh
Ollerton, and, being somewhat tired, he sat him down to rest upon the
grassy bank in front of it. "It groweth nigh time," quoth he to himself,
"that I were getting back again to Sherwood; yet it would please me well
to have one more merry adventure ere I go back again to my jolly band."

So he looked up the road and down the road to see who might come, until
at last he saw someone drawing near, riding upon a horse. When the
traveler came nigh enough for him to see him well, Robin laughed, for a
strange enough figure he cut. He was a thin, wizened man, and, to look
upon him, you could not tell whether he was thirty years old or sixty,
so dried up was he even to skin and bone. As for the nag, it was as thin
as the rider, and both looked as though they had been baked in Mother
Huddle's Oven, where folk are dried up so that they live forever.

But although Robin laughed at the droll sight, he knew the wayfarer
to be a certain rich corn engrosser of Worksop, who more than once had
bought all the grain in the countryside and held it till it reached even
famine prices, thus making much money from the needs of poor people, and
for this he was hated far and near by everyone that knew aught of him.

So, after a while, the Corn Engrosser came riding up to where Robin sat;
whereupon merry Robin stepped straightway forth, in all his rags and
tatters, his bags and pouches dangling about him, and laid his hand upon
the horse's bridle rein, calling upon the other to stop.

"Who art thou, fellow, that doth dare to stop me thus upon the King's
highway?" said the lean man, in a dry, sour voice.

"Pity a poor beggar," quoth Robin. "Give me but a farthing to buy me a
piece of bread."

"Now, out upon thee!" snarled the other. "Such sturdy rogues as thou art
are better safe in the prisons or dancing upon nothing, with a hempen
collar about the neck, than strolling the highways so freely."

"Tut," quoth Robin, "how thou talkest! Thou and I are brothers, man. Do
we not both take from the poor people that which they can ill spare? Do
we not make our livings by doing nought of any good? Do we not both live
without touching palm to honest work? Have we either of us ever rubbed
thumbs over honestly gained farthings? Go to! We are brothers, I say;
only thou art rich and I am poor; wherefore, I prythee once more, give
me a penny."

"Doss thou prate so to me, sirrah?" cried the Corn Engrosser in a rage.
"Now I will have thee soundly whipped if ever I catch thee in any town
where the law can lay hold of thee! As for giving thee a penny, I swear
to thee that I have not so much as a single groat in my purse. Were
Robin Hood himself to take me, he might search me from crown to heel
without finding the smallest piece of money upon me. I trust I am too
sly to travel so nigh to Sherwood with money in my pouch, and that thief
at large in the woods."

Then merry Robin looked up and down, as if to see that there was no one
nigh, and then, coming close to the Corn Engrosser, he stood on tiptoe
and spake in his ear, "Thinkest thou in sooth that I am a beggar, as I
seem to be? Look upon me. There is not a grain of dirt upon my hands or
my face or my body. Didst thou ever see a beggar so? I tell thee I am as
honest a man as thou art. Look, friend." Here he took the purse of money
from his breast and showed to the dazzled eyes of the Corn Engrosser the
bright golden pieces. "Friend, these rags serve but to hide an honest
rich man from the eyes of Robin Hood."

"Put up thy money, lad," cried the other quickly. "Art thou a fool,
to trust to beggar's rags to shield thee from Robin Hood? If he caught
thee, he would strip thee to the skin, for he hates a lusty beggar as he
doth a fat priest or those of my kind."

"Is it indeed so?" quoth Robin. "Had I known this, mayhap I had not come
hereabouts in this garb. But I must go forward now, as much depends upon
my journeying. Where goest thou, friend?"

"I go to Grantham," said the Corn Engrosser, "but I shall lodge tonight
at Newark, if I can get so far upon my way."

"Why, I myself am on the way to Newark," quoth merry Robin, "so that,
as two honest men are better than one in roads beset by such a fellow as
this Robin Hood, I will jog along with thee, if thou hast no dislike to
my company."

"Why, as thou art an honest fellow and a rich fellow," said the Corn
Engrosser, "I mind not thy company; but, in sooth, I have no great
fondness for beggars."

"Then forward," quoth Robin, "for the day wanes and it will be dark ere
we reach Newark." So off they went, the lean horse hobbling along as
before, and Robin running beside, albeit he was so quaking with laughter
within him that he could hardly stand; yet he dared not laugh aloud,
lest the Corn Engrosser should suspect something. So they traveled along
till they reached a hill just on the outskirts of Sherwood. Here the
lean man checked his lean horse into a walk, for the road was steep, and
he wished to save his nag's strength, having far to go ere he reached
Newark. Then he turned in his saddle and spake to Robin again, for the
first time since they had left the cross. "Here is thy greatest danger,
friend," said he, "for here we are nighest to that vile thief Robin
Hood, and the place where he dwells. Beyond this we come again to the
open honest country, and so are more safe in our journeying."

"Alas!" quoth Robin, "I would that I had as little money by me as thou
hast, for this day I fear that Robin Hood will get every groat of my
wealth."

Then the other looked at Robin and winked cunningly. Quoth he, "I tell
thee, friend, that I have nigh as much by me as thou hast, but it is
hidden so that never a knave in Sherwood could find it."

"Thou dost surely jest," quoth Robin. "How could one hide so much as two
hundred pounds upon his person?"

"Now, as thou art so honest a fellow, and, withal, so much younger than
I am, I will tell thee that which I have told to no man in all the world
before, and thus thou mayst learn never again to do such a foolish thing
as to trust to beggar's garb to guard thee against Robin Hood. Seest
thou these clogs upon my feet?"

"Yea," quoth Robin, laughing, "truly, they are large enough for any man
to see, even were his sight as foggy as that of Peter Patter, who never
could see when it was time to go to work."

"Peace, friend," said the Corn Engrosser, "for this is no matter for
jesting. The soles of these clogs are not what they seem to be, for each
one is a sweet little box; and by twisting the second nail from the toe,
the upper of the shoe and part of the sole lifts up like a lid, and in
the spaces within are fourscore and ten bright golden pounds in each
shoe, all wrapped in hair, to keep them from clinking and so telling
tales of themselves."

When the Corn Engrosser had told this, Robin broke into a roar of
laughter and, laying his hands upon the bridle rein, stopped the
sad-looking nag. "Stay, good friend," quoth he, between bursts of
merriment, "thou art the slyest old fox that e'er I saw in all
my life!--In the soles of his shoon, quotha!--If ever I trust a
poor-seeming man again, shave my head and paint it blue! A corn factor,
a horse jockey, an estate agent, and a jackdaw for cunningness, say I!"
And he laughed again till he shook in his shoes with mirth.

All this time the Corn Engrosser had been staring at Robin, his mouth
agape with wonder. "Art thou mad," quoth he, "to talk in this way, so
loud and in such a place? Let us forward, and save thy mirth till we are
safe and sound at Newark."

"Nay," quoth Robin, the tears of merriment wet on his cheeks, "on second
thoughts I go no farther than here, for I have good friends hereabouts.
Thou mayst go forward if thou dost list, thou sweet pretty fellow, but
thou must go forward barefoot, for I am afraid that thy shoon must be
left behind. Off with them, friend, for I tell thee I have taken a great
fancy to them."

At these words the corn factor grew pale as a linen napkin. "Who art
thou that talkest so?" said he.

Then merry Robin laughed again, and quoth he, "Men hereabouts call me
Robin Hood; so, sweet friend, thou hadst best do my bidding and give
me thy shoes, wherefore hasten, I prythee, or else thou wilt not get to
fair Newark Town till after dark."

At the sound of the name of Robin Hood, the corn factor quaked with
fear, so that he had to seize his horse by the mane to save himself
from falling off its back. Then straightway, and without more words,
he stripped off his clogs and let them fall upon the road. Robin, still
holding the bridle rein, stooped and picked them up. Then he said,
"Sweet friend, I am used to ask those that I have dealings with to
come and feast at Sherwood with me. I will not ask thee, because of our
pleasant journey together; for I tell thee there be those in Sherwood
that would not be so gentle with thee as I have been. The name of Corn
Engrosser leaves a nasty taste upon the tongue of all honest men. Take a
fool's advice of me and come no more so nigh to Sherwood, or mayhap some
day thou mayst of a sudden find a clothyard shaft betwixt thy ribs. So,
with this, I give thee good den." Hereupon he clapped his hand to the
horse's flank and off went nag and rider. But the man's face was all
bedewed with the sweat of fright, and never again, I wot, was he found
so close to Sherwood Forest as he had been this day.

Robin stood and looked after him, and, when he was fairly gone, turned,
laughing, and entered the forest carrying the shoes in his hand.

That night in sweet Sherwood the red fires glowed brightly in wavering
light on tree and bush, and all around sat or lay the stout fellows of
the band to hear Robin Hood and Little John tell their adventures. All
listened closely, and again and again the woods rang with shouts of
laughter.

When all was told, Friar Tuck spoke up. "Good master," said he, "thou
hast had a pretty time, but still I hold to my saying, that the life of
the barefoot friar is the merrier of the two."

"Nay," quoth Will Stutely, "I hold with our master, that he hath had
the pleasanter doings of the two, for he hath had two stout bouts at
quarterstaff this day."

So some of the band held with Robin Hood and some with Little John. As
for me, I think--But I leave it with you to say for yourselves which you
hold with.




Robin Hood Shoots Before Queen Eleanor

THE HIGHROAD stretched white and dusty in the hot summer afternoon sun,
and the trees stood motionless along the roadside. All across the meadow
lands the hot air danced and quivered, and in the limpid waters of
the lowland brook, spanned by a little stone bridge, the fish hung
motionless above the yellow gravel, and the dragonfly sat quite still,
perched upon the sharp tip of a spike of the rushes, with its wings
glistening in the sun.

Along the road a youth came riding upon a fair milk-white barb, and the
folk that he passed stopped and turned and looked after him, for never
had so lovely a lad or one so gaily clad been seen in Nottingham before.
He could not have been more than sixteen years of age, and was as fair
as any maiden. His long yellow hair flowed behind him as he rode along,
all clad in silk and velvet, with jewels flashing and dagger jingling
against the pommel of the saddle. Thus came the Queen's Page, young
Richard Partington, from famous London Town down into Nottinghamshire,
upon Her Majesty's bidding, to seek Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest.

The road was hot and dusty and his journey had been long, for that day
he had come all the way from Leicester Town, a good twenty miles and
more; wherefore young Partington was right glad when he saw before him a
sweet little inn, all shady and cool beneath the trees, in front of the
door of which a sign hung pendant, bearing the picture of a blue boar.
Here he drew rein and called loudly for a pottle of Rhenish wine to be
brought him, for stout country ale was too coarse a drink for this young
gentleman. Five lusty fellows sat upon the bench beneath the pleasant
shade of the wide-spreading oak in front of the inn door, drinking ale
and beer, and all stared amain at this fair and gallant lad. Two of the
stoutest of them were clothed in Lincoln green, and a great heavy oaken
staff leaned against the gnarled oak tree trunk beside each fellow.

The landlord came and brought a pottle of wine and a long narrow glass
upon a salver, which he held up to the Page as he sat upon his horse.
Young Partington poured forth the bright yellow wine and holding the
glass aloft, cried, "Here is to the health and long happiness of my
royal mistress, the noble Queen Eleanor; and may my journey and her
desirings soon have end, and I find a certain stout yeoman men call
Robin Hood."

At these words all stared, but presently the two stout yeomen in Lincoln
green began whispering together. Then one of the two, whom Partington
thought to be the tallest and stoutest fellow he had ever beheld, spoke
up and said, "What seekest thou of Robin Hood, Sir Page? And what does
our good Queen Eleanor wish of him? I ask this of thee, not foolishly,
but with reason, for I know somewhat of this stout yeoman."

"An thou knowest aught of him, good fellow," said young Partington,
"thou wilt do great service to him and great pleasure to our royal Queen
by aiding me to find him."

Then up spake the other yeoman, who was a handsome fellow with sunburned
face and nut-brown, curling hair, "Thou hast an honest look, Sir Page,
and our Queen is kind and true to all stout yeomen. Methinks I and my
friend here might safely guide thee to Robin Hood, for we know where
he may be found. Yet I tell thee plainly, we would not for all merry
England have aught of harm befall him."

"Set thy mind at ease; I bring nought of ill with me," quoth Richard
Partington. "I bring a kind message to him from our Queen, therefore an
ye know where he is to be found, I pray you to guide me thither."

Then the two yeomen looked at one another again, and the tall man said,
"Surely it were safe to do this thing, Will;" whereat the other nodded.
Thereupon both arose, and the tall yeoman said, "We think thou art true,
Sir Page, and meanest no harm, therefore we will guide thee to Robin
Hood as thou dost wish."

Then Partington paid his score, and the yeomen coming forward, they all
straightway departed upon their way.


Under the greenwood tree, in the cool shade that spread all around upon
the sward, with flickering lights here and there, Robin Hood and many
of his band lay upon the soft green grass, while Allan a Dale sang and
played upon his sweetly sounding harp. All listened in silence, for
young Allan's singing was one of the greatest joys in all the world
to them; but as they so listened there came of a sudden the sound of a
horse's feet, and presently Little John and Will Stutely came forth from
the forest path into the open glade, young Richard Partington riding
between them upon his milk-white horse. The three came toward where
Robin Hood sat, all the band staring with might and main, for never had
they seen so gay a sight as this young Page, nor one so richly clad
in silks and velvets and gold and jewels. Then Robin arose and stepped
forth to meet him, and Partington leaped from his horse and doffing
his cap of crimson velvet, met Robin as he came. "Now, welcome!" cried
Robin. "Now, welcome, fair youth, and tell me, I prythee, what bringeth
one of so fair a presence and clad in such noble garb to our poor forest
of Sherwood?"

Then young Partington said, "If I err not, thou art the famous Robin
Hood, and these thy stout band of outlawed yeomen. To thee I bring
greetings from our noble Queen Eleanor. Oft hath she heard thee spoken
of and thy merry doings hereabouts, and fain would she behold thy face;
therefore she bids me tell thee that if thou wilt presently come to
London Town, she will do all in her power to guard thee against harm,
and will send thee back safe to Sherwood Forest again. Four days hence,
in Finsbury Fields, our good King Henry, of great renown, holdeth a
grand shooting match, and all the most famous archers of merry England
will be thereat. Our Queen would fain see thee strive with these,
knowing that if thou wilt come thou wilt, with little doubt, carry
off the prize. Therefore she hath sent me with this greeting, and
furthermore sends thee, as a sign of great good will, this golden ring
from off her own fair thumb, which I give herewith into thy hands."

Then Robin Hood bowed his head and taking the ring, kissed it right
loyally, and then slipped it upon his little finger. Quoth he, "Sooner
would I lose my life than this ring; and ere it departs from me, my hand
shall be cold in death or stricken off at the wrist. Fair Sir Page, I
will do our Queen's bidding, and will presently hie with thee to London;
but, ere we go, I will feast thee here in the woodlands with the very
best we have."

"It may not be," said the Page; "we have no time to tarry, therefore
get thyself ready straightway; and if there be any of thy band that thou
wouldst take with thee, our Queen bids me say that she will make them
right welcome likewise."

"Truly, thou art right," quoth Robin, "and we have but short time to
stay; therefore I will get me ready presently. I will choose three of my
men, only, to go with me, and these three shall be Little John, mine
own true right-hand man, Will Scarlet, my cousin, and Allan a Dale, my
minstrel. Go, lads, and get ye ready straightway, and we will presently
off with all speed that we may. Thou, Will Stutely, shall be the chief
of the band while I am gone."

Then Little John and Will Scarlet and Allan a Dale ran leaping, full of
joy, to make themselves ready, while Robin also prepared himself for the
journey. After a while they all four came forth, and a right fair sight
they made, for Robin was clad in blue from head to foot, and Little John
and Will Scarlet in good Lincoln green, and as for Allan a Dale, he was
dressed in scarlet from the crown of his head to the toes of his pointed
shoes. Each man wore beneath his cap a little head covering of burnished
steel set with rivets of gold, and underneath his jerkin a coat of
linked mail, as fine as carded wool, yet so tough that no arrow could
pierce it. Then, seeing all were ready, young Partington mounted his
horse again, and the yeomen having shaken hands all around, the five
departed upon their way.

That night they took up their inn in Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire,
and the next night they lodged at Kettering, in Northamptonshire; and
the next at Bedford Town; and the next at St. Albans, in Hertfordshire.
This place they left not long after the middle of the night, and
traveling fast through the tender dawning of the summer day, when the
dews lay shining on the meadows and faint mists hung in the dales,
when the birds sang their sweetest and the cobwebs beneath the hedges
glimmered like fairy cloth of silver, they came at last to the towers
and walls of famous London Town, while the morn was still young and all
golden toward the east.

Queen Eleanor sat in her royal bower, through the open casements of
which poured the sweet yellow sunshine in great floods of golden light.
All about her stood her ladies-in-waiting chatting in low voices, while
she herself sat dreamily where the mild air came softly drifting into
the room laden with the fresh perfumes of the sweet red roses that
bloomed in the great garden beneath the wall. To her came one who said
that her page, Richard Partington, and four stout yeomen waited her
pleasure in the court below. Then Queen Eleanor arose joyously and bade
them be straightway shown into her presence.

Thus Robin Hood and Little John and Will Scarlet and Allan a Dale came
before the Queen into her own royal bower. Then Robin kneeled before the
Queen with his hands folded upon his breast, saying in simple phrase,
"Here am I, Robin Hood. Thou didst bid me come, and lo, I do thy
bidding. I give myself to thee as thy true servant, and will do thy
commanding, even if it be to the shedding of the last drop of my life's
blood."

But good Queen Eleanor smiled pleasantly upon him, bidding him to arise.
Then she made them all be seated to rest themselves after their long
journey. Rich food was brought them and noble wines, and she had her
own pages to wait upon the wants of the yeomen. At last, after they
had eaten all they could, she began questioning them of their merry
adventures. Then they told her all of the lusty doings herein spoken of,
and among others that concerning the Bishop of Hereford and Sir Richard
of the Lea, and how the Bishop had abided three days in Sherwood Forest.
At this, the Queen and the ladies about her laughed again and again, for
they pictured to themselves the stout Bishop abiding in the forest and
ranging the woods in lusty sport with Robin and his band. Then, when
they had told all that they could bring to mind, the Queen asked Allan
to sing to her, for his fame as a minstrel had reached even to the court
at London Town. So straightway Allan took up his harp in his hand, and,
without more asking, touched the strings lightly till they all rang
sweetly, then he sang thus:

     "_Gentle river, gentle river,
     Bright thy crystal waters flow,
     Sliding where the aspens shiver,
     Gliding where the lilies blow,

     "Singing over pebbled shallows,
     Kissing blossoms bending low,
     Breaking 'neath the dipping swallows,
     Purpling where the breezes blow.

     "Floating on thy breast forever
     Down thy current I could glide;
     Grief and pain should reach me never
     On thy bright and gentle tide.

     "So my aching heart seeks thine, love,
     There to find its rest and peace,
     For, through loving, bliss is mine, love,
     And my many troubles cease_."

Thus Allan sang, and as he sang all eyes dwelled upon him and not a
sound broke the stillness, and even after he had done the silence hung
for a short space. So the time passed till the hour drew nigh for the
holding of the great archery match in Finsbury Fields.

A gay sight were famous Finsbury Fields on that bright and sunny morning
of lusty summertime. Along the end of the meadow stood the booths for
the different bands of archers, for the King's yeomen were divided into
companies of fourscore men, and each company had a captain over it; so
on the bright greensward stood ten booths of striped canvas, a booth for
each band of the royal archers, and at the peak of each fluttered a
flag in the mellow air, and the flag was the color that belonged to
the captain of each band. From the center booth hung the yellow flag of
Tepus, the famous bow bearer of the King; next to it, on one hand,
was the blue flag of Gilbert of the White Hand, and on the other the
blood-red pennant of stout young Clifton of Buckinghamshire. The seven
other archer captains were also men of great renown; among them were
Egbert of Kent and William of Southampton; but those first named were
most famous of all. The noise of many voices in talk and laughter came
from within the booths, and in and out ran the attendants like
ants about an ant-hill. Some bore ale and beer, and some bundles of
bowstrings or sheaves of arrows. On each side of the archery range were
rows upon rows of seats reaching high aloft, and in the center of the
north side was a raised dais for the King and Queen, shaded by canvas
of gay colors, and hung about with streaming silken pennants of red and
blue and green and white. As yet the King and Queen had not come, but
all the other benches were full of people, rising head above head high
aloft till it made the eye dizzy to look upon them. Eightscore yards
distant from the mark from which the archers were to shoot stood ten
fair targets, each target marked by a flag of the color belonging to the
band that was to shoot thereat. So all was ready for the coming of the
King and Queen.

At last a great blast of bugles sounded, and into the meadow came riding
six trumpeters with silver trumpets, from which hung velvet banners
heavy with rich workings of silver and gold thread. Behind these came
stout King Henry upon a dapple-gray stallion, with his Queen beside him
upon a milk-white palfrey. On either side of them walked the yeomen of
the guard, the bright sunlight flashing from the polished blades of
the steel halberds they carried. Behind these came the Court in a great
crowd, so that presently all the lawn was alive with bright colors, with
silk and velvet, with waving plumes and gleaming gold, with flashing
jewels and sword hilts; a gallant sight on that bright summer day.

Then all the people arose and shouted, so that their voices sounded like
the storm upon the Cornish coast, when the dark waves run upon the shore
and leap and break, surging amid the rocks; so, amid the roaring and the
surging of the people, and the waving of scarfs and kerchiefs, the King
and Queen came to their place, and, getting down from their horses,
mounted the broad stairs that led to the raised platform, and there
took their seats on two thrones bedecked with purple silks and cloths of
silver and of gold.

When all was quiet a bugle sounded, and straightway the archers came
marching in order from their tents. Fortyscore they were in all, as
stalwart a band of yeomen as could be found in all the wide world. So
they came in orderly fashion and stood in front of the dais where King
Henry and his Queen sat. King Henry looked up and down their ranks right
proudly, for his heart warmed within him at the sight of such a gallant
band of yeomen. Then he bade his herald Sir Hugh de Mowbray stand forth
and proclaim the rules governing the game. So Sir Hugh stepped to the
edge of the platform and spoke in a loud clear voice, and thus he said:

That each man should shoot seven arrows at the target that belonged to
his band, and, of the fourscore yeomen of each band, the three that shot
the best should be chosen. These three should shoot three arrows apiece,
and the one that shot the best should again be chosen. Then each of
these should again shoot three arrows apiece, and the one that shot the
best should have the first prize, the one that shot the next best should
have the second, and the one that shot the next best should have the
third prize. Each of the others should have fourscore silver pennies for
his shooting. The first prize was to be twoscore and ten golden pounds,
a silver bugle horn inlaid with gold, and a quiver with ten white arrows
tipped with gold and feathered with the white swan's-wing therein. The
second prize was to be fivescore of the fattest bucks that run on Dallen
Lea, to be shot when the yeoman that won them chose. The third prize was
to be two tuns of good Rhenish wine.

So Sir Hugh spoke, and when he had done all the archers waved their bows
aloft and shouted. Then each band turned and marched in order back to
its place.

And now the shooting began, the captains first taking stand and speeding
their shafts and then making room for the men who shot, each in turn,
after them. Two hundred and eighty score shafts were shot in all, and so
deftly were they sped that when the shooting was done each target looked
like the back of a hedgehog when the farm dog snuffs at it. A long
time was taken in this shooting, and when it was over the judges came
forward, looked carefully at the targets, and proclaimed in a loud voice
which three had shot the best from the separate bands. Then a great
hubbub of voices arose, each man among the crowd that looked on calling
for his favorite archer. Then ten fresh targets were brought forward,
and every sound was hushed as the archers took their places once more.

This time the shooting was more speedily done, for only nine shafts
were shot by each band. Not an arrow missed the targets, but in that of
Gilbert of the White Hand five arrows were in the small white spot that
marked the center; of these five three were sped by Gilbert. Then the
judges came forward again, and looking at the targets, called aloud the
names of the archer chosen as the best bowman of each band. Of these
Gilbert of the White Hand led, for six of the ten arrows he had shot had
lodged in the center; but stout Tepus and young Clifton trod close upon
his heels; yet the others stood a fair chance for the second or third
place.

And now, amid the roaring of the crowd, those ten stout fellows that
were left went back to their tents to rest for a while and change their
bowstrings, for nought must fail at this next round, and no hand must
tremble or eye grow dim because of weariness.

Then while the deep buzz and hum of talking sounded all around like the
noise of the wind in the leafy forest, Queen Eleanor turned to the King,
and quoth she, "Thinkest thou that these yeomen so chosen are the very
best archers in all merry England?"

"Yea, truly," said the King, smiling, for he was well pleased with the
sport that he had seen; "and I tell thee, that not only are they the
best archers in all merry England, but in all the wide world beside."

"But what wouldst thou say," quoth Queen Eleanor, "if I were to find
three archers to match the best three yeomen of all thy guard?"

"I would say thou hast done what I could not do," said the King,
laughing, "for I tell thee there lives not in all the world three
archers to match Tepus and Gilbert and Clifton of Buckinghamshire."

"Now," said the Queen, "I know of three yeomen, and in truth I have seen
them not long since, that I would not fear to match against any three
that thou canst choose from among all thy fortyscore archers; and,
moreover, I will match them here this very day. But I will only match
them with thy archers providing that thou wilt grant a free pardon to
all that may come in my behalf."

At this, the King laughed loud and long. "Truly," said he, "thou art
taking up with strange matters for a queen. If thou wilt bring those
three fellows that thou speakest of, I will promise faithfully to give
them free pardon for forty days, to come or to go wheresoever they
please, nor will I harm a hair of their heads in all that time.
Moreover, if these that thou bringest shoot better than my yeomen, man
for man, they shall have the prizes for themselves according to their
shooting. But as thou hast so taken up of a sudden with sports of this
kind, hast thou a mind for a wager?"

"Why, in sooth," said Queen Eleanor, laughing, "I know nought of such
matters, but if thou hast a mind to do somewhat in that way, I will
strive to pleasure thee. What wilt thou wager upon thy men?"

Then the merry King laughed again, for he dearly loved goodly jest; so
he said, amidst his laughter, "I will wager thee ten tuns of Rhenish
wine, ten tuns of the stoutest ale, and tenscore bows of tempered
Spanish yew, with quivers and arrows to match."

All that stood around smiled at this, for it seemed a merry wager for
a king to give to a queen; but Queen Eleanor bowed her head quietly. "I
will take thy wager," said she, "for I know right well where to place
those things that thou hast spoken of. Now, who will be on my side in
this matter?" And she looked around upon them that stood about; but no
one spake or cared to wager upon the Queen's side against such archers
as Tepus and Gilbert and Clifton. Then the Queen spoke again, "Now, who
will back me in this wager? Wilt thou, my Lord Bishop of Hereford?"

"Nay," quoth the Bishop hastily, "it ill befits one of my cloth to deal
in such matters. Moreover, there are no such archers as His Majesty's in
all the world; therefore I would but lose my money.

"Methinks the thought of thy gold weigheth more heavily with thee than
the wrong to thy cloth," said the Queen, smiling, and at this a ripple
of laughter went around, for everyone knew how fond the Bishop was of
his money. Then the Queen turned to a knight who stood near, whose name
was Sir Robert Lee. "Wilt thou back me in this manner?" said she. "Thou
art surely rich enough to risk so much for the sake of a lady."

"To pleasure my Queen I will do it," said Sir Robert Lee, "but for the
sake of no other in all the world would I wager a groat, for no man can
stand against Tepus and Gilbert and Clifton."

Then turning to the King, Queen Eleanor said, "I want no such aid as Sir
Robert giveth me; but against thy wine and beer and stout bows of yew I
wager this girdle all set with jewels from around my waist; and surely
that is worth more than thine."

"Now, I take thy wager," quoth the King. "Send for thy archers
straightway. But here come forth the others; let them shoot, and then I
will match those that win against all the world."

"So be it," said the Queen. Thereupon, beckoning to young Richard
Partington, she whispered something in his ear, and straightway the Page
bowed and left the place, crossing the meadow to the other side of the
range, where he was presently lost in the crowd. At this, all that stood
around whispered to one another, wondering what it all meant, and what
three men the Queen was about to set against those famous archers of the
King's guard.

And now the ten archers of the King's guard took their stand again, and
all the great crowd was hushed to the stillness of death. Slowly and
carefully each man shot his shafts, and so deep was the silence that
you could hear every arrow rap against the target as it struck it. Then,
when the last shaft had sped, a great roar went up; and the shooting, I
wot, was well worthy of the sound. Once again Gilbert had lodged three
arrows in the white; Tepus came second with two in the white and one in
the black ring next to it; but stout Clifton had gone down and Hubert of
Suffolk had taken the third place, for, while both those two good yeomen
had lodged two in the white, Clifton had lost one shot upon the fourth
ring, and Hubert came in with one in the third.

All the archers around Gilbert's booth shouted for joy till their
throats were hoarse, tossing their caps aloft, and shaking hands with
one another.

In the midst of all the noise and hubbub five men came walking across
the lawn toward the King's pavilion. The first was Richard Partington,
and was known to most folk there, but the others were strange to
everybody. Beside young Partington walked a yeoman clad in blue, and
behind came three others, two in Lincoln green and one in scarlet. This
last yeoman carried three stout bows of yew tree, two fancifully inlaid
with silver and one with gold. While these five men came walking across
the meadow, a messenger came running from the King's booth and summoned
Gilbert and Tepus and Hubert to go with him. And now the shouting
quickly ceased, for all saw that something unwonted was toward, so the
folk stood up in their places and leaned forward to see what was the
ado.

When Partington and the others came before the spot where the King and
Queen sat, the four yeomen bent their knees and doffed their caps unto
her. King Henry leaned far forward and stared at them closely, but the
Bishop of Hereford, when he saw their faces, started as though stung by
a wasp. He opened his mouth as though about to speak, but, looking up,
he saw the Queen gazing at him with a smile upon her lips, so he said
nothing, but bit his nether lip, while his face was as red as a cherry.

Then the Queen leaned forward and spake in a clear voice. "Locksley,"
said she, "I have made a wager with the King that thou and two of thy
men can outshoot any three that he can send against you. Wilt thou do
thy best for my sake?"

"Yea," quoth Robin Hood, to whom she spake, "I will do my best for thy
sake, and, if I fail, I make my vow never to finger bowstring more."

Now, although Little John had been somewhat abashed in the Queen's
bower, he felt himself the sturdy fellow he was when the soles of his
feet pressed green grass again; so he said boldly, "Now, blessings on
thy sweet face, say I. An there lived a man that would not do his best
for thee--I will say nought, only I would like to have the cracking of
his knave's pate!

"Peace, Little John!" said Robin Hood hastily, in a low voice; but good
Queen Eleanor laughed aloud, and a ripple of merriment sounded all over
the booth.

The Bishop of Hereford did not laugh, neither did the King, but he
turned to the Queen, and quoth he, "Who are these men that thou hast
brought before us?"

Then up spoke the Bishop hastily, for he could hold his peace no longer:
"Your Majesty," quoth he, "yon fellow in blue is a certain outlawed
thief of the mid-country, named Robin Hood; yon tall, strapping villain
goeth by the name of Little John; the other fellow in green is a certain
backsliding gentleman, known as Will Scarlet; the man in red is a rogue
of a northern minstrel, named Allan a Dale."

At this speech the King's brows drew together blackly, and he turned to
the Queen. "Is this true?" said he sternly.

"Yea," said the Queen, smiling, "the Bishop hath told the truth; and
truly he should know them well, for he and two of his friars spent three
days in merry sport with Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. I did little
think that the good Bishop would so betray his friends. But bear in mind
that thou hast pledged thy promise for the safety of these good yeomen
for forty days."

"I will keep my promise," said the King, in a deep voice that showed the
anger in his heart, "but when these forty days are gone let this outlaw
look to himself, for mayhap things will not go so smoothly with him
as he would like." Then he turned to his archers, who stood near the
Sherwood yeomen, listening and wondering at all that passed. Quoth he,
"Gilbert, and thou, Tepus, and thou, Hubert, I have pledged myself that
ye shall shoot against these three fellows. If ye outshoot the knaves I
will fill your caps with silver pennies; if ye fail ye shall lose
your prizes that ye have won so fairly, and they go to them that shoot
against you, man to man. Do your best, lads, and if ye win this bout ye
shall be glad of it to the last days of your life. Go, now, and get you
gone to the butts."

Then the three archers of the King turned and went back to their booths,
and Robin and his men went to their places at the mark from which they
were to shoot. Then they strung their bows and made themselves ready,
looking over their quivers of arrows, and picking out the roundest and
the best feathered.

But when the King's archers went to their tents, they told their friends
all that had passed, and how that these four men were the famous Robin
Hood and three of his band, to wit, Little John, Will Scarlet, and Allan
a Dale. The news of this buzzed around among the archers in the
booths, for there was not a man there that had not heard of these great
mid-country yeomen. From the archers the news was taken up by the crowd
that looked on at the shooting, so that at last everybody stood up,
craning their necks to catch sight of the famous outlaws.

Six fresh targets were now set up, one for each man that was to shoot;
whereupon Gilbert and Tepus and Hubert came straightway forth from the
booths. Then Robin Hood and Gilbert of the White Hand tossed a farthing
aloft to see who should lead in the shooting, and the lot fell to
Gilbert's side; thereupon he called upon Hubert of Suffolk to lead.

Hubert took his place, planted his foot firmly, and fitted a fair,
smooth arrow; then, breathing upon his fingertips, he drew the string
slowly and carefully. The arrow sped true, and lodged in the white;
again he shot, and again he hit the clout; a third shaft he sped, but
this time failed of the center, and but struck the black, yet not more
than a finger's-breadth from the white. At this a shout went up, for it
was the best shooting that Hubert had yet done that day.

Merry Robin laughed, and quoth he, "Thou wilt have an ill time bettering
that round, Will, for it is thy turn next. Brace thy thews, lad, and
bring not shame upon Sherwood."

Then Will Scarlet took his place; but, because of overcaution, he
spoiled his target with the very first arrow that he sped, for he hit
the next ring to the black, the second from the center. At this Robin
bit his lips. "Lad, lad," quoth he, "hold not the string so long! Have
I not often told thee what Gaffer Swanthold sayeth, that 'overcaution
spilleth the milk'?" To this Will Scarlet took heed, so the next arrow
he shot lodged fairly in the center ring; again he shot, and again he
smote the center; but, for all that, stout Hubert had outshot him, and
showed the better target. Then all those that looked on clapped their
hands for joy because that Hubert had overcome the stranger.

Quoth the King grimly, to the Queen, "If thy archers shoot no better
than that, thou art like to lose thy wager, lady." But Queen Eleanor
smiled, for she looked for better things from Robin Hood and Little
John.

And now Tepus took his place to shoot. He, also, took overheed to what
he was about, and so he fell into Will Scarlet's error. The first arrow
he struck into the center ring, but the second missed its mark, and
smote the black; the last arrow was tipped with luck, for it smote the
very center of the clout, upon the black spot that marked it. Quoth
Robin Hood, "That is the sweetest shot that hath been sped this day;
but, nevertheless, friend Tepus, thy cake is burned, methinks. Little
John, it is thy turn next."

So Little John took his place as bidden, and shot his three arrows
quickly. He never lowered his bow arm in all the shooting, but fitted
each shaft with his longbow raised; yet all three of his arrows smote
the center within easy distance of the black. At this no sound of
shouting was heard, for, although it was the best shooting that had been
done that day, the folk of London Town did not like to see the stout
Tepus overcome by a fellow from the countryside, even were he as famous
as Little John.

And now stout Gilbert of the White Hand took his place and shot with the
greatest care; and again, for the third time in one day, he struck all
three shafts into the clout.

"Well done, Gilbert!" quoth Robin Hood, smiting him upon the shoulder.
"I make my vow, thou art one of the best archers that ever mine eyes
beheld. Thou shouldst be a free and merry ranger like us, lad, for thou
art better fitted for the greenwood than for the cobblestones and gray
walls of London Town." So saying, he took his place, and drew a fair,
round arrow from his quiver, which he turned over and over ere he fitted
it to his bowstring.

Then the King muttered in his beard, "Now, blessed Saint Hubert, if thou
wilt but jog that rogue's elbow so as to make him smite even the second
ring, I will give eightscore waxen candles three fingers'-breadth in
thickness to thy chapel nigh Matching." But it may be Saint Hubert's
ears were stuffed with tow, for he seemed not to hear the King's prayer
this day.

Having gotten three shafts to his liking, merry Robin looked carefully
to his bowstring ere he shot. "Yea," quoth he to Gilbert, who stood
nigh him to watch his shooting, "thou shouldst pay us a visit at merry
Sherwood." Here he drew the bowstring to his ear. "In London"--here
he loosed his shaft--"thou canst find nought to shoot at but rooks and
daws; there one can tickle the ribs of the noblest stags in England." So
he shot even while he talked, yet the shaft lodged not more than half an
inch from the very center.

"By my soul!" cried Gilbert. "Art thou the devil in blue, to shoot in
that wise?"

"Nay," quoth Robin, laughing, "not quite so ill as that, I trust." And
he took up another shaft and fitted it to the string. Again he shot, and
again he smote his arrow close beside the center; a third time he loosed
his bowstring and dropped his arrow just betwixt the other two and
into the very center, so that the feathers of all three were ruffled
together, seeming from a distance to be one thick shaft.

And now a low murmur ran all among that great crowd, for never before
had London seen such shooting as this; and never again would it see it
after Robin Hood's day had gone. All saw that the King's archers were
fairly beaten, and stout Gilbert clapped his palm to Robin's, owning
that he could never hope to draw such a bowstring as Robin Hood or
Little John. But the King, full of wrath, would not have it so, though
he knew in his mind that his men could not stand against those fellows.
"Nay!" cried he, clenching his hands upon the arms of his seat, "Gilbert
is not yet beaten! Did he not strike the clout thrice? Although I have
lost my wager, he hath not yet lost the first prize. They shall shoot
again, and still again, till either he or that knave Robin Hood cometh
off the best. Go thou, Sir Hugh, and bid them shoot another round, and
another, until one or the other is overcome." Then Sir Hugh, seeing how
wroth the King was, said never a word, but went straightway to do his
bidding; so he came to where Robin Hood and the other stood, and told
them what the King had said.

"With all my heart," quoth merry Robin, "I will shoot from this time
till tomorrow day if it can pleasure my most gracious lord and King.
Take thy place, Gilbert lad, and shoot."

So Gilbert took his place once more, but this time he failed, for, a
sudden little wind arising, his shaft missed the center ring, but by not
more than the breadth of a barley straw.

"Thy eggs are cracked, Gilbert," quoth Robin, laughing; and straightway
he loosed a shaft, and once more smote the white circle of the center.

Then the King arose from his place, and not a word said he, but he
looked around with a baleful look, and it would have been an ill day for
anyone that he saw with a joyous or a merry look upon his face. Then he
and his Queen and all the court left the place, but the King's heart was
brimming full of wrath.

After the King had gone, all the yeomen of the archer guard came
crowding around Robin, and Little John, and Will, and Allan, to snatch
a look at these famous fellows from the mid-country; and with them came
many that had been onlookers at the sport, for the same purpose. Thus it
happened presently that the yeomen, to whom Gilbert stood talking, were
all surrounded by a crowd of people that formed a ring about them.

After a while the three judges that had the giving away of the prizes
came forward, and the chief of them all spake to Robin and said,
"According to agreement, the first prize belongeth rightly to thee; so
here I give thee the silver bugle, here the quiver of ten golden arrows,
and here a purse of twoscore and ten golden pounds." And as he spake he
handed those things to Robin, and then turned to Little John. "To thee,"
he said, "belongeth the second prize, to wit, fivescore of the finest
harts that run on Dallen Lea. Thou mayest shoot them whensoever thou
dost list." Last of all he turned to stout Hubert. "Thou," said he,
"hast held thine own against the yeomen with whom thou didst shoot, and
so thou hast kept the prize duly thine, to wit, two tuns of good Rhenish
wine. These shall be delivered to thee whensoever thou dost list." Then
he called upon the other seven of the King's archers who had last shot,
and gave each fourscore silver pennies.

Then up spake Robin, and quoth he, "This silver bugle I keep in honor of
this shooting match; but thou, Gilbert, art the best archer of all the
King's guard, and to thee I freely give this purse of gold. Take it,
man, and would it were ten times as much, for thou art a right yeoman,
good and true. Furthermore, to each of the ten that last shot I give one
of these golden shafts apiece. Keep them always by you, so that ye may
tell your grandchildren, an ye are ever blessed with them, that ye are
the very stoutest yeomen in all the wide world."

At this all shouted aloud, for it pleased them to hear Robin speak so of
them.

Then up spake Little John. "Good friend Tepus," said he, "I want not
those harts of Dallen Lea that yon stout judge spoke of but now, for in
truth we have enow and more than enow in our own country. Twoscore and
ten I give to thee for thine own shooting, and five I give to each band
for their pleasure."

At this another great shout went up, and many tossed their caps aloft,
and swore among themselves that no better fellows ever walked the sod
than Robin Hood and his stout yeomen.

While they so shouted with loud voices, a tall burly yeoman of the
King's guard came forward and plucked Robin by the sleeve. "Good
master," quoth he, "I have somewhat to tell thee in thine ear; a silly
thing, God wot, for one stout yeoman to tell another; but a young
peacock of a page, one Richard Partington, was seeking thee without
avail in the crowd, and, not being able to find thee, told me that he
bore a message to thee from a certain lady that thou wottest of. This
message he bade me tell thee privily, word for word, and thus it was.
Let me see--I trust I have forgot it not--yea, thus it was: 'The lion
growls. Beware thy head.'"

"Is it so?" quoth Robin, starting; for he knew right well that it was
the Queen sent the message, and that she spake of the King's wrath.
"Now, I thank thee, good fellow, for thou hast done me greater service
than thou knowest of this day." Then he called his three yeomen together
and told them privately that they had best be jogging, as it was like to
be ill for them so nigh merry London Town. So, without tarrying longer,
they made their way through the crowd until they had come out from the
press. Then, without stopping, they left London Town and started away
northward.




The Chase of Robin Hood

SO ROBIN HOOD and the others left the archery range at Finsbury Fields,
and, tarrying not, set forth straightway upon their homeward journey.
It was well for them that they did so, for they had not gone more than
three or four miles upon their way when six of the yeomen of the King's
guard came bustling among the crowd that still lingered, seeking for
Robin and his men, to seize upon them and make them prisoners. Truly, it
was an ill-done thing in the King to break his promise, but it all came
about through the Bishop of Hereford's doing, for thus it happened:

After the King left the archery ground, he went straightway to his
cabinet, and with him went the Bishop of Hereford and Sir Robert Lee;
but the King said never a word to these two, but sat gnawing his nether
lip, for his heart was galled within him by what had happened. At last
the Bishop of Hereford spoke, in a low, sorrowful voice: "It is a sad
thing, Your Majesty, that this knavish outlaw should be let to escape in
this wise; for, let him but get back to Sherwood Forest safe and sound,
and he may snap his fingers at king and king's men."

At these words the King raised his eyes and looked grimly upon the
Bishop. "Sayst thou so?" quoth he. "Now, I will show thee, in good time,
how much thou dost err, for, when the forty days are past and gone,
I will seize upon this thieving outlaw, if I have to tear down all of
Sherwood to find him. Thinkest thou that the laws of the King of England
are to be so evaded by one poor knave without friends or money?"

Then the Bishop spoke again, in his soft, smooth voice:

"Forgive my boldness, Your Majesty, and believe that I have nought but
the good of England and Your Majesty's desirings at heart; but what
would it boot though my gracious lord did root up every tree of
Sherwood? Are there not other places for Robin Hood's hiding? Cannock
Chase is not far from Sherwood, and the great Forest of Arden is not far
from Cannock Chase. Beside these are many other woodlands in Nottingham
and Derby, Lincoln and York, amid any of which Your Majesty might as
well think to seize upon Robin Hood as to lay finger upon a rat among
the dust and broken things of a garret. Nay, my gracious lord, if he
doth once plant foot in the woodland, he is lost to the law forever."

At these words the King tapped his fingertips upon the table beside him
with vexation. "What wouldst thou have me do, Bishop?" quoth he. "Didst
thou not hear me pledge my word to the Queen? Thy talk is as barren as
the wind from the bellows upon dead coals."

"Far be it from me," said the cunning Bishop, "to point the way to one
so clear-sighted as Your Majesty; but, were I the King of England, I
should look upon the matter in this wise: I have promised my Queen, let
us say, that for forty days the cunningest rogue in all England shall
have freedom to come and go; but, lo! I find this outlaw in my grasp;
shall I, then, foolishly cling to a promise so hastily given? Suppose
that I had promised to do Her Majesty's bidding, whereupon she bade me
to slay myself; should I, then, shut mine eyes and run blindly upon
my sword? Thus would I argue within myself. Moreover, I would say unto
myself, a woman knoweth nought of the great things appertaining to state
government; and, likewise, I know a woman is ever prone to take up a
fancy, even as she would pluck a daisy from the roadside, and then throw
it away when the savor is gone; therefore, though she hath taken a fancy
to this outlaw, it will soon wane away and be forgotten. As for me, I
have the greatest villain in all England in my grasp; shall I, then,
open my hand and let him slip betwixt my fingers? Thus, Your Majesty,
would I say to myself, were I the King of England." So the Bishop
talked, and the King lent his ear to his evil counsel, until, after a
while, he turned to Sir Robert Lee and bade him send six of the yeomen
of the guard to take Robin Hood and his three men prisoners.

Now Sir Robert Lee was a gentle and noble knight, and he felt grieved
to the heart to see the King so break his promise; nevertheless, he said
nothing, for he saw how bitterly the King was set against Robin Hood;
but he did not send the yeomen of the guard at once, but went first to
the Queen, and told her all that had passed, and bade her send word to
Robin of his danger. This he did not for the well-being of Robin Hood,
but because he would save his lord's honor if he could. Thus it came
about that when, after a while, the yeomen of the guard went to the
archery field, they found not Robin and the others, and so got no cakes
at that fair.

The afternoon was already well-nigh gone when Robin Hood, Little John,
Will, and Allan set forth upon their homeward way, trudging along
merrily through the yellow slanting light, which speedily changed to
rosy red as the sun sank low in the heavens. The shadows grew long,
and finally merged into the grayness of the mellow twilight. The dusty
highway lay all white betwixt the dark hedgerows, and along it walked
four fellows like four shadows, the pat of their feet sounding loud, and
their voices, as they talked, ringing clear upon the silence of the air.
The great round moon was floating breathlessly up in the eastern sky
when they saw before them the twinkling lights of Barnet Town, some ten
or twelve miles from London. Down they walked through the stony streets
and past the cosy houses with overhanging gables, before the doors of
which sat the burghers and craftsmen in the mellow moonlight, with
their families about them, and so came at last, on the other side of
the hamlet, to a little inn, all shaded with roses and woodbines. Before
this inn Robin Hood stopped, for the spot pleased him well. Quoth he,
"Here will we take up our inn and rest for the night, for we are well
away from London Town and our King's wrath. Moreover, if I mistake not,
we will find sweet faring within. What say ye, lads?"

"In sooth, good master," quoth Little John, "thy bidding and my doing
ever fit together like cakes and ale. Let us in, I say also."

Then up spake Will Scarlet: "I am ever ready to do what thou sayest,
uncle, yet I could wish that we were farther upon our way ere we rest
for the night. Nevertheless, if thou thinkest best, let us in for the
night, say I also."

So in they went and called for the best that the place afforded. Then a
right good feast was set before them, with two stout bottles of old sack
to wash it down withal. These things were served by as plump and buxom a
lass as you could find in all the land, so that Little John, who always
had an eye for a fair lass, even when meat and drink were by, stuck his
arms akimbo and fixed his eyes upon her, winking sweetly whenever he saw
her looking toward him. Then you should have seen how the lass twittered
with laughter, and how she looked at Little John out of the corners of
her eyes, a dimple coming in either cheek; for the fellow had always a
taking way with the womenfolk.

So the feast passed merrily, and never had that inn seen such lusty
feeders as these four stout fellows; but at last they were done their
eating, though it seemed as though they never would have ended, and
sat loitering over the sack. As they so sat, the landlord came in of
a sudden, and said that there was one at the door, a certain young
esquire, Richard Partington, of the Queen's household, who wished to
see the lad in blue, and speak with him, without loss of time. So Robin
arose quickly, and, bidding the landlord not to follow him, left the
others gazing at one another, and wondering what was about to happen.

When Robin came out of the inn, he found young Richard Partington
sitting upon his horse in the white moonlight, awaiting his coming.

"What news bearest thou, Sir Page?" said Robin. "I trust that it is not
of an ill nature."

"Why," said young Partington, "for the matter of that, it is ill enow.
The King hath been bitterly stirred up against thee by that vile Bishop
of Hereford. He sent to arrest thee at the archery butts at Finsbury
Fields, but not finding thee there, he hath gathered together his armed
men, fifty-score and more, and is sending them in haste along this very
road to Sherwood, either to take thee on the way or to prevent thy
getting back to the woodlands again. He hath given the Bishop of
Hereford command over all these men, and thou knowest what thou hast
to expect of the Bishop of Hereford--short shrift and a long rope. Two
bands of horsemen are already upon the road, not far behind me, so
thou hadst best get thee gone from this place straightway, for, if thou
tarriest longer, thou art like to sleep this night in a cold dungeon.
This word the Queen hath bidden me bring to thee."

"Now, Richard Partington," quoth Robin, "this is the second time that
thou hast saved my life, and if the proper time ever cometh I will show
thee that Robin Hood never forgets these things. As for that Bishop of
Hereford, if I ever catch him nigh to Sherwood again, things will be
like to go ill with him. Thou mayst tell the good Queen that I will
leave this place without delay, and will let the landlord think that we
are going to Saint Albans; but when we are upon the highroad again, I
will go one way through the country and will send my men the other, so
that if one falleth into the King's hands the others may haply escape.
We will go by devious ways, and so, I hope, will reach Sherwood in
safety. And now, Sir Page, I wish thee farewell."

"Farewell, thou bold yeoman," said young Partington, "and mayst thou
reach thy hiding in safety." So each shook the other's hand, and the
lad, turning his horse's head, rode back toward London, while Robin
entered the inn once more.

There he found his yeomen sitting in silence, waiting his coming;
likewise the landlord was there, for he was curious to know what Master
Partington had to do with the fellow in blue. "Up, my merry men!" quoth
Robin, "this is no place for us, for those are after us with whom we
will stand but an ill chance an we fall into their hands. So we will
go forward once more, nor will we stop this night till we reach Saint
Albans." Hereupon, taking out his purse, he paid the landlord his score,
and so they left the inn.

When they had come to the highroad without the town, Robin stopped and
told them all that had passed between young Partington and himself, and
how that the King's men were after them with hot heels. Then he told
them that here they should part company; they three going to the
eastward and he to the westward, and so, skirting the main highroads,
would come by devious paths to Sherwood. "So, be ye wily," said Robin
Hood, "and keep well away from the northward roads till ye have gotten
well to the eastward. And thou, Will Scarlet, take the lead of the
others, for thou hast a cunning turn to thy wits." Then Robin kissed the
three upon the cheeks, and they kissed him, and so they parted company.

Not long after this, a score or more of the King's men came clattering
up to the door of the inn at Barnet Town. Here they leaped from their
horses and quickly surrounded the place, the leader of the band and four
others entering the room where the yeomen had been. But they found that
their birds had flown again, and that the King had been balked a second
time.

"Methought that they were naughty fellows," said the host, when he heard
whom the men-at-arms sought. "But I heard that blue-clad knave say that
they would go straight forward to Saint Albans; so, an ye hurry forward,
ye may, perchance, catch them on the highroad betwixt here and there."
For this news the leader of the band thanked mine host right heartily,
and, calling his men together, mounted and set forth again, galloping
forward to Saint Albans upon a wild goose chase.

After Little John and Will Scarlet and Allan a Dale had left the highway
near garnet, they traveled toward the eastward, without stopping, as
long as their legs could carry them, until they came to Chelmsford,
in Essex. Thence they turned northward, and came through Cambridge and
Lincolnshire, to the good town of Gainsborough. Then, striking to the
westward and the south, they came at last to the northern borders of
Sherwood Forest, without in all that time having met so much as a single
band of the King's men. Eight days they journeyed thus ere they reached
the woodlands in safety, but when they got to the greenwood glade, they
found that Robin had not yet returned.

For Robin was not as lucky in getting back as his men had been, as you
shall presently hear.

After having left the great northern road, he turned his face to the
westward, and so came past Aylesbury, to fair Woodstock, in Oxfordshire.
Thence he turned his footsteps northward, traveling for a great distance
by way of Warwick Town, till he came to Dudley, in Staffordshire. Seven
days it took him to journey thus far, and then he thought he had gotten
far enough to the north, so, turning toward the eastward, shunning the
main roads, and choosing byways and grassy lanes, he went, by way of
Litchfield and Ashby de la Zouch, toward Sherwood, until he came to a
place called Stanton. And now Robin's heart began to laugh aloud, for
he thought that his danger had gone by, and that his nostrils would soon
snuff the spicy air of the woodlands once again. But there is many a
slip betwixt the cup and the lip, and this Robin was to find. For thus
it was:

When the King's men found themselves foiled at Saint Albans, and that
Robin and his men were not to be found high nor low, they knew not what
to do. Presently another band of horsemen came, and another, until all
the moonlit streets were full of armed men. Betwixt midnight and
dawn another band came to the town, and with them came the Bishop of
Hereford. When he heard that Robin Hood had once more slipped out of
the trap, he stayed not a minute, but, gathering his bands together, he
pushed forward to the northward with speed, leaving orders for all the
troops that came to Saint Albans to follow after him without tarrying.
On the evening of the fourth day he reached Nottingham Town, and there
straightway divided his men into bands of six or seven, and sent them
all through the countryside, blocking every highway and byway to the
eastward and the southward and the westward of Sherwood. The Sheriff
of Nottingham called forth all his men likewise, and joined with the
Bishop, for he saw that this was the best chance that had ever befallen
of paying back his score in full to Robin Hood. Will Scarlet and Little
John and Allan a Dale had just missed the King's men to the eastward,
for the very next day after they had passed the line and entered
Sherwood the roads through which they had traveled were blocked, so
that, had they tarried in their journeying, they would surely have
fallen into the Bishop's hands.

But of all this Robin knew not a whit; so he whistled merrily as he
trudged along the road beyond Stanton, with his heart as free from care
as the yolk of an egg is from cobwebs. At last he came to where a little
stream spread across the road in a shallow sheet, tinkling and sparkling
as it fretted over its bed of golden gravel. Here Robin stopped, being
athirst, and, kneeling down, he made a cup of the palms of his hands,
and began to drink. On either side of the road, for a long distance,
stood tangled thickets of bushes and young trees, and it pleased Robin's
heart to hear the little birds singing therein, for it made him think
of Sherwood, and it seemed as though it had been a lifetime since he had
breathed the air of the woodlands. But of a sudden, as he thus stooped,
drinking, something hissed past his ear, and struck with a splash into
the gravel and water beside him. Quick as a wink Robin sprang to his
feet, and, at one bound, crossed the stream and the roadside, and
plunged headlong into the thicket, without looking around, for he knew
right well that that which had hissed so venomously beside his ear was
a gray goose shaft, and that to tarry so much as a moment meant death.
Even as he leaped into the thicket six more arrows rattled among the
branches after him, one of which pierced his doublet, and would have
struck deeply into his side but for the tough coat of steel that he
wore. Then up the road came riding some of the King's men at headlong
speed. They leaped from their horses and plunged straightway into the
thicket after Robin. But Robin knew the ground better than they did,
so crawling here, stooping there, and, anon, running across some little
open, he soon left them far behind, coming out, at last, upon another
road about eight hundred paces distant from the one he had left. Here he
stood for a moment, listening to the distant shouts of the seven men
as they beat up and down in the thickets like hounds that had lost the
scent of the quarry. Then, buckling his belt more tightly around his
waist, he ran fleetly down the road toward the eastward and Sherwood.

But Robin had not gone more than three furlongs in that direction when
he came suddenly to the brow of a hill, and saw beneath him another band
of the King's men seated in the shade along the roadside in the valley
beneath. Then he paused not a moment, but, seeing that they had not
caught sight of him, he turned and ran back whence he had come, knowing
that it was better to run the chance of escaping those fellows that were
yet in the thickets than to rush into the arms of those in the valley.
So back he ran with all speed, and had gotten safely past the thickets,
when the seven men came forth into the open road. They raised a great
shout when they saw him, such as the hunter gives when the deer breaks
cover, but Robin was then a quarter of a mile and more away from them,
coursing over the ground like a greyhound. He never slackened his pace,
but ran along, mile after mile, till he had come nigh to Mackworth, over
beyond the Derwent River, nigh to Derby Town. Here, seeing that he was
out of present danger, he slackened in his running, and at last sat him
down beneath a hedge where the grass was the longest and the shade the
coolest, there to rest and catch his wind. "By my soul, Robin," quoth he
to himself, "that was the narrowest miss that e'er thou hadst in all
thy life. I do say most solemnly that the feather of that wicked shaft
tickled mine ear as it whizzed past. This same running hath given me a
most craving appetite for victuals and drink. Now I pray Saint Dunstan
that he send me speedily some meat and beer."

It seemed as though Saint Dunstan was like to answer his prayer, for
along the road came plodding a certain cobbler, one Quince, of Derby,
who had been to take a pair of shoes to a farmer nigh Kirk Langly, and
was now coming back home again, with a fair boiled capon in his pouch
and a stout pottle of beer by his side, which same the farmer had given
him for joy of such a stout pair of shoon. Good Quince was an honest
fellow, but his wits were somewhat of the heavy sort, like unbaked
dough, so that the only thing that was in his mind was, "Three shillings
sixpence ha'penny for thy shoon, good Quince--three shillings sixpence
ha'penny for thy shoon," and this traveled round and round inside of his
head, without another thought getting into his noddle, as a pea rolls
round and round inside an empty quart pot.

"Halloa, good friend," quoth Robin, from beneath the hedge, when the
other had gotten nigh enough, "whither away so merrily this bright day?"

Hearing himself so called upon, the Cobbler stopped, and, seeing a
well-clad stranger in blue, he spoke to him in seemly wise. "Give ye
good den, fair sir, and I would say that I come from Kirk Langly, where
I ha' sold my shoon and got three shillings sixpence ha'penny for them
in as sweet money as ever thou sawest, and honestly earned too, I would
ha' thee know. But an I may be so bold, thou pretty fellow, what dost
thou there beneath the hedge?"

"Marry," quoth merry Robin, "I sit beneath the hedge here to drop salt
on the tails of golden birds; but in sooth thou art the first chick of
any worth I ha' seen this blessed day."

At these words the Cobbler's eyes opened big and wide, and his mouth
grew round with wonder, like a knothole in a board fence, "slack-a-day,"
quoth he, "look ye, now! I ha' never seen those same golden birds. And
dost thou in sooth find them in these hedges, good fellow? Prythee, tell
me, are there many of them? I would fain find them mine own self."

"Ay, truly," quoth Robin, "they are as thick here as fresh herring in
Cannock Chase."

"Look ye, now!" said the Cobbler, all drowned in wonder. "And dost thou
in sooth catch them by dropping salt on their pretty tails?"

"Yea," quoth Robin, "but this salt is of an odd kind, let me tell thee,
for it can only be gotten by boiling down a quart of moonbeams in a
wooden platter, and then one hath but a pinch. But tell me, now, thou
witty man, what hast thou gotten there in that pouch by thy side and in
that pottle?"

At these words the Cobbler looked down at those things of which merry
Robin spoke, for the thoughts of the golden bird had driven them from
his mind, and it took him some time to scrape the memory of them back
again. "Why," said he at last, "in the one is good March beer, and in
the other is a fat capon. Truly, Quince the Cobbler will ha' a fine
feast this day an I mistake not."

"But tell me, good Quince," said Robin, "hast thou a mind to sell those
things to me? For the hearing of them sounds sweet in mine ears. I will
give thee these gay clothes of blue that I have upon my body and ten
shillings to boot for thy clothes and thy leather apron and thy beer and
thy capon. What sayst thou, bully boy?"

"Nay, thou dost jest with me," said the Cobbler, "for my clothes are
coarse and patched, and thine are of fine stuff and very pretty."

"Never a jest do I speak," quoth Robin. "Come, strip thy jacket off and
I will show thee, for I tell thee I like thy clothes well. Moreover, I
will be kind to thee, for I will feast straightway upon the good things
thou hast with thee, and thou shalt be bidden to the eating." At these
words he began slipping off his doublet, and the Cobbler, seeing him so
in earnest, began pulling off his clothes also, for Robin Hood's garb
tickled his eye. So each put on the other fellow's clothes, and Robin
gave the honest Cobbler ten bright new shillings. Quoth merry Robin,
"I ha' been a many things in my life before, but never have I been an
honest cobbler. Come, friend, let us fall to and eat, for something
within me cackles aloud for that good fat capon." So both sat down and
began to feast right lustily, so that when they were done the bones of
the capon were picked as bare as charity.

Then Robin stretched his legs out with a sweet feeling of comfort within
him. Quoth he, "By the turn of thy voice, good Quince, I know that
thou hast a fair song or two running loose in thy head like colts in a
meadow. I prythee, turn one of them out for me."

"A song or two I ha'," quoth the Cobbler, "poor things, poor things, but
such as they are thou art welcome to one of them." So, moistening his
throat with a swallow of beer, he sang:

     "_Of all the joys, the best I love,
     Sing hey my frisking Nan, O,
     And that which most my soul doth move,
     It is the clinking can, O.

     "All other bliss I'd throw away,
     Sing hey my frisking Nan, O,
     But this_--"

The stout Cobbler got no further in his song, for of a sudden six
horsemen burst upon them where they sat, and seized roughly upon the
honest craftsman, hauling him to his feet, and nearly plucking the
clothes from him as they did so. "Ha!" roared the leader of the band
in a great big voice of joy, "have we then caught thee at last, thou
blue-clad knave? Now, blessed be the name of Saint Hubert, for we are
fourscore pounds richer this minute than we were before, for the good
Bishop of Hereford hath promised that much to the band that shall bring
thee to him. Oho! thou cunning rascal! thou wouldst look so innocent,
forsooth! We know thee, thou old fox. But off thou goest with us to have
thy brush clipped forthwith." At these words the poor Cobbler gazed all
around him with his great blue eyes as round as those of a dead fish,
while his mouth gaped as though he had swallowed all his words and so
lost his speech.

Robin also gaped and stared in a wondering way, just as the Cobbler
would have done in his place. "Alack-a-daisy, me," quoth he. "I know
not whether I be sitting here or in No-man's-land! What meaneth all this
stir i' th' pot, dear good gentlemen? Surely this is a sweet, honest
fellow."

"'Honest fellow,' sayst thou, clown?" quoth one of the men "Why, I tell
thee that this is that same rogue that men call Robin Hood."

At this speech the Cobbler stared and gaped more than ever, for there
was such a threshing of thoughts going on within his poor head that his
wits were all befogged with the dust and chaff thereof. Moreover, as
he looked at Robin Hood, and saw the yeoman look so like what he knew
himself to be, he began to doubt and to think that mayhap he was the
great outlaw in real sooth. Said he in a slow, wondering voice, "Am I
in very truth that fellow?--Now I had thought--but nay, Quince, thou art
mistook--yet--am I?--Nay, I must indeed be Robin Hood! Yet, truly, I had
never thought to pass from an honest craftsman to such a great yeoman."

"Alas!" quoth Robin Hood, "look ye there, now! See how your
ill-treatment hath curdled the wits of this poor lad and turned them all
sour! I, myself, am Quince, the Cobbler of Derby Town."

"Is it so?" said Quince. "Then, indeed, I am somebody else, and can be
none other than Robin Hood. Take me, fellows; but let me tell you that
ye ha' laid hand upon the stoutest yeoman that ever trod the woodlands."

"Thou wilt play madman, wilt thou?" said the leader of the band. "Here,
Giles, fetch a cord and bind this knave's hands behind him. I warrant
we will bring his wits back to him again when we get him safe before our
good Bishop at Tutbury Town." Thereupon they tied the Cobbler's hands
behind him, and led him off with a rope, as the farmer leads off the
calf he hath brought from the fair. Robin stood looking after them, and
when they were gone he laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks;
for he knew that no harm would befall the honest fellow, and he pictured
to himself the Bishop's face when good Quince was brought before him
as Robin Hood. Then, turning his steps once more to the eastward, he
stepped out right foot foremost toward Nottinghamshire and Sherwood
Forest.

But Robin Hood had gone through more than he wotted of. His journey
from London had been hard and long, and in a se'ennight he had traveled
sevenscore and more of miles. He thought now to travel on without
stopping until he had come to Sherwood, but ere he had gone a half a
score of miles he felt his strength giving way beneath him like a river
bank which the waters have undermined. He sat him down and rested, but
he knew within himself that he could go no farther that day, for his
feet felt like lumps of lead, so heavy were they with weariness. Once
more he arose and went forward, but after traveling a couple of miles
he was fain to give the matter up, so, coming to an inn just then, he
entered and calling the landlord, bade him show him to a room, although
the sun was only then just sinking in the western sky. There were but
three bedrooms in the place, and to the meanest of these the landlord
showed Robin Hood, but little Robin cared for the looks of the place,
for he could have slept that night upon a bed of broken stones. So,
stripping off his clothes without more ado, he rolled into the bed and
was asleep almost ere his head touched the pillow.

Not long after Robin had so gone to his rest a great cloud peeped
blackly over the hills to the westward. Higher and higher it arose
until it piled up into the night like a mountain of darkness. All around
beneath it came ever and anon a dull red flash, and presently a short
grim mutter of the coming thunder was heard. Then up rode four stout
burghers of Nottingham Town, for this was the only inn within
five miles' distance, and they did not care to be caught in such a
thunderstorm as this that was coming upon them. Leaving their nags to
the stableman, they entered the best room of the inn, where fresh green
rushes lay all spread upon the floor, and there called for the goodliest
fare that the place afforded. After having eaten heartily they bade the
landlord show them to their rooms, for they were aweary, having ridden
all the way from Dronfield that day. So off they went, grumbling at
having to sleep two in a bed, but their troubles on this score, as well
as all others, were soon lost in the quietness of sleep.

And now came the first gust of wind, rushing past the place, clapping
and banging the doors and shutters, smelling of the coming rain, and all
wrapped in a cloud of dust and leaves. As though the wind had brought a
guest along with it, the door opened of a sudden and in came a friar of
Emmet Priory, and one in high degree, as was shown by the softness and
sleekness of his robes and the richness of his rosary. He called to the
landlord, and bade him first have his mule well fed and bedded in the
stable, and then to bring him the very best there was in the house.
So presently a savory stew of tripe and onions, with sweet little fat
dumplings, was set before him, likewise a good stout pottle of
Malmsey, and straightway the holy friar fell to with great courage and
heartiness, so that in a short time nought was left but a little pool of
gravy in the center of the platter, not large enow to keep the life in a
starving mouse.

In the meantime the storm broke. Another gust of wind went rushing
by, and with it fell a few heavy drops of rain, which presently came
rattling down in showers, beating against the casements like a hundred
little hands. Bright flashes of lightning lit up every raindrop, and
with them came cracks of thunder that went away rumbling and bumping as
though Saint Swithin were busy rolling great casks of water across rough
ground overhead. The womenfolks screamed, and the merry wags in
the taproom put their arms around their waists to soothe them into
quietness.

At last the holy friar bade the landlord show him to his room; but when
he heard that he was to bed with a cobbler, he was as ill contented a
fellow as you could find in all England, nevertheless there was nothing
for it, and he must sleep there or nowhere; so, taking up his candle,
he went off, grumbling like the now distant thunder. When he came to the
room where he was to sleep he held the light over Robin and looked at
him from top to toe; then he felt better pleased, for, instead, of a
rough, dirty-bearded fellow, he beheld as fresh and clean a lad as one
could find in a week of Sundays; so, slipping off his clothes, he also
huddled into the bed, where Robin, grunting and grumbling in his sleep,
made room for him. Robin was more sound asleep, I wot, than he had been
for many a day, else he would never have rested so quietly with one of
the friar's sort so close beside him. As for the friar, had he known who
Robin Hood was, you may well believe he would almost as soon have slept
with an adder as with the man he had for a bedfellow.

So the night passed comfortably enough, but at the first dawn of day
Robin opened his eyes and turned his head upon the pillow. Then how he
gaped and how he stared, for there beside him lay one all shaven and
shorn, so that he knew that it must be a fellow in holy orders. He
pinched himself sharply, but, finding he was awake, sat up in bed, while
the other slumbered as peacefully as though he were safe and sound at
home in Emmet Priory. "Now," quoth Robin to himself, "I wonder how this
thing hath dropped into my bed during the night." So saying, he arose
softly, so as not to waken the other, and looking about the room he
espied the friar's clothes lying upon a bench near the wall. First he
looked at the clothes, with his head on one side, and then he looked
at the friar and slowly winked one eye. Quoth he, "Good Brother
What-e'er-thy-name-may-be, as thou hast borrowed my bed so freely I'll
e'en borrow thy clothes in return." So saying, he straightway donned the
holy man's garb, but kindly left the cobbler's clothes in the place
of it. Then he went forth into the freshness of the morning, and the
stableman that was up and about the stables opened his eyes as though he
saw a green mouse before him, for such men as the friars of Emmet were
not wont to be early risers; but the man bottled his thoughts, and only
asked Robin whether he wanted his mule brought from the stable.

"Yea, my son," quoth Robin--albeit he knew nought of the mule--"and
bring it forth quickly, I prythee, for I am late and must be jogging."
So presently the stableman brought forth the mule, and Robin mounted it
and went on his way rejoicing.

As for the holy friar, when he arose he was in as pretty a stew as any
man in all the world, for his rich, soft robes were gone, likewise his
purse with ten golden pounds in it, and nought was left but patched
clothes and a leathern apron. He raged and swore like any layman, but as
his swearing mended nothing and the landlord could not aid him, and as,
moreover, he was forced to be at Emmet Priory that very morning upon
matters of business, he was fain either to don the cobbler's clothes
or travel the road in nakedness. So he put on the clothes, and, still
raging and swearing vengeance against all the cobblers in Derbyshire,
he set forth upon his way afoot; but his ills had not yet done with him,
for he had not gone far ere he fell into the hands of the King's men,
who marched him off, willy-nilly, to Tutbury Town and the Bishop of
Hereford. In vain he swore he was a holy man, and showed his shaven
crown; off he must go, for nothing would do but that he was Robin Hood.

Meanwhile merry Robin rode along contentedly, passing safely by two
bands of the King's men, until his heart began to dance within him
because of the nearness of Sherwood; so he traveled ever on to the
eastward, till, of a sudden, he met a noble knight in a shady lane. Then
Robin checked his mule quickly and leaped from off its back. "Now, well
met, Sir Richard of the Lea," cried he, "for rather than any other man
in England would I see thy good face this day!" Then he told Sir Richard
all the happenings that had befallen him, and that now at last he felt
himself safe, being so nigh to Sherwood again. But when Robin had done,
Sir Richard shook his head sadly. "Thou art in greater danger now,
Robin, than thou hast yet been," said he, "for before thee lie bands of
the Sheriff's men blocking every road and letting none pass through the
lines without examining them closely. I myself know this, having passed
them but now. Before thee lie the Sheriffs men and behind thee the
King's men, and thou canst not hope to pass either way, for by this
time they will know of thy disguise and will be in waiting to seize upon
thee. My castle and everything within it are thine, but nought could be
gained there, for I could not hope to hold it against such a force as is
now in Nottingham of the King's and the Sheriffs men." Having so spoken,
Sir Richard bent his head in thought, and Robin felt his heart sink
within him like that of the fox that hears the hounds at his heels and
finds his den blocked with earth so that there is no hiding for him.
But presently Sir Richard spoke again, saying, "One thing thou canst do,
Robin, and one only. Go back to London and throw thyself upon the mercy
of our good Queen Eleanor. Come with me straightway to my castle. Doff
these clothes and put on such as my retainers wear. Then I will hie me
to London Town with a troop of men behind me, and thou shalt mingle with
them, and thus will I bring thee to where thou mayst see and speak with
the Queen. Thy only hope is to get to Sherwood, for there none can reach
thee, and thou wilt never get to Sherwood but in this way."

So Robin went with Sir Richard of the Lea, and did as he said, for he
saw the wisdom of that which the knight advised, and that this was his
only chance of safety.


Queen Eleanor walked in her royal garden, amid the roses that bloomed
sweetly, and with her walked six of her ladies-in-waiting, chattering
blithely together. Of a sudden a man leaped up to the top of the wall
from the other side, and then, hanging for a moment, dropped lightly
upon the grass within. All the ladies-in-waiting shrieked at the
suddenness of his coming, but the man ran to the Queen and kneeled at
her feet, and she saw that it was Robin Hood.

"Why, how now, Robin!" cried she, "dost thou dare to come into the very
jaws of the raging lion? Alas, poor fellow! Thou art lost indeed if the
King finds thee here. Dost thou not know that he is seeking thee through
all the land?"

"Yea," quoth Robin, "I do know right well that the King seeks me, and
therefore I have come; for, surely, no ill can befall me when he hath
pledged his royal word to Your Majesty for my safety. Moreover, I know
Your Majesty's kindness and gentleness of heart, and so I lay my life
freely in your gracious hands."

"I take thy meaning, Robin Hood," said the Queen, "and that thou dost
convey reproach to me, as well thou mayst, for I know that I have not
done by thee as I ought to have done. I know right well that thou must
have been hard pressed by peril to leap so boldly into one danger to
escape another. Once more I promise thee mine aid, and will do all I can
to send thee back in safety to Sherwood Forest. Bide thou here till I
return." So saying, she left Robin in the garden of roses, and was gone
a long time.

When she came back Sir Robert Lee was with her, and the Queen's cheeks
were hot and the Queen's eyes were bright, as though she had been
talking with high words. Then Sir Robert came straight forward to where
Robin Hood stood, and he spoke to the yeoman in a cold, stern voice.
Quoth he, "Our gracious Sovereign the King hath mitigated his wrath
toward thee, fellow, and hath once more promised that thou shalt depart
in peace and safety. Not only hath he promised this, but in three days
he will send one of his pages to go with thee and see that none arrest
thy journey back again. Thou mayst thank thy patron saint that thou hast
such a good friend in our noble Queen, for, but for her persuasion and
arguments, thou hadst been a dead man, I can tell thee. Let this peril
that thou hast passed through teach thee two lessons. First, be more
honest. Second, be not so bold in thy comings and goings. A man that
walketh in the darkness as thou dost may escape for a time, but in the
end he will surely fall into the pit. Thou hast put thy head in the
angry lion's mouth, and yet thou hast escaped by a miracle. Try it not
again." So saying, he turned and left Robin and was gone.

For three days Robin abided in London in the Queen's household, and at
the end of that time the King's head Page, Edward Cunningham, came, and
taking Robin with him, departed northward upon his way to Sherwood.
Now and then they passed bands of the King's men coming back again to
London, but none of those bands stopped them, and so, at last, they
reached the sweet, leafy woodlands.




Robin Hood and Guy of Gisbourne

A LONG TIME passed after the great shooting match, and during that time
Robin followed one part of the advice of Sir Robert Lee, to wit, that of
being less bold in his comings and his goings; for though mayhap he may
not have been more honest (as most folks regard honesty), he took good
care not to travel so far from Sherwood that he could not reach it both
easily and quickly.

Great changes had fallen in this time; for King Henry had died and King
Richard had come to the crown that fitted him so well through many hard
trials, and through adventures as stirring as any that ever befell Robin
Hood. But though great changes came, they did not reach to Sherwood's
shades, for there Robin Hood and his men dwelled as merrily as they had
ever done, with hunting and feasting and singing and blithe woodland
sports; for it was little the outside striving of the world troubled
them.

The dawning of a summer's day was fresh and bright, and the birds sang
sweetly in a great tumult of sound. So loud was their singing that
it awakened Robin Hood where he lay sleeping, so that he stirred, and
turned, and arose. Up rose Little John also, and all the merry men;
then, after they had broken their fast, they set forth hither and
thither upon the doings of the day.

Robin Hood and Little John walked down a forest path where all around
the leaves danced and twinkled as the breeze trembled through them and
the sunlight came flickering down. Quoth Robin Hood, "I make my vow,
Little John, my blood tickles my veins as it flows through them this gay
morn. What sayst thou to our seeking adventures, each one upon his own
account?"

"With all my heart," said Little John. "We have had more than one
pleasant doing in that way, good master. Here are two paths; take thou
the one to the right hand, and I will take the one to the left, and then
let us each walk straight ahead till he tumble into some merry doing or
other."

"I like thy plan," quoth Robin, "therefore we will part here. But look
thee, Little John, keep thyself out of mischief, for I would not have
ill befall thee for all the world."

"Marry, come up," quoth Little John, "how thou talkest! Methinks thou
art wont to get thyself into tighter coils than I am like to do."

At this Robin Hood laughed. "Why, in sooth, Little John," said he, "thou
hast a blundering hard-headed way that seemeth to bring thee right side
uppermost in all thy troubles; but let us see who cometh out best this
day." So saying, he clapped his palm to Little John's and each departed
upon his way, the trees quickly shutting the one from the other's sight.

Robin Hood strolled onward till he came to where a broad woodland road
stretched before him. Overhead the branches of the trees laced together
in flickering foliage, all golden where it grew thin to the sunlight;
beneath his feet the ground was soft and moist from the sheltering
shade. Here in this pleasant spot the sharpest adventure that ever
befell Robin Hood came upon him; for, as he walked down the woodland
path thinking of nought but the songs of the birds, he came of a sudden
to where a man was seated upon the mossy roots beneath the shade of
a broad-spreading oak tree. Robin Hood saw that the stranger had not
caught sight of him, so he stopped and stood quite still, looking at the
other a long time before he came forward. And the stranger, I wot,
was well worth looking at, for never had Robin seen a figure like that
sitting beneath the tree. From his head to his feet he was clad in a
horse's hide, dressed with the hair upon it. Upon his head was a cowl
that hid his face from sight, and which was made of the horse's skin,
the ears whereof stuck up like those of a rabbit. His body was clad in
a jacket made of the hide, and his legs were covered with the hairy skin
likewise. By his side was a heavy broadsword and a sharp, double-edged
dagger. A quiver of smooth round arrows hung across his shoulders, and
his stout bow of yew leaned against the tree beside him.

"Halloa, friend," cried Robin, coming forward at last, "who art thou
that sittest there? And what is that that thou hast upon thy body? I
make my vow I ha' never seen such a sight in all my life before. Had I
done an evil thing, or did my conscience trouble me, I would be afraid
of thee, thinking that thou wast someone from down below bringing a
message bidding me come straightway to King Nicholas."

To this speech the other answered not a word, but he pushed the cowl
back from his head and showed a knit brow, a hooked nose, and a pair of
fierce, restless black eyes, which altogether made Robin think of a hawk
as he looked on his face. But beside this there was something about the
lines on the stranger's face, and his thin cruel mouth, and the hard
glare of his eyes, that made one's flesh creep to look upon.

"Who art thou, rascal?" said he at last, in a loud, harsh voice.

"Tut, tut," quoth merry Robin, "speak not so sourly, brother. Hast
thou fed upon vinegar and nettles this morning that thy speech is so
stinging?"

"An thou likest not my words," said the other fiercely, "thou hadst best
be jogging, for I tell thee plainly, my deeds match them."

"Nay, but I do like thy words, thou sweet, pretty thing," quoth Robin,
squatting down upon the grass in front of the other. "Moreover, I tell
thee thy speech is witty and gamesome as any I ever heard in all my
life."

The other said not a word, but he glared upon Robin with a wicked and
baleful look, such as a fierce dog bestows upon a man ere it springs at
his throat. Robin returned the gaze with one of wide-eyed innocence, not
a shadow of a smile twinkling in his eyes or twitching at the corners of
his mouth. So they sat staring at one another for a long time, until the
stranger broke the silence suddenly. "What is thy name, fellow?" said
he.

"Now," quoth Robin, "I am right glad to hear thee speak, for I began to
fear the sight of me had stricken thee dumb. As for my name, it may be
this or it may be that; but methinks it is more meet for thee to tell
me thine, seeing that thou art the greater stranger in these parts.
Prythee, tell me, sweet chuck, why wearest thou that dainty garb upon
thy pretty body?" At these words the other broke into a short, harsh
roar of laughter. "By the bones of the Daemon Odin," said he, "thou art
the boldest-spoken man that ever I have seen in all my life. I know not
why I do not smite thee down where thou sittest, for only two days ago I
skewered a man over back of Nottingham Town for saying not half so much
to me as thou hast done. I wear this garb, thou fool, to keep my body
warm; likewise it is near as good as a coat of steel against a common
sword-thrust. As for my name, I care not who knoweth it. It is Guy
of Gisbourne, and thou mayst have heard it before. I come from the
woodlands over in Herefordshire, upon the lands of the Bishop of that
ilk. I am an outlaw, and get my living by hook and by crook in a manner
it boots not now to tell of. Not long since the Bishop sent for me, and
said that if I would do a certain thing that the Sheriff of Nottingham
would ask of me, he would get me a free pardon, and give me tenscore
pounds to boot. So straightway I came to Nottingham Town and found my
sweet Sheriff; and what thinkest thou he wanted of me? Why, forsooth, to
come here to Sherwood to hunt up one Robin Hood, also an outlaw, and to
take him alive or dead. It seemeth that they have no one here to face
that bold fellow, and so sent all the way to Herefordshire, and to me,
for thou knowest the old saying, 'Set a thief to catch a thief.' As for
the slaying of this fellow, it galleth me not a whit, for I would shed
the blood of my own brother for the half of two hundred pounds."

To all this Robin listened, and as he listened his gorge rose. Well he
knew of this Guy of Gisbourne, and of all the bloody and murderous deeds
that he had done in Herefordshire, for his doings were famous throughout
all the land. Yet, although he loathed the very presence of the man, he
held his peace, for he had an end to serve. "Truly," quoth he, "I have
heard of thy gentle doings. Methinks there is no one in all the world
that Robin Hood would rather meet than thee."

At this Guy of Gisbourne gave another harsh laugh. "Why," quoth he, "it
is a merry thing to think of one stout outlaw like Robin Hood meeting
another stout outlaw like Guy of Gisbourne. Only in this case it will be
an ill happening for Robin Hood, for the day he meets Guy of Gisbourne
he shall die."

"But thou gentle, merry spirit," quoth Robin, "dost thou not think that
mayhap this same Robin Hood may be the better man of the two? I know
him right well, and many think that he is one of the stoutest men
hereabouts."

"He may be the stoutest of men hereabouts," quoth Guy of Gisbourne,
"yet, I tell thee, fellow, this sty of yours is not the wide world.
I lay my life upon it I am the better man of the two. He an outlaw,
forsooth! Why, I hear that he hath never let blood in all his life,
saving when he first came to the forest. Some call him a great archer;
marry, I would not be afraid to stand against him all the days of the
year with a bow in my hand."

"Why, truly, some folk do call him a great archer," said Robin Hood,
"but we of Nottinghamshire are famous hands with the longbow. Even I,
though but a simple hand at the craft, would not fear to try a bout with
thee."

At these words Guy of Gisbourne looked upon Robin with wondering eyes,
and then gave another roar of laughter till the woods rang. "Now," quoth
he, "thou art a bold fellow to talk to me in this way. I like thy spirit
in so speaking up to me, for few men have dared to do so. Put up a
garland, lad, and I will try a bout with thee."

"Tut, tut," quoth Robin, "only babes shoot at garlands hereabouts. I
will put up a good Nottingham mark for thee." So saying, he arose, and
going to a hazel thicket not far off, he cut a wand about twice
the thickness of a man's thumb. From this he peeled the bark, and,
sharpening the point, stuck it up in the ground in front of a great oak
tree. Thence he measured off fourscore paces, which brought him beside
the tree where the other sat. "There," quoth he, "is the kind of mark
that Nottingham yeomen shoot at. Now let me see thee split that wand if
thou art an archer."

Then Guy of Gisbourne arose. "Now out upon it!" cried he. "The Devil
himself could not hit such a mark as that."

"Mayhap he could and mayhap he could not," quoth merry Robin, "but that
we shall never know till thou hast shot thereat."

At these words Guy of Gisbourne looked upon Robin with knit brows, but,
as the yeoman still looked innocent of any ill meaning, he bottled his
words and strung his bow in silence. Twice he shot, but neither time did
he hit the wand, missing it the first time by a span and the second time
by a good palm's-breadth. Robin laughed and laughed. "I see now," quoth
he, "that the Devil himself could not hit that mark. Good fellow, if
thou art no better with the broadsword than thou art with the bow and
arrow, thou wilt never overcome Robin Hood."

At these words Guy of Gisbourne glared savagely upon Robin. Quoth he,
"Thou hast a merry tongue, thou villain; but take care that thou makest
not too free with it, or I may cut it out from thy throat for thee."

Robin Hood strung his bow and took his place with never a word, albeit
his heartstrings quivered with anger and loathing. Twice he shot, the
first time hitting within an inch of the wand, the second time splitting
it fairly in the middle. Then, without giving the other a chance for
speech, he flung his bow upon the ground. "There, thou bloody villain!"
cried he fiercely, "let that show thee how little thou knowest of manly
sports. And now look thy last upon the daylight, for the good earth hath
been befouled long enough by thee, thou vile beast! This day, Our Lady
willing, thou diest--I am Robin Hood." So saying, he flashed forth his
bright sword in the sunlight.

For a time Guy of Gisbourne stared upon Robin as though bereft of wits;
but his wonder quickly passed to a wild rage. "Art thou indeed Robin
Hood?" cried he. "Now I am glad to meet thee, thou poor wretch! Shrive
thyself, for thou wilt have no time for shriving when I am done with
thee." So saying, he also drew his sword.

And now came the fiercest fight that ever Sherwood saw; for each man
knew that either he or the other must die, and that no mercy was to be
had in this battle. Up and down they fought, till all the sweet green
grass was crushed and ground beneath the trampling of their heels. More
than once the point of Robin Hood's sword felt the softness of flesh,
and presently the ground began to be sprinkled with bright red drops,
albeit not one of them came from Robin's veins. At last Guy of Gisbourne
made a fierce and deadly thrust at Robin Hood, from which he leaped back
lightly, but in so leaping he caught his heel in a root and fell heavily
upon his back. "Now, Holy Mary aid me!" muttered he, as the other leaped
at him, with a grin of rage upon his face. Fiercely Guy of Gisbourne
stabbed at the other with his great sword, but Robin caught the blade in
his naked hand, and, though it cut his palm, he turned the point away so
that it plunged deep into the ground close beside him; then, ere a blow
could be struck again, he leaped to his feet, with his good sword in
his hand. And now despair fell upon Guy of Gisbourne's heart in a black
cloud, and he looked around him wildly, like a wounded hawk. Seeing that
his strength was going from him, Robin leaped forward, and, quick as a
flash, struck a back-handed blow beneath the sword arm. Down fell
the sword from Guy of Gisbourne's grasp, and back he staggered at the
stroke, and, ere he could regain himself, Robin's sword passed through
and through his body. Round he spun upon his heel, and, flinging his
hands aloft with a shrill, wild cry, fell prone upon his face upon the
green sod.

Then Robin Hood wiped his sword and thrust it back into the scabbard,
and, coming to where Guy of Gisbourne lay, he stood over him with folded
arms, talking to himself the while. "This is the first man I have slain
since I shot the Kings forester in the hot days of my youth. I ofttimes
think bitterly, even yet, of that first life I took, but of this I am as
glad as though I had slain a wild boar that laid waste a fair country.
Since the Sheriff of Nottingham hath sent such a one as this against me,
I will put on the fellow's garb and go forth to see whether I may not
find his worship, and perchance pay him back some of the debt I owe him
upon this score."

So saying, Robin Hood stripped the hairy garments from off the dead man,
and put them on himself, all bloody as they were. Then, strapping the
other's sword and dagger around his body and carrying his own in his
hand, together with the two bows of yew, he drew the cowl of horse's
hide over his face, so that none could tell who he was, and set forth
from the forest, turning his steps toward the eastward and Nottingham
Town. As he strode along the country roads, men, women, and children
hid away from him, for the terror of Guy of Gisbourne's name and of his
doings had spread far and near.

And now let us see what befell Little John while these things were
happening.

Little John walked on his way through the forest paths until he had
come to the outskirts of the woodlands, where, here and there, fields of
barley, corn, or green meadow lands lay smiling in the sun. So he came
to the highroad and to where a little thatched cottage stood back of
a cluster of twisted crab trees, with flowers in front of it. Here he
stopped of a sudden, for he thought that he heard the sound of someone
in sorrow. He listened, and found that it came from the cottage; so,
turning his footsteps thither, he pushed open the wicket and entered
the place. There he saw a gray-haired dame sitting beside a cold
hearthstone, rocking herself to and fro and weeping bitterly.

Now Little John had a tender heart for the sorrows of other folk, so,
coming to the old woman and patting her kindly upon the shoulder, he
spoke comforting words to her, bidding her cheer up and tell him her
troubles, for that mayhap he might do something to ease them. At all
this the good dame shook her head; but all the same his kind words did
soothe her somewhat, so after a while she told him all that bore upon
her mind. That that morning she had three as fair, tall sons beside her
as one could find in all Nottinghamshire, but that they were now taken
from her, and were like to be hanged straightway; that, want having
come upon them, her eldest boy had gone out, the night before, into the
forest, and had slain a hind in the moonlight; that the King's rangers
had followed the blood upon the grass until they had come to her
cottage, and had there found the deer's meat in the cupboard; that, as
neither of the younger sons would betray their brother, the foresters
had taken all three away, in spite of the oldest saying that he alone
had slain the deer; that, as they went, she had heard the rangers
talking among themselves, saying that the Sheriff had sworn that he
would put a check upon the great slaughter of deer that had been going
on of late by hanging the very first rogue caught thereat upon the
nearest tree, and that they would take the three youths to the King's
Head Inn, near Nottingham Town, where the Sheriff was abiding that day,
there to await the return of a certain fellow he had sent into Sherwood
to seek for Robin Hood.

To all this Little John listened, shaking his head sadly now and then.
"Alas," quoth he, when the good dame had finished her speech, "this is
indeed an ill case. But who is this that goeth into Sherwood after Robin
Hood, and why doth he go to seek him? But no matter for that now; only
that I would that Robin Hood were here to advise us. Nevertheless, no
time may be lost in sending for him at this hour, if we would save the
lives of thy three sons. Tell me, hast thou any clothes hereabouts that
I may put on in place of these of Lincoln green? Marry, if our stout
Sheriff catcheth me without disguise, I am like to be run up more
quickly than thy sons, let me tell thee, dame."

Then the old woman told him that she had in the house some of the
clothes of her good husband, who had died only two years before. These
she brought to Little John, who, doffing his garb of Lincoln green, put
them on in its stead. Then, making a wig and false beard of uncarded
wool, he covered his own brown hair and beard, and, putting on a great,
tall hat that had belonged to the old peasant, he took his staff in one
hand and his bow in the other, and set forth with all speed to where the
Sheriff had taken up his inn.

A mile or more from Nottingham Town, and not far from the southern
borders of Sherwood Forest, stood the cosy inn bearing the sign of the
King's Head. Here was a great bustle and stir on this bright morning,
for the Sheriff and a score of his men had come to stop there and
await Guy of Gisbourne's return from the forest. Great hiss and fuss of
cooking was going on in the kitchen, and great rapping and tapping of
wine kegs and beer barrels was going on in the cellar. The Sheriff
sat within, feasting merrily of the best the place afforded, and the
Sheriff's men sat upon the bench before the door, quaffing ale, or lay
beneath the shade of the broad-spreading oak trees, talking and jesting
and laughing. All around stood the horses of the band, with a great
noise of stamping feet and a great switching of tails. To this inn came
the King's rangers, driving the widow's three sons before them. The
hands of the three youths were tied tightly behind their backs, and a
cord from neck to neck fastened them all together. So they were marched
to the room where the Sheriff sat at meat, and stood trembling before
him as he scowled sternly upon them.

"So," quoth he, in a great, loud, angry voice, "ye have been poaching
upon the King's deer, have you? Now I will make short work of you this
day, for I will hang up all three of you as a farmer would hang up three
crows to scare others of the kind from the field. Our fair county of
Nottingham hath been too long a breeding place for such naughty knaves
as ye are. I have put up with these things for many years, but now I
will stamp them out once for all, and with you I will begin."

Then one of the poor fellows opened his mouth to speak, but the Sheriff
roared at him in a loud voice to be silent, and bade the rangers to take
them away till he had done his eating and could attend to the matters
concerning them. So the three poor youths were marched outside, where
they stood with bowed heads and despairing hearts, till after a while
the Sheriff came forth. Then he called his men about him, and quoth he,
"These three villains shall be hanged straightway, but not here, lest
they breed ill luck to this goodly inn. We will take them over yonder to
that belt of woodlands, for I would fain hang them upon the very trees
of Sherwood itself, to show those vile outlaws therein what they may
expect of me if I ever have the good luck to lay hands upon them." So
saying, he mounted his horse, as did his men-at-arms likewise, and all
together they set forth for the belt of woodlands he had spoken of, the
poor youths walking in their midst guarded by the rangers. So they came
at last to the spot, and here nooses were fastened around the necks of
the three, and the ends of the cords flung over the branch of a great
oak tree that stood there. Then the three youths fell upon their knees
and loudly besought mercy of the Sheriff; but the Sheriff of Nottingham
laughed scornfully. "Now," quoth he, "I would that I had a priest here
to shrive you; but, as none is nigh, you must e'en travel your road with
all your sins packed upon your backs, and trust to Saint Peter to let
you in through the gates of Paradise like three peddlers into the town."

In the meantime, while all this had been going forward, an old man had
drawn near and stood leaning on his staff, looking on. His hair and
beard were all curly and white, and across his back was a bow of yew
that looked much too strong for him to draw. As the Sheriff looked
around ere he ordered his men to string the three youths up to the oak
tree, his eyes fell upon this strange old man. Then his worship beckoned
to him, saying, "Come hither, father, I have a few words to say to
thee." So Little John, for it was none other than he, came forward, and
the Sheriff looked upon him, thinking that there was something strangely
familiar in the face before him. "How, now," said he, "methinks I have
seen thee before. What may thy name be, father?"

"Please Your Worship," said Little John, in a cracked voice like that of
an old man, "my name is Giles Hobble, at Your Worship's service."

"Giles Hobble, Giles Hobble," muttered the Sheriff to himself, turning
over the names that he had in his mind to try to find one to fit to
this. "I remember not thy name," said he at last, "but it matters not.
Hast thou a mind to earn sixpence this bright morn?"

"Ay, marry," quoth Little John, "for money is not so plenty with me that
I should cast sixpence away an I could earn it by an honest turn. What
is it Your Worship would have me do?"

"Why, this," said the Sheriff. "Here are three men that need hanging
as badly as any e'er I saw. If thou wilt string them up I will pay thee
twopence apiece for them. I like not that my men-at-arms should turn
hangmen. Wilt thou try thy hand?"

"In sooth," said Little John, still in the old man's voice, "I ha' never
done such a thing before; but an a sixpence is to be earned so easily
I might as well ha' it as anybody. But, Your Worship, are these naughty
fellows shrived?"

"Nay," said the Sheriff, laughing, "never a whit; but thou mayst turn
thy hand to that also if thou art so minded. But hasten, I prythee, for
I would get back to mine inn betimes."

So Little John came to where the three youths stood trembling, and,
putting his face to the first fellow's cheek as though he were listening
to him, he whispered softly into his ear, "Stand still, brother, when
thou feelest thy bonds cut, but when thou seest me throw my woolen wig
and beard from my head and face, cast the noose from thy neck and run
for the woodlands." Then he slyly cut the cord that bound the youth's
hands; who, upon his part, stood still as though he were yet bound. Then
he went to the second fellow, and spoke to him in the same way, and also
cut his bonds. This he did to the third likewise, but all so slyly that
the Sheriff, who sat upon his horse laughing, wotted not what was being
done, nor his men either.

Then Little John turned to the Sheriff. "Please Your Worship," said he,
"will you give me leave to string my bow? For I would fain help these
fellows along the way, when they are swinging, with an arrow beneath the
ribs."

"With all my heart," said the Sheriff, "only, as I said before, make
thou haste in thy doings."

Little John put the tip of his bow to his instep, and strung the weapon
so deftly that all wondered to see an old man so strong. Next he drew
a good smooth arrow from his quiver and fitted it to the string; then,
looking all around to see that the way was clear behind him, he suddenly
cast away the wool from his head and face, shouting in a mighty voice,
"Run!" Quick as a flash the three youths flung the nooses from their
necks and sped across the open to the woodlands as the arrow speeds from
the bow. Little John also flew toward the covert like a greyhound, while
the Sheriff and his men gazed after him all bewildered with the sudden
doing. But ere the yeoman had gone far the Sheriff roused himself.
"After him!" he roared in a mighty voice; for he knew now who it was
with whom he had been talking, and wondered that he had not known him
before.

Little John heard the Sheriff's words, and seeing that he could not hope
to reach the woodlands before they would be upon him, he stopped and
turned suddenly, holding his bow as though he were about to shoot.
"Stand back!" cried he fiercely. "The first man that cometh a foot
forward, or toucheth finger to bowstring, dieth!"

At these words the Sheriff's men stood as still as stocks, for they knew
right well that Little John would be as good as his word, and that to
disobey him meant death. In vain the Sheriff roared at them, calling
them cowards, and urging them forward in a body; they would not budge an
inch, but stood and watched Little John as he moved slowly away toward
the forest, keeping his gaze fixed upon them. But when the Sheriff saw
his enemy thus slipping betwixt his fingers he grew mad with his rage,
so that his head swam and he knew not what he did. Then of a sudden he
turned his horse's head, and plunging his spurs into its sides he gave
a great shout, and, rising in his stirrups, came down upon Little John
like the wind. Then Little John raised his deadly bow and drew the gray
goose feather to his cheek. But alas for him! For, ere he could loose
the shaft, the good bow that had served him so long, split in his hands,
and the arrow fell harmless at his feet. Seeing what had happened, the
Sheriff's men raised a shout, and, following their master, came rushing
down upon Little John. But the Sheriff was ahead of the others, and
so caught up with the yeoman before he reached the shelter of the
woodlands, then leaning forward he struck a mighty blow. Little John
ducked and the Sheriff's sword turned in his hand, but the flat of the
blade struck the other upon the head and smote him down, stunned and
senseless.

"Now, I am right glad," said the Sheriff, when the men came up and found
that Little John was not dead, "that I have not slain this man in my
haste! I would rather lose five hundred pounds than have him die thus
instead of hanging, as such a vile thief should do. Go, get some water
from yonder fountain, William, and pour it over his head."

The man did as he was bidden, and presently Little John opened his eyes
and looked around him, all dazed and bewildered with the stun of the
blow. Then they tied his hands behind him, and lifting him up set him
upon the back of one of the horses, with his face to its tail and his
feet strapped beneath its belly. So they took him back to the King's
Head Inn, laughing and rejoicing as they went along. But in the meantime
the widow's three sons had gotten safely away, and were hidden in the
woodlands.

Once more the Sheriff of Nottingham sat within the King's Head Inn. His
heart rejoiced within him, for he had at last done that which he had
sought to do for years, taken Little John prisoner. Quoth he to himself,
"This time tomorrow the rogue shall hang upon the gallows tree in front
of the great gate of Nottingham Town, and thus shall I make my long
score with him even." So saying, he took a deep draught of Canary. But
it seemed as if the Sheriff had swallowed a thought with his wine, for
he shook his head and put the cup down hastily. "Now," he muttered
to himself, "I would not for a thousand pounds have this fellow slip
through my fingers; yet, should his master escape that foul Guy of
Gisbourne, there is no knowing what he may do, for he is the cunningest
knave in all the world--this same Robin Hood. Belike I had better not
wait until tomorrow to hang the fellow." So saying, he pushed his chair
back hastily, and going forth from the inn called his men together.
Quoth he, "I will wait no longer for the hanging of this rogue, but it
shall be done forthwith, and that from the very tree whence he saved
those three young villains by stepping betwixt them and the law. So get
ye ready straightway."

Then once more they sat Little John upon the horse, with his face to the
tail, and so, one leading the horse whereon he sat and the others riding
around him, they went forward to that tree from the branches of which
they had thought to hang the poachers. On they went, rattling and
jingling along the road till they came to the tree. Here one of the men
spake to the Sheriff of a sudden. "Your Worship," cried he, "is not yon
fellow coming along toward us that same Guy of Gisbourne whom thou didst
send into the forest to seek Robin Hood?" At these words the Sheriff
shaded his eyes and looked eagerly. "Why, certes," quoth he, "yon fellow
is the same. Now, Heaven send that he hath slain the master thief, as we
will presently slay the man!"

When Little John heard this speech he looked up, and straightway his
heart crumbled away within him, for not only were the man's garments all
covered with blood, but he wore Robin Hood's bugle horn and carried his
bow and broadsword.

"How now!" cried the Sheriff, when Robin Hood, in Guy of Gisbourne's
clothes, had come nigh to them. "What luck hath befallen thee in the
forest? Why, man, thy clothes are all over blood!"

"An thou likest not my clothes," said Robin in a harsh voice like that
of Guy of Gisbourne, "thou mayst shut thine eyes. Marry, the blood upon
me is that of the vilest outlaw that ever trod the woodlands, and one
whom I have slain this day, albeit not without wound to myself."

Then out spake Little John, for the first time since he had fallen into
the Sheriff's hands. "O thou vile, bloody wretch! I know thee, Guy of
Gisbourne, for who is there that hath not heard of thee and cursed thee
for thy vile deeds of blood and rapine? Is it by such a hand as thine
that the gentlest heart that ever beat is stilled in death? Truly,
thou art a fit tool for this coward Sheriff of Nottingham. Now I die
joyfully, nor do I care how I die, for life is nought to me!" So spake
Little John, the salt tears rolling down his brown cheeks.

But the Sheriff of Nottingham clapped his hands for joy. "Now, Guy of
Gisbourne," cried he, "if what thou tellest me is true, it will be the
best day's doings for thee that ever thou hast done in all thy life."

"What I have told thee is sooth, and I lie not," said Robin, still in
Guy of Gisbourne's voice. "Look, is not this Robin Hood's sword, and is
not this his good bow of yew, and is not this his bugle horn? Thinkest
thou he would have given them to Guy of Gisbourne of his own free will?"

Then the Sheriff laughed aloud for joy. "This is a good day!" cried he.
"The great outlaw dead and his right-hand man in my hands! Ask what thou
wilt of me, Guy of Gisbourne, and it is thine!"

"Then this I ask of thee," said Robin. "As I have slain the master
I would now kill the man. Give this fellow's life into my hands, Sir
Sheriff."

"Now thou art a fool!" cried the Sheriff. "Thou mightst have had money
enough for a knight's ransom if thou hadst asked for it. I like ill to
let this fellow pass from my hands, but as I have promised, thou shalt
have him."

"I thank thee right heartily for thy gift," cried Robin. "Take the rogue
down from the horse, men, and lean him against yonder tree, while I show
you how we stick a porker whence I come!"

At these words some of the Sheriff's men shook their heads; for, though
they cared not a whit whether Little John were hanged or not, they hated
to see him butchered in cold blood. But the Sheriff called to them in
a loud voice, ordering them to take the yeoman down from the horse and
lean him against the tree, as the other bade.

While they were doing this Robin Hood strung both his bow and that of
Guy of Gisbourne, albeit none of them took notice of his doing so. Then,
when Little John stood against the tree, he drew Guy of Gisbourne's
sharp, double-edged dagger. "Fall back! fall back!" cried he. "Would
ye crowd so on my pleasure, ye unmannerly knaves? Back, I say! Farther
yet!" So they crowded back, as he ordered, many of them turning their
faces away, that they might not see what was about to happen.

"Come!" cried Little John. "Here is my breast. It is meet that the same
hand that slew my dear master should butcher me also! I know thee, Guy
of Gisbourne!"

"Peace, Little John!" said Robin in a low voice. "Twice thou hast said
thou knowest me, and yet thou knowest me not at all. Couldst thou not
tell me beneath this wild beast's hide? Yonder, just in front of thee,
lie my bow and arrows, likewise my broadsword. Take them when I cut thy
bonds. Now! Get them quickly!" So saying, he cut the bonds, and Little
John, quick as a wink, leaped forward and caught up the bow and arrows
and the broadsword. At the same time Robin Hood threw back the cowl of
horse's hide from his face and bent Guy of Gisbourne's bow, with a keen,
barbed arrow fitted to the string. "Stand back!" cried he sternly. "The
first man that toucheth finger to bowstring dieth! I have slain thy
man, Sheriff; take heed that it is not thy turn next." Then, seeing that
Little John had armed himself, he clapped his bugle horn to his lips and
blew three blasts both loud and shrill.

Now when the Sheriff of Nottingham saw whose face it was beneath Guy of
Gisbourne's hood, and when he heard those bugle notes ring in his ear,
he felt as if his hour had come. "Robin Hood!" roared he, and without
another word he wheeled his horse in the road and went off in a cloud of
dust. The Sheriff's men, seeing their master thus fleeing for his life,
thought that it was not their business to tarry longer, so, clapping
spurs to their horses, they also dashed away after him. But though
the Sheriff of Nottingham went fast, he could not outstrip a clothyard
arrow. Little John twanged his bowstring with a shout, and when the
Sheriff dashed in through the gates of Nottingham Town at full speed, a
gray goose shaft stuck out behind him like a moulting sparrow with one
feather in its tail. For a month afterward the poor Sheriff could sit
upon nought but the softest cushions that could be gotten for him.

Thus the Sheriff and a score of men ran away from Robin Hood and Little
John; so that when Will Stutely and a dozen or more of stout yeomen
burst from out the covert, they saw nought of their master's enemies,
for the Sheriff and his men were scurrying away in the distance, hidden
within a cloud of dust like a little thunderstorm.

Then they all went back into the forest once more, where they found the
widow's three sons, who ran to Little John and kissed his hands. But
it would not do for them to roam the forest at large any more; so
they promised that, after they had gone and told their mother of
their escape, they would come that night to the greenwood tree, and
thenceforth become men of the band.




King Richard Comes to Sherwood Forest

NOT MORE than two months had passed and gone since these stirring
adventures befell Robin Hood and Little John, when all Nottinghamshire
was a mighty stir and tumult, for King Richard of the Lion's Heart was
making a royal progress through merry England, and everyone expected
him to come to Nottingham Town in his journeying. Messengers went riding
back and forth between the Sheriff and the King, until at last the time
was fixed upon when His Majesty was to stop in Nottingham, as the guest
of his worship.

And now came more bustle than ever; a great running hither and thither,
a rapping of hammers and a babble of voices sounded everywhere through
the place, for the folk were building great arches across the streets,
beneath which the King was to pass, and were draping these arches with
silken banners and streamers of many colors. Great hubbub was going on
in the Guild Hall of the town, also, for here a grand banquet was to
be given to the King and the nobles of his train, and the best master
carpenters were busy building a throne where the King and the Sheriff
were to sit at the head of the table, side by side.

It seemed to many of the good folk of the place as if the day that
should bring the King into the town would never come; but all the same
it did come in its own season, and bright shone the sun down into the
stony streets, which were all alive with a restless sea of people.
On either side of the way great crowds of town and country folk stood
packed as close together as dried herring in a box, so that the Sheriffs
men, halberds in hands, could hardly press them back to leave space for
the King's riding.

"Take care whom thou pushest against!" cried a great, burly friar to one
of these men. "Wouldst thou dig thine elbows into me, sirrah? By'r Lady
of the Fountain, an thou dost not treat me with more deference I will
crack thy knave's pate for thee, even though thou be one of the mighty
Sheriff's men."

At this a great shout of laughter arose from a number of tall yeomen in
Lincoln green that were scattered through the crowd thereabouts; but one
that seemed of more authority than the others nudged the holy man with
his elbow. "Peace, Tuck," said he, "didst thou not promise me, ere thou
camest here, that thou wouldst put a check upon thy tongue?"

"Ay, marry," grumbled the other, "but 'a did not think to have a
hard-footed knave trample all over my poor toes as though they were no
more than so many acorns in the forest."

But of a sudden all this bickering ceased, for a clear sound of many
bugle horns came winding down the street. Then all the people craned
their necks and gazed in the direction whence the sound came, and the
crowding and the pushing and the swaying grew greater than ever. And now
a gallant array of men came gleaming into sight, and the cheering of the
people ran down the crowd as the fire runs in dry grass.

Eight and twenty heralds in velvet and cloth of gold came riding
forward. Over their heads fluttered a cloud of snow-white feathers,
and each herald bore in his hand a long silver trumpet, which he blew
musically. From each trumpet hung a heavy banner of velvet and cloth
of gold, with the royal arms of England emblazoned thereon. After these
came riding fivescore noble knights, two by two, all fully armed, saving
that their heads were uncovered. In their hands they bore tall lances,
from the tops of which fluttered pennons of many colors and devices. By
the side of each knight walked a page clad in rich clothes of silk and
velvet, and each page bore in his hands his master's helmet, from which
waved long, floating plumes of feathers. Never had Nottingham seen a
fairer sight than those fivescore noble knights, from whose armor the
sun blazed in dazzling light as they came riding on their great war
horses, with clashing of arms and jingling of chains. Behind the knights
came the barons and the nobles of the mid-country, in robes of silk and
cloth of gold, with golden chains about their necks and jewels at their
girdles. Behind these again came a great array of men-at-arms, with
spears and halberds in their hands, and, in the midst of these, two
riders side by side. One of the horsemen was the Sheriff of Nottingham
in his robes of office. The other, who was a head taller than the
Sheriff, was clad in a rich but simple garb, with a broad, heavy chain
about his neck. His hair and beard were like threads of gold, and his
eyes were as blue as the summer sky. As he rode along he bowed to the
right hand and the left, and a mighty roar of voices followed him as he
passed; for this was King Richard.

Then, above all the tumult and the shouting a great voice was heard
roaring, "Heaven, its saints bless thee, our gracious King Richard!
and likewise Our Lady of the Fountain, bless thee!" Then King Richard,
looking toward the spot whence the sound came, saw a tall, burly,
strapping priest standing in front of all the crowd with his legs wide
apart as he backed against those behind.

"By my soul, Sheriff," said the King, laughing, "ye have the tallest
priests in Nottinghamshire that e'er I saw in all my life. If
Heaven never answered prayers because of deafness, methinks I would
nevertheless have blessings bestowed upon me, for that man yonder would
make the great stone image of Saint Peter rub its ears and hearken unto
him. I would that I had an army of such as he."

To this the Sheriff answered never a word, but all the blood left his
cheeks, and he caught at the pommel of his saddle to keep himself from
falling; for he also saw the fellow that so shouted, and knew him to be
Friar Tuck; and, moreover, behind Friar Tuck he saw the faces of Robin
Hood and Little John and Will Scarlet and Will Stutely and Allan a Dale
and others of the band.

"How now," said the King hastily, "art thou ill, Sheriff, that thou
growest so white?"

"Nay, Your Majesty," said the Sheriff, "it was nought but a sudden pain
that will soon pass by." Thus he spake, for he was ashamed that the King
should know that Robin Hood feared him so little that he thus dared to
come within the very gates of Nottingham Town.

Thus rode the King into Nottingham Town on that bright afternoon in the
early fall season; and none rejoiced more than Robin Hood and his merry
men to see him come so royally unto his own.


Eventide had come; the great feast in the Guild Hall at Nottingham Town
was done, and the wine passed freely. A thousand waxen lights gleamed
along the board, at which sat lord and noble and knight and squire in
goodly array. At the head of the table, upon a throne all hung with
cloth of gold, sat King Richard with the Sheriff of Nottingham beside
him.

Quoth the King to the Sheriff, laughing as he spoke, "I have heard much
spoken concerning the doings of certain fellows hereabouts, one Robin
Hood and his band, who are outlaws and abide in Sherwood Forest. Canst
thou not tell me somewhat of them, Sir Sheriff? For I hear that thou
hast had dealings with them more than once."

At these words the Sheriff of Nottingham looked down gloomily, and the
Bishop of Hereford, who was present, gnawed his nether lip. Quoth the
Sheriff, "I can tell Your Majesty but little concerning the doings of
those naughty fellows, saving that they are the boldest lawbreakers in
all the land."

Then up spake young Sir Henry of the Lea, a great favorite with the
King, under whom he had fought in Palestine. "May it please Your
Majesty," said he, "when I was away in Palestine I heard ofttimes from
my father, and in most cases I heard of this very fellow, Robin Hood.
If Your Majesty would like I will tell you a certain adventure of this
outlaw."

Then the King laughingly bade him tell his tale, whereupon he told
how Robin Hood had aided Sir Richard of the Lea with money that he had
borrowed from the Bishop of Hereford. Again and again the King and those
present roared with laughter, while the poor Bishop waxed cherry red in
the face with vexation, for the matter was a sore thing with him. When
Sir Henry of the Lea was done, others of those present, seeing how the
King enjoyed this merry tale, told other tales concerning Robin and his
merry men.

"By the hilt of my sword," said stout King Richard, "this is as bold and
merry a knave as ever I heard tell of. Marry, I must take this matter in
hand and do what thou couldst not do, Sheriff, to wit, clear the forest
of him and his band."

That night the King sat in the place that was set apart for his lodging
while in Nottingham Town. With him were young Sir Henry of the Lea and
two other knights and three barons of Nottinghamshire; but the King's
mind still dwelled upon Robin Hood. "Now," quoth he, "I would freely
give a hundred pounds to meet this roguish fellow, Robin Hood, and to
see somewhat of his doings in Sherwood Forest."

Then up spake Sir Hubert of gingham, laughing: "If Your Majesty hath
such a desire upon you it is not so hard to satisfy. If Your Majesty is
willing to lose one hundred pounds, I will engage to cause you not only
to meet this fellow, but to feast with him in Sherwood."

"Marry, Sir Hubert," quoth the King, "this pleaseth me well. But how
wilt thou cause me to meet Robin Hood?"

"Why, thus," said Sir Hubert, "let Your Majesty and us here present put
on the robes of seven of the Order of Black Friars, and let Your Majesty
hang a purse of one hundred pounds beneath your gown; then let us
undertake to ride from here to Mansfield Town tomorrow, and, without I
am much mistaken, we will both meet with Robin Hood and dine with him
before the day be passed."

"I like thy plan, Sir Hubert," quoth the King merrily, "and tomorrow we
will try it and see whether there be virtue in it."

So it happened that when early the next morning the Sheriff came to
where his liege lord was abiding, to pay his duty to him, the King told
him what they had talked of the night before, and what merry adventure
they were set upon undertaking that morning. But when the Sheriff heard
this he smote his forehead with his fist. "Alas!" said he, "what evil
counsel is this that hath been given thee! O my gracious lord and King,
you know not what you do! This villain that you thus go to seek hath no
reverence either for king or king's laws."

"But did I not hear aright when I was told that this Robin Hood hath
shed no blood since he was outlawed, saving only that of that vile Guy
of Gisbourne, for whose death all honest men should thank him?"

"Yea, Your Majesty," said the Sheriff, "you have heard aright.
Nevertheless--"

"Then," quoth the King, breaking in on the Sheriffs speech, "what have
I to fear in meeting him, having done him no harm? Truly, there is no
danger in this. But mayhap thou wilt go with us, Sir Sheriff."

"Nay," quoth the Sheriff hastily, "Heaven forbid!"

But now seven habits such as Black Friars wear were brought, and the
King and those about him having clad themselves therein, and His Majesty
having hung a purse with a hundred golden pounds in it beneath his
robes, they all went forth and mounted the mules that had been brought
to the door for them. Then the King bade the Sheriff be silent as
to their doings, and so they set forth upon their way. Onward they
traveled, laughing and jesting, until they passed through the open
country; between bare harvest fields whence the harvest had been
gathered home; through scattered glades that began to thicken as they
went farther along, till they came within the heavy shade of the forest
itself. They traveled in the forest for several miles without meeting
anyone such as they sought, until they had come to that part of the road
that lay nearest to Newstead Abbey.

"By the holy Saint Martin," quoth the King, "I would that I had a better
head for remembering things of great need. Here have we come away and
brought never so much as a drop of anything to drink with us. Now
I would give half a hundred pounds for somewhat to quench my thirst
withal."

No sooner had the King so spoken, than out from the covert at the
roadside stepped a tall fellow with yellow beard and hair and a pair of
merry blue eyes. "Truly, holy brother," said he, laying his hand upon
the King's bridle rein, "it were an unchristian thing to not give
fitting answer to so fair a bargain. We keep an inn hereabouts, and for
fifty pounds we will not only give thee a good draught of wine, but will
give thee as noble a feast as ever thou didst tickle thy gullet withal."
So saying, he put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill whistle.
Then straightway the bushes and branches on either side of the road
swayed and crackled, and threescore broad-shouldered yeomen in Lincoln
green burst out of the covert.

"How now, fellow," quoth the King, "who art thou, thou naughty rogue?
Hast thou no regard for such holy men as we are?"

"Not a whit," quoth merry Robin Hood, for the fellow was he, "for in
sooth all the holiness belonging to rich friars, such as ye are, one
could drop into a thimble and the goodwife would never feel it with the
tip of her finger. As for my name, it is Robin Hood, and thou mayst have
heard it before."

"Now out upon thee!" quoth King Richard. "Thou art a bold and naughty
fellow and a lawless one withal, as I have often heard tell. Now,
prythee, let me, and these brethren of mine, travel forward in peace and
quietness."

"It may not be," said Robin, "for it would look but ill of us to let
such holy men travel onward with empty stomachs. But I doubt not that
thou hast a fat purse to pay thy score at our inn since thou offerest
freely so much for a poor draught of wine. Show me thy purse, reverend
brother, or I may perchance have to strip thy robes from thee to search
for it myself."

"Nay, use no force," said the King sternly. "Here is my purse, but lay
not thy lawless hands upon our person."

"Hut, tut," quoth merry Robin, "what proud words are these? Art thou the
King of England, to talk so to me? Here, Will, take this purse and see
what there is within."

Will Scarlet took the purse and counted out the money. Then Robin bade
him keep fifty pounds for themselves, and put fifty back into the purse.
This he handed to the King. "Here, brother," quoth he, "take this half
of thy money, and thank Saint Martin, on whom thou didst call before,
that thou hast fallen into the hands of such gentle rogues that they
will not strip thee bare, as they might do. But wilt thou not put back
thy cowl? For I would fain see thy face."

"Nay," said the King, drawing back, "I may not put back my cowl, for
we seven have vowed that we will not show our faces for four and twenty
hours."

"Then keep them covered in peace," said Robin, "and far be it from me to
make you break your vows."

So he called seven of his yeomen and bade them each one take a mule
by the bridle; then, turning their faces toward the depths of the
woodlands, they journeyed onward until they came to the open glade and
the greenwood tree.

Little John, with threescore yeomen at his heels, had also gone forth
that morning to wait along the roads and bring a rich guest to Sherwood
glade, if such might be his luck, for many with fat purses must
travel the roads at this time, when such great doings were going on in
Nottinghamshire, but though Little John and so many others were gone,
Friar Tuck and twoscore or more stout yeomen were seated or lying around
beneath the great tree, and when Robin and the others came they leaped
to their feet to meet him.

"By my soul," quoth merry King Richard, when he had gotten down from his
mule and stood looking about him, "thou hast in very truth a fine lot of
young men about thee, Robin. Methinks King Richard himself would be glad
of such a bodyguard."

"These are not all of my fellows," said Robin proudly, "for threescore
more of them are away on business with my good right-hand man, Little
John. But, as for King Richard, I tell thee, brother, there is not a man
of us all but would pour out our blood like water for him. Ye churchmen
cannot rightly understand our King; but we yeomen love him right loyally
for the sake of his brave doings which are so like our own."

But now Friar Tuck came bustling up. "Gi' ye good den, brothers," said
he. "I am right glad to welcome some of my cloth in this naughty place.
Truly, methinks these rogues of outlaws would stand but an ill chance
were it not for the prayers of Holy Tuck, who laboreth so hard for their
well-being." Here he winked one eye slyly and stuck his tongue into his
cheek.

"Who art thou, mad priest?" said the King in a serious voice, albeit he
smiled beneath his cowl.

At this Friar Tuck looked all around with a slow gaze. "Look you now,"
quoth he, "never let me hear you say again that I am no patient man.
Here is a knave of a friar calleth me a mad priest, and yet I smite him
not. My name is Friar Tuck, fellow--the holy Friar Tuck."

"There, Tuck," said Robin, "thou hast said enow. Prythee, cease thy talk
and bring some wine. These reverend men are athirst, and sin' they have
paid so richly for their score they must e'en have the best."

Friar Tuck bridled at being so checked in his speech, nevertheless he
went straightway to do Robin's bidding; so presently a great crock was
brought, and wine was poured out for all the guests and for Robin Hood.
Then Robin held his cup aloft. "Stay!" cried he. "Tarry in your drinking
till I give you a pledge. Here is to good King Richard of great renown,
and may all enemies to him be confounded."

Then all drank the King's health, even the King himself. "Methinks, good
fellow," said he, "thou hast drunk to thine own confusion."

"Never a whit," quoth merry Robin, "for I tell thee that we of Sherwood
are more loyal to our lord the King than those of thine order. We would
give up our lives for his benefiting, while ye are content to lie snug
in your abbeys and priories let reign who will."

At this the King laughed. Quoth he, "Perhaps King Richard's welfare is
more to me than thou wottest of, fellow. But enough of that matter.
We have paid well for our fare, so canst thou not show us some merry
entertainment? I have oft heard that ye are wondrous archers; wilt thou
not show us somewhat of your skill?"

"With all my heart," said Robin, "we are always pleased to show our
guests all the sport that is to be seen. As Gaffer Swanthold sayeth,
''Tis a hard heart that will not give a caged starling of the best'; and
caged starlings ye are with us. Ho, lads! Set up a garland at the end of
the glade."

Then, as the yeomen ran to do their master's bidding, Tuck turned to
one of the mock friars. "Hearest thou our master?" quoth he, with a sly
wink. "Whenever he cometh across some poor piece of wit he straightway
layeth it on the shoulders of this Gaffer Swanthold--whoever he may
be--so that the poor goodman goeth traveling about with all the odds and
ends and tags and rags of our master's brain packed on his back." Thus
spake Friar Tuck, but in a low voice so that Robin could not hear him,
for he felt somewhat nettled at Robin's cutting his talk so short.

In the meantime the mark at which they were to shoot was set up at
sixscore paces distance. It was a garland of leaves and flowers two
spans in width, which same was hung upon a stake in front of a broad
tree trunk. "There," quoth Robin, "yon is a fair mark, lads. Each of you
shoot three arrows thereat; and if any fellow misseth by so much as one
arrow, he shall have a buffet of Will Scarlet's fist."

"Hearken to him!" quoth Friar Tuck. "Why, master, thou dost bestow
buffets from thy strapping nephew as though they were love taps from
some bouncing lass. I warrant thou art safe to hit the garland thyself,
or thou wouldst not be so free of his cuffing."

First David of Doncaster shot, and lodged all three of his arrows within
the garland. "Well done, David!" cried Robin, "thou hast saved thine
ears from a warming this day." Next Midge, the Miller, shot, and he,
also, lodged his arrows in the garland. Then followed Wat, the Tinker,
but alas for him! For one of his shafts missed the mark by the breadth
of two fingers.

"Come hither, fellow," said Will Scarlet, in his soft, gentle voice,
"I owe thee somewhat that I would pay forthwith." Then Wat, the Tinker,
came forward and stood in front of Will Scarlet, screwing up his face
and shutting his eyes tightly, as though he already felt his ears
ringing with the buffet. Will Scarlet rolled up his sleeve, and,
standing on tiptoe to give the greater swing to his arm, he struck with
might and main. "WHOOF!" came his palm against the Tinker's head, and
down went stout Wat to the grass, heels over head, as the wooden image
at the fair goes down when the skillful player throws a cudgel at it.
Then, as the Tinker sat up upon the grass, rubbing his ear and winking
and blinking at the bright stars that danced before his eyes, the yeomen
roared with mirth till the forest rang. As for King Richard, he laughed
till the tears ran down his cheeks. Thus the band shot, each in turn,
some getting off scot free, and some winning a buffet that always sent
them to the grass. And now, last of all, Robin took his place, and all
was hushed as he shot. The first shaft he shot split a piece from the
stake on which the garland was hung; the second lodged within an inch of
the other. "By my halidom," said King Richard to himself, "I would give
a thousand pounds for this fellow to be one of my guard!" And now,
for the third time Robin shot; but, alas for him! The arrow was
ill-feathered, and, wavering to one side, it smote an inch outside the
garland.

At this a great roar went up, those of the yeomen who sat upon the grass
rolling over and over and shouting with laughter, for never before had
they seen their master so miss his mark; but Robin flung his bow upon
the ground with vexation. "Now, out upon it!" cried he. "That shaft had
an ill feather to it, for I felt it as it left my fingers. Give me a
clean arrow, and I will engage to split the wand with it."

At these words the yeomen laughed louder than ever. "Nay, good uncle,"
said Will Scarlet in his soft, sweet voice, "thou hast had thy fair
chance and hast missed thine aim out and out. I swear the arrow was
as good as any that hath been loosed this day. Come hither; I owe thee
somewhat, and would fain pay it."

"Go, good master," roared Friar Tuck, "and may my blessing go with thee.
Thou hast bestowed these love taps of Will Scarlet's with great freedom.
It were pity an thou gottest not thine own share."

"It may not be," said merry Robin. "I am king here, and no subject may
raise hand against the king. But even our great King Richard may yield
to the holy Pope without shame, and even take a tap from him by way of
penance; therefore I will yield myself to this holy friar, who seemeth
to be one in authority, and will take my punishment from him." Thus
saying, he turned to the King, "I prythee, brother, wilt thou take my
punishing into thy holy hands?"

"With all my heart," quoth merry King Richard, rising from where he was
sitting. "I owe thee somewhat for having lifted a heavy weight of fifty
pounds from my purse. So make room for him on the green, lads."

"An thou makest me tumble," quoth Robin, "I will freely give thee back
thy fifty pounds; but I tell thee, brother, if thou makest me not feel
grass all along my back, I will take every farthing thou hast for thy
boastful speech."

"So be it," said the King, "I am willing to venture it." Thereupon he
rolled up his sleeve and showed an arm that made the yeomen stare.
But Robin, with his feet wide apart, stood firmly planted, waiting the
other, smiling. Then the King swung back his arm, and, balancing himself
a moment, he delivered a buffet at Robin that fell like a thunderbolt.
Down went Robin headlong upon the grass, for the stroke would have
felled a stone wall. Then how the yeomen shouted with laughter till
their sides ached, for never had they seen such a buffet given in all
their lives. As for Robin, he presently sat up and looked all around
him, as though he had dropped from a cloud and had lit in a place he had
never seen before. After a while, still gazing about him at his laughing
yeomen, he put his fingertips softly to his ear and felt all around
it tenderly. "Will Scarlet," said he, "count this fellow out his fifty
pounds; I want nothing more either of his money or of him. A murrain
seize him and his buffeting! I would that I had taken my dues from thee,
for I verily believe he hath deafened mine ear from ever hearing again."

Then, while gusts of laughter still broke from the band, Will Scarlet
counted out the fifty pounds, and the King dropped it back into his
purse again. "I give thee thanks, fellow," said he, "and if ever thou
shouldst wish for another box of the ear to match the one thou hast,
come to me and I will fit thee with it for nought."

So spake the merry King; but, even as he ended, there came suddenly
the sound of many voices, and out from the covert burst Little John and
threescore men, with Sir Richard of the Lea in the midst. Across the
glade they came running, and, as they came, Sir Richard shouted to
Robin: "Make haste, dear friend, gather thy band together and come with
me! King Richard left Nottingham Town this very morning, and cometh to
seek thee in the woodlands. I know not how he cometh, for it was but
a rumor of this that reached me; nevertheless, I know that it is the
truth. Therefore hasten with all thy men, and come to Castle Lea, for
there thou mayst lie hidden till thy present danger passeth. Who are
these strangers that thou hast with thee?"

"Why," quoth merry Robin, rising from the grass, "these are certain
gentle guests that came with us from the highroad over by Newstead
Abbey. I know not their names, but I have become right well acquaint
with this lusty rogue's palm this morning. Marry, the pleasure of this
acquaintance hath dost me a deaf ear and fifty pounds to boot!"

Sir Richard looked keenly at the tall friar, who, drawing himself up to
his full height, looked fixedly back at the knight. Then of a sudden Sir
Richard's cheeks grew pale, for he knew who it was that he looked upon.
Quickly he leaped from off his horse's back and flung himself upon his
knees before the other. At this, the King, seeing that Sir Richard knew
him, threw back his cowl, and all the yeomen saw his face and knew him
also, for there was not one of them but had been in the crowd in the
good town of Nottingham, and had seen him riding side by side with the
Sheriff. Down they fell upon their knees, nor could they say a word.
Then the King looked all around right grimly, and, last of all, his
glance came back and rested again upon Sir Richard of the Lea.

"How is this, Sir Richard?" said he sternly. "How darest thou step
between me and these fellows? And how darest thou offer thy knightly
Castle of the Lea for a refuge to them? Wilt thou make it a hiding place
for the most renowned outlaws in England?"

Then Sir Richard of the Lea raised his eyes to the King's face. "Far be
it from me," said he, "to do aught that could bring Your Majesty's anger
upon me. Yet, sooner would I face Your Majesty's wrath than suffer aught
of harm that I could stay to fall upon Robin Hood and his band; for to
them I owe life, honor, everything. Should I, then, desert him in his
hour of need?"

Ere the knight had done speaking, one of the mock friars that stood near
the King came forward and knelt beside Sir Richard, and throwing back
his cowl showed the face of young Sir Henry of the Lea. Then Sir Henry
grasped his father's hand and said, "Here kneels one who hath served
thee well, King Richard, and, as thou knowest, hath stepped between thee
and death in Palestine; yet do I abide by my dear father, and here I say
also, that I would freely give shelter to this noble outlaw, Robin Hood,
even though it brought thy wrath upon me, for my father's honor and my
father's welfare are as dear to me as mine own."

King Richard looked from one to the other of the kneeling knights,
and at last the frown faded from his brow and a smile twitched at the
corners of his lips. "Marry, Sir Richard," quoth the King, "thou art
a bold-spoken knight, and thy freedom of speech weigheth not heavily
against thee with me. This young son of thine taketh after his sire both
in boldness of speech and of deed, for, as he sayeth, he stepped one
time betwixt me and death; wherefore I would pardon thee for his sake
even if thou hadst done more than thou hast. Rise all of you, for ye
shall suffer no harm through me this day, for it were pity that a merry
time should end in a manner as to mar its joyousness."

Then all arose and the King beckoned Robin Hood to come to him. "How
now," quoth he, "is thine ear still too deaf to hear me speak?"

"Mine ears would be deafened in death ere they would cease to hear Your
Majesty's voice," said Robin. "As for the blow that Your Majesty struck
me, I would say that though my sins are haply many, methinks they have
been paid up in full thereby."

"Thinkest thou so?" said the King with somewhat of sternness in
his voice. "Now I tell thee that but for three things, to wit, my
mercifulness, my love for a stout woodsman, and the loyalty thou hast
avowed for me, thine ears, mayhap, might have been more tightly closed
than ever a buffet from me could have shut them. Talk not lightly of thy
sins, good Robin. But come, look up. Thy danger is past, for hereby I
give thee and all thy band free pardon. But, in sooth, I cannot let you
roam the forest as ye have done in the past; therefore I will take thee
at thy word, when thou didst say thou wouldst give thy service to me,
and thou shalt go back to London with me. We will take that bold
knave Little John also, and likewise thy cousin, Will Scarlet, and thy
minstrel, Allan a Dale. As for the rest of thy band, we will take their
names and have them duly recorded as royal rangers; for methinks it
were wiser to have them changed to law-abiding caretakers of our deer in
Sherwood than to leave them to run at large as outlawed slayers thereof.
But now get a feast ready; I would see how ye live in the woodlands."

So Robin bade his men make ready a grand feast. Straightway great
fires were kindled and burned brightly, at which savory things roasted
sweetly. While this was going forward, the King bade Robin call Allan
a Dale, for he would hear him sing. So word was passed for Allan, and
presently he came, bringing his harp.

"Marry," said King Richard, "if thy singing match thy looks it is
fair enough. Prythee, strike up a ditty and let us have a taste of thy
skill."

Then Allan touched his harp lightly, and all words were hushed while he
sang thus:

     "'_Oh, where has thou been, my daughter?
     Oh, where hast thou been this day
     Daughter, my daughter?'
     'Oh, I have been to the river's side,
     Where the waters lie all gray and wide,
     And the gray sky broods o'er the leaden tide,
     And the shrill wind sighs a straining.'

     "'What sawest thou there, my daughter?
     What sawest thou there this day,
     Daughter, my daughter?'
     'Oh, I saw a boat come drifting nigh,
     Where the quivering rushes hiss and sigh,
     And the water soughs as it gurgles by,
     And the shrill wind sighs a straining.'

     "'What sailed in the boat, my daughter?
     What sailed in the boat this day,
     Daughter, my daughter?'
     'Oh, there was one all clad in white,
     And about his face hung a pallid light,
     And his eyes gleamed sharp like the stars at night,
     And the shrill wind sighed a straining.'

     "'And what said he, my daughter?
     What said he to thee this day,
     Daughter, my daughter?'
     'Oh, said he nought, but did he this:
     Thrice on my lips did he press a kiss,
     And my heartstrings shrunk with an awful bliss,
     And the shrill wind sighed a straining.'

     "'Why growest thou so cold, my daughter?
     Why growest thou so cold and white,
     Daughter, my daughter?'
     Oh, never a word the daughter said,
     But she sat all straight with a drooping head,
     For her heart was stilled and her face was dead:
     And the shrill wind sighed a straining_."

All listened in silence; and when Allan a Dale had done King Richard
heaved a sigh. "By the breath of my body, Allan," quoth he, "thou hast
such a wondrous sweet voice that it strangely moves my heart. But what
doleful ditty is this for the lips of a stout yeoman? I would rather
hear thee sing a song of love and battle than a sad thing like that.
Moreover, I understand it not; what meanest thou by the words?"

"I know not, Your Majesty," said Allan, shaking his head, "for ofttimes
I sing that which I do not clearly understand mine own self."

"Well, well," quoth the King, "let it pass; only I tell thee this,
Allan, thou shouldst turn thy songs to such matters as I spoke of, to
wit, love or war; for in sooth thou hast a sweeter voice than Blondell,
and methought he was the best minstrel that ever I heard."

But now one came forward and said that the feast was ready; so Robin
Hood brought King Richard and those with him to where it lay all spread
out on fair white linen cloths which lay upon the soft green grass. Then
King Richard sat him down and feasted and drank, and when he was done
he swore roundly that he had never sat at such a lusty repast in all his
life before.

That night he lay in Sherwood Forest upon a bed of sweet green
leaves, and early the next morning he set forth from the woodlands for
Nottingham Town, Robin Hood and all of his band going with him. You
may guess what a stir there was in the good town when all these famous
outlaws came marching into the streets. As for the Sheriff, he knew not
what to say nor where to look when he saw Robin Hood in such high favor
with the King, while all his heart was filled with gall because of the
vexation that lay upon him.

The next day the King took leave of Nottingham Town; so Robin Hood and
Little John and Will Scarlet and Allan a Dale shook hands with all the
rest of the band, kissing the cheeks of each man, and swearing that they
would often come to Sherwood and see them. Then each mounted his horse
and rode away in the train of the King.




Epilogue

THUS END the Merry Adventures of Robin Hood; for, in spite of his
promise, it was many a year ere he saw Sherwood again.

After a year or two at court Little John came back to Nottinghamshire,
where he lived in an orderly way, though within sight of Sherwood, and
where he achieved great fame as the champion of all England with the
quarterstaff. Will Scarlet after a time came back to his own home,
whence he had been driven by his unlucky killing of his father's
steward. The rest of the band did their duty as royal rangers right
well. But Robin Hood and Allan a Dale did not come again to Sherwood so
quickly, for thus it was:

Robin, through his great fame as an archer, became a favorite with
the King, so that he speedily rose in rank to be the chief of all the
yeomen. At last the King, seeing how faithful and how loyal he was,
created him Earl of Huntingdon; so Robin followed the King to the
wars, and found his time so full that he had no chance to come back to
Sherwood for even so much as a day. As for Allan a Dale and his wife,
the fair Ellen, they followed Robin Hood and shared in all his ups and
downs of life.

And now, dear friend, you who have journeyed with me in all these merry
doings, I will not bid you follow me further, but will drop your hand
here with a "good den," if you wish it; for that which cometh hereafter
speaks of the breaking up of things, and shows how joys and pleasures
that are dead and gone can never be set upon their feet to walk again.
I will not dwell upon the matter overlong, but will tell as speedily as
may be of how that stout fellow, Robin Hood, died as he had lived, not
at court as Earl of Huntingdon, but with bow in hand, his heart in the
greenwood, and he himself a right yeoman.

King Richard died upon the battlefield, in such a way as properly became
a lion-hearted king, as you yourself, no doubt, know; so, after a
time, the Earl of Huntingdon--or Robin Hood, as we still call him as of
old--finding nothing for his doing abroad, came back to merry England
again. With him came Allan a Dale and his wife, the fair Ellen, for
these two had been chief of Robin's household ever since he had left
Sherwood Forest.

It was in the springtime when they landed once more on the shores of
England. The leaves were green and the small birds sang blithely, just
as they used to do in fair Sherwood when Robin Hood roamed the woodland
shades with a free heart and a light heel. All the sweetness of the time
and the joyousness of everything brought back to Robin's mind his forest
life, so that a great longing came upon him to behold the woodlands once
more. So he went straightway to King John and besought leave of him to
visit Nottingham for a short season. The King gave him leave to come
and to go, but bade him not stay longer than three days at Sherwood. So
Robin Hood and Allan a Dale set forth without delay to Nottinghamshire
and Sherwood Forest.

The first night they took up their inn at Nottingham Town, yet they did
not go to pay their duty to the Sheriff, for his worship bore many a
bitter grudge against Robin Hood, which grudges had not been lessened
by Robin's rise in the world. The next day at an early hour they mounted
their horses and set forth for the woodlands. As they passed along the
road it seemed to Robin that he knew every stick and stone that his eyes
looked upon. Yonder was a path that he had ofttimes trod of a mellow
evening, with Little John beside him; here was one, now nigh choked with
brambles, along which he and a little band had walked when they went
forth to seek a certain curtal friar.

Thus they rode slowly onward, talking about these old, familiar things;
old and yet new, for they found more in them than they had ever thought
of before. Thus at last they came to the open glade, and the broad,
wide-spreading greenwood tree which was their home for so many years.
Neither of the two spoke when they stood beneath that tree. Robin looked
all about him at the well-known things, so like what they used to be and
yet so different; for, where once was the bustle of many busy fellows
was now the quietness of solitude; and, as he looked, the woodlands, the
greensward, and the sky all blurred together in his sight through salt
tears, for such a great yearning came upon him as he looked on these
things (as well known to him as the fingers of his right hand) that he
could not keep back the water from his eyes.

That morning he had slung his good old bugle horn over his shoulder,
and now, with the yearning, came a great longing to sound his bugle once
more. He raised it to his lips; he blew a blast. "Tirila, lirila," the
sweet, clear notes went winding down the forest paths, coming back again
from the more distant bosky shades in faint echoes of sound, "Tirila,
lirila, tirila, lirila," until it faded away and was lost.

Now it chanced that on that very morn Little John was walking through
a spur of the forest upon certain matters of business, and as he paced
along, sunk in meditation, the faint, clear notes of a distant bugle
horn came to his ear. As leaps the stag when it feels the arrow at its
heart, so leaped Little John when that distant sound met his ear. All
the blood in his body seemed to rush like a flame into his cheeks as he
bent his head and listened. Again came the bugle note, thin and clear,
and yet again it sounded. Then Little John gave a great, wild cry of
yearning, of joy, and yet of grief, and, putting down his head, he
dashed into the thicket. Onward he plunged, crackling and rending, as
the wild boar rushes through the underbrush. Little recked he of thorns
and briers that scratched his flesh and tore his clothing, for all
he thought of was to get, by the shortest way, to the greenwood glade
whence he knew the sound of the bugle horn came. Out he burst from the
covert, at last, a shower of little broken twigs falling about him, and,
without pausing a moment, rushed forward and flung himself at Robin's
feet. Then he clasped his arms around the master's knees, and all his
body was shaken with great sobs; neither could Robin nor Allan a Dale
speak, but stood looking down at Little John, the tears rolling down
their cheeks.

While they thus stood, seven royal rangers rushed into the open glade
and raised a great shout of joy at the sight of Robin; and at their
head was Will Stutely. Then, after a while, came four more, panting with
their running, and two of these four were Will Scathelock and Midge, the
Miller; for all of these had heard the sound of Robin Hood's horn. All
these ran to Robin and kissed his hands and his clothing, with great
sound of weeping.

After a while Robin looked around him with tear-dimmed eyes and said,
in a husky voice, "Now, I swear that never again will I leave these dear
woodlands. I have been away from them and from you too long. Now do I
lay by the name of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon, and take upon me once
again that nobler title, Robin Hood, the Yeoman." At this a great shout
went up, and all the yeomen shook one another's hands for joy.

The news that Robin Hood had come back again to dwell in Sherwood as
of old spread like wildfire all over the countryside, so that ere a
se'ennight had passed nearly all of his old yeomen had gathered about
him again. But when the news of all this reached the ears of King John,
he swore both loud and deep, and took a solemn vow that he would not
rest until he had Robin Hood in his power, dead or alive. Now there
was present at court a certain knight, Sir William Dale, as gallant a
soldier as ever donned harness. Sir William Dale was well acquainted
with Sherwood Forest, for he was head keeper over that part of it that
lay nigh to good Mansfield Town; so to him the King turned, and bade him
take an army of men and go straightway to seek Robin Hood. Likewise the
King gave Sir William his signet ring to show to the Sheriff, that he
might raise all his armed men to aid the others in their chase of Robin.
So Sir William and the Sheriff set forth to do the King's bidding and to
search for Robin Hood; and for seven days they hunted up and down, yet
found him not.

Now, had Robin Hood been as peaceful as of old, everything might have
ended in smoke, as other such ventures had always done before; but he
had fought for years under King Richard, and was changed from what he
used to be. It galled his pride to thus flee away before those sent
against him, as a chased fox flees from the hounds; so thus it came
about, at last, that Robin Hood and his yeomen met Sir William and the
Sheriff and their men in the forest, and a bloody fight followed. The
first man slain in that fight was the Sheriff of Nottingham, for he fell
from his horse with an arrow in his brain ere half a score of shafts had
been sped. Many a better man than the Sheriff kissed the sod that day,
but at last, Sir William Dale being wounded and most of his men slain,
he withdrew, beaten, and left the forest. But scores of good fellows
were left behind him, stretched out all stiff beneath the sweet green
boughs.

But though Robin Hood had beaten off his enemies in fair fight, all
this lay heavily upon his mind, so that he brooded over it until a fever
seized upon him. For three days it held him, and though he strove to
fight it off, he was forced to yield at last. Thus it came that, on the
morning of the fourth day, he called Little John to him, and told him
that he could not shake the fever from him, and that he would go to his
cousin, the prioress of the nunnery near Kirklees, in Yorkshire, who was
a skillful leech, and he would have her open a vein in his arm and take
a little blood from him, for the bettering of his health. Then he bade
Little John make ready to go also, for he might perchance need aid in
his journeying. So Little John and he took their leave of the others,
and Robin Hood bade Will Stutely be the captain of the band until they
should come back. Thus they came by easy stages and slow journeying
until they reached the Nunnery of Kirklees.

Now Robin had done much to aid this cousin of his; for it was through
King Richard's love of him that she had been made prioress of the place.
But there is nought in the world so easily forgot as gratitude; so,
when the Prioress of Kirklees had heard how her cousin, the Earl of
Huntingdon, had thrown away his earldom and gone back again to Sherwood,
she was vexed to the soul, and feared lest her cousinship with him
should bring the King's wrath upon her also. Thus it happened that when
Robin came to her and told her how he wished her services as leech, she
began plotting ill against him in her mind, thinking that by doing evil
to him she might find favor with his enemies. Nevertheless, she kept
this well to herself and received Robin with seeming kindness. She led
him up the winding stone stair to a room which was just beneath the
eaves of a high, round tower; but she would not let Little John come
with him.

So the poor yeoman turned his feet away from the door of the nunnery,
and left his master in the hands of the women. But, though he did not
come in, neither did he go far away; for he laid him down in a little
glade near by, where he could watch the place that Robin abided, like
some great, faithful dog turned away from the door where his master has
entered.

After the women had gotten Robin Hood to the room beneath the eaves, the
Prioress sent all of the others away; then, taking a little cord, she
tied it tightly about Robin's arm, as though she were about to bleed
him. And so she did bleed him, but the vein she opened was not one of
those that lie close and blue beneath the skin; deeper she cut than
that, for she opened one of those veins through which the bright red
blood runs leaping from the heart. Of this Robin knew not; for, though
he saw the blood flow, it did not come fast enough to make him think
that there was anything ill in it.

Having done this vile deed, the Prioress turned and left her cousin,
locking the door behind her. All that livelong day the blood ran from
Robin Hood's arm, nor could he check it, though he strove in every way
to do so. Again and again he called for help, but no help came, for his
cousin had betrayed him, and Little John was too far away to hear his
voice. So he bled and bled until he felt his strength slipping away from
him. Then he arose, tottering, and bearing himself up by the palms of
his hands against the wall, he reached his bugle horn at last. Thrice
he sounded it, but weakly and faintly, for his breath was fluttering
through sickness and loss of strength; nevertheless, Little John heard
it where he lay in the glade, and, with a heart all sick with dread, he
came running and leaping toward the nunnery. Loudly he knocked at the
door, and in a loud voice shouted for them to let him in, but the door
was of massive oak, strongly barred, and studded with spikes, so they
felt safe, and bade Little John begone.

Then Little John's heart was mad with grief and fear for his master's
life. Wildly he looked about him, and his sight fell upon a heavy stone
mortar, such as three men could not lift nowadays. Little John took
three steps forward, and, bending his back, heaved the stone mortar up
from where it stood deeply rooted. Staggering under its weight, he came
forward and hurled it crashing against the door. In burst the door, and
away fled the frightened nuns, shrieking, at his coming. Then Little
John strode in, and never a word said he, but up the winding stone steps
he ran till he reached the room wherein his master was. Here he found
the door locked also, but, putting his shoulder against it, he burst the
locks as though they were made of brittle ice.

There he saw his own dear master leaning against the gray stone wall,
his face all white and drawn, and his head swaying to and fro with
weakness. Then, with a great, wild cry of love and grief and pity,
Little John leaped forward and caught Robin Hood in his arms. Up he
lifted him as a mother lifts her child, and carrying him to the bed,
laid him tenderly thereon.

And now the Prioress came in hastily, for she was frightened at what she
had done, and dreaded the vengeance of Little John and the others of the
band; then she stanched the blood by cunning bandages, so that it flowed
no more. All the while Little John stood grimly by, and after she had
done he sternly bade her to begone, and she obeyed, pale and trembling.
Then, after she had departed, Little John spake cheering words, laughing
loudly, and saying that all this was a child's fright, and that no stout
yeoman would die at the loss of a few drops of blood. "Why," quoth he,
"give thee a se'ennight and thou wilt be roaming the woodlands as boldly
as ever."

But Robin shook his head and smiled faintly where he lay. "Mine own dear
Little John," whispered he, "Heaven bless thy kind, rough heart. But,
dear friend, we will never roam the woodlands together again."

"Ay, but we will!" quoth Little John loudly. "I say again, ay--out upon
it--who dares say that any more harm shall come upon thee? Am I not by?
Let me see who dares touch--" Here he stopped of a sudden, for his words
choked him. At last he said, in a deep, husky voice, "Now, if aught of
harm befalls thee because of this day's doings, I swear by Saint George
that the red cock shall crow over the rooftree of this house, for the
hot flames shall lick every crack and cranny thereof. As for these
women"--here he ground his teeth--"it will be an ill day for them!"

But Robin Hood took Little John's rough, brown fist in his white hands,
and chid him softly in his low, weak voice, asking him since what time
Little John had thought of doing harm to women, even in vengeance. Thus
he talked till, at last, the other promised, in a choking voice, that no
ill should fall upon the place, no matter what happened. Then a silence
fell, and Little John sat with Robin Hood's hand in his, gazing out of
the open window, ever and anon swallowing a great lump that came in his
throat. Meantime the sun dropped slowly to the west, till all the sky
was ablaze with a red glory. Then Robin Hood, in a weak, faltering
voice, bade Little John raise him that he might look out once more upon
the woodlands; so the yeoman lifted him in his arms, as he bade, and
Robin Hood's head lay on his friend's shoulder. Long he gazed, with a
wide, lingering look, while the other sat with bowed head, the hot tears
rolling one after another from his eyes, and dripping upon his bosom,
for he felt that the time of parting was near at hand. Then, presently,
Robin Hood bade him string his stout bow for him, and choose a smooth
fair arrow from his quiver. This Little John did, though without
disturbing his master or rising from where he sat. Robin Hood's fingers
wrapped lovingly around his good bow, and he smiled faintly when he felt
it in his grasp, then he nocked the arrow on that part of the string
that the tips of his fingers knew so well. "Little John," said he,
"Little John, mine own dear friend, and him I love better than all
others in the world, mark, I prythee, where this arrow lodges, and there
let my grave be digged. Lay me with my face toward the East, Little
John, and see that my resting place be kept green, and that my weary
bones be not disturbed."

As he finished speaking, he raised himself of a sudden and sat upright.
His old strength seemed to come back to him, and, drawing the bowstring
to his ear, he sped the arrow out of the open casement. As the shaft
flew, his hand sank slowly with the bow till it lay across his knees,
and his body likewise sank back again into Little John's loving arms;
but something had sped from that body, even as the winged arrow sped
from the bow.

For some minutes Little John sat motionless, but presently he laid that
which he held gently down, then, folding the hands upon the breast and
covering up the face, he turned upon his heel and left the room without
a word or a sound.

Upon the steep stairway he met the Prioress and some of the chief among
the sisters. To them he spoke in a deep, quivering voice, and said he,
"An ye go within a score of feet of yonder room, I will tear down
your rookery over your heads so that not one stone shall be left upon
another. Bear my words well in mind, for I mean them." So saying, he
turned and left them, and they presently saw him running rapidly across
the open, through the falling of the dusk, until he was swallowed up by
the forest.

The early gray of the coming morn was just beginning to lighten the
black sky toward the eastward when Little John and six more of the band
came rapidly across the open toward the nunnery. They saw no one, for
the sisters were all hidden away from sight, having been frightened by
Little John's words. Up the stone stair they ran, and a great sound of
weeping was presently heard. After a while this ceased, and then came
the scuffling and shuffling of men's feet as they carried a heavy weight
down the steep and winding stairs. So they went forth from the nunnery,
and, as they passed through the doors thereof, a great, loud sound of
wailing arose from the glade that lay all dark in the dawning, as though
many men, hidden in the shadows, had lifted up their voices in sorrow.

Thus died Robin Hood, at Kirklees Nunnery, in fair Yorkshire, with mercy
in his heart toward those that had been his undoing; for thus he showed
mercy for the erring and pity for the weak through all the time of his
living.

His yeomen were scattered henceforth, but no great ill befell them
thereafter, for a more merciful sheriff and one who knew them not so
well succeeding the one that had gone, and they being separated here and
there throughout the countryside, they abided in peace and quietness,
so that many lived to hand down these tales to their children and their
children's children.

A certain one sayeth that upon a stone at Kirklees is an old
inscription. This I give in the ancient English in which it was written,
and thus it runs:

HEAR UNDERNEAD DIS LAITL STEAN LAIS ROBERT EARL OF HUNTINGTUN NEA ARCIR
VER AS HIE SAE GEUD AN PIPL KAULD IM ROBIN HEUD SICK UTLAWS AS HI AN IS
MEN VIL ENGLAND NIDIR SI AGEN OBIIT 24 KAL. DEKEMBRIS 1247.


And now, dear friend, we also must part, for our merry journeyings have
ended, and here, at the grave of Robin Hood, we turn, each going his own
way.





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