Robin Hood, by J. Walker McSpadden
Part 2 out of 4
Will embraced his cousin no less heartily.
"We are quits on not knowing kinsmen," he said, "for you have
changed and strengthened much from the stripling with whom I used
to run foot races in old Sherwood."
"But why seek you me?" asked Robin. "You know I am an outlaw and
dangerous company. And how left you mine uncle? and have you
heard aught of late of--of Maid Marian?"
"Your last question first," answered Will, laughing, "for I
perceive that it lies nearest your heart. I saw Maid Marian not
many weeks after the great shooting at Nottingham, when you won
her the golden arrow. She prizes the bauble among her dearest
possessions, though it has made her an enemy in the Sheriff's
proud daughter. Maid Marian bade me tell you, if I ever saw you,
that she must return to Queen Eleanor's court, but she could
never forget the happy days in the greenwood. As for the old
Squire, he is still hale and hearty, though rheumatic withal. He
speaks of you as a sad young dog, but for all that is secretly
proud of your skill at the bow and of the way you are pestering
the Sheriff, whom he likes not. 'Twas for my father's sake that
I am now in the open, an outlaw like yourself. He has had a
steward, a surly fellow enough, who, while I was away at school,
boot-licked his way to favor until he lorded it over the whole
house. Then he grew right saucy and impudent, but my father
minded it not, deeming the fellow indispensable in managing the
estate. But when I came back it irked me sorely to see the
fellow strut about as though he owned the place. He was sly
enough with me at first, and would brow-beat the Squire only
while I was out of earshot. It chanced one day, however, that I
heard loud voices through an open window and paused to hearken.
That vile servant called my father 'a meddling old fool,' 'Fool
and meddler art thou thyself, varlet,' I shouted, springing
through the window, 'THAT for thy impudence!' and in my heat I
smote him a blow mightier than I intended, for I have some
strength in mine arm. The fellow rolled over and never breathed
afterwards, I think I broke his neck or something the like. Then
I knew that the Sheriff would use this as a pretext to hound my
father, if I tarried. So I bade the Squire farewell and told him
I would seek you in Sherwood."
"Now by my halidom!" said Robin Hood; "for a man escaping the
law, you took it about as coolly as one could wish. To see you
come tripping along decked out in all your gay plumage and
trolling forth a roundelay, one would think you had not a care in
all the world. Indeed I remarked to Little John here that I
hoped your purse was not as light as your heart."
"Belike you meant HEAD," laughed Will; "and is this Little John
the Great? Shake hands with me, an you will, and promise me to
cross a staff with me in friendly bout some day in the forest!"
"That will I!" quoth Little John heartily. "Here's my hand on
it. What is your last name again, say you?"
"'Tis to be changed," interposed Robin; "then shall the men armed
with warrants go hang for all of us. Let me bethink myself.
Ah!--I have it! In scarlet he came to us, and that shall be his
name henceforth. Welcome to the greenwood, Will Scarlet!"
"Aye, welcome, Will Scarlet!" said Little John; and they all
clasped hands again and swore to be true each to the other and to
Robin Hood's men in Sherwood Forest.
HOW ROBIN HOOD MET FRIAR TUCK
The friar took Robin Hood on his back,
Deep water he did bestride,
And spake neither good word nor bad,
Till he came at the other side.
In summer time when leaves grow green, and flowers are fresh and
gay, Robin Hood and his merry men were all disposed to play.
Thus runs a quaint old ballad which begins the next adventure.
Then some would leap and some would run and some try archery and
some ply the quarter-staff and some fall to with the good broad
sword. Some again would try a round at buffet and fisticuff; and
thus by every variety of sport and exercise they perfected
themselves in skill and made the band and its prowess well known
throughout all England.
It had been a custom of Robin Hood's to pick out the best men in
all the countryside. Whenever he heard of one more than usually
skilled in any feat of arms he would seek the man and test him in
personal encounter--which did not always end happily for Robin.
And when he had found a man to his liking he offered him service
with the bold fellows of Sherwood Forest.
Thus it came about that one day after a practice at shooting, in
which Little John struck down a hart at five hundred feet
distance, Robin Hood was fain to boast.
"God's blessing on your heart!" he cried, clapping the burly
fellow on the shoulder; "I would travel an hundred miles to find
one who could match you!"
At this Will Scarlet laughed full roundly.
"There lives a curtall friar in Fountain's Abbey--Tuck, by
name--who can beat both him and you," he said.
Robin pricked up his ears at this free speech.
"By our Lady," he said, "I'll neither eat nor drink till I see
this same friar."
And with his usual impetuosity he at once set about arming
himself for the adventure. On his head he placed a cap of steel.
Underneath his Lincoln green he wore a coat of chain metal. Then
with sword and buckler girded at his side he made a goodly show.
But he also took with him his stout yew bow and a sheaf of chosen
So he set forth upon his way with blithe heart; for it was a day
when the whole face of the earth seemed glad and rejoicing in
pulsing life. Steadily he pressed forward by winding ways till
he came to a green broad pasture land at whose edge flowed a
stream dipping in and out among the willows and rushes on the
banks. A pleasant stream it was, but it flowed calmly as though
of some depth in the middle. Robin did not fancy getting his
feet wet, or his fine suit of mail rusted, so he paused on the
hither bank to rest and take his bearings.
As he sat down quietly under the shade of a drooping willow he
heard snatches of a jovial song floating to him from the farther
side; then came a sound of two men's voices arguing. One was
upholding the merits of hasty pudding and the other stood out
stoutly for meat pie, "especially--quoth this one--"when flavored
with young onions!"
"Gramercy!" muttered Robin to himself, "that is a tantalizing
speech to a hungry man! But, odds bodikins! did ever two men
talk more alike than those two fellows yonder!"
In truth Robin could well marvel at the speech, for the voices
were curiously alike.
Presently the willows parted on the other bank, and Robin could
hardly forebear laughing out right. His mystery was explained.
It was not two men who had done all this singing and talking, but
one--and that one a stout curtall friar who wore a long cloak
over his portly frame, tied with a cord in the middle. On his
head was a knight's helmet, and in his hand was a no more warlike
weapon than a huge pasty pie, with which he sat down by the
water's edge. His twofold argument was finished. The meat pie
had triumphed; and no wonder! for it was the present witness,
soon to give its own testimony.
But first the friar took off his helmet to cool his head, and a
droll picture he made. His head was as round as an apple, and
eke as smooth in spots. A fringe of close curling black hair
grew round the base of his skull, but his crown was bare and
shiny as an egg. His cheeks also were smooth and red and shiny;
and his little gray eyes danced about with the funniest air
imaginable. You would not have blamed Robin Hood for wanting to
laugh, had you heard this serious two-faced talk and then seen
this jovial one-faced man. Good humor and fat living stood out
all over him; yet for all that he looked stout enough and able to
take care of himself with any man. His short neck was thick like
that of a Berkshire bull; his shoulders were set far back, and
his arms sprouted therefrom like two oak limbs. As he sat him
down, the cloak fell apart disclosing a sword and buckler as
stout as Robin's own.
Nathless, Robin was not dismayed at sight of the weapons.
Instead, his heart fell within him when he saw the meat pie which
was now in fair way to be devoured before his very eyes; for the
friar lost no time in thrusting one hand deep into the pie, while
he crossed himself with the other.
Thereupon Robin seized his bow and fitted a shaft.
"Hey, friar!" he sang out, "carry me over the water, or else I
cannot answer for your safety."
The other started at the unexpected greeting, and laid his hand
upon his sword. Then he looked up and beheld Robin's arrow
pointing full upon him.
"Put down your bow, fellow," he shouted back, "and I will bring
you over the brook. 'Tis our duty in life to help each other,
and your keen shaft shows me that you are a man worthy of some
attention." So the friar knight got him up gravely, though his
eyes twinkled with a cunning light, and laid aside his beloved
pie and his cloak and his sword and his buckler, and waded across
the stream with waddling dignity. Then he took Robin Hood upon
his back and spoke neither good word nor bad till he came to the
Lightly leaped Robin off his back, and said, "I am much beholden
to you, good father."
"Beholden, say you!" rejoined the other drawing his sword; "then
by my faith you shall e'en repay your score. Now mine own
affairs, which are of a spiritual kind and much more important
than yours which are carnal, lie on the other side of this
stream. I see that you are a likely man and one, moreover, who
would not refuse to serve the church. I must therefore pray of
you that whatsoever I have done unto you, you will do also unto
me. In short, my son, you must e'en carry me back again."
Courteously enough was this said; but so suddenly had the friar
drawn his sword that Robin had no time to unsling his bow from
his back, whither he had placed it to avoid getting it wet, or to
unfasten his scabbard. So he was fain to temporize.
"Nay, good father, but I shall get my feet wet," he commenced.
"Are your feet any better than mine?" retorted the other. "I
fear me now that I have already wetted myself so sadly as to lay
in a store of rheumatic pains by way of penance."
"I am not so strong as you," continued Robin; "that helmet and
sword and buckler would be my undoing on the uncertain footing
amidstream, to say nothing of your holy flesh and bones."
"Then I will lighten up, somewhat," replied the other calmly.
"Promise to carry me across and I will lay aside my war gear."
"Agreed," said Robin; and the friar thereupon stripped himself;
and Robin bent his stout back and took him up even as he had
Now the stones at the bottom of the stream were round and
slippery, and the current swept along strongly, waist-deep, in
the middle. More-over Robin had a heavier load than the other
had borne, nor did he know the ford. So he went stumbling along
now stepping into a deep hole, now stumbling over a boulder in a
manner that threatened to unseat his rider or plunge them both
clear under current. But the fat friar hung on and dug his heels
into his steed's ribs in as gallant manner as if he were riding
in a tournament; while as for poor Robin the sweat ran down him
in torrents and he gasped like the winded horse he was. But at
last he managed to stagger out on the bank and deposit his
No sooner had he set the friar down than he seized his own sword.
"Now, holy friar," quoth he, panting and wiping the sweat from
his brow, "what say the Scriptures that you quote so glibly?--Be
not weary of well doing. You must carry me back again or I swear
that I will make a cheese-cloth out of your jacket!"
The friar's gray eyes once more twinkled with a cunning gleam
that boded no good to Robin; but his voice was as calm and
courteous as ever.
"Your wits are keen, my son," he said; "and I see that the waters
of the stream have not quenched your spirit. Once more will I
bend my back to the oppressor and carry the weight of the
So Robin mounted again in high glee, and carried his sword in his
hand, and went prepared to tarry upon the other side. But while
he was bethinking himself what great words to use, when he should
arrive thither, he felt himself slipping from the friar's broad
back. He clutched frantically to save himself but had too round
a surface to grasp, besides being hampered by his weapon. So
down went he with a loud splash into the middle of the stream,
where the crafty friar had conveyed him.
"There!" quoth the holy man; "choose you, choose you, my fine
fellow, whether you will sink or swim!" And he gained his own
bank without more ado, while Robin thrashed and spluttered about
until he made shift to grasp a willow wand and thus haul himself
ashore on the other side.
Then Robin's rage waxed furious, despite his wetting, and he took
his bow and his arrows and let fly one shaft after another at the
worthy friar. But they rattled harmlessly off his steel buckler,
while he laughed and minded them no more than if they had been
"Shoot on, shoot on, good fellow," he sang out; "shoot as you
have begun; if you shoot here a summer's day, your mark I will
So Robin shot, and passing well, till all his arrows were gone,
when from very rage he began to revile him.
"You bloody villain!" shouted he, "You psalm-singing hypocrite!
You reviler of good hasty pudding! Come but within reach of my
sword arm, and, friar or no friar, I'll shave your tonsure closer
than ever bald-pated monk was shaven before!"
"Soft you and fair!" said the friar unconcernedly; "hard words
are cheap, and you may need your wind presently. An you would
like a bout with swords, meet me halfway i' the stream."
And with this speech the friar waded into the brook, sword in
hand, where he was met halfway by the impetuous outlaw.
Thereupon began a fierce and mighty battle. Up and down, in and
out, back and forth they fought. The swords flashed in the rays
of the declining sun and then met with a clash that would have
shivered less sturdy weapons or disarmed less sturdy wielders.
Many a smart blow was landed, but each perceived that the other
wore an undercoat of linked mail which might not be pierced.
Nathless, their ribs ached at the force of the blows. Once and
again they paused by mutual consent and caught breath and looked
hard each at the other; for never had either met so stout a
Finally in a furious onset of lunge and parry Robin's foot
stepped on a rolling stone, and he went down upon his knees. But
his antagonist would not take this advantage: he paused until
Robin should get upon his feet.
"Now by our Lady!" cried the outlaw, using his favorite oath,
"you are the fairest swordsman that I have met in many a long
day. I would beg a boon of you."
"What is it?" said the other.
"Give me leave to set my horn to my mouth and blow three blasts
"That will I do," said the curtall friar, "blow till your breath
fails, an it please you."
Then, says the old ballad, Robin Hood set his horn to mouth and
blew mighty blasts; and half a hundred yeomen, bows bent, came
raking over the lee.
"Whose men are these," said the friar, "that come so hastily?"
"These men are mine," said Robin Hood, feeling that his time to
laugh was come at last.
Then said the friar in his turn, "A boon, a boon, the like I gave
to you. Give me leave to set my fist to my mouth and whistle
three blasts thereon."
"That will I do," said Robin, "or else I were lacking in
The friar set his fist to his mouth and put the horn to shame by
the piercing whistles he blew; whereupon half a hundred great
dogs came running and jumping so swiftly that they had reached
their bank as soon as Robin Hood's men had reached his side.
Then followed a rare foolish conflict. Stutely, Much, Little
John and the other outlaws began sending their arrows whizzing
toward the opposite bank; but the dogs, which were taught of the
friar, dodged the missiles cleverly and ran and fetched them back
again, just as the dogs of to-day catch sticks.
"I have never seen the like of this in my days!" cried Little
"'Tis rank sorcery and witchcraft."
"Take off your dogs, Friar Tuck!" shouted Will Scarlet, who had
but then run up, and who now stood laughing heartily at the
"Friar Tuck!" exclaimed Robin, astounded. "Are you Friar Tuck?
Then am I your friend, for you are he I came to seek."
"I am but a poor anchorite, a curtall friar," said the other,
whistling to his pack, "by name Friar Tuck of Fountain's Dale.
For seven years have I tended the Abbey here, preached o'
Sundays, and married and christened and buried folk--and fought
too, if need were; and if it smacks not too much of boasting, I
have not yet met the knight or trooper or yeoman that I would
yield before. But yours is a stout blade. I would fain know
"'Tis Robin Hood, the outlaw, who has been assisting you at this
christening," said Will Scarlet glancing roguishly at the two
opponents' dripping garments. And at this sally the whole bad
burst into a shout of laughter, in which Robin and Friar Tuck
"Robin Hood!" cried the good friar presently, holding his sides;
"are you indeed that famous yeoman? Then I like you well; and
had I known you earlier, would have both carried you across and
shared my pasty pie with you."
"To speak soothly," replied Robin gaily, "'twas that same pie
that led me to be rude. Now, therefore, bring it and your dogs
and repair with us to the greenwood. We have need of you--with
this message came I to-day to seek you. We will build you a
hermitage in Sherwood Forest, and you shall keep us from evil
ways. Will you not join our band?"
"Marry, that will I!" cried Friar Tuck jovially. "Once more will
I cross this much beforded stream, and go with you to the good
HOW ALLAN-A-DALE'S WOOING WAS PROSPERED
"What is thy name?" then said Robin Hood,
"Come tell me, without any fail"
"By the faith o' my body," then said the young man,
"My name it is Allan-a-Dale."
Friar Tuck and Much the miller's son soon became right good
friends over the steaming stew they jointly prepared for the
merry men that evening. Tuck was mightily pleased when he found
a man in the forest who could make pasties and who had cooked for
no less person than the High Sheriff himself. While Much
marveled at the friar's knowledge of herbs and simples and
woodland things which savored a stew greatly. So they gabbled
together like two old gossips and, between them, made such a
tasty mess that Robin Hood and his stout followers were like
never to leave off eating. And the friar said grace too, with
great unction, over the food; and Robin said Amen! and that
henceforth they were always to have mass of Sundays.
So Robin walked forth into the wood that evening with his stomach
full and his heart, therefore, in great contentment and love for
other men. He did not stop the first passer-by, as his manner
often was, and desire a fight. Instead, he stepped behind a
tree, when he heard a man's voice in song, and waited to behold
the singer. Perhaps he remembered, also, the merry chanting of
Will Scarlet, and how he had tried to give it pause a few days
Like Will, this fellow was clad in scarlet, though he did not
look quite as fine a gentleman. Nathless, he was a sturdy yeoman
of honest face and a voice far sweeter than Will's. He seemed to
be a strolling minstrel, for he bore a harp in his hand, which he
thrummed, while his lusty tenor voice rang out with--
"Hey down, and a down, and a down!
I've a lassie back i' the town;
Come day, come night, Come dark or light,
She will wed me, back i' the town!"
Robin let the singer pass, caroling on his way.
"'Tis not in me to disturb a light-hearted lover, this night," he
muttered, a memory of Marian coming back to him. "Pray heaven
she may be true to him and the wedding be a gay one 'back i' the
So Robin went back to his camp, where he told of the minstrel.
"If any of ye set on him after this," quoth he in ending, "bring
him to me, for I would have speech with him."
The very next day his wish was gratified. Little John and Much
the miller's son were out together on a foraging expedition when
they espied the same young man; at least, they thought it must be
he, for he was clad in scarlet and carried a harp in his hand.
But now he came drooping along the way; his scarlet was all in
tatters; and at every step he fetched a sigh, "Alack and a
Then stepped forth Little John and Much the miller's son.
"Ho! do not wet the earth with your weeping," said Little John,
"else we shall all have lumbago."
No sooner did the young man catch sight of them than he bent his
bow, and held an arrow back to his ear.
"Stand off! stand off!" he said; "what is your will with me?"
"Put by your weapon," said Much, "we will not harm you. But you
must come before our master straight, under yon greenwood tree."
So the minstrel put by his bow and suffered himself to be led
before Robin Hood.
"How now!" quoth Robin, when he beheld his sorry countenance,
"are you not he whom I heard no longer ago than yesternight
caroling so blithely about 'a lassie back i' the town'?"
"The same in body, good sir," replied the other sadly; "but my
spirit is grievously changed."
"Tell me your tale," said Robin courteously. "Belike I can help
"That can no man on earth, I fear," said the stranger; "nathless,
I'll tell you the tale. Yesterday I stood pledged to a maid, and
thought soon to wed her. But she has been taken from me and is
to become an old knight's bride this very day; and as for me, I
care not what ending comes to my days, or how soon, without her."
"Marry, come up!" said Robin; "how got the old knight so sudden
"Look you, worship, 'tis this way. The Normans overrun us, and
are in such great favor that none may say them nay. This old
returned Crusader coveted the land whereon my lady dwells. The
estate is not large, but all in her own right; whereupon her
brother says she shall wed a title, and he and the old knight
have fixed it up for to-day."
"Nay, but surely--" began Robin.
"Hear me out, worship," said the other. "Belike you think me a
sorry dog not to make fight of this. But the old knight, look
you, is not come-at-able. I threw one of his varlets into a
thorn hedge, and another into a water-butt, and a third landed
head-first into a ditch. But I couldn't do any fighting at all."
"'Tis a pity!" quoth Little John gravely. He had been sitting
cross-legged listening to this tale of woe. "What think you,
Friar Tuck, doth not a bit of fighting ease a man's mind?"
"Blood-letting is ofttimes recommended of the leeches," replied
"Does the maid love you?" asked Robin Hood.
"By our troth, she loved me right well," said the minstrel. "I
have a little ring of hers by me which I have kept for seven long
"What is your name?" then said Robin Hood.
"By the faith of my body," replied the young man, "my name is
"What will you give me, Allan-a-Dale," said Robin Hood, "in ready
gold or fee, to help you to your true love again, and deliver her
back unto you?"
"I have no money, save only five shillings," quoth Allan;
"but--are you not Robin Hood?"
"Then you, if any one, can aid me!" said Allan-a-Dale eagerly.
"And if you give me back my love, I swear upon the Book that I
will be your true servant forever after."
"Where is this wedding to take place, and when?" asked Robin.
"At Plympton Church, scarce five miles from here; and at three o'
"Then to Plympton we will go!" cried Robin suddenly springing
into action; and he gave out orders like a general: "Will
Stutely, do you have four-and-twenty good men over against
Plympton Church 'gainst three o' the afternoon. Much, good
fellow, do you cook up some porridge for this youth, for he must
have a good round stomach--aye, and a better gear! Will Scarlet,
you will see to decking him out bravely for the nonce. And Friar
Tuck, hold yourself in readiness, good book in hand, at the
church. Mayhap you had best go ahead of us all."
The fat Bishop of Hereford was full of pomp and importance that
day at Plympton Church. He was to celebrate the marriage of an
old knight--a returned Crusader--and a landed young woman; and
all the gentry thereabout were to grace the occasion with their
presence. The church itself was gaily festooned with flowers for
the ceremony, while out in the church-yard at one side brown ale
flowed freely for all the servitors.
Already were the guests beginning to assemble, when the Bishop,
back in the vestry, saw a minstrel clad in green walk up boldly
to the door and peer within. It was Robin Hood, who had borrowed
Allan's be-ribboned harp for the time.
"Now who are you, fellow?" quoth the Bishop, "and what do you
here at the church-door with you harp and saucy air?"
"May it please your Reverence," returned Robin bowing very
humbly, "I am but a strolling harper, yet likened the best in the
whole North Countree. And I had hope that my thrumming might add
zest to the wedding to-day."
"What tune can you harp?" demanded the Bishop.
"I can harp a tune so merry that a forlorn lover will forget he
is jilted," said Robin. "I can harp another tune that will make
a bride forsake her lord at the altar. I can harp another tune
that will bring loving souls together though they were up hill
and down dale five good miles away from each other."
"Then welcome, good minstrel," said the Bishop, "music pleases me
right well, and if you can play up to your prattle, 'twill indeed
grace your ceremony. Let us have a sample of your wares."
"Nay, I must not put finger to string until the bride and groom
have come. Such a thing would ill fortune both us and them."
"Have it as you will," said the Bishop, "but here comes the party
Then up the lane to the church came the old knight, preceded by
ten archers liveried in scarlet and gold. A brave sight the
archers made, but their master walked slowly leaning upon a cane
and shaking as though in a palsy.
And after them came a sweet lass leaning upon her brother's arm.
Her hair did shine like glistering gold, and her eyes were like
blue violets that peep out shyly at the sun. The color came and
went in her cheeks like that tinting of a sea-shell, and her face
was flushed as though she had been weeping. But now she walked
with a proud air, as though she defied the world to crush her
spirit. She had but two maids with her, finikin lasses, with
black eyes and broad bosoms, who set off their lady's more
delicate beauty well. One held up the bride's gown from the
ground; the other carried flowers in plenty.
"Now by all the wedding bells that ever were rung!" quoth Robin
boldly, "this is the worst matched pair that ever mine eyes
"Silence, miscreant!" said a man who stood near.
The Bishop had hurriedly donned his gown and now stood ready to
meet the couple at the chancel.
But Robin paid no heed to him. He let the knight and his ten
archers pass by, then he strode up to the bride, and placed
himself on the other side from her brother.
"Courage, lady!" he whispered, "there is another minstrel near,
who mayhap may play more to your liking."
The lady glanced at him with a frightened air, but read such
honesty and kindness in his glance that she brightened and gave
him a grateful look.
"Stand aside, fool!" cried the brother wrathfully.
"Nay, but I am to bring good fortune to the bride by accompanying
her through the church-doors," said Robin laughing.
Thereupon he was allowed to walk by her side unmolested, up to
the chancel with the party.
"Now strike up your music, fellow!" ordered the Bishop.
"Right gladly will I," quoth Robin, "an you will let me choose my
instrument. For sometimes I like the harp, and other times I
think the horn makes the merriest music in all the world."
And he drew forth his bugle from underneath his green cloak and
blew three winding notes that made the church--rafters ring
"Seize him!" yelled the Bishop; "there's mischief afoot! These
are the tricks of Robin Hood!"
The ten liveried archers rushed forward from the rear of the
church, where they had been stationed. But their rush was
blocked by the onlookers who now rose from their pews in alarm
and crowded the aisles. Meanwhile Robin had leaped lightly over
the chancel rail and stationed himself in a nook by the altar.
"Stand where you are!" he shouted, drawing his bow, "the first
man to pass the rail dies the death. And all ye who have come to
witness a wedding stay in your seats. We shall e'en have one,
since we are come into the church. But the bride shall choose her
Then up rose another great commotion at the door, and
four-and-twenty good bowmen came marching in with Will Stutely at
their head. And they seized the ten liveried archers and the
bride's scowling brother and the other men on guard and bound
Then in came Allan-a-Dale, decked out gaily, with Will Scarlet
for best man. And they walked gravely down the aisle and stood
over against the chancel.
"Before a maiden weds she chooses--an the laws of good King Harry
be just ones," said Robin. "Now, maiden, before this wedding
continues, whom will you have to husband?"
The maiden answered not in words, but smiled with a glad light in
her eyes, and walked over to Allan and clasped her arms about his
"That is her true love," said Robin. "Young Allan instead of the
gouty knight. And the true lovers shall be married at this time
before we depart away. Now my lord Bishop, proceed with the
"Nay, that shall not be," protested the Bishop; "the banns must
be cried three times in the church. Such is the law of our
"Come here, Little John," called Robin impatiently; and plucked
off the Bishop's frock from his back and put it on the yeoman.
Now the Bishop was short and fat, and Little John was long and
lean. The gown hung loosely over Little John's shoulders and
came only to his waist. He was a fine comical sight, and the
people began to laugh consumedly at him.
"By the faith o' my body," said Robin, "this cloth makes you a
man. You're the finest Bishop that ever I saw in my life. Now
cry the banns."
So Little John clambered awkwardly into the quire, his short gown
fluttering gaily; and he called the banns for the marriage of the
maid and Allan-a-Dale once, twice, and thrice.
"That's not enough," said Robin; "your gown is so short that you
must talk longer."
Then Little John asked them in the church four, five, six, and
"Good enough!" said Robin. "Now belike I see a worthy friar in
the back of this church who can say a better service than ever my
lord Bishop of Hereford. My lord Bishop shall be witness and
seal the papers, but do you, good friar, bless this pair with
book and candle."
So Friar Tuck, who all along had been back in one corner of the
church, came forward; and Allan and his maid kneeled before him,
while the old knight, held an unwilling witness, gnashed his
teeth in impotent rage; and the friar began with the ceremony.
When he asked, "Who giveth this woman?" Robin stepped up and
answered in a clear voice:
"I do! I, Robin Hood of Barnesdale and Sherwood! And he who
takes her from Allan-a-Dale shall buy her full dearly."
So the twain were declared man and wife and duly blessed; and the
bride was kissed by each sturdy yeoman beginning with Robin Hood.
Now I cannot end this jolly tale better than in the words of the
ballad which came out of the happening and which has been sung in
the villages and countryside ever since:
"And thus having end of this merry wedding,
The bride lookt like a queen;
And so they returned to the merry greenwood
Amongst the leaves so green."
HOW THE WIDOW'S THREE SONS WERE RESCUED
Now Robin Hood is to Nottingham gone,
With a link a down and a down,
And there he met with the proud Sheriff,
Was walking along the town.
The wedding-party was a merry one that left Plympton Church, I
ween; but not so merry were the ones left behind. My lord Bishop
of Hereford was stuck up in the organ-loft and left, gownless and
fuming. The ten liveried archers were variously disposed about
the church to keep him company; two of them being locked in a
tiny crypt, three in the belfry, "to ring us a wedding peal," as
Robin said; and the others under quire seats or in the vestry.
The bride's brother at her entreaty was released, but bidden not
to return to the church that day or interfere with his sister
again on pain of death. While the rusty old knight was forced to
climb a high tree, where he sat insecurely perched among the
branches, feebly cursing the party as it departed.
It was then approaching sundown, but none of the retainers or
villagers dared rescue the imprisoned ones that night, for fear
of Robin Hood's men. So it was not until sunup the next day,
that they were released. The Bishop and the old knight, stiff as
they were, did not delay longer than for breakfast, but so great
was their rage and shame--made straight to Nottingham and levied
the Sheriff's forces. The Sheriff himself was not anxious to try
conclusions again with Robin in the open. Perhaps he had some
slight scruples regarding his oath. But the others swore that
they would go straight to the King, if he did not help them, so
he was fain to consent.
A force of an hundred picked men from the Royal Foresters and
swordsmen of the shire was gathered together and marched
straightway into the greenwood. There, as fortune would have it,
they surprised some score of outlaws hunting, and instantly gave
chase. But they could not surround the outlaws, who kept well in
the lead, ever and anon dropping behind a log or boulder to speed
back a shaft which meant mischief to the pursuers. One shaft
indeed carried off the Sheriff's hat and caused that worthy man
to fall forward upon his horse's neck from sheer terror; while
five other arrows landed in the fleshy parts of Foresters' arms.
But the attacking party was not wholly unsuccessful. One outlaw
in his flight stumbled and fell; when two others instantly
stopped and helped to put him on his feet again. They were the
widow's three sons, Stout Will, and Lester, and John. The pause
was an unlucky one for them, as a party of Sheriff's men got
above them and cut them off from their fellows. Swordsmen came
up in the rear, and they were soon hemmed in on every side. But
they gave good account of themselves, and before they had been
overborne by force of numbers they had killed two and disabled
The infuriated attackers were almost on the point of hewing the
stout outlaws to pieces, when the Sheriff cried:
"Hold! Bind the villains! We will follow the law in this and
take them to the town jail. But I promise ye the biggest public
hanging that has been seen in this shire for many changes of the
So they bound the widow's three sons and carried them back
speedily to Nottingham.
Now Robin Hood had not chanced to be near the scene of the fight,
or with his men; so for a time he heard nothing of the happening.
But that evening while returning to the camp he was met by the
widow herself, who came weeping along the way.
"What news, what news, good woman?" said Robin hastily but
courteously; for he liked her well.
"God save ye, Master Robin!" said the dame wildly. "God keep ye
from the fate that has met my three sons! The Sheriff has laid
hands on them and they are condemned to die."
"Now, by our Lady! That cuts me to the heart! Stout Will, and
Lester, and merry John! The earliest friends I had in the band,
and still among the bravest! It must not be! When is this
"Middle the. tinker tells me that it is for tomorrow noon,"
replied the dame.
"By the truth o' my body," quoth Robin, "you could not tell me in
better time. The memory of the old days when you freely bade me
sup and dine would spur me on, even if three of the bravest lads
in all the shire were not imperiled. Trust to me, good woman!"
The old widow threw herself on the ground and embraced his knees.
"'Tis dire danger I am asking ye to face," she said weeping; "and
yet I knew your brave true heart would answer me. Heaven help
ye, good Master Robin, to answer a poor widow's prayers!"
Then Robin Hood sped straightway to the forest-camp, where he
heard the details of the skirmish--how that his men had been
out-numbered five to one, but got off safely, as they thought,
until a count of their members had shown the loss of the widow's
"We must rescue them, my men!" quoth Robin, "even from out the
shadow of the rope itself!"
Whereupon the band set to work to devise ways and means.
Robin walked apart a little way with his head leaned thoughtfully
upon his breast--for he was sore troubled--when whom should he
meet but an old begging palmer, one of a devout order which made
pilgrimages and wandered from place to place, supported by
This old fellow walked boldly up to Robin and asked alms of him;
since Robin had been wont to aid members of his order.
"What news, what news, thou foolish old man?" said Robin, "what
news, I do thee pray?"
"Three squires in Nottingham town," quoth the palmer, "are
condemned to die. Belike that is greater news than the shire has
had in some Sundays."
Then Robin's long-sought idea came to him like a flash.
"Come, change thine apparel with me, old man," he said, "and I'll
give thee forty shillings in good silver to spend in beer or
"O, thine apparel is good," the palmer protested, "and mine is
ragged and torn. The holy church teaches that thou should'st
ne'er laugh an old man to scorn."
"I am in simple earnest, I say. Come, change thine apparel with
mine. Here are twenty pieces of good broad gold to feast they
brethren right royally."
So the palmer was persuaded; and Robin put on the old man's hat,
which stood full high in the crown; and his cloak, patched with
black and blue and red, like Joseph's coat of many colors in its
old age; and his breeches, which had been sewed over with so many
patterns that the original was scarce discernible; and his
tattered hose; and his shoes, cobbled above and below. And while
as he made the change in dress he made so many whimsical comments
also about a man's pride and the dress that makes a man, that the
palmer was like to choke with cackling laughter.
I warrant you, the two were comical sights when they parted
company that day. Nathless, Robin's own mother would not have
known him, had she been living.
The next morning the whole town of Nottingham was early astir,
and as soon as the gates were open country-folk began to pour in;
for a triple hanging was not held there every day in the week,
and the bustle almost equated a Fair day.
Robin Hood in his palmer's disguise was one of the first ones to
enter the gates, and he strolled up and down and around the town
as though he had never been there before in all his life.
Presently he came to the market-place, and beheld thereon three
"Who are these builded for, my son?" asked he of a rough soldier
"For three of Robin Hood's men," answered the other. "And it
were Robin himself, 'twould be thrice as high I warrant ye. But
Robin is too smart to get within the Sheriff's clutches again."
The palmer crossed himself.
"They say that he is a bold fellow," he whined.
"Ha!" said the soldier, "he may be bold enough out behind stumps
i' the forest, but the open market-place is another matter."
"Who is to hang these three poor wretches?" asked the palmer.
"That hath the Sheriff not decided. But here he comes now to
answer his own questions." And the soldier came to stiff
attention as the Sheriff and his body-guard stalked pompously up
to inspect the gallows.
"O, Heaven save you, worshipful Sheriff!" said the palmer.
"Heaven protect you! What will you give a silly old man to-day
to be your hangman?"
"Who are you, fellow?" asked the Sheriff sharply.
"Naught save a poor old palmer. But I can shrive their souls and
hang their bodies most devoutly."
"Very good," replied the other. "The fee to-day is thirteen
pence; and I will add thereunto some suits of clothing for that
ragged back of yours."
"God bless ye!" said the palmer. And he went with the soldier to
the jail to prepare his three men for execution.
Just before the stroke of noon the doors of the prison opened and
the procession of the condemned came forth. Down through the
long lines of packed people they walked to the market-place, the
palmer in the lead, and the widow's three sons marching firmly
erect between soldiers.
At the gallows foot they halted. The palmer whispered to them,
as though offering last words of consolation; and the three men,
with arms bound tightly behind their backs, ascended the
scaffold, followed by their confessor.
Then Robin stepped to the edge of the scaffold, while the people
grew still as death; for they desired to hear the last words
uttered to the victims. But Robin's voice did not quaver forth
weakly, as formerly, and his figure had stiffened bolt upright
beneath the black robe that covered his rags.
"Hark ye, proud Sheriff!" he cried. "I was ne'er a hangman in
all my life, nor do I now intend to begin that trade. Accurst be
he who first set the fashion of hanging! I have but three more
words to say. Listen to them!"
And forth from the robe he drew his horn and blew three loud
blasts thereon. Then his keen hunting-knife flew forth and in a
trice, Stout Will, Lester, and merry John were free men and had
sprung forward and seized the halberds from the nearest soldiers
guarding the gallows.
"Seize them! 'Tis Robin Hood!" screamed the Sheriff, "an hundred
pounds if ye hold them, dead or alive!"
"I make it two hundred!" roared the fat Bishop.
But their voices were drowned in the uproar that ensued
immediately after Robin blew his horn. He himself had drawn his
sword and leaped down the stairs from the scaffold, followed by
his three men. The guard had closed around them in vain effort
to disarm them, when "A rescuer" shouted Will Stutely's clear
voice on one side of them, and "A rescue!" bellowed Little John's
on the other; and down through the terror-stricken crowd rushed
fourscore men in Lincoln green, their force seeming twice that
number in the confusion. With swords drawn they fell upon the
guard from every side at once. There was a brief clash of hot
weapons, then the guard scattered wildly, and Robin Hood's men
formed in a compact mass around their leader and forced their way
slowly down the market-place.
"Seize them! In the King's name!" shrieked the Sheriff. "Close
In truth, the peril would have been even greater, had this last
order been carried out. But Will Scarlet and Allan-a-Dale had
foreseen that event, and had already overpowered the two warders.
So the gates stood wide open, and toward them the band of outlaws
The soldiers rallied a force of twice their number and tried
resolutely to pierce their center. But the retreating force
turned thrice and sent such volleys of keen arrows from their
good yew bows, that they kept a distance between the two forces.
And thus the gate was reached, and the long road leading up the
hill, and at last the protecting greenwood itself. The soldiers
dared come no farther. And the widow's three sons, I warrant
you, supped more heartily that night than ever before in their
HOW A BEGGAR FILLED THE PUBLIC EYE
Good Robin accost him in his way,
To see what he might be;
If any beggar had money,
He thought some part had he.
One bright morning, soon after the stirring events told in the
last chapter, Robin wandered forth alone down the road to
Barnesdale, to see if aught had come of the Sheriff's pursuit.
But all was still and serene and peaceful. No one was in sight
save a solitary beggar who came sturdily along his way in Robin's
direction. The beggar caught sight of Robin, at the same moment,
as he emerged from the trees, but gave no sign of having seen
him. He neither slackened nor quickened his pace, but jogged
forward merrily, whistling as he came, and beating time by
punching holes in the dusty road with the stout pike-staff in his
The curious look of the fellow arrested Robin's attention, and he
decided to stop and talk with him. The fellow was bare-legged
and bare-armed, and wore a long shift of a shirt, fastened with a
belt. About his neck hung a stout, bulging bag, which was
buckled by a good piece of leather thong.
He had three hats upon his head,
Together sticked fast,
He cared neither for the wind nor wet,
In lands where'er he past.
The fellow looked so fat and hearty, and the wallet on his
shoulder seemed so well filled, that Robin thought within
"Ha! this is a lucky beggar for me! If any of them have money,
this is the chap, and, marry, he should share it with us poorer
So he flourished his own stick and planted himself in the
"Sirrah, fellow!" quoth he; "whither away so fast? Tarry, for I
would have speech with ye!"
The beggar made as though he heard him not, and kept straight on
with his faring.
"Tarry, I say, fellow!" said Robin again; "for there's a way to
make folks obey!"
"Nay, 'tis not so," answered the beggar, speaking for the first
time; "I obey no man in all England, not even the King himself.
So let me pass on my way, for 'tis growing late, and I have still
far to go before I can care for my stomach's good."
"Now, by my troth," said Robin, once more getting in front of the
other, "I see well by your fat countenance, that you lack not for
good food, while I go hungry. Therefore you must lend me of your
means till we meet again, so that I may hie to the nearest
"I have no money to lend," said the beggar crossly. "Methinks
you are as young a man as 1, and as well able to earn a supper.
So go your way, and I'll go mine. If you fast till you get aught
out of me, you'll go hungry for the next twelvemonth."
"Not while I have a stout stick to thwack your saucy bones!"
cried Robin. "Stand and deliver, I say, or I'll dust your shirt
for you; and if that will not teach you manners, then we'll see
what a broad arrow can do with a beggar's skin!"
The beggar smiled, and answered boast with boast. "Come on with
your staff, fellow! I care no more for it than for a pudding
stick. And as for your pretty bow--THAT for it!"
And with amazing quickness, he swung his pike-staff around and
knocked Robin's bow clean out of his hand, so that his fingers
smarted with pain. Robin danced and tried to bring his own staff
into action; but the beggar never gave him a chance. Biff!
whack! came the pike-staff, smiting him soundly and beating down
There were but two things to do; either stand there and take a
sound drubbing, or beat a hasty retreat. Robin chose the
latter--as you or I would probably have done--and scurried back
into the wood, blowing his horn as he went.
"Fie, for shame, man!" jeered the bold beggar after him. "What
is your haste? We had but just begun. Stay and take your money,
else you will never be able to pay your reckoning at the tavern!"
But Robin answered him never a word. He fled up hill and down
dale till he met three of his men who were running up in answer
to his summons.
"What is wrong?" they asked.
"'Tis a saucy beggar," said Robin, catching his breath. "He is
back there on the highroad with the hardest stick I've met in a
good many days. He gave me no chance to reason with him, the
The men--Much and two of the widow's sons--could scarce conceal
their mirth at the thought of Robin Hood running from a beggar.
Nathless, they kept grave faces, and asked their leader if he was
"Nay," he replied, "but I shall speedily feel better if you will
fetch me that same beggar and let me have a fair chance at him."
So the three yeomen made haste and came out upon the highroad and
followed after the beggar, who was going smoothly along his way
again, as though he were at peace with all the world.
"The easiest way to settle this beggar," said Much, "is to
surprise him. Let us cut through yon neck of woods and come upon
him before he is aware."
The others agreed to this, and the three were soon close upon
"Now!" quoth Much; and the other two sprang quickly upon the
beggar's back and wrested his pike-staff from his hand. At the
same moment Much drew his dagger and flashed it before the
"Yield you, my man!" cried he; "for a friend of ours awaits you
in the wood, to teach you how to fight properly."
"Give me a fair chance," said the beggar valiantly, "and I'll
fight you all at once."
But they would not listen to him. Instead, they turned him about
and began to march him toward the forest. Seeing that it was
useless to struggle, the beggar began to parley.
"Good my masters," quoth he, "why use this violence? I will go
with ye safe and quietly, if ye insist, but if ye will set me
free I'll make it worth your while. I've a hundred pounds in my
bag here. Let me go my way, and ye shall have all that's in the
The three outlaws took council together at this.
"What say you?" asked Much of the others. "Our master will be
more glad to see this beggar's wallet than his sorry face."
The other two agreed, and the little party came to a halt and
loosed hold of the beggar.
"Count out your gold speedily, friend," said Much. There was a
brisk wind blowing, and the beggar turned about to face it,
directly they had unhanded him.
"It shall be done, gossips," said he. "One of you lend me your
cloak and we will spread it upon the ground and put the wealth
The cloak was handed him, and he placed his wallet upon it as
though it were very heavy indeed. Then he crouched down and
fumbled with the leather fastenings. The outlaws also bent over
and watched the proceeding closely, lest he should hide some of
the money on his person. Presently he got the bag unfastened and
plunged his hands into it. Forth from it he drew--not shining
gold--but handfuls of fine meal which he dashed into the eager
faces of the men around him. The wind aided him in this, and
soon there arose a blinding cloud which filled the eyes, noses,
and mouths of the three outlaws till they could scarcely see or
While they gasped and choked and sputtered and felt around wildly
for that rogue of a beggar, he finished the job by picking up the
cloak by its corners and shaking it vigorously in the faces of
his suffering victims. Then he seized a stick which lay
conveniently near, and began to rain blows down upon their heads,
shoulders, and sides, all the time dancing first on one leg, then
on the other, and crying,
"Villains! rascals! here are the hundred pounds I promised. How
do you like them? I' faith, you'll get all that's in the bag."
Whack! whack! whack! whack! went the stick, emphasizing each
word. Howls of pain might have gone up from the sufferers, but
they had too much meal in their throats for that. Their one
thought was to flee, and they stumbled off blindly down the road,
the beggar following them a little way to give them a few parting
"Fare ye well, my masters," he said finally turning the other
way; "and when next I come along the Barnesdale road, I hope you
will be able to tell gold from meal dust!"
With this he departed, an easy victor, and again went whistling
on his way, while the three outlaws rubbed the meal out of their
eyes and began to catch their breath again.
As soon as they could look around them clearly, they beheld Robin
Hood leaning against a tree trunk and surveying them smilingly.
He had recovered his own spirits in full measure, on seeing their
"God save ye, gossips!" he said, "ye must, in sooth, have gone
the wrong way and been to the mill, from the looks of your
Then when they looked shamefaced and answered never a word, he
went on, in a soft voice,
"Did ye see aught of that bold beggar I sent you for, lately?"
"In sooth, master," responded Much the miller's son, "we heard
more of him than we saw him. He filled us so full of meal that I
shall sweat meal for a week. I was born in a mill, and had the
smell of meal in my nostrils from my very birth, you might say,
and yet never before did I see such a quantity of the stuff in so
And he sneezed violently.
"How was that?" asked Robin demurely.
"Why we laid hold of the beggar, as you did order, when he
offered to pay for his release out of the bag he carried upon his
"The same I coveted," quoth Robin as if to himself.
"So we agreed to this," went on Much, "and spread a cloak down,
and he opened his bag and shook it thereon. Instantly a great
cloud of meal filled the air, whereby we could neither see nor
breathe; and in the midst of this cloud he vanished like a
"But not before he left certain black and blue spots, to be
remembered by, I see," commented Robin.
"He was in league with the evil one," said one of the widow's
sons, rubbing himself ruefully.
Then Robin laughed outright, and sat him down upon the gnarled
root of a tree, to finish his merriment.
"Four bold outlaws, put to rout by a sorry beggar!" cried he. "I
can laugh at ye, my men, for I am in the same boat with ye. But
'twould never do to have this tale get abroad--even in the
greenwood--how that we could not hold our own with the odds in
our favor. So let us have this little laugh all to ourselves,
and no one else need be the wiser!"
The others saw the point of this, and felt better directly,
despite their itching desire to get hold of the beggar again.
And none of the four ever told of the adventure.
But the beggar must have boasted of it at the next tavern; or a
little bird perched among the branches of a neighboring oak must
have sung of it. For it got abroad, as such tales will, and was
put into a right droll ballad which, I warrant you, the four
outlaws did not like to hear.
HOW ROBIN HOOD FOUGHT GUY OF GISBORNE
"I dwell by dale and down," quoth he,
"And Robin to take I'm sworn;
And when I am called by my right name,
I am Guy of good Gisborne."
Some weeks passed after the rescue of the widow's three sons;
weeks spent by the Sheriff in the vain effort to entrap Robin
Hood and his men. For Robin's name and deeds had come to the
King's ears, in London town, and he sent word to the Sheriff to
capture the outlaw, under penalty of losing his office. So the
Sheriff tried every manner of means to surprise Robin Hood in the
forest, but always without success. And he increased the price
put upon Robin's head, in the hope that the best men of the
kingdom could be induced to try their skill at a capture.
Now there was a certain Guy of Gisborne, a hireling knight of the
King's army, who heard of Robin and of the price upon his head.
Sir Guy was one of the best men at the bow and the sword in all
the King's service. But his heart was black and treacherous. He
obtained the King's leave forthwith to seek out the forester; and
armed with the King's scroll he came before the Sheriff at
"I have come to capture Robin Hood," quoth he, "and mean to have
him, dead or alive."
"Right gladly would I aid you," answered the Sheriff, "even if
the King's seal were not sufficient warrant. How many men need
"None," replied Sir Guy, "for I am convinced that forces of men
can never come at the bold robber. I must needs go alone. But
do you hold your men in readiness at Barnesdale, and when you
hear a blast from this silver bugle, come quickly, for I shall
have the sly Robin within my clutches."
"Very good," said the Sheriff. "Marry, it shall be done." And he
set about giving orders, while Guy of Gisborne sallied forth
Now as luck would have it, Will Scarlet and Little John had gone
to Barnesdale that very day to buy suits of Lincoln green for
certain of the yeomen who had come out at the knees and elbows.
But not deeming it best for both of them to run their necks into
a noose, together, they parted just outside the town, and Will
went within the gates, while John tarried and watched at the brow
of the hill on the outside.
Presently whom should he see but this same Will flying madly
forth from the gates again, closely pursued by the Sheriff and
threescore men. Over the moat Will sprang, through the bushes
and briars, across the swamp, over stocks and stones, up the
woodland roads in long leaps like a scared jack rabbit. And
after him puffed the Sheriff and his men, their force scattering
out in the flight as one man would tumble head-first into a
ditch, another mire up in the swamp, another trip over a rolling
stone, and still others sit down on the roadside and gasp for
wind like fish out of water.
Little John could not forbear laughing heartily at the scene,
though he knew that 'twould be anything but a laughing matter if
Will should stumble. And in truth one man was like to come upon
him. It was William-a-Trent, the best runner among the Sheriff's
men. He had come within twenty feet of Scarlet and was leaping
upon him with long bounds like a greyhound, when John rose up
quickly, drew his bow and let fly one of his fatal shafts. It
would have been better for William-a-Trent to have been abed with
sorrow--says the ballad--than to be that day in the greenwood
slade to meet with Little John's arrow. He had run his last
The others halted a moment in consternation, when the shaft came
hurtling down from the hill; but looking up they beheld none save
Little John, and with a cry of fierce joy they turned upon him.
Meanwhile Will Scarlet had reached the brow of the hill and sped
down the other side.
"I'll just send one more little message of regret to the
Sheriff," said Little John, "before I join Will."
But this foolhardy deed was his undoing, for just as the arrow
left the string, the good yew bow that had never before failed
him snapped in twain.
"Woe worth, woe worth thee, wicked wood, that ere thou grew on a
tree!" cursed Little John, and planted his feet resolutely in the
earth resolved to sell the path dearly; for the soldiers were now
so close upon him that he dared not turn.
And a right good account of himself he gave that day, dealing
with each man as he came up according to his merit. And so
winded were the pursuers when they reached the top of the hill
that he laid out the first ten of them right and left with huge
blows of his brawny fist.
But if five men can do more than three, a score can overcome one.
A body of archers stood off at a prudent distance and covered
Little John with their arrows.
"Now yield you!" panted the Sheriff. "Yield you, Little John, or
Reynold Greenleaf, or whatever else name you carry this day!
Yield you, or some few of these shafts will reach your heart!"
"Marry, my heart has been touched by your words ere now," said
Little John; "and I yield me."
So the Sheriff's men laid hold of Little John and bound him fast
with many cords, so fearful were they lest he should escape. And
the Sheriff laughed aloud in glee, and thought of how he should
avenge his stolen plate, and determined to make a good day's work
"By the Saints!" he said, "you shall be drawn by dale and down,
and hanged high on a hill in Barnesdale this very day."
"Hang and be hanged!" retorted the prisoner. "You may fail of
your purpose if it be Heaven's will."
Back down the hill and across the moor went the company speedily,
for they feared a rescue. And as they went the stragglers joined
them. Here a man got up feebly out of the ditch and rubbed his
pate and fell in like a chicken with the pip going for its
dinner. Yonder came hobbling a man with a lame ankle, or another
with his shins torn by the briars or another with his jacket all
muddy from the marsh. So in truth it was a tatterdemalion crew
that limped and straggled and wandered back into Barnesdale that
day. Yet all were merry, for the Sheriff had promised them
flagons of wine, and moreover they were to hang speedily the
boldest outlaw in England, next to Robin Hood himself.
The gallows was quickly put up and a new rope provided.
"Now up with you!" commanded the Sheriff, "and let us see if your
greenwood tricks will avail you to-morrow."
"I would that I had bold Robin's horn," muttered poor John;
"methinks 'tis all up with me even as the Sheriff hath spoken."
In good sooth the time was dire and pressing. The rope was
placed around the prisoner's neck and the men prepared to haul
"Are you ready?" called the Sheriff. "One--two--"
But before the "three" left his lips the faint sound of a silver
bugle came floating over the hill.
"By my troth, that is Sir Guy of Gisborne's horn," quoth the
Sheriff; "and he bade me not to delay answering its summons. He
has caught Robin Hood."
"Pardon, Excellency," said one of his men; "but if he has caught
Robin Hood, this is a merry day indeed. And let us save this
fellow and build another gallows and hang them both together."
"That's a brave thought!" said the Sheriff slapping his knee.
"Take the rascal down and bind him fast to the gallows-tree
against our return."
So Little John was made fast to the gallows-tree, while the
Sheriff and all his men who could march or hobble went out to get
Robin Hood and bring him in for the double hanging.
Let us leave talking of Little John and the Sheriff, and see what
has become of Robin Hood.
In the first place, he and Little John had come near having a
quarrel that self-same morning because both had seen a curious
looking yeoman, and each wanted to challenge him singly. But
Robin would not give way to his lieutenant, and that is why John,
in a huff, had gone with Will to Barnesdale.
Meanwhile Robin approached the curious looking stranger. He
seemed to be a three-legged creature at first sight, but on
coming nearer you would have seen that 'twas really naught but a
poorly clad man, who for a freak had covered up his rags with a
capul-hide, nothing more nor less than the sun-dried skin of a
horse, complete with head, tail, and mane. The skin of the head
made a helmet; while the tail gave the curious three-legged
"Good-morrow, good fellow," said Robin cheerily, "methinks by the
bow you bear in your hand that you should be a good archer."
"Indifferent good," said the other returning his greeting; "but
'tis not of archery that I am thinking this morning, for I have
lost my way and would fain find it again."
"By my faith, I could have believed 'twas your wits you'd lost!"
thought Robin smiling. Then aloud: "I'll lead you through the
wood," quoth he, "an you will tell me your business. For belike
your speech is much gentler than your attire."
"Who are you to ask me my business?" asked the other roughly.
"I am one of the King's Rangers," replied Robin, "set here to
guard his deer against curious looking strollers."
"Curious looking I may be," returned the other, "but no stroller.
Hark ye, since you are a Ranger, I must e'en demand your service.
I am on the King's business and seek an outlaw. Men call him
Robin Hood. Are you one of his men?"--eyeing him keenly.
"Nay, God forbid!" said Robin; "but what want you with him?"
"That is another tale. But I'd rather meet with that proud
outlaw than forty good pounds of the King's money."
Robin now saw how the land lay.
"Come with me, good yeoman," said he, "and belike, a little later
in the day, I can show you Robin's haunts when he is at home.
Meanwhile let us have some pastime under the greenwood tree. Let
us first try the mastery at shooting arrows."
The other agreed, and they cut down two willow wands of a
summer's growth that grew beneath a brier, and set them up at a
distance of threescore yards.
"Lead on, good fellow," quoth Robin. "The first shot to you."
"Nay, by my faith," said the other, "I will follow your lead."
So Robin stepped forth and bent his bow carelessly and sent his
shaft whizzing toward the wand, missing it by a scant inch. He
of the horse-hide followed with more care yet was a good
three-fingers' breadth away. On the second round, the stranger
led off and landed cleverly within the small garland at the top
of the wand; but Robin shot far better and clave the wand itself,
clean at the middle.
"A blessing on your heart!" shouted Capul-Hide; "never saw I such
shooting as that! Belike you are better than Robin Hood himself.
But you have not yet told me your name."
"Nay, by my faith,"quoth Robin, "I must keep it secret till you
have told me your own."
"I do not disdain to tell it," said the other. "I dwell by dale
and down, and to take bold Robin am I sworn. This would I tell
him to his face, were he not so great a craven. When I am called
by my right name, I am Guy of Gisborne."
This he said with a great show of pride, and he strutted back and
forth, forgetful that he had just been beaten at archery.
Robin eyed him quietly. "Methinks I have heard of you elsewhere.
Do you not bring men to the gallows for a living?"
"Aye, but only outlaws such as Robin Hood."
"But pray what harm has Robin Hood done you?"
"He is a highway robber," said Sir Guy, evading the question.
"Has he ever taken from the rich that he did not give again to
the poor? Does he not protect the women and children and side
with weak and helpless? Is not his greatest crime the shooting
of a few King's deer?"
"Have done with your sophistry," said Sir Guy impatiently. "I am
more than ever of opinion that you are one of Robin's men
"I have told you I am not," quoth Robin briefly. "But if I am to
help you catch him, what is your plan?"
"Do you see this silver bugle?" said the other. "A long blast
upon it will summon the Sheriff and all his men, when once I have
Robin within my grasp. And if you show him to me, I'll give you
the half of my forty pounds reward."
"I would not help hang a man for ten times forty pounds," said
the outlaw. "Yet will I point out Robin to you for the reward I
find at my sword's point. I myself am Robin Hood of Sherwood and
"Then have at you!" cried the other springing swiftly into
action. His sword leaped forth from beneath the horse's hide
with the speed born of long practice, and before Robin had come
to guard, the other had smitten at him full and foul. Robin
eluded the lunge and drew his own weapon.
"A scurvy trick!" quoth he grimly, "to strike at a man
Then neither spoke more, but fell sternly to work--lunge and
thrust and ward and parry--for two full hours the weapons smote
together sullenly, and neither Robin Hood nor Sir Guy would yield
an inch. I promise you that if you could have looked forth on
the fight from behind the trunk of some friendly tree, you would
have seen deadly sport such as few men beheld in Sherwood Forest.
For the fighters glared sullenly at each other, the fires of
hatred burning in their eyes. One was fighting for his life; the
other for a reward and the King's favor.
Still circled the bright blades swiftly in the air--now gleaming
in the peaceful sunlight--again hissing like maddened serpents.
Neither had yet touched the other, until Robin, in an unlucky
moment, stumbled over the projecting root of a tree; when Sir
Guy, instead of giving him the chance to recover himself, as any
courteous knight would have done, struck quickly at the falling
man and wounded him in the left side.
"Ah, dear Lady in Heaven," gasped Robin uttering his favorite
prayer, "shield me now! 'Twas never a man's destiny to die
before his day."
And adroitly he sprang up again, and came straight at the other
with an awkward but unexpected stroke. The knight had raised his
weapon high to give a final blow, when Robin reached beneath and
across his guard. One swift lunge, and Sir Guy of Gisborne
staggered backward with a deep groan, Robin's sword through his
Robin looked at the slain man regretfully.
"You did bring it upon yourself," said he; "and traitor and
hireling though you were, I would not willingly have killed you."
He looked to his own wound. It was not serious, and he soon
staunched the blood and bound up the cut. Then he dragged the
dead body into the bushes, and took off the horse's hide and put
it upon himself. He placed his own cloak upon Sir Guy, and
marked his face so none might tell who had been slain. Robin's
own figure and face were not unlike the other's.
Pulling the capul-hide well over himself, so that the helmet hid
most of his face, Robin seized the silver bugle and blew a long
blast. It was the blast that saved the life of Little John, over
in Barnesdale, for you and I have already seen how it caused the
fond Sheriff to prick up his ears and stay the hanging, and go
scurrying up over the hill and into the wood with his men in
search of another victim.
In five-and-twenty minutes up came running a score of the
Sheriff's best archers.
"Did you signal us, lording?" they asked, approaching Robin.
"Aye," said he, going to meet the puffing Sheriff.
"What news, what news, Sir Guy?" said that officer.
"Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne had a fight; and he that wears
Robin's cloak lies under the covert yonder."
"The best news I have heard in all my life!" exclaimed the
Sheriff rubbing his hands. "I would that we could have saved him
for the hanging--though I cannot now complain."
"The hanging?" repeated Robin.
"Yes. This is our lucky day on the calendar. After you left me
we narrowly missed running one of the fellows--I believe 'twas
Will Scarlet--to earth; and another who came to his relief we
were just about to hang, when your horn blew."
"Who was the other?" asked the disguised outlaw.
"Whom do you suppose?" laughed the Sheriff. "The best man in the
greenwood, next to Robin Hood himself--Little John, Reynold
Greenleaf!" For the Sheriff could not forget the name Little
John had borne under his own roof at Nottingham.
"Little John!" thought Robin with a start. Verily that was a
lucky blast of the bugle! "But I see you have not escaped
without a scratch," continued the Sheriff, becoming talkative
through pure glee. "Here, one of you men! Give Sir Guy of
Gisborne your horse; while others of you bury that dog of an
outlaw where he lies. And let us hasten back to Barnesdale and
finish hanging the other."
So they put spurs to their horses, and as they rode Robin forced
himself to talk merrily, while all the time he as planning the
best way to succor Little John.
"A boon, Sheriff," he said as they reached the gates of the town.
"What is it, worthy sir? You have but to speak."
"I do not want any of your gold, for I have had a brave fight.
But now that I have slain the master, let me put an end to the
man; so it shall be said that Guy of Gisborne despatched the two
greatest outlaws of England in one day."
"Have it as you will," said the Sheriff, "but you should have
asked a knight's fee and double your reward, and it would have
been yours. It isn't every man that can take Robin Hood."
"No, Excellency," answered Robin. "I say it without boasting,
that no man took Robin Hood yesterday and none shall take him
Then he approached Little John, who was still tied to the
gallows-tree; and he said to the Sheriff's men, "Now stand you
back here till I see if the prisoner has been shrived." And he
stooped swiftly, and cut Little John's bonds, and thrust into his
hands Sir Guy's bow and arrows, which he had been careful to
"'Tis I, Robin!" he whispered. But in truth, Little John knew it
already, and had decided there was to be no hanging that day.
Then Robin blew three loud blasts upon his own horn, and drew
forth his own bow; and before the astonished Sheriff and his men
could come to arms the arrows were whistling in their midst in no
And look! Through the gates and over the walls came pouring
another flight of arrows! Will Scarlet and Will Stutely had
watched and planned a rescue ever since the Sheriff and Robin
rode back down the hill. Now in good time they came; and the
Sheriff's demoralized force turned tail and ran, while Robin and
Little John stood under the harmless gallows, and sped swift
arrows after them, and laughed to see them go.
Then they joined their comrades and hasted back to the good
greenwood, and there rested. They had got enough sport for one
HOW MAID MARIAN CAME BACK TO SHERWOOD FOREST; ALSO, HOW ROBIN
HOOD CAME BEFORE QUEEN ELEANOR
But Robin Hood, he himself had disguis'd,
And Marian was strangely attir'd,
That they proved foes, and so fell to blows,
Whose valor bold Robin admir'd.
And when he came at London's court,
He fell down on his knee.
"Thou art welcome, Lockesley," said the Queen,
"And all thy good yeomandree."
Now it fell out that one day not long thereafter, Robin was
minded to try his skill at hunting. And not knowing whom he
might meet in his rambles, he stained his face and put on a
sorry-looking jacket and a long cloak before he sallied forth.
As he walked, the peacefulness of the morning came upon him, and
brought back to his memory the early days so long ago when he had
roamed these same glades with Marian. How sweet they seemed to
him now, and how far away! Marian, too, the dainty friend of his
youth--would he ever see her again? He had thought of her very
often of late, and each time with increasing desire to hear her
clear voice and musical laugh, and see her eyes light up at his
Perhaps the happiness of Allen-a-Dale and his lady had caused
Robin's heart-strings to vibrate more strongly; perhaps, too, the
coming of Will Scarlet. But, certes, Robin was anything but a
hunter this bright morning as he walked along with head drooping
in a most love-lorn way.
Presently a hart entered the glade in full view of him, grazing
peacefully, and instantly the man of action awoke. His bow was
drawn and a shaft all but loosed, when the beast fell suddenly,
pierced by a clever arrow from the far side of the glade.
Then a handsome little page sprang gleefully from the covert and
ran toward the dying animal. This was plainly the archer, for he
flourished his bow aloft, and likewise bore a sword at his side,
though for all that he looked a mere lad.
Robin approached the hart from the other side.
"How dare you shoot the King's beasts, stripling?" he asked
"I have as much right to shoot them as the King himself,"
answered the page haughtily. "How dare you question me?"
The voice stirred Robin strongly. It seemed to chime into his
memories of the old days. He looked at the page sharply, and the
other returned the glance, straight and unafraid.
"Who are you, my lad?" Robin said more civilly.
"No lad of yours, and my name's my own," retorted the other with
"Softly! Fair and softly, sweet page, or we of the forest will
have to teach you manners!" said Robin.
"Not if YOU stand for the forest!" cried the page, whipping out
his sword. "Come, draw, and defend yourself!"
He swung his blade valiantly; and Robin saw nothing for it but to
draw likewise. The page thereupon engaged him quite fiercely,
and Robin found that he had many pretty little tricks at fencing.
Nathless, Robin contented himself with parrying, and was loth to
exert all his superior strength upon the lad. So the fight
lasted for above a quarter of an hour, at the end of which time
the page was almost spent and the hot blood flushed his cheeks in
a most charming manner.
The outlaw saw his distress, and to end the fight allowed himself
to be pricked slightly on the wrist.
"Are you satisfied, fellow?" asked the page, wincing a little at
sight of the blood.
"Aye, honestly," replied Robin; "and now perhaps you will grant
me the honor of knowing to whom I owe this scratch?"
"I am Richard Partington, page to Her Majesty, Queen Eleanor,"
answered the lad with dignity; and again the sound of his voice
troubled Robin sorely.
"Why come you to the greenwood alone, Master Partington?"
The lad considered his answer while wiping his sword with a small
lace kerchief. The action brought a dim confused memory to
Robin. The lad finally looked him again in the eye.
"Forester, whether or no you be a King's man, know that I seek
one Robin Hood, an outlaw, to whom I bring amnesty from the
Queen. Can you tell me aught of him?" And while awaiting his
answer, he replaced the kerchief in his shirt. As he did so, the
gleam of a golden trophy caught the outlaw's eye.
Robin started forward with a joyful cry.
"Ah! I know you now! By the sight of yon golden arrow won at
the Sheriff's tourney, you are she on whom I bestowed it, and
none other than Maid Marian!"
"You--are--?" gasped Marian, for it was she; "not Robin!"
"Robin's self!" said he gaily; and forthwith, clad as he was in
rags, and stained of face, he clasped the dainty page close to
his breast, and she forsooth yielded right willingly.
"But Robin!" she exclaimed presently, "I knew you not, and was
rude, and wounded you!"
"'Twas nothing," he replied laughingly, "so long as it brought me
But she made more ado over the sore wrist than Robin had received
for all his former hurts put together. And she bound it with the
little kerchief, and said, "Now 'twill get well!" and Robin was
convinced she spoke the truth, for he never felt better in all
his life. The whole woods seemed tinged with a roseate hue,
since Marian had come again.
But she, while happy also, was ill at ease; and Robin with a
man's slow discernment at last saw that it was because of her
boy's attire. He thought bluntly that there was naught to be
ashamed of, yet smilingly handed her his tattered long cloak,
which she blushingly put on, and forthwith recovered her spirits
Then they began to talk of each other's varied fortunes, and of
the many things which had parted them; and so much did they find
to tell that the sun had begun to decline well into the afternoon
before they realized how the hours sped.
"I am but a sorry host!" exclaimed Robin, springing to his feet.
"I have not once invited you to my wild roof."
"And I am but a sorry page," replied Marian; "for I had clean
forgot that I was Richard Partington, and really did bring you a
message from Queen Eleanor!"
"Tell me on our way home, and there you shall be entrusted to
Mistress Dale. While the first of my men we meet will I send
back for your deer."
So she told him, as they walked back through the glade, how that
the fame of his prowess had reached Queen Eleanor's ears, in
London town. And the Queen had said, "Fain would I see this bold
yeoman, and behold his skill at the long-bow." And the Queen had
promised him amnesty if he and four of his archers would repair
to London against the next tournament the week following, there
to shoot against King Henry's picked men, of whom the King was
right vain. All this Marian told in detail, and added:
"When I heard Her Majesty say she desired to see you, I asked
leave to go in search of you, saying I had known you once. And
the Queen was right glad, and bade me go, and sent this gold ring
to you from off her finger, in token of her faith."
Then Robin took the ring and bowed his head and kissed it
loyally. "By this token will I go to London town," quoth he,
"and ere I part with the Queen's pledge, may the hand that bears
it be stricken off at the wrist!" By this time they were come to
the grove before the cave, and Robin presented Maid Marian to the
band, who treated her with the greatest respect. Will Scarlet was
especially delighted to greet again his old time friend, while
Allan-a-Dale and his good wife bustled about to make her welcome
in their tiny thatched cottage.
That evening after they had supped royally upon the very hart
that Marian had slain, Allan sang sweet songs of Northern
minstrelsy to the fair guest as she sat by Robin's side, the
golden arrow gleaming in her dark hair. The others all joined in
the chorus, from Will Scarlet's baritone to Friar Tuck's heavy
bass. Even Little John essayed to sing, although looked at
threateningly by Much the miller's son.
Then Robin bade Marian repeat her message from the Queen, which
Marian did in a way befitting the dignity of her royal mistress.
After which the yeomen gave three cheers for the Queen and three
more for her page, and drank toasts to them both, rising to their
"Ye have heard," quoth Robin standing forth, "how that Her
Majesty--whom God preserve!--wishes but four men to go with me.
Wherefore, I choose Little John and Will Stutely, my two
lieutenants, Will Scarlet, my cousin, and Allan-a-Dale, my
minstrel. Mistress Dale, also, can go with her husband and be
company for the Queen's page. We will depart with early morning,
decked in our finest. So stir ye, my lads! and see that not only
your tunics are fresh, but your swords bright and your bows and
arrows fit. For we must be a credit to the Queen as well as the
good greenwood. You, Much, with Stout Will, Lester, and John,
the widow's three sons, shall have command of the band while we
are away; and Friar Tuck shall preside over the needs of your
souls and stomachs."
The orders were received with shouts of approval, and toasts all
around were drunk again in nut-brown ale, ere the company
dispersed to rest after making ready for the journey.
The next morning was as fine a summer's day as ever you want to
see, and the green leaves of the forest made a pleasing
background for the gay picture of the yeomen setting forth. Says
the old ballad--it was a seemly sight to see how Robin Hood
himself had dressed, and all his yeomanry. He clothed his men in
Lincoln green, and himself in scarlet red, with hats of black and
feathers white to bravely deck each head. Nor were the two
ladies behind-hand, I ween, at the bedecking.
Thus the chosen party of seven sallied forth being accompanied to
the edge of the wood by the whole band, who gave them a merry
parting and Godspeed!
The journey to London town was made without incident. The party
proceeded boldly along the King's highroad, and no man met them
who was disposed to say them nay. Besides, the good Queen's
warrant and ring would have answered for them, as indeed it did
at the gates of London. So on they sped and in due course came
to the palace itself and awaited audience with the Queen.
Now the King had gone that day to Finsbury Field, where the
tourney was soon to be held, in order to look over the lists and
see some of his picked men whom he expected to win against all
comers. So much had he boasted of these men, that the Queen had
secretly resolved to win a wager of him. She had heard of the
fame of Robin Hood and his yeomen, as Marian had said; and Marian
on her part had been overjoyed to be able to add a word in their
favor and to set out in search of them.
To-day the Queen sat in her private audience-room chatting
pleasantly with her ladies, when in came Mistress Marian
Fitzwalter attired again as befitted her rank of lady-in-waiting.
She courtesied low to the Queen and awaited permission to speak.
"How now!" said the Queen smiling; "is this my lady Marian, or
the page, Richard Partington?"
"Both, an it please Your Majesty. Richard found the man you
sought, while Marian brought him to you."
"Where is he?" asked Queen Eleanor eagerly.
"Awaiting your audience--he and four of his men, likewise a lady
of whose wooing and wedding I can tell you a pretty story at
"Have them admitted."
So Marian gave orders to a herald, and presently Robin Hood and
his little party entered the room.
Now the Queen had half-expected the men to be rude and uncouth in
appearance, because of their wild life in the forest; but she was
delightfully disappointed. Indeed she started back in surprise
and almost clapped her hands. For, sooth to say, the yeomen made
a brave sight, and in all the court no more gallant men could be
found. Marian felt her cheeks glow with pride, at sight of the
half-hidden looks of admiration sent forth by the other
Robin had not forgot the gentle arts taught by his mother, and he
wore his fine red velvet tunic and breeches with the grace of a
courtier. We have seen, before, what a dandified gentleman Will
Scarlet was; and Allan-a-Dale, the minstrel, was scarcely less
goodly to look upon. While the giant Little John and
broad-shouldered Will Stutely made up in stature what little they
lacked in outward polish. Mistress Dale, on her part, looked
even more charming, if possible, than on the momentous day when
she went to Plympton Church to marry one man and found another.
Thus came the people of the greenwood before Queen Eleanor, in
her own private audience room. And Robin advanced and knelt down
before her, and said:
"Here I am, Robin Hood--I and my chosen men! At Your Majesty's
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