Part 2 out of 3
to the highest bidder. Now, as the repeal of the outlawry would
involve the restitution of the estates to the rightful owner,
it was obvious that it could never be expected from that
most legitimate and most Christian king, Richard the First
of England, the arch-crusader and anti-jacobin by excellence,--
the very type, flower, cream, pink, symbol, and mirror
of all the Holy Alliances that have ever existed on earth,
excepting that he seasoned his superstition and love
of conquest with a certain condiment of romantic generosity
and chivalrous self-devotion, with which his imitators
in all other points have found it convenient to dispense.
To give freely to one man what he had taken forcibly from another,
was generosity of which he was very capable; but to restore
what he had taken to the man from whom he had taken it,
was something that wore too much of the cool physiognomy
of justice to be easily reconcileable to his kingly feelings.
He had, besides, not only sent all King Henry's saints
about their business, or rather about their no-business--
their faineantise--but he had laid them under rigorous
contribution for the purposes of his holy war; and having
made them refund to the piety of the successor what they had
extracted from the piety of the precursor, he compelled them,
in addition, to give him their blessing for nothing.
Matilda, therefore, from all these circumstances, felt little
hope that her lover would be any thing but an outlaw for life.
The departure of King Richard from England was succeeded by the episcopal
regency of the bishops of Ely and Durham. Longchamp, bishop of Ely,
proceeded to show his sense of Christian fellowship by arresting his
brother bishop, and despoiling him of his share in the government;
and to set forth his humility and loving-kindness in a retinue of nobles
and knights who consumed in one night's entertainment some five years'
revenue of their entertainer, and in a guard of fifteen hundred
foreign soldiers, whom he considered indispensable to the exercise
of a vigour beyond the law in maintaining wholesome discipline over
the refractory English. The ignorant impatience of the swinish multitude
with these fruits of good living, brought forth by one of the meek who
had inherited the earth, displayed itself in a general ferment, of which
Prince John took advantage to make the experiment of getting possession
of his brother's crown in his absence. He began by calling at Reading
a council of barons, whose aspect induced the holy bishop to disguise himself
(some say as an old woman, which, in the twelfth century, perhaps might
have been a disguise for a bishop), and make his escape beyond sea.
Prince John followed up his advantage by obtaining possession of several
strong posts, and among others of the castle of Nottingham.
While John was conducting his operations at Nottingham, he rode
at times past the castle of Arlingford. He stopped on one occasion
to claim Lord Fitzwater's hospitality, and made most princely
havoc among his venison and brawn. Now it is a matter of record
among divers great historians and learned clerks, that he was then
and there grievously smitten by the charms of the lovely Matilda,
and that a few days after he despatched his travelling minstrel,
or laureate, Harpiton, (whom he retained at moderate wages,
to keep a journal of his proceedings, and prove them all just and
legitimate), to the castle of Arlingford, to make proposals to the lady.
This Harpiton was a very useful person. He was always ready,
not only to maintain the cause of his master with his pen, and to sing
his eulogies to his harp, but to undertake at a moment's notice
any kind of courtly employment, called dirty work by the profane,
which the blessings of civil government, namely, his master's pleasure,
and the interests of social order, namely, his own emolument,
might require. In short,
Il eut l'emploi qui certes n'est pas mince,
Et qu'a la cour, ou tout se peint en beau,
On appelloit etre l'ami du prince;
Mais qu'a la ville, et surtout en province,
Les gens grossiers ont nomme maquereau.
 Harp-it-on: or, a corruption of
Prince John was of opinion that the love of a prince actual and
king expectant, was in itself a sufficient honour to the daughter
of a simple baron, and that the right divine or royalty would
make it sufficiently holy without the rite divine of the church.
He was, therefore, graciously pleased to fall into an exceeding
passion, when his confidential messenger returned from his
embassy in piteous plight, having been, by the baron's order,
first tossed in a blanket and set in the stocks to cool,
and afterwards ducked in the moat and set again in the stocks
to dry. John swore to revenge horribly this flagrant outrage
on royal prerogative, and to obtain possession of the lady
by force of arms; and accordingly collected a body of troops,
and marched upon Arlingford castle. A letter, conveyed as before
on the point of a blunt arrow, announced his approach to Matilda:
and lord Fitzwater had just time to assemble his retainers,
collect a hasty supply of provision, raise the draw-bridge, and drop
the portcullis, when the castle was surrounded by the enemy.
The little fat friar, who during the confusion was asleep in the buttery,
found himself, on awaking, inclosed in the besieged castle,
and dolefully bewailed his evil chance.
A noble girl, i' faith. Heart! I think I fight with a familiar,
or the ghost of a fencer. Call you this an amorous visage?
Here's blood that would have served me these seven years,
in broken heads and cut fingers, and now it runs out
all together.--MIDDLETON. Roaring Girl.
Prince John sat down impatiently before Arlingford castle in the hope
of starving out the besieged; but finding the duration of their supplies
extend itself in an equal ratio with the prolongation of his hope,
he made vigorous preparations for carrying the place by storm.
He constructed an immense machine on wheels, which, being advanced
to the edge of the moat, would lower a temporary bridge, of which
one end would rest on the bank, and the other on the battlements,
and which, being well furnished with stepping boards, would enable
his men to ascend the inclined plane with speed and facility.
Matilda received intimation of this design by the usual friendly channel
of a blunt arrow, which must either have been sent from some secret
friend in the prince's camp, or from some vigorous archer beyond it:
the latter will not appear improbable, when we consider that Robin Hood
and Little John could shoot two English miles and an inch point-blank,
Come scrive Turpino, che non erra.
The machine was completed, and the ensuing morning fixed for the assault.
Six men, relieved at intervals, kept watch over it during the night.
Prince John retired to sleep, congratulating himself in the expectation
that another day would place the fair culprit at his princely mercy.
His anticipations mingled with the visions of his slumber, and he dreamed
of wounds and drums, and sacking and firing the castle, and bearing off
in his arms the beautiful prize through the midst of fire and smoke.
In the height of this imaginary turmoil, he awoke, and conceived for a few
moments that certain sounds which rang in his ears, were the continuation
of those of his dream, in that sort of half-consciousness between
sleeping and waking, when reality and phantasy meet and mingle in dim
and confused resemblance. He was, however, very soon fully awake
to the fact of his guards calling on him to arm, which he did in haste,
and beheld the machine in flames, and a furious conflict raging around it.
He hurried to the spot, and found that his camp had been suddenly assailed
from one side by a party of foresters, and that the baron's people
had made a sortie on the other, and that they had killed the guards,
and set fire to the machine, before the rest of the camp could come
to the assistance of their fellows.
The night was in itself intensely dark, and the fire-light
shed around it a vivid and unnatural radiance. On one side,
the crimson light quivered by its own agitation on the waveless moat,
and on the bastions and buttresses of the castle, and their
shadows lay in massy blackness on the illuminated walls:
on the other, it shone upon the woods, streaming far within
among the open trunks, or resting on the closer foliage.
The circumference of darkness bounded the scene on all sides:
and in the centre raged the war; shields, helmets, and bucklers
gleaming and glittering as they rang and clashed against each other;
plumes confusedly tossing in the crimson light, and the messy
light and shade that fell on the faces of the combatants,
giving additional energy to their ferocious expression.
John, drawing nearer to the scene of action, observed two young warriors
fighting side by side, one of whom wore the habit of a forester,
the other that of a retainer of Arlingford. He looked intently on
them both: their position towards the fire favoured the scrutiny;
and the hawk's eye of love very speedily discovered that the
latter was the fair Matilda. The forester he did not know:
but he had sufficient tact to discern that his success would be very much
facilitated by separating her from this companion, above all others.
He therefore formed a party of men into a wedge, only taking especial
care not to be the point of it himself, and drove it between them
with so much precision, that they were in a moment far asunder.
"Lady Matilda," said John, "yield yourself my prisoner."
"If you would wear me, prince," said Matilda, "you must win me:"
and without giving him time to deliberate on the courtesy of fighting
with the lady of his love, she raised her sword in the air, and lowered
it on his head with an impetus that would have gone nigh to fathom
even that extraordinary depth of brain which always by divine grace
furnishes the interior of a head-royal, if he had not very dexterously
parried the blow. Prince John wished to disarm and take captive,
not in any way to wound or injure, least of all to kill, his fair opponent.
Matilda was only intent to get rid of her antagonist at any rate:
the edge of her weapon painted his complexion with streaks of very
unloverlike crimson, and she would probably have marred John's hand
for ever signing Magna Charta, but that he was backed by the advantage
of numbers, and that her sword broke short on the boss of his buckler.
John was following up his advantage to make a captive of the lady,
when he was suddenly felled to the earth by an unseen antagonist.
Some of his men picked him carefully up, and conveyed him to his tent,
stunned and stupified.
When he recovered, he found Harpiton diligently assisting in his recovery,
more in the fear of losing his place than in that of losing his master:
the prince's first inquiry was for the prisoner he had been on the point
of taking at the moment when his habeas corpus was so unseasonably suspended.
He was told that his people had been on the point of securing the said
prisoner, when the devil suddenly appeared among them in the likeness
of a tall friar, having his grey frock cinctured with a sword-belt,
and his crown, which whether it were shaven or no they could not see,
surmounted with a helmet, and flourishing an eight-foot staff,
with which he laid about him to the right and to the left, knocking down
the prince and his men as if they had been so many nine-pins: in fine,
he had rescued the prisoner, and made a clear passage through friend and foe,
and in conjunction with a chosen party of archers, had covered the retreat
of the baron's men and the foresters, who had all gone off in a body
towards Sherwood forest.
Harpiton suggested that it would be desirable to sack the castle,
and volunteered to lead the van on the occasion, as the defenders were
withdrawn, and the exploit seemed to promise much profit and little danger:
John considered that the castle would in itself be a great acquisition to him,
as a stronghold in furtherance of his design on his brother's throne;
and was determining to take possession with the first light of morning,
when he had the mortification to see the castle burst into flames in several
places at once. A piteous cry was heard from within, and while the prince
was proclaiming a reward to any one who would enter into the burning pile,
and elucidate the mystery of the doleful voice, forth waddled the little
fat friar in an agony of fear, out of the fire into the frying-pan;
for he was instantly taken into custody and carried before Prince John,
wringing his hands and tearing his hair.
"Are you the friar," said Prince John, in a terrible voice,
"that laid me prostrate in battle, mowed down my men like grass,
rescued my captive, and covered the retreat of my enemies?
And, not content with this, have you now set fire to the castle
in which I intended to take up my royal quarters?"
The little friar quaked like a jelly: he fell on his knees,
and attempted to speak; but in his eagerness to vindicate himself
from this accumulation of alarming charges, he knew not where to begin;
his ideas rolled round upon each other like the radii of a wheel;
the words he desired to utter, instead of issuing, as it were,
in a right line from his lips, seemed to conglobate themselves
into a sphere turning on its own axis in his throat:
after several ineffectual efforts, his utterance totally failed him,
and he remained gasping, with his mouth open, his lips quivering,
his hands clasped together, and the whites of his eyes turned up
towards the prince with an expression most ruefully imploring.
"Are you that friar?" repeated the prince.
Several of the by-standers declared that he was not that friar. The little
friar, encouraged by this patronage, found his voice, and pleaded for mercy.
The prince questioned him closely concerning the burning of the castle.
The little friar declared, that he had been in too great fear during the siege
to know much of what was going forward, except that he had been conscious
during the last few days of a lamentable deficiency of provisions, and had
been present that very morning at the broaching of the last butt of sack.
Harpiton groaned in sympathy. The little friar added, that he knew nothing
of what had passed since till he heard the flames roaring at his elbow.
"Take him away, Harpiton," said the prince, "fill him with sack,
and turn him out."
"Never mind the sack," said the little friar, "turn me out at once."
"A sad chance," said Harpiton, "to be turned out without sack."
But what Harpiton thought a sad chance the little friar thought a merry one,
and went bounding like a fat buck towards the abbey of Rubygill.
An arrow, with a letter attached to it, was shot into the camp,
and carried to the prince. The contents were these:--
"Prince John,--I do not consider myself to have resisted lawful authority
in defending my castle against you, seeing that you are at present
in a state of active rebellion against your liege sovereign Richard:
and if my provisions had not failed me, I would have maintained it
till doomsday. As it is, I have so well disposed my combustibles
that it shall not serve you as a strong hold in your rebellion.
If you hunt in the chases of Nottinghamshire, you may catch other
game than my daughter. Both she and I are content to be houseless
for a time, in the reflection that we have deserved your enmity,
and the friendship of Coeur-de-Lion. "FITZWATER."
--Tuck, the merry friar, who many a sermon made
In praise of Robin Hood, his outlaws, and their trade.
The baron, with some of his retainers and all the foresters, halted at
daybreak in Sherwood forest. The foresters quickly erected tents,
and prepared an abundant breakfast of venison and ale.
"Now, Lord Fitzwater," said the chief forester, "recognise your son-in-law
that was to have been, in the outlaw Robin Hood."
"Ay, ay," said the baron, "I have recognised you long ago."
"And recognise your young friend Gamwell," said the second,
"in the outlaw Scarlet."
"And Little John, the page," said the third, "in Little John the outlaw."
"And Father Michael, of Rubygill Abbey," said the friar, "in Friar Tuck,
of Sherwood forest. Truly, I have a chapel here hard by, in the shape
of a hollow tree, where I put up my prayers for travellers, and Little John
holds the plate at the door, for good praying deserves good paying."
"I am in fine company," said the baron.
"In the very best of company," said the friar, "in the high
court of Nature, and in the midst of her own nobility.
Is it not so? This goodly grove is our palace:
the oak and the beech are its colonnade and its canopy:
the sun and the moon and the stars are its everlasting lamps:
the grass, and the daisy, and the primrose, and the violet,
are its many-coloured floor of green, white, yellow, and blue;
the may-flower, and the woodbine, and the eglantine, and the ivy,
are its decorations, its curtains, and its tapestry: the lark,
and the thrush, and the linnet, and the nightingale, are its
unhired minstrels and musicians. Robin Hood is king of the forest
both by dignity of birth and by virtue of his standing army:
to say nothing of the free choice of his people, which he
has indeed, but I pass it by as an illegitimate basis of power.
He holds his dominion over the forest, and its horned multitude
of citizen-deer, and its swinish multitude or peasantry
of wild boars, by right of conquest and force of arms.
He levies contributions among them by the free consent of
his archers, their virtual representatives. If they should find
a voice to complain that we are 'tyrants and usurpers to kill
and cook them up in their assigned and native dwelling-place,'
we should most convincingly admonish them, with point of arrow,
that they have nothing to do with our laws but to obey them.
Is it not written that the fat ribs of the herd shall be fed
upon by the mighty in the land? And have not they withal my
blessing? my orthodox, canonical, and archiepiscopal blessing?
Do I not give thanks for them when they are well roasted and smoking
under my nose? What title had William of Normandy to England,
that Robin of Locksley has not to merry Sherwood? William fought
for his claim. So does Robin. With whom, both? With any
that would or will dispute it. William raised contributions.
So does Robin. From whom, both? From all that they could
or can make pay them. Why did any pay them to William? Why do
any pay them to Robin? For the same reason to both:
because they could not or cannot help it. They differ indeed,
in this, that William took from the poor and gave to the rich,
and Robin takes from the rich and gives to the poor: and therein
is Robin illegitimate; though in all else he is true prince.
Scarlet and John, are they not peers of the forest? lords temporal
of Sherwood? And am not I lord spiritual? Am I not archbishop?
Am I not pope? Do I not consecrate their banner and absolve
their sins? Are not they state, and am not I church?
Are not they state monarchical, and am not I church militant?
Do I not excommunicate our enemies from venison and brawn,
and by 'r Lady, when need calls, beat them down under my feet?
The state levies tax, and the church levies tithe.
Even so do we. Mass, we take all at once. What then?
It is tax by redemption and tithe by commutation.
Your William and Richard can cut and come again, but our Robin
deals with slippery subjects that come not twice to his exchequer.
What need we then to constitute a court, except a fool and a laureate?
For the fool, his only use is to make false knaves merry by art,
and we are true men and are merry by nature. For the laureate,
his only office is to find virtues in those who have none,
and to drink sack for his pains. We have quite virtue enough
to need him not, and can drink our sack for ourselves."
"Well preached, friar," said Robin Hood: "yet there is one
thing wanting to constitute a court, and that is a queen.
And now, lovely Matilda, look round upon these sylvan shades
where we have so often roused the stag from his ferny covert.
The rising sun smiles upon us through the stems of that beechen knoll.
Shall I take your hand, Matilda, in the presence of this my court?
Shall I crown you with our wild-wood coronal, and hail you
queen of the forest? Will you be the queen Matilda of your own
true king Robin?"
Matilda smiled assent.
"Not Matilda," said the friar: "the rules of our holy alliance
require new birth. We have excepted in favour of Little John,
because he is great John, and his name is a misnomer.
I sprinkle, not thy forehead with water, but thy lips with wine,
and baptize thee MARIAN."
"Here is a pretty conspiracy," exclaimed the baron.
"Why, you villanous friar, think you to nickname and marry
my daughter before my face with impunity?"
"Even so, bold baron," said the friar; "we are strongest here.
Say you, might overcomes right? I say no. There is no right but might:
and to say that might overcomes right is to say that right overcomes itself:
an absurdity most palpable. Your right was the stronger in Arlingford,
and ours is the stronger in Sherwood. Your right was right as long
as you could maintain it; so is ours. So is King Richard's, with
all deference be it spoken; and so is King Saladin's; and their two
mights are now committed in bloody fray, and that which overcomes
will be right, just as long as it lasts, and as far as it reaches.
And now if any of you know any just impediment----"
"Fire and fury," said the baron.
"Fire and fury," said the friar, "are modes of that might which
constitutes right, and are just impediments to any thing against which
they can be brought to bear. They are our good allies upon occasion,
and would declare for us now if you should put them to the test."
"Father," said Matilda, "you know the terms of our compact:
from the moment you restrained my liberty, you renounced your
claim to all but compulsory obedience. The friar argues well.
Right ends with might. Thick walls, dreary galleries,
and tapestried chambers, were indifferent to me while I could leave
them at pleasure, but have ever been hateful to me since they
held me by force. May I never again have roof but the blue sky,
nor canopy but the green leaves, nor barrier but the forest-bounds;
with the foresters to my train, Little John to my page,
Friar Tuck to my ghostly adviser, and Robin Hood to my liege lord.
I am no longer lady Matilda Fitzwater, of Arlingford Castle,
but plain Maid Marian, of Sherwood Forest."
"Long live Maid Marian!" re-echoed the foresters.
"Oh false girl!" said the baron, "do you renounce your name and parentage?"
"Not my parentage," said Marian, "but my name indeed:
do not all maids renounce it at the altar?"
"The altar!" said the baron: "grant me patience! what do you
mean by the altar?"
"Pile green turf," said the friar, "wreathe it with flowers,
and crown it with fruit, and we will show the noble baron what we
mean by the altar."
The foresters did as the friar directed.
"Now, Little John," said the friar, "on with the cloak
of the abbot of Doubleflask. I appoint thee my clerk:
thou art here duly elected in full mote."
"I wish you were all in full moat together," said the baron,
"and smooth wall on both sides."
"Punnest thou?" said the friar. "A heinous anti-christian offence.
Why anti-christian? Because anti-catholic? Why anti-catholic? Because
anti-roman. Why anti-roman? Because Carthaginian. Is not pun from
Punic? punica fides: the very quint-essential quiddity of bad faith:
double-visaged: double-tongued. He that will make a pun will---- I say
no more. Fie on it. Stand forth, clerk. Who is the bride's father?"
"There is no bride's father," said the baron. "I am the father
of Matilda Fitzwater."
"There is none such," said the friar. "This is the fair
Maid Marian. Will you make a virtue of necessity, or will you give
laws to the flowing tide? Will you give her, or shall Robin take her?
Will you be her true natural father, or shall I commute paternity?
Stand forth, Scarlet."
"Stand back, sirrah Scarlet," said the baron. "My daughter shall
have no father but me. Needs must when the devil drives."
"No matter who drives," said the friar, "so that, like a
well-disposed subject, you yield cheerful obedience to those
who can enforce it."
"Mawd, sweet Mawd," said the baron, "will you then forsake
your poor old father in his distress, with his castle in ashes,
and his enemy in power?"
"Not so, father," said Marian; "I will always be your true daughter:
I will always love, and serve, and watch, and defend you: but neither
will I forsake my plighted love, and my own liege lord, who was your
choice before he was mine, for you made him my associate in infancy;
and that he continued to be mine when he ceased to be yours, does not
in any way show remissness in my duties or falling off in my affections.
And though I here plight my troth at the altar to Robin, in the presence
of this holy priest and pious clerk, yet.... Father, when Richard
returns from Palestine, he will restore you to your barony, and perhaps,
for your sake, your daughter's husband to the earldom of Huntingdon:
should that never be, should it be the will of fate that we must live
and die in the greenwood, I will live and die MAID MARIAN."
 And therefore is she called Maid Marian
Because she leads a spotless maiden life
And shall till Robin's outlaw life have end.
"A pretty resolution," said the baron, "if Robin will let you keep it."
"I have sworn it," said Robin. "Should I expose her tenderness
to the perils of maternity, when life and death may hang on shifting
at a moment's notice from Sherwood to Barnsdale, and from Barnsdale
to the sea-shore? And why should I banquet when my merry men starve?
Chastity is our forest law, and even the friar has kept it since
he has been here."
"Truly so," said the friar: "for temptation dwells with ease and luxury:
but the hunter is Hippolytus, and the huntress is Dian. And now,
The friar went through the ceremony with great unction,
and Little John was most clerical in the intonation of his responses.
After which, the friar sang, and Little John fiddled, and the
foresters danced, Robin with Marian, and Scarlet with the baron;
and the venison smoked, and the ale frothed, and the wine sparkled,
and the sun went down on their unwearied festivity:
which they wound up with the following song, the friar leading
and the foresters joining chorus:
Oh! bold Robin Hood is a forester good,
As ever drew bow in the merry greenwood:
At his bugle's shrill singing the echoes are ringing,
The wild deer are springing for many a rood:
Its summons we follow, through brake, over hollow,
The thrice-blown shrill summons of bold Robin Hood.
And what eye hath e'er seen such a sweet Maiden Queen,
As Marian, the pride of the forester's green?
A sweet garden-flower, she blooms in the bower,
Where alone to this hour the wild rose has been:
We hail her in duty the queen of all beauty:
We will live, we will die, by our sweet Maiden queen.
And here's a grey friar, good as heart can desire,
To absolve all our sins as the case may require:
Who with courage so stout, lays his oak-plant about,
And puts to the rout all the foes of his choir:
For we are his choristers, we merry foresters,
Chorussing thus with our militant friar
And Scarlet cloth bring his good yew-bough and string,
Prime minister is he of Robin our king:
No mark is too narrow for little John's arrow,
That hits a cock sparrow a mile on the wing;
Robin and Marion, Scarlet, and Little John,
Long with their glory old Sherwood shall ring.
Each a good liver, for well-feathered quiver
Doth furnish brawn, venison, and fowl of the river:
But the best game we dish up, it is a fat bishop:
When his angels we fish up, he proves a free giver:
For a prelate so lowly has angels more holy,
And should this world's false angels to sinners deliver.
Robin and Marion, Scarlet and Little John,
Drink to them one by one, drink as ye sing:
Robin and Marion, Scarlet and Little John,
Echo to echo through Sherwood shall fling:
Robin and Marion, Scarlet and Little John,
Long with their glory old Sherwood shall ring.
A single volume paramount: a code:
A master spirit: a determined road.
The next morning Robin Hood convened his foresters, and desired Little John,
for the baron's edification, to read over the laws of their forest society.
Little John read aloud with a stentorophonic voice.
"At a high court of foresters, held under the greenwood tree,
an hour after sun-rise, Robin Hood President, William Scarlet
Vice-President, Little John Secretary: the following articles,
moved by Friar Tuck in his capacity of Peer Spiritual,
and seconded by Much the Miller, were unanimously agreed to.
"The principles of our society are six:
Legitimacy, Equity, Hospitality, Chivalry, Chastity, and Courtesy.
"The articles of Legitimacy are four:
"I. Our government is legitimate, and our society is founded on the one
golden rule of right, consecrated by the universal consent of mankind,
and by the practice of all ages, individuals, and nations: namely, To keep
what we have, and to catch what we can.
"II. Our government being legitimate, all our proceedings shall
be legitimate: wherefore we declare war against the whole world,
and every forester is by this legitimate declaration legitimately
invested with a roving commission, to make lawful prize of every
thing that comes in his way.
"III. All forest laws but our own we declare to be null and void.
"IV. All such of the old laws of England as do not in any
way interfere with, or militate against, the views of this
honourable assembly, we will loyally adhere to and maintain.
The rest we declare null and void as far as relates to ourselves,
in all cases wherein a vigour beyond the law may be conducive
to our own interest and preservation."
"The articles of Equity are three:
"I. The balance of power among the people being very much deranged,
by one having too much and another nothing, we hereby resolve ourselves
into a congress or court of equity, to restore as far as in us lies
the said natural balance of power, by taking from all who have
too much as much of the said too much as we can lay our hands on;
and giving to those who have nothing such a portion thereof as it
may seem to us expedient to part with.
"II. In all cases a quorum of foresters shall constitute a court of equity,
and as many as may be strong enough to manage the matter in hand shall
constitute a quorum.
"III. All usurers, monks, courtiers, and other drones of the great hive
of society, who shall be found laden with any portion of the honey
whereof they have wrongfully despoiled the industrious bee, shall be
rightfully despoiled thereof in turn; and all bishops and abbots
shall be bound and beaten, especially the abbot of Doncaster;
as shall also all sheriffs, especially the sheriff of Nottingham.
 "These byshoppes and these archbyshoppes Ye shall them bete and bynde,"
says Robin Hood, in an old ballad. Perhaps, however, thus is to be
taken not in a literal, but in a figurative sense from the binding
and beating of wheat: for as all rich men were Robin's harvest,
the bishops and archbishops must have been the finest and fattest
ears among them, from which Robin merely proposes to thresh
the grain when he directs them to be bound and beaten:
and as Pharaoh's fat kine were typical of fat ears of wheat,
so may fat ears of wheat, mutatis mutandis, be typical of fat kine.
"The articles of Hospitality are two:
"I. Postmen, carriers and market-folk, peasants and mechanics,
farmers and millers, shall pass through our forest dominions
without let or molestation.
"II. All other travellers through the forest shall be graciously invited
to partake of Robin's hospitality; and if they come not willingly they
shall be compelled; and the rich man shall pay well for his fare;
and the poor man shall feast scot free, and peradventure receive bounty
in proportion to his desert and necessity.
"The article of Chivalry is one:
"I. Every forester shall, to the extent of his power, aid and protect maids,
widows, and orphans, and all weak and distressed persons whomsoever:
and no woman shall be impeded or molested in any way; nor shall any company
receive harm which any woman is in.
"The article of Chastity is one:
"I. Every forester, being Diana's forester and minion of
the moon, shall commend himself to the grace of the Virgin,
and shall have the gift of continency on pain of expulsion:
that the article of chivalry may be secure from infringement,
and maids, wives, and widows pass without fear through the forest.
"The article of Courtesy is one:
"I. No one shall miscall a forester. He who calls Robin Robert of Huntingdon,
or salutes him by any other title or designation whatsoever except
plain Robin Hood; or who calls Marian Matilda Fitzwater, or salutes her
by any other title or designation whatsoever except plain Maid Marian;
and so of all others; shall for every such offence forfeit a mark,
to be paid to the friar.
"And these articles we swear to keep as we are good men and true.
Carried by acclamation. God save King Richard. "LITTLE JOHN, Secretary."
"Excellent laws," said the baron: "excellent, by the holy rood.
William of Normandy, with my great great grandfather Fierabras
at his elbow, could not have made better. And now, sweet Mawd----"
"A fine, a fine," cried the friar, "a fine, by the article of courtesy."
"Od's life," said the baron, "shall I not call my own
daughter Mawd? Methinks there should be a special exception
in my favour."
"It must not be," said Robin Hood: "our constitution admits no privilege."
"But I will commute," said the friar; "for twenty marks a year
duly paid into my ghostly pocket you shall call your daughter
Mawd two hundred times a day."
"Gramercy," said the baron, "and I agree, honest friar, when I can get
twenty marks to pay: for till Prince John be beaten from Nottingham,
my rents are like to prove but scanty."
"I will trust," said the friar, "and thus let us ratify the stipulation;
so shall our laws and your infringement run together in an amicable parallel."
"But," said Little John, "this is a bad precedent, master friar.
It is turning discipline into profit, penalty into perquisite,
public justice into private revenue. It is rank corruption, master friar."
"Why are laws made?" said the friar. "For the profit of somebody.
Of whom? Of him who makes them first, and of others as it may happen.
Was not I legislator in the last article, and shall I not thrive
by my own law?"
"Well then, sweet Mawd," said the baron, "I must leave you, Mawd:
your life is very well for the young and the hearty, but it squares
not with my age or my humour. I must house, Mawd. I must find refuge:
but where? That is the question."
"Where Sir Guy of Gamwell has found it," said Robin Hood, "near the borders
of Barnsdale. There you may dwell in safety with him and fair Alice,
till King Richard return, and Little John shall give you safe conduct.
You will have need to travel with caution, in disguise and without attendants,
for Prince John commands all this vicinity, and will doubtless lay the country
for you and Marian. Now it is first expedient to dismiss your retainers.
If there be any among them who like our life, they may stay with us
in the greenwood; the rest may return to their homes."
Some of the baron's men resolved to remain with Robin and Marian,
and were furnished accordingly with suits of green, of which Robin
always kept good store.
Marian now declared that as there was danger in the way to Barnsdale,
she would accompany Little John and the baron, as she should not
be happy unless she herself saw her father placed in security.
Robin was very unwilling to consent to this, and assured
her that there was more danger for her than the baron:
but Marian was absolute.
"If so, then," said Robin, "I shall be your guide instead of Little John,
and I shall leave him and Scarlet joint-regents of Sherwood during my absence,
and the voice of Friar Tuck shall be decisive between them if they
differ in nice questions of state policy." Marian objected to this,
that there was more danger for Robin than either herself or the baron:
but Robin was absolute in his turn.
"Talk not of my voice," said the friar; "for if Marian be a damsel errant,
I will be her ghostly esquire."
Robin insisted that this should not be, for number would
only expose them to greater risk of detection. The friar,
after some debate, reluctantly acquiesced.
While they were discussing these matters, they heard the distant
sound of horses' feet.
"Go," said Robin to Little John, "and invite yonder horseman to dinner."
Little John bounded away, and soon came before a young man, who was riding
in a melancholy manner, with the bridle hanging loose on the horse's neck,
and his eyes drooping towards the ground.
"Whither go you?" said Little John.
"Whithersoever my horse pleases," said the young man.
"And that shall be," said Little John, "whither I please to lead him.
I am commissioned to invite you to dine with my master."
"Who is your master?" said the young man.
"Robin Hood," said Little John.
"The bold outlaw?" said the stranger. "Neither he nor you should have made
me turn an inch aside yesterday; but to-day I care not."
"Then it is better for you," said Little John, "that you came
to-day than yesterday, if you love dining in a whole skin:
for my master is the pink of courtesy: but if his guests
prove stubborn, he bastes them and his venison together,
while the friar says mass before meat."
The young man made no answer, and scarcely seemed to hear what
Little John was saying, who therefore took the horse's bridle and led
him to where Robin and his foresters were setting forth their dinner.
Robin seated the young man next to Marian. Recovering a little
from his stupor, he looked with much amazement at her, and the baron,
and Robin, and the friar; listened to their conversation, and seemed
much astonished to find himself in such holy and courtly company.
Robin helped him largely to rumble-pie and cygnet and pheasant,
and the other dainties of his table; and the friar pledged
him in ale and wine, and exhorted him to make good cheer.
But the young man drank little, ate less, spake nothing, and every
now and then sighed heavily.
When the repast was ended, "Now," said Robin, "you are at liberty to pursue
your journey: but first be pleased to pay for your dinner."
"That would I gladly do, Robin," said the young man,
"but all I have about me are five shillings and a ring.
To the five shillings you shall be welcome, but for the ring
I will fight while there is a drop of blood in my veins."
"Gallantly spoken," said Robin Hood. "A love-token, without doubt:
but you must submit to our forest laws. Little John must search;
and if he find no more than you say, not a penny will I touch;
but if you have spoken false, the whole is forfeit to our fraternity."
"And with reason," said the friar; "for thereby is the truth maintained
The abbot of Doubleflask swore there was no money in his valise,
and Little John forthwith emptied it of four hundred pounds.
Thus was the abbot's perjury but of one minute's duration;
for though his speech was false in the utterance, yet was it no sooner
uttered than it became true, and we should have been participes
criminis to have suffered the holy abbot to depart in falsehood:
whereas he came to us a false priest, and we sent him away
a true man. Marry, we turned his cloak to further account,
and thereby hangs a tale that may be either said or sung;
for in truth I am minstrel here as well as chaplain;
I pray for good success to our just and necessary warfare,
and sing thanks-giving odes when our foresters bring in booty:
Bold Robin has robed him in ghostly attire,
And forth he is gone like a holy friar,
Singing, hey down, ho down, down, derry down:
And of two grey friars he soon was aware,
Regaling themselves with dainty fare,
All on the fallen leaves so brown.
"Good morrow, good brothers," said bold Robin
"And what make you in the good greenwood,
Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!
Now give me, I pray you, wine and food;
For none can I find in the good greenwood,
All on the fallen leaves so brown."
"Good brother," they said, "we would give you full fain,
But we have no more than enough for twain,
Singing, hey down, ho down, down, derry down."
"Then give me some money," said bold Robin Hood,
"For none can I find in the good greenwood,
All on the fallen leaves so brown."
"No money have we, good brother," said they:
"Then," said he, "we three for money will pray:
Singing, hey down, ho down, down, derry down:
And whatever shall come at the end of our prayer,
We three holy friars will piously share,
All on the fallen leaves so brown."
"We will not pray with thee, good brother, God wot:
For truly, good brother, thou pleasest us not,
Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down:"
Then up they both started from Robin to run,
But down on their knees Robin pulled them each one,
All on the fallen leaves so brown.
The grey friars prayed with a doleful face,
But bold Robin prayed with a right merry grace,
Singing, hey down, ho down, down, derry down:
And when they had prayed, their portmanteau he took,
And from it a hundred good angels he shook,
All on the fallen leaves so brown.
"The saints," said bold Robin, "have hearkened our prayer,
And here's a good angel apiece for your share:
If more you would have, you must win ere you wear:
Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down:"
Then he blew his good horn with a musical cheer,
And fifty green bowmen came trooping full near,
And away the grey friars they bounded like deer,
All on the fallen leaves so brown.
What can a young lassie, what shall a young lassie,
What can a young lassie do wi'an auld man?--BURNS.
"Here is but five shillings and a ring," said Little John,
"and the young man has spoken true."
"Then," said Robin to the stranger, "if want of money be the cause
of your melancholy, speak. Little John is my treasurer,
and he shall disburse to you."
"It is, and it is not," said the stranger; "it is, because, had I not wanted
money I had never lost my love; it is not, because, now that I have lost her,
money would come too late to regain her."
"In what way have you lost her?" said Robin: "let us clearly
know that she is past regaining, before we give up our wishes
to restore her to you."
"She is to be married this day," said the stranger, "and perhaps is married
by this, to a rich old knight; and yesterday I knew it not."
"What is your name?" said Robin.
"Allen," said the stranger.
"And where is the marriage to take place, Allen?" said Robin.
"At Edwinstow church," said Allen, "by the bishop of Nottingham."
"I know that bishop," said Robin; "he dined with me a month since, and paid
three hundred pounds for his dinner. He has a good ear and loves music.
The friar sang to him to some tune. Give me my harper's cloak, and I
will play a part at this wedding.
"These are dangerous times, Robin," said Marian, "for playing
pranks out of the forest."
"Fear not," said Robin; "Edwinstow lies not Nottingham-ward,
and I will take my precautions."
Robin put on his harper's cloak, while Little John painted his eyebrows
and cheeks, tipped his nose with red, and tied him on a comely beard.
Marian confessed, that had she not been present at the metamorphosis,
she should not have known her own true Robin. Robin took his harp
and went to the wedding.
Robin found the bishop and his train in the church porch,
impatiently expecting the arrival of the bride and bridegroom.
The clerk was observing to the bishop that the knight was somewhat gouty,
and that the necessity of walking the last quarter of a mile from
the road to the churchyard probably detained the lively bridegroom
rather longer than had been calculated upon.
"Oh! by my fey," said the music-loving bishop, "here comes a harper
in the nick of time, and now I care not how long they tarry.
Ho! honest friend, are you come to play at the wedding?"
"I am come to play anywhere," answered Robin, "where I can get a cup of sack;
for which I will sing the praise of the donor in lofty verse, and emblazon
him with any virtue which he may wish to have the credit of possessing,
without the trouble of practising.
"A most courtly harper," said the bishop; "I will fill thee with sack;
I will make thee a walking butt of sack, if thou wilt delight my ears
with thy melodies."
"That will I," said Robin; "in what branch of my art shall I exert
my faculty? I am passing well in all, from the anthem to the glee,
and from the dirge to the coranto."
"It would be idle," said the bishop, "to give thee sack for playing
me anthems, seeing that I myself do receive sack for hearing them sung.
Therefore, as the occasion is festive, thou shalt play me a coranto."
Robin struck up and played away merrily, the bishop all
the while in great delight, noddling his head, and beating
time with his foot, till the bride and bridegroom appeared.
The bridegroom was richly apparelled, and came slowly and
painfully forward, hobbling and leering, and pursing up his mouth
into a smile of resolute defiance to the gout, and of tender
complacency towards his lady love, who, shining like gold at the old
knight's expense, followed slowly between her father and mother,
her cheeks pale, her head drooping, her steps faltering,
and her eyes reddened with tears.
Robin stopped his minstrelsy, and said to the bishop, "This seems
to me an unfit match."
"What do you say, rascal?" said the old knight, hobbling up to him.
"I say," said Robin, "this seems to me an unfit match.
What, in the devil's name, can you want with a young wife,
who have one foot in flannels and the other in the grave?"
"What is that to thee, sirrah varlet?" said the old knight;
"stand away from the porch, or I will fracture thy sconce
with my cane."
"I will not stand away from the porch," said Robin, "unless the bride bid me,
and tell me that you are her own true love."
"Speak," said the bride's father, in a severe tone, and with a look
of significant menace. The girl looked alternately at her father
and Robin. She attempted to speak, but her voice failed in the effort,
and she burst into tears.
"Here is lawful cause and just impediment," said Robin,
"and I forbid the banns."
"Who are you, villain?" said the old knight, stamping his sound
foot with rage.
"I am the Roman law," said Robin, "which says that there shall not be more
than ten years between a man and his wife; and here are five times ten:
and so says the law of nature."
"Honest harper," said the bishop, "you are somewhat
over-officious here, and less courtly than I deemed you.
If you love sack, forbear; for this course will never bring you a drop.
As to your Roman law, and your law of nature, what right have they
to say any thing which the law of Holy Writ says not?"
"The law of Holy Writ does say it," said Robin; "I expound it so to say;
and I will produce sixty commentators to establish my exposition."
And so saying, he produced a horn from beneath his cloak, and blew
three blasts, and threescore bowmen in green came leaping from the bushes
and trees; and young Allen was the first among them to give Robin
his sword, while Friar Tuck and Little John marched up to the altar.
Robin stripped the bishop and clerk of their robes, and put them on the friar
and Little John; and Allen advanced to take the hand of the bride.
Her cheeks grew red and her eyes grew bright, as she locked her hand
in her lover's, and tripped lightly with him into the church.
"This marriage will not stand," said the bishop, "for they have not been
thrice asked in church."
"We will ask them seven times," said Little John, "lest three
should not suffice."
"And in the meantime," said Robin, "the knight and the bishop
shall dance to my harping."
So Robin sat in the church porch and played away merrily, while his
foresters formed a ring, in the centre of which the knight and bishop
danced with exemplary alacrity; and if they relaxed their exertions,
Scarlet gently touched them up with the point of an arrow.
The knight grimaced ruefully, and begged Robin to think of his gout.
"So I do," said Robin; "this is the true antipodagron:
you shall dance the gout away, and be thankful to me while you live.
I told you," he added to the bishop, "I would play at this wedding;
but you did not tell me that you would dance at it.
The next couple you marry, think of the Roman law."
The bishop was too much out of breath to reply; and now the young
couple issued from church, and the bride having made a farewell
obeisance to her parents, they departed together with the foresters,
the parents storming, the attendants laughing, the bishop puffing
and blowing, and the knight rubbing his gouty foot, and uttering
doleful lamentations for the gold and jewels with which he had
so unwittingly adorned and cowered the bride.
As ye came from the holy land
Of blessed Walsinghame,
Oh met ye not with my true love,
As by the way ye came?--Old Ballad.
In pursuance of the arrangement recorded in the twelfth chapter,
the baron, Robin, and Marian disguised themselves as pilgrims
returned from Palestine, and travelling from the sea-coast of
Hampshire to their home in Northumberland. By dint of staff and
cockle-shell, sandal and scrip, they proceeded in safety the greater
part of the way (for Robin had many sly inns and resting-places
between Barnsdale and Sherwood), and were already on the borders
of Yorkshire, when, one evening, they passed within view of a castle,
where they saw a lady standing on a turret, and surveying
the whole extent of the valley through which they were passing.
A servant came running from the castle, and delivered to them a message
from his lady, who was sick with expectation of news from her lord
in the Holy Land, and entreated them to come to her, that she might
question them concerning him. This was an awkward occurrence:
but there was no presence for refusal, and they followed the servant
into the castle. The baron, who had been in Palestine in his youth,
undertook to be spokesman on the occasion, and to relate his own
adventures to the lady as having happened to the lord in question.
This preparation enabled him to be so minute and circumstantial
in his detail, and so coherent in his replies to her questions,
that the lady fell implicitly into the delusion, and was delighted
to find that her lord was alive and in health, and in high favour
with the king, and performing prodigies of valour in the name
of his lady, whose miniature he always wore in his bosom.
The baron guessed at this circumstance from the customs of that age,
and happened to be in the right.
"This miniature," added the baron, "I have had the felicity
to see, and should have known you by it among a million."
The baron was a little embarrassed by some questions of the lady
concerning her lord's personal appearance; but Robin came to his aid,
observing a picture suspended opposite to him on the wall,
which he made a bold conjecture to be that of the lord in question;
and making a calculation of the influences of time and war,
which he weighed with a comparison of the lady's age, he gave
a description of her lord sufficiently like the picture in its
groundwork to be a true resemblance, and sufficiently differing
from it in circumstances to be more an original than a copy.
The lady was completely deceived, and entreated them to partake
her hospitality for the night; but this they deemed it prudent
to decline, and with many humble thanks for her kindness,
and representations of the necessity of not delaying their
homeward course, they proceeded on their way.
As they passed over the drawbridge, they met Sir Ralph Montfaucon
and his squire, who were wandering in quest of Marian, and were
entering to claim that hospitality which the pilgrims had declined.
Their countenances struck Sir Ralph with a kind of imperfect recognition,
which would never have been matured, but that the eyes of Marian,
as she passed him, encountered his, and the images of those stars of beauty
continued involuntarily twinkling in his sensorium to the exclusion
of all other ideas, till memory, love, and hope concurred with imagination
to furnish a probable reason for their haunting him so pertinaciously.
Those eyes, he thought, were certainly the eyes of Matilda Fitzwater;
and if the eyes were hers, it was extremely probable, if not logically
consecutive, that the rest of the body they belonged to was hers also.
Now, if it were really Matilda Fitzwater, who were her two companions?
The baron? Aye, and the elder pilgrim was something like him.
And the earl of Huntingdon? Very probably. The earl and the baron might
be good friends again, now that they were both in disgrace together.
While he was revolving these cogitations, he was introduced to the lady,
and after claiming and receiving the promise of hospitality,
he inquired what she knew of the pilgrims who had just departed?
The lady told him they were newly returned from Palestine, having been long
in the Holy Land. The knight expressed some scepticism on this point.
The lady replied, that they had given her so minute a detail of her
lord's proceedings, and so accurate a description of his person,
that she could not be deceived in them. This staggered the knight's
confidence in his own penetration; and if it had not been a heresy
in knighthood to suppose for a moment that there could be in rerum
natura such another pair of eyes as those of his mistress,
he would have acquiesced implicitly in the lady's judgment.
But while the lady and the knight were conversing, the warder blew
his bugle-horn, and presently entered a confidential messenger
from Palestine, who gave her to understand that her lord was well;
but entered into a detail of his adventures most completely at
variance with the baron's narrative, to which not the correspondence
of a single incident gave the remotest colouring of similarity.
It now became manifest that the pilgrims were not true men;
and Sir Ralph Montfaucon sate down to supper with his head full
of cogitations, which we shall leave him to chew and digest with his
pheasant and canary.
Meanwhile our three pilgrims proceeded on their way.
The evening set in black and lowering, when Robin turned
aside from the main track, to seek an asylum for the night,
along a narrow way that led between rocky and woody hills.
A peasant observed the pilgrims as they entered that narrow pass,
and called after them: "Whither go you, my masters? there
are rogues in that direction."
"Can you show us a direction," said Robin, "in which there are none?
If so we will take it in preference." The peasant grinned,
and walked away whistling.
The pass widened as they advanced, and the woods grew thicker and darker
around them. Their path wound along the slope of a woody declivity,
which rose high above them in a thick rampart of foliage,
and descended almost precipitously to the bed of a small river,
which they heard dashing in its rocky channel, and saw its white foam
gleaming at intervals in the last faint glimmerings of twilight.
In a short time all was dark, and the rising voice of the wind
foretold a coming storm. They turned a point of the valley, and saw
a light below them in the depth of the hollow, shining through a
cottage-casement and dancing in its reflection on the restless stream.
Robin blew his horn, which was answered from below. The cottage
door opened: a boy came forth with a torch, ascended the steep,
showed tokens of great delight at meeting with Robin, and lighted
them down a flight of steps rudely cut in the rock, and over a series
of rugged stepping-stones, that crossed the channel of the river.
They entered the cottage, which exhibited neatness, comfort, and plenty,
being amply enriched with pots, pans, and pipkins, and adorned
with flitches of bacon and sundry similar ornaments, that gave
goodly promise in the firelight that gleamed upon the rafters.
A woman, who seemed just old enough to be the boy's mother,
had thrown down her spinning wheel in her joy at the sound
of Robin's horn, and was bustling with singular alacrity
to set forth her festal ware and prepare an abundant supper.
Her features, though not beautiful, were agreeable and expressive,
and were now lighted up with such manifest joy at the sight of Robin,
that Marian could not help feeling a momentary touch of jealousy,
and a half-formed suspicion that Robin had broken his forest law,
and had occasionally gone out of bounds, as other great men have
done upon occasion, in order to reconcile the breach of the spirit,
with the preservation of the letter, of their own legislation.
However, this suspicion, if it could be said to exist in a mind
so generous as Marian's, was very soon dissipated by the entrance
of the woman's husband, who testified as much joy as his wife
had done at the sight of Robin; and in a short time the whole of
the party were amicably seated round a smoking supper of river-fish
and wild wood fowl, on which the baron fell with as much alacrity
as if he had been a true pilgrim from Palestine.
The husband produced some recondite flasks of wine, which were laid
by in a binn consecrated to Robin, whose occasional visits to them
in his wanderings were the festal days of these warm-hearted cottagers,
whose manners showed that they had not been born to this low estate.
Their story had no mystery, and Marian easily collected it from
the tenour of their conversation. The young man had been, like Robin,
the victim of an usurious abbot, and had been outlawed for debt,
and his nut-brown maid had accompanied him to the depths of Sherwood,
where they lived an unholy and illegitimate life, killing the king's deer,
and never hearing mass. In this state, Robin, then earl of Huntingdon,
discovered them in one of his huntings, and gave them aid and protection.
When Robin himself became an outlaw, the necessary qualification or gift
of continency was too hard a law for our lovers to subscribe to;
and as they were thus disqualified for foresters, Robin had found them
a retreat in this romantic and secluded spot. He had done similar
service to other lovers similarly circumstanced, and had disposed them
in various wild scenes which he and his men had discovered in their
flittings from place to place, supplying them with all necessaries
and comforts from the reluctant disgorgings of fat abbots and usurers.
The benefit was in some measure mutual; for these cottages served him
as resting-places in his removals, and enabled him to travel untraced
and unmolested; and in the delight with which he was always received
he found himself even more welcome than he would have been at an inn;
and this is saying very much for gratitude and affection together.
The smiles which surrounded him were of his own creation, and he participated
in the happiness he had bestowed.
The casements began to rattle in the wind, and the rain to beat upon
the windows. The wind swelled to a hurricane, and the rain dashed
like a flood against the glass. The boy retired to his little bed,
the wife trimmed the lamp, the husband heaped logs upon the fire:
Robin broached another flask; and Marian filled the baron's cup,
and sweetened Robin's by touching its edge with her lips.
"Well," said the baron, "give me a roof over my head, be it never so humble.
Your greenwood canopy is pretty and pleasant in sunshine; but if I were doomed
to live under it, I should wish it were water-tight."
"But," said Robin, "we have tents and caves for foul weather,
good store of wine and venison, and fuel in abundance."
"Ay, but," said the baron, "I like to pull off my boots of a night, which you
foresters seldom do, and to ensconce myself thereafter in a comfortable bed.
Your beech-root is over-hard for a couch, and your mossy stump is somewhat
rough for a bolster."
"Had you not dry leaves," said Robin, "with a bishop's surplice over them?
What would you have softer? And had you not an abbot's travelling cloak
for a coverlet? What would you have warmer?"
"Very true," said the baron, "but that was an indulgence to a guest, and I
dreamed all night of the sheriff of Nottingham. I like to feel myself safe,"
he added, stretching out his legs to the fire, and throwing himself
back in his chair with the air of a man determined to be comfortable.
"I like to feel myself safe," said the baron.
At that moment the woman caught her husband's arm, and all the party
following the direction of her eyes, looked simultaneously to the window,
where they had just time to catch a glimpse of an apparition of an armed head,
with its plumage tossing in the storm, on which the light shone from within,
and which disappeared immediately.
O knight, thou lack'st a cup of canary. When did I see thee
so put down?--Twelfth Night.
Several knocks, as from the knuckles of an iron glove, were given
to the door of the cottage, and a voice was heard entreating
shelter from the storm for a traveller who had lost his way.
Robin arose and went to the door.
"What are you?" said Robin.
"A soldier," replied the voice: "an unfortunate adherent of Longchamp,
flying the vengeance of Prince John."
"Are you alone?" said Robin.
"Yes," said the voice: "it is a dreadful night. Hospitable cottagers,
pray give me admittance. I would not have asked it but for the storm.
I would have kept my watch in the woods."
"That I believe," said Robin. "You did not reckon on the storm when you
turned into this pass. Do you know there are rogues this way?"
"I do," said the voice.
"So do I," said Robin.
A pause ensued, during which Robin listening attentively caught
a faint sound of whispering.
"You are not alone," said Robin. "Who are your companions?"
"None but the wind and the water," said the voice, "and I would
I had them not."
"The wind and the water have many voices," said Robin, "but I
never before heard them say, What shall we do?"
Another pause ensued: after which,
"Look ye, master cottager," said the voice, in an altered tone,
"if you do not let us in willingly, we will break down the door."
"Ho! ho!" roared the baron, "you are become plural are you, rascals? How many
are there of you, thieves? What, I warrant, you thought to rob and murder
a poor harmless cottager and his wife, and did not dream of a garrison?
You looked for no weapon of opposition but spit, poker, and basting ladle,
wielded by unskilful hands: but, rascals, here is short sword and long cudgel
in hands well tried in war, wherewith you shall be drilled into cullenders
and beaten into mummy."
No reply was made, but furious strokes from without resounded
upon the door. Robin, Marian, and the baron threw by their
pilgrim's attire, and stood in arms on the defensive.
They were provided with swords, and the cottager gave them
bucklers and helmets, for all Robin's haunts were furnished
with secret armouries. But they kept their swords sheathed,
and the baron wielded a ponderous spear, which he pointed towards
the door ready to run through the first that should enter,
and Robin and Marian each held a bow with the arrow drawn to its
head and pointed in the same direction. The cottager flourished
a strong cudgel (a weapon in the use of which he prided himself
on being particularly expert), and the wife seized the spit from
the fireplace, and held it as she saw the baron hold his spear.
The storm of wind and rain continued to beat on the roof and
the casement, and the storm of blows to resound upon the door,
which at length gave way with a violent crash, and a cluster
of armed men appeared without, seemingly not less than twelve.
Behind them rolled the stream now changed from a gentle and shallow
river to a mighty and impetuous torrent, roaring in waves of
yellow foam, partially reddened by the light that streamed through
the open door, and turning up its convulsed surface in flashes
of shifting radiance from restless masses of half-visible shadow.
The stepping-stones, by which the intruders must have crossed,
were buried under the waters. On the opposite bank the light
fell on the stems and boughs of the rock-rooted oak and ash
tossing and swaying in the blast, and sweeping the flashing
spray with their leaves.
The instant the door broke, Robin and Marian loosed their arrows.
Robin's arrow struck one of the assailants in the juncture of the shoulder,
and disabled his right arm: Marian's struck a second in the juncture
of the knee, and rendered him unserviceable; for the night.
The baron's long spear struck on the mailed breastplate of a third,
and being stretched to its full extent by the long-armed hero,
drove him to the edge of the torrent, and plunged him into its eddies,
along which he was whirled down the darkness of the descending stream,
calling vainly on his comrades for aid, till his voice was lost
in the mingled roar of the waters and the wind. A fourth springing
through the door was laid prostrate by the cottager's cudgel:
but the wife being less dexterous than her company, though an Amazon
in strength, missed her pass at a fifth, and drove the point of the spit
several inches into the right hand door-post as she stood close to
the left, and thus made a new barrier which the invaders could not pass
without dipping under it and submitting their necks to the sword:
but one of the assailants seizing it with gigantic rage, shook it at
once from the grasp of its holder and from its lodgment in the post,
and at the same time made good the irruption of the rest of his party
into the cottage.
Now raged an unequal combat, for the assailants fell two to one
on Robin, Marian, the baron, and the cottager; while the wife,
being deprived of her spit, converted every thing that was
at hand to a missile, and rained pots, pans, and pipkins on
the armed heads of the enemy. The baron raged like a tiger,
and the cottager laid about him like a thresher. One of the soldiers
struck Robin's sword from his hand and brought him on his knee,
when the boy, who had been roused by the tumult and had been
peeping through the inner door, leaped forward in his shirt,
picked up the sword and replaced it in Robin's hand, who instantly
springing up, disarmed and wounded one of his antagonists,
while the other was laid prostrate under the dint of a brass
cauldron launched by the Amazonian dame. Robin now turned
to the aid of Marian, who was parrying most dexterously the cuts
and slashes of her two assailants, of whom Robin delivered
her from one, while a well-applied blow of her sword struck off
the helmet of the other, who fell on his knees to beg a boon,
and she recognised Sir Ralph Montfaucon. The men who were engaged
with the baron and the peasant, seeing their leader subdued,
immediately laid down their arms and cried for quarter.
The wife brought some strong rope, and the baron tied their
arms behind them.
"Now, Sir Ralph," said Marian, "once more you are at my mercy."
"That I always am, cruel beauty," said the discomfited lover.
"Odso! courteous knight," said the baron, "is this the return you
make for my beef and canary, when you kissed my daughter's hand
in token of contrition for your intermeddling at her wedding?
Heart, I am glad to see she has given you a bloody coxcomb.
Slice him down, Mawd! slice him down, and fling him into the river."
"Confess," said Marian, "what brought you here, and how did you
trace our steps?"
"I will confess nothing," said the knight.
"Then confess you, rascal," said the baron, holding his sword
to the throat of the captive squire.
"Take away the sword," said the squire, "it is too near
my mouth, and my voice will not come out for fear:
take away the sword, and I will confess all."
The baron dropped his sword, and the squire proceeded;
"Sir Ralph met you, as you quitted Lady Falkland's castle,
and by representing to her who you were, borrowed from her such
a number of her retainers as he deemed must ensure your capture,
seeing that your familiar the friar was not at your elbow.
We set forth without delay, and traced you first by means
of a peasant who saw you turn into this valley, and afterwards
by the light from the casement of this solitary dwelling.
Our design was to have laid an ambush for you in the morning,
but the storm and your observation of my unlucky face through
the casement made us change our purpose; and what followed you
can tell better than I can, being indeed masters of the subject."
"You are a merry knave," said the baron, "and here is a cup
of wine for you."
"Gramercy," said the squire, "and better late than never:
but I lacked a cup of this before. Had I been pot-valiant, I
had held you play."
"Sir knight," said Marian, "this is the third time you have sought
the life of my lord and of me, for mine is interwoven with his.
And do you think me so spiritless as to believe that I can be yours
by compulsion? Tempt me not again, for the next time shall be the last,
and the fish of the nearest river shall commute the flesh of a
recreant knight into the fast-day dinner of an uncarnivorous friar.
I spare you now, not in pity but in scorn. Yet shall you swear
to a convention never more to pursue or molest my lord or me,
and on this condition you shall live."
The knight had no alternative but to comply, and swore,
on the honour of knighthood, to keep the convention inviolate.
How well he kept his oath we shall have no opportunity of narrating:
Di lui la nostra istoria piu non parla.
Carry me over the water, thou fine fellowe. Old Ballad.
The pilgrims, without experiencing further molestation, arrived at
the retreat of Sir Guy of Gamwell. They found the old knight
a cup too low; partly from being cut off from the scenes of his
old hospitality and the shouts of his Nottinghamshire vassals,
who were wont to make the rafters of his ancient hall re-echo
to their revelry; but principally from being parted from his son,
who had long been the better half of his flask and pasty.
The arrival of our visitors cheered him up; and finding that
the baron was to remain with him, he testified his delight
and the cordiality of his welcome by pegging him in the ribs
till he made him roar.
Robin and Marian took an affectionate leave of the baron and the old knight;
and before they quitted the vicinity of Barnsdale, deeming it prudent
to return in a different disguise, they laid aside their pilgrim's attire,
and assumed the habits and appurtenances of wandering minstrels.
They travelled in this character safely and pleasantly, till one
evening at a late hour they arrived by the side of a river,
where Robin looking out for a mode of passage perceived
a ferry-boat safely moored in a nook on the opposite bank;
near which a chimney sending up a wreath of smoke through
the thick-set willows, was the only symptom of human habitation;
and Robin naturally conceiving the said chimney and wreath of smoke
to be the outward signs of the inward ferryman, shouted "Over!"
with much strength and clearness; but no voice replied,
and no ferryman appeared. Robin raised his voice, and shouted
with redoubled energy, "Over, Over, O-o-o-over!" A faint echo
alone responded "Over!" and again died away into deep silence:
but after a brief interval a voice from among the willows,
in a strange kind of mingled intonation that was half a shout
and half a song, answered:
Over, over, over, jolly, jolly rover,
Would you then come over? Over, over, over?
Jolly, jolly rover, here's one lives in clover:
Who finds the clover? The jolly, jolly rover.
He finds the clover, let him then come over,
The jolly, jolly rover, over, over, over,
"I much doubt," said Marian, "if this ferryman do not mean by clover
something more than the toll of his ferry-boat."
"I doubt not," answered Robin, "he is a levier of toll and tithe,
which I shall put him upon proof of his right to receive,
by making trial of his might to enforce."
The ferryman emerged from the willows and stepped into his boat.
"As I live," exclaimed Robin, "the ferryman is a friar."
"With a sword," said Marian, "stuck in his rope girdle."
The friar pushed his boat off manfully, and was presently half
over the river.
"It is friar Tuck," said Marian.
"He will scarcely know us," said Robin; "and if he do not,
I will break a staff with him for sport."
The friar came singing across the water: the boat touched the land:
Robin and Marian stepped on board: the friar pushed off again.
"Silken doublets, silken doublets," said the friar:
"slenderly lined, I bow: your wandering minstrel is always
poor toll: your sweet angels of voices pass current for a bed
and a supper at the house of every lord that likes to hear
the fame of his valour without the trouble of fighting for it.
What need you of purse or pouch? You may sing before thieves.
Pedlars, pedlars: wandering from door to door with the small
ware of lies and cajolery: exploits for carpet-knights;
honesty for courtiers; truth for monks, and chastity for nuns:
a good saleable stock that costs the vender nothing, defies wear
and tear, and when it has served a hundred customers is as plentiful
and as marketable as ever. But, sirrahs, I'll none of your balderdash.
You pass not hence without clink of brass, or I'll knock your
musical noddles together till they ring like a pair of cymbals.
That will be a new tune for your minstrelships."
This friendly speech of the friar ended as they stepped on the opposite bank.
Robin had noticed as they passed that the summer stream was low.
"Why, thou brawling mongrel," said Robin, "that whether thou be thief, friar,
or ferryman, or an ill-mixed compound of all three, passes conjecture,
though I judge thee to be simple thief, what barkest thou at thus?
Villain, there is clink of brass for thee. Dost thou see this coin?
Dost thou hear this music? Look and listen: for touch thou shalt not:
my minstrelship defies thee. Thou shalt carry me on thy back over the water,
and receive nothing but a cracked sconce for thy trouble."
"A bargain," said the friar: "for the water is low, the labour is light,
and the reward is alluring." And he stooped down for Robin, who mounted
his back, and the friar waded with him over the river.
"Now, fine fellow," said the friar, "thou shalt carry me back over the water,
and thou shalt have a cracked sconce for thy trouble."
Robin took the friar on his back, and waded with him into the middle
of the river, when by a dexterous jerk he suddenly flung him off
and plunged him horizontally over head and ears in the water.
Robin waded to shore, and the friar, half swimming and
half scrambling, followed.
"Fine fellow, fine fellow," said the friar, "now will I pay thee
thy cracked sconce."
"Not so," said Robin, "I have not earned it: but thou hast earned it,
and shalt have it."
It was not, even in those good old times, a sight of every day
to see a troubadour and a friar playing at single-stick by the side
of a river, each aiming with fell intent at the other's coxcomb.
The parties were both so skilled in attack and defence, that their
mutual efforts for a long time expended themselves in quick
and loud rappings on each other's oaken staves. At length Robin
by a dexterous feint contrived to score one on the friar's crown:
but in the careless moment of triumph a splendid sweep of the friar's
staff struck Robin's out of his hand into the middle of the river,
and repaid his crack on the head with a degree of vigour that might
have passed the bounds of a jest if Marian had not retarded its
descent by catching the friar's arm.
"How now, recreant friar," said Marian; "what have you
to say why you should not suffer instant execution,
being detected in open rebellion against your liege lord?
Therefore kneel down, traitor, and submit your neck to the sword
of the offended law."
"Benefit of clergy," said the friar: "I plead my clergy.
And is it you indeed, ye scapegraces? Ye are well disguised:
I knew ye not, by my flask. Robin, jolly Robin, he buys
a jest dearly that pays for it with a bloody coxcomb.
But here is balm for all bruises, outward and inward.
(The friar produced a flask of canary.) Wash thy wound twice
and thy throat thrice with this solar concoction, and thou shalt
marvel where was thy hurt. But what moved ye to this frolic?
Knew ye not that ye could not appear in a mask more fashioned
to move my bile than in that of these gilders and lackerers of
the smooth surface of worthlessness, that bring the gold of true
valour into disrepute, by stamping the baser metal with the fairer
im-pression? I marvelled to find any such given to fighting
(for they have an old instinct of self-preservation): but I
rejoiced thereat, that I might discuss to them poetical justice:
and therefore have I cracked thy sconce: for which, let this
be thy medicine."
"But wherefore," said Marian, "do we find you here, when we left
you joint lord warden of Sherwood?"
"I do but retire to my devotions," replied the friar.
"This is my hermitage, in which I first took refuge when I
escaped from my beloved brethren of Rubygill; and to which I
still retreat at times from the vanities of the world,
which else might cling to me too closely, since I have been
promoted to be peer-spiritual of your forest-court. For,
indeed, I do find in myself certain indications and admonitions
that my day has past its noon; and none more cogent than this:
that daily of bad wine I grow more intolerant, and of good wine
have a keener and more fastidious relish. There is no surer
symptom of receding years. The ferryman is my faithful varlet.
I send him on some pious errand, that I may meditate in ghostly
privacy, when my presence in the forest can best be spared:
and when can it be better spared than now, seeing that the
neighbourhood of Prince John, and his incessant perquisitions
for Marian, have made the forest too hot to hold more of us
than are needful to keep up a quorum, and preserve unbroken
the continuity of our forest-dominion? For, in truth, without your
greenwood majesties, we have hardly the wit to live in a body,
and at the same time to keep our necks out of jeopardy,
while that arch-rebel and traitor John infests the precincts
of our territory."
The friar now conducted them to his peaceful cell, where he spread
his frugal board with fish, venison, wild-fowl, fruit, and canary.
Under the compound operation of this materia medica Robin's wounds
healed apace, and the friar, who hated minstrelsy, began as usual
chirping in his cups. Robin and Marian chimed in with his tuneful
humour till the midnight moon peeped in upon their revelry.
It was now the very witching time of night, when they heard
a voice shouting, "Over!" They paused to listen, and the voice
repeated "Over!" in accents clear and loud, but which at
the same time either were in themselves, or seemed to be,
from the place and the hour, singularly plaintive and dreary.
The friar fidgetted about in his seat: fell into a deep musing:
shook himself, and looked about him: first at Marian, then at Robin,
then at Marian again; filled and tossed off a cup of canary,
and relapsed into his reverie.
"Will you not bring your passenger over?" said Robin. The friar
shook his head and looked mysterious.
"That passenger," said the friar, "will never come over.
Every full moon, at midnight, that voice calls, 'Over!' I and my
varlet have more than once obeyed the summons, and we have sometimes
had a glimpse of a white figure under the opposite trees:
but when the boat has touched the bank, nothing has been to be seen;
and the voice has been heard no more till the midnight of the
next full moon."
"It is very strange," said Robin.
"Wondrous strange," said the friar, looking solemn.
The voice again called "Over!" in a long plaintive musical cry.
"I must go to it," said the friar, "or it will give us no peace.
I would all my customers were of this world. I begin to think
that I am Charon, and that this river is Styx."
"I will go with you, friar," said Robin.
"By my flask," said the friar, "but you shall not."
"Then I will," said Marian.
"Still less," said the friar, hurrying out of the cell.
Robin and Marian followed: but the friar outstepped them,
and pushed off his boat.
A white figure was visible under the shade of the opposite trees.
The boat approached the shore, and the figure glided away.
The friar returned.
They re-entered the cottage, and sat some time conversing
on the phenomenon they had seen. The friar sipped his wine,
and after a time, said:
"There is a tradition of a damsel who was drowned here some years ago.
The tradition is----"
But the friar could not narrate a plain tale: he therefore cleared
his throat, and sang with due solemnity, in a ghostly voice:
A damsel came in midnight rain,
And called across the ferry:
The weary wight she called in vain,
Whose senses sleep did bury.
At evening, from her father's door
She turned to meet her lover:
At midnight, on the lonely shore,
She shouted "Over, over!"
She had not met him by the tree
Of their accustomed meeting,
And sad and sick at heart was she,
Her heart all wildly beating.
In chill suspense the hours went by,
The wild storm burst above her:
She turned her to the river nigh,
And shouted, "Over, over!"
A dim, discoloured, doubtful light
The moon's dark veil permitted,
And thick before her troubled sight
Fantastic shadows flitted.
Her lover's form appeared to glide,
And beckon o'er the water:
Alas! his blood that morn had dyed
Her brother's sword with slaughter.
Upon a little rock she stood,
To make her invocation:
She marked not that the rain-swoll'n flood
Was islanding her station.
The tempest mocked her feeble cry:
No saint his aid would give her:
The flood swelled high and yet more high,
And swept her down the river.
Yet oft beneath the pale moonlight,
When hollow winds are blowing,
The shadow of that maiden bright
Glides by the dark stream's flowing.
And when the storms of midnight rave,
While clouds the broad moon cover,
The wild gusts waft across the wave
The cry of, "Over, over!"
While the friar was singing, Marian was meditating:
and when he had ended she said, "Honest friar, you have misplaced
your tradition, which belongs to the aestuary of a nobler river,
where the damsel was swept away by the rising of the tide,
for which your land-flood is an indifferent substitute.
But the true tradition of this stream I think I myself possess,
and I will narrate it in your own way:
It was a friar of orders free,
A friar of Rubygill:
At the greenwood-tree a vow made he,
But he kept it very ill:
A vow made he of chastity,
But he kept it very ill.
He kept it, perchance, in the conscious shade
Of the bounds of the forest wherein it was made:
But he roamed where he listed, as free as the wind,
And he left his good vow in the forest behind:
For its woods out of sight were his vow out of mind,
With the friar of Rubygill.
In lonely hut himself he shut,
The friar of Rubygill;
Where the ghostly elf absolved himself,
To follow his own good will:
And he had no lack of canary sack,
To keep his conscience still.
And a damsel well knew, when at lonely midnight
It gleamed on the waters, his signal-lamp-light:
"Over! over!" she warbled with nightingale throat,
And the friar sprung forth at the magical note,
And she crossed the dark stream in his trim ferryboat,
With the friar of Rubygill.
"Look you now," said Robin, "if the friar does not blush.
Many strange sights have I seen in my day, but never till this
moment did I see a blushing friar."
"I think," said the friar, "you never saw one that blushed not,
or you saw good canary thrown away. But you are welcome to laugh
if it so please you. None shall laugh in my company, though it
be at my expense, but I will have my share of the merriment.
The world is a stage, and life is a farce, and he that laughs
most has most profit of the performance. The worst thing is good
enough to be laughed at, though it be good for nothing else;
and the best thing, though it be good for something else,
is good for nothing better."
And he struck up a song in praise of laughing and quaffing, without further
adverting to Marian's insinuated accusation; being, perhaps, of opinion,
that it was a subject on which the least said would be the soonest mended.
So passed the night. In the morning a forester came to the friar,
with intelligence that Prince John had been compelled, by the urgency
of his affairs in other quarters, to disembarrass Nottingham Castle
of his royal presence. Our wanderers returned joyfully to their
forest-dominion, being thus relieved from the vicinity of any more
formidable belligerent than their old bruised and beaten enemy
the sheriff of Nottingham.
Oh! this life
Is nobler than attending for a check,
Richer than doing nothing for a bribe
Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk.--Cymbeline.
So Robin and Marian dwelt and reigned in the forest, ranging the glades
and the greenwoods from the matins of the lark to the vespers
of the nightingale, and administering natural justice according
to Robin's ideas of rectifying the inequalities of human condition:
raising genial dews from the bags of the rich and idle, and returning
them in fertilising showers on the poor and industrious:
an operation which more enlightened statesmen have happily reversed,
to the unspeakable benefit of the community at large.
The light footsteps of Marian were impressed on the morning dew beside
the firmer step of her lover, and they shook its large drops about them
as they cleared themselves a passage through the thick tall fern,
without any fear of catching cold, which was not much in fashion
in the twelfth century. Robin was as hospitable as Cathmor;
for seven men stood on seven paths to call the stranger to his feast.
It is true, he superadded the small improvement of making
the stranger pay for it: than which what could be more generous?
For Cathmor was himself the prime giver of his feast,
whereas Robin was only the agent to a series of strangers,
who provided in turn for the entertainment of their successors;
which is carrying the disinterestedness of hospitality to its acme.
Marian often killed the deer,
Which Scarlet dressed, and Friar Tuck blessed
While Little John wandered in search of a guest.
Robin was very devout, though there was great unity in his religion:
it was exclusively given to our Lady the Virgin, and he never set forth
in a morning till he had said three prayers, and had heard the sweet
voice of his Marian singing a hymn to their mutual patroness. Each of
his men had, as usual, a patron saint according to his name or taste.
The friar chose a saint for himself, and fixed on Saint Botolph,
whom he euphonised into Saint Bottle, and maintained that he was
that very Panomphic Pantagruelian saint, well known in ancient
France as a female divinity, by the name of La Dive Bouteille,
whose oracular monosyllable "Trincq,', is celebrated and under-stood
by all nations, and is expounded by the learned doctor Alcofribas,
who has treated at large on the subject, to signify "drink."
Saint Bottle, then, was the saint of Friar Tuck, who did not yield
even to Robin and Marian in the assiduity of his devotions to his
chosen patron. Such was their summer life, and in their winter caves
they had sufficient furniture, ample provender, store of old wine,
and assuredly no lack of fuel, with joyous music and pleasant discourse
to charm away the season of darkness and storms.
 Alcofribas Nasier: an anagram of Francois Rabelais,
and his assumed appellation.
The reader who desires to know more about this oracular divinity,
may consult the said doctor Alcofribas Nasier, who will usher him
into the adytum through the medium of the high priestess Bacbuc.
Many moons had waxed and waned, when on the afternoon of a lovely
summer day a lusty broad-boned knight was riding through the forest
of Sherwood. The sun shone brilliantly on the full green foliage,
and afforded the knight a fine opportunity of observing picturesque
effects, of which it is to be feared he did not avail himself.
But he had not proceeded far, before he had an opportunity of observing
something much more interesting, namely, a fine young outlaw leaning,
in the true Sherwood fashion, with his back against a tree.
The knight was preparing to ask the stranger a question, the answer
to which, if correctly given, would have relieved him from a doubt
that pressed heavily on his mind, as to whether he was in the right
road or the wrong, when the youth prevented the inquiry by saying:
"In God's name, sir knight, you are late to your meals.
My master has tarried dinner for you these three hours."
"I doubt," said the knight, "I am not he you wot of.
I am no where bidden to day and I know none in this vicinage."
"We feared," said the youth, "your memory would be treacherous:
therefore am I stationed here to refresh it."
"Who is your master?" said the knight; "and where does he abide?"
"My master," said the youth, "is called Robin Hood, and he abides hard by."
"And what knows he of me?" said the knight.
"He knows you," answered the youth "as he does every way-faring
knight and friar, by instinct."
"Gramercy," said the knight; "then I understand his bidding:
but how if I say I will not come?"
"I am enjoined to bring you," said the youth. "If persuasion avail not,
I must use other argument."
"Say'st thou so?" said the knight; "I doubt if thy stripling rhetoric
would convince me."
"That," said the young forester, "we will see."
"We are not equally matched, boy," said the knight.
"I should get less honour by thy conquest, than grief
by thy injury."
"Perhaps," said the youth, "my strength is more than my seeming,
and my cunning more than my strength. Therefore let it please
your knighthood to dismount."
"It shall please my knighthood to chastise thy presumption,"
said the knight, springing from his saddle.
Hereupon, which in those days was usually the result of a meeting
between any two persons anywhere, they proceeded to fight.
The knight had in an uncommon degree both strength and skill:
the forester had less strength, but not less skill than the knight,
and showed such a mastery of his weapon as reduced the latter
to great admiration.
They had not fought many minutes by the forest clock, the sun;
and had as yet done each other no worse injury than that
the knight had wounded the forester's jerkin, and the forester
had disabled the knight's plume; when they were interrupted
by a voice from a thicket, exclaiming, "Well fought, girl:
well fought. Mass, that had nigh been a shrewd hit.
Thou owest him for that, lass. Marry, stand by, I'll pay
him for thee."
The knight turning to the voice, beheld a tall friar issuing from the thicket,
brandishing a ponderous cudgel.
"Who art thou?" said the knight.
"I am the church militant of Sherwood," answered the friar.
"Why art thou in arms against our lady queen?"
"What meanest thou?" said the knight.
"Truly, this," said the friar, "is our liege lady of the forest,
against whom I do apprehend thee in overt act of treason.
What sayest thou for thyself?"
"I say," answered the knight, "that if this be indeed a lady,
man never yet held me so long."
"Spoken," said the friar, "like one who hath done execution.
Hast thou thy stomach full of steel? Wilt thou diversify thy repast
with a taste of my oak-graff? Or wilt thou incline thine heart
to our venison which truly is cooling? Wilt thou fight? or wilt thou
dine? or wilt thou fight and dine? or wilt thou dine and fight?
I am for thee, choose as thou mayest."
"I will dine," said the knight; "for with lady I never fought before,
and with friar I never fought yet, and with neither will I ever
fight knowingly: and if this be the queen of the forest, I will not,
being in her own dominions, be backward to do her homage."
So saying, he kissed the hand of Marian, who was pleased most graciously
to express her approbation.
"Gramercy, sir knight," said the friar, "I laud thee for
thy courtesy, which I deem to be no less than thy valour.
Now do thou follow me, while I follow my nose, which scents
the pleasant odour of roast from the depth of the forest recesses.
I will lead thy horse, and do thou lead my lady."
The knight took Marian's hand, and followed the friar, who walked
before them, singing:
When the wind blows, when the wind blows
From where under buck the dry log glows,
What guide can you follow,
O'er brake and o'er hollow,
So true as a ghostly, ghostly nose?
Robin and Richard were two pretty men. Mother Goose's Melody.
They proceeded, following their infallible guide, first along a light
elastic greensward under the shade of lofty and wide-spreading trees
that skirted a sunny opening of the forest, then along labyrinthine paths,
which the deer, the outlaw, or the woodman had made, through the close shoots
of the young coppices, through the thick undergrowth of the ancient woods,
through beds of gigantic fern that filled the narrow glades and waved their
green feathery heads above the plume of the knight. Along these sylvan alleys
they walked in single file; the friar singing and pioneering in the van,
the horse plunging and floundering behind the friar, the lady following
"in maiden meditation fancy free," and the knight bringing up the rear,
much marvelling at the strange company into which his stars had thrown him.
Their path had expanded sufficiently to allow the knight to take Marian's
hand again, when they arrived in the august presence of Robin Hood
and his court.
Robin's table was spread under a high overarching canopy of living boughs,
on the edge of a natural lawn of verdure starred with flowers,
through which a swift transparent rivulet ran sparkling in the sun.
The board was covered with abundance of choice food and excellent liquor,
not without the comeliness of snow-white linen and the splendour
of costly plate, which the sheriff of Nottingham had unwillingly
contributed to supply, at the same time with an excellent cook,
whom Little John's art had spirited away to the forest with the contents
of his master's silver scullery.
An hundred foresters were here assembled over-ready for their dinner,
some seated at the table and some lying in groups under the trees.
Robin bade courteous welcome to the knight, who took his seat between
Robin and Marian at the festal board; at which was already placed
one strange guest in the person of a portly monk, sitting between
Little John and Scarlet, with, his rotund physiognomy elongated
into an unnatural oval by the conjoint influence of sorrow and fear:
sorrow for the departed contents of his travelling treasury, a good-looking
valise which was hanging empty on a bough; and fear for his personal safety,
of which all the flasks and pasties before him could not give him assurance.
The appearance of the knight, however, cheered him up with a semblance
of protection, and gave him just sufficient courage to demolish a cygnet
and a rumble-pie, which he diluted with the contents of two flasks