Part 3 out of 4
bidding am I come, bearing the ring of amnesty which I will
protect--as I would protect Your Majesty's honor--with my life!"
"Thou art welcome, Lockesley," said the Queen smiling graciously.
"Thou art come in good time, thou and all thy brave yeomanry."
Then Robin presented each of his men in turn, and each fell on
his knee and was greeted with most kindly words. And the Queen
kissed fair Mistress Dale upon the cheek, and bade her remain in
the palace with her ladies while she was in the city. And she
made all the party be seated to rest themselves after their long
journey. Fine wines were brought, and cake, and rich food, for
their refreshment. And as they ate and drank, the Queen told
them further of the tourney to be held at Finsbury Field, and of
how she desired them to wear her colors and shoot for her.
Meantime, she concluded, they were to lie by quietly and be known
of no man.
To do all this, Robin and his men pledged themselves full
heartily. Then at the Queen's request, they related to her and
her ladies some of their merry adventures; whereat the listeners
were vastly entertained, and laughed heartily. Then Marian, who
had heard of the wedding at Plympton Church, told it so drolly
that tears stood in the Queen's eyes from merriment.
"My lord Bishop of Hereford!" she said, "'Twas indeed a comical
business for him! I shall keep that to twit his bones, I promise
you! So this is our minstrel?" she added presently, turning to
Allan-a-Dale. "Methinks I have already heard of him. Will he
not harp awhile for us to-day?"
Allan bowed low, and took a harp which was brought to him, and he
thrummed the strings and sang full sweetly the border songs of
the North Countree. And the Queen and all her ladies listened in
rapt silence till all the songs were ended.
HOW THE OUTLAWS SHOT IN KING HARRY'S TOURNEY
The King is into Finsbury Field
Marching in battle 'ray,
And after follows bold Robin Hood,
And all his yeomen gay.
The morning of the great archery contest dawned fair and bright,
bringing with it a fever of impatience to every citizen of London
town, from the proudest courtier to the lowest kitchen wench.
Aye, and all the surrounding country was early awake, too, and
began to wend their way to Finsbury Field, a fine broad stretch
of practice ground near Moorfields. Around three sides of the
Field were erected tier upon tier of seats, for the spectators,
with the royal boxes and booths for the nobility and gentry in
the center. Down along one end were pitched gaily colored tents
for the different bands of King's archers. There were ten of
these bands, each containing a score of men headed by a captain
of great renown; so to-day there were ten of the pavilions, each
bearing aloft the Royal Arms and vari-colored pennants which
fluttered lightly in the fresh morning breeze.
Each captain's flag was of peculiar color and device. First came
the royal purple streamer of Tepus, own bow-bearer to the King,
and esteemed the finest archer in all the land. Then came the
yellow of Clifton of Buckinghamshire; and the blue of Gilbert of
the White Hand--he who was renowned in Nottinghamshire; and the
green of Elwyn the Welshman; and the White of Robert of
Cloudesdale; and, after them, five other captains of bands, each
a man of proved prowess. As the Queen had said aforetime, the
King was mightily proud of his archers, and now held this tourney
to show their skill and, mayhap, to recruit their forces.
The uprising tiers of seats filled early, upon this summer
morning, and the merry chatter of the people went abroad like the
hum of bees in a hive. The royal party had not yet put in an
appearance, nor were any of the King's archers visible. So the
crowd was content to hide its impatience by laughing jibes passed
from one section to another, and crying the colors of their
favorite archers. In and out among the seats went hawkers, their
arms laden with small pennants to correspond with the rival
tents. Other vendors of pie and small cakes and cider also did a
thrifty business, for so eager had some of the people been to get
good seats, that they had rushed away from home without their
Suddenly the gates at the far end, next the tents, opened wide,
and a courier in scarlet and gold, mounted upon a white horse,
rode in blowing lustily upon the trumpet at his lips; and behind
him came six standard-bearers riding abreast. The populace arose
with a mighty cheer. King Harry had entered the arena. He
bestrode a fine white charger and was clad in a rich dark suit of
slashed velvet with satin and gold facings. His hat bore a long
curling ostrich plume of pure white and he doffed it graciously
in answer to the shouts of the people. By his side rode Queen
Eleanor, looking regal and charming in her long brocade
riding-habit; while immediately behind them came Prince Richard
and Prince John, each attired in knightly coats of mail and
helmets. Lords and ladies of the realm followed; and finally, the
ten companies of archers, whose progress round the field was
greeted with hardly less applause than that given the King
The King and Queen dismounted from their steeds, ascended the
steps of the royal box, and seated themselves upon two thrones,
decked with purple and gold trapping, upon a dais sheltered by
striped canvas. In the booths at each side the members of the
Court took their places; while comely pages ran hither and
thither bearing the royal commands. 'Twas a lordly sight, I
ween, this shifting of proud courtiers, flashing of jeweled fans,
and commingling of bright colors with costly gems!
Now the herald arose to command peace, and soon the clear note of
his bugle rose above the roar of the crowd and hushed it to
silence. The tenscore archers ranged themselves in two long rows
on each side of the lists--a gallant array--while their captains,
as a special mark of favor, stood near the royal box.
"Come hither, Tepus," said the King to his bow-bearer. "Come,
measure me out this line, how long our mark must be."
"What is the reward?" then asked the Queen.
"That will the herald presently proclaim," answered the King.
"For first prize we have offered a purse containing twoscore
golden pounds; for second, a purse containing twoscore silver
pennies; and for third a silver bugle, inlaid with gold.
Moreover, if the King's companies keep these prizes, the winning
companies shall have, first, two tuns of Rhenish wine; second,
two tuns of English beer; and, third, five of the fattest harts
that run on Dallom Lea. Methinks that is a princely wager,"
added King Harry laughingly.
Up spake bold Clifton, secure in the King's favor. "Measure no
marks for us, most sovereign liege," quoth he; "for such largess
as that, we'll shoot at the sun and the moon."
"'Twill not be so far as that," said the King. "But get a line
of good length, Tepus, and set up the targets at tenscore paces."
Forthwith, Tepus bowed low, and set up ten targets, each bearing
the pennant of a different company, while the herald stood forth
again and proclaimed the rules and prizes. The entries were open
to all comers. Each man, also, of the King's archers should
shoot three arrows at the target bearing the colors of his band,
until the best bowman in each band should be chosen. These ten
chosen archers should then enter a contest for an open
target--three shots apiece--and here any other bowman whatsoever
was asked to try his skill. The result at the open targets
should decide the tourney.
Then all the people shouted again, in token that the terms of the
contest pleased them; and the archers waved their bows aloft, and
wheeled into position facing their respective targets.
The shooting now began, upon all the targets at once, and the
multitude had so much ado to watch them, that they forgot to
shout. Besides, silence was commanded during the shooting. Of
all the fine shooting that morning, I have not now space to tell
you. The full score of men shot three times at each target, and
then three times again to decide a tie. For, more than once, the
arrow shot by one man would be split wide open by his successor.
Every man's shaft bore his number to ease the counting; and so
close would they stick at the end of a round, that the target
looked like a big bristle hairbrush. Then must the spectators
relieve their tense spirits by great cheering; while the King
looked mighty proud of his skilled bowmen.
At last the company targets were decided, and Tepus, as was
expected, led the score, having made six exact centers in
succession. Gilbert of the White Hand followed with five, and
Clifton with four. Two other captains had touched their center
four times, but not roundly. While in the other companies it so
chanced that the captains had been out-shot by some of the men
The winners then saluted the King and Queen, and withdrew for a
space to rest and renew their bow-strings for the keenest contest
of all; while the lists were cleared and a new target--the open
one--was set up at twelvescore paces. At the bidding of the
King, the herald announced that the open target was to be shot
at, to decide the title of the best archer in all England; and
any man there present was privileged to try for it. But so keen
had been the previous shooting, that many yeomen who had come to
enter the lists now would not do so; and only a dozen men stepped
forth to give in their names.
"By my halidom!" said the King, "these must be hardy men to pit
themselves against my archers!"
"Think you that your ten chosen fellows are the best bowmen in
all England?" asked the Queen.
"Aye, and in all the world beside," answered the King; "and
thereunto I would stake five hundred pounds."
"I am minded to take your wager," said the Queen musingly, "and
will e'en do so if you grant me a boon."
"What is it?" asked the King.
"If I produce five archers who can out-shoot your ten, will you
grant my men full grace and amnesty?"
"Assuredly!" quoth the King in right good humor. "Nathless, I
tell you now, your wager is in jeopardy, for there never were
such bowmen as Tepus and Clifton and Gilbert!"
"Hum!" said the Queen puckering her brow, still as though lost in
thought. "I must see if there be none present to aid me in my
wager. Boy, call hither Sir Richard of the Lea and my lord
Bishop of Hereford!"
The two summoned ones, who had been witnessing the sport, came
"Sir Richard," said she, "thou art a full knight and good.
Would'st advise me to meet a wager of the King's, that I can
produce other archers as good as Tepus and Gilbert and Clifton?"
"Nay, Your Majesty," he said, bending his knee. "There be none
present that can match them. Howbeit,"--he added dropping his
voice--'I have heard of some who lie hid in Sherwood Forest who
could show them strange targets."
The Queen smiled and dismissed him.
"Come hither, my lord Bishop of Hereford," quoth she, "would'st
thou advance a sum to support my wager 'gainst the King?"
"Nay, Your Majesty," said the fat Bishop, "an you pardon me, I'd
not lay down a penny on such a bet. For by my silver mitre, the
King's archers are men who have no peers."
"But suppose I found men whom THOU KNEWEST to be masters at the
bow," she insisted roguishly, "would'st thou not back them?
Belike, I have heard that there be men round about Nottingham and
Plympton who carry such matters with a high hand!"
The Bishop glanced nervously around, as if half expecting to see
Robin Hood's men standing near; then turned to find the Queen
looking at him with much amusement lurking in her eyes.
"Odds bodikins! The story of my misadventure must have preceded
me!" he thought, ruefully. Aloud he said, resolved to face it
"Your Majesty, such tales are idle and exaggerated. An you
pardon me, I would add to the King's wager that his men are
"As it pleases thee," replied the Queen imperturbably. "How
"Here is my purse," said the Bishop uneasily. "It contains
fifteen score nobles, or near a hundred pounds."
"I'll take it at even money," she said, dismissing him; "and Your
Majesty"--turning to the King who had been conversing with the
two princes and certain of the nobles--"I accept your wager of
five hundred pounds."
"Very good," said the King, laughing as though it were a great
jest. "But what had minded you to take such interest in the
sport, of a sudden?"
"It is as I have said. I have found five men whom I will pit
against any you may produce."
"Then we will try their skill speedily," quoth the King. "How
say you, if first we decide this open target and then match the
five best thereat against your unknown champions?"
"Agreed," said the Queen. Thereupon she signed to Maid Marian to
step forward, from a near-by booth where she sat with other
ladies-in-waiting, and whispered something in her ear. Marian
courtesied and withdrew.
Now the ten chosen archers from the King's bands came forth again
and took their stand; and with them stood forth the twelve
untried men from the open lists. Again the crowd was stilled,
and every eye hung upon the speeding of the shafts. Slowly but
skilfully each man shot, and as his shaft struck within the inner
ring a deep breath broke from the multitude like the sound of the
wind upon the seashore. And now Gilbert of the White Hand led
the shooting, and 'twas only by the space of a hairsbreadth upon
the line that Tepus tied his score. Stout Elwyn, the Welshman,
took third place; one of the private archers, named Geoffrey,
come fourth; while Clifton must needs content himself with fifth.
The men from the open lists shot fairly true, but nervousness and
fear of ridicule wrought their undoing.
The herald then came forward again, and, instead of announcing
the prize-winners, proclaimed that there was to be a final
contest. Two men had tied for first place, declared His Majesty
the King, and three others were entitled to honors. Now all
these five were to shoot again, and they were to be pitted
against five other of the Queen's choosing--men who had not yet
shot upon that day.
A thrill of astonishment and excitement swept around the arena.
"Who were these men of the Queen's choosing?" was upon every lip.
The hubbub of eager voices grew intense; and in the midst of it
all, the gate at the far end of the field opened and five men
entered and escorted a lady upon horseback across the arena to
the royal box. The lady was instantly recognized as Mistress
Marian of the Queen's household, but no one seemed to know the
faces of her escort. Four were clad in Lincoln green, while the
fifth, who seemed to be the leader, was dressed in a brave suit
of scarlet red. Each man wore a close fitting cap of black,
decked with a curling white feather. For arms, they carried
simply a stout bow, a sheaf of new arrows, and a short
When the little party came before the dais on which the King and
Queen sat, the yeomen doffed their caps humbly, while Maid Marian
was assisted to dismount.
"Your Gracious Majesty," she said, addressing the Queen, "these
be the men for whom you sent me, and who are now come to wear
your colors and service you in the tourney."
The Queen leaned forward and handed them each a scarf of green
"Lockesley," she said in a clear voice, "I thank thee and thy men
for this service. Know that I have laid a wager with the King
that ye can outshoot the best five whom he has found in all his
bowmen." The five men pressed the scarfs to their lips in token
The King turned to the Queen inquiringly.
"Who are these men you have brought before us?" asked he.
Up came the worthy Bishop of Hereford, growing red and pale by
"Your pardon, my liege lord!" cried he; "But I must denounce
these fellows as outlaws. Yon man in scarlet is none other than
Robin Hood himself. The others are Little John and Will Stutely
and Will Scarlet and Allan-a-Dale--all famous in the North
Countree for their deeds of violence."
"As my lord Bishop personally knows!" added the Queen
The King's brows grew dark. The name of Robin Hood was well
known to him, as to every man there present.
"Is this true?" he demanded sternly.
"Aye, my lord," responded the Queen demurely. "But, bethink
you--I have your royal promise of grace and amnesty."
"That will I keep," said the King, holding in check his ire by a
mighty effort. "But, look you! Only forty days do I grant of
respite. When this time has elapsed, let these bold outlaws look
to their safety!"
Then turning to his five victorious archers, who had drawn near,
he added, "Ye have heard, my men, how that I have a wager with
the Queen upon your prowess. Now here be men of her
choosing--certain free shafts of Sherwood and Barnesdale.
Wherefore look well to it, Gilbert and Tepus and Geoffrey and
Elwyn and Clifton! If ye outshoot these knaves, I will fill your
caps with silver pennies--aye, and knight the man who stands
first. But if ye lose, I give the prizes, for which ye have just
striven, to Robin Hood and his men, according to my royal word."
"Robin Hood and his men!" the saying flew round the arena with
the speed of wild-fire, and every neck craned forward to see the
famous fellows who had dared to brave the King's anger, because
of the Queen.
Another target was now set up, at the same distance as the last,
and it was decided that the ten archers should shoot three arrows
in turn. Gilbert and Robin tossed up a penny for the lead, and
it fell to the King's men. So Clifton was bidden to shoot first.
Forth he stood, planting his feet firmly, and wetting his fingers
before plucking the string. For he was resolved to better his
losing score of that day. And in truth he did so, for the shaft
he loosed sped true, and landed on the black bull's-eye, though
not in the exact center. Again he shot, and again he hit the
black, on the opposite rim. The third shaft swerved downward and
came within the second ring, some two fingers' breadths away.
Nathless, a general cry went up, as this was the best shooting
Clifton had done that day.
Will Scarlet was chosen to follow him, and now took his place and
carefully chose three round and full-feathered arrows.
"Careful, my sweet coz!" quoth Robin in a low tone. "The knave
has left wide space at the center for all of your darts."
But Robin gave Will the wrong caution, for over-much care spoiled
his aim. His first shaft flew wide and lodged in the second ring
even further away than the worst shot of Clifton.
"Your pardon, coz!" quoth Robin hastily. "Bid care go to the
bottom of the sea, and do you loose your string before it sticks
to your fingers!"
And Will profited by this hint, and loosed his next two shafts as
freely as though they flew along a Sherwood glade. Each struck
upon the bull's-eye, and one even nearer the center than his
rival's mark. Yet the total score was adjudged in favor of
Clifton. At this Will Scarlet bit his lip, but said no word,
while the crowd shouted and waved yellow flags for very joy that
the King's man had overcome the outlaw. They knew, also, that
this demonstration would please the King.
The target was now cleared for the next two contestants--Geoffrey
and Allan-a-Dale. Whereat, it was noticed that many ladies in
the Queen's booths boldly flaunted Allan's colors, much to the
honest pride which glowed in the cheeks of one who sat in their
"In good truth," said more than one lady to Mistress Dale, "if
thy husband can handle the longbow as skilfully as the harp, his
rival has little show of winning!"
The saying augured well. Geoffrey had shot many good shafts that
day; and indeed had risen from the ranks by virtue of them. But
now each of his three shots, though well placed in triangular
fashion around the rim of the bull's-eye, yet allowed an easy
space for Allan to graze within. His shooting, moreover, was so
prettily done, that he was right heartily applauded--the ladies
and their gallants leading in the hand-clapping.
Now you must know that there had long been a friendly rivalry in
Robin Hood's band as to who was the best shot, next after Robin
himself. He and Will Stutely had lately decided their
marksmanship, and Will had found that Robin's skill was now so
great as to place the leader at the head of all good bowmen in
the forest. But the second place lay between Little John and
Stutely, and neither wished to yield to the other. So to-day
they looked narrowly at their leader to see who should shoot
third. Robin read their faces at a glance, and laughing merrily,
broke off two straws and held them out.
"The long straw goes next!" he decided; and it fell to Stutely.
Elwyn the Welshman was to precede him; and his score was no whit
better than Geoffrey's. But Stutely failed to profit by it. His
besetting sin at archery had ever been an undue haste and
carelessness. To-day these were increased by a certain
moodiness, that Little John had outranked him. So his first two
shafts flew swiftly, one after the other, to lodging places
outside the Welshman's mark.
"Man! man!" cried Robin entreatingly, "you do forget the honor of
the Queen, and the credit of Sherwood!"
"I ask your pardon, master!" quoth Will humbly enough, and
loosing as he spoke his last shaft. It whistled down the course
unerringly and struck in the exact center--the best shot yet
Now some shouted for Stutely and some shouted for Elwyn; but
Elwyn's total mark was declared the better. Whereupon the King
turned to the Queen. "What say you now?" quoth he in some
triumph. "Two out of the three first rounds have gone to my men.
Your outlaws will have to shoot better than that in order to save
The Queen smiled gently.
"Yea, my lord," she said. "But the twain who are left are able
to do the shooting. You forget that I still have Little John and
"And you forget, my lady, that I still have Tepus and Gilbert."
So each turned again to the lists and awaited the next rounds in
silent eagerness. I ween that King Harry had never watched the
invasion of an enemy with more anxiety than he now felt.
Tepus was chosen to go next and he fell into the same error with
Will Scarlet. He held the string a moment too long, and both his
first and second arrows came to grief. One of them, however,
came within the black rim, and he followed it up by placing his
third in the full center, just as Stutely had done in his last.
These two centers were the fairest shots that had been made that
day; and loud was the applause which greeted this second one.
But the shouting was as nothing to the uproar which followed
Little John's shooting. That good-natured giant seemed
determined to outdo Tepus by a tiny margin in each separate shot;
for the first and the second shafts grazed his rival's on the
inner side, while for the third Little John did the old trick of
the forest: he shot his own arrow in a graceful curve which
descended from above upon Tepus's final center shaft with a
glancing blow that drove the other out and left the outlaw's in
The King could scarce believe his eyes. "By my halidom!" quoth
he, "that fellow deserves either a dukedom or a hanging! He must
be in league with Satan himself! Never saw I such shooting."
The score is tied, my lord," said the Queen; "we have still to
see Gilbert and Robin Hood."
Gilbert now took his stand and slowly shot his arrows, one after
another, into the bull's-eye. 'Twas the best shooting he had yet
done, but there was still the smallest of spaces left--if you
looked closely--at the very center.
"Well done, Gilbert!" spoke up Robin Hood. "You are a foeman
worthy of being shot against." He took his own place as he spoke.
"Now if you had placed one of your shafts THERE"--loosing one of
his own--"and another THERE"--out sped the second--"and another
THERE"--the third was launched--"mayhap the King would have
declared you the best bowman in all England!"
But the last part of his merry speech was drowned in the wild
tumult of applause which followed his exploit. His first two
shafts had packed themselves into the small space left at the
bull's-eye; while his third had split down between them, taking
half of each, and making all three appear from a distance, as one
Up rose the King in amazement and anger.
"Gilbert is not yet beaten!" he cried. "Did he not shoot within
the mark thrice? And that is allowed a best in all the rules of
Robin bowed low.
"As it please Your Majesty!" quoth he. "But may I be allowed to
place the mark for the second shooting?"
The King waved his hand sullenly.. Thereupon Robin prepared
another old trick of the greenwood, and got him a light, peeled
willow wand which he set in the ground in place of the target.
"There, friend Gilbert," called he gaily; "belike you can hit
"I can scarce see it from here," said Gilbert, "much less hit it.
Nathless, for the King's honor, I will try."
But this final shot proved his undoing, and his shaft flew
harmlessly by the thin white streak. Then came Robin to his
stand again, and picked his arrow with exceeding care, and tried
his string. Amid a breathless pause he drew the good yew bow
back to his ear, glanced along the shaft, and let the feathered
missile fly. Straight it sped, singing a keen note of triumph as
it went. The willow wand was split in twain, as though it had met
a hunter's knife.
"Verily, I think your bow is armed with witchcraft!" cried
Gilbert. "For I did not believe such shooting possible."
"You should come to see our merry lads in the greenwood,"
retorted Robin lightly. "For willow wands do not grow upon the
cobblestones of London town."
Meanwhile the King in great wrath had risen to depart, first
signing the judges to distribute the prizes. Never a word said
he, of good or ill, to the Queen, but mounted his horse and,
followed by his sons and knights, rode off the field. The
archers dropped upon one knee as he passed, but he gave them a
single baleful look and was gone.
Then the Queen beckoned the outlaws to approach, and they did so
and knelt at her feet.
"Right well have ye served me," she said, "and sorry am I that
the King's anger is aroused thereby. But fear ye not. His word
and grace hold true. As to these prizes ye have gained, I add
others of mine own--the wagers I have won from His Majesty the
King and from the lord Bishop of Hereford. Buy with some of
these moneys the best swords ye can find in London, for all your
band, and call them the swords of the Queen. And swear with them
to protect all the poor and the helpless and the women--kind who
come your way."
"We swear," said the five yeomen solemnly.
Then the Queen gave each of them her hand to kiss, and arose and
departed with all her ladies. And after they were gone, the
King's archers came crowding around Robin and his men, eager to
get a glimpse of the fellows about whom they had heard so much.
And back of them came a great crowd of the spectators pushing and
jostling in their efforts to come nearer.
"Verily!" laughed Little John, "they must take us for a Merry
Now the judges came up, and announced each man his prize,
according to the King's command. To Robin was give the purse
containing twoscore golden pounds; to Little John the twoscore
silver pennies; and to Allan-a-Dale the fine inlaid bugle, much
to his delight, for he was skilled at blowing sweet tunes upon
the horn hardly less than handling the harp strings. But when
the Rhenish wine and English beer and harts of Dallom Lea were
spoken of, Robin said:
"Nay, what need we of wine or beer, so far from the greenwood?
And 'twould be like carrying coals to Newcastle, to drive those
harts to Sherwood! Now Gilbert and Tepus and their men have shot
passing well. Wherefore, the meat and drink must go to them, an
they will accept it of us."
"Right gladly," replied Gilbert grasping his hand. "Ye are good
men all, and we will toast you every one, in memory of the
greatest day at archery that England has ever seen, or ever will
Thus said all the King's archers, and the hand of good-fellowship
was given amid much shouting and clapping on the shoulder-blades.
And so ended King Harry's tourney, whose story has been handed
down from sire to son, even unto the present day.
HOW ROBIN HOOD WAS SOUGHT OF THE TINKER
And while the tinker fell asleep,
Robin made haste away,
And left the tinker in the lurch,
For the great shot to pay.
King Henry was as good as his word. Robin Hood and his party were
suffered to depart from London--the parting bringing keen sorrow
to Marian--and for forty days no hand was raised against them.
But at the end of that time, the royal word was sent to the
worthy Sheriff at Nottingham that he must lay hold upon the
outlaws without further delay, as he valued his office.
Indeed, the exploits of Robin and his band, ending with the great
tourney in Finsbury Field, had made a mighty stir through all
England, and many there were to laugh boldly at the Nottingham
official for his failures to capture the outlaws.
The Sheriff thereupon planned three new expeditions into the
greenwood, and was even brave enough to lead them, since he had
fifteen-score men at his beck and call each time. But never the
shadow of an outlaw did he see, for Robin's men lay close, and
the Sheriff's men knew not how to come at their chief
hiding-place in the cove before the cavern.
Now the Sheriff's daughter had hated Robin Hood bitterly in her
heart ever since the day he refused to bestow upon her the golden
arrow, and shamed her before all the company. His tricks, also,
upon her father were not calculated to lessen her hatred, and so
she sought about for means to aid the Sheriff in catching the
"There is no need to go against this man with force of arms," she
said. "We must meet his tricks with other tricks of our own."
"Would that we could!" groaned the Sheriff. "The fellow is
becoming a nightmare unto me."
"Let me plan a while," she replied. "Belike I can cook up some
scheme for his undoing."
"Agreed," said the Sheriff, "and if anything comes of your
planning, I will e'en give you an hundred silver pennies for a
new gown, and a double reward to the man who catches the
Now upon that same day, while the Sheriff's daughter was racking
her brains for a scheme, there came to the Mansion House a
strolling tinker named Middle, a great gossip and braggart. And
as he pounded away upon some pots and pans in the scullery, he
talked loudly about what HE would do, if he once came within
reach of that rascal Robin Hood.
"It might be that this simple fellow could do something through
his very simplicity," mused the Sheriff's daughter, overhearing
his prattle. "Odds bodikins! 'twill do no harm to try his
service, while I bethink myself of some better plan."
And she called him to her, and looked him over--a big brawny
fellow enough, with an honest look about the eye, and a
countenance so open that when he smiled his mouth seemed the only
country on the map.
"I am minded to try your skill at outlaw catching," she said,
"and will add goodly measure to the stated reward if you succeed.
Do you wish to make good your boasted prowess?"
The tinker grinned broadly.
"Yes, your ladyship," he said.
"Then here is a warrant made out this morning by the Sheriff
himself. See that you keep it safely and use it to good
And she dismissed him.
Middle departed from the house mightily pleased with himself, and
proud of his commission. He swung his crab-tree-staff recklessly
in his glee--so recklessly that he imperiled the shins of more
than one angry passer-by--and vowed he'd crack the ribs of Robin
Hood with it, though he was surrounded by every outlaw in the
Spurred on by the thoughts of his own coming bravery, he left the
town and proceeded toward Barnesdale. The day was hot and dusty,
and at noontime he paused at a wayside inn to refresh himself.
He began by eating and drinking and dozing, in turn, then sought
to do all at once.
Mine host of the "Seven Does" stood by, discussing the eternal
Robin with a drover.
"Folk do say that my lord Sheriff has sent into Lincoln for more
men-at-arms and horses, and that when he has these behind him,
he'll soon rid the forest of these fellows."
"Of whom speak you?" asked the tinker sitting up.
"Of Robin Hood and his men," said the host; "but go to sleep
again. You will never get the reward!"
"And why not?" asked the tinker, rising with great show of
"Where our Sheriff has failed, and the stout Guy of Gisborne, and
many more beside, it behoves not a mere tinker to succeed."
The tinker laid a heavy hand upon the innkeeper's fat shoulder,
and tried to look impressive.
"There is your reckoning, host, upon the table. I must e'en go
upon my way, because I have more important business than to stand
here gossiping with you. But be not surprised, if, the next time
you see me, I shall have with me no less person than Robin Hood
And he strode loftily out the door and walked up the hot white
road toward Barnesdale.
He had not gone above a quarter of a mile when he met a young man
with curling brown hair and merry eyes. The young man carried
his light cloak over his arm, because of the heat, and was
unarmed save for a light sword at his side. The newcomer eyed
the perspiring tinker in a friendly way, and seeing he was a
stout fellow accosted him.
"Good-day to you!" said he.
"Good-day to you!" said the tinker; "and a morrow less heating."
"Aye," laughed the other. "Whence come you? And know you the
"What is the news?" said the gossipy tinker, pricking up his ear;
"I am a tinker by trade, Middle by name, and come from over
"Why as for the news," laughed the stranger, "I hear that two
tinkers were set i' the stocks for drinking too much ale and
"If that be all your news," retorted Middle, "I can beat you
clear to the end of the lane."
"What news have you? Seeing that you go from town to town, I
ween you can outdo a poor country yokel at tidings."
"All I have to tell," said the other, "is that I am especially
commissioned"--he felt mightily proud of these big
words--"especially commissioned to seek a bold outlaw which they
call Robin Hood."
"So?" said the other arching his brows. "How 'especially
"I have a warrant from the Sheriff, sealed with the King's own
seal, to take him where I can; and if you can tell me where he
is, I will e'en make a man of you."
"Let me see the warrant," said the other, "to satisfy myself if
it be right; and I will do the best I can to bring him to you."
"That will I not," replied the tinker; "I will trust none with
it. And if you'll not help me to come at him I must forsooth
catch him by myself."
And he made his crab-tree-staff whistle shrill circles in the
The other smiled at the tinker's simplicity, and said:
"The middle of the road on a hot July day is not a good place to
talk things over. Now if you're the man for me and I'm the man
for you, let's go back to the inn, just beyond the bend of road,
and quench our thirst and cool our heads for thinking."
"Marry come up!" quoth the tinker. "That will I! For though
I've just come from there, my thirst rises mightily at the sound
of your voice."
So back he turned with the stranger and proceeded to the "Seven
The landlord arched his eyebrows silently when he saw the two
come in, but served them willingly.
The tinker asked for wine, and Robin for ale. The wine was not
the most cooling drink in the cellar, nor the clearest headed.
Nathless, the tinker asked for it, since it was expensive and the
other man had invited him to drink. They lingered long over
their cups, Master Middle emptying one after another while the
stranger expounded at great length on the best plans for coming
at and capturing Robin Hood.
In the end the tinker fell sound asleep while in the act of
trying to get a tankard to his lips. Then the stranger deftly
opened the snoring man's pouch, took out the warrant, read it,
and put it in his own wallet. Calling mine host to him, he
winked at him with a half smile and told him that the tinker
would pay the whole score when he awoke. Thus was Master Middle
left in the lurch "for the great shot to pay."
Nathless, the stranger seemed in no great hurry. He had the whim
to stay awhile and see what the droll tinker might do when he
awoke. So he hid behind a window shutter, on the outside, and
Presently the tinker came to himself with a prodigious yawn, and
reached at once for another drink.
"What were you saying, friend, about the best plan
(ya-a-a-ah!) for catching this fellow?--Hello!--where's the
He had looked around and saw no one with him at the table.
"Host! host!" he shouted, "where is that fellow who was to pay my
"I know not," answered the landlord sharply. "Mayhap he left the
money in your purse."
"No he didn't!" roared Middle, looking therein. "Help! Help!
I've been robbed! Look you, host, you are liable to arrest for
high treason! I am here upon the King's business, as I told you
earlier in the day. And yet while I did rest under your roof,
thinking you were an honest man (hic!) and one loving of the
King, my pouch has been opened and many matters of state taken
"Cease your bellowing!" said the landlord. "What did you lose?"
"Oh, many weighty matters, I do assure you. I had with me, item,
a warrant, granted under the hand of my lord High Sheriff of
Nottingham, and sealed with the Kings's own seal, for the capture
(hic!)--and arrest--and overcoming of a notorious rascal, one
Robin Hood of Barnesdale. Item, one crust of bread. Item, one
lump (hic!) of solder. Item, three pieces of twine. Item, six
single keys (hic!), useful withal. Item, twelve silver pennies,
the which I earned this week (hic!) in fair labor. Item--"
"Have done with your items!" said the host. "And I marvel
greatly to hear you speak in such fashion of your friend, Robin
Hood of Barnesdale. For was he not with you in all
"Wh-a-at? THAT Robin Hood?" gasped Middle with staring eyes.
"Why did you not tell me?"
"Faith, _I_ saw no need o' telling you! Did you not tell me the
first time you were here to-day, that I need not be surprised if
you came back with no less person than Robin Hood himself?"
"Jesu give me pardon!" moaned the tinker. "I see it all now. He
got me to drinking, and then took my warrant, and my pennies, and
"Yes, yes," interrupted the host. "I know all about that. But
pay me the score for both of you."
"But I have no money, gossip. Let me go after that vile
bag-o'-bones, and I'll soon get it out of him."
"Not so," replied the other. "If I waited for you to collect
from Robin Hood, I would soon close up shop."
"What is the account?" asked Middle.
"Ten shillings, just."
"Then take here my working-bag and my good hammer too; and if I
light upon that knave I will soon come back after them."
"Give me your leathern coat as well," said mine host; "the hammer
and bag of tools are as naught to me."
"Gramercy!" cried Master Middle, losing what was left of his
temper. "It seems that I have escaped one thief only to fall
into the hands of another. If you will but walk with me out into
the middle of the road, I'll give you such a crack as shall drive
some honesty into your thick skull."
"You are wasting your breath and my time," retorted the landlord.
"Give me your things, and get you gone after your man, speedily,"
Middle thought this to be good advice; so he strode forth from
the "Seven Does" in a black mood.
Ere he had gone half a mile, he saw Robin Hood walking demurely
among the trees a little in front of him.
"Ho there, you villain!" roared the tinker. "Stay your steps! I
am desperately in need of you this day!"
Robin turned about with a surprised face.
"What knave is this?" he asked gently, "who comes shouting after
"No knave! no knave at all!" panted the other, rushing up. "But
an honest--man--who would have--that warrant--and the money for
"Why, as I live, it is our honest tinker who was seeking Robin
Hood! Did you find him, gossip?"
"Marry, that did I! and I'm now going to pay him my respects!"
And he plunged at him, making a sweeping stroke with his
Robin tried to draw his sword, but could not do it for a moment
through dodging the other's furious blows. When he did get it in
hand, the tinker had reached him thrice with resounding thwacks.
Then the tables were turned, for he dashed in right manfully with
his shining blade and made the tinker give back again.
The greenwood rang with the noise of the fray. 'Twas steel
against wood, and they made a terrible clattering when they came
together. Robin thought at first that he could hack the cudgel
to pieces, for his blade was one of Toledo--finely tempered steel
which the Queen had given him. But the crab-tree-staff had been
fired and hardened and seasoned by the tinker's arts until it was
like a bar of iron--no pleasant neighbor for one's ribs.
Robin presently found this out to his sorrow. The long reach and
long stick got to him when 'twas impossible for him to touch his
antagonist. So his sides began to ache sorely.
"Hold your hand, tinker," he said at length. "I cry a boon of
"Before I do it," said the tinker, "I'd hang you on this tree."
But even as he spoke, Robin found the moment's grace for which he
longed; and immediately grasped his horn and blew the three
well-known blasts of the greenwood.
"A murrain seize you!" roared the tinker commencing afresh. "Up
to your old tricks again, are you? Well, I'll have time to
finish my job, if I hurry."
But Robin was quite able to hold his own at a pinch, and they had
not exchanged many lunges and passes when up came Little John and
Will Scarlet and a score of yeomen at their heels. Middle was
seized without ceremony, while Robin sat himself down to breathe.
"What is the matter?" quoth Little John, "that you should sit so
weariedly upon the highway side?"
"Faith, that rascally tinker yonder has paid his score well upon
my hide," answered Robin ruefully.
"That tinker, then," said Little John, "must be itching for more
work. Fain would I try if he can do as much for me."
"Or me," said Will Scarlet, who like Little John was always
willing to swing a cudgel.
"Nay," laughed Robin. "Belike I could have done better, an he
had given me time to pull a young tree up by the roots. But I
hated to spoil the Queen's blade upon his tough stick or no less
tough hide. He had a warrant for my arrest which I stole from
"Also, item, twelve silver pennies," interposed the tinker,
unsubdued; "item, one crust of bread, 'gainst my supper. Item,
one lump of solder. Item, three pieces of twine. Item, six
single keys. Item--"
"Yes, I know," quoth the merry Robin; "I stood outside the
landlord's window and heard you count over your losses. Here
they are again; and the silver pennies are turned by magic into
gold. Here also, if you will, is my hand."
"I take it heartily, with the pence!" cried Middle. "By my
leathern coat and tools, which I shall presently have out of that
sly host, I swear that I never yet met a man I liked as well as
you! An you and your men here will take me, I swear I'll serve
you honestly. Do you want a tinker? Nay, but verily you must!
Who else can mend and grind your swords and patch your
pannikins--and fight, too, when occasion serve? Mend your pots!
mend your pa-a-ans!"
And he ended his speech with the sonorous cry of his craft.
By this time the whole band was laughing uproariously at the
"What say you, fellows?" asked Robin. "Would not this tinker be
a good recruit?"
"That he would!" answered Will Scarlet, clapping the new man on
the back. "He will keep Friar Tuck and Much the miller's son
from having the blues."
So amid great merriment and right good fellowship the outlaws
shook Middle by the hand, and he took oath of fealty, and thought
no more of the Sheriff's daughter.
HOW ROBIN HOOD WAS TANNED OF THE TANNER
In Nottingham there lived a jolly tanner,
With a hey down, down, a down down!
His name was Arthur-a-Bland,
There was ne'er a squire in Nottinghamshire
Dare bid bold Arthur stand.
And as he went forth, in a summer's morning,
With a hey down, down, a down down!
To the forest of merrie Sherwood,
To view the red deer, that range here and there,
There met he with bold Robin Hood.
The Sheriff's daughter bided for several days in the faint hope
that she might hear tidings of the prattling tinker. But never a
word heard she, and she was forced to the conclusion that her
messenger had not so much as laid eyes upon the outlaw. Little
recked she that he was, even then, grinding sword-points and
sharpening arrows out in the good greenwood, while whistling
blithely or chatting merrily with the good Friar Tuck.
Then she bethought herself of another good man, one
Arthur-a-Bland, a tanner who dwelt in Nottingham town and was
far-famed in the tourneys round about. He had done some pretty
tricks at archery, but was strongest at wrestling and the
quarter-staff. For three years he had cast all comers to the
earth in wrestling until the famous Eric o' Lincoln broke a rib
for him in a mighty tussle. Howsoever, at quarter-staff he had
never yet met his match; so that there was never a squire in
Nottinghamshire dare bid bold Arthur stand.
With a long pike-staff on his shoulder,
So well he could clear his way
That by two and three he made men flee
And none of them could stay.
Thus at least runs the old song which tells of his might.
"This is just the man for me!" thought the Sheriff's daughter to
herself; and she forthwith summoned him to the Mansion House and
commissioned him to seek out Robin Hood.
The warrant was quite to Arthur's liking, for he was happiest
when out in the forest taking a sly peep at the King's deer; and
now he reckoned that he could look at them boldly, instead of by
the rays of the moon. He could say to any King's Forester who
made bold to stop him: "I am here on the King's business!"
"Gramercy! No more oak-bark and ditch-water and the smell of
half-tanned hides to-day!" quoth he, gaily. "I shall e'en see
what the free air of heaven tastes like, when it sweeps through
the open wood."
So the tanner departed joyfully upon his errand, but much more
interested in the dun deer of the forest than in any two-legged
rovers therein. This interest had, in fact, caused the Foresters
to keep a shrewd eye upon him in the past, for his tannery was
apt to have plenty of meat in it that was more like venison than
the law allowed. As for the outlaws, Arthur bore them no
ill-will; indeed he had felt a secret envy in his heart at their
free life; but he was not afraid to meet any two men who might
come against him. Nathless, the Sheriff's daughter did not
choose a very good messenger, as you shall presently see.
Away sped the tanner, a piece of bread and some wine in his
wallet, a good longbow and arrows slung across his shoulder, his
stout quarter-staff in his hand, and on his head a cap of trebled
raw-hide so tough that it would turn the edge of a broadsword.
He lost no time in getting out of the hot sun and into the
welcome shade of the forest, where he stalked cautiously about
seeking some sign of the dun deer.
Now it so chanced that upon that very morning Robin Hood had sent
Little John to a neighboring village to buy some cloth of Lincoln
green for new suits for all the band. Some of the money recently
won of the King was being spent in this fashion, 'gainst the
approach of winter. Will Scarlet had been sent on a similar
errand to Barnesdale some time before, if you remember, only to
be chased up the hill without his purchase. So to-day Little
John was chosen, and for sweet company's sake Robin went with him
a part of the way until they came to the "Seven Does," the inn
where Robin had recently played his prank upon Middle the tinker.
Here they drank a glass of ale to refresh themselves withal, and
for good luck; and Robin tarried a bit while Little John went on
Presently Robin entered the edge of the wood, when whom should he
see but Arthur-a-Bland, busily creeping after a graceful deer
that browsed alone down the glade. "Now by Saint George and the
Dragon!" quoth Robin to himself. "I much fear that yon same
fellow is a rascally poacher come after our own and the King's
For you must know, by a curious process of reasoning, Robin and
his men had hunted in the royal preserves so long that they had
come to consider themselves joint owners to every animal which
"Nay!" he added, "this must be looked into! That cow-skin cap in
sooth must hide a scurvy varlet!"
And forthwith he crept behind a tree, and thence to another,
stalking our friend Arthur as busily as Arthur was stalking the
This went on for quite a space, until the tanner began to come
upon the deer and to draw his bow in order to tickle the victim's
ribs with a cloth-yard shaft. But just at this moment Robin
unluckily trod upon a twig which snapped and caused the tanner to
Robin saw that he was discovered, so he determined to put a bold
face on the matter, and went forward with some smart show of
"Hold!" he cried: "stay your hand! Why, who are you, bold
fellow, to range so boldly here? In sooth, to be brief, ye look
like a thief that has come to steal the King's deer."
"Marry, it is scant concern of yours, what I look like!" retorted
Arthur-a-Bland. "Who are you, who speak so bravely?"
"You shall soon find out who I am!" quoth Robin, determining to
find some sport in the matter. "I am a keeper of this forest.
The King knows that I am looking after his deer for him; and
therefore we must stay you."
"Have you any assistants, friend?" asked the tanner calmly. "For
it is not one man alone who can stop me."
"Nay truly, gossip," replied Robin. "I have a good yew bow, also
a right sharp blade at my side. Nathless I need no better
assistant than a good oak-graff like unto yours. Give me a
baker's dozen of minutes with it and it shall pleasure me to
crack that pate of yours for your sauciness!"
"Softly, my man! Fair and softly! Big words never killed so
much as a mouse--least of all yon deer which has got away while
you were filling all the woods with your noisy breath. So choose
your own playthings. For your sword and your bow I care not a
straw; nor for all your arrows to boot. If I get but a knock at
you, 'twill be as much as you'll need."
"Now by our Lady! Will you listen to the braggart?" cried Robin
in a fine rage. "Marry, but I'll teach ye to be more mannerly!"
So saying he unbuckled his belt; and, flinging his bow upon the
ground he seized hold of a young sapling that was growing near
by. His hunting knife soon had it severed and lopped into shape.
"Now come, fellow!" said Arthur-a-Bland, seeing that he was
ready. "And if I do not tan your hide for you in better shape
than ever calf-skin was turned into top-boots, may a murrain
"Stay," said Robin, "methinks my cudgel is half a foot longer
than yours. I would have them of even length before you begin
"I pass not for length," bold Arthur replied; "my staff is long
enough, as you will shortly find out. Eight foot and a half,
and 'twill knock down a calf"--here he made it whistle in the
air--"and I hope it will knock down you."
Forthwith the two men spat on their hands, laid firm hold upon
their cudgels and began slowly circling round each other, looking
for an opening.
Now it so chanced that Little John had fared expeditiously with
his errand. He had met the merchant, from whom he was wont to
buy Lincoln green, coming along the road; and had made known his
wants in few words. The merchant readily undertook to deliver the
suits by a certain day in the following month. So Little John,
glad to get back to the cool shelter of the greenwood, hasted
along the road lately taken by Robin.
Presently he heard the sound of angry voices, one of which he
recognized as his captain's.
"Now, Heaven forfend," quoth he, "that Robin Hood has fallen into
the clutches of a King's man! I must take a peep at this fray."
So he cautiously made his way from tree to tree, as Robin had
done, till he came to the little open space where Robin and
Arthur were circling about each other with angry looks, like two
dogs at bay.
"Ha! this looks interesting!" muttered Little John to himself,
for he loved a good quarter-staff bout above anything else in
the world, and was the best man at it in all the greenwood. And
he crawled quietly underneath a friendly bush--much as he had
done when Robin undertook to teach Will Scarlet a lesson--and
chuckled softly to himself and slapped his thigh and prepared to
watch the fight at his ease.
Indeed it was both exciting and laughable. You would have
chuckled one moment and caught your breath the next, to see those
two stout fellows swinging their sticks--each half as long again
as the men were, and thick as their arm--and edging along
sidewise, neither wishing to strike the first blow.
At last Robin could no longer forbear, and his good right arm
swung round like a flash. Ping! went the stick on the back of
the other's head, raising such a welt that the blood came. But
the tanner did not seem to mind it at all, for bing! went his own
staff in return, giving Robin as good as he had sent. Then the
battle was on, and furiously it waged. Fast fell the blows, but
few save the first ones landed, being met in mid-air by a
counter-blow till the thwacking sticks sounded like the steady
roll of a kettle-drum and the oak--bark flew as fine as it had
ever done in Arthur-a-Bland's tannery.
Round and round they fought, digging their heels into the ground
to keep from slipping, so that you would have vowed there had
been a yoke of oxen ploughing a potato-patch. Round and round,
up and down, in and out, their arms working like
threshing-machines, went the yeoman and the tanner, for a full
hour, each becoming more astonished every minute that the other
was such a good fellow. While Little John from underneath his
bushy covert had much ado to keep from roaring aloud in pure joy.
Finally Robin saw his chance and brought a full arm blow straight
down upon the other's head with a force that would have felled a
bullock. But Arthur's trebled cow-skin cap here stood him in
good stead: the blow glanced off without doing more than stunning
him. Nathless, he reeled and had much ado to keep from falling;
seeing which Robin stayed his hand--to his own sorrow, for the
tanner recovered his wits in a marvelous quick space and sent
back a sidelong blow which fairly lifted Robin off his feet and
sent him tumbling on to the grass.
"Hold your hand! hold your hand!" roared Robin with what little
breath he had left. "Hold, I say, and I will give you the
freedom of the greenwood."
"Why, God-a-mercy," said Arthur; "I may thank my staff for
"Well, well, gossip' let be as it may. But prithee tell me your
name and trade. I like to know fellows who can hit a blow like
that same last."
"I am a tanner," replied Arthur-a-Bland. "In Nottingham long
have I wrought. And if you'll come to me I swear I'll tan your
hides for naught."
"Odds bodikins!" quoth Robin ruefully. "Mine own hide is tanned
enough for the present. Howsoever, there be others in this wood
I would fain see you tackle. Harkee, if you will leave your
tan-pots and come with me, as sure as my name is Robin Hood, you
shan't want gold or fee."
"By the breath o' my body!" said Arthur, "that will I do!" and
he gripped him gladly by the hand. "But I am minded that I clean
forgot the errand that brought me to Sherwood. I was
commissioned by some, under the Sheriff's roof, to capture you."
"So was a certain tinker, now in our service," said Robin
"Verily 'tis a new way to recruit forces!" said the tanner
laughing loudly. "But tell me, good Robin Hood, where is Little
John? I fain would see him, for he is a kinsman on my mother's
"Here am I, good Arthur-a-Bland!" said a voice; and Little
John literally rolled out from under the bush to the sward. His
eyes were full of tears from much laughter which had well-nigh
left him powerless to get on his feet.
As soon as the astonished tanner saw who it was, he gave Little
John a mighty hug around the neck, and lifted him up on his feet,
and the two pounded each other on the back soundly, so glad were
they to meet again.
"O, man, man!" said Little John as soon as he had got his
breath. "Never saw I so fine a sight in all my born days. You
did knock him over like as he were a ninepin!"
"And you do joy to see me thwacked about on the ribs?" asked
Robin with some choler.
"Nay, not that, master!" said Little John. "But 'tis the second
time I have had special tickets to a show from beneath the
bushes, and I cannot forbear my delight. Howsoever, take no
shame unto yourself, for this same Arthur-a-Bland is the best man
at the quarter-staff in all Nottinghamshire. It commonly takes
two or three men to hold him."
"Unless it be Eric o' Lincoln," said Arthur modestly; "and I well
know how you paid him out at the Fair."
"Say no more!" said Robin springing to his feet; "for well I know
that I have done good business this day, and a few bruises are
easy payment for the stout cudgel I am getting into the band.
Your hand again, good Arthur-a-Bland! Come! let us after the deer
of which I spoiled your stalking."
"Righty gladly!" quoth Arthur. "Come, Cousin Little John! Away
with vats and tan-bark and vile-smelling cowhides! I'll follow
you two in the sweet open air to the very ends of earth!"
HOW ROBIN HOOD MET SIR RICHARD OF THE LEA
Then answered him the gentle knight
With words both fair and thee:
"God save thee, my good Robin,
And all thy company!"
Now you must know that some months passed by. The winter dragged
its weary length through Sherwood Forest, and Robin Hood and his
merry men found what cheer they could in the big crackling fires
before their woodland cave. Friar Tuck had built him a little
hermitage not far away, where he lived comfortably with his
The winter, I say, reached an end at last, and the blessed spring
came and went. Another summer passed on apace, and still neither
King nor Sheriff nor Bishop could catch the outlaws, who,
meanwhile, thrived and prospered mightily in their outlawry. The
band had been increased from time to time by picked men such as
Arthur-a-Bland and David of Doncaster--he who was the jolliest
cobbler for miles around--until it now numbered a full sevenscore
of men; seven companies each with its stout lieutenant serving
under Robin Hood. And still they relieved the purses of the rich,
and aided the poor, and feasted upon King's deer until the lank
Sheriff of Nottingham was well-nigh distracted.
Indeed, that official would probable have lost his office
entirely, had it not been for the fact of the King's death.
Henry passed away, as all Kings will, in common with ordinary
men, and Richard of the Lion Heart was proclaimed as his
Then Robin and his men, after earnest debate, resolved to throw
themselves upon the mercy of the new King, swear allegiance, and
ask to be organized into Royal Foresters. So Will Scarlet and
Will Stutely and Little John were sent to London with this
message, which they were first to entrust privately to Maid
Marian. But they soon returned with bad tidings. The new King
had formerly set forth upon a crusade to the Holy Land, and
Prince John, his brother, was impossible to deal with--being
crafty, cruel and treacherous. He was laying his hands upon all
the property which could easily be seized; among other estates,
that of the Earl of Huntingdon, Robin's old enemy and Marian's
father, who had lately died.
Marian herself was in sore straits. Not only had her estates
been taken away, and the maid been deprived of the former
protection of the Queen, but the evil Prince John had persecuted
her with his attentions. He thought that since the maid was
defenseless he could carry her away to one of his castles and
none could gainsay him.
No word of this peril reached Robin's ears, although his men
brought him word of the seizure of the Huntingdon lands.
Nathless he was greatly alarmed for the safety of Maid Marian,
and his heart cried out for her strongly. She had been
continually in his thoughts ever since the memorable shooting at
One morning in early autumn when the leaves were beginning to
turn gold at the edges, the chestnut-pods to swell with promise
of fatness, and the whole wide woodland was redolent with the
ripe fragrance of fruit and flower, Robin was walking along the
edge of a small open glade busy with his thoughts. The peace of
the woods was upon him, despite his broodings of Marian and he
paid little heed to a group of does quietly feeding among the
trees at the far edge of the glade.
But presently this sylvan picture was rudely disturbed for him.
A stag, wild and furious, dashed suddenly forth from among the
trees, scattering the does in swift alarm. The vicious beast
eyed the green-and-gold tunic of Robin, and, lowering it head,
charged at him impetuously. So sudden was its attack that Robin
had no time to bend his bow. He sprang behind a tree while he
seized his weapon.
A moment later the wild stag crashed blindly into the tree-trunk
with a shock which sent the beast reeling backward, while the
dislodged leaves from the shivering tree fell in a small shower
over Robin's head.
"By my halidom, I am glad it was not me you struck, my gentle
friend!" quoth Robin, fixing an arrow upon the string. "Sorry
indeed would be any one's plight who should encounter you in this
Scarcely had he spoken when he saw the stag veer about and fix
its glances rigidly on the bushes to the left side of the glade.
These were parted by a delicate hand, and through the opening
appeared the slight figure of a page. It was Maid Marian, come
back again to the greenwood!
She advanced, unconscious alike of Robin's horrified gaze and the
evil fury of the stag.
She was directly in line with the animal, so Robin dared not
launch an arrow. Her own bow was slung across her shoulder, and
her small sword would be useless against the beast's charge. But
now as she caught sight of the stag she pursed her lips as though
she would whistle to it.
"For the love of God, dear lady!" cried Robin; and then the words
died in his throat.
With a savage snort of rage, the beast rushed at this new and
inviting target--rushed so swiftly and from so short a distance
that she could not defend herself. She sprang to one side as it
charged down upon her, but a side blow from its antlers stretched
her upon the ground. The stag stopped, turned, and lowered its
head preparing to gore her to death.
Already its cruel horns were coming straight for her, while she,
white of face and bewildered by the sudden attack, was struggling
to rise and draw her sword. A moment more and the end would
come. But the sharp voice of Robin and already spoken.
"Down, Marian!" he cried, and the girl instinctively obeyed, just
as the shaft from Robin's bow went whizzing close above her head
and struck with terrific force full in the center of the stag's
The beast stumbled in its charge and fell dead, across the body
of the fainting maid.
Robin was quickly by her side, and dragged the beast from off the
Picking her up in his strong arms, he bore her swiftly to the
side of one of the many brooks which watered the vale.
He dashed cool water upon her face, roughly almost, in his agony
of fear that the she was already dead, and he could have shed
tears of joy to see those poor, closed eyelids tremble. He
redoubled his efforts; and presently she gave a little gasp.
"Where am I? What is't?"
"You are in Sherwood, dear maid, tho', i' faith, we gave you a
She opened her eyes and sat up. "Methinks you have rescued me
from sudden danger, sir," she said.
Then she recognized Robin for the first time, and a radiant smile
came over her face, together with the rare blush of returned
vitality, and her head sank upon his shoulder with a little
tremble and sigh of relief.
"Oh, Robin, it is you!" she murmured.
"Aye, 'tis I. Thank heaven, I was at hand to do you service!"
Robin's tones were deep and full of feeling. "I swear, dear
Marian, that I will not let you from my care henceforth."
Not another word was spoken for some moments, while her head
still rested confidingly upon his breast. Then recollecting, he
"Gramercy, I make but a poor nurse! I have not even asked if any
of your bones were broken."
"No, not any," she answered springing lightly to her feet to show
"That foolish dizziness o'ercame me for the nonce, but we can now
proceed on our way."
"Nay, I meant not that," he protested; "why should we haste?
First tell me of the news in London town, and of yourself."
So she told him how that the Prince had seized upon her father's
lands, and had promised to restore them to her if she would
listen to his suit; and how that she knew he meant her no good,
for he was even then suing for a Princess's hand.
"That is all, Robin," she ended simply; "and that is why I donned
again my page's costume and came to you in the greenwood."
Robin's brow had grown fiercely black at the recital of her
wrong; and he had laid stern hand upon the hilt of his sword.
"By this sword which Queen Eleanor gave me!" he said impetuously;
"and which was devoted to the service of all womankind, I take
oath that Prince John and all his armies shall not harm you!"
So that is how Maid Marian came to take up her abode in the
greenwood, where the whole band of yeomen welcomed her gladly and
swore fealty; and where the sweet lady of Allan-a-Dale made her
fully at home.
But this was a day of deeds in Sherwood Forest, and we 'gan to
tell you another happening which led to later events.
While Robin and Marian were having their encounter with the stag,
Little John, Much the miller's son, and Will Scarlet had sallied
forth to watch the highroad leading to Barnesdale, if perchance
they might find some haughty knight or fat priest whose wallet
They had scarcely watched the great road known as Watling Street
which runs from Dover in Kent to Chester town--for many minutes,
when they espied a knight riding by in a very forlorn and
All dreary was his semblance,
And little was his pride,
foot in the stirrup stood,
His other waved beside.
His visor hung down o'er his eyes,
He rode in single array,
A sorrier man than he was one
Rode never in summer's day.
Little John came up to the knight and bade him stay; for who can
judge of a man's wealth by his looks? The outlaw bent his knee
in all courtesy, and prayed him to accept the hospitality of the
"My master expects you to dine with him, to-day," quoth he, "and
indeed has been fasting while awaiting your coming, these three
"Who is your master?" asked the knight.
"None other than Robin Hood," replied Little John, laying his
hand upon the knight's bridle.
Seeing the other two outlaws approaching, the knight shrugged his
shoulders, and replied indifferently.
"'Tis clear that your invitation is too urgent to admit of
refusal," quoth he, "and I go with you right willingly, my
friends. My purpose was to have dined to-day at Blyth or
Doncaster; but nothing matters greatly."
So in the same lackadaisical fashion which had marked all his
actions that day, the knight suffered his horse to be led to the
rendezvous of the band in the greenwood.
Marian had not yet had time to change her page's attire, when the
three escorts of the knight hove in sight. She recognized their
captive as Sir Richard of the Lea, whom she had often seen at
court; and fearing lest he might recognize her, she would have
fled. But Robin asked her, with a twinkle, if she would not like
to play page that day, and she in roguish mood consented to do
"Welcome, Sir Knight," said Robin, courteously. "You are come in
good time, for we were just preparing to sit down to meat."
"God save and thank you, good master Robin," returned the knight;
"and all your company. It likes me well to break the fast with
So while his horse was cared for, the knight laid aside his own
heavy gear, and laved his face and hands, and sat down with Robin
and all his men to a most plentiful repast of venison, swans,
pheasants, various small birds, cake and ale. And Marian stood
behind Robin and filled his cup and that of the guest.
After eating right heartily of the good cheer, the knight
brightened up greatly and vowed that he had not enjoyed so good a
dinner for nigh three weeks. He also said that if ever Robin and
his fellows should come to his domains, he would strive to set
them down to as good a dinner on his own behalf.
But this was not exactly the sort of payment which Robin had
expected to receive. He thanked the knight, therefore, in set
phrase, but reminded him that a yeoman like himself might hardly
offer such a dinner to a knight as a gift of charity.
"I have no money, Master Robin," answered the knight frankly. "I
have so little of the world's goods, in sooth, that I should be
ashamed to offer you the whole of it."
"Money, however little, always jingles merrily in our pockets,"
said Robin, smiling. "Pray you tell me what you deem a little
"I have of my own ten silver pennies," said the knight. "Here
they are, and I wish they were ten times as many."
He handed Little John his pouch, and Robin nodded carelessly.
"What say you to the total, Little John?" he asked as though in
"'Tis true enough, as the worthy knight hath said," responded the
big fellow gravely emptying the contents on his cloak.
Robin signed to Marian, who filled a bumper of wine for himself
and his guest.
"Pledge me, Sir Knight!" cried the merry outlaw; "and pledge me
heartily, for these sorry times. I see that your armor is bent
and that your clothes are torn. Yet methinks I saw you at court,
once upon a day, and in more prosperous guise. Tell me now, were
you a yeoman and made a knight by force? Or, have you been a bad
steward to yourself, and wasted your property in lawsuits and the
like? Be not bashful with us. We shall not betray your
"I am a Saxon knight in my own right; and I have always lived a
sober and quiet life," the sorrowful guest replied. "'Tis true
you have seen me at court, mayhap, for I was an excited witness
of your shooting before King Harry--God rest his bones! My name
is Sir Richard of the Lea, and I dwell in a castle, not a league
from one of the gates of Nottingham, which has belonged to my
father, and his father, and his father's father before him.
Within two or three years ago my neighbors might have told you
that a matter of four hundred pounds one way or the other was as
naught to me. But now I have only these ten pennies of silver,
and my wife and son."
"In what manner have you lost your riches?" asked Robin.
"Through folly and kindness," said the knight, sighing. "I went
with King Richard upon a crusade, from which I am but lately
returned, in time to find my son--a goodly youth--grown up. He
was but twenty, yet he had achieved a squire's training and could
play prettily in jousts and tournaments and other knightly games.
But about this time he had the ill luck to push his sport too
far, and did accidentally kill a knight in the open lists. To
save the boy, I had to sell my lands and mortgage my ancestral
castle; and this not being enough, in the end I have had to
borrow money, at a ruinous interest, from my lord of Hereford."
"A most worthy Bishop," said Robin ironically. "What is the sum
of your debt?"
"Four hundred pounds," said Sir Richard, "and the Bishop swears
he will foreclose the mortgage if they are not paid promptly."
"Have you any friends who would become surety for you?"
"Not one. If good King Richard were here, the tale might be
"Fill your goblet again, Sir Knight," said Robin; and he turned
to whisper a word in Marian's ear. She nodded and drew Little
John and Will Scarlet aside and talked earnestly with them, in a
"Here is health and prosperity to you, gallant Robin," said Sir
Richard, tilting his goblet. "I hope I may pay your cheer more
worthily, the next time I ride by."
Will Scarlet and Little John had meanwhile fallen in with
Marian's idea, for they consulted the other outlaws, who nodded
their heads. Thereupon Little John and Will Scarlet went into
the cave near by and presently returned bearing a bag of gold.
This they counted out before the astonished knight; and there
were four times one hundred gold pieces in it.
"Take this loan from us, Sir Knight, and pay your debt to the
Bishop," then said Robin. "Nay, no thanks; you are but
exchanging creditors. Mayhap we shall not be so hard upon you as
the Christian Bishop; yet, again we may be harder. Who can
There were actual tears in Sir Richard's eyes, as he essayed to
thank the foresters. But at this juncture, Much, the miller's
son, came from the cave dragging a bale of cloth. "The knight
should have a suit worthy of his rank, master--think you not so?"
"Measure him twenty ells of it," ordered Robin.
"Give him a good horse, also," whispered Marian. "'Tis a gift
which will come back four-fold, for this is a worthy man. I know
So the horse was given, also, and Robin bade Arthur-a-Bland ride
with the knight as far as his castle, as esquire.
The knight was sorrowful no longer; yet he could hardly voice his
thanks through his broken utterance. And having spent the night
in rest, after listening to Allan-a-Dale's singing, he mounted
his new steed the following morning an altogether different man.
"God save you, comrades, and keep you all!" said he, with deep
feeling in his tones; "and give me a grateful heart!"
"We shall wait for you twelve months from to-day, here in this
place," said Robin, shaking him by the hand; "and then you will
repay us the loan, if you have been prospered."
"I shall return it to you within the year, upon my honor as Sir
Richard of the Lea. And for all time, pray count on me as a
So saying the knight and his esquire rode down the forest glade
till they were lost to view.
HOW THE BISHOP WAS DINED
"O what is the matter?" then said the Bishop,
"Or for whom do you make this a-do?
Or why do you kill the King's venison,
When your company is so few?"
"We are shepherds," quoth bold Robin Hood,
"And we keep sheep all the year,
And we are disposed to be merrie this day,
And to kill of the King's fat deer."
Not many days after Sir Richard of the Lea came to Sherwood
Forest, word reached Robin Hood's ears that my lord Bishop of
Hereford would be riding that way betimes on that morning. 'Twas
Arthur-a-Bland, the knight's quondam esquire, who brought the
tidings, and Robin's face brightened as he heard it.
"Now, by our Lady!" quoth he, "I have long desired to entertain
my lord in the greenwood, and this is too fair a chance to let
slip. Come, my men, kill me a venison; kill me a good fat deer.
The Bishop of Hereford is to dine with me today, and he shall pay
well for his cheer."
"Shall we dress it here, as usual?" asked Much, the miller's son.
"Nay, we play a droll game on the churchman. We will dress it by
the highway side, and watch for the Bishop narrowly, lest he
should ride some other way."
So Robin gave his orders, and the main body of his men dispersed
to different parts of the forest, under Will Stutely and Little
John, to watch other roads; while Robin Hood himself took six of
his men, including Will Scarlet, and Much, and posted himself in
full view of the main road. This little company appeared funny
enough, I assure you, for they had disguised themselves as
shepherds. Robin had an old wool cap, with a tail to it, hanging
over his ear, and a shock of hair stood straight up through a
hole in the top. Besides there was so much dirt on his face that
you would never have known him. An old tattered cloak over his
hunter's garb completed his make-up. The others were no less
ragged and unkempt, even the foppish Will Scarlet being so badly
run down at the heel that the court ladies would hardly have had
speech with him.
They quickly provided themselves with a deer and made great
preparations to cook it over a small fire, when a little dust was
seen blowing along the highway, and out of it came the portly
Bishop cantering along with ten men-at-arms at his heels. As
soon as he saw the fancied shepherds he spurred up his horse, and
came straight toward them.
"Who are ye, fellows, who make so free with the King's deer?" he
"We are shepherds," answered Robin Hood, pulling at his forelock
"Heaven have mercy! Ye seem a sorry lot of shepherds. But who
gave you leave to cease eating mutton?"
"'Tis one of our feast days, lording, and we were disposed to be
merry this day, and make free with a deer, out here where they
are so many."
"By me faith, the King shall hear of this. Who killed yon
"Give me first your name, excellence, so that I may speak where
'tis fitting," replied Robin stubbornly.
"'Tis my lord Bishop of Hereford, fellow!" interposed one of the
guards fiercely. "See that you keep a civil tongue in your
"If 'tis a churchman," retorted Will Scarlet, "he would do better
to mind his own flocks rather than concern himself with ours."
"Ye are saucy fellows, in sooth," cried the Bishop, "and we will
see if your heads will pay for your manners. Come! quit your
stolen roast and march along with me, for you shall be brought
before the Sheriff of Nottingham forthwith."
"Pardon, excellence!" said Robin, dropping on his knees.
"Pardon, I pray you. It becomes not your lordship's coat to take
so many lives away."
"Faith, I'll pardon you!" said the Bishop. "I'll pardon you,
when I see you hanged! Seize upon them, my men!"
But Robin had already sprung away with his back against a tree.
And from underneath his ragged cloak he drew his trusty horn and
winded the piercing notes which were wont to summon the band.
The Bishop no sooner saw this action than he knew his man, and
that there was a trap set; and being an arrant coward, he wheeled
his horse sharply and would have made off down the road; but his
own men, spurred on the charge, blocked his way. At almost the
same instant the bushes round about seemed literally to become
alive with outlaws. Little John's men came from one side and
Will Stutely's from the other. In less time than it takes to
tell it, the worthy Bishop found himself a prisoner, and began to
crave mercy from the men he had so lately been ready to sentence.
"O pardon, O pardon," said the Bishop,
"O pardon, I you pray.
For if I had known it had been you,
I'd have gone some other way."
"I owe you no pardon," retorted Robin, "but I will e'en treat you
better than you would have treated me. Come, make haste, and go
along with me. I have already planned that you shall dine with
me this day."
So the unwilling prelate was dragged away, cheek by jowl, with
the half-cooked venison upon the back of his own horse; and Robin
and his band took charge of the whole company and led them
through the forest glades till they came to an open space near
Here they rested, and Robin gave the Bishop a seat full
courteously. Much the miller's son fell to roasting the deer
afresh, while another and fatter beast was set to frizzle on the
other side of the fire. Presently the appetizing odor of the
cooking reached the Bishop's nostrils, and he sniffed it eagerly.
The morning's ride had made him hungry; and he was nothing loath
when they bade him come to the dinner. Robin gave him the best
place beside himself, and the Bishop prepared to fall to.
"Nay, my lord, craving your pardon, but we are accustomed to have
grace before meat," said Robin decorously. "And as our own
chaplain is not with us to-day, will you be good enough to say it
The Bishop reddened, but pronounced grace in the Latin tongue
hastily, and then settled himself to make the best of his lot.
Red wines and ale were brought forth and poured out, each man
having a horn tankard from which to drink.
Laughter bubbled among the diners, and the Bishop caught himself
smiling at more than one jest. But who, in sooth, could resist a
freshly broiled venison streak eaten out in the open air to the
tune of jest and good fellowship? Stutely filled the Bishop's
beaker with wine each time he emptied it, and the Bishop got
mellower and mellower as the afternoon shades lengthened on
toward sunset. Then the approaching dusk warned him of his
"I wish, mine host," quoth he gravely to Robin, who had soberly
drunk but one cup of ale, "that you would now call a reckoning.
'Tis late, and I fear the cost of this entertainment may be more
than my poor purse can stand."
For he bethought himself of his friend, the Sheriff's former
"Verily, your lordship," said Robin, scratching his head, "I have
enjoyed your company so much, that I scarce know how to charge
"Lend me your purse, my lord," said Little John, interposing,
"and I'll give you the reckoning by and by." The Bishop
shuddered. He had collected Sir Richard's debt only that
morning, and was even then carrying it home.
"I have but a few silver pennies of my own," he whined; "and as
for the gold in my saddle-bags, 'tis for the church. Ye surely
would not levy upon the church, good friends."
But Little John was already gone to the saddle-bags, and
returning he laid the Bishop's cloak upon the ground, and poured
out of the portmantua a matter of four hundred glittering gold
pieces. 'Twas the identical money which Robin had lent Sir
Richard a short while before!
"Ah!" said Robin, as though an idea had but just then come to
him. "The church is always willing to aid in charity. And
seeing this goodly sum reminds me that I have a friend who is
indebted to a churchman for this exact amount. Now we shall
charge you nothing on our own account; but suffer us to make use
of this in aiding my good friend."
"Nay, nay," began the Bishop with a wry face, "this is requiting
me ill indeed. Was this not the King's meat, after all, that we
feasted upon? Furthermore, I am a poor man."
"Poor forsooth!" answered Robin in scorn. "You are the Bishop of
Hereford, and does not the whole countryside speak of your
oppression? Who does not know of your cruelty to the poor and
ignorant--you who should use your great office to aid them,
instead of oppress? Have you not been guilty of far greater
robbery than this, even though less open? Of myself, and how you
have pursued me, I say nothing; nor of your unjust enmity against
my father. But on account of those you have despoiled and
oppressed, I take this money, and will use it far more worthily
than you would. God be my witness in this! There is an end of
the matter, unless you will lead us in a song or dance to show
that your body had a better spirit than your mind. Come, strike
up the harp, Allan!"
"Neither the one nor the other will I do," snarled the Bishop.
"Faith, then we must help you," said Little John; and he and
Arthur-a-Bland seized the fat struggling churchman and commenced
to hop up and down. The Bishop being shorter must perforce
accompany them in their gyrations; while the whole company sat
and rolled about over the ground, and roared to see my lord of
Hereford's queer capers. At last he sank in a heap, fuddled with
wine and quite exhausted.
Little John picked him up as though he were a log of wood and
carrying him to his horse, set him astride facing the animal's
tail; and thus fastened him, leading the animal toward the
highroad and, starting the Bishop, more dead than alive, toward
HOW THE BISHOP WENT OUTLAW-HUNTING
The Bishop he came to the old woman's house,
And called with furious mood,
"Come let me soon see, and bring unto me
That traitor, Robin Hood."
The easy success with which they had got the better of the good
Bishop led Robin to be a little careless. He thought that his
guest was too great a coward to venture back into the greenwood
for many a long day; and so after lying quiet for one day, the
outlaw ventured boldly upon the highway, the morning of the
second. But he had gone only half a mile when, turning a sharp
bend in the road, he plunged full upon the prelate himself.
My lord of Hereford had been so deeply smitten in his pride, that
he had lost no time in summoning a considerable body of the
Sheriff's men, offering to double the reward if Robin Hood could
be come upon. This company was now at his heels, and after the
first shock of mutual surprise, the Bishop gave an exultant shout
and spurred upon the outlaw.
It was too late for Robin to retreat by the way he had come, but
quick as a flash he sprang to one side of the road, dodged under
some bushes, and disappeared so suddenly that his pursuers
thought he had truly been swallowed up by magic.
"After him!" yelled the Bishop; "some of you beat up the woods
around him, while the rest of us will keep on the main road and
head him off on the other side!"
For, truth to tell, the Bishop did not care to trust his bones
away from the highroad.