Part 4 out of 4
About a mile away, on the other side of this neck of woods,
wherein Robin had been trapped, was a little tumbledown cottage.
'Twas where the widow lived, whose three sons had been rescued.
Robin remembered the cottage and saw his one chance to escape.
Doubling in and out among the underbrush and heather with the
agility of a hare, he soon came out of the wood in the rear of
the cottage, and thrust his head through a tiny window.
The widow, who had been at her spinning wheel, rose up with a cry
"Quiet, good mother! 'Tis I, Robin Hood. Where are your three
"They should be with you, Robin. Well do you know that. Do they
not owe their lives to you?"
"If that be so, I come to seek payment of the debt," said Robin
in a breath. "The Bishop is on my heels with many of his men."
"I'll cheat the Bishop and all!" cried the woman quickly. "Here,
Robin, change your raiment with me, and we will see if my lord
knows an old woman when he sees her."
"Good!" said Robin. "Pass your gray cloak out the window, and
also your spindle and twine; and I will give you my green mantle
and everything else down to my bow and arrows."
While they were talking, Robin had been nimbly changing clothes
with the old woman, through the window, and in a jiffy he stood
forth complete, even to the spindle and twine.
Presently up dashed the Bishop and his men, and, at sight of the
cottage and the old woman, gave pause. The crone was hobbling
along with difficulty, leaning heavily upon a gnarled stick and
bearing the spindle on her other arm. She would have gone by the
Bishop's company, while muttering to herself, but the Bishop
ordered one of his men to question her. The soldier laid his
hand upon her shoulder.
"Mind your business!" croaked the woman, "or I'll curse ye!"
"Come, come, my good woman," said the soldier, who really was
afraid of her curses. "I'll not molest you. But my lord Bishop
of Hereford wants to know if you have seen aught of the outlaw,
"And why shouldn't I see him?" she whined. "Where's the King or
law to prevent good Robin from coming to see me and bring me food
and raiment? That's more than my lord Bishop will do, I warrant
"Peace, woman!" said the Bishop harshly. "We want none of your
opinions. But we'll take you to Barnesdale and burn you for a
witch if you do not instantly tell us when you last saw Robin
"Mercy, good my lord!" chattered the crone, falling on her knees.
"Robin is there in my cottage now, but you'll never take him
"We'll see about that," cried the Bishop triumphantly. "Enter
the cottage, my men. Fire it, if need be. But I'll give a purse
of gold pieces, above the reward, to the man who captures the
The old woman, being released, went on her way slowly. But it
might have been noticed that the farther she got away from the
company and the nearer to the edge of the woods, the swifter and
straighter grew her pace. Once inside the shelter of the forest
she broke into a run of surprising swiftness.
"Gadzooks!" exclaimed Little John who presently spied her. "Who
comes here? Never saw I witch or woman run so fast. Methinks
I'll send an arrow close over her head to see which it is."
"O hold your hand! hold your hand!" panted the supposed woman.
"'Tis I, Robin Hood. Summon the yeomen and return with me
speedily. We have still another score to settle with my lord of
When Little John could catch his breath from laughing, he winded
"Now, mistress Robin," quoth he, grinning. "Lead on! We'll be
close to your heels."
Meanwhile, back at the widow's cottage the Bishop was growing
more furious every moment. For all his bold words, he dared not
fire the house, and the sturdy door had thus far resisted all his
"Break it down! Break it down!" he shouted, "and let me soon see
who will fetch out that traitor, Robin Hood!"
At last the door crashed in and the men stood guard on the
threshold. But not one dared enter for fear a sharp arrow should
meet him halfway.
"Here he is!" cried one keen-eyed fellow, peering in. "I see him
in the corner by the cupboard. Shall we slay him with our
"Nay," said the Bishop, "take him alive if you can. We'll make
the biggest public hanging of this that the shire ever beheld."
But the joy of the Bishop over his capture was short lived. Down
the road came striding the shabby figure of the old woman who had
helped him set the trap; and very wrathy was she when she saw
that the cottage door had been battered in.
"Stand by, you lazy rascals!" she called to the soldiers. "May
all the devils catch ye for hurting an old woman's hut. Stand
by, I say!"
"Hold your tongue!" ordered the Bishop. "These are my men and
carrying out my orders."
"God-mercy!" swore the beldame harshly. "Things have come to a
pretty pass when our homes may be treated like common gaols.
Couldn't all your men catch one poor forester without this ado?
Come! clear out, you and your robber, on the instant, or I'll
curse every mother's son of ye, eating and drinking and
"Seize on the hag!" shouted the Bishop, as soon as he could get
in a word. "We'll see about a witch's cursing. Back to town she
shall go, alongside of Robin Hood."
"Not so fast, your worship!" she retorted, clapping her hands.
And at the signal a goodly array of greenwood men sprang forth
from all sides of the cottage, with bows drawn back
threateningly. The Bishop saw that his men were trapped again,
for they dared not stir. Nathless, he determined to make a fight
"If one of you but budge an inch toward me, you rascals," he
cried, "it shall sound the death of your master, Robin Hood! My
men have him here under their pikes, and I shall command them to
kill him without mercy."
"Faith, I should like to see the Robin you have caught," said a
clear voice from under the widow's cape; and the outlaw chief
stood forth with bared head, smilingly. "Here am I, my lord, in
no wise imperiled by your men's fierce pikes. So let us see whom
you have been guarding so well."
The old woman who, in the garb of Robin Hood, had been lying
quiet in the cottage through all the uproar, jumped up nimbly at
this. In the bald absurdity of her disguise she came to the
doorway and bowed to the Bishop.
"Give you good-den, my lord Bishop," she piped in a shrill voice;
"and what does your Grace at my humble door? Do you come to bless
me and give me alms?"
"Aye, that does he," answered Robin. "We shall see if his
saddle-bags contain enough to pay you for that battered door."
"Now by all the saints--" began the Bishop.
"Take care; they are all watching you," interrupted Robin; "so
name them not upon your unchurchly lips. But I will trouble you
to hand over that purse of gold you had saved to pay for my
"I'll see you hanged first!" raged the Bishop, stating no more
than what would have been so, if he could do the ordering of
things. "Have at them, my men, and hew them down in their
"Hold!" retorted Robin. "See how we have you at our mercy." And
aiming a sudden shaft he shot so close to the Bishop's head that
it carried away both his hat and the skull-cap which he always
wore, leaving him quite bald.
The prelate turned as white as his shiny head and clutched wildly
at his ears. He thought himself dead almost.
"Help! Murder!" he gasped. "Do not shoot again! Here's your
purse of gold!"
And without waiting for further parley he fairly bolted down the
His men being left leaderless had nothing for it but to retreat
after him, which they did in sullen order, covered by the bows of
the yeomen. And thus ended the Bishop of Hereford's great
outlaw-hunt in the forest.
HOW THE SHERIFF HELD ANOTHER SHOOTING MATCH
"To tell the truth, I'm well informed
Yon match it is a wile;
The Sheriff, I know, devises this
Us archers to beguile."
Now the Sheriff was so greatly troubled in heart over the growing
power of Robin Hood, that he did a very foolish thing. He went
to London town to lay his troubles before the King and get
another force of troops to cope with the outlaws. King Richard
was not yet returned from the Holy Land, but Prince John heard
him with scorn.
"Pooh!" said he, shrugging his shoulders. "What have I to do
with all this? Art thou not sheriff for me? The law is in force
to take thy course of them that injure thee. Go, get thee gone,
and by thyself devise some tricking game to trap these rebels;
and never let me see thy face at court again until thou hast a
better tale to tell."
So away went the Sheriff in sorrier pass than ever, and cudgeled
his brain, on the way home, for some plan of action.
His daughter met him on his return and saw at once that he had
been on a poor mission. She was minded to upbraid him when she
learned what he had told the Prince. But the words of the latter
started her to thinking afresh.
"I have it!" she exclaimed at length. "Why should we not hold
another shooting-match? 'Tis Fair year, as you know, and another
tourney will be expected. Now we will proclaim a general
amnesty, as did King Harry himself, and say that the field is
open and unmolested to all comers. Belike Robin Hood's men will
be tempted to twang the bow, and then--"
"And then," said the Sheriff jumping up with alacrity, "we shall
see on which side of the gate they stop over-night!"
So the Sheriff lost no time in proclaiming a tourney, to be held
that same Fall at the Fair. It was open to all comers, said the
proclamation, and none should be molested in their going and
coming. Furthermore, an arrow with a golden head and shaft of
silver-white should be given to the winner, who would be heralded
abroad as the finest archer in all the North Countree. Also,
many rich prizes were to be given to other clever archers.
Thesemtidings came in due course to Robin Hood, under the
greenwood tree, and fired his impetuous spirit.
"Come, prepare ye, my merry men all," quoth he, "and we'll go to
the Fair and take some part in this sport."
With that stepped forth the merry cobbler, David of Doncaster.
"Master," quoth he, "be ruled by me and stir not from the
greenwood. To tell the truth, I'm well informed yon match is
naught but a trap. I know the Sheriff has devised it to beguile
us archers into some treachery."
"That word savors of the coward," replied Robin, "and pleases me
not. Let come what will, I'll try my skill at that same
Then up spoke Little John and said: "Come, listen to me how it
shall be that we will not be discovered."
"Our mantles all of Lincoln-green
Behind us we will leave;
We'll dress us all so several,
They shall not us perceive."
"One shall wear white, another red,
One yellow, another blue;
Thus in disguise to the exercise
We'll go, whate'er ensue."
This advice met with general favor from the adventurous fellows,
and they lost no time in putting it into practice. Maid Marian
and Mistress Dale, assisted by Friar Tuck, prepared some
vari-colored costumes, and 'gainst the Fair day had fitted out
the sevenscore men till you would never have taken them for other
than villagers decked for the holiday.
And forth went they from the greenwood, with hearts all firm and
stout, resolved to meet the Sheriff's men and have a merry bout.
Along the highway they fell in with many other bold fellows from
the countryside, going with their ruddy-cheeked lasses toward the
wide-open gates of Nottingham.
So in through the gates trooped the whole gay company, Robin's
men behaving as awkwardly and laughing and talking as noisily as
the rest; while the Sheriff's scowling men-at-arms stood round
about and sought to find one who looked like a forester, but
The herald now set forth the terms of the contest, as on former
occasions, and the shooting presently began. Robin had chosen
five of his men to shoot with him, and the rest were to mingle
with the crowd and also watch the gates. These five were Little
John, Will Scarlet, Will Stutely, Much, and Allan-a-Dale'.
The other competitors made a brave showing on the first round,
especially Gilbert of the White Hand, who was present and never
shot better. The contest later narrowed down between Gilbert and
Robin. But at the first lead, when the butts were struck so
truly by various well known archers, the Sheriff was in doubt
whether to feel glad or sorry. He was glad to see such skill,
but sorry that the outlaws were not in it.
Some said, "If Robin Hood were here,
And all his men to boot,
Sure none of them could pass these men,
So bravely do they shoot"
"Aye," quoth the Sheriff, and scratched his head,
"I thought he would be here;
I thought he would, but tho' he's bold,
He durst not now appear "
This word was privately brought to Robin by David of Doncaster,
and the saying vexed him sorely. But he bit his lip in silence.
"Ere long," he thought to himself, "we shall see whether Robin
Hood be here or not!"
Meantime the shooting had been going forward, and Robin's men had
done so well that the air was filled with shouts.
One cried, "Blue jacket!" another cried, "Brown!"
And a third cried, "Brave Yellow!"
But the fourth man said, "Yon man in red
In this place has no fellow."
For that was Robin Hood himself,
For he was clothed in red,
At every shot the prize he got,
For he was both sure and dead.
Thus went the second round of the shooting, and thus the third
and last, till even Gilbert of the White Hand was fairly beaten.
During all this shooting, Robin exchanged no word with his men,
each treating the other as a perfect stranger. Nathless, such
great shooting could not pass without revealing the archers.
The Sheriff thought he discovered, in the winner of the golden
arrow, the person of Robin Hood without peradventure. So he sent
word privately for his men-at-arms to close round the group. But
Robin's men also got wind of the plan.
To keep up appearances, the Sheriff summoned the crowd to form in
a circle; and after as much delay as possible the arrow was
presented. The delay gave time enough for the soldiers to close
in. As Robin received his prize, bowed awkwardly, and turned
away, the Sheriff, letting his zeal get the better of his
discretion, grasped him about the neck and called upon his men to
arrest the traitor.
But the moment the Sheriff touched Robin, he received such a
buffet on the side of his head that he let go instantly and fell
back several paces. Turning to see who had struck him, he
recognized Little John.
"Ah, rascal Greenleaf, I have you now!" he exclaimed springing at
him. Just then, however, he met a new check.
"This is from another of your devoted servants!" said a voice
which he knew to be that of Much the miller's son; and "Thwack!"
went his open palm upon the Sheriff's cheek sending that worthy
rolling over and over upon the ground.
By this time the conflict had become general, but the Sheriff's
men suffered the disadvantage of being hampered by the crowd of
innocent on-lookers, whom they could not tell from the outlaws
and so dared not attack; while the other outlaws in the rear fell
upon them and put them in confusion.
For a moment a fierce rain of blows ensued; then the clear
bugle-note from Robin ordered a retreat. The two warders at the
nearest gate tried to close it, but were shot dead in their
tracks. David of Doncaster threw a third soldier into the moat;
and out through the gate went the foresters in good order,
keeping a respectful distance between themselves and the
advancing soldiery, by means of their well-directed shafts.
But the fight was not to go easily this day, for the soldiery,
smarting from their recent discomfiture at the widow's cottage,
and knowing that the eyes of the whole shire were upon them,
fought well, and pressed closely after the retreating outlaws.
More than one ugly wound was given and received. No less than
five of the Sheriff's men were killed outright, and a dozen
others injured; while four of Robin's men were bleeding from
severe flesh cuts.
Then Little John, who had fought by the side of his chief,
suddenly fell forward with a slight moan. An arrow had pierced
his knee. Robin seized the big fellow with almost superhuman
Up he took him on his back,
And bare him well a mile;
Many a time he laid him down,
And shot another while.
Meanwhile Little John grew weaker and closed his eyes; at last he
sank to the ground, and feebly motioned Robin to let him lie.
"Master Robin," said he, "have I not served you well, ever since
we met upon the bridge?"
"Truer servant never man had," answered Robin.
"Then if ever you loved me, and for the sake of that service,
draw your bright brown sword and strike off my head; never let me
fall alive into the hand of the Sheriff of Nottingham."
"Not for all the gold in England would I do either of the things
"God forbid!" cried Arthur-a-Bland, hurrying to the rescue. And
packing his wounded kinsman upon his own broad shoulders, he soon
brought him within the shelter of the forest.
Once there, the Sheriff's men did not follow; and Robin caused
litters of boughs to be made for Little John and the other four
wounded men. Quickly were they carried through the wood until
the hermitage of Friar Tuck was reached, where their wounds were
dressed. Little John's hurt was pronounced to be the most
serious of any, but he was assured that in two or three weeks'
time he could get about again; whereat the active giant groaned
That evening consternation came upon the hearts of the band. A
careful roll-call was taken to see it all the yeomen had escaped,
when it was found that Will Stutely was missing, and Maid Marian
also was nowhere to be found. Robin was seized with dread. He
knew that Marian had gone to the Fair, but felt that she would
hardly come to grief. Her absence, however, portended some
danger, and he feared that it was connected with Will Stutely.
The Sheriff would hang him speedily and without mercy, if he were
The rest of the band shared their leader's uneasiness, though
they said no word. They knew that if Will were captured, the
battle must be fought over again the next day, and Will must be
saved at any cost. But no man flinched from the prospect.
That evening, while the Sheriff and his wife and daughter sat at
meat in the Mansion House, the Sheriff boasted of how he would
make an example of the captured outlaw; for Stutely had indeed
fallen into his hands.
"He shall be strung high," he said, in a loud voice; "and none
shall dare lift a finger. I now have Robin Hood's men on the
run, and we shall soon see who is master in this shire. I am
only sorry that we let them have the golden arrow."
As he spoke a missive sped through a window and fell clattering
upon his plate, causing him to spring back in alarm.
It was the golden arrow, and on its feathered shaft was sewed a
little note which read:
"This from one who will take no gifts from liars; and who
henceforth will show no mercy. Look well to yourself. R.H."
HOW WILL STUTELY WAS RESCUED
Forth of the greenwood are they gone,
Yea, all courageously,
Resolving to bring Stutely home,
Or every man to die.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. The whole face of nature
seemed gay as if in despite of the tragedy which was soon to take
place in the walls of Nottingham town. The gates were not opened
upon this day, for the Sheriff was determined to carry through
the hanging of Will Stutely undisturbed. No man, therefore, was
to be allowed entrance from without, all that morning and until
after the fatal hour of noon, when Will's soul was to be launched
Early in the day Robin had drawn his men to a point, as near as
he dared, in the wood where he could watch the road leading to
the East gate. He himself was clad in a bright scarlet dress,
while his men, a goodly array, wore their suits of sober Lincoln
green. They were armed with broadswords, and 'each man carried
his bow and a full quiver of new arrows, straightened and
sharpened cunningly by Middle, the tinker. Over their greenwood
dress, each man had thrown a rough mantle, making him look not
unlike a friar.
"I hold it good, comrades," then said Robin Hood, "to tarry here
in hiding for a season while we sent some one forth to obtain
tidings. For, in sooth, 'twill work no good to march upon the
gates if they be closed."
"Look, master," quoth one of the widow's sons. "There comes a
palmer along the road from the town. Belike he can tell us how
the land ties, and if Stutely be really in jeopardy. Shall I go
out and engage him in speech?"
"Go," answered Robin.
So Stout Will went out from the band while the others hid
themselves and waited. When he had come close to the palmer, who
seemed a slight, youngish man, he doffed his hat full courteously
"I crave your pardon, holy man, but can you tell me tidings of
Nottingham town? Do they intend to put an outlaw to death this
"Yea," answered the palmer sadly. "'Tis true enough, sorry be the
day. I have passed the very spot where the gallows-tree is
going up. 'Tis out upon the roadway near the Sheriff's castle.
One, Will Stutely, is to be hung thereon at noon, and I could not
bear the sight, so came away."
The palmer spoke in a muffled voice; and as his hood was pulled
well over his head, Stout Will could not discern what manner of
man he was. Over his shoulder he carried a long staff, with the
fashion of a little cross at one end; and he had sandaled feet
like any monk. Stout Will notice idly that the feet were very
small and white, but gave no second thought to the matter.
"Who will shrive the poor wretch, if you have come away from
him?" he asked reproachfully.
The question seemed to put a new idea into the palmer's head. He
turned so quickly that he almost dropped his hood.
"Do you think that I should undertake this holy office?"
"By Saint Peter and the Blessed Virgin, I do indeed! Else, who
will do it? The Bishop and all his whining clerks may be there,
but not one would say a prayer for his soul."
"But I am only a poor palmer," the other began hesitatingly.
"Nathless, your prayers are as good as any and better than some,"
"Right gladly would I go," then said the palmer; "but I fear me I
cannot get into the city. You may know that the gates are fast
locked, for this morning, to all who would come in, although they
let any pass out who will."
"Come with me," said Stout Will, "and my master will see that you
pass through the gates."
So the palmer pulled his cloak still closer about him and was
brought before Robin Hood, to whom he told all he knew of the
situation. He ended with,
"If I may make so bold, I would not try to enter the city from
this gate, as 'tis closely guarded since yesterday. But on the
far side, no attack is looked for."
"My thanks, gentle palmer," quoth Robin, "your suggestion is
good, and we will deploy to the gate upon the far side."
So the men marched silently but quickly until they were near to
the western gate. Then Arthur-a-Bland asked leave to go ahead as
a scout, and quietly made his way to a point under the tower by
the gate. The moat was dry on this side, as these were times of
peace, and Arthur was further favored by a stout ivy vine which
grew out from an upper window.
Swinging himself up boldly by means of this friendly vine, he
crept through the window and in a moment more had sprung upon the
warder from behind and gripped him hard about the throat. The
warder had no chance to utter the slightest sound, and soon lay
bound and gagged upon the floor; while Arthur-a-Bland slipped
himself into his uniform and got hold of his keys.
'Twas the work of but a few moments more to open the gates, let
down the bridge, and admit the rest of the band; and they lot
inside the town so quietly that none knew of their coming.
Fortune also favored them in the fact that just at this moment
the prison doors had been opened for the march of the condemned
man, and every soldier and idle lout in the market-lace had
trooped thither to see him pass along.
Presently out came Will Stutely with firm step but dejected air.
He looked eagerly to the right hand and to the left, but saw none
of the band. And though more than one curious face betrayed
friendship in it, he knew there could be no aid from such source.
Will's hands were tied behind his back. He marched between rows
of soldiery, and the Sheriff and the Bishop brought up the rear
on horses, looking mightily puffed up and important over the
whole proceeding. He would show these sturdy rebels--would the
Sheriff--whose word was law! He knew that the gates were tightly
fastened; and further he believed that the outlaws would hardly
venture again within the walls, even if the gates were open. And
as he looked around at the fivescore archers and pikemen who
lined the way to the gallows, he smiled with grim satisfaction.
Seeing that no help was nigh, the prisoner paused at the foot of
the scaffold and spoke in a firm tone to the Sheriff.
"My lord Sheriff," quoth he, "since I must needs die, grant me
one boon; for my noble master ne'er yet had a man that was hanged
on a tree:
'Give me a sword all in my hand,
And let me be unbound,
And with thee and thy men will I fight
Till I lie dead on the ground.'"
But the Sheriff would by no means listen to his request; but
swore that he should be hanged a shameful death, and not die by
the sword valiantly.
"O no, no, no," the Sheriff said,
"Thou shalt on the gallows die,
Aye, and so shall they master too,
If ever it in me lie."
"O dastard coward!" Stutely cried,
"Faint-hearted peasant slave!
If ever my master do thee meet,
Thou shalt thy payment have!"
"My noble master thee doth scorn,
And all thy cowardly crew,
Such silly imps unable are
Bold Robin to subdue."
This brave speech was not calculated to soothe the Sheriff. "To
the gallows with him!" he roared, giving a sign to the hangman;
and Stutely was pushed into the rude cart which was to bear him
under the gallows until his neck was leashed. Then the cart
would be drawn roughly away and the unhappy man would swing out
over the tail of it into another world.
But at this moment came a slight interruption. A boyish-looking
palmer stepped forth, and said:
"Your Excellency, let me at least shrive this poor wretch's soul
ere it be hurled into eternity."
"No!" shouted the Sheriff, "let him die a dog's death!"
"Then his damnation will rest upon you," said the monk firmly.
"You, my lord Bishop, cannot stand by and see this wrong done."
The Bishop hesitated. Like the Sheriff, he wanted no delay; but
the people were beginning to mutter among themselves and move
about uneasily. He said a few words to the Sheriff, and the
latter nodded to the monk ungraciously.
"Perform your duty, Sir Priest," quoth he, "and be quick about
it!" Then turning to his soldiers. "Watch this palmer narrowly,"
he commanded. "Belike he is in league with those rascally
But the palmer paid no heed to his last words. He began to tell
his beads quickly, and to speak in a low voice to the condemned
man. But he did not touch his bonds.
Then came another stir in the crowd, and one came pushing through
the press of people and soldiery to come near to the scaffold.
"I pray you, Will, before you die, take leave of all your
friends!" cried out the well-known voice of Much, the miller's
At the word the palmer stepped back suddenly and looked to one
side. The Sheriff also knew the speaker.
"Seize him!" he shouted. "'Tis another of the crew. He is the
villain cook who once did rob me of my silver plate. We'll make
a double hanging of this!"
"Not so fast, good master Sheriff," retorted Much. "First catch
your man and then hang him. But meanwhile I would like to borrow
my friend of you awhile."
And with one stroke of his keen hunting-knife he cut the bonds
which fastened the prisoner's arms, and Stutely leaped lightly
from the cart.
"Treason!" screamed the Sheriff, getting black with rage. "Catch
So saying he spurred his horse fiercely forward, and rising in
his stirrups brought down his sword with might and main at Much's
head. But his former cook dodged nimbly underneath the horse and
came up on the other side, while the weapon whistled harmlessly
in the air.
"Nay, Sir Sheriff!" he cried, "I must e'en borrow your sword for
the friend I have borrowed."
Thereupon he snatched the weapon deftly from the Sheriff's hand.
"Here, Stutely!" said he, "the Sheriff has lent you his own
sword. Back to back with me, man, and we'll teach these knaves a
trick or two!"
Meanwhile the soldiers had recovered from their momentary
surprise and had flung themselves into the fray. A clear
bugle-note had also sounded the same which the soldiers had
learned to dread. 'Twas the rallying note of the green wood men.
Cloth yard shafts began to hurtle through the air, and Robin and
his men cast aside their cloaks and sprang forward crying:
"Lockesley! Lockesley! a rescue! a rescue!"
On the instant, a terrible scene of hand to hand fighting
followed. The Sheriff's men, though once more taken by surprise,
were determined to sell this rescue dearly. They packed in
closely and stubbornly about the condemned man and Much and the
palmer, and it was only by desperate rushes that the foresters
made an opening in the square. Ugly cuts and bruises were
exchanged freely; and lucky was the man who escaped with only
these. Many of the onlookers, who had long hated the Sheriff and
felt sympathy for Robin's men, also plunged into the
conflict--although they could not well keep out of it, in
sooth!--and aided the rescuers no little.
At last with a mighty onrush, Robin cleaved a way through the
press to the scaffold itself, and not a second too soon; for two
men with pikes had leaped upon the cart, and were in the act of
thrusting down upon the palmer and Will Stutely. A mighty upward
blow from Robin's good blade sent the pike flying from the hand
of one, while a well-directed arrow from the outskirt pierced the
other fellow's throat.
"God save you, master!" cried Will Stutely joyfully. "I had
begun to fear that I would never see your face again."
"A rescue!" shouted the outlaws afresh, and the soldiery became
fainthearted and 'gan to give back. But the field was not yet
won, for they retreated in close order toward the East gate,
resolved to hem the attackers within the city walls. Here again,
however, they were in error, since the outlaws did not go out by
their nearest gate. They made a sally in that direction, in
order to mislead the soldiery, then abruptly turned and headed
for the West gate, which was still guarded by Arthur-a-Bland.
The Sheriff's men raised an exultant shout at this, thinking they
had the enemy trapped. Down they charged after them, but the
outlaws made good their lead, and soon got through the gate and
over the bridge which had been let down by Arthur-a-Bland.
Close upon their heels came the soldiers--so close, that Arthur
had no time to close the gate again or raise the bridge. So he
threw away his key and fell in with the yeomen, who now began
their retreat up the long hill to the woods.
On this side the town, the road leading to the forest was long
and almost unprotected. The greenwood men were therefore in some
distress, for the archers shot at them from loop-holes in the
walls, and the pikemen were reinforced by a company of mounted
men from the castle. But the outlaws retreated stubbornly and
now and again turned to hold their pursuers at bay by a volley of
arrows. Stutely was in their midst, fighting with the energy of
two; and the little palmer was there also, but took no part save
to keep close to Robin's side and mutter silent words as though
Robin put his horn to his lips to sound a rally, when a flying
arrow from the enemy pierced his hand. The palmer gave a little
cry and sprang forward. The Sheriff, who followed close with the
men on horseback, also saw the wound and gave a great huzza.
"Ha! you will shoot no more bows for a season, master outlaw!" he
"You lie!" retorted Robin fiercely, wrenching the shaft from his
hand despite the streaming blood; "I have saved one shot for you
all this day. Here take it!"
And he fitted the same arrow, which had wounded him, upon the
string of his bow and let it fly toward the Sheriff's head. The
Sheriff fell forward upon his horse in mortal terror, but not so
quickly as to escape unhurt. The sharp point laid bare a deep
gash upon his scalp and must certainly have killed him if it had
The fall of the Sheriff discomfited his followers for the moment,
and Robin's men took this chance to speed on up the hill. The
palmer had whipped out a small white handkerchief and tried to
staunch Robin's wound as they went. At sight of the palmer's
hand, Robin turned with a start, and pushed back the other's
"Marian!" he exclaimed, "you here!"
It was indeed Maid Marian, who had helped save Will, and been in
the stress of battle from the first. Now she hung her head as
though caught in wrong.
"I had to come, Robin," she said simply, "and I knew you would
not let me come, else."
Their further talk was interrupted by an exclamation from Will
"By the saints, we are trapped!" he said, and pointed to the top
of the hill, toward which they were pressing.
There from out a gray castle poured a troop of men, armed with
pikes and axes, who shouted and came running down upon them. At
the same instant, the Sheriff's men also renewed the pursuit.
"Alas!" cried poor Marian, "we are undone! There is no way of
"Courage, dear heart!" said Robin, drawing her close to him. But
his own spirit sank as he looked about for some outlet.
Then--oh, joyful sight!--he recognized among the foremost of
those coming from the castle the once doleful knight, Sir Richard
of the Lea. He was smiling now, and greatly excited.
"A Hood! a Hood!" he cried; "a rescue! a rescue!" Never were
there more welcome sights and sounds than these. With a great
cheer the outlaws raced up the hill to meet their new friends;
and soon the whole force had gained the shelter of the castle.
Bang! went the bridge as it swung back, with great clanking of
chains. Clash! went one great door upon the other, as they shut
in the outlaw band, and shut out the Sheriff, who dashed up at
the head of his men, his bandaged face streaked with blood and
inflamed with rage.
HOW SIR RICHARD OF THE LEA REPAID HIS DEBT
The proud Sheriff loud 'gan cry
And said, "Thou traitor knight,
Thou keepest here the king's enemy
Against the laws and right."
"Open the gate!" shouted the Sheriff hoarsely, to the sentinel
upon the walls. "Open, I say, in the king's name!"
"Why who are you to come thus brawling upon my premises?" asked a
haughty voice; and Sir Richard himself stepped forth upon the
"You know me well, traitor knight!" said the Sheriff, "now give
up into my hands the enemy of the King whom you have sheltered
against the laws and right."
"Fair and softly, sir," quoth the knight smoothly. "I well avow
that I have done certain deeds this day. But I have done them
upon mine own land, which you now trespass upon; and I shall
answer only to the King--whom God preserve!--for my actions."
"Thou soft-spoken villain!" said the Sheriff, still in a towering
passion. "I, also, serve the King; and if these outlaws are not
given up to me at once, I shall lay siege to the castle and burn
it with fire."
"First show me your warrants," said Sir Richard curtly.
"My word is enough! Am I not Sheriff of Nottingham?"
"If you are, in sooth," retorted the knight, "you should know
that you have no authority within my lands unless you bear the
King's order. In the meantime, go mend your manners, lording."
And Sir Richard snapped his fingers and disappeared from the
walls. The Sheriff, after lingering a few moments longer in hope
of further parley, was forced to withdraw, swearing fiercely.
"The King's order!" muttered he. "That shall I have without
delay, as well as this upstart knight's estates; for King Richard
is lately returned, I hear, from the Holy Land."
Meanwhile the knight had gone back to Robin Hood, and the two men
greeted each other right gladly. "Well met, bold Robin!" cried
he, taking him in his arms. "Well met, indeed! The Lord has
lately prospered me, and I was minded this day to ride forth and
repay my debt to you."
"And so you have," answered Robin gaily.
"Nay, 'twas nothing--this small service!" said the knight. "I
meant the moneys coming to you."
"They have all been repaid," said Robin; "my lord of Hereford
himself gave them to me."
"The exact sum?" asked the knight.
"The exact sum," answered Robin, winking solemnly.
Sir Richard smiled, but said no more at the time. Robin was made
to rest until dinner should be served. Meanwhile a leech bound
up his hand with ointment, promising him that he should soon have
its use again. Some halfscore others of the yeomen had been hurt
in the fight, but luckily none of grave moment. They were all
bandaged and made happy by bumpers of ale.
At dinner Sir Richard presented Robin to his wife and son. The
lady was stately and gracious, and made much of Marian, whom she
had known as a little girl and who was now clothed more seemly
for a dinner than in monkish garments. The young esquire was a
goodly youth and bade fair to make as stout a knight as his
The feast was a joyous event. There were two long tables, and
two hundred men sat down at them, and ate and drank and afterward
sang songs. An hundred and forty of these men wore Lincoln green
and called Robin Hood their chief. Never, I ween, had there been
a more gallant company at table in Lea Castle!
That night the foresters tarried within the friendly walls, and
the next day took leave; though Sir Richard protested that they
should have made a longer stay. And he took Robin aside to his
strong room and pressed him again to take the four hundred golden
pounds. But his guest was firm.
"Keep the money, for it is your own," said Robin; "I have but
made the Bishop return that which he extorted unjustly."
Sir Richard thanked him in a few earnest words, and asked him and
all his men to visit the armory, before they departed. And
therein they saw, placed apart, an hundred and forty stout yew
bows of cunning make, with fine waxen silk strings; and an
hundred and forty sheaves of arrows. Every shaft was a just ell
long, set with peacock's feathers, and notched with silver. And
Sir Richard's fair lady came forward and with her own hands gave
each yeoman a bow and a sheaf.
"In sooth, these are poor presents we have made you, good Robin
Hood," said Sir Richard; "but they carry with them a thousand
times their weight in gratitude."
The Sheriff made good his threat to inform the King. Forth rode
he to London town upon the week following, his scalp wound having
healed sufficiently to permit him to travel. This time he did
not seek out Prince John, but asked audience with King Richard of
the Lion Heart himself. His Majesty had but lately returned from
the crusades, and was just then looking into the state of his
kingdom. So the Sheriff found ready audience.
Then to him the Sheriff spoke at length concerning Robin Hood;
how that for many months the outlaws had defied the King, and
slain the King's deer; how Robin had gathered about him the best
archers in all the countryside; and, finally, how the traitorous
knight Sir Richard of the Lea had rescued the band when capture
seemed certain, and refused to deliver them up to justice.
The King heard him through with attention and quoth he:
"Meseems I have heard of this same Robin Hood, and his men, and
also seen somewhat of their prowess. Did not these same outlaws
shoot in a royal Tourney at Finsbury field?"
"They did, Your Majesty, under a royal amnesty."
In this speech the Sheriff erred, for the King asked quickly,
"How came they last to the Fair at Nottingham--by stealth?"
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"Did you forbid them to come?"
"No, Your Majesty. That is--"
For the good of the shire," began the Sheriff again, falteringly,
"we did proclaim an amnesty; but 'twas because these men had
proved a menace--"
"Now by my halidom!" quoth the King, while his brow grew black.
"Such treachery would be unknown in the camp of the Saracen; and
yet we call ourselves a Christian people!"
The Sheriff kept silence through very fear and shame; then the
King began speech again:
"Nathless, my lord Sheriff, we promise to look into this matter.
Those outlaws must be taught that there is but one King in
England, and that he stands for the law."
So the Sheriff was dismissed, with very mixed feelings, and went
his way home to Nottingham town. A fortnight later the King began
to make good his word, by riding with a small party of knights to
Lea Castle. Sir Richard was advised of the cavalcade's approach,
and quickly recognized his royal master in the tall knight who
rode in advance. Hasting to open wide his castle gates he went
forth to meet the King and fell on one knee and kissed his
stirrup. For Sir Richard, also, had been with the King to the
Holy Land, and they had gone on many adventurous quests together.
The King bade him rise, and dismounted from his own horse to
greet him as a brother in arms; and arm-in-arm they went into the
castle, while bugles and trumpets sounded forth joyous welcome in
honor of the great occasion.
After the King had rested and supped, he turned upon the knight
and with grave face inquired:
"What is this I hear about your castle's becoming a nest and
harbor for outlaws?"
The Sir Richard of the Lea, divining that the Sheriff had been at
the King's ear with his story, made a clean breast of all he
knew; how that the outlaws had befriended him in sore need--as
they had befriended others--and how that he had given them only
knightly protection in return.
The King liked the story well, for his own soul was one of
chivalry. And he asked other questions about Robin Hood, and
heard of the ancient wrong done his father before him, and of
Robin's own enemies, and of his manner of living.
"In sooth," cried King Richard, springing up, "I must see this
bold fellow for myself! An you will entertain my little company,
and be ready to sally forth, upon the second day, in quest of me
if need were, I shall e'en fare alone into the greenwood to seek
an adventure with him."
But of this adventure you shall be told in the next tale; for I
have already shown you how Sir Richard of the Lea repaid his
debt, with interest.
HOW KING RICHARD CAME TO SHERWOOD FOREST
King Richard hearing of the pranks
Of Robin Hood and his men,
He much admired and more desired
To see both him and them.
Then Robin takes a can of ale:
"Come let us now begin;
And every man shall have his can;
Here's a health unto the King!"
Friar Tuck had nursed Little John's wounded knee so skilfully
that it was now healed. In sooth, the last part of the nursing
depended more upon strength than skill; for it consisted chiefly
of holding down the patient, by main force, to his cot. Little
John had felt so well that he had insisted upon getting up before
the wound was healed; and he would have done so, if the friar had
not piled some holy books upon his legs and sat upon his stomach.
Under this vigorous treatment Little John was constrained to lie
quiet until the friar gave him leave to get up. At last he had
this leave, and he and the friar went forth to join the rest of
the band, who were right glad to see them, you may be sure. They
sat around a big fire, for 'twas a chilly evening, and they
feasted and made merry, in great content.
A cold rain set in, later, but the friar wended his way back,
nathless, to his little hermitage. There he made himself a
cheerful blaze, and changed his dripping robe, and had sat
himself down, with a sigh of satisfaction, before a tankard of
hot mulled wine and a pasty, when suddenly a voice was heard on
the outside, demanding admission. His kennel of dogs set up
furious uproar, on the instant, by way of proving the fact of a
"Now by Saint Peter!" growled the friar, "who comes here at this
unseemly hour? Does he take this for a hostelry? Move on,
friend, else my mulled wine will get cold!"
So saying he put the tankard to his lips, when a thundering rap
sounded upon the door-panel, making it to quiver, and causing
Tuck almost to drop his tankard; while an angry voice shouted,
"Ho! Within there! Open, I say!"
"Go your way in peace!" roared back the friar; "I can do nothing
for you. 'Tis but a few miles to Gamewell, if you know the road."
"But I do not know the road, and if I did I would not budge
another foot. 'Tis wet without and dry within. So open, without
"A murrain seize you for disturbing a holy man in his prayers!"
muttered Tuck savagely. Nathless, he was fain to unbar the door
in order to keep it from being battered down. Then lighting a
torch at his fire and whistling for one of his dogs, he strode
forth to see who his visitor might be.
The figure of a tall knight clad in a black coat of mail, with
plumed helmet, stood before him. By his side stood his horse,
also caparisoned in rich armor.
"Have you no supper, brother?" asked the Black Knight curtly. "I
must beg of you a bed and a bit of roof, for this night, and fain
would refresh my body ere I sleep."
"I have no room that even your steed would deign to accept, Sir
Knight; and naught save a crust of bread and pitcher of water."
"I' faith, I can smell better fare than that, brother, and must
e'en force my company upon you, though I shall recompense it for
gold in the name of the church. As for my horse, let him but be
blanketed and put on the sheltered side of the house."
And without further parley the knight boldly strode past Tuck and
his dog and entered the hermitage. Something about his masterful
air pleased Tuck, in spite of his churlishness.
"Sit you down, Sir Knight," quoth he, "and I will fasten up up
your steed, and find him somewhat in the shape of grain. Half,
also, of my bed and board is yours, this night; but we shall see
later who is the better man, and is to give the orders!"
"With all my soul!" said the knight, laughing. "I can pay my
keeping in blows or gold as you prefer."
The friar presently returned and drew up a small table near the
"Now, Sir Knight," quoth he, "put off your sword and helm and
such other war-gear as it pleases you, and help me lay this
table, for I am passing hungry."
The knight did as he was told, and put aside the visor which had
hid his face. He was a bronzed and bearded man with blue eyes,
and hair shot with gold, haughty but handsome withal.
Then once again the priest sat him down to his pasty and mulled
wine, right hopefully. He spoke his grace with some haste, and
was surprised to hear his guest respond fittingly in the Latin
tongue. Then they attacked the wine and pasty valiantly, and the
Black Knight made good his word of being in need of refreshment.
Tuck looked ruefully at the rapidly disappearing food, but came
to grudge it not, by reason of the stories with which his guest
enlivened the meal. The wine and warmth of the room had cheered
them both, and they were soon laughing uproariously as the best
of comrades in the world. The Black Knight, it seemed, had
traveled everywhere. He had been on crusades, had fought the
courteous Saladin, had been in prison, and often in peril. But
now he spoke of it lightly, and laughed it off, and made himself
so friendly that Friar Tuck was like to choke with merriment. So
passed the time till late; and the two fell asleep together, one
on each side of the table which had been cleared to the platters.
In the morning Friar Tuck awoke disposed to be surly, but was
speedily mollified by the sight of the Black Knight, who had
already risen gay as a lark, washed his face and hands, and was
now stirring a hot gruel over the fire.
"By my faith, I make a sorry host!" cried Tuck springing to his
feet. And later as they sat at breakfast, he added, "I want not
your gold, of which you spoke last night; but instead I will do
what I can to speed you on your way whenever you wish to depart."
"Then tell me," said the knight, "how I may find Robin Hood the
outlaw; for I have a message to him from the King. All day
yesterday I sought him, but found him not."
Friar Tuck lifted up his hands in holy horror. "I am a lover of
peace, Sir Knight, and do not consort with Robin's bold fellows."
"Nay, I think no harm of Master Hood," said the knight; "but much
I yearn to have speed with him in mine own person."
"If that be all, mayhap I can guide you to his haunts," said
Tuck, who foresaw in this knight a possible gold-bag for Robin.
"In sooth, I could not well live in these woods without hearing
somewhat of the outlaws; but matters of religion are my chief joy
"I will go with you, brother," said the Black Knight.
So without more ado they went their way into the forest, the
knight riding upon his charger, and Tuck pacing along demurely by
The day had dawned clear and bright, and now with the sun a good
three hours high a sweet autumn fragrance was in the air. The
wind had just that touch of coolness in it which sets the
hunter's blood to tingling; and every creature of nature seemed
bounding with joyous life.
The knight sniffed the fresh air in delight.
"By my halidom!" quoth he; "but the good greenwood is the best
place to live in, after all! What court or capital can equal
this, for full-blooded men?"
"None of this earth," replied Tuck smilingly. And once more his
heart warmed toward the courteous stranger.
They had not proceeded more than three or four miles along the
way from Fountain Abbey to Barnesdale, when of a sudden the
bushes just ahead of them parted and a well-knit man with curling
brown hair stepped into the road and laid his hand upon the
It was Robin Hood. He had seen Friar Tuck, a little way back,
and shrewdly suspected his plan. Tuck, however, feigned not to
know him at all.
"Hold!" cried Robin; "I am in charge of the highway this day, and
must exact an accounting from all passersby."
"Who is it bids me hold?" asked the knight quietly. "I am not i'
the habit of yielding to one man."
"Then here are others to keep me company," said Robin clapping
his hands. And instantly a half-score other stalwart fellows
came out of the bushes and stood beside him.
"We be yeomen of the forest, Sir Knight," continued Robin, "and
live under the greenwood tree. We have no means of
support--thanks to the tyranny of our over-lords--other than the
aid which fat churchmen and goodly knights like yourselves can
give. And as ye have churches and rents, both, and gold in great
plenty, we beseech ye for Saint Charity to give us some of your
"I am but a poor monk, good sir!" said Friar Tuck in a whining
voice, "and am on my way to the shrine of Saint Dunstan, if your
worshipfulness will permit."
"Tarry a space with us," answered Robin, biting back a smile,
"and we will speed you on your way."
The Black Knight now spoke again. "But we are messengers of the
King," quoth he; "His Majesty himself tarries near here and would
have speech with Robin Hood."
"God save the King!" said Robin, doffing his cap loyally; "and
all that wish him well! I am Robin Hood, but I say cursed be the
man who denies our liege King's sovereignty!"
"Have a care!" said the knight, "or you shall curse yourself!"
"Nay, not so," replied Robin curtly; "the King has no more
devoted subject than I. Nor have I despoiled aught of his save,
mayhap, a few deer for my hunger. My chief war is against the
clergy and barons of the land who bear down upon the poor. But I
am glad," he continued, "that I have met you here; and before we
end you shall be my friend and taste of our greenwood cheer."
"But what is the reckoning?" asked the knight. "For I am told
that some of your feasts are costly."
"Nay," responded Robin waving his hands, "you are from the King.
Nathless--how much money is in your purse?"
"I have no more than forty gold pieces, seeing that I have lain a
fortnight at Nottingham with the King, and have spent some goodly
amounts upon other lordings," replied the knight.
Robin took the forty pounds and gravely counted it. One half he
gave to his men and bade them drink the King's health with it.
The other half he handed back to the knight.
"Sir," said he courteously, "have this for your spending. If you
lie with kings and lordings overmuch, you are like to need it."
"Gramercy!" replied the other smiling. "And now lead on to your
So Robin went on the one side of the knight's steed, and Friar
Tuck on the other, and the men went before and behind till they
came to the open glade before the caves of Barnesdale. Then
Robin drew forth his bugle and winded the three signal blasts of
the band. Soon there came a company of yeomen with its leader,
and another, and a third, and a fourth, till there were
sevenscore yeomen in sight. All were dressed in new livery of
Lincoln green, and carried new bows in their hands and bright
short swords at their belts. And every man bent his knee to
Robin Hood ere taking his place before the board, which was
A handsome dark-haired page stood at Robin's right hand to pour
his wine and that of the knightly guest; while the knight
marveled much at all he saw, and said within himself:
"These men of Robin Hood's give him more obedience than my
fellows give to me."
At the signal from Robin the dinner began. There was venison and
fowl and fish and wheaten cake and ale and red wine in great
plenty, and 'twas a goodly sight to see the smiles upon the
hungry yeomen's faces.
First they listened to an unctuous grace from Friar Tuck, and
then Robin lifted high a tankard of ale.
"Come, let us now begin," quoth he, "and every man shall have his
can. In honor of our guest who comes with royal word, here's a
health unto the King!"
The guest responded heartily to this toast, and round about the
board it went, the men cheering noisily for King Richard!
After the feast was over, Robin turned to his guest and said,
"Now you shall see what life we lead, so that you may report
faithfully, for good or bad, unto the King."
So at a signal from him, the men rose up and smartly bent their
bows for practice, while the knight was greatly astonished at the
smallness of the their targets. A wand was set up, far down the
glade, and thereon was balanced a garland of roses. Whosoever
failed to speed his shaft through the garland, without knocking
it off the wand, was to submit to a buffet from the hand of Friar
"Ho, ho!" cried the knight, as his late traveling companion rose
up and bared his brawny arm ready for service; "so you, my
friend, are Friar Tuck!"
"I have not gainsaid it," replied Tuck growling at having
betrayed himself. "But chastisement is a rule of the church, and
I am seeking the good of these stray sheep."
The knight said no more, though his eyes twinkled; and the
David of Doncaster shot first and landed safely through the rose
garland. Then came Allan-a-Dale and Little John and Stutely and
Scarlet and many of the rest, while the knight held his breath
from very amazement. Each fellow shot truly through the garland,
until Middle the tinker--not to be outdone--stepped up for a
trial. But alas! while he made a fair shot for a townsman, the
arrow never came within a hand-breath of the outer rim of the
"Come hither, fellow," said Little John coaxingly. "The priest
would bless thee with his open hand."
Then because Middle made a wry face, as though he had already
received the buffet, and loitered in his steps, Arthur-a-Bland
and Will Stutely seized him by the arms and stood him before the
friar. Tuck's big arm flashed through the air--"whoof!" and
stopped suddenly against the tinker's ear; while Middle himself
went rolling over and over on the grass. He was stopped by a
small bush, and up he sat, thrusting his head through it, rubbing
his ear and blinking up at the sky as though the stars had fallen
and struck him. The yeomen roared with merriment, and as for the
knight, he laughed till the tears came out of his blue eyes and
rolled down his face.
After Middle's mishap, others of the band seemed to lose their
balance, and fared in the same fashion. The garland would topple
over in a most impish way at every breath, although the arrows
went through it. So Middle 'gan to feel better when he saw this
one and that one tumbling on the sward.
At last came Robin's turn. He shot carefully, but as ill luck
would have it the shaft was ill-feathered and swerved sidewise so
that it missed the garland by full three fingers. Then a great
roar went up from the whole company; for 'twas rare that they saw
their leader miss his mark. Robin flung his bow upon the ground
from very vexation.
"A murrain take it!" quoth he. "The arrow was sadly winged. I
felt the poor feather upon it as it left my fingers!"
Then suddenly seizing his bow again, he sped three shafts as fast
as he could sent them, and every one went clean through the
"By Saint George!" muttered the knight. "Never before saw I such
shooting in all Christendom!"
The band cheered heartily at these last shots; but Will Scarlet
came up gravely to Robin.
"Pretty shooting, master!" quoth he, "but 'twill not save you
from paying for the bad arrow. So walk up and take your
"Nay, that may not be!" protested Robin. "The good friar belongs
to my company and has no authority to lift hands against me. But
you, Sir Knight, stand as it were for the King. I pray you,
serve out my blow."
"Not so!" said Friar Tuck. "My son, you forget I stand for the
church, which is greater even than the King."
"Not in merry England," said the knight in a deep voice. Then
rising to his feet, he added, "I stand ready to serve you, Master
"Now out upon ye for an upstart knight!" cried Friar Tuck. "I
told you last night, sirrah, that we should yet see who was the
better man! So we will e'en prove it now, and thus settle who is
to pay Robin Hood."
"Good!" said Robin, "for I want not to start a dispute between
church and state."
"Good!" also said the knight. "'Tis an easy way to end
prattling. Come, friar, strike and ye dare. I will give you
"You have the advantage of an iron pot on your head and gloves on
your hands," said the friar; "but have at ye! Down you shall go,
if you were Goliath of Gath."
Once more the priest's brawny arm flashed through the air, and
struck with a "whoof!" But to the amazement of all, the knight
did not budge from his tracks, though the upper half of his body
swerved slightly to ease the force of the blow. A loud shout
burst from the yeomen at this, for the friar's fist was
proverbial, and few of those present had not felt the force of it
in times past.
"Now 'tis my turn," said his antagonist coolly, casting aside his
gauntlet. And with one blow of his fist the knight sent the
friar spinning to the ground.
If there had been uproar and shouting before, it was as naught to
the noise which now broke forth. Every fellow held his sides or
rolled upon the ground from laughter; every fellow, save one, and
that was Robin Hood.
"Out of the frying-pan into the fire!" thought he. "I wish I had
let the friar box my ears, after all!"
Robin's plight did, indeed, seem a sorry one, before the steel
muscles of his stranger. But he was saved from a tumble heels
over head by an unlooked-for diversion. A horn winded in the
glade, and a party of knights were seen approaching.
"To your arms!" cried Robin, hurriedly seizing his sword and bow.
"'Tis Sir Richard of the Lea!" cried another, as the troop came
And so it was. Sir Richard spurred forward his horse and dashed
up to the camp while the outlaws stood at stiff attention. When
he had come near the spot where the Black Knight stood, he
dismounted and knelt before him.
"I trust Your Majesty has not needed our arms before," he said
"It is the King!" cried Will Scarlet, falling upon his knees.
"The King!" echoed Robin Hood after a moment of dumb wonderment;
and he and all his men bent reverently upon their knees, as one
HOW ROBIN HOOD AND MAID MARIAN WERE WED
"Stand up again," then said the King,
"I'll thee thy pardon give;
Stand up, my friend,who can contend,
When I give leave to live?"
Then Robin Hood began a health
To Marian, his only dear,
And his yeomen all, both comely and tall,
Did quickly bring up the rear.
"Your pardon, sire!" exclaimed Robin Hood. "Pardon, from your
royal bounty, for these my men who stand ready to serve you all
Richard of the Lion Heart looked grimly about over the kneeling
"Is it as your leader says?" he asked.
"Aye, my lord King!" burst from sevenscore throats at once.
"We be not outlaws from choice alone," continued Robin; "but have
been driven to outlawry through oppression. Grant us grace and
royal protection, and we will forsake the greenwood and follow
Richard's eyes sparkled as he looked from one to another of this
stalwart band, and he thought within himself that here, indeed,
was a royal bodyguard worth the while.
"Swear!" he said in his full rich voice; "swear that you, Robin
Hood, and all your men from this day henceforth will serve the
"We swear!" came once more the answering shout from the yeomen.
"Arise, then," said King Richard. "I give you all free pardon,
and will speedily put your service to the test. For I love such
archers as you have shown yourselves to be, and it were a sad
pity to decree such men to death. England could not produce the
like again, for many a day. But, in sooth, I cannot allow you to
roam in the forest and shoot my deer; nor to take the law of the
land into your own hands. Therefore, I now appoint you to be
Royal Archers and mine own especial body-guard. There be one or
two civil matters to settle with certain Norman noblemen, in
which I crave your aid. Thereafter, the half of your number, as
may later be determined, shall come back to these woodlands as
Royal Foresters. Mayhap you will show as much zeal in protecting
my preserves as you have formerly shown in hunting them. Where,
now, is that outlaw known as Little John? Stand forth!"
"Here, sire," quoth the giant, doffing his cap.
"Good master Little John," said the King, looking him over
approvingly. "Could your weak sinews stand the strain of an
office in the shire? If so, you are this day Sheriff of
Nottingham; and I trust you will make a better official than the
man you relieve."
"I shall do my best, sire," said Little John, great astonishment
and gladness in his heart.
"Master Scarlet, stand forth," said the King; and then addressing
him: "I have heard somewhat of your tale," quoth he, "and that
your father was the friend of my father. Now, therefore, accept
the royal pardon and resume the care of your family estates; for
your father must be growing old. And come you to London next
Court day and we shall see if there be a knighthood vacant."
Likewise the King called for Will Stutely and made him Chief of
the Royal Archers. Then he summoned Friar Tuck to draw near.
"I crave my King's pardon," said the priest, humbly enough; "for
who am I to lift my hand against the Lord's anointed?"
"Nay, the Lord sent the smiter to thee without delay," returned
Richard smiling; "and 'tis not for me to continue a quarrel
between church and state. So what can I do for you in payment of
last night's hospitality? Can I find some fat living where there
are no wicked to chastise, and where the work is easy and
"Not so, my lord," replied Tuck. "I wish only for peace in this
life. Mine is a simple nature and I care not for the fripperies
and follies of court life. Give me a good meal and a cup of
right brew, health, and enough for the day, and I ask no more."
Richard sighed. "You ask the greatest thing in the world,
brother--contentment. It is not mine to give or to deny. But
ask your God for it, an if belike he grant it, then ask it also
in behalf of your King." He glanced around once more at the
foresters. "Which one of you is Allan-a-Dale?" he asked; and
Allan came forward. "So," said the King with sober face, "you
are that errant minstrel who stole a bride at Plympton, despite
her would-be groom and attending Bishop. I heard something of
this in former days. Now what excuse have you to make?"
"Only that I loved her, sire, and she loved me," said Allan,
simply; "and the Norman lord would have married her perforce,
because of her lands."
"Which have since been forfeited by the Bishop of Hereford,"
added Richard. "But my lord Bishop must disgorge them; and from
tomorrow you and Mistress Dale are to return to them and live in
peace and loyalty. And if ever I need your harp at Court, stand
ready to attend me, and bring also the lady. Speaking of
ladies," he continued, turning to Robin Hood, who had stood
silent, wondering if a special punishment was being reserved for
him, "did you not have a sweetheart who was once at Court--one,
Mistress Marian? What has become of her, that you should have
"Nay, Your Majesty," said the black-eyed page coming forward
blushingly; "Robin has not forgotten me!"
"So!" said the King, bending to kiss her small hand in all
gallantry. "Verily, as I have already thought within myself,
this Master Hood is better served than the King in his palace!
But are you not the only child of the late Earl of Huntingdon?"
"I am, sire, though there be some who say that Robin Hood's
father was formerly the rightful Earl of Huntingdon. Nathless,
neither he is advantaged nor I, for the estates are confiscate."
"Then they shall be restored forthwith!" cried the King; "and
lest you two should revive the ancient quarrel over them, I
bestow them upon you jointly. Come forward, Robin Hood."
Robin came and knelt before his king. Richard drew his sword and
touched him upon the shoulder.
"Rise, Robin Fitzooth, Earl of Huntingdon!" he exclaimed, while a
mighty cheer arose from the band and rent the air of the forest.
"The first command I give you, my lord Earl," continued the King
when quiet was restored, "is to marry Mistress Marian without
"May I obey all Your Majesty's commands as willingly!" cried the
new Earl of Huntingdon, drawing the old Earl's daughter close to
him. "The ceremony shall take place to-morrow, an this maid is
"She makes little protest," said the King; "so I shall e'en give
away the bride myself!"
Then the King chatted with others of the foresters, and made
himself as one of them for the evening, rejoicing that he could
have this careless freedom of the woods. And Much, the miller's
son, and Arthur-a-Bland, and Middle, and Stutely and Scarlet and
Little John and others played at the quarter-staff, giving and
getting many lusty blows. Then as the shades of night drew on,
the whole company--knights and foresters--supped and drank around
a blazing fire, while Allen sang sweetly to the thrumming of the
harp, and the others joined in the chorus.
'Twas a happy, care-free night--this last one together under the
greenwood tree. Robin could not help feeling an undertone of
sadness that it was to be the last; for the charm of the woodland
was still upon him. But he knew 'twas better so, and that the
new life with Marian and in the service of his King would bring
its own joys.
Then the night deepened, the fire sank, but was replenished and
the company lay down to rest. The King, at his own request,
spent the night in the open. Thus they slept--King and subject
alike--out under the stars, cared for lovingly by Nature, kind
mother of us all.
In the morning the company was early astir and on their way to
Nottingham. It was a goodly cavalcade. First rode King Richard
of the Lion Heart, with his tall figure set forth by the black
armor and waving plume in his helm. Then came Sir Richard of the
Lea with fourscore knights and men-at-arms. And after them came
Robin Hood and Maid Marian riding upon milk-white steeds.
Allan-a-Dale also escorted Mistress Dale on horseback, for she
was to be matron-of-honor at the wedding. These were followed by
sevenscore archers clad in their bravest Lincoln green, and with
their new bows unstrung in token of peace.
Outside the gates of Nottingham town they were halted.
"Who comes here?" asked the warder's surly voice.
"Open to the King of England!" came back the clear answer, and
the gates were opened and the bridge let down without delay.
Almost before the company had crossed the moat the news spread
through the town like wildfire.
"The King is here! The King is here, and hath taken Robin Hood!"
From every corner flocked the people to see the company pass; and
wildly did they cheer for the King, who rode smilingly with bared
head down through the market-place.
At the far end of it, he was met by the Sheriff who came up
puffing in his haste to do the King honor. He fairly turned
green with rage when he saw Sir Richard of the Lea and Robin Hood
in the royal company, but made low obeisance to his master.
"Sir Sheriff," quoth the King, "I have come to rid the shire of
outlaws, according to my promise. There be none left, for all
have now taken service with their King. And lest there should be
further outbreak, I have determined to place in charge of this
shire a man who fears no other man in it. Master Little John is
hereby created Sheriff of Nottingham, and you will turn over the
keys to him forthwith."
The Sheriff bowed, but dared utter no word. Then the King turned
to the Bishop of Hereford, who had also come up to pay his
"Harkee, my lord Bishop," quoth he, "the stench of your evil
actions had reached our nostrils. We shall demand strict
accounting for certain seizures of the lands and certain acts of
oppression which ill become a churchman. But of this later.
This afternoon you must officiate at the wedding of two of our
company, in Nottingham Church. So make you ready."
The Bishop also bowed and departed, glad to escape a severer
censure for the time.
The company then rode on to the Mansion House, where the King
held high levee through all the noon hours, and the whole town
made a holiday.
In the afternoon the way from the Mansion House to Nottingham
Church was lined with cheering people, as the wedding party
passed by. The famous bowmen were gazed at as curiously as
though they had been wild animals, but were cheered none the
less. Robin who had long been held in secret liking was now
doubly popular since he had the King's favor.
Along the way ahead of the King and the smiling bride and groom
to be ran little maids strewing flowers; while streamers floated
in greeting from the windows. I ween, the only hearts that were
not glad this day were those of the old Sheriff, and of his proud
daughter, who peered between the shutters of her window and was
like to eat out her heart from envy and hatred.
At last the party reached the church, where the King dismounted
lightly from his horse and helped the bride to alight; while Will
Scarlet, the best man, assisted Mistress Dale. Within the church
they found the Bishop robed in state, and by his side Friar Tuck
who had been especially deputed to assist.
The service was said in Latin, while the organ pealed forth
softly. The King gave away the bride, as he had said, and
afterwards claimed first kiss for his pains. Then the happy
party dispersed, and Robin and Marian passed out again through
the portal, man and wife.
Out through the cheering streets they fared, while the greenwood
men ran ahead and flung gold pennies right and left in their joy,
and bade the people drink the health of the young couple and the
King. Then the whole party took horse at Will Scarlet's earnest
wish, and went down to Gamewell Lodge, where the old Squire
George wept for joy at seeing his son and the King and the
wedding--party. That night they spent there, and feasted, and
the next day, Sir Richard of the Lea claimed them.
And thus, amid feasting and rejoicing and kingly favor, Robin
Hood, the new Earl of Huntingdon, and his bride began their
HOW ROBIN HOOD MET HIS DEATH
"Give me my bent bow in my hand,
And a broad arrow I'll let flee;
And where this arrow is taken up,
There shall my grave digg'd be."
Now by good rights this story should end with the wedding of
Robin Hood and Maid Marian; for do not many pleasant tales end
with a wedding and the saying, "and they lived happy ever after"?
But this is a true account--in so far as we can find the quaint
old ballads which tell of it--and so we must follow one more of
these songs and learn how Robin, after living many years longer,
at last came to seek his grave. And the story of it runs in this
Robin Hood and his men, now the Royal Archers, went with King
Richard of the Lion Heart through England settling certain
private disputes which had arisen among the Norman barons while
the King was gone to the Holy Land. Then the King proceeded amid
great pomp and rejoicing to the palace at London, and Robin, the
new Earl of Huntingdon, brought his Countess thither, where she
became one of the finest ladies of the Court.
The Royal Archers were now divided into two bands, and one-half
of them were retained in London, while the other half returned to
Sherwood and Barnesdale, there to guard the King's preserves.
Several months passed by, and Robin began to chafe under the
restraint of city life. He longed for the fresh pure air of the
greenwood, and the rollicking society of his yeomen. One day,
upon seeing some lads at archery practice upon a green, he could
not help but lament, saying, "Woe is me! I fear my hand is fast
losing its old time cunning at the bow-string!"
Finally he became so distraught that he asked leave to travel in
foreign lands, and this was granted him. He took Maid Marian
with him, and together they went through many strange countries.
Finally in an Eastern land a great grief came upon Robin. Marian
sickened of a plague and died. They had been married but five
years, and Robin felt as though all the light had gone out of his
He wandered about the world for a few months longer, trying to
forget his grief, then came back to the court, at London, and
sought some commission in active service. But unluckily, Richard
was gone again upon his adventures, and Prince John, who acted as
Regent, had never been fond of Robin. He received him with a
"Go forth into the greenwood," said he, coldly, "and kill some
more of the King's deer. Belike, then, the King will make you
Prime Minister, at the very least, upon his return."
The taunt fired Robin's blood. He had been in a morose mood,
ever since his dear wife's death. He answered Prince John hotly,
and the Prince bade his guards seize him and cast him into the
After lying there for a few weeks, he was released by the
faithful Stutely and the remnant of the Royal Archers, and all
together they fled the city and made their way to the greenwood.
There Robin blew the old familiar call, which all had known and
loved so well. Up came running the remainder of the band, who
had been Royal Foresters, and when they saw their old master they
embraced his knees and kissed his hands, and fairly cried for joy
that he had come again to them. And one and all forswore fealty
to Prince John, and lived quietly with Robin in the greenwood,
doing harm to none and only awaiting the time when King Richard
should come again.
But King Richard came not again, and would never need his Royal
Guard more. Tidings presently reached them, of how he had met
his death in a foreign land, and how John reigned as King in his
stead. The proof of these events followed soon after, when there
came striding through the glade the big, familiar form of Little
"Art come to arrest us?" called out Robin, as he ran forward and
embraced his old comrade.
"Nay, I am not come as the Sheriff of Nottingham, thanks be,"
answered Little John. "The new King has deposed me, and 'tis
greatly to my liking, for I have long desired to join you here
again in the greenwood."
Then were the rest of the band right glad at this news, and
toasted Little John royally.
The new King waged fierce war upon the outlaws, soon after this,
and sent so many scouting parties into Sherwood and Barnesdale
that Robin and his men left these woods for a time and went into
Derbyshire, near Haddon Hall. A curious pile of stone is shown
to this day as the ruins of Robin's Castle, where the bold outlaw
is believed to have defied his enemies for a year or more. At
any rate King John found so many troubles of his own, after a
time, that he ceased troubling the outlaws.
But in one of the last sorties Robin was wounded. The cut did
not seem serious, and healed over the top; but it left a lurking
fever. Daily his strength ebbed away from him, until he was in
One day as he rode along on horseback, near Kirklees Abbey, he
was seized with so violent a rush of blood to the head that he
reeled and came near falling from his saddle. He dismounted
weakly and knocked at the Abbey gate. A woman shrouded in black
"Who are you that knock here? For we allow no man within these
walls," she said.
"Open, for the love of Heaven!" he begged. "I am Robin Hood, ill
of a fever and in sore straits."
At the name of Robin Hood the woman started back, and then, as
though bethinking herself, unbarred the door and admitted him.
Assisting his fainting frame up a flight of stairs and into a
front room, she loosed his collar and bathed his face until he
was revived. Then she spoke hurriedly in a low voice:
"Your fever will sink, if you are bled. See, I have provided a
lancet and will open your veins, while you lie quiet."
So she bled him, and he fell into a stupor which lasted nearly
all that day, so that he awoke weak and exhausted from loss of
Now there is a dispute as to this abbess who bled him. Some say
that she did it in all kindness of heart; while others aver that
she was none other than the former Sheriff's daughter, and found
her revenge at last in this cruel deed.
Be that as it may, Robin's eyes swam from very weakness when he
He called wearily for help, but there was no response. He looked
longingly through the window at the green of the forest; but he
was too weak to make the leap that would be needed to reach the
He then bethought him of his horn,
Which hung down at his knee;
He set his horn unto his mouth,
And blew out weak blasts three.
Little John was out in the forest near by, or the blasts would
never have been heard. At their sound he sprang to his feet.
"Woe! woe!" he cried, "I fear my master is near dead, he blows so
So he made haste and came running up to the door of the abbey,
and knocked loudly for admittance. Failing to get reply, he
burst in the door with frenzied blows of his mighty fist, and
soon came running up to the room where Robin lay, white and
faint. "Alas, dear master!" cried Little John in great distress;
"I fear you have met with treachery! If that be so, grant me one
last boon, I pray."
"What is it?" asked Robin.
"Let me burn Kirklees-Hall with fire, and all its nunnery."
"Nay, good comrade," answered Robin Hood gently, "I cannot grant
such a boon. The dear Christ bade us forgive all our enemies.
Moreover, you know I never hurt woman in all my life; nor man
when in woman's company."
He closed his eyes and fell back, so that his friend thought him
dying. The great tears fell from the giant's eyes and wet his
master's hand. Robin slowly rallied and seized his comrade's
"Lift me up, good Little John," he said brokenly, "I want to
smell the air from the good greenwood once again. Give me my
good yew bow--here--here-and fix a broad arrow upon the string.
Out yonder--among the oaks--where this arrow shall fall--let
them dig my grave."
And with one last mighty effort he sped his shaft out of the open
window, straight and true, as in the days of old, till it struck
the largest oak of them all and dropped in the shadow of the
trees. Then he fell back upon the sobbing breast of his devoted
"'Tis the last!" he murmured, "tell the brave hearts to lay me
there with the green sod under my head and feet. And--let them
lay--my bent bow at my side, for it has made sweet music in mine
He rested a moment, and Little John scarce knew that he was
alive. But on a sudden Robin's eye brightened, and he seemed to
think himself back once more with the band in the open forest
glade. He struggled to rise.
"Ha! 'tis a fine stag, Will! And Allan, thou never didst thrum
the harp more sweetly. How the light blazes! And Marian!--'tis
my Marian--come at last!"
So died the body of Robin Hood; but his spirit lives on through
the centuries in the deathless ballads which are sung of him, and
in the hearts of men who love freedom and chivalry.
They buried him where his last arrow had fallen, and they set a
stone to mark the spot. And on the stone were graven these
"Here underneath his little stone
Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon;
Never archer as he so good,
And people called him Robin Hood.
Such outlaws as he and his men
Will England never see again."