Robin Hood Aideth a Sorrowful Knight
In which it is told how that Robin Hood met a sorrowful knight, and brought him to Sherwood. Also, how the Bishop of Hereford was more generous than he desired to be. Likewise it is told how Sir Richard of the Lea paid his debts in due season, both to the Prior of Emmet and to Robin Hood.
O passed the gentle springtime away in budding beauty; its silver showers and sunshine, its green meadows and its flowers. So, likewise, passed the summer with its yellow sunlight, its quivering heat and deep, bosky foliage, its long twilights and its mellow nights, through which the frogs croaked and fairy folk were said to be out on the hillsides. All this had passed and the time of fall had come, bringing with it its own pleasures and joyousness; for now, when the harvest was gathered home, merry bands of gleaners roamed the country about, singing along the roads in the daytime, and sleeping beneath the hedgerows and the hay-ricks at night. Now the hips burned red in the tangled thickets and the haws waxed black in the hedgerows, the stubble lay all crisp and naked to the sky, and the green leaves were fast turning russet and brown. Also, at this merry season, good things of the year are gathered in in great store. Brown ale lies ripening in the cellar, hams and bacon hang in the smoke-shed, and crabs are stowed away in the straw for roasting in the winter time, when the north wind piles the snow in drifts around the gables and the fire crackles warm upon the hearth.
So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in time to come, whilst we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten.
Quoth Robin Hood, snuffing the air, "Here is a fair day, Little John, and one that we can ill waste in idleness. Choose such men as thou dost need, and go thou east while I will wend to the west, and see that each of us bringeth back some goodly guest to dine this day beneath the greenwood tree."
"Marry," cried Little John, clapping his palms together for joy, "thy bidding fitteth my liking like haft to blade. I'll bring thee back a guest this day, or come not back mine own self."
Then they each chose such of the band as they wished, and so went forth by different paths from the forest.
Now, you and I cannot go two ways at the same time whilst we join in these merry doings; so we will e'en let Little John follow his own path while we tuck up our skirts and trudge after Robin Hood. And here is good company, too; Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, Allan a Dale, Will Scathelock, Midge, the Miller's son, and others. A score or more of stout fellows had abided in the forest, with Friar Tuck, to make ready for the home-coming, but all the rest were gone either with Robin Hood or Little John.
They travelled onward, Robin following his fancy and the others following Robin. Now they wended their way through an open dale with cottage and farm lying therein, and now again they entered woodlands once more. Passing by fair Mansfield Town, with its towers and battlements and spires all smiling in the sun, they came at last out of the forest lands. Onward they journeyed, through highway and byway, through villages where good wives and merry lasses peeped through the casements at the fine show of young men, until at last they came over beyond Alverton in Derbyshire. By this time high noontide had come, yet they had met no guest such as was worth their while to take back to Sherwood; so, coming at last to a certain spot where a shrine stood at the crossing of two roads, Robin called upon them to stop, for here on either side was shelter of high hedgerows, behind which was good hiding, whence they could watch the roads at their ease, whilst they ate their midday meal. Quoth merry Robin, "Here, methinks, is good lodging, where peaceful folk, such as we be, can eat in quietness; therefore we will rest here, and see what may, perchance, fall into our luck-pot." So they crossed a stile and came behind a hedgerow where the mellow sunlight was bright and warm, and where the grass was soft, and there sat them down. Then each man drew from the pouch that hung beside him that which he had brought to eat, for a merry walk such as this had been sharpens the appetite till it is as keen as a March wind. So no more words were spoken, but each man saved his teeth for better use,—munching at brown crust and cold meat right lustily.
In front of them, one of the high-roads crawled up the steep hill and then dipped suddenly over its crest, sharp-cut with hedgerow and shaggy grass against the sky. Over the top of the windy hill peeped the eaves of a few houses of the village that fell back into the valley behind; there, also, showed the top of a windmill, the sails slowly rising and dipping from behind the hill against the clear blue sky, as the light wind moved them with creaking and labored swing.
So the yeomen lay behind the hedge and finished their midday meal; but still the time slipped along, and no one came. At last, a man came slowly riding over the hill, and down the stony road toward the spot where Robin and his band lay hidden. He was a good stout knight, but sorrowful of face and downcast of mien. His clothes were plain and rich, but no chain of gold, such as folk of his stand in life wore at most times, hung around his neck, and no jewel was about him; yet no one could mistake him for aught but one of proud and noble blood. His head was bowed upon his breast and his hands drooped limp on either side; and so he came slowly riding, as though sunk in sad thoughts, whilst even his good horse, the reins loose upon his neck, walked with hanging head, as though he shared his master's grief.
Quoth Robin Hood, "Yon is verily a sorry-looking gallant, and doth seem to have donned ill-content with his jerkin this morning; nevertheless, I will out and talk with him, for there may be some pickings here for a hungry daw. Methinks his dress is rich, though he himself is so downcast. Bide ye here till I look into this matter." So saying, he arose and left them, crossed the road to the shrine, and there stood, waiting for the sorrowful Knight to come near him. So, presently, when the Knight came riding slowly along, jolly Robin stepped forward and laid his hand upon the bridle rein. "Hold, Sir Knight," quoth he. "I prythee tarry for a short time, for I have a few words to say to thee."
"What art thou, friend, who dost stop a traveller in this manner upon his most gracious Majesty's highway?" said the Knight.
"Marry," quoth Robin, "that is a question hard to answer. One man calleth me kind, another calleth me cruel; this one calleth me good, honest fellow, and that one, vile thief. Truly, the world hath as many eyes to look upon a man withal as there are spots on a toad; so, with what pair of eyes thou regardest me lieth entirely with thine own self. My name is Robin Hood."
"Truly, good Robin," said the Knight, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth, "thou hast a quaint conceit. As for the pair of eyes with which I regard thee, I would say that they are as favorable as may be, for I hear much good of thee and little ill. What is thy will of me?"
"Now, I make my vow, Sir Knight," quoth Robin, "thou hast surely learned thy wisdom of good Gaffer Swanthold, for he sayeth, 'Fair words are as easy spoke as foul, and bring good will in the stead of blows.' Now I will show thee the truth of this saying; for, if thou wilt go with me this day to Sherwood Forest, I will give thee as merry a feast as ever thou hadst in all thy life."
"Thou art indeed kind," said the Knight, "but methinks thou wilt find me but an ill-seeming and sorrowful guest. Thou hadst best let me pass on my way in peace."
"Nay," quoth Robin, "thou mightst go thine own way but for one thing, and that I will tell thee. We keep an inn, as it were, in the very depths of Sherwood, but so far from high-roads and beaten paths that guests do not often come nigh us; so I and my friends set off merrily and seek them when we grow dull of ourselves. Thus the matter stands, Sir Knight; yet I will furthermore tell thee that we count upon our guests paying a reckoning."
"I take thy meaning, friend," said the Knight, gravely, "but I am not thy man, for I have no money by me."
"Is it sooth?" said Robin, looking at the Knight keenly. "I can scarce choose but believe thee; yet, Sir Knight, there be those of thy order whose word is not to be trusted as much as they would have others believe. Thou wilt think no ill if I look for myself in this matter." Then, still holding the horse by the bridle rein, he put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill whistle, whereupon fourscore yeomen came leaping over the stile, and ran to where the Knight and Robin stood. "These," said Robin, looking upon them proudly, "are some of my merry men. They share and share alike with me all joys and troubles, gains and losses. Sir Knight, I prythee tell me what money thou hast about thee."
For a time the Knight said not a word, but a slow red arose into his cheeks; at last he looked Robin in the face and said: "I know not why I should be ashamed, for it should be no shame to me; but, friend, I tell thee the truth, when I say that in my purse are ten shillings, and that that is every groat that Sir Richard of the Lea hath in all the wide world."
When Sir Richard ended a silence fell, until at last Robin said: "And dost thou pledge me thy knightly word that this is all thou hast with thee?"
"Yea," answered Sir Richard, "I do pledge thee my most solemn word, as a true knight, that it is all the money I have in the world. Nay, here is my purse, ye may find for yourselves the truth of what I say." And he held his purse out to Robin.
"Put up thy purse, Sir Richard," quoth Robin. "Far be it from me to doubt the word of so gentle a knight. The proud I strive to bring low, but those that walk in sorrow I would aid if I could. Come, Sir Richard, cheer up thy heart and go with us into the greenwood. Even I may perchance aid thee, for thou surely knowest how the good Athelstane was saved by the little blind mole that digged a trench over which he that sought the king's life stumbled."
"Truly, friend," said Sir Richard, "methinks thou meanest kindness in thine own way; nevertheless my troubles are such that it is not likely that thou canst cure them. But I will go with thee this day into Sherwood." Hereupon he turned his horse's head, and they all wended their way to the woodlands, Robin walking on one side of the Knight and Will Scarlet on the other, whilst the rest of the band trudged behind.
After they had travelled thus for a time Robin Hood spake. "Sir Knight," said he, "I would not trouble thee with idle questions; but dost thou find it in thy heart to tell me thy sorrows?"
"Truly, Robin," quoth the Knight, "I see no reason why I should not do so. Thus it is: My castle and my lands are in pawn for a debt that I owe. Three days hence the money must be paid or else all mine estate is lost forever, for then it falls into the hands of the Priory of Emmet, and what they swallow they never give forth again."
Quoth Robin, "I understand not why those of thy kind live in such a manner that all their wealth passeth from them like snow beneath the springtide sun."
"Thou wrongest me, Robin," said the Knight, "for listen: I have a son but twenty winters old, nevertheless he has won his spurs as knight. Last year, on a certain evil day, the jousts were held at Chester, and thither my son went, as did I and my lady wife. I wot it was a proud time for us, for he unhorsed each knight that he tilted against. At last he ran a course with a certain great knight, Sir Walter of Lancaster, yet, though my son was so youthful, he kept his seat, albeit both spears were shivered to the haft; but it happened that a splinter of my boy's lance ran through the visor of Sir Walter's helmet, and pierced through his eye into his brain, so that he died ere his esquire could unlace his helm. Now, Robin, Sir Walter had great friends at court, therefore his kinsmen stirred up things against my son so that, to save him from prison, I had to pay a ransom of six hundred pounds in gold. All might have gone well even yet, only that, by ins and outs and crookedness of laws, I was shorn like a sheep that is clipped to the quick. So it came that I had to pawn my lands to the Priory of Emmet for more money, and a hard bargain they drove with me in my hour of need. Yet I would have thee understand I grieve so for my lands only because of my dear lady wife."
"But where is thy son now?" asked Robin, who had listened closely to all the Knight had said.
"In Palestine," said Sir Richard, "battling like a brave Christian soldier for the cross and the holy sepulchre. Truly, England was an ill place for him because of Sir Walter's death, and the hate of the Lancastrian's kinsmen."
"Truly," said Robin, much moved, "thine is a hard lot. But tell me, what is owing to Emmet for thine estates?"
"Only four hundred pounds," said Sir Richard.
At this Robin smote his thigh in anger. "O the blood-suckers!" cried he. "A noble estate to be forfeit for four hundred pounds! But what will befall thee if thou dost lose thy lands, Sir Richard?"
"It is not mine own lot that doth trouble me in that case," said the Knight, "but my dear lady's; for should I lose my land she will have to betake herself to some kinsman and there abide in charity, which, methinks, would break her proud heart. As for me, I will over the salt sea, and so to Palestine to join my son in fight for the holy sepulchre."
Then up spake Will Scarlet. "But hast thou no friend that will help thee in thy dire need?"
"Never a man," said Sir Richard. "While I was rich enow at home, and had friends, they blew great boasts of how they loved me. But when the oak falls in the forest the swine run from beneath it lest they should be smitten down also. So my friends have left me; for not only am I poor but I have great enemies."
Then Robin said, "Thou sayst thou hast no friends, Sir Richard. I make no boast, but many have found Robin Hood a friend in their troubles. Cheer up, Sir Knight, I may help thee yet."
The Knight shook his head with a faint smile, but for all that Robin's words made him more blithe of heart, for in truth hope, be it never so faint, bringeth a gleam into darkness, like a little rushlight that costeth but a groat.
The day was well-nigh gone when they came near to the greenwood tree. Even at a distance they saw by the number of men that Little John had come back with some guest, but when they came near enough, whom should they find but the Lord Bishop of Hereford. The good Bishop was in a fine stew, I wot. Up and down he walked beneath the tree like a fox caught in a hencoop. Behind him were three black friars standing close together in a frightened group, like three black sheep in a tempest. Hitched to the branches of the trees close at hand were six horses, one of them a barb with gay trappings upon which the Bishop was wont to ride, and the others laden with packs of divers shapes and kinds, one of which made Robin's eyes glisten, for it was a box not over large, but heavily bound with bands and ribs of iron.
When the Bishop saw Robin and those with him come into the open he made as though he would have run toward the yeoman, but the fellow that guarded the Bishop and the three friars thrust his quarterstaff in front, so that his lordship was fain to stand back, though with frowning brow and angry speech.
"Stay, my Lord Bishop," cried jolly Robin, in a loud voice, when he saw what had passed; "I will come to thee with all speed, for I would rather see thee than any man in merry England." So saying, he quickened his steps, and soon came to where the Bishop stood fuming.
"How now," quoth the Bishop in a loud and angry voice, when Robin had so come to him, "is this the way that thou and thy band treat one so high in the church as I am? I and these brethren were passing peacefully along the high-road with our pack-horses, and a half score of men to guard them, when up comes a great strapping fellow full seven feet high, with fourscore or more men back of him, and calls upon me to stop—me, the Lord Bishop of Hereford, mark thou! Whereupon my armed guards—beshrew them for cowards!—straight ran away. But look ye; not only did this fellow stop me, but he threatened me, saying that Robin Hood would strip me as bare as a winter hedge. Then, beside all this, he called me such vile names as 'fat priest,' 'man-eating bishop,' 'money-gorging usurer,' and what not, as though I were no more than a strolling beggar or tinker. Moreover, when I came here I found a great fat man, a mock priest, that slapped me upon the shoulder as though I, God wot, were a pot-house fellow."
"Marry, come up with a wanion!" cried Friar Tuck, bustling forward and thrusting himself in front of the Bishop; "Marry, come up, I say!" and he snapped his fingers under the Bishop's nose, whereat the other started back as though the snap were a clap of thunder. "Mock priest! thou callest me, forsooth! Look ye now, Bishop, I wot I am as holy a man as thou art, and might have been a bishop mine own self, had I not been born under a hedge. I am as learned, too, as thou art, albeit I could never master that vile Latin, my tongue being only shaped for good stout English; yet I tell thee, I can say my 'Paters' and 'Aves' with no more a slip o' the tongue than thou, thou fat man!"
At this the Bishop glared upon the stout Friar like an angry cat, whilst even Sir Richard laughed; only Robin kept a grave face. "Stand back, Tuck," said he, "thou shouldst not beard his lordship's reverence in this wise. Alas! my lord, that thou hast been so ill-treated by my band! I tell thee truly that we greatly reverence thy cloth. Little John, stand forth straightway."
At these words Little John came forward, twisting his face into a whimsical look, as though he would say, "Ha' mercy upon me, good master." Then Robin turned to the Bishop of Hereford and said: "Was this the man who spake so boldly to your lordship?"
"Ay, truly it was the same," said the Bishop; "a naughty fellow, I wot."
"And didst thou, Little John," said Robin, in a sad voice, "call his lordship a fat priest?"
"Ay," said Little John, sorrowfully.
"And a man-eating bishop?"
"Ay," said Little John, more sorrowfully than before.
"And a money-gorging usurer?"
"Ay," said Little John, in so sorrowful a voice that it might have drawn tears from the Dragon of Wentley.
"Alas, that these things should be!" said jolly Robin, turning to the Bishop, "for I have ever found Little John a truthful man."
At this a roar of laughter went up, whereat the blood rushed into the Bishop's face till it was cherry red from crown to chin; but he said nothing, and only swallowed his words, though they well-nigh choked him.
"Nay, my Lord Bishop," said Robin, "we are rough fellows, but I trust not such ill men as thou thinkest, after all. There is not a man here that would harm a hair of thy reverence's head. I know thou art galled by our jesting, but we are all equal here in the greenwood, for there are no bishops nor barons nor earls among us, but only men, so thou must share our life with us whilst thou dost abide here. Come, busk ye, my merry men, and get the feast ready. Meantime we will show our guests our woodland sports."
So, whilst some went to kindle the fires for roasting meats, others ran leaping to get their cudgels and long bows. Then Robin brought forward Sir Richard o' the Lea. "My Lord Bishop," said he, "here is another guest that we have with us this day. I wish that thou mightst know him better, for I and all my men will strive to honor you both at this merrymaking."
"Sir Richard," said the Bishop, in a reproachful tone, "methinks thou and I are
companions and fellow sufferers in this den
"Speak out, Bishop," quoth Robin, laughing. "We of Sherwood check not an easy flow of words. 'Den of thieves' thou wast about to say."
Quoth the Bishop, "Mayhap that was what I meant to say, Sir Richard; but this I will say, that I saw thee just now laugh at the scurrilous jests of these fellows. It would have been more becoming of thee, methinks, to have checked them with frowns instead of spurring them on by laughter."
"I meant no harm to thee," said Sir Richard, "but a merry jest is a merry jest, and I may truly say I would have laughed at it had it been against mine own self."
But now Robin Hood called upon certain ones of his band who spread soft moss upon the ground and laid deer skins thereon. Then Robin bade his guests be seated, and so they all three sat down, some of the chief men, such as Little John, Will Scarlet, Allan a Dale, and others, stretching themselves upon the ground near by. Then a garland was set up at the far end of the glade, and thereat the bowmen shot, and such shooting was done that day as it would have made one's heart leap to see. And all the while Robin talked so quaintly to the Bishop and the Knight that, the one forgetting his vexation and the other his troubles, they both laughed aloud again and again.
Ten men shot three rounds of arrows each, and although the garland was but three palms' breadth wide, and was full sevenscore yards distant, only two arrows went without the ring. "By Our Lady, good friend," said the Bishop to Robin, "never did I see such shooting in all my life as these men of thine do. But I have heard so oft of thy skill, canst thou not show us a touch of it?"
"Why," quoth Robin, "the light groweth somewhat dim, and things begin to glimmer, ne'ertheless I will try what I can do." So saying he arose from where he sat, then, drawing his dagger, he cut a hazel wand a little greater in girth than a man's thumb, and peeling the bark therefrom, he walked with measured steps fourscore yards distance. There he thrust the staff into the ground and came back to where the others sat, and Allan a Dale handed him his good stout yew bow, which Robin forthwith strung. Then emptying his quiver upon the ground, he searched among the arrows carefully till he had chosen one to his liking. Having so done, he nocked the arrow and stood in position, and all around was so hushed that you might have heard the falling of a leaf. Then he drew the string quickly to his ear, and straightened his bow arm, and ere you could draw a breath loosed the string with a twang. So swift flew the arrow that the eye could not follow it, but a great shout went up from the yeomen when it had sped, and Will Scathelock ran leaping and brought the wand, and lo, the arrow was sticking in the wood which it had cleft. Then all the yeomen shouted again till those about the fires came running, for they were proud of their master's skill, which none could hope to match.
But meantime Robin had set him down again between his guests; then, without giving them time for word of praise, he called upon those of his band who were the most deft at quarterstaff. So they sat and watched the game till the shades of evening fell, and there was no light in which to give stroke or parry.
Then Allan a Dale came forth and tuned his harp, and all was hushed around, and he sang in his wondrous voice songs of love, of war, of glory, and of sadness, and all listened without a movement or a sound. So Allan sang till the great round silver moon gleamed with its clear white light amid the upper tangle of the mazy branches of the trees.
At last two fellows came to say that the feast was ready spread, so Robin, leading his guests with either hand, brought them to where great smoking dishes, that sent savory smells far and near, stood along the white linen cloth spread on the grass. All around was a glare of torches that lit everything up with a red light. Then, straightway sitting down, all fell to with noise and hubbub, the rattling of platters blending with the sound of loud talking and laughter. A long time the feast lasted, but at last all was over, and the bright wine and humming ale passed briskly. Then Robin Hood called aloud for silence, and all was hushed till he spoke.
"I have a story to tell you all, so listen to what I have to say," quoth he; whereupon, without more ado, he told them all about Sir Richard, and how his lands were in pawn. But, as he went on, the Bishop's face, that had erst been smiling and ruddy with merriment, waxed serious, and he put aside the horn of wine he held in his hand, for he knew the story of Sir Richard, and his heart sank within him with grim forebodings. Then, when Robin Hood had done, he turned to the Bishop of Hereford. "Now, my Lord Bishop," said he, "dost thou not think this is ill done of any one, much more of a churchman, who should live in humbleness and charity?"
To this the Bishop answered not a word, but looked upon the ground with moody eyes.
Quoth Robin, "Now, thou art the richest bishop in all England; canst thou not help this needy brother?" But still the Bishop answered not a word.
Then Robin turned to Little John, and quoth he, "Go thou and Will Stutely and bring forth those five pack-horses yonder." Whereupon the two yeomen did as they were bidden, those about the cloth making room on the green, where the light was brightest, for the five horses which Little John and Will Stutely presently led forward.
"Who hath the score of the goods?" asked Robin Hood, looking at the Black Friars.
Then up spake the smallest of all, in a trembling voice,—an old man he was, with a gentle, wrinkled face. "That have I; but, I pray thee, harm me not."
"Nay," quoth Robin, "I have never harmed harmless man yet; but give it to me,
good father." So the old man did as he was bidden, and handed Robin the tablet
on which was marked down the account of the various packages upon the horses.
This Robin handed to Will Scarlet, bidding him to read the same. So Will
Scarlet, lifting his voice that all might hear,
"Three bales of silk to Quentin, the mercer at Ancaster."
"That we touch not," quoth Robin, "for this Quentin is an honest fellow, who hath risen by his own thrift." So the bales of silk were laid aside without being opened.
"One bale of silk velvet for the Abbey of Beaumont."
"What do these priests want of silk velvet?" quoth Robin. "Nevertheless, though they need it not, I will not take all from them. Measure it off into three lots, one to be sold for charity, one for us, and one for the abbey." So this, too, was done as Robin Hood bade.
"Twoscore of great wax candles for the Chapel of Saint Thomas."
"That belongeth fairly to the chapel," quoth Robin, "so lay it to one side. Far
be it from us to take from the blessed Saint Thomas that which belongeth to
him." So this, also, was done according to Robin's bidding, and the candles were
laid to one side, along with honest Quentin's unopened bales of silk. So the
list was gone through with, and the goods adjudged according to what Robin
thought most fit. Some things were laid aside untouched, and many were opened
and divided into three equal parts, for charity, for themselves, and for the
owners. And now all the ground in the torchlight was covered over
with silks and
velvets and cloths of gold and cases of rich wines, and so they came to the last
line upon the
"A box belonging to the Lord Bishop of Hereford."
At these words the Bishop shook as with a chill, and the box was set upon the ground.
"My Lord Bishop, hast thou the key of this box?" asked Robin.
The Bishop shook his head.
"Go, Will Scarlet," said Robin, "thou art the strongest man here—bring a sword straightway, and cut this box open, if thou canst." Then up rose Will Scarlet and left them, coming back in a short time, bearing a great two-handed sword. Thrice he smote that strong, iron-bound box, and at the third blow it burst open and a great heap of gold came rolling forth, gleaming red in the light of the torches. At this sight a murmur went all around among the band, like the sound of the wind in distant trees; but no man came forward nor touched the money.
Quoth Robin, "Thou, Will Scarlet, thou, Allan a Dale, and thou, Little John, count it over."
A long time it took to count all the money, and when it had been duly scored up, Will Scarlet called out that there were fifteen hundred golden pounds in all. But in among the gold they found a paper, and this Will Scarlet read in a loud voice, and all heard that this money was the rental and fines and forfeits from certain estates belonging to the Bishopric of Hereford.
"My Lord Bishop," said Robin Hood, "I will not strip thee, as Little John said, like a winter hedge, for thou shalt take back one third of thy money. One third of it thou canst well spare to us for thy entertainment and that of thy train, for thou art very rich; one third of it thou canst better spare for charity, for Bishop, I hear that thou art a hard master to those beneath thee and a close hoarder of gains that thou couldst better and with more credit to thyself give to charity than spend upon thy own likings."
At this the Bishop looked up, but he could say never a word; yet he was thankful to keep some of his wealth.
Then Robin turned to Sir Richard o' the Lea, and quoth he, "Now, Sir Richard, the church seemed like to despoil thee, therefore some of the overplus of church gains may well be used in aiding thee. Thou shalt take that five hundred pounds laid aside for people more in need than the Bishop is, and shalt pay thy debts to Emmet therewith."
Sir Richard looked at Robin until something arose in his eyes that made all the lights and the faces blur together. At last he said, "I thank thee, friend, from my heart, for what thou doest for me; yet, think not ill if I cannot take thy gift freely. But this I will do: I will take the money and pay my debts, and in a year and a day hence will return it safe either to thee or to the Lord Bishop of Hereford. For this I pledge my most solemn knightly word. I feel free to borrow, for I know no man that should be more bound to aid me than one so high in that church that hath driven such a hard bargain with me."
"Truly, Sir Knight," quoth Robin, "I do not understand those fine scruples that weigh with those of thy kind; but, nevertheless, it shall all be as thou dost wish. But thou hadst best bring the money to me at the end of the year, for mayhap I may make better use of it than the Bishop." Thereupon, turning to those near him, he gave his orders, and five hundred pounds were counted out and tied up in a leathern bag for Sir Richard. The rest of the treasure was divided, and part taken to the treasure-house of the band, and part put by with the other things for the Bishop.
Then Sir Richard arose. "I cannot stay later, good friends," said he, "for my lady will wax anxious if I come not home; so I crave leave to depart."
Then Robin Hood and all his merry men arose, and Robin said, "We cannot let thee go hence unattended, Sir Richard."
Then up spake Little John: "Good master, let me choose a score of stout fellows from the band, and let us arm ourselves in a seemly manner, and so serve as retainers to Sir Richard till he can get others in our stead."
"Thou hast spoken well, Little John, and it shall be done," said Robin.
Then up spake Will Scarlet: "Let us give him a golden chain to hang about his neck, such as befits one of his blood, and also golden spurs to wear at his heels."
Then Robin Hood said, "Thou hast spoken well, Will Scarlet, and it shall be done."
Then up spake Will Stutely: "Let us give him yon bale of rich velvet and yon roll of cloth of gold to take home to his noble lady wife as a present from Robin Hood and his merry men all."
At this all clapped their hands for joy, and Robin said: "Thou hast well spoken, Will Stutely, and it shall be done."
Then Sir Richard o' the Lea looked all around and strove to speak, but could
scarcely do so for the feelings that choked him; at last he said in a husky,
trembling voice, "Ye shall all see, good friends, that Sir Richard o' the Lea
will ever remember your kindness this day. And if ye be at any time in dire need
or trouble, come to me and my lady, and the walls of Castle Lea shall be
battered down ere harm shall befall you.
But now Little John and nineteen stout fellows, whom he had chosen for his band, came forth all ready for the journey. Each man wore upon his breast a coat of linked mail, and on his head a cap of steel, and at his side a good stout sword. A gallant show they made as they stood all in a row. Then Robin came and threw a chain of gold about Sir Richard's neck, and Will Scarlet knelt and buckled the golden spurs upon his heel; and now Little John led forward Sir Richard's horse, and the Knight mounted. He looked down at Robin for a little time, then of a sudden stooped and kissed his cheek. All the forest glades rang with the shout that went up as the Knight and the yeomen marched off through the woodland with glare of torches and gleam of steel, and so were gone.
Then up spake the Bishop of Hereford in a mournful voice: "I, too, must be jogging, good fellow, for the night waxes late."
But Robin laid his hand upon the Bishop's arm and stayed him. "Be not so hasty, Lord Bishop," said he. "Three days hence Sir Richard must pay his debts to Emmet; until that time thou must be content to abide with me lest thou breed trouble for the Knight. I promise thee that thou shalt have great sport, for I know that thou art fond of hunting the dun deer. Lay by thy mantle of melancholy, and strive to lead a joyous yeoman life for three stout days. I promise thee thou shalt be sorry to go when the time has come."
So the Bishop and his train abided with Robin for three days, and much sport his lordship had in that time, so that, as Robin had said, when the time had come for him to go he was sorry to leave the greenwood. At the end of three days Robin set him free, and sent him forth from the forest with a guard of yeomen to keep freebooters from taking what was left of the packs and bundles.
But, as the Bishop rode away, he vowed within himself that he would sometime make Robin rue the day that he stopped him in Sherwood.
But now we shall follow Sir Richard; so listen, and you shall hear what befell him, and how he paid his debts at Emmet Priory, and likewise in due season to Robin Hood.