Robin Hood (73 of 79)

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Robin Hood
by J. Walker Mcspadden
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Chapter XXII: How King Richard Came to Sherwood Forest (Cont'd)

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 Tuck.

"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 shooting began.

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 garland.

"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.

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