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Chapter I: How Robin Hood Became an Outlaw (Cont'd)
That same evening within a forest glade a group of men—some twoscore clad in Lincoln green—sat round a fire roasting venison and making merry. Suddenly a twig crackled and they sprang to their feet and seized their weapons.
"I look for the widow's sons," a clear voice said, "and I come alone."
Instantly the three men stepped forward.
"Tis Rob!" they cried; "welcome to Sherwood Forest, Rob!" And all the men came and greeted him; for they had heard his story.
Then one of the widow's sons, Stout Will, stepped forth and said:
"Comrades all, ye know that our band has sadly lacked a leader—one of birth, breeding, and skill. Belike we have found that leader in this young man. And I and my brothers have told him that the band would choose that one who should bring the Sheriff to shame this day and capture his golden arrow. Is it not so?"
The band gave assent.
Will turned to Rob. "What news bring you from Nottingham town?" asked he.
Rob laughed. "In truth I brought the Sheriff to shame for mine own pleasure, and won his golden arrow to boot. But as to the prize ye must e'en take my word, for I bestowed it upon a maid."
And seeing the men stood in doubt at this, he continued: "But I'll gladly join your band, and you take me, as a common archer. For there are others older and mayhap more skilled than I."
Then stepped one forward from the rest, a tall swarthy man. And Rob recognized him as the man with the green blinder; only this was now removed, and his freed eye gleamed as stoutly as the other one.
"Rob in the Hood—for such the lady called you," said he, "I can vouch for your tale. You shamed the Sheriff e'en as I had hoped to do; and we can forego the golden arrow since it is in such fair hands. As to your shooting and mine, we must let future days decide. But here I, Will Stutely, declare that I will serve none other chief save only you."
Then good Will Stutely told the outlaws of Rob's deeds, and gave him his hand of fealty. And the widow's sons did likewise, and the other members every one, right gladly; because Will Stutely had heretofore been the truest bow in all the company. And they toasted him in nut brown ale, and hailed him as their leader, by the name of Robin Hood. And he accepted that name because Maid Marian had said it.