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Chapter III: How Robin Hood Turned Butcher, and Entered the Sheriff's Service (Cont'd)
"Agreed," said Robin presently, and the words were no sooner out of his mouth than the door opened and a serving-man entered bearing tray of mulled wine. At sight of the fellow's face, Robin gave an involuntary start of surprise which was instantly checked. The other also saw him, stood still a moment, and as if forgetting something turned about and left the hall.
It was Little John.
A dozen questions flashed across Robin's mind, and he could find answer for none of them. What was Little John doing in the Sheriff's house? Why had he not told the band? Was he true to them? Would he betray him?
But these questions of distrust were dismissed from Robin's open mind as soon as they had entered. He knew that Little John was faithful and true.
He recovered his spirits and began again upon a vein of foolish banter, for the amusement of the Sheriff and his guests, all being now merry with wine.
"A song!" one of them shouted, and the cry was taken up round the table. Robin mounted his chair and trolled forth:
"A lass and a butcher of Nottingham Agreed 'twixt them for to wed. Says he, 'I'll give ye the meat, fair dame, And ye will give me the bread."
Then they joined in the chorus amid a pounding of cups upon the board:
"With a hey and a ho And a hey nonny no, A butcher of Nottingham!"
While the song was at its height, Little John reappeared, with other servants, and refilled the cups. He came up to Robin and, as if asking him if he would have more wine, said softly, "Meet me in the pantry to-night."
Robin nodded, and sang loudly. The day was already far spent, and presently the company broke up with many hiccupy bows of the Sheriff and little notice of the drowsy Bishop.
When the company was dispersed, the Sheriff bade a servant show Robin to his room, and promised to see him at breakfast the next day.
Robin kept his word and met Little John that night, and the sheriff next day; but Little John has been doing so much in the meantime that he must be allowed a chapter to himself.
So let us turn to another story that was sung of, in the ballads of olden time, and find out how Little John entered the Sheriff's service.