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Chapter V: How the Sheriff Lost Three Good Servants and Found them Again (Cont'd)
Then Robin Hood and all his men arose and drank the Sheriff's health, and Robin said: "If you must needs go at once we will not detain you—except that you have forgotten two things."
"What may they be?" asked the Sheriff, while his heart sank within him.
"You forget that you came with me to-day to buy a herd of horned beasts; likewise that he who dines at the Greenwood Inn must pay the landlord."
The Sheriff fidgeted like a small boy who has forgotten his lesson.
"Nay, I have but a small sum with me," he began apologetically.
"What is that sum, gossip?" questioned Little John, "for my own wage should also come out of it!"
"And mine!" said Much.
"And mine!" smiled Robin.
The Sheriff caught his breath. "By my troth, are all these silver dishes worth anything?"
The outlaws roared heartily at this.
"I'll tell you what it is, worship," said Robin, "we three rascally servants will compound our back wages for those plates. And we will keep the herd of cattle free for our own use—and the King's. But this little tavern bill should be settled! Now, what sum have you about you?"
"I have only those twenty pieces of gold, and twenty others," said the Sheriff: and well it was that he told the truth for once, for Robin said:
"Count it, Little John."
Little John turned the Sheriff's wallet inside out. "'Tis true enough," he said.
"Then you shall pay no more than twenty pieces for your entertainment, excellence," decreed Robin. "Speak I soothly, men of greenwood?"
"Good!" echoed the others.
"The Sheriff should swear by his patron saint that he will not molest us," said Will Stutely; and his addition was carried unanimously.
"So be it, then," cried Little John, approaching the sheriff. "Now swear by your life and your patron saint—"
"I will swear it by St. George, who is patron of us all," said the Sheriff vigorously, "that I will never disturb or distress the outlaws in Sherwood."
"But let me catch any of you out of Sherwood!" thought he to himself.
Then the twenty pieces of gold were paid over, and the Sheriff once more prepared to depart.
"Never had we so worshipful a guest before," said Robin; "and as the new moon is beginning to silver the leaves, I shall bear you company myself for part of the way. 'Twas I who brought you into the wood."
"Nay, I protest against your going needlessly far," said Sheriff.
"But I protest that I am loath to lose your company," replied Robin. "The next time I may not be so pleased."
And he took the Sheriff's horse by the bridle rein, and led him through the lane and by many a thicket till the main road was reached.
"Now fare you well, good Sheriff," he said, "and when next you think to despoil a poor prodigal, remember the herd you would have bought over against Gamewell. And when next you employ a servant, make certain that he is not employing you."
So saying he smote the nag's haunch, and off went the Sheriff upon the road to Nottingham.
And that is how—you will find from many ballads that came to be sung at the Sheriff's expense, and which are known even to the present day—that, I say, is how the Sheriff lost three good servants and found them again.