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Chapter VII: How Robin Hood Met Friar Tuck (Cont'd)
Finally in a furious onset of lunge and parry Robin's foot stepped on a rolling stone, and he went down upon his knees. But his antagonist would not take this advantage: he paused until Robin should get upon his feet.
"Now by our Lady!" cried the outlaw, using his favorite oath, "you are the fairest swordsman that I have met in many a long day. I would beg a boon of you."
"What is it?" said the other.
"Give me leave to set my horn to my mouth and blow three blasts thereon."
"That will I do," said the curtall friar, "blow till your breath fails, an it please you."
Then, says the old ballad, Robin Hood set his horn to mouth and blew mighty blasts; and half a hundred yeomen, bows bent, came raking over the lee.
"Whose men are these," said the friar, "that come so hastily?"
"These men are mine," said Robin Hood, feeling that his time to laugh was come at last.
Then said the friar in his turn, "A boon, a boon, the like I gave to you. Give me leave to set my fist to my mouth and whistle three blasts thereon."
"That will I do," said Robin, "or else I were lacking in courtesy."
The friar set his fist to his mouth and put the horn to shame by the piercing whistles he blew; whereupon half a hundred great dogs came running and jumping so swiftly that they had reached their bank as soon as Robin Hood's men had reached his side.
Then followed a rare foolish conflict. Stutely, Much, Little John and the other outlaws began sending their arrows whizzing toward the opposite bank; but the dogs, which were taught of the friar, dodged the missiles cleverly and ran and fetched them back again, just as the dogs of to-day catch sticks.
"I have never seen the like of this in my days!" cried Little John, amazed.
"'Tis rank sorcery and witchcraft."
"Take off your dogs, Friar Tuck!" shouted Will Scarlet, who had but then run up, and who now stood laughing heartily at the scene.
"Friar Tuck!" exclaimed Robin, astounded. "Are you Friar Tuck? Then am I your friend, for you are he I came to seek."
"I am but a poor anchorite, a curtall friar," said the other, whistling to his pack, "by name Friar Tuck of Fountain's Dale. For seven years have I tended the Abbey here, preached o' Sundays, and married and christened and buried folk—and fought too, if need were; and if it smacks not too much of boasting, I have not yet met the knight or trooper or yeoman that I would yield before. But yours is a stout blade. I would fain know you."
"'Tis Robin Hood, the outlaw, who has been assisting you at this christening," said Will Scarlet glancing roguishly at the two opponents' dripping garments. And at this sally the whole bad burst into a shout of laughter, in which Robin and Friar Tuck joined.
"Robin Hood!" cried the good friar presently, holding his sides; "are you indeed that famous yeoman? Then I like you well; and had I known you earlier, would have both carried you across and shared my pasty pie with you."
"To speak soothly," replied Robin gaily, "'twas that same pie that led me to be rude. Now, therefore, bring it and your dogs and repair with us to the greenwood. We have need of you—with this message came I to-day to seek you. We will build you a hermitage in Sherwood Forest, and you shall keep us from evil ways. Will you not join our band?"
"Marry, that will I!" cried Friar Tuck jovially. "Once more will I cross this much beforded stream, and go with you to the good greenwood!"