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Chapter VIII: How Allan-A-Dale's Wooing Was Prospered (Cont'd)
"Courage, lady!" he whispered, "there is another minstrel near, who mayhap may play more to your liking."
The lady glanced at him with a frightened air, but read such honesty and kindness in his glance that she brightened and gave him a grateful look.
"Stand aside, fool!" cried the brother wrathfully.
"Nay, but I am to bring good fortune to the bride by accompanying her through the church-doors," said Robin laughing.
Thereupon he was allowed to walk by her side unmolested, up to the chancel with the party.
"Now strike up your music, fellow!" ordered the Bishop.
"Right gladly will I," quoth Robin, "an you will let me choose my instrument. For sometimes I like the harp, and other times I think the horn makes the merriest music in all the world."
And he drew forth his bugle from underneath his green cloak and blew three winding notes that made the church—rafters ring again.
"Seize him!" yelled the Bishop; "there's mischief afoot! These are the tricks of Robin Hood!"
The ten liveried archers rushed forward from the rear of the church, where they had been stationed. But their rush was blocked by the onlookers who now rose from their pews in alarm and crowded the aisles. Meanwhile Robin had leaped lightly over the chancel rail and stationed himself in a nook by the altar.
"Stand where you are!" he shouted, drawing his bow, "the first man to pass the rail dies the death. And all ye who have come to witness a wedding stay in your seats. We shall e'en have one, since we are come into the church. But the bride shall choose her own swain!"
Then up rose another great commotion at the door, and four-and-twenty good bowmen came marching in with Will Stutely at their head. And they seized the ten liveried archers and the bride's scowling brother and the other men on guard and bound them prisoners.
Then in came Allan-a-Dale, decked out gaily, with Will Scarlet for best man. And they walked gravely down the aisle and stood over against the chancel.
"Before a maiden weds she chooses—an the laws of good King Harry be just ones," said Robin. "Now, maiden, before this wedding continues, whom will you have to husband?"
The maiden answered not in words, but smiled with a glad light in her eyes, and walked over to Allan and clasped her arms about his neck.
"That is her true love," said Robin. "Young Allan instead of the gouty knight. And the true lovers shall be married at this time before we depart away. Now my lord Bishop, proceed with the ceremony!"
"Nay, that shall not be," protested the Bishop; "the banns must be cried three times in the church. Such is the law of our land."
"Come here, Little John," called Robin impatiently; and plucked off the Bishop's frock from his back and put it on the yeoman.
Now the Bishop was short and fat, and Little John was long and lean. The gown hung loosely over Little John's shoulders and came only to his waist. He was a fine comical sight, and the people began to laugh consumedly at him.
"By the faith o' my body," said Robin, "this cloth makes you a man. You're the finest Bishop that ever I saw in my life. Now cry the banns."
So Little John clambered awkwardly into the quire, his short gown fluttering gaily; and he called the banns for the marriage of the maid and Allan-a-Dale once, twice, and thrice.
"That's not enough," said Robin; "your gown is so short that you must talk longer."
Then Little John asked them in the church four, five, six, and seven times.
"Good enough!" said Robin. "Now belike I see a worthy friar in the back of this church who can say a better service than ever my lord Bishop of Hereford. My lord Bishop shall be witness and seal the papers, but do you, good friar, bless this pair with book and candle."
So Friar Tuck, who all along had been back in one corner of the church, came forward; and Allan and his maid kneeled before him, while the old knight, held an unwilling witness, gnashed his teeth in impotent rage; and the friar began with the ceremony.
When he asked, "Who giveth this woman?" Robin stepped up and answered in a clear voice:
"I do! I, Robin Hood of Barnesdale and Sherwood! And he who takes her from Allan-a-Dale shall buy her full dearly."
So the twain were declared man and wife and duly blessed; and the bride was kissed by each sturdy yeoman beginning with Robin Hood.
Now I cannot end this jolly tale better than in the words of the ballad which came out of the happening and which has been sung in the villages and countryside ever since:
"And thus having end of this merry wedding, The bride lookt like a queen; And so they returned to the merry greenwood Amongst the leaves so green."