Robin Hood (31 of 79)

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Robin Hood
by J. Walker Mcspadden
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Chapter X: How A Beggar Filled the Public Eye

Good Robin accost him in his way,
To see what he might be;
If any beggar had money,
He thought some part had he.

One bright morning, soon after the stirring events told in the last chapter, Robin wandered forth alone down the road to Barnesdale, to see if aught had come of the Sheriff's pursuit. But all was still and serene and peaceful. No one was in sight save a solitary beggar who came sturdily along his way in Robin's direction. The beggar caught sight of Robin, at the same moment, as he emerged from the trees, but gave no sign of having seen him. He neither slackened nor quickened his pace, but jogged forward merrily, whistling as he came, and beating time by punching holes in the dusty road with the stout pike-staff in his hand.

The curious look of the fellow arrested Robin's attention, and he decided to stop and talk with him. The fellow was bare-legged and bare-armed, and wore a long shift of a shirt, fastened with a belt. About his neck hung a stout, bulging bag, which was buckled by a good piece of leather thong.

He had three hats upon his head,
Together sticked fast,
He cared neither for the wind nor wet,
In lands where'er he past.

The fellow looked so fat and hearty, and the wallet on his shoulder seemed so well filled, that Robin thought within himself,

"Ha! this is a lucky beggar for me! If any of them have money, this is the chap, and, marry, he should share it with us poorer bodies."

So he flourished his own stick and planted himself in the traveler's path.

"Sirrah, fellow!" quoth he; "whither away so fast? Tarry, for I would have speech with ye!"

The beggar made as though he heard him not, and kept straight on with his faring.

"Tarry, I say, fellow!" said Robin again; "for there's a way to make folks obey!"

"Nay, 'tis not so," answered the beggar, speaking for the first time; "I obey no man in all England, not even the King himself. So let me pass on my way, for 'tis growing late, and I have still far to go before I can care for my stomach's good."

"Now, by my troth," said Robin, once more getting in front of the other, "I see well by your fat countenance, that you lack not for good food, while I go hungry. Therefore you must lend me of your means till we meet again, so that I may hie to the nearest tavern."

"I have no money to lend," said the beggar crossly. "Methinks you are as young a man as I, and as well able to earn a supper. So go your way, and I'll go mine. If you fast till you get aught out of me, you'll go hungry for the next twelvemonth."

"Not while I have a stout stick to thwack your saucy bones!" cried Robin. "Stand and deliver, I say, or I'll dust your shirt for you; and if that will not teach you manners, then we'll see what a broad arrow can do with a beggar's skin!"

The beggar smiled, and answered boast with boast. "Come on with your staff, fellow! I care no more for it than for a pudding stick. And as for your pretty bow—that for it!"

And with amazing quickness, he swung his pike-staff around and knocked Robin's bow clean out of his hand, so that his fingers smarted with pain. Robin danced and tried to bring his own staff into action; but the beggar never gave him a chance. Biff! whack! came the pike-staff, smiting him soundly and beating down his guard.

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