Robin Hood (35 of 79)

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Robin Hood
by J. Walker Mcspadden
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Chapter XI: How Robin Hood Fought Guy of Gisborne (Cont'd)

The gallows was quickly put up and a new rope provided.

"Now up with you!" commanded the Sheriff, "and let us see if your greenwood tricks will avail you to-morrow."

"I would that I had bold Robin's horn," muttered poor John; "methinks 'tis all up with me even as the Sheriff hath spoken."

In good sooth the time was dire and pressing. The rope was placed around the prisoner's neck and the men prepared to haul away.

"Are you ready?" called the Sheriff. "One—two—"

But before the "three" left his lips the faint sound of a silver bugle came floating over the hill.

"By my troth, that is Sir Guy of Gisborne's horn," quoth the Sheriff; "and he bade me not to delay answering its summons. He has caught Robin Hood."

"Pardon, Excellency," said one of his men; "but if he has caught Robin Hood, this is a merry day indeed. And let us save this fellow and build another gallows and hang them both together."

"That's a brave thought!" said the Sheriff slapping his knee. "Take the rascal down and bind him fast to the gallows-tree against our return."

So Little John was made fast to the gallows-tree, while the Sheriff and all his men who could march or hobble went out to get Robin Hood and bring him in for the double hanging.

Let us leave talking of Little John and the Sheriff, and see what has become of Robin Hood.

In the first place, he and Little John had come near having a quarrel that self-same morning because both had seen a curious looking yeoman, and each wanted to challenge him singly. But Robin would not give way to his lieutenant, and that is why John, in a huff, had gone with Will to Barnesdale.

Meanwhile Robin approached the curious looking stranger. He seemed to be a three-legged creature at first sight, but on coming nearer you would have seen that 'twas really naught but a poorly clad man, who for a freak had covered up his rags with a capul-hide, nothing more nor less than the sun-dried skin of a horse, complete with head, tail, and mane. The skin of the head made a helmet; while the tail gave the curious three-legged appearance.

"Good-morrow, good fellow," said Robin cheerily, "methinks by the bow you bear in your hand that you should be a good archer."

"Indifferent good," said the other returning his greeting; "but 'tis not of archery that I am thinking this morning, for I have lost my way and would fain find it again."

"By my faith, I could have believed 'twas your wits you'd lost!" thought Robin smiling. Then aloud: "I'll lead you through the wood," quoth he, "an you will tell me your business. For belike your speech is much gentler than your attire."

"Who are you to ask me my business?" asked the other roughly.

"I am one of the King's Rangers," replied Robin, "set here to guard his deer against curious looking strollers."

"Curious looking I may be," returned the other, "but no stroller. Hark ye, since you are a Ranger, I must e'en demand your service. I am on the King's business and seek an outlaw. Men call him Robin Hood. Are you one of his men?"—eyeing him keenly.

"Nay, God forbid!" said Robin; "but what want you with him?"

"That is another tale. But I'd rather meet with that proud outlaw than forty good pounds of the King's money."

Robin now saw how the land lay.

"Come with me, good yeoman," said he, "and belike, a little later in the day, I can show you Robin's haunts when he is at home. Meanwhile let us have some pastime under the greenwood tree. Let us first try the mastery at shooting arrows."

The other agreed, and they cut down two willow wands of a summer's growth that grew beneath a brier, and set them up at a distance of threescore yards.

"Lead on, good fellow," quoth Robin. "The first shot to you."

"Nay, by my faith," said the other, "I will follow your lead."

So Robin stepped forth and bent his bow carelessly and sent his shaft whizzing toward the wand, missing it by a scant inch. He of the horse-hide followed with more care yet was a good three-fingers' breadth away. On the second round, the stranger led off and landed cleverly within the small garland at the top of the wand; but Robin shot far better and clave the wand itself, clean at the middle.

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