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Chapter XIV: How Robin Hood Was Sought of the Tinker (Cont'd)
Robin presently found this out to his sorrow. The long reach and long stick got to him when 'twas impossible for him to touch his antagonist. So his sides began to ache sorely.
"Hold your hand, tinker," he said at length. "I cry a boon of you."
"Before I do it," said the tinker, "I'd hang you on this tree."
But even as he spoke, Robin found the moment's grace for which he longed; and immediately grasped his horn and blew the three well-known blasts of the greenwood.
"A murrain seize you!" roared the tinker commencing afresh. "Up to your old tricks again, are you? Well, I'll have time to finish my job, if I hurry."
But Robin was quite able to hold his own at a pinch, and they had not exchanged many lunges and passes when up came Little John and Will Scarlet and a score of yeomen at their heels. Middle was seized without ceremony, while Robin sat himself down to breathe. "What is the matter?" quoth Little John, "that you should sit so weariedly upon the highway side?"
"Faith, that rascally tinker yonder has paid his score well upon my hide," answered Robin ruefully.
"That tinker, then," said Little John, "must be itching for more work. Fain would I try if he can do as much for me."
"Or me," said Will Scarlet, who like Little John was always willing to swing a cudgel.
"Nay," laughed Robin. "Belike I could have done better, an he had given me time to pull a young tree up by the roots. But I hated to spoil the Queen's blade upon his tough stick or no less tough hide. He had a warrant for my arrest which I stole from him."
"Also, item, twelve silver pennies," interposed the tinker, unsubdued; "item, one crust of bread, 'gainst my supper. Item, one lump of solder. Item, three pieces of twine. Item, six single keys. Item—"
"Yes, I know," quoth the merry Robin; "I stood outside the landlord's window and heard you count over your losses. Here they are again; and the silver pennies are turned by magic into gold. Here also, if you will, is my hand."
"I take it heartily, with the pence!" cried Middle. "By my leathern coat and tools, which I shall presently have out of that sly host, I swear that I never yet met a man I liked as well as you! An you and your men here will take me, I swear I'll serve you honestly. Do you want a tinker? Nay, but verily you must! Who else can mend and grind your swords and patch your pannikins—and fight, too, when occasion serve? Mend your pots! mend your pa-a-ans!"
And he ended his speech with the sonorous cry of his craft.
By this time the whole band was laughing uproariously at the tinker's talk.
"What say you, fellows?" asked Robin. "Would not this tinker be a good recruit?"
"That he would!" answered Will Scarlet, clapping the new man on the back. "He will keep Friar Tuck and Much the miller's son from having the blues."
So amid great merriment and right good fellowship the outlaws shook Middle by the hand, and he took oath of fealty, and thought no more of the Sheriff's daughter.