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Chapter XVI: How Robin Hood Met Sir Richard of the Lea (Cont'd)
Marian had not yet had time to change her page's attire, when the three escorts of the knight hove in sight. She recognized their captive as Sir Richard of the Lea, whom she had often seen at court; and fearing lest he might recognize her, she would have fled. But Robin asked her, with a twinkle, if she would not like to play page that day, and she in roguish mood consented to do so.
"Welcome, Sir Knight," said Robin, courteously. "You are come in good time, for we were just preparing to sit down to meat."
"God save and thank you, good master Robin," returned the knight; "and all your company. It likes me well to break the fast with you."
So while his horse was cared for, the knight laid aside his own heavy gear, and laved his face and hands, and sat down with Robin and all his men to a most plentiful repast of venison, swans, pheasants, various small birds, cake and ale. And Marian stood behind Robin and filled his cup and that of the guest.
After eating right heartily of the good cheer, the knight brightened up greatly and vowed that he had not enjoyed so good a dinner for nigh three weeks. He also said that if ever Robin and his fellows should come to his domains, he would strive to set them down to as good a dinner on his own behalf.
But this was not exactly the sort of payment which Robin had expected to receive. He thanked the knight, therefore, in set phrase, but reminded him that a yeoman like himself might hardly offer such a dinner to a knight as a gift of charity.
"I have no money, Master Robin," answered the knight frankly. "I have so little of the world's goods, in sooth, that I should be ashamed to offer you the whole of it."
"Money, however little, always jingles merrily in our pockets," said Robin, smiling. "Pray you tell me what you deem a little sum."
"I have of my own ten silver pennies," said the knight. "Here they are, and I wish they were ten times as many."
He handed Little John his pouch, and Robin nodded carelessly.
"What say you to the total, Little John?" he asked as though in jest.
"'Tis true enough, as the worthy knight hath said," responded the big fellow gravely emptying the contents on his cloak.
Robin signed to Marian, who filled a bumper of wine for himself and his guest.
"Pledge me, Sir Knight!" cried the merry outlaw; "and pledge me heartily, for these sorry times. I see that your armor is bent and that your clothes are torn. Yet methinks I saw you at court, once upon a day, and in more prosperous guise. Tell me now, were you a yeoman and made a knight by force? Or, have you been a bad steward to yourself, and wasted your property in lawsuits and the like? Be not bashful with us. We shall not betray your secrets."