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Chapter XXIV: How Robin Hood Met His Death (Cont'd)
Now there is a dispute as to this abbess who bled him. Some say that she did it in all kindness of heart; while others aver that she was none other than the former Sheriff's daughter, and found her revenge at last in this cruel deed.
Be that as it may, Robin's eyes swam from very weakness when he awoke.
He called wearily for help, but there was no response. He looked longingly through the window at the green of the forest; but he was too weak to make the leap that would be needed to reach the ground.
He then bethought him of his horn, Which hung down at his knee; He set his horn unto his mouth, And blew out weak blasts three.
Little John was out in the forest near by, or the blasts would never have been heard. At their sound he sprang to his feet.
"Woe! woe!" he cried, "I fear my master is near dead, he blows so wearily!"
So he made haste and came running up to the door of the abbey, and knocked loudly for admittance. Failing to get reply, he burst in the door with frenzied blows of his mighty fist, and soon came running up to the room where Robin lay, white and faint. "Alas, dear master!" cried Little John in great distress; "I fear you have met with treachery! If that be so, grant me one last boon, I pray."
"What is it?" asked Robin.
"Let me burn Kirklees-Hall with fire, and all its nunnery."
"Nay, good comrade," answered Robin Hood gently, "I cannot grant such a boon. The dear Christ bade us forgive all our enemies. Moreover, you know I never hurt woman in all my life; nor man when in woman's company."
He closed his eyes and fell back, so that his friend thought him dying. The great tears fell from the giant's eyes and wet his master's hand. Robin slowly rallied and seized his comrade's outstretched arm.
"Lift me up, good Little John," he said brokenly, "I want to smell the air from the good greenwood once again. Give me my good yew bow—here—here-and fix a broad arrow upon the string. Out yonder—among the oaks—where this arrow shall fall—let them dig my grave."
And with one last mighty effort he sped his shaft out of the open window, straight and true, as in the days of old, till it struck the largest oak of them all and dropped in the shadow of the trees. Then he fell back upon the sobbing breast of his devoted friend.
"'Tis the last!" he murmured, "tell the brave hearts to lay me there with the green sod under my head and feet. And—let them lay—my bent bow at my side, for it has made sweet music in mine ears."
He rested a moment, and Little John scarce knew that he was alive. But on a sudden Robin's eye brightened, and he seemed to think himself back once more with the band in the open forest glade. He struggled to rise.
"Ha! 'tis a fine stag, Will! And Allan, thou never didst thrum the harp more sweetly. How the light blazes! And Marian!—'tis my Marian—come at last!"
So died the body of Robin Hood; but his spirit lives on through the centuries in the deathless ballads which are sung of him, and in the hearts of men who love freedom and chivalry.
They buried him where his last arrow had fallen, and they set a stone to mark the spot. And on the stone were graven these words:
"Here underneath his little stone Lies Robert, Earl of Huntingdon; Never archer as he so good, And people called him Robin Hood. Such outlaws as he and his men Will England never see again."