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There is no better way open to me."

At this tears fell from his eyes, and he turned him to depart. "Good
day, my friend," he said to Robin, "I cannot pay you what I should----"
But Robin held him fast. "Where _are_ your friends?" asked he.

"Sir, they have all forsaken me since I became poor, and they turn away
their heads if we meet upon the road, though when I was rich they were
ever in my castle."

When Little John and Will Scarlett and the rest heard this, they wept
for very shame and fury, and Robin bade them fill a cup of the best
wine, and give it to the Knight.

"Have you no one who would stay surety for you?" said he.

"None," answered the Knight, "but only Our Lady, who has never yet
failed to help me."

"You speak well," said Robin, "and you, Little John, go to my treasure
chest, and bring me thence four hundred pounds. And be sure you count
it truly."

So Little John went, and Will Scarlett, and they brought back the money.

"Sir," said Little John, when Robin had counted it and found it no more
nor no less, "look at his clothes, how thin they are! You have stores
of garments, green and scarlet, in your coffers--no merchant in England
can boast the like. I will measure some out with my bow." And thus he
did.

"Master," spoke Little John again, "there is still something else. You
must give him a horse, that he may go as beseems his quality to the
Abbey."

"Take the grey horse," said Robin, "and put a new saddle on it, and
take likewise a good palfrey and a pair of boots, with gilt spurs on
them. And as it would be a shame for a Knight to ride by himself on
this errand, I will lend you Little John as Squire--perchance he may
stand you in yeoman's stead."

"When shall we meet again?" asked the Knight.

"This day twelve months," said Robin, "under the greenwood tree."

Then the Knight rode on his way, with Little John behind him, and as he
went he thought of Robin Hood and his men, and blessed them for the
goodness they had shown towards him.

"To-morrow," he said to Little John, "I must be at the Abbey of St.
Mary, which is in the city of York, for if I am but so much as a day
late my lands are lost forever, and though I were to bring the money I
should not be suffered to redeem them."


PART IV.

Now the Abbot had been counting the days as well as the Knight, and the
next morning he said to his monks: "This day year there came a Knight
and borrowed of me four hundred pounds, giving his lands in surety.
And if he come not to pay his debt ere midnight tolls they will be ours
for ever."

"It is full early yet," answered the Prior, "he may still be coming."

"He is far beyond the sea," said the Abbot, "and suffers from hunger
and cold. How is he to get here?"

"It were a shame," said the Prior, "for you to take his lands. And you
do him much wrong if you drive such a hard bargain."

"He is dead or hanged," spake a fat-headed monk who was the cellarer,
"and we shall have his four hundred pounds to spend on our gardens and
our wines," and he went with the Abbot to attend the court of justice,
wherein the Knight's lands would be declared forfeited by the High
Justiciar.

"If he come not this day," cried the Abbot, rubbing his hands, "if he
come not this day, they will be ours."

"He will not come yet," said the Justiciar, but he knew not that the
Knight was already at the outer gate, and Little John with him.

"Welcome, Sir Knight," said the porter. "The horse that you ride is
the noblest that ever I saw. Let me lead them both to the stable, that
they may have food and rest."

"They shall not pass these gates," answered the Knight sternly, and he
entered the hall alone, where the monks were sitting at meat, and knelt
down and bowed to them.

"I have come back, my lord," he said to the Abbot, who had just
returned from the court. "I have come back this day as I promised."

"Have you brought my money?" was all the Abbot said.

"Not a penny," answered the Knight, who wished to see how the Abbot
would treat him.

"Then what do you here without it?" cried the Abbot in angry tones.

"I have come to pray you for a longer day," answered the Knight meekly.

"The day was fixed and cannot be gainsaid," replied the Justiciar; but
the Knight only begged that he would stand his friend and help him in
his strait. "I am with the Abbot," was all the Justiciar would answer.

"Good Sir Abbot, be my friend," prayed the Knight again, "and give me
one chance more to get the money and free my lands. I will serve you
day and night till I have four hundred pounds to redeem them."

But the Abbot only vowed that the money must be paid that day or the
lands be forfeited.

The Knight stood up straight and tall: "It is well," said he, "to prove
one's friends against the hour of need," and he looked the Abbot full
in the face, and the Abbot felt uneasy, he did not know why, and hated
the Knight more than ever. "Out of my hall, false Knight!" cried he,
pretending to a courage which he did not feel. But the Knight stayed
where he was, and answered him, "You lie, Abbot. Never was I false,
and that I have shown in jousts and in tourneys."

"Give him two hundred pounds more," said the Justiciar to the Abbot,
"and keep the lands yourself."

"No, by Heaven!" answered the Knight, "not if you offered me a thousand
pounds would I do it! Neither Justiciar, Abbot, nor Monk shall be heir
of mine." Then he strode up to a table and emptied out four hundred
pounds. "Take your gold, Sir Abbot, which you lent to me a year agone.
Had you but received me civilly, I would have paid you something more.

[Illustration: The Knight repays the four hundred pounds]

"Sir Abbot, and ye men of law,
Now have I kept my day!
Now shall I have my land again,
For aught that you may say."

So he passed out of the hall singing merrily, leaving the Abbot staring
silently after him, and rode back to his house, where his wife met him
at the gate.

"Welcome, my lord," said his lady,
"Sir, lost is all your good."
"Be merry, dame," said the Knight,
"And pray for Robin Hood.

"But for his kindness, we had been beggars."


PART V.

After this the Knight dwelt at home, looking after his lands and saving
his money carefully, till the four hundred pounds lay ready for Robin
Hood. Then he bought a hundred bows and a hundred arrows, and every
arrow was an ell long, and had a head of silver and peacock's feathers.
And clothing himself in white and red, and with a hundred men in his
train, he set off to Sherwood Forest.

On the way he passed an open space near a bridge where there was a
wrestling, and the Knight stopped and looked, for he himself had taken
many a prize in that sport. Here the prizes were such as to fill any
man with envy; a fine horse, saddled and bridled, a great white bull, a
pair of gloves, a ring of bright red gold, and a pipe of wine.

There was not a yeoman present who did not hope to win one of them.
But when the wrestling was over, the yeoman who had beaten them all was
a man who kept apart from his fellows, and was said to think much of
himself.

Therefore the men grudged him his skill, and set upon him with blows,
and would have killed him, had not the Knight, for love of Robin Hood,
taken pity on him, while his followers fought with the crowd, and would
not suffer them to touch the prizes a better man had won.

When the wrestling was finished the Knight rode on, and there under the
greenwood tree, in the place appointed, he found Robin Hood and his
merry men waiting for him, according to the tryst that they had fixed
last year:--

"God save thee, Robin Hood,
And all this company."
"Welcome be thou, gentle Knight,
And right welcome to me.

"Hast thou thy land again?" said Robin,
"Truth then tell thou me."
"Yea, for God," said the Knight,
"And that thank I God and thee.

"Have here four hundred pounds," said the Knight,
"The which you lent to me;
And here are also twenty marks
For your courtesie."

But Robin would not take the money. A miracle had happened, he said,
and Our Lady had paid it to him, and shame would it be for him to take
it twice over.

Then he noticed for the first time the bows and arrows which the Knight
had brought, and asked what they were. "A poor present to you,"
answered the Knight, and Robin, who would not be outdone, sent Little
John once more to his treasury, and bade him bring forth four hundred
pounds, which was given to the Knight.

After that they parted, in much love, and Robin prayed the Knight if he
were in any strait "to let him know at the greenwood tree, and while
there was any gold there he should have it".


PART VI.

HOW LITTLE JOHN BECAME THE SHERIFF'S SERVANT.

Meanwhile the High Sheriff of Nottingham proclaimed a great
shooting-match in a broad open space, and Little John was minded to try
his skill with the rest. He rode through the forest, whistling gaily
to himself, for well he knew that not one of Robin Hood's men could
send an arrow as straight as he, and he felt little fear of anyone else.

When he reached the trysting place he found a large company assembled,
the Sheriff with them, and the rules of the match were read out: where
they were to stand, how far the mark was to be, and how that three
tries should be given to every man.

Some of the shooters shot near the mark, some of them even touched it,
but none but Little John split the slender wand of willow with every
arrow that flew from his bow.

At this sight the Sheriff of Nottingham swore that Little John was the
best archer that ever he had seen, and asked him who he was and where
he was born, and vowed that if he would enter his service he would give
twenty marks a year to so good a bowman.

Little John, who did not wish to confess that he was one of Robin
Hood's men and an outlaw, said his name was Reynold Greenleaf, and that
he was in the service of a Knight, whose leave he must get before he
became the servant of any man.

This was given heartily by the Knight, and Little John bound himself to
the Sheriff for the space of twelve months, and was given a good white
horse to ride on whenever he went abroad.



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