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[Illustration: Cover art]

[Frontispiece: SLAGFID PURSUES THE WRAITH. _See p._ 60.]











The Story of Robin Hood

Wayland the Smith

Some Adventures of William Short Nose

The Sword Excalibur

How Grettir the Strong Became an Outlaw

Death of Grettir the Strong



Slagfid pursues the Wraith over the Mountain . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

The Chariot of Freya

Alix kisses Rainouart

Arthur meets the Lady of the Lake and gets the Sword Excalibur


Robin Hood's meeting with Little John

The Knight repays the Four Hundred Pounds

When the Sheriff saw his own vessels, his appetite went from him

Friar Tuck upsets Robin Hood

"There is pith in your arm," said Robin Hood

Robin Hood shoots his Last Arrow

The Three Women by the Stream

Wayland mocked by the Queen and Banvilda

The Merman warns Banvilda in vain

Vivian's Last Confession

The Captives--William Short Nose rides to the Rescue

The Lady Alix stays the wrath of William Short Nose

The Lady Gibourc with Rainouart in the Kitchen

Rainouart stops the Cowards

Grettir overthrows Thorir Redbeard



Many hundreds of years ago, when the Plantagenets were kings, England
was so covered with woods, that a squirrel was said to be able to hop
from tree to tree from the Severn to the Humber.

It must have been very different to look at from the country we travel
through now; but still there were roads that ran from north to south
and from east to west, for the use of those who wished to leave their
homes, and at certain times of the year these roads were thronged with

Pilgrims going to some holy shrine passed along, merchants taking their
wares to Court, Abbots and Bishops ambling by on palfreys to bear their
part in the King's Council, and, more frequently still, a solitary
Knight, seeking adventures.

Besides the broad roads there were small tracks and little green paths,
and these led to clumps of low huts, where dwelt the peasants,
charcoal-burners, and ploughmen, and here and there some larger
clearing than usual told that the house of a yeoman was near.

Now and then as you passed through the forest you might ride by a
splendid abbey, and catch a glimpse of monks in long black or white
gowns, fishing in the streams and rivers that abound in this part of
England, or casting nets in the fish ponds which were in the midst of
the abbey gardens. Or you might chance to see a castle with round
turrets and high battlements, circled by strong walls, and protected by
a moat full of water.

This was the sort of England into which the famous Robin Hood was born.
We do not know anything about him, who he was, or where he lived, or
what evil deed he had done to put him beyond the King's grace. For he
was an outlaw, and any man might kill him and never pay penalty for it.

But, outlaw or not, the poor people loved him and looked on him as
their friend, and many a stout fellow came to join him, and led a merry
life in the greenwood, with moss and fern for bed, and for meat the
King's deer, which it was death to slay.

Peasants of all sorts, tillers of the land, yeomen, and as some say
Knights, went on their ways freely, for of them Robin took no toll; but
lordly churchmen with money-bags well filled, or proud Bishops with
their richly dressed followers, trembled as they drew near to Sherwood
Forest--who was to know whether behind every tree there did not lurk
Robin Hood or some of his men?



One day Robin was walking alone in the wood, and reached a river which
was spanned by a very narrow bridge, over which one man only could
pass. In the midst stood a stranger, and Robin bade him go back and
let him go over. "I am no man of yours," was all the answer Robin got,
and in anger he drew his bow and fitted an arrow to it.

"Would you shoot a man who has no arms but a staff?" asked the stranger
in scorn; and with shame Robin laid down his bow, and unbuckled an
oaken stick at his side. "We will fight till one of us falls into the
water," he said; and fight they did, till the stranger planted a blow
so well that Robin rolled over into the river.

[Illustration: Robin Hood's meeting with Little John.]

"You are a brave soul," said he, when he had waded to land, and he blew
a blast with his horn which brought fifty good fellows, clad in green,
to the little bridge.

"Have you fallen into the river that your clothes are wet?" asked one;
and Robin made answer, "No, but this stranger, fighting on the bridge,
got the better of me, and tumbled me into the stream."

At this the foresters seized the stranger, and would have ducked him
had not their leader bade them stop, and begged the stranger to stay
with them and make one of themselves. "Here is my hand," replied the
stranger, "and my heart with it. My name, if you would know it, is
John Little."

"That must be altered," cried Will Scarlett; "we will call a feast, and
henceforth, because he is full seven feet tall and round the waist at
least an ell, he shall be called Little John."

And thus it was done; but at the feast Little John, who always liked to
know exactly what work he had to do, put some questions to Robin Hood.
"Before I join hands with you, tell me first what sort of life is this
you lead? How am I to know whose goods I shall take, and whose I shall
leave? Whom I shall beat, and whom I shall refrain from beating?"

And Robin answered: "Look that you harm not any tiller of the ground,
nor any yeoman of the greenwood--no, nor no Knight nor Squire, unless
you have heard him ill spoken of. But if Bishops or Archbishops come
your way, see that you spoil _them_, and mark that you always hold in
your mind the High Sheriff of Nottingham."

This being settled, Robin Hood declared Little John to be second in
command to himself among the brotherhood of the forest, and the new
outlaw never forgot to "hold in his mind" the High Sheriff of
Nottingham, who was the bitterest enemy the foresters had.

Robin Hood, however, had no liking for a company of idle men about him,
and he at once sent off Little John and Will Scarlett to the great road
known as Watling Street, with orders to hide among the trees and wait
till some adventure might come to them; and if they took captive Earl
or Baron, Abbot or Knight, he was to be brought unharmed back to Robin

But all along Watling Street the road was bare; white and hard it lay
in the sun, without the tiniest cloud of dust to show that a rich
company might be coming: east and west the land lay still.



At length, just where a side path turned into the broad highway, there
rode a Knight, and a sorrier man than he never sat a horse on summer
day. One foot only was in the stirrup, the other hung carelessly by
his side; his head was bowed, the reins dropped loose, and his horse
went on as he would. At so sad a sight the hearts of the outlaws were
filled with pity, and Little John fell on his knees and bade the Knight
welcome in the name of his master.

"Who is your master?" asked the Knight.

"Robin Hood," answered Little John.

"I have heard much good of him," replied the Knight, "and will go with
you gladly."

Then they all set off together, tears running down the Knight's cheeks
as he rode, but he said nothing, neither was anything said to him. And
in this wise they came to Robin Hood.

"Welcome, Sir Knight," cried he, "and thrice welcome, for I waited to
break my fast till you or some other had come to me."

"God save you, good Robin," answered the Knight, and after they had
washed themselves in the stream, they sat down to dine off bread and
wine, with flesh of the King's deer, and swans and pheasants. "Such a
dinner have I not had for three weeks and more," said the Knight. "And
if I ever come again this way, good Robin, I will give you as fine a
dinner as you have given me."

"I thank you," replied Robin, "my dinner is always welcome; still, I am
none so greedy but I can wait for it. But before you go, pay me, I
pray you, for the food which you have had. It was never the custom for
a yeoman to pay for a Knight."

"My bag is empty," said the Knight, "save for ten shillings only."

"Go, Little John, and look in his wallet," said Robin, "and, Sir
Knight, if in truth you have no more, not one penny will I take; nay, I
will give you all that you shall need."

So Little John spread out the Knight's mantle, and opened the bag, and
therein lay ten shillings and naught besides.

"What tidings, Little John?" cried his master.

"Sir, the Knight speaks truly," said Little John.

"Then fill a cup of the best wine and tell me, Sir Knight, whether it
is your own ill doings which have brought you to this sorry pass."

"For an hundred years my fathers have dwelt in the forest," answered
the Knight, "and four hundred pounds might they spend yearly. But
within two years misfortune has befallen me, and my wife and children

"How did this evil come to pass?" asked Robin.

"Through my own folly," answered the Knight, "and because of the great
love I bore my son, who would never be guided of my counsel, and slew,
ere he was twenty years old, a Knight of Lancaster and his Squire. For
their deaths I had to pay a large sum, which I could not raise without
giving my lands in pledge to the rich Abbot of St. Mary's. If I cannot
bring him the money by a certain day they will be lost to me for ever."

"What is the sum?" asked Robin. "Tell me truly."

"It is four hundred pounds," said the Knight.

"And what will you do if you lose your lands?" asked Robin again.

"Hide myself over the sea," said the Knight, "and bid farewell to my
friends and country.

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