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IN MERRY ENGLAND in the time of old, when good King Henry the Second ruled the land, there lived within the green glades of Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham Town, a famous outlaw whose name was Robin Hood. No archer ever lived that could speed a gray goose shaft with such skill and cunning as his.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book by Howard Pyle
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Nor were there ever such yeomen as the sevenscore merry men that roamed with him through the greenwood shades. Right merrily they dwelled within the depths of Sherwood Forest, suffering neither care nor want, but passing the time in merry games of archery or bouts of cudgel play, living upon the King’s venison, washed down with draughts of ale of October brewing.
Not only Robin himself but all the band were outlaws and dwelled apart from other men, yet they were beloved by the country people round about, for no one ever came to jolly Robin for help in time of need and went away again with an empty fist. And now I will tell how it came about that Robin Hood fell afoul of the law.
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When Robin was a youth of eighteen, stout of sinew and bold of heart, the Sheriff of Nottingham proclaimed a shooting match and offered a prize of a butt of ale to whosoever should shoot the best shaft in Nottinghamshire. “Now,” quoth Robin, “will I go too, for fain would I draw a string for the bright eyes of my lass and a butt of good October brewing.”
So up he got and took his good stout yew bow and a score or more of broad clothyard arrows, and started off from Locksley Town through Sherwood Forest to Nottingham. It was at the dawn of day in the merry Maytime, when hedgerows are green and flowers bedeck the meadows; daisies pied and yellow cuckoo buds and fair primroses all along the briery hedges.
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When apple buds blossom and sweet birds sing, the lark at dawn of day, the throstle cock and cuckoo; when lads and lasses look upon each other with sweet thoughts; when busy housewives spread their linen to bleach upon the bright green grass. Sweet was the greenwood as he walked along its paths, and bright the green and rustling leaves, amid which the little birds sang with might and main.
And blithely Robin whistled as he trudged along, thinking of Maid Marian and her bright eyes, for at such times a youth’s thoughts are wont to turn pleasantly upon the lass that he loves the best. As thus he walked along with a brisk step and a merry whistle, he came suddenly upon some foresters seated beneath a great oak tree.
Fifteen there were in all, making themselves merry with feasting and drinking as they sat around a huge pasty, to which each man helped himself, thrusting his hands into the pie, and washing down that which they ate with great horns of ale which they drew all foaming from a barrel that stood nigh. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book
Each man was clad in Lincoln green, and a fine show they made, seated upon the sward beneath that fair, spreading tree. Then one of them, with his mouth full, called out to Robin, “Hulloa, where goest thou, little lad, with thy one-penny bow and thy farthing shafts?” Then Robin grew angry, for no stripling likes to be taunted with his green years.
“Now,” quoth he, “my bow and eke mine arrows are as good as shine; and moreover, I go to the shooting match at Nottingham Town, which same has been proclaimed by our good Sheriff of Nottinghamshire; there I will shoot with other stout yeomen, for a prize has been offered of a fine butt of ale.” Then one who held a horn of ale in his hand said.
“Ho! listen to the lad! Why, boy, thy mother’s milk is yet scarce dry upon thy lips, and yet thou pratest of standing up with good stout men at Nottingham butts, thou who art scarce able to draw one string of a two-stone bow.” “I’ll hold the best of you twenty marks,” quoth bold Robin, “that I hit the clout at threescore rods, by the good help of Our Lady fair.” The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book
At this all laughed aloud, and one said, “Well boasted, thou fair infant, well boasted! And well thou knowest that no target is nigh to make good thy wager.” And another cried, “He will be taking ale with his milk next.” At this Robin grew right mad. “Hark ye,” said he, “yonder, at the glade’s end, I see a herd of deer, even more than threescore rods distant.
I’ll hold you twenty marks that, by leave of Our Lady, I cause the best hart among them to die.” “Now done!” cried he who had spoken first. “And here are twenty marks. I wager that thou causest no beast to die, with or without the aid of Our Lady.” Then Robin took his good yew bow in his hand, and placing the tip at his instep.
He strung it right deftly; then he nocked a broad clothyard arrow and, raising the bow, drew the gray goose feather to his ear; the next moment the bowstring rang and the arrow sped down the glade as a sparrowhawk skims in a northern wind. High leaped the noblest hart of all the herd, only to fall dead, reddening the green path with his heart’s blood. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book
“Ha!” cried Robin, “how likest thou that shot, good fellow? I wot the wager were mine, an it were three hundred pounds.” Then all the foresters were filled with rage, and he who had spoken the first and had lost the wager was more angry than all. “Nay,” cried he, “the wager is none of thine, and get thee gone, straightway, or, by all the saints of heaven, I’ll baste thy sides until thou wilt ne’er be able to walk again.”
“Knowest thou not,” said another, “that thou hast killed the King’s deer, and, by the laws of our gracious lord and sovereign King Harry, thine ears should be shaven close to thy head?” THEN THE SHERIFF was very wroth because of this failure to take jolly Robin, for it came to his ears.
As ill news always does, that the people laughed at him and made a jest of his thinking to serve a warrant upon such a one as the bold outlaw. And a man hates nothing so much as being made a jest of; so he said: “Our gracious lord and sovereign King himself shall know of this, and how his laws are perverted and despised by this band of rebel outlaws. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book
As for yon traitor Tinker, him will I hang, if I catch him, upon the very highest gallows tree in all Nottinghamshire.” Then he bade all his servants and retainers to make ready to go to London Town, to see and speak with the King. At this there was bustling at the Sheriff’s castle, and men ran hither and thither upon this business and upon that.
While the forge fires of Nottingham glowed red far into the night like twinkling stars, for all the smiths of the town were busy making or mending armor for the Sheriff’s troop of escort. For two days this labor lasted, then, on the third, all was ready for the journey. So forth they started in the bright sunlight, from Nottingham Town to Fosse Way and thence to Watling Street.
And so they journeyed for two days, until they saw at last the spires and towers of great London Town; and many folks stopped, as they journeyed along, and gazed at the show they made riding along the highways with their flashing armor and gay plumes and trappings. In London King Henry and his fair Queen Eleanor held their court, gay with ladies in silks and satins and velvets and cloth of gold. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book Download
And also brave knights and gallant courtiers. Thither came the Sheriff and was shown into the King’s presence. “A boon, a boon,” quoth he, as he knelt upon the ground. “Now what wouldst thou have?” said the King. “Let us hear what may be thy desires.” “O good my Lord and Sovereign,” spake the Sheriff, “in Sherwood Forest in our own good shire of Nottingham, liveth a bold outlaw whose name is Robin Hood.”
“In good sooth,” said the King, “his doings have reached even our own royal ears. He is a saucy, rebellious varlet, yet, I am fain to own, a right merry soul withal.” “But hearken, O my most gracious Sovereign,” said the Sheriff. “I sent a warrant to him with thine own royal seal attached, by a right lusty knave.
But he beat the messenger and stole the warrant. And he killeth thy deer and robbeth thine own liege subjects even upon the great highways.” “Why, how now,” quoth the King wrathfully. “What wouldst thou have me do? Comest thou not to me with a great array of men-at-arms and retainers, and yet art not able to take a single band of lusty knaves without armor on breast. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book Download
In thine own county! What wouldst thou have me do? Art thou not my Sheriff? Are not my laws in force in Nottinghamshire? Canst thou not take thine own course against those that break the laws or do any injury to thee or thine? Go, get thee gone, and think well; devise some plan of thine own, but trouble me no further.
But look well to it, Master Sheriff, for I will have my laws obeyed by all men within my kingdom, and if thou art not able to enforce them thou art no sheriff for me. So look well to thyself, I say, or ill may befall thee as well as all the thieving knaves in Nottinghamshire. When the flood cometh it sweepeth away grain as well as chaff.”
Then the Sheriff turned away with a sore and troubled heart, and sadly he rued his fine show of retainers, for he saw that the King was angry because he had so many men about him and yet could not enforce the laws. So, as they all rode slowly back to Nottingham, the Sheriff was thoughtful and full of care. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book Download
Not a word did he speak to anyone, and no one of his men spoke to him, but all the time he was busy devising some plan to take Robin Hood. “Aha!” cried he suddenly, smiting his hand upon his thigh “I have it now! Ride on, my merry men all, and let us get back to Nottingham Town as speedily as we may.
And mark well my words: before a fortnight is passed, that evil knave Robin Hood will be safely clapped into Nottingham gaol.” But what was the Sheriff’s plan? As a usurer takes each one of a bag of silver angels, feeling each coin to find whether it be clipped or not, so the Sheriff, as all rode slowly and sadly back toward Nottingham, took up thought after thought in turn.
Feeling around the edges of each but finding in every one some flaw. At last he thought of the daring soul of jolly Robin and how, as he the Sheriff knew, he often came even within the walls of Nottingham. Then all sat down to the woodland feast and talked among themselves of the merry jest that had been played upon the Sheriff, and of the adventures that had befallen each member of the band in his disguise. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book Download
But when the feast was done, Robin Hood took Little John apart and said, “Truly am I vexed in my blood, for I heard the Sheriff say today, ‘Thou shootest better than that coward knave Robin Hood, that dared not show his face here this day.’ I would fain let him know who it was who won the golden arrow from out his hand, and also that I am no coward such as he takes me to be.”
Then Little John said, “Good master, take thou me and Will Stutely, and we will send yon fat Sheriff news of all this by a messenger such as he doth not expect.” That day the Sheriff sat at meat in the great hall of his house at Nottingham Town. Long tables stood down the hall, at which sat men-at- arms and household servants and good stout villains,[Bondservants.] in all fourscore and more.
There they talked of the day’s shooting as they ate their meat and quaffed their ale. The Sheriff sat at the head of the table upon a raised seat under a canopy, and beside him sat his dame. “By my troth,” said he, “I did reckon full roundly that that knave Robin Hood would be at the game today. I did not think that he was such a coward. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood PDF Book Free
But who could that saucy knave be who answered me to my beard so bravely? I wonder that I did not have him beaten; but there was something about him that spoke of other things than rags and tatters.”