Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race
Page: 176Robin Hood Seeks a Guest
At one time Robin Hood lived in the noble forest of [Pg 315] Barnesdale, in Yorkshire. He had but few of his merry men with him, for his headquarters were in the glorious forest of Sherwood. Just now, however, the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire was less active in his endeavours to put down the band of outlaws, and the leader had wandered farther north than usual. Robin’s companions were his three dearest comrades and most loyal followers, Little John (so called because of his great stature), Will Scarlet, Robin’s cousin, and Much, the miller’s son. These three were all devoted to their leader, and never left his side, except at such times as he sent them away on his business.
On this day Robin was leaning against a tree, lost in thought, and his three followers grew impatient; they knew that before dinner could be served there were the three customary Masses to hear, and their leader gave no sign of being ready for Mass. Robin always heard three Masses before his dinner, one of the Father, one of the Holy Spirit, and the last of Our Lady, who was his patron saint and protector. As the three yeomen were growing hungry, Little John ventured to address him. “Master, it would do you good if you would dine early to-day, for you have fasted long.” Robin aroused himself and smiled. “Ah, Little John, methinks care for thine own appetite hath a share in that speech, as well as care for me. But in sooth I care not to dine alone. I would have a stranger guest, some abbot or bishop or baron, who would pay us for our hospitality. I will not dine till a guest be found, and I leave it to you three to find him.” Robin turned away, laughing at the crestfallen faces of his followers, who had not counted on such a vague commission; but Little John, quickly recovering himself, called to him: “Master, tell us, before we leave you, where we shall meet, and what sort of people we are to capture and bring to you in the greenwood.”
The Outlaws’ Rules
“You know that already,” said their master. “You are to do no harm to women, nor to any company in which a woman is travelling; this is in honour of our dear Lady. You are to be kind and gentle to husbandmen and toilers of all degrees, to worthy knights and yeomen, to gallant squires, and to all children and helpless people; but sheriffs (especially him of Nottingham), bishops, and prelates of all kinds, and usurers in Church and State, you may regard as your enemies, and may rob, beat, and despoil in any way. Meet me with your guest at our great trysting oak in the forest, and be speedy, for dinner must wait until the visitor has arrived.” “Now may God send us a suitable traveller soon,” said Little John, “for I am hungry for dinner now.” “So am I,” said each of the others, and Robin laughed again. “Go ye all three, with bows and arrows in hand, and I will stay alone at the trysting tree and await your coming. As no man passes this way, you can walk up to the willow plantation and take your stand on Watling Street; there you will soon meet with likely travellers, and I will accept the first who appears. I will find means to have dinner ready against your return, and we will hope that our visitor’s generosity will compensate us for the trouble of cooking his dinner.”
Robin Hood’s Guest