Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 137

The king was interested in these bold yeomen, who dared to avow themselves law-breakers, and bade men bring them to audience with him. The three comrades, with the little boy, on being introduced into the royal presence, knelt down and held up their hands, beseeching pardon for their offences.

“Sire, we beseech your pardon for our breach of your laws. We are forest outlaws, who have slain your [Pg 242] fallow deer in many parts of your royal forests.” “Your names? Tell me at once,” said the king. “Adam Bell, Clym of the Cleugh, and William of Cloudeslee,” they replied.

The king was very wrathful. “Are you those bold robbers of whom men have told me? Do you now dare to come to me for pardon? On mine honour I vow that you shall all three be hanged without mercy, as I am crowned king of this realm of England. Arrest them and lay them in bonds.” There was no resistance possible, and the yeomen submitted ruefully to their arrest. Adam Bell was the first to speak. “As I hope to thrive, this game pleases me not at all,” he said. “Sire, of your mercy, we beg you to remember that we came to you of our own free will, and to let us pass away again as freely. Give us back our weapons and let us have free passage till we have left your palace; we ask no more; we shall never ask another favour, however long we live.”

The king was obdurate, however; he only replied: “You speak proudly still, but you shall all three be hanged.”

The Queen Intercedes

The queen, who was sitting beside her husband, now spoke for the first time. “Sire, it were a pity that such good yeomen should die, if they might in any wise be pardoned.” “There is no pardon,” said the king. She then replied: “My lord, when I first left my native land and came into this country as your bride you promised to grant me at once the first boon I asked. I have never needed to ask one until to-day, but now, sire, I claim one, and I beg you to grant it.” “With all my heart; ask your boon, and it shall be yours willingly.” “Then, I pray you, grant me the lives of these good [Pg 243] yeomen.” “Madam, you might have had half my kingdom, and you ask a worthless trifle.” “Sire, it seems not worthless to me; I beg you to keep your promise.” “Madam, it vexes me that you have asked so little; yet since you will have these three outlaws, take them.” The queen rejoiced greatly. “Many thanks, my lord and husband. I will be surety for them that they shall be true men henceforth. But, good my lord, give them a word of comfort, that they may not be wholly dismayed by your anger.”

News Comes to the King

The king smiled at his wife. “Ah, madam! you will have your own way, as all women will. Go, fellows, wash yourselves, and find places at the tables, where you shall dine well enough, even if it be not on venison pasty from the king’s own forests.”

The outlaws did reverence to the king and queen, and found seats with the king’s guard at the lower tables in the hall. They were still satisfying their appetites when a messenger came in haste to the king; and the three North Countrymen looked at one another uneasily, for they knew the man was from Carlisle. The messenger knelt before the king and presented his letters. “Sire, your officers greet you well.”