Winning the Sheriff's Golden Arrow by
Bertha E. Bush
It was very pleasant in Sherwood Forest to those
who did not fear hardship, and Robin Hood and his
men came to love every tree that grew and every bird
that sang there. They did not mind that they had no
houses to live in. They made themselves shelters of
bark and logs to keep the rain off, and mostly they
stayed in the open. They did not sigh for soft beds or
fine tables and furnishings. They put down rushes
and spread deer skins over them to lie on, and slept
under the stars. They cooked over a great fire built
beside a big tree, and they sat and ate on the ground.
More than a hundred men were in Robin Hood's
band; every one was devoted to him and obeyed his
slightest word. They were the best archers, the best
wrestlers, the best runners and the best wielders of
cudgel and quarter-staff in all the country, and they
grew better continually, for they practiced these things
Robin Hood was the best archer in all the land.
Even the king had heard of his wonderful marksmanship,
and even though he knew him an outlaw, he had
an admiring and almost kindly feeling for this bold
outlaw who shot so marvelously well. But the greedy
lords and churchmen who oppressed the people hated
Robin Hood; and the sheriff of Nottingham hated him
most of all, and wished above all things to hang him
on the gallows.
He was a cruel, hard man with no kindness in his
bosom, and all his spite was turned against Robin
Hood, because every time that he tried to catch him,
Robin outwitted him. Now he was especially angered,
for he had sent a messenger with a warrant to take
Robin Hood and the merry Robin had met the messenger
and feasted him, and then, while he was asleep
after the feast, stolen the very warrant out of his
pocket so that he had to go back to the sheriff without
man or warrant either. So the sheriff of Nottingham
used all his wits to get another plan to take Robin
Hood. It was plainly of no use to send men, no matter
how stout, with warrants after him. He must be
coaxed into their clutches.
"I have it," said the sheriff of Nottingham at last,
with a very sour look on his grim face. "I'll catch
him by craft. I'll proclaim a great archery festival,
and get all the best archers in England to come here
to shoot. I'll offer for the prize an arrow of beaten
gold. That will be sure to fetch Robin Hood and his
men here, and then I'll catch them and hang them."
Now Robin Hood and his men did come to the archery
contest. But they did not come in the suits of Lincoln
green that they wore as men of the forest. Each man
dressed himself up to seem somebody else. Some appeared
as barefoot friars, some as traveling tinkers or
tradesmen, some as beggars, and some as rustic peasants.
Robin Hood was the hardest to recognize of all.
"Don't go, master," his men had begged. "This
archery contest is just a trap to catch you. The sheriff
of Nottingham and his men will be looking for you and
they will know you by your hair and eyes and face and
height, even if you wear different clothes. The sheriff
has made this festival just to lure you to death. Don't
But Robin Hood laughed merrily.
"Why, as to my yellow hair, I can stain that with
walnut stain. As to my eyes, I can cover one of them
with a patch and then my face will not be recognized.
I would scorn to be afraid, and if an adventure is
somewhat dangerous, I like it all the better."
So Robin Hood went, clad from top to toe in tatteredscarlet, the raggedest beggarman that had ever been
seen in Nottingham. The field where the contest was
to be held was a splendid sight. Rows and rows of
benches had been built on it for the gentlefolk to sit
on, and they wore their best clothes and were gayer
than birds of paradise. As for the sheriff and his
wife, they wore velvet, the sheriff purple and his lady
blue. Their rich garments were trimmed with ermine.
They wore broad gold chains around their necks, and
the sheriff had shoes with wondrously pointed toes that
were fastened to his gold-embroidered garters by golden
chains. Oh! they were dressed very splendidly, and
if their faces had been kind, they would have looked
beautiful. But their faces were full of pride and hate.
The sheriff was looking everywhere with spiteful
glances for Robin Hood, and very cross he was that
he did not see Robin there.
But Robin was there, though the sheriff did not see
him. There he stood in his ragged beggar's garments,
not ten feet away from the sheriff.
The targets were placed eighty yards from where
the archers were to stand. Pace that off, and see
what a great distance it is. There were a great number
of archers to shoot and each was to have one shot.
Then the ten who shot best were to shoot two arrows
each; and the three who shot best out of the ten were
to shoot three arrows apiece. The one who came nearest
to the center of the target was to get a prize.
The sheriff looked gloweringly at the ten.
"I was sure that Robin Hood would be among
them," he said to the man-at-arms at his side. "Could
no one of these ten be Robin Hood in disguise?"
"No," answered the man-at-arms. "Six of these I
know well. They are the best archers in England.
There is Gill o' the Red Cap, Diccon Cruikshank,
Adam o' the Dell, William o' Leslie, Hubert o' Cloud,
and Swithin o'Hertford. Of the four beside, one is
too tall and one too short and one not broad-shouldered
enough to be Robin Hood. There remains only this
ragged beggar, and his hair and beard are much too
dark to be Robin Hood's, and beside, he is blind in one
eye. Robin Hood is safe in Sherwood Forest."
Even as he spoke, the man-at-arms was glad, for he
was but a common soldier, and he loved Robin Hood
and wished no harm to come to him. One reason why
Robin Hood got away from the sheriff so many times
was that the common people, even among the sheriff's
own men, were friendly to him and helped him all
they could. The gatekeepers shut their eyes when
Robin Hood went through the gates that they might
say they had not seen him enter. Hardly any one
would betray him, and many, when they knew of evil
being planned against him, sent warning to him. But
even the man-at-arms who loved him did not recognize
Robin Hood today.
The ten made wonderful shots. Not one arrow
failed to come within the circles that surrounded the
center. But when the three shot, it was more wonderful
still. Gill o' the Red Cap's first arrow struck only
a finger's breadth from the center, and his second was
nearer still. But the beggar's arrow struck in the
very center. Adam o' the Dell, who had one more
shot, unstrung his bow when he saw it.
"Fourscore years and more have I shot shaft, and
beaten many competitors, but I can never better that,"
The prize of the golden arrow belonged to the
tattered beggar, but the sheriff's face was very sour
as he gave it to him. He tried to induce him to enter
his service, promising great wages.
"You are the best archer I have ever seen," he
said. "I trow you shoot even better than that rascal
and coward of a Robin Hood who dared not show his
face here today. Will you join my service?"
"No, I will not," answered the scarlet-clad stranger,
and then the sheriff looked at him so spitefully that he
knew it was well to get away. As he walked toward
Sherwood Forest, the sheriff's words rankled.
"I cannot bear to have even my enemy think that I
am a coward," he said to Little John. "I wish there
was a way to tell the sheriff that it was Robin Hood
that won his golden arrow."
And they found a way. That evening the sheriff
sat at supper, and though the supper was a fine one,
his face was gloomy.
"I thought I could catch that rascal Robin Hood by
means of this archery contest," he said to his wife,
"but he was too much of a coward to show his face
Just then something came through the window and
fell rattling among the dishes on the table. It was a
blunted gray goose quill with a bit of writing tied to
it. The sheriff unfolded the writing. It told that it
was Robin Hood who had won the golden arrow.
When the sheriff read it, even his wife thought best to
slip away, for he was the crossest man in Nottingham.