Robin Hood and the King by Bertha E. Bush

"I wish I could see Robin Hood," said King Richard. "I wish I could see him and his men shoot and wrestle and go through all the feats in which they have such wondrous skill. But if they heard that the king was coming, they would think it was only to arrest them, and they would flee deep into the forest and I should never get a glimpse of them."

King Richard spoke kindly, for he was a king who loved all manly sports and those who excelled in them.

"I would give a hundred pounds to see Robin Hood and his men in the greenwood," he said.

"I'll tell you how you can see him without a doubt," spoke up one of the king's trusty companions with a laugh. "Put on the robes of a fat abbot and ride through Sherwood Forest with the hundred pounds in your pouch, and you will be sure to see him and be feasted by him."

"I'll do it," cried bluff King Richard, slapping his knee. "It will be a huge joke."

So he and seven of his followers dressed themselves as an abbot and seven black friars and rode out along the highway toward Sherwood Forest. And Robin Hood and his men took them and brought them to the Trystal Tree, and there they searched them and took the pouch of gold. But they gave half the gold back to the king, for it was not their custom to leave any man in need. They were pleased with these travelers because they did not resist nor rail at them.

"Now we shall give you a feast that will be worth fifty pounds," said Robin Hood.

"I have a good appetite for a feast," said the pretended abbot, "but even more do I desire to see the archery and wrestling and play with the quarter-staff and all those things in which I am told you excel."

"You shall see the very best we can do," answered Robin Hood. "But, I pray you, holy father, lay aside your cowl that you may enjoy this sweet evening air."

"No," answered the mock abbot. "It may not be, for I and my brothers have vowed not to let our faces be seen during this journey."

"Very well, then," said Robin Hood. "I interfere with no man's vows." And he never dreamed that it was the king.

They gave them a splendid feast of roasted venison and pheasant and fish and wild fowls, all done to a turn over the roaring fire, and the best of drink. Then they arranged the sports.

The target was a garland of leaves and flowers that was hung six score paces distant upon a stake. It was a mark that only the best of archers could hit at all.

"Now shoot!" said Robin Hood. "You shall each of you have three shots, and every one who fails to place his arrows within the garland shall forfeit the arrow and receive beside a box on the side of the head as stout as can be given."

"Can any one hit inside that little garland at such a distance?" asked the king in amaze.

"Look and see," answered Robin Hood proudly.

First, David of Doncaster shot, and lodged all three arrows within the garland, while the king looked on, astonished. Then Midge, the miller's son, and he also placed all his arrows inside of the garland. Then Wat the Tinker drew his bow; but he was unlucky, for one of his arrows missed the mark by the breadth of two fingers.

"Come here and take your punishment," called Robin Hood. The king supposed that, since he had missed by so little, he would receive but a light tap, but he got a blow that knocked him spinning across the grass, heels over head.

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed his comrades, and "O ho!" thought King Richard, "I am glad I am not in this." But he was much impressed with the way Robin Hood's men obeyed him.

"They are better to follow his commands than my servants are to follow mine," he thought.

The shooting went on, and most of the men shot their arrows within the garland, but a few missed and received tremendous buffets.

Last Robin Hood shot. His first shaft split off a piece of the stake on which the garland was hung. His second lodged a scant inch from the first. But the last arrow he shot was feathered faultily, and it swerved to one side, and smote an inch outside of the garland.

Then all the company roared with good-natured laughter, for it was seldom indeed that they saw their master miss.

"Go and take your punishment, master," said Midge, the miller's son. "I hope it will be as heavy as Wat's."

"Well," said Robin Hood, "I will forfeit my arrow to our guest and take my buffet from him."

Now the merry Robin was somewhat crafty in this, for, though he did not mind hard knocks at all, he did not like the thought of being sent sprawling before his band. The hands of churchmen were soft, and their strongest blows but feeble, for they did not work nor use their muscles much. But the pretended abbot bared an arm so stout and muscular that it made the yeomen stare. Robin Hood placed himself fairly in front of him and he struck a blow that would have felled an ox. Down went Robin Hood on the ground rolling over and over, and his men fairly shouted with laughter.

"Well," said Robin Hood, sitting up, half dazed, "I did not think that there was an arm in England that could strike such a blow. Who are you, man? I'll warrant you are no churchman as you seem."

Then Richard threw his cowl, and Robin knew his king. If he had been a disloyal man as well as an outlaw, he would have trembled then. But, though he knelt at the king's feet and signalled all his men to kneel, his voice was not ashamed.

"Your majesty," he said, "you have no subjects in all England more loyal to you than I and my merry men. We have done no evil except to certain of the greedy and rich who oppressed your subjects. We crave your pardon if we have done wrong, and we beg for your protection, and swear that we will ever serve you faithfully."

Then the king looked down in amazement that an outlaw should speak so. But he knew men, and he knew what people said of Robin Hood. And he knew, too, that he was the best archer in all England and he wanted him in his own train.

"I will forgive all your law-breaking," he said, "if you will come with me to my court and serve me there. You shall take Little John and Will Scarlet and Allen-a-Dale, who is the sweetest singer I ever heard; and the rest of your men I will make into royal rangers, since I judge that they can protect Sherwood Forest better than any others."

So Robin Hood left the greenwood and went to the king's court and he served King Richard well. But he did not like the confinement of the court and could not abide the gaieties and jealousies of the courtiers. After King Richard died, his brother John took the throne, and he was one of the worst kings that ever ruled England. Then Robin Hood went back to the forest and his merry men gathered around him once more, and again they became outlaws. And there in the forest he lived till he died.