YOUNG ROBIN HOOD
G. MANVILLE FENN
Author of "The Little Skipper," "Our Soldier Boy," etc.
WITH TWENTY-THREE ILLUSTRATIONS
Sit still, will you? I never saw such a boy: wriggling about like
a young eel."
"I can't help it, David," said the little fellow so roughly spoken
to by a sour-looking serving man; "the horse does jog so, and it's
so slippery. If I didn't keep moving I should go off."
"You'll soon go off if you don't keep a little quieter," growled
the man angrily, "for I'll pitch you among the bushes."
"No, you won't," said the boy laughing. "You daren't do so."
"What! I'll let you see, young master. I want to know why they
couldn't let you have a donkey or a mule, instead of hanging you on
"Aunt said I should be safer behind you," said the boy; "but I'm
not. It's so hard to hold on by your belt, because you're so——"
"Look here. Master Robin, I get enough o' that from the men. If
you say I'm so fat, I'll pitch you into the first patch o' brambles
we come to."
"But you are fat," said the boy; "and you dare not. If you did my
father would punish you."
"He wouldn't know."
"Oh! yes he would, David," said the little fellow, confidently;
"the other men would tell him."
"They wouldn't know," said the man with a chuckle. "I say, aren't
"No," said the boy. "What of, tumbling off? I could jump."
"'Fraid of going through this great dark forest?"
"No. What is there to be afraid of?"
"Robbers and thieves, and all sorts of horrid things. Why, we
might meet Robin Hood and his men."
"I should like that," said the boy.
"What?" cried the serving man, and he looked round at the great oak
and beech trees through which the faintly marked road lay, and then
forward and backward at the dozen mules, laden with packs of cloth,
every two of which were led by an armed man. "You'd like that?"
"Yes," said the boy. "I want to see him."
"Here's a pretty sort of a boy," said the man. "Why, he'd eat you
like a radish."
"No, he wouldn't," said the boy, "because I'm not a bit like a
radish; and I say, David, do turn your belt round."
"Turn my belt round?" said the man, in astonishment. "What for?"
"So as to put the sword the other side. It does keep on banging my
legs so. They're quite bruised."
"It's me that'll be bruised, with you punching and sticking your
fisties into my belt. Put your legs on the other side. I can't
move my sword. I might want it to fight, you know."
"Who with?" asked the boy.
"Robbers after the bales o' cloth. I shall be precious glad to get
'em safe to the town, and be back home again with whole bones. Sit
still, will you! Wriggling again! How am I to get you safe home
to your father if you keep sidling off like that? Want me to hand
you over to one of the men?"
"Yes, please," said the boy, dolefully.
"What? Don't want to ride on one of the mules, do you?"
"Yes, I do," said the boy. "I should be more comfortable sitting
on one of the packs. I'm sure aunt would have said I was to sit
there, if she had known."
"Look here, young squire," said the man, sourly; "you've too much
tongue, and you know too much what aren't good for you. Your aunt,
my old missus, says to me:
"'David,' she says, 'you are to take young Master Robin behind you
on the horse, where he can hold on by your belt, and you'll never
lose sight of him till you give him into his father the Sheriff's
hands, along with the bales of cloth; and you can tell the Sheriff
he has been a very good boy during his visit'; and now I can't."
"Why can't you?" said the boy, sharply.
"'Cause you're doing nothing but squirming and working about behind
my saddle. I shall never get you to the town, if you go on like
The boy puckered up his forehead, and was silent as he wondered
whether he could manage to sit still for the two hours which were
yet to elapse before they stopped for the night at a village on the
outskirts of Sherwood Forest, ready to go on again the next morning.
"I liked stopping with aunt at Ellton," said the little fellow to
himself, sadly, "and I should like to go again; but I should like
to be fetched home next time, for old David is so cross every time
I move, and——"
"Look here, young fellow," growled the man, half turning in his
saddle; "if you don't sit still I'll get one of the pack ropes and
tie you on, like a sack. I never see such a fidgety young elver in
my——Oh, look at that!"
The man gave a tug at his horse's rein; but it was not needed, for
the stout cob had cocked its ears forward and stopped short, just
as the mules in front whisked themselves round, and the men who
drove them began to huddle together in a group.
For all at once the way was barred by about a dozen men in rough
weather-stained green jerkins, each with a long bow and a sheaf of
arrows at his back, and a long quarter-staff in his hand.
David, confidential servant and head man to Aunt Hester, of the
cloth works at Ellton, looked sharply round at the half-dozen
heavily-laden mules behind him; and beyond them he saw another
dozen or so of men, and more were coming from among the trees to
right and left.
"Hoi! all of you," cried David to his men. "Swords out! We must
fight for the mistress's cloth."
As he spoke, he seized the hilt of his sword and began to tug at
it; but it would not leave its sheath, and all the while he was
kicking at his horse's ribs with his heels, with the result that
the stout cob gave a kick and a plunge, lowered its head, and
dashed off at a gallop, with David holding on to the pommel.
Two of the men made a snatch at the reins, but they were too late,
and turned to the mule-drivers, who were following their leader's
example and trying to escape amongst the trees, leaving the mules
huddled together, squealing and kicking in their fright.
Young Robin just saw two packages roll to the ground as the cob
dashed off; then he was holding on with all his might to old
David's belt as the cob galloped away with half-a-dozen of the
robbers trying to cut it off.
[Illustration: The stout cob dashed of at a gallop, with David
holding on to the pommel.]
Then the little fellow felt that he was being jerked and knocked
and bruised, as the horse tore along with David, head and neck
stretched out. There was a rush under some low boughs, and another
rush over a patch of brambles and tall bracken; then the cob made a
bold dash at a dense mass of low growth, when there was a violent
jerk as he made a bound, followed by a feeling as if the boy's arms
were being torn out at the shoulders, a rush through the air, a
heavy blow, and a sensation of tearing, and all was, giddiness and
It is not nice to be pitched by a man off a horse's back on to the
top of your head.
That is what young Robin thought as he sat up and rubbed the place,
looking very rueful and sad.
But he did not seem to be entirely alone there in the dense forest,
for there was another young robin, with large eyes and a speckled
jacket, sitting upon a twig and watching him intently. Robin could
think of nothing but himself, his aching head, and his scratches,
some of which were bleeding.
Then he listened, and fancied that he heard shouting, with the
trampling of mules and the breaking of twigs.
But he was giddy and puzzled, and after struggling through some
undergrowth he sat down upon what looked like a green velvet
cushion; but it was only the moss-covered root of a great beech
tree, which covered him like a roof and made all soft and shady.
And now it was perfectly quiet, and it seemed restful after being
shaken and jerked about on the horse's back. Robin was tired too,
and the dull, half-stupefied state of his brain stopped him from
being startled by his strange position. His head ached though, and
it seemed nice to rest it, and he stretched himself out on the moss
and looked up through the leaves of the great tree, where he could
see in one place the ruddy rays of the evening sun glowing, and
then he could see nothing—think nothing.
Then he could think, though he still could not see, for it was very
dark and silent and strange, and for some minutes he could not
understand why he was out there on the moss instead of being in
Aunt Hester's house at Elton, or at home in Nottingham town.
But he understood it all at once, recollecting what had taken
place, and for a time he felt very, very miserable. It was
startling, too, when from close at hand someone seemed to begin
questioning him strangely by calling out:
But at the end of a minute or two he knew it was an owl, and soon
after he was fast asleep and did not think again till the sun was
shining brightly, and he sat up waiting for old David to come and
pull him up on the horse again.
Robin waited, for he was afraid to move.
"If I begin to wander about," he said to himself, "David will not
find me, and he will go home and tell father I'm lost, when all the
time he threw me off the horse because he was afraid and wanted to
So the boy sat still, waiting to be fetched. The robin came and
looked at him again, as if wondering that he did not pull up
flowers by the roots and dig, so that worms and grubs might be
found, and finally flitted away.
Then all at once there was the pattering of feet, and half-a-dozen
deer came into sight, with soft dappled coats, and one of them with
large flat pointed horns; but at the first movement Robin made they
dashed off among the trees in a series of bounds.
Then there was another long pause, and Robin was thinking how
hungry he was, when something dropped close to him with a loud rap,
and looking up sharply, he caught sight of a little keen-eyed
bushy-tailed animal, looking down from a great branch as if in
search of something it had let fall.
"Squirrel!" said Robin aloud, and the animal heard and saw him at
the same moment, showing its annoyance at the presence of an
intruder directly. For it began to switch its tail and scold after
its fashion, loudly, its utterances seeming like a repetition of
the word "chop" more or less quickly made.
Finding its scolding to be in vain, and that the boy would not go,
the squirrel did the next best thing—bounded along from bough to
bough; while, after waiting wearily in the hope of seeing David,
the boy began to look round this tree and the next, and finally
made his way some little distance farther into the forest, to be
startled at last by a harsh cry which was answered from first one
place and then another by the noisy party of jays that had been
disturbed in their happy solitude.
To Robin it was just as if the first one had cried "Hoi! I say,
here's a boy." And weary with waiting, and hungry as he was, the
constant harsh shouting irritated the little fellow so that he
hurried away followed by quite a burst of what seemed to be mocking
cries, with the intention of finding the track leading across the
forest; but he had not gone far before he found himself in an open
glade, dotted with beautiful great oak trees, and nearly covered
with the broad leaves of the bracken, which were agitated by
something passing through and beneath, giving forth a grunting
sound. Directly after he caught sight of a long black back, then
of others, and he saw that he was close to a drove of small black
pigs, hunting for acorns. One of the pigs found him at the same
moment and saluted him with a sharp, barking sound wonderfully like
that of a dog.
This was taken up directly by the other members of the drove, who
with a great deal of barking and grunting came on to the attack,
for they did not confine themselves to threatening, their life in
the forest making them fierce enough to be dangerous.
Robin's first thought was to run away, but he knew that four legs
are better than two for getting over the ground, and felt that the
drove would attack him more fiercely if they saw that he was afraid.
His next idea was to climb 'up into the fork of one of the big
trees, but he knew that there was not time. So he obeyed his third
notion, which was to jump to where a big piece of dead wood lay,
pick it up, and hit the foremost pig across the nose with it.
That blow did wonders; it made the black pig which received it
utter a dismal squeal, and its companions stop and stand barking
and snapping all around him. But the blow broke the piece of dead
wood in two, and the fierce little animals were coming on again,
when a voice cried:
"Hi! you! knocking our tigs about!" And a rough boy about a couple
of years older than Robin rushed into the middle of the herd,
kicking first at one and then at another, banging them with a long
hooked stick he held, and making them run squealing in all
directions. "What are you knocking our tigs about for?" cried the
boy sharply, as he stared hard at the strange visitor to the
forest, his eyes looking greedily at the little fellow's purple and
white jerkin and his cap with a little white feather in it.
"They were coming to bite me," said Robin quickly, while it struck
him as funny that the boy should knock the pigs about himself.
"What are you doing here?" said the boy.
Robin told of his misfortune, and finished by saying:
"I'm so hungry, and I want to go home. Where can I get some
"Dunno," said the boy. "Have some of these?"
He took a handful of acorns from a dirty satchel, and held them
out, Robin catching at them eagerly, putting one between his white
teeth, and biting it, but only to make a face full of disgust.
"It's bitter," he said. "It's not good to eat."
"Makes our tigs fat," said the boy; "look at 'em."
"But I'm not a pig," said Robin. "I want some bread and milk.
Where can I get some?"
The boy shook his head.
"Where do you live?" asked Robin.
"Along o' master."
The boy shook his head and stared at the cap and feather, one of
his hands opening and shutting.
"Will you show me the way home, then?"
The boy shook his head again, and now stared at the velvet jerkin,
then at his own garb, which consisted of a piece of sack with slits
in it for his head and arms to come through, and a strip of
cow-skin for a belt to hold it in.
"I could show you where to get something," he said at last.
"Well, show me," cried Robin.
"You give me that jacket and cap, then," cried the boy, in a husky,
"Give you my clothes?" said Robin, wonderingly. "I can't do that."
"Then I shall take 'em?" said the boy, in a husky growl.
"I'm so hungry," cried Robin. "Show me where to get something, and
I'll give you my cap and feather."
"I wants the jacket too," said the boy.
"I tell you I can't give you that," cried Robin.
"Then I means to take it."
Robin shrank away, and the boy turned upon him fiercely.
"None of that," he cried. "See this here stick? If you was to try
to run away I should send it spinning after you, and it would break
your legs and knock you down, and I could send the tigs after you,
and they'd soon bring you back."
Robin drew a deep breath; he felt hot, and his hands clenched as he
longed to strike out at his tyrant. But the young swineherd was
big and strong, and the little fellow knew that he could do next to
nothing against such an enemy.
Then there was a pause. Robin stood, hot, excited, and panting;
the herd-boy threw himself down on his chest, rested his chin upon
his hands, as he stared fiercely at Robin, and kicked his feet up
and down; while the pigs roamed here and there, nuzzling the fallen
acorns out from the bracken, and crunching them up loudly.
Robin wanted to run, and he did not want to run, and all at the
same time, for his strongest desire just then was to fight his
tyrant; and for some minutes neither spoke.
At last the big boy said, in a low, growling way:
"Now then, are you going to give me them things?"
"No," said Robin, through his set teeth; and again there was
"You give 'em to me, and I'll show you the way to where they live
and they'll give you roast deer and roast pig p'raps, for two of
ourn's gone. Master says he counted 'em, and they aren't all
there, and he wales me with a strap because I let them take the
pigs, and next time he counts 'em there's more than there was
before, but he's whipped me all the same. You give me them things,
and I'll take you where you'll get lots to eat, and milk and eggs
and apples. D'yer hear?"
"I won't give them to you. I can't—I mustn't," cried Robin
The boy said nothing, but looked away at his pigs, two of which
"Ah, would you?" he cried; and he made believe to rush at them with
his big hook-handled stick.
Robin was thrown off his guard, and before he was aware of it the
boy made a side leap and, dropping his stick, seized him, threw him
over on his back, and sat astride upon his chest.
"Now won't you give em to me?" cried the herd-boy; and he whipped
off the cap and threw it to a little distance, with the result that
half a dozen pigs rushed at it; and as he made a brave fight to get
rid of his enemy, the last that Robin saw of his velvet cap and
plume was that one black pig tore out the feather, while another
was champing the velvet in his mouth.
It was a brave fight, but all in vain, and a few minutes later the
boy was standing triumphantly over poor Robin, with the gay jerkin
rolled up under his arm; and the little fellow struggled to his
feet in his trunk hose and white linen shirt, hot, angry, and torn,
and wishing with all his might that he were as big and strong as
the tyrant who had mastered him.
"I told yer I would," said the young ruffian, with a grin. "You
should ha' given 'em to me at first, and then I shouldn't have hurt
yer. Come on; I'll show yer now where yer can get something to
In his anger and shame Robin felt that he wanted no food now, only
to go and hide himself away among the trees; but his enemy's next
words had their effect.
"You didn't want this here," he said. "You've got plenty on you
now. Better nor I have. There, go straight on there, and I'll
show yer. D'yer hear?"
"I don't want to go now," said Robin fiercely.
"Oh, don't yer? Then I do. You're agoing afore I makes yer, and
when they've give yer a lot, you're going to eat part and bring
some to me so's I can help eat the rest. You bring a lot, mind,
'cause I can eat ever so much. Now then, go on."
"I can't—I don't want to," cried Robin. "You go first."
"What, and master come, p'raps, and find me gone! Likely! he'd
give me the strap again. There, get on."
Robin winced, for the young ruffian picked up his stick and poked
him as he would one of his pigs. But the little fellow could not
help himself, and he went on in the required direction among the
trees, the forest growing darker and darker, till suddenly voices
were heard, and the boy stopped,
"You go straight along there," he said, "and I'll wait."
"No, you go," said Robin. "You know them."
"Oh! yes, and them want some more pigs! Want me to be leathered
Robin said "No," but he felt all the time that he should like to
see the young tyrant flogged and forced to return the folded up
doublet; and he thought sadly of his spoiled and lost cap.
"Now then, don't you be long," cried the young swineherd, and he
raised his stick threateningly, and made another thrust at Robin,
which was avoided; and feeling desperate now as well as hungry,
feeling too, that it would be better to fall into any other hands,
the little fellow ran on, following a faint track in and out among
the trees, till he came suddenly into an opening, face to face with
a group of fifty or sixty people busily engaged around a heap
beneath a spreading beech tree.
Robin's first act was to stand and stare, for the heap consisted of
bales similar to those with which he had seen the mules laden a
couple of days back, and tied up together a few yards away were the
very mules, while the little crowd of men who were busy bore a very
strong resemblance to those by whom the attack was made on the
Robin knew nothing in those days about the old proverb of jumping
out of the frying-pan into the fire, but he felt something of the
kind as he found himself face to face with the marauders who had
seized upon the bales of cloth and put his aunt's servants to
flight, and without a moment's hesitation he turned and began to
hurry back, but ran into the arms of a huge fellow who caught him
up as if he had been a baby.
[Illustration: Robin ran into the arms of a huge fellow, who caught
him up as if he had been a baby.]
"Hullo, giant!" cried the big man, "who are you?" And the party of
men with him, armed with long bows and arrows, began to laugh
"Let me go—let me go!" cried the boy, struggling angrily.
"Steady, steady, my little Cock Robin," said the man, in his big
bluff way; "don't fight, or you'll ruffle your feathers."
The boy ceased struggling directly.
"How did you know my name was Robin?" he said.
"Guessed it, little one. There, I shan't hurt you. Where do you
"Ellton," said the boy.
"But what are you doing here in the forest?"
"You came and fought David, and frightened him and the men away,
and those are our mules and the cloth."
Robin stopped short, for the big man broke out into a loud whistle,
and then laughed.
"Oh, that's it, is it?" he said; "and so your name's Robin, is it?"
The little fellow nodded. "Yes," he said. "What's yours?"
"John," said the great fellow, laughing heartily; "and they call me
little because I'm so big. What do you think of that?"
"I think it's very stupid," said the boy. "I thought you must be
"Then you thought wrong. But if you thought that this one was you
would be right. Here he comes." The boy looked in wonder at a
tall man who looked short beside Little John, as he came up in coat
of green with brown belt, a sword by his side, quiver of arrows
hung on his back, and longbow in his hand.
"What woodland bird have you got here, John?" he said. And the boy
saw that he smiled pleasantly and did not look fierce or
"A young Robin," said the big fellow; "part of yesterday's plunder."
"I want to find my way home," said the boy. "Will you please show
"But you did not come here into the forest in shirt and hose, did
you, my little man?" said the great outlaw.
"No; someone took my cap and doublet away, sir."
Robin Hood frowned.
"Who was it?" he cried angrily. "Find out, John, and he shall have
a bowstring about his back. Point out the man who stripped you, my
little lad," he continued, turning to the boy.
"It wasn't a man," said the little fellow, "but a boy who minds
"What, a young swineherd!" cried the outlaw, laughing. "Why did
you let him? Why didn't you fight for your clothes like a man?"
"I did," said young Robin stoutly; "but he was so big, he knocked
me down and sat upon me."
"Oh! that makes all the difference. How big was he—big as this
Young Robin glanced at the giant who had caught him, and shook his
"No," he said; "not half, so big as he is. But he was stronger
than I am."
"So I suppose. Well, bring him along. Little John, and let's see if
the women can find him some clothes and a cap. You would like
something more to wear, wouldn't you?"
"I should like something to eat,"' said the boy sadly. "I have not
had anything since breakfast."
"That's not so very long," said Robin Hood. "We have not had
anything since breakfast."
"But I mean since breakfast yesterday," said young Robin piteously.
"What!" cried Little John. "Why, the poor boy's starved. But we
can soon mend that. Come here!"
Young Robin's first movement was to shrink from the big fellow, but
he smiled down in such a bluff, amiable way, that the boy gave him
his hands, and in an instant he was swung up and sitting six feet
in the air upon the great fellow's shoulder, and then rode off to
an open-fronted shed-like place thatched with reeds, Robin Hood,
with his bow over his shoulder, walking by the side.
"Here, Marian," cried the outlaw, and young Robin's heart gave a
throb and he made a movement to get down to go to the sweet-faced
woman who came hurriedly out, wide-eyed and wondering, in her green
kirtle, her long soft naturally curling hair rippling down her
back, but confined round her brow by a plain silver band in which a
few woodland flowers were placed.
"Oh! Robin," she cried, flushing with pleasure; "who is this?"
"It is some one for you to take care of," said the outlaw, who
smiled at the bright look in the girl's face. "He is both hungry
and tired, and his people ran away and left him alone in the
"Oh, my dear!" she cried, as Little John lightly jumped the boy
down at her feet. "Come along."
Young Robin put his hand in hers and gave her a look full of trust
and confidence, before turning to the two men, for all his troubles
seemed over now.
"Thank you for bringing me here," he said; "but are you bold Robin
Hood and Little John, of whom I've heard my father talk?"
"I daresay we are the men he has talked about," said the outlaw
smiling; "but who is your father, and what did he say?"
"My father is the Sheriff of Nottingham," said the boy, "and he
said that he was going to catch you and your men some day, for you
were very wicked and bad. But he did not know how good and kind
you are, and I shall tell him when you send me home."
The two men exchanged glances with Maid Marian.
"We shall see," said the outlaw; "but you are nearly starved,
"Yes, very, very hungry," said the boy, looking piteously at his
new protector, whose hand he held.
"Hungry?" she cried.
"Yes, he has had nothing since yesterday morning; but you can cure
"Oh, my dear, my dear!" cried the woman. And she hurried young
Robin beneath the shelter, and in a very short time he was smiling
up in her face in his thankfulness, for she had placed before him a
bowl of sweet new milk and some of the nicest bread he had ever
As he ate hungrily he had to answer Maid Marian's questions about
who he was and how he came there, which he did readily, and it did
not strike him as being very dreadful that the mules and their
loads had been seized, for old David had been very cross and severe
with him for getting tired, and these people in the forest were
It was a very strange life for a boy who had been accustomed to
every comfort, but young Robin enjoyed it, for everything seemed to
be so new and fresh, and the men treated him as if he had come to
them for the purpose of being made into a pet.
They were, of course, fierce outlaws and robbers, ready to turn
their bows and swords against anyone; but the poor people who lived
in and about the forest liked and helped them, for Robin Hood's men
never did them harm, while as to young Robin, they were all eager
to take him out with them and show him the wonders of the forest.
On the second day after his arrival in the camp, the boy asked when
he was to be shown the way home, and he asked again on the third
day, but only to be told each time that he should go soon.
On the fourth day he forgot to ask, for he was busy with big Little
John, who smiled with satisfaction when young Robin chose to stay
with him instead of going with some of the men into the forest
after a deer.
Young Robin forgot to ask when he was to be shown the way home,
because Little John had promised to make him a bow and arrows and
to teach him how to use them. The great tall outlaw kept his word
too, and long before evening he hung a cap upon a broken bough of
an oak tree and set young Robin to work about twenty yards away
shooting arrows at the mark.
"You've got to hit that every time you shoot," said Little John;
"and when you can do that at twenty yards you have got to do it at
forty. Now begin."
For the bow was ready and made of a piece of yew, and half a dozen
arrows had been finished.
"Think you can hit it?" said Little John, after showing the boy how
to string his bow and fit the notch of the arrow to the string.
"Oh! yes," said Robin confidently.
"That's right! then you will soon be able to kill a deer."
"But I don't want to kill a deer," said the boy. "I want to see
some, but I shouldn't like to kill one."
"Wait till you're hungry, my fine fellow," said Little John,
laughing. "But my word! you look fine this morning; just like one
of us. Did Maid Marian make you that green jerkin?"
"Yes," said the boy.
"That's right; so's your cap and feather. But now then, try if you
can hit the cap. Draw the arrow right to the head before you let
it go. My word, what funny little fumbling fingers yours are!"
"Are they?" cried Robin, who thought that his teacher's hands were
the biggest he had ever seen.
"Like babies' fingers," said Little John, smiling down at the boy
as if very much amused. "Now then, draw right to the head."
"I can't," said the boy; "it's so hard."
"That's because you are not used to it, little one. Try again.
Hold tight, and pull hard. Steadily. That's the way. Now loose
it and let it go."
Young Robin did as he was told, and away went the arrow down
between the trees, to fall with its feathered wings just showing
above the fallen leaves.
"That didn't hit the cap," said Little John. "Never went near."
Young Robin shook his head.
"Did you look at the cap when you loosed the arrow?"
"No," said Robin; "I shut my eyes."
"Try again then, and keep them open."
Robin tried and tried again till he had sent off all six of his
shafts, and then he stood and looked up at Little John, and Little
John looked down at him.
"You couldn't kill a deer for dinner to-day," said the big fellow.
"No," said young Robin; "it's so hard. Could you have hit it?"
"I think I could if I stood ten times as far away," said the great
"Oh, do try, please," cried Robin.
"Very well; only let's pick up your arrows first, or we may lose
some of them. Always pick up your arrows while they are fresh—I
mean, while you can remember where they are."
The shafts were picked up, mostly by Little John, whose eyes were
very sharp at seeing where the little arrows lay; and then they
walked back, and Robin had to run by his big companion's side, for
he began to stride away, counting as he went, till he had taken two
hundred steps from the tree all along one of the alleys of the
forest, when he stopped short.
"Now then, my little bowman," he said; "think I can hit the mark
"No," said Robin decisively; "we're too far away. I can hardly see
"Well, let's try," said Little John, stringing his bow, and then
carefully selecting an arrow from the quiver at his back. This
arrow he drew two or three times through his hand so as to smooth
the feathering and make the web lie straight, before fitting the
notch to the string.
"So you think it's too far?" said Little John.
"Yes, ever so much."
"Ah, well, we'll try," said the big fellow coolly. "Where-about
shall I hit the cap—in the middle?"
[Illustration: "Ah, well, we'll try," said Little John.
"Whereabouts shall I hit the cap?"]
"No," said Robin; "just at the top of the brim."
"Very well," said the big fellow, standing up very straight and
rather sidewise, as he held his bow at his left arm's length,
slowly drew the arrow to the head, and then as Robin gazed in the
direction of the indistinctly seen hat hanging on the tree-trunk—
The arrow had been loosed, and the bow had given forth a strange
deep musical sound.
Robin looked sharply at Little John, and the big outlaw looked down
"Where did that arrow go?" said the boy.
"Let's see," said Little John.
"I don't think we shall ever find it again," continued Robin.
They walked back, the outlaw very slowly, and Robin quite fast so
as to keep up with him.
"Perhaps not," said Little John, "but I don't often lose my arrows."
"This one has gone right through the ferns," thought Robin, and he
felt glad with the thought of the big fellow having missed the
mark, but as they walked nearer, he kept his eyes fixed upon the
great trunk dimly seen in the shade, being tripped up twice by the
bracken fronds; but he saved himself from a fall and watched the
tree trunk still, while the hat hanging on the old bough grew
plainer, just as it had been before.
They had walked back nearly three parts of the way when Robin
suddenly saw something which made him start, for there was a tiny
bit of something white above something dark, and those marks were
not on the brim of the hat before.
The next minute Robin's eyes began to open wider, for he knew that
he was looking at the feathered end of the arrow, pointing straight
at him; and directly after, as he stepped a little on one side to
avoid an ant-hill, he could see the whole of the arrow except the
point, which had passed through the brim of the hat.
"Why, you hit it!" he cried excitedly.
"Well, that's what I tried to do," said Little John.
"But you hit it just in the place I said."
"Yes, you told me to," said Little John, smiling. "That's how you
must learn to shoot when you grow up to be a man."
Young Robin said nothing, but stood rubbing one ear very gently,
and staring at the hat.
"Well," said Little John, smiling down at his companion, "what are
you thinking about?"
"I was thinking that it is very wonderful for you to stand so far
off and shoot like that."
"Were you, now?" said Little John. "Well, it is not wonderful at
all. If you keep on trying for years you will be able to do it
quite as well. I'll teach you. Shall I?"
"I should like you to," said Robin, shaking his head; "but I can't
stop here. I must go home to my father."
"Oh! must you?" said Little John. "Go home to your father and
Robin shook his head.
"No," he said; "my mother's dead, and I live sometimes with father
and sometimes with aunt. I am going home to father now, as soon as
you show me the way. When are you going to show me?"
Little John screwed up his face till it was full of wrinkles.
"Ah," he said, "I don't know. You must ask the captain."
"Who is the captain?" said the boy.
"Eh? Why, Robin Hood, of course. But I wouldn't ask him just yet."
"Eh? Why not? Because it might be awkward. You see, it's a long
way, and you couldn't go by yourself."
"Well, you could show me," said young Robin. "You would, wouldn't
"I would if I could," said Little John; "but I'm afraid I couldn't."
"Oh! you could, I'm sure," said young Robin. "You're so big."
"Oh! yes, I'm big enough," said Little John, laughing; "but if I
were to take you home your father would not let me come back again;
and besides, the captain would not let me go for fear that I should
"Killed?" said the boy, staring at his big companion.
"Why, who would kill you?"
"Your father, perhaps."
"What, for being kind to me?"
"I can't explain all these things to you, mite. Here's someone
coming. Let's ask him. Hi! Captain! Young squire wants me to
take him home."
Robin Hood, who had just caught sight of the pair and come up,
smiled and shook his head.
"Not yet, little one," he said. "I can't spare big Little John.
Why, aren't you happy here in the merry greenwood under the trees?
I thought you liked us."
"So I do," said young Robin, "and I should like to stay ever so
long and watch the deer and the birds, and learn to shoot with my
bow and arrows."
"That's right. Well said, little one," cried Robin Hood, patting
the boy on the head.
"But I'm afraid that my father will be very cross if I don't try to
"Then try and make yourself happy, my boy," said Robin Hood, "for
you have tried hard to go home, and you cannot go."
"Why?" said young Robin.
"For a dozen reasons," said the outlaw, smiling. "Here are some:
you could not find your way; you would starve to death in the
forest; you might meet people who would behave worse to you than
the young swineherd, or encounter wild beasts; then, biggest reason
of all: I will not let you go."
Young Robin was silent for a moment or two, and then he said
"You might tell Little John to take me home. My father would be so
glad to see him."
Robin Hood and the big fellow just named looked at one another and
"Yes," said Robin Hood, patting the boy on the shoulder, "now
that's just it. Your father, the Sheriff, would be so glad to see
Little John that he would keep him altogether; and I can't spare
"I don't think my father would be so unkind," said Robin.
"But I am sure he would, little man," said the outlaw. "He'd be so
glad to get him that he would spoil him. Eh, John? What do you
"Ay, that he would," said Little John, shaking his head. "He'd be
sure to spoil me. He'd cut me shorter, perhaps, or else hang me up
for an ornament. No, my little man, I couldn't take you home."
"There," said the outlaw, smiling; "you must wait, my boy. Try and
be contented as you are. Maid Marian's very kind to you, is she
"Oh! yes," cried the boy, with his face lighting up, "and that's
why I don't want to go."
"Hullo!" growled Little John. "Why, you said just now that you did
want to go!" "Did I?" said the boy thoughtfully.
"To be sure you did. What do you mean."
"I mean," said the boy, looking wistfully from one to the other,
"that I feel as if I ought to go home, but I think I should like to
"Hurrah!" cried Little John, taking off and waving his hat. "Hear
that, captain? You've got another to add to your merry men. Young
Robin and I make a capital pair. Come along, youngster, and let's
practise shooting at the mark, and then we'll make enough arrows to
fill your quiver."
Five minutes later young Robin was standing as he had been placed
by his big companion, who sat down and watched him while he
sturdily drew the notch of his arrow right to his ear, and then
loosed the whizzing shaft to go flying away through the woodland
shade, while Little John shouted as gleefully as some big boy.
"Hurrah! Well done, little one! There it is, sticking in yonder
"As far as you like, Robin," said the outlaw, "only you must be
wise. Don't go far enough to lose your way. Learn the forest by
degrees. Some day you will not be able to lose yourself."
"But suppose I did lose myself," said the boy; "what then?"
"I should have to tell Little John to bring all my merry men to
look for you, and Maid Marian here would sit at home and cry till
you were found."
"Then I will not lose myself," said Robin. And he always
remembered his promise when he took his bow and arrows and, with
his sword hanging from his belt, went away from the outlaws' camp
for a long ramble.
His bow was just as high as he was himself, that being the rule in
archery, and his arrows, beautifully made by Little John, were just
half the length of his bow.
As to his sword, that was a dagger in a green shark-skin sheath
given to him by Robin Hood, who said rightly enough that it was
quite big enough for him.
Maid Marian found a suitable buckle for the belt, one which Little
John cut out of a very soft piece of deer-skin, the same skin
forming the cross-belt which went over the boy's shoulder and
supported his horn.
For he was supplied with a horn as well, this being necessary in
the forest, and Robin Hood himself taught him in the evenings how
to blow the calls by fitting his lips to the mouthpiece and
altering the tone by placing his hand inside the silver rim which
formed the mouth.
It was not easy, but the little fellow soon learned. All the same,
though, he made some strange sounds at first, bad enough, Little
John declared, to give one of Maid Marian's cows the tooth-ache,
and frighten the herds of deer farther and farther away.
That was only at the first, for young Robin very soon became quite
a woodman, learning fast to sound his horn, to shoot and hit his
mark, and to find his way through the great wilderness of open
moorland and shady trees.
But it was more than once that he lost his way, for the trees and
beaten tracks were so much alike and all was so beautiful that it
was easy to wander on and forget all about finding the way back
through the sun-dappled shades.
And so it happened that one morning when the outlaw band had gone
off hunting, to bring back a couple of fat deer for Robin Hood's
larder, young Robin started by himself, bow in hand, down one of
the lovely beech glades, and had soon gone farther than he had been
The squirrels dropped the beech mast and dashed away through the
trees, to chop and scold at him; the rabbits started from out of
the ferns and raced away fast, showing the under part of their
white cotton tails, before they plunged into their shady burrows;
and twice over, as the boy softly passed out of the shade into some
sunny opening, he came upon little groups of deer—beautiful
large-eyed thin-legged does, with their fawns—grazing peacefully
on the soft grass which grew in patches between the tufts of golden
prickly furze, for they were safe enough, the huntsmen being gone
in search of the lordly bucks, with their tall flattened horns if
they were fallow deer, small, round, and sharply pointed if they
There was always something fresh to see, and he who went slowly and
softly through the forest saw most. At such times as this young
Robin would stop short to watch the grazing deer and fawns with
their softly dappled hides, till all at once a pair of sharp blue
eyes would spy him out, and the jay who owned those eyes would set
up his soft speckled crest, show his fierce black moustachios, and
shout an alarm again in a harsh voice—"Here's a boy! here's a
boy!" and the does would leave off eating, throw up their heads,
and away the little herd would go, nip—nip—nip, in a series of
bounds, just as if their thin legs were so many springs, their
black hoofs coming down close together and just touching the short
elastic grass, which seemed to send them off again.
"I wish they wouldn't be afraid of me," young Robin said. "I
shouldn't hurt them."
But the does and fawns did not know that, for as Robin said this he
was fitting an arrow to his bow-string, and threatening to send it
flying after the shrieking jay which had given the alarm. He
forgot, too, that he had eaten heartily of delicious roasted fawn
only a few days before.
As he wandered on through glades where the sun seemed to send rays
of glowing silver down through the oak or beech leaves as if to
fill the golden cups which grew beneath them among the soft green
moss, he would come out suddenly perhaps on one of the sunny forest
pools, perhaps where the water was half covered with broad flat
leaves, among which were silver blossoms, in other places golden,
with arrow weed at the sides, along with whispering reeds and
sword-shaped iris plants. There beneath the floating leaves great
golden-sided carp and tench floated, and sometimes a fierce-eyed
green-splashed pike, while over all flitted and darted upon gauzy
wings beautiful dragon-flies, chasing the tiny gnats—blue, brown,
golden, and golden-green—and now and then encountering and making
their wings rustle as they touched in rapid flight. Then as he
stood with his hand resting against a tree trunk, peering forward,
a curious little head with bright crimson eyes divided the sedge or
reeds growing in the water, its owner looking out to see if there
was any danger; and as it looked, Robin could see that the bird's
beak seemed to be continued right up into a fiat red plate between
[Illustration: Robin stood with his hand resting against a tree
Then it came sailing out, swimming by means of its long thin legs
and toes, coming right into the opening, looking of a dark shiny
brownish green, all but its stunted tail, the under part of which
was pure white, with a black band across.
Little John told him afterwards that it was a moor-hen, even if it
was a cock bird. It was, not this which took so much of Robin's
attention, but the seven or eight little dark balls which followed
it out along one of the lanes of open water, swimming here and
there and making dabs with their little beaks at the insects
gliding about the top.
It was so quiet and seemed so safe that directly after the reeds
parted again and another bird swam out from among the sheltering
reeds. Robin knew this directly as a drake, but he had never
before seen one with such a gloriously green head, rich
chestnut-colored breast, soft gray back, or glistening metallic
purple wing spots.
Robin could have sent a sharp-pointed arrow at this beautiful bird,
and perhaps have killed it, for he knew well that roast duck or
drake is very nice stuffed with sage and onions, and with green
peas to eat therewith; but he never thought of using his bow, and
he was content to feast his eyes upon the bird's beauty and watch
The drake took no notice of the moor-hen and her dusky dabs, but
swam right out in the middle, seemed to stand up on the water,
stretching out his neck and flapping his wings so sharply that
something right on the other side moved suddenly, and Robin saw
that there was another bird which he had not seen before—a
long-necked, long-legged, loose-feathered gray creature with sharp
eyes and a thin beak, standing in the water and staring eagerly at
the drake as much as to say:
"What's the matter there?" while he uttered aloud the one enquiring
"Wirk—wirk—wirk!" said the drake.
"Quack, quack, quack, quack!" came from out of the reeds, and a
brown duck came sailing out, followed by ten little yellow balls of
down with flat beaks, swimming like their mother, but in a hurried
pop-and-go-one fashion, in and out, and round and round, and
seeming to go through country dances on the water in chase of water
beetles and running spiders or flies, while the duck kept on
uttering a warning quack, and the drake, who, first with one eye
and then with the other, kept a sharp look up in the sky for
falcons and hawks, now and then muttered out a satisfied
Robin was Just thinking how beautiful it all was, when the danger
for which the drake was watching in the sky suddenly came from the
One of the downy yellow dabs had swum two yards away from the
others and his mother, after a daddy long-legs which had flown down
on to the surface of the water, and had opened its little flat beak
to seize it, when there was a whirl in the water, a rush and
splash, and two great jaws armed with sharp teeth closed over the
duckling, which was visible one moment, gone the next, and Robin
drew an arrow out to fit to his bow-string.
But he was too late to send it whizzing at the great pike, which
had given a whisk with its tail and gone off to some lair in the
reeds to peacefully swallow the young duck, while the rest followed
their quacking father and mother back to the shelter of the reeds,
rushes, and sedge, where the moor-hen and her brood were already
safe, while, startled by the alarm, the heron bent down as it
spread its great gray wing's, sprang up, gave a few flaps and
flops, and began to sail round above the pool till it grew peaceful
again, when, stretching out its legs, the heron dropped back into
the water, stood motionless gazing down with meditative eyes as if
quite satisfied that no fish would touch it, and then, flick!
It had taken place so rapidly that Robin hardly saw the movement,
but certainly the heron's beak was darted in amongst the bottoms of
the reeds where they grew out of the water, and directly afterwards
the bird straightened itself again, to stand up with a kicking
green frog in its scissor-shaped beak.
Then there was a jerk or two, which altered the frog's position,
and the beak from being only a little way open was shut quite
close, and a knob appeared in the heron's long neck, went slowly
lower and lower, and then disappeared altogether.
Then the heron shuffled its wings a little as if to put the
feathers quite straight, said "Phenk" loudly twice over, and shut
For the bird had partaken of a satisfactory dinner, and was
thinking about it, while young Robin sighed and thought it seemed
very dreadful; but the next moment he was watching a streak of
blue, which was a kingfisher with a tiny silver fish in its beak,
and thinking he was beginning to feel hungry himself.
So he left the side of the pool with another sigh, the noise he
made sending off the great gray heron, and after a little
difficulty he found his way back to the outlaws' camp and his own
dinner, which, oddly enough, was not roast buck or fawn, but roast
ducks and a fine baked pike, cooked in an earthen oven, with plenty
Then, being hungry, young Robin partook of his own meal, and forgot
all about what he had seen.
It was all very wonderful to young Robin when he saw Little John or
one of the other men let fly an arrow with a twang of the
bow-string and a sharp whizz of the wings through the air, to
quiver in a mark eighty or a hundred yards away, or to pierce some
flying wild goose or duck passing in a flock high in air; but by
degrees that which had seemed so marvellous soon ceased to astonish
him, and at last looked quite easy.
For Robin was delighted with his bow and arrows as soon as he found
that he could send one of the light-winged shafts whistling in a
beautiful curve to stick in some big tree.
Then he began shooting at smaller trees, and then at saplings when
he could hit the small trees. But the saplings were, of course,
much more difficult. One day though, he went back to Little John
in triumph to tell him that he had shot at a young oak about as
thick as his wrist.
"But you didn't hit it?" said the big fellow, smiling.
"I just scratched one side of it though," cried the boy.
"Did you now? Well done! You keep on trying, and you'll beat me
"I don't think I shall," said Robin, shaking his head thoughtfully.
"Oh! but you will if you keep on trying. A lad who tries hard can
do nearly anything."
"Can he?" said Robin.
"To be sure he can; so you try, and when you can hit anything you
shoot at you'll be half a man. And when you've done growing you'll
be one quite."
"Shall I ever be as big as you?" asked Robin.
"I hope not," said Little John, laughing. "I'm too big."
"Are you?" said Robin. "I should like to be as big as you."
"No, no, don't," cried Little John. "You go on growing till you're
a six-footer, and then you stop. All that grows after that's waste
o' good stuff, and gets in your way. Big uns like me are always
knocking their heads against something."
"But how am I to know when I'm six feet high?" said Robin.
"Oh! I'll tell you, I'll keep measuring you, my lad."
"And how am I to stop growing?"
Little John took off his cap and scratched his head, as he wrinkled
up his big, good-humored face.
"Well, I don't quite know," he said; "but there's plenty o' time
yet, and we shall see. Might put a big stone in your hat; or keep
you in a very dry place; or tie your shoulders down to your
waist—no, that wouldn't do."
"Why?" said Robin promptly.
"Because it wouldn't stop your legs growing, and it's boys' legs
that grow the most when they're young. I say, though, what's
become of all those arrows I made you?"
"Shot them away."
"And only two left. You mustn't waste arrows like that. Why
didn't you look for them after you shot?"
"I did," cried Robin, "but they will hide themselves so. They
creep right under the grass and among the weeds so that you can't
find them again. But you'll make me some more, won't you?"
"Well," said Little John, "I suppose I must; but you will have to
be more careful, young un. I can't spend all my time making new
arrows for you. But there, I want you to shoot so that the captain
will be proud of you, and some day you'll have to shoot a deer."
"I don't think I should like to shoot a deer," said the boy,
shaking his head.
"Why not?" They're good to eat."
"They look so nice and kind, with their big soft eyes."
"Well, a man then."
"Oh, no! I shouldn't like to shoot a man."
"What not one of the captain's enemies who had come to kill him?"
"I don't think I should mind so much then. Look here, Little John,
I'd shoot an arrow into his back, to prick him and make him run
"And so you shall, my lad," cried Little John, and he set to work
directly to cut some wood for arrows to refill the boy's quiver;
and when those were lost, he made some more, for young Robin was
always shooting and losing them; but Little John said it did not
matter, for he was going to be a famous marksman, and the big
fellow looked as proud of his pupil as could be.
But Little John did not stop at teaching young Robin to shoot, for
one day the boy found him smoothing and scraping a nice new piece
of ash as thick as his little finger, which was not little at all.
"You don't know what this is for," said the big fellow.
"It looks like a little quarter-staff," said young Robin, "like all
the men have."
"Well done. Guessed it first time. Now guess who it is for?"
"Me," said the boy promptly. And so it was, and what was more,
Little John, in the days which followed, taught him how to handle
it so as to give blows and guard himself, till the little fellow
became as clever and active as could be, making the men roar with
laughter when in a bout he managed to strike so quickly that his
staff struck leg or arm before his opponent could guard.
"Why, you're getting quite a forester, Robin," said the captain,
smiling, "and what with your skill with bow and quarter-staff
you'll soon be able to hold your own."
Robin Hood's words were put to the proof in autumn, for one day
when the acorns had swollen to such a size that they could no
longer sit in their cups, and came rattling down from the sunny
side of the great oak-trees, young Robin was having a glorious
ramble. He had filled his satchel with brown hazel nuts, had a
good feast of blackberries, and stained his fingers. He had had a
long talk to a tame fawn which knew him and came when he whistled,
and tempted a couple of squirrels down with some very brown nuts,
laying them upon the bark of a fallen tree, and then drawing back a
few yards, with the result that the bushy-tailed little animals
crept softly down, nearer and nearer, ending by making a rush,
seizing the nuts, and darting back to the security of a high branch
of a tree.
"I shouldn't hurt you," said Robin, as he stood leaning upon his
little quarter-staff, watching them nibble away the ends of the
nuts to get at the sweet kernel. "If I wanted to I could unsling
my bow, string it, and bring you down with an arrow; but I don't
want to. Why can't you both be as tame as my fawn?"
The squirrels made no answer, but went on nibbling the nuts, and
suddenly darted up higher in the tree, while Robin grew so much
interested in the movements of the active little creatures that he
heard no sound behind him, nor did he awaken to the fact that he
was being stalked by some one creeping bare-footed from tree to
tree to get within springing distance, till all at once he felt the
whole weight of something alighting on his back and driving him
forward so that he dropped his quarter-staff and came down on hands
"Got yer, have I, at last?" cried a familiar voice, as he felt his
ribs nipped, his assailant having seated himself on his back.
"Didn't I tell yer I'd wait, and you was to bring me back a lot to
Young Robin waited for no more, but in his agony of spirit he gave
himself a wrench sidewise, dislodging his rider, and made an effort
to struggle up again.
But his old enemy held fast, and after a sharp struggle Robin stood
panting, face to face with the young swineherd, who had him tightly
by the doublet with both hands.
"You let go," cried young Robin fiercely. "You'll tear my coat."
"I means to tear it right off dreckly," said the boy, grinning. "I
want a noo un again, and it'll just do. I'm a-going to have them
bow and arrows too, and the knife and cap, I'll let you see! Going
and hiding away all this time, when I told yer to come back!"
"You let me go," panted Robin, looking vainly round for help.
"Nay, there aren't no one a-nigh, and I've got yer fast. Why
didn't yer come back as I told you?"
"I didn't want to," said Robin angrily. "You let me go. I'll call
Little John to you."
"Call him, and I'll knock his ugly old eye out," cried the boy. "I
don't care for no Little Johns. I've got you now, and I'm going to
pay you for not coming back before. And I know," he snarled,
"you're a thief; that's what you are."
"I'm not," cried Robin fiercely, and he made a desperate struggle
to get away to where his little quarter-staff lay half hidden
amongst the bracken. "You let me go." But his efforts to get free
"Yes, I'll let you go, p'raps, when I've done with you and got all
I wants," said the boy, in a husky, satisfied tone, as he seemed to
gloat over his victim. "No, I won't; you're a thief, and a
deer-stealer, and I shall just take yer to one of the King's
Young Robin set his teeth and made another struggle, but quite in
vain, for he was no match in strength for his adversary.
"What! Hold still! Wo ho, kicker! Quiet, will yer!" snarled the
boy. "If yer don't leave off I'll drag yer through all the worst
brambles and pitch yer to my tigs. D'yer hear?" he shouted.
Robin paused breathlessly, and stood gazing wildly at his enemy.
"Yer thought I was giving yer up, did yer, but I wasn't. I've been
watching for yer ever since yer run away. I knowed I should ketch
yer some day. Errrr! yer young thief!"
He tightened his grip of Robin's shoulders, grinned at him like an
angry dog, and gave him a fierce shake, while his victim breathed
hard as he pressed his teeth together, and there was the look in
his eyes as if he were some newly captured wild creature seeking a
way to escape.
"Kerm along," snarled the young swineherd. "I dropped my staff
just back here, and as soon as I gets it, I'm going to stand over
yer while yer strips off all them things; and if yer tries to get
away I'll break yer legs, and yer can't run then."
Robin drew a breath which sounded like a deep sigh, and ceased his
struggling, letting his enemy force him to walk backward among the
bracken and nearly fall again and again, till all at once the
savage young lout shouted:
"Ah, here it is'" and loosening one hand, he was in the act of
stooping to pick up the staff he had dropped in leaping upon his
victim, who now made a bound which sent the boy face downward on to
his staff, while Robin dashed off to where his own quarter-staff
lay among the bracken—a spot he had glanced at again and again.
He seized it in an instant, and was about to bound away among the
trees, but his enemy had recovered himself, and staff in hand, came
after him at so terrible a rate that Robin only avoided a swishing
blow at his legs by dodging round a tree, which received the stroke.
The next moment Robin faced round in the open beyond the tree, and
stood on guard as he had been taught.
"Ah, would yer?" snarled the young swineherd; "take that then."
Whisk went the staff and then crack as it was received by Robin
across his own, and then, profiting by Little John's lessons, he
brought his own over from the left and delivered a sounding blow on
his assailant's head.
The swineherd uttered a savage yell as he staggered back, but came
fiercely on again, striking with all his might, but so wildly that
Robin easily avoided the blow, and brought his own staff down
whack, crash, on his enemy's shoulders, producing a couple more
yells of pain. From that moment Robin had it all his own way, for
he easily guarded himself from the swineherd's fierce strokes and
retorted with swinging blows on first one arm, then on the other.
Then he brought his staff down with a blow beside his enemy's left
leg, then half behind the right, making him dance and limp as he
yelled and sought in vain to beat down his active little adversary,
who delivered a shower of cleverly directed blows in response to
the wild swoops given with the worst of aim.
In the heat and excitement Robin had felt no fear. He was on his
mettle, and fighting for liberty, to gain which he felt that he
must effectually beat his enemy; and thanks to Little John's
lessons he thrashed him so well that at the end of five minutes the
young swine-herd received a final stroke across the knuckles which
made him shriek, drop his staff, and turn to run down a long
straight avenue in the forest where the ground was open.
Robin in his excitement began to run after him to continue the
beating, but the swineherd went too fast, and on the impulse of the
moment the victor stopped short, dropping his own staff and
unslinging his bow from where it hung. In less time than it takes
to tell the bow was strung and an arrow fitted, drawn to the head,
and with a twang it was loosed after the flying lad, now a hundred
yards away; but as soon as it was shot Robin repented.
"It'll kill him," he thought, and his heart seemed to stand still.
For the boy's teacher had taught well, and here was the proof.
Truly as if a long careful aim had been taken the arrow sped many
times faster than the swineherd ran, and Robin's eyes dilated as he
saw his adversary give a sudden spring and fall upon his face,
uttering a hideous yell.
Robin, full of repentance, started off to his enemy's help, but
before he had gone many yards the swineherd sprang up and began to
run faster than ever, while when Robin reached the spot there lay
his arrow, but the lad was gone.
"Only pricked him a bit," said Little John, when he heard of the
adventure. "Serve the young wretch right. But the quarter-staff.
My word, big un, I'd have given something to have been there to
hear his bones rattle. Well, I didn't teach you for naught. But
look here, if you meet that fellow in the forest again don't you
wait for him to begin; you go at him at once."
Robin nodded his head, but he never saw the swineherd again.
Young Robin's father, the Sheriff, suffered very sadly from the
loss of his son and his goods, and Robin's aunt came to Nottingham
and wept bitterly over the loss of the little boy she loved dearly.
For David, the old servant in whose charge Robin had been placed
when he was going home, had done what too many weak people do,
tried to hide one fault by committing another.
Robin was given into his charge to protect and take safely home to
his father, and when the attack was made by the outlaw's men,
instead of doing anything to protect the little fellow and save him
from being injured by Robin Hood's people, he thought only of
himself. He threw his charge into the first bushes he came to, and
galloped away, hardly stopping till he reached Nottingham town.
There the first question the Sheriff asked was, not what had become
of the pack mules and the consignment of cloth, but where was
Robin, and the false servant said that he had fought hard to save
him in the fight, but fought in vain, and that the poor boy was
And then months passed and a year had gone by, and people looked
solemn and said that it seemed as if the Sheriff would never hold
up his head again. But they thought that he should have gathered
together a number of fighting men and gone and punished Robin Hood
and his outlaws for carrying off that valuable set of loads of
But Robin's father cared nothing for the cloth or the mules; he
could only think of the bright happy little fellow whom he loved so
well, and whom he wept for in secret at night when there was no one
near to see.
Robin's aunt when she came and tried to comfort him used to shake
her head and wipe her eyes. She said little, only thought a great
deal, and she came over again and again to try and comfort her dead
sister's husband; but it made no difference, for the Sheriff was a
sadly altered man.
Then all at once there was a change, and it was at a time when
Robin's aunt was over to Nottingham.
For one day a man came to the Sheriff's house and wanted him. But
the Sheriff would not see him, for he took no interest in anything
now, and told his servant that the man must send word what his
The servant went out, and came back directly.
"He says, sir, that he was taken prisoner by Robin Hood's men a
week ago, and that he has just come from the camp under the
greenwood tree, and has brought you news, master."
The Sheriff started up, trembling, and told his servant to bring
the strange man in.
It was no beaten and wounded ruffian, but a hale and hearty fellow,
who looked bright and happy, and before he could speak and tell his
news the Sheriff began to question him.
"You have come from the outlaws' camp?" he said with his voice
"Yes, Master Sheriff."
"They took you prisoner, and beat and robbed you?"
"Oh! no, Master Sheriff; they took me before Robin Hood, and he
asked me what I was doing there, and whether I was not afraid to
cross his forest, and I up and told him plainly that I wasn't.
Then he said how was that when I must have heard what a terrible
robber he was."
"Yes, yes," cried the Sheriff, "and what did you say."
"I said that I had lived about these parts all my life and I never
heard that he did a poor man any harm. Then he laughed, and all his
people laughed too, and he said I was a merry fellow. 'Give him
plenty to eat and drink,' he said, 'for two or three days, and then
send him on his way.' Yes, Master Sheriff, that he did, and a fine
jolly time I had. Why, I almost felt as if I should like to stay
And all this time the Sheriff was watching the man very keenly, and
suddenly he caught him by the arm.
[Illustration: The Sheriff was watching the man very keenly, and
suddenly caught him by the arm.]
"Speak out," he said; "you did not come to tell me only that. What
is it you are keeping back? Why don't you speak?"
"Because, master," said the man softly, "I was afraid you couldn't
bear it, for I was a father once and my son died, and though you
never knew me, I knew you, and was sorry when the news came that
your little boy was killed. Can you bear to hear good news as well
The Sheriff was silent for a few minutes, during which he closed
his eyes and his lips moved, and he looked so strange that Robin's
aunt crossed the room to where he sat, and took hold of his hand,
as she whispered loving words.
"Yes, yes," he said softly, "I can bear it now. Speak, pray speak,
and tell me all."
"But you will not be angry with me if I am wrong, Master Sheriff?"
"No, no," said Robin's father; "speak out at once."
"Well, Master Sheriff, no one would tell me when I asked questions,
but there's a little fellow there, dressed all in Lincoln green,
like one of Robin Hood's fighting men, with his sword and bugle,
and bow and arrows, and somehow I began to think, and then I began
to ask, whether he was Robin Hood's son; but those I asked only
shook their heads.
"That made me think all the more, and one day I managed to follow
him but among the trees to where I found him feeding one of the
wild deer, which followed him about like a dog."
"I waited a bit, and then stepped out to him, and what do you think
he did? He strung his bow, fitted an arrow to it before I knew
where I was, and drew it to the head as if he was going to shoot
me. 'Do you know where Nottingham is?' I said, and he lowered his
bow. 'Yes,' he said, 'of course. Do you know my father?' 'Do I
know the Sheriff?' I said; 'of course.' 'Are you going there
soon?' he cried, and I nodded. 'Then you go to my father,' he
cried, 'and tell him to tell aunt that I'm quite well, and that
some day I'm coming home."
The man stopped, for just then the Sheriff closed his eyes again
and said something very softly, which Robin's aunt heard, and she
sank upon her knees and covered her face with her hands.
Then the Sheriff sprang to his feet, looking quite a different man.
"Here," he said to the bringer of the news, and he gave him some
gold pieces. "Could you find your way back to the outlaws' camp in
"Oh! yes, Master Sheriff, that I could, though they did bind a
cloth over my face when they brought me away."
"And you could lead me and a strong body of fighting men right to
the outlaws' camp?"
"I could, Master Sheriff," said the man, beginning slowly to lay
the gold pieces back one by one upon the table; "but I can't do
evil for good."
"What?" cried the Sheriff angrily. "They are robbers and outlaws,
and every subject of the King has a right to slay them."
"May be, Master Sheriff," said the man drily; "but I'm not going to
fly at the throat of one who did nothing but good to me. They tell
me that Robin Hood's a noble earl who offended the King, and had to
fly for his life. What I say is, he's a noble kind-hearted
gentleman, and if it was my boy he had there, looking as happy as
the day is long, I'd go to him without any fighting men."
"How, then?" cried the Sheriff.
"Just like a father should, master, and ask him for my boy like a
"That will do," said the Sheriff. "You can go."
The man turned to leave the room, when the Sheriff said sharply:
"Stop! You are leaving the gold pieces I gave you."
"Yes, I can't take pay to lead anyone to fight against Robin Hood
and his men."
"Those pieces were for the news you brought me," said the Sheriff.
"Yes, take them, for you have behaved like an honest man."
But the Sheriff did not take the man's advice, neither did he
listen to the appeal of young Robin's aunt. For, as Sheriff of
Nottingham, he said to himself that it was his duty to destroy or
scatter the band of outlaws who had lived in Sherwood Forest for so
long a time.
So he gathered a strong body of crossbow-men, and others with
spears and swords, besides asking for the help of two gallant
knights who came with their esquires mounted and in armour with
Somehow Robin Hood knew what was being prepared, and about a week
after, when the Sheriff and his great following of about three
hundred men were struggling to make their way through the forest,
they heard the sound of a horn, and all at once the thick woodland
seemed to be alive with archers, who used their bows in such a way
that first one, then a dozen, then by fifties, the Sheriff's men
began to flee, and in less than an hour they were all crawling back
to Nottingham, badly beaten, not a man among them being ready to
turn and fight.
In another month the Sheriff advanced again with a stronger force,
but they were driven back more easily than the first, and the
Sheriff was in despair.
But a couple of days later he had the man to whom he had given the
gold pieces found, and sent him to the outlaws' camp with a letter
written upon parchment, in which he ordered Robin Hood, in the
King's name, to give up the little prisoner he held there contrary
to the law and against his own will.
It was many weary anxious days before the messenger came back, but
without the little prisoner.
"What did he say?" asked the Sheriff.
"He said, master, that if you wanted the boy you must go and fetch
It was the very next day that the Sheriff went into the room where
young Robin's aunt was seated, looking very unhappy, and she jumped
up from her chair wonderingly on seeing that her brother-in-law was
dressed as if for a journey, wearing no sword or dagger, only
carrying a long stout walking staff.
"Where are you going, dear?" she said.
"Where I ought to have gone at first," he said humbly; "into the
forest to fetch my boy."
"But you could never find your way," she said, sobbing. "Besides,
you are the Sheriff, and these men will seize and kill you."
"I have someone to show me the way," said the Sheriff gently; "and
somehow, though I have persecuted and fought against the people
sorely, I feel no fear, for Robin Hood is not the man to slay a
broken-hearted father who comes in search of his long-lost boy."
The sun was low down in the west, and shining through and under the
great oak and beech trees, so that everything seemed to be turned
to orange and gold.
It was the outlaws' supper time, the sun being their clock in the
forest; and the men were gathering together to enjoy their second
great meal of the day, the other being breakfast, after having
which they always separated to go hunting through the woods to
bring in the provisions for the next day.
Robin Hood's men, then, were scattered about under the shade of a
huge spreading oak tree, waiting for the roast venison, which sent
a very pleasant odor from the glowing fire of oak wood, and young
Robin was seated on the mossy grass close by the thatched shed
which formed the captain's headquarters, where Maid Marian was busy
spreading the supper for the little party who ate with Robin Hood
Little John was there, lying down, smiling and contented after a
hard day's hunting, listening to young Robin, who was displaying
the treasures he had brought in that day, and telling his great
companion where he had found them.
There were flowers for Maid Marian, because she was fond of the
purple and yellow loosestrife, and long thick reeds in a bundle.
"You can make me some arrows of those," said Robin; "and I've found
a young yew tree with a bough quite straight. You must cut that
down and dry it to make me a bigger bow. This one is not strong
"Very well, big one," said Little John, smiling and stretching out
his hand to smooth the boy's curly brown hair. "Anything else for
me to do?"
"Oh yes, lots of things, only I can't think of them yet. Look
here, I found these."
The boy took some round prickly husks out of his pocket.
"Yes, I know where you got them," said Little-John, "but they're no
He tore one of the husks open, and laid bare the rich brown nut;
but it was, as he said, good for nothing, there being no hard sweet
kernel within, nothing but soft pithy woolly stuff.
"No good at all," continued the great forester; "but I'll show you
a tree which bears good ones, only the nuts are better if they're
left till they drop out of their husks."
"And then the pigs get them," said Robin.
"Then you must get up before the pigs, and be first. Halloa! What
For a horn was blown at a distance, and the men under the great oak
tree sprang to their feet, while Robin Hood came out to see what
the signal meant.
Young Robin, who was now quite accustomed to the foresters' ways,
caught up his bow like the rest, and stood looking eagerly in the
direction from which the cheery sounding notes of the horn were
He had not long to wait, for half a dozen of the merry men in green
came marching towards them with a couple of prisoners, each having
his hands fastened behind him with a bow-string and a broad bandage
tied over his eyes, so that they should not know their way again to
the outlaws' stronghold.
"Prisoners!" said young Robin.
"Poor men, too," grumbled Little John.
"Then you'll give them their supper and send them away to-morrow
morning," said young Robin.
"I suppose so," said Little John, "but I don't know what made our
fellows bring them in."
"Let's go and see," said young Robin.
Little John followed as the boy marched off, bow in hand, to where
Robin Hood was standing, waiting to hear what his men had to say
about the prisoners they had brought in. And as they drew near the
boy saw that one was, a homely poor-looking man with round
shoulders, the other, well dressed in sad-colored clothes, and thin
and bent. But the boy could see little more for the broad bandage,
which nearly covered the prisoner's face and was tied tightly
behind over his long, gray hair, while his gray beard hung down low.
Young Robin looked pityingly at this prisoner, and a longing came
over him to loosen the thong which tied his hands tightly behind
him, and take off the bandage so that he could breathe freely, but
just then Robin Hood cried:
"Well, my lads, whom have we here?"
The bowed down gray-haired prisoner rose erect at this, and cried:
"Is that Robin Hood who speaks?"
Before the outlaw could answer; he was stopped by a cry: from the
boy, who threw down his bow and darted to the prisoner's side.
"Father!" he cried; and he leaped up, as active now as one of the
deer of the forest, to fling his arms about the prisoner's neck.
But only for a moment.
The next he had dropped to the ground, to look fiercely round at
the astonished men, as he drew the dagger which hung from his belt.
[Illustration: Robin looked fiercely round at the astonished men,
as he drew the dagger which hung from his belt.]
"Who dared do this?" he cried, as he reached up to tear the bandage
from the face bending over him, and then darted round to begin
sawing at the thong which held his father's hands.
Little John took a step or two forward to help the boy, but Robin
Hood held up his hand to keep him back, and a dead silence fell
upon the great group of foresters who had pressed forward, and who
eagerly watched the scene before them in the soft, amber sunshine
which came slanting through the trees. The task was hard, but the
little fellow worked well, and many moments had not elapsed before
the prisoner's hands were free, and as if seeing no one but the
little forester before him in green, and quite regardless of all
around, he dropped upon his knees, clasped the boy to his breast,
and softly whispered the words:
Young Robin's arms were tightly round his father's neck by this
time, and he was kissing the care-worn face again and again.
"They didn't know who you were, father; they didn't know who you
were," cried the boy passionately, as if asking his father's pardon
for the outrage committed upon him.
"No, Rob," said the Sheriff, in a choking voice; "they did not know
who I was. But you know your poor old father again."
"Know you again!" cried the boy, hanging back, and looking at his
father wonderingly. "Why, yes; but what a long time you have been
before you came to fetch me."
"Yes, yes, my boy; a long, long year of misery and sorrow; but I
have found you now, at last."
"Oh! I am glad," cried the boy, struggling free, and catching his
father's hand to lead him towards where Robin Hood and Marian were
standing, wet-eyed, looking on.
"This is my father," cried the boy proudly. "This is Robin Hood,
the captain, father," he continued, and the Sheriff bowed gravely;
"and this is Maid Marian, who has been so good to me."
The Sheriff bowed slowly 'and gravely, as if to the greatest lady
in the land, and then the boy dragged at his father's hand.
"And this is old Little John, father," he cried. "I say, isn't he
The Sheriff bowed again, and the great outlaw's face wore such a
comic expression of puzzlement that Robin Hood laughed aloud, and
completed his great follower's confusion.
"He has been so good to me, father," cried young Robin. "I can
shoot with bow and arrow now, and sound my horn. Hark!"
The boy clapped his horn to his lips and blew a few cheery notes
which ran echoing down the forest glades, and the men assembled
gave a hearty cheer.
"You're welcome to the woodlands, Master Sheriff," said Robin Hood,
advancing now with extended hand. "Do not take this as the
outlaw's hand, nor extend yours as the Sheriff; but let it be the
grasp of two Englishmen, one of whom receives a guest."
"I thank you, sir," said the Sheriff slowly. "I can give you
nothing but thanks, for after a year of sorrow I find my child is
after all alive and well."
"And I hope not worse than when accident brought him into our
hands. What do you say? Do you find him changed?"
"Bigger and stronger," said the Sheriff, drawing the boy closer to
him, while the little fellow clung to his hand.
"Our woodland life; and I warrant you, Master Sheriff, that he is
none the worse, for he is the truest, most gracious little fellow I
ever met. Here, Little Namesake, speak out, and let your father
know you have been a good boy ever since you came here to stay."
Young Robin was silent, and looked from one to the other in a
curiously abashed fashion.
"Well, boy, why don't you speak?" cried Robin Hood merrily. "I
want Master Sheriff to hear that we have not spoiled you. Come,
tell him. You have always been a good boy, haven't you?"
Young Robin hung his head.
"No," he said slowly, with his brow wrinkled up, his head hanging
and one foot scraping softly at the mossy grass. "No, not always."
Little John burst into a tremendous roar of laughter, and began to
stamp about, with the result that young Robin made a dash at him
and tried vainly to climb up and clap his hand over the great
"Don't—don't tell," cried the boy.
"Ran at me—only yesterday," cried Little John—"and began to
thrash me in a passion."
"Don't tell tales out of school, Little John," cried Robin Hood,
laughing. "There, Rob, you must forgive him; we're none
of-us-perfect. Master Sheriff, and if your little fellow had been
quite so, I don't think that we should all, to a man here, have
loved him half so well. But come, after his confession, I think
you will grant one thing, and that is, that in spite of his having
spent a year in the outlaws' camp, he is as honest as the day."
"Nothing could make my boy Robin tell a lie," said the Sheriff
proudly. "But, sir, I have come humbly to you now. Glad even to
be your prisoner, so that I might once more see my child."
"My prisoner if you had come amongst us with your posse of armed
men, sir," said Robin Hood proudly. "As it is, Master Sheriff, you
come here alone with your guide, and I bid you welcome to our
greenwood home. Fate made me what I am, the Sheriff's enemy, but
the gentle visitor's friend. Come, Rob, my boy, show your father
where he can take away the travel stains, and then bring him to our
It was the next day that was to be young Robin's last with the
outlaws in the merry greenwood, and all were gathered together to
bid him farewell, and see him safely with his father on the road;
but not as the Sheriff had come, wearily and on foot, for half a
dozen of the best mules were forthcoming, and the guests were to
ride back on their journey home.
Who does not know how hard it is to say good-bye? Young Robin did
not till the time had come.
He awoke that morning joyful and eager to start, for it was to go
back home in company with the father whom he loved; but when the
time came he had to learn how tightly so many of his little
heartstrings had taken hold of the life under the greenwood tree.
Everything about him had grown dear, and there was almost a mule
load of treasures and pets of his own collecting that could not be
And when they had been carefully packed in panniers by Little John
and one of the men, there was the task of bidding them all
good-bye, and then those two words grew harder every time.
But he spoke out manfully and well, in spite of a choking
sensation, till nearly the last.
"For I'm coming back again," he said, "and you'll take care of my
pet fawn for me, Little John, and always remember to feed it well.
And don't forget the dog and that dormouse we couldn't find, so
that I can have it when I come back, and—"
What was that?
It was a peculiar sound made up in the air by Little John, and that
did it, for when young Robin looked up in astonishment, it was to
see the great fellow's face all puckered up, and—yes, there were
two great tears rolling down his cheeks as he caught the boy in his
arms and kissed him.
And so it was that when young Robin ran to bid Maid Marian
good-bye, he could no longer hold it back. As he clasped his arms
about her neck, and kissed her passionately again and again, the
sobs came fast, but the word Good-bye would not come at all, and
when they rode away, the boy dared not look back for fear the men
should see his red and swollen eyes. So he only waved his hat, and
kept waving it to the last.
But he was to see some of his friends again, for about a year after
the Sheriff of Nottingham had the strangest visitors of his
life-time at his house, and young Robin enjoyed the task of
welcoming them, for as one old history says, Robin Hood was
forgiven and restored by the King to his rightful possessions, and
then it was that he was gladly welcomed by the Sheriff, who said he
was honored by the visit of the nobleman and his lady.
But it was nothing to young Robin then that his old friend was an
earl, and his lady a countess; they were still Robin Hood and Maid
Marian to him, and big Little John, their follower, his old friend
and companion, full of memories of his year's happy life in the