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Historical Tales, Vol. 4 (of 15) by Charles Morris

And bade him welcome to the greenwood

Little John stepped into the road, courteously bent his knee to the stranger, and bade him welcome to the greenwood.

"Welcome be you, gentle knight," he said; "my master has awaited you fasting, these three hours."

"Your master--who is he?" asked the knight, lifting his sad eyes.

"Robin Hood, the forest chief," answered Little John.

"And a lusty yeoman he," said the knight. "Men say much good of him. I thought to dine to-day at Blythe or Dankaster, but if jolly Robin wants me I am his man. It matters little, save that I have no heart to do justice to any man's good cheer. Lead on, my courteous friend. The greenwood, then, shall be my dining-hall."

Our scene now changes to the lodge of the woodland chief. An hour had passed. A merry scene met the eye. The long table was well covered with game of the choicest, swan, pheasants, and river fowl, and with roasts and steaks of venison, which had been on hoof not many hours before. Around it sat a jolly company of foresters, green-clad like the trees about them. At its head sat Robin Hood, his handsome face lending encouragement to the laughter and gleeful chat of his men. Beside him sat the knight, sober of attire, gloomy of face, yet brightening under the courteous treatment of his host and the gay sallies of the outlaw band.

"Gramercy, Sir Woodman," said the knight, when the feast was at an end, "such a dinner as you have set me I have not tasted for weeks. When I come again to this country I hope to repay you with as good a one."

"A truce to your dinner," said Robin, curtly. "All that dine in our woodland inn pay on the spot, Sir Knight. It is a good rule, I wot."

"To full hands, mayhap," said the knight; "but I dare not, for very shame, proffer you what is in my coffers."

"Is it so little, then?"

"Ten shillings is not wealth," said the knight. "I can offer you no more."

"Faith, if that be all, keep it, in God's name; and I'll lend you more, if you be in need. Go look, Little John; we take no stranger's word in the greenwood."

John examined the knight's effects, and reported that he had told the truth. Robin gazed curiously at his guest.

"I held you for a knight of high estate," he said. "A heedless husbandman you must have been, a gambler or wassailer, to have brought yourself to this sorry pass. An empty pocket and threadbare attire ill befit a knight of your parts."

"You wrong me, Robin," said the knight, sadly. "Misfortune, not sin, has beggared me. I have nothing left but my children and my wife; but it is through no deed of my own. My son--my heir he should have been--slew a knight of Lancashire and his squire. To save him from the law I have made myself a beggar. Even my lands and house must go, for I have pledged them to the abbot of St. Mary as surety for four hundred pounds loaned me. I cannot pay him, and the time is near its end. I have lost hope, good sir, and am on my way to the sea, to take ship for the Holy Land. Pardon my tears, I leave a wife and children."

"Where are your friends?" asked Robin.

"Where are the last year's leaves of your trees?" asked the knight. "They were fair enough while the summer sun shone; they dropped from me when the winter of trouble came."

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