OW THE ABBOT had been counting the days as well as the knight, and the next morning he said to his monks: "This day year there came a knight and borrowed of me four hundred pounds, giving his lands in surety. And if he come not to pay his debt ere midnight tolls they will be ours forever."
"It is full early yet," answered the Prior, "he may still be coming."
"He is far beyond the sea," said the Abbot, "and suffers from hunger and cold. How is he to get here?"
"It were a shame," said the Prior, "for you to take his lands. And you do him much wrong if you drive such a hard bargain."
"He is dead or hanged," spake a fat-headed monk who was the cellarer, "and we shall have his four hundred pounds to spend on our gardens and our wines," and he went with the Abbot to attend the court of justice wherein the knight's lands would he declared forfeited by the High Justiciar.
"If he come not this day," cried the Abbot, rubbing his hands, "if he come not this day, they will be ours."
"He will not come yet," said the Justiciar, but he knew not that the knight was already at the outer gate, and Little John with him.
"Welcome, Sir Knight," said the porter. "The horse that you ride is the noblest that ever I saw. Let me lead them both to the stable, that they may have food and rest."
"They shall not pass these gates," answered the knight, sternly, and he entered the hall alone, where the monks were sitting at meat, and knelt down and bowed to them.
"I have come back, my lord," he said to the Abbot, who had just returned from the court. "I have come back this day as I promised."
"Have you brought my money? What do you here without it?" cried the Abbot in angry tones.
"I have come to pray you for a longer day," answered the knight, meekly.
"The day was fixed and cannot be gainsaid," replied the Justiciar; "I am with the Abbot."
"Good Sir Abbot, be my friend," prayed the knight again, "and give me one chance more to get the money and free my lands. I will serve you day and night till I have four hundred pounds to redeem them."
But the Abbot only swore a great oath, and vowed that the money must be paid that day or the lands be forfeited.
The knight stood up straight and tall: "It is well," said he, "to prove one's friends against the hour of need," and he looked the Abbot full in the face, and the Abbot felt uneasy, he did not know why, and hated the knight more than ever. "Out of my hall, false knight!" cried he, pretending to a courage which he did not feel. But the knight stayed where he was, and answered him, "You lie, Abbot. Never was I false, and that I have shown in jousts and in tourneys."
"Give him two hundred pounds more," said the Justiciar to the Abbot, "and keep the lands yourself."
"No, by Heaven!" answered the knight, "not if you offered me a thousand pounds would I do it! Neither Justiciar, abbot, nor monk shall be heir of mine." Then he strode up to a table and emptied out four hundred pounds. "Take your gold, Sir Abbot, which you lent to me a year agone. Had you but received me civilly, I would have paid you something more.
"Sir Abbot, and ye men of law,
Now have I kept my day!
Now shall I have my land again,
For aught that you may say."
So he passed out of the hall singing merrily, leaving the Abbot staring silently after him, and rode back to his house in Verisdale, where his wife met him at the gate.
"Welcome, my lord," said his lady,
"Sir, lost is all your good."
"Be merry, dame," said the knight,
"And pray for Robin Hood.
But for his kindness, we would have been beggars."
After this the knight dwelt at home, looking after his lands and saving his money carefully till the four hundred pounds lay ready for Robin Hood. Then he bought a hundred bows and a hundred arrows, and every arrow was an ell long, and had a head of silver and peacock's feathers. And clothing himself in white and red, and with a hundred men in his train, he set off to Sherwood Forest.
On the way he passed an open space near a bridge where there was a wrestling, and the knight stopped and looked, for he himself had taken many a prize in that sport. Here the prizes were such as to fill any man with envy; a fine horse, saddled and bridled, a great white bull, a pair of gloves, and a ring of bright red gold. There was not a yeoman present who did not hope to win one of them. But when the wrestling was over, the yeoman who had beaten them all was a man who kept apart from his fellows, and was said to think much of himself. Therefore the men grudged him his skill, and set upon him with blows, and would have killed him, had not the knight, for love of Robin Hood, taken pity on him, while his followers fought with the crowd, and would not suffer them to touch the prizes a better man had won.
When the wrestling was finished the knight rode on, and there under the greenwood tree, in the place appointed, he found Robin Hood and his merry men waiting for him, according to the tryst that they had fixed last year:
"God save thee, Robin Hood,
And all this company."
"Welcome be thou, gentle knight,
And right welcome to me."
"Hast thou thy land again?" said Robin,
"Truth then thou tell me."
"Yea, for God," said the knight,
"And that thank I God and thee."
"Have here four hundred pounds," said the knight,
"The which you lent to me;
And here are also twenty marks
For your courtesie."