UT ROBIN WOULD not take the money. Then he noticed the bows and arrows which the knight had brought, and asked what they were. "A poor present to you," answered the knight, and Robin, who would not be outdone, sent Little John once more to his treasury, and bade him bring forth four hundred pounds, which was given to the knight. After that they parted, in much love, and Robin prayed the knight if he were in any strait "to let him know at the greenwood tree, and while there was any gold there he should have it."
Now the King had no mind that Robin Hood should do as he willed, and called his knights to follow him to Nottingham, where they would lay plans how best to take captive the felon. Here they heard sad tales of Robin's misdoings, and how of the many herds of wild deer that had been wont to roam the forest in some places scarce one remained. This was the work of Robin Hood and his merry men, on whom the king swore vengeance with a great oath.
"I would I had this Robin Hood in my hands," cried he, "and an end should soon be put to his doings." So spake the King; but an old knight, full of days and wisdom, answered him and warned him that the task of taking Robin Hood would be a sore one, and best let alone. The King, who had seen the vanity of his hot words the moment that he had uttered them, listened to the old man, and resolved to bide his time, if perchance some day Robin should fall into his power.
All this time and for six weeks later that he dwelt in Nottingham the King could hear nothing of Robin, who seemed to have vanished into the earth with his merry men, though one by one the deer were vanishing too!
At last one day a forester came to the King, and told him that if he would see Robin he must come with him and take five of his best knights. The King eagerly sprang up to do his bidding, and the six men clad in monk's clothes mounted their palfreys and rode down to the Abbey, the King wearing an Abbot's broad hat over his crown and singing as he passed through the greenwood.
Suddenly at the turn of the path Robin and his archers appeared before them.
"By your leave, Sir Abbot," said Robin, seizing the King's bridle, "you will stay a while with us. Know that we are yeomen, who live upon the King's deer, and other food have we none. Now you have abbeys and churches, and gold in plenty; therefore give us some of it, in the name of holy charity."
"I have no more than forty pounds with me," answered the King, "but sorry I am it is not a hundred, for you should have had it all."
So Robin took the forty pounds, and gave half to his men, and then told the King he might go on his way. "I thank you," said the King, "but I would have you know that our liege lord has bid me bear you his seal, and pray you to come to Nottingham."
At this message Robin bent his knee.
"I love no man in all the world
So well as I do my King,"
he cried, "and, Sir Abbot, for thy tidings, which fill my heart with joy, to-day thou shalt dine with me, for love of my King." Then he led the King into an open place, and Robin took a horn and blew it loud, and at its blast seven-score of young men came speedily to do his will.
"They are quicker to do his bidding than my men are to do mine," said the King to himself.
Speedily the foresters set out the dinner, venison and white bread, and Robin and Little John served the King. "Make good cheer, Abbot, for charity," said Robin, "and then you shall see what sort of life we lead, that so you may tell our King."
When he had finished eating the archers took their bows, and hung rose-garlands up with a string, and every man was to shoot through the garland. If he failed, he should have a buffet on the head from Robin.
Good bowmen as they were, few managed to stand the test. Little John and Will Scarlett, and Much, all shot wide of the mark, and at length no one was left in but Robin himself and Gilbert of the White Hand. Then Robin fired his last bolt, and it fell three fingers from the garland. "Master," said Gilbert, "you have lost, stand forth and take your punishment."
"I will take it," answered Robin, "but, Sir Abbot, I pray you that I may suffer it at your hands."
The King hesitated. "It did not become him," he said, "to smite such a stout yeoman," but Robin bade him smite on; so he turned up his sleeve, and gave Robin such a buffet on the head that he rolled upon the ground.
"There is pith in your arm," said Robin. "Come, shoot a-main with me." And the King took up a bow, and in so doing his hat fell back and Robin saw his face.
"My lord the King of England, now I know you well," cried he, and he fell on his knees and all the outlaws with him. "Mercy I ask, my lord the King, for my men and me."
"Mercy I grant," then said the King, "and therefore I came hither, to bid you and your men leave the greenwood and dwell in my court with me."
"So it shall be," answered Robin, "I and my men will come to your court, and see how your service liketh us."
"Have you any green cloth," asked the King, "that you could sell to me?" and Robin brought out thirty yards and more, and clad the King and his men in coats of Lincoln green. "Now we will all ride to Nottingham," said he, and they went merrily, shooting by the way.
The people of Nottingham saw them coming, and trembled as they watched the dark mass of Lincoln green drawing near over the fields. "I fear lest our King be slain," whispered one to another, "and if Robin Hood gets into the town there is not one of us whose life is safe"; and every man, woman, and child made ready to fly.