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ROBIN HOOD sat in his bower in Barnisdale Forest, and his men were waiting for their dinner. In the glade where they lay the crackle of fires under the pots and the bubbling of the stews in the cauldrons made pleasant sounds, and the smell of cooked venison and crusty pies when the cooks opened the earth-ovens put a keen edge on every man's appetite.

But Robin would not give the signal to dine, for they had had no adventure that morning. The men who had been lying in wait along the roads for travelers had reported that there seemed to be no one moving, and that day Robin had felt that he had no desire to dine until he had a stranger to sit and make cheer with him.

"John," said he at length to his lieutenant, who was lying on the grass near him honing the point of an arrow, "go you, lad, with Will and Much, the Miller's son, and wend ye to the Sayles by Ermin Street. From that place, since it lies high, ye may chance to see some wayfarer. If it be so, bring him to me, be he earl or baron, abbot or knight, or the king's justice himself."

Cheerfully Little John rose from his place, and taking his bow and arrows, called Will Stuteley and Much, and together they went through the forest-ways until they came to where the land lay high. Here, in clearings of the forest, were two little stone houses, ruined now and deserted. Ten years ago they had been dwelt in by freemen, who had farmed their few acres of land and fed their swine in the forest. But the evil lord of Wrangby had passed that way, had demanded of Woolgar and Thurstan, the freeholding dwellers, to own that they held their lands from the Wrangby lord. The farmers had been men of Danish blood, who could not brook such tyranny, and had defied the evil Sir Isenbart, with result that by force they had been dragged from their holdings, their crops destroyed, and their houses fired and broken down. Woolgar had been slain defending his home, and his wife and children had become serfs at Wrangby. Thurstan had taken to the woods with his two boys and had fled away, as men said, vowing that some day he would come back and help to burn down the Evil Hold and slay its lords.

"Remember Woolgar and Thurstan," said Little John, as they passed the broken houses, with tall weeds nodding from the windows.

"Ay, ay," said Much and Will, "they are two of the poor broken men for whom we will strike a big blow some day."

Passing through leafy paths the three outlaws at length reached the highway, where their feet beat on the high-crowned road that had been built by Roman hands eight hundred years before.

They came at last to where five roads met. The ground was high here, and there was a wide space where the forest-ways ran into each other. On all sides the ground sloped down, and they could see far over the tossing heads of the great forest which stretched away on all sides. They looked east and they looked west, but no man could they see. Then they looked north into the deep hollow of Barnisdale, and they were aware of a rider coming slowly along a narrow track between the trees to the left, which led from the town of Pontefract some seven miles away.

The horseman was a knight in mail, with a lance in his right hand, and he rode with bent head as if in deep thought. As he came nearer they could see that his face was grave, almost sad; and so dispirited was he that while one foot stood in the stirrup the other swung free, with the stirrup beating against it.

Little John hastened forward to meet the knight, and bending on one knee before him, said:

"Welcome, sir knight, to the greenwood. For these three hours hath my master been expecting you, and hath fasted until you came."

"Thy master hath expected me?" said the knight, looking with surprise at the kneeling outlaw. "Who is thy master, good woodman?"

"He is Robin Hood," replied Little John, "and he craves that you should dine with him this day."

"I have heard of him," said the knight, "for a good fellow and a brave and just man. I will willingly take meat with him, though I had thought to have pushed on to Blythe or Doncaster before I dined. But how mean ye that thy master hath been awaiting me, since I know him not?"

"Our master will not dine today unless he have some wayfarer to keep him company," replied Little John. "'Tis a habit which our master hath at times."

"I fear me," said the knight, "I shall be but poor cheer for thy good leader."

In a little while the knight and the three outlaws stood before the bower of branches and leaves in which Robin Hood was seated. The outlaw rose and looked keenly in the face of the knight, then said:

"Welcome be ye, sir knight. I would have thee dine with me this day."

"I thank thee, good Robin," replied the knight. "God save thee and all thy men!"

Then bowls of water and a napkin were brought, and after Robin and the knight had washed their hands, they sat down to dinner. There was bread and wine, venison pies, fish, roast duck and partridges, besides stewed kale or cabbage, and the knight appeared to relish the rich repast laid before him. Robin did not ask the knight who he was, for it was not his custom to ask this of his guests until they had eaten. When at length the repast was finished and they had washed their hands again, Robin said laughingly:

"Now, sir knight, I hope you have dined well?"

"That I have, good Robin," was the reply. "Such a dinner, in faith, have I not had these three weeks."

"Well, now," went on Robin, smiling; "'tis unheard of that a yeoman should pay for a knight. I must ask toll of thee ere thou wendest further through these woods."

"My good Robin," said the knight with a sad smile, "I have naught in my purse that is worth thy accepting."

"Come, come," replied Robin, "thou art a knight with a knight's lands. Tell me truth now. What hast thou in thy saddle-bag?"

"I have no more than ten shillings," said the knight, and sighed heavily.

"Ho, there!" cried Robin. "Little John, go to this knight's horse and search his saddle-bag and see what he hath therein." Little John went off at once to do his master's command.

Robin turned to the knight, and said: "If indeed thou speakest truth I will not touch one penny thereof, and if thou hast need of more I will lend it to thee."

In a few moments Little John came back, and said: "Master, I find but this half a pound in the saddle-bag," and he held out the silver coin in one broad, brown palm.

"Fill up thy beaker to the brim," said Robin to the knight; "thou'rt a true man of thy word." Robin and the knight drank to their mutual health and safekeeping.

"'Tis a marvel," said Robin, "to see how thin is thy clothing. Never have I seen a knight so poor-seeming as thou art. Tell me truly, and I will not tell it to any man. Art thou a knight by birth, or wert thou made a knight by force for some brave deed, while thy means could not keep thee in dignity; or hast thou muddled thy wealth away, or been a brawler and a waster? How dost thou come to such a sorry pass?"

"None of those things which thou speakest of is the cause of my poverty and lowness," said the knight gravely. "For a hundred winters have my ancestors lived upon our land at home, and ever have they kept up the dignity of our name. But often it befalls, Robin, as thou must know, that a man falls into misfortune not by his own act, and only God who sitteth in the heavens may amend his state. Within the last two years, as my friends and neighbors know, I had four hundred pounds of money which I could spend, but now I have naught in all the world but my wife, and my lands that soon I must lose."

"How is it thou hast fallen into such dire need?" asked Robin.

"Because of my son who slew a man," replied the knight. "'Twas done in fair fight, but the kin of the slain man did oppress me, and it was their evil purpose to ruin me because of my son's deed. I have paid them much money, but they demanded more, and therefore I have had to pledge my lands to the abbot of Saint Mary's. And in my heart I believe mine enemies will do all they may to gain my land, and would fain see me beg my living along the wayside, for they are most bitter against me, and have so worked by fear and threats on all my

"Now by my troth," said Robin, and beat his knee with his clenched hand, "shall we never be done with hearing of the evil deeds and crafty ways of the fat abbot of St. Mary's? Tell me, now," he said to the knight, "what is the sum that thou owest?"

"Four hundred pounds," replied the knight sadly. "Four hundred have I already paid mine enemies, and they did demand four hundred more, which I was compelled to borrow from the abbot. And as I cannot pay it to the abbot tomorrow, I shall lose all I possess."

"Now, if you lose your land," asked Robin, "what have ye in mind to do?"

"I will busk me and go to the Crusade," said the knight, "but first I go to the abbey of St. Mary's to tell the abbot that I have not the money." He rose from his seat as if there was no more to be said.

"But, sir knight," urged Robin, "have ye no friends who will aid thee?"

"Friends!" said the knight bitterly. "While I was rich, friends boasted how they loved me, but as soon as they knew I was in need, and that powerful were mine enemies, they fled this way and that for fear that I should beg help of them."

Pity was in the eyes of Little John and Will the Bowman, and little Much, the Miller's son, turned away to hide a tear. The knight looked so noble and was so sad that the little man felt he would have done anything to help him.

"Go not away yet," said Robin to the knight, who reached for his sword to buckle it to his side; "fill thy beaker once more. Now, say, sir knight, if one should lend thee this money to save thy land, hast thou no one who will be a surety for the repayment?"

"Nay, by my faith," said the knight reverently, "I have no friend but Him that created me."

"Jape me no japes!" replied Robin. "I ask thee if thou hast not thine own friend — not one of the saints, who are friends to all of us, but who cannot pay thy debts."

"Good outlaw," said the knight; "I tell thee truly, I have no friend who would answer for such a debt except Jesus and his Mother, the sweet Virgin!"

"By the rood!" cried Robin, and beat his knee again; "now thou speakest to the point. If thou didst seek all England through, thou couldst not find a surety better to my mind than the blessed Virgin, who hath never failed me since I first called upon her. Come now, John," he went on, turning to Little John, "go thou to my treasury and pay out four hundred pounds, and let each coin ring true and sound and be unclipped and uncut. The tale of money must be truly the amount which the evil abbot will take, so that he may not be able to throw back a single bad coin and thus seize the land of our friend."

Little John, with Much the Miller's son and Will Stuteley, went together to the secret place where Robin kept his chest of gold, and together they told out four hundred golden pounds, and wrapping them in a cloth which they tied up, Little John brought the money to Robin.

"Now here, sir knight," said Robin, untying the cloth and showing the gold to the knight, "are four hundred gold pounds. I lend it to thee on the surety of our, dear Lady the Virgin, and by her blessing thou shalt pay me this money within a year and a day from now."

The tears ran down the knight's thin cheeks as he took the money from Robin's hand.

"Sir Outlaw," said he, "never did I think that any man was so noble of mind as to lend me on such a security. Good Robin, I thank thee, and I will see to it that thou shalt not suffer the loss of a single penny of this money, but in a year and a day will I return with the full sum. And now I will tell thee, that though I had heard thee well and nobly spoken of by my son who loves thee, little did I think I should find that his words spoke less than all the truth."

"Who is thy son, sir knight?" asked Robin, "and where hath he met me?"

"My son is Alan-a-Dale," replied the knight, "whom thou hast aided more than once, and chief of all, for whom thou didst gain him the lady he loves best."

"Now this is a goodly meeting," said Robin, as he and the knight clasped each other's hands. "Alan hath spoken to me of his grief concerning thee, and how he had not the wherewithal to save thee and thy land from the clutches of the crafty monk. But little did I guess that thou wert Sir Herbrand de Tranmire himself. Glad am I indeed, Sir Herbrand, to be able to aid thee, for I love thy son Alan, and would do all I could to bring joy to him and to the father whom he loves. Now thou art another whom those evil lords of Wrangby have oppressed and wronged. Tell me, wilt thou in good time aid me to pull down that Evil Hold of theirs, and scatter the vipers in that nest?"

"That will I most gladly," said Sir Herbrand, and his voice was stem and hard. "Not only for my own sake will I do this, but for the many tyrannies and evils which they have done to poor folks, as I know, in the lands which run from their castle in the Peak to the marches of Lancaster. Much would it gladden me to aid thee, and I promise to give thee all help in this matter when and as thou wilt."

Then Robin Hood, from among his store of rich garments, took a knightly dress of fine array and donned it upon the knight, and it became him well. Also he gave him new spurs and boots, and afterward, when the knight had to continue upon his journey, he gave him a stronger and better horse than his own.

When he was about to set out, after the knight had thanked Robin with tears in his eyes for all the kindness he had shown him, Robin said:

"It is a great shame for a knight to ride alone, without page or squire. I will lend thee a little page of mine own to attend thee to the abbey of St. Mary's, so that he may wait on thee, and afterward bring me word how things befall. John," he called to his big lieutenant, "do thou take horse and ride with Sir Herbrand, and do all that is squirelike, and bring me back word of how the abbot and his crafty crew do receive him."

"I thank thee, good Robin," said Sir Herbrand with a smile, "for the little page thou sendest with me. And here I promise, by the sweet Virgin who hath never failed me, to bring to thee within a year and a day the money thou has so nobly lent me, together with gifts to repay thee for those thou hast given me."

"Fare thee well, Sir Herbrand," said Robin as he shook hands with the knight, "and send me back my little page when thou hast no longer need of him."

As Little John rode off behind the knight there was much laughter and many jokes about the little page, and the knight was advised not to spare the rod, "for," many said, "he was a saucy lad and needed frequent whipping."

For some time the knight and Little John rode on along the lonely forest roads, and the talk between them was of Robin Hood and the many deeds of goodness which he had done.

"I fear me," said the knight at length, "though I will bring all the men I may to aid him, that he will find when the time comes that to pull down that evil nest of Wrangby will be beyond our strength. Isenbart de Belame is a crafty and skilful fighter, and I fear your master hath little knowledge of warfare and of how to take a strong castle such as Wrangby."

"I have no fear of it," said Little John with a laugh. "My master is as wise a man as that limb of Satan. Besides, he hath right on his side, and is under the special care of Our Sweet Lady, and he that hath her blessing, who may avail against him?"

"'Tis true," replied the knight, "the Blessed Virgin is worth a strong company of men-at-arms. But so far and wide do the evil plots of Belame and the Wrangby robbers spread, and so fearful are men to incur their displeasure, that from here to Doncaster on the east, and to the marches of Lancaster on the west, I doubt if justice and right are ever allowed to be done if it comes to the ears of those evil men."

"Ay," said Little John sadly, "they have laid the fear of death or torture on all who wish to live in peace, but, as I hope to be saved, I believe their wicked days are numbered. In every village lives some maimed wretch who bears the marks of their torture, in every manor-house or castle dwells some lord or lady, knight or dame, who hath been put to shame, or suffered ill by their ruffian deeds. And it is in my mind that, were my master once to rise against the evil crew, every peaceful man from here to Lancaster would rise also, and never lay aside his weapons until the cruel band were utterly wiped out."

"May the Virgin grant that it be so!" said the knight. "But what are those that follow after that man? It would seem that they have it in mind to rob or injure him."

A little way before them was a group of some five or six men, walking in the middle of the road, and as the knight and Little John approached them they could see that each of the five men behind bore a naked sword in his hand, while the man in front held a cross before him and was almost naked.

"'Tis some felon who hath sworn to leave the country for some murder or other villainy," said Little John, "and those armed men are those whose kin he hath wronged, and who see that he go not out of the king's highway. And by the rood, he that holds the cross hath a right evil look."

When they reached the group the knight asked courteously what crime the felon had committed. The man with the cross was ungirt, unshod, bareheaded and barefooted, and was clothed merely in a shirt, as if he were about to be hanged on a gallows. His look was black and evil, and across one cheek was the weal of an old wound. The five men who followed with swords drawn were well-to-do townsmen, or burgesses as they were called. One, by his dress, and by a certain authoritative look about him, was a man of power and influence, and he it was who replied.

"This evil wretch here whom we follow is a murderous knave, by name Richard Malbęte," he said. "Our father was an old and doting man who, because he had ever dwelled in peace and quiet in his shop in Mercers Row in our town of Pontefract, loved to hear tales of travel and to speak to men who had fought and done warlike deeds. He fell in with this wretch here, who told many tales of his great adventures. Our father, John le Marchant, took this loose rascal into his house, much against the will and advice of us his sons. This Malbęte, or Illbeast, as he rightly names himself, did slay our father, in a right subtle and wicked manner, and then fled with much gold upon him. We raised the hue and cry after him, and he took sanctuary in St. Michael's church, and afterward he did swear before the coroner to abjure and leave this realm and to go to the port of Grimsby and there take ship. And we follow to see that he escape not."

By the looks the five brothers gave the murderer it was evident that they would almost welcome any attempt he might make to escape, for then they would be justified, if he went but a step off the highway, in slaying him out of hand. There was nothing, really, to prevent them doing that now, for he was unarmed and there was no one by to protect him, but being law-abiding citizens they reverenced the oath which the murderer had taken.

Little John had not seen the robber when he had been disguised as a beggar and had fallen in with Robin, so that he did not recognize him. He looked at the brutal face of the man keenly, and noted the cruel and crafty glances which Malbęte cast at the five brothers.

"I would counsel thee to take close heed of this rascal," said Little John to the sons of John le Marchant. "That evil face of his, I doubt not, hideth a brain that is full of guile and wile. Take heed lest by a trick he escape ye even now."

The eldest brother, who had previously spoken, was a man unused to take advice, and resented the counsel of a man who looked to be no better than a woodman.

"I need no counsel to know what to do with a rogue," he said stiffly. "This felon shall have his life let from him ere he can hoodwink us."

Little John laughed and said no more. When he and the knight had gone a little further the latter said:

"I have seen that robber and murderer once before. He was taken up at Gisors for robbing in the very house where Kin~ Henry was sleeping. The camp provost condemned him to be hung forthwith, but I heard that by a trick he had escaped the hands of the camp marshals and got clean away. He is a man of a most evil life, and his mind is full of plots and crafty contrivings."

"I knew it by his sly face," said John, "and I doubt not that one or more of the stiff-necked merchants behind him will pay with their lives for his escape."

Nothing further happened to the two wayfarers until they reached the town of York just as daylight was dying from the skies. They were among the last to enter the city as the guard was shutting the huge gates. They went to a decent inn which the knight knew, where they supped and slept that night.

Next morning, in the chapter-house of St. Mary's Abbey, were gathered the chief officers of the house. There was Abbot Robert, with proud curved lips, double chin, and fierce red face, and beside him on the bench was the prior, who was second in authority. He was a mild, good man, and did as much by kindness as the abbot did by his ways of harshness and tyranny.

Before them on a table were many parchments, for this was the day when tenants came to pay their rents or dues, and others came to appear in answer to some charge or demand made by the abbot. At the table were two monks who acted as clerks. On the right of the abbot sat one of the king's justices, who was traveling in that part of the kingdom, trying cases in the king's name. There were one or two knights also sitting there, together with the sheriff of York.

Many came in and paid their rents either in money or in goods; others came and complained of the way in which the abbot's bailiffs or stewards had oppressed them, and it was a wonder to hear how many manors held by the abbey seemed to have harsh bailiffs to rule them in the name of the abbot. To all such complaining the abbot gave little heed, though the good prior tried to make inquiry into the worst wrongs of which the poor freemen or villeins complained.

Many came in and paid their rents either in money or in goods;
others came and complained of the way in which the abbot's
bailiff or stewards had oppressed them.

"They are all a pack of grumbling rascals," said the abbot angrily at length. "Save thy breath, prior, to say thy prayers, for I would rather leave my bailiffs to do as they think needful than meddle in matters of which I know little."

"Nevertheless, when such great wrongs are charged against the stewards of the abbey," said the prior, "methinks that for the honor of the abbey and for the grace of the Holy Virgin after whom our house is named, strict inquiry should be made, and if our servants be shown to have acted without mercy they should be punished."

"If things were left to thee, prior," said the abbot mockingly, "we should all go bare to give the rascally villeins all that they craved. Have done, and say no more. I am abbot, and while I am chief of this house I will do as it seems to me fit."

Just then into the chapter-house strode a tall and fierce-looking man. He was dressed in half armor, having a hauberk on his body, with a sword slung by a belt about his middle. On his head of rough black hair was a hat of velvet, which he doffed as he entered. Behind him came his squire, bearing his helmet and a heavy mace. The abbot rose in his seat.

"Ha, Sir Niger," he said with a laugh, "so thou hast come as thou didst promise. Dost thou think the knight of Werrisdale will balk us on this his last day of grace?"

"I think we may see him beg his bread of us today," replied Sir Niger le Grym with a cruel laugh. "We will see to it that he pays heavily for harboring his rascal son, Alan-a-Dale, and if we cannot get at that wretched squire himself, we will make the father suffer in his stead."

"I hear that his son hath joined that villainous robber and murderer, Robin Hood," said the justice. "Sheriff," he went on, turning to that officer, "you must take strong measures to root out that band of vipers who haunt Barnisdale. He hath not only, as I hear, slain Sir Ranulf of the Waste, but he hath burnt down his castle also."

"Far be it from me, sir justice," said the prior boldly, "to take the part of so great a robber, but what he hath done, hath been done by barons and lords of our county within this last year, and none of them ever received punishment from thee or from any of the king's justices!"

Sir Niger glared fiercely at the prior and muttered something under his red beard. The king's justice looked angrily at the speaker and could find nothing to say, for he knew it was true that when powerful knights Such as de Belame and Sir Niger did evil, their wealth and their influence shielded them from punishment.

"This I know," said the abbot hastily, "that if Sir Herbrand of Werrisdale doth not come with four hundred pounds ere this day be done, he loses his land and is utterly disinherited."

"It is still very early," said the prior, "for the day hath but half gone. It is a great pity that he should lose his land. His son slew the knight, Sir Ivo, in fair fight, and ye do Sir Herbrand much wrong so to oppress him. He is but a poor man with no powerful friends to aid him."

"Thou art ever against me, thou quarrelsome man," said the abbot, and his heavy face went red with anger. "I never say aught but thou dost contradict me."

"I would have no more than justice done against high and low, knight or villein," said the prior sturdily.

Just then there came in the high cellarer, the officer who looked to the provisions which had to be supplied to the abbey. He was so corpulent in body and red in face that it almost seemed that he partook more than was good of the food and drink over which he had control.

"Ha! ha!" he said, and laughed in a fat wheezy way; "this is the day when Sir Herbrand de Tranmire must lose his land if he pay us not four hundred pounds. I'll dare swear that he is dead or hanged, and will not come hither, and so we'll have his land."

"I dare well undertake with thee," said the justice, "that the knight will not come today. And as I did lend thee some of the four hundred pounds, I count that I gain more than I sent thee, seeing that the knight's lands are worth much more than what they are pledged for."

"Ye say right," said the abbot. "We be all sharers in the land of the knight except Sir Niger, and he seeks revenge alone."

"Come you now to meat," said the cellarer, and he led the way to the wide hall, where all the company sat down to a rich meal, served on silver platters by pages in fine attire. They laughed and jested as they ate, for they felt sure that the knight could not pay the money he owed, and therefore they would all make a great profit out of his land.

In the middle of their feasting there came the knight himself into the hall. He looked sad and sorrowful, and was dressed not in the rich clothes which Robin had given him, but in his old and worn garments. Behind him came Little John, clothed like a poor squire, in patched and soiled jerkin and ragged hose.

"God save you all!" said the knight, kneeling with one knee on the floor.

The abbot looked at him, and gladdened to see how mean and poor he looked. "I have come on the day thou didst fix for me, father," went on the knight.

"Hast thou brought my money?" asked the abbot in a harsh voice.

"Not one penny," said the knight and shook his head sadly.

The abbot laughed. "Thou art an unlucky fellow!" he said, mocking him. Then raising his flagon of wine, he said to the justice:

"Sir justice, drink to me, for I think we shall have all we hoped to get."

Then, having drained the flagon, the abbot turned and said to the knight:

"What dost thou do here, then, if thou hast not brought my money?"

"To pray you, father, for a little further time," said the knight in a sad voice. "I have striven hard to find the money, and if thou wouldst give me but four more months I shall be able to make up the sum due to thee."

"The time is over, my man," said the justice in a scornful voice. "As thou hast not the money, thou wilt no longer have thy land."

"Oh, for sweet charity's sake," prayed the knight, "do thou be my friend, sir justice, and shield me from these that would strip me to see me starve."

"I am a friend of the abbot's," said the justice coldly, "and I will see naught but justice done between thee. If thou hast not the money, thou must lose thy land. 'Tis the law, and I will see it fulfilled, hark ye!"

Then the knight turned to the sheriff. "Good sir sheriff," he said, "do ye plead with the abbot on my behalf to grant me a little longer time."

"Nay," said the sheriff, "I will not — I may not."

At length the knight, still kneeling, turned to the abbot.

"I pray thee, good sir abbot," he pleaded, "be my friend and grant me grace. Hold ye my land until I make up the amount which is due to thee. I will be true man to thee in all things, and serve thee rightfully."

"Now by the rood," said the abbot, and he was furiously angry, "thou art wasting thy breath to ask such foolish prayers. I tell thee thou mayest get other land where thou wilt, but thy land is mine now, and never more shalt thou possess it."

"By my faith," replied the knight, and he laughed bitterly; "thus is tested indeed the friendship which thou didst once profess to me!" The abbot looked evilly upon the knight, for he did not like to be reminded of such things in the presence of the enemies of Sir Herbrand.

"Out upon thee, traitorous and cozening man!" he cried. "Thou didst make the bond to pay me on this day, and thou hast not the money. Out! thou false knight! Speed thou out of my hall!"

"Thou liest, abbot!" cried the good knight, and got up from his knees. "I was never a false knight, but ever a man of honor. In many lands have I fought, and in jousts and tournaments have I borne a lance before King Henry and the kings of France and Germany. And ever in all places did I get praise until I came hither in thy hall, sir abbot!"

The justice was moved at the noble knight's words, and he thought the abbot had been harsh and oppressive. Therefore he turned to Abbot Robert and said:

"What wilt thou give him beyond the four hundred pounds so that he release all claim on his land to thee?" Sir Niger looked black, and growled at the justice in his beard. "Give him naught!" he said in a low tone to the abbot.

"I'll give him a hundred pounds!" said the abbot.

"Nay, 'tis worth two hundred — six hundred pounds in all," urged the justice.

"Nay, by the rood!" cried the knight and came to the foot of the table, and with flashing eyes, he looked forward from one to other of his enemies. "I know thy plots against me," he went on. "Ye foul living monks desire my land, for thou art ever yearning to add acre to acre and to grind down the souls and bodies of thy poor villeins to get more wealth from them. Thou, Sir Niger, wouldst revenge thyself of the death of thy kinsman, whom my brave son slew in fair and open combat. But chiefly thou desirest to have vengeance upon me because thou art not bold enough to seek for Robin Hood, who aided my son against thee. Therefore thou wouldst ruin and oppress me who cannot fight against the evil power of your Wrangby lords. But I tell thee, have a care how far thou goest. As for thee, sir abbot, here are thy four hundred pounds!"

With that he drew a bag from his breast, untied the mouth and emptied the golden coins upon the table.

"Have thy gold, abbot," he said mockingly, "and much good may it do thy immortal soul."

The prior came forward with two monks, and having counted the gold and found it was the proper amount, the prior made out a quittance and handed it to the knight. Meanwhile the abbot sat still, dumbfounded and full of shame, and would eat no more. The faces of the others also showed how bitterly they felt the way in which the knight had turned the tables upon them. Sir Niger le Grym, with a red and angry face, chewed his nether lip and darted fierce glances at the knight, who stood boldly meeting his gaze.

"Sir abbot," said the knight, waving the receipt in their faces, "now have I kept my word, and I have paid ye to the full. Now shall I have my land again for aught that ye can say or do."

With that he turned and strode out of the door, followed by Little John. Getting on their horses, they went back to their inn, where they changed their clothes, and having dined, rode out of the town and took the road toward the west, for the knight desired much to reach home swiftly, to tell his dear wife how well he had sped, thanks to the noble kindness of Robin Hood.

"Sir knight," said Little John, as they rode together through the forest ways a few miles from York, "I liked not the evil look upon that knight's face who sat at table with the abbot. 'Twere well to take heed against a sudden onfall or an ambush in a secret place."

"I fear not Sir Niger le Grym," replied the knight, "nor any other knight so he come against me singly. But the Wrangby knights are full of treachery, and seldom fight except in twos or threes. Therefore thy words are wise and I will take heed. Do thou leave me now, good woodman, for I would not take thee so far out of thy way."

"Nay," said Little John, "I may not leave thee in this forest. My master said I was to be thy squire, and I would stay with thee in case thou needest me until thou hast reached thy own lands."

"Thou art a faithful fellow," said Sir Herbrand, "and

I would that I could reward thee. But as thou knowest I am bare of money and jewels."

"I need no such rewards, I thank thee, sir knight," replied Little John. "I was ever ready to go out of my way for the chance of a good fight, and I think we shall have a few knocks ere we have gone far, or I know not a murderous look in a man's eyes."

Little John felt sure that Sir Niger le Grym had meditated treachery when Sir Herbrand had put down the money, and he did not doubt that at some likely spot the knight would be set upon and perhaps killed in revenge.

As they rode along both kept a sharp lookout when the road narrowed and ran through thick woods, but they cleared the forest, and toward the end of the afternoon they found themselves upon the desolate moors, and there had as yet been no sign of their enemy. But now they were in the wild country, where the power of Sir Isenbart, Sir Niger and their evil companions was strongest, and the two riders pushed on swiftly, hoping to reach the town of Stanmore before nightfall.

In this solitary country they met few people except a shepherd or two, or a couple of villeins now and then passing homeward from some errand. Once they saw a hawking-party in the distance, and another time they met a band of merchants with their baggage ponies. At length they began to mount a long and steep ascent toward a high ridge called Cold Kitchen Rigg, at the top of which was a clump of fir-trees, their heads all bent one way by the strong wind which seemed always to blow up there.

As they pushed their jaded horses up the last few yards, suddenly from between the bushes beside the trees came the sound of a whizzing arrow, and next moment a bolt rattled harmlessly against Little John's buckler, which hung beside his knee, and then fell to the ground. Glancing down at it he saw it had a short black shaft, and knew at once who it was that thus warned him. He called to the knight, who rode a few paces before him, "Ware the trees, sir knight!" But even as he spoke, out from the firs came a horseman in mail armor, with lance set, and rushed at Sir Herbrand. At the same time, from the other side of the narrow road another horsed knight dashed out with a huge mace in his hand and came toward Little John. The road was steep, and they thought that the speed with which they came down the track Would without doubt dash the two riders to the ground. But both the knight and John were prepared in a measure for the attack. Sir Herbrand had drawn his sword as he heard the arrow whiz from the bush, and now dressed his shield, so that when the first knight sped against him he parried the lance with his buckler, and as his opponent, foiled of his blow, swept helplessly by him he brought his sword down upon the other's neck with such force that the man rolled from the saddle. The horse careered madly down the hill, and the knight's spur catching in the stirrup, he was dragged along the road, his body leaping and bumping over the rough places.

Next moment, however, a third knight had come swiftly from among the trees, and had attacked Sir Herbrand with his sword so fiercely, that on the steep road it required all the good knight's strength to keep his horse from falling, and at the same time to ward off his enemy's shrewd blows.

As for Little John, he was in hard case. So fiercely had the second knight dashed at him that John scarcely had time to dress his buckler, and half the blow from the descending mace was received upon his arm, numbing it so that it seemed almost powerless. With drawn sword, however, John did his best to defend himself; but the stranger being mounted on a stronger horse, as well as being protected by full armor, John could but just hold his own, while he could do little hurt to his opponent. Fiercely the blows from the heavy mace came down upon the yeoman's buckler, and the stranger pressed his horse so violently against the weaker animal which John bestrode, that John knew that it would be but a matter of a few moments before he would be overthrown upon the sloping road.

Suddenly the knight checked in his assault and seemed to shiver; a hollow groan came from the headpiece, the mace fell from the lifted hand, and the mailed figure swayed in the saddle. John looked and saw the end of a short black arrow jutting from the armpit of his enemy. At such close range had it been shot that it stood deep in the flesh. Little John looked around and saw a hazel bush beside the way, and from among its leaves the round tanned face of Ket the Trow looked out, its usual good-nature now masked by a terribly savage look of triumph.

With a clatter the knight pitched to the ground, and his horse stood shaking beside the corpse of its master. Seeing the fall of his comrade, the third knight, who was fighting with Sir Herbrand, suddenly put spurs to his horse and dashed away through the trees. Rushing down the slope beyond, he could be seen riding swiftly over the moor in the direction of Wrangby Castle. Sir Herbrand, who was wounded, forbore to pursue his enemy.

Not so Ket the Trow. With a stealthy movement he ran across the road and was swallowed up in the tall bracken fronds.

"Who is that?" cried Sir Herbrand. "Is it one of the men of these felon knights who have attacked us?"

"Nay," said Little John; "it is one to whom I owe my life today, for if his arrow had not ended this rogue's life here, I think I should have been overborne."

"Who is this knight?" said Sir Herbrand, and getting off his horse he went and lifted the dead man's vizor. "By Holy Mary!" said the knight, "it is Sir Niger himself!"

"Then there is one less of that evil crew," said John, "or perhaps two, for I doubt not that he on whose neck thou didst beat is dead by now, for if he was alive when he fell, his horse hath killed him by now."

"Do you ride back, John," said Sir Herbrand, "and if the knight and his horse are to be found, bring them back, for I would give him proper burial. Moreover, by all the laws of combat, his harness and his horse are mine."

John did as the knight bade him, and having retraced his steps about half a mile he found the horse quietly cropping the grass by the wayside, the body of its rider being a few yards away, the spur having become loosened when the horse had ceased its wild running. He lifted the dead man on the horse and went back to Sir Herbrand, and leading the two captured horses, each with its dead master on its back, the knight and Little John pursued their way and in an hour came to a wayside chapel. There they entered in, but the hermit who was its guardian was absent. Having stripped the armor from the two dead knights, Sir Herbrand laid the bodies decently before the altar, and then with Little John kneeled down and said a prayer.

Afterward, taking the two horses with the armor piled upon them, they pursued their way to their night's lodging-place, and the next day Sir Herbrand reached his home, and was fondly welcomed by his wife and by all his people. When he had told them how he had been befriended by Robin Hood, his dame and her household made much of Little John and wished him to stay with them for many days. But on the second day John said he must return to his master, and finding that he would not longer stay, Dame Judith made him up a good bag of meat and gave him a gold ring, and the knight made him a present of a strong horse, and gave him in gold the value of Sir Niger's horse and armor, which he said belonged by right to Little John. Thereafter the good outlaw bade farewell, and Sir Herbrand, at parting, shook his hand and said:

"Little John, thou and thy master have been good friends to me and my son, and may evil betide me if ever I forget thy good fellowship and aid. Tell thy master that within a year and a day, God willing, I will seek him and bring the money he hath so nobly lent me on the surety of Our Lady, and with that money will I bring a present. And tell him, also, from me, that if, as I think likely, evil days come upon our dear land through the wrong and despite which Duke John beareth to his brother King Richard of the Lion Heart, there will be need for a few good and valiant men like thy master. And if he should at any time require my aid, tell him I can arm a hundred brave fellows to follow me."

John promised to give the message faithfully, and sc departed and reached Barnisdale without mishap.

Now, on the evening of the day on which the knights had set upon Sir Herbrand and Little John, the third knight, sorely faint and wounded, rode up to the gate of Wrangby Castle, which poor men called Evil Hold, and in a weak voice shouted to the gate-guard to lower the bridge across the moat. When this had been done he rode into the courtyard. Without dismounting he rode forward into the very hall where Sir Isenbart and his fellows were at their wine.

"'Tis Sir Bernard of the Brake!" said the knights, looking up amazed at the swaying figure on horseback which came up to the very verge of the high seat.

"Where are Sir Niger and Sir Peter?" thundered Sir Isenbart, his fear of the truth making him rage.

"Dead!" said the knight, and they could see the white face within the helm. "Give me wine — I — I am spent."

A goblet of wine was handed to him, while men unloosed his helm and took it from off his head. Then they could see how he had been sorely wounded, but his great strength had kept him up. He drank off the wine and held out the vessel for more.

"The knight slew Sir Peter," went on Bernard of the Brake, "and the knave I suppose slew Sir Niger, for I saw him fall to the ground."

All the knights looked gloomily at each other and said no word.

Just then a man-at-arms from the gate-guard came running into the hall. In his hand he bore an arrow which he laid on the table before Sir Isenbart.

"This, lord, hath just been shot through the bars of the portcullis, and narrowly missed my head. We could not see who shot it in."

Sir Isenbart glanced at the short black arrow and his face went dark with rage. Along its shafts were notches, seven in number, which were stained red.

"Quick!" shouted Sir Isenbart, "the wretch that shot it cannot have gone far. Out with you and search for him and bring him to me."

There was bustle and noise for a few moments as some score of men-at-arms seized their weapons, and knights donned their armor and rode out, thundering over the drawbridge. There was a cleared space of a great extent before the gate, so that it was a marvel that any one could have crept up unobserved by the men on watch at the slits over the drawbridge. The horsemen and footmen scoured the country for half a mile round, but not a sight or sound could they see of any lurking bowmen.

Darkness soon put an end to their search, and by ones and twos they returned to report their non-success. When the last had straggled across the drawbridge, the latter, with many creakings and shrieks as the rusty chains came over the beam, was hauled up for the night, and the portcullis ran down with a clang that shook the tower. Then, from beneath a little bush that overhung the outer edge of the ditch near the gate crept a small, lithe form. Slowly and with great care it drew itself out of the water, so that no splash could be heard by the men in the room of the gate-guard. It was Ket the Trow, who had been set by Robin Hood to keep watch on the Evil Hold. His bow and arrows he had kept dry by holding them in the bush above him.

He looked up at the black mass of the castle rising high and wide on the other side of the ditch. Light from cressets or torches shone out from the arrow slits here and there, and the gleam of a headpiece flashed up as a man-at-arms passed or repassed walking on his watch. For some time Ket gazed, an arrow notched to his taut string, hoping that some face would come to look out from some near aperture, at which he might get another shot. But time passed and no opportunity offered. He loosened his string and turned reluctantly away.

"Seven have gone," he muttered, "but many are left. As they slew, so shall they be slain — without ruth, without pity."

He trotted slowly away, looking back now and then at the dark bulk with little points of light here and there. For a mile he thus half ran until he came to where the forest began. Then in the darkness he passed through the deep gloom between the great trees until he came to one which was a giant among giants. With the stealth of a wild animal he looked about him and listened for a long time; then with an almost incredible swiftness he climbed up the trunk by means of tiny projections of knot and bark here and there until he disappeared in the massy leaves overhead. Higher and higher he mounted into a world where there was nothing but dark masses of leaves which murmured in the night wind, which was purer and stronger the higher he mounted. At length he reached a place where three great limbs jutted from the trunk, and in their midst was a space heaped with sweet-smelling fern fronds. Ket turned and looked forth to the way by which he had come. He was over the tops of all the other trees below him, which swayed and whispered like softly moving waves as the wind stirred them. Looking forth from among the leaves of the giant oak from where he sat in his lair, Ket could see far away the dark mass of the Evil Hold rising against the black sky behind it. A few lights still gleamed here and there, but every moment these were becoming fewer.

Casting off his wet clothes Ket hung them securely on a limb to dry; then he wriggled deep into the great heap of fern, and having drawn food and drink from a hiding-place in the tree he munched and drank, his eyes never leaving the castle. When all the lights but those over the gate were darkened, he curled himself up in the scented fronds and fell to sleep instantly, and the murmur with which the wind strained through the leaves all about him was a lullaby that softly sang through the short summer night.

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