Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Maid Marian’
By Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866)

  —Tuck, the merry friar, who many a sermon made
In praise of Robin Hood, his outlaws, and their trade.

THE BARON, with some of his retainers and all the foresters, halted at daybreak in Sherwood Forest. The foresters quickly erected tents, and prepared an abundant breakfast of venison and ale.  1
  “Now, Lord Fitzwater,” said the chief forester, “recognize your son-in-law that was to have been, in the outlaw Robin Hood.”  2
  “Ay, ay,” said the baron, “I have recognized you long ago.”  3
  “And recognize your young friend Gamwell,” said the second, “in the outlaw Scarlet.”  4
  “And Little John, the page,” said the third, “in Little John, the outlaw.”  5
  “And Father Michael, of Rubygill Abbey,” said the friar, “in Friar Tuck, of Sherwood Forest. Truly, I have a chapel here hard by, in the shape of a hollow tree, where I put up my prayers for travelers; and Little John holds the plate at the door, for good praying deserves good paying.”  6
  “I am in fine company,” said the baron.  7
  “In the very best of company,” said the friar: “in the high court of Nature, and in the midst of her own nobility. Is it not so? This goodly grove is our palace; the oak and the beech are its colonnade and its canopy; the sun and the moon and the stars are its everlasting lamps; the grass and the daisy, and the primrose and the violet, are its many-colored floor of green, white, yellow, and blue; the mayflower and the woodbine, and the eglantine and the ivy, are its decorations, its curtains, and its tapestry; the lark, and the thrush, and the linnet, and the nightingale, are its unhired minstrels and musicians. Robin Hood is king of the forest both by dignity of birth and by virtue of his standing army; to say nothing of the free choice of his people, which he has indeed, but I pass it by as an illegitimate basis of power. He holds his dominion over the forest, and its horned multitude of citizen-deer, and its swinish multitude or peasantry of wild boars, by right of conquest and force of arms. He levies contributions among them by the free consent of his archers, their virtual representatives. If they should find a voice to complain that we are ‘tyrants and usurpers to kill and cook them up in their assigned and native dwelling-place,’ we should most convincingly admonish them, with point of arrow, that they have nothing to do with our laws but to obey them. Is it not written that the fat ribs of the herd shall be fed upon by the mighty in the land? And have not they withal my blessing? my orthodox, canonical, and archiepiscopal blessing? Do I not give thanks for them when they are well roasted and smoking under my nose? What title had William of Normandy to England, that Robin of Locksley has not to merry Sherwood? William fought for his claim. So does Robin. With whom, both? With any that would or will dispute it. William raised contributions. So does Robin. From whom, both? From all that they could or can make pay them. Why did any pay them to William? Why do any pay them to Robin? For the same reason, to both: because they could not or cannot help it. They differ indeed in this,—that William took from the poor and gave to the rich, and Robin takes from the rich and gives to the poor; and therein is Robin illegitimate, though in all else he is true prince. Scarlet and John, are they not peers of the forest? lords temporal of Sherwood? And am not I lord spiritual? Am I not archbishop? Am I not pope? Do I not consecrate their banner and absolve their sins? Are not they State, and am not I Church? Are not they State monarchical, and am not I Church militant? Do I not excommunicate our enemies from venison and brawn, and by’r Lady, when need calls, beat them down under my feet? The State levies tax, and the Church levies tithe. Even so do we. ’Mass, we take all at once. What then? It is tax by redemption, and tithe by commutation. Your William and Richard can cut and come again; but our Robin deals with slippery subjects, that come not twice to his exchequer. What need we then to constitute a court, except a fool and a laureate? For the fool, his only use is to make false knaves merry by art: and we are true men and are merry by nature. For the laureate, his only office is to find virtues in those who have none, and to drink sack for his pains. We have quite virtue enough to need him not, and can drink our sack for ourselves.”  8
  “Well preached, friar,” said Robin Hood; “yet there is one thing wanting to constitute a court, and that is a queen. And now, lovely Matilda, look round upon these sylvan shades where we have so often roused the stag from his ferny covert. The rising sun smiles upon us through the stems of that beechen knoll. Shall I take your hand, Matilda, in the presence of this my court? Shall I crown you with our wildwood coronal, and hail you Queen of the Forest? Will you be the Queen Matilda of your own true King Robin?”  9
  Matilda smiled assent.  10
  “Not Matilda,” said the friar: “the rules of our holy alliance require new birth. We have excepted in favor of Little John, because he is great John, and his name is a misnomer. I sprinkle, not thy forehead with water, but thy lips with wine, and baptize thee Marian.”  11
  “Here is a pretty conspiracy,” exclaimed the baron. “Why, you villainous friar, think you to nickname and marry my daughter before my face with impunity?”  12
  “Even so, bold baron,” said the friar: “we are strongest here. Say you, might overcomes right? I say no. There is no right but might; and to say that might overcomes right is to say that right overcomes itself: an absurdity most palpable. Your right was the stronger in Arlingford, and ours is the stronger in Sherwood. Your right was right as long as you could maintain it; so is ours. So is King Richard’s, with all deference be it spoken; and so is King Saladin’s: and their two mights are now committed in bloody fray, and that which overcomes will be right just as long as it lasts and as far as it reaches. And now, if any of you know any just impediment—”  13
  “Fire and fury!” said the baron.  14
  “Fire and fury,” said the friar, “are modes of that might which constitutes right, and are just impediments to anything against which they can be brought to bear. They are our allies upon occasion, and would declare for us now, if you should put them to the test.”  15
  “Father,” said Matilda, “you know the terms of our compact: from the moment you restrained my liberty, you renounced your claim to all but compulsory obedience. The friar argues well: right ends with might. Thick walls, dreary galleries, and tapestried chambers were indifferent to me while I could leave them at pleasure, but have ever been hateful to me since they held me by force. May I never again have roof but the blue sky, nor canopy but the green leaves, nor barrier but the forest bounds; with the foresters to my train, Little John to my page, Friar Tuck to my ghostly adviser, and Robin Hood to my liege lord. I am no longer Lady Matilda Fitzwater of Arlingford Castle, but plain Maid Marian of Sherwood Forest.”  16
  “Long live Maid Marian!” re-echoed the foresters.  17
  “O false girl!” said the baron, “do you renounce your name and parentage?”  18
  “Not my parentage,” said Marian, “but my name indeed: do not all maids renounce it at the altar?”  19
  “The altar!” said the baron: “grant me patience! what do you mean by the altar?”  20
  “Pile green turf,” said the friar; “wreathe it with flowers, and crown it with fruit, and we will show the noble baron what we mean by the altar.”  21
  The foresters did as the friar directed.  22
  “Now, Little John,” said the friar, “on with the cloak of the Abbot of Doubleflask. I appoint thee my clerk: thou art here duly elected in full mote.”  23
  “I wish you were all in full moat together,” said the baron, “and smooth wall on both sides.”  24
  “Punnest thou?” said the friar. “A heinous, anti-Christian offense. Why anti-Christian? Because anti-Catholic. Why anti-Catholic? Because anti-Roman. Why anti-Roman? Because Carthaginian. Is not pun from Punic? punica fides: the very quintessential quiddity of bad faith; double-visaged; double-tongued. He that will make a pun will— I say no more. Fie on it. Stand forth, clerk. Who is the bride’s father?”  25
  “There is no bride’s father,” said the baron. “I am the father of Matilda Fitzwater.”  26
  “There is none such,” said the friar. “This is the fair Maid Marian. Will you make a virtue of necessity, or will you give laws to the flowing tide? Will you give her, or shall Robin take her? Will you be her true natural father, or shall I commute paternity? Stand forth, Scarlet.”  27
  “Stand back, Sirrah Scarlet,” said the baron. “My daughter shall have no father but me. Needs must when the Devil drives.”  28
  “No matter who drives,” said the friar, “so that, like a well-disposed subject, you yield cheerful obedience to those who can enforce it.”  29
  “Mawd, sweet Mawd,” said the baron, “will you then forsake your poor old father in his distress, with his castle in ashes and his enemy in power?”  30
  “Not so, father,” said Marian: “I will always be your true daughter; I will always love and serve and watch and defend you: but neither will I forsake my plighted love, and my own liege lord, who was your choice before he was mine, for you made him my associate in infancy; and that he continued to be mine when he ceased to be yours, does not in any way show remissness in my duties, or falling off in my affections. And though I here plight my troth at the altar to Robin, in the presence of this holy priest and pious clerk, yet— Father, when Richard returns from Palestine, he will restore you to your barony, and perhaps, for your sake, your daughter’s husband to the earldom of Huntingdon: should that never be, should it be the will of fate that we must live and die in the greenwood, I will live and die MAID MARIAN.”  31
  “A pretty resolution,” said the baron, “if Robin will let you keep it.”  32
  “I have sworn it,” said Robin. “Should I expose her tenderness to the perils of maternity, when life and death may hang on shifting at a moment’s notice from Sherwood to Barnsdale, and from Barnsdale to the sea-shore? And why should I banquet when my merry-men starve? Chastity is our forest law, and even the friar has kept it since he has been here.”  33
  “Truly so,” said the friar; “for temptation dwells with ease and luxury: but the hunter is Hippolytus, and the huntress is Dian. And now, dearly beloved—”  34
  The friar went through the ceremony with great unction, and Little John was most clerical in the intonation of his responses. After which, the friar sang, and Little John fiddled, and the foresters danced, Robin with Marian, and Scarlet with the baron: and the venison smoked, and the ale frothed, and the wine sparkled, and the sun went down on their unwearied festivity; which they wound up with the following song, the friar leading, and the foresters joining chorus:—

  Oh! bold Robin Hood is a forester good,
As ever drew bow in the merry greenwood:
At his bugle’s shrill singing the echoes are ringing,
The wild deer are springing for many a rood;
Its summons we follow, through brake, over hollow,
The thrice-blown shrill summons of bold Robin Hood.
And what eye hath ere seen such a sweet Maiden Queen
As Marian, the pride of the forester’s green?
A sweet garden flower, she blooms in the bower,
Where alone to this hour the wild rose has been;
We hail her in duty the queen of all beauty:
We will live, we will die, by our sweet Maiden Queen.
And here’s a gray friar, good as heart can desire,
To absolve all our sins as the case may require;
Who with courage so stout lays his oak-plant about,
And puts to the rout all the foes of his choir;
For we are his choristers, we merry foresters,
Chorusing thus with our militant friar.
And Scarlet doth bring his good yew-bough and string,
Prime minister is he of Robin our king;
No mark is too narrow for Little John’s arrow,
That hits a cock-sparrow a mile on the wing;
Robin and Mariòn, Scarlet and Little John,
Long with their glory old Sherwood shall ring.
Each a good liver, for well-feathered quiver
Doth furnish brawn, venison, and fowl of the river:
But the best game we dish up, it is a fat bishop;
When his angels we fish up, he proves a free giver,—
For a prelate so lowly has angels more holy,
And should this world’s false angels to sinners deliver.
Robin and Mariòn, Scarlet and Little John,
  Drink to them one by one, drink as ye sing:
Robin and Mariòn, Scarlet and Little John,
  Echo to echo through Sherwood shall fling:
Robin and Mariòn, Scarlet and Little John,
  Long with their glory old Sherwood shall ring.

  A single volume paramount; a code:
A master spirit; a determined road.

  THE NEXT morning Robin Hood convened his foresters, and desired Little John, for the baron’s edification, to read over the laws of their forest society. Little John read aloud with a stentorophonic voice:—
  AT a high court of foresters, held under the greenwood tree an hour after sunrise, Robin Hood president, William Scarlet vice-president, Little John secretary: the following articles, moved by Friar Tuck in his capacity of Peer Spiritual, and seconded by Much the Miller, were unanimously agreed to.  37
  The principles of our society are six: Legitimacy, Equity, Hospitality, Chivalry, Chastity, and Courtesy.  38
  The articles of Legitimacy are four:—  39
  I. Our government is legitimate, and our society is founded on the one golden rule of right, consecrated by the universal consent of mankind, and by the practice of all ages, individuals, and nations; namely, To keep what we have, and to catch what we can.  40
  II. Our government being legitimate, all our proceedings shall be legitimate: wherefore we declare war against the whole world, and every forester is by this legitimate declaration legitimately invested with a roving commission to make lawful prize of everything that comes in his way.  41
  III. All forest laws but our own we declare to be null and void.  42
  IV. All such of the old laws of England as do not in any way interfere with, or militate against, the views of this honorable assembly, we will loyally adhere to and maintain. The rest we declare null and void as far as relates to ourselves, in all cases wherein a vigor beyond the law may be conducive to our own interest and preservation.  43
  The articles of Equity are three:—  44
  I. The balance of power among the people being very much deranged by one having too much and another nothing, we hereby resolve ourselves into a congress or court of equity, to restore as far as in us lies the said natural balance of power, by taking from all who have too much as much of the said too much as we can lay our hands on; and giving to those who have nothing such a portion thereof as it may seem to us expedient to part with.  45
  II. In all cases a quorum of foresters shall constitute a court of equity, and as many as may be strong enough to manage the matter in hand shall constitute a quorum.  46
  III. All usurers, monks, courtiers, and other drones of the great hive of society, who shall be found laden with any portion of the honey whereof they have wrongfully despoiled the industrious bee, shall be rightfully despoiled thereof in turn; and all bishops and abbots shall be bound and beaten, especially the Abbot of Doncaster; as shall also all sheriffs, especially the Sheriff of Nottingham.  47
  The articles of Hospitality are two:—  48
  I. Postmen, carriers, and market-folk, peasants and mechanics, farmers and millers, shall pass through our forest dominions without let or molestation.  49
  II. All other travelers through the forest shall be graciously invited to partake of Robin’s hospitality; and if they come not willingly they shall be compelled: and the rich man shall pay well for his fare; and the poor man shall feast scot free, and peradventure receive bounty in proportion to his desert and necessity.  50
  The article of Chivalry is one:—  51
  I. Every forester shall, to the extent of his power, aid and protect maids, widows, and orphans, and all weak and distressed persons whomsoever; and no woman shall be impeded or molested in any way; nor shall any company receive harm which any woman is in.  52
  The article of Chastity is one:—  53
  I. Every forester, being Diana’s forester and minion of the moon, shall commend himself to the grace of the Virgin, and shall have the gift of continency on pain of expulsion; that the article of chivalry may be secure from infringement, and maids, wives, and widows pass without fear through the forest.  54
  The article of Courtesy is one:—  55
  I. No one shall miscall a forester. He who calls Robin, Robert of Huntingdon, or salutes him by any other title or designation whatsoever except plain Robin Hood; or who calls Marian, Matilda Fitzwater, or salutes her by any other title or designation whatsoever except plain Maid Marian, and so of all others, shall for every such offense forfeit a mark, to be paid to the friar.  56
  And these articles we swear to keep as we are good men and true.  57
  Carried by acclamation. God save King Richard.
LITTLE JOHN, Secretary.    
  “Excellent laws,” said the baron; “excellent, by the holy rood. William of Normandy, with my great-great-grandfather Fierabras at his elbow, could not have made better. And now, sweet Mawd—”  59
  “A fine, a fine,” cried the friar, “a fine, by the article of courtesy.”  60
  “’Od’s life,” said the baron, “shall I not call my own daughter Mawd? Methinks there should be a special exception in my favor.”  61
  “It must not be,” said Robin Hood: “our constitution admits no privilege.”  62
  “But I will commute,” said the friar: “for twenty marks a year duly paid into my ghostly pocket you shall call your daughter Mawd two hundred times a day.”  63
  “Gramercy,” said the baron, “and I agree, honest friar, when I can get twenty marks to pay; for till Prince John be beaten from Nottingham, my rents are like to prove but scanty.”  64
  “I will trust,” said the friar, “and thus let us ratify the stipulation; so shall our laws and your infringement run together in an amicable parallel.”  65
  “But,” said Little John, “this is a bad precedent, master friar. It is turning discipline into profit, penalty into perquisite, public justice into private revenue. It is rank corruption, master friar.”  66
  “Why are laws made?” said the friar. “For the profit of somebody. Of whom? Of him who makes them first, and of others as it may happen. Was not I legislator in the last article, and shall I not thrive by my own law?”  67
  “Well then, sweet Mawd,” said the baron, “I must leave you, Mawd: your life is very well for the young and the hearty, but it squares not with my age or my humor. I must house, Mawd; I must find refuge: but where? That is the question.”  68
  “Where Sir Guy of Gamwell has found it,” said Robin Hood, “near the borders of Barnsdale. There you may dwell in safety with him and fair Alice, till King Richard return; and Little John shall give you safe-conduct. You will have need to travel with caution, in disguise and without attendants; for Prince John commands all this vicinity, and will doubtless lay the country for you and Marian. Now it is first expedient to dismiss your retainers. If there be any among them who like our life, they may stay with us in the greenwood; the rest may return to their homes.”  69
  Some of the baron’s men resolved to remain with Robin and Marian; and were furnished accordingly with suits of green, of which Robin always kept good store.  70
  Marian now declared that as there was danger in the way to Barnsdale, she would accompany Little John and the baron, as she would not be happy unless she herself saw her father placed in security. Robin was very unwilling to consent to this, and assured her that there was more danger for her than the baron; but Marian was absolute.  71
  “If so, then,” said Robin, “I shall be your guide instead of Little John; and I shall leave him and Scarlet joint regents of Sherwood during my absence, and the voice of Friar Tuck shall be decisive between them if they differ in nice questions of State policy.”  72
  Marian objected to this, that there was more danger for Robin than either herself or the baron; but Robin was absolute in his turn.  73
  “Talk not of my voice,” said the friar; “for if Marian be a damsel errant, I will be her ghostly esquire.”  74
  Robin insisted that this should not be, for number would only expose them to greater risk of detection. The friar, after some debate, reluctantly acquiesced.  75
  While they were discussing these matters, they heard the distant sound of horses’ feet.  76
  “Go,” said Robin to Little John, “and invite yonder horseman to dinner.”  77
  Little John bounded away, and soon came before a young man, who was riding in a melancholy manner, with the bridle hanging loose on the horse’s neck, and his eyes drooping towards the ground.  78
  “Whither go you?” said Little John.  79
  “Whithersoever my horse pleases,” said the young man.  80
  “And that shall be,” said Little John, “whither I please to lead him. I am commissioned to invite you to dine with my master.”  81
  “Who is your master?” said the young man.  82
  “Robin Hood,” said Little John.  83
  “The bold outlaw?” said the stranger. “Neither he nor you should have made me turn an inch aside yesterday; but to-day I care not.”  84
  “Then it is better for you,” said Little John, “that you came to-day than yesterday, if you love dining in a whole skin: for my master is the pink of courtesy; but if his guests prove stubborn, he bastes them and his venison together, while the friar says mass before meat.”  85
  The young man made no answer, and scarcely seemed to hear what Little John was saying, who therefore took the horse’s bridle and led him to where Robin and his foresters were setting forth their dinner. Robin seated the young man next to Marian. Recovering a little from his stupor, he looked with much amazement at her, and the baron, and Robin, and the friar; listened to their conversation, and seemed much astonished to find himself in such holy and courtly company. Robin helped him largely to numble-pie and cygnet and pheasant, and the other dainties of his table; and the friar pledged him in ale and wine, and exhorted him to make good cheer. But the young man drank little, ate less, spake nothing, and every now and then sighed heavily.  86
  When the repast was ended, “Now,” said Robin, “you are at liberty to pursue your journey; but first be pleased to pay for your dinner.”  87
  “That would I gladly do, Robin,” said the young man, “but all I have about me are five shillings and a ring. To the five shillings you shall be welcome, but for the ring I will fight while there is a drop of blood in my veins.”  88
  “Gallantly spoken,” said Robin Hood. “A love-token, without doubt; but you must submit to our forest laws. Little John must search: and if he find no more than you say, not a penny will I touch; but if you have spoken false, the whole is forfeit to our fraternity.”  89
  “And with reason,” said the friar; “for thereby is the truth maintained. The Abbot of Doubleflask swore there was no money in his valise, and Little John forthwith emptied it of four hundred pounds. Thus was the abbot’s perjury but of one minute’s duration: for though his speech was false in the utterance, yet was it no sooner uttered than it became true, and we should have been participes criminis to have suffered the holy abbot to depart in falsehood; whereas he came to us a false priest, and we sent him away a true man. Marry, we turned his cloak to further account, and thereby hangs a tale that may be either said or sung: for in truth I am minstrel here as well as chaplain; I pray for good success to our just and necessary warfare, and sing thanksgiving odes when our foresters bring in booty:—

  “Bold Robin has robed him in ghostly attire,
And forth he is gone like a holy friar,
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!
And of two gray friars he soon was aware,
Regaling themselves with dainty fare,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.
“‘Good-morrow, good brothers,’ said bold Robin Hood:
‘And what make you in the good greenwood,
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!
Now give me, I pray you, wine and food;
For none can I find in the good greenwood,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.’
“‘Good brother,’ they said, ‘we would give you full fain,
But we have no more than enough for twain,
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!’
‘Then give me some money,’ said bold Robin Hood;
‘For none can I find in the good greenwood,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.’
“‘No money have we, good brother,’ said they;
‘Then,’ said he, ‘we three for money will pray,
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!
And whatever shall come at the end of our prayer,
We three holy friars will piously share,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.’
“‘We will not pray with thee, good brother, God wot;
For truly, good brother, thou pleasest us not,
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!’
Then up they both started from Robin to run,
But down on their knees Robin pulled them each one,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.
“The gray friars prayed with a doleful face,
But bold Robin prayed with a right merry grace,
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!
And when they had prayed, their portmanteau he took,
And from it a hundred good angels he shook,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.
“‘The saints,’ said bold Robin, ‘have hearkened our prayer,
And here’s a good angel apiece for your share;
If more you would have, you must win ere you wear—
  Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!’
Then he blew his good horn with a musical cheer,
And fifty green bowmen came trooping full near,
And away the gray friars they bounded like deer,
  All on the fallen leaves so brown.”

  What can a young lassie, what shall a young lassie,
What can a young lassie do wi’ an auld man?

  “HERE is but five shillings and a ring,” said Little John, “and the young man has spoken true.”
  “Then,” said Robin to the stranger, “if want of money be the cause of your melancholy, speak. Little John is my treasurer, and he shall disburse to you.”  92
  “It is, and it is not,” said the stranger: “it is, because, had I not wanted money, I had never lost my love; it is not, because, now that I have lost her, money would come too late to regain her.”  93
  “In what way have you lost her?” said Robin: “let us clearly know that she is past regaining before we give up our wishes to restore her to you.”  94
  “She is to be married this day,” said the stranger,—“and perhaps is married by this,—to a rich old knight; and yesterday I knew it not.”  95
  “What is your name?” said Robin.  96
  “Allen,” said the stranger.  97
  “And where is the marriage to take place, Allen?” said Robin.  98
  “At Edwinstow church,” said Allen, “by the Bishop of Nottingham.”  99
  “I know that bishop,” said Robin: “he dined with me a month since, and paid three hundred pounds for his dinner. He has a good ear and loves music. The friar sang to him to some tune. Give me my harper’s cloak, and I will play a part at this wedding.”  100
  “These are dangerous times, Robin,” said Marian, “for playing pranks out of the forest.”  101
  “Fear not,” said Robin: “Edwinstow lies not Nottinghamward, and I will take my precautions.”  102
  Robin put on his harper’s cloak, while Little John painted his eyebrows and cheeks, tipped his nose with red, and tied him on a comely beard. Marian confessed that had she not been present at the metamorphosis, she should not have known her own true Robin. Robin took his harp and went to the wedding.  103
  Robin found the bishop and his train in the church porch, impatiently expecting the arrival of the bride and bridegroom. The clerk was observing to the bishop that the knight was somewhat gouty, and that the necessity of walking the last quarter of a mile from the road to the church-yard probably detained the lively bridegroom rather longer than had been calculated upon.  104
  “Oh! by my fay,” said the music-loving bishop, “here comes a harper in the nick of time; and now I care not how long they tarry. Ho! honest friend, are you come to play at the wedding?”  105
  “I am come to play anywhere,” answered Robin, “where I can get a cup of sack; for which I will sing the praise of the donor in lofty verse, and emblazon him with any virtue which he may wish to have the credit of possessing, without the trouble of practicing.”  106
  “A most courtly harper,” said the bishop; “I will fill thee with sack, I will make thee a walking butt of sack, if thou wilt delight my ears with thy melodies.”  107
  “That will I,” said Robin: “in what branch of my art shall I exert my faculty? I am passing well in all, from the anthem to the glee, and from the dirge to the coranto.”  108
  “It would be idle,” said the bishop, “to give thee sack for playing me anthems, seeing that I myself do receive sack for hearing them sung. Therefore, as the occasion is festive, thou shalt play me a coranto.”  109
  Robin struck up and played away merrily, the bishop all the while in great delight, nodding his head and beating time with his foot, till the bride and bridegroom appeared. The bridegroom was richly appareled, and came slowly and painfully forward, hobbling and leering, and pursing up his mouth into a smile of resolute defiance to the gout, and of tender complacency towards his lady-love, who, shining like gold at the old knight’s expense, followed slowly between her father and mother, her cheeks pale, her head drooping, her steps faltering, and her eyes reddened with tears.  110
  Robin stopped his minstrelsy, and said to the bishop, “This seems to me an unfit match.”  111
  “What do you say, rascal?” said the old knight, hobbling up to him.  112
  “I say,” said Robin, “this seems to me an unfit match. What in the devil’s name can you want with a young wife, who have one foot in flannels and the other in the grave?”  113
  “What is that to thee, sirrah varlet?” said the old knight: “stand away from the porch, or I will fracture thy sconce with my cane.”  114
  “I will not stand away from the porch,” said Robin, “unless the bride bid me, and tell me that you are her own true love.”  115
  “Speak,” said the bride’s father, in a severe tone, and with a look of significant menace. The girl looked alternately at her father and Robin. She attempted to speak, but her voice failed in the effort, and she burst into tears.  116
  “Here is lawful cause and just impediment,” said Robin, “and I forbid the banns.”  117
  “Who are you, villain?” said the old knight, stamping his sound foot with rage.  118
  “I am the Roman law,” said Robin, “which says that there shall not be more than ten years between a man and his wife; and here are five times ten: and so says the law of nature.”  119
  “Honest harper,” said the bishop, “you are somewhat over-officious here, and less courtly than I deemed you. If you love sack, forbear; for this course will never bring you a drop. As to your Roman law, and your law of nature, what right have they to say anything which the law of Holy Writ says not?”  120
  “The law of Holy Writ does say it,” said Robin: “I expound it so to say; and I will produce sixty commentators to establish my exposition.”  121
  And so saying he produced a horn from beneath his cloak, and blew three blasts, and threescore bowmen in green came leaping from the bushes and trees; and young Allen was the first among them to give Robin his sword, while Friar Tuck and Little John marched up to the altar. Robin stripped the bishop and clerk of their robes, and put them on the friar and Little John; and Allen advanced to take the hand of the bride. Her cheeks grew red and her eyes grew bright, as she locked her hand in her lover’s and tripped lightly with him into the church.  122
  “This marriage will not stand,” said the bishop, “for they have not been thrice asked in church.”  123
  “We will ask them seven times,” said Little John, “lest three should not suffice.”  124
  “And in the mean time,” said Robin, “the knight and the bishop shall dance to my harping.”  125
  So Robin sat in the church porch and played away merrily, while his foresters formed a ring, in the centre of which the knight and bishop danced with exemplary alacrity; and if they relaxed their exertions, Scarlet gently touched them up with the point of an arrow.  126
  The knight grimaced ruefully, and begged Robin to think of his gout.  127
  “So I do,” said Robin: “this is the true antipodagron; you shall dance the gout away, and be thankful to me while you live. I told you,” he added to the bishop, “I would play at this wedding, but you did not tell me that you would dance at it. The next couple you marry, think of the Roman law.”  128
  The bishop was too much out of breath to reply: and now the young couple issued from church, and the bride having made a farewell obeisance to her parents, they departed together with the foresters; the parents storming, the attendants laughing, the bishop puffing and blowing, and the knight rubbing his gouty foot, and uttering doleful lamentations for the gold and jewels with which he had so unwittingly adorned and dowered the bride.  129

  As ye came from the Holy Land
  Of blessed Walsinghame,
Oh, met ye not with my true love
  As by the way ye came?

  IN pursuance of the arrangement recorded in the twelfth chapter, the baron, Robin, and Marian disguised themselves as pilgrims returned from Palestine, and traveling from the seacoast of Hampshire to their home in Northumberland. By dint of staff and cockle-shell, sandal and scrip, they proceeded in safety the greater part of the way (for Robin had many sly inns and resting-places between Barnsdale and Sherwood), and were already on the borders of Yorkshire, when one evening they passed within view of a castle, where they saw a lady standing on a turret and surveying the whole extent of the valley through which they were passing. A servant came running from the castle, and delivered a message to them from his lady, who was sick with expectation of news from her lord in the Holy Land, and entreated them to come to her, that she might question them concerning him. This was an awkward occurrence; but there was no pretense for refusal, and they followed the servant into the castle. The baron, who had been in Palestine in his youth, undertook to be spokesman on the occasion, and to relate his own adventures to the lady as having happened to the lord in question. This preparation enabled him to be so minute and circumstantial in his detail, and so coherent in his replies to her questions, that the lady fell implicitly into the delusion, and was delighted to find that her lord was alive and in health, and in high favor with the King, and performing prodigies of valor in the name of his lady, whose miniature he always wore in his bosom. The baron guessed at this circumstance from the customs of that age, and happened to be in the right.
  “This miniature,” added the baron, “I have had the felicity to see, and should have known you by it among a million.” The baron was a little embarrassed by some questions of the lady concerning her lord’s personal appearance; but Robin came to his aid, observing a picture suspended opposite to him on the wall, which he made a bold conjecture to be that of the lord in question; and making a calculation of the influences of time and war, which he weighed with a comparison of the lady’s age, he gave a description of her lord sufficiently like the picture in its groundwork to be a true resemblance, and sufficiently differing from it in circumstances to be more an original than a copy. The lady was completely deceived, and entreated them to partake her hospitality for the night; but this they deemed it prudent to decline, and with many humble thanks for her kindness, and representations of the necessity of not delaying their homeward course, they proceeded on their way.  131
  As they passed over the drawbridge they met Sir Ralph Montfaucon and his squire, who were wandering in quest of Marian, and were entering to claim that hospitality which the pilgrims had declined. Their countenances struck Sir Ralph with a kind of imperfect recognition, which would never have been matured but that the eyes of Marian, as she passed him, encountered his; and the images of those stars of beauty continued involuntarily twinkling in his sensorium to the exclusion of all other ideas, till memory, love, and hope concurred with imagination to furnish a probable reason for their haunting him so pertinaciously. Those eyes, he thought, were certainly the eyes of Matilda Fitzwater; and if the eyes were hers, it was extremely probable, if not logically consecutive, that the rest of the body they belonged to was hers also. Now, if it were really Matilda Fitzwater, who were her two companions? The baron? Ay, and the elder pilgrim was something like him. And the Earl of Huntingdon? Very probably. The earl and the baron might be good friends again, now that they were both in disgrace together. While he was revolving these cogitations, he was introduced to the lady, and after claiming and receiving the promise of hospitality, he inquired what she knew of the pilgrims who had just departed. The lady told him they were newly returned from Palestine, having been long in the Holy Land. The knight expressed some skepticism on this point. The lady replied that they had given her so minute a detail of her lord’s proceedings, and so accurate a description of his person, that she could not be deceived in them. This staggered the knight’s confidence in his own penetration; and if it had not been a heresy in knighthood to suppose for a moment that there could be in rerum natura such another pair of eyes as those of his mistress, he would have acquiesced implicitly in the lady’s judgment. But while the lady and the knight were conversing, the warder blew his bugle-horn, and presently entered a confidential messenger from Palestine, who gave her to understand that her lord was well; but entered into a detail of his adventures most completely at variance with the baron’s narrative, to which not the correspondence of a single incident gave the remotest coloring of similarity. It now became manifest that the pilgrims were not true men; and Sir Ralph Montfaucon sate down to supper with his head full of cogitations, which we shall leave him to chew and digest with his pheasant and canary.  132
  Meanwhile our three pilgrims proceeded on their way. The evening set in black and lowering, when Robin turned aside from the main track, to seek an asylum for the night along a narrow way that led between rocky and woody hills. A peasant observed the pilgrims as they entered that narrow pass, and called after them, “Whither go you, my masters? there are rogues in that direction.”  133
  “Can you show us a direction,” said Robin, “in which there are none? If so, we will take it in preference.” The peasant grinned, and walked away whistling.  134
  The pass widened as they advanced, and the woods grew thicker and darker around them. Their path wound along the slope of a woody declivity, which rose high above them in a thick rampart of foliage, and descended almost precipitously to the bed of a small river, which they heard dashing in its rocky channel, and saw its white foam gleaming at intervals in the last faint glimmerings of twilight. In a short time all was dark, and the rising voice of the wind foretold a coming storm. They turned a point of the valley, and saw a light below them in the depth of the hollow, shining through a cottage casement, and dancing in its reflection on the restless stream. Robin blew his horn, which was answered from below. The cottage door opened: a boy came forth with a torch, ascended the steep, showed tokens of great delight at meeting with Robin, and lighted them down a flight of steps rudely cut in the rock, and over a series of rugged stepping-stones, that crossed the channel of the river. They entered the cottage, which exhibited neatness, comfort, and plenty; being amply enriched with pots, pans, and pipkins, and adorned with flitches of bacon and sundry similar ornaments, that gave goodly promise in the firelight that gleamed upon the rafters.  135
  A woman, who seemed just old enough to be the boy’s mother, had thrown down her spinning-wheel in her joy at the sound of Robin’s horn, and was bustling with singular alacrity to set forth her festal ware and prepare an abundant supper. Her features, though not beautiful, were agreeable and expressive; and were now lighted up with such manifest joy at the sight of Robin, that Marian could not help feeling a momentary touch of jealousy, and a half-formed suspicion that Robin had broken his forest law, and had occasionally gone out of bounds, as other great men have done upon occasion, in order to reconcile the breach of the spirit with the preservation of the letter of their own legislation. However, this suspicion, if it could be said to exist in a mind so generous as Marian’s, was very soon dissipated by the entrance of the woman’s husband, who testified as much joy as his wife had done at the sight of Robin; and in a short time the whole of the party were amicably seated around a smoking supper of river-fish and wild wood-fowl, on which the baron fell with as much alacrity as if he had been a true pilgrim from Palestine.  136
  The husband produced some recondite flasks of wine, which were laid by in a bin consecrated to Robin, whose occasional visits to them in his wanderings were the festal days of these warm-hearted cottagers, whose manners showed that they had not been born to this low estate. Their story had no mystery, and Marian easily collected it from the tenor of their conversation. The young man had been, like Robin, the victim of an usurious abbot, and had been outlawed for debt, and his nut-brown maid had accompanied him to the depths of Sherwood, where they lived an unholy and illegitimate life, killing the king’s deer and never hearing mass. In this state, Robin, then Earl of Huntingdon, discovered them in one of his huntings, and gave them aid and protection. When Robin himself became an outlaw, the necessary qualification or gift of continency was too hard a law for our lovers to subscribe to; and as they were thus disqualified for foresters, Robin had found them a retreat in this romantic and secluded spot. He had done similar service to other lovers similarly circumstanced, and had disposed them in various wild scenes which he and his men had discovered in their flittings from place to place, supplying them with all necessaries and comforts from the reluctant disgorgings of fat abbots and usurers. The benefit was in some measure mutual: for these cottages served him as resting-places in his removals, and enabled him to travel untraced and unmolested; and in the delight with which he was always received, he found himself even more welcome than he would have been at an inn,—and this is saying very much for gratitude and affection together. The smiles which surrounded him were of his own creation, and he participated in the happiness he had bestowed.  137
  The casements began to rattle in the wind, and the rain to beat upon the windows. The wind swelled to a hurricane, and the rain dashed like a flood against the glass. The boy retired to his little bed, the wife trimmed the lamp, the husband heaped logs upon the fire; Robin broached another flask; and Marian filled the baron’s cup, and sweetened Robin’s by touching its edge with her lips.  138
  “Well,” said the baron, “give me a roof over my head, be it never so humble. Your greenwood canopy is pretty and pleasant in sunshine; but if I were doomed to live under it, I should wish it were water-tight.”  139
  “But,” said Robin, “we have tents and caves for foul weather, good store of wine and venison, and fuel in abundance.”  140
  “Ay, but,” said the baron, “I like to pull off my boots of a night,—which you foresters seldom do,—and to ensconce myself thereafter in a comfortable bed. Your beech-root is over-hard for a couch, and your mossy stump is somewhat rough for a bolster.”  141
  “Had you not dry leaves,” said Robin, “with a bishop’s surplice over them? what would you have softer? And had you not an abbot’s traveling-cloak for a coverlet? what would you have warmer?”  142
  “Very true,” said the baron; “but that was an indulgence to a guest, and I dreamed all night of the Sheriff of Nottingham. I like to feel myself safe,” he added, stretching out his legs to the fire, and throwing himself back in his chair with the air of a man determined to be comfortable. “I like to feel myself safe,” said the baron.  143
  At that moment the woman caught her husband’s arm; and all the party, following the direction of her eyes, looked simultaneously to the window, where they had just time to catch a glimpse of an apparition of an armed head, with its plumage tossing in the storm, on which the light shone from within, and which disappeared immediately.  144

  “O knight, thou lack’st a cup of canary. When did I see thee so put down?”

  SEVERAL knocks, as from the knuckles of an iron glove, were given at the door of the cottage; and a voice was heard entreating shelter from the storm for a traveler who had lost his way. Robin rose and went to the door.
  “What are you?” said Robin.  146
  “A soldier,” replied the voice; “an unfortunate adherent of Longchamp, flying the vengeance of Prince John.”  147
  “Are you alone?” said Robin.  148
  “Yes,” said the voice. “It is a dreadful night: hospitable cottagers, pray give me admittance. I would not have asked it but for the storm. I would have kept my watch in the woods.”  149
  “That I believe,” said Robin. “You did not reckon on the storm when you turned into this pass. Do you know there are rogues this way?”  150
  “I do,” said the voice.  151
  “So do I,” said Robin.  152
  A pause ensued, during which Robin listening attentively caught a faint sound of whispering.  153
  “You are not alone,” said Robin. “Who are your companions?”  154
  “None but the wind and the water,” said the voice, “and I would I had them not.”  155
  “The wind and the water have many voices,” said Robin, “but I never before heard them say, ‘What shall we do?’”  156
  Another pause ensued; after which—  157
  “Look ye, master cottager,” said the voice in an altered tone, “if you do not let us in willingly, we will break down the door.”  158
  “Ho! ho!” roared the baron, “you are become plural, are you, rascals? How many are there of you, thieves? What, I warrant you thought to rob and murder a poor harmless cottager and his wife, and did not dream of a garrison? You looked for no weapon of opposition but spit, poker, and basting-ladle, wielded by unskillful hands; but, rascals, here is short sword and long cudgel in hands well tried in war, wherewith you shall be drilled into cullenders and beaten into mummy.”  159
  No reply was made, but furious strokes from without resounded upon the door. Robin, Marian, and the baron threw by their pilgrim’s attire, and stood in arms on the defensive. They were provided with swords, and the cottager gave them bucklers and helmets; for all Robin’s haunts were furnished with secret armories. But they kept their swords sheathed, and the baron wielded a ponderous spear, which he pointed towards the door ready to run through the first that should enter; and Robin and Marian each held a bow, with the arrow drawn to its head and pointed in the same direction. The cottager flourished a strong cudgel (a weapon in the use of which he prided himself on being particularly expert), and the wife seized the spit from the fireplace, and held it as she saw the baron hold his spear. The storm of wind and rain continued to beat on the roof and casement, and the storm of blows to resound upon the door, which at length gave way with a violent crash, and a cluster of armed men appeared without, seemingly not less than twelve. Behind them rolled the stream, now changed from a gentle and shallow river to a mighty and impetuous torrent, roaring in waves of yellow foam, partially reddened by the light that streamed through the open door, and turning up its convulsed surface in flashes of shifting radiance from restless masses of half-visible shadow. The stepping-stones by which the intruders must have crossed were buried under the waters. On the opposite bank the light fell on the stems and boughs of the rock-rooted oak and ash, tossing and swaying in the blast, and sweeping the flashing spray with their leaves.  160
  The instant the door broke, Robin and Marian loosed their arrows. Robin’s arrow struck one of the assailants in the juncture of the shoulder, and disabled his right arm; Marian’s struck a second in the juncture of the knee, and rendered him unserviceable for the night. The baron’s long spear struck on the mailed breastplate of a third, and being stretched to its full extent by the long-armed hero, drove him to the edge of the torrent and plunged him into its eddies, along which he was whirled down the darkness of the descending stream, calling vainly on his comrades for aid, till his voice was lost in the mingled roar of the waters and the wind. A fourth springing through the door was laid prostrate by the cottager’s cudgel: but the wife, being less dexterous than her company, though an Amazon in strength, missed her pass at a fifth, and drove the point of the spit several inches into the right-hand doorpost as she stood close to the left, and thus made a new barrier, which the invaders could not pass without dipping under it and submitting their necks to the sword; but one of the assailants, seizing it with gigantic rage, shook it at once from the grasp of its holder and from its lodgment in the post, and at the same time made good the irruption of the rest of his party into the cottage.  161
  Now raged an unequal combat, for the assailants fell two to one on Robin, Marian, the baron, and the cottager; while the wife, being deprived of her spit, converted everything that was at hand to a missile, and rained pots, pans, and pipkins on the armed heads of the enemy. The baron raged like a tiger, and the cottager laid about him like a thresher. One of the soldiers struck Robin’s sword from his hand, and brought him on his knee; when the boy, who had been roused by the tumult, and had been peeping through the inner door, leaped forward in his shirt, picked up the sword and replaced it in Robin’s hand, who instantly springing up, disarmed and wounded one of his antagonists, while the other was laid prostrate under the dint of a brass cauldron launched by the Amazonian dame. Robin now turned to the aid of Marian, who was parrying most dexterously the cuts and slashes of her two assailants; of whom Robin delivered her from one, while a well-applied blow of her sword struck off the helmet of the other, who fell on his knees to beg a boon, and she recognized Sir Ralph Montfaucon. The men who were engaged with the baron and the peasant, seeing their leader subdued, immediately laid down their arms and cried for quarter. The wife brought some strong rope, and the baron tied their arms behind them.  162
  “Now, Sir Ralph,” said Marian, “once more you are at my mercy.”  163
  “That I always am, cruel beauty,” said the discomfited lover.  164
  “Odso! courteous knight,” said the baron, “is this the return you make for my beef and canary, when you kissed my daughter’s hand in token of contrition for your intermeddling at her wedding? ’Heart, I am glad to see she has given you a bloody cockscomb. Slice him down, Mawd! slice him down, and fling him into the river.”  165
  “Confess,” said Marian: “what brought you here, and how did you trace our steps?”  166
  “I will confess nothing,” said the knight.  167
  “Then confess, you rascal,” said the baron, holding his sword to the throat of the captive squire.  168
  “Take away the sword,” said the squire: “it is too near my mouth, and my voice will not come out for fear; take away the sword, and I will confess all.” The baron dropped his sword, and the squire proceeded:—“Sir Ralph met you as you quitted Lady Falkland’s castle; and by representing to her who you were, borrowed from her such a number of her retainers as he deemed must insure your capture, seeing that your familiar the friar was not at your elbow. We set forth without delay, and traced you first by means of a peasant who saw you turn into this valley, and afterwards by the light from the casement of this solitary dwelling. Our design was to have laid an ambush for you in the morning, but the storm and your observation of my unlucky face through the casement made us change our purpose; and what followed you can tell better than I can, being indeed masters of the subject.”  169
  “You are a merry knave,” said the baron, “and here is a cup of wine for you.”  170
  “Gramercy,” said the squire, “and better late than never; but I lacked a cup of this before. Had I been pot-valiant, I had held you play.”  171
  “Sir knight,” said Marian, “this is the third time you have sought the life of my lord and of me,—for mine is interwoven with his. And do you think me so spiritless as to believe that I can be yours by compulsion? Tempt me not again; for the next time shall be the last, and the fish of the nearest river shall commute the flesh of a recreant knight into the fast-day dinner of an uncarnivorous friar. I spare you now, not in pity but in scorn. Yet shall you swear to a convention never more to pursue or molest my lord or me, and on this condition you shall live.”  172
  The knight had no alternative but to comply, and swore, on the honor of knighthood, to keep the convention inviolate. How well he kept his oath we shall have no opportunity of narrating; Di lui la nostra istoria piu non parla.  173

  Carry me over the water, thou fine fellowe.

  THE PILGRIMS, without experiencing further molestation, arrived at the retreat of Sir Guy of Gamwell. They found the old knight a cup too low: partly from being cut off from the scenes of his old hospitality and the shouts of his Nottinghamshire vassals, who were wont to make the rafters of his ancient hall re-echo to their revelry; but principally from being parted from his son, who had long been the better half of his flask and pasty. The arrival of our visitors cheered him up; and finding that the baron was to remain with him, he testified his delight and the cordiality of his welcome by pegging him in the ribs till he made him roar.
  Robin and Marian took an affectionate leave of the baron and the old knight; and before they quitted the vicinity of Barnsdale, deeming it prudent to return in a different disguise, they laid aside their pilgrim’s attire, and assumed the habits and appurtenances of wandering minstrels.  175
  They traveled in this character safely and pleasantly, till one evening at a late hour they arrived by the side of a river, where Robin, looking out for a mode of passage, perceived a ferry-boat in a nook on the opposite bank, near which a chimney, sending up a wreath of smoke through the thick-set willows, was the only symptom of human habitation: and Robin, naturally conceiving the said chimney and wreath of smoke to be the outward signs of the inward ferryman, shouted “Over!” with much strength and clearness; but no voice replied, and no ferryman appeared. Robin raised his voice and shouted with redoubled energy, “Over, Over, O-o-o-over!” A faint echo alone responded “Over!” and again died away into deep silence; but after a brief interval a voice from among the willows, in a strange kind of mingled intonation that was half a shout and half a song, answered:—
  “Over, over, over, jolly, jolly rover,
Would you then come over? over, over, over?
Jolly, jolly rover, here’s one lives in clover:
Who finds the clover? The jolly, jolly rover.
He finds the clover, let him then come over,
The jolly, jolly rover, over, over, over.”
  “I much doubt,” said Marian, “if this ferryman do not mean by clover something more than the toll of his ferry-boat.”  177
  “I doubt not,” answered Robin, “he is a levier of toll and tithe, which I shall put him upon proof of his right to receive, by making trial of his might to enforce.”  178
  The ferryman emerged from the willows and stepped into his boat. “As I live,” exclaimed Robin, “the ferryman is a friar.”  179
  “With a sword,” said Marian, “stuck in his rope girdle.”  180
  The friar pushed his boat off manfully, and was presently half over the river.  181
  “It is friar Tuck,” said Marian.  182
  “He will scarcely know us,” said Robin; “and if he do not, I will break a staff with him for sport.”  183
  The friar came singing across the water; the boat touched the land; Robin and Marian stepped on board; the friar pushed off again.  184
  “Silken doublets, silken doublets,” said the friar; “slenderly lined, I trow: your wandering minstrel is always poor toll; your sweet angels of voices pass current for a bed and a supper at the house of every lord that likes to hear the fame of his valor without the trouble of fighting for it. What need you of purse or pouch? You may sing before thieves. Pedlars, pedlars: wandering from door to door with the small-ware of lies and cajolery; exploits for carpet-knights, honesty for courtiers, truth for monks, and chastity for nuns,—a good salable stock that costs the vender nothing, defies wear and tear, and when it has served a hundred customers is as plentiful and as remarkable as ever. But, sirrahs, I’ll none of your balderdash. You pass not hence without clink of brass, or I’ll knock your musical noddles together till they ring like a pair of cymbals. That will be a new tune for your minstrelships.”  185
  This friendly speech of the friar ended as they stepped on the opposite bank. Robin had noticed as they passed that the summer stream was low.  186
  “Why, thou brawling mongrel,” said Robin,—“that whether thou be thief, friar, or ferryman, or an ill-mixed compound of all three, passes conjecture, though I judge thee to be simple thief,—what barkest thou at thus? Villain, there is clink of brass for thee. Dost thou see this coin? Dost thou hear this music? Look and listen; for touch thou shalt not,—my minstrelship defies thee. Thou shalt carry me on thy back over the water, and receive nothing but a cracked sconce for thy trouble.”  187
  “A bargain,” said the friar; “for the water is low, the labor is light, and the reward is alluring.” And he stooped down for Robin, who mounted his back, and the friar waded with him over the river.  188
  “Now, fine fellow,” said the friar, “thou shalt carry me back over the water, and thou shalt have a cracked sconce for thy trouble.”  189
  Robin took the friar on his back, and waded with him into the middle of the river, when by a dexterous jerk he suddenly flung him off and plunged him horizontally over head and ears in the water. Robin waded to the shore, and the friar, half swimming and half scrambling, followed.  190
  “Fine fellow, fine fellow,” said the friar, “now will I pay thee thy cracked sconce.”  191
  “Not so,” said Robin,—“I have not earned it; but thou hast earned it, and shalt have it.”  192
  It was not, even in those good old times, a sight of every day to see a troubadour and a friar playing at single-stick by the side of a river, each aiming with fell intent at the other’s cockscomb. The parties were both so skilled in attack and defense, that their mutual efforts for a long time expended themselves in quick and loud rappings on each other’s oaken staves. At length Robin by a dexterous feint contrived to score one on the friar’s crown; but in the careless moment of triumph a splendid sweep of the friar’s staff struck Robin’s out of his hand into the middle of the river, and repaid his crack on the head with a degree of vigor that might have passed the bounds of a jest if Marian had not retarded its descent by catching the friar’s arm.  193
  “How now, recreant friar,” said Marian: “what have you to say why you should not suffer instant execution, being detected in open rebellion against your liege lord? Therefore kneel down, traitor, and submit your neck to the sword of the offended law.”  194
  “Benefit of clergy,” said the friar; “I plead my clergy. And is it you indeed, ye scapegraces? Ye are well disguised: I knew ye not, by my flask. Robin, jolly Robin, he buys a jest dearly that pays for it with a bloody cockscomb. But here is a balm for all bruises, outward and inward.” (The friar produced a flask of canary.) “Wash thy wound twice and thy throat thrice with this solar concoction, and thou shalt marvel where was thy hurt. But what moved ye to this frolic? Knew ye not that ye could not appear in a mask more fashioned to move my bile than in that of these gilders and lackerers of the smooth surface of worthlessness, that bring the gold of true valor into disrepute by stamping the baser metal with the fairer impression? I marveled to find any such given to fighting (for they have an old instinct of self-preservation); but I rejoiced thereat, that I might discuss to them poetical justice: and therefore have I cracked thy sconce; for which, let this be thy medicine.”  195
  “But wherefore,” said Marian, “do we find you here, when we left you joint lord warden of Sherwood?”  196
  “I do but retire to my devotions,” replied the friar. “This is my hermitage, in which I first took refuge when I escaped from my beloved brethren of Rubygill; and to which I still retreat at times from the vanities of the world, which else might cling to me too closely since I have been promoted to be peer spiritual of your forest court. For indeed, I do find in myself certain indications and admonitions that my day has past its noon; and none more cogent than this: that daily of bad wine I grow more intolerant, and of good wine have a keener and more fastidious relish. There is no surer symptom of receding years. The ferryman is my faithful varlet. I send him on some pious errand, that I may meditate in ghostly privacy, when my presence in the forest can best be spared; and when can it be better spared than now, seeing that the neighborhood of Prince John, and his incessant perquisitions for Marian, have made the forest too hot to hold more of us than are needful to keep up a quorum, and preserve unbroken the continuity of our forest dominion? For in truth, without your greenwood majesties, we have hardly the wit to live in a body, and at the same time to keep our necks out of jeopardy, while that arch-rebel and traitor John infests the precincts of our territory.”  197
  The friar now conducted them to his peaceful cell, where he spread his frugal board with fish, venison, wild-fowl, fruit, and canary. Under the compound operation of this materia medica Robin’s wounds healed apace, and the friar, who hated minstrelsy, began as usual chirping in his cups. Robin and Marian chimed in with his tuneful humor till the midnight moon peeped in upon their revelry.  198
  It was now the very witching-time of night, when they heard a voice shouting, “Over!” They paused to listen, and the voice repeated “Over!” in accents clear and loud, but which at the same time either were in themselves, or seemed to be from the place and the hour, singularly plaintive and dreary. The friar fidgeted about in his seat; fell into a deep musing; shook himself, and looked about him,—first at Marian, then at Robin, then at Marian again,—filled and tossed off a cup of canary, and relapsed into his reverie.  199
  “Will you not bring your passenger over?” said Robin. The friar shook his head and looked mysterious.  200
  “That passenger,” said the friar, “will never come over. Every full moon, at midnight, that voice calls, ‘Over!’ I and my varlet have more than once obeyed the summons, and we have sometimes had a glimpse of a white figure under the opposite trees: but when the boat has touched the bank, nothing has been to be seen; and the voice has been heard no more till the midnight of the next full moon.”  201
  “It is very strange,” said Robin.  202
  “Wondrous strange,” said the friar, looking solemn.  203
  The voice again called “Over!” in a long and plaintive musical cry.  204
  “I must go to it,” said the friar, “or it will give us no peace. I would all my customers were of this world. I begin to think that I am Charon, and that this river is Styx.”  205
  “I will go with you, friar,” said Robin.  206
  “By my flask,” said the friar, “but you shall not.”  207
  “Then I will,” said Marian.  208
  “Still less,” said the friar, hurrying out of the cell. Robin and Marian followed; but the friar outstepped them, and pushed off his boat.  209
  A white figure was visible under the shade of the opposite trees. The boat approached the shore, and the figure glided away. The friar returned.  210
  They re-entered the cottage, and sat some time conversing on the phenomenon they had seen. The friar sipped his wine, and after a time said:—  211
  “There is a tradition of a damsel who was drowned here some years ago. The tradition is—”  212
  But the friar could not narrate a plain tale: he therefore cleared his throat, and sang with due solemnity, in a ghostly voice:—

  “A damsel came in midnight rain,
  And called across the ferry:
The weary wight she called in vain,
  Whose senses sleep did bury.
At evening from her father’s door
  She turned to meet her lover;
At midnight, on the lonely shore,
  She shouted, ‘Over, over!’
“She had not met him by the tree
  Of their accustomed meeting,
And sad and sick at heart was she,
  Her heart all wildly beating.
In chill suspense the hours went by,
  The wild storm burst above her:
She turned her to the river nigh,
  And shouted, ‘Over, over!’
“A dim, discolored, doubtful light
  The moon’s dark veil permitted,
And thick before her troubled sight
  Fantastic shadows flitted.
Her lover’s form appeared to glide,
  And beckon o’er the water:
Alas! his blood that morn had dyed
  Her brother’s sword with slaughter.
“Upon a little rock she stood,
  To make her invocation:
She marked not that the rain-swoll’n flood
  Was islanding her station.
The tempest mocked her feeble cry;
  No saint his aid would give her:
The flood swelled high and yet more high,
  And swept her down the river.
“Yet oft beneath the pale moonlight,
  When hollow winds are blowing,
The shadow of that maiden bright
  Glides by the dark stream’s flowing.
And when the storms of midnight rave,
  While clouds the broad moon cover,
The wild gusts waft across the wave
  The cry of ‘Over, over!’”
  While the friar was singing, Marian was meditating; and when he had ended she said, “Honest friar, you have misplaced your tradition, which belongs to the æstuary of a nobler river, where the damsel was swept away by the rising of the tide, for which your land-flood is an indifferent substitute. But the true tradition of this stream I think I myself possess, and I will narrate it in your own way:—

          “It was a friar of orders free,
          A friar of Rubygill;
        At the greenwood tree a vow made he,
          But he kept it very ill;
        A vow made he of chastity,
          But he kept it very ill.
He kept it, perchance, in the conscious shade
Of the bounds of the forest wherein it was made:
But he roamed where he listed, as free as the wind,
And he left his good vow in the forest behind;
For its woods out of sight were his vow out of mind,
          With the friar of Rubygill.
        “In lonely hut himself he shut,
          The friar of Rubygill;
        Where the ghostly elf absolved himself
          To follow his own good will:
        And he had no lack of canary sack
          To keep his conscience still.
And a damsel well knew, when at lonely midnight
It gleamed on the waters, his signal-lamp light:
‘Over! over!’ she warbled with nightingale throat,
And the friar sprang forth at the magical note,
And she crossed the dark stream in his trim ferry-boat,
          With the friar of Rubygill.”
  “Look you now,” said Robin, “if the friar does not blush. Many strange sights have I seen in my day, but never till this moment did I see a blushing friar.”  215
  “I think,” said the friar, “you never saw one that blushed not, or you saw good canary thrown away. But you are welcome to laugh if it so please you. None shall laugh in my company, though it be at my expense, but I will have my share of the merriment. The world is a stage, and life is a farce, and he that laughs most has most profit of the performance. The worst thing is good enough to be laughed at, though it be good for nothing else; and the best thing, though it be good for something else, is good for nothing better.”  216
  And he struck up a song in praise of laughing and quaffing, without further adverting to Marian’s insinuated accusation; being perhaps of opinion that it was a subject on which the least said would be the soonest mended.  217
  So passed the night. In the morning a forester came to the friar with the intelligence that Prince John had been compelled, by the urgency of his affairs in other quarters, to disembarrass Nottingham Castle of his royal presence. Our wanderers returned joyfully to their forest dominion, being thus relieved from the vicinity of any more formidable belligerent than their old bruised and beaten enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham.  218

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