Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band

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Author: Louis Rhead  | Date: 1912

V

WILL GAMWELL BECOMES WILL SCARLET

RIGHT glad was Robin Hood that he had gotten so bold and trusty a blade for his comrade. He wanted no braver friend to stand beside him in fight, nor merrier heart to play and feast withal. As for the rest of the merry men, they loved Little John well, and all stood in awe of his great strength. For in the one whole band was none that might withstand him in a bout with the quarter-staff, nor, saving only Robin, was there such another archer in all the land. So Little John became Robin’s right-hand man, and they loved each other like brothers. Such a pair of bold spirits were equal to a troop, and in sooth the King’s men, knowing full well the outlaws’ strength and the deadly aim of their shafts, wisely kept many miles away from their trysting-place.

Of hiding-places Robin had full many, scattered far and wide, which his men found as they went back and forth through the forest. Whenever they chanced upon a fit place, were it cave or bower, Robin called the band together, and all fell to work with a will, clearing and building, to make a forest home good for winter or summer. None molested them, for their name and fame were known throughout the land, and most people thought it best to keep to the great highway or little lanes between the towns and villages rather than to journey through the forest with a chance of being robbed for their pains. Moreover, the country-folk held Robin in high esteem, for they knew him to be the friend of the poor.

It happened one day at noontide that Robin called to Little John and said: "Our larder is low. We will together seek to replenish it. To Ermine Street we will go, for, peradventure, we may meet with some fat abbot or mayhap a stout foe. Do thou get thy trusty staff, and I will don my sword and buckler in case of need." So with their good long-bows hanging at their sides they started off through the forest. Anon they came to a path which led to a lane that went curving up to a hill, at the top of which stood the castle walls of a neighboring knight.

Quoth Little John, "Look who cometh down the lane."

"Marry," quoth Robin, "a gay spark, indeed! Truly his raiment is of so hot a color, methinks there is danger he may set the woods afire."

The stranger wore a doublet of silk, and hose of bright scarlet; he carried a long-bow, with a sword and buckler at his side. Glancing from side to side as he came, he perceived down a narrow woodland path a herd of deer leisurely pass by. Robin and Little John watched him as he quickly bent his long-bow and slew the best of all the herd at forty rods away.

"He shooteth fair enough," quoth Robin. "Yet by’r Lady, I like not these gaudy popinjays. Do thou, good comrade, hide behind yon thicket while I step forth and speak him fair."

With that Little John strode away to hide; and Robin marched up to the stranger, who now stood bending over the great hart lying dead at his feet.

"Marry," quoth Robin, "who gave thee leave to kill the deer in this forest?"

The scarlet stranger turned not aside and answered never a word. Again Robin spake.

"How now, gay spark, art thou dumb?"

"And what is that to thee, good fellow? Pass on. I have no need of thee, and I like not thy clattering tongue. Go thy ways whence thou camest."

This answer nettled Robin and stirred his blood, for the fellow spoke insolently as to one beneath him. "Marry, come up," quoth Robin. "It is my wont to take toll of all who come this way. Therefore thou shalt either give me thy purse or else thou shalt not pass."

"And who art thou that dost threat me so boldly?" sneeringly asked the stranger.

"I am the King of Sherwood Forest, and all in these parts do obey me."

"Nay, good friend, king or no king, I care not for thee or for aught that thou canst do. Therefore, pass on, unless perchance thou cravest a buffet of my fists."

At these words Robin cried, "Were I to blow my horn I have those who would help me to make thee do whatever I wish."

"Ah! then," replied the stranger, "with my good broadsword would I put to flight a-many such as thee." With that the gaily dressed fellow disdainfully turned his back and bent down, feeling the antler’s prongs. He seemed to think that Robin had gone.

Then, to make a test of this outwardly brave show, Robin drew his bow, pointing the shaft straight on the stranger’s heart.

"How now, thou villain," cried the other, "what woulds’t thou?"

"By Saint Dunstan," quoth Robin, angrily, "I would take thy purse, and make thee pay toll for that saucy tongue of thine."

"Ah, well, as to that, take it and welcome." Then, making believe to unlace his pouch, he quickly got his long-bow before him and stood boldly facing Robin with his shaft pointed to kill.

"Hold! Hold thy hand!" exclaimed Robin. "It were vain for both to shoot and each to slay the other. I have a mind that one should be the victor. Let us take our broadsword and bucklers and under yon tree try which of us be the better man."

"As I hope to be saved." quoth the stranger, "I will not flee one foot."

No sooner were the words spoken than they strode off to a level sward under the branches of a beech-tree. Both calmly made ready for battle, each fastening his buckler upon his left arm. Soon they were wielding their broad blades with a right good will, and the woods rang with the sound as sword clashed on shield. As the fight grew hot each perceived in the other a tough and skilful foe. With a keen eye Robin watched the stranger, who guarded himself well, warding off many a stout blow that otherwise would have drawn blood, making his skin the color of his scarlet doublet. At last Robin gave him a clout which glanced from his buckler, just missing his ear, and nipping off a long red plume from his cap. The scarlet stranger grew more wary. He waited, parried and feinted, then drew back, and of a sudden leaped forward again. As he leaped he struck, beating down the buckler, which but partly turned the blow. The sword cut a long gash across Robin’s skull, making the blood trickle down from every hair of his head and blinding his eyes so that he could no longer see to fight.

"God-a-mercy, good fellow," quoth Robin, "tell me truly who and what thou art. Fain would I know thy name."

"My name is Will Gamwell," answered the stranger, "and I was born and bred in Maxwell town. I seek mine uncle, who dwelleth in these parts. Some do call him Robin Hood."

At this, bold Robin jumped from the ground on which he lay and cried, "Art thou, indeed, young Will Gamwell, mine own dear cousin, with whom I played as a boy?"

"What, art thou Robin Hood? Then I am indeed thine own sister’s son, and sore I do repent me of the wound I gave thee, for I knew thee not. But now right glad am I that I have found thee. And art thou in good sooth the famous Robin Hood? Good faith, little did I think to hold mine own against so stout a man. Truly had not fortune favored me, I know right well I should now be lying stretched upon earth, and not thou."

"Nay," quoth Robin, "the blow was fairly struck, and thou art the stoutest fellow of thy hands that ere I coped withal. As for the wound, it is but a scratch."

Thereupon they embraced and kissed each other on both cheeks.

Meanwhile Little John had seen his master fall and the stranger bend over him, but had never dreamed that he was wounded until he failed to rise. Then, dashing forward, he shouted, "Give me thy sword, my master. We will see if he can beat me."

"Nay, nay," cried Robin, "hold thy hand, Little John, for this same tall youth is none other than my sister’s son, Will Gamwell, and he shall be one of our merry band."

Little John thereupon changed his tone, and turned to greet the new-found cousin with a hearty handshake and a right good hug of welcome to his broad chest. For Little John’s heart, like his body, was big, and the three were soon on the best of terms. Then and there a love grew up between them which lasted many a long year. Arm in arm, with the mighty Little John in the middle, they started off to find a cool spring or rivulet to bathe Robin’s still bleeding wound. This done and Robin’s pate bound up with a piece of linen, they strode along a fern-lined path, with the great dead hart slung from the brawny back of Little John.

"Come now," quoth jolly Robin, "tell me, good nephew, how it befell that thou didst leave thy home and come to seek me, an outlawed man, in the forest; for methought thou hadst house and lands enough."

"That will I, blithely," quoth young Gamwell. Then he told how, when his father died and he fell heir to the estate, a dastard Norman baron whose lands lay anigh his had plotted with his father’s old steward to slay him that the lands might be his. So the steward, being bribed with a great sum, gave his word. On a day young Will was hunting in the forest when he spied the old rascal with bow bent and shaft pointed at his breast.

"And so without more ado," quoth Will, "I got me behind a tree and shot him where he stood. Then was I made an outlaw for killing a man, and straightway betook myself to the forest to seek out my good uncle. For, in faith, they are fain to walk in wood who may not walk in town. And now thou knowest all."

Then said Robin: "In happy time thou comest, fair coz, and I thank the saints that this day I have escaped with my life from the stoutest swordsman in England, found a dear nephew, and gained a brave comrade for my merry men."

Soon they reached their trysting-place, and much the outlaws wondered to see bold Robin with a cloth about his head and a tall stranger in scarlet beside him. But when they knew who Will Gamwell was and how stoutly he had fought with Robin, they welcomed him gladly.

"Go now," said Robin to Will, "I long to see thee dressed as one of our band; so get thee a change of good Lincoln green in place of that most fiery raiment, which shall not be forgotten. Since the law is on thy head and name, that name shall hereafter be Will Scarlet. And next to Little John here, thou shalt be my right-hand man."

Anon Will Scarlet returned dressed all in Lincoln green. All were hungry, and straightway they spread a great feast on the soft greensward. Robin sat at the head, with Little John on his right and his nephew, now Will Scarlet, on his left. The great haunch of smoking-hot venison was always placed before Little John to do the carving. Other dishes there were- roast geese, ducks and swans, grouse, partridges, pastry pies of rabbits, hares, and squirrels. Then came salmon and trout from the rivers, and great pikes from the ponds and lakes- some boiled, others roasted and stuffed. In good sooth, the outlaws had no lack of meat and drink. The broad forest was their domain, and all its creatures were theirs for the taking. From time to time great tubs of wine and barrels of nut-brown ale were brought by pack-horses to a certain spot, to be carried thence by the outlaws to their trysting-place. All fared alike, and all were well fed, summer and winter.

As for Will Scarlet, he was at first amazed, then wondrous glad to have found a life so goodly and free from care. While the merry jests went round he, at Robin’s request, told how his life had been spent and what troubles he had passed through since both were boys together. Robin’s thoughts went back to his old home by Needwood Forest; but he had no real desire to leave the greenwood, and he knew full well that such a thing might not be. An outlaw he had been since his fifteenth year, and an outlaw he must remain till the breath left his body.

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Chicago: Louis Rhead, "V," Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band Original Sources, accessed February 29, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=85GPRVKWXFYPEUY.

MLA: Rhead, Louis. "V." Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band, Original Sources. 29 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=85GPRVKWXFYPEUY.

Harvard: Rhead, L, 'V' in Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band. Original Sources, retrieved 29 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=85GPRVKWXFYPEUY.