Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 280
Publication Date: 1917
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This is Paul Creswick's able retelling of the Robin Hood myth. Like other English literary productions such as King Arthur or Sherlock Holmes, the fact that Robin Hood is a fiction is almost irrelevant; people want to believe that he was an actual historical personage.
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"Well, Robin, on what folly do you employ yourself? Do you cut sticks for our fire o' mornings?"
Thus spoke Master Hugh Fitzooth, King's Ranger of the Forest at Locksley, as he entered his house.
Robin flushed a little. "These are arrows, sir," he announced, holding one up for inspection.
Dame Fitzooth smiled upon the boy as she rose to meet her lord. "What fortune do you bring us today, Father?" asked she, cheerily.
Fitzooth's face was a mask of discontent. "I bring myself, Dame," answered he, "neither more nor less."
"Surely that is enough for Robin and me!" laughed his wife. "Come, cast off your shoes, and give me your bow and quiver. I have news for you, Hugh, even if you have none for us. George of Gamewell has sent his messenger today, and bids me bring Robin to him for the Fair." She hesitated to give the whole truth.
"That cannot be," began the Ranger, hastily; then checked himself. "What wind is it that blows our Squire's friendship toward me, I wonder?" he went on. "Do we owe him toll?"
"You are not fair to George Montfichet, Hugh--he is an open, honest man, and he is my brother." The dame spoke with spirit, being vexed that her husband should thus slight her item of news. "That Montfichet is of Norman blood is sufficient to turn your thoughts of him as sour as old milk--"
"I am as good as all the Montfichets and De Veres hereabout, Dame, for all I am but plain Saxon," returned Fitzooth, crossly, "and the day may come when they shall know it. Athelstane the Saxon might make full as good a King, when Henry dies, as Richard of Acquitaine, with his harebrained notions and runagate religion. There would be bobbing of heads and curtseying to us then, if you like. Squire George of Gamewell would be sending messengers for me cap in hand--doubt it not."
"For that matter, there is ready welcome for you now at my brother's house," said Mistress Fitzooth, repenting of her sharpness at once. "Montfichet bade us all to Gamewell; but here is his scroll, and you may read it for yourself." She took a scroll from her bosom as she spoke and offered it to her husband.
He returned to the open door that he might read it. His brow puckered itself as he strove to decipher the flourished Norman writing. "I have no leisure now for this screed, Mother; read it to me later, an you will."
His tone was kinder again, for he saw how Robin had been busying himself in these last few moments. "Let us sup, Mother. I dare swear we all are hungry after the heat of the day."
"I have made and tipped a full score of arrows, sir; will you see them?" asked Robin.
"That will I, so soon as I have found the bottom of this pasty. Sit yourselves, Mother and Robin, and we'll chatter afterwards."
Robin helped his mother to kindle the flax whereby the dim and flickering tapers might be lighted. His fingers were more deft at this business, it would seem, than in the making of arrows. Fitzooth, in the intervals of his eating, took up Robin's arrows one by one and had some shrewd gibe ready for most of them. Of the score only five were allowed to pass; the rest were tossed contemptuously into the black hearth onto the little heap of smouldering fire.
"By my heart, Robin, but I shall never make a proper bowman of you! Were ever such shafts fashioned to fit across cord and yew!"
"The arrows are pretty enough, Hugh," interposed the dame.
"There 'tis!" cried Fitzooth, triumphantly. "The true bowman's hand showeth not in the prettiness of an arrow, Mother, but in the straightness and hardness of the wand. Our Robin can fly a shaft right well, I grant you, and I have no question for his skill, but he cannot yet make me an arrow such as I love."
"Well, I do think them right handsomely done," said Mistress Fitzooth, unconvinced. "It is not given to everyone to make such arrows as you can, Husband; but my Robin has other accomplishments. He can play upon the harp sweetly, and sing you a good song--" Fitzooth must still grumble, however. "I would rather your fingers should bend the bow than pluck at harpstrings, Robin," growled he. "Still, there is time for all things. Read me now our brother's message." Robin, eager to atone for the faults of his arrows, stretched out the paper upon the table, and read aloud the following:
"From George à Court Montfichet, of the Hall at Gamewell, near Nottingham, Squire of the Hundreds of Sandwell and Sherwood, giving greetings and praying God's blessing on his sister Eleanor and on her husband, Master Hugh Fitzooth, Ranger of the King's Forest at Locksley. Happiness be with you all. I do make you this screed in the desire that you will both of you ride to me at Gamewell, in the light of tomorrow, the fifth day of June, bringing With you our young kinsman Robin. There is a Fair toward at Nottingham for three days of this week, and we are to expect great and astonishing marvels to be performed at it.