Though Robin Hood was a robber, which to be sure is a very bad thing, yet he behaved in such a manner as to have the good word and good wishes of almost all the poor people in those parts. He never loved to rob any body but people that were very rich, and that had not the spirit to make good use of their riches. As he had lost his estate by the cunning of a popish priest, he had a great dislike to the whole set; and the popish priests at that time behaved in such a manner, that hardly any body liked them: so that Robin Hood was not thought the worse of for his usage of them. When he met with poor men, in his rambles, instead of taking any thing from them, he gave them money of his own. He never let any woman be either robbed or hurt; and, in cases of hardship, he always took the part of the weak and the injured against the strong; so that it was truely said, “that of all thieves he was the gentlest and most generous thief.”
Robin Hood was fond of doing odd and strange things; and he loved a joke quite as well as he loved a good booty. One day, as he strolled in the Forest by himself, he saw a jolly butcher riding upon a fine mare, with panniers on each side filled with meat. “Good morrow, good fellow!” said Robin; “whither are you going so early?” Said the other, “I am a butcher, and am going to Nottingham market to sell my meat.” “I never learned any trade,” said Robin; “I think I should like to be a butcher. What shall I give you for your mare, and your panniers, and all that is in them?” “They are not dear at four marks,” said the butcher, “and I will not sell them for less.” Robin made no words, but counted out the money; and then made the butcher give him his blue linen coat and his apron, in exchange for Robin Hood’s line uniform of scarlet.
When Robin Hood had dressed himself in this manner, he rode straight to Nottingham. The sheriff of Nottingham was master of the market, and Robin Hood hired a stall there. But we may very well suppose that he did not know much about his trade, and indeed, as long as he had any meat to sell, no other butcher could sell a single joint; for Robin Hood sold more meat for a penny than the others could do for five. “To be sure,” said they, “this is some young fellow that has sold his father’s land.” The butchers then went up to Robin Hood: “Come, brother,” said one of them, “we are all of one trade, will you go and dine with us?” “I should be a shabby fellow,” said Robin, “if I was ashamed of my calling; so I will go with you.” The sheriff was the tavern-keeper, and sat at the head of the table; and, after dinner, Robin Hood would insist upon paying the bill. The sheriff was a cunning old miser, and, when he saw how madly Robin Hood behaved, he thought he would not miss such a chance of turning a penny. “Good fellow,” said the sheriff, “hast thou any horned beasts to sell to me?”—“That I have, good master sheriff,” said Robin Hood. “I have a hundred or two, if you will please to go and see them.” The sheriff then saddled his good palfrey, and took three hundred pounds in gold, and away he went with Robin Hood.
The road they took led through the forest of Sherwood; and, as they rode along, the sheriff cried out, “God preserve us this day from a man they call Robin Hood!” But, when they came a little further, there chanced to come out of the thicket a hundred good fat deer, skipping very near them. “How do you like my horned beasts, master sheriff?” said Robin Hood. “These are the cattle I told you of.” “To tell you the truth,” replied the sheriff, “I wish I were away for I do not like your company.” Then Robin Hood put his bugle-horn to his mouth, and blowed three times; when suddenly there came out of the wood Little John and Robin Hood’s hundred men, clothed in green, and running all in a row. “What is your will, master?” said Little John. “I have brought hither the sheriff of Nottingham,” said Robin Hood, “this day, to dine with me.” “He is welcome,” said Little John. “I hope he will pay us well for his dinner.” Robin Hood now made the sheriff sit down under a tree; and, after they had all eaten and drunk enough, he opened the sheriff’s bag, and told out his three hundred pounds. He then seated the sheriff on his palfrey again, and led him out of the forest. “Remember me kindly to your wife,” said Robin Hood; and so went laughing away.
As Robin Hood was walking one day in the Forest, he took notice of a handsome young man, dressed in very fine clothes, frisking over the plain, and singing. When Robin Hood passed the same spot the next morning, he saw this same young man come drooping along: his fine dress was laid aside, his hair was loose about his shoulders, and at every step he sighed deeply, saying, “Alas! and well-a-day!” Robin Hood sent one of his company, to bring the young man to him. “What is the distress,” said Robin Hood, “that hangs so heavy on your heart? Why were you so merry yesterday, and why are you so sad today?” The young man now pulled out his purse.
“Look at this ring,” said he; “I bought it yesterday; I was to have married a young maiden whom I have courted for seven long years, and this morning she is gone to church to be married to another.” “Do you think she loves you?” said Robin Hood. “She has told me so,” said Allen-a-Dale, for that was his name, “a hundred times.” “Then she is not worth caring about,” said Robin Hood, “for changing in her love.” “She does not love him,” replied Allen-a-Dale. “Why do you think so?” said Robin Hood. “He is a poor crippled old fellow,” said Allen-a-Dale,” and quite unfit for such a young and lovely lass.” “Then why does she marry him?” said Robin Hood. “Because the old knight is rich,” replied Allen: “and her father and mother insist upon it, and have scolded and stormed at her till she is as gentle as a lamb.” “Where is the wedding to take place?” said Robin Hood. “At our parish,” replied Allen, “only five miles from this place; and the bishop of Hereford, who is the knight’s brother, is to read the service.”
From Robin Hood: being a complete history of all the notable and merry exploits performed by him and his men on many occasions. London: William Darton, 1822.