Robin Hood said no more, but put off his scarlet suit, and dressed himself like a harper, with a harp in his hand. He told twenty-four of his company to follow at a little distance; and then went alone into the church, and found the bishop putting on his robes. “What do you want here?” said the bishop. “I am a harper,” said Robin Hood; “the best in four counties round; I heard there was to be a wedding, and I am come to offer my service.” “You are welcome,” said the bishop: “I shall be glad to hear your music.” Soon after this, the bride and bridegroom came in. The old knight hobbled along, and was hardly able to walk up to the altar; and after him came a maiden, as fair as the day, and blushing like the summer’s morning. “This is not a fit match,” said Robin Hood, “and I cannot agree to its taking place; but, since we are come to the church, the bride shall choose for herself.” Then Robin Hood put his horn to his mouth, and blew into it; when straight four-and-twenty archers were seen leaping along the church-yard path, and came in at the porch. The first man was Allen-a-Dale, to give Robin Hood his bow.
Robin Hood now turned to the fair maiden, and said, “Now, my love, you are free: tell me whom you will have for your husband. Will you have this feeble and gouty old knight, or will you have one of the bold young fellows you see now before you?” “Alas!” said the young maid, and dropped her eyes on the ground as she spoke, “young Allen-a-Dale has courted me for seven long years, and he is the man I would choose.” “Then,” said Robin Hood, “you and Allen shall be married before we leave this place.” “That shall not be,” said the bishop; “the law of the land requires that they should be three times asked in the church, and a marriage cannot be huddled up in this way.” “That we will try,” said Robin Hood; and he then pulled off the bishop’s gown, and put it upon Little John. “Indeed,” said Robin Hood, “you make a grave parson.” When Little John took the book into his hand, the people began to laugh; and he asked them seven times in the church, lest three times should not be enough. Robin Hood gave away the maiden; the bishop slunk out of the church; and his brother, the old knight, hobbled after as well as he could. The whole company had a dinner upon two fat bucks in Sherwood Forest; and from this day, Allen-a-Dale was a friend to Robin Hood as long as he lived.
In the time of Robin Hood, the bishops were under the orders of the pope of Rome; and they were great officers, and even soldiers. Robin Hood lived in the see of the bishop of Hereford. Now Robin had a great dislike to the popish clergy, because one of them had cheated him of his uncle’s estate; and the bishop of Hereford had quite as much dislike to Robin, because of the trick Robin had played him in the marriage of Allen-a-Dale, and because he did not think it right that such a robber should live in his see. The bishop therefore made several journeys into the Forest of Sherwood, to take Robin prisoner, and bring him to the gallows.
One time, when Robin was walking alone in the Forest of Sherwood, he heard the trampling of horses; and, looking round, he saw his old enemy, the bishop of Hereford, with six servants. The bishop was very near Robin Hood before Robin looked round and saw him; and he had nothing to trust to but the swiftness of his heels, to save him from danger.
As Robin ran along, he chanced to come up to a cottage where an old woman lived all by herself; so he rushed in, and begged her to save his life.—“Who are you?” said the old woman; “and what can I do for you?” “I am an outlaw,” replied he, “and my name is Robin Hood; and yonder is the bishop of Hereford, with all his men, who wants to bring me to the gallows.” “If thou be Robin Hood,” said the old woman, “as I think thou art, I would as soon lose my own life, as not do all in my power to save thee. Many a time have Little John and thou done me a kindness, and brought me venison; and no longer ago than last Saturday night thou gave me a pair of new shoes, and this green kirtle.” “Then,” said Robin Hood, “give me thy green kirtle, and thy close-eared cap, and put into my hands thy distaff and spindle, and do thou take my scarlet mantle and my quiver and bow.”
As soon as they had made this change, Robin Hood left the house, and went to the place where all his company were to be found. He looked behind him a hundred times for the bishop, who had no thoughts of finding him in this disguise. One of the robbers, who was a spiteful fellow, as Robin Hood came near them, cried out, “A witch! a witch! I will let fly an arrow at her.” “Hold thy hand,” said Robin Hood, “and shoot not thy arrows so keen, for I am Robin Hood, thy master.” Then he went up to Little John, and said, “Come, kill a good fat deer, for the Bishop of Hereford is to dine with me today.”
While this was going on, the bishop came to the old woman’s house; and seeing a man, as he thought, with a mantle of scarlet, and a quiver and a bow in his hand, he shook his head, and said, “I am afraid you are one of Robin Hood’s gang. If you have not a mind to be hanged yourself, shew me where that traitor is, and set him before me.” The old woman agreed to this. “Go with me,” said she to the bishop, “and I think I can bring you to the man you want.” The bishop then mounted her upon a milk-white steed, and himself rode upon a dapple-grey; and, for joy that he should get Robin Hood, he went laughing all the way. But, as they were riding along the forest, the bishop saw a hundred brave bowmen, drawn up together under a tree. “Oh! who is yonder,” said the bishop, “ranging within the wood?” “Why,” said the old woman, “I think it is a man they call Robin Hood.” “Why, who art thou?” said the bishop; “for, to tell thee the truth, I thought thou hadst been Robin Hood himself.” “Oh! my lord,” said she, “I am only an old woman.”
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.