By this time, Robin Hood and his company came up to the bishop; and Robin Hood, taking him by his hand, said, “My lord, you must dine with me to-day under my bower in merry Barnsdale. I cannot feast you like a bishop, but I can give you venison, ale, and wine; and I hope you will be content.” After dinner, Robin Hood made the music to strike up, and would insist upon the bishop’s dancing a hornpipe in his boots; and the bishop was forced to submit.
The day was now far spent, and the bishop begged leave to go away. “You have treated me very nobly,” said he to Robin Hood, “and I suppose I must pay for it. Tell me how much.” “Lend me your purse, master,” said Little John, “and I will settle it for you.” He then spread the bishop’s cloak upon the ground, and opening his bag, he counted five hundred pounds out of it. “Now,” said Robin Hood, “we thank you for your company; and, to shew you that we know how to be polite, we will see you part of the way home.” They then led the bishop and his servants quite through the wood, till they brought him to the high road: then Robin Hood’s gang gave three cheers, and told him to remember that, though he had come meaning to hang them all, they had done him no harm.
One day, in summer-time, when the leaves grew green, and the flowers were fresh and gay, Robin Hood and his merry men were all in a humour to play. Some would leap, some would run, some shot at a mark, and some wrestled with each other on the green. Robin Hood was haughty and proud, and said, “Now, my good fellows, do you think there is a man in the world that could wrestle or play the quarter-staff with me, or kill a doe or buck so sure as me?”
While Robin Hood was boasting in this manner, Will Scarlet stepped out from the rest. Will Scarlet was a little a-kin to Robin Hood, and thought he had as good a right himself to be captain of the gang. Besides, he was rather spiteful: he was just going to shoot an arrow at Robin Hood when he saw him dressed like an old woman. “If you wish to meet with your match,” said Scarlet, “I can tell you where you can find him. There is a friar in Fountain Abbey.” Now Fountain Abbey was the convent that had been built with the money that Robin Hood’s uncle Gamewell’s estate had been sold for, and perhaps Will Scarlet chose to throw it in Robin’s teeth for that reason. “I had as soon you had talked of the gallows,” said Robin Hood. “No matter for that,” said Will Scarlet; “there is a friar in Fountain Abbey that can draw a strong bow against any man in the world: he can handle a quarter-staff too; and will beat you and all your yeomen, set them in a row.”
Robin Hood was a man of a bold spirit, and could not rest till he had seen this friar; so he slung his bow across his shoulder, and took his quarter-staff in his hand, and away he went to Fountain Dale. He had not gone far before he saw a tall brawny friar walking by the waterside: and Robin Hood thought this must be the man the moment he saw him.
Robin Hood got off his horse, and tied him to a thorn. “Carry me over this water, thou brawny friar,” said he, “or thou hast not an hour longer to live.” The friar did not grumble; but stooped, and took Robin upon his back. The water was deep, and the passage was long and not easy; and neither of these rivals spoke a single word till they came to the other side. Robin then leaped lightly off the friar’s back, and seemed going away. “Stop,” said the friar, “carry me over this water, thou fine fellow, or it will breed thee pain.” Robin took the friar upon his back; and neither of the two spoke a single word till they came to the otherside. The friar then leaped lightly off Robin’s back, while Robin said to him again, “Carry me over the water, thou brawny friar, or it shall breed thee pain.” The friar once more took Robin upon his back; but this time he did not carry him over; for, as soon as he had got to the middle of the stream, he threw him into the water.
“And now choose, my fine fellow,” said he, “whether thou wilt sink or swim.” Robin swam to the shore; and, when the friar was come to the same place, Robin said to him, “I see by this trial that thou art worthy to be my match.” Robin challenged him in wrestling, in shooting, and at the quarter-staff; but Robin could not beat the friar, nor the friar beat Robin in any of these. “I wish from my soul,” said Robin, “you would quit this lazy life, and come and be one of us; we range the forest merry and free, and are as happy as the day is long.” “I wish from my soul,” said the friar, “thou wouldst leave thy rambling and wicked life, and come and live in our convent. Thy thefts will bring thee to a bad end, but I shall live out my days quiet and respected.” Robin could not persuade the friar, and the friar could not persuade Robin: so they shook hands and parted.
Robin Hood knew very well that his way of life was against the laws; and that, if he were once caught, it would go very hard with him. He had now been in this way for several years; and began to wish that he could change his way of living for a quiet dwelling in the village where he was born. While he had thoughts of this sort, one time when he took many rich prizes, he resolved to make a present to the queen. The name of the queen was Eleanor; she was the mother of King Richard the First, who had great power in her son’s reign.
Queen Eleanor was very much pleased with Robin Hood’s present, and said to herself, “If I live one year to an end, I will be a friend to thee, and all thy men.”
Soon after this, King Richard made a grand match in his court, of all the bowmen of his guards and his army. Queen Eleanor thought this a good time to do what she had in her mind; so she called her favourite page, whose name was Richard Partington, and gave him his errand. The page set out straight to Sherwood Forest; and when he came to Robin Hood, he said: “Queen Eleanor greets you well; she bids you post to London, where there is to be a match at the cross-bow, and she has chosen you and your men to be her champions.”
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.