The[y] sayed, "Lord, we beseche the here, That ye wyll graunt us grace, For we haue slaine your fat falow der, In many a sondry place." 80
"What be your nam[e]s?" then said our king, "Anone that you tell me: They sayd, "Adam Bel, Clim of the Clough, And Wyllyam of Cloudesle."
"Be ye those theves," then sayd our kyng, 85 "That men have tolde of to me?
Here to god I make a vowe, Ye shal be hanged al thre.
"Ye shal be dead without mercy, As I am kynge of this lande." 90 He commanded his officers everichone Fast on them to lay hand.
There they toke these good yemen, And arested them all thre: "So may I thryve," sayd Adam Bell, 95 "Thys game lyketh not me.
"But, good lorde, we beseche you now, That you graunt vs grace, Insomuche as we be to you comen, Or els that we may fro you passe, 100
"With such weapons as we have here, Tyll we be out of your place; And yf we lyve this hundreth yere, We wyll aske you no grace."
"Ye speake proudly," sayd the kynge, 105 "Ye shall be hanged all thre:"
"That were great pitye," then sayd the quene, "If any grace myght be.
"My lorde, whan I came fyrst into this lande, To be your wedded wyfe, 110 The fyrst bowne that I wold aske, Ye would graunt it me belyfe;
"And I asked never none tyll now, Therefore, good lorde, graunte it me."
"Now aske it, madam," sayd the kynge, 115 "And graunted shall it be."
"Then, my good lord, I you beseche, These yemen graunt ye me:"
"Madame, ye myght have asked a bowne That shuld have ben worth them all thre. 120
"Ye myght have asked towres and town[es], Parkes and forestes plenty."
"None so pleasaunt to mi pay," she said, "Nor none so lefe to me."
"Madame, sith it is your desyre, 125 Your askyng graunted shal be; But I had lever have geven you Good market townes thre."
The quene was a glad woman, And sayd, "Lord, gramarcy; 130 I dare undertake for them, That true men shal they be.
"But, good lord, speke som mery word, That comfort they may se."
"I graunt you grace," then said our king, 135 "Wasshe, felos, and to meate go ye."
They had not setten but a whyle, Certayne without lesynge, There came messengers out of the north, With letters to our kynge. 140
And whan the[y] came before the kynge, They kneled downe vpon theyr kne, And sayd, "Lord, your offycers grete you wel, Of Caerlel in the north cuntre."
"How fare[s] my justice," sayd the kyng, 145 "And my sherife also?"
"Syr, they be slayne, without leasynge, And many an officer mo."
"Who hath them slayne?" sayd the kyng, "Anone thou tell me:" 150 "Adam Bel, and Clime of the Clough, And Wyllyam of Cloudesle."
"Alas for rewth!" then sayd our kynge, "My hart is wonderous sore; I had leuer [th]an a thousand pounde, 155 I had knowne of thys before.
"For I have graunted them grace, And that forthynketh me, But had I knowne all thys before, They had been hanged all thre." 160
The kyng opened the letter anone, Hymselfe he red it th[r]o, And founde how these thre outlawes had slaine Thre hundred men and mo.
Fyrst the justice and the sheryfe, 165 And the mayre of Caerlel towne; Of all the constables and catchipolles Alyve were left not one.
The baylyes and the bedyls both, And the sergeauntes of the law, 170 And forty fosters of the fe, These outlawes had yslaw,
And broke his parks, and slaine his dere; Over all they chose the best; So perelous outlawes as they were, 175 Walked not by easte nor west.
When the kynge this letter had red, In hys harte he syghed sore; "Take vp the table anone," he bad, "For I may eate no more." 180
The kyng called hys best archars, To the buttes with hym to go; "I wylle se these felowes shote," he sayd, In the north have wrought this wo."
The kynges bowmen buske them blyve, 185 And the quenes archers also, So dyd these thre wyght yemen, Wyth them they thought to go.
There twyse or thryse they shote about, For to assay theyr hande; 190 There was no shote these yemen shot, That any prycke might them stand.
Then spake Wyllyam of Cloudesle, "By him that for me dyed, I hold hym never no good archar 195 That shuteth at buttes so wyde."
"Wherat?" then sayd our kyng,[L197]
"I pray thee tell me:"
"At such a but, syr," he sayd, "As men use in my countree." 200
Wyllyam went into a fyeld, And his to brethren with him, There they set vp to hasell roddes, Twenty score paces betwene.
"I hold him an archar," said Cloudesle, 205 "That yonder wande cleveth in two:"
"Here is none suche," sayd the kyng, "Nor none that can so do."
"I shall assaye, syr," sayd Cloudesle, "Or that I farther go:" 210 Cloudesle, with a bearyng arow, Clave the wand in to.
"Thou art the best archer," then said the king, "Forsothe that ever I se:"
"And yet for your love," said Wylliam, 215 "I wyll do more maystry.
"I have a sonne is seven yere olde,[L217]
He is to me full deare; I wyll hym tye to a stake, All shall se that be here; 220
"And lay an apele upon hys head, And go syxe score paces hym fro, And I myselfe, with a brode arow, Shall cleve the apple in two."
"Now haste the," then sayd the kyng, 225 "By him that dyed on a tre; But yf thou do not as thou hast sayde,[L227]
Hanged shalt thou be.
"And thou touche his head or gowne, In syght that men may se, 230 By all the sayntes that be in heaven, I shall hange you all thre."
"That I have promised," said William, "I wyl it never forsake;"
And there even before the kynge, 235 In the earth he droue a stake,
And bound therto his eldest sonne, And bad hym stande styll therat, And turned the childes face fro him, Because he shuld not sterte. 240
An apple upon his head he set, And then his bowe he bent; Syxe score paces they were out met, And thether Cloudesle went.
There he drew out a fayr brode arrowe, 245 Hys bowe was great and longe, He set that arrowe in his bowe, That was both styffe and stronge.