Thus they all made merry in the greenwood, and said the sheriff had been rightly paid for the greed and tyranny with which he performed the duties of his office, for by bribery and oppression he had got his ill-earned wealth.
Presently Little John bethought him of a shrewd device by which they could still further get the better of him. He ran into the forest here and there, and when he had gone about five miles it fell out as he wished; he came across the sheriff himself hunting with hound and horn. Little John was mindful of his manners, and went and knelt on his knee before him, and saluted him courteously.
"Why, Reynold Greenleaf, where hast thou been now?" cried the sheriff.
"I have been in the forest," said Little John, "and there I have seen a wondrous sight, one of the finest I ever yet saw. Yonder I saw a right gallant hart; his colour is green. Seven score of deer in a herd altogether are with him. His antlers are so sharp, master, I durst not shoot, for dread lest they should slay me."
"By heaven, I would fain see that sight," said the sheriff.
"Turn thy steps thither, then, at once, dear master," said Little John. "Come with me; I will show you where he lies."
The sheriff rode off, and Little John ran beside him, for he was full smart of foot. Through the forest they went, and by-and-by they came to Robin Hood in the midst of his band of yeomen.
"Lo, there is the master hart," said Little John. The sheriff stood still in dismay, and he was a sorry man.
"Woe worth thee, Reynold Greenleaf, thou hast betrayed me."
"Ye are to blame, master, I swear," said Little John. "When I was at home with you I was misserved of my dinner."
Then the outlaws made their guest sit down to supper with them, which he did with no good will, for he would fain have departed to his home at Nottingham. He was served on his own silver dishes, and when he saw his beautiful cups and vessels the sheriff for sorrow could not eat.
"Cheer up, sheriff," urged Robin Hood. "For the sake of Little John thy life is granted thee. What, man, eat and be merry! Here is fine fat venison served in a goodly vessel."
By the time they had well supped, the day was done. Robin then bade his men strip the sheriff of his fine clothes, his hose and his shoes, his kirtle, and the large handsome coat all trimmed with fur--and to give him in their place a green mantle to wrap himself in. He further bade his sturdy lads all to lie round the sheriff in a circle under the greenwood tree, so that he might see them, and know there was no chance of escape.
It was a sorry night the sheriff passed, cold and shivering, in his shirt and breeches, on the hard ground; small wonder that his bones ached, and that he sighed piteously for his soft warm bed at home.
"Come, come, sheriff, cheer up!" said Robin; "for this is our order, you know, under the greenwood tree."
"This is a harder order than any anchorite or friar!" groaned the sheriff. "For all the gold in merry England I would not dwell here long."
"Thou wilt dwell here with me for the next twelve months," said Robin. "I shall teach thee, proud sheriff, to be an outlaw."
"Before I lie here another night, Robin, smite off my head rather, and I'll forgive it thee," said the sheriff. "Let me go, for pity's sake!"
he begged, "and I will be the best friend that ever thou hadst."
"Before I let thee go, thou shalt swear me here an oath," said the outlaw. "Swear on my sword that thou wilt never seek to do me harm by water or by land. And if thou find any of my men, by night or by day, thou shalt swear on thy oath to help them all thou canst."
There was no other way to get back his freedom, so the sheriff was compelled to take the oath demanded by Robin. Then he was allowed to depart, and he went back to Nottingham a sad and sorry man, feeling that he had had more than enough of the greenwood to last him a very long time.
HOW ROBIN HOOD WAS PAID HIS LOAN
Retold by Mary Macleod
Twelve months had come and gone since Robin Hood lent four hundred pounds to the poor knight to redeem his land, and now the day had arrived when he had promised to pay back the money.
The sheriff had returned to Nottingham, and Robin Hood and his merry men were left in the greenwood.
"Let us go to dinner," said Little John.
"Nay, not yet," said Robin. "Now I fear our friend the knight is likely to prove false, for he comes not to pay back the money, according to his word."
"Have no doubt, master," said Little John, "for the sun has not yet gone to rest."
"Take thy bow," said Robin, "and let Much and Will Scarlet go with you, and walk up into the Sayles, and to Watling Street, and wait there for some stranger guest, for you may well chance upon one there. Whether he be messenger or mountebank, rich man or poor man, he shall share dinner with me."
Forth then started Little John, half-angry and half-troubled, and under his green mantle he girded on a good sword.
The three yeomen went up to the Sayles; they looked east and they looked west, and not a man could they see.
But all the time Robin kept thinking of the knight who had promised to return that day with the borrowed money.
"I marvel much he does not come," he said. "I fear he does not mean to keep faith."
"Have no doubt, master," said Little John. "You have no need, I say."
Sir Richard Lee, meanwhile, who had tarried to see the wrestling, came while it was still daylight to fulfil his promise. He went straight to Barnsdale, and there he found Robin Hood and his band under the greenwood tree. Directly the knight saw Robin, he dismounted from his palfrey, and saluted him courteously on one knee.
"God save thee, good Robin Hood, and all this company."
"Welcome, welcome, noble knight," said Robin. "I pray thee tell me what need driveth thee to greenwood? I am right glad to see thee. Why hast thou been so long in coming?"
"The abbot and the high justice have been trying to get hold of my land," said the knight.
"Hast thou thy land again?"
"Yea, and for that I thank God and thee. But take not offence that I have come so late in the day. On my journey hither I passed by some wrestling, and there I helped a poor yeoman who was being wrongly put behind by the others."
"Nay, by my faith, for that I thank thee," said Robin. "The man that helpeth a good yeoman, his friend will I be."
"Have here the four hundred pounds you lent me," said the knight, "and here is also twenty marks for your courtesy."
"Nay, keep it and use it well yourself," said Robin, "and thou art right welcome under my trysting-tree. But what are all those bows for, and those finely feathered arrows?"
"They are a poor present to thee," said the knight.
Then Robin Hood bade Little John go to his treasury and fetch four hundred pounds, and he insisted on the knight's accepting this money as a gift.
"Buy thyself a good horse and harness, and gild thy spurs anew," he said laughingly. "And if thou lack enough to spend come to Robin Hood, and by my truth thou shalt never lack while I have any goods of my own. Keep the four hundred pounds I lent thee, and I counsel thee never leave thyself so bare another time."
So good Robin Hood relieved the gentle knight of all his care, and they feasted and made merry under the greenwood tree.