With long yew-bows and shining spears they marched in pomp and pride, and they never halted nor delayed till they came to the forest.
"Tarry here, and make ready your bows, that in case of need you may follow me," said the knight to his archers. "And look you observe my call. I will go first, in person, with the letters of our good king, duly signed and sealed, and if Robin Hood will surrender we need not draw a string."
The knight wandered about the forest, till at length he came to the tent of Robin Hood. He greeted the outlaw, and showed him the king's letter, whereupon Robin sprang to his feet and stood on guard.
"They would have me surrender, then, and lie at their mercy?" quoth Robin. "Tell them from me that shall never be while I have seven score of good men."
Sir William, who was a bold and hardy knight, made an attempt to seize Robin then and there, but Robin was too quick to be caught, and bade him forbear such tricks. Then he set his horn to his mouth, and blew a blast or two; the knight did the same.
Instantly from all sides archers came running, some for Robin Hood, some for the knight.
Sir William drew up his men with care, and placed them in battle array. Robin Hood was no whit behind with his yeomen. The fray was stern and bloody. The archers on both sides bent their bows, and arrows flew in clouds. In the very first flight the gallant knight, Sir William, was slain; but nevertheless the fight went on with fury, and lasted from morning until almost noon. They fought till both parties were spent, and only ceased when neither side had strength to go on. Those of the king's archers that still remained went back to London with right good will, and Robin Hood's men retreated to the depths of the greenwood.
But Robin Hood's last fight was fought, and of all the arrows that ever he shot, there was but one yet to fly. As he left the field of battle he was taken ill, and he felt his strength fail, and the fever rise in his veins.
His life was ebbing fast away, and now he was too weak to go on.
Then he remembered his little bugle-horn, which still hung at his side, and setting it to his mouth, he blew once, twice, and again--a low, weak blast.
Away in the greenwood, as he sat under a tree, Little John heard the well-known call, but so faint and feeble was the sound it struck like ice to his heart.
"I fear my master is near dead, he blows so wearily!"
Never after hart or hind ran Little John as he ran that day to answer his master's dying call. He raced like the wind till he came to where Robin was, and fell on his knee before him.
"Give me my bent bow in my hand," said Robin Hood, "and I will let fly a broad arrow, and where this arrow is taken up, there shall you dig my grave.
"Lay me a green sod under my head, And another at my feet; And lay my bent bow at my side, Which was my music sweet; And make my grave of gravel and green, Which is most right and meet."
So Robin Hood drew his bow for the last time, and there where the arrow fell, under a clump of the greenwood trees, they dug the grave as he had said, and buried him.
DON QUIXOTE DE LA MANCHA
This masterpiece of humor was first published in 1605, and is, of course, a work of fiction. It is unsurpassed as a picture of Spanish life.
Millions have laughed over the adventures of that upright, unconquered, unafraid Don Quixote, the wisest of madmen.
Cervantes set out to make fun of the romances of chivalry, which had become ridiculous because of their extravagance, but while writing the book he fell in love with Don Quixote for wanting to be a chivalrous knight, and with Sancho Panza for wanting to be a loyal squire, and it is this love for them that he makes us see on every page.
The condensed version of the stories, by Judge Parry, well preserves the flavor of the best translation, Thomas Shelton's.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THAT SPANISH GENTLEMAN
Retold by Judge Parry
Once upon a time there lived in a certain village in a province of Spain called the Mancha, a gentleman named Quixada or Queseda, whose house was full of old lances, halberds, and other weapons. He was, besides, the owner of an ancient target or shield, a raw-boned steed, and a swift greyhound. His food consisted daily of common meats, some lentils on Fridays, and perhaps a roast pigeon for Sunday's dinner. His dress was a black suit with velvet breeches, and slippers of the same colour, which he kept for holidays, and a suit of homespun which he wore on week-days.
On the purchase of these few things he spent the small rents that came to him every year. He had in his house a woman-servant about forty years old, a niece not yet twenty, and a lad that served him both in field and at home, and could saddle his horse or manage a pruning-hook.
The master himself was about fifty years old, a strong, hard-featured man with a withered face. He was an early riser, and had once been very fond of hunting. But now for a great portion of the year he applied himself wholly to reading the old books of knighthood, and this with such keen delight that he forgot all about the pleasures of the chase, and neglected all household matters. His mania and folly grew to such a pitch that he sold many acres of his lands to buy books of the exploits and adventures of the knights of old. These he took for true and correct histories, and when his friends the curate of the village, or Mr. Nicholas the worthy barber of the town, came to see him, he would dispute with them as to which of the knights of romance had done the greatest deeds.
So eagerly did he plunge into the reading of these books that he many times spent whole days and nights poring over them; and in the end, through little sleep and much reading, his brain became tired, and he fairly lost his wits. His fancy was filled with those things that he read, of enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, tempests, and other impossible follies, and those romantic tales so firmly took hold of him that he believed no history to be so truthful and sincere as they were.
Finally he was seized with one of the strangest whims that ever madman stumbled on in this world, for it seemed to him right and necessary that he himself should become a knight-errant, and ride through the world to seek adventures and practise in person all that he had read about the knights of old. Therefore he resolved that he would make a name for himself by revenging the injuries of others, and courting all manner of dangers and difficulties, until in the end he should be rewarded for his valour in arms by the crown of some mighty empire. And first of all he caused certain old rusty arms that belonged to his great-grandfather, and had lain for many years neglected and forgotten in a corner of his house, to be brought out and well scoured. He fixed them up as well as he could, and then saw that they had something wanting, for instead of a proper helmet they had only a morion or headpiece, like a steel bonnet without any visor. This his industry supplied, for he made a visor for his helmet by patching and pasting certain papers together, and this pasteboard fitted to the morion gave it all the appearance of a real helmet.
Then, to make sure that it was strong enough, he out with his sword and gave it a blow or two, and with the very first blow he spoiled that which had cost him a week to make. To make things better he placed certain iron bars within it, and feeling sure it was now sound and strong, he did not put it to a second trial.
He next examined his horse, who though he had nothing on him but skin and bone, yet he seemed to him a better steed than Bucephalus, the noble animal that carried Alexander the Great when he went to battle. He spent four days inventing a name for his horse, saying to himself that it was not fit that so famous a knight's horse, and so good a beast, should want a known name. Therefore he tried to find a name that should both give people some notion of what he had been before he was the steed of a knight-errant, and also what he now was; for, seeing that his lord and master was going to change his calling, it was only right that his horse should have a new name, famous and high-sounding, and worthy of his new position in life. And after having chosen, made up, put aside, and thrown over any number of names as not coming up to his idea, he finally hit upon Rozinante, a name in his opinion sublime and well-sounding, expressing in a word what he had been when he was a simple carriage horse, arid what was expected of him in his new dignity.
The name being thus given to his horse, he made up his mind to give himself a name also, and in that thought laboured another eight days. Finally he determined to call himself Don Quixote, and remembering that the great knights of olden time were not satisfied with a mere dry name, but added to it the name of their kingdom or country, so he like a good knight added to his own that of his province, and called himself Don Quixote of the Mancha, whereby he declared his birthplace and did honour to his country by taking it for his surname.
His armour being scoured, his morion transformed into a helmet, his horse named, and himself furnished with a new name, he considered that now he wanted nothing but a lady on whom he might bestow his service and affection. "For," he said to himself, remembering what he had read in the books of knightly adventures, "if I should by good hap encounter with some giant, as knights-errant ordinarily do, and if I should overthrow him with one blow to the ground, or cut him with a stroke in two halves, or finally overcome and make him yield to me, it would be only right and proper that I should have some lady to whom I might present him. Then would he, entering my sweet lady's presence, say unto her with a humble and submissive voice: 'Madam, I am the Giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island called Malindrania, whom the never-too-much-praised knight Don Quixote of the Mancha hath overcome in single combat. He hath commanded me to present myself to your greatness, that it may please your highness to dispose of me according to your liking."
You may believe that the heart of the knight danced for joy when he made that grand speech, and he was even more pleased when he had found out one whom he might call his lady. For, they say, there lived in the next village to his own a hale, buxom country girl with whom he was sometime in love, though for the matter of that she had never known of it or taken any notice of him whatever. She was called Aldonca Lorenso, and her he thought fittest to honour as the Lady of his Fancy. Then he began to search about in his mind for a name that should not vary too much from her own, but should at the same time show people that she was a princess or lady of quality. Thus it was that he called her Dulcinea of Toboso, a name sufficiently strange, romantic, and musical for the lady of so brave a knight. And now, having taken to himself both armour, horse, and lady fair, he was ready to go forth and seek adventures.
HE SETS FORTH ON HIS ADVENTURES
Retold by Judge Parry
All his preparations being made, he could no longer resist the desire of carrying out his plans, his head being full of the wrongs he intended to put right, and the evil deeds he felt called upon to punish. Without telling any living creature, and unseen of anybody, somewhat before daybreak--it being one of the warmest days in July--he armed himself from head to foot, mounted on Rozinante, laced on his strange helmet, gathered up his target, seized his lance, and through the back door of his yard sallied forth into the fields, marvellously cheerful and content to see how easily he had started on his new career. But scarcely was he clear of the village when he was struck by a terrible thought, and one which did well-nigh overthrow all his plans. For he recollected that he had never been knighted, and therefore, according to the laws of knighthood, neither could he nor ought he to combat with any knight. And even if he were a knight, he remembered to have read that as a new knight he ought to wear white armour without any device upon his shield until he should win it by force of arms.
He journeyed all that day, and at night both he and his horse were tired and hungry, and looking about him on every side to see whether he could discover any castle to which he might retire for the night, he saw an inn near the highway, which was as welcome a sight to him as if he had seen a guiding star. Spurring his horse he rode towards it and arrived there about nightfall.
There stood by chance at the inn door two jolly peasant women who were travelling towards Seville with some carriers, who happened to take up their lodging in that inn the same evening. And as our knight-errant believed all that he saw or heard to take place in the same manner as he had read in his books, he no sooner saw the inn than he fancied it to be a castle with four turrets and pinnacles of shining silver, with a drawbridge, a deep moat, and all such things as belong to grand castles. Drawing slowly towards it, he checked Rozinante with the bridle when he was close to the inn, and rested awhile to see if any dwarf would mount on the battlements to give warning with the sound of a trumpet how some knight did approach the castle; but seeing they stayed so long, and Rozinante was eager to get to his stable, he went to the inn door, and there beheld the two women, whom he supposed to be two beautiful damsels or lovely ladies. At that moment it happened that a certain swineherd, as he gathered together his hogs, blew the horn which was used to call them together, and at once Don Quixote imagined it was some dwarf who gave notice of his arrival; and he rode up to the inn door with marvellous delight. The ladies, when they beheld one armed in that manner with lance and target, made haste to run into the inn; but Don Quixote, seeing their fear by their flight, lifted up his pasteboard visor, showed his withered and dusky face, and spoke to them thus: "Let not your ladyships fly nor fear any harm, for it does not belong to the order of knighthood which I profess to wrong anybody, much less such high-born damsels as your appearance shows you to be."
The women looked at him very earnestly, and sought with their eyes for his face, which the ill-fashioned helmet concealed; but when they heard themselves called high-born damsels, they could not contain their laughter, which was so loud that Don Quixote was quite ashamed of them and rebuked them, saying: "Modesty is a comedy ornament of the beautiful, and too much laughter springing from trifles is great folly; but I do not tell you this to make you the more ashamed, for my desire is none other than to do you all the honour and service I may."
This speech merely increased their laughter, and with it his anger, which would have passed all bounds if the innkeeper had not come out at this instant. Now this innkeeper was a man of exceeding fatness, and therefore, as some think, of a very peaceable disposition; and when he saw that strange figure, armed in such fantastic armour, he was very nearly keeping the two women company in their merriment and laughter. But being afraid of the owner of such a lance and target, he resolved to behave civilly for fear of what might happen, and thus addressed him: "Sir knight! if your worship do seek for lodging, we have no bed at liberty, but you shall find all other things in abundance."
To which Don Quixote, noting the humility of the constable of the castle--for such he took him to be--replied: "Anything, sir constable, may serve me, for my arms are my dress, and the battlefield is my bed."
While he was speaking, the innkeeper laid hand on Don Quixote's stirrup and helped him to alight. This he did with great difficulty and pain, for he had not eaten a crumb all that day. He then bade the innkeeper have special care of his horse, saying he was one of the best animals that ever ate bread.
The innkeeper looked at Rozinante again and again, but he did not seem to him half so good as Don Quixote valued him. However, he led him civilly to the stable, and returned to find his guest in the hands of the high-born damsels, who were helping him off with his armour. They had taken off his back and breast plates, but they could in no way get his head and neck out of the strange, ill-fashioned helmet which he had fastened on with green ribands.
Now these knots were so impossible to untie that the women would have cut them, but this Don Quixote would not agree to. Therefore he remained all the night with his helmet on, and looked the drollest and strangest figure you could imagine. And he was now so pleased with the women, whom he still took to be ladies and dames of the castle, that he said to them: "Never was knight so well attended on and served by ladies as was Don Quixote. When he departed from his village, damsels attended on him and princesses on his horse. O ladies!
Rozinante is the name of my steed, and I am called Don Quixote, and the time shall come when your ladyships may command me and I obey, and then the valour of mine arm shall discover the desire I have to do you service."