Robin's Debt Repaid Thrice
This page tells how Robin Hood and his outlaws are waiting under the council tree for Sir Richard at the Lee who had promised to repay his debt to Robin Hood on this very day. They decide to invite some other Guest for Dinner though Sir Richard Arrives Later.
Guest for Dinner
Little John asked Robin Hood: 'Surely it's time for dinner, master?'
'Nay; I am afraid Our Lady is angry with me,' Robin answered. 'She has not sent my pay.'
'Never fear, master, the sun has not yet gone down; Sir Richard is true to his word and can be trusted.'
'Better find me someone else to share my dinner,' Robin begged Little John, 'anyone you chance to meet - a messenger, a minstrel, or a poor man to whom I can give some money.'
Up to the Sayles and Watling Street went Much, Will Scarlet and Little John who, half in anger, buckled on his sword under his green cloak. He was a trifle miffed at the knight's absence.
They looked east and west and then toward Barnsdale where they spotted a black monk riding up the highway mounted on a fine palfrey and leading fifty men with seven sumpter horses. 'I'll pledge my life that this monk has brought our pay,' exclaimed Little John. 'No bishop in England would ride so royally. So courage lads and bend your bows of yew. The Lord give us stout hearts and trusty bow strings. There is only three of us but we cannot face our master unless we take this monk back for dinner.'
The three outlaws blocked the highway (pictured top right) as Little John called out: 'Hold, churlish monk! Step no further! By dear God, your life and death is in my hand. Misfortune is upon your head, for you have kept our master waiting for his dinner and put him in a bad temper.'
'Who is your master?' the monk fearfully asked.
'That infamous thief! I have never heard any good of him!'
'That is a lie and you'll be sorry for it,' rebuked Little John. 'He is a yeoman of the forest and has invited you to dinner.'
Much aimed an arrow at the monk's chest and suddenly, out of the fifty brave men in the party there was no longer one - save a small page boy and a groom leading the sumpter horses. Whether loath or glad, the monk was brought straight to the door of Robin's lodge.
Robin threw back his hood in greeting but the monk was too discourteous to do the same. 'He is a churl, master,' explained Little John.
'No matter that he is without courtesy,' said Robin. 'Blow your horn for we'll have better fellowship in our company.'
The horn's echoes had scarcely died away before seven score yeomen dressed in Lincoln green came running up, eager to do Robin's command. The monk was made to wash and wipe his hands and sit down to a dinner served by Robin Hood and Little John themselves. 'Good appetite, sir monk,' said Robin.
'I am obliged to you, sir,' replied the Monk.
'Where is your abbey when you are at home and who is your protector?' Robin asked.
'St. Mary's Abbey, though it doesn't seem to count for much around here.'
'And what is your office?'
'Sir, I am the High Cellarer,' the monk answered pompously.
'Then you are all the more welcome - we will both prosper. Fill up with our best wine and you shall drink my health, sir monk, for I have been uneasy all day. I fear Our Lady is angry with me and hasn't sent my pay.'
'Then your worries are over, master,' said Little John. 'This monk must have brought your money for he comes from her abbey.'
'I lent a sum of money to a knight here under the greenwood tree and Our Lady gave security,' Robin explained to the monk. 'So if you have brought my silver, I pray let me see it and I shall be your friend forever.'
Grim-faced, the monk swore a great oath: 'By the Lord in heaven, this is the first I have heard of your loan.'
'Then I swear it is your own fault, monk,' Robin told him, 'for God is a righteous man and so is Our Lady. You confessed with your own tongue that you are her servant and serve her every day. It is clear that you have been made the messenger to bring my pay and I am grateful that you have come this day. Now tell me in honest truth - how much have you in your coffers?'
'Twenty marks, I swear upon my life, is all I have.'
'If that is all you have, then I will not take a penny. In truth, if you need more, sir, I will lend it to you: but if I find you have more, then I think you will have to manage without it - for I will not have you wasting silver. Check it out, Little John, and see if he has more than twenty marks.'
Little John spread out his cloak, counted out more than £800 from the monk's trunk and announced: 'Sir, this monk is honest enough. Our Lady has sent your pay and generously doubled it.'
'I swear to God, monk, what did I tell you?' said Robin. 'I might search the whole of England and not find a better borrower. My compliments to your gracious Lady.'
Unbeknown to Robin, the monk had been on his way to London to plot the downfall of Sir Richard at the Lee - the knight who owed a debt to Robin Hood. The monk had lied to Robin by telling him that he was visiting property in the area to settle with some dishonest stewards.
'Come now, Little John,' said Robin. 'I know of no better yeoman to search a monk's baggage, so tell me how much money is yonder sumpter horse carrying?'
The monk protested: 'By Our Lady, it is no courtesy to invite a man to dinner and afterwards torment him like this.'
Robin answered with a grin: 'It is our custom to leave little.'
The monk, having no wish to linger any longer, mounted his horse. 'Have one more drink before you go,' Robin invited.
'No, by God. I'm sorry we ever met. I could have eaten more cheaply in Blyth or Doncaster.'
'Give my compliments to your Abbot and your Prior,' Robin shouted after the monk who dug in his spurs, 'and ask them to send a monk like you to dinner every day!'
|Sir Richard Arrives Later
Daylight had begun to fade when Sir Richard at the Lee, leading his men, arrived at Robin's lodge. Quickly dismounting from his horse, he courteously threw back his hood and knelt in front of Robin. 'God save you, Robin Hood, and all your merry men.'
'You are most welcome gentle knight. But why have you come so late? Haven't your lands been given back to you?'
'They have and for that I thank Our Lady and you Robin. Don't be aggrieved because I came so late for I was delayed by a wrestling match - I helped a poor yeoman who had been wronged.'
Sir Richard explained that he had set out for Barnsdale at the head of a hundred men, all dressed in red and white livery, and on the way they had stopped at a bridge where a wrestling match was being held for the most skilful yeomen in the west (pictured right).
A magnificent set of prizes - a white bull, a huge courser with saddle and bridle decorated in gold, a fine pair of gloves, a gold ring and a pipe of wine - were to be presented to the winner. Trouble arose when the local favourite lost and the crowd turned hostile. About to set upon and murder the winner, they fell back when Sir Richard, backed by his hundred men with bows bent and arrows aimed, pushed his way through the crowd to intervene.
Unwilling to see a yeoman come to harm, he raised the winner's hand to give him the contest while the crowd could only look on in silence. Sir Richard gave the yeoman five marks for the wine and ordered it to be tapped so that all could take a drink. This calmed everyone down.
'For that you have my thanks,' said Robin. 'Anyone who helps a good yeoman is a friend of mine.'
'Here is the £400 that you lent me and another £20 for your courtesy,' Sir Richard offered.
'No, by God, enjoy the use of it for Our Lady has already sent her High Cellarer to repay me and it would shame me to take it twice. But truly, gentle knight, you are most welcome.'
Robin explained how the monk had brought him the money and Sir Richard laughed heartily:
'By my truth, but I have brought your money!'
'Make good use of it, for you are a noble knight and welcome to my council tree,' Robin told him, and then asked: 'But why have you brought these bows and fine-feathered arrows?'
'They are a small present for you,' Sir Richard said, presenting to him a hundred longbows with strings of the best quality. With each bow was a sheaf of the finest arrows, each one forty-five inches long, sporting a brightly polished tip, a flight of peacock feathers and a silver notch.
'Go to my treasury,' Robin ordered Little John, 'and bring me £400 the monk overpaid me. Here Sir Richard, gentle knight and true, buy a good horse and harness and freshly gilt your spurs . . . and if you are ever pressed for money, come to Robin Hood - for while I have anything you will not go short. Take my advice and make good use of the £400 - don't dress so plainly.'
So Sir Richard kept his tryst and the debt was thrice repaid.
Notice to the Merchants of Nottingham
The hospital dedicated to St. John the Baptist is established for the relief of the poor and sick, and for the reception of lepers and lunatics who will undertake the care and reparation of the Great Leen Bridge.
Cause them no trouble or vexation or impediment and provide them with the goods for reparation of the bridge so that you may merit recompense from God and receive thanks from us.
They may dwell in the hospital until their death and may recruit other members who are sick or poor workmen.
Brothers of St. John of Jerusalem
|Tales of Robin Hood