THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD 353
THE DEATH OF ROBIN HOOD
For two and twenty years Robin Hood dwelt in Sherwood Forest after he had run away from Court, and naught that the King could say would tempt him back again. At the end of that time he fell ill; he neither ate nor drank, and had no care for the things he loved. ' I must go to merry Kirkley,' said he, ' and have my blood let.'
But Will Scarlett, who heard his words, spoke roundly to him. ' Not by my leave, nor without a hundred bowmen at your back. For there abides an evil man, who is sure to quarrel with you, and you will need us badly.'
' If you are afraid, Will Scarlett, you may stay at home, for me,' said Robin, ' and in truth no man will I take with me, save Little John only, to carry my bow.'
' Bear your bow yourself, master, and I will bear mine, and we will shoot for a penny as we ride.'
' Very well, let it be so,' said Robin, and they went on merrily enough till they came to some women weeping sorely near a stream.
' What is the matter, good wives ?' said Robin Hood.
' We weep for Robin Hood and his dear body, which to-day must let blood,' was their answer.
' Pray why do you weep for me ?' asked Robin; ' the Prioress is the daughter of my aunt, and my cousin, and well I know she would not do me harm for all the world.' And he passed on, with Little John at his side.
Soon they reached the Priory, where they were let in by the Prioress herself, who bade them welcome heartily, and not the less because Robin handed her twenty pounds 23