But he was too late to send it whizzing at the great pike, which had given a whisk with its tail and gone off to some lair in the reeds to peacefully swallow the young duck, while the rest followed their quacking father and mother back to the shelter of the reeds, rushes, and sedge, where the moor-hen and her brood were already safe, while, startled by the alarm, the heron bent down as it spread its great gray wing’s, sprang up, gave a few flaps and flops, and began to sail round above the pool till it grew peaceful again, when, stretching out its legs, the heron dropped back into the water, stood motionless gazing down with meditative eyes as if quite satisfied that no fish would touch it, and then, flick!
It had taken place so rapidly that Robin hardly saw the movement, but certainly the heron’s beak was darted in amongst the bottoms of the reeds where they grew out of the water, and directly afterwards the bird straightened itself again, to stand up with a kicking green frog in its scissor-shaped beak.
Then there was a jerk or two, which altered the frog’s position, and the beak from being only a little way open was shut quite close, and a knob appeared in the heron’s long neck, went slowly lower and lower, and then disappeared altogether.
Then the heron shuffled its wings a little as if to put the feathers quite straight, said “Phenk” loudly twice over, and shut one eye.
For the bird had partaken of a satisfactory dinner, and was thinking about it, while young Robin sighed and thought it seemed very dreadful; but the next moment he was watching a streak of blue, which was a kingfisher with a tiny silver fish in its beak, and thinking he was beginning to feel hungry himself.
So he left the side of the pool with another sigh, the noise he made sending off the great gray heron, and after a little difficulty he found his way back to the outlaws’ camp and his own dinner, which, oddly enough, was not roast buck or fawn, but roast ducks and a fine baked pike, cooked in an earthen oven, with plenty of stuffing.
Then, being hungry, young Robin partook of his own meal, and forgot all about what he had seen.
It was all very wonderful to young Robin when he saw Little John or one of the other men let fly an arrow with a twang of the bow-string and a sharp whizz of the wings through the air, to quiver in a mark eighty or a hundred yards away, or to pierce some flying wild goose or duck passing in a flock high in air; but by degrees that which had seemed so marvellous soon ceased to astonish him, and at last looked quite easy.
For Robin was delighted with his bow and arrows as soon as he found that he could send one of the light-winged shafts whistling in a beautiful curve to stick in some big tree.
Then he began shooting at smaller trees, and then at saplings when he could hit the small trees. But the saplings were, of course, much more difficult. One day though, he went back to Little John in triumph to tell him that he had shot at a young oak about as thick as his wrist.