“Only pricked him a bit,” said Little John, when he heard of the adventure. “Serve the young wretch right. But the quarter-staff. My word, big un, I’d have given something to have been there to hear his bones rattle. Well, I didn’t teach you for naught. But look here, if you meet that fellow in the forest again don’t you wait for him to begin; you go at him at once.”
Robin nodded his head, but he never saw the swineherd again.
Young Robin’s father, the Sheriff, suffered very sadly from the loss of his son and his goods, and Robin’s aunt came to Nottingham and wept bitterly over the loss of the little boy she loved dearly. For David, the old servant in whose charge Robin had been placed when he was going home, had done what too many weak people do, tried to hide one fault by committing another.
Robin was given into his charge to protect and take safely home to his father, and when the attack was made by the outlaw’s men, instead of doing anything to protect the little fellow and save him from being injured by Robin Hood’s people, he thought only of himself. He threw his charge into the first bushes he came to, and galloped away, hardly stopping till he reached Nottingham town.
There the first question the Sheriff asked was, not what had become of the pack mules and the consignment of cloth, but where was Robin, and the false servant said that he had fought hard to save him in the fight, but fought in vain, and that the poor boy was dead.
And then months passed and a year had gone by, and people looked solemn and said that it seemed as if the Sheriff would never hold up his head again. But they thought that he should have gathered together a number of fighting men and gone and punished Robin Hood and his outlaws for carrying off that valuable set of loads of cloth.
But Robin’s father cared nothing for the cloth or the mules; he could only think of the bright happy little fellow whom he loved so well, and whom he wept for in secret at night when there was no one near to see.
Robin’s aunt when she came and tried to comfort him used to shake her head and wipe her eyes. She said little, only thought a great deal, and she came over again and again to try and comfort her dead sister’s husband; but it made no difference, for the Sheriff was a sadly altered man.
Then all at once there was a change, and it was at a time when Robin’s aunt was over to Nottingham.
For one day a man came to the Sheriff’s house and wanted him. But the Sheriff would not see him, for he took no interest in anything now, and told his servant that the man must send word what his business was.
The servant went out, and came back directly.
“He says, sir, that he was taken prisoner by Robin Hood’s men a week ago, and that he has just come from the camp under the greenwood tree, and has brought you news, master.”