But Robert of Huntingdon had a bitter enemy. One day this enemy came with many soldiers behind him, determined to kill the earl and take all his goods and lands. There was a fierce and terrible fight, but in the end Robert and all his men were killed. His house was burned to the ground and all his money stolen. Only Robin was saved, because he was such a splendid archer that no soldier would go near him, either to kill him or take him prisoner. He fought bravely till the last, but when he saw that his father was dead and his home in flames, he had no heart to fight any longer. So taking his bow and arrows, he fled to the great forest of Sherwood.
Very fast he had to run, for Prince John’s men were close behind him. Soon he reached the edge of the forest, but he did not stop there. On and on he went, plunging deeper and deeper under the shadow of the trees. At last he threw himself down beneath a great oak, burying his face in the cool, green grass.
His heart felt hot and bitter. He was full of rage and fierce thoughts of revenge. Cruel men in one day had robbed him of everything. His father, his home, servants, cattle, land, money, his name even, all were gone. He was bruised, hungry, and weary. Yet as he lay pressing his face against the cool, green grass, and clutching the soft, damp moss with his hands, it was not sorrow or pain he felt, but only a bitter longing for revenge.
[Illustration: ROBIN HOOD IN AN ENCOUNTER.]
The great, solemn trees waved gently overhead in the summer breeze, the setting sun sent shafts of golden light into the cool, blue shadows, birds sang their evening songs, deer rustled softly through the underwood, and bright-eyed squirrels leaped noiselessly from branch to branch. Everywhere there was calm and peace except in poor Robin’s angry heart.
Robin loved the forest. He loved the sights and scents, and the sounds and deep silences of it. He felt as if it were a tender mother who opened her wide arms to him. Soon it comforted him, and at last the tears came hot and fast, and sobs shook him as he lay on the grass. The bitterness and anger had all melted out of his heart; only sorrow was left.
In the dim evening light Robin knelt bareheaded on the green grass to say his prayers. Then, still bareheaded, he stood up and swore an oath. This was the oath:
“I swear to honor God and the King,
To help the weak and fight the strong,
To take from the rich and give to the poor,
So God will help, me with His power.”
Then he lay down on the grass under the trees with his good longbow beside him, and fell fast asleep.
And this is how Robin Hood first came to live in the Green Wood and have all his wonderful adventures.
THE MEETING OF ROBIN HOOD AND LITTLE JOHN
When Robin first came to live in Sherwood Forest he was rather sad, for he could not at once forget all he had lost. But he was not long lonely. When it became known that he had gone to live in the Green Wood, other poor men, who had been driven out of their homes by the Normans, joined him. They soon formed a band and were known as the “Merry Men.”