"Ay, marry, that will I abide thy coming, and joyously, too," quoth the stranger; whereupon he leaned sturdily upon his staff to await Robin.
Then Robin Hood stepped quickly to the coverside and cut a good staff of ground oak, straight, without new, and six feet in length, and came back trimming away the tender stems from it, while the stranger waited for him, leaning upon his staff, and whistling as he gazed round about.
"Nevertheless," said Robin to himself, "I will baste thy hide right merrily, my good fellow"; then, aloud, "Lo, here is my good staff, lusty and tough.
In a moment Robin stepped quickly upon the bridge where the stranger stood; first he made a feint, and then delivered a blow at the stranger's head that, had it met its mark, would have tumbled him speedily into the water.
"Oh, in the flood and floating adown with the tide," cried Robin, nor could he forbear laughing himself at his sorry plight.
"Why, marry," answered jolly Robin, "yon stout fellow hath tumbled me neck and crop into the water and hath given me a drubbing beside."
"Nay, forbear!" cried Robin, laughing until his sore sides ached again.
"Now by my faith," said Robin, "thou art a right saucy varlet, sirrah; yet I will stoop to thee as I never stooped to man before.
Then he chose the stoutest bow among them all, next to Robin's own, and a straight gray goose shaft, well-feathered and smooth, and stepping to the mark--while all the band, sitting or lying upon the greensward, watched to see him shoot--he drew the arrow to his cheek and loosed the shaft right deftly, sending it so straight down the path that it clove the mark in the very center.
"That is a keen shot indeed," quoth Robin. "Mend it I cannot, but mar it I may, perhaps."
"Then have I gained a right good man this day," quoth jolly Robin. "What name goest thou by, good fellow?"
Then Robin Hood and all his band laughed aloud until the stranger began to grow angry.