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13. Robin Hood Compasses a Marriage
AND NOW had come the morning when fair Ellen was to be married, and on which merry Robin had sworn that Allan a Dale should, as it were, eat out of the platter that had been filled for Sir Stephen of Trent. Up rose Robin Hood, blithe and gay, up rose his merry men one and all, and up rose last of all stout Friar Tuck, winking the smart of sleep from out his eyes. Then, while the air seemed to brim over with the song of many birds, all blended together and all joying in the misty morn, each man raved face and hands in the leaping brook, and so the day began.
"Now," quoth Robin, when they had broken their fast, and each man had eaten his fill, "it is time for us to set forth upon the undertaking that we have in hand for today. I will choose me one score of my good men to go with me, for I may need aid; and thou, Will Scarlet, wilt abide here and be the chief while I am gone." Then searching through all the band, each man of whom crowded forward eager to be chosen, Robin called such as he wished by name, until he had a score of stout fellows, the very flower of his yeomanrie. Besides Little John and Will Stutely were nigh all those famous lads of whom I have already told you. Then, while those so chosen ran leaping, full of joy, to arm themselves with bow and shaft and broadsword, Robin Hood stepped aside into the covert, and there donned a gay, beribboned coat such as might have been worn by some strolling minstrel, and slung a harp across his shoulder, the better to carry out that part.
All the band stared and many laughed, for never had they seen their master in such a fantastic guise before.
"Truly," quoth Robin, holding up his arms and looking down at himself, "I do think it be somewhat of a gay, gaudy, grasshopper dress; but it is a pretty thing for all that, and doth not ill befit the turn of my looks, albeit I wear it but for the nonce. But stay, Little John, here are two bags that I would have thee carry in thy pouch for the sake of safekeeping. I can ill care for them myself beneath this motley."
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