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11. Robin Hood and Allan a Dale (continued)
At this all laughed but Little John and Robin, who twisted up his face. "I can speak for Midge," said he, "and likewise for my cousin Scarlet. This very blessed morn I looked at my ribs and found them as many colors as a beggar's cloak."
So, having chosen four more stout fellows, Will Stutely and his band set forth to Fosse Way, to find whether they might not come across some rich guest to feast that day in Sherwood with Robin and his band.
For all the livelong day they abided near this highway. Each man had brought with him a good store of cold meat and a bottle of stout March beer to stay his stomach till the homecoming. So when high noontide had come they sat them down upon the soft grass, beneath a green and wide-spreading hawthorn bush, and held a hearty and jovial feast. After this, one kept watch while the others napped, for it was a still and sultry day.
Thus they passed the time pleasantly enow, but no guest such as they desired showed his face in all the time that they lay hidden there. Many passed along the dusty road in the glare of the sun: now it was a bevy of chattering damsels merrily tripping along; now it was a plodding tinker; now a merry shepherd lad; now a sturdy farmer; all gazing ahead along the road, unconscious of the seven stout fellows that lay hidden so near them. Such were the travelers along the way; but fat abbot, rich esquire, or money-laden usurer came there none.
At last the sun began to sink low in the heavens; the light grew red and the shadows long. The air grew full of silence, the birds twittered sleepily, and from afar came, faint and clear, the musical song of the milkmaid calling the kine home to the milking.
Then Stutely arose from where he was lying. "A plague of such ill luck!" quoth he. "Here have we abided all day, and no bird worth the shooting, so to speak, hath come within reach of our bolt. Had I gone forth on an innocent errand, I had met a dozen stout priests or a score of pursy money-lenders. But it is ever thus: the dun deer are never so scarce as when one has a gray goose feather nipped betwixt the fingers. Come, lads, let us pack up and home again, say I."
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