« PreviousContinue »
be in their liveries, and each of 'em a full of meat as an egg, and as sleek as round-about as a mellow codlin.
Fourth Retainer. But I be worse than any of you, for I be lean by rate and if you cram me crop full I be lit better than Famine in the picture, but you starve me I be Gaffer Death himse I would like to show you, Mistress Katt how bare and spare I be on the rib: 1 lanker than an old horse turned out: die on the common.
Kate. Spare me thy spare ribs, I pa thee; but now I ask you all, did none a ↑ you love young Walter Lea?
First Retainer. Ay, if he had : gone to fight the king's battles, we sho have better battels at home.
Kate. Right as an Oxford scholar, b the boy was taken prisoner by the Moas First Retainer. Ay.
Kate. And Sir Richard was told b might be ransomed for two thousan marks in gold.
First Retainer. Ay.
Then he borrowed the mons from the Abbot of York, the Sherifs brother. And if they be not paid ha at the end of the year, the land goes the Abbot.
First Retainer. No news of you Walter?
Kate. None, nor of the gold, not the man who took out the gold: but now v know why we live so stintedly, and w ye have so few grains to peck at. Richard must scrape and scrape til k get to the land again. Come, come, w do you loiter here? Carry fresh rusts into the dining-hall, for those that there they be so greasy and smell so vie that my Lady Marian holds her nose whet she steps across it.
Fourth Retainer. Why there, not. that very word 'greasy' hath a kind unction in it, a smack of relish about The rats have gnawed 'em already. pray Heaven we may not have to take to the rushes. [Excus
* Copyright, 1892, by Macmillan & Co.
Kate. Poor fellows!
The lady gave her hand to the Earl,
Enter LITTLE JOHN.
Little John. My master, Robin the Earl, is always a-telling us that every man, for the sake of the great blessed Mother in heaven, and for the love of his own little mother on earth, should handle all womankind gently, and hold them in all honour, and speak small to 'em, and not scare 'em, but go about to come at their love with all manner of homages, and observances, and circumbendibuses.
The lady gave a rose to the Earl, The maid a rose to the man.
Little John (seeing her). O the sacred little thing! What a shape! what lovely arms! A rose to the man! Ay, the man had given her a rose and she gave him another.
Kate. Shall I keep one little rose for Little John? No.
Little John. There, there! You see I was right. She hath a tenderness toward me, but is too shy to show it. It is in her, in the woman, and the man must bring it out of her.
She gave a weeping kiss to the Earl, The maid a kiss to the man.
Little John. Did she? But there I am sure the ballad is at fault. It should have told us how the man first kissed the maid. She doesn't see me. Shall I be bold? shall I touch her? shall I give her the first kiss? O sweet Kate, my first love, the first kiss, the first kiss! Kate (turns and kisses him). lookest thou so amazed?
Little John. I cannot tell; but I came to give thee the first kiss, and thou hast given it me.
Kate. Dream of it, then, all the way back, for now I will have none of it.
Little John. Nay, now thou hast given me the man's kiss, let me give thee the maid's.
Kate. But if a man and a maid care for one another, does it matter so much if the maid give the first kiss?
Little John. I cannot tell, but I had sooner have given thee the first kiss. I was dreaming of it all the way hither.
Kate. If thou draw one inch nearer, I will give thee a buffet on the face.
Little John. Wilt thou not give me rather the little rose for Little John?
Kate (throws it down and tramples on it). There!
[Kate seeing Marian exit hurriedly.
Enter MARIAN (singing).
Love flew in at the window,
As Wealth walk'd in at the door.
'You have come for you saw Wealth coming,' said I.
But he flutter'd his wings with a sweet little cry, I'll cleave to you rich or poor.
Wealth dropt out of the window,
'Well now you would fain follow Wealth,' said I,
Little John. Thanks, my lady-inasmuch as I am a true believer in true love myself, and your Ladyship hath sung the old proverb out of fashion.
Marian. Ay but thou hast ruffled my woman, Little John. She hath the fire in her face and the dew in her eyes. I believed thee to be too solemn and formal to be a ruffler. Out upon thee!
Little John. I am no ruffler, my lady; but I pray you, my lady, if a man and a maid love one another, may the maid give the first kiss?
Marian. It will be all the more gracious of her if she do.
Little John. I cannot tell. Manners be so corrupt, and these are the days of Prince John. [Exit. Enter SIR RICHARD LEA (reading a bond).
Sir Richard. Who parted from thee even now?
Marian. That strange starched stiff creature, Little John, the Earl's man. He would grapple with a lion like the King, and is flustered by a girl's kiss.
Sir Richard. There never was an Earl so true a friend of the people as Lord Robin of Huntingdon.
Marian. A gallant Earl. I love him as I hate John.
Sir Richard. I fear me he hath wasted his revenues in the service of our good King Richard against the party of John, as I have done, as I have done : and where is Richard?
Cleave to him, father! he will come home at last.
Sir Richard. I trust he will, but if he do not I and thou are but beggars.
Marian. We will be beggar'd then and be true to the King.
Sir Richard. Thou speakest like a fool or a woman. Canst thou endure to be a beggar whose whole life hath been folded like a blossom in the sheath, like a careless sleeper in the down; who never hast felt a want, to whom all things, up to this present, have come as freely as heaven's air and mother's milk?
Marian. Tut, father! I am none of your delicate Norman maidens who can only broider and mayhap ride a-hawking with the help of the men. I can bake and I can brew, and by all the saints I can shoot almost as closely with the bow as the great Earl himself. I have played at the foils too with Kate: but is not to-day his birthday?
Sir Richard. Dost thou love him indeed, that thou keepest a record of his birthdays? Thou knowest that the Sheriff of Nottingham loves thee.
Marian. The Sheriff dare to love me? me who worship Robin the great Earl of Huntingdon? I love him as a damsel of his day might have loved Harold the Saxon, or Hereward the Wake. They both fought against the tyranny of the kings, the Normans. But then your Sheriff, your little man, if he dare to fight at all, would fight for his rents, his leases, his houses, his monies, his oxen, his dinners, himself. Now your great man, your Robin, all England's Robin, fights not for himself but for the people of England. This John-this Norman tyranny-the stream is bearing us all down, and our little Sheriff will ever swim with the
stream! but our great man, our Re against it. And how often in old hist have the great men striven against stream, and how often in the long 5 of years to come must the great strive against it again to save his count and the liberties of his people: bless our well-beloved Robin, Earl Huntingdon.
Sir Richard. Ay, ay. He wore th colours once at a tourney. I am old a forget. Was Prince John there?
Marian. The Sheriff of Nottingha was there-not John.
Sir Richard. Beware of John and th Sheriff of Nottingham. They hunt couples, and when they look at a they blast her.
Marian. Then the maid is not hig hearted enough.
Sir Richard. There-there-be a fool again. Their aim is ever at the which flies highest-but O girl, girl, I almost in despair. Those two thous marks lent me by the Abbot for the ra som of my son Walter-I believed this Abbot of the party of King Richard, an he hath sold himself to that beast fe -they must be paid in a year and i month, or I lose the land. There is ont that should be grateful to me overseas. a Count in Brittany-he lives no Quimper. I saved his life once in battl He has monies. I will go to him. saved him. I will try him. I am a but sure of him. I will go to him.
Marian. And I will follow thee, and God help us both.
Sir Richard. Child, thou shoul marry one who will pay the mortgag This Robin, this Earl of Huntingdonis a friend of Richard-I know not, but he may save the land, he may save the lan
Marian (showing a cross hung roas her neck). Father, you see this cross?
Sir Richard. Ay the King, thy go father, gave it thee when a baby.
Marian. And he said that wheneve I married he would give me away, and on this cross I have sworn [kisses it) thi till I myself pass away, there is no other man that shall give me away.
Lo there-thou art fool
Sir Richard. But I would set my men-at-arms to oppose thee, like the Lord of the Castle.
Marian. And I would break through :hem all, like the King of England.
Sir Richard. Well, thou shalt go, but the land! the land! my great great great grandfather, my great great grandfather, my great grandfather, my grandfather and my own father-they were born and bred on it-it was their mother -they have trodden it for half a thousand years, and whenever I set my own foot on it I say to it, Thou art mine, and it answers, I am thine to the very heart of the earth-but now I have lost my gold, I have lost my son, and I shall lose my land also. Down to the devil with this bond that beggars me!
[Flings down the bond. Marian. Take it again, dear father, be not wroth at the dumb parchment. Sufficient for the day, dear father! let us be merry to-night at the banquet.
answer their report. If so
Sheriff. If so
[Shouts, 'Down with John!' Prince John. You hear! Sheriff. Yes, my lord, fear not. I will answer for you.
Enter LITTLE JOHN, SCARLET, MUCH, &c., from the banquet singing a snatch of the Drinking Song.
Little John. I am a silent man myself, and all the more wonder at our Earl. What a wealth of words-O Lord, I will live and die for King Richard-not so much for the cause as for the Earl. O Lord, I am easily led by words, but I