SCENE I.— The garden before SIR RICHARD LEA’S castle.
KATE (gathering flowers).
These roses for my Lady Marian; these lilies to
lighten Sir Richard’s black room, where he sits and eats his heart for
want of money to pay the abbot.
The warrior Earl of Allendale,|
He loved the Lady Anne;
The lady loved the master well,
The maid she loved the man.
All in the castle garden,
Or ever the day began,
The lady gave a rose to the earl,
The maid a rose to the man.
‘I go to fight in Scotland
With many a savage clan;’
The lady gave her hand to the earl,
The maid her hand to the man.
‘Farewell, farewell, my warrior earl!’
And ever a tear down ran.
She gave a weeping kiss to the earl,
And the maid a kiss to the man.
Enter four ragged RETAINERS.
You do well, Mistress Kate, to sing and to gather
roses. You be fed with tit-bits, you, and we be dogs that have only the
bones, till we be only bones our own selves.
I am fed with tit-bits no more than you are, but I
keep a good heart and make the most of it; and, truth to say, Sir
Richard and my Lady Marian fare wellnigh as sparely as their people.
And look at our suits, out at knee, out at elbow. We
be more like scarecrows in a field than decent servingmen; and then, I
pray you, look at Robin Earl of Huntingdon’s men.
She hath looked well at one of ’em, Little John.
Ay, how fine they be in their liveries, and each of
’em as full of meat as an egg, and as sleek and as round-about as a
But I be worse off than any of you, for I be lean by
nature, and if you cram me crop-full I be little better than Famine in
the picture, but if you starve me I be Gaffer Death himself. I would
like to show you, Mistress Kate, how bare and spare I be on the rib: I
be lanker than an old horse turned out to die on the common.
Spare me thy spare ribs, I pray thee; but now I ask you all, did none of you love young Walter Lea?
Ay, if he had not gone to fight the King’s battles, we should have better battles at home.
Right as an Oxford scholar, but the boy was taken prisoner by the Moors.
And Sir Richard was told he might be ransomed for two thousand marks in gold.
Then he borrowed the moneys from the Abbot of York,
the Sheriff’s brother. And if they be not paid back at the end of the
year, the land goes to the abbot.
No news of young Walter?
None, nor of the gold, nor the man who took out the
gold; but now ye know why we live so stintedly, and why ye have so few
grains to peck at. Sir Richard must scrape and scrape till he get to
the land again. Come, come, why do ye loiter here? Carry fresh rushes
into the dining-hall, for those that are there they be so greasy and
smell so vilely that my Lady Marian holds her nose when she steps
Why there, now! that very word ‘greasy’ hath a kind
of unction in it, a smack of relish about it. The rats have gnawed ’em
already. I pray Heaven we may not have to take to the
The lady gave her hand to the earl,|
The maid her hand to the man.
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
Shall I keep one little rose for Little John? No.
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.
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 does n’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).
Why lookest thou so amazed?
I cannot tell; but I came to give thee the first kiss, and thou hast given it me.
But if a man and a maid care for one another, does it matter so much if the maid give the first kiss?
I cannot tell, but I had sooner have given thee the first kiss. I was dreaming of it all the way hither.
Dream of it, then, all the way back, for now I will have none of it.
Nay, now thou hast given me the man’s kiss, let me give thee the maid’s.
If thou draw one inch nearer, I will give thee a buffet on the face.
Wilt thou not give me rather the little rose for Little John?
KATE (throws it down and tramples on it).
[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,
Poverty crept thro’ the door.
‘Well, now you would fain follow Wealth,’ said I,
But he flutter’d his wings as he gave me the lie,
‘I cling to you all the more.’
Thanks, my lady—inasmuch as I am a true believer in
true love myself, and your ladyship hath sung the old proverb out of
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!
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?
It will be all the more gracious of her if she do.
I cannot tell. Manners be so corrupt, and these are
the days of Prince John.
EnterSIR RICHARD LEA (reading a bond).
Who parted from thee even now?
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.
There never was an earl so true a friend of the people as Lord Robin of Huntingdon.
A gallant earl. I love him as I hate John.
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.
I trust he will, but if he do not I and thou are but beggars.
We will be beggar’d then, and be true to the King.
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?
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?
Dost thou love him indeed, that thou keepest a record
of his birthdays? Thou knowest that the Sheriff of Nottingham loves
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 moneys, 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 Robin, against it. And how
often in old histories have the great men striven against the stream,
and how often in the long sweep of years to come must the great man
strive against it again to save his country and the liberties of his
people! God bless our well-beloved Robin, Earl of Huntingdon!
Ay, ay. He wore thy colours once at a tourney. I am old and forget. Was Prince John there?
The Sheriff of Nottingham was there—not John.
Beware of John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. They
hunt in couples, and when they look at a maid they blast her.
Then the maid is not high-hearted enough.
There—there—be not a fool again. Their aim is ever
at that which flies highest—but O girl, girl, I am almost in despair.
Those two thousand marks lent me by the abbot for the ransom of my son
Walter—I believed this abbot of the party of King Richard, and he hath
sold himself to that beast John—they must be paid in a year and a
month, or I lose the land. There is one that should be grateful to me
overseas, a count in Brittany—he lives near Quimper. I saved his life
once in battle. He has moneys. I will go to him. I saved him. I will
try him. I am all but sure of him. I will go to him.
And I will follow thee, and God help us both!
Child, thou shouldst marry one who will pay the
mortgage. This Robin, this Earl of Huntingdon—he is a friend of
Richard—I know not, but he may save the land, he may save the land.
MARIAN (showing a cross hung around her neck).
Father, you see this cross?
Ay, the King, thy godfather, gave it thee when a baby.
And he said that whenever I married he would give me away, and on this cross I have sworn [kisses it] that, till I myself pass away, there is no other man that shall give me away.
Lo there!—thou art fool again—I am all as loyal as thyself, but what a vow! what
Re-enter LITTLE JOHN.
My Lady Marian, your woman so flustered me that I
forgot my message from the earl. To-day he hath accomplished his
thirtieth birthday, and he prays your ladyship and your ladyship’s
father to be present at his banquet to-night.
Say, we will come.
And I pray you, my lady, to stand between me and your woman, Kate.
I will speak with her.
I thank you, my lady, and I wish you and your ladyship’s father a most exceedingly good morning.
Thou hast answered for me, but I know not if I will let thee go.
I mean to go.
Not if I barred thee up in thy chamber, like a bird in a cage.
Then I would drop from the casement, like a spider.
But I would hoist the drawbridge, like thy master.
And I would swim the moat, like an otter.
But I would set my men-at-arms to oppose thee, like the lord of the castle.
And I would break through them all, like the King of England.
Well, thou shalt go, but O 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.
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.