29. A WET DAY IN SHERWOOD. Part 1.

29. A WET DAY IN SHERWOOD. Part 1.

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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We get wet days now and they suffered wet days a thousand years ago...

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It never rains, but it pours,” muttered Robin Hood, giving rise to a millennium of people using that exact phrase when they have become exasperated by typical wet British weather. And to all intents and purposes he was exactly right for that wretched November day, one that was made particularly miserable by the density of the grey clouds overhead and the constant downpour they bequeathed onto the world below.

And Robin Hood in the company of Little John and Susanella were getting thoroughly wet. It hadn’t been raining when they’d set out to check on a rumour that the Sheriff’s men were raiding Critchem Bottoms, a less-than-a-hamlet enclave of two houses and an ale-house that was a favourite of the Sheriff when Prince John had demanded he raise more funds via the gift of taxation. The ale-house did a nice trade because of its very isolation and the fact that men, disenchanted at home, could seek each other’s company where their wives were unlikely to find them, and anyway the ale, brewed on the premises of course, was always first class.

This time it had been a false alarm as Robin had suspected, and now he, Little John and the apple of the latter’s eye and recently reunited sister to Robin Hood, Susanella, were traipsing home, sodden to the bone.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet, not even when I bathed in the castle, which wasn’t that often,” moaned Susanella, who was still struggling to adapt to the ways of the wild Greenwood and the way there were no stone walls with their sturdy security anywhere.

We’ll be back soon, and there’ll be a merry fire burning,” Robin told her. “You’ll get dry in no time at all.”

With smoke billowing just about everywhere,” she replied, but she flashed him a quick smile that told him that her complaints were more jest than serious.

Hush!” hissed Little John, who was paying more attention to the track they were on than were his two companions, “What’s that?”

All three of them pulled to a standstill and strained their ears. And they faded into the overgrowth that bordered their rarely-trod way only just in time, for loud now, and clear, there came the sound of sobbing.

We’ll find somewhere soon, mum,” came a voice, a lad by the sound of it, and one whose voice had not yet broken from the whining treble of childhood.

But will we ever get dry?” sobbed a second voice, “I’m sorry, Tomkins, that I’ve brought you so far from the beaten track and into the wilds where no man lives, and we’ll die here, I know we will, die unloved and unmourned!.”

You had to, mum,” urged the boy, “for that evil demon was after you and all you could do was run!”

It would be better had I been hanged on the castle's gibbet than see you becoming wet and cold and then, no doubt, sickly until the Lord takes you,” said the woman’s voice, shaking with what could only be unnecessarily premature grief.

I’m fit and well, and a little rain never hurt me,” urged her son, “and if we’re lucky, if we’re really lucky, we might find ourselves meeting the great outlaw Robin Hood, and be saved from your worse fears!”

That might be just as bad,” wept the woman, “for he is said to be a good man, and not tolerate evil, and I must be evil.”

Mum! How can you say that! You’re the best mother a boy could ever have! And you’ve done nothing wrong. Nothing wrong at all. Surely the great outlaw will know that!”

I … I killed that other man. They’ll hang me for sure,” cried the mother.

By this time the boy and his mother were in sight, forcing their way between saplings and undergrowth, their faces streaked with rain and tears and dirt and their clothing wetter than mere wet.

You didn’t mean to, mum,” said the boy, “you didn’t know it was poison that you gave him to drink, and after all he had just struck my dad for nor honest reason and made the life bleed from him until he was dead! He deserved the poison!”

It was meant for rats and not a sheriff’s officer,” muttered the woman, “but something must have guided my arm, something must have made me pick up the wrong vessel and hand it to him, something must have guided me to sin!”

Everyone knows you’re good and honest and hard working,” the boy said quietly, “and everyone knows you wouldn’t hurt a fly let alone one of the Sheriff’s men.”

But they’re wrong!” cried the woman, “you don’t know everything, young Tomkins, you don’t know everything at all!”

I know you’re the best ever mum!” he almost shouted back at her, “and I don’t like to see you like this. Please, mum...”

I’ve heard enough of this,” whispered Robin Hood to his two companions, “you two remain here and only come if I call you by using your names. This woman needs help, and three can seem threatening.”

Well, well, well,” he said in as jolly a voice as the pouring rain and the soaking conditions would allow, which wasn’t really very jolly at all. “What have we here? A Tomkins and his mother? On a wet day like this, and in need of shelter?”

Who… who’re you mister?” asked Tomkins, who Robin could see was a sturdy boy, good to look on despite the wet, and possibly around ten years of age.

I’m here to guide you to shelter,” said Robin Hood, “for at this time of year the mighty oaks of the Greenwood offer little respite from the rain, but if you come with me Robin Hood’s secret place might, especially if it’s true what we’ve been hearing, that she did manage to extinguish the spark from one of the Sheriff’s most evil cohorts?”

Who told you?” screeched the woman, suddenly fearful that she might meet her end here and now with an arrow from the outlaw’s quiver piercing her heart as a reward for what she’d unwittingly done.

Why, madam, you did,” Robin assured her. “A maiden such as yourself, with a heart loaded with grief and anger can, on a wet day such as this one, speak loudly when a little more quiet prudence might be advisable.”

And you are one of Robin Hood’s men?” asked the woman, a harassed looking thirty-something old who went by the name of Sarah.

I am more than that,” Robin advised her seriously, “I am Robin Hood himself, and when I meet a lady in distress my heart becomes moved to offer what aid I might. Now come with me … and my friend Little John together with my sister the fair Susanella ... and we will be in shelter within minutes.”

When their names were mentioned Little John and Susanella emerged from the shelter that had completely hidden them from view.

The young sister of the outlaw took Tomkins by one wet, cold hand, and smiled at him. “Come, we will dry you and warm these cold little fingers,” she said quietly. “From what I heard you are a kind and loving son to your mother.”

She is good,” replied Tomkins, “and cares for me in a harsh and cruel world.”

It could be a great deal better,” agreed Robin Hood, “but lady, look to yourself!”

But the boy’s mother was in no state to look to anyone. As she stood there with the rain battering down and a heart filled with grief, her vision had blurred and then faded to grey. Everything, the trees, the rain, the road, the outlaws, all became grey, and with a mighty sigh she sunk slowly to the ground, to lie in a crumpled heap.

John, take her!” ordered Robin Hood, and he turned to the boy Tomkins. “You stay with us, and we’ll treat you well,” he said, “but meanwhile, it’s your mother who needs most help. Come, lad, and together we will reach warmth and the dry, and see that your mother is well.”

TO BE CONTINUED

© Peter Rogerson 01.11.17





© 2017 Peter Rogerson



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Added on November 1, 2017
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Tags: Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, little John, woman, son, wet raining, weeping, escaping


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 73 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing