30. A WET DAY IN SHERWOOD. Part 2.

30. A WET DAY IN SHERWOOD. Part 2.

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
"

The sheriff's men are on the warpath, and Robin Hood knows that something must be done.

"

To you and me and everyone else who chances on this tale it would seem that the much vaunted home of the outlaws of Sherwood Forest might be little more than a large hovel, but to its inhabitants it was on the verge of being luxury. After all, it boasted two rooms, the smaller one used exclusively by any females who happened to be staying there, whilst the main room was for the men and where the women, in adverse weather, prepared food for all, for then as in many ages the preparation of food for all fell to the womenfolk. But it was that larger space that had a large hearth in the middle where a fire was lit not only in cold weather but when meat needed roasting.

And it was into this homespun architect’s dream that a soaking Robin Hood, with Susanella leading a ten year old boy who rejoiced in the name of Tomkins together with the lad’s mother, a harassed-looking and very wet Sarah, unconscious and in the strong arms of Little John.

He laid her near the fire on a yielding cushion of straw and dry leaves, poked the blazing pile of wood and glowing embers in the middle of the room, and turned to Robin.

She’s out for the count,” he said, shaking his head.

But as if intending to contradict him Sarah stirred and gradually opened her eyes.

Where…?” she asked.

It’s all right mum,” Tomkins, “we’ll be safe here.”

But where…?” repeated Sarah, trying to sit up and falling back, weak and exhausted and with the world beginning to turn grey inside her head again.

We’re with Robin Hood,” Tomkins told his mother proudly, “and I’m going to be an outlaw,” he added.

His mother frowned, and shook her head weakly. “I want you to be a good boy,” she mumbled.

I am,” said Tomkins.

Outlaws are called outlaws because they’re outside the law...” whispered Sarah, “and I don’t want that for you.”

Dad wasn’t an outlaw and he’s dead,” said the boy obstinately, “and it was the sheriff who killed him!”

The sheriff thought…” groaned Sarah, and her voice became silent.

Thought what?” asked Susanella.

He thought my man had robbed a priest!” sighed Sarah, “and he never did anything of the sort! He’s a god-fearing man and wouldn’t hurt anyone and certainly not steal coin or plate from a priest, but the Sheriff wouldn’t listen, and the priest was adamant that the one he never actually saw was my man...”

I know that sheriff, too well, and the number of men he has hanged...” Susanella told her. “But wait until you can hear counsel from my brother before you decide what to do. What was that about you poisoning one of the Sheriff’s men?”

I was after the rats,” groaned Sarah, “we were plagued with the beasts and they were always at our small store of grain. It was either them or us, and nobody likes rats, do they? But when the sheriff’s man came and demanded refreshment as if he had every right to expect whatever he asked for even though he said he had come for me to take me to join my man in Hell, I gave him the wrong cup, not on purpose, you understand, but because I was terrified and shaking … and he drank the rat poison. He even smacked his lips and said how good it tasted, and then he became weak and fell over, onto the ground, and writhed about until he was still. I have seen men die before, but this was horrible.”

He deserved it!” put in Tomkins stoutly. “I was glad that he died, he wanted to take my mum away, for being married to a thief and in league with him. But dad was no thief!” he added carefully, needing to be truthful.

Come with me if you can walk,” said Susanella to Sarah quietly, “I have raiment aplenty thanks to the generosity of Marion, Robin’s special friend, and you may have the loan of sufficient to keep you warm until your wet things have been dried.”

Sarah was led into the smaller room, and Tomkins went with her.

And you,” smiled Susanella, eyeing him, “I may have something that won’t look too large on you, or too girly. But the two of you, take off your wet things and before you can say curse the sheriff you will be warm and dry and able to sit close enough to the fire to get roasted!”

If the boy becomes one of Robin’s men he’s got the build for it, thought Susanella as she watched him as he tore off his wet things and started drying himself. He’ll be quite a man one day, quite a useful man, and Robin needs useful men...

Meanwhile, in the larger room Robin and Little John also stripped off, rubbed their wet bodies with dry straw until they glowed, and pulled on a dry change of clothing. They may have been outlaws, they may have been tough and administered fair justice when it came to distinguishing between right and wrong, but they weren’t without a change or two of clothes as well. They actually had a few garments more than the traditional one to wear and one to wash!

This is a rare thing,” muttered John Little as he tied his belt, “for our numbers are growing faster than a mare awaiting labour, and we’ll be running out of space when the rest return.”

The woman won’t be staying for long,” Robin said, “for she has a child, and this is no place for a child, not one as young as the Tomkins boy anyway. But for the while she needs our help. And anyway, John Little, there’s plenty of room here! With winter coming on the more bodies asleep at night the warmer we all are.”

That much, at least, is true,” grunted the big man, tightening his belt.

Hey! I’ll swear there’s less of you!” laughed Robin.

It was what she said, the steadfast Susanella,” muttered Little John, “about me being too fat. She didn’t use those words, but that’s what she meant, so I have tried...”

And you like her?” asked Robin, “for if you want to walk out with my sister you’ll have to get my say so first!”

Robin, I’m not right for her,” sighed Little John, “but a man can dream, can’t he?”

Why? What’s amiss with you that my sister will find you an ill match?” asked Robin, “for it seems to my eyes that the two of you go together quite well, walking in the Greenwood, talking and laughing together...”

Little John fell silent, when in a dripping rush Ruth, the young woman who had escaped from the care of a Priory in which a harsh Mother Superior ruled with more than necessary cruelty, rushed in.

Robin,” she said, “I have news. But let me dry myself first and then I’ll tell you!”

Does your news have anything to do with a woman and her son who have recently escaped the Sheriff’s men?” asked Robin.

How did you know?” demanded Ruth, pulling her dripping outer garment off.

Because we found her,” replied Robin. “Now Ruth, go and dry off before you excite the phlegm in every man’s body for miles around, undressing like you are!”

Well, there’s a posse of the sheriff’s men not two miles away, and they’re burning every hut and home in their search for her!”

It’s a good thing the rain’s so heavy then,” muttered Robin, “it’ll extinguish all but the strongest blaze. But still, we can’t have that! Tell me where they are?”

The last I saw of them they were sheltering in a ruined shack out Bingham way,” she explained.

I know!” he said, “and if I’m right it was where Charlie Sheepdung used to dwell before age stole the strength from him, and the Lord took his life!”

I know no history of the place,” Ruth said, vanishing behind the screen that separated the two rooms, “but that’s where they were, and as the rain came all the heavier that, I guess, is where they’ll stay, at least for the time being.”

Then come with me, John,” ordered Robin, standing up, “for there’s work to be done this day! We’ll sort them out for good and all, and send at least one of them on his way back to the sheriff with news that won’t be true. I’d call it fake news if I was the kind of idiot to use such garbage as words!”

But you’re not, Robin,” laughed Little John, looking out on to the wet world outside their door, “and I don’t fancy another soaking but...”

But you’ll put up with it in the name of justice!” Robin told him, and armed with their bows and full quivers the two outlaws went back outside, into the rain.

TO BE CONTINUED

© Peter Rogerson 03.11.17






© 2017 Peter Rogerson



My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

69 Views
Added on November 3, 2017
Last Updated on November 3, 2017
Tags: Robin Hood, Little John, Susanella Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham, rain storm, shelter, mother and child


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