An Unexpected Guest at The Sheriff’s Birthday Party
At first, everything went according to plan. Robin and his men waited in the trees on Thursday night and just before midnight, along came a rich wagon with a guard of three soldiers. The soldiers were tense and frightened as they neared the forest and a high, bossy voice came from the wagon, urging the driver to move faster. Robin signaled with his owl hoot; Katie and Emily hooted back. There was a full moon that night but it was very dark under the trees. Just when the bossy voice had finished, there was a terrible squeal. Will Scarlet had crept up behind the wagon and slipped inside. It was the signal. The merry men dropped from the trees and called on the soldiers to surrender; Katie and Emily tumbled into the wagon with their swords drawn and found Lord and Lady Lardbutt hiding under a blanket.
“Leave us alone, you scoundrels!” squeaked Lord Lardbutt. “We have an escort of brave soldiers who will die fighting to defend us!”
“Yes,” said Lady Lardbutt. “And we are very particular friends of King John so you had better treat us nicely!”
Robin and the girls laughed. The brave soldiers who would die to defend their masters were now tied up and on the ground, having given in without a fight. Emily made the Lardbutts get out of the carriage while she checked their luggage. “Katie,” she said, “there are jewels here and some lovely silk clothes.”
“That’s my party frock!” wailed Lady Lardbutt. “And leave my jewels alone!”
“Leave the silly billies,” said Robin. “I think we’ll let them keep their fancy clothes. The clothes won’t fit anyone here; there’s no one in the forest so fat as they are anyway. What we will take is their chest of treasure and their fine horses and carriage.”
“We’ll have to walk!” said Lord Lardbutt.
“A walk will do you good!” said Robin. “Off you go, or you’ll be late of the party.”
Lord and Lady Lardbutt set out, the three poor soldiers tied up behind them, to walk all the way to town. The treasure chest became the property of Robin Hood. There were some poor children in Fr William’s church who needed new clothes and toys for Christmas; the treasure would be just what they needed.
The next day the real adventure began. At morning tea time, Robin loaded up the wagon with old Pilot in front and ten big barrels on the back. In two of the barrels there was some delicious beer; in the others, there were eight of Robin’s merry men. Widow Twankey drove the wagon, with Katie and Emily disguised as little boys beside her. It was a long drive to the castle, through the fields and over the river bridge and down the streets of Nottingham. At the castle, soldiers came out to stop them and Widow Twankey was bright and breezy.
“Now, Mother,” said one of the soldiers not unkindly, “where do you think you’re going with those barrels of beer?’
“Why sir,” said the Widow, “Mr Trencher, the Cook, has ordered ten barrels of beer for the Sheriff’s birthday party. He told me to be sure to bring ten so that he could treat all the soldiers afterwards.”
All the beer that Widow Twankey took to the Sheriff
“Beer, is it?” said the soldier happily. “Well roll right in. The party will be starting soon enough.”
The wagon rolled through the gate and over the drawbridge and deep into the castle courtyard. Widow Twankey drew up her wagon at the kitchen door and Mr Trencher the Cook came out to meet her. He called some of the scullery boys to unload the beer and it was stacked in the kitchen ready for the party. Widow Twankey made sure that the barrels were right way up and that the two barrels with the real beer in them were right at the front.
“Now my dear Mr Trencher,” said Widow Twankey,” what say I stay and help you with the beer. I’ve brought my two young nephews, Hugh and Lou, to help me draw the beer and serve it.”
Mr Trencher, the fat cook in the castle
“An excellent idea,” said the Cook. “You can begin by drawing me off a sample now.”
Widow Twankey went to the first barrel and inserted a tap. Soon, there was luscious, foamy beer filling a pot and Mr Trencher had knocked it all back in one slurp. “No wonder he’s so fat,” thought Emily.
The morning went along quickly and the girls were very busy. They had to remember to speak in a deep low voice like boys but actually it was a lot of fun. Mr Trencher first made them fill up all the pots of beer. Then they had to cut the ham for the sandwiches and finally, Mr Trencher took them to where he had cooked the birthday cake for the sheriff. “I want you to clean up this mess,” said Mr Trencher. “You will have to lick the bowl where I made the chocolate cake and lick all the ladles I have used to make the cake!”
This was the best work and the girls were sorry when it was over. The feast was being served and everyone in the castle was carrying in food to the sheriff’s banqueting table.
Something happened about this time which the girls might have forgotten but it became very important in what happened later that day. A man with a shabbily stained cloak came to the door and begged for some bread to eat. Mr Trencher told him to go away or he would call the soldiers but once the cook had turned away to do something else, Katie and Emily ran forward to help. They knew what it was like to be without a home and hungry and they always tried to help strangers in need. Emily found him a stool to sit on near the fire and Katie cut him a big slice of ham. They sat with the man and chatted about the sadness in the kingdom – of the poor people in the dungeons and their little farm now taken from them. The stranger listened carefully. Once he had finished the ham, Katie got him a big slice of cheese and a glass of milk. The stranger enjoyed his simple meal and things became so busy after that that Emily and Kate quite forgot him.
The stranger at the feast: who was he?
Soon it was time for the feast. The cook served the meat and Widow Twankey pulled the beer and soon the whole of the first barrel was finished. Widow Twankey didn’t forget the soldiers on the gate and she made sure that they had plenty to eat and drink. Katie and Emily dressed as Hugh and Lou were kept very busy taking the dinner around. There was a whole roast pig, a peacock, a haunch of venison, some sausages, chicken pies and lots more. The Sheriff ate and drank and so did his friends. No one ate more than Lord and Lady Lardbutt who were asked many times to tell the story of their escape from Robin Hood.
“There were at least fifty terrible outlaws,” Lord Lardbutt said, “and every one of them was fierce and bloodthirsty. We killed about fifteen of them and wounded twenty others but they eventually over powered us! ”
“Two of the biggest and fiercest fought me to the ground until I gave them my treasure chest!” said Lady Lardbutt while Emily was serving her a big pile of sausages. “I cut the ears off one and poked out the eyes of the other before they over powered me.”
Katie and Emily wanted to giggle because they were the fierce outlaws who had stolen the treasure from the Lardbutts – and their ears and eyes seemed pretty safe and sound. The girls went back to the kitchen and Widow Twankey winked at them. It was the signal to alert Robin and the men that it was time to come out of the barrels. Emily, pretending to get some more beer, went from barrel to barrel tapping on the lid of each.
At the same time, Katie dropped a whole chicken pie on the floor at the entrance to the great dining hall. Mr Trencher and all the kitchen staff ran forward to try to clean it up. For a moment, the coast was clear in the kitchen and Robin and his men emerged from the barrels with their bows and arrows and their swords drawn. Three of the merry men were wearing the uniforms pinched from the bullying soldiers who had stolen the cheese and the geese from the farmers.
Now here was where Widow Twankey was very, very clever. She had saved a whole bucket of beer to the end and went to the gate of the castle with the men in disguise. “Boys,” she said, ‘the Sheriff has sent this lovely bucket of beer out to you and asked me to tell you that you should have the afternoon off to go and have a snooze. These soldiers will take over your guard duty now. Just leave your swords and spears here for them.”
“Why, thank you Mother,” the soldiers cried and they happily left their post and went off with the bucket of beer. The soldiers waited only a minute before they closed the gates and locked them. Now, no one could come in or out. They sped back to the great hall to be part of the fun.
After the whole of the second barrel of beer had been drunk, Lord Larbutt got to his feet and even though he was very drunk, raised his glass. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is the Sheriff’s birthday! Happy birthday, Sheriff! Now we are going to drink the health of the Sheriff and good King John. And then we are going down to the dungeons to tease the poor people the Sheriff has arrested. What jolly fun that will be!”
“I don’t think so!” cried Robin Hood, running into the hall with his sword drawn. “For England and King Richard!” The merry men, Katie and Emily streamed into the hall shouting with him. Ladies screamed. The Lardbutts were terrified and jumped under the table. The Sheriff called for his guard but they were locked outside the castle gate now. He drew his own sword and sprang forward. Emily was the closest and her sword was up. It was a brave fight. When Emily looked like being hurt by the Sheriff, Katie sprang in and rescued her. The Sheriff roared with anger. “How dare you raise a hand to me! I act for King John!” He swung his sword and knocked Katie’s sword out of her hand. Before any of the men could do anything, the Sheriff had his sword to Katie’s throat.
At this moment, something absolutely astonishing happened. The stranger whom Katie and Emily had fed in the kitchen stepped forward and pushed the Sheriff’s sword away. It was the bravest thing to do. Everyone stared in amazement.
And then the stranger unfastened his cloak and let it fall to the ground. Under his cloak, the stranger wore the royal clothes of the King of England.
“It’s the King!” cried Robin Hood. “The real King! Brave King Richard has come home to us!”
There was complete silence in the hall as everyone fell to their knees in front of the king. Katie and Emily couldn’t stop themselves from looking at the King’s kind and gentle face and he smiled back at them broadly. He came forward to where they were kneeling and took Robin by the hand and lifted him up – then Katie and Emily. In a moment, everyone was cheering wildly with happiness. The only people who looked unhappy were the Sheriff and Lord and Lady Lardbutt. Even the rest of King John’s friends were pleased to see the King.
Brave King Richard
“I have come back to my kingdom to find that my truest subjects are outlaws in the forest and good men and women are locked in cruel dungeons. Sir Gervase Maledict, I relieve you of your office as Sheriff of Nottingham. In your place, I appoint Robin Hood.” Robin knelt in front of the king who tapped him on the shoulder with his sword. “I now create you Sir Robin of Locksley. I must have Robin and Katie and Emily with me when I go up to London. Until Robin returns, you, Widow Twankey, can be the Sheriff.”
The Widow blushed and curtseyed. “I promise I’ll do right, Your Majesty!” said the Widow.
The King now turned to the girls. “My dears, I believe we were just about to eat pudding. I think that there are some poor prisoners in the dungeons who would like some pudding. Could you take the old Sheriff to his own dungeons and lock him in with these two fat fools.”
Katie and Emily curtseyed to the King. They tied up the wicked old Sheriff and Lord and Lady Lardbutt with wire and escorted them to the deep dungeons, their swords drawn. You can imagine how excited all the poor people were to be released and asked to join the King – the real King – for pudding.
The news that King Richard had returned spread through the country like a storm. As soon as it was known that the King had come back, people greeted him like a hero. Everywhere he went, poor people were released from prison and the mean men and women whom King John had appointed were driven from office. Katie, Emily, Fr William and Robin rode with the king all the way to London. Wicked King John decided that he had better have a long holiday in France and scarpered away before his brother could capture him. Almost no one was sad to see him go.
When Robin and the girls returned from London, they took up their little farm again and moved Blossom and Petal, the gentle sheep, the fat pigs and all the chickens back to the farmyard. The King came to visit and gave them a splendid present for their kindness to him – a new, bigger farm with a beautiful manor house. He created them Lady Katie de Bland and Lady Emily de Bland. Every winter the girls and Widow Twankey came up to London for a special party with the king where they dressed in their green clothes for old times’ sake. They loved their new manor house and felt very grand to be created Ladies but more than anything they loved having Petal and Blossom home again. Every Tuesday still they went back to the market with Widow Twankey to sell their wonderful cakes and cheeses and vegetables. Now the forest was safe and everyone was pleased that the dear old king was home again among his people.