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wife tried to hit him with the tongs, while the children tumbled over one another in their haste to catch him.
Happily for our duckling, the door stood open, and he escaped into the open air, and flying with difficulty to the nearest bushes, he sank down on the snow, where he lay quite done up. It would, indeed, be very mournful to tell all the miseries that the poor duckling went through until the sun again shone warmly on the earth, and the larks once more welcomed spring with their songs.
Then the young duckling raised his wings, which were much stronger than before, and carried him far away to a lake in a large garden, where the apple trees were in full bloom. And now there came, from out of the thicket, three noble white swans, who began to swim lightly on the water. The ugly duckling, on seeing the stately birds, said to himself, “I will fly towards these royal birds. They may kill
my impudence in daring to go near them— I, who am so ugly. But it matters not; better is it to be killed by them than to be bitten by the ducks, pecked at by the hens, and chased about by the children.” With these thoughts he flew into the middle of the water, and swam towards the three beautiful swans, who, noticing the little stranger, came to welcome him.
“Oh, just kill me outright,” said the poor bird, bending its head towards the water. When lo! it saw its own image in the clear surface, and instead of an ugly darkgreen duckling, it beheld in itself a stately swan.
It matters little being born in a duck yard, provided one is hatched from a swan's egg! He now blessed his former trials, which had taught him to value the delights that surrounded him. Meanwhile the larger swans gathered about him, and stroked him lovingly with their beaks.
Just then two little children came into the garden and
ran towards the canal. They threw corn and bread down to the swans. “Oh! there is a new one,
exclaimed the youngest child, and both clapped their hands for joy. Then they ran away to call their parents. So more bread and cake were thrown into the water, and all said, “ The new one is the most beautiful — so young and so graceful !” and, indeed, the old swans themselves seemed proud of their new companion.
Then the once ugly bird felt quite shy and abashed, and put his head under his wing; for, though his heart was bursting for joy, still he was none the prouder. A good heart is never proud.
ROBIN HOOD was born in the reign of King Henry the Second, at Locksley, in the county of Nottingham. Robin, at the age of fifteen, was the best archer in the whole country side, and the best at all games of skill and trials of strength. But he was a very wild young fellow, and cared little what he did or what he spent. Almost before he was a man he had spent all his money. So many were the pranks he played, and so great were his debts, that he was at last declared an outlaw.*
He then went and lived in the woods, and killed the king's deer for food. Some other young men, who were wild like himself, went with him; and in a few years there were about one hundred of them, with Robin for their captain. The fame of their deeds spread far and near, and * Outlaw, one who has disobeyed the laws, but continues at large.
they were known everywhere as Robin Hood and his merry
One of the chief of them was John Little, whom Robin one day met on a narrow bridge. Now as neither would allow the other to pass peaceably, they fought with sticks until they were tired. At last Little John knocked Robin over into the water, and he had to swim ashore. They both admired each other's courage and skill so much, that they became friends, and were scarcely ever parted afterwards. John Little was nearly seven feet high, so the companions of Robin called him Little John for fun, and he went by that name ever after. This was just the way with Robin, when he found any one was as strong, as brave, and as skilful as himself: instead of continuing the fight, he made a bargain to be friends, and it was much better than fighting until one of them was killed.
Although he was a robber, he was a good-hearted man, and would never allow a woman to be injured. One story goes, that once when he sent his men as usual to watch for passers-by, they saw a knight* on horseback riding along sad and weary. They invited him to dine with their master. Robin treated him very kindly, made him eat and drink of the best, and tried to cheer him up. At last he asked what made him so uneasy. The knight said that an abbot had lent him four hundred pounds upon his house and land for a year ; that it must be paid again next day or the house and land would be the abbot's, and he, his wife, and children beggars; that he had been to foreign countries to seek for aid to pay it, and could get none, and was riding home with only ten shillings in his pocket. Robin so pitied him, that he not only gave him enough money to buy back his land, but a handsome horse besides, and a great deal of
* Knight, one who had the right to possess property, bear arms, &c.
fine stuff for dresses for himself and his family. knight went away happy and full of gratitude.
KING RICHARD AND THE FOREST KING.
On his return from the wars, King Richard the First said he would
himself and see if he could overcome this famous Robin Hood ; but, liking adventures, he went in disguise.* When Robin met them, he did not know who they were, so he seized the king's horse by the bridle, and said he had a spite against all such who lived in pomp and pride, and, therefore, he must away with him into the wood. But Richard answered that they were messengers, whom the king, who was not far off, had sent to seek for Robin. Then Robin said he loved the king, and would do anything for him, and as they were the king's messengers they should be well treated. Then he took them into the wood, and, blowing his horn, a hundred and ten of his men came and knelt down before Richard. This made the king wonder, and
say to his followers, that it was a finer sight than could be seen at court.
Robin then told his men to show their skill in the sports of the forest, for the amusement of the king's messengers, and to do it as if it were to please the king himself. They did so many clever tricks, and so many brave things, that the king declared such men could not be found elsewhere. Robin then set his visitors down to a splendid feast of venisont, fowls, and fish, with plenty of ale and wine, and they were all very merry together.
Then Robin took a tankard of wine and said they must all drink the health of the king. When they had done soRichard himself among the rest — Robin's men all cheered so loudly that even he was astonished. So Richard said to
* Disguise, that is, in a dress which concealed his real rank.
Robin that they all seemed very fond of the king, and would be fine fellows to serve his majesty if they could but get a pardon. Robin replied that they would serve him truly, for there was no man they loved so much. So Richard threw off his disguise, and Robin and his men knelt down before him and asked for pardon. The king said they should be pardoned all they had done, if Robin would leave the forest and go and live with him at court.
Well, Robin went and lived with the king for a year; but he grew weary of the court and pined for his merry greenwood and his merry companions; so he begged of the king to let him go back, and the king let him go. Back he went accordingly, and lived the same life he did before until he was an old man.
One day, being unwell, he said to his old friend Little John, “We have shot many a pound, but I am not able to shoot one shot more—my arrows will not flee.” He said that he felt so ill that he must go to his cousin, at Kirkley Hall, for her to bleed him. Now, Robin's cousin was not a good woman, yet when he arrived at the Hall she pretended to be very kind, and begged him to drink some wine. But Robin said that he would neither eat nor drink until she bled him; so she led him to a private room, and when she had bled him, she left him in the room and let him alone. Now this was a very wicked thing to do.
About the middle of the next day, poor Robin, finding that no one came near him, knew that all was not right, so he thought he might escape by the window, but he was so weak and ill that he could not jump down. He then thought of his horn, so he blew three blasts, and although they were very weak, still they were strong enough to be heard by his constant and kind friend Little John, who soon broke the locks open and was quickly at his