keskiviikko 6. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Five: Robin Hood and His Merry Men

Mrs Macguaire’s taft dress turned out to be worse than Laura MacDonald had ever thought. She worked over it the whole Monday, and on Tuesday morning she asked Louisa to come along and help her with it.

“It must be ready before Thursday evening, because Diana’s asked to a party in Glennari”, she said. “And I never get through alone in time.”

So Louisa left for the village with her mother. Aunt Maggie was baking in the kitchen and drove Myra and Ethel out because they wanted to eat all the crackers.

“What shall we do?” asked Ethel. “Play home?”

“That’s so childlish”, sniffed Myra. “I feel like a story now, but Louisa’s not here.”

“Maybe Tom could tell one.”

“No, he’s just reading his stupid books in the Wood.”

“But we shall ask”, suggested Ethel, who was a very optimistic young person. “Let’s go!”

Myra shrugged her shoulders and followed her sister.

Tom was lieing under a big spruce with a novel. When the girls appeared he gave a sigh. It would have been too much asked to be allowed to read in peace.

“What’s it?” he asked.

“Couldn’t you tell us a story?” asked Ethel. “We’ve got nothing to do.”

“Well…” Tom felt flattered. “I cannot tell stories, I guess. But maybe we could play something.”

“I suggested playing home, but Myra didn’t want to.”

“I don’t mean that kind of a play. A different one. You see, this novel tells about Robin Hood and his merry men in Sherwood Forest. I’d like to play that story. Do you know Robin Hood?”

“Miss Marshall once read us a story of him”, remembered Myra. “He robbed from the poor and gave to the rich.”

“No, he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor”, corrected Tom. “He was a bravest Englishman that ever lived.”

“That’s the only shadow on him — he was an Englishman”, continued Myra. “All right, I guess it’d be nice to play that.”

“Fine!” Tom jumped up. “Who will be Robin Hood?”

“You”, said Ethel. “It was you who discovered the idea.”

“Well, I can be Robin. And you are my merry men. We’d need something green on us, but I guess it’ll be all right that way, too. And this is Sherwood.”

“Where do we live?” asked Myra. “We need a fireplace and a little cosy cottage to sleep in.”

“Outlaws never sleep in any cosy cottages”, said Tom. “They cuddle under the trees and have just a quilt if they’re lucky.”

“Don’t they have cold?”

“They don’t care. Are you playing or not?”

“Of course”, Myra hurried to say.

It was a sunny, joyful day. Robin Hood and his merry men ran to and fro in Sherwood, fled from the sheriff’s men and arrested some of them. When they had enough prisoners, Robin Hood said,

“Now, we must rob somebody rich. Do you know any rich person?”

“I do”, said the smallest of the merry men. “He’s Mr Stevenson and he’s awfully mean. He never gives anything to the church collection.”

“Where does he live?” asked Robin Hood. “We can’t go to Nottingham because the sheriff would arrest and hang us at once.”

The smallest of the merry men shivered.

“He — he lives in Lochdhu.”

“In Nottingham, you mean? Well, I’m afraid we can’t have the risk.”

“But we must get food for the poor”, said Little John, who had got the role of this bold outlaw because of the fancy hat, though Robin Hood had said outlaws never wore silk rosettes and paper flowers. “And Mr Stevenson hasn’t got a dog.”

“Well”, said Robin Hood. “Maybe we can try. But be careful, men! If anything happens, you must save Maid Marian!”

The smallest of the merry men was about to aske who was this maid, but Little John put her hand on her mouth and promised they would save Maid Marian.

So Robin Hood and his men crossed the bridge over the pond and wandered through the orchard, where Little John picked some cherry blossoms and put them on her button-hole, though Robin Hood said outlaws never wore any cherry blossoms.

To Lochdhu they came. The white-plastered houses shone in the sun, flower beds were colourful and some children played on the road.

“Well”, said Robin Hood. “Where does this aforesaid mister live?”

“That way”, said the smallest of the merry men. “He lives in that old house without flowers.”

“I can see him”, whispered Little John. “He’s on his potato field!”

“And there’s no guard in his house? Let’s go, men!” Brave Robin Hood marched through the gate and to the door which was open, because Mr Stevenson had burned his breakfast and the house needed airing.

“What shall we do here?” asked the smallest of the merry men, when they stood in the big kitchen, which smelled still little smoky.

“Err, I don’t know”, muttered Robin Hood. “I mean, we cannot really steal anything.”

“We can imagine stealing”, suggested Little John. “Some food which we give to the poor.”

“I think even imagining of stealing is wrong”, pointed the smallest of the merry men.

“It can’t be”, said Robin Hood. “Because some authors write about murders and don’t go to jail for one! All right, we’ll imagine having some bread and butter and ham for the poor. Now we can go.”

At that very moment a shadow passed the kitchen window.

“Mr Stevenson is coming!” cried Little John. “He will kill us!”

Robin Hood did not really think he would go that far, but Little John’s horror won both him and the smallest of the merry men.

“We must get out! Mommy!” exclaimed Ethel totally forgetting that she was a brave outlaw.

Myra rushed to the little chamber behind the kitchen and lay down under the bed. Tom and Ethel followed her, Tom trying to make Ethel stop her sobbing.

Mr Stevenson came in and rustled something in the kitchen. Myra prayed God to let him go out once more, but that dit not happen. Instead Mr Stevenson came into the chamber and took a key from a drawer in his desk. Then he opened a little cupboard on the opposite wall and took a purse from it.

“His money”, whispered Myra.

Mr Stevenson sat down by the desk and began to count his money. He was clearly about to go and buy something from the store. Counting seemed to last forever; Ethel was so horrified that she could have begun to cry outloud in every second, and Tom felt he was going to cough quite soon because of the dusty floor.

But it was Myra who sneezed. She was not going to sneeze, it just bursted out.

Mr Stevenson hopped as a hare on his chair.

“Who’s there?” he asked.

No answer. Ethel had almost fainted for fear, and Tom hold his hand before her mouth.

“Who’s there?” Mr Stevenson asked again. Then he rose and took his gun from the wall. “I’ll count till three. If ye won’t come here and show yerself, I’ll shut ye! I ken ye’re under the bed! One, two…”

Tom turned into view.

“Here’s just us”, he said and wished his voice would not have shivered so horribly. “We — we are just playing.”

“Playing!” roared Mr Stevenson. “Under my very bed! I tell ye what ye’re doin’. Ye’re goin’ to rob my pennies while I was out — just that, man! Rob poor man’s last pennies! Who are ye, lad? I dunno ye.”

“I’m Thomas Callanger, sir”, said Tom, stood up and drew Myra and Ethel from their hide. “And these are Myra and Ethel MacDonald.”

“The MacDonald lassies? Well, that’s nice. Do ye have to rob money for yer manor?”

“We — didn’t — come — to — rob”, stammered brave little Ethel. “We — played — Robin Hood…”

“Robin Hood! I show ye Robin Hood!” Mr Stevenson grabbed Myra’s hair in his hand. “Where’s yer mother, young lady?”

“She’s — at — the Macguaire’s… Oh, please, let me go, you hurt me!”

“Ye’ll be hurt much more. Go on, we’ll clear it all up!”

“Let her be!” demanded Tom. “It was all my fault, I discovered the play!”

“I believe that, ye London boy — first ye break Mrs MacDonald’s china, then ye get mice into Sunday school — a real Englishman, indeed!”

“He’s half-a-Scot”, whispered Ethel.

“And ye’re half-a-las if ye won’t get uut of my way! Mr Stevenson pushed Myra out before him. “Now, follow me, ye two, or I show ye! At Macguaire’s ye said?”

Laura MacDonald never forgot that afternoon. She was sewing the taft dress in all peace, Louisa helping with the wide hem, when Mr Stevenson rushed into the Macguaire kitchen pulling crying Myra’s hair, followed by sobbing Ethel and horrified Tom.

“Here, ma’am, yer fine bairns! They’re thieves, nothin’ better, ma’am!”

“What’s the matter?” asked Laura. “What’s going on?”

“What’s goin’ on! These young rascals were in my house, under my very bed! They were tryin’ to steal my money, that’s goin’ on!”

“No we weren’t!” interrupted Tom.

“Shut up! Yes, there they were, ma’am, and I’d like to ask who’s taught that kind of tricks to them!” Mr Stevenson was as red as a tomato.

Louisa and Mrs Macguaire looked at each other. Diana Macguaire was a young, gentle woman and liked the MacDonalds very much. She new the children could never even think of stealing, and now she broke in.

“Mr Stevenson, at first I ask you to let the girl. You’re hurting her badly. And then, please, take a seat and tell us everything.”

Mr Stevenson obeyed, and Myra ran to Louisa, who hugged her and kissed her aching head, while Mr Stevenson told everything from his own point of view.

“And now”, said Laura, “it’s the children’s turn. Why in earth were you in Mr Stevenson’s house, Tom?”

Tom told everything, too. He felt very embarrassed — he should not have played with so full-hearted, he should have thought a little.

“A nice fairytale, indeed”, sniffed Mr Stevenson. “Who’s told ye that? This plaity one who’s goin’ around and telling lies?”

“I tell stories, Mr Stevenson”, Louisa said coldly. “But I’m afraid you don’t have imagination enough to understand the word.”

“Louisa!” snapped Laura.

Louisa swallowed.

“I’m sorry I said that aloud”, she muttered. “But it’s still the truth.”

“A fine family!”

“Now, Mr Stevenson”, said Diana Macguaire firmly, “you must be sensible. You were a little boy once and played like all the little boys in the world. So do try to understand. These children just wanted some excitement and were unthinking. You know they never steal.”

“What about that London boy?”

“I may be a London boy but I’m a honest one!” cried Tom. “I’m sorry we went to your house without permission, but we just wanted to imagine we were in Nottingham and robbed food for the poor.”

“Food for the poor!”

“If you have never read Robin Hood I can warmly recommend it”, Laura MacDonald said softly. “The children have apologised and I’m sure everything is now all right. If you please could leave us now, we’ve much to do.”

When Laura and Louisa came home late in that evening, Laura made a little sermon for the criminals. Myta and Ethel cried again and Tom bit his lip.

“I’m happy to see you playing, I’m happy to see you using your imagination”, Laura said finally. “But you must understand the difference between play and truth. That’s why I’m glad when Louisa tells you stories. Then you see it’s only a story, with the start and the end, after which the truth begins. I hope you understand the difference after this.”

“We will, Mommy”, said Ethel and came to kiss her. “I’m sorry!”

“I’m sorry, too”, whispered Myra.

“And I”, said Tom. “Please, Laura, don’t tell my parents!”

“I never will. Come now, you others, too, and give me a kiss. Today’s excitement is over, it’s time to go to bed and meet a new fresh day next morning.”

“Well, that was the best story I’ve ever heard”, laughed Aunt Maggie, who had tried to be angry during this conversation, when the children had gone. “And it was just right for the Stevenson man, if you ask me!”

“Hush”, said Laura. “What did you say about Louisa’s upper storey the other night? But I must admit I enjoyed to see Mr Stevenson at last hold his tongue. And there’s never a boring moment when Tom’s in the house, I see!”

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