25: A Cursed Outlaw?
“Shamed indeed!” cried the Archbishop. “You could spare yourself such grave humiliation by giving until they gape at your heroic generosity.”
The prince laughed.
“Would that I could, the truth is that my nobles and I are alike impoverished. Our money goes out as fast as it comes in. I am forced to support what is well nigh an army.”
“An army!” echoed the Archbishop raising his eyebrows. “To protect whom against what?”
“To protect the realm,” Prince John said passionately. “Against a cursed outlaw who loots the countryside and whose following is so numerous that he threatens our state with civil war.”
“Who is this outlaw?” demanded the Archbishop.
“Robin Hood, said Prince John. “He that was named Robin Fitzooth.”
“It cannot be!” said Marian, springing forward and facing the Queen and Prince John. “Hugh Fitzooth is my father’s chief verderer. He and his son, Robin are both men of honour.”
The prince scrutinised the unhappy girl.
“Hugh Fitzooth is dead. He was killed for shooting a king’s forester in the back. As for his son, he has killed three score foresters since.”
Marian stared at Prince John.
“Whoever killed Hugh Fitzooth murdered the king’s most loyal subject.”
Marian turned to the Queen and knelt at her feet.
“Good Madam,” she appealed, “he could have been no less. As for Robin, he and I were playmates at Huntingdon. I know he loves the king.”
“He loves him better in a foreign prison.” Prince John sneered.
"Send me to Robin Fitzooth, " Marian begged, “I will prove to you his loyalty.”
“I dare not, Marian,” Queen Eleanor insisted. “I have you in trust. I promised your father.”
“But with an escort?” Marian pleaded.
"Let her seek out her swain, " said Prince John sarcastically.
“No!” the Queen was firm. You shall not set foot outside the castle walls.”
Marian bowed her head, but her mind was made up. She could not forget Prince John’s sneering words
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