The Lancer brothers were taking a noon break in the skimpy shade of the buckboard that held coils of fence wire and kegs of nails. Scott was still chewing the substantial crust of his second sandwich, but Johnny was already posed for his accustomed post-lunch nap, shoulders settled against the wagon wheel, hands cushioning his head.
“Who’s Rob….Rob……somethin’…..Hood! Rob Hood. I think that’s what she said?”
Scott frowned. “What who said?”
Johnny paused a bit, suddenly shy about telling Scott of his brief encounter with the new schoolteacher. He decided to proceed. “Miss Marian, that new teacher from…..St. Louis, I think.”
Scott stopped chewing. “Ah!…..And what did she say, exactly?”
Johnny felt unaccountably nettled. “Hey, I was just askin’ about this Hood guy.” When Scott did not respond, Johnny sighed. “Okay, okay, Boston. There’s not much to it, anyway. I was in town last week pickin’ up supplies and while I was loadin’ the wagon, here comes a federal marshal and arrests some fella comin’ out of the store. He had this big box full of stuff—sugar, coffee, candles….even some peppermint. And the marshall says to him ‘Just put the box down and I’ll see your wife gets it.’, an’ he says his wife and kids left last week……”
Johnny paused and saw Scott looking at him with amusement. “Does this story get any more interesting, Little Brother?”
Johnny continued unperturbed. “So, I said to the marshall, how ‘bout I take the supplies over to the new school teacher, her bein’ new in town an’ all, an’ tryin’ to get set up. So I did, an’ when I handed the box to her and kinda explained about it……” Johnny stopped.
“Yes?”, Scott prodded.
“Well, she….uh….Miss Marian…..gave me a real nice smile and then she said thanks and that I was like this Hood fella.”
Scott nodded and smiled. “I believe Miss Marian was comparing you to Robin Hood!….And really the suggestion is not entirely inapt.”
Johnny hated the times when Scott appeared to savor knowledge that his more practically educated brother did not posess. “So just tell me who he is! I don’t like bein’ told I’m like somebody I don’t know. ‘Cept she seemed pretty pleased, so I guess it’s good. ….. Right?”
Scott took a deep breath. “Robin Hood was a legendary outlaw—“
Johnny broke in with a scowl, sitting straight up. “Oh, great! That’s just great! I’m like an outlaw.”
Scott saw the problem. “Robin Hood was known for two things, actually. He was usually on the wrong side of the law, but they say he only took money from rich people who got their wealth unfairly, and he gave away what he took to people who needed it just to live……. He was known for that, and for being a dead shot….”
Johnny interrupted, “So! This Hood fella was some kinda gun hawk! Musta been out East somewhere, ‘cause I ain’t ever heard of him.”
With customary tact, Scott continued, “Well, Robin Hood lived in England about….let’s see…. maybe six hundred years ago, about the time of Good King Richard. And he was a dead shot with a bow.”
Johnny had settled back against the wagon wheel. He tilted his hat over his face and closed his eyes. “Boston, you sure do have a lot in that blond head of yours!”
Scott savored the teasing compliment with a smile.
“I guess this Robin Hood was all right.”, Johnny ventured. “I think he must’ve had a good heart.”
“Just like you, Little Brother.”, Scott said softly.
Johnny opened one eye and peeked at Scott slyly. “Maybe I ought to go check on Miss Marian again…..speakin’ of hearts. Just to make sure she’s doin’ all right.”
“Johnny, I don’t think--”, Scott began in his big-brother voice.
“Hey, Boston, how ‘bout you tell me some more about Robin Hood. Tell me about what a good shot he was.”
Scott grinned and leaned back against the wagon also. “Well, I always liked the story of how the Sheriff of Nottingham—Nottingham would be like the county where Robin Hood and his men lived—tried to…”
“So, he had himself a gang, huh?” Johnny smiled from under his hat.
“Yes, I guess you could say that he did. Well, anyway, the Sheriff of Nottingham wanted to capture Robin Hood, and set a trap for him by giving an archery contest. The prize was a beautiful golden arrow, and….”
Scott’s voice blended with the hum of lazy bees on that warm afternoon, and Johnny fell asleep dreaming of fair ladies and faraway heroes.