The Gest of Robin Hood begins with Robin preparing a meal in the style of Saint Francis of Assisi who in the spirit of hospitality told his monks that when inviting guests to a meal they were to, “Spread out a tablecloth on the ground, put the bread and wine on it, and serve them with humility and good humour.” We see the same good humour from Robin when the wrong-doers met their nemesis in the retributive justice administered by Robin after he rectified the crimes of the churchmen by restoring to their victims what was rightfully theirs along with compensation for the victim and a suitable reward for himself. A finer example of poetic justice would be hard to find outside the rhymes of Robin Hood.
An example of this was at Barnsdale when Little John, Much the Miller’s son, and Will Scarlok were sent down the Saylis by Robin to wait for a passing traveller to whom they can offer hospitality and food for which a charge will be made. This is Robin’s method of robbing people in a gentlemanly way with a smile, for fair exchange is no robbery.
Along the Saylis at Barnsdale came a knight in threadbare clothing who was invited to eat with the Merry Men but apart from 10 shillings he has no other money. The knight’s son had killed someone at a joust for which he was thrown in jail, presumably on a trumped up charge. Bail is set at £400 which was an extraordinarily large amount. In order to release his son the knight had to borrow the money from St. Mary’s Abbey, mortgaging his castle and lands as security. The loan is due to be repaid and as the knight has not been able to raise the £400 he will lose his lands. Finding the knight to be honest, Robin loans the money and gives him some fine clothing, sending Little John along with the knight to accompany him to St. Marys.
In York the abbot and high justice of England are waiting. They know the deadline for the loan to be repaid is about to expire with the result the knights land and property will become theirs. The knight shows up much to their surprise and chagrin but he pretends to be penniless. No mercy is shown to the poor knight by the monks. After seeing their unbending and unhelpful attitude the knight surprises and disappoints the unscrupulous monks. He tells them what he thinks of them in no uncertain manner and finishes his speech by telling them he has the money and their plan is foiled. He gives them the money Robin loaned him and refuses to pay them any interest. The monks scheming plan is foiled, much to their dismay.
The knight returned home and eventually collected enough money to repay Robin but in the meantime who should happen along the Saylis but two black monks from St. Mary’s abbey one of whom is the High Cellerer. The monks are rude, and deceitfully say they only have 20 marks while at the same time denying any knowledge of the £400 they took from the impoverished knight. When Little John looks, the monks are carrying £800. Because of their lies about not having any money Robin feels justified in relieving them of it for how can you rob a man with no money: which claimed Robin was sent by the Virgin Mary. The monks ride away saying regretfully they “could have dined more cheaply in Blyth or Doncaster." Robins parting shot is to tell them to say to the Abbot, “Robin sends his greetings and requests he sends the company of a monk to dine with him every day.”
Later when the knight returns to repay the £400 borrowed from Robin with an additional twenty marks because of his courtesy good Robin said nay, for Lady by her High Cellerer has sent to me my pay. When Robyn finished telling his tale, they laughed and had good cheer. “By my trouthe” then said the knight, “Your money is ready here." “We have our £400” said Robin “and £400 beside. You keep the £400, for the debt has been cleared and your son is safe. Last time you passed this way £400 was owed, but now you are £400 in pocket. By God’s grace justice has been rightfully done to one and all."
Outlaws who had fallen foul of the law themselves sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control were often accepted by the common people as their allies who enforced God's law and were the instruments of the divine order who upheld the common custom which was different from the state's or the lord's law. As a result outlaws enjoyed the support of the people who would not witness against them in court and their 'crimes' were seen as correctives to the false legal establishment.