Chapter 41 Summary
Wilfrid and Gurth arrive on the scene of the ambush to find a pile of bodies, Richard spattered with blood, and a gathering of outlaws in jovial conversation with the king. Wilfrid does not know how to address Richard or what to make of the scene.
Richard greets Wilfrid, announcing that he is no longer hiding his identity from these "true English hearts." He explains the pile of bodies and then scolds Wilfrid for not resting at St. Botolph's. Wilfrid in turn scolds Richard for riding about as a knight errant while his absence from the throne results in instability and disorder, as evidenced by the pile of dead assassins.
Richard explains that he must remain incognito until his own followers in England, such as the Earl of Essex, have gathered their forces and moved into place. One more day, and Richard will be able to enter York with overwhelming force, thus preventing John from making any move against him. Wilfrid knows this, but he refrains from pointing out that the king could easily avoid riding around the countryside looking for danger.
Richard invites himself to lunch with Robin Hood and his outlaws, although Robin must sheepishly admit that lunch is venison—the king's own deer. Richard the Lion Heart is far happier in the company of daring outlaws or battling men hand-to-hand with his own strong arm than sitting at home and running a government.
The reader is told that the reign of Richard I was like a meteor "shedding an unnecessary and portentous light, which is instantly swallowed up by universal darkness." But for the moment, he is in his element and enjoying himself so much that Wilfrid and Robin Hood confer on how to break up the party.
An outlaw is sent into the woods to blow a Norman horn. Believing it to be the horn of Malvoisin, the outlaws break camp and disappear. Richard is ready for another bout of mortal combat, but Robin Hood confesses the ruse. Richard complains that if he had Wilfrid and Robin for counselors, he would have no room at all to move, but he concedes that it is time to go.
Wilfrid, Richard, Gurth, and Wamba ride to Coningsburgh. The funeral feast for Athelstane is well under way, and the crowd is huge and various. Seeing the knights and thinking them vaguely familiar, the steward escorts them through the throng to the tower. Gurth and Wamba find friends in the courtyard and join the party.