Romantic Sherwood! Its pristine glories since the days when bold Robin Hood and his merrie men held sway within its borders, and levied taxes from the passers-by, had sadly dwindled even in the year 1696, when our history commences. The woodman’s axe had been busy and the plough had gone over the land, and mansions and homesteads had arisen where once flourished the monarchs of the forest, and the huntsman’s horn had been wont to sound amid sequestered glades; still many a wide stretch of woodland and moorland remained, over which the fallow deer roamed at freedom, and rows of far-spreading trees overhung various by-paths green and narrow winding in all directions, and shaded the king’s highway which ran north to York and south to the ancient and pleasant town of Nottingham. And there were likewise majestic avenues leading to the abodes of nobles and squires, and thick copses and scattered groves, above which rose the hoary giants of ancient days; and by the borders of the streams and rivulets which find their way into the Trent numberless trees had been allowed to stand. Wide strips also of grass-land were to be found running even with the road or between different estates, extending sometimes in an unbroken line for several miles together, with oaks and elms and beeches stretching out their umbrageous branches to meet from either side, and preserving by their shade the soft velvet of the turf even during the heats of summer.