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Chapter 16
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well
Remote from man, with God he pass'd his days,
Prayer all his business---all his pleasure praise.
The reader cannot have forgotten that the event of the tournament was decided by the
exertions of an unknown knight, whom, on account of the passive and indifferent
conduct which he had manifested on the former part of the day, the spectators had
entitled, "Le Noir Faineant". This knight had left the field abruptly when the victory was
achieved; and when he was called upon to receive the reward of his valour, he was
nowhere to be found. In the meantime, while summoned by heralds and by trumpets,
the knight was holding his course northward, avoiding all frequented paths, and taking
the shortest road through the woodlands. He paused for the night at a small hostelry
lying out of the ordinary route, where, however, he obtained from a wandering minstrel
news of the event of the tourney.
On the next morning the knight departed early, with the intention of making a long
journey; the condition of his horse, which he had carefully spared during the preceding
morning, being such as enabled him to travel far without the necessity of much repose.
Yet his purpose was baffled by the devious paths through which he rode, so that when
evening closed upon him, he only found himself on the frontiers of the West Riding of
Yorkshire. By this time both horse and man required refreshment, and it became
necessary, moreover, to look out for some place in which they might spend the night,
which was now fast approaching.
The place where the traveller found himself seemed unpropitious for obtaining either
shelter or refreshment, and he was likely to be reduced to the usual expedient of
knights-errant, who, on such occasions, turned their horses to graze, and laid
themselves down to meditate on their lady-mistress, with an oak-tree for a canopy. But
the Black Knight either had no mistress to meditate upon, or, being as indifferent in love
as he seemed to be in war, was not sufficiently occupied by passionate reflections upon
her beauty and cruelty, to be able to parry the effects of fatigue and hunger, and suffer
love to act as a substitute for the solid comforts of a bed and supper. He felt dissatisfied,
therefore, when, looking around, he found himself deeply involved in woods, through
which indeed there were many open glades, and some paths, but such as seemed only
formed by the numerous herds of cattle which grazed in the forest, or by the animals of
chase, and the hunters who made prey of them.