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Scott opens this chapter with the first six lines of Thomas Parnell's poem "The Hermit." A hermit is a religious man who decides to leave the world behind and live alone, praying and meditating about God.
The narrator reminds the reader about the Black Knight who had disappeared so suddenly at the end of the tournament.
We rejoin the knight as he is trying to go north.
He gets lost in the curving roads of Yorkshire and decides to let his horse choose the way.
The horse finds a tiny path that leads to a small chapel. Inside is a hermit.
The Black Knight asks for either shelter for the night or directions to the main road.
The hermit is really, really reluctant to help. He just wants to be left alone with his prayers.
But he finally allows the Black Knight to come inside and have dinner.
The hermit, whose title is the Clerk of Copmanhurst, settles in to some porridge after saying a long grace.
In this chapter, the hermit is called Friar, but for the rest of the book, he is "the Friar," so we're just going to call him that. (By the way, a friar is a monk who frequently ministers to the faithful.)
When he pulls back his hood, the Black Knight sees that the hermit is youngish, healthy, and very strong looking.
The Black Knight can't believe the Friar could stay so healthy looking on just a diet of porridge.
The Friar admits that his sponsor leaves richer food, but he never eats it since he has taken a vow of self-denial.
The Friar ducks back into his house and brings out a fine piece of deer meat baked into a pastry.
It turns out that he hasn't really been denying himself, but he holds back from eating for a bit, since he doesn't want it to be too obvious.
But the Black Knight insists, and finally the two men devour their rich meal.
The Black Knight also guesses that the Friar has some wine hidden, which the two men split.
They are getting quite drunk by now.
The Black Knight hints that the Friar has been poaching – that is, killing animals that belong to someone else.
For doubting the strength of his holy vows, the Friar challenges the Black Knight to a fight.
It turns out that the Friar has some very fine weapons hidden away in his chapel.
The Black Knight backs down at the sight of the Friar's swords and arrows.
The two of them continue to drink happily together.