Chapter 20 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 562

Locksley has guided Wamba and Gurth three hours through the forest to a place where others of the outlaws' band are gathered. Locksley asks his sentinels the whereabouts of some of his lieutenants and orders the mustering of as many men as can be found while he goes to collect the friar from his hermitage.

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It is Locksley, with Wamba and Gurth, who knock on the door of the Clerk of Copmanhurst in the middle of his revels with the Black Knight. Gurth has heard of the clerk, who is said to have digested half the deer in the forest. Before answering the door, the monk advises the knight to put on his helmet and join him in singing the De profundis clamavi to drown out the sound of mugs and plates being hidden away.

On discovering that it is Locksley at the door, the hermit tells the knight that the visitor is a friend—the keeper of the forest. Locksley, however, is not pleased to find the monk, who is a member of his band, drinking with an unknown knight. He worries that the hermit may have been talking too much, but then he recognizes the Black Knight as the Sluggard who came to the aid of the Disinherited Knight. After probing the character of the knight, he asks whether he is a "true-born Englishman." The knight replies that there is no one to whom England and its people are dearer, and Locksley invites him to come along on the mission to save Cedric and his party from a "band of villains." He explains that Saxon nobles, including Rowena, and their attendants have been ambushed by a strong party disguised as outlaws and are being taken to Torquilstone castle. The Black Knight is eager to assist and hopes to know the yeoman better after the rescue is accomplished.

Wamba confidentially expresses his hope to Gurth that the knight will turn out to be what he appears to be, given his allies are a drunken hermit and a poaching keeper. Gurth says he is not particular about who frees Cedric and Rowena, even if it were the devil himself.

The friar changes his hermit's robe for a yeoman's cassock and picks up his quarter staff. Outside, he locks the door and leaves the key under the mat, then guzzles a long drink of cold water from St. Dunstan's fountain. He splashes his face, gives his staff a deft twirl, and declares a profane oath that he is a match for a dozen "false ravishers." The Black Knight admonishes the monk for swearing, but the hermit answers that he will do as he likes when in the yeoman's cassock. Later, he will go to himself for confession and, in his monk's robe, he will absolve himself.

Locksley hushes the blustery monk and says they must hurry and gather the largest force they can. They will need many men to storm the castle. The Black Knight is astonished to learn that Torquilstone is the castle of Front-de-Beouf. He asks whether the noble has turned "thief and oppressor." Locksley replies that Front-de-Beouf has always been an oppressor, and the friar adds that he knows many thieves more honest than the noble. Again Locksley tells the monk to be quiet—it is not wise to say too much about their friends in front of relative strangers.

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