Chapter 40 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 540

The Black Knight, now revealed to be King Richard, goes to the priory of St. Botolph, where he has sent Wilfrid with Gurth and Wamba. Richard arranges to meet Wilfrid at Athelstane's castle. Wilfrid must rest another day before taking the journey to Coningsburgh, but Richard sets out right away with Wamba for his guide. He is intrigued by his Saxon subjects and wants to see more of them. After Richard leaves, Wilfrid becomes restless and tells the prior he is well enough to travel and wishes to go. He has a presentiment of danger and worries that if Richard strolls into a large party of heavily drinking Saxon funeral attendees, something bad might happen. The prior reluctantly lends Wilfrid his own elderly palfrey, which has a smooth gait and will not give the wounded knight too bumpy a ride.

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As Richard and Wamba make their way through the forest, they trade comic songs. Richard wishes the friar or Locksley were with them, and Wamba says that he would prefer not to meet the outlaws without Richard and his bugle. He explains his theory that the outlaws do good deeds, such as rescuing Cedric, to balance their account with heaven against their primary occupation of robbery. Worse still are the men-at-arms belonging to Philip de Malvoisin. Richard boasts that he would pin the rascals to the ground like a good knight rather than call for help with Locksley's bugle. Wamba asks for a better look at the bugle and then puts its strap safely around his own neck. Richard must promise not to knock Wamba down for taking the horn before the jester will ride at his side again. Glad to be in possession of the bugle, Wamba points out that there is an ambush ahead.

Richard plunges into the thicket where the assassins are hiding. By their cry of "Die, tyrant," he knows that his identity is known and that there is treason afoot. Richard's horse is killed, bringing Richard down. Wamba blows the horn and rushes to assist the king. Locksley and the friar arrive and soon the assassins are all killed or wounded. Wamba removes the helmet of the chief assassin, who is trapped under his horse, and Richard is surprised to see that it is Fitzurse. When Fitzurse tells Richard that he was acting on the orders of Prince John, Richard releases the nobleman on the condition that he take his family to live in Normandy and never say a word about John's part in the attempt on his life. He gives Fitzurse a fresh horse and sends him away.

Richard now tells his companions who he is, and Locksley confesses that he is Robin Hood. Richard happily pardons the felonious activity of the outlaws in return for services rendered. The contrite hermit, whose alias is Friar Tuck, asks pardon for punching the king's face. Richard offers to defrock the friar and make him a member of his guard, but Tuck pleads laziness. He enjoys the quiet and relative immunity of his hermit's hut to a public office in which he would be perpetually censured. The king extends his friendship to the friar and an invitation to come visit the royal butler whenever he gets thirsty.

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