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bottom of the rock, and leaning, as it were, against it, was constructed a rude hut, built chiefly of the trunks of trees felled in the neighbouring forest, and secured against the weather by having its crevices stuffed with moss mingled with clay. The stem of a young fir-tree, lopped of its branches, with a piece of wood tied across near the top, was planted upright near the door, as a rude emblem of the holy cross. At a little distance, on the right hand, a fountain of the purest water trickled out of the rock, and was received in a hollow stone, which labour had formed into a rustic basin. Escaping from thence, the stream murmured down the descent by a channel which its course had long worn, and so wandered through the little plain to lose itself in the neighbouring wood.
Beside this fountain were the ruins of a very small chapel, of which the roof had partly fallen in. The building, when entire, had never been above sixteen feet long, by twelve feet in breadth, and the roof, low in proportion, rested upon four concentric arches, which sprung from the four corners of the building, each supported upon a short and heavy pillar. The ribs of two of these arches remained, though the roof had fallen down betwixt them; over the others it remained entire. The entrance to this ancient place of devotion was under a very low round arch, ornamented by several courses of that zigzag moulding, resembling shark's teeth, which appears so often in the more ancient Saxon churches. A belfry rose above the porch on four small pillars, within which hung the green and weather-beaten bell, the feeble sounds of which had been sometime since heard by the Black Knight.
The whole peaceful and quiet scene lay glimmering in twilight before the eyes of the traveller, giving him good assurance of lodging for the night; since it was a special duty of those hermits, who dwelt in the woods, to exercise hospitality towards benighted or bewildered passengers. Accordingly, the knight took no time to consider minutely the particulars which we have detailed, but thanking Saint Julian (the patron of travellers) who had sent him good harbourage, he leaped from his horse and assailed the door of the hermitage with the butt of his lance, in order to arouse attention and gain admittance. It was sometime before he gained any answer; and the reply, when made, was unpropitious.
"Pass on, whosoever thou art," was the answer given by a deep hoarse voice from within the hut, "and disturb not the servant of God and St. Dunstan in his evening devotions."
"Worthy father," answered the knight, "here is a poor wanderer bewildered in these woods, who gives thee the opportunity of exercising thy charity and hospitality."
"Good brother," replied the inhabitant of the hermitage, " it has pleased Our Lady and St. Dunstan to destine me for the object of those virtues, instead of the exercise thereof. I have no provisions here which even a dog would share with me, and a horse of any tenderness of nurture would despise my couch; pass therefore on thy way, and God speed thee."
"But how," replied the knight, " is it posVol. m. u
sible for me to find my way through such a wood as this, when darkness is coming on 1 I pray you, reverend father, as you are a Christian, to undo your door, and at least point out to me my road."
"And I pray you, good Christian brother," replied the anchorite, " to disturb me no more. You have already interrupted one pater, two ares, and a credo, which I, miserable sinner that I am, should, according to my vow, have said before moonrise."
"The road, the road!" vociferated the knight, "if I am to expect no more from thee."
"The road," replied the hermit, " is easy to hit. The path from the wood leads to a morass, and from thence to a ford, which, as the rains have abated, may now be passable. When thou hast crossed the ford, thou wilt take care of thy footing up the left bank, as it is somewhat precipitous; and the path, which hangs over the river, has lately, as I learn (for I seldom leave the duties of my chapel), given way in sundry places. Thou wilt then keep straight forward"—
"A broken path—a precipice—a ford, and a morass !" said the knight, interrupting him; "Sir Hermit, if you were the holiest that ever wore beard or told bead, you shall scarce prevail on me to hold this road to-night. I tell thee, that thou, who livest by the charity of the country— ill deserved, as I doubt it is—hast no right to refuse shelter to the wayfarer when in distress. Either open the door quickly, or, by the rood, I will beat it down and make entry for myself."
"Friend wayfarer," replied the hermit, "be
not importunate; if thou puttest me to use the carnal weapon in mine own defence, it will be e'en the worse for you."
At this moment a distant noise of barking and growling, which the traveller had for some time beard, became extremely loud and furious, and made the knight suppose that the hermit, alarmed by his threat of making forcible entry, had called the dogs who made this clamour to aid him in his own defence, out of some distant recess in which they had been kennelled. Incensed at this preparation on the hermit's part for making good his inhospitable purpose, the knight struck the door so furiously with his foot, that posts as well as staples shook with violence.
The anchorite, not caring again to expose his door to a similar shock, now called out aloud, "Patience, patience; spare thy strength, good traveller, and I will presently undo the door, though, it may be, my doing so will be little to thy pleasure.-'
The door accordingly was opened; and the hermit, a large, strong-built man, in his sackcloth gown and hood, girt with a rope of rushes, stood before the knight. He had in one hand a lighted torch, or link, and in the other a baton of crabtree, so thick and heavy, that it might well be termed a club. Two large shaggy dogs, half greyhound, half mastiff, stood ready to rush upon the traveller as soon as the door should be opened. But when the torch glanced upon the armour of the knight, who stood without, the hermit, altering probably his original intention, repressed the rage of his auxiliaries, and changing his tone to a sort of churlish courtesy, invited the knight to enter his hut, making excuse for his unwillingness to open his lodge after sunset, by alleging the multitude of robbers and outlaws who were abroad, and who gave no honour to Our Lady or St. Dunstan, nor to those holy men who spent life in their service.
"The poverty of your cell, good father," said the knight, looking around him, and seeing nothing but a bed of leaves, a crucifix rudely carved in oak, a missal, with a rough-hewn table and two stools, and one or ttwo clumsy articles of furniture—" the poverty of your cell should seem a sufficient defence against any risk of thieves, not to mention the aid of two trusty dogs, large and strong enough, I think, to pull down a stag, and of course to match with most men."
"The good keeper of the forest," said the hermit," hath allowed me the use of these animals, to protect my solitude until the times shall mend."
Having said this, he fixed his torch in a twisted branch of iron, which served for a candlestick; and placing the oaken trivet before the embers of the fire, which he refreshed with some dry wood, he placed a stool upon one side of the table, and beckoned to the knight to do the same upon the other.
They sat down, and gazed with great gravity at each other; each thinking in his heart that he had seldom seen a stronger or more athletic figure than was placed opposite to him.
"Reverend hermit," said the knight, after