The hermit welcomed St. George and De Fistycuff. He was a venerable man, with a long beard of silvery Whiteness; and as he tottered forward he seemed bowed almost to the ground with the weight of years.
"Gladly will I afford you shelter and such food as mv cell can furnish most gallant Knight," he said, and, suiting the action to the word, he placed a variety of provisions on the table. "I need not inquire to what country you belong, for I see by the arms of England engraven on your burgonet whence you come. I know the knights of that land are brave and gallant, and readv to do battle in aid of the distressed. Here, then, vou will find an opportunity for distinguishing yourself by a deed which will make your name renowned throughout the world."
St. George pricked up his ears at this, and eagerly inquired what it was. "This, you must understand, most noble Knight, is the renowned territory of Bagabornabou, second to none in the world in importance in the opinion of its inhabitants. None was so prosperous, none so flourishing, when a most horrible misfortune befell the land, in the appearance of a terrific green dragon, of huge proportions, who ranges up and down the country, creating devastation and dismay in every direction. No corner of the land is safe from his ravages; no one can hope to escape the consequences of his appearance. Every day his insatiable maw must be fed with the body of a young maiden, while so pestiferous is the breath which exhales from his throat that it causes a plague of a character so violent that whole districts have been depopulated by it. He commences his career of destruction at dawn every morning, and till his victim is ready he continues to ravage the land. When he has swallowed his lamentable repast he remains asleep till next morning, and then he proceeds as before.
"Many attempts have been made to capture him during the night, but he has invariably destroyed the brave men who have gone out to attack him, and has swallowed them for his supper. For no less than twenty-four long years has this dreadful infliction been suffered by our beloved country, till scarcely a maiden remains alive, nor does a brave man continue in it. The most lovely and perfect of her sex, the King's only daughter, the charming Sabra, is to be made an offering to the fell dragon tomorrow, unless a knight can be found gallant and brave enough to risk his life in mortal combat with the monster, and with skill and strength sufficient to destroy him.
"The King has promised, in his royal word, that, should such a knight appear and come off victorious, he will give him his daughter in marriage and the crown of Bagabornabou at his decease."
"Ah!" exclaimed the English Knight, his whole countenance beaming with satisfaction, "here is a deed to be done truly worthy of my prowess! I fully purpose to kill the dragon and rescue the Princess."
The daring Knight and his faithful Squire now entered the valley where the terrific green dragon had his abode. No sooner did the fiery eyes of the hideous monster fall on the steel-clad warrior instead of the fair maiden he expected to see, than from his leathern throat he sent forth a cry of rage louder and more tremendous than thunder, and arousing himself he prepared for the contest about to occur. As he reared up on his hind legs - with his wings outspread, and his long scaly tail, with a huge red fork, extending far away behind him, his sharp claws wide open, each of the size of a large ship's anchor, his gaping mouth armed with double rows of huge teeth, between which appeared a fiery red tongue, and vast eyes blazing like burning coals, while his nostrils spouted forth fire, and the upper part of his body was covered with glittering green scales brighter than polished silver, and harder than brass, the under part being of a deep golden hue - his appearance might well have made even one of the bravest of men unwilling to attack him.
St. George trembled not, but thought of the lovely Sabra, and nerved himself for the encounter. De Fistycuff did not like his looks, and had he been alone would have been tempted to beat a retreat, but his love for his master kept him by his side.
"See," said the hermit, who had come thus far, "there is the dragon! He is a monster huge and horrible; but I believe that, like other monsters, by bravery and skill he can be overcome. See, the valley is full of fruit trees! Should he wound you, and should you be faint, you will find one bearing oranges of qualities so beneficial, that, should you be able to procure one plucked fresh from the tree, it will instantly revive you. Now, farewell! See, the brute is approaching!"
On came the monster dragon, flapping his wings, spouting fire from his nostrils, and roaring loudly with his mouth. St. George couched his sharp spear and, spurring his steed, dashed onward to the combat. So terrific was the shock that the Knight was almost hurled from his saddle, while his horse, driven back on his haunches, lay, almost crushed, beneath the monster's superincumbent weight; but both man and steed extricating themselves with marvelous agility, St. George made another thrust of his spear, with all his might, against the scaly breast of the dragon. He might as well have struck against a gate of brass.
In a moment the stout spear was shivered into a thousand fragments, and the dragon uttered a loud roar of derision. At the same time, to show what he could do, he whisked round his venomous pointed tail with so rapid a movement that he brought both man and horse to the ground.
There they lay, almost senseless from the blow, while the dragon retreated backward some hundred paces or more, with the intention of coming back with greater force than before, and completing the victory he had almost won. Happily De Fistycuff divined the monster's purpose, and seeing one of the orange trees of which the hermit had spoken, he picked an orange and hurried with it to his master.
Scarcely had the Knight tasted it than he felt his strength revive, and leaping to his feet, he gave the remainder of it to his trusty steed, on whose back instantly mounting, he stood prepared, with his famous sword Ascalon in his hand, to receive the furious charge which the dragon was about to make.
Though his spear had failed him at a pinch, his trusty falchion was true as ever; and making his horse spring forward, he struck the monster such a blow on his golden-colored breast that the point entered between the scales, inflicting a wound which made it roar with pain and rage.
Slight, however, was the advantage which the Knight thereby gained, for there issued forth from the wound so copious a stream of black gore, with an odor so terrible, that it drove him back, almost drowning him and his brave steed, while the noxious fumes, entering their nostrils, brought them both fainting and helpless to the ground.
De Fistycuff, mindful of his master's commands, narrowly eyed the dragon, to see what he was about to do. Stanching his wound with a touch of his fiery tail, he flapped his green wings, roaring hoarsely, and shook his vast body, preparatory to another attack on the Knight.
"Is that it?" cried the Squire; and running to the orange tree, whence he plucked a couple of the golden fruit, he poured the juice of one down the throat of his master, and of the other down that of Bayard. Both revived in an instant, and St. George, springing on Bayard's back, felt as fresh and ready for the fight as ever. Both had learned the importance of avoiding the dragon's tall, and when he whisked it on one side Bayard sprang to the other, and so on, backwards and forwards, nimbly avoiding the blows aimed by the venomous instrument at him or his rider.
Again and again the dragon reared itself up, attempting to drop down and crush his gallant assailant; but Bayard, with wonderful sagacity, comprehending exactly what was to be done, sprung backwards or aside each time the monster descended, and thus avoided the threatened catastrophe. Still the dragon appeared as able as ever to endure the combat. St. George saw that a strenuous effort must be made, and taking a fresh grasp of Ascalon, he spurred onward to meet the monster, who once more advanced, with outstretched wings, with the full purpose of destroying him. This time St. George kept his spurs in the horse's flanks. "Death or victory must be the result of this change," he shouted to De Fistycuff.
With Ascalon's bright point kept well before him, he drove directly at the breast of the monster. The sword struck him under the wing; through the thick flesh it went, and nothing stopped it till it pierced the monster's heart. Uttering a loud groan, which resounded through the neighboring woods and mountains, and made even the wild beasts tremble with consternation, the furious green dragon fell over on its side, when St. George, drawing his falchion from the wound, dashed on over the prostrate form of the monster, and, ere it could rise to revenge itself on its destroyer, with many a blow he severed the head from the body. So vast was the stream which flowed forth from the wound that the whole valley speedily became a lake of blood, and the river which ran down from it first gave notice, by its sanguineous hue, to the inhabitants of the neighboring districts that the noble Champion of England had slain their long - tormenting enemy.
retold by William H. G. Kingston