ST. GEORGE OF ENGLAND
ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
HE road followed by St. George led him into many lands.
It bore him first of all through England to the
sea-board, where he took ship and sailed over the
narrow seas to Europe. He journeyed through the
Lowlands to Germany, and so across Hungary to where the
Christians were fighting the Saracen Turks on the
eastern edge of Europe. He took ship again, after many
battles, and came at last to a city on the shores of
Egypt, where was a lighthouse and a great castle of
stone. Thence he set out to cross the desert to the
court of the king of that country.
His good white horse bore him bravely through the
burning sand. But with the heat and the long toil of
his wanderings he was very weary. He longed to see
again the city of Coventry and the woods of England and
the faces of his own people. Here there
 was nothing
but glaring light and strange heathen folk, for whom he
As he thought thus, he looked about him sadly. Suddenly
he saw a great way off a little hut by some palm-trees,
and near it a man standing. He drew near quickly, and
perceived that the man was a holy hermit, and the hut a
rough shelter of leaves and branches, in which he
The old man, his long beard shining in the sun, stood
in his path, and held up his arms against St. George,
motioning him to halt. "Come no farther, Sir Knight,"
he said, "whoever you may be."
"I stay for no man's bidding," answered St. George.
"Why do you call me to halt?"
"This way lie sorrow and death, young man," replied the
hermit solemnly. "Here is a land of mourning, and no
mirth or entertainment for any man—no, not even if he
is the bravest knight on earth."
"It would ill become me to claim that name," said St.
George. "But it is my task to aid the sorrowful, and to
dare all that a brave knight may."
"Many another has said that, in high hope," answered the
hermit, looking narrowly upon him. "It may be that you
are he who shall
 carry out his hopes: such a one
there may be."
"You talk in riddles, holy man," said St. George; "tell me
what this sorrow is that has fallen upon your land."
"The dragon," said the hermit. "There is a loathly
dragon here, who has his lair in a cave in a fruitful
valley that is one of the green places in this waste of
sand. This dragon for twenty-four years has ravaged the
King's realm; and when he came hither first (no man
knew whence), he set up a custom of taking one maiden
every day to devour. Many knights have gone out against
him, to kill him; but with his poisonous breath or his
great claws he has slain every one, so that none now
dare assail him, but we must offer him every day a
maiden. Now it has come to this: that there is only one
maiden of suitable age left in all the kingdom, Sabra
herself, the King's daughter. To-morrow she must be
bound and left in the valley for the dragon; and he
will devour her, and after that I know not what will
come upon us. But if any knight can slay the dragon,
there is reward enough for him, for the King will give
him the Princess Sabra in marriage, and make him his
"I want no kingdoms," said St. George;
 "and as for
your Princess, I know nothing of her. But if I can slay
the dragon and save her, I will."
The hermit shook his head. "Many knights have said the
like," he said. "You will see their bones in the valley
if you are so rash as to venture there."
"Would you have a Christian knight fear to succour a
lady in peril because others have failed?" asked St.
George. "I will fight the dragon. Let me rest here in
your hut this night, and to-morrow you shall guide me
to this valley."
The hermit tried again to turn him from his purpose,
but to no avail. So he took the champion into his hut
and refreshed him with his simple fare. That night St.
George lay in the hut and rested, and the next morning
early the hermit guided him to the entrance of the
It was a deep ravine rather than a valley. At the
bottom lay a little stream, whose waters so
strengthened the soil that trees and flowers flourished
abundantly. The entrance was by a rocky pass, on the
side of which, stretching down the steep slope, grew a
dark little wood of cypress-trees. Below, at the bottom
of the valley, were rich meadows, and in the midst of
the fairest and greenest
 of them stood an
orange-tree of surpassing beauty, the fruit whereof—for
it was the season of ripe fruit—were larger and more
splendid than any on earth. Beyond this meadow was the
dark entrance to the dragon's cave.
St. George parted from the hermit at the entrance in the
pass. The hermit gave him his blessing, and the
champion set forth down the stony path, his horse
picking its way carefully along the uneven track. The
cypress-trees made the path dark and gloomy. But when
he had passed them, St. George saw before him a
princess so lovely that she seemed to light up the
whole valley. She was clad all in pure white silk, with
a golden circlet on her head, and she was bound to an
outlying tree, looking pitifully down to the meadows,
whence came at intervals a dull, low sound, as of a
terrible threatening roar.
St. George halted for a second in wonder at her beauty.
Then he spurred his horse and alighted by the tree. He
drew his sword and cut the bonds. Then he knelt to her
and saluted her.
"Who are you, Sir Knight?" she said in surprise, and a
little in fear.
"Princess," he answered, "I am not yet a knight; I have
not won my spurs. But I desire to do all knightly
deeds. I shall fight
 this dragon, and, by God's aid,
slay him. Meanwhile do you hasten back to the king your
father, and say to him that a champion has been found
for you, who will, if all go well with him, pay him his
humble duty at his court when the dragon has been
slain. Speed now, Princess, for the dragon grows
And, indeed, at that moment a roar sounded from the
valley that made the branches of the tree rattle
against one another, and set up an echo that rumbled
like thunder in the hollow sides of the place.
The Princess looked long and earnestly at him, and he
returned her look.
"I will go, brave Knight," she said at last. "But you do
not know how great is the task you attempt."
"No task is too great if it will save you," he answered.
"If my prayers can bring you victory," said she, "you
will win. Come back safe—to honour and to me."
With that she turned and fled up the path. At the top
she turned and looked back at him, then she made what
speed she could to her father's palace.
She found King Ptolemy sitting in great misery with his
court. Not only had he, as
 he thought, lost his
dearly loved daughter, but there was not left another
suitable maiden in all Egypt, and none knew what
mischief the dragon would do when the usual offering
was not prepared for him.
"Let us all mount swift horses and camels," said
Prince Almidor of Morocco, a suitor for Princess
Sabra's hand, "and set forth at once for my kingdom.
If the dragon follows, he can but take a few of us at
first, and we shall soon reach Morocco, where an army
of my bravest knights can deal with this monster."
"There is no need to flee," said Sabra, who had entered
in time to hear this counsel. "A Christian knight has
come to save me; even now he is doing battle with the
dragon. He will overcome the monster; I am sure of it."
Prince Almidor laughed scornfully. "How many knights
have been sure of victory? How many has the dragon
slain?" he asked.
"This is no common knight," said the Princess. "He is
not afraid; he does not flee to a far country."
Almidor winced. "Maybe this stranger knight is bolder
than others," he said, more gently. But for ourselves it
is safer not to wait here. The knight may not prevail."
"Let us wait a little," said the King. I do not think
this knight, or any knight, can
 kill the dragon; but
let us abide the issue. We shall be none the worse off
an hour or two hence."
So they waited. But Almidor, seeing that Princess Sabra
was not in the power of the dragon, renewed his hopes
of winning her. He remembered the King's promise of her
hand to any knight who might slay the dragon, and he
set a plot in train to make sure that even if this
Christian champion should overcome the monster, he
should yet not win the Princess.
But St. George was even now in the midst of the hardest
of all his fights. When the Princess left him, he rode
swiftly down the rocky path, his armour jingling gaily,
and flaming in the sun. The red cross of England
blazoned on his shield seemed a very signal of triumph.
He loosened his good sword in its sheath, but for the
first onset set his spear in rest.
Down the path he went, down to the very bottom of the
ravine, where, in spite of the hot sun of the desert,
the air was cooler. All around lay the bones of dead
knights, white and terrible, with here and there a
dinted plate of armour or a rusty sword.
Bucephalus, the white charger, sniffed the air and
snorted; he felt that some strange
 beast was near.
But the dragon had not yet come out of his cave. From
inside it came low mutterings, harsh, deep growls that
made a man's blood run cold to hear.
St. George kept his eyes fixed on the black entrance as
he came into the meadow where the fair orange-tree
stood; its fruit glowed like golden lamps. Suddenly the
arch in the rock seemed to be filled to the very top by
a rushing, glittering shape. Green and blue and brown
it seemed, and the colours changed with every movement,
like a lizard's skin. It was the dragon coming forth
for his prey.
The monster stood as high as a man upon a horse. His
body was covered all over with shining scales; his
wings were stiff and leathery. Two long tusks stuck out
of his mouth, and his tongue moved restlessly to and
fro round them, licking his red gums in expectation of
his feast. From his nostrils came a hot and poisonous
smoke, and the beat of his huge wings, as he half ran,
half flew, towards the champion, made the orange-tree
leaves rustle like the clapping of hands.
St. George gripped his spear and spurred his horse. The
faithful beast was quivering with terror, but,
nevertheless, he galloped forward. Every leap brought
the knight nearer; he could feel the hot breath and
 the horrible odour of the creature. One more
drive of his wings, and they met.
St. George felt as if his spear had run against a wall
of stone, and was thrusting him violently back. The
guard was forced back on to his shoulder, but he held
to it firmly. But the spear was useless against the
horny scales, and as St. George recoiled, drawing his
horse up on his haunches, the shaft snapped, and the
whole head dropped to the ground. Horse and rider
reeled; the horse slipped as he tried to recover, and
beast and man rolled over into the shade of the
orange-tree. The dragon, with the force of the shock,
had reared high into the air, so that when his
fore-feet came down to ground again, the champion and
his steed had fallen out of the way. But it seemed an
escape only for a moment.
And then a wonder happened. As St. George and Bucephalus
rolled under the orange-tree, dizzy and shaken, the
dragon seemed to recoil. He roared terribly, but drew
back from the tree, as a cat draws back from a dog. For
though St. George knew it not, the tree was enchanted,
and the dragon had no power over anything that lay in
its shade. Moreover, its fruit had wonderful virtue, as
the champion was soon to find.
 St. George lay there a few seconds. Then he sprang
up and mounted Bucephalus, and drew the sword from its
sheath."Now will I prove whether the Enchantress spoke
truly of this good blade," he thought. "It can wound
men—that I know—but can it pierce the dragon's skin?"
He urged the horse forward again, and made at the
dragon. It reared on high, to bring its great fore-paws
down the more heavily. For a moment there was an
opening for a blow. St. George swung the sword across
his left shoulder, swept it round, and smote fiercely
across the monster's breast.
The shock of the blow numbed his arm; it was as if he
had struck a column of brass. But, strong though the
scales were, the good blade pierced them, though not
deeply. Out of the wound spurted deadly venom (for
dragon's blood is poisonous), so noxious that the touch
of it split the champion's breastplate from shoulder to
waist, and its fumes in a moment took his senses away.
He fainted, swayed in the saddle, and fell from the
horse. But by great good fortune he fell once more into
the shadow of the enchanted orange-tree; and
Bucephalus, seeing where he lay, hurried to his side,
and stood there by him in safety.
 It was long before St. George came to his senses.
The sun was high in the heavens when he opened his eyes
again. Weary and sick, he felt its rays unbearable, and
he reached up to a low-growing branch and plucked an
orange. The cool touch of its skin itself refreshed
him, and he had no sooner set his teeth in it than he
felt his strength and vigour come back to him as if by
In a few moments he had rid himself of the broken
breastplate, and sallied out of shelter again. But now
he was more wary. He saw that even his good sword could
do little against the dragon's scales unless he could
find some spot where they were thin or weak. He rode
directly at the monster, but at the last moment turned
aside, so that the great fore-paw crashed past him
harmlessly. Quickly he wheeled Bucephalus, and swung
his sword back-handedly at the beast's wing, cutting
the skin, but doing no hurt that mattered. He pulled
the horse up on to its haunches, and escaped the poison
that issued from the wound. Enraged, the dragon turned
on him in a flash, throwing up one of its great wings
to steady itself as it swerved and heaved itself up.
The scales gleamed dazzlingly, the hot breath of the
creature was all round
 him, the long talons in the
fore-paw were so close that he could see where they
slid in their curved, horny sheath, like a cat's; but
in that moment of peril St. George's eyes and head were
clear. He saw under the uplifted wing a new colour, not
the changing tones of the brassy scales, but a golden
yellow, as of silk; it was soft and yielding in look,
not hard and stiff. He guessed what it was-the weak
place in the dragon's armour, the place where thin skin
was the only covering of the dreadful body.
St. George used his sword by the point now, not by the
cutting edge. He thrust, deep and hard and true, under
the dragon's wing, and drew the point out again, and
thrust again quickly as the monster reeled away from
him and the huge wing fell feebly. The sword entered
the dragon's heart. The creature roared once more, but
now its roar was like a hoarse rattling. The great legs
suddenly grew weak, the body sank upon them, and fell
with a soft thud upon its side. The dragon was dead.
ALMIDOR THE MOOR
 The dragon lay dead. But St. George was sore wearied
with the fight. He led his horse into the shade of the
friendly orange-tree, where the grass was green and
sweet, and the good beast cropped it gently, while the
knight ate the fruit of the tree. So full of healing
virtue were the oranges that in a little while he felt
as if he was just going freshly into battle, instead of
leaving a long and fierce encounter.
He went to the body of the dragon. It lay quite still.
Some of the glistening brightness had faded from the
hard scales, but the colour still glowed. He cut the
great head off—no easy matter—and hung it at his
saddle-bow. Then he mounted Bucephalus, and rode up the
valley again, to go to the King's court and see once
more the lovely Princess whom he had rescued.
His heart was gay at his victory; he had done a deed
worthy of a Christian knight. The valley seemed more
beautiful, the sunlight brighter, the grass greener,
the way less rough. The trees at the mouth of the
valley, as he drew nearer to them, looked as if
 too gave a cool shade as consoling as the
orange-tree's. A little breeze appeared to have sprung
up; the boughs moved and flickered. There was a look of
comfort and peace in the dark green.
But was it a breeze? There was no motion in the air
where St. George was. Why should the branches quiver?
He looked more closely. Then he loosened his good sword
in its sheath and drew himself up, erect and ready. He
had seen that the movement was not of the trees only,
but of men on horseback. The sun here and there caught
little points of their armour and twinkled upon it.
Almidor, the Prince of Morocco, had sent twelve knights
to waylay St. George, and these were they. He did not
know whether the champion would overcome the dragon; he
did not think it likely. But he felt a misgiving. He
resolved not to lose the hand of the Princess, whether
he won it by fair means or foul. He stationed these
retainers of his, therefore, where they would entrap
the Christian knight as he returned from the fray—if he
did return—weary and unsuspecting. They were to slay
him, and then Almidor would go forth and claim for
himself the victory over the dragon. If, on the other
 champion had been vanquished by the
monster, the knights would simply return to Almidor and
That was his treacherous plan. It might have been
successful if St. George had not been restored to
strength by the enchanted orange-tree, and if he had
not caught sight of the men in ambush in good time.
It was fortunate also for St. George that these
traitorous knights were not well led. Perhaps they made
light of their task, seeing that they were twelve to
one. It may be that some sense of fairness at the last
minute shamed them. But, whatever the cause, they did
not set upon him in a body. Instead, two of them ranged
themselves on either side of the track, and a third in
the middle of it, fronting St. George. The rest stood
apart in the trees, waiting their chance.
But St. George was not lacking in skill, if his enemies
were. He saw that he must attack first, and at once. He
let the dragon's head fall to the ground, that it might
not encumber him. Then, putting spurs to Bucephalus, he
galloped at full speed up the hill. The two knights on
either side drew back a little as he approached, that
they might swing downwards the more easily at the right
moment. It was what St. George
 expected. He had kept
a little turn of speed in Bucephalus for the last flash
of onset. Just as he drew level with them he gave a
sign to the good steed, who leapt suddenly forward with
a great bound that took St. George past the first two
knights and into the third. As the horse sprang forward
the champion swung his sword up, and with the rush of
the charge it came down—down upon the knight's helmet,
clean and true, and shore through helmet and head down
to the very shoulders.
In a flash St. George had tugged the sword free and
wheeled Bucephalus almost upon his haunches to the
right, swinging the good blade Ascalon blindly round
with a wide sweep at the full length of his arm as he
turned. The knight that side, as he had hoped, was
within reach of the sword; it struck him, all unready
for such a wild and sudden onslaught, at the joint of
the neck armour, and he, too, toppled from his horse,
dead as a stone.
By this the third knight, he on the left of the track,
nearest the trees, had come to his wits again. He did
not want for courage. He drove furiously down at the
champion, who had hardly recovered from the second of
his great blows. It was no time for
de-  fence; the
knight was upon him. Bucephalus, after turning for the
second encounter, was facing down the hill again, and
not quite sure of his footing. Quick as thought, St.
George gave him a touch with the spur. The good horse
strained and scrambled, and took a slipping stride down
the slope. It was but a little way, but it was enough.
The Moorish knight had aimed full at St. George with a
long lance, but with that quick motion of Bucephalus
his aim was turned askew. The lance struck St. George
upon the shoulder and glanced off, and as the Moor
passed in his headlong rush the English champion swung
Ascalon again back-handedly, so that the invincible
sword smote the man upon the nape of his neck. He fell
forward upon his horse's rnane; the lance clattered
upon the path as it fell from his dead hand, and the
horse, unchecked, terrified, bore his body away into
So in hardly three minutes three of the twelve were
slain. The nine were in a group, ten paces or so
distant. They had hoped that their chance would come
easily, at a moment when the English knight was engaged
with their advance guard. But St. George had been too
sudden and daring for them; and he knew that swiftness
 his best defence. He did not wait to see
how his blow at the third knight had prospered, though
the sound of the falling lance told him plainly enough.
He set Bucephalus at a gallop again up the slope, and
with a thunder of hoofs and rattle of steel, crying,
"St. George for England! St. George!" he clashed into
the little knot of knights. Into their very midst he
pierced, hardly striking a blow at first; but when he
was among them, Ascalon played about their heads like
forked lightning, and cracked their armour as a flash
rives an oak. Most of them had not drawn their swords,
deeming that a charge with the lance downhill would
have served their treacherous end better. But at close
quarters the lances were of no avail; they were so
cumbrous that they prevented the horseman from getting
free of one another, and one of them even wounded one
of his fellows. St. George made what speed he could
while he was in the midst of the enemy; right and left
he slashed, and the blade clove armour and flesh and
bones as if they had been paper. In a few minutes four
more lay dead, while three were so sorely wounded that
they fell from their horses and crawled painfully away
to the trees, there to die.
The two last were more
wary. They had
 drawn out of the press of men
quickly, not trying to reach St. George till they could
fight more freely. He would be weary when he came to
them, they thought, not knowing the powers of his sword
Ascalon, or the strength he had gaiaed from the
orange-tree. They moved cautiously higher up the slope
and waited the issue.
The last of the others fell from his saddle. St. George
looked to see how many more there might be, for he did
not know whether a whole army might not have been sent
out against him. All round he turned his eye. There was
no sound to give him warning of more besides those two.
The sun burned and blazed; the dark trees stood
motionless. Below lay the body of the dragon; already a
vulture had sighted it, and was hovering before
descending. There were no other men anywhere save those
For a moment the enemies stood in silence, looking
narrowly upon each other. St. George pondered his best
course of attack; the Moors wondered at the courage and
fresh strength of this fierce stranger, and hesitated.
"Better to take to our swords," said one to his
companion. "With that swift steed he is upon us before
we can set our chargers in motion to shock him."
 "No sword for me," answered the other
quickly, setting his lance in rest. "Did you not see how
he used his sword? No man could stand against it. I
will not come within sweep of his blade. Give me my
long lance; I'll gore him before he can reach me."
"If you miss with the lance, friend," said his
comrade, "you are like to come nearer his sword than you
hope, for you cannot recover so quickly as he. And if——Hola!
On guard! The man is upon us! He is possessed by
Djinns. By the beard of the Soldan, saw ever man such
speed and fury——"
He spurred his horse. His companion urged his steed to
charge. But St. George had gathered up all the strength
of Bucephalus into a rush the like of which man never
saw before. Up the hill the great white horse
thundered, his nostrils wide, his huge chest fronting
the breeze like the bows of a stately ship. There was a
spirit in him that made him seem like a horse of more
than mortal breed. And on his back his rider came
exulting, his eyes alight with fierce adventure, the
plume on his helmet streaming, his courage glowing in
The Moors and their steeds seemed spellbound. Fear fell
suddenly upon their hearts
 like an ice-cold hand. It
was only for a moment: their pride and valour returned
in an instant; but that instant was too long. St.
George was upon them, with a huge shouting and a
hammering of hoofs, his sword swung up over his left
shoulder, his right arm all across his chest to get the
fiercer sweep. He swerved Bucephalus as he came close
to the knights, so that on his left he jostled the Moor
with the sword; and then his arm swung across, the good
blade Ascalon flashing over his horse's mane, and
swooping with a downward glide upon the other knight's
right shoulder. Through the armour and through the bone
it clove, and deep into the Moor's breast; and he
swayed and fell to the ground.
The sword was almost wrenched from St. George's hand by
his fall, but the champion's grip was firm and true. He
leant over in the saddle as the blade was dragged
downwards and tore it free. Then he turned hastily to
meet the other Moor. But he had fled; terror spoke in
his ear, saying that the last of twelve was no match
for the man who had slain eleven with his own hand.
He hastened back to Almidor, spreading, as he went, the
news that the dragon was slain and its slayer on the
way to the city.
 "The man is possessed by an evil spirit," he said to
Almidor when he came into his presence in his private
chamber. Not a score of men, nor five score, could have
overcome him. Never did mortal man fight with such
bitter might. And his horse also is doubtless a gift of
Shaitan, and powerful Djinns have given his sword
"Out of my sight, cowardly dog!" cried Almidor in a fury,
striking him upon the mouth with his hand. "What! Twelve
men not strong enough to kill one, and that one weary
with dragon-slaying? Go forth! Let me never look upon
your face again. I will have no cowards for servants."
"Coward! No man shall——" and the unhappy knight put his
hand to his sword enraged. But it came into his mind
that he had indeed fled before St. George, and played a
coward's part; and he was ashamed. He turned without a
word and went from Almidor's presence, his head bowed
and his shoulders shrunken. He set out from Egypt that
very day, and wandered hither and thither, fighting in
causes he chose to espouse, and trying by brave deeds
to win back his knightly honour. He was slain no long
time afterwards in Palestine, warring against the army
 But Almidor nursed his fury till it became a
burning flame in his heart. He knew now that a
Christian knight had truly slain the dragon, and would
have the Princess Sabra for his wife, and he vowed to
destroy the stranger by whatever means he could. But at
that time he could do no more than hope and plot. He
must go to the King and join in welcoming the
conqueror, as though he bore him no ill-will.
St. George took no more heed of his enemies; he saw
that the only one yet able to withstand him had fled.
He sheathed Ascalon, and put Bucephalus to a slow pace
to regain his breath. And so, with the dragon's head
replaced at his saddle-bow, he left the valley, and
came up into the desert track again.
He set forth patiently in the direction in which the
old hermit had told him the chief city lay. He had not
gone far before he saw a great crowd of folk coming to
meet him. For a moment he thought he must encounter
more enemies; but then he saw fair children in white
among the multitude, and heard triumphal music
It was the King of Egypt marching forth to greet the
conqueror of the dragon. He rode in a chariot of beaten
gold, drawn by
 three pure white horses abreast, and
by his side was the Princess Sabra, more beautiful, it
seemed to St. George, even than when he first saw her
awaiting the dragon in the valley. Behind the golden
chariot rode thirty negroes in purple robes, mounted on
camels, with scarlet harness. On either side were a
hundred knights in rich armour. Men with all manner of
musical instruments followed, and standard-bearers, and
guards; and behind came the people of the city, bearing
flowers and wreaths to strew before the champion.
St. George drew near and made an obeisance to the King.
"Hail, King of Egypt!" he cried. "I bring you a gift."
And he held up the dragon's head. So terrible was it
even in death that the Princess turned pale and
shuddered at the sight of it.
"You could bring no gift that will give greater
happiness to my people," answered King Ptolemy. "Come
with us to the city, Sir Knight, and let us feast. When
we have made revelry you shall ask of me what boon you
With that he stepped down from the golden chariot, and,
taking St. George by the hand, led him to the chariot
again. Tell me your name, Sir Knight," he said, "that I
may proclaim it to my people."
 "I am not yet a knight by full and due rites," said
St. George; "but I seek to do knightly deeds wherever
they may be found. My name is George, and I am of the
royal line of England."
"Let his name, George of England, be cried to the
people," said King Ptolemy; "and let the dragon's head
be set upon a tall lance and bore before us."
It was done as he said, and so to the noise of joyful
music they went back to the city, St. George in the
chariot with the King and the Princess. But already
there was a treacherous plot in the mind of Almidor the
When they came to the city, St. George was taken to
rich chambers set apart for his use, and he washed the
stains of travel and fight from him, and put on fair
linen and new robes that the King sent him. Then they
held a great feast, with song and minstrelsy. And when
it was ended the King spoke thus:
"Sir George of England, you must know that I made a vow
concerning the slaying of the dragon. I promised that
whoever should do that deed should have my daughter to
wife. Do you consent to that?"
St. George looked upon the Princess Sabra, and she upon
him; and in that look their
 minds were made up. "If
the Princess wills, but not against her will," said the
champion, "I will wed her."
"I will be your wife," said the Princess gravely. "Take
from me this ring in pledge of my love. It is of great
power; it has such virtue that if any danger threaten
you, the diamond in it turns dull."
"Be true to one another," said the King solemnly, as St.
George took the ring. "You have plighted your troth
before us all. Now let a loving-cup be brought."
"Sire," interrupted Prince Almidor, grant that I may do
a courtesy to your Majesty and to this brave knight. In
my country we have the secret of a very delectable
drink of Greek wine and certain spices, which we use
upon such glad happenings as this. Let me prepare a
bowl of it that we may all drink together, and I may
have a share in the happiness of this day. I beg this
boon as your guest."
"So be it," said Ptolemy graciously; and Almidor
departed upon his errand. "Now, Sir Knight," added the
King, "have you any other boon that you would ask?"
"There is a great boon, Sire, if you would but grant it
me. I have done deeds of chivalry in many lands, but
not yet have I
 asked of any man the honour of
knighthood at his hands. I pray that you will dub me
Knight, so that I may be knight by lawful title as well
as by my deeds."
"That is a little thing, to give honour to so brave a
champion," answered the King.
He called for a sword, and bade St. George kneel before
him, and struck him lightly on the shoulder with the
flat of the sword's blade. "Rise, Sir George of
England," he said.
As St. George, now a full knight, rose from his knee,
the door of the banqueting-hall was flung open, and the
Moorish Prince appeared, attended by black slaves. In
his hands he bore a great golden bowl, the handles
whereof were shaped like dolphins, with rubies for
"The loving-cup!" he cried, holding the bowl aloft that
all might see. "It holds a precious draught of Greek
wine, such as was made for the great Iskander a
thousand years ago. The art of making it has descended
from father to son, from generation to generation,
since the great Iskander died, far away from here. The
secret is kept warily; none but I know it, and when I
die only he shall know it whom I tell. Come, Sir George
of England, pledge us first, and afterwards we will
 He stretched out his arms with the cup, and St.
George lifted his hands to take it. But as he did so,
three drops of blood fell from his nose, and the
flaming lights of the diamond in the ring on his finger
vanished from his sight. The ring had become dull;
danger was near.
His arms fell to his side; he stepped back. The
Princess Sabra, seeing the ring dimmed, started up with
Almidor saw that he was suspected; and rightly had the
ring foretold danger, for the cup contained a poison so
deadly that whosoever drank of it would fall dead as
his lips touched the wine. The Moor feigned to stumble.
In a moment the bowl fell from his hands, and every
drop of wine was spilt upon the marble floor.
"Oh, my liege," he cried in a tone of the deepest
sorrow, as one of the negroes picked up the bowl, "how
uncouth am I! Forgive me, and you, Sir George, grant me
pardon also. My stumbling has cost you this precious
draught, for it has no virtue if made a second time in
the same moon. I crave your pardon most humbly."
"We grant it, Prince," answered Ptolemy, for Almidor
was in high favour with him. "It is a slight mishap,
the loss of a draught
 so noble. We can pledge one
another in wine less precious, but with a comradeship
no less honest."
And they fell to feasting again. When the feast was
ended, King Ptolemy proclaimed that the Princess would
be wedded in two months' time, and each man went to his
home with great rejoicing. A house and attendants were
given to St. George, and he prepared to go thither.
First, however, he spoke a few words apart to the
"Dear Princess," he said, "are you truly willing to wed
me? You do not do this to the end that the King, your
father, may keep his vow? I will not hold him to it if
you wish otherwise."
"He is my father and my King, indeed," answered the
Princess; "but you shall be my King also."
St. George kissed her hand and turned to go. As he
turned, he saw that Almidor had been standing near—so
near that he might have overheard the words. But he
took no heed.
IN THE POWER OF THE SOLDAN
Almidor had indeed overheard, so well that he could
make a treacherous tale of the words. He went without
delay to Ptolemy, and sought private audience. It was
granted at once, late though the time had grown.
"King Ptolemy," said Almidor gravely and solemnly, I have
grievous news for you. How did the stranger, this George
of England, bear himself in your eyes?"
"Like a gallant knight," answered the King.
"He fought bravely, doubtless," said the Moor
bitterly. "He is bold enough. . ." and he fell silent.
"What do you wish to say, Prince Almidor?" asked
Ptolemy, wondering at his silence.
"Sire, I cannot say it. I know only one thing for
"What is that?"
"He means to be King of Egypt," answered Almidor.
"What!" cried Ptolemy, starting up from his
throne. "This Christian dares!" For Ptolemy was both
hot-  tempered, as ready to believe
rumours as to take offence at them.
"That is the truth, O King. He is a Christian, as you
have said. And, alas! to my sorrow I must say it, he
has conspired with the Princess your daughter. This
night by chance I overheard them in talk together. "You
shall be King," said the Princess to him, in such a
voice that I could not but believe her. They mean to
kill you and seize the power in Egypt and rule in your
"They shall both die," said Ptolemy in a rage. "You are
sure of those words? You cannot be mistaken?"
"I am sure, King Ptolemy," answered Almidor. "Our lives
are not safe while this Christian is held in honour and
beheld by all men as the betrothed of the Princess."
"Betrothed he may be, but never shall he wed her. They
shall die together!"
"Nay, O King, be not harsh with the Princess. She has
been led away by this persuasive fellow. Without doubt
he has cast a spell upon her. Let me but have her for
wife, and she will be rid of the spell. Let me renew my
suit to you for her. Do not put her to death. Do as you
will with Sir George, but spare the Princess."
 "As to that we will take further thought," said the
King. "But the English Knight must die. Would that I
had never knighted so vile a man! Yet he is my guest.
How can I slay a guest?"
"A traitor is no guest," said Almidor.
"But he slew the dragon, and he has eaten my salt, and
I have dubbed him knight. I cannot put him to death. I
will but drive him hence, to return by the way he came.
Then if he sets foot in Egypt again I will have no
mercy upon him."
"There is a better way than that," said Almidor,
pondering. "Say that you wish to test him, since you
know no more of him than that he slew the dragon, and
that he says he is of royal lineage. Then tell him that
the proof shall consist in an honourable journey and a
mission; he shall go as your Ambassador to the Soldan
of Persia, and if he returns in safety and honour, that
will have given him renown in the eyes of Egypt and
Persia, so that he will not seem to be a stranger
carrying off the Princess. But you will so contrive
that he does not return, for you will give him a crafty
letter to the Soldan, which shall entreat the Soldan to
put the messenger to death. So will your honour be
saved, and you be rid of this plotter."
 "It is a good plan," said the King.
He lost little time in carrying it out. The next
morning St. George came to pay his courteous respects
to the King, and Ptolemy greeted him in a friendly
manner. But after a little, "Sir George of
England," said he, "I would speak privately with you."
He took him apart. "I find myself in a difficulty,
brave Knight," he said. "I would gladly do you all the
honour in the world; I have given you knighthood and my
daughter's hand in proof of my esteem for him who slew
the foul dragon. But you are a stranger to my people,
and England is very far away. I am told that it is set
in the midst of a great ocean, which no man of these
regions has ever seen. Certain of my nobles take amiss
that I should give the Princess Sabra to an unknown
foreigner, though none says a word against your valour
or your honour. They do but ask that you shall learn
our ways and have some employment in our State. Now, it
happens that I have need of an Ambassador to the mighty
Soldan of Persia. He must be a man of noble bearing,
and of courage and dignity, and of honest mind; and he
must have also some skill in the courteous arts of
peace, for weighty matters are afoot. Such a man I
believe you to be. Now, if I send
 you to the Soldan,
and you accomplish this mission honourably, you will be
in the eyes of my people as one of ourselves, and they
will see that the Princess is to wed one who is a wise
counsellor and a faithful servant as well as a brave
warrior. How say you? Shall I send you to the Soldan?"
St. George saw that there was prudence in what the King
said; and when he had asked certain questions, and
learnt that if his journey prospered well he could
return by the time appointed for his marriage to the
Princess, he consented very readily to go.
He was not long in making his preparations for the
mission. He said farewell very tenderly to the
Princess, and was given a sealed letter to the Soldan,
and set forth.
His way lay across deserts, but it was not hard to
find, and he came in due time to the capital of Persia.
As he drew near the city he saw a great procession. It
was a festival in honour of the heathen gods of that
country, and when the Persians saw the red cross upon
the shield of the champion, they mocked him, and made
light of the Christian faith. At last he grew very
wroth, and set upon the procession, and broke down its
banners and trampled many men under foot, so that they
all fled in terror.
 This was no good beginning for an embassy, and
St. George was soon to be sorry that he had let his zeal
for his Faith get the better of his prudence. The
Persians hastened to the Soldan with the tale of the
attack (leaving out the insults by which they had
provoked it); and the Soldan, after he had beheaded the
first of those who brought him such unwelcome news,
sent out a hundred knights to seize the stranger and
drag him before him.
The knights rode out gaily to their task. But it was in
no gay mood that they returned, for St. George, seeing
himself in desperate case, and being still filled with
the fury that their insults to the Christian faith had
roused, set upon them in a whirlwind of passion, and
drove them before him as a storm drives dead leaves.
And when, in a little time, the Soldan sent a thousand
knights against him, these fared no better, but were
driven hither and thither pell-mell.
But by now the whole countryside was roused, and such a
multitude poured forth as no champion could withstand.
They seized St. George and bound him, and if it had not
been for certain officers of the Soldan they would have
tortured him and put him to death there and then.
But these officers
 caused him to be brought
before the Soldan for judgment.
"Great Lord and King of Asia," cried St. George when he
saw that he was in the presence of the Soldan himself,
"I claim your protection. If you seek to kill me, I
demand an honourable death, for I am of kingly lineage;
I am of the blood-royal of England, no less proud than
your own. But I demand also safe conduct out of your
dominions with whatever answer you shall give me to
bear to my master, the King of Egypt; for I am an
ambassador, and by the laws of all mankind my person is
sacred. If your servants will unbind me, I will give
you my letter from King Ptolemy."
The Soldan signed to his guards to unbind him, but to
keep close watch upon him. St. George drew out the
letter, and it was handed to the Soldan.
"BROTHER" (the Soldan read silently),
"These with all love and honour from us in Egypt. He
who brings this is a terrible warrior, a Christian dog
who has slain the dragon thou knowest of, and now plots
against our Majesty, to drive us from Egypt, and take
our Daughter to wife. He has eaten our salt, and we
therefore cannot slay
 him. Do thou slay him; and
look well that he doth no mischief to thy excellent
Majesty ere thou slay him, for he is a man of might.
Mayst thou prosper and live for ever!
"PTOLEMY, KING OF EGYPT."
The Soldan looked anxiously upon St. George; there was
bitter cruelty in his eyes.
"Christian Knight, if knight you are," he said at
length, "do you know what is in this letter?"
"Mighty Soldan," answered St. George bravely, I know
nothing but that I am to be given an answer, and to
bear it back to King Ptolemy."
"You shall be given an answer," said the Soldan. "Perhaps
also an answer shall be sent to our brother of Egypt
and to his fair daughter. But you will not bear the
answer. Dead men can go no journeys. You shall be taken
hence, and on the thirtieth day from this day you shall
die. You claimed an honourable death, since you are of
royal blood. I do not know of what lineage you are, nor
whether you tell the truth. I have never heard of this
England you speak of; it is not one of the ancient
kingdoms I know of. But you shall be killed by kings—kings
 beasts. Thirty days hence you shall be
given to my lions."
He made a sign, and a host of guards seized St. George
again, and set heavy fetters upon him, and threw him
into a dark and horrible dungeon. No light came into
it, and it was damp and noisome; rats and serpents
visited him in the darkness, and when his guards—of
whom there were at that time a hundred, all of knightly
rank—brought him his poor allowance of bread and water
each day, they came by lantern-light, which served but
to be reflected in the pools of stagnant water in the
huge dismal cell.
So he abode for thirty days, thinking sadly of Sabra.
Ever and again he would remember also his six comrades,
and wonder when it would come to pass that they should
meet and do those deeds of which Kalyb had prophesied.
Almost he wished to be back in her palace of vile
The thirtieth day came, and that morning they brought
him no food. He heard afar dull sounds, which seemed to
him like the bellowings of wild beasts. But he hardly
knew if he was awake, or if it was but an evil dream.
Presently a dim light appeared in one wall of the cell.
A door had been opened which
 must lead into daylight
at some little distance. But horrible sounds came
through the door—the roaring of hungry beasts.
One of his guards entered by the usual door.
"Christian," he said, "you hear the royal beasts who
await you. For four days they have not tasted food. The
Soldan, in his great mercy, commanded that they should
be made fierce and hungry, so that they should make
short work of you. You may go to meet them through
yonder door, where there is a little light, or you may
await them here in the dark. Doubtless they will not be
long in finding you. The Soldan would prefer that you
should go outside to meet them, for then he will be
able to see your greeting; but he does not command
this. You may die here if you please."
With this cruel speech the Persian withdrew.
St. George was filled with rage at the taunting words.
All his old strength came back after the long night of
despair in his cell. He lifted his chained arms, and
brought the chain down with all his force upon his
thigh, just above the knee. Such was the strength of
the blow that the fetters snapped like thread, leaving
a few links dangling from either wrist. With a great
shout of "George
 for England!" he rushed out at the open
doorway, through a narrow passage, and into the light.
He found himself in a kind of den, or pit, hollowed out
of rock; a space nearly circular, with five doors in
it, doubtless all leading to cells like his own. The
floor was of crumbled stone and sand. The rocky walls
rose thirty feet or more, and at the top was a parapet,
over which the Soldan and some of his nobles were
looking. At one point in the wall, on the level of the
ground, was a large iron grating, now open, and by it,
walking backwards and forwards, lashing their tails,
and roaring terribly with hunger as they looked at the
Persians above out of their reach, were two huge lions.
St. George remembered that speed had saved him against
Almidor's ambushed knights. He tore his tunic and
wrapped the pieces round his hands and wrists and arms,
leaving the ends of chain free. In breathless haste he
bandaged himself thus. The Persians were calling out
taunts to the lions, and trying to show them the
champion; but the beasts did not understand, and only
gazed upwards and roared more terribly.
St. George crept across the soft sandy surface quietly,
with quick strides. The lions
 were too hungry and
too enraged to hear him. He came within two yards of
them. Then he shouted suddenly.
They were close together, their backs turned towards
him. At his shout they turned in a flash, with the
silence and swiftness of cats. Together they crouched,
their lips drawn back from their teeth, their mouths
open. Together they sprang. But just as they sprang,
almost as they left the ground, St. George sprang too.
With true aim he thrust a fist and arm into each mouth,
between the great jaws, the teeth meeting and tearing
the bandage on his arms, the chain wounding the throats
of the beasts and choking them. They writhed and swayed
to and fro, pulling, pushing, turning, rearing up. All
was of no avail. St. George thrust his arms the deeper,
and stood his ground for all their endeavours, and in a
few moments they were suffocated and fell dead.
But if St. George had saved his life, he had not won
his freedom. There was no way of escape from the cell.
He heard cries of wonder and rage in the gallery above.
Orders were given, and the sound of men in haste came
to his ears. He sank exhausted to the ground just as
one of the doors in the den opened, and there came
running in a hundred
 or more Persian guards, who seized him and bore him
unresisting back to his dismal cell.
The Soldan was afraid. He had heard of the dragon of
Egypt, and he had thought that no man could slay the
monster. But St. George had slain it. And now, unarmed
and weakened by imprisonment, he had slain also two
hungry lions. He seemed to be more than human. The
Soldan resolved not to try to kill him. He would keep
him a prisoner, walled up and bound, till he died.
So St. George was loaded with chains again and thrust
into his cell. The very doors were closed with iron
bars, and only a little shutter left, through which his
food was pushed every day. He gave himself up to misery
and almost to despair, and took little thought of
escape. Not days, but months, passed before he looked
again upon the sun and the faces of men.