Numberless were the strange adventures in which the gallant Champions of Christendom were engaged, and numberless the noble deeds they performed; of the greater number of which this history, by stern necessity, must be silent, and many of which can be but briefly described.
For many years Saint George had travelled up and down the world, the faithful De Fistycuff by his side, nor had news of them been received in England. His three noble sons had now grown to man's estate, and had received the honour of knighthood from their Sovereign. When, as they were visiting one night their mother's tomb, her spirit, in the gentle form she wore on earth, rose from out of it before their enravished eyes, and counselled them, as they loved their honoured father's memory, to go and search him out, and bring him back in safety to his native land. Thus having spoken, with a sweet smile, she vanished from their sight.
Well furnished, they set off from England. Scarcely had they travelled far through Normandy, than, as they were passing through a wood, a loud shriek assailed their ears. Charging amid the trees, they beheld a lovely damsel in the hands of a dozen armed men; fierce pirates, from their dress and weapons, they appeared. With the war-cry of their father's name, they rushed on the marauders, and, as none would yield, they slew them all, and then loosed the lady and her attendants, whom the pirates had bound to the surrounding trees.
With grateful words and tears, which chased each other down her cheeks of lily white, she told them that she was the daughter of a Duke, whose castle was hard by. Then the three young Knights were sumptuously entertained and pressed by the Duke to stay; but mindful of their duty, they speedily set forth again to search out their father.
They journeyed on for many days, through countries where no houses or habitations were to be found; they rested, therefore, at night in the woods or on the open downs, having only the starry firmament for their canopy. Thus sweetly reposing on their mother earth, they slept as soundly as if they had rested on beds of feathers, and had been surrounded with curtains of the purest Arabian silk.
One night they had been sleeping securely, until such time as Aurora began to gild the firmament with her bright rays, and to usher in Phoebus's golden light, when suddenly a terrific noise, which seemed to arise from some deep abyss, and to be about to rend the rocks asunder, assailed their ears.
Awaking, they leaped to their feet, and buckling on their armour, stood on their guard. High time it was for them so to do; had they slept but another minute sad would have been their fate. As they gazed around, to discover whence the noise could have proceeded, they saw coming towards them a most hideous monster, of excessive size and terrible shape. His eyes were like burning saucers, so round and large were they; his mouth was like that of some huge bird of prey, and his front claws were like those of eagles, but infinitely larger and sharper; he had ears like a fox, with a scaly breast, and wings like a bird; but his body was shaggy, and his hinder feet were like those of a lion.
Again and again he roared most terrifically, and as he moved along his head reached high up among the boughs of the tallest trees. Their three horses, as he drew near, snorted and stamped on the earth, rearing up with terror, and almost broke from the ropes which secured them, for the young knights, disdaining to fly as they might have done, had kept on foot. They felt, also, how perfectly and completely they could trust each other, and thus they stood, fearless of the coming danger.
The monster, with loud cries, spreading out his wings, and lifting up his terrible talons, rushed towards them. Side by side, at a little distance apart, they stood ready to receive him. He ran at the centre one, who, stepping back a pace, made a furious cut at him with his sword, while the other two assailed him on either side. Quick as hail fell their blows on his hard side, but, hard and tough as was his skin, their sharp swords soon found entrance, and the blood of the monster began to flow in torrents, rising quickly over their feet, for they fought in a valley from whence there was no means for it to escape; blood not being able of itself to run up hill in any way more easily than water, which cannot do it at all. The young Knights thus saw that if they desired to escape drowning, they must finish the combat without further delay; the odour of the monster was excessively disagreeable to their olfactory nerves, being like the essence of ten thousand pole-cats, weasels, skunks, ferrets, and similar vermin.
Now they plied their blows more furiously than ever, till at length Sir Guy, the eldest, plunged his weapon into the monster's scaly breast, and roars of pain and rage, louder than that which ten thousand elephants, lions, and donkeys united could make, were sent forth by the terrific brute, who threw himself headlong on the gallant knights; but they nimbly skipped out of the way; and, as his face lay submerged in his own blood, they again thrust their swords into his back and sides, while thousands of bubbles, floating up from the surface of the pool of Wood, showed that, at length, he had breathed out his hideous life.
The Knights, having ascertained that he was dead, retired from the field; the neighbourhood of which soon became unbearable, from the horrid odour which proceeded from it. Having thus washed away all the stains of the combat, in a neighbouring stream, for they were all three very nice young men, and hated to be more dirty than was necessary, they proceeded on their journey.
Time will not allow me to dwell long on their subsequent adventures.
As they journeyed on, faint and weary, and sadly wanting refreshment, they met a herald loudly proclaiming, on his brazen horn, the greatest rewards to whoever would slay the Monster Pongo, who was ravaging the country.
They stopped him and told him that they had slain the monster. On this, after they had shown him where the brute lay, the herald conducted them to the Court of the King, who received them with unbounded joy, and loaded them with honours.
Now it had happened, that, while the Monster Pongo was ravaging the country, and the King and all his Court, and ministers, and generals, and his army were distracted and entirely beside themselves, a band of pirates, led by a noted chief, had landed on their shores, and carried off the fair and young daughter of the King, the Princess Urania.
No sooner did the young Knights hear the tale, than they offered to go in search of her, as a work worthy of their arms. In a stout vessel, rowed by sturdy men, they set forth. Many tempests they met with, and much were they tossed about by the waves. Little did they think at the time that their honoured sire and his six friends, the other Champions of Christendom, were likewise making a long voyage, and were the sport of the winds and waves; the only powers, indeed, which could make sport of such doughty Knights. Weeks had passed away, and still they were ploughing the waves, and wishing that Britannia, when she was about it, had ruled them straighter, when they perceived, at a distance, several vessels.
They made towards them. A desperate combat was taking place, and fierce pirates, with burning torches in their hands, were endeavouring to set fire to the barks of their opponents.
On the deck of one of them, yet at a little distance, who should they behold but two of the great Champions of Christendom, their honoured father, Saint George, and his dear friend, Saint Andrew, standing calm and undismayed, waiting the time for their vessel to approach near enough to take part in the combat. As they guessed, rightly, the rest of the Champions lay on their couches below, overcome by the power of the sea, wishing themselves safe on dry land again, and caring very little whether they then and there went to the bottom.
Instantly the three young Knights, urging on their bark, threw themselves on the pirates, whom, after a desperate combat, they compelled to surrender; many having leaped overboard, and others having been slain. One of the pirate vessels was almost in a sinking state. A cry proceeded from her hold; it was that of a female in distress.
The young Knights rushed on board, when, ere the vessel sank, they drew forth a young and lovely damsel, and carried her in safety to their own bark. A few words sufficed to tell them that she was no other than the Princess Urania, of whom they were in search.
Saint George was highly delighted with the prowess of his sons, and he and his friends accompanied them to the Court of Urania's father, where they were all, as might have been expected, sumptuously entertained.
From thence they again set forth in search of fresh adventures, which were no less wonderful than those I have already narrated, but which require a longer pen than mine to tell.