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The Seven Champions Of Christendom by W. H. G. Kingston


Seven times had frosty-bearded winter covered the ground with snow, and behung the trees with crystal icicles, since the Champion Saint George, and the faithful De Fistycuff, lay groaning in their far-off dungeon in Egypt, for having ventured to assert that crocodiles, and apes, and snakes, were not fit objects of reverence.

One day, as by chance the Knight was wringing his hands, in despair of ever getting free, he chanced to rub in a peculiar manner the magic ring which the Fairy Sabrina had given him. A bright light was forthwith emitted from it, which increased and increased till it filled the chamber, and from the midst of it appeared the Fairy herself, in her chariot drawn by ten peacocks.

|Gallant Knight, why did you not summon me before?| she asked, in her sweet voice; and Saint George had to confess, with shame, that he had forgotten all about the power of the magic ring.

|I cannot free you from this prison by magic power; but I will give you tools with which you may free yourselves, and then you will set more value on your liberty than if you had gained it without toil. I never afford aid to any who are not ready to labour for themselves.|

The Fairy having thus spoken, supplied the Knight and his Squire with hammers, chisels, spades, mattocks, and crowbars.

|Your steeds and weapons you will find ready outside the gates,| added the Fairy. |When once more prepared for battle, go forth, and conquer.|

The Knight and De Fistycuff felt their strength and spirits wonderfully improved at these words, and already they fancied themselves scouring over the plain in pursuit of a thousand flying foes.

|But is there no gallant achievement, no heroic deed, which you would desire me to perform, as a mark of my gratitude?| asked Saint George, after he had duly thanked the Fairy for the aid she had wrought him.

|Well spoken,| answered the Fairy; |yes, there languishes, even now, a brother knight, one for whose country I have a fond regard, Saint David, of Wales, in the gloomy castle of the Magician Ormandine, on the borders of Tartary. Go and free him. From trusting entirely to his own strength, and not seeking rightly for all other aids, he failed in what he undertook to accomplish. A magic sword, by which alone the Magician can be conquered, is held in a rock near his castle. No human strength can pull it out; but take this flask of oil, pour it into the rock, and, waiting patiently, you will find the sword easily come forth.|

The Knight promised to obey the Fairy's directions; and she having disappeared, he and De Fistycuff set to work so manfully, although not accustomed to handle such tools, that in a few days they hewed themselves a subterranean passage beneath the walls of the city. Through iron plates, and thick walls, and granite rocks, and mud, and sand, they worked, the last, like slippery people, giving them the greatest difficulty to deal with. At length the sky appeared; and there, at the mouth of the cave out of which they emerged, stood their steeds, held by two dwarfs of ugly aspect, who presented them with their spears, and swords, and other weapons.

No sooner were they mounted, and Saint George was about, to reward the dwarfs, than he found that they had disappeared.

Accordingly, they set off, as fast as Bayard and the Squire's steed could carry them, along the neck of land which joins Africa to Asia, and then galloped rapidly northward. In wonderful condition were the horses, while the pure, fresh air their riders breathed, after their long imprisonment, added fresh vigour to their limbs, and courage to their hearts.

Many adventures, which cannot here be recorded, were met with; and at length they reached the magic forest which surrounded the castle of the fell Enchanter. They witnessed the same terrific sights, and heard the same sounds as did Saint David and the faithful Owen; but, equally dauntless, they clove their onward way through brake and briar, in spite of the hissing of serpents and hooting of owls, groans and shrieks, and other similar sounds, to which they were pretty well accustomed by this time, till they reached the Magician's castle.

There, in the rock, they beheld the hilt of the magic sword. De Fistycuff was about to seize hold of it at once; but Saint George warned him to desist till he wisely had obeyed the Fairy's directions, and poured the oil upon the rock.

Slowly it trickled down through many a crevice, when the Knight, waiting patiently for the oil to take effect, grasped the sword with his left hand, while he kept his own falchion ready to use in the right.

|Who knows but the Magician may come forth to attack me before I have freed the sword?| he observed to his Squire. Gradually, but surely, the sword yielded to his unwearied and long-sustained efforts. While still drawing it forth, a terrific uproar was heard within the castle; the ground shook, trembled violently, rocking to and fro, and flames darted forth from the rock; but the Knight held fast the weapon.

Suddenly the brazen gates of the castle burst open, and there issued forth the Necromancer Ormandine, arrayed in all the terrors with which he could clothe himself. His helmet had a fiery plume, hissing snakes were writhing about his casque and shoulders, his armour seemed of red-hot metal. A hooting owl of hideous aspect sat on his shoulder, while he brandished an iron club covered with spikes, like his armour, red-hot. He made directly at Saint George; but Ascalon was in the Knight's grasp, and wielding it, as he well knew how, he kept the Magician at bay, while he tugged more vehemently than ever at the magic sword.

With a clap louder than that of any thunder, it came at length forth from the rock, and taking it in his right hand he with it furiously assailed the Magician, who no sooner felt its keen edge than his club fell from his nerveless grasp, the owl flew hooting away, the serpents crawled hissing off, and the once-powerful Magician fell humbly on his knees and craved for mercy.

Saint George, telling De Fistycuff to guard him, entered the castle, where, on iron beds, he found, bound with chains, his friend and comrade Saint David, and the faithful Owen, groaning, and sighing, and mourning their hard fate. Cutting the chains, with as much ease as if they had been cords of silk, with the magic sword, he set them, to their great joy, on their legs, when, with a profusion of words, they poured out their expressions of gratitude.

Saint David then told Saint George of his vow to the Emperor of Tartary; when the English Knight informed him that the Enchanter was in his power, but that he was unwilling to take his life.

|But, behold the signs of his cruelty!| said Saint David, pointing out to Saint George the other nine hundred and ninety-eight iron beds in the hall. |There lie bound many other noble knights and squires who for many long years have been prevented from engaging in any deeds of heroism. Think how many victories they might have won; how many captive knights released; how many forlorn maidens rescued from durance vile; how many other noble deeds they might have done!|

This speech so completely changed Saint George's view of things, that he told Saint David he would hand over the Magician to him. Then the Champion of Wales went forth from the castle, and with one blow of his sword cut off Ormandine's hideous head, and sticking it on a pole, which he delivered to the faithful Owen to carry, informed his brother Champion that he was ready forthwith to depart for the court of the Emperor of Tartary.

The other nine hundred and ninety-eight gallant knights and squires, released by the courage and wisdom of Saint George, having expressed a strong desire to follow his fortunes, he undertook to lead them round the world in search of adventures worthy of their prowess. Saint David, also, promised, when he had fulfilled his vow to the Emperor of Tartary, to search him out and aid him.

Often had the noble Champion of England thought of the lovely Sabra, but knew not where she was. At length, with his army of valiant knights and trusty squires, having reached the kingdom of Bagabornabou, he, on inquiring for her, heard, with dismay, that she had been carried off a prisoner by Almidor, the black King of Morocco, and had ever since been pining in a dungeon.

Calling his knights around him, he told them of the occurrence, and with loud shouts, waving on high their swords, they promised to accompany him to rescue her, or to die in the attempt. Setting off forthwith, they reached the dominions of the black King; when Saint George, disguising himself as a humble palmer, entered the city, followed by De Fistycuff, in the same habit, to ascertain in what vile dungeon the lovely Sabra was shut up.

In vain he wandered up and down, whispering her name, and inquiring of all he met, till, at length, he saw a beautiful white dove fly upward from a hole in the ground beneath the massive wall of a huge castle. Catching the dove, he wrote on a slip of parchment, which he placed under its wing, |Saint George of England has come to Sabra's rescue. Tell me if you are here!|

Soon the dove, having entered the hole, returned to the Knight, when he discovered, under its wing, on the same parchment: |I, the hapless Sabra, am here; oh, free me, and receive a maiden's grateful love!| Instantly returning to his knights, and throwing off his palmer garments, Saint George led them to the assault.

On every side the castle-walls were stormed. Some climbed up ladders, some over each other's backs, with such desperate valour, that the Moorish soldiers gave way on every side; till Almidor, hearing the turmoil and loud shouts of war, rushed to the battlements. Then ensued a fight most desperate between the noble Champion of England and the black King, in which the latter would most assuredly have been slain had he not, like a recreant, turned his back and fled, among his followers, through a postern gate, which, happily for him, stood open, -- proudly asserting that he would return and fight another day.

Having thus victoriously taken possession of the Moorish castle, Saint George and all his knights and squires burst open all the doors and gates, and explored all the passages they could find, till they arrived at a gloomy vault. Within it was a little door. Saint George thundered at it with his battle-axe. It burst open; and there he beheld his lovely and beloved Sabra, her beauty dimmed, but not extinguished, by her long imprisonment.

Saint George and his knights having taken possession of the Moorish capital, he held a grand banquet in honour of the occasion, when a herald announced, in due form, that the British Champion was about to wed the lovely African Princess. Thrice was the announcement made; and no one objecting, the fair Sabra, after all her misfortune, became, as her reward, the bride of the noblest Knight Europe, or the world, has ever known.

So enchanted were the Moors with the valour and courtesy of Saint George, that their chiefs, lords, and nobles, and the councillors of state, came in humble guise and proffered him the crown of their country; but he declared, with many expressions suitable to the occasion, that he had not yet won that renown for which his soul panted, and must decline the honour.

Having dismissed the nine hundred and ninety-eight knights and squires, whom he had rescued from the castle of Ormandine, with warm thanks for the assistance they had rendered him, and sincere wishes for their welfare, they all departed to their separate countries and homes, and such as were married to their wives and children, who had long been mourning their absence, and in most cases, though not in all, wishing for their return; Saint George and his beautiful bride, the enchanting Sabra, set out on their travels, through many unknown and strange lands, attended by the faithful De Fistycuff, whose wife would much rather that he had gone back to look after her and their children in England.

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