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


Saint Denis of France, like his brother Champions, much desired, after his long wanderings, to see once more the smiling fields of la belle France, and thus he, too, followed by the faithful Le Crapeau, turned his steps homeward. Time had not failed to leave its hoary marks on him, and his snowy locks and flowing beard showed full well that the winter of his life had at length overtaken him.

Still he kept his armour on, though his shrunken form often seemed to rattle within it; and the chill blasts, as they entered the crevices, blew round and round him, and made him often wish for his armchair, and dressing-gown, and slippers, as does many another elderly gentleman, who would be far wiser if he kept by his own fireside, instead of allowing himself to be dragged about the world, in search of a very doubtful sort of advantage or amusement for the younger branches of his family.

Saint Denis had not neglected in his travels to discover many things which he thought might be with advantage introduced into his native country. He taught the people how to cultivate the vine, and make chausse roads, though the latter were never very satisfactory. But many cunning arts and manufactures also he introduced from the far east, of which there is not space now to speak. The greatest benefit, however, he conferred on his countrymen was in instructing them in the important art of cookery. Fricassees and ragouts were by his means brought to great perfection, and, more than all, he instructed them how to dress frogs and snails, of which art they were before his time totally ignorant. Who could ever imagine that there was a time when Frenchmen knew nothing of that important part of the culinary art? Till Saint Denis, the hero of a hundred fights, aided by the faithful Le Crapeau, caught the frogs and cooked them, and, moreover, eat them, the ignorant Frenchmen could not believe that they were intended to be used as food.

But mark the ingratitude of a people -- the fickleness of a crowd. The great Saint Denis, who had fought so long, and upheld the name of France in so many strange lands, was accused by a recreant knight of heresy and of high treason, and of endeavouring to introduce bad and mischievous customs among the people.

Old as he was, although he had long laid aside his armour, the fire of his youth burned up within him, and he challenged his malignant accuser to mortal combat.

The Champion and the false knight met; but the latter, by the arts of a wicked enchanter, had come so prepared by talismans for the fight, that all the skill and courage of Saint Denis could not overthrow him.

Again and again the aged Champion charged with all the agility and courage of a young man, and few would have supposed that he who sat within that iron mask, and wielded that heavy lance, had seen near eighty winters pass over his hoary head. Once more he charged -- his lance was shivered, and he was borne helpless to the ground.

Then were the evil designs of his fell enemy victorious. He was condemned to death. No rescue came, and he was led, yet habited in his armour, to the block. With a courageous look he lay down his head; but scarcely had the axe of the cruel executioner fallen upon it, than a fearful tempest burst forth. The headsman, the recreant knight, and all who had assisted willingly at the execution, were struck to the ground, becoming black masses of cinder, by a flash of fearful lightning; and then the people learned and acknowledged that right and justice were on the Champion's side.

Monuments were built and churches erected to his memory, and he was ever after reverenced as the Patron Saint of France and of all Frenchmen.

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