The last Champion who appears in this wondrous, strange, and eventful history, is the great Saint George.
Towards the fair land of his birth, right Merrie England, he, too, when he found age creeping on him, resolved to turn his steps. Still lance in hand, and clad in steel, his brave lion heart yet undaunted, with the faithful De Fistycuff by his side, he at length homeward set his eyes. His faithful chronicler relates numberless adventures he met with, scarcely less marvellous than those he encountered in his youth. Many a hard blow he got, which he still was able to return with interest, ably seconded by De Fistycuff, though, it must be confessed, his Squire had grown somewhat obese and unwieldy.
At length, the chalky cliffs of Britain, which for twice twelve years the noble Champion had never seen, came in sight. Joyful to him was the prospect; more joyful still the towns and villages, the pleasant aspect of the fields, and the green waving woods, as he travelled on towards Coventry. There, with warm greetings, the inhabitants of high and low degree received him.
Sadness, however, he saw on the countenances of many; and this was owing, as the veracious chronicler, from whose erudite work this history is drawn, informs us, to |a doleful report -- how, upon Dunmore Heath, there raged up and down an infectious dragon, that so annoyed the country that the inhabitants thereabouts could not pass by without great danger; how that fifteen knights of the kingdom had already lost their lives in adventuring to suppress the same.|
Saint George no sooner heard thereof, and what wrongs his country received by this infectious dragon, than he purposed to put the adventure to trial, and either to free the land from so great a danger, or to finish his days in the attempt. So, taking leave of all present, he rode forward with as noble a spirit as he did in Africa, when he combated the mighty green dragon.
So, coming to the middle of the plain, he there saw his dreadful enemy, crouching on the ground in a deep cave. The monster, by a strange instinct knowing that his death drew nigh, made such a hideous yelling, that it seemed as if the sky was bursting with thunder, and the earth rocking with an earthquake. Then, bounding forth from his den, and espying the aged Champion, he ran with a fury so great against him as if he would devour both knight and steed, armour and all, in a moment. But the brave Saint George, knowing well how to deal with dragons, and all such-like monsters, quickly wheeled his horse out of his way, and with such force did the monster rush on that he drove his sting full three feet into the ground. Returning again, however, with furious rage, he made at the Knight, and would have carried both him and his charger to the ground, but that Saint George, thrusting his spear at his throat, the monster, to avoid it, threw himself back, and fell happily over, with his back on the turf and his feet in the air, wriggling about all the time his long forked tail. Whereat the noble Champion taking advantage, leaped from his horse, and, throwing down his sword, seized him in his arms before he could rise, and pressed his huge body so tightly in his arms, and held him there, that he squeezed the very life out of him; but alas! the dragon's sting annoyed the good Knight in such sort, that the dragon being no sooner slain and weltering in his venomous gore, than Saint George likewise took his death's wound by the deep strokes of the dragon's sting, which he received in divers parts of his body, and bled in such abundance that his strength began to enfeeble and grow weak: yet, retaining his true nobleness of mind, he valiantly returned victor to the city of Coventry, where all the inhabitants stood without the gates to receive him in great royalty, and to give him the honour that belonged to so worthy a conqueror.
No sooner, alas! had the brave old Knight arrived before the city, and presented the people with the head of the dragon which had so long annoyed the country, which was borne before him by the trusty old De Fistycuff, than, what with the abundance of blood that issued from his deep wounds, and the long bleeding without stopping of the same, he sunk back into the arms of his faithful Squire, and, without a sigh, he yielded up his breath. Great was the moan that was made for him throughout the country, and all in the land, from the King to the shepherd, mourned him for the space of a month. The King also, in remembrance of him, ordained for ever after to be kept a solemn procession by all the princes and chief nobility of the country upon the twenty-third day of April, naming it Saint George's Day; on which day the brave old Knight was most solemnly interred in the city where he was born. The King likewise decreed, by the consent of the whole kingdom, that the patron of the land should be named Saint George our Christian Champion, in that he had fought so many battles to the honour of Christendom.
Thus ends the ancient, authentic, and most credible chronicle from which I have quoted.
There are many other documents extant, giving accounts of the exploits of Saint George's three sons, and of the sons of some of the other Champions of Christendom; but as I do not consider that they emanated from sources so reliable and unexceptionable as those chronicles from which I have quoted, I have not thought it advisable to introduce them in the present veracious narrative.