English Fairy Tales

Play Audio | Get the Book | Del.icio.us

After this St. George of Merrie England travelled far and travelled fast, with many adventures by the way, to Egypt where he had left his beloved Princess Sabia. But, learning to his great grief and horror from the same hermit he had met on first landing, that, despite her denials, her father, King Ptolemy, had consented to Almidor the black King of Morocco carrying her off as one of his many wives, he turned his steps towards Tripoli, the capital of Morocco; for he was determined at all costs to gain a sight of the dear Princess from whom he had been so cruelly rent.

To this end he borrowed an old cloak of the hermit, and, disguised as a beggar, gained admittance to the gate of the Women's Palace, where were gathered together on their knees many others, poor, frail, infirm.

And when he asked them wherefore they knelt, they answered:

"Because good Queen Sabia succours us that we may pray for the safety of St. George of England, to whom she gave her heart."

Now when St. George heard this his own heart was like to break for very joy, and he could scarce keep on his knees when, lovely as ever, but with her face pale and sad and wan from long distress, the Princess Sabia appeared clothed in deep mourning.

In silence she handed an alms to each beggar in turn; but when she came to St. George she started and laid her hand on her heart. Then she said softly:

"Rise up, Sir Beggar! Thou art too like one who rescued me from death, for it to be meet for thee to kneel before me!"

Then St. George rising, and bowing low, said quietly: "Peerless lady! Lo! I am that very knight to whom thou did'st condescend to give this."

And with this he slipped the diamond ring she had given him on her finger. But she looked not at it, but at him, with love in her eyes.

Then he told her of her father's base treachery and Almidor's part in it, so that her anger grew hot and she cried:

"Waste no more time in talk. I remain no longer in this detested place. Ere Almidor returns from hunting we shall have escaped."

[Illustration: When she came to St. George she started and laid her hand on her heart]

So she led St. George to the armoury, where he found his trusty sword Ascalon, and to the stable, where his swift steed Bayard stood ready caparisoned.

Then, when her brave Knight had mounted, and she, putting her foot on his, had leapt like a bird behind him, St. George touched the proud beast lightly with his spurs, and, like an arrow from a bow, Bayard carried them together over city and plain, through woods and forests, across rivers, and mountains, and valleys, until they reached the Land of Greece.

And here they found the whole country in festivity over the marriage of the King. Now amongst other entertainments was a grand tournament, the news of which had spread through the world. And to it had come all the other Six Champions of Christendom; so St. George arriving made the Seventh. And many of the champions had with them the fair lady they had rescued. St. Denys of France brought beautiful Eglantine, St. James of Spain sweet Celestine, while noble Rosalind accompanied St. Anthony of Italy. St. David of Wales, after his seven years' sleep, came full of eager desire for adventure. St. Patrick of Ireland, ever courteous, brought all the six Swan-princesses who, in gratitude, had been seeking their deliverer St. Andrew of Scotland; since he, leaving all worldly things, had chosen to fight for the faith.

So all these brave knights and fair ladies joined in the joyful jousting, and each of the Seven Champions was in turn Chief Challenger for a day.

Now in the midst of all the merriment appeared a hundred heralds from a hundred different parts of the Paynim world, declaring war to the death against all Christians.

Whereupon the Seven Champions agreed that each should return to his native land to place his dearest lady in safety, and gather together an army, and that six months later they should meet, and, joining as one legion, go forth to fight for Christendom.

Next Page