The Reluctant Dragon

The Reluctant Dragon” explores the themes of bullying, self-confidence, and self-esteem with a positive, empowering message.

The Reluctant Dragon 

Long ago might have been hundreds of years ago in a cottage halfway between a little

English village and the shoulder of the downs a shepherd lived with his wife and their

little son, now the Shepherd spent his days and at certain times of the year his

Knights – upon the wide ocean bosom of the downs with only the Sun and the stars

and the sheep for company, and the friendly chattering world of men and women far

out of sight and hearing, but his little son when he wasn’t helping his father and often

when he was as well spent much of his time buried him big volumes that he borrowed

from the affable gentry and interested persons of the country roundabout, and his

parents were very fond of him and rather proud of him too though they didn’t let on

in his hearing so he was left to go his own way and read as much as he liked,

and instead of frequently getting a cuff on the side of the head -as might very well

have happened to him- he was treated more or less as an equal by his parents who

sensibly thought at a very fair division of labor that they should supply the practical

knowledge and he the book-learning.

They knew that book learning often came in useful and a pinch despite what their

neighbors said what the Boy chiefly dabbled in was natural history and fairy tales

and he just took them as they came in a sandwich his sort of way without making

any distinctions and really his course of reading strikes one as rather sensible.

One evening the Shepherd who for some nights past had been disturbed and

preoccupied and off his usual mental balance came home all of a tremble and

sitting down at the table where his wife and son were peacefully employed, she with

her seems he is following out the Adventures of the Giant with no heart in his body

exclaimed with much agitationIt’s all up with me Maria, never no more can I go up on

they their downs were it ever so”,

“Now don’t you take on like that,” said his wife, it was a very sensible woman,

“But tell us all about it first whatever it says has given you this shakeup,

and then I and you and the son here between us we ought to be able to get

to the bottom of it.”

“It began some nights ago,” said the shepherd “You know that cave up there, I’d never

liked it somehow and the Sheikh never liked it either, and when she doesn’t like

a thing there’s Jimmy some reason for it, well for some time past there’s been faint

noises coming from that cave, noises like heavy signs with grunts mixed up in them

and sometimes a snoring faraway down, real snoring hit somehow not honest

snoring like you and Mia nights you know”

“I know,” remarked the boy quietly

“Of course, I was terribly frightened” the shepherd went onit somehow I couldn’t

keep away, so this very evening before I come down, I took a cast around by

the cave quietly and there, Oh Lord there I saw at last as plain as I see you”

“saw who?” said his wife beginning to share in her husband’s nervous terror,

“why him, I‘m telling you,” said the shepherd “he was halfway sticking out of the cave

and seemed to be enjoying the cool of the evening, in a political sort of way he was

as big as four cart-horses and all covered with shiny scales, deep blue scales,

at the top of him, shading off to a tender sort of green below, as he breathed there

was that sort of flicker over his nostrils that you see over our chalk roads on a baking

windless day in summer, he had his chin on his paws, and I should say he was

meditating about things, oh yes a peaceful sort of beast enough and not ramping

or carrying on or doing anything but what was quite right and proper, I admit all that

and yet what am I to do, scales you know, ink and claws and a tail for certain,

though I didn’t see that end of him, I ain’t used to him and I don’t hold with him

and that’s a fact”.

The boy who had apparently been absorbed in his book during his father’s recital,

now closed the volume yond, clasped his hands behind his head, and said sleepily

“It’s alright Father, don’t you worry, it’s only a dragon”

“Only just dragon!!!” cried his fatherWhat do you mean sitting there you and your

dragons, only a dragon indeed!! and what do you know about it?”

“Cause it is and cause I do know” replied the boy quietly “Look here father, you know

we’ve each of us got our line, you know about sheep and weather and things,

I know about dragons, I always said, you know, that that cave up there was a dragon

cave, I always said it must have belonged to a dragon sometime and ought to

belong to a dragon now if rules count for anything, well now you tell me it has got a

dragon and so that’s all right, I’m not half as much surprised as when you told me

it hadn’t got a dragon, rules always come out right if you wait quietly, now please just

leave this all to me I’ll stroll up tomorrow morning, no in the morning I can’t I’ve got

a whole heap of things to do, well perhaps in the evening if I’m quite free I’ll go up

and have a talk with him and you’ll find it’ll be all right, only please don’t you go

worrying around there without me, you don’t understand them a bit and they‘re

very sensitive if you know”

“He’s a quite right father, “said the sensible mother “As he says dragons is his line in,

not ours he’s wonderful knowing about book beasts as every one allows, and to tell

the truth, I’m not half happy, in my own mind thinking of that poor animal lying alone

up there without a bit of hot supper or anyone to change the news with, and maybe

we’ll be able to do something for him and if he ain’t quite respectable our boil find

it out quick enough, he’s got a pleasant sort away with him that makes everybody

tell him everything”

The next day after he’d had his tea the boys strolled up the chalky track that led

to the summit of the downs and there, sure enough, he found the dragon stretched

lazily on the sward in front of his cave, the view from that point was a magnificent one,

to the right and left the bare and billowy leagues of downs, in front the Vale with its

clustered homesteads its threads of white roads running through orchards

and well-tilled acreage, and far away from a hint of grey old cities on the horizon,

a cool breeze played over the surface of the grass and the silver shoulder

of a large moon was showing above distant junipers, no wonder the dragon seemed

in a peaceful and contented mood, indeed as the boy approached he could hear the

beasts purring with happy regularity.

“well we live and learn,” he said to himself “None of my books ever told me that

dragons purred”.

“Hello dragon,” said the boy quietly when he got up to him the dragon on hearing

the approaching footsteps made the beginning of a courteous effort to rise,

but when he saw it was a boy he set his eyebrows severely

“How don’t you hit me,” he said “or bung stones or squirt water or anything, I won’t

have it I tell you.”

“Not going to hit you,” said the boy wearily dropping on the grass beside the Beast

the reluctant dragon story

“and don’t forget to keep on saying don’t, I hear so much of it and it’s monotonous,

it makes me tired, I’ve simply looked into asking how you were and all that sort

of thing, but if I’m in the way I can easily clear out, I’ve lots of friends and no one

can say I’m in the habit of shoving myself in where I’m not wanted”

“No, no don’t go off in a huff,” said the dragon hastily “the fact is I’m as happy up here

as ever, never without an occupation dear fellow never without an occupation, and yet

between ourselves, it is a trifle dull at times”

The boy bit off a stalk of grass and chewed it “Going to make a long stay here?”

he asked politely,

“can hardly say at present” replied the dragon “It seems a nice enough place but I’ve

only been here a short time and one must look about and reflect and consider before

settling down, it’s rather a serious thing settling down, besides now I’m going to tell

you something, you’d never guess it if you tried ever so, the fact is I’m such

a confoundedly lazy beggar”

“You surprised me,” said the boys civilly.

“it’s a sad truth” the dragon went on settling down between his paws and

evidently delighted to have found a listener at last “and I fancy that’s really how I came

to be here, you see all the other fellows were so active and earnest and all that kind

of thing always rampaging in skirmishing and scouring the desert sands and pacing

the margin of the sea, chasing nights all over the place, and devouring damsels

and going on generally, whereas I like to get my meals regularly and then prop my

back against a bit of rock and snooze a bit and wake up and think of things going on

and how they kept going on just the same you know, so when it happened I got fairly


“When what happened please?” asked the boy.

“That’s just what I don’t precisely know,” said the dragonI suppose the earth sneezed

or shook itself or the bottom dropped out of something, anyhow there was a shake

and a roar and general strum of ash and I found myself miles away underground

and wedged in his tight is tight, well thank goodness my wants are few and at any

rate, I had peace and quietness and wasn’t always asked to come along

and do something, and I’ve got such an active mind always occupied I assure you,

but as time went on, there was a certain sameness about life, and at last, I began

to think it would be fun to work my way upstairs and see what you other fellows

were doing, so I scratched him borrowed and worked this way and that way and

at last, I came out through this cave here, and I liked the country and the view

and the people that I’ve seen of them and on the whole, I feel inclined to settle

down here”

“What is your mind always occupied about?” asked the boyThat’s what I want to know”

The dragon colored slightly and looked away, presently he said bashfully “Did you

ever… just for fun try to make up poetry verses you know?!”

“Course I have,” said the boy “Heaps of it, and some of it’s quite good I feel, sure only

there’s no one here who cares about it, Mother’s very kind and all that when I read it to her

and so’s the father for that matter, but somehow they don’t seem to..”

“Exactly” cried the dragon “My own case exactly, they don’t seem to, and you can’t

argue with him about it now you’ve got culture you have I could tell it on you at once,

and I should just like your candid opinion about some little things I threw off lightly

when I was down there, I’m awfully pleased to have met you and I’m hoping the other

neighbors will be equally agreeable, there was a very nice old gentleman up here only

last night but he didn’t seem to want to intrude”

“That was my father,” said the boy “and he is a nice old gentleman and I’ll introduce

you someday if you like”

“Can’t you two come up here and dine or something tomorrow?” asked the dragon

eagerly “Only of course if you’ve got nothing better to do” he added politely”

“Thanks awfully,” said the boy “but we don’t go out anywhere without my mother,

and to tell you the truth I’m afraid she might inquire approve of you, you see there’s

no getting over the hard fact that you’re a dragon is there, and when you talk of

settling down and the neighbors and so on, I can’t help feeling that you don’t

quite realize your position, you’re an enemy of the human race you see”

“haven’t got an enemy in the world,” said the dragon cheerfully “too lazy to make them

begin with, and if I do read other fellows my poetry I’m always ready to listen to theirs”

“Oh dear” cried the boy “I wish you try and grasp the situation properly, when the other

people find you out they’ll come after you with spears and swords and all sorts of

things, you’ll have to be exterminated according to their way of looking at it, you’re

a scourge and a pest and a baneful monster”

“Not a word of truth in it,” said the dragon wagging his head some Lee “character will

bear the strictest investigation, and now there’s a little sonnet thing I was working on

when you appeared on the scene”,

“Oh if you won’t be sensible” cried the boy getting up “I’m going off home, no I can’t

stop for Sunset, it’s my mother’s sitting up, I’ll look you up tomorrow sometime or

rather, and do for goodness sake try and realize that you’re a pestilential scourge

or you’ll find yourself in a most awful fix, good night”, the boy founded an easy matter

to set the mind of his parents at ease about his new friend, they had always left that

branch to him and they took his word without a murmur.

The Shepherd was formally introduced and many compliments and Quine inquiries

were exchanged his wife, however, though expressing her willingness to do anything

she could mend things or set the cave to rights or cook a little something when

the dragon had been poring over sonnets and forgotten his meals as male things will

do, could not be brought to recognize him formally, the fact that he was a dragon

and they didn’t know who he was seemed to count for everything with her, she made

no objection however to her little son spending his evenings for the dragon quietly,

so long as he was home by nine o’clock and many a pleasant night they had sitting

on the sward while the dragon told stories of old old times when dragons were quite

plentiful and the world was a livelier place than it is now, and life was full of thrills

and jumps and surprises.

What the boy had feared however soon came to pass, the most modest and retiring

dragon in the world if he’s as big as four cart-horses and covered with blue scales

cannot keep altogether out of the public view, and so in the village tavern of knights,

the fact that a real live dragon said brooding in the cave on the Downs was naturally

a subject for talk, though the villagers were extremely frightened they were rather

proud as well, it was a distinction to have a dragon of your own and it was felt to be

a feather in the cap of the village, still all were agreed that this sort of thing couldn’t be

allowed to go on, the dreadful Beast must be exterminated, the country-side must be

freed from this pest, this terror, this destroying scourge.

The fact that not even a hen-roost was the worst for the Dragons arrival wasn’t

allowed to have anything to do with it, he was a dragon and he couldn’t deny it

and if he didn’t choose to behave as such that was his own lookout.

But in spite of much valiant talk, no hero was found willing to take sword and spear

and free the suffering village and wind deathless Fame,

and each night’s heated discussion always ended in nothing.

Meanwhile the dragon, a happy bohemian lolled on the turf, enjoyed the sunsets

told antediluvian anecdotes to the boy and polished his old verses while meditating

on fresh ones.

One day the boy on walking into the village found everything wearing

a festive appearance which was not to be accounted for in the calendar, carpets,

and gay colored stuff was hung out of the windows, the church bells clambered

noisily, the little Street was lower-strewn and the whole population jostle to each

other along either side of it chattering shoving and ordering each other to stand back,

the boy saw a friend of his own age in the crowd and hailed him

“what’s up?” he cried “is that the players or beers or circus or what?”

“It’s all right” his friend hailed backhe’s a-common”,

“Who was that coming?” demanded the boy thrusting into the throng,

“why st. George of course” replied his friendhe’s heard tell of our dragon

and he’s coming on purpose to slay the deadly beast and free us from his horrid yoke,

home hi won’t that be a jolly fight”,

here was news indeed, the boy felt that he ought to make quite sure for himself

and he wriggled himself in between the legs of his good nature elders abusing

them all the time for their unmannerly habit of shoving, once in the front rank he

breathlessly awaited the arrival, presently from the Far Away end of the line came

the sound of cheering, next to the measurement of a great warhorse, made his

heartbeat quicker, and then he found himself cheering with the rest as admitted

welcoming shouts, shrill cries of women, uplifting of babies, and waving

of handkerchiefs, st. George paced slowly up the street, the boy’s heart Stood Still

and he breathed with sobs, the beauty and the grace of the hero were so far beyond

anything he had yet seen, his fluted armor was inlaid with gold, his plumed helmet

hung at his saddlebow, and his thick fair hair framed a face gracious and gentle

beyond expression till you caught the sternness in his eyes, he drew rein in front of

the little Inn and the villagers crowded around with greetings and thanks and voluble

statements of their wrongs and grievances and oppressions.

well now and that he would stand by them, and see them righted, and free them from

their foe, then he dismounted and passed through the doorway, and the crowd

poured in after him, but the boy made off up the hill as fast as he could lay his legs to

the ground.

“It’s all up dragon” he shot it as soon as he was within sight of the Beasthe’s coming,

he’s here now, you’ll have to pull yourself together and do something at last”,

the dragon was licking his scales and rubbing them with a bit of house flannel

the boy’s mother had lent him till he shone like a great turquoise

“Don’t be a violent boy” he said without looking around “sit down and get your breath

and try and remember that the noun governs the verb and then perhaps you’ll be good

enough to tell me who’s coming”

“That’s right take it coolly,” said the boy “hope you’ll be half as cool when I got through

with my news, it’s only st. George who’s coming, that’s all, he wrote into the village

half an hour ago, of course, you can lick him, a great big fellow like you but I thought

I’d warn you coz he’s sure to be round early and he’s got the longest wickedest looking

spear you ever did see”,

and the boy got up and began to jump around and sheer delight at the prospect

of the battle,

“Oh, Deary Deary me” moan the dragon “this is too awful, I won’t see him and that’s

flat, I don’t want to know the fellow at all, I’m sure he’s not nice, you must tell him

to go away at once please, say he can write if he likes but I can’t give him an interview

I’m not seeing anybody at present”,

“Now dragon, dragon,” said the boy imploringly “don’t be perverse and wrongheaded

you’ve got to fight him some time or other you know cause he’s st. George and you’re

the dragon, better get it over, and then we can go on with the sonnets and you ought

to consider other people a little too if it’s been dull up here for you think how dull it’s

been for me!!”

“My dear little man,” said the dragon solemnly “just understand once for all that I can’t

fight and I won’t fight, I’ve never fought in my life and I’m not going to begin now just

to give you a Roman holiday, in old days I always let the other fellows, the earnest

fellows do all the fighting and no doubt that’s why I have the pleasure of being here


“But if you don’t fight he’ll cut your head off” gasps the boy miserable at the prospect

of losing both the fight and his friend,

“Oh I think not,” said the dragon in his lazy way “you’ll be able to arrange something,

I’ve every confidence in you you’re such a .. manager, just run down there’s a dear

chap and make it alright, I leave it entirely to you”

The boy made his way back to the village in a state of great despondency, first of all,

there wasn’t going to be any fight, next to his dear and honored friend the dragon

hadn’t shown up in quite such a heroic light as he would have liked, and lastly,

whether the dragon was a hero at heart or not it made no difference for st. George

would most undoubtedly cut his head off.

“Arrang things indeed,” he said bitterly to himself “the dragon treats the whole affair

as if it were an invitation to tea in croquet”,

the villagers were straggling homewards as he passed up the street, all of them

in the highest spirits and gleefully discussing the splendid fight that was in store,

the boy pursued his way to the end and passed into the principal chamber where

st. George now sat alone, musing over the chances of the fight and the sad stories

of raping and of wrong that had so lately been poured into his sympathetic Years.

“May I come in st. George” said the boy politely as he paused at the door “I want to

talk to you about this little matter of the dragon if you’re not tired of it by this time”,

“Yes come in boy,” said the Saint kindlyanother tale of misery and wrong I fear me,

is it a kind parent then of whom the tyrant has bereft you or some tender sister

or brother? well it shall soon be avenged”,

“Nothing of the sort,” said the boy “there’s a misunderstanding somewhere and I want

to put it right, the fact is, this is a good dragon”

“Exactly!!” said St. George smiling pleasantly “I quite understand, a good dragon,

believe me, I do not in the least regret that he is an adversary worthy of my Steel

and no feeble specimen of his noxious tribe”,

“But he’s not a noxious tribe” cried the boy distressed “oh dear, oh dear how stupid

men are when they get an idea into their heads, I tell you he’s a good dragon

and a friend of mine and tells me the most beautiful stories you ever heard, all about

old times and when he was little and he’s been so kind to mother, and mother would

do anything for him and father likes him too, the father doesn’t hold with art

and poetry much and always falls asleep when the dragon starts talking about style

but the fact is nobody can help to like him when once they know him, he’s so engaging

and so trustful and as simple as a child”,

“Sit down and draw your chair up,” said St. George “I like a fellow who sticks up for his

friends and I’m sure the dragon has his good points if he’s got a friend like you,

but that’s not the question, all this evening I’ve been listening with grief and anguish

unspeakable to tales of murder, theft and wrong rather to highly colored perhaps,

not always quite convincing but forming in the main a most serious role of crime,

history teaches us that the greatest freckles often possess all the domestic virtues

and I fear that your cultivated friend in spite of the qualities which had won and rightly

your regard has got to be speedily exterminated”.

“Oh you’ve been taking in all the yarns, those fellows have been telling you,” said

the boy impatiently “why our villagers are the biggest story-tellers in all the country

round, it’s a known fact your stranger in these parts or else you’d have heard it already,

all they want is fight, they’re the most awful beggars for getting up fights, it’s meat

and drinks to them, dogs bulls dragons anything so long as it’s a fight, why they’ve

got a poor innocent badger in the stable behind here at this moment they were going

to have some fun with him today but they’re saving him up now til your little affair is

over, and I have no doubt they’ve been telling you what a hero you are and how you

were bound to win in the cause of right injustice and so on, but let me tell you I came

down the street just now when they were betting 6 to 4 on the dragon freely”,

“6 to 4 on the dragon” murmured st. George sadly resting his cheek on his hand

this is an evil world and sometimes I begin to think that all the wickedness in it

is not entirely bottled up inside of Dragons, and yet may not this wily beast have

misled you as to his real character, in order that your good report of him may serve

as a cloak for his evil deeds, nay may there not be at this very moment some hapless

Prince’s immured within yonder gloomy cavern”,

the moment he had spoken st. George was sorry for what he had said the boy looks

so genuinely distressedI assure you st. George, he said earnestly “there’s nothing

of the sort and the cave at all, the dragon‘s a real gentleman every inch of him,

and I may say that no one would be more shocked then grieved than he would,

and hearing you talk in that…that loose way about matters on which he is very

strong views”,

“well perhaps I’ve been overcredulous,” said St. George, “perhaps I’ve misjudged

the animal but what are we to do here, here are the dragon and I almost face-to-face,

it’s supposed to be thirsting for each other’s blood, I don’t see any way out of it exactly,

what do you suggest, can’t you arrange things somehow?”

“that’s just what the dragon said” replied the boy rather nettled “really the way you two

seemed to leave everything to me!! I suppose you couldn’t be persuaded to go away

quietly, could you!!?”

“Impossible I fear,” said the saint “quite against the rules, you know that as well

as I do”,

“well then look here,” said the boy “it’s early yet, would you mind strolling up with me

and seeing the dragon and talking it over, it’s not far and any friend of mine will be

most welcome”,

“well it’s irregular,” said St. George rising “but really it seems about the most sensible thing to do,

you’re taking a lot of trouble on your friend’s account” he added

good-naturedly as they passed out through the door together “but cheer up

perhaps there won’t have to be a fight after all”,

“oh but I hope there will though” replied the little fellow wistfully.

                                           _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

“I’ve brought a friend to see you, dragon,” said the boy rather loud,

the dragon woke up with a start “I was just thinking about things,”

he said in his simple way “very pleased to make your acquaintance sir,

charming weather we’re having”,

“This is st. George” said the boy shortly “st. George let me introduce you to the dragon,

we’ve come up to talk things over quietly dragon, and now for goodness sake

do let us have a little straight common sense and come to some practical

businesslike arrangement for I’m sick of views and theories of life and personal

tendencies and all that sort of thing, I may perhaps add that my mother’s sitting up”,

“So glad to meet you st. George” began the dragon rather nervously “because you’ve

been a great traveler I hear, and I’ve always been rather a stay at home but I can show

you many antiquities many interesting features of our countryside if you’re stopping

here any time”,

“I think,” said St. George in his frank Pleasant way “that we’d really better take

the advice of our young friend here and try to come to some understanding on a

business footing about this little affair of ours, now don’t you think that after all

the simplest plan would be to just fight it out according to the rules and let the best

man wins, they’re betting on you I may tell you down in the village but I don’t mind that”

“oh yes do dragon,” said the boy delightedlyit’ll save such a lot of bother”,

“my young friend…you shut up,” said the dragon severely “believe me st. George”

he went on “there’s nobody in the world I’d sooner obliged than you and this young

gentleman here but the whole thing’s nonsense and conventionality and popular

thick-headedness, there’s absolutely nothing to fight about from beginning to end,

anyhow I’m not going to so that settles it”,

“But supposing I make you,” said St. George rather nettled,

“you can’t,” said the dragon triumphantly “I should only go into my cave and retire for

a time, down the hole I came up you’d soon get hardly sick of sitting outside

and waiting for me to come out and fight you and as soon as you’d really gone away

why come up again gaily for I tell you frankly I like this place and I’m gonna stay here”,

St. George gaze for a while on the fair landscape around them “but this would be

a beautiful place for a fight” he began again persuasivelythese great bears rolling

downs for the arena, and me and my golden armor showing up against your big blue

scaly coils, think what a picture it would make”,

“now you’re trying to get at me through my artistic sensibilities,” said the dragon

but it won’t work, not, but what it would make a very pretty picture as you say”

he added wavering a little,

“We seem to be getting rather nearer to business” put in the boyyou must see Dragon

that there’s got to be a fight of some sort, cause you can’t want to have to go down to

that dirty hole again and stop there till goodness knows when!!?”

“It might be arranged,” said St. George thoughtfullyI must spear you somewhere

of course but I’m not bound to hurt you very much, there’s such a lot of you that there

must be quite a few spare places somewhere, here for instance just behind you for leg

it couldn’t hurt you much just here!”

“Now you’re tickling George,” said the dragon coyly “no that place won’t do it all,

even if it didn’t hurt I’m sure it would awfully it would make me laugh and that would

spoil everything”,

“let’s try somewhere else then,” said St. George patiently “under your neck,

for instance, all these folds of thick skin, if I speared you here you’d never even know

I’d done it”

“yes, but are you sure you can hit off the right place?” asked the dragon anxiously,

“of course I am,” said Saint George with confidence “you leave that to me”,

“it’s just because I’ve got to leave it to you that I’m asking” replied the dragon rather

testily “no doubt you would deeply regret any error you might make in the hurry

of the moment but you wouldn’t regret it half as much as I should, however, I suppose

we’ve got to trust somebody as we go through life and your plan seems on the whole

as good a one as any”

“look here dragon” interrupted the boy a little jealous on behalf of his friend who

seemed to be getting all the worst of the bargain “I don’t quite see where you come in,

there’s to be a fight apparently and you’re to be licked and what I want to know is what

are you going to get out of it?”

“st. George” said the dragon “just tell him please what will happen after I’m vanquished

in the deadly combat”

“well according to the rules I suppose I shall lead you in triumph down to the

marketplace or whatever answers to it,” said St. George

“precisely,” said the dragon “and then, and then..”

“there’ll be shoutings and speeches and things” continued st. George “and I shall

explain that you’re converted and see the error of your ways and so on”

“quite so,” said the dragon “and then..”

“oh and then,” said St. George “why and then there will be the usual banquet I suppose”

“exactly,” said the dragon “and that’s where I come in, look here” he continued

addressing the boy “I’m bored to death up here and no one really appreciates me,

I’m going into society I am, and through the kindly aid of our friend here who’s taken

such a lot of trouble on my account, and you’ll find I’ve got all the qualities to endear

me to people who entertain, so now that’s all settled and if you don’t mind I’m old-

fashioned fellow, don’t want to turn you out but”

“remember you’ll have to do your proper share of the fighting dragon,” said St. George

as he took the hint and rose to goI mean ramping and breathing fire and so on”

“I can ramp all right” replied the dragon confidently “as to breathing fire it’s surprising

how easily one gets out of practice, but I’ll do the best I can, good night”

they had descended the Hill and were almost back in the village again when

St. George stops short “knew I had forgotten something,” he said, “there ought to be

a princess terror-stricken and chained to a rock and all that sort of thing, boy can’t

you arrange a princess?”

the boy was in the middle of a tremendous yawn tired to death he will “I can’t arrange

a princess or anything more at this time of night, and my mother’s sitting up and do

stop asking me to arrange more things for tomorrow”

The next morning the people began streaming up to the downs at quite an early hour

and their Sunday clothes and carrying baskets with bottlenecks sticking out of them,

everyone intent on securing good places for the combat this was not exactly a simple

matter for of course it was quite possible that the dragon might win and in that case,

even those who have put their money on him felt they could hardly expect him to deal

with his backers on a different footing to the rest, places were chosen therefore with

circumspection and with a view to a speedy retreat in case of emergency, and the

front-rank was mostly composed of boys who had escaped from parental control

and now sprawled and rolled about on the grass regardless of the shrill threats

and warnings discharged at them by their anxious mothers behind.

The boy had secured a good front place well up towards the cave and was feeling

as anxious as a stage manager on the first night “could the dragon be dependent upon

he might change his mind and vote the whole performance rot, or else seeing that

the affair had been so hastily planned without even a rehearsal he might be too

nervous to show up”,

the boy looked narrowly at the cave but it showed no sign of life or occupation

could the dragon have made a moonlight flitting?”

the higher portions of the ground were no black with sightseers and presently

a sound of cheering and waving of handkerchiefs told that something was visible

to them which the boy far up towards the dragon end of the line as he was could not

yet see, a minute more and Saint-Georges red plumes topped the hill as the Saint rode

slowly forth on the great level space which stretched up to the grim mouth

of the cave, very gallant and beautiful he looked on his tall warhorse his golden armor

glancing in the Sun his great spear held erect, the little white pen and crimson crossed

fluttering at its point.

he drew rein and remained motionless the lines of spectators began to give back

a little nervously and even the boys in front stopped pulling hair and cuffing

each other and leaned forward expectant

“Now then dragon” muttered the boy impatiently fidgeting where he said he’d need not

have distressed himself had he only known the dramatic possibilities of the thing had

tickled the dragon immensely and he had been up from an early hour preparing for his

first public appearance with as much hardiness as if the years had run backward

and he had been again a little dragon let playing with his sisters on the floor of their

mother’s cave at the game of Saints and Dragons in which the dragon was bound

to win,

a low muttering mingled with snorts now made itself heard rising to a bellowing roar

that seemed to fill the plain than a cloud of smoke obscured the mouth of the cave

and out of the midst of it the dragon himself shining sea blue magnificent Prince

splendidly forth and everybody said “whew” as if he had been a mighty rocket,

his scales were glittering, his long spiky tail lashed his side’s, his claws tore up

the turf and said it flying high over his back, and smoke and fire incessantly jetted

from his angry nostrils.

“oh well-done dragon” cried the boy excitedly “didn’t think he had it in him” he added to himself

St. George lowered his spear, bent his head dug his heels into his horse’s sides,

and came thundering over the turf, the dragon charged with a roar and a squeal

a great blue whirling combination of coils and snorts and clashing jaws and spikes

and fire,

“mist” yelled the crowd, there was a moment’s entanglement of golden armor

and blue-green coils and spiky tail and then the great horse tearing at his bit carried

the Saint his Spears swung high in the air almost up to the mouth of the cave,

the dragon sat down and barked viciously while Saint George with difficulty

pulled his horse round into position.

“End of round one,” thought the boy how well they managed it but I hope the saint

won’t get excited, I can trust the dragon alright what a regular play actor the fellow is”

St. George had, at last, prevailed on his horse to stand steady and was looking around

him as he wiped his brow catching sight of the boy he smiled and nodded and held up

three fingers for an instant,

“It seems to be all planned out,” said the boy to himself “round three is to be

the finishing one evidently, wish it could have lasted a bit longer whatever is that old

fool of a dragon up to now?”

the dragon was employing the interval and giving a ramping performance

for the benefit of the crowd, ramping it should be explained as consistent running

round and round in a wide circle and sending waves and ripples of movement along

the whole length of your spine from your pointed ears right down to the spike at

the end of your long-tail when you are covered with blue scales the effect

is particularly pleasing and the boy recollected the dragon’s recently expressed wish

to become a social success.

St. George now gathered up his reins and began to move forward dropping the point

of his spear and settling himself firmly in the settle, “time” yelled everybody excitedly

and the dragon living off his ramping sat upon N and began to leap from one side

to the other with huge ungainly bounds whooping like a red Indian, this naturally

disconcerted the horse who swerved violently the Saint only just saving himself by

the mane and as they shot past the dragon delivered a vicious snap at the horse’s tail

which sent the poor beast careering madly far over the downs, so that the language

of the saint who had lost a stirrup was fortunately inaudible to the general


Round 2 evoked audible evidence of friendly feeling towards the dragon,

the spectators were not slow to appreciate a combatant who could hold his own

so well and clearly wanted to show good sport and many encouraging remarks

reached the ears of our friend as he strutted to and fro his chest thrusts out

and his tail in the air hugely enjoying his new popularity.

St. George had dismounted and was tightening his girths and telling his horse with

quite an oriental flow of imagery exactly what he thought of him and his relations

and his conduct on the present occasion so the boy made his way down to the Saints

end of the line and held his spear for him

“it’s been a jolly fight st. George” he said with a sighcan’t you let it last a little bit


“well I think I’d better not” replied the Saint “the fact is you’re simple-minded old

friends getting conceited now they’ve begun cheering him and he’ll forget all about

the arrangement and take to playing the fool and there’s no telling where he would

stop, I’ll just finish him off this round”

He swung himself into the saddle and took his spear from the boy “now don’t you be

afraid he added kindly, I’ve marked my spot exactly and he’s sure to give me all the

assistance in his power because he knows it’s his only chance of being asked to the


St. George now shortened his spear bringing the But well up under his arm

and instead of galloping as before trotted smartly towards the dragon who crouched

at his approach flicking his tail to the cracked in the air like a great cart whip the Saint

wheeled as he neared his opponent and circled warily around him keeping his eye on

the spare place while the dragon adopting similar tactics paced with caution round

the same circle occasionally fainting with his head, so the two sparred for an opening

while the spectators maintained of breathless silence, though the round lasted for

some minutes the end was so Swift that all the boys saw was a lightning movement

of the Saints arm and then a whirl and a confusion of spines quas tail in flying bits

of turf, the dust cleared away the spectators whooped him ran in cheering

and the boy made out that the dragon was down pinned to the earth by the spear

while Saint George had dismounted and stood astride of him.

It all seems so genuine that the boy ran in breathlessly hoping the dear old dragon

wasn’t really hurt, as he approached the dragon lifted one large eyelid winked

solemnly, and collapsed again, he was held fast to earth by the neck but the sainted

hid him in the spare place agreed upon and it didn’t even seem to tickle.

“I ain’t sure Gorda cut his head off master,” asked one of the applauding crowd he had

backed the dragon and naturally felt a trifle sore,

“well, not today I think” replied st. George pleasantly “you see that can all be done

at any time, there’s no hurry at all, I think we’ll all go down to the village first and have

some refreshment and then I’ll give him a good talking-to and you’ll find he’ll be a very

different dragon”

At that magic word refreshment” the whole crowd formed up in procession and

silently awaited the signal to start, the time for talking and cheering and betting was

past, the hour for action had arrived st. George hauling on his spear with both hands

released the dragon who rose and shook himself and ran his eyes over his spikes

and scales and things to see that they were all in order, then the Saint mounted

and led off the procession the dragon followed meekly in the company of the boy

while the thirsty spectators kept at a respectful interval behind.

There were great doings when they got down to the village again and had formed up

in front of the inn after refreshments st. George made a speech in which he informed

his audience that he had removed their direful scourge had a great deal of trouble

and inconvenience to himself and now they weren’t to go about grumbling

and fancying they’ve got grievances because they hadn’t and they shouldn’t be

so fond of fights because next time they might have to do the fighting themselves

which would not be the same thing at all and there was a certain badger in the inn

stables which had got to be released at once and he’d come and see it done himself,

then he told them that the dragon had been thinking over things and saw that there

were two sides to every question and he wasn’t going to do it anymore and if

they were good perhaps he’d stay and settle down there, so they must make friends

and not to be prejudiced and go about fancying they know everything there was to be

known because they didn’t not by a long way, and he warned them against the sin of

romancing and making up stories and fancying other people would believe them

just because they were plausible and highly colored, then he sat down amidst much

to repent and cheering and the dragon nudged the boy in the ribs and whispered

that he couldn’t have done it better himself, then everyone went off to get ready

for the banquet.

Banquets are always pleasant things consisting mostly as they do of eating

and drinking but the specially nice thing about a banquet is that it comes when

something’s over and there’s nothing more to worry about and tomorrow seems

a long way off, st. George was happy because there had been a fight and he hadn’t

had to kill anybody for he didn’t really like killing though he generally had to do it,

the dragon was happy because there had been a fight and so far from being hurt in it,

he had won the popularity and the sure footing in society, the boy was happy

because there had been a fight and in spite of it all his two friends were on the best

of terms and all the others were happy because there had been a fight and well they

didn’t require any other reasons for their happiness.

The dragon exerted himself to say the right thing to everybody and proved the life

and soul of the evening while the Saint and the boy as they looked on felt that

they were only assisting at a feast of which the honor and the glory were entirely

the Dragon‘s, but they didn’t mind that being good fellows and the dragon was not

in the least proud or forgetful, on the contrary, every ten minutes or so he leaned

over toward the boy and said impressivelylook here, you will see me home

afterward won’t you?”, and the boy always nodded though he had promised his

mother not to be out late, at last, the banquet was over the guests had dropped

away with many good nights and congratulations and invitations and the dragon

who had seen the last of them off the premises emerged into the street followed

by the boy, wiped his brow sighed sat down in the road and gazed at the Stars.

“Jolly night it’s been” he murmuredjolly stars, jolly little place this, think I shall just

stop here don’t feel like climbing up any beastly Hill, the boy‘s promised to see me

home, the boy had better do it then, no responsibility on my part, responsibility all

of boy‘s” and its chin sank on his broad chest and he slumbered peacefully.

“Oh get up dragon” cried the boy piteously “you know my mother’s sitting up

and I’m so tired and you made me promise to see you home and I never knew what

it meant or I wouldn’t have done it”,

and the boy sat down in the road by the side of the sleeping dragon and cried,

the door behind them opened a stream of light in Lumina the road and Saint George

who had come out for a stroll in the cool night air caught sight of the two figures

sitting there, the great motionless dragon and the tearful little boy

“what’s the matter boy?” he inquired kindly stepping to his side

“oh it’s this great lumbering pig of a dragon” sobbed the boy “first he makes me

promise to see him home and then he says I’d better do it and he goes to sleep,

might as well try to see a haystack home and I’m so tired and mother’s..” here 

he broke down again

“Now don’t take on,” said St. George “I’ll stand by you and we’ll both see him home,

wake up dragon!” he said sharply shaking the Beast by the elbow, the dragon looked

up sleepily ” what a night George” he murmured, “what ah..”

“now look here dragon,” said the Saint firmly “here’s this little fellow waiting to see

you home and you know he ought to have been in bed these two hours and what

his mother will say I don’t know and anybody but a selfish Pig would have made him

go to bed long ago”

“And he shall go to bed” cried the dragon starting up “poor little chap only fancy

as being up at this hour it’s a shame that’s what it is and I don’t think St. George,

you’ve been very considerate but come along at once and don’t let us have

any more arguing or shilly-shallying”,

“you give me hold of your hand boy”,

“thank you, George, an arm up the hill is just what I wanted”.

So they set off up the hill arm and arm, the Saint, the dragon, and the boy the lights

in the little village began to go out but there were stars and a late moon as they

climbed to the downs together and as they turned the last corner and disappeared

from view snatches of an old song were born back on the night breeze I can’t be

certain which of them was singing but I think it was the dragon.

The End