from Brian Kingslake, Angel Stories (Worcester, England,  Arthur James, Ltd., 1982)

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George and the Dragon

George was a gardener by profession, but he had always longed to hunt dragons, and he kept a sword for the purpose in the cupboard under the stairs.

One day, the Town Crier came through the village with a startling announcement. "Oyez, oyez, oyez! All take 'eed and notice that a dragon is at large. His wuship the Mayor will welcome volunteers to exterminate this pestilential monster. One hundred pounds reward. Long live the King!"

George's heart swelled with pride as he strapped on his sword and stepped out into the street. The neighbors gathered excitedly around him, for he was the only man in the whole village who had had the courage to respond to the summons. The Mayor came out in person and patted him on the shoulder.

"You are a brave fellah !" he said.

"I'm not afraid of anything," said George. "In fact, I have been longing for an opportunity to slay a dragon. Let me get hold of this one, and you will see."

"Hurrah!" shouted the crowd, and everybody tried to shake George by the hand. They accompanied him in a mob to the end of the village, where he left them still cheering, and set off alone on his adventures.

To begin with, he must find the dragon.

Last night it had killed two sheep in Farmer Giles's meadow, and had burnt up a large field of corn. During the previous night it had visited another farm on the opposite side of the village; and, on the day before that, it had actually been seen trotting along the High Street. If only George could discover its lair - where it slept! Then he would be able to kill it easily.

He went first to see Farmer Giles.

"All my men are frightened out of their wits and won't work," said the old man. "Aren't you afraid?"

"Not I!" laughed George. "Slaying dragons comes easily to me. It is just part of the day's work."

They walked together to see the damage. "I think he must be sleeping in one of your barns or outhouses," said George. "I shall have to examine them." The farmer was terrified, but George went coolly from shed to shed, flashing his electric torch. A rat slunk into the shadows; a hen scuffled away clucking: but no horrendous monster did he find.

Next day George tried somewhere else; and so he went from farm to farm, but no clue could he discover as to the dragon's lair.

Every morning, fresh news was brought to him of the beast's outrageous exploits. Sheep had been carried off, fowls eaten, and even cows, while wider and wider areas of the countryside had been left charred and black. George began a systematic search, gaining entry to every house and barn in the district. The dragon was nowhere to be found.

One evening, baffled and disappointed, almost deciding to give up the search, George returned home for supper, and hung up his sword on the hat-rack. He was later than usual, and it was dark.

Suddenly, what was that? Were his ears deceiving him? He seemed to hear a rumbling noise in the cellar. Seizing his sword, he carefully unlocked the door of the steps leading down into the vaults. A strong smell of sulfur and scorching meat. His spine began to tingle, and his legs refused to move.

Come! This would never do! He had examined every other cellar in the neighborhood, was he afraid to go into his own? Shining his flash-light he stepped cautiously down below.

There, lying outstretched on a pile of brick-rubbish, with smoke trickling out of its nostrils, was the biggest dragon George had ever seen. All around were charred remnants of meat. At the back of the cellar were some dislodged bricks, leaving a hole through which the scaly beast must have come in and out. The walls were coated black with soot.

George timidly raised his sword to strike. The dragon snorted in its sleep, and two jets of flame spurted from its snout. George dropped his weapon and fled up the steps, right out into the street.

"The dragon!" he cried. "It's in my cellar!"

All the villagers came running from their houses, with sticks and pokers and lanterns. Down into the cellar they swarmed, and quickly dispatched the pestilential monster, dragging its body into the street as a present for the Mayor.

Poor George ! He had so longed to kill dragons in other people's houses, but had been unable to kill one in his own. Disgusted and ashamed, he threw his sword into the river, and went back to his ordinary occupation of digging up weeds.

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