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St Leonard and the fiery snake.

From Enchanted Castle Fairy Tales.
by Hartwell James
Age Rating 4 to 6

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"A little monitor presents her page Of choice instruction, with her snowy bells! The Lily of the Vale." HUNDREDS of years ago there was a vast forest in England, wherein lurked all manner of wild beasts and loathsome reptiles. The trees grew thick and tall, but beneath them the earth was brown and bare, for no grass or flower could grow within the gloomy forest. Now at this time there lived a good and holy knight named Saint Leonard, and it so happened that as he journeyed through the land, seeking how he might do good and help his fellow-men, that he came in the course of his wanderings to the borders of the great forest. The country people whom he met warned him against attempting to penetrate its depths, and said to him, "The forest is haunted with evil things, which no man shall encounter and live to tell the tale."



Now Saint Leonard did not know what fear was, and persisted on going into the perilous forest. So he left them and entered the gloomy wood, and before he had gone far he saw coming towards him a terrible monster in the form of a fiery snake. On it came, breathing out flames of fire, and preparing to coil itself around the brave knight, whom it would have crushed to death in its fierce embrace. But Saint Leonard drew his sword and prepared to engage in a deadly struggle with the monster. For three long days and nights they fought, until on the morning of the fourth day the evil beast lay wounded and dying at the feet of the victorious knight. With one stroke of his sword he severed the head of the snake from its body, and then turned to retrace his steps towards the village he had left. The dying shrieks of the fiery snake had so terrified the other evil inhabitants of the forest that they had all taken flight, most of them in their great haste falling headlong into the ocean on the shores of the great forest. But the knight had been sorely wounded in the fray and blood-drops marked his way through the trackless forest.



At length he reached the village and sank, exhausted and senseless, upon the steps of the nearest cottage. The villagers thought he had returned only to die, but after a time he opened his eyes, and in a few days he was strong enough to tell his wondrous tale. Then, indeed, the villagers were filled with astonishment, and a party of them set off to see if the knight's story was true. To their great surprise, when they reached the borders of the forest, there lay before them a sunlit path strewn with pure white blossoms. As they followed its winding course, they found that wherever the blood of the wounded knight had fallen, lovely "Lilies of the Valley" had sprang up. On and on they went, until they came to the spot where the death-blow had been given. The body of the hideous monster had disappeared, but all around, the sweet, fragrant lilies grew in lovely clusters, and from their tiny bells came sweet music, repeating to the astonished villagers the story of the triumph of good over evil, love over hate, right over might.

       



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