book cover of The Dragon Tamers

The Dragon Tamers

A Novella by

There was once an old, old castle--it was so old that its I walls andtowers and turrets and gateways and arches had crumbled to ruins, and ofall its old splendour there were only two little rooms left; and it washere that John the blacksmith had set up his forge. He was too poor tolive in a proper house, and no one asked any rent for the rooms in theruin, because all the lords of the castle were dead and gone this many ayear. So there John blew his bellows, and hammered his iron, and did allthe work which came his way. This was not much, because most of the tradewent to the mayor of the town, who was also a blacksmith in quite a largeway of business, and had his huge forge facing the square of the town,and had twelve apprentices, all hammering like a nest of woodpeckers, andtwelve journeymen to order the apprentices about, and a patent forge anda self-acting hammer and electric bellows, and all things handsome abouthim. So that of course the townspeople, whenever they wanted a horse shodor a shaft mended, went to the mayor. And John the blacksmith struggledon as best he could, with a few odd jobs from travellers and strangerswho did not know what a superior forge the mayor's was. The two roomswere warm and weather-tight, but not very large; so the blacksmith gotinto the way of keeping his old iron, and his odds and ends, and hisfagots, and his twopenn'orth of coal, in the great dungeon down under thecastle. It was a very fine dungeon indeed, with a handsome vaulted roofand big iron rings, whose staples were built into the wall, very strongand convenient for tying captives up to, and at one end was a brokenflight of wide steps leading down no one knew where.. Even the lords ofthe castle in the good old times had never known where those steps ledto, but every now and then they would kick a prisoner down the steps intheir light-hearted, hopeful way, and, sure enough, the prisoners nevercame back. The blacksmith had never dared to go beyond the seventh step,and no more have I--so I know no more than he did what was at the bottomof those stairs.John the blacksmith had a wife and a little baby. When his wife was notdoing the housework she used to nurse the baby and cry, remembering thehappy days when she lived with her father, who kept seventeen cows andlived quite in the country, and when John used to come courting her inthe summer evenings, as smart as smart, with a posy in his button-hole.And now John's hair was getting grey, and there was hardly ever enough toeat.As for the baby, it cried a good deal at odd times; but at night, whenits mother had settled down to sleep, it would always begin to cry, quiteas a matter of course, so that she hardly got any rest at all. This madeher very tired. The baby could make up for its bad nights during the day,if it liked, but the poor mother couldn't. So whenever she had nothing todo she used to sit and cry, because she was tired out with work andworry.One evening the blacksmith was busy with his forge. He was making agoat-shoe for the goat of a very rich lady, who wished to see how thegoat liked being shod, and also whether the shoe would come to fivepenceor sevenpence before she ordered the whole set. This was the only orderJohn had had that week. And as he worked his wife sat and nursed thebaby, who, for a wonder, was not crying.

Genre: Fantasy

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