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ARTHUR AND THE SWORD

from Children Stories To Tell - For Classes Iv. And V.





Once there was a great king in Britain named Uther, and when he died the
other kings and princes disputed over the kingdom, each wanting it for
himself. But King Uther had a son named Arthur, the rightful heir to the
throne, of whom no one knew, for he had been taken away secretly while he
was still a baby by a wise old man called Merlin, who had him brought up
in the family of a certain Sir Ector, for fear of the malice of wicked
knights. Even the boy himself thought Sir Ector was his father, and he
loved Sir Ector's son, Sir Kay, with the love of a brother.

When the kings and princes could not be kept in check any longer, and
something had to be done to determine who was to be king, Merlin made the
Archbishop of Canterbury send for them all to come to London. It was
Christmas time, and in the great cathedral a solemn service was held, and
prayer was made that some sign should be given, to show who was the
rightful king. When the service was over, there appeared a strange stone
in the churchyard, against the high altar. It was a great white stone,
like marble, with something sunk in it that looked like a steel anvil; and
in the anvil was driven a great glistening sword. The sword had letters of
gold written on it, which read: "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this
stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England."

All wondered at the strange sword and its strange writing; and when the
archbishop himself came out and gave permission, many of the knights tried
to pull the sword from the stone, hoping to be king. But no one could move
it a hair's breadth.

"He is not here," said the archbishop, "that shall achieve the sword; but
doubt not, God will make him known."

Then they set a guard of ten knights to keep the stone, and the archbishop
appointed a day when all should come together to try at the stone,--kings
from far and near. In the meantime, splendid jousts were held, outside
London, and both knights and commons were bidden.

Sir Ector came up to the jousts, with others, and with him rode Kay and
Arthur. Kay had been made a knight at Allhallowmas, and when he found
there was to be so fine a joust he wanted a sword, to join it. But he had
left his sword behind, where his father and he had slept the night
before. So he asked young Arthur to ride for it.

"I will well," said Arthur, and rode back for it. But when he came to the
castle, the lady and all her household were at the jousting, and there was
none to let him in.

Thereat Arthur said to himself, "My brother Sir Kay shall not be without a
sword this day." And he remembered the sword he had seen in the
churchyard. "I will to the churchyard," he said, "and take that sword with
me." So he rode into the churchyard, tied his horse to the stile, and went
up to the stone. The guards were away to the tourney, and the sword was
there, alone.

Going up to the stone, young Arthur took the great sword by the hilt, and
lightly and fiercely he drew it out of the anvil.

Then he rode straight to Sir Kay, and gave it to him.

Sir Kay knew instantly that it was the sword of the stone, and he rode off
at once to his father and said, "Sir, lo, here is the sword of the stone;
I must be king of the land." But Sir Ector asked him where he got the
sword. And when Sir Kay said, "From my brother," he asked Arthur how he
got it. When Arthur told him, Sir Ector bowed his head before him. "Now I
understand ye must be king of this land," he said to Arthur.

"Wherefore I?" said Arthur.

"For God will have it so," said Ector; "never man should have drawn out
this sword but he that shall be rightwise king of this land. Now let me
see whether ye can put the sword as it was in the stone, and pull it out
again."

Straightway Arthur put the sword back.

Then Sir Ector tried to pull it out, and after him Sir Kay; but neither
could stir it. Then Arthur pulled it out. Thereupon, Sir Ector and Sir Kay
kneeled upon the ground before him.

"Alas," said Arthur, "mine own dear father and brother, why kneel ye to
me?"

Sir Ector told him, then, all about his royal birth, and how he had been
taken privily away by Merlin. But when Arthur found Sir Ector was not
truly his father, he was so sad at heart that he cared not greatly to be
king. And he begged his father and brother to love him still. Sir Ector
asked that Sir Kay might be seneschal when Arthur was king. Arthur
promised with all his heart.

Then they went to the archbishop and told him that the sword had found its
master. The archbishop appointed a day for the trial to be made in the
sight of all men, and on that day the princes and knights came together,
and each tried to draw out the sword, as before. But as before, none could
so much as stir it.

Then came Arthur, and pulled it easily from its place.

The knights and kings were terribly angry that a boy from nowhere in
particular had beaten them, and they refused to acknowledge him king. They
appointed another day, for another great trial.

Three times they did this, and every time the same thing happened.

At last, at the feast of Pentecost, Arthur again pulled out the sword
before all the knights and the commons. And then the commons rose up and
cried that he should be king, and that they would slay any who denied him.

So Arthur became king of Britain, and all gave him allegiance.





Next: TARPEIA

Previous: THE STORY OF JAIRUS'S DAUGHTER



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