| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
THE COMING OF ARTHUR
 AS soon as Uther Pendragon was dead, the mighty nobles of
Britain began to quarrel among themselves as to who should
be king next. Each noble thought he had the best right, so
the quarrelling was dreadful.
While they were all gathered together, fighting and shouting
at each other, Merlin came among them, leading a tall,
fair-haired boy by the hand. When the nobles saw Merlin,
they stopped fighting and were silent. They knew how clever
he was, and what wonderful things he could do, and they were
rather afraid of him.
Merlin stood quietly looking at them all from under his
bushy eyebrows. He was a very old man. But he was tall and
strong and splendid, with a long white beard and fierce,
glittering eyes. It was no wonder that the Britons felt
afraid of him.
"Lords of Britain," said Merlin at last, "why fight ye thus?
It were more meet that ye prepare to do honour to your king.
Uther Pendragon is indeed dead, but Arthur, his son, reigns
in his stead."
"Who is this Arthur? Where is he?" asked the nobles angrily.
"Uther Pendragon had no son."
"Hear me," said Merlin, "Uther Pendragon had a son. It was
told to me that he should be the greatest king who should
ever reign in Britain. So when he was born, lest any harm
should befall him, he was given into my care
 till the time
should come for him to reign. He has dwelt in the land of
Avilon, where the wise fairies have kept him from evil and
whispered wisdom in his ear. Here is your king, honour him."
Then Merlin lifted Arthur up and placed him upon his
shoulders, so that all the people could see him. There was
something so noble and splendid about Arthur, even although
he was only a boy, that the great lords felt awed. Yet they
would not believe that he was the son of Uther Pendragon.
"Who is this Arthur?" they said again. "We do not believe
what you say. Uther Pendragon had no son."
Then Merlin's bright eyes seemed to flash fire. "You dare to
doubt the word of Merlin?" he shouted. "O vain and foolish
Britons, follow me."
Taking Arthur with him, Merlin turned and strode out of the
hall, and all the nobles followed him. As they passed
through the streets, the people of the town and the women
and children followed too. On they went, the crowd growing
bigger and bigger, till they reached the great door of the
cathedral. There Merlin stopped, and the knights and nobles
gathered around him; those behind pushing and pressing
forward, eager to see what was happening.
There was indeed something wonderful to be seen. In front of
the doorway was a large stone which had not been there
before. Standing upright in the stone was a sword, the hilt
of which glittered with gems. Beneath it was written, "Whoso
can draw me from this stone is the rightful king of
One after another the nobles tried to remove the sword. They
pulled and tugged till their muscles cracked. They strained
and struggled till they were hot and breathless, for each
one was anxious to be king. But it was all in vain. The
sword remained firm and fast in the rock.
 Then last of all Arthur tried. He took the sword by the hilt
and drew it from the stone quite easily.
A cry of wonder went through the crowd, and the nobles fell
back in astonishment leaving a clear space round the king.
Then as he stood there, holding the magic sword in his hand,
the British nobles one after another knelt to Arthur,
acknowledging him to be their lord.
"HE STOOD THERE HOLDING THE MAGIC SWORD IN HIS HAND"
" 'Be thou the king and we will work thy will,
Who love thee.' Then the king in low deep tones
And simple words of great authority
Bound them by so strait vows to his own self
That when they rose, knighted from kneeling, some
Were pale as at the passing of a ghost,
Some flushed, and others dazed, as one who wakes
Half-blinded at the coming of a light."
Arthur was only fifteen when he was made king, but he was
the bravest, wisest and best king that had ever ruled in
Britain. As soon as he was crowned, he determined to free
his kingdom from the Saxons. He swore a solemn oath that he
would drive the heathen out of the land. His knights he
bound by the same solemn oath.
Then, taking the sword which he had won, and which was
called Excalibur, and his mighty spear called Ron, he rode
forth at the head of his army.
Twelve great battles did Arthur fight and win against the
Saxons. Always in the foremost of the battle he was to be
seen, in his armour of gold and blue, the figure of the
Virgin upon his shield, a golden dragon and crown upon his
helmet. He was so brave that no one could stand against him,
yet so careless of danger that many times he would have been
killed, had it not been for the magic might of his sword
Excalibur, and of his spear Ron.
And at last the Saxons were driven from the land.
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