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LONG, long ago, after Uther Pendragon died, there was no King in Britain, and every Knight hoped to seize the crown for himself.
The country was like to fare ill when laws were broken on every side, and the corn which was to give the poor bread was trodden underfoot, and there was none to bring the evildoer to justice.
Then, when things were at their worst, came forth Merlin the magician, and fast he rode to the place where the Archbishop of
Canterbury had his dwelling. And they took counsel together, and agreed that all the lords and gentlemen of Britain should ride to
London and meet on Christmas Day, now at hand, in the Great
Church. So this was done. And on Christmas morning, as they left the church, they saw in the churchyard a large stone, and on it a bar of steel, and in the steel a naked sword was held, and about it was written in letters of gold, 'Whoso pulleth out this sword is by right of birth King of England.' They marvelled at these words,
and called for the Archbishop, and brought him into the place where the stone stood. Then those Knights who fain would be
King could not hold themselves back, and they tugged at the sword with all their might; but it never stirred. The Archbishop watched them in silence, but when they were faint from pulling he spoke: 'The man is not here who shall lift out that sword, nor do I
know where to find him. But this is my counsel--that two Knights be chosen, good and true men, to keep guard over the sword.
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