Andrew Lang's King Arthur - Tales of the Round Table

THE SWORD EXCALIBUR

   King Arthur had fought a hard battle with the tallest Knight in all the land, and though he struck hard and well, he would have been slain had not Merlin enchanted the Knight and cast him into a deep sleep, and brought the King to a hermit who had studied the art of healing, and cured all his wounds in three days. Then Arthur and Merlin waited no longer, but gave the hermit thanks and departed.
   As they rode together Arthur said, "I have no sword," but Merlin bade him be patient and he would soon give him one. In a little while they came to a large lake, and in the midst of the lake Arthur beheld an arm rising out of the water, holding up a sword. "Look!" said Merlin, "that is the sword I spoke of." And the King looked again, and a maiden stood upon the water. "That is the Lady of the Lake," said Merlin, "and she is coming to you, and if you ask her courteously she will give you the sword." So when the maiden drew near Arthur saluted her and said, "Maiden, I pray you tell me whose sword is that which an arm is holding out of the water? I wish it were mine, for I have lost my sword."
   "That sword is mine, King Arthur," answered she, "and I will give it to you, if you in return will give me a gift when I ask you."



   "By my faith," said the King, "I will give you whatever gift you ask." "Well," said the maiden, "get into the barge yonder, and row yourself to the sword, and take it and the scabbard with you. For this was the sword Excalibur. As for my gift, I will ask it in my own time." Then King Arthur and Merlin dismounted from their horses and tied them up safely, and went into the barge, and when they came to the place where the arm was holding the sword Arthur took it by the handle, and the arm disappeared. And they brought the sword back to land. As they rode the King looked lovingly on his sword, which Merlin saw, and, smiling, said, Which do you like best, the sword or the scabbard? "I like the sword," answered Arthur. "You are not wise to say that," replied Merlin, "for the scabbard is worth ten of the sword, and as long as it is buckled on you you will lose no blood, however sorely you may be wounded." So they rode into the town of Carlion, and Arthur's Knights gave them a glad welcome, and said it was a joy to serve under a King who risked his life as much as any common man.