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In act to throw : but at the last it seem'd
Better to leave Excalibur conceal'd
There in the many-knotted waterflags,
That whistled stiff and dry about the marge.
So strode he back slow to the wounded king.

Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere : “ Hast thou perform’d my mission which I gave ? What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard ?”.

And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere : “I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, And the wild water lapping on the crag.”

To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale : “ Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy name, Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd Thy fëalty, nor like a noble knight : For surer sign had follow'd, either hand, Or voice, or else a motion of the meer. This is a shameful thing for men to lie. Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing I bade thee, watch, and lightly bring me word.”

Then went Sir Bedivere the second time,

Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in thought ;
But when he saw the wonder of the hilt,
How curiously and strangely chased, he smote
His palms together, and he cried aloud.

“ And if indeed I cast the brand away, .
Surely a precious thing, one worthy note,
Should thus be lost for ever from the earth,
Which might have pleased the eyes of many men.
What good should follow this, if this were done ?
What harm, undone ? deep harm to disobey,
Seeing obedience is the bond of rule.
Were it well to obey then, if a king demand
An act unprofitable, against himself ?
The King is sick, and knows not what he does.
What record, or what relic of my lord
Should be to aftertime, but empty breath
And rumours of a doubt ? but were this kept,
Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings,
Some one might show it at a joust of arms,
Saying, “King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake.
Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps

Upon the hidden bases of the hills.'
So might some old man speak in the aftertime
To all the people, winning reverence. :
But now much honour and much fame were lost.”

So spake he, clouded with his own conceit,
And hid Excalibur the second time,
And so strode back slow to the wounded King.

Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily : “ What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard ?

And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere : “I heard the water lapping on the crag, And the long ripple washing in the reeds.”

To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath : “Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, Unknightly, traitor-hearted ! Woe is me! Authority forgets a dying king, Laid widowed of the power in his eye That bowed the will. I see thee what thou art. For thou, the latest-left of all my krights, In whom should meet the offices of all, Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt ; Either from lust of gold, or like a girl

Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes.
Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice, ,
And the third time may prosper, get thee hence :
But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur,
I will arise and slay thee with my hands.”

Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran,
And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
Among the bulrush-beds, and clutch'd the sword,
And strongly wheel’d and threw it. The great brand,
Made lightnings in the splendour of the moon,
And flashing round and round, and whirled in an arch,
Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
By night, with noises of the northern sea.
So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur :
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the meer.
And lightly went the other to the King.

Then spoke King Arthur, drawing thicker breath : “ Now see I by thine eyes that this is done. Speak out ; what is it thou hast heard, or seen! ”

And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere : “Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems Should blind my purpose, for I never saw, Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die, Not though I live three lives of mortal men, So great a miracle as yonder hilt. Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him, But when I look'd again, behold an arm, Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him Three times, and drew him under in the meer.”

And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard :
“My end draws nigh ; 'tis time that I were gone. ·
Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight,
And bear me to the margin ; yet I fear
My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die."

So saying, from the pavement he half rose,
Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm,
And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes
As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere

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