THE STORY OF SIR BALIN 17
and he only. For I have been at the Court of King Ryons,and he and his Knights tried with all their strength to draw the sword and they could not.'
' Let me see if I can draw it,' said Arthur, ' not because I think myself the best Knight, for well I know how far I am outdone by others, but to set them an example tha/t they may follow me.' With that the King took the sword by the sheath and by the girdle, and pulled at it with all his force, but the sword stuck fast. ' Sir,' said the damsel, ' you need not pull half so hard, for he that shall pull it out shall do it with little strength.' ' It is not for me,' answered Arthur,' and now, my Barons, let each man try his fortune.' So most of the Knights of the Round Table there present pulled, one after another, at the sword, but none could stir it from its sheath. ' Alas ! alas !' cried the damsel in great grief,' I thought to find in this Court Knights that were blameless and true of heart, and now I know not where to look for them.' ' By my faith,' said Arthur, ' there are no better Knights in the world than these of mine, but I am sore displeased that they cannot help me in this matter.'
Now at that time there was a poor Knight at Arthur's Court who had been kept prisoner for a year and a half because he had slain the King's cousin. He was of high birth and his name was Balin, and after he had suffered eighteen months the punishment of his misdeed the Barons prayed the King to set him free, which Arthur did willingly. When Balin, standing apart, beheld the Knights one by one try the sword, and fail to draw it, his heart beat fast, yet he shrank from taking his turn, for he was meanly dressed, and could not compare with the other Barons. But after the damsel had bid farewell to Arthur and his Court, and was setting out on her journey homewards, he called to her and said, ' Damsel, I pray you to suffer me to try your sword, as well as these lords, for though I am so poorly clothed, my heart is as high as theirs.' The damsel stopped and 2