Far away in the heart of Europe there lies a little country called Switzerland. It seems wonderful that when great and powerful kings and princes swept over the world, fighting and conquering, little Switzerland should not have been conquered and swallowed up by one or other of the great countries which lay around. But the Swiss have always been a brave and fearless people.
At one time one of the great princes of Europe tried to conquer Switzerland and take away the freedom of its people. But the people fought so bravely that instead of being conquered they conquered the tyrants and drove them away.
In those far-off times the greatest ruler in Europe was the Emperor, and his empire was divided into many states, over each of which ruled a prince or king who acknowledged the Emperor as overlord. When an Emperor died the kings and princes met together and chose another Emperor from among their number.
Switzerland was one of the countries which owned the Emperor as overlord. But the Swiss were a free people. They had no king or prince over them, but a governor only, who was appointed by the Emperor.
Austria was another of the states of the great empire, and at one time a Duke of Austria was made ruler of Switzerland. Because of its great beauty, this duke cast greedy eyes upon Switzerland and longed to possess it for his very own.
But the Swiss would not give up their freedom; and three cantons, as the divisions of Switzerland are called, joined together, and swore to stand by each other, and never to submit to Austria.
Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were the names of these three cantons. A little later another canton joined the three. These four cantons lie round a lake which is called the Lake of the four Forest Cantons. When Albrecht, Duke of Austria was chosen Emperor he said to himself that now truly he would be lord and master of Switzerland. So he sent two nobles to the Swiss to talk to them, and persuade them to own him as their king.
Some of the people of Switzerland were persuaded to belong to Austria, but all the people of the free cantons replied that they wished to remain free.
So the messengers went back to Albrecht and told him what the people said. When he heard the message he was very angry. "The proud peasants," he cried, "they will not yield. Then I will bend and break them. They will be soft and yielding enough when I have done with them."
Months went by and the Emperor appointed no ruler over Switzerland. At last the people, feeling that they must have a governor, sent messengers to the Emperor, begging him to appoint a ruler, as all the Emperors before him had done. "A governor you shall have." said Albrecht. "Go home and await his coming. Whom I send to you, him you must obey in all things."
When they had gone, Albrecht smiled grimly to himself. "They will not yield," he said, "but I will oppress them and ill-treat them until I force them to rebel. Then I will fight against them and conquer them, and at last Switzerland will be mine."
A few days later Albrecht made his friends Hermann Gessler and Beringer of Landenberg governors over the free cantons, telling them to take soldiers with them to enforce the law and to tax the people in order to pay the soldiers. "You will punish all wrong-doers severely," he said, "I will endure no rebels within my empire."
Hard and bitter days began when Gessler and Landenberg settled there. They delighted in oppressing the people. They loaded them with taxes; nothing could be either bought or sold but the governors claimed a great part of the money; the slightest fault was punished with long imprisonment and heavy fines. The people became sad and downcast, but still they would not yield to Austria.
Gessler lived in a great castle at Küssnacht in Schwyz. In it were dreadful dungeons where he imprisoned the people and tortured them according to his wicked will. But he was not pleased to have only one castle, and he made up his mind to build another in Uri. So he began to build one near the little town of Altorf, which lay at the other end of the Lake of the Forest Cantons. Gessler forced the men of Uri to build this castle, and he meant to use it not only as a house for himself, but as a prison for the people.
"What will you call your castle?" asked a friend one day, as they stood to watch the building. "I will call it the Curb of Uri," said Gessler, with a cruel laugh, "for with it I will curb the proud spirit of these peasants." After watching the work for some time, Gessler and his friend rode away. "My friend," said Gessler, as he rode, "we will go back to Kiissnacht by another way. I have heard that an insolent peasant called Werner Stauffacher has built himself a new house. I wish to see it. There is no end to the impudence of these peasants." "But what will you do?" asked his friend. "Do" said Gessler, "why, turn him out, to be sure. What need have these peasants for great houses?" So they rode on to Stauffacher's house. "Whose house is this?" he demanded. Stauffacher answered quietly, "My lord, this house belongs to the Emperor, and is yours and mine in fief to hold and use for his service." "I rule this land," said Gessler, "in the name of the Emperor, and I will not allow peasants to build houses without asking leave. I will have you understand that." And he rode from the doorway. Stauffacher told his wife what had happened and she advised him to call a secret meeting of his friends to plan to free themselves from the governor's rule.
Werner Stauffacher spent some days in going from village to village, trying to find out how the peasants and common people felt, and everywhere heard complaints and groans. Coming to Altorf, where his friend Walter Fürst lived, he heard in the market-place a great noise of shouting and trampling of feet.
Down the street a party of Austrian soldiers came marching. One of them carried a long pole, and another a red cap with a peacock's feather in it. Then the pole with the red cap on the top of it was firmly planted in the ground.
As soon as the pole was set up a herald stepped out, blew his trumpet and cried, "Se ye this cap here set up? It is his Majesty's will and commandment that ye do all bow the knee and bend the head as ye do pass it by."
This was a new insult to a free people. Stauffacher went to the house of Walter Fürst, where he met Arnold of Melchthal, who had suffered much from Landenberg. Calling upon God and his saints, these three men swore a solemn oath to protect each other and promised to meet in a little meadow called the Rütli, the Wednesday before Martinmas.
Three weeks passed, and in the darkness and quiet the men stole to the place of meeting with other friends of freedom whom they had brought. Near Walter Fürst stood a young man straight and tall with clear and honest eyes. "William Tell," said Arnold, "and the best shot in all Switzerland. I have seen him shoot an apple from a tree a hundred paces off."
Then they swore never to betray each other, to be true to the Emperor, but to drive the Austrian governor, his friends, his servants, and his soldiers out of the land.
William Tell did not live in Altorf, but in another village some way off, called Bürglen. His wife, who was called Hedwig, was Walter Fürst's daughter. Tell and Hedwig had two sons, William and Walter. Walter, the younger, was about six years old.
William Tell loved his wife and his children very much, and they all lived happily together in a pretty little cottage at Bürglen.
"Hedwig," said Tell one morning, some days after the meeting mentioned above, "I am going into Altorf to see your father."
Hedwig looked troubled. "Do be careful, William," she said. "Must you really go? You know the governor is there just now, and he hates you."
"Oh, I am quite safe," said Tell; "I have done nothing for which he could punish me. But I will keep out of his way," and he lifted his crossbow and prepared to go.
"Do not take your bow," said Hedwig, still feeling uneasy. "Leave it here."
"Why, Hedwig, how you trouble yourself for nothing," said Tell, smiling at her. "Why should I leave my bow behind? I feel lost without it."
"O father, where are you going?" said Walter, running into the room at this minute.
"I am going to Altorf to see grandfather. Would you like to come?"
"Oh, may I? May I, mother?"
"Yes, dear, if you like," said Hedwig. "And you will be careful, won't you?" she added, turning to Tell.
"Yes, I will," he replied, and Walter, throwing his arms round her neck, said, "It's all right, mother, I will take care of father." Then they set off merrily together.
It was a great thing to go to Altorf with father, and Walter was so happy that he chattered all the way, asking questions about everything.
"How far can you shoot, father?"
"Oh, a good long way."
"As high as the sun?" asked Walter, looking up at it.
"Oh dear, no, not nearly so high as that."
"Well, how high? As high as the snow-mountains?"
"Why is there always snow on the mountains, father?" asked Walter, thinking of something else. And so he went on, asking questions about one thing after another, until his father was quite tired of answering.
Walter was chattering so much that Tell forgot all about the hat upon the pole, and, instead of going round by another way to avoid it, as he had meant to do, he went straight through the market-place to reach Walter Fürst's house.
"Father, look," said Walter, "look, how funny! there is a hat stuck up on a pole. What is it for?"
"Don't look, Walter," said Tell, "the hat has nothing to do with us, don't look at it." And taking Walter by the hand, he led him hurriedly away.
But it was too late. The soldier, who stood beside the pole to guard it and see that people bowed in passing, pointed his spear at Tell and bade him stop. "Stand, in the Emperor's name," he cried.
"Let be, friend," said Tell, "let me past."
"Not till you obey the Emperor's command. Not till you bow to the hat."
"It is no command of the Emperor," said Tell. "It is Gessler's folly and tyranny. Let me go."
"Nay, but you must not speak of my lord the governor in such terms. And past you shall not go until you bow to the cap. And, if you bow not, to prison I will lead you. Such is my lord's command."
"Why should I bow to a cap?" said Tell, his voice shaking with rage. "Were the Emperor himself here, then would I bend the knee and bow my head to him with all reverence. But to a hat! Never!" and he tried to force his way past Heinz the soldier. But Heinz would not let him pass, and kept his spear pointed at Tell.
Hearing loud and angry voices, many people gathered to see what the cause might be. Soon there was quite a crowd around the two. Every one talked at once, and the noise and confusion were great. Heinz tried to take Tell prisoner, and the people tried to take him away. "Help! help!" shouted Heinz, hoping that some of his fellow-soldiers would hear him and come to his aid,—"Help, help! treason, treason!"
Then over all the noise of the shouting there sounded the tramp of horses' hoofs and the clang and jangle of swords and armor.
"Room for the governor. Room, I say," cried a herald.
The shouting ceased and the crowd silently parted, as Gessler, richly dressed, haughty and gloomy, rode through it, followed by a gay company of his friends and soldiers. He checked his horse and, gazing angrily round the crowd, "What is this rioting?" he asked.
"My lord," said Heinz, stepping forward, "this scoundrel here will not bow to the cap, according to your lordship's command."
"Eh, what?" said Gessler, his dark face growing more dark and angry still. "Who dares to disobey my orders?"
"'Tis William Tell of Bürglen, my lord."
"Tell?" said Gessler, turning in his saddle and looking at Tell as he stood among the people, holding little Walter by the hand.
There was silence for a few minutes while Gessler gazed at Tell in anger.
"I hear you are a great shot, Tell," said Gessler at last, laughing scornfully, "they say you never miss."
"That is quite true," said little Walter eagerly, for he was very proud of his father's shooting. "He can hit an apple on a tree a hundred yards off."
"Is that your boy?" said Gessler, looking at him with an ugly smile.
"Yes, my lord."
"Have you other children?"
"Another boy, my lord."
"You are very fond of your children, Tell?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Which of them do you love best?"
Tell hesitated. He looked down at little Walter with his rosy cheeks and curly hair. Then he thought of William at home with his pretty loving ways. "I love them both alike, my lord," he said at last.
"Ah," said Gessler, and thought a minute. "Well, Tell," he said after a pause. "I have heard so much of this boast of yours about hitting apples, that I should like to see something of it. You shall shoot an apple off your boy's head at a hundred yards' distance. That will be easier than shooting off a tree."
"My lord," said Tell, turning pale, "you do not mean that? It is horrible. I will do anything rather than that."
"You will shoot an apple off your boy's head," repeated Gessler in a slow and scornful voice. "I want to see your wonderful skill, and I command you to do it at once. You have your crossbow there. Do it."
"I will die first," said Tell.
"Very well," said Gessler, "but you need not think in that way to save your boy. He shall die with you. Shoot, or die both of you. And, mark you, Tell, see that you aim well, for if you miss you will pay for it with your life."
Tell turned pale. His voice trembled as he replied, "My lord, it was but thoughtlessness. Forgive me this once, and I will always bow to the cap in future." Proud and brave although he was, Tell could not bear the thought that he might kill his own child.
"Have done with this delay," said Gessler, growing yet more angry. "You break the laws, and when, instead of punishing you as you deserve, I give you a chance of escape, you grumble and think yourself hardly used. Were peasants ever more unruly and discontented? Have done, I say. Heinz, bring me an apple."
The soldier hurried away.
"Bind the boy to that tree," said Gessler, pointing to a tall lime-tree near by.
Two soldiers seized Walter and bound him fast to the tree. He was not in the least afraid, but stood up against the trunk straight and quiet. Then, when the apple was brought, Gessler rode up to him and, bending from the saddle, himself placed the apple upon his head.
All this time the people crowded round silent and wondering, and Tell stood among them as if in a dream, watching everything with a look of horror in his eyes.
"Clear a path there," shouted Gessler, and the soldiers charged among the people, scattering them right and left.
When a path had been cleared, two soldiers, starting from the tree to which Walter was bound, marched over the ground, measuring one hundred paces, and halted. "One hundred paces, my lord," they said, turning to Gessler.
Gessler rode to the spot, calling out, "Come, Tell, from here you shall shoot."
Tell took his place. He drew an arrow from his quiver, examined it carefully, and then, instead of fitting it to his bow, he stuck it in his belt. Then, still carefully, he chose another arrow and fitted it to his bow.
A deep silence fell upon every one as Tell took one step forward. He raised his bow. A mist was before his eyes, his arm trembled, his bow dropped from his hand. He could not shoot. The fear that he might kill his boy took away all his skill and courage.
A groan broke from the people as they watched. Then from far away under the lime-tree came Walter's voice, "Shoot, father, I am not afraid. You cannot miss."
Once more Tell raised his bow. The silence seemed deeper than ever. The people of Altorf knew and loved Tell, and Fürst, and little Walter. And so they watched and waited with heavy hearts and anxious faces.
"Ping!" went the bowstring. The arrow seemed to sing through the frosty air, and, a second later, the silence was broken by cheer after cheer. The apple lay upon the ground pierced right through the center.
One man sprang forward and cut the rope with which Walter was bound to the tree; another picked up the apple and ran with it to Gessler. But Tell stood still, his bow clutched in his hand, his body bent forward, his eyes wild and staring, as if he were trying to follow the flight of the arrow. Yet he saw nothing, heard nothing.
"He has really done it!" exclaimed Gessler in astonishment, as he turned the apple round and round in his hand. "Who would have thought it? Right in the center, too."
Little Walter, quite delighted, came running to his father. "Father," he cried, "I knew you could do it. I knew you could, and I was not a bit afraid. Was it not splendid?" and he laughed and pressed his curly head against his father.
Then suddenly Tell seemed to wake out of his dream, and taking Walter in his arms he held him close, kissing him again and again. "You are safe, my boy. You are safe," was all he said. But strong man though he was his eyes were full of tears, and he was saying to himself, "I might have killed him. I might have killed my own boy."
Meanwhile Gessler sat upon his horse watching them with a cruel smile upon his wicked face. "Tell," he said at last, "that was a fine shot, but for what was the other arrow?"
Tell put Walter down and, holding his hand, turned to Gessler, "It is always an archer's custom, my lord, to have a second arrow ready," he said.
"Nay, nay," said Gessler, "that answer will not do, Tell. Speak the truth."
Tell was silent.
"Speak, man," said Gessler, "and if you speak the truth, whatever it may be, I promise you your life."
"Then," said Tell, throwing his shoulders back and looking straight at Gessler, "since you promise me my life, hear the truth, if that first arrow had struck my child, the second one was meant for you, and be sure I had not missed my mark a second time."
Gessler's face grew dark with rage. For a moment or two he could not speak. When at last he did speak, his voice was low and terrible, "You dare," he said, "you dare to tell me this! I promised you your life indeed. Your life you shall have, but you shall pass it in a dark and lonely prison, where neither sun nor moon shall send the least glimmer of light. There you shall lie, so that I may be safe from you. Ah, my fine archer, your bows and arrows will be of little use to you henceforth. Seize him, men, and bind him, lest he do murder even now."
In a moment the soldiers sprang forward, and Tell was seized and bound.
As Gessler sat watching them, he looked round at all the angry faces of the crowd. "Tell has too many friends here," he said to himself. "If I imprison him in the Curb of Uri, they may find some way to help him to escape. I will take him with me in my boat to Klissnacht. There he can have no friends. There he will be quite safe." Then aloud he said, "Follow me, my men. Bring him to the boat."
As he said these words, there was a loud murmur from the crowd. "That is against the law," cried many voices.
"Law, law?" growled Gessler. "Who makes the law, you or I?"
Walter Fürst had been standing among the crowd silent and anxious. Now he stepped forward and spoke boldly. "My lord," he said, "it has ever been a law among the Swiss that no one shall be imprisoned out of his own canton. If my son-in-law, William Tell, has done wrong, let him be tried and imprisoned here, in Uri, in Altorf. If you do otherwise you wrong our ancient freedom and rights."
"Your freedom! your rights!" said Gessler roughly. "I tell you, you are here to obey the laws, not to teach me how I shall rule." Then turning his horse and calling out, "On, men, to the boat with him," he rode towards the lake, where, at a little place called Fliielen, his boat was waiting for him.
But Walter clung to his father, crying bitterly. Tell could not take him in his arms to comfort him, for his hands were tied. But he bent over him to kiss him, saying, "Little Walter, little Walter, be brave. Go with thy grandfather and comfort thy mother."
So Tell was led to Gessler's boat, followed by the sorrowing people. Their hearts were full of hot anger against the tyrant. Yet what could they do? He was too strong for them.
Tell was roughly pushed into the boat, where he sat closely guarded on either side by soldiers. His bow and arrows, which had been taken from him, were thrown upon a bench beside the steersman.
Gessler took his seat. The boat started, and was soon out on the blue water of the lake. As the people of Altorf watched Tell go, their hearts sank. They had not known, until they saw him bound and a prisoner, how much they had trusted and loved him.
On the lakes of Switzerland storms of wind arise very quickly. The Swiss used to dread these storms so much that they gave names to the winds as if they were people. The south wind, which is the fiercest, they called the Föhn. There used to be a law that when the Föhn arose, all fires were to be put out. For the wind whistled and blew down the wide chimneys like great bellows, till the fires flared up so fiercely that the houses, which were built of wood, were in danger of being burned to the ground. Now one of these fierce storms arose.
No one noticed when Gessler's boat pushed off from the shore how dark the sky had grown nor how keenly the wind was blowing. But before the boat had gone very far the waves began to rise, and the wind to blow fiercer and fiercer.
Soon the little boat was tossing wildly on great white-crested waves. The rowers bent to the oars and rowed with all their might. But in spite of all they could do, the waves broke over the boat, filling it with water. They were tossed here and there, until it seemed every minute that they would sink.
Pale with fear, the captain stood at the helm. He was an Austrian who knew nothing of the Swiss lakes, and he had never before been in such a storm. He was helpless, and he knew that very soon the boat would be a wreck.
Wrapped in his mantle, Gessler sat silent and still, watching the storm. He, too, knew the danger.
As the waves dashed over him, one of Gessler's servants staggered to his master's feet. "My lord," he said, "you see our need and danger, yet methinks there is one man on board who could save us."
"Who is that?" asked Gessler.
"William Tell, your prisoner," replied the man. "He is known to be one of the best sailors on this lake. He knows every inch of it. If any one can save the boat, he can."
"Bring him here," said Gessler.
"It seems you are a sailor as well as an archer, Tell," said Gessler, when his prisoner had been brought before him. "Can you save the boat and bring us to land?"
"Yes," said Tell.
"Unbind him, then," said Gessler to the soldier, "but mark you, Tell, you go not free. Even although you save us, you are still my prisoner. Do not think to have any reward."
The rope which bound Tell's hands was cut, and he took his place at the helm.
The waves still dashed high, the wind still howled, but under Tell's firm hand the boat seemed to steady itself, and the rowers bent to their work with new courage and strength in answer to his commanding voice.
Tell, leaning forward, peered through the darkness and the spray. There was one place where he knew it would be possible to land—where a bold and desperate man at least might land. He was looking for that place. Nearer and nearer to the shore he steered. At last he was quite close to it. He glanced quickly round. His bow and arrows lay beside him. He bent and seized them. Then with one great leap he sprang ashore, and as he leaped he gave the boat a backward push with his foot, sending it out again into the stormy waters of the lake.
There was a wild outcry from the sailors, but Tell was free, for no one dared to follow him. Quickly clambering up the mountain-side, he disappeared among the trees.
As Tell vanished, Gessler stood up and shouted in anger, but the little boat, rocking and tossing on the waves, drifted out into the lake, and the Austrian sailors, to whom the shore was unknown, dared not row near to it again, lest they should be dashed to pieces upon the rocks. Even as it was, they expected every moment that the boat would sink, and that all would be drowned. But despair seemed to give the sailors fresh strength, and soon the wind fell and the waves became quieter. A few hours later, wet, weary, but safe, Gessler and his company landed on the shore of Schwyz.
As soon as Gessler landed, he called for his horse, and silent and gloomy, his heart full of bitter hate against Tell and all the Swiss, he mounted and rode towards his castle at Küssnacht.
But Tell's heart, too, was full of hate and anger. That morning he had been a gentle, peace-loving man. Now all was changed. Gessler's cruel jest had made him hard and angry. He could not forget that he might have killed his own boy. He seemed to see always before him Walter bound to the tree with the apple on his head. Tell made up his mind that Gessler should never make any one else suffer so much. There was only one thing to do. That was to kill Gessler, and that Tell meant to do.
If Gessler escaped from the storm, Tell was sure that he would go straight to his castle at Küssnacht. There was only one road which led from the lake to the castle, and at a place called the Hollow Way it became very narrow, and the banks rose steep and rugged on either side. There Tell made up his mind to wait for Gessler. There he meant to free his country from the cruel tyrant.
Without stopping for food or rest, Tell hurried through the woods until he came to the Hollow Way. There he waited and watched. Many people passed along the road. There were herds with their flocks, and travelers of all kinds, among them a poor woman whose husband had been put in prison by Gessler, so that now she had no home, and had to wander about with her children begging. She stopped and spoke to Tell, and the story she told of Gessler's cruelty made Tell's heart burn with anger, and made him more sure than ever that the deed he meant to do was just and right.
The day went on, and still Gessler did not come, and still Tell waited. At last he heard the distant tramp of feet and the sound of voices. Surely he had come at last. But as the sounds came nearer, Tell knew that it could not be Gessler, for he heard music and laughter, and through the Hollow Way came a gaily dressed crowd. It was a wedding-party. Laughing and merry, the bride and bridegroom with their friends passed along. When they were out of sight the wind brought back the sound of their merry voices to Tell, as he waited upon the bank. They, at least, had for a time forgotten Gessler.
At last, as the sun was setting, Tell heard the tramp of horses, and a herald dashed along the road, shouting, "Room for the governor. Room, I say."
As Gessler came slowly on behind, Tell could hear him talking in a loud and angry voice to a friend. "Obedience I will have," he was saying. "I have been far too mild a ruler over this people. They grow too proud. But I will break their pride. Let them prate of freedom, indeed. I will crush—" The sentence was never finished. An arrow whizzed through the air, and with a groan Gessler fell, dead.
Tell's second arrow had found its mark.
Immediately everything was in confusion. Gessler's soldiers crowded round, trying to do something for their master. But it was useless. He was dead. Tell's aim had been true.
"Who has done this foul murder?" cried one of Gessler's * friends, looking round.
"The shot was mine," answered Tell, from where he stood on the high bank. "But no murder have I done. I have but freed an unoffending people from a base and cowardly tyrant. My cause is just, let God be the judge."
At the sound of his voice every one turned to look at Tell, as he stood above them calm and unafraid.
"Seize him!" cried the man who had already spoken, as soon as he recovered from his astonishment. "Seize him, it is Tell the archer."
Five or six men scrambled up the steep bank as fast as they could. But Tell slipped quietly through the bushes, and when they reached the top he was nowhere to be found.
The short winter's day was closing in fast, and Tell found it easy to escape in the darkness from Gessler's soldiers. They soon gave up the chase, and, returning to the road, took up their master's dead body and carried it to his castle at Küssnacht There was little sorrow for him, for he had been a hard master. The Austrian soldiers did not grieve, and the Swiss, wherever they heard the news, rejoiced.
As soon as he was free of the soldiers, Tell turned and made for Stauffacher's house. All through the night he walked, until he came to the pretty house with its red roofs and many windows which had made Gessler so angry.
Now there was no light in any of the windows, and all was still and quiet. But Tell knew in which of the rooms Stauffacher slept, and he knocked softly upon the window until he had aroused his friend.
"William Tell!" said Stauffacher in astonishment. "I heard from Walter Fürst that you were a prisoner. Thank Heaven that you are free again."
"I am free," said Tell; "you, too, are free. Gessler is dead."
"Gessler dead!" exclaimed Stauffacher. "Now indeed have we cause for thankfulness. Tell me, how did it happen?" and he drew William Tell into the house.
Tell soon told all his story. Then Stauffacher, seeing how weary he was, gave him food and made him rest.
That night Tell slept well. All next day he remained hidden in Stauffacher's house. "You must not go," said his friend, "Gessler's soldiers will be searching for you." But when evening came Tell crept out into the dark again, and kind friends rowed him across the lake back to Flüelen. There, where a few days before he had been a prisoner, he landed, now free.
Tell went at once to Walter Fürst's house, and soon messengers were hurrying all through the land to gather together again the Confederates, as those who had met on that eventful night were called.
This time they gathered with less fear and less secrecy, for was not the dreaded governor dead? Not one but was glad, yet some of the Confederates blamed Tell, for they had all promised to wait until the first of January before doing anything. "I know," said Tell, "but he drove me to it." And every man there who had left a little boy at home felt that he too might have done the same thing.
Now that Tell had struck the first blow, some of the Confederates wished to rise at once. But others said, "No, it is only a few weeks now until New Year's Day. Let us wait."
So they waited, and everything seemed quiet and peaceful in the land, for the Emperor sent no governor to take Gessler's place, as he was far away in Austria, too busy fighting and quarreling there to think of Switzerland in the meantime. "When I have finished this war," he said, "it will be time enough to crush these Swiss rebels."