| Heroes Every Child Should Know|
|by Hamilton Wright Mabie|
|Inspiring stories of heroes from various times and places relating their daring deeds, prompted by their high ideals. Perseus and Hercules are included from Greek mythology and David and Daniel from the Bible. Among the legendary heroes of the middle ages are St. George, King Arthur, Sir Galahad, Siegfried, Roland, Robin Hood, The Cid, and William Tell. Historical persons such as Alfred the Great, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Robert the Bruce, and Robert E. Lee round out the collection. Ages 9-12 |
ILLIAM TELL was born toward the close of the thirteenth century. I
cannot tell you the precise year of his birth; but in the year 1307
he was a married man, and lived with his wife and children, in the
village of Bürglen, near the great town of Altdorf, in the canton of
Tell maintained his family chiefly by hunting the chamois, and
shooting other wild game. So skilful was he in the use of the bow,
that the fame of his exploits in that way had obtained for him the
name of "The Crossbowman of Bürglen." He was also very skilful in
the management of boats upon the lakes. His father had followed the
profession of a pilot, and William Tell, though he preferred the
life of a hunter, understood the navigation of the lakes better than
almost any boatman in the canton of Uri. It was a saying, "That
William Tell knew how to handle the rudder as expertly as the bow."
In short, he was a person of strong natural talents, who observed on
everything he saw, and acquired all the knowledge he could.
Switzerland was at that time in a state of slavery to Albert, Duke
of Austria, who had recently been selected Emperor of Germany. He
had taken great offence with the Swiss, because they wished Count
Adolph of Nassau to be elected Emperor of Germany instead of him.
The first use he made of his power was to punish
 the Swiss for
having favoured the cause of his rival; and he was so unwise as to
declare publicly, "that he would no longer treat them as subjects,
but as slaves." In pursuance of this wicked resolution he deprived
them of many of their rights and privileges, and altered their
ancient laws and customs.
By these proceedings the Emperor rendered his government very
unpopular, and when he found that the people expressed
dissatisfaction, he built castles and fortresses all over the
country, and filled them with soldiers to awe the people into
submission. In each of these fortresses he placed a governor, who
exercised despotic power in the district over which his sway
extended. The inhabitants of the canton Uri, in particular, had to
complain of the oppression of their German governor, Gessler, who
had committed several murders, and acted in such a manner as to
excite general indignation, by his pride, cruelty, and injustice.
The whole country was indeed ripe for a revolt, in case an
opportunity should occur of throwing off the German yoke.
One cold autumnal evening, the blaze of the cheerful fire which the
wife of William Tell had kindled on the hearth, against her
husband's return, gleamed through the rude latticed casements of
their cottage window. The earthern floor of the humble dwelling had
been freshly swept; a clean cloth of the matron's own spinning, was
spread on the homely board, which was garnished with wooden bowls
and spoons of the most snowy whiteness; and a kettle of fish-soup,
with herbs, was stewing over the fire. Some flat oaten cakes,
designed to be eaten hot with butter, were baking on the hearth.
The babe was sleeping peacefully in the cradle; two
 or three of the
other little ones, weary with their sportive play, had been laid in
their cribs. Henric and Lewis, two lovely boys of five and six years
old, having promised to be very good, if allowed to sit up till
their father's return, were watching their mother, who was employed
in roasting a fine fat quail which their cousin, Lalotte, who had
arrived at the discreet age of fourteen, was basting, and spinning
the string by which it was suspended before the fire.
"Mother," said Henric, "if my father does not come home very soon,
that quail will be done too much."
"What then?" asked Lalotte.
"I was thinking, cousin Lalotte, that it would be a pity for it to
be spoiled, after you and mother have taken so much pains in cooking
it; and it smells so very good."
"Oh, fie! you greedy child; you want to eat the bird that is cooking
for your father's supper," said Lalotte. "If I were my aunt, I would
send you to bed only for thinking of such a thing."
"You are not the mistress—you are not the mistress!" cried the
sturdy rebel Henric; "and I shall not go to bed at your desire."
"But you shall go to bed, young sir, if your cousin Lalotte tells
you so to do," said his father, who had entered during the dispute.
"Alack!" cried Henric turning to his little brother, "if we had only
been patient, Lewis, we should have tasted the nice quail, and heard
all our father's news into the bargain."
"There now, see what you have lost by being naughty children," cried
Lalotte, as she led the offenders into their little bedroom.
"Thy father's news is not for thy young ears, my boys,"
William Tell, as the door closed after the unconscious children.
"There is a sadness in thy voice and trouble on thy brow," said the
anxious wife of Tell, looking earnestly in his face. "Wilt thou not
trust me with the cause of thy care?"
"Annette," replied Tell, "thou hast been a good and faithful wife to
me—yea, and a prudent counsellor and friend in the time of need.
Why, then, should I do a thing and conceal it from thee, my well-beloved?"
"What is it thou hast done, my husband?"
"That for which thou wilt blame me, perchance."
"Nay, say not so; thou art a good man."
"Thou knowest, my loving wife, the sad state of slavery to which
this unhappy country of Switzerland is reduced by the unlawful
oppression of our foreign rulers," said Tell.
"I do," she replied; "but what have peasants to do with matters so
much above them?"
"Much!" returned Tell. "If the good laws made by the worthies of the
olden time, for the comfort and protection of all ranks of people,
be set at naught by strangers, and all the ancient institutions,
which were the pride and the glory of our land, be overthrown, by
those to whom we owe neither the love of children, nor the
allegiance of subjects, then, methinks, good wife, it becomes the
duty of peasants to stand forth in defence of their rights. I have
engaged myself, with three-and-thirty of my valiant countrymen, who
met this night on the little promontory of land that juts into a
lonely angle of the Lake, to concert with them means for the
deliverance of my country."
"But how can three-and-thirty men hope to oppose
 the power of those
who enthral Switzerland?" asked the wife of Tell.
"Great objects are often effected by small instruments," replied he.
"The whole population of Switzerland is exasperated against the
German tyrants, who have of late abused their power so far as to
rouse the indignation even of women and of children against them.
The father of Arnold Melchthal, one of the 'Brothers of Rütli,' as
our band is called, was recently put to a cruel death by the unjust
sentence of Gessler, the governor of our own canton of Uri; and who
knoweth, gentle wife, whether his jealous caprice may not induce him
to single me out for his next victim?"
"Single thee out, my husband!" exclaimed Annette turning pale. "Nay,
what accusation could he bring against thee?"
"That of being the friend of my country, which is, of course, a
crime not to be forgiven by a person of Gessler's disposition."
"But Gessler is too much exalted above our humble sphere of life, to
be aware of a peasant's sentiments on such matters," said Annette.
"Gessler will not permit us to indulge the thoughts of our hearts in
secret," said Tell; "for he hath recently devised a shrewd test,
whereby he is enabled to discern the freeman from the slave
throughout this province."
"And what is the test which the governor of Uri employeth for that
"Thou hast heard our good pastor read in the Scripture of the
prophet Daniel, of the golden image, which the tyrant Nebuchadnezzar
caused to be erected. He made a decree that all nations and people
of the world should bow down and worship it, and that those who
 refused to do so should be cast into a burning fiery furnace.
Rememberest thou this, my beloved?"
"Certainly," Annette replied. "But what hath Gessler to do with that
presumptuous folly of the King of Babylon?"
"Gessler," replied Tell, "imitates the presumption, albeit it is not
in his power to rival the grandeur, of Nebuchadnezzar; for he hath
set up an idol in the market-place of Altdorf, to which he requireth
blind homage to be paid by fools and cowards. Now, the King of
Babylon's idol, the prophet tells us, was of solid gold, a metal
which the world is, I grieve to say, too prone to worship; but
Gessler's paltry Baal is but the empty ducal bonnet of Austria,
which he hath exalted on a pole; and he commands the men of Uri to
bow down before it, under penalty of death. Wouldst thou wish thy
husband to degrade the name of a Swiss, by stooping to such an
"No," she replied, "I should blush for thee, if thou wert capable of
"Thou hast spoken like a free woman," he exclaimed. "Yea, and thou
shalt be the mother of free children: for the first time I go to
Altdorf I will resist the edict, which enjoins me and my countrymen
to pay homage to the senseless bauble which the German governor hath
exalted in the market-place."
"But why go to Altdorf at all, my husband?" said the wife to Tell.
"My business calls me to Altdorf, and I shall go thither like an
honest man, in the performance of my duty," replied Tell. "Thinkest
thou that I am either to confess myself a slave, by bending my body
to an empty cap, or to permit it to be a scarecrow, that shall
fright me from
 entering the capital city of my native province, lest
I should draw upon myself the penalty of refusing to perform a
contemptible action, enjoined by a wicked man? No, no, my sweet
wife; I shall go to Altdorf, when occasion may require, without
considering myself bound to observe Gessler's foolish edict."
The return of Lalotte put an end to this discourse; and Annette
began to assist her in taking up the supper.
Lalotte was the orphan of Tell's brother. Her parents had both died
when she and her brother Philip were very young, and they had been
adopted into the family of her kind uncle soon after his marriage
with Annette. Lalotte was affectionate, sprightly, and industrious.
She assisted her aunt in the household work and the dairy; and it was
her business to take charge of the children, whom she carefully
instructed in such things as she knew, and laboured to render them
virtuous and obedient.
Philip, her brother, who was about a year older than herself, had
been unfortunately a spoiled child. He was self-willed and
intractable, and, though far from a bad disposition, was always
getting himself and others into scrapes and difficulties.
That night his place at the board was vacant, which his uncle
"Lalotte, where is your brother Philip?"
"Absent, uncle, I am sorry to say," replied Lalotte.
"It is not usual for Philip to desert the supper meal," observed
Tell, "even if he be absent the rest of the day. I am afraid he is
after no good."
A hasty step was heard; and Lalotte exclaimed, "I should not wonder
if that were my scrapegrace brother!"
"It does not sound well of you to call him so, Lalotte, though he is
a sad plague to us all," said Tell.
 The door was hastily opened, and Philip bounced in out of breath,
and covered with mud. He flung himself on a wooden settle beside the
fire, and gave way to fits of laughter.
"How now, Philip! what is the cause of all this?" asked Tell
"Hurrah!" shouted he, springing from his seat, and capering about,
"I have done such a deed!"
"Some notable piece of folly, no doubt," observed his uncle; "what
is it, boy?"
"A deed that will render my name famous throughout the whole
province of Uri, my good uncle. Everybody is talking about it in
Altdorf at this very moment," exclaimed Philip, rubbing his hands.
"You have long been celebrated there as the ringleader of mischief,"
observed Tell; "but I doubt whether you will have much reason to
exult in the evil reputation you have acquired, Philip. Therefore go
to bed, and when you say your prayers, ask for grace to reform your
"My good uncle," replied Philip, "be content. This night I have
turned patriot, raised a rabble of boys, and pelted down the fool's
cap which old Gessler had stuck up in the market-place of Altdorf,
for Switzers to pay homage to. Is not that a glorious deed!"
"It is of a piece with the rest of your folly. Were you called upon
to pay homage to the cap?"
"By no means, uncle, else must I perforce have made my obeisance to
the empty bonnet of the Emperor-Duke of Austria. But this exploit of
mine was after dark, when one boy could not be distinguished from
another; and there were fully fifty of us engaged in pelting at the
mock majesty till down it came, feathers and all, souse
 into the
mud. Then, oh stars! how we all ran! But it was my stone that hit
it, take notice: ha! ha! ha!"
"Your head must be as devoid of brains as the empty cap you pelted,
Philip, or you never would have engaged in any such adventure."
"How, uncle!" cried Philip in amaze; "would you have me pay homage
to the ducal bonnet without a head in it?"
"It seems you were not required to do so, Philip; therefore you had
no pretext for raising a riot to break the peace."
"But, uncle, do you intend to yield obedience to the governor's
"Philip," replied Tell, "I am a man, and of age to form a correct
judgment of the things which it may be expedient to do or proper to
refuse. But it is not meet for idle boys to breed riots and commit
acts of open violence, calculated to plunge a whole country into
Philip withdrew with an air of great mortification and the family
soon after retired to rest.
The next day William Tell took his thoughtless nephew with him, on a
hunting excursion, since it was necessary he should find some better
occupation than throwing stones. After several days they returned,
loaded with the skins of the chamois that had been slain by the
unerring arrow of Tell.
His wife and children hastened to the cottage door to welcome him,
when they beheld him coming. "Behold, my beloved," said Tell, "how
well I have sped in the chase! These skins will bring in a mine of
wealth against the winter season. To-morrow is Altdorf fair and I
shall go thither to sell them."
"Hurrah!" shouted Philip. "Is Altdorf fair
to-  morrow? Oh, my faith,
I had forgotten it. Well, I shall go thither, and have some fun."
"And I mean to go too, cousin Philip," said Henric.
"Not so fast, young men," cried Tell. "Altdorf fair will be full of
soldiers and turbulent people, and is not a proper place for rash
boys and children."
"But you will take care of us, father, dear father," said Henric,
stroking his father's arm caressingly.
"I shall have enough to do to take care of myself, Henric," replied
Tell. "So you must be a good boy, and stay with your mother."
"But I won't be a good boy, if you leave me at home," muttered the
"Then you must be whipped, sir," said his father; "for we love you
too well to permit you to be naughty without punishing you."
On hearing this, Henric began to weep with anger. So his father told
Lalotte to put him to bed without his supper.
Now Philip was a silly, good-natured fellow, and fancied that his
little cousin, Henric, of whom he was very fond, was ill-treated by
his father. So he took an opportunity of slipping a sweet-cake into
his pouch, from the supper-board, with which he slily stole to
"Never mind my cross uncle, sweet cousin," said he: "see, I have
brought you a nice cake."
"Oh! I don't care about cakes," cried Henric. "I want to go to
Altdorf fair to-morrow."
"And you shall go to Altdorf fair," said Philip.
"But how can I go, when father says he won't take me?" sobbed
"There, dry your eyes, and go to sleep," whispered
 Philip; "as soon
as my uncle is gone I will take you to the fair with me; for I mean
to go, in spite of all he has said to the contrary."
"But what will mother say?" asked Henric.
"We won't let her know anything about it," said Philip.
"But Lalotte won't let us go; for Lalotte is very cross, and wants
to master me."
"A fig for Lalotte!" cried the rude Philip; "do you think I care for
"I won't care for Lalotte when I grow a great big boy like you,
cousin Philip; but she makes me mind her now," said Henric.
"Never fear; we will find some way of outwitting Mademoiselle
Lalotte to-morrow," said Philip.
The next morning William Tell rose at an early hour, and proceeded
to the fair at Altdorf, to sell his chamois skins.
Philip instead of getting up, and offering to carry them for his
uncle, lay in bed till after he was gone. He was pondering on his
undutiful scheme of taking little Henric to the fair, in defiance of
Tell's express commands that both should stay at home that day.
Henric could eat no breakfast that morning for thinking of the
project in which Philip had tempted him to engage. His kind mother
patted his curly head, and gave him a piece of honeycomb for not
crying to go to the fair. He blushed crimson-red at this
commendation, and was just going to tell his mother all about it,
when Philip, guessing his thoughts, held up his finger, and shook
his head at him.
When his mother and Lalotte went into the dairy to churn the butter
they begged Henric and Philip to
 take care of Lewis and the other
little ones, so that they should not get into any mischief. No
sooner, however, were they gone, than Philip said,
"Now, Henric, is
our time to make our escape, and go to the fair."
"But," said Henric, "my mother gave me some sweet and honeycomb just
now, for being a good boy; and it will be very naughty of me to
disobey my father's commands after that. So, dear Philip, I was
thinking that I would stay at home to-day, if you would stay too,
and make little boats for me to float on the lake."
"I shall do no such thing, I promise you," replied Philip; "for I
mean to go to the fair, and see the fun. You may stay at home, if
you like—for I don't want to be plagued with your company."
"Oh, dear!" cried Henric, "but I want very much to go to the fair,
and see the fun too."
"Come along then," said Philip; "or we shall not get there in time
to see the tumblers, or the apes and dancing bears, or the fire-eaters,
or any other of the shows."
It was nearly two hours before the truants were missed by Henric's
mother and Lalotte; for they were all that time busy in the dairy.
At length they heard the children cry; on which, Lalotte ran into
the room, and found no one with them but Lewis.
"What a shame," cried Lalotte, "for that lazy boy Philip, to leave
all these little ones, with only you, Lewis. Where is Henric, pray?"
"Oh! Henric is gone to the fair with cousin Philip," lisped little
"Oh that wicked Philip!" cried Lalotte. "Aunt! aunt! Philip has run
off to Altdorf fair, and taken Henric with him!"
 "My dear Lalotte," said her aunt, "you must put on your hood and
sabots, and run after them. Perhaps, as you are light-footed, you
can overtake them, and bring Henric back. I am sure, some mischief
will befall him."
Lalotte hastily threw her gray serge cloak about her, and drew the
hood over her head. She slipped her little feet into her sabots, or
wooden shoes, and took the road to Altdorf, hurrying along as fast
as she could, in hope of overtaking the truants before they reached
More than once the little maiden thought of turning back, but the
remembrance of Philip's rash and inconsiderate temper filled her
with alarm for the safety of the child whom he had tempted away from
home. She reflected that, as her uncle was at Altdorf, it would be
her wisest course to proceed thither to seek him out, and to inform
him of his little boy being then in the fair.
Lalotte entered the market-place of Altdorf, at the moment when her
uncle, having disposed of his chamois-skins to advantage, was
crossing from the carriers' stalls to a clothier's booth to purchase
woollen cloths for winter garments. Fairs were formerly marts, where
merchants and artisans brought their goods for sale; and persons
resorted thither, not for the purpose of riot and revelling, but to
purchase useful commodities, clothing, and household goods at the
William Tell had been requested by his careful wife to purchase a
variety of articles for the use of the family. He was so intent in
performing all her biddings, to the best of his ability, that he
never once thought of the cap which the insolent governor, Gessler,
had erected in the market-place, till he found himself opposite to
the lofty pole on which it was exalted. He would have passed it
unconsciously had he not been stopped by the German
 soldiers, who
were under arms on either side the pole, to enforce obedience to the
insulting edict of the governor of Uri. Tell then paused, and,
raising his eyes to the object to which the captain of the guard,
with an authoritative gesture, directed his attention, beheld the
ducal cap of Austria just above him.
The colour mounted to the cheek of the free-born hunter of the Alps,
at the sight of this badge of slavery of his fallen country. Casting
an indignant glance upon the foreign soldiers who had impeded his
progress, he moved sternly forward, without offering the prescribed
act of homage to the cap.
"Stop!" cried the captain of the guard; "you are incurring the
penalty of death, rash man, by your disobedience to the edict of his
excellency the Governor of Uri."
"Indeed!" replied Tell. "I was not aware that I was doing anything
"You have insulted the majesty of our lord the Emperor by passing
that cap without bowing to it," said the officer.
"I wist not that more respect were due to an empty cap, than to a
cloak and doublet, or a pair of hose," replied Tell.
"Insolent traitor! dost thou presume to level thy rude gibes at the
badge of royalty?" cried the governor, stepping forward from behind
the soldiers, where he had been listening to the dispute between
Tell and the officer.
Poor Lalotte, meantime, having caught a glimpse of her uncle's tall,
manly figure through the crowd, had pressed near enough to hear the
alarming dialogue in which he had been engaged with the German
soldiers. While, pale with terror, she stood listening with
 attention, she recognised Philip at no great distance,
with little Henric in his arms, among the spectators.
The thoughtless Philip was evidently neither aware how near he was
to his uncle, nor of the peril in which he stood. With foolish glee,
he was pointing out the cap to little Henric; and though Lalotte
could not hear what he was saying, she fancied he was rashly
boasting to the child of the share in the exploit of pelting it down
a few nights previous.
While her attention was thus painfully excited she heard some of the
people round her saying,
"Who is it that has ventured to resist the governor's decree?"
"It is William Tell, the crossbow-man of Bürglen," replied many
"William Tell!" said one of the soldiers; "why it was his kinsman
who raised a rabble to insult the ducal bonnet the other night."
"Ay, it was the scapegrace, Philip Tell, who assailed the cap of our
sovereign with stones, till he struck it down," cried another.
"Behold where the young villain stands," exclaimed a third, pointing
"Hallo, hallo! seize the young traitor, in the name of the Emperor
and the governor!" shouted the Germans.
"Run, Philip, run—run for your life!" cried a party of his youthful
Philip hastily set his little cousin on his feet, and started off
with the speed of the wild chamois of the Alpine mountains; leaving
little Henric to shift for himself.
"The child, the child! the precious boy! he will be trampled to
death!" shrieked Lalotte.
Henric had caught sight of his father among the crowd
 while Philip
was holding him up to look at the ducal cap, and he had been much
alarmed lest his father should see him. But the moment he found
himself abandoned by Philip, he lifted up his voice, and screamed
with all his might, "Father, father!"
The helplessness, the distress, together with the uncommon beauty of
the child, moved the heart of a peasant near him, to compassion.
"Who is your father, my fair boy?" said he. "Point him out, and I
will lead you to him."
"My father is William Tell, the crossbow-man of Bürglen," said the
child. "There he is, close to the cap on the pole yonder."
"Is he your father, poor babe?" said the peasant. "Well, you will
find him in rare trouble, and I hope you may not be the means of
adding to it, my little man."
No sooner had the kind man cleared the way through the crowd for his
young companion, and conducted him within a few yards of the spot
where William Tell stood, than the urchin drew his hand away from
his new friend, and running to his father, flung his little arms
about his knees, sobbing, "Father, dear father, pray forgive me this
once, and I will never disobey you again."
Henric made his appearance at an unlucky moment both for his father
and himself; for the cruel governor of Uri, exasperated at the manly
courage of Tell, seized the boy by the arm and sternly demanded if
he were his son.
"Harm not the child, I pray thee," cried Tell: "he is my first
"It is not my intention to do him harm," replied the governor. "If
any mischief befall the child, it will be by thy own hand, traitor.
Here," cried he to one of his
 soldiers, "take this boy, tie him
beneath yon linden-tree, in the centre of the market-place, and
place an apple on his head——"
"What means this?" cried Tell.
"I am minded to see a specimen of your skill as an archer," replied
Gessler. "I am told that you are the best marksman in all Uri; and,
therefore, your life being forfeited by your presumptuous act of
disobedience, I am inclined, out of the clemency of my nature, to
allow you a chance of saving it. This you may do, if you can shoot
an arrow so truly aimed as to cleave the apple upon thy boy's head.
But if thou either miss the apple, or slay the child, then shall the
sentence of death be instantly executed."
"Unfeeling tyrant!" exclaimed Tell; "dost thou think that I could
endeavour to preserve my own life by risking that of my precious
"Nay," replied Gessler, "I thought I was doing thee a great favour
by offering thee an alternative, whereby thou mightest preserve thy
forfeited life by a lucky chance."
"A lucky chance!" exclaimed Tell: "and dost thou believe that I
would stake my child's life on such a desperate chance as the cast
of an arrow launched by the agitated hand of an anxious father, at
such a mark as that? Nay, look at the child thyself, my lord. Though
he be no kin to thee, and thou knowest none of his pretty ways and
winning wiles, whereby he endeareth himself to a parent's heart—yet
consider his innocent countenance, the artless beauty of his
features, and the rosy freshness of his rounded cheeks, which are
dimpling with joy at the sight of me, though the tears yet hang upon
them—and then say, whether thou couldst find in thine heart to aim
an arrow that perchance might harm him?"
 "I swear," replied Gessler, "that thou shalt either shoot the arrow,
"My choice is soon made," said Tell, dropping the bow from his hand.
"Let me die!"
"Ay, but the child shall be slain before thy face ere thine own
sentence be executed, traitor!" cried the governor, "if thou shoot
not at him."
"Give me the bow once more!" exclaimed Tell, in a hoarse, deep
voice; "but in mercy let some one turn the child's face away from
me. If I meet the glance of those sweet eyes of his, it will unnerve
my hand; and then, perchance, the shaft, on whose true aim his life
and mine depend, may err."
Lalotte, knowing that all depended on his remaining quiet, as soon
as the soldiers had placed him with his face averted from his
father, sprang forward, and whispered in Henric's ear, "Stand firm,
dear boy, without moving, for five minutes, and you will be forgiven
for your fault of this morning."
There was a sudden pause of awe and expectation among the dense
crowd that had gathered round the group planted within a bow-shot of
the linden-tree beneath which the child was bound. Tell, whose arms
were now released, unbuckled the quiver that was slung across his
shoulder, and carefully examined his arrows, one by one. He selected
two: one of them he placed in his girdle, the other he fitted to his
bow-string; and then he raised his eyes to Heaven, and his lips
moved in prayer. He relied not upon his own skill but he asked the
assistance of One in whose hands are the issues of life and death;
and he did not ask in vain. The trembling, agitated hand that a
moment before shook with the strong emotion of a parent's anxious
fears, became suddenly
 firm and steady; his swimming eyes resumed
their keen, clear sight, and his mind recovered its wonted energy of
purpose at the proper moment.
Lalotte's young voice was the first to proclaim, aloud, "The arrow
hath cleft the apple in twain! and the child is safe."
"God hath sped my shaft, and blessed be His name!" exclaimed the
pious archer, on whose ear the thunders of applause, with which the
assembled multitude hailed his successful shot, had fallen unheeded.
The soldiers now unbound the child; and Lalotte fearlessly advanced,
and led him to his father. But before the fond parent could fold his
darling to his bosom, the tyrant Gessler sternly demanded for what
purpose he had reserved the second arrow, which he had seen him
select and place in his belt.
"That arrow," replied Tell, giving way to a sudden burst of passion,
"that arrow was designed to avenge the death of my child, if I had
slain him with the other."
"How to avenge?" exclaimed the governor, furiously. "To avenge,
saidst thou? and on whom didst thou intend thy vengeance would
"On thee, tyrant!" replied Tell, fixing his eyes sternly on the
governor. "My next mark would have been thy bosom, had I failed in
my first. Thou perceivest that mine is not a shaft to miscarry."
"Well, thou hast spoken frankly," said Gessler; "and since I have
promised thee thy life I will not swerve from my word. But as I have
now reason for personal apprehensions from thy malice, I shall
closet thee henceforth so safely in the dungeons of Küssnacht, that
the light of sun or moon shall never more visit thine eyes; and thy
fatal bow shall hereafter be harmless."
 On this the guard once more laid hands on the intrepid archer, whom
they seized and bound, in spite of the entreaties of Lalotte, and
the cries and tears of little Henric, who hung weeping about his
"Take him home to his mother, Lalotte; and bear my last fond
greetings to her and the little ones, whom I, peradventure, shall
see no more," said Tell, bursting into tears. The mighty heart which
had remained firm and unshaken in the midst of all his perils and
trials, now melted within him at the sight of his child's tears, the
remembrance of his home, and anticipations of the sufferings of his
The inhuman Gessler scarcely permitted his prisoner the satisfaction
of a parting embrace with Henric and Lalotte, ere he ordered him to
be hurried on board a small vessel in which he embarked also with
his armed followers. He commanded the crew to row to Brunnen, where
it was his intention to land, and, passing through the territory of
Schwyz, to lodge the captive Tell in the dungeon of Küssnacht, and
there to immure him for life.
The sails were hoisted and the vessel under weigh, when suddenly one
of those storms common on the lake of Uri overtook them, accompanied
with such violent gusts of wind, that the terrified pilot forsook
the helm; and the bark, with the governor and his crew, was in
danger of being ingulfed in the raging waters. Gessler, like most
wicked people, was in great terror at the prospect of death, when
one of his attendants reminded him that the prisoner, William Tell,
was no less skilful in the management of a boat than in the exercise
of the bow. So he ordered that Tell should be unbound, and placed at
The boat, steered by the master-hand of the intrepid
 Tell, now kept
its course steadily through the mountain surge; and Tell observed,
"that by the grace of God, he trusted a deliverance was at hand."
As the prow of the vessel was driven inland, Tell perceived a
solitary table rock and called aloud the rowers to redouble their
efforts, till they should have passed the precipice ahead. At the
instant they came abreast this point he snatched his bow from the
plank, where it was lying forgotten during the storm, and, turning
the helm suddenly toward the rock, he sprang lightly on shore,
scaled the mountain, and was out of sight and beyond reach of
pursuit, before any on board had recovered from consternation.
Tell, meantime, entered Schwyz, and having reached the heights which
border the main road to Küssnacht, concealed himself among the
brushwood in a small hollow of the road, where he knew Gessler would
pass on his way to his own castle, in case he and his followers
escaped and came safely to shore. This, it appeared they did, and
having effected a landing at Brunnen, they took horse, and proceeded
towards Küssnacht, in the direction of the only road to the castle.
While they were passing the spot where Tell lay concealed, he heard
the cruel tyrant denouncing the most deadly vengeance, not only on
himself, but his helpless family: "If I live to return to Altdorf,"
he exclaimed, "I will destroy the whole brood of the traitor Tell,
mother and children, in the same hour."
"Monster, thou shalt return to Altdorf no more!" murmured Tell. So,
raising himself up in his lair, and fitting an arrow to his bow, he
took deadly aim at the relentless bosom that was planning the
destruction of all his family.
 The arrow flew as truly to the mark as that which he had shot in the
market-place of Altdorf, and the tyrant Gessler fell from his horse,
pierced with a mortal wound.
The daring archer thought that he had taken his aim unseen by human
eye; but, to his surprise, a familiar voice whispered in his ear,
"Bravo, uncle! that was the best-aimed shaft you ever shot. Gessler
is down, and we are a free people now."
"Thou incorrigible varlet, what brings thee here?" replied Tell, in
an undervoice, giving Philip a rough grip of the arm.
"It is no time to answer questions," returned Philip. "The Rütli
band are waiting for thee, if so be thou canst escape from this
dangerous place; and my business here was to give thee notice of the
On this, Tell softly crept from the thicket, and, followed by his
nephew, took the road to Stienen, which under cover of darkness,
they reached that night.
Philip, by the way, after expressing much contrition for having
seduced little Henric to go to the fair with him, informed his uncle
that Henric and Lalotte had been safely conducted home by one of the
band of the Rütli who chanced to be at Altdorf fair.
When they reached Stienen Tell was received with open arms by
Stauffacher, the leader of the Rütli band; and with him and the
other confederates, he so well concerted measures for the
deliverance of Switzerland from the German yoke, that, in the course
of a few days, the whole country was in arms. The Emperor of
Germany's forces were everywhere defeated; and on the first day of
the year, 1308, the independence of Switzerland was declared.
His grateful countrymen would have chosen William
 Tell for their
sovereign, but he nobly rejected the offer, declaring that he was
perfectly contented with the station of life in which he was born,
and wished to be remembered in history by no other title than that
of the Deliverer of Switzerland.
This true patriot lived happily in the bosom of his family for many
years, and had the satisfaction of seeing his children grow up in
the fear of God and the practice of virtue.
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