THE ESCAPE OF WILLIAM TELL
 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
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,
"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
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
As Tell leaped he gave the boat a backward push with his foot
There was a wild outcry from the sailors, but Tell was
free, for no one dared to follow
 him. Quickly clambering up the mountainside, 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 Schwytz.