THE STORY OF GESSLER AND STAUFFACHER
 Meanwhile, in Schwytz and Uri, Hermann Gessler was making himself
as much hated as was Berenger of Landenberg in
Gessler lived in a great castle at Küssnacht in
Schwytz. It was a strong and gloomy castle, and in it
were dreadful dungeons where he imprisoned the people
and tortured them according to his own 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 Four 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.
The men of Uri worked unwillingly. Their hearts sank
within them as they hewed the stones and laid them one
on another, for they knew that they were building a
prison for themselves.
As the walls rose and the dark and gloomy prison cells
took shape, the men grew more and more sullen. "Who
would be the first," they asked themselves, "to lie in
these dark dungeons?"
Gessler often came to watch the building and to jeer
and laugh at the unwilling workers. "You do not want to
build my castle," he said. "O you fierce lions! O you
stiff-necked peasants! Wait a little, and I will make
you tame and soft enough to wind around my finger."
"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"; and the hearts of the men who heard
him sank still further. Were they thus to be bridled
and beaten like beasts of burden?
After watching the work for some time, Gessler and his
friend rode away. They were gaily clad, they looked
splendid and grand, but as they rode along they were
followed by the silent curses of the men of Uri.
"My friend," said Gessler, as he rode, "we will go back
to Küssnacht 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 of great
So they rode on, Gessler talking of the great things he
would do, and of how he would grind these "peasant
nobles," as he called them, to the earth.
At last they came to a bridge which crossed the little
river by which they rode, and there, on the hillside
opposite, stood the house which they had come to see.
It was far more beautiful than Gessler had expected,
and he stood still gazing at it in wonder and anger.
The house was long and low, and built of wood. The roof
was of red tiles, and the walls were painted white. The
many windows glittered in the sunlight, and round their
black frames, as was the custom in those days, names
and proverbs were painted in white letters.
"This house was built by Werner Stauffacher and
Gertrude of Iberg, his wife, in the
 year of Grace 1307. Who labour well, rest well," read
Gessler. Pale with rage, he rode across the bridge and
stopped before the house. It made him furious to think
of the money which had been spent upon it.
Beside the door grew a tall lime-tree, and under it, on
a wooden bench, sat Werner Stauffacher.
As Gessler rode up Stauffacher rose, and taking off his
cap, greeted him politely. "Welcome, my lord," he said.
Gessler took no notice of Stauffacher's greeting.
"Whose house is this?" he demanded, although he knew
very well to whom it belonged. He wanted an excuse for
robbing Stauffacher, and hoped to find it in his
But Stauffacher, seeing how angry Gessler was, and
being a wise man, answered quietly, "My lord, the house
belongs to His Majesty the Emperor, and is yours and
mine in fief to hold and use for his service."
 "I rule this land," said Gessler in a voice shaking
with anger. "I rule this land in the name of the
Emperor, and I will not allow peasants to build houses
as they please without asking leave. I will not permit
them to live as lords and gentlemen. I will have you
understand that." And turning, he rode from the
doorway, followed by his gay train of knights and
Werner Stauffacher looked long after them as they
clattered away. Then full of sad thoughts he sat down
again on the wooden bench under the tall lime-tree.
As he sat there, leaning his head upon his hand, and
looking with troubled eyes across the valley to the
snow-topped mountains beyond, Gertrude, his wife, came
and sat beside him. For some time they sat in silence.
Then laying her hand on his arm, "Werner," she said
softly, "what troubles you?"
 "Dear wife, it is nothing," he said, smiling at her.
"No, no," replied Gertrude, "do not treat me as if I
were a child. Tell me what has happened. The Governor
has been here I know, and that frightens me. What has
he said or done to you?"
"He has done nothing yet," said Werner, "but he is very
angry that we have built this house. He looked so
fierce as he rode away that I am sure he means to take
it from us. Yes, I am sure of it. He will take our
house, and our goods and our money as well. Do you
wonder that I am sad? Yet what can we do?"
As Werner spoke Gertrude grew pale, then her cheeks
flushed red and her eyes sparkled with anger. "Oh," she
cried, "it is shameful, shameful! How long are we to
suffer the Austrian tyrants? Oh that I were a man!"
Gertrude rose and walked up and down
 in front of the house for a few minutes, thinking
deeply. "Werner," she said at last, stopping before
him, "listen to me. Every day we hear cries of despair
from our friends around us. Every day we hear some new
tale of injustice and wrong. We know that the people of
Schwytz are weary to death of the Governor's rule. Can
you doubt that in Uri and Unterwalden the people are
weary too? You know that they must be. Now listen to
me. Go secretly to your friends, talk to them and
discuss with them how best we can rid ourselves of
Austria. Do you know any one in Uri and Unterwalden
whom you could trust and who would help you?"
"Yes," said Werner, "I known all the chief people. Many
of them I could trust with my life. There is Walter
Fürst in Uri and Henri of Melchthal in Unterwalden.
They, I am sure, would help us."
"Then go to them," said Gertrude throwing
 her head proudly back. "Let us be free, free once more.
What matter though we die, if we lose our lives
fighting for freedom."
"Gertrude," said Werner rising, "you have put heart
into me. I will go this very night. God help me if I
"We will not fail," said Gertrude, smiling at him
bravely. And now her eyes, which had before sparkled
with anger, were wet with tears.
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