HOW GESSLER AND LANDENBERG CAME TO RULE IN SWITZERLAND
 Far away in the heart of Europe there lies a little country
called Switzerland. Instead of being surrounded by the
blue sea as our island is, it is surrounded and shut in
on all sides by other lands. It seems wonderful that in
the fierce old days, when might was right, and when
great and powerful Kings and Princes swept over the
world, fighting and conquering, that 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;
in the very heart of Europe their country has lain
 for hundreds of years as safe and free as our island on
the ocean waves.
Many many years ago, however, one of the great Princes
of Europe did try 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 countries of Europe were
divided quite differently from now. The greatest ruler
in Europe was the Emperor, and his empire was called
the Holy Roman Empire. This Empire was divided into
many states, over each of which ruled a Prince or King
who owned the Emperor as "over-lord." When an Emperor
died, his son did not succeed to the throne, but 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 over-lord.
 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. Switzerland is a beautiful country, full
of mountains, lakes, and valleys, and this Duke cast
greedy eyes upon it, and longed to possess it for his
But the Swiss would not give up their freedom; and
three cantons, as the states into which Switzerland is
divided are called, joined together, and swore to stand
by each other, and never to submit to Austria.
Uri, Schwytz, and Unterwalden were the names of these
three cantons. They were called the Forest Cantons
because of the beautiful woods with which the
mountainsides were covered. A little later another
canton joined the three. These four cantons
 lie round a lake which, from that, is called the Lake
of the Four Forest Cantons.
At last it happened that Albrecht, Duke of Austria, was
chosen to be Emperor. He was the son of that Duke who
had already been ruler of Switzerland, and he was
greatly rejoiced, for he said to himself that now truly
he would be lord and master of Switzerland. For
although the Swiss had resisted the Duke of Austria,
they would not dare to resist the Emperor, he thought.
So he sent two nobles to the Swiss to talk to them, and
persuade them to own him as their King.
"Promise that your country shall belong to the Duke for
ever," said these nobles, "and he will care for you and
love you as his children. You are not strong enough to
stand against a great enemy, but he will protect you.
He does not ask this of you because he wants to take
your flocks and herds, but because he has heard from
 father and has read in old histories what a brave
people you are. Duke Albrecht loves brave men. He will
lead you to battle and victory, and make you rich with
spoil, and will give you great rewards, and when you do
brave deeds, he will make you knights."
Some of the people of Switzerland were persuaded to
belong to Austria, but the freemen and nobles, and all
the people of the three cantons replied, "Say to your
master, as Duke, that we will never forget what a brave
leader and good Governor his father was, and we will
love and respect his house for ever, but we wish to
remain free. Say to him, as Emperor, that we will be
true to the Empire as we have ever been. As Emperor he
must content himself with that."
So the messengers went back to Albrecht and told him
what the people said. When he heard the message he was
very angry. He looked darkly at the nobles, biting his
 fingers and grinding his heel into the ground as he
listened. "The proud peasants," he cried at last, "they
will not yield. Then I will bend and break them. They
will be soft and yielding enough when I have done with
But Albrecht was already quarrelling with the Princes
of his Empire, who, although they had chosen him to be
Emperor, now hated and despised him. So for some time
Albrecht had little thought to spare for Switzerland,
but he did not forgive the people, and from time to
time he still tried to make them own him as their King.
Months went past 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.
"You desire a Governor," growled Albrecht, as the
messengers stood respectfully before
 him. "A Governor you shall have. Go home and await his
coming. Whom I send to you, him you must obey in all
"We have ever been a
law-abiding people, your Majesty," said
"Think you so?" said Albrecht sternly, "see to it that
you are, or you shall pay for it with your lives and
your goods, and your freedom will I utterly destroy."
Then, very sad at heart, the messengers turned home
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 sent for two of his friends.
These friends were called Hermann Gessler and Beringer
Now the Emperor Albrecht knew that
 these men were grim, rough, and pitiless, and therefore
he chose them as rulers of Switzerland. He chose them,
too, because they were Austrians, and he knew they
would be hated by the Swiss.
"My lords," he said when they came, "I have long
watched you and have marked the zeal and love which you
have for my throne and person. I am resolved to reward
you. You, Hermann Gessler, I make ruler over the Forest
Cantons of Uri and Schwytz, and you, Beringer of
Landenberg, I make ruler over Unterwalden.
"I have no words wherewith to thank your Majesty," said
Gessler, bowing low.
"Your Majesty honours me too much," said Landenberg,
bowing still lower.
"They are a wild and rebellious people to whom I send
you," went on the Emperor, "they are so fierce and
unruly that you must take soldiers with you to help you
to enforce the laws. You will tax the people in order
 to pay for these soldiers. You will punish all
wrongdoers severely. I will endure no rebels within my
"We understand, your Majesty," said Gessler.
"Your Majesty shall be obeyed," said Landenberg. And
once more bowing low, they took leave of the Emperor
and, gathering together their men and horses, set out
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
"God gave us the Emperor to stand between us and our
enemies," they said. "Now
 the Emperor has become our greatest enemy. But if we
keep true to the Empire, this Emperor may die, and
another, who will be kinder to us, may be chosen. If we
yield to Austria, our freedom is lost for ever. Let us
pray God for patience. The Emperor may soon die. Then,
with a new Emperor, Austria will have no power over us."
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