HOW CASTLE SARNEN WAS TAKEN
 Landenberg was living at a castle called Sarnen. On New Year's
morning he left the castle in great state, followed by
soldiers and servants, to go to church. As he passed
through the gates, he was met by a crowd of peasants
coming in the direction of the castle. Some were
driving goats and sheep before them, others carried
bundles of corn, or baskets full of butter, cheese, and
"What is this crowd?" asked Landenberg, stopping to
look at them.
"It is the people bringing their New Year's gifts to
your lordship," answered a soldier.
 Landenberg looked sharply at the peasants to see if any
of them were armed, for it was forbidden for any one to
take weapons into the castle. But seeing that they had
only stout sticks in their hands, "Let them carry their
gifts to the castle," he said. Then he passed on to
The peasants were allowed to go into the castle, as
Landenberg had commanded. But no sooner were they well
within the gates than each man drew from under his coat
a sharp blade which he had hidden there, and fixed it
upon his stick. Arnold of Melchthal, who led them, put
his horn to his lips and blew a loud blast upon it. At
the sound of it thirty men, who had been hiding near
the castle walls, rushed in to join their comrades.
Together they feel upon the Austrian soldiers, and a
fierce struggle followed. But the Swiss soon had the
best of it. All the Austrians were taken prisoner and
the castle was set on fire.
 Down in the valley in the little church Landenberg
knelt in prayer. The church was very full of
women—women who were praying for the success of their
fathers and brothers. Suddenly in the quiet church the
sound of a distant horn was heard. Landenberg stirred
uneasily. The sound troubled him, he knew not why. The
priest, too, had heard the horn. He paused a moment,
then he went on reading the service, but in his calm
and steady voice there was a ring of triumph. He knew
why the horn blew.
A few minutes later the door of the church was burst
wildly open, and pale, breathless, and bloodstained, an
Austrian soldier rushed in. "Fly, my lord, fly!" he
cried. "The Swiss have taken the castle, and it is in
"What nonsense is this?" said Landenberg, rising, and
speaking in an angry tone. "The Swiss have not the
spirit to rebel. Are you drunk, man, already so early
in the morning, that you come to me with such a tale?"
 "It is true, my lord," gasped the man. "It is true, I
swear it. Listen, you can hear their shouts."
As the man spoke, silence fell upon the church, and in
the silence, through the wide open door, could indeed
be heard the roar and crackle of flames, and the shouts
of victory, borne upon the winter wind.
At the sound Landenberg grew pale. He turned as if he
"You cannot go back, my lord," said the soldier who had
brought the news. "All ways are guarded. It were best
to try and escape over the mountains. I know of a pass.
It is difficult, but by it we may reach safety."
"Lead, and I follow," said Landenberg, and he and his
servants and soldiers fled from the church and took the
way to the mountains.
But when they came to the pass, the snow was so deep
that they could not cross that way, and, dangerous
though it was,
 they were obliged to turn back. The proud tyrants of a
few days before were now like hunted animals. Starving
with cold and hunger, they hid by day and crept about
fearfully by night. Yet they had really little to fear.
The Swiss knew very well where Landenberg and his
followers were hiding. Many times they might have been
taken prisoner and put to death. But the Swiss did not
do so. It was not revenge but freedom for which they
But at last Landenberg was taken prisoner and led
before Henri and Arnold Melchthal. Arnold hated
Landenberg because of his cruelty to his father.
"You robbed my father of his eyesight," he said. "Now
you shall pay for it."
But Landenberg, who was a coward as well as a bully,
threw himself upon his knees and begged Arnold to spare
him. And Henri, who was a good old man, had pity upon
the fallen tyrant and let him go.
 But first he made him swear to leave Switzerland, and
never to return. This Landenberg promised. Then he and
all his company, guarded by Swiss soldiers, were led to
the borders of Switzerland and there set free. Glad to
escape with their lives, they fled from the country and
went back to their master, Albrecht of Austria.
On this New Year's Day, all the great castles which the
Austrians had built were taken by the Swiss and laid in
ruins. Even the Curb of Uri, which had never been quite
finished, was destroyed. Whenever a castle was taken,
beacon fires were lit, and from Alp to Alp the good
news was signalled.
The first great blow for freedom had been struck. But
in their joy the Swiss were merciful. None of the
Austrian captains and but few soldiers were killed.
They were only made prisoner and then sent out of the
A week after the taking of the castles
 all the Confederates met again on the Rütli. This time
there was no need to meet in secret nor at night, for
there were no Austrians left in the land of whom they
need be afraid. But the Swiss knew that although they
had already done great things, the struggle was not
over. They knew that when the Emperor heard of what had
happened, he would be very angry, and would come
against them with his soldiers. So they bound
themselves together once more by a solemn oath,
promising that for ten years to come they would stand
by each other and fight for each other.
The Emperor had meant to treat the Swiss so badly that
they would at last rebel, and then he would have an
excuse for fighting and conquering them. But when the
news of what they had really done came to him, when he
learned that they had not only killed one of his
friends but banished
 all the rest, he was furiously angry. He was still,
however, fighting in Austria, and he had no soldiers to
spare to send to Switzerland.
So the Swiss were left in peace, and had time to
prepare for the fight which they knew must come.
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