As soon as the pole was set up a herald stepped out, blew his trumpet and cried, “Se ye this cap here set up? It is his Majesty’s will and commandment that ye do all bow the knee and bend the head as ye do pass it by.”
This was a new insult to a free people. Stauffacher went to the house of Walter Fuerst, where he met Arnold of Melchthal, who had suffered much from Landenberg. Calling upon God and his saints, these three men swore a solemn oath to protect each other and promised to meet in a little meadow called the Ruetli, the Wednesday before Martinmas.
Three weeks passed, and in the darkness and quiet the men stole to the place of meeting with other friends of freedom whom they had brought. Near Walter Fuerst stood a young man straight and tall with clear and honest eyes. “William Tell,” said Arnold, “and the best shot in all Switzerland. I have seen him shoot an apple from a tree a hundred paces off.”
Then they swore never to betray each other, to be true to the Emperor, but to drive the Austrian governor, his friends, his servants, and his soldiers out of the land.
WILLIAM TELL AND HIS GREAT SHOT
William Tell did not live in Altorf, but in another village some way off, called Buerglen. His wife, who was called Hedwig, was Walter Fuerst’s daughter. Tell and Hedwig had two sons, William and Walter. Walter, the younger, was about six years old.
William Tell loved his wife and his children very much, and they all lived happily together in a pretty little cottage at Buerglen.
“Hedwig,” said Tell one morning, some days after the meeting mentioned above, “I am going into Altorf to see your father.”
Hedwig looked troubled. “Do be careful, William,” she said. “Must you really go? You know the governor is there just now, and he hates you.”
“Oh, I am quite safe,” said Tell; “I have done nothing for which he could punish me. But I will keep out of his way,” and he lifted his crossbow and prepared to go.
“Do not take your bow,” said Hedwig, still feeling uneasy. “Leave it here.”
“Why, Hedwig, how you trouble yourself for nothing,” said Tell, smiling at her. “Why should I leave my bow behind? I feel lost without it.”
“O father, where are you going?” said Walter, running into the room at this minute.
“I am going to Altorf to see grandfather. Would you like to come?”
“Oh, may I? May I, mother?”
“Yes, dear, if you like,” said Hedwig. “And you will be careful, won’t you?” she added, turning to Tell.
“Yes, I will,” he replied, and Walter, throwing his arms round her neck, said, “It’s all right, mother, I will take care of father.” Then they set off merrily together.
It was a great thing to go to Altorf with father, and Walter was so happy that he chattered all the way, asking questions about everything.