“How far can you shoot, father?”
“Oh, a good long way.”
“As high as the sun?” asked Walter, looking up at it.
“Oh dear, no, not nearly so high as that.”
“Well, how high? As high as the snow-mountains?”
“Why is there always snow on the mountains, father?” asked Walter, thinking of something else. And so he went on, asking questions about one thing after another, until his father was quite tired of answering.
Walter was chattering so much that Tell forgot all about the hat upon the pole, and, instead of going round by another way to avoid it, as he had meant to do, he went straight through the market-place to reach Walter Fuerst’s house.
“Father, look,” said Walter, “look, how funny! there is a hat stuck up on a pole. What is it for?”
“Don’t look, Walter,” said Tell, “the hat has nothing to do with us, don’t look at it.” And taking Walter by the hand, he led him hurriedly away.
But it was too late. The soldier, who stood beside the pole to guard it and see that people bowed in passing, pointed his spear at Tell and bade him stop. “Stand, in the Emperor’s name,” he cried.
“Let be, friend,” said Tell, “let me past.”
“Not till you obey the Emperor’s command. Not till you bow to the hat.”
“It is no command of the Emperor,” said Tell. “It is Gessler’s folly and tyranny. Let me go.”
“Nay, but you must not speak of my lord the governor in such terms. And past you shall not go until you bow to the cap. And, if you bow not, to prison I will lead you. Such is my lord’s command.”
“Why should I bow to a cap?” said Tell, his voice shaking with rage. “Were the Emperor himself here, then would I bend the knee and bow my head to him with all reverence. But to a hat! Never!” and he tried to force his way past Heinz the soldier. But Heinz would not let him pass, and kept his spear pointed at Tell.
Hearing loud and angry voices, many people gathered to see what the cause might be. Soon there was quite a crowd around the two. Every one talked at once, and the noise and confusion were great. Heinz tried to take Tell prisoner, and the people tried to take him away. “Help! help!” shouted Heinz, hoping that some of his fellow-soldiers would hear him and come to his aid,—“Help, help! treason, treason!”
Then over all the noise of the shouting there sounded the tramp of horses’ hoofs and the clang and jangle of swords and armor.
“Room for the governor. Room, I say,” cried a herald.
The shouting ceased and the crowd silently parted, as Gessler, richly dressed, haughty and gloomy, rode through it, followed by a gay company of his friends and soldiers. He checked his horse and, gazing angrily round the crowd, “What is this rioting?” he asked.
“My lord,” said Heinz, stepping forward, “this scoundrel here will not bow to the cap, according to your lordship’s command.”