Tell put Walter down and, holding his hand, turned to Gessler, “It is always an archer’s custom, my lord, to have a second arrow ready,” he said.
“Nay, nay,” said Gessler, “that answer will not do, Tell. Speak the truth.”
Tell was silent.
“Speak, man,” said Gessler, “and if you speak the truth, whatever it may be, I promise you your life.”
“Then,” said Tell, throwing his shoulders back and looking straight at Gessler, “since you promise me my life, hear the truth, if that first arrow had struck my child, the second one was meant for you, and be sure I had not missed my mark a second time.”
Gessler’s face grew dark with rage. For a moment or two he could not speak. When at last he did speak, his voice was low and terrible, “You dare,” he said, “you dare to tell me this! I promised you your life indeed. Your life you shall have, but you shall pass it in a dark and lonely prison, where neither sun nor moon shall send the least glimmer of light. There you shall lie, so that I may be safe from you. Ah, my fine archer, your bows and arrows will be of little use to you henceforth. Seize him, men, and bind him, lest he do murder even now.”
In a moment the soldiers sprang forward, and Tell was seized and bound.
As Gessler sat watching them, he looked round at all the angry faces of the crowd. “Tell has too many friends here,” he said to himself. “If I imprison him in the Curb of Uri, they may find some way to help him to escape. I will take him with me in my boat to Klissnacht. There he can have no friends. There he will be quite safe.” Then aloud he said, “Follow me, my men. Bring him to the boat.”
As he said these words, there was a loud murmur from the crowd. “That is against the law,” cried many voices.
“Law, law?” growled Gessler. “Who makes the law, you or I?”
Walter Fuerst had been standing among the crowd silent and anxious. Now he stepped forward and spoke boldly. “My lord,” he said, “it has ever been a law among the Swiss that no one shall be imprisoned out of his own canton. If my son-in-law, William Tell, has done wrong, let him be tried and imprisoned here, in Uri, in Altorf. If you do otherwise you wrong our ancient freedom and rights.”
“Your freedom! your rights!” said Gessler roughly. “I tell you, you are here to obey the laws, not to teach me how I shall rule.” Then turning his horse and calling out, “On, men, to the boat with him,” he rode towards the lake, where, at a little place called Fliielen, his boat was waiting for him.
But Walter clung to his father, crying bitterly. Tell could not take him in his arms to comfort him, for his hands were tied. But he bent over him to kiss him, saying, “Little Walter, little Walter, be brave. Go with thy grandfather and comfort thy mother.”
So Tell was led to Gessler’s boat, followed by the sorrowing people. Their hearts were full of hot anger against the tyrant. Yet what could they do? He was too strong for them.