The day went on, and still Gessler did not come, and still Tell waited. At last he heard the distant tramp of feet and the sound of voices. Surely he had come at last. But as the sounds came nearer, Tell knew that it could not be Gessler, for he heard music and laughter, and through the Hollow Way came a gaily dressed crowd. It was a wedding-party. Laughing and merry, the bride and bridegroom with their friends passed along. When they were out of sight the wind brought back the sound of their merry voices to Tell, as he waited upon the bank. They, at least, had for a time forgotten Gessler.
At last, as the sun was setting, Tell heard the tramp of horses, and a herald dashed along the road, shouting, “Room for the governor. Room, I say.”
As Gessler came slowly on behind, Tell could hear him talking in a loud and angry voice to a friend. “Obedience I will have,” he was saying. “I have been far too mild a ruler over this people. They grow too proud. But I will break their pride. Let them prate of freedom, indeed. I will crush—” The sentence was never finished. An arrow whizzed through the air, and with a groan Gessler fell, dead.
Tell’s second arrow had found its mark.
Immediately everything was in confusion. Gessler’s soldiers crowded round, trying to do something for their master. But it was useless. He was dead. Tell’s aim had been true.
“Who has done this foul murder?” cried one of Gessler’s friends, looking round.
“The shot was mine,” answered Tell, from where he stood on the high bank. “But no murder have I done. I have but freed an unoffending people from a base and cowardly tyrant. My cause is just, let God be the judge.”
At the sound of his voice every one turned to look at Tell, as he stood above them calm and unafraid.
“Seize him!” cried the man who had already spoken, as soon as he recovered from his astonishment. “Seize him, it is Tell the archer.”
Five or six men scrambled up the steep bank as fast as they could. But Tell slipped quietly through the bushes, and when they reached the top he was nowhere to be found.
The short winter’s day was closing in fast, and Tell found it easy to escape in the darkness from Gessler’s soldiers. They soon gave up the chase, and, returning to the road, took up their master’s dead body and carried it to his castle at Kuessnacht There was little sorrow for him, for he had been a hard master. The Austrian soldiers did not grieve, and the Swiss, wherever they heard the news, rejoiced.
As soon as he was free of the soldiers, Tell turned and made for Stauffacher’s house. All through the night he walked, until he came to the pretty house with its red roofs and many windows which had made Gessler so angry.
Now there was no light in any of the windows, and all was still and quiet. But Tell knew in which of the rooms Stauffacher slept, and he knocked softly upon the window until he had aroused his friend.