P.G. Wodehouse.

William Tell Told Again online

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Produced by Branko Collin, Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team, and the
Oxford College Library of Emory University

[Transcriber's note: _William Tell Told Again_ is two children's books
in one. One is a picture book - 16 full-color illustrations by Philip
Dadd described in verse by John W. Houghton. The other is a humorous
novel by P. G. Wodehouse, based on the picture book. The novel has a
lengthier storyline, a more intricate plot, and more characterization.
The bound volume intermingled the picture book with the novel,
illustrations and poems appearing at regular intervals. Most pictures
and verses were distant from the page of the novel that they reflected.

For this text version, placeholders for the illustrations (with plate
numbers) have been inserted following the paragraph in the novel that
describes the events being illustrated. The verse descriptions of the
illustrations, labelled with plate numbers, have been moved to the end
of the novel, so as not to disrupt the story. Each verse also has an
illustration placeholder that includes the phrase from the novel shown
as a description on the List of Illustrations.]

[Illustration: Frontispiece]










[Plate III]













The Swiss, against their Austrian foes,
Had ne'er a soul to lead 'em,
Till Tell, as you've heard tell, arose
And guided them to freedom.
Tell's tale we tell again - an act
For which pray no one scold us -
This tale of Tell we tell, in fact,
As this Tell tale was told us.



Once upon a time, more years ago than anybody can remember, before the
first hotel had been built or the first Englishman had taken a
photograph of Mont Blanc and brought it home to be pasted in an album
and shown after tea to his envious friends, Switzerland belonged to the
Emperor of Austria, to do what he liked with.

One of the first things the Emperor did was to send his friend Hermann
Gessler to govern the country. Gessler was not a nice man, and it soon
became plain that he would never make himself really popular with the
Swiss. The point on which they disagreed in particular was the question
of taxes. The Swiss, who were a simple and thrifty people, objected to
paying taxes of any sort. They said they wanted to spend their money on
all kinds of other things. Gessler, on the other hand, wished to put a
tax on everything, and, being Governor, he did it. He made everyone who
owned a flock of sheep pay a certain sum of money to him; and if the
farmer sold his sheep and bought cows, he had to pay rather more money
to Gessler for the cows than he had paid for the sheep. Gessler also
taxed bread, and biscuits, and jam, and buns, and lemonade, and, in
fact, everything he could think of, till the people of Switzerland
determined to complain. They appointed Walter Fürst, who had red hair
and looked fierce; Werner Stauffacher, who had gray hair and was always
wondering how he ought to pronounce his name; and Arnold of Melchthal,
who had light-yellow hair and was supposed to know a great deal about
the law, to make the complaint. They called on the Governor one lovely
morning in April, and were shown into the Hall of Audience.

"Well," said Gessler, "and what's the matter now?"

The other two pushed Walter Fürst forward because he looked fierce, and
they thought he might frighten the Governor.

Walter Fürst coughed.

"Well?" asked Gessler.

"Er - ahem!" said Walter Fürst.

"That's the way," whispered Werner; "_give_ it him!"

"Er - ahem!"
said Walter Fürst again; "the fact is, your Governorship - "

"It's a small point," interrupted Gessler, "but I'm generally called
'your Excellency.' Yes?"

"The fact is, your Excellency, it seems to the people of Switzerland - "

" - Whom I represent," whispered Arnold of Melchthal.

" - Whom I represent, that things want changing."

"What things?" inquired Gessler.

"The taxes, your excellent Governorship."

"Change the taxes? Why, don't the people of Switzerland think there are
enough taxes?"

Arnold of Melchthal broke in hastily.

"They think there are many too many," he said. "What with the tax on
sheep, and the tax on cows, and the tax on bread, and the tax on tea,
and the tax - "

"I know, _I_ know," Gessler interrupted; "I know all the taxes.
Come to the point. What about 'em?"

"Well, your Excellency, there are too many of them."

"Too many!"

"Yes. And we are not going to put up with it any longer!" shouted
Arnold of Melchthal.

Gessler leaned forward in his throne.

"Might I ask you to repeat that remark?" he said.

"We are not going to put up with it any longer!"

Gessler sat back again with an ugly smile.

"Oh," he said - "oh, indeed! You aren't, aren't you! Desire the Lord
High Executioner to step this way," he added to a soldier who stood
beside him.

The Lord High Executioner entered the presence. He was a kind-looking
old gentleman with white hair, and he wore a beautiful black robe,
tastefully decorated with death's-heads.

"Your Excellency sent for me?" he said.

"Just so," replied Gessler. "This gentleman here" - he pointed to Arnold
of Melchthal - "says he does not like taxes, and that he isn't going to
put up with them any longer."

"Tut-tut!" murmured the executioner.

"See what you can do for him."

"Certainly, your Excellency. Robert," he cried, "is the oil on the

"Just this minute boiled over," replied a voice from the other side of
the door.

"Then bring it in, and mind you don't spill any."

Enter Robert, in a suit of armour and a black mask, carrying a large
caldron, from which the steam rose in great clouds.

"Now, sir, if you please," said the executioner politely to Arnold of

Arnold looked at the caldron.

"Why, it's hot," he said.

"Warmish," admitted the executioner.

"It's against the law to threaten a man with hot oil."

[Illustration: PLATE I]

"You may bring an action against me," said the executioner. "Now, sir,
if _you_ please. We are wasting time. The forefinger of your left
hand, if I may trouble you. Thank you. I am obliged."

He took Arnold's left hand, and dipped the tip of the first finger into
the oil.

"Ow!" cried Arnold, jumping.

"Don't let him see he's hurting you," whispered Werner Stauffacher.
"Pretend you don't notice it."

Gessler leaned forward again.

"Have your views on taxes changed at all?" he asked. "Do you see my
point of view more clearly now?"

Arnold admitted that he thought that, after all, there might be
something to be said for it.

"That's right," said the Governor. "And the tax on sheep? You don't
object to that?"


"And the tax on cows?"

"I like it."

"And those on bread, and buns, and lemonade?"

"I enjoy them."

"Excellent. In fact, you're quite contented?"


"And you think the rest of the people are?"

"Oh, quite, quite!"

"And do you think the same?" he asked of Walter and Werner.

"Oh _yes_, your Excellency!" they cried.

"Then _that's_ all right," said Gessler. "I was sure you would be
sensible about it. Now, if you will kindly place in the tambourine
which the gentleman on my left is presenting to you a mere trifle to
compensate us for our trouble in giving you an audience, and if you"
(to Arnold of Melchthal) "will contribute an additional trifle for use
of the Imperial boiling oil, I think we shall all be satisfied. You've
done it? _That's_ right. Good-bye, and mind the step as you go

And, as he finished this speech, the three spokesmen of the people of
Switzerland were shown out of the Hall of Audience.


They were met in the street outside by a large body of their
fellow-citizens, who had accompanied them to the Palace, and who had
been spending the time since their departure in listening by turns at
the keyhole of the front-door. But as the Hall of Audience was at the
other side of the Palace, and cut off from the front-door by two other
doors, a flight of stairs, and a long passage, they had not heard very
much of what had gone on inside, and they surrounded the three spokesmen
as they came out, and questioned them eagerly.

"Has he taken off the tax on jam?" asked Ulric the smith.

"What is he going to do about the tax on mixed biscuits?" shouted Klaus
von der Flue, who was a chimney-sweep of the town and loved mixed

"Never mind about tea and mixed biscuits!" cried his neighbour, Meier
of Sarnen. "What I want to know is whether we shall have to pay for
keeping sheep any more."

"What _did_ the Governor say?" asked Jost Weiler, a practical man,
who liked to go straight to the point.

The three spokesmen looked at one another a little doubtfully.

"We-e-ll," said Werner Stauffacher at last, "as a matter of fact, he
didn't actually _say_ very much. It was more what he _did_,
if you understand me, than what he said."

"I should describe His Excellency the Governor," said Walter Fürst, "as
a man who has got a way with him - a man who has got all sorts of
arguments at his finger-tips."

At the mention of finger-tips, Arnold of Melchthal uttered a sharp

"In short," continued Walter, "after a few minutes' very interesting
conversation he made us see that it really wouldn't do, and that we
must go on paying the taxes as before."

There was a dead silence for several minutes, while everybody looked at
everybody else in dismay.

The silence was broken by Arnold of Sewa. Arnold of Sewa had been
disappointed at not being chosen as one of the three spokesmen, and he
thought that if he had been so chosen all this trouble would not have

"The fact is," he said bitterly, "that you three have failed to do what
you were sent to do. I mention no names - far from it - but I don't mind
saying that there are some people in this town who would have given a
better account of themselves. What you want in little matters of this
sort is, if I may say so, tact. Tact; that's what you want. Of course,
if you _will_ go rushing into the Governor's presence - "

"But we didn't rush," said Walter Fürst.

" - Shouting out that you want the taxes abolished - "

"But we didn't shout," said Walter Fürst.

"I really cannot speak if I am to be constantly interrupted," said
Arnold of Sewa severely. "What I say is, that you ought to employ tact.
Tact; that's what you want. If I had been chosen to represent the Swiss
people in this affair - I am not saying I ought to have been, mind you;
I merely say _if_ I had been - I should have acted rather after the
following fashion: Walking firmly, but not defiantly, into the tyrant's
presence, I should have broken the ice with some pleasant remark about
the weather. The conversation once started, the rest would have been
easy. I should have said that I hoped His Excellency had enjoyed a good
dinner. Once on the subject of food, and it would have been the
simplest of tasks to show him how unnecessary taxes on food were, and
the whole affair would have been pleasantly settled while you waited. I
do not imply that the Swiss people would have done better to have
chosen me as their representative. I merely say that that is how I
should have acted had they done so."

And Arnold of Sewa twirled his moustache and looked offended. His
friends instantly suggested that he should be allowed to try where the
other three had failed, and the rest of the crowd, beginning to hope
once more, took up the cry. The result was that the visitors' bell of
the Palace was rung for the second time. Arnold of Sewa went in, and
the door was banged behind him.

Five minutes later he came out, sucking the first finger of his left

"No," he said; "it can't be done. The tyrant has convinced me."

"I knew he would," said Arnold of Melchthal.

"Then I think you might have warned me," snapped Arnold of Sewa,
dancing with the pain of his burnt finger.

"Was it hot?"



"Then he really won't let us off the taxes?" asked the crowd in
disappointed voices.


"Then the long and short of it is," said Walter Fürst, drawing a deep
breath, "that we must rebel!"

"Rebel?" cried everybody.

"Rebel!" repeated Walter firmly.

"We will!" cried everybody.

"Down with the tyrant!" shouted Walter Fürst.

"Down with the taxes!" shrieked the crowd.

A scene of great enthusiasm followed. The last words were spoken by
Werner Stauffacher.

"We want a leader," he said.

"I don't wish to thrust myself forward," began Arnold of Sewa, "but I
must say, if it comes to leading - "

"And I know the very man for the job," said Werner Stauffacher.
"William Tell!"

"Hurrah for William Tell!" roared the crowd, and, taking the time from
Werner Stauffacher, they burst into the grand old Swiss chant which
runs as follows:

"For he's a jolly good fellow!
For he's a jolly good fellow!!
For he's a jolly good fe-e-ll-ow!!!!
And so say all of us!"

And having sung this till they were all quite hoarse, they went off to
their beds to get a few hours' sleep before beginning the labours of
the day.


In a picturesque little châlet high up in the mountains, covered with
snow and edelweiss (which is a flower that grows in the Alps, and you
are not allowed to pick it), dwelt William Tell, his wife Hedwig, and
his two sons, Walter and William. Such a remarkable man was Tell that I
think I must devote a whole chapter to him and his exploits. There was
really nothing he could not do. He was the best shot with the cross-bow
in the whole of Switzerland. He had the courage of a lion, the
sure-footedness of a wild goat, the agility of a squirrel, and a
beautiful beard. If you wanted someone to hurry across desolate
ice-fields, and leap from crag to crag after a chamois, Tell was the
man for your money. If you wanted a man to say rude things to the
Governor, it was to Tell that you applied first. Once when he was
hunting in the wild ravine of Schächenthal, where men were hardly
ever to be seen, he met the Governor face to face. There was no way
of getting past. On one side the rocky wall rose sheer up, while below
the river roared. Directly Gessler caught sight of Tell striding along
with his cross-bow, his cheeks grew pale and his knees tottered, and he
sat down on a rock feeling very unwell indeed.

"Aha!" said Tell. "Oho! so it's you, is it? _I_ know you. And a
nice sort of person you are, with your taxes on bread and sheep, aren't
you! You'll come to a bad end one of these days, that's what will
happen to you. Oh, you old reprobate! Pooh!" And he had passed on with
a look of scorn, leaving Gessler to think over what he had said. And
Gessler ever since had had a grudge against him, and was only waiting
for a chance of paying him out.

"Mark my words," said Tell's wife, Hedwig, when her husband told her
about it after supper that night - "mark my words, he will never
forgive you."

"I will avoid him," said Tell. "He will not seek me."

"Well, mind you do," was Hedwig's reply.

On another occasion, when the Governor's soldiers were chasing a friend
of his, called Baumgarten, and when Baumgarten's only chance of escape
was to cross the lake during a fierce storm, and when the ferryman,
sensibly remarking, "What! must I rush into the jaws of death? No man
that hath his senses would do that!" refused to take out his boat even
for twice his proper fare, and when the soldiers rode down to seize
their prey with dreadful shouts, Tell jumped into the boat, and, rowing
with all his might, brought his friend safe across after a choppy
passage. Which made Gessler the Governor still more angry with him.

But it was as a marksman that Tell was so extraordinary. There was
nobody in the whole of the land who was half so skilful. He attended
every meeting for miles around where there was a shooting competition,
and every time he won first prize. Even his rivals could not help
praising his skill. "Behold!" they would say, "Tell is quite the
pot-hunter," meaning by the last word a man who always went in for
every prize, and always won it. And Tell would say, "Yes, truly am I
a pot-hunter, for I hunt to fill the family pot." And so he did. He never
came home empty-handed from the chase. Sometimes it was a chamois that
he brought back, and then the family had it roasted on the first day,
cold on the next four, and minced on the sixth, with sippets of toast
round the edge of the dish. Sometimes it was only a bird (as on the
cover of this book), and then Hedwig would say, "Mark my words, this
fowl will not go round." But it always did, and it never happened that
there was not even a fowl to eat.

[Illustration: Frontispiece]

In fact, Tell and his family lived a very happy, contented life, in
spite of the Governor Gessler and his taxes.

Tell was very patriotic. He always believed that some day the Swiss
would rise and rebel against the tyranny of the Governor, and he used
to drill his two children so as to keep them always in a state of
preparation. They would march about, beating tin cans and shouting, and
altogether enjoying themselves immensely, though Hedwig, who did not
like noise, and wanted Walter and William to help her with the
housework, made frequent complaints. "Mark my words," she would say,
"this growing spirit of militarism in the young and foolish will lead
to no good," meaning that boys who played at soldiers instead of
helping their mother to dust the chairs and scrub the kitchen floor
would in all probability come to a bad end. But Tell would say, "Who
hopes to fight his way through life must be prepared to wield arms.
Carry on, my boys!" And they carried on. It was to this man that the
Swiss people had determined to come for help.

[Illustration: PLATE II]


Talking matters over in the inn of the town, the Glass and Glacier, the
citizens came to the conclusion that they ought to appoint three
spokesmen to go and explain to Tell just what they wanted him to do.

"I don't wish to seem to boast at all," said Arnold of Sewa, "but I
think I had better be one of the three."

"I was thinking," said Werner Stauffacher, "that it would be a pity
always to be chopping and changing. Why not choose the same three as
were sent to Gessler?"

"I don't desire to be unpleasant at all," replied Arnold of Sewa, "but
I must be forgiven for reminding the honourable gentleman who has just
spoken that he and his equally honourable friends did not meet with the
best of success when they called upon the Governor."

"Well, and you didn't either!" snapped Arnold of Melchthal, whose
finger still hurt him, and made him a little bad-tempered.

"That," said Arnold of Sewa, "I put down entirely to the fact that you
and your friends, by not exercising tact, irritated the Governor, and
made him unwilling to listen to anybody else. Nothing is more important
in these affairs than tact. That's what you want - tact. But have it
your own way. Don't mind _me!_"

And the citizens did not. They chose Werner Stauffacher, Arnold of
Melchthal, and Walter Fürst, and, having drained their glasses, the
three trudged up the steep hill which led to Tell's house.

It had been agreed that everyone should wait at the Glass and Glacier
until the three spokesmen returned, in order that they might hear the
result of their mission. Everybody was very anxious. A revolution
without Tell would be quite impossible, and it was not unlikely that
Tell might refuse to be their leader. The worst of a revolution is
that, if it fails, the leader is always executed as an example to the
rest. And many people object to being executed, however much it may set
a good example to their friends. On the other hand, Tell was a brave
man and a patriot, and might be only too eager to try to throw off the
tyrant's yoke, whatever the risk. They had waited about an hour, when
they saw the three spokesmen coming down the hill. Tell was not with
them, a fact which made the citizens suspect that he had refused their
offer. The first thing a man does when he has accepted the leadership
of a revolution is to come and plot with his companions.

"Well?" said everybody eagerly, as the three arrived.

Werner Stauffacher shook his head.

"Ah," said Arnold of Sewa, "I see what it is. He has refused. You
didn't exercise tact, and he refused."

"We _did_ exercise tact," said Stauffacher indignantly; "but he
would not be persuaded. It was like this: We went to the house and
knocked at the door. Tell opened it. 'Good-morning,' I said.

"'Good-morning,' said he. 'Take a seat.'

"I took a seat.

"'My heart is full,' I said, 'and longs to speak with you.' I thought
that a neat way of putting it."

The company murmured approval.

"'A heavy heart,' said Tell, 'will not
grow light with words.'"

"Not bad that!" murmured Jost Weiler. "Clever way of putting things,
Tell has got."

"'Yet words,' I said, 'might lead us on to deeds.'"

"Neat," said Jost Weiler - "very neat. Yes?"

"To which Tell's extraordinary reply was: 'The only thing to do is to
sit still.'

"'What!' I said; 'bear in silence things unbearable?'

"'Yes,' said Tell; 'to peaceable men peace is gladly granted. When the
Governor finds that his oppression does not make us revolt, he will
grow tired of oppressing.'"

"And what did you say to that?" asked Ulric the smith.

"I said he did not know the Governor if he thought he could ever grow
tired of oppressing. 'We might do much,' I said, 'if we held fast
together. Union is strength,' I said.

"'The strong,' said Tell, 'is strongest when he stands alone.'

"'Then our country must not count on thee,' I said, 'when in despair
she stands on self-defence?'

"'Oh, well,' he said, 'hardly that, perhaps. I don't want to desert
you. What I mean to say is, I'm no use as a plotter or a counsellor and
that sort of thing. Where I come out strong is in deeds. So don't
invite me to your meetings and make me speak, and that sort of thing;
but if you want a man to _do_ anything - why, that's where I shall
come in, you see. Just write if you want me - a postcard will do - and
you will not find William Tell hanging back. No, sir.' And with those
words he showed us out."

"Well," said Jost Weiler, "I call that encouraging. All we have to do
now is to plot. Let us plot."

"Yes, let's!" shouted everybody.

Ulric the smith rapped for silence on the table.

"Gentlemen," he said, "our friend Mr. Klaus von der Flue will now read
a paper on 'Governors - their drawbacks, and how to get rid of them.'
Silence, gentlemen, please. Now, then, Klaus, old fellow, speak up and
get it over."

And the citizens settled down without further delay to a little serious


A few days after this, Hedwig gave Tell a good talking to on the
subject of his love for adventure. He was sitting at the door of his
house mending an axe. Hedwig, as usual, was washing up. Walter and
William were playing with a little cross-bow not far off.

"Father," said Walter.

"Yes, my boy?"

"My bow-string has bust." ("Bust" was what all Swiss boys said when
they meant "broken.")

"You must mend it yourself, my boy," said Tell. "A sportsman always
helps himself."

"What _I_ say," said Hedwig, bustling out of the house, "is that a
boy of his age has no business to be shooting. I don't like it."

"Nobody can shoot well if he does not begin to practise early. Why,

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