WILLIAM TELL TOLD AGAIN
WILLIAM TELL TOLD AGAIN
P. G. WODEHOUSE
ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR BY PHILIP DADD
DESCRIBED IN VERSE BY JOHN W. HOUGHTON
TO BIDDY O'SULLIVAN
FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
SOMETIMES IT WAS ONLY A BIRD [Frontispiece]
GESSLER'S METHODS OF PERSUASION [Plate I]
THEY WOULD MARCH ABOUT BEATING TIN CANS AND SHOUTING [Plate II]
AN EGG FLEW ACROSS THE MEADOW AND BURST OVER LEUTHOLD'S SHOULDER
"HERE! HI!" SHOUTED THE SOLDIERS "STOP!" [Plate IV]
THEY SAW FRIESSHARDT RAISE HIS PIKE AND BRING IT DOWN WITH ALL HIS
FORCE ON TELL'S HEAD [Plate V]
"LOOK HERE!" HE BEGAN. "LOOK THERE!" SAID FRIESSHARDT [Plate VI]
FRIESSHARDT RUSHED TO STOP HIM [Plate VII]
THE CROWD DANCED AND SHOUTED [Plate VIII]
"COME COME COME!" SAID GESSLER "TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT" [Plate IX]
"I HAVE HERE AN APPLE" [Plate X]
THERE WAS A STIR OF EXCITEMENT IN THE CROWD [Plate XI]
A MOMENT'S SUSPENSE AND THEN A TERRIFIC CHEER AROSE FROM THE
SPECTATORS [Plate XII]
"SEIZE THAT MAN!" HE SHOUTED [Plate XIII]
HE WAS LED AWAY TO THE SHORE OF THE LAKE [Plate XIV]
TELL'S SECOND ARROW HAD FOUND ITS MARK [Plate XV]
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 Furst 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 Furst forward because he looked fierce and
they thought he might frighten the Governor.
Walter Furst coughed.
"Well?" asked Gessler.
"Er--ahem!" said Walter Furst.
"That's the way" whispered Werner; "_give_ it him!"
said Walter Furst 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
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."
"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
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
"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
"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 Furst "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 Furst.
"--Shouting out that you want the taxes abolished--"
"But we didn't shout" said Walter Furst.
"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
"Then the long and short of it is" said Walter Furst 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 Furst.
"Down with the taxes!" shrieked the crowd.
A scene of great enthusiasm followed. The last words were spoken by
"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.
"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
In a picturesque little chalet high up in the mountains covered with
snow and edelweiss (which is a flower that grows in the Alps and you