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- Heroes Every Child Should Know - 40/52 -


it was his intention to land, and, passing through the territory of Schwyz, to lodge the captive Tell in the dungeon of Kussnacht, and there to immure him for life.

The sails were hoisted and the vessel under weigh, when suddenly one of those storms common on the lake of Uri overtook them, accompanied with such violent gusts of wind, that the terrified pilot forsook the helm; and the bark, with the governor and his crew, was in danger of being ingulfed in the raging waters. Gessler, like most wicked people, was in great terror at the prospect of death, when one of his attendants reminded him that the prisoner, William Tell, was no less skilful in the management of a boat than in the exercise of the bow. So he ordered that Tell should be unbound, and placed at the helm.

The boat, steered by the master-hand of the intrepid Tell, now kept its course steadily through, the mountain surge; and Tell observed, "that by the grace of God, he trusted a deliverance was at hand."

As the prow of the vessel was driven inland, Tell perceived a solitary table rock and called aloud the rowers to redouble their efforts, till they should have passed the precipice ahead. At the instant they came abreast this point he snatched his bow from the plank, where it was lying forgotten during the storm, and, turning the helm suddenly toward the rock, he sprang lightly on shore, scaled the mountain, and was out of sight and beyond reach of pursuit, before any on board had recovered from consternation.

Tell, meantime, entered Schwyz, and having reached the heights which border the main road to Kussnacht, concealed himself among the brushwood in a small hollow of the road, where he knew Gessler would pass on his way to his own castle, in case he and his followers escaped and came safely to shore. This, it appeared they did, and having effected a landing at Brunnen, they took horse, and proceeded towards Kussnacht, in the direction. of the only road to the castle.

While they were passing the spot where Tell lay concealed, he heard the cruel tyrant denouncing the most deadly vengeance, not only on himself, but his helpless family: "If I live to return to Altdorf," he exclaimed, "I will destroy the whole brood of the traitor Tell, mother and children, in the same hour."

"Monster, thou shalt return to Altdorf no more!" murmured Tell. So, raising himself up in his lair, and fitting an arrow to his bow, he took deadly aim at the relentless bosom that was planning the destruction of all his family.

The arrow flew as truly to the mark as that which he had shot in the market-place of Altdorf, and the tyrant Gessler fell from his horse, pierced with a mortal wound.

The daring archer thought that he had taken his aim unseen by human eye; but, to his surprise, a familiar voice whispered in his ear, "Bravo, uncle! that was the best-aimed shaft you ever shot. Gessler is down, and we are a free people now."

"Thou incorrigible varlet, what brings thee here?" replied Tell, in an undervoice, giving Philip a rough grip of the arm.

"It is no time to answer questions," returned Philip. "The Rutli band are waiting for thee, if so be thou canst escape from this dangerous place; and my business here was to give thee notice of the same."

On this, Tell softly crept from the thicket, and, followed by his nephew, took the road to Stienen, which under cover of darkness, they reached that night.

Philip, by the way, after expressing much contrition for having seduced little Henric to go to the fair with him, informed his uncle that Henric and Lalotte had been safely conducted home by one of the band of the Rutli who chanced to be at Altdorf fair.

When they reached Stienen Tell was received with open arms by Stauffacher, the leader of the Rutli band; and with him and the other confederates, he so well concerted measures for the deliverance of Switzerland from the German yoke, that, in the course of a few days, the whole country was in arms. The Emperor of Germany's forces were everywhere defeated; and on the first day of the year, 1308, the independence of Switzerland was declared.

His grateful countrymen would have chosen William Tell for their sovereign, but he nobly rejected the offer, declaring that he was perfectly contented with the station of life in which he was born, and wished to be remembered in history by no other title than that of the Deliverer of Switzerland.

This true patriot lived happily in the bosom of his family for many years, and had the satisfaction of seeing his children grow up in the fear of God and the practice of virtue.

CHAPTER XVI

ROBERT BRUCE

I hope you have not forgotten, my dear child, that all the cruel wars of Scotland arose out of the debate between the great lords who claimed the throne after King Alexander the Third's death. The Scottish nobility rashly submitted the decision of that matter to King Edward I of England, and thus opened the way to his endeavouring to seize the kingdom of Scotland to himself. It was natural that such of the people as were still determined to fight for the deliverance of their country from the English, should look round for some other King, under whom they might unite themselves, to combat the power of England.

Amongst these, the principal candidates, were two powerful noblemen. The first was Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick; the other was John Comyn, or Cuming, of Badenoch, usually called the Red Comyn, to distinguish him from his kinsman, the Black Comyn, so named from his swarthy complexion. These two great and powerful barons had taken part with Sir William Wallace in the wars against England; but, after his defeat, being careful of losing their great estates, and considering the freedom of Scotland as beyond the possibility of being recovered, both Bruce and Comyn had not only submitted themselves to Edward, and acknowledged his title as King of Scotland, but even borne arms, along with the English, against such of their countrymen as still continued to resist the usurper. But the feelings of Bruce concerning the baseness of this conduct, are said, by the old tradition of Scotland, to have been awakened by the following incident. In one of the numerous battles, or skirmishes, which took place at the time between the English and their adherents on the one side, and the insurgent or patriotic Scots upon the other, Robert the Bruce was present, and assisted the English to gain the victory. After the battle was over, he sat down to dinner among his southern friends and allies, without washing his hands, on which there still remained spots of the blood which he had shed during the action. The English lords, observing this whispered to each other in mockery, "Look at that Scotsman, who is eating his own blood!" Bruce heard what they said, and began to reflect that the blood upon his hands might be indeed called his own, since it was that of his brave countrymen who were fighting for the independence of Scotland, whilst he was assisting its oppressors, who only laughed at and mocked him for his unnatural conduct. He was so much shocked and disgusted that he arose from table, and, going into a neighbouring chapel, shed many tears, and, asking pardon of God for the great crime he had been guilty of, made a solemn vow that he would atone for it by doing all in his power to deliver Scotland from the foreign yoke. Accordingly, he left, it is said, the English army, and never joined it again, but remained watching an opportunity for restoring the freedom of his country.

Now, this Robert the Bruce was held the best warrior in Scotland. He was very wise and prudent, and an excellent general; that is, he knew how to conduct an army, and place them in order for battle, as well or better than any great man of his time. He was generous, too, and courteous by nature; but he had some faults, which perhaps belonged as much to the fierce period in which he lived as to his own character. He was rash and passionate, and in his passion he was sometimes relentless and cruel.

Robert the Brace had fixed his purpose, as I told you, to attempt once again to drive the English out of Scotland, and he desired to prevail upon Sir John, the Red Comyn, who was his rival in his pretensions to the throne, to join with him in expelling the foreign enemy by their common efforts. With this purpose, Bruce requested an interview with John Comyn. They met in the Church of the Minorites in Dunfries, before the high altar. What passed betwixt them is not known with certainty; but they quarrelled, either concerning their mutual pretensions to the Crown, or because Comyn refused to join Bruce in the proposed insurrection against the English; or, as many writers say, because Bruce charged Comyn with having betrayed to the English his purpose of rising up against King Edward. It is, however, certain, that these two haughty barons came to high and abusive words, until at length Bruce forgot the sacred character of the place in which they stood, and struck Comyn a blow with his dagger. Having done this rash deed, he instantly ran out of the church and called for his horse. Two friends of Bruce were in attendance on him. Seeing him pale, bloody, and in much agitation they eagerly inquired what was the matter.

"I doubt," said Bruce, "that I have slain the Red Comyn."

"Do you leave such a matter in doubt?" said one, "I will make sicker!"--that is, I will make certain. Accordingly, he and his companion rushed into the church and made the matter certain with a vengeance, by dispatching the wounded Comyn with their daggers. His uncle, Sir Robert Comyn, was slain at the same time.

This slaughter of Comyn was a rash and cruel action. It was followed by the displeasure of Heaven; for no man ever went through more misfortunes than Robert Bruce, although he at length rose to great honour. After the deed was done, Bruce might be called desperate. He had committed an action which was sure to bring down upon him the vengeance of all Comyn's relations, the resentment of the King of England, and the displeasure of the Church, on account of having slain his enemy within consecrated ground. He determined, therefore, to bid them all defiance at once, and to assert his pretensions to the throne of Scotland. He drew his own followers together, summoned to meet him such barons as still entertained hopes of the freedom of the country, and was crowned King at the Abbey of Scone, the usual place where the Kings of Scotland assumed their authority.

Everything relating to the ceremony was hastily performed. A small circlet of gold was hurriedly made, to represent the ancient crown of Scotland, which Edward had carried off to England. The Earl of


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