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Swiss Heroes

An Historical Romance of the Time of Charles the Bold

251 pages
Library of Alexandria
On the twenty-sixth of August, in the year 1473, a lively party passed out through the gate of the old city of Basle and briskly took their way along the road to Saint Jacob, following the course of the river Birs. First came two sturdy burghers, Councillor Hans Irmy, a merchant of some consequence, and the head of a large and wealthy house, the revenues of which were constantly being increased by agents in Venice, Genoa, Augsburg, and Nuremberg; and Ulrich Iseli, landlord of The Bears of Basle, the largest tavern in the city. Iseli was a good customer of Irmy’s in foreign wines and provisions. Following them was a band of youths, led by a young apprentice of the house of Irmy, Heini Süssbacher of Aarau. Walter, the Councillor’s only son, was the central figure of this group, the others crowding closely about him. He was a lad of some sixteen years, with a frank, good-natured countenance, and of a size and strength beyond his years. Up hill and down dale they went, till perspiration streamed from the brow of the corpulent Councillor and he could scarcely keep pace with his more youthful companion Iseli, who, unlike the most of his calling, was tall and spare and had preserved much of the elasticity of youth. “Gently! gently! my friend,” said Irmy at length. “Make haste slowly. We shall still reach our journey’s end before night.” “As you please,” replied the other, “but I would fain be home again in good season. The dignitaries of the town will mark my absence from the guests’ room and, doubtless, distinguished persons will have arrived by the time we return. Methinks you are wont to be quick enough in other respects.” “That indeed,” returned Irmy, “and well has my quickness served me in life; wherefore it troubles me the less that I can no longer follow you either with my legs or with my hopes and thoughts.” “Nay, let us not return to the French,” said the innkeeper, “for on that point we shall never agree. I maintain that Switzerland cannot do better than to place herself under the protection of the French crown. Never has the house of Austria dealt fairly by us, nor should we forget what Tell and his companions did for their country.” “True,” replied the magistrate; “but I greatly doubt if we should meet with any better treatment from France than we did from Gessler and his accomplices in those days. Moreover, you must remember ’tis but thirty years since Austria and France formed an alliance against us that might have proved our destruction. You should be ashamed to speak the word ‘France’ on this day, the anniversary of the battle of Saint Jacob. Those who sleep here would turn in their graves, could they hear you talk so. Think you I bear these scars in vain? Never can I forget the wrongs France has inflicted upon our Confederation, and if need be I will prove to her that my arm is still of use, not only to keep account books and handle pepper sacks, but also to smite French helms till the sparks fly.”