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The Swiss At Morgarten
by [?]

On a sunny autumn morning, in the far-off year 1315, a gallant band of horsemen wound slowly up the Swiss mountains, their forest of spears and lances glittering in the ruddy beams of the new-risen sun, and extending down the hill-side as far as the eye could reach. In the vanguard rode the flower of the army, a noble cavalcade of knights, clad in complete armor, and including nearly the whole of the ancient nobility of Austria. At the head of this group rode Duke Leopold, the brother of Frederick of Austria, and one of the bravest knights and ablest generals of the realm. Following the van came a second division, composed of the inferior leaders and the rank and file of the army.

Switzerland was to be severely punished, and to be reduced again to the condition from which seven years before it had broken away; such was the dictum of the Austrian magnates. With the army came Landenberg, the oppressive governor who had been set free on his oath never to return to Switzerland. He was returning in defiance of his vow. With it are also said to have been several of the family of Gessler, the tyrant who fell beneath Tell’s avenging arrow. The birds of prey were flying back, eager to fatten on the body of slain liberty in Switzerland.

Up the mountains wound the serried band, proud in their panoply, confident of easy victory, their voices ringing out in laughter and disdain as they spoke of the swift vengeance that was about to fall on the heads of the horde of rebel mountaineers. The duke was as gay and confidant as any of his followers, as he proudly bestrode his noble war-horse, and led the way up the mountain slopes towards the district of Schwyz, the head-quarters of the base-born insurgents. He would trample the insolent boors under his feet, he said, and had provided himself with an abundant supply of ropes with which to hang the leaders of the rebels, whom he counted on soon having in his power.

All was silent about them as they rode forward; the sun shone brilliantly; it seemed like a pleasure excursion on which they were bound.

“The locusts have crawled to their holes,” said the duke, laughingly; “we will have to stir them out with the points of our lances.”

“The poor fools fancied that liberty was to be won by driving out one governor and shooting another,” answered a noble knight. “They will find that the eagle of Hapsburg does not loose its hold so easily.”

Their conversation ceased as they found themselves at the entrance to a pass, through which the road up the mountains wound, a narrow avenue, wedged in between hills and lakeside. The silence continued unbroken around the rugged scene as the cavalry pushed in close ranks through the pass, filling it, as they advanced, from side to side. They pushed forward; beyond this pass of Morgarten they would find open land again and the villages of the rebellious peasantry; here all was solitude and a stillness that was almost depressing.

Suddenly the stillness was broken. From the rugged cliffs which bordered the pass came a loud shout of defiance. But more alarming still was the sound of descending rocks, which came plunging down the mountain side, and in an instant fell with a sickening thud on the mail-clad and crowded ranks below. Under their weight the iron helmets of the knights cracked like so many nut-shells; heads were crushed into shapeless masses, and dozens of men, a moment before full of life, hope, and ambition, were hurled in death to the ground.

Down still plunged the rocks, loosened by busy hands above, sent on their errand of death down the steep declivities, hurling destruction upon the dense masses below. Escape was impossible. The pass was filled with horsemen. It would take time to open an avenue of flight, and still those death-dealing rocks came down, smashing the strongest armor like pasteboard, strewing the pass with dead and bleeding bodies.