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HIS EARLY YEARS.
On the summit of this mountain was a poor hut, surrounded by a small field, a vineyard, and an orchard. A labourer, or rather a hero, though as yet he knew not his own powers, whose heart glowed with the love of his country, received from his father, at the age of twenty years, this small inheritance. “My son,” said the old man to him on his deathbed, my toils are
over, my life is finished. For sixty years I have lived in this peaceful dwelling, and never has vice attempted to enter my doors ; nor has my sleep been disturbed for a single night by remorse. Be like me, my son ; love industry : choose a wife whose love, whose confidence, whose patient friendship, may double thy innocent pleasures, and deprive misfortune of half its bitterness. Adieu, my son ! do not weep for me; death is only painful to the wicked. When I sent thee to carry a part of our fruits and bread to our poor brethren who had none, didst thou not return with joy to tell me what thou hadst done? Well, my son! I am going to my Father to give him an account of the good which he has enabled me to do in so long a life. He will receive me as I used to receive thee; and in his presence I trust that
you and I shall meet again. While thou continuest here below, be virtuous ; and while thou art free, it will be easy to
But if ever a tyrant should dare to attack our ancient liberty, fear not to die, William, for thy country, and thou
wilt find that death is not bitter in such a cause.”
These words sank deeply into the feeling heart of Tell ; he paid the last solemn duties to his revered parent ; dug his tomb at the foot of the fir-tree that shaded his cottage; and there he took a sacred oath, which he never violated, to visit alone every day this honoured tomb; there to call to mind all his actions, and ask if his father were content with his son.
Oh! how many virtues did Tell owe to this pious custom! How much did the fear of shame when he should question the shade of his father, teach him to curb the fire of youth, and conquer all his passions ! Thus he became the master over his own desires, and could always turn them to the side of wisdom. Inheriting his father's land, he won a second harvest from the soil by a double portion of labour, and shared its fruits with his poorer neighbours.
Rising with the earliest dawn, and holding a plough which two oxen could scarcely draw, he plunged the sharp steel into the flinty earth, and hastened the slow cattle with the goad that he held in his hand, nor stopped to wipe the drops of toil from his forehead till he retired home towards evening, pitying those unfortunate people who had no plough.
This idea accompanied him as he led home his oxen, and visited him even in his sleep. The next morning he would rise still earlier, that he might, unknown to his poor friends, go and plough their fields, and sow their seeds while they were absent, to spare his modesty the pain of being thanked by his equals.
Such was his toil, and such were his pleasures; kindness and industry were his employment and his delight.
Nature, who had given Tell this pure and lofty soul, endowed him also with a strong and active body. He was a head taller than the tallest of his companions. He could climb with a firm step the most stupendous rocks ; could leap over roaring torrents, or chase the wild chamois in their fullest speed to the top of the icy summits. His arms alone could bend and break down the stubborn oak after a few strokes of the axe, and his shoulders could bear its vast weight with all its leafy branches.
On days of rejoicing, in the midst of the
games which the young archers carried on, Tell, who had no equal in the art of shooting with a bow and arrow, was obliged to be idle while the prize