A great army was marching into Swit-zer-land. If it should go much
farther, there would be no driving it out again. The soldiers would
burn the towns, they would rob the farmers of their grain and sheep,
they would make slaves of the people.
The men of Switzerland knew all this. They knew that they must fight
for their homes and their lives. And so they came from the mountains
and valleys to try what they
could do to save their land. Some came
with bows and arrows, some with scythes and pitch-forks, and some with
only sticks and clubs.
But their foes kept in line as they marched along the road. Every
soldier was fully armed. As they moved and kept close together,
nothing could be seen of them but their spears and shields and shining
armor. What could the poor country people do against such foes as
"We must break their lines," cried their leader; "for we cannot harm
them while they keep together."
The bowmen shot their arrows, but they glanced off from the soldiers'
shields. Others tried clubs and stones, but with no better luck. The
lines were still un-bro-ken. The soldiers moved stead-i-ly onward;
their shields lapped over one another; their thousand spears looked
like so many long bris-tles in the sun-light. What cared they for
sticks and stones and hunts-men's arrows?
"If we cannot break their ranks," said the Swiss, "we have no chance
for fight, and our country will be lost!"
Then a poor man, whose name was Ar-nold Wink'el-ried, stepped out.
"On the side of yonder moun-tain," said he, "I have a happy home.
There my wife and chil-dren wait for my return. But they will not see
me again, for this day I will give my life for my country. And do you,
my friends, do your duty, and Switzerland shall be free."
With these words he ran forward. "Follow me!" he cried to his friends.
"I will break the lines, and then let every man fight as bravely as he
He had nothing in his hands, neither club nor stone nor other weapon.
But he ran straight on-ward to the place where the spears were
"Make way for lib-er-ty!" he cried, as he dashed right into the lines.
A hundred spears were turned to catch him upon their points. The
soldiers forgot to stay in their places. The lines were broken.
Arnold's friends rushed bravely after him. They fought with whatever
they had in hand. They snatched spears and shields from their foes.
They had no thought of fear. They only thought of their homes and
their dear native land. And they won at last.
Such a battle no one ever knew before. But Switzerland was saved, and
Arnold Wink-el-ried did not die in vain.