The Conference at Furst's House
Shortly after this episode Stauffacher said to his wife one day: "God protect you, Margaretha. I am going across the lake to Attinghausen to confer with Walter Furst." He did as he said, and reached Furst's house toward evening. He at once told his old friend that he had come to talk about the Governor's outrages, and that he considered it not alone the right but the duty of those who wished to live as their fathers had lived to band themselves together and break the tyrant's chains. There was no other way to accomplish it.
Furst's eyes flashed as he heard these words. He took his old friend by the hand and said: "Thank God that I hear such a noble utterance from Schwyz. I have cheering reports also from Uri and Unterwalden. Both here and there they think as you do."
Then he told Werner that he had concealed young Arnold von Melchthal, who had broken Landenberg's servant's finger. "Come with me," he said. But just as they were leaving the room Arnold rushed in and, overcome with distress and anger, exclaimed, "By all the saints. they have blinded my father."
"Who? what?" cried Furst in great excitement.
"Landenberg, the Governor, has pierced both my father's eyes because he will not reveal my hiding-place. I have the news on the best authority. Oh, my God, why did I flee! I would rather have suffered a hundred deaths than have my old father lose his eyes."
He wrung his hands and cried out so piteously that it pierced the souls of the two men. They were deeply excited themselves by this unprecedented cruelty. At last Arnold controlled himself, and said: "Look you! It has come to this. No one's eyes are longer safe." He broke down again and wept aloud. When he recovered composure he continued: "Tell me, you whose word and example have so much influence in the three cantons, how much longer shall we stand looking idly on while such infamous outrages are committed? Oh, they cry aloud to heaven!"
Then Stauffacher told him why he had come. The young man seized his hand and said: "Thank God! Fling out our banner. Let us march through the cantons. All the people will join us. We will hurl ourselves upon the tyrants like an avalanche and crush them."
Furst and Stauffacher sought to allay his excitement. They told him it was absolutely essential that the conferences in the three cantons should be held in secret. When Arnold heard this he was in despair. "Men," he exclaimed, "you still have your eyes. Will you wait until you too are blinded? But even if nothing of the kind should happen, how many more noble men must lose their property and their lives? No, pardon me, I cannot wait. I have young friends in the mountains who will join me, and before eight days have passed you will hear that Landenberg is no more. Noble and excellent sirs, farewell."
"A word before you go," said Furst. "Are you really sure that you can take the strong castle at Sarnen with a band of rash youth? And even if you should do so and should kill Landenberg, what would you gain for the cause of liberty? Did not Wolfshot fall? Has his successor dealt any more leniently with the people of Unterwalden? You will only have committed an act of vengeance. What will happen when Gessler, infuriated by such an act, overruns the country with his soldiers and seizes the leaders of the people? Our liberties will be irretrievably lost."
"Pardon me if I doubt what you have said," replied Arnold. "The invading hordes would kindle the smouldering embers of liberty all over the three cantons."
Stauffacher interposed and said: "Arnold, brave youth, hear my words before you act. He who would achieve victory must have courage, but he must not forget that foresight is also necessary. Remember that our people are not yet ready for the struggle. A single act such as you propose might do great harm to us all. Do not waste your strength upon a rash undertaking, but save it for the hour when the three cantons shall rise."
"Noble sirs," replied Arnold, "you ask something very difficult."
"Not more difficult," replied Furst, "than the necessities of the country demand. Consider my advice, both of you. You, Arnold, remain in concealment. Stauffacher and I will summon our intimate friends and have an interview at some retired spot upon which we shall agree."
"Listen to me," said Arnold. "In deference to your wishes I recall my decision to raise a force of those in sympathy with me and storm the castle at Sarnen, but you will never persuade me to remain here in idleness awaiting the day of uprising. The little boat in which I came shall take me back this night to Unterwalden. There I will work secretly among my friends, as you will be doing in Schwyz and Uri."
"You are taking a great risk," said Furst, "but God be with you. Now let us arrange when and where we shall meet."
The three sat until midnight making their plans. Then Furst accompanied the two to the lake, where they separated, Arnold going to Unterwalden, and Stauffacher to Schwyz. Furst went back to his house with a heart full of anxiety and solicitude for the future.