The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. XXI: French
By Alphonse Daudet (18401897)
From Tartarin in the Alps
THE PARTY of travelers now came to the Lake of Lucerne, with its dark waters overshadowed by high and menacing mountains. To their right they saw that Ruetli meadow where Melchthal, Fuerst, and Stauffacher had sworn the oath to deliver their country.
Tartarin, deeply moved, took off his cap, and even threw it into the air three times to render homage to the shades of the departed heroes. Some of the tourists mistook this for a salutation, and bowed in return. At last they reached Tells Chapel. This chapel is situated at the edge of the lake, on the very rock upon which, during the storm, William Tell jumped from Gesslers boat. And it was a delicious emotion to Tartarin, while he followed the travelers along the lake, to tread this historic ground, to recall and revive the various scenes of this great drama, which he knew as well as his own biography.
For William Tell had always been his ideal man. When at Bézuquets pharmacy the game of Preferences was being played, and each one wrote on his slip of paper the name of the poet, the tree, the odor, the hero, and the woman that he preferred to all others of their kind, one slip invariably bore this inscription:
Imagine, then, how happy he was, and how his heart beat when he stood before the chapel commemorative of the gratitude of a whole nation. It seemed to him as if William Tell must come in person to open the door, still dripping from the waters of the lake, and holding in his hand his bolts and crossbow.
The painter, a splendid fellow, with a magnificent golden head of an artist of the Renaissance, received his visitors on the wooden staircase which led to the temporary scaffolding from which the mural paintings were being done. All the frescos, representing scenes from Tells life, were complete, except the one in which the scene of the apple at Altorf was to be shown. Upon that the painter was now working .
And Schwanthaler, folding his arms, recited two of Schillers verses, half of which was lost in his beard. Then the ladies delivered their opinions, and for some minutes one would have thought oneself in a confectioners shop. Beautiful! they cried. Lovely! Exquisite! Delicious!
Imagine the stupefaction of the painter when this tourist, stick in hand and bundle on his back, undertook to demonstrate to him as clearly as that two and two are four, that the position of Tell in the picture was incorrect.
Who am I? said our Tarasconian hero, deeply astonished. And so it was not at his name that the door had opened. Drawing himself up, he answered, Ask the panthers of Zaccar, or the lions of Atlas, and perhaps they will answer you.