Day after day passed, and at last New Year's Eve arrived. Everything was arranged, every one was ready. The Swiss knew that if they were to succeed, they must get possession of all the castles which were in the hands of the Austrians. So their first plans were for the taking of these.
In Unterwalden there was a castle called Rossberg. The walls were thick and high, the gates heavy and strong. To take it by force seemed impossible.
Among the servants of the castle was a pretty girl called Anneli. She had laughing blue eyes, and golden hair which fell far below her waist in two long plaits. In spite of the sad times, she always seemed merry and smiling as a sunbeam. Many people loved Anneli, but the person she loved best was a shepherd called Joggeli, and she had promised to marry him.
Joggeli was one of those who had met upon the Rütli and sworn to free Switzerland from the Austrians. He often came to see Anneli at the castle, and because he knew that she too loved her country he often talked to her of how they hoped to overthrow the tyrants. Then Anneli's blue eyes would flash, and she would say, "Oh, if I were only a man, I would fight too. Joggeli, you don't know how I hate them—hate them!"
Then one night as they talked together Joggeli said, "You can help, Anneli, if you will."
"Oh, how? Tell me how," cried Anneli, her eyes dancing with delight. Joggeli bent and whispered to her, and as Anneli listened her eyes sparkled and her cheeks grew red. "O Joggeli," she cried, "then I can really help?"
"Yes, you can help very much," he replied, "in fact, we could not do without you. You will be brave? You are not afraid?"
"No," said Anneli, "I am not afraid. I am very proud that you should trust me."
After that day Anneli's eyes seemed merrier than ever, and she sang all day long, for was she not going to help to free her country?
One evening, when Joggeli came to the castle, he brought a long coil of rope hidden under his cloak. Anneli took it and hid it away carefully. Again and again Joggeli brought coils of rope, and Anneli knotted all the pieces together and hid them in a safe place.
On New Year's Eve Anneli sat alone in her little room overlooking the castle wall, waiting and listening. She had no light. Everything in the little room was very still and quiet. One by one all the sounds in the castle ceased. Soon every one was fast asleep. Only Anneli and the sleepy sentinels who guarded the great gate were awake. Twelve o'clock struck. As the last stroke died away Anneli crept softly across the room and opened the window. She brought the heavy rope from its hiding-place, and with her strong little hands knotted one end firmly round the iron bar which divided the window in two. Then she waited and listened. At last she heard a faint sound from down below. "Joggeli," she whispered.
"Anneli," came back the answer. "All is clear."
She lifted the rope then and let it drop gently over the castle wall.
Little Anneli was very brave, but she grew pale and trembled as she leaned against the window-sill, waiting. What if the rope broke? What if the iron bar gave way? she was asking herself.
But in a minute or two Joggeli's head appeared at the window; he put his hands on the ledge and leaped into the room. "Brave little girl!" he said, feeling in the darkness for Anneli's hand. Then he turned again to the window, and in another minute a second man appeared, then another and another, till twenty men had climbed up the rope and were standing safely within the castle walls.
In a minute or two Joggeli's head appeared at the window
"Are you ready, men?" asked Joggeli in a low voice.
"Yes," they whispered.
Then, at a sign from Joggeli, Anneli opened the door and ran down the long passage, followed by the twenty men. She led them straight to the great door which was guarded within by two sleepy Austrian soldiers.
The Swiss threw themselves upon the sentinels and bound and gagged them before they could utter a word.
Leaving one or two men to guard the door, they next went, guided by Anneli, to the room where the captain slept. Him, too, they seized and bound, and in a very short time, without even having drawn their swords, the castle was theirs.
The dark dungeons were unlocked and the prisoners set free. But the dungeons were not long left empty, for they were soon filled with the proud Austrian soldiers. The Swiss guarded the castle well, so that no Austrian, man or woman, could escape and carry the news to their friends and bring back help. But, upon the topmost tower, the Swiss lit a beacon fire which, seen far and wide, carried the news to Schwyzt and Uri that the castle Rossberg was taken.