William Tell Told Again is one of Wodehouse's earliest works, published in 1904. It is set in fourteenth century Switzerland, which at the time was controlled by Austria.
William Tell is the ablest archer in the land, and spends a lot of time hunting to keep his family fed. He is also a patriot who believes that one day the Swiss will rise up and throw off their Austrian oppressors. This- and his fighting skills- are why so many want him to lead a rebellion. But when approached by some citizens (one of them his father-in-law), Tell refuses to become their leader. He says that he's not good at plotting or making speeches or anything like that, but that when they have any action planned, to send for him and he'll help.
As plotting goes on in the town below, Tell spends his time hunting and teaching his sons how to use a bow. One day he announces to Hedwig that he must go to the town, and she's immediately suspicious that her father is getting him involved in one of his revolutionary schemes. Tell at first tries to put her off, but when she refuses to be distracted, says that a man must help his country. Hedwig says that the townspeople are sure to make him do any dangerous work, and urges him to avoid Gessler at all cost, as the governor already has a grudge against him. William assures her that nothing bad will happen and sets out for town with his older son Walter.
Gessler orders his servants to get a large pole, set it up in the field by the gates of the town, and place one of his hats on top of it. He then sends out heralds in every direction to summon all the people to the palace. Once men, women, and children from all over have gathered, Gessler comes out on the steps and tells them that, in order for them to show the love and reverence that he knows they have for him, the people must kneel before his hat and remove their own whenever they pass by it. Anyone failing to do so will be arrested. As the governor reenters the palace, the people express their "reverence" by throwing eggs and cabbages until hustled away by the soldiers.
To ensure obedience to his decree, Gessler has two of his guards stand watch at the pole. They find it boring work, however, because the townspeople, determined not to bow, all begin taking the long way into town to avoid passing by the hat. Worse, the "rabble" start standing about at the outer edge of the field, mocking and shouting rude remarks at the two indignant soldiers. Eventually, the mockery takes physical form, and the guards are pelted with rotten eggs and vegetables. Just as this expression of political discontent is at its height, a cheer goes up. William Tell has been sighted walking toward town.
Gessler is instantly furious, and orders his soldiers to seize William Tell. Tell contemptuously points out the tyrant's lies: "My death will at least show my countrymen the worth of their governor's promises." Gessler, however, says that he isn't breaking his word; he promised Tell his life but didn't say that it would be a free one. He decrees that Tell will be taken to his castle at Kussnacht where he will be chained hand and foot in a dungeon "where no ray of sun or moon ever falls." The soldiers bind Tell's hands and he is taken away and put in the hold of Gessler's ship to cross the lake to the castle.
The rebels worry that the Emperor of Austria will send a large force of soldiers when he hears of their uprising and the death of his governor. However, news soon reaches them that the Emperor himself has been killed by political opponents in his own country. His son, the new Emperor, is too busy trying to put down rebellion in Austria to concern himself with Switzerland, and by the time he is able to do so, the Swiss have grown strong enough and organized enough to defeat the invading Austrians, and so gain their freedom. William Tell returns to his mountain home and lives contentedly with his wife and sons, teaching the boys to be expert marksmen like himself.
Is amplified and twisted;
Some say it isn't very clear
That William Tell existed;
Some say he freed his country so,
The Governor demolished.
Perhaps he did. I only know
That taxes aren't abolished!