The provincial governors now called the population together and counted fifty talers on the table for everyone who was willing to rider, and a hundred for everyone who became a foot soldier. Many unruly people cut off their fingers or cut themselves with knives in order to be unfit for military service, but they were sentenced to fifty strokes of the rod or put to life imprisonment on Marstrand. Wild hordes of soldiers roamed the areas using violence. When the farmer heard their voices at the willow fence, he left the keys in the lock and hid under haystacks or fled up to the wilderness with his servants and cattle. In Stockholm the councilors locked themselves in their rooms so as not to be seen or questioned. Accompanied by guardsmen the investigators roamed door to door breaking into cellars and pantries, and the wolves came out into the streets. There were no goods in the shops, no grain in the mills, no hands wielding the hammer, no happy laughter, no cozy winter evenings around the fire in the home.

All the people were of a prophetic one[76] Hunch shudders. At the church door or in the locked room they said that God, who had put the crown of martyrdom on Sweden, would soon have the thorns fall off and the leaves turned into beautiful, new spring green, and that the king would soon die. Day after day the message was expected that he had fallen and people were only surprised that it was going on for so long. Everyone knew that he fought on hedges and fences like a common soldier. Most of them stopped their daily work and walked around in fear and gloomy anticipation. A councilor in Stockholm complained that he did not know where to get mourning material and money for the funeral. Even Goertz lay sleepless every morning when his servant came with the wood for the stove. Sweden was like the collapsing royal family at Bender,

At the time there was a begging studios in Uppsala who wanted to be a pastor but was never able to do anything other than throw the dice[77] or to fight or to write verses in Swedish and Latin at weddings and funerals. His name was Tolle Aarasson. Hands and feet were much too slender and fine for his large build, but even when he was starving, his beardless child’s face always bloomed full and rosy. He didn’t want to harm anyone if he could only live as free as birds, go his own way and sleep in the quiet of the morning, but his comrades said that he could not distinguish between good and bad. When the advertisers began their noise in the city one fine Sunday, he became quite pious and hid himself in the pews with the blank covers of his Latin grammar. It was in the Trinity Church. In the middle of the service, the advertisers came in with a bunch of handcuffs on their armpits, noisy and booming, but Tolle Aarasson bent over his empty book covers. He rocked his body back and forth and sang with such inwardness and devotion that no one thought of taking him, although he belonged to the unsuitable scholarly people who were to be chosen for the army according to the royal poster. After that he found it advisable to hang his bundle over his back[78] and go on adventures. Horrified, he looked around at the dear fatherland, which the plague and war had so desolate and transformed. Was this Sweden, the country that his fathers had built and guarded like the apple of their eye, the beloved, feared great power of the north? On the way he met wailing farmers who had to carry their grain in long forced drives to the headquarters in Norway or up to the Hjerpe ski jump in Jämtland. Overturned cargo and dead horses lay on every hill. Up on the desolate farmsteads in the woods, ragged prowls peeped out of the room windows, and he kept his money hidden in his boot leg. Sleeping benches, sleds and pets stood lined up on the lawn near the farmsteads, and with weeping and wailing, the blow of the auction hammer on the wooden door rang out. In the manorial kitchens, the servants told each other how the master’s family buried their silver, because Görtz had ordered that not only all real money, but also the household utensils made of precious metal, should be delivered in exchange for emergency coins, so that the king could retain all the property of the subjects got. Great Aarasson learned that not even the princess was enough in Stockholm[79] Silverware for their table, and that the king himself eats from sheet iron. In the abandoned blacksmiths, outside of which the river flowed unchecked towards the sea, past stationary wheels and open dam hatches, he chatted with the only abandoned blacksmith who was too old and frail for life in the fields. He learned that as soon as some iron was forged, it was to be placed in the storehouse of the Reich in exchange for a bag of emergency coins. But most of all he liked to sit and warm himself in the rectory, where his knowledge of the Bible and his Latin made him welcome, and sometimes the pastor could talk to him until dusk. At the same time they whispered that consideration would be given to taking the school and poor fund, and even the money from the bank; there wouldn’t even be quills and paper, and the offices would have to be closed if the gentlemen did not want to dip their fingers in the inkwell and write on the bare table. A grizzled chaplain told him that the governors would be dismissed or placed under overseers if they no longer knew whom to obey or to command; and the old man described how he himself move the Bible and the preacher’s coat and thin beer[80] had to pour into the communion can.

In this way, Tolle Aarasson wandered from area to area and sometimes earned a penny by taking letters and official reports with him. The postmen had been ordered to join the army and the impetuous innkeepers became postmasters, but they did not understand their new business, instead the mothers and fatherless crowded around them every day in vain and called for letters from their relatives in Siberia’s primeval forests and mines. In the midst of the grumbling peasants in the church in Slätthög, he was allowed to stroke the gold-embroidered fur of honor of a sultan, which was used as an altar cover, with his fingers. In the town of Kalmar he became a duo brother with the artilleryman Edstedt, who had just married a maid but was not a man himself, but a disguised Fraulein Stalhammer. On Visingso he played dice with the tattered Russian prisoners of war, and in Karlshamn he strolled with Polack, Armenians and Jews and tugged the solemn Turkish believers at the turban tassels. He even persuaded her to try wine, but then broke the stained glass so that it could be heard on the pavement. At Lund he heard among the armed students[81] yours to the inciting speech of the professor and shot at professor Rydelius, who wanted to conjure up the storm. After he had roamed half the country, he finally stood one evening in Gothenburg, where the king had stayed at the house on Stigbergplatz as a guest of the pirate Gatenhjelm while he was passing through. Dusty and thirsty, Tolle Aarasson sat down in the coffee shop of Dorothea Ek, where the citizens, laughing loudly and crying, hugged each other and said that the terrible pirates of Madagascar should now be allowed to come in sixty heavily laden privateers and make their homes in the city settle down to help up the trades.

Then he could not contain himself any longer and let his light shine and told in Swedish as in Latin his experiences and adventures of the wandering. He soon noticed that two men who sat next to him with their coat collars turned down stopped speaking to listen to him, and that only made him more communicative.

“Now the Swedes must feel the iron gloves like never before since the heathen times,” he said, looking at his shiny nails. “The king wielded his sword against the nations one after the other, and now he is turning it against[82] his own. Could it end differently? But uncanny premonitions are whispered around the people. He leaves no son. What should such a man with a son also? The drafts for an English constitution are already on the councilors’ desk. We should never endure what we now willingly endure from another. Maybe tomorrow … maybe tonight, while we’re talking here, a lively servant is sitting in front of a pile of embers on the rock face and melting lead in a crucible … Maybe right now he’s holding the black drop in the ball-nose scissors, which will forever be the greatest of the heroes to euthanize. ”

A very old businessman with the whitest hair and the most troubled eyes patted his hand.

“We humans all judge by the pain in our own wound, but now let an old man talk. If our tough iron king had never been born, the ever more powerful neighbors would have started to cut up this empire … Slowly, year after year, day after day, our children and grandchildren would have negotiated, humiliated and robbed one province after another be. It would never be quiet, but never an honor either[83] came. It is a rude spectacle to see a tethered lion whose blood is slowly being sucked out with little thimbles! So I would rather see the flame in the clouds and a man in front of us all at once! When did he command us to sacrifice more than he sacrificed himself? Did he not starve, he did not freeze, and now we have the feeling that he will fall with us too. ”

Great Aarasson changed the voice. He didn’t want to pretend, but it always seemed to him that the one who spoke last was right.

“If I didn’t appreciate freedom and a bed made, I would lean up behind the king to be able to press my mouth to his footprints in the Norwegian snow. Soon it may be too late and the ball will be poured … ”

As he uttered these words, the two men who sat next to him rose in a secret, mutual sign; and so great was his fear of the soldier’s coat that he was hereditary when he noticed shiny brass buttons under their coats.

“My well-balanced Junker!” They called in his ear and led him by both arms like a prisoner. “If He can speak so neatly, it is not too much honor that He[84] may stand near where the ball whistles … Now we’ve caught an inflated bird on the liming rod! We are advertisers, we my master … does he understand? And now march to Norway! ”

“All my life I have asked for nothing else than to be a soldier!” He replied at once with such soft and friendly certainty that even he believed his words. “Now just put the advertising money in my hat!”

So he finally had to put on the blue coat of which he was so afraid; and one day after the other he experienced new and unexpected occurrences in the middle of the land where the plow had once quietly dug its furrows in the earth. No sooner had he reached Strömstad than he saw large galleys on dry ground. He himself was harnessed to the stern with farmers, horses and oxen to haul the vehicles over the headlands two and a half miles to Idefjord. The ships were dragged, inch by inch, over billet dams and piles of brushwood, at night by pitch torches and by day in the heat of the July sun. A small man in a purple velvet skirt and bushy wig and with wide gold clasps[85] on the shoes walked encouragingly between the people. It was Emanuel Svedenborg, and Polhem had instructed him to carry out this strange act. When he saw Tolle Aarassons, he shaded his eyes with his hand and said:

“It’s one of the fattest and most flourishing healthes I’ve seen in many years. But don’t get too hard on this man, my dear corporals, because I can see that he has no real strength in his limbs! ”

That was the first compassionate word Tolle had heard Aarasson since he had toasted with his comrades in Uppsala, and immediately with watering eyes he had to stretch out his round hand and beg.

“I’m a failed, poor fellow,” he whispered in a mixture of Swedish and the most learned Latin, “and I would bless and thank you for a single pinch of snuff.”

“Sniffing and serving the crown are two different things!” Replied Svedenborg seriously and went away, but that same evening when it blew to peel off, he came with his snuff horn.

“Take the whole horn and keep it and don’t talk about it any more!” He whispered and was[86] disappeared again, like a wanderer who suddenly appears on the path.

People are good, thought Tolle Aarasson immediately and tried to find his way into his fate. Soon, however, he had wasted his last copper gods and the entire contents of his snuff horn in order to get himself an hour longer sleep in the morning. Immediately he said again that people were bad.

When at last the last ship with its golden god of victory glided out over Idefjord into the dark sea, he was ordered to march again. Many foreign and domestic officers gradually joined the crowd, and the long procession of the last sons of the country who had been advertised wandered from farm to farm.

It happened one lunchtime at a pub that Tolle Aarasson was sitting behind a wagon shed and sleeping with his hat on his knees. When the drum was spinning and he woke up, there was a blank specie coin in his hat on a folded piece of paper.

It was an unexpected sight, and he rubbed his eyes to see if he was dreaming. He hit the coin with his knuckle and weighed it in his hand. Finally he rolled up the paper and read:


“At Tistedahl by the Möllerhütte there is a weeping birch, called a chandelier, because you have three arms on one trunk. If his royal majesty falls before the bullets of the enemy, you are to testify that same night to the miracle that a bag of fifty ducats is lying close to the candelabra in the ground. ”

“This Swedish was written by some foreign devil!” Exclaimed Tolle Aarasson, almost wailing and whimpering, and tore the paper into small shreds which he scattered around him. He scraped over it with his foot and stepped on it. Then he put the speciestaler in his trouser pocket to go to the others, but he had hardly taken a few steps when he tore the money out again as if it had burned his body and his clothes. He threw it far away into the swamp.

When he had strapped his luggage to his back, he began to march again with his usual children’s smile, as if much in the world was very wonderful and yet completely indifferent, but the next night he dreamed of the white birch with the three high arms.

The woody Alpine ridges became more and more cloudy, the paths more and more steep, the pots of the sutlers more and more emptier, but no effort could make the well-nourished round ones[88] Cheeks and limbs take great Aarassons. The boots fell in pieces from his feet, and the trousers of the crown, which had been tailored for a starving army, were so inadequate that he had to tie them together with a string over his stomach. His handsome appearance and shining forehead annoyed his emaciated comrades, so that they vowed to beat him, but because he walked a head higher than everyone else, no one dared come too close in the end.

Although he did not reveal anything, he brooded over the strange letter from morning until late evening. Why did evil people want him to be their tool? He couldn’t think of anything else. When the dusted crowd finally moved under the tents and brushwood huts at the headquarters in Tistedahl, he suddenly stopped and, without knowing what he was doing, pointed to a defoliated weeping birch.

“The birch, the birch there! This is the candlestick! I know … it’s got to be called that! ”

“Here you have to be silent and obey!” Replied the corporal and immediately placed him as a wingman in the class for drafting.

When the corporal took him by the arm, he felt that the tendons were soft, and that the[89] tall recruit wobbled without strength when he touched it.

“We’d have better omitted that!” Testified the corporal. “Everything about this guy is crumbly and soft!”

On a November day some troops stopped in a mountain pass, and although the clock only showed three, it was already dusk. Tanned by the steppe sun and still with a Turkish tobacco pouch on their chest, many an aged officer contemplated the winter kingdom, in whose wooded wilderness the army was now heading for new adventures. Captured bush hunters told wild tales of forest goddesses and witches’ cries, and tall male women with flax-yellow hair came to the campfire at night and cut down exhausted and sleeping Swedes with their axes.

It was snowing, and deep down from the chasm the sun cast a golden glow over the alpine woods and the hanging rocks on the mountain wall.

It was an army of pale fifteen-year-olds and teenage children who stood by their weapons in the snowdrift.


The little Visigoths with sharp noses and unsteady eyes whispered to one another:

“The king should say that if we don’t want to starve, we should dig the food out of the Norwegian mountains …”

“So we must dig,” replied the Smaa countries drawn out and plaintive.

The Dalekarlier and Bohusläner leaned sadly on their musket barrels, but the battalions of Södermanland began to grumble. Then Colonel Rutger Fuchs stopped his horse and stopped in front of the front. One of his feet was inclined in the stirrup, because at Gadebusch, where he was carried off the battlefield, his leg had been crushed by a bullet.

“Ugh, you Södermanlanders!” “If you don’t get food to go with the bread of the crown, you butter boys, you will start to growl right away. I hear that you are all despondent. But now we have to bear it bravely, for I tell you that at no time will the Swedish men serve such a hero as our royal lord, and I willingly give my blood for him. Look at me! What do you call me Well, come out with it! ”


“The rich fox!” Replied the soldiers with one accord, and their features shone.

“That’s true. All my life I have been called the rich fox … Well, what is Fuchsen’s wealth? Anyone who can step out and answer receives two round pieces. ”

Nobody dared to go forward.

Then the rich fox took his wallet out of his chest and looked it up and turned the pages and made the following speech:

“What the devil does it mean to be rich! It’s an accounting thing, kids. Do you perhaps think that all property is interest-bearing? Yeah tried! Now listen to what I read! Debt: zero, zero. That is the first half of Fuchsen’s fortune. Then we have the blessed Schlippenbach’s dressing gown … Have you already forgotten the blessed Schlippenbach, your former colonel, who bequeathed both his dressing gown and his regiment to me in his will, the two favorite items he owned in the world? The dressing gown is so valuable to me that I didn’t want to sell it for less than five thousand Reichstaler. So for me it is just worth the sum. So now listen! Capital:

Blessed Schlippenbach’s dressing gown: five thousand reichstaler,


Sörmland’s regiment: ten thousand Reichstaler,

my beloved wife Greta, at home: seventy thousand Reichstaler,

the mutt from Holstein: a thousand Reichstaler,

the grace of my royal lord: eighty thousand Reichstaler,

the inn to the gold donkey: two thousand Reichstaler …

The devil get me, isn’t it all calculated low, but it’s also the only thing I have in the world. Well, what kind of thing is the Inn zum Goldesel? ”

“It is your Colonel’s canvas tent!” Murmured all the soldiers.

“Quite right, yes! In the tavern everyone gets breakfast for free, because nothing is available … Now let’s do the math! Total assets: one hundred and sixty-eight thousand Reichstaler. But if zero debt was half of my wealth, then half must be worth one hundred and sixty-eight thousand. Consequently and provably I have put together three hundred and thirty-six thousand Reichstaler. You see, boys, that is what Goertz calls finance, and being able to do this is useful, you understand. Just learn to keep records and put the right value on everything and you will be beautiful[93] rich and doesn’t need to hang his head when his stomach growls too. ”

“Vivat! Vivat, the rich fox! ”Echoed along the rows, but at the same moment all the swords flew from their sheaths. The muskets presented and the drums thundered. In the glow on the rock face moved the tall, enlarged shadow of a limping man with a round fur hat on his head and a knotty stick in his hand.

It was the king.

He came between the pines, followed by satellites, who, with their swords drawn, led their horses in a long line. He himself went first and paved the way in the snow. His scarred and clenched face had darkened in color from the sun and frost over the years, and there was a deep crease between his eyebrows. When he tucked his fur cap under his arm and greeted the troops in all directions, the snow fell over his bald head. The generals gradually gathered around him, and the satellites cut off a few branches of pine with their swords and spread them on the ground. The whole time he stood bare-headed in the whirlwind of snow, and the gray strands of hair that had been brushed back on his temple finally looked like one[94] Wreath of frosted leaves. He ordered the soldiers to assemble the muskets and set fire to the brushwood, but the musicians remained standing on the rock face with orders to play until sunset.

“The Norwegians are a merry people to bump into,” said the King. “Men like you, Kruse and Kolbjörnsen should, if they fall, be buried in gold coffins.”

Field Marshal Mörner replied:

“We just recently caught some Norwegian snap cocks that were hiding in the bushes here to shoot Your Majesty. Shall we hang them? ”

“No. Give each one a ducat for wasted time, and ask them not to mess with the soldiers’ trade any more. ”

Mörner lowered his voice.

“There are other bush crawlers entrusted with higher duties. I just received a new letter from Pastor Brenner about a secret conspiracy against the Crown and Life. If you believe him, dangerous enemies are standing here at this moment within barely five arm’s lengths. ”

“So let them stand if they don’t[95] comfortable to sit. In days of war there is no time to examine. ”

Mörner’s dwarf, Luxemburg, now stepped forward with the water bottle. When the king had drunk, he handed the dwarf his worn-out juniper stick, as if to equip the little one, and said to him:

“A Turk prophesied that I should beware of fools. You can now test whether I’m right. ”

Luxemburg took the stick and plucked and played on it like a guitar and began to love a French way.

Mörner then stepped closer to the king and whispered behind the hat:

“The crew is starving.”

“May the soldier do his service faithfully.”

“But a starving soldier drops the musket.”

“When you melt snow, it turns into water. If you bite a pine branch, hunger may very well be numbed for a long time. ”

“At least we have the people here in front of our eyes… But the people at home… The pastors are now openly teaching from the pulpit to call down vengeance from above. They mean since God struck the Swedes and the sign[96] has given that her empire must be divided, fight your majesty for your own honor alone. ”

“Have her honor and mine become two separate things? They defied and I answered. I want to force them to hold out to the extreme. Is it not for her guilt as well as mine? They say I try God. I answer that I am following him. This is my king word! In the name of justice, this is my oath! Who is the referee? ”

With these words the king put on his fur cap, turned up the collar of his coat and lay down on the fir branches to sleep so calmly as if there had been no enemy to be found on God’s ground.

Düker eagerly shouted his orders to the officers. Mörner was sleeping, leaning against a pine tree, without being able to listen to little Cronstedt’s ideas any longer, and the mischievous Stjernroos, who had been out and spied, came dressed in a sheepskin jacket, with wooden shoes and a keg on his back. Even the king was already asleep, without a thought of letter or threat. He had confided in his soldiers.

But there were two eyes that followed him.[97] Tolle Aarasson, who had been sent to the Södermanland regiment the previous day as corporal and leader for the woodcutters, could not force himself to look away from the sleeping man. The rich fox’s words were still in his mind.

“I might as well keep a housekeeping book,” he thought. “Fifty ducats in the ground by the candelabra birch!”

He stared at the king with his clear and friendly eyes so rigidly that he did not notice the rich fox approaching him.

“What about him?” Said Fuchs, patting him on the shoulder. “Here’s a report to Tistedal, because now we’re supposed to go up to the Fredriksten Fortress and get really fired up. Take two men and two bundles of pine shavings with you to light up … and run quickly! Anyone who has such a splendid supply of mouth under their skin need neither bivouack nor eat more than every third night, if they can only keep on using God’s gifts. ”

Tolle Aarasson and his two soldiers went to the side of the forest, but still a long way off he turned around between the fir trees and looked at the king.

When he came to the village of Tistedal at daybreak[98] When he came, he stopped under the candlestick birch and stuck the last of the pine chips into the ground, with the burning end down.

“I have wandered far and wide to study and learn,” he said to the soldiers. “I’ve met both good and bad people. Could the animals and trees also be good and bad? At every lunch break, when I was out with the loggers, I would lie down here to sleep, but I never slumbered in my eyes. There is a curse on the tree! You see, I have an ax firmly hammered into that branch up there. There will come a morning when I will put my ax to the root … ”

He stayed behind and looked at the dying Kienspan.

“Good people and bad, I said… I have never seen a man more splendid than our great King, but the years make him more and more severe and harder. He has no pity on the whimpers of animals or people. A cry of woe cannot even tempt him to turn his head. His slow death winter has come. How would we have wept for him if he had been allowed to fall when he was young! No time would have greeted a greater and purer man[99] than his. See this Kienspan how slowly it goes out, how it smokes and pollutes the air with its damp burning smell! Why not press it down deeply with a single small movement of the hand, without hemming … so that it comes into the earth glowing brightly … ”

The soldiers did not understand him, but finally answered:

“May no harm never happen to our beloved Lord and King!”

He took a few steps to follow them, but the candlestick birch stretched its branches over him, and he stopped again and spoke to himself:

“Who thinks of evil? Great Aarasson grasps the musket, he, the despised, the outcast, who had to wander from farm to farm to beg for the bread of grace. He takes hold of the musket and puts his finger on the cock. The shot will call the whole people to reconciliation. Even if all of Fredriksten’s cannons thunder through the night, no one will hear them. The soldiers will find that it is as quiet as on a remote, frozen alpine lake. You will only hear the single shot. It will echo night after night, day after day, as long as people live on earth. When I’ve unearthed the fifty ducats, I will[100] I step up to the generals and throw all the coins over their hats and wigs and say: Out with the handcuffs, gentlemen! Here you have the tip for the effort. Drink my health with real wine! It is I who shot His Royal Majesty! None of you will speak, but as long as hisName lives, that’s how long mine lives. – And then the handcuffs are screwed together. I am put on the hangman’s cart and drive up Götegatan in Stockholm, but there will be no window, no landing, no roof where people will not crowd to see Tolle Aarasson. And in the manor houses, where I got something to eat at the kitchen table, and in the parsonages, where I had to bow down for a plate of beer soup, it would say: Tolle Aarasson sat in the chair, Tolle Aarasson smoked from the pipe, on this door handle he held the finger that pulled the shot. The students in Uppsala, the haughty, the false friends who at last thought they were too good to house me for one rainy night … they will age, they will go white on their heads, but they will never tire of saying: We knew Tolle Aarasson, we called him you. And so often one[101] When the travel car drives into the city of Stockholm, one gentleman will point through the window and say: Here is the gallows hill! – There can be a hundred executed people in the field, but he will only say: There lies Tolle Aarasson, the wretched rascal! – And then the other gentlemen answer: The liberator of the people! ”

Tolle Aarasson raised his arm to support himself, but the moment he rested his hand against the smooth, cold bark of the birch trunk, he yanked it back with a suppressed cry of horror.

The soldiers stopped and turned. He motioned for them to go on and followed them, but he was pale as a dead man.

The king had had a wooden hut built for himself on the ridge in front of the moat of the fortress, and a bed, table and chair were brought there. No soldiers stood guard at the door with their muskets loaded, and the adjutant on watch was often sent away on various matters. The King even overcame his earlier shyness of the loneliness of the night and no longer allowed a page[102] slept next to his bed. Exhausted from the day’s toil, he sometimes fell asleep outside on the wall, in the middle of the enemy cannons and the soldiers working in the trench. Anyone could have sneaked up to him in the dark and wiped out his life with one sword thrust. The sleepless and fearful nights of Ukraine after the first crushing blow of fate were only a scar in the crease between the eyebrows. He had hardened his soul in misfortunes as much as his body in exertions. He didn’t brood for a minute more about the danger, but he knew that she had hung her black cloud over his head closer than ever, and this filled him with the comforted calm of a vanished youth. His voice had become hard but the commanding calm kindled its rejuvenating glow in his eyes. Everything, everything that hide the misery and ruin of Finst, rose around him, and he leaned on his juniper stick, and, often scolding impatiently, directed the work of the soldiers.

At times he looked at the sky and looked for the constellations he knew, but when the fog subsided and the darkness deepened, he sometimes closed his eyes and did the math[103] on the fingers: three hundred … three hundred eighty-five … ninety … ninety-four … four hundred thousand Reichstaler! – Would Görtz really be able to find that much by December? How else could the army be maintained? And whether Görtz would arrive within two days? Wasn’t it the expectation of his arrival that caused such excitement in the camp? What was to be done in the relationship? The king had no scruples because he had become a highwayman who despised money and property. Hadn’t the Swedes called him a madman and reached for his crown? Well, he forgave them since he had answered them; but he wanted to hold them together to the extreme, even if the ground should burn. Wasn’t that the commission, wasn’t that God’s commandment, that he had sworn in his soul? It was no time for idlers, who preferred to lie in their hatch beds at home. And Görtzen’s poster, which had his royal name boasted under perjuries of peace and the well-being of the subjects on every parish hall? Where during his campaign had he seen the princes act differently in the hour of need?[104] And had they not been called wise and good, if they had succeeded? When the storm was over, he wanted to hold judgment and create justice. Strictly he had commanded, never knowing injustice. Now it was a matter of conquering the fortress Fredriksten, which in front of him on the rocky ridge with its gray walls and sharp corners closed the way up to Norway. Wasn’t the Gyldenlöw outworks already taken with sword in hand? – With the sword in hand? – He closed his eyes, as he often did when he was unseen, and repeated the words softly. – They mean that I try you, eternal, wonderful God, Holy Spirit, my joy, my bliss, my refreshment. They keep saying: stop halfway where we are, otherwise you will try God; sit down where we weary otherwise we will no longer call you our Gideon. – You, who are the referee, in front of you I humble myself in my distress, I a contrite sinner. If I have now gone astray on earth, strike me dead! ”

“The king fell asleep at his post,” said the soldiers, when they saw him with bowed head and his hat drawn down.


He heard her, looked up and answered:

“Not yet!”

On the first Sunday in Advent the king mounted his horse and rode through the fog down to the Möllerhäuschen in Tistedal. He was gloomy, and to overcome his melancholy, he sat on the bench by the fire and looked through his papers. There were petitions and old letters and thwarted invoices, still from the stay in Lund. His eyes finally stopped on two semi-arcs that were fastened together with a brass pin and inscribed in his own difficult-to-read script. He read:

“ Anthropologia Physica. The natural drive of all living things is what is called the passion or enjoyment of lust. Lust is of two kinds, namely lust of the soul and of the body. Lust of the soul is called that in which the body cannot participate. But lust of the body is called that which the body and soul feel … The three parts of the body are: The material shape, whereby the figure of the body is formed with its outer and inner parts; the flowing matter, which consists of the blood with all that belongs to it; the material alcohol[106] or spirit, as the very finest parts of the material being, is the force and the living in the blood itself and receives life and sensation from the living spirit or soul, and these cause the whole body. This also passes by itself as soon as any body or limb dies … The reason why the soul participates in both lusts, and that the body only feels carnal lust, is that life is actually a quality of the soul Since the body, which is in itself a dead entity, receives work through the soul … That which is commonly understood by the name of the five senses consists only of what is called sensation, and is an effect of the soul which, according to any nature of the body and shape,

He got up from the bench and took the entering Field Marshal Mörner by the belt.

“If Mörner weren’t just as bad a philosopher as he is a good housefather, he would have a hard nut to crack here. No, don’t read what has been written … these are just a few trivialities that I put on down there in Lund one evening. Whenever, after a while, I see the structure of thought that I set up[107] tried, I get the urge to disguise myself as an enemy and storm my own redoubt. Does the pleasure of the thought really lie in the battle itself? Lust, bliss, complete satisfaction … if that were the goal in life, then the goal would be something finite, a piece of clear and shiny, but dead and motionless gold. Why consider life as a base and above it collect the purposes like a bundle of lines at an angle, in a single point? Why not make life the point from which the purposes radiate like infinite lines, like the trunk and branches of a tree, the crown of which becomes ever wider and more leafy in eternity? Why not say: there is no final goal, but trillions of purposes, each one for himself, diverge into billions of new ones forever? How much bigger will the earthly life of every single person! ”

Mörner replied:

“Your Majesty is a tough duel in learned disputations, and I never hear my gracious lord as eloquent as in such feuds, but I cannot blissfully take the lead like Grothusen. I can only answer this: If branches grow up out of an earthly life into the infinite, then also the smallest harbors[108] Act of the hour an eternal responsibility … ”

He zealously tore open his coat and handed the king a few sealed letters.

“Remember, your Majesty, even the shabbiest ad can be true and strike the scythe out of the grim reaper’s hand for years.”

The king knew in advance of these documents, which blackened his neighbors in neatly written block letters and without a signature and predicted a sudden death for him. The threat of death frightened him no more than the buzz of a bullet. Hadn’t he woken up every morning, so to speak, since his boyhood, ready to lie in the field with the fallen in the field before dark. He threw the three letters unbroken into the fire, one after the other, and stood in the low Möller house as quietly as if his last army of exhausted and starved youth had carried all the crowns of Europe on a supply wagon.

“Answer me sincerely,” he said after a silence. “How many more can I rely on … I don’t mean in a meeting … but when everything goes against us?”

‘Do I have to answer? Is it an order? ”


“Yes, how many more can I rely on?”

“No way!”

The drums thumped outside the cottage where the troops were marching to worship, and Hultman entered with the words:

“I must submissively announce that the high mass will begin now. The text of the day is about our Lord Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. ”

The king now washed all the soot from his face and hands and put on almost new clothes made of blue cloth and yellow elk-leather gloves. While Hultman powdered his hair so that it turned white like an old man’s, he put one foot on the wood in the fireplace and said, very softly, mainly to himself:

“I am very fond of the text… But the people spread their clothes on the path, and others cut branches from the trees and scattered them on the path. But the people that went ahead and came after cried out, and said, Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna on high! ”

“Yes, yes, my lord,” replied Hultman, almost in a whisper, “so should the saints too[110] every time a righteous hero of God rides into the heavenly Salem. ”

Then the king turned away from the fire and stepped out to the troops. With bare head he stood under the candelabra birch. The soldiers, used to loving his juniper cane and stained clothing, hardly recognized him.

He stayed in the camp all day, and only after the evening service, when the fog began to subside, did he ride his horse “Englishman” up the wooded ridge to the wooden hut on the trench.

Tolle Aarasson worked with his soldiers in the furthest trench. Led by the French Maigret, the Swedes crawled on with their spades and, step by step, rolled the bundles of brushwood and bulwarks in front of them as protection against the fortress’ bullets. The echo of the enemy fire thundered in the Alps like the roar of bolts and locks, like the beatings of clubs on iron gates to underground prisons and vaults.

In order to be able to direct their shots and protect themselves from being overwhelmed, the crew put out long poles with burning pitch torches, and the flares thrown around them cast their sudden light over the rock slabs.[111] Fire and smoke spurted from the fortress walls of Fredrikstens, and above the Swedes’ lawned wall, Tolle Aarasson recognized the king’s big hat and his small head.

Hidden in the shadow of the ditch below, he grabbed the musket of a fallen comrade and crouched back a little against the earth wall. Only when he had come so close that he could hear the king’s words to the officers standing in the trench on the other side of the wall did he stop.

“Strange!” He thought. “In the trenches here a lot of soldiers fall almost every night … Where does the power come from to force hundreds of people to stop and fall here without daring to shout three simple words to each other: We do not obey! … «

He wanted to kneel and beg Heaven for forgiveness and convince himself that what he did was just, but he could not. He never knew what he wanted himself; and if a child had called to him to throw the musket, he would have obeyed and praised the advice. But no one spoke to him and no one saw him, and he was only afraid to hesitate further, his own fearful uncertainty[112] to extend. He cocked the tap. He put the musket to his cheek. He aimed at the one for whom he saw his countrymen fall submissively and bleed to death … But the finger lay trembling and lame on the trigger.

Footsteps approached. It was the gray-haired Hultman who, in button-up shoes and white stockings and his hat tucked under his arm in awe, came over the rocks, in the middle of the buzzing spheres. In front of him he carried the tin bowl, covered with a napkin, which contained the king’s dinner. As soon as he came up the wall, he spread the serviette over his hat, then placed the bowl on it and offered it to the king, who ate standing up and occasionally grabbed his loyal servant by the button of his coat. Tolle Aarasson lowered his musket and heard him say:

“Hultman is starting to get as stiff in the hall as old Brandklepper was in his old days… But no one followed me more faithfully wherever I went, so I’ll appoint him head chef on the spot. Over the years, fewer and fewer of the old ones are left … ”

“God, merciful God!” Murmured Tolle Aarasson, rocking to and fro with the musket in his arms.


He saw Hultman making his way through the bullet rain again and the king leaning over the wall, his cheek resting on his left hand. The moon, which stood in its fullness, now rose clear and large over the spruce forest.

Swedish, German, Italian, and French officers were chatting nearby in their various languages, advising how to lure the king down from his exposed post. Maigret, who had now also joined, pulled his coat gently and said:

“This is not a post for Your Majesty … grapes and musket balls have no more respect for a king than for the meanest soldier.”

Then Tolle Aarasson raised the musket again with both arms. He threw it to the ground so that the shot burned off and the crack died away in the crack of enemy fire.

“Never,” he stammered. “No way! A Swedish-born man can never do that, even fifty ducats waited under each birch in Norway. Then rather desert or fall yourself. What do I ask about the ducats … It was his life that I wanted to take … And I can’t! I couldn’t do it until[114] I closed my eyes. Isn’t there a strange sniper here who can shoot a king with his eyes closed? ”

Tolle Aarasson did not notice that the moon was already shining into the ditch and casting its own shadow with the round limbs and smiling boy cheeks on the slope of the wall.

“What are you doing here, my dear?” Asked the king. “Always go ahead and attack the enemy!”

Tolle Aarasson jumped up, turned on his heel, and began to march towards the fortress. Behind him he could still hear the officers exhorting the king to get down.

The king answered them:

“Fear nothing!”

Then Tolle Aarasson grabbed the corners of his hat, not knowing what he was doing any longer, and began to jump over jumps and brushwood, always forward and at the enemy. Many Swedish soldiers who saw him stood up to follow him and deserted. He stopped and struck at them with his hand, and every time he turned he recognized the king on the wall. Why didn’t he grab a spade and start digging.[115] Surely that was what the king had meant. Instead he ran more and more violently and more blindly, and in the end he did not know whether he was doing this to obey or to desert. He sought shelter behind tree stumps and in crevices, but nevertheless he came closer and closer to the fortress. His soft limbs were already bleeding from three wounds, but he paid no attention to the warm drops that flowed down from under his glove, but said prayers and psalms and called himself an eternally lost criminal who would have brooded over the sale of his soul.

He came to a fragmented outer works of small size that seemed deserted, but when he heard the voices of Norwegian soldiers, he hid between the bulwarks.

A few paces away from him stood a piece of land on broken wheels, brownish-red with rust and the mouth against the king’s wall. It was loaded with semolina and old iron shot. There lay eaten musket balls that a drunken pirate had indifferently poured into his ball tongs a hundred years ago while he hummed a dissolute song for his whore. There were bent keys and nails that had fallen out of a farmer’s barn a long time ago, with one at the back[116] Bent clapper that once rang in a cow bell while the maids were yodelling in the sunny high mountains.

Long, torn clouds hurried over the moon, shimmering white, and Tolle Aarasson lay between the bulwarks, bleeding, with folded hands.

“This is such a night,” he stammered, “when the sky is wide open and God is contemplating the earth with such deep thoughts that people feel his gaze. They may escape … they may hide … they may be criminals, like me, or army leaders, but they can feel his gaze … A hero … what is a hero? That is steadfastness to the last, steadfastness against opponents, against friends. But you up there, you are your avenger like the avenger of men; and when the hourglass of your grace has expired, you raise your finger in omnipotence and the hero leans his head to the earth … and lies reconciled … ”

Tolle Aarasson bent the willow rods of the entrenchment lying next to one side and heard the Norwegian constable talking to the soldiers.

“You boys, there is no point in keeping the crew and artillery on this entrenchment[117] wasted, but since the old patch of field is too fragile to be dragged away, the commander has ordered me to fire it before we go. After all, the shot can cause some damage to the Swedes if the gun doesn’t burst to pieces. ”

While he was speaking he carefully placed the fuse on the field, and accompanied by his men, he returned to the fortress with quick steps and singing.

Tolle Aarasson followed the yellowish flame of the fuse with her eye, which wound its way closer and closer to the ignition hole. He pushed away the bundles of brushwood and sacks of earth to break through and tear away the fuse, and he spoke loudly as if he were speaking at night:

“I wanted to kill the man … and now I want to save him just because I saw him and heard him speak! He makes us all his servants at a glance! My mind goes out and I can no longer think. ”

He cut the willow branches in two with a clenched fist, but the stakes blocked the entrance, and all the while he saw the flame in the ignition hole. Sometimes it died and was close to being extinguished, but then it rose again, clear and big.


This was a sign, said Tolle Aarasson, that the people shouldn’t try to act anymore tonight, and he descended into the clefts that crashed into the valley and the black chimneys in the burned down Fredrikshall. From a distance he saw the flame. Of course it burned far away between the bulwarks, but he climbed deeper and deeper down into the rocks. Then he heard the crack of the shot, and the rock trembled.

His strength was exhausted and his mind was drowned. He didn’t remember why he went against the enemy. He was only dimly afraid of being seen and taken. He stared up into the night, and like Asa-Thor’s chariot the thunder of the fortress rolled over the Alps.

He did not know how long he swayed under the juniper bushes, nor where he was going. At last he heard footsteps from heavy, iron-shod boots and heard gravel and stones falling. Twelve soldiers from the Guard came down the steep hill with a stretcher.

He stayed behind the juniper bushes and waited. A fallen man lay on the stretcher, wrapped in two simple soldiers’ coats and[119] with a white curly wig pulled over the face under the galonised hat pressed into the forehead.

“Who is the fallen man?” He whispered so softly that Colonel Carlberg, who was supporting the lowered side of the stretcher, noticed nothing.

“The Colonel says it’s a cheeky officer,” replied the rear porter, but when he turned his head to look at the lonely nightwalker, he stumbled and fell on his knee under his burden.

The borrowed wig and hat slipped from the dead man’s head so that the moonlight fell clearly on the face with the pierced temple.

“The king! Our great beloved King! ”Murmured the porters and tried to put the bier down.

The dreaded man, who had just been whispered that he could no longer rely on anyone, lay disarmed, and old men of war, stained with clay and soot, wrung their frozen rough hands over his corpse and whimpered and moaned:

“Our great, our beloved King!”

The colonel had to threaten them with stern speech that they should be quiet and not betray with their misery what had happened.


Slowly and slowly they carried the king on, on the same unplaned bier on which, during the past nights, he had seen many a forgotten soldier without a name, who had died obediently to his will.

It was past midnight when the stretcher was set down on an open lawn between the cottages in the desolate village of Tistedal. After the porters received the emergency coins as tips, they all left. The colonel stayed behind; Brooding and sighing loudly, he sat down on one of the bars of the stretcher. The volleys still cracked in the distance on the forest ridge, but otherwise everything was silent, and the mill wheel down by the river stood still. All the panes were dark, and the same full moon that had shone for the disguised rider through the city gate of Stralsund and to the gloomy scuffle on Rügen shone on the grass tonight where an old weeping colonel kept watch over his fallen king.

Tolle had crept after Aarasson step by step and only stopped close to the lawn under the immobile branches of the candelabra birch. Speaking to himself half aloud, he walked around the white trunk, in ever tighter and tighter circles[121] and poured the big drops from his wounded arm over the clods of earth to conjure up the evil ducats that lay below to eternal sleep, eternal oblivion.

»Sleep, sleep under the curse! Why aren’t the drums stirred? The stretcher there stands so alone. No women, no children, no trusted friends cry here. Oh, you moon, you came and went and looked at so much, I will never see you over a Swedish forest without thinking of the bier. ”

He took hold of the ax which was sitting in a branch and which he had shown the soldiers a few nights earlier. The splinters of wood flew and his blows against the trunk of the candelabra echoed far through the silence.

Then he withdrew his hand again and a new glimmer of the light of the mind passed through his soul.

“Almighty, avenging God! He, in front of whom the paid murderer threw down his weapons, he who smilingly encountered innumerable dangers of death, he falls as quietly as a bent ear of corn on the path, since you filled the measure of his doom. He almost fell in solitude, one night on the wall, like a lowly soldier at the post. He dies from the bullet of a disused and rusted field piece on the[122] a few soldiers, indifferent and singing, threw their fuses. Or … where did you think the bullet came from? What do I know, a simple man … I only know what I have just witnessed and must therefore believe … But there were so many strange voices up there in the darkness. ”

The colonel was still sitting on the pole of the stretcher next to the dead man, who was wrapped in soldiers’ coats, and the blows of the ax against the thick trunk of the birch fell more and more exhausted through the night’s sleep. When the tree finally fell, the unknown woodcutter sat silently on the trunk.

The hours became long for him. It was getting close to morning when a few servants who had been sent on approached to carry in the fallen master. A captain walked between them with the king’s sword and said that at the moment of death his hand had grasped the hilt so hard that the blade was half pulled out of its sheath.

Listening to every word, Tolle Aarasson bent the branches of the candlestick birch to one side.

“This sword …” he asked himself. “Was it an obdurate old man, graying too early, who drew this sword against the memory of that one?[123] Prince of Light who once bore his name? Or if …?”

He stepped forward, just in the way of the captain, and whispered suppressed:

“This sword… against whom was this sword drawn? Under my bloody corporal clothes there is an equal, perhaps more knowledgeable man than you, although he has sunk deep before the people. Therefore do not show me away, but answer out of mercy. ”

“My friend, I don’t understand your question.”

“Against whom, do I say? Against whom was this sword drawn? … I now know myself. Against whom, I ask? Against all! Isn’t this answer enough for us? Isn’t it true that a hero has to die? … He thought. He believed in the righteousness of his calling … God the Lord forgives such defiance … Even men forgive such defiance! “