The king’s ride

The Hofkanzler von Müller sat on a footstool in front of his living room stove in the house of the Swedish king in Demotica and baked pancakes. He lifted a well-worn coat lap against the fire and inspected it.

“The galons are still attached to the coat,” he said to Colonel Grothusen, who was standing by and warming himself, “but they have turned shamefully black. And the rest of the Swedish entourage is beginning, the devil is fetching them, to look just like a pack of gypsies. I say with Fabrice: I will soon no longer be able to remember what coins look like, whether they are round or square. ”

“They are so round that they roll like wheels!” Answered Grothusen, rubbing his hands happily. “A king, a court, a small army with nothing else but a little pumped up change in their pocket… And that in a small Turkish market town, hundreds of miles from their own fatherland! At what time did you see such things? God forgive me, but isn’t it a sight so precious that it doesn’t do anything if the sugar on the pancake is sometimes short? We can’t get a single bag from the gate.[33] Although I hardly have time to sleep at night, but only work to get the travel money from all the hagglers in the world, I hardly know how we can get away from here in an honorable way. I told His Majesty that we have to take the whole series of creditors with us as a move to Sweden and quarter them in Karlshamn until they are paid. Just think: the little Karlshamn full of Turks kneeling in the street corners and calling out to Allah! Yes, my dear! If only we could get away! We have to move away with a bang and trumpets, like Sweden is up to, you understand? Fortunately we still have the state there from last summer when I was in the farewell audience with the Sultan. They are certainly neither padded nor lined, the saddlecloths, but on the outside there is more brass stuff and tassels … And that is the main thing … And myself I look like a great excellence! Not? Pointed ruffles, sniffing spoons made of the purest ducat gold … In the cupboard an honorary fur, given by the Sultan, a pair of worn slippers, a night cap and a silk dressing gown, which Düben should be happy to wear to high mass. But that’s the last thing and shows what of the[34] all that glory remains until we come home! ”

The longer Grothusen spoke, the livelier he became. Finally he went to the window and opened it wide.

“What’s up?” Asked Müller, shivering and pulling his skirt together.

‘There are a lot of Turks standing there waiting to see His Majesty ride out. Because it’s downpour, and that’s when they can understand that you don’t want to stay in the house. ”

Grothusen felt and looked in his coat tails, and when he found a couple of large silver coins, he threw them through the window and called:

“This is what money looks like! Long live the Swedes and their generous, great, mighty King! ”

“Is that your own money or the king’s money?”

“If I only knew!”

“You only have to carry your own money in your left coat pocket and the King’s money in your right.”

“But the left skirt has the gracious concession that it only takes over the forced labor of the right one when necessary. My dear, I am honestly accountable. Every evening I calculate how much is left in the whole. ”


The people mumbled, but with a sullen growl, Müller lifted the pancakes from the fire.

“You have your light mind, brother! Still, I would never have trusted you to become so distinguished that you would make a baron and court chancellor your personal cook, but I’m glad that my pancakes taste good. I have often asked myself how we could have endured so willingly and happily all these years down here. ”

“I’ll explain that to you. It is such a special magic for people to be daily and hourly with him who determines their weal and woe, that one can ask whether heavenly bliss will one day also consist in exactly the same. ”

“It would be good if such a pastime also made people more noble and better.”

“Thank you, brother! The word was for me! I know enough that my back is not spared among you all. You call me a reckless jack of all trades, a … Yes, anyway! A skeptic and philosopher like me who overslept early morning services cannot expect much love from you Swedes. I do well to console myself with the fact that the King himself is less sensitive in this than you! At home it’s time to fall, and[36] then you will see, brother, that old Grothusen’s black wig will not stay behind. ”

“At home there, you say. Answer me honestly! Does His Majesty really hope to be able to gather fresh troops there? ”

“He does … And he can too. It will be a realm of fencing like the world has never seen its own … To call the usurers in the hour of need, you, that is one thing … And the knights could become rare if there were no usurers … But the honor and the sword, that is something else! ”

“And that’s why he’s finally leaving? I thought I noticed that he wasn’t quite sure about the near future? ”

“The closer he gets to the north, the clearer it becomes.”

“You think of the enemies, the old and the expected … Saxons, Russia, Prussia, Hanover, Denmark … to make war on six hostile peoples!”

“Seven! You forget the youngest and most dangerous enemy! ”


“The Sweden!”

Müller got up from the footstool, and[37] the two one-eyed gentlemen stood opposite each other.

“God in heaven, don’t talk like that! Otherwise you usually belong to those who do not despair. This is a foreign language in your mouth. ”

“Since His Majesty has been fully certain that his subjects are beginning to challenge and defy him, he has been riding homewards with the same heat as he would to a battle… What do you believe after the latest news? The country is without a government … The offices stand still like the mill wheel on a dried up brook. The rulers of the Reichstag and the councilors speak of dismissal … We would have a burning riot if the Swedes weren’t such a loyal people … And then it is precisely that he is the prince! Just don’t whimper or whine, dear Müller, because all this is just your own old song … And don’t be so damn stingy with the sugar, but pour the man’s whole bag over the pancakes … And hold your head up! Adieu!”

Müller stood in the middle of the room, worried and unable to answer. The greatest astonishment was painted on his face, because[38] through the door he heard Grothusen shouting to a small drum:

“August! Find a decent drum once! Put it on you and come with me to the bazaar. ”

Müller shook his head and sat down again with his pancakes.

“What in the name of Jesus will Grothusen now commit madness with the drum?”

The next morning the Swedes moved out of Demotica early to finally start their journey home to the Baltic coast. They had to hike hundreds of miles through mountain passes and forests. Behind them rode a long line of Turks, Jews, and Armenians with their sacks and bundles. They were seventy of the greediest believers. The king was happy and radiant, and the townspeople with their veiled wives implored God’s blessing on the departing hero. Only Grothusen remained, because his Turkish friends still held him in the door. One put an inkwell in his hand, the other put a tobacco pipe in his mouth, and the black servants tugged his coat. His large nostrils held up[39] he high in the air, and with grandeur he emptied his coat tails over the hands of the servants. Then he opened the lock on his clothes box.

“Dearest, dearest friend,” he said, “I had this exquisite nightcap made especially for you and used it myself so that it should become a real memento of me … And you, my father! These brand new slippers … You are amazed that they are so trodden on … In my very own person I have been diligently walking through them to find out whether they are not too hard for your feet … And you take this silk dressing gown … ”

Like someone in pursuit, he jumped on his wagon and ordered the driver to drive away.

When the Swedes came to Timurtash in the evening, a pasha presented the king with a silk tent and a saber with a handle set with gemstones as a present from the sultan.

“Now my sable fur is going there!” Said Grothusen to the king in a low voice. “There is no other offer in return, and Your Majesty himself has nothing but a dusty coat and half a dozen coarse soldiers’ shirts.”

“Lend me the inkwell and the pipe, which you recently got,” answered the King, with the joke in his eye. “I should[40] also worship the chief of the janissaries. ”

“Give the whole old Grothusen as eunuchs in the sultan’s seraglio!” Grothusen cheered and rubbed his hands and became more and more wanton the more fun it was. At that moment his gaze fell on his little drum, which was desperately going on his way with the mallets under his arm.

“Your drum has no voice in its mouth! There’s something stolen in there! ”Shouted the boy’s comrades, sneering.

When they examined the drum, they found that it was sealed with four seals, and the boy’s eyes were filled with tears.

“You just beat your out-of-tune drum bravely!” Ordered Grothusen. “It was I who sealed it like Pilate Christ’s grave … And the Turkish usurers must have had a little funeral music behind us, who must now ride into exile in our place.”

But in the evening, when the Swedes rested for a few short hours by the light of the campfire, the musicians knocked and shook the drum and said that it was filled with embezzled royal money and securities.

“What a rascal!” They whispered. “It is not an art to generously close the left pocket of your skirt[41] empty if you stick your long fingers in your right!

As early as two o’clock in the night the king gave the sound of the sound to leave. In the camp light it burst from between the rock walls. When he was back at the frontier of Christianity in Pitesti, he was met by the multitudes left behind in Bender, and the last Zaporozhians, who had remained loyal in so many dangers, kneeled to accept his farewell words. Then he went to Grothusen.

He was just about to count the guilders that one of the Trabanten, who had been out, had found in Transylvania. The king said to him:

“My passport is ready now. My name will be Captain Frisk, and with Rosen and Düring I’ll be riding straight ahead to Stralsund. ”

Then Grothusen took off his galonised hat and wig and gave them to the king.

“Slippers, nightcap, fur of honor and a silk dressing gown… Find them, find them! ›Everything is gone!‹ Now wig and hat go! In the disguise and the tobacco-brown tunic, Your Majesty will be so unrecognizable that, if all the roses were not lucky with the women, no tavern maid – salvo honore – would have a glass of water for the gentlemen[42] want to offer. For my part, I am grateful not to have to sacrifice my body on the king’s ride across Europe … «

Grothusen himself, however, immediately sat on the traveling carriage in order to be able to get there first and receive his master at the Swedish sea, along whose coast the enemy was now building his fortresses and cities.

Day and night the king practiced his two chosen companions and the satellites, who were to follow him at one-day distance, under wild rides. When the hour finally struck when he was allowed to put on the disguise and jump into the saddle, he spurred his gelding with such vehemence that Düring and Rosen were almost a couple of horse lengths behind. It wasn’t just the heavy wig that made his cheeks glow. It looked like the morning before a meeting. He, who had stayed fresh and healthy for months in a sick bed in order to avoid a humiliating audience with the Sultan, and who had for years wasted his days in a small Turkish town in the hope of being able to gather a large army as a retinue, now rode impatiently from then with his two comrades and without a single servant.

The hooves clanked against the stones like one[43] through horse, and the awakened vintner jumped to the door in his hut.

“Who rides there so fearfully?” He asked. “If it is a poor, persecuted deserter, he may go under my roof here, and my wife and I will hide him and bed him on straw …”

“Beware, father, of the knight’s sword!” Replied Düring. “It sits loosely in its vagina during the day. It is an officer who was sent to look for an unfaithful friend and relative, and who is eager to meet him … ”

But to himself he whispered: