The King's Ring Being a Romance of the Days of Gustavus Adolphus and the Thirty Years' War
THE KING'S RING
BEING A ROMANCE OF THE DAYS OF
AND THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR
TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH OF
SOPHIE ÷HRWALL AND HERBERT ARNOLD
With a Photogravure Portrait of Topelius
(missing from source book)
JARROLD & SONS, 10 & 11, WARWICK LANE, E.C.
[All Rights Reserved]
London: Jarrold & Sons
Boston: L. C. Page & Company
I. A MAN FROM THE PEASANTS' WAR
II. ASHAMED OF A PEASANT'S NAME
III. THE SOUTHERN FLOWER COMES TO THE NORTH
IV. THE PEASANT—THE BURGHERS—AND THE SOLDIER
V. LADY REGINA ARRIVES AT KORSHOLM
VI. THE LOVE OF THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH
VII. THE SIEGE OF KORSHOLM
III.—FIRE AND WATER.
I. THE TREASURE FROM THE BATTLEFIELD
II. TWO OLD ACQUAINTANCES
III. THE TREASURY
IV. DUKE BERNHARD AND BERTEL
V. LOVE AND HATE AGREE
VI. THE BATTLE OF N÷RDLINGEN
VII. THE LOST SON
VIII. THE FUGITIVE LADY
IX. DON QUIXOTE DE LA MANCHA
XI. THE PRISONER OF STATE
XII. THE TEMPTER
XIII. AVAUNT, EVIL SPIRIT
XIV. THE JUDGMENT OF THE SAINTS
XV. BERTEL AND REGINA
XVI. THE KING'S RING—THE SWORD AND THE PLOUGH—FIRE AND WATER
WHICH TREATS OF THE SURGEON'S PERSON AND LIFE.
The surgeon was born in a small town of EastBothnia, the same day as Napoleon I., August 15th,1769. I well remember the day, as he always used tocelebrate it with a little party of relatives and a dozenchildren; and as he was very fond of the latter, wewere allowed to make as much noise as we pleased,and throw everything into absolute confusion on thisanniversary.
It was the pride of the surgeon's life that he wasborn on the same day as the Great Conqueror, andthis coincidence was also the cause of several of hisimportant experiences. But his pride and ambitionwere of a mild and good-tempered kind, and quitedifferent from the powerful desires which can forcetheir way through a thousand obstacles to attain anexalted position. How often does the famous onecount all the victims who have bled for his glory onthe battlefield, all the tears, all the human miserythrough which his way leads to an illusionary greatness,perhaps, doomed to last a few centuries at most?
The surgeon used to say that he was a great roguein his childhood; but exhibiting good intelligence,he was sent by a wealthy uncle to a school in Vasa.
At eighteen, with a firkin of butter in a wagon, andseventeen thalers in his purse, he went to Abo topass his examination. This well accomplished, hewas at liberty to strive for the gown and surplice ofan ecclesiastic. But his thoughts wandered far toooften from his Hebrew Codex to the square where thetroops frequently assembled.
"Oh!" thought he, "if I were only a soldier, standingthere in the ranks, and ready to fight like myfather, for king and country."
But his mother had placed an emphatic veto on thematter, and exacted a solemn promise from him thathe would never become a warrior.
Before, however, he was through Genesis, anincident suddenly occurred which completely altered hisgood intentions. This was an announcement in thedaily paper from the Medical Faculty, which statedthat students who wished to take service as surgeonsduring the war could present themselves for privatemedical instruction, after which they could reckonupon being ordered out with five or six thalers permonth to begin with, as the war was at its height.
Now, young Bšck would no longer be denied; hewrote home that as a surgeon's duty is to take offthe limbs of others, without losing his own, he wishedto volunteer. After some trouble he received thedesired permission. In a moment the Codex wasthrown away. He did not learn, he devoured surgery,and in a few months was as capable a chirurgeon asmost others; for in those times they were not veryparticular.
Our youthful surgeon was in the land campaignsof 1788 and 1789; but in 1790 at sea; was in manya hard battle, drank prodigiously (according to his ownaccount), and cut off legs and arms wholesale in a mostskilful way. He then knew nothing about the coincidenceof his birth with Napoleon's, and therefore didnot yet consider himself as under a lucky star. Heoften told the story of the eventful 3rd of July inWiborg Bay, when on board the "StyrbjŲrn" withStedingk, at the head of the fleet, they passed theenemy's battery at Krosserort's Point, and he wasstruck by a splinter on the right cheek, and carriedthe mark to his grave. The same shot which causedthis wound wrought great havoc in the ship, andwhizzing by the admiral's ear, made him stone-deaffor a time; Bšck with his lancet and palsy dropsrestored Stedingk's hearing in three minutes. Justthen the danger was greatest and the balls flew thickas hail.
The vessel ran aground.
"Boys, we are lost," cried a voice.
"Not so!" answered Henrik Fagel, from Ahlaisvillage, in Ulfsby, "send all the men to the bow; itis the stern that has stuck."
"All men to the prow," shouted the commander.Then the "StyrbjŲrn" was again afloat, and all theSwedish fleet followed in her wake. Bšck used tosay:
"What the deuce would have become of the fleetif Stedingk had remained deaf?"
Everyone understood the old man; he had savedthe entire squadron. Then he used to laugh and add,
"Yes, yes! You see, brother, I was born on the15th of August; that is the whole secret; I am not tobe blamed for it."
After the war was over, Bšck went to Stockholm,and became devoted to the king. He was young, andneeded no reason for his attachment.
"Such a stately monarch," was his only idea.
One day, in the beginning of March, 1792, thesurgeon, a handsome youth—to use his own expression—hadthrough a chamber-maid at Countess Lantingshausen's,who in her turn stood on a confidentialfooting with Count Horn's favourite lackey, obtaineda vague inkling of a conspiracy against the king'slife. The surgeon resolved to act Providence inSweden's destiny, and reveal to the monarch allthat he knew, and perhaps a little more. He triedto obtain an audience of the king, but was deniedby the chamberlain, De Besche. A second attempthad the same result. The third time, he stood inthe road before the royal carriage, waving his writtenstatement in the air.
"What does this man want?" asked Gustave III. ofthe chamberlain.
"He is an unemployed surgeon," replied De Besche,"and begs your Majesty to begin another war, thathe may go on lopping off legs and arms."
The king laughed, and the forlorn surgeon wasleft behind.
A few days afterwards the king was shot.
"I was blameless," the surgeon used to say whenspeaking of this matter. "Had not that damned DeBesche been there—yes, I won't say anything more."
Everyone understood what he meant. The "if"in the way was also due to his birthday on the 15thof August.
Shortly afterwards Bšck represented his professionat a state execution. Here his free tongue got himinto trouble, and he fled on board a Pomeranian yacht.Next we find him tramping like a wandering quackto Paris. He arrived at an opportune moment, andreceived a humble appointment in the army of Italy.One night, under the influence of his birthday, heleft his hospital at Nissa, and hurried to Mantua tosee Bonaparte; he wished to make of the 15th ofAugust a ladder to eminence. He managed to seethe General, and presented a petition for anappointment as army physician.
"But," sighed the surgeon, every time he spoke ofthis remarkable incident, "the General was very busy,and asked one of his staff what I wanted."
"Citizen General," answered the adjutant, "it is asurgeon, who requests the honour of sawing off yourleg at the first opportunity."
"Just then," added the surgeon, "the Austriancannon began to thunder, and General Bonapartetold me to go to the devil."
Thus the surgeon, who had preserved so manyeminent personages, was deprived of the honour ofsaving Napoleon. He got camp fever instead, andlay sick for some time at Brescia.
When well he travelled to Zurich, and here fellin love with a rosy-cheeked Swiss girl; but beforehe could marry her, the city was overrun, first bythe Russians, then French, and finally by Suvaroff.The surgeon's betrothed ran away, and never returned.
One day he sat sorrowfully at his window, whentwo Cossacks came up, dismounted, seized him, andhurried him off at full speed. The surgeon thoughthis last hour had arrived. But the Cossacks broughthim safely to a hut. There sat some officers round apunch bowl, and among them a stern man in largeboots.
"Surgeon," said the latter, short and sharp, "outwith your forceps; I have toothache."
Bšck ventured to ask which tooth it was that ached.
"You argue," said the man impatiently.
"No, I don't," replied the surgeon, and pulled outthe first tooth he got hold of.
"Good, my boy! March," said the other, and thesurgeon was dismissed with ten ducats.
He had acquired another important merit by pullingout the tooth of the hero Suvaroff.
The surgeon's next considerable journey was toSt. Petersburg, where he obtained an appointmentin a hospital, and made a little fortune.
Thus passed four or five years. The surgeon wasnow thirty-five. He said to himself,
"It is not sufficient to have preserved the Swedishfleet, Gustave III., and Armfelt; to have had aninterview with Napoleon, and pulled out a tooth forSuvaroff. One must also have an aim in life." Andhe began to realise that he had a Fatherland.
When the war of 1808 broke out, the surgeonbecame an assistant physician in one of the Finnishregiments; he no longer fought for glory and the15th of August. He took part in the campaigns of1808 and 1809. Then he fought manfully withmisery, disease, and death; cut off arms and legs,dressed wounds, applied plasters, solaced the wounded,with whom he shared his flask, bread, purse, and whatwas much more, his unalterable good humour, andtold a thousand funny stories gathered in his travels.He was called the "tobacco doctor," because he wasalways ready to share his pipe and quid. One canbe a Christian even with tobacco. The surgeon wasnot so stuck up that he, like Konow's corporal, wentabout
"With two quids from sheer pride."
On the contrary, he went without himself when theneed was great, and a wounded comrade had got thelast bit of the roll in the pocket of his yellow nankeenvest. Hence the soldiers loved the tobacco doctor.
When peace was concluded between Russia andSweden in 1809, the latter having lost Finlandthrough a foreign traitor, who gave up Sveaborg tothe enemy, and so many Finns went over to Sweden,the surgeon thought it more honourable to remainand share the fortunes of his native land. Hetravelled round the country and practised amongstthe peasantry. But the Medical Faculty of Abofinally forbade him to continue, and he thereforesettled down at Jacobstad, his native place, and tookto fishing. In the days of his prosperity the surgeonhad been too liberal; he now only owned his oldbrown cloak, yellow nankeen vest, a hundred fishhooks, and his cheerful disposition. But he nowobtained the appointment of public