this, and excited by the dogs, he raised himself on his
hind legs, threw four of the hunters to the ground,
wounded the duke, and was about to break away when
he was felled by the united attack of the king and
The hunt continued several days. They went a
long distance from Kongsor. They ate in peasant huts
and hovels. They slept at the parsonages. Day
scarcely dawned before the war against the king of the
woods was renewed.
The fourth and fifth bears were caught without ad-
venture. The sixth one escaped, was hunted all day and
finally captured in a wolf-pit. The seventh put him-
self in an attitude of defense, killed a dog and hugged
one of the king's grooms so energetically that the
fellow was carried off more dead than alive. Rushing
against the net, he was finally brought down by the
king's own hand. If medals for bravery had been in
vogue in those days, King Charles would have granted
one to his valiant adversary.
The number of the captured reached thirteen, and
they could not discover the track of another bear. The
order to return had already been given, when the report
came from the farthest line of hunters, that one bear
34 TIMES OF CHARLES XII.
more was surrounded about a mile from the king's
headquarters. The company immediately broke up
and betook themselves again to the deep woods. King
Charles was merry even to foolhardiness. They were
about to stretch the net as usual. " Away with the net,"
shouted the king. The hunters obeyed, accustomed
to see their master lucky in the boldest adventures.
With no other weapons than their sticks, they formed a
complete chain around the bear's den, and foremost
among them all stood the king.
It was difficult to drive the bear out. In vain the
dogs yelped ; in vain were long poles thrust into the
entrance of the den. The bear broke the poles
asunder, and the dogs that went nearest returned with
bloody noses. It was necessary to resort to smoke.
Boughs of spruce and of juniper were collected around
the hole and set on fire. In a moment the bear was
heard snarling inside ; finally his nose was seen at the
opening, snuffing after air.
King Charles had the chain of hunters withdraw
about thirty steps. At his side, in front of the den, he
kept only the duke, Horn, Hard, and young Bertelskold.
With scorched pelt and roaring with rage, the bear
rushed out. Seeking his enemy, he cast himself with
this beast's remarkable instinct straight against the
king. At the same moment there hailed down on his
head four powerful blows ; the fifth, Bertelskold's,
glanced off, struck a stone, and the oaken cudgel was
" Out of the way all! one against one!" shouted the
king, lifting his weapon for a second stroke. But be-
fore it fell the bear's heavy paw hit his right arm, tore
open his coat, and knocked the cudgel out of his be-
The king with his left hand snatched Horn's cudgel
from him, but at the same time was thrown down ; the
duke and Hard sprang forward and succeeded in draw-
ing the bear's wrath against themselves ; heavy fell their
THE BLUE. 35
blows, but they were soon disarmed and their weapons
broken. The hunters came nearer ; but before any of
them had reached the spot, Gosta Bertelskold threw
himself weaponless upon the bear to wrestle for the
victory in good Swedish and Finnish fashion.
"One against one !" he also shouted.
"Well spoken !" the king was heard to say, as he
arose, incapable of taking part in the strife.
Gosta had sprung for his enemy's body as he stood
upon his hind-feet, and hoped with a single hold to
throw him down into the snow. He had not taken in-
to the account that he had by that means got the bear's
foaming mouth over his head and one of his heavy paws
over each shoulder. His hold missed, steady as it was.
If the bear had now made use of his teeth, there cer-
tainly would be nothing more to tell of Gosta Bertels-
kold. But, confused by the smoke and the blows,
Bruin forgot to make the best of his advantage. His
arms alone with their twelve-men's strength pressed
him irresistibly to the earth. Gosta fell, but not alone ;
he drew the bear with him in his fall.
Then the king once more came forward, scorning
all weapons that he might not be outdone, but more ex-
posed than any of them because he had only the use
of his left hand. The bear left his certain prey ....
he is seen to totter towards the king to lift his terri-
ble paw .... a cry came from those standing by. But
the lifted paw grew stiff and slowly descended the
animal's powers were exhausted the bear staggered to
one side like a drunken man; then the king seized him by
the throat and without- difficulty cast him to the ground
.... and the heavy Colossus fell without resistance,
without a sound, as if conscious of the right moment
when he could fall with honor before Charles XII.
A loud shout of rejoicing from the whole chain of
hunters accompanied the fall of the bear. The king
regarded the fallen beast almost with friendship.
" Bind him, but do not draw the cord too tight," he
36 TIMES OF CHARLES XII.
said to his equerry. " Get a sled decorated with young
pines, and let the music sound. There shall be a feast
whose like was never seen at Kongsor."
The command was executed. Fast bound, with
moss under the ropes so that he might not be pained
by the bonds, the bear was borne in triumph, with music,
to the castle. The sun shone on the gay procession ;
the eye was blinded by the white snow. Old peasant
women and children ran out to the highway to see the
noisy troop go by. Old men and boys threw their hats
in the air and hurrahed for the king. The joyful shout
of the hunters answered them. King Charles was hap-
py happier perhaps than at a later day after his bloody
victories. Now the sun sank slowly behind the tops of
the pines. His last rays played soft and clear over the
king's high brow. With these rays the joy of child-
hood sent its last farewell to the great King Charles, for
this day the sun went down upon his childhood's, his
youth's, his whole life's peace.
At Kongsor there was a royal festival. In the
court- yard there was hastily set up a guard of pine
trees in which the living bears as of old the cap-
tured kings in the triumphs of the Roman Emperors
were kept bound, and mingled their cries with the joy-
ous tones of the music. The dead bears were made
ready by the most skilful cooks of the court as an en-
tertainment for the guests.
The whole population of the nearest villages, men,
women, and children, assembled at the castle to bear
witness to King Charles' at that time greatest vic-
tory. The supply of brandy was sufficient though
moderate, but the ale ran in streams. Holland tobacco
was abundant, and there were short pipes and long
twists. The old sat and talked of the times of the now
sainted king and his peaceful and happy reign, since
the Reduction had lost its keenest edge and the great
famine had ceased to afflict. Uncertain rumors of dis-
tant wars had reached even the common people. A
THE BLUE. 37
comet had been seen, and in Dalecarlia it had rained
blood. A wise old woman in the country had dreamed
that the whole of the Swedish kingdom was covered
with gold and clothed in roses. She interpreted this
according to the rule of dreams, " by contraries ;" so
there might be expected great poverty and much
sorrow. But those who were more resolute and
cheerful agreed that such dreams should be inter-
preted literally. The land and the people were accus-
tomed to victory, and the uncultured man, in the
habit of admiring courage and physical strength, judged
more correctly than diplomats the young king's heroic
power. An attentive observer would have seen that
a presentiment of great victories went through the
popular mind on the very evening before the war.
The young people danced in the great hall between
the servants' rooms in the court buildings. The bugles
played ; such stately music had never been danced at
Kongsor. The king with his suite came to look upon
the dance, and was received with a great shout of re-
joicing. In order to set off his bear feast, he had dec-
orated his hunting dress with some of the ornaments
of the time. King Charles still wore the long peruke
which is seen in his portrait as crown prince and dur-
ing the first years of his reign ; he still wore the fine
white lace necktie; the expensive collar had disappeared,
but not the cuffs which he at a later period used to snatch
off from his courtiers' arms and which in truth were
too fragile to be suitable for the iron-hard struggles of
his campaigns. The duke, although slightly wounded
in the leg, was, like the king, in the merriest mood, and
sportively pointed out the prettiest peasant girls.
Probably it was at his suggestion that they had decor-
ated the shaggy brow of the last and bravest bear
with laurel leaves from the hot-house. Thereupon had
they laid the crowned bear bound, of course upon a
sled and drawn him unexpectedly into the hall and in
the very midst of the dancers.
38 TIMES OF CHARLES XIL
Those who knew nothing of the affair beforehand,
started in astonishment in every direction ; the musi-
cians forgot to play, everybody crowded back against
the walls, and left a spacious place in the middle of the
room, where was seen the king, somewhat surprised,
awaiting what the bear had to say to him.
Walborg Ersdotter was the. name of the prettiest
peasant girl, a plump and blooming Westmanland lass,
with right warm and languishing eyes, who would have
been considered a beauty at the genteel court of King
August. She now came forward, costumed as Diana
as well as could readily be done with spruce twigs and
bows and arrows, as spokesman for the bear. Quite
resolutely, and without allowing herself to be frightened
by his snarling, the maiden took the wreath from the
bear's head and wound it about the king's brow, while
she recited the following verses of an unknown author:
" Since Northland soil its ranks of birch and pine tree beareth,
The scepter of the Forest king no equal shareth.
But from this moment he's no longer Earl
Subdued he lays his crown before King Carl.
" E'en so though vast the realm the King inherits,
Still greater that his valor gains, his wisdom merits ;
And while on mount or valley birch and pine remain,
His name renowned shall high be writ in Honor's fane."
The king, in his good humor, accepted the homage
both graciously and gaily, declaring that he would not
take the crown of honor from so powerful and brave
a ruler as the bear. To give immediate force to these
words, he took the wreath from his own head and laid
it again upon the' bear's. Then he saw that the bear
was still bound. " It illy becomes a conqueror," said
he, " to crown an enemy in bonds, as if in the ignominy
and disgrace of his overthrow. Go, and be free for thy
Before anyone could approach or venture to make
THE BLUE, 39
a remonstrance, the king had taken out his hunting
knife and cut the bear's bonds. At sight of this, great
and small rushed with affright for the door. Only
King Charles, and some of his men who did not wish to
be less daring than he, remained, with hands on their
sword-hilts and awaited with curiosity what the bear
would undertake when he realized his freedom.
The forest's shaggy king did not seem much in-
clined to make use of his liberty. Snuffing, he slowly
lifted his head, stretched out his benumbed limbs, and
seemed to consider. Then he raised himself with dif-
ficulty from the sled, took a melancholy survey of the
lights, made a few steps, tottered forward, sighed deeply
and stretched himself out motionless before the king.
They looked at him more closely; he was dead, and
his laurel wreath, which King Charles had so hand-
somely returned, he had cast before his conqueror's
The king touched the animal with his foot ; it lay
there without sound, without life. The event was easily
accounted for by those who were witnesses of the
chase. But so unexpected an ending to a hazardous
jest had almost the appearance of a miracle, and did
not fail of its impression on a young mind. The king
The duke, on the other hand, exclaimed cheerfully :
" Upon my honor as a hunter, sire, this untutored beast
has paid your majesty a compliment which the most el-
egant courtier ought to envy him. Halloo ! brave he-
roes and heroines, who so graciously guard the door
on the outside, come in, there is no danger here ;
Bruin has had more sense than all of you."
The whole troop streamed in, and if the jubilation
had been noisy before, it now became next to wild. The
mighty bear was borne away in triumph. With the
first inspiration, the crowd lifted the king upon their
shoulders. Old men, boys, girls, all strove to assist in
bearing the young monarch, whose look was pow-
40 TIMES OF CHARLES XII.
erful enough to cause the freed king of the forest
to cast himself before the feet of the master.
"Wine here!" shouted the duke, while the king
still sat on high, upon the shoulders of his people.
Wine came. The improvised Diana reached the beaker
to the king. He accepted it. At the same time the
duke whispered so loud that those standing nearest
heard him: " Diana, in the deepest humility, implores
your majesty to deign to gladden her with a gracious
Immediately many arms were in readiness, and
lifted the frightened girl, without heeding her opposi-
tion, to a level with the king. " Kiss her," whispered
the duke softly. " The people would construe your
majesty's refusal as contempt."
Never before or afterwards in his whole life was
King Charles in so remarkable a position. Seventeen
years old, a beaker in one hand, a beautiful girl at
the other ; round about him jubilation and shouts of ac-
clamation. All the feelings of youth surged through his
soul. He blushed like a boy, and wished he was seven
Then the courier's bell was heard in the court. But
the king, though hesitating, lifted the cup and drank
to his faithful peasants. Then he leaned to one side,
timorous and shy, and kissed Walborg Ersdotter. An
immeasurable shout of joy at this moment arose from
the lips of the surrounding guests.
At the same time the door opened, and Count Piper,
gloomy and ominous of evil, stood among the assem-
The crowd did not notice him, but the king, raised
high towards the roof, saw him at once. With a spring
he stood upon the floor, and the wine from his half
emptied goblet sprinkled those standing near, as well
as the beautiful Walborg's glowing cheek.
" What news ?" said he, curtly and hastily, to the
THE BLUE. 41
new guest, whose high rank at once led him to suspect
an important errand.
" Bad news !" answered the count, in a low voice.
" Will it please your majesty to grant me a private au-
" Bad news !" repeated the king, as now opportunely
freed from his dangerous position, he felt himself ex-
tremely bold and joyous. " No, my dear count, I pray
you spare your news till a more convenient season. To-
day we have no time to listen to it."
" I beg your majesty's pardon, but the affair is of
moment and will not admit of delay."
" Follow me, gentlemen !" continued the king, with-
out appearing to hear the objection. " These good
people need refreshments, and Hdrd, where are you ?
Is not the roast bear smoking in the dining-room ?"
" The meal is ready, your majesty."
" Come, sir count," said the duke, somewhat satiri-
cally ; " I protest that you will not run the least risk,
for the bugbear we are now to conquer is perfumed
like a courtier, fat as a capuchin monk, appetizing as a
Dalecarlian girl, and as well roasted as an honest sol-
Kongsor's kitchen and dining-room had to-day out-
done themselves. The table bent under its weight of
dishes, among which a bear's head dressed with parsley
and laurel leaves occupied the place of honor. French
and Spanish wine gleamed in great silver tankards.
Before each guest stood a silver goblet, large enough
to prove the powers of him who would pledge with it.
One might think himself carried back to the voracious
times of the regency.
After a short grace, platters and goblets were seized
with a hunter's hunger and a hunter's thirst. No one
was allowed to be absent; the wounded hunters hobbled
in ; among them was the half-squeezed-to-death Gcista
42 TIMES OF CHARLES XII.
Everyone must drink. When the king's glance fell
upon the embarrassed and uneasy Piper, it was only
to seize the tankard and nod to him a res sever as in
crastinum! Never was King Charles seen to drink so
much ; and yet he only drank like a girl. But the
tried veteran in the art began to hope that he "in time
would learn manhood."
Wine flowed and the company became noisy. Fierce
military exploits, wild hunting stories, amusing love
adventures, made up the talk. Gyllenburg, challenged
to improvise, stood upon a table and declaimed, tra-
vestying, " King Carl's first victory: "
"When chaste Diana's tempting lips to Mars were offered,
Sly Bacchus smiled ; by Cupid, Venus's message proffered
Go quick, my son "
Just then the great clock on the wall struck twelve.
Piper arose, but the king motioned to the poet to
" Go quick, my son, to Vulcan be it spoken,
That Virtue's slightly scratched, the coat of mail is broken."
One more resounding shout of joy the last ac-
companied the poet's jest. But thereupon King
Charles arose with sudden gravity, turned to Piper
and said : " Sir Count, I have promised my friends a
pleasant day. It is ended, and I am prepared to hear
you. You see about you men who betray nothing.
Speak out freely ; what have you to tell me ?"
"Your majesty," said Piper hesitatingly. "The
Danes are making progress. Holstein is laid waste.
Tonnmgen is about to fall. War is inevitable."
" Proceed !" said the king with a hasty glance at
the duke, who reddened deeply.
" The Czar Peter has brought together one hundred
thousand men against Ingermanland. Reliable infor-
mation has arrived that he has made an alliance with
THE BLUE. 43
Poland and Denmark in order to take from Sweden her
Baltic provinces. War is inevitable."
" Proceed !" said the king, as he mechanically took
up a beaker of Spanish wine standing near.
" The Saxons and the Poles have marched into Liv-
onia. Flemming has taken the Kobruun fortification
by storm and bombarded Riga. Count Dahlberg asks
for reinforcements. War is inevitable."
With these words a red stream, as of blood, spurted
over the white table-cloth. It was the Spanish wine in
the silver beaker which the king had unconsciously
pressed together in his hand. A dark cloud had spread
over his high brow. Oaths were broken, treaties mocked,
faith and honor forfeited. But King Charles only an-
" You are right. War is inevitable."
Thereupon he turned to the duke, tall, haughty,
grave as he had never before been seen. All trifling
ordinary affairs which usually take possession of men's
minds and soothe their passions had now disappeared ;
before his youthful eyes there spread out vast prospects
of a righteous war, even if it were against a whole
world. "It is wonderful," said he, "that both my
cousins will have war. Then so let it be. King Au-
gust has broken his word and proceeded contrary to
oath and treaty. We have a righteous caus-e. God
will indeed help us. I will first transact business with
one of them ; then I can say a word or two to the
From that day King Charles laid aside all orna-
ment in dress, all luxuries of food, all diversion, every-
thing except his royal calling.
From that day war became his noble chase and
whistling balls his music.
From that day he drank neither ale nor wine, only
From that day he never kissed the lips of woman.
From that day he became a hero, for whom the
44 TIMES OF CHARLES XII.
standard of common men was not made ; great in
prosperity, greater in adversity, unique in virtues,
unique in faults, admired by many, understood by few,
and equalled by none.
HOW THE LION BEGINS TO HUNT.
Letter from Gustaf Adolph Bertelskold, Ensign in the
Life- Dragoons, to his sister Ebba Bertelskold, maid
of honor to Her Royal Highness the princess Ulrika
NARVA, December yth, 1700.
A TRES CHRE SCEUR.
Ever since our meeting last spring, when we
amused ourselves so admirably, and I at the last was
somewhat ill after the scuffle at Kongsor, and my sister
so lovingly cured me with salves and music, that I, God
be praised, now live, since that time have almost eight
months gone by, in much confusion; from which I have
my excuse for most humbly begging you to not to take
amiss my great neglect ; because I am poor at writing
as master Schonberg can testify, for he once, at Maj-
niemi, likened my writing to a magpie's scratching in
the new fallen snow.
I have duly received your letters of May 8th and
August 1 4th, for which I cannot say enough about how
they pleased me; and I beg you to learn from these
crooked lines, my brotherly gratitude. I have now
more time than I have had, although I lie here at Narva
in the hospital to cure a scratch received in the charge
the e*xTe^t 1 P on r of afe n wd g s raPhy '" ^ k""' the Surge " has COrrected with
THE BLUE. 45
against the Russians; it was nothing more than a mus-
ket ball in the left shoulder, and it is taken out success-
fully, so that now, after two weeks, I have permission
to write ; but not before Christmas will they let me sit
on a horse.
You, my dear sister, have of course already learned
by the great newspapers of our victories against the
Dane as well as the Russian; yet I think it will not be
unpleasant to you to hear something more about it from
one who was along and applauded till his arms were
tired. You probably remember the day last winter
when I threw Gustaf Otto Douglas down stairs for
slandering the Finnish nobility, by saying that they
were bull-heads who were not ashamed to talk their
dirty Finnish language among themselves in the royal
castle itself ; for all of which Douglas, when he went
out, forgot to count the steps in the stairway. And
when I escaped arrest you remember that Eva Falken-
berg told me that I was courageous enough to attack
a poor page who was younger than I, but what man-
hood I had to show the enemies of the country, that
she would not say. And you remember that just then
your book lay open on the table, whereupon I said
without counting the leaves: Miss Eva shall know that
I will not come back to Stockholm before I with God's
help have a victory or at least an honorable encounter
to record on every page of sister Ebba's memorandum
book. And to this Eva Falkenberg answered : " I do
not believe it; you may take pleasure in clubbing bears."
Then I said: " What will you promise me if it happens
as I said?" And she replied: You can ask me anything
you please and I will not refuse it.' "Is that true?"
said I. " Yes," said she " as sure as the cock on St.
Jacobs' Church tower; before he crows I will not fail."
And now I desire you to begin the record and print on
the first page Seland (or Tiberup) and on the second
page in somewhat larger letters, NARVA. After that I
will slowly continue the row until the book is filled; be-
46 TIMES OF CHARLES XII.
fore that is done I dare not go back to Stockholm ; per-
haps it is better that I do not know how many leaves
I will tell you here that on the i4th of April last
spring I went in the king's suite from Stockholm to
Malmo. We were there about twelve thousend men,
and it was clear the Jutlander's hide was at stake. But
there was some hindrance to the fleet which should unite
with the English and Dutch fleets, so that we did not get
into action before the 25th of July,* which was Sunday,
betv/een five and six o'clock in the afternoon. I wish
you could have seen the beautiful sight we had from
the fleet when the red flag was hoisted on the mainmast
of the admiral-ship, Fredrike Amalia; but the king was
on the yacht Sophie. The wind was not hard at the time,
yet enough to make the horses on the deck stamp im-
patiently; otherwise the weather was splendidly clear
and warm. Zealand lay green before us, with its beech-
woods ; Humleback manor and a light-house, and a
wind-mill where the miller had no time to grind. Many
boats pushed off from the ship, rowing towards land,
but the water became too shallow; then Major Carl
Numers with his guard sprang out of the boat and