Hero Tales of the Far North
Jacob A. Riis

Part 3 out of 3

caught with fiendish tortures. The bitterest anger filled Gustav
Adolf's soul when upon his entry into Landshut the burgomaster knelt
at his stirrup asking mercy for his city.

"Pray not to me," he said harshly, "but to God for yourself and for
your people, for in truth you have need."

For once thoughts of vengeance seemed to fill his soul. "No, no!" he
thundered when the frightened burgomaster pleaded that his townsmen
should not be held accountable for the cruelty of the country-folk,
"you are beasts, not men, and deserve to be wiped from the earth
with fire and sword." From out the multitude there came a warning
voice: "Will the King now abandon the path of mercy for the way of
vengeance and visit his wrath upon these innocent people?" No one
saw the speaker. The day was oppressively hot and the King came near
fainting in the saddle. As he rode out of the city toward the camp,
a bolt of lightning struck the ground beside him and a mighty crash
of thunder rolled overhead. Pale and thoughtful, he rode on. But
Landshut was spared. That evening General Horn brought the anxious
citizens the King's promise of pardon.

A few weeks later tidings reached Gustav Adolf that Wallenstein and
the Elector of Bavaria were marching to effect a junction at
Nuernberg. If they took the city, his line of communication was cut
and his army threatened. Wallenstein, who was a traitor, had been in
disgrace; but he was a great general and in his dire need Emperor
Ferdinand had no one else to turn to. So he took him back on his own
terms, and in the spring he had an army of forty thousand veterans
in the field. This was the host he was leading against Nuernberg. But
the King got there first and intrenched himself so strongly that
there was no ousting him. Wallenstein followed suit and for eleven
weeks the enemies eyed one another from their "lagers," neither
willing to risk an attack. In the end Gustav Adolf tried, but even
his Finns could not take the impregnable heights the enemy held. At
last he went away with colors flying and bands playing, right under
the enemy's walls, in the hope of tempting him out. But he never

When Wallenstein was sure he had gone, he burned his camp and
turned toward Saxony to punish the Elector for joining the Swedes. A
wail of anguish went up from that unhappy land and the King heard it
clear across the country. By forced marches he hurried to the rescue
of his ally, picking up Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar on the way. At
Naumburg the people crowded about him and sought to kiss or even to
touch his garments. The King looked sadly at them. "They put their
trust in me, poor weak mortal, as if I were the Almighty. It may be
that He will punish their folly soon upon the object of their
senseless idolatry." He had come to stay, but when he learned that
Wallenstein had sent Pappenheim away to the west, thus weakening his
army, and was going into winter quarters at Luetzen, near Leipzig, a
half-day's march from the memorable Breitenfeld, he broke camp at
once and hastened to attack him. Starting early, his army reached
Luetzen at nightfall on November 15, 1632.

Wallenstein believed the campaign was over for that year and the
Swedes in winter quarters, and was taken completely by surprise. Had
the King given battle that night, he would have wiped the enemy
out. Two things, in themselves of little account, delayed him: a
small brook that crossed his path, and the freshly plowed fields.
His men were tired after the long march and he decided to let them
rest. It was Wallenstein's chance. Overnight he posted his army
north of the highway that leads from Luetzen to Leipzig, dug deep the
ditches that enclosed it, and made breastworks of the dirt. Sunrise
found sheltered behind them twenty-seven thousand seasoned veterans
to whom Gustav Adolf could oppose but twenty thousand; but he had
more guns and they were better served.

As the day broke the Swedish army, drawn up in battle array, intoned
Luther's hymn, "A mighty fortress is our God," and cheered the King.
He wore a leathern doublet and a gray mantle. To the pleadings of
his officers that he put on armor he replied only, "God is my
armor." "To-day," he cried as he rode along the lines, "will end all
our hardships." He himself took command of the right wing, the
gallant Duke Bernhard of the left. As at Breitenfeld, the rallying
cry was, "God with us!"

The King hoped to crush his enemy utterly, and the whole line
attacked at once with great fury. From the start victory leaned
toward the Swedish army. Then suddenly in the wild tumult of battle
a heavy fog settled upon the field. What followed was all confusion.
No one knows the rights of it to this day. The King led his famous
yellow and blue regiments against the enemy's left. "The black
fellows there," he shouted, pointing to the Emperor's cuirassiers in
their black armor, "attack them!" Just then an adjutant reported
that his infantry was hard pressed. "Follow me," he commanded, and,
clapping spurs to his horse, set off at full speed for the
threatened quarter. In the fog he lost his way and ran into the
cuirassiers. His two attendants were shot down and a bullet crushed
the King's right arm. He tried to hide the fact that he was wounded,
but pain and loss of blood made him faint and he asked the Duke of
Lauenburg who rode with him to help him out of the crush. At that
moment a fresh troop of horsemen bore down upon them and their
leader, Moritz von Falkenberg, shot the King through the body with
the exultant cry, "You I have long sought!" The words had hardly
left his lips when he fell with a bullet through his head.

The King swayed in the saddle and lost the reins. "Save yourself,"
he whispered to the Duke, "I am done for." The Duke put his arm
around him to support him, but the cuirassiers surged against them
and tore them apart. The King's horse was shot in the neck and threw
its rider. Awhile he hung by the stirrup and was dragged over the
trampled field. Then the horse shook itself free and ran through the
lines, spreading the tidings of the King's fall afar.

A German page, Leubelfing, a lad of eighteen, was alone with the
King. He sprang from his horse and tried to help him into the saddle
but had not the strength to do it. Gustav Adolf was stout and very
heavy. While he was trying to lift him some Croats rode up and
demanded the name of the wounded man. The page held his tongue, and
they ran him through. Gustav Adolf, to save him, said that he was
the King.[1] At that they shot him through the head, and showered
blows upon him. When the body was found in the night it was naked.
They had robbed and stripped him.

[Footnote 1: This is the story as the page told it. He lived two

The King was dead. Through the Swedish ranks Duke Bernhard shouted
the tidings. "Who now cares to live? Forward, to avenge his death!"
With the blind fury of the Berserkers of old the Swedes cleared the
ditches, stormed the breastworks, and drove the foe in a panic
before them. The Duke's arm was broken by a bullet. He hardly knew
it. With his regiment he rode down the crew of one of the enemy's
batteries and swept on. In the midst of it all a cry resounded over
the plain that made the runaways halt and turn back.

"Pappenheim! Pappenheim is here!"

He had come with his Walloons in answer to the general's summons.
"Where is the King?" he asked, and they pointed to the Finnish
brigade. With a mighty crash the two hosts that had met so often
before came together. Wallenstein mustered his scattered forces and
the King's army was attacked from three sides at once. The yellow
brigade fell where it stood almost to the last man. The blue fared
little better. Slowly the Swedish infantry gave back. The battle
seemed lost.

But the tide turned once more. In the hottest fight Pappenheim
fell, pierced by three bullets. The "man of a hundred scars" died,
exulting that the King whom he hated had gone before. With his death
the Emperor's men lost heart. The Swedes charged again and again
with unabated fury. Night closed in with Wallenstein's centre still
unbroken; but he had lost all his guns. Under cover of the darkness
he made his escape. The King's army camped upon the battle-field.
The carnage had been fearful; nine thousand were slain. It was
Wallenstein's last fight. With the remnants of his army he retreated
to Bohemia, sick and sore, and spent his last days there plotting
against his master. He died by an assassin's hand.

The cathedrals of Vienna, Brussels, and Madrid rang with joyful Te
Deums at the news of the King's death. The Spanish capital
celebrated the "triumph" with twelve days of bull-fighting. Emperor
Ferdinand was better than his day; he wept at the sight of the
King's blood-stained jacket. The Protestant world trembled; its hope
and strength were gone. But the Swedish people, wiping away their
tears, resolved stoutly to carry on Gustav Adolf's work. The men he
had trained led his armies to victory on yet many a stricken field.
Peace came at length to Europe; the last religious war had been
fought and won. Freedom of worship, liberty of conscience, were
bought at the cost of the kingliest head that ever wore a crown. The
great ruler's life-work was done.

Gustav Adolf was in his thirty-eighth year when he fell. Of stature
he was tall and stout, a fair-haired, blue-eyed giant, stern in war,
gentle in the friendships of peace. He was a born ruler of men.
Though he was away fighting in foreign lands all the years of his
reign, he kept a firm grasp on the home affairs of his kingdom. One
traces his hand everywhere, ordering, shaping, finding ways, or
making them where there was none. The valuable mines of Sweden were
ill managed. The metal was exported in coarse pigs to Germany for
very little, worked up there, and resold to Sweden at the highest
price. He created a Board of Mines, established smelteries, and the
day came when, instead of going abroad for its munitions of war,
Sweden had for its customers half Europe. Like Christian of Denmark
with whom he disagreed, he encouraged industries and greatly
furthered trade and commerce. He built highways and canals, and he
did not forget the cause of instruction. Upon the university at
Upsala he bestowed his entire personal patrimony of three hundred
and thirteen farms as a free gift. His people honor him with cause
as the real founder of the Swedish system of education.

The master he was always. Sweden had, on one hand, a powerful, able
nobility; on the other, a strong, independent peasantry,--a combination
full of pitfalls for a weak ruler, but with equal promise of great
things under the master hand. His father had cowed the stubborn
nobles with the headsman's axe. Gustav Adolf drew them to him and
imbued them with his own spirit. He found them a contentious party
within the state; he left them its strongest props in the conduct of
public affairs. Nor was it always with persuasion he worked. His
reward for the unjust judge has been quoted. When the council failed
to send him supplies in Germany, pleading failure of crops as their
excuse, he wrote back: "You speak of the high prices of corn.
Probably they are high because those who have it want to profit by
the need of others." And he set a new chief over the finances. On
the other hand, he gave shape to the relations between king and
people. The Riksdag held its sessions, but the laws that ruled it
were so vague that it was no unusual thing for men who were not
members at all to attend and join in the debates. Gustav Adolf put
an abrupt end to "a state of things that exposed Sweden to the
contempt of the nations." As he ordered it, the initiative remained
with the crown; it was the right of the Riksdag to complain and
discuss; of the King to "choose the best" after hearing all sides.

As a young prince, Gustav Adolf fell deeply in love with Ebba Brahe,
the beautiful daughter of one of Sweden's most powerful noblemen.
The two had been play-mates and became lovers. But the old queen
frowned upon the match. He was the coming king, she was a subject,
and the queen managed, with the help of Oxenstjerna, who was
Gustav's best friend all through his life, to make him give up his
love. "Then I will never marry," he cried in a burst of tempestuous
grief. But when the queen had got Ebba Brahe safely married to one
of his father's famous generals, he wedded the lovely sister of the
Elector of Brandenburg. She adored her royal husband, but never took
kindly to Sweden, and the people did not like her. They clung to the
great king's early love, and to this day they linger before the
picture of the beautiful Ebba in the Stockholm castle when they come
from his grave in the Riddarholm church, while they pass the queen's
by with hardly a glance. It is recorded that Ebba made her husband a
good and dutiful wife. If her thoughts strayed at times to the old
days and what might have been, it is not strange. In one of those
moods she wrote on a window-pane in the castle:

I am happy in my lot,
And thanks I give to God.

The queen-mother saw it and wrote under it her own version:

You wouldn't, but you must.
'Tis the lot of the dust.


Of all the foolish wars that were ever waged, it would seem that the
one declared by Denmark against Sweden in 1657 had the least excuse.
A century before, the two countries had fought through eight bitter
years over the momentous question whether Denmark should carry in
her shield the three lions that stood for the three Scandinavian
kingdoms, the Swedish one having set up for itself in the
dissolution of the union between them, and at the end of the fight
they were where they had started: each of them kept the whole brood.
But this war was without even that excuse. Denmark was helplessly
impoverished. Her trade was ruined; the nobles were sucking the
marrow of the country. Of the freehold farms that had been its
strength scarce five thousand were left in the land. It could hardly
pay its way in days of peace. Its strongholds lay in ruins; it had
neither arms, ammunition, nor officers. On its roster of thirty
thousand men for the national defence were carried the dead and the
yet unborn, while the Swedish army of tried veterans had gone from
victory to victory under a warlike king. To cap the climax,
Copenhagen had been harassed by pestilence that had killed one-fifth
of its fifty thousand people.

So ill matched were they when a stubborn king forced a war that
could end only in disaster. When one of his councillors advised
against the folly, he caned him and sent him into exile. Yet out of
the fiery trial this king came a hero; his queen, whose pride and
wasteful vanity[1] had done its full share in bringing the country
to the verge of ruin, became the idol of the nation. In the hour of
its peril she grew to the stature of a great woman who shared danger
and hardship with her people and by her example put hope and courage
into their hearts.

[Footnote 1: It is of record that Queen Sofie Amalie used one-third
of the annual revenues of the country for her household. The menu of
a single "rustic dinner" of the court mentions 200 courses and
nearly as many kinds of preserves and dessert, served on gold, with
wines in corresponding abundance.]

Karl Gustav, the Swedish king, was campaigning in Poland, but as
soon as he could turn around he marched his army against Denmark,
scattered the forces that opposed him, and before news of his
advance had reached Copenhagen knocked at the gate of Denmark
demanding "speech of brother Frederik in good Swedish." A winter of
great severity had bridged the Baltic and the sounds of the island
kingdom. In two weeks he led his army, horse, foot, and guns, over
the frozen seas where hardly a wagon had dared cross before. Great
rifts yawned in their way, and whole companies were swallowed up;
his own sleigh sank in the deep, but nothing stopped him. Danish
emissaries came pleading for peace. He met them on the way to the
capital, surrounded by his Finnish horsemen, and gave scant ear to
their speeches while he drove on. Before the city he halted and
dictated a peace so humiliating that one of the Danish commissioners
exclaimed when he came to sign, "I wish I could not write." Perhaps
the same wish troubled the conqueror's ambitious dreams. The peace
was broken as swiftly as made. In five months he was back before
Frederik's capital with his whole army, while a Swedish fleet
anchored in the roadstead outside. "What difference does it make to
you," was the contemptuous taunt flung at the anxious envoys who
sought his camp, "whether the name of your king is Karl or Frederik
so long as you are safe?" He had come to make an end of Denmark.

Copenhagen was almost without defences. The old earth walls mounted
only six guns, with breastworks scarce knee-high. In places King
Karl could have driven his sleigh into the heart of the city at the
head of his army. But for the second time he hesitated when a swift
blow would have won all--and lost. Overnight the Danish nation awoke
to a fight for its life. King and people, till then strangers, in
that hour became one. Frederik the Third met the craven counsel that
he fly to Norway with the proud answer, "I will die in my nest, if
need be, and my wife with me." With a shout the burghers swore to
fight to the last man. The walls of the city rose as if by magic.
Nobles and mechanics, clergy and laborers, students, professors and
sailors worked side by side; high-born women wheeled barrows. Every
tree was cut down and made into palisades. The crops ripening in
the fields were gathered in haste and the cattle driven in. The city
had been provisioned for barely a week and garrisoned by four
hundred raw recruits. Sailors from the useless ships took out their
guns and mounted them in the redoubts. Peasants flocked in and were
armed with battle-axes, clubs, and boat-hooks when the supply of
muskets gave out. When Karl Gustav drew his lines tight he faced six
thousand determined men behind strong walls. The city stood in a
ring of blazing fires. Its defenders were burning down the houses
and woods beyond the moats to clear the way for their gunners. The
King watched the sight from his horse in silence. He knew what it
meant; he had fought in the Thirty Years' War: "Now, I vow, we shall
have fighting," was all he said.

It was not long in coming. On the second night the garrison made a
sortie and drove back the invaders, destroying their works with
great slaughter. Night after night, and sometimes in the broad day,
they returned to the charge, overwhelming the Swedes where least
expected, capturing their guns, their supplies, and their outposts.
Short of arms and ammunition, they took them in the enemy's lines.
In one of these raids Karl Gustav himself was all but made prisoner.
A horseman had him by the shoulder, but he wrenched himself loose
and spurred his horse into the sea where a boat from one of the
ships rescued him. The defence took on something of the fervor of
religious frenzy. Twice a day services were held on the walls of the
city; within, the men who could not bear arms, and the women,
barricaded the streets with stones and iron chains for the last
fight, were it to come. In his place on the wall every burgher had a
hundred brickbats or stones piled up for ammunition, and by night
when the enemy rained red-hot shot upon the city, he fought with a
club or spear in one hand, a torch in the other.

Eleven weeks the battle raged by night and by day. Then a Dutch
fleet forced its way through the blockade after a fight in which it
lost six ships and two admirals. It brought food, ammunition, and
troops. The joy in the city was great. All day the church bells were
rung, and the people hailed the Dutch as the saviours of the nation.
But when they, too, would thank God for the victory and asked for
the use of the University's hall, they were refused. They were
followers of Calvin and their heresies must not be preached in the
place set apart for teaching the doctrines of the "pure faith," said
the professors, who were Lutheran. It was the way of the day. The
Reformation had learned little from the bigotry of the Inquisition.
The Dutchmen had to be content with the court-house. But the siege
was not over. Another hard winter closed in with the enemy at the
door, burrowing hourly nearer the outworks, and food and fire-wood
grew scarcer day by day in the hard-pressed city. When things were
at the worst pass in February, the Swedes gathered their hosts for a
final assault. In the midnight hour they came on with white shirts
drawn over their uniforms to make it hard to tell them from the
snow. Karl Gustav himself led the storming party and at last was in
the way of "getting speech of brother Frederik," for the Danish King
was as good as his word. He had said that he would die in his nest,
and time and again he had to be sternly reasoned with to prevent him
from exposing himself overmuch. Where the danger was greatest he
was, and beside him ever the queen, all her frivolity gone and
forgotten. She who had danced at the court fetes and followed the
hounds on the chase as if the world had no other cares, became the
very incarnation of the spirit of the bitter and bloody struggle.
All through that winter the royal couple lived in a tent among their
men, and when the alarm was sounded they were first on foot to lead
them. Now that the hour had come, they were in the forefront of the

Where the famous pleasure garden Tivoli now is, the strength of the
enemy was massed against the redoubts at the western gate. The name
of "Storm Street" tells yet of the doings of that night. King Karl
had promised to give over the captured town to be sacked by his army
three days and nights, and like hungry wolves they swarmed to the
attack, a mob of sailors and workmen with scaling ladders in the
van. The moats they crossed in spite of the gaps that had been made
in the ice to stop them, but the garrison had poured water over the
walls that froze as it ran, until they were like slippery icebergs.
A bird could have found no foothold on them. Showers of rocks and
junk and clubs fell upon the laddermen. Three times Karl Gustav
hurled his columns against them; as often they were driven back,
broken and beaten. A few gained a foothold on the walls only to be
dashed down to death. The burghers fought for their lives and their
homes. Their women carried boiling pitch and poured it over the
breastworks, and when they had no more, dragged great beams and
rolled them down upon the ladders, sweeping them clear of the enemy.
In the hottest fight Gunde Rosenkrantz, one of the king's
councillors, trod on a fallen soldier and, looking into his face,
saw that it was his own son breathing his last. He bent over and
kissed him, and went on fighting.

In the early morning hour Karl Gustav gave the order to retreat. The
attack had failed. Many of his general officers were slain; nearly
half of his army was killed, disabled, or captured. Six Swedish
standards were taken by the Danes. The moats were filled with the
dead. The Swedes had "come in their shrouds." The guns of the city
thundered out a triple salute of triumph and the people sang Te
Deums on the walls. Their hardships were not over. Fifteen months
yet the city was invested and the home of daily privation; but their
greatest peril was past. Copenhagen was saved, and with it the
nation; the people had found itself and its king. That autumn a
second Swedish army under the veteran Stenbock was massacred in the
island of Fyen, and Karl Gustav exclaimed when the beaten general
brought him the news, "Since the devil took the sheep he might have
taken the buck too." He never got over it. Three months later he lay
dead, and the siege of Copenhagen was raised in May, 1660. It had
lasted twenty months.

* * * * *

Seven score years and one passed, and the morning of Holy
Thursday[2] saw a British fleet sailing slowly up the deep before
Copenhagen, the deck of every ship bristling with guns, their crews
at quarters, Lord Nelson's signal to "close for action" flying from
the top of the flag-ship _Elephant_. Between the fleet and the shore
lay a line of dismantled hulks on which men with steady eyes and
stout hearts were guarding Denmark's honor. Once more it had been
jeopardized by foolish counsel in high places. Danish statesmen had
trifled and temporized while England, facing all Europe alone in the
fight for her life, made ready to strike a decisive blow against the
Armed Neutrality that threatened her supremacy on the sea. Once more
the city had been caught unprepared, defenceless, and once more its
people rose as one man to meet the danger. But it was too late.
Outside, in the Sound, a fleet as great as that led by Nelson
waited, should he fail, to finish his work. That was to destroy the
Danish ships, if need be to bombard the city and so detach Denmark
from the coalition of England's foes. So she chose to consider such
as were not her declared friends.

[Footnote 2: The battle of Copenhagen was fought April 2, 1801.]

Denmark had no fighting ships at home to pit against her. Her
sailors were away serving in the merchant marine. She had no
practised gunners, nothing but a huddle of dismantled vessels in her
navy-yard, most of them half-rotten hulks without masts. Those that
had standing rigging were even worse, for none of them had sails and
the falling spars in battle lumbered up the decks and menaced the
crew. But such as they were she made the most of them. Eighteen
hulks were hauled into the channel and moored head and stern. Where
they lay they could not be moved. Only the guns on one side were
therefore of use, while the enemy could turn and manoeuvre. They
were manned by farm lads, mechanics, students, enlisted in haste,
not one of whom had ever smelt powder, and these were matched
against Nelson's grim veterans. Even their commander, J. Olfert
Fischer, had not been under fire before that day, for Denmark had
had peace for eighty years. But his father had served as a
midshipman with Tordenskjold and the son did not flinch, outnumbered
though his force was, two to one, in men and guns.

The sun shone fair upon the blue waters as the great fleet of
thirty-odd fighting ships sailed up from the south. From the city's
walls and towers a mighty multitude watched it come, unmindful of
peril from shot and shell; the Danish line was not half a mile away.
In the churches whose bells were still ringing when the first gun
was fired from the block-ship _Proevestenen_, the old men and women
prayed through the long day, for there were few homes in Copenhagen
that did not have son, brother, or friend fighting out there. A
single gun answered the challenge, now two and three at once, then
broadside crashed upon broadside with deafening roar. When at length
all was quiet a tremendous report shook the city. It was the
flag-ship _Dannebrog_ that blew up. She was on fire with only three
serviceable guns left when she struck her colors, but no ship of her
name might sail with an enemy's prize crew on board, and she did

The story of that bloody day has been told many times. Briton and
Dane hoist their flags on April 2 with equal right, for never was
challenge met with more dauntless valor. Lord Nelson owned that of
all the hundred and five battles he had fought this was hottest. On
the _Monarch_, which for hours was under the most galling fire from
the Danish ships, two hundred and twenty of the crew were killed or
wounded. "There was not a single man standing," wrote a young
officer on board of her, "the whole way from the mainmast forward, a
district containing eight guns a side, some of which were run out
ready for firing, others lay dismounted, and others remained as they
were after recoiling.... I hastened down the fore ladder to the
lower deck and felt really relieved to find somebody alive." The
slaughter on the Danish ships was even greater. More than one-fifth
of their entire strength of a little over five thousand men were
slain or wounded. Of the eighteen hulls they lost thirteen, but only
one were the British able to take home with them. The rest were
literally shot to pieces and were burned where they lay. As one
after another was silenced, those yet alive on board spiked their
last guns, if indeed there were any left worth the trouble, threw
their powder overboard and made, for the shore. Twice the Danish
Admiral abandoned his burning ship, the last time taking up his post
in the island battery Tre Kroner. Each time one of the old hulls was
crushed, a Briton pushed into the hole made in the line and raked
the remaining ones fore and aft until their decks were like huge
shambles. The block-ship _Indfoedsretten_ bore the concentrated fire
of five frigates and two smaller vessels throughout most of the
battle. Her chief was killed. When the news reached head-quarters on
shore, Captain von Schroedersee, an old naval officer who had been
retired because of ill health, volunteered to take his place. He was
rowed out, but as he came over the side of the ship a cannon-ball
cut him in two. _Proevestenen_, as it was the first to fire a shot,
held out also to the last. One-fourth of her crew lay dead, and her
flag had been shot away three times when the decks threatened to
cave in and Captain Lassen spiked his last guns and left the wreck
to be burned. All through the fight she was the target of ninety
guns to which she could oppose only twenty-nine of her own sixty.

Nelson had promised Admiral Parker to finish the fight in an hour.
When the battle had lasted three, Parker signalled to him to stop.
Every school-boy knows the story of how Lord Nelson put the glass to
his blind eye and, remarking that he could see no signal, kept right
on. In the end he had to resort to stratagem to force a truce so
that he might disentangle some of his ships that were drifting into
great danger in the narrow channel. The ruse succeeded. Crown Prince
Frederik, moved by compassion for the wounded whom Nelson threatened
to burn with the captured hulks if firing did not stop, ordered
hostilities to cease without consulting the Admiral of the fleet,
and the battle was over. Denmark's honor was saved. "Nothing," wrote
our own Captain Mahan, "could place a nation's warlike fame higher
than did her great deeds that day." All else was lost; for "there
had come upon Denmark one of those days of judgment to which nations
are liable who neglect in time of peace to prepare for war." It had
been long coming, but it had overtaken her at last and found all the
bars down.

Alongside the _Dannebrog_ throughout her fight with Nelson's
flag-ship, and edging ever closer in under the _Elephant's_ side
until at last the marines were sent to man her rail and keep it away
with their muskets, lay a floating battery mounting twenty guns
under command of a beardless second lieutenant. The name of Peter
Willemoes will live as long as the Danish tongue is spoken. Barely
graduated from the Naval Academy, he was but eighteen when the need
of officers thrust the command of "Floating Battery No. 1" upon him.
So gallantly did he acquit himself that Nelson took notice of the
young man who, every time a broadside crashed into his ship or
overhead, swung his cocked hat and led his men in a lusty cheer.
When after the battle he met the Crown Prince on shore, the English
commander asked to be introduced to his youthful adversary. "You
ought to make an admiral of him," he said, and Prince Frederik
smiled: "If I were to make admirals of all my brave officers, I
should have no captains or lieutenants left." When the _Dannebrog_
drifted on the shoals, abandoned and burning, Willemoes cut his
cables and got away under cover of the heavy smoke. Having neither
sails nor oars, he was at the mercy of the tide, but luckily it
carried him to the north of the Tre Kroner battery, and he reached
port with forty-nine of his crew of one hundred and twenty-nine dead
or wounded. The people received him as a conqueror returning with
victory. His youth and splendid valor aroused the enthusiasm of the
whole country. Wherever he went crowds flocked to see him as the
hero of "Holy Thursday's Battle." Especially was he the young
people's idol. Sailor that he was, he was "the friend of all pretty
girls," sang the poet of that day. He danced and made merry with
them, but the one of them all on whom his heart was set, so runs the
story, would have none of him, and sent him away to foreign parts, a
saddened lover.

Meanwhile much praise had not made him vain. "I did my duty," he
wrote to his father, a minor government official in the city of
Odense where four years later Hans Christian Andersen was born on
the anniversary day of the battle, "and I have whole limbs which I
least expected. The Crown Prince and the Admiral have said that I
behaved well." He was to have one more opportunity of fighting his
country's enemy, and this time to the death.

In the summer of 1807, England was advised that by the treaty of
Tilsit Russia and Prussia had secretly joined Napoleon in his
purpose of finally crushing his mortal enemy by uniting all the
fleets of Europe against her, Denmark's too, by compulsion if
persuasion failed. Without warning a British fleet swooped down upon
the unsuspecting nation, busy with the pursuits of peace, bombarded
and burned Copenhagen when the Commandant refused to deliver the
ships into the hands of the robbers as a "pledge of peace," and
carried away ships, supplies, even the carpenters' tools in the
navy-yard. Nothing was spared. Seventy vessels, sixteen of them
ships of the line, fell into their hands, and supplies that filled
ninety-two transports beside. A single fighting ship was left to
Denmark of all her fleet,--the _Prince Christian Frederik_ of
sixty-eight guns. She happened to be away in a Norwegian port and so
escaped. Willemoes was on leave serving in the Russian navy, but
hastened home when news came of the burning of Copenhagen, and found
a berth under Captain Jessen.

On March 22, 1808, the _Prince Christian_, so she was popularly
called, hunting a British frigate that was making Danish waters
insecure, met in the Kattegat the _Stately_ and the _Nassau_, each
like herself of sixty-eight guns. The _Nassau_ was the old
_Holsteen_, renamed,--the single prize the victors had carried home
from the battle of Copenhagen. Three British frigates were working
up to join them. The coast of Seeland was near, but wind and tide
cut off escape to the Sound. Captain Jessen ran his ship in close
under the shore so that at the last he might beach her, and awaited
the enemy there.

The sun had set, but the night was clear when the fight between the
three ships began. With one on either side, hardly a pistol-shot
away, Jessen returned shot for shot, giving as good as they sent,
and with such success that at the end of an hour and a half the
Britons dropped astern to make repairs. The _Prince Christian_
drifted, helpless, with rudder shot to pieces, half a wreck, rigging
all gone, and a number of her guns demolished. But when the enemy
returned he was hailed with a cheer and a broadside, and the fight
was on once more. This time they were three to one; one of the
British frigates of forty-four guns had come up and joined in.

When the hull of the _Prince Christian_ was literally knocked to
pieces, and of her 576 men 69 lay dead and 137 wounded, including
the chief and all of his officers who were yet alive, Captain Jessen
determined as a last desperate chance to run one of his opponents
down and board her with what remained of his crew. But his officers
showed him that it was impossible; the ship could not be manoeuvred.
There was a momentary lull in the fire and out of the night came a
cry, "Strike your colors!" The Danish reply was a hurrah and a
volley from all the standing guns. Three broad-sides crashed into
the doomed ship in quick succession, and the battle was over. The
_Prince Christian_ stood upon the shore, a wreck.

Young Willemoes was spared the grief of seeing the last Danish
man-of-war strike its flag. In the hottest of the fight, as he
jumped upon a gun the better to locate the enemy in the gloom, a
cannon-ball took off the top of his head. He fell into the arms of a
fellow officer with the muttered words, "Oh God! my head--my
country!" and was dead. In his report of the fight Captain Jessen
wrote against his name: "Fell in battle--honored as he is missed."
They made his grave on shore with the fallen sailors, and as the sea
washed up other bodies they were buried with them.

The British captured the wreck, but they could only set fire to it
after removing the wounded. In the night it blew up where it stood.
That was the end of the last ship of Denmark's proud navy.


Jens Kofoed was the name of a trooper who served in the disastrous
war of Denmark against Sweden in Karl Gustav's day. He came from the
island of Bornholm in the Baltic, where he tilled a farm in days of
peace. When his troop went into winter quarters, he got a furlough
to go home to receive the new baby that was expected about
Christmas. Most of his comrades were going home for the holidays,
and their captain made no objection. The Swedish king was fighting
in far-off Poland, and no one dreamed that he would come over the
ice with his army in the depth of winter to reckon with Denmark. So
Jens Kofoed took ship with the promise that he would be back in two
weeks. But they were to be two long weeks. They did not hear of him
again for many moons, and then strange tidings came of his doings.
Single-handed he had bearded the Swedish lion, and downed it in a
fair fight--strangest of all, almost without bloodshed.

The winter storms blew hard, and it was Christmas eve when he made
land, but he came in time to receive, not one new heir, but twin
baby girls. Then there were six of them, counting Jens and his wife,
and a merry Christmas they all had together. On Twelfth Night the
little ones were christened, and then the trooper bethought himself
of his promise to get back soon. The storms had ceased, but worse
had befallen; the sea was frozen over as far as eye reached, and the
island was cut off from all communication with the outer world.
There was nothing for it but to wait. It proved the longest and
hardest winter any one then living could remember. Easter was at
hand before the ice broke up, and let a fishing smack slip over to
Ystad, on the mainland. It came back with news that set the whole
island wondering. Peace had been made, and Denmark had ceded all its
ancient provinces east of the Oeresund to Karl Gustav. Ystad itself
and Skaane, the province in which Jens Kofoed had been campaigning,
were Swedish now, and so was Bornholm. All unknown to its people,
the island had changed hands in the game of war overnight, as it
were. A Swedish garrison was coming over presently to take charge.

When Jens Kofoed heard it, he sat down and thought things over. If
there was peace, his old captain had no use for him, that was
certain; but there might be need of him at home. What would happen
there, no one could tell. And there were the wife and children to
take care of. The upshot of it all was that he stayed. Only, to be
on the safe side, he got the Burgomaster and the Aldermen in his
home town, Hasle, to set it down in writing that he could not have
got back to his troop for all he might have tried. Kofoed, it will
be seen, was a man with a head on his shoulders, which was well, for
presently he had need of it.

There were no Danish soldiers in the island, only a peasant militia,
ill-armed and untaught in the ways of war; so no one thought of
resisting the change of masters. The people simply waited to see
what would happen. Along in May a company of one hundred and twenty
men with four guns landed, and took possession of Castle
Hammershus, on the north shore, the only stronghold on the island,
in the name of the Swedish king. Colonel Printzenskoeld, who had
command, summoned the islanders to a meeting, and told them that he
had come to be their governor. They were to obey him, and that was
all. The people listened and said nothing.

Perhaps if the new rulers had been wise, things might have kept on
so. The people would have tilled their farms, and paid their taxes,
and Jens Kofoed, with all his hot hatred of the enemy he had fought,
might never have been heard of outside his own island. But the
Swedish soldiers had been through the Thirty Years' War and plunder
had become their profession. They rioted in the towns, doubled the
taxes, put an embargo on trade and export, crushed the industries;
worse, they took the young men and sent them away to Karl Gustav's
wars in foreign lands. They left only the old men and the boys, and
these last they kept a watchful eye on for drafts in days to come.
When the conscripts hid in the woods, so as not to be torn from
their wives and sweethearts, they organized regular man-hunts as if
the quarry were wild beasts, and, indeed, the poor fellows were not
treated much better when caught.

All summer they did as they pleased; then came word that Karl Gustav
had broken the peace he made, and of the siege of Copenhagen. The
news made the people sit up and take notice. Their rightful
sovereign had ceded the island to the Swedish king, that was one
thing. But now that they were at war again, these strangers who
persecuted them were the public enemy. It was time something were
done. In Hasle there was a young parson with his heart in the right
place, Poul Anker by name. Jens Kofoed sat in his church; he had
been to the wars, and was fit to take command. Also, the two were
friends. Presently a web of conspiracy spread quietly through the
island, gripping priest and peasant, skipper and trader, alike. Its
purpose was to rout out the Swedes. The Hasle trooper and parson
were the leaders; but their secret was well kept. With the tidings
that the Dutch fleet had forced its way through to Copenhagen with
aid for the besieged, and had bottled the Swedish ships up in
Landskrona, came a letter purporting to be from King Frederik
himself, encouraging the people to rise. It was passed secretly
from hand to hand by the underground route, and found the island
ready for rebellion.

Governor Printzenskoeld had seen something brewing, but he was a
fearless man, and despised the "peasant mob." However, he sent to
Sweden for a troop of horsemen, the better to patrol the island and
watch the people. Early in December, 1658, just a year after Jens
Kofoed, the trooper, had set out for his home on furlough, the
governor went to Roenne, the chief city in the island, to start off a
ship for the reinforcements. The conspirators sought to waylay him
at Hasle, where he stopped to give warning that all who had not paid
the heavy war-tax would be sold out forthwith; but they were too
late. Master Poul and Jens Kofoed rode after him, expecting to meet
a band of their fellows on the way, but missed them. The parson
stayed behind then to lay the fuse to the mine, while Kofoed kept on
to town. By the time he got there he had been joined by four others,
Aage Svendsoen, Klavs Nielsen, Jens Laurssoen, and Niels Gummeloese.
The last two were town officers. As soon as the report went around
Roenne that they had come, Burgomaster Klaus Kam went to them openly.

The governor had ridden to the house of the other burgomaster, Per
Larssoen, who was not in the plot. His horse was tied outside and he
just sitting down to supper when Jens Kofoed and his band crowded
into the room, and took him prisoner. They would have killed him
there, but his host pleaded for his life. However, when they took
him out in the street, Printzenskoeld thought he saw a chance to
escape in the crowd and the darkness, and sprang for his horse. But
his great size made him an easy mark. He was shot through the head
as he ran. The man who shot him had loaded his pistol with a silver
button torn from his vest. That was sure death to any goblin on whom
neither lead nor steel would bite, and it killed the governor all
right. The place is marked to this day in the pavement of the main
street as the spot where fell the only tyrant who ever ruled the
island against the people's will.

The die was cast now, and there was need of haste. Under cover of
the night the little band rode through the island with the news,
ringing the church bells far and near to call the people to arms.
Many were up and waiting; Master Poul had roused them already. At
Hammershus the Swedish garrison heard the clamor, and wondered what
it meant. They found out when at sunrise an army of half the
population thundered on the castle gates summoning them to
surrender. Burgomaster Kam sat among them on the governor's horse,
wearing his uniform, and shouted to the officers in command that
unless they surrendered, he, the governor, would be killed, and his
head sent in to his wife in the castle. The frightened woman's tears
decided the day. The garrison surrendered, only to discover that
they had been tricked. Jens Kofoed took command in the castle. The
Swedish soldiers were set to doing chores for the farmers they had
so lately harassed. The ship that was to have fetched reenforcements
from Sweden was sent to Denmark instead, with the heartening news.
They needed that kind there just then.

But the ex-trooper, now Commandant, knew that a day of reckoning was
coming, and kept a sharp lookout. When the hostile ship _Spes_ was
reported steering in from the sea, the flag of Sweden flew from the
peak of Hammershus, and nothing on land betrayed that there had been
a change. As soon as she anchored, a boat went out with an
invitation from the governor to any officers who might be on board,
to come ashore and arrange for the landing of the troops. The
captain of the ship and the major in charge came, and were made
prisoners as soon as they had them where they could not be seen from
the ship. It blew up to a storm, and the _Spes_ was obliged to put
to sea, but as soon as she returned boats were sent out to land the
soldiers. They sent only little skiffs that could hold not over
three or four, and as fast as they were landed they were overpowered
and bound. Half of the company had been thus disposed of when the
lieutenant on board grew suspicious, and sent word that without the
express orders of the major no more would come. But Jens Kofoed's
wit was equal to the emergency. The next boat brought an invitation
to the lieutenant to come in and have breakfast with the officers,
who would give him his orders there. He walked into the trap; but
when he also failed to return, his men refused to follow. He had
arranged to send them a sign, they said, that everything was all
right. If it did not come, they would sail away to Sweden for help.

It took some little persuasion to make the lieutenant tell about the
sign, but in the end Jens Kofoed got it. It turned out to be his
pocket-knife. When they saw that, the rest came, and were put under
lock and key with their fellows.

The ship was left. If that went back, all was lost. Happily both
captain and mate were prisoners ashore. Four boat-loads of
islanders, with arms carefully stowed under the seats, went out with
the mate of the _Spes_, who was given to understand that if he as
much as opened his mouth he would be a dead man. They boarded the
ship, taking the crew by surprise. By night the last enemy was
comfortably stowed, and the ship on her way to Roenne, where the
prisoners were locked in the court-house cellar, with shotted guns
guarding the door. Perhaps it was the cruelties practised by Swedish
troops in Denmark that preyed upon the mind of Jens Kofoed when he
sent the parson to prepare them for death then and there; but
better counsel prevailed. They were allowed to live. The whole war
cost only two lives, the governor's and that of a sentinel at the
castle, who refused to surrender. The mate of the _Spes_ and two
of her crew contrived to escape after they had been taken to
Copenhagen, and from them Karl Gustav had the first tidings of how
he lost the island.

The captured ship sailed down to Copenhagen with greeting to King
Frederik that the people of Bornholm had chosen him and his heirs
forever to rule over them, on condition that their island was never
to be separated from the Danish Crown. The king in his delight
presented them with a fine silver cup, and made Jens Kofoed captain
of the island, beside giving him a handsome estate. He lived
thirty-three years after that, the patriarch of his people, and
raised a large family of children. Not a few of his descendants are
to-day living in the United States. In the home of one of them in
Brooklyn, New York, is treasured a silver drinking cup which King
Frederik gave to the ex-trooper; but it is not the one he sent back
with his deputation. That one is still in the island of Bornholm.


Years ago there grew on the Jonsboda farm in Smaland, Sweden, a
linden tree that was known far and wide for its great age and size.
So beautiful and majestic was the tree, and so wide the reach of its
spreading branches, that all the countryside called it sacred.
Misfortune was sure to come if any one did it injury. So thought the
people. It was not strange, then, that the farmer's boys, when they
grew to be learned men and chose a name, should call themselves
after the linden. The peasant folk had no family names in those
days. Sven Carlsson was Sven, the son of Carl; and his son, if his
given name were John, would be John Svensson. So it had always been.
But when a man could make a name for himself out of the big
dictionary, that was his right. The daughter of the Jonsboda farmer
married; and her son played in the shadow of the old tree, and grew
so fond of it that when he went out to preach he also called himself
after it. Nils Ingemarsson was the name he received in baptism, and
to that he added Linnaeus, never dreaming that in doing it he handed
down the name and the fame of the friend of his play hours to all
coming days. But it was so; for Parson Nils' eldest son, Carl Linne,
or Linnaeus, became a great man who brought renown to his country and
his people by telling them and all the world more than any one had
ever known before about the trees and the flowers. The King knighted
him for his services to science, and the people of every land united
in acclaiming him the father of botany and the king of the flowers.

They were the first things he learned to love in his baby world. If
he was cross, they had but to lay him on the grass in the garden and
put a daisy in his hand, and he would croon happily over it for
hours. He was four years old when his father took him to a wedding
in the neighborhood. The men guests took a tramp over the farm, and
in the twilight they sat and rested in the meadow, where the spring
flowers grew. The minister began telling them stories about them;
how they all had their own names and what powers for good or ill
the apothecary found in the leaves and root of some of them. Carl's
father, though barely out of college, was a bright and gifted man.
One of his parishioners said once that they couldn't afford a whole
parson, and so they took a young one; but if that was the way of it,
the men of Stenbrohult made a better bargain than they knew. They
sat about listening to his talk, but no one listened more closely
than little Carl. After that he had thought for nothing else. In the
corner of the garden he had a small plot of his own, and into it he
planted all the wild flowers from the fields, and he asked many more
questions about them than his father could answer. One day he came
back with one whose name he had forgotten. The minister was busy
with his sermon.

"If you don't remember," he said impatiently, "I will never tell you
the name of another flower." The boy went away, his eyes wide with
terror at the threat; but after that he did not forget a single

When he was big enough, they sent him to the Latin school at Wexioe,
where the other boys nicknamed him "the little botanist." His
thoughts were outdoors when they should have been in the dry books,
and his teachers set him down as a dunce. They did not know that his
real study days were when, in vacation, he tramped the thirty miles
to his home. Every flower and every tree along the way was an old
friend, and he was glad to see them again. Once in a while he found
a book that told of plants, and then he was anything but a dunce.
But when his father, after Carl had been eight years in the school,
asked his teachers what they thought of him, they told him
flatly that he might make a good tailor or shoemaker, but a
minister--never; he was too stupid.

That was a blow, for the parson of Stenbrohult and his wife had set
their hearts on making a minister of Carl, and small wonder. His
mother was born in the parsonage, and her father and grandfather had
been shepherds of the parish all their lives. There were tears in
the good minister's eyes as he told Carl to pack up and get ready to
go back home; he had an errand at Dr. Rothman's, but would return
presently. The good doctor saw that his patient was heavy of heart
and asked him what was wrong. When he heard what Carl's teachers
had said, he flashed out:

"What! he not amount to anything? There is not one in the whole lot
who will go as far as he. A minister he won't be, that I'll allow,
but I shall make a doctor of him such as none of them ever saw. You
leave him here with me." And the parson did, comforted in spite of
himself. But Carl's mother could not get over it. It was that
garden, she declared, and when his younger brother as much as
squinted that way, she flew at him with a "You dare to touch it!"
and shook him.

When Dr. Rothman thought his pupil ready for the university, he sent
him up to Lund, and the head-master of the Latin School gave him the
letter he must bring, to be admitted. "Boys at school," he wrote in
it, "may be likened to young trees in orchard nurseries, where it
sometimes happens that here and there among the saplings there are
some that make little growth, or even appear as wild seedlings,
giving no promise; but when afterwards transplanted to the orchard,
make a start, branch out freely, and at last yield satisfactory
fruit." By good luck, though, Carl ran across an old teacher from
Wexioe, one of the few who had believed in him and was glad to see
him. He took him to the Rector and introduced him with warm words of
commendation, and also found him lodgings under the roof of Dr.
Kilian Stobaeus.

Dr. Stobaeus was a physician of renown, but not good company. He was
one-eyed, sickly, lame in one foot, and a gloomy hypochondriac to
boot. Being unable to get around to his patients, he always had one
or two students to do the running for him and to learn as best they
might, in doing it. Carl found a young German installed there as the
doctor's right hand. He also found a library full of books on
botany, a veritable heaven for him. But the gate was shut against
him; the doctor had the key, and he saw nothing in the country lad
but a needy student of no account. Perhaps the Rector had passed the
head-master's letter along. However, love laughs at locksmiths, and
Carl Linnaeus was hopelessly in love with his flowers. He got on the
right side of the German by helping him over some hard stiles in the
_materia medica_. In return, his fellow student brought him books
out of the library when the doctor had gone to bed, and Carl sat up
studying the big tomes till early cockcrow. Before the house
stirred, the books were back on their shelves, the door locked, and
no one was the wiser.

No one except the doctor's old mother, whose room was across the
yard. She did not sleep well, and all night she saw the window
lighted in her neighbor's room. She told the doctor that Carl
Linnaeus fell asleep with the candle burning every single night, and
sometime he would upset it and they would all be burned in their
beds. The doctor nodded grimly; he knew the young scamps. No doubt
they both sat up playing cards till dawn; but he would teach them.
And the very next morning, at two o'clock, up he stumped on his lame
foot to Carl's room, in which there was light, sure enough, and went
in without knocking.

Carl was so deep in his work that he did not hear him at all, and
the doctor stole up unperceived and looked over his shoulder. There
lay his precious books, which he thought safely locked in the
library, spread out before him, and his pupil was taking notes and
copying drawings as if his life depended upon it. He gave a great
start when Dr. Stobaeus demanded what he was doing, but owned up
frankly, while the doctor frowned and turned over his notes, leaf by

"Go to bed and sleep like other people," he said gruffly, yet
kindly, when he had heard it all, "and hereafter study in the
daytime;" and he not only gave him a key to his library, but took
him to his own table after that. Up till then Carl had merely been a
lodger in the house.

When he was at last on the home stretch, as it seemed, an accident
came near upsetting it all. He was stung by an adder on one of his
botanizing excursions, so far from home and help that the bite came
near proving fatal. However, Dr. Stobaeus' skill pulled him through,
and in after years he got square by labelling the serpent _furia
infernalis_--hell-fury--in his natural history. It was his way of
fighting back. All through his life he never wasted an hour on
controversy. He had no time, he said. But once when a rival made a
particularly nasty attack upon him, he named a new plant after him,
adding the descriptive adjective _detestabilis_--the detestable
so-and-so. On the whole, he had the best of it; for the names he
gave stuck.

It was during his vacation after the year at Lund that Linnaeus made
a catalogue of the plants in his father's garden at Stenbrohult that
shows us the country parson as no mean botanist himself; for in the
list, which is preserved in the Academy of Sciences at Stockholm,
are no less than two hundred and twenty-four kinds of plants. Among
them are six American plants that had found their way to Sweden. The
poison ivy is there, though what they wanted of that is hard to
tell, and the four-o'clock, the pokeweed, the milkweed, the pearly
everlasting, and the potato, which was then (1732) classed as a rare
plant. Not until twenty years later did they begin to grow it for
food in Sweden.

When Carl Linnaeus went up to Upsala University, his parents had so
far got over their disappointment at his deserting the ministry that
they gave him a little money to make a start with; but they let him
know that no more was coming--their pocket-book was empty. And
within the twelvemonth, for all his scrimping and saving, he was on
the point of starvation. He tells us himself that he depended on
chance for a meal and wore his fellow students' cast-off clothes.
His boots were without soles, and in his cheerless attic room he
patched them with birch bark and card board as well as he could. He
was now twenty-three years old, and it seemed as if he would have to
give up the study that gave him no bread; but still he clung to his
beloved flowers. They often made him forget the pangs of hunger. And
when the cloud was darkest the sun broke through. He was sitting in
the Botanical Garden sketching a plant, when Dean Celsius, a great
orientalist and theologian of his day, passed by. The evident
poverty of the young man, together with his deep absorption in his
work, arrested his attention; he sat down and talked with him. In
five minutes Carl had found a friend and the Dean a helper. He had
been commissioned to write a book on the plants of the Holy Land and
had collected a botanical library for the purpose, but the work
lagged. Here now was the one who could help set it going. That day
Linnaeus left his attic room and went to live in the Dean's house.
His days of starvation were over.

In the Dean's employ his organizing genius developed the marvellous
skill of the cataloguer that brought order out of the chaos of
groping and guessing and blundering in which the science of botany
had floundered up till then. Here and there in it all were flashes
of the truth, which Linnaeus laid hold of and pinned down with his
own knowledge to system and order. Thus the Frenchman, Sebastian
Vaillant, who had died a dozen years before, had suggested a
classification of flowers by their seed-bearing organs, the stamens
and pistils, instead of by their fruits, the number of their petals,
or even by their color, as had been the vague practice of the past.
Linnaeus seized upon this as the truer way and wrote a brief treatise
developing the idea, which so pleased Dr. Celsius that he got his
young friend a license to lecture publicly in the Botanical Garden.

The students flocked to hear him. His message was one that put life
and soul into the dry bones of a science that had only wearied them
before. The professor of botany himself sat in the front row and
hammered the floor with his cane in approval. But his very success
was the lecturer's undoing. Envy grew in place of the poverty he had
conquered. The instructor, Nils Rosen, was abroad taking his
doctor's degree. He came home to find his lectures deserted for the
irresponsible teachings of a mere undergraduate. He made grievous
complaint, and Linnaeus was silenced, to his great good luck. For so
his friend the professor, though he was unable to break the red tape
of the university, got him an appointment to go to Lapland on a
botanical mission. His enemies were only too glad to see him go.

Linnaeus travelled more than three thousand miles that summer through
a largely unknown country, enduring, he tells us, more hardships and
dangers than in all his subsequent travels. Again and again he
nearly lost his life in swollen mountain streams, for he would not
wait until danger from the spring freshets was over. Once he was
shot at as he was gathering plants on a hillside, but happily the
Finn who did it was not a good marksman. Fish and reindeer milk were
his food, a pestilent plague of flies his worst trouble. But, he
says in his account of the trip, which is as fascinating a report of
a scientific expedition as was ever penned, they were good for
something, after all, for the migrating birds fed on them. From his
camps on lake or river bank he saw the water covered far and near
with swarms of ducks and geese. The Laplander's larder was easily

He came back from the dangers of the wild with a reputation that was
clinched by his book "The Flora of Lapland," to find the dragon of
professional jealousy rampant still at Upsala. His enemy, Rosen,
persuaded the senate of the university to adopt a rule that no
un-degreed man should lecture there to the prejudice of the
regularly appointed instructors. Tradition has it that Linnaeus flew
into a passion at that and drew upon Rosen, and there might have
been one regular less but for the interference of bystanders. It may
be true, though it is not like him. Men wore side-arms in those days
just as some people carry pistols in their hip-pockets to-day, and
with as little sense. At least they had the defence, such as it was,
that it was the fashion. However, it made an end of Linnaeus at
Upsala for the time. He sought a professorship at Lund, but another
got it. Then he led an expedition of his former students into the
Dalecarlia mountains and so he got to Falun, where Baron Reuterholm,
one of Sweden's copper magnates, was seeking a guide for his two
sons through the region where his mines were.

Linnaeus was not merely a botanist, but an all around expert in
natural science. He took charge of the boys and, when the trip was
ended, started a school at Falun, where he taught mineralogy. It had
been hit or miss with the miners up till then. There was neither
science nor system in their work. What every-day experience or the
test of fire had taught a prospector, in delving among the rocks,
was all there was of it. Linnaeus was getting things upon a
scientific basis, when he met and fell in love with the handsome
daughter of Dr. Moraeus. The young people would marry, but the
doctor, though he liked the mineralogist, would not hear of it till
he could support a wife. So he gave him three years in which to go
abroad and get a degree that would give him the right to practise
medicine anywhere in Sweden. The doctor's daughter gave him a
hundred dollars she had saved, and her promise to wait for him.

He went to Harderwyk in Holland and got his degree at the university
there on the strength of a thesis on the cause of malarial fever,
with the conclusions of which the learned doctors did not agree;
but they granted the diploma for the clever way in which he defended
it. On the way down he tarried in Hamburg long enough to give the
good burghers a severe jolt. They had a seven-headed serpent that
was one of the wonders of the town. The keen sight of the young
naturalist detected the fraud at once; the heads were weasels'
heads, covered with serpent's skin and cunningly sewed on the head
of the reptile. The shape of the jaws betrayed the trick. But the
Hamburgers were not grateful. The serpent was an asset. There was a
mortgage on it of ten thousand marks; now it was not worth a
hundred. They took it very ill, and Linnaeus found himself suddenly
so unpopular that he was glad to get out of town overnight. What
became of the serpent history does not record.

Linnaeus had carried more than his thesis on malarial fever with him
to Holland. At the bottom of his trunk were the manuscripts of two
books on botany which, he told his sweetheart on parting, would yet
make him famous. Probably she shook her head at that. Pills and
powders, and broken legs to set, were more to her way of thinking,
and her father's, too. If only he had patients, fame might take care
of itself. But now he put them both to shame. At Leyden he found
friends who brought out his first book, "Systema Naturae," in which
he divides all nature into the three kingdoms known to every child
since. It was hardly more than a small pamphlet, but it laid the
foundation for his later fame. To the enlarged tenth edition
zooelogists point back to this day as to the bed-rock on which they
built their science. The first was quickly followed by another, and
yet another. Seven large volumes bearing his name had come from the
press before he set sail for home, a whole library in botany, and a
new botany at that, so simple and sensible that the world adopted it
at once.

Dr. Hermann Boerhaave was at that time the most famous physician in
Europe. He was also the greatest authority on systematic botany.
Great men flocked to his door, but the testy old Dutchman let them
wait until it suited him to receive them. Peter the Great had to
cool his heels in his waiting-room two long hours before his turn
came. Linnaeus he would not see at all--until he sent him a copy of
his book. Then he shut the door against all others and summoned the
author. The two walked through his garden, and the old doctor
pointed proudly to a tree which was very rare, he said, and not in
any of the books. Yes, said Linnaeus, it was in Vaillant's. The
doctor knew better; he had annotated Vaillant's botany himself, and
it was not there. Linnaeus insisted, and the doctor, in a temper,
went for the book to show him. But there it was; Linnaeus was right.
Nothing would do then but he must stay in Holland. Linnaeus demurred;
he could not afford it. But Dr. Boerhaave knew a way out of that. He
had for a patient Burgomaster Cliffort, a rich old hypochondriac
with whom he could do nothing because he would insist on living high
and taking too little exercise. When he came again he told him that
what he needed was a physician in daily attendance upon him, and
handed him over to Linnaeus.

"He will fix your diet and fix your garden, too," was his
prescription. The Burgomaster was a famous collector and had a
wondrous garden that was the apple of his eye. He took Linnaeus into
his house and gave him a ducat a day for writing his menu and
cataloguing his collection. That was where his books grew, and the
biggest and finest of them was "Hortus Cliffortianus," the account
of his patron's garden.

Armed with letters from Dr. Boerhaave and the Burgomaster, he took
one stronghold of professional prejudice after another. Not without
a siege. One of them refused flatly to surrender. That was Sir Hans
Sloan, the great English naturalist, to whom Dr. Boerhaave wrote in
a letter that is preserved in the British Museum: "Linnaeus, who
bears this letter, is alone worthy of seeing you, alone worthy of
being seen by you. He who shall see you both together shall see two
men whose like will scarce ever be found in the world." And the
doctor was no flatterer, as may be inferred from his treatment of
Peter the Great. But the aged baronet had had his own way so long,
and was so well pleased with it, that he would have nothing to do
with Linnaeus. At Oxford the learned professor Dillenius received him
with no better grace. "This," he said aside to a friend, "is the
young man who confounds all botany," and he took him rather
reluctantly into his garden. A plant that was new to him attracted
Linnaeus' attention and he asked to what family it belonged.

"That is more than you can tell me," was the curt answer.

"I can, if you will let me pluck a flower and examine it."

"Do, and be welcome," said the professor, and his visitor after a
brief glance at the flower told its species correctly. The professor

"Now," said Linnaeus, who had kept his eyes open, "what did you mean
by the crosses you had put all through my book?" He had seen it
lying on the professor's table, all marked up.

"They mark the errors you made," declared the other.

"Suppose we see about that," said the younger man and, taking the
book, led the way. They examined the flowers together, and when they
returned to the study all the pride had gone out of the professor.
He kept Linnaeus with him a month, never letting him out of his sight
and, when he left, implored him with tears to stay and share his
professorship; the pay was enough for both.

A letter that reached him from home on his return to Holland made
him realize with a start that he had overstayed his leave. It was
now in the fourth year since he had left Sweden. All the while he
had written to his sweetheart in the care of a friend who proved
false. He wanted her for himself and, when the three years had
passed, told her that Carl would never come back. Dr. Moraeus was of
the same mind, and had not a real friend of the absent lover turned
up in the nick of time Linnaeus would probably have stayed a Dutchman
to his death. Now, on the urgent message of his friend, he hastened
home, found his Elisabeth holding out yet, married her and settled
down in Stockholm to practise medicine.

Famous as he had become, he found the first stretch of the row at
home a hard one to hoe. His books brought him no income. Nobody
would employ him, "even for a sick servant," he complained. Envious
rivals assailed him and his botany, and there were days when herring
and black bread was fare not to be despised in Dr. Linnaeus'
household. But he kept pegging away and his luck changed. One
well-to-do patient brought another, and at last the queen herself
was opportunely seized with a bad cough. She saw one of her ladies
take a pill and asked what it was. Dr. Linnaeus' prescription for a
cold, she said, and it always cured her right up. So the doctor was
called to the castle and his cure worked there, too. Not long after
that he set down in his diary that "Now, no one can get well without
my help."

But he was not happy. "Once, I had flowers and no money," he said;
"now, I have money and no flowers." That they appointed him
professor of medicine at Upsala did not mend matters. His lectures
were popular and full of common sense. Diet and the simple life were
his hobbies, temperance in all things. He ever insisted that where
one man dies from drinking too much, ten die from overeating.
Children should eat four times a day, grown-ups twice, was his rule.
The foolish fashions and all luxury he abhorred. He himself in his
most famous years lived so plainly that some said he was miserly,
and his clothes were sometimes almost shabby. The happiest day of
his life came when he and his old enemy Rosen, whom he found filling
the chair of botany at the university, and with whom he made it up
soon after they became fellow members of the faculty, exchanged
chairs with the ready consent of the authorities. So, at last,
Linnaeus had attained the place he coveted above all others, and the
goal of his ambition was reached.

He lived at Upsala thirty-seven years and wrote many books. His
students idolized him. They came from all over the world. Twice a
week in summer, on Wednesday and Saturday, they sallied forth with
him to botanize in field and forest, and when they had collected
specimens all the long day they escorted the professor home through
the twilight streets with drums and trumpets and with flowers in
their hats. But however late they left him at his door, the earliest
dawn saw him up and at his work, for the older he grew the more
precious the hours that remained. In summer he was accustomed to
rise at three o'clock; in the dark winter days at six.

He found biology a chaos and left it a science. In his special field
of botany he was not, as some think, the first. He himself
catalogued fully a thousand books on his topic. But he brought order
into it; he took what was good and, rejecting the false, fashioned
it into a workable system. In the mere matter of nomenclature, his
way of calling plants, like men, by a family name and a given name
wrought a change hard to appreciate in our day. The common blue
grass of our lawns, for instance, he called, and we call it still,
_Poa pratensis_. Up to his time it had three names and one of them
was _Gramen pratense paniculatum majus latiore folio poa
theophrasti_. Dr. Rydberg, of the New York Botanical Gardens, said
aptly at the bicentenary of his birth, that it was as if instead of
calling a girl Grace Darling one were to say "Mr. Darling's
beautiful, slender, graceful, blue-eyed girl with long, golden curls
and rosy cheeks."

The binomial system revolutionized the science. What the lines of
longitude and latitude did for geography Linnaeus' genius did for
botany. And he did not let pride of achievement persuade him that he
had said the last word. He knew his system to be the best till some
one should find a better, and said so. The King gave him a noble
name and he was proud of it with reason--vain, some have said. But
vanity did not make the creature deny the Creator. He ever tried to
trace science to its author. When the people were frightened by the
"water turning to blood" and overzealous priests cried that it was a
sign of the wrath of God, he showed under the magnifying glass the
presence of innumerable little animals that gave the water its
reddish tinge, and thereby gave offence to some pious souls. But
over the door of his lecture room were the words in Latin: "Live
guiltless--God sees you!" and in his old age, seeing with prophetic
eye the day of bacteriology that dawned a hundred years after his
death, he thanked God that He had permitted him to "look into His
secret council room and workshop."

He was one of the clear thinkers of all days, uniting imagination
with sound sense. It was Linnaeus who discovered that plants sleep
like animals. The Pope ordered that his books, wherever they were
found in his dominions, should be burned as materialistic and
heretical; but Linnaeus lived to see a professor in botany at Rome
dismissed because he did not understand his system, and another put
in his place who did, and whose lectures followed his theories. When
he was seventy he was stricken with apoplexy, while lecturing to his
students, and the last year of his life was full of misery.
"Linnaeus limps," is one of the last entries in his diary, "can
hardly walk, speaks unintelligibly, and is scarce able to write."
Death came on January 10, 1778.

Under the white flashes of the northern lights in the desolate land
he explored in his youth, there grows in the shelter of the spruce
forests a flower which he found and loved beyond any other, the
_Linnaea borealis_, named after him. In some pictures we have of him,
he is seen holding a sprig of it in his hand. It is the twin flower
of the northern Pacific coast and of Labrador, indeed of the far
northern woods from Labrador all the way to Alaska, that lifts its
delicate, sweet-scented pink bells from the moss with gentle appeal,
"long overlooked, lowly, flowering early" despite cold and storm,
typical of the man himself.


Hard by the town of Thorshavn, in the Faroee islands, a little lad
sat one day carving his name on a rock. His rough-coated pony
cropped the tufts of stunted grass within call. The grim North Sea
beat upon the shore below. What thoughts of the great world without
it stirred in the boy he never told. He came of a people to whom it
called all through the ages with a summons that rarely went
unheeded. If he heard he gave no sign. Slowly and laboriously he
traced in the stone the letters N.R.F. When he had finished he
surveyed his work with a quiet smile. "There!" he said, "that is

The years went by, and a distant city paused in its busy life to
hearken to bells tolling for one who lay dead. Kings and princes
walked behind his coffin and a whole people mourned. Yet in life he
had worn no purple. He was a plain, even a poor man. Upon his grave
they set a rock brought from the island in the North Sea, just like
the other that stands there yet, and in it they hewed the letters
N.R.F., for the man and the boy were one. And he who spoke there
said for all mankind that what he wrought was well done, for it was
done bravely and in love.

Niels Ryberg Finsen was born in 1860 in the Faroee islands, where his
father was an official under the Danish Government. His family came
of the sturdy old Iceland stock that comes down to our time unshorn
of its strength from the day of the vikings, and back to Iceland his
people sent him to get his education in the Reykjavik Latin school,
after a brief stay in Denmark where his teachers failed to find the
key to the silent, reserved lad. There he lived the seven pregnant
years of boyhood and youth, from fourteen to twenty-one, and ever
after there was that about him that brought to mind the wild
fastnesses of that storm-swept land. Its mountains were not more
rugged than his belief in the right as he saw it.

The Reykjavik school had a good name, but school and pupils were
after their own kind. Conventional was hardly the word for it. Some
of the "boys" were twenty and over. Finsen loved to tell of how they
pursued the studies each liked best, paying scant attention to the
rest. In their chosen fields they often knew much more than the
curriculum called for, and were quite able to instruct the teacher;
the things they cared less about they helped one another out with,
so as to pass examinations. For mere proficiency in lessons they
cherished a sovereign contempt. To do anything by halves is not the
Iceland way, and it was not Niels Finsen's. All through his life he
was impatient with second-hand knowledge and borrowed thinking. So
he worked and played through the long winters of the North. In the
summer vacations he roamed the barren hills, helped herd the sheep,
and drank in the rough freedom of the land and its people. At
twenty-one the school gave him up to the university at Copenhagen.

Training for life there was not the heyday of youthful frolicking we
sometimes associate with college life in our day and land. Not until
he was thirty could he hang up his sheepskin as a physician. Yet the
students had their fun and their sports, and Finsen was seldom
missing where these went on. He was not an athlete because already
at twenty-three the crippling disease with which he battled twenty
years had got its grip on him, but all the more he was an outdoor
man. He sailed his boat, and practised with the rifle until he
became one of the best shots in Denmark. And it is recorded that he
got himself into at least one scrape at the university by his love
of freedom.

The country was torn up at that time by a struggle between people
and government over constitutional rights, and it had reached a
point where a country parish had refused to pay taxes illegally
assessed, as they claimed. It was their Boston tea-party. A
delegation of the "tax refusers" had come to Copenhagen, where the
political pot was boiling hot over the incident. The students were
enthusiastic, but the authorities of the university sternly
unsympathetic. The "Reds" were for giving a reception to the
visitors in Regentsen, the great dormitory where, as an Iceland
student, Finsen had free lodging; but it was certain that the Dean
would frown upon such a proposition. So they applied innocently for
permission to entertain some "friends from the country," and the
party was held in Finsen's room. Great was the scandal when the
opposition newspapers exploited the feasting of the tax refusers in
the sacred precincts of the university. To the end of his days
Finsen chuckled over the way they stole a march on the Dean.

For two or three years after getting his degree he taught in the
medical school as demonstrator, eking out his scant income by
tutoring students in anatomy. His sure hand and clear decision in
any situation marked him as a practitioner of power, and he had
thoughts once of devoting himself to the most delicate of all
surgery,--that of the eye. He was even then groping for his
life-work, without knowing it, for it was always light, light--the
source or avenue or effect of it--that held him. And presently his
work found him.

It has been said that Finsen was a sick man. A mysterious malady[1]
with dropsical symptoms clutched him from the earliest days with
ever tightening grip, and all his manhood's life he was a great but
silent sufferer. Perhaps it was that; perhaps it was the bleak North
in which his young years had been set that turned him to the light
as the source of life and healing. He said it himself: "It was
because I needed it so much, I longed for it so." Probably it was
both. Add to them his unique power of turning the things of everyday
life to account in his scientific research, and one begins to
understand at once his success and his speedy popularity. He dealt
with the humble things of life, and got to the heart of things on
that road. And the people comprehended; the wise men fell in behind
him--sometimes a long way behind.

[Footnote 1: The autopsy which he himself ordered on his death-bed
as his last contribution to medical knowledge, showed it to be a
slow ossification of the membrane of the heart, involving the liver
and all the vital organs. He was "tapped" for dropsy more than
twenty times.]

In the yard of Regentsen there grows a famous old linden tree.
Standing at his window one day and watching its young leaf sprout,
Finsen saw a cat sunning itself on the pavement. The shadow of the
house was just behind it and presently crept up on pussy who got up,
stretched herself, and moved into the sunlight. In a little while
the shadow overtook her there, and pussy moved once more. Finsen
watched the shadow rout her out again and again. It was clear that
the cat liked the sunlight.

A few days later he stood upon a bridge and saw a little squad of
insects sporting on the water. They drifted down happily with the
stream till they came within the shadow of the bridge, when they at
once began to work their way up a piece to get a fresh start for a
sunlight sail. Finsen knew just how they felt. His own room looked
north and was sunless; his work never prospered as it did when he
sat with a friend whose room was on the south side, where the sun
came in. It was warm and pleasant; but was that all? Was it only the
warmth that made the birds break into song when the sun came out on
a cloudy day, made the insects hum joyously and man himself walk
with a more springy step? The housekeeper who "sunned" the
bed-clothes and looked with suspicion on a dark room had something
else in mind; the sun "disinfected" the bedding. Finsen wanted to
know what it was in the sunlight that had this power, and how we
could borrow it and turn it to use.

The men of science had long before analyzed the sunlight. They had
broken it up into the rays of different color that together make
the white light we see. Any boy can do it with a prism, and in the
band or spectrum of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet that then
appears, he has before him the cipher that holds the key to the
secrets of the universe if we but knew how to read it aright; for
the sunlight is the physical source of all life and of all power.
The different colors represent rays with different wave-lengths;
that is, they vibrate with different speed and do different work.
The red vibrate only half as fast as the violet, at the other end of
the spectrum, and, roughly speaking, they are the heat carriers. The
blue and violet are cold by comparison. They are the force carriers.
They have power to cause chemical changes, hence are known as the
chemical or actinic rays. It is these the photographer shuts out of
his dark room, where he intrenches himself behind a ruby-colored
window. The chemical ray cannot pass that; if it did it would spoil
his plate.

This much was known, and it had been suggested more than once that
the "disinfecting" qualities of the sunlight might be due to the
chemical rays killing germs. Finsen, experimenting with earthworms,
earwigs, and butterflies, in a box covered with glass of the
different colors of the spectrum, noted first that the bugs that
naturally burrowed in darkness became uneasy in the blue light. As
fast as they were able, they got out of it and crawled into the red,
where they lay quiet and apparently content. When the glass covers
were changed they wandered about until they found the red light
again. The earwigs were the smartest. They developed an intelligent
grasp of the situation, and soon learned to make straight for the
red room. The butterflies, on the other hand, liked the red light
only to sleep in. It was made clear by many such experiments that
the chemical rays, and they only, had power to stimulate, to "stir
life." Finsen called it that himself. In the language of the
children, he was getting "warm."

That this power, like any other, had its perils, and that nature, if
not man, was awake to them, he proved by some simple experiments
with sunburn. He showed that the tan which boys so covet was the
defence the skin puts forth against the blue ray. The inflammation
of sunburn is succeeded by the brown pigmentation that henceforth
stands guard like the photographer's ruby window, protecting the
deeper layers of the skin. The black skin of the negro was no longer
a mystery. It is his protection against the fierce sunlight of the
tropics and the injurious effect of its chemical ray.

Searching the libraries in Copenhagen for the records of earlier
explorers in his field, and finding little enough there, Finsen came
across the report of an American army surgeon on a smallpox epidemic
in the South in the thirties of the last century. There were so many
sick in the fort that, every available room being filled, they had
to put some of the patients into the bomb-proof, to great
inconvenience all round, as it was entirely dark there. The doctor
noted incidentally that, as if to make up for it, the underground
patients got well sooner and escaped pitting. To him it was a
curious incident, nothing more. Upon Dr. Finsen, sitting there with
the seventy-five-year-old report from over the sea in his hand, it
burst with a flood of light: the patients got well without scarring
_because_ they were in the dark. Red light or darkness, it was all
the same. The point was that the chemical rays that could cause
sunburn on men climbing glaciers, and had power to irritate the sick
skin, were barred out. Within a month he jolted the medical world by
announcing that smallpox patients treated under red light would
recover readily and without disfigurement.

The learned scoffed. There were some of them who had read of the
practice in the Middle Ages of smothering smallpox patients in red
blankets, giving them red wine to drink and hanging the room with
scarlet. Finsen had not heard of it, and was much interested.
Evidently they had been groping toward the truth. How they came upon
the idea is not the only mystery of that strange day, for they knew
nothing of actinic rays or sunlight analyzed. But Finsen calmly
invited the test, which was speedy in coming.

They had smallpox in Bergen, Norway, and there the matter was put to
the proof with entire success; later in Sweden and in Copenhagen.
The patients who were kept under the red light recovered rapidly,
though some of them were unvaccinated children, and bad cases. In no
instance was the most dangerous stage of the disease, the festering
stage, reached; the temperature did not rise again, and they all
came out unscarred.

Finsen pointed out that where other methods of treatment such as
painting the face with iodine or lunar caustic, or covering it with
a mask or with fat, had met with any success in the past, the same
principle was involved of protecting the skin from the light, though
the practitioner did not know it. He was doing the thing they did in
the middle ages, and calling them quacks.

It is strange but true that Dr. Finsen had never seen a smallpox
patient at that time, but he knew the nature of the disease, and
that the sufferer was affected by its eruption first and worst on
the face and hands--that is to say, on the parts of the body exposed
to the light--and he was as sure of his ground as was Leverrier
when, fifty years before, he bade his fellow astronomers look in a
particular spot of the heavens for an unknown planet that disturbed
the movements of Uranus. And they found the one we call Neptune

Presently all the world knew that the first definite step had been
taken toward harnessing in the service of man the strange force in
the sunlight that had been the object of so much speculation and
conjecture. The next step followed naturally. In the published
account of his early experiments Finsen foreshadows it in the words,
"That the beginning has been made with the hurtful effects of this
force is odd enough, since without doubt its beneficial effect is
far greater." His clear head had already asked the question: if the
blue rays of the sun can penetrate deep enough into the skin to
cause injury, why should they not be made to do police duty there,
and catch and kill offending germs--in short, to heal?

Finsen had demonstrated the correctness of the theory that the
chemical rays have power to kill germs. But it happens that these
are the rays that possess the least penetration. How to make them go
deeper was the problem. By an experiment that is, in its simplicity,
wholly characteristic of the man, he demonstrated that the red blood
in the deeper layers of the skin was the obstacle. He placed a piece
of photographic paper behind the lobe of his wife's ears and
concentrated powerful blue rays on the other side. Five minutes of
exposure made no impression on the paper; it remained white. But
when he squeezed all the blood out of the lobe, by pressing it
between two pieces of glass, the paper was blackened in twenty

That night Finsen knew that he had within his grasp that which would
make him a rich man if he so chose. He had only to construct
apparatus to condense the chemical rays and double their power many
times, and to apply his discovery in medical practice. Wealth and
fame would come quickly. He told the writer in his own simple way
how he talked it over with his wife. They were poor. Finsen's salary
as a teacher at the university was something like $1200 a year. He
was a sick man, and wealth would buy leisure and luxury. Children
were growing up about them who needed care. They talked it out
together, and resolutely turned their backs upon it all. Hand in
hand they faced the world with their sacrifice. What remained of
life to him was to be devoted to suffering mankind. That duty done,
what came they would meet together. Wealth never came, but fame in
full measure, and the love and gratitude of their fellow-men.

There is a loathsome disease called lupus, of which, happily, in
America with our bright skies we know little. Lupus is the Latin
word for wolf, and the ravenous ailment is fitly named, for it
attacks by preference the face, and gnaws at the features, at nose,
chin, or eye, with horrible, torturing persistence, killing slowly,
while the patient shuts himself out from the world praying daily for
death to end his misery.

In the north of Europe it is sadly common, and there had never been
any cure for it. Ointments, burning, surgery--they were all equally
useless. Once the wolf had buried its fangs in its victim, he was
doomed to inevitable death. The disease is, in fact, tuberculosis of
the skin, and is the most dreadful of all the forms in which the
white plague scourges mankind--was, until one day Finsen announced
to the world his second discovery, that lupus was cured by the
simple application of light.

It was not a conjecture, a theory, like the red-light treatment for
smallpox; it was a fact. For two years he had been sending people
away whole and happy who came to him in despair. The wolf was
slain, and by this silent sufferer whose modest establishment was
all contained within a couple of small shanties in a corner of the
city hospital grounds, at Copenhagen.

There was a pause of amazed incredulity. The scientific men did not
believe it. Three years later, when the physician in charge of
Finsen's clinic told at the medical congress in Paris of the results
obtained at the Light Institute, his story was still received with a
polite smile. The smile became astonishment when, at a sign from
him, the door opened and twelve healed lupus patients came in, each
carrying a photograph of himself as he was before he underwent the
treatment. Still the doctors could not grasp it. The thing was too
simple as matched against all their futile skill.

But the people did not doubt. There was a rush from all over Europe
to Copenhagen. Its streets became filled with men and women whose
faces were shrouded in heavy bandages, and it was easy to tell the
new-comers from those who had seen "the professor." They came in
gloom and misery; they went away carrying in their faces the
sunshine that gave them back their life. Finsen never tired, when
showing friends over his Institute, of pointing out the joyous
happiness of his patients. It was his reward. For not "science for
science's sake," or pride in his achievement, was his aim and
thought, but just the wish to do good where he could. Then, in three
more years, they awarded him the great Nobel prize for signal
service to humanity, and criticism was silenced. All the world

"They gave it to me this year," said Finsen, with his sad little
smile, "because they knew that next year it would have been too
late." And he prophesied truly. He died nine months later.

All that is here set down seems simple enough. But it was achieved
with infinite toil and patience, by the most painstaking
experiments, many times repeated to make sure. In his method of
working Finsen was eminently conservative and thorough. Nothing
"happened" with him. There was ever behind his doings a definite
purpose for which he sought a way, and the higher the obstacles
piled up the more resolutely he set his teeth and kept right on.
"The thing is not in itself so difficult," he said, when making
ready for his war upon the wolf, "but the road is long and the
experiments many before we find the right way."

He took no new step before he had planted his foot firmly in the one
that went before; but once he knew where he stood, he did not
hesitate to question any scientific dogma that opposed him, always
in his own quiet way, backed by irrefutable facts. In a remarkable
degree he had the faculty of getting down through the husk to the
core of things, but he rejected nothing untried. The little thing in
hand, he ever insisted, if faithfully done might hold the key to the
whole problem; only let it be done _now_ to get the matter settled.

Whatever his mind touched it made perfectly clear, if it was not so
already. As a teacher of anatomy he invented a dissecting knife that
was an improvement on those in use, and clamps for securing the
edges of a wound in an operation. As a rifle shot he made an
improved breech; as a physician, observing the progress of his own
disease, an effective blood powder for anaemia. At the Light
Institute, which friends built for him, and the government endowed,
he devised the powerful electric lamps to which he turned in the
treatment of lupus, for the sun does not shine every day in
Copenhagen; and when it did not, the lenses that gathered the blue
rays and concentrated them upon the swollen faces were idle. And
gradually he increased their power, checking the heat rays that
would slip through and threatened to scorch the patient's skin, by
cunning devices of cooling streams trickling through the tubes and
the hollow lenses.

Nothing was patented; it was all given freely to the world. The
decision which he and his wife made together was made once for all.
When the great Nobel prize was given to him he turned it over to the
Light Institute, and was with difficulty persuaded to keep half of
it for himself only when friends raised an equal amount and
presented it to the Institute.

Finsen knew that his discoveries were but the first groping steps
upon a new road that stretched farther ahead than any man now living
can see. He was content to have broken the way. His faith was
unshaken in the ultimate treatment of the whole organism under
electric light that, by concentrating the chemical rays, would
impart to the body their life-giving power. He himself was beyond
their help. Daily he felt life slipping from him, but no word of
complaint passed his lips. He prescribed for himself a treatment
that, if anything, was worse than the disease. Only a man of iron
will could have carried it through.

A set of scales stood on the table before him, and for years he
weighed every mouthful of food he ate. He suffered tortures from
thirst because he would allow no fluid to pass his lips, on account
of his tendency to dropsy. Through it all he cheerfully kept up his
labors, rejoicing that he was allowed to do so much. His courage was
indomitable; his optimism under it all unwavering. His favorite
contention was that there is nothing in the world that is not good
for something, except war. That he hated, and his satire on the
militarism of Europe as its supreme folly was sharp and biting.

Of such quality was this extraordinary man of whom half the world
was talking while the fewest, even in his own home city, ever saw
him. Fewer still knew him well. It suited his temper and native
modesty, as it did the state of his bodily health, to keep himself
secluded. His motto was: "_bene vixit qui bene latuit_--he has
lived well who has kept himself well hidden"--and his contention was
always that in proportion as one could keep himself in the
background his cause prospered, if it was a good cause. When kings
and queens came visiting, he could not always keep in hiding, though
he often tried. On one of his days of extreme prostration the
dowager empress of Russia knocked vainly at his door. She pleaded so
hard to be allowed to see Dr. Finsen that they relented at last, and
she sat by his bed and wept in sympathy with his sufferings, while
he with his brave smile on lips that would twitch with pain did his
best to comfort her. She and Queen Alexandra, both daughters of King
Christian, carried the gospel of hope and healing from his study to
their own lands, and Light Institutes sprang up all over Europe.

In his own life he treated nearly nineteen hundred sufferers,
two-thirds of them lupus patients, and scarce a handful went from
his door unhelped. When his work was done he fell asleep with a
smile upon his lips, and the "universal judgment was one of
universal thanksgiving that he had lived." He was forty-three years

When the news of his death reached the Rigsdag, the Danish
parliament, it voted his widow a pension such as had been given to
few Danes in any day. The king, his sons and daughters, and, as it
seemed, the whole people followed his body to the grave. The rock
from his native island marks the place where he lies. His work is
his imperishable monument. His epitaph he wrote himself in the
speech another read when the Nobel prize was awarded him, for he was
then too ill to speak.

"May the Light Institute grasp the obligation that comes with its
success, the obligation to maintain what I account the highest aim
in science--truth, faithful work, and sound criticism."


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