(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As a result of King Gustaf’s demands that it go faster, his coach, traveling on a poor rural road of Dalecarlia, breaks down. The king’s will is thus proved limited, unable to control objective reality. While his coach is being repaired, the king visits a church, where he beholds what he takes to be “the finest lot of folk he had ever seen . . . with intelligent and earnest faces.” He is prompted to appeal for their help in his war against the Russians and Danes, but the peasants shift the burden of a response to their pastor. In the vestry, a rugged and rough peasant greets the king, who, again judging on the basis of outward appearance, snubs the peasant (who is in fact the pastor). Instead of immediately identifying himself, the peasant-pastor provokes the king to reveal his elitist bias, his contemptuous attitude, to the peasantry.

The peasant explains to the king that the pastor may be able to procure money for the king by narrating the story of how the parson, together with four hunters from the parish, stumbled on a hidden silver mine and how these “dignified and excellent men” were corrupted by the prospect of so much wealth. Confronted with the ensuing moral degeneration of the parishioners, the parson resolves that he will not reveal to anyone the whereabouts of the silver and that if the people persist in their evil ways, he will leave them.

Given the parson’s tested virtue of self-abnegation, the king doubts if he...

(The entire section is 482 words.)