The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
Part 6 out of 9
"You'll have to eat me then," said the boy, "for I can't run any more."
Immediately both cubs rushed over to the mother bear and complained:
"Mamma Bear, oh, Mamma Bear, he won't play any more."
"Then you must divide him evenly between you," said Mother Bear.
When the boy heard this he was so scared that he jumped up instantly and
began playing again.
As it was bedtime, Mother Bear called to the cubs that they must come
now and cuddle up to her and go to sleep. They had been having such a
good time that they wished to continue their play next day; so they took
the boy between them and laid their paws over him. They did not want him
to move without waking them. They went to sleep immediately. The boy
thought that after a while he would try to steal away. But never in all
his life had he been so tumbled and tossed and hunted and rolled! And he
was so tired out that he too fell asleep.
By and by Father Bear came clambering down the mountain wall. The boy
was wakened by his tearing away stone and gravel as he swung himself
into the old mine. The boy was afraid to move much; but he managed to
stretch himself and turn over, so that he could see the big bear. He was
a frightfully coarse, huge old beast, with great paws, large, glistening
tusks, and wicked little eyes! The boy could not help shuddering as he
looked at this old monarch of the forest.
"It smells like a human being around here," said Father Bear the instant
he came up to Mother Bear, and his growl was as the rolling of thunder.
"How can you imagine anything so absurd?" said Mother Bear without
disturbing herself. "It has been settled for good and all that we are
not to harm mankind any more; but if one of them were to put in an
appearance here, where the cubs and I have our quarters, there wouldn't
be enough left of him for you to catch even a scent of him!"
Father Bear lay down beside Mother Bear. "You ought to know me well
enough to understand that I don't allow anything dangerous to come near
the cubs. Talk, instead, of what you have been doing. I haven't seen you
for a whole week!"
"I've been looking about for a new residence," said Father Bear. "First
I went over to Vermland, to learn from our kinsmen at Ekshaerad how they
fared in that country; but I had my trouble for nothing. There wasn't a
bear's den left in the whole forest."
"I believe the humans want the whole earth to themselves," said Mother
Bear. "Even if we leave people and cattle in peace and live solely upon
lignon and insects and green things, we cannot remain unmolested in the
forest! I wonder where we could move to in order to live in peace?"
"We've lived comfortably for many years in this pit," observed Father
Bear. "But I can't be content here now since the big noise-shop has been
built right in our neighbourhood. Lately I have been taking a look at
the land east of Dal River, over by Garpen Mountain. Old mine pits are
plentiful there, too, and other fine retreats. I thought it looked as if
one might be fairly protected against men--"
The instant Father Bear said this he sat up and began to sniff.
"It's extraordinary that whenever I speak of human beings I catch that
queer scent again," he remarked.
"Go and see for yourself if you don't believe me!" challenged Mother
Bear. "I should just like to know where a human being could manage to
hide down here?"
The bear walked all around the cave, and nosed. Finally he went back and
lay down without a word.
"What did I tell you?" said Mother Bear. "But of course you think that
no one but yourself has any nose or ears!"
"One can't be too careful, with such neighbours as we have," said Father
Bear gently. Then he leaped up with a roar. As luck would have it, one
of the cubs had moved a paw over to Nils Holgersson's face and the poor
little wretch could not breathe, but began to sneeze. It was impossible
for Mother Bear to keep Father Bear back any longer. He pushed the young
ones to right and left and caught sight of the boy before he had time to
He would have swallowed him instantly if Mother Bear had not cast
herself between them.
"Don't touch him! He belongs to the cubs," she said. "They have had
such fun with him the whole evening that they couldn't bear to eat him
up, but wanted to save him until morning."
Father Bear pushed Mother Bear aside.
"Don't meddle with what you don't understand!" he roared. "Can't you
scent that human odour about him from afar? I shall eat him at once, or
he will play us some mean trick."
He opened his jaws again; but meanwhile the boy had had time to think,
and, quick as a flash, he dug into his knapsack and brought forth some
matches--his sole weapon of defence--struck one on his leather breeches,
and stuck the burning match into the bear's open mouth.
Father Bear snorted when he smelled the sulphur, and with that the flame
went out. The boy was ready with another match, but, curiously enough,
Father Bear did not repeat his attack.
"Can you light many of those little blue roses?" asked Father Bear.
"I can light enough to put an end to the whole forest," replied the boy,
for he thought that in this way he might be able to scare Father Bear.
"Oh, that would be no trick for me!" boasted the boy, hoping that this
would make the bear respect him.
"Good!" exclaimed the bear. "You shall render me a service. Now I'm very
glad that I did not eat you!"
Father Bear carefully took the boy between his tusks and climbed up from
the pit. He did this with remarkable ease and agility, considering that
he was so big and heavy. As soon as he was up, he speedily made for the
woods. It was evident that Father Bear was created to squeeze through
dense forests. The heavy body pushed through the brushwood as a boat
does through the water.
Father Bear ran along till he came to a hill at the skirt of the forest,
where he could see the big noise-shop. Here he lay down and placed the
boy in front of him, holding him securely between his forepaws.
"Now look down at that big noise-shop!" he commanded. The great
ironworks, with many tall buildings, stood at the edge of a waterfall.
High chimneys sent forth dark clouds of smoke, blasting furnaces were in
full blaze, and light shone from all the windows and apertures. Within
hammers and rolling mills were going with such force that the air rang
with their clatter and boom. All around the workshops proper were
immense coal sheds, great slag heaps, warehouses, wood piles, and tool
sheds. Just beyond were long rows of workingmen's homes, pretty villas,
schoolhouses, assembly halls, and shops. But there all was quiet and
apparently everybody was asleep. The boy did not glance in that
direction, but gazed intently at the ironworks. The earth around them
was black; the sky above them was like a great fiery dome; the rapids,
white with foam, rushed by; while the buildings themselves were sending
out light and smoke, fire and sparks. It was the grandest sight the boy
had ever seen!
"Surely you don't mean to say you can set fire to a place like that?"
remarked the bear doubtingly.
The boy stood wedged between the beast's paws thinking the only thing
that might save him would be that the bear should have a high opinion of
his capability and power.
"It's all the same to me," he answered with a superior air. "Big or
little, I can burn it down."
"Then I'll tell you something," said Father Bear. "My forefathers lived
in this region from the time that the forests first sprang up. From
them I inherited hunting grounds and pastures, lairs and retreats, and
have lived here in peace all my life. In the beginning I wasn't troubled
much by the human kind. They dug in the mountains and picked up a little
ore down here, by the rapids; they had a forge and a furnace, but the
hammers sounded only a few hours during the day, and the furnace was not
fired more than two moons at a stretch. It wasn't so bad but that I
could stand it; but these last years, since they have built this
noise-shop, which keeps up the same racket both day and night, life here
has become intolerable. Formerly only a manager and a couple of
blacksmiths lived here, but now there are so many people that I can
never feel safe from them. I thought that I should have to move away,
but I have discovered something better!"
The boy wondered what Father Bear had hit upon, but no opportunity was
afforded him to ask, as the bear took him between his tusks again and
lumbered down the hill. The boy could see nothing, but knew by the
increasing noise that they were approaching the rolling mills.
Father Bear was well informed regarding the ironworks. He had prowled
around there on many a dark night, had observed what went on within, and
had wondered if there would never be any cessation of the work. He had
tested the walls with his paws and wished that he were only strong
enough to knock down the whole structure with a single blow.
He was not easily distinguishable against the dark ground, and when, in
addition, he remained in the shadow of the walls, there was not much
danger of his being discovered. Now he walked fearlessly between the
workshops and climbed to the top of a slag heap. There he sat up on his
haunches, took the boy between his forepaws and held him up.
"Try to look into the house!" he commanded. A strong current of air was
forced into a big cylinder which was suspended from the ceiling and
filled with molten iron. As this current rushed into the mess of iron
with an awful roar, showers of sparks of all colours spurted up in
bunches, in sprays, in long clusters! They struck against the wall and
came splashing down over the whole big room. Father Bear let the boy
watch the gorgeous spectacle until the blowing was over and the flowing
and sparkling red steel had been poured into ingot moulds.
The boy was completely charmed by the marvellous display and almost
forgot that he was imprisoned between a bear's two paws.
Father Bear let him look into the rolling mill. He saw a workman take a
short, thick bar of iron at white heat from a furnace opening and place
it under a roller. When the iron came out from under the roller, it was
flattened and extended. Immediately another workman seized it and placed
it beneath a heavier roller, which made it still longer and thinner.
Thus it was passed from roller to roller, squeezed and drawn out until,
finally, it curled along the floor, like a long red thread.
But while the first bar of iron was being pressed, a second was taken
from the furnace and placed under the rollers, and when this was a
little along, a third was brought. Continuously fresh threads came
crawling over the floor, like hissing snakes. The boy was dazzled by the
iron. But he found it more splendid to watch the workmen who,
dexterously and delicately, seized the glowing snakes with their tongs
and forced them under the rollers. It seemed like play for them to
handle the hissing iron.
"I call that real man's work!" the boy remarked to himself.
The bear then let the boy have a peep at the furnace and the forge, and
he became more and more astonished as he saw how the blacksmiths handled
iron and fire.
"Those men have no fear of heat and flames," he thought. The workmen
were sooty and grimy. He fancied they were some sort of firefolk--that
was why they could bend and mould the iron as they wished. He could not
believe that they were just ordinary men, since they had such power!
"They keep this up day after day, night after night," said Father Bear,
as he dropped wearily down on the ground. "You can understand that one
gets rather tired of that kind of thing. I'm mighty glad that at last I
can put an end to it!"
"Indeed!" said the boy. "How will you go about it?"
"Oh, I thought that you were going to set fire to the buildings!" said
Father Bear. "That would put an end to all this work, and I could remain
in my old home."
The boy was all of a shiver.
So it was for this that Father Bear had brought him here!
"If you will set fire to the noise-works, I'll promise to spare your
life," said Father Bear. "But if you don't do it, I'll make short work
of you!" The huge workshops were built of brick, and the boy was
thinking to himself that Father Bear could command as much as he liked,
it was impossible to obey him. Presently he saw that it might not be
impossible after all. Just beyond them lay a pile of chips and shavings
to which he could easily set fire, and beside it was a wood pile that
almost reached the coal shed. The coal shed extended over to the
workshops, and if that once caught fire, the flames would soon fly over
to the roof of the iron foundry. Everything combustible would burn, the
walls would fall from the heat, and the machinery would be destroyed.
"Will you or won't you?" demanded Father Bear. The boy knew that he
ought to answer promptly that he would not, but he also knew that then
the bear's paws would squeeze him to death; therefore he replied:
"I shall have to think it over."
"Very well, do so," assented Father Bear. "Let me say to you that iron
is the thing that has given men the advantage over us bears, which is
another reason for my wishing to put an end to the work here."
The boy thought he would use the delay to figure out some plan of
escape, but he was so worried he could not direct his thoughts where he
would; instead he began to think of the great help that iron had been to
mankind. They needed iron for everything. There was iron in the plough
that broke up the field, in the axe that felled the tree for building
houses, in the scythe that mowed the grain, and in the knife, which
could be turned to all sorts of uses. There was iron in the horse's bit,
in the lock on the door, in the nails that held furniture together, in
the sheathing that covered the roof. The rifle which drove away wild
beasts was made of iron, also the pick that had broken up the mine. Iron
covered the men-of-war he had seen at Karlskrona; the locomotives
steamed through the country on iron rails; the needle that had stitched
his coat was of iron; the shears that clipped the sheep and the kettle
that cooked the food. Big and little alike--much that was indispensable
was made from iron. Father Bear was perfectly right in saying that it
was the iron that had given men their mastery over the bears.
"Now will you or won't you?" Father Bear repeated.
The boy was startled from his musing. Here he stood thinking of matters
that were entirely unnecessary, and had not yet found a way to save
"You mustn't be so impatient," he said. "This is a serious matter for
me, and I've got to have time to consider."
"Well, then, consider another moment," said Father Bear. "But let me
tell you that it's because of the iron that men have become so much
wiser than we bears. For this alone, if for nothing else, I should like
to put a stop to the work here."
Again the boy endeavoured to think out a plan of escape, but his
thoughts wandered, willy nilly. They were taken up with the iron. And
gradually he began to comprehend how much thinking and calculating men
must have done before they discovered how to produce iron from ore, and
he seemed to see sooty blacksmiths of old bending over the forge,
pondering how they should properly handle it. Perhaps it was because
they had thought so much about the iron that intelligence had been
developed in mankind, until finally they became so advanced that they
were able to build great works like these. The fact was that men owed
more to the iron than they themselves knew.
"Well, what say you? Will you or won't you?" insisted Father Bear.
The boy shrank back. Here he stood thinking needless thoughts, and had
no idea as to what he should do to save himself.
"It's not such an easy matter to decide as you think," he answered. "You
must give me time for reflection."
"I can wait for you a little longer," said Father Bear. "But after that
you'll get no more grace. You must know that it's the fault of the iron
that the human kind can live here on the property of the bears. And now
you understand why I would be rid of the work."
The boy meant to use the last moment to think out some way to save
himself, but, anxious and distraught as he was, his thoughts wandered
again. Now he began thinking of all that he had seen when he flew over
the mining districts. It was strange that there should be so much life
and activity and so much work back there in the wilderness.
"Just think how poor and desolate this place would be had there been no
"This very foundry gave employment to many, and had gathered around it
many homes filled with people, who, in turn, had attracted hither
railways and telegraph wires and--"
"Come, come!" growled the bear. "Will you or won't you?"
The boy swept his hand across his forehead. No plan of escape had as yet
come to his mind, but this much he knew--he did not wish to do any harm
to the iron, which was so useful to rich and poor alike, and which gave
bread to so many people in this land.
"I won't!" he said.
Father Bear squeezed him a little harder, but said nothing.
"You'll not get me to destroy the ironworks!" defied the boy. "The iron
is so great a blessing that it will never do to harm it."
"Then of course you don't expect to be allowed to live very long?" said
"No, I don't expect it," returned the boy, looking the bear straight in
Father Bear gripped him still harder. It hurt so that the boy could not
keep the tears back, but he did not cry out or say a word.
"Very well, then," said Father Bear, raising his paw very slowly, hoping
that the boy would give in at the last moment.
But just then the boy heard something click very close to them, and saw
the muzzle of a rifle two paces away. Both he and Father Bear had been
so engrossed in their own affairs they had not observed that a man had
stolen right upon them.
"Father Bear! Don't you hear the clicking of a trigger?" cried the boy.
"Run, or you'll be shot!"
Father Bear grew terribly hurried. However, he allowed himself time
enough to pick up the boy and carry him along. As he ran, a couple of
shots sounded, and the bullets grazed his ears, but, luckily, he
The boy thought, as he was dangling from the bear's mouth, that never
had he been so stupid as he was to-night. If he had only kept still, the
bear would have been shot, and he himself would have been freed. But he
had become so accustomed to helping the animals that he did it
naturally, and as a matter of course.
When Father Bear had run some distance into the woods, he paused and set
the boy down on the ground.
"Thank you, little one!" he said. "I dare say those bullets would have
caught me if you hadn't been there. And now I want to do you a service
in return. If you should ever meet with another bear, just say to him
this--which I shall whisper to you--and he won't touch you."
Father Bear whispered a word or two into the boy's ear and hurried away,
for he thought he heard hounds and hunters pursuing him.
The boy stood in the forest, free and unharmed, and could hardly
understand how it was possible.
The wild geese had been flying back and forth the whole evening, peering
and calling, but they had been unable to find Thumbietot. They searched
long after the sun had set, and, finally, when it had grown so dark that
they were forced to alight somewhere for the night, they were very
downhearted. There was not one among them but thought the boy had been
killed by the fall and was lying dead in the forest, where they could
not see him.
But the next morning, when the sun peeped over the hills and awakened
the wild geese, the boy lay sleeping, as usual, in their midst. When he
woke and heard them shrieking and cackling their astonishment, he could
not help laughing.
They were so eager to know what had happened to him that they did not
care to go to breakfast until he had told them the whole story. The boy
soon narrated his entire adventure with the bears, but after that he
seemed reluctant to continue.
"How I got back to you perhaps you already know?" he said.
"No, we know nothing. We thought you were killed."
"That's curious!" remarked the boy. "Oh, yes!--when Father Bear left me
I climbed up into a pine and fell asleep. At daybreak I was awakened by
an eagle hovering over me. He picked me up with his talons and carried
me away. He didn't hurt me, but flew straight here to you and dropped me
down among you."
"Didn't he tell you who he was?" asked the big white gander.
"He was gone before I had time even to thank him. I thought that Mother
Akka had sent him after me."
"How extraordinary!" exclaimed the white goosey-gander. "But are you
certain that it was an eagle?"
"I had never before seen an eagle," said the boy, "but he was so big
and splendid that I can't give him a lowlier name!"
Morten Goosey-Gander turned to the wild geese to hear what they thought
of this; but they stood gazing into the air, as though they were
thinking of something else.
"We must not forget entirely to eat breakfast today," said Akka, quickly
spreading her wings.
_May first to fourth_.
There was a terrible storm raging in the district north of Lake Maelar,
which lasted several days. The sky was a dull gray, the wind whistled,
and the rain beat. Both people and animals knew the spring could not be
ushered in with anything short of this; nevertheless they thought it
After it had been raining for a whole day, the snowdrifts in the pine
forests began to melt in earnest, and the spring brooks grew lively. All
the pools on the farms, the standing water in the ditches, the water
that oozed between the tufts in marshes and swamps--all were in motion
and tried to find their way to creeks, that they might be borne along to
The creeks rushed as fast as possible down to the rivers, and the rivers
did their utmost to carry the water to Lake Maelar.
All the lakes and rivers in Uppland and the mining district quickly
threw off their ice covers on one and the same day, so that the creeks
filled with ice-floes which rose clear up to their banks.
Swollen as they were, they emptied into Lake Maelar, and it was not long
before the lake had taken in as much water as it could well hold. Down
by the outlet was a raging torrent. Norrstroem is a narrow channel, and
it could not let out the water quickly enough. Besides, there was a
strong easterly wind that lashed against the land, obstructing the
stream when it tried to carry the fresh water into the East Sea. Since
the rivers kept running to Maelaren with more water than it could dispose
of, there was nothing for the big lake to do but overflow its banks.
It rose very slowly, as if reluctant to injure its beautiful shores; but
as they were mostly low and gradually sloping, it was not long before
the water had flooded several acres of land, and that was enough to
create the greatest alarm.
Lake Maelar is unique in its way, being made up of a succession of narrow
fiords, bays, and inlets. In no place does it spread into a storm
centre, but seems to have been created only for pleasure trips, yachting
tours, and fishing. Nowhere does it present barren, desolate, wind-swept
shores. It looks as if it never thought that its shores could hold
anything but country seats, summer villas, manors, and amusement
resorts. But, because it usually presents a very agreeable and friendly
appearance, there is all the more havoc whenever it happens to drop its
smiling expression in the spring, and show that it can be serious.
At that critical time Smirre Fox happened to come sneaking through a
birch grove just north of Lake Maelar. As usual, he was thinking of
Thumbietot and the wild geese, and wondering how he should ever find
them again. He had lost all track of them.
As he stole cautiously along, more discouraged than usual, he caught
sight of Agar, the carrier-pigeon, who had perched herself on a birch
"My, but I'm in luck to run across you, Agar!" exclaimed Smirre. "Maybe
you can tell me where Akka from Kebnekaise and her flock hold forth
"It's quite possible that I know where they are," Agar hinted, "but I'm
not likely to tell you!"
"Please yourself!" retorted Smirre. "Nevertheless, you can take a
message that I have for them. You probably know the present condition of
Lake Maelar? There's a great overflow down there and all the swans who
live in Hjaelsta Bay are about to see their nests, with all their eggs,
destroyed. Daylight, the swan-king, has heard of the midget who travels
with the wild geese and knows a remedy for every ill. He has sent me to
ask Akka if she will bring Thumbietot down to Hjaelsta Bay."
"I dare say I can convey your message," Agar replied, "but I can't
understand how the little boy will be able to help the swans."
"Nor do I," said Smirre, "but he can do almost everything, it seems."
"It's surprising to me that Daylight should send his messages by a fox,"
"Well, we're not exactly what you'd call good friends," said Smirre
smoothly, "but in an emergency like this we must help each other.
Perhaps it would be just as well not to tell Akka that you got the
message from a fox. Between you and me, she's inclined to be a little
The safest refuge for water-fowl in the whole Maelar district is Hjaelsta
Bay. It has low shores, shallow water and is also covered with reeds.
It is by no means as large as Lake Takern, but nevertheless Hjaelsta is a
good retreat for birds, since it has long been forbidden territory to
It is the home of a great many swans, and the owner of the old castle
nearby has prohibited all shooting on the bay, so that they might be
As soon as Akka received word that the swans needed her help, she
hastened down to Hjaelsta Bay. She arrived with her flock one evening and
saw at a glance that there had been a great disaster. The big swans'
nests had been torn away, and the strong wind was driving them down the
bay. Some had already fallen apart, two or three had capsized, and the
eggs lay at the bottom of the lake.
When Akka alighted on the bay, all the swans living there were gathered
near the eastern shore, where they were protected from the wind.
Although they had suffered much by the flood, they were too proud to let
any one see it.
"It is useless to cry," they said. "There are plenty of root-fibres and
stems here; we can soon build new nests."
None had thought of asking a stranger to help them, and the swans had no
idea that Smirre Fox had sent for the wild geese!
There were several hundred swans resting on the water. They had placed
themselves according to rank and station. The young and inexperienced
were farthest out, the old and wise nearer the middle of the group, and
right in the centre sat Daylight, the swan-king, and Snow-White, the
swan-queen, who were older than any of the others and regarded the rest
of the swans as their children.
The geese alighted on the west shore of the bay; but when Akka saw where
the swans were, she swam toward them at once. She was very much
surprised at their having sent for her, but she regarded it as an honour
and did not wish to lose a moment in coming to their aid.
As Akka approached the swans she paused to see if the geese who followed
her swam in a straight line, and at even distances apart.
"Now, swim along quickly!" she ordered. "Don't stare at the swans as if
you had never before seen anything beautiful, and don't mind what they
may say to you!"
This was not the first time that Akka had called on the aristocratic
swans. They had always received her in a manner befitting a great
traveller like herself.
But still she did not like the idea of swimming in among them. She never
felt so gray and insignificant as when she happened upon swans. One or
another of them was sure to drop a remark about "common gray-feathers"
and "poor folk." But it is always best to take no notice of such things.
This time everything passed off uncommonly well. The swans politely made
way for the wild geese, who swam forward through a kind of passageway,
which formed an avenue bordered by shimmering, white birds.
It was a beautiful sight to watch them as they spread their wings, like
sails, to appear well before the strangers. They refrained from making
comments, which rather surprised Akka.
Evidently Daylight had noted their misbehaviour in the past and had told
the swans that they must conduct themselves in a proper manner--so
thought the leader-goose.
But just as the swans were making an effort to observe the rules of
etiquette, they caught sight of the goosey-gander, who swam last in the
long goose-line. Then there was a murmur of disapproval, even of
threats, among the swans, and at once there was an end to their good
"What's this?" shrieked one. "Do the wild geese intend to dress up in
"They needn't think that will make swans of them," cried another.
They began shrieking--one louder than another--in their strong, resonant
voices. It was impossible to explain that a tame goosey-gander had come
with the wild geese.
"That must be the goose-king himself coming along," they said
tauntingly. "There's no limit to their audacity!"
"That's no goose, it's only a tame duck."
The big white gander remembered Akka's admonition to pay no attention,
no matter what he might hear. He kept quiet and swam ahead as fast he
could, but it did no good. The swans became more and more impertinent.
"What kind of a frog does he carry on his back?" asked one. "They must
think we don't see it's a frog because it is dressed like a human
The swans, who but a moment before had been resting in such perfect
order, now swam up and down excitedly. All tried to crowd forward to get
a glimpse of the white wild goose.
"That white goosey-gander ought to be ashamed to come here and parade
"He's probably as gray as the rest of them. He has only been in a flour
barrel at some farm house!"
Akka had just come up to Daylight and was about to ask him what kind of
help he wanted of her, when the swan-king noticed the uproar among the
"What do I see? Haven't I taught you to be polite to strangers?" he said
with a frown.
Snow-White, the swan-queen, swam out to restore order among her
subjects, and again Daylight turned to Akka.
Presently Snow-White came back, appearing greatly agitated.
"Can't you keep them quiet?" shouted Daylight.
"There's a white wild goose over there," answered Snow-White. "Is it not
shameful? I don't wonder they are furious!"
"A white wild goose?" scoffed Daylight. "That's too ridiculous! There
can't be such a thing. You must be mistaken."
The crowds around Morten Goosey-Gander grew larger and larger. Akka and
the other wild geese tried to swim over to him, but were jostled hither
and thither and could not get to him.
The old swan-king, who was the strongest among them, swam off quickly,
pushed all the others aside, and made his way over to the big white
gander. But when he saw that there really was a white goose on the
water, he was just as indignant as the rest.
He hissed with rage, flew straight at Morten Goosey-Gander and tore out
a few feathers.
"I'll teach you a lesson, wild goose," he shrieked, "so that you'll not
come again to the swans, togged out in this way!"
"Fly, Morten Goosey-Gander! Fly, fly!" cried Akka, for she knew that
otherwise the swans would pull out every feather the goosey-gander had.
"Fly, fly!" screamed Thumbietot, too.
But the goosey-gander was so hedged in by the swans that he had not
room enough to spread his wings. All around him the swans stretched
their long necks, opened their strong bills, and plucked his feathers.
Morten Goosey-Gander defended himself as best he could, by striking and
biting. The wild geese also began to fight the swans.
It was obvious how this would have ended had the geese not received help
A red-tail noticed that they were being roughly treated by the swans.
Instantly he cried out the shrill call that little birds use when they
need help to drive off a hawk or a falcon.
Three calls had barely sounded when all the little birds in the vicinity
came shooting down to Hjaelsta Bay, as if on wings of lightning.
These delicate little creatures swooped down upon the swans, screeched
in their ears, and obstructed their view with the flutter of their tiny
wings. They made them dizzy with their fluttering and drove them to
distraction with their cries of "Shame, shame, swans!"
The attack of the small birds lasted but a moment. When they were gone
and the swans came to their senses, they saw that the geese had risen
and flown over to the other end of the bay.
THE NEW WATCH-DOG
There was this at least to be said in the swans' favour--when they saw
that the wild geese had escaped, they were too proud to chase them.
Moreover, the geese could stand on a clump of reeds with perfect
composure, and sleep.
Nils Holgersson was too hungry to sleep.
"It is necessary for me to get something to eat," he said.
At that time, when all kinds of things were floating on the water, it
was not difficult for a little boy like Nils Holgersson to find a craft.
He did not stop to deliberate, but hopped down on a stump that had
drifted in amongst the reeds. Then he picked up a little stick and began
to pole toward shore.
Just as he was landing, he heard a splash in the water. He stopped
short. First he saw a lady swan asleep in her big nest quite close to
him, then he noticed that a fox had taken a few steps into the water and
was sneaking up to the swan's nest.
"Hi, hi, hi! Get up, get up!" cried the boy, beating the water with his
The lady swan rose, but not so quickly but that the fox could have
pounced upon her had he cared to. However, he refrained and instead
hurried straight toward the boy.
Thumbietot saw the fox coming and ran for his life.
Wide stretches of meadow land spread before him. He saw no tree that he
could climb, no hole where he might hide; he just had to keep running.
The boy was a good runner, but it stands to reason that he could not
race with a fox!
Not far from the bay there were a number of little cabins, with candle
lights shining through the windows. Naturally the boy ran in that
direction, but he realized that long before he could reach the nearest
cabin the fox would catch up to him.
Once the fox was so close that it looked as if the boy would surely be
his prey, but Nils quickly sprang aside and turned back toward the bay.
By that move the fox lost time, and before he could reach the boy the
latter had run up to two men who were on their way home from work.
The men were tired and sleepy; they had noticed neither boy nor fox,
although both had been running right in front of them. Nor did the boy
ask help of the men; he was content to walk close beside them.
"Surely the fox won't venture to come up to the men," he thought.
But presently the fox came pattering along. He probably counted on the
men taking him for a dog, for he went straight up to them.
"Whose dog can that be sneaking around here?" queried one. "He looks as
though he were ready to bite."
The other paused and glanced back.
"Go along with you!" he said, and gave the fox a kick that sent it to
the opposite side of the road. "What are you doing here?"
After that the fox kept at a safe distance, but followed all the while.
Presently the men reached a cabin and entered it. The boy intended to go
in with them; but when he got to the stoop he saw a big, shaggy
watch-dog rush out from his kennel to greet his master. Suddenly the boy
changed his mind and remained out in the open.
"Listen, watch-dog!" whispered the boy as soon as the men had shut the
door. "I wonder if you would like to help me catch a fox to-night?"
The dog had poor eyesight and had become irritable and cranky from being
"What, I catch a fox?" he barked angrily. "Who are you that makes fun of
me? You just come within my reach and I'll teach you not to fool with
"You needn't think that I'm afraid to come near you!" said the boy,
running up to the dog.
When the dog saw him he was so astonished that he could not speak.
"I'm the one they call Thumbietot, who travels with the wild geese,"
said the boy, introducing himself. "Haven't you heard of me?"
"I believe the sparrows have twittered a little about you," the dog
returned. "They say that you have done wonderful things for one of your
"I've been rather lucky up to the present," admitted the boy. "But now
it's all up with me unless you help me! There's a fox at my heels. He's
lying in wait for me around the corner."
"Don't you suppose I can smell him?" retorted the dog. "But we'll soon
be rid of him!" With that the dog sprang as far as the chain would
allow, barking and growling for ever so long. "Now I don't think he will
show his face again to-night!" said the dog.
"It will take something besides a fine bark to scare that fox!" the boy
remarked. "He'll soon be here again, and that is precisely what I wish,
for I have set my heart on your catching him."
"Are you poking fun at me now?" asked the dog.
"Only come with me into your kennel, and I'll tell you what to do."
The boy and the watch-dog crept into the kennel and crouched there,
By and by the fox stuck his nose out from his hiding place. When all was
quiet he crept along cautiously. He scented the boy all the way to the
kennel, but halted at a safe distance and sat down to think of some way
to coax him out.
Suddenly the watch-dog poked his head out and growled at him:
"Go away, or I'll catch you!"
"I'll sit here as long as I please for all of you!" defied the fox.
"Go away!" repeated the dog threateningly, "or there will be no more
hunting for you after to-night."
But the fox only grinned and did not move an inch.
"I know how far your chain can reach," he said.
"I have warned you twice," said the dog, coming out from his kennel.
"Now blame yourself!"
With that the dog sprang at the fox and caught him without the least
effort, for he was loose. The boy had unbuckled his collar.
There was a hot struggle, but it was soon over. The dog was the victor.
The fox lay on the ground and dared not move.
"Don't stir or I'll kill you!" snarled the dog. Then he took the fox by
the scruff of the neck and dragged him to the kennel. There the boy was
ready with the chain. He placed the dog collar around the neck of the
fox, tightening it so that he was securely chained. During all this the
fox had to lie still, for he was afraid to move.
"Now, Smirre Fox, I hope you'll make a good watch-dog," laughed the boy
when he had finished.
THE CITY THAT FLOATS ON THE WATER
_Friday, May sixth_.
No one could be more gentle and kind than the little gray goose Dunfin.
All the wild geese loved her, and the tame white goosey-gander would
have died for her. When Dunfin asked for anything not even Akka could
As soon as Dunfin came to Lake Maelar the landscape looked familiar to
her. Just beyond the lake lay the sea, with many wooded islands, and
there, on a little islet, lived her parents and her brothers and
sisters. She begged the wild geese to fly to her home before travelling
farther north, that she might let her family see that she was still
alive. It would be such a joy to them.
Akka frankly declared that she thought Dunfin's parents and brothers and
sisters had shown no great love for her when they abandoned her at
Oeland, but Dunfin would not admit that Akka was in the right. "What else
was there to do, when they saw that I could not fly?" she protested.
"Surely they couldn't remain at Oeland on my account!"
Dunfin began telling the wild geese all about her home in the
archipelago, to try to induce them to make the trip. Her family lived on
a rock island. Seen from a distance, there appeared to be nothing but
stone there; but when one came closer, there were to be found the
choicest goose tidbits in clefts and hollows, and one might search long
for better nesting places than those that were hidden in the mountain
crevices or among the osier bushes. But the best of all was the old
fisherman who lived there. Dunfin had heard that in his youth he had
been a great shot and had always lain in the offing and hunted birds.
But now, in his old age--since his wife had died and the children had
gone from home, so that he was alone in the hut--he had begun to care
for the birds on his island. He never fired a shot at them, nor would he
permit others to do so. He walked around amongst the birds' nests, and
when the mother birds were sitting he brought them food. Not one was
afraid of him. They all loved him.
Dunfin had been in his hut many times, and he had fed her with bread
crumbs. Because he was kind to the birds, they flocked to his island in
such great numbers that it was becoming overcrowded. If one happened to
arrive a little late in the spring, all the nesting places were
occupied. That was why Dunfin's family had been obliged to leave her.
Dunfin begged so hard that she finally had her way, although the wild
geese felt that they were losing time and really should be going
straight north. But a little trip like this to the cliff island would
not delay them more than a day.
So they started off one morning, after fortifying themselves with a good
breakfast, and flew eastward over Lake Maelar. The boy did not know for
certain where they were going; but he noticed that the farther east they
flew, the livelier it was on the lake and the more built up were the
Heavily freighted barges and sloops, boats and fishing smacks were on
their way east, and these were met and passed by many pretty white
steamers. Along the shores ran country roads and railway tracks--all in
the same direction. There was some place beyond in the east where all
wished to go to in the morning.
On one of the islands the boy saw a big, white castle, and to the east
of it the shores were dotted with villas. At the start these lay far
apart, then they became closer and closer, and, presently, the whole
shore was lined with them. They were of every variety--here a castle,
there a cottage; then a low manor house appeared, or a mansion, with
many small towers. Some stood in gardens, but most of them were in the
wild woods which bordered the shores. Despite their dissimilarity, they
had one point of resemblance--they were not plain and sombre-looking,
like other buildings, but were gaudily painted in striking greens and
blues, reds and white, like children's playhouses.
As the boy sat on the goose's back and glanced down at the curious shore
mansions, Dunfin cried out with delight: "Now I know where I am! Over
there lies the City that Floats on the Water."
The boy looked ahead. At first he saw nothing but some light clouds and
mists rolling forward over the water, but soon he caught sight of some
tall spires, and then one and another house with many rows of windows.
They appeared and disappeared--rolling hither and thither--but not a
strip of shore did he see! Everything over there appeared to be resting
on the water.
Nearer to the city he saw no more pretty playhouses along the
shores--only dingy factories. Great heaps of coal and wood were stacked
behind tall planks, and alongside black, sooty docks lay bulky freight
steamers; but over all was spread a shimmering, transparent mist, which
made everything appear so big and strong and wonderful that it was
The wild geese flew past factories and freight steamers and were
nearing the cloud-enveloped spires. Suddenly all the mists sank to the
water, save the thin, fleecy ones that circled above their heads,
beautifully tinted in blues and pinks. The other clouds rolled over
water and land. They entirely obscured the lower portions of the houses:
only the upper stories and the roofs and gables were visible. Some of
the buildings appeared to be as high as the Tower of Babel. The boy no
doubt knew that they were built upon hills and mountains, but these he
did not see--only the houses that seemed to float among the white,
drifting clouds. In reality the buildings were dark and dingy, for the
sun in the east was not shining on them.
The boy knew that he was riding above a large city, for he saw spires
and house roofs rising from the clouds in every direction. Sometimes an
opening was made in the circling mists, and he looked down into a
running, tortuous stream; but no land could he see. All this was
beautiful to look upon, but he felt quite distraught--as one does when
happening upon something one cannot understand.
When he had gone beyond the city, he found that the ground was no longer
hidden by clouds, but that shores, streams, and islands were again
plainly visible. He turned to see the city better, but could not, for
now it looked quite enchanted. The mists had taken on colour from the
sunshine and were rolling forward in the most brilliant reds, blues, and
yellows. The houses were white, as if built of light, and the windows
and spires sparkled like fire. All things floated on the water as
The geese were travelling straight east. They flew over factories and
workshops; then over mansions edging the shores. Steamboats and tugs
swarmed on the water; but now they came from the east and were steaming
westward toward the city.
The wild geese flew on, but instead of the narrow Maelar fiords and the
little islands, broader waters and larger islands spread under them. At
last the land was left behind and seen no more.
They flew still farther out, where they found no more large inhabited
islands--only numberless little rock islands were scattered on the
water. Now the fiords were not crowded by the land. The sea lay before
them, vast and limitless.
Here the wild geese alighted on a cliff island, and as soon as their
feet touched the ground the boy turned to Dunfin.
"What city did we fly over just now?" he asked.
"I don't know what human beings have named it," said Dunfin. "We gray
geese call it the 'City that Floats on the Water'."
Dunfin had two sisters, Prettywing and Goldeye. They were strong and
intelligent birds, but they did not have such a soft and shiny feather
dress as Dunfin, nor did they have her sweet and gentle disposition.
From the time they had been little, yellow goslings, their parents and
relatives and even the old fisherman had plainly shown them that they
thought more of Dunfin than of them. Therefore the sisters had always
When the wild geese landed on the cliff island, Prettywing and Goldeye
were feeding on a bit of grass close to the strand, and immediately
caught sight of the strangers.
"See, Sister Goldeye, what fine-looking geese have come to our island!"
exclaimed Prettywing, "I have rarely seen such graceful birds. Do you
notice that they have a white goosey-gander among them? Did you ever set
eyes on a handsomer bird? One could almost take him for a swan!"
Goldeye agreed with her sister that these were certainly very
distinguished strangers that had come to the island, but suddenly she
broke off and called: "Sister Prettywing! Oh, Sister Prettywing! Don't
you see whom they bring with them?"
Prettywing also caught sight of Dunfin and was so astounded that she
stood for a long time with her bill wide open, and only hissed.
"It can't be possible that it is she! How did she manage to get in with
people of that class? Why, we left her at Oeland to freeze and starve."
"The worse of it is she will tattle to father and mother that we flew
so close to her that we knocked her wing out of joint," said Goldeye.
"You'll see that it will end in our being driven from the island!"
"We have nothing but trouble in store for us, now that that young one
has come back!" snapped Prettywing. "Still I think it would be best for
us to appear as pleased as possible over her return. She is so stupid
that perhaps she didn't even notice that we gave her a push on purpose."
While Prettywing and Goldeye were talking in this strain, the wild geese
had been standing on the strand, pluming their feathers after the
flight. Now they marched in a long line up the rocky shore to the cleft
where Dunfin's parents usually stopped.
Dunfin's parents were good folk. They had lived on the island longer
than any one else, and it was their habit to counsel and aid all
newcomers. They too had seen the geese approach, but they had not
recognized Dunfin in the flock.
"It is strange to see wild geese land on this island," remarked the
goose-master. "It is a fine flock--that one can see by their flight."
"But it won't be easy to find pasturage for so many," said the
goose-wife, who was gentle and sweet-tempered, like Dunfin.
When Akka came marching with her company, Dunfin's parents went out to
meet her and welcome her to the island. Dunfin flew from her place at
the end of the line and lit between her parents.
"Mother and father, I'm here at last!" she cried joyously. "Don't you
At first the old goose-parents could not quite make out what they saw,
but when they recognized Dunfin they were absurdly happy, of course.
While the wild geese and Morten Goosey-Gander and Dunfin were chattering
excitedly, trying to tell how she had been rescued, Prettywing and
Goldeye came running. They cried "_welcome"_ and pretended to be so
happy because Dunfin was at home that she was deeply moved.
The wild geese fared well on the island and decided not to travel
farther until the following morning. After a while the sisters asked
Dunfin if she would come with them and see the places where they
intended to build their nests. She promptly accompanied them, and saw
that they had picked out secluded and well protected nesting places.
"Now where will you settle down, Dunfin?" they asked.
"I? Why I don't intend to remain on the island," she said. "I'm going
with the wild geese up to Lapland."
"What a pity that you must leave us!" said the sisters.
"I should have been very glad to remain here with father and mother and
you," said Dunfin, "had I not promised the big, white--"
"What!" shrieked Prettywing. "Are you to have the handsome
goosey-gander? Then it is--" But here Goldeye gave her a sharp nudge,
and she stopped short.
The two cruel sisters had much to talk about all the afternoon. They
were furious because Dunfin had a suitor like the white goosey-gander.
They themselves had suitors, but theirs were only common gray geese,
and, since they had seen Morten Goosey-Gander, they thought them so
homely and low-bred that they did not wish even to look at them.
"This will grieve me to death!" whimpered Goldeye. "If at least it had
been you, Sister Prettywing, who had captured him!"
"I would rather see him dead than to go about here the entire summer
thinking of Dunfin's capturing a white goosey-gander!" pouted
However, the sisters continued to appear very friendly toward Dunfin,
and in the afternoon Goldeye took Dunfin with her, that she might see
the one she thought of marrying.
"He's not as attractive as the one you will have," said Goldeye. "But to
make up for it, one can be certain that he is what he is."
"What do you mean, Goldeye?" questioned Dunfin. At first Goldeye would
not explain what she had meant, but at last she came out with it.
"We have never seen a white goose travel with wild geese," said the
sister, "and we wonder if he can be bewitched."
"You are very stupid," retorted Dunfin indignantly. "He is a tame goose,
"He brings with him one who is bewitched," said Goldeye, "and, under the
circumstances, he too must be bewitched. Are you not afraid that he may
be a black cormorant?" She was a good talker and succeeded in
frightening Dunfin thoroughly.
"You don't mean what you are saying," pleaded the little gray goose.
"You only wish to frighten me!"
"I wish what is for your good, Dunfin," said Goldeye. "I can't imagine
anything worse than for you to fly away with a black cormorant! But now
I shall tell you something--try to persuade him to eat some of the roots
I have gathered here. If he is bewitched, it will be apparent at once.
If he is not, he will remain as he is."
The boy was sitting amongst the wild geese, listening to Akka and the
old goose-master, when Dunfin came flying up to him. "Thumbietot,
Thumbietot!" she cried. "Morten Goosey-Gander is dying! I have killed
"Let me get up on your back, Dunfin, and take me to him!" Away they
flew, and Akka and the other wild geese followed them. When they got to
the goosey-gander, he was lying prostrate on the ground. He could not
utter a word--only gasped for breath.
"Tickle him under the gorge and slap him on the back!" commanded Akka.
The boy did so and presently the big, white gander coughed up a large,
white root, which had stuck in his gorge. "Have you been eating of
these?" asked Akka, pointing to some roots that lay on the ground.
"Yes," groaned the goosey-gander.
"Then it was well they stuck in your throat," said Akka, "for they are
poisonous. Had you swallowed them, you certainly should have died."
"Dunfin bade me eat them," said the goosey-gander.
"My sister gave them to me," protested Dunfin, and she told everything.
"You must beware of those sisters of yours, Dunfin!" warned Akka, "for
they wish you no good, depend upon it!"
But Dunfin was so constituted that she could not think evil of any one
and, a moment later, when Prettywing asked her to come and meet her
intended, she went with her immediately.
"Oh, he isn't as handsome as yours," said the sister, "but he's much
more courageous and daring!"
"How do you know he is?" challenged Dunfin.
"For some time past there has been weeping and wailing amongst the sea
gulls and wild ducks on the island. Every morning at daybreak a strange
bird of prey comes and carries off one of them."
"What kind of a bird is it?" asked Dunfin.
"We don't know," replied the sister. "One of his kind has never before
been seen on the island, and, strange to say, he has never attacked one
of us geese. But now my intended has made up his mind to challenge him
to-morrow morning, and drive him away."
"Oh, I hope he'll succeed!" said Dunfin.
"I hardly think he will," returned the sister. "If my goosey-gander were
as big and strong as yours, I should have hope."
"Do you wish me to ask Morten Goosey-Gander to meet the strange bird?"
"Indeed, I do!" exclaimed Prettywing excitedly. "You couldn't render me
a greater service."
The next morning the goosey-gander was up before the sun. He stationed
himself on the highest point of the island and peered in all directions.
Presently he saw a big, dark bird coming from the west. His wings were
exceedingly large, and it was easy to tell that he was an eagle. The
goosey-gander had not expected a more dangerous adversary than an owl,
and how he understood that he could not escape this encounter with his
life. But it did not occur to him to avoid a struggle with a bird who
was many times stronger than himself.
The great bird swooped down on a sea gull and dug his talons into it.
Before the eagle could spread his wings, Morten Goosey-Gander rushed up
to him. "Drop that!" he shouted, "and don't come here again or you'll
have me to deal with!" "What kind of a lunatic are you?" said the eagle.
"It's lucky for you that I never fight with geese, or you would soon be
Morten Goosey-Gander thought the eagle considered himself too good to
fight with him and flew at him, incensed, biting him on the throat and
beating him with his wings. This, naturally, the eagle would not
tolerate and he began to fight, but not with his full strength.
The boy lay sleeping in the quarters where Akka and the other wild geese
slept, when Dunfin called: "Thumbietot, Thumbietot! Morten Goosey-Gander
is being torn to pieces by an eagle."
"Let me get up on your back, Dunfin, and take me to him!" said the boy.
When they arrived on the scene Morten Goosey-Gander was badly torn, and
bleeding, but he was still fighting. The boy could not battle with the
eagle; all that he could do was to seek more efficient help.
"Hurry, Dunfin, and call Akka and the wild geese!" he cried. The instant
he said that, the eagle flew back and stopped fighting.
"Who's speaking of Akka?" he asked. He saw Thumbietot and heard the wild
geese honking, so he spread his wings.
"Tell Akka I never expected to run across her or any of her flock out
here in the sea!" he said, and soared away in a rapid and graceful
"That is the self-same eagle who once brought me back to the wild
geese," the boy remarked, gazing after the bird in astonishment.
The geese had decided to leave the island at dawn, but first they wanted
to feed awhile. As they walked about and nibbled, a mountain duck came
up to Dunfin.
"I have a message for you from your sisters," said the duck. "They dare
not show themselves among the wild geese, but they asked me to remind
you not to leave the island without calling on the old fisherman."
"That's so!" exclaimed Dunfin, but she was so frightened now that she
would not go alone, and asked the goosey-gander and Thumbietot to
accompany her to the hut.
The door was open, so Dunfin entered, but the others remained outside.
After a moment they heard Akka give the signal to start, and called
Dunfin. A gray goose came out and flew with the wild geese away from the
They had travelled quite a distance along the archipelago when the boy
began to wonder at the goose who accompanied them. Dunfin always flew
lightly and noiselessly, but this one laboured with heavy and noisy
wing-strokes. "We are in the wrong company. It is Prettywing that
The boy had barely spoken when the goose uttered such an ugly and angry
shriek that all knew who she was. Akka and the others turned to her, but
the gray goose did not fly away at once. Instead she bumped against the
big goosey-gander, snatched Thumbietot, and flew off with him in her
There was a wild chase over the archipelago. Prettywing flew fast, but
the wild geese were close behind her, and there was no chance for her to
Suddenly they saw a puff of smoke rise up from the sea, and heard an
explosion. In their excitement they had not noticed that they were
directly above a boat in which a lone fisherman was seated.
However, none of the geese was hurt; but just there, above the boat,
Prettywing opened her bill and dropped Thumbietot into the sea.
A few years ago, at Skansen--the great park just outside of Stockholm
where they have collected so many wonderful things--there lived a little
old man, named Clement Larsson. He was from Haelsingland and had come to
Skansen with his fiddle to play folk dances and other old melodies. As a
performer, he appeared mostly in the evening. During the day it was his
business to sit on guard in one of the many pretty peasant cottages
which have been moved to Skansen from all parts of the country.
In the beginning Clement thought that he fared better in his old age
than he had ever dared dream; but after a time he began to dislike the
place terribly, especially while he was on watch duty. It was all very
well when visitors came into the cottage to look around, but some days
Clement would sit for many hours all alone. Then he felt so homesick
that he feared he would have to give up his place. He was very poor and
knew that at home he would become a charge on the parish. Therefore he
tried to hold out as long as he could, although he felt more unhappy
from day to day.
One beautiful evening in the beginning of May Clement had been granted a
few hours' leave of absence. He was on his way down the steep hill
leading out of Skansen, when he met an island fisherman coming along
with his game bag. The fisherman was an active young man who came to
Skansen with seafowl that he had managed to capture alive. Clement had
met him before, many times.
The fisherman stopped Clement to ask if the superintendent at Skansen
was at home. When Clement had replied, he, in turn, asked what choice
thing the fisherman had in his bag. "You can see what I have," the
fisherman answered, "if in return you will give me an idea as to what I
should ask for it."
He held open the bag and Clement peeped into it once--and again--then
quickly drew back a step or two. "Good gracious, Ashbjoern!" he
exclaimed. "How did you catch that one?"
He remembered that when he was a child his mother used to talk of the
tiny folk who lived under the cabin floor. He was not permitted to cry
or to be naughty, lest he provoke these small people. After he was grown
he believed his mother had made up these stories about the elves to make
him behave himself. But it had been no invention of his mother's, it
seemed; for there, in Ashbjoern's bag, lay one of the tiny folk.
There was a little of the terror natural to childhood left in Clement,
and he felt a shudder run down his spinal column as he peeped into the
bag. Ashbjoern saw that he was frightened and began to laugh; but
Clement took the matter seriously. "Tell me, Ashbjoern, where you came
across him?" he asked. "You may be sure that I wasn't lying in wait for
him!" said Ashbjoern. "He came to me. I started out early this morning
and took my rifle along into the boat. I had just poled away from the
shore when I sighted some wild geese coming from the east, shrieking
like mad. I sent them a shot, but hit none of them. Instead this
creature came tumbling down into the water--so close to the boat that I
only had to put my hand out and pick him up."
"I hope you didn't shoot him, Ashbjoern?"
"Oh, no! He is well and sound; but when he came down, he was a little
dazed at first, so I took advantage of that fact to wind the ends of two
sail threads around his ankles and wrists, so that he couldn't run away.
'Ha! Here's something for Skansen,' I thought instantly."
Clement grew strangely troubled as the fisherman talked. All that he had
heard about the tiny folk in his childhood--of their vindictiveness
toward enemies and their benevolence toward friends--came back to him.
It had never gone well with those who had attempted to hold one of them
"You should have let him go at once, Ashbjoern," said Clement.
"I came precious near being forced to set him free," returned the
fisherman. "You may as well know, Clement, that the wild geese followed
me all the way home, and they criss-crossed over the island the whole
morning, honk-honking as if they wanted him back. Not only they, but the
entire population--sea gulls, sea swallows, and many others who are not
worth a shot of powder, alighted on the island and made an awful racket.
When I came out they fluttered about me until I had to turn back. My
wife begged me to let him go, but I had made up my mind that he should
come here to Skansen, so I placed one of the children's dolls in the
window, hid the midget in the bottom of my bag, and started away. The
birds must have fancied that it was he who stood in the window, for they
permitted me to leave without pursuing me."
"Does it say anything?" asked Clement.
"Yes. At first he tried to call to the birds, but I wouldn't have it and
put a gag in his mouth."
"Oh, Ashbjoern!" protested Clement. "How can you treat him so! Don't you
see that he is something supernatural!"
"I don't know what he is," said Ashbjoern calmly. "Let others consider
that. I'm satisfied if only I can get a good sum for him. Now tell me,
Clement, what you think the doctor at Skansen would give me."
There was a long pause before Clement replied. He felt very sorry for
the poor little chap. He actually imagined that his mother was standing
beside him telling him that he must always be kind to the tiny folk.
"I have no idea what the doctor up there would care to give you,
Ashbjoern," he said finally. "But if you will leave him with me, I'll pay
you twenty kroner for him."
Ashbjoern stared at the fiddler in amazement when he heard him name so
large a sum. He thought that Clement believed the midget had some
mysterious power and might be of service for him. He was by no means
certain that the doctor would think him such a great find or would offer
to pay so high a sum for him; so he accepted Clement's proffer.
The fiddler poked his purchase into one of his wide pockets, turned back
to Skansen, and went into a moss-covered hut, where there were neither
visitors nor guards. He closed the door after him, took out the midget,
who was still bound hand and foot and gagged, and laid him down gently
on a bench.
"Now listen to what I say!" said Clement. "I know of course that such as
you do not like to be seen of men, but prefer to go about and busy
yourselves in your own way. Therefore I have decided to give you your
liberty--but only on condition that you will remain in this park until I
permit you to leave. If you agree to this, nod your head three times."
Clement gazed at the midget with confident expectation, but the latter
did not move a muscle.
"You shall not fare badly," continued Clement. "I'll see to it that you
are fed every day, and you will have so much to do there that the time
will not seem long to you. But you mustn't go elsewhere till I give you
leave. Now we'll agree as to a signal. So long as I set your food out in
a white bowl you are to stay. When I set it out in a blue one you may
Clement paused again, expecting the midget to give the sign of approval,
but he did not stir.
"Very well," said Clement, "then there's no choice but to show you to
the master of this place. Then you'll be put in a glass case, and all
the people in the big city of Stockholm will come and stare at you."
This scared the midget, and he promptly gave the signal.
"That was right," said Clement as he cut the cord that bound the
midget's hands. Then he hurried toward the door.
The boy unloosed the bands around his ankles and tore away the gag
before thinking of anything else. When he turned to Clement to thank
him, he had gone.
Just outside the door Clement met a handsome, noble-looking gentleman,
who was on his way to a place close by from which there was a beautiful
outlook. Clement could not recall having seen the stately old man
before, but the latter must surely have noticed Clement sometime when he
was playing the fiddle, because he stopped and spoke to him.
"Good day, Clement!" he said. "How do you do? You are not ill, are you?
I think you have grown a bit thin of late."
There was such an expression of kindliness about the old gentleman that
Clement plucked up courage and told him of his homesickness.
"What!" exclaimed the old gentleman. "Are you homesick when you are in
Stockholm? It can't be possible!" He looked almost offended. Then he
reflected that it was only an ignorant old peasant from Haelsingland that
he talked with--and so resumed his friendly attitude.
"Surely you have never heard how the city of Stockholm was founded? If
you had, you would comprehend that your anxiety to get away is only a
foolish fancy. Come with me to the bench over yonder and I will tell you
something about Stockholm."
When the old gentleman was seated on the bench he glanced down at the
city, which spread in all its glory below him, and he drew a deep
breath, as if he wished to drink in all the beauty of the landscape.
Thereupon he turned to the fiddler.
"Look, Clement!" he said, and as he talked he traced with his cane a
little map in the sand in front of them. "Here lies Uppland, and here,
to the south, a point juts out, which is split up by a number of bays.
And here we have Soermland with another point, which is just as cut up
and points straight north. Here, from the west, comes a lake filled with
islands: It is Lake Maelar. From the east comes another body of water,
which can barely squeeze in between the islands and islets. It is the
East Sea. Here, Clement, where Uppland joins Soermland and Maelaren joins
the East Sea, comes a short river, in the centre of which lie four
little islets that divide the river into several tributaries--one of
which is called Norristroem but was formerly Stocksund.
"In the beginning these islets were common wooded islands, such as one
finds in plenty on Lake Maelar even to-day, and for ages they were
entirely uninhabited. They were well located between two bodies of water
and two bodies of land; but this no one remarked. Year after year
passed; people settled along Lake Maelar and in the archipelago, but
these river islands attracted no settlers. Sometimes it happened that a
seafarer put into port at one of them and pitched his tent for the
night; but no one remained there long.
"One day a fisherman, who lived on Liding Island, out in Salt Fiord,
steered his boat toward Lake Maelar, where he had such good luck with his
fishing that he forgot to start for home in time. He got no farther than
the four islets, and the best he could do was to land on one and wait
until later in the night, when there would be bright moonlight.
"It was late summer and warm. The fisherman hauled his boat on land, lay
down beside it, his head resting upon a stone, and fell asleep. When he
awoke the moon had been up a long while. It hung right above him and
shone with such splendour that it was like broad daylight.
"The man jumped to his feet and was about to push his boat into the
water, when he saw a lot of black specks moving out in the stream. A
school of seals was heading full speed for the island. When the
fisherman saw that they intended to crawl up on land, he bent down for
his spear, which he always took with him in the boat. But when he
straightened up, he saw no seals. Instead, there stood on the strand the
most beautiful young maidens, dressed in green, trailing satin robes,
with pearl crowns upon their heads. The fisherman understood that these
were mermaids who lived on desolate rock islands far out at sea and had
assumed seal disguises in order to come up on land and enjoy the
moonlight on the green islets.
"He laid down the spear very cautiously, and when the young maidens came
up on the island to play, he stole behind and surveyed them. He had
heard that sea-nymphs were so beautiful and fascinating that no one
could see them and not be enchanted by their charms; and he had to admit
that this was not too much to say of them.
"When he had stood for a while under the shadow of the trees and watched
the dance, he went down to the strand, took one of the seal skins lying
there, and hid it under a stone. Then he went back to his boat, lay down
beside it, and pretended to be asleep.
"Presently he saw the young maidens trip down to the strand to don their
seal skins. At first all was play and laughter, which was changed to
weeping and wailing when one of the mermaids could not find her seal
robe. Her companions ran up and down the strand and helped her search
for it, but no trace could they find. While they were seeking they
noticed that the sky was growing pale and the day was breaking, so they
could tarry no longer, and they all swam away, leaving behind the one
whose seal skin was missing. She sat on the strand and wept.
"The fisherman felt sorry for her, of course, but he forced himself to
lie still till daybreak. Then he got up, pushed the boat into the water,
and stepped into it to make it appear that he saw her by chance after he
had lifted the oars.
"'Who are you?' he called out. 'Are you shipwrecked?'
"She ran toward him and asked if he had seen her seal skin. The
fisherman looked as if he did not know what she was talking about. She
sat down again and wept. Then he determined to take her with him in the
boat. 'Come with me to my cottage,' he commanded, 'and my mother will
take care of you. You can't stay here on the island, where you have
neither food nor shelter!' He talked so convincingly that she was
persuaded to step into his boat.
"Both the fisherman and his mother were very kind to the poor mermaid,
and she seemed to be happy with them. She grew more contented every day
and helped the older woman with her work, and was exactly like any other
island lass--only she was much prettier. One day the fisherman asked her
if she would be his wife, and she did not object, but at once said yes.
"Preparations were made for the wedding. The mermaid dressed as a bride
in her green, trailing robe with the shimmering pearl crown she had worn
when the fisherman first saw her. There was neither church nor parson on
the island at that time, so the bridal party seated themselves in the
boats to row up to the first church they should find.
"The fisherman had the mermaid and his mother in his boat, and he rowed
so well that he was far ahead of all the others. When he had come so far
that he could see the islet in the river, where he won his bride, he
could not help smiling.
"'What are you smiling at?' she asked.
"'Oh, I'm thinking of that night when I hid your seal skin,' answered
the fisherman; for he felt so sure of her that he thought there was no
longer any need for him to conceal anything.
"'What are you saying?' asked the bride, astonished. 'Surely I have
never possessed a seal skin!' It appeared she had forgotten everything.
"'Don't you recollect how you danced with the mermaids?' he asked.
"'I don't know what you mean,' said the bride. 'I think that you must
have dreamed a strange dream last night.'
"If I show you your seal skin, you'll probably believe me!' laughed the
fisherman, promptly turning the boat toward the islet. They stepped
ashore and he brought the seal skin out from under the stone where he
had hidden it.
"But the instant the bride set eyes on the seal skin she grasped it and
drew it over her head. It snuggled close to her--as if there was life in
it--and immediately she threw herself into the stream.
"The bridegroom saw her swim away and plunged into the water after her;
but he could not catch up to her. When he saw that he couldn't stop her
in any other way, in his grief he seized his spear and hurled it. He
aimed better than he had intended, for the poor mermaid gave a piercing
shriek and disappeared in the depths.
"The fisherman stood on the strand waiting for her to appear again. He
observed that the water around him began to take on a soft sheen, a
beauty that he had never seen before. It shimmered in pink and white,
like the colour-play on the inside of sea shells.
"As the glittering water lapped the shores, the fisherman thought that
they too were transformed. They began to blossom and waft their
perfumes. A soft sheen spread over them and they also took on a beauty
which they had never possessed before.
"He understood how all this had come to pass. For it is thus with
mermaids: one who beholds them must needs find them more beautiful than
any one else, and the mermaid's blood being mixed with the water that
bathed the shores, her beauty was transferred to both. All who saw them
must love them and yearn for them. This was their legacy from the
When the stately old gentleman had got thus far in his narrative he
turned to Clement and looked at him. Clement nodded reverently but made
no comment, as he did not wish to cause a break in the story.
"Now you must bear this in mind, Clement," the old gentleman continued,
with a roguish glint in his eyes. "From that time on people emigrated to
the islands. At first only fishermen and peasants settled there, but
others, too, were attracted to them. One day the king and his earl
sailed up the stream. They started at once to talk of these islands,
having observed they were so situated that every vessel that sailed
toward Lake Maelar had to pass them. The earl suggested that there ought
to be a lock put on the channel which could be opened or closed at will,
to let in merchant vessels and shut out pirates.
"This idea was carried out," said the old gentleman, as he rose and
began to trace in the sand again with his cane. "On the largest of these
islands the earl erected a fortress with a strong tower, which was
called 'Kaernan.' And around the island a wall was built. Here, at the
north and south ends of the wall, they made gates and placed strong
towers over them. Across the other islands they built bridges; these
were likewise equipped with high towers. Out in the water, round about,
they put a wreath of piles with bars that could open and close, so that
no vessel could sail past without permission.
"Therefore you see, Clement, the four islands which had lain so long
unnoticed were soon strongly fortified. But this was not all, for the
shores and the sound tempted people, and before long they came from all
quarters to settle there. They built a church, which has since been
called 'Storkyrkan.' Here it stands, near the castle. And here, within
the walls, were the little huts the pioneers built for themselves. They
were primitive, but they served their purpose. More was not needed at
that time to make the place pass for a city. And the city was named
"There came a day, Clement, when the earl who had begun the work went to
his final rest, and Stockholm was without a master builder. Monks called
the Gray Friars came to the country. Stockholm attracted them. They
asked permission to erect a monastery there, so the king gave them an
island--one of the smaller ones--this one facing Lake Maelar. There they
built, and the place was called Gray Friars' Island. Other monks came,
called the Black Friars. They, too, asked for right to build in
Stockholm, near the south gate. On this, the larger of the islands north
of the city, a 'Holy Ghost House,' or hospital, was built; while on the
smaller one thrifty men put up a mill, and along the little islands
close by the monks fished. As you know, there is only one island now,
for the canal between the two has filled up; but it is still called Holy
"And now, Clement, all the little wooded islands were dotted with
houses, but still people kept streaming in; for these shores and waters
have the power to draw people to them. Hither came pious women of the
Order of Saint Clara and asked for ground to build upon. For them there
was no choice but to settle on the north shore, at Norrmalm, as it is
called. You may be sure that they were not over pleased with this
location, for across Norrmalm ran a high ridge, and on that the city had
its gallows hill, so that it was a detested spot. Nevertheless the Poor
Clares erected their church and their convent on the strand below the
ridge. After they were established there they soon found plenty of
followers. Upon the ridge itself were built a hospital and a church,
consecrated to Saint Goran, and just below the ridge a church was
erected to Saint Jacob.
"And even at Soedermalm, where the mountain rises perpendicularly from
the strand, they began to build. There they raised a church to Saint
"But you must not think that only cloister folk moved to Stockholm!
There were also many others--principally German tradesmen and artisans.
These were more skilled than the Swedes, and were well received. They
settled within the walls of the city where they pulled down the wretched
little cabins that stood there and built high, magnificent stone houses.
But space was not plentiful within the walls, therefore they had to
build the houses close together, with gables facing the narrow by-lanes.
So you see, Clement, that Stockholm could attract people!"
At this point in the narrative another gentleman appeared and walked
rapidly down the path toward the man who was talking to Clement, but he
waved his hand, and the other remained at a distance. The dignified old
gentleman still sat on the bench beside the fiddler.
"Now, Clement, you must render me a service," he said. "I have no time
to talk more with you, but I will send you a book about Stockholm and
you must read it from cover to cover. I have, so to speak, laid the
foundations of Stockholm for you. Study the rest out for yourself and
learn how the city has thrived and changed. Read how the little, narrow,
wall-enclosed city on the islands has spread into this great sea of
houses below us. Read how, on the spot where the dark tower Kaernan once
stood, the beautiful, light castle below us was erected and how the Gray
Friars' church has been turned into the burial place of the Swedish
kings; read how islet after islet was built up with factories; how the
ridge was lowered and the sound filled in; how the truck gardens at the
south and north ends of the city have been converted into beautiful
parks or built-up quarters; how the King's private deer park has become
the people's favourite pleasure resort. You must make yourself at home
here, Clement. This city does not belong exclusively to the
Stockholmers. It belongs to you and to all Swedes.
"As you read about Stockholm, remember that I have spoken the truth, for
the city has the power to draw every one to it. First the King moved
here, then the nobles built their palaces here, and then one after
another was attracted to the place, so that now, as you see, Stockholm
is not a city unto itself or for nearby districts; it has grown into a
city for the whole kingdom.
"You know, Clement, that there are judicial courts in every parish
throughout the land, but in Stockholm they have jurisdiction for the
whole nation. You know that there are judges in every district court in
the country, but at Stockholm there is only one court, to which all the
others are accountable. You know that there are barracks and troops in
every part of the land, but those at Stockholm command the whole army.
Everywhere in the country you will find railroads, but the whole great
national system is controlled and managed at Stockholm; here you will
find the governing boards for the clergy, for teachers, for physicians,
for bailiffs and jurors. This is the heart of your country, Clement. All
the change you have in your pocket is coined here, and the postage
stamps you stick on your letters are made here. There is something here
for every Swede. Here no one need feel homesick, for here all Swedes are
"And when you read of all that has been brought here to Stockholm, think
too of the latest that the city has attracted to itself: these old-time
peasant cottages here at Skansen; the old dances; the old costumes and
house-furnishings; the musicians and story-tellers. Everything good of
the old times Stockholm has tempted here to Skansen to do it honour,
that it may, in turn, stand before the people with renewed glory.
"But, first and last, remember as you read about Stockholm that you are
to sit in this place. You must see how the waves sparkle in joyous play
and how the shores shimmer with beauty. You will come under the spell of
their witchery, Clement."
The handsome old gentleman had raised his voice, so that it rang out
strong and commanding, and his eyes shone. Then he rose, and, with a
wave of his hand to Clement, walked away. Clement understood that the
one who had been talking to him was a great man, and he bowed to him as
low as he could.
The next day came a royal lackey with a big red book and a letter for
Clement, and in the letter it said that the book was from the King.
After that the little old man, Clement Larsson, was lightheaded for
several days, and it was impossible to get a sensible word out of him.
When a week had gone by, he went to the superintendent and gave in his
notice. He simply had to go home.
"Why must you go home? Can't you learn to be content here?" asked the
"Oh, I'm contented here," said Clement. "That matter troubles me no
longer, but I must go home all the same."
Clement was quite perturbed because the King had said that he should
learn all about Stockholm and be happy there. But he could not rest
until he had told every one at home that the King had said those words
to him. He could not renounce the idea of standing on the church knoll
at home and telling high and low that the King had been so kind to him,
that he had sat beside him on the bench, and had sent him a book, and
had taken the time to talk to him--a poor fiddler--for a whole hour, in
order to cure him of his homesickness. It was good to relate this to the
Laplanders and Dalecarlian peasant girls at Skansen, but what was that
compared to being able to tell of it at home?
Even if Clement were to end in the poorhouse, it wouldn't be so hard
after this. He was a totally different man from what he had been, and he
would be respected and honoured in a very different way.
This new yearning took possession of Clement. He simply had to go up to
the doctor and say that he must go home.
GORGO, THE EAGLE
IN THE MOUNTAIN GLEN
Far up among the mountains of Lapland there was an old eagle's nest on a
ledge which projected from a high cliff. The nest was made of dry twigs
of pine and spruce, interlaced one with another until they formed a
perfect network. Year by year the nest had been repaired and
strengthened. It was about two metres wide, and nearly as high as a
The cliff on which the eagle's nest was situated towered above a big
glen, which was inhabited in summer by a flock of wild geese, as it was
an excellent refuge for them. It was so secluded between cliffs that not
many knew of it, even among the Laplanders themselves.
In the heart of this glen there was a small, round lake in which was an
abundance of food for the tiny goslings, and on the tufted lake shores
which were covered with osier bushes and dwarfed birches the geese found
fine nesting places.
In all ages eagles had lived on the mountain, and geese in the glen.
Every year the former carried off a few of the latter, but they were
very careful not to take so many that the wild geese would be afraid to
remain in the glen. The geese, in their turn, found the eagles quite
useful. They were robbers, to be sure, but they kept other robbers away.
Two years before Nils Holgersson travelled with the wild geese the old
leader-goose, Akka from Kebnekaise, was standing at the foot of the
mountain slope looking toward the eagle's nest.
The eagles were in the habit of starting on their chase soon after
sunrise; during the summers that Akka had lived in the glen she had
watched every morning for their departure to find if they stopped in the
glen to hunt, or if they flew beyond it to other hunting grounds.
She did not have to wait long before the two eagles left the ledge on
the cliff. Stately and terror-striking they soared into the air. They
directed their course toward the plain, and Akka breathed a sigh of
The old leader-goose's days of nesting and rearing of young were over,
and during the summer she passed the time going from one goose range to
another, giving counsel regarding the brooding and care of the young.
Aside from this she kept an eye out not only for eagles but also for
mountain fox and owls and all other enemies who were a menace to the
wild geese and their young.
About noontime Akka began to watch for the eagles again. This she had
done every day during all the summers that she had lived in the glen.
She could tell at once by their flight if their hunt had been
successful, and in that event she felt relieved for the safety of those
who belonged to her. But on this particular day she had not seen the
eagles return. "I must be getting old and stupid," she thought, when she
had waited a time for them. "The eagles have probably been home this
In the afternoon she looked toward the cliff again, expecting to see the
eagles perched on the rocky ledge where they usually took their
afternoon rest; toward evening, when they took their bath in the dale
lake, she tried again to get sight of them, but failed. Again she
bemoaned the fact that she was growing old. She was so accustomed to
having the eagles on the mountain above her that she could not imagine
the possibility of their not having returned.
The following morning Akka was awake in good season to watch for the
eagles; but she did not see them. On the other hand, she heard in the
morning stillness a cry that sounded both angry and plaintive, and it
seemed to come from the eagles' nest. "Can there possibly be anything
amiss with the eagles?" she wondered. She spread her wings quickly, and
rose so high that she could perfectly well look down into the nest.
There she saw neither of the eagles. There was no one in the nest save a
little half-fledged eaglet who was screaming for food.
Akka sank down toward the eagles' nest, slowly and reluctantly. It was a
gruesome place to come to! It was plain what kind of robber folk lived
there! In the nest and on the cliff ledge lay bleached bones, bloody
feathers, pieces of skin, hares' heads, birds' beaks, and the tufted
claws of grouse. The eaglet, who was lying in the midst of this, was
repulsive to look upon, with his big, gaping bill, his awkward,
down-clad body, and his undeveloped wings where the prospective quills
stuck out like thorns.
At last Akka conquered her repugnance and alighted on the edge of the
nest, at the same time glancing about her anxiously in every direction,
for each second she expected to see the old eagles coming back.
"It is well that some one has come at last," cried the baby eagle.
"Fetch me some food at once!"
"Well, well, don't be in such haste," said Akka. "Tell me first where
your father and mother are."
"That's what I should like to know myself. They went off yesterday
morning and left me a lemming to live upon while they were away. You can
believe that was eaten long ago. It's a shame for mother to let me
starve in this way!"
Akka began to think that the eagles had really been shot, and she
reasoned that if she were to let the eaglet starve she might perhaps be
rid of the whole robber tribe for all time. But it went very much
against her not to succour a deserted young one so far as she could.
"Why do you sit there and stare?" snapped the eaglet. "Didn't you hear
me say I want food?"
Akka spread her wings and sank down to the little lake in the glen. A
moment later she returned to the eagles' nest with a salmon trout in her
The eaglet flew into a temper when she dropped the fish in front of him.
"Do you think I can eat such stuff?" he shrieked, pushing it aside, and
trying to strike Akka with his bill. "Fetch me a willow grouse or a
lemming, do you hear?"
Akka stretched her head forward, and gave the eaglet a sharp nip in the
neck. "Let me say to you," remarked the old goose, "that if I'm to
procure food for you, you must be satisfied with what I give you. Your
father and mother are dead, and from them you can get no help; but if
you want to lie here and starve to death while you wait for grouse and
lemming, I shall not hinder you."
When Akka had spoken her mind she promptly retired, and did not show her
face in the eagles' nest again for some time. But when she did return,
the eaglet had eaten the fish, and when she dropped another in front of
him he swallowed it at once, although it was plain that he found it very
Akka had imposed upon herself a tedious task. The old eagles never
appeared again, and she alone had to procure for the eaglet all the food
he needed. She gave him fish and frogs and he did not seem to fare badly
on this diet, but grew big and strong. He soon forgot his parents, the
eagles, and fancied that Akka was his real mother. Akka, in turn, loved
him as if he had been her own child. She tried to give him a good
bringing up, and to cure him of his wildness and overbearing ways.
After a fortnight Akka observed that the time was approaching for her to
moult and put on a new feather dress so as to be ready to fly. For a
whole moon she would be unable to carry food to the baby eaglet, and he
might starve to death.
So Akka said to him one day: "Gorgo, I can't come to you any more with
fish. Everything depends now upon your pluck--which means can you dare
to venture into the glen, so I can continue to procure food for you? You
must choose between starvation and flying down to the glen, but that,
too, may cost you your life."
Without a second's hesitation the eaglet stepped upon the edge of the
nest. Barely taking the trouble to measure the distance to the bottom,
he spread his tiny wings and started away. He rolled over and over in
space, but nevertheless made enough use of his wings to reach the ground
Down there in the glen Gorgo passed the summer in company with the
little goslings, and was a good comrade for them. Since he regarded
himself as a gosling, he tried to live as they lived; when they swam in
the lake he followed them until he came near drowning. It was most
embarrassing to him that he could not learn to swim, and he went to Akka
and complained of his inability.
"Why can't I swim like the others?" he asked.
"Your claws grew too hooked, and your toes too large while you were up
there on the cliff," Akka replied. "But you'll make a fine bird all the
The eaglet's wings soon grew so large that they could carry him; but not
until autumn, when the goslings learned to fly, did it dawn upon him
that he could use them for flight. There came a proud time for him, for
at this sport he was the peer of them all. His companions never stayed
up in the air any longer than they had to, but he stayed there nearly
the whole day, and practised the art of flying. So far it had not
occurred to him that he was of another species than the geese, but he
could not help noting a number of things that surprised him, and he
questioned Akka constantly.
"Why do grouse and lemming run and hide when they see my shadow on the
cliff?" he queried. "They don't show such fear of the other goslings."
"Your wings grew too big when you were on the cliff," said Akka. "It is
that which frightens the little wretches. But don't be unhappy because
of that. You'll be a fine bird all the same."
After the eagle had learned to fly, he taught himself to fish, and to
catch frogs. But by and by he began to ponder this also.
"How does it happen that I live on fish and frogs?" he asked. "The other
"This is due to the fact that I had no other food to give you when you
were on the cliff," said Akka. "But don't let that make you sad. You'll
be a fine bird all the same."
When the wild geese began their autumn moving, Gorgo flew along with the
flock, regarding himself all the while as one of them. The air was
filled with birds who were on their way south, and there was great
excitement among them when Akka appeared with an eagle in her train. The
wild goose flock was continually surrounded by swarms of the curious who
loudly expressed their astonishment. Akka bade them be silent, but it
was impossible to stop so many wagging tongues.
"Why do they call me an eagle?" Gorgo asked repeatedly, growing more and
more exasperated. "Can't they see that I'm a wild goose? I'm no
bird-eater who preys upon his kind. How dare they give me such an ugly
One day they flew above a barn yard where many chickens walked on a dump
heap and picked. "An eagle! An eagle!" shrieked the chickens, and
started to run for shelter. But Gorgo, who had heard the eagles spoken
of as savage criminals, could not control his anger. He snapped his
wings together and shot down to the ground, striking his talons into one
of the hens. "I'll teach you, I will, that I'm no eagle!" he screamed
furiously, and struck with his beak.
That instant he heard Akka call to him from the air, and rose
obediently. The wild goose flew toward him and began to reprimand him.
"What are you trying to do?" she cried, beating him with her bill. "Was
it perhaps your intention to tear that poor hen to pieces?" But when the
eagle took his punishment from the wild goose without a protest, there
arose from the great bird throng around them a perfect storm of taunts
and gibes. The eagle heard this, and turned toward Akka with flaming
eyes, as though he would have liked to attack her. But he suddenly
changed his mind, and with quick wing strokes bounded into the air,
soaring so high that no call could reach him; and he sailed around up
there as long as the wild geese saw him.
Two days later he appeared again in the wild goose flock.
"I know who I am," he said to Akka. "Since I am an eagle, I must live
as becomes an eagle; but I think that we can be friends all the same.
You or any of yours I shall never attack."
But Akka had set her heart on successfully training an eagle into a mild
and harmless bird, and she could not tolerate his wanting to do as he
"Do you think that I wish to be the friend of a bird-eater?" she asked.
"Live as I have taught you to live, and you may travel with my flock as
Both were proud and stubborn, and neither of them would yield. It ended
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