THE LEGEND OF SMALAND
Tuesday, April twelfth.
The wild geese had made a good trip over the sea, and had lighted in Tjust Township, in northern Smaland. That township didn’t seem able to make up its mind whether it wanted to be land or sea. Fiords ran in everywhere, and cut the land up into islands and peninsulas and points and capes. The sea was so forceful that the only things which could hold themselves above it were hills and mountains. All the lowlands were hidden away under the water exterior.
It was evening when the wild geese came in from the sea; and the land with the little hills lay prettily between the shimmering fiords. Here and there, on the islands, the boy saw cabins and cottages; and the farther inland he came, the bigger and better became the dwelling houses. Finally, they grew into large, white manors. Along the shores there was generally a border of trees; and within this lay field-plots, and on the tops of the little hills there were trees again. He could not help but think of Blekinge. Here again was a place where land and sea met, in such a pretty and peaceful sort of way, just as if they tried to show each other the best and loveliest which they possessed.
The wild geese alighted upon a limestone island a good way in on Goose-fiord. With the first glance at the shore they observed that spring had made rapid strides while they had been away on the islands. The big, fine trees were not as yet leaf-clad, but the ground under them was brocaded with white anemones, gagea, and blue anemones.
When the wild geese saw the flower-carpet they feared that they had lingered too long in the southern part of the country. Akka said instantly that there was no time in which to hunt up any of the stopping places in Smaland. By the next morning they must travel northward, over Oestergoetland.
The boy should then see nothing of Smaland, and this grieved him. He had heard more about Smaland than he had about any other province, and he had longed to see it with his own eyes.
The summer before, when he had served as goose-boy with a farmer in the neighbourhood of Jordberga, he had met a pair of Smaland children, almost every day, who also tended geese. These children had irritated him terribly with their Smaland.
It wasn’t fair to say that Osa, the goose-girl, had annoyed him. She was much too wise for that. But the one who could be aggravating with a vengeance was her brother, little Mats.
“Have you heard, Nils Goose-boy, how it went when Smaland and Skane were created?” he would ask, and if Nils Holgersson said no, he began immediately to relate the old joke-legend.