“Then we noticed that the elk no longer ran so rapidly. He stepped on the snow more carefully, and every time he lifted his feet, blood could be seen in his tracks.
“We understood why the poachers had been so persistent! They had counted on help from the snow. The elk was heavy, and with every step he sank to the bottom of the drift. The hard crust on the snow was scraping his legs. It scraped away the fur, and tore out pieces of flesh, so that he was in torture every time he put his foot down.
“The poachers and the dogs, who were so light that the ice crust could hold their weight, pursued him all the while. He ran on and on—his steps becoming more and more uncertain and faltering. He gasped for breath. Not only did he suffer intense pain, but he was also exhausted from wading through the deep snowdrifts.
“At last he lost all patience. He paused to let poachers and dogs come upon him, and was ready to fight them. As he stood there waiting, he glanced upward. When he saw us wild geese circling above him, he cried out:
“’Stay here, wild geese, until all is over! And the next time you fly over Kolmarden, look up Karr, and ask him if he doesn’t think that his friend Grayskin has met with a happy end?’”
When Akka had gone so far in her story the old dog rose and walked nearer to her.
“Grayskin led a good life,” he said. “He understands me. He knows that I’m a brave dog, and that I shall be glad to hear that he had a happy end. Now tell me how—”
He raised his tail and threw back his head, as if to give himself a bold and proud bearing—then he collapsed.
“Karr! Karr!” called a man’s voice from the forest.
The old dog rose obediently.
“My master is calling me,” he said, “and I must not tarry longer. I just saw him load his gun. Now we two are going into the forest for the last time.
“Many thanks, wild goose! I know everything that I need know to die content!”
THE WIND WITCH
In bygone days there was something in Naerke the like of which was not to be found elsewhere: it was a witch, named Ysaetter-Kaisa.
The name Kaisa had been given her because she had a good deal to do with wind and storm—and these wind witches are always so called. The surname was added because she was supposed to have come from Ysaetter swamp in Asker parish.
It seemed as though her real abode must have been at Asker; but she used also to appear at other places. Nowhere in all Naerke could one be sure of not meeting her.
She was no dark, mournful witch, but gay and frolicsome; and what she loved most of all was a gale of wind. As soon as there was wind enough, off she would fly to the Naerke plain for a good dance. On days when a whirlwind swept the plain, Ysaetter-Kaisa had fun! She would stand right in the wind and spin round, her long hair flying up among the clouds and the long trail of her robe sweeping the ground, like a dust cloud, while the whole plain lay spread out under her, like a ballroom floor.