The wild goose came nearer. But it was evident that it was hard for her to master her fear. “I have been taught to fear everything in human shape—be it big or little,” said she. “But if you will answer for this one, and swear that he will not harm us, he can stay with us to-night. But I don’t believe our night quarters are suitable either for him or you, for we intend to roost on the broken ice out here.”
She thought, of course, that the goosey-gander would be doubtful when he heard this, but he never let on. “She is pretty wise who knows how to choose such a safe bed,” said he.
“You will be answerable for his return to his own to-morrow.”
“Then I, too, will have to leave you,” said the goosey-gander. “I have sworn that I would not forsake him.”
“You are free to fly whither you will,” said the leader-goose.
With this, she raised her wings and flew out over the ice and one after another the wild geese followed her.
The boy was very sad to think that his trip to Lapland would not come off, and, in the bargain, he was afraid of the chilly night quarters. “It will be worse and worse,” said he. “In the first place, we’ll freeze to death on the ice.”
But the gander was in a good humour. “There’s no danger,” said he. “Only make haste, I beg of you, and gather together as much grass and litter as you can well carry.”
When the boy had his arms full of dried grass, the goosey-gander grabbed him by the shirt-band, lifted him, and flew out on the ice, where the wild geese were already fast asleep, with their bills tucked under their wings.
“Now spread out the grass on the ice, so there’ll be something to stand on, to keep me from freezing fast. You help me and I’ll help you,” said the goosey-gander.
This the boy did. And when he had finished, the goosey-gander picked him up, once again, by the shirt-band, and tucked him under his wing. “I think you’ll lie snug and warm there,” said the goosey-gander as he covered him with his wing.
The boy was so imbedded in down that he couldn’t answer, and he was nice and comfy. Oh, but he was tired!—And in less than two winks he was fast asleep.
It is a fact that ice is always treacherous and not to be trusted. In the middle of the night the loosened ice-cake on Vomb Lake moved about, until one corner of it touched the shore. Now it happened that Mr. Smirre Fox, who lived at this time in Oevid Cloister Park—on the east side of the lake—caught a glimpse of that one corner, while he was out on his night chase. Smirre had seen the wild geese early in the evening, and hadn’t dared to hope that he might get at one of them, but now he walked right out on the ice.
When Smirre was very near to the geese, his claws scraped the ice, and the geese awoke, flapped their wings, and prepared for flight. But Smirre was too quick for them. He darted forward as though he’d been shot; grabbed a goose by the wing, and ran toward land again.