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 quite unexpectedly.
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.
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.