“Onward, onward!” urged the Sun as it climbed the steep cliffs. “There’s no danger so long as I am with you.”
But half way up, the bold young birch deserted—also the sturdy pine and the persistent spruce, and there, too, the Laplander, and the willow brush deserted. At last, when the Sun reached the top, there was no one but the little tot, Nils Holgersson, who had followed it.
The Sun rolled into a cave, where the walls were bedecked with ice, and Nils Holgersson wanted to follow, but farther than the opening of the cave he dared not venture, for in there he saw something dreadful.
Far back in the cave sat an old witch with an ice body, hair of icicles, and a mantle of snow!
At her feet lay three black wolves, who rose and opened their jaws when the Sun approached. From the mouth of one came a piercing cold, from the second a blustering north wind, and from the third came impenetrable darkness.
“That must be the Ice Witch and her tribe,” thought the boy.
He understood that now was the time for him to flee, but he was so curious to see the outcome of the meeting between the Sun and the Ice Witch that he tarried.
The Ice Witch did not move—only turned her hideous face toward the Sun. This continued for a short time. It appeared to the boy that the witch was beginning to sigh and tremble. Her snow mantle fell, and the three ferocious wolves howled less savagely.
Suddenly the Sun cried:
“Now my time is up!” and rolled out of the cave.
Then the Ice Witch let loose her three wolves. Instantly the North Wind, Cold, and Darkness rushed from the cave and began to chase the Sun.
“Drive him out! Drive him back!” shrieked the Ice Witch. “Chase him so far that he can never come back! Teach him that Lapland is MINE!”
But Nils Holgersson felt so unhappy when he saw that the Sun was to be driven from Lapland that he awakened with a cry. When he recovered his senses, he found himself at the bottom of a ravine.
But where was Gorgo? How was he to find out where he himself was?
He arose and looked all around him. Then he happened to glance upward and saw a peculiar structure of pine twigs and branches that stood on a cliff-ledge.
“That must be one of those eagle nests that Gorgo—” But this was as far as he got. He tore off his cap, waved it in the air, and cheered.
Now he understood where Gorgo had brought him. This was the very glen where the wild geese lived in summer, and just above it was the eagles’ cliff.
HE HAD ARRIVED!
He would meet Morten Goosey-Gander and Akka and all the other comrades in a few moments. Hurrah!
All was still in the glen. The sun had not yet stepped above the cliffs, and Nils Holgersson knew that it was too early in the morning for the geese to be awake.