“As soon as I learned of this, I went to Smirre’s cage and said to him:
“’To-morrow some men are coming here to get a pair of foxes. Don’t hide, Smirre, but keep well in the foreground and see to it that you are chosen. Then you’ll be free again.’
“He followed my suggestion, and now he is running at large on the island. What say you to this, Mother Akka? If you had been in my place, would you not have done likewise?”
“You have acted in a way that makes me wish I had done that myself,” said the leader-goose proudly.
“It’s a relief to know that you approve,” said the boy. “Now there is one thing more I wish to ask you about:
“One day I happened to see Gorgo, the eagle—the one that fought with Morten Goosey-Gander—a prisoner at Skansen. He was in the eagles’ cage and looked pitifully forlorn. I was thinking of filing down the wire roof over him and letting him out, but I also thought of his being a dangerous robber and bird-eater, and wondered if I should be doing right in letting loose such a plunderer, and if it were not better, perhaps, to let him stay where he was. What say you, Mother Akka? Was it right to think thus?”
“No, it was not right!” retorted Akka. “Say what you will about the eagles, they are proud birds and greater lovers of freedom than all others. It is not right to keep them in captivity. Do you know what I would suggest? This: that, as soon as you are well rested, we two make the trip together to the big bird prison, and liberate Gorgo.”
“That is just the word I was expecting from you, Mother Akka,” returned the boy eagerly.
“There are those who say that you no longer have any love in your heart for the one you reared so tenderly, because he lives as eagles must live. But I know now that it isn’t true. And now I want to see if Morten Goosey-Gander is awake.
“Meanwhile, if you wish to say a ‘thank you’ to the one who brought me here to you, I think you’ll find him up there on the cliff ledge, where once you found a helpless eaglet.”
The year that Nils Holgersson travelled with the wild geese everybody was talking about two little children, a boy and a girl, who tramped through the country. They were from Sunnerbo township, in Smaland, and had once lived with their parents and four brothers and sisters in a little cabin on the heath.
While the two children, Osa and Mats, were still small, a poor, homeless woman came to their cabin one night and begged for shelter. Although the place could hardly hold the family, she was taken in and the mother spread a bed for her on the floor. In the night she coughed so hard that the children fancied the house shook. By morning she was too ill to continue her wanderings. The children’s father and mother were as kind to her as could be. They gave up their bed to her and slept on the floor, while the father went to the doctor and brought her medicine.