“It’s not worth while to be sad, Nils Holgersson,” said the Sun. “This is a beautiful world to live in both for big and little. It is also good to be free and happy, and to have a great dome of open sky above you.”
THE GIFT OF THE WILD GEESE
The geese stood sleeping on a little rock islet just beyond Fjaellbacka. When it drew on toward midnight, and the moon hung high in the heavens, old Akka shook the sleepiness out of her eyes. After that she walked around and awakened Yksi and Kaksi, Kolme and Neljae, Viisi and Kuusi, and, last of all, she gave Thumbietot a nudge with her bill that startled him.
“What is it, Mother Akka?” he asked, springing up in alarm.
“Nothing serious,” assured the leader-goose. “It’s just this: we seven who have been long together want to fly a short distance out to sea to-night, and we wondered if you would care to come with us.”
The boy knew that Akka would not have proposed this move had there not been something important on foot, so he promptly seated himself on her back. The flight was straight west. The wild geese first flew over a belt of large and small islands near the coast, then over a broad expanse of open sea, till they reached the large cluster known as the Vaeder Islands. All of them were low and rocky, and in the moonlight one could see that they were rather large.
Akka looked at one of the smallest islands and alighted there. It consisted of a round, gray stone hill, with a wide cleft across it, into which the sea had cast fine, white sea sand and a few shells.
As the boy slid from the goose’s back he noticed something quite close to him that looked like a jagged stone. But almost at once he saw that it was a big vulture which had chosen the rock island for a night harbour. Before the boy had time to wonder at the geese recklessly alighting so near a dangerous enemy, the bird flew up to them and the boy recognized Gorgo, the eagle.
Evidently Akka and Gorgo had arranged the meeting, for neither of them was taken by surprise.
“This was good of you, Gorgo,” said Akka. “I didn’t expect that you would be at the meeting place ahead of us. Have you been here long?”
“I came early in the evening,” replied Gorgo. “But I fear that the only praise I deserve is for keeping my appointment with you. I’ve not been very successful in carrying out the orders you gave me.”
“I’m sure, Gorgo, that you have done more than you care to admit,” assured Akka. “But before you relate your experiences on the trip, I shall ask Thumbietot to help me find something which is supposed to be buried on this island.”
The boy stood gazing admiringly at two beautiful shells, but when Akka spoke his name, he glanced up.
“You must have wondered, Thumbietot, why we turned out of our course to fly here to the West Sea,” said Akka.