“Does it look like this in foreign lands?” asked the goslings.
“It looks exactly like this wherever there are forest-clad ridges,” replied Akka, “only one doesn’t see many of them. Wait! You shall see how it looks in general.”
Akka led the geese farther south to the great Skane plain. There it spread, with grain fields; with acres and acres of sugar beets, where the beet-pickers were at work; with low whitewashed farm- and outhouses; with numberless little white churches; with ugly, gray sugar refineries and small villages near the railway stations. Little beech-encircled meadow lakes, each of them adorned by its own stately manor, shimmered here and there.
“Now look down! Look carefully!” called the leader-goose. “Thus it is in foreign lands, from the Baltic coast all the way down to the high Alps. Farther than that I have never travelled.”
When the goslings had seen the plain, the leader-goose flew down the Oeresund coast. Swampy meadows sloped gradually toward the sea. In some places were high, steep banks, in others drift-sand fields, where the sand lay heaped in banks and hills. Fishing hamlets stood all along the coast, with long rows of low, uniform brick houses, with a lighthouse at the edge of the breakwater, and brown fishing nets hanging in the drying yard.
“Now look down! Look well! This is how it looks along the coasts in foreign lands.”
After Akka had been flying about in this manner a long time she alighted suddenly on a marsh in Vemminghoeg township and the boy could not help thinking that she had travelled over Skane just to let him see that his was a country which could compare favourably with any in the world. This was unnecessary, for the boy was not thinking of whether the country was rich or poor.
From the moment that he had seen the first willow grove his heart ached with homesickness.
HOME AT LAST
Tuesday, November eighth.
The atmosphere was dull and hazy. The wild geese had been feeding on the big meadow around Skerup church and were having their noonday rest when Akka came up to the boy.
“It looks as if we should have calm weather for awhile,” she remarked, “and I think we’ll cross the Baltic to-morrow.”
“Indeed!” said the boy abruptly, for his throat contracted so that he could hardly speak. All along he had cherished the hope that he would be released from the enchantment while he was still in Skane.
“We are quite near West Vemminghoeg now,” said Akka, “and I thought that perhaps you might like to go home for awhile. It may be some time before you have another opportunity to see your people.”
“Perhaps I had better not,” said the boy hesitatingly, but something in his voice betrayed that he was glad of Akka’s proposal.
“If the goosey-gander remains with us, no harm can come to him,” Akka assured. “I think you had better find out how your parents are getting along. You might be of some help to them, even if you’re not a normal boy.”