THE PARTING WITH THE WILD GEESE
Wednesday, November ninth.
The boy arose before dawn and wandered down to the coast. He was standing alone on the strand east of Smyge fishing hamlet before sunrise. He had already been in the pen with Morten Goosey-Gander to try to rouse him, but the big white gander had no desire to leave home. He did not say a word, but only stuck his bill under his wing and went to sleep again.
To all appearances the weather promised to be almost as perfect as it had been that spring day when the wild geese came to Skane. There was hardly a ripple on the water; the air was still and the boy thought of the good passage the geese would have. He himself was as yet in a kind of daze—sometimes thinking he was an elf, sometimes a human being. When he saw a stone hedge alongside the road, he was afraid to go farther until he had made sure that no wild animal or vulture lurked behind it. Very soon he laughed to himself and rejoiced because he was big and strong and did not have to be afraid of anything.
When he reached the coast he stationed himself, big as he was, at the very edge of the strand, so that the wild geese could see him.
It was a busy day for the birds of passage. Bird calls sounded on the air continuously. The boy smiled as he thought that no one but himself understood what the birds were saying to one another. Presently wild geese came flying; one big flock following another.
“Just so it’s not my geese that are going away without bidding me farewell,” he thought. He wanted so much to tell them how everything had turned out, and to show them that he was no longer an elf but a human being.
There came a flock that flew faster and cackled louder than the others, and something told him that this must be the flock, but now he was not quite so sure about it as he would have been the day before.
The flock slackened its flight and circled up and down along the coast.
The boy knew it was the right one, but he could not understand why the geese did not come straight down to him. They could not avoid seeing him where he stood. He tried to give a call that would bring them down to him, but only think! his tongue would not obey him. He could not make the right sound! He heard Akka’s calls, but did not understand what she said.
“What can this mean? Have the wild geese changed their language?” he wondered.
He waved his cap to them and ran along the shore calling.
“Here am I, where are you?”
But this seemed only to frighten the geese. They rose and flew farther out to sea. At last he understood. They did not know that he was human, had not recognized him. He could not call them to him because human beings can not speak the language of birds. He could not speak their language, nor could he understand it.