It was a strange thing about that boy—as long as he had lived, he had never cared for anyone. He had not cared for his father or mother; not for the school teacher; not for his school-mates; nor for the boys in the neighbourhood. All that they had wished to have him do—whether it had been work or play—he had only thought tiresome. Therefore there was no one whom he missed or longed for.
The only ones that he had come anywhere near agreeing with, were Osa, the goose girl, and little Mats—a couple of children who had tended geese in the fields, like himself. But he didn’t care particularly for them either. No, far from it! “I don’t want to be human,” bawled the boy. “I want to go with you to Lapland. That’s why I’ve been good for a whole week!” “I don’t want to forbid you to come along with us as far as you like,” said Akka, “but think first if you wouldn’t rather go home again. A day may come when you will regret this.”
“No,” said the boy, “that’s nothing to regret. I have never been as well off as here with you.”
“Well then, let it be as you wish,” said Akka.
“Thanks!” said the boy, and he felt so happy that he had to cry for very joy—just as he had cried before from sorrow.
BLACK RATS AND GRAY RATS
In south-eastern Skane—not far from the sea there is an old castle called Glimminge. It is a big and substantial stone house; and can be seen over the plain for miles around. It is not more than four stories high; but it is so ponderous that an ordinary farmhouse, which stands on the same estate, looks like a little children’s playhouse in comparison.
The big stone house has such thick ceilings and partitions that there is scarcely room in its interior for anything but the thick walls. The stairs are narrow, the entrances small; and the rooms few. That the walls might retain their strength, there are only the fewest number of windows in the upper stories, and none at all are found in the lower ones. In the old war times, the people were just as glad that they could shut themselves up in a strong and massive house like this, as one is nowadays to be able to creep into furs in a snapping cold winter. But when the time of peace came, they did not care to live in the dark and cold stone halls of the old castle any longer. They have long since deserted the big Glimminge castle, and moved into dwelling places where the light and air can penetrate.
At the time when Nils Holgersson wandered around with the wild geese, there were no human beings in Glimminge castle; but for all that, it was not without inhabitants. Every summer there lived a stork couple in a large nest on the roof. In a nest in the attic lived a pair of gray owls; in the secret passages hung bats; in the kitchen oven lived an old cat; and down in the cellar there were hundreds of old black rats.