The old castle had such secure walls and such few rat passages led through these, that the black rats had managed to protect themselves, and to prevent the gray rats from crowding in. Night after night, year after year, the struggle had continued between the aggressors and the defenders; but the black rats had kept faithful watch, and had fought with the utmost contempt for death, and, thanks to the fine old house, they had always conquered.
It will have to be acknowledged that as long as the black rats were in power they were as much shunned by all other living creatures as the gray rats are in our day—and for just cause; they had thrown themselves upon poor, fettered prisoners, and tortured them; they had ravished the dead; they had stolen the last turnip from the cellars of the poor; bitten off the feet of sleeping geese; robbed eggs and chicks from the hens; and committed a thousand depredations. But since they had come to grief, all this seemed to have been forgotten; and no one could help but marvel at the last of a race that had held out so long against its enemies.
The gray rats that lived in the courtyard at Glimminge and in the vicinity, kept up a continuous warfare and tried to watch out for every possible chance to capture the castle. One would fancy that they should have allowed the little company of black rats to occupy Glimminge castle in peace, since they themselves had acquired all the rest of the country; but you may be sure this thought never occurred to them. They were wont to say that it was a point of honour with them to conquer the black rats at some time or other. But those who were acquainted with the gray rats must have known that it was because the human kind used Glimminge castle as a grain store-house that the gray ones could not rest before they had taken possession of the place.
Monday, March twenty-eighth.
Early one morning the wild geese who stood and slept on the ice in Vomb Lake were awakened by long calls from the air. “Trirop, Trirop!” it sounded, “Trianut, the crane, sends greetings to Akka, the wild goose, and her flock. To-morrow will be the day of the great crane dance on Kullaberg.”
Akka raised her head and answered at once: “Greetings and thanks! Greetings and thanks!”
With that, the cranes flew farther; and the wild geese heard them for a long while—where they travelled and called out over every field, and every wooded hill: “Trianut sends greetings. To-morrow will be the day of the great crane dance on Kullaberg.”
The wild geese were very happy over this invitation. “You’re in luck,” they said to the white goosey-gander, “to be permitted to attend the great crane dance on Kullaberg!” “Is it then so remarkable to see cranes dance?” asked the goosey-gander. “It is something that you have never even dreamed about!” replied the wild geese.