The boy winked at Akka, and made a sign—as the stork stood upon the very edge of the nest, with one leg drawn up, to sleep—that he wanted to push him down to the ground; but Akka restrained him. She did not seem to be the least bit angry. Instead, she said in a confident tone of voice: “It would be pretty poor business if one who is as old as I am could not manage to get out of worse difficulties than this. If only Mr. and Mrs. Owl, who can stay awake all night, will fly off with a couple of messages for me, I think that all will go well.”
Both owls were willing. Then Akka bade the gentleman owl that he should go and seek the black rats who had gone off, and counsel them to hurry home immediately. The lady owl she sent to Flammea, the steeple-owl, who lived in Lund cathedral, with a commission which was so secret that Akka only dared to confide it to her in a whisper.
THE RAT CHARMER
It was getting on toward midnight when the gray rats after a diligent search succeeded in finding an open air-hole in the cellar. This was pretty high upon the wall; but the rats got up on one another’s shoulders, and it wasn’t long before the most daring among them sat in the air-hole, ready to force its way into Glimminge castle, outside whose walls so many of its forebears had fallen.
The gray rat sat still for a moment in the hole, and waited for an attack from within. The leader of the defenders was certainly away, but she assumed that the black rats who were still in the castle wouldn’t surrender without a struggle. With thumping heart she listened for the slightest sound, but everything remained quiet. Then the leader of the gray rats plucked up courage and jumped down in the coal-black cellar.
One after another of the gray rats followed the leader. They all kept very quiet; and all expected to be ambushed by the black rats. Not until so many of them had crowded into the cellar that the floor couldn’t hold any more, did they venture farther.
Although they had never before been inside the building, they had no difficulty in finding their way. They soon found the passages in the walls which the black rats had used to get to the upper floors. Before they began to clamber up these narrow and steep steps, they listened again with great attention. They felt more frightened because the black rats held themselves aloof in this way, than if they had met them in open battle. They could hardly believe their luck when they reached the first story without any mishaps.
Immediately upon their entrance the gray rats caught the scent of the grain, which was stored in great bins on the floor. But it was not as yet time for them to begin to enjoy their conquest. They searched first, with the utmost caution, through the sombre, empty rooms. They ran up in the fireplace, which stood on the floor in the old castle kitchen, and they almost tumbled into the well, in the inner