And then came the gray, dusk-clad birds with plumes in their wings, and red feather-ornaments on their necks. The big birds with their tall legs, their slender throats, their small heads, came gliding down the knoll with an abandon that was full of mystery. As they glided forward they swung round—half flying, half dancing. With wings gracefully lifted, they moved with an inconceivable rapidity. There was something marvellous and strange about their dance. It was as though gray shadows had played a game which the eye could scarcely follow. It was as if they had learned it from the mists that hover over desolate morasses. There was witchcraft in it. All those who had never before been on Kullaberg understood why the whole meeting took its name from the crane’s dance. There was wildness in it; but yet the feeling which it awakened was a delicious longing. No one thought any more about struggling. Instead, both the winged and those who had no wings, all wanted to raise themselves eternally, lift themselves above the clouds, seek that which was hidden beyond them, leave the oppressive body that dragged them down to earth and soar away toward the infinite.
Such longing after the unattainable, after the hidden mysteries back of this life, the animals felt only once a year; and this was on the day when they beheld the great crane dance.
IN RAINY WEATHER
Wednesday, March thirtieth.
It was the first rainy day of the trip. As long as the wild geese had remained in the vicinity of Vomb Lake, they had had beautiful weather; but on the day when they set out to travel farther north, it began to rain, and for several hours the boy had to sit on the goose-back, soaking wet, and shivering with the cold.
In the morning when they started, it had been clear and mild. The wild geese had flown high up in the air—evenly, and without haste—with Akka at the head maintaining strict discipline, and the rest in two oblique lines back of her. They had not taken the time to shout any witty sarcasms to the animals on the ground; but, as it was simply impossible for them to keep perfectly silent, they sang out continually—in rhythm with the wing-strokes—their usual coaxing call: “Where are you? Here am I. Where are you? Here am I.”
They all took part in this persistent calling, and only stopped, now and then, to show the goosey-gander the landmarks they were travelling over. The places on this route included Linderoedsosen’s dry hills, Ovesholm’s manor, Christianstad’s church steeple, Baeckaskog’s royal castle on the narrow isthmus between Oppmann’s lake and Ivoe’s lake, Ryss mountain’s steep precipice.