Just about then he saw that a big owl came flying along, and alighted on one of the trees that bordered the village street. The next instant a lady owl, who sat under the cornice of the house, began to call out: “Kivitt, Kivitt! Are you at home again, Mr. Gray Owl? What kind of a time did you have abroad?”
“Thank you, Lady Brown Owl. I had a very comfortable time,” said the gray owl. “Has anything out of the ordinary happened here at home during my absence?”
“Not here in Blekinge, Mr. Gray Owl; but in Skane a marvellous thing has happened! A boy has been transformed by an elf into a goblin no bigger than a squirrel; and since then he has gone to Lapland with a tame goose.”
“That’s a remarkable bit of news, a remarkable bit of news. Can he never be human again, Lady Brown Owl? Can he never be human again?”
“That’s a secret, Mr. Gray Owl; but you shall hear it just the same. The elf has said that if the boy watches over the goosey-gander, so that he comes home safe and sound, and—”
“What more, Lady Brown Owl? What more? What more?”
“Fly with me up to the church tower, Mr. Gray Owl, and you shall hear the whole story! I fear there may be someone listening down here in the street.” With that, the owls flew their way; but the boy flung his cap in the air, and shouted: “If I only watch over the goosey-gander, so that he gets back safe and sound, then I shall become a human being again. Hurrah! Hurrah! Then I shall become a human being again!”
He shouted “hurrah” until it was strange that they did not hear him in the houses—but they didn’t, and he hurried back to the wild geese, out in the wet morass, as fast as his legs could carry him.
THE STAIRWAY WITH THE THREE STEPS
Thursday, March thirty-first.
The following day the wild geese intended to travel northward through Allbo district, in Smaland. They sent Iksi and Kaksi to spy out the land. But when they returned, they said that all the water was frozen, and all the land was snow-covered. “We may as well remain where we are,” said the wild geese. “We cannot travel over a country where there is neither water nor food.” “If we remain where we are, we may have to wait here until the next moon,” said Akka. “It is better to go eastward, through Blekinge, and see if we can’t get to Smaland by way of Moere, which lies near the coast, and has an early spring.”
Thus the boy came to ride over Blekinge the next day. Now, that it was light again, he was in a merry mood once more, and could not comprehend what had come over him the night before. He certainly didn’t want to give up the journey and the outdoor life now.
There lay a thick fog over Blekinge. The boy couldn’t see how it looked out there. “I wonder if it is a good, or a poor country that I’m riding over,” thought he, and tried to search his memory for the things which he had heard about the country at school. But at the same time he knew well enough that this was useless, as he had never been in the habit of studying his lessons.