“Do you mean to say that it is you who have sent the marten and otter against us?” asked Akka. “A good turn shouldn’t be denied,” said Smirre. “You once played the goose-game with me, now I have begun to play the fox-game with you; and I’m not inclined to let up on it so long as a single one of you still lives even if I have to follow you the world over!”
“You, Smirre, ought at least to think whether it is right for you, who are weaponed with both teeth and claws, to hound us in this way; we, who are without defence,” said Akka.
Smirre thought that Akka sounded scared, and he said quickly: “If you, Akka, will take that Thumbietot—who has so often opposed me—and throw him down to me, I’ll promise to make peace with you. Then I’ll never more pursue you or any of yours.” “I’m not going to give you Thumbietot,” said Akka. “From the youngest of us to the oldest, we would willingly give our lives for his sake!” “Since you’re so fond of him,” said Smirre, “I’ll promise you that he shall be the first among you that I will wreak vengeance upon.”
Akka said no more, and after Smirre had sent up a few more yowls, all was still. The boy lay all the while awake. Now it was Akka’s words to the fox that prevented him from sleeping. Never had he dreamed that he should hear anything so great as that anyone was willing to risk life for his sake. From that moment, it could no longer be said of Nils Holgersson that he did not care for anyone.
Saturday, April second.
It was a moonlight evening in Karlskrona—calm and beautiful. But earlier in the day, there had been rain and wind; and the people must have thought that the bad weather still continued, for hardly one of them had ventured out on the streets.
While the city lay there so desolate, Akka, the wild goose, and her flock, came flying toward it over Vemmoen and Pantarholmen. They were out in the late evening to seek a sleeping place on the islands. They couldn’t remain inland because they were disturbed by Smirre Fox wherever they lighted.
When the boy rode along high up in the air, and looked at the sea and the islands which spread themselves before him, he thought that everything appeared so strange and spook-like. The heavens were no longer blue, but encased him like a globe of green glass. The sea was milk-white, and as far as he could see rolled small white waves tipped with silver ripples. In the midst of all this white lay numerous little islets, absolutely coal black. Whether they were big or little, whether they were as even as meadows, or full of cliffs, they looked just as black. Even dwelling houses and churches and windmills, which at other times are white or red, were outlined in black against the green sky. The boy thought it was as if the earth had been transformed, and he was come to another world.
He thought that just for this one night he wanted to be brave, and not afraid—when he saw something that really frightened him. It was a high cliff island, which was covered with big, angular blocks; and between the blocks shone specks of bright, shining gold. He couldn’t keep from thinking of Maglestone, by Trolle-Ljungby, which the trolls sometimes raised upon high gold pillars; and he wondered if this was something like that.