But when they came in here, the bronze man said to the wooden man: “Take off thy hat, Rosenbom, for those that stand here! They have all fought for the fatherland.”
And Rosenbom—like the bronze man—had forgotten why they had begun this tramp. Without thinking, he lifted the wooden hat from his head and shouted:
“I take off my hat to the one who chose the harbour and founded the shipyard and recreated the navy; to the monarch who has awakened all this into life!”
“Thanks, Rosenbom! That was well spoken. Rosenbom is a fine man. But what is this, Rosenbom?”
For there stood Nils Holgersson, right on the top of Rosenbom’s bald pate. He wasn’t afraid any longer; but raised his white toboggan hood, and shouted: “Hurrah for you, Longlip!”
The bronze man struck the ground hard with his stick; but the boy never learned what he had intended to do for now the sun ran up, and, at the same time, both the bronze man and the wooden man vanished—as if they had been made of mists. While he still stood and stared after them, the wild geese flew up from the church tower, and swayed back and forth over the city. Instantly they caught sight of Nils Holgersson; and then the big white one darted down from the sky and fetched him.
THE TRIP TO OeLAND
Sunday, April third.
The wild geese went out on a wooded island to feed. There they happened to run across a few gray geese, who were surprised to see them—since they knew very well that their kinsmen, the wild geese, usually travel over the interior of the country.
They were curious and inquisitive, and wouldn’t be satisfied with less than that the wild geese should tell them all about the persecution which they had to endure from Smirre Fox. When they had finished, a gray goose, who appeared to be as old and as wise as Akka herself, said: “It was a great misfortune for you that Smirre Fox was declared an outlaw in his own land. He’ll be sure to keep his word, and follow you all the way up to Lapland. If I were in your place, I shouldn’t travel north over Smaland, but would take the outside route over Oeland instead, so that he’ll be thrown off the track entirely. To really mislead him, you must remain for a couple of days on Oeland’s southern point. There you’ll find lots of food and lots of company. I don’t believe you’ll regret it, if you go over there.”
It was certainly very sensible advice, and the wild geese concluded to follow it. As soon as they had eaten all they could hold, they started on the trip to Oeland. None of them had ever been there before, but the gray goose had given them excellent directions. They only had to travel direct south until they came to a large bird-track, which extended all along the Blekinge coast. All the birds who had winter residences by the West sea, and who now intended to travel to Finland and Russia, flew forward there—and, in passing, they were always in the habit of stopping at Oeland to rest. The wild geese would have no trouble in finding guides.