“It is only this that I want to know,” said the shepherd, as he lowered his voice so that he almost whispered the words, and looked into the mist with his small eyes, which appeared to be worn out from spying after all that which does not exist. “Only this I want to know: if the peasants who live on the built-up farms beneath the strongholds, or the fishermen who take the small herring from the sea, or the merchants in Borgholm, or the bathing guests who come here every summer, or the tourists who wander around in Borgholm’s old castle ruin, or the sportsmen who come here in the fall to hunt partridges, or the painters who sit here on Alvaret and paint the sheep and windmills—I should like to know if any of them understand that this island has been a butterfly which flew about with great shimmery wings.”
“Ah!” said the young shepherd, suddenly. “It should have occurred to some of them, as they sat on the edge of the stronghold of an evening, and heard the nightingales trill in the groves below them, and looked over Kalmar Sound, that this island could not have come into existence in the same way as the others.”
“I want to ask,” said the old one, “if no one has had the desire to give wings to the windmills—so large that they could reach to heaven, so large that they could lift the whole island out of the sea and let it fly like a butterfly among butterflies.”
“It may be possible that there is something in what you say,” said the young one; “for on summer nights, when the heavens widen and open over the island, I have sometimes thought that it was as if it wanted to raise itself from the sea, and fly away.”
But when the old one had finally gotten the young one to talk, he didn’t listen to him very much. “I would like to know,” the old one said in a low tone, “if anyone can explain why one feels such a longing up here on Alvaret. I have felt it every day of my life; and I think it preys upon each and every one who must go about here. I want to know if no one else has understood that all this wistfulness is caused by the fact that the whole island is a butterfly that longs for its wings.”
LITTLE KARL’S ISLAND
Friday, April eighth.
The wild geese had spent the night on Oeland’s northern point, and were now on their way to the continent. A strong south wind blew over Kalmar Sound, and they had been thrown northward. Still they worked their way toward land with good speed. But when they were nearing the first islands a powerful rumbling was heard, as if a lot of strong-winged birds had come flying; and the water under them, all at once, became perfectly black. Akka drew in her wings so suddenly that she almost stood still in the air. Thereupon, she lowered herself to light on the edge of the sea. But before the geese had reached the water, the west storm caught up with them. Already, it drove before it fogs, salt scum and small birds; it also snatched with it the wild geese, threw them on end, and cast them toward the sea.