From Taberg to Huskvarna


The boy sat awake nearly all night, but toward morning he fell asleep and then he dreamed of his father and mother. He could hardly recognise them. They had both grown gray, and had old and wrinkled faces. He asked how this had come about, and they answered that they had aged so because they had longed for him. He was both touched and astonished, for he had never believed but what they were glad to be rid of him.

When the boy awoke the morning was come, with fine, clear weather. First, he himself ate a bit of bread which he found in the cabin; then he gave morning feed to both geese and cow, and opened the cowhouse door so that the cow could go over to the nearest farm. When the cow came along all by herself the neighbours would no doubt understand that something was wrong with her mistress. They would hurry over to the desolate farm to see how the old woman was getting along, and then they would find her dead body and bury it.

The boy and the geese had barely raised themselves into the air, when they caught a glimpse of a high mountain, with almost perpendicular walls, and an abrupt, broken-off top; and they understood that this must be Taberg. On the summit stood Akka, with Yksi and Kaksi, Kolmi and Neljä, Viisi and Knusi, and all six goslings and waited for them. There was a rejoicing, and a cackling, and a fluttering, and a calling which no one can describe, when they saw that the goosey-gander and Dunfin had succeeded in finding Thumbietot.

The woods grew pretty high up on Taberg’s sides, but her highest peak was barren; and from there one could look out in all directions. If one gazed toward the east, or south, or west, then there was hardly anything to be seen but a poor highland with dark spruce-trees, brown morasses, ice-clad lakes, and bluish mountain-ridges. The boy couldn’t keep from thinking it was true that the one who had created this hadn’t taken very great pains with his work, but had thrown it together in a hurry. But if one glanced to the north, it was altogether different. Here it looked as if it had been worked out with the utmost care and affection. In this direction one saw only beautiful mountains, soft valleys, and winding rivers, all the way to the big Lake Vettern, which lay ice-free and transparently clear, and shone as if it wasn’t filled with water but with blue light.

It was Vettern that made it so pretty to look toward the north, because it looked as though a blue stream had risen up from the lake, and spread itself over land also. Groves and hills and roofs, and the spires of Jönköping City⁠—which shimmered along Vettern’s shores⁠—lay enveloped in pale blue which caressed the eye. If there were countries in heaven, they, too, must be blue like this, thought the boy, and imagined that he had gotten a faint idea of how it must look in Paradise.

Later in the day, when the geese continued their journey, they flew up toward the blue valley. They were in holiday humour; shrieked and made such a racket that no one who had ears could help hearing them.

This happened to be the first really fine spring day they had had in this section. Until now, the spring had done its work under rain and bluster; and now, when it had all of a sudden become fine weather, the people were filled with such a longing after summer warmth and green woods that they could hardly perform their tasks. And when the wild geese rode by, high above the ground, cheerful and free, there wasn’t one who did not drop what he had in hand, and glance at them.

The first ones who saw the wild geese that day were miners on Taberg, who were digging ore at the mouth of the mine. When they heard them cackle, they paused in their drilling for ore, and one of them called to the birds: “Where are you going? Where are you going?”

The geese didn’t understand what he said, but the boy leaned forward over the goose-back, and answered for them: “Where there is neither pick nor hammer.”

When the miners heard the words, they thought it was their own longing that made the goose-cackle sound like human speech. “Take us along with you! Take us along with you!” they cried.

“Not this year,” shrieked the boy. “Not this year.”

The wild geese followed Taberg River down toward Monk Lake, and all the while they made the same racket. Here, on the narrow land-strip between Monk and Vettern lakes, lay Jönköping with its great factories. The wild geese rode first over Monksjö paper mills. The noon rest hour was just over, and the big workmen were streaming down to the mill-gate. When they heard the wild geese, they stopped a moment to listen to them. “Where are you going? Where are you going?” called the workmen.

The wild geese understood nothing of what they said, but the boy answered for them: “There, where there are neither machines nor steam-boxes.”

When the workmen heard the answer, they believed it was their own longing that made the goose-cackle sound like human speech. “Take us along with you!”

“Not this year,” answered the boy. “Not this year.”

Next, the geese rode over the well-known match factory, which lies on the shores of Vettern⁠—large as a fortress⁠—and lifts its high chimneys toward the sky. Not a soul moved out in the yards; but in a large hall young working-women sat and filled matchboxes. They had opened a window on account of the beautiful weather, and through it came the wild geese’s call. The one who sat nearest the window, leaned out with a matchbox in her hand, and cried: “Where are you going? Where are you going?”

“To that land where there is no need of either light or matches,” said the boy. The girl thought that what she had heard was only goose-cackle; but since she thought she had distinguished a couple of words, she called out in answer: “Take me along with you!”

“Not this year,” replied the boy. “Not this year.”

East of the factories rises Jönköping, on the most glorious spot that any city can occupy. The narrow Vettern has high, steep sand-shores, both on the eastern and western sides; but straight south, the sand-walls are broken down, just as if to make room for a large gate, through which one reaches the lake. And in the middle of the gate⁠—with mountains to the left, and mountains to the right, with Monk Lake behind it, and Vettern in front of it⁠—lies Jönköping.

The wild geese travelled forward over the long, narrow city, and behaved themselves here just as they had done in the country. But in the city there was no one who answered them. It was not to be expected that city folks should stop out in the streets, and call to the wild geese.

The trip extended further along Vettern’s shores; and after a little they came to Sanna Sanitarium. Some of the patients had gone out on the veranda to enjoy the spring air, and in this way they heard the goose-cackle. “Where are you going?” asked one of them with such a feeble voice that he was scarcely heard.

“To that land where there is neither sorrow nor sickness,” answered the boy.

“Take us along with you!” said the sick ones.

“Not this year,” answered the boy. “Not this year.”

When they had travelled still farther on, they came to Huskvarna. It lay in a valley. The mountains around it were steep and beautifully formed. A river rushed along the heights in long and narrow falls. Big workshops and factories lay below the mountain walls; and scattered over the valley-bottom were the workingmens’ homes, encircled by little gardens; and in the centre of the valley lay the schoolhouse. Just as the wild geese came along, a bell rang, and a crowd of school children marched out in line. They were so numerous that the whole schoolyard was filled with them. “Where are you going? Where are you going?” the children shouted when they heard the wild geese.

“Where there are neither books nor lessons to be found,” answered the boy.

“Take us along!” shrieked the children.

“Not this year, but next,” cried the boy. “Not this year, but next.”