The Treasure on the Island

On Their Way to the Sea


From the very start of the autumn trip the wild geese had flown straight south; but when they left Fryksdalen they veered in another direction, travelling over western Vermland and Dalsland, toward Bohuslän.

That was a jolly trip! The goslings were now so used to flying that they complained no more of fatigue, and the boy was fast recovering his good humour. He was glad that he had talked with a human being. He felt encouraged when she said to him that if he were to continue doing good to all whom he met, as heretofore, it could not end badly for him. She was not able to tell him how to get back his natural form, but she had given him a little hope and assurance, which inspired the boy to think out a way to prevent the big white gander from going home.

“Do you know, Morten Goosey-Gander, that it will be rather monotonous for us to stay at home all winter after having been on a trip like this,” he said, as they were flying far up in the air. “I’m sitting here thinking that we ought to go abroad with the geese.”

“Surely you are not in earnest!” said the goosey-gander. Since he had proved to the wild geese his ability to travel with them all the way to Lapland, he was perfectly satisfied to get back to the goose pen in Holger Nilsson’s cow shed.

The boy sat silently a while and gazed down on Vermland, where the birch woods, leafy groves, and gardens were clad in red and yellow autumn colours.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the earth beneath us as lovely as it is today!” he finally remarked. “The lakes are like blue satin bands. Don’t you think it would be a pity to settle down in West Vemminghög and never see any more of the world?”

“I thought you wanted to go home to your mother and father and show them what a splendid boy you had become?” said the goosey-gander.

All summer he had been dreaming of what a proud moment it would be for him when he should alight in the house yard before Holger Nilsson’s cabin and show Dunfin and the six goslings to the geese and chickens, the cows and the cat, and to Mother Holger Nilsson herself, so that he was not very happy over the boy’s proposal.

“Now, Morten Goosey-Gander, don’t you think yourself that it would be hard never to see anything more that is beautiful!” said the boy.

“I would rather see the fat grain fields of Söderslätt than these lean hills,” answered the goosey-gander. “But you must know very well that if you really wish to continue the trip, I can’t be parted from you.”

“That is just the answer I had expected from you,” said the boy, and his voice betrayed that he was relieved of a great anxiety.

Later, when they travelled over Bohuslän, the boy observed that the mountain stretches were more continuous, the valleys were more like little ravines blasted in the rock foundation, while the long lakes at their base were as black as if they had come from the underworld. This, too, was a glorious country, and as the boy saw it, with now a strip of sun, now a shadow, he thought that there was something strange and wild about it. He knew not why, but the idea came to him that once upon a time there were many strong and brave heroes in these mystical regions who had passed through many dangerous and daring adventures. The old passion of wanting to share in all sorts of wonderful adventures awoke in him.

“I might possibly miss not being in danger of my life at least once every day or two,” he thought. “Anyhow it’s best to be content with things as they are.”

He did not speak of this idea to the big white gander, because the geese were now flying over Bohuslän with all the speed they could muster, and the goosey-gander was puffing so hard that he would not have had the strength to reply.

The sun was far down on the horizon, and disappeared every now and then behind a hill; still the geese kept forging ahead.

Finally, in the west, they saw a shining strip of light, which grew broader and broader with every wing stroke. Soon the sea spread before them, milk white with a shimmer of rose red and sky blue, and when they had circled past the coast cliffs they saw the sun again, as it hung over the sea, big and red and ready to plunge into the waves.

As the boy gazed at the broad, endless sea and the red evening sun, which had such a kindly glow that he dared to look straight at it, he felt a sense of peace and calm penetrate his soul.

“It’s not worth while to be sad, Nils Holgersson,” said the Sun. “This is a beautiful world to live in both for big and little. It is also good to be free and happy, and to have a great dome of open sky above you.”

The Gift of the Wild Geese

The geese stood sleeping on a little rock islet just beyond Fjällbacka. When it drew on toward midnight, and the moon hung high in the heavens, old Akka shook the sleepiness out of her eyes. After that she walked around and awakened Yksi and Kaksi, Kolme and Neljä, Viisi and Kuusi, and, last of all, she gave Thumbietot a nudge with her bill that startled him.

“What is it, Mother Akka?” he asked, springing up in alarm.

“Nothing serious,” assured the leader-goose. “It’s just this: we seven who have been long together want to fly a short distance out to sea tonight, and we wondered if you would care to come with us.”

The boy knew that Akka would not have proposed this move had there not been something important on foot, so he promptly seated himself on her back. The flight was straight west. The wild geese first flew over a belt of large and small islands near the coast, then over a broad expanse of open sea, till they reached the large cluster known as the Väder Islands. All of them were low and rocky, and in the moonlight one could see that they were rather large.

Akka looked at one of the smallest islands and alighted there. It consisted of a round, gray stone hill, with a wide cleft across it, into which the sea had cast fine, white sea sand and a few shells.

As the boy slid from the goose’s back he noticed something quite close to him that looked like a jagged stone. But almost at once he saw that it was a big vulture which had chosen the rock island for a night harbour. Before the boy had time to wonder at the geese recklessly alighting so near a dangerous enemy, the bird flew up to them and the boy recognized Gorgo, the eagle.

Evidently Akka and Gorgo had arranged the meeting, for neither of them was taken by surprise.

“This was good of you, Gorgo,” said Akka. “I didn’t expect that you would be at the meeting place ahead of us. Have you been here long?”

“I came early in the evening,” replied Gorgo. “But I fear that the only praise I deserve is for keeping my appointment with you. I’ve not been very successful in carrying out the orders you gave me.”

“I’m sure, Gorgo, that you have done more than you care to admit,” assured Akka. “But before you relate your experiences on the trip, I shall ask Thumbietot to help me find something which is supposed to be buried on this island.”

The boy stood gazing admiringly at two beautiful shells, but when Akka spoke his name, he glanced up.

“You must have wondered, Thumbietot, why we turned out of our course to fly here to the West Sea,” said Akka.

“To be frank, I did think it strange,” answered the boy. “But I knew, of course, that you always have some good reason for whatever you do.”

“You have a good opinion of me,” returned Akka, “but I almost fear you will lose it now, for it’s very probable that we have made this journey in vain.

“Many years ago it happened that two of the other old geese and myself encountered frightful storms during a spring flight and were wind-driven to this island. When we discovered that there was only open sea before us, we feared we should be swept so far out that we should never find our way back to land, so we lay down on the waves between these bare cliffs, where the storm compelled us to remain for several days.

“We suffered terribly from hunger; once we ventured up to the cleft on this island in search of food. We couldn’t find a green blade, but we saw a number of securely tied bags half buried in the sand. We hoped to find grain in the bags and pulled and tugged at them till we tore the cloth. However, no grain poured out, but shining gold pieces. For such things we wild geese had no use, so we left them where they were. We haven’t thought of the find in all these years; but this autumn something has come up to make us wish for gold.

“We do not know that the treasure is still here, but we have travelled all this way to ask you to look into the matter.”

With a shell in either hand the boy jumped down into the cleft and began to scoop up the sand. He found no bags, but when he had made a deep hole he heard the clink of metal and saw that he had come upon a gold piece. Then he dug with his fingers and felt many coins in the sand. So he hurried back to Akka.

“The bags have rotted and fallen apart,” he exclaimed, “and the money lies scattered all through the sand.”

“That’s well!” said Akka. “Now fill in the hole and smooth it over so no one will notice the sand has been disturbed.”

The boy did as he was told, but when he came up from the cleft he was astonished to see that the wild geese were lined up, with Akka in the lead, and were marching toward him with great solemnity.

The geese paused in front of him, and all bowed their heads many times, looking so grave that he had to doff his cap and make an obeisance to them.

“The fact is,” said Akka, “we old geese have been thinking that if Thumbietot had been in the service of human beings and had done as much for them as he has for us they would not let him go without rewarding him well.”

“I haven’t helped you; it is you who have taken good care of me,” returned the boy.

“We think also,” continued Akka, “that when a human being has attended us on a whole journey he shouldn’t be allowed to leave us as poor as when he came.”

“I know that what I have learned this year with you is worth more to me than gold or lands,” said the boy.

“Since these gold coins have been lying unclaimed in the cleft all these years, I think that you ought to have them,” declared the wild goose.

“I thought you said something about needing this money yourselves,” reminded the boy.

“We do need it, so as to be able to give you such recompense as will make your mother and father think you have been working as a goose boy with worthy people.”

The boy turned half round and cast a glance toward the sea, then faced about and looked straight into Akka’s bright eyes.

“I think it strange, Mother Akka, that you turn me away from your service like this and pay me off before I have given you notice,” he said.

“As long as we wild geese remain in Sweden, I trust that you will stay with us,” said Akka. “I only wanted to show you where the treasure was while we could get to it without going too far out of our course.”

“All the same it looks as if you wished to be rid of me before I want to go,” argued Thumbietot. “After all the good times we have had together, I think you ought to let me go abroad with you.”

When the boy said this, Akka and the other wild geese stretched their long necks straight up and stood a moment, with bills half open, drinking in air.

“That is something I haven’t thought about,” said Akka, when she recovered herself. “Before you decide to come with us, we had better hear what Gorgo has to say. You may as well know that when we left Lapland the agreement between Gorgo and myself was that he should travel to your home down in Skåne to try to make better terms for you with the elf.”

“That is true,” affirmed Gorgo, “but as I have already told you, luck was against me. I soon hunted up Holger Nilsson’s croft and after circling up and down over the place a couple of hours, I caught sight of the elf, skulking along between the sheds.

“Immediately I swooped down upon him and flew off with him to a meadow where we could talk together without interruption.

“I told him that I had been sent by Akka from Kebnekaise to ask if he couldn’t give Nils Holgersson easier terms.

“ ‘I only wish I could!’ he answered, ‘for I have heard that he has conducted himself well on the trip; but it is not in my power to do so.’

“Then I was wrathy and said that I would bore out his eyes unless he gave in.

“ ‘You may do as you like,’ he retorted, ‘but as to Nils Holgersson, it will turn out exactly as I have said. You can tell him from me that he would do well to return soon with his goose, for matters on the farm are in a bad shape. His father has had to forfeit a bond for his brother, whom he trusted. He has bought a horse with borrowed money, and the beast went lame the first time he drove it. Since then it has been of no earthly use to him. Tell Nils Holgersson that his parents have had to sell two of the cows and that they must give up the croft unless they receive help from somewhere.’ ”

When the boy heard this he frowned and clenched his fists so hard that the nails dug into his flesh.

“It is cruel of the elf to make the conditions so hard for me that I can not go home and relieve my parents, but he shan’t turn me into a traitor to a friend! My father and mother are square and upright folk. I know they would rather forfeit my help than have me come back to them with a guilty conscience.”