There was once a little boy whose name was Lars, and because he was so little he was called Little Lasse; he was a brave little man, for he sailed round the world in a pea-shell boat.
It was summer time, when the pea shells grew long and green in the garden. Little Lasse crept into the pea bed where the pea stalks rose high above his cap, and he picked seventeen large shells, the longest and straightest he could find.
Little Lasse thought, perhaps, that no one saw him; but that was foolish, for God sees everywhere.
Then the gardener came with his gun over his shoulder, and he heard something rustling in the pea bed.
‘I think that must be a sparrow,’ he said. ‘Ras! Ras!’ but no sparrows flew out, for Little Lasse had no wings, only two small legs. ‘Wait! I will load my gun and shoot the sparrows,’ said the gardener.
Then Little Lasse was frightened, and crept out on to the path.
‘Forgive me, dear gardener!’ he said. ‘I wanted to get some fine boats.’
‘Well, I will this time,’ said the gardener. ‘But another time Little Lasse must ask leave to go and look for boats in the pea bed.’
‘I will,’ answered Lasse; and he went off to the shore. Then he opened the shells with a pin, split them carefully in two, and broke small little bits of sticks for the rowers’ seats. Then he took the peas which were in the shells and put them in the boats for cargo. Some of the shells got broken, some remained whole, and when all were ready Lasse had twelve boats. But they should not be boats, they should be large warships. He had three liners, three frigates, three brigs and three schooners. The largest liner was called Hercules, and the smallest schooner The Flea. Little Lasse put all the twelve into the water, and they floated as splendidly and as proudly as any great ships over the waves of the ocean.
And now the ships must sail round the world. The great island over there was Asia; that large stone Africa; the little island America; the small stones were Polynesia; and the shore from which the ships sailed out was Europe. The whole fleet set off and sailed far away to other parts of the world. The ships of the line steered a straight course to Asia, the frigates sailed to Africa, the brigs to America, and the schooners to Polynesia. But Little Lasse remained in Europe, and threw small stones out into the great sea.
Now, there was on the shore of Europe a real boat, father’s own, a beautiful white-painted boat, and Little Lasse got into it. Father and mother had forbidden this, but Little Lasse forgot. He thought he should very much like to travel to some other part of the world.
‘I shall row out a little way–only a very little way,’ he thought. The pea-shell boats had travelled so far that they only looked like little specks on the ocean. ‘I shall seize Hercules on the coast of Asia,’ said Lasse, ‘and then row home again to Europe.’
He shook the rope that held the boat, and, strange to say, the rope became loose. Ditsch, ratsch, a man is a man, and so Little Lasse manned the boat.
Now he would row–and he could row, for he had rowed so often on the step sat home, when the steps pretended to be a boat and father’s big stick an oar. But when Little Lasse wanted to row there were no oars to be found in the boat. The oars were locked up in the boat-house, and Little Lasse had not noticed that the boat was empty. It is not so easy as one thinks to row to Asia without oars.
What could Little Lasse do now? The boat was already some distance out on the sea, and the wind, which blew from land, was driving it still further out. Lasse was frightened and began to cry. But there was no one on the shore to hear him. Only a big crow perched alone in the birch tree; and the gardener’s black cat sat under the birch tree, waiting to catch the crow. Neither of them troubled themselves in the least about Little Lasse, who was drifting out to sea.