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Title: Gerda in Sweden
Author: McDonald, Etta Blaisdell
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gerda in Sweden" ***

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Team.



                        LITTLE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE

                            GERDA IN SWEDEN

             BY ETTA BLAISDELL McDONALD AND JULIA DALRYMPLE

Authors of "Kathleen in Ireland," "Manuel in Mexico," "Umé San in Japan,"
"Rafael in Italy," "Fritz in Germany," "Boris in Russia," "Betty in
Canada," etc.

                                 1910



PREFACE


The Swedish people are a hospitable, peace-loving race, kindly and
industrious, making the most of their resources. In the south of Sweden
are broad farming-lands with well-tilled fields and comfortable red
farmhouses; in the central portion are hills and dales, rich in mines of
copper and iron which have been famous for hundreds of years. In the
cities and towns are factories where thousands of workers are employed,
making all sorts of useful articles, from matches to steam-engines. The
rivers which flow down to the sea from the western chain of mountains
carry millions of logs from the great dark forests. As soon as the ice
breaks up in the spring, whole fleets of fishing boats and lumber vessels
sail up and down the coast; sawmills whirr and buzz all day long; the hum
of labor is heard all over the land.

In this Northland the winter days are short and cold; but there are the
long sunny summer days, when even in the south of Sweden midnight is
nothing but a soft twilight, and in the north the sun shines for a whole
month without once dipping below the horizon. This is a glorious time for
both young and old. The people live out-of-doors day and night, going to
the parks and gardens, rowing and sailing and swimming, singing and
dancing on the village green, celebrating the midsummer festival with
feasting and merry-making,--for once more the sun rides high in the
heavens, and Baldur, the sun god, has conquered the frost giants.

Just such a happy, useful life is found in this little story. Gerda and
her twin brother take a trip northward across the Baltic Sea with their
father, who is an inspector of lighthouses. On their way they meet Karen,
a little lame girl. After going farther north, into Lapland, where they
see the sun shining at midnight, and spend a day with a family of Lapps
and their reindeer, Gerda takes Karen home to Stockholm with her so that
the child may have the benefit of the famous Swedish gymnastics for her
lameness. Then such good times as the three children have together! They
go to the winter carnival to see the skating and skiing; they celebrate
Yule-tide with all the good old Swedish customs; and there is a birthday
party for the twins, when Karen also receives a gift,--the very best gift
of all.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER


       I. GERDA AND BIRGER

      II. THE SURPRISE BOX

     III. ON BOARD THE "NORTH STAR"

      IV. GERDA'S NEW FRIEND

       V. CROSSING THE POLCIRKEL

      VI. THE MIDNIGHT SUN

     VII. ERIK'S HOME IN LAPLAND

    VIII. FOUR-FOOTED FRIENDS

      IX. KAREN'S BROTHER

       X. A DAY IN SKANSEN

      XI. THROUGH THE LOCKS

     XII. A WINTER CARNIVAL

    XIII. YULE-TIDE JOYS

     XIV. SPURS AND A CROWN

      XV. THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL



GERDA IN SWEDEN



CHAPTER I

GERDA AND BIRGER


If any one had stopped to think of it, the ticking of the tall clock that
stood against the wall sounded like "Ger-da! Ger-da!"

But no one did stop to think of it. Everyone was far too busy to think
about the clock and what it was saying, for over in the corner beside the
tall stove stood a wooden cradle, and in the cradle were two tiny babies.

There they lay, side by side, in the same blue-painted cradle that had
rocked the Ekman babies for over two hundred years; and one looked so
exactly like the other that even dear Grandmother Ekman could not tell
them apart.

But the mother, who rocked them so gently and watched them so tenderly,
touched one soft cheek and then another, saying proudly, "This is our
son, and this is our daughter," even when both pairs of blue eyes were
tightly closed, and both little chins were tucked under the warm blanket.

There is always great rejoicing over the coming of new babies in any
family; but there was twice as much rejoicing as usual over these babies,
and that was because they were twins.

Little Ebba Jorn and her brother Nils came with their mother, from the
farm across the lake, to see the blue-eyed babies in the worn blue
cradle; and after them came all the other neighbors, so that there was
always some one in the big chair beside the cradle, gazing admiringly at
the twins.

It was in March that they were born,--bleak March, when snow covered the
ground and the wind whistled down the broad chimney; when the days were
cold and the nights colder; when the frost giants drove their horses, the
fleet frost-winds, through the valleys, and cast their spell over lakes
and rivers.

April came, and then May. The sun god drove the frost giants back into
their dark caves, the trees shook out their tender, green leaves, and
flowers blossomed in the meadows. But still the tall clock ticked away
the days, and still they questioned, "What shall we name the babies?"

"Karen is a pretty name," suggested little Ebba Jorn, who had come again
to see the twins, this time with a gift of two tiny knitted caps.

"My father's name is Oscar," said Nils. "That is a good name for a boy."

"It is always hard to find just the right name for a new baby," said
Grandmother Ekman.

"And the task is twice as hard when there are two babies," added the
proud father, laying his hand gently upon one small round head.

"Let us name the boy 'Birger' for your father," suggested his wife,
kneeling beside the cradle; "and call the girl 'Anna' for your mother."

But Grandmother Ekman shook her head. "No, no!" she said decidedly. "Call
the boy 'Birger' if you will; but 'Anna' is not the right name for the
girl."

Anders Ekman took his hand from the baby's head to put it upon his wife's
shoulder. "Here in Dalarne we have always liked your own name, Kerstin,"
he said with a smile.

"No maid by the name of Kerstin was ever handy with her needle," she
objected. "It has always been a great trial to your mother that I have
not the patience to stitch endless seams and make rainbow skirts. Our son
shall be Birger; but we must think of a better name for the little
daughter."

"It is plain that we shall never find two names to suit everyone,"
replied the father, laughing so heartily that both babies opened their
big blue eyes and puckered up their lips for a good cry.

"Hush, Birger! Hush, little daughter!" whispered their mother; and she
rocked the cradle gently, singing softly:--

"Hist, hist!
Mother is crooning and babies list.
Hist, hist!
The dewdrop lies in the flower's cup,
Mother snuggles the babies up.
   Birdie in the tree-top,
   Do not spill the dewdrop.
Cat be still, and dog be dumb;
Sleep to babies' eyelids come!"

Nils and Ebba Jorn tiptoed across the room and closed the door carefully
behind them. Anders Ekman took up some wood-carving and went quietly to
work; while Grandmother Ekman selected a well-worn book from the
book-shelf, and seated herself in the big chair by the window to look
over the Norse legends of the gods and giants.

She turned the pages slowly until she found the pleasant tale of Frey,
who married Gerd, the beautiful daughter of one of the frost giants. This
was her favorite story, and she began reading it aloud in a low voice,
while the fire burned cheerfully on the hearth, and the cradle swayed
lightly to and fro.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Njörd, who was the god of the sea, had a son, Frey, and a daughter,
Freyja. Frey was the god of the seed-time and harvest, and he brought
peace and prosperity to all the world.

"In summer he gathered gentle showers and drove them up from the sea to
sprinkle the dry grass; he poured warm sunshine over the hills and
valleys, and ripened the fruits and grains for a bountiful harvest.

"The elves of light were his messengers, and he sent them flying
about all day,--shaking pollen out of the willow tassels, filling the
flower-cups with nectar, sowing the seeds, and threading the grass with
beads of dew.

"But in the winter, when the frost giants ruled the earth, Frey was idle
and lonely; and he rode up and down in Odin's hall on the back of his
boar, Golden Bristles, longing for something to do.

"One morning, as he wandered restlessly through the beautiful city of
Asgard, the home of the gods, he stood before the throne of Odin, the
All-father, and saw that it was empty. 'Why should I not sit upon that
throne, and look out over all the world?' he thought; and although no one
but Odin was ever allowed to take the lofty seat, Frey mounted the steps
and sat upon the All-father's throne.

"He looked out over Asgard, shining in the morning light, and saw the
gods busy about their daily tasks. He gazed down upon the earth, with its
rugged mountains and raging seas, and saw men hurrying this way and that,
like tiny ants rushing out of their hills.

"Last of all he turned his eyes toward distant Jötunheim, the dark,
forbidding home of the frost giants; but in that gloomy land of ice and
snow he could see no bright nor beautiful thing. Great black cliffs stood
like sentinels along the coast, dark clouds hung over the hills, and cold
winds swept through the valleys.

"At the foot of one of the hills stood a barren and desolate dwelling,
alone in all that dark land of winter; and as Frey gazed, a maiden came
slowly through the valley and mounted the steps to the entrance of the
house.

"Then, as she raised her arms to open the door, suddenly the sky, and
sea, and all the earth were flooded with a bright light, and Frey saw
that she was the most beautiful maiden in the whole world."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kerstin looked up at her husband and spoke quickly. "That is like the
coming of our two babies," she said. "In the days of ice and snow they
brought light and gladness to our hearts. Let us call the sweet daughter
'Gerda' after the goddess of sunshine and happiness."

So the two babies were named at last. When the children of the
neighborhood heard of it, they flocked to the house with their hands full
of gifts, dancing round and round the cradle and singing a merry song
that made the rafters ring. The wheels of thin Swedish bread that hung
over the stove shook on their pole, the tall clock ticked louder than
ever, and the twins opened their blue eyes and smiled their sweetest
smile at so much happiness.

But they were not very strong babies, so Anders Ekman went off to his
work in Stockholm and left them in Dalarne with their mother and
grandmother, hoping that the good country air would make them plump and
sturdy.

Dalarne, or the Dales, is the loveliest part of all Sweden, and the Ekman
farm lay on the shore of a lake so beautiful that it is often called the
"Eye of Dalarne."

It was in the Dales that Gerda and little Birger outgrew their cradle and
their baby clothes, and became the sturdy children their father longed to
have them.

When they were seven years old their mother took them to live in
Stockholm; but with each new summer they hurried away from the city with
its schools and lessons, to spend the long vacation at the farm.

"Gerda and Birger are here!" they would cry, opening the door and running
into the living-room to find their grandmother.

"Gerda and Birger are here!" The news always ran through the neighborhood
in a twinkling, and from far and near the boys and girls flocked down the
road to bid them welcome.

"Ger-da! Ger-da!" the old clock in the corner ticked patiently, just as
it had been ticking for eleven long years. But who could listen to it
now? There were flowers and berries to pick, chickens to feed, and games
to play, through all the long summer days in Dalarne. Surely, Gerda and
Birger had no time to listen to the clock.



CHAPTER II

THE SURPRISE BOX


All day long the gentle breezes blowing through the city streets, and the
bright sun shining on the sparkling water of Lake Mälar, called to the
children that spring had come in Stockholm.

Great cakes of ice went floating through the arches of the bridge across
the Norrström, and gray gulls, sailing up from the bay, darted down to
the swirling water to find dainty morsels for their dinner.

The little steamers which had been lying idly at the quays all winter
were being scraped and painted, and made ready for their summer's work;
children were playing in the parks; throngs of people filled the
streets;--spring was in the air!

But in the Ekman household Gerda and Birger had been as busy as bees all
day, with no thought for the dancing blue water and the shining blue sky.
Their tongues had flown fast, their fingers faster; they had hunted up
old clothes, old books, old games; and had added one package after
another to the contents of a big box that stood in the corner of the
pleasant living-room.

"Perhaps I can finish this needle-book, if I hurry," said Gerda, drawing
her chair up to the window to catch the light from the setting sun.

"I wanted to send this work-box, too," added Birger; "but how can I carve
an initial on the cover when I don't know who is going to have the box?"

"Carve an 'F' for friend," suggested Gerda, stopping to thread her
needle; but just then there was a sound of chattering voices on the
stairs, and work-box and needle-book were forgotten.

As Birger sprang to open the door, a little mob of happy boys and girls
burst into the room with a shout of heartiest greeting. Their eyes were
sparkling with fun, their cheeks rosy from a run in the fresh spring air,
and their arms were filled with bundles of all sizes and shapes.

"Ho, Birger! Oh, Gerda!" was their cry; "it took us an endless time to
get past the porter's wife at the street door, and she made us answer a
dozen questions. 'To what apartment were we going? Whom did we wish to
see? Why did we all come together?'"

"And did you tell her that you were coming to the third apartment to see
the Ekman twins, and were bringing clothing and gifts to fill a surprise
box?" asked Gerda, holding up her apron for the packages.

"Yes," replied a jolly, round-faced boy whom the others called Oscar,
"and we had to explain that we didn't know who was to have the box, nor
why you telephoned to us to bring the gifts to-night, when you said only
last week that you wouldn't want them until the first of June."

"There has been a hard storm on the northern coast, and Father is
going by train as far as Luleå, to see if it did much damage to the
lighthouses," Gerda explained. "He thinks that the storm may have caused
great suffering among the poor people, so we are going to send our box
with him, instead of waiting to send it by boat in June. He has to start
on his trip very early in the morning, so the box must be ready
to-night."

Everyone began talking at once, and a tall girl with pretty curly hair,
who had something important to say, had to raise her voice above the din
before she could be heard. "Let us write a letter and put it into the box
with the gifts," she suggested.

"Ja så! Yes, of course! That is good!" they all cried; and while Gerda
ran to get pen and ink, the boys and girls gathered around a table that
stood in the center of the room.

"Dear Yunker Unknown:--" began a mischievous-looking boy, pretending to
write with a great flourish.

"Nonsense!" cried Sigrid Lundgren. "The box is filled with skirts and
aprons and caps and embroidered belts, and all sorts of things for a
girl. Don't call her Yunker. Yunker means farmer."

"Well, then, 'Dear Jungfru Unknown:--'" the boy corrected, with more
flourishes.

"I wish we knew who would get the box, then we should know just what to
say," said little Hilma Berling.

"She is probably just your age, and is named Selma," said Birger; and
everyone laughed over his choice of a name.

"Yes," agreed Oscar, "and she lives in the depths of the white northern
forests, with only a white polar bear and a white snowy owl for company."

"I don't believe we shall ever be able to write a letter," said Birger,
shaking his head. "How can we write to some one we have never seen?" and
he sat himself down on a red painted cricket beside the tall stove and
began carving the cover of the work-box.

"We have made all the little gifts in that box for some one we have never
seen," said Sigrid. "It ought to be just as easy to write her a letter."

"No, Sigrid," Birger told her; "it is the hardest thing in the world to
write a letter, especially if you have nothing to say. I would rather
make a box and carve it, than write half of a letter."

"Here comes Mother. She will tell us what to write," said Gerda.

"Why not write about some of the good times you have together here in
Stockholm," suggested her mother, and she took up the pen and waited for
some one to start the letter.

"Our dear Girl-friend in the North:--" said Hilma for a beginning; and as
Fru Ekman wrote at their dictation, first one and then another added a
message, until finally she leaned back in her chair and told them to
listen to what she had written.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We are a club of capital boys and girls because we live in Sweden's
capital city," she began.

"That was from Oscar," interrupted Gerda; but her mother continued,--"and
we send you this box for a surprise.

"We go to school and have to study very hard; but we find a little time
for play every day. Sometimes we go to the park, but when it storms we
are glad to stay in the house and work at sewing or sloyd. So, ever since
Yule-tide, we have been making little gifts for you,--the girls with
their needles, the boys with their saws and knives.

"We hope you will enjoy wearing the caps and aprons as much as we have
enjoyed making them; and if you have a brother, please give him the watch
and the leather watch-chain. It is a gift from Oscar.

"The rainbow skirt is one which Gerda wore last summer. She has outgrown
it now, and will have to have a new one next year. She hopes it is not
too small for you.

"If you want to know what Stockholm is like, you must think of islands
and bridges, because the city is built on eight islands, and they are all
connected by bridges with each other and with the mainland. In summer,
little steamers go around the city, in and out among the islands; but in
winter the lake and all the bays are frozen over, and there is good
skating everywhere.

"Then you should see the twelve girls and boys who are writing this
letter, holding fast to one another in a long line, and skimming across
Djurgården bay or skating around Stadenholm, where the King's Palace
stands.

"Sometime, if you will come to visit us in Stockholm, we will have you
join the line and skate with us under the bridges, and up and down the
waterways; and we will show you what good times we can have in the city."

       *       *       *       *       *

"So we did write a letter after all," sighed Birger, as Fru Ekman
finished reading. "Now we must sign our names;" and after much discussion
and laughter the twelve names appeared on the paper, written in a circle
without any beginning or end,--Sigrid's and Hilma's and Oscar's and
Gerda's and all.

"Put it in the box and we'll nail on the cover," cried Oscar, picking up
the hammer and pounding as if he were driving a dozen nails at once.

"Can't a poor man read his newspaper in peace, without being disturbed by
all this noise?" called Herr Ekman from the next room; but when he
appeared in the doorway the merry twinkle in his eyes showed that he
cared little about the noise and was glad to see the children having a
good time.

"I'd like to be going north with this box," said Magnus, as he took some
nails and began nailing on the cover.

"Father goes every summer to inspect the lighthouses along the coast,"
said Birger, "and he has promised to take me with him sometime."

"And me, too," added Gerda; "he wouldn't take you without me."

"Is it very different in the far North?" asked Oscar.

"Yes," replied Herr Ekman, "the winter is long and cold and dark; there
are severe storms, and deep snow covers the ground; but the boys and
girls find plenty to do, and seem to be just as happy as you are," and he
pinched Oscar's ear as he spoke.

"I don't see how they can be happy in the winter when it is dark all
night and almost all day," said Olaf.

Herr Ekman laughed. "Do you think they should go into a den, like the
bears, and sleep through the winter?" he asked.

"But think of the summer, when it is light all day and all night, too,"
said Sigrid. "Then they have fun enough to make up for the winter."

"I never could understand about our long nights in winter and our long
days in summer," spoke Hilma Berling.

"It is because we live so near the North Pole," Oscar told her. "Now that
Commander Peary of the United States of America has really discovered
the North Pole, perhaps the geographies will make it easier to understand
how the sun juggles with the poles and circles.

"I am sorry that it has been discovered," he added. "I always meant to do
it myself, when I got old enough to discover anything."

"If I could stand on the top of Mount Dundret and see the sun shining at
midnight, I am sure I could understand about it without any geography,"
Gerda declared.

"If you should go north with Herr Lighthouse-Inspector Ekman this summer,
you might meet the little girl who receives this box," said Sigrid.

"I should know her the minute I saw her," Gerda said decidedly.

"How would you know her?" questioned Birger. "You don't even know her
name or where she lives. Father is going to give the box to the
lighthouse-master at Luleå, and he will decide where to send it."

"Oh, there are ways!" replied Gerda. "And besides, she would have on my
rainbow skirt."

That night, after the children had trooped down the stairs and away to
their homes, and after Gerda and Birger had said good-night and gone to
their beds, the father and mother sat by the table, talking over plans
for the summer.

"I suppose we shall start for Dalarne the day after school closes,"
suggested Fru Ekman.

"No," answered her husband, "I have been thinking that the children are
old enough now to travel a little; and I have decided to take them with
me when I go north this summer. They ought to know more about the
forests, and rivers, and shores of their good old Mother Svea."



CHAPTER III

ON BOARD THE "NORTH STAR"


It was a sunny morning in late June. The waters of the Saltsjö rippled
and sparkled around the islands of Stockholm, and little steamers puffed
briskly about in the harbor. The tide had turned, and the fresh water of
the lake, mingled with the salt water of the fjord, was swirling and
eddying under the bridges and beating against the stone quays; for Lake
Mälar is only eighteen inches higher than the Salt Sea, and while the
incoming tide brings salt water up the river from the ocean, the outgoing
tide carries fresh water down from the lake.

Just as the great clock in the church tower began chiming the hour of
nine, a group of children gathered on the granite pier opposite the
King's Palace.

A busy scene greeted their eyes. Vessels were being loaded and unloaded,
passengers were arriving, men were hurrying to and fro, and boys selling
newspapers were rushing about in the crowd.

"Do you see the _North Star_?" Sigrid asked the others. "That is the name
of the boat they are going to take."

"There it is!" cried Oscar; "and there are Gerda and Birger on the deck."
With a merry shout of greeting he ran on board the steam launch, followed
by all the other girls and boys.

"Oh, Gerda, how I wish I were going with you," said Hilma wistfully. "I
should love to cross the Arctic Circle and see the sun shining all night
long."

Gerda, who was wearing a pretty blue travelling dress, with blue ribbons
on her hat and in her hair, threw her arms around her friend. "I wish
you were going, too," she answered. "Birger is the best brother any girl
could have; but he isn't like a sister, and that is what you are to me,
Hilma."

At the same moment, Birger was confiding to his friend, "I wish you were
going with us, Oscar. Gerda is a good sister; but she isn't like a
brother."

All the other boys and girls were talking and laughing together, telling
of the strange sights that Birger and Gerda would see on their trip into
Lapland; and what they would do if only they were going, too.

Suddenly a warning whistle from the steamer sent them hurrying back to
the quay, where they stood waving their handkerchiefs and shouting good
wishes until the twins were out of sight.

The vessel's course lay first between two islands, and Gerda lifted her
eyes to the windows of the King's Palace, which stood near the quay of
one; but Birger found more to interest him in the military and naval
buildings on the other.

"There is a ship from Liverpool, England," said Lieutenant Ekman,
pointing to a vessel which was lying beside the quay in front of the
palace.

"It is hard to believe that we are forty miles from the ocean when we see
such big ships in our harbor," said Birger. "How did it happen that
Stockholm was built so far from the open sea? It would be easier for all
these vessels if they didn't have to come sailing up among all the
islands to find a landing-place."

"Lake Mälar was the stronghold of the ancient Viking warriors," replied
his father; "and it was just because there were forty miles of difficult
sailing among narrow channels, that they chose to live at the head of the
Saltsjö, and make this fjord their thoroughfare in going out to the
Baltic Sea."

"Did they like to make things as hard as possible for themselves?" asked
Gerda with interest.

"Not so much as they liked to make it as hard as possible for their
enemies," said Herr Ekman. "Centuries ago, hunters and fishermen built
their rude huts on the wooded islands at the outlet of Mälar Lake. They
often found it convenient to slip away from their pursuers among these
islands; but they were not always successful, for their settlements on
the site of the present city were repeatedly destroyed by hostile
tribes."

"Why didn't they build fortifications on the islands and hold the enemy
at bay?" questioned Birger.

"They were too busy sailing off to foreign lands," answered his father.
"Fleet after fleet of Viking ships sailed out of the bays of Sweden,
manned by the bravest sailors the world has ever known; and they swooped
down upon the tribes of Europe, fighting and conquering them with the
strength of giants and the glee of children."

"It was Birger Jarl who built the first walls and towers to protect the
city," spoke Gerda. "I remember learning it in my history lesson."

"Yes," her father replied; "good old Earl Birger, who ruled the Swedes in
the thirteenth century, saw how important such fortifications would be,
and so he locked up the Mälar Lake from hostile fleets by building walls
and towers around one of the islands and making it his capital."

"There is an old folk-song in one of my books which always reminds me of
the Vikings," said Birger.

"Let us hear it," suggested his father, and Birger repeated:--

"Brave of heart and warriors bold,
Were the Swedes from time untold;
Breasts for honor ever warm,
Youthful strength in hero arm.
    Blue eyes bright
    Dance with light
For thy dear green valleys old.
North, thou giant limb of earth,
With thy friendly, homely hearth."

"There is another stanza," said Gerda. "I like the second one best," and
she added:--

"Song of many a thousand year
Rings through wood and valley clear;
Picture thou of waters wild,
Yet as tears of mourning mild.
    To the rhyme
    Of past time
Blend all hearts and lists each ear.
Guard the songs of Swedish lore,
Love and sing them evermore."

"Good," said Lieutenant Ekman; "isn't there a third stanza, Birger?"

But Birger was at the other end of the boat. "Come here, Gerda," he
called. "We can see Waxholm now."

Then, as the boat slipped past the great fortress and began to thread its
way in and out among the islands in the fjord, the twins stood at the
rail, pointing out to each other a beautiful wooded island, a windmill, a
rocky ledge, a pretty summer cottage nestling among the trees, a
fisherman's hut with fishing nets hung up on poles to dry, an eagle
soaring across the blue sky, or a flock of terns flying up from the rocks
with their harsh, rattling cry.

There was a new and interesting sight every moment, and the sailors in
their blue uniforms nodded to each other with pleasure as Gerda flitted
across the deck.

"She is like a little bluebird," they said; and like a bird she chirped
and twittered, singing snatches of song, and asking a hundred questions.

"I like those old fancies that the Vikings had about the sea and the sky
and the winds," she said at last, stretching her arms wide and dancing
from end to end of the deck. "They called the sea the 'necklace of the
earth,' and the sky the 'wind-weaver.'"

"I wish I had the magic boat that Loki gave to Frey," answered Birger
lazily, lying flat on his back and looking up into the "wind-weaver."
"If I had it, I would sail over the whole long 'necklace of the earth,'
from clasp to clasp."

But Gerda was already out of hearing. She had gone to sit beside her
father and watch the course of the boat through the thousands of rocky
islands that stud the coast.

"The captain says that the frost giants threw all these rocks out
here when they were having a battle with old Njord, the god of the sea,"
she said. Then, as she caught sight of a lighthouse on a low outer
ledge,--"Why, Father!" she cried, "I thought we were going to stop at
every lighthouse on the coast."

"So we are, after we leave the Skärgård," replied Lieutenant Ekman. "I
came down as far as this several weeks ago when the ice went out of the
fjord. There are two or three months when all this water is frozen over
and there can be no shipping; but as soon as the ice breaks up, the lamps
are lighted in the lighthouses and I come down to see them. Now it is so
light all night that for two months the lamps are not lighted at all
unless there is a storm."

Gerda ran to the rail to wave her handkerchief to a little girl on the
deck of a lumber vessel which they were passing.

"The lighthouse keepers have a good many vacations, don't they?" she said
when she came back.

"Yes," replied her father; "those on the east coast of Sweden have
several months in the winter when the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia
are covered with solid ice; but on the south and west coasts the
lighthouses and even the lightships are lighted all winter."

"Why is that?" questioned Birger, coming to join them.

"There is a warm current which crosses the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf
of Mexico and washes our western coast. It is called the Gulf Stream.
This current warms the air and makes the climate milder, and it keeps the
water from freezing, so that shipping is carried on all winter,"
Lieutenant Ekman explained.

Just then a sailor came to tell them that their dinner was ready. While
they were eating, the launch made a landing at the first of the
lighthouses which the inspector had to visit.

While their father was busy, the twins clambered over the rocks, hunting
for starfishes and sea-urchins, and Gerda picked a bouquet of bright
blossoms for their table on the boat.

At the next stopping-place, which was Gefle, the captain took them on
shore to see the shipyard where his own launch, the _North Star,_ was
built; and so, all day long, there was something to keep them busy.

As the boat steamed farther north, each new day grew longer, each night
shorter, until Birger declared that he believed the sun did not set at
all.

"Oh, yes it does," his father told him. "It sets now at about eleven
o'clock, and rises a little after one. You will have to wait until you
cross the Polcirkel and get to the top of Mount Dundret before you have a
night when the sun doesn't even dip below the horizon."

"We must be pretty near the Arctic Circle now," exclaimed Gerda. "It is
growing colder and colder every minute."

"That is because the wind is blowing over an ice-floe," said her father,
pointing to a large field of ice which seemed to be drifting slowly
toward them.

"Look, look, Birger!" cried Gerda, "there are some seals on the ice."

"Yes," said Birger, "and there is a seal-boat sailing up to catch them."

"I'm going to draw a picture of it for Mother," Gerda announced, and she
sat still for a long time, making first one sketch and then another,--a
seal on a cake of ice, a lighthouse, a ship being dashed against the
rocks, and a steam-launch cutting through the water, with a boy and girl
on its deck.

"Oh dear!" she sighed after a while, "I wish something _enormous_ would
happen. I'm tired of water and sky and sawmills and little towns with red
houses just like the pictures in my geography."

"What would you like to have happen?" questioned her father.

"I should like to see some of my girl friends," replied Gerda quickly. "I
haven't had any one to tell my secrets to for over a week."

"Perhaps something enormous will happen tomorrow," her father comforted
her. "We'll see what we can do about it."

So Gerda went to sleep that night thinking of Hilma and Sigrid at home;
and she slept through the beautiful bright summer night, little dreaming
that the boat was bearing her steadily toward a new friend and a dearer
friendship than any she had ever known.



CHAPTER IV

GERDA'S NEW FRIEND


"Look, Gerda," said Lieutenant Ekman, as their launch steamed the next
morning toward a barren island off the east coast of Sweden, "do you see
a child on those rocks below the lighthouse?"

Gerda looked eagerly where her father pointed. "Yes, I think I see her
now," she said, after a moment.

Birger ran to the bow of the boat. "Come up here," he called. "I can see
her quite plainly. She has on a rainbow skirt."

"Oh, Birger!" cried Gerda, "can it be the little girl who received our
box? If it is, her name is Karen. Don't you remember the letter of thanks
she wrote us?"

As she spoke, the child began clambering carefully over the rocks and
made her way to the landing-place. The twins saw now that she wore the
rainbow skirt and the dark bodice over a white waist, which forms the
costume of the Rättvik girls and women; but they saw, also, that she
walked with a crutch.

"Oh, Father, she is lame!" Gerda exclaimed. Then she stood quietly on the
deck, waving her hand and smiling in friendly greeting until the launch
was made fast to the wharf.

"Are you Gerda?" asked the little lame girl eagerly, as Lieutenant Ekman
swung his daughter ashore; and Gerda asked just as eagerly, "Are you
Karen?" Then both children laughed and answered "Yes," together.

"Come up to the house, Gerda, I want to show you my birds," said Karen at
once; and she climbed up over the rocks toward the tiny cottage.

Gerda followed more slowly, looking pityingly at the crutch and the poor,
crooked back; but Karen turned and called to her to hurry.

"I have ever so many things to show you, Gerda," she said. "There are no
children for me to play with, so I have to make friends with the birds. I
have four now, and I am trying to teach them to eat from my hand."

As Karen spoke, she led the way around the corner of the house, and
there, sheltered from the wind, was a collection of cages, mounted on a
rough wooden bench. In each one was a bird which had been injured in some
way.

The largest cage held a snowy owl, and when Karen spoke to him he ruffled
up his feathers and rolled his head from side to side, his great golden
eyes staring at her without blinking.

"He can't see when the sun shines," Karen explained; "but he seems to
know my voice."

"What a good time he must have in the long winter nights, when he can see
all the time," said Gerda. "Where did you get him?"

"Father found him in the woods with a broken wing; but he is nearly well
now, and I shall soon set him free," Karen told her.

"And here is a woodpecker, and a cuckoo, and a magpie," said Gerda,
looking into the cages.

"Yes," said Karen, "and last year I had an eider-duck, and I often have
sea-gulls. Sometimes, when there is a big storm, the gulls are blown
against the windows of the lighthouse and are hurt. I find them on the
rocks in the morning with a broken leg or wing, and then I put them in a
cage and take care of them until they can fly away. Father and I call
this the Sea-gull Light."

"What do you do with the birds in the winter?" asked Gerda.

"The lighthouse is closed as soon as the Gulf freezes over, and then we
go to live on the mainland," Karen replied. "One of my brothers built
a bird-house near our barn, and if my birds are not strong enough to fly
away, Father lets me take them with me in the cages, and I feed them
all winter with crumbs and grain."

"How many brothers have you?"

"There are five, but they are all much older than I am. They work in the
woods in the winter, cutting out logs or making tar; and in the summer
they go off on fishing trips. I don't see them very often."

"We met a great many vessels loaded with lumber on our way up the coast,"
said Gerda, "and, wherever we stopped, the wharves were covered with
great piles of lumber, and barrels and barrels of tar."

"The lumber vessels sail past this island all summer," said Karen. "I
often wonder where they go, and what becomes of all the lumber they
carry. There is a sawmill near our house on the shore and it whirrs and
saws all day long."

"There were sawmills all along the coast," said Gerda. "Birger and I
began to count them, and then there were so many other things to see that
we forgot to count."

Karen stooped down to open the door of the magpie's cage, and he hopped
out and began picking up the grain which she held in her hand for him. "I
think this magpie is going to stay with me," she said. "He is very tame
and I often let him out of the cage. Mother says he will bring me good
luck," she added rather wistfully.

"It must be lonely for you here, with only the birds to play with," said
Gerda. "You must be glad when the time comes to live on shore and go
to school again."

For answer, Karen looked at her crutch. "I can't go to school," she said
soberly; "but my brothers taught me to read and write, and Mother has a
piano which I can play a little."

Then her face lighted up with a cheery smile. "When your box came this
spring, it was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me.
Everything in it gave me something new to think about. I often think how
pretty the streets of Stockholm must look, with all the little girls
going about in rainbow skirts, and none of them having to walk with a
crutch."

"Oh, dear me!" exclaimed Gerda quickly; "it is not often that you see a
rainbow skirt in Stockholm. I never wear one there."

Karen looked surprised. "Where do you wear it?" she asked.

Then Gerda told about her summer home in Rättvik. "It is on Lake Siljan,
in the central part of Sweden, in a province that is called Dalarne,"
she explained. "It is a very old-fashioned place, and the people still
wear the costumes which were worn hundreds of years ago."

A wistful look had stolen into Karen's face as she listened. "I suppose
there are ever so many children in Rättvik," she said.

"Oh, yes," answered Gerda. "We play together every day, and go to church
on Sundays; and sometimes I help to row the Sunday boat."

"What is the Sunday boat?" was Karen's next question.

"There are several parishes in Rättvik, and many of the people live so
far away from the church that they row across the lake together in a long
boat which is called the Sunday boat," Gerda told her.

"And do you have girl friends in Stockholm?" asked Karen, envying this
Gerda who came and went from city to country so easily.

"Yes, indeed," answered Gerda. Then she smiled and said shyly, "I wish
you would be my friend, too. When I go home I can write to you."

Karen's face flushed with pleasure. "Oh, will you?" she cried. "But there
will be so little for me to write to you," she added soberly. "After the
snow comes, and my brothers have all gone into the woods for the winter,
there are weeks at a time when I never see any one but my father and
mother."

"You can tell me all about your birds," Gerda suggested; "and the way the
moon shines on the long stretches of snow; and about the animals that
creep out from the woods sometimes and sniff around your door. And I will
tell you about my school, and the parties I have with my friends. And I
will send you some new music to play on the piano."

But before they could say anything more, Lieutenant Ekman had returned
from inspecting the lighthouse with Karen's father, and was calling to
Gerda that it was time for them to start for Luleå.

"Good-bye," the two little girls said to each other, and Karen went down
to the landing-place to watch the launch steam away.

Gerda stood quietly beside the rail, looking back at the island, long
after Karen's rainbow skirt and the lighthouse had faded from sight.

"I will give you two öre for your thoughts, if they are worth it," her
father said at last.

"I was thinking that it will make Karen sad to hear of my good times this
winter," Gerda told him.

"She will like to have your letters to think about," replied Lieutenant
Ekman cheerfully. Then he pointed to a little town on the shore ahead.
"There is Luleå," he said. "You will soon be travelling on the railroad
toward Mount Dundret and the midnight sun."

But although Gerda was soon speeding into the mysterious Arctic regions,
she could not forget her new friend in the lonely lighthouse.



CHAPTER V

CROSSING THE POLCIRKEL


"Polcirkel, Birger, Polcirkel!" cried Gerda from her side of the car.

"Polcirkel!" shouted Birger in answer, and sprang to Gerda's seat to look
out of the window.

The slow-running little train groaned and creaked; then came to a stop at
the tiny station-house on the Arctic Circle.

The twins, their faces smeared with vaseline and veiled in mosquito
netting, hurried out of the car and looked around them. Close beside the
station rose a great pile of stones, to mark the only spot where a
railroad crosses the Arctic Circle. This is the most northerly railroad
in the world, and was built by the Swedish government to transport iron
ore to the coast, from the mines four miles north of Gellivare.

As the two children climbed to the top of the cairn, Birger said, "This
is a wonderful place; is it not, Gerda?"

His sister looked back doubtfully over the immense peat bog through which
the train had been travelling, and thought of the swamps and the forests
of pine and birch which lay between them and Luleå, many miles away on
the coast. Then she looked forward toward more peat bogs, swamps and
forests that lay between them and Gellivare.

"I suppose it is a wonderful place," she said slowly; "but it seems more
wonderful to me that we are here looking at it. Do you remember how it
looks on the map in our geography, and how far away it always seemed?"

"Yes," replied her brother, "I always thought there was nothing but ice
and snow beyond the Arctic Circle."

"So did I," said Gerda. "I had no idea we should see little farms, and
fields of rye, oats and barley, away up here in Lapland. Father says the
crops grow faster because the sun shines all day and almost all night,
too; and that it is only eight weeks from seed-time to harvest.

"No doubt there is plenty of ice and snow in winter; but just here there
seems to be nothing but swamps and forests."

"And swarms of mosquitoes," added Birger. "Don't forget the mosquitoes!"

In a moment more the children were back in their seats, and the train was
creeping slowly northward, on its way toward Gellivare and Mount Dundret,
where, from the fifth of June to the eleventh of July, the sun may be
seen shining all day and all night.

Birger took a tiny stone from his pocket and showed it to his sister,
saying, "See my souvenir of Polcirkel." But Gerda paid little attention
to his souvenir, and slipped over to her father's seat to ask a question.

"Father," she said softly.

Lieutenant Ekman looked up from the maps and papers in his lap. "What do
you wish, little daughter?" he asked.

"Will you please make me a promise?" she begged.

"If it won't take all my money to keep it," he answered with a smile.

But Gerda seemed in no hurry to tell what it was that she wanted, and
began looking over the papers in his lap. "What is this?" she asked,
taking up a small blue card.

"That is my receipt from the Tourist Agency," he answered. "When I give
it to the station master at Gellivare, he will give me a key which will
open the hut on Mount Dundret, and let us see the midnight sun in
comfort."

"How much did you pay for it?" was Gerda's next question.

"I paid about four kronor for the card and all the privileges that go
with it," was the answer.

"Have you plenty of money left?" asked the little girl.

Her father laughed. "Enough to get us all three back to Stockholm, at
least," he said. "Why do you ask?"

"Because--" said Gerda slowly, and then stopped.

"Because what?" Lieutenant Ekman asked again.

"Because I wondered if we could stop at the lighthouse on our way home
and ask Karen Klasson to go to Stockholm and live with us;" and Gerda
held her breath and waited for her father to speak.

"Perhaps she would not like to leave her father and mother for the sake
of living with us," he said at last.

"I think she would, if it would make her back well," persisted Gerda.

Herr Ekman laughed. "If living with us would cure people's backs, we
might have all the lame children in Sweden to care for," he said.

"But I want only Karen," said Gerda; "and I thought it would be good for
her to take the Swedish medical gymnastics at the Institute in Stockholm,
where so many people are cured every year."

Lieutenant Ekman looked thoughtfully at his daughter. "That is a good
idea and shows a loving heart," he said. "But are you willing to give up
any of your pleasures in order to make it possible?"

Gerda looked at him in surprise, and he continued, "I am not a rich man.
If we should take Karen into our family and send her to the gymnasium, it
would cost a good many kronor, and your mother and I would have to make
some sacrifices. Are you willing to make some, too?"

Gerda gazed thoughtfully across the stretches of bog-land to the forest
on the horizon. "Yes," she said at last; "I will go without the furs
Mother promised to buy for me next winter."

Lieutenant Ekman knew well that Gerda had set her heart on the furs, and
that it would be a real sacrifice for her to give them up; but if she
were willing to do so cheerfully, it meant that she was in earnest about
helping her new friend.

"Yes," he said, after a moment; "if you will give up the furs, we will
see what can be done. On the way home we will stop at the lighthouse and
ask Hans Klasson to lend Karen to us for a little while."

Gerda clapped her hands. "Oh, a promise! A promise!" she cried joyously.
"What a good souvenir of Polcirkel!" and she ran to tell Birger the news.



CHAPTER VI

THE MIDNIGHT SUN


"What time is it, Father?" asked Gerda, as they reached the top of Mount
Dundret, and Lieutenant Ekman took the key out of his pocket to open the
door of the Tourists' Hut.

"It is half past eleven," replied her father, looking at his watch.

"At noon or at night?" questioned Gerda.

"Look at the sun, and don't ask such foolish questions," Birger told her.
"When the sun is high up in the heavens it is noon; but when it is down
on the horizon it is night."

Gerda looked off at the sun which hung like a huge red moon on the
northern horizon. "Then I suppose it is almost midnight," she said, "and
time to go to bed. I was wishing it was nearer noon and dinner-time."

"You'll have to wait for dinner-time and bedtime, too, until we get back
to Gellivare," her father told her.

"When you have travelled so far just to see the sun shining at midnight,
you should spend all your time looking at it," said Birger, opening his
camera to take some pictures.

Gerda looked down into the valleys below, where a thick mist hung over
the lakes and rivers; then turned her eyes toward the sun, which was
becoming paler and paler, its golden glow shedding a drowsy light over
the hills.

"How still it is!" she said softly. "All the world seems to have gone to
sleep in the midst of sunshine."

"It is exactly midnight," said her father, looking at the watch which he
had been holding in his hand.

Birger closed his camera and slipped it into his pocket. "There," he
said, "I have a picture of the sun shining at midnight, to prove to Oscar
that it really does shine. Now I am going to gather some flowers to press
for Mother;" and he ran off down the side of the hill.

Gerda found a seat on a rock beside the hut, and sat down to watch the
beginning of the new day. The sun gradually brightened and became a
magnificent red, tinging the clouds with gold and crimson, and gilding
the distant hills. A fresh breeze sprang up, the swallows in their nests
under the eaves of the hut twittered softly,--all nature seemed to be
awake again.

"I've been thinking," said Gerda, after a long silence, "that I told
Hilma I should understand about the midnight sun if I should see it; but
I'm afraid I don't understand it, after all."

"It is this way," Lieutenant Ekman began. "The earth moves around the sun
once every year, and turns on its own axis once every twenty-four hours."

"That is in our geography," Gerda interrupted. "The path which the earth
takes in its trip around the sun is called its orbit. The axis is a
straight line that passes through the center of the earth, from the North
Pole to the South Pole."

"That is right," said her father; "and if old Mother Earth went whirling
round and round with her axis perpendicular to her orbit, we should have
twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness all over the earth
every day in the year."

"I suppose she gets dizzy, spinning around so fast, and finds it hard to
stand straight up and down," suggested Gerda.

"No doubt of it," answered her father gravely. "At least she has tipped
over, so that in summer the North Pole is turned toward the sun, but in
winter it is turned away from the sun."

"Let me show you how I think it is," said Gerda eagerly. She was always
skillful at drawing pictures, and now she took the paper and pencil
which her father gave her, and talked as she worked. "This is the sun and
this is the earth's orbit," and she drew a circle in the center with a
great path around it.

"This is Mother Earth in the summer with the sun shining on her head at
the North Pole," and a grandmotherly-looking figure in a Rättvik costume
was quickly hung up on the line of the orbit, her head tipped toward the
sun.

"Here she is again in winter, with the sun shining on her feet at the
South Pole," and Gerda drew the figure on the opposite side of the orbit
with her head tipped away from the sun.

"That is exactly how it is," said her father. "But do you understand
that, when she is slowly moving round the sun, she is always tipped in
the same direction, with the North Pole pointing toward the north star;
so there comes a time, twice a year, when her head and her feet are both
equally distant from the sun, which shines on both alike?"

"No," said Gerda. "When does that happen?"

"It happens in March and September, when Mother Earth has travelled just
half the distance between summer and winter."

"Oh, I see! This is where she would be;" and Gerda made two dots on the
orbit, each half-way between the two grandmothers.

"Good," said her father. "Now when she is in that position, day and
night, all over the earth, are each twelve hours long. We call them the
'Equinoxes.' It is a Latin word which means 'equal nights.'"

"In March and September do we have a day when it is twelve hours from
sunrise to sunset, and twelve hours from sunset to sunrise?" questioned
Gerda.

"Yes, and it is the same all over the earth the very same day," repeated
Lieutenant Ekman. "If you will look in the almanac when you go home, you
will see just which day it is."

Gerda studied her drawing for a few minutes in silence. "I think I
understand it now," she said at last.

"It is easy to understand after a little study," her father told her;
"but everyone has to see it for himself, just like the midnight sun.

"When the North Pole, or Fru Earth's head, is turned toward the sun we
have the long summer days in Sweden. When it is turned away from the sun
we have the long winter nights. The nearer we go to the pole, the longer
days and nights we have. If we could be directly at the pole, we should
have six months of daylight and six months of darkness every year."

"What did you say?" asked Birger, who came around the corner of the hut
just in time to hear his father's last words.

"We were explaining how it is that the farther north we go in summer, the
longer we can see the sun each day," said Gerda.

"Let me hear you explain it," suggested Birger, trying to find a
comfortable seat on the rocky ground.

But Gerda drew a long breath of dismay. "Oh, Birger, you should have come
sooner!" she exclaimed. "I understand it perfectly now; but if we go
through it again I shall get all mixed up in my mind."

Lieutenant Ekman laughed. "I move that we stay up here and watch the
midnight sun until we understand the whole matter and can stand on our
heads and say it backwards," he suggested.

"I'm willing to stay all summer, if we can drive off in the daytime and
see some Lapp settlements," said Birger, who had made friends with a
young Laplander that morning at the Gellivare station.

"But it is daytime all the time!" cried Gerda. "When should we get any
sleep?"

"I must be back in Stockholm by the middle of July," said Lieutenant
Ekman; "but if your friend knows where there are some Laplanders not too
far away, perhaps we can spare time to go and see them."

"Yes, he does," said Birger eagerly. "The mosquitoes have driven most of
the herds of reindeer up into the mountains, but Erik's family are still
living only a few miles north of Gellivare."

"What is Erik doing in Gellivare?" questioned Herr Ekman.

"He is working in the iron mines," Birger explained. "He wants to save
money so that he can go to Stockholm and learn a trade. He doesn't want
to stay here in Lapland and wander about with the reindeer all his life."

"So?" said Lieutenant Ekman in surprise. "Your friend Erik seems to have
ambitions of his own."

"Look at Gerda!" whispered Birger suddenly.

Gerda sat on the ground with her back against the hut, and she was fast
asleep. "Poor child," said her father, as he carried her into the hut and
put her on a cot, "she has been awake all night. When she has had a
little rest we will go back to Gellivare and look up your friend Erik.
After we have all had a good night's sleep, we shall be ready to make a
call on his family and their reindeer."



CHAPTER VII

ERIK'S HOME IN LAPLAND


"This is the best part of our trip," Gerda said, two days later,
as she was standing in the shade of some fir trees at one of the
posting-stations a few miles from Gellivare, waiting for fresh horses
to be put into the carts. "I have been reading about Laplanders and their
reindeer ever since I can remember, and now I am going to see them in
their own home."

"Perhaps you will be disappointed," Birger told her. "Erik says that his
father's reindeer may wander away any day to find a place where there is
more moss, and if they do, the whole family will follow them."

"Where do they go?" asked Gerda.

"There is a treaty between Norway and Sweden, more than one hundred and
fifty years old, which provides that Swedish Lapps can go to the coast of
Norway in summer, and Norwegian Lapps can go inland to Sweden in winter,"
Lieutenant Ekman told the children.

"Yes," said Erik, "when the moss is scanty or the swarms of mosquitoes
too thick, the reindeer hurry off to some pleasanter spot, without
stopping to ask permission. Perhaps we have been in camp a week, perhaps
a month, just as it happens; but when we hear their joints snapping and
their hoofs tramping all together, we know it is time to take down the
tent, pack up everything and follow the herd to a new pasture."

"I am glad we are out of sight of the photograph shops in Gellivare,
anyway," Birger told Erik, when they were seated in the light carts and
were once more on their journey. "If I could take such good pictures
myself, I shouldn't care; but all my pictures of the midnight sun make it
look like the moon in a snow-bank."

Just then Gerda, who was riding with her father, called to Birger, "Stop
a moment and listen!" So the two posting-carts halted while the children
listened to the music of a mountain stream not far away. Mingled with the
sound of the rushing water was the whirr of a busy sawmill in the depths
of the woods, while from the tree-tops could be heard the call of a
cuckoo and the harsh cry of a woodpecker.

Soon they were on their way again, pushing deeper and deeper through the
Lapland forest; their road bordered with green ferns and bright
blossoming flowers, their path crossed now and again by fluttering
butterflies.

"This is just the right kind of a carriage for such a road, isn't it?"
said Gerda, as the track led through a shallow brooklet.

"Yes," answered her father; "a few of the roads in these northern forests
are excellent; but many of them are only trails, and are rough and rocky.
If the cart were not so light, with only one seat and two wheels, we
should often get a severe shaking-up."

"How does it happen that we can get such a good horse and cart up here
among the forests?" asked Gerda.

"As there is no railroad in this part of Lapland, the Swedish government
very thoughtfully arranges for the posting-stations, and guarantees the
pay of the keepers for providing travellers with fresh horses," her
father explained. "The stations are from one to two Swedish miles apart,
and everyone who hires a horse is expected to take good care of him."

"I'm afraid we shall have to make this horse go faster, or we shall be
caught in a thunder-storm," said Gerda, looking up through the trees at
the sky, which was growing dark with clouds.

"You are right," answered her father; and at the same moment Erik looked
back and shouted, "We must hurry. Perhaps we can reach my father's tent
before the rain comes."

Then, glancing up again at the black clouds, he said to Birger, "We shall
soon hear the pounding of Thor's hammer."

"How do you happen to know about the old Norse gods?" questioned Birger.

"I have been to school in Jockmock, and I read books," replied Erik,
urging on his horse to a race with the clouds; but the clouds won, for
the little party had gone scarcely an English mile before they were in
the midst of a thunder-storm. Over rocks and rills, under low-hanging
boughs of pine and birch trees rattled the carts along the rough woodland
road. The rain poured down in sheets, zigzag lightning flashed across the
sky, and a peal of thunder crashed and rumbled through the forest.

Lieutenant Ekman threw his coat over Gerda, covering her from head to
foot, and called to Erik that they must stop. As he spoke, a second flash
of lightning showed a great boulder beside the road and Erik answered,
"Here we are at my father's tent. It is just beyond that rock."

Another moment, and with one last jounce and jolt, the two carts had
rounded the turn in the road and stopped in a small clearing beside a
lake. The arrival of the carts, or kärra, as they are called in Sweden,
had brought the whole family of Lapps to the door of the tent. There
they stood, huddled together,--Erik's father, mother, brother and
sisters,--looking out to see who was arriving in such a downpour.

Lieutenant Ekman jumped down, gathered Gerda up in his arms, coat and
all, and ran toward the tent. Birger followed, while Erik waited to tie
the horses to a tree.

Immediately the group at the doorway disappeared inside the tent, making
way for the strangers to enter, and when Gerda had shaken herself out of
her father's coat, a scene of the greatest confusion greeted her eyes.

The frame of the tent was made of poles driven into the ground and drawn
together at the top. It was covered with a coarse woolen cloth which is
made by the Lapps and is very strong. A cross-pole was fastened to the
frame to support the cooking-kettle, under which wood had been placed
for a fire.

An opening had been left at the top of the tent to allow the smoke to
escape. Birger had often made such a tent of poles and canvas when he was
spending the summer with his grandmother in Dalarne.

At the right of the entrance was a pile of reindeer skins, and there,
huddled together with the three children, were four big dogs. The dogs
stood up and began to growl, but Erik's father, who was a short,
thick-set man with black eyes and a skin which was red and wrinkled from
exposure to the cold winds, silenced them with a word. He then helped
Erik spread some dry skins for the visitors on the left side of the tent.

The Lapp mother immediately busied herself with lighting the fire,
putting some water into the kettle to boil, and grinding some coffee.
As she moved about the tent, Gerda saw that a baby, strapped to a
cradle-board, hung over her back.

The baby's skin was white and soft, her cheeks rosy, her hair as yellow
as Gerda's. She opened her blue eyes wide at the sight of the strangers,
but not a sound did she make. Evidently Lapp babies were not expected to
cry.

The coffee was soon ready, and was poured into cups for the guests, while
Erik and his brother and sisters drank theirs in turn from a big bowl.

Lieutenant Ekman talked with Erik's father, who, like many of the Lapps,
could speak Swedish; but the children were all silent, and the dogs lay
still in their corner, their gleaming eyes watching every motion of the
strangers.

When Gerda had finished drinking the coffee, which was very good, she
took two small packages from her pocket and put them into her father's
hand. "They are for Erik's family," she whispered. "Birger and I bought
them in Gellivare."

"Don't you think it would be better for you to give them out yourself?"
he asked; but Gerda shook her head as if she had suddenly become dumb,
and so Lieutenant Ekman distributed the gifts.

There was a string of shells for the youngest child; a silver ring, a
beaded belt, a knife and a cheap watch for the older children; a box of
matches and some tobacco for the father, and some needles and bright
colored thread for the mother.

"We should like to give you something in return," said Erik's father;
"but we have nothing in the world except our reindeer. If we should give
you one of them you might have some trouble in taking it home," and he
laughed loudly at the idea.

"If you wish to please me, you can do so and help your son at the same
time," replied Lieutenant Ekman. "Erik is a good lad. He can read well,
and has studied while he has been working in the mines. Now he wishes to
learn a trade, and we can take him with us to Stockholm if you will let
him go."

Erik's father did not speak for a few moments; then he rose and opened
the door of the tent, motioning for the others to follow him out into
the forest.



CHAPTER VIII

FOUR-FOOTED FRIENDS


The brief thunder-storm was over, the high noonday sun was shining down
into the clearing, and the rumble of Thor's hammer could be heard only
faintly in the distance. In the trees overhead the birds were calling to
one another, shaking the drops of rain from many a twig and leaf as they
flitted among the green branches.

Erik's father took up a stout birch staff which was leaning against the
tent, and led the way to the reindeer pasture, followed by his dogs.

These dogs are the useful friends of the Lapps. They are very strong and
brave, and watch the reindeer constantly to keep them together. When the
herd is attacked by a pack of wolves, the frightened animals scatter in
all directions, and then the owner and his dogs have hard work to round
them up again.

Now, as the dogs walked along behind their master, they stopped once in a
while to sniff the air, and their keen eyes seemed to see everything.

The country was wild and desolate. As far as the eye could reach, there
was nothing but low hills, bare and rocky, with dark forests of fir and
birch. It was cold and the wind blew in strong gusts. Tiny rills and
brooks, formed by the melted snow and the frequent rains, chattered
among the rocks; and in the deepest hollows there were still small
patches of snow.

Birger gathered up some of the snow and made a snowball. "Put it in your
pocket, and take it home to Oscar as a souvenir of Lapland," Gerda
suggested.

"No," he replied, taking out his camera, "I'll set it up on this rock and
take a picture of it,--snowball in July."

"You'd better wait until you see the reindeer before you begin taking
pictures," called Gerda, hurrying on without waiting for her brother.
In a few moments more they came in sight of the herd, and saw animals of
all sizes, many of them having superb, spreading antlers.

"Look," said Erik's father, pointing to the reindeer with pride, "there
are over three hundred deer,--all mine."

"All the needs of the mountain Lapps are supplied by the reindeer,"
Lieutenant Ekman told the children. "These useful animals furnish their
owners with food, clothing, bedding and household utensils. They are
horse, cow, express messenger and freight train. In summer they carry
heavy loads on their backs; in winter they draw sledges over the snow."

Some of the reindeer were lying down, but others were eating the short,
greenish-white moss which grows in patches among the rocks, tearing it
off with their forefeet. They showed no signs of fear at the approach of
the strangers, and did not even stop to look up at them.

Two or three moved slowly toward Erik when he spoke to them, but not one
would touch the moss which he held out in his hand.

"This is my own deer," Erik told Birger, showing a mark on the ear of a
reindeer which had splendid great antlers. "He was given to me when I was
born, to form the beginning of my herd. I have ten deer now, but I would
gladly give them all to my father if he would let me go to Stockholm with
you."

Lieutenant Ekman turned to the father. "It shall cost him nothing," he
said. "Are you willing that he should go?"

"Yes, if he does not want to stay here," replied the father, who had
hoped that the sight of the reindeer would make his son forget his
longing to leave home.

Erik nodded his head. "I want to go," he said.

"Then it is settled," said Lieutenant Ekman, "and I will see that he
learns a good trade."

"Yes, it is settled," agreed Erik's father; "but I had hoped that my son
would live here in Lapland and become an owner of reindeer. There are not
so many owners as there should be."

"Why, I thought that all Laplanders owned reindeer!" exclaimed Birger.

"No," said his father, "there are about seven thousand Lapps in Sweden,
but only three or four hundred of them own herds. There are the fisher
Lapps who live on the coast; and then there are the field Lapps who live
on the river-banks and cultivate little farms. It is only the mountain
Lapps who own reindeer and spend all their lives wandering up and down
the country, wherever their herds lead them."

"What do the reindeer live on in the winter when the snow covers the
moss?" questioned Birger.

"The Lapps have to find places where the snow is not more than four or
five feet deep, and then the animals can dig holes in the snow with their
forefeet until they reach the moss," replied his father. "The reindeer
are never housed and seem to like cold weather. They prefer to dig up the
moss for themselves, and will not eat it after it has been gathered and
dried."

Just then the Lapp mother came to speak to her husband, and in a few
minutes all the rest of the family arrived.

"They are going to milk the reindeer," Erik explained to Gerda.

"How often do you milk them?" she asked.

"Twice a week," was the answer. "They give only a little milk, but it is
very thick and rich."

Erik and his brother Pers went carefully into the herd and threw a lasso
gently over the horns of the deer, to hold them still while the mother
did the milking. The twins looked on with interest; but to their great
astonishment not one of the reindeer gave more than a mug of milk. They
had been used to seeing brimming pails of cow's milk at the Ekman farm in
Dalarne.

"How do they ever get enough cream to make butter?" questioned Gerda.

"We never make butter, but we make good cheese," Erik's mother explained,
as she brought a cup of milk for them to taste.

"What do these people eat?" Gerda asked her father, when the woman went
back to her milking.

"The reindeer furnish them with milk, cream, cheese and meat; and when
they sell an animal they buy coffee, sugar, meal, tobacco, and whatever
else they need. Then they catch a few fish and kill a bear once in a
great while."

"I have killed two bears in my life," Erik's father said with pride.
"Look," and he showed his belt, from which hung a fringe of bears' teeth.

"Do all the Lapps know how to speak Swedish?" Birger questioned.

"And do they all know how to read and write?" added Gerda.

Lieutenant Ekman nodded. "Most of them do," he replied. "Our government
provides teachers and ministers for the largest settlements, so that the
Laplanders may become good Swedish subjects."

"My brother and I went to school in Jockmock last winter," said Erik, who
had overheard the conversation. "It is a Lapp village near Gellivare, and
my father goes there sometimes to sell toys that we carve from the
antlers of the reindeer."

A little five-year-old girl, who had hardly taken her eyes from Gerda's
face, suddenly put up her hand and took off a leather pouch which hung
around her neck. Opening the pouch, she took from it a tiny bag made of
deerskin.

Gerda had noticed that each one of the family wore just such a pouch, and
she had seen the mother open hers, when she was making the coffee, and
take from it a silver spoon.

From the deerskin bag the child next took a small box made of bone, and
by this time Birger and all the others were watching her with interest.
Off came the cover of the box. Out of the box came a tiny package wrapped
carefully in a bit of woolen cloth, and out of the wrappings came a
precious treasure.

"Look," exclaimed Gerda when she saw what it was; "it is a perfect little
reindeer!"

And so, indeed, it was,--a tiny animal made from a bit of bone, with
hoofs, head and antlers all perfectly carved.

The child held it out toward Gerda, nodding her head shyly to show that
she wished to have her take it. But Gerda hesitated to do so until Erik
said, "My father will make her another. You gave her the string of
shells, and she will not like it if you refuse her gift."

So Gerda took the little reindeer, and many a time in Stockholm, the next
winter, she looked at it and thought of the child who gave it to her, and
of the curious day she spent with the Lapps in far away Lapland.



CHAPTER IX

KAREN'S BROTHER


"How would you like to spend a whole summer here in the forest, watching
the reindeer?" Lieutenant Ekman asked Gerda, after the milking was over
and the Lapp mother had gone back to the tent with her children.

"Not very well, if I had to live in that tent," Gerda answered. Then
suddenly something attracted her attention, and she held up her hand,
saying, "Listen!"

A faint call sounded in the distance,--a call for help.

"This way," cried Erik, and dashed off down a path which led toward the
river.

All the others followed him. "It must be one of the lumbermen," said
Erik's father. "They often get hurt in the log jams."

He was right. When they reached the riverbank they found several men
trying to drive some logs out into the current, so as to release a man
who had slipped and was pinned against a rock.

The bed of the river was rilled with rocks, over which the water was
rushing with great force, in just such a torrent as may be found on
nearly all the rivers of northern Sweden. Starting from the melting snow
on the mountains, these rivers flow rapidly down to the sea, and every
summer millions of logs go sailing down the streams to the sawmills along
the eastern coast.

Thousands of these logs are thrown into the water to drift down to the
sea by themselves; but on some of the slower rivers the logs are made
up into rafts which are guided down the stream by men who live on the
raft during its journey.

It was one of the log-drivers who had been caught while he was trying to
push the logs out into the channel; and now his leg was broken.

"We can take him to Gellivare in one of our kärra," said Lieutenant
Ekman, when, with the help of Erik and his father, the man had finally
been rescued and carried ashore.

Accordingly, he was lifted into the cart with Erik, while Gerda snuggled
into the seat between Birger and her father; and the journey over the
rough woodland road was made as carefully as possible.

Several interesting things were discovered while the doctor from the
mines was setting the broken leg. The most important of all was that this
stalwart lumberman had a father who was a lighthouse keeper.

"Ask him if it is the Sea-gull Light," begged Gerda, when she heard of
it; "and find out if Karen is his sister."

And it was indeed so. The young man had been in the woods all winter, and
was on his way to the lighthouse, which he had hoped to reach in a few
days, for the river current was swift and the logs were making good
progress down to Luleå.

"You shall reach home sooner than you expected," said Lieutenant Ekman
the next morning, "for you shall go with us this very day."

"Fine! Fine! Fine!" cried Gerda joyously when she heard of it. "Pack your
bundle, Erik, for you are going with us, too."

While their clothes, and all the little keepsakes of the trip, were being
hurried into the satchels, Gerda's tongue flew fast with excitement, and
her feet flew to keep it company.

"What do you suppose Karen will say, when she sees us bringing her
brother over the rocks?" she ran to ask Birger in one room, and then ran
to ask her father in another.

At nine o'clock the injured man was moved into the train, the children
took their last look at the mining town, and then began their return over
the most northerly railroad in the world, back through the swamps and
forests, across the Polcirkel, and out of Lapland.

Luleå was reached at last and Josef Klasson was transported from the
train to the steamer, "Just as if he were a load of iron ore from the
mines," Birger declared.

"Not quite so bad as that," said his father, and took the twins to see
the great hydraulic lift that takes up a car loaded with ore, as easily
as a mother lifts her baby, and dumps the whole load into the hold of a
vessel.

The children were so full of interest in all the new life around them
that Josef Klasson almost forgot his pain in telling them about his
winter in the lumber camp, and the long dark night, when for over a month
there was not even a glimpse of the sun, and no light except that of the
moon and the frosty stars.

It seemed but a very short time before Gerda was crying, "I can see the
Sea-gull Light, and Karen is out on the rocks."

Then came all the excitement of landing. The twins told Karen about
finding her brother, and the reindeer, and the midnight sun, and the logs
in the river, all in one breath; while Lieutenant Ekman explained Josef's
accident to the lighthouse keeper and his wife, who had both hurried down
to the wharf to find out the meaning of the return of the government
boat.

Then, after Josef had been welcomed with loving sorrow because of his
injury, and they had carried him up to the house and made him
comfortable, Gerda told about her desire to take Karen home with her.

At first the father and mother would not hear of such a thing; but when
Herr Ekman told of the medical gymnastic exercises that might cure her
lameness, Josef spoke from his cot.

"Let her go," he said. "It is a terrible thing to be lame. These few days
that I have been helpless are the worst I have ever known. If there is a
chance to make Karen well, let her go."

And so Karen and Erik both went to Stockholm on the boat with Herr Ekman
and the twins.

"You know I told you that I never see my brothers very long at one time,"
Karen said to Gerda, after the children had been greeted and gladly
welcomed by Fru Ekman, and they had all tried to make the strangers feel
at home among them.

"Yes," said Gerda; "but when you next see Josef you may be so well and
strong that you can go off to the lumber camp with him and help him saw
down the trees."

Karen shook her head sadly. She could not believe that she would ever
walk without a crutch, and it was the first time that she had been away
from her mother in all her life. She turned to the window so that Gerda
might not see the tears that came into her eyes, and looked down at the
strange city sights.

Just then Lieutenant Ekman came into the room. "Oh, Father, may we take
Erik to the Djurgård to-morrow?" Birger asked. "I want to show him the
Lapp tent and the reindeer out there. He seems to be rather homesick for
the forest, and says that we live up in the air like the birds in their
nests."

When the four children were asleep for the night, and the father and
mother were left alone, they laughed softly together over the situation.

"Who ever heard of bringing a Lapp boy to Stockholm!" exclaimed Herr
Ekman; and his wife added, "Who but Gerda would think of bringing a
strange child here, to be cured of her lameness?"



CHAPTER X

A DAY IN SKANSEN


It was in the Djurgård that poor Erik first learned that he was a
Lapp,--a dirty Lapp.

Of course he knew that his ancestors had lived in Lapland for hundreds of
years; but before he went to the Djurgård that day with Birger and Gerda,
he had never heard himself called a Lapp in derision.

The Djurgård, or Deer Park, is a beautiful public park on one of the
wooded islands near Stockholm. There one finds forests of gigantic oaks,
dense groves of spruce, smiling meadows, winding roads and shady paths.
Through the tree-branches one catches a glimpse of the blue waters of the
fjord, rippling and sparkling in the sun; little steamers go puffing
briskly to and fro; and great vessels sail slowly down to the sea.

In summer, steamers and street cars are constantly carrying people back
and forth between the Deer Park and other parts of the city. It is not
a long trip; from the quay in front of the Royal Palace it takes only ten
minutes to reach the park, and day and night the boats are crowded
with passengers.

People go there to dine in the open-air restaurants and listen to the
bands; they go to walk along the beautiful, tree-shaded paths; or they
go to visit Skansen, one of the most interesting museums in the world.

It was to look at the Lapp encampment in Skansen that Birger and Gerda
took Erik to the Djurgård. It was to see the birthday celebration in
honor of Sweden's beloved poet, Karl Bellman, that they took Karen, for
Gerda had already discovered that Karen knew many of Bellman's verses and
songs.

The happy little party started early in the afternoon, and as they walked
through the city streets, many were the curious glances turned upon the
Lapp boy.

Erik wore a suit of Birger's clothes, and although he was five years
older, they fitted him well. He was short, as all Lapps are, and his face
was broad, with high cheek-bones; but he had a pair of large, honest,
black eyes which looked at everybody and everything in a pleasant, kindly
way.

"What is that great, upward-going box?" he asked, as he caught sight of
the Katarina Hissen, on the quay at the south side of the fjord.

"That is an elevator which will take you up to the heights above, where
you can look over the whole city," was Birger's answer. Then he whispered
to Gerda to ask if she thought they might go up in the elevator before
going to the Deer Park.

Gerda shook her head. "It costs five öre to go up in the lift, and three
öre to come down," she replied. "That would be thirty-two öre for us all,
and we must save our money to spend in the Djurgård. There is the boat
now," and she led the way to the little steamer.

"I have heard you say so much about Skansen," said Karen, when they had
found seats on the deck together, "that I'd like to know what it is
all about."

"It is all about every old thing in Sweden," laughed Gerda. "The man
who planned it said that the time would come when gold could not
buy a picture of olden times--the old homes and costumes and ways of
living--and then people would wish they could know more about them.

"So he travelled all over Sweden, from one end to the other, making a
collection of all sorts of old things to put in a museum in Stockholm.
Then he thought of showing the real life of the country people, so he
bought houses and set them up in Skansen, and hired the peasants to come
and live in them.

"When he finished his work, there was an example of every kind of Swedish
dwelling, from the Laplander's tent and the charcoal burner's hut, to the
farmhouse in Dalarne and the fisherman's cot in Skåne. And people were
living in all the houses just as they had lived at home,--spinning,
weaving, baking, and celebrating all the holidays in the same old way."

"And there are cages of wild animals and birds too," added Birger, "polar
bears and owls and eagles and reindeer--"

"That is what I want to see,--the reindeer," interrupted Erik; so when
the steamer reached the quay at the Deer Park, the children went at once
to find the Laplander's tent in Skansen.

Erik stood still for a long time, looking at the rocks, and the Lapps and
reindeer; and the twins waited for him to speak. Gerda expected that he
would say it was just like home; but, instead, he turned to her at last
and asked, "Do you think it is like Lapland?"

The little girl was rather taken aback at his question. "Well, you know,
Erik," she stammered, "they have done the best they could."

Erik shook his head. "They could not move the forest, with the rivers and
mountains and wild birds," he said. "Without them it is not a real
Lapland home."

His whole face said so plainly, "It is only an imitation," that Birger
could not help laughing.

"There is no museum in all Europe like Skansen," he said at last, quite
proudly; "and there are many people who come here to see it, because
they cannot travel, as Gerda and I did, and see the real homes in the
country."

"I am one of them," said Karen. "This is the only way I shall ever see a
Laplander's tent and reindeer."

"I will show you a house that is just like my grandmother's home in
Rättvik," suggested Gerda, and they walked slowly through the woodland
paths, so that Karen would not get tired with her crutch.

In a few minutes they came upon a place where some peasants, dressed in
their native costumes, were dancing folk-dances; for that is one of the
pleasant Skansen ways of saving the old customs.

"Oh, let us stop and look at the dancers!" cried Karen in delight. "I
wonder what they are doing," she added, watching their graceful movements
forward and back and in and out.

"They are 'reaping the flax,'" said Gerda, who knew all the different
dances because she often went to Skansen with her mother and father on
sunny summer evenings.

After the flax dance was finished, a company of boys took the platform,
and made everyone laugh with a queer, half-comical, half-serious dance
which Gerda called the "ox-dance."

"I should like to dance with them," said Erik suddenly.

"Yes, it is a great deal more fun to dance than to watch others," said
Gerda kindly; but she moved away from the sight at once, lest Erik should
push in among the dancers.

"This is just the time to go over to the Bellman oak," she suggested. "It
is the poet's day, and there will be wreaths and garlands hanging on his
tree, and a band of music playing some of his songs."

Erik walked along slowly, his eyes looking back longingly toward the
dancing, and finally Gerda looked back, too.

"See, Erik," she said, "the boys have finished, and now the girls are
going to dance alone. You would not like to dance with the girls;" and
then he followed her willingly to the other side of the island.

Crowds of people were gathering under the Bellman oak, and the four
children found a seat near-by, where they could see and hear everything
that went on around them.

"We must keep Erik here, or else he will insist on going to blow in the
band," Gerda whispered to her brother, as she saw the Lapp boy watching
the man with the trombone. Then she began to talk about Karl Bellman, the
songs and poems he wrote, and how much the people loved him.

"He is one of our most famous poets," she said earnestly, and Erik looked
at her and repeated solemnly:--

"Cattle die,
Kinsmen die,
One's self dies, too;
But the fame never dies,
Of him who gets a good name."

"Why, Erik!" exclaimed Karen in surprise; "that is from 'The Song of the
High' by Odin, the king of the gods. How did you happen to know it?"

"I know many things," said Erik with an air of importance. But there were
some things which Erik did not know. One was, how to play the trombone;
and it was his strongest trait that he liked to investigate everything
that was new and strange.

Now, when Karen spoke in such a tone of admiration, Erik felt that he
must find out at once about that queer instrument which made such loud
music; and before Gerda knew what he was doing, he had jumped up from the
ground and walked to the stand where the musicians were playing.

"Let me try it," he said, and held out his hand for the trombone.

Gerda was in an agony of distress. "Run and get him, Birger," she urged.
"Oh, run quick!"

"Erik, Erik, come here!" cried Birger, running after his friend. But
before Birger's voice reached his ears, the trombonist had said very
plainly and harshly, "Get away from here, you dirty Lapp!" and poor Erik
was looking at him with shame and anger in his eyes, when Birger took
hold of his clenched hand and led him away from the bandstand.

It was a hard moment for the twins. People were looking at them and
laughing, and the words, "Lapp! Lapp!" spoken in a tone of ridicule,
could be heard on every side.

"Let us go home," suggested Gerda, her face scarlet with shame at so much
unpleasant attention.

"No," said Birger stoutly, "let us stay right here and show that we don't
care."

But Karen all at once felt very tired, and when she told Gerda about it,
the little party went sadly through the crowd and took their places in
silence on the return steamer.

Neither Birger nor Gerda had any heart to tell their friends the names of
the different buildings which they saw from the deck of the boat,
although Gerda said once, with a brave little effort to make Erik forget
his shame, "We will go home through Erik-gatan."

But Erik looked at her with troubled eyes and made no answer. Not until
they were safely within the walls of home did he speak, and then it was
to ask, "Why did he call me a dirty Lapp?"

"Because many Lapps _are_ dirty," replied Birger, feeling just as
miserable as Erik looked. "They don't bathe, nor eat from dishes, nor
sleep in beds, as good Swedish people do."

"I shall bathe, and eat from dishes, and sleep in beds all the rest of my
life," said Erik, his face very white, his eyes very angry. "And I shall
learn to use that strange tool that makes loud music," he added.

Lieutenant Ekman stood in the doorway, listening to his words. "Good," he
said heartily; "that is the way for you to talk. And you shall learn to
use many other tools, too. I have made arrangements to-day for you to
work in the ironworks at Göteborg, where they make steamers, engines and
boilers. I have a friend there who will look after you, and see that you
are taught a good trade."

"But, Father," cried Birger, "Göteborg is a long way from Stockholm! How
can Erik go so far alone?"

"I am going over to Göteborg myself next month," replied Inspector Ekman,
"and he can go with me. A new lightship is ready to be launched, and I
shall have to inspect it and give the certificate before it is accepted
by the government."

"Let us go with you! Let us go, too!" begged the twins, dancing round and
round their father.

"But what will become of Karen?" he asked.

Gerda and Birger stopped short and looked at their new friend. It was
plain to be seen that she was not strong enough to take such a trip.

Fru Ekman put her arm tenderly around the little lame girl. "Karen will
visit me," she said kindly.

So it was decided that the twins should go to Göteborg with their father
by way of the Göta Canal. When the day for the journey arrived, the
satchels were packed once more, and Gerda showed Karen how to water her
plants and feed her pet parrot in her absence.



CHAPTER XI

THROUGH THE LOCKS


"What do you think of a girl who goes off on two journeys in one summer?"
and Gerda leaned over the railing of the canal-boat to look at her
friends on the quay below.

It was the middle of August, and the same group of boys and girls who had
seen the twins off to the North in June were now speeding them to the
West.

"I think you don't care for Stockholm any longer," called Hilma; while
Oscar added, "And you can't care for your friends either, or you wouldn't
be leaving them again so soon."

"I shall be home in just seven days," said Gerda, "and if you will all be
here on the quay to welcome me, I will tell you the whole story of the
wonderful Göta Canal, and our sight-seeing in Göteborg."

"Your friends will have to meet you at the railroad station," her father
told her. "We shall come back by train. It is much the quickest way."

"At the railroad station then, one week from to-day," called Gerda, as
the steamer backed away from the quay, and swung slowly out into the
Mälar Lake.

"Gerda and Birger are the luckiest twins I know," exclaimed Olaf, taking
off his cap and swinging it around his head, as he caught sight of
Gerda's fluttering handkerchief.

"That boy Erik seems to be very fond of Birger," said Oscar. "And now
that the little girl from the lighthouse is going to live with the Ekmans
this winter, I suppose the twins will forget all the rest of us."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Sigrid loyally. "They will never forget their
friends. Besides, I like Karen myself. Let's go and see her now. She must
be lonely without Gerda."

In the meantime the little party of four--Lieutenant Ekman, with Erik and
the twins--were sailing across the eastern end of Lake Mälar toward the
Södertelje Canal.

Birger and Gerda explored the boat, making friends with some of the
passengers, and then found seats with Erik on the forward deck, where
they could see the wooded shore of the lake. They passed many an island
with its pretty villas peeping out among the green trees, and saw gay
pleasure parties sailing or rowing on the quiet water.

In a short time the boat sailed slowly into the peaceful waters of the
Södertelje Canal. This is the first of the short canals which form links
between the lakes and rivers of Southern Sweden, thus making a shorter
waterway from Stockholm to Göteborg; and while the trip is about three
hundred and seventy miles long, only fifty miles is actual canal, more
than four-fifths of the distance being covered by lakes and rivers, with
a fifty-mile sail on the Baltic Sea.

The principal difficulty in making this waterway across Sweden lay in the
fact that the highest of the lakes is about three hundred feet above the
sea level, and the boats have to climb up to it from the Baltic Sea, and
then climb down to Göteborg. This climbing is accomplished by means of
locks in the canals between the different lakes. In some canals there is
only one lock, but in others there are several together, like a flight of
stairs. There are seventy-six locks in all.

The boat sails into a lock and great gates are closed behind it. Then
water pours in and lifts the boat slowly higher and higher until it is on
a level with the water in the lock above. The gates in front of the boat
are opened, it sails slowly into the next lock, the gates close behind
it; and that lock in turn is filled to the level of the one above.

The boat now wound along between the high green banks of the
Södertelje Canal until it entered the first of the locks. Birger and
Erik ran to the rail to watch the opening and closing of the gates, and
the lowering of the boat to the level of the Baltic Sea; but Gerda
preferred to talk with some old women who came on board with baskets full
of kringlor,--ring-twisted cakes.

The cakes looked so good, and everyone who bought them seemed to find
them so delicious, that at last she ran to ask her father for some money;
and when the boat had passed the lock and was once more on its way, she
presented a bagful of cakes to Birger and Erik.

"The Vikings had no such easy way as this of getting from Lake Mälar out
into the Baltic Sea," said Lieutenant Ekman, coming up to find the
children, and helping himself generously to the kringlor.

Gerda looked at the gnarled and sturdy oaks that lined the banks of the
canal like watchful sentinels. "The Vikings must have loved the lakes and
bays of the Northland," she said. "Perhaps they begged All-father Odin to
let their spirits come back and make their homes in these trees."

"No doubt they did," replied her father, gravely enough. "I suppose when
the trees wave their arms and shake themselves so violently they are
saying to each other something like this: 'See how these good-for-nothing
children go in good-for-nothing boats over this good-for-nothing
ditch.'"

"With their good-for-something father," cried Gerda, throwing her arms
around his neck and giving him a loving kiss.

"Am I really good for something?" he asked, as soon as he could
speak. "Well then, you must be good for something, too. In olden
times the Vikings sailed the seas and brought home many a treasure
from foreign shores. See that you take home some treasures from your
journey,--something that will remind you of the towns we visit and the
sights we see," and he put his hand into his pocket and took out three
coins.

"The Vikings had a fashion of taking what they wanted without paying for
it," suggested Birger.

"You'd better not try it now, my son," replied Herr Ekman; and he gave
each one of the children a krona.

"Here's a kringla to remind me of Södertelje," said Gerda, slipping one
of the cakes into her pocket; and then the three children went off to
the forward deck to watch the boat sail out into the ocean.

For fifty miles they sailed among wooded islands and rocky ledges, and
then entered the canal which connects the Baltic Sea with Lake Roxen. On
the way the boat stopped at two or three ports, and each tune the
children went ashore to buy a souvenir.

"Show me your treasures, and I will show you mine," Gerda said to Erik,
after the first stop.

The boy shook his head. "I bought something useful," he said, "and I
shall send it to my father;" but even with coaxing he would not tell what
it was, until they were all ready to show their treasures to Lieutenant
Ekman. So all three of the children agreed to keep their souvenirs a
secret, and had great fun slipping off alone to buy them.

All day and all night, and all the next day, the boat steamed across the
open lakes, glided noiselessly into the quiet canals, or climbed slowly
step by step up the locks.

Toward night of the second day Birger suddenly announced, "This is Lake
Viken, and it is the highest lake on the way between the two ends of the
canal route. The captain says that it is more than three hundred feet
above the level of the sea."

"Have we seen the prettiest part of the route?" asked Gerda.

"Far from it," was the answer. "The best part of the canal is still
before us, at Trollhättan, although the next lake that we enter, Lake
Vener, is a lovely sheet of water. It is the largest lake in Sweden, and
I must visit one of the lighthouses."

"And I must call upon one of the trolls when we get to Trollhättan," said
Gerda, shaking her head with an air of importance.

"I shall walk up the locks," said Birger.

"You mean that you will walk down the locks," Erik corrected him. "After
this the boat will go downstairs until we reach the Göta River."

And when, on the last morning of the journey, they reached Trollhättan,
with its famous waterfalls and rapids, the children went ashore and left
the boat to walk down the steep hillside by itself, while they ran along
beside the canal, or took little trips through the groves to get a better
view of the falls. Gerda peered under the trees and bushes for a glimpse
of the water witches, but she saw not one.

"And now for your treasures," said Lieutenant Ekman, when they were once
more on the boat and it was steaming down the Göta River to Göteborg.

"I bought post-cards," Birger announced, and took a handful from his
pocket. "Here are pictures of the giant staircase of locks at
Trollhättan, Lake Vener at sunset, the fortress at Karlsborg, the castle
at Vettersborg, and the great iron works at Motala."

While Herr Ekman was examining the cards and asking Birger all sorts of
questions about them, Gerda was busy spreading out her souvenirs on one
of the deck chairs; and such a variety as she had! There was a box of
soap, a bag filled with squares of beet-sugar, a tiny hammer made in
the shape of the giant steam-hammer "Wrath" at Motala, a package of paper
made at one of the great paper-mills, lace collars, a lace cap and some
beautiful handkerchiefs from Vadstena.

When her father turned his attention to her collection, he held up his
hands in amazement. "Are all these things made in Sweden?" he asked.
"And did you buy them all with one krona?"

"They are all made in the towns and cities which we have visited," Gerda
replied; "but they cost more than one krona. Mother gave me five kronor
before we left home and asked me to buy handkerchiefs and laces at
Vadstena. They are the best to be found anywhere in Sweden."

"And how about your treasures, Erik?" asked Lieutenant Ekman, after he
had admired Gerda's.

Erik put his hand into his coat pocket and took out a box of matches.
"These are from Norrköping," he said.

From another pocket he took another box of matches. "And these are from
Söderköping," he added. Then from one pocket and another he took boxes of
matches of all sizes and kinds, each time naming the town where they were
manufactured; while the twins and their father gazed at him in surprise.

"But why so many matches?" asked Lieutenant Ekman, when at last the
supply seemed to be exhausted. "You have matches enough there to light
the whole world."

"My father will use them to light his fires," replied Erik. "Matches are
a great luxury in Lapland.

"And besides," he added, "Sweden manufactures enough matches to light the
whole world. The captain told me that they are made in twenty-one
different cities and towns, and that they have taken prizes everywhere."

"That is true," said Herr Ekman. "Swedish matches are famous the world
over. My young Vikings have each made a good collection of souvenirs."

At that moment a pretty little maid curtsied before them, saying,
"Göteborg, if you please."

"Oh dear," sighed Gerda, gathering up her treasures, "here's the end of
our long journey over the wonderful canal!"

But Erik looked down the river to the tall chimneys of the iron-works and
said to himself, "And here's the beginning of my work in the world."



CHAPTER XII

A WINTER CARNIVAL


"Abroad is good but home is better," quoted Birger, as the railroad train
whizzed across the country, bearing the twins toward home once more after
four happy days of sight-seeing in Göteborg.

"Vacation will soon be over and we shall be back again in our dear old
school," exclaimed Gerda, with a comical expression on her face.

"I feel as if we had been going to the best kind of a school all summer,"
said her brother, looking out of the window at the broad fields and
little red farmhouses cuddling down in the green landscape. "We have been
learning about the largest cities, and the canals and railroads, the
lakes and rivers, and that is what we have to do when we study geography
in school."

"If I ever make a geography," and Gerda gave a great sigh, "I shall have
nothing but pictures in it. That is the way the real earth looks outside
of the geographies. There are just millions and millions of pictures
fitted together, and not a single word said about them."

Birger laughed. "I will study your geography," he said, "if I am not too
busy making one of my own."

"What kind of a geography shall you make?" asked Gerda.

"I shall put in my book all my thoughts about the sights I see," he
answered. "It will read like this, 'The harbor at Göteborg made me think
of Stockholm harbor, with all the different ships that sail away to
foreign lands; and of the great world beyond the sea.'"

"Your geography would never please the children half so much as mine,"
said Gerda; "because we don't all think alike. It makes some people
sea-sick when they think of ships."

"Here we are in Stockholm," said Lieutenant Ekman, gathering up the bags
and bundles and helping the children out of the train. "Before we write a
geography we must see about putting little Karen Klasson under the
doctor's care."

But they found that Fru Ekman had already taken Karen to see the doctor,
and had made arrangements for her treatment at the Gymnastic Institute.

"The doctor says that I shall be able to walk without a crutch by
springtime, if I take the gymnastics faithfully every day," said Karen
happily.

"Oh, Gerda," she added, "ever so many of your friends have been to see
me. They are such kind boys and girls!"

"Of course they are! They are the best in the world," Gerda declared, and
it seemed, indeed, as if there could be no kinder children anywhere than
those who filled all the autumn days with the magic of their fun and
good-will for the little lame Karen.

Bouquets of flowers, and plants with bright blossoms, simple games, and
new books found their way to her room. There was seldom a day when one or
another of the friends did not come to tell her about some of their good
times, or plan a little pleasure for her; and Karen seemed to find as
much enjoyment in hearing of the fun as if she, herself, could really
take part in it.

"What is the carnival?" she asked Gerda one evening in late November,
when the last of the friends had clattered down the stairs, and the two
little girls were sitting beside the tall porcelain stove which filled
the room with a comfortable heat. "I have heard you all talking about it
for days; but I don't know just what it is."

"It is a day for winter sports, and all kinds of fun, and you shall sit
in the casino at the Deer Park and see it for yourself," said Gerda,
giving Karen a loving hug.

When the day of the carnival arrived at last, and Karen sat in the
casino, cosily wrapped in furs, and looked out over the Djurgård, she
knew that she had never dreamed of so much fun and beauty.

There had been heavy hoar frosts for several nights, and the trees had
become perfectly white,--the pines standing straight as powdered
sentinels, the birches bending under their silvery covering like frozen
fountains of spray. The ice was covered with skaters, their sharp steel
shoes flashing in the sun, their merry laughter ringing out in the cold,
crisp air.

It seemed as if everyone in Stockholm were skating, or snow-shoeing, or
skimming over the fields of snow on long skis. Even Fru Ekman, after
making Karen comfortable in the casino, strapped a pair of skates on her
own feet and astonished the little girl with the wonderful circles and
figures she could cut on the ice.

There was no place for beginners in such a company. And indeed, it almost
seemed as if Swedish boys and girls could skate without beginning, for
many little children were darting about among the crowds of grown people.

Of course Karen's eyes were fixed most often upon the twins, and as they
chased each other over the hurdles, or wound in and out among the
sail-skaters and long lines of merry-makers, for the first time in her
life she had a feeling of envy.

When Gerda left the skaters at last, to sit for a while beside her
friend, she saw at once the thought that was in Karen's mind. So, instead
of speaking about the fun of skating, she began to talk about the
doctor's promise that the lame back would be entirely cured before
summer.

"And there is really just as much fun in the summer-time," she said, "for
then we can swim, and bathe, and row boats on the lake. You can go to
Rättvik with us, too, and then you shall dance and be gayer than any one
else."

"Oh, see, there are some men on skis!" cried Karen suddenly, forgetting
her feeling of envy in watching the wonderful speed made by the party
of ski-runners who came into sight on the crest of the long hill opposite
the ice-basin.

The skis, or snow-skates, are a pair of thin strips of hard wood about
four inches wide and eight or nine feet long, pointed and curved upward
in front. The snow-skater binds one on each foot and glides over the
snowy fields, or coasts down the hills as easily as if he were on a
toboggan.

"That is the best way in the world to travel over the snow," said Birger,
who had come to find Gerda. "See how fast they go!"

Suddenly one of the men darted away from the others, balanced himself for
a moment with his long staff, and then shot down the hill like an arrow.
A mound of snow six feet high had been built up directly in his path, and
as he reached it, he crouched down, gave a spring, and landed thirty or
forty feet below, plowing up the light snow into a great cloud, and then
slipping on down the hill and out upon the frozen bay.

Many others tried the slide and jump: some fell and rolled over in the
snow, others lost off their skis, which came coasting down hill alone
like runaway sleds, while others made a long leap with beautiful grace
and freedom.

"This method of travelling across country on skis, when there is deep
snow, is hundreds of years old," said Fru Ekman, who had come to send the
twins away for more fun, while she took her place again beside Karen.

"Men were skiing in Scandinavia as long ago as old Roman times, and
Magnus the Good, who defeated the Roman legions, had a company of
ski-soldiers. Gustav Vasa organized a corps of snow-skaters, and Gustavus
Adolphus used his runners as messengers and scouts."

At that moment there was a sudden commotion outside the door, and a crowd
of the skaters came into the casino for some hot coffee, their merry
voices and laughter filling the room. Seldom is there gathered together a
company of finer men and women, boys and girls, than Karen saw before
her. Descendants of the Vikings these were,--golden-haired, keen-eyed and
crimson-cheeked.

"Look at that great fellow, taller than all the others," Fru Ekman
whispered to Karen. "He is the champion figure-skater of Europe."

"He looks like Baldur, the god of the sun," Karen whispered in reply; and
then forgot everything else in watching the gay company.

"I have never seen so many people having such a good time before," she
explained to Fru Ekman after a little while. "At the Sea-gull Light there
was never anything like this. It is more like the stories of the
gathering of the gods, than just plain Sweden.

"I suppose Birger is going to try for a skating prize some day," she
added rather wistfully.

Fru Ekman bent and kissed the little girl. "Yes," she answered, "that is
why he puts on his skates every day and practices figure-skating on the
ice in the canals. But keep a brave heart, little Karen. You, too, shall
wear skates some day."

Karen's face lighted up with a happy smile, and a fire of hope was
kindled in her heart which made the long hours shorter, and the hard work
at the gymnasium easier to bear.



CHAPTER XIII

YULE-TIDE JOYS


It was the day before Christmas,--such a busy day in the Ekman household.
In fact, it had been a busy week in every household in Sweden, for before
the tree is lighted on Christmas Eve every room must be cleaned and
scrubbed and polished, so that not a speck of dirt or dust may be found
anywhere.

Gerda, with a dainty cap on her hair, and a big apron covering her red
dress from top to toe, was dusting the pleasant living-room; and Karen,
perched on a high stool at the dining-room table, was polishing the
silver. The maids were flying from room to room with brooms and brushes;
and in the kitchen Fru Ekman and the cook were preparing the lut-fisk and
making the rice pudding.

The lut-fisk is a kind of smoked fish--salmon, ling, or cod--prepared in
a delicious way which only a Swedish housewife understands. It is always
the very finest fish to be had in the market, and before it reaches the
market it is the very finest fish that swims in the sea. Every fisherman
who sails from the west coast of Sweden--and there are hundreds of
them--gives to his priest the two largest fish which he catches during
the season. It is these fish which are salted and smoked for lut-fisk,
and sold in the markets for Christmas and Easter.

When Gerda ran out into the kitchen to get some water for her plants, she
stopped to taste the white gravy which her mother was making for the
lut-fisk.

Then as she danced back through the dining-room to tell Karen about the
pudding she sang:--

"Away, away to the fishers' pier,
Many fishes we'll find there,--Big salmon,
Good salmon:
Seize them by the neck,
Stuff them in a sack,
And keep them till Christmas and Easter."

"Hurry and finish the silver," she added, "and then we will help Mother
set the smörgåsbord for our dinner. We never had half such delicious
things for it before. There is the pickled herring your father sent us,
and the smoked reindeer from Erik's father in Lapland; and Grandmother
Ekman sent us strawberry jam, and raspberry preserve, and cheese, and oh,
so many goodies!" Gerda clapped her hands so hard that some of the water
she was carrying to her plants was spilled on the floor. "Oh, dear me!"
she sighed, "there is something more for me to do. We'd never be ready
for Yule if it wasn't for the Tomtar."

The Tomtar are little old men with long gray beards and tall pointed red
caps, who live under the boards and in the darkest corners of the chests.
They come creeping out to do their work in the middle of the night, when
the house is still, and they are especially helpful at Christmas time.

The two little girls had been talking about the Tomtar for weeks.
Whenever Karen found a mysterious package lying forgotten on the table,
Gerda would hurry it away out of sight, saying, "Sh! Little Yule Tomten
must have left it."

And one day when Gerda found a dainty bit of embroidery under a cushion,
it was Karen's turn to say, "Let me have it quick! Yule Tomten left it
for me." Then both little girls shrieked with laughter.

Birger said little about the Tomtar and pretended that he did not believe
in them at all; but when Gerda set out a dish of sweets for the little
old men, he moved it down to a low stool where they would have no trouble
in finding it.

But now the Tomtar were all snugly hidden away for the day, so Gerda had
to wipe up the water for herself, and then run back to her dusting; but
before it was finished, Birger and his father came up the stairs,--one
tugging a fragrant spruce tree, the other carrying a big bundle of oats
on his shoulder.

"Here's a Christmas dinner for your friends, the birds," Birget told
Karen, showing her the oats.

For a moment Karen's chin quivered and her eyes filled with tears, as she
thought of the pole on the barn at home where she had always fastened her
own bundle of grain; but she smiled through her tears and said
cheerfully, "The birds of Stockholm will have plenty to eat for one day
at least, if all the bundles of grain in the markets are sold."

"That they will," replied Birger. "No one in Sweden forgets the birds on
Christmas day. You should see the big bundles of grain that they hang
up in Rättvik."

"Come, Birger," called his father from the living-room, "we must set up
the tree so that it can be trimmed; and then we will see about the
dinner for the birds."

Gerda and Karen helped decorate the tree, and such fun as it was! They
brought out great boxes of ornaments, and twined long ropes of gold and
gleaming threads of silver tinsel in and out among the stiff green
branches. They hung glittering baubles upon every sprig, and at the tip
of each and every branch of evergreen they set a tiny wax candle, so that
when the tree was lighted it would look as if it grew in fairyland.

But not a single Christmas gift appeared in the room until after all
three children had had their luncheon and gone to their rooms to dress
for the afternoon festivities. Even then, none of the packages were hung
upon the tree. Lieutenant Ekman and his wife sorted them out and placed
them in neat piles on the table in the center of the room, stopping now
and then to laugh softly at the verses which they had written for the
gifts.

"Will the daylight never end!" sighed Gerda, looking out at the red and
yellow sky which told that sunset was near. Then she tied a new blue
ribbon on her hair and ran to help Karen.

"The postman has just left two big packages," she whispered to her
friend. "I looked over the stairs and saw him give them to the maid."

"Perhaps one is for me," replied Karen. "Mother wrote that she was
sending me a box."

"Come, girls," called Birger at last; "Father says it is dark enough now
to light the tree." And so it was, although it was only three o'clock,
for it begins to grow dark early in Stockholm, and the winter days are
very short.

All the family gathered in the hall, the doors were thrown open, and a
blaze of light and color met their eyes from the sparkling, shining tree.
With a shout of joy the children skipped round and round it in a merry
Christmas dance, and even Karen hopped about with her crutch.

The cook in her white apron, and the maids in their white caps, stood in
the doorway adding their chorus of "ohs!" and "ahs!" to the general
excitement; and then, after a little while, the whole family gathered
around the table while Herr Ekman gave out the presents.

It took a long time, as there were so many gifts for each one, and with
almost every gift there was a funny rhyme to be read aloud and laughed
over. But no one was in a hurry. They wondered and guessed; they peeped
into every package; they admired everything.

When the last of the gifts had been distributed, there was the dinner,
with the delicious lut-fisk, the roast goose, and the rice pudding. But
before it could be eaten, each one must first taste the dainties on the
smörgåsbord,--a side-table set out with a collection of relishes.

There was a tiny lump in Karen's throat when she ate a bit of her
mother's cheese; but she swallowed them both bravely, and was as gay as
any one at the dinner table.

All the boys and girls in Sweden are sent to bed early on Christmas Eve.
They must be ready to get up the next morning, long before daylight, and
go to church with their parents to hear the Christmas service and sing
the Christmas carols. So nine o'clock found Karen and the twins gathering
up their gifts and saying good-night.

"Thanks, thanks for everything!" cried the two little girls, throwing
their arms around Fru Ekman's neck; and Karen added rather shyly,
"Thanks for such a happy Christmas, dearest Tant."

"But this is only Christmas Eve," Gerda told her, as they scampered off
to bed. "For two whole weeks there will be nothing but fun and merriment.
No school! No tasks! Nothing to do but make everyone joyous and happy
everywhere. Yule-tide is the best time of all the year!"



CHAPTER XIV

SPURS AND A CROWN


  "Rida, rida, ranka!
   The horse's name is Blanka.
Little rider, dear and sweet,
Now no spurs are on your feet;
When you've grown and won them,
Childhood's bliss is done then.

  "Rida, rida, ranka!
   The horse's name is Blanka.
Little one with eyes so blue,
A kingly crown will come to you,
A crown so bright and splendid!
Then youthful joy is ended."

Fru Ekman sang the words of the old Swedish lullaby as she had sung them
many times, years before, when the twins lay in their blue cradle at
Grandmother Ekman's farm in Dalarne; but now the boy stood proudly in a
suit of soldier gray, and the girl made a pretty picture in a set of soft
new furs.

It was the morning of the twins' twelfth birthday, and a March snow-storm
was covering the housetops and pavements with a white fur coat, "Just
like my own pretty coat," Gerda said, turning slowly round and round so
that everyone might see the warm white covering.

"The snow will soon be gone," she added, "but my furs will wait for me
until next winter."

"You may wear them to school to-day in honor of your birthday," said her
mother; "but Birger's soldier suit seems a little out of season."

Birger had taken a fancy to have a suit of gray with black trimmings,
such as the Swedish soldiers wear, and it had been given to him with
a new Swedish flag, as a match for Gerda's furs.

Lieutenant Ekman turned his son around in order to see the fit of the
trim jacket. "When you get the gun to go with it," he told the lad, "you
will be a second Gustavus Adolphus."

"If I am to be as great a man as Gustavus Adolphus, I shall have to go to
war," replied Birger; "and there seems to be little chance for a war
now."

"There are many peaceful ways by which a man may serve his country,"
Lieutenant Ekman told his son; "but King Gustavus II had to fight to keep
Sweden from being swallowed up by the other nations."

"I could never understand how Sweden happened to have such a great
fighter as Gustavus Adolphus," said Karen; but Gerda shook a finger at
her.

"Sh!" she said, "that isn't the way to talk about your own country. And
have you forgotten Gustav Vasa? He was the first of the Vasa line of
kings; and he and Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII made the name of Vasa
one of the most illustrious in Swedish history."

"Karen will never forget Gustav Vasa," said Birger, "after she has been
to Dalarne and seen all the places where he was in hiding before he
was a king."

"Yes," said Gerda, "there's the barn where he worked at threshing grain,
and the house where the woman lowered him out of the window in the night,
and the Stone of Mora, on the bank of the river, where he spoke to the
men of Dalarne and urged them to fight for freedom."

"And there's the stone house in Mora over the cellar where Margit Larsson
hid him when the Danish soldiers were close on his track," added Birger.
"The inscription says:--

"'Gustav Eriksson Vasa, while in exile and wandering in Dalarne with a
view of stirring up the people to fight for Fatherland and Freedom, was
saved by the presence of mind of a Dalecarlian woman, and so escaped the
troops sent by the Tyrant to arrest him.

"'This monument is gratefully erected by the Swedish people to the
Liberator.'"

Karen laughed. "How can you remember it so well?" she asked. "It sounded
as if you were reading it."

"That is because I have read it so often," replied Birger. "Gustav Vasa
is my favorite hero. He drove the Danes out of the country and won
freedom for the Swedish people."

"He was the Father of his Country," said Gerda, and she seized Birger's
new flag and waved it over her head.

"Come, children, it is time for you to go to school," Fru Ekman told
them; and soon Karen was trudging off to her gymnastic exercises, and
the twins were clattering down the stairs with their books.

"That was a good song that Mother was singing this morning," Birger told
his sister. "I'd like to wear spurs on my feet. How they would rattle
over these stone pavements!"

"I'd rather have 'a crown so bright and splendid,'" said Gerda; "but I'll
have to be contented with my cooking-cap to-day instead." Then she bade
her brother good-bye and ran up the steps of the school-house, where,
after her morning lessons, she would spend an hour in the cooking-class.

At five o'clock the three children were all at home again, and dressed
for the party which the twins had every year on their birthday.

"It is time the girls and boys were here," said Gerda, standing before
the mirror in the living-room to fasten a pink rose in the knot of ribbon
at her throat.

"Here they come!" cried Birger, throwing open the door, and the twelve
children who had come before, bringing packages for the surprise box,
came again,--this time with little birthday gifts for the twins.

For an hour there was the greatest confusion, with a perfect babel of
merry voices and laughter. The gifts were opened and admired by everyone.
Gerda put on her fur coat and cap, Birger showed a fine new pair of
skates which his father had given him, and Karen brought out a box of
little cakes which her mother had sent for the party.

But when the children formed in a long line and Fru Ekman led the way to
the dining-room, their excitement knew no bounds.

The table was a perfect bower of beautiful flowers. There was a bouquet
of bright blossoms at every plate, and long ropes of green leaves and
blossoms were twined across the table, in and out among the dishes. At
Gerda's place there was a wreath of violets, with violet ribbons on
knife, fork and spoon; a bunch of violets was tucked under her napkin,
and a big bow of violet ribbon was tied on her chair.

Birger's flowers were scarlet pinks, with scarlet ribbons and a scarlet
bow; and at the two ends of the table were the two birthday cakes, almost
hidden among flowers and wreaths, with Birger's name on one and Gerda's
on the other, done in colored candies set in white frosting.

Another happy hour was spent at the table, and then the guests trooped
away to their homes, leaving the twins to look over their gifts once
more.

But the best gift was still to come,--a never-to-be-forgotten gift that
came on that wonderful night of their twelfth birthday.

All day there had been a strange feeling in the air. When the girls
brushed their hair in the morning it was full of tiny sparkles and stood
out from their heads like clouds of gold, and Birger had found, early in
the day, that if he stroked the cat's fur it cracked and snapped like
matches, much to Fru Kitty's surprise.

Now, when Gerda went to look out of the window, she called to the others
to come quickly to see the northern lights; for out of the north there
had come a gorgeous illumination, filling the heavens with a marvellous
radiance such as only the aurora borealis can give.

Banners of crimson, yellow and violet flamed and flared from horizon to
zenith; sheets of glimmering light streamed across the sky, swaying back
and forth, and changing from white to blue and green, with once in a
while a magnificent tongue of red flame shooting higher than the others.

"It is a carnival of light," said Gerda, in a tone of awe. She had often
seen the northern lights, but never any so brilliant as these.

Everyone seemed charged with the electricity, and little Karen said
softly, "I never felt so strange before. The lights go up and down my
back to the tip of my toes."

"It is the elves of light dancing round the room," said Birger with a
laugh.

"No," said Gerda, "it is the Tomtar playing with the electric wires."

Then, as they all stood watching the wonderful display in the heavens,
the door opened and Lieutenant Ekman came into the room. "Here is a
letter for Karen from her mother," he said; "I have had it in my pocket
all day."

"Oh, let me see it," said Karen, and she turned and ran across the room.
Yes, ran,--with her crutch standing beside the chair at the window, and
her two feet pattering firmly on the floor.

"Look at Karen," cried Gerda. "She has forgotten her crutch!"

Karen held her mother's letter in her hand, and her two eyes were shining
like stars. "I feel as if I should never need my crutch again," she said.
Then she turned to Fru Ekman and asked breathlessly, "Do you believe that
I will?"

"I am sure that you won't," replied Fru Ekman, stooping to kiss the happy
child. "I have noticed for a long time that your back was growing
straighter and stronger, and you were walking more easily."

Gerda clapped her hands and ran to throw her arms around her friend. "Oh,
Karen," she exclaimed, "this is the best birthday gift of all! The Tomtar
sent it on the electric wires."

"No," said Birger, "it was the elves of light dancing across the room."

But Karen looked at the little family clustered so close around her. "It
is my crown of joy and is from each one of you," she said; "but from
Gerda most of all."



CHAPTER XV

THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL


It was the middle of June. School was over and vacation had begun. Gerda
and Birger were on their way to Rättvik, taking Karen with them so that
she might see the great midsummer festival before going to spend the
summer at the Sea-gull Light.

"Isn't this the best fun we ever had,--to be travelling alone, without
any one to take care of us?" asked Birger, as the train whizzed along
past fields and forests, lakes and rivers.

"It feels just as if we were tourists," replied Gerda, straightening her
hat and nestling close to Karen.

Karen dimpled and smiled. "I don't see your wonder-eyes, such as tourists
always have," she said.

"That is because we have been to Rättvik so many times that we know every
house and tree and rail-fence along the way," answered Birger. "We have
stopped at Gefle and seen the docks with their great piles of lumber and
barrels of tar; and we have been to Upsala, the ancient capital of
Sweden, and seen the famous University which was founded fifteen years
before Columbus discovered America."

"Last summer Father took us to Falun to visit the wonderful copper
mines," added Gerda; "but I never want to go there again," and she
shivered as she thought of the dark underground halls and chambers.

"We saw a fire there, which was lighted hundreds of years ago and has
never once been allowed to go out," said Birger. "The miners light their
lamps and torches at the flame."

"Look, there are the chimneys of Falun now," cried Gerda, pointing out of
the car window; and a half-hour later the children found themselves at
the neat little Rättvik station.

"Six o'clock, and just on time," said Grandmother Ekman's cheerful voice,
and the next moment all three were gathered in a great hug.

"Is there room for triplets in your house?" asked Gerda. "We have
outgrown our twinship now, and there are three of us, instead of two."

"There is enough of everything, for Karen to have her good share," said
the grandmother heartily; and they were soon driving along the pleasant
country road, toward the red-painted farmhouse and the quiet living-room
where the tall clock was still ticking cheerfully.

The next morning, and the next, the twins were up bright and early to
show Karen all their favorite haunts; and the days flew by like minutes.

"Don't you love it, here in Rättvik, Karen dear?" asked Gerda, on the
third day, as the two little girls were busily at work in the pleasant
living-room.

"Yes," replied Karen; "but you never told me half enough beautiful things
about it. Surely there can be no lovelier place in the whole world than
the mill-pool where we went yesterday with Linda Nilsson."

Karen was coloring the letters in a motto to hang on the wall: and Gerda,
who was weaving a rug on her grandmother's wooden loom, crossed the room
to admire her friend's work. She leaned against Karen's chair and read
the words of the motto aloud: "To read and not know, is to plow and not
sow."

"That is Grandmother Ekman's favorite motto," she said. "She believes
that a burning, golden plowshare was dropped from heaven ages ago, in the
beginning of Sweden's history, as a symbol of what the gods expected of
the people; and she says that a well-kept farm and a well-read book are
the most beautiful things in the world."

Birger looked up from the door-step where he was whittling out a mast for
one of his boats. "If I didn't intend to be an admiral in the navy when I
am a man," he said, "I should come here and take care of the farm. It
really is the prettiest farmhouse and the best farm in Dalarne."

"It certainly will be the prettiest by night, when we have it dressed up
for the midsummer festival," Gerda declared. "Come, Birger! Come, Karen!
We must go and gather flowers and birch leaves to decorate the house."

"But we must put away our work first," said orderly Karen, gathering up
her paints and brushes.

Gerda ran to push the loom back into the corner. As she did so, she said
with a smile, "The first rug I ever made was very ugly. It had a great
many dark strips in it. That was because my grandmother made me weave in
a dark strip every time I was naughty."

Karen laughed. "How I would like to see it," she said.

"Oh, I have it now. I will show it to you," and Gerda crossed the room
and opened one of the chests which were ranged against the wall.

"This is my own chest, where my grandmother keeps everything I make," she
said, as she lifted the cover and took out a bundle. Opening the bundle,
she unrolled a funny little rug.

Pointing to a wide black stripe in the middle, Gerda said, "That was for
the time I broke the vinegar jug, and spoiled Ebba Jorn's dress."

"Oh, tell me about it!" cried Karen.

"No," replied Gerda, "it was too naughty to tell about;" and she put the
rug quickly back into the chest.

"I didn't know you were ever naughty," said Karen, laughing merrily.
Then, as the two little girls put on their caps and took up their baskets
to go flower-hunting, she asked, "Who is Ebba Jorn?"

"She lives across the lake, and she is going to be married to-morrow,"
answered Gerda. "We can walk in her procession."

Karen gave a little gasp of pleasure. "Oh, what fun!" she exclaimed. Then
she stopped and looked down at her dress. "But I have nothing to wear,"
she said. "All my prettiest dresses went home on the steamer with your
father."

"We shall wear our rainbow skirts," Gerda told her. "And you can wear one
of mine."

Just then she caught sight of a crowd of boys and girls in a distant
meadow, and ran to join them; calling to Birger and Karen to come, too.
"They are gathering flowers to trim the Maypole for the midsummer
festival," she cried.

It is small wonder that the people of the Northland joyously celebrate
the bright, sunny day of midsummer, after the cold days and long dark
nights of winter. It is an ancient custom, coming down from old heathen
times, when fires were lighted on all the hills to celebrate the victory
of Baldur, the sun god, who conquered the frost giants and the powers of
darkness.

On Midsummer's Eve, the twenty-third of June, a majstång is erected in
every village green in Sweden. The villagers and peasants, young and old,
gather from far and near, and dance around the May-pole all through the
long night, which is no night at all, but a glowing twilight, from late
sunset till early dawn.

There was a great deal of work to be done in preparation for this
festival, and such a busy day as the children had! They gathered
basketfuls of flowers, and long streamers of ground pine, which they made
into ropes and wreaths. They cut great armfuls of birch boughs, and
decorated the little farmhouse, inside and out; placing the graceful
branches with their tender green leaves wherever there was a spot to hold
them. Over the doors and windows, up and down the porch, along the fence,
and even around the well, they twined the long ropes and fastened the
green wreaths and boughs.

After a hasty lunch they rowed across the lake and spent the afternoon at
the village green, helping to dress the tall majstång; and when their
supper of berries and milk and caraway bread was eaten, they were glad
enough to tumble into bed, although the sun was till shining and would
not set until nearly eleven o'clock.

"Wait until to-morrow," murmured Gerda drowsily; "then you will see the
happiest day of the whole year."

Karen tried to tell her that every day was happy, now that she could run
and play like other children; but she fell asleep in the middle of the
sentence, and Gerda hadn't even heard the beginning of it.

"The sun has been dancing over the hills for hours," called Grandmother
Ekman at five o'clock the next morning. "It is time for everyone to be
up and making ready for church."

All the festival days in Sweden begin with a church service, and everyone
goes to church. In the cities the people walk or ride in street-cars
or carriages; but in Dalarne some ride on bicycles, some drive, some sail
across the lake in the little steamer, and others row in the Sunday boat.

Grandmother Ekman always followed the good old custom of rowing with her
neighbors in the long boat, and six o'clock found her at the wharf with
the three children, all carrying a beautiful branch of white birch with
its shining green leaves.

"This is just what I have wanted to do, ever since you told me about it
at the Sea-gull Light," whispered Karen, as they found seats in the boat
and began the pleasant journey across the peaceful, shining water.

Gerda was in a great state of excitement. She discovered so many things
to chatter about that Grandmother Ekman said at last, "Hush, child!
You must compose yourself for church and the Bible reading."

Then Gerda became sober at once, and sat quietly enough during the
service, until she fell to thinking how lovely the May-pole would look
in its gala dress of green, red, yellow and white.

"It will be wearing a rainbow skirt, like all the girls in the village,"
she thought; and surprised her grandmother by smiling in the midst of the
sermon, at the thought of how very tall this Maypole maiden would be.

The May-pole is always the tallest, slenderest tree that can be found,
and the one which Gerda and Karen had helped to decorate was at least
sixty feet from base to tip. It had been brought from the forest by the
young men of the village, and trimmed of its bark and branches until it
looked like the mast of a vessel. Hoops and crosspieces reaching out in
every direction were fastened to the pole, and it was then decorated with
flowers, streamers, garlands and tiny flags.

Now it was leaning against the platform in the village green, not far
from the church, where it was to be raised after the service.

When Gerda and Karen reached the green they found a group of young people
gathered about the pole, tying strings of gilded hearts, festoons of
colored papers, and fluttering banners to its yard-arms.

"Now it is ready to be raised!" shouted Nils Jorn at last, and everybody
fell away to make room for the men who were to draw it into its place
with ropes and tackle.

"Suppose it should break!" gasped Karen, and held her breath while it
rose slowly in the air. As it settled into the deep hole prepared for it,
Nils Jorn waved his cap and shouted. Then some one else shouted, and soon
everybody was shouting and dancing, and the festival of the green leaf
had begun.

All day and all night the fun ran high, with singing and dancing and
feasting.

When there was a lull in the merriment, it was because a long procession
had formed to accompany the bride and bridegroom to the church. After the
ceremony was over, and the same procession had accompanied them to the
shore of the lake, some one called out, "Now let us choose a queen and
crown her, and carry her back to the May-pole where she shall decide who
is the best dancer."

Oh, it was a hard moment for many of them then, for every maiden hoped
that she would be the one to be chosen. But Nils Jorn caught sight of
Gerda's merry smile, and nodded toward her.

"Gerda Ekman has seen plenty of dancing in Stockholm," he said. "Let her
be our queen."

"Yes, yes!" shouted the others; and for a moment it looked as if Gerda
would, indeed, have her wish to wear a crown. But when she saw Karen's
wistful look, she turned quickly to her friends and said, "Let me,
instead, choose the queen; and I will choose Karen Klasson. I want this
to be the happiest day of all the year for her."

"One queen is as good as another," said Nils Jorn cheerfully; so they led
Karen back to the May-pole and she was made queen of the festival and
crowned with green leaves.

After a few minutes Gerda found a seat beside her under the canopy of
birch boughs, and the two little girls watched the dancing together.

Everyone was happy and jolly. The fiddler swept his bow across the
strings until they sang their gayest polka. The accordion puffed and
wheezed in its attempt to follow the merry tune. The platform was crowded
with dancers, whirling and stamping, turning and swinging, laughing and
singing.

The tall pole quivered and shook until all the streamers rustled, all the
flags fluttered, and all the birch leaves murmured to each other that
summer had come and the sun god had conquered the frost giants.

"This is truly the happiest day of all my life," Karen said; "and it is
you, Gerda, who have made it so. I was lame and lonely in the cold
Northland, and you came, bringing me health and happiness."

"Mother says I must never forget that I was named for the goddess who
shed light and sunshine over the world," replied Gerda soberly. Then she
drew her friend closer and whispered, "But think, Karen, of all the good
times we shall have next year, when you can go to school with me, and we
can share all our happiness with each other;" and she clapped her hands
and whirled Karen off into the crowd of dancers,--the gayest and happiest
of them all.





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