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.