“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.
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 Raettvik 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.