“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.”
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.”