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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 73 pages of information about Gerda in Sweden.

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 smoergasbord,—­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.

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