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 Maelar, called to the children that spring had come in Stockholm.
Great cakes of ice went floating through the arches of the bridge across the Norrstroem, 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 Lulea, 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.”