Pippi Longstocking. Chapter 3. Pippi Plays Tag with Some Policemen

Chapter 3
It soon became known throughout the little town that a nine-year-old girl was living all by herself in Villa Villekulla, and all the ladies and gentlemen in the town thought this would never do. All children must have someone to advise them, and all children must go to school to learn the multiplication tables. So the ladies and gentlemen decided that the little girl in Villa Villekulla must immediately be placed in a children’s home. One lovely afternoon Pippi had invited Tommy and Annika over for afternoon coffee and pepparkakor. She had spread the party out on the front steps. It was so sunny and beautiful there, and the air was filled with the fragrance of the flowers in Pippi’s garden. Mr. Nilsson climbed around on the porch railing, and every now and then the horse stuck out his head so that he’d be invited to have a cookie. “Oh, isn’t it glorious to be alive?” said Pippi, stretching out her legs as far as she could reach. Just at that moment two police officers in full uniform came in through the gate. “Hurray!” said Pippi. “This must be my lucky day too! Policemen are the very best things I know. Next to rhubarb pudding.” And with her face beaming she went to meet them. “Is this the girl who has moved into Villa Villekulla?” asked one of the policemen. “Quite the contrary,” said Pippi. “This is a tiny little auntie who lives on the third floor at the other end of the town.” She said that only because she wanted to have a little fun with the policemen, but they didn’t think it was funny at all. They said she shouldn’t be such a smarty. And then they went on to tell her that some nice people in the town were arranging for her to get into a children’s home. “I already have a place in a children’s home,” said Pippi. “What?” asked one of the policemen. “Has it been arranged already then? What children’s home?” “This one,” said Pippi haughtily. “I am a child and this is my home: therefore it is a children’s home, and I have room enough here, plenty of room.” “Dear child,” said the policeman, smiling, “you don’t understand. You must get into a real children’s home and have someone look after you.” “Is one allowed to bring horses to your children’s home?” asked Pippi. “No, of course not,” said the policeman. “That’s what I thought,” said Pippi sadly. “Well, what about monkeys?” “Of course not. You ought to realize that.” “Well then,” said Pippi, “you’ll have to get kids for your children’s home somewhere else. I certainly don’t intend to move there.” “But don’t you understand that you must go to school?” “Why?” “To learn things, of course.” “What sort of things?” asked Pippi. “All sorts,” said the policeman. “Lots of useful things—the multiplication tables, for instance.” “I have got along fine without any pluttifikation tables for nine years,” said Pippi, “and I guess I’ll get along without it from now on, too.” “Yes, but just think how embarrassing it will be for you to be so ignorant. Imagine when you grow up and somebody asks you what the capital of Portugal is and you can’t answer!” “Oh, I can answer all right,” said Pippi. “I’ll answer like this: ‘If you are so bound and determined to find out what the capital of Portugal is, then, for goodness’ sakes, write directly to Portugal and ask.'” “Yes, but don’t you think that you would be sorry not to know it yourself?” “Oh, probably,” said Pippi. “No doubt I should lie awake nights and wonder and wonder, ‘What in the world is the capital of Portugal?’ But one can’t be having fun all the time,” she continued, bending over and standing on her hands for a change. “For that matter, I’ve been in Lisbon with my papa,” she added, still standing upside down, for she could talk that way too. But then one of the policemen said that Pippi certainly didn’t need to think she could do just as she pleased. She must come to the children’s home, and immediately. He went up to her and took hold of her arm, but Pippi freed herself quickly, touched him lightly, and said, “Tag!” Before he could wink an eye she had climbed up on the porch railing and from there onto the balcony above the porch. The policemen couldn’t quite see themselves getting up the same way, and so they rushed into the house and up the stairs, but by the time they had reached the balcony Pippi was halfway up the roof. She climbed up the shingles almost as if she were a little monkey herself. In a moment she was up on the ridgepole and from there jumped easily to the chimney. Down on the balcony stood the two policemen, scratching their heads, and on the lawn stood Tommy and Annika, staring at Pippi. “Isn’t it fun to play tag? “cried Pippi. “And weren’t you nice to come over. It certainly is my lucky day today too.” After the policemen had stood there a while wondering what to do, they went and got a ladder, leaned it against one of the gables of the house and then climbed up, first one policeman and then the other, to get Pippi down. They looked a little scared when they climbed out on the ridgepole and, carefully balancing themselves, went step by step, toward Pippi. “Don’t be scared,” cried Pippi. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just fun.” When the policemen were a few steps away from Pippi, down she jumped from the chimney and, screeching and laughing, ran along the ridgepole to the opposite gable. A few feet from the house stood a tree. “Now I’m going to dive,” she cried and jumped right down into the green crown of the tree, caught hold of a branch, swung back and forth a while, and then let herself fall to the ground. Quick as a wink she dashed around to the other side of the house and took away the ladder. The policemen had looked a little foolish when Pippi jumped, but they looked even more so when they had balanced themselves backward along the ridgepole and were about to climb down the ladder. At first they were very angry at Pippi, who stood on the ground looking up at them, and they told her in no uncertain terms to get the ladder and be quick about it, or she would soon get something she wasn’t looking for. “Why are you so cross at me?” asked Pippi reproachfully. “We’re just playing tag, aren’t we?” The policemen thought a while, and at last one of them said, “Oh, come on, won’t you be a good girl and put the ladder back so that we can get down?” “Of course I will,” said Pippi and put the ladder back instantly. “And when you get down we can all drink coffee and have a happy time.” But the policemen were certainly tricky, because the minute they were down on the ground again they pounced on Pippi and cried, “Now you’ll get it, you little brat!” “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I haven’t time to play any longer,” said Pippi. “But it was fun.” Then she took hold of the policemen by their belts and carried them down the garden path, out through the gate, and onto the street. There she set them down, and it was quite some time before they were ready to get up again. “Wait a minute,” she cried and ran into the kitchen and came back with two cookie hearts. “Would you like a taste?” she asked. “It doesn’t matter that they are a little burned, does it?” Then she went back to Tommy and Annika, who stood there wide-eyed and just couldn’t get over what they had seen. And the policemen hurried back to the town and told all the ladies and gentlemen that Pippi wasn’t quite fit for a children’s home. (They didn’t tell that they had been up on the roof.) And the ladies and gentlemen decided that it would be best after all to let Pippi remain in Villa Villekulla, and if she wanted to go to school she could make the arrangements herself. But Pippi and Tommy and Annika had a very pleasant afternoon. They went back to their interrupted coffee party. Pippi stuffed herself with fourteen cookies, and then she said, “They weren’t what I mean by real policemen. No sirree! Altogether too much talk about children’s homes and pluttifikation and Lisbon.” Afterward she lifted the horse down on the ground and they rode on him, all three. At first Annika was afraid and didn’t want to, but when she saw what fun Tommy and Pippi were having, she let Pippi lift her up on the horse’s back. The horse trotted round and round in the garden, and Tommy sang, “Here come the Swedes with a clang and a bang.” When Tommy and Annika had gone to bed that night Tommy said, “Annika, don’t you think it’s good that Pippi moved here?” “Oh, yes,” said Annika. “I don’t even remember what we used to play before she came, do you?” “Oh, sure, we played croquet and things like that,” said Annika. “But it’s lots more fun with Pippi around, I think. And with horses and things.”