Pippi Longstocking. Chapter 4. Pippi Goes to School.

Chapter 4

Of course Tommy and Annika went to school. Each morning at eight o’clock they trotted off, hand in hand, swinging their schoolbags. At that time Pippi was usually grooming her horse or dressing Mr. Nilsson in his little suit. Or else she was taking her morning exercises, which meant turning forty-three somersaults in a row. Then she would sit down on the kitchen table and, utterly happy, drink a large cup of coffee and eat a piece of bread and cheese. Tommy and Annika always looked longingly toward Villa Villekulla as they started off to school. They would much rather have gone to play with Pippi. If only Pippi had been going to school too; that would have been something else again. “Just think what fun we could have on the way home from school,” said Tommy. “Yes, and on the way to school too,” said Annika. The more they thought about it the worse they felt to think that Pippi did not go to school, and at last they determined to try to persuade her to begin. “You can’t imagine what a nice teacher we have,” said Tommy artfully to Pippi one afternoon when he and Annika had come for a visit at Villa Villekulla after they had finished their homework. “If you only knew what fun it is in school!” Annika added. “I’d die if I couldn’t go to school.” Pippi sat on a hassock, bathing her feet in a tub. She said nothing but just wiggled her toes for a while so that the water splashed around everywhere. “You don’t have to stay so very long,” continued Tommy. “Just until two o’clock.” “Yes, and besides, we get Christmas vacation and Easter vacation and summer vacation,” said Annika. Pippi bit her big toe thoughtfully but still said nothing. Suddenly, as if she had made some decision, she poured all the water out on the kitchen floor, so that Mr. Nilsson, who sat near her playing with a mirror, got his pants absolutely soaked. “It’s not fair!” said Pippi sternly without paying any attention to Mr. Nilsson’s puzzled air about his wet pants. “It is absolutely unfair! I don’t intend to stand it!” “What’s the matter now?” asked Tommy. “In four months it will be Christmas, and then you’ll have Christmas vacation. But I, what’ll I get?” Pippi’s voice sounded sad. “No Christmas vacation, not even the tiniest bit of a Christmas vacation,” she complained. “Something will have to be done about that. Tomorrow morning I’ll begin school.” Tommy and Annika clapped their hands with delight. “Hurrah! We’ll wait for you outside our gate at eight o’clock.” “Oh, no,” said Pippi. “I can’t begin as early as that. And besides, I’m going to ride to school.” And ride she did. Exactly at ten o’clock the next day she lifted her horse off the porch, and a little later all the people in the town ran to their windows to see what horse it was that was running away. That is to say, they thought he was running away, but it was only Pippi in a bit of a hurry to get to school. She galloped wildly into the schoolyard, jumped off the horse, tied him to a tree, and burst into the schoolroom with such a noise and a clatter that Tommy and Annika and all their classmates jumped in their seats. “Hi, there,” cried Pippi, waving her big hat. “Did I get here in time for pluttifikation?” Tommy and Annika had told their teacher that a new girl named Pippi Longstocking was coming, and the teacher had already heard about Pippi in the little town. As she was a very pleasant teacher, she had decided to do all she could to make Pippi happy in school. Pippi threw herself down on a vacant bench without having been invited to do so, but the teacher paid no attention to her heedless way. She simply said in a very friendly voice, “Welcome to school, little Pippi. I hope that you will enjoy yourself here and learn a great deal.” “Yes, and I hope I’ll get some Christmas vacation,” said Pippi. “Thai is the reason I’ve come. It’s only fair, you know.” “If you would first tell me your whole name,” said the teacher, “then I’ll register you in school.” “My name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Window-shade Mackrelmint Efraim’s Daughter Longstocking, daughter of Captain Efraim Longstocking, formerly the Terror of the Sea, now a cannibal king. Pippi is really only a nickname, because Papa thought that Pippilotta was too long to say.” “Indeed?” said the teacher. “Well, then we shall call you Pippi too. But now,” she continued, “suppose we test you a little and see what you know. You are a big girl and no doubt know a great deal already. Let us begin with arithmetic. Pippi, can you tell me what seven and five are?” Pippi, astonished and dismayed, looked at her and said, “Well, if you don’t know that yourself, you needn’t think I’m going to tell you.” All the children stared in horror at Pippi, and the teacher explained that one couldn’t answer that way in school. “I beg your pardon,” said Pippi contritely. “I didn’t know that. I won’t do it again.” “No, let us hope not,” said the teacher. “And now I will tell you that seven and five are twelve.” “See that!” said Pippi. “You knew it yourself. Why are you asking then?” The teacher decided to act as if nothing unusual were happening and went on with her examination. “Well now, Pippi, how much do you think eight and four are?” “Oh, about sixty-seven,” hazarded Pippi. “Of course not,” said the teacher. “Eight and four are twelve.” “Well now, really, my dear little woman,” said Pippi, “that is carrying things too far. You just said that seven and five are twelve. There should be some rhyme and reason to things even in school. Furthermore, if you are so childishly interested in that foolishness, why don’t you sit down in a corner by yourself and do arithmetic and leave us alone so we can play tag?” The teacher decided there was no point in trying to teach Pippi any more arithmetic. She began to ask the other children the arithmetic questions. “Can Tommy answer this one?” she asked. “If Lisa has seven apples and Axel has nine apples, how many apples do they have together?” “Yes, you tell, Tommy,” Pippi interrupted, “and tell me too, if Lisa gets a stomach-ache and Axel gets more stomach-ache, whose fault is it and where did they get hold of the apples in the first place?” The teacher tried to pretend that she hadn’t heard and turned to Annika. “Now, Annika, here’s an example for you: Gustav was with his schoolmates on a picnic. He had a quarter when he started out and seven cents when he got home. How much did he spend?” “Yes, indeed,” said Pippi, “and I also want to know why he was so extravagant, and if it was pop he bought, and if he washed his ears properly before he left home.” The teacher decided to give up arithmetic altogether. She thought maybe Pippi would prefer to learn to read. So she took out a pretty little card with a picture of an ibex on it. In front of the ibex’s nose was the letter “i.” “Now, Pippi,” she said briskly, “you’ll see something jolly. You see here an ibex. And the letter in front of this ibex is called i.” “That I’ll never believe,” said Pippi. “I think it looks exactly like a straight line with a little fly speck over it. But what I’d really like to know is, what has the ibex to do with the fly speck?” The teacher took out another card with a picture of a snake on it and told Pippi that the letter on that was an s. “Speaking of snakes,” said Pippi, “I’ll never, ever forget the time I had a fight with a huge snake in India. You can’t imagine what a dreadful snake it was, fourteen yards long and mad as a hornet, and every day he ate up five Indians and then two little children for dessert, and one time he came and wanted me for dessert, and he wound himself around me—uhhh!—but I’ve been around a bit, I said, and hit him in the head, bang, and then he hissed uiuiuiuiuiuiuiuitch, and then I hit him again, and bingo! he was dead, and, indeed, so that is the letter s—most remarkable!” Pippi had to stop to get her breath. And the teacher, who had now begun to think that Pippi was an unruly and troublesome child, decided that the class should have drawing for a while. Surely Pippi could sit still and be quiet and draw, thought the teacher. She took out paper and pencils and passed them out to the children. “Now you may draw whatever you wish,” she said and sat down at her desk and began to correct homework. In a little while she looked up to see how the drawing was going. All the children sat looking at Pippi, who lay flat on the floor, drawing to her heart’s content. “But, Pippi,” said the teacher impatiently, “why in the world aren’t you drawing on your paper?” “I filled that long ago. There isn’t room enough for my whole horse on that little snip of a paper,” said Pippi. “Just now I’m working on his front legs, but when I get to his tail I guess I’ll have to go out in the hall.” The teacher thought hard for a while. “Suppose instead we all sing a little song,” she suggested. All the children stood up by their seats except Pippi; she stayed where she was on the floor. “You go ahead and sing,” she said. “I’ll rest myself a while. Too much learning breaks even the healthiest.” But now the teacher’s patience came to an end. She told all the children to go out into the yard so she could talk to Pippi alone. When the teacher and Pippi were alone, Pippi got up and walked to the desk. “Do you know what?” she said. “It was awfully jolly to come to school to find out what it was like. But I don’t think I care about going to school any more, Christmas vacation or no Christmas vacation. There’s altogether too many apples and ibexes and snakes and things like that. It makes me dizzy in the head. I hope that you, Teacher, won’t be sorry.” But the teacher said she certainly was sorry, most of all because Pippi wouldn’t behave decently; and that any girl who acted as badly as Pippi did wouldn’t be allowed to go to school even if she wanted to ever so. “Have I behaved badly?” asked Pippi, much astonished. “Goodness, I didn’t know that,” she added and looked very sad. And nobody could look as sad as Pippi when she was sad. She stood silent for a while, and then she said in a trembling voice, “You understand, Teacher, don’t you, that when you have a mother who’s an angel and a father who is a cannibal king, and when you have sailed on the ocean all your whole life, then you don’t know just how to behave in school with all the apples and ibexes.” Then the teacher said she understood and didn’t feel annoyed with Pippi any longer, and maybe Pippi could come back to school when she was a little older. Pippi positively beamed with delight. “I think you are awfully nice, Teacher. And here is something for you.” Out of her pocket Pippi took a lovely little gold watch and laid it on the desk. The teacher said she couldn’t possibly accept such a valuable gift from Pippi, but Pippi replied, “You’ve got to take it; otherwise I’ll come back again tomorrow, and that would be a pretty how-do-you-do.” Then Pippi rushed out to the schoolyard and jumped on her horse. All the children gathered around to pat the horse and see her off. “You ought to know about the schools in Argentina,” said Pippi, looking down at the children. “That’s where you should go. Easter vacation begins three days after Christmas vacation ends, and when Easter vacation is over there are three days and then it’s summer vacation. Summer vacation ends on the first of November, and then you have a tough time until Christmas vacation begins on November 2. But you can stand that because there are at least no lessons. It is strictly against the law to have lessons in Argentina. Once in a while it happens that some Argentine kid sneaks into a closet and sits there studying a lesson, but it’s just too bad for him if his mother finds him. Arithmetic they don’t have at all in the schools, and if there is any kid who knows what seven and five are he has to stand in the corner all day—that is, if he’s foolish enough to let the teacher know that he knows. They have reading on Friday, and then only if they have some books, which they never have.” “But what do they do in school?” asked one little boy. “Eat caramels,” said Pippi decidedly. “There is a long pipe that goes from a caramel factory nearby directly into the schoolroom, and caramels keep shooting out of it all day long so the children have all they can do to eat them up.” “Yes, but what does the teacher do?” asked one little girl. “Takes the paper off the caramels for the children, of course,” said Pippi. “You didn’t suppose they did it themselves, did you? Hardly. They don’t even go to school themselves—they send their brothers.” Pippi waved her big hat. “So long, kids,” she cried gaily. “Now you won’t see me for a while. But always remember how many apples Axel had or you’ll be sorry.” With a ringing laugh Pippi rode out through the gate so wildly that the pebbles whirled around the horse’s hoofs and the windowpanes rattled in the schoolhouse.