Pippi Longstocking. Chapter 7. Pippi Goes to the Circus

Chapter 7

A circus had come to the little town, and all the children were begging their mothers and fathers for permission to go. Of course Tommy and Annika asked to go too, and their kind father immediately gave them some money. Clutching it tightly in their hands, they rushed over to Pippi’s. She was on the porch with her horse, braiding his tail into tiny pigtails and tying each one with red ribbon. “I think it’s his birthday today,” she announced, “so he has to be all dressed up.” “Pippi,” said Tommy, all out of breath because they had been running so fast, “Pippi, do you want to go with us to the circus?” “I can go with you most anywhere,” answered Pippi, “but whether I can go to the surkus or not I don’t know, because I don’t know what a surkus is. Does it hurt?” “Silly!” said Tommy. “Of course it doesn’t hurt; it’s fun. Horses and clowns and pretty ladies that walk the tightrope.” “But it costs money,” said Annika, opening her small fist to see if the shiny half-dollar and the quarters were still there. “I’m rich as a troll,” said Pippi, “so I guess I can buy a surkus all right. But it’ll be crowded here if I have more horses. The clowns and the pretty ladies I could keep in the laundry, but it’s harder to know what to do with the horses.” “Oh, don’t be so silly,” said Tommy, “you don’t buy a circus. It costs money to go and look at it— see?” “Preserve us!” cried Pippi and shut her eyes tightly. “It costs money to look? And here I go around goggling all day long. Goodness knows how much money I’ve goggled up already!” Then, little by little, she opened one eye very carefully, and it rolled round and round in her head. “Cost what it may,” she said, “I must take a look!” At last Tommy and Annika managed to explain to Pippi what a circus really was, and she took some gold pieces out of her suitcase. Then she put on her hat, which was as big as a millstone, and off they all went. There were crowds of people outside the circus tent and a long line at the ticket window. But at last it was Pippi’s turn. She stuck her head through the window and stared at the dear old lady sitting there. “How much does it cost to look at you?” Pippi asked. But the old lady was a foreigner who did not understand what Pippi meant and answered in broken Swedish. “Little girl, it costs a dollar and a quarter in the grandstand and seventy-five cents on the benches and twenty-five cents for standing room.” Now Tommy interrupted and said that Pippi wanted a seventy-five-cent ticket. Pippi put down a gold piece and the old lady looked suspiciously at it. She bit it too, to see if it was genuine. At last she was convinced that it really was gold and gave Pippi her ticket and a great deal of change in silver. “What would I do with all those nasty little white coins?” asked Pippi disgustedly. “Keep them and then I can look at you twice. In the standing room.” As Pippi absolutely refused to accept any change, the lady changed her ticket to one for the grandstand and gave Tommy and Annika grandstand tickets too without their having to pay a single penny. In that way Pippi, Tommy, and Annika came to sit on some beautiful red chairs right next to the ring. Tommy and Annika turned around several times to wave to their schoolmates, who were sitting much farther away. “This is a remarkable place,” said Pippi, looking around in astonishment. “But, see, they’ve spilled sawdust all over the floor! Not that I’m overfussy myself, but that does look careless to me.” Tommy explained that all circuses had sawdust on the floor for the horses to run around in. On a platform nearby the circus band suddenly began to play a thundering march. Pippi clapped her hands wildly and jumped up and down with delight. “Does it cost money to hear too?” she asked. “Or can you do that for nothing? ” At that moment the curtain in front of the performers’ entrance was drawn aside, and the ringmaster in a black frock coat, with a whip in his hand, came running in, followed by ten white horses with red plumes on their heads. The ringmaster cracked his whip, and all the horses galloped around the ring. Then he cracked it again, and all the horses stood still with their front feet up on the railing around the ring. One of them had stopped directly in front of the children. Annika didn’t like to have a horse so near her and drew back in her chair as far as she could, but Pippi leaned forward and took the horse’s right foot in her hands. “Hello, there,” she said, “my horse sent you his best wishes. It’s his birthday today too, but he has bows on his tail instead of on his head.” Luckily she dropped the foot before the ringmaster cracked his whip again, because then all the horses jumped away from the railing and began to run around the ring. When the act was over, the ringmaster bowed politely and the horses ran out. In an instant the curtain opened again for a coal-black horse. On its back stood a beautiful lady dressed in green silk tights. The program said her name was Miss Carmencita. The horse trotted around in the sawdust, and Miss Carmencita stood calmly on his back and smiled. But then something happened; just as the horse passed Pippi’s seat, something came swishing through the air—and it was none other than Pippi herself. And there she stood on the horse’s back, behind Miss Carmencita. At first Miss Carmencita was so astonished that she nearly fell off the horse. Then she got mad. She began to strike out with her hands behind her back to make Pippi jump off. But that didn’t work. “Take it easy,” said Pippi. “Do you think you’re the only one who can have any fun? Other people have paid too, haven’t they?” Then Miss Carmencita tried to jump off herself, but that didn’t work either, because Pippi was holding her tightly around the waist. At that the audience couldn’t help laughing. They thought it was funny to see the lovely Miss Carmencita held against her will by a little red-headed youngster who stood there on the horse’s back in her enormous shoes and looked as if she had never done anything except perform in a circus. But the ringmaster didn’t laugh. He turned toward an attendant in a red uniform and made a sign to him to go and stop the horse. “Is this act already over,” asked Pippi in a disappointed tone, “just when we were having so much fun?” “Horrible child!” hissed the ringmaster between his teeth. “Get out of here!” Pippi looked at him sadly. “Why are you mad at me?” she asked. “What’s the matter? I thought we were here to have fun.” She skipped off the horse and went back to her seat. But now two huge guards came to throw her out. They took hold of her and tried to lift her up. They couldn’t do it. Pippi sat absolutely still, and it was impossible to budge her although they tried as hard as they could. At last they shrugged their shoulders and went off. Meanwhile the next act had begun. It was Miss Elvira about to walk the tightrope. She wore a pink tulle skirt and carried a pink parasol in her hand. With delicate little steps she ran out on the rope. She swung her legs gracefully in the air and did all sorts of tricks. It looked so pretty. She even showed how she could walk backward on the narrow rope. But when she got back to the little platform at the end of the rope, there stood Pippi. “What are you going to do now?” asked Pippi, delighted when she saw how astonished Miss Elvira looked. Miss Elvira said nothing at all but jumped down from the rope and threw her arms around the ringmaster’s neck, for he was her father. And the ringmaster once more sent for his guards to throw Pippi out. This time he sent for five of them, but all the people shouted, “Let her stay! We want to see the red-headed girl.” And they stamped their feet and clapped their hands. Pippi ran out on the rope, and Miss Elvira’s tricks were as nothing compared with Pippi’s. When she got to the middle of the rope she stretched one leg straight up in the air, and her big shoe spread out like a roof over her head. She bent her foot a little so that she could tickle herself with it back of her ear. The ringmaster was not at all pleased to have Pippi performing in his circus. He wanted to get rid of her, and so he stole up and loosened the mechanism that held the rope taut, thinking surely Pippi would fall down. But Pippi didn’t. She set the rope a-swinging instead. Back and forth it swayed, and Pippi swung faster and faster, until suddenly she leaped out into the air and landed right on the ringmaster. He was so frightened he began to run. “Oh, what a jolly horse!” cried Pippi. “But why don’t you have any pompoms in your hair?” Now Pippi decided it was time to go back to Tommy and Annika. She jumped off the ringmaster and went back to her seat. The next act was about to begin, but there was a brief pause because the ringmaster had to go out and get a drink of water and comb his hair. Then he came in again, bowed to the audience, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, in a moment you will be privileged to see the Greatest Marvel of all time, the Strongest Man in the World, the Mighty Adolf, whom no one has yet been able to conquer. Here he comes, ladies and gentlemen, Allow me to present to you the mighty adolf.” And into the ring stepped a man who looked as big as a giant. He wore flesh-colored tights and had a leopard skin draped around his stomach. He bowed to the audience and looked very pleased with himself. “Look at these muscles,” said the ringmaster and squeezed the Mighty Adolf’s arm where the muscles stood out like balls under the skin. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, I have a very special invitation for you. Who will challenge the Mighty Adolf in a wrestling match? Which of you dares to try his strength against the World’s Strongest Man? A hundred dollars for anyone who can conquer the Mighty Adolf! A hundred dollars, ladies and gentlemen! Think of that! Who will be the first to try?” Nobody came forth. “What did he say?” asked Pippi. “He says that anybody who can lick that big man will get a hundred dollars,” answered Tommy. “I can,” said Pippi, “but I think it would be too bad to, because he looks nice.” “Oh, no, you couldn’t,” said Annika, “he’s the strongest man in the world.” “Man, yes,” said Pippi, “but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.” Meanwhile the Mighty Adolf was lifting heavy iron weights and bending thick iron rods in the middle just to show how strong he was. “Oh, come now, ladies and gentlemen,” cried the ringmaster, “is there really nobody here who wants to earn a hundred dollars? Shall I really be forced to keep this myself?” And he waved a bill in the air. “No, that you certainly won’t be forced to do,” said Pippi and stepped over the railing into the ring. The ringmaster was absolutely wild when he saw her. “Get out of here! I don’t want to see any more of you,” he hissed. “Why do you always have to be so unfriendly?” said Pippi reproachfully. “I just want to fight with Mighty Adolf.” “This is no place for jokes,” said the ringmaster. “Get out of here before the Mighty Adolf hears your impudent nonsense.” But Pippi went right by the ringleader and up to Mighty Adolf. She took his hand and shook it heartily. “Shall we fight a little, you and I?” she asked. Mighty Adolf looked at her but didn’t understand a word. “In one minute I’ll begin,” said Pippi. And begin she did. She grabbed Mighty Adolf around the waist, and before anyone knew what was happening she had thrown him on the mat. Mighty Adolf leaped up, his face absolutely scarlet. “Atta girl, Pippi!” shrieked Tommy and Annika, so loudly that all the people at the circus heard it and began to shriek, “Atta girl, Pippi!” too. The ringmaster sat on the railing, wringing his hands. He was mad, but Mighty Adolf was madder. Never in his life had he experienced anything so humiliating as this. And he certainly intended to show that red-headed girl what kind of a man Mighty Adolf really was. He rushed at Pippi and caught her round the waist, but Pippi stood firm as a rock. “You can do better than that,” she said to encourage him. Then she wriggled out of his grasp, and in the twinkling of an eye Mighty Adolf was on the mat again. Pippi stood beside him, waiting. She didn’t have to wait long. With a roar he was up again, rushing at her. “Tiddelipom and piddeliday,” said Pippi. All the people in the tent stamped their feet and threw their hats in the air and shouted, “Hurrah, Pippi!” When Mighty Adolf came rushing at her for the third time, Pippi lifted him high in the air and, with her arms straight above her, carried him clear around the ring. Then she laid him down on the mat again and held him there. “Now, little fellow,” said she, “I don’t think we’ll bother about this any more. We’ll never have any more fun than we’ve had already.” “Pippi is the winner! Pippi is the winner!” cried all the people. Mighty Adolf stole out as fast as he could, and the ringmaster had to go up and hand Pippi the hundred dollars, although he looked as if he’d much prefer to eat her. “Here you are, young lady, here you are,” he said. “One hundred dollars.” ‘That thing!” said Pippi scornfully. “What would I want with that old piece of paper. Take it and use it to fry herring on if you want to.” And she went back to her seat. “This is certainly a long surkus,” she said to Tommy and Annika. “I think I’ll take a little snooze, but wake me if they need my help with anything else.” And then she lay back in her chair and went to sleep at once. There she lay and snored while the clowns, the sword swallowers, and the snake charmers did their tricks for Tommy and Annika and all the rest of the people at the circus. “Just the same, I think Pippi was best of all,” whispered Tommy to Annika.