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Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ilon Wikland, translated from the Swedish by Jill Morgan, Page 2

Astrid Lindgren

  My father the King touched my chin and said, “Mio, my son, what do you think of my Garden of Roses?”

  I couldn’t answer. I felt so strange, almost as if I was going to cry, and yet I wasn’t sad; I felt quite the contrary.

  I meant to tell my father the King that he shouldn’t think that I was sad. But before I told him anything he spoke. “It’s good that you’re happy. Keep on feeling that way, Mio, my son.”

  Then he went to have a talk with his Master Rose Gardener, who was waiting for him. I ran off by myself to explore. It was all so wonderful I felt giddy, as if I were full of lemonade. My legs just wouldn’t keep still, and my arms felt very strong. I wished Ben were there so that we could have a fight, only for fun of course. Yes, I wished Ben were there. Because I wanted someone my own age to share all of this with. But poor Ben would be in Tegnérlunden Park right now, and it would be raining and windy as usual, and dark and dreary as well. By now he’d be sure to know that I had disappeared and he’d be wondering where I had gone and whether he would ever see me again. Poor Ben! We had so much fun together, Ben and I, and I began to miss Ben as I was walking in my father the King’s Garden of Roses. He was the only old thing I missed from my past. There really wasn’t anyone else I missed. Well, maybe Mrs. Lundy because she had always been so kind to me. But most of all I thought about Ben.

  I walked quietly for a while along a little winding path in the Garden of Roses and I felt like there wasn’t any lemonade left in me, and I was a little sad and hung my head. Then suddenly I looked up, in front of me on the path was . . . well, at first I thought it was Ben. But it wasn’t him. It was Pompoo. Of course, I didn’t know he was Pompoo. I saw a boy, and he had exactly the same dark brown hair as Ben and exactly the same brown eyes.

  “Who are you?” I asked.

  “I’m Pompoo,” he said.

  Then I saw that he was only a little bit like Ben. He looked more earnest and kind than Ben. Ben is nice too of course, like me—sometimes nice, and sometimes not. We would fight and be angry with each other, but it didn’t last long, and we were friends again soon. I can’t imagine anyone fighting with Pompoo, though. He was too nice for that.

  “Do you want to know my name?” I said. “I’m Andy . . . no, that’s not true, my name is Mio.”

  “I already knew your name was Mio,” said Pompoo. “Our lord the King sent heralds throughout the land to say that Mio has come home.”

  Think of it! My father the King was so glad to have found me that he told everyone, near and far. It was probably a little childish of him, but I was pleased to hear it.

  “Do you have a father, Pompoo?” I asked. I hoped and wished that he had one, because I’d been without a father for so long and I knew how bad that was.

  “Certainly I have a father,” said Pompoo. “Our lord the King’s Master Rose Gardener is my father. Would you like to come and see where I live?”

  I said I would. He ran ahead of me along the winding path to the farthest corner of the Garden of Roses. There stood a little white cottage with a thatched roof, exactly the kind of cottage you’d find in a fairy tale. There were so many roses growing on the walls and on the roof that I could hardly see anything of the cottage itself. The windows were open wide and white birds flew in and out as they pleased. Outside, under the gable, were a bench and a table. Bees, from the long row of beehives, buzzed among the roses. All around the cottage, roses grew in great thickets, and there were poplars and willow trees with silvery leaves.

  A voice called from the kitchen, “Pompoo, have you forgotten dinner?”

  The shout was from Pompoo’s mother. She came to the door and stood there laughing. I saw that she was exactly like Mrs. Lundy, maybe a little prettier. She had exactly the same kind of dimples in her round cheeks, and she touched my chin just as Mrs. Lundy had when she said, “Good-bye, Karl Anders Nilsson, good-bye.”

  But Pompoo’s mama said, “Good day, good day, Mio! Will you eat dinner with Pompoo?”

  “Yes, thank you,” I said, “if it’s not too much trouble.”

  She said it wouldn’t be any trouble at all. Pompoo and I sat down at the table outside under the gable, and his mama brought out a large dish of pancakes, strawberry preserves and milk. We ate so much, Pompoo and I, that we were ready to burst, we looked at each other and laughed. I was so glad that Pompoo was there. One of the white birds flew over and stole a bit of pancake from my plate. That made us laugh even more.

  Then I saw my father the King walking toward us with the Master Rose Gardener, who was Pompoo’s father. Suddenly, I felt a little uneasy that my father the King wouldn’t like me sitting there eating and laughing so much. Back then, I still didn’t know how good my father the King was, and how much he loved me, whatever I did, and how much he wanted me to laugh.

  My father the King stopped when he saw me. “Mio, my son, you’re sitting there and laughing,” he said.

  “Yes, forgive me,” I said, because I thought he disliked loud laughter as much as Uncle Olaf and Aunt Hulda did.

  “Laugh more!” said my father the King. Then he turned to the Master Rose Gardener and said something even more peculiar, “I enjoy the birds singing. I enjoy the music of the silver poplars. But most of all I love to hear my son laugh in the Garden of Roses.”

  I understood then for the first time that I never needed to be afraid of my father the King, that whatever I did he would always look at me kindly, like he was doing now as he stood there with his hand on the Master Rose Gardener’s shoulder and with all the white birds flying around him. And when I understood him, I was happier than I’d ever been before in my life. I was so glad that I laughed quite hard. I threw my head back and burst into laughter, nearly scaring the birds away. Pompoo thought I was still laughing at the bird that stole a piece of pancake from me, and he started laughing again, and so did my father the King, and Pompoo’s mama and papa too. I don’t know what they were laughing at. All I know is that I laughed because it made my father the King happy.

  When Pompoo and I had finished eating we raced around the Garden of Roses, turned somersaults on the lawn, and played hide-and-seek among the rose bushes. There were so many hiding places, if there had been one-tenth as many in Tegnérlunden Park, Ben and I would’ve been thrilled. I mean, Ben would’ve been thrilled. I’ll never need to look for hiding places in Tegnérlunden Park again, thank goodness.

  It was turning dark. A soft blue mist spread over the Garden of Roses. The white birds grew silent and flew to their nests. The silver poplars became quiet too. The whole Garden of Roses was still. But in the top of the tallest poplar, a great black solitary bird sat singing. It sang more sweetly than all the white birds put together. It felt as if this bird only sang for me. But I didn’t want to listen, because its song was so eerie.

  “It’s getting late,” said Pompoo. “I must go home.”

  “No, don’t go,” I said, because I didn’t want to be left alone listening to that strange song.

  “Pompoo, what is that there?” I asked pointing up at the black bird.

  “I don’t know,” said Pompoo. “I’ve been calling it Sorrowbird just because it’s so black. But its real name might be something completely different.”

  “I don’t think I like it,” I said.

  “I do,” said Pompoo. “Sorrowbird has such kind eyes. Good night, Mio,” he said and ran off.

  Then I saw my father the King. He took my hand in his and we walked home through the Garden of Roses. Sorrowbird continued singing, but now that I held my father the King’s hand, the song didn’t sound so eerie to me. Instead I wished Sorrowbird would sing on and on and on.

  The last thing I saw before we walked through the garden door was Sorrowbird lifting his broad black wings and flying straight up into the sky. And I saw that three small stars had begun to shine.


  I WONDER WHAT Ben would say if he could see my white horse with the golden mane, my Miramis with golden hooves and golden mane.
/>   Ben and I loved horses. Ben and Mrs. Lundy weren’t my only friends when I lived on North Street. I had another friend too, I forgot to mention that. His name was Charlie, and he was an old brewer’s horse.

  Twice a week the brewer’s cart brought beer to the shops on North Street, usually early in the morning when I was walking to school and I watched for it so that I could talk a little with Charlie. He was such a good old horse, and I saved sugar cubes and bread crusts for him. Ben did too, because Ben was also fond of Charlie. He said Charlie was his horse, and I said he was mine, and sometimes we argued about Charlie. But when Ben wasn’t listening I whispered in Charlie’s ear, “You’re my horse!” I think Charlie looked like he understood what I was saying and agreed with me. Ben had his mama and papa and everything, and he didn’t need a horse as much as I did, because I was all alone. So I thought it was fair that Charlie was more my horse than Ben’s. Of course, the truth is that Charlie wasn’t our horse at all but the brewery’s. We just pretended he was ours. But I pretended so hard that I almost believed it. Sometimes I talked to Charlie for such a long time that I was late for school, and when the teacher asked why I was late, I knew I couldn’t answer. Because you can’t tell a teacher that you’ve only been talking to an old brewer’s horse.

  On some mornings the cart was running late and I was forced to go to school without seeing Charlie. I was angry with the brewery worker for being slow and I sat on my school bench, feeling the sugar cubes and bread crusts in my pocket, and thought of Charlie. I wanted to see Charlie and knew it would be several days before I got to see him again.

  Then the teacher would say, “Why are you acting like this Andy? Why are you sighing? Do you feel bad?”

  I said nothing. What could I say? The teacher would never understand how much I loved Charlie.

  Now Ben has Charlie to himself, I believe, and that is fine. It’s fine that Ben has Charlie to console him, now that I’ve disappeared.

  I have my Miramis now, with the golden mane. This is how I got him.

  One evening as we were building model airplanes and talking with each other—like Ben and his papa do—I told my father the King about Charlie.

  “Mio, my son,” said my father the King, “do you like horses?”

  “Oh, I suppose,” I answered. It probably sounded like I wasn’t interested in horses very much, but that was because I didn’t want my father the King to believe I missed having one, here with him.

  Next morning, when I went into the Garden of Roses, a white horse galloped toward me and I’d never seen a horse gallop like this one. Its golden mane was streaming and its golden hooves glistened in the sunlight. It came straight toward me, neighing more wildly than I’ve ever heard a horse neigh before. I almost became scared and pressed against my father the King. But my father the King took hold of the golden mane in his strong hands and the horse stood perfectly still and stuck his soft nose down into my pocket to see if there were any sugar cubes. Exactly as Charlie used to do. And I really did have sugar cubes. I had filled my pocket out of habit and the horse ate them all up.

  “Mio, my son,” said my father the King, “this is your horse, and his name is Miramis.”

  Oh, my Miramis, I loved him from the first moment. I thought he was the most beautiful horse in the world and not a bit like poor Charlie, who was so old and tired. At least I didn’t see any likeness at first, not before Miramis raised his beautiful head and looked at me. Then I saw that he had the same eyes as Charlie. Such faithful, faithful eyes—as horses have.

  I’d never ridden at all in my life. But now my father the King lifted me up on Miramis.

  “I don’t know if I dare,” I said.

  “Mio, my son,” said my father the King. “Don’t you have a fearless heart?”

  Then I grasped the reins and rode through the Garden of Roses. I rode under the poplars, and they dropped silvery leaves in my hair. I rode faster and faster and faster and Miramis jumped over the tallest rose bushes easily and gracefully. Only once did he brush a hedge, scattering a shower of rose petals.

  Then Pompoo came and saw me riding. He clapped his hands and shouted, “Mio is riding on Miramis! Mio is riding on Miramis!”

  Pulling on the reins I stopped Miramis, and asked Pompoo if he’d like to ride, and of course he wanted to. Quickly he climbed up behind me and we rode into the green meadows outside the Garden of Roses. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.

  My father the King’s county is vast. Farawayland is the biggest country of all. It stretches north and south, and east and west. The island where my father the King has his palace is Greenfields Island. But it is only a small part of Farawayland. Only a little, little piece.

  “The Land on the Other Side of the Water and Beyond the Mountains also belongs to our lord the King,” said Pompoo as we rode through the green meadows beyond the Garden of Roses.

  I was thinking of Ben while we rode swiftly through the sunshine. Poor Ben, think of him standing in the drizzling rain and darkness there on North Street while I rode around and was so happy on Greenfields Island. It was so pretty. The grass was soft and green, flowers lay everywhere, clear streams flowed down the hills and little woolly white lambs grazed in the grass.

  We met a shepherd boy playing on a small wooden flute. He played a strange melody which I thought I’d heard before, but I was certain that I hadn’t heard it on North Street.

  We stopped and talked to the shepherd boy. His name was Nonno, and I asked if I could borrow his flute for a little while. He said I could, and he taught me to play the melody.

  “I can make flutes for both of you, if you’d like,” said Nonno.

  We said we’d definitely like to have flutes. A stream flowed nearby, and the branches of a willow tree were leaning over the water. Nonno ran and cut a branch from the willow tree. We all sat down and splashed our feet in the water while Nonno carved wooden flutes for us. Pompoo learned to play the strange melody. Nonno told us that it was an old melody which had existed in the world before all the other melodies, and that shepherds had played it out in their pastures for thousands and thousands of years since then.

  We thanked him for making flutes for us and for teaching us the old melody. Then we climbed up on Miramis again and rode away. We heard Nonno playing his flute farther and farther and farther away.

  “We must be careful with our flutes,” I said to Pompoo, “and if we ever become separated, we’ll play this old melody.”

  Pompoo held his arms tightly around me with his head leaning against my back, so he wouldn’t fall off the horse. “Yes, Mio,” he said, “we must be careful with our flutes, and if you hear my flute playing you’ll know that I’m calling you.”

  “Yes,” I said, “and if you hear me playing, you’ll know that I’m calling you.”

  “Yes,” said Pompoo, and I knew he was my best friend. Except for my father the King, of course. I loved my father the King more than anyone in the world. But Pompoo was a boy like myself, and now he was my best friend since I couldn’t see Ben anymore.

  Just think, I had my father the King and Pompoo and Miramis, and I was riding over green hills and meadows as fast as the wind. It wasn’t strange that I was so happy.

  “How do you get to the Land on the Other Side of the Water and Beyond the Mountains?” I asked.

  “Over the Bridge of Morninglight,” said Pompoo.

  “Where is the Bridge of Morninglight?” I said.

  “We’ll see it soon,” said Pompoo. And we did. It was a bridge so high and so long that I couldn’t see the end of it. It glittered in the morning sun and seemed to be made of golden rays.

  “It’s the longest bridge in the world,” said Pompoo. “And it goes between Greenfields Island and the Land on the Other Side of the Water. But at night our lord the King draws it up, so that we can sleep calmly on Greenfields Island.”

  “Why?” I asked. “Who would come at night?”

  “Sir Kato,” said Pompoo.

  The moment he said it I felt an icy wind, and Miramis began trembling.

  It was the first time that I’d heard Sir Kato’s name. “Sir Kato,” I said to myself, and the sound of it made me shiver.

  “Yes, the cruel Sir Kato,” said Pompoo. Miramis neighed loudly, almost a scream, so we stopped talking about Sir Kato.

  I wanted to ride over the Bridge of Morninglight, but first I needed to ask my father the King’s permission, so we turned back to the Garden of Roses and didn’t ride any more that day. Instead, we groomed Miramis and combed his golden mane and we petted him and fed him sugar cubes and bread crusts that we got from Pompoo’s mama.

  Later we built a hut in the Garden of Roses, Pompoo and I, and we sat in it and ate our food. We ate thin pancakes with sugar on them. They were the best I’d ever had. Ben’s mama used to make pancakes, and I got to taste them sometimes. But the ones that Pompoo’s mama made were even better.

  It was such fun building our hut. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Ben often told me about the huts he used to build at their summer place out in Vaxholm. I really wish that I could write to him and tell him about our hut, Pompoo’s and mine.

  “See what a fine hut I’ve built!” I’d write. “See what a fine hut I’ve built here in Farawayland.”

  Do Stars Care if You Play to Them?

  THE NEXT DAY we rode back to Nonno. At first we couldn’t find him, but soon we heard the sound of his flute behind a little hill. He sat there playing to himself while the sheep grazed around. When he caught sight of us he took his flute from his mouth and laughed and said, “You’ve come again!”

  He seemed glad that we had come back. We took out our flutes and played, all three of us. The songs were so pretty, I didn’t understand how we could play such lovely melodies.

  “It’s a shame there’s no one to hear how fine we play,” I said.