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Pippi in the South Seas, Page 2

Astrid Lindgren

"The difference between your horse and your monkey-that I

  really couldn't say."

  "It's quite tricky," said Pippi, "but I'll

  give you a small hint. If you should see them both

  together under a tree and one of them should start to climb up

  the tree, then that one isn't the horse."

  The fine gentleman pressed his gas pedal all the

  way down to the floor and took off with a roar. He

  never, never came back to the little town.

  One afternoon Pippi was wandering around in her garden,

  waiting for Tommy and Annika to come over. But no

  Tommy came, and no Annika either, so Pippi

  decided to go and see where they were. She found

  them in their own garden. But they weren't alone. Their

  mother, Mrs. Settergren, was also there with a very nice

  old lady who had come to visit. The two ladies

  were sitting under a tree, drinking coffee. Annika

  and Tommy were having fruit juice, but when they saw

  Pippi they got up and ran to meet her.

  "Aunt Laura came," Tommy explained.

  "That's why we couldn't come over to you."

  "She looks so nice," said Pippi, peeking at

  her through the leaves of the hedge. "I must talk to her.

  I'm so fond of nice old ladies."

  Annika looked a little worried. "It ... it ...

  maybe it's best if you don't talk very much," she

  said. She remembered that once when Pippi had been

  to a coffee party she had talked so much that

  Annika's mother had been very annoyed with her. And

  Annika was too fond of Pippi to want anyone

  to be annoyed with her.

  Pippi's feelings were hurt. "Why shouldn't I

  talk to her?" she asked. "When people come to visit, you

  should be nice and friendly to them. If I sit there and

  don't say a word, she might think I have something

  against her."

  "But are you sure you know how to talk to old

  ladies?" objected Annika.

  "They need to be cheered up," said Pippi with

  emphasis. "And that's what I'm going to do now."

  She walked across the lawn to where the two ladies were

  sitting. First she curtsied to Mrs. Settergren.

  Then she looked at the old lady and clapped her


  "Just look at Aunt Laura!" she exclaimed.

  "More beautiful than ever!" She turned to Tommy's

  and Annika's mother. "Please may I have a little

  fruit juice so my throat won't be so dry when

  we start talking?" she asked.

  Mrs. Settergren poured a glass of juice and

  said as she handed it to Pippi, "Children should be seen and not


  "Well," said Pippi, looking pleased, "it's

  nice if

  people are happy just to look at me! I must see how

  it feels to be used just for decoration." She sat


  on the grass and stared straight in front of her with

  a fixed smile, as if she were having her picture


  Mrs. Settergren paid no further attention

  to Pippi but went on talking to the old lady. After

  a while she asked with concern, "How are you

  feeling these days, Aunt Laura?"

  "Awful," replied Aunt Laura, "just awful.

  I'm so nervous and worried about everything."

  Pippi jumped up. "Exactly like my grandmother!"

  she exclaimed. "She got nervous and excited about

  the least little thing. If she was walking in the street and a

  brick happened to fall on her head she'd start

  to scream and make such a fuss you'd think something

  terrible had happened.

  "And once she was at a ball with my father and they were

  dancing a


  together. My father is quite strong, and quick as a wink he

  swung my grandmother around so hard that she flew

  straight across the ballroom and landed with a crash right in

  the middle of the bass fiddle. There she was,

  screaming and carrying on like anything. My father picked

  her up and held her outside the window-it was four

  floors up-so that she'd cool off and not be so

  fidgety. But she didn't like that a bit. She just

  hollered, Let me go this minute!" My father did,

  of course, and can you imagine, she wasn't pleased

  about that either! My father said he'd never seen anything like

  the fuss the dear old lady made over nothing at

  all. It certainly is too bad when people have

  trouble with their nerves," Pippi finished

  sympathetically, and dunked her zwieback into her

  fruit juice.

  Tommy and Annika were fidgeting uneasily in their

  chairs. Aunt Laura shook her head in a

  puzzled way, and Mrs. Settergren said hastily,

  "We all hope you'll be feeling better soon,

  Aunt Laura."

  "Oh yes, I'm sure she will," Pippi said

  reassuringly. "My grandmother did. She was soon

  feeling very well."

  Aunt Laura wanted to know what cured her.

  "Tranquilizers," Pippi said. "That did the

  trick, I can tell you. She was soon as cool as

  a cucumber, and she'd sit peacefully for days at

  a time just not saying a word. If bricks had started

  falling on her head one after another she'd just have sat

  there and enjoyed it! If that could happen to my grandmother it

  could happen to


  So I'm sure you'll be all well again soon,

  Aunt Laura."

  Tommy crept over to Aunt Laura and whispered

  in her ear, "Don't mind anything Pippi says,

  Aunt Laura. She's just making it up.

  She doesn't even have a grandmother."

  Aunt Laura nodded understandingly. But Pippi had

  sharp ears, and she heard what Tommy whispered.

  "Tommy's quite right," she said. "I


  have a grandmother. She doesn't exist. Since that's the

  case, why does she have to be so terribly nervous?"

  Aunt Laura looked at Pippi for a moment with a

  dazed expression, and then began to talk to Mrs.

  Settergren again. Pippi sat down to listen with the

  same fixed smile as before.

  After a few minutes Aunt Laura said, "Do you

  know, something very strange happened yesterday-was

  "But it couldn't be nearly as strange as what I

  saw the day


  yesterday," Pippi said reassuringly. "I was

  riding in a train, and we were going along full speed

  when suddenly a cow came flying through the open window

  with a big suitcase hanging on her tail. She

  sat down in the seat across from me and began to look through

  the timetable to see what time we'd get to Falkoping.

  I was eating a sandwich-I had loads of sandwiches,

  some sausage and some smoked herring-and I thought she

  might be hungry, so I offered her one.

  She took a

  smoked herring one and swallowed it practically


  Pippi fell silent.

  That was really


  strange," said Aunt Laura politely.

  "Yes, you'd go a long way before you'd find another

  cow as strange as that one," Pippi agreed. "Just

gine, she took a smoked herring sandwich when there

  were still lots of sausage ones left!"

  Mrs. Settergren interrupted to ask Aunt

  Laura if she'd like some more coffee. She filled

  Aunt Laura's cup and her own, and poured more

  fruit juice for the children. "You were going to tell about the

  strange thing that happened yesterday," she reminded the

  old lady.

  "Oh, yes," said Aunt Laura, beginning to look

  worried again.

  "Speaking of strange things happening," Pippi

  broke in hastily, "you'll enjoy hearing about

  Agaton and Teodor. Once when my father's ship

  came into Singapore we needed a new able-bodied

  seaman, and we took on Agaton. He was seven

  feet tall and so thin that his bones rattled like

  a rattlesnake's tail when he moved. He had

  pitch-black hair that came down to his waist, and

  only one tooth. That tooth was all the bigger,

  though-it grew all the way down to his chin.

  "My father thought Agaton was uglier than anyone should

  be, and at first he didn't want him on board.

  Only then he decided that Agaton might be

  useful to have around to scare any fierce wild horses

  into stampeding. Well, then we got to Hong Kong, and

  we needed another able-bodied seaman, so we got

  Teodor. They were as much alike as a pair of


  'That certainly was a strange coincidence!"

  exclaimed Aunt Laura.

  "Strange?" said Pippi. "What was so strange

  about it?"

  "That they looked so much alike," Aunt Laura

  replied. "That was very strange indeed."

  "No," said Pippi, "not really. Because they


  twins. Both of them. Even from birth." She looked

  a bit reproachful. "I don't quite understand what you

  mean, dear Aunt Laura. Is it anything

  to worry about when twins happen to look alike? They

  can't help it, you know. Nobody would have


  to look like Agaton-or like Teodor either, for that


  "Then why do you speak of strange coincidences?"

  Aunt Laura asked, looking bewildered.

  Mrs. Settergren tried to divert Aunt

  Laura's attention. "You were going to tell us about the

  strange thing that happened to you yesterday."

  Aunt Laura got up to leave. That will have to wait

  till another time," she said. "On second thought,

  perhaps it wasn't so very strange after all." She said

  good-by to Tommy and Annika. Then she patted

  Pippi's red head. "Good-by, my little friend," she

  said. "You're quite right, I'm beginning to feel better

  already. I don't feel nervous at all any more."

  "Oh, I'm so glad." said Pippi, and gave the

  old lady a big hug. "You know, Aunt

  Laura, my father was very pleased about getting Teodor

  in Hong Kong. Because then he said he could stampede

  twice as many wild horses to was




  One morning Tommy and Annika came skipping

  into Pippi's kitchen as usual, shouting good

  morning. But there was no answer. Pippi was sitting

  in the middle of the kitchen table with Mr. Nilsson,

  the little monkey, in her arms and a happy smile on

  her face.

  "Good morning," said Tommy and Annika again.

  "Just think," said Pippi dreamily, "just think that I

  have discovered it-I and no one else!"

  "What have you discovered?" Tommy and Annika

  wondered. They weren't in the least bit surprised that

  Pippi had discovered something because she was always doing that,

  but they did want to know what it was.

  "What did you discover, anyway, Pippi?"

  "A new word," said Pippi and looked at Tommy

  and Annika as if she had just this minute noticed

  them. "A brand-new word."

  "What kind of word?" said Tommy.

  "A wonderful word," said Pippi. "One of the best

  I've ever heard."

  "Say it then," said Annika.

  "Spink," said Pippi triumphantly.

  "Spink," repeated Tommy. "What does that


  "If I only knew!" said Pippi. "The only

  thing I know is that it doesn't mean vacuum


  Tommy and Annika thought for a while. Finally

  Annika said, "But if you don't know what it

  means, then it can't be of any use."

  "That's what bothers me," said Pippi.

  "Who really decided in the beginning what all the words

  should mean?" Tommy wondered.

  "Probably a bunch of old professors," said

  Pippi. "People certainly are peculiar I Just think

  of the words they make up-'tub" and "stopper" and

  "string" and words like that. Where they got them from,

  nobody knows. But a wonderful word like "spink,"

  they don't bother to invent. How lucky that I hit

  on it! And you just bet I'll find out what it means,


  She fell deep in thought.

  "Spink, I wonder if it might be the top part of a

  blue flagpole," she said doubtfully.

  "Flagpoles aren't blue," said Annika.

  "You're right. Well, then, I really don't know.

  ... Or do you think it might be the sound you hear when

  you walk in the mud and it gets between your toes?

  Let's hear how it sounds. As Annika walked in

  the mud you could hear the most wonderful spink." She

  shook her head. "No, that's no good. You could hear

  the most wonderful


  that's what it should be instead."

  Pippi scratched her head. "This is getting more and

  more mysterious. But whatever it is, I'm going to find

  out. Maybe it can be bought in the stores. Come on,

  let's go and ask!"

  Tommy and Annika had no objection. Pippi

  went off to hunt for her purse, which was full of gold

  pieces. "Spink," she said. "It sounds as if it

  might be expensive. I'd better take a gold

  piece along." And she did. As usual Mr.

  Nilsson jumped up on her shoulder.

  Then Pippi lifted the horse down from the veranda.

  "We're in a hurry," she said to Tommy and

  Annika. "We'll have to ride. Because otherwise there

  might not be any spink left when we get there. It

  wouldn't surprise me if the mayor had already bought

  the last of it."

  When the horse came galloping through the streets of the

  little town with Pippi and Tommy and Annika on his

  back, the children heard the clatter of

  his hoofs on the cobblestones and came happily

  running because they all liked Pippi so much.

  "Pippi, where are you going?" they cried.

  "I'm going to buy spink," said Pippi and

  brought the horse to a halt for a moment.

  The children looked puzzled.

  "Is it something good?" a little boy asked.

  "You bet," said Pippi and licked her lips.

  "It's wonderful. At least it sounds as if it


  In front of a candy shop she jumped off the horse,

  lifted Tommy and Annika down, and in they went.

  "I would like to
buy a bag of spink," said Pippi.

  "But I want it nice and crunchy."

  "Spink," said the pretty lady behind the counter,

  trying to think. "I don't believe we have that."

  "You must have it," said Pippi. "All well-stocked

  shops carry it."

  "Yes, but we've just run out of it," said the lady,

  who had never even heard of spink but didn't want

  to admit that her shop wasn't as well-stocked as

  any other.

  "Oh, but then you did have it yesterday!" cried

  Pippi eagerly. "Please, please tell me how

  it looked. I've never seen spink in all my

  life. Was it red striped?"

  Then the nice lady blushed prettily and said,

  "No, I really don't know what it is. In any

  case, we don't have it here."

  Very disappointed, Pippi walked toward the door.

  "Then I have to keep on looking," she said. "I

  can't go back home without spink."

  The next store was a hardware store. A

  salesman bowed politely to the children.

  "I would like to buy a spink," said Pippi. "But I

  want it to be of the best kind, the one that is used for

  killing lions."

  The salesman looked sly as a fox. "Let's

  see," he said and scratched himself behind the ear.

  "Let's see." He took out a small rake.

  "Is this all right?" he said as he handed it

  to Pippi.

  Pippi looked indignantly at him. "That's what

  the professors would call a rake," she said. "But

  it happens to be a spink I wanted. Don't try

  to fool an innocent little child."

  Then the salesman laughed and said, "Unfortunately

  we don't have the thing you want. Ask in the store

  around the corner that carries notions."

  "Notions," Pippi muttered to Tommy and

  Annika when they came out on the street. "I just

  know they won't have it there." Suddenly she brightened.

  "Perhaps, after all, it's a sickness," she said.

  "Let's go and ask the doctor."

  Annika knew where the doctor lived because she had

  gone there to be vaccinated.

  Pippi rang the bell. A nurse opened the


  "I would like to see the doctor," said Pippi.

  "It's a very serious case. A terribly dangerous


  "This way, please," said the nurse.

  The doctor was sitting at his desk when the children came

  in. Pippi went straight to him, closed her

  eyes, and stuck her tongue out.

  "What is the matter with you?" said the doctor.

  Pippi opened her clear blue eyes and pulled in

  her tongue. "I'm afraid I've got spink,"

  she said, "because I itch all over. And when I

  sleep my eyes close. Sometimes I have the

  hiccups and on Sunday I didn't feel very well

  after having eaten a dish of shoe polish and milk.

  My appetite is quite hearty, but sometimes I get

  the food down my windpipe and then nothing good comes of

  it. It must be the spink which bothers me. Tell me,

  is it contagious?"

  The doctor looked at Pippi's rosy face and

  said, "I think you're healthier than most. I'm

  sure you're not suffering from spink."

  Pippi grabbed him eagerly by the arm. "But there is

  a disease by that name, isn't there?"

  "No," said the doctor, "there isn't. But even if

  there were, I don't think it would have any effect on


  Pippi looked sad. She made a deep curtsy

  to the doctor as she said good-by, and so did

  Annika. Tommy bowed. And then they went out to the

  horse, who was waiting at the doctor's fence.

  Not far from the doctor's house was a high

  three-story house with a window open on the upper

  floor. Pippi pointed toward the open window and

  said, "It wouldn't surprise me if the spink is in

  there. I'll dash up and see." Quickly she climbed

  up the water spout. When she reached the level of the

  window she threw herself heedlessly into the air and grabbed

  hold of the window sill. She hoisted herself up by the

  arms and stuck her head in.

  In the room two ladies were sitting chatting.

  Imagine their astonishment when all of a sudden a red

  head popped over the window sill and a voice said,

  "Is there by any chance a spink here?"

  The two ladies cried out in terror. "Good

  heavens, what are you saying, child? Has someone


  That is exactly what I would like to know," said

  Pippi politely.

  "Maybe he's under the bed!" screamed one of the

  ladies. "Does he bite?"

  "I think so," said Pippi. "He's supposed to have

  tremendous fangs."

  The two ladies clung to each other. Pippi

  looked around curiously, but finally she said with a sigh,


  the South Seas

  "No, there isn't as much as a spink's whisker around

  here. Excuse me for disturbing you. I just thought I

  would ask, since I happened to be passing by."

  She slid down the water spout and said sadly

  to Tommy and Annika, There isn't any spink in

  this town. Let's ride back home."

  And that's what they did. When they jumped down from the

  horse outside the veranda, Tommy came close

  to stepping on a little beetle which was crawling on the

  gravel path.

  "Be careful not to step on the beetle!" Pippi


  All three bent down to look at it. It was such a