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Karlsson on the Roof

“Ten cents, perhaps?”

“That’s just it,” said Eric. “A nickel is too little, you see.

“But you don’t know what it’s for yet,” said Betty. “You haven’t got to do anything—it’s only a matter of not doing.”

“What is it I have got not to do?”

“You’ve got not to show yourself in the sitting room later tonight.”

“Roger is coming, you see,” said Bobby. “Betty’s new boy friend.”

Eric nodded his head. Aha! so that was what they had worked out. Mommy and Daddy were going to the movies, Bobby was going to a football game, and Betty was going to be a grand lady in the sitting room while Eric was banished to his room—for the measly sum of five cents. What a family!

“What are his ears like?” asked Eric. “Do they stick out as much as the last one’s did?”

This was the way to annoy Betty.

“You see, Mommy!” she said. “Now do you understand why I want Eric to be out of the way? He frightens away every single person who comes to see me.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Mommy mildly. It distressed her to hear the children quarreling.

“He does,” insisted Betty. “Didn’t he frighten away Claude, for one? He stood and stared at him for a long time, and then he said, ‘I don’t think Betty likes ears like that.’ No wonder Claude didn’t come back.”

“Calm, be calm!” said Eric in exactly the same tone of voice as Karlsson’s. “Calm, be calm. I will sit in my room, and I’ll do it for nothing. I don’t take payment for keeping out of people’s way when they don’t want to see me.”

“Good!” said Betty. “Promise? Promise you won’t show up the whole evening?”

“O.K.,” said Eric. “I’m not so interested in your boy friends as all that. I’d pay a nickel not to see them!”

Later that evening Eric sat, as promised, in his room—without payment. Mommy and Daddy had gone to the movies, Bobby had vanished, and if Eric opened his door he could hear a faint murmur from the sitting room. In there Betty sat, talking softly with her Roger. Eric opened the door twice, trying to catch what they were saying, but he could not hear.

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