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Karlsson on the Roof

“Hmm!” said Karlsson. “My steam engines … they’ve all exploded. Something wrong with the safety valves, that’s all. But it’s a small matter and not worth grieving over.”

Eric looked around again.

“But your rooster pictures? … Have they exploded, too?” he asked with some sarcasm.

“You can see they haven’t,” said Karlsson. “What do you suppose this is?” he said, pointing to a piece of cardboard which was nailed to the wall beside the cupboard. Quite right! In a corner at the bottom of the cardboard there was a rooster—a tiny little red rooster. Otherwise the cardboard was empty.

“The title of this picture is ‘A Very Lonely Little Red Rooster,’ ” said Karlsson.

Eric looked at the little rooster. Karlsson’s thousand rooster pictures—did they, after all, only consist of this miserable little specimen of a rooster?

“ ‘Very Lonely Rooster,’ painted by the World’s Best Rooster Painter,” said Karlsson, in a voice trembling with emotion. “Oh, what a beautiful and sad picture! But I mustn’t start to cry, because then my temperature will go up.”

He threw himself back against the cushions and held his forehead. “You’re to be like a mother to me. Go ahead!” he said.

Eric did not quite know how to begin. “Have you got any medicine?” he asked hesitantly.

“Yes, but not any that I’d like to take,” replied Karlsson. “Have you got a penny?”

Eric took a penny out of his pants pocket.

“Give it to me first,” said Karlsson. Eric gave him the penny. Karlsson held it tightly in his hand and looked very cunning and pleased.

“I know what medicine I can take,” he said.

“Which?” asked Eric.

“Karlsson-on-the-Roof’s Cure-All Medicine. It’s half gumdrops and half chocolates, and you stir it all up together thoroughly with some cake crumbs. Do that, and I’ll have a dose right now,” said Karlsson. “It’s good for a temperature.”

“I don’t think so,” said Eric.

“What do you bet?” said Karlsson. “I bet you a bar of chocolate that I’m right.”

Eric thought that perhaps this was what Mommy had meant when she said that you could decide who was right by a sensible discussion.

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