Karlsson on the Roof
“It’s queer how different things can be— I’m called Karlsson,” said Karlsson. “Only Karlsson, nothing else. Hi-ho, Eric!”
“Hi-ho, Karlsson,” said Eric.
“How old are you?” asked Karlsson.
“Seven,” said Eric.
“Good! Stay at seven,” said Karlsson. Quickly he swung one of his fat little legs over Eric’s window ledge and stepped into the room.
“And how old are you?” asked Eric, because he thought Karlsson had a childish appearance for a man.
“I?” said Karlsson. “I’m a Man in his Prime, that’s all I can say.”
Eric did not quite know what this meant, to be a Man in his Prime. He wondered if he himself was perhaps also a Man in his Prime without knowing it, so he asked cautiously, “Which years are one’s prime?”
“All of them,” said Karlsson in a satisfied voice. “At least as far as I’m concerned. I am handsome, remarkably wise, and just plump enough—in fact a Man in his Prime,” he said.
Then he took down Eric’s steam engine from the bookshelf.
“Shall we start it?” he suggested.
“Daddy won’t let me,” said Eric. “Either Daddy or Bobby must be here when I want to work it.”
“Daddy or Bobby or Karlsson-on-the-Roof,” said Karlsson. “The World’s Best Steam Engineer, that’s Karlsson-on-the-Roof. Tell that to your Daddy for me.”
He seized the bottle of alcohol which was standing beside the steam engine, filled the little alcohol lamp, and put a match to it. In spite of being the World’s Best Steam Engineer, he managed to spill a little lake of alcohol on the bookshelf, and lively blue flames danced around the steam engine when the lake caught fire. Eric cried out and rushed forward.
“Calm, be calm!” said Karlsson, and he put up a chubby hand to stop him.
But Eric could not be calm when he saw the fire. He caught hold of an old rag and choked the flames. Where they had danced, there were now two big ugly stains on the varnish.
“Oh, look at the bookshelf!” he said with concern. “What will Mommy say?”
“It’s a small matter,” said Karlsson-on-the-Roof. “Two tiny spots on a bookshelf—a small matter; you tell your Mommy.