Karlsson on the Roof
The fireman was quite close now. “Stay where you are,” he shouted to Eric. “Don’t move an inch! I’m coming for you.”
It was kind of him, thought Eric, but how unnecessary! Eric, who had wandered round the roofs all the afternoon, was perfectly able to walk another two steps.
“Did my mother send you?” he asked when, in the arms of the fireman, he was coming down the ladder.
“What do you think?” said the fireman. “But look here … it seemed to me for a moment that there were two little boys up there on the roof …”
Eric remembered what Karlsson had said and he answered solemnly, “No, there wasn’t any boy except me.”
Mommy certainly was worried. She and Daddy, Betty, and Bobby, and a crowd of other people were down below in the street to receive Eric. Mommy flung her arms around him and squeezed him, and laughed and wept alternately. And Daddy carried him up to the flat, holding him tight all the time. Bobby said, “You sure can frighten the life out of us, Eric!”
Betty, too, was weeping, and said, “You must never do a thing like that again, remember!”
When Eric was lying in bed a little later, they all gathered around him, exactly as if it had been his birthday. But Daddy spoke very seriously, saying, “Didn’t you realize that we’d be worried? Didn’t you realize that Mommy would cry and be upset?”
Eric fidgeted in his bed.
“Not as worried as that,” he muttered.
Mommy hugged him very hard and said, “Supposing you’d fallen down! Supposing we’d lost you!”
“Would you have been sad?” said Eric hopefully.
“Why, what do you think?” said Mommy. “We wouldn’t be without you for anything in the world; surely you know that?”
“Not for a hundred thousand million dollars even?”
“No, not for a hundred thousand million dollars.”
“Am I worth as much as that?” asked Eric in astonishment.
“You are,” said Mommy, giving him another hug.
Eric thought: A hundred thousand million dollars—what a terrible lot of money! Was it possible that he could be worth so much? Why, you could get a puppy, a really good puppy, for just ten or twelve dollars.