They soon caught him and pushed him against the fence, and all five began to punch and hit him. He cried and held his arms in front of his face to protect himself.
"Give it to him! Give it to him!" cried the oldest and strongest of the boys, "so that hell never dare to show himself on this street again."
"Oh," said Annika, "it's Willie they're hurting. Oh, how can they be so mean?"
"It's that awful Bengt. He's always in a fight," said Tommy. "And five against one—what cowards!"
Pippi went up to the boys and tapped Bengt on the back with her forefinger. "Hello, there," she said. "What's the idea? Are you trying to make hash out of little Willie with all five of you jumping on him at once?"
Bengt turned around and saw a little girl he had never seen before: a wild-looking little stranger who dared to touch him. For a while he stood and gaped at her in astonishment; then a broad grin spread over his face. "Boys," he said, "boys, let Willie alone and take a look at this girl. What a babe!"
He slapped his knees and laughed, and in an instant they had all flocked around Pippi, all except Willie, who wiped away his tears and walked cautiously over to stand beside Tommy.
"Have you ever seen hair like hers? Red as fire! And such shoes," Bengt continued. "Can't I borrow one? I'd like to go out rowing and I haven't any boat." He took hold of one of Pippi's braids but dropped it instantly and cried, "Ouch, I burned myself."
Then all five boys joined hands around Pippi, jumping up and down and screaming, "Redhead! Redhead!"
Pippi stood in the middle of the ring and smiled in the friendliest way. Bengt had hoped she would get mad and begin to cry. At least she ought to have looked scared. When nothing happened he gave her a push.
"I don't think you have a very nice way with ladies," said Pippi. And she lifted him in her strong arms—high in the air—and carried him to a birch tree and hung him over a branch. Then she took the next boy and hung him over another branch. The next one she set on a gatepost outside a cottage, and the next she threw right over a fence so that he landed in a flower bed.