"That's just what his wife said to him, 'A Chinese baby can't be called Peter.' But Hai Shang was dreadfully stubborn, and he said that the baby should be called Peter or Nothing. And then he sat down in a corner and pulled his ears over his head and howled. And his poor wife had to give in, of course, and the kid was called Peter."
"Really?" said Annika.
"It was the hatefulest kid in all Shanghai," continued Pippi. "Fussy about his food, so that his mother was most unhappy. You know, of course, that they eat swallows' nests in China? And there sat his mother, with a whole plate full of swallows' nests, trying to feed him. 'Now, little Peter,' she said, 'come, we'll eat a swallow's nest for Daddy.' But Peter just shut his mouth tight and shook his head. At last Hai Shang was so angry that he said that no new food should be prepared for Peter until he had eaten a swallow's nest for Daddy. And when Hai Shang said something, that was that. The same swallow's nest rode in and out of the kitchen from May until October. On the fourteenth of July his mother begged to be allowed to give Peter a couple of meatballs, but Hai Shang said no."
"Nonsense!" said the girl in the road.
"Yes, that's just what Hai Shang said," continued Pippi. " 'Nonsense,' he said, 'it's perfectly plain that the child can eat the swallow's nest if he'll only stop being so stubborn.' But Peter kept his mouth shut tight from May to October."
"But how could he live?" asked Tommy, astonished.
"He couldn't live," said Pippi. "He died. Of Plain Common Ordinary Pigheadedness. The eighteenth of October. And was buried the nineteenth. And on the twentieth a swallow flew in through the window and laid an egg in the nest, which was standing on the table. So it came in handy after all. No harm done," said Pippi happily. Then she looked thoughtfully at the bewildered girl, who still stood in the road.
"Why do you look so funny?" asked Pippi. "What's the matter? You don't really think that I'm sitting here telling lies, do you?