When she reached Tommy's and Annika's gate she stopped.
The children looked at each other in silence. At last Tommy spoke. "Why did you walk backward?"
"Why did I walk backward?" said Pippi. "Isn't this a free country? Can't a person walk any way she wants to? For that matter, let me tell you that in Egypt everybody walks that way, and nobody thinks it's the least bit strange."
"How do you know?" asked Tommy. "You've never been in Egypt, have you?"
"I've never been in Egypt? Indeed I have. That's one thing you can be sure of. I have been all over the world and seen many things stranger than people walking backward. I wonder what you would have said if I had come along walking on my hands the way they do in Farthest India."
"Now you must be lying," said Tommy.
Pippi thought a moment. "You're right," she said sadly, "I am lying."
"It's wicked to lie," said Annika, who had at last gathered up enough courage to speak.
"Yes, it's very wicked to lie," said Pippi even more sadly. "But I forget it now and then. And how can you expect a little child whose mother is an angel and whose father is king of a cannibal island and who herself has sailed on the ocean all her life—how can you expect her to tell the truth always? And for that matter," she continued, her whole freckled face lighting up, "let me tell you that in the Congo there is not a single person who tells the truth. They lie all day long. Begin at seven in the morning and keep on until sundown. So if I should happen to lie now and then, you must try to excuse me and to remember that it is only because I stayed in the Congo a little too long. We can be friends anyway, can't we?"
"Oh, sure," said Tommy and realized suddenly that this was not going to be one of those dull days.
"By the way, why couldn't you come and have breakfast with me?" asked Pippi.
"Why not?" said Tommy. "Come on, let's go."
"Oh, yes, let's," said Annika.
"But first I must introduce you to Mr. Nilsson," said Pippi, and the little monkey took off his cap and bowed politely.