And off they went, Mr. Nilsson on Pippi and Pippi on the horse.
It was quite cold and the roads were frozen, so there was a good crunchy sound as they rode along. Mr. Nilsson sat on Pippi's shoulder and tried to catch hold of some of the branches of the trees as they went by, but Pippi rode so fast that it was no use. Instead, the branches kept boxing him in the ears, and he had a hard time keeping his straw hat on his head.
Pippi rode through the little town, and people pressed anxiously up against the walls when she came storming by.
The town had a market square, of course. There were several charming old one-story buildings and a little yellow-painted town hall. And there was also an ugly wretch of a building, newly built and three stories high. It was called "The Skyscraper" because it was taller than any of the other houses in town.
On a Sunday afternoon the little town was always quiet and peaceful, but suddenly the quiet was broken by loud cries. "The Skyscraper's burning! Fire! Fire!"
People came running excitedly from all directions. The fire engine came clanging down the street, and the little children who usually thought fire engines were such fun now cried from fright because they were sure their own houses would catch fire too. The police had to hold back the crowds of people gathering in the square so that the fire engine could get through. The flames came leaping out of the windows of the Skyscraper, and smoke and sparks enveloped the firemen who were courageously trying to put out the fire. The fire had started on the first floor but was quickly spreading to the upper stories.
Suddenly the crowd saw a sight that made them gasp with horror. At the top of the house was a gable, and in the gable window, which a little child's hand had just opened, stood two little boys calling for help. "We can't get out because somebody has built a fire on the stairs," cried the older boy.
He was five and his brother a year younger. Their mother had gone out on an errand, and there they stood, all alone.