From the Author's Introduction.
ONCE upon a time there was an author who lived happily with his wife and their three children. He was so happy, that he did not know it himself, and all the time he was writing books in great numbers about human unhappiness. It was not in love, however, that his chief happiness lay, or in the joy of fatherhood, which he took with naive complacency, as if it were impossible for parents to get anything but joy out of their children; nor did it lie in the fact that, even after many years of marriage, the rare bird called unbroken youth still remained a permanent guest in his home. His greatest happiness consisted in never having met or known an evil which he did not believe himself strong enough and hale enough to ward off. Adversities had shown their threatening visages from time to time, but only to vanish like passing clouds beyond the horizon, leaving his sky more clear and pure than ever. So he believed at least, and this belief was the reality in which he lived. Against poverty he fought a perennial battle, but so far he had always managed to keep it at bay. There was only one enemy against whom he had never measured his strength, and the name of that enemy was Death. Not the least part of the man's happiness was, perhaps, that for a long time he never seriously feared that death might overtake himself or those nearest to him.
Moved by this sense of life's richness, our author once wrote a book full of summer sunshine, dealing with his two big boys, their games and pleasures, their adventures and mishaps. The writing of it became a game to him, and harking back to that time, I can hardly grasp that the man of whom I am thinking was myself.
When the book was printed and bound, and when everything was ready for the story to pass out into the wide, wide world, the author took home a few copies of the eagerly expected work. He wrote the name of Olof in one copy, and that of Svante in another, and handed them solemnly to the two sons thus immortalized.
Olof took his book, and so did Svante. This is said to have been the first occasion when Olof, who has a practical nature with no literary tendencies, sat down to read a book of his own free will. I almost believe that he read three whole chapters. Svante, on the other hand, read the whole book through in a single sitting. Then he picked out certain chapters which he liked particularly and read them aloud to anyone who cared to listen. In a word, the entire house was full of rejoicing.
But another little boy was running around the rooms at that time. He was Olof's and Svante's smaller brother; he had long, curly, flaxen hair, and the biggest blue eyes that any little boy ever possessed. His name was Sven, and he was only two years old. He was still a little behind in speaking, but not in understanding.
When Svante read aloud to him, mamma used to ask Sven, "Do you know whom the story tells about?" And when Sven did not know what to answer, mamma would continue, "About your big brothers. Don't you understand that, Nenne?"
Sven was generally called Nenne, you see, and the name was his own invention because he could not pronounce the letters....show more