The Inn of the Red Lobster
Cat and Fox and Marionette walked and walked and walked. At last, toward evening, dead tired, they came to the Inn of the Red Lobster.
"Let us stop here a while," said the Fox, "to eat a bite and rest for a few hours. At midnight we'll start out again, for at dawn tomorrow we must be at the Field of Wonders."
They went into the Inn and all three sat down at the same table. However, not one of them was very hungry.
The poor Cat felt very weak, and he was able to eat only thirty-five mullets with tomato sauce and four portions of tripe with cheese. Moreover, as he was so in need of strength, he had to have four more helpings of butter and cheese.
The Fox, after a great deal of coaxing, tried his best to eat a little. The doctor had put him on a diet, and he had to be satisfied with a small hare dressed with a dozen young and tender spring chickens. After the hare, he ordered some partridges, a few pheasants, a couple of rabbits, and a dozen frogs and lizards. That was all. He felt ill, he said, and could not eat another bite.
Pinocchio ate least of all. He asked for a bite of bread and a few nuts and then hardly touched them. The poor fellow, with his mind on the Field of Wonders, was suffering from a gold-piece indigestion.
Supper over, the Fox said to the Innkeeper:
"Give us two good rooms, one for Mr. Pinocchio and the other for me and my friend. Before starting out, we'll take a little nap. Remember to call us at midnight sharp, for we must continue on our journey."
"Yes, sir," answered the Innkeeper, winking in a knowing way at the Fox and the Cat, as if to say, "I understand."
As soon as Pinocchio was in bed, he fell fast asleep and began to dream. He dreamed he was in the middle of a field. The field was full of vines heavy with grapes. The grapes were no other than gold coins which tinkled merrily as they swayed in the wind. They seemed to say, "Let him who wants us take us!"
Just as Pinocchio stretched out his hand to take a handful of them, he was awakened by three loud knocks at the door. It was the Innkeeper who had come to tell him that midnight had struck.
"Are my friends ready?" the Marionette asked him.
"Indeed, yes! They went two hours ago."
"Why in such a hurry?"
"Unfortunately the Cat received a telegram which said that his first-born was suffering from chilblains and was on the point of death. He could not even wait to say good-by to you."
"Did they pay for the supper?"
"How could they do such a thing? Being people of great refinement, they did not want to offend you so deeply as not to allow you the honor of paying the bill."
"Too bad! That offense would have been more than pleasing to me," said Pinocchio, scratching his head.
"Where did my good friends say they would wait for me?" he added.
"At the Field of Wonders, at sunrise tomorrow morning."
Pinocchio paid a gold piece for the three suppers and started on his way toward the field that was to make him a rich man.
He walked on, not knowing where he was going, for it was dark, so dark that not a thing was visible. Round about him, not a leaf stirred. A few bats skimmed his nose now and again and scared him half to death. Once or twice he shouted, "Who goes there?" and the far-away hills echoed back to him, "Who goes there? Who goes there? Who goes. . . ?"
As he walked, Pinocchio noticed a tiny insect glimmering on the trunk of a tree, a small being that glowed with a pale, soft light.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am the ghost of the Talking Cricket," answered the little being in a faint voice that sounded as if it came from a far-away world.
"What do you want?" asked the Marionette.
"I want to give you a few words of good advice. Return home and give the four gold pieces you have left to your poor old father who is weeping because he has not seen you for many a day."
"Tomorrow my father will be a rich man, for these four gold pieces will become two thousand."
"Don't listen to those who promise you wealth overnight, my boy. As a rule they are either fools or swindlers! Listen to me and go home."
"But I want to go on!"
"The hour is late!"
"I want to go on."
"The night is very dark."
"I want to go on."
"The road is dangerous."
"I want to go on."
"Remember that boys who insist on having their own way, sooner or later come to grief."
"The same nonsense. Good-by, Cricket."
"Good night, Pinocchio, and may Heaven preserve you from the Assassins."
There was silence for a minute and the light of the Talking Cricket disappeared suddenly, just as if someone had snuffed it out. Once again the road was plunged in darkness.Next