Pinocchio returns to the Fairy's house and she promises him that, on the morrow, he will cease to be a Marionette and become a boy. A wonderful party of coffee-and-milk to celebrate the great event
Mindful of what the Fisherman had said, Pinocchio knew that all hope of being saved had gone. He closed his eyes and waited for the final moment.
Suddenly, a large Dog, attracted by the odor of the boiling oil, came running into the cave.
"Get out!" cried the Fisherman threateningly and still holding onto the Marionette, who was all covered with flour.
But the poor Dog was very hungry, and whining and wagging his tail, he tried to say:
"Give me a bite of the fish and I'll go in peace."
"Get out, I say!" repeated the Fisherman.
And he drew back his foot to give the Dog a kick.
Then the Dog, who, being really hungry, would take no refusal, turned in a rage toward the Fisherman and bared his terrible fangs. And at that moment, a pitiful little voice was heard saying: "Save me, Alidoro; if you don't, I fry!"
The Dog immediately recognized Pinocchio's voice. Great was his surprise to find that the voice came from the little flour-covered bundle that the Fisherman held in his hand.
Then what did he do? With one great leap, he grasped that bundle in his mouth and, holding it lightly between his teeth, ran through the door and disappeared like a flash!
The Fisherman, angry at seeing his meal snatched from under his nose, ran after the Dog, but a bad fit of coughing made him stop and turn back.
Meanwhile, Alidoro, as soon as he had found the road which led to the village, stopped and dropped Pinocchio softly to the ground.
"How much I do thank you!" said the Marionette.
"It is not necessary," answered the Dog. "You saved me once, and what is given is always returned. We are in this world to help one another."
"But how did you get in that cave?"
"I was lying here on the sand more dead than alive, when an appetizing odor of fried fish came to me. That odor tickled my hunger and I followed it. Oh, if I had come a moment later!"
"Don't speak about it," wailed Pinocchio, still trembling with fright. "Don't say a word. If you had come a moment later, I would be fried, eaten, and digested by this time. Brrrrrr! I shiver at the mere thought of it."
Alidoro laughingly held out his paw to the Marionette, who shook it heartily, feeling that now he and the Dog were good friends. Then they bid each other good-by and the Dog went home.
Pinocchio, left alone, walked toward a little hut near by, where an old man sat at the door sunning himself, and asked:
"Tell me, good man, have you heard anything of a poor boy with a wounded head, whose name was Eugene?"
"The boy was brought to this hut and now--"
"Now he is dead?" Pinocchio interrupted sorrowfully.
"No, he is now alive and he has already returned home."
"Really? Really?" cried the Marionette, jumping around with joy. "Then the wound was not serious?"
"But it might have been--and even mortal," answered the old man, "for a heavy book was thrown at his head."
"And who threw it?"
"A schoolmate of his, a certain Pinocchio."
"And who is this Pinocchio?" asked the Marionette, feigning ignorance.
"They say he is a mischief-maker, a tramp, a street urchin--"
"Calumnies! All calumnies!"
"Do you know this Pinocchio?"
"By sight!" answered the Marionette.
"And what do you think of him?" asked the old man.
"I think he's a very good boy, fond of study, obedient, kind to his Father, and to his whole family--"
As he was telling all these enormous lies about himself, Pinocchio touched his nose and found it twice as long as it should be. Scared out of his wits, he cried out:
"Don't listen to me, good man! All the wonderful things I have said are not true at all. I know Pinocchio well and he is indeed a very wicked fellow, lazy and disobedient, who instead of going to school, runs away with his playmates to have a good time."
At this speech, his nose returned to its natural size.
"Why are you so pale?" the old man asked suddenly.
"Let me tell you. Without knowing it, I rubbed myself against a newly painted wall," he lied, ashamed to say that he had been made ready for the frying pan.
"What have you done with your coat and your hat and your breeches?"
"I met thieves and they robbed me. Tell me, my good man, have you not, perhaps, a little suit to give me, so that I may go home?"
"My boy, as for clothes, I have only a bag in which I keep hops. If you want it, take it. There it is."
Pinocchio did not wait for him to repeat his words. He took the bag, which happened to be empty, and after cutting a big hole at the top and two at the sides, he slipped into it as if it were a shirt. Lightly clad as he was, he started out toward the village.
Along the way he felt very uneasy. In fact he was so unhappy that he went along taking two steps forward and one back, and as he went he said to himself:
"How shall I ever face my good little Fairy? What will she say when she sees me? Will she forgive this last trick of mine? I am sure she won't. Oh, no, she won't. And I deserve it, as usual! For I am a rascal, fine on promises which I never keep!"
He came to the village late at night. It was so dark he could see nothing and it was raining pitchforks.
Pinocchio went straight to the Fairy's house, firmly resolved to knock at the door.
When he found himself there, he lost courage and ran back a few steps. A second time he came to the door and again he ran back. A third time he repeated his performance. The fourth time, before he had time to lose his courage, he grasped the knocker and made a faint sound with it.
He waited and waited and waited. Finally, after a full half hour, a top-floor window (the house had four stories) opened and Pinocchio saw a large Snail look out. A tiny light glowed on top of her head. "Who knocks at this late hour?" she called.
"Is the Fairy home?" asked the Marionette.
"The Fairy is asleep and does not wish to be disturbed. Who are you?"
"It is I."
"Who is Pinocchio?"
"The Marionette; the one who lives in the Fairy's house."
"Oh, I understand," said the Snail. "Wait for me there. I'll come down to open the door for you."
"Hurry, I beg of you, for I am dying of cold."
"My boy, I am a snail and snails are never in a hurry."
An hour passed, two hours; and the door was still closed. Pinocchio, who was trembling with fear and shivering from the cold rain on his back, knocked a second time, this time louder than before.
At that second knock, a window on the third floor opened and the same Snail looked out.
"Dear little Snail," cried Pinocchio from the street. "I have been waiting two hours for you! And two hours on a dreadful night like this are as long as two years. Hurry, please!"
"My boy," answered the Snail in a calm, peaceful voice, "my dear boy, I am a snail and snails are never in a hurry." And the window closed.
A few minutes later midnight struck; then one o'clock --two o'clock. And the door still remained closed!
Then Pinocchio, losing all patience, grabbed the knocker with both hands, fully determined to awaken the whole house and street with it. As soon as he touched the knocker, however, it became an eel and wiggled away into the darkness.
"Really?" cried Pinocchio, blind with rage. "If the knocker is gone, I can still use my feet."
He stepped back and gave the door a most solemn kick. He kicked so hard that his foot went straight through the door and his leg followed almost to the knee. No matter how he pulled and tugged, he could not pull it out. There he stayed as if nailed to the door.
Poor Pinocchio! The rest of the night he had to spend with one foot through the door and the other one in the air.
As dawn was breaking, the door finally opened. That brave little animal, the Snail, had taken exactly nine hours to go from the fourth floor to the street. How she must have raced!
"What are you doing with your foot through the door?" she asked the Marionette, laughing.
"It was a misfortune. Won't you try, pretty little Snail, to free me from this terrible torture?"
"My boy, we need a carpenter here and I have never been one."
"Ask the Fairy to help me!"
"The Fairy is asleep and does not want to be disturbed."
"But what do you want me to do, nailed to the door like this?"
"Enjoy yourself counting the ants which are passing by."
"Bring me something to eat, at least, for I am faint with hunger."
In fact, after three hours and a half, Pinocchio saw her return with a silver tray on her head. On the tray there was bread, roast chicken, fruit.
"Here is the breakfast the Fairy sends to you," said the Snail.
At the sight of all these good things, the Marionette felt much better.
What was his disgust, however, when on tasting the food, he found the bread to be made of chalk, the chicken of cardboard, and the brilliant fruit of colored alabaster!
He wanted to cry, he wanted to give himself up to despair, he wanted to throw away the tray and all that was on it. Instead, either from pain or weakness, he fell to the floor in a dead faint.
When he regained his senses, he found himself stretched out on a sofa and the Fairy was seated near him.
"This time also I forgive you," said the Fairy to him. "But be careful not to get into mischief again."
Pinocchio promised to study and to behave himself. And he kept his word for the remainder of the year. At the end of it, he passed first in all his examinations, and his report was so good that the Fairy said to him happily:
"Tomorrow your wish will come true."
"And what is it?"
"Tomorrow you will cease to be a Marionette and will become a real boy."
Pinocchio was beside himself with joy. All his friends and schoolmates must be invited to celebrate the great event! The Fairy promised to prepare two hundred cups of coffee-and-milk and four hundred slices of toast buttered on both sides.
The day promised to be a very gay and happy one, but--
Unluckily, in a Marionette's life there's always a BUT which is apt to spoil everything.Next