This first operation ended, Pinocchio the First was made to sit cross-legged to have his hair combed. His attendants covered his hair with a purple cream and then sprinkled over it a golden powder.
Pinocchio's joy upon seeing that glittering substance knew no bounds, but he overheard one of the servants say in a melancholy undertone: "What a pity his majesty has not a black complexion such as we have! What a pity! What a pity!"
The marionette was moved to the bottom of his heart, and he was about to say, "You may be sure, my dear subjects, I shall do the best I can to become black," when he heard footsteps approach.
34. An Old Story
THE grand chamberlain was announced.
This grave person had come to inquire about his majesty's health, and at the same time to notify him that the council had fixed the day for the coronation.
Pinocchio the First listened and approved. The grand chamberlain, very much pleased with his reception, made a deep bow, and was apparently about to retire, when, as if he had forgotten something important, he approached the emperor again and said with great respect, "Your majesty, in the name of the council I must announce to you that to-morrow the lessons begin."
"What lessons?" said the marionette, feeling a chill creep down his back.
"Ah! I will explain," the chamberlain replied meekly. "The things that your majesty must do to straighten out the affairs of state are very simple. Only two words are needed, 'Yes' and 'No!' But to say 'Yes' or 'No' at the proper time requires at least one month of instruction. To make sure that you learn, there will be, twice each day, a punishment of ten lashes of the whip, to be given your majesty on whatever part of the body you may desire. However, in view of the present wisdom of your majesty, the council has agreed that the lessons and the lashings may be delayed till the end of the month, if your majesty so decides."
Pinocchio had listened gloomily until he heard the last words, and then he came near laughing outright. He kept his face very serious, however, and bowed his head as if in deep thought. After a long silence he said, "I have decided to leave the lessons till the end of the month."
The grand chamberlain made a profound bow and went out.
The servants went away also, and Pinocchio, finding himself alone, jumped about in great glee.
"Compulsory fiddlesticks! What blockheads they were to think that I was going to start to-day! At the end of the month, perhaps! There are still thirty days, and in thirty days what may not happen!" And he looked about quite satisfied with himself. He was sure that everything would go well during his stay in Africa.
"If they sprinkled my hair with gold, they will fill my pockets with money," he thought. And then to his surprise he found that the suit they had put on him had no pockets.
"I shall make pockets as soon as I have time," he said, and striking the pan, ordered the servants to bring in his breakfast.
35. His Duties As Emperor
PINOCCHIO was served with a piece of elephant's nose, cooked in a highly seasoned sauce. How he twisted his face and ground his teeth! Evidently the meal was not to his liking. He would have preferred some fish, some grapes, and a dozen figs, but he was ashamed to ask for these dainties. He gulped down the food as best he could, and drank from a gourd a great deal of water; then he felt more comfortable.
His ministers had been waiting some time, and Pinocchio did not think it wise to prolong his first meal. With a truly stately stride he entered the audience chamber.
Pinocchio the First, Emperor and King of all Africa, felt it to be his first duty to express his gratitude for the magnificent reception that had been given to him. The ministers made an equally polite response.
Persons of rank now came to pay homage to the new king. Among them were great chiefs of tribes, princes, and kings of the neighboring states. Pinocchio received them all with much pomp. This sort of thing was at first very pleasing to him. But day after day the visitors and the feasts continued. As Pinocchio was the host, he had to eat with all these newcomers. He became very stout, and his jaws ached from so much chewing. Eating was becoming a burden to him. He even longed for the days when he had gone hungry. However, one must take things as they come and be ready to suffer for the good of one's country.
One day there came to the court three kings, the most powerful within a range of a thousand miles. The first was clad in a white skirt, and a military coat which he had bought from an English captain. He came with his head uncovered and a high hat in his hand. The second wore an old helmet on the back of his head. The third carried a clumsy sword in one hand and in the other a broken umbrella.
They bowed to the ground very respectfully, and then each in turn slapped Pinocchio in the face.
The marionette, who did not expect this sort of greeting, was about to express his anger, when the master of ceremonies whispered in his ear that such a greeting was given only to great people.
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do," thought Pinocchio, and he smiled at the visitors.
Dinner was then announced. Pinocchio felt sick at the thought of eating again. It was the fifth time that day, and the sun was still high in the sky, but of course it was not proper to dismiss three kings without having feasted them.
They went out to the dining room, which was under a tree. Beneath the branches were more than a thousand people. They all sat on the ground, and were waited upon by tall young men, who carried around large plates of meat.The three kings gave themselves up to the joys of eating. They took their food in their hands and swallowed it without even stopping to chew it. Each man ate enough to satisfy a score of ordinary people, for African kings are great eaters. The poor marionette tried to eat as much as the others did. He felt that his reputation depended upon it. How he suffered!
At sunset, when all had satisfied their hunger, there was placed before them a strange-looking affair with a long tube fastened to it. A disagreeable smoke came out of it.
"What new thing is this?" thought the marionette, but he did not say a word, for by this time he had learned that an emperor must appear to know everything.
The matter, however, was quickly made clear. The outfit was a huge pipe, with a long mouthpiece. The master of ceremonies presented the mouthpiece to the emperor and asked him to have the kindness to smoke.
"What blockheads!" the marionette muttered to himself. "I never smoke anything but the finest cigars!"
Still, he considered it wise to make no objections. He puffed twice on the pipe stem, and then passed it to the king that sat at his right hand.
The king drew a mouthful and then passed the pipe to his next neighbor. Thus the pipe moved along in regular order until it came back to Pinocchio. Poor Pinocchio! he was already feeling a little queer after his first attempt, and did not enjoy the idea of smoking again; but he knew that he must live up to the reputation of a great emperor. Accordingly he bravely took the pipe and puffed half a dozen times.
Alas! It would have been better for him had he not tried it again! He was wretchedly sick. His head swam dizzily, and the sweat stood out on his forehead. He tried to hide his feelings by talking, but what he said was sheer nonsense.
"When I was king in my own country, the Talking Cricket told me - because my feet burned - that the alphabet had been swallowed by the cat - that was hung to a tree by a dog - that was owned by the director of the circus."
He gazed around him, frightened at his own words, but he saw the flushed faces of the people and heard them whisper: "The sea talks - " "The sun is filled with stars - " "The tiger laughs - " "The summer is red - " and similar phrases equally sensible.
"What is the matter with everybody?" thought the marionette, as he looked about, and saw one of the kings asleep on the ground beside him. Other forms were stretched out around them. Even as he looked, Pinocchio the First, Emperor and King of all Africa, fell over on his wooden nose, and he too was soon fast asleep.
36. Pinocchio Makes His First Address
THE next day was a splendid one. The sky was a clear blue, the earth was green and fresh. Thousands upon thousands shouted with joy. Pinocchio was to be crowned king and emperor.
He had carefully prepared the royal address, and came proudly forward mounted upon a large elephant, towering above his people. The trumpets sounded, the drums beat, the children rolled on the ground. At a signal from the master of ceremonies all was still. Even the birds ceased to sing. A troop of monkeys, leaping about in the trees, paused to listen. The emperor spoke as follows:
"Ministers of Africa, officers of the army, chiefs and underchiefs, servants and slaves, men, women, and children, all, beloved subjects, listen to the voice of your emperor!" - and Pinocchio looked around at the multitude.
"We, Pinocchio the First, speak to you, and bring to you the word of peace and of love. A new day is about to open to you. Rejoice, O people! We have concluded to bring happiness to every heart and riches to every home. We shall not reveal all the plans which, in time, we hope to see carried out. We shall begin very modestly. Our first gift to you, O people, is Time. Time is very valuable. We have a great deal of it in store. Our kingdom is rich in Time; therefore we have decreed to give each of you as much Time as you want. How can we be more generous!
"Behold the bright sun in the clear blue sky! There is not its equal anywhere else in the world. Kings are proud of it. We, your emperor and ruler, have decreed that every one of you, our faithful subjects, may enjoy the sunlight free of any charge, without tax or duty. Can we be more unselfish?
"You hear the song of the birds, the voices of the animals, the rustling of the leaves in the wind! These also we give you to enjoy at your leisure, and without expense.
"There is one thing, however, that needs our special notice, and this we shall now bring to your attention. Remember, we shall enforce with all our power this law we are about to propose."
Here Pinocchio placed his hand upon his breast and looked toward the sky.
"We will never introduce into our kingdom that shameful system which brings sorrow to many countries known to us. We speak of the horrible scheme called Compulsory Education! What a disgrace it is, beloved subjects, to see so many bright, intelligent children seated for hours and hours before books which ruin their eyesight! The eye is a precious jewel, and it is improved, not by books, but by looking here and there, above and below, everywhere and anywhere, as the butterflies and the birds do. Let us teach our children as nature teaches us. Let us burn our books and our schools. Do not drive our dear little ones to silly words and cruel numbers. It makes our heart bleed to see parents call their children from some pleasant game and shut them up in ugly schoolrooms."
At this point Pinocchio was so moved that he had to stop. He looked around at the many mothers, and saw them wipe the tears from their eyes. Proud of the impression his words had made on these kind hearts, he went on in a tone so pathetic that it touched even the elephant which carried him."These are gentle tears, dear subjects, and they show how noble are your hearts. You love your children. We ourselves will never see them suffer. No, a thousand times no! We are not so cruel as to tear you away from your dear ones. They may continue to roll upon the grass, free as the birds that fly. They are free to hunt for crickets, to steal birds' nests, to bite and to kick each other, to run and play in the fields and woods with the monkeys.
"We consider these exercises very necessary, and whenever the grave affairs of the state will permit we will visit you and encourage these sports. You perceive that in this matter you owe much to your emperor, who was made to go to school, and who saw the evils of education. Alas! too many of his young companions were completely ruined so far as their eyes and brains were concerned.
"Officers and soldiers, ministers of the crown, beloved subjects, we, Pinocchio the First, Emperor and King, ask you to shout with all the breath in your lungs: 'Down with Compulsory Education! Down with the school!'"
A deafening roar, louder than thunder, arose from the people: "Down with Compulsory Education! Down with the school!"
This speech was followed by a review of the troops, which lasted till night.
Emperor Pinocchio, tired but satisfied, then returned in state to the royal palace.
37. The Emperor Becomes As Black As A Crow
IT was no easy matter to be an emperor. There was a great deal of work to be done, and work was always tiresome to Pinocchio. Each day he must get out of bed at a fixed hour, and allow himself to be washed and oiled. Then came breakfast, and after that the ministers with the affairs of state.
True, his work did not seem hard. He had only to say "Yes" or "No." But in the task of deciding whether it should be "Yes" or "No" lay the real difficulty.
Sometimes he would be left with only a few servants, among them some boys to entertain him or to drive away the flies with big feather dusters, which tickled his nose and made him sneeze. These were pleasant moments in his life, but he was often bored, and being a cunning rogue he thought out a plan by which once in a while he could be freed from care.
Among the boys at the court was one who resembled him in all things except in the color of his skin. What had Pinocchio planned?
One day, while strolling through the woods near the capital, he called the boy to him and taking his arm, said to him in a gentle voice, "Do you love your emperor?"
"Is it necessary to ask, your majesty?" replied the boy, moved to tears at such an honor.
"And should you like to do your emperor a favor?"
"Your majesty, to do you a service I would go at once, with only my feather duster to protect me, and pinch a boa constrictor's tongue!"
"Good!" replied Pinocchio. "You are a fine lad, and you will become a great man. But let us put aside boa constrictors for the time. I have often been sad because I am not like my subjects. I should like to color my skin so that it would be like a native's, dear Marameho, like yours. You know how pleased the ministers would be."
"Your majesty, it would be the brightest day of our lives!"
"Good boy!" exclaimed the marionette. "If you always answer so well, I promise you the place of keeper of the king's treasures."
The boy's eyes shone.
"Well, can it be done?" asked the marionette.
"Nothing more simple, your majesty," replied Marameho. "I know of a plant, the fruit of which will serve our purpose."
"When can we get this wonderful dye?"
"To-day, if your majesty will permit me to absent myself for a short time," replied Marameho with great respect.
"Go, go at once," ordered the marionette, greatly delighted. "But wait; there is something more. We are alone and may drop our titles. Your majesty, your highness, weary me to death. Call me plain Pinocchio, and I will call you my dear Marameho."
The poor boy was overcome with all this kindness, and planting a kiss upon the point of his emperor's nose, he vanished through the trees.
The next day a proclamation was made throughout the empire. His royal and imperial highness had become as black as the blackest of his subjects.The ministers were joyous, and they celebrated this happy event with a great feast. That day they did nothing but eat and dance.
As a rule the emperor, of course, could not take part in such amusements. It was his business to sit upon the throne while the ministers and the people danced and played before him. This time, however, the ancient law was broken. Pinocchio danced like a madman the entire night, while the faithful Marameho, clothed in the emperor's garments, sat upon the throne. No one even dreamed of the exchange.
38. The Hippopotamus Hunt
THE next day was set aside for a hunt in honor of the young emperor, Pinocchio the First. He would have been content to stay home, but this would have been taken as a grave insult to the people.
A herd of hippopotamuses had been discovered a few miles from the capital. His ministers agreed that the emperor must go. There was nothing else for him to do.
Besides, the hunt was for scientific purposes. As Pinocchio had made known his views on schools, he could do no less than encourage this expedition, which was the only educational training allowed in the country.
The hunters, in fact, were persons of high rank, who spent their time in searching for traces of wild animals. It seemed strange to Pinocchio that these learned hunters did not study how to protect their animals, instead of trying to kill them.
"I suppose it is the custom of the country," thought the marionette.
Two hours before sunrise the leaders in the hunt, armed with bows, arrows, and javelins, stood before the royal palace waiting for the emperor. He was to ride on the back of a bull, which the prime minister held by a rope.
They were not kept waiting long. Pinocchio the First came forth with a pleasant smile upon his lips. Inwardly, he was very angry, but little did his faithful subjects suspect how he felt.
"A fine time for a king to rise!" he thought. "Am I or am I not emperor? If I am emperor, I should sleep as long as I wish, eat what I please, and do anything I like. It seems to me that I am the slave of my people rather than their ruler. Wait, my dear subjects; I will soon prove to you what stuff I am made of."
The people waited. The ministers explained to the emperor that he was to ride on the bull.
"My dear subjects, have you lost your senses?" thought the marionette. "I certainly will not ride on a bull. How long have bulls been used as horses? This beast will hurl me into the first ditch we come to. A fine regard you have for your emperor! I almost begin to believe that you want to get rid of me and have another king."
However, there was no way of escape, and he decided to do as he was told. He leaped squarely upon the bull, and calmly sat there. The bull, fortunately, did not move.
"Good beast!" said Pinocchio, somewhat encouraged, as he gave the signal to depart.
The sun was already up when they reached the river where the hunt was to take place.
Hippopotamus hunting is a very dangerous sport, but it was one that the people dearly loved.
Scouts were sent on ahead while the hunters crawled like snakes through the high, thick grass. As they neared the river, they became very careful. With their eyes fixed, their ears wide open, their spears firmly grasped, they were ready to attack at any moment.
Pinocchio pretended that he was suffering with a pain in the left foot, and slowly dropped behind the others. He had never had any great liking for the hunt. He felt annoyed that he should always have to do things that he did not enjoy. He would have stayed where he was, but the prime minister came along in search of him.
Tired of the insolence of this man, the marionette thrust back his hat with a bold sweep of his hand, as if to say, "Now I shall show you who I am, and who I was." Pinocchio then hastened toward the river, reaching the bank at the very moment when the hunters had started a large hippopotamus out of the weeds.
The huge animal tried to get away and made for the river.
"Some one must jump into the water and kill it with the javelin," said the prime minister. Nobody stirred.
Suddenly a loud voice rang through the stillness:
"I will go."
And Pinocchio, amid shouts of admiration and terror from his subjects, dived into the river and swam toward the animal.
The hippopotamus scented the enemy and turned upon him, but the nimble marionette, swimming around the great creature, grasped it by its short, thick tail.
When the beast felt itself gently pulled in this manner it began to turn round and round like a dog chasing a troublesome fly.
This performance, which was both funny and terrible, lasted for fully five minutes. During all that time Pinocchio did nothing but laugh. He did not seem to realize what would happen to him if he were clutched by those terrible jaws.
At length the animal, blind with rage, plunged below the surface of the water, leaving the marionette and the others dumbfounded.
This adventure increased tenfold the admiration of the black hunters for their emperor, although it was not wholly satisfactory to the chief cook of the royal household, who had already planned a great dinner. But Pinocchio quickly consoled him, assuring him that when it came to eating the tongue and feet of a hippopotamus, the emperor would cheerfully forego the pleasure.
39. The Emperor Surprises His Subjects By His Wisdom
PINOCCHIO'S power grew greater and greater. The courage shown by him in the hand-to-hand fight with the hippopotamus had made a great impression on the ministers.
The grand council, for instance, had assembled the high court of justice, which was to try a large number of important cases. The very next morning the wise and brave Pinocchio was urged to pass judgment upon the cases to be presented that day.
Pinocchio thought of playing the usual trick upon his ministers by placing Marameho in his seat; but this was an important affair, and must be attended to in person.
"Dignitaries! chamberlains! ministers! royal judges! guards! To the court!"
The persons called came forward and knelt down to kiss the earth before his majesty; then, rising, they all moved on to the court of justice.
Beneath a canopy of ostrich feathers, held aloft by a stately African, walked Pinocchio the First, Emperor and King of all the African kings. He was wrapped in a large green and red cloak covered with precious stones, that is to say, with bits of broken glass of all colors, and shining pebbles collected with great labor from the rich mines of the country.
The court was to sit in the open air. This greatly pleased Pinocchio, for the day was very beautiful. When his majesty arrived all the great crowd of people knelt and buried their heads in their hands. They did not rise till the judges were comfortably seated on the bare ground.
At a signal from the emperor the first case was called. There appeared two men, each with his head completely covered by a large bag which had in it holes for eyes and mouth. The men bowed again and again to his highness and to the court, scraping their noses along the ground. At last they stood stiff and erect like posts.
The grand chamberlain made a sign to Pinocchio, and his majesty, turning to one of the men, asked, "What brings you before the emperor's court?"
The person addressed twisted his whole body and sprinkled sand over his head. Finally he said, "There was once - "
"A king!" thought Pinocchio, "Is he going to tell a story? I, for one, should be pleased. African stories must be amusing."
"There was once an old man - a kind old man - blacker than I am, who had many sons, and I was one of them. For this reason, the old man, being my father - "
"He was his son. He reasons well," thought the marionette, but he did not move an eyelash, pretending to be all attention.
"For this reason, the old man, my father, sent me to tend his flocks. One night I arrived at the brink of the river to water the flock. There I discovered that a sheep was missing. I was heartbroken over this, and, not wishing to return home without my little sheep, I searched everywhere, but in vain. The sheep could not be found. I sat down and began to weep. Behind me was a thick cane field. Upon a rock within the field was that man, with a sheep between his knees. I rushed to the spot and shouted out to him, 'Why have you stolen my sheep?' He appeared not to hear me. 'Why have you stolen my sheep?' It was like talking to a stone. Blinded by anger, I drew nearer. When he saw me approach he arose and ran away. I hastened to my sheep and raised it from the ground, and then I saw - it horrifies me to tell it - that what I held in my hand was only the sheep's coat. The robber had eaten the rest. My sheep! My poor little sheep! I shall never see it again!"
Pinocchio was greatly touched by this pitiful tale. He had just opened his mouth to pronounce a terrible sentence upon the thief, who was standing motionless as a statue, when the minister whispered to him to listen to the other side of the story. With an angry look Pinocchio ordered the accused man to speak.
He started as if he had been roused from deep thought, gazed around, and then said in a grave, slow voice, "The sun shines - "
"What kind of speech is he going to make?" thought Pinocchio. "Is it necessary for him to say that the sun shines?"
And as the rogue went on to speak of starry skies, blue waters, and things of that sort, the marionette lost his patience and shouted, "But did you or did you not eat the sheep?"
"Your majesty," replied the man, "certainly I ate the sheep! Ask, however, who, on the day before, ate three fingers from my left hand!"
"Your majesty, I was hungry - " groaned the shepherd. "I was very hungry."
Pinocchio shuddered. "What kind of people are these? What sort of place have I fallen into? Fortunately for me I am made of wood."
Meanwhile the two had lowered their heads, waiting for their sentence. Pinocchio was too much shocked to say a word.
The grand chamberlain came to his aid and whispered something in his ear.
"Speak!" replied the marionette, "I bid you speak, for whatever you do is well done."
The minister was pleased at the faith his majesty had in him. He turned his dark face toward the two offenders and said, "One sheep and three fingers! You shall both be hanged."
Pinocchio, half-dazed, watched the minister.
Case followed case, and at the end of each one Pinocchio said to the minister, "Act. I bid you act. What you do is always well done."
The minister knew so well how to act that on this one day there were sentences amounting to five hundred years of imprisonment, and two hundred years at hard labor, while a thousand prisoners were to be lashed, and one hundred were condemned to die.Justice had been done. The emperor Pinocchio was led back to the royal palace amid the shouts of the people. He was declared to be the mildest, the wisest, and the most just of all kings, past, present, and future.
40. Pinocchio Travels Through The Empire
IN order that his faithful subjects might behold their new sovereign, Pinocchio the First resolved to make a tour of the villages of his vast empire and see with his own eyes the needs of his people.
The arrangements were made by the ministers of state. Messages were sent to all the governors to make preparations for the event, to select committees to meet the emperor, to provide entertainment, in short, to have everything in readiness.
It was a big task. The emperor, however, did not trouble himself about it. He amused himself watching the crickets and the birds, laughing at the antics of some little monkeys, and playing with his boy pages.
Sometimes he spoke of his past. He told his pages about his travels, his struggles, his suffering. He told them how he had struggles with the waves of a stormy sea, and about the fish from whose stomach he had rescued his father Geppetto. He recalled his dear Fatina, that gentle and beautiful lady with the blue hair, and, placing his hand upon his breast, took an oath, as emperor and king, that we would have her come to Africa. That thought made him happy, and he went on to describe the feast they would have on her arrival. He had resolved to make her queen of one of his states.
Marameho shared the joy of his emperor, but a cloud of sadness came over his face when he heard him build these castles in the air, and make such plans for the future. The poor boy had already seen too many changes to believe that anything in the world would last long. He was aware that his emperor was in grave danger, but he did not dare to warn him.
However, events quickly ran their course. The preparations were completed, and on a bright, sunny day, Pinocchio the First, Emperor and King of all the African kings, took his place upon a litter made of branches, which was borne aloft by four robust men. Following these came all the ministers, and the day's march was begun.
Wherever they went, there was loud applause for the emperor. The mothers were pleased because their ruler had promised to stop compulsory instruction. They expressed their thanks in flattering words, some of which reached the emperor's ears.
"How fine is that wooden head!" said one. "It is easy to see that he is a king of great endurance! They say he can jump wonderfully - just like a marionette!"
Toward evening the tents were erected. In the largest of these Pinocchio gave a supper to all the ministers, a splendid supper which lasted till late that night. A blazing fire protected the court against the attacks of wild animals and the cold of the night.
The ministers retired about midnight. Pinocchio, left alone, began to walk up and down in his tent, with his hands behind him and his head lowered. He had seen at school a picture of the great Napoleon in the same attitude.
He thought of his stay in Africa, and of the strange things which had befallen him. He thought of the treasures he had not yet found. While pondering on all these things he approached the entrance of the tent, and in the faint light of the dying fire, he saw a group of men huddled together. Drawing nearer, he heard them talking.
"If things go well, as I hope they will, we shall gather many presents," the prime minister was saying. "It cannot be denied that he is attractive, and I am sure that all our people will vie with each other in making gifts. Therefore, I entreat you to be patient. When the visit is ended we will share what has been gathered."
After a long silence, interrupted only by the roar of a lion prowling about, the prime minister continued: "As for him, we will dispatch him in the quickest way. If he were not of wood," he added in a deep voice, "he would be good roasted, but - "
Then some one threw an armful of branches on the fire. The flames lit up the tent, but Pinocchio saw and heard no more, for he had vanished out of sight.
At dawn, notices were sent throughout the whole country that the emperor had disappeared, and that there was no trace of him to be found!The confusion was terrible. The people everywhere were aroused, charges were brought against the government. The matter became so serious that the ministers were forced to flee.
Among those who escaped was the prime minister. He went into the forests determined to find the emperor. Having strong legs and a keen nose, he was well fitted to track any kind of animal, including a marionette.
In fact, after many hours of hard work, he beheld the emperor scampering away from a herd of wild beasts. They evidently wanted to make a meal of him. The court gentleman knew that these animals would soon give up the chase, and was content to follow at a distance. After a while daylight drove the beasts away, and the poor, tired emperor threw himself flat upon the ground to regain his breath. Scarcely had he done so when a roaring more terrible than that of wild beasts caused him to spring to his feet in the vain hope of making his escape.
41. Pinocchio Is Placed In A Cage
ALAS! there was the prime minister. He had caught hold of the marionette and tied a rope around his neck.
It would be impossible to describe the wrath of the poor emperor. He wanted to say a few things and to do even more, but the cruel minister struck him with a whip.
This kind of argument convinced the emperor that it was best to remain quiet.
"That is how I like to see you," said the minister, pushing Pinocchio forward, and holding him by the rope as the farmers do their donkeys on returning from market.
Thus they walked a great distance, until they came to the top of a hill from which could be seen a large tract of country covered with huts. The minister turned toward Pinocchio and spoke as follows: "My dear emperor, we must decide upon some plan of action, if we do not wish to starve. You see to what a miserable state we are reduced. We have no money, nor have we any food; in short, if we do not earn something before night, we shall not only be compelled to sleep in the open, but we shall go to bed supperless. If you were not made of wood, things would not be so hopeless, because I could eat you up and you would last some time. But since this is impossible, I have resolved to carry you around the village and place you on exhibition before the public. You will make money, do you understand? Now be good enough to give me your aid. Help me to put together a cage from the bark of these trees. We shall make money, much money!" And the minister rubbed his hands gleefully.
The marionette did not share in his joy. In fact, he was on the point of showering bitter reproaches upon this unfaithful servant, who was now going to exhibit him in the public squares, but he decided to wait for a better opportunity. Accordingly, he began to strip the bark from the trees without making any objection.
When the cage was completed, the minister turned to the marionette and said: "Enter. From now on, there shall be no more talk of emperor. I am your master, and you are my faithful slave. Forward, march!"
The command had been given in a way which made its repetition unnecessary, and Pinocchio knew that he must obey.
42. Pinocchio Performs For The Public
WITH the cage on his head the ex-minister walked into the village, whistling as he went to attract the attention of the people.
"P-r-r-p, p-r-r-p, p-r-r-p!"
It was a holiday, and the people flocked around him. Everybody wanted to see, everybody wanted to admire the rare animal in the cage. Shouts of wonder burst forth on all sides.
It is easy to fancy how Pinocchio felt! He longed to be a cricket, or a mouse, so that he might hide in some hole. How he wished that he were a butterfly or a bird and could fly to his home!
He stood there, huddled up in one corner of the cage, trying to present as little of his body as possible to the eager eyes of the crowd. He prayed for aid with all his heart. It was useless. The cruel master saw that the square was filled with people, eager to look at the marionette. He opened the cage, and when Pinocchio stepped out he made him run around in circles like a monkey.
Then the minister addressed the people:
"Africans of Africa! What you see here is not, as you believe, an animal; at least, it is not a wild animal. It is a boy. He is like many other boys that are to be found in certain parts of the earth. How he happened to fall into my hands would be too long a story. When I tell you about his habits and his mode of living, you will be able to judge for yourselves how strange a creature he is. Just think, on arising in the morning, he wants to wash his face, neck, and hands, and with what? Water!"
At these words, a murmur of surprise arose from the spectators, and some of the people laughed outright.
"That is not all," he continued. "When he has washed himself, he passes through his hair an object, made of bone, that has long, pointed teeth. Do you understand his purpose?"
The mothers looked at one another, and some of them touched the woolly hair of their children, glad that their little ones did not have to undergo such hardships.
"Nor is that all. You must know that when he wishes to blow his nose, he takes from his pocket a piece of linen, called a handkerchief, and blows his nose upon that."
An outburst of laughter greeted these words and completely drowned the voice of the speaker.
"But there is more, my people! This individual possesses the ability to eat raw butter, yet his meat must be cooked. He takes porridge with a spoon and caries it to his mouth. He is even stupid enough to cut bread with a weapon called a knife."
The astonishment was great! When it had subsided a little there was a rush to the huts. The people came out carrying water, raw meat, and butter. One brought a chicken, which the minister immediately killed and cooked.
At the word of command, Pinocchio washed his hands, neck, and face. This the marionette did willingly, for he felt the need of it. Then the broiled chicken was given to him. Pinocchio, to the delight of all, cut off one of the legs with his knife, and having spread it with pieces of butter, proceeded to eat it with evident relish.
The women then wished to see him comb his hair. Pinocchio, who had no comb, passed his fingers through his tangled locks, and finally succeeded in parting them. Then he drew a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose. The children shouted with glee, and even the parents could not help laughing at the queer things the marionette did.
43. Pinocchio Breaks The Cage And Makes His Escape
FOR the next few days the poor Emperor and King of all African kings was compelled to exhibit himself, and to repeat his performances before thousands of eyes eager to see his strange accomplishments. He was compelled from morning till night to hear the insults of the boys and the laughter of the men. All this made him very miserable.
What annoyed him most was the warning he received not to refuse to eat whenever food was brought to him. "That is what the monkeys and the elephants do," said the marionette sorrowfully, recalling what he and his school companions had seen when they went to the circus.
It is unnecessary to say that he thought of his father, of his dear Fatina, and of his home. They were constantly in his mind. Slowly, slowly it dawned upon him that this way of living could no longer be endured, and finally he was convinced that if he did not soon see his little home, if he did not soon eat the hard, black crust given him by the loving hands of his father, if he did not soon drink the water from his own well, he should die of a broken heart.
"My home, my home!" he cried, the tears rolling down his cheeks. "Home, my home!" he repeated, no longer thinking of the gold and silver for which he had come to Africa.
"I want to see my father again." And then he stood erect in his cage. His head went through the top of it and the side fell apart. Away he leaped over the heads of the crowd, away like lightning! Out of the village, across the plains, beyond the hills! Compared with him, the swift south wind would have seemed no faster than a snail.
He ran and ran and ran. Nor did he make an end of running until he reached the wide waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
There he stopped. He looked back at Africa, the land of all his empty dreams; then flinging himself into the water, he said aloud, "I will return when I have a little more sense."
At that moment a familiar voice shouted to him: "Good Pinocchio! Hurrah for Pinocchio!"