No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood. It was not fine wood, but a simple piece of wood from the wood yard, like the kind we put in the fireplaces so as to make a fire and heat the rooms.
I do not know how it happened, but one beautiful day a certain old woodcutter found a piece of this kind of wood in his shop. The name of the old man was Antonio, but everybody called him Mastro Cherry on account of the point of his nose, which was always shiny and purplish, just like a ripe cherry.
As soon as Mastro Cherry saw that piece of wood he was overjoyed; and rubbing his hands contentedly, he mumbled to himself: “This has come in very good time. I will make it into a table leg.”
No sooner said than done. He quickly took a sharpened axe to shape the wood; but when he was on the point of striking it he stopped with his arm in the air, because he heard a tiny, thin little voice say, “Do not strike so hard!”
Just imagine how surprised good old Mastro Cherry was! He turned his bewildered eyes around the room in order to see where that little voice came; but he saw no one. He looked under the bench, and no one was there; he looked in a sideboard which was always closed; he looked in the basket of chips and shavings; he opened the door in order to glance around his house; still he could see no one. What then?
“I understand,” he said, laughing and scratching his wig, “I imagined I heard that little voice, I will begin to work again.”
He took up the axe and gave the piece of wood another hard blow.
“Oh! you have hurt me!” cried the little voice, as if in pain.
This time Mastro Cherry was dumb. His eyes nearly popped out of his head; his mouth opened wide, and his tongue hung down on his chin, like that of gorgon head on a fountain.
As soon as he could speak he said, trembling and stammering from fright, “But where did that little voice come from? There is nothing alive in this room. Can it be that this piece of wood has learned to cry and scream like a baby? I cannot believe it. This is an ordinary piece of wood for the fireplace, like all other pieces with which we boil a pot of beans. What next? What if there is some one hidden inside? If there is so much the worse for him. I will settle him.” And saying this, he seized with both hands the poor piece of wood and knocked it against the wall.
Then he stopped to listen, so as to hear if any voice complained. He waited two minutes, and heard nothing; five minutes, and nothing; ten minutes, and nothing.
“I understand,” he said, forcing a laugh and rubbing his wig; “I imagined that I heard a voice cry ‘Oh!’ I will begin to work again.”
And because he was somewhat frightened, he tried to hum an air so as to make himself courageous.
At the same time he stopped working with the axe and took up a plane to make the wood even and clean; but while he planed he heard again the little voice, this time in a laughing tone, “Stop! you are taking the skin off my body.”
This time poor Mastro Cherry fell down as if shot. When he opened his eyes he found himself sitting on the ground. His face expressed utter amazement, and the end of his nose, which was always purple, became blue from great fear.
t this moment there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” said the woodcutter, without having strength enough to arise.
Then a lively old man called Geppetto entered the room.
“Good morning, Mastro Antonio,” said Geppetto, “What are you doing on the ground?”
“I am teaching the ants their ABC’s. What has brought you here, brother Geppetto?”
“I have come to ask a favor of you, Mastro Antonio.”
“Here I am prompt to serve you!” replied the woodcutter, raising himself on his knees.
“This morning I had an idea.”
“Let me hear it.”
“I thought that I would make a pretty wooden marionette; I mean a wonderful marionette, one that can dance, walk, and jump. With this marionette I wish to travel through the world and earn for myself a little bread.”
“What then, brother Geppetto, can I do for you?”
“I should like a piece of wood to make a marionette. Will you give it to me?”
Mastro Antonio gladly took up the piece of wood that had frightened him so. But when he was about to hand it to Geppetto the piece of wood gave a spring, and, slipping violently from his hands, fell and struck the shins of poor Geppetto.
“Ah! you are very polite when you give presents! Truly, Mastro Antonio, you have nearly lamed me.”
“I swear to you that I did not do it.”
“Surely it was you who threw the piece of wood at my legs.”
“I did not throw it. The fault is all in this wood.”
Upon that Geppetto took the piece of wood in his arms, and, thanking Mastro Antonio, went home, limping all the way.
eppetto’s home consisted of one room on the ground floor. It received light from a window under a staircase. The furniture could not have been more simple: a broken chair, a hard bed, and a dilapidated table. On one side of the room there was a fireplace with wood burning, but the fire was painted, and above it there was also painted a boiling pot with clouds of steam all around it that made it quite real.
As soon as he entered Geppetto began to make a marionette. “What name shall I give him?” he said to himself. “I think I will call him Pinocchio. That name will bring with it good fortune. I have known a whole family called Pinocchio. Pinocchio was the father, Pinocchio was the mother, and the children were called little Pinocchios, and everybody lived well. It was a happy family.”
When he had found the name for the marionette he began to work with a will. He quickly made the forehead, then the hair, and then the eyes.
After he had made the eyes, just imagine how surprised he was to see them look around, and finally gaze at him fixedly! Geppetto, seeing himself looked at by two eyes of wood, said to the head, “Why do you look at me so, eyes of wood?”
After he had made the eyes he made the nose; but the nose began to grow, and it grew, grew, grew, until it became a great big nose, and Geppetto thought it would never stop. He tried hard to stop it, but the more he cut at it the longer that impertinent nose became.
After the nose he made the mouth. The mouth was hardly finished when it commenced to sing and laugh. “Stop laughing,” said Geppetto, vexed; but it was like talking to the wall. “Stop laughing, I tell you,” he said again in a loud tone. Then the features began to make grimaces.
Geppetto feigned not to see this impertinence and continued to work. After the mouth he made the chin, then the neck, then the shoulders, then the body, then the arms and hands.
Hardly had he finished the hands when Geppetto felt his wig pulled off. He turned quickly, and what do you think he saw? His yellow wig in the hands of the marionette! “Pinocchio! give me back my wig immediately,” said the old man. But Pinocchio, instead of giving back the wig, put it on his own head, making himself look half smothered.
At this disobedience Geppetto looked very sad, and did a thing he had never done before in all his life. Turning to Pinocchio, he said: “Bad little boy! You are not yet finished and already lack respect to your father. Bad, bad boy!” And he dried a tear.
There now, only the legs and feet to make. Scarcely were they finished when they began to kick poor Geppetto. “It is my fault,” he said to himself, “I ought to have thought of this at first! Now it is too late!” Then he took the marionette in his arms and placed him on the ground to make him walk. Pinocchio behaved at first as if his legs were asleep and he could not move them. Geppetto led him around the room for some time, showing him how to put one foot in front of the other. When his legs were stretched Pinocchio began to walk and then to run around the room. When he saw the door open he jumped into the street and ran away.
Poor Geppetto ran as fast as he could, but he was not able to catch him. Pinocchio jumped like a rabbit. He made a noise with his wooden feet on the hard road like twenty pairs of little wooden shoes.
“Stop him! stop him!” cried Geppetto; but the people in the street, seeing the wooden marionette running as fast as a rabbit, stopped to look at it, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed, so that it is really hard to describe how they enjoyed it all.
Finally, through good fortune, a soldier appeared, who, hearing all the noise, thought that some colt had escaped from its Mastro. He planted himself in the middle of the road and with a fixed look determined to catch the runaway. Pinocchio, when he saw the soldier in the road, tried to pass between his legs, but he could not do it.
The soldier, scarcely moving his body, seized the marionette by the nose(which was a very ridiculous one, just the size to be seized by a soldier) and consigned him to the hands of Geppetto, who tried to correct him by pulling his ears. But just imagine; when he searched for the ears he could not find them! Do you know why? Because, in the haste of making Pinocchio, he did not finish carving them.
Taking him by the neck, Geppetto led him back, saying as he did so, “When we get home I must punish you.”
Pinocchio, at this threat, threw himself on the ground and refused to walk farther. Meanwhile the curious people and the loungers began to stop and surround them. First one said something, then another. “Poor marionette!” said one of them, “He is right not to want to go back to his home. Who knows how hard Geppetto beats him?” And others added maliciously, “That Geppetto appears to be a kind man, but he is a tyrant with boys. If he gets that poor marionette in his hands, he will break him in pieces.”
Altogether they made so much noise that the soldier gave Pinocchio back his liberty and took to prison instead the poor old man, who not finding words at first with which to defend himself, wept bitterly, and on approaching the prison stammered out: “Wicked son! and to think I tried so hard to make a good marionette! I ought to have thought of all this at first.”
What happened afterwards is a story so strange that you will hardly believe it. However, I will tell it to you in the following chapters.
will tell you then, children, that while poor old Geppetto was led to prison without having done any wrong, that rogue Pinocchio, being free, took to his heels and ran toward the fields in order more easily to reach his house. In his haste he jumped high mounds of earth, hedges of thorns, and ditches of water, just as rabbits and deer do when chased by hunters.
When he arrived before the house he found the door to the street halfshut.
He pushed it open, entered the room, and bolted the door. Then he threw himself down on the floor and heaved a great big sigh of happiness.
But his happiness did not last very long for soon he heard some one crying in the room: “Cri-cri-cri!”
“Who is speaking to me?” said Pinocchio, frightened.
“It is me.”
Pinocchio turned around and saw a large cricket that walked slowly up on the wall.
“Tell me, Cricket, who are you?”
“I am the Talking Cricket, and I have lived in this room for more than a hundred years.”
“Today, however, this room is mine,” said the marionette, “and if you wish to do me a favor, go away immediately, without even turning yourself around once.”
“I will not go away from here,” said the Cricket, “ without telling you a great truth.”
“Tell it to me and be gone.”
“Woe to boys who rebel against their parents, and who foolishly run away from their homes. They will never get along well in the world, and sooner or later will bitterly repent of their actions.”
“Sing on, little Cricket, if it pleases you; but I know that tomorrow, at the dawn of day, I shall go away, because if I remain here, what happens to all other boys will happen to me. I shall have to go to school and be made to study; and I will tell you in confidence that I have no wish to study at all, and I propose to play and run after butterflies and climb trees and take the little birds out of their nests.”
“Poor little stupid thing! Do you not know that in doing so you will become a donkey, and that everybody will make fun of you?”
“Be quiet, you dismal little Cricket!” cried Pinocchio.
But the Cricket, who was a patient philosopher, instead of becoming angry at this impertinence, continued in the same tone of voice: “And if it does not please you to go to school, why not at least learn a trade, so as to be able to earn honestly a piece of bread?”
“Do you wish me to tell you?” replied Pinocchio, who began to lose patience; “Because among the trades of the world there is only one that suits my genius.”
“And what trade may that be?”
“That of eating, drinking, sleeping, and amusing myself, and of living, from morning to night, an easy life.”
“Those who live that way,” said the Talking Cricket with his usual calmness, “always end in the hospital or in prison.”
“Take care, Cricket, take care! If you make me angry I pity you.”
“Poor Pinocchio! you make me pity you.”
“Why do I make you pity me?”
“Because you are a marionette; and, what is worse, you have a wooden head.”
At these words Pinocchio jumped up enraged, and taking a hammer from a bench flung it at the Talking Cricket.
Perhaps he did not intend to do such a thing, but unfortunately the hammer struck the poor little Cricket in the head and killed him.
eanwhile the night came on, and Pinocchio, remembering that he had eaten nothing, felt a gnawing in his stomach that strongly resembled an appetite. Now the appetite of boys increases very quickly, and so after a few minutes the appetite became hunger, and the hunger finally became like that of a wolf.
Poor Pinocchio ran suddenly to the fireplace, where there was a pot of
boiling water into which he tried to look; but he found that it was only a painting. Imagine his surprise! His nose, which was already long, began to grow longer, nearly equal to four fingers. Then he ran around the room and rummaged through all the drawers and boxes and all the hiding places in search of a piece of bread; only a little piece of dried bread, a crust, a bone for a dog, a little mush, a fish bone, a kernel of cherry, in fact anything at all to eat; but he found absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile his hunger constantly increased. Poor Pinocchio had no other relief than that of yawning, and he gaped with so much energy that the corners of his mouth touched his ears. Then he began to feel faint and dizzy. Weeping and despairing, he said: “The Talking Cricket was right. I have behaved badly in turning my back on my papa and running away. If my Papa were only here now, I should not find myself dying of hunger. Oh! what a horrible feeling it is!”
Suddenly it appeared to him that he saw something on the top of the rubbish heap that very much resembled a hen’s egg. It required but a second to jump to the spot and there he really saw a nice big egg.
It is impossible to describe the joy of the marionette. It is necessary to be a marionette in order to understand it. Fearing that it might be a dream, he turned the egg around in his hands and touched it and kissed it.
And kissing it said: “And now, how ought I to cook it? Shall I make an omelet? No, it is better to poach it; or would it not be more savory to scramble it? Or instead of cooking it, I might drink it raw. No, the nicest way is to cook it in a saucepan.’’
No sooner said than done. He placed a saucepan above a heap of burning shavings. In the saucepan, instead of oil or butter, he put a little water. When