As retold for Aaron
Pinocchio, not having listened to the good advice of the Talking Cricket, meets up with trouble.
The truth is that Pinocchio was pretty afraid, and without the glowing light of the Talking Cricket the forest seemed even darker than before.
"Dear, oh, dear, the world is such a very difficult place for a little boy," said the Marionette, as he once more set out on his journey. Along the way, he talked to himself in hopes of setting his mind at ease. "Indeed, little boys are very unlucky. Everybody is always scolding, or giving advice, or warning against all sorts of dangers. Take for instance that bothersome Talking Cricket, inventing all kinds of misfortune for me in his little cricket brain. It isn't nice of him to do that, not one bit. And what if I did run into trouble, does he think I can't take care of myself? I may be small, but I'm brave. If I met up with trouble, I'd just run up to it and say, 'Well, Trouble, what do you want? I'm a brave boy. Fire Eater said so! So, you just run along and mind your own business and leave me alone if you don't want to get into trouble yourself.' That's what I'd say. And, well, there's no reason for me to have to worry about it, but if Trouble didn't take off on its heels like the wind, I have two legs, don't I? I can run faster than it."
Pinocchio thought he heard a slight rustle in the leaves behind him. Walking all the more quickly along, he called out, "Cricket, I know it's you! Don't you play at trying to frighten me. I know you are only trying to get me back for my having hurt you, and maybe I deserve it, because I treated you very badly, but I was young then, much younger than I am now, several days younger, and, and, I'm very sorry, Talking Cricket, very sorry for what I did. So, please can we be friends and you go away and leave me alone?"
Again, there was a rustle in the leaves. Pinocchio stopped, and turning round to look, he saw in the darkness two great figures wrapped from head to foot in black sacks. Though they leaped toward him as softly as if they were ghosts, Pinocchio knew that these must be the Assassins about which the Talking Cricket had warned him.
The first thought that came to Pinocchio's head was to run.
Which he did.
The second thought, following immediately on the first, was that if he was caught, the thieves would find the gold pieces in his pocket and he would be left with nothing at all to take home to Geppetto.
So, the third thought which came to Pinocchio--and an odd thought it may seem--was to hide the four gold pieces under his tongue. Which he did.
Thinking and running must not go very well together, for the Marionette was promptly seized by the two huge dark shadows, who growled at him in terrible, deep voices, "Your money or your life!" Life is far more valuable than any amount of money. The thieves, however, must not have know that. "Now tell us, where is your money!" they demanded.
Pinocchio didn't dare say a word because of the gold pieces in his mouth. He shook his head and pulled his empty coat pockets inside out so that it may be seen he was only a poor Marionette without a penny.
"None of that nonsense!" cried the thieves in threatening voices, shaking him. "We know you have money!"
No, no! Pinocchio shook his head. He pulled his pants' pockets inside out to show they were empty as well.
"Hand the gold over, or you're a dead man," said the taller of the two thieves.
"Dead man," hiccuped the other.
"If you don't, after we kill you, we will go find your father and kill him as well!" the taller of the two thieves growled.
"Your father as well," repeated the smaller one.
"No, no, not my Father!" Pinocchio cried out, the gold pieces tinkling together in his mouth.
"That's your game! You have the money hidden under your tongue! Out with it!" demanded the taller of the two thieves.
Stubborn, Pinocchio clamped his jaws tight shut. He held them so tight together that tears came to his eyes.
"Are you deaf? Do as I say!" the taller of the two thieves exclaimed.
Still, Pinocchio refused. So the shorter of his two captors grabbed the Marionette by the nose, while the taller grabbed him by the chin, and they yanked him unmercifully from side to side in order to force the puppet to open his mouth.
It was no use. The Marionette's lips might well as been nailed together.
The shorter of the two thieves then took a long knife out of his pocket and tried to pry Pinocchio's mouth open with the blade.
Pinocchio sank his wooden teeth deep into the hand of the thief. Imagine his surprise when he realized it was not a human hand but a cat's paw!
The thief screamed and, jumping away, he plunged into the taller thief who stumbled back, letting go of the little Marionette. Quick as a flash, Pinocchio took off through the forest, but the thieves were after him at once.
Like two dogs chasing a hare, the Marionette's pursuers were hard on his tail for seven long miles through woods and fields. Finally, exhausted with running, and lost besides, Pinocchio climbed up a giant pine tree, hoping to escape the thieves and maybe see if there were any houses nearby. He thought if there were, perhaps if he called out for help, he might be saved.
Pinocchio saw no nearby houses. So he sat up at the very top of the tree, praying the two thieves would not be as nimble as he was. When they attempted to climb the tree after him, they slipped and fell, but they obviously were not willing to accept defeat. Gathering together a bundle of wood, they piled it up at the foot of the pine, and set fire to it. The tree burned like a candle blown by the wind. Higher and higher the flames climbed, until Pinocchio had no choice but to leap to the ground or be burned with the tree. Jumping down, he set off running as soon as his feet touched the ground, the thieves close behind him.
Dawn was just breaking when Pinocchio found his path barred by a deep pool full of dark, muddy water. One, two, three!--Pinocchio jumped clear across it. The thieves jumped also, but not measuring the pool's distance as well as had Pinocchio, they fell--splash!!!--right in the middle of it. A little giddy from all his running, and his fear, when he heard and felt the splash, Pinocchio burst out laughing, then yelled, "What? Taking a bath?" Turning his head, he expected to see only the dark surface of the pool, the two thieves sunk in water above their heads. But there were instead the two somber figuresbehind him, their black sacks drenched and dripping with water.
Click on Pinocchio to go to Chapter Fifteen
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