As retold for Aaron
Pinocchio discovers the thieves and, as a reward for faithfulness, he regains his liberty.
For several hours, Pinoccho slept soundly as can be, but as it drew close to midnight he was wakened by strange whisperings and stealthy sounds in the yard. Wondering what was up, the puppet stuck his nose out of the doghouse and saw four little Weasels.
Weasels are small animals very fond of eggs and chickens, which was why they were in the farmer's yard.
Leaving her companions, one of the Weasels approached the doghouse. "Good evening, Melampo," the Weasel called out sweetly.
"My name is not Melampo," answered Pinocchio.
"What are you doing here?" the Weasel asked, very surprised.
"My name is Pinocchio. I'm the new watchdog. I'm supposed to be watching for the Weasels who have been stealing the chickens."
"But where is Melampo? Where is the old dog who used to live in this house?"
"He died this morning."
"Died? Poor beast!" lamented the Weasel. "Melampo was so good! Still, judging by your face, I think you, too, are a good-natured dog."
"I beg your pardon, I am not a dog!" Pinocchio sniffed. "I am a Marionette."
"But you are taking the place of the watchdog?"
"Yes. I'm being punished."
"Well, whatever you're being punished for isn't any of our business," the little Weasel said, her companions nodded their heads in agreement. "Now that you're the new watchdog we have an offer to make you. They're the same terms with you that we had with the dead Melampo. I'm sure you will be glad to hear them."
"What terms?" Pinocchio asked.
"We'll come once in a while, as in the past, to pay a visit to this henhouse, and we'll take away eight chickens. Seven are for us, and one for you, provided, of course, that you will make believe you are sleeping and not bark for the Farmer."
"Did Melampo really do that?" asked Pinocchio.
"Indeed he did, and because of that we were the best of friends. Why do you think the Farmer lost so many chickens despite old Melampo standing guard. Anyway, sleep away peacefully, and before we go we'll leave you a nice fat chicken all ready for your breakfast in the morning. Is that understood?"
"Oh yes, I understand," answered Pinocchio.
The four Weasels then, after talking for a moment, went straight to the chicken coop which stood close to the doghouse. Digging busily with teeth and claws, they opened the little door and slipped in. But they were no sooner in than they heard the door close with a sharp bang.
Pinocchio having trapped the Weasels in the henhouse, dragged a heavy stone in front of the door and began to bark as if he were a real watchdog: "Bow, wow, wow! Bow, wow!"
The Farmer heard the loud barks and jumped out of bed. Taking his gun, he ran to the window shouting, "What is it? What's the matter?"
"The thieves are here," yelled Pinocchio.
"Where are they?"
"In the chicken coop."
The Farmer was down in the yard and running toward the chicken coop in no time.
He opened the door, pulled out the Weasels one by one, and, after tying them in a bag, declared happily, "You're in my hands at last, you Weasels! I could punish you now, but I'll wait! In the morning I'll take you to the inn where you'll make a fine dinner for some hungry mortal. It is really too great an honor for you, one you scoundrels don't deserve; but, as you see, I'm really a very kind and generous man to do this for you!"
Then the Farmer went up to Pinocchio and began to pat his head and rub his ears.
"How did you ever find them out so quickly?" he asked. "And to think that Melampo, my faithful Melampo, never saw them in all these years!"
The Marionette could have told, then and there, all he knew about the contract between the dog and the Weasels, but Pinocchio thought to himself, "What is the use of accusing Melampo who is dead and can't defend himself?
"Were you awake or asleep when they came?" the Farmer asked.
"I was asleep, but they awakened me with their whisperings," the puppet answered. "One of them even came to the door of the doghouse and said to me, `If you promise not to bark, we will make you a present of one of the chickens for your breakfast.' They had the audacity to make such a proposition as that to me! Though I am a very wicked Marionette full of faults, I must let you know that I have never been, nor shall I ever be, bribed."
"Fine boy!" cried the Farmer, slapping him on the shoulder in a friendly way.
Then he slipped the dog collar off the Marionette's neck. "There you go," he said. "You're free."
Pinocchio raced toward the road. Which is just how he'd hoped things would turn out, though he'd not counted on it. For all he'd known, the Farmer could have decided he was too good a watchdog to let go.
Click on Pinocchio to go to Chapter Twenty-three
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