As retold for Aaron
The great battle between Pinocchio and his playmates. One is wounded. Pinocchio is arrested.
Going like the wind, Pinocchio took but a very short time to reach the shore. He glanced all about him, but there was no sign of a Shark troubling the waters, the sea's surface as smooth as glass.
"Hey there, boys! Where's that Shark?" the Marionette asked, turning to his playmates.
"He may have gone for his breakfast," said one of them, laughing.
"Or, perhaps, he went to bed for a little nap," said another, laughing also.
From the answers and the laughter which followed them, Pinocchio understood that the boys had played a trick on him.
"What now?" he said angrily to them. "What's the joke?"
"Oh, the joke's on you!" cried his tormentors, laughing more heartily than ever, and dancing gayly around the Marionette. "We have made you stay out of school to come with us. Aren't you ashamed of being such a goody-goody, and of studying so hard? You never have a bit of enjoyment."
"And what is it to you if I do study?" Pinocchio asked.
"What does the teacher think of us, you mean?" the boys replied.
"Don't you see? If you study and we don't, we pay for it. After all, it's only fair to look out for ourselves."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Hate school and books and teachers, as we all do. They are your worst enemies, you know. They like to make you as unhappy as they can."
"And if I go on studying, what will you do to me?"
"You'll pay for it!"
"Really, you amuse me," answered the Marionette, nonchalant, nodding his head and shrugging his shoulders in a very bored way.
"Enough of that," cried the tallest of them all. "We're tired of hearing you bragging about yourself, you little turkey cock! You may not be afraid of us, but remember we aren't afraid of you, either! You are alone, you know, and there are seven of us."
"Like the seven sins," said Pinocchio, still laughing.
"Talking like a book again, little Marionette. But now you have insulted us as well. You had better apologize, Pincchio, or look out!"
"Cuck--oo!" said the Marionette, mocking them with his thumb to his nose.
"You'll be sorry!"
"Cuck--oo!" Pinocchio dared to repeat.
"We'll whip you soundly!"
"Cuck--oo!" Pinocchio dared to repeat again.
"You'll go home with a broken nose!"
At that, the boldest of Pinocchio's tormentors gave him a terrible blow on the head.
When Pinocchio answered with another blow, it was the signal for the beginning of the fray.
Although alone, the Marionette defended himself bravely. With those two wooden feet of his, he worked so fast that his opponents kept at a respectful distance. Wherever Pinocchio's feet landed, they left their painful mark and the boys could only run away and howl.
Enraged at not being able to fight the Marionette at close quarters, the boys started to throw all kinds of books at him. Readers, geographies, histories, grammars--they came flying in all directions. But Pinocchio was keen of eye and swift of movement, and the books only passed over his head, landed in the sea, and disappeared.
Schools of fish, thinking they might be good to eat, came to the top of the water in great numbers. Some took a nibble, some took a bite, but no sooner had they tasted a page or two, than they spat them out with a wry face, as if to say:
"What a horrid taste! Our own food is so much better!"
Meanwhile, the battle waxing more and more furious, a large Crab crawled slowly out of the water, and, with a voice that sounded like a trombone suffering from a cold, cried out, "Hey now! Stop fighting! These battles between boys rarely end well. Trouble is sure to come to you!"
Poor Crab! He might as well have spoken to the wind. Instead of listening to his good advice, Pinocchio turned to him and said as roughly as he knew how,
"Keep quiet, ugly Gab! It would be better for you to chew a few cough drops to get rid of that cold you have. Go to bed and sleep! You'll feel better in the morning."
The boys, having used all their books, looked around for new ammunition. Seeing Pinocchio's book bundle lying idle nearby, they grabbed hold of it.
One of the books was a very large volume, an arithmetic text, heavily bound in leather. It was Pinocchio's pride. Among all his books, he liked that one the best.
Thinking it would make a fine missile, one of the boys took hold of it and threw it with all his strength at Pinocchio's head. But instead of hitting the Marionette, the book struck one of the other boys, who, as pale as a ghost, cried out faintly, "Oh, Mother, help! I'm dying!" and fell senseless to the ground.
At the sight of that pale little corpse, the boys were so frightened that they turned tail and ran. In a few moments, all had disappeared.
Except Pinocchio. Though scared to death by the horror of what had been done, he ran to the sea, soaked his handkerchief in the cool water and with it bathed the head of his schoolmate. Sobbing bitterly, he called to him, saying,
"Eugene! Open your eyes and look at me! Why don't you answer? I wasn't the one who hit you. Believe me, I didn't do it. Please, open your eyes. If you keep them shut, I'll die, too. How shall I ever go home now? How shall I ever look at my little mother again? What will happen to me? How much better it would have been, a thousand times better, if only I had gone to school! Why did I listen to those boys? And to think that the teacher had told me--and my mother, too!--`Beware of bad company!' That's what they said. But I'm stubborn and proud. I listen, but it seems I always I do as I wish. And then I pay. I've never had a moment's peace since I've been born! What will become of me? What will become of me?"
Pinocchio went on crying and moaning and beating his head. He was still calling to his friend when he heard heavy steps approaching.
Pinocchio looked up and saw two tall policemen near him.
"What are you doing stretched out on the ground?" they asked the puppet.
"I'm helping this schoolfellow of mine," he answered.
"Has he fainted?"
"Look," said one of the Policemen, bending to examine the boy. "He's been wounded on the temple. Who has hurt him?"
"Not I," stammered Pinocchio, who had hardly a breath left in his whole body.
"If it wasn't you, who was it, then?"
"Not I," repeated Pinocchio.
"And with what was he wounded?"
"With this book." The Marionette picked up the arithmetic text to show it to the officer.
"And whose book is this?"
"Not another word! Get up and come along with us."
Pinocchio cried out, "But I am innocent!"
"Come with us!"
The officers called out to several fishermen passing by in a boat,
"Take care of this little fellow who has been hurt."
They then took hold of Pinocchio and, putting him between them, said to him in a rough voice, "March! And go quickly, or it will be the worse for you!"
They didn't have to repeat their words. The Marionette walked swiftly along the road to the village. But the poor fellow hardly knew what he was about. He felt as though trapped in a nightmare (and hoped that he was and would be waking soon). He felt ill. His eyes saw everything double, his legs trembled, his tongue was dry, and, try as he might, he couldn't utter a single word. Yet, in spite of this numbness of feeling, he suffered keenly at the thought of passing under the windows of his good little Fairy's house. What would she say on seeing him between the two Policemen?
They had just reached the village, when a sudden gust of wind blew off Pinocchio's cap and made it go sailing far down the street.
"My cap! May I retrieve it?" the Marionette asked the Carabineers.
"Very well, but hurry."
The Marionette went, picked up his cap--but instead of putting it on his head, he stuck it between his teeth and then raced toward the sea like a bullet out of a gun.
The Police, judging that it would be very difficult to catch him, sent a large Mastiff after him, one that had won first prize in all the dog races. Pinocchio ran fast but the dog was every bit as fast. At so much noise, the people hung out of the windows or gathered in the street, anxious to see the end of the unannounced contest. But they were disappointed, for the dog and Pinocchio raised so much dust on the road that, after a few moments, it was impossible to see them.
Poof. The dog and Pinocchio disappeared from view.
Click on Pinocchio to go to Chapter Twenty-eight
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