The Story of a Puppet/X
I must tell you that the curtain was drawn up, and the play had already begun.
On the stage Harlequin and Punchinello were as usual quarrelling with each other, and threatening every moment to come to blows.
The audience, all attention, laughed till they were ill as they listened to the bickerings of these two puppets, who gesticulated and abused each other so naturally that they might have been two reasonable beings, and two persons of the world.
All at once Harlequin stopped short, and turning to the public he pointed with his hand to some one far down in the pit, and exclaimed in a dramatic tone:
'Gods of the firmament! do I dream, or am I awake? But surely that is Pinocchio! . . .'
'It is indeed Pinocchio!' cried Punchinello.
'It is indeed himself!' screamed Miss Rose, peeping from behind the scenes.
'It is Pinocchio! it is Pinocchio!' shouted all the puppets in chorus, leaping from all sides on to the stage. 'It is Pinocchio! It is our brother Pinocchio! Long live Pinocchio! . . .'
'Pinocchio, come up here to me,' cried Harlequin, 'and throw yourself into the arms of your wooden brothers!'
At this affectionate invitation Pinocchio made a leap from the end of the pit into the reserved seats; another leap landed him on the head of the leader of the orchestra, and he then sprang upon the stage.
The embraces, the hugs, the friendly pinches, and the demonstrations of warm brotherly affection that Pinocchio received from the excited crowd of actors and actresses of the puppet dramatic company beat description.
The sight was doubtless a moving one, but the public in the pit, finding that the play was stopped, became impatient, and began to shout: 'We will have the play—go on with the play!'
It was all breath thrown away. The puppets, instead of continuing the recital, redoubled their noise and outcries, and putting Pinocchio on their shoulders they carried him in triumph before the footlights.
At that moment out came the showman. He was very big, and so ugly that the sight of him was enough to frighten any one. His beard was as black as ink, and so long that it reached from his chin to the ground. I need only say that he trod upon it when he walked. His mouth was as big as an oven, and his eyes were like two lanterns of red glass with lights burning inside them. He carried a large whip made of snakes and foxes' tails twisted together, which he cracked constantly.
At his unexpected appearance there was a profound silence: no one dared to breathe. A fly might have been heard in the stillness. The poor puppets of both sexes trembled like so many leaves.
'Why have you come to raise a disturbance in my theatre?' asked the showman of Pinocchio, in the gruff voice of a hobgoblin suffering from a severe cold in the head.
'Believe me, honoured sir, that it was not my fault! . . .'
'That is enough! To-night we will settle our accounts.'
As soon as the play was over the showman went into the kitchen where a fine sheep, preparing for his supper, was turning slowly on the spit in front of the fire. As there was not enough wood to finish roasting and browning it, he called Harlequin and Punchinello, and said to them:
'Bring that puppet here: you will find him hanging on a nail. It seems to me that he is made of very dry wood, and I am sure that if he was thrown on the fire he would make a beautiful blaze for the roast.'
At first Harlequin and Punchinello hesitated; but, appalled by a severe glance from their master, they obeyed. In a short time they returned to the kitchen carrying poor Pinocchio, who was wriggling like an eel taken out of water, and screaming desperately: 'Papa! papa! save me! I will not die, I will not die! . . .'