'Have pity, Commander! . . .'
'Here there are no commanders!'
'Have pity, Excellence! . . .'
Upon hearing himself called Excellence the showman began to smile, and became at once kinder and more tractable. Turning to Pinocchio he asked:
'Well, what do you want from me?'
'I implore you to pardon poor Harlequin.'
'For him there can be no pardon. As I have spared you he must be put on the fire, for I am determined that my mutton shall be well roasted.'
'In that case,' cried Pinocchio proudly, rising and throwing away his cap of bread crumb—'in that case I know my duty. Come on, gendarmes! Bind me and throw me amongst the flames. No, it is not just that poor Harlequin, my true friend, should die for me! . . .'
These words, pronounced in a loud heroic voice, made all the puppets who were present cry. Even the gendarmes, although they were made of wood, wept like two newly-born lambs.
Fire-eater at first remained as hard and unmoved as ice, but little by little he began to melt and to sneeze. And having sneezed four or five times, he opened his arms affectionately, and said to Pinocchio:
'You are a good brave boy! Come here and give me a kiss.'