'Why, here is our dear Pinocchio!' cried the Fox, kissing and embracing him. 'How come you to be here?'
'How come you to be here?' repeated the Cat.
'It is a long story,' answered the puppet, 'which I will tell you when I have time. But do you know that the other night, when you left me alone at the inn, I met with assassins on the road. . . .'
'Assassins! . . . Oh, poor Pinocchio! And what did they want?'
'They wanted to rob me of my gold pieces.'
'Villains! . . .' said the Fox.
'Infamous villains!' repeated the Cat.
'But I ran away from them,' continued the puppet, 'and they followed me: and at last they overtook me and hung me to a branch of that oak-tree. . . .'
And Pinocchio pointed to the Big Oak, which was two steps from them.
'Is it possible to hear of anything more dreadful?' said the Fox. 'In what a world we are condemned to live! Where can respectable people like us find a safe refuge?'
Whilst they were thus talking Pinocchio observed that the Cat was lame of her front right leg, for in fact she had lost her paw with all its claws. He therefore asked her:
'What have you done with your paw?'
The Cat tried to answer but became