The Story of a Puppet/XV
The assassins pursue Pinocchio; and having
overtaken him hang him to a branch of
the Big Oak.
At this sight the puppet's courage failed him, and he was on the point of throwing himself on the ground and giving himself over for lost. Turning, however, his eyes in every direction, he saw at some distance, standing out amidst the dark green of the trees, a small house as white as snow.
'If I had only breath to reach that house,' he said to himself, 'perhaps I should be saved.'
And without delaying an instant, he recommenced running for his life through the wood, and the assassins after him.
At last, after a desperate race of nearly two hours, he arrived quite breathless at the door of the house, and knocked.
No one answered.
He knocked again with great violence, for he heard the sound of steps approaching him, and the heavy panting of his persecutors. The same silence.
Seeing that knocking was useless he began in desperation to kick and pommel the door with all his might. The window then opened and a beautiful Child appeared at it. She had blue hair and a face as white as a waxen image; her eyes were closed and her hands were crossed on her breast. Without moving her lips in the least, she said in a voice that seemed to come from the other world:
'In this house there is no one. They are all dead.'
'Then at least open the door for me yourself,' shouted Pinocchio, crying and imploring.
'I am dead also.'
'Dead? then what are you doing there at the window?'
'I am waiting for the bier to come to carry me away.'
Having said this she immediately disappeared, and the window was closed again without the slightest noise.
'Oh! beautiful Child with blue hair,' cried Pinocchio, 'open the door for pity's sake! Have compassion on a poor boy pursued by assas . . .'
But he could not finish the word, for he felt himself seized by the collar, and the same two horrible voices said to him threateningly:
'You shall not escape from us again!'
The puppet, seeing death staring him in the face, was taken with such a violent fit of trembling that the joints of his wooden legs began to creak, and the sovereigns hidden under his tongue to clink.
'Now then,' demanded the assassins, 'will you open your mouth, yes or no? Ah! no answer? . . . Leave it to us: this time we will force you to open it! . . .'
And drawing out two long horrid knives as sharp as razors, clash . . . they attempted to stab him twice.
But the puppet, luckily for him, was made of very hard wood; the knives therefore broke into a thousand pieces, and the assassins were left with the handles in their hands staring at each other.
'I see what we must do,' said one of them. 'He must be hung! let us hang him!'
'Let us hang him!' repeated the other. Without loss of time they tied his arms behind him, passed a running noose round his throat, and then hung him to the branch of a tree called the Big Oak.
They then sat down on the grass and waited for his last struggle. But at the end of three hours the puppet's eyes were still open, his mouth closed, and he was kicking more than ever.
Losing patience they turned to Pinocchio and said in a bantering tone:
'Good-bye till to-morrow. Let us hope that when we return you will be polite enough to allow yourself to be found quite dead, and with your mouth wide open.'
And they walked off.
In the meantime a tempestuous northerly wind began to blow and roar angrily, and it beat the poor puppet as he hung from side to side, making him swing violently like the clapper of a bell ringing for a wedding. And the swinging gave him atrocious spasms, and the running noose, becoming still tighter round his throat, took away his breath.
Little by little his eyes began to grow dim, but although he felt that death was near he still continued to hope that some charitable person would come to his assistance before it was too late. But when, after waiting and waiting, he found that no one came, absolutely no one, then he remembered his poor father, and thinking he was dying . . ., he stammered out:
'Oh, papa! papa! if only you were here!'
His breath failed him and he could say no more. He shut his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible.