The Story of a Puppet/XX
Liberated from prison, he starts to return to
the Fairy's house; but on the road he
meets with a horrible serpent, and after-
wards he is caught in a trap.
You can imagine Pinocchio's joy when he found himself free. Without stopping to take breath he immediately left the town and took the road that led to the Fairy's house.
On account of the rainy weather the road had become a marsh into which he sank knee-deep. But the puppet would not give in. Tormented by the desire of seeing his father and his little sister with blue hair again he ran and leapt like a greyhound, and as he ran he was splashed with mud from head to foot. And he said to himself as he went along: 'How many misfortunes have happened to me . . . and I deserved them! for I am an obstinate, passionate puppet. . . . I am always bent upon having my own way, without listening to those who wish me well, and who have a thousand times more sense than I have! . . . But from this time forth I am determined to change and to become orderly and obedient. . . . For at last I have seen that disobedient boys come to no good and gain nothing. And will my papa have waited for me? Shall I find him at the Fairy's house! Poor man, it is so long since I last saw him: I am dying to embrace him, and to cover him with kisses! And will the Fairy forgive me my bad conduct to her? . . . To think of all the kindness and loving care I received from her . . . to think that if I am now alive I owe it to her! . . . Would it be possible to find a more ungrateful boy, or one with less heart than I have! . . .'
Whilst he was saying this he stopped suddenly, frightened to death, and made four steps backwards.
What had he seen? . . .
He had seen an immense Serpent stretched across the road. Its skin was green, it had red eyes, and a pointed tail that was smoking like a chimney.
It would be impossible to imagine the puppet's terror. He walked away to a safe distance, and sitting down on a heap of stones waited until the Serpent should have gone about its business and had left the road clear.
He waited an hour; two hours; three hours; but the Serpent was always there, and even from a distance he could see the red light of his fiery eyes and the column of smoke that ascended from the end of his tail.
At last Pinocchio, trying to feel courageous, approached to within a few steps, and said to the Serpent in a little, soft, insinuating voice:
'Excuse me, Sir Serpent, but would you be so good as to move a little to one side, just enough to allow me to pass?'
He might as well have spoken to the wall. Nobody moved.
He began again in the same soft voice:
'You must know, Sir Serpent, that I am on my way home where my father is waiting for me, and it is such a long time since I saw him last! . . . Will you therefore allow me to continue my road?'
He waited for a sign in answer to this request, but there was none: in fact the Serpent, who up to that moment had been sprightly and full of life, became motionless and almost rigid. He shut his eyes and his tail ceased smoking.
'Can he really be dead?' said Pinocchio, rubbing his hands with delight; and he determined to jump over him and reach the other side of the road. But just as he was going to leap the Serpent raised himself suddenly on end, like a spring set in motion; and the puppet drawing back, in his terror caught his feet and fell to the ground.
And he fell so awkwardly that his head stuck in the mud and his legs went into the air.
At the sight of the puppet kicking violently with his head in the mud the Serpent went into convulsions of laughter, and he laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until from the violence of his laughter he broke a blood-vessel in his chest and died. And that time he was really dead.
Pinocchio then set off running in hopes that he should reach the Fairy's house before dark. But before long he began to suffer so dreadfully from hunger that he could not bear it, and he jumped into a field by the way-side intending to pick some bunches of muscatel grapes. Oh, that he had never done it!
He had scarcely reached the vines when crac . . . his legs were caught between two cutting iron bars, and he became so giddy with pain that stars of every colour danced before his eyes.
The poor puppet had been taken in a trap put there to capture some big polecats who were the scourge of the poultry-yards in the neighbourhood.