There was once upon a time
'A king!' my little listeners will shout together. No, children.
Once upon a time there was a piece of wood, just a common piece of firewood to put on the fire in winter. One fine day this piece of wood happened to be in the shop of an old carpenter whose real name was Mr Antonio, but everyone called him Mr Cherry, because the tip of his nose was always as red and shiny as a ripe cherry. As soon as he saw the piece of wood, Mr Cherry was delighted. Rubbing his hands together happily, he mumbled to himself:
'This has come in the nick of time. I shall use it to make the leg of a table.'
He grasped the axe quickly to peel off the bark and shape the wood. But just as he was about to give it the first blow, he stopped with his arm in the air, for he had heard a tiny voice begging him gently 'Please be careful! You can imagine old Mr Cherry's surprise.
He looked about the room to find out where the tiny voice had come from and he saw no one! He looked under the bench--nobody! He searched among the shavings-- nobody! He opened the door to look up and down the street--and still nobody!
'Oh, I see!' he said, I must have imagined that tiny voice. Well--to work once more.'
He raised his axe again, and down it went on the piece of wood.
'Oh, oh! You hurt me!' cried the same little voice.
Mr Cherry grew dumb. As soon as he could speak, he said, trembling and stuttering from fright:
'Where did that voice come from. This piece of wood is nothing, firewood like all the others Is someone hidden inside it? If so, so much the worse for him. I'll fix him!' And he took the poor piece of wood in both hands and, without mercy, started to beat it against the wall. Then he stopped and listened for the tiny voice to cry. He waited two minutes--nothing; five minutes--nothing; ten minutes--still nothing.
'I must have imagined that tiny voice! Well, to work once more!'
And because he was frightened, he began singing to encourage himself. Meanwhile he put the axe down and taking his plane began planing and shaping the wood. But while the plane went to and fro, he heard the same tiny voice. This time it giggled :
'Oh, stop it! Ha, ha, ha! You're tickling me.'
This time, poor Mr Cherry fell as if struck by lightening. When he opened his eyes, he was sitting on the floor. The tip of his nose, which was always red, had turned blue with fright.
In that moment, somebody knocked on the door. 'Come in,' said Mr Cherry, too weak to stand up.
A little, jolly old man came into the shop. His name was Geppetto.
'What brought you here, Mr Geppetto?'
'I have come to ask you a favour.'
'Here I am, at your service,' answered the carpenter, getting to his knees.
'I want a piece of wood to make a Marionette. Will you give it to me?'
Mr Antonio, pleased as Punch, hurried to his bench to get the piece of wood which had frightened him so much.
As soon as he reached home, Geppetto took his tools and began to cut and shape the wood into a puppet.
'What shall I call him?' he said to himself. 'I think I'll call him PINOCCHIO. That name will bring him good luck' Then Geppetto set to work to quickly make the hair, the forehead, and the eyes. Imagine his surprise when he saw the eyes moving and looking at him. Geppetto, did not like this and said angrily:
'Naughty wooden eyes, why are you staring at me?'
There was no answer.
After the eyes, Geppetto made the nose, which began to grow as soon as it was finished. It grew and grew and was soon so long, it seemed endless. Poor Geppetto worked fast to shorten it, but the more he cut off , the longer that insolent nose grew. In despair he let it alone. Next he made the mouth. No sooner was it finished than it began to laugh and poke fun at him.
'Stop laughing!' said Geppetto angrily; but he might as well have spoken to the wall.
The mouth stopped laughing, and stuck out its tongue.
Not wishing to spoil the puppet, Geppetto pretended not to see it and went on with his work. As he was about to put the last touches to the fingers, Geppetto's wig was snatched from his head.
'Pinocchio, give me my wig!'
But instead of giving it back, Pinocchio put it on his own head, and was almost hidden under it. At that unexpected trick, Geppetto felt sadder than ever before in his life.
'Pinocchio, you wicked boy!' he cried out. 'You are not yet finished, and you already disobey your poor old father. And he wiped away a tear.
The legs and feet still had to be made. As soon as they were done, Geppetto received a sharp kick on the tip of his nose.
'I deserve it! I should have thought of this before I made him. Now it's too late!'
He took hold of the puppet under the arms and put him on the floor to teach him to walk. Pinocchio's legs were so stiff that he could not move them, and Geppetto held his hand and showed him how to put out one foot after the other.When his legs were limbered up, Pinocchio started walking by himself and ran all around the room. He came to the open door, and with one leap he was out into the street. Away he flew! Poor Geppetto ran after him but was unable to catch him, for Pinocchio ran in leaps and bounds, his two wooden feet, as they beat on the stones of the street, making as much noise as twenty peasants in wooden shoes.
'Catch him! Catch him!' Geppetto kept shouting. But the people in the street, seeing a wooden puppet running like the wind, stood still to stare and to laugh until they cried. At last, a policeman came hearing the clatter. From afar Pinocchio saw the policeman and tried to escape by running between his legs, but failed dismally. The policeman grabbed him by his ridiculous long nose and returned him to Mr Geppetto. who wanted to pull his ears to punish him. Think how he felt when he could not find any ears, in his haste he had forgotten to make them! All he could do was to seize Pinocchio by the back of the neck and take him home. As he was doing so, he shook him two or three times and said to him angrily:
'We're going home now. When we get home, then we'll settle things!'
Pinocchio, on hearing this, threw himself on the ground and refused to take another step. A crowd soon gathered round them.
'Poor puppet,' called out one man. 'I'm not surprised he doesn't want to go home. Geppetto, might beat him, he's so mean and cruel!'
So much was said that the policeman let Pinocchio go and decided to take poor Geppeto to prison. As they walked to prison, the old man whimpered, 'Ungrateful boy! To think that I worked so hard to make you a well-behaved puppet! ' What happened after this is almost unbelievable, but I shall tell you about NOW.
In the meantime that rascal, Pinocchio, free now from the clutches of the policeman, was running wildly across the fields, towards home. On getting there, he found the house door half open. He slipped into the room, locked the door, and threw himself on the floor, happy at his escape. But his happiness lasted only a short time, for just then he heard someone saying:
'Who is calling me?' asked Pinocchio, frightened.
Pinocchio turned and saw a big cricket crawling up the wall.
'Tell me, who are you?'
'I'm a Talking Cricket and I've been living in this room for more than a hundred years.'
But now this room is mine,' said the Puppet, 'and if you will oblige me by going away at once.'
'I refuse to leave this spot,' answered the Cricket, 'until I have told you a great truth.'
'Right, tell it, then, and hurry.'
'Woe to boys who refuse to obey their parents and run away from home! They will never be happy in this world, and sooner or later they will repent bitterly.'
'Oh sing on, Cricket, as you please. What I know is, that tomorrow, at dawn, I leave this place forever. If I stay here the same thing will happen to me which happens to all other boys and girls. They are sent to school, and whether they want to or not, they must study and I hate to study!
'Poor little silly! Don't you know that if you go on like that, you will grow into a perfect donkey and that you'll be the laughingstock of everyone?'
'Be quiet, you ugly Cricket!' cried Pinocchio and he took a hammer from the bench, and threw it with all his strength at the Talking Cricket. Perhaps he did not mean to hit him; but, sad to relate, my dear children, he did - straight on the head.With a last weak 'cri-cri-cri' the poor Cricket fell from the wall, flattened!
If the Cricket's death scared Pinocchio at all, it was only for a very few moments; for, as night came on, a queer, empty feeling at the pit of his stomach reminded the puppet that he had eaten nothing all day. Poor Pinocchio ran to the fireplace where the pot was boiling and stretched out his hand to take the cover off, but to his amazement the pot was only painted! Think how he felt! His long nose became at least two inches longer.He ran about the room, searching in every cupboard, and even looked under the bed for a piece of bread or a biscuit, or perhaps a bit of fish. A bone left by a dog would have tasted good to him! But he found nothing.
He wept and wailed to himself: 'The Talking Cricket was right. It was wrong of me to disobey Father and to run away from home. If he were here now, I wouldn't be so hungry! Oh, how horrible it is to be hungry!'
He decided to go out again into the village, in the hope of meeting some nice person who would give him something to eat. Pinocchio hated the dark street, but he was so hungry that, in spite of it, he ran out of the house. The night was pitch black. It thundered, and bright flashes of lightning now and again shot across the sky. In a dozen leaps and bounds, he came to the village, tired out, puffing like a whale, and with tongue hanging.
The whole village was dark and deserted. In the streets, not even a dog could be seen. Pinocchio, in desperation, ran up to a doorway, threw himself upon the bell, and pulled it wildly, saying to himself: 'Someone will surely answer that!'
He was right. An old man in nightcap opened the window and looked out. He called down angrily:
'What do you want at this hour of night?'
'Will you be good enough to give me a piece of bread? I am hungry.'
'Wait a minute and I'll come right back,' answered the old fellow.After a minute or two, the same voice cried:
'Get under the window and hold out your hat!'
Pinocchio had no hat, but he managed to get under the window just in time to feel a shower of ice-cold water pour down on his poor wooden head, his shoulders, and over his whole body. He returned home as wet as a rag, and tired out from weariness and hunger. As he no longer had any strength left with which to stand, he sat down on a little stool and put his two feet on the stove to dry them. There he fell asleep, and while he slept, his wooden feet began to burn. Slowly, very slowly, they blackened and turned to ashes. Pinocchio snored away happily as if his feet were not his own. At dawn he opened his eyes just as loud knocking sounded at the door.
'Who is that?' he called, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
'It is I,' answered a voice.
It was the voice of Geppetto.