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- Pinocchio in Africa - 2/16 -
I love the common people. Come forward, and I shall be glad to open my menagerie to you. Forward, forward, ladies and gentlemen! two small francs will admit you. Children one franc, yes, only one franc."
Pinocchio, who stood in the front row, and who was ready to take advantage of the kind invitation, felt a sudden shock on hearing these last words. He looked at the director in a dazed fashion, as if to say to him, "What are you talking about? Did you not say that you traveled around the world for - "
Then, as he saw one of the spectators put down a two-franc piece and walk inside, he hung his head and suffered in silence.
Having passed two or three minutes in painful thinking, the forlorn marionette put his hands into his pockets, hoping to find in them a forgotten coin. He found nothing but a few buttons.
He racked his brains to think of some plan whereby he could get the money that was needed. He glanced at his clothes, which he would cheerfully have sold could he have found a buyer. Not knowing what else to do, he walked around the tent like a wolf prowling about the sheepfold.
Around and around he went till he found himself near an old wall which hid him from view. He come nearer the tent and to his joy discovered a tiny hole in the canvas. Here was his chance! He thrust in his thin wooden finger, but seized with a sudden fear lest some hungry lion should see it and bite it off, he hastily tried to pull it out again. In doing this, somehow "r-r-rip" went the canvas, and there was a tear a yard wide. Pinocchio shook with fear. But fear or no fear, there was the hole and beyond - were the wonders of Africa!First an arm, then his head, and then his whole body went into the cage of wild animals! He could not see them, but he heard them, and he was filled with awe. The beasts had seen him. He felt himself grasped at once by the shoulders and by the end of his nose. Two or three voices shouted in his ears, "Who goes there?"
"For pity's sake, Mr. Elephant!" said poor Pinocchio.
"There are no elephants here."
"Pardon, Sir Lion."
"There are no lions here."
"Excuse me, Mr. Tiger."
"There are no tigers."
"There are neither men nor women here; there are only Africans from Africa, who imitate wild beasts for two francs and a half a day."
"But the elephants, where are they?"
"And the lions?"
"And the tigers and the monkeys?"
"In Africa. And you, where do you come from? What are you doing in the cage of the wild beasts? Didn't you see what is written over the door? NO ONE ALLOWED TO ENTER."
"I cannot read in the dark," replied Pinocchio, trembling from head to foot; "I am no cat."
At these words everybody began to laugh. Pinocchio felt a little encouraged and murmured to himself, "They seem to be kind people, these wild beasts."
He wanted to say something pleasant to them, but just then the director of the company began to shout at the top of his voice.
5. Pinocchio Makes Friends With The Wild Animals
COME forward, come forward, ladies and gentlemen! The cost is small and the pleasure is great. The show will last an hour, only one hour. Come forward! See the battle between the terrible lion Zumbo and his wife, the ferocious lioness Zumba. Behold the tiger that wrestles with the polar bear, and the elephant that lifts the whole weight of the tent with his powerful trunk. See the animals feed. Ladies and gentlemen, come forward! Only two francs!"
At these words the men in the cages of the wild animals put horns, sea shells, and whistles to their mouths, and the next moment there came wild roarings and howls and shrieks. It was enough to make one shudder with fear.
Again the director raised his voice: "Come forward, come forward, ladies and gentlemen! two francs; children only one franc."
The music started: Boom! Boom! Boom! Par-ap'-ap'-pa! Boom! Boom! Boom! Par-ap'ap'ap'pa!parap'ap'ap'pa!
One surprise seemed to follow another. Pinocchio longed to enjoy the sights, but how was he to get out of the cage? At length, taking his courage in both hands, he said politely, "Excuse me, gentlemen, but if you have no commands to give me - "
"Not a command!" roughly answered the bearded man who played the lion. "If you do not go away quickly, I will have you eaten up by that large ape behind you."
"But I should be hard to digest," said the marionette.
"Boy, be careful how you talk," exclaimed the same voice.
"I said that your ape would have indigestion if he ate me," replied Pinocchio. "Do you think that I am joking? No, I am in earnest. He really would. I came in here by chance while returning from a walk, and if you will permit me, I will go home to my father who is waiting for me. As you have no orders to give me, many thanks, good-by, and good luck to you."
"Listen, boy," said the large man who took the part of the elephant; "I am very thirsty, and I will give you a fine new penny if you will fill this bucket at the fountain and bring it to me."
"What!" replied Pinocchio, greatly offended; "I am no servant! However this time, merely to please you, I will go." And crawling through the hole by which he had entered, he went out to the fountain and returned in a very short time with the bucket full of water.
"Good boy, good marionette!" said the men as they passed the bucket from one to another.
Pinocchio was happy. Never had he felt so happy as at that moment. "What good people!" he said to himself. "I would gladly stay with them." In the meantime the bucket was emptied, and there were still some who had not had a drink. "I will go and refill it," said the marionette promptly. And without waiting to be asked, he took the bucket and flew to the fountain.
When he returned they flattered him so cleverly with praise and thanks that a strong friendship sprang up between Pinocchio and the wild beasts.
Being a woodenhead he forgot about his father and did not go away as he had intended to do. In fact, he was curious to know something of the history of these people, who were forced to play at being wild animals.
After a moment's silence he turned to the one who had asked him to go for the water and said, "You are from Africa?"
"Yes, I am an African, and all my companions are African."
"How interesting! but pardon me, is Africa a beautiful country?"
"I should say so! A country, my dear boy, full of plenty, where everything is given away free! A country in which at any moment the strangest things may happen. A servant may become a master; a plain citizen may become a king. There are trees, taller than church steeples, with branches touching the ground, so that one may gather sweet fruit without the least trouble. My boy, Africa is a country full of enchanted forests, where the game allows itself to be killed, quartered, and hung; where riches - "
No one knows how far this description would have gone, if at that moment the voice of the director had not been heard. The music had stopped, and the director was talking to the people, who did not seem very willing to part with their money.
6. Pinocchio Determines To Go To Africa
PINOCCHIO had already resolved to go to Africa to eat of the fruit and to gather riches. He was eager to learn more, and impatient of interruption.
"And the director is an African also?"
"Certainly he is an African."
"And is he very rich?"
"Is he rich? Take my word for it that if he would, he could buy up this whole country."
Pinocchio was struck dumb. Still he wanted to make the men believe that what he had heard was not altogether new to him. "Oh, I know that Africa is a very beautiful country, and I have often planned to go there, and - if I were sure that it would not be too much trouble I would willingly go with you."
"With us? We are not going to Africa."
"What a pity! I thought I could make the journey in your company."
"Are you in earnest?" asked the bearded man. "Do you believe that
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