There was once upon a time a piece of wood in the shop of an old carpenter named Master Antonio. Everybody, however, called him Master Cherry, on account of the end of his nose, which was always as red and polished as a ripe cherry.
No sooner had Master Cherry set eyes on the piece of wood than his face beamed with delight, and, rubbing his hands together with satisfaction, he said softly to himself:
"This wood has come at the right moment; it will just do to make the leg of a little table."
He immediately took a sharp axe with which to remove the bark and the rough surface, but just as he was going to give the first stroke he heard a very small voice say imploringly, "Do not strike me so hard!"
He turned his terrified eyes all around the room to try and discover where the little voice could possibly have come from, but he saw nobody! He looked under the bench—nobody; he looked into a cupboard that was always shut—nobody; he looked into a basket of shavings and sawdust—nobody; he even opened the door of the shop and gave a glance into the street—and still nobody. Who, then, could it be?
"I see how it is," he said, laughing and scratching his wig, "evidently that little voice was all my imagination. Let us set to work again."
And, taking up the axe, he struck a tremendous blow on the piece of wood.
"Oh! oh! you have hurt me!" cried the same little voice dolefully.
This time Master Cherry was petrified. His eyes started out of his head with fright, his mouth remained open, and his tongue hung out almost to the end of his chin, like a mask on a fountain. As soon as he had recovered the use of his speech he began to say, stuttering and trembling with fear:
"But where on earth can that little voice have come from that said 'Oh! oh!'? Is it possible that this piece of wood can have learned to cry and to lament like a child? I cannot believe it. This piece of wood is nothing but a log for fuel like all the others, and thrown on the fire it would about suffice to boil a saucepan of beans. How then? Can anyone be hidden inside it? If anyone is hidden inside, so much the worse for him. I will settle him at once."
So saying, he seized the poor piece of wood and commenced beating it without mercy against the walls of the room.
Then he stopped to listen if he could hear any little voice lamenting. He waited two minutes—nothing; five minutes—nothing; ten minutes—still nothing!
"I see how it is," he then said, forcing himself to laugh, and pushing up his wig; "evidently the little voice that said 'Oh! oh!' was all my imagination! Let us set to work again."
Putting the axe aside, he took his plane, to plane and polish the bit of wood; but whilst he was running it up and down he heard the same little voice say, laughing:
"Stop! you are tickling me all over!"
This time poor Master Cherry fell down as if he had been struck by lightning. When he at last opened his eyes he found himself seated on the floor.
His face was changed, even the end of his nose, instead of being crimson, as it was nearly always, had become blue from fright.