The following day Fire-Eater called Pinocchio to one side and asked him:
"What is your father's name?"
"And what trade does he follow?"
"He is a beggar."
"Does he gain much?"
"Gain much? Why, he has never a penny in his pocket. Only think, in order to buy a spelling-book so that I could go to school he was obliged to sell the only coat he had to wear—a coat that, between patches and darns, was not fit to be seen."
"Poor devil! I feel almost sorry for him! Here are five gold pieces. Go at once and take them to him with my compliments."
Pinocchio was overjoyed and thanked the showman a thousand times. He embraced all the puppets of the company one by one, even to the gendarmes, and set out to return home.
But he had not gone far when he met on the road a Fox lame of one foot, and a Cat blind of both eyes, and they were going along helping each other like good companions in misfortune. The Fox, who was lame, walked leaning on the Cat; and the Cat, who was blind, was guided by the Fox.
"Good-day, Pinocchio," said the Fox, greeting him politely.
"How do you come to know my name?" asked the puppet.
"I know your father well."
"Where did you see him?"
"I saw him yesterday at the door of his house."
"And what was he doing?"
"He was in his shirt-sleeves and shivering with cold."
"Poor papa! But that is over; for the future he shall shiver no more!"
"Because I have become a gentleman."
"A gentleman—you!" said the Fox, and he began to laugh rudely and scornfully. The Cat also began to laugh, but to conceal it she combed her whiskers with her forepaws.
"There is little to laugh at," cried Pinocchio angrily. "I am really sorry to make your mouth water, but if you know anything about it, you can see that these are five gold pieces."
And he pulled out the money that Fire-Eater had given him.
At the jingling of the money the Fox, with an involuntary movement, stretched out the paw that seemed crippled, and the Cat opened wide two eyes that looked like two green lanterns. It is true that she shut them again, and so quickly that Pinocchio observed nothing.
"And now," asked the Fox, "what are you going to do with all that money?"
"First of all," answered the puppet, "I intend to buy a new coat for my papa, made of gold and silver, and with diamond buttons; and then I will buy a spelling-book for myself."
"Yes indeed, for I wish to go to school to study in earnest."
"Look at me!" said the Fox. "Through my foolish passion for study I have lost a leg."
"Look at me!" said the Cat. "Through my foolish passion for study I have lost the sight of both my eyes."
At that moment a white Blackbird, that was perched on the hedge by the road, began his usual song, and said:
"Pinocchio, don't listen to the advice of bad companions; if you do you will repent it!"
Poor Blackbird! If only he had not spoken! The Cat, with a great leap, sprang upon him, and without even giving him time to say "Oh!" ate him in a mouthful, feathers and all.
Having eaten him and cleaned her mouth she shut her eyes again and feigned blindness as before.
"Poor Blackbird!" said Pinocchio to the Cat, "why did you treat him so badly?"
"I did it to give him a lesson. He will learn another time not to meddle in other people's conversation."
They had gone almost half-way when the Fox, halting suddenly, said to the puppet:
"Would you like to double your money?"
"In what way?"
"Would you like to make out of your five miserable sovereigns, a hundred, a thousand, two thousand?"
"I should think so! but in what way?"
"The way is easy enough. Instead of returning home you must go with us."
"And where do you wish to take me?"
"To the land of the Owls."
Pinocchio reflected a moment, and then he said resolutely:
"No, I will not go. I am already close to the house, and I will return home to my papa, who is waiting for me. Who can tell how often the poor old man must have sighed yesterday when I did not come back! I have indeed been a bad son, and the Talking-Cricket was right when he said: 'Disobedient boys never come to any good in the world.' I have found it to be true, for many misfortunes have happened to me. Even yesterday in Fire-Eater's house I ran the risk—Oh! it makes me shudder only to think of it!"
"Well, then," said the Fox, "you are quite decided to go home? Go, then, and so much the worse for you."
"So much the worse for you!" repeated the Cat.
"Think well of it, Pinocchio, for you are giving a kick to fortune."
"To fortune!" repeated the Cat.
"Between today and tomorrow your five sovereigns would have become two thousand."
"Two thousand!" repeated the Cat.
"But how is it possible that they could become so many?" asked Pinocchio, remaining with his mouth open from astonishment.
"I will explain it to you at once," said the Fox. "You must know that in the land of the Owls there is a sacred field called by everybody the Field of Miracles. In this field you must dig a little hole, and you put into it, we will say, one gold sovereign. You then cover up the hole with a little earth; you must water it with two pails of water from the fountain, then sprinkle it with two pinches of salt, and when night comes you can go quietly to bed. In the meanwhile, during the night, the gold piece will grow and flower, and in the morning when you get up and return to the field, what do you find? You find a beautiful tree laden with as many gold sovereigns as a fine ear of corn has grains in the month of June."
"So that," said Pinocchio, more and more bewildered, "supposing I buried my five sovereigns in that field, how many should I find there the following morning?"
"That is an exceedingly easy calculation," replied the Fox, "a calculation that you can make on the ends of your fingers. Every sovereign will give you an increase of five hundred; multiply five hundred by five, and the following morning will find you with two thousand five hundred shining gold pieces in your pocket."
"Oh! how delightful!" cried Pinocchio, dancing for joy. "As soon as ever I have obtained those sovereigns, I will keep two thousand for myself and the other five hundred I will make a present of to you two."
"A present to us?" cried the Fox with indignation and appearing much offended. "What are you dreaming of?"
"What are you dreaming of?" repeated the Cat.
"We do not work," said the Fox, "for interest: we work solely to enrich others."
"Others!" repeated the Cat.
"What good people!" thought Pinocchio to himself, and, forgetting there and then his papa, the new coat, the spelling-book, and all his good resolutions, he said to the Fox and the Cat:
"Let us be off at once. I will go with you."