Pinocchio, hoping to be in time to help his father, swam the whole night.
And what a horrible night it was! The rain came down in torrents, it hailed, the thunder was frightful, and the flashes of lightning made it as light as day.
Towards morning he saw a long strip of land not far off. It was an island in the midst of the sea.
He tried his utmost to reach the shore, but it was all in vain. The waves, racing and tumbling over each other, knocked him about as if he had been a stick or a wisp of straw. At last, fortunately for him, a billow rolled up with such fury and impetuosity that he was lifted up and thrown far on to the sands.
He fell with such force that, as he struck the ground, his ribs and all his joints cracked, but he comforted himself, saying:
"This time also I have made a wonderful escape!"
Little by little the sky cleared, the sun shone out in all his splendor, and the sea became as quiet and as smooth as oil.
The puppet put his clothes in the sun to dry and began to look in every direction in hopes of seeing on the vast expanse of water a little boat with a little man in it. But, although he looked and looked, he could see nothing but the sky, and the sea, and the sail of some ship, but so far away that it seemed no bigger than a fly.
"If I only knew what this island was called!" he said to himself. "If I only knew whether it was inhabited by civilized people—I mean, by people who have not the bad habit of hanging boys to the branches of the trees. But whom can I ask? Whom, if there is nobody?"
This idea of finding himself alone, alone, all alone, in the midst of this great uninhabited country, made him so melancholy that he was just beginning to cry. But at that moment, at a short distance from the shore, he saw a big fish swimming by; it was going quietly on its own business with its head out of the water.
Not knowing its name, the puppet called to it in a loud voice to make himself heard:
"Eh, Sir Fish, will you permit me a word with you?"
"Two if you like," answered the fish, who was a Dolphin, and so polite that few similar are to be found in any sea in the world.
"Will you be kind enough to tell me if there are villages in this island where it would be possible to obtain something to eat, without running the danger of being eaten?"
"Certainly there are," replied the Dolphin. "Indeed, you will find one at a short distance from here."
"And what road must I take to go there?"
"You must take that path to your left and follow your nose. You cannot make a mistake."
"Will you tell me another thing? You who swim about the sea all day and all night, have you by chance met a little boat with my papa in it?"
"And who is your papa?"
"He is the best papa in the world, whilst it would be difficult to find a worse son than I am."
"During the terrible storm last night," answered the Dolphin, "the little boat must have gone to the bottom."
"And my papa?"
"He must have been swallowed by the terrible Dog-Fish, who for some days past has been spreading devastation and ruin in our waters."
"Is this Dog-Fish very big?" asked Pinocchio, who was already beginning to quake with fear.
"Big!" replied the Dolphin. "That you may form some idea of his size, I need only tell you that he is bigger than a five-storied house, and that his mouth is so enormous and so deep that a railway train with its smoking engine could pass down his throat."
"Mercy upon us!" exclaimed the terrified puppet; and, putting on his clothes with the greatest haste, he said to the Dolphin:
"Good-bye, Sir Fish; excuse the trouble I have given you, and many thanks for your politeness."
He then took the path that had been pointed out to him and began to walk fast—so fast, indeed, that he was almost running. And at the slightest noise he turned to look behind him, fearing that he might see the terrible Dog-Fish with a railway train in its mouth following him.
After a walk of half an hour he reached a little village called "The Village of the Industrious Bees." The road was alive with people running here and there to attend to their business; all were at work, all had something to do. You could not have found an idler or a vagabond, not even if you had searched for him with a lighted lamp.
"Ah!" said that lazy Pinocchio at once, "I see that this village will never suit me! I wasn't born to work!"
In the meanwhile he was tormented by hunger, for he had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours—not even vetch. What was he to do?
There were only two ways by which he could obtain food—either by asking for a little work, or by begging for a nickel or for a mouthful of bread.
He was ashamed to beg, for his father had always preached to him that no one had a right to beg except the aged and the infirm. The really poor in this world, deserving of compassion and assistance, are only those who from age or sickness are no longer able to earn their own bread with the labor of their hands. It is the duty of every one else to work; and if they will not work, so much the worse for them if they suffer from hunger.
At that moment a man came down the road, tired and panting for breath. He was dragging, alone, with fatigue and difficulty, two carts full of charcoal.
Pinocchio, judging by his face that he was a kind man, approached him and, casting down his eyes with shame, he said to him in a low voice:
"Would you have the charity to give me a nickel, for I am dying of hunger?"
"You shall have not only a nickel," said the man, "but I will give you a quarter, provided that you help me to drag home these two carts of charcoal."
"I am surprised at you!" answered the puppet in a tone of offense. "Let me tell you that I am not accustomed to do the work of a donkey: I have never drawn a cart!"
"So much the better for you," answered the man. "Then, my boy, if you are really dying of hunger, eat two fine slices of your pride, and be careful not to get indigestion."
A few minutes afterwards a mason passed down the road carrying on his shoulders a basket of lime.
"Would you have the charity, good man, to give a nickel to a poor boy who is yawning for want of food?"
"Willingly," answered the man. "Come with me and carry the lime, and instead of a nickel I will give you a quarter."
"But the lime is heavy," objected Pinocchio, "and I don't want to tire myself."
"If you don't want to tire yourself, then, my boy, amuse yourself with yawning, and much good may it do you."
In less than half an hour twenty other people went by, and Pinocchio asked charity of them all, but they all answered:
"Are you not ashamed to beg? Instead of idling about the roads, go and look for a little work and learn to earn your bread."
At last a nice little woman carrying two cans of water came by.
"Will you let me drink a little water out of your can?" asked Pinocchio, who was burning with thirst.
"Drink, my boy, if you wish it!" said the little woman, setting down the two cans.
Pinocchio drank like a fish, and as he dried his mouth he mumbled:
"I have quenched my thirst. If I could only appease my hunger!"
The good woman, hearing these words, said at once:
"If you will help me to carry home these two cans of water I will give you a fine piece of bread."
Pinocchio looked at the can and answered neither yes nor no.
"And besides the bread you shall have a nice dish of cauliflower dressed with oil and vinegar," added the good woman.
Pinocchio gave another look at the can and answered neither yes nor no.
"And after the cauliflower I will give you a beautiful bonbon full of syrup."
The temptation of this last dainty was so great that Pinocchio could resist no longer and with an air of decision he said:
"I must have patience! I will carry the can to your house."
The can was heavy and the puppet, not being strong enough to carry it in his hand, had to resign himself to carry it on his head.
When they reached the house the good little woman made Pinocchio sit down at a small table already laid and she placed before him the bread, the cauliflower and the bonbon.
Pinocchio did not eat, he devoured. His stomach was like an apartment that had been left empty and uninhabited for five months.
When his ravenous hunger was somewhat appeased he raised his head to thank his benefactress, but he had no sooner looked at her than he gave a prolonged "Oh-h!" of astonishment and continued staring at her with wide open eyes, his fork in the air, and his mouth full of bread and cauliflower, as if he had been bewitched.
"What has surprised you so much?" asked the good woman, laughing.
"It is—" answered the puppet, "it is—it is—that you are like—that you remind me—yes, yes, yes, the same voice—the same eyes—the same hair—yes, yes, yes—you also have blue hair—as she had—Oh, little Fairy! tell me that it is you, really you! Do not make me cry any more! If you knew—I have cried so much, I have suffered so much."
And, throwing himself at her feet on the floor, Pinocchio embraced the knees of the mysterious little woman and began to cry bitterly.