At last the coach arrived, and it arrived without making the slightest noise, for its wheels were bound round with flax and rags.
It was drawn by twelve pairs of donkeys, all the same size but of different colors.
Some were gray, some white, some brindled like pepper and salt, and others had large stripes of yellow and blue.
But the most extraordinary thing was this: the twelve pairs, that is, the twenty-four donkeys, instead of being shod like other beasts of burden, had on their feet men's boots made of white kid.
And the coachman?
Picture to yourself a little man broader than he was long, flabby and greasy like a lump of butter, with a small round face like an orange, a little mouth that was always laughing, and a soft, caressing voice like a cat when she is trying to insinuate herself into the good graces of the mistress of the house.
All the boys vied with each other in taking places in his coach, to be conducted to the "Land of Boobies."
The coach was, in fact, quite full of boys between eight and fourteen years old, heaped one upon another like herrings in a barrel. They were uncomfortable, packed closely together and could hardly breathe; but nobody said "Oh!"—nobody grumbled. The consolation of knowing that in a few hours they would reach a country where there were no books, no schools, and no masters, made them so happy and resigned that they felt neither fatigue nor inconvenience, neither hunger, nor thirst, nor want of sleep.
As soon as the coach had drawn up the little man turned to Candlewick and with a thousand smirks and grimaces said to him, smiling:
"Tell me, my fine boy, would you also like to go to that fortunate country?"
"I certainly wish to go."
"But I must warn you, my dear child, that there is not a place left in the coach. You can see for yourself that it is quite full."
"No matter," replied Candlewick, "if there is no place inside, I will manage to sit on the springs."
And, giving a leap, he seated himself astride on the springs.
"And you, my love!" said the little man, turning in a flattering manner to Pinocchio, "what do you intend to do? Are you coming with us or are you going to remain behind?"
"I remain behind," answered Pinocchio. "I am going home. I intend to study, as all well conducted boys do."
"Much good may it do you!"
"Pinocchio!" called out Candlewick, "listen to me: come with us and we shall have such fun."
"No, no, no!"
"Come with us and we shall have such fun," shouted in chorus a hundred voices from the inside of the coach.
"But if I come with you, what will my good Fairy say?" said the puppet, who was beginning to yield.
"Do not trouble your head with melancholy thoughts. Consider only that we are going to a country where we shall be at liberty to run riot from morning till night."
Pinocchio did not answer, but he sighed; he sighed again; he sighed for the third time, and he said finally:
"Make a little room for me, for I am coming, too."
"The places are all full," replied the little man; "but, to show you how welcome you are, you shall have my seat on the box."
"Oh, I will go on foot."
"No, indeed, I could not allow that. I would rather mount one of these donkeys," cried Pinocchio.
Approaching the right-hand donkey of the first pair, he attempted to mount him, but the animal turned on him and, giving him a great blow in the stomach, rolled him over with his legs in the air.
You can imagine the impertinent and immoderate laughter of all the boys who witnessed this scene.
But the little man did not laugh. He approached the rebellious donkey and, pretending to give him a kiss, bit off half of his ear.
Pinocchio in the meantime had gotten up from the ground in a fury and, with a spring, he seated himself on the poor animal's back. And he sprang so well that the boys stopped laughing and began to shout: "Hurrah, Pinocchio!" and they clapped their hands and applauded him as if they would never finish.
Now that Pinocchio was mounted, the coach started. Whilst the donkeys were galloping and the coach was rattling over the stones of the high road, the puppet thought that he heard a low voice that was scarcely audible saying to him:
"Poor fool! you would follow your own way, but you will repent it!"
Pinocchio, feeling almost frightened, looked from side to side to try and discover where these words could come from, but he saw nobody. The donkeys galloped, the coach rattled, the boys inside slept, Candlewick snored like a dormouse, and the little man seated on the box sang between his teeth:
"During the night all sleep, But I sleep never." After they had gone another mile, Pinocchio heard the same little low voice saying to him:
"Bear it in mind, simpleton! Boys who refuse to study and turn their backs upon books, schools and masters, to pass their time in play and amusement, sooner or later come to a bad end. I know it by experience, and I can tell you. A day will come when you will weep as I am weeping now, but then it will be too late!"
On hearing these words whispered very softly, the puppet, more frightened than ever, sprang down from the back of his donkey and went and took hold of his mouth.
Imagine his surprise when he found that the donkey was crying—crying like a boy!
"Eh! Sir Coachman," cried Pinocchio to the little man, "here is an extraordinary thing! This donkey is crying."
"Let him cry; he will laugh when he is a bridegroom."
"But have you by chance taught him to talk?"
"No; but he spent three years in a company of learned dogs, and he learned to mutter a few words."
"Come, come," said the little man, "don't let us waste time in seeing a donkey cry. Mount him and let us go on: the night is cold and the road is long."
Pinocchio obeyed without another word. In the morning about daybreak they arrived safely in the "Land of Boobies."
It was a country unlike any other country in the world. The population was composed entirely of boys. The oldest were fourteen, and the youngest scarcely eight years old. In the streets there was such merriment, noise and shouting that it was enough to turn anybody's head. There were troops of boys everywhere. Some were playing with nuts, some with battledores, some with balls. Some rode velocipedes, others wooden horses. A party were playing at hide and seek, a few were chasing each other. Some were reciting, some singing, some leaping. Some were amusing themselves with walking on their hands with their feet in the air; others were trundling hoops or strutting about dressed as generals, wearing leaf helmets and commanding a squadron of cardboard soldiers. Some were laughing, some shouting, some were calling out; others clapped their hands, or whistled, or clucked like a hen who has just laid an egg.
In every square, canvas theaters had been erected and they were crowded with boys from morning till evening. On the walls of the houses there were inscriptions written in charcoal: "Long live playthings, we will have no more schools; down with arithmetic," and similar other fine sentiments, all in bad spelling.
Pinocchio, Candlewick and the other boys who had made the journey with the little man, had scarcely set foot in the town before they were in the thick of the tumult, and I need not tell you that in a few minutes they had made acquaintance with everybody. Where could happier or more contented boys be found?
In the midst of continual games and every variety of amusement, the hours, the days and the weeks passed like lightning.
"Oh, what a delightful life!" said Pinocchio, whenever by chance he met Candlewick.
"See, then, if I was not right?" replied the other. "And to think that you did not want to come! To think that you had taken it into your head to return home to your Fairy, and to lose your time in studying! If you are this moment free from the bother of books and school, you must acknowledge that you owe it to me, to my advice, and to my persuasions. It is only friends who know how to render such great services."
"It is true, Candlewick! If I am now a really happy boy, it is all your doing. But do you know what the master used to say when he talked to me of you? He always said to me: 'Do not associate with that rascal Candlewick, for he is a bad companion, and will only lead you into mischief!'"
"Poor master!" replied the other, shaking his head. "I know only too well that he disliked me, and amused himself by calumniating me; but I am generous and I forgive him!"
"Noble soul!" said Pinocchio, embracing his friend affectionately and kissing him between the eyes.
This delightful life had gone on for five months. The days had been entirely spent in play and amusement, without a thought of books or school, when one morning Pinocchio awoke to a most disagreeable surprise that put him into a very bad humor.