After Pinocchio had been fifty minutes under the water, his purchaser said aloud to himself:
"My poor little lame donkey must by this time be quite drowned. I will therefore pull him out of the water, and I will make a fine drum of his skin."
And he began to haul in the rope that he had tied to the donkey's leg, and he hauled, and hauled, and hauled, until at last—what do you think appeared above the water? Instead of a little dead donkey he saw a live puppet, who was wriggling like an eel.
Seeing this wooden puppet, the poor man thought he was dreaming, and, struck dumb with astonishment, he remained with his mouth open and his eyes starting out of his head.
Having somewhat recovered from his first stupefaction, he asked in a quavering voice:
"And the little donkey that I threw into the sea? What has become of him?"
"I am the little donkey!" said Pinocchio, laughing.
"Ah, you young scamp!! Do you dare to make game of me?"
"To make game of you? Quite the contrary, my dear master? I am speaking seriously."
"But how can you, who but a short time ago were a little donkey, have become a wooden puppet, only from having been left in the water?"
"It must have been the effect of sea water. The sea makes extraordinary changes."
"Beware, puppet, beware! Don't imagine that you can amuse yourself at my expense. Woe to you if I lose patience!"
"Well, master, do you wish to know the true story? If you will set my leg free I will tell it you."
The good man, who was curious to hear the true story, immediately untied the knot that kept him bound; and Pinocchio, finding himself free as a bird in the air, commenced as follows:
"You must know that I was once a puppet as I am now, and I was on the point of becoming a boy like the many who are in the world. But instead, induced by my dislike for study and the advice of bad companions, I ran away from home. One fine day when I awoke I found myself changed into a donkey with long ears, and a long tail. What a disgrace it was to me!—a disgrace, dear master, that even your worst enemy would not inflict upon you! Taken to the market to be sold I was bought by the director of an equestrian company, who took it into his head to make a famous dancer of me, and a famous leaper through hoops. But one night during a performance I had a bad fall in the circus and lamed both my legs. Then the director, not knowing what to do with a lame donkey, sent me to be sold, and you were the purchaser!"
"Only too true. And I paid two dollars for you. And now, who will give me back my good money?"
"And why did you buy me? You bought me to make a drum of my skin!"
"Only too true! And now, where shall I find another skin?"
"Don't despair, master. There are such a number of little donkeys in the world!"
"Tell me, you impertinent rascal, does your story end here?"
"No," answered the puppet; "I have another two words to say and then I shall have finished. After you had bought me you brought me to this place to kill me; but then, yielding to a feeling of compassion, you preferred to tie a stone round my neck and to throw me into the sea. This humane feeling does you great honor and I shall always be grateful to you for it. But, nevertheless, dear master, this time you made your calculations without considering the Fairy!"
"And who is the Fairy?"
"She is my mamma and she resembles all other good mammas who care for their children, and who never lose sight of them, but help them lovingly, even when, on account of their foolishness and evil conduct, they deserve to be abandoned and left to themselves. Well, then, the good Fairy, as soon as she saw that I was in danger of drowning, sent immediately an immense shoal of fish, who, believing me really to be a little dead donkey, began to eat me. And what mouthfuls they took; I should never have thought that fish were greedier than boys! Some ate my ears, some my muzzle, others my neck and mane, some the skin of my legs, some my coat. Amongst them there was a little fish so polite that he even condescended to eat my tail."
"From this time forth," said his purchaser, horrified, "I swear that I will never touch fish. It would be too dreadful to open a mullet, or a fried whiting, and to find inside a donkey's tail!"
"I agree with you," said the puppet, laughing. "However, I must tell you that when the fish had finished eating the donkey's hide that covered me from head to foot, they naturally reached the bone, or rather the wood, for, as you see, I am made of the hardest wood. But after giving a few bites they soon discovered that I was not a morsel for their teeth, and, disgusted with such indigestible food, they went off, some in one direction and some in another, without so much as saying 'Thank you' to me. And now, at last, I have told you how it was that when you pulled up the rope you found a live puppet instead of a dead donkey."
"I laugh at your story," cried the man in a rage. "I know only that I spent two dollars to buy you, and I will have my money back. Shall I tell you what I will do? I will take you back to the market and I will sell you by weight as seasoned wood for lighting fires."
"Sell me if you like; I am content," said Pinocchio.
But as he said it he made a spring and plunged into the water. Swimming gaily away from the shore, he called to his poor owner:
"Good-bye, master; if you should be in want of a skin to make a drum, remember me."
And he laughed and went on swimming, and after a while he turned again and shouted louder:
"Good-bye, master; if you should be in want of a little well seasoned wood for lighting the fire, remember me."
In the twinkling of an eye he had swum so far off that he was scarcely visible. All that could be seen of him was a little black speck on the surface of the sea that from time to time lifted its legs out of the water and leaped and capered like a dolphin enjoying himself.
Whilst Pinocchio was swimming, he knew not whither, he saw in the midst of the sea a rock that seemed to be made of white marble, and on the summit there stood a beautiful little goat who bleated lovingly and made signs to him to approach.
But the most singular thing was this. The little goat's hair, instead of being white or black, or a mixture of two colors as is usual with other goats, was blue, and a very vivid blue, greatly resembling the hair of the beautiful Child.
I leave you to imagine how rapidly poor Pinocchio's heart began to beat. He swam with redoubled strength and energy towards the white rock; and he was already half-way there when he saw, rising up out of the water and coming to meet him, the horrible head of a sea-monster. His wide-open, cavernous mouth and his three rows of enormous teeth would have been terrifying to look at even in a picture.
And do you know what this sea-monster was?
This sea-monster was neither more nor less than that gigantic Dog-Fish, who has been mentioned many times in this story, and who, for his slaughter and for his insatiable voracity, had been named the "Attila of Fish and Fishermen."
Only to think of poor Pinocchio's terror at the sight of the monster. He tried to avoid it, to change his direction; he tried to escape, but that immense, wide-open mouth came towards him with the velocity of an arrow.
"Be quick, Pinocchio, for pity's sake!" cried the beautiful little goat, bleating.
And Pinocchio swam desperately with his arms, his chest, his legs, and his feet.
"Quick, Pinocchio, the monster is close upon you!"
And Pinocchio swam quicker than ever, and flew on with the rapidity of a ball from a gun. He had nearly reached the rock, and the little goat, leaning over towards the sea, had stretched out her fore-legs to help him out of the water!
But it was too late! The monster had overtaken him and, drawing in his breath, he sucked in the poor puppet as he would have sucked a hen's egg; and he swallowed him with such violence and avidity that Pinocchio, in falling into the Dog-Fish's stomach, received such a blow that he remained unconscious for a quarter of an hour afterwards.
When he came to himself again after the shock he could not in the least imagine in what world he was. All around him it was quite dark, and the darkness was so black and so profound that it seemed to him that he had fallen head downwards into an inkstand full of ink. He listened, but he could hear no noise; only from time to time great gusts of wind blew in his face. At first he could not understand where the wind came from, but at last he discovered that it came out of the monster's lungs. For you must know that the Dog-Fish suffered very much from asthma, and when he breathed it was exactly as if a north wind was blowing.
Pinocchio at first tried to keep up his courage, but when he had one proof after another that he was really shut up in the body of this sea-monster he began to cry and scream, and to sob out:
"Help! help! Oh, how unfortunate I am! Will nobody come to save me?"
"Who do you think could save you, unhappy wretch?" said a voice in the dark that sounded like a guitar out of tune.
"Who is speaking?" asked Pinocchio, frozen with terror.
"It is I! I am a poor Tunny who was swallowed by the Dog-Fish at the same time that you were. And what fish are you?"
"I have nothing in common with fish. I am a puppet."
"Then, if you are not a fish, why did you let yourself be swallowed by the monster?"
"I didn't let myself be swallowed; it was the monster swallowed me! And now, what are we to do here in the dark?"
"Resign ourselves and wait until the Dog-Fish has digested us both."
"But I do not want to be digested!" howled Pinocchio, beginning to cry again.
"Neither do I want to be digested," added the Tunny; "but I am enough of a philosopher to console myself by thinking that when one is born a Tunny it is more dignified to die in the water than in oil."
"That is all nonsense!" cried Pinocchio.
"It is my opinion," replied the Tunny, "and opinions, so say the political Tunnies, ought to be respected."
"To sum it all up, I want to get away from here. I want to escape."
"Escape, if you are able!"
"Is this Dog-Fish who has swallowed us very big?" asked the puppet.
"Big! Why, only imagine, his body is two miles long without counting his tail."
Whilst they were holding this conversation in the dark, Pinocchio thought that he saw a light a long way off.
"What is that little light I see in the distance?" he asked.
"It is most likely some companion in misfortune who is waiting, like us, to be digested."
"I will go and find him. Do you not think that it may by chance be some old fish who perhaps could show us how to escape?"
"I hope it may be so, with all my heart, dear puppet."
"Good-bye, puppet, and good fortune attend you."
"Where shall we meet again?"
"Who can say? It is better not even to think of it!"