Thinking it would make a fine missile, one of the boys took hold of it and threw it with all his strength at Pinocchio's head. But instead of hitting the Marionette, the book struck one of the other boys, who, as pale as a ghost, cried out faintly: "Oh, Mother, help! I'm dying!" and fell senseless to the ground.
At the sight of that pale little corpse, the boys were so frightened that they turned tail and ran. In a few moments, all had disappeared.
All except Pinocchio. Although scared to death by the horror of what had been done, he ran to the sea and soaked his handkerchief in the cool water and with it bathed the head of his poor little schoolmate. Sobbing bitterly, he called to him, saying:
"Eugene! My poor Eugene! Open your eyes and look at me! Why don't you answer? I was not the one who hit you, you know. Believe me, I didn't do it. Open your eyes, Eugene? If you keep them shut, I'll die, too. Oh, dear me, how shall I ever go home now? How shall I ever look at my little mother again? What will happen to me? Where shall I go? Where shall I hide? Oh, how much better it would have been, a thousand times better, if only I had gone to school! Why did I listen to those boys? They always were a bad influence! And to think that the teacher had told me--and my mother, too!--`Beware of bad company!' That's what she said. But I'm stubborn and proud. I listen, but always I do as I wish. And then I pay. I've never had a moment's peace since I've been born! Oh, dear! What will become of me? What will become of me?"
Pinocchio went on crying and moaning and beating his head. Again and again he called to his little friend, when suddenly he heard heavy steps approaching.
He looked up and saw two tall Carabineers near him.
"What are you doing stretched out on the ground?" they asked Pinocchio.
"I'm helping this schoolfellow of mine."
"Has he fainted?"
"I should say so," said one of the Carabineers, bending to look at Eugene. "This boy has been wounded on the temple. Who has hurt him?"
"Not I," stammered the Marionette, who had hardly a breath left in his whole body.
"If it wasn't you, who was it, then?"
"Not I," repeated Pinocchio.
"And with what was he wounded?"
"With this book," and the Marionette picked up the arithmetic text to show it to the officer.
"And whose book is this?"
"Not another word! Get up as quickly as you can and come along with us."
"Come with us!"
"But I am innocent."
"Come with us!"
Before starting out, the officers called out to several fishermen passing by in a boat and said to them:
"Take care of this little fellow who has been hurt. Take him home and bind his wounds. Tomorrow we'll come after him."
They then took hold of Pinocchio and, putting him between them, said to him in a rough voice: "March! And go quickly, or it will be the worse for you!"
They did not have to repeat their words. The Marionette walked swiftly along the road to the village. But the poor fellow hardly knew what he was about. He thought he had a nightmare. He felt ill. His eyes saw everything double, his legs trembled, his tongue was dry, and, try as he might, he could not utter a single word. Yet, in spite of this numbness of feeling, he suffered keenly at the thought of passing under the windows of his good little Fairy's house. What would she say on seeing him between two Carabineers?
They had just reached the village, when a sudden gust of wind blew off Pinocchio's cap and made it go sailing far down the street.
"Would you allow me," the Marionette asked the Carabineers, "to run after my cap?"
"Very well, go; but hurry."
The Marionette went, picked up his cap--but instead of putting it on his head, he stuck it between his teeth and then raced toward the sea.
He went like a bullet out of a gun.
The Carabineers, judging that it would be very difficult to catch him, sent a large Mastiff after him, one that had won first prize in all the dog races. Pinocchio ran fast and the Dog ran faster. At so much noise, the people hung out of the windows or gathered in the street, anxious to see the end of the contest. But they were disappointed, for the Dog and Pinocchio raised so much dust on the road that, after a few moments, it was impossible to see them.
The Adventures of Pinocchio -by- C. Collodi