The next day Fire Eater called Pinocchio aside and asked him:
"What is your father's name?"
"And what is his trade?"
"He's a wood carver."
"Does he earn much?"
"He earns so much that he never has a penny in his pockets. Just think that, in order to buy me an A-B-C book for school, he had to sell the only coat he owned, a coat so full of darns and patches that it was a pity."
"Poor fellow! I feel sorry for him. Here, take these five gold pieces. Go, give them to him with my kindest regards."
Pinocchio, as may easily be imagined, thanked him a thousand times. He kissed each Marionette in turn, even the officers, and, beside himself with joy, set out on his homeward journey.
He had gone barely half a mile when he met a lame Fox and a blind Cat, walking together like two good friends. The lame Fox leaned on the Cat, and the blind Cat let the Fox lead him along.
"Good morning, Pinocchio," said the Fox, greeting him courteously.
"How do you know my name?" asked the Marionette.
"I know your father well."
"Where have you seen him?"
"I saw him yesterday standing at the door of his house."
"And what was he doing?"
"He was in his shirt sleeves trembling with cold."
"Poor Father! But, after today, God willing, he will suffer no longer."
"Because I have become a rich man."
"You, a rich man?" said the Fox, and he began to laugh out loud. The Cat was laughing also, but tried to hide it by stroking his long whiskers.
"There is nothing to laugh at," cried Pinocchio angrily. "I am very sorry to make your mouth water, but these, as you know, are five new gold pieces."
And he pulled out the gold pieces which Fire Eater had given him.
At the cheerful tinkle of the gold, the Fox unconsciously held out his paw that was supposed to be lame, and the Cat opened wide his two eyes till they looked like live coals, but he closed them again so quickly that Pinocchio did not notice.
"And may I ask," inquired the Fox, "what you are going to do with all that money?"
"First of all," answered the Marionette, "I want to buy a fine new coat for my father, a coat of gold and silver with diamond buttons; after that, I'll buy an A-B-C book for myself."
"For myself. I want to go to school and study hard."
"Look at me," said the Fox. "For the silly reason of wanting to study, I have lost a paw."
"Look at me," said the Cat. "For the same foolish reason, I have lost the sight of both eyes."
At that moment, a Blackbird, perched on the fence along the road, called out sharp and clear:
"Pinocchio, do not listen to bad advice. If you do, you'll be sorry!"
Poor little Blackbird! If he had only kept his words to himself! In the twinkling of an eyelid, the Cat leaped on him, and ate him, feathers and all.
After eating the bird, he cleaned his whiskers, closed his eyes, and became blind once more.
"Poor Blackbird!" said Pinocchio to the Cat. "Why did you kill him?"
"I killed him to teach him a lesson. He talks too much. Next time he will keep his words to himself."
By this time the three companions had walked a long distance. Suddenly, the Fox stopped in his tracks and, turning to the Marionette, said to him:
"Do you want to double your gold pieces?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you want one hundred, a thousand, two thousand gold pieces for your miserable five?"
"Yes, but how?"
"The way is very easy. Instead of returning home, come with us."
"And where will you take me?"
"To the City of Simple Simons."
Pinocchio thought a while and then said firmly:
"No, I don't want to go. Home is near, and I'm going where Father is waiting for me. How unhappy he must be that I have not yet returned! I have been a bad son, and the Talking Cricket was right when he said that a disobedient boy cannot be happy in this world. I have learned this at my own expense. Even last night in the theater, when Fire Eater. . . Brrrr!!!!! . . . The shivers run up and down my back at the mere thought of it."
"Well, then," said the Fox, "if you really want to go home, go ahead, but you'll be sorry."
"You'll be sorry," repeated the Cat.
"Think well, Pinocchio, you are turning your back on Dame Fortune."
"On Dame Fortune," repeated the Cat.
"Tomorrow your five gold pieces will be two thousand!"
"Two thousand!" repeated the Cat.
"But how can they possibly become so many?" asked Pinocchio wonderingly.
"I'll explain," said the Fox. "You must know that, just outside the City of Simple Simons, there is a blessed field called the Field of Wonders. In this field you dig a hole and in the hole you bury a gold piece. After covering up the hole with earth you water it well, sprinkle a bit of salt on it, and go to bed. During the night, the gold piece sprouts, grows, blossoms, and next morning you find a beautiful tree, that is loaded with gold pieces."
"So that if I were to bury my five gold pieces," cried Pinocchio with growing wonder, "next morning I should find—how many?"
"It is very simple to figure out," answered the Fox. "Why, you can figure it on your fingers! Granted that each piece gives you five hundred, multiply five hundred by five. Next morning you will find twenty-five hundred new, sparkling gold pieces."
"Fine! Fine!" cried Pinocchio, dancing about with joy. "And as soon as I have them, I shall keep two thousand for myself and the other five hundred I'll give to you two."
"A gift for us?" cried the Fox, pretending to be insulted. "Why, of course not!"
"Of course not!" repeated the Cat.
"We do not work for gain," answered the Fox. "We work only to enrich others."
"To enrich others!" repeated the Cat.
"What good people," thought Pinocchio to himself. And forgetting his father, the new coat, the A-B-C book, and all his good resolutions, he said to the Fox and to the Cat:
"Let us go. I am with you."