Coming at last out of the surprise into which the Fairy's words had thrown him, Pinocchio asked for permission to give out the invitations.
"Indeed, you may invite your friends to tomorrow's party. Only remember to return home before dark. Do you understand?"
"I'll be back in one hour without fail," answered the Marionette.
"Take care, Pinocchio! Boys give promises very easily, but they as easily forget them."
"But I am not like those others. When I give my word I keep it."
"We shall see. In case you do disobey, you will be the one to suffer, not anyone else."
"Because boys who do not listen to their elders always come to grief."
"I certainly have," said Pinocchio, "but from now on, I obey."
"We shall see if you are telling the truth."
Without adding another word, the Marionette bade the good Fairy good-by, and singing and dancing, he left the house.
In a little more than an hour, all his friends were invited. Some accepted quickly and gladly. Others had to be coaxed, but when they heard that the toast was to be buttered on both sides, they all ended by accepting the invitation with the words, "We'll come to please you."
Now it must be known that, among all his friends, Pinocchio had one whom he loved most of all. The boy's real name was Romeo, but everyone called him Lamp-Wick, for he was long and thin and had a woebegone look about him.
Lamp-Wick was the laziest boy in the school and the biggest mischief-maker, but Pinocchio loved him dearly.
That day, he went straight to his friend's house to invite him to the party, but Lamp-Wick was not at home. He went a second time, and again a third, but still without success.
Where could he be? Pinocchio searched here and there and everywhere, and finally discovered him hiding near a farmer's wagon.
"What are you doing there?" asked Pinocchio, running up to him.
"I am waiting for midnight to strike to go—"
"Far, far away!"
"And I have gone to your house three times to look for you!"
"What did you want from me?"
"Haven't you heard the news? Don't you know what good luck is mine?"
"What is it?"
"Tomorrow I end my days as a Marionette and become a boy, like you and all my other friends."
"May it bring you luck!"
"Shall I see you at my party tomorrow?"
"But I'm telling you that I go tonight."
"At what time?"
"And where are you going?"
"To a real country—the best in the world—a wonderful place!"
"What is it called?"
"It is called the Land of Toys. Why don't you come, too?"
"I? Oh, no!"
"You are making a big mistake, Pinocchio. Believe me, if you don't come, you'll be sorry. Where can you find a place that will agree better with you and me? No schools, no teachers, no books! In that blessed place there is no such thing as study. Here, it is only on Saturdays that we have no school. In the Land of Toys, every day, except Sunday, is a Saturday. Vacation begins on the first of January and ends on the last day of December. That is the place for me! All countries should be like it! How happy we should all be!"
"But how does one spend the day in the Land of Toys?"
"Days are spent in play and enjoyment from morn till night. At night one goes to bed, and next morning, the good times begin all over again. What do you think of it?"
"H'm—!" said Pinocchio, nodding his wooden head, as if to say, "It's the kind of life which would agree with me perfectly."
"Do you want to go with me, then? Yes or no? You must make up your mind."
"No, no, and again no! I have promised my kind Fairy to become a good boy, and I want to keep my word. Just see: The sun is setting and I must leave you and run. Good-by and good luck to you!"
"Where are you going in such a hurry?"
"Home. My good Fairy wants me to return home before night."
"Wait two minutes more."
"It's too late!"
"Only two minutes."
"And if the Fairy scolds me?"
"Let her scold. After she gets tired, she will stop," said Lamp-Wick.
"Are you going alone or with others?"
"Alone? There will be more than a hundred of us!"
"Will you walk?"
"At midnight the wagon passes here that is to take us within the boundaries of that marvelous country."
"How I wish midnight would strike!"
"To see you all set out together."
"Stay here a while longer and you will see us!"
"No, no. I want to return home."
"Wait two more minutes."
"I have waited too long as it is. The Fairy will be worried."
"Poor Fairy! Is she afraid the bats will eat you up?"
"Listen, Lamp-Wick," said the Marionette, "are you really sure that there are no schools in the Land of Toys?" "Not even the shadow of one."
"Not even one teacher?"
"And one does not have to study?"
"Never, never, never!"
"What a great land!" said Pinocchio, feeling his mouth water. "What a beautiful land! I have never been there, but I can well imagine it."
"Why don't you come, too?"
"It is useless for you to tempt me! I told you I promised my good Fairy to behave myself, and I am going to keep my word."
"Good-by, then, and remember me to the grammar schools, to the high schools, and even to the colleges if you meet them on the way."
"Good-by, Lamp-Wick. Have a pleasant trip, enjoy yourself, and remember your friends once in a while."
With these words, the Marionette started on his way home. Turning once more to his friend, he asked him:
"But are you sure that, in that country, each week is composed of six Saturdays and one Sunday?"
"And that vacation begins on the first of January and ends on the thirty-first of December?"
"Very, very sure!"
"What a great country!" repeated Pinocchio, puzzled as to what to do.
Then, in sudden determination, he said hurriedly:
"Good-by for the last time, and good luck."
"How soon will you go?"
"Within two hours."
"What a pity! If it were only one hour, I might wait for you."
"And the Fairy?"
"By this time I'm late, and one hour more or less makes very little difference."
"Poor Pinocchio! And if the Fairy scolds you?"
"Oh, I'll let her scold. After she gets tired, she will stop."
In the meantime, the night became darker and darker. All at once in the distance a small light flickered. A queer sound could be heard, soft as a little bell, and faint and muffled like the buzz of a far-away mosquito.
"There it is!" cried Lamp-Wick, jumping to his feet.
"What?" whispered Pinocchio.
"The wagon which is coming to get me. For the last time, are you coming or not?"
"But is it really true that in that country boys never have to study?"
"Never, never, never!"
"What a wonderful, beautiful, marvelous country! Oh—h—h!!"