In the morning, bright and early, Pinocchio started for school.
Imagine what the boys said when they saw a Marionette enter the classroom! They laughed until they cried. Everyone played tricks on him. One pulled his hat off, another tugged at his coat, a third tried to paint a mustache under his nose. One even attempted to tie strings to his feet and his hands to make him dance.
For a while Pinocchio was very calm and quiet. Finally, however, he lost all patience and turning to his tormentors, he said to them threateningly:
"Careful, boys, I haven't come here to be made fun of. I'll respect you and I want you to respect me."
"Hurrah for Dr. Know-all! You have spoken like a printed book!" howled the boys, bursting with laughter. One of them, more impudent than the rest, put out his hand to pull the Marionette's nose.
But he was not quick enough, for Pinocchio stretched his leg under the table and kicked him hard on the shin.
"Oh, what hard feet!" cried the boy, rubbing the spot where the Marionette had kicked him.
"And what elbows! They are even harder than the feet!" shouted another one, who, because of some other trick, had received a blow in the stomach.
With that kick and that blow Pinocchio gained everybody's favor. Everyone admired him, danced attendance upon him, petted and caressed him.
As the days passed into weeks, even the teacher praised him, for he saw him attentive, hard working, and wide awake, always the first to come in the morning, and the last to leave when school was over.
Pinocchio's only fault was that he had too many friends. Among these were many well-known rascals, who cared not a jot for study or for success.
The teacher warned him each day, and even the good Fairy repeated to him many times:
"Take care, Pinocchio! Those bad companions will sooner or later make you lose your love for study. Some day they will lead you astray."
"There's no such danger," answered the Marionette, shrugging his shoulders and pointing to his forehead as if to say, "I'm too wise."
So it happened that one day, as he was walking to school, he met some boys who ran up to him and said:
"Have you heard the news?"
"A Shark as big as a mountain has been seen near the shore."
"Really? I wonder if it could be the same one I heard of when my father was drowned?"
"We are going to see it. Are you coming?"
"No, not I. I must go to school."
"What do you care about school? You can go there tomorrow. With a lesson more or less, we are always the same donkeys."
"And what will the teacher say?"
"Let him talk. He is paid to grumble all day long."
"And my mother?"
"Mothers don't know anything," answered those scamps.
"Do you know what I'll do?" said Pinocchio. "For certain reasons of mine, I, too, want to see that Shark; but I'll go after school. I can see him then as well as now."
"Poor simpleton!" cried one of the boys. "Do you think that a fish of that size will stand there waiting for you? He turns and off he goes, and no one will ever be the wiser."
"How long does it take from here to the shore?" asked the Marionette. "One hour there and back."
"Very well, then. Let's see who gets there first!" cried Pinocchio.
At the signal, the little troop, with books under their arms, dashed across the fields. Pinocchio led the way, running as if on wings, the others following as fast as they could.
Now and again, he looked back and, seeing his followers hot and tired, and with tongues hanging out, he laughed out heartily. Unhappy boy! If he had only known then the dreadful things that were to happen to him on account of his disobedience!