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rows. With another leap, he was on the orchestra leader's podium. With a third, he landed on the stage.

It's impossible to describe the shrieks of joy, the warm embraces, and the exuberant greetings with which that strange company of wooden actors and actresses received Pinocchio.

It was a touching sight, but the audience, seeing that the play had stopped, became angry and began to clamor for the play to continue.

The yelling was of no use, for the marionettes, instead of going on with their act, made twice as much noise as before, and, lifting Pinocchio on their shoulders, carried him around the stage in triumph.

Concurrent with this jubilant celebration was the sudden arrival onstage of the theater's owner. His name was Fire-Eater, and he was infamous for his frightful appearance and ruthless cruelty. He was large and burly, with teeth like yellow fangs and eyes like glowing red coals. But his most prominent feature was his tangled black beard that hung all the way down to his feet! In his huge, hairy hands he held a long whip made of green snakes and black cats' tails twisted together, which he constantly swished through the air in a threatening manner.

At his unexpected appearance, the furor in the theater abruptly ended. The audience was speechless; no one dared even to breathe. The poor marionettes, one and all, cowered in fear.

“Why have you brought such pandemonium to my theater?” the huge fellow screamed at Pinocchio.

The puppet didn't wish to attribute blame to himself or to anyone else in particular. With shaking knees he answered evasively, “Believe me, sir, it's not my fault.”

“Enough! Be quiet! I'll deal with you later.”

As soon as the play was over, Fire-Eater went to the kitchen, where a big lamb chop was slowly turning over the fire. More wood was needed to finish cooking it. He called in a couple of the wooden actors and said to them, “Bring Pinocchio to me! He looks as if he's made of well-seasoned wood. He'll make a fine fire for cooking.”

At first the marionettes hesitated. Then, frightened by a sinister stare from their master, they hurriedly left the kitchen to obey him. A few minutes later they returned, carrying poor Pinocchio, who was squirming like a fish out of water and crying pitifully, “Father, save me! I don't want to die! I don't want to die!”

Chapter 7 “Fire-Eater Sneezes”

Though Fire-Eater looked ugly and heartless, his disposition was not nearly as nasty as most people imagined. Proof of this is that, when he saw poor Pinocchio being brought to him, struggling with fear and crying, he felt sorry for him and began

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