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fox described to Pinocchio—for the puppet's own good, he explained—how swindlers operate. He embellished the account with many real-life anecdotes. One concerned a real estate mogul who sold people nonexistent plots of land! Another concerned a street vendor who repeatedly jumped in front of passing horse-drawn carriages so that when he was knocked to the ground he could sue the driver for negligence. Still another concerned a fraudulent medium who charged people an exorbitant fee to contact the spirits of their deceased pets. The fox finished by saying, “Anyway, I've seen the whole gamut of human dishonesty, from counterfeiting to embezzlement to forgery to imposture.”

“But why would these people risk going to jail?” asked the puppet.

“For one thing, the work is actually rather easy and quite lucrative. But the main thing is that they believe they're not really jeopardizing their freedom because, in point of fact, swindlers are rarely foiled by police. If people stop to figure out the odds—of not getting caught, I mean—then there's a very high incentive to cheat because they see that the risk is really negligible.”

“But if the police can't catch them, how can they be stopped?” asked Pinocchio.

“Well, it's really up to the decent, honest members of the populace—people like us—to stop them.”


“Well, usually—especially at the beginning of a deception—you won't have any actual proof of dishonesty. But your intuition will tell you that something smells funny, so to speak, and you'll grow wary. Once that happens, because you'll be on the alert, you'll be able to recognize swindlers for what they are and it'll be easy to frustrate their devious schemes.”

“Schemes,” repeated the cat.

“But,” continued the fox, “while it may not be difficult for would-be victims to recognize and stop individual con artists, stopping shady businesses is nearly impossible. Why? Because their transgressions—making exaggerated advertising claims or artificially raising prices, for example—aren't technically illegal; they're merely unethical. So even if they are caught, no punitive action will be taken.”

“Will be taken,” repeated the cat.

“Then you have city government, where corruption is rampant. You know, without coming right out and admitting it, our government actually sanctions all sorts of underhanded practices—bribery, nepotism, ticket-fixing…you name it.”

Pinocchio nodded his head to show that he understood, then shook his head to show that he disapproved.

At last, toward evening, dead tired, they found themselves before a small tavern called the Red Lobster Inn.

“This has been quite a trek,” said the fox. “Let's stop here to eat something and rest awhile. At midnight we'll start out again, for at daybreak tomorrow we must be at the Field of Wonders.”

They went into the inn and all three sat down at a round dining table.

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