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world, tomorrow my father will be a very rich man? You see, these four gold pieces will become thousands!”

“Pinocchio, don't listen to people who promise you wealth overnight. As a rule they're either fools or cheats! Listen to me and go home.”

“Well, I'm sorry to curtail our visit so soon, but I must continue on my way.”

“Wait! It's late. Walking alone at night is hazardous; the darkness is fraught with danger. What if something unexpected happens? This area is so sparsely populated that even if you call out for help, no one will hear you.”

“I don't care. I have to go.”

“Remember that boys who insist on having their own way will be sorry sooner or later.”

“Nothing you can say will dissuade me. Nothing. Now good-bye.”

“Goodnight, Pinocchio, and may you be safe from killers.”

There was silence for a moment, and then the cricket's phosphorescent light disappeared suddenly, just as if someone had blown out a candle. The road was even darker than before.

Chapter 10 “Killers”

“Dear, oh, dear! Come to think of it,” said the puppet to himself, as he once more set out on his journey, “we boys are really very unlucky. Everybody tells us what to do and then reprimands us if we don't do it! Everyone wants to be a surrogate father or mother to us, just so they can boss us around; everyone, even that cricket. It wasn't enough for him to stick his nose into my business when he was alive; no, now he wants to intervene posthumously! Killers indeed! At least I've never believed in them, nor ever will. Aren't they merely fictitious characters concocted by fathers and mothers just to frighten children who want to run away at night? I'll bet that scientists completely discount the existence of bogeymen and other such deranged monsters. After all, their existence has never been verified by any scientific procedure. But even if killers were real and I did meet some on the road, what difference would it make? I'd just run up to them and say, ‘What do you want? Run along and mind your business.' I can almost see those poor fellows running like the wind. But in case they didn't run away, I could always run myself, and that would be the end of it.”

Pinocchio became so engrossed in his thoughts that at first he didn't hear the rustling of leaves behind him. But as the sound continued he finally turned, and there in the otherwise uniform darkness he saw the barely perceptible outline of a slightly different gradation of black. All at once, two figures, wrapped from head to toe in black sacks, slid toward him as softly as

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