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At this juncture Pinocchio hesitated.

“Don't worry. It's just a formality,” explained the jailer. “Go ahead and sign.”

Pinocchio signed his name, and the jailer, after stamping the document, took off his cap, bowed low, and opened the door of the prison. Pinocchio ran out and away, with never a look back.

Chapter 16 “The Snake”

Without losing a moment, Pinocchio fled from the city and set out on the road that led back to the house of the lovely fairy.

It had been raining on and off for a fortnight, and the road was now so muddy that, at times, Pinocchio sank down almost to his knees. He was so eager to see his father and blue-haired fairy sister that he ran and jumped like a dog, and mud splashed all over him.

“How unhappy I've been,” he said to himself. “And yet I deserve everything, for I'm certainly very stubborn and stupid! I always have to have my own way. I won't listen to those who love me and who have more sense than I do. But from now on, I'll be different and I'll try to be good. I've found out, beyond any doubt, that bad boys are far from happy, and that, in the long run, they wind up as unequivocal failures. I wonder if Father is waiting for me. Will I find him at the fairy's house? It's been so long since I've seen him, and I do so want his love and his kisses. And will the fairy ever forgive me for all I've done? She who's been so good to me and to whom I owe my life! Can there be a worse or more heartless son than—”

In the middle of thus berating himself, he stopped suddenly, frozen with terror. A huge snake lay stretched across the road. It had green skin, fiery eyes, and a pointed tail that smoked like a chimney.

Knowing that snake bites were potentially deadly, Pinocchio ran back wildly, then settled himself on a pile of stones to wait for the snake to go on his way and leave the road clear for him. He waited an hour; two hours; three hours; but the snake was always there. He occupied himself by occasionally scraping off splotches of dried mud that had adhered to his clothes and then dropping them into the crevices that lay between the stones he sat upon.

Finally, trying to feel very brave, he walked toward the snake. Standing at a safe distance, he said in a sweet, soothing voice, “I beg your pardon. Would you be so kind as to step aside to let me pass?”

But he might as well have been talking

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