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circus ring. He was magnificently dressed. He wore a glossy new leather bridle with brass buckles. White roses were tied to his ears and red silk ribbons adorned his mane and tail. A pink tutu was fastened around his waist. Ballet slippers covered his hoofs. He was a lovely donkey indeed!

The ringmaster, smiling inwardly at the audience's responsiveness, bowed flamboyantly and then turned to Pinocchio and said: “Before starting your performance, salute your audience!”

Pinocchio bent his knees to the ground and remained kneeling until the ringmaster, with the crack of the whip, cried sharply, “Walk!”

Pinocchio lifted himself on his four feet and walked around the ring. A few minutes passed and the ringmaster called, “Trot!” and Pinocchio changed his step.

“Gallop!” and Pinocchio galloped.

“Run!” and Pinocchio ran as fast as he could. As he ran the ringmaster raised his arm and a pistol shot rang in the air.

At the shot, the little donkey fell to the ground as if he were really dead.

A shower of applause greeted Pinocchio as he rose to his feet. Cries and shouts were heard all around. Pinocchio lifted his head and raised his eyes. There, in front of him, in one of the boxes, sat a beautiful woman. Around her neck she wore a long golden chain at the end of which hung a tiny wooden figure that bore an uncanny resemblance to Pinocchio. The letter P was superimposed on its torso.

“That's a replica of me! That beautiful lady is my fairy!” said Pinocchio to himself, recognizing her. He felt so happy that he tried his best to cry out, “Oh, my fairy! My dear fairy!”

But instead of words, a loud, discordant braying was heard in the theater. Then, through some acoustical oddity of the room, the strange, dissonant sound reverberated so loudly that all the spectators—men, women, and children, but especially the children—burst out laughing. Pinocchio lowered his head in shame.

“Stop that braying if you know what's good for you!” the ringmaster hissed into the donkey's ear. “What's the matter with you?” Then, in order to teach him that it was uncouth to bray loudly in public, the ringmaster smacked him hard on the nose a few times with the handle of his whip. After that a strange smile appeared on the ringmaster's face. But whether it was to win favor with the audience or to unconsciously express a sadistic pleasure in watching the donkey suffer was impossible to tell.

To alleviate the pain, the poor little donkey stuck out his tongue and licked his nose for a long time. When he finally looked again toward the seats, he saw that the fairy had disappeared!

He felt faint,

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