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CHAPTER VII THE END OF FIAM’S FEARS
“Poor little thing!” I exclaimed. “Do tell me more.”

I was anxious to hear the end of this story, with which I had sympathized so much.

“Well, then at last even my box was sold. I don’t know whether it was daytime or night, for shut up in there I knew nothing about time. I felt myself all shaken up; a little later the box was opened and two big fingers fumbled around inside and rudely grasped one of the sticks, which in this last store I had heard called matches. Then: tric, trac! the head of the stick was struck violently against the side of the box and ffroo! it burned. I jumped with horror and waited anxiously as the little stick was consumed by its own flame between the big fingers. I understood everything at once. This was my destiny!”

“You suffered horribly, eh?”

“Oh! I passed days and nights in agony. Every [62] four or five hours the box was opened and one of my matches was taken out to its death. Each time I hid among the lower sticks till, at last, there remained only three. I resigned myself to my dreadful end and began to count the hours of my life. By this time I knew that all my tree, my beautiful tree, with branches ten arms long, was all burned, fibre by fibre, and had absolutely vanished. It was no use to struggle.”

“Why didn’t you try flight?”

“How? What could I do? How could I open the box? And if it was open how could I fly without legs? If I had only had these legs that you have made for me! But enough of that! By chance the box was forgotten and laid where you found me. And you have saved me. I am your faithful servant forever. To you I am revealing myself for the third and last time.”

“Fiam, you are my dearest friend.”

“Do you know what the most evil thing in the world is?”

“No; what?”

“Those monsters that cut, and split and destroy and change, those new monsters that once didn’t even exist.”

[63]

“The machines?”

“Call them that if you like. They are merciless. They devour the most sacred and ancient beings to make things to sell. They respect nothing.”

“But, my friend, you are not able to judge.”

Fiammiferino pinched my ear furiously and howled in a voice that sounded like a whistle, it was so loud and shrill:

“Don’t contradict me. You must be careful, you know, for if you make me angry I may take fire.”

I quieted him, talking as gently as I could. I was sorry he had such an inflammable temper, but I suppose the phosphorus was largely to blame.

I can’t tell you how many other intimate conversations I had with Fiam. When we were alone he always sat astride of my collar, and I usually let him sit there when I was working and writing. I must tell you that he gave me excellent advice, made suggestions, and explained Japanese affairs to me. I shall even have to own that more than once my success as a journalist at this time was due entirely to Fiam, but for pity’s sake don’t mention it to any one.

He often left his post of observation on the battlement, [64] and came down onto my necktie, which he called “the silk waterfall.” There he read what I wrote and gave me his opinion with a frankness that would have made me very angry if I hadn’t been so fond of him. Sometimes in the midst of a sentence I would hear his little voice shrieking:

“Oh, what stupidity! What have you written? Throw it away. I can’t understand a word of it.”

At this interruption I would stop writing and say:

“What is that?”

And he would go on: “Rub out that nonsense. I will tell you what to say, and you can put quotation marks.”

[65]

“Don’t you want to sign it, too?” I asked, laughing.

But I agreed to what he proposed, and was always satisfied with what he did. In the end I accepted his services absolutely.

“Fiam,” I would sometimes say, “I am tired. I don’t feel like thinking. Tell me what to write.”

And he would shout at me: “Lazy fellow, if I weren’t here what would you do? Well, just this once” ... and he would dictate page after page.

Dear little Fiam, how good he was!
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