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HOME > Classical Novels > The Little Match Man > CHAPTER IX POSTAGE STAMPS
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The train stopped at a large station. A dozen officers entered the car all talking, threw their bags into their racks, took off their swords and placed them near the window, seated themselves and lighted their cigarettes. There was a perfect slaughter of matches. Poor Fiam was so frightened that he hurried under my waistcoat and, creeping near a buttonhole, hid his head under a button.

Outside of the train there was the noise of a great crowd. We could hear the tread of the troops as they went to their places in the cars prepared for them. We heard shouted commands, the rattle of cartridges in their boxes at the belts of the [76] soldiers, and the guns dropping to the ground all at once sounded like falling iron. In the distance hundreds of people kept shrieking and repeating: “Sayonara!” which means good-bye. “Banzai,” hurrah. “Come back victorious! Destroy the enemy! Glory!” and other similar cries.

One of the officers in my compartment asked:

“What are we waiting for?”

“They are attaching the cars of guns,” replied another.

“There will be lots of guns needed in this war!” exclaimed a third.

“It is going to be the greatest war of our country,” a fourth added complacently.

Some one began to hum a tune. The others joined in the chorus. The train started. I felt Fiam, who had taken his head from under the button, climb along the waistcoat and crawl into his little box, which was in an inside pocket. The box had been used so much that it was all broken on one side, so that Fiam had learned to come and go through the hole by himself.

He didn’t appear until late at night, when [77] every one was asleep, swaying with the motion of the train, and the car only dimly lighted by a covered lamp. I was awakened by his little voice. He had climbed up on my shoulder near my ear and was calling to me. In the dazed condition of a person half awake I thought it was the singing of a mosquito and put up my hand to catch him.

“It is I,” he said. “I am Fiammiferino.”

“Oh! good-morning. Aren’t you asleep?”

“No, I never sleep. I am not a man.”

“Then if you will excuse me, allow me to sleep. I am a man.”

“First tell me—from the conversation I have overheard I judge there is war; is it true?”

“Yes, perfectly true.”

“And are we going there?”

“Does it displease you?”

“No, but it displeases me that you haven’t been frank with me. Am I not your friend?”

“I believe so.”

“Well, I forgive you; don’t say anything more. I will go anywhere with you. They talked of war in [78] my country. If I could only do something to help them to conquer.”

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