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CHAPTER XXI THE ZEAL OF DR. TASA
I entered my tent. How awfully alone I was! I should never find him again in the bottom of the camera or in the midst of postage stamps! I should never hear his little voice, prompting me with “Miferino.” I should never carry him astride the battlement, or on the crown of my hat. The imperial tomb was empty except for the white cotton bed!

I couldn’t sleep. After I don’t know how long the moon rose. I got up to look at the clock. It was midnight. Fiam had been walking four hours. How far had he gone?

The firing continued every now and then. “Little thunder,” I thought, remembering the queer idea of my friend. Every few minutes I looked at the clock. One o’clock passed; two o’clock passed. I was getting anxious. I thought an hour had gone by—it was five minutes.

At half-past two I began to listen. A quarter to three, three, a quarter past three——

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I thought he hadn’t found the mine, and I almost felt glad at the idea that I might see him again.

Half-past three. The minutes seemed like eternity. Twenty-five minutes to four. Twenty minutes to four——

It was (I shall never forget it) at precisely thirteen minutes to four when the night was lighted by an immense brilliant blue light. A few seconds later the whole earth shook and a horrible explosion rent the air. Then silence.

It wasn’t long before the trumpets blew. The camp was all commotion. Commands were issued, confused with shouts. These, I made out, were joyful.

“The mine has been fired! The mine has been fired!” they repeated again and again.

The ranks formed. The regiments drew up in line of march. The officers galloped about. The flags were unfurled.

At dawn the columns moved—fresh and eager, as if starting off for the first encounter.

The terrible pass was traversed by the soldiers singing while the bayonets glistened in the rising ............
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