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Chapter 25 "I WANT TO LIVE!"

During two days which passed like two centuries, Fandor had been held prisoner in his dungeon where death awaited him.

"I am condemned to death," he exclaimed, "very good, then I will wait for death."

But Fandor was of those who do not give up until the struggle is over. Besides, he had his faithful revolver. He could end his life at any moment and shorten the torture. He had found sufficient ham to last for two meals, and when that had been eaten and the last drop of water drunk he began to suffer the tortures of hunger and thirst. And now, like a caged beast, he paced up and down his prison. His mind went back to stories he had read, stories of entombed miners, of explorers hemmed in by ice, of hunters caught in traps, but in all these cases deliverance in one form or another had come at last—the adventures ended happily.

"I want to live," he cried aloud, "I want to live!"

Suddenly a great calm descended upon him. His coolness and clear judgment returned.

"To struggle! Yes—but how?"

At this moment the roar of the Nord-Sud shook his prison walls. An idea took root in his mind.

Might it not be possible to burrow his way through the soil directly to the tunnel! Examining the ground, he decided that it would be simpler to tunnel his way like a mole, skirting the concrete base of the statue and reaching the pavement beyond. It would not be hard work to dislodge one of the paving stones and reach the open air. No sooner was the plan conceived than he broke several of the bottles until he obtained a piece of the thick glass sufficiently jagged to form a trowel.

With this rough implement he then set to work, scooping up the earth and piling it on one side of his cell. Patiently and ceaselessly he continued, hour after hour, until suddenly the hiss of escaping gas could be faintly heard.

"I'm done for this time," he cried in despair. "I shall be asphyxiated!" But a gleam of hope quickly set him to work again.

"Gas is lighter than air. It may percolate through the chinks of the masonry. In any case I'd rather die that way than be starved to death."

It was a race between the escaping gas and the tunnel.

Very soon Fandor began to feel a dizziness in his head, and the air became more difficult to breathe; suddenly, he had the sensation of being enveloped in an extraordinary blue flame, and then a loud report deafened him.

Fandor's prison, saturated with gas, had suddenly blown up!

The ground gave way beneath him: he was lying in the ruins.

Destiny had made a plaything of his efforts.