“You must take off your flannel waistcoat, and your shirt, father.” Rodin hesitated an instant, and the doctor resumed: “It is absolutely necessary, father.”
Aided by Baleinier, Rodin obeyed, whilst the doctor added, no doubt to spare his modesty: “We shall only require the chest, right and left, my dear father.”
And now, Rodin, stretched upon his back, with his dirty night-cap still on his head, exposed the upper part of a livid trunk, or rather, the bony cage of a skeleton, for the shadows of the ribs and cartilages encircled the skin with deep, black lines. As for the arms, they resembled bones twisted with cord and covered with tanned parchment.
“Come, M. Rousselet, the apparatus!” said Baleinier.
Then addressing the three Jesuits, he added: “Please draw near, gentlemen; what you have to do is very simple, as you will see.”
It was indeed very simple. The doctor gave to each of his four assistants a sort of little steel tripod about two inches in diameter and three in height; the circular centre of this tripod was filled with cotton; the instrument was held in the left hand by means of a wooden handle. In the right hand each assistant held a small tin tube about eighteen inches long; at one end was a mouthpiece to receive the lips of the operator, and the other spread out so as to form a cover to the little tripod. These preparations had nothing alarming in them. Father d’Aigrigny and the prelate, who looked on from a little distance, could not understand how this operation should be so painful. They soon understood it.
Dr. Baleinier, having thus provided his four assistants, made them approach Rodin, whose bed had been rolled into the middle of the room. Two of them were placed on one side, two on the other.
“Now, gentlemen,” said Dr. Baleinier, “set light to the cotton; place the lighted part on the skin of his reverence, by means of the tripod which contains the wick; cover the tripod with the broad part of the tube, and then blow through the other end to keep up the fire. It is very simple, as you see.”
It was, in fact, full of the most patriarchal and primitive ingenuity. Four lighted cotton rocks, so disposed as to burn very slowly, were applied to the two sides of Rodin’s chest. This is vulgarly called the moxa. The trick is done, when the whole thickness of the skin has been burnt slowly through. It lasts seven or eight minutes. They say that an amputation is nothing to it. Rodin had watched the preparations with intrepid curiosity. But, at the first touch of the four fires, he writhed like a serpent, without being able to utter a cry. Even the expression of pain was denied him. The four assistants being disturbed by, the sudden start of Rodin, it was necessary to begin again.
“Courage, my dear father! offer these sufferings to the Lord!” said Dr. Baleinier, in a sanctified tone. “I told you the operation would be very painful; but then it is salutary in proportion. Come; you that have shown such decisive resolution, do not fail at the last movement!”