Rodin nodded, full of confidence, as much as to say: “I am up already.”
“Do not deceive yourself,” replied the doctor. “This crisis is excellent, but it will not last, and if we would profit by it, we must proceed with the operation of which I have spoken to you—or, I tell you plainly, I answer for nothing after such a shock.”
Rodin was the more struck with these words, as, half an hour ago, he had experienced the short duration of the improvement occasioned by Father d’Aigrigny’s good news, and as already he felt increased oppression on the chest.
Dr. Baleinier, wishing to decide him, added: “In a word, father, will you live or die?”
Rodin wrote rapidly this answer, which he gave to the doctor: “To live, I would let you cut me limb from limb. I am ready for anything.” And he made a movement to rise.
“I must tell you, reverend father, so as not to take you by surprise,” added Dr. Baleinier, “that this operation is cruelly painful.”
Rodin shrugged his shoulders and wrote with a firm hand: “Leave me my head; you may take all the rest.”
The doctor read these words aloud, and the cardinal and Father d’Aigrigny looked at each other in admiration of this dauntless courage.
“Reverend father,” said Dr. Baleinier, “you must lie down.”
Rodin wrote: “Get everything ready. I have still some orders to write. Let me know when it is time.”
Then folding up a paper, which he had sealed with a wafer, Rodin gave these words to Father d’Aigrigny: “Send this note instantly to the agent who addressed the anonymous letters to Marshal Simon.”
“Instantly, reverend father,” replied the abbe; “I will employ a sure messenger.”
“Reverend father,” said Baleinier to Rodin, “since you must write, lie down in bed, and write there, during our little preparations.”
Rodin made an affirmative gesture, and rose. But already the prognostics of the doctor were realized. The Jesuit could hardly remain standing for a second; he fell back into a chair, and looked at Dr. Baleinier with anguish, whilst his breathing became more and more difficult.
The doctor said to him: “Do not be uneasy. But we must make haste. Lean upon me and Father d’Aigrigny.”
Aided by these two supporters, Rodin was able to regain the bed. Once there, he made signs that they should bring him pen, ink, and paper. Then he continued to write upon his knees, pausing from time to time, to breathe with great difficulty.
“Reverend father,” said Baleinier to d’Aigrigny, “are you capable of acting as one of my assistants in the operation? Have you that sort of courage?”
“No,” said the reverend father; “in the army I could never assist at an amputation. The sight of blood is too much for me.”
“There will be no blood,” said the doctor, “but it will be worse. Please send me three of our reverend fathers to assist me, and ask M. Rousselet to bring in the apparatus.”