I look at his leg, but he hardly ever looks at it himself; he no longer feels it.
He will forget it even more utterly after a while, and he will live as if it were natural enough for a man to live with a stiff, distorted limb.
Forget your leg, forget your sufferings, Lerondeau. But the world must not forget them.
And I leave Marie sitting in the sun, with a fine new pink colour in his freckled cheeks.
Carre died early this morning. Lerondeau leaves us to-morrow.
MEMORIES OF THE MARTYRS
Were modesty banished from the rest of the earth, it would no doubt find a refuge in Mouchon’s heart.
I see him still as he arrived, on a stretcher full of little pebbles, with his mud be-plastered coat, and his handsome, honest face, like that of a well-behaved child.
“You must excuse me,” he said; “we can’t keep ourselves very clean.”
“Have you any lice?” asks the orderly, as he undresses him.
Mouchon flushes and looks uneasy.
“Well, if I have, they don’t really belong to me.”
He has none, but he has a broken leg, “due to a torpedo.”
The orderly cuts open his trouser, and I tell him to take off the boot. Mouchon puts out his hand, and says diffidently:
“Never mind the boot.”
“But, my good fellow, we can’t dress your leg without taking off your boot.”
Then Mouchon, red and confused, objects:
“But if you take off the boot, I’m afraid my foot will smell....”
I have often thought of this answer. And believe me, Mouchon, I have not yet met the prince who is worthy to take off your boots and wash your humble feet.
With his forceps the doctor lays hold carefully of a mass of bloody dressings, and draws them gently out of a gaping wound in the abdomen. A ray of sunshine lights him at his work, and the whole of the frail shed trembles to the roar of the cannon.
“I am a big china-dealer,” murmurs the patient. “You come from Paris, and I do, too. Save me, and you shall see.... I’ll give you a fine piece of china.”
The plugs are coming out by degrees; the forceps glitter, and the ray of sunshine seems to tremble under the cannonade, as do the floor, the walls, the light roof, the whole earth, the whole universe, drunk with fatigue.
Suddenly, from the depths of space, a whining sound arises, swells, rends the air above the shed, and the shell bursts a few yards off, with the sound of a cracked object breaking.
The thin walls seem to quiver under the pressure of the air. The doctor makes a slight movement of his head, as if to see, after all, where the thing fell.
Then the china-dealer, who noted the movement, says in a quiet voice: