“My poor Nogue,” I said, “we really can’t do anything with that arm of yours. Be sensible. Let us take it off.”
If we had waited for his answer, Nogue would have been dead by now. His face expressed great dissatisfaction, but he said neither yes nor no.
“Don’t be afraid, Nogue. I will guarantee the success of the operation.”
Then he asked to make his will. When the will had been made, Nogue was laid upon the table and operated upon, without having formulated either consent or refusal.
When the first dressing was made, Nogue looked at his bleeding shoulder, and said:
“I suppose you couldn’t have managed to leave just a little bit of arm?”
After a few days the patient was able to sit up in an arm-chair. His whole being bore witness to a positive resurrection, but his tongue remained cautious.
“Well, now, you see, you’re getting on capitally.”
“Hum ... might be better.”
Never could he make up his mind to give his whole-hearted approval, even after the event, to the decision which had saved his life. When we said to him:
“You’re all right. We’ve done the business for you!” he would not commit himself.
“We shall see, we shall see.”
He got quite well, and we sent him into the interior. Since then, he has written to us, “business letters,” prudent letters which he signs “a poor mutilated fellow.”
Lapointe and Ropiteau always meet in the dressing ward. Ropiteau is brought in on a stretcher, and Lapointe arrives on foot, jauntily, holding up his elbow, which is going on “as well as possible.”
Lying on the table, the dressings removed from his thigh, Ropiteau waits to be tended, looking at a winter fly walking slowly along the ceiling, like an old man bowed down with sorrow. As soon as Ropiteau’s wounds are laid bare, Lapointe, who is versed in these matters, opens the conversation.
“What do they put on it?”
“Well, only yellow spirit.”
“That’s the strongest of all. It stings, but it is first-rate for strengthening the flesh. I always get ether.”
“Ether stinks so!”
“Yes, it stinks, but one gets used to it. It warms the blood. Don’t you have tubes any longer?”
“They took out the last on Tuesday.”
“Mine have been taken away, too. Wait a minute, old chap, let me look at it. Does it itch?”
“Yes, it feels like rats gnawing at me.”
“If it feels like rats, it’s all right. Mine feels like rats, too. Don’t you want to scratch?”
“Yes, but they say I mustn’t.”
“No, of course, you mustn’t. ... But you can always tap on the dressing a little with your finger. That is a relief.”
Lapointe leans over and examines Ropiteau’s large wound.
“Old chap, it’s getting on jolly well. Same here; I’ll show you presently. It’s red, the skin is beginning to grow again. But it is thin, very thin.”