List Of Contents | Contents of The New Book Of Martyrs, by Georges Duhamel
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mother carrying her new-born babe for the first time, and I call
out: "An arm-chair! An arm-chair."

He clings to my neck as I walk, and says in some confusion:

"I shall tire you."

No indeed! I am too well pleased. I would not let any one take my
place. The arm-chair has been set under the trees, near a grove. I
deposit Leglise among the cushions. They bring him a kepi. He
breathes the scent of green things, of the newly mown lawns, of
the warm gravel. He looks at the facade of the mansion, and says:

"I had not even seen the place where I very nearly died."

All the wounded who are walking about come and visit him; they
almost seem to be paying him homage. He talks to them with a
cordial authority. Is he not the chief among them, in virtue of
his sufferings and his sacrifice?

Some one in the ward was talking this morning of love and
marriage, and a home.

I glanced at Leglise now and then; he seemed to be dreaming and he

"Oh, for me, now..."

Then I told him something I knew: I know young girls who have
sworn to marry only a mutilated man. Well, we must believe in the
vows of these young girls. France is a country richer in warmth of
heart than in any other virtue. It is a blessed duty to give
happiness to those who have sacrificed so much. And a thousand
hearts, the generous hearts of women, applaud me at this moment.

Leglise listens, shaking his head. He does not venture to say

Leglise has not only the Military Medal, but also the War Cross.
The notice has just come. He reads it with blushes.

"I shall never dare to show this," he says; "it is a good deal

He hands me the paper, which states, in substance, that Corporal
Leglise behaved with great gallantry under a hail of bombs, and
that his left leg has been amputated.

"I didn't behave with great gallantry," he says; "I was at my
post, that's all. As to the bombs, I only got one."

I reject this point of view summarily.

"Wasn't it a gallant act to go to that advanced post, so near the
enemy, all alone, at the head of all the Frenchmen? Weren't they
all behind you, to the very end of the country, right away to the
Pyrenees? Did they not all rely on your coolness, your keen sight,
your vigilance? You were only hit by one bomb, but I think you
might have had several, and still be with us. And besides, the
notice, far from being exaggerated, is really insufficient; it
says you have lost a leg, whereas you have lost two! It seems to
me that this fully compensates for anything excessive with regard
to the bombs."

"That's true!" agrees Leglise, laughing. "But I don't want to be
made out a hero."

"My good lad, people won't ask what you think before they
appreciate and honour you. It will be quite enough to look at your

Then we had to part, for the war goes on, and every day there are
fresh wounded.

Leglise left us nearly cured. He left with some comrades, and he
was not the least lively of the group.

"I was the most severely wounded man in the train," he wrote to
me, not without a certain pride.

Since then, Leglise has written to me often. His letters breathe a
contented calm. I receive them among the vicissitudes of the
campaign; on the highways, in wards where other wounded men are
moaning, in fields scoured by the gallop of the cannonade.

And always something beside me murmurs, mutely:

"You see, you see, he was wrong when he said he would rather die."

I am convinced of it, and this is why I have told your story. You
will forgive me, won't you, Leglise, my friend?


Every morning the stretcher-bearers brought Vize-Feldwebel Spat
down to the dressing ward, and his appearance always introduced a
certain chill in the atmosphere.

There are some German wounded whom kind treatment, suffering, or
some more obscure agency move to composition with the enemy, and
who receive what we do for them with a certain amount of
gratitude. Spat was not one of these. For weeks we had made
strenuous efforts to snatch him from death, and then to alleviate
his sufferings, without eliciting the slightest sign of
satisfaction from him, or receiving the least word of thanks.

He could speak a little French, which he utilised strictly for his
material wants, to say, for instance, "A little more cotton-wool
under the foot, Monsieur," or, "Have I any fever to-day?"

Apart from this, he always showed us the same icy face, the same
pale, hard eyes, enframed by colourless lashes. We gathered, from
certain indications, that the man was intelligent and well
educated; but he was obviously under the domination of a lively
hatred, and a strict sense of his own dignity.

He bore pain bravely, and like one who makes it a point of honour
to repress the most excusable reactions of the martyred flesh. I
do not remember ever hearing him cry out, though this would have
seemed to me natural enough, and would by no means have lowered
Monsieur Spat in my opinion. All I ever heard from him was a
stifled moan, the dull panting of the woodman as he swings his

One day we were obliged to give him an anaesthetic in order to
make incisions in the wounds in his leg; he turned very red and
said, in a tone that was almost imploring: "You won't cut it off,
gentlemen, will you?" But no sooner did he regain consciousness
than he at once resumed his attitude of stiff hostility.

After a time, I ceased to believe mat his features could ever
express anything but this repressed animosity. I was undeceived by
an unforeseen incident.

The habit of whistling between one's teeth is a token, with me as
with many other persons, of a certain absorption. It is perhaps
rather a vulgar habit, but I often feel impelled to whistle,
especially when I have a serious piece of work in hand.

One morning accordingly, I was finishing Vize-Feldwebel Spat's
dressing, and whistling something at random. I was looking at his
leg, and was paying no attention to his face, when I suddenly
became curiously aware that the look he had fixed upon me had
changed in quality, and I raised my eyes.

Certainly, something very extraordinary had taken place: the
German's face glowed with a kind of warmth and contentment, and
was so smiling and radiant that I hardly recognised it. I could
scarcely believe that he had been able to improvise this face,
which was sensitive and trustful, out of the features he generally
showed us.

"Tell me, Monsieur," he murmured, "it's the Third Symphony, isn't
it, that you are ... what do you call it?--yes ... whistling."

First, I stopped whistling. Then I answered: "Yes, I believe it is
the Third Symphony"; then I remained silent and confused.

A slender bridge had just been flung across the abyss.

The thing lasted for a few seconds, and I was still dreaming of it
when once more I felt an icy, irrevocable shadow falling upon me--
the hostile glance of Herr Spat.


It is a common saying that all men are equal in the presence of
suffering, but I know very well that this is not true.

Auger! Auger! humble basket-maker of La Charente, who are you, you
who seem able to suffer without being unhappy? Why are you touched
with grace, whereas Gregoire is not? Why are you the prince of a
world in which Gregoire is merely a pariah?

Kind ladies who pass through the wards where the wounded lie, and
give them cigarettes and sweet-meats, come with me.

We will go through the large ward on the first floor, where the
windows are caressed by the boughs of chestnut-trees. I will not
point out Auger, you will give him the lion's share of the
cigarettes and sweets of your own accord; but if I don't point out
Gregoire, you will leave without, noticing him, and he will get no
sweets, and will have nothing to smoke.

It is not because of this that I call Gregoire a pariah. It is
because of a much sadder and more intimate thing ... Gregoire
lacks endurance, he is not what we call a good patient.

In a general way those who tend the wounded call the men who do
not give them much trouble "good patients." Judged by this
standard, every one in the hospital will tell you that Gregoire is
not a good patient.

All day long, he lies on his left side, because of his wound, and
stares at the wall. I said to him a day or two after he came:

"I am going to move you and put you over in the other corner;
there you will be able to see your comrades."

He answered, in his dull, surly voice:

"It's not worth while. I'm all right here."

"But you can see nothing but the wall."

"That's quite enough."

Scarcely have the stretcher-bearers touched his bed, when Gregoire
begins to cry out in a doleful, irritable tone:

"Ah! don't shake me like that! Ah, you mustn't touch me."

The stretcher-bearers I give him are very gentle fellows, and he
always has the same: Paffin, a fat shoe-maker with a stammer, and
Monsieur Bouin, a professor of mathematics, with a grey beard and
very precise movements.

They take hold of Gregoire most carefully to lay him on the
stretcher. The wounded man criticises all their movements

"Ah! don't turn me over like that. And you must hold my leg better
than that!"

The sweat breaks out on Baffin's face. Monsieur Bouin's eye-
glasses fall off. At last they bring the patient along.

As soon as he comes into the dressing ward, Gregoire is pale and
perspiring. His harsh tawny beard quivers, hair by hair. I divine
all this, and say a few words of encouragement to him from afar.

"I shan't be long with you this morning, Gregoire. You won't have
time to say 'oof'!"

He preserves a sulky silence, full of reservations. He looks like
a condemned criminal awaiting execution. He is so pre-occupied
that he does not even answer when the sarcastic Sergeant says as
he passes him:

"Ah! here's our grouser."

At last he is laid on the table which the wounded men call the

Then, things become very trying. I feel at once that whatever I
do, Gregoire will suffer. I uncover the wound in his thigh, and he
screams. I wash the wound carefully, and he screams. I probe the

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