List Of Contents | Contents of The New Book Of Martyrs, by Georges Duhamel
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wound, from which I remove small particles of bone, very gently,
and he utters unimaginable yells. I see his tongue trembling in
his open mouth. His hands tremble in the hands that hold them, I
have an impression that every fibre of his body trembles, that the
raw flesh of the wound trembles and retracts. In spite of my
determination, this misery affects me, and I wonder whether I too
shall begin to tremble sympathetically. I say:

"Try to be patient, my poor Gregoire."

He replies in a voice hoarse with pain and terror: "I can't help

I add, just to say something: "Courage, a little courage."

He does not even answer, and I feel that to exhort him to show
courage, is to recommend an impossible thing, as if I were to
advise him to have black eyes instead of his pale blue ones.

The dressing is completed in an atmosphere of general discomfort.
Nothing could persuade me that Gregoire does not cordially detest
me at this moment. While they are carrying him away, I ask myself
bitterly why Gregoire is so deficient in grace, why he cannot
suffer decently?

The Sergeant says, as he sponges the table: "He's working against
one all the time." Well, the Sergeant is wrong. Gregoire is not
deliberately hostile. Sometimes I divine, when he knits his brows,
that he is making an effort to resist suffering, to meet it with a
stouter and more cheerful heart. But he does not know how to set
about it.

If you were asked to lift a railway-engine, you would perhaps make
an effort; but you would do so without confidence and without
success. So you must not say hard things of Gregoire.

Gregoire is unable to bear suffering, just as one is unable to
talk an unknown language. And, then, it is easier to learn Chinese
than to learn the art of suffering.

When I say that he is unable to bear suffering, I really mean that
he has to suffer a great deal more than others. ... I know the
human body, and I cannot be deceived as to certain signs.

Gregoire begins very badly. He reminds one of those children who
have such a terror of dogs that they are bound to be bitten.
Gregoire trembles at once. The dogs of pain throw themselves upon
this defenceless man and pull him down.

A great load of misery is heavy for a man to bear alone, but it is
supportable when he is helped. Unfortunately Gregoire has no
friends. He does nothing to obtain them, it almost seems as if he
did not want any.

He is not coarse, noisy and foul-mouthed, like the rascal Groult
who amuses the whole ward. He is only dull and reserved.

He does not often say "Thank you" when he is offered something,
and many touchy people take offence at this.

When I sit down by his bed, he gives no sign of any pleasure at my
visit. I ask him:

"What was your business in civil life?"

He does not answer immediately. At last he says: "Odd jobs; I
carried and loaded here and there."

"Are you married?"


"Have you any children?"


"How many?"


The conversation languishes. I get up and say: "Good-bye till to-
morrow, Gregoire."

"Ah! you will hurt me again to-morrow."

I reassure him, or at least I try to reassure him. Then, that I
may not go away leaving a bad impression, I ask:

"How did you get wounded?"

"Well, down there in the plain, with the others. ..."

That is all. I go away. Gregoire's eyes follow me for a moment,
and I cannot even say whether he is pleased or annoyed by my

Good-bye, poor Gregoire. I cross the ward and go to sit down by

Auger is busy writing up his "book."

It is a big ledger some one has given him, in which he notes the
important events of his life.

Auger writes a round schoolboy hand. In fact, he can just write
sufficiently well for his needs, I might almost say for his

"Would you care to look at my book?" he says, and he hands it to
me with the air of a man who has no secrets.

Auger receives many letters, and he copies them out carefully,
especially when they are fine letters, full of generous
sentiments. His lieutenant, for instance, wrote him a remarkable

He also copies into his book the letters he writes to his wife and
his little girl. Then he notes the incidents of the day: "Wound
dressed at 10 o'clock. The pus is diminishing. After dinner Madame
la Princesse Moreau paid us a visit, and distributed caps all
round; I got a fine green one. The little chap who had such a bad
wound in the belly died at 2 o'clock. ..."

Auger closes his book and puts it back under his bolster.

He has a face that it does one good to look at. His complexion is
warm and fresh; his hair stiff and rather curly. He has a youthful
moustache, a well-shaped chin, with a lively dimple in the middle,
and eyes which seem to be looking out on a smiling landscape, gay
with sunshine and running waters.

"I am getting on splendidly," he says with great satisfaction.
"Would you like to see Mariette?"

He lifts up the sheet, and I see the apparatus in which we have
placed the stump of his leg. It makes a kind of big white doll,
which he takes in both hands with a laugh, and to which he has
given the playful name of "Mariette."

Auger was a sapper in the Engineers. A shell broke his thigh and
tore off his foot. But as the foot was still hanging by a strip of
flesh, Auger took out his pocket-knife, and got rid of it. Then he
said to his terror-stricken comrades: "Well, boys, that's all
right. It might have been worse. Now carry me somewhere out of

"Did you suffer terribly?" I asked him.

"Well, Monsieur, not as much as you might think. Honestly, it did
not hurt so very, very much. Afterwards, indeed, the pain was
pretty bad."

I understand why every one is fond of Auger. It is because he is
reassuring. Seeing him and listening to him one opines that
suffering is not such a horrible thing after all. Those who live
far from the battle-field, and visit hospitals to get a whiff of
the war, look at Auger and go away well satisfied with everything:
current events, him, and themselves. They are persuaded that the
country is well defended, that our soldiers are brave, and that
wounds and mutilations, though they may be serious things, are not

Yet pain has come to Auger as to the rest. But there is a way of
taking it.

He suffers in an enlightened, intelligent, almost methodical
fashion. He does not confuse issues, and complain
indiscriminately. Even when in the hands of others, he remains the
man who had the courage to cut off his own foot, and finish the
work of the shrapnel. He is too modest and respectful to give
advice to the surgeon, but he offers him valuable information.

He says:

"Just there you are against the bone, it hurts me very much. Ah!
there you can scrape, I don't feel it much. Take care! You're
pressing rather too hard. All right: you can go on, I see what
it's for. ..."

And this is how we work together.

"What are you doing? Ah, you're washing it. I like that. It does
me good. Good blood! Rub a little more just there. You don't know
how it itches. Oh! if you're going to put the tube in, you must
tell me, that I may hold on tight to the table."

So the work gets on famously. Auger will make a rapid and
excellent recovery. With him, one need never hesitate to do what
is necessary. I wanted to give him an anaesthetic before scraping
the bone of his leg. He said:

"I don't suppose it will be a very terrible business. If you don't
mind, don't send me to sleep, but just do what is necessary. I
will see to the rest."

True, he could not help making a few grimaces. Then the Sergeant
said to him:

"Would you like to learn the song of the grunting pigs?"

"How does your song go?"

The Sergeant begins in a high, shrill voice:

    Quand en passant dedans la plai-ai-ne
    On entend les cochons ...
    Cela prouve d'une facon certai-ai-ne
    Qu'ils non pas l'trooo du ... bouche.

Auger begins to laugh; everybody laughs. And meanwhile we are
bending over the wounded leg and our work gets on apace.

"Now, repeat," says the Sergeant.

He goes over it again, verse by verse, and Auger accompanies him.

    Quand en passant dedans la plai-ai-ne ...

Auger stops now and then to make a slight grimace. Sometimes, too,
his voice breaks. He apologises simply:

"I could never sing in tune."

Nevertheless, the song is learnt, more or less, and when the
General comes to visit the hospital, Auger says to him:

"Mon General, I can sing you a fine song."

And he would, the rascal, if the head doctor did not look
reprovingly at him.

It is very dismal, after this, to attend to Gregoire, and to hear
him groaning:

"Ah! don't pull like that. You're dragging out my heart."

I point out that if he won't let us attend to him, he will become
much worse. Then he begins to cry.

"What do I care, since I shall die anyhow?"

He has depressed the orderlies, the stretcher-bearers, everybody.
He does not discourage me; but he gives me a great deal of

All you gentlemen who meet together to discuss the causes of the
war, the end of the war, the using-up of effectives and the future
bases of society, excuse me if I do not give you my opinion on
these grave questions. I am really too much taken up with the
wound of our unhappy Gregoire.

It is not satisfactory, this wound, and when I look at it, I
cannot think of anything else; the screams of the wounded man
would prevent me from considering the conditions of the decisive
battle and the results of the rearrangement of the map of Europe
with sufficient detachment.

Listen: Gregoire tells me he is going to die. I think and believe
that he is wrong. But he certainly will die if I do not take it
upon myself to make him suffer. He will die, because every one is
forsaking him. And he has long ago forsaken himself.

 "My dear chap," remarked Auger to a very prim orderly, "it is no
doubt unpleasant to have only one shoe to put on, but it gives one
a chance of saving. And now, moreover, I only run half as much
risk of scratching my wife with my toe-nails in bed as you do.

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