List Of Contents | Contents of The New Book Of Martyrs, by Georges Duhamel
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Lerondeau listened, anxious and uneasy; and Carre, knowing that
Marie was listening, continued to lament, like one who has lost
all sense of shame.

Lerondeau called me by a motion of his eyelids. He said:


And he added:

"I saw his slough. Lord! he is bad."

Lerondeau has a good memory for medical terms. Yes, he saw Carre's
slough. He himself has the like on his posterior and on his heel;
but the tear that trembles in the corner of his eye is certainly
for Carre.

And then, he knows, he feels that HIS wounds are going to heal.

But it is bad for Marie to hear another complaining before his own

He comes to the table very ill-disposed. His nerves have been
shaken and are unusually irritable.

At the first movement, he begins with sighs and those "Poor
devils!" which are his artless and habitual expressions of self-
pity. And then, all at once, he begins to scream, as I had not
heard him scream for a long time. He screams in a sort of frenzy,
opening his mouth widely, and shrieking with all the strength of
his lungs, and with all the strength of his face, it would seem,
for it is flushed and bathed in sweat. He screams unreasonably at
the lightest touch, in an incoherent and disorderly fashion.

Then, ceasing to exhort him to be calm with gentle and
compassionate words, I raise my voice suddenly and order the boy
to be quiet, in a severe tone that admits of no parleying...

Marie's agitation subsides at once, like a bubble at the touch of
a finger. The ward still rings with my imperious order. A good
lady who does not understand at once, stares at me in

But Marie, red and frightened, controls his unreasonable emotion.
And as long as the dressing lasts, I dominate his soul strenuously
to prevent him from suffering in vain, just as others hold and
grasp his wrists.

Then, presently, it is all over. I give him a fraternal smile that
relaxes the tension of his brow as a bow is unbent.

A lady, who is a duchess at the least, came to visit the wounded.
She exhaled such a strong, sweet perfume that she cannot have
distinguished the odour of suffering that pervades this place.

Carre was shown to her as one of the most interesting specimens of
the house. She looked at him with a curious, faded smile, which,
thanks to paint and powder, still had a certain beauty.

She made some patriotic remarks to Carre full of allusions to his
conduct under fire. And Carre ceased staring out of the window to
look at the lady with eyes full of respectful astonishment.

And then she asked Carre what she could send him that he would
like, with a gesture that seemed to offer the kingdoms of the
earth and the glory of them.

Carre, in return, gave her a radiant smile; he considered for a
moment and then said modestly:

"A little bit of veal with new potatoes."

The handsome lady thought it tactful to laugh. And I felt
instinctively that her interest in Carre was suddenly quenched.

An old man sometimes comes to visit Carre. He stops before the
bed, and with a stony face pronounces words full of an overflowing

"Give him anything he asks for.... Send a telegram to his family."

Carre protests timidly: "Why a telegram? I have no one but my poor
old mother; it would frighten her."

The little old gentleman emerges from his varnished boots like a
variegated plant from a double vase.

Carre coughs--first, to keep himself in countenance, and,
secondly, because his cruel bronchitis takes this opportunity to
give him a shaking.

Then the old gentleman stoops, and all his medals hang out from
his tunic like little dried-up breasts. He bends down, puffing and
pouting, without removing his gold-trimmed KEPI, and lays a deaf
ear on Carre's chest with an air of authority.

Carre's leg has been sacrificed. The whole limb has gone, leaving
a huge and dreadful wound level with the trunk.

It is very surprising that the rest of Carre did not go with the

He had a pretty hard day.

O life! O soul! How you cling to this battered carcase! O little
gleam on the surface of the eye! Twenty times I saw it die down
and kindle again. And it seemed too suffering, too weak, too
despairing ever to reflect anything again save suffering,
weakness, and despair.

During the long afternoon, I go and sit between two beds beside
Lerondeau. I offer him cigarettes, and we talk. This means that we
say nothing, or very little.... But it is not necessary to speak
when one has a talk with Lerondeau.

Marie is very fond of cigarettes, but what he likes still better
is that I should come and sit by him for a bit. When I pass
through the ward, he taps coaxingly upon his sheet, as one taps
upon a bench to invite a friend to a seat.

Since he told me about his life at home and his campaign, he has
not found much to say to me. He takes the cakes with which his
little shelf is laden, and crunches them with an air of enjoyment.

"As for me," he says, "I just eat all the time," and he laughs.

If he stops eating to smoke, he laughs again. Then there is an
agreeable silence. Marie looks at me, and begins to laugh again.
And when I get up to go, he says: "Oh, you are not in such a great
hurry, we can chat a little longer!"

Lerondeau's leg was such a bad business that it is now permanently
shorter than the other by a good twelve centimetres. So at least
it seems to us, looking down on it from above.

But Lerondeau, who has only seen it from afar by raising his head
a little above the table while his wounds are being dressed, has
noticed only a very slight difference in length between his two

He said philosophically:

"It is shorter, but with a good thick sole...."

When Marie was better, he raised himself on his elbow, and he
understood the extent of his injury more clearly.

"I shall want a VERY thick sole," he remarked.

Now that Lerondeau can sit up, he, too, can estimate the extent of
the damage from above; but he is happy to feel life welling up
once more in him, and he concludes gaily:

"What I shall want is not a sole, but a little bench."

But Carre is ill, terribly ill.

That valiant soul of his seems destined to be left alone, for all
else is failing.

He had one sound leg. Now it is stiff and swollen.

He had healthy, vigorous arms. Now one of them is covered with

The joy of breathing no longer exists for Carre, for his cough
shakes him savagely in his bed.

The back, by means of which we rest, has also betrayed him. Here
and there it is ulcerated; for man was not meant to lie
perpetually on his back, but only to lie and sleep on it after a
day of toil.

For man was not really intended to suffer with his miserable,
faithless body!

And his heart beats laboriously.

There was mischief in the bowel too. So much so, that one day
Carre was unable to control himself, before a good many people who
had come in.

In spite of our care, in spite of our friendly assurances, Carre
was so ashamed that he wept. He who always said that a man ought
not to cry, he who never shed a tear in the most atrocious
suffering, sobbed with shame on account of this accident. And I
could not console him.

He no longer listens to all we say to him. He no longer answers
our questions. He has mysterious fits of absence.

He who was so dignified in his language, expresses himself and
complains with the words of a child.

Sometimes he comes up out of the depths and speaks.

He talks of death with an imaginative lucidity which sounds like
actual experience.

Sometimes he sees it ... And as he gazes, his pupils suddenly

But he will not, he cannot make up his mind....

He wants to suffer a little longer.

I draw near to his bed in the gathering darkness. His breathing is
so light that suddenly, I stop and listen open-mouthed, full of

Then Carre suddenly opens his eyes.

Will he sigh and groan? No. He smiles and says:

"What white teeth you have!"

Then he dreams, as if he were dying.

Could you have imagined such a martyrdom, my brother, when you
were driving the plough into your little plot of brown earth?

Here you are, enduring a death-agony of five months swathed in
these livid wrappings, without even the rewards that are given to

Your breast, your shroud must be bare of even the humblest of the
rewards of valour, Carre.

It was written that you should suffer without purpose and without

But I will not let all your sufferings be lost in the abyss. And
so I record them thus at length.

Lerondeau has been brought down into the garden. I find him there,
stretched out on a cane chair, with a little kepi pulled down over
his eyes, to shade them from the first spring sunshine.

He talks a little, smokes a good deal, and laughs more.

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.



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

"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

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