List Of Contents | Contents of The New Book Of Martyrs, by Georges Duhamel
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well that you will still be able to make conquests."

He smiles, touches his bandage, looks at his mutilated arm, seems
to lose himself for a while in memories, and murmurs:

"May be. But the girls will never come after me again as they used


"The skin is beginning to form over the new flesh. A few weeks
more, and then a wooden leg. You will run along like a rabbit."

Plaquet essays a little dry laugh which means neither yes nor no,
but which reveals a great timidity, and something else, a great

"For Sundays, you can have an artificial leg. You put a boot on
it. The trouser hides it all. It won't show a bit."

The wounded man shakes his head slightly, and listens with a
gentle, incredulous smile.

"With an artificial leg, Plaquet, you will, of course, be able to
go out. It will be almost as it was before."

Plaquet shakes his head again, and says in a low voice:

"Oh, I shall never go out!"

"But with a good artificial leg, Plaquet, you will be able to walk
almost as well as before. Why shouldn't you go out?"

Plaquet hesitates and remains silent.


Then in an almost inaudible voice he replies:

"I will never go out. I should be ashamed."

Plaquet will wear a medal on his breast. He is a brave soldier,
and by no means a fool. But there are very complex feelings which
we must not judge too hastily.


In the corner of the ward there is a little plank bed which is
like all the other little beds. But buried between its sheets
there is the smile of Mathouillet, which is like no other smile.

Mathouillet, after throwing a good many bombs, at last got one
himself. In this disastrous adventure, he lost part of his thigh,
received several wounds, and gradually became deaf. Such is the
fate of bombardier-grenadier Mathouillet.

The bombardier-grenadier has a gentle, beardless face, which for
many weeks must have expressed great suffering, and, which is now
beginning to show a little satisfaction.

But Mathouillet hears so badly that when one speaks to him he only
smiles in answer.

If I come into the ward, Mathouillet's smile awaits and welcomes
me. When the dressing is over, Mathouillet thanks me with a smile.
If I look at the temperature chart, Mathouillet's smile follows
me, but not questioningly; Mathouillet has faith in me, but his
smile says a number of unspoken things that I understand
perfectly. Conversation is difficult, on account of this
unfortunate deafness--that is to say, conversation as usually
carried on. But we two, happily, have no need of words. For some
time past, certain smiles have been enough for us. And Mathouillet
smiles, not only with his eyes or with his lips, but with his
nose, his beardless chin, his broad, smooth forehead, crowned by
the pale hair of the North, with all his gentle, boyish face.

Now that Mathouillet can get up, he eats at the table, with his
comrades. To call him to meals, Baraffe utters a piercing cry,
which reaches the ear of the bombardier-grenadier.

He arrives, shuffling his slippers along the floor, and examines
all the laughing faces. As he cannot hear, he hesitates to sit
down, and this time his smile betrays embarrassment and confusion.

Coming very close to him, I say loudly:

"Your comrades are calling you to dinner, my boy."

"Yes, yes," he replies, "but because they know I am deaf, they
sometimes try to play tricks on me."

His cheeks flush warmly as he makes this impromptu confidence.
Then he makes up his mind to sit down, after interrogating me with
his most affectionate smile.


Once upon a time, Paga would have been called un type; now he is
un numero. This means that he is an original, that his ways of
considering and practising life are unusual; and as life here is
reduced entirely to terms of suffering, it means that his manner
of suffering differs from that of other people.

From the very beginning, during those hard moments when the
wounded man lies plunged in stupor and self-forgetfulness, Paga
distinguished himself by some remarkable eccentricities.

Left leg broken, right foot injured, such was the report on Paga's
hospital sheet.

Now the leg was not doing at all well. Every morning, the good
head doctor stared at the swollen flesh with his little round
discoloured eyes and said: "Come, we must just wait till to-
morrow." But Paga did not want to wait.

Flushed with fever, his hands trembling, his southern accent
exaggerated by approaching delirium, he said, as soon as we came
to see him.

"My wish, my wish! You know my wish, doctor."

Then, lower, with a kind of passion:

"I want you to cut it off, you know. I want you to cut this leg.
Oh! I shan't be happy till it is done. Doctor, cut it, cut it

We didn't cut it at all, and Paga's business was very successfully
arranged. I even feel sure that this leg became quite a
respectable limb again.

I am bound to say Paga understood that he had meddled with things
which did not concern him. He nevertheless continued to offer
imperative advice as to the manner in which he wished to be

"Don't pull off the dressings! I won't have it. Do you hear,
doctor? Don't pull. I won't have it."

Then he would begin to tremble nervously all over his body and to

"I am quite calm! Oh, I am really calm. See, Michelet, see,
Brugneau, I am calm. Doctor, see, I am quite calm."

Meantime the dressings were gradually loosening under a trickle of
water, and Paga muttered between his teeth:

"He's pulling, he's pulling. ... Oh, the cruel man! I won't have
it, I won't have it."

Then suddenly, with flaming cheeks:

"That's right. That's right! See, Michelet, see, Brugneau: the
dressings have come away. Sergeant, Sergeant, the dressings are

He clapped his hands, possessed by a furtive joy; then he suddenly
became conscious, and with a deep furrow between his brows, he
began to give orders again.

"Not any tincture of iodine to-day, doctor. Take away those
forceps, doctor, take them away."

Meanwhile the implacable forceps did their work, the tincture of
iodine performed its chilly function; then Paga yelled:

"Quickly, quickly. Kiss me, kiss me."

With his arms thrown out like tentacles, he beat upon the air, and
seized haphazard upon the first blouse that passed. Then he would
embrace it frantically.

Thus it happened that he once showered kisses on Michelet's hands,
objects by no means suitable for such a demonstration. Michelet
said, laughing:

"Come, stop it; my hands are dirty."

And then poor Paga began to kiss Michelet's bare, hairy arms,
saying distractedly:

"If your hands are dirty, your arms are all right."

Alas, what has become of all those who, during days and nights of
patient labour, I saw gradually shaking off the dark empire of the
night and coming back again to joy? What has become of the
smouldering faggot which an ardent breath finally kindled into

What became of you, precious lives, poor wonderful souls, for whom
I fought so many obscure great battles, and who went off again
into the realm of adventure?

You, Paga, little fellow, where are you? Do you remember the time
when I used to dress your two wounds alternately, and when you
said to me with great severity:

"The leg to-day, only the leg. It's not the day for the foot."


Sergeant Lecolle is distinguished by a huge black beard, which
fails to give a ferocious expression to the gentlest face in the

He arrived the day little Delporte died, and scarcely had he
emerged from the dark sleep when, opening his eyes, he saw
Delporte die.

I went to speak to him several times. He looked so exhausted, his
black beard was so mournful that I kept on telling him: "Sergeant,
your wound is not serious."

Each time he shook his head as if to say that he took but little
interest in the matter, and tried to close his eyes.

Lecolle is too nervous; he was not able to close his eyes, and he
saw Delporte dead, and he had been obliged to witness all
Delporte's death agony; for when one has a wound in the right
shoulder, one can only lie upon the left shoulder.

The ward was full, I could not change the sergeant's place, and
yet I should have liked to let him be alone all day with his own

Now Lecolle is better; he feels better without much exuberance,
with a seriousness which knows and foresees the bufferings of

Lecolle was a stenographer "in life." We are no longer "in life,"
but the good stenographer retains his principles. When his wounds
are dressed, he looks carefully at the little watch on his wrist.
He moans at intervals, and stops suddenly to say:

"It has taken fifty seconds to-day to loosen the dressings.
Yesterday, you took sixty-two seconds."

His first words after the operation were:

"Will you please tell me how many minutes I was unconscious?"


I first saw Derancourt in the room adjoining the chapel. A band of
crippled men, returning from Germany after a long captivity, had
just been brought in there.

There were some fifty of them, all looking with delighted eyes at
the walls, the benches, the telephone, all the modest objects in
this waiting-room, objects which are so much more attractive under
the light of France than in harsh exile.

The waiting-room seemed to have been transformed into a museum of
misery: there were blind men, legless and armless men, paralysed
men, their faces ravaged by fire and powder.

A big fellow said, lifting his deformed arm with an effort:

"I tricked them; they thought to the end that I was really
paralysed. I look well, but that's because they sent us to
Constance for the last week, to fatten us up."

A dark, thin man was walking to and fro, towing his useless foot
after him by the help of a string which ran down his trouser leg;
and he laughed:

"I walk more with my fist than with my foot. Gentlemen, gentlemen,
who would like to pull Punch's string?"

All wore strange costumes, made up of military clothing and
patched civilian garments.

On a bench sat fifteen or twenty men with about a dozen legs

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