List Of Contents | Contents of The New Book Of Martyrs, by Georges Duhamel
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looked, the more resolutely Carre smiled, clutching the edges of
the table with his two quivering hands.

Lerondeau has good strong teeth. Carre has nothing but black
stumps. This distresses me, for a man with a fractured thigh needs
good teeth.

Lerondeau is still at death's door, but though moribund, he can
eat. He attacks his meat with a well-armed jaw; he bites with
animal energy, and seems to fasten upon anything substantial.

Carre, for his part, is well-inclined to eat; but what can he do
with his old stumps?

"Besides," he says, "I was never very carnivorous."

Accordingly, he prefers to smoke. In view of lying perpetually
upon his back, he arranged the cover of a cardboard box upon his
chest; the cigarette ash falls into this, and Carre smokes without
moving, in cleanly fashion.

I look at the ash, the smoke, the yellow, emaciated face, and
reflect sadly that it is not enough to have the will to live; one
must have teeth.

Not every one knows how to suffer, and even when we know, we must
set about it the right way, if we are to come off with honour. As
soon as he is on the table, Carre looks round him and asks:

"Isn't there any one to squeeze my head to-day?"

If there is no answer, he repeats anxiously:

"Who is going to squeeze my head to-day?"

Then a nurse approaches, takes his head between her hands and
presses.... I can begin; as soon as some one is "squeezing his
head" Carre is good.

Lerondeau's method is different. He wants some one to hold his
hands. When there is no one to do this, he shrieks: "I shall

It is no use to tell him that he is on a solid table, and that he
need not be afraid. He gropes about for the helpful hands, and
cries, the sweat breaking out on his brow: "I know I shall fall."
Then I get some one to come and hold his hands, for suffering, at
any rate, is a reality....

Each sufferer has his characteristic cry when the dressing is
going on. The poor have only one, a simple cry that does service
for them all. It makes one think of the women who, when they are
bringing a child into the world, repeat, at every pain, the one
complaint they have adopted.

Carre has a great many varied cries, and he does not say the same
thing when the dressing is removed, and when the forceps are

At the supreme moment he exclaims: "Oh, the pain in my knee!"

Then, when the anguish abates, he shakes his head and repeats:

"Oh, that wretched knee!"

When it is the turn of the thigh, he is exasperated.

"Now it's this thigh again!"

And he repeats this incessantly, from second to second. Then we go
on to the wound under his heel, and Carre begins:

"Well, what is wrong with the poor heel?"

Finally, when he is tired of singing, he murmurs softly and

"They don't know how that wretched knee hurts me... they don't
know how it hurts me."

Lerondeau, who is, and always will be, a little boy compared with
Carre, is very poor in the matter of cries. But when he hears his
complaints, he checks his own cries, Borrows them. Accordingly, I
hear him beginning:

"Oh, my poor knee! ... They don't know it hurts!"

One morning when he was shouting this at the top of his voice, I
asked him gravely:

"Why do you make the same complaints as Carre?"

Marie is only a peasant, but he showed me a face that was really

"It's not true. I don't say the same things."

I said no more, for there are no souls so rugged that they cannot
feel certain stings.

Marie has told me the story of his life and of his campaign. As he
is not very eloquent, It was for the most part a confused murmur
with an ever-recurring protestation:

"I was a good one to work, you know, strong as a horse."

Yet I can hardly imagine that there was once a Marie Lerondeau who
was a robust young fellow, standing firm and erect between the
handles of a plough. I know him only as a man lying on his back,
and I even find it difficult to picture to myself what his shape
and aspect will be when we get him on his feet again.

Marie did his duty bravely under fire. "He stayed alone with the
wagons and when he was wounded, the Germans kicked him with their
heavy boots." These are the salient points of the interrogatory.

Now and again Lerondeau's babble ceases, and he looks up to the
ceiling, for this takes the place of distance and horizon to those
who lie upon their backs. After a long, light silence, he looks at
me again, and repeats:

"I must have been pretty brave to stay alone with the wagons!"

True enough, Lerondeau was brave, and I take care to let people
know it. When strangers come in during the dressings, I show them
Marie, who is making ready to groan, and say:

"This is Marie--Marie Lerondeau, you know. He has a fractured
thigh, but he is a very brave fellow. He stayed alone with the

The visitors nod their heads admiringly, and Marie controls
himself. He blushes a little, and the muscles of his neck swell
with pride. He makes a sign with his eyes as if to say: "Yes,
indeed, alone, all alone with the wagons." And meanwhile, the
dressing has been nearly finished.

The whole world must know that Marie stayed alone with the wagons.
I intend to pin a report of this on the Government pension

Carre was only under fire once, and was hit almost immediately. He
is much annoyed at this, for he had a good stock of courage, and
now he has to waste it within the walls of a hospital.

He advanced through a huge beetroot field, and he ran with the
others towards a fine white mist. All of a sudden, crack, he fell!
His thigh was fractured. He fell among the thick leaves, on the
waterlogged earth.

Shortly afterwards his sergeant passed again, and said to him:

"We are going back to our trench, they shall come and fetch you

Carre merely said:

"Put my haversack under my head."

Evening was coming on; he prepared, gravely, to spend the night
among the beetroots. And there he spent it, alone with a cold
drizzling rain, meditating seriously until morning.

It was fortunate that Carre brought such a stock of courage into
hospital, for he needs it all. Successive operations and dressings
make large drafts upon the most generous supplies.

They put Carre upon the table, and I note an almost joyful
resolution in his look. To-day he has "all his strength, to the
last ounce."

But just to-day, I have but little to do, not much suffering to
inflict. He has scarcely knitted his brows, when I begin to fasten
up the apparatus again.

Then Carre's haggard face breaks into a smile, and he exclaims:

"Finished already? Put some more ether on, make it sting a bit at

Carre knows that the courage of which there was no need to-day
will not, perhaps, be available to-morrow.

And to-morrow, and for many days after, Carre will have to be
constantly calling up those reserves of the soul which help the
body to suffer while it waits for the good offices of Nature.

The swimmer adrift on the open seas measures his strength, and
strives with all his muscles to keep himself afloat. But what is
he to do when there is no land on the horizon, and none beyond it?

This leg, infected to the very marrow, seems to be slowly
devouring the man to whom it belongs; we look at it anxiously, and
the white-haired Master fixes two small light-blue eyes upon it,
eyes accustomed to appraise the things of life, yet, for the
moment, hesitant.

I speak to Carre in veiled words of the troublesome, gangrenous
leg. He gives a toothless laugh, and settles the question at once.

"Well, if the wretched thing is a nuisance, we shall have to get
rid of it."

After this consent, we shall no doubt make up our minds to do so.

Meanwhile Lerondeau is creeping steadily towards healing.

Lying on his back, bound up in bandages and a zinc trough, and
imprisoned by cushions, he nevertheless looks like a ship which
the tide will set afloat at dawn.

He is putting on flesh, yet, strange to say, he seems to get
lighter and lighter. He is learning not to groan, not because his
frail soul is gaining strength, but because the animal is better
fed and more robust.

His ideas of strength of mind are indeed very elementary. As soon
as I hear his first cry, in the warm room where his wound is
dressed, I give him an encouraging look, and say:

"Be brave, Marie! Try to be strong!"

Then he knits his brows, makes a grimace, and asks:

"Ought I to say 'By God!'?"

The zinc trough in which Marie's shattered leg has been lying has
lost its shape; it has become oxydised and is split at the edges;
so I have decided to change it.

I take it away, look at it, and throw it into a corner. Marie
follows my movements with a scared glance. While I am adjusting
the new trough, a solid, comfortable one, but rather different in
appearance, he casts an eloquent glance at the discarded one, and
his eyes fill with copious tears.

This change is a small matter; but in the lives of the sick, there
are no small things.

Lerondeau will weep for the old zinc fragment for two days, and it
will be a long time before he ceases to look distrustfully at the
new trough, and to criticise it in those minute and bitter terms
which only a connoisseur can understand or invent.

Carre, on the other hand, cannot succeed in carrying along his
body by the generous impulse of his soul. Everything about him
save his eyes and his liquid voice foreshadow the corpse.
Throughout the winter days and the long sleepless nights, he looks
as if he were dragging along a derelict.

He strains at it ... with his poignant songs and his brave words
which falter now, and often die away in a moan.

I had to do his dressing in the presence of Marie. The amount of
work to be got through, and the cramped quarters made this
necessary. Marie was grave and attentive as if he were taking a
lesson, and, indeed, it was a lesson in patience and courage. But
all at once, the teacher broke down. In the middle of the
dressing, Carre opened his lips, and in spite of himself, began to
complain without restraint or measure, giving up the struggle in

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