Every minute aggravates its sufferings, and will no one, no one come to its aid? We made an examination of the wounded man, together with our chief, who muttered almost inaudibly between his teeth: "He must be prepared for another sacrifice." Yes, the sacrifice is not yet entirely consummated. But Leglise understood. He no longer weeps.
I spoke too soon. I go away, still anxious. We have some bad moments yet, but the fever gradually abates. I have an impression that Leglise bears his pain more resolutely, like one who has given all he had to give, and fears nothing further. When I have finished the dressing, I turned him over on his side, to ease his sore back.
The first dressings were very painful. He looked at the raw, bloody, oozing stump, trembling, and said: "It looks pretty horrible!" We took so many precautions that now he is refreshed for a few hours. "They say you are to have the Military Medal," the head doctor told him. Leglise confided to me later, with some hesitation: "I don't suppose they would really give me the medal!" "And why not?"
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.
'Yes, that is the kind of church I am looking for. 'Very good, rejoined the man. 'Now I know what you want I can inform you. I put that question to you because there are some people here called Leglise. It was to the church pour prier dedans that I went, not to Mr. Church.
Every morning, we pass from one misery to another, telling the beads of suffering in due order. So a man does not die of pain, or Leglise would certainly be dead. I see him still, opening his eyes desperately and checking the scream that rises to his lips. Oh! I thought indeed that he was going to die. But his agony demands full endurance; it does not even stupefy those it assails.
There are moments when he does not know what to say, and formulates trivial objections, just because there are others so much weightier. "I live with my mother," he says. "I am twenty years old. What work is there for a cripple? Ought I to live to suffer poverty and misery?" "Leglise, all France owes you too much, she would blush not to pay her debt."
We were talking of his future pension while the dressings were being prepared, and someone said to him: "You will live like a little man of means." Leglise looked at his body and answered: "Oh, yes, a little man, a very little man." The dressing went off very well.
It is a modest story and a very sad story; but indeed, are there any stories now in the world that are not sad? I will tell it day by day, as we lived it, as it is graven in my memory, and as it is graven in your memory and in your flesh, my friend Leglise. Leglise only had a whiff of chloroform, and he fell at once into a sleep closely akin to death. "Let us make haste," said the head doctor.
He held on to the stretcher with both hands as he was carried up the steps. He raised his head a little, gave a glance full of astonishment, distress, and lassitude at the green trees, the smiling hills, the glowing horizon, and then he found himself inside the house. Here begins the story of Gaston Leglise.