This was absolutely untrue. John Gal had never said a word; never even mentioned the bite unless he was asked, and even then he was extremely curt. He lay on his bed indifferent and stoical. His head rested on a sheepskin, his pipe in his mouth.
“What’s the trouble, old man?” asked the Doctor. “I understand a fly bit you.”
“That’s it,” answered the peasant between his teeth.
“What sort of fly was it?”
“A green fly,” he said curtly.
“You just question him, Doctor,” interrupted the woman. “I shall have to look after my work. I have nine loaves in the oven.”
“All right, mother,” said the Doctor absent-mindedly.
She turned upon him immediately as if stung, her hands on her hips: “Why, you’re old enough to be my father!” she said, half offended and half flirting. “You don’t seem to see well through those windows on your eyes.”
She turned quickly about and the many starched skirts whirled like the wind as she walked out, erect with the sense of youth and strength.
Sort of apology
The Doctor followed her with his eyes. She was devilish pretty, much younger than the doctor, and of course very much younger than her Imsband. He wanted to mutter some sort of apology, but she was gone before he could say a word.
“Well, let’s see that hand. Does it hurt?”
“Quite a good deal,” was the answer.
The Doctor examined the swollen hand, and his face assumed a grave look.
“Bad enough. It ihust have been a poisonous insect.”
“Maybe,” said John without the least emotion. “I could tell it wasn t tin ordinary kind.”
“It was a fly that had come from a dead body.”
A mute curse was all John Gal vouchsafed for this information.
“It was lucky I arrived in time. We can still do something. Tomorrow it would have been too late. You’d have been dead.”
“That’s strange,” said the peasant, pressing the tobacco into his pipe with one thumb.
“Blood-poisoning works fast. We have no time to lose. You must harden your nerves, old man. Your arm will have to come off.”
“My arm?” he asked with surprise and a touch of sarcasm, and a great deal of resignation.
“Yes. It has to be done.”
John Gal did not say a word; he only shook his head and went on smoking.
“You see,” the Doctor went on in his persuasive tone, “it will not hurt you. I shall put you to sleep and when you wake up you will be saved. Otherwise, to-morrow at this time you’ll be as dead as a mouse. Not even God can save you.”