“Oh, leave me alone,” he said as though he were tired of so much talk; turned to the wall, and closed his eyes.
The Doctor was quite unprepared for such stubbornness. He left the room and went to have a word with the woman.
“How is my husband?” she asked with such indifference as she could muster, continuing her work at the same time in order to show her contempt for the Doctor.
“Bad enough. I just came to ask you to try and persuade him to let me amputate his arm.”
“Good gracious!” she exclaimed, turning as white as the apron before her. “Must it be done?”
“He will die otherwise within twenty-four hours.”
Her face turned red, as she took the Doctor by the arm. She dragged him into the sick-room and there, placing her hands on her hips, addressed him:
“Do I look like a woman who would be satisfied to be the wife of a cripple? I’d die of shame. There! Just look at him!” She turned to her husband and almost shouted: “Don’t you let him cut your arm off, John. Don’t you listen to him!”
The old peasant gave her a friendly look.
“Don’t you worry, Kriska,” he assured her. “There’ll be no butchering here. I don’t intend to die in pieces.”
It was in vain that the Doctor spoke to the old man of the darkness of death and the beauties of life. It was to no purpose that he called the Countess from the Castle to plead his suit, and the priest and all the most eloquent and impressive talkers of the village. John Gal remained obdurate. He declined to be cut.
The resignation with which the peasant meets death, without bitterness, without reproach, and without vain tears, was expressed in the calm of his face and the tone of his voice. Death held no terrors for him. If his time was at hand, he was ready to go as his father and his grandfather had gone before him.
It was plain that nothing was to be gained through appeals to the old man to save himself. But at length the very real concern of the almost frantic doctor began to touch the old man’s heart. He pitied the fellow’s agitation. He was sorry that this man should be so grieved and, half-ridiculously, half-pathetically, John began to console the physician.
Suddenly the Doctor remembered that considerations of money will work wonders where a peasant is concerned. So he said: