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Chapter NumberI, II, III
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1891-04-18
Page Number737
Word Count2362
Last Corrected2018-03-05
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleThe Lost Leg
article text

The Lost Leg.


In the autumn of 1782 the surgeon, Louis Thevenet, of Calais, received a note without signature requesting him to call on the following day at a retired country house situated on the road leading towards Paris, and to bring

with him what might be needful to perform an amputation. Thevenet was at that time widely known as the most skilful man in his profession, and it was not an unusual occurrence for him to be summoned across the channel to England for the exercise of his professional skill. He had served a long time in the army, was somewhat brusque in his manner, and yet one could not help loving him for his native kindness of heart. Thevenet was somewhat surprised by the receipt of this anonymous note. The day, the hour, and place were given with the greatest exactness, but, as stated, the signature was wanting. Some buffoon probably thinks to make a fool of me, thought he, and he did not go. Three days later he received a similar invi tation, but in more urgent terms, and also con taining a notification that on the following day, at 9 o'clock, a carriage would call at his house to fetch him. In truth, on the following morning, as the clock struck 9, an elegant open carriage appeared before his door. Thevenet, without further hesitation, seated himself in it. At the door of the carriage, however, he said to the coachman: "To whom are you going to take me?" " Things which I do not know do not concern me," replied the coachman, which was equiva lent to saying: " What I don't know will not be likely to get me into trouble." " You are a churl," replied Thevenet. At length the carriage stopped in front of the house before indicated. "Upon whom am I to call?" "Who lives here?" "Who is ill here?" inquired Thevenet of the coachman, before getting out of the carriage. The coach man, however, returned the same answer as before. At the house door he was received by a young man of about 28, who conducted him up a flight of stairs and into a large chamber. The speech of the young man disclosed the fact that he was a Briton. Thevenet addressed him in English, and received friendly replies. "You have sent for me," said the surgeon. " I am very thankful for the pains you have taken to visit me," replied the Englishman. " Will you please to be seated. Here is choco late, coffee, and wine, in case you desire to partake of some refreshments before the operation." " First show me to the patient, sir, I must first make an examination to determine if an amputation is necessary." " I assure you, Mons. Thevenet, it is neces sary. Pray be seated. I have perfect faith in your skill. Listen to me. Here is a purse containing a hundred guineas. They are in tended for you as payment for the operation which you are to undertake; and that will not be all you will receive, provided the thing is successfully accomplished. On the other hand, if you refuse to yield to my desire, you see here this pistol; you are in my power, and I will shoot you down." " Sir, I do not fear your pistol. But what do you desire of me? Speak out without further parley. Why am I brought here ?" "You must amputate my right leg." " With all my heart, and if you desire; your head also. But if l am not mistaken, your leg is quite sound. You ran up the stairs before me as nimbly as a rope-dancer. What is the matter with your leg ?" " Nothing; I only wish to be rid of it." " Sir, you are a fool." " That is no affair of yours, Mons. Thevenet." " In what way has your leg offended you ?" "In no way; but l am bound to have it amputated." " Sir, I do not know you. At least produce before me some witness who will testify to your soundness of intellect." "Will you accede to my wish, Mons. Thevenet ?" " Just as soon, sir, as you give me some defensible ground for your desire to be mutilated." "I cannot at the present moment communi cate to you the truth of the matter. Perhaps I may do so after the lapse of a year. But I am willing to wager you, monsieur, that a year hence you yourself will affirm that the ground upon which rested the desire to be free of my leg was the noblest." "I will not wager so long as you do not give me your name, your plaoe of residence, your family, and your occupation." " All that you shall know in the future, not at present. I pray you, however, to consider me as a man of honour." " An honourable man does not menace his physician with a pistol. I will not mutilate you without there is a necessity for so doing. I have duties to discharge even to you—a stranger. If you are possessed of a desire to become the murderer of an innocent man, the father of a family, then shoot !" " Good! Mons. Thevenet," exclaimed the Briton, seizing the pistol. " I will not shoot you, yet will I force you to amputate my leg. What you will not do for me either out of courtesy or love of reward or fear of a bullet, you shall accord through pity." "How so, sir?" " I will myself, here upon the spot, before your eyes, shatter my leg with a pistol shot." The Englishman sat down, seized the pistol and held the muzzle close against his knee. Mons. Thevenet was about to spring towards him to wrest the pistol from his hand. " Do not move," said the Englishman, " or I will fire. Only answer me one question :Do you wish unnecessarily to increase and prolong my suffering?" " Sir, you are a fool! Have your own way! I will take your leg off." Everything was made ready for the opera tion. As the first cut was about to be made the Englishman lighted his pipe and swore it should not go out. He kept his word. Pre sently the leg lay on the floor. The English man continued to smoke.

Mons. Thevenet accomplished his task like a master. The invalid was, through his skill, in brief time restored to health. He rewarded his physician, whom he esteemed more highly every day; shed tears of joy for the loss of his limb, and sailed back to England with a wooden leg. Chapter II. Some eighteen weeks after the English man's departure Thevenet received a letter from England, the contents of which was the following:— You receive the enclosure as a proof of my most profound gratitude. It is a draft for 250 guineas on Mons. Panschaud, banker, in Paris. You have made me the happiest of earthly mortals in de priving me of my limb, which stood in the way of my earthly happiness. Worthy man, now you may know the cause of my foolish whim, as you then called it. You as sorted, on the occasion referred to, that there could be no reasonable ground for a self-imposed mutilation such as mine. I offered then to lay you a wager. You acted wisely in not accepting it. After my second return from the East Indies I made the acquaintance of Emily Harley, the most perfect of women. I adored her. Her wealth, her family connections were satisfactory to my relatives. To me her beauty and angelic disposi tion were alone attractive. I mingled in the throng of her admirers. Alas! my good Thevenet, I was fortunate enough to become the most unfor tunate of my rivals. She loved me—beyond any and all men, me. She did not conceal it; and for that very reason she dismissed me. In vain I sup* plicated for her hand. Her parents and friends all joined with me. In vain ! She remained im movable. For a long time I was unable to discover the ground of her objection to marriage with me, whom she passionately loved, as she herself con fessed. At length one of her sisters disclosed to me the secret. Miss Harley was marvellously beautiful, but had the misfortune to have been born with one leg, and by reason of this imperfec tion she hesitated to become my wife. She feared I would esteem her less on account of this imperfection. l at once resolved to become like her. Thanks to you, my good Thevenet, the thing was accom plished. I returned to London with my artificial leg. My first thought was to visit Miss Harley. I had previously written to England that through a fall from my horse I had broken my leg, and that amputation had become necessary. I had. the sympathy of all, and Emily swooned the first time she saw me. She was for a longtime incon solable, but she became my wife. The day fol lowing our marriage I confided to her my secret, how great a sacrifice my desire to possess her had cost me. She loved me so much the more tenderly. Oh! my good Thevenet, if I possessed ten legs to lose, I would, without a sign of regret* give them all for Emily. I shall be grateful to you so long as I live. Come to London and visit us. Learn to know my glorious wife, and then lay again, "I am a fool." Charles Temple. Mons. Thevenet showed this letter to his friends, and related the incident, and laughed most heartily as often as he told the story. " Nevertheless, he is a fool," said he. The following was Mons. Thevenet's reply:— Sir, —I thank you for your magnificent present, for so I must call it, because I cannot term it compensation for the small service I rendered you. I wish you happiness in your marriage with the most worthy of English ladies. It is true a leg is much to give for a beautiful, virtuous, and tender wife; yet not too much, if in the end one does not come to feel that he has been cheated in the exchange. Adam was obliged to sacrifice a rib for his wife; and it has cost many other men a rib for their loves—some a head. But after all you must permit me, very moderately, to stand by my opinion. Indeed, for the present moment you are right. You are now in the paradise of the spring time of matrimony. But I am right also, with this difference only, that my view comes but slowly to be recognised and accepted, like every truth which one at first declines to receive. Have a care, sir; I fear that within two years you will regret that you had your leg taken off above the knee. You will think it would have been much better below the knee. At the end of three years you will be convinced that the loss of a foot would have been sufficient. In four years you will affirm that the sacrifice of a great toe, and in five years the amputation of a little toe, would be too great. At the end of six years you will confess that the cutting off the nail would have been sufficient. I say all this without any purpose of detracting from the worth of your estimable wife. Women can preserve their beauty and virtues more unalterable than men their judgments (respecting them). In my youth I could any day have sacri ficed my life for a beautiful woman, but never a leg; for that I should never, my life long, have ceased to repent. If I had done so I should to day say, " Thevenet, thou wast a fool." With which I have the honour to be, You most obedient servant, Thevenet. Chapter III. In the year 1793, daring the Reign of Terror, Mons. Thevenet, whom, a young surgeon had caused to be suspected of being in sympathy with the aristocracy, fled to London to save his head from the knife of the all-levelling guillo tine. Either from loneliness or a desire to seek out acquaintances, Thevenet made inquiries for Sir Charles Temple. His residence was pointed out to him. He called and was admitted. In an easy chair, by the fireside, with a foaming pot of porter, surrounded by newspapers, sat a fat gentleman. So unwieldy was he that he could with difficulty rise. " Ah, Mons. Thevenet" cried the fat gentleman —who was none other than Sir Charles Temple— " pardon me if I do not rise; but this accursed wooden leg hinders me in all I would do, Friend, you have come probably to ascertain whether I have yet come to be of your mind or not." "I come as a fugitive to seek your pro tection." " Then you must take up your quarters with me, for truly, you are a wise man! You must comfort me. Indeed, Thevenet, I might to-day be an admiral under the blue flag if this god less leg had not made me unfit for the service of my country. Here I sit and read the papers and swear until all is black and blue, because I can't be there. Come, you must comfort me."

Detroit Free Press. From the German of Zehokke.

" Your wife will know better how to comfort you than I." "Ah! nothing of that. Her wooden leg prevents her from dancing, therefore she de votes herself to cards and scandal. There is no getting along with her—otherwise she is a worthy wife." " Then I was right, after all ?" « Oh, entirely, my dear Thevenet! But not a word on the subject. It was a stupid affair. If I had my leg again, I wouldn't give the paring of a nail from it. Between ourselves, I was a fool. But that truth to yourself."—