I added that as an arm without a hand would be quite as useless as no arm at all, I meant to wait till it was necessary to cut off the arm.
My letter was read at Court, and people wondered how a man with gangrene could write a long letter of four pages. Lubomirski told me kindly that I was mistaken in laughing at my friends, for the three best surgeons in Warsaw could not be mistaken in such a simple case.
"My lord, they are not deceived themselves, but they want to deceive me."
"Why should they?"
"To make themselves agreeable to Branicki, who is in a dangerous state, and might possibly get better if he heard that my hand had been taken off."
"Really that seems an incredible idea to me!"
"What will your highness say on the day when I am proved to be right?"
"I shall say you are deserving of the highest praise, but the day must first come."
"We shall see this evening, and I give you my word that if any gangrene has attacked the arm, I will have it cut off to-morrow morning."
Four surgeons came to see me. My arm was pronounced to be highly aedematous, and of a livid colour up to the elbow; but when the lint was taken off the wound I could see for myself that it was progressing admirably. However, I concealed my delight. Prince Augustus Sulkowski and the Abbe Gouvel were present; the latter being attached to the palatin's court. The judgment of the surgeons was that the arm was gangrened, and must be amputated by the next morning at latest.
I was tired of arguing with these rascals, so I told them to bring their instruments, and that I would submit to the operation. At this they went way in high glee, to tell the news at the Court, to Branicki, to the palatin, and so forth. I merely gave my servants orders to send them away when they came.
I can dwell no more on this matter, though it is interesting enough to me. However, the reader will no doubt be obliged to me by my simply saying that a French surgeon in Prince Sulkowski's household took charge of the case in defiance of professional etiquette, and cured me perfectly, so I have my hand and my arm to this day.
On Easter Day I went to mass with my arm in a sling. My cure had only lasted three weeks, but I was not able to put the hand to any active employment for eighteen months afterwards. Everyone was obliged to congratulate me on having held out against the amputation, and the general consent declared the surgeons grossly ignorant, while I was satisfied with thinking them very great knaves.
I must here set down an incident which happened three days after the duel.
I was told that a Jesuit father from the bishop of the diocese wanted to speak to me in private, and I had him shewn in, and asked him what he wanted.
"I have come from my lord-bishop," said he, "to absolve you from the ecclesiastical censure, which you have incurred by duelling."
"I am always delighted to receive absolution, father, but only after I have confessed my guilt. In the present case I have nothing to confess; I was attacked, and I defended myself. Pray thank my lord for his kindness. If you like to absolve me without confession, I shall be much obliged."
"If you do not confess, I cannot give you absolution, but you can do this: ask me to absolve you, supposing you have fought a duel."
"Certainly; I shall be glad if you will absolve me, supposing I have fought a duel."
The delightful Jesuit gave me absolution in similar terms. He was like his brethren--never at a loss when a loophole of any kind is required.
Three days before I left the monastery, that is on Holy Thursday, the marshal withdrew my guard. After I had been to mass on Easter Day, I went to Court, and as I kissed the king's hand, he asked me (as had been arranged) why I wore my arm in a sling. I said I had been suffering from a rheum, and he replied, with a meaning smile,--
"Take care not to catch another."
After my visit to the king, I called on Branicki, who had made daily enquiries afer my health, and had sent me back my sword, He was condemned to stay in bed for six weeks longer at least, for the wad of my pistol had got into the wound, and in extracting it the opening had to be enlarged, which retarded his recovery.