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"'No, indeed; I had sprained my ankle and hurt the cap of my knee, but my nose was quite perfect. You must have a little patience yet.
"'What fragments of my husband were found, were buried in a large grave, which held the bodies and the mutilated portions of the killed; and, having obtained possession of an apartment in Constantine, I remained there several days, lamenting his fate. At last it occurred to me that his testamentary dispositions should be attended to, and I wrote to General Vallee, informing him of the last wishes of my husband. His reply was very short: it was, that he was excessively flattered, but press of business would not permit him to administer to the will. It was not polite.
"'On the 26th I quitted Constantine with a convoy of wounded men. The dysentery and the cholera made fearful ravages, and I very soon had a _caisson_ all to myself. The rain again came on in torrents, and it was a dreadful funeral procession. Every minute wretches, jolted to death, were thrown down into pits by the roadside, and the cries of those who survived were dreadful. Many died of cold and hunger; and after three days we arrived at the camp of Mzez Ammar, with the loss of more than one-half of our sufferers.
"'I took possession of one of the huts built of the boughs of the trees which I formerly described; and had leisure to think over my future plans and prospects. I was young and pretty, and hope did not desert me.
I had recovered my baggage, which I had left at the camp, and was now able to attend to my toilet. The young officers who were in the camp paid me great attention, and were constantly pa.s.sing and repa.s.sing to have a peep at the handsome widow, as they were pleased to call me; and now comes the history of my misfortune.
"'The cabin built of boughs which I occupied was double; one portion was fenced off from the other with a wattling of branches, which ran up about seven feet, but not so high as the roof. In one apartment I was located, the other was occupied by a young officer who paid me attention, but who was not to my liking. I had been walking out in the cool of the evening and had returned, when I heard voices in the other apartment; I entered softly and they did not perceive my approach; they were talking about me, and I must say that the expressions were very complimentary. At last one of the party observed, "Well, she is a splendid woman, and a good soldier's wife. I hope to be a general by-and-bye, and she would not disgrace a marshal's baton. I think I shall propose to her before we leave the camp."
"'Now, sir, I did not recognise the speaker by his voice, and, flattered by the remark, I was anxious to know who it could be who was thus prepossessed in my favour. I thought that if I could climb up on the back of the only chair which was in my apartment, I should be able to see over the part.i.tion and satisfy my curiosity. I did so, and without noise; and I was just putting my head over to take a survey of the tenants of the other apartment when the chair tilted, and down I came on the floor, and on my face. Unfortunately, I hit my nose upon the edge of the frying-pan, with which my poor Philippe and I used to cook our meat: and now, sir, you know how it was that I broke my nose.'
"'What a pity!' observed I.
"'Yes; a great pity. I had gone through the whole campaign without any serious accident, and----But after all it was very natural: the two besetting evils of women are Vanity and Curiosity, and if you were to ascertain the truth, you would find that it is upon these two stumbling-blocks that most women are upset and break their noses.'
"'Very true, madam,' replied I. 'I thank you for your narrative, and shall be most happy to be of any use to you. But I will detain you from your rest no longer, so wish you a very good night.'"
"Well, Colonel," said I, as he made a sudden stop, "what occurred after that?"
"I took great care of her until we arrived in London, saw her safe to the hotel in Leicester Square, and then took my leave. Whether Liston replaced her nose, and she is now _flanee_-ing about Paris, as beautiful as before her accident; or, whether his skill was useless to her, and she is among the _Soeurs de Charite_, or in a convent, I cannot say: I have never seen or heard of her since."
"Well, I know Liston, and I'll not forget to ask him about her the very first time that I meet him. Will you have another cigar?"
"No, I thank you. I've finished my cigar, my bottle, and my story, and so now good-night!"