Part 1 out of 2
This etext was prepared by Donal O'Danachair, email
TARTARIN OF TARASCON by ALPHONSE DAUDET
EPISODE THE FIRST
The Garden Round the Giant Trees.
MY first visit to Tartarin of Tarascon has remained a never-to-be-
forgotten date in my life; although quite ten or a dozen years ago, I
remember it better than yesterday.
At that time the intrepid Tartarin lived in the third house on the left
as the town begins, on the Avignon road. A pretty little villa in the
local style, with a front garden and a balcony behind, the walls
glaringly white and the venetians very green; and always about the
doorsteps a brood of little Savoyard shoeblackguards playing
hopscotch, or dozing in the broad sunshine with their heads
pillowed on their boxes.
Outwardly the dwelling had no remarkable features, and none
would ever believe it the abode of a hero; but when you stepped
inside, ye gods and little fishes! what a change! From turret to
foundation-stone -- I mean, from cellar to garret, -- the whole
building wore a heroic front; even so the garden!
O that garden of Tartarin's! there's not its match in Europe! Not a
native tree was there -- not one flower of France; nothing hut
exotic plants, gum-trees, gourds, cotton-woods, cocoa and cacao,
mangoes, bananas, palms, a baobab, nopals, cacti, Barbary figs --
well, you would believe yourself in the very midst of Central Africa,
ten thousand leagues away. It is but fair to say that these were
none of full growth; indeed, the cocoa-palms were no bigger than
beet root and the baobab (arbos gigantea -- "giant tree," you
know) was easily enough circumscribed by a window-pot; but,
notwithstanding this, it was rather a sensation for Tarascon, and the
townsfolk who were admitted on Sundays to the honour of
contemplating Tartarin's baobab, went home chokeful of
Try to conceive my own emotion, which I was bound to feel on
that day of days when I crossed through this marvellous garden,
and that was capped when I was ushered into the hero's sanctum.
His study, one of the lions -- I should say, lions' dens -- of the town,
was at the end of the garden, its glass door opening right on to the
You are to picture a capacious apartment adorned with firearms
and steel blades from top to bottom: all the weapons of all the
countries in the wide world -- carbines, rifles, blunderbusses,
Corsican, Catalan, and dagger knives, Malay kreeses, revolvers
with spring-bayonets, Carib and flint arrows, knuckle-dusters, life-
preservers, Hottentot clubs, Mexican lassoes -- now, can you
expect me to name the rest? Upon the whole fell a fierce sunlight,
which made the blades and the brass butt-plate of the muskets
gleam as if all the more to set your flesh creeping. Still, the
beholder was soothed a little by the tame air of order and tidiness
reigning over the arsenal. Everything was in place, brushed,
dusted, labelled, as in a museum; from point to point the eye
descried some obliging little card reading:
I Poisoned Arrows! I
I Do Not Touch! I
I Loaded! I
I Take care, please! I
If it had not been for these cautions I never should have dared
In the middle of the room was an occasional table, on which stood
a decanter of rum, a siphon of soda-water, a Turkish tobacco-
pouch, "Captain Cook's Voyages," the Indian tales of Fenimore
Cooper and Gustave Aimard, stories of hunting the bear, eagle,
elephant, and so on. Lastly, beside the table sat a man of between
forty and forty-five, short, stout, thick-set, ruddy, with flaming eyes
and a strong stubbly beard; he wore flannel tights, and was in his
shirt sleeves; one hand held a book, and the other brandished a very
large pipe with an iron bowl-cap. Whilst reading heaven only
knows what startling adventure of scalp-hunters, he pouted out his
lower lip in a terrifying way, which gave the honest phiz of the man
living placidly on his means the same impression of kindly ferocity
which abounded throughout the house.
This man was Tartarin himself -- the Tartarin of Tarascon, the
great, dreadnought, incomparable Tartarin of Tarascon.
A general glance bestowed upon the good town of
Tarascon, and a particular one on "the cap-poppers."
AT the time I am telling of, Tartarin of Tarascon had not become
the present-day Tartarin, the great one so popular in the whole
South of France: but yet he was even then the cock of the walk at
Let us show whence arose this sovereignty.
In the first place you must know that everybody is shooting mad in
these parts, from the greatest to the least. The chase is the local
craze, and so it has ever been since the mythological times when the
Tarasque, as the county dragon was called, flourished himself and
his tail in the town marshes, and entertained shooting parties got up
against him. So you see the passion has lasted a goodish bit.
It follows that, every Sunday morning, Tarascon flies to arms, lets
loose the dogs of the hunt, and rushes out of its walls, with game-
bag slung and fowling-piece on the shoulder, together with a hurly-
burly of hounds, cracking of whips, and blowing of whistles and
hunting-horns. It's splendid to see! Unfortunately, there's a lack of
game, an absolute dearth.
Stupid as the brute creation is, you can readily understand that, in
time, it learnt some distrust.
For five leagues around about Tarascon, forms, lairs, and burrows
are empty, and nesting-places abandoned. You'll not find a single
quail or blackbird, one little leveret, or the tiniest tit. And yet the
pretty hillocks are mightily tempting, sweet smelling as they are of
myrtle, lavender, and rosemary; and the fine muscatels plumped out
with sweetness even unto bursting, as they spread along the banks
of the Rhone, are deucedly tempting too. True, true; but Tarascon
lies behind all this, and Tarascon is down in the black books of the
world of fur and feather. The very birds of passage have ticked it
off on their guide-books, and when the wild ducks, coming down
towards the Camargue in long triangles, spy the town steeples from
afar, the outermost flyers squawk out loudly:
"Look out! there's Tarascon! give Tarascon the go-by, duckies!"
And the flocks take a swerve.
In short, as far as game goes, there's not a specimen left in the land
save one old rogue of a hare, escaped by miracle from the
massacres, who is stubbornly determined to stick to it all his life!
He is very well known at Tarascon, and a name has been given him.
"Rapid" is what they call him. It is known that he has his form on
M. Bompard's grounds -- which, by the way, has doubled, ay,
tripled, the value of the property -- but nobody has yet managed to
lay him low. At present, only two or three inveterate fellows worry
themselves about him. The rest have given him up as a bad job, and
old Rapid has long ago passed into the legendary world, although
your Tarasconer is very slightly superstitious naturally, and would
eat cock-robins on toast, or the swallow, which is Our Lady's own
bird, for that matter, if he could find any.
"But that won't do!" you will say. Inasmuch as game is so scarce,
what can the sportsmen do every Sunday?
What can they do?
Why, goodness gracious! they go out into the real country two or
three leagues from town. They gather in knots of five or six,
recline tranquilly in the shade of some well, old wall, or olive tree,
extract from their game-bags a good-sized piece of boiled beef, raw
onions, a sausage, and anchovies, and commence a next to endless
snack, washed down with one of those nice Rhone wines, which
sets a toper laughing and singing. After that, when thoroughly
braced up, they rise, whistle the dogs to heel, set the guns on half
cock, and go "on the shoot" -- another way of saying that every
man plucks off his cap, "shies" it up with all his might, and pops it
on the fly with No. 5, 6, or 2 shot, according to what he is loaded
The man who lodges most shot in his cap is hailed as king of the
hunt, and stalks back triumphantly at dusk into Tarascon, with his
riddled cap on the end of his gun-barrel, amid any quantity of dog-
barks and horn-blasts.
It is needless to say that cap-selling is a fine business in the town.
There are even some hatters who sell hunting-caps ready shot, torn,
and perforated for the bad shots; but the only buyer known is the
chemist Bezuquet. This is dishonourable!
As a marksman at caps, Tartarin of Tarascon never had his match.
Every Sunday morning out he would march in a new cap, and back
he would strut every Sunday evening with a mere thing of shreds.
The loft of Baobab Villa was full of these glorious trophies. Hence
all Tarascon acknowledged him as master; and as Tartarin
thoroughly understood hunting, and had read all the handbooks of
all possible kinds of venery, from cap-popping to Burmese tiger-
shooting, the sportsmen constituted him their great cynegetical
judge, and took him for referee and arbitrator in all their
Between three and four daily, at Costecalde the gunsmith's, a stout
stern pipe-smoker might be seen in a green leather-covered arm-
chair in the centre of the shop crammed with cap-poppers, they all
on foot and wrangling. This was Tartarin of Tarascon delivering
judgement -- Nimrod plus Solomon.
"Naw, naw, naw!" The general glance
protracted upon the good town.
AFTER the craze for sporting, the lusty Tarascon race cherishes
one love: ballad-singing. There's no believing what a quantity of
ballads is used up in that little region. All the sentimental stuff
turning into sere and yellow leaves in the oldest portfolios, are to be
found in full pristine lustre in Tarascon. Ay, the entire collection.
Every family has its own pet, as is known to the town.
For instance, it is an established fact that this is the chemist
"Thou art the fair star that I adore!"
The gunmaker Costecalde's family's:
"Would'st thou come to the land
Where the log-cabins rise?"
The official registrar's family's:
"If I wore a coat of invisible green,
Do you think for a moment I could be seen?"
And so on for the whole of Tarascon. Two or three times a week
there were parties where they were sung. The singularity was their
being always the same, and that the honest Tarasconers had never
had an inclination to change them during the long, long time they
had been harping on them. They were handed down from father to
son in the families, without anybody improving on them or
bowdlerising them: they were sacred. Never did it occur to
Costecalde's mind to sing the Bezuquets', or the Bezuquets to try
Costecalde's. And yet you may believe that they ought to know by
heart what they had been singing for two-score years! But, nay!
everybody stuck to his own ,and they were all contented.
In ballad-singing, as in cap-popping, Tartarin was still the foremost.
His superiority over his fellow-townsmen consisted in his not
having any one song of his own, but in knowing the lot, the whole,
mind you! But -- there's a but -- it was the devil's own work to get
him to sing them.
Surfeited early in life with his drawing-room successes, our hero
preferred by far burying himself in his hunting story-books, or
spending the evening at the club, to making a personal exhibition
before a Nimes piano between a pair of home-made candles. These
musical parades seemed beneath him. Nevertheless, at whiles, when
there was a harmonic party at Bezuquet's, he would drop into the
chemist's shop, as if by chance, and, after a deal of pressure,
consent to do the grand duo in Robert le Diable with old Madame
Bezuquet. Whoso never heard that never heard anything! For my
part, even if I lived a hundred years, I should always see the mighty
Tartarin solemnly stepping up to the piano, setting his arms akimbo,
working up his tragic mien, and, beneath the green reflection from
the show-bottles in the window, trying to give his pleasant visage
the fierce and satanic expression of Robert the Devil. Hardly would
he fall into position before the whole audience would be shuddering
with the foreboding that something uncommon was at hand. After
a hush, old Madame Bezuquet would commence to her own
"Robert, my love is thine!
To thee I my faith did plight,
Thou seest my affright, --
Mercy for thine own sake,
And mercy for mine!"
In an undertone she would add: "Now, then, Tartarin!" Whereupon
Tartarin of Tarascon, with crooked arms, clenched fists, and
quivering nostrils, would roar three times in a formidable voice,
rolling like a thunderclap in the bowels of the instrument:
"No! no! no!" which, like the thorough southerner he was, he
pronounced nasally as "Naw! naw! naw!" Then would old Madame
Bezuquet again sing:
"Mercy for thine own sake,
And mercy for mine!"
"Naw! naw! naw!" bellowed Tartarin at his loudest, and there the
Not long, you see; but it was so handsomely voiced forth, so clearly
gesticulated, and so diabolical, that a tremor of terror overran the
chemist's shop, and the "Naw! naw! naw!" would be encored
several times running.
Upon this Tartarin would sponge his brow, smile on the ladies,
wink to the sterner sex, and withdraw upon his triumph to go
remark at the club with a trifling, offhand air:
"I have just come from the Bezuquets', where I was forced to sing
'em the duo from Robert le Diable."
The cream of the joke was that he really believed it!
CHIEFLY to the account of these diverse talents did Tartarin owe
his lofty position in the town of Tarascon. Talking of captivating,
though, this deuce of a fellow knew how to ensnare everybody.
Why, the army, at Tarascon, was for Tartarin. The brave
commandant, Bravida, honorary captain retired -- in the Military
Clothing Factory Department -- called him a game fellow; and you
may well admit that the warrior knew all about game fellows, he
played such a capital knife and fork on game of all kinds.
So was the legislature on Tartarin's side. Two or three times, in
open court, the old chief judge, Ladevese, had said, in alluding to
"He is a character!"
Lastly, the masses were for Tartarin. He had become the swell
bruiser, the aristocratic pugilist, the crack bully of the local
Corinthians for the Tarasconers, from his build, bearing, style --
that aspect of a guard's-trumpeter's charger which fears no noise;
his reputation as a hero coming from nobody knew whence or for
what, and some scramblings for coppers and a few kicks to the little
ragamuffins basking at his doorway.
Along the waterside, when Tartarin came home from hunting on
Sunday evenings, with his cap on the muzzle of his gun, and his
fustian shooting-jacket belted in tightly, the sturdy river-lightermen
would respectfully bob, and blinking towards the huge biceps
swelling out his arms, would mutter among one another in
"Now, there's a powerful chap if you like! he has double-muscles!"
"Double muscles!" why, you never heard of such a thing outside of
For all this, with all his numberless parts, double-muscles, the
popular favour, and the so precious esteem of brave Commandant
Bravida, ex-captain (in the Army Clothing Factory), Tartarin was
not happy: this life in a petty town weighed upon him and
The great man of Tarascon was bored in Tarascon.
The fact is, for a heroic temperament like his, a wild adventurous
spirit which dreamt of nothing but battles, races across the pampas,
mighty battues, desert sands, blizzards and typhoons, it was not
enough to go out every Sunday to pop at a cap, and the rest of the
time to ladle out casting-votes at the gunmaker's. Poor dear great
man! If this existence were only prolonged, there would be
sufficient tedium in it to kill him with consumption.
In vain did he surround himself with baobabs and other African
trees, to widen his horizon, and some little to forget his club and
the market-place; in vain did he pile weapon upon weapon, and
Malay kreese upon Malay kreese; in vain did he cram with
romances, endeavouring like the immortal Don Quixote to wrench
himself by the vigour of his fancy out of the talons of pitiless reality.
Alas! all that he did to appease his thirst for deeds of daring only
helped to augment it. The sight of all the murderous implements
kept him in a perpetual stew of wrath and exaltation. His revolvers,
repeating rifles, and ducking-guns shouted "Battle! battle!" out of
their mouths. Through the twigs of his baobab, the tempest of
great voyages and journeys soughed and blew bad advice. To finish
him came Gustave Aimard, Mayne Reid, and Fenimore Cooper.
Oh, how many times did Tartarin with a howl spring up on the
sultry summer afternoons, when he was reading alone amidst his
blades, points, and edges; how many times did he dash down his
book and rush to the wall to unhook a deadly arm! The poor man
forgot he was at home in Tarascon, in his underclothes, and with a
handkerchief round his head. He would translate his readings into
action, and, goading himself with his own voice, shout out whilst
swinging a battle-axe or tomahawk:
"Now, only let 'em come!"
"Them"? who were they?
Tartarin did not himself any too clearly understand. "They" was all
that should be attacked and fought with, all that bites, claws, scalps,
whoops, and yells -- the Sioux Indians dancing around the war-
stake to which the unfortunate pale-face prisoner is lashed. The
grizzly of the Rocky Mountains, who wobbles on his hind legs, and
licks himself with a tongue full of blood. The Touareg, too, in the
desert, the Malay pirate, the brigand of the Abruzzi -- in short,
"they" was warfare, travel, adventure, and glory.
But, alas!! it was to no avail that the fearless Tarasconer called for
and defied them; never did they come. Odsboddikins! what would
they have come to do in Tarascon?
Nevertheless Tartarin always expected to run up against them,
particularly some evening in going to the club.
How Tartarin went round to his club.
LITTLE, indeed, beside Tartarin of Tarascon, arming himself capa-
pie to go to his club at nine, an hour after the retreat had sounded
on the bugle, was the Templar Knight preparing for a sortie upon
the infidel, the Chinese tiger equipping himself for combat, or the
Comanche warrior painting up for going on the war-path. "All
hands make ready for action!" as the men-of-war's men say.
In his left hand Tartarin took a steel-pointed knuckle-duster; in the
right he carried a sword-cane; in his left pocket a life-preserver; in
the right a revolver. On his chest, betwixt outer and under
garment, lay a Malay kreese. But never any poisoned arrows -- they
are weapons altogether too unfair.
Before starting, in the silence and obscurity of his study, he
exercised himself for a while, warding off imaginary cuts and
thrusts, lunging at the wall, and giving his muscles play; then he
took his master-key and went through the garden leisurely; without
hurrying, mark you. "Cool and calm -- British courage, that is the
true sort, gentlemen." At the garden end he opened the heavy iron
door, violently and abruptly so that it should slam against the outer
wall. If "they" had been skulking behind it, you may wager they
would have been jam. Unhappily, they were not there.
The way being open, out Tartarin would sally, quickly glancing to
the right and left, ere banging the door to and fastening it smartly
with double-locking. Then, on the way.
Not so much as a cat upon the Avignon road -- all the doors closed,
and no lights in the casements. All was black, except for the parish
lamps, well spaced apart, blinking in the river mist.
Calm and proud, Tartarin of Tarascon marched on in the night,
ringing his heels with regularity, and sending sparks out of the
paving-stones with the ferule of his stick. Whether in avenues,
streets, or lanes, he took care to keep in the middle of the road --
an excellent method of precaution, allowing one to see danger
coming, and, above all, to avoid any droppings from windows, as
happens after dark in Tarascon and the Old Town of Edinburgh.
On seeing so much prudence in Tartarin, pray do not conclude that
Tartarin had any fear -- dear, no! he only was on his guard.
The best proof that Tartarin was not scared is, that instead of going
to the club by the shortest cut, he went over the town by the
longest and darkest way round, through a mass of vile, paltry alleys,
at the mouth of which the Rhone could be seen ominously
gleaming. The poor knight constantly hoped that, beyond the turn
of one of these cut-throats' haunts, "they" would leap from the
shadow and fall on his back. I warrant you, "they" would have
been warmly received, though; but, alack! by reason of some nasty
meanness of destiny, never indeed did Tartarin of Tarascon enjoy
the luck to meet any ugly customers -- not so much as a dog or a
drunken man -- nothing at all!
Still, there were false alarms somewhiles. He would catch a sound
of steps and muffled voices.
"Ware hawks!" Tartarin would mutter, and stop short, as if taking
root on the spot, scrutinising the gloom, sniffing the wind, even
glueing his ear to the ground in the orthodox Red Indian mode.
The steps would draw nearer, and the voices grow more distinct,
till no more doubt was possible. "They" were coming -- in fact,
here "they" were!
Steady, with eye afire and heaving breast, Tartarin would gather
himself like a jaguar in readiness to spring forward whilst uttering
his war-cry, when, all of a sudden, out of the thick of the
murkiness, he would hear honest Tarasconian voices quite
tranquilly hailing him with:
"Hullo! you, by Jove! it's Tartarin! Good night, old fellow!"
Maledictions upon it! It was the chemist Bezuquet, with his family,
coming from singing their family ballad at Costecalde's.
"Oh, good even, good even!" Tartarin would growl, furious at his
blunder, and plunging fiercely into the gloom with his cane waved
On arriving in the street where stood his club-house, the dauntless
one would linger yet a moment, walking up and down before the
portals ere entering. But, finally, weary of awaiting "them," and
certain "they" would not show "themselves," he would fling a last
glare of defiance into the shades and snarl wrathfully:
"Nothing, nothing at all! there never is nothing!"
Upon which double negation, which he meant as a stronger
affirmative, the worthy champion would walk in to play his game of
bezique with the commandant.
The two Tartarins.
ANSWER me, you will say, how the mischief is it that Tartarin of
Tarascon never left Tarascon with all this mania for adventure, need
of powerful sensations, and folly about travel, rides, and journeys
from the Pole to the Equator?
For that is a fact: up to the age of five-and-forty, the dreadless
Tarasconian had never once slept outside his own room. He had
not even taken that obligatory trip to Marseilles which every sound
Provencal makes upon coming of age. The most of his knowledge
included Beaucaire, and yet that's not far from Tarascon, there
being merely the bridge to go over. Unfortunately, this rascally
bridge has so often been blown away by the gales, it is so long and
frail, and the Rhone has such a width at this spot that -- well, faith!
you understand! Tartarin of Tarascon preferred terra firma.
We are afraid we must make a clean breast of it: in our hero there
were two very distinct characters. Some Father of the Church has
said: "I feel there are two men in me." He would have spoken truly
in saying this about Tartarin, who carried in his frame the soul of
Don Quixote, the same chivalric impulses, heroic ideal, and
crankiness for the grandiose and romantic; but, worse is the luck!
he had not the body of the celebrated hidalgo, that thin and meagre
apology for a body, on which material life failed to take a hold; one
that could get through twenty nights without its breast-plate being
unbuckled off, and forty-eight hours on a handful of rice. On the
contrary, Tartarin's body was a stout honest bully of a body, very
fat, very weighty, most sensual and fond of coddling, highly touchy,
full of low-class appetite and homely requirements -- the short,
paunchy body on stumps of the immortal Sancho Panza.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the one same man! you will
readily comprehend what a cat-and-dog couple they made! what
strife! what clapperclawing! Oh, the fine dialogue for Lucian or
Saint-Evremond to write, between the two Tartarins -- Quixote-
Tartarin and Sancho-Tartarin! Quixote-Tartarin firing up on the
stories of Gustave Aimard, and shouting: "Up and at 'em!" and
Sancho-Tartarin thinking only of the rheumatics ahead, and
murmuring: "I mean to stay at home."
(Highly excited.) (Quite calmly.)
Cover yourself with glory, Tartarin, cover yourself
Tartarin. with flannel.
(Still more excitedly.) (Still more calmly.)
O for the terrible double- O for the thick knitted
barrelled rifle! O for waistcoats! and warm
bowie-knives, lassoes, knee-caps! O for the
and moccasins! welcome padded caps
(Above all self-control.) (Ringing up the maid.)
A battle-axe! fetch me a Now, then, Jeannette, do
battle-axe! bring up that chocolate!
Whereupon Jeannette would appear with an unusually good cup of
chocolate, just right in warmth, sweetly smelling, and with the play
of light on watered silk upon its unctuous surface, and with
succulent grilled steak flavoured with anise-seed, which would set
Sancho-Tartarin off on the broad grin, and into a laugh that
drowned the shouts of Quixote-Tartarin.
Thus it came about that Tartarin of Tarascon never had left
Tartarin -- The Europeans at Shanghai -- Commerce -- The Tartars
-- Can Tartarin of Tarascon be an Impostor? -- The Mirage.
UNDER one conjunction of circumstances, Tartarin did, however,
once almost start out upon a great voyage.
The three brothers Garcio-Camus, relatives of Tarascon,
established in business at Shanghai, offered him the managership of
one of their branches there. This undoubtedly presented the kind of
life he hankered after. Plenty of active business, a whole army of
under-strappers to order about, and connections with Russia,
Persia, Turkey in Asia -- in short, to be a merchant prince!
In Tartarin's mouth, the title of Merchant Prince thundered out as
The house of Garcio-Camus had the further advantage of
sometimes being favoured with a call from the Tartars. Then the
doors would be slammed shut, all the clerks flew to arms, up ran
the consular flag, and zizz! phit! bang! out of the windows upon
I need not tell you with what enthusiasm Quixote-Tartarin clutched
this proposition; sad to say, Sancho-Tartarin did not see it in the
same light, and, as he was the stronger party, it never came to
anything. But in the town there was much talk about it. Would he
go or would he not? "I'll lay he will!" -- and "I'll wager he won't!"
It was the event of the week. In the upshot, Tartarin did not
depart, but the matter redounded to his credit none the less. Going
or not going to Shanghai was all one to Tarascon. Tartarin's
journey was so much talked about that people got to believe he had
done it and returned, and at the club in the evening members would
actually ask for information on life at Shanghai, the manners and
customs and climate, about opium, and commerce.
Deeply read up, Tartarin would graciously furnish the particulars
desired, and, in the end, the good fellow was not quite sure himself
about not having gone to Shanghai, so that, after relating for the
hundredth time how the Tartars came down on the trading post, it
would most naturally happen him to add:
"Then I made my men take up arms and hoist the consular flag, and
zizz! phit! bang! out of the windows upon the Tartars."
On hearing this, the whole club would quiver.
"But according to that, this Tartarin of yours is an awful liar."
"No, no, a thousand times over, no! Tartarin was no liar."
"But the man ought to know that he has never been to Shanghai" --
"Why, of course, he knows that; but still" --
"But still," you see -- mark that! It is high time for the law to be
laid down once for all on the reputation as drawers of the long bow
which Northerners fling at Southerners. There are no Baron
Munchausens in the south of France, neither at Nimes nor
Marseilles, Toulouse nor Tarascon. The Southerner does not
deceive but is self-deceived. He does not always tell the cold-drawn
truth, but he believes he does. His falsehood is not any such thing,
but a kind of mental mirage.
Yes, purely mirage! The better to follow me, you should actually
follow me into the South, and you will see I am right. You have
only to look at that Lucifer's own country, where the sun
transmogrifies everything, and magnifies it beyond life-size. The
little hills of Provence are no bigger than the Butte Montmartre,
but they will loom up like the Rocky Mountains; the Square House
at Nimes -- a mere model to put on your sideboard -- will seem
grander than St. Peter's. You will see -- in brief, the only exaggerator
in the South is Old Sol, for he does enlarge everything he touches.
What was Sparta in its days of splendour? a pitiful hamlet. What
was Athens? at the most, a second-class town; and yet in history
both appear to us as enormous cities. This is a sample of what the
sun can do.
Are you going to be astonished after this that the same sun falling
upon Tarascon should have made of an ex-captain in the Army
Clothing Factory, like Bravida, the "brave commandant;" of a
sprout an Indian fig-tree; and of a man who had missed going to
Shanghai one who had been there?
Mitaine's Menagerie -- A Lion from the Atlas at
Tarascon -- A Solemn and Fearsome Confrontation.
EXHIBITING Tartarin of Tarascon, as we are, in his private life,
before Fame kissed his brow and garlanded him with her well-worn
laurel wreath, and having narrated his heroic existence in a modest
state, his delights and sorrows, his dreams and his hopes, let us
hurriedly skip to the grandest pages of his story, and to the singular
event which was to give the first flight to his incomparable career.
It happened one evening at Costecalde the gunmaker's, where
Tartarin was engaged in showing several sportsmen the working of
the needle-gun, then in its first novelty. The door suddenly flew
open, and in rushed a bewildered cap-popper, howling "A lion, a
lion!" General was the alarm, stupor, uproar and tumult. Tartarin
prepared to resist cavalry with the bayonet, whilst Costecalde ran to
shut the door. The sportsman was surrounded and pressed and
questioned, and here follows what he told them: Mitaine's
Menagerie, returning from Beaucaire Fair, had consented to stay
over a few days at Tarascon, and was just unpacking, to set up the
show on the Castle-green, with a lot of boas, seals, crocodiles, and
a magnificent lion from the Atlas Mountains.
An African lion in Tarascon?
Never in the memory of living man had the like been seen. Hence
our dauntless cap-poppers looked at one another how proudly!
What a beaming on their sunburned visages! and in every nook of
Costecalde's shop what hearty congratulatory grips of the hand
were silently exchanged! The sensation was so great and
unforeseen that nobody could find a word to say -- not even Tartarin.
Blanched and agitated, with the needle-gun still in his fist, he
brooded, erect before the counter. A lion from the Atlas Range at
pistol range from him, a couple of strides off? a lion, mind you -- the
beast heroic and ferocious above all others, the King of the Brute
Creation, the crowning game of his fancies, something like the
leading actor in the ideal company which played such splendid
tragedies in his mind's eye. A lion, heaven be thanked! and from
the Atlas, to boot! It was more than the great Tartarin could bear.
Suddenly a flush of blood flew into his face. His eyes flashed. With
one convulsive movement he shouldered the needle-gun, and
turning towards the brave Commandant Bravida (formerly captain
in the Army Clothing Department, please to remember), he
thundered to him --
"Let's go have a look at him, commandant."
"Here, here, I say! that's my gun -- my needle-gun you are carrying
off," timidly ventured the wary Costecalde; but Tartarin had already
got round the corner, with all the cap-poppers proudly lock-
stepping behind him.
When they arrived at the menagerie, they found a goodly number of
people there. Tarascon, heroic but too long deprived of sensational
shows, had rushed upon Mitaine's portable theatre, and had taken it
by storm. Hence the voluminous Madame Mitaine was highly
contented. In an Arab costume, her arms bare to the elbow, iron
anklets on, a whip in one hand and a plucked though live pullet in
the other, the noted lady was doing the honours of the booth to the
Tarasconians; and, as she also had "double muscles," her success
was almost as great as her animals.
The entrance of Tartarin with the gun on his shoulder was a
All our good Tarasconians, who had been quite tranquilly strolling
before the cages, unarmed and with no distrust, without even any
idea of danger, felt momentary apprehension, naturally enough, on
beholding their mighty Tartarin rush into the enclosure with his
formidable engine of war. There must be something to fear when a
hero like he was, came weaponed; so, in a twinkling, all the space
along the cage fronts was cleared. The youngsters burst out
squalling for fear, and the women looked round for the nearest way
out. The chemist Bezuquet made off altogether, alleging that he
was going home for his gun.
Gradually, however, Tartarin's bearing restored courage. With head
erect, the intrepid Tarasconian slowly and calmly made the circuit
of the booth, passing the seal's tank without stopping, glancing
disdainfully on the long box filled with sawdust in which the boa
would digest its raw fowl, and going to take his stand before the
A terrible and solemn confrontation, this! The lion of Tarascon and
the lion of Africa face to face!
On the one part, Tartarin erect, with his hamstrings in tension, and
his arms folded on his gun barrel; on the other, the lion, a gigantic
specimen, humped up in the straw, with blinking orbs and brutish
mien, resting his huge muzzle and tawny full-bottomed wig on his
forepaws. Both calm in their gaze.
Singular thing! whether the needle-gun had given him "the needle,"
if the popular idiom is admissible, or that he scented an enemy of
his race, the lion, who had hitherto regarded the Tarasconians with
sovereign scorn, and yawned in their faces, was all at once affected
by ire. At first he sniffed; then he growled hollowly, stretching out
his claws; rising, he tossed his head, shook his mane, opened a
capacious maw, and belched a deafening roar at Tartarin.
A yell of fright responded, as Tarascon precipitated itself madly
towards the exit, women and children, lightermen, cap-poppers,
even the brave Commandant Bravida himself. But, alone, Tartarin
of Tarascon had not budged. There he stood, firm and resolute,
before the cage, lightnings in his eyes, and on his lip that gruesome
grin with which all the town was familiar. In a moment's time,
when all the cap-poppers, some little fortified by his bearing and the
strength of the bars, re-approached their leader, they heard him
mutter, as he stared Leo out of countenance:
"Now, this is something like a hunt!"
All the rest of that day, never a word farther could they draw from
Tartarin of Tarascon.
Singular effects of Mental Mirage.
CONFINING his remarks to the sentence last recorded, Tartarin
had unfortunately still said overmuch.
On the morrow, there was nothing talked about through town but
the near-at-hand departure of Tartarin for Algeria and lion-hunting.
You are all witness, dear readers, that the honest fellow had not
breathed a word on that head; but, you know, the mirage had its
usual effect. In brief, all Tarascon spoke of nothing but the
On the Old Walk, at the club, in Costecalde's, friends accosted one
another with a startled aspect:
"And furthermore, you know the news, at least?"
"And furthermore, rather? Tartarin's setting out, at least?"
For at Tarascon all phrases begin with "and furthermore," and
conclude with "at least," with a strong local accent. Hence, on this
occasion more than upon others, these peculiarities rang out till the
The most surprised of men in the town on hearing that Tartarin was
going away to Africa, was Tartarin himself. But only see what
vanity is! Instead of plumply answering that he was not going at
all, and had not even had the intention, poor Tartarin, on the first of
them mentioning the journey to him, observed with a neat little
evasive air, "Aha! maybe I shall -- but I do not say as much." The
second time; a trifle more familiarised with the idea, he replied,
"Very likely;" and the third time, "It's certain."
Finally, in the evening, at Costecalde's and the club, carried away by
the egg-nogg, cheers, and illumination; intoxicated by the
impression that bare announcement of his departure had made on
the town, the hapless fellow formally declared that he was sick of
banging away at caps, and that he would shortly be on the trail of
the great lions of the Atlas. A deafening hurrah greeted this
assertion. Whereupon more egg-nogg, bravoes, handshaking,
slappings of the shoulder, and a torchlight serenade up to midnight
before Baobab Villa.
It was Sancho-Tartarin who was anything but delighted. This idea
of travel in Africa and lion-hunting made him shudder beforehand;
and when the house was re-entered, and whilst the complimentary
concert was sounding under the windows, he had a dreadful "row"
with Quixote-Tartarin, calling him a cracked head, a visionary,
imprudent, and thrice an idiot, and detailing by the card all the
catastrophes awaiting him on such an expedition -- shipwreck,
rheumatism, yellow fever, dysentery, the black plague,
elephantiasis, and the rest of them.
In vain did Quixote-Tartarin vow that he had not committed any
imprudence -- that he would wrap himself up well, and take even
superfluous necessaries with him. Sancho-Tartarin would listen to
nothing. The poor craven saw himself already torn to tatters by the
lions, or engulfed in the desert sands like his late royal highness
Cambyses, and the other Tartarin only managed to appease him a
little by explaining that the start was not immediate, as nothing
It is clear enough, indeed, that none embark on such an enterprise
without some preparations. A man is bound to know whither he
goes, hang it all! and not fly off like a bird. Before anything else,
the Tarasconian wanted to peruse the accounts of great African
tourists, the narrations of Mungo Park, Du Chaillu, Dr.
Livingstone, Stanley, and so on.
In them, he learnt that these daring explorers, before donning their
sandals for distant excursions, hardened themselves well beforehand
to support hunger and thirst, forced marches, and all kinds of
privation. Tartarin meant to act like they did, and from that day
forward he lived upon water broth alone. The water broth of
Tarascon is a few slices of bread drowned in hot water, with a
clove of garlic, a pinch of thyme, and a sprig of laurel. Strict diet,
at which you may believe poor Sancho made a wry face.
To the regimen of water broth Tartarin of Tarascon joined other
wise practices. To break himself into the habit of long marches, he
constrained himself to go round the town seven or eight times
consecutively every morning, either at the fast walk or run, his
elbows well set against his body, and a couple of white pebbles in
the mouth, according to the antique usage.
To get inured to fog, dew, and night coolness, he would go down
into his garden every dusk, and stop out there till ten or eleven,
alone with his gun, on the lookout, behind the baobab.
Finally, so long as Mitaine's wild beast show tarried in Tarascon,
the cap-poppers who were belated at Costecalde's might spy in the
shadow of the booth, as they crossed the Castle-green, a mysterious
figure stalking up and down. It was Tartarin of Tarascon,
habituating himself to hear without emotion the roarings of the lion
in the sombre night.
Before the Start.
PENDING Tartarin's delay of the event by all sorts of heroic
means, all Tarascon kept an eye upon him, and nothing else was
busied about. Cap-popping was winged, and ballad-singing dead.
The piano in Bezuquet's shop mouldered away under a green
fungus, and the Spanish flies dried upon it, belly up. Tartarin's
expedition had a put a stopper on everything.
Ah, you ought to have seen his success in the parlours. He was
snatched away by one from another, fought for, loaned and
borrowed, ay, stolen. There was no greater honour for the ladies
than to go to Mitaine's Menagerie on Tartarin's arms, and have it
explained before the lion's den how such large game are hunted,
where they should be aimed at, at how many paces off; if the
accidents were numerous, and the like of that.
Tartarin furnished all the elucidation desired. He had read "The
Life of Jules Gerard, the Lion-Slayer," and had lion-hunting at his
finger ends, as if he had been through it himself. Hence he orated
upon these matters with great eloquence.
But where he shone the brightest was at dinner at Chief Judge
Ladeveze's, or brave Commandant Bravida's (the former captain in
the Army Clothing Factory, you will keep in mind), when coffee
came in, and all the chairs were brought up closer together, whilst
they chatted of his future hunts.
Thereupon, his elbow on the cloth, his nose over his Mocha, our
hero would discourse in a feeling tone of all the dangers awaiting
him thereaway. He spoke of the long moonless night lyings-in-
wait, the pestilential fens, the rivers envenomed by leaves of
poison-plants, the deep snow-drifts, the scorching suns, the
scorpions, and rains of grasshoppers; he also descanted on the
peculiarities of the great lions of the Atlas, their way of fighting,
their phenomenal vigour; and their ferocity in the mating season.
Heating with his own recital, he would rise from table, bounding to
the middle of the dining-room, imitating the roar of a lion and the
going off of a rifle crack! bang! the zizz of the explosive bullet --
gesticulating and roaring about till he had overset the chairs.
Everybody turned pale around the board: the gentlemen looking at
one another and wagging their heads, the ladies shutting their eyes
with pretty screams of fright, the elderly men combatively
brandishing their canes; and, in the side apartments, the little boys,
who had been put to bed betimes, were greatly startled by the
sudden outcries and imitated gun-fire, and screamed for lights.
Meanwhile, Tartarin did not start.
"Let's have it out with swords gentleman, not pins!"
A DELICATE question: whether Tartarin really had any intention
of going, and one which the historian of Tartarin would be highly
embarrassed to answer. In plain words, Mitaine's Menagerie had
left Tarascon over three months, and still the lion-slayer had not
started. After all, blinded by a new mirage, our candid hero may
have imagined in perfectly good faith that he had gone to Algeria.
On the strength of having related his future hunts, he may have
believed he had performed them as sincerely as he fancied he had
hoisted the consular flag and fired on the Tartars, zizz, phit, bang!
Unfortunately, granting Tartarin was this time again dupe of an
illusion, his fellow-townsfolk were not. When, after the quarter's
expectation, they perceived that the hunter had not packed even a
collar-box, they commenced murmuring.
"This is going to turn out like the Shanghai expedition," remarked
The gunsmith's comment was welcomed all over town, for nobody
believed any longer in their late idol. The simpletons and poltroons
-- all the fellows of Bezuquet's stamp, whom a flea would put to
flight, and who could not fire a shot without closing their eyes --
were conspicuously pitiless. In the club-rooms or on the esplanade,
they accosted poor Tartarin with bantering mien:
"And furthermore, when is that trip coming off?"
In Costecalde's shop, his opinions gained no credence, for the cap-
poppers renounced their chief!
Next, epigrams dropped into the affair. Chief Judge Ladevese, who
willingly paid court in his leisure hours to the native Muse,
composed in local dialect a song which won much success. It told
of a sportsman called "Master Gervais," whose dreaded rifle was
bound to exterminate all the lions in Africa to the very last.
Unluckily, this terrible gun was of a strange kind: "though loaded
daily, it never went off."
"It never went off" -- you will catch the drift.
In less than no time, this ditty became popular; and when Tartarin
came by, the longshoremen and the little shoeblacks before his door
sang in chorus --
"Muster Jarvey's roifle
Allus gittin' chaarged;
Muster Jarvey's roifle
'il hev to git enlaarged;
Muster Jarvey's roifle's
Loaded oft -- don't scoff;
Muster Jarvey's roifle
Nivver do go off!"
But it was shouted out from a safe distance, on account of the
Oh, the fragility of Tarascon's fads!
The great object himself feigned to see and hear nothing; but, under
the surface, this sullen and venomous petty warfare much afflicted
him. He felt aware that Tarascon was slipping out of his grip, and
that popular favour was going to others; and this made him suffer
Ah, the huge bowl of popularity! it's all very well to have a seat in
front of it, but what a scalding you catch when it is overturned!
Notwithstanding his pain, Tartarin smiled and peacefully jogged on
in the same life as if nothing untoward had happened. Still, the
mask of jovial heedlessness glued by pride on his face would
sometimes be suddenly detached. Then, in lieu of laughter, one saw
grief and indignation. Thus it was that one morning, when the little
blackguards yelped "Muster Jarvey's Roifle" beneath his window,
the wretches' voices rose even into the poor great man's room,
where he was shaving before the glass. (Tartarin wore a full beard,
but as it grew very thick, he was obliged to keep it trimmed
All at once the window was violently opened, and Tartarin
appeared in shirt-sleeves and nightcap, smothered in lather,
flourishing his razor and shaving-brush, and roaring with a
"Let's have it out with swords, gentlemen, not pins!"
Fine words, worthy of history's record, with only the blemish that
they were addressed to little scamps not higher than their boot-
boxes, and who were quite incapable of holding a smallsword.
A memorable Dialogue in the little Baobab Villa.
AMID the general falling off, the army alone stuck out firmly for
Tartarin. Brave Commandant Bravida (the former captain in the
Army Clothing Department) continued to show him the same
esteem as ever. "He's game!" he persisted in saying -- an assertion,
I beg to believe, fully worth the chemist Bezuquet's. Not once did
the brave officer let out any allusion to the trip to Africa; but when
the public clamour grew too loud, he determined to have his say.
One evening the luckless Tartarin was in his study, in a brown study
himself, when he saw the commandant stride in, stern, wearing
black gloves, buttoned up to his ears.
"Tartarin," said the ex-captain authoritatively, "Tartarin, you'll have
And there he dwelt, erect in the doorway frame, grand and rigid as
embodied Duty. Tartarin of Tarascon comprehended all the sense in
"Tartarin, you'll have to ago!"
Very pale, he rose and looked around with a softened eye upon the
cosy snuggery, tightly closed in, full of warmth and tender light --
upon the commodious easy chair, his books, the carpet, the white
blinds of the windows, beyond which trembled the slender twigs of
the little garden. Then, advancing towards the brave officer, he
took his hand, grasped it energetically, and said in a voice
somewhat tearful, but stoical for all that:
"I am going, Bravida."
And go he did, as he said he would. Not straight off though, for it
takes time to get the paraphernalia together.
To begin with, he ordered of Bompard two large boxes bound with
brass, and an inscription to be on them:
I TARTARIN, OF TARASCON I
I Firearms, &c. I
The binding in brass and the lettering took much time. He also
ordered at Tastavin's a showy album, in which to keep a diary and
his impressions of travel; for a man cannot help having an idea or
two strike him even when he is busy lion-hunting.
Next, he had over from Marseilles a downright cargo of tinned
eatables, pemmican compressed in cakes for making soup, a new
pattern shelter-tent, opening out and packing up in a minute, sea-
boots, a couple of umbrellas, a waterproof coat, and blue spectacles
to ward off ophthalmia. To conclude, Bezuquet the chemist made
him up a miniature portable medicine chest stuffed with diachylon
plaister, arnica, camphor, and medicated vinegar.
Poor Tartarin! he did not take these safeguards on his own behalf;
but he hoped, by dint of precaution and delicate attentions, to allay
Sancho-Tartarin's fury, who, since the start was fixed, never left off
raging day or night.
EFTSOON arrived the great and solemn day. From dawn all
Tarascon had been on foot, encumbering the Avignon road and the
approaches to Baobab Villa. People were up at the windows, on
the roofs, and in the trees; the Rhone bargees, porters, dredgers,
shoeblacks, gentry, tradesfolk, warpers and weavers, taffety-
workers, the club members, in short the whole town; moreover,
people from Beaucaire had come over the bridge, market-gardeners
from the environs, carters in their huge carts with ample tilts,
vinedressers upon handsome mules, tricked out with ribbons,
streamers, bells, rosettes, and jingles, and even, here and there, a
few pretty maids from Arles, come on the pillion behind their
sweethearts, with bonny blue ribbons round the head, upon little
iron-grey Camargue horses.
All this swarm squeezed and jostled before our good Tartarin's
door, who was going to slaughter lions in the land of the Turks.
For Tarascon, Algeria, Africa, Greece, Persia, Turkey, and
Mesopotamia, all form one great hazy country, almost a myth,
called the land of the Turks. They say "Tur's," but that's a linguistic
In the midst of all this throng, the cap-poppers bustled to and fro,
proud of their captain's triumph, leaving glorious wakes where they
In front of the Indian fig-tree house were two large trucks. From
time to time the door would open, and allow several persons to be
spied, gravely lounging about the little garden. At every new box
the throng started and trembled. The articles were named in a loud
"That there's the shelter-tent; these the potted meats; that's the
physic-chest; these the gun-cases," -- the cap-poppers giving
All of a sudden, about ten o'clock, there was a great stir in the
multitude, for the garden gate banged open.
"Here he is! here he is!" they shouted.
It was he indeed. When he appeared upon the threshold, two
outcries of stupefaction burst from the assemblage:
"He's a Turk!" "He's got on spectacles!"
In truth, Tartarin of Tarascon had deemed it his duty, on going to
Algeria, to don the Algerian costume. Full white linen trousers,
small tight vest with metal buttons, a red sash two feet wide around
the waist, the neck bare and the forehead shaven, and a vast red fez,
or chechia, on his head, with something like a long blue tassel
thereto. Together with this, two heavy guns, one on each shoulder,
a broad hunting-knife in the girdle, a bandolier across the breast, a
revolver on the hip, swinging in its patent leather case -- that is all.
No, I cry your pardon, I was forgetting the spectacles -- a
pantomimically large pair of azure barnacles, which came in partly to
temper what was rather too fierce in the bearing of our hero.
"Long life to Tartarin! hip, hip, hurrah for Tartarin!" roared the
The great man smiled, but did not salute, on account of the firearms
hindering him. Moreover, he knew now on what popular favour
depends; it may even be that in the depths of his soul he cursed his
terrible fellow-townsfolk, who obliged him to go away and leave
his pretty little pleasure-house with whitened walls and green
venetians. But there was no show of this.
Calm and proud, although a little pallid, he stepped out on the
footway, glanced at the hand-carts, and, seeing all was right, lustily
took the road to the railway-station, without even once looking
back towards Baobab Villa. Behind him marched the brave
Commandant Bravida, Ladevese the Chief Judge, Costecalde the
gunsmith next, and then all the sportsmen who pop at caps,
preceding the hand-carts and the rag, tag, and bobtail.
Before the station the station-master awaited them, an old African
veteran of 1830, who shook Tartarin's hand many times with
The Paris-to-Marseilles express was not yet in, so Tartarin and his
staff went into the waiting-rooms. To prevent the place being
overrun, the station-master ordered the gates to be closed.
During a quarter of an hour, Tartarin promenaded up and down in
the rooms in the midst of his brother marksmen, speaking to them
of his journey and his hunting, and promising to send them skins;
they put their names down in his memorandum-book for a lionskin
apiece, as waltzers book for a dance.
Gentle and placid as Socrates on the point of quaffing the hemlock,
the intrepid Tarasconian had a word and a smile for each. He spoke
simply, with an affable mien; it looked as if, before departing, he
meant to leave behind him a wake of charms, regrets, and pleasant
memories. On hearing their leader speak in this way, all the
sportsmen felt tears well up, and some were stung with remorse, to
wit, Chief Judge Ladevese and the chemist Bezuquet. The railway
employees blubbered in the corners, whilst the outer public squinted
through the bars and bellowed: "Long live Tartarin!"
At length the bell rang. A dull rumble was heard, and a piercing
whistle shook the vault.
"The Marseilles express, gen'lemen!"
"Good-bye, Tartarin! Good luck, old fellow!"
"Good-bye to you all!" murmured the great man, as, with his arms
around the brave Commandant Bravida, he embraced his dear
native place collectively in him. Then he leaped out upon the
platform, and clambered into a carriage full of Parisian ladies, who
were ready to die with fright at sight of this stranger with so many
pistols and rifles.
The Port of Marseilles -- "All aboard, all aboard!"
UPON the 1st of December 18--, in clear, brilliant, splendid
weather, under a south winter sun, the startled inhabitants of
Marseilles beheld a Turk come down the Canebiere, or their Regent
Street. A Turk, a regular Turk -- never had such a one been seen;
and yet, Heaven knows, there is no lack of Turks at Marseilles.
The Turk in question -- have I any necessity of telling you it was
the great Tartarin of Tarascon? -- waddled along the quays,
followed by his gun-cases, medicine-chest, and tinned comestibles,
to reach the landing-stage of the Touache Company and the mail
steamer the Zouave, which was to transport him over the sea.
With his ears still ringing with the home applause, intoxicated by
the glare of the heavens and the reek of the sea, Tartarin fairly
beamed as he stepped out with a lofty head, and between his guns
on his shoulders, looking with all his eyes upon that wondrous,
dazzling harbour of Marseilles, which he saw for the first time. The
poor fellow believed he was dreaming. He fancied his name was
Sinbad the Sailor, and that he was roaming in one of those fantastic
cities abundant in the "Arabian Nights." As far as eye could reach
there spread a forest of masts and spars, cris-crossing in every way.
Flags of all countries floated -- English, American, Russian,
Swedish, Greek and Tunisian.
The vessels lay alongside the wharves -- ay, head on, so that their
bowsprits stuck up out over the strand like rows of bayonets. Over
it, too, sprawled the mermaids, goddesses, madonnas, and other
figure-heads in carved and painted wood which gave names to the
ships -- all worn by sea-water, split, mildewed, and dripping. Ever
and anon, between the hulls, a patch of harbour like watered silk
splashed with oil. In the intervals of the yards and booms, what
seemed swarms of flies prettily spotted the blue sky. These were
the shipboys, hailing one another in all languages.
On the waterside, amidst thick green or black rivulets coming down
from the soap factories loaded with oil and soda, bustled a mass of
custom-house officers, messengers, porters, and truckmen with
their bogheys, or trolleys, drawn by Corsican ponies.
There were shops selling quaint articles, smoky shanties where
sailors were cooking their own queer messes, dealers in pipes,
monkeys, parrots, ropes, sailcloth, fanciful curios, amongst which
were mingled higgledy-piggledy old culverins, huge gilded lanterns,
worn-out pulley-blocks, rusty flukeless anchors, chafed cordage,
battered speaking-trumpets, and marine glasses almost
contemporary with the Ark. Sellers of mussels and clams squatted
beside their heaps of shellfish and yawped their goods. Seamen
rolled by with tar-pots, smoking soup-bowls, and big baskets full of
cuttlefish, from which they went to wash the ink in the milky waters
of the fountains.
Everywhere a prodigious collection of all kinds of goods: silks,
minerals, wood in stacks, lead in pigs, cloths, sugars, caruba wood
logs, colza seed, liquorice sticks, sugar-canes. The East and the
West cheek by jowl, even to pyramids of Dutch cheeses which the
Genoese were dyeing red by contact with their hands.
Yonder was the corn market: porters discharging sacks down the
shoots of lofty elevators upon the pier, and loose grain rolling as a
golden torrent through a blonde dust. Men in red skullcaps were
sifting it as they caught it in large asses'-skin sieves, and loading it
upon carts which took their millward way, followed by a regiment
of women and youngsters with wisps and gleaning baskets. Farther
on, the dry docks, where large vessels were laid low on their sides
till their yards dipped in the water; they were singed with thorn-
bushes to free them of sea weed; there rose an odour of pitch, and
the deafening clatter of the sheathers coppering the bottoms with
broad sheets of yellow metal.
At whiles a gap in between the masts, in which Tartarin could see
the haven mouth, where the vessels came and went: a British frigate
off for Malta, dainty and thoroughly washed down, with the officer
in primrose gloves, or a large home-port brig hauling out in the
midst of uproar and oaths, whilst the fat captain, in a high silk hat
and frockcoat, ordered the operations in Provencal dialect. Other
craft were making forth under all sail, and, still farther out, more
were slowly looming up in the sunshine as if they were sailing in the
All the time a frightful riot, the rumbling of carts, the "Haul all, haul
away!" of the shipmen, oaths, songs, steamboat whistles, the bugles
and drums in Forts Saint Jean and Saint Nicolas, the bells of the
Major, the Accoules, and Saint Victor; with the mistral atop of all,
catching up the noises and clamour, and rolling them up together
with a furious shaking, till confounded with its own voice, which
intoned a mad, wild, heroic melody like a grand charging tune --
one that filled hearers with a longing to be off, and the farther the
better -- a craving for wings.
It was to the sound of this splendid blast that the intrepid Tartarin
Tarasco of Tarascon embarked for the land of lions.
EPISODE THE SECOND
AMONG "THE TURKS"
The Passage -- The Five Positions of the Fez --
The Third Evening Out -- Mercy upon us!
JOYFUL would I be, my dear readers, if I were a painter -- a great
artist, I mean -- in order to set under your eyes, at the head of this
second episode, the various positions taken by Tartarin's red cap in
the three days' passage it made on board of the Zouave, between
France and Algeria.
First would I show you it at the steaming out, upon deck, arrogant
and heroic as it was, forming a glory round that handsome
Tarasconian head. Next would I show you it at the harbour-mouth,
when the bark began to caper upon the waves; I would depict it for
you all of a quake in astonishment, and as though already
experiencing the preliminary qualms of sea-sickness. Then, in the
Gulf of the Lion, proportionably to the nearing the open sea, where
the white caps heaved harder, I would make you behold it wrestling
with the tempest, and standing on end upon the hero's cranium,
with its mighty mane of blue wool bristling out in the spray and
breeze. Position Fourth: at six in the afternoon, with the Corsican
coast in view; the unfortunate chechia hangs over the ship's side,
and lamentably stares down as though to plumb the depths of
ocean. Finally and lastly, the Fifth Position: at the back of a
narrow state-room, in a box-bed so small it seemed one drawer in a
nest of them, something shapeless rolled on the pillow with moans
of desolation. This was the fez -- the fez so defiant at the sailing,
now reduced to the vulgar condition of a nightcap, and pulled down
over the very ears of the head of a pallid and convulsed sufferer.
How the people of Tarascon would have kicked themselves for
having constrained the great Tartarin to leave home, if they had but
seen him stretched in the bunk in the dull, wan gleam through the
dead-light, amid the sickly odour of cooking and wet wood -- the
heart-heaving perfume of mail-boats; if they had but heard him
gurgle at every turn of the screw, wail for tea every five minutes,
and swear at the steward in a childish treble!
On my word of honour as a story-teller, the poor Turk would have
made a paste-board dummy pity him. Suddenly, overcome by the
nausea, the hapless victim had not even the power to undo the
Algerian girdle-cloth, or lay aside his armoury; the lumpy-handled
hunting-sword pounded his ribs, and the leather revolver-case
made his thigh raw. To finish him arose the taunts of Sancho-
Tartarin, who never ceased to groan and inveigh:
"Well, for the biggest kind of imbecile, you are the finest specimen!
I told you truly how it would be. Ha, ha! you were bound to go to
Africa, of course! Well, old merriman, now you are going to
Africa, how do you like it?"
The cruellest part of it was that, from the retreat where he was
moaning, the hapless invalid could hear the passengers in the grand
saloon laughing, munching, singing, and playing at cards. On board
the Zouave the company was as jolly as numerous, composed of
officers going back to join their regiments, ladies from the
Marseilles Alcazar Music Hall, strolling-players, a rich Mussulman
returning from Mecca, and a very jocular Montenegrin prince, who
favoured them with imitations of the low comedians of Paris. Not
one of these jokers felt the sea-sickness, and their time was passed
in quaffing champagne with the steamer captain, a good fat born
Marseillais, who had a wife and family as well at Algiers as at
home, and who answered to the merry name of Barbassou.
Tartarin of Tarascon hated this pack of wretches; their mirthfulness
deepened his ails.
At length, on the third afternoon, there was such an extraordinary
hullabaloo on the deck that our hero was roused out of his long
torpor. The ship's bell was ringing and the seamen's heavy boots
ran over the planks.
"Go ahead! Stop her! Turn astern!" barked the hoarse voice of
Captain Barbassou; and then, "Stop her dead!"
There was an abrupt check of movement, a shock, and no more,
save the silent rolling of the boat from side to side like a balloon in
the air. This strange stillness alarmed the Tarasconian.
"Heaven ha' mercy upon us!" he yelled in a terrifying voice, as,
recovering his strength by magic, he bounded out of his berth, and
rushed upon deck with his arsenal.
"To arms! to arms"
ONLY the arrival, not a foundering.
The Zouave was just gliding into the roadstead -- a fine one of
black, deep water, but dull and still, almost deserted. On elevated
ground ahead rose Algiers, the White City, with its little houses of a
dead cream-colour huddling against one another lest they slid into
the sea. It was like Meudon slope with a laundress's washing hung
out to dry. Over it a vast blue satin sky -- and such a blue!
A little restored from his fright, the illustrious Tartarin gazed on the
landscape, and listened with respect to the Montenegrin prince,
who stood by his side, as he named the different parts of the
capital, the Kasbah, the upper town, and the Rue Bab-Azoon. A
very finely-brought-up prince was this Montenegrin; moreover,
knowing Algeria thoroughly, and fluently speaking Arabic. Hence
Tartarin thought of cultivating his acquaintance.
All at once, along the bulwark against which they were leaning, the
Tarasconian perceived a row of large black hands clinging to it
from over the side. Almost instantly a Negro's woolly head shot up
before him, and, ere he had time to open his mouth, the deck was
overwhelmed on every side by a hundred black or yellow
desperadoes, half naked, hideous, and fearsome. Tartarin knew who
these pirates were -- "they," of course, the celebrated "they" who
had too often been hunted after by him in the by-ways of Tarascon.
At last they had decided to meet him face to face. At the outset
surprise nailed him to the spot. But when he saw the outlaws fall
upon the luggage, tear off the tarpaulin covering, and actually
commence the pillage of the ship, then the hero awoke. Whipping
out his hunting-sword, "To arms! to arms!" he roared to the
passengers; and away he flew, the foremost of all, upon the
buccaneers. "Ques aco? What's the stir? What's the matter with
you?" exclaimed Captain Barbassou, coming out of the
"About time you did turn up, captain! Quick, quick, arm your men!"
"Eh, what for? dash it all!"
"Why, can't you see?"
"There, before you, the corsairs"
Captain Barbassou stared, bewildered. At this juncture a tall
blackamoor tore by with our hero's medicine-chest upon his back.
"You cut-throat! just wait for me!" yelled the Tarasconer as he ran
after, with the knife uplifted.
But Barbassou caught him in the spring, and holding him by the
waist-sash, bade him be quiet.
"Tron de ler! by the throne on high! they're no pirates. It's long
since there were any pirates hereabout. Those dark porters are light
porters. Ha, ha!"
"Rather, only come after the luggage to carry it ashore. So put up
your cook's galley knife, give me your ticket, and walk off behind
that nigger -- an honest dog, who will see you to land, and even
into a hotel, if you like."
A little abashed, Tartarin handed over his ticket, and falling in
behind the representative of the Dark Continent, clambered down
by the hanging-ladder into a big skiff dancing alongside. All his
effects were already there -- boxes, trunks, gun-cases, tinned food,
-- so cramming up the boat that there was no need to wait for any
other passengers. The African scrambled upon the boxes, and
squatted there like a baboon, with his knees clutched by his hands.
Another Negro took the oars. Both laughingly eyed Tartarin, and
showed their white teeth.
Standing in the stern-sheets, making that terrifying face which had
daunted his fellow-countrymen, the great Tarasconian feverishly
fumbled with his hunting-knife haft; for, despite what Barbassou
had told him, he was only half at ease as regarded the intention of
these ebony-skinned porters, who so little resembled their honest
mates of Tarascon.
Five minutes afterwards the skiff landed Tartarin, and he set foot
upon the little Barbary wharf, where, three hundred years before, a
Spanish galley-slave yclept Miguel Cervantes devised, under the
cane of the Algerian taskmaster, a sublime romance which was to
bear the title of "Don Quixote."
An Invocation to Cervantes -- The Disembarkation -- Where
are the Turks? -- Not a sign of them -- Disenchantment
O MIGUEL CERVANTES SAAVEDRA, if what is asserted be
true, to wit, that wherever great men have dwelt some emanation of
their spirits wanderingly hovers until the end of ages, then what
remained of your essence on the Barbary coast must have quivered
with glee on beholding Tartarin of Tarascon disembark, that
marvellous type of the French Southerner, in whom was embodied
both heroes of your work, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The air was sultry on this occasion. On the wharf, ablaze with
sunshine, were half a dozen revenue officers, some Algerians
expecting news from France, several squatting Moors who drew at
long pipes, and some Maltese mariners dragging large nets,
between the meshes of which thousands of sardines glittered like
small silver coins.
But hardly had Tartarin set foot on earth before the quay sprang
into life and changed its aspect. A horde of savages, still more
hideous than the pirates upon the steamer, rose between the stones
on the strand and rushed upon the new-comer. Tall Arabs were
there, nude under woollen blankets, little Moors in tatters, Negroes,
Tunisians, Port Mahonese, M'zabites, hotel servants in white
aprons, all yelling and shouting, hooking on his clothes, fighting
over his luggage, one carrying away the provender, another his
medicine-chest, and pelting him in one fantastic medley with the
names of preposterously-entitled hotels.
Bewildered by all this tumult, poor Tartarin wandered to and fro,
swore and stormed, went mad, ran after his property, and not
knowing how to make these barbarians understand him, speechified
them in French, Provencal, and even in dog Latin: "Rosa, the rose;
bonus, bona, bonum!" -- all that he knew -- but to no purpose. He
was not heeded. Happily, like a god in Homer, intervened a little
fellow in a yellow-collared tunic, and armed with a long running-
footman's cane, who dispersed the whole riff-raff with cudgel-play.
He was a policeman of the Algerian capital. Very politely, he
suggested Tartarin should put up at the Hotel de l'Europe, and he
confided him to its waiters, who carted him and his impedimenta
thither in several barrows.
At the first steps he took in Algiers, Tartarin of Tarascon opened
his eyes widely. Beforehand he had pictured it as an Oriental city --
a fairy one, mythological, something between Constantinople and
Zanzibar; but it was back into Tarascon he fell. Cafes, restaurants,
wide streets, four-storey houses, a little market-place,
macadamised, where the infantry band played Offenbachian polkas,
whilst fashionably clad gentlemen occupied chairs, drinking beer
and eating pancakes, some brilliant ladies, some shady ones, and
soldiers -- more soldiers -- no end of soldiers, but not a solitary
Turk, or, better to say, there was a solitary Turk, and that was he.
Hence he felt a little abashed about crossing the square, for
everybody looked at him. The musicians stopped, the Offenbachian
polka halting with one foot in the air.
With both guns on his shoulders, and the revolver flapping on his
hip, as fierce and stately as Robinson Crusoe, Tartarin gravely
passed through the groups; but on arriving at the hotel his powers
failed him. All spun and mingled in his head: the departure from
Tarascon, the harbour of Marseilles, the voyage, the Montenegrin
prince, the corsairs. They had to help him up into a room and
disarm and undress him. They began to talk of sending for a
medical adviser; but hardly was our hero's head upon the pillow
than he set to snoring, so loudly and so heartily that the landlord
judged the succour of science useless, and everybody considerately
The First Lying in Wait.
THREE o'clock was striking by the Government clock when
Tartarin awoke. He had slept all the evening, night, and morning,
and even a goodish piece of the afternoon. It must be granted,
though, that in the last three days the red fez had caught it pretty
hot and lively!
Our hero's first thought on opening his eyes was, "I am in the land
of the lions!" And -- well, why should we not say it? -- at the idea
that lions were nigh hereabouts, within a couple of steps, almost at
hand's reach, and that he would have to disentangle a snarled skein
with them, ugh! a deadly chill struck him, and he dived intrepidly
under the coverlet.
But, before a moment was over, the outward gaiety, the blue sky,
the glowing sun that streamed into the bedchamber, a nice little
breakfast that he ate in bed, his window wide open upon the sea,
the whole flavoured with an uncommonly good bottle of Crescia
wine -- it very speedily restored him his former pluckiness.
"Let's out and at the lion!" he exclaimed, throwing off the clothes
and briskly dressing himself.
His plan was as follows: he would go forth from the city without
saying a word to a soul, plunge into the great desert, await nightfall
to ambush himself, and bang away at the first lion who walked up.
Then would he return to breakfast in the morning at the hotel,
receive the felicitations of the natives, and hire a cart to bring in the
So he hurriedly armed himself, attached upright on his back the
shelter-tent (which, when rolled up, left its centre pole sticking out
a clear foot above his head), and descended to the street as stiffly as
though he had swallowed it. Not caring to ask the way of anybody,
from fear of letting out his project, he turned fairly to the right, and
threaded the Bab-Azoon arcade to the very end, where swarms of
Algerian Jews watched him pass from their corner ambushes like so
many spiders; crossing the Theatre place, he entered the outer
ward, and lastly came upon the dusty Mustapha highway.
Upon this was a quaint conglomeration: omnibuses, hackney
coaches, corricolos, the army service waggons, huge hay-carts
drawn by bullocks, squads of Chasseurs d'Afrique, droves of
microscopic asses, trucks of Alsatian emigrants, spahis in scarlet
cloaks -- all filed by in a whirlwind cloud of dust, amidst shouts,
songs, and trumpetcalls, between two rows of vile-looking booths,
at the doors of which lanky Mahonnais women might be seen doing
their hair, drinking-dens filled with soldiers, and shops of butchers
"What rubbish, to din me about the Orient!" grumbled the great
Tartarin; "there are not even as many Turks here as at Marseilles."
All of a sudden he saw a splendid camel strut by him quite closely,
stretching its long legs and puffing out its throat like a turkey-cock,
and that made his heart throb. Camels already, eh? Lions could not
be far Off now; and, indeed, in five minutes' time he did see a whole
band of lion-hunters coming his way under arms.
"Cowards!" thought our hero as he skirted them; "downright
cowards, to go at a lion in companies and with dogs!"
For it never could occur to him that anything but lions were objects
of the chase in Algeria. For all that, these Nimrods wore such
complacent phizzes of retired tradesmen, and their style of lion-
hunting with dogs and game-bags was so patriarchal, that the
Tarasconian, a little perplexed, deemed it incumbent to question
one of the gentlemen.
"And furthermore, comrade, is the sport good?"
"Not bad," responded the other, regarding the speaker's imposing
warlike equipment with a scared eye.
"Rather! Not so bad -- only look." Whereupon the Algerian
sportsman showed that it was rabbits and woodcock stuffing out
"What! do you call that your bag? Do you put such-like in your
"Where else should I put 'em?"
"But it's such little game."
"Some run small and some run large," observed the hunter.
In haste to catch up with his companions, he joined them with
several long strides. The dauntless Tartarin remained rooted in the
middle of the road with stupefaction. "Pooh!" he ejaculated, after a
moment's reflection, "these are jokers. They haven't killed anything
whatever," and he went his way.
Already the houses became scarcer, and so did the passengers.
Dark came on and objects were blurred, though Tartarin walked on
for half an hour more, when he stopped, for it was night. A
moonless night, too, but sprinkled with stars. On the highroad
there was nobody. The hero concluded that lions are not stage-
coaches, and would not of their own choice travel the main ways.
So he wheeled into the fields, where there were brambles and
ditches and bushes at every step, but he kept on nevertheless.
But suddenly he halted.
"I smell lions about here!" said our friend, sniffing right and left.
CERTAINLY a great wilderness, bristling with odd plants of that
Oriental kind which look like wicked creatures. Under the feeble
starlight their magnified shadows barred the ground in every way.
On the right loomed up confusedly the heavy mass of a mountain --
perhaps the Atlas range. On the heart-hand, the invisible sea
hollowly rolling. The very spot to attract wild beasts.
With one gun laid before him and the other in his grasp, Tartarin of
Tarascon went down on one knee and waited an hour, ay, a good
couple, and nothing turned up. Then he bethought him how, in his
books, the great lion-slayers never went out hunting without having
a lamb or a kid along with them, which they tied up a space before
them, and set bleating or baa-ing by jerking its foot with a string.
Not having any goat, the Tarasconer had the idea of employing an
imitation, and he set to crying in a tremulous voice:
At first it was done very softly, because at bottom he was a little
alarmed lest the lion should hear him; but as nothing came, he baa-
ed more loudly. Still nothing. Losing patience, he resumed many
times running at the top of his voice, till the "Baa, baa, baa!" came
out with so much power that the goat began to be mistakable for a
Unexpectedly, a few steps in front, some gigantic black thing
appeared. He was hushed. This thing lowered its head, sniffed the
ground, bounded up, rolled over, and darted off at the gallop, but
returned and stopped short. Who could doubt it was the lion? for
now its four short legs could plainly be seen, its formidable mane
and its large eyes gleaming in the gloom.
Up went his gun into position. Fire's the word! and bang, bang! it
was done. And immediately there was a leap back and the drawing
of the hunting-knife. To the Tarasconian's shot a terrible roaring
"He's got it!" cried our good Tartarin as, steadying himself on his
sturdy supporters, he prepared to receive the brute's charge.
But it had more than its fill, and galloped off; howling. He did not
budge, for he expected to see the female mate appear, as the story-
books always lay it down she should.
Unhappily, no female came. After two or three hours' waiting the
Tarasconian grew tired. The ground was damp, the night was
getting cool, and the sea-breeze pricked sharply.
"I have a good mind to take a nap till daylight," he said to himself.
To avoid catching rheumatism, he had recourse to his patent tent.
But here's where Old Nick interfered! This tent was of so very
ingenious a construction that he could not manage to open it. In
vain did he toil over it and perspire an hour through -- the
confounded apparatus would not come unfolded. There are some
umbrellas which amuse themselves under torrential rains with just
such tricks upon you. Fairly tired out with the struggle, the victim
dashed down the machine and lay upon it, swearing like the regular
Southron he was. "Tar, tar, rar, tar! tar, rar, tar!"
"What on earth's that?" wondered Tartarin, suddenly aroused.
It was the bugles of the Chasseurs d'Afrique sounding the turn-out
in the Mustapha barracks. The stupefied lion-slayer rubbed his eyes,
for he had believed himself out in the boundless wilderness; and do
you know where he really was? -- in a field of artichokes, between
a cabbage-garden and a patch of beets. His Sahara grew kitchen
Close to him, on the pretty verdant slope of Upper Mustapha, the
snowy villas glowed in the rosy rising sun: anybody would believe
himself in the neighbourhood of Marseilles, amongst its bastides
The commonplace and kitchen-gardenish aspect of this sleep-steeped
country much astonished the poor man, and put him in bad humour.
"These folk are crazy," he reasoned, "to plant artichokes in the
prowling-ground of lions; for, in short, I have not been dreaming.
Lions have come here, and there's the proof"
What he called the proof was blood-spots left behind the beast in its
flight. Bending over this ruddy trail with his eye on the lookout
and his revolver in his fist, the valiant Tarasconian went from
artichoke to artichoke up to a little field of oats. In the trampled
grass was a pool of blood, and in the midst of the pool, lying on its
flank, with a large wound in the head, was a -- guess what?
"A lion, of course!"
Not a bit of it! An ass! -- one of those little donkeys so common in
Algeria, where they are called bourriquots.
Arrival of the Female -- A Terrible Combat --
"Game Fellows Meet Here!"
LOOKING on his hapless victim, Tartarin's first impulse was one of
vexation. There is such a wide gap between a lion and poor Jack!
His second feeling was one of pity. The poor bourriquot was so
pretty and looked so kindly. The hide on his still warm sides
heaved and fell like waves. Tartarin knelt down, and strove with
the end of his Algerian sash to stanch the blood; and all you can
imagine in the way of touchingness was offered by the picture of
this great man tending this little ass.
At the touch of the silky cloth the donkey, who had not
twopennyworth of life in him, opened his large grey eye and winked
his long ears two or three times, as much as to say, "Oh, thank
you!" before a final spasm shook it from head to tail, whereafter it
stirred no more.
"Noiraud! Blackey!" suddenly screamed a voice, choking with
anguish, as the branches in a thicket hard by moved at the same
Tartarin had no more than enough time to rise and stand upon
guard. This was the female!
She rushed up, fearsome and roaring, under form of an old Alsatian
woman, her hair in a kerchief, armed with large red umbrella, and
calling for her ass, till all the echoes of Mustapha rang. It certainly
would have been better for Tartarin to have had to deal with a
lioness in fury than this old virago. In vain did the luckless
sportsman try to make her understand how the blunder had
occurred, and he had mistaken "Noiraud" for a lion. The harridan
believed he was making fun of her, and uttering energetical "Der
Teufels!" fell upon our hero to bang him with the gingham. A little
bewildered, Tartarin defended himself as best he could, warding
off the blows with his rifle, streaming with perspiration, panting,
jumping about, and crying out:
"But, Madame, but" --
Much good his buts were! Madame was dull of hearing, and her
blows continued hard as ever.
Fortunately a third party arrived on the battlefield, the Alsatian's
husband, of the same race; a roadside innkeeper, as well as a very
good ready-reckoner, which was better. When he saw what kind of
a customer he had to deal with -- a slaughterer who only wanted to
pay the value of his victim -- he disarmed his better-half, and they
came to an understanding.
Tartarin gave two hundred francs, the donkey being worth about
ten -- at least that is the current price in the Arab markets. Then
poor Blackey was laid to rest at the root of a fig-tree, and the
Alsatian, raised to joviality by the colour of the Tarascon ducats,
invited the hero to have a quencher with him in his wine-shop,
which stood only a few steps off on the edge of the highway. Every
Sunday the sportsmen from the city came there to regale of a
morning, for the plain abounded with game, and there was no better
place for rabbits for two leagues around.
"How about lions?" inquired Tartarin.
The Alsatian stared at him, greatly astounded.
"Yes, lions. Don't you see them sometimes?" resumed the poor
fellow, with less confidence.
The Boniface burst out in laughter.
"Ho, ho! bless us! lions! What would we do with lions here?"
"Are there, then, none in Algeria?"
"'Pon my faith, I never saw any, albeit I have been twenty years in
the colony. Still, I believe I have heard tell of such a thing --
leastwise, I fancy the newspapers said -- but that is ever so much
farther inland -- down South, you know" --
At this point they reached the hostelry, a suburban pothouse, with a
withered green bough over the door, crossed billiard-cues painted
on the wall, and this harmless sign over a picture of wild rabbits,
"GAME FELLOWS MEET HERE."
"Game fellows!" It made Tartarin think of Captain Bravida.
About an Omnibus, a Moorish Beauty, and a Wreath of Jessamine.
COMMON people would have been discouraged by such a first
adventure, but men of Tartarin's mettle do not easily get cast down.
"The lions are in the South, are they?" mused the hero. "Very well,
then. South I go."
As soon as he had swallowed his last mouthful he jumped up, thanked
his host, nodded good-bye to the old hag without any ill-will,
dropped a final tear over the hapless Blackey, and quickly returned
to Algiers, with the firm intention of packing up and starting
that very day for the South.
The Mustapha highroad seemed, unfortunately, to have stretched
since overnight; and what a sun and dust there were, and what a
weight in that shelter-tent! Tartarin did not feel to have the courage
to walk to the town, and he beckoned to the first omnibus coming
along, and climbed in.
Oh, our poor Tartarin of Tarascon! how much better it would have
been for his name and fame not to have stepped into that fatal ark
on wheels, but to have continued on his road afoot, at the risk of
falling suffocated beneath the burden of the atmosphere, the tent,
and his heavy double-barrelled rifles.
When Tartarin got in the 'bus was full. At the end, with his nose in
his prayer-book, sat a large and black-bearded vicar from town;
facing him was a young Moorish merchant smoking coarse
cigarettes, and a Maltese sailor and four or five Moorish women
muffled up in white cloths, so that only their eyes could be spied.
These ladies had been to offer up prayers in the Abdel Kader
cemetery; but this funereal visit did not seem to have much
saddened them, for they could be heard chuckling and chattering
between themselves under their coverings whilst munching pastry.
Tartarin fancied that they watched him narrowly. One in particular,
seated over against him, had fixed her eyes upon his, and never
took them off all the drive. Although the dame was veiled, the
liveliness of the big black eyes, lengthened out by k'hol; a
delightfully slender wrist loaded with gold bracelets, of which a
glimpse was given from time to time among the folds; the sound of
her voice, the graceful, almost childlike, movements of the head, all
revealed that a young, pretty, and loveable creature bloomed
underneath the veil. The unfortunate Tartarin did not know where to
shrink. The fond, mute gaze of these splendrous Oriental orbs
agitated him, perturbed him, and made him feel like dying with
flushes of heat and fits of cold shivers.
To finish him, the lady's slipper meddled in the onslaught: he felt the
dainty thing wander and frisk about over his heavy hunting boots
like a tiny red mouse. What could he do? Answer the glance and
the pressure, of course. Ay, but what about the consequences? A
loving intrigue in the East is a terrible matter! With his romantic
southern nature, the honest Tarasconian saw himself already falling
into the grip of the eunuchs, to be decapitated, or better -- we
mean, worse -- than that, sewn up in a leather sack and sunk in the
sea with his head under his arm beside him. This somewhat cooled
him. In the meantime the little slipper continued its proceedings,
and the eyes, widely open opposite him like twin black velvet
flowers, seemed to say:
"Come, cull us!"
The 'bus stopped on the Theatre place, at the mouth of the Rue
Bab-Azoon. One by one, embedded in their voluminous trousers,
and drawing their mufflers around them with wild grace, the
Moorish women alighted. Tartarin's confrontatress was the last to
rise, and in doing so her countenance skimmed so closely to our
hero's that her breath enveloped him -- a veritable nosegay of youth
and freshness, with an indescribable after-tang of musk, jessamine,
The Tarasconian stood out no longer. Intoxicated with love, and
ready for anything, he darted out after the beauty. At the rumpling
sound of his belts and boots she turned, laid a finger on her veiled
mouth, as one who would say, "Hush!" and with the other hand quickly
tossed him a little wreath of sweet-scented jessamine flowers.
Tartarin of Tarascon stooped to pick it up; but as he was rather
clumsy, and much overburdened with implements of war, the
operation took rather long. When he did straighten up, with the
jessamine garland upon his heart, the donatrix had vanished.
Ye Lions of the Atlas, repose in peace!
LIONS of the Atlas, sleep! -- sleep tranquilly at the back of your
lairs amid the aloes and cacti. For a few days to come, any way,
Tartarin of Tarascon will not massacre you. For the time being, all
his warlike paraphernalia, gun-cases, medicine chest, alimentary
preserves, dwelt peacefully under cover in a corner of room 36 in
the Hotel de l'Europe.