Part 2 out of 2
Sleep with no fear, great red lions, the Tarasconian is engaged in
looking up that Moorish charmer. Since the adventure in the
omnibus, the unfortunate swain perpetually fancied he felt the
fidgeting of that pretty red mouse upon his huge backwoods
trapper's foot; and the sea-breeze fanning his lips was ever scented,
do what he would, with a love-exciting odour of sweet cakes and
He hungered for his indispensable light of the harem! and he meant
to behold her anew.
But it was no joke of a task. To find one certain person in a city of
a hundred thousand souls, only known by the eyes, breath, and
slipper, -- none but a son of Tarascon, panoplied by love, would be
capable of attempting such an adventure.
The plague is that, under their broad white mufflers, all the Moorish
women resemble one another; besides, they do not go about much,
and to see them, a man has to climb up into the native or upper
town, the city of the "Turks," and that is a regular cut-throat's den.
Little black alleys, very narrow, climbing perpendicularly up
between mysterious house-walls, whose roofs lean to touching and
form a tunnel; low doors, and sad, silent little casements well barred
and grated. Moreover, on both hands, stacks of darksome stalls,
wherein ferocious "Turks" smoked long pipes stuck between
glittering teeth in piratical heads with white eyes, and mumbled in
undertones as if hatching wicked attacks.
To say that Tartarin traversed this grisly place without any emotion
would be putting forth falsehood. On the contrary, he was much
affected, and the stout fellow only went up the obscure lanes,
where his corporation took up all the width, with the utmost
precaution, his eye skinned, and his finger on his revolver trigger, in
the same manner as he went to the clubhouse at Tarascon. At any
moment he expected to have a whole gang of eunuchs and
janissaries drop upon his back, yet the longing to behold that dark
damsel again gave him a giant's strength and boldness.
For a full week the undaunted Tartarin never quitted the high town.
Yes; for all that period he might have been seen cooling his heels
before the Turkish bath-houses, awaiting the hour when the ladies
came forth in troops, shivering and still redolent of soap and hot
water; or squatting at the doorways of mosques, puffing and
melting in trying to get out of his big boots in order to enter the
Betimes at nightfall, when he was returning heart-broken at not
having discovered anything at either bagnio or mosque, our man
from Tarascon, in passing mansions, would hear monotonous
songs, smothered twanging of guitars, thumping of tambourines,
and feminine laughter-peals, which would make his heart beat.
"Haply she is there!" he would say to himself.
Thereupon, granting the street was unpeopled, he would go up to
one of these dwellings, lift the heavy knocker of the low postern,
and timidly rap. The songs and merriment would instantly cease.
There would be audible behind the wall nothing excepting low, dull
flutterings as in a slumbering aviary.
"Let's stick to it, old boy," our hero would think. "Something will
befall us yet."
What most often befell him was the contents of the cold-water jug
on the head, or else peel of oranges and Barbary figs; never
anything more serious.
Well might the lions of the Atlas Mountains doze in peace.
Prince Gregory of Montenegro.
IT was two long weeks that the unfortunate Tartarin had been
seeking his Algerian flame, and most likely he would have been
seeking after her to this day if the little god kind to lovers had not
come to his help under the shape of a Montenegrin nobleman.
It happened as follows.
Every Saturday night in winter there is a masked ball at the Grand
Theatre of Algiers, just as at the Paris Opera-House. It is the
undying and ever-tasteless county fancy dress ball -- very few
people on the floor, several castaways from the Parisian students'
ballrooms or midnight dance-houses, Joans of Arc following the
army, faded characters out of the Java costume-book of 1840, and
half-a-dozen laundress's underlings who are aiming to make loftier
conquests, but still preserve a faint perfume of their former life --
garlic and saffron sauce. The real spectacle is not there, but in the
green-room, transformed for the nonce into a hall of green cloth or
An enfevered and motley mob hustle one another around the long
green table-covers: Turcos out for the day and staking their double
halfpence, Moorish traders from the native town, Negroes, Maltese,
colonists from the inland, who have come forty leagues in order to
risk on a turning card the price of a plough or of a yoke of oxen; all
a-quivering, pale, clenching their teeth, and with that singular,
wavering, sidelong look of the gamester, become a squint from
always staring at the same card in the lay-out.
A little apart are the tribes of Algerian Jews, playing among
acquaintances. The men are in the Oriental costume; hideously
varied with blue stockings and velvet caps. The puffy and flabby
women sit up stiffly in tight golden bodices. Grouped around the
tables, the whole tribe wail, squeal, combine, reckon on the fingers,
and play but little. Now and anon, however, after long conferences,
some old patriarch, with a beard like those of saints by the Old
Masters, detaches himself from the party and goes to risk the family
duro. As long as the game lasted there would be a scintillation of
Hebraic eyes directed on the board -- dreadful black diamonds,
which made the gold pieces shiver, and ended by gently attracting
them, as if drawn by a thread. Then arose wrangles, quarrels,
battles, oaths of every land, mad outcries in all tongues, knives
flashing out, the guard marching in, and the money disappearing.
It was into the thick of this saturnalia that the great Tartarin came
straying one evening to find oblivion and heart's ease.
He was roving alone through the gathering, brooding about his
Moorish beauty, when two angered voices arose suddenly from a
gaming-table above all the clamour and chink of coin.
"I tell you, M'sieu, that I am twenty francs short!"
"Stuff yourself; M'sieu!"
"You shall learn whom you are addressing, M'sieu!"
"I am dying to do that, M'sieu!"
"I am Prince Gregory of Montenegro, M'sieu."
Upon this title Tartarin, much excited, cleft the throng and placed
himself in the foremost rank, proud and happy to find his prince
again, the Montenegrin noble of such politeness whose
acquaintance he had begun on board of the mail steamer.
Unfortunately the title of Highness, which had so dazzled the
worthy Tarasconian, did not produce the slightest impression upon
the Chasseurs officer with whom the noble had his dispute.
"I am much the wiser!" observed the military gentleman sneeringly;
and turning to the bystanders he added: "'Prince Gregory of
Montenegro' -- who knows any such a person? Nobody!"
The indignant Tartarin took one step forward.
"Allow me. I know the prince," said he, in a very firm voice, and
with his finest Tarasconian accent.
The light cavalry officer eyed him hard for a moment, and then,
shrugging his shoulders, returned:
"Come, that is good! Just you two share the twenty francs lacking
between you, and let us talk no more on the score."
Whereupon he turned his back upon them and mixed with the
crowd. The stormy Tartarin was going to rush after him, but the
prince prevented that.
"Let him go. I can manage my own affairs."
Taking the interventionist by the arm, he drew him rapidly out of
doors. When they were upon the square, Prince Gregory of
Montenegro lifted his hat off; extended his hand to our hero, and as
he but dimly remembered his name, he began in a vibrating voice:
"Monsieur Barbarin -- "
"Tartarin!" prompted the other, timidly.
"Tartarin, Barbarin, no matter! Between us henceforward it is a
league of life and death!"
The Montenegrin noble shook his hand with fierce energy. You
may infer that the Tarasconian was proud.
"Prince, prince!" he repeated enthusiastically.
In a quarter of an hour subsequently the two gentlemen were
installed in the Platanes Restaurant, an agreeable late supper-house,
with terraces running out over the sea, where, before a hearty
Russian salad, seconded by a nice Crescia wine, they renewed the
You cannot image any one more bewitching than this Montenegrin
prince. Slender, fine, with crisp hair curled by the tongs, shaved "a
week under" and pumice-stoned on that, bestarred with out-of-the-
way decorations, he had the wily eye, the fondling gestures, and
vaguely the accent of an Italian, which gave him an air of Cardinal
Mazarin without his chin-tuft and moustaches. He was deeply
versed in the Latin tongues, and lugged in quotations from Tacitus,
Horace, and Caesar's Commentaries at every opening.
Of an old noble strain, it appeared that his brothers had had him
exiled at the age of ten, on account of his liberal opinions, since
which time he had roamed the world for pleasure and instruction as
a philosophical noble. A singular coincidence! the prince had spent
three years in Tarascon; and as Tartarin showed amazement at
never having met him at the club or on the esplanade, His Highness
evasively remarked that he never went about. Through delicacy, the
Tarasconian did not dare to question further. All great existences
have such mysterious nooks.
To sum up, this Signor Gregory was a very genial aristocrat.
Whilst sipping the rosy Crescia juice he patiently listened to
Tartarin's expatiating on his lovely Moor, and he even promised to
find her speedily, as he had full knowledge of the native ladies.
They drank hard and lengthily in toasts to "The ladies of Algiers"
and "The freedom of Montenegro!"
Outside, upon the terrace, heaved the sea, and its rollers slapped
the strand in the darkness with much the sound of wet sails
flapping. The air was warm, and the sky full of stars.
In the plane-trees a nightingale was piping.
It was Tartarin who paid the piper.
"Tell me your father's name, and I will tell you the name
of that flower."
PRINCES of Montenegro are the ones to find the love-bird.
On the morrow early after this evening at the Platanes, Prince
Gregory was in the Tarasconian's bedroom.
"Quick! Dress yourself quickly! Your Moorish beauty is found,
Her name is Baya. She's scarce twenty -- as pretty as a love, and
already a widow."
"A widow! What a slice of luck!" joyfully exclaimed Tartarin, who
dreaded Oriental husbands.
"Ay, but woefully closely guarded by her brother."
"Oh, the mischief!"
"A savage chap who vends pipes in the Orleans bazaar."
Here fell a silence.
"A fig for that!" proceeded the prince; "you are not the man to he
daunted by such a trifle; and, anyhow, this old corsair can be
pacified, I daresay, by having some pipes bought of him. But be
quick! On with your courting suit, you lucky dog!"
Pale and agitated, with his heart brimming over with love, the
Tarasconian leaped out of his couch, and, as he hastily buttoned up
his capacious nether garment, wanted to know how he should act.
"Write straightway to the lady and ask for a tryst."
"Do you mean to say she knows French?" queried the Tarasconian
simpleton, with the disappointed mien of one who had believed
thoroughly in the Orient.
"Not one word of it," rejoined the prince imperturbably; "but you
can dictate the billet-doux, and I will translate it bit by bit."
"O prince, how kind you are!"
The lover began striding up and down the bedroom in silent
Naturally a man does not write to a Moorish girl in Algiers in the
same way as to a seamstress of Beaucaire. It was a very lucky
thing that our hero had in mind his numerous readings, which
allowed him, by amalgamating the Red Indian eloquence of Gustave
Aimard's Apaches with Lamartine's rhetorical flourishes in the
"Voyage en Orient," and some reminiscences of the "Song of
Songs," to compose the most Eastern letter that you could expect
to see. It opened with:
"Like unto the ostrich upon the sandy waste" --
and concluded by:
"Tell me your father's name, and I will tell you the name of that
To this missive the romantic Tartarin would have much liked to join
an emblematic bouquet of flowers in the Eastern fashion; but Prince
Gregory thought it better to purchase some pipes at the brother's,
which could not fail to soften his wild temper, and would certainly
please the lady a very great deal, as she was much of a smoker.
"Let's be off at once to buy them!" said Tartarin, full of ardour.
"No, no! Let me go alone. I can get them cheaper."
"Eh, what? Would you save me the trouble? O prince, prince, you
do me proud!"
Quite abashed, the good-hearted fellow offered his purse to the
obliging Montenegrin, urging him to overlook nothing by which the
lady would be gratified.
Unfortunately the suit, albeit capitally commenced, did not progress
as rapidly as might have been anticipated. It appeared that the
Moorish beauty was very deeply affected by Tartarin's eloquence,
and, for that matter, three-parts won beforehand, so that she wished
nothing better than to receive him; but that brother of hers had
qualms, and to lull them it was necessary to buy pipes by the
dozens; nay, the gross -- well, we had best say by the shipload at
"What the plague can Baya do with all these pipes?" poor Tartarin
wanted to know more than once; but he paid the bills all the same,
and without niggardliness.
At length, after having purchased a mountainous stack of pipes and
poured forth lakes of Oriental poesy, an interview was arranged. I
have no need to tell you with what throbbings of the heart the
Tarasconian prepared himself; with what carefulness he trimmed,
brilliantined, and perfumed his rough cap-popper's beard, and how
he did not forget -- for everything must be thought of -- to slip a
spiky life-preserver and two or three six-shooters into his pockets.
The ever-obliging prince was coming to this first meeting in the
office of interpreter.
The lady dwelt in the upper part of the town. Before her doorway
a boy Moor of fourteen or less was smoking cigarettes; this was the
brother in question, the celebrated Ali. On seeing the pair of
visitors arrive, he gave a double knock on the postern gate and
delicately glided away.
The door opened. A negress appeared, who conducted the
gentlemen, without uttering a word, across the narrow inner
courtyard into a small cool room, where the lady awaited them,
reclining on a low ottoman. At first glance she appeared smaller and
stouter than the Moorish damsel met in the omnibus by the
Tarasconian. In fact, was it really the same? But the doubt merely
flashed through Tartarin's brain like a stroke of lightning.
The dame was so pretty thus, with her feet bare, and plump fingers,
fine and pink, loaded with rings. Under her bodice of gilded cloth
and the folds of her flower-patterned dress was suggested a lovable
creature, rather blessed materially, rounded everywhere, and nice
enough to eat. The amber mouthpiece of a narghileh smoked at her
lips, and enveloped her wholly in a halo of light-coloured smoke.
On entering, the Tarasconian laid a hand on his heart and bowed as
Moorlike as possible, whilst rolling his large impassioned eyes.
Baya gazed on him for a moment without making any answer; but
then, dropping her pipe-stem, she threw her head back, hid it in her
hands, and they could only see her white neck rippling with a wild
laugh like a bag full of pearls.
Sidi Tart'ri Ben Tart'ri.
SHOULD you ever drop into the coffee-houses of the Algerian
upper town after dark, even at this day, you would still hear the
natives chatting among themselves, with many a wink and slight
laugh, of one Sidi Tart'ri Ben Tart'ri, a rich and good-humoured
European, who dwelt, a few years back, in that neighbourhood,
with a buxom witch of local origin, named Baya.
This Sidi Tart'ri, who has left such a merry memory around the
Kasbah, is no other than our Tartarin, as will be guessed.
How could you expect things otherwise? In the lives of heroes, of
saints, too, it happens the same way -- there are moments of
blindness, perturbation, and weakness. The illustrious Tarasconian
was no more exempt from this than another, and that is the reason
during two months that, oblivious of fame and lions, he revelled in
Oriental amorousness, and dozed, like Hannibal at Capua, in the
delights of Algiers the white.
The good fellow took a pretty little house in the native style in the
heart of the Arab town, with inner courtyard, banana-trees, cool
verandahs, and fountains. He dwelt, afar from noise, in company
with the Moorish charmer, a thorough woman to the manner born,
who pulled at her hubble-bubble all day when she was not eating.
Stretched out on a divan in front of him, Baya would drone him
monotonous tunes with a guitar in her fist; or else, to distract her
lord and master, favour him with the Bee Dance, holding a hand-
glass up, in which she reflected her white teeth and the faces she
As the Esmeralda did not know a word of French, and Tartarin
none in Arabic, the conversation died away sometimes, and the
Tarasconian had plenty of leisure to do penance for the gush of
language of which he had been guilty in the shop of Bezuquet the
chemist or that of Costecalde the gunmaker.
But this penance was not devoid of charm, for he felt a kind of
enjoyable sullenness in dawdling away the whole day without
speaking, and in listening to the gurgling of the hookah, the
strumming of the guitar, and the faint splashing of the fountain on
the mosaic pavement of the yard.
The pipe, the bath, and caresses filled his entire life. They seldom
went out of doors. Sometimes with his lady-love upon a pillion,
Sidi Tart'ri would ride upon a sturdy mule to eat pomegranates in a
little garden he had purchased in the suburbs. But never, without
exception, did he go down into the European quarter. This kind of
Algiers appeared to him as ugly and unbearable as a barracks at
home, with its Zouaves in revelry, its music-halls crammed with
officers, and its everlasting clank of metal sabre-sheaths under the
The sum total is, that our Tarasconian was very happy.
Sancho-Tartarin particularly, being very sweet upon Turkish pastry,
declared that one could not be more satisfied than by this new
existence. Quixote-Tartarin had some twinges at whiles on
thinking of Tarascon and the promises of lion-skins; but this
remorse did not last, and to drive away such dampening ideas there
sufficed one glance from Baya, or a spoonful of those diabolical
dizzying and odoriferous sweetmeats like Circe's brews.
In the evening Gregory came to discourse a little about a free Black
Mountain. Of indefatigable obligingness, this amiable nobleman
filled the functions of an interpreter in the household, or those of a
steward at a pinch, and all for nothing for the sheer pleasure of it.
Apart from him, Tartarin received none but "Turks." All those
fierce-headed pirates who had given him such frights from the
backs of their black stalls turned out, when once he made their
acquaintance, to be good inoffensive tradesmen, embroiderers,
dealers in spice, pipe-mouthpiece turners -- well-bred fellows,
humble, clever, close, and first-class hands at homely card games.
Four or five times a week these gentry would come and spend the
evening at Sidi Tart'ri's, winning his small change, eating his cakes
and dainties, and delicately retiring on the stroke of ten with thanks
to the Prophet.
Left alone, Sidi Tart'ri and his faithful spouse by the broomstick
wedding would finish the evening on their terrace, a broad white
roof which overlooked the city.
All around them a thousand of other such white flats, placid
beneath the moonshine, were descending like steps to the sea. The
breeze carried up tinkling of guitars.
Suddenly, like a shower of firework stars, a full, clear melody
would be softly sprinkled out from the sky, and on the minaret of
the neighbouring mosque a handsome muezzin would appear, his
blanched form outlined on the deep blue of the night, as he chanted
the glory of Allah with a marvellous voice, which filled the horizon.
Thereupon Baya would let go her guitar, and with her large eyes
turned towards the crier, seem to imbibe the prayer deliciously. As
long as the chant endured she would remain thrilled there in
ecstasy, like an Oriental saint. The deeply impressed Tartarin
would watch her pray, and conclude that it must be a splendid and
powerful creed that could cause such frenzies of faith.
Tarascon, veil thy face! here is a son of thine on the point of
becoming a renegade!
The Latest Intelligence from Tarascon.
PARTING from his little country seat, Sidi Tart'ri was returning
alone on his mule on a fine afternoon, when the sky was blue and
the zephyrs warm. His legs were kept wide apart by ample saddle-
bags of esparto cloth, swelled out with cedrats and water-melons.
Lulled by the ring of his large stirrups, and rocking his body to the
swing and swaying of the beast, the good fellow was thus
traversing an adorable country, with his hands folded on his paunch,
three-quarters gone, through heat, in a comfortable doze. All at
once, on entering the town, a deafening appeal aroused him.
"Ahoy! What a monster Fate is! Anybody'd take this for Monsieur
On this name, and at the jolly southern accent, the Tarasconian
lifted his head, and perceived, a couple of steps away, the honest
tanned visage of Captain Barbassou, master of the Zouave, who
was taking his absinthe at the door of a little coffee-house.
"Hey! Lord love you, Barbassou!" said Tartarin, pulling up his
Instead of continuing the dialogue, Barbassou stared at him for a
space ere he burst into a peal of such hilarity that Sidi Tart'ri sat
back dumbfounded on his melons.
"What a stunning turban, my poor Monsieur Tartarin! Is it true,
what they say of your having turned Turk? How is little Baya? Is
she still singing 'Marco la Bella'?"
"Marco la Bella!" repeated the indignant Tartarin. "I'll have you to
know, captain, that the person you mention is an honourable
Moorish lady, and one who does not know a word of French."
"Baya does not know French! What lunatic asylum do you hail
The good captain broke into still heartier laughter; but, seeing the
chops of poor Sidi Tart'ri fall he changed his course.
"Howsoever, may happen it is not the same lass. Let's reckon that I
have mixed 'em up. Still, mark you, Monsieur Tartarin, you will do
well, nonetheless, to distrust Algerian Moors and Montenegrin
Tartarin rose in the stirrups, making a wry face.
"The prince is my friend, captain."
"Come, come, don't wax wrathy. Won't you have some bitters to
sweeten you? No? Haven't you anything to say to the folks at
home, neither? Well, then, a pleasant journey. By the way, mate, I
have some good French 'bacco upon me, and if you would like to
carry away a few pipefuls, you have only to take some. Take it,
won't you? It's your beastly Oriental 'baccoes that have befogged
Upon this the captain went back to his absinthe, whilst the moody
Tartarin trotted slowly on the road to his little house. Although his
great soul refused to credit anything, Barbassou's insinuations had
vexed him, and the familiar adjurations and home accent had
awakened vague remorse.
He found nobody at home, Baya having gone out to the bath. The
negress appeared sinister and the dwelling saddening. A prey to
inexpressible melancholy, he went and sat down by the fountain to
load a pipe with Barbassou's tobacco. It was wrapped up in a piece
of the Marseilles Semaphore newspaper. On flattening it out, the
name of his native place struck his eyes.
"Our Tarascon correspondent writes: --
"The city is in distress. There has been no news for several months
from Tartarin the lion-slayer, who set off to hunt the great feline
tribe in Africa. What can have become of our heroic fellow-
countryman? Those hardly dare ask who know, as we do, how hot-
headed he was, and what boldness and thirst for adventures were
his. Has he, like many others, been smothered in the sands, or has
he fallen under the murderous fangs of one of those monsters of the
Atlas Range of which be had promised the skins to the
municipality? What a dreadful state of uncertainty! It is true some
Negro traders, come to Beaucaire Fair, assert having met in the
middle of the deserts a European whose description agreed with
his; he was proceeding towards Timbuctoo. May Heaven preserve
When he read this, the son of Tarascon reddened, blanched, and
shuddered. All Tarascon appeared unto him: the club, the cap-
poppers, Costecalde's green arm-chair, and, hovering over all like a
spread eagle, the imposing moustaches of brave Commandant
At seeing himself here, as he was, cowardly lolling on a mat, whilst
his friends believed him slaughtering wild beasts, Tartarin of
Tarascon was ashamed of himself, and could have wept had he not
been a hero.
Suddenly he leaped up and thundered:
"The lion, the lion! Down with him!"
And dashing into the dusty lumber-hole where mouldered the
shelter-tent, the medicine-chest, the potted meats, and the gun-
cases, he dragged them out into the middle of the court.
Sancho-Tartarin was no more: Quixote-Tartarin occupied the field
of active life.
Only the time to inspect his armament and stores, don his harness,
get into his heavy boots, scribble a couple of words to confide
Baya to the prince, and slip a few bank-notes sprinkled with tears
into the envelope, and then the dauntless Tarasconian rolled away
in the stage-coach on the Blidah road, leaving the house to the
negress, stupor-stricken before the pipe, the turban, and babooshes
-- all the Moslem shell of Sidi Tart'ri which sprawled piteously
under the little white trefoils of the gallery.
EPISODE THE THIRD
AMONG THE LIONS
What becomes of the Old Stage-coaches.
COME to look closely at the vehicle, it was an old stage-coach all of
the olden time, upholstered in faded deep blue cloth, with those
enormous rough woollen balls which, after a few hours' journey,
finally establish a raw spot in the small of your back.
Tartarin of Tarascon had a corner of the inside, where he installed
himself most free-and-easily: and, preliminarily to inspiring the rank
emanations of the great African felines, the hero had to content
himself with that homely old odour of the stage-coach, oddly
composed of a thousand smells, of man and woman, horses and
harness, eatables and mildewed straw.
There was a little of everything inside -- a Trappist monk, some
Jew merchants, two fast ladies going to join their regiment, the
Third Hussars, a photographic artist from Orleansville, and so on.
But, however charming and varied was the company, the
Tarasconian was not in the mood for chatting; he remained quite
thoughtful, with an arm in the arm-rest sling-strap and his guns
between his knees. All churned up his wits -- the precipitate
departure, Baya's eyes of jet, the terrible chase he was about to
undertake, to say nothing of this European coach; with its Noah's
Ark aspect, rediscovered in the heart of Africa, vaguely recalling
the Tarascon of his youth, with its races in the suburbs, jolly dinners
on the river-side -- a throng of memories, in short.
Gradually night came on. The guard lit up the lamps. The rusty
diligence danced creakingly on its old springs; the horses trotted
and their bells jangled. From time to time in the boot arose a
dreadful clank of iron: that was the war material.
Tartarin of Tarascon, nearly overcome, dwelt a moment scanning
the fellow-passengers, comically shaken by the jolts, and dancing
before him like the shadows in galanty-shows, till his eyes grew
cloudy and his mind befogged, and only vaguely he heard the
wheels grind and the sides of the conveyance squeak complainingly.
Suddenly a voice called Tartarin by his name, the voice of an old
fairy godmother, hoarse, broken, and cracked.
"Monsieur Tartarin!" three times.
"Who's calling me?"
"It's I, Monsieur Tartarin. Don't you recognise me? I am the old
stage-coach who used to do the road betwixt Nimes and Tarascon
twenty year agone. How many times I have carried you and your
friends when you went to shoot at caps over Joncquieres or
Bellegarde way! I did not know you again at the first, on account
of your Turk's cap and the flesh you have accumulated; but as soon
as you began snoring -- what a rascal is good-luck! -- I twigged
you straight away."
"All right, that's all right enough!" observed the Tarasconian, a
shade vexed; but softening, he added, "But to the point, my poor
old girl; whatever did you come out here for?"
"Pooh! my good Monsieur Tartarin, I assure you I never came of
my own free will. As soon as the Beaucaire railway was finished I
was considered good for nought, and shipped away into Algeria.
And I am not the only one either! Bless you, next to all the old
stage-coaches of France have been packed off like me. We were
regarded as too much the conservative -- 'the slow-coaches' -- d'ye
see, and now we are here leading the life of a dog. This is what you
in France call the Algerian railways."
Here the ancient vehicle heaved a long-drawn sigh before
proceeding. "My wheels and linchpin! Monsieur Tartarin, how I
regret my lovely Tarascon! That was the good time for me, when I
was young! -- You ought to have seen me starting off in the
morning, washed with no stint of water and all a-shine, with my
wheels freshly varnished, my lamps blazing like a brace of suns, and
my boot always rubbed up with oil! It was indeed lovely when the
postillion cracked his whip to the tune of 'Lagadigadeou, the
Tarasque! the Tarasque!' and the guard, his horn in its sling and
laced cap cocked well over one ear, chucking his little dog, always
in a fury, upon the top, climbed up himself with a shout: 'Right-
"Then would my four horses dash off to the medley of bells, barks,
and horn-blasts, and the windows fly open for all Tarascon to look
with pride upon the royal mail coach dart over the king's highway.
"What a splendid road that was, Monsieur Tartarin, broad and well
kept, with its mile-stones, its little heaps of road-metal at regular
distances, and its pretty clumps of vines and olive-trees on either
hand! Then, again, the roadside inns so close together, and the
changes of horses every five minutes! And what jolly, honest chaps
my patrons were! -- village mayors and parish priests going up to
Nimes to see their prefect or bishop, taffety-weavers returning
openly from the Mazet, collegians out on holiday leave, peasants in
worked smock-frocks, all fresh shaven for the occasion that
morning; and up above, on the top, you gentlemen-sportsmen,
always in high spirits, and singing each your own family ballad to
the stars as you came back in the dark.
"Deary me! it's a change of times now! Lord knows what rubbish I
am carting here, come from nobody guesses where! They fill me
with small deer, these negroes, Bedouin Arabs, swashbucklers,
adventurers from every land, and ragged settlers who poison me
with their pipes, and all jabbering a language that the Tower of
Babel itself could make nothing of! And, furthermore, you should
see how they treat me -- I mean, how they never treat me: never a
brush or a wash. They begrudge me grease for my axles. Instead of
my good fat quiet horses of other days, little Arab ponies, with the
devil in their frames, who fight and bite, caper as they run like so
many goats, and break my splatterboard all to smithereens with
their lashing out behind. Ouch! ouch! there they are at it again!
"And such roads! Just here it is bearable, because we are near the
governmental headquarters; but out a bit there's nothing, Monsieur
-- not the ghost of a road at all. We get along as best we can over
hill and dale, over dwarf palms and mastic-trees. Ne'er a fixed
change of horses, the stopping being at the whim of the guard, now
at one farm, again at another.
"Somewhiles this rogue goes a couple of leagues out of the way to
have a glass of absinthe or champoreau with a chum. After which,
'Crack on, postillion!' to make up for the lost time. Though the sun
be broiling and the dust scorching, we whip on! We catch in the
scrub and spill over, but whip on! We swim rivers, we catch cold,
we get swamped, we drown, but whip! whip! whip! Then in the
evening, streaming -- a nice thing for my age, with my rheumatics --
I have to sleep in the open air of some caravanseral yard, open to
all the winds. In the dead o' night jackals and hyaenas come sniffing
of my body; and the marauders who don't like dews get into my
compartment to keep warm.
"Such is the life I lead, my poor Monsieur Tartarin, and that I shall
lead to the day when -- burnt up by the sun and rotted by the damp
nights until unable to do anything else, I shall fall in some spot of
bad road, where the Arabs will boil their kouskous with the bones
of my old carcass" --
"Blidah! Blidah!" called out the guard as he opened the door.
A little gentleman drops in and "drops upon" Tartarin.
VAGUELY through the mud-dimmed glass Tartarin of Tarascon
caught a glimpse of a second-rate but pretty town market-place,
regular in shape, surrounded by colonnades and planted with
orange-trees, in the midst of which what seemed toy leaden soldiers
were going through the morning exercise in the clear roseate mist.
The cafes were shedding their shutters. In one corner there was a
vegetable market. It was bewitching, but it did not smack of lions
"To the South! farther to the South!" muttered the good old
desperado, sinking back in his corner.
At this moment the door opened. A puff of fresh air rushed in,
bearing upon its wings, in the perfume of the orange-blossoms, a
little person in a brown frock-coat, old and dry, wrinkled and
formal, his face no bigger than your fist, his neckcloth of black silk
five fingers wide, a notary's letter-case, and umbrella -- the very
picture of a village solicitor.
On perceiving the Tarasconian's warlike equipment, the little
gentleman, who was seated over against him, appeared excessively
surprised, and set to studying him with burdensome persistency.
The horses were taken out and the fresh ones put in, whereupon the
coach started off again. The little weasel still gazed at Tartarin,
who in the end took snuff at it.
"Does this astonish you?" he demanded, staring the little gentleman
full in the face in his turn.
"Oh, dear, no! it only annoys me," responded the other, very
And the fact is, that, with his shelter-tent, revolvers, pair of guns in
their cases, and hunting-knife, not to speak of his natural
corpulence, Tartarin of Tarascon did take up a lot of room.
The little gentleman's reply angered him.
"Do you by any chance fancy that I am going lion-hunting with
your umbrella?" queried the great man haughtily.
The little man looked at his umbrella, smiled blandly, and still with
the same lack of emotion, inquired:
"Oho, then you are Monsieur" --
"Tartarin of Tarascon, lion-killer!"
In uttering these words the dauntless son of Tarascon shook the
blue tassel of his fez like a mane.
Through the vehicle was a spell of stupefaction.
The Trappist brother crossed himself, the dubious women uttered
little screams of affright, and the Orleansville photographer bent
over towards the lion-slayer, already cherishing the unequalled
honour of taking his likeness.
The little gentleman, though, was not awed.
"Do you mean to say that you have killed many lions, Monsieur
Tartarin?" he asked, very quietly.
The Tarasconian received his charge in the handsomest manner.
"Is it many have I killed, Monsieur? I wish you had only as many
hairs on your head as I have killed of them."
All the coach laughed on observing three yellow bristles standing
up on the little gentleman's skull.
In his turn, the Orleansville photographer struck in:
"Yours must he a terrible profession, Monsieur Tartarin. You must
pass some ugly moments sometimes. I have heard that poor
Monsieur Bombonnel" -- "Oh, yes, the panther-killer," said
Tartarin, rather disdainfully.
"Do you happen to be acquainted with him?" inquired the
"Eh! of course! Know him? Why, we have been out on the hunt
over twenty times together."
The little gentleman smiled.
"So you also hunt panthers, Monsieur Tartarin?" he asked.
"Sometimes, just for pastime," said the fiery Tarasconian. "But," he
added, as he tossed his head with a heroic movement that inflamed
the hearts of the two sweethearts of the regiment, "that's not worth
"When all's said and done," ventured the photographer, "a panther
is nothing but a big cat."
"Right you are!" said Tartarin, not sorry to abate the celebrated
Bombonnel's glory a little, particularly in the presence of ladies.
Here the coach stopped. The conductor came to open the door,
and addressed the insignificant little gentleman most respectfully,
"We have arrived, Monsieur."
The little gentleman got up, stepped out, and said, before the door
was closed again:
"Will you allow me to give you a bit of advice, Monsieur Tartarin?"
"What is it, Monsieur?"
"Faith! you wear the look of a good sort of fellow, so I would,
rather than not, let you have it. Get you back quickly to Tarascon,
Monsieur Tartarin, for you are wasting your time here. There do
remain a few panthers in the colony, but, out upon the big cats!
they are too small game for you. As for lion-hunting, that's all
over. There are none left in Algeria, my friend Chassaing having
lately knocked over the last."
Upon which the little gentleman saluted, closed the door, and
trotted away chuckling, with his document-wallet and umbrella.
"Guard," asked Tartarin, screwing up his face contemptuously,
"who under the sun is that poor little mannikin?"
"What! don't you know him? Why, that there's Monsieur
A Monastery of Lions.
AT Milianah, Tartarin of Tarascon alighted, leaving the stage-coach
to continue its way towards the South.
Two days' rough jolting, two nights spent with eyes open to spy out
of window if there were not discoverable the dread figure of a lion
in the fields beyond the road -- so much sleeplessness well deserved
some hours repose. Besides, if we must tell everything, since his
misadventure with Bombonnel, the outspoken Tartarin felt ill at
ease, notwithstanding his weapons, his terrifying visage, and his red
cap, before the Orleansville photographer and the two ladies fond
of the military.
So he proceeded through the broad streets of Milianah, full of fine
trees and fountains; but whilst looking up a suitable hotel, the poor
fellow could not help musing over Bombonnel's words. Suppose
they were true! Suppose there were no more lions in Algeria? What
would be the good then of so much running about and fatigue?
Suddenly, at the turn of a street, our hero found himself face to face
with -- with what? Guess! "A donkey, of course!" A donkey? A
splendid lion this time, waiting before a coffee-house door, royally
sitting up on his hind-quarters, with his tawny mane gleaming in the
"What possessed them to tell me that there were no more of them?"
exclaimed the Tarasconian, as he made a backward jump.
On hearing this outcry the lion lowered his head, and taking up in
his mouth a wooden bowl that was before him on the footway,
humbly held it out towards Tartarin, who was immovable with
stupefaction. A passing Arab tossed a copper into the bowl, and the
lion wagged his tail. Thereupon Tartarin understood it all. He saw
what emotion had prevented him previously perceiving: that the
crowd was gathered around a poor tame blind lion, and that two
stalwart Negroes, armed with staves, were marching him through
the town as a Savoyard does a marmot.
The blood of Tarascon boiled over at once.
"Wretches that you are!" he roared in a voice of thunder, "thus to
debase such noble beasts!"
Springing to the lion, he wrenched the loathsome bowl from
between his royal jaws. The two Africans, believing they had a thief
to contend with, rushed upon the foreigner with uplifted cudgels.
There was a dreadful conflict: the blackamoors smiting, the women
screaming, and the youngsters laughing. An old Jew cobbler
bleated out of the hollow of his stall, "Dake him to the shustish of
the beace!" The lion himself; in his dark state, tried to roar as his
hapless champion, after a desperate struggle, rolled on the ground
among the spilt pence and the sweepings.
At this juncture a man cleft the throng, made the Negroes stand
back with a word, and the women and urchins with a wave of the
hand, lifted up Tartarin, brushed him down, shook him into shape,
and sat him breathless upon a corner-post.
"What, prince, is it you?" said the good Tartarin, rubbing his ribs.
"Yes, indeed, it is I, my valiant friend. As soon as your letter was
received, I entrusted Baya to her brother, hired a post-chaise, flew
fifty leagues as fast as a horse could go, and here I am, just in time
to snatch you from the brutality of these ruffians. What have you
done, in the name of just Heaven, to bring this ugly trouble upon
"What done, prince? It was too much for me to see this
unfortunate lion with a begging-bowl in his mouth, humiliated,
conquered, buffeted about, set up as a laughing-stock to all this
Moslem rabble" --
"But you are wrong, my noble friend. On the contrary, this lion is
an object of respect and adoration. This is a sacred beast who
belongs to a great monastery of lions, founded three hundred years
ago by Mahomet Ben Aouda, a kind of fierce and forbidding La
Trappe, full of roarings and wild-beastly odours, where strange
monks rear and feed lions by hundreds, and send them out all over
Northern Africa, accompanied by begging brothers. The alms they
receive serve for the maintenance of the monastery and its
mosques; and the two Negroes showed so much displeasure just
now because it was their conviction that the lion under their charge
would forthwith devour them if a single penny of their collection
were lost or stolen through any fault of theirs."
On hearing this incredible and yet veracious story Tartarin of
Tarascon was delighted, and sniffed the air noisily. "What pleases
me in this," he remarked, as the summing up of his opinion, "is that,
whether Monsieur Bombonnel likes it or not, there are still lions in
"I should think there were!" ejaculated the prince enthusiastically.
"We will start to-morrow beating up the Shelliff Plain, and you will
see lions enough!"
"What, prince! have you an intention to go a-hunting, too?"
"Of course! Do you think I am going to leave you to march by
yourself into the heart of Africa, in the midst of ferocious tribes of
whose languages and usages you are ignorant! No, no, illustrious
Tartarin, I shall quit you no more. Go where you will, I shall make
one of the party."
"O Prince! prince!"
The beaming Tartarin hugged the devoted Gregory to his breast at
the proud thought of his going to have a foreign prince to
accompany him in his hunting, after the example of Jules Gerard,
Bombonnel, and other famous lion-slayers.
The Caravan on the March.
LEAVING Milianah at the earliest hour next morning, the intrepid
Tartarin and the no less intrepid Prince Gregory descended towards
the Shelliff Plain through a delightful gorge shaded with jessamine,
carouba, tuyas, and wild olive-trees, between hedges of little native
gardens and thousands of merry, lively rills which scampered down
from rock to rock with a singing splash -- a bit of landscape meet
for the Lebanon.
As much loaded with arms as the great Tartarin, Prince Gregory
had, over and above that, donned a queer but magnificent military
cap, all covered with gold lace and a trimming of oak-leaves in
silver cord, which gave His Highness the aspect of a Mexican
general or a railway station-master on the banks of the Danube.
This plague of a cap much puzzled the beholder; and as he timidly
craved some explanation, the prince gravely answered:
"It is a kind of headgear indispensable for travel in Algeria."
Whilst brightening up the peak with a sweep of his sleeve, he
instructed his simple companion in the important part which the
military cap plays in the French connection with the Arabs, and the
terror this article of army insignia alone has the privilege of
inspiring, so that the Civil Service has been obliged to put all its
employees in caps, from the extra-copyist to the receiver-general.
To govern Algeria (the prince is still speaking) there is no need of a
strong head, or even of any head at all. A military cap does it alone,
if showy and belaced, and shining at the top of a non-human pole,
Thus chatting and philosophising, the caravan proceeded. The
barefooted porters leaped from rock to rock with ape-like screams.
The guncases clanked, and the guns themselves flashed. The
natives who were passing, salaamed to the ground before the magic
cap. Up above, on the ramparts of Milianah, the head of the Arab
Department, who was out for an airing with his wife, hearing these
unusual noises, and seeing the weapons gleam between the
branches, fancied there was a revolt, and ordered the drawbridge to
be raised, the general alarm to be sounded, and the whole town put
under a state of siege. A capital commencement for the caravan!
Unfortunately, before the day ended, things went wrong. Of the
black luggage-bearers, one was doubled up with atrocious colics
from having eaten the diachylon out of the medicine-chest: another
fell on the roadside dead drunk with camphorated brandy; the third,
carrier of the travelling-album, deceived by the gilding on the clasps
into the persuasion that he was flying with the treasures of Mecca,
ran off into the Zaccar on his best legs.
This required consideration. The caravan halted, and held a council
in the broken shadow of an old fig-tree.
"It's my advice that we turn up Negro porters from this evening
forward," said the prince, trying without success to melt a cake of
compressed meat in an improved patent triple-bottomed sauce-
pan. "There is, haply, an Arab trader quite near here. The best
thing to do is to stop there, and buy some donkeys."
"No, no; no donkeys," quickly interrupted Tartarin, becoming
quite red at memory of Noiraud. "How can you expect," he added,
hypocrite that he was, "that such little beasts could carry all our
The prince smiled.
"You are making a mistake, my illustrious friend. However weakly
and meagre the Algerian bourriquot may appear to you, he has solid
loins. He must have them so to support all that he does. Just ask
the Arabs. Hark to how they explain the French colonial
organisation. 'On the top,' they say, 'is Mossoo, the Governor,
with a heavy club to rap the staff; the staff, for revenge, canes the
soldier; the soldier clubs the settler, and he hammers the Arab; the
Arab smites the Negro, the Negro beats the Jew, and he takes it out
of the donkey. The poor bourriquot having nobody to belabour,
arches up his back and bears it all.' You see clearly now that he can
bear your boxes."
"All the same," remonstrated Tartarin, "it strikes me that
jackasses will not chime in nicely with the effect of our caravan.
I want something more Oriental. For instance, if we could only
get a camel" --
"As many as you like," said His Highness; and off they started for
the Arab mart.
It was held a few miles away, on the banks of the Shelliff. There
were five or six thousand Arabs in tatters here, grovelling in the
sunshine and noisily trafficking, amid jars of black olives, pots of
honey, bags of spices; and great heaps of cigars; huge fires were
roasting whole sheep, basted with butter; in open air slaughter-
houses stark naked Negroes, with ruddy arms and their feet in gore,
were cutting up kids hanging from crosspoles, with small knives.
In one corner, under a tent patched with a thousand colours, a
Moorish clerk of the market in spectacles scrawled in a large book.
Here was a cluster of men shouting with rage: it was a spinning-
jenny game, set on a corn-measure, and Kabyles were ready to cut
one another's throats over it. Yonder were laughs and contortions
of delight: it was a Jew trader on a mule drowning in the Shelliff.
Then there were dogs, scorpions, ravens, and flies -- rather flies
than anything else.
But a plentiful lack of camels abounded. They finally unearthed
one, though, of which the M'zabites were trying to get rid -- the
real ship of the desert, the classical, standard camel, bald, woe-
begone, with a long Bedouin head, and its hump, become limp in
consequence of unduly long fasts, hanging melancholically on one
Tartarin considered it so handsome that he wanted the entire party
to get upon it. Still his Oriental craze!
The beast knelt down for them to strap on the boxes.
The prince enthroned himself on the animal's neck. For the sake of
the greater majesty, Tartarin got them to hoist him on the top of the
hump between two boxes, where, proud, and cosily settled down,
he saluted the whole market with a lofty wave of the hand, and
gave the signal of departure.
Thunderation! if the people of Tarascon could only have seen him!
The camel rose, straightened up its long knotty legs, and stepped
Oh, stupor! At the end of a few strides Tartarin felt he was losing
colour, and the heroic chechia assumed one by one its former
positions in the days of sailing in the Zouave. This devil's own
camel pitched and tossed like a frigate.
"Prince! prince!" gasped Tartarin pallid as a ghost, as he clung to
the dry tuft of the hump, "prince, let's get down. I find -- I feel that
I m-m-must get off; or I shall disgrace France."
A deal of good that talk was -- the camel was on the go, and
nothing could stop it. Behind it raced four thousand barefooted
Arabs, waving their hands and laughing like mad, so that they made
six hundred thousand white teeth glitter in the sun.
The great man of Tarascon had to resign himself to circumstances.
He sadly collapsed on the hump, where the fez took all the
positions it fancied, and France was disgraced.
The Night-watch in a Poison-tree Grove.
SWEETLY picturesque as was their new steed, our lion-hunters
had to give it up, purely out of consideration for the red cap, of
course. So they continued the journey on foot as before, the
caravan tranquilly proceeding southwardly by short stages, the
Tarasconian in the van, the Montenegrin in the rear, and the camel,
with the weapons in their cases, in the ranks.
The expedition lasted nearly a month.
During that seeking for lions which he never found, the dreadful
Tartarin roamed from douar to douar on the immense plain of the
Shelliff, through the odd but formidable French Algeria, where the
old Oriental perfumes are complicated by a strong blend of absinthe
and the barracks, Abraham and "the Zouzou" mingled, something
fairy-tale-like and simply burlesque, like a page of the Old
Testament related by Tommy Atkins.
A curious sight for those who have eyes that can see.
A wild and corrupted people whom we are civilising by teaching
them our vices. The ferocious and uncontrolled authority of
grotesque bashaws, who gravely use their grand cordons of the
Legion of Honour as handkerchiefs, and for a mere yea or nay
order a man to be bastinadoed. It is the justice of the
conscienceless, bespectacled cadis under the palm-tree, Maw-
worms of the Koran and Law, who dream languidly of promotion
and sell their decrees, as Esau did his birthright, for a dish of lentils
or sweetened kouskous. Drunken and libertine cadis are they,
formerly servants to some General Yusuf or the like, who get
intoxicated on champagne, along with laundresses from Port
Mahon, and fatten on roast mutton, whilst before their tents the
whole tribe waste away with hunger, and fight with the harriers for
the bones of the lordly feast.
All around spread the plains in waste, burnt grass, leafless shrubs,
thickets of cactus and mastic -- "the Granary of France!" -- a
granary void of grain, alas! and rich alone in vermin and jackals.
Abandoned camps, frightened tribes fleeing from them and famine,
they know not whither, and strewing the road with corpses. At
long intervals French villages, with the dwellings in ruins, the fields
untilled, the maddened locusts gnawing even the window-blinds,
and all the settlers in the drinking-places, absorbing absinthe and
discussing projects of reform and the Constitution.
This is what Tartarin might have seen had he given himself the
trouble; but, wrapped up entirely in his leonine-hunger, the son of
Tarascon went straight on, looking to neither right nor left, his eyes
steadfastly fixed on the imaginary monsters which never really
As the shelter-tent was stubborn in not unfolding, and the
compressed meat-cakes would not dissolve, the caravan was
obliged to stop, morn and eve, at tribal camps. Everywhere, thanks
to the gorgeous cap of Prince Gregory, our hunters were welcomed
with open arms. They lodged in the aghas' odd palaces, large white
windowless farmhouses, where they found, pell-mell, narghilehs
and mahogany furniture, Smyrna carpets and moderator lamps,
cedar coffers full of Turkish sequins, and French statuette-decked
clocks in the Louis Philippe style.
Everywhere, too, Tartarin was given splendrous galas, diffas, and
fantasias, which, being interpreted, mean feasts and circuses. In his
honour whole goums blazed away powder, and floated their
burnouses in the sun. When the powder was burnt, the agha would
come and hand in his bill. This is what is called Arab hospitality.
But always no lions, no more than on London Bridge.
Nevertheless, the Tarasconian did not grow disheartened. Ever
bravely diving more deeply into the South, he spent the days in
beating up the thickets, probing the dwarf-palms with the muzzle of
his rifle, and saying "Boh!" to every bush. And every evening,
before lying down, he went into ambush for two or three hours.
Useless trouble, however, for the lion did not show himself.
One evening, though, going on six o'clock, as the caravan
scrambled through a violet-hued mastic-grove, where fat quails
tumbled about in the grass, drowsy through the heat, Tartarin of
Tarascon fancied he heard though afar and very vague, and thinned
down by the breeze -- that wondrous roaring to which he had so
often listened by Mitaine's Menagerie at home.
At first the hero feared he was dreaming; but in an instant further
the roaring recommenced more distinct, although yet remote; and
this time the camel's hump shivered in terror, and made the tinned
meats and arms in the cases rattle, whilst all the dogs in the camps
were heard howling in every corner of the horizon.
Beyond doubt this was the lion.
Quick, quick! to the ambush. There was not a minute to lose.
Near at hand there happened to be an old marabout's, or saint's,
tomb, with a white cupola, and the defunct's large yellow slippers
placed in a niche over the door, and a mass of odd offerings -- hems
of blankets, gold thread, red hair -- hung on the wall.
Tartarin of Tarascon left his prince and his camel and went in
search of a good spot for lying in wait. Prince Gregory wanted to
follow him, but the Tarasconian refused, bent on confronting Leo
alone. But still he besought His Highness not to go too far away,
and, as a measure of foresight, he entrusted him with his pocket-
book, a good-sized one, full of precious papers and bank-notes,
which he feared would get torn by the lion's claws. This done, our
hero looked up a good place.
A hundred steps in front of the temple a little clump of rose-laurel
shook in the twilight haze on the edge of a rivulet all but dried up.
There it was that Tartarin went and ensconced himself, one knee on
the ground, according to the regular rule, his rifle in his hand, and
his huge hunting-knife stuck boldly before him in the sandy bank.
The rosy tint of nature changed into violet, and then into dark blue.
A pretty pool of clear water gleamed like a hand-glass over the
river-pebbles; this was the watering-place of the wild animals.
On the other slope the whitish trail was dimly to be discerned which
their heavy paws had traced in the brush -- a mysterious path which
made one's flesh creep. Join to this sensation that from the vague
swarming sound in African forests, the swishing of branches, the
velvety-pads of roving creatures, the jackal's shrill yelp, and up in
the sky, two or three hundred feet aloft, vast flocks of cranes
passing on with screams like poor little children having their
weasands slit. You will own that there were grounds for a man
Tartarin was so, and even more than that, for the poor fellow's
teeth chattered, and on the cross-bar of his hunting-knife, planted
upright in the bank, as we repeat, his rifle-barrel rattled like a pair
of castanets. Do not ask too much of a man! There are times when
one is not in the mood; and, moreover, where would be the merit if
heroes were never afraid?
Well, yes, Tartarin was afraid, and all the time, too, for the matter
of that. Nevertheless, he held out for an hour; better, for two; but
heroism has its limits. Nigh him, in the dry part of the rivulet-bed,
the Tarasconian unexpectedly heard the sound of steps and of
pebbles rolling. This time terror lifted him off the ground. He
banged away both barrels at haphazard into the night, and retreated
as fast as his legs would carry him to the marabout's chapel-vault,
leaving his knife standing up in the sand like a cross
commemorative of the grandest panic that ever assailed the soul of
a conqueror of hydras.
"Help! this Way, prince; the lion is on me!"
There was silence. "Prince, prince, are you there?"
The prince was not there. On the white moonlit wall of the fane the
camel alone cast the queer-shaped shadow of his protuberance.
Prince Gregory had cut and run with the wallet of bank-notes. His
Highness had been for the month past awaiting this opportunity.
Bagged him at Last.
IT was not until early on the morrow of this adventurous and
dramatic eve that our hero awoke, and acquired assurance doubly
sure that the prince and the treasure had really gone off, without
any prospect of return. When he saw himself alone in the little
white tombhouse, betrayed, robbed, abandoned in the heart of
savage Algeria, with a one-humped camel and some pocket-money
as all his resources, then did the representative of Tarascon for the
first time doubt. He doubted Montenegro, friendship, glory, and
even lions; and the great man blubbered bitterly.
Whilst he was pensively seated on the sill of the sanctuary, holding
his head between his hands and his gun between his legs, with the
camel mooning at him, the thicket over the way was divided, and
the stupor-stricken Tartarin saw a gigantic lion appear not a dozen
paces off. It thrust out its high head and emitted powerful roars,
which made the temple walls shake beneath their votive
decorations, and even the saint's slippers dance in their niche.
The Tarasconian alone did not tremble.
"At last you've come!" he shouted, jumping up and levelling the
Bang, bang! went a brace of shells into its head.
It was done. For a minute, on the fiery background of the African
sky, there was a dreadful firework display of scattered brains,
smoking blood, and tawny hair. When all fell, Tartarin perceived
two colossal Negroes furiously running towards him, brandishing
cudgels. They were his two Negro acquaintances of Milianah!
This was the domesticated lion, the poor blind beggar of the
Mohammed Monastery, whom the Tarasconian's bullets had
This time, spite of Mahound, Tartarin escaped neatly. Drunk with
fanatical fury, the two African collectors would have surely beaten
him to pulp had not the god of chase and war sent him a delivering
angel in the shape of the rural constable of the Orleansville
commune. By a bypath this garde champetre came up, his sword
tucked under his arm.
The sight of the municipal cap suddenly calmed the Negroes'
choler. Peaceful and majestic, the officer with the brass badge drew
up a report on the affair, ordered the camel to be loaded with what
remained of the king of beasts, and the plaintiffs as well as the
delinquent to follow him, proceeding to Orleansville, where all was
deposited with the law-courts receiver.
There issued a long and alarming case!
After the Algeria of the native tribes which he had overrun, Tartarin
of Tarascon became thence acquainted with another Algeria, not
less weird and to be dreaded -- the Algeria in the towns, surcharged
with lawyers and their papers. He got to know the pettifogger who
does business at the back of a cafe -- the legal Bohemian with
documents reeking of wormwood bitters and white neckcloths
spotted with champoreau; the ushers, the attorneys, all the locusts
of stamped paper, meagre and famished, who eat up the colonist
body and boots -- ay, to the very straps of them, and leave him
peeled to the core like an Indian cornstalk, stripped leaf by leaf.
Before all else it was necessary to ascertain whether the lion had
been killed on the civil or the military territory. In the former case
the matter regarded the Tribunal of Commerce; in the second,
Tartarin would be dealt with by the Council of War: and at the
mere name the impressionable Tarasconian saw himself shot at the
foot of the ramparts or huddled up in a casemate-silo.
The puzzle lay in the limitation of the two territories being very
hazy in Algeria.
At length, after a month's running about, entanglements, and
waiting under the sun in the yards of Arab Departmental offices, it
was established that, whereas the lion had been killed on the
military territory, on the other hand Tartarin was in the civil
territory when he shot. So the case was decided in the civil courts,
and our hero was let off on paying two thousand five hundred
francs damages, costs not included.
How could he pay such a sum?
The few piashtres escaped from the prince's sweep had long since
gone in legal documents and judicial libations. The unfortunate
lion-destroyer was therefore reduced to selling the store of guns by
retail, rifle by rifle; so went the daggers, the Malay kreeses, and the
life-preservers. A grocer purchased the preserved aliments; an
apothecary what remained of the medicaments. The big boots
themselves walked off after the improved tent to a dealer of
curiosities, who elevated them to the dignity of "rarities from
When everything was paid up, only the lion's skin and the camel
remained to Tartarin. The hide he had carefully packed, to be sent
to Tarascon to the address of brave Commandant Bravida, and,
later on, we shall see what came of this fabulous trophy. As for the
camel, he reckoned on making use of him to get back to Algiers,
not by riding on him, but by selling him to pay his coach-fare -- the
best way to employ a camel in travelling. Unhappily the beast was
difficult to place, and no one would offer a copper for him.
Still Tartarin wanted to regain Algiers by hook or crook. He was in
haste again to behold Baya's blue bodice, his little snuggery and his
fountains, as well as to repose on the white trefoils of his little
cloister whilst awaiting money from France. So our hero did not
hesitate; distressed but not downcast, he undertook to make the
journey afoot and penniless by short stages.
In this enterprise the camel did not cast him off. The strange animal
had taken an unaccountable fancy for his master, and on seeing him
leave Orleansville, he set to striding steadfastly behind him,
regulating his pace by this, and never quitting him by a yard.
At the first outset Tartarin found this touching; such fidelity and
devotion above proof went to his heart, all the more because the
creature was accommodating, and fed himself on nothing.
Nevertheless, after a few days, the Tarasconian was worried by
having this glum companion perpetually at his heels, to remind him
of his misadventures. Ire arising, he hated him for his sad aspect,
hump and gait of a goose in harness. To tell the whole truth, he
held him as his Old Man of the Sea, and only pondered on how to
shake him off; but the follower would not be shaken off. Tartarin
attempted to lose him, but the camel always found him; he tried to
outrun him, but the camel ran faster. He bade him begone, and
hurled stones at him. The camel stopped with a mournful mien, but
in a minute resumed the pursuit, and always ended by overtaking
him. Tartarin had to resign himself.
For all that, when, after eight full days of tramping, the dusty and
harassed Tarasconian espied the first white housetops of Algiers
glimmer from afar in the verdure, and when he got to the city gates
on the noisy Mustapha Avenue, amid the Zouaves, Biskris, and
Mahonnais, all swarming around him and staring at him trudging by
with his camel, overtasked patience escaped him.
"No! no!" he growled, "it is not likely! I cannot enter Algiers with
such an animal!"
Profiting by a jam of vehicles, he turned off into the fields and
jumped into a ditch. In a minute or so he saw over his head on the
highway the camel flying off with long strides and stretching his
neck with a wistful air.
Relieved of a great weight thereby, the hero sneaked out of his
covert, and entered the town anew by a circuitous path which
skirted the wall of his own little garden.
Catastrophes upon Catastrophes.
ENTIRELY astonished was Tartarin before his Moorish dwelling
when he stopped.
Day was dying and the street deserted. Through the low pointed-
arch doorway which the negress had forgotten to close, laughter
was heard; and the clink of wine-glasses, the popping of champagne
corks; and, floating over all the jolly uproar, a feminine voice
singing clearly and joyously:
"Do you like, Marco la Bella, to dance in the hall hung with
"Throne of heaven!" ejaculated the Tarasconian, turning pale, as he
rushed into the enclosure.
Hapless Tartarin! what a sight awaited him! Beneath the arches of
the little cloister, amongst bottles, pastry, scattered cushions, pipes,
tambourines, and guitars, Baya was singing "Marco la Bella" with a
ship captain's cap over one ear. She had on no blue vest or bodice;
indeed, her only wear was a silvery gauze wrapper and full pink
trousers. At her feet, on a rug, surfeited with love and sweetmeats,
Barbassou, the infamous skipper Barbassou, was bursting with
laughter at hearing her.
The apparition of Tartarin, haggard, thinned, dusty, his flaming
eyes, and the bristling up fez tassel, sharply interrupted this tender
Turkish-Marseillais orgie. Baya piped the low whine of a
frightened leveret, and ran for safety into the house. But Barbassou
did not wince; he only laughed the louder, saying:
"Ha, ha, Monsieur Tartarin! What do you say to that now? You
see she does know French."
Tartarin of Tarascon advanced furiously, crying:
"Digo-li que vengue, moun bon! -- Tell him what's happened, old
dear!" screamed the Moorish woman, leaning over the first floor
gallery with a pretty low-bred gesture!
The poor man, overwhelmed, let himself collapse upon a drum. His
genuine Moorish beauty not only knew French, but the French of
"I told you not to trust the Algerian girls," observed Captain
Barbassou sententiously! "They're as tricky as your Montenegrin
Tartarin lifted his head
"Do you know where the prince is?"
"Oh, he's not far off. He has gone to live five years in the
handsome prison of Mustapha. The rogue let himself be caught
with his hand in the pocket. Anyways, this is not the first time he
has been clapped into the calaboose. His Highness has already
done three years somewhere, and -- stop a bit! I believe it was at
"At Tarascon!" cried out her worthiest son, abruptly enlightened.
"That's how he only knew one part of the Town."
"Hey? Of course. Tarascon -- a jail bird's-eye view from the state
prison. I tell you, my poor Monsieur Tartarin, you have to keep
your peepers jolly well skinned in this deuce of a country, or be
exposed to very disagreeable things. For a sample, there's the
muezzin's game with you."
"What game? Which muezzin?"
"Why your'n, of course! The chap across the way who is making up
to Baya. That newspaper, the Akbar, told the yarn t'other day, and
all Algiers is laughing over it even now. It is so funny for that
steeplejack up aloft in his crow's-nest to make declarations of love
under your very nose to the little beauty whilst singing out his
prayers, and making appointments with her between bits of the
"Why, then, they're all scamps in this country!" howled the unlucky
Barbassou snapped his fingers like a philosopher.
"My dear lad, you know, these new countries are 'rum!' But,
anyhow, if you'll believe me, you'd best cut back to Tarascon at full
"It's easy to say, 'Cut back.' Where's the money to come from?
Don't you know that I was plucked out there in the desert?"
"What does that matter?" said the captain merrily. "The Zouave
sails tomorrow, and if you like I will take you home. Does that suit
you, mate? Ay? Then all goes well. You have only one thing to do.
There are some bottles of fizz left, and half the pie. Sit you down
and pitch in without any grudge."
After the minute's wavering which self-respect commanded, the
Tarasconian chose his course manfully. Down he sat, and they
touched glasses. Baya, gliding down at that chink, sang the finale
of "Marco la Bella," and the jollification was prolonged deep into
About 3 A.M., with a light head but a heavy foot, our good
Tarasconian was returning from seeing his friend the captain off
when, in passing the mosque, the remembrance of his muezzin and
his practical jokes made him laugh, and instantly a capital idea of
revenge flitted through his brain.
The door was open. He entered, threaded long corridors hung with
mats, mounted and kept on mounting till he finally found himself in
a little oratory, where an openwork iron lantern swung from the
ceiling, and embroidered an odd pattern in shadows upon the
There sat the crier on a divan, in his large turban and white pelisse,
with his Mostaganam pipe, and a bumper of absinthe before him,
which he whipped up in the orthodox manner, whilst awaiting the
hour to call true believers to prayer. At view of Tartarin, he
dropped his pipe in terror.
"Not a word, knave!" said the Tarasconian, full of his project.
"Quick! Off with turban and coat!"
The Turkish priest-crier tremblingly handed over his outer
garments, as he would have done with anything else. Tartarin
donned them, and gravely stepped out upon the minaret platform.
In the distance the sea shone. The white roofs glittered in the
moonbeams. On the sea breeze was heard the strumming of a few
belated guitars. The Tarasconian muezzin gathered himself up for
the effort during a space, and then, raising his arms, he set to
chanting in a very shrill voice:
"La Allah il Allah! Mahomet is an old humbug! The Orient, the
Koran, bashaws, lions, Moorish beauties -- they are all not worth a
fly's skip! There is nothing left but gammoners. Long live
Whilst the illustrious Tartarin, in his queer jumbling of Arabic and
Provencal, flung his mirthful maledictions to the four quarters, sea,
town, plain and mountain, the clear, solemn voices of the other
muezzins answered him, taking up the strain from minaret to
minaret, and the believers of the upper town devoutly beat their
MID-DAY has come.
The Zouave had her steam up, ready to go. Upon the balcony of
the Valentin Cafe, high above, the officers were levelling
telescopes, and, with the colonel at their head, looking at the lucky
little craft that was going back to France. This is the main
distraction of the staff. On the lower level, the roads glittered. The
old Turkish cannon breaches, stuck up along the waterside, blazed
in the sun. The passengers hurried, Biskris and Mahonnais piled
their luggage up in the wherries.
Tartarin of Tarascon had no luggage. Here he comes down the Rue
de la Marine through the little market, full of bananas and melons,
accompanied by his friend Barbassou. The hapless Tarasconian left
on the Moorish strand his gun-cases and his illusions, and now he
had to sail for Tarascon with his hands in his otherwise empty
pockets. He had barely leaped into the captain's cutter before a
breathless beast slid down from the heights of the square and
galloped towards him. It was the faithful camel, who had been
hunting after his master in Algiers during the last four-and-twenty
On seeing him, Tartarin changed countenance, and feigned not to
know him, but the camel was not going to be put off. He
scampered along the quay; he whinnied for his friend, and regarded
him with affection.
"Take me away," his sad eyes seemed to say, "take me away in your
ship, far, far from this sham Arabia, this ridiculous Land of the
East, full of locomotives and stage coaches, where a camel is so
sorely out of keeping that I do not know what will become of me.
You are the last real Turk, and I am the last camel. Do not let us
part, O my Tartarin!"
"Is that camel yours?" the captain inquired.
"Not a bit of it!" replied Tartarin, who shuddered at the idea of
entering Tarascon with that ridiculous escort; and, impudently
denying the companion of his misfortunes, he spurned the Algerian
soil with his foot, and gave the cutter the shoving-off start. The
camel sniffed of the water, extended its neck, cracked its joints,
and, jumping in behind the row-boat at haphazard, he swam
towards the Zouave with his humpback floating like a bladder, and
his long neck projecting over the wave like the beak of a galley.
Cutter and camel came alongside the mail steamer together.
"This dromedary regularly cuts me up," observed Captain
Barbassou, quite affected. "I have a good mind to take him aboard
and make a present of him to the Zoological Gardens at
And so they hauled up the camel with many blocks and tackles
upon the deck, being increased in weight by the brine, and the
Tartarin spent the two days of the crossing by himself in his
stateroom, not because the sea was rough, or that the red fez had
too much to suffer, but because the deuced camel, as soon as his
master appeared above decks, showed him the most preposterous
attentions. You never did see a camel make such an exhibition of a
man as this.
From hour to hour, through the cabin portholes, where he stuck out
his nose now and then, Tartarin saw the Algerian blue sky pale
away; until one morning, in a silvery fog, he heard with delight
Marseilles bells ringing out. The Zouave had arrived and cast
Our man, having no luggage, got off without saying anything,
hastily slipped through Marseilles for fear he was still pursued by
the camel, and never breathed till he was in a third-class carriage
making for Tarascon.
Hardly were they two leagues from the city before every head was
stuck out of window. There were outcries and astonishment.
Tartarin looked in his turn, and what did he descry! the camel,
reader, the inevitable camel, racing along the line behind the train,
and keeping up with it! The dismayed Tartarin drew back and shut
After this disastrous expedition of his he had reckoned on slipping
into his house incognito. But the presence of this burdensome
quadruped rendered the thing impossible. What kind of a triumphal
entry would he make? Good heavens! not a sou, not a lion, nothing
to show for it save a camel!
He was obliged to get down.
Scarce had the hero's red fez popped out of the doorway before a
loud shout of "Tartarin for ever!" made the glazed roof of the
railway station tremble. "Long life to Tartarin, the lion-slayer!"
And out burst the windings of horns and the choruses of the local
Tartarin felt death had come: he believed in a hoax. But, no! all
Tarascon was there, waving their hats, all of the same way of
thinking. Behold the brave Commandant Bravida, Costecalde the
armourer, the Chief Judge, the chemist, and the whole noble corps
of cap-poppers, who pressed around their leader, and carried him in
triumph out through the passages.
Singular effects of the mirage! -- the hide of the blind lion sent to
Bravida was the cause of all this riot. With that humble fur
exhibited in the club-room, the Tarasconians, and, at the back of
them, the whole South of France, had grown exalted. The
Semaphore newspaper had spoken of it. A drama had been
invented. It was not merely a solitary lion which Tartarin had slain,
but ten, nay, twenty -- pooh! a herd of lions had been made
marmalade of. Hence, on disembarking at Marseilles, Tartarin was
already celebrated without being aware of it, and an enthusiastic
telegram had gone on before him by two hours to his native place.
But what capped the climax of the popular gladness was to see a
fancifully shaped animal, covered with foam and dust, appear
behind the hero, and stumble down the station stairs.
Tarascon for an instant believed that its dragon was come again.
Tartarin set his fellow-citizens at ease.
"This is my camel," he said.
Already feeling the influence of the splendid sun of Tarascon, which
makes people tell "bouncers" unwittingly, he added, as he fondled
the camel's hump:
"It is a noble beast! It saw me kill all my lions!"
Whereupon he familiarly took the arm of the commandant, who
was red with pleasure; and followed by his camel, surrounded by
the cap-hunters, acclaimed by all the population, he placidly
proceeded towards the Baobab Villa; and, on the march, thus
commenced the account of his mighty hunting:
"Once upon an evening, you are to imagine that, out in the depths
of the Sahara" --
Obituary of Alphonse Daudet.
17th December 1897
DEATH OF A FRENCH NOVELIST.
M. Alphonse Daudet, the eminent French novelist and playwright,
died suddenly yesterday evening while at dinner The cause of death
was syncope due to failure of the heart.
Alphonse Daudet was born of poor parents at Nimes in 1840. He
studied in the Lyons Lyceum, and then became usher in a school at
Alais. Going to Paris to seek his fortune in literature in 1858, he
succeeded in publishing a book of verses entitled Les Amoreuses,
which led to his employment by several newspapers. He published
many novels and tales, and about half a dozen plays. His most
popular work is "Les Morticoles." His son, Leon Daudet, is a
litterateur of promise.