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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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."
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.