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.
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 departure.
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 windows shivered.
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.