“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.
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.