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 bull.
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 replied.
“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!”