She rushed up, fearsome and roaring, under form of an old Alsatian woman, her hair in a kerchief, armed with large red umbrella, and calling for her ass, till all the echoes of Mustapha rang. It certainly would have been better for Tartarin to have had to deal with a lioness in fury than this old virago. In vain did the luckless sportsman try to make her understand how the blunder had occurred, and he had mistaken “Noiraud” for a lion. The harridan believed he was making fun of her, and uttering energetical “Der Teufels!” fell upon our hero to bang him with the gingham. A little bewildered, Tartarin defended himself as best he could, warding off the blows with his rifle, streaming with perspiration, panting, jumping about, and crying out:
“But, Madame, but” —
Much good his buts were! Madame was dull of hearing, and her blows continued hard as ever.
Fortunately a third party arrived on the battlefield, the Alsatian’s husband, of the same race; a roadside innkeeper, as well as a very good ready-reckoner, which was better. When he saw what kind of a customer he had to deal with — a slaughterer who only wanted to pay the value of his victim — he disarmed his better-half, and they came to an understanding.
Tartarin gave two hundred francs, the donkey being worth about ten — at least that is the current price in the Arab markets. Then poor Blackey was laid to rest at the root of a fig-tree, and the Alsatian, raised to joviality by the colour of the Tarascon ducats, invited the hero to have a quencher with him in his wine-shop, which stood only a few steps off on the edge of the highway. Every Sunday the sportsmen from the city came there to regale of a morning, for the plain abounded with game, and there was no better place for rabbits for two leagues around.
“How about lions?” inquired Tartarin.
The Alsatian stared at him, greatly astounded.
“Yes, lions. Don’t you see them sometimes?” resumed the poor fellow, with less confidence.
The Boniface burst out in laughter.
“Ho, ho! bless us! lions! What would we do with lions here?”
“Are there, then, none in Algeria?”
“’Pon my faith, I never saw any, albeit I have been twenty years in the colony. Still, I believe I have heard tell of such a thing — leastwise, I fancy the newspapers said — but that is ever so much farther inland — down South, you know” —
At this point they reached the hostelry, a suburban pothouse, with a withered green bough over the door, crossed billiard-cues painted on the wall, and this harmless sign over a picture of wild rabbits, feeding:
“Game fellows meet here.”
“Game fellows!” It made Tartarin think of Captain Bravida.