“Come, cull us!”
The ’bus stopped on the Theatre place, at the mouth of the Rue Bab-Azoon. One by one, embedded in their voluminous trousers, and drawing their mufflers around them with wild grace, the Moorish women alighted. Tartarin’s confrontatress was the last to rise, and in doing so her countenance skimmed so closely to our hero’s that her breath enveloped him — a veritable nosegay of youth and freshness, with an indescribable after-tang of musk, jessamine, and pastry.
The Tarasconian stood out no longer. Intoxicated with love, and ready for anything, he darted out after the beauty. At the rumpling sound of his belts and boots she turned, laid a finger on her veiled mouth, as one who would say, “Hush!” and with the other hand quickly tossed him a little wreath of sweet-scented jessamine flowers. Tartarin of Tarascon stooped to pick it up; but as he was rather clumsy, and much overburdened with implements of war, the operation took rather long. When he did straighten up, with the jessamine garland upon his heart, the donatrix had vanished.
Lions of the Atlas, sleep! — sleep tranquilly at the back of your lairs amid the aloes and cacti. For a few days to come, any way, Tartarin of Tarascon will not massacre you. For the time being, all his warlike paraphernalia, gun-cases, medicine chest, alimentary preserves, dwelt peacefully under cover in a corner of room 36 in the Hotel de l’Europe.
Sleep with no fear, great red lions, the Tarasconian is engaged in looking up that Moorish charmer. Since the adventure in the omnibus, the unfortunate swain perpetually fancied he felt the fidgeting of that pretty red mouse upon his huge backwoods trapper’s foot; and the sea-breeze fanning his lips was ever scented, do what he would, with a love-exciting odour of sweet cakes and patchouli.
He hungered for his indispensable light of the harem! and he meant to behold her anew.
But it was no joke of a task. To find one certain person in a city of a hundred thousand souls, only known by the eyes, breath, and slipper, — none but a son of Tarascon, panoplied by love, would be capable of attempting such an adventure.
The plague is that, under their broad white mufflers, all the Moorish women resemble one another; besides, they do not go about much, and to see them, a man has to climb up into the native or upper town, the city of the “Turks,” and that is a regular cut-throat’s den.
Little black alleys, very narrow, climbing perpendicularly up between mysterious house-walls, whose roofs lean to touching and form a tunnel; low doors, and sad, silent little casements well barred and grated. Moreover, on both hands, stacks of darksome stalls, wherein ferocious “Turks” smoked long pipes stuck between glittering teeth in piratical heads with white eyes, and mumbled in undertones as if hatching wicked attacks.