In the evening Gregory came to discourse a little about a free Black Mountain. Of indefatigable obligingness, this amiable nobleman filled the functions of an interpreter in the household, or those of a steward at a pinch, and all for nothing for the sheer pleasure of it. Apart from him, Tartarin received none but “Turks.” All those fierce-headed pirates who had given him such frights from the backs of their black stalls turned out, when once he made their acquaintance, to be good inoffensive tradesmen, embroiderers, dealers in spice, pipe-mouthpiece turners — well-bred fellows, humble, clever, close, and first-class hands at homely card games. Four or five times a week these gentry would come and spend the evening at Sidi Tart’ri’s, winning his small change, eating his cakes and dainties, and delicately retiring on the stroke of ten with thanks to the Prophet.
Left alone, Sidi Tart’ri and his faithful spouse by the broomstick wedding would finish the evening on their terrace, a broad white roof which overlooked the city.
All around them a thousand of other such white flats, placid beneath the moonshine, were descending like steps to the sea. The breeze carried up tinkling of guitars.
Suddenly, like a shower of firework stars, a full, clear melody would be softly sprinkled out from the sky, and on the minaret of the neighbouring mosque a handsome muezzin would appear, his blanched form outlined on the deep blue of the night, as he chanted the glory of Allah with a marvellous voice, which filled the horizon.
Thereupon Baya would let go her guitar, and with her large eyes turned towards the crier, seem to imbibe the prayer deliciously. As long as the chant endured she would remain thrilled there in ecstasy, like an Oriental saint. The deeply impressed Tartarin would watch her pray, and conclude that it must be a splendid and powerful creed that could cause such frenzies of faith.
Tarascon, veil thy face! here is a son of thine on the point of becoming a renegade!
Parting from his little country seat, Sidi Tart’ri was returning alone on his mule on a fine afternoon, when the sky was blue and the zephyrs warm. His legs were kept wide apart by ample saddle-bags of esparto cloth, swelled out with cedrats and water-melons. Lulled by the ring of his large stirrups, and rocking his body to the swing and swaying of the beast, the good fellow was thus traversing an adorable country, with his hands folded on his paunch, three-quarters gone, through heat, in a comfortable doze. All at once, on entering the town, a deafening appeal aroused him.
“Ahoy! What a monster Fate is! Anybody’d take this for Monsieur Tartarin.”
On this name, and at the jolly southern accent, the Tarasconian lifted his head, and perceived, a couple of steps away, the honest tanned visage of Captain Barbassou, master of the Zouave, who was taking his absinthe at the door of a little coffee-house.