Here the coach stopped. The conductor came to open the door, and addressed the insignificant little gentleman most respectfully, saying:
“We have arrived, Monsieur.”
The little gentleman got up, stepped out, and said, before the door was closed again:
“Will you allow me to give you a bit of advice, Monsieur Tartarin?”
“What is it, Monsieur?”
“Faith! you wear the look of a good sort of fellow, so I would, rather than not, let you have it. Get you back quickly to Tarascon, Monsieur Tartarin, for you are wasting your time here. There do remain a few panthers in the colony, but, out upon the big cats! they are too small game for you. As for lion-hunting, that’s all over. There are none left in Algeria, my friend Chassaing having lately knocked over the last.”
Upon which the little gentleman saluted, closed the door, and trotted away chuckling, with his document-wallet and umbrella.
“Guard,” asked Tartarin, screwing up his face contemptuously, “who under the sun is that poor little mannikin?”
“What! don’t you know him? Why, that there’s Monsieur Bombonnel!”
At Milianah, Tartarin of Tarascon alighted, leaving the stage-coach to continue its way towards the South.
Two days’ rough jolting, two nights spent with eyes open to spy out of window if there were not discoverable the dread figure of a lion in the fields beyond the road — so much sleeplessness well deserved some hours repose. Besides, if we must tell everything, since his misadventure with Bombonnel, the outspoken Tartarin felt ill at ease, notwithstanding his weapons, his terrifying visage, and his red cap, before the Orleansville photographer and the two ladies fond of the military.
So he proceeded through the broad streets of Milianah, full of fine trees and fountains; but whilst looking up a suitable hotel, the poor fellow could not help musing over Bombonnel’s words. Suppose they were true! Suppose there were no more lions in Algeria? What would be the good then of so much running about and fatigue?
Suddenly, at the turn of a street, our hero found himself face to face with — with what? Guess! “A donkey, of course!” A donkey? A splendid lion this time, waiting before a coffee-house door, royally sitting up on his hind-quarters, with his tawny mane gleaming in the sun.
“What possessed them to tell me that there were no more of them?” exclaimed the Tarasconian, as he made a backward jump.
On hearing this outcry the lion lowered his head, and taking up in his mouth a wooden bowl that was before him on the footway, humbly held it out towards Tartarin, who was immovable with stupefaction. A passing Arab tossed a copper into the bowl, and the lion wagged his tail. Thereupon Tartarin understood it all. He saw what emotion had prevented him previously perceiving: that the crowd was gathered around a poor tame blind lion, and that two stalwart Negroes, armed with staves, were marching him through the town as a Savoyard does a marmot.