“O Prince! prince!”
The beaming Tartarin hugged the devoted Gregory to his breast at the proud thought of his going to have a foreign prince to accompany him in his hunting, after the example of Jules Gerard, Bombonnel, and other famous lion-slayers.
Leaving Milianah at the earliest hour next morning, the intrepid Tartarin and the no less intrepid Prince Gregory descended towards the Shelliff Plain through a delightful gorge shaded with jessamine, carouba, tuyas, and wild olive-trees, between hedges of little native gardens and thousands of merry, lively rills which scampered down from rock to rock with a singing splash — a bit of landscape meet for the Lebanon.
As much loaded with arms as the great Tartarin, Prince Gregory had, over and above that, donned a queer but magnificent military cap, all covered with gold lace and a trimming of oak-leaves in silver cord, which gave His Highness the aspect of a Mexican general or a railway station-master on the banks of the Danube.
This plague of a cap much puzzled the beholder; and as he timidly craved some explanation, the prince gravely answered:
“It is a kind of headgear indispensable for travel in Algeria.”
Whilst brightening up the peak with a sweep of his sleeve, he instructed his simple companion in the important part which the military cap plays in the French connection with the Arabs, and the terror this article of army insignia alone has the privilege of inspiring, so that the Civil Service has been obliged to put all its employees in caps, from the extra-copyist to the receiver-general. To govern Algeria (the prince is still speaking) there is no need of a strong head, or even of any head at all. A military cap does it alone, if showy and belaced, and shining at the top of a non-human pole, like Gessler’s.
Thus chatting and philosophising, the caravan proceeded. The barefooted porters leaped from rock to rock with ape-like screams. The guncases clanked, and the guns themselves flashed. The natives who were passing, salaamed to the ground before the magic cap. Up above, on the ramparts of Milianah, the head of the Arab Department, who was out for an airing with his wife, hearing these unusual noises, and seeing the weapons gleam between the branches, fancied there was a revolt, and ordered the drawbridge to be raised, the general alarm to be sounded, and the whole town put under a state of siege. A capital commencement for the caravan!
Unfortunately, before the day ended, things went wrong. Of the black luggage-bearers, one was doubled up with atrocious colics from having eaten the diachylon out of the medicine-chest: another fell on the roadside dead drunk with camphorated brandy; the third, carrier of the travelling-album, deceived by the gilding on the clasps into the persuasion that he was flying with the treasures of Mecca, ran off into the Zaccar on his best legs.