Tartarin considered it so handsome that he wanted the entire party to get upon it. Still his Oriental craze!
The beast knelt down for them to strap on the boxes.
The prince enthroned himself on the animal’s neck. For the sake of the greater majesty, Tartarin got them to hoist him on the top of the hump between two boxes, where, proud, and cosily settled down, he saluted the whole market with a lofty wave of the hand, and gave the signal of departure.
Thunderation! if the people of Tarascon could only have seen him!
The camel rose, straightened up its long knotty legs, and stepped out.
Oh, stupor! At the end of a few strides Tartarin felt he was losing colour, and the heroic chechia assumed one by one its former positions in the days of sailing in the Zouave. This devil’s own camel pitched and tossed like a frigate.
“Prince! prince!” gasped Tartarin pallid as a ghost, as he clung to the dry tuft of the hump, “prince, let’s get down. I find — I feel that I m-m-must get off; or I shall disgrace France.”
A deal of good that talk was — the camel was on the go, and nothing could stop it. Behind it raced four thousand barefooted Arabs, waving their hands and laughing like mad, so that they made six hundred thousand white teeth glitter in the sun.
The great man of Tarascon had to resign himself to circumstances. He sadly collapsed on the hump, where the fez took all the positions it fancied, and France was disgraced.
Sweetly picturesque as was their new steed, our lion-hunters had to give it up, purely out of consideration for the red cap, of course. So they continued the journey on foot as before, the caravan tranquilly proceeding southwardly by short stages, the Tarasconian in the van, the Montenegrin in the rear, and the camel, with the weapons in their cases, in the ranks.
The expedition lasted nearly a month.
During that seeking for lions which he never found, the dreadful Tartarin roamed from douar to douar on the immense plain of the Shelliff, through the odd but formidable French Algeria, where the old Oriental perfumes are complicated by a strong blend of absinthe and the barracks, Abraham and “the Zouzou” mingled, something fairy-tale-like and simply burlesque, like a page of the Old Testament related by Tommy Atkins.
A curious sight for those who have eyes that can see.
A wild and corrupted people whom we are civilising by teaching them our vices. The ferocious and uncontrolled authority of grotesque bashaws, who gravely use their grand cordons of the Legion of Honour as handkerchiefs, and for a mere yea or nay order a man to be bastinadoed. It is the justice of the conscienceless, bespectacled cadis under the palm-tree, Maw-worms of the Koran and Law, who dream languidly of promotion and sell their decrees, as Esau did his birthright, for a dish of lentils or sweetened kouskous. Drunken and libertine cadis are they, formerly servants to some General Yusuf or the like, who get intoxicated on champagne, along with laundresses from Port Mahon, and fatten on roast mutton, whilst before their tents the whole tribe waste away with hunger, and fight with the harriers for the bones of the lordly feast.