The prince was not there. On the white moonlit wall of the fane the camel alone cast the queer-shaped shadow of his protuberance. Prince Gregory had cut and run with the wallet of bank-notes. His Highness had been for the month past awaiting this opportunity.
It was not until early on the morrow of this adventurous and dramatic eve that our hero awoke, and acquired assurance doubly sure that the prince and the treasure had really gone off, without any prospect of return. When he saw himself alone in the little white tombhouse, betrayed, robbed, abandoned in the heart of savage Algeria, with a one-humped camel and some pocket-money as all his resources, then did the representative of Tarascon for the first time doubt. He doubted Montenegro, friendship, glory, and even lions; and the great man blubbered bitterly.
Whilst he was pensively seated on the sill of the sanctuary, holding his head between his hands and his gun between his legs, with the camel mooning at him, the thicket over the way was divided, and the stupor-stricken Tartarin saw a gigantic lion appear not a dozen paces off. It thrust out its high head and emitted powerful roars, which made the temple walls shake beneath their votive decorations, and even the saint’s slippers dance in their niche.
The Tarasconian alone did not tremble.
“At last you’ve come!” he shouted, jumping up and levelling the rifle.
Bang, bang! went a brace of shells into its head.
It was done. For a minute, on the fiery background of the African sky, there was a dreadful firework display of scattered brains, smoking blood, and tawny hair. When all fell, Tartarin perceived two colossal Negroes furiously running towards him, brandishing cudgels. They were his two Negro acquaintances of Milianah!
This was the domesticated lion, the poor blind beggar of the Mohammed Monastery, whom the Tarasconian’s bullets had knocked over.
This time, spite of Mahound, Tartarin escaped neatly. Drunk with fanatical fury, the two African collectors would have surely beaten him to pulp had not the god of chase and war sent him a delivering angel in the shape of the rural constable of the Orleansville commune. By a bypath this garde champetre came up, his sword tucked under his arm.
The sight of the municipal cap suddenly calmed the Negroes’ choler. Peaceful and majestic, the officer with the brass badge drew up a report on the affair, ordered the camel to be loaded with what remained of the king of beasts, and the plaintiffs as well as the delinquent to follow him, proceeding to Orleansville, where all was deposited with the law-courts receiver.
There issued a long and alarming case!