After the minute’s wavering which self-respect commanded, the Tarasconian chose his course manfully. Down he sat, and they touched glasses. Baya, gliding down at that chink, sang the finale of “Marco la Bella,” and the jollification was prolonged deep into the night.
About 3 A.M., with a light head but a heavy foot, our good Tarasconian was returning from seeing his friend the captain off when, in passing the mosque, the remembrance of his muezzin and his practical jokes made him laugh, and instantly a capital idea of revenge flitted through his brain.
The door was open. He entered, threaded long corridors hung with mats, mounted and kept on mounting till he finally found himself in a little oratory, where an openwork iron lantern swung from the ceiling, and embroidered an odd pattern in shadows upon the blanched walls.
There sat the crier on a divan, in his large turban and white pelisse, with his Mostaganam pipe, and a bumper of absinthe before him, which he whipped up in the orthodox manner, whilst awaiting the hour to call true believers to prayer. At view of Tartarin, he dropped his pipe in terror.
“Not a word, knave!” said the Tarasconian, full of his project. “Quick! Off with turban and coat!”
The Turkish priest-crier tremblingly handed over his outer garments, as he would have done with anything else. Tartarin donned them, and gravely stepped out upon the minaret platform.
In the distance the sea shone. The white roofs glittered in the moonbeams. On the sea breeze was heard the strumming of a few belated guitars. The Tarasconian muezzin gathered himself up for the effort during a space, and then, raising his arms, he set to chanting in a very shrill voice:
“La Allah il Allah! Mahomet is an old humbug! The Orient, the Koran, bashaws, lions, Moorish beauties — they are all not worth a fly’s skip! There is nothing left but gammoners. Long live Tarascon!”
Whilst the illustrious Tartarin, in his queer jumbling of Arabic and Provencal, flung his mirthful maledictions to the four quarters, sea, town, plain and mountain, the clear, solemn voices of the other muezzins answered him, taking up the strain from minaret to minaret, and the believers of the upper town devoutly beat their bosoms.
Mid-day has come.
The Zouave had her steam up, ready to go. Upon the balcony of the Valentin Cafe, high above, the officers were levelling telescopes, and, with the colonel at their head, looking at the lucky little craft that was going back to France. This is the main distraction of the staff. On the lower level, the roads glittered. The old Turkish cannon breaches, stuck up along the waterside, blazed in the sun. The passengers hurried, Biskris and Mahonnais piled their luggage up in the wherries.