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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 86 pages of information about Tartarin of Tarascon.

“Now, only let ’em come!”

“Them”? who were they?

Tartarin did not himself any too clearly understand.  “They” was all that should be attacked and fought with, all that bites, claws, scalps, whoops, and yells —­ the Sioux Indians dancing around the war-stake to which the unfortunate pale-face prisoner is lashed.  The grizzly of the Rocky Mountains, who wobbles on his hind legs, and licks himself with a tongue full of blood.  The Touareg, too, in the desert, the Malay pirate, the brigand of the Abruzzi —­ in short, “they” was warfare, travel, adventure, and glory.

But, alas!! it was to no avail that the fearless Tarasconer called for and defied them; never did they come.  Odsboddikins! what would they have come to do in Tarascon?

Nevertheless Tartarin always expected to run up against them, particularly some evening in going to the club.

V. How Tartarin went round to his club.

Little, indeed, beside Tartarin of Tarascon, arming himself capa-pie to go to his club at nine, an hour after the retreat had sounded on the bugle, was the Templar Knight preparing for a sortie upon the infidel, the Chinese tiger equipping himself for combat, or the Comanche warrior painting up for going on the war-path.  “All hands make ready for action!” as the men-of-war’s men say.

In his left hand Tartarin took a steel-pointed knuckle-duster; in the right he carried a sword-cane; in his left pocket a life-preserver; in the right a revolver.  On his chest, betwixt outer and under garment, lay a Malay kreese.  But never any poisoned arrows —­ they are weapons altogether too unfair.

Before starting, in the silence and obscurity of his study, he exercised himself for a while, warding off imaginary cuts and thrusts, lunging at the wall, and giving his muscles play; then he took his master-key and went through the garden leisurely; without hurrying, mark you.  “Cool and calm —­ British courage, that is the true sort, gentlemen.”  At the garden end he opened the heavy iron door, violently and abruptly so that it should slam against the outer wall.  If “they” had been skulking behind it, you may wager they would have been jam.  Unhappily, they were not there.

The way being open, out Tartarin would sally, quickly glancing to the right and left, ere banging the door to and fastening it smartly with double-locking.  Then, on the way.

Not so much as a cat upon the Avignon road —­ all the doors closed, and no lights in the casements.  All was black, except for the parish lamps, well spaced apart, blinking in the river mist.

Calm and proud, Tartarin of Tarascon marched on in the night, ringing his heels with regularity, and sending sparks out of the paving-stones with the ferule of his stick.  Whether in avenues, streets, or lanes, he took care to keep in the middle of the road —­ an excellent method of precaution, allowing one to see danger coming, and, above all, to avoid any droppings from windows, as happens after dark in Tarascon and the Old Town of Edinburgh.  On seeing so much prudence in Tartarin, pray do not conclude that Tartarin had any fear —­ dear, no! he only was on his guard.

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