Tartarin of Tarascon

Alphonse Daudet
Tartarin of Tarascon

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Title: Tartarin of Tarascon
Author: Alphonse Daudet
Release Date: August, 1999 [EBook #1862] [This file was last updated
on January 24, 2003]

Edition: 11
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK TARTARIN
OF TARASCON ***

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TARTARIN OF TARASCON by ALPHONSE DAUDET

EPISODE THE FIRST IN TARASCON

I. The Garden Round the Giant Trees.
MY first visit to Tartarin of Tarascon has remained a never-to-be-
forgotten date in my life; although quite ten or a dozen years ago, I
remember it better than yesterday.
At that time the intrepid Tartarin lived in the third house on the left as
the town begins, on the Avignon road. A pretty little villa in the local
style, with a front garden and a balcony behind, the walls glaringly
white and the venetians very green; and always about the doorsteps a
brood of little Savoyard shoeblackguards playing hopscotch, or dozing
in the broad sunshine with their heads pillowed on their boxes.
Outwardly the dwelling had no remarkable features, and none would
ever believe it the abode of a hero; but when you stepped inside, ye
gods and little fishes! what a change! From turret to foundation-stone --
I mean, from cellar to garret, -- the whole building wore a heroic front;

even so the garden!
O that garden of Tartarin's! there's not its match in Europe! Not a native
tree was there -- not one flower of France; nothing hut exotic plants,
gum-trees, gourds, cotton-woods, cocoa and cacao, mangoes, bananas,
palms, a baobab, nopals, cacti, Barbary figs -- well, you would believe
yourself in the very midst of Central Africa, ten thousand leagues away.
It is but fair to say that these were none of full growth; indeed, the
cocoa-palms were no bigger than beet root and the baobab (arbos
gigantea -- "giant tree," you know) was easily enough circumscribed by
a window-pot; but, notwithstanding this, it was rather a sensation for
Tarascon, and the townsfolk who were admitted on Sundays to the
honour of contemplating Tartarin's baobab, went home chokeful of
admiration.
Try to conceive my own emotion, which I was bound to feel on that
day of days when I crossed through this marvellous garden, and that
was capped when I was ushered into the hero's sanctum.
His study, one of the lions -- I should say, lions' dens -- of the town,
was at the end of the garden, its glass door opening right on to the
baobab.
You are to picture a capacious apartment adorned with firearms and
steel blades from top to bottom: all the weapons of all the countries in
the wide world -- carbines, rifles, blunderbusses, Corsican, Catalan, and
dagger knives, Malay kreeses, revolvers with spring-bayonets, Carib
and flint arrows, knuckle-dusters, life- preservers, Hottentot clubs,
Mexican lassoes -- now, can you expect me to name the rest? Upon the
whole fell a fierce sunlight, which made the blades and the brass
butt-plate of the muskets gleam as if all the more to set your flesh
creeping. Still, the beholder was soothed a little by the tame air of order
and tidiness reigning over the arsenal. Everything was in place, brushed,
dusted, labelled, as in a museum; from point to point the eye descried
some obliging little card reading:
----------------------------------------- I Poisoned Arrows! I I Do Not
Touch! I -----------------------------------------

Or,
----------------------------------------- I Loaded! I I Take care, please! I
-----------------------------------------
If it had not been for these cautions I never should have dared venture
in.
In the middle of the room was an occasional table, on which stood a
decanter of rum, a siphon of soda-water, a Turkish tobacco- pouch,
"Captain Cook's Voyages," the Indian tales of Fenimore Cooper and
Gustave Aimard, stories of hunting the bear,
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