66 GERARD, THE LION HUNTER
by the gentle tones of her formidable acquaintance, and surprised that this strange and splendid lion should know her name.
' Who can have told you what I am called, my lord ? '
' The breeze which loves you, and which, after playing through your hair, carries its perfume to the roses as it sighs " Ai'ssa ! " The stream which loves you, and which, after bathing your fair feet, waters the moss in my cave as it murmurs " A'issa ! " The bird which, since it heard your voice, has been jealous of you, and died of pique as it cried " Ai'ssa ! " '
The girl blushed with pleasure, and began to arrange her veil, taking great care, however, to do it in such a way that the lion could see her all the better ; for whether the flatterer is a lion or a fox, and the one flattered an Arab maiden or a crow, you see the result of flattery is always much the same everywhere, and with every one.
The lion, who had hitherto remained at a little distance, now ventured to draw nearer to the girl, but seeing her begin to tremble again, he asked, in his tenderest and most anxious voice : What is the matter, Ai'ssa ? '
She longed to answer, ' I am afraid of you, my lord,' but did not dare; so said, ' The Touareg tribe is not far off, and I am so afraid of the Touaregs.'
The lion smiled, after the fashion of lions. ' When you are with me,' he said, ' you need fear nothing.'
' But,' replied A'issa, ' I shall not always have the honour of your company. It is getting late, and my father's tent is some way from here.'
' I will escort you home,' said the lion.
Eefusal was impossible, and Ai'ssa had no choice but to accept. The lion came up close, and held out his head as a support, much as a gentleman might offer a lady his arm ; the girl laid her hand on his mane, and, side by side, they set out for the tent of Aissa's father.
On their way they met gazelles, who started away