Once near the fire, Gazelle settled herself in the warmest corner she could find, and went to sleep.
Dumas, who wished to go out again and was afraid of his new possession coming to any harm, called his servant and said: ( Joseph, whilst I am out you must look after this creature.'
Joseph approached with some curiosity. ' Ah!' he remarked, ' why, it's a tortoise; that creature could bear a carriage on its back.'
' Yes, yes, no doubt it might, but I beg you won't try any experiments with it.'
' Oh, it wouldn't hurt it,' assured Joseph, who enjoyed showing off his information. ' The Lyons diligence might drive over it without hurting it.'
' Well,' replied his master, 4I believe the great sea turtle might bear such a weight, but I doubt whether this small variety------'
'Oh, that's of no consequence,' interrupted Joseph; ' it's as strong as a horse, and small though it is, a cartload of stones might pass------'
' Very good, very good; never mind that now. Just buy the creature a lettuce and some snails.'
' Snails! why, is its chest delicate ?'
' No, why on earth do you ask such a thing ?'
' Well, my last master used to take an infusion of snails for his chest — not that it prevented------'
Dumas left the room without waiting for the end. Before he was halfway downstairs he found that he had forgotten his handkerchief, and on returning surprised Joseph standing on Gazelle's back, gracefully poised on one leg, with the other out-stretched behind him in such a way that not an ounce of his eleven-stone weight was lost on the poor creature.
' Idiot! what are you about ?'
' There, sir, didn't I say so? ' rejoined Joseph, proudly.
' There, there, give me a handkerchief and mind you don't touch that creature again.'