Part 5 out of 5
the regulator to full speed, thrown fresh coals into the fire-box, and
the train is running with frightful velocity.
In a few minutes we shall reach the Tjon viaduct.
Kinko, energetic and resolute, is as cool as a cucumber. But in vain he
tries to move the regulator, to shut off the steam, to put on the
brake. These valves and levers, what shall we do with them?
"I must tell Popof!" I shout.
"And what can he do? No; there is only one way--"
"And what is that?"
"Rouse up the fire," says Kinko, calmly; "shut down the safety valves,
and blow up the engine."
And was that the only way--a desperate way--of stopping the train
before it reached the viaduct?
Kinko scattered the coal on to the fire bars. He turned on the greatest
possible draught, the air roared across the furnace, the pressure goes
up, up, amid the heaving of the motion, the bellowings of the boiler,
the beating of the pistons. We are going a hundred kilometres an hour.
"Get back!" shouts Kinko above the roar. "Get back into the van."
"And you, Kinko?"
"Get back, I tell you."
I see him hang on to the valves, and put his whole weight on the levers.
"Go!" he shouts.
I am off over the tender. I am through the van. I awake Popof, shouting
with all my strength:
"Get back! Get back!"
A few passengers suddenly waking from sleep begin to run from the front
Suddenly there is an explosion and a shock. The train at first jumps
back. Then it continues to move for about half a kilometre.
Popof, the major, Caterna, most of the passengers are out on the line
in an instant.
A network of scaffolding appears confusedly in the darkness, above the
piers which were to carry the viaduct across the Tjon valley.
Two hundred yards further the train would have been lost in the abyss.
And I, who wanted "incident," who feared the weariness of a monotonous
voyage of six thousand kilometres, in the course of which I should not
meet with an impression or emotion worth clothing in type!
I have made another muddle of it, I admit! My lord Faruskiar, of whom I
had made a hero--by telegraph--for the readers of the _Twentieth.
Century_. Decidedly my good intentions ought certainly to qualify me as
one of the best paviers of a road to a certain place you have doubtless
We are, as I have said, two hundred yards from the valley of the Tjon,
so deep and wide as to require a viaduct from three hundred and fifty
to four hundred feet long. The floor of the valley is scattered over
with rocks, and a hundred feet down. If the train had been hurled to
the bottom of that chasm, not one of us would have escaped alive. This
memorable catastrophe--most interesting from a reporter's point of
view--would have claimed a hundred victims. But thanks to the coolness,
energy and devotion of the young Roumanian, we have escaped this
All? No! Kinko has paid with his life for the safety of his fellow
Amid the confusion my first care was to visit the luggage van, which
had remained uninjured. Evidently if Kinko had survived the explosion
he would have got back into his box and waited till I put myself in
communication with him.
Alas! The coffer is empty--empty as that of a company which has
suspended payment. Kinko has been the victim of his sacrifice.
And so there has been a hero among our traveling companions, and he was
not this Faruskiar, this abominable bandit hidden beneath the skin of a
manager, whose name I have so stupidly published over the four corners
of the globe! It was this Roumanian, this humble, this little, this
poor fellow, whose sweetheart will wait for him in vain, and whom she
will never again see! Well, I will do him justice! I will tell what he
has done. As to his secret, I shall be sorry if I keep it. If he
defrauded the Grand Transasiatic, it is thanks to that fraud that a
whole train has been saved. We were lost, we should have perished in
the most horrible of deaths if Kinko had not been there!
I went back on to the line, my heart heavy, my eyes full of tears.
Assuredly Faruskiar's scheme--in the execution of which he had executed
his rival Ki-Tsang--had been cleverly contrived in utilizing this
branch line leading to the unfinished viaduct. Nothing was easier than
to switch off the train if an accomplice was at the points. And as soon
as the signal was given that we were on the branch, all he had to do
was to gain the foot-plate, kill the driver and stoker, slow the train
and get off, leaving the steam on full to work up to full speed.
And now there could be no doubt that the scoundrels worthy of the most
refined tortures that Chinese practice could devise were hastening down
into the Tjon valley. There, amid the wreck of the train, they expected
to find the fifteen millions of gold and precious stones, and this
treasure they could carry off without fear of surprise when the night
enabled them to consummate this fearful crime. Well! They have been
robbed, these robbers, and I hope that they will pay for their crime
with their lives, at the least. I alone know what has passed, but I
will tell the story, for poor Kinko is no more.
Yes! My mind is made up. I will speak as soon as I have seen Zinca
Klork. The poor girl must be told with consideration. The death of her
betrothed must not come upon her like a thunderclap. Yes! To-morrow, as
soon as we are at Pekin.
After all, if I do not say anything about Kinko, I may at least
denounce Faruskiar and Ghangir and the four Mongols. I can say that I
saw them go through the van, that I followed them, that I found they
were talking on the gangway, that I heard the screams of the driver and
stoker as they were strangled on the foot-plate, and that I then
returned to the cars shouting: "Back! Back!" or whatever it was.
Besides, as will be seen immediately, there was somebody else whose
just suspicions had been changed into certainty, who only awaited his
opportunity to denounce Faruskiar.
We are now standing at the head of the train, Major Noltitz, the German
baron, Caterna, Ephrinell, Pan-Chao, Popof, about twenty travelers in
all. The Chinese guard, faithful to their trust, are still near the
treasure which not one of them has abandoned. The rear guard has
brought along the tail lamps, and by their powerful light we can see in
what a state the engine is.
If the train, which was then running at enormous velocity, had not
stopped suddenly--and thus brought about its destruction--it was
because the boiler had exploded at the top and on the side. The wheels
being undamaged, the engine had run far enough to come gradually to a
standstill of itself, and thus the passengers had been saved a violent
Of the boiler and its accessories only a few shapeless fragments
remained. The funnel had gone, the dome, the steam chest; there was
nothing but torn plates, broken, twisted tubes, split cylinders, and
loose connecting rods--gaping wounds in the corpse of steel.
And not only had the engine been destroyed, but the tender had been
rendered useless. Its tank had been cracked, and its load of coals
scattered over the line. The luggage-van, curious to relate, had
miraculously escaped without injury.
And looking at the terrible effects of the explosion, I could see that
the Roumanian had had no chance of escape, and had probably been blown
Going a hundred yards down the line I could find no trace of him--which
was not to be wondered at.
At first we looked on at the disaster in silence; but eventually
"It is only too evident," said one of the passengers, "that our driver
and stoker have perished in the explosion."
"Poor fellows!" said Popof. "But I wonder how the train could have got
on the Nanking branch without being noticed?"
"The night was very dark," said Ephrinell, "and the driver could not
see the points."
"That is the only explanation possible," said Popof, "for he would have
tried to stop the train, and, on the contrary, we were traveling at
"But," said Pan-Chao, "how does it happen the Nanking branch was open
when the Tjon viaduct is not finished? Had the switch been interfered
"Undoubtedly," said Popof, "and probably out of carelessness."
"No," said Ephrinell, deliberately. "There has been a crime--a crime
intended to bring about the destruction of the train and passengers--"
"And with what object?" asked Popof.
"The object of stealing the imperial treasure," said Ephrinell. "Do you
forget that those millions would be a temptation to scoundrels? Was it
not for the purpose of robbing the train that we were attacked between
Tchertchen and Tcharkalyk?"
The American could not have been nearer the truth.
"And so," said Popof, "after Ki-Tsang's attempt, you think that other
Up to now Major Noltitz had taken no part in the discussion. Now he
interrupted Popof, and in a voice heard by all he asked:
"Where is Faruskiar?"
They all looked about and tried to discover what had become of the
manager of the Transasiatic.
"And where is his friend Ghangir?" asked the major.
There was no reply.
"And where are the four Mongols who were in the rear van?" asked Major
And none of them presented themselves.
They called my lord Faruskiar a second time.
Faruskiar made no response.
Popof entered the car where this personage was generally to be found.
It was empty.
Empty? No. Sir Francis Trevellyan was calmly seated in his place,
utterly indifferent to all that happened. Was it any business of his?
Not at all. Was he not entitled to consider that the Russo-Chinese
railways were the very apex of absurdity and disorder? A switch opened,
nobody knew by whom! A train on the wrong line! Could anything be more
ridiculous than this Russian mismanagement?
"Well, then!" said Major Noltitz, "the rascal who sent us on to the
Nanking line, who would have hurled us into the Tjon valley, to walk
off with the imperial treasure, is Faruskiar."
"Faruskiar!" the passengers exclaimed. And most of them refused to
"What!" said Popof. "The manager of the company who so courageously
drove off the bandits and killed their chief Ki-Tsang with his own
Then I entered on the scene.
"The major is not mistaken. It was Faruskiar who laid this fine trap
And amid the general stupefaction I told them what I knew, and what
good fortune had enabled me to ascertain. I told them how I had
overheard the plan of Faruskiar and his Mongols, when it was too late
to stop it, but I was silent regarding the intervention of Kinko. The
moment had not come, and I would do him justice in due time.
To my words there succeeded a chorus of maledictions and menaces.
What! This seigneur Faruskiar, this superb Mongol, this functionary we
had seen at work! No! It was impossible.
But they had to give in to the evidence. I had seen; I had heard; I
affirmed that Faruskiar was the author of this catastrophe in which all
our train might have perished, was the most consummate bandit who had
ever disgraced Central Asia!
"You see, Monsieur Bombarnac," said Major Noltitz, "that I was not
mistaken in my first suspicion."
"It is only too true," I replied, without any false modesty, "that I
was taken in by the grand manners of the abominable rascal."
"Monsieur Claudius," said Caterna, "put that into a romance, and see if
anybody believes it likely."
Caterna was right; but unlikely as it may seem, it was. And, besides, I
alone knew Kinko's secret. It certainly did seem as though it was
miraculous for the locomotive to explode just on the verge of the abyss.
Now that all danger had disappeared we must take immediate measures for
running back the cars on to the Pekin line.
"The best thing to do is for one of us to volunteer--"
"I will do that," said Caterna.
"What is he to do?" I asked.
"Go to the nearest station, that of Fuen Choo, and telegraph to
Tai-Youan for them to send on a relief engine."
"How far is it to Fuen Choo?" asked Ephrinell.
"About six kilometres to Nanking junction, and about five kilometres
"Eleven kilometres," said the major; "that is a matter of an hour and a
half for good walkers. Before three o'clock the engine from Tai-Youan
ought to be here. I am ready to start."
"So am I," said Popof! "I think several of us ought to go. Who knows if
we may not meet Faruskiar and his Mongols on the road?"
"You are right, Popof," said Major Noltitz, "and we should be armed."
This was only prudent, for the bandits who ought to be on their way to
the Tjon viaduct could not be very far off. Of course, as soon as they
found that their attempt had failed, they would hasten to get away. How
would they dare--six strong--to attack a hundred passengers, including
the Chinese guard?
Twelve of us, including Pan-Chao, Caterna, and myself, volunteered to
accompany Major Noltitz. But by common accord we advised Popof not to
abandon the train, assuring him that we would do all that was necessary
at Fuen Choo.
Then, armed with daggers and revolvers--it was one o'clock in the
morning--we went along the line to the junction, walking as fast as the
very dark night permitted.
In less than two hours we arrived at Fuen Choo station without
adventure. Evidently Faruskiar had cleared off. The Chinese police
would have to deal with the bandit and his accomplices. Would they
catch him? I hoped so, but I doubted.
At the station Pan-Chao explained matters to the stationmaster, who
telegraphed for an engine to be sent from Tai-Youan to the Nanking line.
At three o'clock, just at daybreak, we returned to wait for the engine
at the junction. Three-quarters of an hour afterwards its whistle
announced its approach, and it stopped at the bifurcation of the lines.
We climbed up on to the tender, and half an hour later had rejoined the
The dawn had come on sufficiently for us to be able to see over a
considerable distance. Without saying anything to anybody, I went in
search of the body of my poor Kinko. And I could not find it among the
As the engine could not reach the front of the train, owing to their
being only a single line, and no turning-table, it was decided to
couple it on in the rear and run backwards to the junction. In this way
the box, alas! without the Roumanian in it, was in the last carriage.
We started, and in half an hour we were on the main line again.
Fortunately it was not necessary for us to return to Tai-Youan, and we
thus saved a delay of an hour and a half. At the junction the engine
was detached and run for a few yards towards Pekin, then the vans and
cars, one by one, were pushed on to the main line, and then the engine
backed and the train proceeded, made up as before the accident. By five
o'clock we were on our way across Petchili as if nothing had happened.
I have nothing to say regarding this latter half of the journey, during
which the Chinese driver--to do him justice--in no way endeavored to
make up for lost time. But if a few hours more or less were of no
importance to us, it was otherwise with Baron Weissschnitzerdoerfer, who
wanted to catch the Yokohama boat at Tien Tsin.
When we arrived there at noon the steamer had been gone for
three-quarters of an hour; and when the German globe-trotter, the rival
of Bly and Bisland, rushed on to the platform, it was to learn that the
said steamer was then going out of the mouths of the Pei-Ho into the
Unfortunate traveler! We were not astonished when, as Gaterna said, the
baron "let go both broadsides" of Teutonic maledictions. And really he
had cause to curse in his native tongue.
We remained but a quarter of an hour at Tien Tsin. My readers must
pardon me for not having visited this city of five hundred thousand
inhabitants, the Chinese town with its temples, the European quarter in
which the trade is concentrated, the Pei-Ho quays where hundreds of
junks load and unload. It was all Faruskiar's fault, and were it only
for having wrecked my reportorial endeavors he ought to be hanged by
the most fantastic executioner in China.
Nothing happened for the rest of our run. I was very sorry at the
thought that I was not bringing Kinko along with me, and that his box
was empty. And he had asked me to accompany him to Mademoiselle Zinca
Klork! How could I tell this unfortunate girl that her sweetheart would
never reach Pekin station?
Everything ends in this world below, even a voyage of six thousand
kilometres on the Grand Transasiatic; and after a run of thirteen days,
hour after hour, our train stopped at the gates of the capital of the
"Pekin!" shouted Popof. "All change here."
And Caterna replied with truly Parisian unction:
"I believe you, my boy!"
And we all changed.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon. For people fatigued with three
hundred and twelve hours of traveling, it was no time for running about
the town--what do I say?--the four towns inclosed one within the other.
Besides, I had plenty of time. I was going to stop some weeks in this
The important thing was to find a hotel in which one could live
passably. From information received I was led to believe that the hotel
of _Ten Thousand Dreams_, near the railway station, might be
sufficiently in accord with Western notions.
As to Mademoiselle Klork, I will postpone my visit till to-morrow. I
will call on her before the box arrives, and even then I shall be too
soon, for I shall take her the news of Kinko's death.
Major Noltitz will remain in the same hotel as I do. I have not to bid
him farewell, nor have I to part with the Caternas, who are going to
stay a fortnight before starting for Shanghai. As to Pan-Chao and Dr.
Tio-King, a carriage is waiting to take them to the yamen in which the
young Chinaman's family live. But we shall see each other again.
Friends do not separate at a simple good-by, and the grip of the hand I
gave him as he left the car will not be the last.
Mr. and Mrs. Ephrinell lose no time in leaving the station on business,
which obliges them to find a hotel in the commercial quarter of the
Chinese town. But they do not leave without receiving my compliments.
Major Noltitz and I go up to this amiable couple, and the conventional
politenesses are reciprocally exchanged.
"At last," said I to Ephrinell, "the forty-two packages of Strong,
Bulbul & Co. have come into port. But it is a wonder the explosion of
our engine did not smash your artificial teeth."
"Just so," said the American, "my teeth had a narrow escape. What
adventures they have had since we left Tiflis? Decidedly this journey
has been less monotonous than I expected."
"And," added the major, "you were married on the way--unless I am
"Wait a bit!" replied the Yankee in a peculiar tone. "Excuse me; we are
in a hurry."
"We will not keep you, Mr. Ephrinell," I replied, "and to Mrs.
Ephrinell and yourself allow us to say au revoir!"
"Au revoir!" replied the Americanized lady, rather more dryly at her
arrival than at her departure.
Then, turning, she said:
"I have no time to wait, Mr. Ephrinell."
"Nor have I, Mrs. Ephrinell," replied the Yankee.
Mr.! Mrs.! And not so long ago they were calling each other Fulk and
And then, without taking each other's arm, they walked out of the
station. I believe he turned to the right and she to the left; but that
is their affair.
There remains my No. 8, Sir Francis Trevellyan, the silent personage,
who has not said a word all through the piece--I mean all through the
journey. I wanted to hear his voice, if it was only for one second.
Eh! If I am not mistaken, here is the opportunity at last.
There is the phlegmatic gentleman contemptuously looking up and down
the cars. He has just taken a cigar from his yellow morocco case, but
when he looks at his match-box he finds it empty.
My cigar--a particularly good one--is alight, and I am smoking it with
the blessed satisfaction of one who enjoys it, and regretting that
there is not a man in all China who has its equal.
Sir Francis Trevellyan has seen the light burning at the end of my
cigar, and he comes towards me.
I think he is going to ask me for a light. He stretches out his hand,
and I present him with my cigar.
He takes it between his thumb and forefinger, knocks off the white ash,
lights up, and then, if I had not heard him ask for a light, I at least
expected him to say, "Thank you, sir!"
Not at all! Sir Francis Trevellyan takes a few puffs at his own cigar,
and then nonchalantly throws mine on to the platform. And then without
even a bow, he walks leisurely off out of the railway station.
Did you say nothing? No, I remained astounded. He gave me neither a
word nor a gesture. I was completely dumfounded at this ultra-Britannic
rudeness, while Major Noltitz could not restrain a loud outburst of
Ah! If I should see this gentleman again. But never did I see again Sir
Francis Trevellyan of Trevellyan Hall, Trevellyanshire.
Half an hour afterwards we are installed at the Hotel of _Ten Thousand
Dreams_. There we are served with a dinner in Chinese style. The repast
being over--towards the second watch--we lay ourselves on beds that are
too narrow in rooms with little comfort, and sleep not the sleep of the
just, but the sleep of the exhausted--and that is just as good.
I did not wake before ten o'clock, and I might have slept all the
morning if the thought had not occurred to me that I had a duty to
fulfil. And what a duty! To call in the Avenue Cha Coua before the
delivery of the unhappy case to Mademoiselle Zinca Klork.
I arise. Ah! If Kinko had not succumbed, I should have returned to the
railway station--I should have assisted, as I had promised, in the
unloading of the precious package. I would have watched it on to the
cart, and I would have accompanied it to the Avenue Cha Coua, I would
even have helped in carrying him up to Mademoiselle Zinca Klork! And
what a double explosion of joy there would have been when Kinko jumped
through the panel to fall into the arms of the fair Roumanian!
But no! When the box arrives it will be empty--empty as a heart from
which all the blood has escaped.
I leave the Hotel of _Ten Thousand Dreams_ about eleven o'clock, I call
one of those Chinese carriages, which look like palanquins on wheels, I
give the address of Mademoiselle Klork, and I am on the way.
You know, that among the eighteen provinces of China Petchili occupies
the most northerly position. Formed of nine departments, it has for its
capital Pekin, otherwise known as Chim-Kin-Fo, an appellation which
means a "town of the first order, obedient to Heaven."
I do not know if this town is really obedient to Heaven, but it is
obedient to the laws of rectilineal geometry. There are four towns,
square or rectangular, one within the other. The Chinese town, which
contains the Tartar town, which contains the yellow town, or Houng
Tching, which contains the Red Town, or Tsen-Kai-Tching, that is to
say, "the forbidden town." And within this symmetrical circuit of six
leagues there are more than two millions of those inhabitants, Tartars
or Chinese, who are called the Germans of the East, without mentioning
several thousands of Mongols and Tibetans. That there is much bustle in
the streets, I can see by the obstacles my vehicle encounters at every
step, itinerating peddlers, carts heavily laden, mandarins and their
noisy following. I say nothing of those abominable wandering dogs, half
jackals, half wolves, hairless and mangy, with deceitful eyes,
threatening jaws, and having no other food than the filthy rubbish
which foreigners detest. Fortunately I am not on foot, and I have no
business in the Red Town, admittance to which is denied, nor in the
yellow town nor even in the Tartar town.
The Chinese town forms, a rectangular parallelogram, divided north and
south by the Grand Avenue leading from the Houn Ting gate to the Tien
gate, and crossed east and west by the Avenue Cha-Coua, which runs from
the gate of that name to the Cpuan-Tsa gate. With this indication
nothing could be easier than to find the dwelling of Mademoiselle Zinca
Klork, but nothing more difficult to reach, considering the block in
the roads in this outer ring.
A little before twelve I arrived at my destination. My vehicle had
stopped before a house of modest appearance, occupied by artisans as
lodgings, and as the signboard said more particularly by strangers.
It was on the first floor, the window of which opened on to the avenue,
that the young Roumanian lived, and where, having learned her trade as
a milliner in Paris, she was engaged in it at Pekin.
I go up to the first floor. I read the name of Madame Zinca Klork on a
door. I knock. The door is opened.
I am in the presence of a young lady who is perfectly charming, as
Kinko said. She is a blonde of from twenty-two to twenty-three years
old, with the black eyes of the Roumanian type, an agreeable figure, a
pleasant, smiling face. In fact, has she not been informed that the
Grand Transasiatic train has been in the station ever since last
evening, in spite of the circumstances of the journey, and is she not
awaiting her betrothed from one moment to another?
And I, with a word, am about to extinguish this joy. I am to wither
Mademoiselle Klork is evidently much surprised at seeing a stranger in
her doorway. As she has lived several years in France, she does not
hesitate to recognize me as a Frenchman, and asks to what she is
indebted for my visit.
I must take care of my words, for I may kill her, poor child.
"Mademoiselle Zinca--" I say.
"You know my name?" she exclaims.
"Yes, mademoiselle. I arrived yesterday by the Grand Transasiatic."
The girl turned pale; her eyes became troubled. It was evident that she
feared something. Had Kinko been found in his box? Had the fraud been
discovered? Was he arrested? Was he in prison?
I hastened to add:
"Mademoiselle Zinca--certain circumstances have brought to my
knowledge--the journey of a young Roumanian--"
"Kinko--my poor Kinko--they have found him?" she asks in a trembling
"No--no--" say I, hesitating. "No one knows--except myself. I often
visited him in the luggage-van at night; we were companions, friends. I
took him a few provisions--"
"Oh! thank you, sir!" says the lady, taking me by the hands. "With a
Frenchman Kinko was sure of not being betrayed, and even of receiving
help! Thank you, thank you!"
I am more than ever afraid of the mission on which I have come.
"And no one suspected the presence of my dear Kinko?" she asks.
"What would you have had us do, sir? We are not rich. Kinko was without
money over there at Tiflis, and I had not enough to send him his fare.
But he is here at last. He will get work, for he is a good workman, and
as soon as we can we will pay the company--"
"Yes; I know, I know."
"And then we are going to get married, monsieur. He loves me so much,
and I love him. We met one another in Paris. He was so kind to me. Then
when he went back to Tiflis I asked him to come to me in that box. Is
the poor fellow ill?"
"No, Mademoiselle Zinca, no."
"Ah! I shall be happy to pay the carriage of my dear Kinko."
"Yes--pay the carriage--"
"It will not be long now?"
"No; this afternoon probably."
I do not know what to say.
"Monsieur," says mademoiselle, "we are going to get married as soon as
the formalities are complied with; and if it is not abusing your
confidence, will you do us the honor and pleasure of being present?"
"At your marriage--certainly. I promised my friend Kinko I would."
Poor girl! I cannot leave her like this. I must tell her everything.
"He asked you to come and tell me he had arrived?"
"Yes--but--you understand--he is very tired after so long a
"Oh! do not be alarmed--"
"Is he ill?"
"Then I will go--I must see him--I pray you, sir, come with me to the
"No; that would be an imprudence--remain here--remain--"
Zinca Klork looked at me fixedly.
"The truth, monsieur, the truth! Hide nothing from me--Kinko--"
"Yes--I have sad news--to give you." She is fainting. Her lips tremble.
She can hardly speak.
"He has been discovered!" she says. "His fraud is known--they have
"Would to heaven it was no worse. We have had accidents on the road.
The train was nearly annihilated--a frightful catastrophe--"
"He is dead! Kinko is dead!"
The unhappy Zinca falls on to a chair--and to employ the imaginative
phraseology of the Chinese--her tears roll down like rain on an autumn
night. Never have I seen anything so lamentable. But it will not do to
leave her in this state, poor girl! She is becoming unconscious. I do
not know where I am. I take her hands. I repeat:
"Mademoiselle Zinca! Mademoiselle Zinca!"
Suddenly there is a great noise in front of the house. Shouts are
heard. There is a tremendous to do, and amid the tumult I hear a voice.
Good Heavens! I cannot be mistaken. That is Kinko's voice!
I recognize it. Am I in my right senses?
Zinca jumps up, springs to the window, opens it, and we look out.
There is a cart at the door. There is the case, with all its
inscriptions: _This side up, this side down, fragile, glass, beware of
damp_, etc., etc. It is there--half smashed. There has been a
collision. The cart has been run into by a carriage, as the case was
being got down. The case has slipped on to the ground. It has been
knocked in. And Kinko has jumped out like a jack-in-the-box--but alive,
very much alive!
I can hardly believe my eyes! What, my young Roumanian did not perish
in the explosion? No! As I shall soon hear from his own mouth, he was
thrown on to the line when the boiler went up, remained there inert for
a time, found himself uninjured--miraculously--kept away till he could
slip into the van unperceived. I had just left the van after looking
for him in vain, and supposing that he had been the first victim of the
Then--oh! the irony of fate!--after accomplishing a journey of six
thousand kilometres on the Grand Transasiatic, shut up in a box among
the baggage, after escaping so many dangers, attack by bandits,
explosion of engine, he was here, by the mere colliding of a cart and a
carriage in a Pekin Street, deprived of all the good of his
journey--fraudulent it may be--but really if--I know of no epithet
worthy of this climax.
The carter gave a yell at the sight of a human being who had just
appeared. In an instant the crowd had gathered, the fraud was
discovered, the police had run up. And what could this young Roumanian
do who did not know a word of Chinese, but explain matters in the sign
language? And if he could not be understood, what explanation could he
Zinca and I ran down to him.
"My Zinca--my dear Zinca!" he exclaims, pressing the girl to his heart.
"My Kinko--my dear Kinko!" she replies, while her tears mingle with his.
"Monsieur Bombarnac!" says the poor fellow, appealing for my
"Kinko," I reply, "take it coolly, and depend on me. You are alive, and
we thought you were dead."
"But I am not much better off!" he murmurs.
Mistake! Anything is better than being dead--even when one is menaced
by prison, be it a Chinese prison. And that is what happens, in spite
of the girl's supplications and my entreaties. And Kinko is dragged off
by the police, amid the laughter and howls of the crowd.
But I will not abandon him! No, if I move heaven and earth, I will not
If ever the expression, "sinking in sight of port," could be used in
its precise meaning, it evidently can in this case. And I must beg you
to excuse me. But although a ship may sink by the side of the jetty, we
must not conclude that she is lost. That Kinko's liberty is in danger,
providing the intervention of myself and fellow passengers is of no
avail, agreed. But he is alive, and that is the essential point.
But we must not waste an hour, for if the police is not perfect in
China, it is at least prompt and expeditious. Soon caught, soon
hanged--and it will not do for them to hang Kinko, even metaphorically.
I offer my arm to Mademoiselle Zinca, and I lead her to my carriage,
and we return rapidly towards the _Hotel of the Ten Thousand Dreams_.
There I find Major Noltitz and the Caternas, and by a lucky chance
young Pan-Chao, without Dr. Tio-King. Pan-Chao would like nothing
better than to be our interpreter before the Chinese authorities.
And then, before the weeping Zinca, I told my companions all about
Kinko, how he had traveled, how I had made his acquaintance on the
journey. I told them that if he had defrauded the Transasiatic Company
it was thanks to this fraud that he was able to get on to the train at
Uzun Ada. And if he had not been in the train we should all have been
engulfed in the abyss of the Tjon valley.
And I enlarged on the facts which I alone knew. I had surprised
Faruskiar at the very moment he was about to accomplish his crime, but
it was Kinko who, at the peril of his life, with coolness and courage
superhuman, had thrown on the coals, hung on to the lever of the safety
valves, and stopped the train by blowing up the engine.
What an explosion there was of exclamatory ohs and ahs when I had
finished my recital, and in a burst of gratitude, somewhat of the
theatrical sort, our actor shouted:
"Hurrah for Kinko! He ought to have a medal!"
Until the Son of Heaven accorded this hero a green dragon of some sort,
Madame Caterna took Zinca's hand, drew her to her heart and embraced
her--embraced her without being able to restrain her tears. Just think
of a love story interrupted at the last chapter!
But we must hasten, and as Caterna says, "all on the scene for the
fifth"--the fifth act, in which dramas generally clear themselves up.
"We must not let this brave fellow suffer!" said Major Noltitz; "we
must see the Grand Transasiatic people, and when they learn the facts
they will be the first to stop the prosecution."
"Doubtless," I said, "for it cannot be denied that Kinko saved the
train and its passengers."
"To say nothing of the imperial treasure," added Caterna, "the millions
of his majesty!"
"Nothing could be truer," said Pan-Chao. "Unfortunately Kinko has
fallen into the hands of the police, and they have taken him to prison,
and it is not easy to get out of a Chinese prison."
"Let us be off," I replied, "and see the company."
"See here," said Madame Caterna, "is there any need of a subscription
to defray the cost of the affair?"
"The proposal does you honor, Caroline," said the actor, putting his
hand in his pocket.
"Gentlemen," said pretty Zinca Klork, her eyes bathed in tears, "do
save him before he is sentenced--"
"Yes, my darling," said Madame Caterna, "yes, my heart, we will save
your sweetheart for you, and if a benefit performance--"
"Bravo, Caroline, bravo!" exclaimed Caterna, applauding with the vigor
of the sub-chief of the claque.
We left the young Roumanian to the caresses, as exaggerated as they
were sincere, of the worthy actress. Madame Caterna would not leave
her, declaring that she looked upon her as her daughter, that she would
protect her like a mother. Then Pan-Chao, Major Noltitz, Caterna, and I
went off to the company's offices at the station.
The manager was in his office, and we were admitted.
He was a Chinese in every acceptation of the word, and capable of every
administrative Chinesery--a functionary who functioned in a way that
would have moved his colleagues in old Europe to envy.
Pan-Chao told the story, and, as he understood Russian, the major and I
took part in the discussion.
Yes! There was a discussion. This unmistakable Chinaman did not
hesitate to contend that Kinko's case was a most serious one. A fraud
undertaken on such conditions, a fraud extending over six thousand
kilometres, a fraud of a thousand francs on the Grand Transasiatic
Company and its agents.
We replied to this Chinesing Chinee that it was all very true, but that
the damage had been inconsiderable, that if the defrauder had not been
in the train he could not have saved it at the risk of his life, and at
the same time he could not have saved the lives of the passengers.
Well, would you believe it? This living China figure gave us to
understand that from a certain point of view it would have been better
to regret the deaths of a hundred victims--
Yes! We knew that! Perish the colonies and all the passengers rather
than a principle!
In short, we got nothing. Justice must take its course against the
We retired while Caterna poured out all the locutions in his marine and
What was to be done?
"Gentlemen," said Pan-Chao, "I know how things are managed in Pekin and
the Celestial Empire. Two hours will not elapse from the time Kinko is
arrested to the time he is brought before the judge charged with this
sort of crime. He will not only be sent to prison, but the bastinado--"
"The bastinado--like that idiot Zizel in _Si j'etais Roi?"_ asked the
"Precisely," replied Pan-Chao.
"We must stop that abomination," said Major Noltitz.
"We can try at the least," said Pan-Chao. "I propose we go before the
court when I will try and defend the sweetheart of this charming
Roumanian, and may I lose my face if I do not get him off."
That was the best, the only thing to do. We left the station, invaded a
vehicle, and arrived in twenty minutes before a shabby-looking shanty,
where the court was held.
There was a crowd. The affair had got abroad. It was known that a
swindler had come in a box in a Grand Transasiatic van free, gratis,
and for nothing from Tiflis to Pekin. Every one wished to see him;
every one wanted to recognize the features of this genius--it was not
yet known that he was a hero.
There he is, our brave companion, between two rascally looking
policemen, yellow as quinces. These fellows are ready to walk him off
to prison at the judge's order, and to give him a few dozen strokes on
the soles of his feet if he is condemned to that punishment.
Kinko is thoroughly disheartened, which astonishes me on the part of
one I know to be so energetic. But as soon as he sees us his face
betrays a ray of hope.
At this moment the carter, brought forward by the police, relates the
affair to a good sort of fellow in spectacles, who shakes his head in
anything but a hopeful way for the prisoner, who, even if he were as
innocent as a new-born child, could not defend himself, inasmuch as he
did not know Chinese.
Then it is that Pan-Chao presents himself. The judge recognized him and
smiled. In fact, our companion was the son of a rich merchant in Pekin,
a tea merchant in the Toung-Tien and Soung-Fong-Cao trade. And these
nods of the judge's head became more sympathetically significant.
Our young advocate was really pathetic and amusing. He interested the
judge, he excited the audience with the story of the journey, he told
them all about it, and finally he offered to pay the company what was
due to them.
Unfortunately the judge could not consent. There had been material
damages, moral damages, etc., etc.
Thereupon Pan-Chao became animated, and although we understood nothing
he said, we guessed that he was speaking of the courage of Kinko, of
the sacrifice he had made for the safety of the travelers, and finally,
as a supreme argument, he pleaded that his client had saved the
Useless eloquence? Arguments were of no avail with this pitiless
magistrate, who had not acquitted ten prisoners in is life. He spared
the delinquent the bastinado; but he gave him six months in prison, and
condemned him in damages against the Grand Transasiatic Company. And
then at a sign from this condemning machine poor Kinko was taken away.
Let not my readers pity Kinko's fate. I may as well say at once that
everything was arranged satisfactorily.
Next morning Kinko made a triumphal entry into the house in the Avenue
Cha-Coua, where we were assembled, while Madame Caterna was showering
her maternal consolations on the unhappy Zinca Klork.
The newspapers had got wind of the affair. The _Chi Bao_ of Pekin and
the _Chinese Times_ of Tien-Tsin had demanded mercy for the young
Roumanian. These cries for mercy had reached the feet of the Son of
Heaven--the very spot where the imperial ears are placed. Besides,
Pan-Chao had sent to his majesty a petition relating the incidents of
the journey, and insisting on the point that had it not been for
Kinko's devotion, the gold and precious stones would be in the hands of
Faruskiar and his bandits. And, by Buddha! that was worth something
else than six months in prison.
Yes! It was worth 15,000 taels, that is to say, more than 100,000
francs, and in a fit of generosity the Son of Heaven remitted these to
Kinko with the remittal of his sentence.
I decline to depict the joy, the happiness, the intoxication which this
news brought by Kinko in person, gave to all his friends, and
particularly to the fair Zinca Klork. These things are expressible in
no language--not even in Chinese, which lends itself so generously to
And now my readers must permit me to finish with my traveling
companions whose numbers have figured in my notebook.
Nos. 1 and 2, Fulk Ephrinell and Miss Horatia Bluett: not being able to
agree regarding the various items stipulated in their matrimonial
contract, they were divorced three days after their arrival in Pekin.
Things were as though the marriage had never been celebrated on the
Grand Transasiatic, and Miss Horatia Bluett remained Miss Horatia
Bluett. May she gather cargoes of heads of hair from Chinese polls; and
may he furnish with artificial teeth every jaw in the Celestial Empire!
No. 3, Major Noltitz: he is busy at the hospital he has come to
establish at Pekin on behalf of the Russian government, and when the
hour for separation strikes, I feel that I shall leave a true friend
behind me in these distant lands.
Nos. 4 and 5, the Caternas: after a stay of three weeks in the capital
of the Celestial Empire, the charming actor and actress set out for
Shanghai, where they are now the great attraction at the French
No. 6, Baron Weissschnitzerdoerfer, whose incommensurable name I write
for the last time: well, not only did the globe-trotter miss the
steamer at Tien-Tsin, but a month later he missed it at Yokohama; six
weeks after that he was shipwrecked on the coast of British Columbia,
and then, after being thrown off the line between San Francisco and New
York, he managed to complete his round of the world in a hundred and
eighty-seven days instead of thirty-nine.
Nos. 9 and 10, Pan-Chao and Dr. Tio-King: what can I say except that
Pan-Chao is always the Parisian you know, and that if he comes to
France we shall meet at dinner at Durand's or Marguery's. As to the
doctor, he has got down to eating only the yolk of an egg a day, like
his master, Cornaro, and he hopes to live to a hundred and two as did
the noble Venetian.
No. 8, Sir Francis Trevellyan, and No. 12, Seigneur Faruskiar: I have
never heard of the one who owes me an apology and a cigar, nor have I
heard that the other has been hanged. Doubtless, the illustrious
bandit, having sent in his resignation of the general managership of
the Grand Transasiatic, continues his lucrative career in the depths of
the Mongol provinces.
Now for Kinko, my No. 11: I need hardly say that my No. 11 was married
to Zinca Klork with great ceremony. We were all at the wedding, and if
the Son of Heaven had richly endowed the young Roumanian, his wife
received a magnificent present in the name of the passengers of the
train he had saved.
That is the faithful story of this journey. I have done my best to do
my duty as special correspondent all down the line, and perhaps my
editors may be satisfied, notwithstanding the slip or two you have
As to me, after spending three weeks in Pekin, I returned to France by
And now I have to make a confession, which is very painful to my
self-esteem. The morning after I arrived in the Chinese capital I
received a telegram thus worded, in reply to the one I had sent from
_Twentieth Century requests its correspondent, Claudius Bombarnac, to
present its compliments and respects to the heroic Seigneur Faruskiar_.
But I always say that this telegram never reached him, so that he has
been spared the unpleasantness of having to reply to it.