But what we are about to do was done by another at that very instant.
This other was Faruskiar. Bursting through the ranks of the assailants, he cleared them off the line, in spite of the blows they aimed at him. He is in front of the bandit chief, he raises his arm, he stabs him full in the chest.
Instantly the thieves beat a retreat, without even carrying off their dead and wounded. Some run across the plain, some disappear in the thickets. Why pursue them, now that the battle has ended in our favor? And I must say that without the admirable valor of Faruskiar, I do not expect any of us would have lived to tell the story.
But the chief of the bandits is not dead, although the blood flows abundantly from his chest.
He has fallen with one knee on the ground, one hand up, with the other he is supporting himself.
Faruskiar stands over him, towering above him.
Suddenly he rises in a last effort, his arm threatens his adversary, he looks at him.
A last thrust of the kandijar is driven into his heart.
Faruskiar returns, and in Russian, with perfect calmness, remarks:
“Ki-Tsang is dead! So perish all who bear weapons against the Son of Heaven!”
And so it was Ki-Tsang who had just attacked the Grand Transasiatic on the plains of Gobi. The pirate of Vunnan had learned that a van containing gold and precious stones of enormous value had formed part of this train! And was there anything astonishing in that, considering that the newspapers, even those of Paris, had published the fact many days before? So Ki-Tsang had had time to prepare his attempt, and had lifted a portion of the rails, and would probably have succeeded in carrying off the treasure if Faruskiar had not brought him to his feet. That is why our hero had been so uneasy all the morning; if he had been looking out over the desert so persistently, it was because he had been warned of Ki-Tsang’s plans by the last Mongol who had joined the train at Tchertchen! Under any circumstances we had now nothing to fear from Ki-Tsang. The manager of the company had done justice on the bandit—speedy justice, I admit. But we are in the midst of the deserts of Mongolia, where there are no juries as yet, which is a good thing for the Mongols.
“Well,” said I to the major, “I hope you have abandoned your suspicions with regard to my lord Faruskiar?”
“To a certain extent, Monsieur Bombarnac!” Only to a certain extent? Evidently Major Noltitz is difficult to please.
But let us hasten on and count our victims. On our side there are three dead, including the Chinese officer, and more than twelve wounded, four of them seriously, the rest slightly, so that they can continue their journey to Pekin. Popof escaped without a scratch, Caterna with a slight graze which his wife insists on bathing.