“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 fraudulent Kinko.
We retired while Caterna poured out all the locutions in his marine and theatrical vocabulary.