“Stage people who are going to a theater in China.”
Stage people! If that explains the attitudes, and mobile physiognomy, and demonstrative gestures of Caterna, it does not explain his maritime allusions.
“And do you know what line these players are in?”
“The husband is comic lead.”
“And the wife?”
“She is leading lady.”
“And where are these lyrical people going?”
“To Shanghai, where they have an engagement at the French theater.”
That is capital. I will talk about the theater, and behind the scenes, and such matters, and, as Popof said, I shall soon make the acquaintance of the cheery comedian and his charming wife. But it is not in their company that I shall discover the hero of romance who is the object of my desire.
As to the scornful gentleman, our guide knew nothing beyond that his luggage bore the address in full: Sir Francis Trevellyan, Trevellyan Hall, Trevellyanshire.
“A gentleman who does not answer when he is spoken to!” added Popof.
Well, my number eight will have to be dumb man, and that will do very well.
“Now we get to the German,” said I.
“He is going to Pekin, I think.”
“To Pekin and beyond.”
“Yes; he is on a trip round the world.”
“A trip round the world?”
“In thirty-nine days.”
And so after Mrs. Bisland who did the famous tour in seventy-three days, and Train who did it in seventy, this German was attempting to do it in thirty-nine?
True, the means of communication are more rapid the line is more direct, and by using the Grand Transasiatic which puts Pekin within a fortnight of the Prussian capital, the baron might halve the old time by Suez and Singapore—but—
“He will never do it!” I exclaimed.
“Why not?” asked Popof.
“Because he is always late. He nearly missed the train at Tiflis, he nearly missed the boat at Baku—”
“But he did not miss the start from Uzun Ada.”
“It doesn’t matter, Popof. I shall be much surprised if this German beats an American at globe trotting.”
* * * * *
The train arrived at Kizil Arvat, two hundred and forty-two versts from the Caspian, at thirteen minutes past seven in the evening instead of seven o’clock. This slight delay provoked thirteen objurgations from the baron, one for each minute.
We have two hours to wait at Kizil Arvat. Although the day is closing in, I could not employ my time better than in visiting this little town, which contains more than two thousand inhabitants, Russians, Persians and Turkomans. There is not much to see, however, either within it or around it; there are no trees—not even a palm tree—only pasturages and fields of cereals, watered by a narrow stream. My good fortune furnished me with a companion, or I should rather say a guide, in Major Noltitz.