“I know that, Kinko. That was at Bokhara. I saw you!”
“You saw me?”
“Yes, and I thought you were trying to get away. But if I saw you, it was because I knew of your presence in the van, and I was there watching you, no one else having an idea of spying on you. Nevertheless, it was dangerous; do not do it again; let me replenish your larder when I get an opportunity.”
“Thank you, Monsieur Bombarnac, thank you! I do not believe I am in danger of being discovered, unless at the Chinese frontier—or rather at Kachgar.”
“The custom house is very keen on goods going into China. I am afraid they will come round the packages, and that my box—”
“In fact, Kinko,” I replied, “there are a few difficult hours for you.”
“If they find me out?”
“I shall be there, and I will do all I can to prevent anything unpleasant happening.”
“Ah! Monsieur Bombarnac!” exclaimed Kinko, in a burst of gratitude. “How can I repay you?”
“Very easily, Kinko.”
“And in what way?”
“Ask me to your marriage with the lovely Zinca.”
“I will! And Zinca will embrace you.”
“She will be only doing her duty, friend Kinko, and I shall be only doing mine in returning two kisses for one.”
We exchanged a last grip of the hand; and, really, I think there were tears in the good fellow’s eyes when I left him. He put out his lamp, he pushed back the panel, then through the case I heard one more “thanks” and an “au revoir.”
I came out of the van, I shut the door, I assured myself that Popof was still asleep. In a few minutes, after a breath or two of the night air, I go into my place near Major Noltitz.
And before I close my eyes my last thought is that, thanks to the appearance of the episodic Kinko, the journey of their energetic “Special” will not be displeasing to my readers.
In 1870 the Russians endeavored without success to establish a fair at Tachkend which would rival that at Nijni-Novgorod. Some twenty years later the attempt would have succeeded, and as a matter of fact the fair now exists, owing to the making of the Transcaspian to unite Samarkand and Tachkend.
And now not only do merchants with their merchandise crowd into this town, but pilgrims with their pilgrimage outfits. And there will be quite a procession, or rather an exodus, when the time comes for the Mussulman faithful to ride to Mecca by railway.
Meanwhile we are at Tachkend, and the time-table shows that we stop here two hours and a half.
Of course I shall not have time to visit the town, which would be worth my while to do. But I must confess that these cities of Turkestan are very much alike, and to have seen one is to have seen another, unless we can go into details.