And he dived again into his trousers pockets, his waistcoat pockets, his coat pockets, his great-coat pockets—there were twenty of them at the least—and he found nothing.
“Be quick—be quick!” said the interpreter. “The train cannot wait!”
“I object to its going without me!” exclaimed the baron. “These papers—how have they gone astray? I must have let them drop out of my case. They should have given them back to me—”
At this moment the gong awoke the echoes of the interior of the railway station.
“Wait! wait! Donner vetter! Can’t you wait a few moments for a man who is going round the world in thirty-nine days—”
“The Grand Transasiatic does not wait,” says the interpreter.
Without waiting for any more, Major Noltitz and I reach the platform, while the baron continues to struggle in the presence of the impassible Chinese functionaries.
I examine the train and see that its composition has been modified on account of there being fewer travelers between Kachgar and Pekin. Instead of twelve carriages, there are now only ten, placed in the following order: engine, tender, front van, two first-class cars, dining car, two second-class cars, the van with the defunct mandarin, rear van.
The Russian locomotives, which have brought us from Uzun-Ada, have been replaced by a Chinese locomotive, burning not naphtha but coal, of which there are large deposits in Turkestan, and stores at the chief stations along the line.
My first care is to look in at the front van. The custom-house officers are about to visit it, and I tremble for poor Kinko.
It is evident that the fraud has not been discovered yet, for there would have been a great stir at the news. Suppose the case is passed? Will its position be shifted? Will it be put hind side before or upside down? Kinko will not then be able to get out, and that would be a complication.
The Chinese officers have come out of the van and shut the door, so that I cannot give a glance into it. The essential point is that Kinko has not been caught in the act. As soon as possible I will enter the van, and as bankers say, “verify the state of the safe.”
Before getting into our car, Major Noltitz asks me to follow him to the rear of the train.
The scene we witness is not devoid of interest; it is the giving over of the corpse of the mandarin Yen Lou by the Persian guards to a detachment of soldiers of the Green Standard, who form the Chinese gendarmerie. The defunct passes into the care of twenty Celestials, who are to occupy the second-class car in front of the mortuary van. They are armed with guns and revolvers, and commanded by an officer.
“Well,” said I to the major, “this mandarin must be some very exalted personage if the Son of Heaven sends him a guard of honor—”
“Or of defence,” replies the major.
Faruskiar and Ghangir assist at these proceedings, in which there is nothing surprising. Surely the general manager of the line ought to keep an eye on the illustrious defunct, entrusted to the care of the Grand Transasiatic?