I am reduced to strolling from one car to another, lounging on the platforms, interrogating the horizon, which obstinately refuses to reply, listening on all sides.
Hello! there are the actor and his wife apparently in animated conversation. I approach. They sing in an undertone. I listen.
“I’m fond of my turkeys—eys—eys,” says Madame Caterna.
“I’m fond of my wethers—ers—ers,” says Monsieur Caterna, in any number of baritones.
It is the everlasting duet between Pipo and Bettina; and they are rehearsing for Shanghai. Happy Shanghai! They do not yet know the Mascotte!
Ephrinell and Miss Bluett are talking away with unusual animation, and I catch the end of the dialogue.
“I am afraid,” said she, “that hair will be rising in Pekin—”
“And I,” said he, “that teeth will be down. Ah! If a good war would only break out in which the Russians would give the Chinaman a smack on the jaw.”
There now! Smack them on the jaw, in order that Strong, Bulbul & Co., of New York, might have a chance of doing a trade!
Really I do not know what to do, and we have a week’s journey before us. To Jericho with the Grand Transasiatic and its monotonous security! The Great Trunk from New York to San Francisco has more life in it! At least, the redskins do sometimes attack the trains, and the chance of a scalping on the road cannot but add to the charm of the voyage!
But what is that I hear being recited, or rather intoned at the end of our compartment?
“There is no man, whoever he may be, who cannot prevent himself from eating too much, and avoid the evils due to repletion. On those who are intrusted with the direction of public affairs this is more incumbent than on others—”
It is Dr. Tio-King reading Cornaro aloud, in order that he may remember his principles better. Eh! after all, this principle is not to be despised. Shall I send it by telegram to our cabinet ministers? They might, perhaps, dine with more discretion after it.
During this afternoon I find by the guide-book that we shall cross the Yamanyar over a wooden bridge. This stream descends from the mountains to the west, which are at least twenty-five thousand feet high, and its rapidity is increased by the melting of the snows. Sometimes the train runs through thick jungles, amid which Popof assures me tigers are numerous. Numerous they may be, but I have not seen one. And yet in default of redskins we might get some excitement out of tiger-skins. What a heading for a newspaper, and what a stroke of luck for a journalist! TERRIBLE CATASTROPHE. A GRAND TRANSASIATIC EXPRESS ATTACKED BY TIGERS. FIFTY VICTIMS. AN INFANT DEVOURED BEFORE ITS MOTHER’S EYES—the whole thickly leaded and appropriately displayed.
Well, no! The Turkoman felidae did not give me even that satisfaction! And I treat them—as I treat any other harmless cats.