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"But," said Pan-Chao, "how does it happen the Nanking branch was open when the Tjon viaduct is not finished? Had the switch been interfered with?"
"Undoubtedly," said Popof, "and probably out of carelessness."
"No," said Ephrinell, deliberately. "There has been a crime--a crime intended to bring about the destruction of the train and passengers--"
"And with what object?" asked Popof.
"The object of stealing the imperial treasure," said Ephrinell. "Do you forget that those millions would be a temptation to scoundrels? Was it not for the purpose of robbing the train that we were attacked between Tchertchen and Tcharkalyk?"
The American could not have been nearer the truth.
"And so," said Popof, "after Ki-Tsang's attempt, you think that other bandits--"
Up to now Major Noltitz had taken no part in the discussion. Now he interrupted Popof, and in a voice heard by all he asked:
"Where is Faruskiar?"
They all looked about and tried to discover what had become of the manager of the Transasiatic.
"And where is his friend Ghangir?" asked the major.
There was no reply.
"And where are the four Mongols who were in the rear van?" asked Major Noltitz.
And none of them presented themselves.
They called my lord Faruskiar a second time.
Faruskiar made no response.
Popof entered the car where this personage was generally to be found.
It was empty.
Empty? No. Sir Francis Trevellyan was calmly seated in his place, utterly indifferent to all that happened. Was it any business of his? Not at all. Was he not entitled to consider that the Russo-Chinese railways were the very apex of absurdity and disorder? A switch opened, nobody knew by whom! A train on the wrong line! Could anything be more ridiculous than this Russian mismanagement?
"Well, then!" said Major Noltitz, "the rascal who sent us on to the Nanking line, who would have hurled us into the Tjon valley, to walk off with the imperial treasure, is Faruskiar."
"Faruskiar!" the passengers exclaimed. And most of them refused to believe it.
"What!" said Popof. "The manager of the company who so courageously drove off the bandits and killed their chief Ki-Tsang with his own hand?"
Then I entered on the scene.
"The major is not mistaken. It was Faruskiar who laid this fine trap for us."
And amid the general stupefaction I told them what I knew, and what good fortune had enabled me to ascertain. I told them how I had overheard the plan of Faruskiar and his Mongols, when it was too late to stop it, but I was silent regarding the intervention of Kinko. The moment had not come, and I would do him justice in due time.
To my words there succeeded a chorus of maledictions and menaces.
What! This seigneur Faruskiar, this superb Mongol, this functionary we had seen at work! No! It was impossible.