Jules Verne.

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"I know it all the better," said the major, "from having been in
garrison there for fifteen months. It is a pity you have not time to
visit it, for it remains very Asiatic, and there has not been time yet
for it to grow a modern town. There is a square there unrivalled in
Asia, a palace in great style, that of the old Khan of Khondajar,
situated on a mound about a hundred yards high, and in which the
governor has left his Sarthe artillery. It is considered wonderful, and
there is good reason for it. You will lose by not going there a rare
opportunity of bringing in the high-flown words of your language in
description: the reception hall transformed into a Russian church, a
labyrinth of rooms with the floors of the precious Karagatch wood, the
rose pavilion, in which visitors receive a truly Oriental hospitality,
the interior court of Moorish decoration recalling the adorable
architectural fancies of the Alhambra, the terraces with their splendid
views, the harem where the thousand wives of the Sultan - a hundred more
than Solomon - live in peace together, the lacework of the fronts, the
gardens with their shady walks under the ancient vines - that is what
you would have seen - "

"And which I have already seen with your eyes, dear major," said I. "My
readers will not complain. Pray tell me if there are any bazaars in ."

"A Turkestan town without bazaars would be like London without its

"And Paris without its theaters!" said the actor.

"Yes; there are bazaars at Kokhan, one of them on the Sokh bridge, the two
arms of which traverse the town and in it the finest fabrics of Asia
are sold for tillahs of gold, which are worth three roubles and sixty
kopeks of our money."

"I am sure, major, that you are going to mention mosques after bazaars."


"And medresses?"

"Certainly; but you must understand that some of them are as good as
the mosques and medresses of Samarkand of Bokhara."

I took advantage of the kindness of Major Noltitz and thanks to him,
the readers of the _Twentieth Century_ need not spend a night in Kokhan. I
will leave my pen inundated with the solar rays of this city of which I
could only see a vague outline.

The dinner lasted till rather late, and terminated in an unexpected
manner by an offer from Caterna to recite a monologue.

I need scarcely say that the offer was gladly accepted.

Our train more and more resembled a small rolling town It had even its
casino, this dining-car in which we were gathered at the moment. And it
was thus in the eastern part of Turkestan, four hundred kilometres from
the Pamir plateau, at dessert after our excellent dinner served in a
saloon of the Grand Transasiatic, that the _Obsession_ was given with
remarkable talent by Monsieur Caterna, grand premier comique, engaged
at Shanghai theater for the approaching season.

"Monsieur," said Pan Chao, "my sincere compliments. I have heard young
Coquelin - "

"A master, monsieur; a master!" said Caterna.

"Whom you approach - "

"Respectfully - very respectfully!"

The bravos lavished on Caterna had no effect on Sir Francis Trevellyan,
who had been occupying himself with onomatopic exclamations regarding
the dinner, which he considered execrable. He was not amused - not even
sadly, as his countrymen have been for four hundred years, according to
Froissart. And yet nobody took any notice of this grumbling gentleman's

Baron Weissschnitzerdörfer had not understood a single word of this
little masterpiece, and had he understood it, he would not have been
able to appreciate this sample of Parisian monologomania.

As to my lord Faruskiar and his inseparable Ghangir, it seemed that in
spite of their traditional reserve, the surprising grimaces, the
significant gestures, the comical intonations, had interested them to a
certain extent.

The actor had noticed it, and appreciated this silent admiration.

As he rose from the table he said to me:

"He is magnificent, this seigneur! What dignity! What a presence! What
a type of the farthest East! I like his companion less - a third-rate
fellow at the outside! But this superb Mongol! Caroline, cannot you
imagine him as 'Morales' in the _Pirates of the Savannah_?"

"Not in that costume, at any rate," said I.

"Why not, Monsieur Claudius? One day at Perpignan I played 'Colonel de
Montéclin' in the _Closerie des Genets_ in the costume of a Japanese
officer - "

"And he was applauded!" added Madame Caterna.

During dinner the train had passed Kastakos station, situated in the
center of a mountainous region. The road curved a good deal, and ran
over viaducts and through tunnels - as we could tell by the noise.

A little time afterward Popof told us that we were in the territory of
Ferganah, the name of the ancient khanate of Kokhan, which was annexed by
Russia in 1876, with the seven districts that compose it. These
districts, in which Sarthes are in the majority, are administered by
prefects, sub-prefects, and mayors. Come, then, to Ferganah, to find
all the machinery of the constitution of the year VIII.

Beyond there is an immense steppe, extending before our train. Madame
de Ujfalvy-Bourdon has justly compared it to a billiard table, so
perfect in its horizontality. Only it is not an ivory ball which is
rolling over its surface, but an express of the Grand Transasiatic
running at sixty kilometres an hour.

Leaving the station of Tchontchai behind, we enter station at nine
o'clock in the evening. The stoppage is to last two hours. We get out
onto the platform.

As we are leaving the car I am near Major Noltitz, who asks young Pan

"Have you ever heard of this mandarin Yen Lou, whose body is being
taken to Pekin?"

"Never, major."

"But he ought to be a personage of consideration, to be treated with
the honor he gets."

"That is possible," said Pan Chao; "but we have so many personages of
consideration in the Celestial Empire."

"And so, this mandarin, Yen Lou?"

"I never heard him mentioned."

Why did Major Noltitz ask the Chinaman this question? What was he
thinking about?


Kokhan, two hours to stop. It is night. The majority of the travelers
have already taken up their sleeping quarters in the car, and do not
care to alight.

Here am I on the platform, walking the deck as I smoke. This is rather
an important station, and from the engine house comes a more powerful
locomotive than those which have brought the train along since we left
Uzun Ada. These early engines were all very well as long as the line
lay over an almost horizontal plain. But now we are among the gorges of
the Pamir plateau, there are gradients of such steepness as to require
more engine power.

I watch the proceedings, and when the locomotive has been detached with
its tender, the baggage van - with Kinko in - is at the head of the train.

The idea occurs to me that the young Roumanian may perhaps venture out
on the platform. It would be an imprudence for he runs the risk of
being seen by the police, the "gardovois," who move about taking a good
look at the passengers. What my No. 11 had better do is to remain in
his box, or at least in his van. I will go and get a few provisions,
liquid and solid, and take them to him, even before the departure of
the train, if it is possible to do so without fear of being noticed.

The refreshment room at the station is open, and Popof is not there. If
he was to see me making purchases he would be astonished, as the dining
car contains everything we might want.

At the bar I get a little cold meat, some bread, and a bottle of vodka.

The station is not well lighted. A few lamps give only a feeble light.
Popof is busy with one of the railway men. The new engine has not yet
been attached to the train. The moment seems favorable. It is useless
to wait until we have left. If I can reach Kinko I shall be able to
sleep through the night - and that will be welcome, I admit.

I step onto the train, and after assuring myself that no one is
watching me, I enter the baggage van, saying as I do so:

"It is I."

In fact it is as well to warn Kinko in case he is out of his box.

But he had not thought of getting out, and I advise him to be very

He is very pleased at the provisions, for they are a change to his
usual diet.

"I do not know how to thank you, Monsieur Bombarnac," he says to me.

"If you do not know, friend Kinko," I reply, "do not do it; that is
very simple."

"How long do we stop at ?"

"Two hours."

"And when shall we be at the frontier?"

"To-morrow, about one in the afternoon."

"And at Kachgar?"

"Fifteen hours afterward, in the night of the nineteenth."

"There the danger is, Monsieur Bombarnac."

"Yes, Kinko; for if it is difficult to enter the Russian possessions,
it is no less difficult to get out of them, when the Chinese are at the
gates. Their officials will give us a good look over before they will
let us pass. At the same time they examine the passengers much more
closely than they do their baggage. And as this van is reserved for the
luggage going through to Pekin, I do not think you have much to fear.
So good night. As a matter of precaution, I would rather not prolong my

"Good night, Monsieur Bombarnac, good night."

I have come out, I have regained my couch, and I really did not hear
the starting signal when the train began to move.

The only station of any importance which the railway passed before
sunrise, was that of Marghelan, where the stoppage was a short one.

Marghelan, a populous town - sixty thousand inhabitants - is the real
capital of Ferganah. That is owing to the fact that does not enjoy a
good reputation for salubrity. It is of course, a double town, one town
Russian, the other Turkoman. The latter has no ancient monuments, and
no curiosities, and my readers must pardon my not having interrupted my
sleep to give them a glance at it.

Following the valley of Schakhimardan, the train has reached a sort of
steppe and been able to resume its normal speed.

At three o'clock in the morning we halt for forty-five minutes at Och

There I failed in my duty as a reporter, and I saw nothing. My excuse
is that there was nothing to see.

Beyond this station the road reaches the frontier which divides Russian
Turkestan from the Pamir plateau and the vast territory of the

This part of Central Asia is continually being troubled by Plutonian
disturbances beneath its surface. Northern Turkestan has frequently
suffered from earthquake - the terrible experience of 1887 will not have
been forgotten - and at Tachkend, as at Samarkand, I saw the traces of
these commotions. In fact, minor oscillations are continually being
observed, and this volcanic action takes place all along the fault,
where lay the stores of petroleum and naphtha, from the Caspian Sea to
the Pamir plateau.

In short, this region is one of the most interesting parts of Central
Asia that a tourist can visit. If Major Noltitz had never been beyond
Och station, at the foot of the plateau, he knew the district from
having studied it on the modern maps and in the most recent books of
travels. Among these I would mention those of Capus and Bonvalot - again
two French names I am happy to salute out of France. The major is,
nevertheless, anxious to see the country for himself, and although it
is not yet six o'clock in the morning, we are both out on the gangway,
glasses in hand, maps under our eyes.

The Pamir, or Bam-i-Douniah, is commonly called the "Roof of the
World." From it radiate the mighty chains of the Thian Shan, of the
Kuen Lun, of the Kara Korum, of the Himalaya, of the Hindoo Koosh. This
orographic system, four hundred kilometres across, which remained for
so many years an impassable barrier, has been surmounted by Russian
tenacity. The Sclav race and the Yellow race have come into contact.

We may as well have a little book learning on the subject; but it is
not I that speak, but Major Noltitz.

The travelers of the Aryan people have all attempted to explore the
plateau of the Pamir. Without going back to Marco Polo in the
thirteenth century, what do we find? The English with Forsyth, Douglas,
Biddulph, Younghusband, and the celebrated Gordon who died on the Upper
Nile; the Russians with Fendchenko, Skobeleff, Prjevalsky,
Grombtchevsky, General Pevtzoff, Prince Galitzin, the brothers
Groum-Grjimailo; the French with Auvergne, Bonvalot, Capus, Papin,
Breteuil, Blanc, Ridgway, O'Connor, Dutreuil de Rhins, Joseph Martin,
Grenard, Edouard Blanc; the Swedes with Doctor Swen-Hedin.

This Roof of the World, one would say that some devil on two sticks had
lifted it up in his magic hand to let us see its mysteries. We know now
that it consists of an inextricable entanglement of valleys, the mean
altitude of which exceeds three thousand metres; we know that it is
dominated by the peaks of Gouroumdi and Kauffmann, twenty-two thousand
feet high, and the peak of Tagarma, which is twenty-seven thousand
feet; we know that it sends off to the west the Oxus and the Amou
Daria, and to the east the Tarim; we know that it chiefly consists of
primary rocks, in which are patches of schist and quartz, red sands of
secondary age, and the clayey, sandy loess of the quaternary period
which is so abundant in Central Asia.

The difficulties the Grand Transasiatic had in crossing this plateau
were extraordinary. It was a challenge from the genius of man to
nature, and the victory remained with genius. Through the gently
sloping passes which the Kirghizes call "bels," viaducts, bridges,
embankments, cuttings, tunnels had to be made to carry the line. Here
are sharp curves, gradients which require the most powerful
locomotives, here and there stationary engines to haul up the train
with cables, in a word, a herculean labor, superior to the works of the
American engineers in the defiles of the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky

The desolate aspect of these territories makes a deep impression on the
imagination. As the train gains the higher altitudes, this impression
is all the more vivid. There are no towns, no villages - nothing but a
few scattered huts, in which the Pamirian lives a solitary existence
with his family, his horses, his herds of yaks, or "koutars," which are
cattle with horses' tails, his diminutive sheep, his thick-haired
goats. The moulting of these animals, if we may so phrase it, is a
natural consequence of the climate, and they change the dressing gown
of winter for the white fur coat of summer. It is the same with the
dog, whose coat becomes whiter in the hot season.

As the passes are ascended, wide breaks in the ranges yield frequent
glimpses of the more distant portions of the plateau. In many places
are clumps of birches and junipers, which are the principal trees of
the Pamir, and on the undulating plains grow tamarisks and sedges and
mugwort, and a sort of reed very abundant by the sides of the saline
pools, and a dwarf labiate called "terskenne" by the Kirghizes.

The major mentioned certain animals which constitute a somewhat varied
fauna on the heights of the Pamir. It is even necessary to keep an eye
on the platforms of the cars in case a stray panther or bear might seek
a ride without any right to travel either first or second class. During
the day our companions were on the lookout from both ends of the cars.
What shouts arose when plantigrades or felines capered along the line
with intentions that certainly seemed suspicious! A few revolver shots
were discharged, without much necessity perhaps, but they amused as
well as reassured the travelers. In the afternoon we were witnesses of
a magnificent shot, which killed instantly an enormous panther just as
he was landing on the side step of the third carriage.

"It is thine, Marguerite!" exclaimed Caterna. And could he have better
expressed his admiration than in appropriating the celebrated reply of
Buridan to the Dauphine's wife - and not the queen of France, as is
wrongly stated in the famous drama of the _Tour de Nesle_?

It was our superb Mongol to whom we were indebted for this marksman's

"What a hand and what an eye!" said I to the major, who continued to
look on Faruskiar with suspicion.

Among the other animals of the Pamirian fauna appeared wolves and
foxes, and flocks of those large wild sheep with gnarled and gracefully
curved horns, which are known to the natives as arkars. High in the sky
flew the vultures, bearded and unbearded, and amid the clouds of white
vapor we left behind us were many crows and pigeons and turtledoves and

The day passed without adventure. At six o'clock in the evening we
crossed the frontier, after a run of nearly two thousand three hundred
kilometres, accomplished in four days since leaving Uzun Ada. Two
hundred and fifty kilometres beyond we shall be at Kachgar. Although we
are now in Chinese Turkestan, it will not be till we reach that town
that we shall have our first experience of Chinese administration.

Dinner over about nine o'clock, we stretched ourselves on our beds, in
the hope, or rather the conviction, that the night will be as calm as
the preceding one.

It was not to be so.

At first the train was running down the slopes of the Pamir at great
speed. Then it resumed its normal rate along the level.

It was about one in the morning when I was suddenly awakened.

At the same time Major Noltitz and most of our companions jumped up.

There were loud shouts in the rear of the train.

What had happened?

Anxiety seized upon the travelers - that confused, unreasonable anxiety
caused by the slightest incident on a railroad.

"What is the matter? What is the matter?"

These words were uttered in alarm from all sides and in different

My first thought was that we were attacked. I thought of the famous
Ki-Tsang, the Mongol pirate, whose help I had so imprudently called
upon - for my chronicle.

In a moment the train began to slow, evidently preparing to stop.

Popof came into the van, and I asked him what had happened.

"An accident," he replied.


"No, a coupling has broken, and the two last vans are left behind."

As soon as the train pulls up, a dozen travelers, of whom I am one, get
out onto the track.

By the light of the lantern it is easy to see that the breakage is not
due to malevolence. But it is none the less true that the two last
vans, the mortuary van and the rear van occupied by the goods guard,
are missing. How far off are they? Nobody knows.

You should have heard the shouts of the Persian guards engaged in
escorting the remains of Yen Lou, for which they were responsible! The
travelers in their van, like themselves, had not noticed when the
coupling broke. It might be an hour, two hours, since the accident.

What ought to be done was clear enough. The train must be run backward
and pick up the lost vans.

Nothing could be more simple. But - and this surprised me - the behavior
of my lord Faruskiar seemed very strange. He insisted in the most
pressing manner that not a moment should be lost. He spoke to Popof, to
the driver, to the stoker, and for the first time I discovered that he
spoke Russian remarkably well.

There was no room for discussion. We were all agreed on the necessity
of a retrograde movement.

Only the German baron protested. More delays! A waste of time for the
sake of a mandarin - and a dead mandarin!

He had to walk about and bear it. As to Sir Francis Trevellyan, he
merely shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say: "What management!
What couplings! We should not get this sort of thing on an Anglo-Indian

Major Noltitz was as much struck as I was at the behavior of my lord
Faruskiar. This Mongol, usually so calm, so impassible, with his cool
look beneath his motionless eyelid, had become a prey to a sort of
furious anxiety which he appeared incapable of controlling. His
companion was as excited as he was. But what was there in these two
missing vans which could be of interest to them? They had not even any
luggage in the rear van! Was it the mandarin, Yen Lou? Was it for that
reason that at Donchak they had so carefully watched the van which
contained the corpse? I could see clearly enough that the major thought
it all very suspicious.

The train began to run back as soon as we had taken our places. The
German baron attempted to curse, but Faruskiar gave him such a look
that he did not care to get another, and stowed himself away in the

Dawn appeared in the east when the two wagons were found a kilometre
off, and the train gently slowed up to them after an hour's run.

Faruskiar and Ghangir went to help in coupling on the vans, which was
done as firmly as possible. Major Noltitz and I noticed that they
exchanged a few words with the other Mongols. After all, there was
nothing astonishing in that, for they were countrymen of theirs.

We resume our seats in the train, and the engineer tries to make up for
lost time.

Nevertheless, the train does not arrive at Kachgar without a long
delay, and it is half-past four in the morning when we enter the
capital of Chinese Turkestan.

* * * * *


Kachgaria is Oriental Turkestan which is gradually being metamorphosed
into Russian Turkestan.

The writers in the _New Review_ have said: "Central Asia will only be a
great country when the Muscovite administration have laid hands on
Tibet, or when the Russians lord it at Kachgar."

Well, that is a thing half done! The piercing of the Pamir has joined
the Russian railway with the Chinese line which runs from one frontier
of the Celestial Empire to the other. The capital of Kachgaria is now
as much Russian as Chinese. The Sclav race and the Yellow race have
rubbed elbows and live in peace. How long will it last? To others leave
the future; I am content with the present.

We arrive at half-past four; we leave at eleven. The Grand Transasiatic
shows itself generous. I shall have time to see Kachgar, on condition
of allowing myself an hour less than the time stated.

For what was not done at the frontier has to be done at Kachgar.
Russians and Chinese are one as bad as the other when there are vexing
formalities; papers to verify, passports to sign, etc., etc. It is the
same sort of meddling, minute and over-fastidious, and we must put up
with it. We must not forget the terrible threat of the formula the
functionary of the Celestial Empire affixes to his acts - "Tremble and
obey!" I am disposed to obey, and I am prepared to appear before the
authorities of the frontier. I remember the fears of Kinko, and it is
with regard to him that the trembling is to be done, if the examination
of the travelers extends to their packages and luggage.

Before we reached Kachgar, Major Noltitz said to me:

"Do not imagine that Chinese Turkestan differs very much from Russian
Turkestan. We are not in the land of pagodas, junks, flower boats,
yamens, hongs and porcelain towers. Like Bokhara, Merv and Samarkand,
Kachgar is a double town. It is with the Central Asian cities as it is
with certain stars, only they do not revolve round one another."

The major's remark was very true. It was not so long ago since emirs
reigned over Kachgaria, since the monarchy of Mohammed Yakoub extended
over the whole of Turkestan, since the Chinese who wished to live here
had to adjure the religion of Buddha and Confucius and become converts
to Mahometanism, that is, if they wished to be respectable. What would
you have? In these days we are always too late, and those marvels of
the Oriental cosmorama, those curious manners, those masterpieces of
Asiatic art, are either memories or ruins. The railways will end by
bringing the countries they traverse down to the same level, to a
mutual resemblance which will certainly be equality and may be
fraternity. In truth, Kachgar is no longer the capital of Kachgaria; it
is a station on the Grand Transasiatic, the junction between the
Russian and Chinese lines, and the strip of iron which stretches for
three thousand kilometres from the Caspian to this city runs on for
nearly four thousand more to the capital of the Celestial Empire.

I return to the double town. The new one is Yangi-Chahr: the old one,
three and a half miles off, is Kachgar. I have seen both, and I will
tell you what they are like.

In the first place, both the old and the new towns are surrounded with
a villainous earthen wall that does not predispose you in their favor.
Secondly, it is in vain that you seek for any monument whatever, for

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