There is no doubt, in our opinion, but what it will end in a wedding as soon as the train arrives. Both will have their romance of the rail. Frankly, I like that of Kinko and Zinca Klork much better. It is true the pretty Roumanian is not here!
We are all very friendly, and by "we" I mean my most sympathetic numbers, the major, the Caternas, young Pan Chao, who replies with very Parisian pleasantries to the actor's fooleries.
The dinner is a pleasant one and a good one. We learn what is the fourth rule formulated by Cornaco, that Venetian noble, and with the object of determining the right amount for drinking and eating. Pan Chao pressed the doctor on this subject, and Tio-King replied, with a seriousness truly buddhic:
"The rule is founded on the quantity of nourishment proportionate for each temperament as regards the difference of ages, and the strength and the food of various kinds."
"And for your temperament, doctor?" asked Caterna, "what is the right quantity?"
"Fourteen ounces of solid or liquid--"
"No, sir, a day," replied Tio-King. "And it was in this manner that the illustrious Cornaro lived from the age of thirty-six, so as to leave himself enough strength of body and mind to write his fourth treatise when he was eighty-five, and to live to a hundred and two."
"In that case, give me my fifth cutlet," said Pan Ghao, with a burst of laughter.
There is nothing more agreeable than to talk before a well-served table; but I must not forget to complete my notes regarding Kokham. We were not due there till nine o'clock, and that would be in the nighttime. And so I asked the major to give me some information regarding this town, which is the last of any importance in Russian Turkestan.
"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 docks."
"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."
"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.