Claudius Bombarnac, a reporter is assigned by the Twentieth Century to cover the travels of the Grand Transasiatic Railway which runs between Uzun Ada, Turkestan and Peking, China. Accompanying him on this journey is an interesting collection of characters, including one who is trying to beat the round the world record and another who is a stowaway. Claudius hopes one of them will become the hero of his piece, so his story won't be just a boring travelogue. He is not disappointed when a special car guarded by troops is added to the train, said to be carrying the remains of a great Mandarin. The great Mandarin actually turns out to be a large consignment being returned to China from Persia. Unfortunately the train must travel through a large part of China that is controlled by unscrupulous robber-chiefs. Before the journey is over, Claudius finds his hero.
Such is the address of the telegram I found on the 13th of May when I arrived at Tiflis. This is what the telegram said: "As the matters in hand will terminate on the 15th instant Claudius Bombarnac will repair to Uzun Ada, a port on the east coast of the Caspian. There he will take the train by the direct Grand Transasiatic between the European frontier and the capital of the Celestial Empire. He will transmit his impressions in the way of news, interviewing remarkable people on the road, and report the most trivial incidents by letter or telegram as necessity dictates. The Twentieth Century trusts to the zeal, intelligence, activity and tact of its correspondent, who can draw on its bankers to any extent he may deem necessary."