Mr. X or Captain Pogossian

‘This stranger, it appeared, was staying with our bey. The next day the bey’s servant came to me, on behalf of their newly-­arrived guest, with an offer to buy the parchment for five hundred pounds.

‘I must say that from the moment the stranger had left my house many things had seemed to me suspicious: first of all, this man had apparently come a long way specially for this parchment; then, the incomprehensible means by which he had learned that it was in my possession; and finally, the intense interest he showed while looking at it.

‘All this taken together proved to me that this thing must be very valuable. So when he offered such a sum as five hundred pounds, although inwardly tempted by the offer, I feared to let the thing go too cheaply and, deciding to be cautious, again refused.

‘In the evening the stranger came to see me again, this time accompanied by the bey himself. When he renewed his offer to pay me five hundred pounds for the parchment, I flatly refused to sell at all. But as he had come with our bey, I invited them both in as my guests. They came in and we drank coffee and talked about one thing and another.

‘In the course of conversation it transpired that my visitor was a Russian prince. He told me, among other things, that he was interested in antiques and, as this parchment fitted so well into his collection, he, being a connoisseur, wished to buy it and had offered a sum far above the value of the article. But he considered it would be foolish to pay more and regretted that I refused to sell it.

‘The bey, who had been listening attentively to our conversation, became interested in the parchment and expressed a wish to see it. When I brought the parchment and they were both looking at it, the bey was obviously astonished that such a thing was worth so much.