In my turn I told him how I had spent these last two years: how, soon after we had parted, I had become very interested in Islam, and after great difficulties and by much cunning had managed to get into Mecca and Medina, inaccessible to Christians, in the hope of penetrating into the secret heart of this religion and of perhaps finding answers there to certain questions I considered essential.
But my labours had been in vain; I found nothing. I only made clear to myself that if there were anything in this religion it must be sought not there, as everyone says and believes, but in Bukhara, where from the beginning the secret knowledge of Islam has been concentrated, this place having become its very centre and source. And as I had not lost either my interest or hope, I had decided to go to Bukhara with a group of Sarts who, having come to Mecca and Medina as pilgrims, were returning home, and with whom I had intentionally established friendly relations.
I further told him of the circumstances which had then prevented me from going straight to Bukhara, namely, that on arriving in Constantinople I had met Prince Lubovedsky, who had asked me to escort a certain person to his sister in the Tambov province, from which I was just returning; and I was now thinking of going for the time being to Transcaucasia to see my family and of then retracing my steps in the direction of Bukhara and going there . . . ‘with your old friend Skridlov,’ he said, finishing my sentence.
He then told me that often during the last three years he had dreamed of going to Bukhara and to the Samarkand region near by, for the purpose of verifying certain data connected with Tamerlane, which he needed in order to elucidate an archaeological question that greatly interested him. Only very recently he had again been thinking about this but had hesitated to undertake the journey alone; and now, hearing that I was going there, he would gladly join me if I had no objection.