The Material Question

‘I often went to Baku because there was a society there, composed mostly of Persians who were studying ancient magic, of which I had been an associate member for a long time.

‘The events which led to the episode which I intend to relate to you took place just in this town of Baku.
‘One Sunday I went to the bazaar.

‘I must confess that I have always had a weakness for walking round in Eastern bazaars, and whenever I stayed in a place where there was a bazaar I would invariably go there. I very much liked to rummage about in the odds and ends, where I always hoped to come across something unusual.
‘That day I bought some old embroidery, and was on my way out of the rag­ fair when I saw a well-dressed but very sorrowful-looking young woman who had something to sell.

‘I could see by everything about her that she was not a regular hawker, and was doubtless selling her wares from necessity. I went towards her and saw that she had an Edison phonograph for sale.
‘The sad expression of the woman’s eyes aroused pity in me, and, although I had very little money, without taking time to think about it, I bought this useless machine with all its appurtenances. I carried this burden back to the caravanserai where I was living, opened the box and found that it contained numerous rolls, most of which were damaged. Among those still intact only some were recorded, the others were blank.

‘I stayed in Baku several days longer.

‘My resources were coming to an end and I had to think about replenishing them. One overcast morning, I was sitting in bed, not yet dressed, pondering on how this was to be done, when I happened to glance at the phonograph. The idea of making use of it came into my head and I at once drew up a plan of action.

‘I liquidated all my affairs there and that very day took the first boat leaving for the Transcaspian region. Five days later, in the town of Krasnovodsk, I set my phonograph going to make money for me.
‘It must be said that the phonograph was still unknown in this region and it was the first time the local inhabitants had seen this marvel.