The Material Question

‘This constant tension could not be endured any longer; cost what it might, some way out had to be found.

‘One night, when there was more shooting than usual, and echoes of the anxious conversations of my companions reached me from the adjoining rooms, I began to reflect very seriously.

‘While I was considering ways out of the impasse, I remembered by association one of the sayings of the wise Mullah Nassr Eddin, which long before this had become for me a sort of fixed idea, namely:
“In every circumstance of life always strive to combine the useful with the agreeable.”

‘I should mention here that for many years I had been interested in an archaeological question, and, in order to clarify certain details, I needed to find out as much as possible about the situation and pattern of arrangement of those monuments called dolmens, which have survived from very ancient times and can be found in our day in certain specific locations on almost every continent.

‘I had definite information that such dolmens were to be found in many places in the Caucasus, and even knew the approximate location of some of them as indicated by official science. Although I had never had enough time for a systematic exploration of these places, nevertheless, during my frequent trips through the mountains of the Caucasus and Transcaucasia I had never missed an opportunity for going to see them, choosing for this the times least detrimental to the pursuit of my fundamental aim.

‘As a result of what I had already discovered myself, it had become quite clear to me that in the regions between the eastern shores of the Black Sea and the chain of the Caucasus Mountains, especially in the neighbourhood of certain passes I had not as yet been over, dolmens were to be found, standing singly and also in little groups, of a particular type which would be of great interest to me.

‘So, as I found myself cut off from the world, with my activities brought to a standstill by the situation which had arisen, I decided to use the time at my disposal for a special expedition to those regions of the Caucasus, in order to search for and examine these dolmens—and at the same time bring both myself and the people in my care into safety.