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On August 4, 1907, Mr. Quentin Xerxes Zamfir (a man whose name betrays his muttish origins; some called him the startlingly unnatural yet wholly predictable result of anything involving the English and Persian) stepped into a small roadside merchant's hovel on the outskirts of Dinars and tapped khaki dust from his otherwise immaculate spats. The walking stick employed for this purpose had been purchased under uncomfortably dodgy circumstances involving a semi-nude Kashmiri virgin and an excitable Irish Wolfhound, but that is a story for another time.

Mister Zamfir's presence in this place on this date (unbeknownst to any involved) set into motion a self-replicating symmetry of events which could have started the Crimean War, had it not already occurred, but instead led directly to the invention, in 1923, of the Iconoscope and the self-winding watch; two devices without which, it hardly needs to be said, the remainder of the twentieth century would have played out quite differently.

In his capacity as Wealthy Foreign Adventurer, Zamfir inquired as to the availability of particular items our poor, less-cosmopolitan Tunisian shopkeeper was loathe to discuss before calming sums of money were offered. The daguerrotypes in question, which featured certain youthful members of the village community, had been photographed by an itinerant Frenchman by the name of dePuy (no relation) who would later die in a duel on the banks of the Rhine for offending a minor official in Kaiser Wilhelm's administration.

Zamfir's choice among the options presented to him (which involved a young lady he would later meet on a train through Monrovia and fail to recognize) was carefully wrapped in layers of onionskin paper and tied with a length of twine which had, in previous employment, held closed a box of truffles intended for the vice-governor of Italian interests in Algeria. That particular supply shipment had been hijacked by Libyan Communists who, ignorant as they were of the finer things, had used the truffles to pelt a condemned turncoat before having him pulled apart by a team of camels. How the twine found its way to this small Dinarian monger's yurtlike house of curiosities is, sadly, lost to history.

Having handed over what to more genteel folk would be considered an outrageous and particularly decadent amount of currency, Quentin turned and, heading for the exit, accidentally kicked over a counterfeit Punic urn (which the shopkeeper, entirely distracted by his newfound wealth, failed to notice) to reveal a peculiar mirror of uncertain origin which had the marvelous property of being able to project what was reflected in it, coherently, onto another surface. This mirror would be discovered and clumsily shoplifted by one Roger Harwood, English espionage artist and next door neighbor of Vladimir Zworykin, some years later. The true nature of Harwood's relationship to Zworykin was unfortunately (for Harwood) revealed due to the projective properties of the mirror, which had been pressed into service to assist in Harwood's clandestine activities, and an inopportunely stopped watch. The mishap led to inspiration for both Zworykin and Harwood's grieving brother John, who vowed, as the austere pine box was lowered into the dank and mouldering earth, never to let another timepiece fail our brave men in their vigilance against the Red Menace.

Mr. Quentin Xerxes Zamfir retired to his hotel in Tunis which he absentmindedly caused to burn down during his careless recreational activities featuring the recently purchased daguerrotype. Zamfir, the image, and the spats all managed to escape unharmed, but the same could not be said for the aforementioned walking stick. The loss of this hotel would feature prominently in a particular architect failing to win the contract for the Suez Canal and what he later accomplished in a fit of pique, but that, sadly, is also a story for another time.

TALES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

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