As the phonograph had regained its popularity, many modern music companies started to produce this type of machines again.
The traditional phonograph could only be used to play vinyl records, while the modern phonograph was actually a music-broadcasting instrument modeled after a phonograph such as a CD player, USB player, SD card player, AM/FM radio and so on.
Hans said, "This is obviously a traditional phonograph, but for two grand? Ha, it's not as though some celebrity used it previously. Who would pay so much for it?"
The auctioneer also knew this, so he deliberately dramatized the description of the item. "Okay, 2,500 dollars, 2,500 dollars, 2,500 dollars. That's not a high price, folks. What comes to mind when you hear this music? Does it make you recollect the entanglement between Ben and Mrs. Robinson? You know, there was a phonograph in front of them at that time . . . "
Ben and Mrs. Robinson were the main characters from the film "The Graduate," a world-famous movie. In the movie, the mature Mrs. Robinson had taken many boys' virginity.
There was a scene in the film where the seductive Mrs. Robinson was putting on her black silk stockings in the living room. In order to avoid making it look too sleazy, the director specially put the focus on the environment, and what was in focus was actually a phonograph.
The choice of this score from "The Graduate" was clearly a calculated move on the auctioneer's part.
The price had risen from 2,500 dollars to 3,000 dollars. Li Du raised the number plate he held and said, "4,000 dollars!"
The price increased by 1,000 dollars, giving the auctioneer great joy. He immediately pointed at him and shouted, "Finally, there's someone who appreciates the value of this item, and has offered a price to match! 4,000 dollars, 4,000 dollars, 4,000 dollarsanyone willing to offer more?"
The price hike was too much, causing most bidders to lose interest. They didn't have a large budget.
Fawkes had been observing Li Du. He could tell that Li Du was not interested in the earlier items, but only keen on this phonograph.
Given Li Du's reputation in treasure hunting, Fawkes wondered, Is there anything special about this photograph? Since Li Du's so interested in it, could it be worth a lot of money?
With this thought, he also offered a bid, shouting, "4,100 dollars!"
Li Du countered, "4,500 dollars!"
"4,600 dollars!" Fawkes continued to bid.
The two of them had reignited other customers' interest, and some of those who had given up earlier decided to jump in with an offer.
"Four thousand seven hundred dollars!"
"Four thousand eight hundred dollars!"
"Four thousand nine hundred dollars!"
Li Du shook his head and didn't want to wait for it to get to 5,000 dollars. He said decisively, "6,000 dollars!"
When he shouted this price, the interest that everyone had regained earlier dissipated just as quickly.
Six thousand dollars for a phonograph. Given that it was only an ordinary phonograph and not an antique, it was not worth the money.
Fawkes had still wanted to try his luck, and so he continued, "6,100 hundred dollars!"
Li Du looked at him and frowned, saying, "7,000 dollars!"
Hearing the offer, the spectators gasped and kept their comments to just one sentence: "This Chinaman's really loaded!"
Fawkes hesitated. Hans stopped Li Du and said, "Are you really paying 7,000 dollars for an old machine? How can it be worth so much money?"
Li Du said, "I'm planning to give it to Sophie. She likes having music as accompaniment whenever she plays the piano. She usually uses the CD player, but I think this phonograph would complement the piano much better."
Hans said, "Even so, no need to buy it here. Forget it, and give it up. Later, I'll get you one for 2,000 dollars from any store out there."
Having gotten Li Du's promise, he was no longer as interested in the machine.
Fawkes was listening to their conversation and heard Li Du mention that it was meant to be a gift. He looked at Li Du's expression, and felt that he was indeed telling the truth.
"Buddy, you can have it," Fawkes said, shaking his head.
The auctioneer shouted the price out thrice, and no one else offered any more bidsthe phonograph was now Li Du's.
"Hey, what's going on with this machine?" Hans whispered to Li Du. "What is its value?"
Li Du said, "It's beautiful, and well-preserved, with great sound quality. I think Sophie will like it."
Hans was dumbfounded. "You're really planning to give it to Sophie?"
Li Du said, "Yeah, didn't I just say that? That it's meant for Sophie when she is on the piano?"
Hans slapped his forehead with his hand and moaned, "D*mn, I thought you said it to fool that guy who was eavesdropping, and so I played along with you."
Li Du broke into a laugh. "You did a good job helping me get the phonograph."
Hans reluctantly said, "If it's just for Sophie, why did you spend so much money on it? There are plenty of such phonographs in the stores. You could get one for less than two grand, for sure!"
The phonograph was not that rare; a few decades ago, almost every family in Europe and America had one.
Li Du said, "Those in the stores may not have been as well-preserved."
He had used the little bug to check; the phonograph was hardly used. After being bought by a family, it had been kept in the attic. An old man maintained it regularly, and used it from time to timeit had been extremely well-kept.
This was the reason why he was willing to pay such a high price for it. The brass phonograph had been well-preserved and could still be used. Having been kept for so long, there was an aged feel to it, which complemented the use of it for playing classical music.
Hans shrugged in resignation, while Fawkes and the rest, who were eavesdropping on their conversation, laughed.
Fawkes was luckyhe had very nearly buried himself in the pit he had dug.
The auction proceeded. Li Du had no interest in the other items that were being auctioned. He didn't bid for anything else and only bought that phonograph.
At the end of the auction, he went to pay for the phonograph. Suradi asked regretfully, "Mr. Li, the phonograph was the only thing that caught your eye?"
He had brought forward the auction date on Li Du's account, hoping to make a quick buck. It had, however, really turned out to be only a buck, only "one."
Before Li Du could reply, a treasure hunter nearby laughed, "Boy Wonder's the affectionate sort. He buys such things to chase after skirts. If you have other instruments, maybe he'll be interested."
Someone came up and put his arm around Li Du. Laughing, he said, "Hey, Boy Wonder, there's an old accordion in my house. My grandfather brought back from the Soviet Union. How about I sell it to you for six grand? I bet that chicks would dig the accordion even more."
Li Du slanted his shoulder to shake the man's arm off. He looked at him out of the corner of his eye and said, "Do we know each other that well? Please keep your distance."
The big man was both embarrassed and offended. "You're so unsociable. Something's wrong with you."
Having been pushed off by Li Du, the man was not just embarrassed but also insulted. Since he was surrounded by many people, he stretched his arm out once again, wanting to put it around Li Du's neck once again.
Seeing that, Brother Wolf, who had been standing at one side, grabbed his wrist and tugged his arm. The man stumbled twice before falling to the ground.