THE STEEL FLEA
weapon is this! . . . how is it possible to work so delicately?" And he turns to Platoff and says in Russian: "There now, if I had but one such artisan in Russia, I should be extremely happy and proud, and I would instantly make that man a noble."
But the very minute Platoff hears these words, he thrusts his hands into his voluminous trousers and draws thence a gunsmith's screw-driver.
"This does not unscrew," say the Englishmen. But he, paying no heed, picks away at the lock. He gives it one turn, he gives it another,—and takes out the lock. Platoff shows the catch to the Emperor, and there, on the curve, stands a Russian inscription: "Ivan Moskvin in the town of Tula."
The Englishmen marvelled, and nudged one another: "Oh, alas! we have blundered!"
But the Emperor says sadly to Pla-
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