“But what does that mean: ‘One of my eyes was bad, but now I look out of both’?” asked Pierre.

“The count had a sty in his eye,” said the adjutant smiling; “and he was very much put out when I told him people were coming to ask what was the matter. And oh, count,” he said suddenly, addressing Pierre with a smile, “we have been hearing that you are in trouble with domestic anxieties, that the countess, your spouse…”

“I have heard nothing about it,” said Pierre indifferently. “What is it you have heard?”

“Oh, you know, stories are so often made up. I only repeat what I hear.”

“What have you heard?”

“Oh, they say,” said the adjutant again with the same smile, “that the countess, your wife, is preparing to go abroad. It’s most likely nonsense.”

“It may be,” said Pierre, looking absent-mindedly about him. “Who is that?” he asked, indicating a tall old man in a clean blue overcoat, with a big, snow-white beard and eyebrows and a ruddy face.

“That? Oh, he’s a merchant; that is, he’s the restaurant-keeper, Vereshtchagin. You have heard the story of the proclamation, I dare say?”

“Oh, so that’s Vereshtchagin!” said Pierre, scrutinising the firm, calm face of the old merchant, and seeking in it some token of treachery.

“That’s not the man himself. That’s the father of the fellow who wrote the proclamation,” said the adjutant. “The young man himself is in custody, and I fancy it will go hard with him.”

A little old gentleman with a star, and a German official with a cross on his neck, joined the group.

“It’s a complicated story, you see,” the adjutant was relating. “The proclamation appeared two months ago. It was brought to the count. He ordered inquiry to be made. Well, Gavrilo Ivanitch made investigations; the proclamation had passed through some sixty-three hands. We come to one and ask, From whom did you get it? From so and so. And the next refers us on to so and so; and in that way they traced it to Vereshtchagin … a half-educated merchant’s son, one of those pretty dears, you know,” said the adjutant smiling. “He too was asked, From whom did you get it? And we knew very well from whom he had it really. He could have had it from no one but the director of the post-office. But it was clear there was an understanding between them. He says he got it from no one, but had composed it himself. And threaten him and question him as they would, he stuck to it, he had written it himself. So the matter was reported, and the count had him sent for. ‘From whom did you get the proclamation?’ ‘I wrote it myself.’ Well! you know the count,” said the adjutant, with a smile of pride and delight. “He was fearfully angry; and only fancy the insolence, and lying, and stubbornness!”

“Oh! the count wanted him to say it was from Klutcharyov, I understand,” said Pierre.

“Oh no, not at all,” said the adjutant in dismay. “Klutcharyov had sins enough to answer for without that, and that’s why he was banished. But any way, the count was very indignant. ‘How could you write it?’ says the count. He took up the Hamburg Gazette that was on the table. ‘Here it is. You did not compose it, but translated it, and very badly too, because you don’t even know French, you fool.’ What do you think? ‘No,’ says he, ‘I have never read any gazettes; I made it up.’ ‘But if so, you’re a traitor, and I’ll hand you over for judgment, and you will be hanged.’ ‘Tell us from whom you got it.’ ‘I have not seen any gazettes; I composed it.’ So the matter rests. The count sent for the father; he sticks to the same story. And they had him tried, and he was sentenced, I believe, to hard labour. Now the father has come to petition in his favour. But he is a worthless young scamp! You know the style of spoilt merchant’s son, a regular dandy and lady-killer; has attended lectures of some sort, and so fancies that he’s above

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