Part 3 out of 4
merely looked at them in an absent-minded sort of way, and
said with complete indifference, "Ah!" Then, turning
sharply to Potapitch and Martha, who were walking behind us,
she rapped out:
"Why have YOU attached yourselves to the party? We are not
going to take you with us every time. Go home at once." Then,
when the servants had pulled hasty bows and departed, she
added to me: "You are all the escort I need."
At the Casino the Grandmother seemed to be expected, for no
time was lost in procuring her former place beside the
croupier. It is my opinion that though croupiers seem such
ordinary, humdrum officials--men who care nothing whether the
bank wins or loses--they are, in reality, anything but
indifferent to the bank's losing, and are given instructions
to attract players, and to keep a watch over the bank's
interests; as also, that for such services, these officials are
awarded prizes and premiums. At all events, the croupiers of
Roulettenberg seemed to look upon the Grandmother as their
lawful prey-- whereafter there befell what our party had
It happened thus:
As soon as ever we arrived the Grandmother ordered me to stake
twelve ten-gulden pieces in succession upon zero. Once,
twice, and thrice I did so, yet zero never turned up.
"Stake again," said the old lady with an impatient nudge of my
elbow, and I obeyed.
"How many times have we lost? " she inquired--actually
grinding her teeth in her excitement.
"We have lost 144 ten-gulden pieces," I replied. "I tell you,
Madame, that zero may not turn up until nightfall."
"Never mind," she interrupted. "Keep on staking upon zero,
and also stake a thousand gulden upon rouge. Here is a
banknote with which to do so."
The red turned up, but zero missed again, and we only got our
thousand gulden back.
"But you see, you see " whispered the old lady. "We have now
recovered almost all that we staked. Try zero again. Let us do
so another ten times, and then leave off."
By the fifth round, however, the Grandmother was weary of the
"To the devil with that zero!" she exclaimed. Stake four
thousand gulden upon the red."
"But, Madame, that will be so much to venture!" I
remonstrated. "Suppose the red should not turn up?" The
Grandmother almost struck me in her excitement. Her agitation
was rapidly making her quarrelsome. Consequently, there was
nothing for it but to stake the whole four thousand gulden as
she had directed.
The wheel revolved while the Grandmother sat as bolt upright,
and with as proud and quiet a mien, as though she had not the
least doubt of winning.
"Zero!" cried the croupier.
At first the old lady failed to understand the situation; but,
as soon as she saw the croupier raking in her four thousand
gulden, together with everything else that happened to be
lying on the table, and recognised that the zero which had
been so long turning up, and on which we had lost nearly two
hundred ten-gulden pieces, had at length, as though of set
purpose, made a sudden reappearance--why, the poor old lady
fell to cursing it, and to throwing herself about, and wailing
and gesticulating at the company at large. Indeed, some
people in our vicinity actually burst out laughing.
"To think that that accursed zero should have turned up NOW!"
she sobbed. "The accursed, accursed thing! And, it is all
YOUR fault," she added, rounding upon me in a frenzy. "It
was you who persuaded me to cease staking upon it."
"But, Madame, I only explained the game to you. How am I to
answer for every mischance which may occur in it?"
"You and your mischances!" she whispered threateningly.
"Go! Away at once!"
"Farewell, then, Madame." And I turned to depart.
"No-- stay," she put in hastily. "Where are you going to? Why
should you leave me? You fool! No, no... stay here. It is I who
was the fool. Tell me what I ought to do."
"I cannot take it upon myself to advise you, for you will only
blame me if I do so. Play at your own discretion. Say exactly
what you wish staked, and I will stake it."
"Very well. Stake another four thousand gulden upon the red.
Take this banknote to do it with. I have still got twenty
thousand roubles in actual cash."
"But," I whispered, "such a quantity of money--"
"Never mind. I cannot rest until I have won back my losses.
I staked, and we lost.
"Stake again, stake again--eight thousand at a stroke!"
"I cannot, Madame. The largest stake allowed is four thousand
"Well, then; stake four thousand."
This time we won, and the Grandmother recovered herself a
"You see, you see!" she exclaimed as she nudged me. "Stake
another four thousand."
I did so, and lost. Again, and yet again, we lost. "Madame,
your twelve thousand gulden are now gone," at length I
"I see they are," she replied with, as it were, the calmness
of despair. "I see they are," she muttered again as she
gazed straight in front of her, like a person lost in
thought. "Ah well, I do not mean to rest until I have staked
another four thousand."
"But you have no money with which to do it, Madame. In this
satchel I can see only a few five percent bonds and some
transfers--no actual cash."
"And in the purse?"
"A mere trifle."
"But there is a money-changer's office here, is there not?
They told me I should be able to get any sort of paper
security changed! "
"Quite so; to any amount you please. But you will lose on the
transaction what would frighten even a Jew."
"Rubbish! I am DETERMINED to retrieve my losses. Take me
away, and call those fools of bearers."
I wheeled the chair out of the throng, and, the bearers making
their appearance, we left the Casino.
"Hurry, hurry!" commanded the Grandmother. "Show me the
nearest way to the money-changer's. Is it far?"
"A couple of steps, Madame."
At the turning from the square into the Avenue we came face to
face with the whole of our party--the General, De Griers, Mlle.
Blanche, and her mother. Only Polina and Mr. Astley were
"Well, well, well! " exclaimed the Grandmother. "But we have
no time to stop. What do you want? I can't talk to you here."
I dropped behind a little, and immediately was pounced upon by
"She has lost this morning's winnings," I whispered, "and
also twelve thousand gulden of her original money. At the
present moment we are going to get some bonds changed."
De Griers stamped his foot with vexation, and hastened to
communicate the tidings to the General. Meanwhile we
continued to wheel the old lady along.
"Stop her, stop her," whispered the General in consternation.
"You had better try and stop her yourself," I returned--also in
"My good mother," he said as he approached her, "--my good
mother, pray let, let--" (his voice was beginning to tremble
and sink) "--let us hire a carriage, and go for a drive. Near
here there is an enchanting view to be obtained. We-we-we were
just coming to invite you to go and see it."
"Begone with you and your views!" said the Grandmother
angrily as she waved him away.
"And there are trees there, and we could have tea under them,"
continued the General--now in utter despair.
"Nous boirons du lait, sur l'herbe fraiche," added De Griers
with the snarl almost of a wild beast.
"Du lait, de l'herbe fraiche"--the idyll, the ideal of the
Parisian bourgeois--his whole outlook upon "la nature et la
"Have done with you and your milk!" cried the old lady. "Go
and stuff YOURSELF as much as you like, but my stomach simply
recoils from the idea. What are you stopping for? I have
nothing to say to you."
"Here we are, Madame," I announced. "Here is the
I entered to get the securities changed, while the Grandmother
remained outside in the porch, and the rest waited at a
little distance, in doubt as to their best course of action.
At length the old lady turned such an angry stare upon them
that they departed along the road towards the Casino.
The process of changing involved complicated calculations
which soon necessitated my return to the Grandmother for
"The thieves!" she exclaimed as she clapped her hands
together. "Never mind, though. Get the documents cashed--No;
send the banker out to me," she added as an afterthought.
"Would one of the clerks do, Madame?"
"Yes, one of the clerks. The thieves!"
The clerk consented to come out when he perceived that he was
being asked for by an old lady who was too infirm to walk;
after which the Grandmother began to upbraid him at length,
and with great vehemence, for his alleged usuriousness, and
to bargain with him in a mixture of Russian, French, and
German--I acting as interpreter. Meanwhile, the grave-faced
official eyed us both, and silently nodded his head. At the
Grandmother, in particular, he gazed with a curiosity which
almost bordered upon rudeness. At length, too, he smiled.
"Pray recollect yourself!" cried the old lady. "And may my
money choke you! Alexis Ivanovitch, tell him that we can
easily repair to someone else."
"The clerk says that others will give you even less than he."
Of what the ultimate calculations consisted I do not exactly
remember, but at all events they were alarming. Receiving
twelve thousand florins in gold, I took also the statement of
accounts, and carried it out to the Grandmother.
"Well, well," she said, "I am no accountant. Let us hurry
away, hurry away." And she waved the paper aside.
"Neither upon that accursed zero, however, nor upon that
equally accursed red do I mean to stake a cent," I muttered to
myself as I entered the Casino.
This time I did all I could to persuade the old lady to stake
as little as possible--saying that a turn would come in the
chances when she would be at liberty to stake more. But she
was so impatient that, though at first she agreed to do as I
suggested, nothing could stop her when once she had begun. By
way of prelude she won stakes of a hundred and two hundred
"There you are!" she said as she nudged me. "See what we
have won! Surely it would be worth our while to stake four
thousand instead of a hundred, for we might win another four
thousand, and then--! Oh, it was YOUR fault before--all your
I felt greatly put out as I watched her play, but I decided to
hold my tongue, and to give her no more advice.
Suddenly De Griers appeared on the scene. It seemed that all
this while he and his companions had been standing beside us--
though I noticed that Mlle. Blanche had withdrawn a little
from the rest, and was engaged in flirting with the Prince.
Clearly the General was greatly put out at this. Indeed, he
was in a perfect agony of vexation. But Mlle. was careful
never to look his way, though he did his best to attract her
notice. Poor General! By turns his face blanched and reddened,
and he was trembling to such an extent that he could scarcely
follow the old lady's play. At length Mlle. and the Prince
took their departure, and the General followed them.
"Madame, Madame," sounded the honeyed accents of De Griers as
he leant over to whisper in the Grandmother's ear. "That
stake will never win. No, no, it is impossible," he added in
Russian with a writhe. "No, no!"
"But why not?" asked the Grandmother, turning round. "Show
me what I ought to do."
Instantly De Griers burst into a babble of French as he
advised, jumped about, declared that such and such chances
ought to be waited for, and started to make calculations of
figures. All this he addressed to me in my capacity as
translator--tapping the table the while with his finger, and
pointing hither and thither. At length he seized a pencil, and
began to reckon sums on paper until he had exhausted the
"Away with you!" she interrupted. "You talk sheer nonsense,
for, though you keep on saying 'Madame, Madame,' you haven't
the least notion what ought to be done. Away with you, I say!"
"Mais, Madame," cooed De Griers--and straightway started
afresh with his fussy instructions.
"Stake just ONCE, as he advises," the Grandmother said to me,
"and then we shall see what we shall see. Of course, his
stake MIGHT win."
As a matter of fact, De Grier's one object was to distract the
old lady from staking large sums; wherefore, he now suggested
to her that she should stake upon certain numbers, singly and
in groups. Consequently, in accordance with his instructions, I
staked a ten-gulden piece upon several odd numbers in the
first twenty, and five ten-gulden pieces upon certain groups
of numbers-groups of from twelve to eighteen, and from
eighteen to twenty-four. The total staked amounted to 160
The wheel revolved. "Zero!" cried the croupier.
We had lost it all!
"The fool!" cried the old lady as she turned upon De Griers.
"You infernal Frenchman, to think that you should advise!
Away with you! Though you fuss and fuss, you don't even know
what you're talking about."
Deeply offended, De Griers shrugged his shoulders, favoured
the Grandmother with a look of contempt, and departed. For
some time past he had been feeling ashamed of being seen in
such company, and this had proved the last straw.
An hour later we had lost everything in hand.
"Home!" cried the Grandmother.
Not until we had turned into the Avenue did she utter a word;
but from that point onwards, until we arrived at the hotel,
she kept venting exclamations of "What a fool I am! What a
silly old fool I am, to be sure!"
Arrived at the hotel, she called for tea, and then gave orders
for her luggage to be packed.
"We are off again," she announced.
"But whither, Madame?" inquired Martha.
"What business is that of YOURS? Let the cricket stick to
its hearth. [The Russian form of "Mind your own business."]
Potapitch, have everything packed, for we are returning to
Moscow at once. I have fooled away fifteen thousand roubles."
"Fifteen thousand roubles, good mistress? My God!" And
Potapitch spat upon his hands--probably to show that he was
ready to serve her in any way he could.
"Now then, you fool! At once you begin with your weeping and
wailing! Be quiet, and pack. Also, run downstairs, and get my
"The next train leaves at 9:30, Madame," I interposed, with a
view to checking her agitation.
"And what is the time now?"
"How vexing! But, never mind. Alexis Ivanovitch, I have not a
kopeck left; I have but these two bank notes. Please run to
the office and get them changed. Otherwise I shall have
nothing to travel with."
Departing on her errand, I returned half an hour later to find
the whole party gathered in her rooms. It appeared that the
news of her impending departure for Moscow had thrown the
conspirators into consternation even greater than her losses
had done. For, said they, even if her departure should save
her fortune, what will become of the General later? And who
is to repay De Griers? Clearly Mlle. Blanche would never
consent to wait until the Grandmother was dead, but would at
once elope with the Prince or someone else. So they had all
gathered together--endeavouring to calm and dissuade the
Grandmother. Only Polina was absent. For her pad the
Grandmother had nothing for the party but abuse.
"Away with you, you rascals!" she was shouting. "What have my
affairs to do with you? Why, in particular, do you"--here
she indicated De Griers--"come sneaking here with your goat's
beard? And what do YOU"--here she turned to Mlle. Blanche
"want of me? What are YOU finicking for?"
"Diantre!" muttered Mlle. under her breath, but her eyes
were flashing. Then all at once she burst into a laugh and
left the room--crying to the General as she did so: "Elle
vivra cent ans!"
"So you have been counting upon my death, have you?" fumed
the old lady. "Away with you! Clear them out of the room,
Alexis Ivanovitch. What business is it of THEIRS? It is not
THEIR money that I have been squandering, but my own."
The General shrugged his shoulders, bowed, and withdrew, with
De Griers behind him.
"Call Prascovia," commanded the Grandmother, and in five
minutes Martha reappeared with Polina, who had been sitting
with the children in her own room (having purposely
determined not to leave it that day). Her face looked grave
"Prascovia," began the Grandmother, "is what I have just
heard through a side wind true--namely, that this fool of a
stepfather of yours is going to marry that silly whirligig of
a Frenchwoman--that actress, or something worse? Tell me, is
"I do not know FOR CERTAIN, Grandmamma," replied Polina; "but
from Mlle. Blanche's account (for she does not appear to think
it necessary to conceal anything) I conclude that--"
"You need not say any more," interrupted the Grandmother
energetically. "I understand the situation. I always thought
we should get something like this from him, for I always
looked upon him as a futile, frivolous fellow who gave himself
unconscionable airs on the fact of his being a general (though
he only became one because he retired as a colonel). Yes, I
know all about the sending of the telegrams to inquire
whether 'the old woman is likely to turn up her toes soon.' Ah,
they were looking for the legacies! Without money that
wretched woman (what is her name?--Oh, De Cominges) would
never dream of accepting the General and his false teeth--no,
not even for him to be her lacquey--since she herself, they
say, possesses a pile of money, and lends it on interest, and
makes a good thing out of it. However, it is not you,
Prascovia, that I am blaming; it was not you who sent those
telegrams. Nor, for that matter, do I wish to recall old
scores. True, I know that you are a vixen by nature--that you
are a wasp which will sting one if one touches it-- yet, my
heart is sore for you, for I loved your mother, Katerina. Now,
will you leave everything here, and come away with me?
Otherwise, I do not know what is to become of you, and it is
not right that you should continue living with these people.
Nay," she interposed, the moment that Polina attempted to
speak, "I have not yet finished. I ask of you nothing in
return. My house in Moscow is, as you know, large enough for
a palace, and you could occupy a whole floor of it if you
liked, and keep away from me for weeks together. Will you
come with me or will you not?"
"First of all, let me ask of YOU," replied Polina, "whether you
are intending to depart at once?"
"What? You suppose me to be jesting? I have said that I am
going, and I AM going. Today I have squandered fifteen
thousand roubles at that accursed roulette of yours, and
though, five years ago, I promised the people of a certain
suburb of Moscow to build them a stone church in place of a
wooden one, I have been fooling away my money here! However,
I am going back now to build my church."
"But what about the waters, Grandmamma? Surely you came here
to take the waters?"
"You and your waters! Do not anger me, Prascovia. Surely you
are trying to? Say, then: will you, or will you not, come
"Grandmamma," Polina replied with deep feeling, "I am very,
very grateful to you for the shelter which you have so kindly
offered me. Also, to a certain extent you have guessed my
position aright, and I am beholden to you to such an extent
that it may be that I will come and live with you, and that
very soon; yet there are important reasons why--why I cannot
make up my min,d just yet. If you would let me have, say, a
couple of weeks to decide in--?"
"You mean that you are NOT coming?"
"I mean only that I cannot come just yet. At all events, I
could not well leave my little brother and sister here,
since,since--if I were to leave them--they would be abandoned
altogether. But if, Grandmamma, you would take the little ones
AND myself, then, of course, I could come with you, and would
do all I could to serve you" (this she said with great
earnestness). "Only, without the little ones I CANNOT come."
"Do not make a fuss" (as a matter of fact Polina never at
any time either fussed or wept). "The Great Foster--Father
[Translated literally--The Great Poulterer] can find for all
his chicks a place. You are not coming without the children?
But see here, Prascovia. I wish you well, and nothing but
well: yet I have divined the reason why you will not come.
Yes, I know all, Prascovia. That Frenchman will never bring
you good of any sort."
Polina coloured hotly, and even I started. "For," thought I to
myself, "every one seems to know about that affair. Or
perhaps I am the only one who does not know about it? "
"Now, now! Do not frown," continued the Grandmother. "But I
do not intend to slur things over. You will take care that no
harm befalls you, will you not? For you are a girl of sense,
and I am sorry for you--I regard you in a different light to
the rest of them. And now, please, leave me. Good-bye."
"But let me stay with you a little longer," said Polina.
"No," replied the other; "you need not. Do not bother me, for
you and all of them have tired me out."
Yet when Polina tried to kiss the Grandmother's hand, the old
lady withdrew it, and herself kissed the girl on the cheek.
As she passed me, Polina gave me a momentary glance, and then
as swiftly averted her eyes.
"And good-bye to you, also, Alexis Ivanovitch. The train
starts in an hour's time, and I think that you must be weary
of me. Take these five hundred gulden for yourself."
"I thank you humbly, Madame, but I am ashamed to--"
"Come, come!" cried the Grandmother so energetically, and
with such an air of menace, that I did not dare refuse the
"If, when in Moscow, you have no place where you can lay your
head," she added, "come and see me, and I will give you a
recommendation. Now, Potapitch, get things ready."
I ascended to my room, and lay down upon the bed. A whole hour
I must have lain thus, with my head resting upon my hand. So
the crisis had come! I needed time for its consideration. To-
morrow I would have a talk with Polina. Ah! The Frenchman! So,
it was true? But how could it be so? Polina and De Griers!
What a combination!
No, it was too improbable. Suddenly I leapt up with the idea
of seeking Astley and forcing him to speak. There could be no
doubt that he knew more than I did. Astley? Well, he was
another problem for me to solve.
Suddenly there came a knock at the door, and I opened it to
find Potapitch awaiting me.
"Sir," he said, "my mistress is asking for you."
"Indeed? But she is just departing, is she not? The train
leaves in ten minutes' time."
"She is uneasy, sir; she cannot rest. Come quickly, sir; do
I ran downstairs at once. The Grandmother was just being
carried out of her rooms into the corridor. In her hands she
held a roll of bank-notes.
"Alexis Ivanovitch," she cried, "walk on ahead, and we will
set out again."
"But whither, Madame?"
"I cannot rest until I have retrieved my losses. March on
ahead, and ask me no questions. Play continues until
midnight, does it not?"
For a moment I stood stupefied--stood deep in thought; but it
was not long before I had made up my mind.
"With your leave, Madame," I said, "I will not go with you."
"And why not? What do you mean? Is every one here a stupid
"Pardon me, but I have nothing to reproach myself with. I
merely will not go. I merely intend neither to witness nor to
join in your play. I also beg to return you your five hundred
Laying the money upon a little table which the Grandmother's
chair happened to be passing, I bowed and withdrew.
"What folly!" the Grandmother shouted after me. "Very well, then.
Do not come, and I will find my way alone. Potapitch, you must
come with me. Lift up the chair, and carry me along."
I failed to find Mr. Astley, and returned home. It was now
growing late--it was past midnight, but I subsequently learnt
from Potapitch how the Grandmother's day had ended. She had
lost all the money which, earlier in the day, I had got for
her paper securities--a sum amounting to about ten thousand
roubles. This she did under the direction of the Pole whom,
that afternoon, she had dowered with two ten-gulden pieces.
But before his arrival on the scene, she had commanded
Potapitch to stake for her; until at length she had told him
also to go about his business. Upon that the Pole had leapt
into the breach. Not only did it happen that he knew the
Russian language, but also he could speak a mixture of three
different dialects, so that the pair were able to understand
one another. Yet the old lady never ceased to abuse him,
despite his deferential manner, and to compare him
unfavourably with myself (so, at all events, Potapitch
declared). "You," the old chamberlain said to me, "treated
her as a gentleman should, but he--he robbed her right and
left, as I could see with my own eyes. Twice she caught him
at it, and rated him soundly. On one occasion she even pulled
his hair, so that the bystanders burst out laughing. Yet she
lost everything, sir--that is to say, she lost all that you had
changed for her. Then we brought her home, and, after asking
for some water and saying her prayers, she went to bed. So
worn out was she that she fell asleep at once. May God send
her dreams of angels! And this is all that foreign travel has
done for us! Oh, my own Moscow! For what have we not at home
there, in Moscow? Such a garden and flowers as you could
never see here, and fresh air and apple-trees coming into
blossom,--and a beautiful view to look upon. Ah, but what
must she do but go travelling abroad? Alack, alack!"
Almost a month has passed since I last touched these notes--
notes which I began under the influence of impressions at once
poignant and disordered. The crisis which I then felt to be
approaching has now arrived, but in a form a hundred times
more extensive and unexpected than I had looked for. To me it
all seems strange, uncouth, and tragic. Certain occurrences
have befallen me which border upon the marvellous. At all
events, that is how I view them. I view them so in one regard
at least. I refer to the whirlpool of events in which, at the
time, I was revolving. But the most curious feature of all is
my relation to those events, for hitherto I had never clearly
understood myself. Yet now the actual crisis has passed away
like a dream. Even my passion for Polina is dead. Was it ever
so strong and genuine as I thought? If so, what has become of
it now? At times I fancy that I must be mad; that somewhere I
am sitting in a madhouse; that these events have merely SEEMED
to happen; that still they merely SEEM to be happening.
I have been arranging and re-perusing my notes (perhaps for the
purpose of convincing myself that I am not in a madhouse). At
present I am lonely and alone. Autumn is coming--already it is
mellowing the leaves; and, as I sit brooding in this melancholy
little town (and how melancholy the little towns of Germany can
be!), I find myself taking no thought for the future, but
living under the influence of passing moods, and of my
recollections of the tempest which recently drew me into its
vortex, and then cast me out again. At times I seem still seem to
be caught within that vortex. At times, the tempest seems once
more to be gathering, and, as it passes overhead, to be
wrapping me in its folds, until I have lost my sense of order
and reality, and continue whirling and whirling and whirling
Yet, it may be that I shall be able to stop myself from
revolving if once I can succeed in rendering myself an exact
account of what has happened within the month just past.
Somehow I feel drawn towards the pen; on many and many an
evening I have had nothing else in the world to do. But,
curiously enough, of late I have taken to amusing myself with
the works of M. Paul de Kock, which I read in German
translations obtained from a wretched local library. These
works I cannot abide, yet I read them, and find myself
marvelling that I should be doing so. Somehow I seem to be
afraid of any SERIOUS book--afraid of permitting any SERIOUS
preoccupation to break the spell of the passing moment. So
dear to me is the formless dream of which I have spoken, so
dear to me are the impressions which it has left behind it,
that I fear to touch the vision with anything new, lest it
should dissolve in smoke. But is it so dear to me? Yes, it IS
dear to me, and will ever be fresh in my recollections--even
forty years hence. . . .
So let me write of it, but only partially, and in a more
abridged form than my full impressions might warrant.
First of all, let me conclude the history of the Grandmother.
Next day she lost every gulden that she possessed. Things were
bound to happen so, for persons of her type who have once
entered upon that road descend it with ever-increasing rapidity,
even as a sledge descends a toboggan-slide. All day until eight
o'clock that evening did she play; and, though I personally did
not witness her exploits, I learnt of them later through report.
All that day Potapitch remained in attendance upon her; but the
Poles who directed her play she changed more than once. As a
beginning she dismissed her Pole of the previous day--the Pole
whose hair she had pulled--and took to herself another one; but
the latter proved worse even than the former, and incurred
dismissal in favour of the first Pole, who, during the time of
his unemployment, had nevertheless hovered around the
Grandmother's chair, and from time to time obtruded his head
over her shoulder. At length the old lady became desperate, for
the second Pole, when dismissed, imitated his predecessor by
declining to go away; with the result that one Pole remained
standing on the right of the victim, and the other on her left;
from which vantage points the pair quarrelled, abused each other
concerning the stakes and rounds, and exchanged the epithet
"laidak " [Rascal] and other Polish terms of endearment. Finally, they
effected a mutual reconciliation, and, tossing the money about
anyhow, played simply at random. Once more quarrelling, each of
them staked money on his own side of the Grandmother's chair
(for instance, the one Pole staked upon the red, and the other
one upon the black), until they had so confused and browbeaten
the old lady that, nearly weeping, she was forced to appeal to
the head croupier for protection, and to have the two Poles
expelled. No time was lost in this being done, despite the
rascals' cries and protestations that the old lady was in their
debt, that she had cheated them, and that her general behaviour
had been mean and dishonourable. The same evening the
unfortunate Potapitch related the story to me with tears
complaining that the two men had filled their pockets with
money (he himself had seen them do it) which had been
shamelesslly pilfered from his mistress. For instance, one Pole
demanded of the Grandmother fifty gulden for his trouble, and
then staked the money by the side of her stake. She happened to
win; whereupon he cried out that the winning stake was his, and
hers the loser. As soon as the two Poles had been expelled,
Potapitch left the room, and reported to the authorities that
the men's pockets were full of gold; and, on the Grandmother
also requesting the head croupier to look into the affair, the
police made their appearance, and, despite the protests of the
Poles (who, indeed, had been caught redhanded), their pockets
were turned inside out, and the contents handed over to the
Grandmother. In fact, in, view of the circumstance that she lost
all day, the croupiers and other authorities of the Casino
showed her every attention; and on her fame spreading through
the town, visitors of every nationality--even the most knowing of
them, the most distinguished--crowded to get a glimpse of "la
vieille comtesse russe, tombee en enfance," who had lost "so
Yet with the money which the authorities restored to her from
the pockets of the Poles the Grandmother effected very, very
little, for there soon arrived to take his countrymen's place, a
third Pole--a man who could speak Russian fluently, was dressed
like a gentleman (albeit in lacqueyish fashion), and sported a
huge moustache. Though polite enough to the old lady, he took a
high hand with the bystanders. In short, he offered himself less
as a servant than as an ENTERTAINER. After each round he would
turn to the old lady, and swear terrible oaths to the effect
that he was a "Polish gentleman of honour" who would scorn to
take a kopeck of her money; and, though he repeated these oaths
so often that at length she grew alarmed, he had her play in
hand, and began to win on her behalf; wherefore, she felt that
she could not well get rid of him. An hour later the two Poles
who, earlier in the day, had been expelled from the Casino, made
a reappearance behind the old lady's chair, and renewed their
offers of service--even if it were only to be sent on messages;
but from Potapitch I subsequently had it that between these rascals
and the said "gentleman of honour" there passed a wink, as well as
that the latter put something into their hands. Next, since the
Grandmother had not yet lunched--she had scarcely for a moment
left her chair--one of the two Poles ran to the restaurant of the
Casino, and brought her thence a cup of soup, and afterwards
some tea. In fact, BOTH the Poles hastened to perform this
office. Finally, towards the close of the day, when it was clear
that the Grandmother was about to play her last bank-note, there
could be seen standing behind her chair no fewer than six
natives of Poland--persons who, as yet, had been neither audible
nor visible; and as soon as ever the old lady played the note in
question, they took no further notice of her, but pushed their
way past her chair to the table; seized the money, and staked
it--shouting and disputing the while, and arguing with the
"gentleman of honour" (who also had forgotten the Grandmother's
existence), as though he were their equal. Even when the
Grandmother had lost her all, and was returning (about eight
o'clock) to the hotel, some three or four Poles could not bring
themselves to leave her, but went on running beside her chair
and volubly protesting that the Grandmother had cheated them,
and that she ought to be made to surrender what was not her own.
Thus the party arrived at the hotel; whence, presently, the gang
of rascals was ejected neck and crop.
According to Potapitch's calculations, the Grandmother lost,
that day, a total of ninety thousand roubles, in addition to the
money which she had lost the day before. Every paper security
which she had brought with her--five percent bonds, internal
loan scrip, and what not--she had changed into cash. Also, I
could not but marvel at the way in which, for seven or eight
hours at a stretch, she sat in that chair of hers, almost never
leaving the table. Again, Potapitch told me that there were
three occasions on which she really began to win; but that, led
on by false hopes, she was unable to tear herself away at the
right moment. Every gambler knows how a person may sit a day and
a night at cards without ever casting a glance to right or to
Meanwhile, that day some other very important events were
passing in our hotel. As early as eleven o'clock--that is to say,
before the Grandmother had quitted her rooms--the General and De
Griers decided upon their last stroke. In other words, on
learning that the old lady had changed her mind about departing,
and was bent on setting out for the Casino again, the whole of
our gang (Polina only excepted) proceeded en masse to her rooms,
for the purpose of finally and frankly treating with her. But
the General, quaking and greatly apprehensive as to his possible
future, overdid things. After half an hour's prayers and
entreaties, coupled With a full confession of his debts, and
even of his passion for Mlle. Blanche (yes, he had quite lost
his head), he suddenly adopted a tone of menace, and started to
rage at the old lady--exclaiming that she was sullying the family
honour, that she was making a public scandal of herself, and
that she was smirching the fair name of Russia. The upshot was
that the Grandmother turned him out of the room with her stick
(it was a real stick, too!). Later in the morning he held
several consultations with De Griers--the question which occupied
him being: Is it in any way possible to make use of the
police--to tell them that "this respected, but unfortunate, old
lady has gone out of her mind, and is squandering her last
kopeck," or something of the kind? In short, is it in any way
possible to engineer a species of supervision over, or of
restraint upon, the old lady? De Griers, however, shrugged his
shoulders at this, and laughed in the General's face, while the
old warrior went on chattering volubly, and running up and down
his study. Finally De Griers waved his hand, and disappeared
from view; and by evening it became known that he had left the
hotel, after holding a very secret and important conference with
Mlle. Blanche. As for the latter, from early morning she had
taken decisive measures, by completely excluding the General
from her presence, and bestowing upon him not a glance. Indeed,
even when the General pursued her to the Casino, and met her
walking arm in arm with the Prince, he (the General) received
from her and her mother not the slightest recognition. Nor did
the Prince himself bow. The rest of the day Mlle. spent in
probing the Prince, and trying to make him declare himself; but
in this she made a woeful mistake. The little incident occurred
in the evening. Suddenly Mlle. Blanche realised that the Prince
had not even a copper to his name, but, on the contrary, was
minded to borrow of her money wherewith to play at roulette. In
high displeasure she drove him from her presence, and shut
herself up in her room.
The same morning I went to see--or, rather, to look for--Mr.
Astley, but was unsuccessful in my quest. Neither in his rooms
nor in the Casino nor in the Park was he to be found; nor did
he, that day, lunch at his hotel as usual. However, at about
five o'clock I caught sight of him walking from the railway
station to the Hotel d'Angleterre. He seemed to be in a great
hurry and much preoccupied, though in his face I could discern
no actual traces of worry or perturbation. He held out to me a
friendly hand, with his usual ejaculation of " Ah! " but did not
check his stride. I turned and walked beside him, but found,
somehow, that his answers forbade any putting of definite
questions. Moreover, I felt reluctant to speak to him of Polina;
nor, for his part, did he ask me any questions concerning her,
although, on my telling him of the Grandmother's exploits, he
listened attentively and gravely, and then shrugged his
"She is gambling away everything that she has," I remarked.
"Indeed? She arrived at the Casino even before I had taken my
departure by train, so I knew she had been playing. If I should
have time I will go to the Casino to-night, and take a look at
her. The thing interests me."
"Where have you been today?" I asked--surprised at myself for
having, as yet, omitted to put to him that question.
What more was there to be asked after that? I accompanied him
until, as we drew level with the Hotel des Quatre Saisons, he
suddenly nodded to me and disappeared. For myself, I returned
home, and came to the conclusion that, even had I met him at two
o'clock in the afternoon, I should have learnt no more from him
than I had done at five o'clock, for the reason that I had no
definite question to ask. It was bound to have been so. For me
to formulate the query which I really wished to put was a simple
Polina spent the whole of that day either in walking about the
park with the nurse and children or in sitting in her own room.
For a long while past she had avoided the General and had
scarcely had a word to say to him (scarcely a word, I mean, on
any SERIOUS topic). Yes, that I had noticed. Still, even though
I was aware of the position in which the General was placed, it
had never occurred to me that he would have any reason to avoid
HER, or to trouble her with family explanations. Indeed, when I
was returning to the hotel after my conversation with Astley,
and chanced to meet Polina and the children, I could see that
her face was as calm as though the family disturbances had never
touched her. To my salute she responded with a slight bow, and I
retired to my room in a very bad humour.
Of course, since the affair with the Burmergelms I had exchanged
not a word with Polina, nor had with her any kind of
intercourse. Yet I had been at my wits' end, for, as time went
on, there was arising in me an ever-seething dissatisfaction.
Even if she did not love me she ought not to have trampled upon
my feelings, nor to have accepted my confessions with such
contempt, seeing that she must have been aware that I loved her
(of her own accord she had allowed me to tell her as much). Of
course the situation between us had arisen in a curious manner.
About two months ago, I had noticed that she had a desire to make
me her friend, her confidant--that she was making trial of me for
the purpose; but, for some reason or another, the desired result
had never come about, and we had fallen into the present strange
relations, which had led me to address her as I had done. At the
same time, if my love was distasteful to her, why had she not
FORBIDDEN me to speak of it to her?
But she had not so forbidden me. On the contrary, there had been
occasions when she had even INVITED me to speak. Of course, this
might have been done out of sheer wantonness, for I well knew--I
had remarked it only too often--that, after listening to what I
had to say, and angering me almost beyond endurance, she loved
suddenly to torture me with some fresh outburst of contempt and
aloofness! Yet she must have known that I could not live without
her. Three days had elapsed since the affair with the Baron, and
I could bear the severance no longer. When, that afternoon, I
met her near the Casino, my heart almost made me faint, it beat
so violently. She too could not live without me, for had she not
said that she had NEED of me? Or had that too been spoken in
That she had a secret of some kind there could be no doubt. What
she had said to the Grandmother had stabbed me to the heart. On
a thousand occasions I had challenged her to be open with me,
nor could she have been ignorant that I was ready to give my
very life for her. Yet always she had kept me at a distance with
that contemptuous air of hers; or else she had demanded of me,
in lieu of the life which I offered to lay at her feet, such
escapades as I had perpetrated with the Baron. Ah, was it not
torture to me, all this? For could it be that her whole world
was bound up with the Frenchman? What, too, about Mr. Astley?
The affair was inexplicable throughout. My God, what distress it
Arrived home, I, in a fit of frenzy, indited the following:
"Polina Alexandrovna, I can see that there is approaching us an
exposure which will involve you too. For the last time I ask of
you--have you, or have you not, any need of my life? If you have,
then make such dispositions as you wish, and I shall always be
discoverable in my room if required. If you have need of my
life, write or send for me."
I sealed the letter, and dispatched it by the hand of a corridor
lacquey, with orders to hand it to the addressee in person.
Though I expected no answer, scarcely three minutes had elapsed
before the lacquey returned with "the compliments of a certain
Next, about seven o'clock, I was sent for by the General. I
found him in his study, apparently preparing to go out again,
for his hat and stick were lying on the sofa. When I entered he
was standing in the middle of the room--his feet wide apart, and
his head bent down. Also, he appeared to be talking to himself.
But as soon as ever he saw me at the door he came towards me in
such a curious manner that involuntarily I retreated a step, and
was for leaving the room; whereupon he seized me by both hands,
and, drawing me towards the sofa, and seating himself thereon,
he forced me to sit down on a chair opposite him. Then, without
letting go of my hands, he exclaimed with quivering lips and a
sparkle of tears on his eyelashes:
"Oh, Alexis Ivanovitch! Save me, save me! Have some mercy upon
For a long time I could not make out what he meant, although he
kept talking and talking, and constantly repeating to himself,
"Have mercy, mercy!" At length, however, I divined that he was
expecting me to give him something in the nature of advice--or,
rather, that, deserted by every one, and overwhelmed with grief
and apprehension, he had bethought himself of my existence, and
sent for me to relieve his feelings by talking and talking and
In fact, he was in such a confused and despondent state of mind
that, clasping his hands together, he actually went down upon
his knees and begged me to go to Mlle. Blanche, and beseech and
advise her to return to him, and to accept him in marriage.
"But, General," I exclaimed, "possibly Mlle. Blanche has
scarcely even remarked my existence? What could I do with her?"
It was in vain that I protested, for he could understand nothing
that was said to him, Next he started talking about the
Grandmother, but always in a disconnected sort of fashion--his
one thought being to send for the police.
"In Russia," said he, suddenly boiling over with indignation,
"or in any well-ordered State where there exists a government,
old women like my mother are placed under proper guardianship.
Yes, my good sir," he went on, relapsing into a scolding tone as
he leapt to his feet and started to pace the room, "do you not
know this " (he seemed to be addressing some imaginary auditor
in the corner) "--do you not know this, that in Russia old women
like her are subjected to restraint, the devil take them?"
Again he threw himself down upon the sofa.
A minute later, though sobbing and almost breathless, he managed
to gasp out that Mlle. Blanche had refused to marry him, for the
reason that the Grandmother had turned up in place of a
telegram, and it was therefore clear that he had no inheritance
to look for. Evidently, he supposed that I had hitherto been in
entire ignorance of all this. Again, when I referred to De
Griers, the General made a gesture of despair. "He has gone
away," he said, "and everything which I possess is mortgaged to
him. I stand stripped to my skin. Even of the money which you
brought me from Paris, I know not if seven hundred francs be
left. Of course that sum will do to go on with, but, as regards
the future, I know nothing, I know nothing."
"Then how will you pay your hotel bill?" I cried in
consternation. "And what shall you do afterwards?"
He looked at me vaguely, but it was clear that he had not
understood--perhaps had not even heard--my questions. Then I tried
to get him to speak of Polina and the children, but he only
returned brief answers of " Yes, yes," and again started to
maunder about the Prince, and the likelihood of the latter
marrying Mlle. Blanche. "What on earth am I to do?" he
concluded. "What on earth am I to do? Is this not ingratitude?
Is it not sheer ingratitude?" And he burst into tears.
Nothing could be done with such a man. Yet to leave him alone
was dangerous, for something might happen to him. I withdrew
from his rooms for a little while, but warned the nursemaid to
keep an eye upon him, as well as exchanged a word with the
corridor lacquey (a very talkative fellow), who likewise
promised to remain on the look-out.
Hardly had I left the General, when Potapitch approached me with
a summons from the Grandmother. It was now eight o'clock, and
she had returned from the Casino after finally losing all that
she possessed. I found her sitting in her chair--much distressed
and evidently fatigued. Presently Martha brought her up a cup of
tea and forced her to drink it; yet, even then I could detect in
the old lady's tone and manner a great change.
"Good evening, Alexis Ivanovitch," she said slowly, with her
head drooping. "Pardon me for disturbing you again. Yes, you
must pardon an old, old woman like myself, for I have left
behind me all that I possess--nearly a hundred thousand roubles!
You did quite right in declining to come with me this evening.
Now I am without money--without a single groat. But I must not
delay a moment; I must leave by the 9:30 train. I have sent for
that English friend of yours, and am going to beg of him three
thousand francs for a week. Please try and persuade him to think
nothing of it, nor yet to refuse me, for I am still a rich woman
who possesses three villages and a couple of mansions. Yes, the
money shall be found, for I have not yet squandered EVERYTHING.
I tell you this in order that he may have no doubts about--Ah,
but here he is! Clearly he is a good fellow."
True enough, Astley had come hot-foot on receiving the
Grandmother's appeal. Scarcely stopping even to reflect, and
with scarcely a word, he counted out the three thousand francs
under a note of hand which she duly signed. Then, his business
done, he bowed, and lost no time in taking his departure.
"You too leave me, Alexis Ivanovitch," said the Grandmother.
"All my bones are aching, and I still have an hour in which to
rest. Do not be hard upon me, old fool that I am. Never again
shall I blame young people for being frivolous. I should think
it wrong even to blame that unhappy General of yours. Nevertheless,
I do not mean to let him have any of my money (which is all that
he desires), for the reason that I look upon him as a perfect
blockhead, and consider myself, simpleton though I be, at least
wiser than HE is. How surely does God visit old age, and punish
it for its presumption! Well, good-bye. Martha, come and lift
However, I had a mind to see the old lady off; and, moreover, I
was in an expectant frame of mind--somehow I kept thinking that
SOMETHING was going to happen; wherefore, I could not rest
quietly in my room, but stepped out into the corridor, and then
into the Chestnut Avenue for a few minutes' stroll. My letter to
Polina had been clear and firm, and in the present crisis, I felt
sure, would prove final. I had heard of De Griers' departure,
and, however much Polina might reject me as a FRIEND, she might
not reject me altogether as a SERVANT. She would need me to
fetch and carry for her, and I was ready to do so. How could it
have been otherwise?
Towards the hour of the train's departure I hastened to the
station, and put the Grandmother into her compartment--she and
her party occupying a reserved family saloon.
"Thanks for your disinterested assistance," she said at
parting. "Oh, and please remind Prascovia of what I said to her
last night. I expect soon to see her."
Then I returned home. As I was passing the door of the General's
suite, I met the nursemaid, and inquired after her master.
"There is nothing new to report, sir," she replied quietly.
Nevertheless I decided to enter, and was just doing so when I
halted thunderstruck on the threshold. For before me I beheld
the General and Mlle. Blanche--laughing gaily at one another!--
while beside them, on the sofa, there was seated her mother.
Clearly the General was almost out of his mind with joy, for he
was talking all sorts of nonsense, and bubbling over with a
long-drawn, nervous laugh--a laugh which twisted his face into
innumerable wrinkles, and caused his eyes almost to disappear.
Afterwards I learnt from Mlle. Blanche herself that, after
dismissing the Prince and hearing of the General's tears, she
bethought her of going to comfort the old man, and had just
arrived for the purpose when I entered. Fortunately, the poor
General did not know that his fate had been decided--that Mlle.
had long ago packed her trunks in readiness for the first
morning train to Paris!
Hesitating a moment on the threshold I changed my mind as to
entering, and departed unnoticed. Ascending to my own room, and
opening the door, I perceived in the semi-darkness a figure
seated on a chair in the corner by the window. The figure did
not rise when I entered, so I approached it swiftly, peered at
it closely, and felt my heart almost stop beating. The figure
The shock made me utter an exclamation.
"What is the matter? What is the matter?" she asked in a
strange voice. She was looking pale, and her eyes were dim.
"What is the matter?" I re-echoed. "Why, the fact that you
"If I am here, I have come with all that I have to bring," she
said. "Such has always been my way, as you shall presently see.
Please light a candle."
I did so; whereupon she rose, approached the table, and laid
upon it an open letter.
"Read it," she added.
"It is De Griers' handwriting!" I cried as I seized the
document. My hands were so tremulous that the lines on the pages
danced before my eyes. Although, at this distance of time, I
have forgotten the exact phraseology of the missive, I append,
if not the precise words, at all events the general sense.
"Mademoiselle," the document ran, "certain untoward
circumstances compel me to depart in haste. Of course, you have
of yourself remarked that hitherto I have always refrained from
having any final explanation with you, for the reason that I
could not well state the whole circumstances; and now to my
difficulties the advent of the aged Grandmother, coupled with
her subsequent proceedings, has put the final touch. Also, the
involved state of my affairs forbids me to write with any
finality concerning those hopes of ultimate bliss upon which,
for a long while past, I have permitted myself to feed. I regret
the past, but at the same time hope that in my conduct you have
never been able to detect anything that was unworthy of a
gentleman and a man of honour. Having lost, however, almost the
whole of my money in debts incurred by your stepfather, I find
myself driven to the necessity of saving the remainder;
wherefore, I have instructed certain friends of mine in St.
Petersburg to arrange for the sale of all the property which has
been mortgaged to myself. At the same time, knowing that, in
addition, your frivolous stepfather has squandered money which
is exclusively yours, I have decided to absolve him from a
certain moiety of the mortgages on his property, in order that
you may be in a position to recover of him what you have lost,
by suing him in legal fashion. I trust, therefore, that, as
matters now stand, this action of mine may bring you some
advantage. I trust also that this same action leaves me in the
position of having fulfilled every obligation which is incumbent
upon a man of honour and refinement. Rest assured that your
memory will for ever remain graven in my heart."
"All this is clear enough," I commented. "Surely you did not
expect aught else from him?" Somehow I was feeling annoyed.
"I expected nothing at all from him," she replied--quietly
enough, to all outward seeming, yet with a note of irritation in
her tone. "Long ago I made up my mind on the subject, for I
could read his thoughts, and knew what he was thinking. He
thought that possibly I should sue him--that one day I might
become a nuisance." Here Polina halted for a moment, and stood
biting her lips. "So of set purpose I redoubled my contemptuous
treatment of him, and waited to see what he would do. If a
telegram to say that we had become legatees had arrived from,
St. Petersburg, I should have flung at him a quittance for my
foolish stepfather's debts, and then dismissed him. For a long
time I have hated him. Even in earlier days he was not a man;
and now!-- Oh, how gladly I could throw those fifty thousand
roubles in his face, and spit in it, and then rub the spittle in!"
"But the document returning the fifty-thousand rouble
mortgage--has the General got it? If so, possess yourself of it,
and send it to De Griers."
"No, no; the General has not got it."
"Just as I expected! Well, what is the General going to do?"
Then an idea suddenly occurred to me. "What about the
Grandmother?" I asked.
Polina looked at me with impatience and bewilderment.
"What makes you speak of HER?" was her irritable inquiry. "I
cannot go and live with her. Nor," she added hotly, "will I go
down upon my knees to ANY ONE."
"Why should you?" I cried. "Yet to think that you should have
loved De Griers! The villain, the villain! But I will kill him
in a duel. Where is he now?"
"In Frankfort, where he will be staying for the next three
"Well, bid me do so, and I will go to him by the first train
tomorrow," I exclaimed with enthusiasm.
"If you were to do that," she said, "he would merely
tell you to be so good as first to return him the fifty
thousand francs. What, then, would be the use of
having a quarrel with him? You talk sheer nonsense."
I ground my teeth.
"The question," I went on, "is how to raise the fifty thousand
francs. We cannot expect to find them lying about on the floor.
Listen. What of Mr. Astley?" Even as I spoke a new and strange
idea formed itself in my brain.
Her eyes flashed fire.
"What? YOU YOURSELF wish me to leave you for him?" she cried
with a scornful look and a proud smile. Never before had she
addressed me thus.
Then her head must have turned dizzy with emotion, for suddenly
she seated herself upon the sofa, as though she were powerless
any longer to stand.
A flash of lightning seemed to strike me as I stood there. I
could scarcely believe my eyes or my ears. She DID love me,
then! It WAS to me, and not to Mr. Astley, that she had turned!
Although she, an unprotected girl, had come to me in my room--in
an hotel room--and had probably compromised herself thereby, I
had not understood!
Then a second mad idea flashed into my brain.
"Polina," I said, "give me but an hour. Wait here just one
hour until I return. Yes, you MUST do so. Do you not see what I
mean? Just stay here for that time."
And I rushed from the room without so much as answering her look
of inquiry. She called something after me, but I did not return.
Sometimes it happens that the most insane thought, the most
impossible conception, will become so fixed in one's head that
at length one believes the thought or the conception to be
reality. Moreover, if with the thought or the conception there
is combined a strong, a passionate, desire, one will come to
look upon the said thought or conception as something fated,
inevitable, and foreordained--something bound to happen. Whether
by this there is connoted something in the nature of a
combination of presentiments, or a great effort of will, or a
self-annulment of one's true expectations, and so on, I do not
know; but, at all events that night saw happen to me (a night
which I shall never forget) something in the nature of the
miraculous. Although the occurrence can easily be explained by
arithmetic, I still believe it to have been a miracle. Yet why
did this conviction take such a hold upon me at the time, and
remain with me ever since? Previously, I had thought of the idea,
not as an occurrence which was ever likely to come about, but as
something which NEVER could come about.
The time was a quarter past eleven o'clock when I entered the
Casino in such a state of hope (though, at the same time, of
agitation) as I had never before experienced. In the
gaming-rooms there were still a large number of people, but not
half as many as had been present in the morning.
At eleven o'clock there usually remained behind only the real,
the desperate gamblers--persons for whom, at spas, there existed
nothing beyond roulette, and who went thither for that alone.
These gamesters took little note of what was going on around
them, and were interested in none of the appurtenances of the
season, but played from morning till night, and would have been
ready to play through the night until dawn had that been
possible. As it was, they used to disperse unwillingly when, at
midnight, roulette came to an end. Likewise, as soon as ever
roulette was drawing to a close and the head croupier had called
"Les trois derniers coups," most of them were ready to stake on
the last three rounds all that they had in their pockets--and,
for the most part, lost it. For my own part I proceeded towards
the table at which the Grandmother had lately sat; and, since the
crowd around it was not very large, I soon obtained standing
room among the ring of gamblers, while directly in front of me,
on the green cloth, I saw marked the word "Passe."
"Passe" was a row of numbers from 19 to 36 inclusive; while a
row of numbers from 1 to 18 inclusive was known as "Manque."
But what had that to do with me? I had not noticed--I had not so
much as heard the numbers upon which the previous coup had
fallen, and so took no bearings when I began to play, as, in my
place, any SYSTEMATIC gambler would have done. No, I merely
extended my stock of twenty ten-gulden pieces, and threw them
down upon the space "Passe" which happened to be confronting
"Vingt-deux!" called the croupier.
I had won! I staked upon the same again--both my original stake
and my winnings.
"Trente-et-un!" called the croupier.
Again I had won, and was now in possession of eighty ten-gulden
pieces. Next, I moved the whole eighty on to twelve middle
numbers (a stake which, if successful, would bring me in a
triple profit, but also involved a risk of two chances to one).
The wheel revolved, and stopped at twenty-four. Upon this I was
paid out notes and gold until I had by my side a total sum of
two thousand gulden.
It was as in a fever that I moved the pile, en bloc, on to the
red. Then suddenly I came to myself (though that was the only
time during the evening's play when fear cast its cold spell
over me, and showed itself in a trembling of the hands and
knees). For with horror I had realised that I MUST win, and that
upon that stake there depended all my life.
"Rouge!" called the croupier. I drew a long breath, and hot
shivers went coursing over my body. I was paid out my winnings
in bank-notes--amounting, of course, to a total of four thousand
florins, eight hundred gulden (I could still calculate the
After that, I remember, I again staked two thousand florins upon
twelve middle numbers, and lost. Again I staked the whole of
my gold, with eight hundred gulden, in notes, and lost. Then
madness seemed to come upon me, and seizing my last two thousand
florins, I staked them upon twelve of the first numbers--wholly
by chance, and at random, and without any sort of reckoning.
Upon my doing so there followed a moment of suspense only
comparable to that which Madame Blanchard must have experienced
when, in Paris, she was descending earthwards from a balloon.
"Quatre!" called the croupier.
Once more, with the addition of my original stake, I was in
possession of six thousand florins! Once more I looked around me
like a conqueror--once more I feared nothing as I threw down four
thousand of these florins upon the black. The croupiers glanced
around them, and exchanged a few words; the bystanders
The black turned up. After that I do not exactly remember
either my calculations or the order of my stakings. I only
remember that, as in a dream, I won in one round sixteen
thousand florins; that in the three following rounds, I lost
twelve thousand; that I moved the remainder (four thousand) on
to "Passe" (though quite unconscious of what I was doing--I was
merely waiting, as it were, mechanically, and without
reflection, for something) and won; and that, finally, four
times in succession I lost. Yes, I can remember raking in money
by thousands--but most frequently on the twelve, middle numbers,
to which I constantly adhered, and which kept appearing in a
sort of regular order--first, three or four times running, and
then, after an interval of a couple of rounds, in another break
of three or four appearances. Sometimes, this astonishing
regularity manifested itself in patches; a thing to upset all
the calculations of note--taking gamblers who play with a
pencil and a memorandum book in their hands Fortune perpetrates
some terrible jests at roulette!
Since my entry not more than half an hour could have elapsed.
Suddenly a croupier informed me that I had, won thirty thousand
florins, as well as that, since the latter was the limit for
which, at any one time, the bank could make itself responsible,
roulette at that table must close for the night. Accordingly, I
caught up my pile of gold, stuffed it into my pocket, and,
grasping my sheaf of bank-notes, moved to the table in an
adjoining salon where a second game of roulette was in
progress. The crowd followed me in a body, and cleared a place
for me at the table; after which, I proceeded to stake as
before--that is to say, at random and without calculating. What
saved me from ruin I do not know.
Of course there were times when fragmentary reckonings DID come
flashing into my brain. For instance, there were times when I
attached myself for a while to certain figures and coups--though
always leaving them, again before long, without knowing what I
In fact, I cannot have been in possession of all my faculties,
for I can remember the croupiers correcting my play more than
once, owing to my having made mistakes of the gravest order. My
brows were damp with sweat, and my hands were shaking. Also,
Poles came around me to proffer their services, but I heeded
none of them. Nor did my luck fail me now. Suddenly, there arose
around me a loud din of talking and laughter. " Bravo, bravo! "
was the general shout, and some people even clapped their hands.
I had raked in thirty thousand florins, and again the bank had
had to close for the night!
"Go away now, go away now," a voice whispered to me on my
right. The person who had spoken to me was a certain Jew of
Frankfurt--a man who had been standing beside me the whole while,
and occasionally helping me in my play.
"Yes, for God's sake go," whispered a second voice in my left
ear. Glancing around, I perceived that the second voice had come
from a modestly, plainly dressed lady of rather less than
thirty--a woman whose face, though pale and sickly-looking, bore
also very evident traces of former beauty. At the moment, I was
stuffing the crumpled bank-notes into my pockets and collecting
all the gold that was left on the table. Seizing up my last note
for five hundred gulden, I contrived to insinuate it,
unperceived, into the hand of the pale lady. An overpowering
impulse had made me do so, and I remember how her thin little
fingers pressed mine in token of her lively gratitude. The whole
affair was the work of a moment.
Then, collecting my belongings, I crossed to where trente et
quarante was being played--a game which could boast of a more
aristocratic public, and was played with cards instead of with a
wheel. At this diversion the bank made itself responsible for a
hundred thousand thalers as the limit, but the highest stake
allowable was, as in roulette, four thousand florins. Although I
knew nothing of the game--and I scarcely knew the stakes,
except those on black and red--I joined the ring of players,
while the rest of the crowd massed itself around me. At this
distance of time I cannot remember whether I ever gave a thought
to Polina; I seemed only to be conscious of a vague pleasure in
seizing and raking in the bank-notes which kept massing
themselves in a pile before me.
But, as ever, fortune seemed to be at my back. As though of set
purpose, there came to my aid a circumstance which not
infrequently repeats itself in gaming. The circumstance is that
not infrequently luck attaches itself to, say, the red, and does
not leave it for a space of say, ten, or even fifteen, rounds
in succession. Three days ago I had heard that, during the
previous week there had been a run of twenty-two coups on the
red--an occurrence never before known at roulette-- so that men
spoke of it with astonishment. Naturally enough, many deserted
the red after a dozen rounds, and practically no one could now
be found to stake upon it. Yet upon the black also--the
antithesis of the red--no experienced gambler would stake
anything, for the reason that every practised player knows the
meaning of "capricious fortune." That is to say, after the
sixteenth (or so) success of the red, one would think that the
seventeenth coup would inevitably fall upon the black; wherefore,
novices would be apt to back the latter in the seventeenth
round, and even to double or treble their stakes upon it--only,
in the end, to lose.
Yet some whim or other led me, on remarking that the red had
come up consecutively for seven times, to attach myself to that
colour. Probably this was mostly due to self-conceit, for I
wanted to astonish the bystanders with the riskiness of my play.
Also, I remember that--oh, strange sensation!--I suddenly, and
without any challenge from my own presumption, became obsessed
with a DESIRE to take risks. If the spirit has passed through a
great many sensations, possibly it can no longer be sated with
them, but grows more excited, and demands more sensations, and
stronger and stronger ones, until at length it falls exhausted.
Certainly, if the rules of the game had permitted even of my
staking fifty thousand florins at a time, I should have staked
them. All of a sudden I heard exclamations arising that the
whole thing was a marvel, since the red was turning up for the
"Monsieur a gagne cent mille florins," a voice exclaimed beside
I awoke to my senses. What? I had won a hundred thousand
florins? If so, what more did I need to win? I grasped the
banknotes, stuffed them into my pockets, raked in the gold
without counting it, and started to leave the Casino. As I
passed through the salons people smiled to see my
bulging pockets and unsteady gait, for the weight which I was
carrying must have amounted to half a pood! Several hands I saw
stretched out in my direction, and as I passed I filled them
with all the money that I could grasp in my own. At length two
Jews stopped me near the exit.
"You are a bold young fellow," one said, "but mind you depart
early tomorrow--as early as you can--for if you do not you will
lose everything that you have won."
But I did not heed them. The Avenue was so dark that it was
barely possible to distinguish one's hand before one's face,
while the distance to the hotel was half a verst or so; but I
feared neither pickpockets nor highwaymen. Indeed, never since
my boyhood have I done that. Also, I cannot remember what I
thought about on the way. I only felt a sort of fearful pleasure
--the pleasure of success, of conquest, of power (how can I best
express it?). Likewise, before me there flitted the image of
Polina; and I kept remembering, and reminding myself, that it
was to HER I was going, that it was in HER presence I should
soon be standing, that it was SHE to whom I should soon be able
to relate and show everything. Scarcely once did I recall what
she had lately said to me, or the reason why I had left her, or
all those varied sensations which I had been experiencing a bare
hour and a half ago. No, those sensations seemed to be things of
the past, to be things which had righted themselves and grown
old, to be things concerning which we needed to trouble
ourselves no longer, since, for us, life was about to begin
anew. Yet I had just reached the end of the Avenue when there
DID come upon me a fear of being robbed or murdered. With each
step the fear increased until, in my terror, I almost started to
run. Suddenly, as I issued from the Avenue, there burst upon me
the lights of the hotel, sparkling with a myriad lamps! Yes,
thanks be to God, I had reached home!
Running up to my room, I flung open the door of it. Polina was
still on the sofa, with a lighted candle in front of her, and
her hands clasped. As I entered she stared at me in astonishment
(for, at the moment, I must have presented a strange spectacle).
All I did, however, was to halt before her, and fling upon the
table my burden of wealth.
I remember, too, how, without moving from her place, or changing
her attitude, she gazed into my face.
"I have won two hundred thousand francs!" cried I as I pulled
out my last sheaf of bank-notes. The pile of paper currency
occupied the whole table. I could not withdraw my eyes from it.
Consequently, for a moment or two Polina escaped my mind. Then I
set myself to arrange the pile in order, and to sort the notes,
and to mass the gold in a separate heap. That done, I left
everything where it lay, and proceeded to pace the room with
rapid strides as I lost myself in thought. Then I darted to the
table once more, and began to recount the money; until all of a
sudden, as though I had remembered something, I rushed to the
door, and closed and double-locked it. Finally I came to a
meditative halt before my little trunk.
"Shall I put the money there until tomorrow?" I asked,
turning sharply round to Polina as the recollection of her
returned to me.
She was still in her old place--still making not a sound. Yet her
eyes had followed every one of my movements. Somehow in her face
there was a strange expression--an expression which I did not
like. I think that I shall not be wrong if I say that it
indicated sheer hatred.
Impulsively I approached her.
"Polina," I said, "here are twenty-five thousand florins--fifty
thousand francs, or more. Take them, and tomorrow throw them
in De Griers' face."
She returned no answer.
"Or, if you should prefer," I continued, "let me take
them to him myself tomorrow--yes, early tomorrow morning. Shall
Then all at once she burst out laughing, and laughed for a long
while. With astonishment and a feeling of offence I gazed at
her. Her laughter was too like the derisive merriment which she
had so often indulged in of late--merriment which had broken
forth always at the time of my most passionate explanations. At
length she ceased, and frowned at me from under her eyebrows.
"I am NOT going to take your money," she said contemptuously.
"Why not?" I cried. "Why not, Polina?"
"Because I am not in the habit of receiving money for nothing."
"But I am offering it to you as a FRIEND in the same way I
would offer you my very life."
Upon this she threw me a long, questioning glance, as though she
were seeking to probe me to the depths.
"You are giving too much for me," she remarked with a smile.
"The beloved of De Griers is not worth fifty thousand francs."
"Oh Polina, how can you speak so?" I exclaimed reproachfully.
"Am I De Griers?"
"You?" she cried with her eyes suddenly flashing. "Why, I
HATE you! Yes, yes, I HATE you! I love you no more than I do De
Then she buried her face in her hands, and relapsed into
hysterics. I darted to her side. Somehow I had an intuition of
something having happened to her which had nothing to do with
myself. She was like a person temporarily insane.
"Buy me, would you, would you? Would you buy me for fifty
thousand francs as De Griers did?" she gasped between her
I clasped her in my arms, kissed her hands and feet, and fell
upon my knees before her.
Presently the hysterical fit passed away, and, laying her hands
upon my shoulders, she gazed for a while into my face, as though
trying to read it--something I said to her, but it was clear
that she did not hear it. Her face looked so dark and despondent
that I began to fear for her reason. At length she drew me towards
herself--a trustful smile playing over her features; and then,
as suddenly, she pushed me away again as she eyed me dimly.
Finally she threw herself upon me in an embrace.
"You love me?" she said. "DO you?--you who were willing even to
quarrel with the Baron at my bidding?"
Then she laughed--laughed as though something dear, but
laughable, had recurred to her memory. Yes, she laughed and wept
at the same time. What was I to do? I was like a man in a fever.
I remember that she began to say something to me--though WHAT I do
not know, since she spoke with a feverish lisp, as though she
were trying to tell me something very quickly. At intervals,
too, she would break off into the smile which I was beginning to
dread. "No, no!" she kept repeating. "YOU are my dear one;
YOU are the man I trust." Again she laid her hands upon my
shoulders, and again she gazed at me as she reiterated: "You love
me, you love me? Will you ALWAYS love me?" I could not take my
eyes off her. Never before had I seen her in this mood of
humility and affection. True, the mood was the outcome of
hysteria; but--! All of a sudden she noticed my ardent gaze, and
smiled slightly. The next moment, for no apparent reason, she
began to talk of Astley.
She continued talking and talking about him, but I could not
make out all she said--more particularly when she was
endeavouring to tell me of something or other which had happened
recently. On the whole, she appeared to be laughing at Astley,
for she kept repeating that he was waiting for her, and did I
know whether, even at that moment, he was not standing beneath
the window? "Yes, yes, he is there," she said. "Open the
window, and see if he is not." She pushed me in that direction;
yet, no sooner did I make a movement to obey her behest than she
burst into laughter, and I remained beside her, and she
"Shall we go away tomorrow?" presently she asked, as though
some disturbing thought had recurred to her recollection. "How
would it be if we were to try and overtake Grandmamma? I think
we should do so at Berlin. And what think you she would have to
say to us when we caught her up, and her eyes first lit upon us?
What, too, about Mr. Astley? HE would not leap from the
Shlangenberg for my sake! No! Of that I am very sure!"--and she
laughed. "Do you know where he is going next year? He says he
intends to go to the North Pole for scientific investigations,
and has invited me to go with him! Ha, ha, ha! He also says that
we Russians know nothing, can do nothing, without European help.
But he is a good fellow all the same. For instance, he does not
blame the General in the matter, but declares that Mlle.
Blanche--that love--But no; I do not know, I do not know." She
stopped suddenly, as though she had said her say, and was
feeling bewildered. "What poor creatures these people are. How
sorry I am for them, and for Grandmamma! But when are you going
to kill De Griers? Surely you do not intend actually to murder
him? You fool! Do you suppose that I should ALLOW you to fight
De Griers? Nor shall you kill the Baron." Here she burst out
laughing. "How absurd you looked when you were talking to the
Burmergelms! I was watching you all the time--watching you from
where I was sitting. And how unwilling you were to go when I
sent you! Oh, how I laughed and laughed!"
Then she kissed and embraced me again; again she pressed her
face to mine with tender passion. Yet I neither saw nor heard
her, for my head was in a whirl. . . .
It must have been about seven o'clock in the morning when I
awoke. Daylight had come, and Polina was sitting by my side--a
strange expression on her face, as though she had seen a vision
and was unable to collect her thoughts. She too had just
awoken, and was now staring at the money on the table. My head
ached; it felt heavy. I attempted to take Polina's hand, but she
pushed me from her, and leapt from the sofa. The dawn was full
of mist, for rain had fallen, yet she moved to the window,
opened it, and, leaning her elbows upon the window-sill, thrust
out her head and shoulders to take the air. In this position did
she remain for several minutes, without ever looking round at
me, or listening to what I was saying. Into my head there came
the uneasy thought: What is to happen now? How is it all to end?
Suddenly Polina rose from the window, approached the table, and,
looking at me with an expression of infinite aversion, said with
lips which quivered with anger:
"Well? Are you going to hand me over my fifty thousand francs?"
"Polina, you say that AGAIN, AGAIN?" I exclaimed.
"You have changed your mind, then? Ha, ha, ha! You are sorry
you ever promised them?"
On the table where, the previous night, I had counted the money
there still was lying the packet of twenty five thousand
florins. I handed it to her.
"The francs are mine, then, are they? They are mine?" she
inquired viciously as she balanced the money in her hands.
"Yes; they have ALWAYS been yours," I said.
"Then TAKE your fifty thousand francs!" and she hurled them
full in my face. The packet burst as she did so, and the floor
became strewed with bank-notes. The instant that the deed was
done she rushed from the room.
At that moment she cannot have been in her right mind; yet, what
was the cause of her temporary aberration I cannot say. For a
month past she had been unwell. Yet what had brought about this
PRESENT condition of mind,above all things, this outburst? Had
it come of wounded pride? Had it come of despair over her
decision to come to me? Had it come of the fact that, presuming
too much on my good fortune, I had seemed to be intending to
desert her (even as De Griers had done) when once I had given
her the fifty thousand francs? But, on my honour, I had never
cherished any such intention. What was at fault, I think, was
her own pride, which kept urging her not to trust me, but,
rather, to insult me--even though she had not realised the fact.
In her eyes I corresponded to De Griers, and therefore had been
condemned for a fault not wholly my own. Her mood of late had
been a sort of delirium, a sort of light-headedness--that I knew
full well; yet, never had I sufficiently taken it into consideration.
Perhaps she would not pardon me now? Ah, but this was THE PRESENT.
What about the future? Her delirium and sickness were not likely to
make her forget what she had done in bringing me De Griers'
letter. No, she must have known what she was doing when she
Somehow I contrived to stuff the pile of notes and gold under
the bed, to cover them over, and then to leave the room some ten
minutes after Polina. I felt sure that she had returned to her
own room; wherefore, I intended quietly to follow her, and to ask
the nursemaid aid who opened the door how her mistress was.
Judge, therefore, of my surprise when, meeting the domestic on
the stairs, she informed me that Polina had not yet returned,
and that she (the domestic) was at that moment on her way to my
room in quest of her!
"Mlle. left me but ten minutes ago," I said.
"What can have become of her?" The nursemaid looked at me
Already sundry rumours were flying about the hotel. Both in the
office of the commissionaire and in that of the landlord it was
whispered that, at seven o'clock that morning, the Fraulein had
left the hotel, and set off, despite the rain, in the direction
of the Hotel d'Angleterre. From words and hints let fall I could
see that the fact of Polina having spent the night in my room
was now public property. Also, sundry rumours were circulating
concerning the General's family affairs. It was known that last
night he had gone out of his mind, and paraded the hotel in
tears; also, that the old lady who had arrived was his mother,
and that she had come from Russia on purpose to forbid her son's
marriage with Mlle. de Cominges, as well as to cut him out of
her will if he should disobey her; also that, because he had
disobeyed her, she had squandered all her money at roulette, in
order to have nothing more to leave to him. "Oh, these
Russians!" exclaimed the landlord, with an angry toss of the
head, while the bystanders laughed and the clerk betook himself
to his accounts. Also, every one had learnt about my winnings;
Karl, the corridor lacquey, was the first to congratulate me.
But with these folk I had nothing to do. My business was to set
off at full speed to the Hotel d'Angleterre.
As yet it was early for Mr. Astley to receive visitors; but, as
soon as he learnt that it was I who had arrived, he came out
into the corridor to meet me, and stood looking at me in silence
with his steel-grey eyes as he waited to hear what I had to say.
I inquired after Polina.
"She is ill," he replied, still looking at me with his direct,
"And she is in your rooms."
"Yes, she is in my rooms."
"Then you are minded to keep her there?"
"Yes, I am minded to keep her there."
"But, Mr. Astley, that will raise a scandal. It ought not to be
allowed. Besides, she is very ill. Perhaps you had not remarked
"Yes, I have. It was I who told you about it. Had she not been
ill, she would not have gone and spent the night with you."
"Then you know all about it?"
"Yes; for last night she was to have accompanied me to the
house of a relative of mine. Unfortunately, being ill, she made
a mistake, and went to your rooms instead."
"Indeed? Then I wish you joy, Mr. Astley. Apropos, you have
reminded me of something. Were you beneath my window last night?
Every moment Mlle. Polina kept telling me to open the window and
see if you were there; after which she always smiled."
"Indeed? No, I was not there; but I was waiting in the
corridor, and walking about the hotel."
"She ought to see a doctor, you know, Mr. Astley."
"Yes, she ought. I have sent for one, and, if she dies, I shall
hold you responsible."
This surprised me.
"Pardon me," I replied, "but what do you mean?"
"Never mind. Tell me if it is true that, last night, you won two
hundred thousand thalers?"
"No; I won a hundred thousand florins."
"Good heavens! Then I suppose you will be off to Paris this
"Because all Russians who have grown rich go to Paris,"
explained Astley, as though he had read the fact in a book.
"But what could I do in Paris in summer time?--I LOVE her, Mr.
Astley! Surely you know that?"
"Indeed? I am sure that you do NOT. Moreover, if you were to
stay here, you would lose everything that you possess, and have
nothing left with which to pay your expenses in Paris. Well,
good-bye now. I feel sure that today will see you gone from
"Good-bye. But I am NOT going to Paris. Likewise--pardon me--what
is to become of this family? I mean that the affair of the
General and Mlle. Polina will soon be all over the town."
"I daresay; yet, I hardly suppose that that will break the
General's heart. Moreover, Mlle. Polina has a perfect right to
live where she chooses. In short, we may say that, as a family,
this family has ceased to exist."
I departed, and found myself smiling at the Englishman's strange
assurance that I should soon be leaving for Paris. "I suppose
he means to shoot me in a duel, should Polina die. Yes, that is
what he intends to do." Now, although I was honestly sorry for
Polina, it is a fact that, from the moment when, the previous
night, I had approached the gaming-table, and begun to rake in
the packets of bank-notes, my love for her had entered upon a
new plane. Yes, I can say that now; although, at the time, I was
barely conscious of it. Was I, then, at heart a gambler? Did I,
after all, love Polina not so very much? No, no! As God is my
witness, I loved her! Even when I was returning home from Mr.
Astley's my suffering was genuine, and my self-reproach sincere.
But presently I was to go through an exceedingly strange and
I was proceeding to the General's rooms when I heard a door near
me open, and a voice call me by name. It was Mlle.'s mother, the
Widow de Cominges who was inviting me, in her daughter's
name, to enter.
I did so; whereupon, I heard a laugh and a little cry proceed
from the bedroom (the pair occupied a suite of two apartments),
where Mlle. Blanche was just arising.
"Ah, c'est lui! Viens, donc, bete! Is it true that you have won
a mountain of gold and silver? J'aimerais mieux l'or."
"Yes," I replied with a smile.
"A hundred thousand florins."
"Bibi, comme tu es bete! Come in here, for I can't hear you
where you are now. Nous ferons bombance, n'est-ce pas?"
Entering her room, I found her lolling under a pink satin
coverlet, and revealing a pair of swarthy, wonderfully healthy
shoulders--shoulders such as one sees in dreams--shoulders covered
over with a white cambric nightgown which, trimmed with lace,
stood out, in striking relief, against the darkness of her skin.
"Mon fils, as-tu du coeur?" she cried when she saw me, and
then giggled. Her laugh had always been a very cheerful one, and
at times it even sounded sincere.
"Tout autre--" I began, paraphrasing Comeille.
"See here," she prattled on. "Please search for my stockings,
and help me to dress. Aussi, si tu n'es pas trop bete je te
prends a Paris. I am just off, let me tell you."
"In half an hour."
True enough, everything stood ready-packed--trunks, portmanteaux,
and all. Coffee had long been served.
"Eh bien, tu verras Paris. Dis donc, qu'est-ce que c'est qu'un
'utchitel'? Tu etais bien bete quand tu etais 'utchitel.' Where
are my stockings? Please help me to dress."
And she lifted up a really ravishing foot--small, swarthy, and
not misshapen like the majority of feet which look dainty only
in bottines. I laughed, and started to draw on to the foot a
silk stocking, while Mlle. Blanche sat on the edge of the bed
"Eh bien, que feras-tu si je te prends avec moi? First of all I
must have fifty thousand francs, and you shall give them to me
at Frankfurt. Then we will go on to Paris, where we will live
together, et je te ferai voir des etoiles en plein jour. Yes,
you shall see such women as your eyes have never lit upon."
"Stop a moment. If I were to give you those fifty thousand
francs, what should I have left for myself?"
"Another hundred thousand francs, please to remember. Besides,
I could live with you in your rooms for a month, or even for
two; or even for longer. But it would not take us more than two
months to get through fifty thousand francs; for, look you, je
suis bonne enfante, et tu verras des etoiles, you may be sure."
"What? You mean to say that we should spend the whole in two
"Certainly. Does that surprise you very much? Ah, vil esclave!
Why, one month of that life would be better than all your
previous existence. One month--et apres, le deluge! Mais tu ne
peux comprendre. Va! Away, away! You are not worth it.--Ah, que
For, while drawing on the other stocking, I had felt constrained
to kiss her. Immediately she shrunk back, kicked me in the face
with her toes, and turned me neck and prop out of the room.
"Eh bien, mon 'utchitel'," she called after me, "je t'attends,
si tu veux. I start in a quarter of an hour's time."
I returned to my own room with my head in a whirl. It was not my
fault that Polina had thrown a packet in my face, and preferred
Mr. Astley to myself. A few bank-notes were still fluttering
about the floor, and I picked them up. At that moment the door
opened, and the landlord appeared--a person who, until now, had
never bestowed upon me so much as a glance. He had come to know
if I would prefer to move to a lower floor--to a suite which had
just been tenanted by Count V.
For a moment I reflected.
"No!" I shouted. "My account, please, for in ten minutes I
shall be gone."
"To Paris, to Paris!" I added to myself. "Every man of birth
must make her acquaintance."
Within a quarter of an hour all three of us were seated in a
family compartment--Mlle. Blanche, the Widow de Cominges, and
myself. Mlle. kept laughing hysterically as she looked at me,
and Madame re-echoed her; but I did not feel so cheerful. My
life had broken in two, and yesterday had infected me with a
habit of staking my all upon a card. Although it might be that I
had failed to win my stake, that I had lost my senses, that I
desired nothing better, I felt that the scene was to be changed
only FOR A TIME. "Within a month from now," I kept thinking to
myself, "I shall be back again in Roulettenberg; and THEN I
mean to have it out with you, Mr. Astley!" Yes, as now I look
back at things, I remember that I felt greatly depressed,
despite the absurd gigglings of the egregious Blanche.
"What is the matter with you? How dull you are!" she cried at
length as she interrupted her laughter to take me seriously to
"Come, come! We are going to spend your two hundred thousand
francs for you, et tu seras heureux comme un petit roi. I myself
will tie your tie for you, and introduce you to Hortense. And
when we have spent your money you shall return here, and break
the bank again. What did those two Jews tell you?--that the thing
most needed is daring, and that you possess it? Consequently,
this is not the first time that you will be hurrying to Paris
with money in your pocket. Quant ... moi, je veux cinquante mille
francs de rente, et alors"
"But what about the General?" I interrupted.