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  The Gambler




Well, you shall hear for yourself how it all happened. I lay and lay, and was doctored and doctored,; until at last I drove the physicians from me, and called in an apothecary from Nicolai who had cured an old woman of a malady similar to my own--cured her merely with a little hayseed. Well, he did me a great deal of good, for on the third day I broke into a sweat, and was able to leave my bed. Then my German doctors held another consultation, put on their spectacles, and told me that if I would go abroad, and take a course of the waters, the indisposition would finally pass away. Why should it not? I thought to myself. So I had got things ready, and on the following day, a Friday, set out for here. I occupied a special compartment in the train, and where ever I had to change I found at the station bearers who were ready to carry me for a few coppers. You have nice quarters here," she went on as she glanced around the room. " But where on earth did you get the money for them, my good sir? I thought that everything of yours had been mortgaged? This Frenchman alone must be your creditor for a good deal. Oh, I know all about it, all about it." "I-I am surprised at you, my dearest mother," said the General in some confusion. "I-I am greatly surprised. But I do not need any extraneous control of my finances. Moreover, my expenses do not exceed my income, and we--" "They do not exceed it? Fie! Why, you are robbing your children of their last kopeck--you, their guardian!" "After this," said the General, completely taken aback, "--after what you have just said, I do not know whether--" "You do not know what? By heavens, are you never going to drop that roulette of yours? Are you going to whistle all your property away?" This made such an impression upon the General that he almost choked with fury. "Roulette, indeed? I play roulette? Really, in view of my position--Recollect what you are saying, my dearest mother. You must still be unwell." "Rubbish, rubbish!" she retorted. "The truth is that you CANNOT be got away from that roulette. You are simply telling lies. This very day I mean to go and see for myself what roulette is like. Prascovia, tell me what there is to be seen here; and do you, Alexis Ivanovitch, show me everything; and do you, Potapitch, make me a list of excursions. What IS there to be seen?" again she inquired of Polina. "There is a ruined castle, and the Shlangenberg." "The Shlangenberg? What is it? A forest?" "No, a mountain on the summit of which there is a place fenced off. From it you can get a most beautiful view." "Could a chair be carried up that mountain of yours?" "Doubtless we could find bearers for the purpose," I interposed. At this moment Theodosia, the nursemaid, approached the old lady with the Generals children. "No, I DONT want to see them," said the Grandmother. "I hate kissing children, for their noses are always wet. How are you getting on, Theodosia?" "I am very well, thank you, Madame," replied the nursemaid. "And how is your ladyship? We have been feeling so anxious about you!" "Yes, I know, you simple soul--But who are those other guests?" the old lady continued, turning again to Polina. "For instance, who is that old rascal in the spectacles?" "Prince Nilski, Grandmamma," whispered Polina. "Oh, a Russian? Why, I had no idea that he could understand me! Surely he did not hear what I said? As for Mr. Astley, I have seen him already, and I see that he is here again. How do you do?" she added to the gentleman in question. Mr. Astley bowed in silence "Have you NOTHING to say to me?" the old lady went on. "Say something, for goodness sake! Translate to him, Polina." Polina did so. "I have only to say," replied Mr. Astley gravely, but also with alacrity, "that I am indeed glad to see you in such good health." This was interpreted to the Grandmother, and she seemed much gratified. "How well English people know how to answer one!" she remarked. "That is why I like them so much better than French. Come here," she added to Mr. Astley. "I will try not to bore you too much. Polina, translate to him that I am staying in rooms on a lower floor. Yes, on a lower floor," she repeated to Astley, pointing downwards with her

The Gambler page 33        The Gambler page 35


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