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  The Gambler




probably that of a countess. "But how know you that?" the old lady retorted. "You live here, yet you cannot say for certain! And why is the picture there at all? And why do its eyes look so crooked?" To all these questions the landlord could return no satisfactory reply, despite his floundering endeavours. "The blockhead!" exclaimed the Grandmother in Russian. Then she proceeded on her way--only to repeat the same story in front of a Saxon statuette which she had sighted from afar, and had commanded, for some reason or another, to be brought to her. Finally, she inquired of the landlord what was the value of the carpet in her bedroom, as well as where the said carpet had been manufactured; but, the landlord could do no more than promise to make inquiries. "What donkeys these people are!" she commented. Next, she turned her attention to the bed. "What a huge counterpane!" she exclaimed. "Turn it back, please." The lacqueys did so. "Further yet, further yet," the old lady cried. "Turn it RIGHT back. Also, take off those pillows and bolsters, and lift up the feather bed." The bed was opened for her inspection. "Mercifully it contains no bugs," she remarked. "Pull off the whole thing, and then put on my own pillows and sheets. The place is too luxurious for an old woman like myself. It is too large for any one person. Alexis Ivanovitch, come and see me whenever you are not teaching your pupils," "After tomorrow I shall no longer be in the Generals service," I replied, "but merely living in the hotel on my own account." "Why so?" "Because, the other day, there arrived from Berlin a German and his wife--persons of some importance; and, it chanced that, when taking a walk, I spoke to them in German without having properly compassed the Berlin accent." "Indeed?" "Yes: and this action on my part the Baron held to be an insult, and complained about it to the General, who yesterday dismissed me from his employ." "But I suppose you must have threatened that precious Baron, or something of the kind? However, even if you did so, it was a matter of no moment." "No, I did not. The Baron was the aggressor by raising his stick at me." Upon that the Grandmother turned sharply to the General. "What? You permitted yourself to treat your tutor thus, you nincompoop, and to dismiss him from his post? You are a blockhead--an utter blockhead! I can see that clearly." "Do not alarm yourself, my dear mother," the General replied with a lofty air--an air in which there was also a tinge of familiarity. "I am quite capable of managing my own affairs. Moreover, Alexis Ivanovitch has not given you a true account of the matter." "What did you do next?" The old lady inquired of me. "I wanted to challenge the Baron to a duel," I replied as modestly as possible; "but the General protested against my doing so." "And WHY did you so protest? " she inquired of the General. Then she turned to the landlord, and questioned him as to whether HE would not have fought a duel, if challenged. "For," she added, "I can see no difference between you and the Baron; nor can I bear that German visage of yours." Upon this the landlord bowed and departed, though he could not have understood the Grandmothers compliment. "Pardon me, Madame," the General continued with a sneer, "but are duels really feasible?" "Why not? All men are crowing cocks, and that is why they quarrel. YOU, though, I perceive, are a blockhead--a man who does not even know how to carry his breeding. Lift me up. Potapitch, see to it that you always have TWO bearers ready. Go and arrange for their hire. But we shall not require more than two, for I shall need only to be carried upstairs. On the level or in the street I can be WHEELED along. Go and tell them that, and pay them in advance, so that they may show me some respect. You too, Potapitch, are always to come with me, and YOU, Alexis Ivanovitch, are to point out to me this Baron as we go along, in order that I may get a squint at the precious Von. And where is that roulette played?" I explained to her that the game was carried on in the salons of the Casino; whereupon there ensued a string of questions as to whether there were many such salons, whether many people played in them, whether those people played a whole day at a time, and whether the game was managed according to

The Gambler page 35        The Gambler page 37


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