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her. Many people even walked beside her chair, in order to view her the better while, at a little distance, Astley was carrying on a conversation on the subject with two English acquaintances of his. De Griers was simply overflowing with smiles and compliments, and a number of fine ladies were staring at the Grandmother as though she had been something curious. "Quelle victoire!" exclaimed De Griers. "Mais, Madame, cetait du feu!" added Mlle. Blanche with an elusive smile. "Yes, I have won twelve thousand florins," replied the old lady. "And then there is all this gold. With it the total ought to come to nearly thirteen thousand. How much is that in Russian money? Six thousand roubles, I think?" However, I calculated that the sum would exceed seven thousand roubles--or, at the present rate of exchange, even eight thousand. "Eight thousand roubles! What a splendid thing! And to think of you simpletons sitting there and doing nothing! Potapitch! Martha! See what I have won!" "How DID you do it, Madame?" Martha exclaimed ecstatically. "Eight thousand roubles!" "And I am going to give you fifty gulden apiece. There they are." Potapitch and Martha rushed towards her to kiss her hand. "And to each bearer also I will give a ten-gulden piece. Let them have it out of the gold, Alexis Ivanovitch. But why is this footman bowing to me, and that other man as well? Are they congratulating me? Well, let them have ten gulden apiece." "Madame la princesse--Un pauvre expatrie--Malheur continuel--Les princes russes sont si genereux!" said a man who for some time past had been hanging around the old ladys chair--a personage who, dressed in a shabby frockcoat and coloured waistcoat, kept taking off his cap, and smiling pathetically. "Give him ten gulden," said the Grandmother. "No, give him twenty. Now, enough of that, or I shall never get done with you all. Take a moments rest, and then carry me away. Prascovia, I mean to buy a new dress for you tomorrow. Yes, and for you too, Mlle. Blanche. Please translate, Prascovia." "Merci, Madame," replied Mlle. Blanche gratefully as she twisted her face into the mocking smile which usually she kept only for the benefit of De Griers and the General. The latter looked confused, and seemed greatly relieved when we reached the Avenue. "How surprised Theodosia too will be!" went on the Grandmother (thinking of the Generals nursemaid). "She, like yourselves, shall have the price of a new gown. Here, Alexis Ivanovitch! Give that beggar something" (a crooked-backed ragamuffin had approached to stare at us). "But perhaps he is NOT a beggar--only a rascal," I replied. "Never mind, never mind. Give him a gulden." I approached the beggar in question, and handed him the coin. Looking at me in great astonishment, he silently accepted the gulden, while from his person there proceeded a strong smell of liquor. "Have you never tried your luck, Alexis Ivanovitch?" "No, Madame." "Yet just now I could see that you were burning to do so?" "I do mean to try my luck presently." "Then stake everything upon zero. You have seen how it ought to be done? How much capital do you possess?" "Two hundred gulden, Madame." "Not very much. See here; I will lend you five hundred if you wish. Take this purse of mine." With that she added sharply to the General: "But YOU need not expect to receive any." This seemed to upset him, but he said nothing, and De Griers contented himself by scowling. "Que diable!" he whispered to the General. "Cest une terrible vieille." "Look! Another beggar, another beggar!" exclaimed the grandmother. "Alexis Ivanovitch, go and give him a gulden." As she spoke I saw approaching us a grey-headed old man with a wooden leg--a man who was dressed in a blue frockcoat and carrying a staff. He looked like an old soldier. As soon as I tendered him the coin he fell back a step or two, and eyed me threateningly. "Was ist der Teufel!" he cried, and appended thereto a round dozen of oaths. "The man is a perfect fool!" exclaimed the Grandmother, waving her hand. "Move on now, for I am simply famished. When we have lunched we will return to that place." "What?" cried I. "You are going to play again?" "What else do you suppose?" she retorted. "Are you going only to sit here, and grow sour, and let me look at you?" "Madame," said De Griers confidentially, "les chances peuvent tourner. Une seule mauvaise chance, et vous perdrez tout--surtout avec votre jeu. Cetait terrible!" "Oui; vous perdrez absolument," put in Mlle. Blanche. "What has that got to do with YOU?" retorted the old lady. "It is

The Gambler page 41        The Gambler page 43


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