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  The Gambler




not YOUR money that I am going to lose; it is my own. And where is that Mr. Astley of yours?" she added to myself. "He stayed behind in the Casino." "What a pity! He is such a nice sort of man!" Arriving home, and meeting the landlord on the staircase, the Grandmother called him to her side, and boasted to him of her winnings--thereafter doing the same to Theodosia, and conferring upon her thirty gulden; after which she bid her serve luncheon. The meal over, Theodosia and Martha broke into a joint flood of ecstasy. "I was watching you all the time, Madame," quavered Martha, "and I asked Potapitch what mistress was trying to do. And, my word! the heaps and heaps of money that were lying upon the table! Never in my life have I seen so much money. And there were gentlefolk around it, and other gentlefolk sitting down. So, I asked Potapitch where all these gentry had come from; for, thought I, maybe the Holy Mother of God will help our mistress among them. Yes, I prayed for you, Madame, and my heart died within me, so that I kept trembling and trembling. The Lord be with her, I thought to myself; and in answer to my prayer He has now sent you what He has done! Even yet I tremble--I tremble to think of it all." "Alexis Ivanovitch," said the old lady, "after luncheon,--that is to say, about four oclock--get ready to go out with me again. But in the meanwhile, good-bye. Do not forget to call a doctor, for I must take the waters. Now go and get rested a little." I left the Grandmothers presence in a state of bewilderment. Vainly I endeavoured to imagine what would become of our party, or what turn the affair would next take. I could perceive that none of the party had yet recovered their presence of mind--least of all the General. The factor of the Grandmothers appearance in place of the hourly expected telegram to announce her death (with, of course, resultant legacies) had so upset the whole scheme of intentions and projects that it was with a decided feeling of apprehension and growing paralysis that the conspirators viewed any future performances of the old lady at roulette. Yet this second factor was not quite so important as the first, since, though the Grandmother had twice declared that she did not intend to give the General any money, that declaration was not a complete ground for the abandonment of hope. Certainly De Griers, who, with the General, was up to the neck in the affair, had not wholly lost courage; and I felt sure that Mlle. Blanche also--Mlle. Blanche who was not only as deeply involved as the other two, but also expectant of becoming Madame General and an important legatee--would not lightly surrender the position, but would use her every resource of coquetry upon the old lady, in order to afford a contrast to the impetuous Polina, who was difficult to understand, and lacked the art of pleasing. Yet now, when the Grandmother had just performed an astonishing feat at roulette; now, when the old ladys personality had been so clearly and typically revealed as that of a rugged, arrogant woman who was "tombee en enfance"; now, when everything appeared to be lost,--why, now the Grandmother was as merry as a child which plays with thistle-down. "Good Lord!" I thought with, may God forgive me, a most malicious smile, "every ten-gulden piece which the Grandmother staked must have raised a blister on the Generals heart, and maddened De Griers, and driven Mlle. de Cominges almost to frenzy with the sight of this spoon dangling before her lips." Another factor is the circumstance that even when, overjoyed at winning, the Grandmother was distributing alms right and left, and taking every one to be a beggar, she again snapped out to the General that he was not going to be allowed any of her money--which meant that the old lady had quite made up her mind on the point, and was sure of it. Yes, danger loomed ahead. All these thoughts passed through my mind during the few moments that, having left the old ladys rooms, I was ascending to my own room on the top storey. What most struck me was the fact that, though I had divined the chief, the stoutest, threads which united the various actors in the drama, I had, until now, been ignorant of the methods and secrets of the game. For

The Gambler page 42        The Gambler page 44


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