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  The Gambler

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 scheme. "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. Stake!" I staked, and we lost. "Stake again, stake again--eight thousand at a stroke!" "I cannot, Madame. The largest stake allowed is four thousand gulden." "Well, then; stake four thousand." This time we won, and the Grandmother recovered herself a little. "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 reported. "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-changers 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-changers. 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 absent. "Well, well, well! "

The Gambler page 46        The Gambler page 48