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  The Gambler




exclaimed the Grandmother. "But we have no time to stop. What do you want? I cant talk to you here." I dropped behind a little, and immediately was pounced upon by De Griers. "She has lost this mornings winnings," I whispered, "and also twelve thousand gulden of her original money. At the present moment we are going to get some bonds changed." De Griers stamped his foot with vexation, and hastened to communicate the tidings to the General. Meanwhile we continued to wheel the old lady along. "Stop her, stop her," whispered the General in consternation. "You had better try and stop her yourself," I returned--also in a whisper. "My good mother," he said as he approached her, "--my good mother, pray let, let--" (his voice was beginning to tremble and sink) "--let us hire a carriage, and go for a drive. Near here there is an enchanting view to be obtained. We-we-we were just coming to invite you to go and see it." "Begone with you and your views!" said the Grandmother angrily as she waved him away. "And there are trees there, and we could have tea under them," continued the General--now in utter despair. "Nous boirons du lait, sur lherbe fraiche," added De Griers with the snarl almost of a wild beast. "Du lait, de lherbe fraiche"--the idyll, the ideal of the Parisian bourgeois--his whole outlook upon "la nature et la verite"! "Have done with you and your milk!" cried the old lady. "Go and stuff YOURSELF as much as you like, but my stomach simply recoils from the idea. What are you stopping for? I have nothing to say to you." "Here we are, Madame," I announced. "Here is the moneychangers office." I entered to get the securities changed, while the Grandmother remained outside in the porch, and the rest waited at a little distance, in doubt as to their best course of action. At length the old lady turned such an angry stare upon them that they departed along the road towards the Casino. The process of changing involved complicated calculations which soon necessitated my return to the Grandmother for instructions. "The thieves!" she exclaimed as she clapped her hands together. "Never mind, though. Get the documents cashed--No; send the banker out to me," she added as an afterthought. "Would one of the clerks do, Madame?" "Yes, one of the clerks. The thieves!" The clerk consented to come out when he perceived that he was being asked for by an old lady who was too infirm to walk; after which the Grandmother began to upbraid him at length, and with great vehemence, for his alleged usuriousness, and to bargain with him in a mixture of Russian, French, and German--I acting as interpreter. Meanwhile, the grave-faced official eyed us both, and silently nodded his head. At the Grandmother, in particular, he gazed with a curiosity which almost bordered upon rudeness. At length, too, he smiled. "Pray recollect yourself!" cried the old lady. "And may my money choke you! Alexis Ivanovitch, tell him that we can easily repair to someone else." "The clerk says that others will give you even less than he." Of what the ultimate calculations consisted I do not exactly remember, but at all events they were alarming. Receiving twelve thousand florins in gold, I took also the statement of accounts, and carried it out to the Grandmother. "Well, well," she said, "I am no accountant. Let us hurry away, hurry away." And she waved the paper aside. "Neither upon that accursed zero, however, nor upon that equally accursed red do I mean to stake a cent," I muttered to myself as I entered the Casino. This time I did all I could to persuade the old lady to stake as little as possible--saying that a turn would come in the chances when she would be at liberty to stake more. But she was so impatient that, though at first she agreed to do as I suggested, nothing could stop her when once she had begun. By way of prelude she won stakes of a hundred and two hundred gulden. "There you are!" she said as she nudged me. "See what we have won! Surely it would be worth our while to stake four thousand instead of a hundred, for we might win another four thousand, and then--! Oh,

The Gambler page 47        The Gambler page 49


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