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  The Gambler




have not a kopeck left; I have but these two bank notes. Please run to the office and get them changed. Otherwise I shall have nothing to travel with." Departing on her errand, I returned half an hour later to find the whole party gathered in her rooms. It appeared that the news of her impending departure for Moscow had thrown the conspirators into consternation even greater than her losses had done. For, said they, even if her departure should save her fortune, what will become of the General later? And who is to repay De Griers? Clearly Mlle. Blanche would never consent to wait until the Grandmother was dead, but would at once elope with the Prince or someone else. So they had all gathered together--endeavouring to calm and dissuade the Grandmother. Only Polina was absent. For her part the Grandmother had nothing for the party but abuse. "Away with you, you rascals!" she was shouting. "What have my affairs to do with you? Why, in particular, do you"--here she indicated De Griers--"come sneaking here with your goats beard? And what do YOU"--here she turned to Mlle. Blanche "want of me? What are YOU finicking for?" "Diantre!" muttered Mlle. under her breath, but her eyes were flashing. Then all at once she burst into a laugh and left the room--crying to the General as she did so: "Elle vivra cent ans!" "So you have been counting upon my death, have you?" fumed the old lady. "Away with you! Clear them out of the room, Alexis Ivanovitch. What business is it of THEIRS? It is not THEIR money that I have been squandering, but my own." The General shrugged his shoulders, bowed, and withdrew, with De Griers behind him. "Call Prascovia," commanded the Grandmother, and in five minutes Martha reappeared with Polina, who had been sitting with the children in her own room (having purposely determined not to leave it that day). Her face looked grave and careworn. "Prascovia," began the Grandmother, "is what I have just heard through a side wind true--namely, that this fool of a stepfather of yours is going to marry that silly whirligig of a Frenchwoman--that actress, or something worse? Tell me, is it true?" "I do not know FOR CERTAIN, Grandmamma," replied Polina; "but from Mlle. Blanches account (for she does not appear to think it necessary to conceal anything) I conclude that--" "You need not say any more," interrupted the Grandmother energetically. "I understand the situation. I always thought we should get something like this from him, for I always looked upon him as a futile, frivolous fellow who gave himself unconscionable airs on the fact of his being a general (though he only became one because he retired as a colonel). Yes, I know all about the sending of the telegrams to inquire whether the old woman is likely to turn up her toes soon. Ah, they were looking for the legacies! Without money that wretched woman (what is her name?--Oh, De Cominges) would never dream of accepting the General and his false teeth--no, not even for him to be her lacquey--since she herself, they say, possesses a pile of money, and lends it on interest, and makes a good thing out of it. However, it is not you, Prascovia, that I am blaming; it was not you who sent those telegrams. Nor, for that matter, do I wish to recall old scores. True, I know that you are a vixen by nature--that you are a wasp which will sting one if one touches it--yet, my heart is sore for you, for I loved your mother, Katerina. Now, will you leave everything here, and come away with me? Otherwise, I do not know what is to become of you, and it is not right that you should continue living with these people. Nay," she interposed, the moment that Polina attempted to speak, "I have not yet finished. I ask of you nothing in return. My house in Moscow is, as you know, large enough for a palace, and you could occupy a whole floor of it if you liked, and keep away from me for weeks together. Will you come with me or will you not?" "First of all, let me ask

The Gambler page 49        The Gambler page 51


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