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of YOU," replied Polina, "whether you are intending to depart at once?" "What? You suppose me to be jesting? I have said that I am going, and I AM going. Today I have squandered fifteen thousand roubles at that accursed roulette of yours, and though, five years ago, I promised the people of a certain suburb of Moscow to build them a stone church in place of a wooden one, I have been fooling away my money here! However, I am going back now to build my church." "But what about the waters, Grandmamma? Surely you came here to take the waters?" "You and your waters! Do not anger me, Prascovia. Surely you are trying to? Say, then: will you, or will you not, come with me?" "Grandmamma," Polina replied with deep feeling, "I am very, very grateful to you for the shelter which you have so kindly offered me. Also, to a certain extent you have guessed my position aright, and I am beholden to you to such an extent that it may be that I will come and live with you, and that very soon; yet there are important reasons why--why I cannot make up my min,d just yet. If you would let me have, say, a couple of weeks to decide in--?" "You mean that you are NOT coming?" "I mean only that I cannot come just yet. At all events, I could not well leave my little brother and sister here, since,since--if I were to leave them--they would be abandoned altogether. But if, Grandmamma, you would take the little ones AND myself, then, of course, I could come with you, and would do all I could to serve you" (this she said with great earnestness). "Only, without the little ones I CANNOT come." "Do not make a fuss" (as a matter of fact Polina never at any time either fussed or wept). "The Great Foster--Father [Translated literally--The Great Poulterer] can find for all his chicks a place. You are not coming without the children? But see here, Prascovia. I wish you well, and nothing but well: yet I have divined the reason why you will not come. Yes, I know all, Prascovia. That Frenchman will never bring you good of any sort." Polina coloured hotly, and even I started. "For," thought I to myself, "every one seems to know about that affair. Or perhaps I am the only one who does not know about it? " "Now, now! Do not frown," continued the Grandmother. "But I do not intend to slur things over. You will take care that no harm befalls you, will you not? For you are a girl of sense, and I am sorry for you--I regard you in a different light to the rest of them. And now, please, leave me. Good-bye." "But let me stay with you a little longer," said Polina. "No," replied the other; "you need not. Do not bother me, for you and all of them have tired me out." Yet when Polina tried to kiss the Grandmothers hand, the old lady withdrew it, and herself kissed the girl on the cheek. As she passed me, Polina gave me a momentary glance, and then as swiftly averted her eyes. "And good-bye to you, also, Alexis Ivanovitch. The train starts in an hours time, and I think that you must be weary of me. Take these five hundred gulden for yourself." "I thank you humbly, Madame, but I am ashamed to--" "Come, come!" cried the Grandmother so energetically, and with such an air of menace, that I did not dare refuse the money further. "If, when in Moscow, you have no place where you can lay your head," she added, "come and see me, and I will give you a recommendation. Now, Potapitch, get things ready." I ascended to my room, and lay down upon the bed. A whole hour I must have lain thus, with my head resting upon my hand. So the crisis had come! I needed time for its consideration. To- morrow I would have a talk with Polina. Ah! The Frenchman! So, it was true? But how could it be so? Polina and De Griers! What a combination! No, it was too improbable. Suddenly I leapt up with the idea of seeking Astley

The Gambler page 50        The Gambler page 52


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