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  The Gambler




and forcing him to speak. There could be no doubt that he knew more than I did. Astley? Well, he was another problem for me to solve. Suddenly there came a knock at the door, and I opened it to find Potapitch awaiting me. "Sir," he said, "my mistress is asking for you." "Indeed? But she is just departing, is she not? The train leaves in ten minutes time." "She is uneasy, sir; she cannot rest. Come quickly, sir; do not delay." I ran downstairs at once. The Grandmother was just being carried out of her rooms into the corridor. In her hands she held a roll of bank-notes. "Alexis Ivanovitch," she cried, "walk on ahead, and we will set out again." "But whither, Madame?" "I cannot rest until I have retrieved my losses. March on ahead, and ask me no questions. Play continues until midnight, does it not?" For a moment I stood stupefied--stood deep in thought; but it was not long before I had made up my mind. "With your leave, Madame," I said, "I will not go with you." "And why not? What do you mean? Is every one here a stupid good-for-nothing?" "Pardon me, but I have nothing to reproach myself with. I merely will not go. I merely intend neither to witness nor to join in your play. I also beg to return you your five hundred gulden. Farewell." Laying the money upon a little table which the Grandmothers chair happened to be passing, I bowed and withdrew. "What folly!" the Grandmother shouted after me. "Very well, then. Do not come, and I will find my way alone. Potapitch, you must come with me. Lift up the chair, and carry me along." I failed to find Mr. Astley, and returned home. It was now growing late--it was past midnight, but I subsequently learnt from Potapitch how the Grandmothers day had ended. She had lost all the money which, earlier in the day, I had got for her paper securities--a sum amounting to about ten thousand roubles. This she did under the direction of the Pole whom, that afternoon, she had dowered with two ten-gulden pieces. But before his arrival on the scene, she had commanded Potapitch to stake for her; until at length she had told him also to go about his business. Upon that the Pole had leapt into the breach. Not only did it happen that he knew the Russian language, but also he could speak a mixture of three different dialects, so that the pair were able to understand one another. Yet the old lady never ceased to abuse him, despite his deferential manner, and to compare him unfavourably with myself (so, at all events, Potapitch declared). "You," the old chamberlain said to me, "treated her as a gentleman should, but he--he robbed her right and left, as I could see with my own eyes. Twice she caught him at it, and rated him soundly. On one occasion she even pulled his hair, so that the bystanders burst out laughing. Yet she lost everything, sir--that is to say, she lost all that you had changed for her. Then we brought her home, and, after asking for some water and saying her prayers, she went to bed. So worn out was she that she fell asleep at once. May God send her dreams of angels! And this is all that foreign travel has done for us! Oh, my own Moscow! For what have we not at home there, in Moscow? Such a garden and flowers as you could never see here, and fresh air and apple-trees coming into blossom,--and a beautiful view to look upon. Ah, but what must she do but go travelling abroad? Alack, alack!" XIII Almost a month has passed since I last touched these notes-- notes which I began under the influence of impressions at once poignant and disordered. The crisis which I then felt to be approaching has now arrived, but in a form a hundred times more extensive and unexpected than I had looked for. To me it all seems strange, uncouth, and tragic. Certain occurrences have befallen me which border upon the marvellous. At all events, that is how I view them. I view them so in one regard at least. I refer to

The Gambler page 51        The Gambler page 53


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