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  The Gambler




purpose I redoubled my contemptuous treatment of him, and waited to see what he would do. If a telegram to say that we had become legatees had arrived from, St. Petersburg, I should have flung at him a quittance for my foolish stepfathers debts, and then dismissed him. For a long time I have hated him. Even in earlier days he was not a man; and now!--Oh, how gladly I could throw those fifty thousand roubles in his face, and spit in it, and then rub the spittle in!" "But the document returning the fifty-thousand rouble mortgage--has the General got it? If so, possess yourself of it, and send it to De Griers." "No, no; the General has not got it." "Just as I expected! Well, what is the General going to do?" Then an idea suddenly occurred to me. "What about the Grandmother?" I asked. Polina looked at me with impatience and bewilderment. "What makes you speak of HER?" was her irritable inquiry. "I cannot go and live with her. Nor," she added hotly, "will I go down upon my knees to ANY ONE." "Why should you?" I cried. "Yet to think that you should have loved De Griers! The villain, the villain! But I will kill him in a duel. Where is he now?" "In Frankfort, where he will be staying for the next three days." "Well, bid me do so, and I will go to him by the first train tomorrow," I exclaimed with enthusiasm. She smiled. "If you were to do that," she said, "he would merely tell you to be so good as first to return him the fifty thousand francs. What, then, would be the use of having a quarrel with him? You talk sheer nonsense." I ground my teeth. "The question," I went on, "is how to raise the fifty thousand francs. We cannot expect to find them lying about on the floor. Listen. What of Mr. Astley?" Even as I spoke a new and strange idea formed itself in my brain. Her eyes flashed fire. "What? YOU YOURSELF wish me to leave you for him?" she cried with a scornful look and a proud smile. Never before had she addressed me thus. Then her head must have turned dizzy with emotion, for suddenly she seated herself upon the sofa, as though she were powerless any longer to stand. A flash of lightning seemed to strike me as I stood there. I could scarcely believe my eyes or my ears. She DID love me, then! It WAS to me, and not to Mr. Astley, that she had turned! Although she, an unprotected girl, had come to me in my room--in an hotel room--and had probably compromised herself thereby, I had not understood! Then a second mad idea flashed into my brain. "Polina," I said, "give me but an hour. Wait here just one hour until I return. Yes, you MUST do so. Do you not see what I mean? Just stay here for that time." And I rushed from the room without so much as answering her look of inquiry. She called something after me, but I did not return. Sometimes it happens that the most insane thought, the most impossible conception, will become so fixed in ones head that at length one believes the thought or the conception to be reality. Moreover, if with the thought or the conception there is combined a strong, a passionate, desire, one will come to look upon the said thought or conception as something fated, inevitable, and foreordained--something bound to happen. Whether by this there is connoted something in the nature of a combination of presentiments, or a great effort of will, or a self-annulment of ones true expectations, and so on, I do not know; but, at all events that night saw happen to me (a night which I shall never forget) something in the nature of the miraculous. Although the occurrence can easily be explained by arithmetic, I still believe it to have been a miracle. Yet why did this conviction take such a hold upon me at the time, and remain with me ever since? Previously, I had thought of the idea, not as an occurrence which was ever likely to come about, but as something which NEVER could come about. The time was a quarter past eleven oclock when I entered the Casino in such a state of hope (though, at the same time, of agitation) as I had never before experienced. In the gaming-rooms there were still a large number of people, but not half as many as had been present in the morning. At eleven oclock there usually

The Gambler page 59        The Gambler page 61


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