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  The Gambler




tu etais utchitel. Where are my stockings? Please help me to dress." And she lifted up a really ravishing foot--small, swarthy, and not misshapen like the majority of feet which look dainty only in bottines. I laughed, and started to draw on to the foot a silk stocking, while Mlle. Blanche sat on the edge of the bed and chattered. "Eh bien, que feras-tu si je te prends avec moi? First of all I must have fifty thousand francs, and you shall give them to me at Frankfurt. Then we will go on to Paris, where we will live together, et je te ferai voir des etoiles en plein jour. Yes, you shall see such women as your eyes have never lit upon." "Stop a moment. If I were to give you those fifty thousand francs, what should I have left for myself?" "Another hundred thousand francs, please to remember. Besides, I could live with you in your rooms for a month, or even for two; or even for longer. But it would not take us more than two months to get through fifty thousand francs; for, look you, je suis bonne enfante, et tu verras des etoiles, you may be sure." "What? You mean to say that we should spend the whole in two months?" "Certainly. Does that surprise you very much? Ah, vil esclave! Why, one month of that life would be better than all your previous existence. One month--et apres, le deluge! Mais tu ne peux comprendre. Va! Away, away! You are not worth it.--Ah, que fais-tu?" For, while drawing on the other stocking, I had felt constrained to kiss her. Immediately she shrunk back, kicked me in the face with her toes, and turned me neck and prop out of the room. "Eh bien, mon utchitel," she called after me, "je tattends, si tu veux. I start in a quarter of an hours time." I returned to my own room with my head in a whirl. It was not my fault that Polina had thrown a packet in my face, and preferred Mr. Astley to myself. A few bank-notes were still fluttering about the floor, and I picked them up. At that moment the door opened, and the landlord appeared--a person who, until now, had never bestowed upon me so much as a glance. He had come to know if I would prefer to move to a lower floor--to a suite which had just been tenanted by Count V. For a moment I reflected. "No!" I shouted. "My account, please, for in ten minutes I shall be gone." "To Paris, to Paris!" I added to myself. "Every man of birth must make her acquaintance." Within a quarter of an hour all three of us were seated in a family compartment--Mlle. Blanche, the Widow de Cominges, and myself. Mlle. kept laughing hysterically as she looked at me, and Madame re-echoed her; but I did not feel so cheerful. My life had broken in two, and yesterday had infected me with a habit of staking my all upon a card. Although it might be that I had failed to win my stake, that I had lost my senses, that I desired nothing better, I felt that the scene was to be changed only FOR A TIME. "Within a month from now," I kept thinking to myself, "I shall be back again in Roulettenberg; and THEN I mean to have it out with you, Mr. Astley!" Yes, as now I look back at things, I remember that I felt greatly depressed, despite the absurd gigglings of the egregious Blanche. "What is the matter with you? How dull you are!" she cried at length as she interrupted her laughter to take me seriously to task. "Come, come! We are going to spend your two hundred thousand francs for you, et tu seras heureux comme un petit roi. I myself will tie your tie for you, and introduce you to Hortense. And when we have spent your money you shall return here, and break the bank again. What did those two Jews tell you?--that the thing most needed is daring, and that you possess it? Consequently, this is not the first time that you will be hurrying to Paris with money in your pocket. Quant ... moi, je veux cinquante mille francs de rente, et alors" "But what about the General?" I interrupted. "The General? You know well enough that at about this hour every day he goes to buy me a bouquet. On this occasion, I took care to tell him that he must hunt for the choicest of flowers; and when he

The Gambler page 67        The Gambler page 69


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