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  The Gambler




a battle over every ten francs; so, although for every possible objection that I might make she had prepared a suitable answer, she soon saw that I made no objections, and therefore, had to start disputes herself. That is to say, she would burst out into tirades which were met only with silence as I lolled on a sofa and stared fixedly at the ceiling. This greatly surprised her. At first she imagined that it was due merely to the fact that I was a fool, "un utchitel"; wherefore she would break off her harangue in the belief that, being too stupid to understand, I was a hopeless case. Then she would leave the room, but return ten minutes later to resume the contest. This continued throughout her squandering of my money--a squandering altogether out of proportion to our means. An example is the way in which she changed her first pair of horses for a pair which cost sixteen thousand francs. "Bibi," she said on the latter occasion as she approached me, "surely you are not angry?" "No-o-o: I am merely tired," was my reply as I pushed her from me. This seemed to her so curious that straightway she seated herself by my side. "You see," she went on, "I decided to spend so much upon these horses only because I can easily sell them again. They would go at any time for TWENTY thousand francs." "Yes, yes. They are splendid horses, and you have got a splendid turn-out. I am quite content. Let me hear no more of the matter." "Then you are not angry?" "No. Why should I be? You are wise to provide yourself with what you need, for it will all come in handy in the future. Yes, I quite see the necessity of your establishing yourself on a good basis, for without it you will never earn your million. My hundred thousand francs I look upon merely as a beginning--as a mere drop in the bucket." Blanche, who had by no means expected such declarations from me, but, rather, an uproar and protests, was rather taken aback. "Well, well, what a man you are! " she exclaimed. " Mais tu as lesprit pour comprendre. Sais-tu, mon garcon, although you are a tutor, you ought to have been born a prince. Are you not sorry that your money should be going so quickly?" "No. The quicker it goes the better." "Mais--sais-tu-mais dis donc, are you really rich? Mais sais-tu, you have too much contempt for money. Quest-ce que tu feras apres, dis donc?" "Apres I shall go to Homburg, and win another hundred thousand francs." "Oui, oui, cest ca, cest magnifique! Ah, I know you will win them, and bring them to me when you have done so. Dis donc--you will end by making me love you. Since you are what you are, I mean to love you all the time, and never to be unfaithful to you. You see, I have not loved you before parce que je croyais que tu nes quun utchitel (quelque chose comme un lacquais, nest-ce pas?) Yet all the time I have been true to you, parce que je suis bonne fille." "You lie!" I interrupted. "Did I not see you, the other day, with Albert--with that black-jowled officer?" "Oh, oh! Mais tu es--" "Yes, you are lying right enough. But what makes you suppose that I should be angry? Rubbish! Il faut que jeunesse se passe. Even if that officer were here now, I should refrain from putting him out of the room if I thought you really cared for him. Only, mind you, do not give him any of my money. You hear?" "You say, do you, that you would not be angry? Mais tu es un vrai philosophe, sais-tu? Oui, un vrai philosophe! Eh bien, je taimerai, je taimerai. Tu verras-tu seras content." True enough, from that time onward she seemed to attach herself only to me, and in this manner we spent our last ten days together. The promised "etoiles" I did not see, but in other respects she, to a certain extent, kept her word. Moreover, she introduced me to Hortense, who was a remarkable woman in her way, and known among us as Therese Philosophe. But I need not enlarge further, for to do so would require a story to itself, and entail a colouring which I am lothe to impart to the present narrative. The point is that with all my faculties I desired the episode to come to an end as speedily as possible. Unfortunately, our hundred thousand francs lasted us,

The Gambler page 69        The Gambler page 71


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