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  The Gambler




and you were of a lively disposition, and your good looks were not to be despised. You might even have been useful to your country, which needs men like you. Yet you remained here, and your life is now over. I am not blaming you for this--in my view all Russians resemble you, or are inclined to do so. If it is not roulette, then it is something else. The exceptions are very rare. Nor are you the first to learn what a taskmaster is yours. For roulette is not exclusively a Russian game. Hitherto, you have honourably preferred to serve as a lacquey rather than to act as a thief; but what the future may have in store for you I tremble to think. Now good-bye. You are in want of money, I suppose? Then take these ten louis dor. More I shall not give you, for you would only gamble it away. Take care of these coins, and farewell. Once more, TAKE CARE of them." "No, Mr. Astley. After all that has been said I--" "TAKE CARE of them!" repeated my friend. "I am certain you are still a gentleman, and therefore I give you the money as one gentleman may give money to another. Also, if I could be certain that you would leave both Homburg and the gaming-tables, and return to your own country, I would give you a thousand pounds down to start life afresh; but, I give you ten louis dor instead of a thousand pounds for the reason that at the present time a thousand pounds and ten louis dor will be all the same to you--you will lose the one as readily as you will the other. Take the money, therefore, and good-bye." "Yes, I WILL take it if at the same time you will embrace me." "With pleasure." So we parted--on terms of sincere affection. ............... But he was wrong. If I was hard and undiscerning as regards Polina and De Griers, HE was hard and undiscerning as regards Russian people generally. Of myself I say nothing. Yet--yet words are only words. I need to ACT. Above all things I need to think of Switzerland. Tomorrow, tomorrow--Ah, but if only I could set things right tomorrow, and be born again, and rise again from the dead! But no--I cannot. Yet I must show her what I can do. Even if she should do no more than learn that I can still play the man, it would be worth it. Today it is too late, but TOMORROW... Yet I have a presentiment that things can never be otherwise. I have got fifteen louis dor in my possession, although I began with fifteen gulden. If I were to play carefully at the start--But no, no! Surely I am not such a fool as that? Yet WHY should I not rise from the dead? I should require at first but to go cautiously and patiently and the rest would follow. I should require but to put a check upon my nature for one hour, and my fortunes would be changed entirely. Yes, my nature is my weak point. I have only to remember what happened to me some months ago at Roulettenberg, before my final ruin. What a notable instance that was of my capacity for resolution! On the occasion in question I had lost everything--everything; yet, just as I was leaving the Casino, I heard another gulden give a rattle in my pocket! "Perhaps I shall need it for a meal," I thought to myself; but a hundred paces further on, I changed my mind, and returned. That gulden I staked upon manque--and there is something in the feeling that, though one is alone, and in a foreign land, and far from ones own home and friends, and ignorant of whence ones next meal is to come, one is nevertheless staking ones very last coin! Well, I won the stake, and in twenty minutes had left the Casino with a hundred and seventy gulden in my pocket! That is a fact, and it shows what a last remaining gulden can do. . . . But what if my heart had failed me, or I had shrunk from making up my mind? . . . No: tomorrow all shall be ended!

The Gambler page 78        


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