The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 3
that the croupier paid me out three times my total stake! Thus
from 100 gulden my store had grown to 800! Upon that such a
curious, such an inexplicable, unwonted feeling overcame me that
I decided to depart. Always the thought kept recurring to me
that if I had been playing for myself alone I should never have
had such luck. Once more I staked the whole 800 gulden on the
"even." The wheel stopped at 4. I was paid out another 800
gulden, and, snatching up my pile of 1600, departed in search of
an interview with her only after supper. This time the Frenchman
was absent from the meal, and the General seemed to be in a more
expansive vein. Among other things, he thought it necessary to
remind me that he would be sorry to see me playing at the
gaming-tables. In his opinion, such conduct would greatly
compromise him--especially if I were to lose much. " And even if
you were to WIN much I should be compromised," he added in a
meaning sort of way. "Of course I have no RIGHT to order your
actions, but you yourself will agree that..." As usual, he did not
finish his sentence. I answered drily that I had very little
money in my possession, and that, consequently, I was hardly in
a position to indulge in any conspicuous play, even if I did
gamble. At last, when ascending to my own room, I succeeded in
handing Polina her winnings, and told her that, next time, I
should not play for her.
"Why not?" she asked excitedly.
"Because I wish to play FOR MYSELF," I replied with a feigned
glance of astonishment. "That is my sole reason."
"Then are you so certain that your roulette-playing will get us
out of our difficulties?" she inquired with a quizzical smile.
I said very seriously, "Yes," and then added: "Possibly my
certainty about winning may seem to you ridiculous;
yet, pray leave me in peace."
the day's winnings, and offered me 800 gulden on condition that
henceforth, I gambled only on those terms; but I refused to do
so, once and for all--stating, as my reason, that I found myself
unable to play on behalf of any one else, "I am not unwilling
so to do," I added, "but in all probability I should lose."
"Well, absurd though it be, I place great hopes on your playing
of roulette," she remarked musingly; "wherefore, you ought to
play as my partner and on equal shares; wherefore, of course,
you will do as I wish."
Then she left me without listening to any further protests on my
On the morrow she said not a word to me about gambling. In fact,
she purposely avoided me, although her old manner to me had not
changed: the same serene coolness was hers on meeting me -- a
coolness that was mingled even with a spice of contempt and
dislike. In short, she was at no pains to conceal her aversion
to me. That I could see plainly. Also, she did not trouble to
conceal from me the fact that I was necessary to her, and that
she was keeping me for some end which she had in view.
Consequently there became established between us relations
which, to a large extent, were incomprehensible to me,
considering her general pride and aloofness. For example,
although she knew that I was madly in love with her, she allowed
me to speak to her of my passion (though she could not well have
showed her contempt for me more than by permitting me,
unhindered and unrebuked, to mention to her my love).
feelings, as well as how little I care for what you say to me,
or for what you feel for me." Likewise, though she spoke as
before concerning her affairs, it was never with complete
frankness. In her contempt for me there were refinements.
Although she knew well that I was aware of a certain
circumstance in her life of something which might one day cause
her trouble, she would speak to me about her affairs (whenever
she had need of me for a given end) as though I were a slave or
a passing acquaintance--yet tell them me only in so far as one
would need to know them if one were going to be made temporary
use of. Had I not known the whole chain of events, or had she
not seen how much I was pained and disturbed by her teasing
insistency, she would never have thought it worthwhile to
soothe me with this frankness--even though, since she not
infrequently used me to execute commissions that were not only
troublesome, but risky, she ought, in my opinion, to have been
frank in ANY case. But, forsooth, it was not worth her while to
trouble about MY feelings--about the fact that I was uneasy, and,
perhaps, thrice as put about by her cares and misfortunes as she
roulette. She had even warned me that she would like me to play
on her behalf, since it was unbecoming for her to play in
person; and, from the tone of her words I had gathered that there
was something on her mind besides a mere desire to win money. As
if money could matter to HER! No, she had some end in view, and
there were circumstances at which I could guess, but which I did
not know for certain. True, the slavery and abasement in which
she held me might have given me (such things often do so) the
power to question her with abrupt directness (seeing that,
inasmuch as I figured in her eyes as a mere slave and nonentity,
she could not very well have taken offence at any rude
curiosity); but the fact was that, though she let me question
her, she never returned me a single answer, and at times did not
so much as notice me. That is how matters stood.
four days ago, had been sent to St. Petersburg, but to which
there had come no answer. The General was visibly disturbed and
moody, for the matter concerned his mother. The Frenchman, too,
was excited, and after dinner the whole party talked long and
seriously together--the Frenchman's tone being extraordinarily
presumptuous and offhand to everybody. It almost reminded one of
the proverb, "Invite a man to your table, and soon he will
place his feet upon it." Even to Polina he was brusque almost to
the point of rudeness. Yet still he seemed glad to join us in
our walks in the Casino, or in our rides and drives about the
town. I had long been aware of certain circumstances which bound
the General to him; I had long been aware that in Russia they
had hatched some scheme together although I did not know whether
the plot had come to anything, or whether it was still only in
the stage of being talked of. Likewise I was aware, in part, of
a family secret--namely, that, last year, the Frenchman had
bailed the General out of debt, and given him 30,000 roubles
wherewith to pay his Treasury dues on retiring from the service.
And now, of course, the General was in a vice -- although the
chief part in the affair was being played by Mlle. Blanche. Yes,
of this last I had no doubt.
But WHO was this Mlle. Blanche? It was said of her that she was
a Frenchwoman of good birth who, living with her mother,
possessed a colossal fortune. It was also said that she was some
relation to the Marquis, but only a distant one a cousin, or
cousin-german, or something of the sort. Likewise I knew that,
up to the time of my journey to Paris, she and the Frenchman had
been more ceremonious towards our party--they had stood on a much
more precise and delicate footing with them; but that now their
acquaintanceship--their friendship, their intimacy--had taken on a
much more off-hand and rough-and-ready air. Perhaps they thought
that our means were too modest for them, and, therefore, unworthy
of politeness or reticence. Also, for the last three days I had
noticed certain looks which Astley had kept throwing at Mlle.
Blanche and her mother; and it had occurred to me that he must
have had some previous acquaintance with the pair. I had even
surmised that the Frenchman too must have met Mr. Astley before.
Astley was a man so shy, reserved, and taciturn in his manner
that one might have looked for anything from him. At all events
the Frenchman accorded him only the slightest of greetings, and
scarcely even looked at him. Certainly he did not seem to be
afraid of him; which was intelligible enough. But why did Mlle.
Blanche also never look at the Englishman?--particularly since,
a propos of something or another, the Marquis had declared the
Englishman to be immensely and indubitably rich? Was not that a
sufficient reason to make Mlle. Blanche look at the Englishman?
Anyway the General seemed extremely uneasy; and, one could well
understand what a telegram to announce the death of his mother
would mean for him!
Although I thought it probable that Polina was avoiding me for a
definite reason, I adopted a cold and indifferent air; for I
felt pretty certain that it would not be long before she
herself approached me. For two days, therefore, I devoted my
attention to Mlle. Blanche. The poor General was in despair! To
fall in love at fifty-five, and with such vehemence, is indeed a
misfortune! And add to that his widowerhood, his children, his
ruined property, his debts, and the woman with whom he had
fallen in love! Though Mlle. Blanche was extremely good-looking,
I may or may not be understood when I say that she had one of
those faces which one is afraid of. At all events, I myself have
always feared such women. Apparently about twenty-five years of
age, she was tall and broad-shouldered, with shoulders that
sloped; yet though her neck and bosom were ample in their
proportions, her skin was dull yellow in colour, while her hair
(which was extremely abundant--sufficient to make two
coiffures) was as black as Indian ink. Add to that a pair of
black eyes with yellowish whites, a proud glance, gleaming
teeth, and lips which were perennially pomaded and redolent of
musk. As for her dress, it was invariably rich, effective, and
chic, yet in good taste. Lastly, her feet and hands were
astonishing, and her voice a deep contralto. Sometimes, when she
laughed, she displayed her teeth, but at ordinary times her air
was taciturn and haughty--especially in the presence of Polina
and Maria Philipovna. Yet she seemed to me almost destitute of
education, and even of wits, though cunning and suspicious.
This, apparently, was not because her life had been lacking in
incident. Perhaps, if all were known, the Marquis was not her
kinsman at all, nor her mother, her mother; but there was
evidence that, in Berlin, where we had first come across the
pair, they had possessed acquaintances of good standing. As for
the Marquis himself, I doubt to this day if he was a
Marquis--although about the fact that he had formerly belonged to
high society (for instance, in Moscow and Germany) there could
be no doubt whatever. What he had formerly been in France I had
not a notion. All I knew was that he was said to possess a
chateau. During the last two weeks I had looked for much to
transpire, but am still ignorant whether at that time anything
decisive ever passed between Mademoiselle and the General.
Everything seemed to depend upon our means--upon whether the
General would be able to flourish sufficient money in her face.
If ever the news should arrive that the grandmother was not
dead, Mlle. Blanche, I felt sure, would disappear in a
twinkling. Indeed, it surprised and amused me to observe what a
passion for intrigue I was developing. But how I loathed it all!
With what pleasure would I have given everybody and everything
the go-by! Only--I could not leave Polina. How, then, could I
show contempt for those who surrounded her? Espionage is a base
thing, but--what have I to do with that?
he had fallen in love With Polina. A remarkable and diverting
circumstance is the amount which may lie in the mien of a shy
and painfully modest man who has been touched with the divine
passion--especially when he would rather sink into the earth than
betray himself by a single word or look. Though Mr. Astley
frequently met us when we were out walking, he would merely take
off his hat and pass us by, though I knew he was dying to join
us. Even when invited to do so, he would refuse. Again, in
places of amusement--in the Casino, at concerts, or near the
fountain--he was never far from the spot where we were sitting.
In fact, WHEREVER we were in the Park, in the forest, or on the
Shlangenberg--one needed but to raise one's eyes and glance
around to catch sight of at least a PORTION of Mr. Astley's
frame sticking out--whether on an adjacent path or behind a bush.
Yet never did he lose any chance of speaking to myself; and, one
morning when we had met, and exchanged a couple of words, he
burst out in his usual abrupt way, without saying "Good-morning."
"That Mlle. Blanche," he said. "Well, I have seen a good many
women like her."
After that he was silent as he looked me meaningly in the face.
What he meant I did not know, but to my glance of inquiry he
returned only a dry nod, and a reiterated "It is so."
Presently, however, he resumed:
"Does Mlle. Polina like flowers?"
" I really cannot say," was my reply.
"What? You cannot say?" he cried in great astonishment.
"No; I have never noticed whether she does so or not," I
repeated with a smile.
"Hm! Then I have an idea in my mind," he concluded. Lastly,
with a nod, he walked away with a pleased expression on his
face. The conversation had been carried on in execrable French.
time is now eleven o'clock in the evening, and I am sitting in
my room and thinking. It all began, this morning, with my being
forced to go and play roulette for Polina Alexandrovna. When she
handed me over her store of six hundred gulden I exacted two
conditions --namely, that I should not go halves with her in her
winnings, if any (that is to say, I should not take anything for
myself), and that she should explain to me, that same evening,
why it was so necessary for her to win, and how much was the sum
which she needed. For, I could not suppose that she was doing all
this merely for the sake of money. Yet clearly she did need some
money, and that as soon as possible, and for a special purpose.
Well, she promised to explain matters, and I departed. There was
a tremendous crowd in the gaming-rooms. What an arrogant, greedy
crowd it was! I pressed forward towards the middle of the room
until I had secured a seat at a croupier's elbow. Then I began
to play in timid fashion, venturing only twenty or thirty gulden
at a time. Meanwhile, I observed and took notes. It seemed to me
that calculation was superfluous, and by no means possessed of
the importance which certain other players attached to it, even
though they sat with ruled papers in their hands, whereon they
set down the coups, calculated the chances, reckoned, staked,
and--lost exactly as we more simple mortals did who played
without any reckoning at all.
However, I deduced from the scene one conclusion which seemed to me
reliable --namely, that in the flow of fortuitous chances there is,
if not a system, at all events a sort of order. This, of course,
is a very strange thing. For instance, after a dozen middle figures
there would always occur a dozen or so outer ones. Suppose the ball
stopped twice at a dozen outer figures; it would then pass to a dozen of
the first ones, and then, again, to a dozen of the middle
ciphers, and fall upon them three or four times, and then revert
to a dozen outers; whence, after another couple of rounds, the
ball would again pass to the first figures, strike upon them
once, and then return thrice to the middle series--continuing
thus for an hour and a half, or two hours. One, three, two: one,
three, two. It was all very curious. Again, for the whole of a
day or a morning the red would alternate with the black, but
almost without any order, and from moment to moment, so that
scarcely two consecutive rounds would end upon either the one or
the other. Yet, next day, or, perhaps, the next evening, the red
alone would turn up, and attain a run of over two score, and
continue so for quite a length of time--say, for a whole day. Of
these circumstances the majority were pointed out to me by Mr.
Astley, who stood by the gaming-table the whole morning, yet
never once staked in person.
For myself, I lost all that I had on me, and with great speed.
To begin with, I staked two hundred gulden on " even," and won.
Then I staked the same amount again, and won: and so on some two or
three times. At one moment I must have had in my hands--gathered there
within a space of five minutes--about 4000 gulden. That, of course,
was the proper moment for me to have departed, but there arose in me a
strange sensation as of a challenge to Fate--as of a wish to deal her a
blow on the cheek, and to put out my tongue at her. Accordingly
I set down the largest stake allowed by the rules--namely, 4000
gulden--and lost. Fired by this mishap, I pulled out all the
money left to me, staked it all on the same venture, and--again
lost! Then I rose from the table, feeling as though I were
stupefied. What had happened to me I did not know; but, before
luncheon I told Polina of my losses-- until which time I walked
about the Park.
days ago. Mlle. Blanche and the Frenchman were lunching with us,
and it appeared that the former had been to the Casino that
morning, and had seen my exploits there. So now she showed me
more attention when talking to me; while, for his part, the
Frenchman approached me, and asked outright if it had been my
own money that I had lost. He appeared to be suspicious as to
something being on foot between Polina and myself, but I merely
fired up, and replied that the money had been all my own.
whence I had procured it; whereupon I replied that, though I
had begun only with 100 gulden, six or seven rounds had
increased my capital to 5000 or 6000 gulden, and that
subsequently I had lost the whole in two rounds.
glanced at Polina, but nothing was to be discerned on her face.
However, she had allowed me to fire up without correcting me,
and from that I concluded that it was my cue to fire up, and to
conceal the fact that I had been playing on her behalf. "At all
events," I thought to myself, "she, in her turn, has promised
to give me an explanation to-night, and to reveal to me
something or another."
Although the General appeared to be taking stock of me, he said
nothing. Yet I could see uneasiness and annoyance in his face.
Perhaps his straitened circumstances made it hard for him to
have to hear of piles of gold passing through the hands of an
irresponsible fool like myself within the space of a quarter of
an hour. Now, I have an idea that, last night, he and the
Frenchman had a sharp encounter with one another. At all events
they closeted themselves together, and then had a long and vehement
discussion; after which the Frenchman departed in what appeared to be
a passion, but returned, early this morning, to renew the combat.
On hearing of my losses, however, he only remarked with a sharp,
and even a malicious, air that "a man ought to go more carefully."
Next, for some reason or another, he added that, "though a great many
Russians go in for gambling, they are no good at the game."
"I think that roulette was devised specially for Russians," I
retorted; and when the Frenchman smiled contemptuously at my
reply I further remarked that I was sure I was right; also that,
speaking of Russians in the capacity of gamblers, I had far more
blame for them than praise--of that he could be quite sure.
Westerner there has become historically added--though this is
not his chief point--a capacity for acquiring capital; whereas,
not only is the Russian incapable of acquiring capital, but also
he exhausts it wantonly and of sheer folly. None the less we
Russians often need money; wherefore, we are glad of, and greatly
devoted to, a method of acquisition like roulette--whereby, in a
couple of hours, one may grow rich without doing any work. This
method, I repeat, has a great attraction for us, but since we
play in wanton fashion, and without taking any trouble, we
almost invariably lose."
a self-satisfied air.
"Oh no, it is not true," put in the General sternly. "And you,"
he added to me, "you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
traducing your own country!"
which is the worst of the two--Russian ineptitude or the German
method of growing rich through honest toil."
"than bow the knee to a German idol!"
"To WHAT idol?" exclaimed the General, now seriously angry.
"To the German method of heaping up riches. I have not been
here very long, but I can tell you that what I have seen and
verified makes my Tartar blood boil. Good Lord! I wish for no
virtues of that kind. Yesterday I went for a walk of about ten
versts; and, everywhere I found that things were even as we read
of them in good German picture-books -- that every house has its
'Fater,' who is horribly beneficent and extraordinarily
honourable. So honourable is he that it is dreadful to have
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