Explorers, Scientists &
Musicians, Painters &
Poets, Writers &
Native Americans & The Wild
Tribes & Peoples
Assassinations in History
got slain, almost slain, when, how,
why, and by whom?
Go to the
Online History Dictionary A - Z
Voyages in History
When did what
vessel arrive with whom onboard and where
did it sink if it didn't?
Go to the
The Divine Almanac
Who all roamed the heavens in
olden times? The Who's Who of
the Divine Almanac
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Gambler
The Gambler - Page 6
I failed to find Mr. Astley, and returned home. It was now
growing late--it was past midnight, but I subsequently learnt
from Potapitch how the Grandmother's day had ended.
lost all the money which, earlier in the day, I had got for
her paper securities--a sum amounting to about ten thousand roubles. This she did under the direction of the Pole whom,
that afternoon, she had dowered with two ten-gulden pieces.
But before his arrival on the scene, she had commanded
Potapitch to stake for her; until at length she had told him
also to go about his business. Upon that the Pole had leapt
into the breach. Not only did it happen that he knew the
Russian language, but also he could speak a mixture of three
different dialects, so that the pair were able to understand
one another. Yet the old lady never ceased to abuse him,
despite his deferential manner, and to compare him
unfavourably with myself (so, at all events, Potapitch
declared). "You," the old chamberlain said to me, "treated
her as a gentleman should, but he--he robbed her right and
left, as I could see with my own eyes. Twice she caught him
at it, and rated him soundly. On one occasion she even pulled
his hair, so that the bystanders burst out laughing. Yet she
lost everything, sir--that is to say, she lost all that you had
changed for her. Then we brought her home, and, after asking
for some water and saying her prayers, she went to bed. So
worn out was she that she fell asleep at once. May God send
her dreams of angels! And this is all that foreign travel has
done for us! Oh, my own Moscow! For what have we not at home
there, in Moscow? Such a garden and flowers as you could
never see here, and fresh air and apple-trees coming into
blossom,--and a beautiful view to look upon. Ah, but what
must she do but go travelling abroad? Alack, alack!"
Almost a month has passed since I last touched these notes-- notes
which I began under the influence of impressions at once poignant
and disordered. The crisis which I then felt to be approaching has
now arrived, but in a form a hundred times more extensive and
unexpected than I had looked for.
To me it
all seems strange, uncouth, and tragic. Certain occurrences
have befallen me which border upon the marvellous. At all
events, that is how I view them. I view them so in one regard
at least. I refer to the whirlpool of events in which, at the
time, I was revolving. But the most curious feature of all is
my relation to those events, for hitherto I had never clearly
understood myself. Yet now the actual crisis has passed away
like a dream. Even my passion for Polina is dead. Was it ever
so strong and genuine as I thought? If so, what has become of
it now? At times I fancy that I must be mad; that somewhere I
am sitting in a madhouse; that these events have merely SEEMED
to happen; that still they merely SEEM to be happening.
I have been arranging and re-perusing my notes (perhaps for the
purpose of convincing myself that I am not in a madhouse). At
present I am lonely and alone. Autumn is coming--already it is
mellowing the leaves; and, as I sit brooding in this melancholy
little town (and how melancholy the little towns of Germany can
be!), I find myself taking no thought for the future, but
living under the influence of passing moods, and of my
recollections of the tempest which recently drew me into its
vortex, and then cast me out again. At times I seem still to
be caught within that vortex. At times, the tempest seems once
more to be gathering, and, as it passes overhead, to be
wrapping me in its folds, until I have lost my sense of order
and reality, and continue whirling and whirling and whirling
Yet, it may be that I shall be able to stop myself from
revolving if once I can succeed in rendering myself an exact
account of what has happened within the month just past.
Somehow I feel drawn towards the pen; on many and many an
evening I have had nothing else in the world to do. But,
curiously enough, of late I have taken to amusing myself with
the works of M. Paul de Kock, which I read in German
translations obtained from a wretched local library. These
works I cannot abide, yet I read them, and find myself
marvelling that I should be doing so. Somehow I seem to be
afraid of any SERIOUS book--afraid of permitting any SERIOUS
preoccupation to break the spell of the passing moment. So
dear to me is the formless dream of which I have spoken, so
dear to me are the impressions which it has left behind it,
that I fear to touch the vision with anything new, lest it
should dissolve in smoke. But is it so dear to me? Yes, it IS
dear to me, and will ever be fresh in my recollections--even
forty years hence. . . .
So let me write of it, but only partially, and in a more
abridged form than my full impressions might warrant.
First of all, let me conclude the history of the Grandmother.
Next day she lost every gulden that she possessed. Things were
bound to happen so, for persons of her type who have once
entered upon that road descend it with ever-increasing rapidity,
even as a sledge descends a toboggan-slide. All day until eight
o'clock that evening did she play; and, though I personally did
not witness her exploits, I learnt of them later through report.
All that day Potapitch remained in attendance upon her; but the
Poles who directed her play she changed more than once. As a
beginning she dismissed her Pole of the previous day--the Pole
whose hair she had pulled--and took to herself another one; but
the latter proved worse even than the former, and incurred
dismissal in favour of the first Pole, who, during the time of
his unemployment, had nevertheless hovered around the
Grandmother's chair, and from time to time obtruded his head
over her shoulder. At length the old lady became desperate, for
the second Pole, when dismissed, imitated his predecessor by
declining to go away; with the result that one Pole remained
standing on the right of the victim, and the other on her left;
from which vantage points the pair quarrelled, abused each other
concerning the stakes and rounds, and exchanged the epithet
"laidak " [Rascal] and other Polish terms of endearment. Finally, they
effected a mutual reconciliation, and, tossing the money about
anyhow, played simply at random. Once more quarrelling, each of
them staked money on his own side of the Grandmother's chair
(for instance, the one Pole staked upon the red, and the other
one upon the black), until they had so confused and browbeaten
the old lady that, nearly weeping, she was forced to appeal to
the head croupier for protection, and to have the two Poles
expelled. No time was lost in this being done, despite the
rascals' cries and protestations that the old lady was in their
debt, that she had cheated them, and that her general behaviour
had been mean and dishonourable. The same evening the
unfortunate Potapitch related the story to me with tears
complaining that the two men had filled their pockets with
money (he himself had seen them do it) which had been
shamelesslly pilfered from his mistress. For instance, one Pole
demanded of the Grandmother fifty gulden for his trouble, and
then staked the money by the side of her stake. She happened to
win; whereupon he cried out that the winning stake was his, and
hers the loser. As soon as the two Poles had been expelled,
Potapitch left the room, and reported to the authorities that
the men's pockets were full of gold; and, on the Grandmother
also requesting the head croupier to look into the affair, the
police made their appearance, and, despite the protests of the
Poles (who, indeed, had been caught redhanded), their pockets
were turned inside out, and the contents handed over to the
Grandmother. In fact, in, view of the circumstance that she lost
all day, the croupiers and other authorities of the Casino
showed her every attention; and on her fame spreading through
the town, visitors of every nationality--even the most knowing of
them, the most distinguished--crowded to get a glimpse of "la
vieille comtesse russe, tombee en enfance," who had lost "so
Yet with the money which the authorities restored to her from
the pockets of the Poles the Grandmother effected very, very
little, for there soon arrived to take his countrymen's place, a
third Pole--a man who could speak Russian fluently, was dressed
like a gentleman (albeit in lacqueyish fashion), and sported a
huge moustache. Though polite enough to the old lady, he took a
high hand with the bystanders. In short, he offered himself less
as a servant than as an ENTERTAINER. After each round he would
turn to the old lady, and swear terrible oaths to the effect
that he was a "Polish gentleman of honour" who would scorn to
take a kopeck of her money; and, though he repeated these oaths
so often that at length she grew alarmed, he had her play in
hand, and began to win on her behalf; wherefore, she felt that
she could not well get rid of him. An hour later the two Poles
who, earlier in the day, had been expelled from the Casino, made
a reappearance behind the old lady's chair, and renewed their
offers of service--even if it were only to be sent on messages;
but from Potapitch I subsequently had it that between these rascals
and the said "gentleman of honour" there passed a wink, as well as
that the latter put something into their hands. Next, since the
Grandmother had not yet lunched--she had scarcely for a moment
left her chair--one of the two Poles ran to the restaurant of the
Casino, and brought her thence a cup of soup, and afterwards
some tea. In fact, BOTH the Poles hastened to perform this
office. Finally, towards the close of the day, when it was clear
that the Grandmother was about to play her last bank-note, there
could be seen standing behind her chair no fewer than six
natives of Poland--persons who, as yet, had been neither audible
nor visible; and as soon as ever the old lady played the note in
question, they took no further notice of her, but pushed their
way past her chair to the table; seized the money, and staked
it--shouting and disputing the while, and arguing with the
"gentleman of honour" (who also had forgotten the Grandmother's
existence), as though he were their equal. Even when the
Grandmother had lost her all, and was returning (about eight
o'clock) to the hotel, some three or four Poles could not bring
themselves to leave her, but went on running beside her chair
and volubly protesting that the Grandmother had cheated them,
and that she ought to be made to surrender what was not her own.
Thus the party arrived at the hotel; whence, presently, the gang
of rascals was ejected neck and crop.
According to Potapitch's calculations, the Grandmother lost,
that day, a total of ninety thousand roubles, in addition to the
money which she had lost the day before. Every paper security
which she had brought with her--five percent bonds, internal
loan scrip, and what not--she had changed into cash. Also, I
could not but marvel at the way in which, for seven or eight
hours at a stretch, she sat in that chair of hers, almost never
leaving the table. Again, Potapitch told me that there were
three occasions on which she really began to win; but that, led
on by false hopes, she was unable to tear herself away at the
right moment. Every gambler knows how a person may sit a day and
a night at cards without ever casting a glance to right or to
Meanwhile, that day some other very important events were
passing in our hotel. As early as eleven o'clock--that is to say,
before the Grandmother had quitted her rooms--the General and De
Griers decided upon their last stroke. In other words, on
learning that the old lady had changed her mind about departing,
and was bent on setting out for the Casino again, the whole of
our gang (Polina only excepted) proceeded en masse to her rooms,
for the purpose of finally and frankly treating with her. But
the General, quaking and greatly apprehensive as to his possible
future, overdid things. After half an hour's prayers and
entreaties, coupled with a full confession of his debts, and
even of his passion for Mlle. Blanche (yes, he had quite lost
his head), he suddenly adopted a tone of menace, and started to
rage at the old lady--exclaiming that she was sullying the family
honour, that she was making a public scandal of herself, and
that she was smirching the fair name of Russia. The upshot was
that the Grandmother turned him out of the room with her stick
(it was a real stick, too!). Later in the morning he held
several consultations with De Griers--the question which occupied
him being: Is it in any way possible to make use of the
police--to tell them that "this respected, but unfortunate, old
lady has gone out of her mind, and is squandering her last
kopeck," or something of the kind? In short, is it in any way
possible to engineer a species of supervision over, or of
restraint upon, the old lady? De Griers, however, shrugged his
shoulders at this, and laughed in the General's face, while the
old warrior went on chattering volubly, and running up and down
his study. Finally De Griers waved his hand, and disappeared
from view; and by evening it became known that he had left the
hotel, after holding a very secret and important conference with
Mlle. Blanche. As for the latter, from early morning she had
taken decisive measures, by completely excluding the General
from her presence, and bestowing upon him not a glance. Indeed,
even when the General pursued her to the Casino, and met her
walking arm in arm with the Prince, he (the General) received
from her and her mother not the slightest recognition. Nor did
the Prince himself bow. The rest of the day Mlle. spent in
probing the Prince, and trying to make him declare himself; but
in this she made a woeful mistake. The little incident occurred
in the evening. Suddenly Mlle. Blanche realised that the Prince
had not even a copper to his name, but, on the contrary, was
minded to borrow of her money wherewith to play at roulette. In
high displeasure she drove him from her presence, and shut
herself up in her room.
The same morning I went to see--or, rather, to look for--Mr.
Astley, but was unsuccessful in my quest. Neither in his rooms
nor in the Casino nor in the Park was he to be found; nor did
he, that day, lunch at his hotel as usual. However, at about
five o'clock I caught sight of him walking from the railway
station to the Hotel d'Angleterre. He seemed to be in a great
hurry and much preoccupied, though in his face I could discern
no actual traces of worry or perturbation. He held out to me a
friendly hand, with his usual ejaculation of " Ah! " but did not
check his stride. I turned and walked beside him, but found,
somehow, that his answers forbade any putting of definite
questions. Moreover, I felt reluctant to speak to him of Polina;
nor, for his part, did he ask me any questions concerning her,
although, on my telling him of the Grandmother's exploits, he
listened attentively and gravely, and then shrugged his
"She is gambling away everything that she has," I remarked.
"Indeed? She arrived at the Casino even before I had taken my
departure by train, so I knew she had been playing. If I should
have time I will go to the Casino to-night, and take a look at
her. The thing interests me."
"Where have you been today?" I asked--surprised at myself for
having, as yet, omitted to put to him that question.
What more was there to be asked after that? I accompanied him
until, as we drew level with the Hotel des Quatre Saisons, he
suddenly nodded to me and disappeared. For myself, I returned
home, and came to the conclusion that, even had I met him at two
o'clock in the afternoon, I should have learnt no more from him
than I had done at five o'clock, for the reason that I had no
definite question to ask. It was bound to have been so. For me
to formulate the query which I really wished to put was a simple
Polina spent the whole of that day either in walking about the
park with the nurse and children or in sitting in her own room.
For a long while past she had avoided the General and had
scarcely had a word to say to him (scarcely a word, I mean, on
any SERIOUS topic). Yes, that I had noticed. Still, even though
I was aware of the position in which the General was placed, it
had never occurred to me that he would have any reason to avoid
HER, or to trouble her with family explanations. Indeed, when I
was returning to the hotel after my conversation with Astley,
and chanced to meet Polina and the children, I could see that
her face was as calm as though the family disturbances had never
touched her. To my salute she responded with a slight bow, and I
retired to my room in a very bad humour.
Of course, since the affair with the Burmergelms I had exchanged
not a word with Polina, nor had with her any kind of
intercourse. Yet I had been at my wits' end, for, as time went
on, there was arising in me an ever-seething dissatisfaction.
Even if she did not love me she ought not to have trampled upon
my feelings, nor to have accepted my confessions with such
contempt, seeing that she must have been aware that I loved her
(of her own accord she had allowed me to tell her as much). Of
course the situation between us had arisen in a curious manner.
About two months ago, I had noticed that she had a desire to make
me her friend, her confidant--that she was making trial of me for
the purpose; but, for some reason or another, the desired result
had never come about, and we had fallen into the present strange
relations, which had led me to address her as I had done. At the
same time, if my love was distasteful to her, why had she not
FORBIDDEN me to speak of it to her?
But she had not so forbidden me. On the contrary, there had been
occasions when she had even INVITED me to speak. Of course, this
might have been done out of sheer wantonness, for I well knew--I
had remarked it only too often--that, after listening to what I
had to say, and angering me almost beyond endurance, she loved
suddenly to torture me with some fresh outburst of contempt and
aloofness! Yet she must have known that I could not live without
her. Three days had elapsed since the affair with the Baron, and
I could bear the severance no longer. When, that afternoon, I
met her near the Casino, my heart almost made me faint, it beat
so violently. She too could not live without me, for had she not
said that she had NEED of me? Or had that too been spoken in
That she had a secret of some kind there could be no doubt. What
she had said to the Grandmother had stabbed me to the heart. On
a thousand occasions I had challenged her to be open with me,
nor could she have been ignorant that I was ready to give my
very life for her. Yet always she had kept me at a distance with
that contemptuous air of hers; or else she had demanded of me,
in lieu of the life which I offered to lay at her feet, such
escapades as I had perpetrated with the Baron. Ah, was it not
torture to me, all this? For could it be that her whole world
was bound up with the Frenchman? What, too, about Mr. Astley?
The affair was inexplicable throughout. My God, what distress it
Arrived home, I, in a fit of frenzy, indited the following:
"Polina Alexandrovna, I can see that there is approaching us an
exposure which will involve you too. For the last time I ask of
you--have you, or have you not, any need of my life? If you have,
then make such dispositions as you wish, and I shall always be
discoverable in my room if required. If you have need of my
life, write or send for me."
I sealed the letter, and dispatched it by the hand of a corridor
lacquey, with orders to hand it to the addressee in person.
Though I expected no answer, scarcely three minutes had elapsed
before the lacquey returned with "the compliments of a certain
Next, about seven o'clock, I was sent for by the General. I
found him in his study, apparently preparing to go out again,
for his hat and stick were lying on the sofa. When I entered he
was standing in the middle of the room--his feet wide apart, and
his head bent down. Also, he appeared to be talking to himself.
But as soon as ever he saw me at the door he came towards me in
such a curious manner that involuntarily I retreated a step, and
was for leaving the room; whereupon he seized me by both hands,
and, drawing me towards the sofa, and seating himself thereon,
he forced me to sit down on a chair opposite him. Then, without
letting go of my hands, he exclaimed with quivering lips and a
sparkle of tears on his eyelashes:
"Oh, Alexis Ivanovitch! Save me, save me! Have some mercy upon
For a long time I could not make out what he meant, although he
kept talking and talking, and constantly repeating to himself,
"Have mercy, mercy!" At length, however, I divined that he was
expecting me to give him something in the nature of advice--or,
rather, that, deserted by every one, and overwhelmed with grief
and apprehension, he had bethought himself of my existence, and
sent for me to relieve his feelings by talking and talking and
In fact, he was in such a confused and despondent state of mind
that, clasping his hands together, he actually went down upon
his knees and begged me to go to Mlle. Blanche, and beseech and
advise her to return to him, and to accept him in marriage.
"But, General," I exclaimed, "possibly Mlle. Blanche has
scarcely even remarked my existence? What could I do with her?"
It was in vain that I protested, for he could understand nothing
that was said to him, Next he started talking about the
Grandmother, but always in a disconnected sort of fashion--his
one thought being to send for the police.
"In Russia," said he, suddenly boiling over with indignation,
"or in any well-ordered State where there exists a government,
old women like my mother are placed under proper guardianship.
Yes, my good sir," he went on, relapsing into a scolding tone as
he leapt to his feet and started to pace the room, "do you not
know this " (he seemed to be addressing some imaginary auditor
in the corner) "--do you not know this, that in Russia old women
like her are subjected to restraint, the devil take them?"
Again he threw himself down upon the sofa.
A minute later, though sobbing and almost breathless, he managed
to gasp out that Mlle. Blanche had refused to marry him, for the
reason that the Grandmother had turned up in place of a
telegram, and it was therefore clear that he had no inheritance
to look for. Evidently, he supposed that I had hitherto been in
entire ignorance of all this. Again, when I referred to De
Griers, the General made a gesture of despair. "He has gone
away," he said, "and everything which I possess is mortgaged to
him. I stand stripped to my skin. Even of the money which you
brought me from Paris, I know not if seven hundred francs be
left. Of course that sum will do to go on with, but, as regards
the future, I know nothing, I know nothing."
"Then how will you pay your hotel bill?" I cried in
consternation. "And what shall you do afterwards?"
He looked at me vaguely, but it was clear that he had not
understood--perhaps had not even heard--my questions. Then I tried
to get him to speak of Polina and the children, but he only
returned brief answers of " Yes, yes," and again started to
maunder about the Prince, and the likelihood of the latter
marrying Mlle. Blanche. "What on earth am I to do?" he
concluded. "What on earth am I to do? Is this not ingratitude?
Is it not sheer ingratitude?" And he burst into tears.
Nothing could be done with such a man. Yet to leave him alone
was dangerous, for something might happen to him. I withdrew
from his rooms for a little while, but warned the nursemaid to
keep an eye upon him, as well as exchanged a word with the
corridor lacquey (a very talkative fellow), who likewise
promised to remain on the look-out.
Hardly had I left the General, when Potapitch approached me with
a summons from the Grandmother. It was now eight o'clock, and
she had returned from the Casino after finally losing all that
she possessed. I found her sitting in her chair--much distressed
and evidently fatigued. Presently Martha brought her up a cup of
tea and forced her to drink it; yet, even then I could detect in
the old lady's tone and manner a great change.
"Good evening, Alexis Ivanovitch," she said slowly, with her
head drooping. "Pardon me for disturbing you again. Yes, you
must pardon an old, old woman like myself, for I have left
behind me all that I possess--nearly a hundred thousand roubles!
You did quite right in declining to come with me this evening.
Now I am without money--without a single groat. But I must not
delay a moment; I must leave by the 9:30 train. I have sent for
that English friend of yours, and am going to beg of him three
thousand francs for a week. Please try and persuade him to think
nothing of it, nor yet to refuse me, for I am still a rich woman
who possesses three villages and a couple of mansions. Yes, the
money shall be found, for I have not yet squandered EVERYTHING.
I tell you this in order that he may have no doubts about--Ah,
but here he is! Clearly he is a good fellow."
True enough, Astley had come hot-foot on receiving the
Grandmother's appeal. Scarcely stopping even to reflect, and
with scarcely a word, he counted out the three thousand francs
under a note of hand which she duly signed. Then, his business
done, he bowed, and lost no time in taking his departure.
"You too leave me, Alexis Ivanovitch," said the Grandmother.
"All my bones are aching, and I still have an hour in which to
rest. Do not be hard upon me, old fool that I am. Never again
shall I blame young people for being frivolous. I should think
it wrong even to blame that unhappy General of yours. Nevertheless,
I do not mean to let him have any of my money (which is all that
he desires), for the reason that I look upon him as a perfect
blockhead, and consider myself, simpleton though I be, at least
wiser than HE is. How surely does God visit old age, and punish
it for its presumption! Well, good-bye. Martha, come and lift
However, I had a mind to see the old lady off; and, moreover, I
was in an expectant frame of mind--somehow I kept thinking that
SOMETHING was going to happen; wherefore, I could not rest
quietly in my room, but stepped out into the corridor, and then
into the Chestnut Avenue for a few minutes' stroll. My letter to
Polina had been clear and firm, and in the present crisis, I felt
sure, would prove final. I had heard of De Griers' departure,
and, however much Polina might reject me as a FRIEND, she might
not reject me altogether as a SERVANT. She would need me to
fetch and carry for her, and I was ready to do so. How could it
have been otherwise?
Towards the hour of the train's departure I hastened to the
station, and put the Grandmother into her compartment--she and
her party occupying a reserved family saloon.
"Thanks for your disinterested assistance," she said at
parting. "Oh, and please remind Prascovia of what I said to her
last night. I expect soon to see her."
Then I returned home. As I was passing the door of the General's
suite, I met the nursemaid, and inquired after her master.
"There is nothing new to report, sir," she replied quietly.
Nevertheless I decided to enter, and was just doing so when I
halted thunderstruck on the threshold. For before me I beheld
the General and Mlle. Blanche--laughing gaily at one another!--
while beside them, on the sofa, there was seated her mother.
Clearly the General was almost out of his mind with joy, for he
was talking all sorts of nonsense, and bubbling over with a
long-drawn, nervous laugh--a laugh which twisted his face into
innumerable wrinkles, and caused his eyes almost to disappear.
Afterwards I learnt from Mlle. Blanche herself that, after
dismissing the Prince and hearing of the General's tears, she
bethought her of going to comfort the old man, and had just
arrived for the purpose when I entered. Fortunately, the poor
General did not know that his fate had been decided--that Mlle.
had long ago packed her trunks in readiness for the first
morning train to Paris!
Hesitating a moment on the threshold I changed my mind as to
entering, and departed unnoticed. Ascending to my own room, and
opening the door, I perceived in the semi-darkness a figure
seated on a chair in the corner by the window. The figure did
not rise when I entered, so I approached it swiftly, peered at
it closely, and felt my heart almost stop beating. The figure
The shock made me utter an exclamation.
"What is the matter? What is the matter?" she asked in a
strange voice. She was looking pale, and her eyes were dim.
"What is the matter?" I re-echoed. "Why, the fact that you
"If I am here, I have come with all that I have to bring," she
said. "Such has always been my way, as you shall presently see.
Please light a candle."
I did so; whereupon she rose, approached the table, and laid
upon it an open letter.
"Read it," she added.
"It is De Griers' handwriting!" I cried as I seized the
document. My hands were so tremulous that the lines on the pages
danced before my eyes. Although, at this distance of time, I
have forgotten the exact phraseology of the missive, I append,
if not the precise words, at all events the general sense.
"Mademoiselle," the document ran, "certain untoward
circumstances compel me to depart in haste. Of course, you have
of yourself remarked that hitherto I have always refrained from
having any final explanation with you, for the reason that I
could not well state the whole circumstances; and now to my
difficulties the advent of the aged Grandmother, coupled with
her subsequent proceedings, has put the final touch. Also, the
involved state of my affairs forbids me to write with any
finality concerning those hopes of ultimate bliss upon which,
for a long while past, I have permitted myself to feed. I regret
the past, but at the same time hope that in my conduct you have
never been able to detect anything that was unworthy of a
gentleman and a man of honour. Having lost, however, almost the
whole of my money in debts incurred by your stepfather, I find
myself driven to the necessity of saving the remainder;
wherefore, I have instructed certain friends of mine in St.
Petersburg to arrange for the sale of all the property which has
been mortgaged to myself. At the same time, knowing that, in
addition, your frivolous stepfather has squandered money which
is exclusively yours, I have decided to absolve him from a
certain moiety of the mortgages on his property, in order that
you may be in a position to recover of him what you have lost,
by suing him in legal fashion. I trust, therefore, that, as
matters now stand, this action of mine may bring you some
advantage. I trust also that this same action leaves me in the
position of having fulfilled every obligation which is incumbent
upon a man of honour and refinement. Rest assured that your
memory will for ever remain graven in my heart."
"All this is clear enough," I commented. "Surely you did not
expect aught else from him?" Somehow I was feeling annoyed.
"I expected nothing at all from him," she replied--quietly
enough, to all outward seeming, yet with a note of irritation in
her tone. "Long ago I made up my mind on the subject, for I
could read his thoughts, and knew what he was thinking. He
thought that possibly I should sue him--that one day I might
become a nuisance." Here Polina halted for a moment, and stood
biting her lips. "So of set 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 stepfather's 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
"Well, bid me do so, and I will go to him by the first train
tomorrow," I exclaimed with enthusiasm.
"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 one's 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 one's 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 o'clock 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 o'clock there usually remained behind only the real,
the desperate gamblers--persons for whom, at spas, there existed
nothing beyond roulette, and who went thither for that alone.
These gamesters took little note of what was going on around
them, and were interested in none of the appurtenances of the
season, but played from morning till night, and would have been
ready to play through the night until dawn had that been
possible. As it was, they used to disperse unwillingly when, at
midnight, roulette came to an end. Likewise, as soon as ever
roulette was drawing to a close and the head croupier had called
"Les trois derniers coups," most of them were ready to stake on
the last three rounds all that they had in their pockets--and,
for the most part, lost it. For my own part I proceeded towards
the table at which the Grandmother had lately sat; and, since the
crowd around it was not very large, I soon obtained standing
room among the ring of gamblers, while directly in front of me,
on the green cloth, I saw marked the word "Passe."
"Passe" was a row of numbers from 19 to 36 inclusive; while a
row of numbers from 1 to 18 inclusive was known as "Manque."
But what had that to do with me? I had not noticed--I had not so
much as heard the numbers upon which the previous coup had
fallen, and so took no bearings when I began to play, as, in my
place, any SYSTEMATIC gambler would have done. No, I merely
extended my stock of twenty ten-gulden pieces, and threw them
down upon the space "Passe" which happened to be confronting
"Vingt-deux!" called the croupier.
I had won! I staked upon the same again--both my original stake
and my winnings.
"Trente-et-un!" called the croupier.
Again I had won, and was now in possession of eighty ten-gulden
pieces. Next, I moved the whole eighty on to twelve middle
numbers (a stake which, if successful, would bring me in a
triple profit, but also involved a risk of two chances to one).
The wheel revolved, and stopped at twenty-four. Upon this I was
paid out notes and gold until I had by my side a total sum of
two thousand gulden.
It was as in a fever that I moved the pile, en bloc, on to the
red. Then suddenly I came to myself (though that was the only
time during the evening's play when fear cast its cold spell
over me, and showed itself in a trembling of the hands and
knees). For with horror I had realised that I MUST win, and that
upon that stake there depended all my life.
"Rouge!" called the croupier. I drew a long breath, and hot
shivers went coursing over my body. I was paid out my winnings
in bank-notes--amounting, of course, to a total of four thousand
florins, eight hundred gulden (I could still calculate the
After that, I remember, I again staked two thousand florins upon
twelve middle numbers, and lost. Again I staked the whole of
my gold, with eight hundred gulden, in notes, and lost. Then
madness seemed to come upon me, and seizing my last two thousand
florins, I staked them upon twelve of the first numbers--wholly
by chance, and at random, and without any sort of reckoning.
Upon my doing so there followed a moment of suspense only
comparable to that which Madame Blanchard must have experienced
when, in Paris, she was descending earthwards from a balloon.
"Quatre!" called the croupier.
Once more, with the addition of my original stake, I was in
possession of six thousand florins! Once more I looked around me
like a conqueror--once more I feared nothing as I threw down four
thousand of these florins upon the black. The croupiers glanced
around them, and exchanged a few words; the bystanders
The black turned up. After that I do not exactly remember
either my calculations or the order of my stakings. I only
remember that, as in a dream, I won in one round sixteen
thousand florins; that in the three following rounds, I lost
twelve thousand; that I moved the remainder (four thousand) on
to "Passe" (though quite unconscious of what I was doing--I was
merely waiting, as it were, mechanically, and without
reflection, for something) and won; and that, finally, four
times in succession I lost. Yes, I can remember raking in money
by thousands--but most frequently on the twelve, middle numbers,
to which I constantly adhered, and which kept appearing in a
sort of regular order--first, three or four times running, and
then, after an interval of a couple of rounds, in another break
of three or four appearances. Sometimes, this astonishing
regularity manifested itself in patches; a thing to upset all
the calculations of note--taking gamblers who play with a
pencil and a memorandum book in their hands Fortune perpetrates
some terrible jests at roulette!
Since my entry not more than half an hour could have elapsed.
Suddenly a croupier informed me that I had, won thirty thousand
florins, as well as that, since the latter was the limit for
which, at any one time, the bank could make itself responsible,
roulette at that table must close for the night. Accordingly, I
caught up my pile of gold, stuffed it into my pocket, and,
grasping my sheaf of bank-notes, moved to the table in an
adjoining salon where a second game of roulette was in
progress. The crowd followed me in a body, and cleared a place
for me at the table; after which, I proceeded to stake as
before--that is to say, at random and without calculating. What
saved me from ruin I do not know.
Of course there were times when fragmentary reckonings DID come
flashing into my brain. For instance, there were times when I
attached myself for a while to certain figures and coups--though
always leaving them, again before long, without knowing what I
In fact, I cannot have been in possession of all my faculties,
for I can remember the croupiers correcting my play more than
once, owing to my having made mistakes of the gravest order. My
brows were damp with sweat, and my hands were shaking. Also,
Poles came around me to proffer their services, but I heeded
none of them. Nor did my luck fail me now. Suddenly, there arose
around me a loud din of talking and laughter. " Bravo, bravo! "
was the general shout, and some people even clapped their hands.
I had raked in thirty thousand florins, and again the bank had
had to close for the night!
"Go away now, go away now," a voice whispered to me on my
right. The person who had spoken to me was a certain Jew of
Frankfurt--a man who had been standing beside me the whole while,
and occasionally helping me in my play.
"Yes, for God's sake go," whispered a second voice in my left
ear. Glancing around, I perceived that the second voice had come
from a modestly, plainly dressed lady of rather less than
thirty--a woman whose face, though pale and sickly-looking, bore
also very evident traces of former beauty. At the moment, I was
stuffing the crumpled bank-notes into my pockets and collecting
all the gold that was left on the table. Seizing up my last note
for five hundred gulden, I contrived to insinuate it,
unperceived, into the hand of the pale lady. An overpowering
impulse had made me do so, and I remember how her thin little
fingers pressed mine in token of her lively gratitude. The whole
affair was the work of a moment.
Then, collecting my belongings, I crossed to where trente et
quarante was being played--a game which could boast of a more
aristocratic public, and was played with cards instead of with a
wheel. At this diversion the bank made itself responsible for a
hundred thousand thalers as the limit, but the highest stake
allowable was, as in roulette, four thousand florins. Although I
knew nothing of the game--and I scarcely knew the stakes,
except those on black and red--I joined the ring of players,
while the rest of the crowd massed itself around me. At this
distance of time I cannot remember whether I ever gave a thought
to Polina; I seemed only to be conscious of a vague pleasure in
seizing and raking in the bank-notes which kept massing
themselves in a pile before me.
But, as ever, fortune seemed to be at my back. As though of set
purpose, there came to my aid a circumstance which not
infrequently repeats itself in gaming. The circumstance is that
not infrequently luck attaches itself to, say, the red, and does
not leave it for a space of say, ten, or even fifteen, rounds
in succession. Three days ago I had heard that, during the
previous week there had been a run of twenty-two coups on the
red--an occurrence never before known at roulette--so that men
spoke of it with astonishment. Naturally enough, many deserted
the red after a dozen rounds, and practically no one could now
be found to stake upon it. Yet upon the black also--the
antithesis of the red--no experienced gambler would stake
anything, for the reason that every practised player knows the
meaning of "capricious fortune." That is to say, after the
sixteenth (or so) success of the red, one would think that the
seventeenth coup would inevitably fall upon the black; wherefore,
novices would be apt to back the latter in the seventeenth
round, and even to double or treble their stakes upon it--only,
in the end, to lose.
Yet some whim or other led me, on remarking that the red had
come up consecutively for seven times, to attach myself to that
colour. Probably this was mostly due to self-conceit, for I
wanted to astonish the bystanders with the riskiness of my play.
Also, I remember that--oh, strange sensation!--I suddenly, and
without any challenge from my own presumption, became obsessed
with a DESIRE to take risks. If the spirit has passed through a
great many sensations, possibly it can no longer be sated with
them, but grows more excited, and demands more sensations, and
stronger and stronger ones, until at length it falls exhausted.
Certainly, if the rules of the game had permitted even of my
staking fifty thousand florins at a time, I should have staked
them. All of a sudden I heard exclamations arising that the
whole thing was a marvel, since the red was turning up for the
"Monsieur a gagne cent mille florins," a voice exclaimed beside
I awoke to my senses. What? I had won a hundred thousand
florins? If so, what more did I need to win? I grasped the
banknotes, stuffed them into my pockets, raked in the gold
without counting it, and started to leave the Casino. As I
passed through the salons people smiled to see my
bulging pockets and unsteady gait, for the weight which I was
carrying must have amounted to half a pood! Several hands I saw
stretched out in my direction, and as I passed I filled them
with all the money that I could grasp in my own. At length two
Jews stopped me near the exit.
"You are a bold young fellow," one said, "but mind you depart
early tomorrow--as early as you can--for if you do not you will
lose everything that you have won."
But I did not heed them. The Avenue was so dark that it was
barely possible to distinguish one's hand before one's face,
while the distance to the hotel was half a verst or so; but I
feared neither pickpockets nor highwaymen. Indeed, never since
my boyhood have I done that. Also, I cannot remember what I
thought about on the way. I only felt a sort of fearful pleasure
--the pleasure of success, of conquest, of power (how can I best
express it?). Likewise, before me there flitted the image of
Polina; and I kept remembering, and reminding myself, that it
was to HER I was going, that it was in HER presence I should
soon be standing, that it was SHE to whom I should soon be able
to relate and show everything. Scarcely once did I recall what
she had lately said to me, or the reason why I had left her, or
all those varied sensations which I had been experiencing a bare
hour and a half ago. No, those sensations seemed to be things of
the past, to be things which had righted themselves and grown
old, to be things concerning which we needed to trouble
ourselves no longer, since, for us, life was about to begin
anew. Yet I had just reached the end of the Avenue when there
DID come upon me a fear of being robbed or murdered. With each
step the fear increased until, in my terror, I almost started to
run. Suddenly, as I issued from the Avenue, there burst upon me
the lights of the hotel, sparkling with a myriad lamps! Yes,
thanks be to God, I had reached home!
Running up to my room, I flung open the door of it. Polina was
still on the sofa, with a lighted candle in front of her, and
her hands clasped. As I entered she stared at me in astonishment
(for, at the moment, I must have presented a strange spectacle).
All I did, however, was to halt before her, and fling upon the
table my burden of wealth.
I remember, too, how, without moving from her place, or changing
her attitude, she gazed into my face.
"I have won two hundred thousand francs!" cried I as I pulled
out my last sheaf of bank-notes. The pile of paper currency
occupied the whole table. I could not withdraw my eyes from it.
Consequently, for a moment or two Polina escaped my mind. Then I
set myself to arrange the pile in order, and to sort the notes,
and to mass the gold in a separate heap. That done, I left
everything where it lay, and proceeded to pace the room with
rapid strides as I lost myself in thought. Then I darted to the
table once more, and began to recount the money; until all of a
sudden, as though I had remembered something, I rushed to the
door, and closed and double-locked it. Finally I came to a
meditative halt before my little trunk.
"Shall I put the money there until tomorrow?" I asked,
turning sharply round to Polina as the recollection of her
returned to me.
She was still in her old place--still making not a sound. Yet her
eyes had followed every one of my movements. Somehow in her face
there was a strange expression--an expression which I did not
like. I think that I shall not be wrong if I say that it
indicated sheer hatred.
Impulsively I approached her.
"Polina," I said, "here are twenty-five thousand florins--fifty
thousand francs, or more. Take them, and tomorrow throw them
in De Griers' face."
She returned no answer.
"Or, if you should prefer," I continued, "let me take
them to him myself tomorrow--yes, early tomorrow morning. Shall
Then all at once she burst out laughing, and laughed for a long
while. With astonishment and a feeling of offence I gazed at
her. Her laughter was too like the derisive merriment which she
had so often indulged in of late--merriment which had broken
forth always at the time of my most passionate explanations. At
length she ceased, and frowned at me from under her eyebrows.
"I am NOT going to take your money," she said contemptuously.
"Why not?" I cried. "Why not, Polina?"
"Because I am not in the habit of receiving money for nothing."
"But I am offering it to you as a FRIEND in the same way I
would offer you my very life."
Upon this she threw me a long, questioning glance, as though she
were seeking to probe me to the depths.
"You are giving too much for me," she remarked with a smile.
"The beloved of De Griers is not worth fifty thousand francs."
"Oh Polina, how can you speak so?" I exclaimed reproachfully.
"Am I De Griers?"
"You?" she cried with her eyes suddenly flashing. "Why, I
HATE you! Yes, yes, I HATE you! I love you no more than I do De
Then she buried her face in her hands, and relapsed into
hysterics. I darted to her side. Somehow I had an intuition of
something having happened to her which had nothing to do with
myself. She was like a person temporarily insane.
"Buy me, would you, would you? Would you buy me for fifty
thousand francs as De Griers did?" she gasped between her
I clasped her in my arms, kissed her hands and feet, and fell
upon my knees before her.
Presently the hysterical fit passed away, and, laying her hands
upon my shoulders, she gazed for a while into my face, as though
trying to read it--something I said to her, but it was clear
that she did not hear it. Her face looked so dark and despondent
that I began to fear for her reason. At length she drew me towards
herself--a trustful smile playing over her features; and then,
as suddenly, she pushed me away again as she eyed me dimly.
Finally she threw herself upon me in an embrace.
"You love me?" she said. "DO you?--you who were willing even to
quarrel with the Baron at my bidding?"
Then she laughed--laughed as though something dear, but
laughable, had recurred to her memory. Yes, she laughed and wept
at the same time. What was I to do? I was like a man in a fever.
I remember that she began to say something to me--though WHAT I do
not know, since she spoke with a feverish lisp, as though she
were trying to tell me something very quickly. At intervals,
too, she would break off into the smile which I was beginning to
dread. "No, no!" she kept repeating. "YOU are my dear one;
YOU are the man I trust." Again she laid her hands upon my
shoulders, and again she gazed at me as she reiterated: "You love
me, you love me? Will you ALWAYS love me?" I could not take my
eyes off her. Never before had I seen her in this mood of
humility and affection. True, the mood was the outcome of
hysteria; but--! All of a sudden she noticed my ardent gaze, and
smiled slightly. The next moment, for no apparent reason, she
began to talk of Astley.
She continued talking and talking about him, but I could not
make out all she said--more particularly when she was
endeavouring to tell me of something or other which had happened
recently. On the whole, she appeared to be laughing at Astley,
for she kept repeating that he was waiting for her, and did I
know whether, even at that moment, he was not standing beneath
the window? "Yes, yes, he is there," she said. "Open the
window, and see if he is not." She pushed me in that direction;
yet, no sooner did I make a movement to obey her behest than she
burst into laughter, and I remained beside her, and she