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Translated by CJ Hogarth





At length I returned from two weeks leave of absence to find

that my patrons had arrived three days ago in Roulettenberg. I

received from them a welcome quite different to that which I had

expected. The General eyed me coldlygreeted me in rather

haughty fashionand dismissed me to pay my respects to his

sister. It was clear that from SOMEWHERE money had been

acquired. I thought I could even detect a certain shamefacedness

in the General's glance. Maria Philipovnatooseemed

distraughtand conversed with me with an air of detachment.

Neverthelessshe took the money which I handed to hercounted

itand listened to what I had to tell. To luncheon there were

expected that day a Monsieur Mezentsova French ladyand an

Englishman; forwhenever money was in handa banquet in

Muscovite style was always given. Polina Alexandrovnaon seeing

meinquired why I had been so long away. Thenwithout waiting

for an answershe departed. Evidently this was not mere

accidentand I felt that I must throw some light upon matters.

It was high time that I did so.

I was assigned a small room on the fourth floor of the hotel

(for you must know that I belonged to the General's suite). So

far as I could seethe party had already gained some notoriety

in the placewhich had come to look upon the General as a

Russian nobleman of great wealth. Indeedeven before luncheon

he charged meamong other thingsto get two thousand-franc

notes changed for him at the hotel counterwhich put us in a

position to be thought millionaires at all events for a week!

LaterI was about to take Mischa and Nadia for a walk when a

summons reached me from the staircase that I must attend the

General. He began by deigning to inquire of me where I was going

to take the children; and as he did soI could see that he

failed to look me in the eyes. He WANTED to do sobut each time

was met by me with such a fixeddisrespectful stare that he

desisted in confusion. In pompous languagehoweverwhich

jumbled one sentence into anotherand at length grew

disconnectedhe gave me to understand that I was to lead the

children altogether away from the Casinoand out into the park.

Finally his anger explodedand he added sharply:

"I suppose you would like to take them to the Casino to play

roulette? Wellexcuse my speaking so plainlybut I know how

addicted you are to gambling. Though I am not your mentornor

wish to beat least I have a right to require that you shall

not actually compromise me."

"I have no money for gambling" I quietly replied.

"But you will soon be in receipt of some" retorted the

Generalreddening a little as he dived into his writing desk

and applied himself to a memorandum book. From it he saw that he

had 120 roubles of mine in his keeping.

"Let us calculate" he went on. "We must translate these

roubles into thalers. Here--take 100 thalersas a round sum. The

rest will be safe in my hands."

In silence I took the money.

"You must not be offended at what I say" he continued. "You

are too touchy about these things. What I have said I have said

merely as a warning. To do so is no more than my right."

When returning home with the children before luncheonI met a

cavalcade of our party riding to view some ruins. Two splendid

carriagesmagnificently horsedwith Mlle. BlancheMaria

Philipovnaand Polina Alexandrovna in one of themand the

Frenchmanthe Englishmanand the General in attendance on

horseback! The passers-by stopped to stare at themfor the

effect was splendid--the General could not have improved upon it.

I calculated thatwith the 4000 francs which I had brought with

meadded to what my patrons seemed already to have acquired

the party must be in possession of at least 7000 or 8000

francs--though that would be none too much for Mlle. Blanche

whowith her mother and the Frenchmanwas also lodging in our

hotel. The latter gentleman was called by the lacqueys

"Monsieur le Comte" and Mlle. Blanche's mother was dubbed

"Madame la Comtesse." Perhaps in very truth they WERE "Comteet


I knew that "Monsieur le Comte" would take no notice of me

when we met at dinneras also that the General would not dream

of introducing usnor of recommending me to the "Comte."

Howeverthe latter had lived awhile in Russiaand knew that

the person referred to as an "uchitel" is never looked upon as

a bird of fine feather. Of coursestrictly speakinghe knew

me; but I was an uninvited guest at the luncheon--the General

had forgotten to arrange otherwiseor I should have been

dispatched to dine at the table d'hote. NeverthelessI presented

myself in such guise that the General looked at me with a touch

of approval; andthough the good Maria Philipovna was for

showing me my placethe fact of my having previously met the

EnglishmanMr. Astleysaved meand thenceforward I figured as

one of the company.

This strange Englishman I had met first in Prussiawhere we had

happened to sit vis-a-vis in a railway train in which I was

travelling to overtake our party; whilelaterI had run across

him in Franceand again in Switzerland--twice within the space

of two weeks! To thinkthereforethat I should suddenly

encounter him again herein Roulettenberg! Never in my life had

I known a more retiring manfor he was shy to the pitch of

imbecilityyet well aware of the fact (for he was no fool). At

the same timehe was a gentleamiable sort of an individual

andeven on our first encounter in Prussia I had contrived to

draw him outand he had told me that he had just been to the

North Capeand was now anxious to visit the fair at Nizhni

Novgorod. How he had come to make the General's acquaintance I

do not knowbutapparentlyhe was much struck with Polina.

Alsohe was delighted that I should sit next him at tablefor

he appeared to look upon me as his bosom friend.

During the meal the Frenchman was in great feather: he was

discursive and pompous to every one. In Moscow tooI

rememberedhe had blown a great many bubbles. Interminably he

discoursed on finance and Russian politicsand thoughat

timesthe General made feints to contradict himhe did so

humblyand as though wishing not wholly to lose sight of his

own dignity.

For myselfI was in a curious frame of mind. Even before

luncheon was half finished I had asked myself the oldeternal

question: "WHY do I continue to dance attendance upon the

Generalinstead of having left him and his family long ago?"

Every now and then I would glance at Polina Alexandrovnabut

she paid me no attention; until eventually I became so irritated

that I decided to play the boor.

First of all I suddenlyand for no reason whateverplunged

loudly and gratuitously into the general conversation. Above

everything I wanted to pick a quarrel with the Frenchman; and

with that end in view I turned to the Generaland exclaimed in

an overbearing sort of way--indeedI think that I actually

interrupted him--that that summer it had been almost impossible

for a Russian to dine anywhere at tables d'hote. The General

bent upon me a glance of astonishment.

"If one is a man of self-respect" I went on"one risks abuse

by so doingand is forced to put up with insults of every kind.

Both at Paris and on the Rhineand even in Switzerland--there

are so many Poleswith their sympathisersthe Frenchat these

tables d'hote that one cannot get a word in edgeways if one

happens only to be a Russian."

This I said in French. The General eyed me doubtfullyfor he

did not know whether to be angry or merely to feel surprised

that I should so far forget myself.

"Of courseone always learns SOMETHING EVERYWHERE" said the

Frenchman in a carelesscontemptuous sort of tone.

"In ParistooI had a dispute with a Pole" I continued

"and then with a French officer who supported him. After that a

section of the Frenchmen present took my part. They did so as

soon as I told them the story of how once I threatened to spit

into Monsignor's coffee."

"To spit into it?" the General inquired with grave disapproval

in his toneand a stareof astonishmentwhile the Frenchman

looked at me unbelievingly.

"Just so" I replied. "You must know thaton one occasion

whenfor two daysI had felt certain that at any moment I

might have to depart for Rome on businessI repaired to the

Embassy of the Holy See in Paristo have my passport visaed.

There I encountered a sacristan of about fiftyand a man dry

and cold of mien. After listening politelybut with great

reserveto my account of myselfthis sacristan asked me to

wait a little. I was in a great hurry to departbut of course I

sat downpulled out a copy of L'Opinion Nationaleand fell to

reading an extraordinary piece of invective against Russia which

it happened to contain. As I was thus engaged I heard some one

enter an adjoining room and ask for Monsignor; after which I saw

the sacristan make a low bow to the visitorand then another

bow as the visitor took his leave. I ventured to remind the good

man of my own business also; whereuponwith an expression of

if anythingincreased drynesshe again asked me to wait. Soon

a third visitor arrived wholike myselfhad come on business

(he was an Austrian of some sort); and as soon as ever he had

stated his errand he was conducted upstairs! This made me very

angry. I roseapproached the sacristanand told him that

since Monsignor was receiving callershis lordship might just

as well finish off my affair as well. Upon this the sacristan

shrunk back in astonishment. It simply passed his understanding

that any insignificant Russian should dare to compare himself

with other visitors of Monsignor's! In a tone of the utmost

effronteryas though he were delighted to have a chance of

insulting mehe looked me up and downand then said: "Do you

suppose that Monsignor is going to put aside his coffee for YOU?"

But I only cried the louder: "Let me tell you that I am

going to SPIT into that coffee! Yesand if you do not get me my

passport visaed this very minuteI shall take it to Monsignor


"What? While he is engaged with a Cardinal? screeched the

sacristanagain shrinking back in horror. Thenrushing to the

doorhe spread out his arms as though he would rather die than

let me enter.

Thereupon I declared that I was a heretic and a barbarian--"Je

suis heretique et barbare" I said"and that these archbishops

and cardinals and monsignorsand the rest of themmeant

nothing at all to me. In a wordI showed him that I was not

going to give way. He looked at me with an air of infinite

resentment. Then he snatched up my passportand departed with

it upstairs. A minute later the passport had been visaed! Here

it is nowif you care to see it"--and I pulled out the

documentand exhibited the Roman visa.

"But--" the General began.

"What really saved you was the fact that you proclaimed

yourself a heretic and a barbarian" remarked the Frenchman with

a smile. "Cela n'etait pas si bete."

"But is that how Russian subjects ought to be treated? Why

when they settle here they dare not utter even a word--they are

ready even to deny the fact that they are Russians! At all

eventsat my hotel in Paris I received far more attention from

the company after I had told them about the fracas with the

sacristan. A fat Polish noblemanwho had been the most

offensive of all who were present at the table d'hoteat once

went upstairswhile some of the Frenchmen were simply disgusted

when I told them that two years ago I had encountered a man at

whomin 1812a French 'hero' fired for the mere fun of

discharging his musket. That man was then a boy of ten and his

family are still residing in Moscow."

"Impossible!" the Frenchman spluttered. "No French soldier

would fire at a child!"

"Nevertheless the incident was as I say" I replied. "A veryrespected

ex-captain told me the storyand I myself could see the scar left on

his cheek."

The Frenchman then began chattering volublyand the General

supported him; but I recommended the former to readfor

exampleextracts from the memoirs of General Perovskiwhoin

1812was a prisoner in the hands of the French. Finally Maria

Philipovna said something to interrupt the conversation. The

General was furious with me for having started the altercation

with the Frenchman. On the other handMr. Astley seemed to take

great pleasure in my brush with Monsieurandrising from the

tableproposed that we should go and have a drink together. The

same afternoonat four o'clockI went to have my customary

talk with Polina Alexandrovna; andthe talk soon extended to a

stroll. We entered the Parkand approached the Casinowhere

Polina seated herself upon a bench near the fountainand sent

Nadia away to a little distance to play with some other

children. Mischa also I dispatched to play by the fountainand

in this fashion we--that is to sayPolina and myself--contrived

to find ourselves alone.

Of coursewe began by talking on business matters. Polina

seemed furious when I handed her only 700 guldenfor she had

thought to receive from Parisas the proceeds of the pledging

of her diamondsat least 2000 guldenor even more.

"Come what mayI MUST have money" she said. "And get itsomehow

I will--otherwise I shall be ruined."

I asked her what had happened during my absence.

"Nothing; except that two pieces of news have reached us from

St. Petersburg. In the first placemy grandmother is very ill

and unlikely to last another couple of days. We had this from

Timothy Petrovitch himselfand he is a reliable person. Every

moment we are expecting to receive news of the end."

"All of you are on the tiptoe of expectation? " I queried.

"Of course--all of usand every minute of the day. For a

year-and-a-half now we have been looking for this."

"Looking for it?"

"Yeslooking for it. I am not her blood relation

you know--I am merely the General's step-daughter. Yet I am

certain that the old lady has remembered me in her will."

"YesI believe that you WILL come in for a good deal" I said

with some assurance.

"Yesfor she is fond of me. But how come you to think so?"

I answered this question with another one. "That Marquis of

yours" I said"--is HE also familiar with your family secrets?"

"And why are you yourself so interested in them?" was her retort

as she eyed me with dry grimness.

"Never mind. If I am not mistakenthe General has succeeded in

borrowing money of the Marquis."

"It may be so."

"Is it likely that the Marquis would have lent the money if he

had not known something or other about your grandmother? Did you

noticetoothat three times during luncheonwhen speaking of

herhe called her 'La Baboulenka'? [Dear little Grandmother].

What lovingfriendly behaviourto be sure!"

"Yesthat is true. As soon as ever he learnt that I was likely

to inherit something from her he began to pay me his addresses.

I thought you ought to know that."

"Then he has only just begun his courting? WhyI thought he

had been doing so a long while!"

"You KNOW he has not" retorted Polina angrily. "But where on

earth did you pick up this Englishman?" She said this after a pause.

"I KNEW you would ask about him!" Whereupon I told her of my

previous encounters with Astley while travelling.

"He is very shy" I said"and susceptible. Alsohe is in

love with you.--"

"Yeshe is in love with me" she replied.

"And he is ten times richer than the Frenchman. In factwhat

does the Frenchman possess? To me it seems at least doubtful

that he possesses anything at all."

"Ohnothere is no doubt about it. He does possess

some chateau or other. Last night the General told me that for

certain. NOW are you satisfied? "

"Neverthelessin your place I should marry the Englishman."

"And why?" asked Polina.

"Becausethough the Frenchman is the handsomer of the twohe

is also the baser; whereas the Englishman is not only a man of

honourbut ten times the wealthier of the pair."

"Yes? But then the Frenchman is a marquisand the cleverer of

the two" remarked Polina imperturbably.

"Is that so?" I repeated.

"Yes; absolutely."

Polina was not at all pleased at my questions; I could see that

she was doing her best to irritate me with the brusquerie of her

answers. But I took no notice of this.

"It amuses me to see you grow angry" she continued. "However

inasmuch as I allow you to indulge in these questions and

conjecturesyou ought to pay me something for the privilege."

"I consider that I have a perfect right to put these questions

to you" was my calm retort; "for the reason that I am ready to

pay for themand also care little what becomes of me."

Polina giggled.

"Last time you told me--when on the Shlangenberg--that at a

word from me you would be ready to jump down a thousand feet

into the abyss. Some day I may remind you of that sayingin

order to see if you will be as good as your word. Yesyou may

depend upon it that I shall do so. I hate you because I have

allowed you to go to such lengthsand I also hate you and still

more--because you are so necessary to me. For the time being I

want youso I must keep you."

Then she made a movement to rise. Her tone had sounded very

angry. Indeedof late her talks with me had invariably ended on

a note of temper and irritation--yesof real temper.

"May I ask you who is this Mlle. Blanche?" I inquired (since I

did not wish Polina to depart without an explanation).

"You KNOW who she is--just Mlle. Blanche. Nothing further has

transpired. Probably she will soon be Madame General--that is to

sayif the rumours that Grandmamma is nearing her end should

prove true. Mlle. Blanchewith her mother and her cousinthe

Marquisknow very well thatas things now standwe are


"And is the General at last in love?"

"That has nothing to do with it. Listen to me. Take these 700

florinsand go and play roulette with them. Win as much for me

as you canfor I am badly in need of money.

So sayingshe called Nadia back to her sideand entered the

Casinowhere she joined the rest of our party. For myselfI

tookin musing astonishmentthe first path to the left.

Something had seemed to strike my brain when she told me to go

and play roulette. Strangely enoughthat something had also

seemed to make me hesitateand to set me analysing my feelings

with regard to her. In factduring the two weeks of my absence

I had felt far more at my ease than I did nowon the day of my

return; althoughwhile travellingI had moped like an

imbecilerushed about like a man in a feverand actually

beheld her in my dreams. Indeedon one occasion (this happened

in Switzerlandwhen I was asleep in the train) I had spoken

aloud to herand set all my fellow-travellers laughing. Again

thereforeI put to myself the question: "Do Ior do I not

love her?" and again I could return myself no answer or

ratherfor the hundredth time I told myself that I detested

her. YesI detested her; there were moments (more especially at

the close of our talks together) when I would gladly have given

half my life to have strangled her! I swear thathad thereat

such momentsbeen a sharp knife ready to my handI would have

seized that knife with pleasureand plunged it into her breast.

Yet I also swear that ifon the Shlangenbergshe had REALLY

said to me"Leap into that abyss" I should have leapt into

itand with equal pleasure. Yesthis I knew well. One way or

the otherthe thing must soon be ended. Shetooknew it in

some curious way; the thought that I was fully conscious of her

inaccessibilityand of the impossibility of my ever realising

my dreamsafforded herI am certainthe keenest possible

pleasure. Otherwiseis it likely that shethe cautious and

clever woman that she waswould have indulged in this

familiarity and openness with me? Hitherto (I concluded) she had

looked upon me in the same light that the old Empress did upon

her servant--the Empress who hesitated not to unrobe herself

before her slavesince she did not account a slave a man. Yes

often Polina must have taken me for something less than a man!"

Stillshe had charged me with a commission--to win what I could

at roulette. Yet all the time I could not help wondering WHY it

was so necessary for her to win somethingand what new schemes

could have sprung to birth in her ever-fertile brain. A host of

new and unknown factors seemed to have arisen during the last

two weeks. Wellit behoved me to divine themand to probe

themand that as soon as possible. Yet not now: at the present

moment I must repair to the roulette-table.


I confess I did not like it. Although I had made up my mind to

playI felt averse to doing so on behalf of some one else. In

factit almost upset my balanceand I entered the gaming rooms

with an angry feeling at my heart. At first glance the scene

irritated me. Never at any time have I been able to bear the

flunkeyishness which one meets in the Press of the world at

largebut more especially in that of Russiawherealmost

every eveningjournalists write on two subjects in particular

namelyon the splendour and luxury of the casinos to be found

in the Rhenish townsand on the heaps of gold which are daily

to be seen lying on their tables. Those journalists are not

paid for doing so: they write thus merely out of a spirit of

disinterested complaisance. For there is nothing splendid about

the establishments in question; andnot only are there no heaps

of gold to be seen lying on their tablesbut also there is very

little money to be seen at all. Of courseduring the season

some madman or another may make his appearance--generally an

Englishmanor an Asiaticor a Turk--and (as had happened during

the summer of which I write) win or lose a great deal; butas

regards the rest of the crowdit plays only for petty gulden

and seldom does much wealth figure on the board.

Whenon the present occasionI entered the gaming-rooms

(for the first time in my life)it was several moments

before I could even make up my mind to play. For one thingthe

crowd oppressed me. Had I been playing for myselfI think I

should have left at onceand never have embarked upon gambling at

allfor I could feel my heart beginning to beatand my heart was

anything but cold-blooded. AlsoI knewI had long ago made up my

mindthat never should I depart from Roulettenberg until some radical

some finalchange had taken place in my fortunes. Thusit must

and would be. However ridiculous it may seem to you that I was

expecting to win at rouletteI look upon the generally accepted

opinion concerning the folly and the grossness of hoping to win

at gambling as a thing even more absurd. For why is gambling a

whit worse than any other method of acquiring money? Howfor

instanceis it worse than trade? Trueout of a hundred

personsonly one can win; yet what business is that of yours or

of mine?

At all eventsI confined myself at first simply to looking on

and decided to attempt nothing serious. IndeedI felt thatif

I began to do anything at allI should do it in an

absent-mindedhaphazard sort of way--of that I felt certain.

Also. it behoved me to learn the game itself; sincedespite a

thousand descriptions of roulette which I had read with

ceaseless avidityI knew nothing of its rulesand had never

even seen it played.

In the first placeeverything about it seemed to me so foul--so

morally mean and foul. Yet I am not speaking of the hungry

restless folk whoby scores nayeven by hundreds--could be seen

crowded around the gaming-tables. For in a desire to win quickly

and to win much I can see nothing sordid; I have always

applauded the opinion of a certain dead and gonebut cocksure

moralist who replied to the excuse that " one may always gamble

moderately "by saying that to do so makes things worsesince

in that casethe profits too will always be moderate.

Insignificant profits and sumptuous profits do not stand on the

same footing. Noit is all a matter of proportion. What may

seem a small sum to a Rothschild may seem a large sum to meand

it is not the fault of stakes or of winnings that everywhere men

can be found winningcan be found depriving their fellows of

somethingjust as they do at roulette. As to the question

whether stakes and winnings arein themselvesimmoral is

another question altogetherand I wish to express no opinion

upon it. Yet the very fact that I was full of a strong desire to

win caused this gambling for gainin spite of its attendant

squalorto containif you willsomething intimatesomething

sympatheticto my eyes: for it is always pleasant to see men

dispensing with ceremonyand acting naturallyand in an

unbuttoned mood. . . .

Yetwhy should I so deceive myself? I

could see that the whole thing was a vain and unreasoning

pursuit; and whatat the first glanceseemed to me the ugliest

feature in this mob of roulette players was their respect for

their occupation--the seriousnessand even the humilitywith

which they stood around the gaming tables. MoreoverI had

always drawn sharp distinctions between a game which is de

mauvais genre and a game which is permissible to a decent man.

In factthere are two sorts of gaming--namelythe game of the

gentleman and the game of the plebs--the game for gainand the

game of the herd. Hereinas saidI draw sharp distinctions.

Yet how essentially base are the distinctions! For instancea

gentleman may stakesayfive or ten louis d'or--seldom more

unless he is a very rich manwhen he may stakesaya thousand

francs; buthe must do this simply for the love of the game

itself--simply for sportsimply in order to observe the process

of winning or of losingandabove all thingsas a man who

remains quite uninterested in the possibility of his issuing a

winner. If he winshe will be at libertyperhapsto give vent

to a laughor to pass a remark on the circumstance to a

bystanderor to stake againor to double his stake; buteven

this he must do solely out of curiosityand for the pleasure of

watching the play of chances and of calculationsand not

because of any vulgar desire to win. In a wordhe must look

upon the gaming-tableupon rouletteand upon trente et

quaranteas mere relaxations which have been arranged solely

for his amusement. Of the existence of the lures and gains upon

which the bank is founded and maintained he must profess to have

not an inkling. Best of allhe ought to imagine his

fellow-gamblers and the rest of the mob which stands trembling

over a coin to be equally rich and gentlemanly with himselfand

playing solely for recreation and pleasure. This complete

ignorance of the realitiesthis innocent view of mankindis

whatin my opinionconstitutes the truly aristocratic. For

instanceI have seen even fond mothers so far indulge their

guilelesselegant daughters--misses of fifteen or sixteen--as to

give them a few gold coins and teach them how to play; and

though the young ladies may have won or have lostthey have

invariably laughedand departed as though they were well

pleased. In the same wayI saw our General once approach the

table in a stolidimportant manner. A lacquey darted to offer

him a chairbut the General did not even notice him. Slowly he

took out his money bagsand slowly extracted 300 francs in

goldwhich he staked on the blackand won. Yet he did not take

up his winnings--he left them there on the table. Again the

black turned upand again he did not gather in what he had won;

and whenin the third roundthe RED turned up he lostat a

stroke1200 francs. Yet even then he rose with a smileand

thus preserved his reputation; yet I knew that his money bags

must be chafing his heartas well as thathad the stake been

twice or thrice as much againhe would still have restrained

himself from venting his disappointment.

On the other handI saw a Frenchman first winand then lose

30000 francs cheerfullyand without a murmur. Yes; even if a gentleman

should lose his whole substancehe must never give way to

annoyance. Money must be so subservient to gentility as never to

be worth a thought. Of coursethe SUPREMELY aristocratic thing

is to be entirely oblivious of the mire of rabblewith its

setting; but sometimes a reverse course may be aristocratic to

remarkto scanand even to gape atthe mob (for preference

through a lorgnette)even as though one were taking the crowd

and its squalor for a sort of raree show which had been

organised specially for a gentleman's diversion. Though one may

be squeezed by the crowdone must look as though one were fully

assured of being the observer--of having neither part nor lot

with the observed. At the same timeto stare fixedly about one

is unbecoming; for thatagainis ungentlemanlyseeing that no

spectacle is worth an open stare--are no spectacles in the world

which merit from a gentleman too pronounced an inspection.

Howeverto me personally the scene DID seem to be worth

undisguised contemplation--more especially in view of the fact

that I had come there not only to look atbut also to number

myself sincerely and wholeheartedly withthe mob. As for my

secret moral views. I had no room for them amongst my actual

practical opinions. Let that stand as written: I am writing only

to relieve my conscience. Yet let me say also this: that from

the first I have been consistent in having an intense aversion

to any trial of my acts and thoughts by a moral standard.

Another standard altogether has directed my life. . . .

As a matter of factthe mob was playing in exceedingly foul

fashion. IndeedI have an idea that sheer robbery was going on

around that gaming-table. The croupiers who sat at the two ends

of it had not only to watch the stakesbut also to calculate

the game--an immense amount of work for two men! As for the crowd

itself--wellit consisted mostly of Frenchmen. Yet I was not

then taking notes merely in order to be able to give you a

description of roulettebut in order to get my bearings as to

my behaviour when I myself should begin to play. For exampleI

noticed that nothing was more common than for another's hand to

stretch out and grab one's winnings whenever one had won. Then

there would arise a disputeand frequently an uproar; and it

would be a case of "I beg of you to proveand to produce

witnesses to the factthat the stake is yours."

At first the proceedings were pure Greek to me. I could only

divine and distinguish that stakes were hazarded on numberson

"odd" or "even" and on colours. Polina's money I decidedto

riskthat eveningonly to the amount of 100 gulden. The

thought that I was not going to play for myself quite unnerved

me. It was an unpleasant sensationand I tried hard to banish

it. I had a feeling thatonce I had begun to play for PolinaI

should wreck my own fortunes. AlsoI wonder if any one has EVER

approached a gaming-table without falling an immediate prey to

superstition? I began by pulling out fifty guldenand staking

them on "even." The wheel spun and stopped at 13. I had lost!

With a feeling like a sick qualmas though I would like to make

my way out of the crowd and go homeI staked another fifty

gulden--this time on the red. The red turned up. Next time I

staked the 100 gulden just where they lay--and again the red

turned up. Again I staked the whole sumand again the red

turned up. Clutching my 400 guldenI placed 200 of them on

twelve figuresto see what would come of it. The result was

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

curioussuch an inexplicableunwonted 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

guldenandsnatching up my pile of 1600departed in search of

Polina Alexandrovna.

I found the whole party walking in the parkand was able to get

an interview with her only after supper. This time the Frenchman

was absent from the mealand the General seemed to be in a more

expansive vein. Among other thingshe thought it necessary to

remind me that he would be sorry to see me playing at the

gaming-tables. In his opinionsuch 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

actionsbut you yourself will agree that..." As usualhe did not

finish his sentence. I answered drily that I had very little

money in my possessionand thatconsequentlyI was hardly in

a position to indulge in any conspicuous playeven if I did

gamble. At lastwhen ascending to my own roomI succeeded in

handing Polina her winningsand told her thatnext timeI

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;

yetpray leave me in peace."

Nonetheless she insisted that I ought to go halves with her in

the day's winningsand offered me 800 gulden on condition that

henceforthI gambled only on those terms; but I refused to do

soonce and for all--statingas my reasonthat 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."

"Wellabsurd though it beI place great hopes on your playing

of roulette" she remarked musingly; "whereforeyou ought to

play as my partner and on equal shares; whereforeof 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 mealthough 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 shortshe was at no pains to conceal her aversion

to me. That I could see plainly. Alsoshe did not trouble to

conceal from me the fact that I was necessary to herand that

she was keeping me for some end which she had in view.

Consequently there became established between us relations

whichto a large extentwere incomprehensible to me

considering her general pride and aloofness. For example

although she knew that I was madly in love with hershe 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 unrebukedto mention to her my love).

"You see" her attitude expressed"how little I regard your

feelingsas well as how little I care for what you say to me

or for what you feel for me." Likewisethough she spoke as

before concerning her affairsit 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 troubleshe 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 eventsor had she

not seen how much I was pained and disturbed by her teasing

insistencyshe would never have thought it worthwhile to

soothe me with this frankness--even thoughsince she not

infrequently used me to execute commissions that were not only

troublesomebut riskyshe oughtin my opinionto have been

frank in ANY case. Butforsoothit was not worth her while to

trouble about MY feelings--about the fact that I was uneasyand

perhapsthrice as put about by her cares and misfortunes as she

was herself!

For three weeks I had known of her intention to take to

roulette. She had even warned me that she would like me to play

on her behalfsince it was unbecoming for her to play in

person; andfrom 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! Noshe had some end in viewand

there were circumstances at which I could guessbut which I did

not know for certain. Truethe 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 thatthough she let me question

hershe never returned me a single answerand at times did not

so much as notice me. That is how matters stood.

Next day there was a good deal of talk about a telegram which

four days agohad been sent to St. Petersburgbut to which

there had come no answer. The General was visibly disturbed and

moodyfor the matter concerned his mother. The Frenchmantoo

was excitedand 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 tableand 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 Casinoor 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 anythingor whether it was still only in

the stage of being talked of. Likewise I was awarein partof

a family secret--namelythatlast yearthe Frenchman had

bailed the General out of debtand given him 30000 roubles

wherewith to pay his Treasury dues on retiring from the service.

And nowof coursethe 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 wholiving with her mother

possessed a colossal fortune. It was also said that she was some

relation to the Marquisbut only a distant one a cousinor

cousin-germanor something of the sort. Likewise I knew that

up to the time of my journey to Parisshe 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 friendshiptheir intimacy--had taken on a

much more off-hand and rough-and-ready air. Perhaps they thought

that our means were too modest for themandthereforeunworthy

of politeness or reticence. Alsofor 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 shyreservedand taciturn in his manner

that one might have looked for anything from him. At all events

the Frenchman accorded him only the slightest of greetingsand

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 anotherthe 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; andone 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 reasonI adopted a cold and indifferent air; for I

felt pretty certain that it would not be long before she

herself approached me. For two daysthereforeI devoted my

attention to Mlle. Blanche. The poor General was in despair! To

fall in love at fifty-fiveand with such vehemenceis indeed a

misfortune! And add to that his widowerhoodhis childrenhis

ruined propertyhis debtsand 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 eventsI myself have

always feared such women. Apparently about twenty-five years of

ageshe was tall and broad-shoulderedwith shoulders that

sloped; yet though her neck and bosom were ample in their

proportionsher skin was dull yellow in colourwhile 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 whitesa proud glancegleaming

teethand lips which were perennially pomaded and redolent of

musk. As for her dressit was invariably richeffectiveand

chicyet in good taste. Lastlyher feet and hands were

astonishingand her voice a deep contralto. Sometimeswhen she

laughedshe displayed her teethbut 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

educationand even of witsthough cunning and suspicious.

Thisapparentlywas not because her life had been lacking in

incident. Perhapsif all were knownthe Marquis was not her

kinsman at allnor her motherher mother; but there was

evidence thatin Berlinwhere we had first come across the

pairthey had possessed acquaintances of good standing. As for

the Marquis himselfI doubt to this day if he was a

Marquis--although about the fact that he had formerly belonged to

high society (for instancein 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

transpirebut 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

deadMlle. BlancheI felt surewould disappear in a

twinkling. Indeedit 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. Howthencould I

show contempt for those who surrounded her? Espionage is a base

thingbut--what have I to do with that?

Mr. AstleytooI found a curious person. I was only sure 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 walkinghe would merely take

off his hat and pass us bythough I knew he was dying to join

us. Even when invited to do sohe would refuse. Againin

places of amusement--in the Casinoat concertsor near the

fountain--he was never far from the spot where we were sitting.

In factWHEREVER we were in the Parkin the forestor 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; andone

morning when we had metand exchanged a couple of wordshe

burst out in his usual abrupt waywithout saying "Good-morning."

"That Mlle. Blanche" he said. "WellI 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 knowbut to my glance of inquiry he

returned only a dry nodand a reiterated "It is so."

Presentlyhoweverhe 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 nodhe walked away with a pleased expression on his

face. The conversation had been carried on in execrable French.


Today has been a day of follystupidityand ineptness. The

time is now eleven o'clock in the eveningand I am sitting in

my room and thinking. It all beganthis morningwith 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 --namelythat I should not go halves with her in her

winningsif any (that is to sayI should not take anything for

myself)and that she should explain to methat same evening

why it was so necessary for her to winand how much was the sum

which she needed. ForI could not suppose that she was doing all

this merely for the sake of money. Yet clearly she did need some

moneyand that as soon as possibleand for a special purpose.

Wellshe promised to explain mattersand I departed. There was

a tremendous crowd in the gaming-rooms. What an arrogantgreedy

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 fashionventuring only twenty or thirty gulden

at a time. MeanwhileI observed and took notes. It seemed to me

that calculation was superfluousand by no means possessed of

the importance which certain other players attached to iteven

though they sat with ruled papers in their handswhereon they

set down the coupscalculated the chancesreckonedstaked

and--lost exactly as we more simple mortals did who played

without any reckoning at all.

HoweverI deduced from the scene one conclusion which seemed to me

reliable --namelythat in the flow of fortuitous chances there is

if not a systemat all events a sort of order. Thisof course

is a very strange thing. For instanceafter 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 onesand thenagainto a dozen of the middle

ciphersand fall upon them three or four timesand then revert

to a dozen outers; whenceafter another couple of roundsthe

ball would again pass to the first figuresstrike upon them

onceand then return thrice to the middle series--continuing

thus for an hour and a halfor two hours. Onethreetwo: one

threetwo. It was all very curious. Againfor the whole of a

day or a morning the red would alternate with the blackbut

almost without any orderand from moment to momentso that

scarcely two consecutive rounds would end upon either the one or

the other. Yetnext dayorperhapsthe next eveningthe red

alone would turn upand attain a run of over two scoreand

continue so for quite a length of time--sayfor a whole day. Of

these circumstances the majority were pointed out to me by Mr.

Astleywho stood by the gaming-table the whole morningyet

never once staked in person.

For myselfI lost all that I had on meand with great speed.

To begin withI staked two hundred gulden on " even" and won.

Then I staked the same amount againand 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. Thatof course

was the proper moment for me to have departedbut there arose in me a

strange sensation as of a challenge to Fate--as of a wish to deal her a

blow on the cheekand to put out my tongue at her. Accordingly

I set down the largest stake allowed by the rules--namely4000

gulden--and lost. Fired by this mishapI pulled out all the

money left to mestaked it all on the same ventureand--again

lost! Then I rose from the tablefeeling as though I were

stupefied. What had happened to me I did not know; butbefore

luncheon I told Polina of my losses-- until which time I walked

about the Park.

At luncheon I was as excited as I had been at the meal three

days ago. Mlle. Blanche and the Frenchman were lunching with us

and it appeared that the former had been to the Casino that

morningand had seen my exploits there. So now she showed me

more attention when talking to me; whilefor his partthe

Frenchman approached meand 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 myselfbut I merely

fired upand replied that the money had been all my own.

At this the General seemed extremely surprisedand asked me

whence I had procured it; whereupon I replied thatthough I

had begun only with 100 guldensix or seven rounds had

increased my capital to 5000 or 6000 guldenand that

subsequently I had lost the whole in two rounds.

All thisof coursewas plausible enough. During my recital I

glanced at Polinabut nothing was to be discerned on her face.

Howevershe had allowed me to fire up without correcting me

and from that I concluded that it was my cue to fire upand to

conceal the fact that I had been playing on her behalf. "At all

events" I thought to myself"shein her turnhas promised

to give me an explanation to-nightand to reveal to me

something or another."

Although the General appeared to be taking stock of mehe 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. NowI have an idea thatlast nighthe and the

Frenchman had a sharp encounter with one another. At all events

they closeted themselves togetherand then had a long and vehement

discussion; after which the Frenchman departed in what appeared to be

a passionbut returnedearly this morningto renew the combat.

On hearing of my losseshoweverhe only remarked with a sharp

and even a maliciousair that "a man ought to go more carefully."

Nextfor some reason or anotherhe added that"though a great many

Russians go in for gamblingthey 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 gamblersI had far more

blame for them than praise--of that he could be quite sure.

"Upon what do you base your opinion?" he inquired.

"Upon the fact that to the virtues and merits of the civilised

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 capitalbut also

he exhausts it wantonly and of sheer folly. None the less we

Russians often need money; whereforewe are glad ofand greatly

devoted toa method of acquisition like roulette--wherebyin a

couple of hoursone may grow rich without doing any work. This

methodI repeathas a great attraction for usbut since we

play in wanton fashionand without taking any troublewe

almost invariably lose."

"To a certain extent that is true" assented the Frenchman with

a self-satisfied air.

"Oh noit 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!"

"I beg pardon" I said. "Yet it would be difficult to say

which is the worst of the two--Russian ineptitude or the German

method of growing rich through honest toil."

"What an extraordinary idea" cried the General.

"And what a RUSSIAN idea!" added the Frenchman.

I smiledfor I was rather glad to have a quarrel with them.

"I would rather live a wandering life in tents" I cried

"than bow the knee to a German idol!"

"To WHAT idol?" exclaimed the Generalnow seriously angry.

"To the German method of heaping up riches. I have not been

here very longbut 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; andeverywhere 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

anything to do with him; and I cannot bear people of that sort.

Each such 'Fater' has his familyand in the evenings they

read improving books aloud. Over their roof-trees there murmur

elms and chestnuts; the sun has sunk to his rest; a stork is

roosting on the gable; and all is beautifully poetic and

touching. Do not be angryGeneral. Let me tell you something

that is even more touching than that. I can remember howof an

eveningmy own fathernow deadused to sit under the lime

trees in his little gardenand to read books aloud to myself

and my mother. YesI know how things ought to be done. Yet

every German family is bound to slavery and to submission to its

'Fater.' They work like oxenand amass wealth like Jews.

Suppose the 'Fater' has put by a certain number of gulden

which he hands over to his eldest sonin order that the said

son may acquire a trade or a small plot of land. Wellone

result is to deprive the daughter of a dowryand so leave her

among the unwedded. For the same reasonthe parents will have

to sell the younger son into bondage or the ranks of the army

in order that he may earn more towards the family capital. Yes

such things ARE donefor I have been making inquiries on the

subject. It is all done out of sheer rectitude--out of a

rectitude which is magnified to the point of the younger son

believing that he has been RIGHTLY soldand that it is simply

idyllic for the victim to rejoice when he is made over into

pledge. What more have I to tell? Wellthis--that matters bear

just as hardly upon the eldest son. Perhaps he has his Gretchen

to whom his heart is bound; but he cannot marry herfor the

reason that he has not yet amassed sufficient gulden. Sothe

pair wait on in a mood of sincere and virtuous expectationand

smilingly deposit themselves in pawn the while. Gretchen's

cheeks grow sunkenand she begins to wither; until at last

after some twenty yearstheir substance has multipliedand

sufficient gulden have been honourably and virtuously

accumulated. Then the 'Fater' blesses his forty-year-old heir and

the thirty-five-year-old Gretchen with the sunken bosom and the

scarlet nose; after which he burstsinto tearsreads the pair

a lesson on moralityand dies. In turn the eldest son becomes a

virtuous 'Fater' and the old story begins again. In fifty or

sixty years' time the grandson of the original 'Fater' will

have amassed a considerable sum; and that sum he will hand over

tohis sonand the latter to HIS sonand so on for several

generations; until at length there will issue a Baron

Rothschildor a 'Hoppe and Company' or the devil knows what!

Is it not a beautiful spectacle--the spectacle of a century or

two of inherited labourpatienceintellectrectitude

characterperseveranceand calculationwith a stork sitting

on the roof above it all? What is more; they think there can

never be anything better than this; whereforefrom their point

of view they begin to judge the rest of the worldand to

censure all who are at fault--that is to saywho are not exactly

like themselves. Yesthere you have it in a nutshell. For my

own partI would rather grow fat after the Russian manneror

squander my whole substance at roulette. I have no wish to be

'Hoppe and Company' at the end of five generations. I want the

money for MYSELFfor in no way do I look upon my personality

as necessary toor meet to be given over tocapital. I may be

wrongbut there you have it. Those are MY views."

"How far you may be right in what you have said I do not know"

remarked the General moodily; "but I DO know that you are

becoming an insufferable farceur whenever you are given the

least chance."

As usualhe left his sentence unfinished. Indeedwhenever he

embarked upon anything that in the least exceeded the limits of

daily small-talkhe left unfinished what he was saying. The

Frenchman had listened to me contemptuouslywith a slight

protruding of his eyes; buthe could not have understood very

much of my harangue. As for Polinashe had looked on with

serene indifference. She seemed to have heard neither my voice

nor any other during the progress of the meal.


Yesshe had been extraordinarily meditative. Yeton leaving

the tableshe immediately ordered me to accompany her for a

walk. We took the children with usand set out for the fountain

in the Park.

I was in such an irritated frame of mind that in rude and abrupt

fashion I blurted out a question as to "why our Marquis de

Griers had ceased to accompany her for strollsor to speak to

her for days together."

"Because he is a brute" she replied in rather a curious way.

It was the first time that I had heard her speak so of De

Griers: consequentlyI was momentarily awed into silence by this

expression of resentment.

"Have you noticedtoothat today he is by no means on good

terms with the General?" I went on.

"Yes-- and I suppose you want to know why" she replied with dry

captiousness. "You are awareare you notthat the General is

mortgaged to the Marquiswith all his property? Consequently

if the General's mother does not diethe Frenchman will become

the absolute possessor of everything which he now holds only in


"Then it is really the case that everything is mortgaged? I

have heard rumours to that effectbut was unaware how far they

might be true."

"Yesthey ARE true. What then?"

"Whyit will be a case of 'FarewellMlle. Blanche'" I

remarked; "for in such an event she would never become Madame

General. Do you knowI believe the old man is so much in love

with her that he will shoot himself if she should throw him

over. At his age it is a dangerous thing to fall in love."

"YessomethingI believeWILL happen to him" assented

Polina thoughtfully.

"And what a fine thing it all is!" I continued. "Couldanything

be more abominable than the way in which she has agreed to marry

for money alone? Not one of the decencies has

been observed; the whole affair has taken place without the

least ceremony. And as for the grandmotherwhat could be more

comicalyet more dastardlythan the sending of telegram after

telegram to know if she is dead? What do you think of itPolina


"Yesit is very horrible" she interrupted with a shudder.

"ConsequentlyI am the more surprised that YOU should be so

cheerful. What are YOU so pleased about? About the fact that you

have gone and lost my money?"

"What? The money that you gave me to lose? I told you I should

never win for other people--least of all for you. I obeyed you

simply because you ordered me to; but you must not blame me for

the result. I warned you that no good would ever come of it. You

seem much depressed at having lost your money. Why do you need

it so greatly?"

"Why do YOU ask me these questions?"

"Because you promised to explain matters to me. Listen. I am

certain thatas soon as ever I 'begin to play for myself' (and I

still have 120 gulden left)I shall win. You can then take of

me what you require."

She made a contemptuous grimace.

"You must not be angry with me" I continued"for making such

a proposal. I am so conscious of being only a nonentity in your

eyes that you need not mind accepting money from me. A gift from

me could not possibly offend you. Moreoverit was I who lost

your gulden."

She glanced at mebutseeing that I was in an irritable

sarcastic moodchanged the subject.

"My affairs cannot possibly interest you" she said. Still

if you DO wish to knowI am in debt. I borrowed some

moneyand must pay it back again. I have a curioussenseless

idea that I am bound to win at the gaming-tables. Why I think so

I cannot tellbut I do think soand with some assurance.

Perhaps it is because of that assurance that I now find myself

without any other resource."

"Or perhaps it is because it is so NECESSARY for you to win. It

is like a drowning man catching at a straw. You yourself will

agree thatunless he were drowning he would not mistake a straw

for the trunk of a tree."

Polina looked surprised.

"What?" she said. "Do not you also hope something from it?

Did you not tell me again and againtwo weeks agothat you

were certain of winning at roulette if you played here? And did

you not ask me not to consider you a fool for doing so? Were you

joking? You cannot have beenfor I remember that you spoke with

a gravity which forbade the idea of your jesting."

"True" I replied gloomily. "I always felt certain that I

should win. Indeedwhat you say makes me ask myself--Why have my

absurdsenseless losses of today raised a doubt in my mind?

Yet I am still positive thatso soon as ever I begin to play

for myselfI shall infallibly win."

"And why are you so certain?"

"To tell the truthI do not know. I only know that I must

win--that it is the one resource I have left. Yeswhy do I feel

so assured on the point?"

"Perhaps because one cannot help winning if one is fanatically

certain of doing so."

"Yet I dare wager that you do not think me capable of serious

feeling in the matter?"

"I do not care whether you are so or not" answered Polina with

calm indifference. "Wellsince you ask meI DO doubt your

ability to take anything seriously. You are capable of worrying

but not deeply. You are too ill-regulated and unsettled a person

for that. But why do you want money? Not a single one of the reasons

which you have given can be looked upon as serious."

"By the way" I interrupted"you say you want to pay off a

debt. It must be a large one. Is it to the Frenchman?"

"What do you mean by asking all these questions? You are very

clever today. Surely you are not drunk?"

"You know that you and I stand on no ceremonyand that

sometimes I put to you very plain questions. I repeat that I am

yourslave--and slaves cannot be shamed or offended."

"You talk like a child. It is always possible to comport

oneself with dignity. If one has a quarrel it ought to elevate

rather than to degrade one."

"A maxim straight from the copybook! Suppose I CANNOT comport

myself with dignity. By that I mean thatthough I am a man of

self-respectI am unable to carry off a situation properly. Do

you know the reason? It is because we Russians are too richly and

multifariously gifted to be able at once to find the proper mode

of expression. It is all a question of mode. Most of us are so

bounteously endowed with intellect as to require also a spice of

genius to choose the right form of behaviour. And genius is

lacking in us for the reason that so little genius at all

exists. It belongs only to the French--though a few other

Europeans have elaborated their forms so well as to be able to

figure with extreme dignityand yet be wholly undignified

persons. That is whywith usthe mode is so all-important. The

Frenchman may receive an insult-- a reala venomous insult: yet

he will not so much as frown. But a tweaking of the nose he

cannot bearfor the reason that such an act is an infringement

of the acceptedof the time-hallowed order of decorum. That is

why our good ladies are so fond of Frenchmen--the Frenchman's

mannersthey sayare perfect! But in my opinion there is no

such thing as a Frenchman's manners. The Frenchman is only a

bird--the coq gaulois. At the same timeas I am not a womanI

do not properly understand the question. Cocks may be excellent

birds. If I am wrong you must stop me. You ought to stop and

correct me more often when I am speaking to youfor I am too

apt to say everything that is in my head.

"You seeI have lost my manners. I agree that I have nonenor yet

any dignity. I will tell you why. I set no store upon such things.

Everything in me has undergone a cheek. You know the reason. I have not a

single human thought in my head. For a long while I have been

ignorant of what is going on in the world--here or in Russia. I

have been to Dresdenyet am completely in the dark as to what

Dresden is like. You know the cause of my obsession. I have no

hope nowand am a mere cipher in your eyes; whereforeI tell

you outright that wherever I go I see only you--all the rest is a

matter of indifference.

"Why or how I have come to love you I do not know. It may be that

you are not altogether fair to look upon. Do you knowI am ignorant

even as to what your face is like. In all probabilitytooyour heart

is not comelyand it is possible that your mind is wholly ignoble."

"And because you do not believe in my nobility of soul you

think to purchase me with money?" she said.

"WHEN have I thought to do so?" was my reply.

"You are losing the thread of the argument. If you do not wish

to purchase meat all events you wish to purchase my respect."

"Not at all. I have told you that I find it difficult to

explain myself. You are hard upon me. Do not be angry at my

chattering. You know why you ought not to be angry with me--that

I am simply an imbecile. HoweverI do not mind if you ARE

angry. Sitting in my roomI need but to think of youto

imagine to myself the rustle of your dressand at once I fall

almost to biting my hands. Why should you be angry with me?

Because I call myself your slave? RevelI pray youin my

slavery--revel in it. Do you know that sometimes I could kill

you?--not because I do not love youor am jealous of youbut

because I feel as though I could simply devour you... You are


"NoI am not" she retorted. "But I order younevertheless

to be silent."

She stoppedwell nigh breathless with anger. God knowsshe may

not have been a beautiful womanyet I loved to see her come to

a halt like thisand was thereforethe more fond of arousing

her temper. Perhaps she divined thisand for that very reason

gave way to rage. I said as much to her.

"What rubbish!" she cried with a shudder.

"I do not care" I continued. "Alsodo you know that it is

not safe for us to take walks together? Often I have a feeling

that I should like to strike youto disfigure youto strangle

you. Are you certain that it will never come to that? You are

driving me to frenzy. Am I afraid of a scandalor of your

anger? Why should I fear your anger? I love without hopeand

know that hereafter I shall love you a thousand times more. If

ever I should kill you I should have to kill myself too. But I

shall put off doing so as long as possiblefor I wish to

continue enjoying the unbearable pain which your coldness gives

me. Do you know a very strange thing? It is thatwith every

daymy love for you increases--though that would seem to be

almost an impossibility. Why should I not become a fatalist?

Remember howon the third day that we ascended the

ShlangenbergI was moved to whisper in your ear: 'Say but the

wordand I will leap into the abyss.' Had you said itI should

have leapt. Do you not believe me?"

"What stupid rubbish!" she cried.

"I care not whether it be wise or stupid" I cried in return.

"I only know that in your presence I must speakspeakspeak.

ThereforeI am speaking. I lose all conceit when I am with you

and everything ceases to matter."

"Why should I have wanted you to leap from the Shlangenberg?"

she said drilyand (I think) with wilful offensiveness. "THAT

would have been of no use to me."

"Splendid!" I shouted. "I know well that you must have used

the words 'of no use' in order to crush me. I can see through

you. 'Of no use' did you say? Whyto give pleasure is ALWAYS

of use; andas for barbarousunlimited power--even if it be only

over a fly--whyit is a kind of luxury. Man is a despot by

natureand loves to torture. Youin particularlove to do so."

I remember that at this moment she looked at me in a peculiar

way. The fact is that my face must have been expressing all the

maze of senselessgross sensations which were seething within

me. To this day I can rememberword for wordthe conversation

as I have written it down. My eyes were suffused with bloodand

the foam had caked itself on my lips. Alsoon my honour I swear

thathad she bidden me cast myself from the summit of the

ShlangenbergI should have done it. Yeshad she bidden me in

jestor only in contempt and with a spit in my faceI should

have cast myself down.

"Oh no! Why so? I believe you" she saidbut in such a

manner--in the manner of whichat timesshe was a mistress--and

with such a note of disdain and viperish arrogance in her tone

that God knows I could have killed her.

Yesat that moment she stood in peril. I had not lied to her

about that.

"Surely you are not a coward?" suddenly she asked me.

"I do not know" I replied. "Perhaps I ambut I do not know.

I have long given up thinking about such things."

"If I said to you'Kill that man' would you kill him?"


"Whomsoever I wish?"

"The Frenchman?"

"Do not ask me questions; return me answers. I repeat

whomsoever I wish? I desire to see if you were speaking

seriously just now."

She awaited my reply with such gravity and impatience that I

found the situation unpleasant.

"Do YOUrathertell me" I said"what is going on here? Why

do you seem half-afraid of me? I can see for myself what is

wrong. You are the step-daughter of a ruined and insensate man

who is smitten with love for this devil of a Blanche. And there

is this Frenchmantoowith his mysterious influence over you.

Yetyou actually ask me such a question! If you do not tell me

how things standI shall have to put in my oar and do something.

Are you ashamed to be frank with me? Are you shy of me? "

"I am not going to talk to you on that subject. I have asked

you a questionand am waiting for an answer."

"Wellthen--I will kill whomsoever you wish" I said. "Butare

you REALLY going to bid me do such deeds?"

"Why should you think that I am going to let you off? I shall

bid you do itor else renounce me. Could you ever do the

latter? Noyou know that you couldn't. You would first kill

whom I had bidden youand then kill ME for having dared to send

you away!"

Something seemed to strike upon my brain as I heard these words.

Of courseat the time I took them half in jest and half as a

challenge; yetshe had spoken them with great seriousness. I

felt thunderstruck that she should so express herselfthat she

should assert such a right over methat she should assume such

authority and say outright: "Either you kill whom I bid youor

I will have nothing more to do with you." Indeedin what she

had said there was something so cynical and unveiled as to pass

all bounds. For how could she ever regard me as the same after

the killing was done? This was more than slavery and abasement;

it was sufficient to bring a man back to his right senses. Yet

despite the outrageous improbability of our conversationmy

heart shook within me.

Suddenlyshe burst out laughing. We were seated on a bench near

the spot where the children were playing--just opposite the point

in the alley-way before the Casino where the carriages drew up

in order to set down their occupants.

"Do you see that fat Baroness?" she cried. "It is the Baroness

Burmergelm. She arrived three days ago. Just look at her

husband--that tallwizened Prussian therewith the stick in his

hand. Do you remember how he stared at us the other day? Well

go to the Baronesstake off your hat to herand say something

in French."


"Because you have sworn that you would leap from the

Shlangenberg for my sakeand that you would kill any one whom I

might bid you kill. Wellinstead of such murders and tragedies

I wish only for a good laugh. Go without answering meand let

me see the Baron give you a sound thrashing with his stick."

"Then you throw me out a challenge?--you think that I will not

do it?"

"YesI do challenge you. Gofor such is my will."

"Then I WILL gohowever mad be your fancy. Onlylook here:

shall you not be doing the General a great disserviceas well

asthrough hima great disservice to yourself? It is not about

myself I am worrying-- it is about you and the General. Whyfor

a mere fancyshould I go and insult a woman?"

"Ah! Then I can see that you are only a trifler" she said

contemptuously. "Your eyes are swimming with blood--but only

because you have drunk a little too much at luncheon. Do I not

know that what I have asked you to do is foolish and wrongand

that the General will be angry about it? But I want to have a

good laughall the same. I want thatand nothing else. Why

should you insult a womanindeed? Wellyou will be given a

sound thrashing for so doing."

I turned awayand went silently to do her bidding. Of course

the thing was follybut I could not get out of it. I remember

thatas I approached the BaronessI felt as excited as a

schoolboy. I was in a frenzyas though I were drunk.


Two days have passed since that day of lunacy. What a noise and

a fuss and a chattering and an uproar there was! And what a

welter of unseemliness and disorder and stupidity and bad

manners! And I the cause of it all! Yet part of the scene was

also ridiculous--at all events to myself it was so. I am not

quite sure what was the matter with me--whether I was merely

stupefied or whether I purposely broke loose and ran amok.

At times my mind seems all confused; while at other times

I seem almost to be back in my childhoodat the school desk

and to have done the deed simply out of mischief.

It all came of Polina--yesof Polina. But for herthere might

never have been a fracas. Or perhaps I did the deed in a fit of

despair (though it may be foolish of me to think so)? What there

is so attractive about her I cannot think. Yet there IS

something attractive about her--something passing fairit would

seem. Others besides myself she has driven to distraction. She

is tall and straightand very slim. Her body looks as though it

could be tied into a knotor bent doublelike a cord. The

imprint of her foot is long and narrow. It isa maddening

imprint--yessimply a maddening one! And her hair has a reddish

tint about itand her eyes are like cat's eyes--though able also

to glance with prouddisdainful mien. On the evening of my

first arrivalfour months agoI remember that she was sitting

and holding an animated conversation with De Griers in the

salon. And the way in which she looked at him was such that

laterwhen I retired to my own room upstairsI kept fancying

that she had smitten him in the face--that she had smitten him

right on the cheekso peculiar had been her look as she stood

confronting him. Ever since that evening I have loved her.

But to my tale.

I stepped from the path into the carriage-wayand took my stand

in the middle of it. There I awaited the Baron and the Baroness.

When they were but a few paces distant from me I took off my

hatand bowed.

I remember that the Baroness was clad in a voluminous silk

dresspale grey in colourand adorned with flounces and a

crinoline and train. Alsoshe was short and inordinately stout

while her grossflabby chin completely concealed her neck. Her

face was purpleand the little eyes in it had an impudent

malicious expression. Yet she walked as though she were

conferring a favour upon everybody by so doing. As for the

Baronhe was tallwizenedbony-faced after the German

fashionspectacledandapparentlyabout forty-five years of

age. Alsohe had legs which seemed to begin almost at his

chest--orratherat his chin! Yetfor all his air of

peacock-like conceithis clothes sagged a littleand his face

wore a sheepish air which might have passed for profundity.

These details I noted within a space of a few seconds.

At first my bow and the fact that I had my hat in my hand barely

caught their attention. The Baron only scowled a littleand the

Baroness swept straight on.

"Madame la Baronne" said Iloudly and distinctly--embroidering

each wordas it were--"j'ai l'honneur d'etre votre esclave."

Then I bowed againput on my hatand walked past the Baron

with a rude smile on my face.

Polina had ordered me merely to take off my hat: the bow and the

general effrontery were of my own invention. God knows what

instigated me to perpetrate the outrage! In my frenzy I felt as

though I were walking on air

"Hein!" ejaculated--orrathergrowled--the Baron as he turned

towards me in angry surprise.

I too turned roundand stood waiting in pseudo-courteous

expectation. Yet still I wore on my face an impudent smile as I

gazed at him. He seemed to hesitateand his brows contracted to

their utmost limits. Every moment his visage was growing darker.

The Baroness also turned in my directionand gazed at me in

wrathful perplexitywhile some of the passers-by also began to

stare at usand others of them halted outright.

"Hein!" the Baron vociferated againwith a redoubled growl

and a note of growing wrath in his voice.

"Ja wohl!" I repliedstill looking him in the eyes.

"Sind sie rasend?" he exclaimedbrandishing his stickand

apparentlybeginning to feel nervous. Perhaps it was my costume

which intimidated himfor I was well and fashionably dressed

after the manner of a man who belongs to indisputably good


"Ja wo-o-ohl!" cried I again with all my might with a

longdrawn rolling of the " ohl " sound after the fashion of the

Berliners (who constantly use the phrase "Ja wohl!" in

conversationand more or less prolong the syllable "ohl"

according as they desire to express different shades of meaning

or of mood).

At this the Baron and the Baroness faced sharply aboutand

almost fled in their alarm. Some of the bystanders gave vent to

excited exclamationsand others remained staring at me in

astonishment. But I do not remember the details very well.

Wheeling quietly aboutI returned in the direction of Polina

Alexandrovna. Butwhen I had got within a hundred paces of her

seatI saw her rise and set out with the children towards the


At the portico I caught up to her.

"I have perpetrated the--the piece of idiocy" I said as I came

level with her.

"Have you? Then you can take the consequences" she replied

without so much as looking at me. Then she moved towards the


I spent the rest of the evening walking in the park. Thence I

passed into the forestand walked on until I found myself in a

neighbouring principality. At a wayside restaurant I partook of

an omelette and some wineand was charged for the idyllic

repast a thaler and a half.

Not until eleven o'clock did I return home--to find a summons

awaiting me from the General.

Our party occupied two suites in the hotel; each of which

contained two rooms. The first (the larger suite) comprised a

salon and a smoking-roomwithadjoining the latterthe

General's study. It was here that he was awaiting me as he stood

posed in a majestic attitude beside his writing-table. Lolling

on a divan close by was De Griers.

"My good sir" the General began"may I ask you what this is

that you have gone and done?"

"I should be glad" I replied"if we could come straight to

the point. Probably you are referring to my encounter of today

with a German?"

"With a German? Whythe German was the Baron Burmergelm--a most

important personage! I hear that you have been rude both to him

and to the Baroness?"

"NoI have not."

"But I understand that you simply terrified themmy good sir?"

shouted the General.

"Not in the least" I replied. "You must know that when I was

in Berlin I frequently used to hear the Berliners repeatand

repellently prolonga certain phrase--namely'Ja wohl!'; and

happening to meet this couple in the carriage-driveI found

for some reason or anotherthat this phrase suddenly recurred

to my memoryand exercised a rousing effect upon my spirits.

Moreoveron the three previous occasions that I have met the

Baroness she has walked towards me as though I were a worm which

could easily be crushed with the foot. Not unnaturallyI too

possess a measure of self-respect; whereforeon THIS occasion I

took off my hatand said politely (yesI assure you it was

said politely): 'Madamej'ai l'honneur d'etre votre esclave.'

Then the Baron turned roundand said 'Hein!'; whereupon I

felt moved to ejaculate in answer 'Ja wohl!' Twice I shouted

it at him--the first time in an ordinary toneand the second

time with the greatest prolonging of the words of which I was

capable. That is all."

I must confess that this puerile explanation gave me great

pleasure. I felt a strong desire to overlay the incident with an

even added measure of grossness; sothe further I proceeded

the more did the gusto of my proceeding increase.

"You are only making fun of me! " vociferated the General as

turning to the Frenchmanhe declared that my bringing about of

the incident had been gratuitous. De Griers smiled

contemptuouslyand shrugged his shoulders.

"Do not think THAT" I put in. "It was not so at all. I grant

you that my behaviour was bad--I fully confess that it was so

and make no secret of the fact. I would even go so far as to

grant you that my behaviour might well be called stupid and

indecent tomfoolery; butMORE than that it was not. Alsolet me

tell you that I am very sorry for my conduct. Yet there is one

circumstance whichin my eyesalmost absolves me from regret

in the matter. Of late--that is to sayfor the last two or three

weeks--I have been feeling not at all well. That is to sayI

have been in a sicknervousirritablefanciful conditionso

that I have periodically lost control over myself. For instance

on more than one occasion I have tried to pick a quarrel even

with Monsieur le Marquise here; andunder the circumstanceshe

had no choice but to answer me. In shortI have recently been

showing signs of ill-health. Whether the Baroness Burmergelm

will take this circumstance into consideration when I come to

beg her pardon (for I do intend to make her amends) I do not

know; but I doubt if she willand the less so sinceso far as

I knowthe circumstance is one whichof latehas begun to be

abused in the legal worldin that advocates in criminal cases

have taken to justifying their clients on the ground thatat

the moment of the crimethey (the clients) were unconscious of

what they were doing--thatin shortthey were out of health.

'My client committed the murder--that is true; but he has no

recollection of having committed it.' And doctors actually

support these advocates by affirming that there really is such a

malady--that there really can arise temporary delusions which

make a man remember nothing of a given deedor only a half or a

quarter of it! But the Baron and Baroness are members of an

older generationas well as Prussian Junkers and landowners. To

them such a process in the medico-judicial world will be

unknownand thereforethey are the more unlikely to accept any

such explanation. What is YOUR opinion about itGeneral?"

"Enoughsir! " he thundered with barely restrained fury.

"EnoughI say! Once and for all I must endeavour to rid myself

of you and your impertinence. To justify yourself in the eyes of

the Baron and Baroness will be impossible. Any intercourse with

youeven though it be confined to a begging of their pardons

they would look upon as a degradation. I may tell you thaton

learning that you formed part ofmy householdthe Baron

approached me in the Casinoand demanded of me additional

satisfaction. Do you understandthenwhat it is that you have

entailed upon me--upon MEmy good sir? You have entailed upon me

the fact of my being forced to sue humbly to the Baronand to

give him my word of honour that this very day you shall cease to

belong to my establishment!"

"Excuse meGeneral" I interrupted"but did he make an

express point of it that I should 'cease to belong to your

establishment' as you call it?"

"No; Iof my own initiativethought that I ought to afford him

that satisfaction; andwith it he was satisfied. So we must

partgood sir. It is my duty to hand over to you forty gulden

three florinsas per the accompanying statement. Here is the

moneyand here the accountwhich you are at liberty to verify.

Farewell. From henceforth we are strangers. From you I have

never had anything but trouble and unpleasantness. I am about to

call the landlordand explain to him that from tomorrow onwards

I shall no longer be responsible for your hotel expenses. Also I

have the honour to remain your obedient servant."

I took the money and the account (which was indicted in pencil)

andbowing low to the Generalsaid to him very gravely:

"The matter cannot end here. I regret very much that you should

have been put to unpleasantness at the Baron's hands; butthe

fault (pardon me) is your own. How came you to answer for me to

the Baron? And what did you mean by saying that I formed part of

your household? I am merely your family tutor--not a son of

yoursnor yet your wardnor a person of any kind for whose

acts you need be responsible. I am a judicially competent

persona man of twenty-five years of agea university

graduatea gentlemananduntil I met yourselfa complete

stranger to you. Only my boundless respect for your merits

restrains me from demanding satisfaction at your handsas well

as a further explanation as to the reasons which have led you to

take it upon yourself to answer for my conduct."

So struck was he with my words thatspreading out his handshe

turned to the Frenchmanand interpreted to him that I had

challenged himself (the General) to a duel. The Frenchman

laughed aloud.

"Nor do I intend to let the Baron off" I continued calmlybut

with not a little discomfiture at De Griers' merriment. "And

since youGeneralhave today been so good as to listen to the

Baron's complaintsand to enter into his concerns--since you

have made yourself a participator in the affair--I have the

honour to inform you thattomorrow morning at the latestI

shallin my own namedemand of the said Baron a formal

explanation as to the reasons which have led him to disregard

the fact that the matter lies between him and myself aloneand

to put a slight upon me by referring it to another personas

though I were unworthy to answer for my own conduct."

Then there happened what I had foreseen. The General on hearing

of this further intended outrageshowed the white feather.

"What? " he cried. "Do you intend to go on with this damned

nonsense? Do you not realise the harm that it is doing me? I beg

of you not to laugh at mesir--not to laugh at mefor we have

police authorities here whoout of respect for my rankand for

that of the Baron... In shortsirI swear to you that I will

have you arrestedand marched out of the placeto prevent any

further brawling on your part. Do you understand what I say?"

He was almost breathless with angeras well as in a terrible


"General" I replied with that calmness which he never could

abide"one cannot arrest a man for brawling until he has

brawled. I have not so much as begun my explanations to the

Baronand you are altogether ignorant as to the form and time

which my intended procedure is likely to assume. I wish but to

disabuse the Baron of what isto mea shameful

supposition--namelythat I am under the guardianship of a person

who is qualified to exercise control over my free will. It is

vain for you to disturb and alarm yourself."

"For God's sakeAlexis Ivanovitchdo put an end to this

senseless scheme of yours!" he mutteredbut with a sudden

change from a truculent tone to one of entreaty as he caught me

by the hand. "Do you know what is likely to come of it? Merely

further unpleasantness. You will agree with meI am surethat

at present I ought to move with especial care--yeswith very

especial care. You cannot be fully aware of how I am situated.

When we leave this place I shall be ready to receive you back

into my household; butfor the time being I-- WellI cannot tell

you all my reasons." With that he wound up in a despairing

voice: " O Alexis IvanovitchAlexis Ivanovitch!"

I moved towards the door--begging him to be calmand promising

that everything should be done decently and in order; whereafter

I departed.

Russianswhen abroadare over-apt to play the poltroonto

watch all their wordsand to wonder what people are thinking of

their conductor whether such and such a thing is 'comme il

faut.' In shortthey are over-apt to cosset themselvesand to

lay claim to great importance. Always they prefer the form of

behaviour which has once and for all become accepted and

established. This they will follow slavishly whether in hotels

on promenadesat meetingsor when on a journey. But the

General had avowed to me thatover and above such

considerations as thesethere were circumstances which

compelled him to "move with especial care at present"and that the

fact had actually made him poor-spirited and a coward--it had made

him altogether change his tone towards me. This fact I took into

my calculationsand duly noted itforof coursehe MIGHT

apply to the authorities tomorrowand it behoved me to go


Yet it was not the General but Polina that I wanted to anger.

She had treated me with such crueltyand had got me into such a

holethat I felt a longing to force her to beseech me to stop.

Of coursemy tomfoolery might compromise her; yet certain other

feelings and desires had begun to form themselves in my brain.

If I was never to rank in her eyes as anything but a nonentity

it would not greatly matter if I figured as a draggle-tailed

cockereland the Baron were to give me a good thrashing; but

the fact was that I desired to have the laugh of them alland

to come out myself unscathed. Let people see what they WOULD

see. Let Polinafor oncehave a good frightand be forced to

whistle me to heel again. Buthowever much she might whistle

she should see that I was at least no draggle-tailed cockerel!


I have just received a surprising piece of news. I have just met

our chambermaid on the stairsand been informed by her that

Maria Philipovna departed todayby the night trainto stay

with a cousin at Carlsbad. What can that mean? The maid declares

that Madame packed her trunks early in the day. Yet how is it

that no one else seems to have been aware of the circumstance?

Or is it that I have been the only person to be unaware of it?

Alsothe maid has just told me thatthree days agoMaria

Philipovna had some high words with the General. I understand

then! Probably the words were concerning Mlle. Blanche.

Certainly something decisive is approaching.


In the morning I sent for the maitre d'hoteland explained to

him thatin futuremy bill was to be rendered to me

personally. As a matter of factmy expenses had never been so

large as to alarm menor to lead me to quit the hotel; while

moreoverI still had 16o gulden left to meand--in them--yesin

themperhapsriches awaited me. It was a curious factthat

though I had not yet won anything at playI nevertheless acted

thoughtand felt as though I were surebefore longto become

wealthy-- since I could not imagine myself otherwise.

NextI bethought medespite the earliness of the hourof going

to see Mr. Astleywho was staying at the Hotel de l'Angleterre

(a hostelry at no great distance from our own). But suddenly De

Griers entered my room. This had never before happenedfor of

late that gentleman and I had stood on the most strained and

distant of terms--he attempting no concealment of his contempt

for me (he even made an expresspoint of showing it)and I

having no reason to desire his company. In shortI detested

him. Consequentlyhis entry at the present moment the more

astounded me. At once I divined that something out of the way

was on the carpet.

He entered with marked affabilityand began by complimenting me

on my room. Thenperceiving that I had my hat in my handshe

inquired whither I was going so early; andno sooner did he hear

that I was bound for Mr. Astley's than he stoppedlooked grave

and seemed plunged in thought.

He was a true Frenchman insofar as thatthough he could be

lively and engaging when it suited himhe became insufferably

dull and wearisome as soon as ever the need for being lively and

engaging had passed. Seldom is a Frenchman NATURALLY civil: he

is civil only as though to order and of set purpose. Alsoif he

thinks it incumbent upon him to be fancifuloriginaland out

of the wayhis fancy always assumes a foolishunnatural vein

for the reason that it is compounded of tritehackneyed forms.

In shortthe natural Frenchman is a conglomeration of

commonplacepettyeveryday positivenessso that he is the

most tedious person in the world.--IndeedI believe that none

but greenhorns and excessively Russian people feel an attraction

towards the French; forto any man of sensibilitysuch a

compendium of outworn forms--a compendium which is built up of

drawing-room mannersexpansivenessand gaiety--becomes at once

over-noticeable and unbearable.

"I have come to see you on business" De Griers began in a very

off-handyet politetone; "nor will I seek to conceal from you

the fact that I have come in the capacity of an emissaryof

an intermediaryfrom the General. Having small knowledge of the

Russian tongueI lost most of what was said last night; butthe

General has now explained mattersand I must confess that--"

"See hereMonsieur de Griers" I interrupted. "I understand

that you have undertaken to act in this affair as an

intermediary. Of course I am only 'un utchitel' a tutorand

have never claimed to be an intimate of this householdnor to

stand on at all familiar terms with it. ConsequentlyI do not

know the whole of its circumstances. Yet pray explain to me this:

have you yourself become one of its membersseeing that you are

beginning to take such a part in everythingand are now present

as an intermediary?"

The Frenchman seemed not over-pleased at my question. It was one

which was too outspoken for his taste--and he had no mind to be

frank with me.

"I am connected with the General" he said drily"partly

through business affairsand partly through special

circumstances. My principal has sent me merely to ask you to

forego your intentions of last evening. What you contemplate is

I have no doubtvery clever; yet he has charged me to represent

to you that you have not the slightest chance of succeeding in

your endsince not only will the Baron refuse to receive you

but also he (the Baron) has at his disposal every possible means

for obviating further unpleasantness from you. Surely you can

see that yourself? Whatthenwould be the good of going on

with it all? On the other handthe General promises that at the

first favourable opportunity he will receive you back into his

householdandin the meantimewill credit you with your

salary--with 'vos appointements.' Surely that will suit youwill

it not?"

Very quietly I replied that he (the Frenchman) was labouring

under a delusion; that perhapsafter allI should not be

expelled from the Baron's presencebuton the contrarybe

listened to; finallythat I should be glad if Monsieur de

Griers would confess that he was now visiting me merely in order

to see how far I intended to go in the affair.

"Good heavens!" cried de Griers. "Seeing that the General

takes such an interest in the matteris there anything very

unnatural in his desiring also to know your plans? "

Again I began my explanationsbut the Frenchman only fidgeted

and rolled his head about as he listened with an expression of

manifest and unconcealed irony on his face. In shorthe adopted

a supercilious attitude. For my own partI endeavoured to

pretend that I took the affair very seriously. I declared that

since the Baron had gone and complained of me to the Generalas

though I were a mere servant of the General'she hadin the

first placelost me my postandin the second placetreated

me like a person to whomas to one not qualified to answer for

himselfit was not even worth while to speak. NaturallyI

saidI felt insulted at this. Yetcomprehending as I did

differences of yearsof social statusand so forth (here I

could scarcely help smiling)I was not anxious to bring about

further scenes by going personally to demand or to request

satisfaction of the Baron. All that I felt was that I had a

right to go in person and beg the Baron's and the Baroness's

pardon--the more so sinceof lateI had been feeling unwell and

unstrungand had been in a fanciful condition. And so forth

and so forth. Yet (I continued) the Baron's offensive behaviour

to me of yesterday (that is to saythe fact of his referring

the matter to the General) as well as his insistence that the

General should deprive me of my posthad placed me in such a

position that I could not well express my regret to him (the

Baron) and to his good ladyfor the reason that in all

probability both he and the Baronesswith the world at large

would imagine that I was doing so merely because I hopedby my

actionto recover my post. HenceI found myself forced to

request the Baron to express to me HIS OWN regretsas well as

to express them in the most unqualified manner--to sayin fact

that he had never had any wish to insult me. After the Baron had

done THATI shouldfor my partat once feel free to express

to himwhole-heartedly and without reservemy own regrets."

In short" I declared in conclusion" my one desire is that the

Baron may make it possible for me to adopt the latter course."

"Oh fie! What refinements and subtleties!" exclaimed De

Griers. "Besideswhat have you to express regret for? Confess

MonsieurMonsieur--pardon mebut I have forgotten your

name--confessI saythat all this is merely a plan to annoy the

General? Or perhapsyou have some other and special end in

view? Eh?"

"In return you must pardon MEmon cher Marquisand tell me

what you have to do with it."

"The General--"

"But what of the General? Last night he said thatfor some

reason or anotherit behoved him to 'move with especial care at

present;' whereforehe was feeling nervous. But I did not

understand the reference."

"Yesthere DO exist special reasons for his doing so"

assented De Griers in a conciliatory toneyet with rising

anger. "You are acquainted with Mlle. de Comingesare you not?"

"Mlle. Blancheyou mean?"

"YesMlle. Blanche de Cominges. Doubtless you know also that

the General is in love with this young ladyand may even be

about to marry her before he leaves here? Imaginetherefore

what any scene or scandal would entail upon him!"

"I cannot see that the marriage scheme needbe affected by

scenes or scandals."

"Mais le Baron est si irascible--un caractere prussienvous

savez! Enfin il fera une querelle d'Allemand."

"I do not care" I replied"seeing that I no longer belong to

his household" (of set purpose I was trying to talk as

senselessly as possible). "But is it quite settled that Mlle.

is to marry the General? What are they waiting for? Why should

they conceal such a matter--at all events from ourselvesthe

General's own party?"

"I cannot tell you. The marriage is not yet a settled affair

for they are awaiting news from Russia. The General has business

transactions to arrange."

"Ah! Connecteddoubtlesswith madame his mother?"

De Griers shot at me a glance of hatred.

"To cut things short" he interrupted"I have complete

confidence in your native politenessas well as in your tact

and good sense. I feel sure that you will do what I suggest

even if it is only for the sake of this family which has

received you as a kinsman into its bosom and has always loved

and respected you."

"Be so good as to observe" I remarked"that the same family

has just EXPELLED me from its bosom. All that you are saying you

are saying but for show; butwhen people have just said to you

'Of course we do not wish to turn you outyetfor the sake of

appearance'syou must PERMIT yourself to be turned out'

nothing can matter very much."

"Very wellthen" he saidin a sterner and more arrogant

tone. "Seeing that my solicitations have had no effect upon

youit is my duty to mention that other measures will be taken.

There exist here policeyou must rememberand this very day

they shall send you packing. Que diable! To think of a blanc bec

like yourself challenging a person like the Baron to a duel! Do

you suppose that you will be ALLOWED to do such things? Just try

doing themand see if any one will be afraid of you! The reason

why I have asked you to desist is that I can see that your

conduct is causing the General annoyance. Do you believe that

the Baron could not tell his lacquey simply to put you out of


"Nevertheless I should not GO out of doors" I retorted with

absolute calm. "You are labouring under a delusionMonsieur de

Griers. The thing will be done in far better trim than you

imagine. I was just about to start for Mr. Astley'sto ask him

to be my intermediary--in other wordsmy second. He has a strong

liking for meand I do not think that he will refuse. He will

go and see the Baron on MY behalfand the Baron will certainly

not decline to receive him. Although I am only a tutor--a kind of

subalternMr. Astley is known to all men as the nephew of a

real English lordthe Lord Piebrochas well as a lord in his

own right. Yesyou may be pretty sure that the Baron will be

civil to Mr. Astleyand listen to him. Orshould he decline to

do soMr. Astley will take the refusal as a personal affront to

himself (for you know how persistent the English are?) and

thereupon introduce to the Baron a friend of his own (and he has

many friends in a good position). That being sopicture to

yourself the issue of the affair--an affair which will not quite

end as you think it will."

This caused the Frenchman to bethink him of playing the coward.

"Really things may be as this fellow says" he evidently

thought. "Really he MIGHT be able to engineer another scene."

"Once more I beg of you to let the matter drop" he continued

in a tone that was now entirely conciliatory. "One would think

that it actually PLEASED you to have scenes! Indeedit is a

brawl rather than genuine satisfaction that you are seeking. I

have said that the affair may prove to be divertingand even

cleverand that possibly you may attain something by it; yet

none the less I tell you" (he said this only because he saw me

rise and reach for my hat) "that I have come hither also to

hand you these few words from a certain person. Read them

pleasefor I must take her back an answer."

So sayinghe took from his pocket a smallcompact

wafer-sealed noteand handed it to me. In Polina's handwriting

I read:

"I hear that you are thinking of going on with this affair. You

have lost your temper nowand are beginning to play the fool!

Certain circumstanceshoweverI may explain to you later. Pray

cease from your follyand put a check upon yourself. For folly

it all is. I have need of youandmoreoveryou have promised

to obey me. Remember the Shlangenberg. I ask you to be

obedient. If necessaryI shall even BID you be obedient.--Your


"P.S.--If so be that you still bear a grudge against me for what

happened last nightpray forgive me."

Everythingto my eyesseemed to change as I read these words.

My lips grew paleand I began to tremble. Meanwhilethe cursed

Frenchman was eyeing me discreetly and askanceas though he

wished to avoid witnessing my confusion. It would have been

better if he had laughed outright.

"Very well" I said"you can tell Mlle. not to disturb

herself. But" I added sharply"I would also ask you why you

have been so long in handing me this note? Instead of chattering

about triflesyou ought to have delivered me the missive at

once--if you have really come commissioned as you say."

"Wellpardon some natural haste on my partfor the situation

is so strange. I wished first to gain some personal knowledge of

your intentions; andmoreoverI did not know the contents of

the noteand thought that it could be given you at any time."

"I understand" I replied. "So you were ordered to hand me the

note only in the last resortand if you could not otherwise

appease me? Is it not so? Speak outMonsieur de Griers."

"Perhaps" said heassuming a look of great forbearancebut

gazing at me in a meaning way.

I reached for my hat; whereupon he noddedand went out. Yet on

his lips I fancied that I could see a mocking smile. How could

it have been otherwise?

"You and I are to have a reckoning laterMaster Frenchman" I

muttered as I descended the stairs. "Yeswe will measure our

strength together." Yet my thoughts were all in confusionfor

again something seemed to have struck me dizzy. Presently the

air revived me a littleanda couple of minutes latermy

brain had sufficiently cleared to enable two ideas in particular

to stand out in it. FirstlyI asked myselfwhich of the

absurdboyishand extravagant threats which I had uttered at

random last night had made everybody so alarmed? Secondlywhat

was the influence which this Frenchman appeared to exercise over

Polina? He had but to give the wordand at once she did as he

desired--at once she wrote me a note to beg of me to forbear! Of

coursethe relations between the pair hadfrom the firstbeen

a riddle to me--they had been so ever since I had first made

their acquaintance. But of late I had remarked in her a strong

aversion foreven a contempt for--himwhilefor his parthe

had scarcely even looked at herbut had behaved towards her

always in the most churlish fashion. YesI had noted that.

AlsoPolina herself had mentioned to me her dislike for him

and delivered herself of some remarkable confessions on the

subject. Hencehe must have got her into his power

somehow--somehow he must be holding her as in a vice.


All at onceon the Promenadeas it was called--that is to say

in the Chestnut Avenue--I came face to face with my Englishman.

"I was just coming to see you" he said; "and you appear to be

out on a similar errand. So you have parted with your employers?"

"How do you know that?" I asked in astonishment. "Is EVERY ONE

aware of the fact? "

"By no means. Not every one would consider such a fact to be of

moment. IndeedI have never heard any one speak of it."

"Then how come you to know it?"

"Because I have had occasion to do so. Whither are you bound? I

like youand was therefore coming to pay you a visit."

"What a splendid fellow you areMr. Astley!" I criedthough

still wondering how he had come by his knowledge. "And since I

have not yet had my coffeeand you havein all probability

scarcely tasted yourslet us adjourn to the Casino Cafewhere

we can sit and smoke and have a talk."

The cafe in question was only a hundred paces away; sowhen

coffee had been broughtwe seated ourselvesand I lit a

cigarette. Astley was no smokerbuttaking a seat by my side

he prepared himself to listen.

"I do not intend to go away" was my first remark. "I intend

on the contraryto remain here."

"That I never doubted" he answered good-humouredly.

It is a curious fact thaton my way to see himI had never

even thought of telling him of my love for Polina. In factI

had purposely meant to avoid any mention of the subject. Nor

during our stay in the placehad I ever made aught but the

scantiest reference to it. You seenot only was Astley a man of

great reservebut also from the first I had perceived that

Polina had made a great impression upon himalthough he never

spoke of her. But nowstrangely enoughhe had no sooner seated

himself and bent his steely gaze upon methanfor some reason

or anotherI felt moved to tell him everything--to speak to him

of my love in all its phases. For an hour and a half did I

discourse on the subjectand found it a pleasure to do soeven

though this was the first occasion on which I had referred to

the matter. Indeedwhenat certain momentsI perceived that

my more ardent passages confused himI purposely increased my

ardour of narration. Yet one thing I regret: and that is that I

made references to the Frenchman which were a little


Mr. Astley sat without moving as he listened to me. Not a word

nor a sound of any kind did he utter as he stared into my eyes.

Suddenlyhoweveron my mentioning the Frenchmanhe

interrupted meand inquired sternly whether I did right to

speak of an extraneous matter (he had always been a strange man

in his mode of propounding questions).

"NoI fear not" I replied.

"And concerning this Marquis and Mlle. Polina you know nothing

beyond surmise?"

Again I was surprised that such a categorical question should

come from such a reserved individual.

"NoI know nothing FOR CERTAIN about them" was my reply.


"Then you have done very wrong to speak of them to meor even

to imagine things about them."

"Quite soquite so" I interrupted in some astonishment. "I

admit that. Yet that is not the question." Whereupon I related

to him in detail the incident of two days ago. I spoke of

Polina's outburstof my encounter with the Baronof my

dismissalof the General's extraordinary pusillanimityand of

the call which De Griers had that morning paid me. In

conclusionI showed Astley the note which I had lately received.

"What do you make of it?" I asked. "When I met you I was just

coming to ask you your opinion. For myselfI could have killed

this Frenchmanand am not sure that I shall not do so even yet."

"I feel the same about it" said Mr. Astley. "As for Mlle.

Polina--wellyou yourself know thatif necessity drivesone

enters into relation with people whom one simply detests. Even

between this couple there may be something whichthough unknown

to youdepends upon extraneous circumstances. Formy own part

I think that you may reassure yourself--or at all events

partially. And as for Mlle. Polina's proceedings of two days

agothey wereof coursestrange; not because she can have

meant to get rid of youor to earn for you a thrashing from the

Baron's cudgel (which for some curious reasonhe did not use

although he had it ready in his hands)but because such

proceedings on the part of such--wellof such a refined lady as

Mlle. Polina areto say the least of itunbecoming. But she

cannot have guessed that you would carry out her absurd wish to

the letter?"

"Do you know what?" suddenly I cried as I fixed Mr. Astley

with my gaze. "I believe that you have already heard the story

from some one--very possibly from Mlle. Polina herself?"

In return he gave me an astonished stare.

"Your eyes look very fiery" he said with a return of his

former calm"and in them I can read suspicion. Nowyou have

no right whatever to be suspicious. It is not a right which I

can for a moment recogniseand I absolutely refuse to answer

your questions."

"Enough! You need say no more" I cried with a strange emotion

at my heartyet not altogether understanding what had aroused

that emotion in my breast. Indeedwhenwhereand how could

Polina have chosen Astley to be one of her confidants? Of late I

had come rather to overlook him in this connectioneven though

Polina had always been a riddle to me--so much so that nowwhen

I had just permitted myself to tell my friend of my infatuation

in all its aspectsI had found myself struckduring the very

tellingwith the fact that in my relations with her I could

specify nothing that was explicitnothing that was positive. On

the contrarymy relations had been purely fantasticstrange

and unreal; they had been unlike anything else that I could

think of.

"Very wellvery well" I replied with a warmth equal to

Astley's own. "Then I stand confoundedand have no further

opinions to offer. But you are a good fellowand I am glad to

know what you think about it alleven though I do not need your


Thenafter a pauseI resumed:

"For instancewhat reason should you assign for the General

taking fright in this way? Why should my stupid clowning have

led the world to elevate it into a serious incident? Even De

Griers has found it necessary to put in his oar (and he only

interferes on the most important occasions)and to visit me

and to address to me the most earnest supplications. YesHEDe

Griershas actually been playing the suppliant to ME! Andmark

youalthough he came to me as early as nine o'clockhe had

ready-prepared in his hand Mlle. Polina's note. WhenI would

askwas that note written? Mlle. Polina must have been aroused

from sleep for the express purpose of writing it. At all events

the circumstance shows that she is an absolute slave to the

Frenchmansince she actually begs my pardon in the

note--actually begs my pardon! Yet what is her personal concern

in the matter? Why is she interested in it at all? Whytoois

the whole party so afraid of this precious Baron? And what sort

of a business do you call it for the General to be going to

marry Mlle. Blanche de Cominges? He told me last night that

because of the circumstancehe must 'move with especial care at

present.' What is your opinion of it all? Your look convinces me

that you know more about it than I do."

Mr. Astley smiled and nodded.

"YesI think I DO know more about it than you do" he

assented. "The affair centres around this Mlle. Blanche. Of

that I feel certain."

"And what of Mlle. Blanche?" I cried impatiently (for in me

there had dawned a sudden hope that this would enable me to

discover something about Polina).

"Wellmy belief is that at the present moment Mlle. Blanche

hasin very trutha special reason for wishing to avoid any

trouble with the Baron and the Baroness. It might lead not only

to some unpleasantnessbut even to a scandal."

"Ohoh! "

"Also I may tell you that Mlle. Blanche has been in

Roulettenberg beforefor she was staying here three seasons

ago. I myself was in the place at the timeand in those days

Mlle. Blanche was not known as Mlle. de Comingesnor was her

motherthe Widow de Comingeseven in existence. In any case

no one ever mentioned the latter. De Grierstoohad not

materialisedand I am convinced that not only do the parties

stand in no relation to one anotherbut also they have not long

enjoyed one another's acquaintance. Likewisethe Marquisate de

Griers is of recent creation. Of that I have reason to be sure

owing to a certain circumstance. Even the name De Griers itself

may be taken to be a new inventionseeing that I have a friend

who once met the said 'Marquis' under a different name


"Yet he possesses a good circle of friends?"

"Possibly. Mlle. Blanche also may possess that. Yet it is not

three years since she received from the local policeat the

instance of the Baronessan invitation to leave the town. And

she left it."

"But why?"

"WellI must tell you that she first appeared here in company

with an Italian--a prince of some sorta man who bore an

historic name (Barberini or something of the kind). The fellow

was simply a mass of rings and diamonds -- real diamondstoo --

and the couple used to drive out in a marvellous carriage. At

first Mlle. Blanche played 'trente et quarante' with fair success

butlaterher luck took a marked change for the worse. I

distinctly remember that in a single evening she lost an

enormous sum. But worse was to ensuefor one fine morning her

prince disappeared--horsescarriageand all. Alsothe hotel

bill which he left unpaid was enormous. Upon this Mlle. Zelma

(the name which she assumed after figuring as Madame Barberini)

was in despair. She shrieked and howled all over the hoteland

even tore her clothes in her frenzy. In the hotel there was

staying also a Polish count (you must know that ALL travelling

Poles are counts!)and the spectacle of Mlle. Zelma tearing her

clothes andcatlikescratching her face with her beautiful

scented nails produced upon him a strong impression. So the pair

had a talk togetherandby luncheon timeshe was consoled.

Indeedthat evening the couple entered the Casino arm-in-arm --

Mlle. Zelma laughing loudlyaccording to her customand

showing even more expansiveness in her manners than she had

before shown. For instanceshe thrust her way into the file of

women roulette-players in the exact fashion of those ladies who

to clear a space for themselves at the tablespush their

fellow-players roughly aside. Doubtless you have noticed them?"


"Wellthey are not worth noticing. To the annoyance of the

decent public they are allowed to remain here--at all events such

of them as daily change 4000 franc notes at the tables (though

as soon as ever these women cease to do sothey receive an

invitation to depart). HoweverMlle. Zelma continued to change

notes of this kindbut her play grew more and more

unsuccessfuldespite the fact that such ladies' luck is

frequently goodfor they have a surprising amount of cash at

their disposal. Suddenlythe Count too disappearedeven as the

Prince had doneand that same evening Mlle. Zelma was forced to

appear in the Casino alone. On this occasion no one offered her

a greeting. Two days later she had come to the end of her

resources; whereuponafter staking and losing her last louis

d'or she chanced to look around herand saw standing by her

side the Baron Burmergelmwho had been eyeing her with fixed

disapproval. To his distastehoweverMlle. paid no attention

butturning to him with her well-known smilerequested him to

stakeon her behalften louis on the red. Later that evening a

complaint from the Baroness led the authorities to request Mlle.

not to re-enter the Casino. If you feel in any way surprised

that I should know these petty and unedifying detailsthe

reason is that I had them from a relative of mine wholater

that eveningdrove Mlle. Zelma in his carriage from

Roulettenberg to Spa. Nowmark youMlle. wants to become

Madame Generalin order thatin futureshe may be spared the

receipt of such invitations from Casino authorities as she

received three years ago. At present she is not playing; but

that is only becauseaccording to the signsshe is lending

money to other players. Yesthat is a much more paying game. I

even suspect that the unfortunate General is himself in her

debtas well asperhapsalso De Griers. Orit may be that the

latter has entered into a partnership with her. Consequently you

yourself will see thatuntil the marriage shall have been

consummatedMlle. would scarcely like to have the attention of

the Baron and the Baroness drawn to herself. In shortto any

one in her positiona scandal would be most detrimental. You

form a member of the menage of these people; whereforeany act

of yours might cause such a scandal--and the more so since daily

she appears in public arm in arm with the General or with Mlle.

Polina. NOW do you understand?"

"NoI do not!" I shouted as I banged my fist down upon the

table--banged it with such violence that a frightened waiter came

running towards us. "Tell meMr. Astleywhyif you knew this

history all alongandconsequentlyalways knew who this Mlle.

Blanche isyou never warned either myself or the Generalnor

most of allMlle. Polina" (who is accustomed to appear in the

Casino -- in public everywhere with Mlle. Blanche)." How could you

do it?"

"It would have done no good to warn you" he replied quietly

"for the reason that you could have effected nothing. Against

what was I to warn you? As likely as notthe General knows more

about Mlle. Blanche even than I do; yet the unhappy man still

walks about with her and Mlle. Polina. Only yesterday I saw this

Frenchwoman ridingsplendidly mountedwith De Grierswhile

the General was careering in their wake on a roan horse. He had

saidthat morningthat his legs were hurting himyet his

riding-seat was easy enough. As he passed I looked at himand

the thought occurred to me that he was a man lost for ever.

Howeverit is no affair of minefor I have only recently had

the happiness to make Mlle. Polina's acquaintance. Also"--he

added this as an afterthought--"I have already told you that I

do not recognise your right to ask me certain questionshowever

sincere be my liking for you."

"Enough" I saidrising. "To me it is as clear as day that

Mlle. Polina knows all about this Mlle. Blanchebut cannot

bring herself to part with her Frenchman; whereforeshe consents

also to be seen in public with Mlle. Blanche. You may be sure

that nothing else would ever have induced her either to walk

about with this Frenchwoman or to send me a note not to touch

the Baron. Yesit is THERE that the influence lies before which

everything in the world must bow! Yet she herself it was who

launched me at the Baron! The devil take itbut I was left no

choice in the matter."

"You forgetin the first placethat this Mlle. de Cominges is

the General's inamorataandin the second placethat Mlle.

Polinathe General's step-daughterhas a younger brother and

sister whothough they are the General's own childrenare

completely neglected by this madmanand robbed as well."

"Yesyes; that is so. For me to go and desert the children now

would mean their total abandonment; whereasif I remainI

should be able to defend their interestsandperhapsto save

a moiety of their property. Yesyes; that is quite true. And

yetand yet--OhI can well understand why they are all so

interested in the General's mother!"

"In whom? " asked Mr. Astley.

"In the old woman of Moscow who declines to dieyet concerning

whom they are for ever expecting telegrams to notify the fact of

her death."

"Ahthen of course their interests centre around her. It is a

question of succession. Let that but be settledand the General

will marryMlle. Polina will be set freeand De Griers--"

"Yesand De Griers?"

"Will be repaid his moneywhich is what he is now waiting for."

"What? You think that he is waiting for that?"

"I know of nothing else" asserted Mr. Astley doggedly.

"ButI doI do!" I shouted in my fury. "He is waiting also

for the old woman's willfor the reason that it awards Mlle.

Polina a dowry. As soon as ever the money is receivedshe will

throw herself upon the Frenchman's neck. All women are like

that. Even the proudest of them become abject slaves where

marriage is concerned. What Polina is good for is to fall head

over ears in love. That is MY opinion. Look at her--especially

when she is sitting aloneand plunged in thought. All this was

pre-ordained and foretoldand is accursed. Polina could

perpetrate any mad act. She--she--But who called me by name?" I

broke off. "Who is shouting for me? I heard some one calling in

Russian'Alexis Ivanovitch!' It was a woman's voice. Listen!"

At the momentwe were approaching my hotel. We had left the cafe

long agowithout even noticing that we had done so.

"YesI DID hear a woman's voice callingbut whose I do not

know. The someone was calling you in Russian. Ah! NOW I can see

whence the cries come. They come from that lady there--the one

who is sitting on the setteethe one who has just been escorted

to the verandah by a crowd of lacqueys. Behind her see that pile

of luggage! She must have arrived by train."

"But why should she be calling ME? Hear her calling again! See!

She is beckoning to us!"

"Yesso she is" assented Mr. Astley.

"Alexis IvanovitchAlexis Ivanovitch! Good heavenswhat a

stupid fellow!" came in a despairing wail from the verandah.

We had almost reached the porticoand I was just setting foot

upon the space before itwhen my hands fell to my sides in limp

astonishmentand my feet glued themselves to the pavement!


For on the topmost tier of the hotel verandahafter being

carried up the steps in an armchair amid a bevy of footmen

maid-servantsand other menials of the hotelheaded by the

landlord (that functionary had actually run out to meet a

visitor who arrived with so much stir and dinattended by her

own retinueand accompanied by so great a pile of trunks and

portmanteaux)--on the topmost tier of the verandahI saythere

was sitting--THE GRANDMOTHER! Yesit was she--richand imposing

and seventy-five years of age--Antonida Vassilievna Tarassevitcha

landowner and grande dame of Moscow--the "La Baboulenka" who had

caused so many telegrams to be sent off and received--who had been

dyingyet not dying--who hadin her own persondescended upon

us even as snow might fall from the clouds! Though unable to walk

she had arrived borne aloft in an armchair (her mode of conveyance

for the last five years)as briskaggressiveself-satisfied

bolt-uprightloudly imperiousand generally abusive as ever.

In factshe looked exactly as she had on the only two

occasions when I had seen her since my appointment to the

General's household. Naturally enoughI stood petrified with

astonishment. She had sighted me a hundred paces off! Even while

she was being carried along in her chair she had recognised me

and called me by name and surname (whichas usualafter

hearing onceshe had remembered ever afterwards).

"And this is the woman whom they had thought to see in her

grave after making her will!" I thought to myself. "Yet she

will outlive usand every one else in the hotel. Good Lord!

what is going to become of us now? What on earth is to happen to

the General? She will turn the place upside down!"

"My good sir" the old woman continued in a stentorian voice

"what are you standing THERE forwith your eyes almost falling

out of your head? Cannot you come and say how-do-you-do? Are you

too proud to shake hands? Or do you not recognise me? Here

Potapitch!" she cried to an old servant whodressed in a frock

coat and white waistcoathad a baldred head (he was the

chamberlain who always accompanied her on her journeys). "Just

think! Alexis Ivanovitch does not recognise me! They have buried

me for good and all! Yesand after sending hosts of telegrams

to know if I were dead or not! YesyesI have heard the whole

story. I am very much alivethoughas you may see."

"Pardon meAntonida Vassilievna" I replied good humouredly as

I recovered my presence of mind. "I have no reason to wish you

ill. I am merely rather astonished to see you. Why should I not

be soseeing how unexpected--"

"WHY should you be astonished? I just got into my chairand

came. Things are quiet enough in the trainfor there is no one

there to chatter. Have you been out for a walk?"

"Yes. I have just been to the Casino."

"Oh? Wellit is quite nice here" she went on as she looked

about her. "The place seems comfortableand all the trees are

out. I like it very well. Are your people at home? Is the

Generalfor instanceindoors?"

"Yes; and probably all of them."

"Do they observe the convenancesand keep up appearances? Such

things always give one tone. I have heard that they are keeping

a carriageeven as Russian gentlefolks ought to do. When

abroadour Russian people always cut a dash. Is Prascovia here

too ?"

"Yes. Polina Alexandrovna is here."

"And the Frenchwoman? HoweverI will go and look for them

myself. Tell me the nearest way to their rooms. Do you like

being here?"

"YesI thank youAntonida Vassilievna."

"And youPotapitchyou go and tell that fool of a landlord to

reserve me a suitable suite of rooms. They must be handsomely

decoratedand not too high up. Have my luggage taken up to

them. But what are you tumbling over yourselves for? Why are you

all tearing about? What scullions these fellows are!--Who is that

with you?" she added to myself.

"A Mr. Astley" I replied.

"And who is Mr. Astley?"

"A fellow-travellerand my very good friendas well as an

acquaintance of the General's."

"Ohan Englishman? Then that is why he stared at me without

even opening his lips. HoweverI like Englishmen. Nowtake me

upstairsdirect to their rooms. Where are they lodging?"

Madame was lifted up in her chair by the lacqueysand I

preceded her up the grand staircase. Our progress was

exceedingly effectivefor everyone whom we met stopped to stare

at the cortege. It happened that the hotel had the reputation of

being the bestthe most expensiveand the most aristocratic in

all the spaand at every turn on the staircase or in the

corridors we encountered fine ladies and important-looking

Englishmen--more than one of whom hastened downstairs to inquire

of the awestruck landlord who the newcomer was. To all such

questions he returned the same answer--namelythat the old lady

was an influential foreignera Russiana Countessand a

grande dameand that she had taken the suite whichduring the

previous weekhad been tenanted by the Grande Duchesse de N.

Meanwhile the cause of the sensation--the Grandmother--was being

borne aloft in her armchair. Every person whom she met she

scanned with an inquisitive eyeafter first of all

interrogating me about him or her at the top of her voice. She

was stout of figureandthough she could not leave her chair

one feltthe moment that one first looked at herthat she was

also tall of stature. Her back was as straight as a board

and never did she lean back in her seat. Alsoher large grey

headwith its keenrugged featuresremained always erect as

she glanced about her in an imperiouschallenging sort of way

with looks and gestures that clearly were unstudied. Though she

had reached her seventy-sixth yearher face was still fresh

and her teeth had not decayed. Lastlyshe was dressed in a

black silk gown and white mobcap.

"She interests me tremendously" whispered Mr. Astley asstill

smokinghe walked by my side. Meanwhile I was reflecting that

probably the old lady knew all about the telegramsand even

about De Griersthough little or nothing about Mlle. Blanche. I

said as much to Mr. Astley.

But what a frail creature is man! No sooner was my first

surprise abated than I found myself rejoicing in the shock which

we were about to administer to the General. So much did the

thought inspire me that I marched ahead in the gayest of


Our party was lodging on the third floor. Without knocking at

the dooror in any way announcing our presenceI threw open

the portalsand the Grandmother was borne through them in

triumph. As though of set purposethe whole party chanced at

that moment to be assembled in the General's study. The time was

eleven o'clockand it seemed that an outing of some sort (at

which a portion of the party were to drive in carriagesand

others to ride on horsebackaccompanied by one or two

extraneous acquaintances) was being planned. The General was

presentand also Polinathe childrenthe latter's nursesDe

GriersMlle. Blanche (attired in a riding-habit)her mother

the young Princeand a learned German whom I beheld for the

first time. Into the midst of this assembly the lacqueys

conveyed Madame in her chairand set her down within three

paces of the General!

Good heavens! Never shall I forget the spectacle which ensued!

Just before our entrythe General had

been holding forth to the companywith De Griers in support of

him. I may also mention thatfor the last two or three days

Mlle. Blanche and De Griers had been making a great deal of the

young Princeunder the very nose of the poor General. In short

the companythough decorous and conventionalwas in a gay

familiar mood. But no sooner did the Grandmother appear than the

General stopped dead in the middle of a wordandwith jaw

droppingstared hard at the old lady--his eyes almost starting

out of his headand his expression as spellbound as though he

had just seen a basilisk. In returnthe Grandmother stared at

him silently and without moving--though with a look of mingled

challengetriumphand ridicule in her eyes. For ten seconds

did the pair remain thus eyeing one anotheramid the profound

silence of the company; and even De Griers sat petrified--an

extraordinary look of uneasiness dawning on his face. As for

Mlle. Blancheshe too stared wildly at the Grandmotherwith

eyebrows raised and her lips parted-- while the Prince and the

German savant contemplated the tableau in profound amazement.

Only Polina looked anything but perplexed or surprised.

Presentlyhowevershe too turned as white as a sheetand then

reddened to her temples. Truly the Grandmother's arrival seemed

to be a catastrophe for everybody! For my own partI stood

looking from the Grandmother to the companyand back again

while Mr. Astleyas usualremained in the backgroundand

gazed calmly and decorously at the scene.

"Wellhere I am--and instead of a telegramtoo!" the

Grandmother at last ejaculatedto dissipate the silence.

"What? You were not expecting me?"

"Antonida Vassilievna! O my dearest mother! But how on earth

did youdid you--?" The mutterings of the unhappy General died


I verily believe that if the Grandmother had held her tongue a

few seconds longer she would have had a stroke.

"How on earth did I WHAT?" she exclaimed. "WhyI just got

into the train and came here. What else is the railway meant

for? But you thought that I had turned up my toes and left my

property to the lot of you. OhI know ALL about the telegrams

which you have been dispatching. They must have cost you a

pretty sumI should thinkfor telegrams are not sent from

abroad for nothing. WellI picked up my heelsand came here.

Who is this Frenchman? Monsieur de GriersI suppose?"

"Ouimadame" assented De Griers. "Etcroyezje suis si

enchante! Votre sante--c'est un miracle vous voir ici. Une

surprise charmante!"

"Just so. 'Charmante!' I happen to know you as a mountebank

and therefore trust you no more than THIS." She indicated her

little finger. "And who is THAT?" she went onturning towards

Mlle. Blanche. Evidently the Frenchwoman looked so becoming in

her riding-habitwith her whip in her handthat she had made

an impression upon the old lady. "Who is that woman there?"

"Mlle. de Cominges" I said. "And this is her motherMadamede

Cominges. They also are staying in the hotel."

"Is the daughter married?" asked the old ladywithout the

least semblance of ceremony.

"No" I replied as respectfully as possiblebut under my


"Is she good company?"

I failed to understand the question.

"I meanis she or is she not a bore? Can she speak Russian?

When this De Griers was in Moscow he soon learnt to make himself


I explained to the old lady that Mlle. Blanche had never visited


"Bonjourthen" said Madamewith sudden brusquerie.

"Bonjourmadame" replied Mlle. Blanche with an elegant

ceremonious bow asunder cover of an unwonted modestyshe

endeavoured to expressboth in face and figureher extreme

surprise at such strange behaviour on the part of the


"How the woman sticks out her eyes at me! How she mows and

minces!" was the Grandmother's comment. Then she turned

suddenly to the Generaland continued: "I have taken up my

abode hereso am going to be your next-door neighbour. Are you

glad to hear thator are you not?"

"My dear motherbelieve me when I say that I am. sincerely

delighted" returned the Generalwho had nowto a certain

extentrecovered his senses; and inasmuch aswhen occasion

arosehe could speak with fluencygravityand a certain

effecthe set himself to be expansive in his remarksand went

on: "We have been so dismayed and upset by the news of your

indisposition! We had received such hopeless telegrams about

you! Then suddenly--"

"Fibsfibs!" interrupted the Grandmother.

"How on earthtoodid you come to decide upon the journey?"

continued the Generalwith raised voice as he hurried to

overlook the old lady's last remark. "Surelyat your ageand

in your present state of healththe thing is so unexpected that

our surprise is at least intelligible. HoweverI am glad to see

you (as indeedare we all"--he said this with a dignifiedyet

conciliatorysmile)"and will use my best endeavours to

render your stay here as pleasant as possible."

"Enough! All this is empty chatter. You are talking the usual

nonsense. I shall know quite well how to spend my time. How did

I come to undertake the journeyyou ask? Wellis there

anything so very surprising about it? It was done quite simply.

What is every one going into ecstasies about?--How do you do

Prascovia? What are YOU doing here?"

"And how are YOUGrandmother?" replied Polinaas she

approached the old lady. "Were you long on the journey?".

"The most sensible question that I have yet been asked! Well

you shall hear for yourself how it all happened. I lay and lay

and was doctored and doctored; until at last I drove the

physicians from meand called in an apothecary from Nicolai who

had cured an old woman of a malady similar to my own--cured her

merely with a little hayseed. Wellhe did me a great deal of

goodfor on the third day I broke into a sweatand was able to

leave my bed. Then my German doctors held another consultation

put on their spectaclesand told me that if I would go abroad

and take a course of the watersthe indisposition would finally

pass away. 'Why should it not?' I thought to myself. So I had

got things readyand on the following daya Fridayset out for

here. I occupied a special compartment in the trainand where

ever I had to change I found at the station bearers who were

ready to carry me for a few coppers. You have nice quarters

here" she went on as she glanced around the room. " But where

on earth did you get the money for themmy good sir? I thought

that everything of yours had been mortgaged? This Frenchman

alone must be your creditor for a good deal. OhI know all

about itall about it."

"I-I am surprised at youmy dearest mother" said the General

in some confusion. "I-I am greatly surprised. But I do not

need any extraneous control of my finances. Moreovermy

expenses do not exceed my incomeand we--"

"They do not exceed it? Fie! Whyyou are robbing your children

of their last kopeck--youtheir guardian!"

"After this" said the Generalcompletely taken aback

"--after what you have just saidI do not know whether--"

"You do not know what? By heavensare you never going to drop

that roulette of yours? Are you going to whistle all your

property away?"

This made such an impression upon the General that he almost

choked with fury.

"Rouletteindeed? I play roulette? Reallyin view of my

position-- Recollect what you are sayingmy dearest mother. You

must still be unwell."

"Rubbishrubbish!" she retorted. "The truth is that you

CANNOT be got away from that roulette. You are simply telling

lies. This very day I mean to go and see for myself what

roulette is like. Prascoviatell me what there is to be seen

here; and do youAlexis Ivanovitchshow me everything; and do

youPotapitchmake me a list of excursions. What IS there to be

seen?" again she inquired of Polina.

"There is a ruined castleand the Shlangenberg."

"The Shlangenberg? What is it? A forest?"

"Noa mountain on the summit of which there is a place fenced

off. From it you can get a most beautiful view."

"Could a chair be carried up that mountain of yours?"

"Doubtless we could find bearers for the purpose" I interposed.

At this moment Theodosiathe nursemaidapproached the old lady

with the General's children.

"NoI DON'T want to see them" said the Grandmother. "I hate

kissing childrenfor their noses are always wet. How

are you getting onTheodosia?"

"I am very wellthank youMadame" replied the nursemaid.

"And how is your ladyship? We have been feeling so anxious about


"YesI knowyou simple soul--But who are those other guests?"

the old lady continuedturning again to Polina. "For instance

who is that old rascal in the spectacles?"

"Prince NilskiGrandmamma" whispered Polina.

"Oha Russian? WhyI had no idea that he could understand me!

Surely he did not hear what I said? As for Mr. AstleyI have

seen him alreadyand I see that he is here again. How do you

do?" she added to the gentleman in question.

Mr. Astley bowed in silence

"Have you NOTHING to say to me?" the old lady went on. "Say

somethingfor goodness' sake! Translate to himPolina."

Polina did so.

"I have only to say" replied Mr. Astley gravelybut also with

alacrity"that I am indeed glad to see you in such good

health." This was interpreted to the Grandmotherand she seemed

much gratified.

"How well English people know how to answer one!" she remarked.

"That is why I like them so much better than French. Come

here" she added to Mr. Astley. "I will try not to bore you too

much. Polinatranslate to him that I am staying in rooms on a

lower floor. Yeson a lower floor" she repeated to Astley

pointing downwards with her finger.

Astley looked pleased at receiving the invitation.

Nextthe old lady scanned Polinafrom head to foot with minute


"I could almost have liked youPrascovia" suddenly she

remarked"for you are a nice girl--the best of the lot. You

have some character about you. I too have character. Turn round.

Surely that is not false hair that you are wearing?"

"NoGrandmamma. It is my own."

"Wellwell. I do not like the stupid fashions of today. You

are very good looking. I should have fallen in love with you if

I had been a man. Why do you not get married? It is time now

that I was going. I want to walkyet I always have to ride. Are

you still in a bad temper?" she added to the General.

"Noindeed" rejoined the now mollified General.

"I quite understand that at your time of life--"

"Cette vieille est tombee en enfance" De Griers whispered to


"But I want to look round a little" the old lady added to the

General. Will you lend me Alexis Ivanovitch for the purpose?

"As much as you like. But I myself--yesand Polina and Monsieur

de Griers too--we all of us hope to have the pleasure of

escorting you."

"Maismadamecela sera un plaisir" De Griers commented with

a bewitching smile.

"'Plaisir' indeed! WhyI look upon you as a perfect fool

monsieur." Then she remarked to the General: "I am not going to

let you have any of my money. I must be off to my rooms nowto

see what they are like. Afterwards we will look round a little.

Lift me up."

Again the Grandmother was borne aloft and carried down the

staircase amid a perfect bevy of followers--the General walking

as though he had been hit over the head with a cudgeland De

Griers seeming to be plunged in thought. Endeavouring to be left

behindMlle. Blanche next thought better of itand followed

the restwith the Prince in her wake. Only the German savant

and Madame de Cominges did not leave the General's apartments.



At spas--andprobablyall over Europe--hotel landlords and

managers are guided in their allotment of rooms to visitorsnot

so much by the wishes and requirements of those visitorsas by

their personal estimate of the same. It may also be said that

these landlords and managers seldom make a mistake. To the

Grandmotherhoweverour landlordfor some reason or another

allotted such a sumptuous suite that he fairly overreached

himself; for he assigned her a suite consisting of four

magnificently appointed roomswith bathroomservants'

quartersa separate room for her maidand so on. In fact

during the previous week the suite had been occupied by no less

a personage than a Grand Duchess: which circumstance was duly

explained to the new occupantas an excuse for raising the

price of these apartments. The Grandmother had herself carried--

orratherwheeled--through each room in turnin order that she

might subject the whole to a close and attentive scrutiny; while

the landlord--an elderlybald-headed man--walked respectfully by

her side.

What every one took the Grandmother to be I do not knowbut it

appearedat leastthat she was accounted a person not only of

great importancebut alsoand still moreof great wealth; and

without delay they entered her in the hotel register as "Madame

la GeneralePrincesse de Tarassevitcheva" although she had

never been a princess in her life. Her retinueher reserved

compartment in the trainher pile of unnecessary trunks

portmanteauxand strong-boxesall helped to increase her

prestige; while her wheeled chairher sharp tone and voiceher

eccentric questions (put with an air of the most overbearing and

unbridled imperiousness)her whole figure--uprightruggedand

commanding as it was--completed the general awe in which she was

held. As she inspected her new abode she ordered her chair to be

stopped at intervals in order thatwith finger extended towards

some article of furnitureshe might ply the respectfully

smilingyet secretly apprehensivelandlord with unexpected

questions. She addressed them to him in Frenchalthough her

pronunciation of the language was so bad that sometimes I had to

translate them. For the most partthe landlord's answers were

unsatisfactoryand failed to please her; nor were the questions

themselves of a practical naturebut relatedgenerallyto God

knows what.

For instanceon one occasion she halted before a picture which

a poor copy of a well-known originalhad a mythological subject.

"Of whom is this a portrait?" she inquired.

The landlord explained that it was probably that of a countess.

"But how know you that?" the old lady retorted.

"You live hereyet you cannot say for certain! And why is the

picture there at all? And why do its eyes look so crooked?"

To all these questions the landlord could return no satisfactory

replydespite his floundering endeavours.

"The blockhead!" exclaimed the Grandmother in Russian.

Then she proceeded on her way--only to repeat the same story in

front of a Saxon statuette which she had sighted from afarand

had commandedfor some reason or anotherto be brought to her.

Finallyshe inquired of the landlord what was the value of the

carpet in her bedroomas well as where the said carpet had been

manufactured; butthe landlord could do no more than promise to

make inquiries.

"What donkeys these people are!" she commented. Nextshe

turned her attention to the bed.

"What a huge counterpane!" she exclaimed. "Turn it back

please." The lacqueys did so.

"Further yetfurther yet" the old lady cried. "Turn it RIGHT

back. Alsotake off those pillows and bolstersand lift up the

feather bed."

The bed was opened for her inspection.

"Mercifully it contains no bugs" she remarked.

"Pull off the whole thingand then put on my own pillows and

sheets. The place is too luxurious for an old woman like myself.

It is too large for any one person. Alexis Ivanovitchcome and

see me whenever you are not teaching your pupils"

"After tomorrow I shall no longer be in the General's

service" I replied"but merely living in the hotel on my own


"Why so?"

"Becausethe other daythere arrived from Berlin a German and

his wife--persons of some importance; andit chanced thatwhen

taking a walkI spoke to them in German without having properly

compassed the Berlin accent."


"Yes: and this action on my part the Baron held to be an

insultand complained about it to the Generalwho yesterday

dismissed me from his employ."

"But I suppose you must have threatened that precious Baronor

something of the kind? Howevereven if you did soit was a

matter of no moment."

"NoI did not. The Baron was the aggressor by raising his

stick at me."

Upon that the Grandmother turned sharply to the General.

"What? You permitted yourself to treat your tutor thusyou

nincompoopand to dismiss him from his post? You are a

blockhead--an utter blockhead! I can see that clearly."

"Do not alarm yourselfmy dear mother" the General replied

with a lofty air--an air in which there was also a tinge of

familiarity. "I am quite capable of managing my own affairs.

MoreoverAlexis Ivanovitch has not given you a true account of

the matter."

"What did you do next?" The old lady inquired of me.

"I wanted to challenge the Baron to a duel" I replied as

modestly as possible; "but the General protested against my

doing so."

"And WHY did you so protest? " she inquired of the General.

Then she turned to the landlordand questioned him as to

whether HE would not have fought a duelif challenged. "For"

she added"I can see no difference between you and the Baron;

nor can I bear that German visage of yours." Upon this the

landlord bowed and departedthough he could not have understood

the Grandmother's compliment.

"Pardon meMadame" the General continued with a sneer"but

are duels really feasible?"

"Why not? All men are crowing cocksand that is why they

quarrel. YOUthoughI perceiveare a blockhead--a man who does

not even know how to carry his breeding. Lift me up. Potapitch

see to it that you always have TWO bearers ready. Go and arrange

for their hire. But we shall not require more than twofor I

shall need only to be carried upstairs. On the level or in the

street I can be WHEELED along. Go and tell them thatand pay

them in advanceso that they may show me some respect. You too

Potapitchare always to come with meand YOUAlexis

Ivanovitchare to point out to me this Baron as we go alongin

order that I may get a squint at the precious 'Von.' And where

is that roulette played?"

I explained to her that the game was carried on in the salons of

the Casino; whereupon there ensued a string of questions as to

whether there were many such salonswhether many people played

in themwhether those people played a whole day at a timeand

whether the game was managed according to fixed rules. At length

I thought it best to say that the most advisable course would be

for her to go and see it for herselfsince a mere description

of it would be a difficult matter.

"Then take me straight there" she said"and do you walk on

in front of meAlexis Ivanovitch."

"Whatmother? Before you have so much as rested from your

journey?" the General inquired with some solicitude. Alsofor

some reason which I could not divinehe seemed to be growing

nervous; andindeedthe whole party was evincing signs of

confusionand exchanging glances with one another. Probably

they were thinking that it would be a ticklish--even an

embarrassing--business to accompany the Grandmother to the

Casinowherevery likelyshe would perpetrate further

eccentricitiesand in public too! Yet on their own initiative

they had offered to escort her!

"Why should I rest?" she retorted. "I am not tiredfor I

have been sitting still these past five days. Let us see what

your medicinal springs and waters are likeand where they are

situated. Whattooabout thatthat--what did you call it

Prascovia?--ohabout that mountain top?"

"Yeswe are going to see itGrandmamma."

"Very well. Is there anything else for me to see here?"

"Yes! Quite a number of things" Polina forced herself to say.

"MarthaYOU must come with me as well" went on the old lady

to her maid.

"Nonomother!" ejaculated the General. "Really she cannot

come. They would not admit even Potapitch to the Casino."

"Rubbish! Because she is my servantis that a reason for

turning her out? Whyshe is only a human being like the rest of

us; and as she has been travelling for a week she might like to

look about her. With whom else could she go out but myself ? She

would never dare to show her nose in the street alone."


"Are you ashamed to be seen with me? Stop at homethenand

you will be asked no questions. A pretty General YOU areto be

sure! I am a general's widow myself. Butafter allwhy should

I drag the whole party with me? I will go and see the sights

with only Alexis Ivanovitch as my escort."

De Griers strongly insisted that EVERY ONE ought to accompany

her. Indeedhe launched out into a perfect shower of charming

phrases concerning the pleasure of acting as her ciceroneand

so forth. Every one was touched with his words.

"Mais elle est tombee en enfance" he added aside to the

General. " Seuleelle fera des betises." More than this I could

not overhearbut he seemed to have got some plan in his mind

or even to be feeling a slight return of his hopes.

The distance to the Casino was about half a verstand our route

led us through the Chestnut Avenue until we reached the square

directly fronting the building. The GeneralI could seewas a

trifle reassured by the fact thatthough our progress was

distinctly eccentric in its natureit wasat leastcorrect

and orderly. As a matter of factthe spectacle of a person who

is unable to walk is not anything to excite surprise at a spa.

Yet it was clear that the General had a great fear of the Casino

itself: for why should a person who had lost the use of her

limbs--more especially an old woman--be going to rooms which were

set apart only for roulette? On either side of the wheeled chair

walked Polina and Mlle. Blanche--the latter smilingmodestly

jestingandin shortmaking herself so agreeable to the

Grandmother that in the end the old lady relented towards her.

On the other side of the chair Polina had to answer an endless

flow of petty questions--such as "Who was it passed just now?"

"Who is that coming along?" "Is the town a large one?""Are

the public gardens extensive?" "What sort of trees are those?"

"What is the name of those hills?" "Do I see eagles flying

yonder?" "What is that absurd-looking building?" and so

forth. Meanwhile Astley whispered to meas he walked by my

sidethat he looked for much to happen that morning. Behind the

old lady's chair marched Potapitch and Martha--Potapitch in his

frockcoat and white waistcoatwith a cloak over alland the

forty-year-old and rosybut slightly grey-headedMartha in a

mobcapcotton dressand squeaking shoes. Frequently the old

lady would twist herself round to converse with these servants.

As for De Griershe spoke as though he had made up his mind to

do something (though it is also possible that he spoke in this

manner merely in order to hearten the Generalwith whom he

appeared to have held a conference). Butalasthe Grandmother

had uttered the fatal words"I am not going to give you any of

my money;" and though De Griers might regard these words

lightlythe General knew his mother better. AlsoI noticed

that De Griers and Mlle. Blanche were still exchanging looks;

while of the Prince and the German savant I lost sight at the

end of the Avenuewhere they had turned back and left us.

Into the Casino we marched in triumph. At onceboth in the

person of the commissionaire and in the persons of the footmen

there sprang to life the same reverence as had arisen in the

lacqueys of the hotel. Yet it was not without some curiosity

that they eyed us.

Without loss of timethe Grandmother gave orders that she should

be wheeled through every room in the establishment; of which

apartments she praised a fewwhile to others she remained

indifferent. Concerning everythinghowevershe asked

questions. Finally we reached the gaming-salonswhere a lacquey

who wasacting as guard over the doorsflung them open as

though he were a man possessed.

The Grandmother's entry into the roulette-salon produced a

profound impression upon the public. Around the tablesand at

the further end of the room where the trente-et-quarante table

was set outthere may have been gathered from 150 to 200

gamblersranged in several rows. Those who had succeeded in

pushing their way to the tables were standing with their feet

firmly plantedin order to avoid having to give up their places

until they should have finished their game (since merely to

stand looking on--thus occupying a gambler's place for

nothing--was not permitted). Truechairs were provided around

the tablesbut few players made use of them--more especially if

there was a large attendance of the general public; since to

stand allowed of a closer approach; andthereforeof greater

facilities for calculation and staking. Behind the foremost row

were herded a second and a third row of people awaiting their

turn; but sometimes their impatience led these people to

stretch a hand through the first rowin order to deposit their

stakes. Even third-row individuals would dart forward to stake;

whence seldom did more than five or ten minutes pass without a

scene over disputed money arising at one or another end of the

table. On the other handthe police of the Casino were an able

body of men; and though to escape the crush was an

impossibilityhowever much one might wish itthe eight

croupiers apportioned to each table kept an eye upon the stakes

performed the necessary reckoningand decided disputes as they


In the last resort they always called in the Casino

policeand the disputes would immediately come to an end.

Policemen were stationed about the Casino in ordinary costume

and mingled with the spectators so as to make it impossible to

recognise them. In particular they kept a lookout for

pickpockets and swindlerswho simply swanned in the roulette

salonsand reaped a rich harvest. Indeedin every direction

money was being filched from pockets or purses--thoughof

courseif the attempt miscarrieda great uproar ensued. One

had only to approach a roulette tablebegin to playand

then openly grab some one else's winningsfor a din to be

raisedand the thief to start vociferating that the stake was

HIS; andif the coup had been carried out with sufficient skill

and the witnesses wavered at all in their testimonythe thief

would as likely as not succeed in getting away with the money

provided that the sum was not a large one--not large enough to

have attracted the attention of the croupiers or some

fellow-player. Moreoverif it were a stake of insignificant

sizeits true owner would sometimes decline to continue the

disputerather than become involved in a scandal. Conversely

if the thief was detectedhe was ignominiously expelled the


Upon all this the Grandmother gazed with open-eyed curiosity;

andon some thieves happening to be turned out of the place

she was delighted. Trente-et-quarante interested her but little;

she preferred roulettewith its ever-revolving wheel. At length

she expressed a wish to view the game closer; whereupon in some

mysterious mannerthe lacqueys and other officious agents

(especially one or two ruined Poles of the kind who keep

offering their services to successful gamblers and foreigners in

general) at once found and cleared a space for the old lady

among the crushat the very centre of one of the tablesand

next to the chief croupier; after which they wheeled her chair

thither. Upon this a number of visitors who were not playing

but only looking on (particularly some Englishmen with their

families)pressed closer forward towards the tablein order

to watch the old lady from among the ranks of the gamblers. Many

a lorgnette I saw turned in her directionand the croupiers'

hopes rose high that such an eccentric player was about to

provide them with something out of the common. An old lady of

seventy-five years whothough unable to walkdesired to play

was not an everyday phenomenon. I too pressed forward towards

the tableand ranged myself by the Grandmother's side; while

Martha and Potapitch remained somewhere in the background among

the crowdand the GeneralPolinaand De Grierswith Mlle.

Blanchealso remained hidden among the spectators.

At first the old lady did no more than watch the gamblersand

ply mein a half-whisperwith sharp-broken questions as to who

was so-and-so. Especially did her favour light upon a very young

man who was plunging heavilyand had won (so it was whispered)

as much as 40000 francswhich were lying before him on the

table in a heap of gold and bank-notes. His eyes kept flashing

and his hands shaking; yet all the while he staked without any

sort of calculation--just what came to his handas he kept

winning and winningand raking and raking in his gains. Around

him lacqueys fussed--placing chairs just behind where he was

standing-- and clearing the spectators from his vicinityso that

he should have more roomand not be crowded--the whole doneof

coursein expectation of a generous largesse. From time to time

other gamblers would hand him part of their winnings--being glad

to let him stake for them as much as his hand could grasp; while

beside him stood a Pole in a state of violentbut respectful

agitationwhoalso in expectation of a generous largessekept

whispering to him at intervals (probably telling him what to

stakeand advising and directing his play). Yet never once did

the player throw him a glance as he staked and stakedand raked

in his winnings. Evidentlythe player in question was dead to

all besides.

For a few minutes the Grandmother watched him.

"Go and tell him" suddenly she exclaimed with a nudge at my

elbow"--go and tell him to stopand to take his money with

himand go home. Presently he will be losing--yeslosing

everything that he has now won." She seemed almost breathless

with excitement.

"Where is Potapitch?" she continued. "Send Potapitch to speak

to him. NoYOU must tell himyou must tell him"--here she

nudged me again--"for I have not the least notion where

Potapitch is. Sortezsortez" she shouted to the young man

until I leant over in her direction and whispered in her ear

that no shouting was allowednor even loud speakingsince to

do so disturbed the calculations of the playersand might lead

to our being ejected.

"How provoking!" she retorted. "Then the young man is done

for! I suppose he WISHES to be ruined. Yet I could not bear to

see him have to return it all. What a fool the fellow is!" and

the old lady turned sharply away.

On the leftamong the players at the other half of the tablea

young lady was playingwithbeside hera dwarf. Who the dwarf

may have been--whether a relative or a person whom she took with

her to act as a foil--I do not know; but I had noticed her there

on previous occasionssinceeverydayshe entered the Casino

at one o'clock preciselyand departed at two--thus playing for

exactly one hour. Being well-known to the attendantsshe always

had a seat provided for her; andtaking some gold and a few

thousand-franc notes out of her pocket--would begin quietly

coldlyand after much calculationto stakeand mark down the

figures in pencil on a paperas though striving to work out a

system according to whichat given momentsthe odds might

group themselves. Always she staked large coinsand either lost

or won onetwoor three thousand francs a daybut not more;

after which she would depart. The Grandmother took a long look

at her.

"THAT woman is not losing" she said. "To whom does she

belong? Do you know her? Who is she?"

"She isI believea Frenchwoman" I replied.

"Ah! A bird of passageevidently. BesidesI can see that she

has her shoes polished. Nowexplain to me the meaning of each

round in the gameand the way in which one ought to stake."

Upon this I set myself to explain the meaning of all the

combinations--of "rouge et noir" of "pair et impair" of

"manque et passe" withlastlythe different values in the

system of numbers. The Grandmother listened attentivelytook

notesput questions in various formsand laid the whole thing

to heart. Indeedsince an example of each system of stakes kept

constantly occurringa great deal of information could be

assimilated with ease and celerity. The Grandmother was vastly


"But what is zero?" she inquired. "Just now I heard the

flaxen-haired croupier call out 'zero!' And why does he keep

raking in all the money that is on the table? To think that he

should grab the whole pile for himself! What does zero mean?"

"Zero is what the bank takes for itself. If the wheel stops at

that figureeverything lying on the table becomes the absolute

property of the bank. Alsowhenever the wheel has begun to

turnthe bank ceases to pay out anything."

"Then I should receive nothing if I were staking?"

"No; unless by any chance you had PURPOSELY staked on zero; in

which case you would receive thirty-five times the value of your


"Why thirty-five timeswhen zero so often turns up? And if so

why do not more of these fools stake upon it?"

"Because the number of chances against its occurrence is


"Rubbish! PotapitchPotapitch! Come hereand I will give you

some money." The old lady took out of her pocket a

tightly-clasped purseand extracted from its depths a

ten-gulden piece. "Go at onceand stake that upon zero."

"ButMadamezero has only this moment turned up" I

remonstrated; "whereforeit may not do so again for ever so

long. Wait a littleand you may then have a better chance."

"Rubbish! Stakeplease."

"Pardon mebut zero might not turn up again untilsay

tonighteven though you had staked thousands upon it. It often

happens so."

"Rubbishrubbish! Who fears the wolf should never enter the

forest. What? We have lost? Then stake again."

A second ten-gulden piece did we loseand then I put down a

third. The Grandmother could scarcely remain seated in her

chairso intent was she upon the little ball as it leapt

through the notches of the ever-revolving wheel. Howeverthe

third ten-gulden piece followed the first two. Upon this the

Grandmother went perfectly crazy. She could no longer sit still

and actually struck the table with her fist when the croupier

cried out"Trente-six" instead of the desiderated zero.

"To listen to him!" fumed the old lady. "When will that

accursed zero ever turn up? I cannot breathe until I see it. I

believe that that infernal croupier is PURPOSELY keeping it from

turning up. Alexis Ivanovitchstake TWO golden pieces this

time. The moment we cease to stakethat cursed zero will come

turning upand we shall get nothing."

"My good Madame--"

"Stakestake! It is not YOUR money."

Accordingly I staked two ten-gulden pieces. The ball went

hopping round the wheel until it began to settle through the

notches. Meanwhile the Grandmother sat as though petrifiedwith

my hand convulsively clutched in hers.

"Zero!" called the croupier.

"There! You seeyou see!" cried the old ladyas she turned

and faced mewreathed in smiles. "I told you so! It was the

Lord God himself who suggested to me to stake those two coins.

Nowhow much ought I to receive? Why do they not pay it out to

me? Potapitch! Martha! Where are they? What has become of our

party? PotapitchPotapitch!"

"PresentlyMadame" I whispered. "Potapitch is outsideand

they would decline to admit him to these rooms. See! You are

being paid out your money. Pray take it." The croupiers were

making up a heavy packet of coinssealed in blue paperand

containing fifty ten gulden piecestogether with an unsealed

packet containing another twenty. I handed the whole to the old

lady in a money-shovel.

"Faites le jeumessieurs! Faites le jeumessieurs! Rien ne va

plus" proclaimed the croupier as once more he invited the

company to stakeand prepared to turn the wheel.

"We shall be too late! He is going to spin again! Stakestake!"

The Grandmother was in a perfect fever. "Do not hang back! Be

quick!" She seemed almost beside herselfand nudged me as hard

as she could.

"Upon what shall I stakeMadame?"

"Upon zeroupon zero! Again upon zero! Stake as much as ever

you can. How much have we got? Seventy ten-gulden pieces? We

shall not miss themso stake twenty pieces at a time."

"Think a momentMadame. Sometimes zero does not turn up for

two hundred rounds in succession. I assure you that you may lose

all your capital."

"You are wrong--utterly wrong. StakeI tell you! What a

chattering tongue you have! I know perfectly well what I am

doing." The old lady was shaking with excitement.

"But the rules do not allow of more than 120 gulden being

staked upon zero at a time."

"How 'do not allow'? Surely you are wrong? Monsieurmonsieur--"

here she nudged the croupier who was sitting on her leftand

preparing to spin-- "combien zero? Douze? Douze?"

I hastened to translate.

"OuiMadame" was the croupier's polite reply. "No single

stake must exceed four thousand florins. That is the regulation."

"Then there is nothing else for it. We must risk in gulden."

"Le jeu est fait!" the croupier called. The wheel revolved

and stopped at thirty. We had lost!

"Againagainagain! Stake again!" shouted the old lady.

Without attempting to oppose her furtherbut merely shrugging

my shouldersI placed twelve more ten-gulden pieces upon the

table. The wheel whirled around and aroundwith the Grandmother

simply quaking as she watched its revolutions.

"Does she again think that zero is going to be the winning

coup?" thought Ias I stared at her in astonishment. Yet an

absolute assurance of winning was shining on her face; she

looked perfectly convinced that zero was about to be called

again. At length the ball dropped off into one of the notches.

"Zero!" cried the croupier.

"Ah!!!" screamed the old lady as she turned to me in a whirl

of triumph.

I myself was at heart a gambler. At that moment I became acutely

conscious both of that fact and of the fact that my hands and

knees were shakingand that the blood was beating in my brain.

Of course this was a rare occasion--an occasion on which zero had

turned up no less than three times within a dozen rounds; yet in

such an event there was nothing so very surprisingseeing that

only three days agoI myself had been a witness to zero turning

up THREE TIMES IN SUCCESSIONso that one of the players who was

recording the coups on paper was moved to remark that for

several days past zero had never turned up at all!

With the Grandmotheras with any one who has won a very large

sumthe management settled up with great attention and respect

since she was fortunate to have to receive no less than 4200

gulden. Of these gulden the odd 200 were paid her in goldand

the remainder in bank notes.

This time the old lady did not call for Potapitch; for that she

was too preoccupied. Though not outwardly shaken by the event

(indeedshe seemed perfectly calm)she was trembling inwardly

from head to foot. At lengthcompletely absorbed in the game

she burst out:

"Alexis Ivanovitchdid not the croupier just say that 4000

florins were the most that could be staked at any one time?

Welltake these 4000and stake them upon the red."

To oppose her was useless. Once more the wheel revolved.

"Rouge!" proclaimed the croupier.

Again 4000 florins--in all 8000!

"Give me them" commanded the Grandmother"and stake theother

4000 upon the red again."

I did so.

"Rouge!" proclaimed the croupier.

"Twelve thousand!" cried the old lady. "Hand me the whole

lot. Put the gold into this purse hereand count the bank

notes. Enough! Let us go home. Wheel my chair away."


THE chairwith the old lady beaming in itwas wheeled away

towards the doors at the further end of the salonwhile our

party hastened to crowd around herand to offer her their

congratulations. In facteccentric as was her conductit was

also overshadowed by her triumph; with the result that the

General no longer feared to be publicly compromised by being

seen with such a strange womanbutsmiling in a condescending

cheerfully familiar wayas though he were soothing a childhe

offered his greetings to the old lady. At the same timeboth he

and the rest of the spectators were visibly impressed.

Everywhere people kept pointing to the Grandmotherand talking

about her. Many people even walked beside her chairin order to

view her the better whileat a little distanceAstley was

carrying on a conversation on the subject with two English

acquaintances of his. De Griers was simply overflowing with

smiles and complimentsand a number of fine ladies were staring

at the Grandmother as though she had been something curious.

"Quelle victoire!" exclaimed De Griers.

"MaisMadamec'etait du feu!" added Mlle. Blanche with an

elusive smile.

"YesI have won twelve thousand florins" replied the old

lady. "And then there is all this gold. With it the total ought

to come to nearly thirteen thousand. How much is that in Russian

money? Six thousand roublesI think?"

HoweverI calculated that the sum would exceed seven thousand

roubles--orat the present rate of exchangeeven eight


"Eight thousand roubles! What a splendid thing! And to think of

you simpletons sitting there and doing nothing! Potapitch!

Martha! See what I have won!"

"How DID you do itMadame?" Martha exclaimed ecstatically.

"Eight thousand roubles!"

"And I am going to give you fifty gulden apiece. There they


Potapitch and Martha rushed towards her to kiss her hand.

"And to each bearer also I will give a ten-gulden piece. Let

them have it out of the goldAlexis Ivanovitch. But why is this

footman bowing to meand that other man as well? Are they

congratulating me? Welllet them have ten gulden apiece."

"Madame la princesse--Un pauvre expatrie--Malheur continuel--Les

princes russes sont si genereux!" said a man who for some time

past had been hanging around the old lady's chair--a personage

whodressed in a shabby frockcoat and coloured waistcoatkept

taking off his capand smiling pathetically.

"Give him ten gulden" said the Grandmother. "Nogive him

twenty. Nowenough of thator I shall never get done with you

all. Take a moment's restand then carry me away. PrascoviaI

mean to buy a new dress for you tomorrow. Yesand for you too

Mlle. Blanche. Please translatePrascovia."

"MerciMadame" replied Mlle. Blanche gratefully as she

twisted her face into the mocking smile which usually she kept

only for the benefit of De Griers and the General. The latter

looked confusedand seemed greatly relieved when we reached the


"How surprised Theodosia too will be!" went on the Grandmother

(thinking of the General's nursemaid). "Shelike yourselves

shall have the price of a new gown. HereAlexis Ivanovitch!

Give that beggar something" (a crooked-backed ragamuffin had

approached to stare at us).

"But perhaps he is NOT a beggar--only a rascal" I replied.

"Never mindnever mind. Give him a gulden."

I approached the beggar in questionand handed him the coin.

Looking at me in great astonishmenthe silently accepted the

guldenwhile from his person there proceeded a strong smell of


"Have you never tried your luckAlexis Ivanovitch?"


"Yet just now I could see that you were burning to do so?"

"I do mean to try my luck presently."

"Then stake everything upon zero. You have seen how it ought to

be done? How much capital do you possess?"

"Two hundred guldenMadame."

"Not very much. See here; I will lend you five hundred if you

wish. Take this purse of mine." With that she added sharply to

the General: "But YOU need not expect to receive any."

This seemed to upset himbut he said nothingand De Griers

contented himself by scowling.

"Que diable!" he whispered to the General. "C'est une

terrible vieille."

"Look! Another beggaranother beggar!" exclaimed the

grandmother. "Alexis Ivanovitchgo and give him a gulden."

As she spoke I saw approaching us a grey-headed old man with a

wooden leg--a man who was dressed in a blue frockcoat and

carrying a staff. He looked like an old soldier. As soon as I

tendered him the coin he fell back a step or twoand eyed me


"Was ist der Teufel!" he criedand appended thereto a round

dozen of oaths.

"The man is a perfect fool!" exclaimed the Grandmotherwaving

her hand. "Move on nowfor I am simply famished. When we have

lunched we will return to that place."

"What?" cried I. "You are going to play again?"

"What else do you suppose?" she retorted. "Are you going only

to sit hereand grow sourand let me look at you?"

"Madame" said De Griers confidentially"les chances peuvent

tourner. Une seule mauvaise chanceet vous perdrez tout--surtout

avec votre jeu. C'etait terrible!"

"Oui; vous perdrez absolument" put in Mlle. Blanche.

"What has that got to do with YOU?" retorted the old lady.

"It is not YOUR money that I am going to lose; it is my own. And

where is that Mr. Astley of yours?" she added to myself.

"He stayed behind in the Casino."

"What a pity! He is such a nice sort of man!"

Arriving homeand meeting the landlord on the staircasethe

Grandmother called him to her sideand boasted to him of her

winnings--thereafter doing the same to Theodosiaand conferring

upon her thirty gulden; after which she bid her serve luncheon.

The meal overTheodosia and Martha broke into a joint flood of


"I was watching you all the timeMadame" quavered Martha

"and I asked Potapitch what mistress was trying to do. Andmy

word! the heaps and heaps of money that were lying upon the

table! Never in my life have I seen so much money. And there

were gentlefolk around itand other gentlefolk sitting down. So

I asked Potapitch where all these gentry had come from; for

thought Imaybe the Holy Mother of God will help our mistress

among them. YesI prayed for youMadameand my heart died

within meso that I kept trembling and trembling. The Lord be

with herI thought to myself; and in answer to my prayer He has

now sent you what He has done! Even yet I tremble--I tremble to

think of it all."

"Alexis Ivanovitch" said the old lady"after luncheon--that

is to sayabout four o'clock--get ready to go out with me again.

But in the meanwhilegood-bye. Do not forget to call a doctor

for I must take the waters. Now go and get rested a little."

I left the Grandmother's presence in a state of bewilderment.

Vainly I endeavoured to imagine what would become of our party

or what turn the affair would next take. I could perceive that

none of the party had yet recovered their presence of mind--least

of all the General. The factor of the Grandmother's appearance in

place of the hourly expected telegram to announce her death

(withof courseresultant legacies) had so upset the whole

scheme of intentions and projects that it was with a decided

feeling of apprehension and growing paralysis that the

conspirators viewed any future performances of the old lady at

roulette. Yet this second factor was not quite so important as

the firstsincethough the Grandmother had twice declared that

she did not intend to give the General any moneythat

declaration was not a complete ground for the abandonment of

hope. Certainly De Grierswhowith the Generalwas up to the

neck in the affairhad not wholly lost courage; and I felt sure

that Mlle. Blanche also--Mlle. Blanche who was not only as

deeply involved as the other twobut also expectant of becoming

Madame General and an important legatee--would not lightly

surrender the positionbut would use her every resource of

coquetry upon the old ladyin order to afford a contrast to the

impetuous Polinawho was difficult to understandand lacked

the art of pleasing.

Yet nowwhen

the Grandmother had just performed an astonishing feat at

roulette; nowwhen the old lady's personality had been so

clearly and typically revealed as that of a ruggedarrogant

woman who was "tombee en enfance"; nowwhen everything

appeared to be lost--whynow the Grandmother was as merry as a

child which plays with thistle-down. "Good Lord!" I thought

withmay God forgive mea most malicious smile"every

ten-gulden piece which the Grandmother staked must have raised a

blister on the General's heartand maddened De Griersand

driven Mlle. de Cominges almost to frenzy with the sight of this

spoon dangling before her lips." Another factor is the

circumstance that even whenoverjoyed at winningthe

Grandmother was distributing alms right and leftand

taking every one to be a beggarshe again snapped

out to the General that he was not going to be allowed any of

her money-- which meant that the old lady had quite made up her

mind on the pointand was sure of it. Yesdanger loomed ahead.

All these thoughts passed through my mind during the few moments

thathaving left the old lady's roomsI was ascending to my own

room on the top storey. What most struck me was the fact that

though I had divined the chiefthe stoutestthreads which

united the various actors in the dramaI haduntil nowbeen

ignorant of the methods and secrets of the game. For Polina had

never been completely open with me. Althoughon occasionsit

had happened that involuntarilyas it wereshe had revealed

to me something of her heartI had noticed that in most

cases--in factnearly always--she had either laughed away these

revelationsor grown confusedor purposely imparted to them

a false guise. Yesshe must have concealed a great deal from me.

ButI had a presentiment that now the end of this strained and

mysterious situation was approaching. Another strokeand all

would be finished and exposed. Of my own fortunesinterested

though I was in the affairI took no account. I was in the

strange position of possessing but two hundred guldenof being

at a loose endof lacking both a postthe means of subsistence

a shred of hopeand any plans for the futureyet of caring

nothing for these things. Had not my mind been so full of Polina

I should have given myself up to the comical piquancy of the

impending denouementand laughed my fill at it. But the thought

of Polina was torture to me. That her fate was settled I already

had an inkling; yet that was not the thought which was giving me

so much uneasiness. What I really wished for was to penetrate her

secrets. I wanted her to come to me and say" I love you" and

if she would not so comeor if to hope that she would ever do so

was an unthinkable absurdity--whythen there was nothing else for

me to want. Even now I do not know what I am wanting. I feel like

a man who has lost his way. I yearn but to be in her presenceand

within the circle of her light and splendour--to be there nowand

foreverand for the whole of my life. More I do not know. How

can I ever bring myself to leave her?

On reaching the third storey of the hotel I experienced a shock.

I was just passing the General's suite when something caused me

to look round. Out of a door about twenty paces away there was

coming Polina! She hesitated for a moment on seeing meand

then beckoned me to her.

"Polina Alexandrovna!"

"Hush! Not so loud."

"Something startled me just now" I whispered"and I looked

roundand saw you. Some electrical influence seems to emanate

from your form."

"Take this letter" she went on with a frown (probably she had

not even heard my wordsshe was so preoccupied)"and hand it

personally to Mr. Astley. Go as quickly as ever you canplease.

No answer will be required. He himself--" She did not finish her


"To Mr. Astley?" I askedin some astonishment.

But she had vanished again.

Aha! So the two were carrying on a correspondence! HoweverI

set off to search for Astley--first at his hoteland then at

the Casinowhere I went the round of the salons in vain. At

lengthvexedand almost in despairI was on my way home

when I ran across him among a troop of English ladies and

gentlemen who had been out for a ride. Beckoning to him to

stopI handed him the letter. We had barely time even to look

at one anotherbut I suspected that it was of set purpose

that he restarted his horse so quickly.

Was jealousythengnawing at me? At all eventsI felt

exceedingly depresseddespite the fact that I had no desire

to ascertain what the correspondence was about. To think that

HE should be her confidant! "My friendmine own familiar

friend!" passed through my mind. Yet WAS there any love in

the matter? "Of course not" reason whispered to me. But

reason goes for little on such occasions. I felt that the

matter must be cleared upfor it was becoming unpleasantly


I had scarcely set foot in the hotel when the commissionaire

and the landlord (the latter issuing from his room for the

purpose) alike informed me that I was being searched for high

and low--that three separate messages to ascertain my

whereabouts had come down from the General. When I entered his

study I was feeling anything but kindly disposed. I found

there the General himselfDe Griersand Mlle. Blanchebut

not Mlle.'s motherwho was a person whom her reputed

daughter used only for show purposessince in all matters of

business the daughter fended for herselfand it is unlikely

that the mother knew anything about them.

Some very heated discussion was in progressand meanwhile the

door of the study was open--an unprecedented circumstance. As

I approached the portals I could hear loud voices raisedfor

mingled with the pertvenomous accents of De Griers were

Mlle. Blanche's excitedimpudently abusive tongue and the

General's plaintive wail asapparentlyhe sought to justify

himself in something. But on my appearance every one stopped

speakingand tried to put a better face upon matters. De

Griers smoothed his hairand twisted his angry face into a

smile--into the meanstudiedly polite French smile which I so

detested; while the downcastperplexed General assumed an air

of dignity--though only in a mechanical way. On the other hand

Mlle. Blanche did not trouble to conceal the wrath that was

sparkling in her countenancebut bent her gaze upon me with

an air of impatient expectancy. I may remark that hitherto

she had treated me with absolute superciliousnessandso far

from answering my salutationshad always ignored them.

"Alexis Ivanovitch" began the General in a tone of

affectionate upbraiding"may I say to you that I find it

strangeexceedingly strangethat--In shortyour conduct

towards myself and my family--In a wordyour-er-extremely"

" Eh! Ce n'est pas ca" interrupted De Griers in a tone of

impatience and contempt (evidently he was the ruling spirit

of the conclave). "Mon cher monsieurnotre general se

trompe. What he means to say is that he warns you--he begs of

you most eamestly--not to ruin him. I use the expression


"Why? Why?" I interjected.

"Because you have taken upon yourself to act as guide to this

to this--how shall I express it?--to this old ladya cette

pauvre terrible vieille. But she will only gamble away all

that she has--gamble it away like thistledown. You yourself have

seen her play. Once she has acquired the taste for gambling

she will never leave the roulette-tablebutof sheer

perversity and temperwill stake her alland lose it. In

cases such as hers a gambler can never be torn away from the

game; and then--and then--"

"And then" asseverated the General"you will have ruined

my whole family. I and my family are her heirsfor she has

no nearer relatives than ourselves. I tell you frankly that

my affairs are in great--very great disorder; how much they are

so you yourself are partially aware. If she should lose a

large sumormaybeher whole fortunewhat will become of

us--of my children" (here the General exchanged a glance

with De Griers)" or of me? "(here he looked at Mlle.

Blanchewho turned her head contemptuously away). "Alexis

IvanovitchI beg of you to save us."

"Tell meGeneralhow am I to do so? On what footing do I

stand here?"

"Refuse to take her about. Simply leave her alone."

"But she would soon find some one else to take my place?"

"Ce n'est pas cace n'est pas ca" again interrupted De

Griers. "Que diable! Do not leave her alone so much as

advise herpersuade herdraw her away. In any case do not

let her gamble; find her some counter-attraction."

"And how am I to do that? If only you would undertake the

taskMonsieur de Griers! " I said this last as innocently as

possiblebut at once saw a rapid glance of excited

interrogation pass from Mlle. Blanche to De Grierswhile in

the face of the latter also there gleamed something which he

could not repress.

"Wellat the present moment she would refuse to accept my

services" said he with a gesture. "But iflater--"

Here he gave Mlle. Blanche another glance which was full of

meaning; whereupon she advanced towards me with a bewitching

smileand seized and pressed my hands. Devil take itbut how

that devilish visage of hers could change! At the present

moment it was a visage full of supplicationand as gentle in

its expression as that of a smilingroguish infant.

Stealthilyshe drew me apart from the rest as though the more

completely to separate me from them; andthough no harm came

of her doing so--for it was merely a stupid manoeuvreand no

more--I found the situation very unpleasant.

The General hastened to lend her his support.

"Alexis Ivanovitch" he began"pray pardon me for having

said what I did just now--for having said more than I meant to

do. I beg and beseech youI kiss the hem of your garmentas

our Russian saying has itfor youand only youcan save us.

I and Mlle. de Comingeswe all of us beg of you-- But you

understanddo you not? Surely you understand?" and with his

eyes he indicated Mlle. Blanche. Truly he was cutting a

pitiful figure!

At this moment three lowrespectful knocks sounded at the

door; whichon being openedrevealed a chambermaidwith

Potapitch behind her--come from the Grandmother to request

that I should attend her in her rooms. "She is in a bad

humour" added Potapitch.

The time was half-past three.

"My mistress was unable to sleep" explained Potapitch; "so

after tossing about for a whileshe suddenly rosecalled

for her chairand sent me to look for you. She is now in the


"Quelle megere!" exclaimed De Griers.

True enoughI found Madame in the hotel verandah -much put

about at my delayfor she had been unable to contain herself

until four o'clock.

"Lift me up" she cried to the bearersand once more we set

out for the roulette-salons.


The Grandmother was in an impatientirritable frame of mind.

Without doubt the roulette had turned her headfor she

appeared to be indifferent to everything elseandin

generalseemed much distraught. For instanceshe asked me no

questions about objects en routeexcept thatwhen a

sumptuous barouche passed us and raised a cloud of dustshe

lifted her hand for a momentand inquired" What was that? "

Yet even then she did not appear to hear my replyalthough at

times her abstraction was interrupted by sallies and fits of

sharpimpatient fidgeting. Againwhen I pointed out to her

the Baron and Baroness Burmergelm walking to the Casinoshe

merely looked at them in an absent-minded sort of wayand

said with complete indifference"Ah!" Thenturning

sharply to Potapitch and Marthawho were walking behind us

she rapped out:

"Why have YOU attached yourselves to the party? We are not

going to take you with us every time. Go home at once." Then

when the servants had pulled hasty bows and departedshe

added to me: "You are all the escort I need."

At the Casino the Grandmother seemed to be expectedfor no

time was lost in procuring her former place beside the

croupier. It is my opinion that though croupiers seem such

ordinaryhumdrum officials--men who care nothing whether the

bank wins or loses--they arein realityanything but

indifferent to the bank's losingand are given instructions

to attract playersand to keep a watch over the bank's

interests; as alsothat for such servicesthese officials are

awarded prizes and premiums. At all eventsthe croupiers of

Roulettenberg seemed to look upon the Grandmother as their

lawful prey-- whereafter there befell what our party had


It happened thus:

As soon as ever we arrived the Grandmother ordered me to stake

twelve ten-gulden pieces in succession upon zero. Once

twiceand thrice I did soyet zero never turned up.

"Stake again" said the old lady with an impatient nudge of my

elbowand I obeyed.

"How many times have we lost? " she inquired--actually

grinding her teeth in her excitement.

"We have lost 144 ten-gulden pieces" I replied. "I tell you

Madamethat zero may not turn up until nightfall."

"Never mind" she interrupted. "Keep on staking upon zero

and also stake a thousand gulden upon rouge. Here is a

banknote with which to do so."

The red turned upbut zero missed againand we only got our

thousand gulden back.

"But you seeyou see " whispered the old lady. "We have now

recovered almost all that we staked. Try zero again. Let us do

so another ten timesand then leave off."

By the fifth roundhoweverthe Grandmother was weary of the


"To the devil with that zero!" she exclaimed. Stake four

thousand gulden upon the red."

"ButMadamethat will be so much to venture!" I

remonstrated. "Suppose the red should not turn up?" The

Grandmother almost struck me in her excitement. Her agitation

was rapidly making her quarrelsome. Consequentlythere was

nothing for it but to stake the whole four thousand gulden as

she had directed.

The wheel revolved while the Grandmother sat as bolt upright

and with as proud and quiet a mienas though she had not the

least doubt of winning.

"Zero!" cried the croupier.

At first the old lady failed to understand the situation; but

as soon as she saw the croupier raking in her four thousand

guldentogether with everything else that happened to be

lying on the tableand recognised that the zero which had

been so long turning upand on which we had lost nearly two

hundred ten-gulden pieceshad at lengthas though of set

purposemade a sudden reappearance--whythe poor old lady

fell to cursing itand to throwing herself aboutand wailing

and gesticulating at the company at large. Indeedsome

people in our vicinity actually burst out laughing.

"To think that that accursed zero should have turned up NOW!"

she sobbed. "The accursedaccursed thing! Andit is all

YOUR fault" she addedrounding upon me in a frenzy. "It

was you who persuaded me to cease staking upon it."

"ButMadameI only explained the game to you. How am I to

answer for every mischance which may occur in it?"

"You and your mischances!" she whispered threateningly.

"Go! Away at once!"

"FarewellthenMadame." And I turned to depart.

"No-- stay" she put in hastily. "Where are you going to? Why

should you leave me? You fool! Nono... stay here. It is I who

was the fool. Tell me what I ought to do."

"I cannot take it upon myself to advise youfor you will only

blame me if I do so. Play at your own discretion. Say exactly

what you wish stakedand I will stake it."

"Very well. Stake another four thousand gulden upon the red.

Take this banknote to do it with. I have still got twenty

thousand roubles in actual cash."

"But" I whispered"such a quantity of money--"

"Never mind. I cannot rest until I have won back my losses.


I stakedand we lost.

"Stake againstake again--eight thousand at a stroke!"

"I cannotMadame. The largest stake allowed is four thousand


"Wellthen; stake four thousand."

This time we wonand the Grandmother recovered herself a


"You seeyou see!" she exclaimed as she nudged me. "Stake

another four thousand."

I did soand lost. Againand yet againwe lost. "Madame

your twelve thousand gulden are now gone" at length I


"I see they are" she replied withas it werethe calmness

of despair. "I see they are" she muttered again as she

gazed straight in front of herlike a person lost in

thought. "Ah wellI do not mean to rest until I have staked

another four thousand."

"But you have no money with which to do itMadame. In this

satchel I can see only a few five percent bonds and some

transfers--no actual cash."

"And in the purse?"

"A mere trifle."

"But there is a money-changer's office hereis there not?

They told me I should be able to get any sort of paper

security changed! "

"Quite so; to any amount you please. But you will lose on the

transaction what would frighten even a Jew."

"Rubbish! I am DETERMINED to retrieve my losses. Take me

awayand call those fools of bearers."

I wheeled the chair out of the throngandthe bearers making

their appearancewe left the Casino.

"Hurryhurry!" commanded the Grandmother. "Show me the

nearest way to the money-changer's. Is it far?"

"A couple of stepsMadame."

At the turning from the square into the Avenue we came face to

face with the whole of our party--the GeneralDe GriersMlle.

Blancheand her mother. Only Polina and Mr. Astley were


"Wellwellwell! " exclaimed the Grandmother. "But we have

no time to stop. What do you want? I can't talk to you here."

I dropped behind a littleand immediately was pounced upon by

De Griers.

"She has lost this morning's winnings" I whispered"and

also twelve thousand gulden of her original money. At the

present moment we are going to get some bonds changed."

De Griers stamped his foot with vexationand hastened to

communicate the tidings to the General. Meanwhile we

continued to wheel the old lady along.

"Stop herstop her" whispered the General in consternation.

"You had better try and stop her yourself" I returned--also in

a whisper.

"My good mother" he said as he approached her"--my good

motherpray letlet--" (his voice was beginning to tremble

and sink) "--let us hire a carriageand go for a drive. Near

here there is an enchanting view to be obtained. We-we-we were

just coming to invite you to go and see it."

"Begone with you and your views!" said the Grandmother

angrily as she waved him away.

"And there are trees thereand we could have tea under them"

continued the General--now in utter despair.

"Nous boirons du laitsur l'herbe fraiche" added De Griers

with the snarl almost of a wild beast.

"Du laitde l'herbe fraiche"--the idyllthe ideal of the

Parisian bourgeois--his whole outlook upon "la nature et la


"Have done with you and your milk!" cried the old lady. "Go

and stuff YOURSELF as much as you likebut my stomach simply

recoils from the idea. What are you stopping for? I have

nothing to say to you."

"Here we areMadame" I announced. "Here is the

moneychanger's office."

I entered to get the securities changedwhile the Grandmother

remained outside in the porchand the rest waited at a

little distancein doubt as to their best course of action.

At length the old lady turned such an angry stare upon them

that they departed along the road towards the Casino.

The process of changing involved complicated calculations

which soon necessitated my return to the Grandmother for


"The thieves!" she exclaimed as she clapped her hands

together. "Never mindthough. Get the documents cashed--No;

send the banker out to me" she added as an afterthought.

"Would one of the clerks doMadame?"

"Yesone of the clerks. The thieves!"

The clerk consented to come out when he perceived that he was

being asked for by an old lady who was too infirm to walk;

after which the Grandmother began to upbraid him at length

and with great vehemencefor his alleged usuriousnessand

to bargain with him in a mixture of RussianFrenchand

German--I acting as interpreter. Meanwhilethe grave-faced

official eyed us bothand silently nodded his head. At the

Grandmotherin particularhe gazed with a curiosity which

almost bordered upon rudeness. At lengthtoohe smiled.

"Pray recollect yourself!" cried the old lady. "And may my

money choke you! Alexis Ivanovitchtell him that we can

easily repair to someone else."

"The clerk says that others will give you even less than he."

Of what the ultimate calculations consisted I do not exactly

rememberbut at all events they were alarming. Receiving

twelve thousand florins in goldI took also the statement of

accountsand carried it out to the Grandmother.

"Wellwell" she said"I am no accountant. Let us hurry

awayhurry away." And she waved the paper aside.

"Neither upon that accursed zerohowevernor upon that

equally accursed red do I mean to stake a cent" I muttered to

myself as I entered the Casino.

This time I did all I could to persuade the old lady to stake

as little as possible--saying that a turn would come in the

chances when she would be at liberty to stake more. But she

was so impatient thatthough at first she agreed to do as I

suggestednothing could stop her when once she had begun. By

way of prelude she won stakes of a hundred and two hundred


"There you are!" she said as she nudged me. "See what we

have won! Surely it would be worth our while to stake four

thousand instead of a hundredfor we might win another four

thousandand then--! Ohit was YOUR fault before--all your


I felt greatly put out as I watched her playbut I decided to

hold my tongueand to give her no more advice.

Suddenly De Griers appeared on the scene. It seemed that all

this while he and his companions had been standing beside us--

though I noticed that Mlle. Blanche had withdrawn a little

from the restand was engaged in flirting with the Prince.

Clearly the General was greatly put out at this. Indeedhe

was in a perfect agony of vexation. But Mlle. was careful

never to look his waythough he did his best to attract her

notice. Poor General! By turns his face blanched and reddened

and he was trembling to such an extent that he could scarcely

follow the old lady's play. At length Mlle. and the Prince

took their departureand the General followed them.

"MadameMadame" sounded the honeyed accents of De Griers as

he leant over to whisper in the Grandmother's ear. "That

stake will never win. Nonoit is impossible" he added in

Russian with a writhe. "Nono!"

"But why not?" asked the Grandmotherturning round. "Show

me what I ought to do."

Instantly De Griers burst into a babble of French as he

advisedjumped aboutdeclared that such and such chances

ought to be waited forand started to make calculations of

figures. All this he addressed to me in my capacity as

translator--tapping the table the while with his fingerand

pointing hither and thither. At length he seized a penciland

began to reckon sums on paper until he had exhausted the

Grandmother's patience.

"Away with you!" she interrupted. "You talk sheer nonsense

forthough you keep on saying 'MadameMadame' you haven't

the least notion what ought to be done. Away with youI say!"

"MaisMadame" cooed De Griers--and straightway started

afresh with his fussy instructions.

"Stake just ONCEas he advises" the Grandmother said to me

"and then we shall see what we shall see. Of coursehis

stake MIGHT win."

As a matter of factDe Grier's one object was to distract the

old lady from staking large sums; whereforehe now suggested

to her that she should stake upon certain numberssingly and

in groups. Consequentlyin accordance with his instructionsI

staked a ten-gulden piece upon several odd numbers in the

first twentyand five ten-gulden pieces upon certain groups

of numbers-groups of from twelve to eighteenand from

eighteen to twenty-four. The total staked amounted to 160


The wheel revolved. "Zero!" cried the croupier.

We had lost it all!

"The fool!" cried the old lady as she turned upon De Griers.

"You infernal Frenchmanto think that you should advise!

Away with you! Though you fuss and fussyou don't even know

what you're talking about."

Deeply offendedDe Griers shrugged his shouldersfavoured

the Grandmother with a look of contemptand departed. For

some time past he had been feeling ashamed of being seen in

such companyand this had proved the last straw.

An hour later we had lost everything in hand.

"Home!" cried the Grandmother.

Not until we had turned into the Avenue did she utter a word;

but from that point onwardsuntil we arrived at the hotel

she kept venting exclamations of "What a fool I am! What a

silly old fool I amto be sure!"

Arrived at the hotelshe called for teaand then gave orders

for her luggage to be packed.

"We are off again" she announced.

"But whitherMadame?" inquired Martha.

"What business is that of YOURS? Let the cricket stick to

its hearth. [The Russian form of "Mind your own business."]

Potapitchhave everything packedfor we are returning to

Moscow at once. I have fooled away fifteen thousand roubles."

"Fifteen thousand roublesgood mistress? My God!" And

Potapitch spat upon his hands--probably to show that he was

ready to serve her in any way he could.

"Now thenyou fool! At once you begin with your weeping and

wailing! Be quietand pack. Alsorun downstairsand get my

hotel bill."

"The next train leaves at 9:30Madame" I interposedwith a

view to checking her agitation.

"And what is the time now?"

"Half-past eight."

"How vexing! Butnever mind. Alexis IvanovitchI have not a

kopeck left; I have but these two bank notes. Please run to

the office and get them changed. Otherwise I shall have

nothing to travel with."

Departing on her errandI returned half an hour later to find

the whole party gathered in her rooms. It appeared that the

news of her impending departure for Moscow had thrown the

conspirators into consternation even greater than her losses

had done. Forsaid theyeven if her departure should save

her fortunewhat will become of the General later? And who

is to repay De Griers? Clearly Mlle. Blanche would never

consent to wait until the Grandmother was deadbut would at

once elope with the Prince or someone else. So they had all

gathered together--endeavouring to calm and dissuade the

Grandmother. Only Polina was absent. For her pad the

Grandmother had nothing for the party but abuse.

"Away with youyou rascals!" she was shouting. "What have my

affairs to do with you? Whyin particulardo you"--here

she indicated De Griers--"come sneaking here with your goat's

beard? And what do YOU"--here she turned to Mlle. Blanche

"want of me? What are YOU finicking for?"

"Diantre!" muttered Mlle. under her breathbut her eyes

were flashing. Then all at once she burst into a laugh and

left the room--crying to the General as she did so: "Elle

vivra cent ans!"

"So you have been counting upon my deathhave you?" fumed

the old lady. "Away with you! Clear them out of the room

Alexis Ivanovitch. What business is it of THEIRS? It is not

THEIR money that I have been squanderingbut my own."

The General shrugged his shouldersbowedand withdrewwith

De Griers behind him.

"Call Prascovia" commanded the Grandmotherand in five

minutes Martha reappeared with Polinawho had been sitting

with the children in her own room (having purposely

determined not to leave it that day). Her face looked grave

and careworn.

"Prascovia" began the Grandmother"is what I have just

heard through a side wind true--namelythat this fool of a

stepfather of yours is going to marry that silly whirligig of

a Frenchwoman--that actressor something worse? Tell meis

it true?"

"I do not know FOR CERTAINGrandmamma" replied Polina; "but

from Mlle. Blanche's account (for she does not appear to think

it necessary to conceal anything) I conclude that--"

"You need not say any more" interrupted the Grandmother

energetically. "I understand the situation. I always thought

we should get something like this from himfor I always

looked upon him as a futilefrivolous fellow who gave himself

unconscionable airs on the fact of his being a general (though

he only became one because he retired as a colonel). YesI

know all about the sending of the telegrams to inquire

whether 'the old woman is likely to turn up her toes soon.' Ah

they were looking for the legacies! Without money that

wretched woman (what is her name?--OhDe Cominges) would

never dream of accepting the General and his false teeth--no

not even for him to be her lacquey--since she herselfthey

saypossesses a pile of moneyand lends it on interestand

makes a good thing out of it. Howeverit is not you

Prascoviathat I am blaming; it was not you who sent those

telegrams. Norfor that matterdo I wish to recall old

scores. TrueI know that you are a vixen by nature--that you

are a wasp which will sting one if one touches it-- yetmy

heart is sore for youfor I loved your motherKaterina. Now

will you leave everything hereand come away with me?

OtherwiseI do not know what is to become of youand it is

not right that you should continue living with these people.

Nay" she interposedthe moment that Polina attempted to

speak"I have not yet finished. I ask of you nothing in

return. My house in Moscow isas you knowlarge enough for

a palaceand you could occupy a whole floor of it if you

likedand keep away from me for weeks together. Will you

come with me or will you not?"

"First of alllet me ask of YOU" replied Polina"whetheryou

are intending to depart at once?"

"What? You suppose me to be jesting? I have said that I am

goingand I AM going. Today I have squandered fifteen

thousand roubles at that accursed roulette of yoursand

thoughfive years agoI promised the people of a certain

suburb of Moscow to build them a stone church in place of a

wooden oneI have been fooling away my money here! However

I am going back now to build my church."

"But what about the watersGrandmamma? Surely you came here

to take the waters?"

"You and your waters! Do not anger mePrascovia. Surely you

are trying to? Saythen: will youor will you notcome

with me?"

"Grandmamma" Polina replied with deep feeling"I am very

very grateful to you for the shelter which you have so kindly

offered me. Alsoto a certain extent you have guessed my

position arightand I am beholden to you to such an extent

that it may be that I will come and live with youand that

very soon; yet there are important reasons why--why I cannot

make up my mind just yet. If you would let me havesaya

couple of weeks to decide in--?"

"You mean that you are NOT coming?"

"I mean only that I cannot come just yet. At all eventsI

could not well leave my little brother and sister here

sincesince--if I were to leave them--they would be abandoned

altogether. But ifGrandmammayou would take the little ones

AND myselfthenof courseI could come with youand would

do all I could to serve you" (this she said with great

earnestness). "Onlywithout the little ones I CANNOT come."

"Do not make a fuss" (as a matter of fact Polina never at

any time either fussed or wept). "The Great Foster--Father

[Translated literally--The Great Poulterer] can find for all

his chicks a place. You are not coming without the children?

But see herePrascovia. I wish you welland nothing but

well: yet I have divined the reason why you will not come.

YesI know allPrascovia. That Frenchman will never bring

you good of any sort."

Polina coloured hotlyand even I started. "For" thought I to

myself"every one seems to know about that affair. Or

perhaps I am the only one who does not know about it? "

"Nownow! Do not frown" continued the Grandmother. "But I

do not intend to slur things over. You will take care that no

harm befalls youwill you not? For you are a girl of sense

and I am sorry for you--I regard you in a different light to

the rest of them. And nowpleaseleave me. Good-bye."

"But let me stay with you a little longer" said Polina.

"No" replied the other; "you need not. Do not bother mefor

you and all of them have tired me out."

Yet when Polina tried to kiss the Grandmother's handthe old

lady withdrew itand herself kissed the girl on the cheek.

As she passed mePolina gave me a momentary glanceand then

as swiftly averted her eyes.

"And good-bye to youalsoAlexis Ivanovitch. The train

starts in an hour's timeand I think that you must be weary

of me. Take these five hundred gulden for yourself."

"I thank you humblyMadamebut I am ashamed to--"

"Comecome!" cried the Grandmother so energeticallyand

with such an air of menacethat I did not dare refuse the

money further.

"Ifwhen in Moscowyou have no place where you can lay your

head" she added"come and see meand I will give you a

recommendation. NowPotapitchget things ready."

I ascended to my roomand lay down upon the bed. A whole hour

I must have lain thuswith my head resting upon my hand. So

the crisis had come! I needed time for its consideration. To-

morrow I would have a talk with Polina. Ah! The Frenchman! So

it was true? But how could it be so? Polina and De Griers!

What a combination!

Noit was too improbable. Suddenly I leapt up with the idea

of seeking Astley and forcing him to speak. There could be no

doubt that he knew more than I did. Astley? Wellhe was

another problem for me to solve.

Suddenly there came a knock at the doorand I opened it to

find Potapitch awaiting me.

"Sir" he said"my mistress is asking for you."

"Indeed? But she is just departingis she not? The train

leaves in ten minutes' time."

"She is uneasysir; she cannot rest. Come quicklysir; do

not delay."

I ran downstairs at once. The Grandmother was just being

carried out of her rooms into the corridor. In her hands she

held a roll of bank-notes.

"Alexis Ivanovitch" she cried"walk on aheadand we will

set out again."

"But whitherMadame?"

"I cannot rest until I have retrieved my losses. March on

aheadand ask me no questions. Play continues until

midnightdoes it not?"

For a moment I stood stupefied--stood deep in thought; but it

was not long before I had made up my mind.

"With your leaveMadame" I said"I will not go withyou."

"And why not? What do you mean? Is every one here a stupid


"Pardon mebut I have nothing to reproach myself with. I

merely will not go. I merely intend neither to witness nor to

join in your play. I also beg to return you your five hundred

gulden. Farewell."

Laying the money upon a little table which the Grandmother's

chair happened to be passingI bowed and withdrew.

"What folly!" the Grandmother shouted after me. "Very wellthen.

Do not comeand I will find my way alone. Potapitchyou must

come with me. Lift up the chairand carry me along."

I failed to find Mr. Astleyand returned home. It was now

growing late--it was past midnightbut I subsequently learnt

from Potapitch how the Grandmother's day had ended. She had

lost all the money whichearlier in the dayI 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 afternoonshe had dowered with two ten-gulden pieces.

But before his arrival on the sceneshe 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 languagebut also he could speak a mixture of three

different dialectsso that the pair were able to understand

one another. Yet the old lady never ceased to abuse him

despite his deferential mannerand to compare him

unfavourably with myself (soat all eventsPotapitch

declared). "You" the old chamberlain said to me"treated

her as a gentleman shouldbut he--he robbed her right and

leftas I could see with my own eyes. Twice she caught him

at itand rated him soundly. On one occasion she even pulled

his hairso that the bystanders burst out laughing. Yet she

lost everythingsir--that is to sayshe lost all that you had

changed for her. Then we brought her homeandafter asking

for some water and saying her prayersshe 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! Ohmy own Moscow! For what have we not at home

therein Moscow? Such a garden and flowers as you could

never see hereand fresh air and apple-trees coming into

blossom--and a beautiful view to look upon. Ahbut what

must she do but go travelling abroad? Alackalack!"


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 arrivedbut in a form a hundred times

more extensive and unexpected than I had looked for. To me it

all seems strangeuncouthand tragic. Certain occurrences

have befallen me which border upon the marvellous. At all

eventsthat is how I view them. I view them so in one regard

at least. I refer to the whirlpool of events in whichat the

timeI was revolving. But the most curious feature of all is

my relation to those eventsfor 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 sowhat 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; andas 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 futurebut

living under the influence of passing moodsand of my

recollections of the tempest which recently drew me into its

vortexand then cast me out again. At times I seem still seem to

be caught within that vortex. At timesthe tempest seems once

more to be gatheringandas it passes overheadto be

wrapping me in its foldsuntil I have lost my sense of order

and realityand continue whirling and whirling and whirling


Yetit 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 enoughof late I have taken to amusing myself with

the works of M. Paul de Kockwhich I read in German

translations obtained from a wretched local library. These

works I cannot abideyet I read themand 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 spokenso

dear to me are the impressions which it has left behind it

that I fear to touch the vision with anything newlest it

should dissolve in smoke. But is it so dear to me? Yesit IS

dear to meand will ever be fresh in my recollections--even

forty years hence. . . .

So let me write of itbut only partiallyand in a more

abridged form than my full impressions might warrant.

First of alllet me conclude the history of the Grandmother.

Next day she lost every gulden that she possessed. Things were

bound to happen sofor 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; andthough I personally did

not witness her exploitsI 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 formerand incurred

dismissal in favour of the first Polewhoduring the time of

his unemploymenthad nevertheless hovered around the

Grandmother's chairand from time to time obtruded his head

over her shoulder. At length the old lady became desperatefor

the second Polewhen dismissedimitated his predecessor by

declining to go away; with the result that one Pole remained

standing on the right of the victimand the other on her left;

from which vantage points the pair quarrelledabused each other

concerning the stakes and roundsand exchanged the epithet

"laidak " [Rascal] and other Polish terms of endearment. Finallythey

effected a mutual reconciliationandtossing the money about

anyhowplayed simply at random. Once more quarrellingeach of

them staked money on his own side of the Grandmother's chair

(for instancethe one Pole staked upon the redand the other

one upon the black)until they had so confused and browbeaten

the old lady thatnearly weepingshe was forced to appeal to

the head croupier for protectionand to have the two Poles

expelled. No time was lost in this being donedespite the

rascals' cries and protestations that the old lady was in their

debtthat she had cheated themand 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 instanceone Pole

demanded of the Grandmother fifty gulden for his troubleand

then staked the money by the side of her stake. She happened to

win; whereupon he cried out that the winning stake was hisand

hers the loser. As soon as the two Poles had been expelled

Potapitch left the roomand reported to the authorities that

the men's pockets were full of gold; andon the Grandmother

also requesting the head croupier to look into the affairthe

police made their appearanceanddespite the protests of the

Poles (whoindeedhad been caught redhanded)their pockets

were turned inside outand the contents handed over to the

Grandmother. In factinview of the circumstance that she lost

all daythe croupiers and other authorities of the Casino

showed her every attention; and on her fame spreading through

the townvisitors of every nationality--even the most knowing of

themthe most distinguished--crowded to get a glimpse of "la

vieille comtesse russetombee en enfance" who had lost "so

many millions."

Yet with the money which the authorities restored to her from

the pockets of the Poles the Grandmother effected veryvery

littlefor there soon arrived to take his countrymen's placea

third Pole--a man who could speak Russian fluentlywas dressed

like a gentleman (albeit in lacqueyish fashion)and sported a

huge moustache. Though polite enough to the old ladyhe took a

high hand with the bystanders. In shorthe offered himself less

as a servant than as an ENTERTAINER. After each round he would

turn to the old ladyand swear terrible oaths to the effect

that he was a "Polish gentleman of honour" who would scorn to

take a kopeck of her money; andthough he repeated these oaths

so often that at length she grew alarmedhe had her play in

handand began to win on her behalf; whereforeshe felt that

she could not well get rid of him. An hour later the two Poles

whoearlier in the dayhad been expelled from the Casinomade

a reappearance behind the old lady's chairand 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 winkas well as

that the latter put something into their hands. Nextsince 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

Casinoand brought her thence a cup of soupand afterwards

some tea. In factBOTH the Poles hastened to perform this

office. Finallytowards the close of the daywhen it was clear

that the Grandmother was about to play her last bank-notethere

could be seen standing behind her chair no fewer than six

natives of Poland--persons whoas yethad been neither audible

nor visible; and as soon as ever the old lady played the note in

questionthey took no further notice of herbut pushed their

way past her chair to the table; seized the moneyand staked

it--shouting and disputing the whileand 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 alland was returning (about eight

o'clock) to the hotelsome three or four Poles could not bring

themselves to leave herbut 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; whencepresentlythe gang

of rascals was ejected neck and crop.

According to Potapitch's calculationsthe Grandmother lost

that daya total of ninety thousand roublesin addition to the

money which she had lost the day before. Every paper security

which she had brought with her--five percent bondsinternal

loan scripand what not--she had changed into cash. AlsoI

could not but marvel at the way in whichfor seven or eight

hours at a stretchshe sat in that chair of hersalmost never

leaving the table. AgainPotapitch told me that there were

three occasions on which she really began to win; but thatled

on by false hopesshe 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


Meanwhilethat 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 wordson

learning that the old lady had changed her mind about departing

and was bent on setting out for the Casino againthe 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 Generalquaking and greatly apprehensive as to his possible

futureoverdid things. After half an hour's prayers and

entreatiescoupled With a full confession of his debtsand

even of his passion for Mlle. Blanche (yeshe had quite lost

his head)he suddenly adopted a tone of menaceand started to

rage at the old lady--exclaiming that she was sullying the family

honourthat she was making a public scandal of herselfand

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 sticktoo!). 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 respectedbut unfortunateold

lady has gone out of her mindand is squandering her last

kopeck" or something of the kind? In shortis it in any way

possible to engineer a species of supervision overor of

restraint uponthe old lady? De Griershowevershrugged his

shoulders at thisand laughed in the General's facewhile the

old warrior went on chattering volublyand running up and down

his study. Finally De Griers waved his handand disappeared

from view; and by evening it became known that he had left the

hotelafter holding a very secret and important conference with

Mlle. Blanche. As for the latterfrom early morning she had

taken decisive measuresby completely excluding the General

from her presenceand bestowing upon him not a glance. Indeed

even when the General pursued her to the Casinoand met her

walking arm in arm with the Princehe (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 Princeand 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 namebuton the contrarywas

minded to borrow of her money wherewith to play at roulette. In

high displeasure she drove him from her presenceand shut

herself up in her room.

The same morning I went to see--orratherto look for--Mr.

Astleybut was unsuccessful in my quest. Neither in his rooms

nor in the Casino nor in the Park was he to be found; nor did

hethat daylunch at his hotel as usual. Howeverat 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 preoccupiedthough in his face I could discern

no actual traces of worry or perturbation. He held out to me a

friendly handwith his usual ejaculation of " Ah! " but did not

check his stride. I turned and walked beside himbut found

somehowthat his answers forbade any putting of definite

questions. MoreoverI felt reluctant to speak to him of Polina;

norfor his partdid he ask me any questions concerning her

althoughon my telling him of the Grandmother's exploitshe

listened attentively and gravelyand 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 trainso I knew she had been playing. If I should

have time I will go to the Casino to-nightand take a look at

her. The thing interests me."

"Where have you been today?" I asked--surprised at myself for

havingas yetomitted to put to him that question.

"To Frankfort."

"On business?"

"On business."

What more was there to be asked after that? I accompanied him

untilas we drew level with the Hotel des Quatre Saisonshe

suddenly nodded to me and disappeared. For myselfI returned

homeand came to the conclusion thateven had I met him at two

o'clock in the afternoonI should have learnt no more from him

than I had done at five o'clockfor 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 wordI meanon

any SERIOUS topic). Yesthat I had noticed. Stilleven though

I was aware of the position in which the General was placedit

had never occurred to me that he would have any reason to avoid

HERor to trouble her with family explanations. Indeedwhen I

was returning to the hotel after my conversation with Astley

and chanced to meet Polina and the childrenI 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 bowand I

retired to my room in a very bad humour.

Of coursesince the affair with the Burmergelms I had exchanged

not a word with Polinanor had with her any kind of

intercourse. Yet I had been at my wits' endforas time went

onthere was arising in me an ever-seething dissatisfaction.

Even if she did not love me she ought not to have trampled upon

my feelingsnor to have accepted my confessions with such

contemptseeing 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 agoI had noticed that she had a desire to make

me her friendher confidant--that she was making trial of me for

the purpose; butfor some reason or anotherthe desired result

had never come aboutand we had fallen into the present strange

relationswhich had led me to address her as I had done. At the

same timeif my love was distasteful to herwhy had she not

FORBIDDEN me to speak of it to her?

But she had not so forbidden me. On the contrarythere had been

occasions when she had even INVITED me to speak. Of coursethis

might have been done out of sheer wantonnessfor I well knew--I

had remarked it only too often--thatafter listening to what I

had to sayand angering me almost beyond enduranceshe 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 Baronand

I could bear the severance no longer. Whenthat afternoonI

met her near the Casinomy heart almost made me faintit beat

so violently. She too could not live without mefor 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 feetsuch

escapades as I had perpetrated with the Baron. Ahwas it not

torture to meall this? For could it be that her whole world

was bound up with the Frenchman? Whattooabout Mr. Astley?

The affair was inexplicable throughout. My Godwhat distress it

caused me!

Arrived homeIin a fit of frenzyindited the following:

"Polina AlexandrovnaI can see that there is approaching us an

exposure which will involve you too. For the last time I ask of

you--have youor have you notany need of my life? If you have

then make such dispositions as you wishand I shall always be

discoverable in my room if required. If you have need of my

lifewrite or send for me."

I sealed the letterand dispatched it by the hand of a corridor

lacqueywith orders to hand it to the addressee in person.

Though I expected no answerscarcely three minutes had elapsed

before the lacquey returned with "the compliments of a certain


Nextabout seven o'clockI was sent for by the General. I

found him in his studyapparently 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 apartand

his head bent down. Alsohe 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 stepand

was for leaving the room; whereupon he seized me by both hands

anddrawing me towards the sofaand seating himself thereon

he forced me to sit down on a chair opposite him. Thenwithout

letting go of my handshe exclaimed with quivering lips and a

sparkle of tears on his eyelashes:

"OhAlexis Ivanovitch! Save mesave me! Have some mercy upon


For a long time I could not make out what he meantalthough he

kept talking and talkingand constantly repeating to himself

"Have mercymercy!" At lengthhoweverI divined that he was

expecting me to give him something in the nature of advice--or

ratherthatdeserted by every oneand overwhelmed with grief

and apprehensionhe had bethought himself of my existenceand

sent for me to relieve his feelings by talking and talking and


In facthe was in such a confused and despondent state of mind

thatclasping his hands togetherhe actually went down upon

his knees and begged me to go to Mlle. Blancheand beseech and

advise her to return to himand to accept him in marriage.

"ButGeneral" I exclaimed"possibly Mlle. Blanche has

scarcely even remarked my existence? What could I do with her?"

It was in vain that I protestedfor he could understand nothing

that was said to himNext he started talking about the

Grandmotherbut always in a disconnected sort of fashion--his

one thought being to send for the police.

"In Russia" said hesuddenly 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.

Yesmy good sir" he went onrelapsing 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 thisthat in Russia old women

like her are subjected to restraintthe devil take them?"

Again he threw himself down upon the sofa.

A minute laterthough sobbing and almost breathlesshe managed

to gasp out that Mlle. Blanche had refused to marry himfor the

reason that the Grandmother had turned up in place of a

telegramand it was therefore clear that he had no inheritance

to look for. Evidentlyhe supposed that I had hitherto been in

entire ignorance of all this. Againwhen I referred to De

Griersthe 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 ParisI know not if seven hundred francs be

left. Of course that sum will do to go on withbutas regards

the futureI know nothingI know nothing."

"Then how will you pay your hotel bill?" I cried in

consternation. "And what shall you do afterwards?"

He looked at me vaguelybut 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 childrenbut he only

returned brief answers of " Yesyes" and again started to

maunder about the Princeand 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 dangerousfor something might happen to him. I withdrew

from his rooms for a little whilebut warned the nursemaid to

keep an eye upon himas 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 Generalwhen Potapitch approached me with

a summons from the Grandmother. It was now eight o'clockand

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; yeteven then I could detect in

the old lady's tone and manner a great change.

"Good eveningAlexis Ivanovitch" she said slowlywith her

head drooping. "Pardon me for disturbing you again. Yesyou

must pardon an oldold woman like myselffor 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 yoursand am going to beg of him three

thousand francs for a week. Please try and persuade him to think

nothing of itnor yet to refuse mefor I am still a rich woman

who possesses three villages and a couple of mansions. Yesthe

money shall be foundfor 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 enoughAstley had come hot-foot on receiving the

Grandmother's appeal. Scarcely stopping even to reflectand

with scarcely a wordhe counted out the three thousand francs

under a note of hand which she duly signed. Thenhis business

donehe bowedand lost no time in taking his departure.

"You too leave meAlexis Ivanovitch" said the Grandmother.

"All my bones are achingand I still have an hour in which to

rest. Do not be hard upon meold 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

blockheadand consider myselfsimpleton though I beat least

wiser than HE is. How surely does God visit old ageand punish

it for its presumption! Wellgood-bye. Marthacome and lift

me up."

HoweverI had a mind to see the old lady off; andmoreoverI

was in an expectant frame of mind--somehow I kept thinking that

SOMETHING was going to happen; whereforeI could not rest

quietly in my roombut stepped out into the corridorand then

into the Chestnut Avenue for a few minutes' stroll. My letter to

Polina had been clear and firmand in the present crisisI felt

surewould prove final. I had heard of De Griers' departure

andhowever much Polina might reject me as a FRIENDshe might

not reject me altogether as a SERVANT. She would need me to

fetch and carry for herand I was ready to do so. How could it

have been otherwise?

Towards the hour of the train's departure I hastened to the

stationand put the Grandmother into her compartment--she and

her party occupying a reserved family saloon.

"Thanks for your disinterested assistance" she said at

parting. "Ohand 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

suiteI met the nursemaidand inquired after her master.

"There is nothing new to reportsir" she replied quietly.

Nevertheless I decided to enterand 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 themon the sofathere was seated her mother.

Clearly the General was almost out of his mind with joyfor he

was talking all sorts of nonsenseand bubbling over with a

long-drawnnervous laugh--a laugh which twisted his face into

innumerable wrinklesand caused his eyes almost to disappear.

Afterwards I learnt from Mlle. Blanche herself thatafter

dismissing the Prince and hearing of the General's tearsshe

bethought her of going to comfort the old manand had just

arrived for the purpose when I entered. Fortunatelythe 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

enteringand departed unnoticed. Ascending to my own roomand

opening the doorI perceived in the semi-darkness a figure

seated on a chair in the corner by the window. The figure did

not rise when I enteredso I approached it swiftlypeered at

it closelyand felt my heart almost stop beating. The figure

was Polina!


The shock made me utter an exclamation.

"What is the matter? What is the matter?" she asked in a

strange voice. She was looking paleand her eyes were dim.

"What is the matter?" I re-echoed. "Whythe fact that you

are HERE!"

"If I am hereI have come with all that I have to bring" she

said. "Such has always been my wayas you shall presently see.

Please light a candle."

I did so; whereupon she roseapproached the tableand 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. Althoughat this distance of timeI

have forgotten the exact phraseology of the missiveI append

if not the precise wordsat all events the general sense.

"Mademoiselle" the document ran"certain untoward

circumstances compel me to depart in haste. Of courseyou have

of yourself remarked that hitherto I have always refrained from

having any final explanation with youfor the reason that I

could not well state the whole circumstances; and now to my

difficulties the advent of the aged Grandmothercoupled with

her subsequent proceedingshas put the final touch. Alsothe

involved state of my affairs forbids me to write with any

finality concerning those hopes of ultimate bliss upon which

for a long while pastI have permitted myself to feed. I regret

the pastbut 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 losthoweveralmost the

whole of my money in debts incurred by your stepfatherI find

myself driven to the necessity of saving the remainder;

whereforeI 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 timeknowing thatin

additionyour frivolous stepfather has squandered money which

is exclusively yoursI have decided to absolve him from a

certain moiety of the mortgages on his propertyin order that

you may be in a position to recover of him what you have lost

by suing him in legal fashion. I trustthereforethatas

matters now standthis 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

enoughto all outward seemingyet with a note of irritation in

her tone. "Long ago I made up my mind on the subjectfor I

could read his thoughtsand 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 momentand stood

biting her lips. "So of set purpose I redoubled my contemptuous

treatment of himand waited to see what he would do. If a

telegram to say that we had become legatees had arrived from

St. PetersburgI should have flung at him a quittance for my

foolish stepfather's debtsand then dismissed him. For a long

time I have hated him. Even in earlier days he was not a man;

and now!-- Ohhow gladly I could throw those fifty thousand

roubles in his faceand spit in itand then rub the spittle in!"

"But the document returning the fifty-thousand rouble

mortgage--has the General got it? If sopossess yourself of it

and send it to De Griers."

"Nono; the General has not got it."

"Just as I expected! Wellwhat 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 villainthe villain! But I will kill him

in a duel. Where is he now?"

"In Frankfortwhere he will be staying for the next three


"Wellbid me do soand I will go to him by the first train

tomorrow" I exclaimed with enthusiasm.

She smiled.

"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. Whatthenwould 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 emotionfor suddenly

she seated herself upon the sofaas 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 meand not to Mr. Astleythat she had turned!

Although shean unprotected girlhad come to me in my room--in

an hotel room--and had probably compromised herself therebyI

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. Yesyou 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 mebut I did not return.

Sometimes it happens that the most insane thoughtthe most

impossible conceptionwill become so fixed in one's head that

at length one believes the thought or the conception to be

reality. Moreoverif with the thought or the conception there

is combined a stronga passionatedesireone will come to

look upon the said thought or conception as something fated

inevitableand foreordained--something bound to happen. Whether

by this there is connoted something in the nature of a

combination of presentimentsor a great effort of willor a

self-annulment of one's true expectationsand so onI do not

know; butat 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

arithmeticI still believe it to have been a miracle. Yet why

did this conviction take such a hold upon me at the timeand

remain with me ever since? PreviouslyI had thought of the idea

not as an occurrence which was ever likely to come aboutbut 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 (thoughat the same timeof

agitation) as I had never before experienced. In the

gaming-rooms there were still a large number of peoplebut 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 whomat spasthere existed

nothing beyond rouletteand who went thither for that alone.

These gamesters took little note of what was going on around

themand were interested in none of the appurtenances of the

seasonbut played from morning till nightand would have been

ready to play through the night until dawn had that been

possible. As it wasthey used to disperse unwillingly whenat

midnightroulette came to an end. Likewiseas 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 partlost it. For my own part I proceeded towards

the table at which the Grandmother had lately sat; andsince the

crowd around it was not very largeI soon obtained standing

room among the ring of gamblerswhile directly in front of me

on the green clothI 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

fallenand so took no bearings when I began to playasin my

placeany SYSTEMATIC gambler would have done. NoI merely

extended my stock of twenty ten-gulden piecesand 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 wonand was now in possession of eighty ten-gulden

pieces. NextI moved the whole eighty on to twelve middle

numbers (a stake whichif successfulwould bring me in a

triple profitbut also involved a risk of two chances to one).

The wheel revolvedand 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 pileen blocon 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 meand showed itself in a trembling of the hands and

knees). For with horror I had realised that I MUST winand that

upon that stake there depended all my life.

"Rouge!" called the croupier. I drew a long breathand hot

shivers went coursing over my body. I was paid out my winnings

in bank-notes--amountingof courseto a total of four thousand

florinseight hundred gulden (I could still calculate the


After thatI rememberI again staked two thousand florins upon

twelve middle numbersand lost. Again I staked the whole of

my goldwith eight hundred guldenin notesand lost. Then

madness seemed to come upon meand seizing my last two thousand

florinsI staked them upon twelve of the first numbers--wholly

by chanceand at randomand 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

whenin Parisshe was descending earthwards from a balloon.

"Quatre!" called the croupier.

Once morewith the addition of my original stakeI 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 themand exchanged a few words; the bystanders

murmured expectantly.

The black turned up. After that I do not exactly remember

either my calculations or the order of my stakings. I only

remember thatas in a dreamI won in one round sixteen

thousand florins; that in the three following roundsI lost

twelve thousand; that I moved the remainder (four thousand) on

to "Passe" (though quite unconscious of what I was doing--I was

merely waitingas it weremechanicallyand without

reflectionfor something) and won; and thatfinallyfour

times in succession I lost. YesI can remember raking in money

by thousands--but most frequently on the twelvemiddle numbers

to which I constantly adheredand which kept appearing in a

sort of regular order--firstthree or four times runningand

thenafter an interval of a couple of roundsin another break

of three or four appearances. Sometimesthis 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 hadwon thirty thousand

florinsas well as thatsince the latter was the limit for

whichat any one timethe bank could make itself responsible

roulette at that table must close for the night. AccordinglyI

caught up my pile of goldstuffed it into my pocketand

grasping my sheaf of bank-notesmoved to the table in an

adjoining salon where a second game of roulette was in

progress. The crowd followed me in a bodyand cleared a place

for me at the table; after whichI proceeded to stake as

before--that is to sayat 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 instancethere were times when I

attached myself for a while to certain figures and coups--though

always leaving themagain before longwithout knowing what I

was doing.

In factI cannot have been in possession of all my faculties

for I can remember the croupiers correcting my play more than

onceowing to my having made mistakes of the gravest order. My

brows were damp with sweatand my hands were shaking. Also

Poles came around me to proffer their servicesbut I heeded

none of them. Nor did my luck fail me now. Suddenlythere arose

around me a loud din of talking and laughter. " Bravobravo! "

was the general shoutand some people even clapped their hands.

I had raked in thirty thousand florinsand again the bank had

had to close for the night!

"Go away nowgo 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.

"Yesfor God's sake go" whispered a second voice in my left

ear. Glancing aroundI perceived that the second voice had come

from a modestlyplainly dressed lady of rather less than

thirty--a woman whose facethough pale and sickly-lookingbore

also very evident traces of former beauty. At the momentI 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 guldenI contrived to insinuate it

unperceivedinto the hand of the pale lady. An overpowering

impulse had made me do soand I remember how her thin little

fingers pressed mine in token of her lively gratitude. The whole

affair was the work of a moment.

Thencollecting my belongingsI crossed to where trente et

quarante was being played--a game which could boast of a more

aristocratic publicand was played with cards instead of with a

wheel. At this diversion the bank made itself responsible for a

hundred thousand thalers as the limitbut the highest stake

allowable wasas in roulettefour 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.

Butas everfortune seemed to be at my back. As though of set

purposethere came to my aid a circumstance which not

infrequently repeats itself in gaming. The circumstance is that

not infrequently luck attaches itself tosaythe redand does

not leave it for a space of saytenor even fifteenrounds

in succession. Three days ago I had heard thatduring 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 enoughmany deserted

the red after a dozen roundsand 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

anythingfor the reason that every practised player knows the

meaning of "capricious fortune." That is to sayafter the

sixteenth (or so) success of the redone would think that the

seventeenth coup would inevitably fall upon the black; wherefore

novices would be apt to back the latter in the seventeenth

roundand even to double or treble their stakes upon it--only

in the endto lose.

Yet some whim or other led meon remarking that the red had

come up consecutively for seven timesto attach myself to that

colour. Probably this was mostly due to self-conceitfor I

wanted to astonish the bystanders with the riskiness of my play.

AlsoI remember that--ohstrange sensation!--I suddenlyand

without any challenge from my own presumptionbecame obsessed

with a DESIRE to take risks. If the spirit has passed through a

great many sensationspossibly it can no longer be sated with

thembut grows more excitedand demands more sensationsand

stronger and stronger onesuntil at length it falls exhausted.

Certainlyif the rules of the game had permitted even of my

staking fifty thousand florins at a timeI should have staked

them. All of a sudden I heard exclamations arising that the

whole thing was a marvelsince the red was turning up for the

fourteenth time!

"Monsieur a gagne cent mille florins" a voice exclaimed beside


I awoke to my senses. What? I had won a hundred thousand

florins? If sowhat more did I need to win? I grasped the

banknotesstuffed them into my pocketsraked in the gold

without counting itand started to leave the Casino. As I

passed through the salons people smiled to see my

bulging pockets and unsteady gaitfor the weight which I was

carrying must have amounted to half a pood! Several hands I saw

stretched out in my directionand 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. Indeednever since

my boyhood have I done that. AlsoI cannot remember what I

thought about on the way. I only felt a sort of fearful pleasure

--the pleasure of successof conquestof power (how can I best

express it?). Likewisebefore me there flitted the image of

Polina; and I kept rememberingand reminding myselfthat it

was to HER I was goingthat it was in HER presence I should

soon be standingthat 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 meor the reason why I had left heror

all those varied sensations which I had been experiencing a bare

hour and a half ago. Nothose sensations seemed to be things of

the pastto be things which had righted themselves and grown

oldto be things concerning which we needed to trouble

ourselves no longersincefor uslife 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 untilin my terrorI almost started to

run. Suddenlyas I issued from the Avenuethere burst upon me

the lights of the hotelsparkling with a myriad lamps! Yes

thanks be to GodI had reached home!

Running up to my roomI flung open the door of it. Polina was

still on the sofawith a lighted candle in front of herand

her hands clasped. As I entered she stared at me in astonishment

(forat the momentI must have presented a strange spectacle).

All I didhoweverwas to halt before herand fling upon the

table my burden of wealth.


I remembertoohowwithout moving from her placeor changing

her attitudeshe 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.

Consequentlyfor a moment or two Polina escaped my mind. Then I

set myself to arrange the pile in orderand to sort the notes

and to mass the gold in a separate heap. That doneI left

everything where it layand proceeded to pace the room with

rapid strides as I lost myself in thought. Then I darted to the

table once moreand began to recount the money; until all of a

suddenas though I had remembered somethingI rushed to the

doorand 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 thousandflorins--fifty

thousand francsor more. Take themand tomorrow throw them

in De Griers' face."

She returned no answer.

"Orif you should prefer" I continued"let me take

them to him myself tomorrow--yesearly tomorrow morning. Shall


Then all at once she burst out laughingand 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 ceasedand frowned at me from under her eyebrows.

"I am NOT going to take your money" she said contemptuously.

"Why not?" I cried. "Why notPolina?"

"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 longquestioning glanceas 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 Polinahow can you speak so?" I exclaimed reproachfully.

"Am I De Griers?"

"You?" she cried with her eyes suddenly flashing. "WhyI

HATE you! YesyesI HATE you! I love you no more than I do De


Then she buried her face in her handsand 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 mewould youwould you? Would you buy me for fifty

thousand francs as De Griers did?" she gasped between her

convulsive sobs.

I clasped her in my armskissed her hands and feetand fell

upon my knees before her.

Presently the hysterical fit passed awayandlaying her hands

upon my shouldersshe gazed for a while into my faceas though

trying to read it--something I said to herbut 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 suddenlyshe 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 evento

quarrel with the Baron at my bidding?"

Then she laughed--laughed as though something dearbut

laughablehad recurred to her memory. Yesshe 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 knowsince she spoke with a feverish lispas though she

were trying to tell me something very quickly. At intervals

tooshe would break off into the smile which I was beginning to

dread. "Nono!" she kept repeating. "YOU are my dear one;

YOU are the man I trust." Again she laid her hands upon my

shouldersand again she gazed at me as she reiterated: "You love

meyou 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. Truethe mood was the outcome of

hysteria; but--! All of a sudden she noticed my ardent gazeand

smiled slightly. The next momentfor no apparent reasonshe

began to talk of Astley.

She continued talking and talking about himbut 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 wholeshe appeared to be laughing at Astley

for she kept repeating that he was waiting for herand did I

know whethereven at that momenthe was not standing beneath

the window? "Yesyeshe is there" she said. "Open the

windowand see if he is not." She pushed me in that direction;

yetno sooner did I make a movement to obey her behest than she

burst into laughterand I remained beside herand she

embraced me.

"Shall we go away tomorrow?" presently she askedas though

some disturbing thought had recurred to her recollection. "How

would it be if we were to try and overtake Grandmamma? I think

we should do so at Berlin. And what think you she would have to

say to us when we caught her upand her eyes first lit upon us?

Whattooabout Mr. Astley? HE would not leap from the

Shlangenberg for my sake! No! Of that I am very sure!"--and she

laughed. "Do you know where he is going next year? He says he

intends to go to the North Pole for scientific investigations

and has invited me to go with him! Hahaha! He also says that

we Russians know nothingcan do nothingwithout European help.

But he is a good fellow all the same. For instancehe does not

blame the General in the matterbut declares that Mlle.

Blanche--that love--But no; I do not knowI do not know." She

stopped suddenlyas though she had said her sayand was

feeling bewildered. "What poor creatures these people are. How

sorry I am for themand for Grandmamma! But when are you going

to kill De Griers? Surely you do not intend actually to murder

him? You fool! Do you suppose that I should ALLOW you to fight

De Griers? Nor shall you kill the Baron." Here she burst out

laughing. "How absurd you looked when you were talking to the

Burmergelms! I was watching you all the time--watching you from

where I was sitting. And how unwilling you were to go when I

sent you! Ohhow I laughed and laughed!"

Then she kissed and embraced me again; again she pressed her

face to mine with tender passion. Yet I neither saw nor heard

herfor my head was in a whirl. . . .

It must have been about seven o'clock in the morning when I

awoke. Daylight had comeand Polina was sitting by my side--a

strange expression on her faceas though she had seen a vision

and was unable to collect her thoughts. She too had just

awokenand was now staring at the money on the table. My head

ached; it felt heavy. I attempted to take Polina's handbut she

pushed me from herand leapt from the sofa. The dawn was full

of mistfor rain had fallenyet she moved to the window

opened itandleaning her elbows upon the window-sillthrust

out her head and shoulders to take the air. In this position did

she remain for several minuteswithout ever looking round at

meor listening to what I was saying. Into my head there came

the uneasy thought: What is to happen now? How is it all to end?

Suddenly Polina rose from the windowapproached the tableand

looking at me with an expression of infinite aversionsaid with

lips which quivered with anger:

"Well? Are you going to hand me over my fifty thousand francs?"

"Polinayou say that AGAINAGAIN?" I exclaimed.

"You have changed your mindthen? Hahaha! You are sorry

you ever promised them?"

On the table wherethe previous nightI had counted the money

there still was lying the packet of twenty five thousand

florins. I handed it to her.

"The francs are minethenare they? They are mine?" she

inquired viciously as she balanced the money in her hands.

"Yes; they have ALWAYS been yours" I said.

"Then TAKE your fifty thousand francs!" and she hurled them

full in my face. The packet burst as she did soand the floor

became strewed with bank-notes. The instant that the deed was

done she rushed from the room.

At that moment she cannot have been in her right mind; yetwhat

was the cause of her temporary aberration I cannot say. For a

month past she had been unwell. Yet what had brought about this

PRESENT condition of mindabove all thingsthis outburst? Had

it come of wounded pride? Had it come of despair over her

decision to come to me? Had it come of the fact thatpresuming

too much on my good fortuneI had seemed to be intending to

desert her (even as De Griers had done) when once I had given

her the fifty thousand francs? Buton my honourI had never

cherished any such intention. What was at faultI thinkwas

her own pridewhich kept urging her not to trust mebut

ratherto insult me--even though she had not realised the fact.

In her eyes I corresponded to De Griersand therefore had been

condemned for a fault not wholly my own. Her mood of late had

been a sort of deliriuma sort of light-headedness--that I knew

full well; yetnever had I sufficiently taken it into consideration.

Perhaps she would not pardon me now? Ahbut this was THE PRESENT.

What about the future? Her delirium and sickness were not likely to

make her forget what she had done in bringing me De Griers'

letter. Noshe must have known what she was doing when she

brought it.

Somehow I contrived to stuff the pile of notes and gold under

the bedto cover them overand then to leave the room some ten

minutes after Polina. I felt sure that she had returned to her

own room; whereforeI intended quietly to follow herand to ask

the nursemaid aid who opened the door how her mistress was.

Judgethereforeof my surprise whenmeeting the domestic on

the stairsshe informed me that Polina had not yet returned

and that she (the domestic) was at that moment on her way to my

room in quest of her!

"Mlle. left me but ten minutes ago" I said.

"What can have become of her?" The nursemaid looked at me


Already sundry rumours were flying about the hotel. Both in the

office of the commissionaire and in that of the landlord it was

whispered thatat seven o'clock that morningthe Fraulein had

left the hoteland set offdespite the rainin the direction

of the Hotel d'Angleterre. From words and hints let fall I could

see that the fact of Polina having spent the night in my room

was now public property. Alsosundry rumours were circulating

concerning the General's family affairs. It was known that last

night he had gone out of his mindand paraded the hotel in

tears; alsothat the old lady who had arrived was his mother

and that she had come from Russia on purpose to forbid her son's

marriage with Mlle. de Comingesas well as to cut him out of

her will if he should disobey her; also thatbecause he had

disobeyed hershe had squandered all her money at roulettein

order to have nothing more to leave to him. "Ohthese

Russians!" exclaimed the landlordwith an angry toss of the

headwhile the bystanders laughed and the clerk betook himself

to his accounts. Alsoevery one had learnt about my winnings;

Karlthe corridor lacqueywas the first to congratulate me.

But with these folk I had nothing to do. My business was to set

off at full speed to the Hotel d'Angleterre.

As yet it was early for Mr. Astley to receive visitors; butas

soon as he learnt that it was I who had arrivedhe came out

into the corridor to meet meand stood looking at me in silence

with his steel-grey eyes as he waited to hear what I had to say.

I inquired after Polina.

"She is ill" he repliedstill looking at me with his direct

unwavering glance.

"And she is in your rooms."

"Yesshe is in my rooms."

"Then you are minded to keep her there?"

"YesI am minded to keep her there."

"ButMr. Astleythat will raise a scandal. It ought not to be

allowed. Besidesshe is very ill. Perhaps you had not remarked


"YesI have. It was I who told you about it. Had she not been

illshe would not have gone and spent the night with you."

"Then you know all about it?"

"Yes; for last night she was to have accompanied me to the

house of a relative of mine. Unfortunatelybeing illshe made

a mistakeand went to your rooms instead."

"Indeed? Then I wish you joyMr. Astley. Aproposyou have

reminded me of something. Were you beneath my window last night?

Every moment Mlle. Polina kept telling me to open the window and

see if you were there; after which she always smiled."

"Indeed? NoI was not there; but I was waiting in the

corridorand walking about the hotel."

"She ought to see a doctoryou knowMr. Astley."

"Yesshe ought. I have sent for oneandif she diesI shall

hold you responsible."

This surprised me.

"Pardon me" I replied"but what do you mean?"

"Never mind. Tell me if it is true thatlast nightyou won two

hundred thousand thalers?"

"No; I won a hundred thousand florins."

"Good heavens! Then I suppose you will be off to Paris this



"Because all Russians who have grown rich go to Paris"

explained Astleyas though he had read the fact in a book.

"But what could I do in Paris in summer time?--I LOVE herMr.

Astley! Surely you know that?"

"Indeed? I am sure that you do NOT. Moreoverif you were to

stay hereyou would lose everything that you possessand have

nothing left with which to pay your expenses in Paris. Well

good-bye now. I feel sure that today will see you gone from


"Good-bye. But I am NOT going to Paris. Likewise--pardon me--what

is to become of this family? I mean that the affair of the

General and Mlle. Polina will soon be all over the town."

"I daresay; yetI hardly suppose that that will break the

General's heart. MoreoverMlle. Polina has a perfect right to

live where she chooses. In shortwe may say thatas a family

this family has ceased to exist."

I departedand found myself smiling at the Englishman's strange

assurance that I should soon be leaving for Paris. "I suppose

he means to shoot me in a duelshould Polina die. Yesthat is

what he intends to do." Nowalthough I was honestly sorry for

Polinait is a fact thatfrom the moment whenthe previous

nightI had approached the gaming-tableand begun to rake in

the packets of bank-notesmy love for her had entered upon a

new plane. YesI can say that now; althoughat the timeI was

barely conscious of it. Was Ithenat heart a gambler? Did I

after alllove Polina not so very much? Nono! As God is my

witnessI loved her! Even when I was returning home from Mr.

Astley's my suffering was genuineand my self-reproach sincere.

But presently I was to go through an exceedingly strange and

ugly experience.

I was proceeding to the General's rooms when I heard a door near

me openand a voice call me by name. It was Mlle.'s motherthe

Widow de Cominges who was inviting mein her daughter's

nameto enter.

I did so; whereuponI heard a laugh and a little cry proceed

from the bedroom (the pair occupied a suite of two apartments)

where Mlle. Blanche was just arising.

"Ahc'est lui! Viensdoncbete! Is it true that you have won

a mountain of gold and silver? J'aimerais mieux l'or."

"Yes" I replied with a smile.

"How much?"

"A hundred thousand florins."

"Bibicomme tu es bete! Come in herefor I can't hear you

where you are now. Nous ferons bombancen'est-ce pas?"

Entering her roomI found her lolling under a pink satin

coverletand revealing a pair of swarthywonderfully healthy

shoulders--shoulders such as one sees in dreams--shoulders covered

over with a white cambric nightgown whichtrimmed with lace

stood outin striking reliefagainst the darkness of her skin.

"Mon filsas-tu du coeur?" she cried when she saw meand

then giggled. Her laugh had always been a very cheerful oneand

at times it even sounded sincere.

"Tout autre--" I beganparaphrasing Comeille.

"See here" she prattled on. "Please search for my stockings

and help me to dress. Aussisi tu n'es pas trop bete je te

prends a Paris. I am just offlet me tell you."

"This moment?"

"In half an hour."

True enougheverything stood ready-packed--trunksportmanteaux

and all. Coffee had long been served.

"Eh bientu verras Paris. Dis doncqu'est-ce que c'est qu'un

'utchitel'? Tu etais bien bete quand tu etais 'utchitel.' Where

are my stockings? Please help me to dress."

And she lifted up a really ravishing foot--smallswarthyand

not misshapen like the majority of feet which look dainty only

in bottines. I laughedand started to draw on to the foot a

silk stockingwhile Mlle. Blanche sat on the edge of the bed

and chattered.

"Eh bienque feras-tu si je te prends avec moi? First of all I

must have fifty thousand francsand you shall give them to me

at Frankfurt. Then we will go on to Pariswhere we will live

togetheret 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

francswhat should I have left for myself?"

"Another hundred thousand francsplease to remember. Besides

I could live with you in your rooms for a monthor even for

two; or even for longer. But it would not take us more than two

months to get through fifty thousand francs; forlook youje

suis bonne enfanteet tu verras des etoilesyou may be sure."

"What? You mean to say that we should spend the whole in two


"Certainly. Does that surprise you very much? Ahvil esclave!

Whyone month of that life would be better than all your

previous existence. One month--et apresle deluge! Mais tu ne

peux comprendre. Va! Awayaway! You are not worth it.--Ahque


Forwhile drawing on the other stockingI had felt constrained

to kiss her. Immediately she shrunk backkicked me in the face

with her toesand turned me neck and prop out of the room.

"Eh bienmon 'utchitel'" she called after me"je t'attends

si tu veux. I start in a quarter of an hour's 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 faceand preferred

Mr. Astley to myself. A few bank-notes were still fluttering

about the floorand I picked them up. At that moment the door

openedand the landlord appeared--a person whountil nowhad

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 accountpleasefor in ten minutes I

shall be gone."

"To Paristo 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. Blanchethe Widow de Comingesand

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 twoand 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 stakethat I had lost my sensesthat I

desired nothing betterI 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 youMr. Astley!" Yesas now I look

back at thingsI 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


"Comecome! We are going to spend your two hundred thousand

francs for youet tu seras heureux comme un petit roi. I myself

will tie your tie for youand introduce you to Hortense. And

when we have spent your money you shall return hereand break

the bank again. What did those two Jews tell you?--that the thing

most needed is daringand that you possess it? Consequently

this is not the first time that you will be hurrying to Paris

with money in your pocket. Quant ... moije veux cinquante mille

francs de renteet 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 occasionI took care to

tell him that he must hunt for the choicest of flowers; and when

he returns homethe poor fellow will find the bird flown.

Possibly he may take wing in pursuit--hahaha! And if soI

shall not be sorryfor he could be useful to me in Parisand

Mr. Astley will pay his debts here."

In this manner did I depart for the Gay City.


Of Paris what am I to say? The whole proceeding was a delirium

a madness. I spent a little over three weeks thereandduring

that timesaw my hundred thousand francs come to an end. I

speak only of the ONE hundred thousand francsfor the other

hundred thousand I gave to Mlle. Blanche in pure cash. That is

to sayI handed her fifty thousand francs at Frankfurtand

three days later (in Paris)advanced her another fifty thousand

on note of hand. Neverthelessa week had not elapsed ere she

came to me for more money. "Et les cent mille francs qui nous

restent" she added"tu les mangeras avec moimon utchitel."

Yesshe always called me her "utchitel." A person more

economicalgraspingand mean than Mlle. Blanche one could not

imagine. But this was only as regards HER OWN money. MY hundred

thousand francs (as she explained to me later) she needed to set

up her establishment in Paris"so that once and for all I may

be on a decent footingand proof against any stones which may

be thrown at me--at all events for a long time to come."

NeverthelessI saw nothing of those hundred thousand francsfor

my own purse (which she inspected daily) never managed to amass

in it more than a hundred francs at a time; andgenerally the

sum did not reach even that figure.

"What do you want with money?" she would say to me with air of

absolute simplicity; and I never disputed the point.

Neverthelessthough she fitted out her flat very badly with the

moneythe fact did not prevent her from saying whenlatershe

was showing me over the rooms of her new abode: "See what

care and taste can do with the most wretched of means!"

Howeverher "wretchedness " had cost fifty thousand francs

while with the remaining fifty thousand she purchased a carriage

and horses.

Alsowe gave a couple of balls--evening parties

attended by Hortense and Lisette and Cleopatrewho were women

remarkable both for the number of their liaisons and (though

only in some cases) for their good looks. At these reunions

I had to play the part of host--to meet and entertain fat

mercantile parvenus who were impossible by reason of their

rudeness and braggadociocolonels of various kindshungry

authorsand journalistic hacks-- all of whom disported

themselves in fashionable tailcoats and pale yellow glovesand

displayed such an aggregate of conceit and gasconade as would be

unthinkable even in St. Petersburg--which is saying a great deal!

They used to try to make fun of mebut I would console myself

by drinking champagne and then lolling in a retiring-room.

NeverthelessI found it deadly work. "C'est un utchitel" Blanchewould

say of me"qui a gagne deux cent mille francs

and but for mewould have had not a notion how to spend them.

Presently he will have to return to his tutoring. Does any one

know of a vacant post? You knowone must do something for him."

I had the more frequent recourse to champagne in that I

constantly felt depressed and boredowing to the fact that I

was living in the most bourgeois commercial milieu imaginable--a

milieu wherein every sou was counted and grudged. Indeedtwo

weeks had not elapsed before I perceived that Blanche had no

real affection for meeven though she dressed me in elegant

clothesand herself tied my tie each day. In shortshe utterly

despised me. But that caused me no concern. Blase and inertI

spent my evenings generally at the Chateau des Fleurswhere I

would get fuddled and then dance the cancan (whichin that

establishmentwas a very indecent performance) with eclat. At

lengththe time came when Blanche had drained my purse dry. She

had conceived an idea thatduring the term of our residence

togetherit would be well if I were always to walk behind her

with a paper and pencilin order to jot down exactly what she

spentwhat she had savedwhat she was paying outand what

she was laying by. Wellof course I could not fail to be aware

that this would entail a battle over every ten francs; so

although for every possible objection that I might make she had

prepared a suitable answershe soon saw that I made no

objectionsand thereforehad to start disputes herself. That is

to sayshe 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

thatbeing too stupid to understandI was a hopeless case.

Then she would leave the roombut 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."

"Yesyes. They are splendid horsesand 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 needfor it will all come in handy in the future.

YesI quite see the necessity of your establishing yourself on

a good basisfor 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."

Blanchewho had by no means expected such declarations from me

butratheran uproar and protestswas rather taken aback.

"Wellwellwhat a man you are! " she exclaimed. " Mais tu as

l'esprit pour comprendre. Sais-tumon garconalthough you are

a tutoryou 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 doncare you really rich? Mais sais-tu

you have too much contempt for money. Qu'est-ce que tu feras

apresdis donc?"

"Apres I shall go to Homburgand win another hundred thousand


"Ouiouic'est cac'est magnifique! AhI know you will win

themand bring them to me when you have done so. Dis donc--you

will end by making me love you. Since you are what you areI

mean to love you all the timeand never to be unfaithful to

you. You seeI have not loved you before parce que je croyais

que tu n'es qu'un utchitel (quelque chose comme un lacquais

n'est-ce pas?) Yet all the time I have been true to youparce

que je suis bonne fille."

"You lie!" I interrupted. "Did I not see youthe other day

with Albert--with that black-jowled officer?"

"Ohoh! Mais tu es--"

"Yesyou 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 nowI should refrain from

putting him out of the room if I thought you really cared for

him. Onlymind youdo not give him any of my money. You hear?"

"You saydo youthat you would not be angry? Mais tu es un

vrai philosophesais-tu? Ouiun vrai philosophe! Eh bienje

t'aimeraije t'aimerai. Tu verras-tu seras content."

True enoughfrom that time onward she seemed to attach herself

only to meand in this manner we spent our last ten days

together. The promised "etoiles" I did not seebut in other

respects sheto a certain extentkept her word. Moreovershe

introduced me to Hortensewho was a remarkable woman in her

wayand known among us as Therese Philosophe.

But I need not enlarge furtherfor to do so would

require a story to itselfand 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 usas I have said

for very nearly a month--which greatly surprised me. At all

eventsBlanche bought herself articles to the tune of eighty

thousand francsand the rest sufficed just to meet our expenses

of living. Towards the close of the affairBlanche grew almost

frank with me (at leastshe scarcely lied to me at

all)--declaringamongst other thingsthat none of the debts

which she had been obliged to incur were going to fall upon my

head. "I have purposely refrained from making you responsible

for my bills or borrowings" she said"for the reason that I

am sorry for you. Any other woman in my place would have done

soand have let you go to prison. Seethenhow much I love

youand how good-hearted I am! Thinktoowhat this accursed

marriage with the General is going to cost me!"

True enoughthe marriage took place. It did so at the close of

our month togetherand I am bound to suppose that it was

upon the ceremony that the last remnants of my money were spent.

With it the episode--that is to saymy sojourn with the

Frenchwoman--came to an endand I formally retired from the


It happened thus: A week after we had taken up our abode in

Paris there arrived thither the General. He came straight to see

usand thenceforward lived with us practically as our guest

though he had a flat of his own as well. Blanche met him with

merry badinage and laughterand even threw her arms around him.

In factshe managed it so that he had to follow everywhere in

her train--whether when promenading on the Boulevardsor when

drivingor when going to the theatreor when paying calls; and

this use which she made of him quite satisfied the General.

Still of imposing appearance and presenceas well as of fair

heighthe had a dyed moustache and whiskers (he had formerly

been in the cuirassiers)and a handsomethough a somewhat

wrinkledface. Alsohis manners were excellentand he could

carry a frockcoat well--the more so sincein Parishe took to

wearing his orders. To promenade the Boulevards with such a man

was not only a thing possiblebut alsoso to speaka thing

advisableand with this programme the good but foolish

General had not a fault to find. The truth is that he had never

counted upon this programme when he came to Paris to seek us

out. On that occasion he had made his appearance nearly shaking

with terrorfor he had supposed that Blanche would at once

raise an outcryand have him put from the door; whereforehe

was the more enraptured at the turn that things had takenand

spent the month in a state of senseless ecstasy. Already I had

learnt thatafter our unexpected departure from Roulettenberg

he had had a sort of a fit--that he had fallen into a swoonand

spent a week in a species of garrulous delirium. Doctors had

been summoned to himbut he had broken away from themand

suddenly taken a train to Paris. Of course Blanche's reception of

him had acted as the best of all possible curesbut for long

enough he carried the marks of his afflictiondespite his

present condition of rapture and delight. To think clearlyor

even to engage in any serious conversationhad now become

impossible for him; he could only ejaculate after each word

"Hm!" and then nod his head in confirmation. Sometimesalsohe

would laughbut only in a nervoushysterical sort of a

fashion; while at other times he would sit for hours looking as

black as nightwith his heavy eyebrows knitted. Of much that

went on he remained wholly obliviousfor he grew extremely

absent-mindedand took to talking to himself. Only Blanche

could awake him to any semblance of life. His fits of depression

and moodiness in corners always meant either that he had not

seen her for some whileor that she had gone out without taking

him with heror that she had omitted to caress him before

departing. When in this conditionhe would refuse to say what he

wanted-- nor had he the least idea that he was thus sulking and

moping. Nextafter remaining in this condition for an hour or

two (this I remarked on two occasions when Blanche had gone out

for the day--probably to see Albert)he would begin to look

about himand to grow uneasyand to hurry about with an air as

though he had suddenly remembered somethingand must try and

find it; after whichnot perceiving the object of his search

nor succeeding in recalling what that object had beenhe would

as suddenly relapse into oblivionand continue so until the

reappearance of Blanche--merrywantonhalf-dressedand

laughing her strident laugh as she approached to pet himand

even to kiss him (though the latter reward he seldom received).

Oncehe was so overjoyed at her doing so that he burst into

tears. Even I myself was surprised.

From the first moment of his arrival in ParisBlanche set

herself to plead with me on his behalf; and at such times she

even rose to heights of eloquence--saying that it was for ME

she had abandoned himthough she had almost become his

betrothed and promised to become so; that it was for HER sake he

had deserted his family; thathaving been in his serviceI

ought to remember the factand to feel ashamed. To all this I

would say nothinghowever much she chattered on; until at

length I would burst out laughingand the incident would come

to an end (at firstas I have saidshe had thought me a fool

but since she had come to deem me a man of sense and

sensibility). In shortI had the happiness of calling her

better nature into play; for thoughat firstI had not deemed

her soshe wasin realitya kind-hearted woman after her own

fashion. "You are good and clever" she said to me towards the

finish"and my one regret is that you are also so

wrong-headed. You will NEVER be a rich man!"

"Un vrai Russe--un Kalmuk" she usually called me.

Several times she sent me to give the General an airing in the

streetseven as she might have done with a lacquey and her

spaniel; butI preferred to take him to the theatreto the Bal

Mabilleand to restaurants. For this purpose she usually

allowed me some moneythough the General had a little of his

ownand enjoyed taking out his purse before strangers. Once I

had to use actual force to prevent him from buying a phaeton at

a price of seven hundred francsafter a vehicle had caught his

fancy in the Palais Royal as seeming to be a desirable present

for Blanche. What could SHE have done with a seven-hundred-franc

phaeton?--and the General possessed in the world but a thousand

francs! The origin even of those francs I could never determine

but imagined them to have emanated from Mr. Astley--the more so

since the latter had paid the family's hotel bill.

As for what view the General took of myselfI think that he never divined

the footing on which I stood with Blanche. Truehe had heard

in a dim sort of waythat I had won a good deal of money; but

more probably he supposed me to be acting as secretary--or even

as a kind of servant--to his inamorata. At all eventshe

continued to address mein his old haughty styleas my

superior. At times he even took it upon himself to scold me. One

morning in particularhe started to sneer at me over our

matutinal coffee. Though not a man prone to take offencehe

suddenlyand for some reason of which to this day I am

ignorantfell out with me. Of course even he himself did not

know the reason. To put things shortlyhe began a speech which

had neither beginning nor endingand cried outa batons

rompusthat I was a boy whom he would soon put to rights--and so

forthand so forth. Yet no one could understand what he was

sayingand at length Blanche exploded in a burst of laughter.

Finally something appeased himand he was taken out for his

walk. More than oncehoweverI noticed that his depression was

growing upon him; that he seemed to be feeling the want of

somebody or something; thatdespite Blanche's presencehe was

missing some person in particular. Twiceon these occasions

did he plunge into a conversation with methough he could not

make himself intelligibleand only went on rambling about the

servicehis late wifehis homeand his property. Every now

and thenalsosome particular word would please him; whereupon

he would repeat it a hundred times in the day--even though the

word happened to express neither his thoughts nor his feelings.

AgainI would try to get him to talk about his childrenbut

always he cut me short in his old snappish wayand passed to

another subject. "Yesyes--my children" was all that I could

extract from him. "Yesyou are right in what you have said

about them." Only once did he disclose his real feelings. That

was when we were taking him to the theatreand suddenly he

exclaimed: "My unfortunate children! Yessirthey are

unfortunate children." Oncetoowhen I chanced to mention

Polinahe grew quite bitter against her. "She is an ungrateful

woman!" he exclaimed. "She is a bad and ungrateful woman! She

has broken up a family. If there were laws hereI would have

her impaled. YesI would." As for De Griersthe General would

not have his name mentioned. " He has ruined me" he would say.

"He has robbed meand cut my throat. For two years he was a

perfect nightmare to me. For months at a time he never left me

in my dreams. Do not speak of him again."

It was now clear to me that Blanche and he were on the point of

coming to terms; yettrue to my usual customI said nothing.

At lengthBlanche took the initiative in explaining matters.

She did so a week before we parted.

"Il a du chance" she prattled"for the Grandmother is now

REALLY illand thereforebound to die. Mr. Astley has just sent

a telegram to say soand you will agree with me that the

General is likely to be her heir. Even if he should not be so

he will not come amisssincein the first placehe has his

pensionandin the second placehe will be content to live in

a back room; whereas I shall be Madame Generaland get into a

good circle of society" (she was always thinking of this) "and

become a Russian chatelaine. YesI shall have a mansion of my

ownand peasantsand a million of money at my back."

"Butsuppose he should prove jealous? He might demand all

sorts of thingsyou know. Do you follow me?"

"Ohdear no! How ridiculous that would be of him! BesidesI

have taken measures to prevent it. You need not be alarmed. That

is to sayI have induced him to sign notes of hand in Albert's

name. Consequentlyat any time I could get him punished. Isn't

he ridiculous?"

"Very wellthen. Marry him."

Andin truthshe did so--though the marriage was a family one

onlyand involved no pomp or ceremony. In factshe invited to

the nuptials none but Albert and a few other friends. Hortense

Cleopatreand the rest she kept firmly at a distance. As for

the bridegroomhe took a great interest in his new position.

Blanche herself tied his tieand Blanche herself pomaded him--

with the result thatin his frockcoat and white waistcoathe

looked quite comme il faut.

"Il estpourtantTRES comme il faut" Blanche remarked when

she issued from his roomas though the idea that he was "TRES

comme il faut " had impressed even her. For myselfI had so

little knowledge of the minor details of the affairand took

part in it so much as a supine spectatorthat I have forgotten

most of what passed on this occasion. I only remember that

Blanche and the Widow figured at itnot as "de Cominges" but

as "du Placet." Why they had hitherto been "de Cominges "I do

not know-- I only know that this entirely satisfied the

Generalthat he liked the name "du Placet" even better than he

had liked the name "de Cominges." On the morning of the wedding

he paced the salon in his gala attire and kept repeating to

himself with an air of great gravity and importance: " Mlle.

Blanche du Placet! Mlle. Blanche du Placetdu Placet!" He

beamed with satisfaction as he did so. Both in the church and at

the wedding breakfast he remained not only pleased and

contentedbut even proud. She too underwent a changefor now

she assumed an air of added dignity.

"I must behave altogether differently" she confided to me with

a serious air. "Yetmark youthere is a tiresome circumstance

of which I had never before thought--which ishow best to

pronounce my new family name. ZagorianskiZagozianskiMadame

la Generale de SagoMadame la Generale de Fourteen

Consonants--oh these infernal Russian names! The LAST of them

would be the best to usedon't you think?"

At length the time had come for us to partand Blanchethe

egregious Blancheshed real tears as she took her leave of me.

"Tu etais bon enfant" she said with a sob. "je te croyais beteet tu

en avais l'airbut it suited you." Thenhaving given me a final

handshakeshe exclaimed"Attends!"; whereafterrunning into

her boudoirshe brought me thence two thousand-franc notes. I

could scarcely believe my eyes! "They may come in handy for

you" she explained"forthough you are a very learned

tutoryou are a very stupid man. More than two thousand francs

howeverI am not going to give youfor the reason thatif I

did soyou would gamble them all away. Now good-bye. Nous

serons toujours bons amisand if you win againdo not fail to

come to meet tu seras heureux."

I myself had still five hundred francs leftas well as a watch

worth a thousand francsa few diamond studsand so on.

ConsequentlyI could subsist for quite a length of time without

particularly bestirring myself. Purposely I have taken up my

abode where I am now partly to pull myself togetherand partly

to wait for Mr. AstleywhoI have learntwill soon be here

for a day or so on business. YesI know thatand then--and then

I shall go to Homburg. But to Roulettenberg I shall not go until

next yearfor they say it is bad to try one's luck twice in

succession at a table. MoreoverHomburg is where the best play

is carried on.


It is a year and eight months since I last looked at these notes

of mine. I do so now only becausebeing overwhelmed with

depressionI wish to distract my mind by reading them through

at random. I left them off at the point where I was just going

to Homburg. My Godwith what a light heart (comparatively

speaking) did I write the concluding lines!--though it may be

not so much with a light heartas with a measure of

self-confidence and unquenchable hope. At that time had I any

doubts of myself ? Yet behold me now. Scarcely a year and a half

have passedyet I am in a worse position than the meanest

beggar. But what is a beggar? A fig for beggary! I have ruined

myself --that is all. Nor is there anything with which I can

compare myself; there is no moral which it would be of any use

for you to read to me. At the present moment nothing could well

be more incongruous than a moral. Ohyou self-satisfied persons

whoin your unctuous prideare forever ready to mouth your

maxims--if only you knew how fully I myself comprehend the

sordidness of my present stateyou would not trouble to wag

your tongues at me! What could you say to me that I do not

already know? Wellwherein lies my difficulty? It lies in the

fact that by a single turn of a roulette wheel everything for

mehas become changed. Yethad things befallen otherwise

these moralists would have been among the first (yesI feel

persuaded of it) to approach me with friendly jests and

congratulations. Yesthey would never have turned from me as

they are doing now! A fig for all of them! What am I? I am

zero--nothing. What shall I be tomorrow? I may be risen from the

deadand have begun life anew. For stillI may discover the man

in myselfif only my manhood has not become utterly shattered.

I wentI sayto Homburgbut afterwards went also to

Roulettenbergas well as to Spa and Baden; in which latter

placefor a timeI acted as valet to a certain rascal of a

Privy Councillorby name Heintzewho until lately was also my

master here. Yesfor five months I lived my life with lacqueys!

That was just after I had come out of Roulettenberg prison

where I had lain for a small debt which I owed. Out of that

prison I was bailed by--by whom? By Mr. Astley? By Polina? I do

not know. At all eventsthe debt was paid to the tune of two

hundred thalersand I sallied forth a free man. But what was I

to do with myself ? In my dilemma I had recourse to this

Heintzewho was a young scapegraceand the sort of man who

could speak and write three languages. At first I acted as his

secretaryat a salary of thirty gulden a monthbut afterwards

I became his lacqueyfor the reason that he could not afford to

keep a secretary--only an unpaid servant. I had nothing else to

turn toso I remained with himand allowed myself to become

his flunkey. But by stinting myself in meat and drink I saved

during my five months of servicesome seventy gulden; and one

eveningwhen we were at BadenI told him that I wished to

resign my postand then hastened to betake myself to roulette.

Ohhow my heart beat as I did so! Noit was not the money that

I valued-- what I wanted was to make all this mob of Heintzes

hotel proprietorsand fine ladies of Baden talk about me

recount my storywonder at meextol my doingsand worship my

winnings. Truethese were childish fancies and aspirationsbut

who knows but that I might meet Polinaand be able to tell her

everythingand see her look of surprise at the fact that I had

overcome so many adverse strokes of fortune. NoI had no desire

for money for its own sakefor I was perfectly well aware that

I should only squander it upon some new Blancheand spend

another three weeks in Paris after buying a pair of horses which

had cost sixteen thousand francs. NoI never believed myself to

be a hoarder; in factI knew only too well that I was a

spendthrift. And alreadywith a sort of feara sort of

sinking in my heartI could hear the cries of the croupiers--

"Trente et unrougeimpair et passe" "Quartenoirpair et

manque. " How greedily I gazed upon the gaming-tablewith its

scattered louis d'orten-gulden piecesand thalers; upon the

streams of gold as they issued from the croupier's handsand

piled themselves up into heaps of gold scintillating as fire;

upon the ell--long rolls of silver lying around the croupier.

Even at a distance of two rooms I could hear the chink of that

money--so much so that I nearly fell into convulsions.

Ahthe evening when I took those seventy gulden to the gaming

table was a memorable one for me. I began by staking ten gulden

upon passe. For passe I had always had a sort of predilection

yet I lost my stake upon it. This left me with sixty gulden in

silver. After a moment's thought I selected zero--beginning by

staking five gulden at a time. Twice I lostbut the third round

suddenly brought up the desired coup. I could almost have died

with joy as I received my one hundred and seventy-five gulden.

IndeedI have been less pleased whenin former timesI have

won a hundred thousand gulden. Losing no timeI staked another

hundred gulden upon the redand won; two hundred upon the red

and won; four hundred upon the blackand won; eight hundred

upon manqueand won. Thuswith the addition of the remainder

of my original capitalI found myself possessedwithin five

minutesof seventeen hundred gulden. Ahat such moments one

forgets both oneself and one's former failures! This I had

gained by risking my very life. I had dared so to riskand

beholdagain I was a member of mankind!

I went and hired a roomI shut myself up in itand sat

counting my money until three o'clock in the morning. To think

that when I awoke on the morrowI was no lacquey! I decided to

leave at once for Homburg. There I should neither have to serve

as a footman nor to lie in prison. Half an hour before starting

I went and ventured a couple of stakes--no more; with the result

thatin allI lost fifteen hundred florins. NeverthelessI

proceeded to Homburgand have now been there for a month.

Of courseI am living in constant trepidationplaying for the

smallest of stakesand always looking out for

something--calculatingstanding whole days by the gaming-tables

to watch the play--even seeing that play in my dreams--yet

seemingthe whileto be in some way stiffeningto be growing

cakedas it werein mire. But I must conclude my noteswhich

I finish under the impression of a recent encounter with Mr.

Astley. I had not seen him since we parted at Roulettenbergand

now we met quite by accident. At the time I was walking in the

public gardensand meditating upon the fact that not only had I

still some fifty olden in my possessionbut also I had fully

paid up my hotel bill three days ago. ConsequentlyI was in a

position to try my luck again at roulette; and if I won anything

I should be able to continue my playwhereasif I lost what I

now possessedI should once more have to accept a lacquey's

placeprovided thatin the alternativeI failed to discover a

Russian family which stood in need of a tutor. Plunged in these

reflectionsI started on my daily walk through the Park and

forest towards a neighbouring principality. Sometimeson such

occasionsI spent four hours on the wayand would return to

Homburg tired and hungry; buton this particular occasionI had

scarcely left the gardens for the Park when I caught sight of

Astley seated on a bench. As soon as he perceived mehe called

me by nameand I went and sat down beside him; buton noticing

that he seemed a little stiff in his mannerI hastened to

moderate the expression of joy which the sight of him had called


"YOU here?" he said. "WellI had an idea that I should meet

you. Do not trouble to tell me anythingfor I know all--yes

all. In factyour whole life during the past twenty months lies

within my knowledge."

"How closely you watch the doings of your old friends!" I

replied. "That does you infinite credit. But stop a moment. You

have reminded me of something. Was it you who bailed me out of

Roulettenberg prison when I was lying there for a debt of two

hundred gulden? SOMEONE did so."

"Oh dear no!--though I knew all the time that you were lying


"Perhaps you could tell me who DID bail me out?"

"No; I am afraid I could not."

"What a strange thing! For I know no Russians at all hereso

it cannot have been a Russian who befriended me. In Russia we

Orthodox folk DO go bail for one anotherbut in this case I

thought it must have been done by some English stranger who was

not conversant with the ways of the country."

Mr. Astley seemed to listen to me with a sort of surprise.

Evidently he had expected to see me looking more crushed and

broken than I was.

"Well" he said--not very pleasantly"I am none the less glad

to find that you retain your old independence of spiritas well

as your buoyancy."

"Which means that you are vexed at not having found me more

abased and humiliated than I am?" I retorted with a smile.

Astley was not quick to understand thisbut presently did so

and laughed.

"Your remarks please me as they always did" he continued. "In

those words I see the clevertriumphantandabove all things

cynical friend of former days. Only Russians have the faculty of

combining within themselves so many opposite qualities. Yes

most men love to see their best friend in abasement; for

generally it is on such abasement that friendship is founded.

All thinking persons know that ancient truth. Yeton the

present occasionI assure youI am sincerely glad to see that

you are NOT cast down. Tell meare you never going to give up


"Damn the gambling! YesI should certainly have given it up

were it not that--"

"That you are losing? I thought so. You need not tell me any

more. I know how things standfor you have said that last in

despairand thereforetruthfully. Have you no other employment

than gambling?"

"No; none whatever."

Astley gave me a searching glance. At that time it was ages

since I had last looked at a paper or turned the pages of a book.

"You are growing blase" he said. "You have not only renounced

lifewith its interests and social tiesbut the duties of a citizen

and a man; you have not only renounced the friends whom I know

you to have hadand every aim in life but that of winning

money; but you have also renounced your memory. Though I can

remember you in the strongardent period of your lifeI feel

persuaded that you have now forgotten every better feeling of

that period--that your present dreams and aspirations of

subsistence do not rise above pairimpair rougenoirthe

twelve middle numbersand so forth."

"EnoughMr. Astley!" I cried with some irritation--almost in

anger. "Kindly do not recall to me any more recollectionsfor

I can remember things for myself. Only for a time have I put

them out of my head. Only until I shall have rehabilitated

myselfam I keeping my memory dulled. When that hour shall come

you will see me arise from the dead."

"Then you will have to be here another ten years" he replied.

"Should I then be aliveI will remind you--hereon this very

bench--of what I have just said. In factI will bet you a wager

that I shall do so."

"Say no more" I interrupted impatiently. "And to show you

that I have not wholly forgotten the pastmay I enquire where

Mlle. Polina is? If it was not you who bailed me out of prison

it must have been she. Yet never have I heard a word concerning


"NoI do not think it was she. At the present moment she is in

Switzerlandand you will do me a favour by ceasing to ask me

these questions about her." Astley said this with a firmand

even an angryair.

"Which means that she has dealt you a serious wound?" I burst

out with an involuntary sneer.

"Mlle. Polina" he continued"Is the best of all possible

living beings; butI repeatthat I shall thank you to cease

questioning me about her. You never really knew herand her

name on your lips is an offence to my moral feeling."

"Indeed? On what subjectthenhave I a better right to speak

to you than on this? With it are bound up all your recollections

and mine. Howeverdo not be alarmed: I have no wish to probe

too far into your privateyour secret affairs. My interest in

Mlle. Polina does not extend beyond her outward circumstances

and surroundings. About them you could tell me in two words."

"Wellon condition that the matter shall end thereI will

tell you that for a long time Mlle. Polina was illand still is

so. My mother and sister entertained her for a while at their

home in the north of Englandand thereafter Mlle. Polina's

grandmother (you remember the mad old woman?) diedand left

Mlle. Polina a personal legacy of seven thousand pounds

sterling. That was about six months agoand now Mlle. is

travelling with my sister's family-- my sister having since

married. Mlle.'s little brother and sister also benefited by the

Grandmother's willand are now being educated in London. As for

the Generalhe died in Paris last monthof a stroke. Mlle.

Blanche did well by himfor she succeeded in having transferred

to herself all that he received from the Grandmother. ThatI

thinkconcludes all that I have to tell."

"And De Griers? Is he too travelling in Switzerland?"

"No; nor do I know where he is. Also I warn you once more that

you had better avoid such hints and ignoble suppositions;

otherwise you will assuredly have to reckon with me."

"What? In spite of our old friendship?"

"Yesin spite of our old friendship."

"Then I beg your pardon a thousand timesMr. Astley. I meant

nothing offensive to Mlle. Polinafor I have nothing of which

to accuse her. Moreoverthe question of there being anything

between this Frenchman and this Russian lady is not one which

you and I need discussnor even attempt to understand."

"If" replied Astley"you do not care to hear their names

coupled togethermay I ask you what you mean by the expressions

'this Frenchman' 'this Russian lady' and 'there being

anything between them'? Why do you call them so particularly a

'Frenchman' and a 'Russian lady'?"

"AhI see you are interestedMr. Astley. But it is a long

long storyand calls for a lengthy preface. At the same time

the question is an important onehowever ridiculous it may seem

at the first glance. A FrenchmanMr. Astleyis merely a fine

figure of a man. With this youas a Britishermay not agree.

With it I alsoas a Russianmay not agree--out of envy. Yet

possibly our good ladies are of another opinion. For instance

one may look upon Racine as a broken-downhobbledehoyperfumed

individual--one may even be unable to read him; and I too may

think him the sameas well asin some respectsa subject for

ridicule. Yet about himMr. Astleythere is a certain charm

andabove all thingshe is a great poet--though one might like

to deny it. Yesthe Frenchmanthe Parisianas a national

figurewas in process of developing into a figure of elegance

before we Russians had even ceased to be bears. The Revolution

bequeathed to the French nobility its heritageand now every

whippersnapper of a Parisian may possess mannersmethods of

expressionand even thoughts that are above reproach in form

while all the time he himself may share in that form neither in

initiative nor in intellect nor in soul--his mannersand the

resthaving come to him through inheritance. Yestaken by

himselfthe Frenchman is frequently a fool of fools and a

villain of villains.

Per contrathere is no one in the world

more worthy of confidence and respect than this young Russian

lady. De Griers might so mask his face and play a part as easily

to overcome her heartfor he has an imposing figureMr.

Astleyand this young lady might easily take that figure for

his real self--for the natural form of his heart and soul--instead

of the mere cloak with which heredity has dowered him. And even

though it may offend youI feel bound to say that the majority

also of English people are uncouth and unrefinedwhereas we

Russian folk can recognise beauty wherever we see itand are

always eager to cultivate the same. But to distinguish beauty of

soul and personal originality there is needed far more

independence and freedom than is possessed by our women

especially by our younger ladies. At all eventsthey need more

EXPERIENCE. For instancethis Mlle. Polina--pardon mebut the

name has passed my lipsand I cannot well recall it--is taking a

very long time to make up her mind to prefer you to Monsieur de

Griers. She may respect youshe may become your friendshe may

open out her heart to you; yet over that heart there will be

reigning that loathsome villainthat mean and petty usurerDe

Griers. This will be due to obstinacy and self-love--to the fact

that De Griers once appeared to her in the transfigured guise of

a marquisof a disenchanted and ruined liberal who was doing

his best to help her family and the frivolous old General; and

although these transactions of his have since been exposedyou

will find that the exposure has made no impression upon her

mind. Only give her the De Griers of former daysand she will

ask of you no more. The more she may detest the present De

Griersthe more will she lament the De Griers of the past--even

though the latter never existed but in her own imagination. You

are a sugar refinerMr. Astleyare you not?"

"YesI belong to the well-known firm of Lovell and Co."

"Then see here. On the one handyou are a sugar refiner

whileon the other handyou are an Apollo Belvedere. But the

two characters do not mix with one another. Iagainam not

even a sugar refiner; I am a mere roulette gambler who has also

served as a lacquey. Of this fact Mlle. Polina is probably well

awaresince she appears to have an excellent force of police at

her disposal."

"You are saying this because you are feeling bitter" said

Astley with cold indifference. "Yet there is not the least

originality in your words."

"I agree. But therein lies the horror of it all--thathowever

mean and farcical my accusations may bethey are none the less

TRUE. But I am only wasting words."

"Yesyou arefor you are only talking nonsense! exclaimed my

companion--his voice now trembling and his eyes flashing fire.

"Are you aware" he continued"that wretchedignoblepetty

unfortunate man though you areit was at HER request I came to

Homburgin order to see youand to have a longserious talk

with youand to report to her your feelings and thoughts and

hopes--yesand your recollections of hertoo?"

"Indeed? Is that really so?" I cried--the tears beginning to

well from my eyes. Never before had this happened.

"Yespoor unfortunate" continued Astley. "She DID love you;

and I may tell you this now for the reason that now you are

utterly lost. Even if I were also to tell you that she still

loves youyou would none the less have to remain where you are.

Yesyou have ruined yourself beyond redemption. Once upon a

time you had a certain amount of talentand you were of a

lively dispositionand your good looks were not to be despised.

You might even have been useful to your countrywhich needs men

like you. Yet you remained hereand 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 roulettethen 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. Hithertoyou 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 moneyI suppose? Then take these ten louis d'or.

More I shall not give youfor you would only gamble it away. Take

care of these coinsand farewell. Once moreTAKE CARE of them."

"NoMr. Astley. After all that has been said I--"

"TAKE CARE of them!" repeated my friend. "I am certain you

are still a gentlemanand therefore I give you the money as one

gentleman may give money to another. Alsoif I could be certain

that you would leave both Homburg and the gaming-tablesand

return to your own countryI would give you a thousand pounds

down to start life afresh; butI give you ten louis d'or instead

of a thousand pounds for the reason that at the present time a

thousand pounds and ten louis d'or will be all the same to

you--you will lose the one as readily as you will the other. Take

the moneythereforeand good-bye."

"YesI 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 GriersHE 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. Tomorrowtomorrow-- Ahbut if only I could

set things right tomorrowand be born againand 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 manit would be worth it. Today it is too latebut


Yet I have a presentiment that things can never be otherwise. I

have got fifteen louis d'or in my possessionalthough I began

with fifteen gulden. If I were to play carefully at the

start--But nono! 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. Yesmy nature is my

weak point. I have only to remember what happened to me some

months ago at Roulettenbergbefore my final ruin. What a

notable instance that was of my capacity for resolution! On the

occasion in question I had lost everything--everything; yetjust

as I was leaving the CasinoI 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 onI changed my

mindand returned. That gulden I staked upon manque--and there

is something in the feeling thatthough one is aloneand in a

foreign landand far from one's own home and friendsand

ignorant of whence one's next meal is to comeone is

nevertheless staking one's very last coin! WellI won the

stakeand in twenty minutes had left the Casino with a hundred

and seventy gulden in my pocket! That is a factand it shows

what a last remaining gulden can do. . . . But what if my heart

had failed meor I had shrunk from making up my mind? . . .

No: tomorrow all shall be ended!