The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 13
and send it to De Griers."
Then an idea suddenly occurred to me. "What about the
Grandmother?" I asked.
cannot go and live with her. Nor," she added hotly, "will I go
down upon my knees to ANY ONE."
loved De Griers! The villain, the villain! But I will kill him
in a duel. Where is he now?"
tomorrow," I exclaimed with enthusiasm.
tell you to be so good as first to return him the fifty
thousand francs. What, then, would be the use of
having a quarrel with him? You talk sheer nonsense."
I ground my teeth.
"The question," I went on, "is how to raise the fifty thousand
francs. We cannot expect to find them lying about on the floor.
Listen. What of Mr. Astley?" Even as I spoke a new and strange
idea formed itself in my brain.
Her eyes flashed fire.
"What? YOU YOURSELF wish me to leave you for him?" she cried
with a scornful look and a proud smile. Never before had she
addressed me thus.
she seated herself upon the sofa, as though she were powerless
any longer to stand.
could scarcely believe my eyes or my ears. She DID love me,
then! It WAS to me, and not to Mr. Astley, that she had turned!
Although she, an unprotected girl, had come to me in my room--in
an hotel room--and had probably compromised herself thereby, I
had not understood!
Then a second mad idea flashed into my brain.
"Polina," I said, "give me but an hour. Wait here just one
hour until I return. Yes, you MUST do so. Do you not see what I
mean? Just stay here for that time."
of inquiry. She called something after me, but I did not return.
Sometimes it happens that the most insane thought, the most
impossible conception, will become so fixed in one's head that
at length one believes the thought or the conception to be
reality. Moreover, if with the thought or the conception there
is combined a strong, a passionate, desire, one will come to
look upon the said thought or conception as something fated,
inevitable, and foreordained--something bound to happen. Whether
by this there is connoted something in the nature of a
combination of presentiments, or a great effort of will, or a
self-annulment of one's true expectations, and so on, I do not
know; but, at all events that night saw happen to me (a night
which I shall never forget) something in the nature of the
miraculous. Although the occurrence can easily be explained by
arithmetic, I still believe it to have been a miracle. Yet why
did this conviction take such a hold upon me at the time, and
remain with me ever since? Previously, I had thought of the idea,
not as an occurrence which was ever likely to come about, but as
something which NEVER could come about.
The time was a quarter past eleven o'clock when I entered the
Casino in such a state of hope (though, at the same time, of
agitation) as I had never before experienced. In the
gaming-rooms there were still a large number of people, but not
half as many as had been present in the morning.
the desperate gamblers--persons for whom, at spas, there existed
nothing beyond roulette, and who went thither for that alone.
These gamesters took little note of what was going on around
them, and were interested in none of the appurtenances of the
season, but played from morning till night, and would have been
ready to play through the night until dawn had that been
possible. As it was, they used to disperse unwillingly when, at
midnight, roulette came to an end. Likewise, as soon as ever
roulette was drawing to a close and the head croupier had called
"Les trois derniers coups," most of them were ready to stake on
the last three rounds all that they had in their pockets--and,
for the most part, lost it. For my own part I proceeded towards
the table at which the Grandmother had lately sat; and, since the
crowd around it was not very large, I soon obtained standing
room among the ring of gamblers, while directly in front of me,
on the green cloth, I saw marked the word "Passe."
row of numbers from 1 to 18 inclusive was known as "Manque."
But what had that to do with me? I had not noticed--I had not so
much as heard the numbers upon which the previous coup had
fallen, and so took no bearings when I began to play, as, in my
place, any SYSTEMATIC gambler would have done. No, I merely
extended my stock of twenty ten-gulden pieces, and threw them
down upon the space "Passe" which happened to be confronting
and my winnings.
"Trente-et-un!" called the croupier.
Again I had won, and was now in possession of eighty ten-gulden
pieces. Next, I moved the whole eighty on to twelve middle
numbers (a stake which, if successful, would bring me in a
triple profit, but also involved a risk of two chances to one).
The wheel revolved, and stopped at twenty-four. Upon this I was
paid out notes and gold until I had by my side a total sum of
two thousand gulden.
red. Then suddenly I came to myself (though that was the only
time during the evening's play when fear cast its cold spell
over me, and showed itself in a trembling of the hands and
knees). For with horror I had realised that I MUST win, and that
upon that stake there depended all my life.
"Rouge!" called the croupier. I drew a long breath, and hot
shivers went coursing over my body. I was paid out my winnings
in bank-notes--amounting, of course, to a total of four thousand
florins, eight hundred gulden (I could still calculate the
twelve middle numbers, and lost. Again I staked the whole of
my gold, with eight hundred gulden, in notes, and lost. Then
madness seemed to come upon me, and seizing my last two thousand
florins, I staked them upon twelve of the first numbers--wholly
by chance, and at random, and without any sort of reckoning.
Upon my doing so there followed a moment of suspense only
comparable to that which Madame Blanchard must have experienced
when, in Paris, she was descending earthwards from a balloon.
possession of six thousand florins! Once more I looked around me
like a conqueror--once more I feared nothing as I threw down four
thousand of these florins upon the black. The croupiers glanced
around them, and exchanged a few words; the bystanders
The black turned up. After that I do not exactly remember
either my calculations or the order of my stakings. I only
remember that, as in a dream, I won in one round sixteen
thousand florins; that in the three following rounds, I lost
twelve thousand; that I moved the remainder (four thousand) on
to "Passe" (though quite unconscious of what I was doing--I was
merely waiting, as it were, mechanically, and without
reflection, for something) and won; and that, finally, four
times in succession I lost. Yes, I can remember raking in money
by thousands--but most frequently on the twelve, middle numbers,
to which I constantly adhered, and which kept appearing in a
sort of regular order--first, three or four times running, and
then, after an interval of a couple of rounds, in another break
of three or four appearances. Sometimes, this astonishing
regularity manifested itself in patches; a thing to upset all
the calculations of note--taking gamblers who play with a
pencil and a memorandum book in their hands Fortune perpetrates
some terrible jests at roulette!
Since my entry not more than half an hour could have elapsed.
Suddenly a croupier informed me that I had, won thirty thousand
florins, as well as that, since the latter was the limit for
which, at any one time, the bank could make itself responsible,
roulette at that table must close for the night. Accordingly, I
caught up my pile of gold, stuffed it into my pocket, and,
grasping my sheaf of bank-notes, moved to the table in an
adjoining salon where a second game of roulette was in
progress. The crowd followed me in a body, and cleared a place
for me at the table; after which, I proceeded to stake as
before--that is to say, at random and without calculating. What
saved me from ruin I do not know.
Of course there were times when fragmentary reckonings DID come
flashing into my brain. For instance, there were times when I
attached myself for a while to certain figures and coups--though
always leaving them, again before long, without knowing what I
for I can remember the croupiers correcting my play more than
once, owing to my having made mistakes of the gravest order. My
brows were damp with sweat, and my hands were shaking. Also,
Poles came around me to proffer their services, but I heeded
none of them. Nor did my luck fail me now. Suddenly, there arose
around me a loud din of talking and laughter. " Bravo, bravo! "
was the general shout, and some people even clapped their hands.
I had raked in thirty thousand florins, and again the bank had
had to close for the night!
"Go away now, go away now," a voice whispered to me on my
right. The person who had spoken to me was a certain Jew of
Frankfurt--a man who had been standing beside me the whole while,
and occasionally helping me in my play.
"Yes, for God's sake go," whispered a second voice in my left
ear. Glancing around, I perceived that the second voice had come
from a modestly, plainly dressed lady of rather less than
thirty--a woman whose face, though pale and sickly-looking, bore
also very evident traces of former beauty. At the moment, I was
stuffing the crumpled bank-notes into my pockets and collecting
all the gold that was left on the table. Seizing up my last note
for five hundred gulden, I contrived to insinuate it,
unperceived, into the hand of the pale lady. An overpowering
impulse had made me do so, and I remember how her thin little
fingers pressed mine in token of her lively gratitude. The whole
affair was the work of a moment.
Then, collecting my belongings, I crossed to where trente et
quarante was being played--a game which could boast of a more
aristocratic public, and was played with cards instead of with a
wheel. At this diversion the bank made itself responsible for a
hundred thousand thalers as the limit, but the highest stake
allowable was, as in roulette, four thousand florins. Although I
knew nothing of the game--and I scarcely knew the stakes,
except those on black and red--I joined the ring of players,
while the rest of the crowd massed itself around me. At this
distance of time I cannot remember whether I ever gave a thought
to Polina; I seemed only to be conscious of a vague pleasure in
seizing and raking in the bank-notes which kept massing
themselves in a pile before me.
purpose, there came to my aid a circumstance which not
infrequently repeats itself in gaming. The circumstance is that
not infrequently luck attaches itself to, say, the red, and does
not leave it for a space of say, ten, or even fifteen, rounds
in succession. Three days ago I had heard that, during the
previous week there had been a run of twenty-two coups on the
red--an occurrence never before known at roulette--so that men
spoke of it with astonishment. Naturally enough, many deserted
the red after a dozen rounds, and practically no one could now
be found to stake upon it. Yet upon the black also--the
antithesis of the red--no experienced gambler would stake
anything, for the reason that every practised player knows the
meaning of "capricious fortune." That is to say, after the
sixteenth (or so) success of the red, one would think that the
seventeenth coup would inevitably fall upon the black; wherefore,
novices would be apt to back the latter in the seventeenth
round, and even to double or treble their stakes upon it--only,
in the end, to lose.
come up consecutively for seven times, to attach myself to that
colour. Probably this was mostly due to self-conceit, for I
wanted to astonish the bystanders with the riskiness of my play.
Also, I remember that--oh, strange sensation!--I suddenly, and
without any challenge from my own presumption, became obsessed
with a DESIRE to take risks. If the spirit has passed through a
great many sensations, possibly it can no longer be sated with
them, but grows more excited, and demands more sensations, and
stronger and stronger ones, until at length it falls exhausted.
Certainly, if the rules of the game had permitted even of my
staking fifty thousand florins at a time, I should have staked
them. All of a sudden I heard exclamations arising that the
whole thing was a marvel, since the red was turning up for the
florins? If so, what more did I need to win? I grasped the
banknotes, stuffed them into my pockets, raked in the gold
without counting it, and started to leave the Casino. As I
passed through the salons people smiled to see my
bulging pockets and unsteady gait, for the weight which I was
carrying must have amounted to half a pood! Several hands I saw
stretched out in my direction, and as I passed I filled them
with all the money that I could grasp in my own. At length two
Jews stopped me near the exit.
early tomorrow--as early as you can--for if you do not you will
lose everything that you have won."
barely possible to distinguish one's hand before one's face,
while the distance to the hotel was half a verst or so; but I
feared neither pickpockets nor highwaymen. Indeed, never since
my boyhood have I done that. Also, I cannot remember what I
thought about on the way. I only felt a sort of fearful pleasure
--the pleasure of success, of conquest, of power (how can I best
express it?). Likewise, before me there flitted the image of
Polina; and I kept remembering, and reminding myself, that it
was to HER I was going, that it was in HER presence I should
soon be standing, that it was SHE to whom I should soon be able
to relate and show everything. Scarcely once did I recall what
she had lately said to me, or the reason why I had left her, or
all those varied sensations which I had been experiencing a bare
hour and a half ago. No, those sensations seemed to be things of
the past, to be things which had righted themselves and grown
old, to be things concerning which we needed to trouble
ourselves no longer, since, for us, life was about to begin
anew. Yet I had just reached the end of the Avenue when there
DID come upon me a fear of being robbed or murdered. With each
step the fear increased until, in my terror, I almost started to
run. Suddenly, as I issued from the Avenue, there burst upon me
the lights of the hotel, sparkling with a myriad lamps! Yes,
thanks be to God, I had reached home!
Running up to my room, I flung open the door of it. Polina was
still on the sofa, with a lighted candle in front of her, and
her hands clasped. As I entered she stared at me in astonishment
(for, at the moment, I must have presented a strange spectacle).
All I did, however, was to halt before her, and fling upon the
table my burden of wealth.
I remember, too, how, without moving from her place, or changing
her attitude, she gazed into my face.
"I have won two hundred thousand francs!" cried I as I pulled
out my last sheaf of bank-notes. The pile of paper currency
occupied the whole table. I could not withdraw my eyes from it.
Consequently, for a moment or two Polina escaped my mind. Then I
set myself to arrange the pile in order, and to sort the notes,
and to mass the gold in a separate heap. That done, I left
everything where it lay, and proceeded to pace the room with
rapid strides as I lost myself in thought. Then I darted to the
table once more, and began to recount the money; until all of a
sudden, as though I had remembered something, I rushed to the
door, and closed and double-locked it. Finally I came to a
meditative halt before my little trunk.
"Shall I put the money there until tomorrow?" I asked,
turning sharply round to Polina as the recollection of her
returned to me.
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.
thousand francs, or more. Take them, and tomorrow throw them
in De Griers' face."
them to him myself tomorrow--yes, early tomorrow morning. Shall
while. With astonishment and a feeling of offence I gazed at
her. Her laughter was too like the derisive merriment which she
had so often indulged in of late--merriment which had broken
forth always at the time of my most passionate explanations. At
length she ceased, and frowned at me from under her eyebrows.
"I am NOT going to take your money," she said contemptuously.
"Why not?" I cried. "Why not, Polina?"
"Because I am not in the habit of receiving money for nothing."
"But I am offering it to you as a FRIEND in the same way I
would offer you my very life."
Upon this she threw me a long, questioning glance, as though she
were seeking to probe me to the depths.
"You are giving too much for me," she remarked with a smile.
"The beloved of De Griers is not worth fifty thousand francs."
"Oh Polina, how can you speak so?" I exclaimed reproachfully.
"Am I De Griers?"
"You?" she cried with her eyes suddenly flashing. "Why, I
HATE you! Yes, yes, I HATE you! I love you no more than I do De
hysterics. I darted to her side. Somehow I had an intuition of
something having happened to her which had nothing to do with
myself. She was like a person temporarily insane.
"Buy me, would you, would you? Would you buy me for fifty
thousand francs as De Griers did?" she gasped between her
upon my knees before her.
Presently the hysterical fit passed away, and, laying her hands
upon my shoulders, she gazed for a while into my face, as though
trying to read it--something I said to her, but it was clear
that she did not hear it. Her face looked so dark and despondent
that I began to fear for her reason. At length she drew me towards
herself--a trustful smile playing over her features; and then,
as suddenly, she pushed me away again as she eyed me dimly.
quarrel with the Baron at my bidding?"
Then she laughed--laughed as though something dear, but
laughable, had recurred to her memory. Yes, she laughed and wept
at the same time. What was I to do? I was like a man in a fever.
I remember that she began to say something to me--though WHAT I do
not know, since she spoke with a feverish lisp, as though she
were trying to tell me something very quickly. At intervals,
too, she would break off into the smile which I was beginning to
dread. "No, no!" she kept repeating. "YOU are my dear one;
YOU are the man I trust." Again she laid her hands upon my
shoulders, and again she gazed at me as she reiterated: "You love
me, you love me? Will you ALWAYS love me?" I could not take my
eyes off her. Never before had I seen her in this mood of
humility and affection. True, the mood was the outcome of
hysteria; but--! All of a sudden she noticed my ardent gaze, and
smiled slightly. The next moment, for no apparent reason, she
began to talk of Astley.
She continued talking and talking about him, but I could not
make out all she said--more particularly when she was
endeavouring to tell me of something or other which had happened
recently. On the whole, she appeared to be laughing at Astley,
for she kept repeating that he was waiting for her, and did I
know whether, even at that moment, he was not standing beneath
the window? "Yes, yes, he is there," she said. "Open the
window, and see if he is not." She pushed me in that direction;
yet, no sooner did I make a movement to obey her behest than she
burst into laughter, and I remained beside her, and she
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
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