The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 12
and that she ought to be made to surrender what was not her own.
Thus the party arrived at the hotel; whence, presently, the gang
of rascals was ejected neck and crop.
that day, a total of ninety thousand roubles, in addition to the
money which she had lost the day before. Every paper security
which she had brought with her--five percent bonds, internal
loan scrip, and what not--she had changed into cash. Also, I
could not but marvel at the way in which, for seven or eight
hours at a stretch, she sat in that chair of hers, almost never
leaving the table. Again, Potapitch told me that there were
three occasions on which she really began to win; but that, led
on by false hopes, she was unable to tear herself away at the
right moment. Every gambler knows how a person may sit a day and
a night at cards without ever casting a glance to right or to
passing in our hotel. As early as eleven o'clock--that is to say,
before the Grandmother had quitted her rooms--the General and De
Griers decided upon their last stroke. In other words, on
learning that the old lady had changed her mind about departing,
and was bent on setting out for the Casino again, the whole of
our gang (Polina only excepted) proceeded en masse to her rooms,
for the purpose of finally and frankly treating with her. But
the General, quaking and greatly apprehensive as to his possible
future, overdid things. After half an hour's prayers and
entreaties, coupled with a full confession of his debts, and
even of his passion for Mlle. Blanche (yes, he had quite lost
his head), he suddenly adopted a tone of menace, and started to
rage at the old lady--exclaiming that she was sullying the family
honour, that she was making a public scandal of herself, and
that she was smirching the fair name of Russia. The upshot was
that the Grandmother turned him out of the room with her stick
(it was a real stick, too!). Later in the morning he held
several consultations with De Griers--the question which occupied
him being: Is it in any way possible to make use of the
police--to tell them that "this respected, but unfortunate, old
lady has gone out of her mind, and is squandering her last
kopeck," or something of the kind? In short, is it in any way
possible to engineer a species of supervision over, or of
restraint upon, the old lady? De Griers, however, shrugged his
shoulders at this, and laughed in the General's face, while the
old warrior went on chattering volubly, and running up and down
his study. Finally De Griers waved his hand, and disappeared
from view; and by evening it became known that he had left the
hotel, after holding a very secret and important conference with
Mlle. Blanche. As for the latter, from early morning she had
taken decisive measures, by completely excluding the General
from her presence, and bestowing upon him not a glance. Indeed,
even when the General pursued her to the Casino, and met her
walking arm in arm with the Prince, he (the General) received
from her and her mother not the slightest recognition. Nor did
the Prince himself bow. The rest of the day Mlle. spent in
probing the Prince, and trying to make him declare himself; but
in this she made a woeful mistake. The little incident occurred
in the evening. Suddenly Mlle. Blanche realised that the Prince
had not even a copper to his name, but, on the contrary, was
minded to borrow of her money wherewith to play at roulette. In
high displeasure she drove him from her presence, and shut
herself up in her room.
The same morning I went to see--or, rather, to look for--Mr.
Astley, but was unsuccessful in my quest. Neither in his rooms
nor in the Casino nor in the Park was he to be found; nor did
he, that day, lunch at his hotel as usual. However, at about
five o'clock I caught sight of him walking from the railway
station to the Hotel d'Angleterre. He seemed to be in a great
hurry and much preoccupied, though in his face I could discern
no actual traces of worry or perturbation. He held out to me a
friendly hand, with his usual ejaculation of " Ah! " but did not
check his stride. I turned and walked beside him, but found,
somehow, that his answers forbade any putting of definite
questions. Moreover, I felt reluctant to speak to him of Polina;
nor, for his part, did he ask me any questions concerning her,
although, on my telling him of the Grandmother's exploits, he
listened attentively and gravely, and then shrugged his
"She is gambling away everything that she has," I remarked.
"Indeed? She arrived at the Casino even before I had taken my
departure by train, so I knew she had been playing. If I should
have time I will go to the Casino to-night, and take a look at
her. The thing interests me."
"Where have you been today?" I asked--surprised at myself for
having, as yet, omitted to put to him that question.
What more was there to be asked after that? I accompanied him
until, as we drew level with the Hotel des Quatre Saisons, he
suddenly nodded to me and disappeared. For myself, I returned
home, and came to the conclusion that, even had I met him at two
o'clock in the afternoon, I should have learnt no more from him
than I had done at five o'clock, for the reason that I had no
definite question to ask. It was bound to have been so. For me
to formulate the query which I really wished to put was a simple
park with the nurse and children or in sitting in her own room.
For a long while past she had avoided the General and had
scarcely had a word to say to him (scarcely a word, I mean, on
any SERIOUS topic). Yes, that I had noticed. Still, even though
I was aware of the position in which the General was placed, it
had never occurred to me that he would have any reason to avoid
HER, or to trouble her with family explanations. Indeed, when I
was returning to the hotel after my conversation with Astley,
and chanced to meet Polina and the children, I could see that
her face was as calm as though the family disturbances had never
touched her. To my salute she responded with a slight bow, and I
retired to my room in a very bad humour.
not a word with Polina, nor had with her any kind of
intercourse. Yet I had been at my wits' end, for, as time went
on, there was arising in me an ever-seething dissatisfaction.
Even if she did not love me she ought not to have trampled upon
my feelings, nor to have accepted my confessions with such
contempt, seeing that she must have been aware that I loved her
(of her own accord she had allowed me to tell her as much). Of
course the situation between us had arisen in a curious manner.
About two months ago, I had noticed that she had a desire to make
me her friend, her confidant--that she was making trial of me for
the purpose; but, for some reason or another, the desired result
had never come about, and we had fallen into the present strange
relations, which had led me to address her as I had done. At the
same time, if my love was distasteful to her, why had she not
FORBIDDEN me to speak of it to her?
But she had not so forbidden me. On the contrary, there had been
occasions when she had even INVITED me to speak. Of course, this
might have been done out of sheer wantonness, for I well knew--I
had remarked it only too often--that, after listening to what I
had to say, and angering me almost beyond endurance, she loved
suddenly to torture me with some fresh outburst of contempt and
aloofness! Yet she must have known that I could not live without
her. Three days had elapsed since the affair with the Baron, and
I could bear the severance no longer. When, that afternoon, I
met her near the Casino, my heart almost made me faint, it beat
so violently. She too could not live without me, for had she not
said that she had NEED of me? Or had that too been spoken in
she had said to the Grandmother had stabbed me to the heart. On
a thousand occasions I had challenged her to be open with me,
nor could she have been ignorant that I was ready to give my
very life for her. Yet always she had kept me at a distance with
that contemptuous air of hers; or else she had demanded of me,
in lieu of the life which I offered to lay at her feet, such
escapades as I had perpetrated with the Baron. Ah, was it not
torture to me, all this? For could it be that her whole world
was bound up with the Frenchman? What, too, about Mr. Astley?
The affair was inexplicable throughout. My God, what distress it
Arrived home, I, in a fit of frenzy, indited the following:
"Polina Alexandrovna, I can see that there is approaching us an
exposure which will involve you too. For the last time I ask of
you--have you, or have you not, any need of my life? If you have,
then make such dispositions as you wish, and I shall always be
discoverable in my room if required. If you have need of my
life, write or send for me."
I sealed the letter, and dispatched it by the hand of a corridor
lacquey, with orders to hand it to the addressee in person.
Though I expected no answer, scarcely three minutes had elapsed
before the lacquey returned with "the compliments of a certain
found him in his study, apparently preparing to go out again,
for his hat and stick were lying on the sofa. When I entered he
was standing in the middle of the room--his feet wide apart, and
his head bent down. Also, he appeared to be talking to himself.
But as soon as ever he saw me at the door he came towards me in
such a curious manner that involuntarily I retreated a step, and
was for leaving the room; whereupon he seized me by both hands,
and, drawing me towards the sofa, and seating himself thereon,
he forced me to sit down on a chair opposite him. Then, without
letting go of my hands, he exclaimed with quivering lips and a
sparkle of tears on his eyelashes:
"Oh, Alexis Ivanovitch! Save me, save me! Have some mercy upon
kept talking and talking, and constantly repeating to himself,
"Have mercy, mercy!" At length, however, I divined that he was
expecting me to give him something in the nature of advice--or,
rather, that, deserted by every one, and overwhelmed with grief
and apprehension, he had bethought himself of my existence, and
sent for me to relieve his feelings by talking and talking and
that, clasping his hands together, he actually went down upon
his knees and begged me to go to Mlle. Blanche, and beseech and
advise her to return to him, and to accept him in marriage.
"But, General," I exclaimed, "possibly Mlle. Blanche has
scarcely even remarked my existence? What could I do with her?"
It was in vain that I protested, for he could understand nothing
that was said to him, Next he started talking about the
Grandmother, but always in a disconnected sort of fashion--his
one thought being to send for the police.
"In Russia," said he, suddenly boiling over with indignation,
"or in any well-ordered State where there exists a government,
old women like my mother are placed under proper guardianship.
Yes, my good sir," he went on, relapsing into a scolding tone as
he leapt to his feet and started to pace the room, "do you not
know this " (he seemed to be addressing some imaginary auditor
in the corner) "--do you not know this, that in Russia old women
like her are subjected to restraint, the devil take them?"
Again he threw himself down upon the sofa.
to gasp out that Mlle. Blanche had refused to marry him, for the
reason that the Grandmother had turned up in place of a
telegram, and it was therefore clear that he had no inheritance
to look for. Evidently, he supposed that I had hitherto been in
entire ignorance of all this. Again, when I referred to De
Griers, the General made a gesture of despair. "He has gone
away," he said, "and everything which I possess is mortgaged to
him. I stand stripped to my skin. Even of the money which you
brought me from Paris, I know not if seven hundred francs be
left. Of course that sum will do to go on with, but, as regards
the future, I know nothing, I know nothing."
"Then how will you pay your hotel bill?" I cried in
consternation. "And what shall you do afterwards?"
He looked at me vaguely, but it was clear that he had not
understood--perhaps had not even heard--my questions. Then I tried
to get him to speak of Polina and the children, but he only
returned brief answers of " Yes, yes," and again started to
maunder about the Prince, and the likelihood of the latter
marrying Mlle. Blanche. "What on earth am I to do?" he
concluded. "What on earth am I to do? Is this not ingratitude?
Is it not sheer ingratitude?" And he burst into tears.
Nothing could be done with such a man. Yet to leave him alone
was dangerous, for something might happen to him. I withdrew
from his rooms for a little while, but warned the nursemaid to
keep an eye upon him, as well as exchanged a word with the
corridor lacquey (a very talkative fellow), who likewise
promised to remain on the look-out.
Hardly had I left the General, when Potapitch approached me with
a summons from the Grandmother. It was now eight o'clock, and
she had returned from the Casino after finally losing all that
she possessed. I found her sitting in her chair--much distressed
and evidently fatigued. Presently Martha brought her up a cup of
tea and forced her to drink it; yet, even then I could detect in
the old lady's tone and manner a great change.
head drooping. "Pardon me for disturbing you again. Yes, you
must pardon an old, old woman like myself, for I have left
behind me all that I possess--nearly a hundred thousand roubles!
You did quite right in declining to come with me this evening.
Now I am without money--without a single groat. But I must not
delay a moment; I must leave by the 9:30 train. I have sent for
that English friend of yours, and am going to beg of him three
thousand francs for a week. Please try and persuade him to think
nothing of it, nor yet to refuse me, for I am still a rich woman
who possesses three villages and a couple of mansions. Yes, the
money shall be found, for I have not yet squandered EVERYTHING.
I tell you this in order that he may have no doubts about--Ah,
but here he is! Clearly he is a good fellow."
True enough, Astley had come hot-foot on receiving the
Grandmother's appeal. Scarcely stopping even to reflect, and
with scarcely a word, he counted out the three thousand francs
under a note of hand which she duly signed. Then, his business
done, he bowed, and lost no time in taking his departure.
"All my bones are aching, and I still have an hour in which to
rest. Do not be hard upon me, old fool that I am. Never again
shall I blame young people for being frivolous. I should think
it wrong even to blame that unhappy General of yours. Nevertheless,
I do not mean to let him have any of my money (which is all that
he desires), for the reason that I look upon him as a perfect
blockhead, and consider myself, simpleton though I be, at least
wiser than HE is. How surely does God visit old age, and punish
it for its presumption! Well, good-bye. Martha, come and lift
was in an expectant frame of mind--somehow I kept thinking that
SOMETHING was going to happen; wherefore, I could not rest
quietly in my room, but stepped out into the corridor, and then
into the Chestnut Avenue for a few minutes' stroll. My letter to
Polina had been clear and firm, and in the present crisis, I felt
sure, would prove final. I had heard of De Griers' departure,
and, however much Polina might reject me as a FRIEND, she might
not reject me altogether as a SERVANT. She would need me to
fetch and carry for her, and I was ready to do so. How could it
have been otherwise?
station, and put the Grandmother into her compartment--she and
her party occupying a reserved family saloon.
parting. "Oh, and please remind Prascovia of what I said to her
last night. I expect soon to see her."
suite, I met the nursemaid, and inquired after her master.
"There is nothing new to report, sir," she replied quietly.
Nevertheless I decided to enter, and was just doing so when I
halted thunderstruck on the threshold. For before me I beheld
the General and Mlle. Blanche--laughing gaily at one another!--
while beside them, on the sofa, there was seated her mother.
Clearly the General was almost out of his mind with joy, for he
was talking all sorts of nonsense, and bubbling over with a
long-drawn, nervous laugh--a laugh which twisted his face into
innumerable wrinkles, and caused his eyes almost to disappear.
dismissing the Prince and hearing of the General's tears, she
bethought her of going to comfort the old man, and had just
arrived for the purpose when I entered. Fortunately, the poor
General did not know that his fate had been decided--that Mlle.
had long ago packed her trunks in readiness for the first
morning train to Paris!
entering, and departed unnoticed. Ascending to my own room, and
opening the door, I perceived in the semi-darkness a figure
seated on a chair in the corner by the window. The figure did
not rise when I entered, so I approached it swiftly, peered at
it closely, and felt my heart almost stop beating. The figure
strange voice. She was looking pale, and her eyes were dim.
"What is the matter?" I re-echoed. "Why, the fact that you
"If I am here, I have come with all that I have to bring," she
said. "Such has always been my way, as you shall presently see.
Please light a candle."
upon it an open letter.
"Read it," she added.
"It is De Griers' handwriting!" I cried as I seized the
document. My hands were so tremulous that the lines on the pages
danced before my eyes. Although, at this distance of time, I
have forgotten the exact phraseology of the missive, I append,
if not the precise words, at all events the general sense.
circumstances compel me to depart in haste. Of course, you have
of yourself remarked that hitherto I have always refrained from
having any final explanation with you, for the reason that I
could not well state the whole circumstances; and now to my
difficulties the advent of the aged Grandmother, coupled with
her subsequent proceedings, has put the final touch. Also, the
involved state of my affairs forbids me to write with any
finality concerning those hopes of ultimate bliss upon which,
for a long while past, I have permitted myself to feed. I regret
the past, but at the same time hope that in my conduct you have
never been able to detect anything that was unworthy of a
gentleman and a man of honour. Having lost, however, almost the
whole of my money in debts incurred by your stepfather, I find
myself driven to the necessity of saving the remainder;
wherefore, I have instructed certain friends of mine in St.
Petersburg to arrange for the sale of all the property which has
been mortgaged to myself. At the same time, knowing that, in
addition, your frivolous stepfather has squandered money which
is exclusively yours, I have decided to absolve him from a
certain moiety of the mortgages on his property, in order that
you may be in a position to recover of him what you have lost,
by suing him in legal fashion. I trust, therefore, that, as
matters now stand, this action of mine may bring you some
advantage. I trust also that this same action leaves me in the
position of having fulfilled every obligation which is incumbent
upon a man of honour and refinement. Rest assured that your
memory will for ever remain graven in my heart."
"All this is clear enough," I commented. "Surely you did not
expect aught else from him?" Somehow I was feeling annoyed.
"I expected nothing at all from him," she replied--quietly
enough, to all outward seeming, yet with a note of irritation in
her tone. "Long ago I made up my mind on the subject, for I
could read his thoughts, and knew what he was thinking. He
thought that possibly I should sue him--that one day I might
become a nuisance." Here Polina halted for a moment, and stood
biting her lips. "So of set purpose I redoubled my contemptuous
treatment of him, and waited to see what he would do. If a
telegram to say that we had become legatees had arrived from,
St. Petersburg, I should have flung at him a quittance for my
foolish stepfather's debts, and then dismissed him. For a long
time I have hated him. Even in earlier days he was not a man;
and now!--Oh, how gladly I could throw those fifty thousand
roubles in his face, and spit in it, and then rub the spittle in!"
"But the document returning the fifty-thousand rouble
mortgage--has the General got it? If so, possess yourself of it,
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