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The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 12

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and that she ought to be made to surrender what was not her own.

Thus the party arrived at the hotel; whence, presently, the gang

of rascals was ejected neck and crop.
According to Potapitch's calculations, the Grandmother lost,

that day, a total of ninety thousand roubles, in addition to the

money which she had lost the day before. Every paper security

which she had brought with her--five percent bonds, internal

loan scrip, and what not--she had changed into cash. Also, I

could not but marvel at the way in which, for seven or eight

hours at a stretch, she sat in that chair of hers, almost never

leaving the table. Again, Potapitch told me that there were

three occasions on which she really began to win; but that, led

on by false hopes, she was unable to tear herself away at the

right moment. Every gambler knows how a person may sit a day and

a night at cards without ever casting a glance to right or to

left.
Meanwhile, that day some other very important events were

passing in our hotel. As early as eleven o'clock--that is to say,

before the Grandmother had quitted her rooms--the General and De

Griers decided upon their last stroke. In other words, on

learning that the old lady had changed her mind about departing,

and was bent on setting out for the Casino again, the whole of

our gang (Polina only excepted) proceeded en masse to her rooms,

for the purpose of finally and frankly treating with her. But

the General, quaking and greatly apprehensive as to his possible

future, overdid things. After half an hour's prayers and

entreaties, coupled with a full confession of his debts, and

even of his passion for Mlle. Blanche (yes, he had quite lost

his head), he suddenly adopted a tone of menace, and started to

rage at the old lady--exclaiming that she was sullying the family

honour, that she was making a public scandal of herself, and

that she was smirching the fair name of Russia. The upshot was

that the Grandmother turned him out of the room with her stick

(it was a real stick, too!). Later in the morning he held

several consultations with De Griers--the question which occupied

him being: Is it in any way possible to make use of the

police--to tell them that "this respected, but unfortunate, old

lady has gone out of her mind, and is squandering her last

kopeck," or something of the kind? In short, is it in any way

possible to engineer a species of supervision over, or of

restraint upon, the old lady? De Griers, however, shrugged his

shoulders at this, and laughed in the General's face, while the

old warrior went on chattering volubly, and running up and down

his study. Finally De Griers waved his hand, and disappeared

from view; and by evening it became known that he had left the

hotel, after holding a very secret and important conference with

Mlle. Blanche. As for the latter, from early morning she had

taken decisive measures, by completely excluding the General

from her presence, and bestowing upon him not a glance. Indeed,

even when the General pursued her to the Casino, and met her

walking arm in arm with the Prince, he (the General) received

from her and her mother not the slightest recognition. Nor did

the Prince himself bow. The rest of the day Mlle. spent in

probing the Prince, and trying to make him declare himself; but

in this she made a woeful mistake. The little incident occurred

in the evening. Suddenly Mlle. Blanche realised that the Prince

had not even a copper to his name, but, on the contrary, was

minded to borrow of her money wherewith to play at roulette. In

high displeasure she drove him from her presence, and shut

herself up in her room.


The same morning I went to see--or, rather, to look for--Mr.

Astley, but was unsuccessful in my quest. Neither in his rooms

nor in the Casino nor in the Park was he to be found; nor did

he, that day, lunch at his hotel as usual. However, at about

five o'clock I caught sight of him walking from the railway

station to the Hotel d'Angleterre. He seemed to be in a great

hurry and much preoccupied, though in his face I could discern

no actual traces of worry or perturbation. He held out to me a

friendly hand, with his usual ejaculation of " Ah! " but did not

check his stride. I turned and walked beside him, but found,

somehow, that his answers forbade any putting of definite

questions. Moreover, I felt reluctant to speak to him of Polina;

nor, for his part, did he ask me any questions concerning her,

although, on my telling him of the Grandmother's exploits, he

listened attentively and gravely, and then shrugged his

shoulders.


"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.


"To Frankfort."
"On business?"
"On business."
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

impossibility.
Polina spent the whole of that day either in walking about the

park with the nurse and children or in sitting in her own room.

For a long while past she had avoided the General and had

scarcely had a word to say to him (scarcely a word, I mean, on

any SERIOUS topic). Yes, that I had noticed. Still, even though

I was aware of the position in which the General was placed, it

had never occurred to me that he would have any reason to avoid

HER, or to trouble her with family explanations. Indeed, when I

was returning to the hotel after my conversation with Astley,

and chanced to meet Polina and the children, I could see that

her face was as calm as though the family disturbances had never

touched her. To my salute she responded with a slight bow, and I

retired to my room in a very bad humour.
Of course, since the affair with the Burmergelms I had exchanged

not a word with Polina, nor had with her any kind of

intercourse. Yet I had been at my wits' end, for, as time went

on, there was arising in me an ever-seething dissatisfaction.

Even if she did not love me she ought not to have trampled upon

my feelings, nor to have accepted my confessions with such

contempt, seeing that she must have been aware that I loved her

(of her own accord she had allowed me to tell her as much). Of

course the situation between us had arisen in a curious manner.

About two months ago, I had noticed that she had a desire to make

me her friend, her confidant--that she was making trial of me for

the purpose; but, for some reason or another, the desired result

had never come about, and we had fallen into the present strange

relations, which had led me to address her as I had done. At the

same time, if my love was distasteful to her, why had she not

FORBIDDEN me to speak of it to her?


But she had not so forbidden me. On the contrary, there had been

occasions when she had even INVITED me to speak. Of course, this

might have been done out of sheer wantonness, for I well knew--I

had remarked it only too often--that, after listening to what I

had to say, and angering me almost beyond endurance, she loved

suddenly to torture me with some fresh outburst of contempt and

aloofness! Yet she must have known that I could not live without

her. Three days had elapsed since the affair with the Baron, and

I could bear the severance no longer. When, that afternoon, I

met her near the Casino, my heart almost made me faint, it beat

so violently. She too could not live without me, for had she not

said that she had NEED of me? Or had that too been spoken in

jest?
That she had a secret of some kind there could be no doubt. What

she had said to the Grandmother had stabbed me to the heart. On

a thousand occasions I had challenged her to be open with me,

nor could she have been ignorant that I was ready to give my

very life for her. Yet always she had kept me at a distance with

that contemptuous air of hers; or else she had demanded of me,

in lieu of the life which I offered to lay at her feet, such

escapades as I had perpetrated with the Baron. Ah, was it not

torture to me, all this? For could it be that her whole world

was bound up with the Frenchman? What, too, about Mr. Astley?

The affair was inexplicable throughout. My God, what distress it

caused me!


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

person."
Next, about seven o'clock, I was sent for by the General. I

found him in his study, apparently preparing to go out again,

for his hat and stick were lying on the sofa. When I entered he

was standing in the middle of the room--his feet wide apart, and

his head bent down. Also, he appeared to be talking to himself.

But as soon as ever he saw me at the door he came towards me in

such a curious manner that involuntarily I retreated a step, and

was for leaving the room; whereupon he seized me by both hands,

and, drawing me towards the sofa, and seating himself thereon,

he forced me to sit down on a chair opposite him. Then, without

letting go of my hands, he exclaimed with quivering lips and a

sparkle of tears on his eyelashes:


"Oh, Alexis Ivanovitch! Save me, save me! Have some mercy upon

me!"
For a long time I could not make out what he meant, although he

kept talking and talking, and constantly repeating to himself,

"Have mercy, mercy!" At length, however, I divined that he was

expecting me to give him something in the nature of advice--or,

rather, that, deserted by every one, and overwhelmed with grief

and apprehension, he had bethought himself of my existence, and

sent for me to relieve his feelings by talking and talking and

talking.
In fact, he was in such a confused and despondent state of mind

that, clasping his hands together, he actually went down upon

his knees and begged me to go to Mlle. Blanche, and beseech and

advise her to return to him, and to accept him in marriage.


"But, General," I exclaimed, "possibly Mlle. Blanche has

scarcely even remarked my existence? What could I do with her?"


It was in vain that I protested, for he could understand nothing

that was said to him, Next he started talking about the

Grandmother, but always in a disconnected sort of fashion--his

one thought being to send for the police.


"In Russia," said he, suddenly boiling over with indignation,

"or in any well-ordered State where there exists a government,

old women like my mother are placed under proper guardianship.

Yes, my good sir," he went on, relapsing into a scolding tone as

he leapt to his feet and started to pace the room, "do you not

know this " (he seemed to be addressing some imaginary auditor

in the corner) "--do you not know this, that in Russia old women

like her are subjected to restraint, the devil take them?"

Again he threw himself down upon the sofa.
A minute later, though sobbing and almost breathless, he managed

to gasp out that Mlle. Blanche had refused to marry him, for the

reason that the Grandmother had turned up in place of a

telegram, and it was therefore clear that he had no inheritance

to look for. Evidently, he supposed that I had hitherto been in

entire ignorance of all this. Again, when I referred to De

Griers, the General made a gesture of despair. "He has gone

away," he said, "and everything which I possess is mortgaged to

him. I stand stripped to my skin. Even of the money which you

brought me from Paris, I know not if seven hundred francs be

left. Of course that sum will do to go on with, but, as regards

the future, I know nothing, I know nothing."


"Then how will you pay your hotel bill?" I cried in

consternation. "And what shall you do afterwards?"


He looked at me vaguely, but it was clear that he had not

understood--perhaps had not even heard--my questions. Then I tried

to get him to speak of Polina and the children, but he only

returned brief answers of " Yes, yes," and again started to

maunder about the Prince, and the likelihood of the latter

marrying Mlle. Blanche. "What on earth am I to do?" he

concluded. "What on earth am I to do? Is this not ingratitude?

Is it not sheer ingratitude?" And he burst into tears.


Nothing could be done with such a man. Yet to leave him alone

was dangerous, for something might happen to him. I withdrew

from his rooms for a little while, but warned the nursemaid to

keep an eye upon him, as well as exchanged a word with the

corridor lacquey (a very talkative fellow), who likewise

promised to remain on the look-out.


Hardly had I left the General, when Potapitch approached me with

a summons from the Grandmother. It was now eight o'clock, and

she had returned from the Casino after finally losing all that

she possessed. I found her sitting in her chair--much distressed

and evidently fatigued. Presently Martha brought her up a cup of

tea and forced her to drink it; yet, even then I could detect in

the old lady's tone and manner a great change.
"Good evening, Alexis Ivanovitch," she said slowly, with her

head drooping. "Pardon me for disturbing you again. Yes, you

must pardon an old, old woman like myself, for I have left

behind me all that I possess--nearly a hundred thousand roubles!

You did quite right in declining to come with me this evening.

Now I am without money--without a single groat. But I must not

delay a moment; I must leave by the 9:30 train. I have sent for

that English friend of yours, and am going to beg of him three

thousand francs for a week. Please try and persuade him to think

nothing of it, nor yet to refuse me, for I am still a rich woman

who possesses three villages and a couple of mansions. Yes, the

money shall be found, for I have not yet squandered EVERYTHING.

I tell you this in order that he may have no doubts about--Ah,

but here he is! Clearly he is a good fellow."


True enough, Astley had come hot-foot on receiving the

Grandmother's appeal. Scarcely stopping even to reflect, and

with scarcely a word, he counted out the three thousand francs

under a note of hand which she duly signed. Then, his business

done, he bowed, and lost no time in taking his departure.
"You too leave me, Alexis Ivanovitch," said the Grandmother.

"All my bones are aching, and I still have an hour in which to

rest. Do not be hard upon me, old fool that I am. Never again

shall I blame young people for being frivolous. I should think

it wrong even to blame that unhappy General of yours. Nevertheless,

I do not mean to let him have any of my money (which is all that

he desires), for the reason that I look upon him as a perfect

blockhead, and consider myself, simpleton though I be, at least

wiser than HE is. How surely does God visit old age, and punish

it for its presumption! Well, good-bye. Martha, come and lift

me up."
However, I had a mind to see the old lady off; and, moreover, I

was in an expectant frame of mind--somehow I kept thinking that

SOMETHING was going to happen; wherefore, I could not rest

quietly in my room, but stepped out into the corridor, and then

into the Chestnut Avenue for a few minutes' stroll. My letter to

Polina had been clear and firm, and in the present crisis, I felt

sure, would prove final. I had heard of De Griers' departure,

and, however much Polina might reject me as a FRIEND, she might

not reject me altogether as a SERVANT. She would need me to

fetch and carry for her, and I was ready to do so. How could it

have been otherwise?
Towards the hour of the train's departure I hastened to the

station, and put the Grandmother into her compartment--she and

her party occupying a reserved family saloon.
"Thanks for your disinterested assistance," she said at

parting. "Oh, and please remind Prascovia of what I said to her

last night. I expect soon to see her."
Then I returned home. As I was passing the door of the General's

suite, I met the nursemaid, and inquired after her master.

"There is nothing new to report, sir," she replied quietly.

Nevertheless I decided to enter, and was just doing so when I

halted thunderstruck on the threshold. For before me I beheld

the General and Mlle. Blanche--laughing gaily at one another!--

while beside them, on the sofa, there was seated her mother.

Clearly the General was almost out of his mind with joy, for he

was talking all sorts of nonsense, and bubbling over with a

long-drawn, nervous laugh--a laugh which twisted his face into

innumerable wrinkles, and caused his eyes almost to disappear.
Afterwards I learnt from Mlle. Blanche herself that, after

dismissing the Prince and hearing of the General's tears, she

bethought her of going to comfort the old man, and had just

arrived for the purpose when I entered. Fortunately, the poor

General did not know that his fate had been decided--that Mlle.

had long ago packed her trunks in readiness for the first

morning train to Paris!
Hesitating a moment on the threshold I changed my mind as to

entering, and departed unnoticed. Ascending to my own room, and

opening the door, I perceived in the semi-darkness a figure

seated on a chair in the corner by the window. The figure did

not rise when I entered, so I approached it swiftly, peered at

it closely, and felt my heart almost stop beating. The figure

was Polina!
XIV
The shock made me utter an exclamation.
"What is the matter? What is the matter?" she asked in a

strange voice. She was looking pale, and her eyes were dim.


"What is the matter?" I re-echoed. "Why, the fact that you

are HERE!"


"If I am here, I have come with all that I have to bring," she

said. "Such has always been my way, as you shall presently see.

Please light a candle."
I did so; whereupon she rose, approached the table, and laid

upon it an open letter.


"Read it," she added.
"It is De Griers' handwriting!" I cried as I seized the

document. My hands were so tremulous that the lines on the pages

danced before my eyes. Although, at this distance of time, I

have forgotten the exact phraseology of the missive, I append,

if not the precise words, at all events the general sense.
"Mademoiselle," the document ran, "certain untoward

circumstances compel me to depart in haste. Of course, you have

of yourself remarked that hitherto I have always refrained from

having any final explanation with you, for the reason that I

could not well state the whole circumstances; and now to my

difficulties the advent of the aged Grandmother, coupled with

her subsequent proceedings, has put the final touch. Also, the

involved state of my affairs forbids me to write with any

finality concerning those hopes of ultimate bliss upon which,

for a long while past, I have permitted myself to feed. I regret

the past, but at the same time hope that in my conduct you have

never been able to detect anything that was unworthy of a

gentleman and a man of honour. Having lost, however, almost the

whole of my money in debts incurred by your stepfather, I find

myself driven to the necessity of saving the remainder;

wherefore, I have instructed certain friends of mine in St.

Petersburg to arrange for the sale of all the property which has

been mortgaged to myself. At the same time, knowing that, in

addition, your frivolous stepfather has squandered money which

is exclusively yours, I have decided to absolve him from a

certain moiety of the mortgages on his property, in order that

you may be in a position to recover of him what you have lost,

by suing him in legal fashion. I trust, therefore, that, as

matters now stand, this action of mine may bring you some

advantage. I trust also that this same action leaves me in the

position of having fulfilled every obligation which is incumbent

upon a man of honour and refinement. Rest assured that your

memory will for ever remain graven in my heart."


"All this is clear enough," I commented. "Surely you did not

expect aught else from him?" Somehow I was feeling annoyed.


"I expected nothing at all from him," she replied--quietly

enough, to all outward seeming, yet with a note of irritation in

her tone. "Long ago I made up my mind on the subject, for I

could read his thoughts, and knew what he was thinking. He

thought that possibly I should sue him--that one day I might

become a nuisance." Here Polina halted for a moment, and stood

biting her lips. "So of set purpose I redoubled my contemptuous

treatment of him, and waited to see what he would do. If a

telegram to say that we had become legatees had arrived from,

St. Petersburg, I should have flung at him a quittance for my

foolish stepfather's debts, and then dismissed him. For a long

time I have hated him. Even in earlier days he was not a man;

and now!--Oh, how gladly I could throw those fifty thousand

roubles in his face, and spit in it, and then rub the spittle in!"


"But the document returning the fifty-thousand rouble

mortgage--has the General got it? If so, possess yourself of it,



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