The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 15
a tutor, you 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 donc, are you really rich? Mais sais-tu,
you have too much contempt for money. Qu'est-ce que tu feras
apres, dis donc?"
them, and bring them to me when you have done so. Dis donc--you
will end by making me love you. Since you are what you are, I
mean to love you all the time, and never to be unfaithful to
you. You see, I 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 you, parce
que je suis bonne fille."
with Albert--with that black-jowled officer?"
"Oh, oh! Mais tu es--"
"Yes, you 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 now, I should refrain from
putting him out of the room if I thought you really cared for
him. Only, mind you, do not give him any of my money. You hear?"
vrai philosophe, sais-tu? Oui, un vrai philosophe! Eh bien, je
t'aimerai, je t'aimerai. Tu verras-tu seras content."
only to me, and in this manner we spent our last ten days
together. The promised "etoiles" I did not see, but in other
respects she, to a certain extent, kept her word. Moreover, she
introduced me to Hortense, who was a remarkable woman in her
way, and known among us as Therese Philosophe.
But I need not enlarge further, for to do so would
require a story to itself, and 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 us, as I have said,
for very nearly a month--which greatly surprised me. At all
events, Blanche bought herself articles to the tune of eighty
thousand francs, and the rest sufficed just to meet our expenses
of living. Towards the close of the affair, Blanche grew almost
frank with me (at least, she scarcely lied to me at
all)--declaring, amongst other things, that 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
so, and have let you go to prison. See, then, how much I love
you, and how good-hearted I am! Think, too, what this accursed
marriage with the General is going to cost me!"
our month together, and 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 say, my sojourn with the
Frenchwoman--came to an end, and I formally retired from the
Paris there arrived thither the General. He came straight to see
us, and 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 laughter, and even threw her arms around him.
In fact, she managed it so that he had to follow everywhere in
her train--whether when promenading on the Boulevards, or when
driving, or when going to the theatre, or when paying calls; and
this use which she made of him quite satisfied the General.
Still of imposing appearance and presence, as well as of fair
height, he had a dyed moustache and whiskers (he had formerly
been in the cuirassiers), and a handsome, though a somewhat
wrinkled, face. Also, his manners were excellent, and he could
carry a frockcoat well--the more so since, in Paris, he took to
wearing his orders. To promenade the Boulevards with such a man
was not only a thing possible, but also, so to speak, a thing
advisable, and 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 terror, for he had supposed that Blanche would at once
raise an outcry, and have him put from the door; wherefore, he
was the more enraptured at the turn that things had taken, and
spent the month in a state of senseless ecstasy. Already I had
learnt that, after our unexpected departure from Roulettenberg,
he had had a sort of a fit--that he had fallen into a swoon, and
spent a week in a species of garrulous delirium. Doctors had
been summoned to him, but he had broken away from them, and
suddenly taken a train to Paris. Of course Blanche's reception of
him had acted as the best of all possible cures, but for long
enough he carried the marks of his affliction, despite his
present condition of rapture and delight. To think clearly, or
even to engage in any serious conversation, had now become
impossible for him; he could only ejaculate after each word
"Hm!" and then nod his head in confirmation. Sometimes, also, he
would laugh, but only in a nervous, hysterical sort of a
fashion; while at other times he would sit for hours looking as
black as night, with his heavy eyebrows knitted. Of much that
went on he remained wholly oblivious, for he grew extremely
absent-minded, and 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 while, or that she had gone out without taking
him with her, or that she had omitted to caress him before
departing. When in this condition, he would refuse to say what he
wanted--nor had he the least idea that he was thus sulking and
moping. Next, after 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 him, and to grow uneasy, and to hurry about with an air as
though he had suddenly remembered something, and must try and
find it; after which, not perceiving the object of his search,
nor succeeding in recalling what that object had been, he would
as suddenly relapse into oblivion, and continue so until the
reappearance of Blanche--merry, wanton, half-dressed, and
laughing her strident laugh as she approached to pet him, and
even to kiss him (though the latter reward he seldom received).
Once, he 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 Paris, Blanche 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 him, though she had almost become his
betrothed and promised to become so; that it was for HER sake he
had deserted his family; that, having been in his service, I
ought to remember the fact, and to feel ashamed. To all this I
would say nothing, however much she chattered on; until at
length I would burst out laughing, and the incident would come
to an end (at first, as I have said, she had thought me a fool,
but since she had come to deem me a man of sense and
sensibility). In short, I had the happiness of calling her
better nature into play; for though, at first, I had not deemed
her so, she was, in reality, a 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!"
streets, even as she might have done with a lacquey and her
spaniel; but, I preferred to take him to the theatre, to the Bal
Mabille, and to restaurants. For this purpose she usually
allowed me some money, though the General had a little of his
own, and 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 francs, after 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 myself, I think that he never divined
the footing on which I stood with Blanche. True, he had
heard, in a dim sort of way, that 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 events, he
continued to address me, in his old haughty style, as my
superior. At times he even took it upon himself to scold me. One
morning in particular, he started to sneer at me over our
matutinal coffee. Though not a man prone to take offence, he
suddenly, and for some reason of which to this day I am
ignorant, fell out with me. Of course even he himself did not
know the reason. To put things shortly, he began a speech which
had neither beginning nor ending, and cried out, a batons
rompus, that I was a boy whom he would soon put to rights--and so
forth, and so forth. Yet no one could understand what he was
saying, and at length Blanche exploded in a burst of laughter.
Finally something appeased him, and he was taken out for his
walk. More than once, however, I noticed that his depression was
growing upon him; that he seemed to be feeling the want of
somebody or something; that, despite Blanche's presence, he was
missing some person in particular. Twice, on these occasions,
did he plunge into a conversation with me, though he could not
make himself intelligible, and only went on rambling about the
service, his late wife, his home, and his property. Every now
and then, also, some 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.
Again, I would try to get him to talk about his children, but
always he cut me short in his old snappish way, and passed to
another subject. "Yes, yes--my children," was all that I could
extract from him. "Yes, you 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 theatre, and suddenly he
exclaimed: "My unfortunate children! Yes, sir, they are
unfortunate children." Once, too, when I chanced to mention
Polina, he 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 here, I would have
her impaled. Yes, I would." As for De Griers, the General would
not have his name mentioned. " He has ruined me," he would say.
"He has robbed me, and 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."
coming to terms; yet, true to my usual custom, I said nothing.
At length, Blanche 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 ill, and therefore, bound to die. Mr. Astley has just sent
a telegram to say so, and 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 amiss, since, in the first place, he has his
pension, and, in the second place, he will be content to live in
a back room; whereas I shall be Madame General, and get into a
good circle of society" (she was always thinking of this) "and
become a Russian chatelaine. Yes, I shall have a mansion of my
own, and peasants, and a million of money at my back."
"But, suppose he should prove jealous? He might demand all
sorts of things, you know. Do you follow me?"
"Oh, dear no! How ridiculous that would be of him! Besides, I
have taken measures to prevent it. You need not be alarmed. That
is to say, I have induced him to sign notes of hand in Albert's
name. Consequently, at any time I could get him punished. Isn't
only, and involved no pomp or ceremony. In fact, she invited to
the nuptials none but Albert and a few other friends. Hortense,
Cleopatre, and the rest she kept firmly at a distance. As for
the bridegroom, he took a great interest in his new position.
Blanche herself tied his tie, and Blanche herself pomaded him--
with the result that, in his frockcoat and white waistcoat, he
looked quite comme il faut.
"Il est, pourtant, TRES comme il faut," Blanche remarked when
she issued from his room, as though the idea that he was "TRES
comme il faut " had impressed even her. For myself, I had so
little knowledge of the minor details of the affair, and took
part in it so much as a supine spectator, that I have forgotten
most of what passed on this occasion. I only remember that
Blanche and the Widow figured at it, not 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
General, that 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 Placet, du Placet!" He
beamed with satisfaction as he did so. Both in the church and at
the wedding breakfast he remained not only pleased and
contented, but even proud. She too underwent a change, for now
she assumed an air of added dignity.
"I must behave altogether differently," she confided to me with
a serious air. "Yet, mark you, there is a tiresome circumstance
of which I had never before thought--which is, how best to
pronounce my new family name. Zagorianski, Zagozianski, Madame
la Generale de Sago, Madame la Generale de Fourteen
Consonants--oh these infernal Russian names! The LAST of them
would be the best to use, don't you think?"
egregious Blanche, shed real tears as she took her leave of me.
"Tu etais bon enfant" she said with a sob. "je te croyais bete et tu
en avais l'air, but it suited you." Then, having given me a final
handshake, she exclaimed, "Attends!"; whereafter, running into
her boudoir, she brought me thence two thousand-franc notes. I
could scarcely believe my eyes! "They may come in handy for
you," she explained, "for, though you are a very learned
tutor, you are a very stupid man. More than two thousand francs,
however, I am not going to give you, for the reason that, if I
did so, you would gamble them all away. Now good-bye. Nous
serons toujours bons amis, and if you win again, do not fail to
come to me, et tu seras heureux."
worth a thousand francs, a few diamond studs, and so on.
Consequently, I 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 together, and partly
to wait for Mr. Astley, who, I have learnt, will soon be here
for a day or so on business. Yes, I know that, and then--and then
I shall go to Homburg. But to Roulettenberg I shall not go until
next year, for they say it is bad to try one's luck twice in
succession at a table. Moreover, Homburg is where the best play
is carried on.
of mine. I do so now only because, being overwhelmed with
depression, I 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 God, with what a light heart (comparatively
speaking) did I write the concluding lines!--though it may be
not so much with a light heart, as 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 passed, yet 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. Oh, you self-satisfied persons
who, in your unctuous pride, are forever ready to mouth your
maxims--if only you knew how fully I myself comprehend the
sordidness of my present state, you would not trouble to wag
your tongues at me! What could you say to me that I do not
already know? Well, wherein lies my difficulty? It lies in the
fact that by a single turn of a roulette wheel everything for
me, has become changed. Yet, had things befallen otherwise,
these moralists would have been among the first (yes, I feel
persuaded of it) to approach me with friendly jests and
congratulations. Yes, they 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
dead, and have begun life anew. For still, I may discover the man
in myself, if only my manhood has not become utterly shattered.
Roulettenberg, as well as to Spa and Baden; in which latter
place, for a time, I acted as valet to a certain rascal of a
Privy Councillor, by name Heintze, who until lately was also my
master here. Yes, for 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 events, the debt was paid to the tune of two
hundred thalers, and I sallied forth a free man. But what was I
to do with myself ? In my dilemma I had recourse to this
Heintze, who was a young scapegrace, and the sort of man who
could speak and write three languages. At first I acted as his
secretary, at a salary of thirty gulden a month, but afterwards
I became his lacquey, for the reason that he could not afford to
keep a secretary--only an unpaid servant. I had nothing else to
turn to, so I remained with him, and allowed myself to become
his flunkey. But by stinting myself in meat and drink I saved,
during my five months of service, some seventy gulden; and one
evening, when we were at Baden, I told him that I wished to
resign my post, and then hastened to betake myself to roulette.
I valued--what I wanted was to make all this mob of Heintzes,
hotel proprietors, and fine ladies of Baden talk about me,
recount my story, wonder at me, extol my doings, and worship my
winnings. True, these were childish fancies and aspirations, but
who knows but that I might meet Polina, and be able to tell her
everything, and see her look of surprise at the fact that I had
overcome so many adverse strokes of fortune. No, I had no desire
for money for its own sake, for I was perfectly well aware that
I should only squander it upon some new Blanche, and spend
another three weeks in Paris after buying a pair of horses which
had cost sixteen thousand francs. No, I never believed myself to
be a hoarder; in fact, I knew only too well that I was a
spendthrift. And already, with a sort of fear, a sort of
sinking in my heart, I could hear the cries of the croupiers--
"Trente et un, rouge, impair et passe," "Quarte, noir, pair et
manque. " How greedily I gazed upon the gaming-table, with its
scattered louis d'or, ten-gulden pieces, and thalers; upon the
streams of gold as they issued from the croupier's hands, and
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.
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 lost, but 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.
Indeed, I have been less pleased when, in former times, I have
won a hundred thousand gulden. Losing no time, I staked another
hundred gulden upon the red, and won; two hundred upon the red,
and won; four hundred upon the black, and won; eight hundred
upon manque, and won. Thus, with the addition of the remainder
of my original capital, I found myself possessed, within five
minutes, of seventeen hundred gulden. Ah, at 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 risk, and
behold, again I was a member of mankind!
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