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The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 15

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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?"
"Apres I shall go to Homburg, and win another hundred thousand

francs."
"Oui, oui, c'est ca, c'est magnifique! Ah, I know you will win

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."
"You lie!" I interrupted. "Did I not see you, the other day,

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?"
"You say, do you, that you would not be angry? Mais tu es un

vrai philosophe, sais-tu? Oui, un vrai philosophe! Eh bien, je

t'aimerai, je t'aimerai. Tu verras-tu seras content."
True enough, from that time onward she seemed to attach herself

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!"
True enough, the marriage took place. It did so at the close of

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

scene.
It happened thus: A week after we had taken up our abode in

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!"
"Un vrai Russe--un Kalmuk" she usually called me.
Several times she sent me to give the General an airing in the

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."
It was now clear to me that Blanche and he were on the point of

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

he ridiculous?"
"Very well, then. Marry him."
And, in truth, she did so--though the marriage was a family one

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?"
At length the time had come for us to part, and Blanche, the

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."
I myself had still five hundred francs left, as well as a watch

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.
XVII
It is a year and eight months since I last looked at these notes

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.
I went, I say, to Homburg, but afterwards went also to

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.
Oh, how my heart beat as I did so! No, it was not the money that

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.
Ah, the 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 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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