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|The Gambler||Fyodor Dostoevsky|
|Page 6 of 7||
"Rubbish, rubbish!" she retorted. "The truth is that you CANNOT be got away from that roulette. You are simply telling lies. This very day I mean to go and see for myself what roulette is like. Prascovia, tell me what there is to be seen here; and do you, Alexis Ivanovitch, show me everything; and do you, Potapitch, make me a list of excursions. What IS there to be seen?" again she inquired of Polina.
"There is a ruined castle, and the Shlangenberg."
"The Shlangenberg? What is it? A forest?"
"No, a mountain on the summit of which there is a place fenced off. From it you can get a most beautiful view."
"Could a chair be carried up that mountain of yours?"
"Doubtless we could find bearers for the purpose," I interposed.
At this moment Theodosia, the nursemaid, approached the old lady with the General's children.
"No, I DON'T want to see them," said the Grandmother. "I hate kissing children, for their noses are always wet. How are you getting on, Theodosia?"
"I am very well, thank you, Madame," replied the nursemaid. "And how is your ladyship? We have been feeling so anxious about you!"
"Yes, I know, you simple soul--But who are those other guests?" the old lady continued, turning again to Polina. "For instance, who is that old rascal in the spectacles?"
"Prince Nilski, Grandmamma," whispered Polina.
"Oh, a Russian? Why, I had no idea that he could understand me! Surely he did not hear what I said? As for Mr. Astley, I have seen him already, and I see that he is here again. How do you do?" she added to the gentleman in question.
Mr. Astley bowed in silence
"Have you NOTHING to say to me?" the old lady went on. "Say something, for goodness' sake! Translate to him, Polina."
Polina did so.
"I have only to say," replied Mr. Astley gravely, but also with alacrity, "that I am indeed glad to see you in such good health." This was interpreted to the Grandmother, and she seemed much gratified.
"How well English people know how to answer one!" she remarked. "That is why I like them so much better than French. Come here," she added to Mr. Astley. "I will try not to bore you too much. Polina, translate to him that I am staying in rooms on a lower floor. Yes, on a lower floor," she repeated to Astley, pointing downwards with her finger.
Astley looked pleased at receiving the invitation.
Next, the old lady scanned Polina, from head to foot with minute attention.
"I could almost have liked you, Prascovia," suddenly she remarked, "for you are a nice girl--the best of the lot. You have some character about you. I too have character. Turn round. Surely that is not false hair that you are wearing?"
"No, Grandmamma. It is my own."
"Well, well. I do not like the stupid fashions of today. You are very good looking. I should have fallen in love with you if I had been a man. Why do you not get married? It is time now that I was going. I want to walk, yet I always have to ride. Are you still in a bad temper?" she added to the General.
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