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|The Gambler||Fyodor Dostoevsky|
|Page 2 of 6||
"Never mind, never mind. Give him a gulden."
I approached the beggar in question, and handed him the coin. Looking at me in great astonishment, he silently accepted the gulden, while from his person there proceeded a strong smell of liquor.
"Have you never tried your luck, Alexis Ivanovitch?"
"Yet just now I could see that you were burning to do so?"
"I do mean to try my luck presently."
"Then stake everything upon zero. You have seen how it ought to be done? How much capital do you possess?"
"Two hundred gulden, Madame."
"Not very much. See here; I will lend you five hundred if you wish. Take this purse of mine." With that she added sharply to the General: "But YOU need not expect to receive any."
This seemed to upset him, but he said nothing, and De Griers contented himself by scowling.
"Que diable!" he whispered to the General. "C'est une terrible vieille."
"Look! Another beggar, another beggar!" exclaimed the grandmother. "Alexis Ivanovitch, go and give him a gulden."
As she spoke I saw approaching us a grey-headed old man with a wooden leg--a man who was dressed in a blue frockcoat and carrying a staff. He looked like an old soldier. As soon as I tendered him the coin he fell back a step or two, and eyed me threateningly.
"Was ist der Teufel!" he cried, and appended thereto a round dozen of oaths.
"The man is a perfect fool!" exclaimed the Grandmother, waving her hand. "Move on now, for I am simply famished. When we have lunched we will return to that place."
"What?" cried I. "You are going to play again?"
"What else do you suppose?" she retorted. "Are you going only to sit here, and grow sour, and let me look at you?"
"Madame," said De Griers confidentially, "les chances peuvent tourner. Une seule mauvaise chance, et vous perdrez tout--surtout avec votre jeu. C'etait terrible!"
"Oui; vous perdrez absolument," put in Mlle. Blanche.
"What has that got to do with YOU?" retorted the old lady. "It is not YOUR money that I am going to lose; it is my own. And where is that Mr. Astley of yours?" she added to myself.
"He stayed behind in the Casino."
"What a pity! He is such a nice sort of man!"
Arriving home, and meeting the landlord on the staircase, the Grandmother called him to her side, and boasted to him of her winnings--thereafter doing the same to Theodosia, and conferring upon her thirty gulden; after which she bid her serve luncheon. The meal over, Theodosia and Martha broke into a joint flood of ecstasy.
"I was watching you all the time, Madame," quavered Martha, "and I asked Potapitch what mistress was trying to do. And, my word! the heaps and heaps of money that were lying upon the table! Never in my life have I seen so much money. And there were gentlefolk around it, and other gentlefolk sitting down. So, I asked Potapitch where all these gentry had come from; for, thought I, maybe the Holy Mother of God will help our mistress among them. Yes, I prayed for you, Madame, and my heart died within me, so that I kept trembling and trembling. The Lord be with her, I thought to myself; and in answer to my prayer He has now sent you what He has done! Even yet I tremble--I tremble to think of it all."
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