The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - səhifə 16
I went and hired a room, I shut myself up in it, and sat
counting my money until three o'clock in the morning. To think
that when I awoke on the morrow, I was no lacquey! I decided to
leave at once for Homburg. There I should neither have to serve
as a footman nor to lie in prison. Half an hour before starting,
I went and ventured a couple of stakes--no more; with the result
that, in all, I lost fifteen hundred florins. Nevertheless, I
proceeded to Homburg, and have now been there for a month.
Of course, I am living in constant trepidation,playing for the
smallest of stakes, and always looking out for
something--calculating, standing whole days by the gaming-tables
to watch the play--even seeing that play in my dreams--yet
seeming, the while, to be in some way stiffening, to be growing
caked, as it were, in mire. But I must conclude my notes, which
I finish under the impression of a recent encounter with Mr.
Astley. I had not seen him since we parted at Roulettenberg, and
now we met quite by accident. At the time I was walking in the
public gardens, and meditating upon the fact that not only had I
still some fifty olden in my possession, but also I had fully
paid up my hotel bill three days ago. Consequently, I was in a
position to try my luck again at roulette; and if I won anything
I should be able to continue my play, whereas, if I lost what I
now possessed, I should once more have to accept a lacquey's
place, provided that, in the alternative, I failed to discover a
Russian family which stood in need of a tutor. Plunged in these
reflections, I started on my daily walk through the Park and
forest towards a neighbouring principality. Sometimes, on such
occasions, I spent four hours on the way, and would return to
Homburg tired and hungry; but, on this particular occasion, I had
scarcely left the gardens for the Park when I caught sight of
Astley seated on a bench. As soon as he perceived me, he called
me by name, and I went and sat down beside him; but, on noticing
that he seemed a little stiff in his manner, I hastened to
moderate the expression of joy which the sight of him had called
you. Do not trouble to tell me anything, for I know all--yes,
all. In fact, your whole life during the past twenty months lies
within my knowledge."
"How closely you watch the doings of your old friends!" I
replied. "That does you infinite credit. But stop a moment. You
have reminded me of something. Was it you who bailed me out of
Roulettenberg prison when I was lying there for a debt of two
hundred gulden? SOMEONE did so."
"No; I am afraid I could not."
"What a strange thing! For I know no Russians at all here, so
it cannot have been a Russian who befriended me. In Russia we
Orthodox folk DO go bail for one another, but in this case I
thought it must have been done by some English stranger who was
not conversant with the ways of the country."
Evidently he had expected to see me looking more crushed and
broken than I was.
to find that you retain your old independence of spirit, as well
as your buoyancy."
abased and humiliated than I am?" I retorted with a smile.
Astley was not quick to understand this, but presently did so
"Your remarks please me as they always did," he continued. "In
those words I see the clever, triumphant, and, above all things,
cynical friend of former days. Only Russians have the faculty of
combining within themselves so many opposite qualities. Yes,
most men love to see their best friend in abasement; for
generally it is on such abasement that friendship is founded.
All thinking persons know that ancient truth. Yet, on the
present occasion, I assure you, I am sincerely glad to see that
you are NOT cast down. Tell me, are you never going to give up
"Damn the gambling! Yes, I should certainly have given it up,
were it not that--"
"That you are losing? I thought so. You need not tell me any
more. I know how things stand, for you have said that last in
despair, and therefore, truthfully. Have you no other employment
"No; none whatever."
Astley gave me a searching glance. At that time it was ages
since I had last looked at a paper or turned the pages of a book.
"You are growing blase," he said. "You have not only renounced
life, with its interests and social ties, but the duties of a citizen
and a man; you have not only renounced the friends whom I know
you to have had, and every aim in life but that of winning
money; but you have also renounced your memory. Though I can
remember you in the strong, ardent period of your life, I feel
persuaded that you have now forgotten every better feeling of
that period--that your present dreams and aspirations of
subsistence do not rise above pair, impair rouge, noir, the
twelve middle numbers, and so forth."
"Enough, Mr. Astley!" I cried with some irritation--almost in
anger. "Kindly do not recall to me any more recollections, for
I can remember things for myself. Only for a time have I put
them out of my head. Only until I shall have rehabilitated
myself, am I keeping my memory dulled. When that hour shall come,
you will see me arise from the dead."
"Then you will have to be here another ten years," he replied.
"Should I then be alive, I will remind you--here, on this very
bench--of what I have just said. In fact, I will bet you a wager
that I shall do so."
"Say no more," I interrupted impatiently. "And to show you
that I have not wholly forgotten the past, may I enquire where
Mlle. Polina is? If it was not you who bailed me out of prison,
it must have been she. Yet never have I heard a word concerning
Switzerland, and you will do me a favour by ceasing to ask me
these questions about her." Astley said this with a firm, and
even an angry, air.
"Which means that she has dealt you a serious wound?" I burst
out with an involuntary sneer.
"Mlle. Polina," he continued, "Is the best of all possible
living beings; but, I repeat, that I shall thank you to cease
questioning me about her. You never really knew her, and her
name on your lips is an offence to my moral feeling."
"Indeed? On what subject, then, have I a better right to speak
to you than on this? With it are bound up all your recollections
and mine. However, do not be alarmed: I have no wish to probe
too far into your private, your secret affairs. My interest in
Mlle. Polina does not extend beyond her outward circumstances
and surroundings. About them you could tell me in two words."
"Well, on condition that the matter shall end there, I will
tell you that for a long time Mlle. Polina was ill, and still is
so. My mother and sister entertained her for a while at their
home in the north of England, and thereafter Mlle. Polina's
grandmother (you remember the mad old woman?) died, and left
Mlle. Polina a personal legacy of seven thousand pounds
sterling. That was about six months ago, and now Mlle. is
travelling with my sister's family--my sister having since
married. Mlle.'s little brother and sister also benefited by the
Grandmother's will, and are now being educated in London. As for
the General, he died in Paris last month, of a stroke. Mlle.
Blanche did well by him, for she succeeded in having transferred
to herself all that he received from the Grandmother. That, I
think, concludes all that I have to tell."
"And De Griers? Is he too travelling in Switzerland?"
"No; nor do I know where he is. Also I warn you once more that
you had better avoid such hints and ignoble suppositions;
otherwise you will assuredly have to reckon with me."
nothing offensive to Mlle. Polina, for I have nothing of which
to accuse her. Moreover, the question of there being anything
between this Frenchman and this Russian lady is not one which
you and I need discuss, nor even attempt to understand."
coupled together, may I ask you what you mean by the expressions
'this Frenchman,' 'this Russian lady,' and 'there being
anything between them'? Why do you call them so particularly a
'Frenchman' and a 'Russian lady'?"
long story, and calls for a lengthy preface. At the same time,
the question is an important one, however ridiculous it may seem
at the first glance. A Frenchman, Mr. Astley, is merely a fine
figure of a man. With this you, as a Britisher, may not agree.
With it I also, as a Russian, may not agree--out of envy. Yet
possibly our good ladies are of another opinion. For instance,
one may look upon Racine as a broken-down, hobbledehoy, perfumed
individual--one may even be unable to read him; and I too may
think him the same, as well as, in some respects, a subject for
ridicule. Yet about him, Mr. Astley, there is a certain charm,
and, above all things, he is a great poet--though one might like
to deny it. Yes, the Frenchman, the Parisian, as a national
figure, was in process of developing into a figure of elegance
before we Russians had even ceased to be bears. The Revolution
bequeathed to the French nobility its heritage, and now every
whippersnapper of a Parisian may possess manners, methods of
expression, and even thoughts that are above reproach in form,
while all the time he himself may share in that form neither in
initiative nor in intellect nor in soul--his manners, and the
rest, having come to him through inheritance. Yes, taken by
himself, the Frenchman is frequently a fool of fools and a
villain of villains. Per contra, there is no one in the
world more worthy of confidence and respect than this young
Russian lady. De Griers might so mask his face and play a part
as easily to overcome her heart, for he has an imposing figure,
Mr. Astley, and this young lady might easily take that figure for
his real self--for the natural form of his heart and soul--instead
of the mere cloak with which heredity has dowered him. And even
though it may offend you, I feel bound to say that the majority
also of English people are uncouth and unrefined, whereas we
Russian folk can recognise beauty wherever we see it, and are
always eager to cultivate the same. But to distinguish beauty of
soul and personal originality there is needed far more
independence and freedom than is possessed by our women,
especially by our younger ladies. At all events, they need more
EXPERIENCE. For instance, this Mlle. Polina--pardon me, but the
name has passed my lips, and I cannot well recall it--is taking a
very long time to make up her mind to prefer you to Monsieur de
Griers. She may respect you, she may become your friend, she may
open out her heart to you; yet over that heart there will be
reigning that loathsome villain, that mean and petty usurer, De
Griers. This will be due to obstinacy and self-love--to the fact
that De Griers once appeared to her in the transfigured guise of
a marquis, of a disenchanted and ruined liberal who was doing
his best to help her family and the frivolous old General; and,
although these transactions of his have since been exposed, you
will find that the exposure has made no impression upon her
mind. Only give her the De Griers of former days, and she will
ask of you no more. The more she may detest the present De
Griers, the more will she lament the De Griers of the past--even
though the latter never existed but in her own imagination. You
are a sugar refiner, Mr. Astley, are you not?"
while, on the other hand, you are an Apollo Belvedere. But the
two characters do not mix with one another. I, again, am not
even a sugar refiner; I am a mere roulette gambler who has also
served as a lacquey. Of this fact Mlle. Polina is probably well
aware, since she appears to have an excellent force of police at
Astley with cold indifference. "Yet there is not the least
originality in your words."
mean and farcical my accusations may be, they are none the less
TRUE. But I am only wasting words."
companion--his voice now trembling and his eyes flashing fire.
"Are you aware," he continued, "that wretched, ignoble, petty,
unfortunate man though you are, it was at HER request I came to
Homburg, in order to see you, and to have a long, serious talk
with you, and to report to her your feelings and thoughts and
hopes--yes, and your recollections of her, too?"
well from my eyes. Never before had this happened.
"Yes, poor unfortunate," continued Astley. "She DID love you;
and I may tell you this now for the reason that now you are
utterly lost. Even if I were also to tell you that she still
loves you, you would none the less have to remain where you are.
Yes, you have ruined yourself beyond redemption. Once upon a
time you had a certain amount of talent, and you were of a
lively disposition, and your good looks were not to be despised.
You might even have been useful to your country, which needs men
like you. Yet you remained here, and your life is now over. I am
not blaming you for this--in my view all Russians resemble you,
or are inclined to do so. If it is not roulette, then it is
something else. The exceptions are very rare. Nor are you the
first to learn what a taskmaster is yours. For roulette is not
exclusively a Russian game. Hitherto, you have honourably preferred
to serve as a lacquey rather than to act as a thief; but what the
future may have in store for you I tremble to think. Now good-bye.
You are in want of money, I suppose? Then take these ten louis d'or.
More I shall not give you, for you would only gamble it away. Take
care of these coins, and farewell. Once more, TAKE CARE of them."
are still a gentleman, and therefore I give you the money as one
gentleman may give money to another. Also, if I could be certain
that you would leave both Homburg and the gaming-tables, and
return to your own country, I would give you a thousand pounds
down to start life afresh; but, I give you ten louis d'or instead
of a thousand pounds for the reason that at the present time a
thousand pounds and ten louis d'or will be all the same to
you--you will lose the one as readily as you will the other. Take
the money, therefore, and good-bye."
"Yes, I WILL take it if at the same time you will embrace me."
So we parted--on terms of sincere affection.
But he was wrong. If I was hard and undiscerning as regards
Polina and De Griers, HE was hard and undiscerning as regards
Russian people generally. Of myself I say nothing. Yet--yet words
are only words. I need to ACT. Above all things I need to think
of Switzerland. Tomorrow, tomorrow--Ah, but if only I could
set things right tomorrow, and be born again, and rise again
from the dead! But no--I cannot. Yet I must show her what I can
do. Even if she should do no more than learn that I can still
play the man, it would be worth it. Today it is too late, but
Yet I have a presentiment that things can never be otherwise. I
have got fifteen louis d'or in my possession, although I began
with fifteen gulden. If I were to play carefully at the
start--But no, no! Surely I am not such a fool as that? Yet WHY
should I not rise from the dead? I should require at first but
to go cautiously and patiently and the rest would follow. I
should require but to put a check upon my nature for one hour,
and my fortunes would be changed entirely. Yes, my nature is my
weak point. I have only to remember what happened to me some
months ago at Roulettenberg, before my final ruin. What a
notable instance that was of my capacity for resolution! On the
occasion in question I had lost everything--everything; yet, just
as I was leaving the Casino, I heard another gulden give a
rattle in my pocket! "Perhaps I shall need it for a meal," I
thought to myself; but a hundred paces further on, I changed my
mind, and returned. That gulden I staked upon manque--and there
is something in the feeling that, though one is alone, and in a
foreign land, and far from one's own home and friends, and
ignorant of whence one's next meal is to come, one is
nevertheless staking one's very last coin! Well, I won the
stake, and in twenty minutes had left the Casino with a hundred
and seventy gulden in my pocket! That is a fact, and it shows
what a last remaining gulden can do. . . . But what if my heart
had failed me, or I had shrunk from making up my mind? . . .
No: tomorrow all shall be ended!
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dostları ilə paylaş:
©2018 Учебные документы
Рады что Вы стали частью нашего образовательного сообщества.