Explorers, Scientists &
Musicians, Painters &
Poets, Writers &
Native Americans & The Wild
Tribes & Peoples
Assassinations in History
got slain, almost slain, when, how,
why, and by whom?
Go to the
Online History Dictionary A - Z
Voyages in History
When did what
vessel arrive with whom onboard and where
did it sink if it didn't?
Go to the
The Divine Almanac
Who all roamed the heavens in
olden times? The Who's Who of
the Divine Almanac
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Gambler
The Gambler - Page 1
At length I returned from two weeks leave of absence to find that my
patrons had arrived three days ago in Roulettenberg.
I received from them a welcome quite
different to that which I had expected. The General eyed me coldly,
greeted me in rather haughty fashion, and dismissed me to pay my
respects to his sister. It was clear that from SOMEWHERE money had
been acquired. I thought I could even detect a certain
shamefacedness in the General's glance. Maria Philipovna, too,
seemed distraught, and conversed with me with an air of detachment.
Nevertheless, she took the money which I handed to her, counted it,
and listened to what I had to tell. To luncheon there were expected
that day a Monsieur Mezentsov, a French lady, and an Englishman;
for, whenever money was in hand, a banquet in Muscovite style was
always given. Polina Alexandrovna, on seeing me, inquired why I had
been so long away. Then, without waiting for an answer, she
departed. Evidently this was not mere accident, and I felt that I
must throw some light upon matters. It was high time that I did so.
I was assigned a small room on the
fourth floor of the hotel (for you must know that I belonged to the
General's suite). So far as I could see, the party had already
gained some notoriety in the place, which had come to look upon the
General as a Russian nobleman of great wealth. Indeed, even before
luncheon he charged me, among other things, to get two
thousand-franc notes changed for him at the hotel counter, which put
us in a position to be thought millionaires at all events for a
week! Later, I was about to take Mischa and Nadia for a walk when a
summons reached me from the staircase that I must attend the
General. He began by deigning to inquire of me where I was going to
take the children; and as he did so, I could see that he failed to
look me in the eyes. He WANTED to do so, but each time was met by me
with such a fixed, disrespectful stare that he desisted in
In pompous language, however, which jumbled one sentence into
another, and at length grew disconnected, he gave me to understand
that I was to lead the children altogether away from the Casino, and
out into the park. Finally his anger exploded, and he added sharply:
"I suppose you would like to take them to the Casino to play
roulette? Well, excuse my speaking so plainly, but I know how
addicted you are to gambling. Though I am not your mentor, nor wish
to be, at least I have a right to require that you shall not
actually compromise me."
"I have no money for gambling," I
"But you will soon be in receipt of
some," retorted the General, reddening a little as he dived into his
writing desk and applied himself to a memorandum book. From it he
saw that he had 120 roubles of mine in his keeping.
"Let us calculate," he went on. "We
must translate these roubles into thalers. Here--take 100 thalers,
as a round sum. The rest will be safe in my hands."
In silence I took the money.
"You must not be offended at what I
say," he continued. "You are too touchy about these things. What I
have said I have said merely as a warning. To do so is no more than
When returning home with the children
before luncheon, I met a cavalcade of our party riding to view some
ruins. Two splendid carriages, magnificently horsed, with Mlle.
Blanche, Maria Philipovna, and Polina Alexandrovna in one of them,
and the Frenchman, the Englishman, and the General in attendance on
horseback! The passers-by stopped to stare at them, for the effect
was splendid--the General could not have improved upon it. I
calculated that, with the 4000 francs which I had brought with me,
added to what my patrons seemed already to have acquired, the party
must be in possession of at least 7000 or 8000 francs--though that
would be none too much for Mlle. Blanche, who, with her mother and
the Frenchman, was also lodging in our hotel. The latter gentleman
was called by the lacqueys "Monsieur le Comte," and Mlle. Blanche's
mother was dubbed "Madame la Comtesse." Perhaps in very truth they
WERE "Comte et Comtesse."
I knew that "Monsieur le Comte" would
take no notice of me when we met at dinner, as also that the General
would not dream of introducing us, nor of recommending me to the
"Comte." However, the latter had lived awhile in Russia, and knew
that the person referred to as an "uchitel" is never looked upon as
a bird of fine feather. Of course, strictly speaking, he knew me;
but I was an uninvited guest at the luncheon--the General had
forgotten to arrange otherwise, or I should have been dispatched to
dine at the table d'hote. Nevertheless, I presented myself in such
guise that the General looked at me with a touch of approval; and,
though the good Maria Philipovna was for showing me my place, the
fact of my having previously met the Englishman, Mr. Astley, saved
me, and thenceforward I figured as one of the company.
This strange Englishman I had met
first in Prussia, where we had happened to sit vis-a-vis in a
railway train in which I was travelling to overtake our party;
while, later, I had run across him in France, and again in
Switzerland--twice within the space of two weeks! To think,
therefore, that I should suddenly encounter him again here, in
Roulettenberg! Never in my life had I known a more retiring man, for
he was shy to the pitch of imbecility, yet well aware of the fact
(for he was no fool). At the same time, he was a gentle, amiable
sort of an individual, and, even on our first encounter in Prussia I
had contrived to draw him out, and he had told me that he had just
been to the North Cape, and was now anxious to visit the fair at
Nizhni Novgorod. How he had come to make the General's acquaintance
I do not know, but, apparently, he was much struck with Polina.
Also, he was delighted that I should sit next him at table, for he
appeared to look upon me as his bosom friend.
During the meal the Frenchman was in
great feather: he was discursive and pompous to every one. In Moscow
too, I remembered, he had blown a great many bubbles. Interminably
he discoursed on finance and Russian politics, and though, at times,
the General made feints to contradict him, he did so humbly, and as
though wishing not wholly to lose sight of his own dignity.
For myself, I was in a curious frame
of mind. Even before luncheon was half finished I had asked myself
the old, eternal question: "WHY do I continue to dance attendance
upon the General, instead of having left him and his family long
ago?" Every now and then I would glance at Polina Alexandrovna, but
she paid me no attention; until eventually I became so irritated
that I decided to play the boor.
First of all I suddenly, and for no
reason whatever, plunged loudly and gratuitously into the general
conversation. Above everything I wanted to pick a quarrel with the
Frenchman; and, with that end in view I turned to the General, and
exclaimed in an overbearing sort of way--indeed, I think that I
actually interrupted him--that that summer it had been almost
impossible for a Russian to dine anywhere at tables d'hote. The
General bent upon me a glance of astonishment.
"If one is a man of self-respect," I
went on, "one risks abuse by so doing, and is forced to put up with
insults of every kind. Both at Paris and on the Rhine, and even in
Switzerland--there are so many Poles, with their sympathisers, the
French, at these tables d'hote that one cannot get a word in
edgeways if one happens only to be a Russian."
This I said in French. The General
eyed me doubtfully, for he did not know whether to be angry or
merely to feel surprised that I should so far forget myself.
"Of course, one always learns SOMETHING EVERYWHERE," said the
Frenchman in a careless, contemptuous sort of tone.
"In Paris, too, I had a dispute with a
Pole," I continued, "and then with a French officer who supported
him. After that a section of the Frenchmen present took my part.
They did so as soon as I told them the story of how once I
threatened to spit into Monsignor's coffee."
"To spit into it?" the General
inquired with grave disapproval in his tone, and a stare, of
astonishment, while the Frenchman looked at me unbelievingly.
"Just so," I replied. "You must know
that, on one occasion, when, for two days, I had felt certain that
at any moment I might have to depart for Rome on business, I
repaired to the Embassy of the Holy See in Paris, to have my
passport visaed. There I encountered a sacristan of about fifty, and
a man dry and cold of mien. After listening politely, but with great
reserve, to my account of myself, this sacristan asked me to wait a
little. I was in a great hurry to depart, but of course I sat down,
pulled out a copy of L'Opinion Nationale, and fell to reading an
extraordinary piece of invective against Russia which it happened to
contain. As I was thus engaged I heard some one enter an adjoining
room and ask for Monsignor; after which I saw the sacristan make a
low bow to the visitor, and then another bow as the visitor took his
leave. I ventured to remind the good man of my own business also;
whereupon, with an expression of, if anything, increased dryness, he
again asked me to wait. Soon a third visitor arrived who, like
myself, had come on business (he was an Austrian of some sort); and
as soon as ever he had stated his errand he was conducted upstairs!
This made me very angry. I rose, approached the sacristan, and told
him that, since Monsignor was receiving callers, his lordship might
just as well finish off my affair as well. Upon this the sacristan
shrunk back in astonishment. It simply passed his understanding that
any insignificant Russian should dare to compare himself with other
visitors of Monsignor's! In a tone of the utmost effrontery, as
though he were delighted to have a chance of insulting me, he looked
me up and down, and then said: "Do you suppose that Monsignor is
going to put aside his coffee for YOU?" But I only cried the louder:
"Let me tell you that I am going to SPIT into that coffee! Yes, and
if you do not get me my passport visaed this very minute, I shall
take it to Monsignor myself."
"What? While he is engaged with a
Cardinal? screeched the sacristan, again shrinking back in horror.
Then, rushing to the door, he spread out his arms as though he would
rather die than let me enter.
Thereupon I declared that I was a
heretic and a barbarian--"Je suis heretique et barbare," I said,
"and that these archbishops and cardinals and monsignors, and the
rest of them, meant nothing at all to me. In a word, I showed him
that I was not going to give way. He looked at me with an air of
infinite resentment. Then he snatched up my passport, and departed
with it upstairs. A minute later the passport had been visaed! Here
it is now, if you care to see it,"--and I pulled out the document,
and exhibited the Roman visa.
"But--" the General began.
"What really saved you was the fact
that you proclaimed yourself a heretic and a barbarian," remarked
the Frenchman with a smile. "Cela n'etait pas si bete."
"But is that how Russian subjects
ought to be treated? Why, when they settle here they dare not utter
even a word--they are ready even to deny the fact that they are
Russians! At all events, at my hotel in Paris I received far more
attention from the company after I had told them about the fracas
with the sacristan. A fat Polish nobleman, who had been the most
offensive of all who were present at the table d'hote, at once went
upstairs, while some of the Frenchmen were simply disgusted when I
told them that two years ago I had encountered a man at whom, in
1812, a French 'hero' fired for the mere fun of discharging his
musket. That man was then a boy of ten and his family are still
residing in Moscow."
"Impossible!" the Frenchman
spluttered. "No French soldier would fire at a child!"
"Nevertheless the incident was as I
say," I replied. "A very respected ex-captain told me the story, and
I myself could see the scar left on his cheek."
The Frenchman then began chattering
volubly, and the General supported him; but I recommended the former
to read, for example, extracts from the memoirs of General Perovski,
who, in 1812, was a prisoner in the hands of the French. Finally
Maria Philipovna said something to interrupt the conversation. The
General was furious with me for having started the altercation with
the Frenchman. On the other hand, Mr. Astley seemed to take great
pleasure in my brush with Monsieur, and, rising from the table,
proposed that we should go and have a drink together. The same
afternoon, at four o'clock, I went to have my customary talk with
Polina Alexandrovna; and, the talk soon extended to a stroll. We
entered the Park, and approached the Casino, where Polina seated
herself upon a bench near the fountain, and sent Nadia away to a
little distance to play with some other children. Mischa also I
dispatched to play by the fountain, and in this fashion we--that is
to say, Polina and myself--contrived to find ourselves alone.
Of course, we began by talking on
business matters. Polina seemed furious when I handed her only 700
gulden, for she had thought to receive from Paris, as the proceeds
of the pledging of her diamonds, at least 2000 gulden, or even more.
"Come what may, I MUST have money,"
she said. "And get it somehow I will--otherwise I shall be ruined."
I asked her what had happened during
"Nothing; except that two pieces of
news have reached us from St. Petersburg. In the first place, my
grandmother is very ill, and unlikely to last another couple of
days. We had this from Timothy Petrovitch himself, and he is a
reliable person. Every moment we are expecting to receive news of
"All of you are on the tiptoe of
expectation? " I queried.
"Of course--all of us, and every
minute of the day. For a year-and-a-half now we have been looking
"Looking for it?"
"Yes, looking for it. I am not her
blood relation, you know--I am merely the General's step-daughter.
Yet I am certain that the old lady has remembered me in her will."
"Yes, I believe that you WILL come in
for a good deal," I said with some assurance.
"Yes, for she is fond of me. But how
come you to think so?"
I answered this question with another
one. "That Marquis of yours," I said, "--is HE also familiar with
your family secrets?"
"And why are you yourself so
interested in them?" was her retort as she eyed me with dry
"Never mind. If I am not mistaken, the
General has succeeded in borrowing money of the Marquis."
"It may be so."
"Is it likely that the Marquis would
have lent the money if he had not known something or other about
your grandmother? Did you notice, too, that three times during
luncheon, when speaking of her, he called her 'La Baboulenka'? [Dear
little Grandmother]. What loving, friendly behaviour, to be sure!"
"Yes, that is true. As soon as ever he
learnt that I was likely to inherit something from her he began to
pay me his addresses. I thought you ought to know that."
"Then he has only just begun his
courting? Why, I thought he had been doing so a long while!"
"You KNOW he has not," retorted Polina
angrily. "But where on earth did you pick up this Englishman?" She
said this after a pause.
"I KNEW you would ask about him!"
Whereupon I told her of my previous encounters with Astley while
"He is very shy," I said, "and
susceptible. Also, he is in love with you.--"
"Yes, he is in love with me," she
"And he is ten times richer than the
Frenchman. In fact, what does the Frenchman possess? To me it seems
at least doubtful that he possesses anything at all."
"Oh, no, there is no doubt about it.
He does possess some chateau or other. Last night the General told
me that for certain. NOW are you satisfied? "
"Nevertheless, in your place I should marry the Englishman."
"And why?" asked Polina.
"Because, though the Frenchman is the handsomer of the two, he is
also the baser; whereas the Englishman is not only a man of honour,
but ten times the wealthier of the pair."
"Yes? But then the Frenchman is a marquis, and the cleverer of the
two," remarked Polina imperturbably.
"Is that so?" I repeated.
Polina was not at all pleased at my questions; I could see that she
was doing her best to irritate me with the brusquerie of her
answers. But I took no notice of this.
"It amuses me to see you grow angry," she continued. "However,
inasmuch as I allow you to indulge in these questions and
conjectures, you ought to pay me something for the privilege."
"I consider that I have a perfect right to put these questions to
you," was my calm retort; "for the reason that I am ready to pay for
them, and also care little what becomes of me."
"Last time you told me--when on the Shlangenberg--that at a word
from me you would be ready to jump down a thousand feet into the
abyss. Some day I may remind you of that saying, in order to see if
you will be as good as your word. Yes, you may depend upon it that I
shall do so. I hate you because I have allowed you to go to such
lengths, and I also hate you and still more--because you are so
necessary to me. For the time being I want you, so I must keep you."
Then she made a movement to rise. Her tone had sounded very angry.
Indeed, of late her talks with me had invariably ended on a note of
temper and irritation--yes, of real temper.
"May I ask you who is this Mlle. Blanche?" I inquired (since I did
not wish Polina to depart without an explanation).
"You KNOW who she is--just Mlle. Blanche. Nothing further has
transpired. Probably she will soon be Madame General--that is to
say, if the rumours that Grandmamma is nearing her end should prove
true. Mlle. Blanche, with her mother and her cousin, the Marquis,
know very well that, as things now stand, we are ruined."
"And is the General at last in love?"
"That has nothing to do with it. Listen to me. Take these 700
florins, and go and play roulette with them. Win as much for me as
you can, for I am badly in need of money.
So saying, she called Nadia back to her side, and entered the
Casino, where she joined the rest of our party. For myself, I took,
in musing astonishment, the first path to the left. Something had
seemed to strike my brain when she told me to go and play roulette.
Strangely enough, that something had also seemed to make me
hesitate, and to set me analysing my feelings with regard to her. In
fact, during the two weeks of my absence I had felt far more at my
ease than I did now, on the day of my return; although, while
travelling, I had moped like an imbecile, rushed about like a man in
a fever, and actually beheld her in my dreams. Indeed, on one
occasion (this happened in Switzerland, when I was asleep in the
train) I had spoken aloud to her, and set all my fellow-travellers
laughing. Again, therefore, I put to myself the question: "Do I, or
do I not love her?" and again I could return myself no answer or,
rather, for the hundredth time I told myself that I detested her.
Yes, I detested her; there were moments (more especially at the
close of our talks together) when I would gladly have given half my
life to have strangled her! I swear that, had there, at such
moments, been a sharp knife ready to my hand, I would have seized
that knife with pleasure, and plunged it into her breast. Yet I also
swear that if, on the Shlangenberg, she had REALLY said to me, "Leap
into that abyss," I should have leapt into it, and with equal
pleasure. Yes, this I knew well. One way or the other, the thing
must soon be ended. She, too, knew it in some curious way; the
thought that I was fully conscious of her inaccessibility, and of
the impossibility of my ever realising my dreams, afforded her, I am
certain, the keenest possible pleasure. Otherwise, is it likely that
she, the cautious and clever woman that she was, would have indulged
in this familiarity and openness with me? Hitherto (I concluded) she
had looked upon me in the same light that the old Empress did upon
her servant--the Empress who hesitated not to unrobe herself before
her slave, since she did not account a slave a man. Yes, often
Polina must have taken me for something less than a man!"
Still, she had charged me with a commission--to win what I could at
roulette. Yet all the time I could not help wondering WHY it was so
necessary for her to win something, and what new schemes could have
sprung to birth in her ever-fertile brain. A host of new and unknown
factors seemed to have arisen during the last two weeks. Well, it
behoved me to divine them, and to probe them, and that as soon as
possible. Yet not now: at the present moment I must repair to the
I confess I did not like it. Although I had made up my mind to play,
I felt averse to doing so on behalf of some one else. In fact, it
almost upset my balance, and I entered the gaming rooms with an
angry feeling at my heart. At first glance the scene irritated me.
Never at any time have I been able to bear the flunkeyishness which
one meets in the Press of the world at large, but more especially in
that of Russia, where, almost every evening, journalists write on
two subjects in particular namely, on the splendour and luxury of
the casinos to be found in the Rhenish towns, and on the heaps of
gold which are daily to be seen lying on their tables. Those
journalists are not paid for doing so: they write thus merely out of
a spirit of disinterested complaisance. For there is nothing
splendid about the establishments in question; and, not only are
there no heaps of gold to be seen lying on their tables, but also
there is very little money to be seen at all. Of course, during the
season, some madman or another may make his appearance--generally an
Englishman, or an Asiatic, or a Turk--and (as had happened during
the summer of which I write) win or lose a great deal; but, as
regards the rest of the crowd, it plays only for petty gulden, and
seldom does much wealth figure on the board.
When, on the present occasion, I entered the gaming-rooms (for the
first time in my life), it was several moments before I could even
make up my mind to play. For one thing, the crowd oppressed me. Had
I been playing for myself, I think I should have left at once, and
never have embarked upon gambling at all, for I could feel my heart
beginning to beat, and my heart was anything but cold-blooded. Also,
I knew, I had long ago made up my mind, that never should I depart
from Roulettenberg until some radical, some final, change had taken
place in my fortunes. Thus, it must and would be. However ridiculous
it may seem to you that I was expecting to win at roulette, I look
upon the generally accepted opinion concerning the folly and the
grossness of hoping to win at gambling as a thing even more absurd.
For why is gambling a whit worse than any other method of acquiring
money? How, for instance, is it worse than trade? True, out of a
hundred persons, only one can win; yet what business is that of
yours or of mine?
At all events, I confined myself at first simply to looking on, and
decided to attempt nothing serious. Indeed, I felt that, if I began
to do anything at all, I should do it in an absent-minded, haphazard
sort of way--of that I felt certain. Also. it behoved me to learn
the game itself; since, despite a thousand descriptions of roulette
which I had read with ceaseless avidity, I knew nothing of its
rules, and had never even seen it played.
In the first place, everything about it seemed to me so foul--so
morally mean and foul. Yet I am not speaking of the hungry, restless
folk who, by scores nay, even by hundreds--could be seen crowded
around the gaming-tables. For in a desire to win quickly and to win
much I can see nothing sordid; I have always applauded the opinion
of a certain dead and gone, but cocksure, moralist who replied to
the excuse that " one may always gamble moderately ", by saying that
to do so makes things worse, since, in that case, the profits too
will always be moderate.
Insignificant profits and sumptuous profits do not stand on the same
footing. No, it is all a matter of proportion. What may seem a small
sum to a Rothschild may seem a large sum to me, and it is not the
fault of stakes or of winnings that everywhere men can be found
winning, can be found depriving their fellows of something, just as
they do at roulette. As to the question whether stakes and winnings
are, in themselves, immoral is another question altogether, and I
wish to express no opinion upon it. Yet the very fact that I was
full of a strong desire to win caused this gambling for gain, in
spite of its attendant squalor, to contain, if you will, something
intimate, something sympathetic, to my eyes: for it is always
pleasant to see men dispensing with ceremony, and acting naturally,
and in an unbuttoned mood. . . .
Yet, why should I so deceive myself? I could see that the whole
thing was a vain and unreasoning pursuit; and what, at the first
glance, seemed to me the ugliest feature in this mob of roulette
players was their respect for their occupation--the seriousness, and
even the humility, with which they stood around the gaming tables.
Moreover, I had always drawn sharp distinctions between a game which
is de mauvais genre and a game which is permissible to a decent man.
In fact, there are two sorts of gaming--namely, the game of the
gentleman and the game of the plebs--the game for gain, and the game
of the herd. Herein, as said, I draw sharp distinctions. Yet how
essentially base are the distinctions! For instance, a gentleman may
stake, say, five or ten louis d'or--seldom more, unless he is a very
rich man, when he may stake, say, a thousand francs; but, he must do
this simply for the love of the game itself--simply for sport,
simply in order to observe the process of winning or of losing, and,
above all things, as a man who remains quite uninterested in the
possibility of his issuing a winner. If he wins, he will be at
liberty, perhaps, to give vent to a laugh, or to pass a remark on
the circumstance to a bystander, or to stake again, or to double his
stake; but, even this he must do solely out of curiosity, and for
the pleasure of watching the play of chances and of calculations,
and not because of any vulgar desire to win. In a word, he must look
upon the gaming-table, upon roulette, and upon trente et quarante,
as mere relaxations which have been arranged solely for his
amusement. Of the existence of the lures and gains upon which the
bank is founded and maintained he must profess to have not an
inkling. Best of all, he ought to imagine his fellow-gamblers and
the rest of the mob which stands trembling over a coin to be equally
rich and gentlemanly with himself, and playing solely for recreation
and pleasure. This complete ignorance of the realities, this
innocent view of mankind, is what, in my opinion, constitutes the
truly aristocratic. For instance, I have seen even fond mothers so
far indulge their guileless, elegant daughters--misses of fifteen or
sixteen--as to give them a few gold coins and teach them how to
play; and though the young ladies may have won or have lost, they
have invariably laughed, and departed as though they were well
pleased. In the same way, I saw our General once approach the table
in a stolid, important manner. A lacquey darted to offer him a
chair, but the General did not even notice him. Slowly he took out
his money bags, and slowly extracted 300 francs in gold, which he
staked on the black, and won. Yet he did not take up his
winnings--he left them there on the table. Again the black turned
up, and again he did not gather in what he had won; and when, in the
third round, the RED turned up he lost, at a stroke, 1200 francs.
Yet even then he rose with a smile, and thus preserved his
reputation; yet I knew that his money bags must be chafing his
heart, as well as that, had the stake been twice or thrice as much
again, he would still have restrained himself from venting his
On the other hand, I saw a Frenchman first win, and then lose,
30,000 francs cheerfully, and without a murmur. Yes; even if a
gentleman should lose his whole substance, he must never give way to
annoyance. Money must be so subservient to gentility as never to be
worth a thought. Of course, the SUPREMELY aristocratic thing is to
be entirely oblivious of the mire of rabble, with its setting; but
sometimes a reverse course may be aristocratic to remark, to scan,
and even to gape at, the mob (for preference, through a lorgnette),
even as though one were taking the crowd and its squalor for a sort
of raree show which had been organised specially for a gentleman's
diversion. Though one may be squeezed by the crowd, one must look as
though one were fully assured of being the observer--of having
neither part nor lot with the observed. At the same time, to stare
fixedly about one is unbecoming; for that, again, is ungentlemanly,
seeing that no spectacle is worth an open stare--are no spectacles
in the world which merit from a gentleman too pronounced an
However, to me personally the scene DID seem to be worth undisguised
contemplation--more especially in view of the fact that I had come
there not only to look at, but also to number myself sincerely and
wholeheartedly with, the mob. As for my secret moral views, I had no
room for them amongst my actual, practical opinions. Let that stand
as written: I am writing only to relieve my conscience. Yet let me
say also this: that from the first I have been consistent in having
an intense aversion to any trial of my acts and thoughts by a moral
standard. Another standard altogether has directed my life. . . .
As a matter of fact, the mob was playing in exceedingly foul
fashion. Indeed, I have an idea that sheer robbery was going on
around that gaming-table. The croupiers who sat at the two ends of
it had not only to watch the stakes, but also to calculate the
game--an immense amount of work for two men! As for the crowd
itself--well, it consisted mostly of Frenchmen. Yet I was not then
taking notes merely in order to be able to give you a description of
roulette, but in order to get my bearings as to my behaviour when I
myself should begin to play. For example, I noticed that nothing was
more common than for another's hand to stretch out and grab one's
winnings whenever one had won. Then there would arise a dispute, and
frequently an uproar; and it would be a case of "I beg of you to
prove, and to produce witnesses to the fact, that the stake is