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Chapter 6

  • Two fixed ideas can no more exist together in the moral world than two bodie_an occupy one and the same place in the physical world. "Three, seven, ace,"
  • soon drove out of Hermann's mind the thought of the dead Countess. "Three,
  • seven, ace," were perpetually running through his head and continually bein_epeated by his lips. If he saw a young girl, he would say: "How slender sh_s! quite like the three of hearts." If anybody asked: "What is the time?" h_ould reply: "Five minutes to seven." Every stout man that he saw reminded hi_f the ace. "Three, seven, ace" haunted him in his sleep, and assumed al_ossible shapes. The threes bloomed before him in the forms of magnificen_lowers, the sevens were represented by Gothic portals, and the aces becam_ransformed into gigantic spiders. One thought alone occupied his whol_ind—to make a profitable use of the secret which he had purchased so dearly.
  • He thought of applying for a furlough so as to travel abroad. He wanted to g_o Paris and tempt fortune in some of the public gambling-houses that abounde_here. Chance spared him all this trouble.
  • There was in Moscow a society of rich gamesters, presided over by th_elebrated Chekalinsky, who had passed all his life at the card-table and ha_massed millions, accepting bills of exchange for his winnings and paying hi_osses in ready money. His long experience secured for him the confidence o_is companions, and his open house, his famous cook, and his agreeable an_ascinating manners gained for him the respect of the public. He came to St.
  • Petersburg. The young men of the capital flocked to his rooms, forgettin_alls for cards, and preferring the emotions of faro to the seductions o_lirting. Narumov conducted Hermann to Chekalinsky's residence.
  • They passed through a suite of magnificent rooms, filled with attentiv_omestics. The place was crowded. Generals and Privy Counsellors were playin_t whist; young men were lolling carelessly upon the velvet-covered sofas,
  • eating ices and smoking pipes. In the drawing-room, at the head of a lon_able, around which were assembled about a score of players, sat the master o_he house keeping the bank. He was a man of about sixty years of age, of _ery dignified appearance; his head was covered with silvery-white hair; hi_ull, florid countenance expressed good-nature, and his eyes twinkled with _erpetual smile. Narumov introduced Hermann to him. Chekalinsky shook him b_he hand in a friendly manner, requested him not to stand on ceremony, an_hen went on dealing.
  • The game occupied some time. On the table lay more than thirty cards.
  • Chekalinsky paused after each throw, in order to give the players time t_rrange their cards and note down their losses, listened politely to thei_equests, and more politely still, put straight the corners of cards that som_layer's hand had chanced to bend. At last the game was finished. Chekalinsk_huffled the cards and prepared to deal again.
  • "Will you allow me to take a card?" said Hermann, stretching out his hand fro_ehind a stout gentleman who was punting.
  • Chekalinsky smiled and bowed silently, as a sign of acquiescence. Narumo_aughingly congratulated Hermann on his abjuration of that abstention fro_ards which he had practised for so long a period, and wished him a luck_eginning.
  • "Stake!" said Hermann, writing some figures with chalk on the back of hi_ard.
  • "How much?" asked the banker, contracting the muscles of his eyes; "excuse me,
  • I cannot see quite clearly."
  • "Forty-seven thousand rubles," replied Hermann.
  • At these words every head in the room turned suddenly round, and all eyes wer_ixed upon Hermann.
  • "He has taken leave of his senses!" thought Narumov.
  • "Allow me to inform you," said Chekalinsky, with his eternal smile, "that yo_re playing very high; nobody here has ever staked more than two hundred an_eventy-five rubles at once."
  • "Very well," replied Hermann; "but do you accept my card or not?"
  • Chekalinsky bowed in token of consent.
  • "I only wish to observe," said he, "that although I have the greates_onfidence in my friends, I can only play against ready money. For my ow_art, I am quite convinced that your word is sufficient, but for the sake o_he order of the game, and to facilitate the reckoning up, I must ask you t_ut the money on your card."
  • Hermann drew from his pocket a bank-note and handed it to Chekalinsky, who,
  • after examining it in a cursory manner, placed it on Hermann's card.
  • He began to deal. On the right a nine turned up, and on the left a three.
  • "I have won!" said Hermann, showing his card.
  • A murmur of astonishment arose among the players. Chekalinsky frowned, but th_mile quickly returned to his face.
  • "Do you wish me to settle with you?" he said to Hermann.
  • "If you please," replied the latter.
  • Chekalinsky drew from his pocket a number of banknotes and paid at once.
  • Hermann took up his money and left the table. Narumov could not recover fro_is astonishment. Hermann drank a glass of lemonade and returned home.
  • The next evening he again repaired to Chekalinsky's. The host was dealing.
  • Hermann walked up to the table; the punters immediately made room for him.
  • Chekalinsky greeted him with a gracious bow.
  • Hermann waited for the next deal, took a card and placed upon it his forty-
  • seven thousand roubles, together with his winnings of the previous evening.
  • Chekalinsky began to deal. A knave turned up on the right, a seven on th_eft.
  • Hermann showed his seven.
  • There was a general exclamation. Chekalinsky was evidently ill at ease, but h_ounted out the ninety-four thousand rubles and handed them over to Hermann,
  • who pocketed them in the coolest manner possible and immediately left th_ouse.
  • The next evening Hermann appeared again at the table. Every one was expectin_im. The generals and Privy Counsellors left their whist in order to watc_uch extraordinary play. The young officers quitted their sofas, and even th_ervants crowded into the room. All pressed round Hermann. The other player_eft off punting, impatient to see how it would end. Hermann stood at th_able and prepared to play alone against the pale, but still smilin_hekalinsky. Each opened a pack of cards. Chekalinsky shuffled. Hermann took _ard and covered it with a pile of bank-notes. It was like a duel. Dee_ilence reigned around.
  • Chekalinsky began to deal; his hands trembled. On the right a queen turned up,
  • and on the left an ace.
  • "Ace has won!" cried Hermann, showing his card.
  • "Your queen has lost," said Chekalinsky, politely.
  • Hermann started; instead of an ace, there lay before him the queen of spades!
  • He could not believe his eyes, nor could he understand how he had made such _istake.
  • At that moment it seemed to him that the queen of spades smiled ironically an_inked her eye at him. He was struck by her remarkable resemblance…
  • "The old Countess!" he exclaimed, seized with terror.
  • Chekalinsky gathered up his winnings. For some time, Hermann remaine_erfectly motionless. When at last he left the table, there was a genera_ommotion in the room.
  • "Splendidly punted!" said the players. Chekalinsky shuffled the cards afresh,
  • and the game went on as usual.