A Terribly Strange Bed part 2
had come to see blackguards; but these men were something worse. There is a
comic side, more or less appreciable, in all blackguardism : here there was
nothing but tragedy—mute, weird tragedy. The quiet in the room was horrible.
The thin, haggard, long-haired young man, whose sunken eyes fiercely watched
the turning up of the cards, never spoke; the flabby, fat-faced, pimply player,
who pricked his piece of pasteboard perseveringly, to register how often black
won, and how often red, never spoke; the dirty, wrinkled old man, with the
vulture eyes and the darned great-coat, who had lost his last sou, and still
looked on desperately after he could play no longer, never spoke. Even the
voice of the croupier sounded as if it were strangely dulled and thickened in
the atmosphere of the room.
had entered the place to laugh, but the spectacle before me was something to
weep over. I soon found it necessary to take refuge in excitement from the
depression of spirits which was stealing on me. Unfortunately I sought the
nearest excitement, by going to the table and beginning to play. Still more
unfortunately, as the event will show, I won—won prodigiously; won incredibly;
won at such a rate that the regular players at the table crowded round me; and
staring at my stakes with hungry, superstitious eyes, whispered to one another
that the English stranger was going to break the bank.
game was Rouge et Noir. I had played at it in every city in Europe, without,
however, the care or the wish to study the Theory of Chances—that philosopher’s
stone of all gamblers! And a gambler, in the strict sense of the word, I had
never been. I was heart-whole from the corroding passion for play. My gaming
was a mere idle amusement. I never resorted to it by necessity, because I never
knew what it was to want money.
never practised it so incessantly as to lose more than I could afford, or to
gain more than I could coolly pocket without being thrown off my balance by my
good luck. In short, I had hitherto frequented gambling-tables—just as I
frequented ball-rooms and opera- houses—because they amused me, and because I
had nothing better to do with my leisure hours.
on this occasion it was very different—now, for the first time in my life, I
felt what the passion for play really was. My successes first bewildered, and
then, in the most literal meaning of the word, intoxicated me. Incredible as it
may appear, it is nevertheless true, that I only lost when I attempted to
estimate chances, and played according to previous calculation.