“Gentlemen,” he said, after dealing again for a little while, “I beg you to put the money on the cards or else I shall get muddled over the reckoning.”

One of the players said that he hoped he could trust him.

“I can trust you, but I’m afraid of making mistakes; I beg you to lay the money on the cards,” answered Dolohov. “You needn’t worry, we’ll settle our accounts,” he added to Rostov.

The play went on; a footman never ceased carrying round champagne.

All Rostov’s cards were beaten, and the sum of eight hundred roubles was scored against him. He wrote on a card eight hundred roubles, but while champagne was being poured out for him, he changed his mind and again wrote down the usual stake, twenty roubles.

“Leave it,” said Dolohov, thought he did not seem to be looking at Rostov; “you’ll win it back all the sooner. I lose to the rest, while I win from you. Or perhaps you are afraid of me,” he repeated.

Rostov excused himself, left the stake of eight hundred and laid down the seven of hearts, a card with a corner torn, which he had picked up from the ground. Well he remembered that card afterwards. He laid down the seven of hearts, wrote on it with a broken piece of chalk 800 in bold round figures; he drank the glass of warmed champagne that had been given him, smiled at Dolohov’s words, and with a sinking at his heart, waiting for the seven of hearts, he watched Dolohov’s hands that held the pack. The loss or gain of that card meant a great deal for Rostov. On the previous Sunday Count Ilya Andreitch had given his son two thousand roubles, and though he never liked speaking of money difficulties, he told him that this money was the last they would get till May, and so he begged him to be a little more careful. Nikolay said that that was too much really for him, and that he would give him his word of honour not to come for more before May. Now there was only twelve hundred out of that two thousand left. So that on the seven of hearts there hung not merely the loss of sixteen hundred roubles, but the consequent inevitable betrayal of his word. With a sinking heart he watched Dolohov’s hands and thought: “Well, make haste and deal me that card and I’ll take my cap and drive home to supper with Denisov, Natasha, and Sonya, and I’m sure I’ll never take a card in my hand again.” At that moment his home life, his jokes with Petya, his talks with Sonya, his duets with Natasha, his game of picquet with his father, even his comfortable bed in the house in Povarsky, rose before his imagination with such vividness, such brightness, and such charm, that it seemed as though it were all some long past, lost, and hitherto unappreciated happiness. He could not conceive that a stupid chance, leading the seven to the right rather than to the left, could deprive him of all that happiness felt now with new comprehension and seen in a new radiance, could hurl him into the abyss of unknown and undefined misery. It could not be; but yet it was with a thrill of dread that he waited for the movement of Dolohov’s hands. Those broad-boned, reddish hands, with hairs visible under the shirt-cuffs, laid down the pack of cards and took up the glass and pipe that had been handed him.

“So you’re not afraid to play with me?” repeated Dolohov; and as though he were about to tell a good story, he laid down the cards, leaned back in his chair, and began deliberately with a smile:

“Yes, gentlemen, I have been told there’s a story going about Moscow that I’m too sharp with cards, so I advise you to be a little on your guard with me.”

“Come, deal away!” said Rostov.

“Ugh, these Moscow gossips!” said Dolohov, and he took up the cards with a smile.

“Aaah!” Rostov almost screamed, putting both his hands up to his hair. The seven he needed was lying uppermost, the first card in the pack. He had lost more than he could pay.

“Don’t swim beyond your depth, though,” said Dolohov, with a passing glance at Rostov, and he went on.

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