Chapter 14

WITHIN AN HOUR AND A HALF the greater number of the players were no longer seriously interested in their own play.

The whole interest of the game was concentrated on Rostov. Instead of a mere loss of sixteen hundred roubles he had by now scored against him a long column of figures, which he had added up to the tenth thousand, though he vaguely supposed that by now it had risen to fifteen thousand. In reality the score already exceeded twenty thousand roubles. Dolohov was not now listening to stories, or telling them, he followed every movement of Rostov’s hands, and from time to time took a cursory survey of his score with him. He had resolved to keep the play up till that score had reached forty-three thousand. He had fixed on that number because it represented the sum of his and Sonya’s ages. Rostov sat with his head propped in both hands, before the wine-stained table scrawled over with scorings and littered with cards. One torturing sensation never left him; those broad-boned, reddish hands, with the hairs visible under the shirt-cuffs, those hands which he loved and hated, held him in their power.

“Six hundred roubles, ace, corner, nine; winning it back’s out of the question!…And how happy I should be at home.…The knave double or quits, it can’t be!…And why is he doing this to me?…” Rostov pondered and thought. Sometimes he put a higher stake on a card; but Dolohov refused it and fixed the stake himself. Nikolay submitted to him, and at one moment he was praying to God, as he had prayed under fire on the bridge of Amschteten; at the next he tried his fortune on the chance that the card that he would first pick up among the heap of crumpled ones under the table would save him; then he reckoned up the rows of braidings on his coat, and tried staking the whole amount of his losses on a card of that number, then he looked round for help to the others playing, or stared into Dolohov’s face, which looked quite cold now, and tried to penetrate into what was passing within him.

“He knows, of course, what this loss means to me. Surely he can’t want me to be ruined? Why, he was my friend. I loved him.… But, indeed, it’s not his fault; what’s he to do, if he has all the luck? And it’s not my fault,” he kept saying to himself. “I have done nothing wrong. I haven’t murdered or hurt any one, or wished any one harm, have I? What is this awful calamity for? And when did it begin? Such a little while ago I came to this table with the idea of winning a hundred roubles, and buying mamma that little casket for her name-day, and going home. I was so happy, so free, so light-hearted. And I didn’t even know then how happy I was. When did all that end, and when did this new awful state of things begin? What was the outward token of that change? I still went on sitting in the same place at this table, and in the same way picking out cards and putting them forward, and watching those deft, broad-boned hands. When did it come to pass, and what has come to pass? I am strong and well, and still the same, and still in the same place. No; it cannot be. It will all be sure to end in nothing.”

He was all red and in a sweat though the room was not hot. And his face was painful and piteous to see, particularly from its helpless efforts to seem calm.

The score reached the fateful number of forty-three thousand roubles. Rostov already had the card ready which he meant to stake for double or quits on the three thousand, that had just been put down to his score, when Dolohov slapped the pack of cards down on the table, pushed it away, and taking the chalk began rapidly in his clear, strong hand, writing down the total of Rostov’s losses, breaking the chalk as he did so.

“Supper, supper-time. And here are the gypsies.” And some swarthy men and women did in fact come in from the cold outside, saying something with their gypsy accent. Nikolay grasped that it was all over; but he said in an indifferent voice:

“What, won’t you go on? And I have such a nice little card all ready.” As though what chiefly interested him was the game itself.

“It’s all over, I’m done for,” he thought. “Now a bullet through the head’s the only thing left for me,” and at the same time he was saying in a cheerful voice:

  By PanEris using Melati.

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