Book 4 Chapter 13

FOR TWO DAYS after the dance, Rostov had not seen Dolohov at his people's house nor found him at home; on the third day he received a note from him.

“As I do not intend to be at your house again owing to causes of which you are aware, and am going to rejoin the regiment, I am giving a farewell supper to my friends—come to the English Hotel.” On the day fixed Rostov went at about ten o'clock, from the theatre where he had been with his family and Denisov, to the English Hotel. He was at once conducted to the best room in the hotel, which Dolohov had taken for the occasion.

Some twenty men were gathered about a table before which Dolohov was sitting between two candles. On the table lay money and notes, and Dolohov was keeping the bank. Nikolay had not seen him again since his offer and Sonya's refusal, and he felt uneasy at the thought of meeting him.

Dolohov's clear, cold glance met Rostov in the doorway as though he had been expecting him a long while.

“It's a long while since we've met,” said he; “thanks for coming. I'll just finish dealing here, and Ilyushka will make his appearance with his chorus.”

“I did go to see you,” said Rostov, flushing.

Dolohov made him no reply.

“You might put down a stake,” he said.

Rostov recalled at that instant a strange conversation he once had with Dolohov. “None but fools trust to luck in play,” Dolohov had said then. “Or are you afraid to play with me?” Dolohov said now, as though divining Rostov's thought; and he smiled. Behind his smile Rostov saw in him that mood which he had seen in him at the club dinner and at other times, when Dolohov seemed, as it were, weary of the monotony of daily life, and felt a craving to escape from it by some strange, for the most part cruel, act.

Rostov felt ill at ease; he racked his brain and could not find in it a joke in which to reply to Dolohov's words. But before he had time to do so, Dolohov, looking straight into Rostov's face, said to him slowly and deliberately so that all could hear: “Do you remember, I was talking to you about play…he's a fool who trusts to luck in play; one must play a sure game, and I want to try.”

“Try his luck, or try to play a sure game?” wondered Rostov.

“Indeed, and you'd better not play,” he added; and throwing down a pack he had just torn open, he said, “Bank, gentlemen!”

Moving the money forward, Dolohov began dealing.

Rostov sat near him, and at first he did not play. Dolohov glanced at him.

“Why don't you play?” said Dolohov. And strange to say, Nikolay felt that he could not help taking up a card, staking a trifling sum on it, and beginning to play.

“I have no money with me,” said Rostov.

“I'll trust you!”

Rostov staked five roubles on a card and lost it, staked again and again lost. Dolohov “killed,” that is, beat ten cards in succession from Rostov.

“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.