"How did you get on this evening, Surin?" said the host to one of his friends.
"Oh, I lost, as usual. I really have no luck. I play mirandole. You know that I keep cool. Nothing moves me; I never change my play, and yet I always lose."
"Do you mean to say that all the evening you did not once back the red? Your firmness of character surprises me."
"What do you think of Hermann?" said one of the party, pointing to a young Engineer officer.
"That fellow never made a bet or touched a card in his life, and yet he watches us playing until five in the morning."
"It interests me," said Hermann; "but I am not disposed to risk the necessary in view of the superfluous."
"Hermann is a German, and economical; that is the whole of the secret," cried Tomski. "But what is really astonishing is the Countess Anna Fedotovna!"
"How so?" asked several voices.
"Have you not remarked," said Tomski, "that she never plays?"
"Yes," said Narumoff, "a woman of eighty, who never touches a card; that is indeed something extraordinary!"
"You do not know why?"
"No; is there a reason for it?"
"Just listen. My grandmother, you know, some sixty years ago, went to Paris, and became the rage there. People ran after her in the streets, and called her the 'Muscovite Venus.' Richelieu made love to her, and my grandmother makes out that, by her rigorous demeanour, she almost drove him to suicide. In those days women used to play at faro. One evening at the court she lost, on parole,to the Duke of Orleans, a very considerable sum. When she got home, my grandmother removed her beauty spots, took off her hoops, and in this tragic costume went to my grandfather, told him of her misfortune, and asked him for the money she had to pay. My grandfather, now no more, was, so to say, his wife's steward. He feared her like fire; but the sum she named made him leap into the air. He flew into a rage, made a brief calculation, and proved to my grandmother that in six months she had got through half a million rubles. He told her plainly that he had no villages to sell in Paris, his domains being situated in the neighbourhood of Moscow and of Saratoff; and finally refused point blank. You may imagine the fury of my grandmother. She boxed his ears, and passed the night in another room.