restricted access 22. Roulette
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22 o Roulette The Gambling Demon— It Is Safer to Pay One’s Debts before Playing Again   , I was in a bind. I did have a few pieces of jewelry that Lionel had given me, but to part with them seemed impossible. One evening I was at a dinner with Lagie and Frisette. ‘‘Come gambling with us,’’ they said. ‘‘We play roulette every night. There are several roulette games, but the best is the one on Rue de l’Arcade.’’ ‘‘But,’’ I said to Lagie, ‘‘there must be risks. Gambling houses are illegal .’’ ‘‘Yes, but there is nothing to fear. Not everyone is allowed in. Precautions are taken.’’ All I had was one hundred francs. I decided to go in spite of my fear of the police. Once we were on the Rue de l’Arcade, our carriage stopped in front of a large and beautiful house. We climbed stairs painted red, lit from a distance by little lanterns. We went up to the sixth floor. Lagie rang. A doorbell sounded three times. A servant came to open. His livery was flashy. From the anteroom we went into a living room. We were welcomed by a woman in her thirties who probably used to be quite pretty, and who would still be if her pale, skinny face had not been framed by a forest of black hair in long curls that gave her a wild look. ‘‘You have not been her before, mademoiselle?’’ she asked me. ‘‘No, madame, it is my first time.’’ ‘‘Oh! Are you lucky with the red and the black?’’ ‘‘I do not know.’’ She got up and went to speak to some other people. Lagie told me,  Roulette ‘‘She is the mistress of the house. I mean by that, the rent is in her name. The man holding the bank is some sort of amphibious animal. No one knows where he comes from or what country he is from. He put the house in this woman’s name. If the police came, she would be the one taken away.’’ I examined her and tried to discern on her the desire for luxury that drove her to her destruction. She dressed simply; her silk dress had been mended; everything about her seemed destitute. Each time the bell rang she would jump off her chair, and she would stare anxiously at the door.    ‘‘Why do we not start?’’ said a tall young man. ‘‘The banker has not arrived,’’ replied the mistress of the house, who was watching the clock. ‘‘He will not be long; it is almost eleven.’’ ‘‘You in a hurry to lose your money, Brésival?’’ said a fat girl called La Pouron. I went up to Lagie and asked her who this man called Brésival was. ‘‘Oh,’’ said Lagie, ‘‘he does not have much to do with women; he likes gambling too much for that. He is married and has adorable children. He will end up gambling their baby clothes away.’’ A few minutes later a man appeared; he had just let himself in with a key. The newcomer must have been about forty years old. Hewore a black suit and a white tie. His complexion was tan, his hair, brown. He looked a little bit Italian. He spoke to the mistress of the house to give herorders and make reproaches. He looked at me for a long time. The servant opened both flaps of the door, and I saw a large, welllighted room, a long table covered with a green cloth, a roulette wheel in the middle, and chairs around. Everyone went in. I stayed near the fireplace in the first room. ‘‘You are not going to play?’’ asked the mistress of the house. ‘‘No,’’ I replied, ‘‘I am not used to gambling. Besides, I do not feel safe. Are you not afraid?’’ ‘‘Oh! Yes,’’ she said, ‘‘but I cannot let my fear show; yet, I am in great danger.’’ ‘‘So you make a lot of money?’’ ‘‘Me!’’ she said, with a sad laugh, ‘‘I am barely fed.’’ ‘‘So you must really love the man who just entered?’’ ‘‘Me! Love him! I hate him, I despise him, but I am afraid of him.’’ Some people came in the room where I was to smoke, so it became  Roulette impossible to talk. I got up to go to the game. The mistress of the house, who was called La Pépine, said to me softly, ‘‘You do not know how to play? Bet on...


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