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a solemn terror, “I would as soon touch the forty pieces of silver for which Judas betrayed his master. Her penetrating head instantly saw the danger to which I had exposed myself, and her fond heart as quickly gave the alarm to her feelings; but in a few seconds she threw her arms around me, and ejaculated, as the tears ran down her cheek--“Forgive me, my dear Charles; pardon my vehemence, my ingratitude ! I have a present to ask, a boon to implorempromise that you will grant it me!"_“Most willingly,” I rejoined, “ if it be in my power.”_“Give me then your pledge never to play again.”—“ Cheerfully,” continued I, for I had already formed that resolution. She kissed me with many affectionate thanks, adding that I had made her completely happy. I believe it, for at that moment I felt so myself.
Many men who are candid and upright in arguing with others, are the most faithless and jesuitical of casuists in chopping logic with themselves. Let no one trust his head in a contest with the heart; the former, suppressing or perverting whatever is disagreeable to the latter, will assume a demure and sincere conviction, while it has all along been playing booty, and furnishing weapons to its adversary. The will must be honest if we wish the judgment to be so. A tormenting itch for following up my good luck, as I termed it, set me upon devising excuses for violating my pledge to my wife, and no shuffling or quibbling was too contemptible for my purpose. I had promised never to play again—“at that house;" or if I had not actually said so, I meant to say so: there could be no
forfeiture of my word, therefore, if I went to another. Miserable sophistry! yet, wretched as it was, it satisfied my conscience for the moment, so easily is a weak man deluded into criminal indulgence. Fortified with such valid arguments, I made my début at the Salon des Etrangers, and after a two hours' sitting, had the singular good luck to return home a winner of nearly as much as I had gained on the first day. Success for once made me moderate ; in the humility of my prosperous play, I resolved only to continue till I had won ten thousand pounds, when I would communicate my adventures to my wife with a solemn abjuration of the pursuit in future; and as I considered myself in possession of the certain secret of winning whatever I pleased, I took credit to myself for my extreme moderation. From Frescati, the scene of my third attempt, by a lucky, or rather unlucky fatality, which my subsequent experience only renders the more wonderful, I retired with a sum exceeding the whole of my previous profits, whèn, like the tiger which is rendered insatiate by the taste of blood, I instantly became ravenous for larger riches; and, already repenting the paltry limitation of the day before, determined on proceeding until I had doubled its amount. Another day's luck, and even this would have been spurned, for neither Jonson's Sir Epicure Mammon, nor Massinger's Luke, nor Pope's Sir Balaam, underwent a more rapid developement of the latent devils of ambition. Indistinct visions of grandeur floated before my eyes; my senses already seemed to be steeped in vague magnificence ; and sleep present
ing to me the same images through a magnifying glass, I went forth next morning to the accomplishment of my destiny with an exaltation of mind little short of delirium.
Weak and wicked reveries !-a single turn of Fortune's wheel reduced me, not to reason, but to an opposite extreme of mortification and despondence. A run of ill-luck swept away in one hour more than half my gains, and unfortunately losing my temper still faster than my money, I kept doubling my stakes in the blindness of my rage, and quitted the table at night, not only lightened of all my suddenly acquired wealth, but loser of a considerable sum besides. I could now judge by experience of the bitterness of soul that I had lately inflicted upon those who had lost what I had won, and inwardly cursed the pursuit whose gratifications could only spring from the miseries of others; but so far from abandoning this inevitable see-saw of wretchedness, I felt as if I had been defrauded of my just property, and burnt with the desire of taking my revenge. The heart-sickening detail of my infirmity, my reverses, and my misery, need not be followed up. Suffice it to say, that a passion, a fury, an actual phrenzy of play, absorbed every faculty of my soul: mine was
worse than a Promethean fate; I was gnawed and devoured by an inward fire which nothing could allay. Alas! not even poverty and the want of materials could quench it. In my career of prosperity, I felt not the fraud I was practising upon my wife, for I meant to make my peace with ten or twenty thousand pounds in my hand,
and a sincere renunciation of gaming in my heart ; but now that I was bringing ruin upon her and my children, the sense of my falsehood and treachery embittering the anguish of my losses, plunged me into an unutterable remorse and agony of soul. Still I wanted courage to make the fatal revelation, and at last only imparted it to her in the cowardice of impending disgrace.
Madame Deshoulières says very truly, that gamesters begin by being dupes and end by being knaves ; and I am about to confirm it by an avowal to which nothing should have impelled me but the hope of deterring others by an exposure
an exposure of my own delinquency. A female relation had remitted me seven hundred pounds to purchase into the French funds, with which sum in my pocket I unfortunately called at the Salon des Etrangers in my way to the stock-broker's, and my evil genius suggesting to me that there was a glorious opportunity of recovering my heavy losses, I spatched the notes from my pocket, threw them on the table just before the dealer began-and lost! Stunned by the blow, I went home in a state of calm despair, communicated the whole to my wife in as few words as possible, and ended by declaring that she was a beggar, and her husband disgraced for ever. yet, my dear Charles,” replied the generous woman, her eyes beaming with an affectionate forgiveness, “not yet; we may still exclaim with the French King after the battle of Pavia, We have lost every thing but our honour ;-and, while we retain that, our losses are but as a grain of sand. We may be depressed by
fortune, but we can only be disgraced by ourselves. As to this seven hundred pounds--take my jewels they will sell for more than is required; and if our present misfortunes induce you to fly from Paris, and abandon this fatal pursuit, they will assuredly become the greatest blessings of our life.”
No reproach ever passed her lips, or lingered in her eye; nor did I fail to observe the delicacy which, mingling up her own fate with mine, strove to soothe my feelings, by disguising my individual guilt under the cloak of a joint misfortune. Noble-minded woman! Mezentius himself could not have devised a more cruel fate than to tie thee to a soul so dead to shame, and so defunct in gratitude, as mine!
Will not the reader loath and detest me, even worse than I do myself, when I inform him, that in return for all this magnanimity I had the detestable baseness to linger in Paris, to haunt the gaming-table, to venture the wretched drainings of my purse in the silver room, to become an habitual borrower of paltry sums under pledges of repayment, which I knew I had not the means of redeeming, and to submit tamely to the indignity of palpable cuts from my acquaintance in the public streets? From frequently encountering at the salons, I had formed a slight friendship with Lord
T Lord F Sir G-W-, Colonel T-, and particularly with poor S-t, before he had consummated the ruin of his fine fortune, and debilitated his frame by paralysis brought on by anxiety; and I was upon terms of intimacy with others of my countrymen, who with various success, but much