Alexey Ivanovitch (ah-lehk-say ih-VAH-no-vihch), a young, impoverished nobleman, the tutor in a decadent, aristocratic Russian household where he falls in love with the stepdaughter of the family. Boorish and insolent in response to the patronizing impoliteness of his sponsor, he causes his own dismissal but remains in the German gambling resort town to be near his beloved Polina, who makes use of his devotion to send him on errands and to win for her at the roulette tables. Although perceptive and cultured, Alexey is addicted to the tables, so much so that he wins a fortune in order to relieve Polina of financial worries. When she refuses to accept his gift, she leaves him so despondent that he takes up with a French adventuress who impoverishes and then discards him. Even after he hears that Polina, ill at the time, really loves him and wishes him to return, he goes again and again to the salons, for by this time his gambling has become compulsive.
Polina Alexandrovna (poh-LIH-nuh ah-lehk-SAHN-drov-nuh), the stepdaughter of a Russian general. Beautiful in a strange way, Polina is the mistress of a false marquis, an adventurer who practices usury and who is ruining the General by attaching his real estate in order to keep the Russian in gambling money. Her influence on Alexey is so great that he not only gambles for her, literally and figuratively, but also obeys her slightest whim. She in turn is under the spell of the false marquis. Mr. Astley, who is also in love with Polina, finally takes her to Switzerland for her health.
The General, the son-in-law of a wealthy old lady and the stepfather to Polina. Formerly a colonel, he had bought his preferment upon retirement. In desperate straits financially and madly in love with Mlle Blanche, a French adventuress, he sees health and prospects grow dimmer each day that his aged aunt lives. He is a mixture of suspicion and haughtiness; his whole life is built on pretense. Although he never finishes a sentence, his ideas are so simple and self-centered that no one misunderstands him. His two children mean no more to him than the dim memory of Victoria, his dead wife. After years of anticipation while waiting for his inheritance, he lives only a few months longer than the dowager, who has gambled away most of her fortune in the meantime.
Antonida Vassilievna Tarasevitcheva
Antonida Vassilievna Tarasevitcheva (ahn-toh-NIH-duh vahs-SIH-lyehv-nuh tah-rahs-SEH -vih-cheh-vah), the General’s aunt, a sprightly seventy-five-year-old aristocrat and autocrat who rules her family with wicked glee. She is called “Grandmother” by her family, and she is confined to her chair, where she sits like a ramrod and issues orders in a stentorian voice. Fond of Polina, she...
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