Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Gambler (Short story- fiction)

When Sir Charles inherited the estate from his grandfather, he was twenty three years old. He had just completed his education and was regarded by all as a fine young man. The fact that he was still unmarried didn't hurt either. Many a woman had tried to entice him and had failed.

When the Sepoy mutiny threatened England's rule, he enlisted in the army and was sent off to India.
He fought valiantly and rose through the ranks eventually becoming a colonel. He returned to London after two years with many medals adorning his uniform and became popular as a war hero. He looked forward to a quiet life and settled comfortably into his ancestral home. He lead the typical life of  a peer. His estate bestowed on him an enormous income and he prospered. When he turned twenty-eight, he married Victoria, the daughter of Lord William. Lord William was a famous gambler. He had made more from the casinos than his ancestors had made at the seas generations before him. Since his ancestors had shared the wealth with the Queen, they had become Lords.

Victoria was a lovely maiden who was three years younger than Charles. She was as graceful as a queen and looked magnificent in a white robe on the day of her wedding. She was educated and intelligent. And all those who were present at the wedding exclaimed how perfect Charles and Victoria were for each other.After their month-long honeymoon, the happy couple returned to Charles's estate and lived peacefully. They had everything they wanted and it looked as though nothing but many years of happiness lay ahead of them.

 A year later, Lord William expressed a desire to visit Sir Charles. Lord William had been away for a year to attend to some of his affairs abroad and he had just returned to England. He wished to see his daughter and son-in-law. Accommodations were made for his stay and three days later, Lord William was at the entrance of the Stony Mansion.The visit went pleasantly. His daughter was happy and his son-in-law was a devoted husband. On the third day,  Sir Charles and Lord William were sitting in the courtyard drinking a bottle of port, talking about this and that. Suddenly Charles asked,

 "how come you win at the casinos all the time? I have heard you never lose. Is there a trick?" 

Lord William gave him a gentle smile and his eyes were twinkling. 
"There is no trick my boy. I just play like anybody else. Luck has been kind to me. I have lost many times but people do not notice your losses if your profits are high enough and that is what has happened to me."
Charles did not pursue the matter and they spent the rest of the evening talking about wines.

That night, Charles lay awake in bed thinking  of schemes that could give one an unfair advantage over other gamblers. All the schemes that occurred to him were transparent and he could not think of any satisfactory scheme that could fool people all the time. He did not believe his father-in-law. he was certain that no man could be that lucky. He knew that one evening, Lord William had made around four million pounds in one of the richest and largest casinos in England. A casino that was so exclusive that you had to be invited there to play.

He resolved to find out the old man's secret and use it. The best way to learn the trick would be to observe Lord Williams. He would observe and learn. He could not directly gamble against his father-in-law so he conceived an elaborate plan. he would disguise himself as an oil merchant and visit the casinos Lord William frequented. He would always observe and learn from the master gambler. He was confident that if he observed enough, he could learn what the old man had up his sleeve.

Sir Charles was rich. But the rich have a need to possess more. To become richer. They are afraid that they might end up with nothing one day. So they try to insure against any such possibility by acquiring more. Charles was irritated that Lord William had not shared his secret. After all, Victoria was his only daughter and would it not benefit her if her husband made money gambling?

 Three months passed before Sir Charles was ready to hit the casinos. He familiarized himself with all  the rules, the etiquette, the system and learnt to play all the games which Lord William played.
When he entered the casino the next evening, Lord William was already playing poker. Charles was delighted and he observed him closely. Lord William lost two games and two hundred and fifty thousand. Charles was disappointed.

When Lord William moved on to play blackjack, Charles was able to secure a seat at the table and was watching him, fully alert. Never in his life had he been so alert. not even when he had gone to hunt tigers in the Indian jungles. With every nerve in his body observing Lord William, he began to play against the master. When Lord William left the casino that evening. He had made roughly half-a-million pounds. half of which was Charles' money. Charles did not mind losing. He considered his losses as nothing more than a fee that must be paid to learn from the very best.

But after two months, he still didn't have a clue what was happening. He sensed a pattern though. Whenever Lord William gambled, he would lose money as well as win. But somehow when he finished, he would have made up for his losses and he would have a small profit.

When gambling became an obsession with Sir Charles, Victoria sensed that something was wrong. her husband was not his usual cheery self and had changed in his manner. he always was in deep thought and was irritated whenever he was disturbed. He had started spending a lot of time alone in his study, brooding over something. When she asked him about the matter, he simply said, "Darling I am perfectly fine. Don't worry about me. There is no problem at all anywhere and no reason for concern. I just have a few business plans that need careful consideration. I assure you that once I settle this minor affair, there will be nothing to worry about. I love you deeply Victoria and I have always. I just need a little time  for myself."

Victoria had never been nosy. A rare trait in women. So she let the matter rest. But things were not rosy. When Lord William was not playing, Charles would still play. He had lost millions of pounds and had even borrowed to finance his new vice. He regretted it and tried to stop. But he always ended up  in his usual spot in the casino. When  he mortgaged his estate, he resolved to have one final crack at the puzzle.

He waited and watched Lord William play for two hours and then he finally made his move. he sat opposite and began to play. It was a bad move. He lost his estate. Charles walked home in despair that night and couldn't face anybody for three days. His wife grew very concerned. His health started deteriorating. And he vowed never to gamble again. He begged God for a second chance.

A month later, Lord William died of a heart attack. He named his son-in-law the sole heir to his enormous fortune. Also enclosed was a letter that only Charles was authorized to open. Sir Charles grieved the death of Lord William but thanked God for giving him his second chance. His health improved. He would never waste money again. After the funeral, he paid off the debts and mortgages. Throughout this time, nobody had known anything at all about his vice. His wife was clueless and  he was enormously relieved. he would be ashamed if Victoria ever learnt that he had borrowed money to gamble.
He opened the letter his father-in-law had left him and began to read:
Dear Charles,
    I have left everything to you. Consider it returns on your investment. Yes, I knew you were playing against me. Did you think I wouldn't recognize my own daughter's husband? Anyway, all's well that end's well. I really have no trick or secret. I was merely lucky. and if there is one thing I can tell you about gambling. It's this: Don't do it. It will rob you of your wealth. If it didn't, then there would be no casinos in existence today. Also, I have a tip for you: if you don't see a sucker at the poker table, leave quickly. You're the sucker.
With best wishes
Lord William

An enormous feeling of delight, satisfaction and relief surged through Charles. He felt overjoyed. Nothing had been lost. His father in law had saved the day, his family's name and honour and above all, Victoria's happiness. When he woke up next morning, Victoria was standing over him with a breakfast tray.
"I have something to tell you. I thought you might want to have breakfast in bed. It's been a long time since you have done that."
"Darling, I am so happy for us. You are the most wonderful woman I have ever met."
"I'm pregnant."
Charles nearly dropped his tray as he tried to set it down on the nightstand. He gave a joyous shriek and took Victoria in his arms. He hugged her tightly. She smiled and kissed him gently.

It looked as though nothing but many years of happiness lay ahead of them.