Loser Takes All: The Serial (1957) — Chapter Four
The following morning, Tony and Cary try to remind Mr. Dreuther that he must serve as witness to their marriage, and four times they ask the message office if anything had arrived for them, but without success. This silence appears more and more strange to them …
Cary: This would be lovely, if he�s forgotten us …
Tony: Just yesterday, you wanted him to delay his arrival…!
Tony pretends to ignore the fact that since yesterday, Cary�s opinion could have easily been changed.
Cary: Okay, but yesterday, it was another story. It is absolutely necessary that we get married today.
Tony: Listen, my love…there is nothing better than a game to calm one�s nerves. Do you want to try?
Cary: That isn�t very sensible.
Tony: I know, but it�ll help us kill time. Let’s say that we won’t risk more than five hundred francs…
They arrive at the casino, which is nearly desolate at this hour of the day… the room is no longer quite as animated.
Tony: Hey, check out the lady with the hat full of birds. You could almost say she sat on a few more of them since yesterday.
Cary: I won’t have any peace until I figure out what Ms. Headgear is doing this time…
Tony: Should I tempt fate, then?
Cary: Go on! I want you to bet all of it, for my birthday…
But they don’t bet on the same number, as Cary would have liked, because Tony’s mathematical brain has divided the stakes to balance their chances of winning. The small ball turns, while croupiers call out their monotonous announcements … Tony is very curious to see if predictions based on mathematical calculations can have any result … Cary recites in a low voice the magic formulas that she used, when she was child. The calculation of probabilities balances wins and losses, but Tony notes a deficit of hundred francs. Cary, on the other hand, only sees their wins, which excites her considerably…
Cary: You won, Tony, you won! … You had to invent a system to play…
In time Cary comes to understands that the only means to win is not to play at all. But the roulette helps to distract them for a while. Early afternoon, they go on the terrace that overlooks the harbor, and Tony shouts:
Tony: The yacht! Doesn’t it have a white smokestack? Watch closely if you can see colors of the flag!
Cary: Do you think it�s Dreuther�s?
Tony: Sure, it must be his… I saw some photographs in the newspapers… yes, yes, it is Dreuther�s yacht!
Certain now of the arrival of their benefactor, they hurry into the hotel, and get dressed for the bridal ceremony. Then they descend to the Office…
Tony: We would like to be announced to Mr. Dreuther!
Clerk: But Mr. Dreuther hasn�t arrived … usually, he tells us in advance when he plans to stay at least a week. I don’t believe that he�s arrived in Monte Carlo.
Tony is awfully dejected by the news, but Cary reacts to it quickly.
Cary: What dummies we are! If Mr. Dreuther is traveling by yacht, he doesn’t need to stay in a hotel! We should go to the harbor… but now we don’t have the time … we should rush to the Town Hall… I�m sure Mr. Dreuther is waiting there for us!
They hurry toward the door, where Cary spots a horse-drawn carriage passing slowly by.
Cary: Stop it, Tony. Stop the carriage. I want to arrive in Town hall by horse-drawn carriage!
Tony runs in pursuit of the carriage, which is drawn, as luck would have it, by a horse which has no desire to run anywhere … and as the driver doesn’t seem to have heard Tony’s desperate calls, the young man physically arrests the carriage with a diligence that would be strongly applauded in a western. The carriage finally is stopped, and the two young people climb aboard quickly but then waste precious minutes explaining their destination to the coachman. The horse then attacks the climb with a pace that would have delighted the two lovers, were they not so full of anguish at being late.
Tony: We�re moving at the rate of a funeral, instead of a wedding!
Cary: Tony! Don’t say such things! It�s bad luck!
Tony: Dearest, I beg you, this is not the time to be superstitious!
Cary: Don’t assume that all superstitions are stupid. The fates sometimes use them to send us mysterious messages, perhaps to prepare us…
Tony: Hey, maybe they’re preparing us to be late this very moment, because at this pace, we won’t arrive at the Town Hall before midnight. And all because this morning you forgot to sacrifice a chicken or two.
In spite of Tony’s fears, the Fates are not against them, and they arrive in town hall in time, where they get married without any other difficulty than finding two second-hand witnesses, since there was no trace of Mr. Dreuther. The young lovers find themselves in a modest office where they unite for life and find themselves much moved by the ceremony, in spite of the absence of formality. They find themselves equally moved by the disappearance of Mr. Dreuther … moved to consider the terrifying difficulties that are resulting from his absence. All of which doesn’t prevent Cary from feeling the poetry of the moment deeply. Her eyes are lost in her dream of happiness, while Tony cannot stop himself from returning to his former worries…
Tony: What are you thinking about?
Cary: I�m telling myself a story, Tony. A story where two lovers get married while a gentleman in a tricolor scarf speaks strange words: “In wealth and in adversity, in good fortune and in bad …”
In spite of the absense of Mr. Dreuther, everything would have been wonderful had not the hotel clerk taken Tony aside, upon his return to the hotel, to present him with the bill. When Tony returns to the royal apartment, he finds Cary very delightfully disposed towards her newly legitimate spouse. Tony, on the other hand, is now a trifle absent-minded.
Cary: My love, you were gone a long time …and what do you have there?
Tony: A problem I�m studying. Did you know that we spent forty-five thousand francs in two days?
Cary, otherwise occupied, seems hardly aware of why this should be a problem.
Cary: My treasure, let’s not think about that now.
Tony: But… forty-five thousand francs in two days! It�s not possible, he must have made a mistake. Let me go over this again, alright?? Sometimes when I double-check numbers, they seem to come out a little better ….
Cary: Let’s see: one, two, three… [Ed Note: �going over the numbers� appears to have been a little game between the two of them, better left to the imagination, since the summary gave no indication of just why Tony would appreciate Cary�s counting skills quite so much. However, we�ll have to wait for the movie to find out just what they were doing.]
Tony: Love, why did you have this magnificent dinner, with lobster and champagne, brought up?
Cary: Because I was literally dying of hunger!
But the following day, the light of day illuminates their problem even more cruelly, and Cary becomes as worried as Tony. Dreuther doesn’t seem to have any intention of arriving.
Cary: He�s a real pip of a guy…
Tony: I assure you that he doesn’t forget anything when it benefits his own interests. Believe me when I tell you he wouldn�t have dropped us like that, if we had been important.
Just then a telegram arrives that Tony quickly reads in a loud voice, which allows a curious character, seated in a wheelchair, to overhear with great interest.
Tony (reading aloud): �To answer your telegram of this morning Dreuther is on his yacht stop Formal order to only disturb him for urgent matters stop. Impossible to help you, Bullen stop.� Oh, that�s wonderful. For Dreuther, we are not an urgent matter.
Man: What is your connection with Dreuther, young man?
Tony, amazed, answers the strange old man.
Tony: Dreuther is my director, why?
Man: If you are an employee of the S.I.F.A., it is I who am your director. I am Alain Boles, the third shareholder and the real referee of the Society. Believe me, don’t ever trust Dreuther. Now, call my nurse for me…
Putting a good face on this bad news, Tony does as he is asked.
Tony: The elderly gentleman wants you, madamoiselle.
Nurse: Again? He�s worse than a child with his eternal desire to eat… that is, to eat whatever he�s able to eat!
For several seconds, Cary has been making strange signs at her husband… once the nurse has disappeared, she tells him that the director of the hotel has been watching them in a troubling way …
Cary: I am afraid that he intends to ask us to pay the bill now … let�s go eat in the Casino.
Once safely in the casino, Cary hears about the elderly gentleman.
Tony: He is the one called �The Other� at the S.I.F.A. A third partner who, with his stock ownership, can side with either Dreuther or Blixon, as he choses. In reality, he is the referee of the company.
Having decided that Mr. Boles could not be of any help to them, the two young spouses sit at a table over a melancholic meal of bread and coffee.
Tony: With this menu, we�ll turn into itinerant skeletons…
Cary: Did you see the lady with the hat? What would you say, if I did what she did?
Tony: I don’t want my wife to start begging!
Cary: I haven�t been your wife long enough for your preferences to count for much …
Tony: You�ll go to jail, Cary! I think that Monte Carlo jail is under the same management as the Casino… you could always play the roulette wheel there…
Cary: Don�t joke about it, please? Say, what would happen if you asked that old man to lend us something? After all, he is your director, and a director is a little responsible of his employees, no? Besides it was his collegue that got us in this mess in the first place …
Tony: Keep dreaming! He�s is the kind that doesn’t lend a cent without a serious guarantee. He is harder than Dreuther and Blixon combined … if he were otherwise, there would have been beautiful, female lure that one or the other would have used to buy his stocks away from him…
Cary: But he must have a means of getting us out of here, Tony!
No sooner had she said these words, when a regular of the casino approaches them with great ceremony.
Man: It is unforgivable for me to disturb you like this … excuse me, but I believe that I can provide you the financial means that you so anxiously seek. I have my reasons to believe that fortune has betrayed you… and I have excellent news for you …
The two immediately take this to mean they have a message from Dreuther…
Tony: We should leave now?
Man: Oh no! I think, on the contrary, that you would do better remaining right here. I have finalized a perfect system to win the roulette. And I am persuaded to give it to you for the miserable sum of ten thousand francs…
The man’s proposition which sounds merely strange to Cary strongly interests Tony.
Tony: I assure you that I would be delighted to have ten thousand francs and able to buy your system. But, I can only afford to offer it to you for one glass of whisky, take it or leave it.
Man: A glass of whisky? But that�s absurd.
The discussion enlivens himself, and the individual finally understands strongly that there is nothing more he can hope for from the young man.
The man takes a pencil and a piece of paper out of his pocket, and draws a diagram…
Man: Here it is, it is simple. You bet on a number, let’s say, the nineteen. Once the nineteen is gone, you write down your gains on one of the reverse of six numbers…
Tony: And if the nineteen doesn’t go away? Can that last for centuries?
Man: My dear young man, that is exactly why capital is necessary! Give me five million francs, and I would not be here, selling the system for one glass of whisky!
Tony: Okay. Continue!
Tony’s mathematical genius feels spellbound by the apparently absurd number dance that the man makes sparkle before eyes. He immediately understands possibilities and deficiencies of the system, but what makes the system whole is not so much the financial gain at the roulette wheel as it is the attraction of an unpublished mathematical problem. And Tony himself dives into it furiously… while leaning on the bar…
Tony: Waiter, a whisky please… no, a coffee. No, better, a glass of cool water…
Meanwhile Cary, who has studied the hat lady’s begging technique, throws herself decidedly into the fray. But she quickly realizes that something must have escaped her… because she receives only refusals. In some cases, she receives a gesture that could be interpreted any number of ways.
Man: Of course, my little one, but not now. And make very certain my wife doesn�t see you. She�s the lady behind us, with with the green hat. Let’s meet on the terrace in 15 minutes.
Cary: But, I only wanted a chip…!
The kind of activity which Cary seems to be promising, is appreciated by many players, and is why a guard approaches her with firm courtesy…
Guard: I believe that you�ve played enough to-night, Madame … You had best leave …
Cary tries futilely to explain that her husband is the young man leaning on the bar. Tony, naturally, doesn’t notice anything, any more than he would have heard a bomb exploding in the room. He is engrossed in his calculations, while his wife is getting herself expelled rather ignominiously. But, there is someone in the room who, seeing her embarrassment, hurries to help.
Philip: May I be of help to you? I know what it is when luck has abandoned you…
Cary: No, no, it is not about that… I never played!
Cary recognizes the young luckless English, but decides to adopt a blameless wife attitude…
Cary: I thank you but I cannot accept a stranger�s services…
Philip: Then I would be delighted to make your acquaintance… it�s lucky that you gave me a sign, no?
Guard: Madame, I believe you need to come with me to the exit…
Cary: But, I didn’t make a sign to this man, I called my husband, there… Tony! Tony!
Tony is so absorbed that he doesn’t even hear the desperate calls of his wife. The Englishman must shake him vigorously to attract his attention.
Philip: Hey! Your wife needs to speak to you! She waits for you outside the Casino…
Tony: My wife? But I didn’t get married.
The young man seems satisfied by Tony’s absent-minded words.
Philip: You didn�t get married? Do you mean this delicious child is not your wife?
Tony: Who is not my wife? And who said what woman was not my wife? And what have you done with her?
The incident is only closed by the complete narration of events, and the return of the couple to the hotel, where they took a less expensive room. Tony is deeply irritated by his wife’s conduct, and Cary is not any happier than he is.
Tony: Do you realize that, because of your mistake, we can�t set foot in the Casino anymore?
Cary: That�s fine with me. Anyway, I don’t want to go back there! This Englishman has noticed me while I tried to imitate the woman in the hat, and he will have put me in the same category as she!
Tony: I don�t care what your young Englishman thinks! I think I�ve found a practically infallible system. Okay, the man at the bar is only an impostor, who doesn’t understand anything about numbers. But I�m different… I assure you, Cary, while he spouted, I glimpsed an infallible plan. You see – the number 19 doesn�t have a square root!
Cary: But Tony, what good does that do? How can you do any of that, if neither one of us has any money?
TO BE CONTINUED
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