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James Pethel by Sir Max Beerbohm
page 2 of 26 (07%)
resent the race-week--the third week of the month--as an intrusion on our
privacy. We sneered as we read in the Paris edition of "The New York
Herald" the names of the intruders, though by some of these we were
secretly impressed. We disliked the nightly crush in the baccarat-room of
the casino, and the croupiers' obvious excitement at the high play. I
made a point of avoiding that room during that week, for the special
reason that the sight of serious, habitual gamblers has always filled me
with a depression bordering on disgust. Most of the men, by some subtle
stress of their ruling passion, have grown so monstrously fat, and most of
the women so harrowingly thin. The rest of the women seem to be
marked out for apoplexy, and the rest of the men to be wasting away.
One feels that anything thrown at them would be either embedded or
shattered, and looks vainly among them for one person furnished with a
normal amount of flesh. Monsters they are, all of them, to the eye,
though I believe that many of them have excellent moral qualities in
private life; but just as in an American town one goes sooner or
later--goes against one's finer judgment, but somehow goes--into the
dime-museum, so year by year, in Dieppe's race-week, there would be
always one evening when I drifted into the baccarat-room. It was on
such an evening that I first saw the man whose memory I here celebrate.
My gaze was held by him for the very reason that he would have passed
unnoticed elsewhere. He was conspicuous not in virtue of the mere fact
that he was taking the bank at the principal table, but because there was
nothing at all odd about him.

He alone, among his fellow-players, looked as if he were not to die
before the year was out. Of him alone I said to myself that he was
destined to die normally at a ripe old age. Next day, certainly, I would
not have made this prediction, would not have "given" him the seven
years that were still in store for him, nor the comparatively normal death
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