The Magic Skin - Honore de Balzac - Страница 1 из 363

By Honore De Balzac
Translated by Ellen Marriage
To Monsieur Savary, Member of Le Academie des Sciences.
[omitted: a drawing representing the serpentine
path made by the tip of a stick when flourished.]
STERNE--Tristram Shandy, ch. cccxxii.
Towards the end of the month of October 1829 a young man entered the
Palais-Royal just as the gaming-houses opened, agreeably to the law
which protects a passion by its very nature easily excisable. He mounted
the staircase of one of the gambling hells distinguished by the number
36, without too much deliberation.
"Your hat, sir, if you please?" a thin, querulous voice called out. A
little old man, crouching in the darkness behind a railing, suddenly
rose and exhibited his features, carved after a mean design.
As you enter a gaming-house the law despoils you of your hat at the
outset. Is it by way of a parable, a divine revelation? Or by exacting
some pledge or other, is not an infernal compact implied? Is it done to
compel you to preserve a respectful demeanor towards those who are about
to gain money of you? Or must the detective, who squats in our social
sewers, know the name of your hatter, or your own, if you happen to have
written it on the lining inside? Or, after all, is the measurement of
your skull required for the compilation of statistics as to the cerebral
capacity of gamblers? The executive is absolutely silent on this point.

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