Vladimir Saradoff had been all his life addicted to that especially Russian vice--gambling.
He was supposed to be wealthy.
He owned a palace on the Nevskoi Prospekt, a country seat in the North.
His expenses were enormous but his income was reported to be fabulous. The truth was not even suspected. Slowly but surely Vladimir Saradoff's wealth had been slipping away over the gaming tables. A crisis was at hand. He realised that he must acquire a large sum of money, or lose all that he held most dear--his prestige at Court, his position in society, and his ancestral heritage. He concentrated his thoughts on two objects--the attainment of a long-deferred vengeance, and the acquisition of the badly-needed wealth.
At the vast frontier station of Wirballen, which they reached at midnight, cold and hungry, the boys obtained their first view of Russian life. Passports and baggage were overhauled, and then they were turned into the dreary waiting-room with many other passengers.