The Oxford Letter
"BREAK THE BANK AT MONTE CARLO. The 'Egg of Columbus' at Roulette is found. The one and only mathematically perfect system will be disclosed to you for 30% share of your profits. Professors of mathematics challenged to disprove correctness of mathematical formula. Write Madame Blouse for appointment."
Well, I poured out any heart to Madame Blouse: not to question her mathematics, but to ask if she'd spare my losses just in case the system proved an exception with me. She wrote to me to come and see her. So I did. Madame Blouse is a great woman at figures. Before she tried to explain her system she asked if first I didn't want to see her "30 Beautiful Girls 30". So I tightened my purse strings and went to the casino trusting to beginner's luck.
The Casino at Monte-Carlo is more than a gambling place. On one side are the gambling rooms. On the other, there's a theatre, rooms for art exhibitions, dog shows, baby parades, flower shows and further on a nice veranda over-looking the sea: just the right elevation for a splendid view and suicides.
There are two gambling rooms. In one the minimum bet is 5 francs (about a quarter); in the other 500 francs. Last night in the 500 franc room were seated at one table a King, two Counts, a Boston deb, the bar tender from my hotel, one of Madame Blouse's girls, a gigolo and four old women showing the Count how much money they had. Royalty and the old women did the betting: the gigolo tried to explain things for the deb; Madame Blouse's girl kept dropping things; and I giggled my only ten francs in my pocket.
Gambling done good-humoredly is a great thrill. The trick is to know when to stop and take it all with a grain of salt. And though the Casino has made Monte-Carlo's reputation, still there are other things even for a student on the vacation from Oxford. To wander in the mountains and see the flowers is alone worth the trip here. And then to have the natives tell you the story of every flower that the breath of a flower is it's perfume; and that you should eat the honey--for then you can taste the flowers!
And so from here I go to Florence: the jewel of Italy . . . the romance of Dante and Beatrice . . and by the way, there you can live on a dollar and a quarter a day.