W

hile hosting a game of cards one night, Narumov tells his friends a story about his grandmother, a Countess. As a young woman, she had once incurred an enormous gambling debt, which she was able to erase by learning a secret that guaranteed that she could win by playing her cards in a certain order. One of Narumov's friends, German, has never gambled, but he is intrigued by the story about the Countess and her secret. He soon becomes obsessed with learning this secret from her, and he starts by courting her young ward Lizaveta, hoping to use her to gain access to the Countess.

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