* * * * *
“Do you really then expect me to embody your ideal?” Wanda asked
archly, when we met in the park to-day.
At first I could find no answer. The most antagonistic emotions were
battling within me. In the meantime she sat down on one of the
stone-benches, and played with a flower.
I kneeled down and seized her hands.
“Once more I beg you to become my wife, my true and loyal wife; if
you can’t do that then become the embodiment of my ideal, absolutely,
without reservation, without softness.”
“You know I am ready at the end of a year to give you my hand, if
you prove to be the man I am seeking,” Wanda replied very seriously,
“but I think you would be more grateful to me if through me you
realized your imaginings. Well, which do you prefer?”
“I believe that everything my imagination has dreamed lies latent in
“You are mistaken.”
“I believe,” I continued, “that you enjoy having a man wholly in
your power, torturing him–”
“No, no,” she exclaimed quickly, “or perhaps–.” She pondered.
“I don’t understand myself any longer,” she continued, “but I have
a confession to make to you. You have corrupted my imagination and
inflamed my blood. I am beginning to like the things you speak of.
The enthusiasm with which you speak of a Pompadour, a Catherine the
Second, and all the other selfish, frivolous, cruel women, carries
me away and takes hold of my soul. It urges me on to become like those
women, who in spite of their vileness were slavishly adored during
their lifetime and still exert a miraculous power from their graves.
“You will end by making of me a despot in miniature, a domestic
“Well then,” I said in agitation, “if all this is inherent in you,
give way to this trend of your nature. Nothing half-way. If you can’t
be a true and loyal wife to me, be a demon.”
I was nervous from loss of sleep, and the proximity of the beautiful
woman affected me like a fever. I no longer recall what I said, but
I remember that I kissed her feet, and finally raised her foot and
put my neck under it. She withdrew it quickly, and rose almost angrily.
“If you love me, Severin,” she said quickly, and her voice sounded
sharp and commanding, “never speak to me of those things again.
Understand, never! Otherwise I might really–” She smiled and sat
“I am entirely serious,” I exclaimed, half-raving. “I adore you so
infinitely that I am willing to suffer anything from you, for the
sake of spending my whole life near you.”
“Severin, once more I warn you.”
“Your warning is vain. Do with me what you will, as long as you
don’t drive me away.”
“Severin,” replied Wanda, “I am a frivolous young woman; it is
dangerous for you to put yourself so completely in my power. You will
end by actually becoming a plaything to me. Who will give warrant
that I shall not abuse your insane desire?”
“Your own nobility of character.”
“Power makes people over-bearing.”
“Be it,” I cried, “tread me underfoot.”
Wanda threw her arms around my neck, looked into my eyes, and shook
“I am afraid I can’t, but I will try, for your sake, for I love you
Severin, as I have loved no other man.”