* * * * *
Am I mad or is she? Does all this arise out of an inventive, wanton
woman’s brain with the intention of surpassing my supersensual
fantasies, or is this woman really one of those Neronian characters
who take a diabolical pleasure in treading underfoot, like a worm,
human beings, who have thoughts and feelings and a will like theirs?
What have I experienced?
When I knelt with the coffee-tray beside her bed, Wanda suddenly
placed her hand on my shoulder and her eyes plunged deep into mine.
“What beautiful eyes you have,” she said softly, “and especially now
since you suffer. Are you very unhappy?”
I bowed my head, and kept silent.
“Severin, do you still love me,” she suddenly exclaimed
passionately, “can you still love me?”
She drew me close with such vehemence that the coffee-tray upset,
the can and cups fell to the floor, and the coffee ran over the
“Wanda–my Wanda,” I cried out and held her passionately against me;
I covered her mouth, face, and breast with kisses.
“It is my unhappiness that I love you more and more madly the worse
you treat me, the more frequently you betray me. Oh, I shall die of
pain and love and jealousy.”
“But I haven’t betrayed you, as yet, Severin,” replied Wanda smiling.
“Not? Wanda! Don’t jest so mercilessly with me,” I cried. “Haven’t
I myself taken the letter to the Prince–”
“Of course, it was an invitation for luncheon.”
“You have, since we have been in Florence–”
“I have been absolutely faithful to you,” replied Wanda, “I swear it
by all that is holy to me. All that I have done was merely to fulfill
your dream and it was done for your sake.
“However, I shall take a lover, otherwise things will be only half
accomplished, and in the end you will yet reproach me with not having
treated you cruelly enough, my dear beautiful slave! But to-day you
shall be Severin again, the only one I love. I haven’t given away
your clothes. They are here in the chest. Go and dress as you used
to in the little Carpathian health-resort when our love was so intimate.
Forget everything that has happened since; oh, you will forget it
easily in my arms; I shall kiss away all your sorrows.”
She began to treat me tenderly like a child, to kiss me and caress
me. Finally she said with a gracious smile, “Go now and dress, I too
will dress. Shall I put on my fur-jacket? Oh yes, I know, now run
When I returned she was standing in the center of the room in her
white satin dress, and the red _kazabaika_ edged with ermine; her hair
was white with powder and over her forehead she wore a small diamond
diadem. For a moment she reminded me in an uncanny way of Catherine
the Second, but she did not give me much time for reminiscences. She
drew me down on the ottoman beside her and we enjoyed two blissful
hours. She was no longer the stern capricious mistress, she was
entirely a fine lady, a tender sweetheart. She showed me photographs
and books which had just appeared, and talked about them with so much
intelligence, clarity, and good taste, that I more than once carried
her hand to my lips, enraptured. She then had me recite several of
Lermontov’s poems, and when I was all afire with enthusiasm, she
placed her small hand gently on mine. Her expression was soft, and her
eyes were filled with tender pleasure.
“Are you happy?”
She then leaned back on the cushions, and slowly opened her
But I quickly covered the half-bared breast again with the ermine.
“You are driving me mad.” I stammered.
I was already lying in her arms, and like a serpent she was kissing
me with her tongue, when again she whispered, “Are you happy?”
“Infinitely!” I exclaimed.
She laughed aloud. It was an evil, shrill laugh which made cold
shivers run down by back.
“You used to dream of being the slave, the plaything of a beautiful
woman, and now you imagine you are a free human being, a man, my
lover-you fool! A sign from me, and you are a slave again. Down on
I sank down from the ottoman to her feet, but my eye still clung
doubtingly on hers.
“You can’t believe it,” she said, looking at me with her arms folded
across her breast. “I am bored, and you will just do to while away
a couple of hours of time. Don’t look at me that way–”
She kicked me with her foot.
“You are just what I want, a human being, a thing, an animal–”
She rang. The three negresses entered.
“Tie his hands behind his back.”
I remained kneeling and unresistingly let them do this. They led me
into the garden, down to the little vineyard, which forms the
southern boundary. Corn had been planted between the espaliers, and
here and there a few dead stalks still stood. To one side was a
The negresses tied me to a post, and amused themselves sticking me
with their golden hair-needles. But this did not last long, before
Wanda appeared with her ermine cap on her head, and with her hands
in the pockets of her jacket. She had me untied, and then my hands
were fastened together on my back. She finally had a yoke put around
my neck, and harnessed me to the plough.
Then her black demons drove me out into the field. One of them held
the plough, the other one led me by a line, the third applied the
whip, and Venus in Furs stood to one side and looked on.