* * * * *
“I am really rather sorry for the poor painter,” she said to me to-day,
“it is absurd to be as virtuous as I am. Don’t you think so too?”
I did not dare to reply to her.
“Oh, I forgot that I am talking with a slave; I need some fresh air,
I want to be diverted, I want to forget.
“The carriage, quick!”
Her new dress is extravagant: Russian half-boots of violet-blue
velvet trimmed with ermine, and a skirt of the same material,
decorated with narrow stripes and rosettes of furs. Above it is an
appropriate, close-fitting jacket, also richly trimmed and lined with
ermine. The headdress is a tall cap of ermine of the style of
Catherine the Second, with a small aigrette, held in place by a
diamond-agraffe; her red hair falls loose down her back. She ascends
on the driver’s seat, and holds the reins herself; I take my seat
behind. How she lashes on the horses! The carriage flies along like
Apparently it is her intention to attract attention to-day, to make
conquests, and she succeeds completely. She is the lioness of the
Cascine. People nod to her from carriages; on the footpath people
gather in groups to discuss her. She pays no attention to anyone,
except now and then acknowledging the greetings of elderly gentlemen
with a slight nod.
Suddenly a young man on a lithe black horse dashes up at full speed.
As soon as he sees Wanda, he stops his horse and makes it walk. When
he is quite close, he stops entirely and lets her pass. And she too
sees him–the lioness, the lion. Their eyes meet. She madly drives
past him, but she cannot tear herself free from the magic power of
his look, and she turns her head after him.
My heart stops when I see the half-surprised, half-enraptured look
with which she devours him, but he is worthy of it.
For he is, indeed, a magnificent specimen of man, No, rather, he is
a man whose like I have never yet seen among the living. He is in the
Belvedere, graven in marble, with the same slender, yet steely
musculature, with the same face and the same waving curls. What makes
him particularly beautiful is that he is beardless. If his hips were
less narrow, one might take him for a woman in disguise. The curious
expression about the mouth, the lion’s lip which slightly discloses
the teeth beneath, lends a flashing tinge of cruelty to the beautiful
Apollo flaying Marsyas.
He wears high black boots, closely fitting breeches of white
leather, short fur coat of black cloth, of the kind worn by Italian
cavalry officers, trimmed with astrakhan and many rich loops; on his
black locks is a red fez.
I now understand the masculine Eros, and I marvel at Socrates for
having remained virtuous in view of an Alcibiades like this.