* * * * *
All day long I didn’t dare to go near her. Toward evening as I was
sitting in my arbor her gay red head peered suddenly through the
greenery of her balcony. “Why don’t you come up?” he called down
I ran upstairs, and at the top lost courage again. I knocked very
lightly. She didn’t say come-in, but opened the door herself, and
stood on the threshold.
“Where is my slipper?”
“It is–I have–I want,” I stammered.
“Get it, and then we will have tea together, and chat.”
When I returned, she was engaged in making tea. I ceremoniously
placed the slipper on the table, and stood in the corner like a child
I noticed that her brows were slightly contracted, and there was an
expression of hardness and dominance about her lips which delighted
All of a sudden she broke out laughing.
“So–you are really in love–with me?”
“Yes, and I suffer more from it than you can imagine?”
“You suffer?” she laughed again.
I was revolted, mortified, annihilated, but all this was quite
“Why?” she continued, “I like you, with all my heart.”
She gave me her hand, and looked at me in the friendliest fashion.
“And will you be my wife?”
Wanda looked at me–how did she look at me? I think first of all
with surprise, and then with a tinge of irony.
“What has given you so much courage, all at once?”
“Yes courage, to ask anyone to be your wife, and me in particular?”
She lifted up the slipper. “Was it through a sudden friendship with
this? But joking aside. Do you really wish to marry me?”
“Well, Severin, that is a serious matter. I believe, you love me,
and I care for you too, and what is more important each of us finds
the other interesting. There is no danger that we would soon get
bored, but, you know, I am a fickle person, and just for that reason
I take marriage seriously. If I assume obligations, I want to be able
to meet them. But I am afraid–no–it would hurt you.”
“Please be perfectly frank with me,” I replied.
“Well then honestly, I don’t believe I could love a man longer than–”
She inclined her head gracefully to one side and mused.
“What do you imagine–a month perhaps.”
“Not even me?”
“Oh you–perhaps two.”
“Two months!” I exclaimed.
“Two months is very long.”
“You go beyond antiquity, madame.”
“You see, you cannot stand the truth.”
Wanda walked across the room and leaned back against the fireplace,
watching me and resting one of her arms on the mantelpiece.
“What shall I do with you?” she began anew.
“Whatever you wish,” I replied with resignation, “whatever will give
“How illogical!” she cried, “first you want to make me your wife,
and then you offer yourself to me as something to toy with.”
“Wanda–I love you.”
“Now we are back to the place where we started. You love me, and
want to make me your wife, but I don’t want to enter into a new
marriage, because I doubt the permanence of both my and your
“But if I am willing to take the risk with you?” I replied.
“But it also depends on whether I am willing to risk it with you,”
she said quietly. “I can easily imagine belonging to one man for my
entire life, but he would have to be a whole man, a man who would
dominate me, who would subjugate me by his inate strength, do you
understand? And every man–I know this very well–as soon as he falls
in love becomes weak, pliable, ridiculous. He puts himself into the
woman’s hands, kneels down before her. The only man whom I could love
permanently would be he before whom I should have to kneel. I’ve gotten
to like you so much, however, that I’ll try it with you.”
I fell down at her feet.
“For heaven’s sake, here you are kneeling already,” she said
mockingly. “You are making a good beginning.” When I had risen again
she continued, “I will give you a year’s time to win me, to convince
me that we are suited to each other, that we might live together. If
you succeed, I will become your wife, and a wife, Severin, who will
conscientiously and strictly perform all her duties. During this year
we will live as though we were married–”
My blood rose to my head.
In her eyes too there was a sudden flame–
“We will live together,” she continued, “share our daily life, so that
we may find out whether we are really fitted for each other. _I grant
you all the rights of a husband, of a lover, of a friend._ Are you
“I suppose, I’ll have to be?”
“You don’t have to.”
“Well then, I want to–”
“Splendid. That is how a man speaks. Here is my hand.”Share It