* * * * *
On my couch at night the fear of losing her and despair took such
powerful hold of me that they made a hero and a libertine of me. I
lighted the little red oil-lamp which hung in the corridor beneath
a saint’s image, and entered her bedroom, covering the light with one
The lioness had been hunted and driven until she was exhausted. She
had fallen asleep among her pillows, lying on her back, her hands
clenched, breathing heavily. A dream seemed to oppress her. I slowly
withdrew my hand, and let the red light fall full on her wonderful
But she did not awaken.
I gently set the lamp on the floor, sank down beside Wanda’s bed,
and rested my head on her soft, glowing arm.
She moved slightly, but even now did not awaken. I do not know how
long I lay thus in the middle of the night, turned as into a stone
by horrible torments.
Finally a severe trembling seized me, and I was able to cry. My
tears flowed over her arm. She quivered several times and finally sat
up; she brushed her hand across her eyes, and looked at me.
“Severin,” she exclaimed, more frightened than angry.
I was unable to reply.
“Severin,” she continued softly, “what is the matter? Are you ill?”
Her voice sounded so sympathetic, so kind, so full of love, that it
clutched my breast like red-hot tongs and I began to sob aloud.
“Severin,” she began anew. “My poor unhappy friend.” Her hand gently
stroked my hair. “I am sorry, very sorry for you; but I can’t help
you; with the best intention in the world I know of nothing that
would cure you.”
“Oh, Wanda, must it be?” I moaned in my agony.
“What, Severin? What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you love me any more?” I continued. “Haven’t you even a
little bit of pity for me? Has the beautiful stranger taken complete
possession of you?”
“I cannot lie,” she replied softly after a short pause. “He has made
an impression on me which I haven’t yet been able to analyse, further
than that I suffer and tremble beneath it. It is an impression of the
sort I have met with in the works of poets or on the stage, but I
always thought it was a figment of the imagination. Oh, he is a man
like a lion, strong and beautiful and yet gentle, not brutal like the
men of our northern world. I am sorry for you, Severin, I am; but I
must possess him. What am I saying? I must give myself to him, if he
will have me.”
“Consider your reputation, Wanda, which so far has remained
spotless,” I exclaimed, “even if I no longer mean anything to you.”
“I am considering it,” she replied, “I intend to be strong, as long
as it is possible, I want–” she buried her head shyly in the pillows
–“I want to become his wife–if he will have me.”
“Wanda,” I cried, seized again by that mortal fear, which always
robs me of my breath, makes me lose possession of myself, “you want
to be his wife, belong to him for always. Oh! Do not drive me away!
He does not love you–”
“Who says that?” she exclaimed, flaring up.
“He does not love you,” I went on passionately, “but I love you, I
adore you, I am your slave, I let you tread me underfoot, I want to
carry you on my arms through life.”
“Who says that he doesn’t love me?” she interrupted vehemently.
“Oh! be mine,” I replied, “be mine! I cannot exist, cannot live
without you. Have mercy on me, Wanda, have mercy!”
She looked at me again, and her face had her cold heartless
expression, her evil smile.
“You say he doesn’t love me,” she said, scornfully. “Very well then,
get what consolation you can out of it.”
With this she turned over on the other side, and contemptuously
showed me her back.
“Good God, are you a woman without flesh or blood, haven’t you a
heart as well as I!” I cried, while my breast heaved convulsively.
“You know what I am,” she replied, coldly. “I am a woman of stone,
Venus in Furs, your ideal, kneel down, and pray to me.”
“Wanda!” I implored, “mercy!”
She began to laugh. I buried my face in her pillows. Pain had
loosened the floodgates of my tears and I let them flow.
For a long time silence reigned, then Wanda slowly raised herself.
“You bore me,” she began.
“I am tired, let me go to sleep.”
“Mercy,” I implored. “Do not drive me away. No man, no one, will
love you as I do.”
“Let me go to sleep,”–she turned her back to me again.
I leaped up, and snatched the poinard, which hung beside her bed,
from its sheath, and placed its point against my breast.
“I shall kill myself here before your eyes,” I murmured dully.
“Do what you please,” Wanda replied with complete indifference. “But
let me go to sleep.” She yawned aloud. “I am very sleepy.”
For a moment I stood as if petrified. Then I began to laugh and cry
at the same time. Finally I placed the poinard in my belt, and again
fell on my knees before her.
“Wanda, listen to me, only for a few moments,” I begged.
“I want to go to sleep! Don’t you hear!” she cried, leaping angrily
out of bed and pushing me away with her foot. “You forget that I am
your mistress?” When I didn’t budge, she seized the whip and struck
me. I rose; she struck me again–this time right in the face.
With clenched fist held heavenward, I left her bedroom with a sudden
resolve. She tossed the whip aside, and broke out into clear
laughter. I can imagine that my theatrical attitude must have been