* * * * *
Wanda drives in the Cascine without me, and goes to the theater
without me; she receives company, and the negress serves her. No one
asks after me. I stray about the garden, irresolutely, like an animal
that has lost its master.
Lying among the bushes, I watch a couple of sparrows, fighting over
Suddenly I hear the swish of a woman’s dress.
Wanda approaches in a gown of dark silk, modestly closed up to the
neck; the Greek is with her. They are in an eager discussion, but I
cannot as yet understand a word of what they are saying. He stamps
his foot so that the gravel scatters about in all directions, and he
lashes the air with his riding whip. Wanda startles.
Is she afraid that he will strike her?
Have they gone that far?
He has left her, she calls him; he does not hear her, does not want
to hear her.
Wanda sadly lowers her head, and then sits down on the nearest
stone-bench. She sits for a long time, lost in thought. I watch her with
a sort of malevolent pleasure, finally I pull myself together by sheer
force of will, and ironically step before her. She startles, and
trembles all over.
“I come to wish you happiness,” I said, bowing, “I see, my dear
lady, too, has found a master.”
“Yes, thank God!” she exclaimed, “not a new slave, I have had enough
of them. A master! Woman needs a master, and she adores him.”
“You adore him, Wanda?” I cried, “this brutal person–”
“Yes, I love him, as I have never loved any one else.”
“Wanda!” I clenched my fists, but tears already filled my eyes, and
I was seized by the delirium of passion, as by a sweet madness. “Very
well, take him as your husband, let him be your master, but I want
to remain your slave, as long as I live.”
“You want to remain my slave, even then?” she said, “that would be
interesting, but I am afraid he wouldn’t permit it.”
“Yes, he is already jealous of you,” she exclaimed, “he, of you! He
demanded that I dismiss you immediately, and when I told him who you
“You told him–” I repeated, thunderstruck.
“I told him everything,” she replied, “our whole story, all your
queerness, everything–and he, instead of being amused, grew angry,
and stamped his foot.”
“And threatened to strike you?”
Wanda looked to the ground, and remained silent.
“Yes, indeed,” I said with mocking bitterness, “you are afraid of
him, Wanda!” I threw myself down at her feet, and in my agitation
embraced her knees. “I don’t want anything of you, except to be your
slave, to be always near you! I will be your dog-”
“Do you know, you bore me?” said Wanda, indifferently.
I leaped up. Everything within me was seething.
“You are now no longer cruel, but cheap,” I said, clearly and
distinctly, accentuating every word.
“You have already written that in your letter,” Wanda replied, with
a proud shrug of the shoulders. “A man of brains should never repeat
“The way you are treating me,” I broke out, “what would you call it?”
“I might punish you,” she replied ironically, “but I prefer this
time to reply with reasons instead of lashes. You have no right to
accuse me. Haven’t I always been honest with you? Haven’t I warned
you more than once? Didn’t I love you with all my heart, even
passionately, and did I conceal the fact from you, that it was
dangerous to give yourself into my power, to abase yourself before
me, and that I want to be dominated? But you wished to be my
plaything, my slave! You found the highest pleasure in feeling the
foot, the whip of an arrogant, cruel woman. What do you want now?
“Dangerous potentialities were slumbering in me, but you were the
first to awaken them. If I now take pleasure in torturing you,
abusing you, it is your fault; you have made of me what I now am, and
now you are even unmanly, weak, and miserable enough to accuse me.”
“Yes, I am guilty,” I said, “but haven’t I suffered because of it?
Let us put an end now to the cruel game.”
“That is my wish, too,” she replied with a curious deceitful look.
“Wanda!” I exclaimed violently, “don’t drive me to extremes; you see
that I am a man again.”
“A fire of straw,” she replied, “which makes a lot of stir for a
moment, and goes out as quickly as it flared up. You imagine you can
intimidate me, and you only make yourself ridiculous. Had you been
the man I first thought you were, serious, reserved, stern, I would
have loved you faithfully, and become your wife. Woman demands that
she can look up to a man, but one like you who voluntarily places his
neck under her foot, she uses as a welcome plaything, only to toss
it aside when she is tired of it.”
“Try to toss me aside,” I said, jeeringly. “Some toys are dangerous.”
“Don’t challenge me,” exclaimed Wanda. Her eyes began to flash, and
a flush entered her cheeks.
“If you won’t be mine now,” I continued, with a voice stifled with
rage, “no one else shall possess you either.”
“What play is this from?” she mocked, seizing me by the breast. She
was pale with anger at this moment. “Don’t challenge me,” she
continued, “I am not cruel, but I don’t know whether I may not become
so and whether then there will be any bounds.”
“What worse can you do, than to make your lover, your husband?” I
exclaimed, more and more enraged.
“I might make you _his_ slave,” she replied quickly, “are you not in
my power? Haven’t I the agreement? But, of course, you will merely
take pleasure in it, if I have you bound, and say to him.
“Do with him what you please.”
“Woman, are you mad!” I cried.
“I am entirely rational,” she said, calmly. “I warn you for the last
time. Don’t offer any resistance, one who has gone as far as I have
gone might easily go still further. I feel a sort of hatred for you,
and would find a real joy in seeing him beat you to death; I am still
restraining myself, but–”
Scarcely master of myself any longer, I seized her by the wrist and
forced her to the ground, so that she lay on her knees before me.
“Severin!” she cried. Rage and terror were painted on her face.
“I shall kill you if you marry him,” I threatened; the words came
hoarsely and dully from my breast. “You are mine, I won’t let you go,
I love you too much.” Then I clutched her and pressed her close to
me; my right hand involuntarily seized the dagger which I still had
in my belt.
Wanda fixed a large, calm, incomprehensible look on me.
“I like you that way,” she said, carelessly. “Now you are a man, and
at this moment I know I still love you.”
“Wanda,” I wept with rapture, and bent down over her, covering her
dear face with kisses, and she, suddenly breaking into a loud gay
laugh, said, “Have you finished with your ideal now, are you
satisfied with me?”
“You mean?” I stammered, “that you weren’t serious?”
“I am very serious,” she gaily continued. “I love you, only you, and
you–you foolish, little man, didn’t know that everything was only
make-believe and play-acting. How hard it often was for me to strike
you with the whip, when I would have rather taken your head and
covered it with kisses. But now we are through with that, aren’t we?
I have played my cruel role better than you expected, and now you
will be satisfied with my being a good, little wife who isn’t
altogether unattractive. Isn’t that so? We will live like rational
“You will marry me!” I cried, overflowing with happiness.
“Yes–marry you–you dear, darling man,” whispered Wanda, kissing my
I drew her up to my breast.
“Now, you are no longer Gregor, my slave,” said she, “but Severin,
the dear man I love–”
“And he–you don’t love him?” I asked in agitation.
“How could you imagine my loving a man of his brutal type? You were
blind to everything, I was really afraid for you.”
“I almost killed myself for your sake.”
“Really?” she cried, “ah, I still tremble at the thought, that you
were already in the Arno.”
“But you saved me,” I replied, tenderly. “You hovered over the
waters and smiled, and your smile called me back to life.”