* * * * *
Toward evening she asked me to go to the post-office and mail her
letters myself. I took her carriage, and was back within an hour.
“Mistress has asked for you,” said the negress, with a grin, as I
ascended the wide marble stairs.
“Has anyone been here?”
“No one,” she replied, crouching down on the steps like a black cat.
I slowly passed through the drawing-room, and then stood before her
Why does my heart beat so? Am I not perfectly happy?
Opening the door softly, I draw back the portiere. Wanda is lying on
the ottoman, and does not seem to notice me. How beautiful she looks,
in her silver-gray dress, which fits closely, and while displaying
in tell-tale fashion her splendid figure, leaves her wonderful bust
and arms bare.
Her hair is interwoven with, and held up by a black velvet ribbon.
A mighty fire is burning in the fire-place, the hanging lamp casts
a reddish glow, and the whole room is as if drowned in blood.
“Wanda,” I said at last.
“Oh Severin,” she cried out joyously. “I have been impatiently
waiting for you.” She leaped up, and folded me in her arms. She sat
down again on the rich cushions and tried to draw me down to her
side, but I softly slid down to her feet and placed my head in her
“Do you know I am very much in love with you to-day?” she whispered,
brushing a few stray hairs from my forehead and kissing my eyes.
“How beautiful your eyes are, I have always loved them as the best
of you, but to-day they fairly intoxicate me. I am all–” She
extended her magnificent limbs and tenderly looked at me from beneath
her red lashes.
“And you–you are cold–you hold me like a block of wood; wait, I’ll
stir you with the fire of love,” she said, and again clung fawningly
and caressingly to my lips.
“I no longer please you; I suppose I’ll have to be cruel to you
again, evidently I have been too kind to you to-day. Do you know, you
little fool, what I shall do, I shall whip you for a while–”
“I want to.”
“Come, let me bind you,” she continued, and ran gaily through the
room. “I want to see you very much in love, do you understand? Here
are the ropes. I wonder if I can still do it?”
She began with fettering my feet and then she tied my hands behind
my back, pinioning my arms like those of a prisoner.
“So,” she said, with gay eagerness. “Can you still move?”
She then tied a noose in a stout rope, threw it over my head, and
let it slip down as far as the hips. She drew it tight, and bound me
to a pillar.
A curious tremor seized me at that moment.
“I have a feeling as if I were about to be executed,” I said with a
“Well, you shall have a thorough punishment to-day,” exclaimed Wanda.
“But put on your fur-jacket, please,” I said.
“I shall gladly give you that pleasure,” she replied. She got her
_kazabaika_, and put it on. Then she stood in front of me with
her arms folded across her chest, and looked at me out of half-closed
“Do you remember the story of the ox of Dionysius?” she asked.
“I remember it only vaguely, what about it?”
“A courtier invented a new implement of torture for the Tyrant of
Syracuse. It was an iron ox in which those condemned to death were
to be shut, and then pushed into a mighty furnace.
“As soon as the iron ox began to get hot, and the condemned person
began to cry out in his torment, his wails sounded like the bellowing
of an ox.
“Dionysius nodded graciously to the inventor, and to put his
invention to an immediate test had him shut up in the iron ox.
“It is a very instructive story.
“It was you who innoculated me with selfishness, pride, and cruelty,
and _you shall be their first victim._ I now literally enjoy having a
human being that thinks and feels and desires like myself in my power;
I love to abuse a man who is stronger in intelligence and body than I,
especially a man who loves me.
“Do you still love me?”
“Even to madness,” I exclaimed.
“So much the better,” she replied, “and so much the more will you
enjoy what I am about to do with you now.”
“What is the matter with you?” I asked. “I don’t understand you,
there is a gleam of real cruelty in your eyes to-day, and you are
strangely beautiful–completely _Venus in Furs.”_
Without replying Wanda placed her arms around my neck and kissed me.
I was again seized by my fanatical passion.
“Where is the whip?” I asked.
Wanda laughed, and withdrew a couple of steps.
“You really insist upon being punished?” she exclaimed, proudly
tossing back her head.
Suddenly Wanda’s face was completely transformed. It was as if
disfigured by rage; for a moment she seemed even ugly to me.
“Very well, then _you_ whip him!” she called loudly.
At the same instant the beautiful Greek stuck his head of black
curls through the curtains of her four-poster bed. At first I was
speechless, petrified. There was a horribly comic element in the
situation. I would have laughed aloud, had not my position been at
the same time so terribly cruel and humiliating.
It went beyond anything I had imagined. A cold shudder ran down my
back, when my rival stepped from the bed in his riding boots, his
tight-fitting white breeches, and his short velvet jacket, and I saw
his athletic limbs.
“You are indeed cruel,” he said, turning to Wanda.
“Only inordinately fond of pleasure,” she replied with a wild sort
of humor. “Pleasure alone lends value to existence; whoever enjoys
does not easily part from life, whoever suffers or is needy meets
death like a friend.
“But whoever wants to enjoy must take life gaily in the sense of the
ancient world; he dare not hesitate to enjoy at the expense of others;
he must never feel pity; he must be ready to harness others to his
carriage or his plough as though they were animals. He must know how to
make slaves of men who feel and would enjoy as he does, and use them for
his service and pleasure without remorse. It is not his affair whether
they like it, or whether they go to rack and ruin. He must always
remember this, that if they had him in their power, as he has them they
would act in exactly the same way, and he would have to pay for their
pleasure with his sweat and blood and soul. That was the world of the
ancients: pleasure and cruelty, liberty and slavery went hand in hand.
People who want to live like the gods of Olympus must of necessity have
slaves whom they can toss into their fish-ponds, and gladiators who will
do battle, the while they banquet, and they must not mind if by chance a
bit of blood bespatters them.”
Her words brought back my complete self-possession.
“Unloosen me!” I exclaimed angrily.
“Aren’t you my slave, my property?” replied Wanda. “Do you want me
to show you the agreement?”
“Untie me!” I threatened, “otherwise–” I tugged at the ropes.
“Can he tear himself free?” she asked. “He has threatened to kill me.”
“Be entirely at ease,” said the Greek, testing my fetters.
“I shall call for help,” I began again.
“No one will hear you,” replied Wanda, “and no one will hinder me
from abusing your most sacred emotions or playing a frivolous game
with you.” she continued, repeating with satanic mockery phrases from
my letter to her.
“Do you think I am at this moment merely cruel and merciless, or am
I also about to become cheap? What? Do you still love me, or do you
already hate and despise me? Here is the whip–” She handed it to the
Greek who quickly stepped closer.
“Don’t you dare!” I exclaimed, trembling with indignation, “I won’t
“Oh, because I don’t wear furs,” the Greek replied with an ironical
smile, and he took his short sable from the bed.
“You are adorable,” exclaimed Wanda, kissing him, and helping him
into his furs.
“May I really whip him?” he asked.
“Do with him what you please,” replied Wanda.
“Beast!” I exclaimed, utterly revolted.
The Greek fixed his cold tigerish look upon me and tried out the
whip. His muscles swelled when he drew back his arms, and made the
whip hiss through the air. I was bound like Marsyas while Apollo was
getting ready to flay me.
My look wandered about the room and remained fixed on the ceiling,
where Samson, lying at Delilah’s feet, was about to have his eyes put
out by the Philistines. The picture at that moment seemed to me like
a symbol, an eternal parable of passion and lust, of the love of man
for woman. “Each one of us in the end is a Samson,” I thought, “and
ultimately for better or worse is betrayed by the woman he loves,
whether he wears an ordinary coat or sables.”
“Now watch me break him in,” said the Greek. He showed his teeth,
and his face acquired the blood-thirsty expression, which startled
me the first time I saw him.
And he began to apply the lash–so mercilessly, with such frightful
force that I quivered under each blow, and began to tremble all over
with pain. Tears rolled down over my cheeks. In the meantime Wanda
lay on the ottoman in her fur-jacket, supporting herself on her arm;
she looked on with cruel curiosity, and was convulsed with laughter.
The sensation of being whipped by a successful rival before the eyes
of an adored woman cannot be described. I almost went mad with shame
What was most humiliating was that at first I felt a certain wild,
supersensual stimulation under Apollo’s whip and the cruel laughter
of my Venus, no matter how horrible my position was. But Apollo
whipped on and on, blow after blow, until I forgot all about poetry,
and finally gritted my teeth in impotent rage, and cursed my wild
dreams, woman, and love.
All of a sudden I saw with horrible clarity whither blind passion
and lust have led man, ever since Holofernes and Agamemnon–into a
blind alley, into the net of woman’s treachery, into misery, slavery,
It was as though I were awakening from a dream.
Blood was already flowing under the whip. I wound like a worm that
is trodden on, but he whipped on without mercy, and she continued to
laugh without mercy. In the meantime she locked her packed trunk and
slipped into her travelling furs, and was still laughing, when she
went downstairs on his arm and entered the carriage.
Then everything was silent for a moment.
I listened breathlessly.
The carriage door slammed, the horse began to pull–the rolling of
the carriage for a short time–then all was over.