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Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

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"Seriously, no?"

"Whip me, I beg you, it is a joy to me."

"Yes, because you know very well that it isn't serious," she
replied, "because I haven't the heart to hurt you. This brutal game
goes against my grain. Were I really the woman who beats her slaves
you would be horrified."

"No, Wanda," I replied, "I love you more than myself; I am devoted
to you for death and life. In all seriousness, you can do with me
whatever you will, whatever your caprice suggests."


"Tread me underfoot!" I exclaimed, and flung myself face to the
floor before her.

"I hate all this play-acting," said Wanda impatiently.

"Well, then maltreat me seriously."

An uncanny pause.

"Severin, I warn you for the last time," began Wanda.

"If you love me, be cruel towards me," I pleaded with upraised eyes.

"If I love you," repeated Wanda. "Very well!" She stepped back and
looked at me with a sombre smile. _"Be then my slave, and know what
it means to be delivered into the hands of a woman."_ And at the
same moment she gave me a kick.

"How do you like that, slave?"

Then she flourished the whip.

"Get up!"

I was about to rise.

"Not that way," she commanded, "on your knees."

I obeyed, and she began to apply the lash.

The blows fell rapidly and powerfully on my back and arms. Each one
cut into my flesh and burned there, but the pains enraptured me. They
came from her whom I adored, and for whom I was ready at any hour to
lay down my life.

She stopped. "I am beginning to enjoy it," she said, "but enough for
to-day. I am beginning to feel a demonic curiosity to see how far
your strength goes. I take a cruel joy in seeing you tremble and
writhe beneath my whip, and in hearing your groans and wails; I want
to go on whipping without pity until you beg for mercy, until you
lose your senses. You have awakened dangerous elements in my being.
But now get up."

I seized her hand to press it to my lips.

"What impudence."

She shoved me away with her foot.

"Out of my sight, slave!"

* * * * *

After having spent a feverish night filled with confused dreams, I
awoke. Dawn was just beginning to break.

How much of what was hovering in my memory was true; what had I
actually experienced and what had I dreamed? That I had been whipped
was certain. I can still feel each blow, and count the burning red
stripes on my body. And _she_ whipped me. Now I know everything.

My dream has become truth. How does it make me feel? Am I
disappointed in the realization of my dream?

No, I am merely somewhat tired, but her cruelty has enraptured me.
Oh, how I love her, adore her! All this cannot express in the
remotest way my feeling for her, my complete devotion to her. What
happiness to be her slave!

* * * * *

She calls to me from her balcony. I hurry upstairs. She is standing
on the threshold, holding out her hand in friendly fashion. "I am
ashamed of myself," she says, while I embrace her, and she hides her
head against my breast.


"Please try to forget the ugly scene of yesterday," she said with
quivering voice, "I have fulfilled your mad wish, now let us be
reasonable and happy and love each other, and in a year I will be
your wife."

"My mistress," I exclaimed, "and I your slave!"

"Not another word of slavery, cruelty, or the whip," interrupted
Wanda. "I shall not grant you any of those favors, none except
wearing my fur-jacket; come and help me into it."

* * * * *

The little bronze clock on which stood a cupid who had just shot his
bolt struck midnight.

I rose, and wanted to leave.

Wanda said nothing, but embraced me and drew me back on the ottoman.
She began to kiss me anew, and this silent language was so
comprehensible, so convincing--

And it told me more than I dared to understand.

A languid abandonment pervaded Wanda's entire being. What a
voluptuous softness there was in the gloaming of her half-closed
eyes, in the red flood of her hair which shimmered faintly under the
white powder, in the red and white satin which crackled about her
with every movement, in the swelling ermine of the _kazabaika_
in which she carelessly nestled.

"Please," I stammered, "but you will be angry with me."

"Do with me what you will," she whispered.

"Well, then whip me, or I shall go mad."

"Haven't I forbidden you," said Wanda sternly, "but you are

"Oh, I am so terribly in love." I had sunken on my knees, and was
burying my glowing face in her lap.

"I really believe," said Wanda thoughtfully, "that your madness is
nothing but a demonic, unsatisfied sensuality. _Our unnatural way
of life must generate such illnesses._ Were you less virtuous, you
would be completely sane."

"Well then, make me sane," I murmured. My hands were running through
her hair and playing tremblingly with the gleaming fur, which rose
and fell like a moonlit wave upon her heaving bosom, and drove all
my senses into confusion.

And I kissed her. No, she kissed me savagely, pitilessly, as if she
wanted to slay me with her kisses. I was as in a delirium, and had
long since lost my reason, but now I, too, was breathless. I sought
to free myself.

"What is the matter?" asked Wanda.

"I am suffering agonies."

"You are suffering--" she broke out into a loud amused laughter.

"You laugh!" I moaned, "have you no idea--"

She was serious all of a sudden. She raised my head in her hands,
and with a violent gesture drew me to her breast.

"Wanda," I stammered.

"Of course, you enjoy suffering," she said, and laughed again, "but
wait, I'll bring you to your senses."

"No, I will no longer ask," I exclaimed, "whether you want to belong
to me for always or for only a brief moment of intoxication. I want
to drain my happiness to the full. You are mine now, and I would
rather lose you than never to have had you."

"Now you are sensible," she said. She kissed me again with her
murderous lips. I tore the ermine apart and the covering of lace and
her naked breast surged against mine.

Then my senses left me--

The first thing I remember is the moment when I saw blood dripping
from my hand, and she asked apathetically: "Did you scratch me?"

"No, I believe, I have bitten you."

* * * * *

It is strange how every relation in life assumes a different face as
soon as a new person enters.

We spent marvellous days together; we visited the mountains and
lakes, we read together, and I completed Wanda's portrait. And how
we loved one another, how beautiful her smiling face was!

Then a friend of hers arrived, a divorced woman somewhat older, more
experienced, and less scrupulous than Wanda. Her influence is already
making itself felt in every direction.

Wanda wrinkles her brows, and displays a certain impatience with me.

Has she ceased loving me?

* * * * *

For almost a fortnight this unbearable restraint has lain upon us.
Her friend lives with her, and we are never alone. A circle of men
surrounds the young women. With my seriousness and melancholy I am
playing an absurd role as lover. Wanda treats me like a stranger.

To-day, while out walking, she staid behind with me. I saw that this
was done intentionally, and I rejoiced. But what did she tell me?

"My friend doesn't understand how I can love you. She doesn't think
you either handsome or particularly attractive otherwise. She is
telling me from morning till night about the glamour of the frivolous
life in the capital, hinting at the advantages to which I could lay
claim, the large parties which I would find there, and the
distinguished and handsome admirers which I would attract. But of
what use is all this, since it happens that I love you."

For a moment I lost my breath, then I said: "I have no wish to stand
in the way of your happiness, Wanda. Do not consider me." Then I
raised my hat, and let her go ahead. She looked at me surprised, but
did not answer a syllable.

When by chance I happened to be close to her on the way back, she
secretly pressed my hand. Her glance was so radiant, so full of
promised happiness, that in a moment all the torments of these days
were forgotten and all their wounds healed.

I now am aware again of how much I love her.

* * * * *

"My friend has complained about you," said Wanda to-day.

"Perhaps she feels that I despise her."

"But why do you despise her, you foolish young man?" exclaimed
Wanda, pulling my ears with both hands.

"Because she is a hypocrite," I said. "I respect only a woman who is
actually virtuous, or who openly lives for pleasure's sake."

"Like me, for instance," replied Wanda jestingly, "but you see,
child, a woman can only do that in the rarest cases. She can neither
be as gaily sensual, nor as spiritually free as man; her state is
always a mixture of the sensual and spiritual. Her heart desires to
enchain man permanently, while she herself is ever subject to the
desire for change. The result is a conflict, and thus usually against
her wishes lies and deception enter into her actions and personality
and corrupt her character."

"Certainly that is true," I said. "The transcendental character with
which woman wants to stamp love leads her to deception."

"But the world likewise demands it," Wanda interrupted. "Look at
this woman. She has a husband and a lover in Lemberg and has found
a new admirer here. She deceives all three and yet is honored by all
and respected by the world."

"I don't care," I exclaimed, "but she is to leave you alone; she
treats you like an article of commerce."

"Why not?" the beautiful woman interrupted vivaciously. "Every woman
has the instinct or desire to draw advantage out of her attractions,
and much is to be said for giving one's self without love or pleasure
because if you do it in cold blood, you can reap profit to best

"Wanda, what are you saying?"

"Why not?" she said, "and take note of what I am about to say to you.
_Never feel secure with the woman you love,_ for there are more
dangers in woman's nature than you imagine. Women are neither as
_good_ as their admirers and defenders maintain, nor as _bad_ as their
enemies make them out to be. _Woman's character is characterlessness._
The best woman will momentarily go down into the mire, and the worst
unexpectedly rises to deeds of greatness and goodness and puts to
shame those that despise her. No woman is so good or so bad, but that
at any moment she is capable of the most diabolical as well as of the
most divine, of the filthiest as well as of the purest, thoughts,
emotions, and actions. In spite of all the advances of civilization,
woman has remained as she came out of the hand of nature. She has the
nature of a savage, who is faithful or faithless, magnanimous or
cruel, according to the impulse that dominates at the moment.
Throughout history it has always been a serious deep culture which has
produced moral character. Man even when he is selfish or evil always
follows _principles,_ woman never follows anything but _impulses._
Don't ever forget that, and never feel secure with the woman you

* * * * *

Her friend has left. At last an evening alone with her again. It
seems as if Wanda had saved up all the love, which had been kept from
her, for this superlative evening; never had she been so kind, so
near, so full of tenderness.

What happiness to cling to her lips, and to die away in her arms! In
a state of relaxation and wholly mine, her head rests against my
breast, and with drunken rapture our eyes seek each other.

I cannot yet believe, comprehend, that this woman is mine, wholly

"She is right on one point," Wanda began, without moving, without
opening her eyes, as if she were asleep.


She remained silent.

"Your friend?"

She nodded. "Yes, she is right, you are not a man, you are a
dreamer, a charming cavalier, and you certainly would be a priceless
slave, but I cannot imagine you as husband."

I was frightened.

"What is the matter? You are trembling?"

"I tremble at the thought of how easily I might lose you," I replied.

"Are you made less happy now, because of this?" she replied. "Does
it rob you of any of your joys, that I have belonged to another
before I did to you, that others after you will possess me, and would
you enjoy less if another were made happy simultaneously with you?"


"You see," she continued, "that would be a way out. You won't ever
lose me then. I care deeply for you and intellectually we are
harmonious, and I should like to live with you always, if in addition
to you I might have--"

"What an idea," I cried. "You fill me with a sort of horror."

"Do you love me any the less?"

"On the contrary."

Wanda had raised herself on her left arm. "I believe," she said,
"that to hold a man permanently, it is vitally important not to be
faithful to him. What honest woman has ever been as devotedly loved
as a hetaira?"

"There is a painful stimulus in the unfaithfulness of a beloved
woman. It is the highest kind of ecstacy."

"For you, too?" Wanda asked quickly.

"For me, too."

"And if I should give you that pleasure," Wanda exclaimed mockingly.

"I shall suffer terrible agonies, but I shall adore you the more,"
I replied. "But you would never deceive me, you would have the daemonic
greatness of saying to me: I shall love no one but you, but I shall
make happy whoever pleases me."

Wanda shook her head. "I don't like deception, I am honest, but what
man exists who can support the burden of truth. Were I say to you:
this serene, sensual life, this paganism is my ideal, would you be
strong enough to bear it?"

"Certainly. I could endure anything so as not to lose you. I feel
how little I really mean to you."

"But Severin--"

"But it is so," said I, "and just for that reason--"

"For that reason you would--" she smiled roguishly--"have I guessed

"Be your slave!" I exclaimed. "Be your unrestricted property,
without a will of my own, of which you could dispose as you wished,
and which would therefore never be a burden to you. While you drink
life at its fullness, while surrounded by luxury, you enjoy the
serene happiness and Olympian love, I want to be your servant, put
on and take off your shoes."

"You really aren't so far from wrong," replied Wanda, "for only as
my slave could you endure my loving others. Furthermore the freedom
of enjoyment of the ancient world is unthinkable without slavery. It
must give one a feeling of like unto a god to see a man kneel before
one and tremble. I want a slave, do you hear, Severin?"

"Am I not your slave?"

"Then listen to me," said Wanda excitedly, seizing my hand. "I want
to be yours, as long as I love you."

"A month?"

"Perhaps, even two."

"And then?"

"Then you become my slave."

"And you?"

"I? Why do you ask? I am a goddess and sometimes I descend from my
Olympian heights to you, softly, very softly, and secretly.

"But what does all this mean," said Wanda, resting her head in both
hands with her gaze lost in the distance, "a golden fancy which never
can become true." An uncanny brooding melancholy seemed shed over her
entire being; I have never seen her like that.

"Why unachievable?" I began.

"Because slavery doesn't exist any longer."

"Then we will go to a country where it still exists, to the Orient,
to Turkey," I said eagerly.

"You would--Severin--in all seriousness," Wanda replied. Her eyes

"Yes, in all seriousness, I want to be your slave," I continued. "I
want your power over me to be sanctified by law; I want my life to
be in your hands, I want nothing that could protect or save me from
you. Oh, what a voluptuous joy when once I feel myself entirely dependent
upon your absolute will, your whim, at your beck and call. And then
what happiness, when at some time you deign to be gracious, and the
slave may kiss the lips which mean life and death to him." I knelt
down, and leaned my burning forehead against her knee.

"You are talking as in a fever," said Wanda agitatedly, "and you
really love me so endlessly." She held me to her breast, and covered
me with kisses.

"You really want it?"

"I swear to you now by God and my honor, that I shall be your slave,
wherever and whenever you wish it, as soon as you command," I
exclaimed, hardly master of myself.

"And if I take you at your word?" said Wanda.

"Please do!"

"All this appeals to me," she said then. "It is different from
anything else--to know that a man who worships me, and whom I love
with all my heart, is so wholly mine, dependent on my will and
caprice, my possession and slave, while I--"

She looked strangely at me.

"If I should become frightfully frivolous you are to blame," she
continued. "It almost seems as if you were afraid of me already, but
you have sworn."

"And I shall keep my oath."

"I shall see to that," she replied. "I am beginning to enjoy it,
and, heaven help me, we won't stick to fancies now. You shall become
my slave, and I--I shall try to be _Venus in Furs_."

* * * * *

I thought that at last I knew this woman, understood her, and now I
see I have to begin at the very beginning again. Only a little while
ago her reaction to my dreams was violently hostile, and now she
tries to carry them into execution with the soberest seriousness.

She has drawn up a contract according to which I give my word of
honor and agree under oath to be her slave, as long as she wishes.

With her arm around my neck she reads this, unprecedented,
incredible document to me. The end of each sentence she punctuates
with a kiss.

"But all the obligations in the contract are on my side," I said,
teasing her.

"Of course," she replied with great seriousness, "you cease to be my
lover, and consequently I am released from all duties and obligations
towards you. You will have to look upon my favors as pure
benevolence. You no longer have any rights, and no longer can lay
claim to any. There can be no limit to my power over you. Remember,
that you won't be much better than a dog, or some inanimate object.
You will be mine, my plaything, which I can break to pieces, whenever
I want an hour's amusement. You are nothing, I am everything. Do you
understand?" She laughed and kissed me again, and yet a sort of cold
shiver ran through me.

"Won't you allow me a few conditions--" I began.

"Conditions?" She contracted her forehead. "Ah! You are afraid
already, or perhaps you regret, but it is too late now. You have
sworn, I have your word of honor. But let me hear them."

"First of all I should like to have it included in our contract,
that you will never completely leave me, and then that you will never
give me over to the mercies of any of your admirers--"

"But Severin," exclaimed Wanda with her voice full of emotion and
with tears in her eyes, "how can you imagine that I--and you, a man
who loves me so absolutely, who puts himself so entirely in my power--"
She halted.

"No, no!" I said, covering her hands with kisses. "I don't fear
anything from you that might dishonor me. Forgive me the ugly

Wanda smiled happily, leaned her cheek against mine, and seemed to

"You have forgotten something," she whispered coquettishly, "the
most important thing!"

"A condition?"

"Yes, that I must always wear my furs," exclaimed Wanda. "But I
promise you I'll do that anyhow because they give me a despotic
feeling. And I shall be very cruel to you, do you understand?"

"Shall I sign the contract?" I asked.

"Not yet," said Wanda. "I shall first add your conditions, and the
actual signing won't occur until the proper time and place."

"In Constantinople?"

"No. I have thought things over. What special value would there be
in owning a slave where everyone owns slaves. What I want is to
_have a slave, I alone,_ here in our civilized sober, Philistine
world, and a slave who submits helplessly to my power solely on
account of my beauty and personality, not because of law, of property
rights, or compulsions. This attracts me. But at any rate we will go
to a country where we are not known and where you can appear before
the world as my servant without embarrassment. Perhaps to Italy, to
Rome or Naples."

* * * * *

We were sitting on Wanda's ottoman. She wore her ermine jacket, her
hair was loose and fell like a lion's mane down her back. She clung
to my lips, drawing my soul from my body. My head whirled, my blood
began to seethe, my heart beat violently against hers.

"I want to be absolutely in your power, Wanda," I exclaimed
suddenly, seized by that frenzy of passion when I can scarcely think
clearly or decide freely. "I want to put myself absolutely at your
mercy for good or evil without any condition, without any limit to
your power."

While saying this I had slipped from the ottoman, and lay at her
feet looking up at her with drunken eyes.

"How beautiful you now are," she exclaimed, "your eyes half-broken
in ecstacy fill me with joy, carry me away. How wonderful your look
would be if you were being beaten to death, in the extreme agony. You
have the eye of a martyr."

* * * * *

Sometimes, nevertheless, I have an uneasy feeling about placing
myself so absolutely, so unconditionally into a woman's hands.
Suppose she did abuse my passion, her power?

Well, then I would experience what has occupied my imagination since
my childhood, what has always given me the feeling of seductive
terror. A foolish apprehension! It will be a wanton game she will play
with me, nothing more. She loves me, and she is good, a noble
personality, incapable of a breach of faith. But it lies in her hands
--_if she wants to she can._ What a temptation in this doubt, this

Now I understand Manon l'Escault and the poor chevalier, who, even
in the pillory, while she was another man's mistress, still adored

Love knows no virtue, no profit; it loves and forgives and suffers
everything, because it must. It is not our judgment that leads us;
it is neither the advantages nor the faults which we discover, that
make us abandon ourselves, or that repel us.

It is a sweet, soft, enigmatic power that drives us on. We cease to
think, to feel, to will; we let ourselves be carried away by it, and
ask not whither?

* * * * *

A Russian prince made his first appearance today on the promenade.
He aroused general interest on account of his athletic figure,
magnificent face, and splendid bearing. The women particularly gaped
at him as though he were a wild animal, but he went his way gloomily
without paying attention to any one. He was accompanied by two
servants, one a negro, completely dressed in red satin, and the other
a Circassian in his full gleaming uniform. Suddenly he saw Wanda, and
fixed his cold piercing look upon her; he even turned his head after
her, and when she had passed, he stood still and followed her with
his eyes.

And she--she veritably devoured him with her radiant green eyes--and
did everything possible to meet him again.

The cunning coquetry with which she walked, moved, and looked at
him, almost stifled me. On the way home I remarked about it. She knit
her brows.

"What do you want," she said, "the prince is a man whom I might
like, who even dazzles me, and I am free. I can do what I please--"

"Don't you love me any longer--" I stammered, frightened.

"I love only you," she replied, "but I shall have the prince pay
court to me."


"Aren't you my slave?" she said calmly. "Am I not Venus, the cruel
northern Venus in Furs?"

I was silent. I felt literally crushed by her words; her cold look
entered my heart like a dagger.

"You will find out immediately the prince's name, residence, and
circumstances," she continued. "Do you understand?"


"No argument, obey!" exclaimed Wanda, more sternly than I would have
thought possible for her, "and don't dare to enter my sight until you
can answer my questions."

It was not till afternoon that I could obtain the desired
information for Wanda. She let me stand before her like a servant,
while she leaned back in her arm-chair and listened to me, smiling.
Then she nodded; she seemed to be satisfied.

"Bring me my footstool," she commanded shortly.

I obeyed, and after having put it before her and having put her feet
on it, I remained kneeling.

"How will this end?" I asked sadly after a short pause.

She broke into playful laughter. "Why things haven't even begun yet."

"You are more heartless than I imagined," I replied, hurt.

"Severin," Wanda began earnestly. "I haven't done anything yet, not
the slightest thing, and you are already calling me heartless. What
will happen when I begin to carry your dreams to their realization,
when I shall lead a gay, free life and have a circle of admirers
about me, when I shall actually fulfil your ideal, tread you
underfoot and apply the lash?"

"You take my dreams too seriously."

"Too seriously? I can't stop at make-believe, when once I begin,"
she replied. "You know I hate all play-acting and comedy. You have
wished it. Was it my idea or yours? Did I persuade you or did you
inflame my imagination? I am taking things seriously now."

"Wanda," I replied, caressingly, "listen quietly to me. We love each
other infinitely, we are very happy, will you sacrifice our entire
future to a whim?"

"It is no longer a whim," she exclaimed.

"What is it?" I asked frightened.

"Something that was probably latent in me," she said quietly and
thoughtfully. "Perhaps it would never have come to light, if you had
not called it to life, and made it grow. Now that it has become a
powerful impulse, fills my whole being, now that I enjoy it, now that
I cannot and do not want to do otherwise, now you want to back out--
you--are you a man?"

"Dear, sweet Wanda!" I began to caress her, kiss her.

"Don't--you are not a man--"

"And you," I flared up.

"I am stubborn," she said, "you know that. I haven't a strong
imagination, and like you I am weak in execution. But when I make up
my mind to do something, I carry it through, and the more certainly,
the more opposition I meet. Leave me alone!"

She pushed me away, and got up.

"Wanda!" I likewise rose, and stood facing her.

"Now you know what I am," she continued. "Once more I warn you. You
still have the choice. I am not compelling you to be my slave."

"Wanda," I replied with emotion and tears filling my eyes, "don't
you know how I love you?"

Her lips quivered contemptuously.

"You are mistaken, you make yourself out worse than you are; you are
good and noble by nature--"

"What do you know about my nature," she interrupted vehemently, "you
will get to know me as I am."


"Decide, will you submit, unconditionally?"

"And if I say no."


She stepped close up to me, cold and contemptuous. As she stood
before me now, the arms folded across her breast, with an evil smile
about her lips, she was in fact the despotic woman of my dreams. Her
expression seemed hard, and nothing lay in her eyes that promised
kindness or mercy.

"Well--" she said at last.

"You are angry," I cried, "you will punish me."

"Oh no!" she replied, "I shall let you go. You are free. I am not
holding you."

"Wanda--I, who love you so--"

"Yes, you, my dear sir, you who adore me," she exclaimed
contemptuously, "but who are a coward, a liar, and a breaker of
promises. Leave me instantly--"

"Wanda I--"


My blood rose in my heart. I threw myself down at her feet and began
to cry.

"Tears, too!" She began to laugh. Oh, this laughter was frightful.
"Leave me--I don't want to see you again."

"Oh my God!" I cried, beside myself. "I will do whatever you
command, be your slave, a mere object with which you can do what you
will--only don't send me away--I can't bear it--I cannot live without
you." I embraced her knees, and covered her hand with kisses.

"Yes, you must be a slave, and feel the lash, for you are not a
man," she said calmly. She said this to me with perfect composure,
not angrily, not even excitedly, and it was what hurt most. "Now I
know you, your dog-like nature, that adores where it is kicked, and
the more, the more it is maltreated. Now I know you, and now you
shall come to know me."

She walked up and down with long strides, while I remained crushed
on my knees; my head was hanging supine, tears flowed from my eyes.

"Come here," Wanda commanded harshly, sitting down on the ottoman.
I obeyed her command, and sat down beside her. She looked at me
sombrely, and then a light suddenly seemed to illuminate the interior
of her eye. Smiling, she drew me toward her breast, and began to kiss
the tears out of my eyes.

* * * * *

The odd part of my situation is that I am like the bear in Lily's
park. I can escape and don't want to; I am ready to endure everything
as soon as she threatens to set me free.

* * * * *

If only she would use the whip again. There is something uncanny in
the kindness with which she treats me. I seem like a little captive
mouse with which a beautiful cat prettily plays. She is ready at any
moment to tear it to pieces, and my heart of a mouse threatens to

What are her intentions? What does she purpose to do with me?

* * * * *

It seems she has completely forgotten the contract, my slavehood. Or
was it actually only stubbornness? And she gave up her whole plan as
soon as I no longer opposed her and submitted to her imperial whim?

How kind she is to me, how tender, how loving! We are spending
marvellously happy days.

To-day she had me read to her the scene between Faust and
Mephistopheles, in which the latter appears as a wandering scholar.
Her glance hung on me with strange pleasure.

"I don't understand," she said when I had finished, "how a man who
can read such great and beautiful thoughts with such expression, and
interpret them so clearly, concisely, and intelligently, can at the
same time be such a visionary and supersensual ninny as you are."

"Were you pleased," said I, and kissed her forehead.

She gently stroked my brow. "I love you, Severin," she whispered. "I
don't believe I could ever love any one more than you. Let us be
sensible, what do you say?"

Instead of replying I folded her in my arms; a deep inward, yet
vaguely sad happiness filled my breast, my eyes grew moist, and a
tear fell upon her hand.

"How can you cry!" she exclaimed, "you are a child!"

* * * * *

On a pleasure drive we met the Russian prince in his carriage. He
seemed to be unpleasantly surprised to see me by Wanda's side, and
looked as if he wanted to pierce her through and through with his
electric gray eyes. She, however, did not seem to notice him. I felt
at that moment like kneeling down before her and kissing her feet.
She let her glance glide over him indifferently as though he were an
inanimate object, a tree, for instance, and turned to me with her
gracious smile.

* * * * *

When I said good-night to her to-day she seemed suddenly
unaccountably distracted and moody. What was occupying her?

"I am sorry you are going," she said when I was already standing on
the threshold.

"It is entirely in your hands to shorten the hard period of my
trial, to cease tormenting me--" I pleaded.

"Do you imagine that this compulsion isn't a torment for me, too,"
Wanda interjected.

"Then end it," I exclaimed, embracing her, "be my wife."

"_Never, Severin_," she said gently, but with great firmness.

"What do you mean?"

I was frightened in my innermost soul.

"_You are not the man for me._"

I looked at her, and slowly withdrew my arm which was still about
her waist; then I left the room, and she--she did not call me back.

* * * * *

A sleepless night; I made countless decisions, only to toss them
aside again. In the morning I wrote her a letter in which I declared
our relationship dissolved. My hand trembled when I put on the seal,
and I burned my fingers.

As I went upstairs to hand it to the maid, my knees threatened to
give way.

The door opened, and Wanda thrust forth her head full of curling-

"I haven't had my hair dressed yet," she said, smiling. "What have
you there?"

"A letter--"

"For me?"

I nodded.

"Ah, you want to break with me," she exclaimed, mockingly.

"Didn't you tell me yesterday that I wasn't the man for you?"

_"I repeat it now!"_

"Very well, then." My whole body was trembling, my voice failed me,
and I handed her the letter.

"Keep it," she said, measuring me coldly. "You forget that is no
longer a question as to whether you satisfy me as a man; as a _slave_
you will doubtless do well enough."

"Madame!" I exclaimed, aghast.

"That is what you will call me in the future," replied Wanda,
throwing back her head with a movement of unutterable contempt. "Put
your affairs in order within the next twenty-four hours. The day
after to-morrow I shall start for Italy, and you will accompany me
as my servant."


"I forbid any sort of familiarity," she said, cutting my words short,
"likewise you are not to come in unless I call or ring for you, and
you are not to speak to me until you are spoken to. From now on your
name is no longer Severin, but _Gregor_."

I trembled with rage, and yet, unfortunately, I cannot deny it, I
also felt a strange pleasure and stimulation.

"But, madame, you know my circumstances," I began in my confusion.
"I am dependent on my father, and I doubt whether he will give me the
large sum of money needed for this journey--"

"That means you have no money, Gregor," said Wanda, delightedly, "so
much the better, you are then entirely dependent on me, and in fact
my slave."

"You don't consider," I tried to object, "that as man of honor it is
impossible for me--"

"I have indeed considered it," she replied almost with a tone of
command. "As a man of honor you must keep your oath and redeem your
promise to follow me as slave whithersoever I demand and to obey
whatever I command. Now leave me, Gregor!"

I turned toward the door.

"Not yet--you may first kiss my hand." She held it out to me with a
certain proud indifference, and I the dilettante, the donkey, the
miserable slave pressed it with intense tenderness against my lips
which were dry and hot with excitement.

There was another gracious nod of the head.

Then I was dismissed.

* * * * *

Though it was late in the evening my light was still lit, and a fire
was burning in the large green stove. There were still many things
among my letters and documents to be put in order. Autumn, as is
usually the case with us, had fallen with all its power.

Suddenly she knocked at my window with the handle of her whip.

I opened and saw her standing outside in her ermine-lined jacket and
in a high round Cossack cap of ermine of the kind which the great
Catherine favored.

"Are you ready, Gregor?" she asked darkly.

"Not yet, mistress," I replied.

"I like that word," she said then, "you are always to call me
mistress, do you understand? We leave here to-morrow morning at nine
o'clock. As far as the district capital you will be my companion and
friend, but from the moment that we enter the railway-coach you are
my slave, my servant. Now close the window, and open the door."

After I had done as she had demanded, and after she had entered, she
asked, contracting her brows ironically, "well, how do you like me."

"Wanda, you--"

"Who gave you permission?" She gave me a blow with the whip.

"You are very beautiful, mistress."

Wanda smiled and sat down in the arm-chair. "Kneel down--here beside
my chair."

I obeyed.

"Kiss my hand."

I seized her small cold hand and kissed it.

"And the mouth--"

In a surge of passion I threw my arms around the beautiful cruel
woman, and covered her face, arms, and breast with glowing kisses.
She returned them with equal fervor--the eyelids closed as in a
dream. It was after midnight when she left.

* * * * *

At nine o'clock sharp in the morning everything was ready for
departure, as she had ordered. We left the little Carpathian health-
resort in a comfortable light carriage. The most interesting drama
of my life had reached a point of development whose denouement it was
then impossible to foretell.

So far everything went well. I sat beside Wanda, and she chatted
very graciously and intelligently with me, as with a good friend,
concerning Italy, Pisemski's new novel, and Wagner's music. She wore
a sort of Amazonesque travelling-dress of black cloth with a short
jacket of the same material, set with dark fur. It fitted closely and
showed her figure to best advantage. Over it she wore dark furs. Her
hair wound into an antique knot, lay beneath a small dark fur-hat
from which a black veil hung. Wanda was in very good humor; she fed
me candies, played with my hair, loosened my neck cloth and made a
pretty cockade of it; she covered my knees with her furs and
stealthily pressed the fingers of my hand. When our Jewish driver
persistently went on nodding to himself, she even gave me a kiss, and
her cold lips had the fresh frosty fragrance of a young autumnal
rose, which blossoms alone amid bare stalks and yellow leaves and
upon whose calyx the first frost has hung tiny diamonds of ice.

* * * * *

We are at the district capital. We get out at the railway station.
Wanda throws off her furs and places them over my arm, and goes
to secure the tickets.

When she returns she has completely changed.

"Here is your ticket, Gregor," she says in a tone which supercilious
ladies use to their servants.

"A third-class ticket," I reply with comic horror.

"Of course," she continues, "but now be careful. You won't get on
until I am settled in my compartment and don't need you any longer.
At each station you will hurry to my car and ask for my orders. Don't
forget. And now give me my furs."

After I had helped her into them, humbly like a slave, she went to
find an empty first-class coupe. I followed. Supporting herself on
my shoulder, she got on and I wrapped her feet in bear-skins and placed
them on the warming bottle.

Then she nodded to me, and dismissed me. I slowly ascended a third-
class carriage, which was filled with abominable tobacco-smoke that
seemed like the fogs of Acheron at the entrance to Hades. I now had
the leisure to muse about the riddle of human existence, and about
its greatest riddle of all--_woman_.

* * * * *

Whenever the train stops, I jump off, run to her carriage, and with
drawn cap await her orders. She wants coffee and then a glass of
water, at another time a bowl of warm water to wash her hands, and
thus it goes on. She lets several men who have entered her
compartment pay court to her. I am dying of jealousy and have to leap
about like an antelope so as to secure what she wants quickly and
not miss the train.

In this way the night passes. I haven't had time to eat a mouthful
and I can't sleep, I have to breathe the same oniony air with Polish
peasants, Jewish peddlers, and common soldiers.

When I mount the steps of her coupe, she is lying stretched out
on cushions in her comfortable furs, covered up with the skins of
animals. She is like an oriental despot, and the men sit like Indian
deities, straight upright against the walls and scarcely dare to

* * * * *

She stops over in Vienna for a day to go shopping, and particularly
to buy series of luxurious gowns. She continues to treat me as her
servant. I follow her at the respectful distance of ten paces. She
hands me her packages without so much as even deigning a kind look,
and laden down like a donkey I pant along behind.

Before leaving she takes all my clothes and gives them to the hotel
waiters. I am ordered to put on her livery. It is a Cracovian costume
in her colors, light-blue with red facings, and red quadrangular cap,
ornamented with peacock-feathers. The costume is rather becoming to

The silver buttons bear her coat of arms. I have the feeling of
having been sold or of having bonded myself to the devil. My fair
demon leads me from Vienna to Florence. Instead of linen-garbed
Mazovians and greasy-haired Jews, my companions now are curly-
haired Contadini, a magnificent sergeant of the first Italian
Grenadiers, and a poor German painter. The tobacco smoke no longer
smells of onions, but of salami and cheese.

Night has fallen again. I lie on my wooden bed as on a rack; my arms
and legs seem broken. But there nevertheless is an element of poetry
in the affair. The stars sparkle round about, the Italian sergeant
has a face like Apollo Belvedere, and the German painter sings a
lovely German song.

"Now that all the shadows gather
And endless stars grow light,
Deep yearning on me falls
And softly fills the night."

"Through the sea of dreams
Sailing without cease,
Sailing goes my soul
In thine to find release."

And I am thinking of the beautiful woman who is sleeping in regal
comfort among her soft furs.

* * * * *

Florence! Crowds, cries, importunate porters and cab-drivers. Wanda
chooses a carriage, and dismisses the porters.

"What have I a servant for," she says, "Gregor--here is the ticket--
get the luggage."

She wraps herself in her furs and sits quietly in the carriage while I
drag the heavy trunks hither, one after another. I break down for a
moment under the last one; a good-natured _carabiniere_ with an
intelligent face comes to my assistance. She laughs.

"It must be heavy," said she, "all my furs are in it."

I get up on the driver's seat, wiping drops of perspiration from my
brow. She gives the name of the hotel, and the driver urges on his
horse. In a few minutes we halt at the brilliantly illuminated

"Have you any rooms?" she asks the portier.

"Yes, madame."

"Two for me, one for my servant, all with stoves."

"Two first-class rooms for you, madame, both with stoves," replied
the waiter who had hastily come up, "and one without heat for your

She looked at them, and then abruptly said: "they are satisfactory,
have fires built at once; my servant can sleep in the unheated room."

I merely looked at her.

"Bring up the trunks, Gregor," she commands, paying no attention to
my looks. "In the meantime I'll be dressing, and then will go down
to the dining-room, and you can eat something for supper."

As she goes into the adjoining room, I drag the trunks upstairs and
help the waiter build a fire in her bed-room. He tries to question
me in bad French about my employer. With a brief glance I see the
blazing fire, the fragrant white poster-bed, and the rugs which cover
the floor. Tired and hungry I then descend the stairs, and ask for
something to eat. A good-natured waiter, who used to be in the
Austrian army and takes all sorts of pains to entertain me in German,
shows me the dining-room and waits on me. I have just had the first
fresh drink in thirty-six hours and the first bite of warm food on
my fork, when she enters.

I rise.

"What do you mean by taking me into a dining-room in which my
servant is eating," she snaps at the waiter, flaring with anger. She
turns around and leaves.

Meanwhile I thank heaven that I am permitted to go on eating. Later
I climb the four flights upstairs to my room. My small trunk is
already there, and a miserable little oil-lamp is burning. It is a
narrow room without fire-place, without a window, but with a small
air-hole. If it weren't so beastly cold, it would remind me of one
of the Venetian _piombi_. [Footnote: These were notorious prisons
under the leaden roof of the Palace of the Doges.] Involuntarily I
have to laugh out aloud, so that it re-echoes, and I am startled by
my own laughter.

Suddenly the door is pulled open and the waiter with a theatrical
Italian gesture calls "You are to come down to madame, at once." I
pick up my cap, stumble down the first few steps, but finally arrive
in front of her door on the first floor and knock.

"Come in!"

I enter, shut the door, and stand attention.

Wanda has made herself comfortable. She is sitting in a neglige of
white muslin and laces on a small red divan with her feet on a
footstool that matches. She has thrown her fur-cloak about her. It
is the identical cloak in which she appeared to me for the first time,
as goddess of love.

The yellow lights of the candelabra which stand on projections,
their reflections in the large mirrors, and the red flames from the
open fireplace play beautifully on the green velvet, the dark-brown
sable of the cloak, the smooth white skin, and the red, flaming hair
of the beautiful woman. Her clear, but cold face is turned toward me,
and her cold green eyes rest upon me.

"I am satisfied with you, Gregor," she began.

I bowed.

"Come closer."

I obeyed.

"Still closer," she looked down, and stroked the sable with her
hand. "Venus in Furs receives her slave. I can see that you are more
than an ordinary dreamer, you don't remain far in arrears of your
dreams; you are the sort of man who is ready to carry his dreams into
effect, no matter how mad they are. I confess, I like this; it
impresses me. There is strength in this, and strength is the only
thing one respects. I actually believe that under unusual
circumstances, in a period of great deeds, what seems to be your
weakness would reveal itself as extraordinary power. Under the early
emperors you would have been a martyr, at the time of the Reformation
an anabaptist, during the French Revolution one of those inspired
Girondists who mounted the guillotine with the marseillaise on their
lips. But you are my slave, my--"

She suddenly leaped up; the furs slipped down, and she threw her
arms with soft pressure about my neck.

"My beloved slave, Severin, oh, how I love you, how I adore you, how
handsome you are in your Cracovian costume! You will be cold to-night
up in your wretched room without a fire. Shall I give you one of my
furs, dear heart, the large one there--"

She quickly picked it up, throwing it over my shoulders, and before
I knew what had happened I was completely wrapped up in it.

"How wonderfully becoming furs are to your face, they bring out your
noble lines. As soon as you cease being my slave, you must wear a
velvet coat with sable, do you understand? Otherwise I shall never
put on my fur-jacket again."

And again she began to caress me and kiss me; finally she drew me
down on the little divan.

"You seem to be pleased with yourself in furs," she said. "Quick,
quick, give them to me, or I will lose all sense of dignity."

I placed the furs about her, and Wanda slipped her right arm into
the sleeve.

"This is the pose in Titian's picture. But now enough of joking.
Don't always look so solemn, it makes me feel sad. As far as the
world is concerned you are still merely my servant; you are not yet
my slave, for you have not yet signed the contract. You are still
free, and can leave me any moment. You have played your part
magnificently. I have been delighted, but aren't you tired of it
already, and don't you think I am abominable? Well, say something--I
command it."

"Must I confess to you, Wanda?" I began.

"Yes, you must."

"Even it you take advantage of it," I continued, "I shall love you
the more deeply, adore you the more fanatically, the worse you treat
me. What you have just done inflames my blood and intoxicates all my
senses." I held her close to me and clung for several moments to her
moist lips.

"Oh, you beautiful woman," I then exclaimed, looking at her. In my
enthusiasm I tore the sable from her shoulders and pressed my mouth
against her neck.

"You love me even when I am cruel," said Wanda, "now go!--you bore
me--don't you hear?"

She boxed my ears so that I saw stars and bells rang in my ears.

"Help me into my furs, slave."

I helped her, as well as I could.

"How awkward," she exclaimed, and was scarcely in it before she
struck me in the face again. I felt myself growing pale.

"Did I hurt you?" she asked, softly touching me with her hand.

"No, no," I exclaimed.

"At any rate you have no reason to complain, you want it thus; now
kiss me again."

I threw my arms about her, and her lips clung closely to mine. As
she lay against my breast in her large heavy furs, I had a curiously
oppressive sensation. It was as if a wild beast, a she-bear, were
embracing me. It seemed as if I were about to feel her claws in my
flesh. But this time the she-bear let me off easily.

With my heart filled with smiling hopes, I went up to my miserable
servant's room, and threw myself down on my hard couch.

"Life is really amazingly droll," I thought. "A short time ago the
most beautiful woman, Venus herself, rested against your breast, and
now you have an opportunity for studying the Chinese hell. Unlike us,
they don't hurl the damned into flames, but they have devils chasing
them out into fields of ice.

"Very likely the founders of their religion also slept in unheated

* * * * *

During the night I startled out of my sleep with a scream. I had
been dreaming of an icefield in which I had lost my way; I had been
looking in vain for a way out. Suddenly an eskimo drove up in a
sleigh harnessed with reindeer; he had the face of the waiter who had
shown me to the unheated room.

"What are you looking for here, my dear sir?" he exclaimed. "This is
the North Pole."

A moment later he had disappeared, and Wanda flew over the smooth
ice on tiny skates. Her white satin skirt fluttered and crackled; the
ermine of her jacket and cap, but especially her face, gleamed whiter
than the snow. She shot toward me, inclosed me in her arms, and began
to kiss me. Suddenly I felt my blood running warm down my side.

"What are you doing?" I asked horror-stricken.

She laughed, and as I looked at her now, it was no longer Wanda, but
a huge, white she-bear, who was digging her paws into my body.

I cried out in despair, and still heard her diabolical laughter when
I awoke, and looked about the room in surprise.

Early in the morning I stood at Wanda's door, and the waiter brought
the coffee. I took it from him, and served it to my beautiful
mistress. She had already dressed, and looked magnificent, all fresh
and roseate. She smiled graciously at me and called me back, when I
was about to withdraw respectfully.

"Come, Gregor, have your breakfast quickly too," she said, "then we
will go house-hunting. I don't want to stay in the hotel any longer
than I have to. It is very embarassing here. If I chat with you for
more than a minute, people will immediately say: 'The fair Russian
is having an affair with her servant, you see, the race of Catherines
isn't extinct yet.'"

Half an hour later we went out; Wanda was in her cloth-gown with the
Russian cap, and I in my Cracovian costume. We created quite a stir. I
walked about ten paces behind, looking very solemn, but expected
momentarily to have to break out into loud laughter. There was
scarcely a street in which one or the other of the attractive houses
did not bear the sign _camere ammobiliate_. Wanda always sent me
upstairs, and only when the apartment seemed to answer her
requirements did she herself ascend. By noon I was as tired as a stag-
hound after the hunt.

We entered a new house and left it again without having found a
suitable habitation. Wanda was already somewhat out of humor.
Suddenly she said to me: "Severin, the seriousness with which you
play your part is charming, and the restrictions, which we have
placed upon each other are really annoying me. I can't stand it any
longer, I do love you, I must kiss you. Let's go into one of the

"But, my lady--" I interposed.

"Gregor?" She entered the next open corridor and ascended a few
steps of the dark stair-way; then she threw her arms about me with
passionate tenderness and kissed me.

"Oh, Severin, you were very wise. You are much more dangerous as
slave than I would have imagined; you are positively irrestible, and
I am afraid I shall have to fall in love with you again."

"Don't you love me any longer then," I asked seized by a sudden

She solemnly shook her head, but kissed me again with her swelling,
adorable lips.

We returned to the hotel. Wanda had luncheon, and ordered me also
quickly to get something to eat.

Of course, I wasn't served as quickly as she, and so it happened
that just as I was carrying the second bite of my steak to my mouth,
the waiter entered and called out with his theatrical gesture:
"Madame wants you, at once."

I took a rapid and painful leave of my food, and, tired and hungry,
hurried toward Wanda, who was already on the street.

"I wouldn't have imagined you could be so cruel," I said
reproachfully. "With all these, fatiguing duties you don't even leave
me time to eat in peace."

Wanda laughed gaily. "I thought you had finished," she said, "but
never mind. Man was born to suffer, and you in particular. The
martyrs didn't have any beefsteaks either."

I followed her resentfully, gnawing at my hunger.

"I have given up the idea of finding a place in the city," Wanda
continued. "It will be difficult to find an entire floor which is
shut off and where you can do as you please. In such a strange, mad
relationship as ours there must be no jarring note. I shall rent an
entire villa--and you will be surprised. You have my permission now
to satisfy your hunger, and look about a bit in Florence. I won't be
home till evening. If I need you then, I will have you called."

I looked at the Duomo, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Logia di Lanzi, and
then I stood for a long time on the banks of the Arno. Again and
again I let my eyes rest on the magnificent ancient Florence, whose
round cupolas and towers were drawn in soft lines against the blue,
cloudless sky. I watched its splendid bridges beneath whose wide
arches the lively waves of the beautiful, yellow river ran, and the
green hills which surrounded the city, bearing slender cypresses and
extensive buildings, palaces and monasteries.

It is a different world, this one in which we are--a gay, sensuous,
smiling world. The landscape too has nothing of the seriousness and
somberness of ours. It is a long ways off to the last white villas
scattered among the pale green of the mountains, and yet there isn't
a spot that isn't bright with sunlight. The people are less serious
than we; perhaps, they think less, but they all look as though they
were happy.

It is also maintained that death is easier in the South.

I have a vague feeling now that such a thing as beauty without thorn
and love of the senses without torment does exist.

Wanda has discovered a delightful little villa and rented it for the
winter. It is situated on a charming hill on the left bank of the
Arno, opposite the Cascine. It is surrounded by an attractive garden
with lovely paths, grass plots, and magnificent meadow of camelias.
It is only two stories high, quadrangular in the Italian fashion. An
open gallery runs along one side, a sort of loggia with plaster-casts
of antique statues; stone steps lead from it down into the garden.
From the gallery you enter a bath with a magnificent marble basin,
from which winding stairs lead to my mistress' bed-chamber.

Wanda occupies the second story by herself.

A room on the ground floor has been assigned to me; it is very
attractive, and even has a fireplace.

I have roamed through the garden. On a round hillock I discovered a
little temple, but I found its door locked. However, there is a chink
in the door and when I glue my eye to it, I see the goddess of love
on a white pedestal.

A slight shudder passes over me. It seems to me as if she were
smiling at me saying: "Are you there? I have been expecting you."

* * * * *

It is evening. An attractive maid brings me orders to appear before
my mistress. I ascend the wide marble stairs, pass through the
anteroom, a large salon furnished with extravagant magnificence, and
knock at the door of the bedroom. I knock very softly for the luxury
displayed everywhere intimidates me. Consequently no one hears me,
and I stand for some time in front of the door. I have a feeling as
if I were standing before the bed-room of the great Catherine, and
it seems as if at any moment she might come out in her green sleeping
furs, with the red ribbon and decoration on her bare breast, and with
her little white powdered curls.

I knocked again. Wanda impatiently pulls the door open.

"Why so late?" she asks.

"I was standing in front of the door, but you didn't hear me knock,"
I reply timidly. She closes the door, and clinging to me, she leads
me to the red damask ottoman on which she had been resting. The
entire arrangement of the room is in red damask--wall-paper,
curtains, portieres, hangings of the bed. A magnificent painting of
Samson and Delilah forms the ceiling.

Wanda receives me in an intoxicating dishabille. Her white satin
dress flows gracefully and picturesquely down her slender body,
leaving her arms and breast bare, and carelessly they nestle amid the
dark hair of the great fur of sable, lined with green velvet. Her red
hair falls down her back as far as the hips, only half held by
strings of black pearls.

"Venus in Furs," I whisper, while she draws me to her breast and
threatens to stifle me with her kisses. Then I no longer speak and
neither do I think; everything is drowned out in an ocean of
unimagined bliss.

"Do you still love me?" she asks, her eye softening in passionate

"You ask!" I exclaimed.

"You still remember your oath," she continued with an alluring
smile, "now that everything is prepared, everything in readiness, I
ask you once more, is it still your serious wish to become my slave?"

"Am I not ready?" I asked in surprise.

"You have not yet signed the papers."

"Papers--what papers?"

"Oh, I see, you want to give it up," she said, "well then, we will
let it go."

"But Wanda," I said, "you know that nothing gives me greater
happiness than to serve you, to be your slave. I would give
everything for the sake of feeling myself wholly in your power, even
unto death--"

"How beautiful you are," she whispered, "when you speak so
enthusiastically, so passionately. I am more in love with you than
ever and you want me to be dominant, stern, and cruel. I am afraid,
it will be impossible for me to be so."

"I am not afraid," I replied smiling, "where are the papers?'"

"So that you may know what it means to be absolutely in my power, I
have drafted a second agreement in which you declare that you have
decided to kill yourself. In that way I can even kill you, if I so

"Give them to me."

While I was unfolding the documents and reading them, Wanda got pen
and ink. She then sat down beside me with her arm about my neck, and
looked over my shoulder at the paper.

The first one read:


"Severin von Kusiemski ceases with the present day being the affianced
of Mme. Wanda von Dunajew, and renounces all the rights appertaining
thereunto; he on the contrary binds himself on his word of honor as a
man and nobleman, that hereafter he will be her _slave_ until such
time that she herself sets him at liberty again.

"As the slave of Mme. von Dunajew he is to bear the name Gregor, and
he is unconditionally to comply with every one of her wishes, and to
obey every one of her commands; he is always to be submissive to his
mistress, and is to consider her every sign of favor as an
extraordinary mercy.

"Mme. von Dunajew is entitled not only to punish her slave as she
deems best, even for the slightest inadvertence or fault, but also
is herewith given the right to torture him as the mood may seize her
or merely for the sake of whiling away the time. Should she so desire,
she may kill him whenever she wishes; in short, he is her
unrestricted property.

"Should Mme. von Dunajew ever set her slave at liberty, Severin von
Kusiemski agrees to forget everything that he has experienced or
suffered as her slave, and promises _never under any circumstances and
in no wise to think of vengeance or retaliation_.

"Mme. von Dunajew on her behalf agrees as his mistress to appear as
often as possible in her furs, especially when she purposes some
cruelty toward her slave."

Appended at the bottom of the agreement was the date of the present

The second document contained only a few words.

"Having since many years become weary of existence and its
illusions, I have of my own free will put an end to my worthless

I was seized with a deep horror when I had finished. There was still
time, I could still withdraw, but the madness of passion and the
sight of the beautiful woman that lay all relaxed against my shoulder
carried me away.

"This one you will have to copy, Severin," said Wanda, indicating
the second document. "It has to be entirely in your own handwriting;
this, of course, isn't necessary in the case of the agreement."

I quickly copied the few lines in which I designated myself a
suicide, and handed them to Wanda. She read them, and put them on the
table with a smile.

"Now have you the courage to sign it?" she asked with a crafty
smile, inclining her head.

I took the pen.

"Let me sign first," said Wanda, "your hand is trembling, are you
afraid of the happiness that is to be yours?"

She took the agreement and pen. While engaging in my internal
struggle, I looked upward for a moment. It occurred to me that the
painting on the ceiling, like many of those of the Italian and Dutch
schools, was utterly unhistorical, but this very fact gave it a
strange mood which had an almost uncanny effect on me. Delilah, an
opulent woman with flaming red hair, lay extended, half-disrobed, in
a dark fur-cloak, upon a red ottoman, and bent smiling over Samson
who had been overthrown and bound by the Philistines. Her smile in
its mocking coquetry was full of a diabolical cruelty; her eyes, half-
closed, met Samson's, and his with a last look of insane passion
cling to hers, for already one of his enemies is kneeling on his
breast with the red-hot iron to blind him.

"Now--" said Wanda. "Why you are all lost in thought. What is the
matter with you, everything will remain just as it was, even after
you have signed, don't you know me yet, dear heart?"

I looked at the agreement. Her name was written there in bold
letters. I peered once more into her eyes with their potent magic,
then I took the pen and quickly signed the agreement.

"You are trembling," said Wanda calmly, "shall I help you?"

She gently took hold of my hand, and my name appeared at the bottom
of the second paper. Wanda looked once more at the two documents, and
then locked them in the desk which stood at the head of the ottoman.

"Now then, give me your passport and money."

I took out my wallet and handed it to her. She inspected it, nodded,
and put it with other things while in a sweet drunkenness I kneeled
before her leaning my head against her breast.

Suddenly she thrusts me away with her foot, leaps up, and pulls the
bell-rope. In answer to its sound three young, slender negresses
enter; they are as if carved of ebony, and are dressed from head to
foot in red satin; each one has a rope in her hand.

Suddenly I realize my position, and am about to rise. Wanda stands
proudly erect, her cold beautiful face with its sombre brows and
contemptous eyes is turned toward me. She stands before me as
mistress, commanding, gives a sign with her hand, and before I really
know what has happened to me the negresses have dragged me to the
ground, and have tied me hand and foot. As in the case of one about
to be executed my arms are bound behind my back, so that I can
scarcely move.

"Give me the whip, Haydee," commands Wanda, with unearthly calm.

The negress hands it to her mistress, kneeling.

"And now take off my heavy furs," she continues, "they impede me."

The negress obeyed.

"The jacket there!" Wanda commanded.

Haydee quickly brought her the _kazabaika_, set with ermine, which lay
on the bed, and Wanda slipped into it with two inimitably graceful

"Now tie him to the pillar here!"

The negresses lifted me up, and twisting a heavy rope around my
body, tied me standing against one of the massive pillars which
supported the top of the wide Italian bed.

Then they suddenly disappeared, as if the earth had swallowed them.

Wanda swiftly approached me. Her white satin dress flowed behind her
in a long train, like silver, like moonlight; her hair flared like
flames against the white fur of her jacket. Now she stood in front
of me with her left hand firmly planted on her hips, in her right hand
she held the whip. She uttered an abrupt laugh.

"Now play has come to an end between us," she said with heartless
coldness. "Now we will begin in dead earnest. You fool, I laugh at you
and despise you; you who in your insane infatuation have given
yourself as a plaything to _me_, the frivolous and capricious woman.
You are no longer the man I love, but _my slave_, at my mercy even
unto life and death.

"You shall know me!

"First of all you shall have a taste of the whip in all seriousness,
without having done anything to deserve it, so that you may
understand what to expect, if you are awkward, disobedient, or

With a wild grace she rolled back her fur-lined sleeve, and struck
me across the back.

I winced, for the whip cut like a knife into my flesh.

"Well, how do you like that?" she exclaimed.

I was silent.

"Just wait, you will yet whine like a dog beneath my whip," she
threatened, and simultaneously began to strike me again.

The blows fell quickly, in rapid succession, with terrific force
upon my back, arms, and neck; I had to grit my teeth not to scream
aloud. Now she struck me in the face, warm blood ran down, but she
laughed, and continued her blows.

"It is only now I understand you," she exclaimed. "It really is a
joy to have some one so completely in one's power, and a man at that,
who loves you--you do love me?--No--Oh! I'll tear you to shreds yet,
and with each blow my pleasure will grow. Now, twist like a worm,
scream, whine! You will find no mercy in me!"

Finally she seemed tired.

She tossed the whip aside, stretched out on the ottoman, and rang.

The negresses entered.

"Untie him!"

As they loosened the rope, I fell to the floor like a lump of wood.
The black women grinned, showing their white teeth.

"Untie the rope around his feet."

They did it, but I was unable to rise.

"Come over here, Gregor."

I approached the beautiful woman. Never did she seem more seductive
to me than to-day in spite of all her cruelty and contempt.

"One step further," Wanda commanded. "Now kneel down, and kiss my

She extended her foot beyond the hem of white satin, and I, the
supersensual fool, pressed my lips upon it.

"Now, you won't lay eyes on me for an entire month, Gregor," she
said seriously. "I want to become a stranger to you, so you will more
easily adjust yourself to our new relationship. In the meantime you
will work in the garden, and await my orders. Now, off with you,

* * * * *

A month has passed with monotonous regularity, heavy work, and a
melancholy hunger, hunger for her, who is inflicting all these
torments on me.

I am under the gardener's orders; I help him lop the trees and prune
the hedges, transplant flowers, turn over the flower beds, sweep the
gravel paths; I share his coarse food and his hard cot; I rise and
go to bed with the chickens. Now and then I hear that our mistress
is amusing herself, surrounded by admirers. Once I heard her gay
laughter even down here in the garden.

I seem awfully stupid to myself. Was it the result of my present
life, or was I so before? The month is drawing to a close--the day
after to-morrow. What will she do with me now, or has she forgotten
me, and left me to trim hedges and bind bouquets till my dying day?

A written order.

"The slave Gregor is herewith ordered to my personal service.

Wanda Dunajew."

With a beating heart I draw aside the damask curtain on the
following morning, and enter the bed-room of my divinity. It is still
filled with a pleasant half darkness.

"Is it you, Gregor?" she asks, while I kneel before the fire-place,
building a fire. I tremble at the sound of the beloved voice. I
cannot see her herself; she is invisible behind the curtains of the
four-poster bed.

"Yes, my mistress," I reply.

"How late is it?"

"Past nine o'clock."


I hasten to get it, and then kneel down with the tray beside her bed.

"Here is breakfast, my mistress."

Wanda draws back the curtains, and curiously enough at the first
glance when I see her among the pillows with loosened flowing hair,
she seems an absolute stranger, a beautiful woman, but the beloved
soft lines are gone. This face is hard and has an expression of
weariness and satiety.

Or is it simply that formerly my eye did not see this?

She fixes her green eyes upon me, more with curiosity than with
menace, perhaps even somewhat pityingly, and lazily pulls the dark
sleeping fur on which she lies over the bared shoulder.

At this moment she is very charming, very maddening, and I feel my
blood rising to my head and heart. The tray in my hands begins to
sway. She notices it and reached out for the whip which is lying on
the toilet-table.

"You are awkward, slave," she says furrowing her brow.

I lower my looks to the ground, and hold the tray as steadily as
possible. She eats her breakfast, yawns, and stretches her opulent
limbs in the magnificent furs.

She has rung. I enter.

"Take this letter to Prince Corsini."

I hurry into the city, and hand the letter to the Prince. He is a
handsome young man with glowing black eyes. Consumed with jealousy,
I take his answer to her.

"What is the matter with you?" she asks with lurking spitefulness.
"You are very pale."

"Nothing, mistress, I merely walked rather fast."

At luncheon the prince is at her side, and I am condemned to serve
both her and him. They joke, and I am, as if non-existent, for both.
For a brief moment I see black; I was just pouring some Bordeaux into
his glass, and spilled it over the table-cloth and her gown.

"How awkward," Wanda exclaimed and slapped my face. The prince
laughed, and she also, but I felt the blood rising to my face.

After luncheon she drove in the Cascine. She has a little carriage
with a handsome, brown English horse, and holds the reins herself.
I sit behind and notice how coquettishly she acts, and nods with a
smile when one of the distinguished gentlemen bows to her.

As I help her out of the carriage, she leans lightly on my arm; the
contact runs through me like an electric shock. She _is_ a wonderful
woman, and I love her more than ever.

* * * * *

For dinner at six she has invited a small group of men and women. I
serve, but this time I do not spill any wine over the table-cloth.

A slap in the face is more effective than ten lectures. It makes you
understand very quickly, especially when the instruction is by the
way of a small woman's hand.

* * * * *

After dinner she drives to the Pergola Theater. As she descends the
stairs in her black velvet dress with its large collar of ermine and
with a diadem of white roses on her hair, she is literally stunning.
I open the carriage-door, and help her in. In front of the theater
I leap from the driver's seat, and in alighting she leaned on my arm,
which trembled under the sweet burden. I open the door of her box,
and then wait in the vestibule. The performance lasts four hours; she
receives visits from her cavaliers, the while I grit my teeth with

It is way beyond midnight when my mistress's bell sounds for the
last time.

"Fire!" she orders abruptly, and when the fire-place crackles, "Tea!"

When I return with the samovar, she has already undressed, and with
the aid of the negress slipped into a white negligee.

Haydee thereupon leaves.

"Hand me the sleeping-furs," says Wanda, sleepily stretching her
lovely limbs. I take them from the arm-chair, and hold them while she
slowly and lazily slides into the sleeves. She then throws herself
down on the cushions of the ottoman.

"Take off my shoes, and put on my velvet slippers."

I kneel down and tug at the little shoe which resists my efforts.
"Hurry, hurry!" Wanda exclaims, "you are hurting me! just you wait--I
will teach you." She strikes me with the whip, but now the shoe is

"Now get out!" Still a kick--and then I can go to bed.

* * * * *

To-night I accompanied her to a soiree. In the entrance-hall she
ordered me to help her out of her furs; then with a proud smile,
confident of victory, she entered the brilliantly illuminated room.
I again waited with gloomy and monotonous thoughts, watching hour after
hour run by. From time to time the sounds of music reached me, when
the door remained open for a moment. Several servants tried to start
a conversation with me, but soon desisted, since I knew only a few
words of Italian.

Finally I fell asleep, and dreamed that I murdered Wanda in a
violent attack of jealousy. I was condemned to death, and saw myself
strapped on the board; the knife fell, I felt it on my neck, but I
was still alive--

Then the executioner slapped my face.

No, it wasn't the executioner; it was Wanda who stood wrathfully
before me demanding her furs. I am at her side in a moment, and help
her on with it.

There is a deep joy in wrapping a beautiful woman into her furs, and
in seeing and feeling how her neck and magnificent limbs nestle in
the precious soft furs, and to lift the flowing hair over the collar.
When she throws it off a soft warmth and a faint fragrance of her
body still clings to the ends of the hairs of sable. It is enough to
drive one mad.

* * * * *

Finally a day came when there were neither guests, nor theater, nor
other company. I breathed a sigh of relief. Wanda sat in the gallery,
reading, and apparently had no orders for me. At dusk when the
silvery evening mists fell she withdrew. I served her at dinner, she
ate by herself, but had not a look, not a syllable for me, not even
a slap in the face.

I actually desire a slap from her hand. Tears fill my eyes, and I
feel that she has humiliated me so deeply, that she doesn't even find
it worth while to torture or maltreat me any further.

Before she goes to bed, her bell calls me.

"You will sleep here to-night, I had horrible dreams last night, and
am afraid of being alone. Take one of the cushions from the ottoman,
and lie down on the bearskin at my feet."

Then Wanda put out the lights. The only illumination in the room was
from a small lamp suspended from the ceiling. She herself got into
bed. "Don't stir, so as not to wake me."

I did as she had commanded, but could not fall asleep for a long
time. I saw the beautiful woman, beautiful as a goddess, lying on her
back on the dark sleeping-furs; her arms beneath her neck, with a
flood of red hair over them. I heard her magnificent breast rise in
deep regular breathing, and whenever she moved ever so slightly. I
woke up and listened to see whether she needed me.

But she did not require me.

No task was required of me; I meant no more to her than a night-
lamp, or a revolver which one places under one's pillow.

* * * * *

Am I mad or is she? Does all this arise out of an inventive, wanton
woman's brain with the intention of surpassing my supersensual
fantasies, or is this woman really one of those Neronian characters
who take a diabolical pleasure in treading underfoot, like a worm,
human beings, who have thoughts and feelings and a will like theirs?

What have I experienced?

When I knelt with the coffee-tray beside her bed, Wanda suddenly
placed her hand on my shoulder and her eyes plunged deep into mine.

"What beautiful eyes you have," she said softly, "and especially now
since you suffer. Are you very unhappy?"

I bowed my head, and kept silent.

"Severin, do you still love me," she suddenly exclaimed
passionately, "can you still love me?"

She drew me close with such vehemence that the coffee-tray upset,
the can and cups fell to the floor, and the coffee ran over the

"Wanda--my Wanda," I cried out and held her passionately against me;
I covered her mouth, face, and breast with kisses.

"It is my unhappiness that I love you more and more madly the worse
you treat me, the more frequently you betray me. Oh, I shall die of
pain and love and jealousy."

"But I haven't betrayed you, as yet, Severin," replied Wanda smiling.

"Not? Wanda! Don't jest so mercilessly with me," I cried. "Haven't
I myself taken the letter to the Prince--"

"Of course, it was an invitation for luncheon."

"You have, since we have been in Florence--"

"I have been absolutely faithful to you" replied Wanda, "I swear it
by all that is holy to me. All that I have done was merely to fulfill
your dream and it was done for your sake.

"However, I shall take a lover, otherwise things will be only half
accomplished, and in the end you will yet reproach me with not having
treated you cruelly enough, my dear beautiful slave! But to-day you
shall be Severin again, the only one I love. I haven't given away
your clothes. They are here in the chest. Go and dress as you used
to in the little Carpathian health-resort when our love was so intimate.
Forget everything that has happened since; oh, you will forget it
easily in my arms; I shall kiss away all your sorrows."

She began to treat me tenderly like a child, to kiss me and caress
me. Finally she said with a gracious smile, "Go now and dress, I too
will dress. Shall I put on my fur-jacket? Oh yes, I know, now run

When I returned she was standing in the center of the room in her
white satin dress, and the red _kazabaika_ edged with ermine; her hair
was white with powder and over her forehead she wore a small diamond
diadem. For a moment she reminded me in an uncanny way of Catherine
the Second, but she did not give me much time for reminiscences. She
drew me down on the ottoman beside her and we enjoyed two blissful
hours. She was no longer the stern capricious mistress, she was
entirely a fine lady, a tender sweetheart. She showed me photographs
and books which had just appeared, and talked about them with so much
intelligence, clarity, and good taste, that I more than once carried
her hand to my lips, enraptured. She then had me recite several of
Lermontov's poems, and when I was all afire with enthusiasm, she
placed her small hand gently on mine. Her expression was soft, and her
eyes were filled with tender pleasure.

"Are you happy?"

"Not yet."

She then leaned back on the cushions, and slowly opened her

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