Part 3 out of 3
But I quickly covered the half-bared breast again with the ermine.
"You are driving me mad." I stammered.
I was already lying in her arms, and like a serpent she was kissing
me with her tongue, when again she whispered, "Are you happy?"
"Infinitely!" I exclaimed.
She laughed aloud. It was an evil, shrill laugh which made cold
shivers run down by back.
"You used to dream of being the slave, the plaything of a beautiful
woman, and now you imagine you are a free human being, a man, my
lover-you fool! A sign from me, and you are a slave again. Down on
I sank down from the ottoman to her feet, but my eye still clung
doubtingly on hers.
"You can't believe it," she said, looking at me with her arms folded
across her breast. "I am bored, and you will just do to while away
a couple of hours of time. Don't look at me that way--"
She kicked me with her foot.
"You are just what I want, a human being, a thing, an animal--"
She rang. The three negresses entered.
"Tie his hands behind his back."
I remained kneeling and unresistingly let them do this. They led me
into the garden, down to the little vineyard, which forms the
southern boundary. Corn had been planted between the espaliers, and
here and there a few dead stalks still stood. To one side was a
The negresses tied me to a post, and amused themselves sticking me
with their golden hair-needles. But this did not last long, before
Wanda appeared with her ermine cap on her head, and with her hands
in the pockets of her jacket. She had me untied, and then my hands
were fastened together on my back. She finally had a yoke put around
my neck, and harnessed me to the plough.
Then her black demons drove me out into the field. One of them held
the plough, the other one led me by a line, the third applied the
whip, and Venus in Furs stood to one side and looked on.
* * * * *
When I was serving dinner on the following day Wanda said: "Bring
another cover, I want you to dine with me to-day," and when I was
about to sit down opposite her, she added, "No, over here, close by
She is in the best of humors, gives me soup with her spoon, feeds me
with her fork, and places her head on the table like a playful kitten
and flirts with me. I have the misfortune of looking at Haydee, who
serves in my place, perhaps a little longer than is necessary. It is
only now that I noticed her noble, almost European cast of
countenance and her magnificent statuesque bust, which is as if hewn
out of black marble. The black devil observes that she pleases me,
and, grinning, shows her teeth. She has hardly left the room, before
Wanda leaps up in a rage.
"What, you dare to look at another woman besides me! Perhaps you
like her even better than you do me, she is even more demonic!"
I am frightened; I have never seen her like this before; she is
suddenly pale even to the lips and her whole body trembles. Venus in
Furs is jealous of her slave. She snatches the whip from its hook and
strikes me in the face; then she calls her black servants, who bind
me, and carry me down into the cellar, where they throw me into a
dark, dank, subterranean compartment, a veritable prison-cell.
Then the lock of the door clicks, the bolts are drawn, a key sings
in the lock. I am a prisoner, buried.
I have been lying here for I don't know how long, bound like a calf
about to be hauled to the slaughter, on a bundle of damp straw,
without any light, without food, without drink, without sleep. It
would be like her to let me starve to death, if I don't freeze to
death before then. I am shaking with cold. Or is it fever? I believe
I am beginning to hate this woman.
* * * * *
A red streak, like blood, floods across the floor; it is a light
falling through the door which is now thrust open.
Wanda appears on the threshold, wrapped in her sables, holding a
"Are you still alive?" she asks.
"Are you coming to kill me?" I reply with a low, hoarse voice.
With two rapid strides Wanda reaches my side, she kneels down beside
me, and places my head in her lap. "Are you ill? Your eyes glow so,
do you love me? I want you to love me."
She draws forth a short dagger. I start with fright when its blade
gleams in front of my eyes. I actually believe that she is about to
kill me. She laughs, and cuts the ropes that bind me.
* * * * *
Every evening after dinner she now has me called. I have to read to
her, and she discusses with me all sorts of interesting problems and
subjects. She seems entirely transformed; it is as if she were
ashamed of the savagery which she betrayed to me and of the cruelty
with which she treated me. A touching gentleness transfigures her
entire being, and when at the good-night she gives me her hand, a
superhuman power of goodness and love lies in her eyes, of the kind
which calls forth tears in us and causes us to forget all the
miseries of existence and all the terrors of death.
* * * * *
I am reading _Manon l'Escault_ to her. She feels the association, she
doesn't say a word, but she smiles from time to time, and finally she
shuts up the little book.
"Don't you want to go on reading?"
"Not to-day. We will ourselves act _Manon l'Escault_ to-day. I have a
rendezvous in the Cascine, and you, my dear Chevalier, will accompany
me; I know, you will do it, won't you?"
"You command it."
"I do not command it, I beg it of you," she says with irresistible
charm. She then rises, puts her hands on my shoulders, and looks at
"Your eyes!" she exclaims. "I love you, Severin, you have no idea
how I love you!"
"Yes, I have!" I replied bitterly, "so much so that you have
arranged for a rendezvous with some one else."
"I do this only to allure you the more," she replied vivaciously. "I
must have admirers, so as not to lose you. I don't ever want to lose
you, never, do you hear, for I love only you, you alone."
She clung passionately to my lips.
"Oh, if I only could, as I would, give you all of my soul in a kiss--
thus--but now come."
She slipped into a simple black velvet coat, and put a dark _bashlyk_
[Footnote: A kind of Russian cap.] on her head. Then she rapidly went
through the gallery, and entered the carriage.
"Gregor will drive," she called out to the coachman who withdrew in
I ascended the driver's seat, and angrily whipped up the horses.
In the Cascine where the main roadway turns into a leafy path, Wanda
got out. It was night, only occasional stars shone through the gray
clouds that fled across the sky. By the bank of the Arno stood a man
in a dark cloak, with a brigand's hat, and looked at the yellow
waves. Wanda rapidly walked through the shrubbery, and tapped him on
the shoulder. I saw him turn and seize her hand, and then they
disappeared behind the green wall.
An hour full of torments. Finally there was a rustling in the bushes
to one side, and they returned.
The man accompanied her to the carriage. The light of the lamp fell
full and glaringly upon an infinitely young, soft and dreamy face
which I had never before seen, and played in his long, blond curls.
She held out her hand which he kissed with deep respect, then she
signaled to me, and immediately the carriage flew along the leafy
wall which follows the river like a long green screen.
* * * * *
The bell at the garden-gate rings. It is a familiar face. The man
from the Cascine.
"Whom shall I announce?" I ask him in French. He timidly shakes his
"Do you, perhaps, understand some German?" he asks shyly.
"Yes. Your name, please."
"Oh! I haven't any yet," he replies, embarrassed--"Tell your
mistress the German painter from the Cascine is here and would like--
but there she is herself."
Wanda had stepped out on the balcony, and nodded toward the stranger.
"Gregor, show the gentleman in!" she called to me.
I showed the painter the stairs.
"Thanks, I'll find her now, thanks, thanks very much." He ran up the
steps. I remained standing below, and looked with deep pity on the
Venus in Furs has caught his soul in the red snares of hair. He will
paint her, and go mad.
* * * * *
It is a sunny winter's day. Something that looks like gold trembles
on the leaves of the clusters of trees down below in the green level
of the meadow. The camelias at the foot of the gallery are glorious
in their abundant buds. Wanda is sitting in the loggia; she is
drawing. The German painter stands opposite her with his hands folded
as in adoration, and looks at her. No, he rather looks at her face,
and is entirely absorbed in it, enraptured.
But she does not see him, neither does she see me, who with the
spade in my hand am turning over the flower-bed, solely that I may
see her and feel her nearness, which produces an effect on me like
poetry, like music.
* * * * *
The painter has gone. It is a hazardous thing to do, but I risk it.
I go up to the gallery, quite close, and ask Wanda "Do you love the
She looks at me without getting angry, shakes her head, and finally
"I feel sorry for him," she replies, "but I do not love him. I love no
one. _I used to love you, as ardently, as passionately, as deeply as
it was possible for me to love,_ but now I don't love even you any
more; my heart is a void, dead, and this makes me sad."
"Wanda!" I exclaimed, deeply moved.
"Soon, you too will no longer love me," she continued, "tell me when
you have reached that point, and I will give back to you your
"Then I shall remain your slave, all my life long, for I adore you
and shall always adore you," I cried, seized by that fanaticism of
love which has repeatedly been so fatal to me.
Wanda looked at me with a curious pleasure. "Consider well what you
do," she said. "I have loved you infinitely and have been despotic
towards you so that I might fulfil your dream. Something of my old
feeling, a sort of real sympathy for you, still trembles in my
breast. When that too has gone who knows whether then I shall give
you your liberty; whether I shall not then become really cruel,
merciless, even brutal toward; whether I shall not take a diabolical
pleasure in tormenting and putting on the rack the man who worships
me idolatrously, the while I remain indifferent or love someone else;
perhaps, I shall enjoy seeing him die of his love for me. Consider
"I have long since considered all that," I replied as in a glow of
fever. "I cannot exist, cannot live without you; I shall die if you
set me at liberty; let me remain your slave, kill me, but do not
drive me away."
"Very well then, be my slave," she replied, "but don't forget that
I no longer love you, and your love doesn't mean any more to me than
a dog's, and dogs are kicked."
* * * * *
To-day I visited the Venus of Medici.
It was still early, and the little octagonal room in the Tribuna was
filled with half-lights like a sanctuary; I stood with folded hands
in deep adoration before the silent image of the divinity.
But I did not stand for long.
Not a human soul was in the gallery, not even an Englishman, and I
fell down on my knees. I looked up at the lovely slender body, the
budding breasts, the virginal and yet voluptuous face, the fragrant
curls which seemed to conceal tiny horns on each side of the forehead.
* * * * *
My mistress's bell.
It is noonday. She, however, is still abed with her arms intertwined
behind her neck.
"I want to bathe," she says, "and you will attend me. Lock the door!"
"Now go downstairs and make sure the door below is also locked."
I descended the winding stairs that lead from her bedroom to the
bath; my feet gave way beneath me, and I had to support myself
against the iron banister. After having ascertained that the door
leading to the Loggia and the garden was locked, I returned. Wanda
was now sitting on the bed with loosened hair, wrapped in her green
velvet furs. When she made a rapid movement, I noticed that the furs
were her only covering. It made me start terribly, I don't know why?
I was like one condemned to death, who knows he is on the way to the
scaffold, and yet begins to tremble when he sees it.
"Come, Gregor, take me on your arms."
"You mean, mistress?"
"You are to carry me, don't you understand?"
I lifted her up, so that she rested in my arms, while she twined
hers around my neck. Slowly, step by step, I went down the stairs
with her and her hair beat from time to time against my cheek and her
foot sought support against my knee. I trembled under the beautiful
burden I was carrying, and every moment it seemed as if I had to
break down beneath it.
The bath consisted of a wide, high rotunda, which received a soft
quiet light from a red glass cupola above. Two palms extended their
broad leaves like a roof over a couch of velvet cushions. From here
steps covered with Turkish rugs led to the white marble basin which
occupied the center.
"There is a green ribbon on my toilet-table upstairs," said Wanda,
as I let her down on the couch, "go get it, and also bring the whip."
I flew upstairs and back again, and kneeling put both in my
mistress's hands. She then had me twist her heavy electric hair into
a large knot which I fastened with the green ribbon. Then I prepared
the bath. I did this very awkwardly because my hands and feet refused
to obey me. Again and again I had to look at the beautiful woman
lying on the red velvet cushions, and from time to time her wonderful
body gleamed here and there beneath the furs. Some magnetic power
stronger than my will compelled me to look. I felt that all
sensuality and lustfulness lies in that which is half-concealed or
intentionally disclosed; and the truth of this I recognized even more
acutely, when the basin at last was full, and Wanda threw off the fur-
cloak with a single gesture, and stood before me like the goddess in
At that moment she seemed as sacred and chaste to me in her unveiled
beauty, as did the divinity of long ago. I sank down on my knees
before her, and devoutly pressed my lips on her foot.
My soul which had been storm-tossed only a little while earlier,
suddenly was perfectly calm, and I now felt no element of cruelty in
She slowly descended the stairs, and I could watch her with a
calmness in which not a single atom of torment or desire was
intermingled. I could see her plunge into and rise out of the
crystalline water, and the wavelets which she herself raised played
about her like tender lovers.
Our nihilistic aesthetician is right when he says: a real apple is
more beautiful than a painted one, and a living woman is more
beautiful than a Venus of stone.
And when she left the bath, and the silvery drops and the roseate
light rippled down her body, I was seized with silent rapture. I
wrapped the linen sheets about her, drying her glorious body. The
calm bliss remained with me, even now when one foot upon me as upon
a footstool, she rested on the cushions in her large velvet cloak.
The lithe sables nestled desirously against her cold marble-like body.
Her left arm on which she supported herself lay like a sleeping swan
in the dark fur of the sleeve, while her left hand played carelessly
with the whip.
By chance my look fell on the massive mirror on the wall opposite,
and I cried out, for I saw the two of us in its golden frame as in
a picture. The picture was so marvellously beautiful, so strange, so
imaginative, that I was filled with deep sorrow at the thought that
its lines and colors would have to dissolve like mist.
"What is the matter?" asked Wanda.
I pointed to the mirror.
"Ah, that is really beautiful," she exclaimed, "too bad one can't
capture the moment and make it permanent."
"And why not?" I asked. "Would not any artist, even the most famous,
be proud if you gave him leave to paint you and make you immortal by
means of his brush.
"The very thought that this extra-ordinary beauty is to be lost to
the world," I continued still watching her enthusiastically, "is
horrible--all this glorious facial expression, this mysterious eye
with its green fires, this demonic hair, this magnificence of body.
The idea fills me with a horror of death, of annihilation. But the
hand of an artist shall snatch you from this. You shall not like the
rest of us disappear absolutely and forever, without leaving a trace
of your having been. Your picture must live, even when you yourself
have long fallen to dust; your beauty must triumph beyond death!"
"Too bad, that present-day Italy hasn't a Titian or Raphael," she
said, "but, perhaps, love will make amends for genius, who knows; our
little German might do?" She pondered.
"Yes, he shall paint you, and I will see to it that the god of love
mixes his colors."
* * * * *
The young painter has established his studio in her villa; he is
completely in her net. He has just begun a Madonna, a Madonna with
red hair and green eyes! Only the idealism of a German would attempt
to use this thorough-bred woman as a model for a picture of
virginity. The poor fellow really is an almost bigger donkey than I
am. Our misfortune is that our Titania has discovered our ass's ears
* * * * *
Now she laughs derisively at us, and how she laughs! I hear her
insolent melodious laughter in his studio, under the open window of
which I stand, jealously listening.
* * * * *
"Are you mad, me--ah, it is unbelievable, me as the Mother of God!"
she exclaimed and laughed again. "Wait a moment, I will show you
another picture of myself, one that I myself have painted, and you
shall copy it."
Her head appeared in the window, luminous like a flame under the
I hurried up the stairs, through the gallery, into the studio.
"Lead him to the bath," Wanda commanded, while she herself hurried
A few moments passed and Wanda arrived; dressed in nothing but the
sable fur, with the whip in her hand; she descended the stairs and
stretched out on the velvet cushions as on the former occasion. I lay
at her feet and she placed one of her feet upon me; her right hand
played with the whip. "Look at me," she said, "with your deep,
fanatical look, that's it."
The painter had turned terribly pale. He devoured the scene with his
beautiful dreamy blue eyes; his lips opened, but he remained dumb.
"Well, how do you like the picture?"
"Yes, that is how I want to paint you," said the German, but it was
really not a spoken language; it was the eloquent moaning, the
weeping of a sick soul, a soul sick unto death.
* * * * *
The charcoal outline of the painting is done; the heads and flesh
parts are painted in. Her diabolical face is already becoming visible
under a few bold strokes, life flashes in her green eyes.
Wanda stands in front of the canvas with her arms crossed over her
"This picture, like many of those of the Venetian school, is
simultaneously to represent a portrait and to tell a story,"
explained the painter, who again had become pale as death.
"And what will you call it?" she asked, "but what is the matter with
you, are you ill?"
"I am afraid--" he answered with a consuming look fixed on the
beautiful woman in furs, "but let us talk of the picture."
"Yes, let us talk about the picture."
"I imagine the goddess of love as having descended from Mount Olympus
for the sake of some mortal man. And always cold in this modern world
of ours, she seeks to keep her sublime body warm in a large heavy fur
and her feet in the lap of her lover. I imagine the favorite of a
beautiful despot, who whips her slave, when she is tired of kissing
him, and the more she treads him underfoot, the more insanely he loves
her. And so I shall call the picture: _Venus in Furs_."
* * * * *
The painter paints slowly, but his passion grows more and more
rapidly. I am afraid he will end up by committing suicide. She plays
with him and propounds riddles to him which he cannot solve, and he
feels his blood congealing in the process, but it amuses her.
During the sitting she nibbles at candies, and rolls the paper-
wrappers into little pellets with which she bombards him.
"I am glad you are in such good humor," said the painter, "but your
face has lost the expression which I need for my picture."
"The expression which you need for your picture," she replied,
smiling. "Wait a moment."
She rose, and dealt me a blow with the whip. The painter looked at
her with stupefaction, and a child-like surprise showed on his face,
mingled with disgust and admiration.
While whipping me, Wanda's face acquired more and more of the cruel,
contemptuous character, which so haunts and intoxicates me.
"Is this the expression you need for your picture?" she exclaimed.
The painter lowered his look in confusion before the cold ray of her
"It is the expression--" he stammered, "but I can't paint now--"
"What?" said Wanda, scornfully, "perhaps I can help you?"
"Yes--" cried the German, as if taken with madness, "whip me too."
"Oh! With pleasure," she replied, shrugging her shoulders, "but if
I am to whip you I want to do it in sober earnest."
"Whip me to death," cried the painter.
"Will you let me tie you?" she asked, smiling.
"Yes--" he moaned--
Wanda left the room for a moment, and returned with ropes.
"Well--are you still brave enough to put yourself into the power of
Venus in Furs, the beautiful despot, for better or worse?" she began
"Yes, tie me," the painter replied dully. Wanda tied his hands on
his back and drew a rope through his arms and a second one around his
body, and fettered him to the cross-bars of the window. Then she
rolled back the fur, seized the whip, and stepped in front of him.
The scene had a grim attraction for me, which I cannot describe. I
felt my heart beat, when, with a smile, she drew back her arm for the
first blow, and the whip hissed through the air. He winced slightly
under the blow. Then she let blow after blow rain upon him, with her
mouth half-opened and her teeth flashing between her red lips, until
he finally seemed to ask for mercy with his piteous, blue eyes. It
* * * * *
She is sitting for him now, alone. He is working on her head.
She has posted me in the adjoining room behind a heavy curtain,
where I can't be seen, but can see everything.
What does she intend now?
Is she afraid of him? She has driven him insane enough to be sure,
or is she hatching a new torment for me? My knees tremble.
They are talking. He has lowered his voice so that I cannot
understand a word, and she replies in the same way. What is the
meaning of this? Is there an understanding between them?
I suffer frightful torments; my heart seems about to burst.
He kneels down before her, embraces her, and presses his head
against her breast, and she--in her heartlessness--laughs--and now
I hear her saying aloud:
"Ah! You need another application of the whip."
"Woman! Goddess! Are you without a heart--can't you love," exclaimed
the German, "don't you even know, what it means to love, to be
consumed with desire and passion, can't you even imagine what I
suffer? Have you no pity for me?"
"No!" she replied proudly and mockingly, "but I have the whip."
She drew it quickly from the pocket of her fur-coat, and struck him
in the face with the handle. He rose, and drew back a couple of paces.
"Now, are you ready to paint again?" she asked indifferently. He did
not reply, but again went to the easel and took up his brush and
The painting is marvellously successful. It is a portrait which as
far as the likeness goes couldn't be better, and at the same time it
seems to have an ideal quality. The colors glow, are supernatural;
almost diabolical, I would call them.
The painter has put all his sufferings, his adoration, and all his
execration into the picture.
* * * * *
Now he is painting me; we are alone together for several hours every
day. To-day he suddenly turned to me with his vibrant voice and said:
"You love this woman?"
"I also love her." His eyes were bathed in tears. He remained silent
for a while, and continued painting.
"We have a mountain at home in Germany within which she dwells," he
murmured to himself. "She is a demon."
* * * * *
The picture is finished. She insisted on paying him for it,
munificently, in the manner of queens.
"Oh, you have already paid me," he said, with a tormented smile,
refusing her offer.
Before he left, he secretly opened his portfolio, and let me look
inside. I was startled. Her head looked at me as if out of a mirror
and seemed actually to be alive.
"I shall take it along," he said, "it is mine; she can't take it
away from me. I have earned it with my heart's blood."
* * * * *
"I am really rather sorry for the poor painter," she said to me to-
day, "it is absurd to be as virtuous as I am. Don't you think so too?"
I did not dare to reply to her.
"Oh, I forgot that I am talking with a slave; I need some fresh air,
I want to be diverted, I want to forget.
"The carriage, quick!"
Her new dress is extravagant: Russian half-boots of violet-blue
velvet trimmed with ermine, and a skirt of the same material,
decorated with narrow stripes and rosettes of furs. Above it is an
appropriate, close-fitting jacket, also richly trimmed and lined with
ermine. The headdress is a tall cap of ermine of the style of
Catherine the Second, with a small aigrette, held in place by a
diamond-agraffe; her red hair falls loose down her back. She ascends
on the driver's seat, and holds the reins herself; I take my seat
behind. How she lashes on the horses! The carriage flies along like
Apparently it is her intention to attract attention to-day, to make
conquests, and she succeeds completely. She is the lioness of the
Cascine. People nod to her from carriages; on the footpath people
gather in groups to discuss her. She pays no attention to anyone,
except now and then acknowledging the greetings of elderly gentlemen
with a slight nod.
Suddenly a young man on a lithe black horse dashes up at full speed.
As soon as he sees Wanda, he stops his horse and makes it walk. When
he is quite close, he stops entirely and lets her pass. And she too
sees him--the lioness, the lion. Their eyes meet. She madly drives
past him, but she cannot tear herself free from the magic power of
his look, and she turns her head after him.
My heart stops when I see the half-surprised, half-enraptured look
with which she devours him, but he is worthy of it.
For he is, indeed, a magnificent specimen of man, No, rather, he is
a man whose like I have never yet seen among the living. He is in the
Belvedere, graven in marble, with the same slender, yet steely
musculature, with the same face and the same waving curls. What makes
him particularly beautiful is that he is beardless. If his hips were
less narrow, one might take him for a woman in disguise. The curious
expression about the mouth, the lion's lip which slightly discloses
the teeth beneath, lends a flashing tinge of cruelty to the beautiful
Apollo flaying Marsyas.
He wears high black boots, closely fitting breeches of white
leather, short fur coat of black cloth, of the kind worn by Italian
cavalry officers, trimmed with astrakhan and many rich loops; on his
black locks is a red fez.
I now understand the masculine Eros, and I marvel at Socrates for
having remained virtuous in view of an Alcibiades like this.
* * * * *
I have never seen my lioness so excited. Her cheeks flamed when she
left from the carriage at her villa. She hurried upstairs, and with
an imperious gesture ordered me to follow.
Walking up and down her room with long strides, she began to talk so
rapidly, that I was frightened.
"You are to find out who the man in the Cascine was, immediately--
"Oh, what a man! Did you see him? What do you think of him? Tell me."
"The man is beautiful," I replied dully.
"He is so beautiful," she paused, supporting herself on the arm of
a chair, "that he has taken my breath away."
"I can understand the impression he has made on you," I replied, my
imagination carrying me away in a mad whirl. "I am quite lost in
admiration myself, and I can imagine--"
"You may imagine," she laughed aloud, "that this man is my lover,
and that he will apply the lash to you, and that you will enjoy being
punished by him.
"But now go, go."
* * * * *
Before evening fell, I had the desired information.
Wanda was still fully dressed when I returned. She reclined on the
ottoman, her face buried in her hands, her hair in a wild tangle,
like the red mane of a lioness.
"What is his name?" she asked, uncanny calm.
"A Greek, then,"
"He is very young?"
"Scarcely older than you. They say he was educated in Paris, and
that he is an atheist. He fought against the Turks in Candia, and is
said to have distinguished himself there no less by his race-hatred
and cruelty, than by his bravery."
"All in all, then, a man," she cried with sparkling eyes.
"At present he is living in Florence," I continued, "he is said to
be tremendously rich--"
"I didn't ask you about that," she interrupted quickly and sharply.
"The man is dangerous. Aren't you afraid of him? I am afraid of him.
Has he a wife?"
"What theaters does he attend?"
"To-night he will be at the Nicolini Theater, where Virginia Marini
and Salvini are acting; they are the greatest living artists in
Italy, perhaps in Europe.
"See that you get a box--and be quick about it!" she commanded.
"Do you want a taste of the whip?"
* * * * *
"You can wait down in the lobby," she said when I had placed the
opera-glasses and the programme on the edge of her box and adjusted
I am standing there and had to lean against the wall for support so
as not to fall down with envy and rage--no, rage isn't the right
word; it was a mortal fear.
I saw her in her box dressed in blue moire, with a huge ermine cloak
about her bare shoulders; he sat opposite. I saw them devour each
other with their eyes. For both of them the stage, Goldoni's _Pamela,_
Salvini, Marini, the public, even the entire world, were non-existant
to-night. And I--what was I at that moment?--
* * * * *
To-day she is attending the ball at the Greek ambassador's. Does she
know, that she will meet him there?
At any rate she dressed, as if she did. A heavy sea-green silk dress
plastically encloses her divine form, leaving the bust and arms bare.
In her hair, which is done into a single flaming knot, a white water-
lily blossoms; from it the leaves of reeds interwoven with a few
loose strands fall down toward her neck. There no longer is any trace
of agitation or trembling feverishness in her being. She is calm, so
calm, that I feel my blood congealing and my heart growing cold under
her glance. Slowly, with a weary, indolent majesty, she ascends the
marble staircase, lets her precious wrap slide off, and listlessly
enters the hall, where the smoke of a hundred candles has formed a
For a few moments my eyes follow her in a daze, then I pick up her
furs, which without my being aware, had slipped from my hands. They
are still warm from her shoulders.
I kiss the spot, and my eyes fill with tears.
* * * * *
He has arrived.
In his black velvet coat extravagantly trimmed with sable, he is a
beautiful, haughty despot who plays with the lives and souls of men.
He stands in the ante-room, looking around proudly, and his eyes rest
on me for an uncomfortably long time.
Under his icy glance I am again seized by a mortal fear. I have a
presentiment that this man can enchain her, captivate her, subjugate
her, and I feel inferior in contrast with his savage masculinity; I
am filled with envy, with jealousy.
I feel that I am a queer weakly creature of brains, merely! And what
is most humiliating, I want to hate him, but I can't. Why is that
among all the host of servants he has chosen me.
With an inimitably aristocratic nod of the head he calls me over to
him, and I--I obey his call--against my own will.
"Take my furs," he quickly commands.
My entire body trembles with resentment, but I obey, abjectly like
* * * * *
All night long I waited in the ante-room, raving as in a fever.
Strange images hovered past my inner eye. I saw their meeting--their
long exchange of looks. I saw her float through the hall in his arms,
drunken, lying with half-closed lids against his breast. I saw him
in the holy of holies of love, lying on the ottoman, not as slave,
but as master, and she at his feet. On my knees I served them, the
tea-tray faltering in my hands, and I saw him reach for the whip.
But now the servants are talking about him.
He is a man who is like a woman; he knows that he is beautiful, and
he acts accordingly. He changes his clothes four or five times a day,
like a vain courtesan.
In Paris he appeared first in woman's dress, and the men assailed
him with love-letters. An Italian singer, famous equally for his art
and his passionate intensity, even invaded his home, and lying on his
knees before him threatened to commit suicide if he wouldn't be his.
"I am sorry," he replied, smiling, "I should like to do you the
favor, but you will have to carry out your threat, for I am a man."
* * * * *
The drawing-room has already thinned out to a marked degree, but she
apparently has no thought of leaving.
Morning is already peering through the blinds.
At last I hear the rustling of her heavy gown which flows along
behind her like green waves. She advances step by step, engaged in
conversation with him.
I hardly exist for her any longer; she doesn't even trouble to give
me an order.
"The cloak for madame," he commands. He, of course, doesn't think of
looking after her himself.
While I put her furs about her, he stands to one side with his arms
crossed. While I am on my knees putting on her fur over-shoes, she
lightly supports herself with her hand on his shoulder. She asks:
"And what about the lioness?"
"When the lion whom she has chosen and with whom she lives is
attacked by another," the Greek went on with his narrative, "the
lioness quietly lies down and watches the battle. Even if her mate
is worsted she does not go to his aid. She looks on indifferently as
he bleeds to death under his opponent's claws, and follows the victor,
the stronger--that is the female's nature."
At this moment my lioness looked quickly and curiously at me.
It made me shudder, though I didn't know why--and the red dawn
immerses me and her and him in blood.
* * * * *
She did not go to bed, but merely threw off her ball-dress and undid
her hair; then she ordered me to build a fire, and she sat by the
fire-place, and stared into the flames.
"Do you need me any longer, mistress?" I asked, my voice failed me
at the last word.
Wanda shook her head.
I left the room, passed through the gallery, and sat down on one of
the steps, leading from there down into the garden. A gentle north
wind brought a fresh, damp coolness from the Arno, the green hills
extended into the distance in a rosy mist, a golden haze hovered over
the city, over the round cupola of the Duomo.
A few stars still tremble in the pale-blue sky.
I tore open my coat, and pressed my burning forehead against the
marble. Everything that had happened so far seemed to me a mere
child's play; but now things were beginning to be serious, terribly
I anticipated a catastrophe, I visualized it, I could lay hold of it
with my hands, but I lacked the courage to meet it. My strength was
broken. And if I am honest with myself, neither the pains and
sufferings that threatened me, not the humiliations that impended,
were the thing that frightened me.
I merely felt a fear, the fear of losing her whom I loved with a
sort of fanatical devotion; but it was so overwhelming, so crushing
that I suddenly began to sob like a child.
* * * * *
During the day she remained locked in her room, and had the negress
attend her. When the evening star rose glowing in the blue sky, I saw
her pass through the garden, and, carefully following her at a
distance, watched her enter the shrine of Venus. I stealthily
followed and peered through the chink in the door.
She stood before the divine image of the goddess, her hands folded
as in prayer, and the sacred light of the star of love casts its blue
rays over her.
* * * * *
On my couch at night the fear of losing her and despair took such
powerful hold of me that they made a hero and a libertine of me. I
lighted the little red oil-lamp which hung in the corridor beneath
a saint's image, and entered her bedroom, covering the light with one
The lioness had been hunted and driven until she was exhausted. She
had fallen asleep among her pillows, lying on her back, her hands
clenched, breathing heavily. A dream seemed to oppress her. I slowly
withdrew my hand, and let the red light fall full on her wonderful
But she did not awaken.
I gently set the lamp on the floor, sank down beside Wanda's bed,
and rested my head on her soft, glowing arm.
She moved slightly, but even now did not awaken. I do not know how
long I lay thus in the middle of the night, turned as into a stone
by horrible torments.
Finally a severe trembling seized me, and I was able to cry. My
tears flowed over her arm. She quivered several times and finally sat
up; she brushed her hand across her eyes, and looked at me.
"Severin," she exclaimed, more frightened than angry.
I was unable to reply.
"Severin," she continued softly, "what is the matter? Are you ill?"
Her voice sounded so sympathetic, so kind, so full of love, that it
clutched my breast like red-hot tongs and I began to sob aloud.
"Severin," she began anew. "My poor unhappy friend." Her hand gently
stroked my hair. "I am sorry, very sorry for you; but I can't help
you; with the best intention in the world I know of nothing that
would cure you."
"Oh, Wanda, must it be?" I moaned in my agony.
"What, Severin? What are you talking about?"
"Don't you love me any more?" I continued. "Haven't you even a
little bit of pity for me? Has the beautiful stranger taken complete
possession of you?"
"I cannot lie," she replied softly after a short pause. "He has made
an impression on me which I haven't yet been able to analyse, further
than that I suffer and tremble beneath it. It is an impression of the
sort I have met with in the works of poets or on the stage, but I
always thought it was a figment of the imagination. Oh, he is a man
like a lion, strong and beautiful and yet gentle, not brutal like the
men of our northern world. I am sorry for you, Severin, I am; but I
must possess him. What am I saying? I must give myself to him, if he
will have me."
"Consider your reputation, Wanda, which so far has remained
spotless," I exclaimed, "even if I no longer mean anything to you."
"I am considering it," she replied, "I intend to be strong, as long
as it is possible, I want--" she buried her head shyly in the pillows
--"I want to become his wife--if he will have me."
"Wanda," I cried, seized again by that mortal fear, which always
robs me of my breath, makes me lose possession of myself, "you want
to be his wife, belong to him for always. Oh! Do not drive me away!
He does not love you--"
"Who says that?" she exclaimed, flaring up.
"He does not love you," I went on passionately, "but I love you, I
adore you, I am your slave, I let you tread me underfoot, I want to
carry you on my arms through life."
"Who says that he doesn't love me?" she interrupted vehemently.
"Oh! be mine," I replied, "be mine! I cannot exist, cannot live
without you. Have mercy on me, Wanda, have mercy!"
She looked at me again, and her face had her cold heartless
expression, her evil smile.
"You say he doesn't love me," she said, scornfully. "Very well then,
get what consolation you can out of it."
With this she turned over on the other side, and contemptuously
showed me her back.
"Good God, are you a woman without flesh or blood, haven't you a
heart as well as I!" I cried, while my breast heaved convulsively.
"You know what I am," she replied, coldly. "I am a woman of stone,
_Venus in Furs_, your ideal, kneel down, and pray to me."
"Wanda!" I implored, "mercy!"
She began to laugh. I buried my face in her pillows. Pain had
loosened the floodgates of my tears and I let them flow.
For a long time silence reigned, then Wanda slowly raised herself.
"You bore me," she began.
"I am tired, let me go to sleep."
"Mercy," I implored. "Do not drive me away. No man, no one, will
love you as I do."
"Let me go to sleep,"--she turned her back to me again.
I leaped up, and snatched the poinard, which hung beside her bed,
from its sheath, and placed its point against my breast.
"I shall kill myself here before your eyes," I murmured dully.
"Do what you please," Wanda replied with complete indifference. "But
let me go to sleep." She yawned aloud. "I am very sleepy."
For a moment I stood as if petrified. Then I began to laugh and cry
at the same time. Finally I placed the poinard in my belt, and again
fell on my knees before her.
"Wanda, listen to me, only for a few moments," I begged.
"I want to go to sleep! Don't you hear!" she cried, leaping angrily
out of bed and pushing me away with her foot. "You forget that I am
your mistress?" When I didn't budge, she seized the whip and struck
me. I rose; she struck me again--this time right in the face.
With clenched fist held heavenward, I left her bedroom with a sudden
resolve. She tossed the whip aside, and broke out into clear
laughter. I can imagine that my theatrical attitude must have been
* * * * *
I have determined to set myself free from this heartless woman, who
has treated me so cruelly, and is now about to break faith and betray
me, as a reward for all my slavish devotion, for everything I have
suffered from her. I packed my few belongings into a bundle, and then
wrote her as follows:
I have loved you even to madness, I have given myself to you as no man
ever has given himself to a woman. You have abused my most sacred
emotions, and played an impudent, frivolous game with me. However, as
long as you were merely cruel and merciless, it was still possible for
me to love you. Now you are about to become _cheap_. I am no longer
the slave whom you can kick about and whip. You yourself have set me
free, and I am leaving a woman I can only hate and despise.
I handed these lines to the negress, and hastened away as fast as I
could go. I arrived at the railway-station all out of breath.
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my heart and stopped. I began to
weep. It is humiliating that I want to flee and I can't. I turn back--
whither?--to her, whom I abhor, and yet, at the same time, adore.
Again I pause. I cannot go back. I dare not.
But how am I to leave Florence. I remember that I haven't any money,
not a penny. Very well then, on foot; it is better to be an honest
beggar than to eat the bread of a courtesan.
But still I can't leave.
She has my pledge, my word of honor. I have to return. Perhaps she
will release me.
After a few rapid strides, I stop again.
She has my word of honor and my bond, that I shall remain her slave
as long as she desires, until she herself gives me my freedom. But
I might kill myself.
I go through the Cascine down to the Arno, where its yellow waters
plash monotonously about a couple of stray willows. There I sit, and
cast up my final accounts with existence. I let my entire life pass
before me in review. On the whole, it is rather a wretched affair--a
few joys, an endless number of indifferent and worthless things, and
between these an abundant harvest of pains, miseries, fears,
disappointments, shipwrecked hopes, afflictions, sorrow and grief.
I thought of my mother, whom I loved so deeply and whom I had to
watch waste away beneath a horrible disease; of my brother, who full
of the promise of joy and happiness died in the flower of youth,
without even having put his lips to the cup of life. I thought of my
dead nurse, my childhood playmates, the friends that had striven and
studied with me; of all those, covered by the cold, dead, indifferent
earth. I thought of my turtle-dove, who not infrequently made his
cooing bows to me, instead of to his mate.--All have returned, dust
I laughed aloud, and slid down into the water, but at the same
moment I caught hold of one of the willow-branches, hanging above the
yellow waves. As in a vision, I see the woman who has caused all my
misery. She hovers above the level of the water, luminous in the
sunlight as though she were transparent, with red flames about her
head and neck. She turns her face toward me and smiles.
* * * * *
I am back again, dripping, wet through, glowing with shame and
fever. The negress has delivered my letter; I am judged, lost, in the
power of a heartless, affronted woman.
Well, let her kill me. I am unable to do it myself, and yet I have
no wish to go on living.
As I walk around the house, she is standing in the gallery, leaning
over the railing. Her face is full in the light of the sun, and her
green eyes sparkle.
"Still alive?" she asked, without moving. I stood silent, with bowed
"Give me back my poinard," she continued. "It is of no use to you.
You haven't even the courage to take your own life."
"I have lost it," I replied, trembling, shaken by chills.
She looked me over with a proud, scornful glance.
"I suppose you lost it in the Arno?" She shrugged her shoulders. "No
matter. Well, and why didn't you leave?"
I mumbled something which neither she nor I myself could understand.
"Oh! you haven't any money," she cried. "Here!" With an
indescribably disdainful gesture she tossed me her purse.
I did not pick it up.
Both of us were silent for some time.
"You don't want to leave then?"
* * * * *
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."
* * * * *
I have a curious feeling when I now hold her in my arms and she lies
silently against my breast and lets me kiss her and smiles. I feel
like one who has suddenly awakened out of a feverish delirium, or
like a shipwrecked man who has for many days battled with waves that
momentarily threatened to devour him and finally has found a safe
* * * * *
"I hate this Florence, where you have been so unhappy," she
declared, as I was saying good-night to her. "I want to leave
immediately, tomorrow, you will be good enough to write a couple of
letters for me, and, while you are doing that, I will drive to the
city to pay my farewell visits. Is that satisfactory to you?"
"Of course, you dear, sweet, beautiful woman."
* * * * *
Early in the morning she knocked at my door to ask how I had slept.
Her tenderness is positively wonderful. I should never have believed
that she could be so tender.
* * * * *
She has now been gone for over four hours. I have long since
finished the letters, and am now sitting in the gallery, looking down
the street to see whether I cannot discover her carriage in the
distance. I am a little worried about her, and yet I know there is
no reason under heaven why I should doubt or fear. However, a feeling
of oppression weighs me down, and I cannot rid myself of it. It is
probably the sufferings of the past days, which still cast their
shadows into my soul.
* * * * *
She is back, radiant with happiness and contentment.
"Well, has everything gone as you wished?" I asked tenderly, kissing
"Yes, dear heart," she replied, "and we shall leave to-night. Help
me pack my trunks."
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
For a moment I thought of taking vengeance, of killing him, but I
was bound by the abominable agreement. So nothing was left for me to
do except to keep my pledged word and grit my teeth.
* * * * *
My first impulse after this, the most cruel catastrophe of my life,
was to seek laborious tasks, dangers, and privations. I wanted to
become a soldier and go to Asia or Algiers, but my father was old and
ill and wanted me.
So I quietly returned home and for two years helped him bear his
burdens, and learned how to look after the estate which I had never
done before. To _labor_ and to _do my duty_ was comforting like a
drink of fresh water. Then my father died, and I inherited the estate,
but it meant no change.
I had put on my own Spanish boots and went on living just as
rationally as if the old man were standing behind me, looking over
my shoulder with his large wise eyes.
One day a box arrived, accompanied by a letter. I recognized Wanda's
Curiously moved, I opened it, and read.
Now that over three years have passed since that night in Florence,
I suppose, I may confess to you that I loved you deeply. You
yourself, however, stifled my love by your fantastic devotion and
your insane passion. From the moment that you became my slave, I knew
it would be impossible for you ever to become my husband. However,
I found it interesting to have you realize your ideal in my own person,
and, while I gloriously amused myself, perhaps, to cure you.
I found the strong man for whom I felt a need, and I was as happy
with him as, I suppose, it is possible for any one to be on this
funny ball of clay.
But my happiness, like all things mortal, was of short duration.
About a year ago he fell in a duel, and since then I have been living
in Paris, like an Aspasia--
And you?--Your life surely is not without its sunshine, if you have
gained control of your imagination, and those qualities in you have
materialized, which at first so attracted me to you--your clarity of
intellect, kindness of heart, and, above all else, your--_moral
I hope you have been cured under my whip; the cure was cruel, but
radical. In memory of that time and of a woman who loved you
passionately, I am sending you the portrait by the poor German.
_Venus in Furs_."
I had to smile, and as I fell to musing the beautiful woman suddenly
stood before me in her velvet jacket trimmed with ermine, with the
whip in her hand. And I continued to smile at the woman I had once
loved so insanely, at the fur-jacket that had once so entranced me,
at the whip, and ended by smiling at myself and saying: The cure was
cruel, but radical; but the main point is, I have been cured.
* * * * *
"And the moral of the story?" I said to Severin when I put the
manuscript down on the table.
"That I was a donkey," he exclaimed without turning around, for he
seemed to be embarrassed. "If only I had beaten her!"
"A curious remedy," I exclaimed, "which might answer with your
"Oh, they are used to it," he replied eagerly, "but imagine the
effect upon one of our delicate, nervous, hysterical ladies--"
"But the moral?"
"That woman, as nature has created her and as man is at present
educating her, is his enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot,
but _never his companion._ This she can become only when she has
the same rights as he, and is his equal in education and work.
"At present we have only the choice of being hammer or anvil, and I
was the kind of donkey who let a woman make a slave of him, do you
"The moral of the tale is this: whoever allows himself to be
whipped, deserves to be whipped.
"The blows, as you see, have agreed with me; the roseate supersensual
mist has dissolved, and no one can ever make me believe again that
these 'sacred apes of Benares' [Footnote: One of Schopenhauer's
designations for women.] or Plato's rooster [Footnote: Diogenes
threw a plucked rooster into Plato's school and exclaimed: "Here
you have Plato's human being."] are the image of God."