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
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
“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
“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–”
My blood rose in my heart. I threw myself down at her feet and began
“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.