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17.

  • 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 thought."
  • Wanda smiled happily, leaned her cheek against mine, and seemed to reflect.
  • "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."