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35.

  • 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."
  • "Breakfast."
  • 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.