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8.

  • "Do you really then expect me to embody your ideal?" Wanda asked archly, when
  • we met in the park to-day.
  • At first I could find no answer. The most antagonistic emotions were battling
  • within me. In the meantime she sat down on one of the stone- benches, and
  • played with a flower.
  • "Well—am I?"
  • I kneeled down and seized her hands.
  • "Once more I beg you to become my wife, my true and loyal wife; if you can't
  • do that then become the embodiment of my ideal, absolutely, without
  • reservation, without softness."
  • "You know I am ready at the end of a year to give you my hand, if you prove to
  • be the man I am seeking," Wanda replied very seriously, "but I think you would
  • be more grateful to me if through me you realized your imaginings. Well, which
  • do you prefer?"
  • "I believe that everything my imagination has dreamed lies latent in your
  • personality."
  • "You are mistaken."
  • "I believe," I continued, "that you enjoy having a man wholly in your power,
  • torturing him—"
  • "No, no," she exclaimed quickly, "or perhaps—." She pondered.
  • "I don't understand myself any longer," she continued, "but I have a
  • confession to make to you. You have corrupted my imagination and inflamed my
  • blood. I am beginning to like the things you speak of. The enthusiasm with
  • which you speak of a Pompadour, a Catherine the Second, and all the other
  • selfish, frivolous, cruel women, carries me away and takes hold of my soul. It
  • urges me on to become like those women, who in spite of their vileness were
  • slavishly adored during their lifetime and still exert a miraculous power from
  • their graves.
  • "You will end by making of me a despot in miniature, a domestic Pompadour."
  • "Well then," I said in agitation, "if all this is inherent in you, give way to
  • this trend of your nature. Nothing half-way. If you can't be a true and loyal
  • wife to me, be a demon."
  • I was nervous from loss of sleep, and the proximity of the beautiful woman
  • affected me like a fever. I no longer recall what I said, but I remember that
  • I kissed her feet, and finally raised her foot and put my neck under it. She
  • withdrew it quickly, and rose almost angrily.
  • "If you love me, Severin," she said quickly, and her voice sounded sharp and
  • commanding, "never speak to me of those things again. Understand, never!
  • Otherwise I might really—" She smiled and sat down again.
  • "I am entirely serious," I exclaimed, half-raving. "I adore you so infinitely
  • that I am willing to suffer anything from you, for the sake of spending my
  • whole life near you."
  • "Severin, once more I warn you."
  • "Your warning is vain. Do with me what you will, as long as you don't drive me
  • away."
  • "Severin," replied Wanda, "I am a frivolous young woman; it is dangerous for
  • you to put yourself so completely in my power. You will end by actually
  • becoming a plaything to me. Who will give warrant that I shall not abuse your
  • insane desire?"
  • "Your own nobility of character."
  • "Power makes people over-bearing."
  • "Be it," I cried, "tread me underfoot."
  • Wanda threw her arms around my neck, looked into my eyes, and shook her head.
  • "I am afraid I can't, but I will try, for your sake, for I love you Severin,
  • as I have loved no other man."