VENUS IN FURS

   "But the Almighty Lord hath struck him,
  and hath delivered him into the hands of
  a woman."

—The Vulgate, Judith, xvi. 7.

 

My company was charming.

Opposite me by the massive Renaissance fireplace sat Venus; she was not a casual woman of the half-world, who under this pseudonym wages war against the enemy sex, like Mademoiselle Cleopatra, but the real, true goddess of love.

She sat in an armchair and had kindled a crackling fire, whose reflection ran in red flames over her pale face with its white eyes, and from time to time over her feet when she sought to warm them.

Her head was wonderful in spite of the dead stony eyes; it was all I could see of her. She had wrapped her marble-like body in a huge fur, and rolled herself up trembling like a cat.

"I don't understand it," I exclaimed, "It isn't really cold any longer. For two weeks past we have had perfect spring weather. You must be nervous."

"Much obliged for your spring," she replied with a low stony voice, and immediately afterwards sneezed divinely, twice in succession. "I really can't stand it here much longer, and I am beginning to understand—"

"What, dear lady?"

"I am beginning to believe the unbelievable and to understand the un- understandable. All of a sudden I understand the Germanic virtue of woman, and German philosophy, and I am no longer surprised that you of the North do not know how to love, haven't even an idea of what love is."

"But, madame," I replied flaring up, "I surely haven't given you any reason."

"Oh, you—" The divinity sneezed for the third time, and shrugged her shoulders with inimitable grace. "That's why I have always been nice to you, and even come to see you now and then, although I catch a cold every time, in spite of all my furs. Do you remember the first time we met?"

"How could I forget it," I said. "You wore your abundant hair in brown curls, and you had brown eyes and a red mouth, but I recognized you immediately by the outline of your face and its marble-like pallor—you always wore a violet-blue velvet jacket edged with squirrel-skin."

"You were really in love with the costume, and awfully docile."

"You have taught me what love is. Your serene form of worship let me forget two thousand years."

"And my faithfulness to you was without equal!"

"Well, as far as faithfulness goes—"

"Ungrateful!"

"I will not reproach you with anything. You are a divine woman, but nevertheless a woman, and like every woman cruel in love."

"What you call cruel," the goddess of love replied eagerly, "is simply the element of passion and of natural love, which is woman's nature and makes her give herself where she loves, and makes her love everything, that pleases her."

"Can there be any greater cruelty for a lover than the unfaithfulness of the woman he loves?" .......


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