René, who had come over to the two women, said to O: "Watch." And to Jeanne: "Lift your dress." With both hands she raised the crackling silk and the crinoline which lined it, revealing as she did a golden belly, gleaming thighs and knees, and a tight black triangle. René put his hand on it and slowly explored, and with the other excited the nipple of one breast.
"Merely so you can see," he said to O.
O saw. She saw his ironic but attentive face, his eyes carefully watching Jeanne's half-open mouth and her neck, which was thrown back, tightly circled by the leather collar. What pleasure was she giving him, yes she, that this girl or any other could not?
"That hadn't occurred to you?" he added.
No, that had not occurred to her. She had collapsed against the wall, between the two doors, her arms hanging limp. There was no longer any need to tell her to keep quiet. How could she have spoken? Perhaps he was touched by her despair. He left Jeanne and took her in his arms, calling her his love and his life, saying over and over again that he loved her. The hand he was caressing her neck with was moist with the odor of Jeanne. And so? The despair that had overwhelmed her slowly ebbed: he loved her, ah he loved her. He was free to enjoy himself with Jeanne, or with others, he loved her. "I love you," he had whispered to her ear, "I love you," so softly it was scarcely audible. "I love you." He did not leave until he saw that her eyes were clear and her expression calm, contented.
Jeanne took O by the hand and let her out into the hallway. Their mules again made a resounding noise on the tile floor, and again they found a valet seated on a bench between the doors. He was dressed like Pierre, but it was not Pierre. This one was tall, dry, and had dark hair. He preceded them and showed them into an antechamber where, before a wrought-iron door that stood between two tall green drapes, two other valets were waiting, some white dogs with russet spots lying at their feet.
"That's the enclosure," Jeanne murmured. But the valet who was walking in front of them heard her and turned around. O was amazed to see Jeanne turn deathly pale and let go of her hand, let go of her dress which she was holding lightly with her other hand, and sink to her knees on the black tile floor - for the antechamber was tiled in black marble. The two valets near the gate burst out laughing. One of them came over to O and politely invited her to follow him, opened a door opposite the one she had just entered, and stood aside. She heard laughter and the sound of footsteps, then the door closed behind her. She never - no, never - learned what had happened, whether Jeanne had been punished for having spoken, and if so what the punishment had been, or whether she had simply yielded to a caprice on the part of the valet, or whether in throwing herself on her knees she had been obeying some rule or trying to move the valet to pity, and whether she had succeeded. During her initial stay in the château, which lasted two weeks, she only noted that, although the rule of silence was absolute, it was rare that they did not try and break it while they were alone with the valets, either being taken to or from some place in the château, or during meals, especially during the day. It was as though clothing gave them a feeling of assurance which nakedness and nocturnal chains, and the master's presence, destroyed. She also noticed that, whereas the slightest gestures which might have been construed as an advance toward one of the masters seemed quite naturally inconceivable, the same was not true for the valets. They never gave orders, although the courtesy of their requests was as implacable as an order. They had apparently been enjoined to punish to the letter infractions of the rules which occurred in their presence, and to punish them on the spot. Thus, on three occasions, O saw girls who were caught talking thrown to the floor and whipped - once in the hallway leading to the red wing, and twice again in the fectory they had just entered. So it was possible to be whipped in broad daylight, despite what they had told her the first evening, as though what happened with the valets did not count and was left to their discretion.
Daylight made their outfits look strange and menacing. Some valets wore black stockings and, in place of the red jacket and white ruffled shirt, a soft wide-sleeved shirt of red silk, gathered at the neck and with the sleeves also gathered at the wrists. It was one of these valets who, on the eight day at noon, his whip already in his hand, made a buxom blonde named Madeleine, who was seated not far from O, get up off her stool. Madeleine, whose bosom was all milk and roses, had smiled at him and spoken a few words so quickly that O had missed them. Before he had time to touch her she was on her knees, her hand, so white against the black silk, lightly stroking the still dormant sex, which she took out and brought to her half-opened mouth. That time she was not whipped. And since he was then the only monitor in the refectory, and since he closed his eyes as he accepted the caress, the other girls began talking. So it was possible to bribe the valets. But what was the use? If there was one rule to which O had trouble submitting, and indeed never really submitted to completely, it was the rule forbidding them to look men in the face - considering that the rule applied to the valets as well, O felt herself in constant danger, so compelling was her curiosity about faces, and she was in fact whipped by both the valets, not, in truth, each time they noticed her doing (for they took some liberties with instructions, and perhaps cared enough about the fascination they exercised not to deprive themselves, by too strict or efficacious an application of the rules, of the gazes which would leave their face or mouth only to return to their sex, their whips, and their hands, and then start in all over again), but only when in all probability they wanted to humiliate her. No matter how cruelly they treated her when they had made up their minds to do so, she none the less never had the courage, or the cowardice, to throw herself at their knees, and though she submitted to them at times she never tempted or urged them on. As for the rule of silence, it meant so little to her that, except in the case of her lover, she did not once break it, replying by signals whenever another girl would take advantage of their guards' momentary distraction to speak to her. This was generally during meals, which were taken in the room into which they had been ushered, when the tall valet accompanying them had turned around to Jeanne. The walls were black and the stone floor was black, the long table, of heavy glass, was black too, and each girl had a round stool covered with black leather on which to sit. They had to lift their skirts to sit down, and in so doing O rediscovered, the moment she felt the smooth, cold leather beneath her thighs, that first moment when her lover had made her take off her stockings and panties and sit in the same manner on the back seat of the car. Conversely, after she had left the château and, dressed like everyone else except for the fact that beneath her innocuous suit or dress she was naked, whenever she had to lift her petticoat and skirt to sit down beside her lover, or beside another, were it on the seat of a car or the bench of a cafe, it was the château she rediscovered, breasts proffered in the silk bodices, the hands and mouths to which nothing was denied, and the terrible silence. And yet nothing had been such a comfort to her as the silence, unless it was the chains. The chains and the silence, which should have bound her deep within herself, which should have smothered her, strangled her, on the contrary freed her from herself. What would have become of her if she had been granted the right to speak and the freedom of her hands, if she had been free to make a choice, when her lover prostituted her before his own eyes? True, she did not speak as she was being tortured, but can moans and cries be classed as words? Besides, they often stilled her by gagging. Beneath the gazes, beneath the hands, beneath the sexes that defiled her, the whips that rent her, she lost herself in a delirious absence from herself which restored her to love and perhaps, brought her to the edge of death. She was anyone, anyone at all, any one of the other girls, opened and forced like her, girls whom she saw being opened and forced, for she did see it, even when she was not obliged to have a hand in it.
Thus, less than twenty-four hours after her arrival, during her second day there, she was taken after the meal into the library, there to serve coffee and tend the fire. Jeanne, whom the blackhaired valet had brought back, went with her, as did another girl named Monique. It was this same valet who took them there and remained in the room, stationed near the stake to which O had been attached. The library was still empty. The French doors faced wet, and in the vast, almost cloudless sky the autumn sun slowly pursued its course, its rays lighting, on a chest of drawers, an enormous bouquet of sulphur colored chrysanthemums which smelled of earth and dead leaves.
"Did Pierre mark you last night?" the valet asked O.
She nodded that he had.
"Then you should show it," he said. Please roll up your dress."
He waited till she had rolled her robe up and behind, the way Jeanne had done the evening before, and till Jeanne had helped her fasten it there. Then he told her to light the fire. O's backside up to her waist, her thighs, her slender legs, was framed in the cascading folds of green silk and white linen. The five welts had turned black. The fire was ready on the hearth, all O had to do was ignite the straw beneath the kindling, which leaped into flame. Soon the branches of apple wood caught, then the oak logs, which burned with tall, crackling, almost colorless flames which were almost invisible in the daylight, but which smelled good. Another valet entered and placed a tray filled with coffee cups on the console, from which the lamp had been removed, then left the room. O went over near the console, while Monique and Jeanne remained standing on either side of the fireplace.
Just then two men came in, and the first valet in turn left the room. O thought she recognized one of the men from his voice, one of those who had forced her the previous evening, the one who had asked that her rear be made more easily accessible. As she poured the coffee into the small black and gold cups, which Monique handed around with the sugar, she stole a glance at them. So it was this thin, blond boy, a mere stripling, with an English air about him. He was speaking again; now she was certain. The other man was also fair, thick set with a heavy face. Both of them were seated in the big leather armchairs, their feet near the fire, quietly smoking and reading their papers, paying no more heed to the women than if they had not been there. Now and then the rustle of a paper was heard, or the sound of coals falling on the hearth. From time to time O put another long on the fire. She was seated on a cushion on the floor beside the wood basket, Monique and Jeanne, also on the floor, across from her. Their flowing skirts overlapped one another. Monique's skirt was a dark red. Suddenly, but only after an hour had elapsed, the blond boy called Jeanne, then Monique. He told them to bring the ottoman (it was the same ottoman on which O had been spread-eagled the night before). Monique did not wait for further instructions, she kneeled down, bent over, her breasts crushed against the first and holding both corners of the ottoman in her hands. When the young man had Jeanne lift the red skirt, she did not stir. Jeanne was then obliged to undo his clothing - and he gave her the order in the most churlish manner - and take between her hands that sword of flesh which had so cruelly pierced O at least once. It swelled and stiffened beneath the closed palm, and O saw these same hands, Jeanne's tiny hands, spreading Monique's thighs, into the hollow of which, slowly and in short spasms which made her moan, the lad plunged.
The other man, who was watching in silence, motioned to O to approach and, without taking his eyes off the spectacle, topped her forward over one arm of his chair - and her raised skirt gave him an unhindered view of her backside - and seized her womb with his hand.
It was in this position that René found her when, a minute later, he opened the door.
"Please don't let me disturb you," he said, and he sat down on the floor, on the same cushion where O had been sitting beside the fire before she had been called. He watched her closely, and smiled every time the hand which was holding her probed and returned, seizing both front and rear apertures at once and working deeper and deeper as they opened further, wrenching from her a moan which she could no longer restrain.
Monique had long since gotten back to her feet; Jeanne was fiddling with the fire in place of O. She brought René a glass of whisky, and he kissed her hand as she handed it to him, then drank it down without taking his eyes off O.
The man who was still holding her then said:
"Is she yours?"
"Yes," René replied.
"James is right," the other went on, "she's too narrow. She has to be widened."
"Not too much, mind you," said James.
"Whatever you say," René said, getting to his feet. "You're a better judge than I." And he rang.
For the next eight days, between dusk when her stint in the library came to an end and that hour of the night - which was generally eight or ten o'clock - when she was returned to her cell, in chains and naked beneath her red cape, O wore an ebonite shaft simulating an erect male member which was inserted behind and held in place by three small chains connected to a leather belt around her hips, in such a way that the internal movements of her muscles could not expel it. One little chain followed the furrow of her buttocks, the two others the fold on either side of the belly's triangle, in order not to prevent anyone from penetrating that side if need be.
When René had rung, it was to have the coffer brought in which contained, or one of whose compartments contained, an assortment of small chains and belts, and whose other held a variety of these shafts, ranging from the very thin to the very thick. They all had one feature in common, namely that they flared at the base, to make it impossible for them to slide up inside the body, an accident which might have produced the opposite effect from that desired, that is it might have allowed the ring of flesh to tighten up again, whereas the purpose of the shaft was to distend it. Thus quartered, and quartered each day a little more, for James, who made her kneel down, or rather lie prone, to watch while Jeanne or Monique, or whichever girl happened to be there, fastened the shaft that he had chosen, each day chose a thicker one. At the evening meal, which the girls took together in the same refectory, after their bath, naked and powdered O still wore it, and everyone could see that she was wearing it, because of the little chains and the belt. It was only removed, by the valet, when he came to chain her to the wall for the night if no one had asked for her, or, if someone had, when he locked her hands behind her if he had to take her to the library. Rare were the nights when someone did not appear to make use of this passage thus rapidly rendered as easy as, though still narrower than, the other. After eight days there was no longer any need for an instrument, and O's lover told her that he was happy she was now doubly open and that he would make certain she remained so. At the same time, he warned her that he was leaving and that she would not see him during the last seven days that she was to spend in the château, before he came back to pick her up and take her back to Paris.
"But I love you," he added, "I do love you. Don't forget me."
Oh, how could she forget him! He was the hand that blindfolded her, the whip wielded by the valet Pierre, he was the chain above her head, the unknown man who came down on her, and all the voices which gave her orders were his voice. Was she growing weary? No. By dint of being defiled and desecrated, it seems that she must have grown used to outrages, by dint of being caressed, to caresses, if not to the whip by dint of being whipped. A terrible surfeit of pain and pleasure should have by slow degrees cast her upon benumbing banks, into a state bordering on sleep or somnambulism. On the contrary. The bodice which held her straight, the chains which kept her submissive, her refuge of silence - these may have been responsible in part - as was the constant spectacle of girls being handed over and used as she was and, even when they were not, the spectacle of the constantly available bodies. Also the spectacle and the awareness of her own body. Daily and, so to speak, ceremoniously soiled with saliva and sperm, she felt herself literally to be the repository of impurity, the sink mentioned in the Scriptures. And yet those parts of her body most constantly offended, having become less sensitive, at the same time seemed to her to have become more beautiful and, as it were, ennobled: her mouth closed upon anonymous members, the tips of her breasts constantly fondled by hands, and between her quartered thighs the twin, contiguous paths wantonly ploughed. That she should have been ennobled and gained in dignity through being prostituted was a source of surprise, and yet dignity was indeed from within, and her bearing bespoke calm, while on her face could be detected the serenity and imperceptible smile that one surmises rather than actually sees in the eyes of hermits.
When René had informed her that he was leaving, night had already fallen. O was naked in her cell, and was waiting for them to come and take her to the refectory. As for her lover, he was dressed as usual, in a suit he wore every day in town. When he took her a suit he wore every day in town. When he took her in his arms, the rough tweed of his clothes irritated the tips of her breasts. He kissed her, lay her down on the bed, lay down beside her and, tenderly and slowly and gently, took her, alternating between the two tracks open to him, before finally spilling himself into her mouth, which he then kissed again.
"Before I leave," he said, "I would like to have you whipped, and this time I'll ask your permission. Do you agree?"
She agreed to it.
"I love you," he repeated. "Ring for Pierre."
She rang. Pierre chained her hands above her head, to the chain of the bed. When she was thus bound, her lover kissed her again, standing beside her on the bed. Again he told her that he loved her, then he got down off the bed and nodded for Pierre. He watched her struggle, so fruitlessly; he listened to her moans swell and become cries. When her tears flowed, he sent Pierre away. She still found the strength to tell him again that she loved him. Then he kissed her drenched face, her gasping mouth, undid her bonds, laid her down, and left.
To say that O began to await her lover the minute he left her is a vast understatement: she was henceforth nothing but vigil and night. During the day she was like a painted countenance, whose skin is soft and mouth is meek and - this was the only time she abided by the rule - whose eyes were constantly lowered. She made and tended the fire, poured and offered the coffee and liqueurs, lighted the cigarettes, she arranged the flowers and folded the newspapers like a young girl in her parents' living room, so limpid with her open neck and leather collar, her tight bodice and prisoner's bracelets, that all it took for the men whom she was serving was to order her to remain by their sides while they were violating another girl to make them want to violate her as well; which doubtless explains why she was treated worse than before. Had she sinned? Or had her lover left her so that the very people to whom he had loaned her would feel freer to dispose of her? In any case, the fact remains that on the second day following his departure as, at nightfall, she had just undressed and was looking in the bathroom mirror at the almost vanished welts made by Pierre's riding crop on the front of her thighs, Pierre entered. There were still two hours before dinner. He told her that she would not dine in the common room and said to get ready, pointing to the Turkish toilet in the corner, over which she had to squat, as Jeanne had warned her she would in the presence of Pierre. All the while she remained there he stood contemplating her, she could see him in the mirrors, and see herself, and was incapable of holding back the water which escaped from her body. He waited then until she had bathed and powdered herself. She was going to get her mules and red cape when he stopped her and added, fastening her hands behind her back, that there was no need to, but that she should wait a moment for him. She sat down on a corner of the bed. Outside it was storming, a tempest of cold rain and wind, and the poplar tree near the window swayed back and forth beneath the gusts. From time to time a pale wet leaf would splatter against the windowpanes. It was as dark as in the middle of the night, although the hour of seven had not yet struck, for autumn was well advanced and the days were growing shorter.
When Pierre returned, he was carrying the same blindfold with which he had blindfolded her the first evening. He also had a long chain, which made a clanking noise, a chain similar to the one fastened to the wall. O had the impression that he couldn't make up his mind whether to put the blindfold or the chain on her first. She was gazing out at the rain, not caring what they wanted from her, thinking only that René had said he would come back, that there were still five days and five nights to go, and that she had no idea where he was or whether he was alone and, if he was not alone, who he was with. But he would come back. Pierre had laid the chain on the bed and, without interrupting O's daydream, had covered her eyes with the blindfold of black velvet. It was slightly rounded below the sockets of her eyes, and fitted the cheekbones perfectly, making it impossible to get the slightest peek or even to raise the eyelids. Blessed darkness like unto her own night, never had O greeted it with such joy, blessed chains that bore her away from herself.
Pierre fastened the chain to the ring in her collar and invited her to follow him. She got up, felt herself being pulled forward, and walked. Her bare feet were icy cold on the tiles, and she gathered she was following the hallway of the red wing; then the ground which was still as cold, became rough underfoot: she was walking on a stone floor, made of sandstone or granite. Twice the valet made her stop, she heard the sound of a key in a lock, of a lock being turned and opened, then locked again. "Careful of the steps," said Pierre, and she went down a staircase, and once she stumbled. Pierre caught her around the waist. He had never touched her except to chain or beat her, but here he was now forcing her down onto the cold steps, which she tried to grasp with her bound hands to keep from slipping, and he was talking her breasts. His mouth moved from one to the other, and as he pressed against her, she could feel him slowly rising. He did not help her up until he had taken his pleasure with her. Damp and trembling with cold, she finally descended the last steps and heard another door open, which she went through and immediately felt a thick rug beneath her feet. There was another slight tug on the chain, then Pierre's hands were loosing her hands and untying her blindfold: she was in a round, vaulted room which was very small and low: the walls and arches were of unplastered stone, and the joints in the masonry were visible. The chain which was attached to her collar was fastened to the wall by an eye-bolt opposite the door, which was set about three feet above the floor and allowed her to move no more than two steps forward. There was neither a bed nor anything that might have served as a bed, nor was there any blanket, only three or four Moroccan-type cushions, but they were out of reach and clearly not intended for her. Within reach, however, in the niche from which emanated the little light which lighted the room, was a wooden tray on which were some water, fruit, and bread. The heat from the radiators, which had been installed along the base of the walls and set into the walls themselves to form around the entire room a sort of burning plinth, was none the less insufficient to overcome the odor of earth and mud which is the odor of ancient prisons and in old châteaux, of uninhabited dungeons. In that hot semi-darkness, into which no sound intruded, O soon lost all track of time. There was no longer any day or night, the light never went out. Pierre, or some other valet - it hardly mattered which - replaced the water, fruit, and bread on the tray whenever it was gone, and took her to bathe in a nearby dungeon. She never saw the men who came in, for each time a valet preceded them to blindfold her eyes, and removed it only after they had left. She also lost track of them, of who they were and how many there were, and neither her soft hands nor her lips blindly caressing were ever able to identify who they were touching. At times there were several, more often only one, but each time, before they came near her, she was made to kneel down facing the wall, the ring of her collar fastened to the same eyebolt to which the chain was attached, and whipped. She placed her palms against the wall and pressed her face against the back of her hands, to keep from scratching it against the stones; but scraped her knees and her breasts on them. Thus she lost track of the tortures and screams which were smothered by the vault. She waited. Suddenly time no longer stood still. In her velvet night her chain was no unfastened. She had been waiting for three months, three days, or ten days, or ten years. She felt herself being wrapped in a heavy cloth, and someone taking her by the shoulders and knees, lifting and carrying her. She found herself in her cell, lying under the black fur cover, it was early afternoon, her eyes were open, her hands free, and René was sitting beside her, stroking her hair.
"You must get dressed now," he said, "we're leaving."
She took a hasty bath, he brushed her hair, handed her powder and lipstick to her. When she returned to her cell, her suit, her blouse, her slip, her stockings, and her shoes were on the foot of the bed, as were her gloves and handbag. There was even the coat she wore over her suit when the weather turned brisk, and a square silk scarf to protect her neck, but no garter belt or panties. She dressed slowly, rolling her stockings down to just above her knees, and she did not put on her suitcoat because it was very warm in her cell. Just then, the man who had explained on the first evening what would be expected of her, came in. He unlocked the collar and bracelets that had held her captive for two weeks. Was she freed of them? Or did she have the feeling that something was missing? She said nothing, scarcely daring to run her hands over her wrists, not daring to lift them to her throat.
Then he asked her to choose, from among the exactly identical rings which he showed to her in a small wooden box, the one which fit her left ring finger. They were strange iron rings, banded with gold inside, and the signet was wide and as massive as that of an actual signet ring, but it was convex, and for design bore a three-spoked wheel inlaid in gold, with each spoke spiraling back upon itself like the solar wheel of the Celts. The second ring she tried, though a trifle snug, fit her exactly. It was heavy on her hand, and the gold gleamed as though furtively in the dull gray of the polished iron. Why iron, and why gold, and this insignia she did not understand? It was impossible to talk in this room draped in red, where the chain was still on the wall above the bed, where the black, still rumpled cover was lying on the floor, this room into which the valet Pierre might emerge, was sure to emerge, absurd in his opera outfit, in the dull light of November.
She was wrong, Pierre did not appear. René had her put on the coat to her suit, and her long gloves, which covered the bottom of her sleeves. She took her scarf, her bag, and carried her coat over her arm. The heels of her shoes made less noise on the hallway floor than had her mules, the doors were closed, the antechamber was empty. O was holding her lover by the hand. The stranger who was accompanying them opened the wrought-iron gates which Jeanne had said were the enclosure, which was now no longer guarded by valets or dogs. He lifted one of the green velvet curtains and ushered them both through. The curtains fell back into place. They heard the gate closing. They were alone in another antechamber which looked onto the lawn. All there was left to do was descend the steps leading down from the stoop, before which O recognized the car. She sat down next to her lover, who took the wheel and started off. After they had left the grounds, through the porte-cochere that was wide open, he stopped a few hundred meters farther on and kissed her. It was on the outskirts of a small, peaceful town, which they crossed through as they continued on their route. O was able to read the name on the road sign: Roissy.