O did not dare to pursue the matter any further. This Anne-Marie whom they had threatened her with intrigued her more than Norah. Sir Stephen had already mentioned her when they had lunched together at Saint-Cloud. And it was quite true that O knew none of Sir Stephen's friends, nor any of his acquaintances. In short, she was living in Paris, locked in her secret as though she had been locked in a brothel; the only persons who had the key to her secret, Rene? and Sir Stephen, at the same time had the only key to her body. She could not help thinking that the expression "open oneself to someone," which meant to give oneself, for her had only this meaning, for she was in fact opening every part of her body which was capable of being opened. It also seemed to her that this was her raison d'e?tre and that Sir Stephen, like Rene?, intended it should be, since whenever he spoke of his friends as he had done at Saint-Cloud, it was to tell her that those to whom he might introduce her would, needless to say, be free to dispose of her however they wished, if indeed they did. But in trying to visualize Anne-Marie and imagine what it might be that Sir Stephen expected from Anne-Marie as far as she, O, was concerned, O was completely at sea, and not even her experience at Roissy was of any help to her. Sir Stephen had also mentioned that he wanted to see her caress another woman: could that be it? (But he had specified that he was referring to Jacqueline....) No, it wasn't that. "To show you," he had just said. Indeed. But after she left Anne-Marie, O knew no more than before.
Anne-Marie lived not far from the Observatoire in Paris, in an apartment flanked by a kind of large studio, on the top floor of a new building overlooking the treetops. She was a slender woman, the same age more or less as Sir Stephen, and her black hair was streaked with gray. Her eyes were such a deep blue they looked black. She offered O and Sir Stephen some coffee, a very strong bitter coffee which she served steaming hot in tiny cups, and which reassured O. When she had finished her coffee and got up from her chair to put down her empty cup on a coffee table, Anne-Marie seized her by the wrist and, turning to Sir Stephen, said:
"Please do," Sir Stephen said.
Then Anne-Marie, who tell then had neither spoken to nor smiled at O, even to greet her or to acknowledge Sir Stephen's introduction, said to her softly, with a smile so tender one would have thought she were giving her a present:
"Come, my child, and let me see your belly and backside, but better yet, why don't you take off all your clothes."
While O obeyed, she lighted a cigarette. Sir Stephen had not taken his eyes off O. They left her standing there for perhaps five minutes. There was no mirror in the room, but O caught a vague reflection of herself in the black-lacquer surface of a screen.
"Take off your stockings too," Anne-Marie said suddenly. "You see," she went on, "you shouldn't wear garters, you'll ruin your thighs." And with the tip of her finger she pointed to the spot just above O's knees where O rolled down her stockings around a wide elastic garter. There was in fact a faint mark on her leg.
"Who told you to do that?"
Before O had a chance to reply, Sir Stephen said:
"The boy who gave her to me, you know him, Rene?." And he added: "But I'm sure he'll come around to your opinion."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Anne-Marie. "I'm going to give you some long, dark stockings, O, and a corset to hold them up. But it will be a whalebone corset, one that will be snug at the waist."
When Anne-Marie had run a young blonde, silent girl had brought in some very sheer, black stockings and a tight-fitting corset of black nylon taffeta, reinforced and sustained by wide, close-set stays which curved in at the lower belly and above the hips. O, who was still standing, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, slipped on the stockings, which came to the top of her thighs. The young blonde helped her into the corset, which had a row of buckles along one of the busks on one side near the back. Like the bodices at Roissy, this one could be laced up as tightly or as loosely as desired, the laces being at the back. O fastened her stockings to the four garter-belt snaps in front and on the sides, then the girl set about lacing her up as tight as she could. O felt her waist and belly being pressed inward by the pressure of the stays, that in front descended almost to the pubis, which they left free, as they did her hips. The corset was shorter behind and left her rear completely free.
"She'll be much improved," Anne-Marie said, speaking to Sir Stephen, "when her waist is a fraction of its present size. And what's more, if you're too pressed for time to have her undress, you'll see that the corset is no inconvenience. Now then, O, step over this way."
The girl left: O went over to Anne-Marie, who was sitting in a low chair, a small easy chair upholstered in bright red velvet. Anne-Marie ran her hand lightly over her buttocks and then, toppling her over on an ottoman similar to the red velvet chair and ordering her not to move, seized both her nether lips.
This is how they lift the fish at the market, O was thinking, by the gills, and how they pry open the mouths of horses. She also recalled that the valet Pierre, during her first evening at Roissy, had done the same to her after having fastened her in chains. After all, she was no longer mistress of her own fate, and that part of her of which she was least in control was most assuredly that half of her body which could, so to speak, be put to use independently of the rest. Why, each time that she realized this, as she - surprised was not really the right word - once again persuaded, why was she paralyzed each time by the same feeling of profound distress, a sentiment which tended to deliver her not so much into the hands of the person she was with as into the hands of him who had turned her over to alien hands, a sentiment which drew her closer to Rene? when others were possessing her and which, here, was tending to draw her closer to whom? To Rene? or to Sir Stephen? She no longer knew.... But that was because she did not want to know, for it was clear that she had belonged to Sir Stephen now for ... how long had it been?
Anne-Marie had her stand up and put her clothes back on.
"You can bring her to me whenever you like," she said to Sir Stephen. "I'll be at Samois (Samois... O had expected: Roissy. But if it did not mean Roissy; then what did it mean?) in two days time. That will be fine." (What would be fine?)
"In ten days, if that suits you," Sir Stephen said, "at the beginning of July."
In the car which was driving back home, Sir Stephen having remained behind at Anne-Marie's she remembered the statue she had seen as a child in the Luxembourg Gardens: a woman whose waist had been similarly constricted and seemed so slim between her full breasts and plump behind - she was leaning over limpid water, a spring which, like her, was carefully sculptured in marble, looking at her reflection - so slim and frail that she had been afraid the marble waist would snap. But if that was what Sir Stephen wanted...
As for Jacqueline, she could handle her easily enough merely by telling her the corset was one of Rene?'s whims. Which brought O back to a train of thought she had been trying to avoid whenever it occurred to her, one which surprised her above all not to find more painful: why, since Jacqueline had moved in with her, had he made an effort not so much to leave her alone with Jacqueline, which she could understand, but to avoid being alone with O any more? July was fast approaching, and he would be going away and would not be coming to visit her at this Anne-Marie's where Sir Stephen was sending her; must she therefore resign herself to the fact that the only times she would see him would be those evenings when he was in the mood to invite Jacqueline and her, or - and she didn't know which of the two possibilities upset her most (since between them, at this point, there was something basically false, due to the fact that their relationship was so circumscribed) - on those occasional mornings when she was at Sir Stephen's and Norah ushered Rene? in, after having announced his arrival? Sir Stephen always received him, invariably Rene? kissed O, caressed the tips of her breasts, coordinated his plans with Sir Stephen for the following day - plans which never included O - and left. Had he given her to Sir Stephen so completely that he had ceased to love her? The thought threw O into such a state of panic that, mechanically, she got out of Sir Stephen's car in front of her house, instead of telling the chauffeur to wait, and after it had pulled away she had to dash off in search of a taxi. Taxis are few and far between on the quai de Bethune. O had to run all the way to the boulevard Saint- Germain, and still she had to wait. She was all out of breath, and in a sweat, because her corset made it hard for her to breathe, when a taxi finally slowed down at the corner of the rue
Cardinal-Lemoine. She signaled to it, gave the driver the address of Rene?'s office, got in without knowing whether Rene? would be there, and if he was, whether he would see her; it was the first time she had gone to his office.
She was not surprised by the impressive building on a side street just off the Champs-Elyse?es, or by the American-style offices, but what did disconcert her was Rene?'s attitude, although he did receive her immediately. Not that he was aggressive or full of reproaches. She would have preferred reproaches, for he had never given her permission to come and disturb him at his office, and it was possible that she was creating a considerable disturbance for him. He dismissed his secretary, told her that he did not want to see anyone, and asked her to hold all calls. Then he asked O what was the matter.
"I was afraid you didn't love me any longer," O said.
He laughed. "All of a sudden, just like that?"
"Yes, in the car coming back from..."
"Coming back from where?"
O remained silent.
Rene? laughed again:
"But I know where you were, silly. Coming back from Anne-Marie's. And in ten days you're going to Samois. Sir Stephen just talked to me on the phone."
Rene? was seated in the only comfortable chain in the office, which was facing the table, and O had buried herself in his arms.
"They can do whatever they want with me, I don't care," she murmured. "But tell me you still love me."
"Of course I love you, darling," Rene? said, "but I want you to obey me, and I'm afraid you're not doing a very good job of it. Did you tell Jacqueline that you belonged to Sir Stephen, did you talk to her about Roissy?"
O assured him that she had not. Jacqueline acquiesced to her caresses, but the day she should learn that O...
Rene? stopped her from completing her sentence, lifted her up and laid her down in the chair where he had just been sitting, and bunched up her skirt.
"Ah ha, so you have your corset," he said. "It's true that you'll be much more attractive when you have a smaller waistline."
Then he took her, and it seemed to O that it had been so long since he had that, subconsciously, she realized she had begun to doubt whether he really desired her any longer, and in his act she saw proof of love.
"You know," he said afterward, "you're foolish not to talk to Jacqueline. We absolutely need her at Roissy, and the simplest way of getting her there would be through you. Besides, when you come back from Anne-Marie's there won't be any way of concealing your true conditioning any longer."
O wanted to know why.
"You'll see," Rene? went on. "You still have five days, and only five days, because Sir Stephen intends to start whipping you again daily, five days before he sends you to Anne-Marie's and there will be no way for you to hide the marks. How will you ever explain them to Jacqueline?"
O did not reply. What Rene? did not know was that Jacqueline was completely egotistical as far as O was concerned, being interested in her solely because of O's manifest, and passionate, interest in her, and she never looked at O. If O were covered with welts from the floggings, all she would have to do would be to take care not to bathe in Jacqueline's presence, and to wear a nightgown. Jacqueline would never notice a thing. She had never noticed that O did not wear panties, and there was no danger she would notice anything else: the fact was that O did not interest her.
"Listen to me," Rene? went on, "there's one thing anyway I want you to tell her, and tell her right away, and that is that I'm in love with her."
"Is that true?" O said.
"I want her," Rene? said, "and since you can't - or won't - do anything about it, I'll take charge of the matter myself and do what has to be done."
"You'll never get her to agree to go to Roissy," O said.
"I won't? In that case," Rene? retorted, "we'll force her to."
That night, after dark, when Jacqueline was in bed and O had pulled the covers back to gaze at her in the light of the lamp, after having said to her: "Rene?'s in love with you, you know" - for she had delivered the message and delivered it without delay - O, who a month before had been horrified at the idea of seeing this delicate wisp of a body scored by the lash, these narrow loins quartered, the pure mouth screaming, and the far down on her cheeks streaked with tear, O now repeated to herself Rene?'s final words and was happy.
With Jacqueline gone and not due back until beginning of August, if they had finished shooting the film she was making, there was nothing further to keep O in Paris. July was around the corner, all the gardens in Paris were bursting with crimson geraniums, at noon all the shutters in town were closed, and Rene? was complaining that he would have to make a trip to Scotland. For a moment O was hoping that he would take her along. But apart from the fact that he never took her anywhere to see his family, she knew that he would surrender her to Sir Stephen, if he were to ask for her.
Sir Stephen announced that he would come for her the same day that Rene? was flying to London. She was on vacation.
"We're going down to Anne-Marie's," he said, "she's expecting you. Don't bother packing a suitcase, you won't need anything."
Their destination was not the apartment near the Observatoire where O had first met Anne- Marie, but a low-lying two-story house at the end of a large garden, on the edge of the Fontanebleau Forest. Since that first day, O had been wearing the whalebone corset that Anne- Marie had deemed so essential: each day she had tightened it a little more, until now her waist was scarcely larger than the circle formed by her ten fingers.; Anne-Marie ought to be pleased.
When they arrived it was two o'clock in the afternoon, the whole house was asleep, and the dog barked faintly when they rang the bell: a big, shaggy, sheepdog that sniffed at O's knees beneath her skirt. Anne-Marie was sitting under a copper beech tree on the edge of the lawn which , in one corner of the garden, faced the windows of her bedroom. She did not get up.
"Her's O," Sir Stephen said. "You know what has to be done with her. When will she be ready?"
Anne-Marie glanced at O. "You mean you haven't told her? All right, I'll begin immediately. You should probably allow ten days after it's over. I imagine you'll want to put the rings and monogram on yourself? Come back in two weeks. The whole business should be finished in two weeks after that."
O started to ask a question.
"Just a minute, O," Anne-Marie said, "go into the front bedroom over there, get undressed but keep your sandals on, and come back."
The room, a large white bedroom with heavy purple Jouy print drapes, was empty. O put her bag, her gloves, and her clothes on a small chair near a closet door. There was no mirror. She went back outside and, dazzled by the bright sunlight, walked slowly back over in the shade of the beech tree. Sir Stephen was still standing in front of Anne-Marie, the dog at his feet. Anne- Marie's black hair, streaked with gray, shone as though she had used some kind of cream on it, her blue eyes seemed black. She was dressed in white, with a patent-leather belt around her waist, and she was wearing patent-leather sandals which revealed the bright red nail polish on the toenails of her bare feet, the same color polish she was wearing on her fingernails.
"O," she said, "kneel down in front of Sir Stephen."
O obliged, her arms crossed behind her back, the tips of her breasts quivering. The dog tensed, as though he were about to spring at her.
"Down, Turk," Anne-Marie ordered. Then: "Do you consent, O, to bear the rings and monogram with which Sir Stephen desires you to be marked, without knowing how they will be placed upon you?"
"I do," O said.
"All right then, I'm going to walk Sir Stephen to his car. Stay here."
As Anne-Marie got up from her chaise lounge, Sir Stephen bent down and took O's breasts in his hands. He kissed her on the mouth and murmured:
"Are you mine, O, are you really mine?" then turned and left her, to follow Anne-Marie. The gate banged shut, Anne-Marie was coming back. O, her legs folded beneath her, was sitting on her heels and had her arms on her knees, like an Egyptian statue.
There were three other girls living in the house, all of whom had a bedroom on the second floor. O was given a small bedroom on the ground floor, adjoining Anne-Marie's. Anne-Marie called up to them to come down into the garden. Like O, all three of them were naked. The only persons in this gynaeceum - which was carefully concealed by the high walls and by closed shutters over the windows which overlooked a narrow dirt road - the only persons who wore clothes were Anne-Marie and the three servants: a cook and two maids, all of whom were older than Anne-Marie, three severe, dour women in their black alpaca skirts and stiffly starched aprons.
"Her name is O," said Anne-Marie, who had sat down again. "Bring her over to me so I can get a better look at her." Two of the girls helped O to her feet: they were both brunettes, their hair as dark as their fleece below, and the nipples of their breasts were large and dark, almost purple. The other girl was a short, plump redhead, and the chalky skin of her bosom was crisscrossed by a terrifying network of green veins. The two girls pushed O till she was right next to Anne- Marie, who pointed to the three black stripes that showed on the front of her thighs and were repeated on her buttocks.
"Who whipped you?" she asked. "Sir Stephen?"
"Yes," O said.
"When? And with what?"
"Three days ago, with a riding crop."
"Starting tomorrow, and for a month thereafter, you will not be whipped. But today you will, to mark your arrival, as soon as I've had a chance to examine you. Has Sir Stephen ever whipped you on the inside of your thighs, with your legs spread wide? No? It's true, men don't know how to. Well, we'll soon see. Show me your waist. Yes, it's much better!"
Anne-Marie pressed O's waist to make it even more wasplike. Then she sent the redhead to fetch another corset and had them put it on her. It was also made of black nylon, but it was so stiffly whaleboned and so narrow that it looked for all the world like an extremely wide belt. It had no garter straps. One of the girls laced it up as tight as she could, with Anne-Marie lending her encouragement as she pulled on the laces as hard as she could.
"This is dreadful," O said. "I don't know whether I can bear it."
"That's the whole point," Anne-Marie said. "You're much, much lovelier than you were, but the problem was you didn't lace it tight enough. You're going to wear it this way every day. But tell me now, how did Sir Stephen prefer using you? I need to know."
She had seized O's womb with her whole hand, and O could not reply. Two of the girls were seated on the lawn, the third, one of the brunettes, was seated on the foot of Anne-Marie's chaise lounge.
"Turn her around for me, girls, so I can see her back," Anne-Marie said.
She was turned around and bent over, and the hands of both girls vented her.
"Of course," Anne-Marie went on, "there was no need for you to tell me. You'll have to be marked on the rear. Stand up. We're going to put on your bracelets. Colette, go get the box, and we'll draw lots to see who will whip you. Bring the tokens, Colette, then we'll go to the music room."
Colette was the taller of the two dark-haired girls, the other's name was Claire; the short redhead was named Yvonne. O had not noticed till now that they were all wearing, as at Roissy, a leather collar and leather bracelets on their wrists. They were also wearing similar bracelets around their ankles.
When Yvonne had chosen some bracelets that fit O and put them on her, Anne-Marie handed O four tokens and asked her to give one to each of the girls, without looking at the numbers on them. O handed out the tokens, the three girls each looked at theirs but said nothing, waiting for Anne-Marie to speak.
"I have number two," Anne-Marie said. "Who has number one?" Colette had number one.
"All right, take O away, she's all yours."
Colette seized O's arms and joined her hands behind her back; she fastened the bracelets together and pushed O ahead of her. On the threshold of a French door that opened into a small wing which formed an L with the front of the house, Yvonne, who was leading the way, removed her sandals. The light entering through the French door revealed a room the far end of which formed a kind of raised rotunda; the ceiling, in the shape of a shallow cupola, was supported by two narrow columns set about six feet apart. This dais was about four steps high and, in the area between the columns, projected further into the room in a gentle arc. The floor of the rotunda, like that of the rest of the room, was covered with a red felt carpet. The walls were white, the curtains on the windows red, and the sofas set in a semicircle facing the rotunda were upholstered in the same red felt material as the carpet on the floor. In the rectangular portion of the room there was a fireplace which was wider than it was deep, and opposite the fireplace a large console-type combination record player and radio, with shelves of records on both sides. This was why it was called the music room, which communicated directly with Anne-Marie's bedroom via a door near the fireplace. The identical door on the other side of the fireplace opened into a closet. Aside from the record player and the sofas, the room had no furniture.