A Master And A SlaveWhen I was in my mid teens I felt a sudden urge to dosome reading and give myself an education. For want of apersonal guide, I took the advice of the wise people atPenguin. If the book had a black spine (classics) or a greyspine (modern classics) then it must at least be worthy ofmy consideration. Orange spines were risky. They mightbe second-rate, frivolous even, and I wanted seriousreading.After Kafka, Flaubert and Plato I felt obliged to wadeinto the Russians. I don’t think I ever finished one andafter all these years I only remember how long it tookcarriages to get our aristocratic hero from the gates of hisestate to the front door of the house. But I do rememberreading an introductory essay on Ivan Turgenev that toldme that at fifteen (my age) a kitchen maid was sent by hismother to his room to initiate him in the ways of love. Ifound this a transfixing thought. I was profoundly enviousback then; now I am merely delighted by the imaginativepossibilities, and no amount of hard-headed knowledgeabout the plight of the Russian poor and the abuse ofpower can spoil it.As Turgenev remembered it decades later, the girl cameup behind him and took handfuls of his hair and said‘Come.’ That’s all. Now, the future novelist was a tall lad,later to run to fat and be known as the ‘gentle barbarian’,so we may suppose he was seated, reading a slim volumeof poetry, soft-bound in chamois leather, perhaps in theconservatory after dinner before the long summer twilight.He was engrossed in the romantic visions of Pushkin anddid not hear Anna slip into the room.She pulls back his head by his clean, black hair andthey look at each other upside down. He must be veryconfused. He has noticed Anna and been disturbed by herbut she has never touched him and no one, least of all aservant, has ever stood over him in this way. But he sensessomething new and closes his book and remains as she hasplaced him, looking up into her strange inverted eyes, thecane chair creaking and the low reddening light blushingher throat. A coil of blond hair escapes from her cap andbounces gently. Anna holds this moment of reversed rolesfor as long as she dare, looking into his soft, smooth face,the healthy teeth in the half-opened mouth, then down tothe large, clean, unbroken hands on the book.She speaks her single word. It is enough. He is used tounexplained orders from his mother and supposes that bysome roundabout means this is one of them. When the girllets fall his hair and leaves the room, he follows.It is 1833 and Anna is a serf. She may be sold, flogged,separated from her family, branded or banished to Siberia.Without permission of her masters she may not leave theestate, rent land, borrow money, earn wages, own propertyor marry. She has not chosen to work in the kitchen of thegreat house but she considers herself fortunate. WhileIvan’s mother is a fearsome, half-mad sadist who beats herc***dren and servants daily for the most trivial offencesand often for the pleasure of it, Anna enjoys the constantproximity of food, a clean, dry room and existence on theperiphery of gracious living. And better the exhaustingheat of the ovens than the annual struggle to endure theinterminable Russian winter down in the village.Anna leads on upstairs, very slowly, trying to glidewithin her skirts, making a soft gaziantep escort rustling sound in the quietof the evening, bathing as much in the pleasure of beingexcused her normal duties as in the prospect of her newand special role. Her hand on the balustrade is white frombaking, where normally by now it would be red from potscrubbing.It may be an order and she may have no choice, but thisis a private matter and she glances along the landingbefore slipping into Ivan’s room and closing the door.Though she has seen it many times when helping thechambermaids, on this occasion it is utterly new. Whereshe was an outsider, hurrying a task, fearful of displeasingher mistress, now she belongs, is here for a purpose of herown, to share this room, command this room, even if onlyfor a while. She looks at the brass bed with its richmountain of white linen and smiles. That evil bitch; whatcan she know of this?Ivan follows Anna into his room and for him too it isquite changed. What was merely a place of retreat fromthe capricious tyranny of his mother is now alive with theintensity of…something. He is not sure what. Oh, themechanics, yes – gentleman or serf, they are all countrypeople – but something more than that and he doesn’twant to know, not articulate it, pin it down with words inhis usual way. He senses that he should say nothing, thinknothing; just experience.Anna turns to him, steps close and looks up and theireyes meet again, but this time the right way round. Theyare both startled to bridge so suddenly the chasm of theirsocial distance. She links her hands behind his neck anddraws him down. It is her first kiss without revulsion,without holding her breath against the stench of an oldman’s rotten mouth. For Ivan it is simply his first kiss andthe shock unbalances him. He reaches for the cool brassrail of his bed as Anna steps back.‘Undress,’ she says, softly, the word stretched andsavoured, but unmistakably an order. It thrills her to giveit. This once only, she will have the knowledge and thepower. She has observed her young master at the miraclesof writing and reading, and so comfortable in the alienmelodies of French and felt ashamed of her ignorance, butnot here and not now.Ivan struggles out of his boots, still holding on to thebed. He shrugs his jacket to the floor and pushes his bracesoff his shoulders. He treads down his breeches and standsfor a moment before Anna in a long, loose shirt. It is theprimitive, collarless, square-cut undergarment everyonewears, and Anna sees before her a youth like those whomight be within her reach – were she but given the choice.She smiles and nods to give him the confidence and Ivantakes the neck of the shirt and pulls it over his head.Anna is the same age as Ivan but had to give up hervirginity a year ago. She is betrothed to a man from thevillage, a widower friend of her father. He has demandedand been granted the right to prove his virility and thegirl’s fertility before marrying her, so twice a week the oldgoat opens his breeches and forces her legs apart on a heapof rags on top of the stove in his hut. The encounters aremercifully brief but Anna never feels free from the stenchof him or from his ugly, poxy face above her in herdreams. Her father considers the village postman a goodcatch for his daughter and actively sought permission forthe union from Old Turgenev, who himself likes to catchAnna unawares at her duties and grab her breasts tobruising. ‘You like a bit of that, don’t you, Anna?’ helaughs, and she wonders how he could possibly imaginethat she would. He gropes under her skirts and there isnothing she can do. If she complains, the Mistress willcertainly blame her and she will be beaten and dismissed.But when this boy before her lifts the shirt up and overhis head and drops it to the floor, it is her turn to beunbalanced by the glory of him, standing there, clean andsmooth and perfect, and his root standing out in front, talland strong. That dried-up bitch. She doesn’t know howmuch I want this. Probably thinks it’s a punishment.Thinks we’re all like her, all skinny and burnt out withrage.‘Go to bed,’ she whispers. Before they even touch, theheat in her belly makes sense of the love stories told byher bedfellows as they sit up round the sewing basket inthose precious moments before sleep or wash each other’shair in gatherings from the meadows.Ivan flings back the great bag of goose feathers andthrows himself into the centre of the mattress, turning inthe air like a fish. Anna glimpses yellow and red marks onhis back from old and fresh beatings. How that womanhates beauty. He falls back against the heap of pillowswith a soft thud, sleek and dark in the failing light.Anna lights a candle, closes the curtains and locks thedoor. Returning to the bed, she says, ‘Watch verycarefully, and learn.’Ivan puts his hands behind his head and raises oneknee. His root sways heavily and his onions slip plumpand shining between his thighs. The horsehair mattressmutters as he settles.As instructed, Ivan studies each move of Anna’sundressing with the greatest care. She is wearing most ofwhat she possesses. There are four skirts in all, eachdelayed by knotted tapes which must be swung to the frontin a whisper of promise. He watches her soft, stubbyfingers tease open the tie, fold the cloth and drop it overthe bed-rail with a fluttering of the candle. After thefourth, there is only the hem of her shirt to mid-thigh, andAnna observes his root leap and she fears to spoil themoment.‘Be still,’ she says, ‘don’t hold yourself tight.’Ivan breathes deep and slow as Anna lifts each knee inturn towards his face and reaches to remove a canvasslipper. He peers into the dark between her legs but the fallof the shirt and the position of the candle allow him nomore than possibility.Anna straightens up and looks to the lacing of her tightfittingbodice. Her bosom swells above it as she inhales.How full I am, like a tree in blossom. In a few years it willhave passed, but this is my time and I must have it.When she draws the lace from its rings, the restraintfalls away and her body can relax into its natural shapeinside the shirt. Unlike Ivan’s, hers is slit to the waist andclosed with little bows of red ribbon. The area usuallyhidden by the bodice is decorated with patterns incoloured thread; the secret creativity of the servant-girls’bed in the attic. No one else has seen it before. It is moreprivate than her body. Almost as private is her hair. Shepulls off her cap and the hidden treasure spills to hershoulders, dark gold in the candle-light.Ivan watches Anna untie each bow in turn and Annawatches in case his cream should burst out and pool in hisbirth-scar. She knows that she might fall for a c***d withthat cream and knows that she would be sent away andmarried off quickly – probably to someone lower than thepostman. But a serf, particularly a girl, does not live byfuture hopes, but by whatever she has now. And what shehas is right here. With or without orders she would not beelsewhere and is prepared to take her chance.The last bow is undone and Anna pauses to observe thebeautiful lines up the side of the boy’s chest and upraisedarms, framing his head. Now she draws the shirt up andaway and Ivan sees how her breasts bob solidly when shelowers her arms, how her ample flesh folds above her hips,how her belly is as rounded as a drunken puppy’s, how herface is as smooth and beautiful as a peach and how shesmiles as she raises one knee and places it beside his hipand lifts the other up and over him. She leans forward tokiss him full and deep and Ivan takes a heavy breast ineach hand and breathes the camomile in her hair. Annapulls away from his mouth and sits up and lowers all herweight onto his root, so that it lies between her lilies andshe slides on her juice, slowly back and forth.She cannot wait, and nor can he. She raises herself andtakes his root with both hands and guides it to the place.Ivan is holding the folds at her waist as she sinks onto himand she feels him burst into her immediately. She sensessome similar explosion in her own body, just out of reach.‘That’s just a beginning. There is much more.’Ivan is unable to reply.Anna runs her hands over his chest, keeping him inside.He is magnificent, and so is she, and what they have donefeels like everything she needs. Ivan’s hands on her backfind her own recent wounds and she winces. That scrawnybitch. I wish she was watching. I’d love to show her whatshe’s never had. Make her cry.Anna lifts herself a little and Ivan’s root falls wetly andheavily out of her. She slips to the side of him and placesher head in the hollow of his shoulder. He begins toexplore the sumptuous richness of her, from her hair to herthroat to her breasts to…ah yes. Oh yes, how quickly helearns, this boy. She opens herself, arms and legs andmouth, and they roll in the crisp linen and she feels thatfire rising again; a little nearer this time. She is full of rudeideas that excite and amaze her. She darts down and givesthe end of his root a quick lick. It leaps to readiness andshe throws herself back with a laugh which turns to a gaspas he enters her. As she reaches for that burning and feelsit coming, coming, she has time to relish her triumph.I will make him love me and she will send him away toschool in the city and he will hate her for the rest of herlife.Later, as the evening cools, they pull up the goosefeatherbag and stare into each other’s eyes in the last ofthe candle. They have spoken very little. Language canonly divide them. When Ivan falls asleep with his armsaround her, Anna peers through half-closed eyes at thecandle-stars on the brass rails and comes to a certainty.She will fight her marriage, she will find herself ayoung man. She will shame her father and Old Turgenevwith her youth and if they take no notice, which is verylikely, she will still find herself a young man. She cannotlive without this pleasure and this beauty. When all therest of her life will be so hard, she must have this, andlater the memory of this, to bear it.