Grushenka, or Three Times A Woman, appeared in 1933. There was confusion at first as to whether or not the book was truly a translation of a nineteenth-century Russian novel, as the mysterious translator “J.D.” claimed. Although there seemed to be inconsistencies and anachronisms, no one argued that it wasn’t one of the best-written erotic books they had ever come across, obviously the work of a skilled professional author. Truth is that Grushenka is an American novel, authored by Val Lewton, a Hollywood scriptwriter, perhaps best remembered for his original screenplay for The Cat People.
In summary, Grushenka is a Fanny Hill-type story set in brutal Imperial Russia at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It recounts the history of the heroine from her beginnings as a serf and through her ultimate success as the madam of a celebrated brothel. This excerpt traces her initiation into the lascivious Russian demimonde. Her mistress, an aged, impoverished embroideress, is only too happy to send Grushenka to Katerina, housekeeper to Prince Sokolow and Princess Nelidowa, who live in the then-provincial town of Moscow. The princess is in need of an identically proportioned serf to help her model clothing a living mannequin. But the imperious princess becomes jealous of her lovely double, and turns the willing Grushenka into something like a house concubine with dramatic results.
The reader seeking sexual verisimilitude accurate contemporary descriptions like those found in Cleland’s Fanny Hill, say, or Sellon’s Ups and Downs of Life will be disappointed. But anyone who can appreciate a lusty novel set in the bedrooms of Imperial Russia will be amply rewarded. Grushenka will be continued next month.
The droshky driver, warmed by a drink from a nearby public house, saluted Katerina, the old housekeeper, cheerfully and coaxed her to hire him again. He hoped that her eminence had completed her mission perfectly and that he could drive her home at roaring speed. Katerina let him know that she had been unsuccessful and that she would have to give up. Then the befuddled driver remembered that she wanted to hire some girls, and anew praised the goods which his cousin wanted to be rid of. He’d drive her over quickly and
Katerina looked at the sun. It was still early. She climbed into the carriage, which answered with a sigh, bending to her weight.
We soon see Katerina heavily breathing while climbing up a creaking and steep staircase to the cousin’s attic. It turned out that this cousin, a thin spinster of about fifty years, was handling an embroidery business on a small scale that she had two girls working for her and that she wanted to give up her enterprise and leave Moscow in order to stay with relatives in the south. Lacking money for the long trip, the fee from the girls’ new employer should provide the means. Katerina was led into the adjoining room, a large, very light attic room, bare of any furniture except a work-table crowded with materials of all kinds.
On a bench before this table, bent over their work, sat two girls. The cousin commanded them to rise and it was then that Katerina uttered a cry of amazement. One of the girls was an exact duplicate of her princess at least her face and features were so perfectly like those of her mistress that Katerina first feared a spook might have tricked her. Still, the face did not matter at all. It was only the right contours of the body which were sought. The height was right, the form seemed so, and Katerina hastily demanded that this dark-haired girl with the shining blue eyes be stripped. The other girl was a short, flat-nosed, sturdy creature and Katerina disregarded her. Not so the cousin. She made it quite clear that she would not part with one girl alone it must be both or neither. Katerina mumbled that all that could be arranged just let her see the dark one.
The girls flushed slightly, looked at each other and at the cousin, and stood sheepishly. The cousin demanded to know whether the dark girl had become deaf and when she wanted to take her clothes off. With excited fingers, the buttons of the blouse opened then came a bodice of common linen, strapped and fastened with many ribbons and, from underneath a rough chemise, stood out two full and hard breasts with deep-red nipples.
Katerina, the never-smiling, grinned. It was the kind of bust she was looking for. The wide skirt of flowered and cheap material fell to the floor and a pair of wide trousers, reaching to the ankles, came to view. A bush of thick black hair protruded through the open slit of the drawers, which was there for the sake of commodity.
Soon shirt and drawers were also removed and Katerina eyed her find with growing satisfaction. She went around and around the nude girl. The waistline was perfect the legs full and female, but subtle and the flesh of the ass seemed to be even softer than that of her mistress. To find out, she came close to the girl and felt her body. She was content. This was not the usual peasant type. This was not a tough and common brat. This girl had the form of an aristocrat.
Katerina remembered her measurements, took out her ribbons and began her comparisons. Well, the height was almost perfect a little too tall, but she could tolerate that small difference. The length of the back, the breasts, the waistline, the thickness of the thighs were right, or what one might call right. Even the wrists and the ankles filled. It turned out that the length of the legs, measured from the slit to the floor, was a trifle too long, but Katerina had already resolved that this girl was most suitable.
When the last measurement was taken and Katerina, kneeling on the floor, had touched the pussy, the girl had drawn slightly and irritatedly back. For the rest, she had behaved quietly and with that absence of shamefulness or shyness characteristic of other girls. These girls did not know of the existence of anything like shame.
The bargaining started. Katerina wanted to hire only the dark girl and she did not want to pay more than fifty rubles the blonde imp was not wanted. The cousin shrieked that then he didn’t need to hire the dark girl either. While Katerina zealously defended the money of her master, the blonde girl leaned against the table and the nude dark one stood motionless in the middle of the room with hanging arms, as if she had nothing to do with the affair. The driver here and there interjected an appeasing word from the door, where he loitered as a witness waiting for a handsome commission. The cousin was thin and hard. Katerina was eager to get what she wanted and, after a battle, the old housekeeper’s hand went into the bodice which covered her enormous bosom and brought to light an ugly leather purse, from which she paid the cousin ninety rubles in glittering gold. She had gotten the fee down from the demanded hundred, but she had to hire both girls.
No, she was not sending a carriage for them. She was going to take both with her. She was afraid she might lose her precious discovery. They would start immediately. The girls had nothing to pack. They had no belongings except some woolen kerchiefs and the like, which were quickly made into a bundle. After the dark girl was hurriedly dressed again, Katerina took a quick leave with her hirelings, though not without assuring the cousin anew that the fee requested had been outrageous. The cousin made the sign of the cross over the departing girls. They, in turn, automatically and without feeling kissed the hem of her dress and soon the three women sat in the carriage. The driver was paid a little distance from Sokolow’s house and received what he demanded. It is quite sure that, with this money and the commission from his cousin, he was senselessly drunk for several days afterward.
Starting toward the palace, Katerina asked the dark girl what her name was. “Grushenka,” answered the girl, readily. That was the first word she spoke after becoming one of the uncounted souls in the employ of Prince Alexey Sokolow. She did not know then the name of her new master.
Peter the Great had done away with the seclusion of women who had lived before then in the Oriental life of the harem. He had forced them into society, where they were at first so awkward that he got them drunk in order to loosen them up. He had lifted the aristocratic caste to an elevated position by forcing the working class into unheard-of servitude and submission. He had by the most cruel tortures, in which he participated personally, built up a social order in which might was god and the serf a slave. He had forced Western culture upon his nobles and one of his orders had been that they should build themselves great castles and houses.
Alexey Sokolow was only a score of years the junior of this great ruler. While eager to take all the advantages which were offered to his class, he had enough cunning to see that it was wiser to stay away from the inner court circle, where the greatest generals and high officials were uncertain as to when they would find themselves on the rack or the wheel and eventually beheaded. Sokolow had therefore established his city life in Moscow instead of St. Petersburg, and in Moscow he had erected the magnificent palace which can be seen to this day.
Katerina dismissed the droshky a few blocks away, so as not to be seen by other servants riding in a hired carriage, and she led the two bewildered girls to the huge arch of the main entrance, which was guarded by two soldiers with muskets, high tin helmets and high boots. They paid no attention to the three women who quickly entered the archway and were admitted to the inner courtyard.
Flowers, lampoons, grass, even bushes, covered the tremendous square of the inner court. Tables, chairs and benches stood about in great disorder. This courtyard was normally a barren place of cobblestones, but the princess had given an entertainment the night before for which the flowers and grass had been raised in hothouses in the country.
Katerina gave her wards no time to look or to think. She hurried them through the court and down a stone staircase to the basement, which consisted of endless halls and rooms and kitchens. Here Katerina left the blonde girl with a woman who seemed to be an overseer of this underground labyrinth. She then took Grushenka by the hand and marched on with her. This time she led her up a small and winding wooden staircase, which ended at the second floor. Thick turkish carpets covered the light hallway and Grushenka soon saw a room which she was going to know very thoroughly afterwards. It was the dressing room of the princess, furnished with a big oak table in the middle and huge chestnut closets and presses along the walls, between which mirrors of all kinds had been installed.
On a curt order from Katerina, the girl took all her clothes off and, entirely nude, was led by the old housekeeper through other rooms, which were magnificently adorned with silks and brocades. Through the half-open door of her mistress’ boudoir, Katerina led the substitute of madam. In her excitement, she didn’t wait for permission to enter.
The princess was sitting before a mirror at her toilet table. Boris, the coiffeur, was busy curling her long, dark-brown hair. A young serf girl knelt on the floor and put rouge on her mistress’ toenails. In the corner, near a window, sat “Fraulein,” an elderly spinster who had been a German governess in different houses of the great and who was now reading aloud in a dry and monotonous voice some French poetry. The princess listened with slight understanding or interest. The poet had worked into his fable all kinds of persons from Greek and Latin mythology, which meant nothing to the capricious listener. But when he described how the enormous shaft of Mars was pushed into the grotto of Venus, that called for noticeable attention.
In her mirror Princess Nelidowa had seen Katerina appear with Grushenka and waved angrily not to be disturbed. So Grushenka had an opportunity to study the group just described. The princess wore only a short batiste chemise which left her more or less uncovered. She did not mind that Boris, clad in the formal house uniform of the Sokolows, with a long pigtail at his back, could see her nudity, because he was only a serf. He had been sent to Dresden some years ago to learn the art of hairdressing with a very famous master in the Saxonian capital. Sokolow had intended to rent him out to one of the ladies’ hairdressing parlors recently opened in Moscow, but the princess had taken the clever fellow into her private service. He was responsible for her many tufts and locks worn in the daytime and for her powdered wigs, decorated with precious stones, which went with the evening gowns.
When the reading of the poem ceased, Katerina could restrain herself no longer. “I have her! I have her!” she cried and dragged Grushenka closer to the princess. “I found a substitute who fits perfectly and she is ours now!”
“I know you could have found her sooner,” said Nelidowa maliciously. “But you’ll be forgiven since you dug her up at last. Now show me, does she really have the same measurements that I have or are you lying to me?” She rose hastily from her stool, so that poor Boris was in danger of burning her with his hot irons.
“She truly fits,” answered Katerina. “Here, I’ll show you.” And she took out the multicolored ribbons to prove the fact. But Nelidowa was not interested in that. With sharp eyes she scrutinized Grushenka’s body and was not dissatisfied.
“So that is how I look! A full pair of good breasts, aren’t they? But mine are better! ” and taking out, without concern, her own breasts from her thin shirt and holding them close to Grushenka’s, she started a minute comparison “Mine are oval and that is rare, but this slob’s are round. Look at her nipples! How big and common!” and she tickled with her own nipples those of the girl.
Now it is true that there was a slight difference, but hardly noticeable. Nelidowa then took hold of Grushenka’s waist with both hands and did not handle her too tenderly.
“I always said,” the mistress continued, “that I have an excellent waistline, and here one can see it. Among all the court ladies, not one can compare with me.”
That it was not her own waistline she admired, but that of her new girl, did not come to her mind. She proceeded to the thighs, which she pinched, and was surprised by Grushenka’s very soft flesh. “My legs,” she commented, displaying now her own thighs and squeezing them a bit, “are sturdier than those of this little bitch, but we’ll take the softness out of her.” With mock laughter, she commanded Grushenka to turn around.
Nelidowa, as well as Grushenka, had a remarkably well-modeled back: round female shoulders, soft and full lines down to the bottom, small and well-rounded hips. Only Grushenka’s buttocks were too small, almost boyish, and went too evenly and straight to the thighs. Her legs and feet were normal and straight and could have been used by artists as models.
“Now!” laughed the princess. “This is the first time that I see my own back and truly I like it. Isn’t it fine that this tramp should have just my back?”
The witnesses of this scene, especially Katerina, were astonished by the similarity between these two women as they stood close together. It was astounding to see that not only their figures but their features and faces were so much alike that one could have sworn they were twin sisters. Nature sometimes plays tricks of that kind. Grushenka was younger she had a whiter skin she blushed in her excitement and looked fresher. Also, her flesh was softer and a bit more feminine-looking than that of Nelidowa, and she had a timid bearing and was not so self-contained as the princess. Otherwise, they were strangely alike, though no one would have dared to tell this to the princess.
“I am pleased with you and I’ll present you with my new prayer book with the pictures of the saints in it, which you admired the other day. It’s yours. Go and get it.” Katerina, with a deep curtsy, kissed her mistress’ hand, overjoyed that she had at last satisfied her. She was taking the girl out of the room when she was stopped by a parting injunction from her mistress, who watched the nude form depart.
“By the way, Katerina, have all the hair under her arms and on her dirty cunt removed so that she doesn’t infect my garments. And have her spotlessly washed and powdered. You know how filthy these pigs are.” Katerina assured her she would have the girl properly bathed, groomed and dressed.
A few days later, Grushenka had to show her mistress a new costume, a light-blue, fluffy affair with many ribbons and laces. The princess had liked it and incidentally had ordered the girl to show her cunt. Grushenka lifted the costume carefully in front, and another girl spread the slit of her trousers open, while the princess took a good look. Nelidowa was thinking that if that pussy before her eyes should be used often, the rosy and thin lips would certainly become thick and vulgar. Hence, the order to Katerina that Grushenka was to be fucked daily and that Katerina should supply various men in order that the business be attended to properly.
Grushenka was delighted to hear it, but Katerina disliked this new order, for which she could not imagine the reason. She moved Grushenka’s bed to a separate room in the basement and, after dinner, gave the girl her instructions. First she gave her a salve and ordered her to smear it every day after dinner into her vagina. This salve was to kill the sperm. The irrigations, to be taken afterward, would make doubly sure that she should not get an enlarged belly.
Presently she sent a young stableman to the girl’s room, a red-haired, freckled, undersized man, who grinned with delight. When the call had come to the stable, the men threw dice for the trick and the redhead was much envied when he won.
Grushenka was sitting on her bed when he entered the room. She held one hand over her breasts the other clutched her thin dress in front. She was very beautiful and the stableman promised to be careful and explained to her, being a nice chap, that if she followed his suggestions, they could both enjoy it profoundly.
Grushenka promised to do all he said and he proceeded with great care. He tickled her pussy with the point of his shaft for a while and then inserted it by degrees, moving always a bit back and shuffling it in again, each time more, until his hair rubbed closely against her well-shaven mount of Venus. He then inquired whether it had hurt and Grushenka answered in a soft, wondering voice, “Just a bit. Do be careful.”
But it had not hurt her at all. It was just a funny feeling, not exactly exciting, but pleasing. He told her to move her ass slowly up and down, which she did, while he lay stiff and strong, until he started to heave and push, finally forgetting himself and fucking quite to his heart’s content. Grushenka did not answer his strokes, but she held her arms close to his back and, when he finally came, she pressed her cunt firmly against his belly and felt satisfaction when his hot scum spread into her insides.
He had not had enough. He stayed in her bed, joking with her. He played around with her breasts and her cunt, laughed to see that she was shaved and pinched her bottom good-heartedly. She was amazed at how quickly he got stiff again and she did not fight him off when he put his prick in anew. This time her nervousness was gone. Still she did not get a thrill out of it, although it felt rather pleasant even more pleasant than the first time.
This time he had to work harder to get the load out of his balls. She assisted him very little, although she caressed his back with her hand shyly and tried to make her cunt as tight as possible, so that the slippery machine down there could get as much friction as possible. After he had come, she started to move and to heave. She wanted something more now herself, but he slipped his tired love-shaft out of her. She was tired and slept so soundly that they had a hard time getting her up next morning.
Every night after dinner, a man came to fuck her. Sometimes they were elderly and did not undress but just laid her over the bed and fucked her and disappeared. Sometimes they were hardly older than Grushenka and so shy that she had a great time teasing them and working them up and finally seducing them so many times that they walked from the room with weak knees.
Grushenka learned to love fucking more than she ever had before coming to the palace. She learned to get the supreme thrill with every man half a dozen times if she liked her partner. She learned how to make love and soon became a passionate lover. The male servants in the house, most of whom tried her out, praised her with glittering eyes. What a girl! What a figure! What a piece of ass! A volcano!
These were fine weeks, weeks of thrills, weeks during which her body filled out and her mind became clear, weeks without dreams, full of reality. She looked at other girls with searching curiosity. She learned from them about their love affairs. She studied her mistress with appraising eyes. Couldn’t she manage to get a nice husband and a little house with some acres and have children, too? Why not? She learned who was influencing the master and the mistress she made plans she laid eyes on one of the best body servants of the prince and, though she never spoke with him or had intercourse with him, she believed she had fallen in love with him. All that ended of a sudden, however, and it was again her mistress who affected the change, her mistress who was by right and law Grushenka’s destiny.
Nelidowa used to start many things, giving many orders, and then forgetting about them again. Her mind wandered. Everything was done in a haphazard way. But Nelidowa remembered one night, when she came from the bedroom of her husband, after working over his prick for some time, that Grushenka had been her means of finding out how a cunt would change by frequent fucking so she sent for her.
Grushenka had had a quick and meaningless poke from an elderly man that night about an hour before and was still awake when the handmaiden of Nelidowa came for her. She put a bed sheet around her shoulders and walked nude and barefoot to her highness’ bedchamber. It must be remembered that all people, high or low, male or female, slept without nightshirts at that time, and it is said that Marie Antoinette, some fifty years later, was the first one to create the mode. Nelidowa had just washed her pussy and was sitting naked before her toilet table while one of her maids braided her long black hair into pigtails.
Nelidowa was in a good mood and told Grushenka to wait until her hair was done. In a few minutes, she took the nude girl on her lap. She inquired whether Grushenka had been poked daily, whether the pricks had been big and long, whether she had learned to fuck properly and whether she liked it. Grushenka automatically answered yes to every question. Then Nelidowa gently parted the girl’s legs and examined her pussy.
There was no change to be seen. The little love-nest was tender and innocent, as though it had never held big male machines. The lips were perhaps more red, and fuller, but still firmly closed and thin. The princess opened them and fingered the girl, who quivered under this caress. The princess parted her own legs a little and wondered at her own cunt, which was wide open with thick flappy lips. Apparently it was not fucking but the hand of nature which had made the difference between their cunts.