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Confessions of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch Excerpt: The Servant

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In order to remain entirely in his role as slave, Sacher-Masoch posed as the servant of the pretty woman whom he accompanied abroad. From his Polish national costume he had fashioned a livery; he would travel third class while she traveled in first; he would carry her baggage to the carriage and take a seat next to the coachman, and when she went out visiting he would wait for her in the antechamber with the other servants.

Mme. de P___ had chosen the actor Salvini as partner in this game. There had been delectable scenes between the three characters. Salvini, who did not suspect the secret motivation behind the favor of which he was the recipient, saw in all this only one more notch on his belt. He did find the continual presence of the beloved woman’s servant annoying, and one day when the latter entered the room at the critical moment, he burst into a rage against him.

Sacher-Masoch was enchanted; this was precisely how he wanted to be treated by his “masters.” When the actor left he handed him his fur in the antechamber, then bent quickly, took his hand and kissed it. Another day, Mme. de P___ was seated beside the Italian when Sacher-Masoch entered the room to put wood on the fire. Salvini lost patience and asked in French why she had hired that lout from Poland when a well-trained lady’s maid would have suited her better. This resentment did not stop Salvini from giving ample tips to the “Polish lout.”

Apart from these happy moments, the vocation of servant presented hardships for Leopold. One day his mistress sent him out to buy oil and milk. Returning to the house, a can of oil in one hand and a pot of milk in the other, he found himself face-to-face with a college friend, the young Duke Raoul Wrede, who recognizing him cried out, “Well—Sacher-Masoch! I see that literature no longer puts bread on the table—now you’ve become a porter?”

Sacher-Masoch extricated himself from this by feigning astonishment, attempting to make his friend believe he was mistaken in his identification. Here my husband’s narration stopped again.

“And then?” I asked.

“I packed my trunk and left.”

“Why?”

“Oh! Women have no character—only caprices. A woman could torture me to death and it would only make me happy . . . But I do not allow myself to be bored. I simply dumped her.”

My heart tightened painfully. “This is how you too will be ‘dumped’ one day,” an inner voice whispered.

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