Lenz is Otto’s valet.
He was recommended to Otto by Otto’s brother, Johann, the
monk, when Otto’s first valet refused to work for anyone as
unconventional as Otto. Otto accepted Ernst at
Johann’s word partly because he needed a valet too badly to
ask questions, and partly because he trusted Johann’s
it often happened, Johann paired Otto with someone who suited
him and his needs comfortably.
It didn’t matter
to Otto that Ernst came from a background far below the status
of most Junker’s valets, all Otto cared was that the man was
reliable and trustworthy.
When Ernst proved
himself to be more than that, Otto considered himself lucky
and gave no thought to where Ernst came from.
Ernst, his background mattered a great deal.
Always conscious of
living in a style and a position far above that of his family,
Ernst strove with every fibre of his being to be worthy of
Brother Goff’s confidence in him, and to be worthy of the
position and comfort Herr von Goff gave him.
He had been placed
in the orphanage as an older boy because of his family’s
They had hoped he
would get an education and better himself from the orphanage.
Just the same,
neither they nor Ernst had dreamed he would land a plumb job
such as being the valet to a Gutsherr, a Baron, and Ernst
never felt quite worthy of it.
In his efforts to be
as good a valet as those who grew up in the great houses,
Ernst fussed relentlessly about his master’s appearance,
comfort, and propriety, turning out a job far and away above
the average valet’s standards.
appreciation meant the world to Ernst, and he would do
anything to avoid Otto’s disapproval.
however, Ernst came to regard as an occupational hazard.
Because Ernst strove
day and night to ensure that Otto was well turned out, and
Otto didn’t give a fig about his appearance, Ernst and Otto
were frequently exasperated with one another.
wails of, “I don’t know why I try sometimes! I just
don’t know why I try!” and Otto’s barks of, “Don’t
fuss, man!” there was a deep respect for one another, an
affection, and a gratitude from each that he would be much
worse off with anyone else.
got enormous satisfaction from being taken into Otto’s
confidence, and never objected to sitting up late helping Otto
work out a knotty problem.
Instead of resenting
loss of sleep or mealtimes to listen to Otto’s worries, make
suggestions, or give warnings, Ernst felt privileged to have
his ideas valued and even used.
It gave him a secret
delight to know when something was enacted upon that had been
his idea, making him feel as if he had an active part in
running the estate from behind the scenes.
of Ernst’s talents, which Otto appreciated and used, was
knowing what was going on in the household without appearing
to be nosy.
Ernst never gossiped, most of the staff didn’t realise just
how much he knew about what they thought, said, and did.
In that way he kept
Otto in touch with what was going on behind the scenes, under
the surface, and behind closed doors.
Careful to always be
discrete and never to reveal his sources, Ernst was able to
prevent problems from arising, and to have things smoothed
over, without anyone suspecting that he knew anything about
anything. If the staff noticed him at all, they regarded
him with affection.
He did his work
correctly, kept to his place, kept his mouth shut, and kept
out of the way.
with Otto, though, Ernst possessed of a sense of humour, and
an ability to let his hair down to a surprising extent when
they were away from Schönwald, away from any witnesses.
He even took in good
humour Otto’s teasing and telling stories at his expense,
but only to a certain point.
There was a line of
familiarity that must not be crossed. Otto might be relaxed
about it, but to Ernst there was a certain propriety that must
might be a beloved master, but he was first and foremost the
master in Ernst’s eyes.