Characters in Depth:
Ernst Lenz

First Trilogy
All Manor of Yarns

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  I. Prussian Yarns

 II. A Stitch in Time

III. Tinctures & Tantrums

Second Trilogy
The Snow Queen and
The Caterpillar

IV. There is a Season
 V. Viennese Yarns
VI. Orchids

Third Trilogy
Taffeta Tales

 VII. British Yarns
VIII. Polish Yarns
  IX. Threads of Strife

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Ernst 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 judgement.

As 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.

To 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 abject poverty.  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.

Otto’s appreciation meant the world to Ernst, and he would do anything to avoid Otto’s disapproval.  Otto’s irritation, 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.  Behind Ernst’s 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.

Ernst 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.

One of Ernst’s talents, which Otto appreciated and used, was knowing what was going on in the household without appearing to be nosy.  Because 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.

Alone 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 be observed.  Otto might be a beloved master, but he was first and foremost the master in Ernst’s eyes.


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