Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 9

When Vivian rose in the morning a gentle tap at his door announced the presence of an early visitor, who, being desired to enter, appeared in the person of Essper George.

“Do you want anything, sir?” asked Essper, with a submissive air.

Vivian stared at him for a moment, and then ordered him to come in.

“I had forgotten, Essper, until this moment, that on returning to my room last night I found you sleeping at my door. This also reminds me of your conduct in the saloon yesterday; and as I wish to prevent the repetition of such improprieties, I shall take this opportunity of informing you, once for all, that if you do not in future conduct yourself with more discretion, I must apply to the Maitre d’Hôtel. Now, sir, what do you want?”

Essper was silent, and stood with his hands crossed on his breast, and his eyes fixed on the ground.

“If you do not want anything, quit the room immediately.”

Here the singular being began to weep.

“Poor fellow!” thought Vivian, “I fear, with all thy wit and pleasantry, thou art, after all, but one of those capriccios which Nature sometimes indulges in, merely to show how superior is her accustomed order to eccentricities, even accompanied with rare powers.”

“What is your wish, Essper?” continued Vivian, in a kinder tone. “If there be any service that I can do you, you will not find me backward. Are you in trouble? you surely are not in want?”

“No!” sobbed Essper; “I wish to be your servant:” here he hid his face in his hands.

“My servant! why surely it is not very wise to seek dependence upon any man. I am afraid that you have been keeping company too much with the lackeys that are always loitering about these bathing-places, Ernstorff’s green livery and sword, have they not turned your brain, Essper?”

“No, no, no! I am tired of living alone.”

“But remember, to be a servant, you must be a person of regular habits and certain reputation. I have myself a good opinion of you, but I have myself seen very little of you, though more than any one here, and I am a person of a peculiar turn of mind. Perhaps there is not another individual in this house who would even allude to the possibility of engaging a servant without a character.”

“Does the ship ask the wind for a character when he bears her over the sea without hire and without reward? and shall you require a character from me when I request to serve you without wages and without pay?”

“Such an engagement, Essper, it would be impossible for me to enter into, even if I had need of your services, which at present I have not. But I tell you frankly that I see no chance of your suiting me. I should require an attendant of steady habits and experience; not one whose very appearance would attract attention when I wish to be unobserved, and acquire a notoriety for the master which he detests. I warmly advise you to give up all idea of entering into a state of life for which you are not in the least suited. Believe me, your stall will be a better friend than a master. Now leave me.”

Essper remained one moment with his eyes still fixed on the ground; then walking very rapidly up to Vivian, he dropped on his knee, kissed his hand, and disappeared.

Mr. St. George breakfasted with the Baron, and the gentlemen called on Lady Madeleine early in the morning to propose a drive to Stein Castle; but she excused herself, and Vivian following her example, the Baron and Mr. St. George “patronised” the Fitzlooms, because there was nothing else to do. Vivian again joined the ladies in their morning walk, but Miss Fane was not in her usual high spirits. She complained more than once of her cousin’s absence; and this, connected with some other circumstances, gave Vivian the first impression that her feelings towards Mr. St. George were not merely those of a relation. As to the Chevalier de Boeffleurs, Vivian soon found that it was utterly impossible to be on intimate terms with a being without an idea. The Chevalier was certainly not a very fit representative of the gay, gallant, mercurial Frenchman: he rose very late, and employed the whole of the morning in reading the French journals and playing billiards alternately with Prince Salvinski and Count von Altenburgh.

These gentlemen, as well as the Baron, Vivian, and Mr. St. George, were to dine this day at the New House.

They found assembled at the appointed hour a party of about thirty individuals. The dinner was sumptuous, the wines superb. At the end of the banquet the company adjourned to another room, where play was proposed and immediately commenced. His Imperial Highness did not join in the game, but, seated in a corner of the apartment, was surrounded by his aides-de-camp, whose business was to bring their master constant accounts of the fortunes of the table and the fate of his bets. His Highness did not stake.

Vivian soon found that the game was played on a very different scale at the New House to what it was at the Redoute. He spoke most decidedly to the Baron of his detestation of gambling, and expressed his unwillingness to play; but the Baron, although he agreed with him in his sentiments, advised him to conform for the evening to the universal custom. As he could afford to lose, he consented, and staked boldly. This night very considerable sums were lost and won; but none returned home greater winners than Mr. St. George and Vivian Grey.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19