Robert Austin

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Robert Austin is employed at no. 9 Harley-street as Sir Walter Pole 's footman, along with two younger men (Alfred and Geoffrey). He is older than his fellows, being full forty-two years of age: he is also steady and conscientious. As to his appearance, we are only told that he has dark hair but we may guess he is tall in stature, for after all, who among us has seen a small footman? Are they not generally chosen for their imposing height and looks?

Despite all this, Robert is soundly rebuked by Stephen Black for his negligence at Lady Pole's first dinner-party, when instead of attending properly to his duties he so far forgets himself as to turn his back upon the room entirely and stare out of the window - several times[15]. We may be sure that this sort of behaviour is not usual with him however by the astonishment Stephen betrays at it. Furthermore, it is clear from remarks Robert later makes that his neglect is due to a certain sensibility he has to the atmosphere of magic gradually imbuing Lady Pole's residence: "I thought a wood had grown up around the house". It seems that what Robert and his fellow servants can sense is the steadily-increasing connexion between Harley-street and Lost-hope. Unhappily their master, Sir Walter Pole, is too taken up with his work as a government minister to develop the same awareness.

Perhaps because of the steadiness of his character Robert appears to be a particular friend of Stephen Black, and so it is to him that Mrs Brandy writes when she desires to know the reason of Stephen's apparent coldness to her[26]. Much against his usual character Stephen also gives way to Robert when the latter (quite wrongly) invites him to shirk his duties and come down to the stables to admire the fine greyhounds their master has recently bought[59]. It is also to Robert that Stephen first tries to unburden himself regarding the enchantment he is under and its miserable effect upon his spirits. Sadly he finds himself quite unable to speak the truth as he intended, delivering instead some unusual advice about the cultivation of leguminous plants[26].