These days, it’s seen as gauche for a millionaire to keep a person as a pet.
Sure, it would be an ego-trip, but history has taught the wealthy some lessons. As Marie Antoinette’s head mouthed to any who would listen, “you may cage the bear of the labour force population – but never poke it”.
But long before Bezos decided that the ultimate massage for his swollen ego might hover in orbit, and tragically long before Netflix invented entertainment, 18th century aristocrats had a different, simpler approach: hire an actor to live on your property, feigning a hermetic life.
The garden hermit would gather herbs. They would read old-looking scrolls. They would study the stars and brew tea. And, if you were the lucky guest of their employer, they might read your fortune. Their real occupation was to create a romantic illusion, a glimmer of magic at the periphery of an industrializing world.
All they really accomplished, though, was to foretell a world of deepening irony: an expensive performance of naturalism for the benefit of the unnaturally wealthy.
Esther had been a Garden Hermit. Maybe she still is – it’s hard for me to decide if her performance still counts, now that there’s nobody to witness it.
I don’t know how time works here, but, from what I can gather, she’s been here for a couple centuries. Drinking tea. Studying counterfeited scrolls. And, now, finally, telling someone’s fortune.