Aunt Brunhilda can't get away from it, and I don't want you to forget about it--the hair.
When they came down to breakfast, Aunt Brunhilda greeted them. She took one look at Aksinya and her mouth turned up into a large smile. She grasped Aksinya’s hands, “You look ravishing this morning. Who did your hair?”
Aksinya glanced at Natalya.
Aunt Brunhilda grinned at the lady, “You made her look marvelous.” She turned back to Aksinya, “I remember, countess, your hair was so beautiful. I hope you will grow it out again. I know the style today among the youth is for short hair, but my heart longs to see it like it once was.”
Aksinya gave her a strange look that Aunt Brunhilda didn’t know how to interpret. Aunt Brunhilda still held one of Aksinya’s hands and led her into the family breakfast room. Aksinya’s uncle stood when she entered and helped seat her and then Aunt Brunhilda. Aksinya noticed his monocle was in his right eye this morning. They served her bread, meat, and cheese. Her aunt and uncle had coffee. Aksinya ate a soft boiled egg and tea. Natalya attended her.
After breakfast, Uncle Herman put down his napkin, “Countess, would you please join us in the family parlor so we can discuss your future?”
Aksinya touched her lips with her napkin and laid it at her place. She nodded.
Before they entered the parlor, Asmodeus suddenly joined them. No one seemed surprised although Aksinya and Natalya noticed his appearance more than Aksinya’s aunt or uncle.
The fire was still burning in the great fireplace, but it was mostly coals with only a light sprinkling of flames. Aunt Brunhilda led Aksinya to a chair and sat her. She took a seat in the chair beside her and held her hand.
This is scene setting with a slight transition. Aksinya does look ravishing--Natalya made her look that way. If you remember, her hair is parted and pinned. The dress is perfect, but too bright and light for the season--it also makes Aksinya look like a girl. Can you see the aunt's reaction? It is to Aksinya as a child, not an adult. Aksinya doesn't help things along--she is still in her silent mode. Remember, manic depressive. This is the depressive mode. She nods at Natalya and we immediately understand what she means. She gives her aunt a look and we know what that means. She doesn't have to say anything and we understand.
The culture is there for us to see. Austrian breakfast, coffee etc. Aksinya eats what she likes. She will not be cowed. She knows her own mind in spite of her depression. Another indicator of her mind is that she lets Natalya serve her without making any remark--you will see that this changes very quickly when she again has purpose and feels a little in control again.
Then again with the culture: the napkins are a tiny piece of a social puzzle. Only the wealthy have napkins. Only the wealthy and aristocracy know what to do with napkins. Tiny reminders and scene setters. Then the demon joins them. Note, he just appears almost out of nowhere. We will see this strange effect more powerfully later. He is supposed to move within human affairs like a shadow, only seen and heard when he wishes to be.
Finally, we reenter the parlour. I don't have to describe it again to you. I just remind you about the fire, then you imagine it again yourself. I didn't give a huge description before--perhaps I will add one to the final manuscript. We get the picture again of Aksinya in the chair with the Freifrau at her side. We have returned to the evening before--the unanswered questions are all still unanswered. That is what we shall see next.