We saw the proposal--Aksinya's uncle and aunt want her to attend the gymnasium for girls, Sacré Coeur. This idea came from Asmodeus--it was likely a suggestion in the telegram. Asmodeus chose this aunt and uncle, this school, this city for exactly his own purpose. I haven't shown you that purpose yet, but I did give a big hint. I revealed to you that the demon would have more scope to torture Aksinya in the West than in Russia.
Aunt Brunhilda clasped Aksinya’s left hand with both of hers. “We wish to enroll you in my old school, Sacré Coeur. It is a school, a gymnasium, for girls here in Wien. The church runs it, and it is connected with a convent of the same name. I know it is something you have never experienced before, but I believe you will blossom in it.”
Aksinya stared at her aunt. Then she turned her stare at the demon. Asmodeus’ face was covered with a scowl. He stood, “Freiherr, I’m not sure the Countess should be placed in this kind of environment. She is a very sensitive young woman who is not used to being among so many people.”
The Freiherr immediately warmed to his argument, “The Countess would have her lady-in-waiting to take care of her. She would be boarded in the style of a princess. She would possess the highest rank of anyone in Sacré Coeur.”
The demon didn’t back down, “But the Countess isn’t used to being away from her family.“
Aunt Brunhilda clasped Aksinya’s fingers a little tighter, “We are her family now. She may come stay with us on the weekends. She will certainly go to church with us and dine with us, and she may bring as many of her friends as she likes for the weekend.”
Asmodeus straightened, “Is all this certain?”
The Freiherr stuck out his chest, “It is a surety and a promise.”
“Do you swear?”
Baronet Herman Bockmann’s eyebrows rose, “Yes, I guess. I do swear.”
Asmodeus bowed, “Good. Then the Countess shall attend Sacré Coeur. Should we visit the school tomorrow?”
Aksinya’s brows lowered, “Don’t I have a say?”
Her aunt and uncle stared at her.
Asmodeus' look was dangerous, “Yes, Countess, of course you have a say.” The demon’s voice dripped with menace, “What do you wish? It is your choice, after all.” He glared at her.
Aksinya returned his gaze. Then after a moment, she lowered her head, “I shall go to Sacré Coeur on a trial basis. If I am not happy there, I shall not continue.“
Aunt Brunhilda shook Aksinya’s hand, “What a wonderful answer.”
Her uncle lit another cigarette, “Yes, very wise. It shall be on a trial basis. We shall see how all of us like it. I would rather have you here all the time with us, Countess, but I am willing to give you up during the week for your own improvement and education.”
Aksinya mumbled under her breath then she glanced up, “I will attend on a trial basis only if my lady-in-waiting may attend too.” Aksinya continued before anyone could respond, “The Lady Natalya is incredibly bright and educated. She would succeed very well in such an environment.”
The Freiherr glanced at Natalya then back at Aksinya, “Certainly, I don’t see any reason why the Lady Natalya cannot attend with you. Her primary job must be your care, but she may attend and study with you.”
Aksinya bowed her head, “Thank you.”
“You are very welcome,” Aunt Brunhilda smiled and stood. Now, let us ladies retire to my sitting room where I will inform you both all about Sacré Coeur. ”
Reluctantly Aksinya stood. Natalya bounced up. They followed Aunt Brunhilda to the second floor and her sitting room.
The demon is a consumate actor. Look at his response. He plays the "devil's advocate" and gives a counter arguement. His focus isn't the arguement, it is to get Freiherr Bockmann to swear. You can imagine why this is so important to a demon. It means there is a resolve to act. It means there is a contract. When and if (it will be when) Aksinya can no longer continue at the school, Freiherr Bockmann will be forced to break his promise (contract). This is the way with all good, even if we swear to achieve it, we make it all wrong when we cannot achieve what we have agreed to do.
Then Aksinya takes matters into her own hands for just a singular moment. She defies the demon. She matches his gaze, but can't hold it. She knows she wants to go to the school. So does the demon. Aksinya attaches two criteria to the proposal: it is a trial and Natalya must attend. You can see the reaction of both. Aksinya is reluctant--she lost out, but achieved what she wanted. Still she worries about the ramifications of the demon's choice. Natalya bounces up--her mistress thought of her and gave her a great gift. That is the end of chapter 5. I need to get writing. I just finished the first run through of chapter 11 and started chapter 12.