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Saturday, November 20, 2010

A New Novel, Part 48 Beginning of the Dormitory Tour

In this short vignette and transition, we wrap up the tour of the school proper with tea.  You will find that everyone has tea--that is the proper thing to do.  I want you to see this cultural phenomena clearly.  In this society and this time, tea is de rigeur.  We have nothing quite like it--perhaps those who still hold to offering coffee or tea to their friends keep it in their heart, but tea is becoming a lost function in modern culture.  It is such an important function, I'm surprised we let it go. 

We see that the RM Kluge has tea.  Note how everyone is arranged and note who serves.  Because it is time for tea, I don't have to tell you it is the early to late afternoon.  Since, we know they came during the late morning, we can infer that this is relatively early in the afternoon, but likely near or after two.  You might note that they didn't have dinner (lunch).  In this time, the usual practice was to have a light breakfast, a light dinner (lunch), a light tea, and then a large supper.  We will see that this is the practice at Sacré Coeur.  We eat much more during a day than the usual aristocrat during this time.  Though their suppers are long, the portions are small.  We shall see some in more detail as we go along.

They ended the tour at the Reverend Mother’s office. The Reverend Mother sat Aksinya directly in front of her desk. Natalya stood behind Aksinya. The others arranged themselves on the chairs against the wall. The office wasn’t very large. The Reverend Mother called for tea and served them herself. While they had their tea, the Reverend Mother asked, “Countess, do you have any questions about our gymnasium or our curriculum?”

Aksinya shook her head.

“Then when we are finished with our tea, I will take you to the dormitory and let you see the room we have prepared especially for you.”

Aksinya glanced over her teacup, “Thank you.”

When they were finished, the Reverend Mother led them to the dormitory. The long hallway down the center of the school building ran into a large set of open doors. To the left of the door was a small office with a split door. On the other side, Frau Drescher sat at her desk and handled paperwork and correspondence.

The Reverend Mother rapped on the top of the door. She changed back to German, “Frau Drescher, we are ready to begin our tour of the dormitory.”

Frau Drescher frowned then tried unsuccessfully to turn the frown into a smile. She paused a moment too long, then stood abruptly. She came to the door, opened it, and stepped out. She spoke intentionally in exaggeratedly enunciated German, “If you please, Countess, follow me.”

Aksinya twisted her lips in a grimace and replied in quiet but finely articulated German, “I will be pleased to Frau Drescher.”

So now we return to the very Austrian Frau Drescher.  Frau Drescher has a typical office for such a lady.  She takes care of a dormitory.  She keeps watch on who goes in and who goes out--thus the split door.  This is the typical use of such a door in Europe at the time.  Dormitories and apartment buildings for women tended to have such offices with their typical ogre guardians.  Frau Drescher does much more than the usual, however, she handles paperwork and correspondence.  This should key you into the fact that Frau Drescher is a bit more than she seems. 
Frau Drescher has this problem with smiling.  She is either out of the habit or unable to smile.  We see the joke of the languages again at the Frau's expense.  Aksinya speaks more to her than to RM Kluge.  And so the joke and the transition to the Dormitory tour.  Tomorrow a description of the dormitory.

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