We see Aksinya and Natalya led to dinner by the Reverend Mother and then the culture of aristocratic precedence.
The Reverend Mother led Aksinya and Natalya to the first table in the room. This was the only one that wasn’t round. The head table was rectangular and at the center was a high backed chair carved with a cross and the emblem of Sacré Coeur. The Reverend Mother stepped behind the table and motioned Aksinya and Natalya to follow her. She pulled out the high backed chair and pointed to the two seats at the end of the table, “I would like you ladies to sit there, please.”
Aksinya curtsied, “I’m sorry, Reverend Mother, we will not take the first place. That would not be appropriate for students. Please seat us at a lower table. Since we are new, it would be most appropriate to seat us at the lowest tables.”
Frau Drescher was aghast, “The Reverend Mother wishes to honor you.”
Aksinya didn’t blink, “But I don’t want to be honored for that reason.”
The Reverend Mother put up her hand. She motioned to one of the novices behind the head table, “Sister Rita, please seat the Countess Golitsyna and the Lady Obolenska at the older scholar’s table.”
Novice Sister Rita’s eyes opened wide. She stared at Aksinya, “Countess?”
“Yes, Countess. I want you to take care of them yourself, Sister Rita.”
The novice sister curtsied to the floor. She couldn’t take her eyes off Aksinya and Natalya. She led them to the round table just below the head table and tried to seat them.
This is a very simple event, but it has great importance. RM Kluge wants to honor and show off Aksinya and Natalya. The Natalya link is not so obvious yet, we will see that very soon. RM Kluge sits in a "Bishop's" chair. That is a throne-like seat for the head of an order (in this case). Aksinya knows the head table is only for sisters of the order. In circles of the aristocracy, nobility of the church are equal to a degree with the "secular" nobility. RM Kluge understands this, but she would be placing Aksinya and Natalya higher than other sisters in the order. Aksinya is perfectly sensitive to the aristocracy--I hope I showed this to you well. She knows how to act properly in every place and event. RM Kluge isn't ignorant, she just doesn't realize the full ramifications of her actions. Also, Aksinya sees this correctly that likely Asmodeus is acting to tempt RM Kluge. To the RM, the school and the convent is everything. In the demon's terms, she lusts for her school and convent to be the best. Aksinya intervenes which likely opposes Asmodeus. This is one of the little ways Aksinya tries to fight the demon.
Aksinya curtsies (an act of subjugation) and proposes they be placed at the lowest tables--that is not possible. The RM realizes her error quickly. Aksinya's proposal for the lowest tables is as unacceptable as the RM's suggestion that they sit at the highest table.
The RM sends a novice to seat Aksinya and Natalya at the highest student's table, this is the most appropriate solution. This how the world of the aristocracy works--even in the church. We will see more of this in the next piece.
I wanted to mention that a reader wrote me to note that only a small percentage of my readers would be able to grasp the depth of the writing especially without help. The question was specifically, why go to all the trouble if your readers won't get it. Primarily, I have a lot of faith in my readers. One of my readers likes my novels because they are so different than what they usually can find. This reader calls them exciting stories that are an intellectual treasure. That is what I want to give you. Even if the average reader can't grasp the depth of the writing, I hope the story to them is good and exciting.