Important person and important interaction, today we get to meet Sister Margarethe for the first time. Also, here is Aksinya and Natalya's first class at the school.
The first class was German. The room was filled with ten younger and older students. The teacher was a middle aged nun with a very friendly and elfish face. She greeted Aksinya and Natalya at the door pleasantly in French, “Good morning Countess and Lady Natalya. I am Sister Margarethe Traugott. I teach German, both beginning and advanced. I understand the Lady Natalya doesn’t understand any German and that you, Countess, wish to improve your understanding of the language.”
Aksinya smiled, “The Reverend Mother must have spoken to you.”
The Sister Margarethe gave her a very large smile, “Yes, she told me about you, and we discussed your curriculum. You seem a wonderful young woman to have faced such suffering.” She stared at Aksinya and didn’t give a glance to Natalya. Suddenly, she reached out her hand and touched Aksinya’s face then brushed the tips of her hair, “I’m very glad you are in my class. I hope we can be good friends.” She pointed, “Please take the seats near the window at the front. I will assign you your books.”
Aksinya and Natalya sat where they were directed. Natalya pulled out notebooks and pens for both of them. Natalya began with a primmer, and Sister Margarethe spoke with Aksinya for a long time in German before she handed her a book of advanced German studies. At the end of class, the sister let them out of the classroom with a comment, “Countess, I’ve given you an advanced course of study. If you find your studies difficult, please come to my office. I would be happy to help you.
Aksinya grinned, “Thank you, Sister Margarethe.”
As always, we need to set the scene. I could give you more on the classroom setting, but I already told you about the school, the rest is your imagination. Plus, classrooms in 1918 aren't that much different--just more wood and less metal (no plastic). You know the rooms are small and the classes have about 10 girls. We see the German class is a mixed class (young and old)--you want to bet the students are not Austrian. Maybe I should tell you this, but it doesn't drive anything in the novel, so the knowledge would just be gratuitous.
The important point isn't the class, it's the teacher. Sister Margarethe Traugott is a very important character. Traugott means "trust in God" and Margarethe means "pearl." There is a significance to the last name. Her first name is one of the most popular for girls in Austria and Germany when she was born 1860s. You don't see much more than her face since she is a nun and wears a habit, so the description I give you is about her face. By leaving the rest out, height, etc, I leave you with the impression she is average--that's what I want you to conclude.
Right away we see Sister Margarethe is very interested in Aksinya. Then, we should be surprised. Out of the blue she remarks on Aksinya's suffering. I prepared you with Aksinya's comment about talking to the Reverend Mother. That is obviously the only way Sister Margarethe could know so much about Aksinya. The Reverend Mother obviously received her information from Aunt Brunhilda. Then the very surprising part: she reaches out her hand and touches Aksinya's face, then her hair. It's the hair. If you didn't get it before, you should now. The hair is an indicator and indicates that Asmodeus has in some way touched Sister Margarethe. You get then, the words, "I hope we can be good friends."
Next I also give you description in dialog--there is a window in the room and Aksinya and Natalya are directed to sit at the front by it. Teachers pet and by the window, could a student wish for more? You should ask, why.
Natalya takes care of business. She doesn't get any attention, but Aksinya does, plus an invitation. We also get that Aksinya likes the attention. We know she is attention starved. She is looking for something, she called a demon from the pit for it. So the first class, we know something is up with Sister Margarethe.