The events of the carriage ride and this are interconnected. This is Aksinya's temper. Notice this is very controlled and rational. She is gentle but insistent. Her problem is not wrath--it is luxuria. We shall see Aksinya in wrath later. That is a hint.
The Freiherr greeted them all when they returned to the estate. He escorted them all to dinner. Freiherr Bockmann seated Aksinya.
Natalya began to take her position behind Aksinya. Aksinya stood and grasped Natalya by the hand. She led her to the other side of the table.
Natalya was distraught, “Please, Countess, let me serve you.”
“I wish you to serve me by sitting at table with me, Lady Natalya. Please accommodate me in this.”
“But you promised I could serve you.”
“You will serve me. I wish my friend to sit with me and not stand behind me.”
Natalya covered her face with her hands.
Aksinya held her close and whispered in her ear, “Please, Nata. Only an accident of birth put one of us over the other. I wish you to dine with me. Don’t the ladies in the royal court dine with their mistresses?”
Natalya peeked between her fingers at Aksinya. She nodded.
Aksinya continued to whisper, “Why do you think you were treated like a servant and not allowed to sit with your mistresses—even in your own house?”
Natalya’s eyes opened wide.
Aksinya pulled out the chair for Natalya. When she released Natalya, she quickly sat herself. Then she as quickly stood and waited beside it. Aksinya smiled and walked back around the table. She sat and the others sat. Aksinya noticed, a tiny smile played at the corners of Natalya’s lips.
Back at the estate, they attend dinner, and Natalya moves to her favorite place--where she can serve Aksinya. You might ask, hasn't she been listening to Aksinya. She has, but Natalya's greatest joy is to serve--I can't let you forget that fact. This must be crystal clear for the main turning point of the novel to make full sense and to create the circumstance for the resolution. Can you see this picture? I didn't draw it for you. You drew it yourself. I know you can see Aksinya towing the quiet, but unhappy Natalya around the table. Can you feel Aksinya's anger--it is not at Natalya. Natalya begs Aksinya, and Aksinya's answer, controlled, clear, refined, like what you would expect from a Countess. The response from Natalya, but you promised... yes Aksinya did promise, but notice, she didn't break her promise.
And Akinsya's answer--you will serve me. To stand behind is the service of a servant, to sit at the same table is the service of a peer. She calls Natalya her friend. Natalya is astonished that Aksinya again called her a friend. This is foreign in her mind, but not in this culture. Akinsya is elevating Natalya and Natalya doesn't believe she should be elevated.
Then the coupe, Aksinya tells her the secret that Natalya's previous lady did not--don't the ladies in the royal court dine with their mistresses? Natalya knows they do. Then Aksinya sticks in the knife. The only answer to this very simple question is that Natalya was never treated like a lady. She was always treated like a servant. Aksinya in a moment elevated Natalya from a servant to a true lady.
Natalya is so gripped by this revelation she allows Aksinya to seat her--this is completely improper. That's why Aksinya did it. It is a trick. That action by Aksinya causes Natalya's brain to rush back to reality--she stands until Aksinya sits. Look at the last, this whole show was not lost on Natalya. She knows what happened, the elevation, the lesson Aksinya taught. That is the reason for the restrained smile. How wonderful, Natalya understands in this regard her place as Aksinya's friend and confidant. This is just a small piece to relate Aksinya's personality and being as well as Natalya's. As well as to continue building the plot and theme to the peak of the novel.