Here is the rest of chapter 9. We continue from the very revealing conversation between Aksinya and Sister Margarethe. Sister Margarethe is convinced that Aksinya's power must be good. Aksinya knows it is not...
“That is yet to be seen.”
Aksinya laughed, “That is the truth. How long are you to stay here?”
“The Reverend Mother said I am to reside with you until you are well. We will work out the details later.”
“I am hungry. Would you ask the Lady Natalya to prepare my tea? Please ask her to make it a heavy tea.”
Sister Margarethe stood. She held Aksinya’s hand until the last moment, “When I am filled with fear or apprehension, I find that prayer helps me very much.”
“I do too, but I don’t believe my prayers are ever heard.”
Sister Margarethe reached out again, “Why would you think that?”
“It is because of who I am. I still don’t trust you, Sister Margarethe, but I will allow you to serve me and stay here, at least until I am well.”
During tea, Freifrau Bockmann came rushing into Aksinya’s room. She stood just inside the open door to the sitting room, “Countess.”
“Yes, Aunt Brunhilda, we are just having tea. Would you like Natalya to pour you a cup?”
Freifrau Bockmann pulled off her gloves, “Please.” She came over to the side of the bed and sat down, “You don’t look like you are at the edge of death. Was the Reverend Mother’s report wrong?”
Sister Margarethe put out her hand, “Perhaps we exaggerated the event a little in our concern. The Countess was injured.”
Lady Bockmann cocked her head, “And you are?”
Aksinya put down her cup, “She is Sister Margarethe, our German teacher.”
Sister Margarethe bowed in her chair, “The Reverend Mother has assigned me to watch over the Countess and Lady Natalya.”
“I see.” Freifrau Bockmann glanced all around the room, “This is a beautiful room. Are these all your things from Russia?”
Natalya poured a cup of tea for the Freifrau Bockmann and handed it to her.
Aksinya answered, “Yes.”
“We didn’t realize you had set up housekeeping and brought your family’s things out of Russia.”
“We were lucky to get them out.”
“Yes, very lucky. You picked a lovely house, although it is in the city. It is convenient to the school.” She flopped her gloves at Aksinya, “Really, Countess, you should have told us before you made such an important decision.”
Aksinya stared at her, “I am not used to asking anyone’s advice before I make a decision.”
“Yes, of course. Your uncle could have helped you. He is a Freiherr and well regarded in Wien.”
“I’m sorry. Your help would have been valuable. I will endeavor in the future to ask both your advice before I make such an important decision.”
“That is kind of you. Thank you, Countess.”
“You do understand, apart from my injury, except for the Lady Natalya and me, the existence of this house would have remained unknown? That was my point. I wanted a private and secret place where I could feel the comfort and closeness of my family’s belongings in this city.”
“Oh, I see. I think I understand.”
“I really don’t wish everyone to know about it.”
“Ah,” Freifrau Bockmann sat back. She took a sip of tea, “I, we won’t let the cat out of the bag. You know you will have trouble keeping it secret.”
“We shall not let anyone know.”
“I hope the Reverend Mother is as accommodating. I will discuss our details tomorrow.”
“You and the Lady Natalya will still be able to come home. I mean to Grossbock.”
“Yes, we will continue to come to Grossbock for the weekends. You entertain us well.”
Lady Bockmann bowed. She took another sip of tea and nipped a biscuit from Natalya’s tea service, “Now will you explain how you were injured and how the Sister Margarethe became involved. I already spoke with the Reverend Mother, and I’m not clear on anything.”
Sister Margarethe smiled, “The Countess fell in the street. She was slightly injured and we were all very concerned.”
Lady Bockmann responded, “I see.” But her look said she clearly did not.
The conversation turns to a point that is very important to Aksinya. She didn't want supervision. First, she believes she doesn't need any, and second, she wishes to accomplish her sorcery without interruption. The details are important to Aksinya because she wants the latitude to do the evil she doesn't desire to do. Aksinya asks for tea--heavy tea. She hasn't eaten. Sister Margarethe thinks Aksinya's problems are simple or just a girl's normal problems--she has no idea, or she hides the truth from herself. She loves Aksinya so much. Aksinya doesn't trust the Sister--she should.
Then at tea, Freifrau Bockmann rushes in. Aksinya acts like nothing has happened. Notice that Aksinya calls her Aunt Brunhilda. I tried to make this address have some meaning in the novel. I haven't been consistent and I'm not certain how consistent I should be. I intended that Aksinya use the appellation Aunt Brunhilda when she was uncomfortable--it is her joke to herself.
We learn ancillary data. The Reverend Mother's knowledge and that she immediately called for the Freifrau. Sister Margarethe is introduced to the Freifrau. This, by the way, is the highest the Sister will be in the household. We get a little more about the house and the things from Russia. Then a strong foreshadowing. I won't reveal anything about it, but I will remind you when it happens. Listen to the Freifrau's words, “Really, Countess, you should have told us before you made such an important decision.” Aksinya's tells the absolute truth, she doesn't ask advice--but she didn't make this decision, the demon did. Then Aksinya makes a promise she can't keep. She makes many of these--she's under the thumb of a demon, but she still wishes to do the right thing. Then Aksinya tells her reason for keeping the house secret. Part of this statement is true. Aksinya's problem is luxuria. I havent' reminded you of that for a long time. The belongings fill her with lust and desire. Then more foreshadowing from the Freifrau, "You won't be able to keep it secret for long." There is more to this, but we shall see.
Then the end of chapter kicker. It isn't very strong, but it is telling. It underscores the entire chapter. Everything is known, but nothing is known. Everything is revealed, but nothing is revealed. There are secrets and secrets and secrets. The kicker: Lady Bockmann responded, “I see.” But her look said she clearly did not.
Tomorrow we begin chapter 10.