We begin chapter 10 with the setting. I throw you directly into the action this time. The pacing requires it. In the last chapter, we had an exciting beginning and a resolving end (little resolution, but releif). Now, we begin again with a little action (not much this time).
“Natalya! Natalya!” Aksinya called from her room while she rang the tiny servant’s bell. Her voice was ten times louder than the bell, and it formed a soft counterpoint to her cries.
Sister Margarethe and the Lady Natalya came running.
The moment they were through the door, Aksinya pointed at Sister Margarethe, “You, sister, prepare my breakfast. I shall have tea and something more substantial than the school provides. Sausages with eggs would be fine. Please scramble the eggs in butter.”
Sister Margarethe’s brow rose, but she just curtsied and went down to the kitchen.
Aksinya waited a moment, then she raised her chin and spoke loudly, “Natalya, please draw my bath.” Then she whispered, “First come here—beside my bed.”
Natalya didn’t hesitate, “Yes, mistress.”
Natalya blushed, “Yes, Aksinya.”
“Next time, I want you to drink tea with my guests as well. I did not embarrass you when Lady Bockmann and the Sister Margarethe were in my room, but I will next time.”
“Now, close and lock the door.”
Natalya ran to the door and locked it.
“Come over here.”
Natalya stood at the side of the bed.
Aksinya grabbed Natalya’s arm and pulled her down to the bed. She put her arms around the girl and kissed her cheeks, “Nata, you saved me yesterday. I didn’t have a chance to tell you before. You saved me. You are truly my best friend, and I love you. You don’t know how important you are to me.”
Natalya held Aksinya close and sobbed in her hair, “Mistress, Aksinya, I was so afraid I would loose you. I love you. You are like the sister I never had.”
“And you are much more than the sister I lost. I can’t shed a tear for her either, and I don’t know why.”
Natalya’s embrace tightened, “Let me shed your tears, mistress. That is something I am very good at.” A laugh tinged her sobs.
Aksinya kissed Natalya’s tear streaked cheeks again, “Yes, dear Nata, you are very good at that, but you are an especially great person. I pray you learn that before you fall as I have.”
Aksinya calls for her help. Remember, they have not spent their days in the house--they always snuck back to the school. They usually ate breakfast at the school. Aksinya wants breakfast and, as an aristocrat, she knows how to get it. She has her bell and her voice. This is supposed to give a little levity and a little realization of the culture of the times. Aksinya isn't used to the Austrian methods of calling servants. Don't you wonder who gave her the bell? Either the Freifrau or the Sister obviously.
About setting the chapter. You can guess where we are going with this chapter. You'll get more tomorrow. Hint: where is the book. The setting is simple, I use what the reader already knows. The bedroom in the house is reasonably well known. We understand from the breakfast order that it is likely the morning. The presence of Sister Margarethe tells us the same. Unless the Reverend Mother gave her the day off from teaching. We will find out more. In setting the scene, especially when the reader is familiar with the setting already, you can ease into it with some revelation. I like to use this technique, that is, the world exclusively through the eyes of my character, and I have used it to drive entire novels before--not so much with this one.
When Natalya and Sister Margarethe come to her, Aksinya gets rid of the sister. It is a distribution of duties, but it serves Aksinya well. Aksinya speaks loudly because Sister Margarethe might be listening. Once Aksinya has Natalya in her grasp, she lays down the rules of her house. There wasn't any need of rules when there was just the two of them--now they need rules. First, Natalya must call Aksinya by her name (in private, of course). Second, Natalya isn't a servant, she is a lady in the house. She will be served tea, and not have to serve the tea. We are already seeing what Aksinya will do with the Sister. Then Natalya must lock the door. It would be improper for a Countess to show such tenderness to her lady-in-waiting.
Aksinya is a kind person, but she does not show much emotion. We get a repeat of her response at the death of her family. Aksinya can't cry for herself or others. This is a critical marker in her personality and in the novel. She can express herself, but Aksinya can't let out her emotions.
Natalya and Aksinya share a tender scene, and we have a foreshadowing--I hope you learn how great a person you are before you fall as I have. This statement is prescient and important. There is more, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.