The chapter has been set and we move into the details of clean up of the situation with the school. The first step is to get Aksinya ready for school...
After breakfast, Natalya and Sister Margarethe dressed Aksinya in her school uniform. Sister Margarethe marveled that except for some strange cross shaped burns on her chest, Aksinya was not even bruised anywhere on her body. They walked across the street to Sacré Coeur together.
When they arrived, the Reverend Mother was waiting for them. She curtsied to Aksinya, “Countess, I’m so glad to see you well.”
Aksinya nodded, “Thank you, Reverend Mother. I am well. Sister Margarethe has been a great help to me.”
“I’m glad to hear that. When you finish your classes today, please come visit me in my office. You may bring the Lady Natalya and Sister Margarethe.”
“Yes, Reverend Mother.”
Frau Drescher stood in the shadow of the doors. She didn’t say a word.
Aksinya and Natalya went to chapel together, and in spite of her grievous sin of the day before, Aksinya didn’t feel any worse than she usually did.
They attended their classes together and at the end of the day, found themselves before the door to the Reverend Mother’s office. Before they could knock, Sister Margarethe came up beside Aksinya and rapped on the door.
From inside the office came, “Please enter.”
Sister Margarethe opened the door and Aksinya followed by Natalya entered the room.
The Reverend Mother stood and curtsied. She pointed to the seats before her desk. Aksinya sat and pulled Natalya into the other chair before Sister Margarethe could sit there. Sister Margarethe stood behind them.
The Reverend Mother sat and propped her chin on the back of her hands. Her look was piercing, “Well, Countess, Lady Natalya, you are both full of surprises. I do wish you had told me about your accommodations before now, but we will have to make do.”
Aksinya cocked her head, “Make do?”
“Yes, dear Countess. There is no way, I, the Abbot, the Cardinal, or the Freifrau Bockmann could allow two unmarried young women to remain in a house alone unchaperoned.”
“We have been there for almost two weeks.”
“That may be so, but it cannot continue as it has.”
Aksinya’s eyes slitted, “What did you have in mind?”
“I can allow you two to stay in that house only if Sister Margarethe oversees you.”
Aksinya straightened, “Sister Margarethe…”
The Reverend Mother wriggled her fingers, “Yes, Countess?”
Aksinya lowered her eyes, “Sister Margarethe will be acceptable.”
“Good, you may continue to dine with us here, as you desire, but I wish to also provide some of the novice sisters to keep the house.”
“The Lady Natalya and Sister Margarethe can’t be expected to take care of a house that large by themselves.”
“I didn’t expect to entertain.”
“The novice sisters will just take care of the cleaning and the laundry. Lady Natalya and Sister Margarethe will continue to act as your servants.”
“The Lady Natalya is my lady-in-waiting and not my servant.” Aksinya glanced back at Sister Margarethe, “She will be my servant?”
“She has been all this time. What do you think a teacher really is?”
“I see.” Aksinya stood. Natalya stood as quickly as she could beside her. Aksinya continued, “Thank you, Reverend Mother for being so thoughtful. You have been kind to me and to my lady-in-waiting.”
“We wish you both to be successful here. Why should we not accommodate you in these simple things?” She curtsied.
Aksinya and Natalya walked to the courtyard where Freifrau Bockmann’s carriage was waiting to take them to Freiherr Bockmann’s estate, Grossbock.
This is a transition scene that doesn't appear to be a transition scene. The input of the scene is the return to school (following the incident of the great enchantment). The point of the scene is to establish officially Aksinya's household. The output of the scene is the return to the Bockmann's estate to prepare for the Advent party.
One of the recurring ideas in the novel is the crucifix that burns Aksinya's chest. Whenever she is involved in sorcery, I can indicate her decline through this image. The competing image is her illness when she gets close to the trappings of the church (of God). These contrasting images are important because Aksinya puts up with them to attempt her own salvation from the demon. She is constantly trying to save herself. She puts up with the pain and suffering from both these causes because she will not give up her luxuria or her sorcery.
The Reverend Mother greets Aksinya when she arrives at school in the morning. You know she had been watching for her. The importance of this might be missed by the reader. The Reverend Mother is wise in many ways. She also knows how important Aksinya is. We will discover this during the Advent party still to come (hint). Then, the invitation from the Reverend Mother to visit in the afternoon. I don't make a big deal of this, but you should be able to discern the tension such a request brings to Aksinya. That's Frau Drescher in the shadows.
We get the contrasting image of Aksinya in the chapel--it's not too bad for her. I transition you to the end of the day when the meeting with the Reverend Mother is to occur. There is no need for anything extraneous here. Now we get to the meat. Sister Margarethe was obviously waiting for Aksinya and Natalya. She makes certain they all get there together. Aksinya pulls Natalya into the seat beside her. She is making a declaration to the Sisters and to Natalya. She has bound them together in this business. She might not realize how this is. Natalya is buoyed by it. The Reverend Mother can't miss it. You already know that Sister Margarethe aspires to be like Natalya. Sister Margarethe is relegated to the servant's position behind them both. This is a new development.
The Reverend Mother realizes this. That is why she addresses the both of them. Then, where we were expecting a reprimand, the Reverend Mother just acknowledges the fact that Aksinya has a house across the street. This surprises Aksinya. She thought she was going to be reprimanded too. The worry is that Aksinya and Natalya are unchaperoned, and the worry comes from the Reverend Mother, the Abbot, the Cardinal, and Freifrau Bockmann. This is pretty high attention. Aksinya's response is a reaction to this attention (attention she didn't expect), and to the potential problems this might be for her. Notice, she isn't worried about the demon's reaction or actions in this change of events. Aksinya wants the freedom the house gave her. Asmodeus wants Aksinya to have the freedom of the house--its purpose was so she could do evil. Then the solution surprises Aksinya--Sister Margarethe shall oversee. Aksinya didn't expect this at all. This Sister will keep Aksinya's secrets. She knows enough to need supervision from Aksinya. Sister Margarethe has already been pulled into Aksinya's evil. The solution is perfect for Aksinya (and perfect for the demon).
Then comes the insistence of novice sisters to keep the house. This is an unexpected turn. Aksinya will have to watch over herself. Aksinya is slightly obtuse--perhaps intentionally. She is trained to be a great lady, but she is not as knowledgeable about a household as she should be. On the question of servants, Aksinya throws down the gauntlet about Sister Margarethe. I gave you many hints and even told you. Aksinya does not want the Sister to be like Natalya, and there is more than one reason why. The most telling is that she doesn't want another apprentice, and she doesn't want to be responsible for the Sister's fall. It is really too late for Aksinya to make corrections there, but the necessary place of the Sister is set. Likewise, the Reverend Mother wisely reminds Aksinya, the place of Sister Margarethe is as a servant. Aksinya realizes almost everything that is going on here. She is honestly grateful for the Reverend Mother's help and consideration.
The end tells you today is Friday and Aksinya and Natalya are off to the Bockmann's.