Asmodeus laid down the gauntlet to Aksinya. His threat was dire but coated in gentle advice. We will see how the advice of the demon plays out. For now, Aksinya and Natalya set up housekeeping and return to school. The next Friday is the Advent party...
Aksinya and Natalya took up residence at the house across the street. Sister Margarethe lived there with them. She waited on Aksinya and on the Lady Natalya. Aksinya insisted. Now, Aksinya and Natalya had tea together every afternoon. Sister Margarethe brought the tea and Natalya poured.
They went to school, and although Aksinya didn’t progress well, Natalya began to speak reasonably fluent German.
When the coupe met them the next Friday, Freifrau Bockmann was in it. Before they set off for Grossbock, she inspected the dresses and jewelry Natalya had chosen for the party and nodded her approval.
When they arrived at the Freiherr’s estate, the decorations were already in place. The front of the house, the foyer, and the ballroom were wonderfully adorned for the Advent Ball. Seasonal decorations more akin to Christmas instead of Advent filled the hall. A couple of large Christmas trees loaded with candles and decorations sat next to the great fireplaces. Freifrau Bockmann led Aksinya and Natalya through the rooms and showed everything to them. It took a while. Aksinya was grateful to finally sit down to dinner. Afterward, she and Natalya went to bed.
In the morning, everything in the house was about preparation for the event that evening. By noon all the Freiherr’s servants were dressed in their archaic festal livery. The maids and women servants were adorned in dresses and aprons from a style over a century old. Everything seemed to match the overall festive décor. In the afternoon, Natalya dressed Aksinya in a wonderful maroon dress with gold piping and lace. The gold was real and the dress was ancient satin. Natalya brushed it for hours to make it shine. The bodice was tight and fit Aksinya well. The dress was petticoated and whaleboned. Still, it was from an age younger than the livery Freiherr Bockmann loved so much, but older than the current fashion of the time.
Natalya wore a dress that had been Aksinya’s sister’s. It was white and red with a little more modern flair, but still appeared as though it would be appropriate in the court of an emperor.
When Aksinya stepped down the stairs into the ballroom, everyone stopped to watch. Freifrau Bockmann gave an audible gasp. She and the Freiherr ran up the stairs to greet her. The Freiherr went to one knee on the landing. Freifrau Bockmann curtsied and took Aksinya’s hand, “Dear Countess, you are ravishing.” She looked Aksinya up and down then took a surreptitious glance at Natalya that quickly returned to Aksinya, “You are so beautiful.”
Aksinya cocked her head, “Lady Natalya is very skilled.” Her voice sunk to a whisper, “She even made my hair look pleasant.”
“Pleasant, it is wonderful. She is incredibly artful. You are so elegant and make our simple home seem like an aristocratic court.”
Aksinya smiled, but the corners of her lips didn’t follow.
I like to repeat important details, and I think you will find most good authors do. We already made the point about the house across the street, but it doesn't hurt to use it as a simple transition. It doesn't hurt to remind you that Aksinya isn't doing her work, but rather, she is teaching Natalya. It is important for you to see that Sister Margarethe lives there, but she waits on Aksinya... and Natalya. Natalya has the high privalege of pouring the tea--a very big deal in this time.
The next scene this transition drives to is the Advent party. On Friday, Aksinya and Natalya ride in the coupe to Grossbock. Freifrau Bockmann inspects their dresses and jewelry. When we arrive, we see the large number of decorations, but they are like Christmas. Do you remember Aksinya's comment when she first heard about an Advent party. To her, this is like having a Lent party--you just don't do it. Her Aunt and Uncle have adorned the house for Christmas but it is still Advent. This is very important in this time and to "good" Catholics everywhere--you don't celebrate Christmas until Christmas. At least they weren't singing Christmas carols.
I give you descriptions because I want you to be able to see how everything is put together. You know the house already. I give you a few reminders--fireplaces etc. then show you the differences. I also want you to see the servants and the kind of ancient nobility Aksinya's uncle aspires to but can't truly emulate. I also wanted to remind you how great a lady-in-waiting Natalya is.
When Aksinya is introduced, she makes a big splash. Her aunt and uncle ensure this is true. Aksinya appears ravishing. Remember she could never believe that, everyone else does. Aksinya can never forget her hair--if you have been paying attention, this is obvious self depreciation. Aksinya can't ever be happy when she is being praised. You should have noticed this too. These are characteristics of her personality. You know where they come from. You know why she has such problems. We shall see where they lead her tonight at the Advent party--that is tomorrow.