I hope you find my commentary cogent most of the time. I work 40/40 on my day job and my other jobs. If you don't know what I do, just take a look at my websites. I should post my schedule. Just so you know, I prep this blog the night before and release it into the wild before I have to get ready for work at 0700. As I said, I hope it is cogent. I thought by releasing this novel, I would make the blogging easier. Perhaps it has ensured sufficient material for commentary.
That said, the Advent party at the Bockmann's has just begun. Aksinya followed by Natalya have made their appearance. Now, they take their positions...
Freiherr Bockmann took Aksinya by the arm and led her to one of the great fireplaces. A wood fire roared within it. He sat Aksinya in a chair that faced the ballroom. Natalya stood at Aksinya’s side. At first, the Freifrau and Freiherr sat and conversed with Aksinya about the people she would meet that evening and the weather. When the guests began to arrive, they stood beside Aksinya and greeted each one. The guests were announced by the house steward and directed to the Freifrau and Freiherr. Freifrau Bockmann introduced each guest to Aksinya. She did so formally and with gravity and used Aksinya’s full name, Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna. She then introduced the Lady Natalya.
Aksinya’s memory was excellent, but after the first fifty couples, she lost track entirely. Then the young single men arrived followed by the Catholic churches’ leaders in the city. Among this group, Aksinya remembered only the Cardinal of Wien and the Abbot of Sacré Coeur. The Cardinal was a pinch faced older man with an Italian accent. His secretary, Herr Schwab followed him everywhere. The Abbot was jollier and a little younger with a great smile and a back country tone to his German. They both seemed pleasant men.
When all the guests had been received, Aksinya was left enthroned in her seat at the fireplace. Natalya brought her a glass of wine and a plate of food. Most of the guests stood a polite distance away from Aksinya as though they were afraid to approach the Countess although they had been introduced. Eventually, the Abbot stepped up beside Aksinya. He bowed, “Dear Countess, I understand you are attending Sacré Coeur.”
“Yes Father Abbot, my lady-in-waiting and I are both attending.”
“That is what I heard from the Reverend Mother. Your progress…”
“Is less than expected.”
“Yes, I’d heard that too. Is our curriculum not to your liking?”
“Not at all. Lady Natalya is learning German. The language is new to her. I must ensure she gains this skill before I can focus on my studies.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I thought I made this clear to the Reverend Mother.”
“The Reverend Mother is entirely complementary toward you. She has not said a negative word concerning you at all. I have other sources. My job is to keep an eye on the school and the convent. You are one of our most important students, so I keep an eye out for you too.”
“Thank you, Father Abbot.”
“The pleasure is all mine. I hope Sacré Coeur can be like a family to you. We do wish you to feel comfortable... and to succeed.”
“I shall apply myself as well as I can. My lady-in-waiting is very bright and is nearly ready to advance in her basic language knowledge. I think in the next semester, I will be able to focus on my other work.”
“I will hold you to that.”
“Please don’t. The needs of my servant and friend are much more important to me than my own progress.”
The Abbot took a sharp breath.
“You needn’t be so surprised. This is what my father taught me. He oversaw a very large estate in Russia with thousands under his care. The needs of the people are necessary to maintain their dignity and your honor.”
The Abbot bowed, “Even so, you are very wise, Countess.”
Aksinya’s smile slipped, “Not so wise as cautious, but thank you.”
The Freiherr settles Aksinya at her place. Note the location and the deferential attitude of the Freiherr and Freifrau. The house has a wood fire, and Aksinya gets to sit in the warmth before it. Aksinya's aunt and uncle entertain her until the party really begins. Then the guests start to arrive. Aksinya is the new toast of the town--the sweetheart of the nobility. Like everywhere, the excitement is with the novue and the unusual--Aksinya is both. The party is obviously well attended, and then we get with the single men along with the Catholic church leaders. I give you a short description of each of the leaders because I want you to remember them--we will meet them again.
Finally, the guests have all arrived and Aksinya is left...alone? She was the toast of the ball and the town. You might wonder about that. In any case, Aksinya gets her food and her wine, but little company--until the Abbot steps forward.
The Abbot is interested in Aksinya's studies. He knows a lot about her. Aksinya tells the truth. She has no reason to lie. Aksinya reports to him the same thing she has told the teachers and the Reverend Mother. The Abbot didn't really believe the Reverend Mother (obviously). Then we find out, the Abbot is keeping an eye on her. That's when Aksinya gives the full bore to him: "The needs of my servant and friend are much more important to me than my own progress.” We have addressed this before. Aksinya has the mind of a perfect Russian aristocrat. We expect her to be overbearing and perhaps a little rude (she is), but we should also expect her to take care of those who look to her. Just as Aksinya's father managed the people who were beholden to him, she oversees those whom she is responsible for. The Abbot's response is very fine, Aksinya's turns the table, for though he called her wise, Aksinya's last response is even wiser: “Not so wise as cautious, but thank you.” When you are an aristocrat, you ensure the positive behavior of your people by your mature treatment of them. Aksinya knows this lesson--that is why, in the end, it will backfire on her. Tomorrow, we hear from the Cardinal.