Around the Sunday dinner table, the young ladies at Sacré Coeur discuss Aksinya's previous evening. Aksinya simply wants to know about Ernst von Taaffe...
Aksinya’s voice dripped with sarcasm, “I quite understand your meaning. So I ask you again, a little more clearly, what is the reputation of this Ernst von Taaffe.”
Dieter Vogt pressed her lips together, “I have not heard anything untoward about him, but he is considered a little mysterious.”
Fraulein Trauen pronounced, “He is studious and serious.”
Anna Pfaff cried out, “I’ve seen him many times at the ballet and the symphony.”
Fraulein Trauen sniffed, “The ballet does him no good, but the symphony means his intentions may be pure.”
Aksinya laughed, “Are any man’s intentions pure?”
Fraulein Trauen blushed, “Certainly there are men of honor and standing who would not compromise themselves or others.”
Aksinya sat back in her chair, “So you think he is an honorable man?”
Fraulein Pfaff giggled, “I haven’t heard anything untoward about him either. He isn’t known to be a gambler or a womanizer.”
Aksinya laughed, “Then his only bad trait is he likes to attend the ballet.”
Fraulein Trauen rolled her eyes, “It isn’t that he likes to attend the ballet. It is what he casts his gaze upon at the ballet.”
Aksinya smiled more broadly, “So if he asks me to the ballet, should I watch his eyes to see where they are gazing?”
Fraulein Trauen colored again, “I believe you are making fun of me.”
“I’m sorry. I am not. I simply want to gain the measure of the man.”
Fraulein Pfaff was breathless, “Do you think he will ask you to the ballet?”
“He said as much.”
Natalya bit her lip, “Mistress, this is the first time I have heard of this man.”
Aksinya put her hand on Natalya’s. She looked straight into her eyes, “I’m sorry, Lady Natalya. I didn’t mean to keep this a secret from you. My meeting with Herr von Taaffe occurred so suddenly Saturday night, and I was in no shape to converse that evening.”
Fraulein Trauen lifted her chin, “Because you had drunk so much.”
Aksinya turned her head toward the lady, “Because I had too much wine to drink.”
Aksinya is trying to gain the measure of the man Ernst von Taaffe. She has been forced to accept the man's appointment for dinner and the theater. She wants to know something about him. Aksinya is like a businesswoman. She wants to get to the point. The young women around her want to discuss the event and the gentleman. They want to converse, Aksinya wants information.
From Dieter, we learn that Ernst is a little mysterious. Fraulein Trauen, the prude, tells us he is studious and serious. Anna lets us know, she has seen him at the ballet and symphony. Fraulein Trauen gives her opinion, and that opinion is too silly for Aksinya not to pick at it. Fraulein Trauen means, of course, that the purpose for Ernst to visit the ballet is to gaze on the ballerinas. She means to say that any man's intention is not pure, and thus Aksinya's response--she has caught the Fraulein's tone exactly.
Fraulein Trauen understood--that's why she blushes and backtracks. Few counter the Fraulein. They don't want to get a sermon from her. Aksinya states the obvious conclusion, then Ernst is an honorable man. Fraulein Pfaff gets it. She understands what just went on between Aksinya and Fraulein Trauen. Aksinya has the termity to rub the ballet in Fraulein Trauen's face. This forces the Fraulein to state her opinion in more direct terms--she thinks that Aksinya hasn't understood her comment. Aksinya turns the comment again against the dull witted Fraulein Trauen. Fraulein Trauen is slow, but finally gets it. Then Aksinya lies about making fun of Fraulein Trauen. Most of those around the table realize this.
Fraulein Pfaff tries to turn the conversation, but she does it poorly--she mentions ballet again. That's when Natalya gets involved. She is unhappy that she didn't know about any of this. To Aksinya, Natalya's contentment is paramount. She must reassure her lady-in-waiting.
Aksinya accidentally gives Fraulein Trauen another piece of ammunition--Aksinya was drunk. Aksinya answers this truthfully. We shall see how she fairs tomorrow.