Aksinya has received a letter from Ernst von Taaffe. She has no idea what to answer him. Natalya is still in control--she tells her...
Aksinya sighed again, “What am I to answer?”
Natalya touched Aksinya’s hand, “You shall pen a response tonight. In it you will tell Herr Taaffe that you will gladly receive him. I shall chaperone you, of course.”
“But, I’m not sure I want to receive him.”
“What could it hurt you? And, you will secure the return of your book.”
“What if I am tempted by this young man?”
Natalya laughed, “That is the point, Countess. Just because you are tempted does not mean you will act on it.”
Aksinya trembled, “You don’t understand me at all, Nata.”
“Perhaps I do understand you better than you imagine. I shall be there with you. I will not let you be compromised—this I promise you.” Natalya, took Aksinya by the shoulders and pushed her to the desk in her sitting room. She pressed Aksinya into the chair and placed a quill pen into her hand, “Now, write a response to him in German and read it back to me. If you try to get out of this, I shall tell Sister Margarethe.”
Natalya’s resolve crumbled, “I will never betray your trust, Countess, but I insist you accept this nobleman’s attentions. His approach is honorable and acceptable.”
“Honorable and acceptable,” Aksinya mumbled. “But why me? Why should he be infatuated with me?”
“Who understands the ways of love in a man’s heart?”
“If it is simply temptation?”
“I cannot tempt any man. I am small and ugly. My hair is short. My bosom is like a girl’s. What could he want from me—that is other than sorcery.”
“Isn’t that enough?”
Aksinya didn’t respond. She began to pen a response. It was pleasant, but not too pleasant. She was happy that Natalya could not read German, and she certainly didn’t read it back verbatim to her lady-in-waiting.
Aksinya is completely out of her experience. She has no idea what to do in response to Ernst's letter. Natalya tells her what to do and insists that she do it. Natalya relieves Aksinya's worry by telling her that she will protect Aksinya. This is a change of position. Where Aksinya always protected Natalya, now Natalya promises to protect Aksinya. This may or may not be possible--what do you think?
Temptation is the point of this courting, so says Natalya. Natalya obviously knows something about this subject. Aksinya's return to Natalya is very important. She says: “You don’t understand me at all, Nata.” Aksinya's statement is absolutely true. Aksinya has problems fighting against temptation especially sexual and luxuria. Natalya forces Aksinya to write a response to Ernst where she accepts his invitation.
The discussion then turns to Aksinya's personal endowments. Aksinya has never thought much about her appearance. We get a list. Here we also get to see an occasion when you might not what to show the letter. In this case, you have seen what Ernst wrote. You have heard the conversation between Aksinya and Natalya. You know Aksinya is not keen on Ernst, but she has been forced into the position by Natalya and by Ernst. In this case, I don't show you the letter. The reason is because I want you to imagine what Aksinya might say. The point here is to led a little secrecy to the letter. You know Aksinya accepted Ernst's invitation. You know she was not very accommodating. The trick is to leave the reader with a little less information to increase the strength of the novel. I'll leave it to the reader to determine if this is a good technique. You saw both: the letter revealed and the letter hidden but explained.
Tomorrow, we see Ernst's arrival at Aksinya's house.