For those who haven't been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a wondrous sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Wien, Austria.
Ernst made his way into the house and is greeted by Aksinya. He brought a red rose. He prepares to escort Aksinya and Natalya out to dinner...
Ernst stood and put out his arm, “If you please, Countess. My landau awaits you.”
Sister Margarethe loudly cleared her throat behind them.
Aksinya half turned, “Ernst von Taaffe, I am pleased to introduce Sister Margarethe. She looks after the Lady Natalya and me.”
Ernst turned his head only a fraction of an inch, “Will she accompany us?”
Aksinya shook her head, “Not on this occasion. And I can’t forget my best friend and confidant, the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska. She will accompany me.” Aksinya didn’t turn this time, “Sister Margarethe, the Lady Natalya and I will be going out for the evening with Herr von Taaffe. We will return after the ballet. Please bring our cloaks.”
Sister Margarethe curtsied, “I am very pleased to meet you Herr Taaffe. Do not keep my charges out too late. They must both attend chapel and early classes.” She exited the room for a moment and returned with the cloaks.
When Sister Margarethe approached Aksinya, Natalya stopped her, “That is the wrong cloak for the Countess. Please bring the mink one.”
Sister Margarethe pressed her lips together, but she went back for the heavy mink cloak. When Sister Margarethe returned, Natalya took the cloak from her and placed it over Aksinya’s shoulders. She took a deep breath, smiled, and tied the cloak at Aksinya’s neck.
Sister Margarethe placed Natalya’s black woolen cloak over her shoulders. Natalya stepped toward Aksinya before the nun could fasten the cloak. She buried her face in the fabric and slowly tied it at her neck herself.
Aksinya eyed Ernst’s proffered arm dubiously. Then she placed two fingers on his forearm. Ernst covered her fingers and forced her hand against his arm. He smiled at her, “I wouldn’t want you to stumble.” He led her to the door. Sister Margarethe just had time to get to the portal and open it so he and Aksinya could exit into the freezing evening. Natalya nodded as she passed the nun, but she didn’t say a word, and she turned her head away from the sister to hide her smile.
Much is suddenly going on and much is unsaid in the little scene inside the parlor of Aksinya's house. I promise you will learn the reason for much of it and much much more you might have wondered about, and you will learn it soon.
At this moment, you can rest in the gentle arms of the culture. It is so refined and so much the kind of environment Aksinya and Natalya are used to. Sister Margarethe makes a noise to remind Aksinya of her manners. Aksinya was going to treat the Sister like a servant. I told you before why. This doesn't bother Sister Margarethe. Aksinya is not surprised--she did not forget. The Sister was a little too forward, but that's all right. Aksinya continues and introduces Natalya. Note that Aksinya is completely in control at this moment. She is the consummate Countess and aristocrat.
Sister Margarethe is no fool. She warns Ernst in more than one way: not too late, chapel, and early classes. She didn't have to tell Ernst that she is waiting up and watching for the ladies to return. There are some other things that are immediately clear to the Sister that might not be clear to the reader--they will be very soon.
I wanted you to see the control of Natalya too at this moment. Watch what happens when the Sister brings the wrong cloak. Do you remember, Aksinya made Natalya her chaimberlin (the steward over her clothing). Natalya takes this responsiblility very seriously. She dresses the Countess and she handles her clothing. She will allow a servant to fetch and carry, but she will ensure the proper clothing and adonrnment. She sends Sister Margarethe back for the Mink and that irritates the Sister. We know this is Aksinya's favorite cloak, and we know why. It was her mothers and held her mother's smell. Now it holds Aksinya's scent. Natalya takes it in like a breath of fresh air.
Then the Sister puts Natalya's cloak on her. Natalya prevents the Sister from taking the liberty of sharing her joy in the scent of Aksinya's cloak. This is a very tense and careful interplay. It describes the place of servants compared to friends in the household. It all goes on almost automatically and silently.
Now, they are ready to go out. Ernst offers his arm and Aksinya gives him two fingers--she is polite, but not forward. Ernst is very forward. Aksinya's quick exit with Ernst catches the Sister off guard. Natalya laughs at Sister Margarethe. Natalya is not mean, but Ernst has forced his way into the house and taken her mistress with him and Natalya is going with Aksinya. This is her greatest joy and she was invited, not Sister Margarethe. Tommorrow, more revelations inside the landau.