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 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 Austria.
The soup course is served. This gives a natural break in the conversation. Can you imagine Aksinya. She isn't very happy, but still she is not entirely unhappy...
The waiters appeared to take away the soup and serve the fish. They brought out a fish knife and a small fork. They placed a small trout fillet before each of them. It was covered with a cream sauce. Aksinya turned a little away from Ernst and took a bite.
Ernst ate a forkful of the tender fish himself. He wiped his lips, “Countess, there are many more events that touch this world and Austria right now.”
Aksinya whispered, “None is more important than my sorrow.”
Ernst made a serious face, “That may be true, but the end of the war has placed a great burden on the Austrian and German people. You see the beggars in the street even in this freezing weather. The usual restaurants can barely keep their doors open. We have coffee and tea—they drink hot barely water. And I see little improvement in the future. For example, the treaty of Versailles in itself may cause suffering for all of us.”
“What is this treaty of Versailles?”
“It is the agreement the allies forced on Germany to conclude the war.”
“Is it onerous?”
“It is indeed onerous. It calls for reparations the German people will never be able to afford. Their aristocracy is in collapse. It is not yet certain who will lead them forward.”
“A man who is noble, forthright, and courageous must lead them.”
“I would that there was such a man. I expect they will be led by an egotistical commoner and fool. The people there have rejected their nobility.”
“And I understand your people here have decided to reject your nobility too.”
“Ah, so you have heard?”
“It is true. The parliament intends to dissolve the aristocracy.”
“If you hold no true fealty, then there is no purpose for an aristocracy in Austria.”
Ernst smiled, “There you have found us out, Countess. We have no reason to exist, and the parliament will erase even the slight nobility left us.”
“Nobility is not a question of birth, but rather how a man carries himself.”
“What did you say?”
“It is something my father often reminded me.”
The waiters brought the main meat course. It was wiener schnitzel with puffy potato croquettes in a demi glace sauce. Aksinya was delighted. Although she and Ernst made a few additional remarks about the meal, their conversation after that wasn’t very remarkable. They completed their dinner with a salad, a cheese course, and a desert. The courses were a little larger than those at Sacré Coeur, but much smaller than those before the war. Desert was an apple strudel with whipped cream. The whipped cream was not sweet, but the desert more than made up for it.
When they finished eating, Ernst stood and helped Aksinya and Natalya out of their seats. The maid who held their coats and gloves came to them. She assisted Aksinya first with hers and then Natalya, finally Herr von Taaffe. With a deep curtsy, she reverently handed Aksinya her bouquet. They had been placed in water the whole time and still were fresh. Ernst led them both back out of the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz and helped them into his landau. The carriage headed off down the cold and damp streets of Wien.
The conversation continues as I continue to show you a meal typical of this class and time. Ernst unwisely turns the conversation from the nobility to current affairs. Aksinya's first answer is very revealing. We understand it completely, Ernst does not. We know the true depths of Aksinya's sorrow. Ernst gives us a little more information about the times. He brings up the treaty of Versailles and notes it may cause worse suffering. This is historical grandizing that I use to show that both Aksinya and Ernst are very knowledgeable. The point, we know, is the treaty of Versailles led directly to WWII. Aksinya hopes for a courageous man of noble character to lead them. Ernst rightly predicts an egotistical commoner and fool (it was Hitler, an Austrian) who ended up leading the German people.
The German's rejected their nobility following WWI. The Austrians are in the process of doing that too. In the late spring of 1919, the Austrian parliament voted out the aristocracy. Aksinya heard this from the girls in school. Aksinya notes there is no purpose for an aristocracy if they don't hold people in their fealty. She follows this with a statement we know is her expression of self. It is so important to her, I'll repeat it: “Nobility is not a question of birth, but rather how a man carries himself.” Aksinya's father often told her this. From the lips of a nobleman, it is likely not very meaningful, but in the context of who Aksinya is, we know this is very important to her.
We see the meat course. This dish is a favorite in Germany and Austria. I give you a list of the remaining courses with some comment on the size of them. The chapter ends with Aksinya, Natalya, and Ernst retrieving their cloaks and Aksinya, her bouquet. The hotel took care of them--they realize their worth. Then back to the laudau and away. Sorry, I didn't end the chapter with a kicker. This chapter became too long, and I just decided to break it here. Tomorrow, we begin chapter 12 at the ballet.