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Friday, March 4, 2011

A New Novel, Part 152 My Son is Courting the Countess

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.

Aksinya, Natalya, and the Bockmanns have arrived at Ernst Father's estate.  The immediate greetings are complete.  Now, the Graf leads them into the house...
The Graf seemed even more pleased, “I understand completely, Countess. Very well, it is cold outside, and I understand your delicate nature. Please, let us retire to the ballroom. There are refreshments, and I’m certain, my guests would like to make your acquaintance.” The Graf extended his arm toward Aksinya. She took it. Ernst frowned and gave his arm to Natalya. They made their way into the house with the Graf von Taaffe and the Countess Golitsyna in the lead.

The interior of the mansion was similar to the outside. The floor was set stone, and very old. Martial emblems and weapons decorated the walls. The foyer was large and the walls were very thick. Heavy tapestries attempted to contain the chill from the outside, but they only helped increase the temperature a little. Inside, with the Graf’s help, a footman took Aksinya’s cloak. They made their way up a long stone staircase to the next floor. That opened to a long room which ran over half the length of the front of the house. At the far end of the ballroom, a string quartet played gentle waltz music. Against the inside wall were two large fireplaces filled with roaring wood fires. The floors here were also stone, but thick oriental rugs covered them. The temperature was also much more to Aksinya’s liking, but a persistent draft touched the room with a slight chill.

Five other very well dressed couples conversed in the room. When the new arrivals entered, they all turned toward the Graf and his visitors. Graf von Taaffe pulled Aksinya gently ahead of him, “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna.” Everyone made a deep bow or curtsy. The Graf continued, “My son, Ernst is courting the Countess."

A quiet mummer ran through the ballroom.

Graf von Taaffe smiled, “I will introduce the Countess to each of you when it is convenient for her.”

Aksinya blushed again, “Please continue, I will be pleased to make your acquaintance.”

The entire room made an obeisance to her again.

The Graf laughed and gestured Ernst forward. He placed Aksinya’s hand on Ernst’s arm and announced to the group, “Accompanying the Countess is her aunt and uncle, my friends, the Freiherr and Freifrau Bockmann. You all are acquainted with them already. And also, the Countess’s lady-in-waiting, a member of the Russian court, the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska.”

The group bowed to the Freiherr, Freifrau, and Natalya.

The Graf nodded to Ernst, “Come Ernst let us introduce the Countess.” With Natalya directly behind them, the Graf led Aksinya around to each of his friends and holders. They were mostly lower nobility and some politicians from the local area. None were as high as a Freiherr in rank.

When the introductions were finished, Aksinya had only a few moments to stand at one of the fireplaces beside Ernst while he engaged in conversation with his father’s guests. Aksinya didn’t speak much to them. She didn’t have time to become comfortable before a house servant came around to announce that dinner was served.

I left out an important observation yesterday.  I'm certain you saw it, but just to make sure.  When Ernst's father offers his arm to Aksinya, this is most proper--the Count should escort the Countess.  Anything else is really unthinkable in the society, but Ernst frowns when he gives his arm to Natalya.  Everything is proper, but you should wonder, why did Ernst frown.  The first reason is the most obvious, he wanted to escort Aksinya, the Countess, and not Natalya.  The second, if the Graf allowed Ernst to escort Aksinya, the Countess, that would be a direct indicator of his father's pleasure and certainty that Ernst is ready to assume the duties as Graf.  Ernst wants this approval very much, especially in front of Aksinya.  We will see very soon how this all plays out.

The scene setting continues inside the house.  As I've mentioned before, my point is to provide enough description to spark your own imagination.  I agree with Arlo Guthrie and Ernest Hemingway on this that too much description makes a book like a movie or a screenplay.  You don't want to give so much to your readers that they are locked in the view only the author or producer imagined.  You want to give scope to the reader's imagination to fill out a scene in the boundary of their own imagination.  The author must put enough into the description to bound the scene for the reader and install inside it the props necessary for the story, plot, and theme.  Too much is a burden on the reader and too little an equal burden.

So the description...I already told you the house looked like a castle and gave some details that focused (bound) your mind in a certain way.  The interior just confirms to you the way you knew it had to be.  The important point is the temperature.  Anyone who has been inside a real castle knows they are impossible to heat.  It is the middle of winter.  The contrast is the warm welcome of the family and later the guests and the cold thick stone.

Remember the three floors I mentioned before?  The ballroom is on the second floor (the floor with the medium sized windows).  A string quartet plays a waltz, and the two fireplaces are blazing.  The room's still cold.  There is a persistent chill through the room--just scene setting here.

We see five couples--so this is a small party, only 16 people total.  You can guess they were all hand-picked by the Graf.  The reason for this will become obvious later.  The Graf introduces Aksinya to the group.  This is proper, but even more proper is an individual introduction especially to royalty.  I mentioned this before too.  The Graf tells them Ernst is courting Aksinya.  There is some excitement at the announcement, but they likely already know this juicy tidbit of gossip.  The Graf wants everyone to know--especially Aksinya, that he accepts her and accepts his sons decision.  Look at the etiquette of the group.  It is perfect--they are hand-picked.  Aksinya's reply is perfect too.

The Graf places Aksinya's hand on Ernst arm. In this group and at this time, he is willing to hand over the countess to his son. The precedence of rank is obvious here.  He has announced that they are courting, this is indeed the right thing to do, but he still stays close--he is not willing to give the appearance that he is handing anything else over to his son.The Graf then introduces the rest of the newcomers.  Note, the Bockmanns know these people.  Surely, at a party so far out of Wein, there might be a single person the Bockmanns might not know.  No, the Graf wants this to be a perfect party and evening.  He has picked the people for their decorum and rank.  They all know the Bockmanns--there will be no surprises tonight.  That is the obvious intention of the Graf.  The Graf laughed for pleasure.  He is happy everything is working out just as he planned it. 

The Graf with Ernst then takes Aksinya (and Ernst) around the room to make private introductions.  You can guess what these are like--I don't need to tell you.  Natalya follows obediently along.  We find that these people are all holders to the Graf in one way or another. 
Aksinya is chilled and uncomfortable.  She knew what this party would be like from the beginning--she knows all about parties.  Isn't she the one who ended up a wallflower at the Advent party?  Finally, it is time for dinner--that's a bit of luxuria Aksinya can delve into.  Tomorrow, dinner at Steinholtz.

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