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 are at Ernst father's, Graf von Taaffe's, estate for a New Years party and dance. They have been called to dinner...
They entered a large dining room and Ernst escorted Aksinya to the seat next to the head of the table. It was the seat usually reserved for the lady of the house. Ernst sat beside her and the Graf von Taaffe at the head. Natalya was seated by the Graf next to Ernst. Across from Aksinya sat her uncle and next to him, her aunt.
As soon as the first course of wine and appetizer was served, the Graf asked her, “I understand you are attending the gymnasium at Sacré Coeur.”
Aksinya touched her lips with her napkin, “My lady-in-waiting and I.”
“Yes, you made the acquaintance of my son there?”
“Through my aunt and uncle…”
“Yes, through your aunt and uncle. Your uncle is a very good friend of mine. Do you intend to continue your studies?”
“I would like to.”
“I understand you are as fond as my son of the ballet, opera, and theater.”
Aksinya tasted a bite of the appetizer. It was a small piece of hart in a light wine sauce. She took a sip of wine before she answered, “Yes, although I am still getting used to comedy. In Russia, not so many of the stories end without tragic consequences.”
The Graf laughed, “I thought we Austrians were dour.”
“I have not found Ernst dour at all.”
“That is good. Are you pleased with him?”
“He is pleasant to me.”
“Good. I intend for him to take over the business from me. Perhaps you can encourage him in this direction. He can’t continue to spend his life in frivolity.”
“Father,” Ernst complained.
“Now, Ernst, I simply state the obvious. Although I understand very well why you might want to spend every evening entertaining the Countess, I do wish you to be as serious as she is about your future.”
A servant removed the appetizer plates and another served the soup. Aksinya’s glass was filled with a new wine that was a little sweeter than the first.
You can make all you want of this--Aksinya is seated at the place reserved for the lady of the house. This place would usually go to the highest ranking woman in the household--it goes to Aksinya. Like I said, make of it what you want. The Graf honors the Bockmanns, but we could have guessed he would. He is interested in their support for Ernst in his courting of Aksinya. Plus they seem to be the highest ranking couple next to the Graf and Aksinya. The Graf also allowed Ernst to escort Aksinya to dinner. He introduced Aksinya as Ernst's suitor so it is natural that Ernst should escort her. These little plays have their place. They are the norm for the culture and are not random or by simple desire.
At the table, the responsibility of the man on the right of the lady is to engage the lady in conversation. The Graf begins immediately. His question is simple. Aksinya's answer is not as simple as it sounds. She tells the Graf that both she and Natalya are attending the school together. A small detail. The Graf's response is straight to the point--can you see, he wanted to bring up Ernst. We learn that Freiherr Bockmann is a good friend of the Graf von Taaffe. This shouldn't surprise us, but it does make everything become clearer about the past events.
The second point the Graf wanted to bring up is about studies. Ernst and studies, whatever could he have in mind? The Graf makes a statement that lets us know he is very familiar with the evening meetings of Ernst and Aksinya. The Graf's statement is simple, but it is a statement not a question. Aksinya answers thoughtfully. Note she does take a long moment to think through her answer. She acknowledges the Graf's knowledge and provides an attempt to turn the conversation. This gives me the opportunity to bring up the joke and point about being "dour." This was a part of Ernst and Aksinya's first event conversation. The Graf mirrors his son in the treatment of the subject. This shows the connectin between the two. Aksinya makes it personal: “I have not found Ernst dour at all.”
This allows the Graf to get to one of his main points: "Are you pleased with him?" Aksinya's answer allows the Graf to bring up his second point--this is about Ernst's life and work. Ernst isn't happy with the direction of the conversation. This is obviously a point of contention between Ernst and his father. The problem here is that the Graf has made a terrible mistake about Aksinya's dedication to her studies. Perhaps she wishes to study, but we know she doesn't. She is not a model student at all. She is in some ways as bad as Ernst. To use Aksinya as an example of proper dedication is not the best idea. Neither Ernst nor the Graf realize this. Aksinya might not even realize this. She is a dedicated student of sorcery and luxuria, but not of much else. Still the dinner continues and tomorrow, we shall see where the Graf's conversation will go.