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.
Yesterday, I forgot to mention two important points in the conversation. The first is the comment about the tragic results of Russian stories. This was a foreshadowing before and a foreshadowing here. I'm certain you got that. The second was the Graf's question: "Are you pleased with him?" This was basically a refined way of saying: "Do you love him?" Aksinya's answer is not very encouraging: "He is pleasant to me." I really don't want you to miss this point. That's why I keep bringing it up (in the novel); does Akinsya appear like a woman in love? To the Graf, this point isn't really important, he isn't interested in love...
Aksinya took a small spoonful of the soup, it was a delicate consume of partridge and spices. She sipped her wine again and glanced over her glass at the Graf, “I would not wish Ernst to become dour.”
The Graf smiled, “Dour by working? How should he support a family otherwise?”
“I have spoken to him about this. In Russia, my father was always busy with the affairs of our county. I would expect Ernst to do the same.”
“Well said and good advice to him.” He turned toward Ernst, “Has this wise woman been so candid with you?”
“Yes, father,” Ernst’s voice sounded slightly strained.
“Then you should listen to her, and not become dour. What, dear Countess, do you think a young nobleman should be about? That is, to prepare his way in the world?”
Ernst scowled, “Father, this is much too candid a conversation for the table.”
“What do you think, Countess?”
“What do you wish Ernst to do to prepare himself? He told me he was in the military during the war.”
Graf von Taaffe frowned a little, “He was.”
“Were you not proud of him? I was.”
The Graf’s smile returned, “We have not been a military family for a long while. I was also proud of him, but I feared for his life. I could not stand to think I would lose him too.”
Aksinya’s face displayed her curiosity.
The Graf continued, “I lost his mother, and I do not wish to lose him. To me that is unthinkable.”
“Perhaps a little frivolity is owed to a man who is willing to protect that which he believes is important.”
The Graf puffed out his chest, “Well said, Countess. And well turned.” He raised his glass to Ernst, “Ernst, you have chosen well.”
Aksinya raised her glass and took a sip of wine, “Chosen?”
“Why, he has chosen to court you, Countess. If you are willing to defend and to admonish him, this is a very welcome thing to me. His mother would have done the same.”
Aksinya blushed, “You attribute too much to me, I think.”
The Graf only continued to smile.
The servants brought out the fish course next. Ernst was unusually silent. The main course followed the fish. Then the salad was followed by the cheese. Afterward, the Graf stood, “The gentlemen shall retire to the smoking room, and the ladies may retire to the parlor for dessert.”
Now, the Graf finally begins to get to his real point. You see this conversation is a very delicate inquiry into the thoughts of Aksinya. There is a give and take, but mostly gentle probing by the Graf. Aksinya is a natural at this, but she really doesn't have any agenda, the Graf does.
As before, Aksinya thinks a little before answering. The last point the Graf made was this: “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.” The Graf's point is about Ernst's (and Aksinya's) future. He is trying to get (shame) Ernst to face the future (with Aksinya). Look at Aksinya's answer, it is so coy and well thought out: “I would not wish Ernst to become dour.” The point here is that she would not want Ernst to change. We know why; she wants the luxuria. There is a second innuendo in her statement. For Ernst to become dour, the story would have to have a tragic end. We can guess the answer to that, but it is inconceivable in the current bright environment.
Aksinya's statement gives the Graf the opportunity to bring out the big guns. This was the point he wanted an opportunity to make since the beginning: “Dour by working? How should he support a family otherwise?” There it is. The Graf will refine and make this point more than once, but his point in inviting Aksinya to this party is to get Ernst to become responsible and begin to work so that Ernst can support a family (obviously with Aksinya as his wife).
Aksinya's response is to the point, but do you get the idea that she hasn't put everything together. She doesn't seem to get the idea that the Graf means her when it comes to family. Aksinya's advice is the same as that which she gave Ernst at their first dinner meeting. The Graf thinks Aksinya is working along with him. She is simply stating what to her is obvious. Ernst remembers his and Aksinya's conversation on this subject.
The Graf complement's Aksinya's statement and makes a nice turn in the conversation. The implication is that if Ernst accepts his responsibility then he will not become dour (there won't be a tragic ending). The Graf keeps pushing. He has enlisted Aksinya as his helper, and believes she will continue to support him. His question: "What, dear Countess, do you think a young nobleman should be about? That is, to prepare his way in the world?”
This angers Ernst, but the Graf continues. Aksinya isn't a pawn of anyone. We are not certain she fully grasps what the Graf is about. Her response supports Ernst. Remember back to their first dinner conversation. Aksinya was impressed with Ernst's participation in protecting his country. Aksinya was proud of this--we could guess that. Military service is indeed the major reason for the nobility. She was proud of him--his father was worried about him. Aksinya has turned the conversation. We are not certain if she did it on purpose because she didn't like where the Graf was taking it, or if it was accidental and based on just her peception of the conversation itself.
The turn brings up Ernst's mother. Since Aksinya is sitting in the seat reserved for Ernst's dead mother, the irony and depth of this statement can't be ignored. We learn that the Graf is likely overprotective of his son and that he loved his wife and loves Ernst very much. Aksinya's next statement is very ironic on many levels: “Perhaps a little frivolity is owed to a man who is willing to protect that which he believes is important.” Although Ernst participated in the war, he was only partially willing to protect Aksinya and her friends when they were about to be raped. His lack of action resulted in her making the great enchantment in the street. He stole her book. He has not been protecting Aksinya. We are not certain what is important to Ernst--other than frivolity. We know what is important to Aksinya and that is akin to frivolity. Still, the Graf doesn't understand the irony in Aksinya's words. She didn't say them or understand them to be ironic, we just know they are.
The Graf's response and Aksinya's reaction shows us how clueless Aksinya is. When the Graf raises his glass to her and Ernst, she thinks it is raised to Ernst alone; she takes a sip. She knows Ernst is courting her with the intention of marriage. That is obviously why he brought her to his father and that his father invited Aksinya to this party. She was chosen. Aksinya doesn't get it. Aksinya has proven to the Graf that she would make a perfect mate for Ernst. She is bright and polished. She defended him to his father. She admonished Ernst and admonished the Graf. In the eyes of both, Aksinya is perfect. She is a perfect noblewoman and a perfect choice as the next Gräfin (countess) von Taaffe. Aksinya kind of begins to understand what the conversation was about--her and Ernst's future. The Graf made his point, therefore, he smiles. You might wonder just what the Graf has prepared the atmosphere for. Tomorrow, dancing together.