Aksinya is dancing with Ernst's father, the Graf von Taaffe. The waltz is just ending. I repeated the last two paragraphs from yesterday's piece to place everything in context. The Graf said that Aksinya had ensorcelled Ernst...
Aksinya pushed back from him, “Temptation. I am a temptation.”
“Yes, you are, and I’m glad your eyes are at least on my Ernst.” The Graf let go of her hand and stepped back. The music ended, “Thank you for the dance, Countess. Even drunk, you are a wonderful partner.” He bowed.
Aksinya gave a slight curtsy, “Now, Franz, you may not leave me here.”
“Why not, Countess?”
“I will be unable to make it back to my seat without your help.”
The Graf von Taaffe turned a trifle to the side and signaled Ernst. Ernst rushed to them. The Graf father took Aksinya’s hand and put it in Ernst’s, “Please Ernst, escort the Countess and her lady-in-waiting to their rooms. The Countess might stumble.” He winked at his son.
As Aksinya and Ernst started toward the stone stairs that led to the third floor, Natalya joined them. She scowled a little at Ernst. Ernst signaled and two women servants took their places. One led them at the front and the other followed. They went up the stairs and entered a long hallway. At the first room on the right, the leading servant opened the door. The two maids went inside and lit the gas lamps and the candles. They checked and refreshed the coal fires. Aksinya held to Ernst at the door until they were finished. When everything in the room was ready, they both curtsied to Aksinya, Ernst, and Natalya.
Ernst gave Aksinya’s hand to Natalya, “Lady Natalya, I give the charge of the Countess to you.”
“She has always been my charge, Herr von Taaffe.”
Ernst ignored her, “Good evening and sleep well, Aksinya. I will speak to you in the morning that is before you depart with your uncle and aunt.”
Aksinya smiled at Ernst. As Natalya dragged her through the door, Aksinya replied, “I shall sleep late and awake with a terrible headache, but I will speak to you by and by.”
Natalya shut the door.
Aksinya is herself a temptation on many levels, but this is the last statement she wants to hear. She has obviously ensorcelled the Graf as well as his son. Asmodeus would be proud--the demon likely had a hand in it all. Aksinya is drunk. She apologetically calls the Graf by his given name, Franz. Remember, the Graf said she could, but Aksinya would never do that if she were sober. Aksinya's observation and request is also unnecessary and too candid. The Graf would have conducted her back to her seat. She's drunk and I use this as a writing technique to move the story.
The statement that Aksinya needs help back to her seat gives the Graf the opportunity to bring Ernst over. The Graf realizes the slight estrangement between Aksinya and Ernst (that's one of the reasons she's drunk), now he can bring them amicably back together. The Graf signals Ernst over. I intentionally use matrimonial imagery here, that is, the Graf places Aksinya's hand in Ernst's. The Graf doesn't mean for anything untoward to happen between Aksinya and Ernst, that's why he asks Ernst to escort the Countess and her chaperone. The wink is to show he is allowing Ernst an opportunity to see the Countess off to bed and to leave the party for a moment.
Natalya is watching and joins them right away. Natalya is still not happy with Ernst. What follows is a short description for the travel. The third floor, remember, is the one with the largest windows. The implication is that those invited there are welcomed into the household and secrets of the von Taaffe's. The details of the servant's activities are to place you firmly into the time and place again. I don't want you to miss this important idea that we are in 1919 now--remember, it is the new year.
At the door, Ernst most properly gives Aksinya over to Natalya. Natalya's statement might make us pause a little. Who was in whose charge? Natalya has taken charge here. This is a direct confrontation, that Ernst ignores. Neither is right, Aksinya is in the charge of a demon.
The Drunk Aksinya gives the final words to Ernst:“I shall sleep late and awake with a terrible headache, but I will speak to you by and by.” She will and she will. Ernst hopes the answer Aksinya gives in the morning is that she will wed him. He and his father hoped to make the big announcement at the party, likely at midnight. Aksinya didn't stay until midnight--get it, she missed the reason for the party.
We shall see a little more between Aksinya and Natalya tomorrow.