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 is in the residence of the Cardinal of Wien awaiting an ecclesiastical trial for sorcery. To prevent Asmodeus from tormenting her, she drew crosses on her clothing and blankets with her own blood. Once she started the flow of blood, she couldn't stop it. Frau Becker saved her again...
Aksinya awoke in a bed. It was warm and comfortable, but she felt light headed. Someone held her hand. She turned her head and expected to see the Lady Natalya or at least Sister Margarethe. She tried to focus on the face near hers.
A weary voice spoke before Aksinya could identify the person, “Why did you try to kill yourself?”
Aksinya still couldn’t focus, “I didn’t try to kill myself.”
“But your wrist…”
“I had to put crosses on my things so he couldn’t take them again.”
“So who couldn’t take them again?”
Frau Mauer’s voice came from the side, “You see, Frau Becker, I told you that’s what she said. She begged my thread and a needle to make crosses on her dress and the blankets.”
Frau Becker’s voice hardened, “And you wouldn’t lend them to her?”
Aksinya still could not focus her eyes well, “Frau Becker was the kind woman who gave me the blankets. I marked them well.”
“You almost bled to death.”
“Still, now the demon can’t take them from me.” Aksinya moved her free hand around under the covers. Frau Becker stroked her other hand. It felt numb and heavy. Aksinya gave a worried cry, “My dress and my blankets.”
Frau Becker’s voice was soothing beside her, “I dressed you in a nightgown.”
“Does it have crosses?”
“Yes,” Frau Becker lied.
“Are you warm enough now?”
“Yes, thank you.”
There was a slight choke in Frau Becker’s voice, “Before you return to the cell, you will have your blankets.”
“The ones with the crosses.”
“Yes, the ones with the crosses.”
“Thank you. I feel very sleepy. As long as there are crosses, I will be safe.”
“Yes, you will be safe. I’ll sit right here with you.”
“Thank you, Frau Becker. I am gratefu…” Aksinya’s eyes closed.
“Frau Mauer,” Frau Becker hissed softy, “Sew crosses on her nightgown.”
“No buts, do it. Do it now and don’t wake her.”
“But she’s crazy…”
“I don’t care how crazy she is. She is in the Archbishop’s charge. Sew the crosses on her nightgown.”“Yes, ma’am.” Frau Mauer gently pulled the edge of the nightgown from under the covers and carefully embroidered four crosses evenly spaced around the hem. Then she sewed them on the sleeves. By the time she was done, Aksinya was stirring and Frau Becker sent Frau Mauer down to the kitchen for food and tea.
I'll give you the revelation that I hope you already saw. If you didn't see it yourself, once I mention it to you, you will know its truth. I asked yesterday what could help Aksinya. She declared her true allegiance and the demon punished her. She is in dire straights: held for ecclesiastical trial, in a cold prison, her friends have appeared to desert her (do you remember what she said to Natalya: "everyone will betray or desert me."), she is trying to do the best she can by herself. There are no miracles here for Aksinya--or are there. In real life there are few miracles, but we see a small one before us.
Frau Becker has been a miracle for Aksinya. She rescued Aksinya twice. She did this even though she believes Aksinya to be insane. This is the revelation--it doesn't seem like much. It isn't a miracle at all, but it is real for Aksinya. It makes a difference for Aksinya.
In this scene, we see the initial scene setting. At first, I don't want you to know any more than Aksinya. You experience her waking in a bed. You wonder with her exactly where she is. She is light headed from blood loss. I don't need to tell you the reason, just the results. She imagines that she is back under the care of her friends, Natalya and Margarethe. We know that can't be. The first question is the one we dreaded: “Why did you try to kill yourself?” In the Catholic Church at the time, this was an important question. Aksinya is ambivalent. Aksinya is self destructive, but she has never thought about killing herself. She answers directly--she can't do otherwise.
That's when the full ramifications of Aksinya's apparent insanity strikes Frau Becker. Listen to Frau Becker's response. She isn't mad at Aksinya, whom she imagines to be insane. She is mad at Frau Mauer because the Frau wouldn't loan a needle and thread to a poor, insane, girl who was imprisoned for sorcery.
Don't you love Frau Becker? She is the kind of absolute pragmatist that puts real action to what she knows is right. She doesn't care about the accusations against Aksinya, she cares about Aksinya. This is the kind of reaction that is a firm contrast between the truth (we understand in the world of the novel) and the truth of the real world (represented by Frau Becker). Frau Becker's response to Aksinya is very different than Faru Mauer or the inquisitors. It is more akin to Father Dobrushin or Ekaterina. Yet, where Father Dobrushin and Ekaterina seem to believe Aksinya to a degree, Frau Becker does not. It is enough for Frau Becker to simply help someone she believes is helpless. I set up this character to show this for just this reason. Just as I gave you Father Makar to show you one who doesn't believe Aksinya, but who's compassion is stifled because he can't be compassionate for Aksinya, I wanted you to see someone who could have simple compassion for a person, not because of who they were, but because of their need.
Frau Becker doesn't care if Aksinya is insane--she berates Frau Mauer because she wouldn't help. This is a result of Frau Becker's pragmatism. That's the point of the entire conversation. This is the point all the way to the white lie Frau Becker tells to the insane girl to comfort her. I hope you like this lie because it does no harm, and immediately, Frau Becker acts to repair it. She orders Frau Mauer to sew crosses on the nightgown. Such a simple action that has such important meaning for a single pathetic girl. This is the true meaning of compassion, and do you see the extent of the revelation? Although Aksinya faced the torment of the demon. Although he own actions led to more problems. Still, she was saved, and she was provided a savior, a help if you like. Frau Becker was the one who helped. Tomorrow we shall see that she is even more help although she can't stop the freight train that is approaching.