Five days later, Nina invites the Count for afternoon tea. As soon as the tea is poured, Nina begins to talk about her actual purpose for speaking with him: she asks if he would share some of the rules of being a princess.
Nina continues her fascination with princesses while taking part in a typically upper-class tradition: having tea. In a way, Nina’s friendship is appreciated by the Count because she recognizes some of the value and romance of the aristocracy.
The Count describes some of the things expected of princesses: table manners, posture, respecting the elders of every class. The Count relays an example in which the Princess Golitsyn once stopped for an old woman to drive her home in her carriage. When the old woman invited her for tea, she graciously accepted the invitation, missing a ball at the Tushins in the process. Nina asks if the princess then married the old woman’s son. The Count assures her that she did not, and Nina seems disappointed. The Count does not add that this action would have caused a rift between the Golitsyns and the Tushins for three generations, if the Russian Revolution had not ended the family lines altogether.
While Nina views the story through a romantic lens (hoping that the princess would fall in love with a peasant), the Count continues to see some of the shortcomings of the old social structure. The two families he describes in the story had been so obsessed with small slights and affronts and so preoccupied with family hierarchies and grudges that they were blind to the needs of the rest of the country and provided the impetus for revolution.
The Count holds out the tea cakes for Nina, and she takes two. He tells her that princesses say please and thank you when asking for and being offered tea cakes. Nina is indignant. She acknowledges that saying please is polite, but that she has no intention of saying thank you for something she was freely offered and for which she never asked.
Nina’s practicality here demonstrates that even though she likes princesses, she has no hesitation in setting aside traditions with which she does not agree. Additionally, by learning by chance this small detail about Nina (that she would never say thank you for something she was offered), the Count is able to realize years later that she has returned to the Metropol hotel.