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War And Peace 268

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War And Peace

of the visitors had already arrived, but the Rostovs, who were to be present, were still hurrying to get dressed. There had been many discussions and preparations for this ball in the Rostov family, many fears that the invitation would not arrive, that the dresses would not be ready, or that something would not be arranged as it should be. Marya Ignatevna Peronskaya, a thin and shallow maid of honor at the court of the Dowager Empress, who was a friend and relation of the countess and piloted the provincial Rostovs in Petersburg high society, was to accompany them to the ball. They were to call for her at her house in the Taurida Gardens at ten oclock, but it was already five minutes to ten, and the girls were not yet dressed. Natasha was going to her first grand ball. She had got up at eight that morning and had been in a fever of excitement and activity all day. All her powers since morning had been concentrated on ensuring that they all--she herself, Mamma, and Sonya--should be as well dressed as possible. Sonya and her mother put themselves entirely in her hands. The countess was to wear a claret-colored velvet dress, and the two girls white gauze over pink silk slips, with roses on their bodices and their hair dressed a la grecque. Everything essential had already been done; feet, hands, necks, and ears washed, perfumed, and powdered, as befits a ball; the openwork silk stockings and white satin shoes with ribbons were already on; the hairdressing was almost done. Sonya was finishing dressing and so was the countess, but Natasha, who had bustled about helping them all, was behindhand. She was still sitting before a looking-glass with a dressing jacket thrown over her slender shoulders. Sonya stood ready dressed in the middle of the room and, pressing the head of a pin till it hurt her dainty finger, was fixing on a last ribbon that squeaked as the pin went through it. "Thats not the way, thats not the way, Sonya!" cried Natasha turning her head and clutching with both hands at her hair which the maid who was dressing it had not time to release. "That bow is not right. Come here!" Sonya sat down and Natasha pinned the ribbon on differently. "Allow me, Miss! I cant do it like that," said the maid who was holding Natashas hair. "Oh, dear! Well then, wait. Thats right, Sonya." "Arent you ready? It is nearly ten," came the countess voice. "Directly! Directly! And you, Mamma?" "I have only my cap to pin on." "Dont do it without me!" called Natasha. "You wont do it right." "But its already ten." They had decided to be at the ball by half past ten, and Natasha had still to get dressed and they had to call at the Taurida Gardens. When her hair was done, Natasha, in her short petticoat from under which her dancing shoes showed, and in her mothers dressing jacket, ran up to Sonya, scrutinized her, and then ran to her mother. Turning her mothers head this way and that, she fastened on the cap and, hurriedly kissing her gray hair, ran back to the maids who were turning up the hem of her skirt. The cause of the delay was Natashas skirt, which was too long. Two maids were turning up the hem and hurriedly biting off the ends of thread. A third with pins in her mouth was running about between the countess and Sonya, and a fourth held the whole of the gossamer garment up high on one uplifted hand. "Mavra, quicker, darling!" "Give me my thimble, Miss, from there..." "Whenever will you be ready?" asked the count coming to the door. "Here is some scent. Peronskaya must be tired of waiting." "Its ready, Miss," said the maid, holding up the shortened gauze dress with two fingers, and blowing and shaking something off it, as if by this to express a consciousness of the airiness and purity of what she held. Natasha began putting on the dress. "In a minute! In a minute! Dont come in, Papa!" she cried to her father as he opened the door--speaking from under the filmy skirt which still covered her whole face. Sonya slammed the door to. A minute later they let the count in. He was wearing a blue swallow-tail coat, shoes and stockings, and was perfumed and his hair pomaded. "Oh, Papa! how nice you look! Charming!" cried Natasha, as she stood in the middle of the room smoothing out the folds of the gauze. "If you please, Miss! allow me,"

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