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War And Peace 269


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said the maid, who on her knees was pulling the skirt straight and shifting the pins from one side of her mouth to the other with her tongue. "Say what you like," exclaimed Sonya, in a despairing voice as she looked at Natasha, "say what you like, its still too long." Natasha stepped back to look at herself in the pier glass. The dress was too long. "Really, madam, it is not at all too long," said Mavra, crawling on her knees after her young lady. "Well, if its too long well take it up... well tack it up in one minute," said the resolute Dunyasha taking a needle that was stuck on the front of her little shawl and, still kneeling on the floor, set to work once more. At that moment, with soft steps, the countess came in shyly, in her cap and velvet gown. "Oo-oo, my beauty!" exclaimed the count, "she looks better than any of you!" He would have embraced her but, blushing, she stepped aside fearing to be rumpled. "Mamma, your cap, more to this side," said Natasha. "Ill arrange it," and she rushed forward so that the maids who were tacking up her skirt could not move fast enough and a piece of gauze was torn off. "Oh goodness! What has happened? Really it was not my fault!" "Never mind, Ill run it up, it wont show," said Dunyasha. "What a beauty--a very queen!" said the nurse as she came to the door. "And Sonya! They are lovely!" At a quarter past ten they at last got into their carriages and started. But they had still to call at the Taurida Gardens. Peronskaya was quite ready. In spite of her age and plainness she had gone through the same process as the Rostovs, but with less flurry--for to her it was a matter of routine. Her ugly old body was washed, perfumed, and powdered in just the same way. She had washed behind her ears just as carefully, and when she entered her drawing room in her yellow dress, wearing her badge as maid of honor, her old ladys maid was as full of rapturous admiration as the Rostovs servants had been. She praised the Rostovs toilets. They praised her taste and toilet, and at eleven oclock, careful of their coiffures and dresses, they settled themselves in their carriages and drove off. CHAPTER XV Natasha had not had a moment free since early morning and had not once had time to think of what lay before her. In the damp chill air and crowded closeness of the swaying carriage, she for the first time vividly imagined what was in store for her there at the ball, in those brightly lighted rooms--with music, flowers, dances, the Emperor, and all the brilliant young people of Petersburg. The prospect was so splendid that she hardly believed it would come true, so out of keeping was it with the chill darkness and closeness of the carriage. She understood all that awaited her only when, after stepping over the red baize at the entrance, she entered the hall, took off her fur cloak, and, beside Sonya and in front of her mother, mounted the brightly illuminated stairs between the flowers. Only then did she remember how she must behave at a ball, and tried to assume the majestic air she considered indispensable for a girl on such an occasion. But, fortunately for her, she felt her eyes growing misty, she saw nothing clearly, her pulse beat a hundred to the minute, and the blood throbbed at her heart. She could not assume that pose, which would have made her ridiculous, and she moved on almost fainting from excitement and trying with all her might to conceal it. And this was the very attitude that became her best. Before and behind them other visitors were entering, also talking in low tones and wearing ball dresses. The mirrors on the landing reflected ladies in white, pale-blue, and pink dresses, with diamonds and pearls on their bare necks and arms. Natasha looked in the mirrors and could not distinguish her reflection from the others. All was blended into one brilliant procession. On entering the ballroom the regular hum of voices, footsteps, and greetings deafened Natasha, and the light and glitter dazzled her still more. The host and hostess, who had already been standing at the door for half an hour repeating the same words to the various arrivals, "Charme de vous voir,"* greeted the Rostovs and Peronskaya in the same manner. *"Delighted to see you." The two girls in their white dresses, each with a rose

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