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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 14
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 14 Post by :clougo Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :831

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 14 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 14

On the thirty-first of December, New Year's Eve, 1809 - 10 an old
grandee of Catherine's day was giving a ball and midnight supper.
The diplomatic corps and the Emperor himself were to be present.

The grandee's well-known mansion on the English Quay glittered
with innumerable lights. Police were stationed at the brightly lit
entrance which was carpeted with red baize, and not only gendarmes but
dozens of police officers and even the police master himself stood
at the porch. Carriages kept driving away and fresh ones arriving,
with red-liveried footmen and footmen in plumed hats. From the
carriages emerged men wearing uniforms, stars, and ribbons, while
ladies in satin and ermine cautiously descended the carriage steps
which were let down for them with a clatter, and then walked hurriedly
and noiselessly over the baize at the entrance.

Almost every time a new carriage drove up a whisper ran through
the crowd and caps were doffed.

"The Emperor?... No, a minister.... prince... ambassador. Don't
you see the plumes?..." was whispered among the crowd.

One person, better dressed than the rest, seemed to know everyone
and mentioned by name the greatest dignitaries of the day.

A third 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
o'clock, 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.

"That's not the way, that's 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 can't do it like that," said the maid who was
holding Natasha's hair.

"Oh, dear! Well then, wait. That's right, Sonya."

"Aren't you ready? It is nearly ten," came the countess' voice.

"Directly! Directly! And you, Mamma?"

"I have only my cap to pin on."

"Don't do it without me!" called Natasha. "You won't do it right."

"But it's 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 mother's dressing jacket,
ran up to Sonya, scrutinized her, and then ran to her mother.
Turning her mother's 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 Natasha's 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 here is some scent. Peronskaya must be tired of waiting."

"It's 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! Don't 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," 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, it's 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 it's too long we'll take it up... we'll 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. "I'll 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, I'll run it up, it won't 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 lady's 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 o'clock, careful of their coiffures and dresses, they
settled themselves in their carriages and drove off.

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Natasha had not had a moment free since early morning and had notonce 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 herthere at the ball, in those brightly lighted rooms- with music,flowers, dances, the Emperor, and all the brilliant young people ofPetersburg. The prospect was so splendid that she hardly believed itwould come true, so out of keeping was it with the chill darknessand closeness of the carriage. She understood all that awaited heronly when, after stepping over
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One night when the old countess, in nightcap and dressing jacket,without her false curls, and with her poor little knob of hair showingunder her white cotton cap, knelt sighing and groaning on a rug andbowing to the ground in prayer, her door creaked and Natasha, alsoin a dressing jacket with slippers on her bare feet and her hair incurlpapers, ran in. The countess- her prayerful mood dispelled- lookedround and frowned. She was finishing her last prayer: "Can it bethat this couch will be my grave?" Natasha, flushed and eager,seeing her mother in prayer, suddenly checked her rush, half sat down,and unconsciously
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