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Katherine Mansfield's "Her First Ball" is the story of a young girl from the country in New Zealand who has her first introduction to "the beginning of everything."
Enthralled as any young lady would be with the excitement of the formal dance, the handsome young men, the "joyful flutter among the girls," Leila delights in the music, praying that she will be asked to dance. When a young man does request a dance, "she floated away like a flower that is tossed into a pool." However, as she dances with other young men, Leila notes that her partners do not seem very interested in the conversation and the dancing while she is so thrilled. It is then that she notices the fat man, who is old and, in Leila's mind, should have been sitting on the stage with the mothers and fathers rather than on the dance floor. This man leads Leila onto the dance floor, and he asks her if she is at her first ball.:
"Of course...you can't hope to last anthing like as long as that....long before that you'll e sitting up there on the stage, looking on, in your nice black velvet. And these pretty arms will have turned into little short fate ones, and you'll beat time with such a different kind of fan--a black bony one....And your heart will ache, ache...because no one wants to kiss you now."
After the old man, the symbol of time, says these words to Leila, the music seems to change, seeming melancholy: "Why didn't happiness last for ever? For ever wasn't a bit too long?" It is at this point that Leila has her "moment of truth": She realizes how fleeting time is, but she also chooses how to deal with this transitory element of life, the "beginning of everything." Leila chooses to ignore the truth of life for the enjoyment of the moment: "And when her next partner bumped her into the fat man and he said,'Pardon,' she smiled at him more radiantly than ever. She didn't even recognize him again.
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