Written with the tempo of a waltz, Katherine Mansfield's "Her First Ball" relates the bittersweetness of growing up. Upon her arrival at the ball, the main character Leila is thrilled with the beauty of her surroundings and the air that is charged with the excitement of the beautiful young women and men. However, her happiness is dampened by the cruelty of the old man who dances with her and with perverse amusement tells her that someday she, too, will be old and sit upstairs with her black dress and black fan. The tempo slows and the tone is melancholic.
However, this moment of truth only deters Leila briefly from enjoying herself. She rejects the morose thoughts--"Why didn't happiness last for ever?--that accompany his remark, and returns to her enjoyment of the moment, ignoring the fat man and his words. Again, the tempo of the story accelerates.
But presently a soft, melting, ravishing tune began, and a young man with curly hair bowed before her...But in one minute, in one turn, her feet glided, glided. The lights, the azaleas, the dresses, the pink faces, the velvet chairs, all became one beautiful flying wheel. 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.
Leila feels horrible after the fat man ruins her night, until her last partner comes. She feels so happy, she completely forgets about the fat man, even when he bumps her.