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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

A Tragedy Of Gowns

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I coaxed her to let me do things to her hair. Usually she wore a stiff and ugly coiffure that could only be described as a chignon. I do not recollect ever having seen a chignon, but I know that it must look like that. I was thankful for my Irish deftness of fingers as I stepped back to view the result of my labors. The new arrangement of the hair gave her features a new softness and dignity.

We came to the lacing of the stays, with their exaggerated length. "Aber!" exclaimed Frau Nirlanger, not daring to laugh because of the strange snugness. "Ach!" and again, Aber to laugh it is! "

We had decided the prettiest of the new gowns must do honor to the occasion. "This shade is called ashes of roses," I explained, as I slipped it over her head.

"Ashes of roses!" she echoed. "How pretty, yes? But a little sad too, is it not so? Like rosy hopes that have been withered. Ach, what a foolish talk! So, now you will fasten it please. A real trick it is to button such a dress--so sly they are, those fastenings."

When all the sly fastenings were secure I stood at gaze.

"Nose is shiny," I announced, searching in a drawer for chamois and powder.

Frau Nirlanger raised an objecting hand. "But Konrad does not approve of such things. He has said so. He has--"

"You tell your Konrad that a chamois skin isn't half as objectionable as a shiny one. Come here and let me dust this over your nose and chin, while I breathe a prayer of thanks that I have no overzealous husband near to forbid me the use of a bit of powder. There! If I sez it mesilf as shouldn't, yez ar-r-re a credit t' me, me darlint."

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"You are satisfied. There is not one small thing awry? Ach, how we shall laugh at Konrad's face."

"Satisfied! I'd kiss you if I weren't afraid that I should muss you up. You're not the same woman. You look like a girl! And so pretty! Now skedaddle into your own rooms, but don't you dare to sit down for a moment. I'm going down to get Frau Knapf before your husband arrives."

"But is there then time?" inquired Frau Nirlanger. "He should be here now."

"I'll bring her up in a jiffy, just for one peep. She won't know you! Her face will be a treat! Don't touch your hair--it's quite perfect. And f'r Jawn's sake! Don't twist around to look at yourself in the back or something will burst, I know it will. I'll be back in a minute. Now run!"

The slender, graceful figure disappeared with a gay little laugh, and I flew downstairs for Frau Knapf. She was discovered with a spoon in one hand and a spluttering saucepan in the other. I detached her from them, clasped her big, capable red hands and dragged her up the stairs, explaining as I went.

"Now don't fuss about that supper! Let 'em wait. You must see her before Herr Nirlanger comes home. He's due any minute. She looks like a girl. So young! And actually pretty! And her figure--divine! Funny what a difference a decent pair of corsets, and a gown, and some puffs will make, h'm?"

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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