Not even the splendor of the Salle des Menus could rival for an instant the beauty of the vast hall, brilliantly lighted by great golden lustres set in double row up and down its length, in which Mr. Calvert now found himself. These lights burned themselves out in endless reflections in the seventeen great mirrors set between columns on one side of the hall. Opposite each of these mirrors was a window of equal proportions giving upon the magnificent gardens and terraces. The vaulted ceiling of this great gallery was dedicated, in a series of paintings by Lebrun, to the glorification of Louis XIV, from the moment when, on the death of Mazarin, in 1661, he took up the reins of government (’twas the theme of the great central fresco, Le Roi gouverne par lui-meme, wherein, according to the fashion of the day, the very Olympian deities were subject to the princes of France, and Mercury announced this kingly resolve to the other powers of Europe) to the peace of Nymwegen, which closed that unjust and inglorious war with Holland. Lebrun, being a courtier as well as an artist, had made these military operations under Turenne and Conde resemble prodigious success, and from The Passage of the Rhine to The Capture of Ghent, Louis was always the conqueror over the young Stadtholder, William of Orange.
These and many other details Mr. Calvert had time to note as he made a tour of the princely apartment in the train of Madame de St. Andre and Madame de Tesse. Their progress was necessarily slow, as the gallery was thronged with the deputies of the noblesse, the higher clergy, and the invited guests. But the members of the tiers, whose presence had been especially desired by His Majesty, were conspicuous by their absence. Here and there one saw a commoner in black coat and simple white tie, but he seemed to be separated from the rest of the splendid company by some invisible barrier, constrained, uneasy. Indeed, there was over the whole scene that same feeling of constraint, a sense of danger, and an air of apathy, too, that killed all gayety.
“If this is a fair sample, court balls must be but dreary affairs,” said Mr. Morris to Calvert, in a low tone, as they moved slowly about. And yet, in spite of this indefinite but sensible pall over everything, the company was both numerous and brilliant. The ladies of the Queen’s household and many others of the highest nobility were present, dazzling in jewels, powder, feathers, and richest court dresses. As for the gentlemen, they were as resplendent as the women in their satins and glittering orders and silver dress swords. Mr. Morris alone of all the company was without the dress sword, this concession having been granted him on account of his lameness and through the application of Mr. Jefferson.