By ten o’clock there were many in the great room which had been made ready for the dancing, and rather a brave company it might have been called. We had at least the splendor of the foreign diplomats’ uniforms for our background, and to this we added the bravest of our attire, each one in his own individual fashion, I fear. Thus my friend Jack Dandridge was wholly resplendent in a new waistcoat of his own devising, and an evening coat which almost swept the floor as he executed the evolutions of his western style of dancing. Other gentlemen were, perhaps, more grave and staid. We had with us at least one man, old in government service, who dared the silk stockings and knee breeches of an earlier generation. Yet another wore the white powdered queue, which might have been more suited for his grandfather. The younger men of the day wore their hair long, in fashion quite different, yet this did not detract from the distinction of some of the faces which one might have seen among them—some of them to sleep all too soon upturned to the moon in another and yet more bitter war, aftermath of this with Mexico. The tall stock was still in evidence at that time, and the ruffled shirts gave something of a formal and old-fashioned touch to the assembly. Such as they were, in their somewhat varied but not uninteresting attire, the best of Washington were present. Invitation was wholly by card. Some said that Mrs. Polk wrote these invitations in her own hand, though this we may be permitted to doubt.
Whatever might have been said as to the democratic appearance of our gentlemen in Washington, our women were always our great reliance, and these at least never failed to meet the approval of the most sneering of our foreign visitors. Thus we had present that night, as I remember, two young girls both later to become famous in Washington society; tall and slender young Terese Chalfant, later to become Mrs. Pugh of Ohio, and to receive at the hands of Denmark’s minister, who knelt before her at a later public ball, that jeweled clasp which his wife had bade him present to the most beautiful woman he found in America. Here also was Miss Harriet Williams of Georgetown, later to become the second wife of that Baron Bodisco of Russia who had represented his government with us since the year 1838—a tall, robust, blonde lady she later grew to be. Brown’s Hotel, home of many of our statesmen and their ladies, turned out a full complement. Mr. Clay was there, smiling, though I fear none too happy. Mr. Edward Everett, as it chanced, was with us at that time. We had Sam Houston of Texas, who would not, until he appeared upon the floor, relinquish the striped blanket which distinguished him—though a splendid figure of a man he appeared when he paced forth in evening dress, a part of which was a waistcoat embroidered in such fancy as might have delighted the eye of his erstwhile Indian wife had she been there to see it. Here and there, scattered about the floor, there might have been seen many of the public figures of America at that time, men from North and South and East and West, and from many other nations beside our own.