But the central point of the festival was the monstrous gigantic hall which the cardinal had caused to be erected in the centre of the garden expressly for this occasion. The walls of muslin and flowers were held together by more than a hundred gilded pillars, the girandoles attached to each of which diffused a sea of light. Silken carpets covered the floor, and the plafond of this gigantic hall was formed by the thousand-starred arch of heaven. Here, also, niches and grottoes were everywhere to be found; in them one could, in the midst of the constantly moving and noisy crowd, enjoy quiet and repose.
Only one of these niches was inaccessible, as it appears, to the company, and yet it was precisely this which excited the curiosity of all, and which all, whispering, approached, anxious to get a peep behind the closed thick silken curtains, before which two richly gallooned servants of the cardinal walked back and forth with solemn earnestness, but respectfully requesting every one to comply with the cardinal’s wishes and not approach the mysterious drapery, but await his own time for the solution of the enigma! A few steps led up to this closed and covered niche; these steps were strewed with roses, that was plainly seen; but, to what did these steps lead, and what was thus carefully concealed?
A precious surprise, certainly, for it was the forte of the cardinal to prepare surprises for the agreeable entertainment of his guests. The ladies and gentlemen, the cardinals and princes of the Church, crowded around him begging for an explanation of the mystery, a disclosure of the secret.
“I am myself uninitiated,” said Cardinal Bernis, laughing; “some divinity may have taken a seat there, or perhaps it is a sphinx which will from thence give us the solution of her enigma. But let us see what belated guests are now coming to us.”