"Will there not be any dancing?"
"Dancing? Why, no! What room will there be for dancing, even if it were expected? Do you know how many people we've got to stow away? And feed them all, too?"
"I don't know. You say I can't have any ticket, and you've sent them all over the country, or Mrs. Lincoln has."
"No, she hasn't. It's a rigidly official affair--a consolidated reception."
"What makes them call it a ball, then?"
"They're thinking of cannon balls. We're forced to be rigid. The Cabinet, the Supreme Court, the heads of Departments, some lesser judges, the entire Diplomatic Corps, Senators, Congressmen, generals and admirals, Governors of States--have you got that list in your head? Well, now add to each man of it from one to three women, and then come with me. I've procured a tape-line, and I'm to measure all the floors for Mrs. Lincoln, to see if there is going to be standing-room. There won't be a chance for any man or woman to stumble and fall down. Dance? I'd say not!"
You explain it fully to this reporter, as you have to others, but all the Northern journals are crammed with discussions of "Mrs. Lincoln's party," and one illustrated weekly has printed a full column of mournful verses, supposed to be sung by a wounded volunteer in hospital, concerning "My Lady President's Ball."
Much the volunteers care whether she has a party or not! All the boys in blue, we know, would be glad to go to one--the nearer their own homes the better.
The fact is that a kind of established custom, something like a tradition- law of the White House, seems to require of each President, or of his wife, a certain number and routine of official dinners, dull, stately, costly affairs, coming along in a wearisome string through the season.