Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cream Tea

Our antique English Regency table was draped with fine linen and this afternoon Mother had selected her Royal Doulton Old Country Roses teapot with matching cups and saucers.  The faint aroma of Darjeeling wafted up from the pot.  On the table was a plate of warm scones, a small dish of rhubarb ginger preserves, lump sugar, and a dish of Devonshire clotted cream.  How lovely!

Mother smiled benignly at me and nodded in the direction of an envelope propped up against the Royal Doulton sugar bowl.  “Guess what, Alfred?’ said Mother, “We have a letter from our son Jeremy.”

For those of you who haven’t been introduced to Jeremy, I have to tell you that he is a fine boy, but he has a mind of his own.  We have a very good school here in Dallas, but no, nothing would do but that he had to go to a college in New England.

Mother said, “What are you waiting for?  Why don’t you open it and read it?”

I took my gilded Davidoff cigar knife and delicately slit the envelope open and began to read, “Dear Mum and Dad . . .” Jeremy is so informal.  I always addressed my Father as Pater; the Latin word always seemed more fitting, but Jeremy is Jeremy.  I won’t go on to tire you with the details of the letter, all patter for Pater, but of course he thanked me for the check, and a handsome check it was; but let me get to the startling news.

He said, “You know Winifred and I have been dating for a year, and if you don’t mind I’d like to bring Winnie home for Christmas.  Her parents will be in France over the holidays.  She is quite excited about meeting you both.”

“Oh,” Said I to myself; and the tiniest little cloud like Elijah’s cloud rising from the sea, began to rise on the horizon of our holiday.

Mother said with obvious satisfaction, “Well, at last, after all we do have a guest bedroom.  Does Jeremy say how long they will be staying?”

“Jeremy says, ‘We will be arriving on December 18th and returning on the 27th.  We want to be back for the New Year’s Eve service at St. John’s.  Winnie and her family are quite keen on going to Church, and I have to admit that I’ve rather enjoyed it.”

“Well,” said I, “Mother, going to the Carols and Lights service is one thing, but next they will be expecting us to attend Church with them on Christmas Eve.”

Mother rapped her knuckles on the table, “Alfred!  It’s Carols and Lessons, not Carols and Lights!  Besides that, attending Church on Christmas Eve with your son won’t hurt you.”

That little cloud on the horizon suddenly began to darken, but I knew better than to argue.  One rap of the knuckles is enough.

 “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him”[i]; but the Hound of Heaven ever follows after.  

[i] Frances Thompson, The Hound of Heaven

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