I suppose you could say that a quiet and rainy Sunday morning really began with a not-so-quiet impromptu dinner party on Saturday evening. Mr. and Mrs. Iffleby had fully intended to attend an annual Christmas gala out in Betterton Bluff but unseen events had transpired in such a way that they thought it wiser to give the coachman and four-in-hand the night off and remain in town.
At the same time the Ifflebys were pondering their evening dining options, Mistress McBetts suddenly found herself unexpectedly alone and in need of a bit of good company on a cold Saturday evening in late November. Somewhat to her own surprise, she knocked on the door of her cheerful neighbors who lived down the street and spontaneously invited them—the Kirkbrites—to supper in her cozy apartments. It was just as she was proffering her kind invitation that a messenger boy also appeared on the Kirkbrites’ doorstep with a note from the Ifflebys inquiring whether they might dine together at the local inn.
In a flash, everything came together: it just so happened that good Mrs. Kirkbrite had spent that very afternoon concocting a savory beef stew that could easily be stretched to accommodate three more so it was readily apparent to her that everyone—the Kirkbrites, the Ifflebys, and Mistress McBetts—should all convene in an hour around the Kirkbrite’s dinner table. When Mrs. Kirkbrite proposed her plan, Mistress McBetts agreed on the spot and the messenger boy was dispatched back to the Ifflebys inviting them to join in an impromptu dinner party. The ifflebys thought it a splendid solution to their dining dilemma, Mistress McBetts went off to fetch a bottle of wine and a dish of Brussels sprouts she had left simmering on the stove which she insisted on contributing to the fare, and Mrs. Kirkbrite reset the table for five while her husband refreshed the fire in the grate and opened a bottle of a modest Bordeaux that would pair well with his wife’s aromatic beef stew.
To no one’s surprise, the impromptu dinner party was a rousing success due, in part, to the stew, the sprouts, a seasonal salad, a fresh baguette just out of the baker’s oven, and some decadent chocolate truffles for dessert. Or perhaps it was due in even larger part to several additional bottles of wine procured from the local Wine and Cheese Shop at the very last minute, as well as a wee dram or two of Mr. Kirkbrite’s favorite Highland malt whisky which he proudly served after dinner. As the candles on the dinner table burned low, everyone heartily agreed that spontaneity, not honesty, was indeed the very best policy.
And so it certainly seemed that evening. If a passerby had looked through the Kirkbrite’s frosted front window pane and seen the happy friends gathered around the table, he (or she) might have felt a stab of regret that she (or he) was not included in such a merry gathering. But what the passerby would not see or know is that a very merry Saturday evening is inevitably followed by a dreich Sunday morning when one wishes that he and she had not consumed quite so copiously of such hearty food and quaffable drink.
Ah well, such is life and as we all know, life does go on. And so it did: Iffleby—good churchman that he was—went off to services with just a touch or regret and a slight headache. Mrs. Iffleby remained at home in her dressing gown and poured herself a second cup of tea which she took to her fainting couch. For her part, Mistress McBetts slept until almost noon. As for the Kirkbrites, wife spent the day recovering with a good book while husband retired to his study with a large pot of black coffee and a plate of bacon and eggs which he felt was the good and necessary soakage he would need if he were to write a Dickens of a story about a spontaneous dinner party with good and true friends. He worked for an hour or two, finishing his story just in time for Sunday lunch with these words:
“I’ll be right back.”
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com