They gleam, as here, temptingly on dark platters on the damask cloths. They lurk among the at times too-vivid depictions of heaped dead pheasants and glassy-eyed trout; they're even heedlessly tossed underfoot by gourmandizing burghers (the process of trying to eat oysters while wearing a ruff strikes me as daunting, to say the least). It was all sufficiently tantalizing that we made to sure to find some that night, and we enjoyed them, I think, almost as much as the burghers.
It was nice having a houseguest, and really by our modest standards it was something of a whirl, taking in, along with the museum gallivant, several very good dinners and a day of expeditions to local stately homes (Mount Vernon and a lesser light - one very conscious, as it turned out, that it didn't have quite the éclat of its better-known counterpart, having been built by a Founding Father, but a relatively lesser one. "We have some very fine woodwork, you know," said our guide, as if in hopes of making up for the lack of beguiling cherry tree legends).
I hadn't been to Washington's cosy little country place since I was a small child, and in the decades since then it's turned into quite a phenomenon - a sort of history factory, really, in which one submits docilely to the attentions of a series of increasingly laconic docents who shepherd you onto what amounts to an assembly line through the house. In memory, in days gone by one was taken through by a Colonial Dame (they own the place, you know) in period dress, who nattered on at great length about wallpaper patterns and Martha's taste in everything from tablesettings to cap-ribbons. No more; "Keep up, please, and on your way past note the butler's pantry before you leave the house" barks a polo-shirted older gentleman, and before you know it you're dumped unceremoniously back out into a side yard.
We did enjoy walking about the grounds, and we encountered a piquant vignette at the family tomb, where for reasons unknown a newly elected congresswoman from California was laying a wreath and paying her respects. I don't know about you, but were I to want to make the best impression at such a comparatively solemn (if wholly unnecessary) event, I probably wouldn't go for black leggings and a sweat shirt. She seemed slightly startled that there were others - tourists - present, and after her moment's silent in front of the black wrought-iron gates, she gave some awkward and all too clearly impromptu remarks - bits of her stump speech, apparently, strung together with what seemed to be distant memories of a long-unthought-of civics class. "We should always remember," she concluded (to the relief of all), "that we live in the greatest country in the nation."
The Cousin and I just looked at each other, trying not to snicker (too much). It's not quite up there with "First in War, First in Peace...", is it? Well, she tried, I suppose. Bless.
I wonder if the General and his stout Missus liked the occasional oyster...