It all happened a long time ago, in a remote British colony that seemed like one invented by Somerset Maugham or Evelyn Waugh.

For the U.S. consul and his wife, it was their first time out as the Principal Officer and Wife. They were in earnest about serving U.S. citizens.

Their first summer, she decided to blow what little representation money they had on the most memorable and American Fourth of July party ever given in the history of the colony. She ordered fireworks, genuine American hot dogs, buns and real, honest-to-goodness Coca-Colas. (It is a measure of the benightedness of the colony that only pale and unsanitary imitation colas were sold there.) All were flown in, at great cost, from Miami.

Every U.S. citizen showed up, and some who only wanted to be.

At the end of the evening, it was pronounced the greatest social triumph of the year, and such a nice change from the queen's strawberries-and-tea birthday in May. The senior wife glowed in her success.

When the Principal Officer submitted his expenses to the State Department, the papers came back enscribed "Disallowed--It is not State Department policy to entertain Americans on the Fourth of July."

The consul paid for it from his own shallow pocket.