Scarcely had the audience of the Ramsbotham Lectures at the Folger Shakespeare Library digested the news from Stratford about the state of the Bard's house on Henley Street than Sir Peter Ramsbotham himself arrived in the capital for the weekend with news of his own.
The former British ambassador here, Sir Peter had told more than one of his friends he never expected to visit Washington again. His wife, Frances, died suddenly two years ago at a great Anglo-American dinner in London, and reports dribbled back to Washington from assorted visitors that Peter was a wounded man -- the charm still there but the sparkle stifled. He had married Frances when he was 21, and after 40 years the marriage was viewed in Washington as a storybook romance that did not end.
So when he suddenly announced he would be in town this weekend, his friends rallied to buck him up. He got here in time for a small dinner at Patricia and David Acheson's house, and went bounding up the steps, which was thought odd for a man of years and dignity. The Achesons had their poodle pup, Gus, on hand to chew up some cloth coasters to amuse him, and they fetched out a poached salmon and premium strawberries, but their guest seemed uncommonly brisk. Well after dinner, he said:
"May I talk about myself for a second?"
Astonishing. Since he doesn't.
He will marry Zaida Hall in July. She is a celebrated English therapist noted for her successes treating teen-agers and the young. She is widow of the bursar of Winchester College. The youths of Winchester have for centuries been known for solemn views of life -- it is said they do not eat a fish from the Ichen River without a moral debate.
For a second the guests were stunned, then Rose Fales led the chorus of dream-come-true hosannas, the wine developed bubbles, and Gus escaped severities he was otherwise in for, for chewing up things. Gus got loose and ran up and down the street. Not permitted, but there you are.
Sir Peter then had a day fishing with Elliot Richardson, and Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) and his wife Ann had a dinner for him the next night. Last night Armida Colt and Roberta Jeffries entertained largely for him and tonight Christine and Roger Stevens have a dinner in his honor.
"Can we spread the news?" asked Rose Fales, "and how do you pronounce Zaida?"
"Zaydah," said Sir Peter, "and sing it from the housetops; let it be known in Gath," for he always had a knack for the classics.