Charles Bentley receives two surprises. First of all his wife, Joanna, who is also chief of police in Opalsville where they live, wants to have a large Thanksgiving celebration in their new home. She asks Charles to do the inviting. Under some pressure he agrees, wondering all the while where he will round up enough people for such a gathering. The second surprise comes when his old friend Sidney Collins comes to see him. Charles and Sidney were undergraduates together at Yale and went on together for graduate school in English literature at Harvard. Sidney is a well known public intellectual, esteemed for his books, teaching, and lectures on topics in British literature. He has been asked this year to give the Simpson Literature Lectures at Opal College where Charles has just retired from teaching. Although Charles is pleased to see his old friend, he is saddened by what he perceives as a subtle decline in Sidney’s physical and intellectual abilities. Charles willingly agrees to attend the first lecture that evening, little suspecting that it may be the final lecture.