OUR HOUSE-BOAT AT HENLEY
It speaks volumes for an amiability I have always claimed for myself through sundry fierce disputes on the subject with my sister, that, even after two years of travel in Europe with her and Mr. and Mrs. Jimmie, they should still wish for my company for a journey across France and Germany to Russia. Bee says it speaks volumes for the tempers of the Jimmies, but then Bee is my sister, or to put it more properly, I am Bee’s sister, and what woman is a heroine to her own sister?
In any event I am not. Bee thinks I am a creature of feeble intelligence who must be “managed.” Bee loves to “manage” people, and I, who love to watch her circuitous, diplomatic, velvety, crooked way to a straight end, allow myself to be so “managed;” and so after safely disposing of Billy in the grandmotherly care of Mamma for another six months, Bee and I gaily took ship and landed safely at the door of the Cecil, having been escorted up from Southampton by Jimmie.
While repeated journeys to Europe lose the thrill of expectant uncertainty which one’s first held, yet there is something very pleasing about “going back.” And so we were particularly glad again to join forces with our friends the Jimmies and travel with them, for they, like Bee and me, travel aimlessly and are never hampered with plans.
Everybody seems to know that we do not mean business, and nobody has ever dared to ask whether our intentions were serious or not.
In this frame of mind we floated over to England and had a fortnight of “the season” in London. But this soon palled on us, and we fell into the idle mood of waiting for something to turn up.
One Sunday morning Bee and Mrs. Jimmie and I were sitting at a little table near the entrance to the Cecil Hotel, when Jimmie came out of a side door and sat down in front of us, leaning his elbows on the table and grinning at us in a suspicious silence. We all waited for him to begin, but he simply sat and smoked and grinned.
“Well! Well!” I said, impatiently, “What now?”
You would know that Jimmie was an American by the way he smokes. He simply eats up cigars, inhales them, chews them. The end of his cigar blazes like a danger signal and breathes like an engine. He can hold his hands and feet still, but his nervousness crops out in his smoking. Finally, exasperated by his continued silence, Bee said, severely:
“Jimmie, have you anything up your sleeve? If so, speak out!”
“Well!” said Jimmie, brushing the cigar ashes off his wife’s skirt, “I thought I’d take you all out to Henley this morning to look at the house-boat.”
“House-boat!” shrieked Bee and I in a whisper, clutching Jimmie by the sleeve and lapel of his coat and giving him an ecstatic shake.
“Are we going to have a house-boat?” asked Bee.