“We!” said Jimmie. “I am going to have a house-boat, and I am going to take my wife. If you are good perhaps she will ask you out to tea one afternoon.”
“How many staterooms are there, Jimmie? Can we invite people to stay with us over night?” demanded Bee.
“You cannot,” said Jimmie, firmly. “I said a house-boat, not a house party.”
“I shall ask the duke,” said Bee, clearing her throat in a pleased way. “Can’t I, Mrs. Jimmie?”
“Certainly, dear. Ask any one you like.”
“If you do,” growled Jimmie, who hates the duke because he wears gloves in hot weather, “I’ll invite the chambermaid and the head-waiter of this hotel.”
“We ought to be starting,” said Mrs. Jimmie, pacifically, and we started and went and arrived.
As we were driving to the station I noticed all the way along, and I had noticed them ever since we had been in London, large capital H’s on a white background, posted on stone walls, street corners, lampposts, and occasionally on the sidewalks.
“What are those H’s for, Jimmie?” I asked. To which he replied with this record-breaking joke:
“Those are the H’s that Englishmen have been dropping for generations, and being characteristic of this solid nation, they thus ossified them.”
I forgave Jimmie a good deal for that joke.
At the pier at Henley a man met us with a little boat and rowed us up the river, past dozens of house-boats moored along the bank.
The river had been boomed off for the races, which were to begin the next day, with little openings here and there for small boats to cross and recross between races. Private house-boat flags, Union Jacks, bunting, and plants made all the house-boats gay, except ours, which looked bare and forlorn and guiltless of decoration of any sort. It was fortunately situated within plain view of where the races would finish, and by using glasses we could see the start.
Several crews were out practising. One shell which flashed past us held a crew in orange and black sweaters. We had previously noticed that there was no American flag on any of the house-boats.
Orange and black! We nearly stood up in our excitement.
“What’s your college?” yelled Jimmie, hoping they were Americans.
“Princeton!” they yelled back.
With that Jimmie ripped open a long pole he was carrying, and the stars and stripes floated out over our shell. The Princeton crew shipped their oars, snatched off their caps, and responded by giving their college yell, ending with “Old Glo-ree! Old Glo-ree!! Old Glo-ree!!!” yelled three times with all the strength of their deep lungs.
That little glimpse of America made Bee and me shiver as if with ague, while Jimmie’s chin quivered and he muttered something about “darned smoke in his eyes.”
“Jimmie,” I said, excitedly, “they are rowing toward us to let us speak if we want to.”