“Hmmm…”Father looked them over. Abigail, aged 14, trying very hard to look like a grown up lady in her best gown and hat; Adeline, 12, fidgeting but trying to control herself, also dressed in her best; Amelia, 10, pulling of her skirt and buffing one shoe against her stocking, grinning under her Sunday bonnet, and little Annabelle, dressed in a pretty summer dress and, as usual, hatless. At the end of the line was his only son, twin to Abigail, Aubrey Arthur Alexander, called triple A by his sisters. He looked quite the young gentleman in his tweed suit and cap, shoes gleaming. Though he tried not to show it, he was as excited as the girls. They were going to Henley-on-Thames for the annual Regatta.
“All right, everyone out and into the automobile, and mind you sit still and be quiet while I am driving.” The children chorused “Yes father”, and ran off. Andrew Watson watched them go, smiling proudly, and turned to greet his wife as she came down the stairs. He felt his heart swell with love at the sight of her, his sweet Alison, glowing with health and dressed as always in the newest style. Blue suited her above all other colours, with her golden hair and blue eyes. Smiling, he held out his hand. “Shall we go, my dear?” he asked. She took his hand, smiled, and they went out.
The drive to Henley-on-Thames was not too long, and it was well before noon when they were walking along the Thames shore to find advantageous places to watch the races. The one they were most interested in was the Grand Challenge Cup race, with men’s eights racing for the prestigious prize. Andrew had been one of the eight to compete in the first Grand Challenge Cup in 1839, and whenever they were able to make the trip, made sure they had a good vantage point to cheer their own crew on.
Soon the banks of the river were crowded, and the starting gun was heard. Cheers and shouts broke out, and everyone surged forward to watch for their own crew skimming by, urged on by the excited crowd.
Annabelle, as usual, had managed to worm her way through the crowd, and was on the very edge of the river when the people lunged ahead. Too late, a man realised that she was right in front of him. He grabbed for her, but missed, and with a squeal of fright she went in. He got down on his knees and tried to grasp her arm, but she was panicked, arms and legs splashing. She went down.
Suddenly, a teenage body pushed by, and Aubrey dove in. He went under, groping for his sister. He couldn’t see much, but he felt cloth, and grasped it, pulling until he could feel the little body. Annabelle flung an arm out and gave him a hard thump on the side of his head, but he held on, swimming to the surface. Eager hands reached out and took the child from him, and others helped him back on land.
By this time the whole family had pushed through the crowd and they gathered around. One of the gentlemen nearby pushed through. “Let me past, please, I am a doctor,” he was saying. He dropped to his knees beside Annabelle, and proceeded to press her chest, causing the water she had taken in to gush out. In a very few moments, she coughed, and started crying.
Mother knelt beside her, gathering her in her arms. “Hush, my love. It’s all right now.” She whispered softly. She looked up at Andrew and the other children. She will be all right, I’m sure she will.” She turned to the doctor, who was standing by, smiling. “She will, won’t she, sir?”
The doctor smiled. “Yes, Ma’am, she should be fine. If she shows any signs of fever, bring her to me immediately. I am Dr. James Worrall, of Harley Street. Here is my card.” He turned and gave Andrew a card. “The water in the river is not the cleanest, so here is a possibility she will sicken. However, I have known many who have fallen in and suffered no serious consequences, and she was in only a very short time, thanks to this brave young man.” He turned to Aubrey. “Well done, son. You thought and acted quickly, and many men fail to do so.”
“Oh, Triple A,” Abigail hugged him. You are a hero!” The other girls agreed. “Triple A is our hero – he saved our little sister!” they chanted, dancing in a circle around him. Aubrey smiled shyly, blushing, as Father reached out and shook his hand. “Well son, son. We are all proud of you. Now, I think we should get you and Annabelle back home and dry. By the way, did anyone see who won the race?”
He was told his crew had won, and that, for him, was the crowning touch to the day.