Read CHAPTER XIV of The Trimming of Goosie , free online book, by James Hopper, on ReadCentral.com.

Dolly came suddenly out of the fringe of the trees. It was dusk; the lake was aflash with leaping trout. And she came to him across the darkened meadow like a fawn panting for her retreat. He stood there petrified, but as she neared, felt his arms open in an irresistible and large movement; she nestled within them, her head on his heart.

They stood there long, without speaking a word, in the center of the dusky meadow, by the sparkling lake. Her face was on his breast; his arms were about her, but his eyes were looking straight ahead into the obscurity. He could feel her palpitate softly against him, and a tenderness like a warm pool was collecting in his heart.

“Dolly!” he said at length.

But she did not answer; only pushed farther into his embrace in a blind little snuggling movement like that of a puppy. He dropped his eyes down upon her, slyly. He could see her shoulders, agitated as if she were weeping, and a wisp of her golden hair, and one tip of a rosy ear; and then, nearer, he saw the furry toque with its white aigrette.

“You little Cossack!” he said, a bit huskily.

Again there was a silence; then he felt the vibration of her muffled voice against his chest. “Do you like it?” she asked timidly.

“It’s dandy,” he said.

The silence that followed was like that of a kitten after a cup of cream. Then the voice sounded again within the depths of his embrace.

“O, Goosie,” she sobbed; “I’ve been so miserable!”

“Poor little girl,” he growled, above there in the dark; “poor little girl!”

“All my money is gone, Goosie and the janitor was impolite and treated me dreadfully, and oh, Goosie, I’ve had such a terrible time!”

“Yes, yes, yes,” he said soothingly (I’ll kill that janitor, he thought, gnashing his teeth).

“Goosie,” began the voice again; “you won’t drive me away, will you? You won’t drive me away; I can stay to-night, can’t I? It’s so dark, and so cold! And in the morning, if you still don’t want me, I’ll I’ll go away, Goosie. I’ll go away and never, never bother you any more, Goosie; never! But let me stay to-night; Goosie, don’t drive me away to-night!”

“Good God!” groaned Charles-Norton, horrified at the very possibility, and suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of the enormity of his past conduct. “Good God, Dolly! don’t, don’t ”

“I can stay then to-night?” she asked, with a glimmer of hope, of hope that cannot believe itself. “I can stay to-night, Goosie?”

“Oh, Dolly, you can stay to-night, you can stay to-morrow night, you can stay always, Dolly, poor little Dolly,” moaned the agonized Charles-Norton. “We’ll stay here, always, together, Dolly. Never will I move from you again, Dolly; Dolly, my little wife, my love, my ”

Dolly snuggled back close. “Oh, Goosie,” she said, “if you let me stay, I’ll be so good! I won’t bother you at all, Goosie. You can do just what you want; I’ll let you have anything! I won’t bother you, you won’t know I’m here. I’ll just hide around and take care of you, Goosie, I’ll do anything! If only you’ll let me stay, Goosie!”

“Come,” he said, not daring to give his voice much of a chance; “come; let us go in.”

The little nose suddenly popped out like a squirrel’s out of its hole. She no longer wept, though he could see a tear still at the end of one of her lashes, agleam in the dark. She raised her head out of his arms and looked about her. “Oh,” she cried, “is that your house? What a cute baby-house! It’s pretty here, isn’t it?”

“It is beautiful!” he said enthusiastically. “We’ll be happy here. Come,” he said; and very close, her head upon his shoulders, his arm about her waist, they went slowly across the meadow to the cabin.

It was pleasant, somehow, the next morning, to loll about with trailing wings, undesirous of flight. The cabin, the meadow, had taken on a certain intimacy, a coziness; it was pleasant to remain there all day, upon earth, idle-winged.

Charles-Norton had his morning swim alone after vain attempts to entice Dolly, her eyes still full of blue sleep, into the crystal waters. Then he fished from his rock twice as long as he usually fished. And when he returned with his string of rainbows, Dolly, uncovering the dutch-oven which he had bought on his arrival, but the mystery of which he had never mastered, proudly showed him the cracked golden dome of a swelling loaf of bread. Its warm fragrance mingled with the pungent puffs coming from the curved nozzle of the coffee-pot, set in the glowing coals. He gave her the fish, all cleaned, and rolling them in corn-meal, she laid them delicately in the sizzling frying-pan, each by the side of a marbled strip of bacon.

There was no doubt that this breakfast was an improvement on breakfasts that had gone before. Bread is mighty good when one has not had any for nearly two months; and warm golden bread just out of the oven and made by Dolly is more than mighty good. The coffee had undeniably an aroma that it had not had of past mornings. And as you held up to the light, delicately between thumb and finger, a little trout with crisply-curved tail, and slipped it head first between eager white teeth, your eyes smiled into two other eyes (like blue stars), smiling back at you over just such another troutlet, golden crisp, entering in successive movements between just such eager teeth (small pearly ones, these).

Oh, you Charles-Norton!

He wore a blanket on his back, undulating from his shoulders, over his wings, to the ground. Dolly had put it there, fearing he would catch cold. Now and then, by some reflex action of which Charles-Norton was unconscious, the wings stirred uneasily to the burden and let it slip to the ground, upon which Dolly, springing up with a laugh, quickly replaced it. This happened so often that it became a game.

After breakfast Dolly, instead of throwing the dishes in a shallow spot of the lake, as it was the habit of Master Charles-Norton, placed them in a pot of boiling water, at the bottom of which, with wonder-eyes, he saw them miraculously dissolve to brightness. “You’re a genius, Dolly,” he said. She laughed, a silver peal that filled the clearing, then, going into the cabin, returned with his pipe all filled. Nicodemus came to them for his salt, then wandered off again. They sat side by side, their backs against the cabin-wall, the meadow before them, sloping to the lake; he smoked, and she was silent. The sun had risen. It inundated the western slopes with a cascade of light; here and there on the crest glaciers flashed signals; far to the west the plain palpitated liquidly; and above, the sky domed very high, a miracle of pellucid azure. A big sigh escaped Charles-Norton, with a blue wafture of smoke. “Isn’t this beautiful?” he said; “isn’t it beautiful?”

She said nothing, and so he repeated, “Isn’t it beautiful?” And then, curious of her silence, he turned to her. She was looking about her, at the trees, at the lake, and the great crags above, and as she looked, with an unconscious movement, she withdrew closer to him. “It’s awfully big,” she said, and her voice was almost a whisper.

“It’s big with beauty,” he said. “Look at the lake,” he went on, detailing with the pride of a suburban proprietor; “isn’t it silvery and fresh and clean!”

“It’s cold, isn’t it?” said Dolly.

“And the crest up there. Look at it. It is sculptured domes, spires, castles. And those gothic arches. They are like joined hands; the granite prays. And see the glisten of that glacier in the haze, like a star in the veil of a bride! It’s all beautiful!”

“They’re terribly big mountains, aren’t they?” said Dolly.

“See the plain away down there. It seems to heave slowly, like the flood after the rain had ceased.”

“Do people live there?” asked Dolly.

“And the sky; did you ever see such sky! And the meadow here, how fresh and lush; and the pines, and the cabin, and the lake isn’t it all quiet and peaceful?”

She was silent, and after a while he turned to her. A tear was trembling at the end of one of her long lashes. “Goosie,” she whispered, and she snuggled up against him; “Goosie, isn’t it a bit lonely here?”

“We won’t find it lonely,” he answered stoutly, and drew her close within his arms.

The day drawled on, slowly and deliciously. “Let’s take a little walk,” said Dolly, after a while.

“All right,” said Charles-Norton, “I guess I still know how. I haven’t walked much lately.”

“I suppose not,” said Dolly, hesitatingly. They were going side by side across the meadow, and Charles-Norton could feel her looking at him out of the corner of her eye. “I suppose you have been doing something else.”

“Yes,” laughed Charles-Norton, flushing a bit; “yes something else.”

Somehow they did not look at each other for a time after that, and walked a bit apart.

They drew together again little by little as they wandered over the clearing, in a close examination of their domain, which Charles-Norton, with his passion for big flights and sweeping outlooks, had up to now neglected. They found a miniature cascade that purled over a mossy log; a cave, so small and clean and regular that it seemed not the work of the big Nature about them, but of delicate, elfin hands; and then, on the edge of forest and grass, a flower, a trembling white chalice upon the virginal bosom of which one small touch of color burned like a flame. And thus, little step after little step, they went from little wonder to little wonder. Dolly liked small things; it was the microscopic aspect of Nature that touched her heart; she had an adjective all her own for such: they were “baby” things baby flowers, baby brooks, baby stars. This appealed less to Charles-Norton, hungry for big sweeps. And even now, he caught himself yawning once, and casting a look at the crest far away.

In the afternoon, in the full warmth of the clear sun, he inveigled her into the lake for a swim. They splashed in the silver waters like merman and mermaid; and when, after a glistening disappearance within the cabin, Dolly emerged again, she was tucked in a fuzzy bathrobe that made her look like a little bear.

They sat long afterward on a warm slope in the sun. Crickets hopped about them; Charles-Norton at intervals heard by his side Dolly’s musical giggle as one of them struck her. A bird on a long twig balanced above them, and for a time a squirrel chattered at them in mock scolding from the top of a pine. Little by little Charles-Norton sank into a profundity of well-being. He could see ahead, now, his life stretching placid and colored, solved at last, with both Dolly and the wings, uniting love and freedom, the ecstasies of flight with the tenderness of home

“Goosie,” said Dolly; “let’s go in.”

The sun was gone. It had sunk into the plain, far off. “Wait,” he whispered, looking toward the crest, inflamed with living light. The peaks gleamed, the domes glowed, the glaciers flashed, the whole sky-line crackled with a great band of color. Then swiftly from the plain a shadow ran up the mountain sides, extinguished, one after the other, peak, and dome, and glacier; it went up toward the clouds with its long swift lope: the clouds became burned rags.

“Let us go in,” said Dolly.

“Wait,” he said.

The night was pouring in over the crest, filling the meadow, the dome above; a velvety blueness palpitated vaguely about them; a star, as if touched by an unseen torch, suddenly sprang to light.

“Wait,” murmured Charles-Norton; “it is beautiful at this hour.”

But Dolly pressed against him with a little shiver. “I’m cold, Goosie,” she cried; “let us go in.”

They rose, went down the slope and across the meadow. Along the grass a frigid little haze was forming; it was true that it was cold. If Charles-Norton had been a practical man he would have observed that for the last two weeks, in fact, the nights had been growing more and more cold which might have introduced a disturbing factor in his dream of the coming days. But Charles-Norton, as has been seen, was not a practical man.

They sat within, by a glowing fire. “It’s nice to be home,” said Dolly. “It’s fine,” said Charles-Norton, stoutly.