Read CHAPTER XVIII of The Trimming of Goosie , free online book, by James Hopper, on

And now, how about Charles-Norton and Dolly?

Well, they are getting along very well; very well, very well indeed.

Of course, they have their little differences as have most couples. Mostly, it is about wings. There seems to be a something fundamental about both Charles-Norton and Dolly which irresistibly makes them diverge on the question of the proper length of wings (male wings at least). For a time, in fact, during the first months of their intoxicating public success and before they had arrived to the present adjustment, the question threatened to bring the conjugal craft to a final wreck. Strangely enough (or naturally enough) it is a catastrophe that eased the situation. One night, after Dolly, in a sudden access of resentment, had taken an immoderate whack out of the left wing, Charles-Norton tumbled to the ground in the midst of his performance, and broke his ankle.

It was, of course, in an agony of remorse that Dolly nursed her husband during his long month of enforced and bed-ridden idleness. Luckily, Bison Billiam behaved beautifully. He let the salary run on during the whole course of Charles-Norton’s incapacity, and then, with genial inspiration, prevailed upon him, when he had recovered, to make his public reappearance with the heavy plaster-of-paris cast still upon the injured leg which immensely increased the Flying Wonder’s popularity and success.

A modus vivendi was agreed upon after this, which is still in force and works very well. Bison Billiam was made the permanent arbitrator of the wing question. Whenever they have a little difference now, Charles-Norton and Dolly go to Bison Billiam, and, standing before him hand in hand, listen to a sage adjudication of their rights and their wrongs. They call him Papa Bison.

And so, they are quite happy. Dolly, of course, takes a keen pleasure in her home. She has a neat little brick house, with a white door, near the Riverside Drive, and a butler. A butler always had been Dolly’s secret dream.

Charles-Norton, also, though unconsciously perhaps, gets a good deal of pleasure out of the house (and the butler), for Dolly, with innate genius, has given it an air of quiet elegance and culture which he secretly enjoys. There is, also, a certain contentment in living life along a definite routine. He flies every night but Sunday, and two afternoons a week. And then, if Dolly has her house, he has his automobile.

A big, high-powered, red automobile. He goes out in it with Dolly every Sunday. When he arrives to a certain point in a certain highway, where the road is smooth and hard, and undulates up and down like a Coney Island chute for many miles, he leans forward and puts his chin close to the back of the chauffeur, who is French, and looks like Méphistophélès.

“Let her out,” he says.

The chauffeur, with a grin, “lets her out” and they swoop down and up, down and up, in increasing speed. The road is a ribbon, which she rolls hungrily within her; the trees, the rare houses on both sides, coalesce into two solid, whirling walls.

“Faster,” says Charles-Norton.

The world becomes two parallel planes of solid atmosphere, rushing along close to right and left; the air strikes their faces like a fist, closing their nostrils till they gasp; the machine’s hum becomes a cry; its flaps rise like wings.

“Faster,” says Charles-Norton.

He seems to leave his body; it wafts off behind on a current of air, like a hat and he is only a soul, a delicious kernel of soul ecstatically drunk, floating like an atom through the eternities.

“Faster,” he says.

But he is aware now of a shrill, insistent, strident sound. It drills into his soul; it will not be quiet; it will not let him be. Bing! His body, catching up from behind, drops about him again and then he knows. It is Dolly; Dolly screaming, poor little Dolly hysterical with fear.

“Slow up,” he says to the chauffeur.

The world gradually changes from a mere blur of parallel lines to visible groupings of matter. Trees, houses, the road, the sky reappear as through a curtain torn before them. The chauffeur wipes his brow. “Ah, Monsieur!” he says.

And Dolly, very pale, says with an impatience that seems weary, as though it were repeating itself for the thousandth time “Oh, Goosie, why, why, why will you scare me so?”

Charles-Norton is penitent, but a bit morose. “Gee,” he says; “that wasn’t fast. That wasn’t fast.” His eyes go off, very far; a vague, vague yearning, covered over with layer and layer of resignation, palpitates faintly at the pit of his being. “You don’t know what speeding is,” he murmurs; “you don’t know ”

The machine, at smooth half-speed, is returning toward the city. “I won’t go with you again,” says Dolly.

But she always does. She doesn’t like to ride fast, and he does, but she never lets him ride alone. ’Cause she loves him!

He will have to be more careful now, however. The other evening, as they sat in the cozy reading-room (lined with editions de luxe) after the performance, she got upon his knee and, hiding his eyes with her hands so he could not look at her, whispered something in his ear.

Charles-Norton sat silent a long moment after that. Then he said, as though speaking to himself: “I wonder if he will if he will also if he will ”

“I wonder; I wonder!” said Dolly, ecstatically, her eyes wide upon a splendid vision.

“We could keep them down,” said Charles-Norton, consideringly, “by beginning early. By beginning early, with bandages, we could keep them down ”

To his great amazement, Dolly dissented. “Oh, no, no, no, no!” she cried. “Oh, he would look so cute with them just like a little angel! Just like a little angel, Goosie!”

And Charles-Norton is still wondering about this differentiation in Dolly’s wise little head, wondering why he can, while Goosie can’t.