The eighteen pieces collected in Mrs. Golightly and Other Stories bring together the many and subtle voices of Ethel Wilson, demonstrating her extraordinary range as a writer. From the gentle mockery of the title story to the absurdist reportage of “Mr. Sleepwalker,” Wilson exerts unerring narrative control. Revealing what is “simple and complicated and timeless” in everyday life, these stories also venture into irrational realms of experience where chance encounters assume a malevolent form and coincidence transmuted into nightmare.
First published in 1961, Mrs. Golightly and Other Stories is a diverse and rewarding collection, unified by Ethel Wilson’s distinct and engaging wit.
From the Paperback edition.close this panel
Mrs. Golightly and the First Convention
Mrs. Golightly was a shy woman. She lived in Vancouver. Her husband, Tommy Golightly, was not shy. He was personable and easy to like. He was a consulting engineer who was consulted a great deal by engineering firms, construction firms, logging firms in particular, any firm that seemed to have problems connected with traction. When he was not being consulted he played golf, tennis, or bridge according to whether the season was spring, summer, autumn or winter. Any time that was left over he spent with his wife and three small children of whom he was very fond. When he was with them, it seemed that that was what he liked best. He was a very extroverted sort of man, easy and likeable, and his little wife was so shy that it just was not fair.
At the period of which I write, Conventions had not begun to take their now-accepted place in life on the North American continent. I am speaking of Conventions with a capital C. Conventions with a small c have, of course, always been with us, but not as conspicuously now as formerly. In those days, when a man said rather importantly I am going to a Convention, someone was quite liable to ask What is a Convention? Everyone seemed to think that they must be quite a good thing, which of course they are. We now take them for granted.
Now Mr. Golightly was admirably adapted to going to Conventions. His memory for names and faces was good; he liked people, both in crowds and separately; he collected acquaintances who rapidly became friends. Everyone liked him.
One day he came home and said to his wife, “How would you like a trip to California?”
Mrs. Golightly gave a little gasp. Her face lighted up and she said, “Oh Tom . . . !”
“There’s a Western and Middle Western Convention meeting at Del Monte the first week of March, and you and I are going down,” said Mr. Golightly.
Mrs. Golightly’s face clouded and she said in quite a different tone and with great alarm, “Oh Tom . . . !”
“Well, what?” said her husband.
Mrs. Golightly began the sort of hesitation that so easily overcame her. “Well, Tom,” she said, “I’d have to get a hat, and I suppose a suit and a dinner dress, and Emmeline isn’t very good to leave with the children and you know I’m no good with crowds and people, I never know what to say, and –”
“Well, get a new hat,” said her husband, “get one of those hats I see women wearing with long quills on. And get a new dress. Get twenty new dresses. And Emmeline’s fine with the children and what you need’s a change, and I’m the only one in my profession invited from British Columbia. You get a hat with the longest feather in town and a nice dinner dress!” Mr. Golightly looked fondly at his wife and saw with new eyes that she appeared anxious and not quite as pretty as she sometimes was. He kissed her and she promised that she would get the new hat, but he did not know how terrified she was of the Convention and all the crowds of people, and that she suffered at the very thought of going. She could get along all right at home, but small talk with strangers – oh, poor Mrs. Golightly. These things certainly are not fair. However, she got the dress, and a new hat with the longest quill in town. She spent a long time at the hairdresser’s; and how pretty she looked and how disturbed she felt! “I’ll break the quill every time I get into the car, Tom,” she said.
“Non-sense,” said her husband, and they set off in the car for California.
Mrs. Golightly travelled in an old knitted suit and a felt hat pulled down on her head in observance of a theory which she had inherited from her mother that you must never wear good clothes when travelling. The night before arriving at Del Monte a car passing them at high speed side-swiped them ever so little, but the small damage and fuss that resulted from that delayed them a good deal. The result was that they got late to bed that night, slept little, rose early, and had to do three hundred miles before lunch. Mrs. Golightly began to feel very tired in spite of some mounting excitement, but this did not make her forget to ask her husband to stop at the outskirts of Del Monte so that she could take her new hat out of the bag and put it on. Mr. Golightly was delighted with the way his wife was joining in the spirit of the thing. “Good girl,” he said, which pleased her, and neither of them noticed that nothing looked right about Mrs. Golightly except her hat, and even smart hats, worn under those circumstances, look wrong.
How impressive it was to Mrs. Golightly, supported by her hat, to approach the portals of the fashionable Del Monte Hotel. Large cars reclined in rows, some sparkling, some dimmed by a film of dust, all of them costly. Radiant men and women, expensively dressed (the inheritors of the earth, evidently), strolled about without a care in the world, or basked on the patio, scrutinizing new arrivals with experienced eyes. Mrs. Golightly had already felt something formidably buoyant in the air of California, accustomed as she was to the mild, soft and (to tell the truth) sometimes deliciously drowsy air of the British Columbia coast. The air she breathed in California somehow alarmed her. Creatures customarily breathing this air must, she thought, by nature, be buoyant, self-confident – all the things that Mrs. Golightly was not. Flowers bloomed, trees threw their shade, birds cleft the air, blue shone the sky, and Mrs. Golightly, dazzled, knocked her hat crooked as she got out of the car, and she caught the long quill on the door. She felt it snick. Oh, she thought, my darling quill!
No sooner had they alighted from their car, which was seized on all sides by hotel minions of great competence, than her husband was surrounded by prosperous men who said, “Well Tom! And how’s the boy! Say Tom this is great!” And Tom turned from side to side greeting, expansive, the most popular man in view. Mrs. Golightly had no idea that Tom had so many business friends that loved him dearly. And then with one accord these prosperous men turned their kindly attention to Mrs. Golightly. It overwhelmed her but it really warmed her heart to feel that they were all so pleased that she had come, and that she had come so far, and although she felt shy, travel-worn and tired, she tried to do her best and her face shone sweetly with a desire to please.
“Now,” said the biggest of the men, “the boys are waiting for you, Tom. Up in one three three. Yes in one three three. And Mrs. Golightly I want you to meet Mrs. Allyman of the Ladies’ Committee. Mrs. Allyman meet Mrs. Tom Golightly from British Columbia. Will you just register her please, we’ve planned a good time for the ladies, Tom . . . we’ll take good care of Tom, Mrs. Golightly.” And Mr. Golightly said, “But my wife . . .” and then a lot of people streamed in, and Tom and the other men said, “Well, well, well, so here’s Ed! Say, Ed . . .” and the words streamed past Mrs. Golightly and Tom was lost to her view.
A lump that felt large came in her throat because she was so shy, and Tom was not to be seen, but Mrs. Allyman was very kind and propelled her over to a group of ladies and said, “Oh this is the lady from British Columbia, the name is Golightly isn’t it? Mrs. Golightly I want you to meet Mrs. Finkel and Mrs. Connelly and Mrs. Magnus and – pardon me I didn’t catch the name – Mrs. Sloper from Colorado. Oh there’s the President’s wife Mrs. Bagg. Well Mrs. Bagg did you locate Mr. Bagg after all, no doubt he’s in one three three. Mrs. Golightly I’d like to have you meet Mrs. Bagg and Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. Bagg, Mrs. Finkel, Mrs. Bagg, and Mrs. Sloper, Mrs. Bagg. Mrs. Golightly is all the way from British Columbia, I think that’s where you come from, Mrs. Golightly?” Mrs. Allyman, speaking continually, seemed to say all this in one breath. By the time that Mrs. Golightly’s vision had cleared (although she felt rather dizzy), she saw that all these ladies were chic, and that they wore hats with very long quills, longer even than hers, which made her feel much more secure. However, her exhilaration was passing; she realized that she was quite tired, and she said, smiling sweetly, “I think I’d better find my room.” The hubbub in the hotel rotunda increased and increased.
When she reached her room she found that Tom had sent the bags up, and she thought she would unpack, and lie down for a bit to get rested, and then go down and have a quiet lunch. Perhaps she would see Tom somewhere. But first she went over to the window and looked out upon the incredible radiance of blue and green and gold, and the shine of the ethereal air. She looked at the great oak trees and the graceful mimosa trees and she thought, After I’ve tidied up and had some lunch I’ll just go and sit under one of those beautiful mimosa trees and drink in this . . . this largesse of air and scent and beauty. Mrs. Golightly had never seen anything like it. The bright air dazzled her, and made her sad and gay. Just then the telephone rang. A man’s strong and purposeful voice said, “Pardon me, but may I speak to Tom?”
“Oh I’m sorry,” said Mrs. Golightly, “Tom’s not here.”
“Can you tell me where I can get him?” asked the voice very urgently.
“I’m so sorry . . . ,” faltered Mrs. Golightly.
“Sorry to troub . . .” said the voice and the telephone clicked off.
There. The Convention had invaded the bedroom, the azure sky, and the drifting grace of the mimosa tree outside the bedroom window.
“I think,” said Mrs. Golightly to herself, “if I had a bath it would freshen me, I’m beginning to have a headache.” She went into the bathroom and gazed with pleasure on its paleness and coolness and shiningness, on the lavish array of towels, and an uneven picture entered and left her mind of the bathroom at home, full, it seemed to her, of the essentials for cleaning and dosing a father and mother and three small children, non-stop. The peace! The peace of it! She lay in the hot water regarding idly and alternately the soap which floated agreeably upon the water, and the window through which she saw blue sky of an astonishing azure.
The telephone rang. She dripped to the telephone. “Is that Mrs. Goodman?” purred a voice.
“No no, not Mrs. Goodman,” said Mrs. Golightly, wrapped in a towel.
“I’m so sorry,” purred the voice.
Mrs. Golightly got thankfully into the bath and turned on some more hot water.
The telephone rang.
She scrambled out, “Hello, hello?”
“There’s a wire at the desk for Mr. Golightly,” said a voice, “shall we send it up?”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Mrs. Golightly, wrapped in a towel, “well . . . not yet . . . not for half an hour.”
“Okay,” said the voice.
She got back into the bath. She closed her eyes in disturbed and recovered bliss.
The telephone rang.
“Hello, hello,” said Mrs. Golightly plaintively, wrapped in a very damp towel.
“Is that Mrs. Golightly?” said a kind voice.
“Yes, oh yes,” agreed Mrs. Golightly.
“Well, this is Mrs. Porter speaking and we’d be pleased if you’d join Mrs. Bagg and Mrs. Wilkins and me in the Tap Room and meet some of the ladies and have a little drink before lunch.”
“Oh thank you, thank you, that will be just lovely, I’d love to,” said Mrs. Golightly. Away went the sky, away went the birds, away went the bath, and away went the mimosa tree.
“Well, that will be lovely,” said Mrs. Porter, “in about half an hour?”
“Oh thank you, thank you, that will be lovely . . . !” said Mrs. Golightly, repeating herself considerably.
She put on her new gray flannel suit which was only slightly rumpled, and straightened the tip of her quill as best she could. She patted her rather aching forehead with cold water and felt somewhat refreshed. She paid particular and delicate attention to her face, and left her room looking and feeling quite pretty but agitated.
When she got down to the Tap Room everyone was having Old-Fashioneds and a little woman in gray came up and said, “Pardon me but are you Mrs. Golightly from British Columbia? Mrs. Golightly, I’d like to have you meet Mrs. Bagg (our President’s wife) and Mrs. Gillingham from St. Louis, Mrs. Wilkins from Pasadena; Mrs. Golightly, Mrs. Finkel and – pardon me? – Mrs. Connelly and Mrs. Allyman of Los Angeles.”
Mrs. Golightly felt confused, but she smiled at each lady in turn, saying “How do you do,” but neglected to remember or repeat their names because she was so inexperienced. She slipped into a chair and a waiter brought her an Old-Fashioned. She then looked round and tried hard to memorize the ladies nearly all of whom had stylish hats with tall quills on. Mrs. Bagg very smart. Mrs. Wilkins with pince-nez. Little Mrs. Porter in gray. Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. Connelly and Mrs. Finkel in short fur capes. Mrs. Finkel was lovely, of a gorgeous pale beauty. Mrs. Golightly sipped her Old-Fashioned and tried to feel very gay indeed. She and Mrs. Connelly who came from Chicago found that each had three small children, and before they had finished talking a waiter brought another Old-Fashioned. Then Mrs. Connelly had to speak to a lady on her other side, and Mrs. Golightly turned to the lady on her left. This lady was not talking to anyone but was quietly sipping her Old-Fashioned. By this time Mrs. Golightly was feeling unusually bold and responsible, and quite like a woman of the world. She thought to herself, Come now, everyone is being so lovely and trying to make everyone feel at home, and I must try too.
So she said to the strange lady, “I don’t think we met, did we? My name is Mrs. Golightly and I come from British Columbia.” And the lady said, “I’m pleased to meet you. I’m Mrs. Gampish and I come from Toledo, Ohio.” And Mrs. Golightly said, “Oh isn’t this a beautiful hotel and wouldn’t you like to see the gardens?” and then somehow everyone was moving.
When Mrs. Golightly got up she felt as free as air, but as if she was stepping a little high. When they reached the luncheon table there must have been about a hundred ladies and of course everyone was talking. Mrs. Golightly was seated between two perfectly charming people, Mrs. Carillo from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Mrs. Clark from Phoenix, Arizona. They both said what a cute English accent she had and she had to tell them because she was so truthful that she had never been in England. It was a little hard to talk as there was an orchestra and Mrs. Golightly and Mrs. Carillo and Mrs. Clark were seated just below the saxophones. Mrs. Golightly couldn’t quite make out whether she had no headache at all, or the worst headache of her life. This is lovely, she thought as she smiled back at her shouting companions, but how nice it would be to go upstairs and lie down. Just for half an hour after lunch, before I go and sit under the mimosa tree.
But when the luncheon was over, Mrs. Wilkins clapped her hands and said, “Now Ladies, cars are waiting at the door and we’ll assemble in the lobby for the drive.” And Mrs. Golightly said, “Oh hadn’t I better run upstairs and see whether my husband . . .” But Mrs. Wilkins said again, “Now Ladies!” So they all gathered in the lobby, and for one moment, one moment, Mrs. Golightly was still.
Oh, she thought, I feel awful, and I am so sleepy, and I feel a little queer. But she soon started smiling again, and they all got into motor cars.
She got into a nice car with some other ladies whom she did not know. They all had tall quills on their hats which made it awkward. Mrs. Golightly was the smallest and sat in the middle. She turned from side to side with great politeness. Flick, flick went the quills, smiting against each other. Well, we’d better introduce ourselves, she thought. But the lady on her right had already explained that she was Mrs. Johnson from Seattle, so she turned to her left and said to the other stranger, “Do tell me your name? I’m Mrs. Golightly and I come from British Columbia.”
The other lady said a little stiffly, “Well, I’m Mrs. Gampish and I come from Toledo, Ohio,” and Mrs. Golightly felt awful and said, “Oh Mrs. Gampish, how stupid of me, we met in the Tap Room, of course! So many people!” “Oh, it’s quite all right,” said Mrs. Gampish rather coldly. But she and Mrs. Johnson soon found that their husbands both had gastric ulcers and so they had a very very interesting conversation. Mrs. Golightly did not join in because she had nothing to offer in the way of an ulcer, as she and Tom and the children never seemed to be ill and the ladies did not appear to need sympathy. She dodged this way and that behind Mrs. Gampish and Mrs. Johnson, interfering with their quills, and peering at gleaming Spanish villas enfolded in green, blazing masses of flowers, a crash and white spume of breakers, a twisted Monterey pine – they all rushed dazzling past the car windows – villas, pines, ocean and all. If I were courageous or even tactful, thought Mrs. Golightly, I could ask to sit beside the window where I want to be, and these ladies could talk in comfort (the talk had moved from ulcers to their sons’ fraternities), which is what they wish, but she knew that she was not skilful in such matters, and it would not do. Oh, she yearned, if I could ever be a woman of the world and achieve these simple matters!
Then all the cars stopped at a place called Point Lobos, and everybody got out.
Mrs. Golightly sped swiftly alone toward the cliffs. She stood on a high rock overlooking the vast ocean, and the wind roared and whistled about her. She took off her hat as the whistling, beating broken quill seemed to impede her. She looked down and could hardly believe the beauty that lay below her. Green ocean crashed and broke in towering spray on splintered rocky islets, on the cliffs where she stood, and into swirling, sucking, rock-bound bays and caves. In the translucent green waves played joyous bands of seals, so joyous that they filled her with rapture. Bellowing seals clambered upon the rocks, but the din of wind and ocean drowned their bellowing. The entrancement of sea and sky and wind and the strong playing bodies of the seals so transported Mrs. Golightly that she forgot to think, Oh I must tell the children, and how Tom would love this! She was one with the rapture of that beautiful unexpected moment. She felt someone beside her and turned. There was Mrs. Carillo with a shining face. They shouted at each other, laughing with joy, but could not hear each other, and stood arm in arm braced against the wind, looking down at the playing bands of seals.
As the party assembled again, Mrs. Golightly stepped aside and waited for Mrs. Gampish and Mrs. Johnson to get in first. Then she got in, and sat down beside the window. Conversation about Point Lobos and the seals became general, and Mrs. Johnson who was in the middle found herself turning from side to side, bending and catching her quill. They then became quiet, and the drive home was peaceful. I shall never forget, thought Mrs. Golightly, as the landscape and seascape flashed past her rather tired eyes, the glory of Point Lobos, and the strong bodies of the seals playing in the translucent water. Whatever happens to me on earth, I shall never never forget it.
When she arrived at the hotel she discovered that she was nearly dead with excitement and noise and fatigue and when Tom came in she said, because she was so simple and ignorant, “Oh darling, can we have dinner somewhere quietly tonight, I must tell you about all those seals.” Tom looked shocked, and said, “Seals? But darling, aren’t you having a good time? I was just talking to Mr. Bagg and he tells me that you made a great hit with his wife. This is a Convention, you know,” he said reprovingly, “and you can’t do that kind of thing! Seals indeed! Where’s your programme? Yes, Ladies’ Dinner in the Jacobean Room, and I’ll be at the Men’s.” And Mrs. Golightly said, “Oh, Tom . . . Yes, of course, I know, how stupid of me . . . I’m having the loveliest time, Tom, and we had the loveliest drive, and now I’m really going to have a proper bath and a rest before I dress.” And Tom said, “Fine! But can I have the bathroom first because . . .” and then the telephone rang and Tom said, “Yes? Yes, Al, what’s that? In the Tap Room? In fifteen minutes? Make it twenty, Al, I want to have a bath and change. Okay, Al . . . That was Al, dear. I’ll have to hurry but you have a good rest.” And then the telephone rang and it was Mrs. Wilkins and she said, “Oh Mrs. Golightly, will you join Mrs. Porter and me and some of the ladies in my room one seven five for cocktails at six o’clock? I do hope it won’t rush you. One seven five. Oh that will be lovely.” “Oh, yes, that will be lovely,” said Mrs. Golightly. She put her hands to her face and then she took out her blue dinner dress and began pressing it, and away went the bath and away went the rest and away went the mimosa tree. Tom came out of the bathroom and said, “Whyever aren’t you lying down? That’s the trouble with you, you never will rest! Well, so long darling, have a good time.” He went, and she finished pressing her dress and put it on.
The next time Mrs. Golightly saw Tom was downstairs in the hotel lobby as she waited with some of the other ladies to go into the ladies’ dinner. Tom was in the middle of a group of men who walked down the centre of the lobby. They walked almost rolling with grandeur or something down the lobby, owning it, sufficient unto themselves, laughing together at their own private jokes and unaware of anyone else. But Mr. Golightly’s eyes fell on his wife. He saw how pretty she looked and was delighted with her. He checked the flow of men down the lobby and stepped forward and said, “Terry, I want you to meet Mr. Flanagan; Bill, this is my wife.” A lively and powerful small man seized Mrs. Golightly’s hand and held it and looked admiringly at her and said, “Well, Mrs. Golightly, I certainly am pleased to meet you. I’ve just got Tom here to promise that you and he will come and stay with Mrs. Flanagan and me this fall when the shooting’s good up at our little place in Oregon – now, no argument, it’s all settled, you’re coming!” What a genial host! It would be a pleasure to stay with Mr. Flanagan.
Tom beamed in a pleased way, and Mrs. Golightly’s face sparkled with pleasure. “Oh Mr. Flanagan,” she said, “how kind! Tom and I will just love to come.” (Never a word or thought about What shall we do with the children – just “We’d love to come.”) “So that’s settled,” said Mr. Flanagan breezily, and the flow of men down the hotel lobby was resumed.
At dinner Mrs. Golightly sat beside a nice woman from San Francisco called Mrs. de Kay who had once lived in Toronto so of course they had a lot in common. Before dinner everyone had had one or two Old-Fashioneds, and as the mists cleared a bit, Mrs. Golightly had recognized Mrs. Bagg, Mrs. Connelly, dear Mrs. Carillo, and beautiful Mrs. Finkel. How lovely was Mrs. Finkel, sitting in blonde serenity amidst the hubbub, in silence looking around her with happy gentle gaze. You could never forget Mrs. Finkel. Her face, her person, her repose, her shadowed eyes invited scrutiny. You gazed with admiration and sweetly she accepted your admiration. While all around her were vivacious, Mrs. Finkel sat still. But now Mrs. Finkel and Mrs. Carillo were far down the table and Mrs. Golightly conversed with Mrs. de Kay as one woman of the world to another. How well I’m coming along! she thought, and felt puffed up.
During the sweet course she became hot with shame! She had not spoken a word to the lady on her left who wore a red velvet dress. She turned in a gushing way and said to the lady in the red dress who, she realized, was not speaking to anyone at the moment, “Isn’t this a delightful dinner! We haven’t had a chance of a word with each other, have we, and I don’t believe we’ve met, but I’m Mrs. Golightly from British Columbia.”
The lady in the red cut-velvet dress turned towards Mrs. Golightly and said clearly, “I am Mrs. Gampish, and I come from Toledo, Ohio.” Their eyes met.
Mrs. Golightly remained silent. Blushes flamed over her. She thought, This is, no doubt, some dreadful dream from which I shall soon awake. And still the chatter and clatter and music went on. Mrs. Golightly could not think of anything to say. Mrs. Gampish continued to eat her dessert. Mrs. Golightly attempted to smile in a society way, but it was no good, and she couldn’t say a thing.
After dinner there was bridge and what do you suppose? Mrs. Golightly was set to play with Mrs. Magnus and Mrs. Finkel and Mrs. Gampish. Trembling a little, she stood up.
“I think I will go to bed,” she said. She could not bear to think of Mrs. Gampish being compelled to play bridge with her.
“No, I shall go to bed,” said Mrs. Gampish.
“No, do let me go to bed,” cried Mrs. Golightly, “I simply insist on going to bed.”
“And I insist on going to bed too,” said Mrs. Gampish firmly. “In any case I have a headache.” Mrs. Magnus and Mrs. Finkel looked on in amazement.
“No no, I shall go to bed,” said Mrs. Golightly in distress.
“No, I shall go to bed,” said Mrs. Gampish. It was very absurd.
Mrs. Bagg hurried up. “Everything all set here?” she said in a hostess voice.
Mrs. Gampish and Mrs. Golightly said, speaking together, “I am going to bed.”
“Oh, don’t both go to bed,” pleaded Mrs. Bagg, unaware of any special feeling. “If one of you must go to bed, do please one of you stay, and I will make the fourth.”
Mrs. Golightly considered and acted quickly. “If Mrs. Gampish really wants to go to bed,” she said, timidly but with effect, “I will stay . . . a slight headache . . .” she said bravely fluttering her fingers and batting her eyelashes which were rather long.
Mrs. Gampish did not argue any more. She said good night to the ladies, and left.
“Oh do excuse me a minute,” said Mrs. Golightly, flickering her eyelashes, and she caught Mrs. Gampish at the elevator. Mrs. Gampish looked at her with distaste.
“I want to tell you, Mrs. Gampish,” said Mrs. Golightly with true humility, and speaking very low, “that I have never been to a Convention before, and I want to confess to you my stupidity. I am not really rude, only stupid and so shy although I have three children that I am truly in a whirl. Will you be able ever to forgive me? . . . It would be very kind of you if you feel that you could. Oh, please do try.”
There was a silence between them as the elevators came and went. Then Mrs. Gampish gave a wan smile.
“You are too earnest, my child,” she said. (“Oh how good you are,” breathed Mrs. Golightly) “I wouldn’t myself know one person in this whole Convention – except Mrs. Finkel and no one could forget her,” continued Mrs. Gampish, “and I never knew you each time you told me who you were until you told me, so you needn’t have worried. If you want to know why I’m going to bed, it’s because I don’t like bridge and anyway, I do have a headache.”
“Oh I’m so glad you really have a headache, no I mean I’m so sorry, and I think you’re perfectly sweet, Mrs. Gampish, and if ever you come to Canada . . .” and she saw the faintly amused smile of Mrs. Gampish going up in the elevator. “Well I never,” she said, but she felt happier.
She turned, and there was Tom hurrying past. “Oh Tom,” she called. He stopped.
“Having a good time darling?” he said in a hurry. “D’you want to come to the meeting at Salt Lake City next year?” and he smiled at her encouragingly.
“Oh Tom,” she said, “I’d adore it!” (What a changed life. Del Monte, Mr. Flanagan’s shooting lodge, Salt Lake City all in a minute, you might say)
“Well, well!” said Tom in surprise and vanished.
On the way to her bedroom that night Mrs. Golightly met Mr. Flanagan walking very slowly down the hall.
“How do you do, Mr. Flanagan!” said Mrs. Golightly gaily. She felt that he was already her host at his shooting lodge.
Mr. Flanagan stopped and looked at her seriously as from a great distance. It was obvious that he did not know her. “How do you do,” he said very carefully and with a glazed expression. “Did we meet or did we meet? In any case, how do you do.” And he continued walking with the utmost care down the corridor.
“Oh . . . ,” said Mrs. Golightly, her eyes wide open . . . “oh . . .” It was probable that Mr. Flanagan invited everyone to the shooting lodge. The shooting lodge began to vanish like smoke.
When she entered the bedroom she saw that in her hurry before dinner she had not put her hat away. The quill was twice bent, and it dangled. She took scissors and cut it short. There, she thought, caressing and smoothing the feather, it looks all right, doesn’t it? She had felt for a moment very low, disintegrated, but now as she sat on the bed in her blue dinner dress she thought, Mr. Flanagan isn’t a bit afraid to be him and Mrs. Gampish isn’t a bit afraid to be her and now I’m not a bit afraid to be me . . . at least, not much. As she looked down, smoothing her little short feather, a dreamy smile came on her face. Seals swam through the green waters of her mind, Mrs. Finkel passed and repassed in careless loveliness. Mrs. Gampish said austerely, “Too earnest, my child, too earnest.” The ghost of the mimosa tree drifted, drifted. Salt Lake City, she thought fondly . . . and then . . . where? . . . anticipation . . . a delicious fear . . . an unfamiliar pleasure.
Mrs. Golightly was moving out of the class for beginners. She is much more skilful now (how agile and confiding are her eyelashes!) and when her husband says, “There’s going to be a Convention in Mexico City” (or Chilliwack or Trois Rivières), she says with delight, “Oh Tom . . . !”
ETHEL WILSON was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1888. In 1898, she moved to Vancouver to live with her maternal grandmother. In the 1930s Wilson published a few short stories and began a series of family reminiscences, which were later transformed into The Innocent Traveller. Her first published novel, Hetty Dorval, appeared in 1947, and her fiction career ended fourteen years later with the publication of her story collection, Mrs. Golightly and Other Stories.
DAVID STOUCK is a professor of English at Simon Fraser University.close this panel