She met them at the gate, after their week’s camping. They were feeling in splendid health, the best spirits possible in the circumstances, but appearing dirty and disreputable. They were both laughing as they approached the gate.
“Purty lookin’ bride you be!” Mrs. Holt spat at Kate.
“Yes, aren’t I?” laughed Kate. “But you just give me a tub of hot soapsuds and an hour, and you won’t know me. How are you? Things look as if you were expecting us.”
“Hump!” said Mrs. Holt.
Kate laughed and went into the house. George stepped in front of his mother.
“Now you look here,” he said. “I know every nasty thing your mind has conjured up that you’d like to say, and have other folks say, about Kate. And I know as well as if you were honest enough to tell me, that you haven’t been able to root out one living soul who would say a single word against her. Swallow your secret! Swallow your suspicions! Swallow your venom, and forget all of them. Kate is as fine a woman as God ever made, and anybody who has common sense knows it. She can just make me, if she wants to, and she will; she’s coming on fine, much faster and better than I hoped for. Now you drop this! Stop it! Do you hear?”
He passed her and hurried up the walk. In an hour, both George and Kate had bathed and dressed in their very best. Kate put on her prettiest white dress and George his graduation suit. Then together they walked to the post office for their mail, which George had ordered held, before they left. Carrying the bundle, they entered several stores on trifling errands, and then went home. They stopped and spoke to everyone. Kate kissed all her little pupils she met, and told them to come to see her, and to be ready to help clean the schoolhouse in the morning. Word flew over town swiftly. The Teacher was back, wearing the loveliest dress, and nicer than ever, and she had invited folks to come to see her.
Kate and George had scarcely finished their supper, when the first pair of shy little girls came for their kisses and to bring “Teacher” a bunch of flowers and a pretty pocket handkerchief from each. They came in flocks, each with flowers, most with a towel or some small remembrance; then the elders began to come, merchants with comforts, blankets, and towels, hardware men with frying pans, flat irons, and tinware. By ten o’clock almost everyone in Walden had carried Kate some small gift, wished her joy all the more earnestly, because they felt the chances of her ever having it were so small, and had gone their way, leaving her feeling better than she had thought possible.