It was while visiting with this teacher that Kate spoke of attending Normal again in an effort to prepare herself still better for the work of the coming year. Her new friend advised against it. She said the course would be only the same thing over again, with so little change or advancement, that the trip was not worth the time and money it would cost. She proposed that Kate go to Lake Chautauqua and take the teachers’ course, where all spare time could be put in attending lectures, and concerts, and studying the recently devised methods of education. Kate went from her to Nancy Ellen and Robert, determined at heart to go.
She was pleased when they strongly advised her to, and offered to help her get ready. Aside from having paid Agatha, and for her board, Kate had spent almost nothing on herself. She figured the probable expenses of the trip for a month, what it would cost her to live until school began again, if she were forced to go to Walden, and then spent all her remaining funds on the prettiest clothing she had ever owned. Each of the sisters knew how to buy carefully; then the added advantage of being able to cut and make their own clothes, made money go twice as far as where a dressmaker had to be employed. When everything they had planned was purchased, neatly made, and packed in a trunk, into which Nancy Ellen slipped some of her prettiest belongings, Kate made a trip to a milliner’s shop to purchase her first real hat.
She had decided on a big, wide-brimmed Leghorn, far from cheap. While she was trying the effect of flowers and ribbon on it, the wily milliner slipped up and with the hat on Kate’s golden crown, looped in front a bow of wide black velvet ribbon and drooped over the brim a long, exquisitely curling ostrich plume. Kate had one good view of herself, before she turned her back on the temptation.
“You look lovely in that,” said the milliner. “Don’t you like it?”
“I certainly do,” said Kate. “I look the best in that hat, with the black velvet and the plume, I ever did, but there’s no use to look twice, I can’t afford it.”
“Oh, but it is very reasonable! We haven’t a finer hat in the store, nor a better plume,” said the milliner.
She slowly waved it in all its glory before Kate’s beauty-hungry eyes. Kate turned so she could not see it.
“Please excuse one question. Are you teaching in Walden this winter?” asked the milliner.
“Yes,” said Kate. “I have signed the contract for that school.”
“Then charge the hat and pay for it in September. I’d rather wait for my money than see you fail to spend the summer under that plume. It really is lovely against your gold hair.”
“‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” quoted Kate. “No. I never had anything charged, and never expect to. Please have the black velvet put on and let me try it with the bows set and sewed.”
“All right,” said the milliner, “but I’m sorry.”