“You couldn’t be ugly if you tried,” said Kate.
The woman suddenly began to sob again, this time slowly, as if her forces were almost spent. She looked to Kate for the sympathy she craved and for the first time really saw her closely.
“Why, you dear girl,” she cried. “Your face is all tear stained. You’ve been crying, yourself.”
“Roaring in a pillow,” admitted Kate.
“But my dear, forgive me! I was so upset with that dreadful woman. Forgive me for not having seen that you, too, are in trouble. Won’t you please tell me?”
“Of course,” said Kate. “I lost my new hat.”
“But, my dear! Crying over a hat? When it is so easy to get another? How foolish!” said the woman.
“Yes, but you didn’t see the hat,” said Kate. “And it will be far from easy to get another, with this one not paid for yet. I’m only one season removed from sunbonnets, so I never should have bought it at all.”
The woman moved in bed, and taking one of Kate’s long, crinkly braids, she drew the wealth of gold through her fingers repeatedly.
“Tell me about your hat,” she said.
So to humour this fragile woman, and to keep from thinking of her own trouble, Kate told the story of her Leghorn hat and ostrich plume, and many things besides, for she was not her usual terse self with her new friend who had to be soothed to forgetfulness.
Kate ended: “I was all wrong to buy such a hat in the first place. I couldn’t afford it; it was foolish vanity. I’m not really good-looking; I shouldn’t have flattered myself that I was. Losing it before it was paid for was just good for me. Never again will I be so foolish.”
“Why, my dear, don’t say such things or think them,” chided the little woman. “You had as good a right to a becoming hat as any girl. Now let me ask you one question, and then I’ll try to sleep. You said you were a teacher. Did you come here to attend the Summer School for Teachers?”
“Yes,” said Kate.
“Would it make any great difference to you if you missed a few days?” she asked.
“Not the least,” said Kate.
“Well, then, you won’t be offended, will you, if I ask you to remain with me and take care of me until John comes? I could send him a message to-night that I am alone, and bring him by this time to-morrow; but I know he has business that will cause him to lose money should he leave, and I was so wilful about coming, I dread to prove him right so conclusively the very first day. That door opens into a room reserved for Susette, if only you’d take it, and leave the door unclosed to-night, and if only you would stay with me until John comes I could well afford to pay you enough to lengthen your stay as long as you’d like; and it makes me so happy to be with such a fresh young creature. Will you stay with me, my dear?”
“I certainly will,” said Kate heartily. “If you’ll only tell me what I should do; I’m not accustomed to rich ladies, you know.”