“Thank you,” said Kate. “It is just ‘the speaking image’ of my hat, but it’s a glorified, sublimated, celestial image. What I described was merely a hat. This is what I think I have lately heard Nancy Ellen mention as a ‘creation.’ Wheuuuuuu!”
She went to the mirror, arranged her hair, set the hat on her head, and turned.
“Gracious Heaven!” said Mrs. Jardine. “My dear, I understand now why you wore that hat on your journey.”
“I wore that hat,” said Kate, “as an ascension stalk wears its crown of white lilies, as a bobolink wears its snowy courting crest, as a bride wears her veil; but please take this from me to-night, lest I sleep in it!”
That night Mrs. Jardine felt tired enough to propose resting in her room, with Jennie Weeks where she could be called; so for the first time Kate left her, and, donning her best white dress and the hat, attended a concert. At its close she walked back to the hotel with some of the other teachers stopping there, talked a few minutes in the hall, went to the office desk for mail, and slowly ascended the stairs, thinking intently. What she thought was: “If I am not mistaken, my hat did a small bit of execution to-night.” She stepped to her room to lock the door and stopped a few minutes to arrange the clothing she had discarded when she dressed hurriedly before going to the concert, then, the letters in her hand, she opened Mrs. Jardine’s door.
A few minutes before, there had been a tap on that same door.
“Come in,” said Mrs. Jardine, expecting Kate or Jennie Weeks. She slowly lifted her eyes and faced a tall, slender man standing there.
“John Jardine, what in the world are you doing here?” she demanded after the manner of mothers, “and what in this world has happened to you?”
“Does it show on me like that?” he stammered.
“Was your train in a wreck? Are you in trouble?” she asked. “Something shows plainly enough, but I don’t understand what it is.”
“Are you all right, Mother?” He advanced a step, looking intently at her.
“Of course I’m all right! You can see that for yourself. The question is, what’s the matter with you?”
“If you will have it, there is something the matter. Since I saw you last I have seen a woman I want to marry, that’s all; unless I add that I want her so badly that I haven’t much sense left. Now you have it!”
“No, I don’t have it, and I won’t have it! What designing creature has been trying to intrigue you now?” she demanded.
“Not any one. She didn’t see me, even. I saw her. I’ve been following her for nearly two hours instead of coming straight to you, as I always have. So you see where I am. I expect you won’t forgive me, but since I’m here, you must know that I could only come on the evening train.”
He crossed the room, knelt beside the chair, and took it and its contents in his arms.