IN THE BISHOP'S CARRIAGE
When the thing was at its hottest, I bolted. Tom, like the darling he is—(Yes, you are, old fellow, you're as precious to me as—as you are to the police—if they could only get their hands on you)—well, Tom drew off the crowd, having passed the old gentleman's watch to me, and I made for the women's rooms.
The station was crowded, as it always is in the afternoon, and in a minute I was strolling into the big, square room, saying slowly to myself to keep me steady:
"Nancy, you're a college girl—just in from Bryn Mawr to meet your papa. Just see if your hat's on straight."
I did, going up to the big glass and looking beyond my excited face to the room behind me. There sat the woman who can never nurse her baby except where everybody can see her, in a railroad station. There was the woman who's always hungry, nibbling chocolates out of a box; and the woman fallen asleep, with her hat on the side, and hairpins dropping out of her hair; and the woman who's beside herself with fear that she'll miss her train; and the woman who is taking notes about the other women's rigs. And—
And I didn't like the look of that man with the cap who opened the swinging door a bit and peeped in. The women's waiting-room is no place for a man—nor for a girl who's got somebody else's watch inside her waist. Luckily, my back was toward him, but just as the door swung back he might have caught the reflection of my face in a mirror hanging opposite to the big one.
I retreated, going to an inner room where the ladies were having the maid brush their gowns, soiled from suburban travel and the dirty station.
The deuce is in it the way women stare. I took off my hat and jacket for a reason to stay there, and hung them up as leisurely as I could.
"Nance," I said under my breath, to the alert-eyed, pug-nosed girl in the mirror, who gave a quick glance about the room as I bent to wash my hands, "women stare 'cause they're women. There's no meaning in their look. If they were men, now, you might twitter."
I smoothed my hair and reached out my hand to get my hat and jacket when—when—
Oh, it was long; long enough to cover you from your chin to your heels! It was a dark, warm red, and it had a high collar of chinchilla that was fairly scrumptious. And just above it the hat hung, a red-cloth toque caught up on the side with some of the same fur.
The black maid misunderstood my involuntary gesture. I had all my best duds on, and when a lot of women stare it makes the woman they stare at peacock naturally, and—and—well, ask Tom what he thinks of my style when I'm on parade. At any rate, it was the maid's fault. She took down the coat and hat and held them for me as though they were mine. What could I do, 'cept just slip into the silk-lined beauty and set the toque on my head? The fool girl that owned them was having another maid mend a tear in her skirt, over in the corner; the little place was crowded. Anyway, I had both the coat and hat on and was out into the big anteroom in a jiffy.
What nearly wrecked me was the cut of that coat. It positively made me shiver with pleasure when I passed and saw myself in that long mirror. My, but I was great! The hang of that coat, the long, incurving sweep in the back, and the high fur collar up to one's nose—even if it is a turned-up nose—oh!
I stayed and looked a second too long, for just as I was pulling the flaring hat a bit over my face, the doors swung, as an old lady came in, and there behind her was that same curious man's face with the cap above it.
Trapped? Me? Not much! I didn't wait a minute, but threw the doors open with a gesture that might have belonged to the Queen of Spain. I almost ran into his arms. He gave an exclamation. I looked him straight in the eyes, as I hooked the collar close to my throat, and swept past him.
He weakened. That coat was too jolly much for him. It was for me, too. As I ran down the stairs, its influence so worked on me that I didn't know just which Vanderbilt I was.
I got out on the sidewalk all right, and was just about to take a car when the turnstile swung round, and there was that same man with the cap. His face was a funny mixture of doubt and determination. But it meant the Correction for me.
"Nance Olden, it's over," I said to myself.
But it wasn't. For it was then that I caught sight of the carriage. It was a fat, low, comfortable, elegant, sober carriage, wide and well-kept, with rubber-tired wheels. And the two heavy horses were fat and elegant and sober, too, and wide and well-kept. I didn't know it was the Bishop's then—I didn't care whose it was. It was empty, and it was mine. I'd rather go to the Correction—being too young to get to the place you're bound for, Tom Dorgan—in it than in the patrol wagon. At any rate, it was all the chance I had.
I slipped in, closing the door sharply behind me. The man on the box—he was wide and well-kept, too—was tired waiting, I suppose, for he continued to doze gently, his high coachman's collar up over his ears. I cursed that collar, which had prevented his hearing the door close, for then he might have