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A Crown of Sorrows by A. A. Milne

 

There is something on my mind, of which I must relieve myself. If I am ever to face the world again with a smile I must share my trouble with others. I cannot bear my burden alone.

Friends, I have lost my hat. Will the gentleman who took it by mistake, and forgot to leave his own in its place, kindly return my hat to me at once?

I am very miserable without my hat. It was one of those nice soft ones with a dent down the middle to collect the rain; one of those soft hats which wrap themselves so lovingly round the cranium that they ultimately absorb the personality of the wearer underneath, responding to his every emotion. When people said nice things about me my hat would swell in sympathy; when they said nasty things, or when I had had my hair cut, it would adapt itself automatically to my lesser requirements. In a word, it fitted—and that is more than can be said for your hard unyielding bowler.

My hat and I dropped into a hall of music one night last week. I placed it under the seat, put a coat on it to keep it warm, and settled down to enjoy myself. My hat could see nothing, but it knew that it would hear all about the entertainment on the way home. When the last moving picture had moved away, my hat and I prepared to depart together. I drew out the coat and felt around for my—Where on earth ...

I was calm at first.

"Excuse me," I said politely to the man next to me, "but have you got two hats?"

"Several," he replied, mistaking my meaning.

I dived under the seat again, and came up with some more dust.

"Someone," I said to a programme girl, "has taken my hat."

"Have you looked under the seat for it?" she asked.

It was such a sound suggestion that I went under the seat for the third time.

"It may have been kicked further along," suggested another attendant. She walked up and down the row looking for it, and, in case somebody had kicked it into the row above, walked up and down that one too; and, in case somebody had found touch with it on the other side of the house, many other girls spread themselves in pursuit; and soon we had the whole pack hunting for it.

Then the fireman came up, suspecting the worst. I told him it was even worse than that—my hat had been stolen.

He had a flash of inspiration.

"Are you sure you brought it with you?" he asked.

The programme girls seemed to think that it would solve the whole mystery if I hadn't brought it with me.

"Are you sure you are the fireman?" I said coldly.

He thought for a moment, and then unburdened himself of another idea.

"Perhaps it's just been kicked under the seat," he said.

I left him under the seat and went downstairs with a heavy heart. At the door I said to the hall porter, "Have you seen anybody going out with two hats by mistake?"

"What's the matter?" he said. "Lost your hat?"

"It has been stolen."

"Have you looked under the seats? It may have been kicked along a bit."

"Perhaps I'd better see the manager," I said. "Is it any good looking under the seats for HIM?"

"I expect it's just been kicked along a bit," the hall porter repeated confidently. "I'll come up with you and look for it."

"If there's any more talk about being kicked along a bit," I said bitterly, "somebody WILL be. I want the manager."

I was led to the manager's room, and there I explained the matter to him. He was very pleasant about it.

"I expect you haven't looked for it properly," he said, with a charming smile. "Just take this gentleman up," he added to the hall porter, "and find his hat for him. It has probably been kicked under one of the other seats."

We were smiled irresistibly out, and I was dragged up to the grand circle again. The seats by this time were laid out in white draperies; the house looked very desolate; I knew that my poor hat was dead. With an air of cheery confidence the hall porter turned into the first row of seats....

"It may have been kicked on to the stage," I said, as he began to slow down. "It may have jumped into one of the boxes. It may have turned into a rabbit. You know, I expect you aren't looking for it properly."

The manager was extremely sympathetic when we came back to him. He said, "Oh, I'm sorry." Just like that—"Oh, I'm sorry."

"My hat," I said firmly, "has been stolen."

"I'm sorry," he repeated with a bored smile, and turned to look at himself in the glass.

Then I became angry with him and his attendants and his whole blessed theatre.

"My hat," I said bitingly, "has been stolen from me—while I slept."

. . . . . . .

You must have seen me wearing it in the dear old days. Greeny brown it was in colour; but it wasn't the colour that drew your eyes to it—no, nor yet the shape, nor the angle at which it sat. It was just the essential rightness of it. If you have ever seen a hat which you felt instinctively was a clever hat, an alive hat, a profound hat, then that was my hat—and that was myself underneath it.

 
 
 

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