On Running After a Hat by James Matthew Barrie

From A Holiday in Bed and Other Sketches by J. M. Barrie

Sir James Barrie

On Running After a Hat

Some don’t run. They pretend to smile when they see their hat borne along on the breeze, and glance at the laughing faces around in a way implying, “Yes, it is funny, and I enjoy the joke, although the hat is mine.”

Nobody believes you, but if this does you good, you should do it.

You don’t attempt to catch your hat as it were on the wing. You walk after it, smiling, as if you liked the joke the more you think of it, and confident that the hat will come to rest presently. You are not the sort of man to make a fuss over a hat. You won’t give the hat the satisfaction of thinking that it can annoy you.

Strange though it may seem, there are idiots who will join you in pursuit of the hat.

One will hook it with a stick, and almost get it, only not quite.
Another will manage to hit it hard with an umbrella.
A third will get his foot into it or on it.

This does not improve the hat, but it shows that there is a good deal of the milk of human kindness flowing in the street as well as water, and is perhaps pleasant to think of afterwards.

Several times you almost have the hat in your possession. It lies motionless, just where it has dropped after coming in contact with a hansom. Were you to make a sudden rush at it you could have it, but we have agreed that you are not that sort of man. You walk forward, stoop, and——.

One reads how the explorer thinks he has shot a buffalo dead, and advances to put his foot proudly on the carcass, how the buffalo then rises, and how the explorer then rises also. I have never seen an explorer running after his hat (though I should like to), but your experience is similar to his with the buffalo.

As your hand approaches the hat, the latter turns over like a giant refreshed, and waddles out of your reach. Once more your hand is within an inch of it, when it makes off again. There are ringing cheers from the audience on the pavement, some of them meant for the hat, and the others as an encouragement to you.

Before you get your hat you have begun to realize what deer-stalking is, and how important a factor is the wind.

A Holiday in Bed and Other Sketches