The Story of an Invitation by Lucy Maud
Bertha Sutherland hurried home from the post
office and climbed the stairs of her boarding-house
to her room on the third floor. Her
roommate, Grace Maxwell, was sitting on the
divan by the window, looking out into the twilight.
A year ago Bertha and Grace had come to Dartmouth
to attend the Academy, and found themselves roommates.
Bertha was bright, pretty and popular, the favourite
of her classmates and teachers; Grace was a grave,
quiet girl, dressed in mourning. She was quite alone in
the world, the aunt who had brought her up having recently
died. At first she had felt shy with bright and
brilliant Bertha; but they soon became friends, and the
year that followed was a very pleasant one. It was almost
ended now, for the terminal exams had begun, and in a
week's time the school would close for the holidays.
"Have some chocolates, Grace," said Bertha gaily. "I got
such good news in my letter tonight that I felt I must
celebrate it fittingly. So I went into Carter's and invested
all my spare cash in caramels. It's really fortunate the
term is almost out, for I'm nearly bankrupt. I have just
enough left to furnish a 'tuck-out' for commencement
night, and no more."
"What is your good news, may I ask?" said Grace.
"You know I have an Aunt Margaret—commonly called
Aunt Meg—out at Riversdale, don't you? There never was
such a dear, sweet, jolly aunty in the world. I had a letter
from her tonight. Listen, I'll read you what she says."
I want you to spend your holidays with me, my dear.
Mary Fairweather and Louise Fyshe and Lily Dennis
are coming, too. So there is just room for one more,
and that one must be yourself. Come to Riversdale
when school closes, and I'll feed you on strawberries
and cream and pound cake and doughnuts and mince
pies, and all the delicious, indigestible things that
school girls love and careful mothers condemn. Mary
and Lou and Lil are girls after your own heart, I know,
and you shall all do just as you like, and we'll have
picnics and parties and merry doings galore.
"There," said Bertha, looking up with a laugh. "Isn't
"How delightful it must be to have friends like that to
love you and plan for you," said Grace wistfully. "I am
sure you will have a pleasant vacation, Bertie. As for me, I
am going into Clarkman's bookstore until school reopens.
I saw Mr. Clarkman today and he agreed to take
Bertha looked surprised. She had not known what
Grace's vacation plans were.
"I don't think you ought to do that, Grace," she said
thoughtfully. "You are not strong, and you need a good
rest. It will be awfully trying to work at Clarkman's all
"There is nothing else for me to do," said Grace, trying
to speak cheerfully. "You know I'm as poor as the proverbial
church mouse, Bertie, and the simple truth is that I
can't afford to pay my board all summer and get my
winter outfit unless I do something to earn it. I shall be
too busy to be lonesome, and I shall expect long, newsy
letters from you, telling me all your fun—passing your
vacation on to me at second-hand, you see. Well, I must
set to work at those algebra problems. I tried them before
dark, but I couldn't solve them. My head ached and I felt
so stupid. How glad I shall be when exams are over."
"I suppose I must revise that senior English this
evening," said Bertha absently.
But she made no move to do so. She was studying her
friend's face. How very pale and thin Grace looked—surely
much paler and thinner than when she had come to
the Academy, and she had not by any means been plump
and rosy then.
I believe she could not stand two months at Clarkman's,
thought Bertha. If I were not going to Aunt Meg's, I
would ask her to go home with me. Or even if Aunt Meg
had room for another guest, I'd just write her all about
Grace and ask if I could bring her with me. Aunt Meg
would understand—she always understands. But she
hasn't, so it can't be.
Just then a thought darted into Bertha's brain.
"What nonsense!" she said aloud so suddenly and
forcibly that Grace fairly jumped.
"Oh, nothing much," said Bertha, getting up briskly.
"See here, I'm going to get to work. I've wasted enough
She curled herself up on the divan and tried to study
her senior English. But her thoughts wandered hopelessly,
and finally she gave it up in despair and went to bed.
There she could not sleep; she lay awake and wrestled
with herself. It was after midnight when she sat up in
bed and said solemnly, "I will do it."
Next day Bertha wrote a confidential letter to Aunt
Meg. She thanked her for her invitation and then told her
all about Grace.
"And what I want to ask, Aunt Meg, is that you will let
me transfer my invitation to Grace, and ask her to go to
Riversdale this summer in my place. Don't think me ungrateful.
No, I'm sure you won't, you always understand
things. But you can't have us both, and I'd rather Grace
should go. It will do her so much good, and I have a
lovely home of my own to go to, and she has none."
Aunt Meg understood, as usual, and was perfectly willing.
So she wrote to Bertha and enclosed a note of invitation
I shall have to manage this affair very carefully, reflected
Bertha. Grace must never suspect that I did it on
purpose. I will tell her that circumstances have prevented
me from accepting Aunt Meg's invitation. That is true
enough—no need to say that the circumstances are hers,
not mine. And I'll say I just asked Aunt Meg to invite her
in my place and that she has done so.
When Grace came home from her history examination
that day, Bertha told her story and gave her Aunt Meg's
"You must come to me in Bertha's place," wrote the
latter. "I feel as if I knew you from her letters, and I will
consider you as a sort of honorary niece, and I'll treat you
as if you were Bertha herself."
"Isn't it splendid of Aunt Meg?" said Bertha diplomatically.
"Of course you'll go, Gracie."
"Oh, I don't know," said Grace in bewilderment. "Are
you sure you don't want to go, Bertha?"
"Indeed, I do want to go, dreadfully," said Bertha
frankly. "But as I've told you, it is impossible. But if I am
disappointed, Aunt Meg musn't be. You must go, Grace,
and that is all there is about it."
In the end, Grace did go, a little puzzled and doubtful
still, but thankful beyond words to escape the drudgery
of the counter and the noise and heat of the city. Bertha
went home, feeling a little bit blue in secret, it cannot be
denied, but also feeling quite sure that if she had to do it
all over again, she would do just the same.
The summer slipped quickly by, and finally two letters
came to Bertha, one from Aunt Meg and one from Grace.
"I've had a lovely time," wrote the latter, "and, oh, Bertie,
what do you think? I am to stay here always. Oh, of
course I am going back to school next month, but this is
to be my home after this. Aunt Meg—she makes me call
her that—says I must stay with her for good."
In Aunt Meg's letter was this paragraph:
Grace is writing to you, and will have told you that I
intend to keep her here. You know I have always wanted
a daughter of my own, but my greedy brothers and
sisters would never give me one of theirs. So I intend
to adopt Grace. She is the sweetest girl in the world,
and I am very grateful to you for sending her here. You
will not know her when you see her. She has grown
plump and rosy.
Bertha folded her letters up with a smile. "I have a
vague, delightful feeling that I am the good angel in a
storybook," she said.