The Jest That Failed by Lucy Maud Montgomery
"I think it is simply a disgrace to have a person like
that in our class," said Edna Hayden in an injured
"And she doesn't seem a bit ashamed of it,
either," said Agnes Walters.
"Rather proud of it, I should say," returned her roommate,
spitefully. "It seems to me that if I were so poor that I had to
'room' myself and dress as dowdily as she does that I really
couldn't look anybody in the face. What must the boys think
of her? And if it wasn't for her being in it, our class would be
the smartest and dressiest in the college—even those top-lofty
senior girls admit that."
"It's a shame," said Agnes, conclusively. "But she needn't
expect to associate with our set. I, for one, won't have anything
to do with her."
"Nor I. I think it is time she should be taught her place. If
we could only manage to inflict some decided snub on her,
she might take the hint and give up trying to poke herself in
where she doesn't belong. The idea of her consenting to be
elected on the freshmen executive! But she seems impervious
"Edna, let's play a joke on her. It will serve her right. Let us
send an invitation in somebody's name to the senior 'prom.'"
"The very thing! And sign Sidney Hill's name to it. He's
the handsomest and richest fellows at Payzant, and belongs to
one of the best families in town, and he's awfully fastidious
besides. No doubt she will feel immensely flattered and, of
course, she'll accept. Just think how silly she'll feel when she
finds out he never sent it. Let's write it now, and send it at
once. There is no time to lose, for the 'prom' is on Thursday
The freshmen co-eds at Payzant College did not like Grace
Seeley—that is to say, the majority of them. They were a
decidedly snobbish class that year. No one could deny that
Grace was clever, but she was poor, dressed very plainly—"dowdily,"
the girls said—and "roomed" herself, that phrase
meaning that she rented a little unfurnished room and
cooked her own meals over an oil stove.
The "senior prom," as it was called, was the annual reception
which the senior class gave in the middle of every
autumn term. It was the smartest and gayest of all the college
functions, and a Payzant co-ed who received an invitation to
it counted herself fortunate. The senior girls were included as
a matter of course, but a junior, soph, or freshie could not go
unless one of the senior boys invited her.
Grace Seeley was studying Greek in her tiny room that
afternoon when the invitation was brought to her. It was
scrupulously orthodox in appearance and form, and Grace
never doubted that it was genuine, although she felt much
surprised that Sidney Hill, the leader of his class and the foremost
figure in all college sports and societies, should have
asked her to go with him to the senior prom.
But she was girlishly pleased at the prospect. She was as
fond of a good time as any other girl, and she had secretly
wished very much that she could go to the brilliant and much
talked about senior prom.
Grace was quite unaware of her own unpopularity among
her class co-eds, although she thought it was very hard to get
acquainted with them. Without any false pride herself, and of
a frank, independent nature, it never occurred to her that
the other Payzant freshies could look down on her because
she was poor, or resent her presence among them because she
She straightway wrote a note of acceptance to Sidney Hill,
and that young man naturally felt much mystified when he
opened and read it in the college library next morning.
"Grace Seeley," he pondered. "That's the jolly girl with
the brown eyes that I met at the philomathic the other night.
She thanks me for my invitation to the senior prom, and
accepts with pleasure. Why, I certainly never invited her or
anyone else to go with me to the senior prom. There must be
Grace passed him at this moment on her way to the Latin
classroom. She bowed and smiled in a friendly fashion and
Sidney Hill felt decidedly uncomfortable. What was he to
do? He did not like to think of putting Miss Seeley in a false
position because somebody had sent her an invitation in
"I suppose it is some cad who has a spite at me that has
done it," he reflected, "but if so I'll spoil his game. I'll take
Miss Seeley to the prom as if I had never intended doing anything
else. She shan't be humiliated just because there is
someone at Payzant who would stoop to that sort of thing."
So he walked up the hall with Grace and expressed his
pleasure at her acceptance, and on the evening of the prom he
sent her a bouquet of white carnations, whose spicy fragrance
reminded her of her own little garden at home. Grace thought
it extremely nice of him, and dressed in a flutter of pleasant
Her gown was a very simple one of sheer white organdie,
and was the only evening dress she had. She knew there
would be many smarter dresses at the reception, but the
knowledge did not disturb her sensible head in the least.
She fingered the dainty white frills lovingly as she remembered
the sunny summer days at home in the little sewing-room,
where cherry boughs poked their blossoms in at the
window, when her mother and sisters had helped her to make
it, with laughing prophesies and speculations as to its first
appearance. Into seam and puff and frill many girlish hopes
and dreams had been sewn, and they all came back to Grace as
she put it on, and helped to surround her with an atmosphere
When she was ready she picked up her bouquet and looked
herself over in the mirror, from the top of her curly head to the
tips of her white shoes, with a little nod of satisfaction. Grace
was not exactly pretty, but she had such a bright, happy face
and such merry brown eyes and such a friendly smile that she
was very pleasant to look upon, and a great many people
thought so that night.
Grace had never in all her life before had so good a time as
she had at that senior prom. The seniors were quick to discover
her unaffected originality and charm, and everywhere
she went she was the centre of a merry group. In short, Grace,
as much to her own surprise as anyone's, found herself a
Presently Sidney brought his brother up to be introduced,
and the latter said:
"Miss Seeley, will you excuse my asking if you have a
brother or any relative named Max Seeley?"
Grace nodded. "Oh, yes, my brother Max. He is a doctor
"I was sure of it," said Murray Hill triumphantly. "You
resemble him so strongly. Please don't consider me as a
stranger a minute longer, for Max and I are like brothers.
Indeed, I owe my life to him. Last summer I was out there on a
surveying expedition, and I took typhoid in a little out-of-the-way
place where good nursing was not to be had for love or
money. Your brother attended me and he managed to pull me
through. He never left me day or night until I was out of danger,
and he worked like a Trojan for me."
"Dear old Max," said Grace, her brown eyes shining with
pride and pleasure. "That is so like him. He is such a dear
brother and I haven't seen him for four years. To see somebody
who knows him so well is next best thing to seeing
"He is an awfully fine fellow," said Mr. Hill heartily, "and
I'm delighted to have met the 'little sister' he used to talk so
much about. I want you to come ever and meet my mother
and sister. They have heard me talk so much about Max that
they think almost as much of him as I do, and they will be
glad to meet his sister."
Mrs. Hill, a handsome, dignified lady who was one of the
chaperones of the prom, received Grace warmly, while
Beatrice Hill, an extremely pretty, smartly gowned girl, made
her feel at home immediately.
"You came with Sid, didn't you?" she whispered. "Sid is so
sly—he never tells us whom he is going to take anywhere. But
when I saw you come in with him I knew I was going to like
you, you looked so jolly. And you're really the sister of that
splendid Dr. Seeley who saved Murray's life last summer?
And to think you've been at Payzant nearly a whole term and
we never knew it!"
"Well, how have you enjoyed our prom, Miss Seeley?"
asked Sid, as they walked home together under the arching
elms of the college campus.
"Oh! it was splendid," said Grace enthusiastically.
"Everybody was so nice. And then to meet someone who
could tell me so much about Max! I must write them home all
about it before I sleep, just to calm my head a bit. Mother and
the girls will be so interested, and I must send Lou and Mab a
carnation apiece for their scrapbooks."
"Give me one back, please," said Sid. And Grace with a
little blush, did so.
That night, while Grace was slipping the stems of her carnations
and putting them into water, three little bits of conversation
were being carried on which it is necessary to report
in order to round up this story neatly and properly, as all
stories should be rounded up.
In the first place, Beatrice Hill was saying to Sidney, "Oh,
Sid, that Miss Seeley you had at the prom is a lovely girl. I
don't know when I've met anyone I liked so much. She was
so jolly and friendly and she didn't put on learned airs at all,
as so many of those Payzant girls do. I asked her all about herself
and she told me, and all about her mother and sisters and
home and the lovely times they had together, and how hard
they worked to send her to college too, and how she taught
school in vacations and 'roomed' herself to help along. Isn't it
so brave and plucky of her! I know we are going to be great
"I hope so," said Sidney briefly, "because I have an idea
that she and I are going to be very good friends too."
And Sidney went upstairs and put away a single white carnation
In the second place, Mrs. Hill was saying to her eldest
son, "I liked that Miss Seeley very much. She seemed a very
And, finally, Agnes Walters and Edna Hayden were discussing
the matter in great mystification in their room.
"I can't understand it at all," said Agnes slowly. "Sid Hill
took her to the prom and he must have sent her those carnations
too. She could never have afforded them herself. And
did you see the fuss his people made over her? I heard Beatrice
telling her that she was coming to call on her tomorrow, and
Mrs. Hill said she must look upon 'Beechlawn' as her second
home while she was at Payzant. If the Hills are going to take
her up we'll have to be nice to her."
"I suppose," said Edna conclusively, "the truth of the matter
is that Sid Hill meant to ask her anyway. I dare say he
asked her long ago, and she would know our invitation was a
fraud. So the joke is on ourselves, after all."
But, as you and I know, that, with the exception of the last
sentence, was not the truth of the matter at all.