An Invitation Given on Impulse by Lucy Maud
It was a gloomy Saturday morning. The trees in
the Oaklawn grounds were tossing wildly in the
gusts of wind, and sodden brown leaves were
blown up against the windows of the library,
where a score of girls were waiting for the principal to
bring the mail in.
The big room echoed with the pleasant sound of girlish
voices and low laughter, for in a fortnight school
would close for the holidays, and they were all talking
about their plans and anticipations.
Only Ruth Mannering was, as usual, sitting by herself
near one of the windows, looking out on the misty lawn.
She was a pale, slender girl, with a sad face, and was
dressed in rather shabby black. She had no special friend
at Oaklawn, and the other girls did not know much about
her. If they had thought about it at all, they would probably
have decided that they did not like her; but for the
most part they simply overlooked her.
This was not altogether their fault. Ruth was poor and
apparently friendless, but it was not her poverty that was
against her. Lou Scott, who was "as poor as a church
mouse," to quote her own frank admission, was the most
popular girl in the seminary, the boon companion of the
richest girls, and in demand with everybody. But Lou
was jolly and frank and offhanded, while Ruth was painfully
shy and reserved, and that was the secret of the
There was "no fun in her," the girls said, and so it came
about that she was left out of their social life, and was
almost as solitary at Oaklawn as if she had been the only
girl there. She was there for the special purpose of studying
music, and expected to earn her own living by teaching
it when she left. She believed that the girls looked
down on her on this account; this was unjust, of course,
but Ruth had no idea how much her own coldness and
reserve had worked against her.
Across the room Carol Golden was, as usual, the centre
of an animated group; Golden Carol as her particular
friends sometimes called her, partly because of her beautiful
voice, and partly because of her wonderful fleece of
golden hair. Carol was one of the seminary pets, and
seemed to Ruth Mannering to have everything that she
Presently the mail was brought in, and there was a
rush to the table, followed by exclamations of satisfaction
or disappointment. In a few minutes the room was almost
deserted. Only two girls remained: Carol Golden,
who had dropped into a big chair to read her many
letters; and Ruth Mannering, who had not received any
and had gone silently back to her part of the window.
Presently Carol gave a little cry of delight. Her mother
had written that she might invite any friend she wished
home with her to spend the holidays. Carol had asked for
this permission, and now that it had come was ready to
dance for joy. As to whom she would ask, there could be
only one answer to that. Of course it must be her particular
friend, Maud Russell, who was the cleverest and prettiest
girl at Oaklawn, at least so her admirers said. She
was undoubtedly the richest, and was the acknowledged
"leader." The girls affectionately called her "Princess,"
and Carol adored her with that romantic affection that is
found only among school girls. She knew, too, that Maud
would surely accept her invitation because she did not
intend to go home. Her parents were travelling in Europe,
and she expected to spend her holidays with some
cousins, who were almost strangers to her.
Carol was so much pleased that she felt as if she must
talk to somebody, so she turned to Ruth.
"Isn't it delightful to think that we'll all be going home
in a fortnight?"
"Yes, very—for those that have homes to go to," said
Carol felt a quick pang of pity and self-reproach.
"Haven't you?" she asked.
Ruth shook her head. In spite of herself, the kindness
of Carol's tone brought the tears to her eyes.
"My mother died a year ago," she said in a trembling
voice, "and since then I have had no real home. We were
quite alone in the world, Mother and I, and now I have
"Oh, I'm so sorry for you," cried Carol impulsively. She
leaned forward and took Ruth's hand in a gentle way.
"And do you mean to say that you'll have to stay here all
through the holidays? Why, it will be horrid."
"Oh, I shall not mind it much," said Ruth quickly,
"with study and practice most of the time. Only now,
when everyone is talking about it, it makes me wish that I
had some place to go."
Carol dropped Ruth's hand suddenly in the shock of a
sudden idea that darted into her mind.
A stray girl passing through the hall called out, "Ruth,
Miss Siviter wishes to see you about something in Room
Ruth got up quickly. She was glad to get away, for it
seemed to her that in another minute she would break
Carol Golden hardly noticed her departure. She gathered
up her letters and went abstractedly to her room,
unheeding a gay call for "Golden Carol" from a group of
girls in the corridor. Maud Russell was not in and Carol
was glad. She wanted to be alone and fight down that
"It is ridiculous to think of it," she said aloud, with a
petulance very unusual in Golden Carol, whose disposition
was as sunny as her looks. "Why, I simply cannot. I
have always been longing to ask Maud to visit me, and
now that the chance has come I am not going to throw it
away. I am very sorry for Ruth, of course. It must be
dreadful to be all alone like that. But it isn't my fault. And
she is so fearfully quiet and dowdy—what would they all
think of her at home? Frank and Jack would make such
fun of her. I shall ask Maud just as soon as she comes in."
Maud did come in presently, but Carol did not give her
the invitation. Instead, she was almost snappish to her
idol, and the Princess soon went out again in something
of a huff.
"Oh, dear," cried Carol, "now I've offended her. What
has got into me? What a disagreeable thing a conscience
is, although I'm sure I don't know why mine should be
prodding me so! I don't want to invite Ruth Mannering
home with me for the holidays, but I feel exactly as if I
should not have a minute's peace of mind all the time if I
didn't. Mother would think it all right, of course. She
would not mind if Ruth dressed in calico and never said
anything but yes and no. But how the boys would laugh!
I simply won't do it, conscience or no conscience."
In view of this decision it was rather strange that the
next morning, Carol Golden went down to Ruth Mannering's
lonely little room on Corridor Two and said, "Ruth,
will you go home with me for the holidays? Mother wrote
me to invite anyone I wished to. Don't say you can't
come, dear, because you must."
Carol never, as long as she lived, forgot Ruth's face at
"It was absolutely transfigured," she said afterwards. "I
never saw anyone look so happy in my life."
A fortnight later unwonted silence reigned at Oaklawn.
The girls were scattered far and wide, and Ruth Mannering
and Carol Golden were at the latter's home.
Carol was a very much surprised girl. Under the influence
of kindness and pleasure Ruth seemed transformed
into a different person. Her shyness and reserve melted
away in the sunny atmosphere of the Golden home. Mrs.
Golden took her into her motherly heart at once; and as
for Frank and Jack, whose verdict Carol had so dreaded,
they voted Ruth "splendid." She certainly got along very
well with them; and if she did not make the social sensation
that pretty Maud Russell might have made, the
Goldens all liked her and Carol was content.
"Just four days more," sighed Carol one afternoon,
"and then we must go back to Oaklawn. Can you realize
Ruth looked up from her book with a smile. Even in
appearance she had changed. There was a faint pink in
her cheeks and a merry light in her eyes.
"I shall not be sorry to go back to work," she said. "I
feel just like it because I have had so pleasant a time here
that it has heartened me up for next term. I think it will
be very different from last. I begin to see that I kept to
myself too much and brooded over fancied slights."
"And then you are to room with me since Maud is not
coming back," said Carol. "What fun we shall have. Did
you ever toast marshmallows over the gas? Why, I declare,
there is Mr. Swift coming up the walk. Look, Ruth! He is
the richest man in Westleigh."
Ruth peeped out of the window over Carol's shoulder.
"He reminds me of somebody," she said absently, "but
I can't think who it is. Of course, I have never seen him
before. What a good face he has!"
"He is as good as he looks," said Carol, enthusiastically.
"Next to Father, Mr. Swift is the nicest man in the
world. I have always been quite a pet of his. His wife is
dead, and so is his only daughter. She was a lovely girl
and died only two years ago. It nearly broke Mr. Swift's
heart. And he has lived alone ever since in that great big
house up at the head of Warner Street, the one you admired
so, Ruth, the last time we were uptown. There's
the bell for the second time, Mary can't have heard it. I'll
As Carol showed the caller into the room, Ruth rose to
leave and thus came face to face with him. Mr. Swift
"Mr. Swift, this is my school friend, Miss Mannering,"
Mr. Swift seemed strangely agitated as he took Ruth's
timidly offered hand.
"My dear young lady," he said hurriedly, "I am going
to ask you what may seem a very strange question. What
was your mother's name?"
"Agnes Hastings," answered Ruth in surprise. And
then Carol really thought that Mr. Swift had gone crazy,
for he drew Ruth into his arms and kissed her.
"I knew it," he said. "I was sure you were Agnes'
daughter, for you are the living image of what she was
when I last saw her. Child, you don't know me, but I am
your Uncle Robert. Your mother was my half-sister."
"Oh, Mr. Swift!" cried Carol, and then she ran for her
Ruth turned pale and dropped into a chair, and Mr.
Swift sat down beside her.
"To think that I have found you at last, child. How
puzzled you look. Did your mother never speak of me?
How is she? Where is she?"
"Mother died last year," said Ruth.
"Poor Agnes! And I never knew! Don't cry, little girl. I
want you to tell me all about it. She was much younger
than I was, and when our mother died my stepfather
went away and took her with him. I remained with my
father's people and eventually lost all trace of my sister. I
was a poor boy then, but things have looked up with me
and I have often tried to find her."
By this time Carol had returned with her father and
mother, and there was a scene—laughing, crying, explaining—and
I don't really know which of the two girls
was the more excited, Carol or Ruth. As for Mr. Swift, he
was overjoyed to find his niece and wanted to carry her
off with him then and there, but Mrs. Golden insisted on
her finishing her visit. When the question of returning to
Oaklawn came up, Mr. Swift would not hear of it at first,
but finally yielded to Carol's entreaties and Ruth's own
"I shall graduate next year, Uncle, and then I can come
back to you for good."
That evening when Ruth was alone in her room, trying
to collect her thoughts and realize that the home and
love that she had so craved were really to be hers at last,
Golden Carol was with her mother in the room below,
talking it all over.
"Just think, Mother, if I had not asked Ruth to come
here, this would not have happened. And I didn't want
to, I wanted to ask Maud so much, and I was dreadfully
disappointed when I couldn't—for I really couldn't. I
could not help remembering the look in Ruth's eyes
when she said that she had no home to go to, and so I
asked her instead of Maud. How dreadful it would have
been if I hadn't."