A Fortunate Mistake by Lucy Maud Montgomery
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" fretted Nan Wallace, twisting herself about
uneasily on the sofa in her pretty room. "I never thought before that
the days could be so long as they are now."
"Poor you!" said her sister Maude sympathetically. Maude was moving
briskly about the room, putting it into the beautiful order that
Mother insisted on. It was Nan's week to care for their room, but Nan
had sprained her ankle three days ago and could do nothing but lie on
the sofa ever since. And very tired of it, too, was wide-awake, active
"And the picnic this afternoon, too!" she sighed. "I've looked forward
to it all summer. And it's a perfect day—and I've got to stay here
and nurse this foot."
Nan looked vindictively at the bandaged member, while Maude leaned out
of the window to pull a pink climbing rose. As she did so she nodded
to someone in the village street below.
"Who is passing?" asked Nan.
"Is she going to the picnic?" asked Nan indifferently.
"No. She wasn't asked. Of course, I don't suppose she expected to be.
She knows she isn't in our set. She must feel horribly out of place at
school. A lot of the girls say it is ridiculous of her father to send
her to Miss Braxton's private school—a factory overseer's daughter."
"She ought to have been asked to the picnic all the same," said Nan
shortly. "She is in our class if she isn't in our set. Of course I
don't suppose she would have enjoyed herself—or even gone at all, for
that matter. She certainly doesn't push herself in among us. One would
think she hadn't a tongue in her head."
"She is the best student in the class," admitted Maude, arranging her
roses in a vase and putting them on the table at Nan's elbow. "But
Patty Morrison and Wilhelmina Patterson had the most to say about the
invitations, and they wouldn't have her. There, Nannie dear, aren't
those lovely? I'll leave them here to be company for you."
"I'm going to have more company than that," said Nan, thumping her
pillow energetically. "I'm not going to mope here alone all the
afternoon, with you off having a jolly time at the picnic. Write a
little note for me to Florrie Hastings, will you? I'll do as much for
you when you sprain your foot."
"What shall I put in it?" said Maude, rummaging out her portfolio
"Oh, just ask her if she will come down and cheer a poor invalid up
this afternoon. She'll come, I know. And she is such good company. Get
Dickie to run right out and mail it."
"I do wonder if Florrie Hamilton will feel hurt over not being asked
to the picnic," speculated Maude absently as she slipped her note into
an envelope and addressed it.
Florrie Hamilton herself could best have answered that question as she
walked along the street in the fresh morning sunshine. She did feel
hurt—much more keenly than she would acknowledge even to herself. It
was not that she cared about the picnic itself: as Nan Wallace had
said, she would not have been likely to enjoy herself if she had gone
among a crowd of girls many of whom looked down on her and ignored
her. But to be left out when every other girl in the school was
invited! Florrie's lip quivered as she thought of it.
"I'll get Father to let me to go to the public school after vacation,"
she murmured. "I hate going to Miss Braxton's."
Florrie was a newcomer in Winboro. Her father had recently come to
take a position in the largest factory of the small town. For this
reason Florrie was slighted at school by some of the ruder girls and
severely left alone by most of the others. Some, it is true, tried at
the start to be friends, but Florrie, too keenly sensitive to the
atmosphere around her to respond, was believed to be decidedly dull
and mopy. She retreated further and further into herself and was
almost as solitary at Miss Braxton's as if she had been on a desert
"They don't like me because I am plainly dressed and because my father
is not a wealthy man," thought Florrie bitterly. And there was enough
truth in this in regard to many of Miss Braxton's girls to make a very
uncomfortable state of affairs.
"Here's a letter for you, Flo," said her brother Jack at noon. "Got it
at the office on my way home. Who is your swell correspondent?"
Florrie opened the dainty, perfumed note and read it with a face that,
puzzled at first, suddenly grew radiant.
"Listen, Jack," she said excitedly.
"Nan is confined to house, room, and sofa with a sprained
foot. As she will be all alone this afternoon, won't you come
down and spend it with her? She very much wants you to
come—she is so lonesome and thinks you will be just the one
to cheer her up.
"Are you going?" asked Jack.
"Yes—I don't know—I'll think about it," said Florrie absently. Then
she hurried upstairs to her room.
"Shall I go?" she thought. "Yes, I will. I dare say Nan has asked me
just out of pity because I was not invited to the picnic. But even so
it was sweet of her. I've always thought I would like those Wallace
girls if I could get really acquainted with them. They've always been
nice to me, too—I don't know why I am always so tongue-tied and
stupid with them. But I'll go anyway."
That afternoon Mrs. Wallace came into Nan's room.
"Nan, dear, Florrie Hamilton is downstairs asking for you."
"Yes. She said something about a note you sent her this morning. Shall
I ask her to come up?"
"Yes, of course," said Nan lamely. When her mother had gone out she
fell back on her pillows and thought rapidly.
"Florrie Hamilton! Maude must have addressed that note to her by
mistake. But she mustn't know it was a mistake—mustn't suspect it.
Oh, dear! What shall I ever find to talk to her about? She is so quiet
Further reflections were cut short by Florrie's entrance. Nan held out
her hand with a chummy smile.
"It's good of you to give your afternoon up to visiting a cranky
invalid," she said heartily. "You don't know how lonesome I've been
since Maude went away. Take off your hat and pick out the nicest chair
you can find, and let's be comfy."
Somehow, Nan's frank greeting did away with Florrie's embarrassment
and made her feel at home. She sat down in Maude's rocker, then,
glancing over to a vase filled with roses, her eyes kindled with
pleasure. Seeing this, Nan said, "Aren't they lovely? We Wallaces are
very fond of our climbing roses. Our great-grandmother brought the
roots out from England with her sixty years ago, and they grow nowhere
else in this country."
"I know," said Florrie, with a smile. "I recognized them as soon as I
came into the room. They are the same kind of roses as those which
grow about Grandmother Hamilton's house in England. I used to love
"In England! Were you ever in England?"
"Oh, yes," laughed Florrie. "And I've been in pretty nearly every
other country upon earth—every one that a ship could get to, at
"Why, Florrie Hamilton! Are you in earnest?"
"Indeed, yes. Perhaps you don't know that our 'now-mother,' as Jack
says sometimes, is Father's second wife. My own mother died when I was
a baby, and my aunt, who had no children of her own, took me to bring
up. Her husband was a sea-captain, and she always went on his
sea-voyages with him. So I went too. I almost grew up on shipboard. We
had delightful times. I never went to school. Auntie had been a
teacher before her marriage, and she taught me. Two years ago, when I
was fourteen, Father married again, and then he wanted me to go home
to him and Jack and our new mother. So I did, although at first I was
very sorry to leave Auntie and the dear old ship and all our lovely
"Oh, tell me all about them," demanded Nan. "Why, Florrie Hamilton, to
think you've never said a word about your wonderful experiences! I
love to hear about foreign countries from people who have really been
there. Please just talk—and I'll listen and ask questions."
Florrie did talk. I'm not sure whether she or Nan was the more
surprised to find that she could talk so well and describe her travels
so brightly and humorously. The afternoon passed quickly, and when
Florrie went away at dusk, after a dainty tea served up in Nan's room,
it was with a cordial invitation to come again soon.
"I've enjoyed your visit so much," said Nan sincerely. "I'm going down
to see you as soon as I can walk. But don't wait for that. Let us be
good, chummy friends without any ceremony."
When Florrie, with a light heart and a happy smile, had gone, came
Maude, sunburned and glowing from her picnic.
"Such a nice time as we had!" she exclaimed. "Wasn't I sorry to think
of you cooped up here! Did Florrie come?"
"One Florrie did. Maude, you addressed that note to Florrie Hamilton
today instead of Florrie Hastings."
"Nan, surely not! I'm sure—"
"Yes, you did. And she came here. Was I not taken aback at first,
"I was thinking about her when I addressed it, and I must have put her
name down by mistake. I'm so sorry—"
"You needn't be. I haven't been entertained so charmingly for a long
while. Why, Maude, she has travelled almost everywhere—and is so
bright and witty when she thaws out. She didn't seem like the same
girl at all. She is just perfectly lovely!"
"Well, I'm glad you had such a nice time together. Do you know, some
of the girls were very much vexed because she wasn't asked to the
picnic. They said that it was sheer rudeness not to ask her, and that
it reflected on us all, even if Patty and Wilhelmina were responsible
for it. I'm afraid we girls at Miss Braxton's have been getting
snobbish, and some of us are beginning to find it out and be ashamed
"Just wait until school opens," said Nan—vaguely enough, it would
seem. But Maude understood.
However, they did not have to wait until school opened. Long before
that time Winboro girlhood discovered that the Wallace girls were
taking Florrie Hamilton into their lives. If the Wallace girls liked
her, there must be something in the girl more than was at first
thought—thus more than one of Miss Braxton's girls reasoned. And
gradually the other girls found, as Nan had found, that Florrie was
full of fun and an all-round good companion when drawn out of her
diffidence. When Miss Braxton's school reopened Florrie was the class
favourite. Between her and Nan Wallace a beautiful and helpful
friendship had been formed which was to grow and deepen through their
"And all because Maude in a fit of abstraction wrote 'Hamilton' for
'Hastings,'" said Nan to herself one day. But that is something
Florrie Hamilton will never know.