L. T. Meade.

Betty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School online

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Collection at the University of Utah, and the Online
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Betty Vivian

_A Story of Haddo Court School_


Author of

"The Harmon Girls," "The Princess of the Revels," "Aylwyn's
Friends," "The School Queens," "Seven Maids," Etc.




Chapter Page





Haddo Court had been a great school for girls for many generations. In
fact, for considerably over a century the Court had descended from
mother to daughter, who invariably, whatever her husband's name, took
the name of Haddo when she became mistress of the school. The reigning
mistress might sometimes be unmarried, sometimes the reverse; but she
was always, in the true sense of the word, a noble, upright, generous
sort of woman, and one slightly in advance of her generation. There had
never been anything low or mean known about the various head mistresses
of Haddo Court. The school had grown with the times. From being in the
latter days of the eighteenth century a rambling, low old-fashioned
house with mullioned windows and a castellated roof, it had gradually
increased in size and magnificence; until now, when this story opens, it
was one of the most imposing mansions in the county.

The locality in which Haddo Court was situated was not very far from
London; but for various reasons its name will be withheld from the
reader, although doubtless the intelligent girl who likes to peruse
these pages will be easily able to discover its whereabouts. Haddo
Court, although within a measurable distance of the great metropolis,
had such large grounds, and such a considerable area of meadow and
forest land surrounding it, that it truly seemed to the girls who lived
there that they were in the heart of the country itself. This was indeed
the case; for from the Court you could see no other house whatsoever,
unless it were the picturesque abode of the head gardener or that of the

The school belonged to no company; it was the sole and undivided
possession of the head mistress. It combined the advantages of a
first-class high school with the advantages that the best type of
private school affords. Its rooms were lofty and abundantly supplied
with bright sunshine and fresh air. So popular was the school, and such
a tone of distinction did it confer upon the girls who were educated
there, that, although Mrs. Haddo did not scruple to expect high fees
from her pupils, it was as difficult to get into Haddo Court as it was
for a boy to become an inmate of Winchester or Eton. The girl whose
mother before her had been educated at the Court usually put down her
little daughter's name for admission there shortly after the child's
birth, and even then she was not always certain that the girl could be
received; for Mrs. Haddo, having inherited, among other virtues from a
long line of intelligent ancestors, great firmness of character, made
rules which she would allow no exception to break.

The girls at Haddo Court might number one hundred and fifty; but nothing
would induce her, on any terms whatsoever, to exceed that number. She
had a staff of the most worthy governesses, many of whom had been
educated at the Court itself; others who bore testimony to the lamented
and much-loved memory of the late Miss Beale of Cheltenham; and others,
again, who had taken honors of the highest degree at the two

Mrs. Haddo never prided herself on any special gift; but she was well
aware of the fact that she could read character with unerring instinct;
consequently she never made a mistake in the choice of her teachers. The
Court was now so large that each girl, if she chose, could have a small
bedroom to herself, or two sisters might be accommodated with a larger
room to share together. There was every possible comfort at the Court;
at the same time there was an absence of all that was enervating.
Comforts, Mrs. Haddo felt assured, were necessary to the proper growth
and development of a young life; but she disliked luxuries for herself,
and would not permit them for her pupils. The rooms were therefore
handsomely, though somewhat barely, furnished. There were no superfluous
draperies and few knick-knacks of any sort. There was, however, in each
bedroom a little book shelf with about a dozen of the best and most
suitable books - generally a copy of Ruskin's "Sesame and Lilies," of
Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus," of Milton's "Paradise Lost"; also one or
two books by the best writers of the present day. Works of E. V. Lucas
were not forgotten in that collection, and Mrs. Ewing's "Jackanapes" was
a universal favorite.

The girls had one special library where classical works and books of
reference were found in abundance; also standard novels, such as the
best works of Thackeray and Dickens. In addition to this was a smaller
library where the girls were allowed to have their own private
possessions in the shape of books and drawings. This room was only used
by the girls of the upper school, and was seldom interfered with either
by the head mistress or the various teachers.

Out of one hundred and fifty girls it would be impossible to describe
more than a few; but at the time when this story opens there was in the
upper school a little band of devoted friends who adored each other, who
had high aims and ambitions, who almost worshiped Mrs. Haddo, and, as
far as possible, endeavored to profit by her excellent training. The
names of the girls in question were Susie Rushworth, who was seventeen
years of age, and would in a year's time be leaving the Court; Fanny
Crawford, her cousin and special friend - Fanny and Susie were much of
the same age, Fanny being a little the younger of the two - two sisters
named Mary and Julia Bertram; Margaret Grant, who was tall, dark, and
stately, and Olive Repton, everybody's favorite, a bright-eyed,
bewitching little creature, with the merriest laugh, a gay manner, and
with brilliant powers of repartee and a good-natured word for every
one - she was, in short, the life of the upper school.

None of these girls was under sixteen years of age; all were slightly
above the average as regards ability, and decidedly above the average as
regards a very high standard of morals. They had all been brought up
with care. They knew nothing of the vanities of the world, and their
great ambition in life was to walk worthily in the station in which they
were born. They were all daughters of rich parents - that is, with the
exception of Olive Repton, whose mother was a widow, and who, in
consequence, could not give her quite so many advantages as her
companions received. Olive never spoke on the subject, but she had wild,
impossible dreams of earning her own living by and by. She was not
jealous nor envious of her richer schoolfellows. She was thoroughly
happy, and enjoyed her life to the utmost.

Among the teachers in the school was a certain Miss Symes, an
Englishwoman of very high attainments, with lofty ideas, and the
greatest desire to do the utmost for her pupils. Miss Symes was not more
than six-and-twenty. She was very handsome - indeed, almost
beautiful - and she had such a passion for music and such a lovely voice
that the girls liked to call her Saint Cecilia. Miss Arundel was another
teacher in the school. She was much older than Miss Symes, but not so
highly educated. She only occasionally came into the upper school - her
work was more with the girls of the lower school - but she was kind and
good-natured, and was universally popular because she could bear being
laughed at, and even enjoyed a joke against herself. Such a woman would
be sure to be a favorite with most girls, and Mary Arundel was as happy
in her life at the Court as any of her pupils. There were also French
and German governesses, and a lady to look after the wardrobes of the
older girls, and attend to them in case of any trifling indisposition.

Besides the resident teachers there was the chaplain and his wife. The
chaplain had his own quarters in a distant wing of the school. His name
was the Reverend Edmund Fairfax. He was an elderly man, with white hair,
a benign expression of face, and gentle brown eyes. His wife was a
somewhat fretful woman, who often wished that her husband would seek
preferment and leave his present circumscribed sphere of action. But
nothing would induce the Reverend Edmund Fairfax to leave Mrs. Haddo so
long as she required him; and when he read prayers morning and evening
in the beautiful old chapel, which had been built as far back as the
beginning of the eighteenth century, the girls loved to listen to his
words, and even at times shyly confided their little troubles to him.

Such was the state of things at Haddo Court when this story opens. Mrs.
Haddo was a woman of about thirty-eight years of age. She was tall and
handsome, of a somewhat commanding presence, with a face which was
capable, in repose, of looking a little stern; but when that same face
was lit up by a smile, the heart of every girl in the school went out to
her, and they thought no one else like her.

Mrs. Haddo was a widow, and had no children of her own. Her late husband
had been a great friend of Mr. Fairfax. At his death she had, after
careful reflection, decided to carry on the work which her mother had so
successfully conducted before her. Everything was going well, and there
was not a trace of care or anxiety on Mrs. Haddo's fine face.

There came a day, however, when this state of things was doomed to be
altered. There is no Paradise, no Garden of Eden, without its serpent,
and so Janet Haddo was destined to experience. The disturbing element
which came into the school was brought about in the most natural way.
Sir John Crawford, the father of one of Mrs. Haddo's favorite pupils,
called unexpectedly to see the good lady.

"I have just got the most exciting piece of news for you," he said.

"Indeed!" replied Mrs. Haddo.

She never allowed herself to be greatly disturbed, but her heart did
beat a trifle faster when she saw how eager Sir John appeared.

"I have come here all the way from Yorkshire in order not to lose a
moment," continued the good baronet. "I don't want to see Fanny at
present. This has nothing whatever to do with Fanny. I have come to tell
you that a wonderful piece of news has reached me."

"What can that be?" asked Mrs. Haddo. She spoke with that gracious calm
which always seemed to pervade her presence and her words.

"Do relieve my mind at once!" said Sir John. "Is it possible that
you - you, Mrs. Haddo, of Haddo Court - have at the present moment three
vacancies in your school?"

Mrs. Haddo laughed. "Is that all?" she said. "But they can be filled up
to-morrow ten times over, if necessary."

"But you _have_ three vacancies - three vacancies in the upper school? It
is true - I see it is true by your face. Please assure me on that point
without delay!"

"It happens to be true," said Mrs. Haddo, "although I do not want the
matter mentioned. My three dear young pupils, the Maitlands, have been
unable to return to school owing to the fact that their father has been
made Governor of one of the West India Islands. He has insisted on
taking his family out with him; so I have lost dear Emily, Jane, and
Agnes. I grieve very much at their absence. They all came to see me last
week to say good-bye; and we had quite a trying time, the children are
so affectionate. I should have greatly loved to keep them longer; but
their father was determined to have them with him, so there was nothing
to be done but submit."

"Oh, Mrs. Haddo, what is one person's loss is another person's gain!"

"I don't understand you, Sir John," was the good lady's reply.

"If you have three vacancies, you can take three more girls. You can
take them into the school at once, can you not?"

"I can, certainly; but, as a matter of fact, I am in no hurry. I shall
probably be obliged to fill up the vacancies next term from the list of
girls already on my books. I shall, as my invariable custom is, promote
some girls from the lower school to the upper, and take three new little
girls into the lower school. But there is really no hurry."

"Yes, but there is every hurry, my friend - every hurry! I want you to
take three - three _orphan_ girls - three girls who have neither father
nor mother; I want you to take them at once into the upper school. They
are not specially well off; but I am their guardian, and your terms
shall be mine. I have just come from the death-bed of their aunt, one of
my dearest friends; she was in despair about Betty and Sylvia and Hester
Vivian. They are three sisters. They have been well educated; and,
although I don't know them personally, any girl brought up by Frances
Vivian, my dear friend who has just passed away, could not but be in all
respects a desirable inmate of any school. I am forced to go to India
immediately, and must ask you to look after Fanny for me during the next
vacation. Now, if you would only take the Vivians I should go away with
a light heart. Do you say 'Yes,' my dear friend! Remember how many of my
name have been educated at Haddo Court. You cannot refuse me. I am
certain you will not."

"I never take girls here on the plea of friendship - even for one like
yourself, Sir John. I must know much more about these children before I
agree to admit them into my school."

Sir John's face became very red, and just for a minute he looked almost

"Oh, Mrs. Haddo," he said then, "do banish that alarmingly severe
expression from your face and look kindly on my project! I can assure
you that Frances Vivian, after whom my own Fanny has been called, had
the finest character in the world. Ah, my dear friend, I have you
now - her own sister was educated here. Now, isn't that guarantee enough?
Look back on the past, refer to the old school-books, and you will see
the name of Beatrice Vivian in the roll-call."

"What can you tell me about the girls themselves?" said Mrs. Haddo, who
was evidently softened by this reference to the past. "I remember
Beatrice Vivian," she continued, before the baronet had time to speak.
"She was a very charming girl, a little older than myself, and she was
undoubtedly a power for good in the school."

"Then, surely, that makes it quite all right?" said Sir John. "Mrs.
Haddo, you must pity me. I have to place these girls somewhere in a week
from now. I am responsible for them. They are homeless; they are young;
they are good-looking."

"Tell me something about their characters and dispositions," said Mrs.

"I can tell you nothing. I only saw Betty for two or three minutes; she
was in a state of wild, tempestuous grief, poor child! I tried to
comfort her, but she rushed away from me. Sylvia was nearly as bad;
while as to poor Hetty, she was ill with sorrow."

"Well, I will think the matter over and let you know," said Mrs. Haddo.
"I never decide anything hastily, so I cannot say more at present."

The baronet rose. "I had best have a peep at Fanny before I go," he
said. "I am only going as far as London to-night, so you can wire your
decision - 'Yes' or 'No' - to the Ritz Hotel. Poor Fanny! she will be in
trouble when she hears that I cannot receive her at Christmas; but I
leave her in good hands here, and what can any one do more?"

"Please promise me one thing, Sir John," said Mrs. Haddo. "Do not say
anything to Fanny about the Vivians. Allow me to tell her when I have
decided that they are to come to the school. If I decide against it, she
need never know. Now, shall I ring and ask one of the servants to send
her to you? Believe me, Sir John, I will do my very utmost to oblige you
in this matter; but I must be guided by principle. You know what this
school means to me. You know how earnestly I have at heart the welfare
of all my children, as I call the girls who live at Haddo Court."

"Yes, yes, I know; but I think, somehow, that you will agree to my

"Send Miss Crawford here," said Mrs. Haddo to a servant who appeared at
that moment, and a minute later Fanny entered the room. She gave a cry
of delight when she saw her father, and Mrs. Haddo at once left them
alone together.

The day was a half-holiday, and the head mistress was glad of the fact,
for she wanted to have a little time to think over Sir John's request.
Haddo Court had hitherto answered so admirably because no girl, even if
her name had been on the books for years, was admitted to the school
without the head mistress having a personal interview, first with her
parents or guardians, and afterwards with the girl herself. Many an
apparently charming girl was quietly but courteously informed that she
was not eligible for the vacancy which was to be filled, and Mrs. Haddo
was invariably right in her judgment. With her shrewd observation of
character, she saw something lacking in that pretty, or careless, or
even thoughtful, or sorrowful face - something which might _aspire_, but
could never by any possibility _attain_, to what the head mistress
desired to inculcate in the young lives around her - and now Mrs. Haddo
was asked to receive three girls under peculiar circumstances. They were
orphans and needed a home. Sir John Crawford was one of her oldest
friends. The Crawfords had always been associated with Haddo Court, and
beautiful Beatrice Vivian had received her education there. Surely there
could not be anything wrong in admitting three young girls like the
Vivians to the school? But yet there was her invariable rule. Could she
possibly see them? One short interview would decide her. She looked
round the beautiful home in which had grown up the fairest specimens of
English girlhood, and wondered if, for once, she might break her rule.

Sir John Crawford had gone to the Ritz Hotel. There he was to await Mrs.
Haddo's telegram. But she would not telegraph; she would go to London
herself. She took the first train from the nearest station, and arrived
unexpectedly at the "Ritz" just as Sir John was sitting down to dinner.

"I see by your face, my dear, good friend, that you are bringing me the
best of news!" said the eager man, flushing with pleasure as Mrs. Haddo
took a seat by his side. "You will join me at dinner, of course?"

"No, thank you, Sir John. I shall have supper at the Court on my return.
I will tell you at once what I have come about. I have, as you must know
well, never admitted a girl into my school without first seeing her and
judging for myself what her character was likely to be. I should
greatly like to help you in the present case, which is, I will admit, a
pressing one; and girls of the name of Vivian, and also related to you,
have claims undoubtedly on Haddo Court. Nevertheless, I am loath to
break my rule. Is it possible for me to see the girls?"

"I fear it is not," said Sir John. "I did not tell you that poor Frances
died in the north of Scotland, and I could not possibly get the girls up
to London in time for you to interview them and then decide against
them. It must be 'Yes' or 'No' - an immediate 'Yes' or 'No,' Mrs. Haddo;
for if you say 'No' and I pray God you won't - I must see what is the
next best thing I can do for them. Poor children! they are very lonely
and unhappy; but, of course, there _are_ other schools. Perhaps you
could recommend one, if you are determined to refuse them without an

Mrs. Haddo could never tell afterwards why a sudden fit of weakness and
compassion overcame her. Perhaps it was the thought of the other
schools; for she was a difficult woman to please, and fastidious and
perhaps even a little scornful with regard to some of the teaching of
the present day. Perhaps it was the sight of Sir John's troubled face.
Perhaps it was the fact that there never was a nicer girl in the school
than Beatrice Vivian - Beatrice, who was long in her grave, but who had
been loved by every one in the house; Beatrice, whom Mrs. Haddo herself
remembered. It was the thought of Beatrice that finally decided the good

"It _is_ against my rule," she said, "and I hope I am not doing wrong. I
will take the children; but I make one condition, Sir John, that if I
find they do not fulfill the high expectations which are looked for in
every girl who comes to Haddo Court, I do my best to place them

"You need not be afraid," said Sir John. His voice shook with delight
and gratitude. "You will never regret this generous act; and, believe
me, my dear friend, there is no rule, however firm, which is not
sometimes better broken than kept."

Alas, poor Sir John! he little knew what he was saying.



Mrs. Haddo slept very little that night. Miss Symes, who adored the head
mistress, could not help noticing that something was the matter with
her; but she knew Mrs. Haddo's nature far too well to make any
inquiries. The next day, however, Miss Symes was called into the head
mistress's presence.

"I want to speak to you all alone," said Mrs. Haddo. "You realize, of
course, Emma, how fully I trust you?"

"You have always done so, dear Mrs. Haddo," replied the young teacher,
her beautiful face flushing with pleasure.

"Well, now, I am going to trust you more fully still. You noticed, or
perhaps you did not, that Sir John Crawford, Fanny's father, called to
see me yesterday?"

"Fanny herself told me," replied Miss Symes. "I found the poor, dear
child in floods of tears. Sir John Crawford is going to India
immediately, and Fanny says she is not likely to see him again for a

"We will cheer her up all we can," said Mrs. Haddo. "I have many schemes
for next Christmas which will, I am sure, give pleasure to the girls who
are obliged to stay here. But time enough for all that later on. You
know, of course, Emma, that there are three vacancies in the upper

"Caused by the absence of the dear young Maitlands," replied Miss Symes.
"I cannot tell you how much we miss them."

"We do miss them," said Mrs. Haddo, who paused and looked attentively at
Miss Symes. "I don't suppose," she continued, "that there is any teacher
in the school who knows so much about the characters of the girls as you
do, my dear, good Emma."

"I think I know most of their characters," said Miss Symes; "characters
in the forming, as one must assuredly say, but forming well, dear Mrs.
Haddo. And who can wonder at that, under your influence?"

Mrs. Haddo's face expressed a passing anxiety.

"Is anything wrong?" said Miss Symes.

"Why do you ask me, Emma? Have you - noticed anything?"

"Yes, certainly. I have noticed that you are troubled, dear friend; and
Mary Arundel has also observed the same."

"But the girls - the girls have said nothing about it?" inquired Mrs.

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Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 1 of 22)