L. T. Meade.

Betty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School online

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CHAPTER XVI

AFTERWARDS


When Betty had made her confession, and had left Susie Rushworth's room,
she went straight to bed; she went without leave, and dropped
immediately into profound slumber. When she awoke in the morning her
head felt clear and light, and she experienced a sense of rejoicing at
what she had done.

"I have told them, and they know," she said to herself. "I have given
them the whole story in a nutshell. I don't really care what follows."

Mingled with her feeling of rejoicing was a curious sense of defiance.
Her sisters asked her what was the matter. She said "Nothing." They
remarked on her sound sleep of the night before, on the early time she
had retired from the Specialities' meeting. They again ventured to ask
if anything was the matter. She said "No."

Then Sylvia began to break a very painful piece of information:
"Dickie's gone!"

"Oh," said Betty, her eyes flashing with anger, "how can you possibly
have been so careless as to let the spider loose?"

"He found a little hole just above the door in the attic, and crept into
it, and we couldn't get him out," said Sylvia.

"No, he wouldn't come out," added Hetty, "though we climbed on two
chairs, one on top of the other, and poked at him with a bit of stick."

"Oh, I dare say he's all right now," said Betty. "You will probably find
him again to-day. He's sure to come for his raw meat."

"But don't you care, Bet? Won't it be truly awful if our own Dickie is
dead?"

"Dead! He won't die," said Betty; "but there's quite a possibility he
may frighten some one. I know one person I'd like to frighten."

"Oh Bet, who do you mean?"

"That horrid girl - that cousin of ours, Fanny Crawford."

"We don't like her either," said the twins.

"She'd be scared to death at Dickie," said Betty. "She's a rare old
coward, you know. But never mind, don't bother; you'll probably find him
this morning when you go up with his raw meat. He's sure to come out of
his hole in order to get his food."

"I don't think so," said Hester in a gloomy voice; "for there are lots
and lots of flies in that attic, and Dickie will eat them and think them
nicer than raw meat."

"Well, it's time to go downstairs now," said Betty.

She was very lively and bright at her lessons all day, and forgot Dickie
in the other cares which engrossed her mind. That said mind was in a
most curious state. She was at once greatly relieved and rebellious.
Sylvia and Hetty watched her, when they could, from afar. Betty's life
as a member of the Specialities separated her a good deal from her
sisters. She seldom saw them during the working-hours; but they were
quite happy, for they had made some friends for themselves, and the
three were always together at night. Betty was not specially reproachful
of herself on their account. She could not help being cleverer than
they, more brilliant, more able on all occasions to leap to a right
conclusion - to discover the meaning of each involved mystery as it was
presented to her. All the teachers remarked on her great intelligence,
on her curious and wonderful gift for dramatization. The girls in her
form were expected once a week to recite from Shakespeare; and Betty's
recitations were sufficiently striking to arrest the attention of the
entire room. She flung herself into the part. She was Desdemona, she was
Portia, she was Rosalind. She was whatever character she wished to
personate. Once she chose that of Shylock; and most uncanny became the
expression of her face, and her words were hurled forth with a defiance
worthy of the immortal Jew.

All these things made Betty a great favorite with the teachers as well
as with the girls. She was, as a rule, neither cross nor bad-tempered.
She was not vain for her gifts. She was always ready to help the others
by every means in her power.

During recess that day Betty received a small three-cornered note in
Margaret Grant's handwriting. She opened it, and saw that it was a
brief request that she, Betty Vivian, should meet Margaret and the other
members of the Speciality Club in Margaret's room at half-past seven
that evening. "Our meeting will be quite informal, but we earnestly beg
for your attendance."

Betty slipped the note into her pocket. As she did so she observed that
Fanny Crawford's eyes were fixed on her.

"Are you going to attend?" asked Fanny.

"You will know," replied Betty, "when you go into the room to-night at
half-past seven and find me there or not there. Surely that is enough
for you!"

"Thanks!" replied Fanny. Then, summoning a certain degree of courage,
she came a step nearer. "Betty, if I might consult with you, if I might
warn you - - "

"But as you may not consult with me, and as you may not warn me, there
is nothing to be done, is there?" said Betty. "Hallo!" she cried the
next minute, as a schoolgirl whose friendship she had made during the
last day or two appeared in sight, "I want to have a word with you,
Jessie. Forgive me, Fan; I am very much occupied just at present."

"Her fall is certain," thought Fanny to herself. "I wonder how she will
like what lies before her to-night. I at least have done my best."

Punctual to the hour, the Specialities met in Margaret's room. There was
no supper on this occasion, nor any appearance of festivity. The pretty
flowers which Margaret usually favored were conspicuous by their
absence. Even the electric light was used but sparingly. None of the
girls dressed for this evening, but wore their usual afternoon frocks.
Betty, however, wore white, and walked into the room with her head well
erect and her step firm.

"Sit down, Betty, won't you?" said Margaret.

"Thanks, Margaret!" answered Betty; and she sank into a chair. She chose
one that was in such a position that she could face the six girls who
were now prepared to judge her on her own merits. She looked at them
very quietly. Her face was pale, and her eyes not as bright as usual.

"I am deputed by the others to speak to you, Betty," said Margaret. "We
will make no comment whatsoever with regard to what you told us last
night. It isn't for us to punish you for having told a lie. We have
ourselves done very wrong in our lives, and we doubtless have not been
tempted as you have been; and then, Betty Vivian, I can assure you that,
although you have been but a short time in the school, we all - I think I
may say all - love you."

Betty's eyes softened. She hitched her chair round a little, so that she
no longer saw Fanny, but could look at Margaret Grant and Martha West,
who were sitting side by side. Susie's pretty face was fairly shining
with eagerness, and Olive's eyes were full of tears. The Bertrams
clasped each other's hands, and but for Margaret's restraining presence
would have rushed to Betty's there and then and embraced her.

"But," said Margaret, "although we do love you - and I think will always
love you, Betty - we must do our duty by the club. You confessed a sin to
us - not at the time, as you ought to have done, but later on. No one
compelled you to confess what you did last night. There was no outside
pressure brought to bear on you. It must have been your conscience."

"I told you so," said Betty.

"Therefore," continued Margaret, "your conscience must be very
wide-awake, Betty, and you have done - well, so far - very nobly; so nobly
that nothing will induce us to ask you to withdraw from our club,
provided - - "

Betty's eyes brightened, and some of the tension in her face relaxed.

"I have taken the votes of the members on that point," Margaret
continued, "therefore I know what I am speaking about. What we do most
emphatically require is that you carry your confession to its logical
conclusion - that what you have said to us you say to the kindest woman
in all the world, to dear Mrs. Haddo, and that you put the little packet
which has cost you such misery into Mrs. Haddo's hands. Don't speak for
a minute, please, Betty. We have been praying about you, all of us; we
have been longing - longing for you to do this thing. Please don't speak
for a minute. It is not in our power to turn you from the school, nor to
relate to Mrs. Haddo nor to any of the teachers what you have told us.
But we can dismiss you from the Speciality Club - that does lie in our
province; and we must do so, bitterly as we shall regret it, if you do
not carry your confession to its logical conclusion."

"Then I must go," said Betty very gently.

"Oh Betty!" exclaimed Olive; and she burst into a flood of weeping.
"Dear, dear, dear Betty, don't go - please don't go!"

"We will all support you if you are nervous," continued Margaret. "I
think we may say we will all support you, and Mrs. Haddo is so sweet;
and then, if you want to see him, there's Mr. Fairfax, who could tell
you what to do better than we can. Don't decide now, dear Betty. Please,
please consider this question, and let us know."

"But I have decided," said Betty. "I told you what I thought right. I
love the club, and every single member of it - except my cousin, Fanny
Crawford. I don't love Fanny, and she doesn't love me - I say so quite
plainly; therefore, once again, I break Rule I. You see, girls, I cannot
stay. I must become again an undistinguished member of this great
school. Don't suppose it will hurt my vanity; but it will touch deeper
things in me, and I shall never, never forget your kindness. I can by no
possibility do more than I have done. Good-bye, dear Margaret; I am
more than sorry that I have given you all this trouble."

As Betty spoke she unclasped the little silver true-lover's knot from
the bosom of her dress and put it into Margaret's hand. Then she walked
out of the room, a Speciality no longer.

When she had gone, the girls talked softly together. They were terribly
depressed.

"We never had a member like her. What a pity our rules are so strict!"
said Olive.

"Nonsense, Olive!" said Margaret. "We must do our best, our very best;
and even yet I have great hopes of Betty. She can be re-elected some
day, perhaps."

"Oh, she is like no one else!" said one girl after another.

The girls soon dispersed; but as Fanny was going to her room Martha West
joined her. "Fanny," she said, "I, as the youngest member of the
Specialities, would like to ask you a question. Why is it that your
cousin dislikes you so much?"

"I can't tell," replied Fanny. "I have always tried to be kind to her."

"But you don't cordially like her yourself!"

"That is quite true," said Fanny; "but then I have seen her at home,
when you have not. She has great gifts of fascination; but I know her
for what she really is."

"When you speak like that, Fanny Crawford, I no longer like you,"
remarked Martha; and she walked away in the direction of her room.

All the Speciality girls, including Betty, were present at prayers in
the chapel that evening. Betty sat a little apart from her companions,
she stood apart from them, she prayed apart from them. She seemed like
one isolated and alone. Her face was very white, her eyes large and dark
and anxious. From time to time the girls who loved her looked at her
with intense compassion. But Fanny gave her very different glances.
Fanny rejoiced in her discomfort, and heartily hoped that she would now
lose her prestige in the school.

Until the advent of Betty Vivian, Fanny was rather a favorite at Haddo
Court. She was certainly not the least bit original. She was prim and
smug and self-satisfied to the last degree, but she always did the right
thing in the right way. She always looked pretty, and no one ever
detected any fault in her. Her mistresses trusted her, and some of the
girls thought it worth their while to become chums with her.

Fanny, however, now saw at a glance that she was in the black looks of
the other Specialities. This fact angered her uncontrollably, and she
made up her mind to bring Betty to further shame. It was not sufficient
that she should be expelled from the Speciality Club; the usual formula
must be gone through. All the girls knew of this formula; and they all,
with the exception of Fanny, wished it not to be observed in the case of
Betty Vivian. But Fanny knew her power, and was resolved to use it. The
Speciality Club exercised too great an influence in the school for its
existence to be lightly regarded. A member of the club, as has been
said, enjoyed many privileges besides being accorded certain exemptions
from various irksome duties. It was long, long years since any member
had been dismissed in disgrace; it was certainly not within the memory
of any girl now in the school. But Fanny had searched the old annals,
and had come across the fact that about thirty years ago a Speciality
had done something which brought discredit on herself and the club, and
had therefore been expelled; she had also discovered that the fact of
her expulsion had been put up in large letters on a blackboard. This
board hung in the central hall, and generally contained notices of
entertainments or class-work of a special order for the day's programme.
Miss Symes wrote out this programme day by day.

On the morning after Betty had been expelled from the Specialities,
Fanny ran up to Miss Symes. "By the way," she said, "I am afraid you
will have to do it, for it is the rule of the club."

"I shall have to do what, my dear Fanny?"

"You will just have to say, please, on the blackboard that Betty Vivian
is no longer a member of the Specialities."

Miss Symes stopped writing. She was busily engaged notifying the hour of
a very important German lesson to be given by a professor who came from
town. "What do you mean, Fanny?"

"What I say. By the rules of the club we can give no reasons, but must
merely state that Betty Vivian is no longer a member. It ought to be
known. Will you write it on the blackboard?"

Miss Symes looked at Fanny with a curious expression on her face. "Thank
you for telling me," she said. She then crossed the great hall to where
Margaret and some other girls of the Specialities were assembled. She
told Margaret what Fanny had already imparted to her, and asked if it
was true.

"It is true, alas!" said Margaret.

"But I thought Betty was such a prime favorite with you all," said Miss
Symes; "and she really is such a sweet girl! I have never been more
attracted by any one."

"I cannot give you any particulars, Miss Symes; but I think we have done
right," said Margaret.

"If you have had any hand in it, dear, I make no doubt on the subject,"
replied Miss Symes. "It is a sad pity. Fanny says it is one of your
rules that an expelled member has her name published on the blackboard,
the fact being also stated that she has been expelled."

"Oh," said Margaret, "that is a very old rule. We don't want it to be
carried into effect in Betty's case."

"But if it is a rule, dear, and if it has never been abolished - - "

"It has not been abolished," said Margaret. "It would distress Betty
very much."

"Nevertheless, Margaret, if it is right to expel Betty it is right to
publish that fact on the blackboard, always provided it is a rule of the
Specialities."

"I am afraid it is a rule," said Margaret. "But we are all unhappy about
her. We hate having her expelled."

"Can I help you in any way, dear Margaret?"

"No, Miss Symes; no one can help us, and the deed is done now."

Miss Symes went very slowly to the blackboard, and wrote on it simply:
"Betty Vivian has resigned her membership of the Speciality Club."

This notice caused flocks of girls to surround the blackboard during the
morning, and the news flew like wildfire all over the school. Betty
herself approached as an eager group were scrutinizing the words, saw
her name, read it calmly (her lips curling slightly with scorn), and
turned away. No one dared to question her, but all looked at her in
wonder.

Betty went through her lessons with her accustomed force and animation,
and there was no difference to be observed between her manner of to-day
and that of yesterday. After school she very simply told her sisters
that she had withdrawn from the Specialities, and then begged of them
not to pursue the subject. "I am not going to explain," she said, "so
you needn't ask me. I shall have more time to devote to you in the
future, and that'll be a good thing." She then left them and went for a
long walk by herself.

Now, it is one of those dreadful things which most surely happen to weak
human nature that when an evil and jealous and unkind thought gets into
the heart, that same thought, though quite unimportant at first,
gradually increases in dimensions until it overshadows all other
thoughts and gains complete and overwhelming mastery of the mind. Had
any one said to Fanny Crawford a fortnight or three weeks before the
Vivians' arrival at the school that she would have felt towards Betty as
she now did, Fanny would have been the first to recoil at the monstrous
fungus of hatred which existed in her mind. Had Betty been a very plain,
unattractive, uninteresting girl, Fanny would have patronized her, kept
her in her place, but at the same time been kind to her. But Fanny's
rage towards Betty now was almost breaking its bounds. Was not Fanny's
own father educating the Vivians? Was it not he who had persuaded Mrs.
Haddo to admit them to the school? She herself was the only daughter of
a rich and distinguished man. The Vivians were nobodies. Why should they
be fussed about, and talked of, and even loved - yes, loved - while she,
Fanny, was losing her friends? The thought was unbearable! Fanny had
managed by judicious precaution to get Betty to reveal part of her
secret, and Betty was no longer a member of the Specialities. Betty's
name was on the blackboard too, and by no means honorably mentioned. But
more things could be done.

For Fanny felt that the school was turning against her - the upper
school, whose praise she so prized. The Specialities asked her boldly
why she did not love Betty Vivian. There would be no peace for Fanny
until Mrs. Haddo knew everything, and dismissed the Vivians to another
school. This she would, of course, do at once if she knew the full
extent of Betty's sin. Fanny felt that she must proceed very warily.
Betty had hidden the packet, and boldly declared that she would not give
it up to any one - that she would rather leave the Specialities than tell
her story to Mrs. Haddo and put the little sealed packet into her
keeping. Fanny's present aim, therefore, was to find the packet. She
wondered how she could accomplish this, and looked round her for a
ready tool. Presently she made up her mind that the one girl who might
help her was Sibyl Ray. Sibyl was by no means strong-minded. Sibyl was
unpopular - she pined for notice. Sibyl adored Betty; but suppose - oh,
suppose! - Fanny could offer her, as a price for the dirty work she
wanted her to undertake, membership in the Speciality Club? Martha West
would be on Sibyl's side, for Martha was always friendly to the plain,
uninteresting, somewhat lonely girl. Fanny felt at once that the one
tool who could further her aims was Sibyl Ray. There was no time to
lose.

Sibyl had been frightfully perturbed at seeing Betty's name on the
blackboard, and she was as eager to talk to Fanny as Fanny was pleased
to listen to her.

"Oh Fan!" she said, running up to her on the afternoon of that same day,
"may I go for a very little walk with you? I do want to ask you about
poor darling Betty!"

"Poor darling Betty indeed!" said Fanny.

"Oh, but don't you pity her? What can have happened to cause her to be
no longer a member of the Specialities?"

"Now, Sibyl, you must be a little goose! Do you suppose for a moment it
is within my power to enlighten you?"

"I suppose it isn't; but I am very unhappy about her, and so are we all.
We are all fond of Betty. We think her wonderful."

Fanny was silent.

"'Tis good of you, Fan, to let me walk with you!"

"I have something to say to you, Sibyl; but before I begin you must
promise me most faithfully that you won't repeat anything I am going to
say."

"Of course not," said Sibyl. "As if I could!"

"I don't suppose you would dare. You see, I am one of the older girls of
the school, and have been a Speciality for some little time, and it
wouldn't be at all to your advantage if you did anything to annoy me. I
should find out at once, for instance, if you whispered a syllable of
this to Martha West, Margaret Grant, or any other member of the
Speciality Club."

"I won't! I won't! You may trust me, indeed you may," said Sibyl.

"I think I may," answered Fanny, looking down at Sibyl's poor little
apology of a face. "I think you are the sort who would be faithful."

Sibyl's small heart swelled with pride. "Betty was kind to me too," she
said; "and she did make me look nice - didn't she? - when she suggested
that I should wear the marguerites."

"To tell you the truth, Sibyl, you were a figure of fun that night.
Betty was laughing in her sleeve at you all the time."

Sibyl colored, and her small light-blue eyes contracted. "Betty laughing
at me! I don't believe it."

"Of course she was, child. We all spoke of it afterwards. Why, you don't
know what you looked like when you came into the room in that green
dress, with that hideous wreath on your head."

"I know," said Sibyl in a humble tone. "I couldn't make it look all
right; but Betty took me behind a screen, and managed it in a twinkling,
and put a white sash round my waist, and - oh, I felt nice anyhow!"

"I am glad you felt nice," said Fanny, "for I can assure you it was more
than you looked."

"Oh Fanny, don't hurt me! You know I can't afford very pretty dresses
like you. We are rather poor at home, and there are so many of us."

"I don't want to hurt you, child; only, haven't you a grain of sense?
Don't you know perfectly well why Betty wanted you to wear the wreath of
marguerites?"

"Just because she was sweet," said Sibyl, "and she thought I'd look
really nice in them."

"That is all you know! Now, recall something, Sibyl."

"Yes?"

"Do you remember when you saw Betty stoop over that broken stump of the
old oak and take something out?"

"Of course I do," said Sibyl. "It was a piece of wood. I found it the
next day."

"Well, it wasn't a piece of wood," said Fanny.

"What can you mean?" asked Sibyl. She stood perfectly still, staring at
her companion. Then she burst into a sort of frightened laugh. "But it
was a piece of wood, really," she added. "You are mistaken, Fanny. Of
course you know a great deal, but even you can't know more than I have
proved by my own eyesight. It looked in the distance like a small brown
piece of wood; and I asked Betty if it was, and she admitted it."

"Just like her! just like her!" said Fanny.

"Well, then, the very next day," continued Sibyl, "several girls and I
went to the old stump and poked and poked, and found it; so, you
see - - "

"I don't see," replied Fanny. "And now, if you will allow me, Sibyl, and
if you won't chatter quite so fast, I will tell you what I really do
know about this matter. I don't think for a single moment - in fact, I am
certain - that Betty Vivian did not trouble herself to poke amongst
withered leaves in the stump of the old oak-tree in order to produce a
piece of sodden wood. There was something else; and when you asked her
if it was a piece of wood she told you - remember, Sibyl, this is in
absolute confidence - an untruth. Oh, I am trying to put it mildly; but I
must mention the fact - Betty told you an untruth. Did you observe, or
did you not, that she was excited and looked slightly annoyed when you
suddenly called to her and ran up to her side?"

"I - yes, I think she did look a little put out; but then she is very
proud, is Betty, and I am not her special friend, although I love her so
hard," replied Sibyl.

"She walked with you afterwards, did she not?"

"Yes."

"She went towards the house with you?"

"Of course. I have told you all that, Fanny."

"When you both reached the gardens she suggested that you should wear
the marguerites in your hair?"

"She did, Fanny; and I thought it was such a charming idea."

"Did it not once occur to you that she wanted to get you out of the way,
that she did not care one scrap how you looked at the Speciality
entertainment?"

"That certainly did not occur to me," answered Sibyl; then she added
stoutly, for she was a faithful little thing at heart, "and I don't
believe it either."

"Well, believe it or not as you please; I know it to have been a fact.
And now I'll just tell you something. You must never, never repeat it;
if you do, I sha'n't speak to you again. I know what I am saying to be a


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Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 15 of 22)