L. T. Meade.

Betty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School online

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Sibyl grew that fiery red which always distressed her inexpressibly. The
next minute she had disappeared. She ran straight to Fanny's room,
hoping and trusting that she might find its inmate within. She was not
disappointed, for Fanny was there alone; she was fully expecting Sibyl
to come and see her. To Sibyl's knock she said, "Come in!" and the girl
entered at once.

"Well?" said Fanny.

"I have done what you wanted," said Sibyl. "I watched her, and I saw.
Afterwards I went to the place where she had hidden it. I took it. It is
in my pocket. Please take it from me. I have done what you wished. I
want to get rid of it, and never to think of it again. Fanny, when shall
I be elected a Speciality?"

But Fanny did not speak. She had snatched the little packet from Sibyl's
hand and was gazing at it, her eyes almost starting from her head.

"When shall I become a Speciality?" whispered Sibyl.

"Don't whisper, child! The Vivians' room is next to mine. Sibyl, we must
keep this a most profound secret, I am awfully obliged to you! You have
been very clever and prompt. I don't wish to ask any questions at all.
Thank you, Sibyl, from my heart. I will certainly keep my promise, and
at the next meeting will propose you as a member. Whether you are
elected or not must, of course, depend on the votes of the majority. In
the meanwhile forget all this. Be as usual with your schoolfellows. Rest
assured of my undying friendship and gratitude. Keep what you have done
a profound secret; if anything leaks out there is no chance of your
becoming a Speciality. Now, good-bye Sibyl. I mustn't be seen to take
any special notice of you; people are very watchful in cases of this
sort. But remember, though I don't talk to you a great deal, I shall be
your true friend; and after you have become a member of our club there
will, of course, be no difficulty."

"Oh, I should love to be a member!" said Sibyl. "I do so hate the tea in
the refectory, and you do seem to have such cosy times in your
sitting-room."

Fanny smiled very slightly. "May I give you one word of warning?" she
said. "You made a very great mistake to-day when you did not seem
willing to pay Martha West a visit. Your election depends far more on
Martha than on me. Between now and Thursday - when I mean to propose you
as a member in place of Betty Vivian, who has forfeited her right for
ever - Martha will be your most valuable ally. I do not say you will be
elected - for the rules of the club are very strict, and we are most
exclusive - but I will do my utmost."

"But you promised! I thought I was sure!" said Sibyl, beginning to
whimper.

"Nonsense, nonsense, child! I said I would do my best. Now, keep up your
friendship with Martha - that is, if you are wise."

Sibyl left the room. Her momentary elation was over, and she began to
hate herself for what she had done. In all probability she would not be
elected a Speciality, and then what reward would she have for acting the
spy? She had acted the spy. The plain truth seemed now to flash before
her eyes. She had been very mean and hard; and she had taken something
which, after all, did not belong to her at all, and given it to Fanny.
She could never get that something back. She felt that she did not dare
to look at Betty Vivian. Why should not Betty hide things if she liked
in the stump of an old oak-tree or under a bit of tiresome heather in
the "forest primeval?" After all, Betty had not said the thing was wood;
but when Sibyl had asked her she had said, "Have it so if you like." Oh!
Sibyl felt just now that she had been made a sort of cat's-paw, and that
she did not like Fanny Crawford one bit.




CHAPTER XVII

A TURNING-POINT


After this exciting day matters seemed to move rather languidly in the
school. Betty was beyond doubt in low spirits. She did not complain; she
did not take any one into her confidence. Even to her sisters she was
gloomy and silent. She took long walks by herself. She neglected no
duty - that is, no apparent duty - and her lessons progressed swimmingly.
Her two great talents - the one for music, the other for recitation - were
bringing her into special notice amongst the different teachers. She was
looked upon by the educational staff as a girl who might bring marked
distinction to the school. Thus the last few days of that miserable week
passed.

On Tuesday evening Miss Symes had a little talk with Mrs. Haddo.

"What is it, dear St. Cecilia?" asked the head mistress, looking
lovingly into the face of her favorite teacher.

"I am anxious about Betty," was the reply.

"Sit down, dear, won't you? Emma, I have been also anxious. I cannot
understand why that notice was put up on the blackboard, and why Betty
has left the club. Have you any clue, dear?"

"None whatsoever," was Miss Symes's answer. "Of course I, as a teacher,
cannot possibly question any of the girls, and they are none of them
willing to confide in me."

"We certainly cannot question them," said Mrs. Haddo. "But now I wish to
say something to you. Betty has been absent from evening prayers at the
chapel so often lately that I think it is my duty to speak to her on the
subject."

"I have also observed that fact," replied Miss Symes. "Betty does not
look well. There is something, beyond doubt, weighing on her mind. She
avoids her fellow-pupils, whereas she used to be, I may almost say, the
favorite of the school. She scarcely speaks to any one now. When she
walks she walks alone. Even her dear little sisters are anxious about
her; I can see it, although they are far too discreet to say a word.
Poor Betty's little face seems to me to grow paler every day, and her
eyes more pathetic. Mrs. Haddo, can you not do something?"

"You know, Emma, that I never force confidences; I think it a great
mistake. If a girl wishes to speak to me, she understands me well enough
to be sure I shall respect every word she says; otherwise, I think it
best to allow a girl of Betty Vivian's age to fight out her difficulties
alone."

"As her teacher, I have nothing to complain of," said Miss Symes. "She
is just brilliant. She seems to leap over mental difficulties as though
they did not exist. Her intuition is something marvellous, and she will
grasp an idea almost as soon as it is uttered. I should like you to hear
her play; it is a perfect delight to teach her; her little fingers seem
to be endowed with the very spirit of music. And then that delightful
voice of hers thrills one when she recites aloud, as she does twice a
week in my recitation-class. As a matter of fact, dear Mrs. Haddo, I am
deeply attached to Betty; but I feel there is something wrong just now."

"A turning-point," said Mrs. Haddo. "How often we come to them in life!"

"God grant she may take the right turning!" was Miss Symes's remark. She
sat silent, gazing gloomily into the fire.

"It is not like you, Emma, to be so despondent," said the head mistress.

"I cannot help feeling despondent, for I think there is mischief afoot
and that Betty is suffering. I wonder if - - "

At that moment there came a tap at the door. Mrs. Haddo said, "Come in,"
and Mr. Fairfax entered.

"Ah," said Mrs. Haddo, "you are just the very man we want, Mr. Fairfax!
Please sit down."

Mr. Fairfax immediately took the chair which was offered to him. "I have
come," he said, "to speak to you and to Miss Symes with regard to one of
your pupils - Betty Vivian."

"How strange!" said Mrs. Haddo. "Miss Symes and I were talking about
Betty only this very moment. Can you throw any light on what is
troubling her?"

"No," said Mr. Fairfax. "I came here to ask if you could."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you know in my capacity as chaplain different things come to my
ears; but I am under a promise not to repeat them. I am, however, under
no promise in this instance. I was walking through the shrubbery
half-an-hour ago - I was, in fact, thinking out the little address I want
to give the dear girls next Sunday morning - when I suddenly heard a low
sob. I paused to listen; it was some way off, but I heard it quite
distinctly. I did not like to approach - you understand one's feeling of
delicacy in such a matter; but it came again, and was so very
heartrending that I could not help saying, 'Who is there? Is any one in
trouble?' To my amazement, a girl started to her feet; she had been
lying full-length, with her face downwards, on the damp grass. She came
up to me, and I recognized her at once. She was Betty Vivian. There was
very little light, but I could see that she was in terrible distress.
She could scarcely get out her words. 'It is lost!' she said - 'lost!
Some one has stolen it!' And then she rushed away from me in the
direction of the house. I thought it my duty to come and tell you, Mrs.
Haddo. The girl's grief was quite remarkable and out of the common. The
tone in which she said, 'It is lost - lost!' was tragic."

Mrs. Haddo sat very still for a minute. Then she said gently, "Would you
rather speak to her, or shall I?"

"Under the circumstances," said Mr. Fairfax, "it is only right for me to
say something more. Betty Vivian came to see me some days ago, and said
that she had been expelled from the Specialities; and she asked me if,
under such conditions, she ought to attend evening prayers in the
chapel. I begged for her full confidence. She would not give it."

"And what did you say about evening prayers?"

"I said that was a matter between her own conscience and God. I could
not get anything further out of her; but since then you may have
observed that she has hardly attended chapel at all."

"I certainly have noticed it," said Miss Symes.

Mrs. Haddo did not speak for a minute. Then she said in an authoritative
voice, "Thank you, Mr. Fairfax; I am deeply obliged to you for having
come to me and taken me so far into your confidence. Emma, will you ask
Betty to come to me here? If she resists, bring her, dear; if she still
resists, I will go to her. Dear Mr. Fairfax, we must pray for this
child. There is something very seriously wrong; but she has won my
heart, and I cannot give her up. Will you leave me also, dear friend,
for I must see Betty by herself?"

Miss Symes immediately left the room. The clergyman shortly afterwards
followed her example.

Of all the teachers, Miss Symes was the greatest favorite in the upper
school. She went swiftly through the lounge, where the girls were
usually to be found at this hour chatting, laughing, amusing themselves
with different games; for this was the relaxation-hour of the day, when
every girl might do precisely what she liked. Miss Symes did not for a
moment expect to find Betty in such an animated, lively, almost noisy
group. To her amazement, however, she was attracted by peals of
laughter; and - looking in the direction whence they came, she perceived
that Betty herself was the center of a circle of girls, who were all
urging her to "take-off" different girls and teachers in the school.

Betty was an inimitable mimic. At that very moment it seemed to Miss
Symes that she heard her own voice speaking - her own very gentle,
cultivated, high-bred voice. Amongst the girls who listened and roared
with laughter might have been seen Sarah Butt, Sibyl Ray, and several
more who had only recently been moved to the upper school.

"Now, please, take-off Mademoiselle. Whoever you neglect, please bestow
some attention on Mademoiselle, dear Betty!" cried several voices.

Betty drew herself up, perked her head a little to one side, put on the
very slightest suspicion of a squint, and spoke in the high-pitched,
rapid tone of the Frenchwoman. She looked her part, and she acted it.

"And now Fräulein - Fräulein!" said another voice.

But before Betty could change herself into a stout German Fräulein, Miss
Symes laid a quiet hand on her shoulder. "May I speak to you for a
minute, Betty?"

"Why, certainly," said Betty, starting and reddening faintly.

"Oh, dear St. Cecilia," exclaimed several of the girls, "don't take
Betty from us now! She is such fun!"

"I was amusing the girls by doing a little bit of mimicry," said Betty.
"Miss Symes, did you see me mimicking you?"

"I both saw and heard you, my dear. Your imitation was excellent."

"Oh, please, dear St. Cecilia, don't say you are hurt!" cried Sarah
Butt.

"Not in the least," said Miss Symes. "The gift of mimicry is a somewhat
dangerous one, but I don't think Betty meant it unkindly. I would ask
her, however, to spare our good and noble head mistress."

"We begged of her to be Mrs. Haddo, but she wouldn't," said Sibyl.

"Come, Betty," said Miss Symes. She took the girl's hand and led her
away.

"What do you want with me?" said Betty. The brilliance in her eyes which
had been so remarkable a few minutes ago had now faded; her cheeks
looked pale; her small face wore a hungry expression.

"Mrs. Haddo wants to see you, Betty."

"Oh - but - must I go?"

"Need you ask, Betty Vivian? The head mistress commands your presence."

"Then I will go."

"Remember, I trust you," said Miss Symes.

"You may," answered the girl. She drew herself up and walked quickly and
with great dignity through the lounge into the great corridor beyond,
and so towards Mrs. Haddo's sitting-room. Here she knocked, and was
immediately admitted.

"Betty, I wish to speak to you," said Mrs. Haddo. "Sit down, dear. You
and I have not had a chat for some time."

"A very weary and long time ago!" answered Betty. All the vivacity which
had marked her face in the lounge had left it.

But Mrs. Haddo, who could read character so rapidly and with such
unerring instinct, knew that the girl was, so to speak, on guard. She
was guarding herself, and was under a very strong tension. "I have
something to say to you, Betty," said Mrs. Haddo.

Betty lowered her eyes.

"Look at me, my child."

With an effort Betty raised her eyes, glanced at Mrs. Haddo, and then
looked down again. "Wait, please, will you?" she said.

"I am about to do so. You are unhappy."

Betty nodded.

"Will you tell me what is the matter?"

Betty shook her head.

"Do you think it is right for you to be unhappy in a school like mine,
and not to tell me - not to tell the one who is placed over you as a
mother would be placed were she alive - what is troubling you?"

"It may be wrong," said Betty; "but even so, I cannot tell you."

"You must understand," said Mrs. Haddo, speaking with great restraint
and extreme distinctness, "that it is impossible for me to allow this
state of things to continue. I know nothing, and yet in one sense I know
all. Nothing has been told me with regard to the true story of your
unhappiness, but the knowledge that you are unhappy reached me before
you yourself confirmed it. To-night Mr. Fairfax found you out of
doors - a broken rule, Betty, but I pass that over. He heard you sobbing
in the bitterness of your distress, and discovered that you were lying
face downwards on the grass in the fir-plantation. When he called you,
you went to him and told him you had lost something."

"So I have," answered Betty.

"Is it because of that you are unhappy?"

"Yes, because of that - altogether because of that."

"What have you lost, dear?"

"Mrs. Haddo, I cannot tell you."

"Betty, I ask you to do so. I have a right to know. I stand to you in
the place of a mother. I repeat that I have a right to know."

"I cannot - I cannot tell you!" replied Betty.

Mrs. Haddo, who had been seated, now rose, went over to the girl, and
put one hand on her shoulder.

Betty shivered from head to foot. Then she sprang to her feet and moved
a little away. "Don't!" she said. "When you touch me it is like fire!"

"My touch, Betty Vivian, like fire!"

"Oh, you know that I love you!" sobbed poor Betty.

"Prove it, then, dear, by giving me your confidence."

"I would," said Betty, speaking rapidly, "if that which is causing me
suffering had anything at all to do with you. But it has nothing to do
with you, Mrs. Haddo, nor with the school, nor with the girls in the
school. It is my own private trouble. Once I had a treasure. The
treasure is gone."

"You would, perhaps, like it back again?" said Mrs. Haddo.

"Ah yes - yes! but I cannot get it. Some one has taken it. It is gone."

"Once again, Betty, I ask you to give me your confidence."

"I cannot."

Mrs. Haddo resumed her seat. "Is that your very last - your
final - decision, Betty Vivian?"

"It is, Mrs. Haddo."

"How old are you, dear?"

"I have told you. I was sixteen and a half when I came. I am rather more
now."

"You are only a child, dear Betty."

"Not in mind, nor in life, nor in circumstances," replied Betty.

"We will suppose that all that is true," answered Mrs. Haddo. "We will
suppose, also, that you are cast upon the world friendless and alone.
Were such a thing to happen, what would you do?"

Betty shivered. "I don't know," she replied.

"Now, Betty, I cannot take your answer as final. I will give you a few
days longer; at the end of that time I will again beg for your
confidence. In the meanwhile I must say something very plainly. You came
to this school with your sisters under special conditions which you, my
poor child, had nothing to do with. But I must say frankly that I was
unwilling to admit you three into the school after term had begun, and
it was contrary to my rules to take girls straight into the upper school
who had never been in the lower school. Nevertheless, for the sake of my
old friend Sir John Crawford, I did this."

"Not for Fanny's sake, I hope?" said Betty, her eyes flashing for a
minute, and a queer change coming over her face.

"I have done what I did, Betty, for the sake of my dear friend Sir John
Crawford, who is your guardian and your sisters' guardian, and who is
now in India. I was unwilling to have you, my dears; but when you
arrived and I saw you, Betty, I thanked God, for I thought that I
perceived in you one whom I could love, whom I could train, whom I could
help. I was interested in you, very deeply interested, from the first. I
perceived with pleasure that my feelings towards you were shared by your
schoolfellows. You became a favorite, and you became so just because of
that beautiful birthright of yours - your keen wit, your unselfishness,
and your pleasant and bright ways. I did an extraordinary thing when I
admitted you into the school, and your schoolfellows did a thing quite
as extraordinary when they allowed you, a newcomer, to join that special
club which, more than anything else, has laid the foundation of sound
and noble morals in the school. You were made a Speciality. I have
nothing to do with the club, my dear; but I was pleased - nay, I was
proud - when I saw that my girls had such discernment as to select you as
one of their, I might really say august, number. You took your honors in
precisely the spirit I should have expected of you - sweetly, modestly,
without any undue sense of pride or hateful self-righteousness. Then, a
few days ago, there came a thunderclap; and teachers and girls were
alike amazed to find that you were no longer a member. By the rules of
the club we were not permitted to ask any questions - - "

"But I, as a late member, am permitted to tell you this much, Mrs.
Haddo. I was, and I think quite rightly, expelled from the club."

"Betty!"

"It is true," answered Betty.

"And you will not tell me why?"

"No more can I tell you why than I can explain to you what I have lost."

"Betty, my poor child, there is a mystery somewhere. I am deeply puzzled
and terribly distressed. This is Wednesday evening. This day week, at
the same hour, I will send for you again and ask for your full and
absolute confidence. If you refuse to give it to me, Betty, I will not
expel you, my child; but I must send you from Haddo Court. I have an old
friend who will receive you until I can get into communication with Sir
John Crawford, for the sort of mystery which now exists is bad for the
school as a whole. You are intelligent enough to perceive that."

"Yes, Mrs. Haddo, I am quite intelligent enough to perceive it." Betty
stood up as she spoke.

"Have you anything more to say?"

"Nothing," replied Betty.

"This day week, then, my child. And one word before we part. The chapel
where Mr. Fairfax reads prayers - where God, I hope, is worshiped both in
spirit and in truth - is meant as much for the sorrowful, the erring, the
sinners, as for those who think themselves close to Him. For, Betty, the
God whom I believe in is a very present Help in time of trouble. I want
you to realize that at least, and not to cease attending prayers, my
dear."

Betty bent her head. The next minute she went up to Mrs. Haddo, flung
herself on her knees by that lady's side, took her long white hand,
kissed it with passion, and left the room.




CHAPTER XVIII

NOT ACCEPTABLE


It was Thursday evening, and Fanny Crawford did not altogether like the
prospect which lay before her. Ever since Sibyl had put the little
sealed packet into her hands, that packet had lain on Fanny's heart with
the weight of lead. Now that she had obtained the packet she did not
want it; she did not dare to let any one guess how it had come into her
hands. Fanny the proud, the looked-up-to, the respected, the girl whose
conduct had hitherto been so immaculate, had stooped to employ another
girl to act as a spy. Fanny was absolutely in the power of that very
insignificant person, Sibyl Ray. Sibyl demanded her reward. Fanny must
do her utmost to get Sibyl admitted to the club.

On that very evening, as Fanny was going towards the Bertrams' room,
where the meeting was to be held, she was waylaid by Sibyl.

"You won't forget? - you have promised."

"Of course I won't forget, Sibyl. What a tease you are!"

"Can you possibly give me a hint afterwards? You might come to my room
just for an instant, or you might push a little note under the door. I
am so panting to know. I do so dreadfully want to belong to the club. I
have been counting up all the privileges. I shall go mad with joy if I
am admitted."

"I will do my best for you; but whether I can tell you anything or not
to-night is more than I can possibly say," replied Fanny. "Now, do go
away, Sibyl; go away, and be quick about it!"

"All right," said Sibyl. "Of course you know, or perhaps you don't know,
that Betty isn't well? The doctor came an hour ago, and he says she is
to be kept very quiet. I am ever so sorry for her, she is so - so - - Oh
dear, I am almost sorry now that I took that little packet from under
the root of the Scotch heather!"

"Go, Sibyl. If we are seen together it will be much more difficult for
me to get you elected," was Fanny's response; and at last, to Fanny's
infinite relief, Sibyl took her departure.

All the other members of the club were present when Fanny made her
appearance. They were talking in low tones, and as Fanny entered she
heard Betty's name being passed from lip to lip.

"She does look bad, poor thing!" said Olive.

"Did you know," exclaimed Susie Rushworth, "that after doing that
splendid piece of recitation in the class to-day she fainted right off?
Miss Symes was quite terrified about her."

"They say the doctor has been sent for," said Martha. "Oh dear," she
added, "I never felt so unhappy about a girl before in my life!"

Fanny was not too gratified to hear these remarks. She perceived all too
quickly that, notwithstanding the fact that Betty was no longer a member
of the club, she still reigned in the hearts of the girls.

"Well, Fan, here you are!" exclaimed Margaret. "Is there anything very
special for us to do to-night? I have no inclination to do anything. We
are all so dreadfully anxious about Betty and those darling little
twins. Do you know, the doctor has ordered them not to sleep in Betty's
room to-night; so Miss Symes is going to look after them. They are such
sweet pets! The doctor isn't very happy about Betty. Sometimes I think
we made a mistake - that we were cruel to Betty to turn her out of the
club."

Fanny felt that if she did not quickly assert herself all would be lost.
She therefore said quietly, "I don't pretend to share your raptures with
regard to Betty Vivian, and I certainly think that if rules are worth
anything they ought not to be broken."

"I suppose you are right," remarked Olive; "only, Betty seemed to make
an exception to every rule."

"Well," said Fanny, "if we want a new member - - "

"Another Speciality?" said Margaret.

"I was thinking," continued Fanny, her pretty pink cheeks glowing
brightly and her eyes shining, "that we might be doing a kindness to a
very worthy little girl who will most certainly not break any of the


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Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 17 of 22)