L. T. Meade.

Betty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School online

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"It was born in them," replied Martha. "If you can't see it for
yourself, Sibyl, I am not able to show it to you."

Mrs. Haddo took the girls to London and gave them a very good day. It is
true they spent a time which seemed intolerably long to Betty in having
pretty white blouses and smartly made skirts and neat little jackets
fitted on. They spent a still more intolerable time at the dressmaker's
in being measured for soft, pretty evening-dresses. They went to a
hairdresser, who cut their very thick hair and tied it with broad black
ribbon. They next went to a milliner and had several hats tried on. They
went to a sort of all-round shop, where they bought gloves, boots, and
handkerchiefs innumerable, and some very soft black cashmere and even
black silk stockings. Oh, but _they_ didn't care; they thought the
whole time wasted. Nevertheless they submitted, and with a certain
grace; for was not the precious packet safe - so safe that no one could
possibly discover its whereabouts? And was not Betty feeling her queer,
sensitive heart expanding more and more under Mrs. Haddo's kind
influence?

"Now, my dears," said that good lady, "we will go back to Miss Watts the
dressmaker at three o clock; but we have still two hours to spare.
During that time we'll have a little lunch, for I am sure you must be
hungry; and afterwards I will take you to the Wallace Collection, which
I think you will enjoy."

"What's a collection?" asked Sylvia.

"There are some rooms not far from here where beautiful things are
collected - pictures and other lovely things of all sorts and
descriptions. I think that you, at least, Betty, will love to look at
them."

Betty afterwards felt, deep down in her heart, that this whole day was a
wonderful dream. She was starvingly hungry, to begin with, and enjoyed
the excellent lunch that Mrs. Haddo ordered at the confectioners. She
felt a sense of curious joy and fear as she looked at one or two of the
great pictures in the Wallace Collection, and so excited and uplifted
was she altogether that she scarcely noticed when they returned to the
shops and the coarse, ugly black serges were exchanged for pretty coats
and skirts of the finest cloth, for neat little white blouses, for
pretty shoes and fine stockings. She did not even object to the hat,
which, with its plume of feathers, gave a look of distinction to her
little face. She was not elated over her fine clothes, neither was she
annoyed about them.

"Now, Miss Watts," said Mrs. Haddo in a cheerful tone, "you will hurry
with the rest of the young ladies' things, and send them to me as soon
as ever you can. I shall want their evening-dresses, without fail, by
the beginning of next week."

They all went down into the street. Sylvia found herself casting shy
glances at Betty. It seemed to her that her sister was changed - that she
scarcely knew her. Dress did not make such a marked difference in
Hetty's appearance; but Hetty too looked a different girl.

"And now we are going to the Zoological Gardens," said Mrs. Haddo,
"where we may find some spiders like Dickie, and where you will see all
sorts of wonderful creatures."

"Oh Mrs. Haddo!" exclaimed Betty.

They spent an hour or two in that place so fascinating for children, and
arrived back at Haddo Court just in time for supper.

"We have had a happy day, have we not?" said Mrs. Haddo, looking into
Betty's face and observing the brightness of her eyes.

"Very happy, and it was you who gave it to us," answered the girl.

"And to-morrow," continued Mrs. Haddo, "must be just as happy - just as
happy - because lessons will begin; and to an intelligent and clever girl
there is nothing in the world so delightful as a difficulty conquered
and knowledge acquired."

That evening, when the Vivian girls entered the room where supper was
served, every girl in the upper school turned to look at them. The
change in their appearance was at once complete and arresting. They
walked well by nature. They were finely made girls, and had not a scrap
of self-consciousness.

"Oh, I say, Fan," whispered Susie in her dear friend's ear, "your
cousins will boss the whole school if this sort of thing goes on. To be
frank with you, Fan, I have fallen in love with that magnificent Betty
myself. There is nothing I wouldn't do for her."

"You ought not to whisper in English, ought you?" was Fanny's very
significant response, uttered in the German tongue.

Susie shrugged her shoulders. The Specialities generally sat close to
each other; and she looked down the table now, and saw that Margaret,
and the Bertrams, and Olive Repton were equally absorbed in watching the
Vivian girls. Nothing more was said about them, however; and when the
meal came to an end Miss Symes took them away with her, to give them
brief directions with regard to their work for the morrow. She also
supplied them with a number of new books, which Betty received with
rapture, for she adored reading, and hitherto had hardly been able to
indulge in it. Miss Symes tried to explain to the girls something of the
school routine; and she showed each girl her own special desk in the
great schoolroom, where she could keep her school-books, and her
different papers, pens, pencils, ink, etc.

"I cannot tell until to-morrow what forms you will be in, my dears; but
I think Betty will probably have a good deal to do with me in her daily
tuition; whereas you, Sylvia, and you, Hester, will be under the charge
of Miss Oxley. I must introduce you to Miss Oxley to-morrow morning. And
now you would like, I am sure, to go to bed. Mrs. Haddo says that you
needn't attend prayers to-night, for you have had a long and tiring day;
so you may go at once to your room."

The girls thanked Miss Symes, and went. They heard voices busily
conversing in Fanny's room - eager voices, joined to occasional peals of
merry laughter. But they were too tired, too sleepy, and, it may be
added, too happy, to worry themselves much over these matters. They were
very quickly in bed and sound asleep.

Meanwhile Fanny was much enjoying the unstinted praise which her friends
were bestowing on the beautiful tea-set which her father had given her.

"Oh, but it is perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Olive. "Why, Fan, you are in
luck; it's real old Crown Derby!"

"Yes," said Fanny; "I thought it was. Whenever father does a thing he
does it well."

"We'll be almost afraid to drink out of it, Fanny!" exclaimed Julia
Bertram. "Fancy, if I were to drop one of those little jewels of cups!
Don't the colors just sparkle on them! Oh, if I were to drop it, and it
got broken, I don't think I'd ever hold up my head again!"

"Well, dear Julia, don't drop it," said Fanny, "and then you will feel
all right."

Cocoa was already prepared; the rich cake graced the center of the
board; the chocolate creams were certainly in evidence; and the girls
clustered round, laughing and talking. Fanny was determined to choke
back that feeling of uneasiness which had worried her during the whole
of that day. She could not tell the Specialities what her cousins had
done; she could not - she would not. There must be a secret between them.
She who belonged to a society of whom each member had to vow not to have
a secret from any other member, was about to break her vow.

The girls were in high spirits to-night, and in no mood to talk
"sobersides," as Mary Bertram sometimes called their graver discussions.

But when the little meal of cocoa and cake had come to an end, Margaret
said, "I want to make a proposal."

"Hush! hush! Let the oracle speak!" cried Olive, her pretty face beaming
with mirth.

"Oh Olive, don't be so ridiculous!" said Margaret. "You know perfectly
well I am no oracle; but I have a notion in my head. It is this: why
should not those splendid-looking girls, the Vivians, join the
Specialities? They did look rather funny, I will admit, yesterday; but
even then one could see that clothes matter little or nothing to them.
But now that they're dressed like the rest of us, they give distinction
to the whole school. I don't think I ever saw a face like Betty's. Fan,
you, of course, will second my proposal that Betty Vivian, even if her
sisters are too young, should be asked to become a Speciality?"

Fanny felt that she was turning very pale. Susie Rushworth gazed at her
in some wonder.

"I propose," exclaimed Margaret Grant, "that Miss Betty Vivian shall be
invited to join our society and to become a Speciality. I further
propose that we ask her to join our next meeting, which takes place this
day week, and is, by the way, held in my room. Now, who will second my
suggestion?"

"You will, of course, Fan," said Susie. "Betty is your cousin, so you
are the right person to second Margaret's wish."

Fanny's face grew yet paler. After a minute she said, "Just because
Betty is my cousin I would rather some one else seconded Margaret
Grant's proposal."

All the girls looked at her in astonishment.

"Very well; I second it," responded Susie.

"Girls," said Margaret, "will you all agree? Those who do _not_ agree,
please keep their hands down. Those who _do_ agree, please hold up
hands. Now, then, is Betty Vivian to be invited to join the
Specialities? Which has it - the 'ayes' or the 'noes'?"

All the girls' hands, with one exception, were eagerly raised in favor
of Betty Vivian. Fanny sat very still, her hands locked one inside the
other in her lap. Something in her attitude and in the expression of her
face caused each of her companions to gaze at her in extreme wonder.

"Why, Fanny, what is the meaning of this?" asked Margaret.

"I cannot explain myself," said Fanny.

"Cannot - and you a Speciality! Don't you know that we have no secrets
from one another?"

"That is true," said Fanny, speaking with a great effort. "Well, then,
I will explain myself. I would rather Betty Vivian did not join our
club."

"But why, dear - why?"

"Yes, Fanny, why?" echoed Susie.

"What ridiculous nonsense you are talking!" cried Olive Repton.

"The most striking-looking girl I ever saw!" said Julia Bertram. "Why,
Fan, what is your reason for this?"

"Call it jealousy if you like," said Fanny; "call it any name under the
sun, only don't worry me about it."

As she spoke she rose deliberately and left the room, her companions
looking after her in amazement.

"What does this mean?" said Julia.

"I can't understand it a bit," said Margaret. Then she added after a
pause, "I suppose, girls, you fully recognize that the Speciality Club
is supposed to be a club without prejudice or favor, and that, as the
'ayes' have carried the day, Miss Betty Vivian is to be invited to
join?"

"Of course she must be invited to join," replied Susie; "but it is very
unpleasant all the same. I cannot make out what can ail Fanny Crawford.
She hasn't been a bit herself since those girls arrived."

The Specialities chatted a little longer together, but the meeting was
not convivial. Fanny's absence prevented its being so; and very soon the
girls broke up, leaving the pretty cups and saucers and the remains of
the feast behind them. The chapel bell rang for prayers, and they all
trooped in. But Fanny Crawford was not present. This, in itself, was
almost without precedent, for girls were not allowed to miss prayers
without leave.

As each Speciality laid her head on her pillow that night she could not
but reflect on Fanny's strange behavior, and wondered much what it
meant. As to Fanny herself, she lay awake for hours. Some of the girls
and some of the mistresses thought that she was grieving for her father;
but, as a matter of fact, she was not even thinking of him. Every
thought of her mind was concentrated on what she called her present
dilemma. It was almost morning before the tired girl fell asleep.

At half-past six on the following day the great gong sounded through the
entire upper school. Betty started up in some amazement, her sisters in
some alarm.

By-and-by a kind-looking woman, dressed as a sort of housekeeper or
upper servant, entered the room. "Can I help you to dress, young
ladies?" she said.

The girls replied in the negative. They had always dressed themselves.

"Very well," replied the woman. "Then I will come to fetch you in
half-an-hour's time, so that you will be ready for prayers in chapel."

Perhaps Betty Vivian never, as long as she lived, forgot that first day
when she stood with her sisters in the beautiful little chapel and heard
the Reverend Edmund Fairfax read prayers. He was a delicate,
refined-looking man, with a very intellectual face and a beautiful
voice. Mrs. Haddo had begged of him to accept the post of private
chaplain to her great school for many reasons. First, because his health
was delicate; second, because she knew she could pay him well; and also,
for the greatest reason of all, because she was quite sure that Mr.
Fairfax could help her girls in moments of difficulty in their spiritual
life, should such moments arise.

Prayers came to an end; breakfast came to an end. The Vivians passed a
very brisk examination with some credit. As Miss Symes had predicted,
Betty was put into her special form, in which form Susie Rushworth and
Fanny Crawford also had their places. The younger Vivians were allowed
to remain in the upper school, but were in much lower forms. Betty took
to her work as happily (to use a well-known expression) as a duck takes
to water. Her eyes were bright with intelligence while she listened to
Miss Symes, who could teach so charmingly and could impart knowledge in
such an attractive way.

In the middle of the morning there was the usual brief period when the
girls might go out and amuse themselves for a short time. Betty wanted
to find her sisters; but before she could attempt to seek for them she
felt a hand laid on her arm, and, glancing round, saw that Fanny
Crawford was by her side.

"Betty," said Fanny, "I want to speak to you, and at once. We have only
a very few minutes; will you, please, listen?"

"Is it really important?" asked Betty. "For, if it is not, I do want to
say something to Sylvia. She forgot to give Dickie his raw meat this
morning."

"Oh, aren't you just hopeless!" exclaimed Fanny. "You think of that
terrible spider when - when - - Oh, I don't know what to make of you!"

"And I don't know what to make of you, Fanny!" retorted Betty. "What are
you excited about? What is the matter?"

"Listen! - do listen!" said Fanny.

"Well, I am listening; but you really must be quick in getting out
whatever's troubling you."

"You have heard of the Specialities, haven't you?" said Fanny.

"Good gracious, no!" exclaimed Betty. "The Specialities - what are they?"

"There is nothing _what_ about them. They are people - girls; they are
not things."

"Oh, girls! What a funny name to give girls! I haven't heard of them,
Fanny."

"You won't be long at Haddo Court without hearing a great deal about
them," remarked Fanny. "I am one, and so is Susie Rushworth, and so are
the Bertrams, and so is that handsome girl Margaret Grant. You must
have noticed her; she is so dark and tall and stately. And so, also, is
dear little Olive Repton - - "

"And so is - and so is - and so is - " laughed Betty, putting on her most
quizzical manner.

"You must listen to me. The Specialities - oh, they're not like any other
girls in the school, and it's the greatest honor in the world to be
asked to belong to them. Betty, it's this way. Margaret Grant is the
sort of captain of the club - I don't know how to express it exactly; but
she is our head, our chief - and she has taken a fancy to you; and last
night we had a meeting in my bedroom - - "

"Oh, that was what the row was about!" exclaimed Betty. "If we hadn't
been hearty sleepers and girls straight from the Scotch moors, you would
have given us a very bad night."

"Never mind about that. Margaret Grant proposed last night that you
should be asked to join."

"_I_ asked to join?"

"Yes, you, Betty. Doesn't it sound absurd? And they all voted for
you - every one of them, with the exception of myself."

"And it's a great honor, isn't it?" said Betty, speaking very quietly.

"Oh yes - immense."

"Then, of course, you wouldn't vote - would you, dear little Fan?"

"Don't talk like that! We shall be returning to the schoolroom in a few
minutes, and Margaret is sure to talk to you after dinner. You are
elected by the majority, and you are to be invited to attend the next
meeting. But I want you to refuse - yes, I do, Betty; for you can't
join - you know you can't. With that awful, awful lie on your conscience,
you can't be a Speciality. I shall go wild with misery if you join.
Betty, you must say you won't."

Betty looked very scornfully at Fanny. "There are some people in the
world," she said, "who make me feel very wicked, and I am greatly
afraid you are one. Now, let me tell you plainly and frankly that if you
had said nothing I should probably not have wished to become that
extraordinary thing, a Speciality; but because you are in such a mortal
funk I shall join your club with the utmost pleasure. So now you know."




CHAPTER VII

SCOTCH HEATHER


Betty was true to her word. After school that day, Margaret Grant and
Olive Repton came up to her and asked her in a very pretty manner if she
would become a member of their Speciality Club.

"Of course," said Margaret, "you don't know anything about us or our
rules at present; but we think we should like you to join, so we are
here now to invite you to come to our next meeting, which will take
place on Thursday of next week, at eight o'clock precisely, in my
bedroom."

"I don't know where your bedroom is," said Betty.

"But I know where yours is!" exclaimed Olive; "so I will fetch you,
Betty, and bring you to Margaret's room. Oh, I am sure you will enjoy
it - we have such fun! Sometimes we give quite big entertainments - that
is, when we invite the other girls, which we do once or twice during the
term. By the way, that reminds me that you will be most useful in that
respect, for you and your sisters have the largest bedroom in the house.
You will, of course, lend us your room when your turn comes; but that is
a long way off."

"I am so glad you are coming!" said Margaret. "You are the sort of girl
we want in our club. And now, please, tell me about your life in
Scotland."

"I will with pleasure," replied Betty. She looked full up into
Margaret's face as she spoke.

Margaret was older than Betty, and taller; and there was something about
her which commanded universal respect.

"I don't mind telling you," said Betty - "nor you," she added as Olive's
dancing blue eyes met hers; "for a kind of intuition tells me that you
would both love my wild moors and my beautiful heather. Oh, I say, do
come, both of you, and see our three little plots of garden! There's
Sylvia's plot, and Hester's, and mine; and we have a plant of heather,
straight from Craigie Muir, in the midst of each. Our gardens are quite
bare except for that tiny plant. Do, _do_ come and see it!"

Margaret laughed.

Olive said, "Oh, what fun!" and the three began to walk quickly under
the trees in the direction of the Vivians' gardens.

As they passed under the great oak-trees Betty looked up, and her eyes
danced with fun. "Are you good at climbing trees?" she asked of
Margaret.

"I used to be when I was very, very young; but those days are over."

"There are a few very little girls in the lower school who still climb
one of the safest trees," remarked Olive.

Betty's eyes continued to dance. "You give me delightful news," she
said. "I am so truly glad none of you do anything so vulgar as to climb
trees."

"But why, Betty?" asked Margaret.

"I have my own reasons," replied Betty. "You can't expect me to tell you
everything right away, can you?"

"You must please yourself," said Margaret.

Olive looked at Betty in a puzzled manner; and the three girls were
silent, only that they quickened their steps, crunching down some broken
twigs as they walked.

By-and-by they reached the three bare patches of ground, which were
railed in in the simple manner which Mrs. Haddo had indicated, and in
the center of which stood the wooden post with the words, "THE VIVIANS'
PRIVATE GARDENS," painted on it.

"How very funny!" exclaimed Olive.

"Yes, it is rather funny," remarked Betty. "Did you ever in the whole
course of your existence see anything uglier than these three patches of
ground? There is nothing whatever planted in them except our darling
Scotch heather; and oh, by the way, I don't believe the precious little
plants are thriving! They are drooping like anything! Oh dear! oh dear!
I think I shall die if they die!" As she spoke she flung herself on the
ground, near the path.

"Of course you won't, Betty," said Margaret. "Besides, why should they
die? They only want watering."

"I'll run and fetch a canful of water," said Olive, who was extremely
good-natured.

Betty made no response. She was still lying on the ground, resting on
her elbows, while her hands tenderly touched the faded and drooping
bells of the wild heather. She had entered her own special plot. Olive
had disappeared to fetch the water, but Margaret still stood by Betty's
side.

"Do you think they'll do?" said Betty at last, glancing at her
companion.

Margaret noticed that her eyes were full of tears. "I don't think they
will," she said after a pause. "But I'll tell you what we must do,
Betty: we must get the right sort of soil for them - just the sandy soil
they want. We'll go and consult Birchall; he is the oldest gardener in
the place, and knows something about everything. For that matter, we are
sure to get the sort of sand we require on this piece of waste
ground - our 'forest primeval,' as Olive calls it."

"Oh dear!" said Betty, dashing away the tears from her eyes, "you are
funny when you talk of a thing like that" - she waved her hand in the
direction of the uncultivated land - "as a 'forest primeval.' It is the
poorest, shabbiest bit of waste land I ever saw in my life."

"Let's walk across it," said Margaret. "Olive can't be back for a minute
or two."

"Why should we walk across it?"

"I want to show you where some heather grows. It is certainly not rich,
nor deep in color, nor beautiful, like yours; but it has grown in that
particular spot for two or three years. I am quite sure that Birchall
will say that the soil round that heather is the right sort of earth to
plant your Scotch heather in."

"Well, come, and let's be very quick," said Betty.

The girls walked across the bit of common. Margaret pointed out the
heather, which was certainly scanty and poor.

Betty looked at it with scorn. "I think," she said after a pause, "I
don't want to consult Birchall." Then she added after another pause, "I
think, on the whole, I'd much rather have no heather than plants like
those. You are very kind, Margaret; but there are some things that can't
be transplanted, just as there are some hearts - that break - yes,
break - if you take them from home. That poor heather - once, doubtless,
it was very flourishing; it is evidently dying now of a sort of
consumption. Let's come back to our plots of ground, please, Margaret."

They did so, and were there greeted by Olive, who had a large can of
cold water standing by her side, and was eagerly talking to Sylvia and
Hester. Betty marched first into the center plot of ground.

"I've got lots of water," said Olive in a cheerful tone, "so we'll do
the watering at once. Sylvia and Hester say that they must have a third
each of this canful; but of course we can get a second can if we want
it."

"No!" said Betty.

Sylvia, who was gazing with lack-lustre eyes at the fading heather, now
started and looked full at her sister. Hester, who always clung to
Sylvia in moments of emotion, caught her sister's hand and held it very
tight.

"No," said Betty again; "I have made a discovery. Scotch heather does
not grow here in this airless sort of place. Sylvia and Hester, Margaret
was good enough to show me what she calls heather. There are a few
straggling plants just at the other side of that bit of common. I don't
want ours to die slowly. Our plants shall go at once. No, we don't water
them. Sylvia, go into your garden and pull up the plant; and, Hester,
you do likewise Go, girls; go at once!"

"But, Betty - - " said Margaret.

"You had better not cross her now," said Sylvia.

Margaret started when Sylvia addressed her in this tone.

Betty's face was painfully white, except where two spots of color blazed
in each cheek. As her sisters stooped obediently to pull up their


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Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 6 of 22)