L. T. Meade.

Betty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School online

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heather, Betty bent and wrenched hers from the ground by which it was
surrounded, which ground was already dry and hard. "Let's make a
bonfire," she said. "I sometimes think," she added, "that in each little
bell of heather there lives the wee-est of all the fairies; and perhaps,
if we burn this poor, dear thing, the little, wee fairies may go back to
their ain countree."

"It all seems quite dreadful to me," said Margaret.

"It is right," replied Betty; "and I have a box of matches in my
pocket."

"Oh, have you?" exclaimed Olive. "If - if Mrs. Haddo knew - - "

But Betty made no response. She set her sisters to collect some dry
leaves and bits of broken twigs; and presently the bonfire was erected
and kindled, and the poor heather from the north country had ceased to
exist.

"Now, you must see _our_ gardens," said Margaret, "for you must have
gardens, you know. Olive and I will show you the sort of things that
grow in the south, that flourish here, and look beautiful."

"I cannot see them now," replied Betty. She brushed past Margaret, and
walked rapidly across the common.

Sylvia's face turned very white, and she clutched Hetty's hand still
more tightly.

"What is she going to do? What is the matter?" said Margaret, turning to
the twins.

"She can't help it," said Sylvia; "she must do it. She is going to
howl."

"To do what?" said Margaret Grant.

"Howl. Did you never howl? Well, perhaps you never did. Anyhow, she must
get away as far as possible before she begins, and we had better go back
to the house. You wouldn't like the sound of Betty's howling."

"But are you going to let her howl, as you call it, alone?"

"Let her? We have no voice in the matter," replied Hester. "Betty always
does exactly what she likes. Let's go quickly; let's get away. It's the
best thing she can do. She's been keeping in that howling-fit for over a
week, and it must find vent. She'll be all right when you see her next.
But don't, on any account, ever again mention the heather that we
brought from Craigie Muir. She may get over its death some day, but not
yet."

"Your sister is a very strange girl," said Margaret.

"Every one says that," replied Sylvia. "Don't they, Het?"

"Yes; we're quite tired of hearing it," said Hetty. "But do let's come
quickly. Which is the farthest-off part of the grounds - the place where
we are quite certain not to hear?"

"You make me feel almost nervous," said Margaret. "But come along, if
you wish to."

The four girls walked rapidly. At last they found a little summer-house
which was built high up on the very top of a rising mound. From here you
could get a good view of the surrounding country; and very beautiful it
was - at least, for those whose eyes were trained to observe the rich
beauty of cultivated land, of flowing rivers, of forests, of carefully
kept trees. Very lonely indeed was the scene from Haddo Court
summer-house; for, in addition to every scrap of land being made to
yield its abundance, there were pretty cottages dotted here and
there - each cottage possessing its own gay flower-garden, and, in most
cases, its own happy little band of pretty boys and girls.

As soon as the four girls found themselves in the summer-house, Margaret
began to praise the view to Sylvia.

Sylvia looked round to right and to left. "_We_ don't admire that sort
of thing," she said. "Do we, Hetty?"

Hetty shook her head with vehemence. "Oh no, no," she said. Then, coming
a little closer to Margaret, she looked into her face and continued,
"Are you the sort of kind girl who will keep a secret?"

Margaret thought of the Speciality Club. But surely this poor little
secret belonging solely to the Vivians need not be related to any one
who was not in sympathy with them. "I never tell tales, if that is what
you mean," she said.

"Then that is all right," remarked Sylvia. "And are you the same sort of
girl, Olive? You look very kind."

"It wouldn't be hard to be kind to one like you," was Olive's response.

Whereupon Sylvia smiled, and Hetty came close to Olive and looked into
her face.

"Then we want you," continued Sylvia, "never, never to tell about the
burnt sacrifice of the Scotch heather, nor about the flight of the
fairies back to Scotland. It tortured Betty to have to do it; but she
thought it right, therefore it was done. There are some people,
however, who would not understand her; and we would much rather be able
to tell our own Betty that you will never speak of it, when she has come
back to herself and has got over her howling."

"Of course we'll never tell," said Olive; and Margaret nodded her head
without speaking.

"I think you are just awfully nice," said Sylvia. "We were so terrified
when we came to this school. We thought we'd have an awful time. We
still speak of it as a prison, you know. Do you speak of it to your
dearest friend as a prison?"

"Prison!" said Margaret. "There isn't a place in the world I love as I
love Haddo Court."

"Then you never, never lived in a dear little gray stone house on a wild
Scotch moor; and you never had a man like Donald Macfarlane to talk to,
nor a woman like Jean Macfarlane to make scones for you; and you never
had dogs like our dogs up there, nor a horse like David. I pity you from
my heart!"

"I never had any of those things," said Margaret; "but I shall like to
hear about them from you."

"And so shall I like to hear about them," said Olive.

"We will tell you, if Betty gives us leave," said one of the twins. "We
never do anything without Betty's leave. She is the person we look up
to, and obey, and follow. We'd follow her to the world's end; we'd die
for her, both of us, if it would do her any good."

Margaret took Sylvia's hand and began to smooth it softly. "I wish," she
said then in a slow voice, "that I had friends to love me as you love
your sister."

"Perhaps you aren't worthy," said Sylvia. "There is no one living like
Betty in all the world, and we feel about her as we do because she is
Betty."

"But, all the same," said Hester, frowning as she spoke, "our Betty has
got an enemy."

"An enemy, my dear child! What do you mean? You have just been praising
her so much! Did any one take a dislike to her up in that north
country?"

"It may have begun there," remarked Hetty; "but the sad and dreadful
thing is that the enemy is in this house. Sylvia and I don't mind your
knowing. We rather think you like her, but we don't. Her name is Fanny
Crawford."

"Oh, really, though, that is quite nonsense!" said Margaret, flushing
with annoyance. "Poor dear Fanny, there is not a better or sweeter girl
in the school!"

Sylvia laughed. "That is your point of view," she said. "She is our
enemy; she is not yours. Oh, hurrah! hurrah! I see Betty! She is coming
back, walking very slowly. She has got over the worst of the howls. We
must both go and meet her. Don't be anywhere about, please, either of
you. Keep quite in the shade, so that she won't see you; and the next
time you meet talk to her as though this had never happened."

The twins dashed out of sight. They certainly could run very fast.

When they had gone Margaret looked at Olive. "Well," she said, "that
sort of scene rather takes one's breath away. What do you think, Olive?"

"It was exceedingly trying," said Olive.

"All the same," said Margaret, "I feel roused up about those girls in
the most extraordinary manner. Didn't you notice, too, what Sylvia said
about poor Fanny? Isn't it horrid?"

"Of course it isn't true," was Olive's remark.

"We have made up our minds not to speak evil of any one in the school,"
said Margaret after a pause; "but I cannot help remembering that Fanny
did not wish Betty to become a Speciality. And don't you recall how
angry she was, and how she would not vote with the 'ayes,' and would
not give any reason, and although she was hostess she walked out of the
room?"

"It's very uncomfortable altogether," said Olive. "But I don't see that
we can do anything."

"Well, perhaps not yet," said Margaret; "but I may as well say at once,
Olive, that I mean to take up those girls. Until to-day I was only
interested in Betty, but now I am interested in all three; and if I can,
without making mischief, I must get to the bottom of what is making poor
little Betty so bitter, and what is upsetting the equanimity of our dear
old Fan, whom we have always loved so dearly."

Just at that moment Fanny Crawford herself and Susie Rushworth appeared,
walking together arm in arm. They saw Margaret and Olive, and came to
join them. Susie was in her usual high spirits, and Fanny looked quite
calm and collected. There was not even an allusion made to the Vivian
girls. Margaret was most thankful, for she certainly did not wish the
little episode she had witnessed to reach any one's ears but her own and
Olive's. Susie was talking eagerly about a great picnic which Mrs. Haddo
had arranged for the following Saturday. The whole school, both upper
and lower, were to go. Mr. Fairfax and his wife, most of the teachers,
and Mrs. Haddo herself would also accompany the girls. They were all
going to a place about twenty miles away; and Mrs. Haddo, who kept two
motor-cars of her own, had made arrangements for the hire of several
more, so that the party could quickly reach their place of rendezvous
and thus have a longer time there to enjoy themselves.

"She does things so well, doesn't she?" said Susie. "There never was her
like. Do you know, there was a sort of insurrection in the lower school
early this morning, for naughty sprites had whispered that all the small
children were to go in ordinary carriages and dogcarts and wagonettes.
Then came the news that Mrs. Haddo meant each girl in the school to
have an equal share of enjoyment; and, lo and behold! the cloud has
vanished, and the little ones are making even merrier than the older
girls."

"I wish I felt as amiable as I used to feel," said Fanny at that moment.

"Oh, but, Fan, why don't you?" asked Olive. "You ought to feel more and
more amiable every day - that is, if training means anything."

"Training is all very well," answered Fanny, "and you may think you are
all right; but when temptation comes - - "

"Temptation!" said Margaret. "In my opinion, that is the worst of Haddo
Court: we are so shielded, and treated with such extreme kindness, that
temptation cannot come."

"Then you wish to be tested, do you, Margaret?" asked Fanny.

Margaret shivered slightly. "Sometimes I do wish it," she said.

"Oh, Margaret dear, don't!" said Olive. "You'll have heaps of troubles
in life, for my mother says that no one yet was exempt from them. There
never was a woman quite like my darling mother - except, indeed, Mrs.
Haddo. Mother has quite peculiar ideas with regard to bringing up girls.
She says the aim of her life is to give me a very happy childhood and
early youth. She thinks that such a life will make me all the stronger
to withstand temptation."

"Let us hope so, anyhow," said Fanny. Then she added, "Don't suppose I
am grumbling, although it has been a trial father going away - so very
far away - to India. But I think the real temptation comes to us in this
way: when we have to meet girls we can't tolerate."

"Now she's going to say something dreadful!" thought Olive to herself.

Margaret rose as though she would put an end to the colloquy.

Fanny was watching Margaret's face. "The girl I am specially thinking of
now," she said, "is Sibyl Ray."

"Oh!" said Margaret. She gave a sigh of such undoubted relief that Fanny
was certain she had guessed what her first thoughts were.

"And now I will tell you why I don't like Sibyl," Fanny continued. "I
have nothing whatever to say against her. I have never heard of her
doing anything underhand or what we might call low-down or ill-bred. At
the same time, I do dislike Sibyl, just for the simple reason that she
is _not_ well-bred, and she never will be."

"Oh! oh, give her her chance - do!" said Olive.

"I am not going to interfere with her," remarked Fanny; "but she can
never be a friend of mine. There are some girls who like her very well.
There's Martha West, who is constantly with her."

"I am quite sure," said Margaret, "that there isn't a better girl in the
school than Martha, and I have serious thoughts of asking her to become
a Speciality." As she spoke she fixed her very dark eyes on Fanny's
face.

"Do ask her; I shall be delighted," remarked Fanny. "Only, whatever you
do, don't ask her friend, Sibyl Ray."

"I have no present intention of doing so. Fanny, I don't want to be
nasty; but you are quite right about Sibyl. No one can say a word
against her; and yet she just is not well-bred."




CHAPTER VIII

A NEW MEMBER


The picnic was a great success. The day was splendid. The sun shone in a
sky which was almost cloudless. The motor-cars were all in prime
condition. There were no accidents of any sort. The girls laughed and
chatted, and enjoyed life to the utmost; and the Vivian girls were
amongst the merriest in those large and varied groups.

The twins invariably followed in Betty's footsteps, and Betty possessed
that curious mixture of temperament which threw her into the depths of
anguish one moment and sent her spirits flying like a rocket skyward the
next. Betty's spirits were tending skyward on this happy day. She was
also making friends in the school, and was delighted to walk with
Margaret and Susie and Olive. Fanny did not trouble her at all; but
Martha West chatted with her for a whole long hour, and, as Martha knew
Scotland, a very strong link was immediately established between the
girls.

A thoroughly happy picnic - a perfect one - is usually lived through
without adventure. There are no _contretemps_, no unhappy moments, no
jealousies, no heart-burnings. These are the sort of picnics which come
to us very rarely in life, but they do come now and then. In one sense,
however, they are uninteresting, for they have no history - there is
little or nothing to say about them. Other picnics are to follow in this
story which ended differently, which led to tangled knots and bitter
heart-burnings. But the first picnics from Haddo Court in which Betty
Vivian took part was, in a way, something like that first morning when
she joined the other girls in whispering her prayers in the beautiful
chapel.

The picnic came and went, and in course of time the day arrived when
Betty was to be the honored guest of the Specialities. On the morning of
that day Fanny made another effort to induce Betty to renounce the idea
of becoming a Speciality. She had spent a sleepless night thinking over
the matter, and by the morning had made up her mind what to do.

Betty was making friends rapidly in the school. But the twins, although
they were quite popular, still clung very much to each other; and
Fanny's idea was to get at Betty through her sisters. She knew quite
well that often, during recess, Sylvia and Hester rushed upstairs, for
what purpose she could not ascertain, the existence of the Vivians'
attic being unknown to her. There, however, day by day, Sylvia and Hetty
fed Dickie on raw meat, and watched the monstrous spider getting larger
and more ferocious-looking.

"He'd be the sort," said Sylvia, opening her eyes very wide and fixing
them on her sister, "to do mischief to _some one_ if _some one_ were not
very careful."

"Oh, don't, silly Sylvia!" said Hetty with some annoyance. "You know
Mrs. Haddo would not like you to talk like that. Now let's examine our
caterpillars."

"There isn't much to see at the present moment," remarked Sylvia, "for
they're every one of them in the chrysalis stage."

The girls, having spent about five minutes in the Vivians' attics, now
ran downstairs, and went out, as was their custom, by a side-door which
opened into one of the gardens. It was here that Fanny pounced on them.
She came quickly forward, trying to look as pleasant as she could.

"Well, twins," she said, "and how goes the world with you?"

"Oh, all right!" replied Sylvia. "We can't stay to talk now; can we,
Het? We've got to meet a friend of ours in the lower garden - old
Birchall. By the way, do you know old Birchall, Fan?"

"Doddering old creature! of course I know him," replied Fanny.

"He isn't doddering," said Sylvia; "he has a great deal more sense than
most of us. I wish I had half his knowledge of worms, and spiders, and
ants, and goldfish, and - and - flies of every sort. Why, there isn't a
thing he doesn't know about them. I call him one of the most delightful
old men I ever met."

"Oh," said Hetty, "you shouldn't say that, Sylvia! Birchall is nice, but
he isn't a patch upon Donald Macfarlane."

"If you want to see Birchall, I will walk with you," said Fanny. "You
can't object to my doing that, can you?"

"We mean to run," said Hetty.

"Oh no, you don't!" said Fanny. Here she took Hetty's hand, pulled it
violently through her arm. "You've got to talk to me, both of you. I
have something important I want to say."

Sylvia laughed.

"Why do you laugh, you naughty, rude little girl?"

"Oh, please forgive me, Fanny; but it does sound so silly for you to say
that you have something important to talk over with us, for of course we
know perfectly well that you have nothing of the sort."

"Then you are wrong, that's all; and I sha'n't waste time arguing with
you."

"That's all right," said Hetty. "We may be off to Birchall now, mayn't
we, Fanny?"

"No, you mayn't. You must take a message from me to Betty."

"I thought so," remarked Sylvia.

Fanny had great difficulty in controlling her temper. After a minute she
said, speaking quietly, "I don't permit myself to lower myself by
arguing with children like you two. But I have an important message to
give your sister, and if you won't give it you clearly understand that
you will rue it to the last days of your lives - yes, to the last day of
your lives."

Sylvia began to dance. Hetty tried to tug her hand away from Fanny's
arm.

"Come, children, you can do it or not, just as you please. Tell Betty
that if she is wise, and does not wish to get into a most serious and
disgraceful scrape, she will not attend the meeting of some girls in
Margaret Grant's room this evening."

"Let's try if we know it exactly right," said Sylvia. "Betty will get
into a serious scrape if she goes to Margaret Grant's room to-night?
What a pity! For, you see, Fan, she is going."

"Do listen to me, Sylvia. You have more sense in your little head than
you imagine. Persuade Betty not to go. Believe me, I am only acting for
her best interests."

"We'll give her the message all right," said Hester. "But as to
persuading Betty when Betty's mind is made up, I'd like to know who can
persuade her to change it then."

"But you are her sisters; she will do what you wish."

"But we _don't_ wish her not to go. We'd much rather she went. Why
shouldn't she have a bit of fun? Some one told us - I forget now who it
was - that there are always splendid chocolates at those funny
bedroom-parties. I only wish we were asked!"

"I tell you that your sister will get into a scrape!" repeated Fanny.

"You tell us so indeed," said Sylvia, "and it's most frightfully
annoying of you; for we sha'n't have a minute to talk to Birchall, and
he promised to have four different kinds of worms ready for us to look
at this morning. Oh dear, dear! mayn't we go? Fanny, if you are so fond
of Betty, why don't you speak to her yourself?"

"I have spoken, and she won't listen to me."

"There! wasn't I right?" said Sylvia. "Oh Fanny, do you think she'd mind
what we said - and coming from you, too? If she didn't listen to you
direct, she certainly won't listen to you crookedwise - that's not
Betty."

"I was thinking," said Fanny, "that you might persuade her - that is, if
you are very, very clever, just from yourselves - not to go. You needn't
mention my name at all; and if you really manage this, I can tell you
I'll do a wonderful lot for you. I'll get father to send me curious
spiders and other creatures, all the way from India, for you. He can if
he likes. I will write to him by the very next mail."

"Bribes! bribes!" cried Sylvia. "No, Fan, we can't be bribed. Good-bye,
Fan. We'll give the message, but she'll go all the same."

With a sudden spring, for which Fanny was not prepared, Hester loosened
her hand from Fanny's arm. The next minute she had caught Sylvia's hand,
and the two were speeding away in the direction of the lower garden and
the fascinating company of old Birchall.

Fanny could have stamped her foot with rage.

The Specialities always met at eight o'clock in the evening. They were
expected to wear their pretty evening-dress, and look as much like
grown-up young ladies as possible. In a great house like Haddo Court
there must be all sorts of rooms, some much bigger than others. Thus,
where every room was nice and comfortable, there were a few quite
charming. The Vivians had one of the largest rooms, but Margaret Grant
had the most beautiful. She had been for long years now in the school,
and was therefore accorded many privileges. She had come to Haddo Court
as a very little girl, and had worked her way steadily from the lower
school to the upper. Her people were exceedingly well-off, and her
beautiful room - half bedroom, half sitting-room - was furnished mostly
out of her own pocket-money. She took great pride in its arrangements,
and on this special evening it looked more attractive than usual. There
were great vases of late roses and early chrysanthemums on the different
whatnots and small tables. A very cheerful fire blazed in the grate,
for it was getting cold enough now to enjoy a fire in the evenings, and
Margaret's supper was all that was tasteful and elegant.

Betty had received Fanny Crawford's message, and Betty's eyes had
sparkled with suppressed fun when her sisters had delivered it to her.
She had made no comment of any sort, but had asked the girls, before
they got into bed, to help her to fasten on her very prettiest frock.
She had not worn this frock before, and the simple, soft, white muslin
suited her young face and figure as nothing else could have done. The
black ribbon which tied back her thick hair, and was worn in memory of
dear Aunt Frances, was also becoming to her; and the twin girls' eyes
sparkled with rapture as they looked at their darling.

"Good-night, Bet!" said Sylvia.

"Have a splendid time, Bet!" whispered Hester.

Then Sylvia said, "I am glad you are going!"

"But of course I am going," said Betty. "Good-night, chickabiddies;
good-night. I won't wake you when I come back. Sleep well!" Betty left
the room.

In the corridor outside she met Olive Repton, who said, "Oh, there you
are, Betty! Now let's come. We'll be two of the first; but that's all
the better, seeing that you are a new member."

"It sounds so mysterious - a sort of freemasonry," remarked Betty,
laughing as she spoke. "I never did think that exciting things of this
sort happened at school."

"They don't at most schools," replied Olive. "But, then, there is only
one Haddo Court in the world."

"Shall I have to take an awful vow; shall I have to write my name in
blood in a queer sort of book, or anything of that sort?" asked Betty.

"No, no! You are talking nonsense now."

By this time they had reached Margaret's room, and Margaret was waiting
for them. Betty gave a cry of rapture when she saw the flowers, and,
going from one glass bowl to the other, she buried her face in the
delicious perfume.

By-and-by the rest of the Specialities appeared - the Bertrams (who were
greatly excited at the thought of Betty joining), Susie Rushworth, and,
last to enter, Fanny Crawford.

Fanny had taken great pains with her dress, and she looked her best on
this occasion. She gave one quick glance at Betty. Then she went up to
her and said, "Welcome, Betty!" and held out her hand.

Betty was not prepared for this most friendly greeting. She scarcely
touched Fanny's hand, however, and by so doing put herself slightly in
the wrong in the presence of the girls, who were watching her; while
Fanny, far cleverer in these matters, put herself in the right.

"Now, then, we must all have supper," said Margaret. "After that we'll
explain the rules to Betty, and she can decide whether she will join us
or not. Then we can be as jolly as we please. It is our custom, you
know, girls, to be extra jolly when a new member joins the
Specialities."

"I'm game for all the fun in the world," said Betty. Her curious, eager,
beautiful eyes were fixed on Margaret's face; and Margaret again felt
that strange sense of being wonderfully drawn to her, and yet at the


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Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 7 of 22)