L. T. Meade.

Betty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School online

. (page 9 of 22)
Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 9 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


straight down into his gallant heart? I should be ashamed of you,
ashamed of you, if you were not as brave and noble as Fritz."

There was such pathos in Betty's voice that the dogs became quite
penitent and abject. They had certainly never been in Scotland, and
Andrew and Fritz were animals unknown to them; but for some reason the
mysterious being who understood dogs was displeased with them, and they
fawned and crouched at her feet.

It was just at that moment that a sturdy-looking farmer came up. He
gazed at Betty, then at the two dogs, uttered a light guffaw, and
vanished round the corner. In a very few minutes he returned,
accompanied by his sturdy wife and his two rough, growing sons.

"Wife," he said, "did you ever see the like in all your life - Dan and
Beersheba crouching down at that young girl's feet? Why, they're the
fiercest dogs in the whole place!"

"I heard them barking a while back," said Mrs. Miles, the farmer's wife,
"and then they stopped sudden-like. If I'd known they were here I'd have
come out to keep 'em from doing mischief to anybody; but hearing no more
sound I went on with my churning. Little miss," she added, raising her
voice, "you seem wonderful took with dogs."

Betty instantly rose to a standing position. "Yes, I am," she said.
"Please, are these Scotch, and have they come from Aberdeenshire?"

The farmer laughed. "No, miss," he said; "we bred 'em at home."

Betty was puzzled at this.

The dogs did not take the slightest notice of the farmer, his wife, or
his sons, but kept clinging to the girl and pressing their noses against
her dress.

"May I come again to see them, please?" asked Betty. "They've got the
spirit of the Scotch dogs. They are the first true friends I have met
since I left Scotland."

"And may I make bold to ask your name, miss?" inquired the farmer's
wife.

"Yes, you may," said Betty. "It isn't much of a name. It's just Betty
Vivian, and I live at Haddo Court."

"My word! Be you one of them young ladies?"

"I don't know quite what you mean; but I am Betty Vivian, and I live at
Haddo Court."

"But how ever did you get on the high road, miss?" asked the farmer.

Betty laughed. "I went to the edge of what they call the common," she
said. "I found a fence, and I vaulted over - that is all. I don't like
your country much, farmer; there's no space about it. But the dogs, they
are darlings!"

"You're the pluckiest young gel I ever come across," said the man. "How
you managed to tame 'em is more than I can say. Why, they are real
brutes when any one comes nigh the farm; and over and over I has said to
the wife, 'You ought to lock them brutes up, wife.' But she's rare and
kindhearted, and is very fond of them, whelps that they be."

"I wonder," said the woman, "if missie would come into the house and
have a bite of summat to eat? We makes butter for the Court, miss; and
we sends up all our eggs, and many a pair of fat chickens and turkeys
and other fowl. We're just setting down to dinner, and can give you some
potatoes and pork."

Betty laughed gleefully. "I'd love potatoes and pork more than
anything," she said. "May Dan and Beersheba dine with us?"

"Well, miss, I don't expect you'll find it easy to get 'em parted from
you."

So Betty entered the farmyard, and walked through, in her direct
fashion, without picking her steps; for she loved, as she expressed it,
a sense of confusion and the sight of different animals. She had a knack
of making herself absolutely at home, and did so on the present
occasion. Soon she was seated in the big bright kitchen of the
farmhouse, and was served with an excellent meal of the best fresh pork
and the most mealy potatoes she had seen since she left Scotland. Mrs.
Miles gave her a great big glass of rich milk, but she preferred water.
Dan sat at one side of her, Beersheba at the other. They did not ask for
food; but they asked imploringly for the pat of a firm, brown little
hand, and for the look of love in Betty's eyes.

"I have enjoyed myself," said the girl, jumping up. "I do think you are
the nicest people anywhere; and as to your dogs, they are simply
glorious. Might not I come here again some day, and - and bring my
sisters with me? They are twins, you know. Do you mind twins?"

"Bless your sweet voice!" said Mrs. Miles; "is it a-minding twins we be
when we has two sets ourselves?"

"My sisters are very nice, considering that they are twins," said Betty,
who was always careful not to overpraise her own people; "and they are
just as fond of dogs as I am. Oh, by the way, we have a lovely spider - a
huge, glorious creature. His name is Dickie, and he lives in an attic at
the Court. He's as big as this." Betty made an apt illustration with her
fingers.

"Lor', miss, he must be an awful beast! We're dead nuts agen spiders at
the Stoke Farm."

Betty looked sad. "It is strange," she said, "how no one loves Dickie
except our three selves. We won't bring him, then; but may _we_ come?"

"It all depends, miss, on whether Mrs. Haddo gives you leave. 'Tain't
the custom, sure and certain, for young ladies from the Court to come
a-visiting at Stoke Farm; but if so be she says yes, you'll be heartily
welcome, and more than welcome. I can't say more, can I, miss?"

"Well, I have had a happy time," said Betty; "and now I must be going
back."

"But," said the farmer, "missie, you surely ain't going to get over that
big fence the same way as you come here?"

"And what else should I do?" said Betty.

"'Taint to be done, miss. There's a drop at our side which makes the
fence ever so much higher, and how you didn't hurt yourself is little
less than a miracle to me. I'll have the horse put to the cart and drive
you round to the front entrance in a jiffy. Dan and Beersheba can
follow, the run'll do them no end of good."

"Yes, missie, you really must let my husband do what he wishes," said
Mrs. Miles.

"Thank you," said Betty in a quiet voice. Then she added, looking up
into Mrs. Miles's face, "I love Mrs. Haddo very much, and there is one
girl at the school whom I love. I think I shall love you too, for I
think you have understanding. And when I come to see you next - for of
course Mrs. Haddo will give me leave - I will tell you about Scotland,
and the heather, and the fairies that live in the heather-bells; and I
will tell you about our little gray stone house, and about Donald
Macfarlane and Jean Macfarlane. Oh, you will love to hear! You are
something like them, except that unfortunately you are English."

"Don't put that agen me," said Mrs. Miles, "for I wouldn't be nothing
else if you was to pay me fifty pounds down. There, now, I can't speak
squarer than that!"

Just at that moment the farmer's voice was heard announcing that the
trap was ready. Betty hugged Mrs. Miles, and was followed out of the
farm-kitchen by the excited dogs.

The next minute they were driving in the direction of the Court, and
Betty was put down just outside the heavy wrought-iron gates. "Good-bye,
Farmer Miles," she said, "and take my best thanks. I am coming again to
see those darling dogs. Good-bye, dears, good-bye."

She pressed a kiss on each very rough forehead, passed through the
little postern door, heard the dogs whining behind her, did not dare to
look back, and ran as fast as she could to the house. She was quite late
for the midday dinner; and the first person she met was Miss Symes, who
came up to her in a state of great excitement. "Why, Betty!" she said,
"where have you been? We have all been terribly anxious about you."

"I went out for a walk," said Betty, "and - - "

"Did you go beyond the grounds? We looked everywhere."

"Oh yes," said Betty. "I couldn't be kept in by rails or bars or
anything of that sort. I am a free creature, you know, Miss Symes."

"Come, Betty," said Miss Symes, "you have broken a rule; and you have no
excuse, for a copy of the rules of the school is in every sitting-room
and every classroom. You must see Mrs. Haddo about this."

"I am more than willing," replied Betty.

Betty felt full of courage, and keen and well, after her morning's
adventure. Miss Symes took Betty's hand, and led her in the direction of
Mrs. Haddo's private sitting-room. That good lady was busy over some
work which she generally managed to accomplish at that special hour. She
was seated at her desk, putting her signature to several notes and
letters which she had dictated early that morning to her secretary. She
looked up as Betty and Miss Symes entered.

"Ah, Miss Symes!" said Mrs. Haddo. "How do you do, Betty? Sit down. Will
you just wait a minute, please?" she added, looking up into the face of
her favorite governess. "I want you to take these letters as you are
here, and so save my ringing for a servant. Get Miss Edgeworth to stamp
them all, and put them into their envelopes, and send them off without
fail by next post."

A pile of letters was placed in Miss Symes's hands. She went away at
once; and Mrs. Haddo, in her usual leisurely and gracious manner, turned
and looked at Betty.

"Well, Betty Vivian," she said kindly, "I have seen you for some time at
prayers and in the different classrooms, and also at chapel; but I have
not had an opportunity of a chat with you, dear, for several days. Sit
down, please, or, rather, come nearer to the fire."

"Oh, I am so hot!" said Betty.

"Well, loosen your jacket and take off your hat. Now, what is the
matter? Before we refer to pleasant things, shall we get the unpleasant
ones over? What has gone wrong with you, Betty Vivian?"

"But how can you tell that anything has gone wrong?"

"I know, dear, because Miss Symes would not bring you to my private
sitting-room at this hour for any other reason."

"Well, I don't think anything has gone wrong," said Betty; "but Miss
Symes does not quite agree with me. I will tell you, of course; I am
only longing to."

"Begin, dear, and be as brief as possible."

"I had a headache this morning, and went to lie down," began Betty.
"Miss Symes wanted me to stay lying down until dinner-time, but
afterwards she gave me leave to go out when I had been in my room for an
hour. I did so. I went as far as that bit of common of yours."

"Our 'forest primeval'?" said Mrs. Haddo with a gracious smile.

"Oh, but it isn't really!" said Betty.

"Some of us think it so, Betty."

Betty gave a curious smile; then with an effort she kept back certain
words from her lips, and continued abruptly, "I got to the end of the
common, and there was a railing - - "

"The boundary of my estate, dear."

"Well," said Betty, "it drove me mad. I felt I was in prison, and that
the railing formed my prison bars. I vaulted over, and got into the
road. I walked along for a good bit - I can't quite tell how far - but at
last two dogs came bounding out of a farmyard near by. They barked at
first very loudly; but I looked at them and spoke to them, and after
that we were friends of course. I sat on the grass and played with them,
and they - I think they loved me. All dogs do - there is nothing in that.
The farmer and his wife came out presently and seemed surprised, for
they said that Dan and Beersheba were very furious."

"My dear girl - Dan and Beersheba - _those_ dogs!"

"Those were the names they called them. We call our dogs on the Scotch
moors Andrew and Fritz. They are much bigger dogs than Dan and
Beersheba; but Dan and Beersheba are darlings for all that. I went into
the Mileses' house and had my dinner with them. It was a splendid
dinner - pork and really _nice_ potatoes - and the dogs sat one on each
side of me. Mrs. Haddo, I want to go to the Mileses' again some day to
tea, and I want to take Sylvia and Hester with me. The Mileses don't
mind about their being twins, and they'll be quite glad to see them, and
Sylvia and Hester are about as fond of dogs as I am. Mrs. Miles said she
was quite willing to have us if you gave leave, but not otherwise."

"Betty!" said Mrs. Haddo when the girl had ceased. She raised her head,
and looked full into the wonderful, pathetic, half-humorous,
half-defiant eyes, and once again between her soul and Betty's was felt
that firm, sure bond of sympathy. Involuntarily the girl came two or
three steps closer. Mrs. Haddo, with a gesture, invited her to kneel by
her, and took one of her hands. "Betty, my child, you know why you have
come to this school?"

"I am sure I don't," said Betty, "unless it is to be with you and - and
Margaret Grant."

"I am glad you have made Margaret your friend. She is a splendid
girl - quite the best girl in the whole school; and she likes you,
Betty - she has told me so. I am given to understand that you are to have
the honorable distinction of becoming a Speciality. The club is a most
distinguished one, and has a beneficial effect on the tone of the upper
school. I am glad that you are considered worthy to join. I know nothing
about the rules; I can only say that I admire the results of its
discipline on its members. But now to turn to the matter in hand. You
broke a very stringent rule of the school when you got over that fence,
and the breaking of a rule must be punished."

"I don't mind," said Betty in a low tone.

"But I want you to mind, Betty. I want you to be truly sorry that you
broke one of my rules."

"When you put it like that," said Betty, "I do get a bit choky. Don't
say too much, or perhaps I'll howl. I am not so happy as you think. I am
fighting hard with myself every minute of the time."

"Poor little girl! can you tell me why you are fighting?"

"No, Mrs. Haddo, I cannot tell you."

"I will not press you, dear. Well, Betty, one of my rules is that the
girls never leave the grounds without leave; and as you have broken that
rule you must receive the punishment, which is that you remain in your
room for the rest of the day until eight o'clock this evening, when I
understand that you are due at the meeting of the Specialities."

"I will go to my room," said Betty. "I don't mind punishment at all."

"You ran a very great risk, dear, when you went into that byroad and
were attacked by those fierce dogs. It was a marvel that they took to
you. It is extremely wrong of Farmer Miles to have them loose, and I
must speak to him."

"And please," said Betty, "may we go to tea there - we three - one
evening?"

"I will see about that. Try to keep every rule. Try, with all your might
and main, to conquer yourself. I am not angry with you, dear. It is
impossible to tame a nature like yours, and I am the last person on
earth to break your spirit. But go up to your room now, and - kiss me
first."

Betty almost choked when she gave that kiss, when her eyes looked still
deeper into Mrs. Haddo's beautiful eyes, and when she felt her whole
heart tingle within her with that new, wonderful sensation of a love
for her mistress which even exceeded her love for Margaret Grant.




CHAPTER X

RULE I. ACCEPTED


Betty's room was empty, and at that time of day was rather chill, for
the three big windows were wide open in order to let in the fresh, keen
air. Betty walked into the room still feeling that mysterious tingling
all over her, that tingling which had been awakened by her sudden and
unexpected love for Mrs. Haddo. That love had been more or less dormant
within her heart from the very first; but to-day it had received a new
impetus, and the curious fact was that she was almost glad to accept
punishment because it was inflicted by Mrs. Haddo. Being the sort of
girl she was, it occurred to her that the more severe she herself made
the punishment the more efficacious it would be.

She accordingly sat down by one of the open windows, and, as a natural
consequence, soon got very chilled. As she did not wish to catch cold
and become a nuisance in the school, she proceeded to shut the windows,
and had just done so - her fingers blue and all the beautiful glow gone
from her young body - when there came a tap at the room door. Betty at
first did not reply. She hoped the person, whoever that person might be,
would go away. But the tap was repeated, and she was obliged in
desperation to go to the door and see who was there.

"I, and I want to speak to you," replied the voice of Fanny Crawford.

Instantly there rose a violent rebellion in Betty's heart. All her love
for Mrs. Haddo, with its softening influence, vanished; it melted slowly
out of sight, although, of course, it was still there. Her pleasant
time at the Mileses' farm, the delightful affection of the furious dogs,
the excellent dinner, the quick drive back, were forgotten as though
they had never existed; and Betty only remembered Rule I., and that she
hated Fanny Crawford. She stood perfectly still in the middle of the
room.

Fanny boldly opened the door and entered. "I want to speak to you,
Betty," she said.

"But I don't want to speak to you," replied Betty.

"Oh, how bitterly cold this room is!" said Fanny, not taking much notice
of this remark. "I shall light the fire myself; yes, I insist. It is all
laid ready; and as it is absolutely necessary for us to have a little
chat together, I may as well make the room comfortable for us both."

"But I don't want you to light the fire; I want you to go."

Fanny smiled. "Betty, dear," she said, "don't be unreasonable. You can't
dislike me as much as you imagine you do! Why should you go on in this
fashion?" As Fanny spoke she knelt down by the guard, put a match to the
already well-laid fire, and soon it was crackling and roaring up the
chimney.

"You are here," said Fanny, "because you broke a rule. We all know,
every one in the school knows, Mrs. Haddo is not angry, but she insists
on punishment. She never, never excuses a girl who breaks a rule. The
girl must pay the penalty; afterwards, things are as they were before.
It is amazing what an effect this has in keeping us all up to the mark
and in order. Now, Betty - Bettina, dear - come and sit by the fire and
let me hold your hands. Why, they're as blue as possible; you are quite
frozen, you poor child!"

Fanny spoke in quite a nice, soothing voice. She had the same look on
her face which she had worn that evening in Margaret Grant's bedroom.
She seemed really desirous to be nice to Betty. She knew that Betty was
easily influenced by kindness; this was the case, for even Fanny did
not seem quite so objectionable when she smiled sweetly and spoke
gently. She now drew two chairs forward, one for herself and one for
Betty. Betty had been intensely cold, and the pleasant glow of the fire
was grateful. She sank into the chair which Fanny offered her with very
much the air of being the proprietor of the room, and not Betty, and
waited for her companion to speak. She did not notice that Fanny had
placed her own chair so that the back was to the light, whereas Betty
sat where the full light from the three big windows fell on her face.

"Well, now, I call this real comfy!" said Fanny. "They will send up your
tea, you know, and you can have a book from the school library if you
like. I should recommend 'The Daisy Chain' or 'The Heir of Redclyffe.'"

"I don't want any books, thanks," said Betty.

"But don't you love reading?"

"I can't tell you. Perhaps I do, perhaps I don't."

"Betty, won't you tell me anything?"

"Fanny, I have nothing to tell you."

"Oh, Betty, with a face like yours - nothing!"

"Nothing at all - to you," replied Betty.

"But to others - for instance," said Fanny, still keeping her good
temper, "to Margaret Grant, or to Mrs. Haddo?"

"They are different," said Betty.

Fanny was silent for a minute. Then she said, "I want to tell you
something, and I want to be quite frank. You have made a very great
impression so far in the school. For your age and your little
experience, you are in a high class, and all your teachers speak well of
you. You are the sort of girl who is extremely likely to be popular - to
have, in short, a following. Now, I don't suppose there is in all the
world anything, Betty Vivian, that would appeal to a nature like yours
so strongly as to have a following - to have other girls hanging on your
words, understanding your motives, listening to what you say, perhaps
even trying to copy you. You will be very difficult to copy, Betty,
because you are a rare piece of original matter. Nevertheless, all these
things lie before you if you act warily now."

"Go on," said Betty; "it is interesting to hear one's self discussed. Of
course, Fan, you have a motive for saying all this to me. What is it?"

"I have," said Fanny.

"You had better explain your motive. Things will be easier for us both
afterwards, won't they?"

"Yes," said Fanny in a low tone, "that is true."

"Go on, then," said Betty.

"I want to speak about the Specialities."

"Oh, I thought you were coming to them! They are to meet to-night, are
they not, in Susie Rushworth's room?"

"That is correct."

"And I am to be present?" said Betty.

"You are to be present, if you will."

"Why do you say 'if you will?' You know quite well that I shall be
present."

"Martha West will also be there," continued Fanny. "She will go through
very much the sort of thing you went through last week, and she will be
given a week to consider before she finally decides whether she will
join. Betty, have you made up your mind what to do? You might tell me,
mightn't you? I am your own - your very own - cousin, and it was through
my father you got admitted to this school."

"Thanks for reminding me," said Betty; "but I don't know that I do feel
as grateful as I ought. Perhaps that is one of the many defects in my
nature. You have praised me in a kind way, but you don't know me a bit.
I am full of faults. There is nothing good or great about me at all. You
had best understand that from the beginning. Now, I may as well say at
once that I intend to be present at the Specialities' meeting to-night."

"You do! Have you read Rule I.?"

"Oh, yes, I have read it. I have read all the rules."

"Don't you understand," said Fanny, speaking deliberately, "that there
is one dark spot in your life, Betty Vivian, that ought to preclude you
from joining the Specialities? That dark spot can only be removed by
confession and restitution. You know to what I allude?"

Betty stood up. Her face was as white as death. After a minute she said,
"Are you going to do anything?"

"I ought; it has troubled me sorely. To tell you the truth, I did not
want you to be admitted to the club; but the majority were in your
favor. If ever they know of this they will not be in your favor. Oh,
Betty, you cannot join because of Rule I.!"

"And I will join," said Betty, "and I dare you to do your very worst!"

"Very well, I have nothing more to say. I am sorry for you, Betty
Vivian. From this moment on remember that, whatever wrong thing you did
in the past, you are going to do doubly and trebly wrong in the future.
You are going to take a false vow, a vow you cannot keep. God help you!
you will be miserable enough! But even now there is time, for it is not
yet four o'clock. Oh, Betty, I haven't spoken of this to a soul; but can
you not reconsider?"

"I mean to join," said Betty. "Rule I. will not, in my opinion, be
broken. The rule is that each member keeps no secret to herself which
the other members ought to know. Why ought they know what concerns only
me - me and my sisters?"

"Do you think," said Fanny, bending towards her, and a queer change
coming over her face - "do you think for a single moment that you would
be made a Speciality if the girls of this school knew that you had told
my father a _lie_? I leave it to your conscience. I will say no more."

Fanny walked out of the room, shutting the door carefully behind her.
Miss Symes came up presently. It was the custom of St. Cecilia to be
particularly kind to the girls who were in disgrace. Often and often
this most sweet woman brought them to see the error of their ways. Mrs.
Haddo had told her about Betty, and how endearing she had found her, and
what a splendid nature she fully believed the girl to possess. But when
Miss Symes, full of thoughts for Betty's comfort, entered the room,
followed by a servant bringing a little tray of temptingly prepared tea,
Betty's look was, to say the least of it, dour; she did not smile, she
scarcely looked up, there was no brightness in her eyes, and there were
certainly no smiles round her lips.

"The tray there, please, Hawkins," said Miss Symes. The woman obeyed and
withdrew.

"I am glad you have a fire, Betty, dear," said Miss Symes when the two
were alone. "Now, you must be really hungry, for you had what I consider
only a snatch-dinner. Shall I leave you alone to have your tea in


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryL. T. MeadeBetty Vivian : a story of Haddo Court School → online text (page 9 of 22)