Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Betty Vivian - A Story of Haddo Court School
Author: Meade, L. T., 1854-1914
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Betty Vivian - A Story of Haddo Court School" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Collection at the University of Utah, and the Online
book was produced from scanned images of public domain


Betty Vivian

_A Story of Haddo Court School_

By MRS. L. T. MEADE

Author of

"The Harmon Girls," "The Princess of the Revels," "Aylwyn's
Friends," "The School Queens," "Seven Maids," Etc.

[Illustration]

A. L. BURT, COMPANY, PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK



CONTENTS

Chapter                                                           Page


     I. YES OR NO                                                   3
    II. WAS FANNY ELATED?                                          14
   III. GOING SOUTH                                                25
    IV. RECEPTION AT HADDO COURT                                   36
     V. THE VIVIANS' ATTIC                                         49
    VI. A CRISIS                                                   64
   VII. SCOTCH HEATHER                                             80
  VIII. A NEW MEMBER                                               91
    IX. STRIVING FOR A DECISION                                   104
     X. RULE I. ACCEPTED                                          120
    XI. A SPECIALITY ENTERTAINMENT                                133
   XII. A VERY EVENTFUL DAY                                       137
  XIII. A SPOKE IN HER WHEEL                                      151
   XIV. TEA AT FARMER MILES'S                                     169
    XV. A GREAT DETERMINATION                                     180
   XVI. AFTERWARDS                                                194
  XVII. A TURNING-POINT                                           224
 XVIII. NOT ACCEPTABLE                                            234
   XIX. "IT'S DICKIE!"                                            246
    XX. A TIME OF DANGER                                          254
   XXI. A RAY OF HOPE                                             266
  XXII. FARMER MILES TO THE RESCUE                                282
 XXIII. RESTORATION                                               290



BETTY VIVIAN



CHAPTER I

YES OR NO


Haddo Court had been a great school for girls for many generations. In
fact, for considerably over a century the Court had descended from
mother to daughter, who invariably, whatever her husband's name, took
the name of Haddo when she became mistress of the school. The reigning
mistress might sometimes be unmarried, sometimes the reverse; but she
was always, in the true sense of the word, a noble, upright, generous
sort of woman, and one slightly in advance of her generation. There had
never been anything low or mean known about the various head mistresses
of Haddo Court. The school had grown with the times. From being in the
latter days of the eighteenth century a rambling, low old-fashioned
house with mullioned windows and a castellated roof, it had gradually
increased in size and magnificence; until now, when this story opens, it
was one of the most imposing mansions in the county.

The locality in which Haddo Court was situated was not very far from
London; but for various reasons its name will be withheld from the
reader, although doubtless the intelligent girl who likes to peruse
these pages will be easily able to discover its whereabouts. Haddo
Court, although within a measurable distance of the great metropolis,
had such large grounds, and such a considerable area of meadow and
forest land surrounding it, that it truly seemed to the girls who lived
there that they were in the heart of the country itself. This was indeed
the case; for from the Court you could see no other house whatsoever,
unless it were the picturesque abode of the head gardener or that of the
lodge-keeper.

The school belonged to no company; it was the sole and undivided
possession of the head mistress. It combined the advantages of a
first-class high school with the advantages that the best type of
private school affords. Its rooms were lofty and abundantly supplied
with bright sunshine and fresh air. So popular was the school, and such
a tone of distinction did it confer upon the girls who were educated
there, that, although Mrs. Haddo did not scruple to expect high fees
from her pupils, it was as difficult to get into Haddo Court as it was
for a boy to become an inmate of Winchester or Eton. The girl whose
mother before her had been educated at the Court usually put down her
little daughter's name for admission there shortly after the child's
birth, and even then she was not always certain that the girl could be
received; for Mrs. Haddo, having inherited, among other virtues from a
long line of intelligent ancestors, great firmness of character, made
rules which she would allow no exception to break.

The girls at Haddo Court might number one hundred and fifty; but nothing
would induce her, on any terms whatsoever, to exceed that number. She
had a staff of the most worthy governesses, many of whom had been
educated at the Court itself; others who bore testimony to the lamented
and much-loved memory of the late Miss Beale of Cheltenham; and others,
again, who had taken honors of the highest degree at the two
universities.

Mrs. Haddo never prided herself on any special gift; but she was well
aware of the fact that she could read character with unerring instinct;
consequently she never made a mistake in the choice of her teachers. The
Court was now so large that each girl, if she chose, could have a small
bedroom to herself, or two sisters might be accommodated with a larger
room to share together. There was every possible comfort at the Court;
at the same time there was an absence of all that was enervating.
Comforts, Mrs. Haddo felt assured, were necessary to the proper growth
and development of a young life; but she disliked luxuries for herself,
and would not permit them for her pupils. The rooms were therefore
handsomely, though somewhat barely, furnished. There were no superfluous
draperies and few knick-knacks of any sort. There was, however, in each
bedroom a little book shelf with about a dozen of the best and most
suitable books--generally a copy of Ruskin's "Sesame and Lilies," of
Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus," of Milton's "Paradise Lost"; also one or
two books by the best writers of the present day. Works of E. V. Lucas
were not forgotten in that collection, and Mrs. Ewing's "Jackanapes" was
a universal favorite.

The girls had one special library where classical works and books of
reference were found in abundance; also standard novels, such as the
best works of Thackeray and Dickens. In addition to this was a smaller
library where the girls were allowed to have their own private
possessions in the shape of books and drawings. This room was only used
by the girls of the upper school, and was seldom interfered with either
by the head mistress or the various teachers.

Out of one hundred and fifty girls it would be impossible to describe
more than a few; but at the time when this story opens there was in the
upper school a little band of devoted friends who adored each other, who
had high aims and ambitions, who almost worshiped Mrs. Haddo, and, as
far as possible, endeavored to profit by her excellent training. The
names of the girls in question were Susie Rushworth, who was seventeen
years of age, and would in a year's time be leaving the Court; Fanny
Crawford, her cousin and special friend--Fanny and Susie were much of
the same age, Fanny being a little the younger of the two--two sisters
named Mary and Julia Bertram; Margaret Grant, who was tall, dark, and
stately, and Olive Repton, everybody's favorite, a bright-eyed,
bewitching little creature, with the merriest laugh, a gay manner, and
with brilliant powers of repartee and a good-natured word for every
one--she was, in short, the life of the upper school.

None of these girls was under sixteen years of age; all were slightly
above the average as regards ability, and decidedly above the average as
regards a very high standard of morals. They had all been brought up
with care. They knew nothing of the vanities of the world, and their
great ambition in life was to walk worthily in the station in which they
were born. They were all daughters of rich parents--that is, with the
exception of Olive Repton, whose mother was a widow, and who, in
consequence, could not give her quite so many advantages as her
companions received. Olive never spoke on the subject, but she had wild,
impossible dreams of earning her own living by and by. She was not
jealous nor envious of her richer schoolfellows. She was thoroughly
happy, and enjoyed her life to the utmost.

Among the teachers in the school was a certain Miss Symes, an
Englishwoman of very high attainments, with lofty ideas, and the
greatest desire to do the utmost for her pupils. Miss Symes was not more
than six-and-twenty. She was very handsome--indeed, almost
beautiful--and she had such a passion for music and such a lovely voice
that the girls liked to call her Saint Cecilia. Miss Arundel was another
teacher in the school. She was much older than Miss Symes, but not so
highly educated. She only occasionally came into the upper school--her
work was more with the girls of the lower school--but she was kind and
good-natured, and was universally popular because she could bear being
laughed at, and even enjoyed a joke against herself. Such a woman would
be sure to be a favorite with most girls, and Mary Arundel was as happy
in her life at the Court as any of her pupils. There were also French
and German governesses, and a lady to look after the wardrobes of the
older girls, and attend to them in case of any trifling indisposition.

Besides the resident teachers there was the chaplain and his wife. The
chaplain had his own quarters in a distant wing of the school. His name
was the Reverend Edmund Fairfax. He was an elderly man, with white hair,
a benign expression of face, and gentle brown eyes. His wife was a
somewhat fretful woman, who often wished that her husband would seek
preferment and leave his present circumscribed sphere of action. But
nothing would induce the Reverend Edmund Fairfax to leave Mrs. Haddo so
long as she required him; and when he read prayers morning and evening
in the beautiful old chapel, which had been built as far back as the
beginning of the eighteenth century, the girls loved to listen to his
words, and even at times shyly confided their little troubles to him.

Such was the state of things at Haddo Court when this story opens. Mrs.
Haddo was a woman of about thirty-eight years of age. She was tall and
handsome, of a somewhat commanding presence, with a face which was
capable, in repose, of looking a little stern; but when that same face
was lit up by a smile, the heart of every girl in the school went out to
her, and they thought no one else like her.

Mrs. Haddo was a widow, and had no children of her own. Her late husband
had been a great friend of Mr. Fairfax. At his death she had, after
careful reflection, decided to carry on the work which her mother had so
successfully conducted before her. Everything was going well, and there
was not a trace of care or anxiety on Mrs. Haddo's fine face.

There came a day, however, when this state of things was doomed to be
altered. There is no Paradise, no Garden of Eden, without its serpent,
and so Janet Haddo was destined to experience. The disturbing element
which came into the school was brought about in the most natural way.
Sir John Crawford, the father of one of Mrs. Haddo's favorite pupils,
called unexpectedly to see the good lady.

"I have just got the most exciting piece of news for you," he said.

"Indeed!" replied Mrs. Haddo.

She never allowed herself to be greatly disturbed, but her heart did
beat a trifle faster when she saw how eager Sir John appeared.

"I have come here all the way from Yorkshire in order not to lose a
moment," continued the good baronet. "I don't want to see Fanny at
present. This has nothing whatever to do with Fanny. I have come to tell
you that a wonderful piece of news has reached me."

"What can that be?" asked Mrs. Haddo. She spoke with that gracious calm
which always seemed to pervade her presence and her words.

"Do relieve my mind at once!" said Sir John. "Is it possible that
you--you, Mrs. Haddo, of Haddo Court--have at the present moment three
vacancies in your school?"

Mrs. Haddo laughed. "Is that all?" she said. "But they can be filled up
to-morrow ten times over, if necessary."

"But you _have_ three vacancies--three vacancies in the upper school? It
is true--I see it is true by your face. Please assure me on that point
without delay!"

"It happens to be true," said Mrs. Haddo, "although I do not want the
matter mentioned. My three dear young pupils, the Maitlands, have been
unable to return to school owing to the fact that their father has been
made Governor of one of the West India Islands. He has insisted on
taking his family out with him; so I have lost dear Emily, Jane, and
Agnes. I grieve very much at their absence. They all came to see me last
week to say good-bye; and we had quite a trying time, the children are
so affectionate. I should have greatly loved to keep them longer; but
their father was determined to have them with him, so there was nothing
to be done but submit."

"Oh, Mrs. Haddo, what is one person's loss is another person's gain!"

"I don't understand you, Sir John," was the good lady's reply.

"If you have three vacancies, you can take three more girls. You can
take them into the school at once, can you not?"

"I can, certainly; but, as a matter of fact, I am in no hurry. I shall
probably be obliged to fill up the vacancies next term from the list of
girls already on my books. I shall, as my invariable custom is, promote
some girls from the lower school to the upper, and take three new little
girls into the lower school. But there is really no hurry."

"Yes, but there is every hurry, my friend--every hurry! I want you to
take three--three _orphan_ girls--three girls who have neither father
nor mother; I want you to take them at once into the upper school. They
are not specially well off; but I am their guardian, and your terms
shall be mine. I have just come from the death-bed of their aunt, one of
my dearest friends; she was in despair about Betty and Sylvia and Hester
Vivian. They are three sisters. They have been well educated; and,
although I don't know them personally, any girl brought up by Frances
Vivian, my dear friend who has just passed away, could not but be in all
respects a desirable inmate of any school. I am forced to go to India
immediately, and must ask you to look after Fanny for me during the next
vacation. Now, if you would only take the Vivians I should go away with
a light heart. Do you say 'Yes,' my dear friend! Remember how many of my
name have been educated at Haddo Court. You cannot refuse me. I am
certain you will not."

"I never take girls here on the plea of friendship--even for one like
yourself, Sir John. I must know much more about these children before I
agree to admit them into my school."

Sir John's face became very red, and just for a minute he looked almost
angry.

"Oh, Mrs. Haddo," he said then, "do banish that alarmingly severe
expression from your face and look kindly on my project! I can assure
you that Frances Vivian, after whom my own Fanny has been called, had
the finest character in the world. Ah, my dear friend, I have you
now--her own sister was educated here. Now, isn't that guarantee enough?
Look back on the past, refer to the old school-books, and you will see
the name of Beatrice Vivian in the roll-call."

"What can you tell me about the girls themselves?" said Mrs. Haddo, who
was evidently softened by this reference to the past. "I remember
Beatrice Vivian," she continued, before the baronet had time to speak.
"She was a very charming girl, a little older than myself, and she was
undoubtedly a power for good in the school."

"Then, surely, that makes it quite all right?" said Sir John. "Mrs.
Haddo, you must pity me. I have to place these girls somewhere in a week
from now. I am responsible for them. They are homeless; they are young;
they are good-looking."

"Tell me something about their characters and dispositions," said Mrs.
Haddo.

"I can tell you nothing. I only saw Betty for two or three minutes; she
was in a state of wild, tempestuous grief, poor child! I tried to
comfort her, but she rushed away from me. Sylvia was nearly as bad;
while as to poor Hetty, she was ill with sorrow."

"Well, I will think the matter over and let you know," said Mrs. Haddo.
"I never decide anything hastily, so I cannot say more at present."

The baronet rose. "I had best have a peep at Fanny before I go," he
said. "I am only going as far as London to-night, so you can wire your
decision--'Yes' or 'No'--to the Ritz Hotel. Poor Fanny! she will be in
trouble when she hears that I cannot receive her at Christmas; but I
leave her in good hands here, and what can any one do more?"

"Please promise me one thing, Sir John," said Mrs. Haddo. "Do not say
anything to Fanny about the Vivians. Allow me to tell her when I have
decided that they are to come to the school. If I decide against it, she
need never know. Now, shall I ring and ask one of the servants to send
her to you? Believe me, Sir John, I will do my very utmost to oblige you
in this matter; but I must be guided by principle. You know what this
school means to me. You know how earnestly I have at heart the welfare
of all my children, as I call the girls who live at Haddo Court."

"Yes, yes, I know; but I think, somehow, that you will agree to my
request."

"Send Miss Crawford here," said Mrs. Haddo to a servant who appeared at
that moment, and a minute later Fanny entered the room. She gave a cry
of delight when she saw her father, and Mrs. Haddo at once left them
alone together.

The day was a half-holiday, and the head mistress was glad of the fact,
for she wanted to have a little time to think over Sir John's request.
Haddo Court had hitherto answered so admirably because no girl, even if
her name had been on the books for years, was admitted to the school
without the head mistress having a personal interview, first with her
parents or guardians, and afterwards with the girl herself. Many an
apparently charming girl was quietly but courteously informed that she
was not eligible for the vacancy which was to be filled, and Mrs. Haddo
was invariably right in her judgment. With her shrewd observation of
character, she saw something lacking in that pretty, or careless, or
even thoughtful, or sorrowful face--something which might _aspire_, but
could never by any possibility _attain_, to what the head mistress
desired to inculcate in the young lives around her--and now Mrs. Haddo
was asked to receive three girls under peculiar circumstances. They were
orphans and needed a home. Sir John Crawford was one of her oldest
friends. The Crawfords had always been associated with Haddo Court, and
beautiful Beatrice Vivian had received her education there. Surely there
could not be anything wrong in admitting three young girls like the
Vivians to the school? But yet there was her invariable rule. Could she
possibly see them? One short interview would decide her. She looked
round the beautiful home in which had grown up the fairest specimens of
English girlhood, and wondered if, for once, she might break her rule.

Sir John Crawford had gone to the Ritz Hotel. There he was to await Mrs.
Haddo's telegram. But she would not telegraph; she would go to London
herself. She took the first train from the nearest station, and arrived
unexpectedly at the "Ritz" just as Sir John was sitting down to dinner.

"I see by your face, my dear, good friend, that you are bringing me the
best of news!" said the eager man, flushing with pleasure as Mrs. Haddo
took a seat by his side. "You will join me at dinner, of course?"

"No, thank you, Sir John. I shall have supper at the Court on my return.
I will tell you at once what I have come about. I have, as you must know
well, never admitted a girl into my school without first seeing her and
judging for myself what her character was likely to be. I should
greatly like to help you in the present case, which is, I will admit, a
pressing one; and girls of the name of Vivian, and also related to you,
have claims undoubtedly on Haddo Court. Nevertheless, I am loath to
break my rule. Is it possible for me to see the girls?"

"I fear it is not," said Sir John. "I did not tell you that poor Frances
died in the north of Scotland, and I could not possibly get the girls up
to London in time for you to interview them and then decide against
them. It must be 'Yes' or 'No'--an immediate 'Yes' or 'No,' Mrs. Haddo;
for if you say 'No' and I pray God you won't--I must see what is the
next best thing I can do for them. Poor children! they are very lonely
and unhappy; but, of course, there _are_ other schools. Perhaps you
could recommend one, if you are determined to refuse them without an
interview?"

Mrs. Haddo could never tell afterwards why a sudden fit of weakness and
compassion overcame her. Perhaps it was the thought of the other
schools; for she was a difficult woman to please, and fastidious and
perhaps even a little scornful with regard to some of the teaching of
the present day. Perhaps it was the sight of Sir John's troubled face.
Perhaps it was the fact that there never was a nicer girl in the school
than Beatrice Vivian--Beatrice, who was long in her grave, but who had
been loved by every one in the house; Beatrice, whom Mrs. Haddo herself
remembered. It was the thought of Beatrice that finally decided the good
lady.

"It _is_ against my rule," she said, "and I hope I am not doing wrong. I
will take the children; but I make one condition, Sir John, that if I
find they do not fulfill the high expectations which are looked for in
every girl who comes to Haddo Court, I do my best to place them
elsewhere."

"You need not be afraid," said Sir John. His voice shook with delight
and gratitude. "You will never regret this generous act; and, believe
me, my dear friend, there is no rule, however firm, which is not
sometimes better broken than kept."

Alas, poor Sir John! he little knew what he was saying.



CHAPTER II

WAS FANNY ELATED?


Mrs. Haddo slept very little that night. Miss Symes, who adored the head
mistress, could not help noticing that something was the matter with
her; but she knew Mrs. Haddo's nature far too well to make any
inquiries. The next day, however, Miss Symes was called into the head
mistress's presence.

"I want to speak to you all alone," said Mrs. Haddo. "You realize, of
course, Emma, how fully I trust you?"

"You have always done so, dear Mrs. Haddo," replied the young teacher,
her beautiful face flushing with pleasure.

"Well, now, I am going to trust you more fully still. You noticed, or
perhaps you did not, that Sir John Crawford, Fanny's father, called to
see me yesterday?"

"Fanny herself told me," replied Miss Symes. "I found the poor, dear
child in floods of tears. Sir John Crawford is going to India
immediately, and Fanny says she is not likely to see him again for a
year."

"We will cheer her up all we can," said Mrs. Haddo. "I have many schemes
for next Christmas which will, I am sure, give pleasure to the girls who
are obliged to stay here. But time enough for all that later on. You
know, of course, Emma, that there are three vacancies in the upper
school?"

"Caused by the absence of the dear young Maitlands," replied Miss Symes.
"I cannot tell you how much we miss them."

"We do miss them," said Mrs. Haddo, who paused and looked attentively at
Miss Symes. "I don't suppose," she continued, "that there is any teacher
in the school who knows so much about the characters of the girls as you
do, my dear, good Emma."

"I think I know most of their characters," said Miss Symes; "characters
in the forming, as one must assuredly say, but forming well, dear Mrs.
Haddo. And who can wonder at that, under your influence?"

Mrs. Haddo's face expressed a passing anxiety.

"Is anything wrong?" said Miss Symes.

"Why do you ask me, Emma? Have you--noticed anything?"

"Yes, certainly. I have noticed that you are troubled, dear friend; and
Mary Arundel has also observed the same."

"But the girls--the girls have said nothing about it?" inquired Mrs.
Haddo.

"No; but young girls cannot see as far into character as older people
can."

"Well, now," said Mrs. Haddo, "I will be frank with you. What I say to
you, you can repeat to Mary Arundel. I feel proud to call you both my
flag lieutenants, who always hold the banner of high principle and
virtue aloft, and I feel certain you will do so to the end. Emma, Sir
John Crawford came to see me yesterday on a very important matter; and,
partly to oblige him, partly because of an old memory, partly also
because it seemed to me that I must trust and hope for the best in
certain emergencies, I have agreed to do what I never did
before--namely, to take three girls into the school--yes, into the upper
school, in place of the three Maitlands. These girls are called Betty,
Sylvia, and Hester Vivian. They are the nieces of that dear woman,
Beatrice Vivian, who was educated at this school years ago. I expect
them to arrive here on Monday next. In the meantime you must prepare the
other girls for their appearance on the scene. Do not blame me, Emma,
nor look on me with reproachful eyes. I quite understand what you are
thinking, that I have broken a rule which I have always declared I would
never break--namely, I am taking these girls without having first
interviewed them. Such is the case. Now, I want you, in particular, to
tell Fanny Crawford that they are coming. Fanny is their cousin. Sir
John is their guardian. Sir John knows nothing whatever about their
disposition, but I gather from some conversation which I had with him
last night that Fanny is acquainted with them. Observe, dear, how she
takes the news of their coming. If dear Fanny looks quite happy about
them, it will certainly be a rest to my mind."

"Oh, I will talk to her," said Miss Symes, rising. "And now, please,
dear Mrs. Haddo, don't be unhappy. You have done, in my opinion, the
only thing you could do; and girls with such high credentials must be
all right."

"I hope they will prove to be all that is desirable," said Mrs. Haddo.
"You had better have a talk with Miss Ludlow with regard to the rooms
they are to occupy. Poor children! they are in great trouble, having
already lost both their parents, and are now coming to me because their
aunt, Miss Vivian, has just died. It might comfort them to be in that
large room which is near Fanny's. It will hold three little beds and the
necessary furniture without any crowding."

"Yes, it would do splendidly," said Miss Symes. "I will speak to Miss
Ludlow. I suppose, now, I ought to return to my school duties?"

Miss Symes was not at all uneasy at what Mrs. Haddo had told her. Hers
was a gentle and triumphant sort of nature. She trusted most people. She
had a sublime faith in the good, not the bad, of her fellow-creatures.
Still, Mrs. Haddo had done a remarkable thing, and Miss Symes owned to
herself that she was a little curious to see how Fanny Crawford would
take the news of the unexpected advent of her relatives.

It was arranged that the Vivians were to arrive at Haddo Court on the
following Monday. To-day was Wednesday, and a half-holiday.
Half-holidays were always prized at Haddo Court; and the girls were now
in excellent spirits, full of all sorts of schemes and plans for the
term which had little more than begun, and during which they hoped to
achieve so much. Fanny Crawford, in particular, was in earnest
conversation with Susie Rushworth. They were forming a special plan for
strengthening what they called the bond of union in the upper school.
Fresh girls were to be admitted, and all kinds of schemes were in
progress. Susie had a wonderfully bright face, and her eager words fell
on Miss Symes's ears as she approached the two girls.

"It's all very fine for you, Susie," Fanny was heard to say; "but this
term seems to me quite intolerable. You will be going home for
Christmas, but I shall have to stay at the school. Oh, of course, I love
the school; but we are all proud of our holidays, and father had all but
promised to take me to Switzerland in order to get some really good
skating. Now everything is knocked on the head; but I suppose I must
submit."

"I couldn't help overhearing you, Fanny," said Miss Symes, coming up to
the girls at that moment; "but you must look on the bright side, my
love, and reflect that a year won't be long in going by. I know, of
course, to what you were alluding--your dear father's sudden departure
for India."

"Yes, St. Cecilia," replied Fanny, looking up into Miss Symes's face;
"and I am sure neither Susie nor I mind in the least your overhearing
what we were talking about. Do we Susie?"

"No," replied Susie; "how could we? St. Cecilia, if you think you have
been playing the spy, we will punish you by making you sing for us
to-night."

Here Susie linked her hand lovingly through Miss Symes's arm. Miss Symes
bent and kissed the girl's eager face.

"I will sing for you with pleasure, dear, if I have a moment of time to
spare. But now I have come to fetch Fanny. I want to have a little talk
with her all by herself. Fan, will you come with me?"

Fanny Crawford raised her pretty, dark eyebrows in some surprise. What
could this portend? There was a sort of code of honor at the school that
the girls were never to be disturbed by the teachers during the
half-holiday hours.

"Come, Fanny," said Miss Symes; and the two walked away in another
direction for some little distance.

The day was a glorious one towards the end of September. Miss Symes
chose an open bench in a part of the grounds where the forest land was
more or less cleared away. She invited Fanny to seat herself, and took a
place by her side.

"Now, my dear," she said, "I have a piece of news for you which will, I
think, please you very much."

"Oh, what can please me when father is going?" said Fanny, her eyes
filling with tears.

"Nevertheless, this may. You have, of course, heard of--indeed, I have
been given to understand that you know--your cousins, the Vivians?"

Fanny's face flushed. It became a vivid crimson, then the color faded
slowly from her cheeks; and she looked at Miss Symes, amazement in her
glance. "My cousins--the Vivians!" she exclaimed. "Do you mean
Betty--Betty and her sisters?"

"Yes, I think Betty is the name of one of the girls."

"There are three," said Fanny. "There's Betty, who is about my age; and
then there are the twins, Sylvia and Hetty."

"Then, of course, you _do_ know them, dear?"

"Yes, I know them. I went to stay with them in Scotland for a week
during last holidays. My cousin--their aunt, Miss Vivian--was very ill,
however, and we had to keep things rather quiet. They lived at a place
called Craigie Muir--quite beautiful, you know, but very, very wild."

"That doesn't matter, dear."

"Well, why are you speaking to me about them? They are my cousins, and I
spent a week with them not very long ago."

"You observed how ill Miss Vivian was?"

"I used to hear that she was ill; Sylvia used to tell me. Betty couldn't
stand anything sad or depressing, so I never spoke to her on the
subject."

"And you--you liked your cousins? You appreciated them, did you not,
Fanny?"

"I didn't know them very well," said Fanny in a slightly evasive voice.

Miss Symes felt her heart sink within her. She knew Fanny Crawford well.
She was the last girl to say a word against another; at the same time
she was exceedingly truthful.

"Well, dear," said Miss Symes, "your father came here yesterday in order
to----"

"To see me, of course," interrupted Fanny; "to tell me that he was going
to India. Poor darling dad! It was a terrible blow!"

"Sir John came here on other business also, Fanny. He wanted to see Mrs.
Haddo. You know that poor Miss Vivian is dead?"

"Oh, yes," said Fanny. Then she added impulsively, "Betty will be in a
terrible state!"

"It may be in your power to comfort her, dear."

"To comfort Betty Vivian! What do you mean?"

"It has just been arranged between Mrs. Haddo and your father, who is
now the guardian of the girls, that they are all three to come here as
pupils in the school. They will arrive here on Monday. You are glad, are
you not, Fan?"

Fanny started to her feet. She stood very still, staring straight before
her.

"You are glad--of course, Fanny?"

Fanny then turned and faced her governess. "Do you want the truth,
or--or--a lie?"

"Fanny, my dear, how can you speak to me in that tone? Of course I want
the truth."

"Then I am not glad."

"But, my dear, consider. Those poor girls--they are orphans almost in a
double sense. They are practically alone in the world. They are your
cousins. You must have a very strong reason for saying what you have
said--that you are not glad."

"I am not glad," repeated Fanny.

Miss Symes was silent. She felt greatly disturbed. After a minute she
said, "Fanny, is there anything in connection with the Vivians which, in
your opinion, Mrs. Haddo ought to know?"

"I won't tell," said Fanny; and now her voice was full of agitation. She
turned away and suddenly burst out crying.

"My dear child! my dear child! you are upset by the thought of your
father's absence. Compose yourself, my love. Don't give way, Fanny,
dear. Try to have that courage that we all strive to attain at Haddo
Court."

Fanny hastily dashed away her tears. Then she said, after a pause, "Is
it fixed that they are to come?"

"Yes, it is quite fixed."

"Miss Symes, you took me at first by surprise, but when the Vivians
arrive you will see that I shall treat them with the affection due to
cousins of my own; also, that I will do my utmost to make them happy."

"I am sure of it, my love. You are a very plucky girl!"

"And you won't tell Mrs. Haddo that I seemed distressed at the thought
of their coming?"

"Do you really wish me not to tell her?"

"I do, most earnestly."

"Now, Fanny, I am going to trust you. Mrs. Haddo has been more or less
driven into a corner over this matter. Your dear, kind father has been
suddenly left in sole charge of those three young girls. He could not
take them to India with him, and he had no home to offer them in this
country. Mrs. Haddo, therefore, contrary to her wont, has agreed to
receive them without the personal interview which she has hitherto
thought essential."

Fanny smiled. "Oh, can I ever forget that interview when my turn came to
receive it? I was at once more frightened and more elated than I
believed it possible for any girl to be. I loved Mrs. Haddo on the spot,
and yet I shook before her."

"But you don't fear her now, dear?"

"I should fear her most frightfully if I did anything wrong."

"Fanny, look down deep into your heart, and tell me if, in keeping
something to yourself which you evidently know concerning your cousins,
you are doing right or wrong."

"I will answer your question to-morrow," replied Fanny. "Now, may I go
back to the others; they are waiting for me?"

"Yes, you may go, dear."

"The Vivians come here on Monday?" said Fanny as she rose.

"Yes, dear, on Monday. By the way, Miss Ludlow is arranging to give them
the blue room, next to yours. You don't object, do you?"

"No," said Fanny. The next minute the girl was out of sight.

Miss Symes sat very still. What was the matter? What was Fanny Crawford
trying to conceal?

That evening Mrs. Haddo said to Miss Symes, "You have told Fanny that
her cousins are coming?"

"Yes."

"And how did she take it?"

"Fanny is very much upset about her father's absence," was Miss Symes's
unexpected answer.

Mrs. Haddo looked attentively at the English teacher. Their eyes met,
but neither uttered a single word.

The next day, after school, Fanny went up to Miss Symes. "I have been
thinking over everything," she said, "and my conscience is not going to
trouble me; for I know, or believe I know, a way by which I may help
them all."

"It is a grand thing to help those who are in sorrow, Fanny."

"I will do my best," said the girl.

That evening, to Miss Symes's great relief, she heard Fanny's merry
laugh in the school. The girls who formed the Specialities, as they were
called, had met for a cheerful conference. Mary and Julia Bertram were
in the highest spirits; and Margaret Grant, with her beautiful
complexion and stately ways, had never been more agreeable. Olive
Repton, the pet and darling of nearly the whole of the upper school, was
making the others scream with laughter.

"There can be nothing very bad," thought Miss Symes to herself. "My dear
friend will soon see that the charitable feeling which prompted her to
receive those girls into the house was really but another sign of her
true nobility of character."

Meanwhile Fanny, who was told not to keep the coming of the Vivians in
any way a secret, was being eagerly questioned with regard to them.

"So you really saw them at their funny home, Craigie Muir?" exclaimed
Olive.

"Yes; I spent a week there," said Fanny.

"And had a jolly good time, I guess?" cried Julia Bertram.

"Not such a very good time," answered Fanny, "for Miss Vivian was ill,
and we had to be very quiet."

"Oh! don't let's bother about the time Fanny spent in that remote part
of Scotland," said Olive. "Do tell us about the girls themselves, Fan.
It's so unusual for any girls to come straight into the upper school,
and also to put in an appearance in the middle of term. Are they very
Scotch, to begin with?"

"No, hardly at all," replied Fanny. "Miss Vivian only took the pretty
little cottage in which they live a year ago."

"I am glad they are not too Scotch," remarked Susie; "they will get into
our ways all the sooner if they are thoroughly English."

"I don't see that for a single moment," remarked Olive. "For my part, I
love Scotch lassies; and as to Irish colleens, they're simply adorable."

"Well, well, go on with your description, Fan," exclaimed Julia.

"I can tell you they are quite remarkable-looking," replied Fanny.
"Betty is the eldest. She is a regular true sort of Betty, up to no end
of larks and fun; but sometimes she gets very depressed. I think she is
rather dark, but I am not quite sure; she is also somewhat tall; and,
oh, she is wonderfully pretty! She can whistle the note of every bird
that ever sang, and is devoted to wild creatures--the moor ponies and
great Scotch collies and sheep-dogs. You'll be sure to like Betty
Vivian."

"Your description does sound promising," remarked Susie; "but she will
certainly have to give up her wild ways at Haddo Court."

"What about the others?" asked Olive.

"Sylvia and Hetty? I think they are two years younger than Betty. They
are not a bit like her. They are rather heavy-looking girls, but still
you would call them handsome. They are twins, and wonderfully like each
other. Sylvia is very tender-hearted; but Hetty--I think Hetty has the
most force of character. Now, really," continued Fanny, rising from her
low chair, where her chosen friends were surrounding her, "I can say
nothing more about them until they come. You can't expect me, any of
you, to overpraise my own relations, and, naturally, I shouldn't abuse
them."

"Why, of course not, you dear old Fan!" exclaimed Olive.

"I must go and write a letter to father," said Fanny; and she went
across the room to where her own little desk stood in a distant corner.

After she had left them, Olive bent forward, looked with her merry,
twinkling eyes full into Susie Rushworth's face, and said, "Is the dear
Fan _altogether_ elated at the thought of her cousins' arrival? I put it
to you, Susie, as the most observant of us all. Answer me truthfully, or
for ever hold your peace."

"Then I will hold my peace," replied Susie, "for I cannot possibly say
whether Fan is elated or not."

"Now, don't get notions in your head, Olive," said Mary Bertram. "That
is one of your faults, you know. I expect those girls will be downright
jolly; and, of course, being Fan's relations, they will become members
of the Specialities. That goes without saying."

"It doesn't go without saying at all," remarked Olive. "The
Specialities, as you know quite well, girls, have to stand certain
tests."

"It is my opinion," said Susie, "that we are all getting too high and
mighty for anything. Perhaps the Vivians will teach us to know our own
places."



CHAPTER III

GOING SOUTH


It was a rough stone house, quite bare, only one story high, and without
a tree growing anywhere near it. It stood on the edge of a vast Scotch
moor, and looked over acres and acres of purple heather--acres so
extensive that the whole country seemed at that time of year to be
covered with a sort of mantle of pinky, pearly gold, something between
the violet and the saffron tones of a summer sunset.

Three girls were seated on a little stone bench outside the lonely,
neglected-looking house. They were roughly and plainly dressed. They
wore frocks of the coarsest Scotch tweed; and Scotch tweed, when it is
black, can look very coarse, indeed. They clung close together--a
desolate-looking group--Betty, the eldest, in the middle; Sylvia
pressing up to her at one side; Hetty, with her small, cold hand locked
in her sister's, on the other.

"I wonder when Uncle John will come," was Hetty's remark after a pause.
"Jean says we are on no account to travel alone; so, if he doesn't come
to-night, we mayn't ever reach that fine school after all."

"I am not going to tell him about the packet. I have quite made up my
mind on that point," said Betty, dropping her voice.

"Oh, Bet!" The other two looked up at their elder sister.

She turned and fixed her dark-gray eyes first on one face, then on the
other. "Yes," she said, nodding emphatically; "the packet is sure to
hold money, and it will be a safe-guard. If we find the school
intolerable we'll have the wherewithal to run away."

"I've read in books that school life is very jolly sometimes," remarked
Sylvia.

"Not _that_ school," was Betty's rejoinder.

"But why not that school, Betty?"

Betty shrugged her shoulders. "Haven't you heard that miserable
creature, Fanny Crawford, talk of it? I shouldn't greatly mind going
anywhere else, for if there's a human being whom I cordially detest, it
is my cousin, Fanny Crawford."

"I hear the sound of wheels!" cried Sylvia, springing to her feet.

"Ah, and there's Donald coming back," said Betty; "and there is Uncle
John! No chance of escape, girls! We have got to go through it. Poor old
David!"--here she alluded to the horse who was tugging a roughly made
dogcart up the very steep hill--"he'll miss us, perhaps; and so will
Fritz and Andrew, the sheep-dogs. Heigh-ho! there's no good being too
sorrowful. That money is a rare comfort!"

By this time the old white horse, and Donald, who was driving, and the
gentleman who sat at the opposite side of the dogcart, drew up at the
top of the great plateau. The gentleman alighted and walked swiftly
towards the three girls. They rose simultaneously to meet him.

In London, and in any other part of the south of England, the weather
was warm at this time of the year; but up on Craigie Muir it was cold,
and the children looked desolate as they turned in their coarse clothes
to meet their guardian.

Sir John came up to them with a smile. "Now, my dears, here I am--Betty,
how do you do? Kiss your uncle, child."

Betty raised her pretty lips and gave the weather-beaten cheek of Sir
John Crawford an unwilling kiss. Sylvia and Hetty clasped each other's
hands, clung a little more closely together, and remained mute.

"Come, come," said Sir John; "we mustn't be miserable, you know! I hope
that good Jean has got you something for supper, for the air up here
would make any one hungry. Shall we go into the house? We all have to
start at cockcrow in the morning. Donald knows, and has arranged, he
tells me, for a cart to hold your luggage. Let's come in, children. I
really should be glad to get out of this bitter blast."

"It is just lovely!" said Betty. "I am drinking it in all I can, for I
sha'n't have any more for many a long day."

Sir John, who had the kindest face in the world, accompanied by the
kindest heart, looked anxiously at the handsome girl. Then he thought
what a splendid chance he was giving his young cousins; for, although he
allowed them to call him uncle, the relationship between them was not
quite so close.

They all entered the sparsely furnished and bare-looking house. Six deal
boxes, firmly corded with great strands of rope, were piled one on top
of the other in the narrow hall.

"Here's our luggage," said Betty.

"My dear children--those deal boxes! What possessed you to put your
things into trunks of that sort?"

"They are the only trunks we have," replied Betty. "And I think supper
is ready," she continued; "I smell the grouse. I told Jean to have
plenty ready for supper."

"Good girl, good girl!" said Sir John. "Now I will go upstairs and wash
my hands; and I presume you will do the same, little women. Then we'll
all enjoy a good meal."

A few minutes later Sir John Crawford and the three Misses Vivian were
seated round a rough table, on which was spread a very snowy but coarse
cloth. The grouse were done to a turn. There was excellent coffee, the
best scones in the world, and piles of fresh butter. In addition, there
was a small bottle of very choice Scotch whiskey placed on the
sideboard, with lemons and other preparations for a comforting drink by
and by for Sir John.

The girls were somewhat silent during the meal. Even Betty, who could be
a chatterbox when she pleased, vouchsafed but few remarks.

But when the supper-things had been cleared away Sir John said
emphatically, turning to the three girls, "You got my telegram, with its
splendid news?"

"We got your telegram, Uncle John," said Hetty.

"With its splendid news?" repeated Sir John.

Hetty pursed up her firm lips; Sylvia looked at him and smiled; Betty
crossed the room and put a little black kettle on the peat fire to boil.

"You would like some whisky-punch?" Betty said. "I know how to make it."

"Thank you, my dear; I should very much. And do you three lassies object
to a pipe?"

"Object!" said Betty. "No; Donald smokes every night; and
since--since----" Her voice faltered; her face grew pale. After a
minute's silence she said in an abrupt tone, "We go into the kitchen
most nights to talk to Donald while he smokes."

"Then to-night you must talk to me. I can tell you, my dears, you are
the luckiest young girls in the whole of Great Britain to have got
admitted to Haddo Court; and my child Fan will look after you. You
understand, dears, that everything you want you apply to me for. I am
your guardian, appointed to that position by your dear aunt. You can
write to me yourselves, or ask Fan to do so. By the way, I have been
looking through some papers in a desk which belonged to your dear aunt,
and cannot find a little sealed packet which she left there. Do you know
anything about it, any of you?"

"No, uncle, nothing," said Betty, raising her dark-gray eyes and fixing
them full on his face.

"Well, I suppose it doesn't matter," said Sir John; "but in a special
letter to me she mentioned the packet. I suppose, however, it will turn
up. Now, my dears, you are in luck. When you get over your very natural
grief----"

"Oh, don't!" said Betty. "Get over it? We'll never get over it!"

"My dear, dear child, time softens all troubles. If it did not we
couldn't live. I admire you, Betty, for showing love for one so
worthy----"

"If you don't look out, Uncle John," suddenly exclaimed Hetty, "you'll
have Betty howling; and when she begins that sort of thing we can't stop
her for hours."

Sir John raised his brows and looked in a puzzled way from one girl to
the other. "You will be very happy at Haddo Court," he said; "and you
are in luck to get there. Now, off to bed, all three of you, for we have
to make an early start in the morning." Sir John held out his hand as he
spoke. "Kiss me, Betty," he said to the eldest girl.

"Are you my uncle?" she inquired.

"No; your father and I were first cousins. But, my poor child, I stand
in the place of father and guardian to you now."

"I'd rather not kiss you, if you don't mind," said Betty.

"You must please yourself. Now go to bed, all of you."

The girls left the little sitting-room. It was their fashion to hold
each other's hands, and in a chain of three they now entered the
kitchen.

"Jean," said Betty, "_he_ says we are to go to bed. I want to ask you
and Donald a question, and I want to ask it quickly."

"And what is the question, my puir bit lassie?" asked Jean Macfarlane.

"It is this," said Betty--"you and Donald can answer it quickly--if we
want to come back here you will take us in, won't you?"

"Take you in, my bonny dears! Need you ask? There's a shelter always for
the bit lassies under this roof," said Donald Macfarlane.

"Thanks, Donald," said Betty. "And thank you, Jean," she added. "Come,
girls, let's go to bed."

The girls went up to the small room in the roof which they occupied.
They slept in three tiny beds side by side. The beds were under the
sloping roof, and the air of the room was cold. But Betty, Sylvia, and
Hetty were accustomed to cold, and did not mind it. The three little
beds touched each other, and the three girls quickly undressed and got
between the coarse sheets. Betty, as the privileged one, was in the
middle. And now a cold little hand was stretched out from the left bed
towards her, and a cold little hand from the right bed did ditto.

"Betty," said Sylvia in a choking voice, "you will keep us up? You are
the brave one."

"Except when I cry," said Betty.

"Oh, but, Betty," said Hetty, "you will promise not to! It's awful when
you do! You will promise, won't you?"

"I will try my best," said Betty.

"How long do you think, Betty, that you and Hetty and I will be able to
endure that awful school?" said Sylvia.

"It all depends," said Betty. "But we've got the money to get away with
when we like. It was left for our use. Now, look, here, girls. I am
going to tell you a tremendous secret."

"Oh, yes! oh, yes!" exclaimed the other two. "Betty, you're a perfect
darling; you are the most heroic creature in the world!"

"Listen; and don't talk, girls. I told a lie to-night about that packet;
but no one else will know about it. There was one day--now don't
interrupt me, either of you, or I'll begin howling, and then I can't
stop--there was one day when Auntie Frances was very ill. She sent for
me, and I went to her; and she said, 'I am able to leave you so very
little, my children; but there is a nest-egg in a little packet in the
right-hand drawer of my bureau. You must always keep it--always until
you really want it.' I felt so bursting all round my heart, and so choky
in my throat, that I thought I'd scream there and then; but I kept all
my feelings in, and went away, and pretended to dearest auntie that I
didn't feel it a bit. Then, you know, she, she--died."

"She was very cold," said Sylvia. "I saw her--I seem to see her still.
Her face made me shiver."

"Don't!" said Betty in a fierce voice. "Do you want me to howl all night
long?"

"I won't! I won't!" said Sylvia. "Go on, Betty darling--heroine that you
are!"

"Well, I went to her bureau straight away, and I took the packet. As a
matter of fact, I already knew quite well that it was there; for I had
often opened auntie's bureau and looked at her treasures, so I could lay
my hands on it at once. I never mean to part with the packet. It's
heavy, so it's sure to be full of gold--plenty of gold for us to live on
if we don't like that beastly school. When Sir John--or Uncle John, as
he wants us to call him----"

"He's no uncle of mine," said Hetty.

"I like him, for my part," said Sylvia.

"Don't interrupt me," said Betty. "When Uncle John asked me about the
packet I said 'No,' of course; and I mean to say 'No' again, and again,
and again, and again, if ever I'm questioned about it. For didn't auntie
say it was for us? And what right has he to interfere?"

"It does sound awfully interesting!" exclaimed Sylvia. "I do hope you've
put it in a very, very safe place, Betty?"

Betty laughed softly. "Do you remember the little, old-fashioned pockets
auntie always wore inside her dress--little, flat pockets made of very
strong calico? Well, it's in one of those; and I mean to secure a safer
hiding-place for it when I get to that abominable Court. Now perhaps
we'd better go to sleep."

"Yes; I am dead-sleepy," responded Sylvia.

By and by her gentle breathing showed that she was in the land of
slumber. Hetty quickly followed her twin-sister's example. But Betty lay
wide awake. She was lying flat on her back, and looking out into the
sort of twilight which still seemed to pervade the great moors. Her eyes
were wide open, and wore a startled, fixed expression, like the eyes of
a girl who was seeing far beyond what she appeared to be looking at.

"Yes, I have done right," she said to herself. "There must always be an
open door, and this is my open door; and I hope God, and auntie up in
heaven, will forgive me for having told that lie. And I hope God, and
auntie up in heaven, will forgive me if I tell it again; for I mean to
go on telling it, and telling it, and telling it, until I have spent all
that money."

While Betty lay thinking her wild thoughts, Sir John Crawford,
downstairs, made a shrewd and careful examination of the different
articles of furniture which had been left in the little stone house by
his old friend, Miss Frances Vivian. Everything was in perfect order.
She was a lady who abhorred disorder, who could not endure it for a
single moment. All her letters and her neatly receipted bills were tied
up with blue silk, and laid, according to date, one on top of the other.
Her several little trinkets, which eventually would belong to the girls,
were in their places. Her last will and testament was also in the drawer
where she had told Sir John he would find it. Everything was in
order--everything, exactly as the poor lady had left it, with the
exception of the little sealed packet. Where was it? Sir John felt
puzzled and distressed. He had not an idea what it contained; for Miss
Vivian, in her letter to him, had simply asked him to take care of it
for her nieces, and had not made any comment with regard to its
contents. Sir John certainly could not accuse the girls of purloining
it. After some pain and deliberate thought, he decided to go out and
speak to the old servants, who were still up, in the kitchen. They
received him respectfully, and yet with a sort of sour expression which
was natural to their homely Scotch faces.

Donald rose silently, and asked the gentleman if he would seat himself.

"No, Donald," replied Sir John in his hearty, pleasant voice; "I cannot
stay. I am going to bed, being somewhat tired."

"The bit chamber is no' too comfortable for your lordship," said Jean,
dropping a profound curtsey.

"The chamber will do all right. I have slept in it before," said Sir
John.

"Eh, dear, now," said Jean, "and you be easy to please."

"I want you, Jean Macfarlane, to call the young ladies and myself not
later than five o'clock to-morrow morning, and to have breakfast ready
at half-past five; and, Donald, we shall require the dogcart to drive to
the station at six o'clock. Have you given orders about the young
ladies' luggage? It ought to start not later than four to-morrow morning
to be in time to catch the train."

"Eh, to be sure," said Donald. "It's myself has seen to all that. Don't
you fash yourself, laird. Things'll be in time. All me and my wife wants
is that the bit lassies should have every comfort."

"I will see to that," said Sir John.

"We'll miss them, puir wee things!" exclaimed Jean; and there came a
glint of something like tears into her hard and yet bright blue eyes.

"I am sure you will. You have, both of you, been valued servants both to
my cousin and her nieces. I wish to make you a little present each."
Here Sir John fumbled in his pocket, and took out a couple of
sovereigns.

But the old pair drew back in some indignation. "Na, na!" they
exclaimed; "it isn't our love for them or for her as can be purchased
for gowd."

"Well, as you please, my good people. I respect you all the more for
refusing. But now, may I ask you a question?"

"And whatever may that be?" exclaimed Jean.

"I have looked through your late mistress's effects----"

"And whatever may 'effects' be?" inquired Donald.

"What she has left behind her."

"Ay, the laird uses grand words," remarked Donald, turning to his wife.

"Maybe," said Jean; "but its the flavor of the Scotch in the speech that
softens my heart the most."

"Well," said Sir John quickly, "there's one little packet I cannot find.
Miss Vivian wrote to me about it in a letter which I received after her
death. I haven't an idea what it contained; but she seemed to set some
store by it, and it was eventually to be the property of the young
ladies."

"Puir lambs! Puir lambs!" said Jean.

"I have questioned them about it, but they know nothing."

"And how should they, babes as they be?" said Jean.

"You'll not be offended, Jean Macfarlane and Donald Macfarlane, if I ask
you the same question?"

Jean flushed an angry red for a moment; but Donald's shrewd face
puckered up in a smile.

"You may ask, and hearty welcome," he said; "but I know no more aboot
the bit packet than the lassies do, and that's naucht at all."

"Nor me no more than he," echoed Jean.

"Do you think, by any possibility, any one from outside got into the
house and stole the little packet?"

"Do I think!" exclaimed Jean. "Let me tell you, laird, that a man or
woman as got in here unbeknownst to Donald and me would go out again
pretty quick with a flea in the ear."

Sir John smiled. "I believe you," he said. He went upstairs, feeling
puzzled. But when he laid his head on his pillow he was so tired that he
fell sound asleep. The sleep seemed to last but for a minute or two when
Jean's harsh voice was heard telling him to rise, for it was five
o'clock in the morning. Then there came a time of bustle and confusion.
The girls, with their faces white as sheets, came down to breakfast in
their usual fashion--hand linked within hand. Sir John thought, as he
glanced at them, that he had never seen a more desolate-looking little
trio. They hardly ate any of the excellent food which Jean had provided.
The good baronet guessed that their hearts were full, and did not worry
them with questions.

The pile of deal boxes had disappeared from the narrow hall and was
already on its way to Dunstan Station, where they were to meet a local
train which would presently enable them to join the express for London.
There was a bewildered moment of great anguish when Jean caught the
lassies to her breast, when the dogs clustered round to be embraced and
hugged and patted. Then Donald, leading the horse (for there was no room
for him to ride in the crowded dogcart), started briskly on the road to
Dunstan, and Craigie Muir was left far behind.

By and by they all reached the railway station. The luggage was piled up
on the platform. Sir John took first-class tickets to London, and the
curious deal boxes found their place in the luggage van. Donald's
grizzly head and rugged face were seen for one minute as the train
steamed out of the station. Betty clutched at the side of her dress
where Aunt Frances' old flat pocket which contained the packet was
secured. The other two girls looked at her with a curious mingling of
awe and admiration, and then they were off.

Sir John guessed at the young people's feelings, and did not trouble
them with conversation. By and by they left the small train and got into
a compartment reserved for them in the London express. Sir John did
everything he could to enliven the journey for his young cousins. But
they were taciturn and irresponsive. Betty's wonderful gray eyes looked
out of the window at the passing landscape, which Sir John was quite
sure she did not see; Sylvia and Hester were absorbed in watching their
sister. Sir John had a queer kind of feeling that there was something
wrong with the girls' dress; that very coarse black serge, made with no
attempt at style; the coarse, home-made stockings; the rough, hobnailed
boots; the small tam-o'-shanter caps, pushed far back from the little
faces; the uncouth worsted gloves; and then the deal boxes! He had a
kind of notion that things were very wrong, and that the girls did not
look a bit at his own darling Fanny looked, nor in the least like the
other girls he had seen at Haddo Court. But Sir John Crawford had been a
widower for years, and during that time had seen little of women. He had
not the least idea how to remedy what looked a little out of place even
at Craigie Muir, but now that they were flying south looked much worse.
Could he possibly spare the time to spend a day in a London hotel, and
buy the girls proper toilets, and have their clothes put into regulation
trunks? But no, in the first place, he had not the time; in the second,
he would not have the slightest idea what to order.

They all arrived in London late in the evening. Sylvia and Hetty had
been asleep during the latter part of the journey, but Betty still sat
bolt upright and wide awake. It was dusk now, and the lamp in the
carriage was lit. It seemed to throw a shadow on the girl's miserable
face. She was very young--only the same age as Sir John's dear Fanny;
and yet how different, how pale, how full of inexpressible sadness was
that little face! Those gray eyes of hers seemed to haunt him! He was
the kindest man on earth, and would have given worlds to comfort her;
but he did not know what to do.



CHAPTER IV

RECEPTION AT HADDO COURT


Having made up her mind to receive the Vivian girls, Mrs. Haddo arranged
matters quite calmly and to her entire satisfaction. There was no fuss
or commotion of any kind; and when Sir John appeared on the following
morning, with the six deal boxes and the three girls dressed in their
coarse Highland garments, they were all received immediately in Mrs.
Haddo's private sitting-room.

"I have brought the girls, Mrs. Haddo," said Sir John. "This is Betty.
Come forward, my dear, and shake hands with your new mistress."

"How old are you?" asked Mrs. Haddo.

"I was sixteen my last birthday, and that was six months ago, and one
fortnight and three days," replied Betty in a very distinct voice,
holding herself bolt upright, and looking with those strange eyes full
into Mrs. Haddo's face. She spoke with extreme defiance. But she
suddenly met a rebuff--a kind of rebuff that she did not expect; for
Mrs. Haddo's eyes looked back at her with such a world of love,
sympathy, and understanding that the girl felt that choking in her
throat and that bursting sensation in her heart which she dreaded more
than anything else. She instantly lowered her brilliant eyes and stood
back, waiting for her sisters to speak.

Sylvia came up a little pertly. "Hetty and I are twins," she said, "and
we'll be fifteen our next birthday; but that's not for a long time yet."

"Well, my dears, I am glad to welcome you all three, and I hope you will
have a happy time in my school. I will not trouble you with rules or
anything irksome of that sort to-day. You will like to see your cousin,
Fanny Crawford. She is busy at lessons now; so I would first of all
suggest that you go to your room, and change your dress, and get tidy
after your journey. You have come here nice and early; and in honor of
your arrival I will give, what is my invariable custom, a half-holiday
to the upper school, so that you may get to know your companions."

"Ask Miss Symes to be good enough to come here," said Betty, but Betty
would not raise her eyes. She was standing very still, her hands locked
tightly together. Mrs. Haddo walked to the bell and rang it. A servant
appeared.

"Ask Miss Symes to be good enough to come here," said Mrs. Haddo.

The English governess with the charming, noble face presently appeared.

"Miss Symes," said Mrs. Haddo, "may I introduce you to Sir John
Crawford?"

Sir John bowed, and the governess bent her head gracefully.

"And these are your new pupils, the Vivians. This is Betty, and this
little girl is Sylvia. Am I not right, dear?"

"No; I am Hester," said the girl addressed as Sylvia.

"This is Hetty, then; and this is Sylvia. Will you take them to their
room and do what you can for their comfort? If they like to stay there
for a little they can do so. I will speak to you presently, if you will
come to me here."

The girls and Miss Symes left the presence of the head mistress. The
moment they had done so Mrs. Haddo gave a quick sigh. "My dear Sir
John," she said, "what remarkable, and interesting, and difficult, and
almost impossible girls you have intrusted to my care!"

"I own they are not like others," said Sir John; "but you have admitted
they are interesting."

"Yes," said Mrs. Haddo, speaking slowly. "I shall manage them yet. The
eldest girl, Betty, is wonderful. What a heart! what a soul! but, oh,
very hard to get at!"

"I thought, perhaps," said Sir John, fidgeting slightly, "that you would
object to the rough way they are clothed. I really don't like it myself;
at least, I don't think it's quite the fashion."

"Their clothes do not matter at all, Sir John."

"But the less remarkable they look the better they will get on in the
school," persisted Sir John; "so, of course, you will get what is
necessary."

"Naturally, Miss Symes and I will see to that."

"They led a very rough life in the country," continued Sir John, "and
yet it was a pure and healthy life--out all day long on those great
moors, and with no one to keep them company except a faithful old
servant of Miss Vivian's and his wife. They made pets of dogs and
horses, and were happy after their fashion. You will do what you can for
them, will you not, Mrs. Haddo?"

"Having accepted them into my school, I will do my utmost. I do not mind
simple manners, for the noblest natures are to be found among such
people; nor do I mind rough, ungainly clothing, for that, indeed, only
belongs to the outward girl and can quickly be remedied. I will keep
these girls, and do all that woman can for them, provided I see no
deceit in any of them; but that, you will clearly understand, Sir John,
is in my opinion an unpardonable sin."

"Do they look like girls who would deceive any one?" was Sir John's
rejoinder.

"I grant you they do not. Now, you must be very busy, so you must cast
the girls from your mind. You would like to see Fanny. I know she is
dying to have a talk with you."

Meanwhile Miss Symes had conducted the girls upstairs. The room they
entered was much grander than any room they had ever seen before. It was
large--one of the largest bedrooms in the great house. It had three
noble windows which reached from floor to ceiling, and were of French
style, so that they could be opened wide in summer weather to admit the
soft, warm air. There was a great balcony outside the windows, where the
girls could sit when they chose. The room itself was called the blue
room; the reason of this was that the color on the walls was pale blue,
whereas the paint was white. The three little beds stood in a row, side
by side. There was a very large wardrobe exactly facing the beds, also a
chest of large drawers for each girl, while the carpet was blue to match
the walls. A bright fire was burning in the cheerful, new-fashioned
grate. Altogether, it would have been difficult to find a more charming
apartment than the blue room at Haddo Court.

"Are we to sleep here?" asked Betty.

"Yes, my dear child. These are your little beds; and Anderson, the
schoolroom maid, will unpack your trunks presently. I see they have been
brought up."

Miss Symes slightly started, for the six wooden trunks, fastened by
their coarse ropes, were standing side by side in another part of the
room.

"Why do you look at our trunks like that?" asked Sylvia, who was not
specially shy, and was quick to express her feelings.

But Betty came to the rescue. "Never mind how she looks," remarked
Betty; "she can look as she likes. What does it matter to us?"

This speech was so very different from the ordinary speech of the
ordinary girl who came to Haddo Court that Miss Symes was nonplussed for
a moment. She quickly, however, recovered her equanimity.

"Now, my dears, you must make yourselves quite at home. You must not be
shy, or lonely, or unhappy. You must enter--which I hope you will do
very quick--into the life of this most delightful house. We are all
willing and anxious to make you happy. As to your trunks, they will be
unpacked and put away in one of the attics."

"I wish we could sleep in an attic," said Betty then in a fierce voice.
"I hate company-rooms."

"There is no attic available, my dear; and this, you must admit, is a
nice room."

"I admit nothing," said Betty.

"I think it's a nice room," said Hester; "only, of course, we are not
accustomed to it, and that great fire is so chokingly hot. May we open
all the windows?"

"Certainly, dears, provided you don't catch cold."

"Catch cold!" said Sylvia in a voice of scorn. "If you had ever lived
on a Scotch moor you wouldn't talk of catching cold in a stuffy little
hole of a place like this."

Miss Symes had an excellent temper, but she found it a trifle difficult
to keep it under control at that moment. "I must ask you for the keys of
your trunks," she said; "for while we are at dinner, which will be in
about an hour's time, Anderson will unpack them."

"Thanks," said Betty, "but we'd much rather unpack our own trunks."

Miss Symes was silent for a minute. "In this house, dear, it is not the
custom," she said then. She spoke very gently. She was puzzled at the
general appearance, speech, and get-up of the new girls.

"And we can, of course, keep our own keys," continued Betty, speaking
rapidly, her very pale face glowing with a faint tinge of color;
"because Mrs.----What is the name of the mistress?"

"Mrs. Haddo," said Miss Symes in a tone of great respect.

"Well, whatever her name is, she said we were to be restricted by no
rules to-day. She said so, didn't she, Sylvia? Didn't she, Hetty?"

"She certainly did," replied the twins.

"Then, if it's a rule for the trunks to be unpacked by some one else, it
doesn't apply to us to-day," said Betty. "If you will be so very kind,
Miss----"

"Symes is my name."

"So very kind, Miss Symes, as to go away and leave us, we'll begin to
unpack our own trunks and put everything away by dinner-time."

"Very well," said Miss Symes quite meekly. "Is there anything else I can
do for your comfort?"

"Yes," remarked Sylvia in a pert tone; "you can go away."

Miss Symes left the room. When she did so the two younger girls looked
at their elder sister. Betty's face was very white, and her chest was
working ominously.

Sylvia went up to her and gave her a sudden, violent slap between the
shoulders. "Now, don't begin!" she said. "If you do, they'll all come
round us. It isn't as if we could rush away to the middle of the moors,
and you could go on with it as long as you liked. Here, if you howl,
you'll catch it; for they'll stand over you, and perhaps fling water on
your head."

"Leave me alone, then, for a minute," said Betty. She flung herself flat
on the ground, face downwards, her hair falling about her shoulders. She
lay as still as though she were carved in stone. The twin girls watched
her for a minute. Then very softly and carefully Sylvia approached the
prone figure, pushed her hand into Betty's pocket (a very coarse,
ordinary pocket it was, put in at the side of her dress by Jean's own
fingers), and took out a bunch of keys.

Sylvia held up the keys with a glad smile. "Now let's begin," she said.
"It's an odious, grandified room, and Betty'll go mad here; but we can't
help it--at least, for a bit. And there's always the packet."

At these words, to the great relief of her younger sisters, Betty stood
upright. "There's always the packet," she said. "Now let's begin to
unpack."

Notwithstanding the fact that there were six deal trunks--six trunks of
the plainest make, corded with the coarsest rope--there was very little
inside them, at least as far as an ordinary girl's wardrobe is
concerned; for Miss Frances Vivian had been very poor, and during the
last year of her life had lived at Craigie Muir in the strictest
economy. She was, moreover, too ill to be greatly troubled about the
girls' clothing; and by and by, as her illness progressed, she left the
matter altogether to Jean. Jean was to supply what garments the young
ladies required, and Jean set about the work with a right good will. So
the coarsest petticoats, the most clumsy stockings, the ugliest jackets
and blouses and skirts imaginable, presently appeared out of the little
wooden trunks.

The girls sorted them eagerly, putting them pell-mell into the drawers
without the slightest attempt at any sort of order. But if there were
very few clothes in the trunks, there were all sorts of other things.
There were boxes full of caterpillars in different stages of chrysalis
form. There was also a glass box which contained an enormous spider.
This was Sylvia's special property. She called the spider Dickie, and
adored it. She would not give it flies, which she considered cruel, but
used to keep it alive on morsels of raw meat. Every day, for a quarter
of an hour, Dickie was allowed to take exercise on a flat stone on the
edge of the moor. It was quite against even Jean Macfarlane's advice
that Dickie was brought to the neighborhood of London. But he was here.
He had borne his journey apparently well, and Sylvia looked at him now
with worshiping eyes.

In addition to the live stock, which was extensive and varied, there
were also all kinds of strange fossils, and long, trailing pieces of
heather--mementos of the life which the girls lived on the moor, and
which they had left with such pain and sorrow. They were all busy
worshiping Dickie, and envying Sylvia's bravery in bringing the huge
spider to Haddo Court, when there came a gentle tap at the door.

Betty said crossly, "Who's there?"

A very refined voice answered, "It's I;" and the next minute Fanny
Crawford entered the room. "How are you all?" she said. Her eyes were
red, for she had just said good-bye to her father, and she thoroughly
hated the idea of the girls coming to the school.

"How are you, Fan?" replied Betty, speaking in a careless tone, just
nodding her head, and looking again into the glass box. "He is very
hungry," she continued. "By the way, Fan, will you run down to the
kitchen and get a little bit of raw meat?"

"Will I do what?" asked Fanny.

"Well, I suppose there is a kitchen in the house, and you can get a bit
of raw meat. It's for Dickie."

"Oh," said Fanny, coming forward on tiptoe and peeping into the box,
"you can't keep that terror here--you simply won't be allowed to have
it! Have you _no_ idea what school-life is like?"

"No," said Betty; "and what is more, I don't want you to tell me. Dickie
darling, I'd let you pinch my finger if it would do you any good.
Sylvia, what use are you if you can't feed your own spider? If Fan won't
oblige her cousins when she knows the ways of the house, I presume you
have a pair of legs and can use them? Go to the kitchen at once and get
a piece of raw meat."

"I don't know where it is," said Sylvia, looking slightly frightened.

"Well, you can ask. Go on; ask until you find. Now, be off with you!"

"You had better not," said Fanny. "Why, you will meet all the girls
coming out of the different classrooms!"

"What do girls matter," said Betty in a withering voice, "when Dickie is
hungry?"

Sylvia gathered up her courage and departed. Betty laid the glass box
which contained the spider on the dressing-table.

If Fanny had not been slightly afraid of these bold northern cousins of
hers, she would have dashed the box out on the balcony and released poor
Dickie, giving him back to his natural mode of life. "What queer dresses
you are wearing!" she said. "Do, please, change them before lunch. You
were not dressed like this when I saw you last. You were never
fashionable, but this stuff----"

"You'd best not begin, Fan, or I'll howl," said Betty.

"Hush! do hush, Fanny!" exclaimed Hester. "Don't forget that we are in
mourning for darling auntie."

"But have you really no other dresses?"

"There's nothing wrong with these," said Hester; "they're quite
comfortable."

Just at that moment there came peals of laughter proceeding from several
girls' throats. The room-door was burst open, and Sylvia entered first,
her face very red, her eyes bright and defiant, and a tiny piece of raw
meat on a plate in her hand. The girls who followed her did not belong
to the Specialities, but they were all girls of the upper school. Fanny
thanked her stars that they were not particular friends of hers. They
were choking with laughter, and evidently thought they had never seen so
good a sight in their lives.

"Oh, this is too delicious!" said Sibyl Ray, a girl who had just been
admitted into the upper school. "We met this--this young lady, and she
said she wanted to go to the kitchen to get some raw meat; and when I
told her I didn't know the way she just took my hand and drew me along
with her, and said, 'If you possessed a Dickie, and he was dying of
hunger, you wouldn't hesitate to find the kitchen.'"

"Well, I'm not going to interfere," said Fanny; "but I think you know
the rules of the house, Sibyl, and that no girl is allowed in the
kitchen."

"I didn't go in," said Sibyl; "catch me! But I went to the beginning of
the corridor which leads to the kitchen. _She_ went in, though, boldly
enough, and she got it. Now, we do want to see who Dickie is. Is he a
dog, or a monkey, or what?"

"He's a spider--_goose_!" said Sylvia. "And now, please, get out of the
way. He won't eat if you watch him. I've got a good bit of meat, Betty,"
she continued. "It'll keep Dickie going for several days, and he likes
it all the better when it begins to turn. Don't you Dickie?"

"If you don't all leave the room, girls," said Fanny, "I shall have to
report to Miss Symes."

The girls who had entered were rather afraid of Fanny Crawford, and
thought it best to obey her instructions. But the news with regard to
the newcomers spread wildly all over the house; so much so that when, in
course of time, neat-looking Fanny came down to dinner accompanied by
her three cousins, the whole school remained breathless, watching the
Vivians as they entered. But what magical force is there about certain
girls which raises them above the mere accessories of dress? Could there
be anything uglier than the attire of these so-called Scotch lassies?
And was there ever a prouder carriage than that of Betty Vivian, or a
more scornful expression in the eye, or a firmer set of the little lips?

Mrs. Haddo, who always presided at this meal, called the strangers to
come and sit near her; and though the school had great difficulty in not
bursting into a giggle, there was not a sound of any sort whatever as
the three obeyed. Fanny sat down near her friend, Susie Rushworth. Her
eyes spoke volumes. But Susie was gazing at Betty's face.

At dinner, the girls were expected to talk French on certain days of the
week, and German on others. This was French day, and Susie murmured
something to Fanny in that tongue with regard to Betty's remarkable
little face. But Fanny was in no mood to be courteous or kind about her
relatives. Susie was quick to perceive this, and therefore left her
alone.

When dinner came to an end, Mrs. Haddo called the three Vivians into her
private sitting-room. This room was even more elegant than the beautiful
bedroom which they had just vacated. "Now, my dears," she said, "I want
to have a talk with you all."

Sylvia and Hester looked impatient, and shuffled from one ungainly clad
foot to the other; but Mrs. Haddo fixed her eyes on Betty's face, and
again there thrilled through Betty's heart the marvelous sensation that
she had come across a kindred soul. She was incapable, poor child, of
putting the thought into such words; but she felt it, and it thawed her
rebellious spirit.

Mrs. Haddo sat down. "Now," she said, "you call this school, and, having
never been at school before, you doubtless think you are going to be
very miserable?"

"If there's much discipline we shall be," said Hester, "and Betty will
howl."

"_Don't_ talk like that!" said Betty; and there was a tone in her voice
which silenced Hetty, to the little girl's own amazement.

"There will certainly be discipline at school," said Mrs. Haddo, "just
as there is discipline in life. What miserable people we should be
without discipline! Why, we couldn't get on at all. I am not going to
lecture you to-day. As a matter of fact, I never lecture; and I never
expect any young girl to do in my school what I would not endeavor to do
myself. Above all things, I wish to impress one thing upon you. If you
have any sort of trouble--and, of course, dears, you will have
plenty--you must come straight to me and tell me about it. This is a
privilege I permit to very few girls, but I grant it to you. I give you
that full privilege for the first month of your stay at Haddo Court. You
are to come to me as you would to a mother, had you, my poor children, a
mother living."

"Don't! It makes the lump so bad!" said Betty, clasping her rough little
hand against her white throat.

"I think I have said enough on that subject for the present. I am very
curious to hear all about your life on the moors--how you spent your
time, and how you managed your horses and dogs and your numerous pets."

"Do you really want to hear?" said Betty.

"Certainly; I have said so."

"Do you know," said Hetty, "that Sylvia _would_ bring Dickie here.
Betty and I were somewhat against it, although he is a darling. He is
the most precious pet in the world, and Sylvia would not part with him.
We sent her to the kitchen before dinner to get a bit of raw meat for
him. Would you like to see him?"

Mrs. Haddo was silent for a minute. Then she said gently, "Yes, very
much. He is a sort of pet, I suppose?"

"He is a spider," said Betty--"a great, enormous spider. We captured him
when he was small, and we fed him--oh, not on little flies--that would
be cruel--but on morsels of raw meat. Now he is very big, and he has
wicked eyes. I would rather call him Demon than Dickie; but Sylvia named
him Dickie when he was but a baby thing, so the name has stuck to him.
We love him dearly."

"I will come up to your room presently, and you shall show him to me.
Have you brought other pets from the country?"

"Oh, stones and shells and bits of the moor."

"Bits of the moor, my dear children!"

"Yes; we dug pieces up the day before yesterday and wrapped them in
paper, and we want to plant them somewhere here. We thought they would
comfort us. We'd like it awfully if you would let one of the dogs come,
too. He is a great sheep-dog, and such a darling! His name is Andrew. I
think Donald Macfarlane would part with him if you said we might have
him."

"I am afraid I can't just at present, dear; but if you are really good
girls, and try your very best to please me, you shall go back to Donald
Macfarlane in the holidays, and perhaps I will go with you, and you will
show me all your favorite haunts."

"Oh, will you?" said Betty. Her eyes grew softer than ever.

"You are quite a dear for a head mistress," said Sylvia. "We've always
read in books that they are such horrors. It is nice for you to say you
will come."

"Well, now, I want to say something else, and then we'll go up to your
room and see Dickie. I am going to take you three girls up to town
to-morrow to buy you the sort of dresses we wear in this part of the
world. You can put away these most sensible frocks for your next visit
to Craigie Muir. Not a word, dears. You have said I am a very nice head
mistress, and I hope you will continue to think so. Now, let us come up
to your room."



CHAPTER V

THE VIVIANS' ATTIC


Mrs. Haddo was genuinely interested in Dickie. She never once spoke of
him as a horror. She immediately named the genus to which he belonged in
the spider tribe, and told the girls that they could look up full
particulars with regard to him and his ways in a large book she had
downstairs called "Chambers's Encyclopedia." She suggested, however,
that they should have a little room in one of the attics where they
could keep Dickie and his morsels of meat, and the different boxes which
contained the caterpillars. She volunteered to show this minute room to
the young Vivians at once.

They looked at her, as she spoke, with more and more interest and less
and less dislike. Even Sylvia's little heart was melted, and Hetty at
once put out her hand and touched Mrs. Haddo's. In a moment the little
brown hand was held in the firm clasp of the white one, which was
ornamented with sparkling rings.

As the children and Mrs. Haddo were leaving the blue room, Mrs. Haddo's
eyes fell upon the deal trunks. "What very sensible trunks!" she said.
"And so you brought your clothes in these?"

"Yes," replied Betty. "Donald Macfarlane made them for us. He can do
all sorts of carpentering. He meant to paint them green; but we thought
we'd like them best just as they are unpainted."

"They are strong, useful boxes," replied Mrs. Haddo. "And now come with
me and I will show you the room which shall be your private property and
where you can keep your pets. By the way," she added, "I am exceedingly
particular with regard to the neatness of the various rooms where my
pupils sleep; and these bits of heather and these curious stones--oh, I
can tell you plenty about their history by and by--might also be put
into what we will call 'the Vivians' attic.'"

"Thank you so much!" said Betty. She had forgotten all about
howling--she had even forgotten for the minute that she was really at
school; for great Mrs. Haddo, the wonderful head mistress, about whom
Fanny had told so many stories, was really a most agreeable
person--nearly, very nearly, as nice as dear Aunt Frances.

The little attic was presently reached; the pets were deposited there;
and then--wonderful to relate!--Mrs. Haddo went out herself with the
girls and chose the very best position in the grounds for them to plant
the pieces of heather, with their roots and surrounding earth. She gave
to each girl a small plot which was to be her very own, and which no
other girl was to have anything whatever to do with. When presently she
introduced them into the private sitting-room of the upper school,
Betty's eyes were shining quite happily; and Sylvia and Hetty, who
always followed her example, were looking as merry as possible.

Fanny Crawford, being requested to do so by Susie Rushworth, now
introduced the Vivians to the Specialities. Mary and Julia Bertram shook
hands with them quite warmly. Margaret Grant smiled for a minute as her
dark, handsome eyes met those of Betty; while Olive Repton said in her
most genial tone, "Oh, do sit down, and tell us all about your life!"

"Yes, please--_please_, tell us all about your life!" exclaimed another
voice; and Sibyl Ray came boldly forward and seated herself in the midst
of the group, which was known in the school as the Specialities.

But here Margaret interfered. "You shall hear everything presently,
Sibyl," she said; "but just now we are having a little confab with dear
Fanny's friends, so do you mind leaving us alone together?"

Sibyl colored angrily. "I am sure I don't care," she said; "and if you
are going to be stuck-up and snappish and disagreeable just because you
happen to call yourselves the Specialities, you needn't expect _me_ to
take an interest in you. I am just off for a game of tennis, and shall
have a far better time than you all, hobnobbing in this close room."

"Yes, the room is very close," exclaimed Betty. Then she added, "I do
not think I shall like the South of England at all; it seems to be
without air."

"Oh, you'll soon get over that!" laughed Susie. "Besides," she
continued, "winter is coming; and I can tell you we find winter very
cold, even here."

"I am glad of that," said Betty. "I hate hot weather; unless, indeed,"
she added, "when you can lie flat on your back, in the center of one of
the moors, and watch the sky with the sun blazing down on you."

"But you must never lie anywhere near a flat stone," exclaimed Sylvia,
"or an adder may come out, and that isn't a bit jolly!"

Sibyl had not yet moved off, but was standing with her mouth slightly
gaping and her round eyes full of horror.

"Do go! do go, Sibyl!" said Mary Bertram; and Sibyl went, to tell
wonderful stories to her own special friends all about these oddest of
girls who kept monstrous spiders--spiders that had to be fed on raw
meat--and who themselves lay on the moors where adders were to be found.

"Now tell us about Dickie," said Susie, who was always the first to make
friends.

But Betty Vivian, for some unaccountable reason, no longer felt either
amiable or sociable. "There's nothing to tell," she replied, "and you
can't see him."

"Oh, please, Betty, don't be disagreeable!" exclaimed Fanny. "We can see
him any minute if we go to your bedroom."

"No, you can't," said Betty, "for he isn't there."

Fanny burst out laughing. "Ah," she said, "I thought as much! I thought
Mrs. Haddo would soon put an end to poor Dickie's life!"

"Then you thought wrong!" exclaimed Sylvia with flashing eyes, "for Mrs.
Haddo loves him. She was down on her knees looking----Oh, what is the
matter, Betty?"

"If you keep repeating our secrets with Mrs. Haddo I shall pinch you
black and blue to-night," was Betty's response.

Sylvia instantly became silent.

"Well, tell us about the moor, anyhow," said Margaret.

"And let's go out!" cried Olive. "The day is perfectly glorious; and, of
course," she continued, "we are all bound to make ourselves agreeable to
you three, for we owe our delightful half-holiday to you. But for you
Vivians we'd be toiling away at our lessons now instead of allowing our
minds to cool down."

"Do minds get as hot as all that?" asked Hester.

"Very often, indeed, at this school," said Olive with a chuckle.

"Well, I, for one, shall be delighted to go out," said Betty.

"Then you must run upstairs and get your hats and your gloves," said
Fanny, who seemed, for some extraordinary reason, to wish to make her
cousins uncomfortable.

Betty looked at her very fiercely for a minute; then she beckoned to her
sisters, and the three left the room in their usual fashion--each girl
holding the hand of another.

"Fan," said Olive the moment the door had closed behind them, "you don't
like the Vivians! I see it in your face."

"I never said so," replied Fanny.

"Oh, Fan, dear--not with the lips, of course; but the eyes have spoken
volumes. Now, I think they are great fun; they're so uncommon."

"I have never said I didn't like them," repeated Fanny, "and you will
never get me to say it. They are my cousins, and of course I'll have to
look after them a bit; but I think before they are a month at the school
you will agree with me in my opinion with regard to them."

"How can we agree in an opinion we know nothing about?" said Margaret
Grant.

Fanny looked at her, and Fanny's eyes could flash in a very significant
manner at times.

"Let's come out!" exclaimed Susie Rushworth. "The girls will follow us."

This, however, turned out not to be the case. Susie, the Bertrams,
Margaret Grant, Olive Repton, waited for the Vivians in every imaginable
spot where they it likely the newcomers would be.

As a matter of fact, the very instant the young Vivians had left the
sitting-room, Betty whispered in an eager tone, first to one sister and
then to the other, "We surely needn't stay any longer with Fanny and
those other horrid girls. Never mind your hats and gloves. Did we ever
wear hats and gloves when we were out on the moors at Craigie Muir?
There's an open door. Let's get away quite by ourselves."

The Vivians managed this quite easily. They raced down a side-walk until
they came to an overhanging oak tree of enormous dimensions. Into this
tree they climbed, getting up higher and higher until they were lost to
view in the topmost branches. Here they contrived to make a cozy nest
for themselves, where they sat very close together, not talking much,
although Betty now and then said calmly, "I like Mrs. Haddo; she is the
only one in the whole school I can tolerate."

"Fan's worse than ever!" exclaimed Sylvia.

"Oh, don't let's talk of her!" said Betty.

"It will be rather fun going to London to-morrow," said Hester.

"Fun!" exclaimed Betty. "I suppose we shall be put into odious
fashionable dresses, like those stuck-up dolls the other girls. But I
don't think, try as they will, they'll ever turn _me_ into a fashionable
lady. How I do hate that sort!"

"Yes, and so do I," said Sylvia; while Hetty, who always echoed her
sisters' sentiments, said ditto.

"Mrs. Haddo was kind about Dickie," said Betty after a thoughtful pause.

"And it is nice," added Sylvia, "to have the Vivian attic."

"Oh, dear!" said Hester; "I wish all those girls would keep out of
sight, for then I'd dash back to the house and bring out the pieces of
heather and plant them right away. They ought not to be long out of the
ground."

"You had best go at once," said Betty, giving Hester a somewhat vigorous
push, which very nearly upset the little girl's balance. "Go boldly back
to the house; don't be afraid of any one; don't speak to any one unless
it happens to be Mrs. Haddo. Be sure you are polite to her, for she is a
lady. Go up to the Vivian attic and bring down the clumps of heather,
and the little spade we brought with us in the very bottom of the fifth
trunk."

"Oh, and there's the watering-can; don't forget that!" cried Sylvia.

"Yes, bring the watering-can, too. You had best find a pump, or a well,
or something, so that you can fill it up to the brim. Bring them all
along; and then just whistle 'Robin Adair' at the foot of this tree, and
we two will come swarming down. Now, off with you; there's no time to
lose!"

Hester descended without a word. She was certainly born without a scrap
of fear of any kind, and adventure appealed to her plucky little spirit.
Betty settled herself back comfortably against one of the forked
branches of the tree where she had made her nest.

"If we are careful, Sylvia, we can come up here to hide as often as we
like. I rather fancy from the shape of those other girls that they're
not specially good at climbing trees."

"What do you mean by their shape?" asked Sylvia.

"Oh, they're so squeezed in and pushed out; I don't know how to explain
it. Now, _we_ have the use of all our limbs; and I say, you silly little
Sylvia, won't we use them just!"

"I always love you, Betty, when you call me 'silly little Sylvia,' for I
know you are in a good humor and not inclined to howl. But, before Hetty
comes back, I want to say something."

"How mysterious you look, Sylvia! What can you have to say that poor
Hetty's not to hear? I am not going to have secrets that are not shared
among us three, I can tell you. We share and share alike--we three. We
are just desolate orphans, alone in the world; but at least we share and
share alike."

"Of course, of course," said Sylvia; "but I saw--and I don't think Hetty
did----"

"And what did you see?"

"I saw Fan looking at us; and then she came rather close. It was that
time when we were all stifling in that odious sitting-room; Fan came and
sat very close to you, and I saw her put her hand down to feel your
dress. I know she felt that flat pocket where the little sealed packet
is."

Betty's face grew red and then white.

"And don't you remember," continued Sylvia, "that Fan was with us on the
very, very day when darling auntie told us about the packet--the day
when you came out of her room with your eyes as red as a ferret's; and
don't you remember how you couldn't help howling that day, and how far
off we had to go for fear darlingest auntie would hear you? And can't
you recall that Fan crept after us, just like the horrid sneak that she
is? And I know she heard you say, 'That packet is mine; it belongs to
all of us, and I--I _will_ keep it, whatever happens.'"

"She may do sneaky things of that sort every hour of every day that she
likes," was Betty's cool rejoinder. "Now, don't get into a fright, silly
little Sylvia. Oh, I say, hark! that's Hester's note. She is whistling
'Robin Adair'!"

Quick as thought, the girls climbed down from the great tree and stood
under it. Hester was panting a little, for she had run fast and her arms
were very full.

"I saw a lot of _them_ scattered everywhere!" she exclaimed; "but I
don't _think_ they saw me, but of course I couldn't be sure. Here's the
heather; its darling little bells are beginning to droop, poor sweet
pets! And here's the spade; and here's the watering-can, brimful of
water, too, for I saw a gardener as I was coming along, and I asked him
to fill it for me, and he did so at once. Now let's go to our gardens
and let's plant. We've just got a nice sod of heather each--one for each
garden. Oh, do let's be quick, or those dreadful girls will see us!"

"There's no need to hurry," said Betty. "I rather think I can take care
of myself. Give me the watering-can. Sylvia, take the heather; and,
Hetty--your face is perfectly scarlet, you have run so fast--you follow
after with the spade."

The little plots of ground which had been given over to the Vivian girls
had been chosen by Mrs. Haddo on the edge of a wild, uncultivated piece
of ground. The girls of Haddo Court were proud of this piece of land,
which some of them--Margaret Grant, in particular--were fond of calling
the "forest primeval." But the Vivians, fresh from the wild Scotch
moors, thought but poorly of the few acres of sparse grass and tangled
weed and low under-growth. It was, however, on the very edge of this
piece of land that the three little gardens were situated. Mrs. Haddo
did nothing by halves; and already--wonderful to relate--the gardens had
been marked out with stakes and pieces of stout string, and there was a
small post planted at the edge of the center garden containing the words
in white paint: THE VIVIANS' PRIVATE GARDENS.

Even Betty laughed. "This is good!" she said. "Girls, that is quite a
nice woman."

The twins naturally acknowledged as very nice indeed any one whom Betty
admired.

Betty here gave a profound sigh. "Come along; let's be quick," she said.
"We'll plant our heather in the very center of each plot. I'll have the
middle plot, of course, being the eldest. You, silly Sylvia, shall have
the one on the left-hand side; and you, Het, the one on the right-hand
side. I will plant my heather first."

The others watched while Betty dug vigorously, and had soon made a hole
large enough and soft enough to inclose the roots of the wild Scotch
heather. She then gave her spade to Sylvia, who did likewise; then
Hetty, in her turn, also planted a clump of heather. The contents of the
watering-can was presently dispersed among the three clumps, and the
girls turned back in the direction of the house.

"She _is_ nice!" said Betty. "I will bring her here the first day she
has a minute to spare and show her the heather. She said she knew all
about Scotch heather, and loved it very much. I shouldn't greatly mind,
for my part, letting her know about the packet."

"Oh, better not!" said Hester in a frightened tone. "Remember, she is
not the only one in that huge prison of a house." Here she pointed to
the great mansion which constituted the vast edifice, Haddo Court. "She
is by no means the only one," continued Hester. "If she were, I could be
happy here."

"You are right, Het; you are quite a wise, small girl," said Betty. "Oh,
dear," she added, "how I hate those monstrous houses! What would not I
give to be back in the little, white stone house at Craigie Muir!"

"And with darling Jean and dearest old Donald!" exclaimed Sylvia.

"Yes, and the dogs," said Hester. "Oh, Andrew! oh, Fritz! are you
missing us as much as we miss you? And, David, you darling! are you
pricking up your ears, expecting us to come round to you with some
carrots?"

"We'd best not begin too much of this sort of talk," said Betty. "We've
got to make up our minds to be cheerful--that is, if we wish to please
Mrs. Haddo."

The thought of Mrs. Haddo was certainly having a remarkable effect on
Betty; and there is no saying how soon she might, in consequence, have
been reconciled to her school-life but for an incident which took place
that very evening. For Fanny Crawford, who would not tell a tale against
another for the world, had been much troubled since she heard of her
cousins' arrival. Her conscientious little mind had told her that they
were the last sort of girls suitable to be in such a school as Haddo
Court. She had found out something about them. She had not meant to spy
on them during her brief visit to Craigie Muir, but she had certainly
overheard some of Betty's passionate words about the little packet; and
that very evening, curled up on the sofa in the tiny sitting-room at
Craigie Muir Cottage, she had seen Betty--although Betty had not seen
her--creep into the room in the semi-darkness and remove a little sealed
packet from one of Miss Vivian's drawers. As Fanny expressed it
afterwards, she felt at the moment as though her tongue would cleave to
the roof of her mouth. She had tried to utter some sound, but none
would come. She had never mentioned the incident to any one; and as she
scarcely expected to see anything more of her cousins in the future, she
tried to dismiss it from her thoughts. But as soon as ever she was told
in confidence by Miss Symes that the Vivian girls were coming to Haddo
Court, she recalled the incident of what she was pleased to regard as
the stolen packet. It had haunted her while she was at Craigie Muir; it
had even horrified her. Her whole nature recoiled against what she
considered clandestine and underhand dealings. Nevertheless she could
not, she would not, tell. But she had very nearly made up her mind to
say something to the girls themselves--to ask Betty why she had taken
the packet, and what she had done with it. But even on this course she
was not fully decided.

On the morning of that very day, however, just before Fanny bade her
father good-bye, he had said to her, "Fan, my dear, there's a trifle
worrying me, although I don't suppose for a single moment you can help
me in the matter."

"What is it, father?" asked the girl.

"Well, the fact is this. I am going, as you know, to India for the next
few years, and it is quite possible that as the cottage at Craigie Muir
will belong to the Vivian girls--for poor Frances bought it and allowed
those Scotch folk the Macfarlanes to live there--it is, I say, quite
possible that you may go to Craigie Muir for a summer holiday with your
cousins. The air is superb, and would do you much good, and of course
the girls would be wild with delight. Well, my dear, if you go, I want
you to look round everywhere--you have good, sharp eyes in your head,
Fan, my girl--and try if you can find a little sealed packet which poor
Frances left to be taken care of by me for your three cousins."

"A sealed packet?" said Fanny. She felt herself turning very pale.

"Yes. Do you know anything about it?"

"Oh, father!" said poor Fanny; and her eyes filled with tears.

"What is the matter, my child?"

"I--I'd so much rather not talk about it, please."

"Then you do know something?"

"Please, please, father, don't question me!"

"I won't if you don't wish it; but your manner puzzles me a good deal.
Well, dear, if you can get it by any chance, you had better put it into
Mrs. Haddo's charge until I return. I asked those poor children if they
had seen it, and they denied having done so."

Fanny felt herself shiver, and had to clasp her hands very tightly
together.

"I also asked that good shepherd Donald Macfarlane and his wife, and
they certainly knew nothing about it. I can't stay with you any longer
now, my little girl; but if you do happen to go to Craigie Muir you
might remember that I am a little anxious on the subject, for it is my
wish to carry out the directions of my dear cousin Frances in all
particulars. Now, try to be very, very good to your cousins, Fan; and
remember how lonely they are, and how differently they have been brought
up from you."

Fanny could not speak, for she was crying too hard. Sir John presently
went away, and forgot all about the little packet. But Fanny remembered
it; in fact, she could not get it out of her head during the entire day;
and in the course of the afternoon, when she found that the Vivian girls
joined the group of the Specialities, she forced a chair between Betty
and Olive Repton, and seated herself on it, and purposely, hating
herself all the time for doing so, felt Betty's pocket. Beyond doubt
there was something hard in it. It was not a pocket-handkerchief, nor
did it feel like a pencil or a knife or anything of that sort.

"I shall know no peace," thought Fanny to herself, "until I get that
unhappy girl to tell the truth and return the packet to me. I shall be
very firm and very kind, and I will never let out a single thing about
it in the school. But the packet must be given up; and then I will
manage to convey it to Mrs. Haddo, who will keep it until dear father
returns."

But although Fan intended to act the part of the very virtuous and
proper girl, she did not like her cousins the more because of this
unpleasant incident. Fanny Crawford had a certain strength of character;
but it is sad to relate that she was somewhat overladen with
self-righteousness, and was very proud of the fact that nothing would
induce _her_ to do a dishonorable thing. She sadly lacked Mrs. Haddo's
rare and large sympathy and deep knowledge of life, and Fanny certainly
had not the slightest power of reading character.

That very evening, therefore, when the Vivian girls had gone to their
room, feeling very tired and sleepy, and by no means so unhappy as they
expected, Fanny first knocked at their door and then boldly entered.
Each girl had removed her frock and was wearing a little, rough, gray
dressing-gown, and each girl was in the act of brushing out her own very
thick hair.

"Brushing-hair time!" exclaimed Fanny in a cheerful tone. "I trust I am
not in the way."

"We were going to bed," remarked Betty.

"Oh, Betty, what a reproachful tone!" Fanny tried to carry matters off
with a light hand. "Surely I, your own cousin, am welcome? Do say I am
welcome, dear Betty! and let me bring my brush and comb, and brush my
hair in your room."

"No," said Betty; "you are not welcome, and we'd all much rather that
you brushed your hair in your own room."

"You certainly are sweetly polite," said Fanny, with a smile on her face
which was not remarkable for sweetness. She looked quite calmly at the
girls for a moment. Then she said, "This day, on account of your
arrival, rules are off, so to speak, but they begin again to-morrow
morning. To-morrow evening, therefore, I cannot come to your bedroom,
for it would be breaking rules."

"Oh, how just awfully jolly!" exclaimed Sylvia.

"Thanks," said Fanny. She paused again for a minute. Then she added,
"But as rules are off, I may as well say that I have come here to-night
on purpose. Just before father left, he told me that there was a little
sealed packet"--Betty sat plump down on the side of her bed; Sylvia and
Hetty caught each others hands--"a little sealed packet," continued
Fanny, "which belonged to poor Miss Vivian--your aunt Frances--and which
father was to take charge of for you."

"No, he wasn't," said Betty; "you make a mistake."

"Nonsense, Betty! Father never makes a mistake. Anyhow, he has Miss
Vivian's letter, which proves the whole thing. Now, the packet cannot be
found. Father is quite troubled about it. He says he has not an idea
what it contains, but it was left to be placed under his care. He asked
you three about it, and you said you knew nothing. He also asked the
servants in that ugly little house----"

"How dare you call it ugly?" said Betty.

"Well, well, pray don't get into a passion! Anyhow, you all denied any
knowledge of the packet. Now, I may as well confess that, although I
have not breathed the subject to any one, I saw you, Betty, with my own
eyes, take it out of Miss Vivian's drawer. I was lying on the sofa in
the dark, or almost in the dark, and you never noticed me; but I saw you
open the drawer and take the packet out. That being the case, you _do_
know all about it, and you have told a lie. Please, Betty, give me the
packet, and I will take it to-morrow to Mrs. Haddo, and she will look
after it for you until father returns; and I promise you faithfully that
I will never tell a soul what you did, nor the lie you told father about
it. Now, Betty, do be sensible. Give it to me, without any delay. I
felt it in the pocket under your dress to-day, so you can't deny that
you have it."

Fanny's face was very red when she had finished speaking, and there were
two other faces in that room which were even redder; but another face
was very pale, with shining eyes and a defiant, strange expression about
the lips.

The three Vivians now came up to Fanny, who, although older than the two
younger girls, was built much more slightly, and, compared with them,
had no muscle at all. Betty was a very strong girl for her age.

"Come," said Betty, "we are not going to waste words on you. Just march
out of this!"

"I--what do you mean?"

"March! This is our room, our private room, and therefore our castle. If
you like to play the spy, you can; but you don't come in here. Go
along--be quick--out you go!"

A strong hand took Fanny forcibly by her right arm, and a strong hand
took her with equal force by her left, then two very powerful hands
pushed from behind; so that Fanny Crawford, who considered herself one
of the most dignified and lady-like girls in the school, was summarily
ejected. She went into her room, looked at the cruel marks on her arms
caused by the angry girls, and burst into tears.

Miss Symes came in and found Fanny crying, and did her best to comfort
the girl. "What is wrong, dear?" she said.

"Oh, don't--don't ask me!" said poor Fanny.

"You are fretting about your father, darling."

"It's not that," said Fanny; "and I can't ever tell you, dear St.
Cecilia. Oh, please, leave me! Oh, oh, I am unhappy!"

Miss Symes, finding she could do no good, and believing that Fanny must
be a little hysterical on account of her father, went away. When she
had gone Fanny dried her eyes, and stayed for a long time lost in
thought. She had meant to be good, after her fashion, to the Vivian
girls; but, after their treatment of her, she felt that she understood
for the first time what hate really meant. If she could not force the
girls to deliver up the packet, she might even consider it her duty to
tell the whole story to Mrs. Haddo. Never before in the annals of that
great school had a Speciality been known to tell a story of another
girl. But Fanny reflected that there were great moments in life which
required that a rule should be broken.



CHAPTER VI

A CRISIS


The Specialities had made firm rules for themselves. Their numbers were
few, for only those who could really rise to a high ideal were permitted
to join.

The head of the Specialities was Margaret Grant. It was she who first
thought of this little scheme for bringing the girls she loved best into
closer communion each with the other. She had consulted Susie Rushworth,
Fanny Crawford, Mary and Julia Bertram, and Olive Repton. Up to the
present there were no other members of the Speciality Club. These girls
managed it their own way. They had their private meetings, their earnest
conversations, and their confessions each to make to the other. They
swore eternal friendship. They had all things in common--that is,
concealments were not permitted amongst the Specialities; and the
influence of this small and apparently unimportant club did much towards
the formation of the characters of its members.

Now, as poor Fanny sat alone in her pretty room she thought, and
thought again, over what had occurred. According to the rules of the
club to which she belonged, she ought to consult the other girls with
regard to what the Vivians had done. _The_ great rule of the
Specialities was "No secrets." Each must know all that the others knew.
Never before in the annals of the school had there been a secret of such
importance--in short, such a horrible secret--to divulge. Fanny made up
her mind that she could not do it.

There was to be a great meeting of the Specialities on the following
evening. They usually met in each other's bedrooms, taking the task of
offering hospitality turn and turn about. At these little social
gatherings they had cocoa, tempting cakes, and chocolate creams; here
they laughed and chatted, sometimes having merely a merry evening, at
others discussing gravely the larger issues of life. Fanny was the one
who was to entertain the Specialities on the following evening, and she
made preparations accordingly. Sir John had brought her a particularly
tempting cake from Buzzard's, a couple of pounds of the best chocolate
creams, a tin of delicious cocoa, and, last but not least, a beautiful
little set of charming cups and saucers and tiny plates, and real silver
spoons, also little silver knives. Notwithstanding her grief at parting
from her father, Fanny was delighted with her present. Hitherto there
had been no attempt at style in these brief meetings of the friends. But
Fanny's next entertainment was to be done properly.

There was no secret about these gatherings. Miss Symes had been told
that these special girls wanted to meet once a week between nine and ten
o'clock in their respective bedrooms. She had carried the information to
Mrs. Haddo, who had immediately given the desired permission, telling
the girls that they might hold their meeting until the great bell rang
for chapel. Prayers were always read at a quarter to ten in the
beautiful chapel belonging to Haddo Court, but only the girls of the
upper school attended in the evening. Fanny would have been in the
highest spirits to-night were it not for the Vivians, were it not for
the consciousness that she was in possession of a secret--a really
terrible secret--which she must not tell to her companions. Yes, she
must break her rule; she must not tell.

She lay down on her bed at last and fell asleep, feeling tired and very
miserable. She was horrified at Betty's conduct with regard to the
little packet, and could not feel a particle of sympathy for the other
girls in the matter.

It was soon after midnight on that same eventful night. The great clock
over the stables had struck twelve, and sweet chimes had come from the
other clock in the little tower of the chapel. The whole house was
wrapped in profound slumber. Even Mrs. Haddo had put away all cares, and
had laid her head on her pillow; even the Rev. Edmund Fairfax and his
wife had put out the lights in their special wing of the Court, and had
gone to sleep.

It was shortly after the clocks had done their midnight work that Betty
Vivian raised herself very slowly and cautiously on her elbow, and
touched Sylvia on her low, white forehead. The little girl started,
opened her eyes, and was about to utter an exclamation when Betty
whispered, "Don't make a sound, silly Sylvia! It's only me--Betty. I
want you to get very wide awake. And now you are wide awake, aren't
you?"

"Yes, oh yes," said Sylvia; "but I don't know where I am. Oh yes, of
course I remember; I am in----"

"You are in prison!" whispered Betty back to her. "Now, lie as still as
a statue while I waken Hester."

Soon the two little sisters were wide awake.

"Now, both of you creep very softly into my bed. We can all squeeze up
together if we try hard."

"Lovely, darlingest Betty!" whispered Sylvia.

"You are nice, Bet!" exclaimed Hester.

"Now I want to speak," said Betty. "You know the packet?"

The two younger girls squeezed Betty's hands by way of answer.

"You know how _she_ spoke to-night?"

Another squeeze of Betty's hands, a squeeze which was almost ferocious
this time.

"Do you think," continued Betty, "that she is going to have her way, and
we are going to give it up to her?"

"Of course not," said Sylvia.

"I might," said Betty--"I _might_ have asked Mrs. Haddo to look after it
for me; but never now--never! Girls, we've got to bury it!"

"Oh Bet!" whispered Sylvia.

"We can't!" said Hester with a sort of little pant.

"We can, and we will," said Betty. "I've thought it all out. I am going
to bury it my own self this very minute."

"Betty, how--where? Betty, what do you mean?"

"You must help me," said Betty. "First of all, I am going to get up and
put on my thick skirt of black serge. I won't make a sound, for that
creature Fan sleeps next door. Lie perfectly still where you are while I
am getting ready."

The girls obeyed. It was fearfully exciting, lying like this almost in
the dark; for there was scarcely any moon, and the dim light in the
garden could hardly be called light at all. Betty moved mysteriously
about the room, and presently came up to her two sisters.

"Now, you do exactly what you are told."

"Yes, Betty, we will."

"I am going, first of all," said Betty, "to fetch the little spade."

"Oh Bet, you'll wake the house!"

"No," said Betty. She moved towards the door. She was a very observant
girl, and had noticed that no door creaked in that well-conducted
mansion, that no lock was out of order. She managed to open the door of
her bedroom without making the slightest sound. She managed to creep
upstairs and reach the Vivian attic. She found the little spade and
brought it down again. She re-entered the beautiful big bedroom and
closed the door softly.

"Here's the spade!" she whispered to her sisters. "Did you hear me
move?"

"No, Bet. Oh, you are wonderful!"

"Now," said Betty, "we must take the sheets off our three beds. The
three top sheets will do. Sylvia, begin to knot the sheets together.
Make the knots very strong, and be quick about it."

Sylvia obeyed without a word.

"Hester, come and help me," said Betty now. She took the other twin's
hand and led her to one of the French windows. The window happened to be
a little open, for the night was a very warm and balmy one. Betty pushed
it wider open, and the next minute she was standing on the balcony.

"Go back," she whispered, speaking to Hester, "and bring Sylvia out with
the sheets!"

In a very short time Sylvia appeared, dragging what looked like a
tangled white rope along with her.

"Now, then," said Betty, "you've got to let me down to the ground by
means of these sheets. I am a pretty good weight, you know, and you
mustn't drop me; for if you did I might break my leg or something, and
that would be horrid. You two have got to hold one end of these knotted
sheets as firmly as ever you can, and not let go on any account. Now,
then--here goes!"

The next instant Betty had clutched hold of one of the sheets herself,
and had climbed over the somewhat high parapet of the balcony. A minute
later, still firmly holding the white rope, she was gradually letting
herself down to the ground, hand over hand. By-and-by she reached the
bottom. When she did this she held up both hands, which the girls, as
they watched her from above, could just see. She was demanding the
little spade. Sylvia flung it on the soft grass which lay beneath. Betty
put her hand, making a sort of trumpet of it, round her lips, and
whispered up, "Stay where you are till I return."

She then marched off into the shrubbery. She was absent for about twenty
minutes, during which time both Sylvia and Hetty felt exceedingly cold.
She then came back, fastened the little spade securely into the broad
belt of her dress, and, aided by her sisters, pulled herself up and up,
and so on to the balcony once more.

The three girls re-entered the bedroom. Not a soul in that great house
had heard them, or seen them, or knew anything about their adventure.

"It is quite safe now--poor, beautiful darling!" whispered Betty.
"Girls, we must smooth out these sheets; they _do_ look rather dragged.
And now we'll get straight into bed."

"I am very cold," said Sylvia.

"You'll be warm again in a minute," replied Betty; "and what does a
little cold matter when I have saved _It_? No, I am not going to tell
you where it is; just because it's safer, dear, dearest, for you not to
know."

"Yes, it's safer," said Sylvia.

The three sisters lay down again. By slow degrees warmth returned to the
half-frozen limbs of the poor little twins, and they dropped asleep. But
Betty lay awake--warm, excited, triumphant.

"I've managed things now," she thought; "and if every girl in the school
asks me if I have a little packet, and if every teacher does likewise,
I'll be able truthfully to say 'No.'"

Early the next morning Mrs. Haddo announced her intention to take the
Vivians to London. School-work was in full swing that day; and Susie,
Margaret, Olive, and the other members of the Specialities rather envied
the Vivians when they saw them driving away in Mrs. Haddo's most elegant
landau to the railway station.

Sibyl Ray openly expressed her sentiments on the occasion. She turned to
her companion, who was standing near. "I must say, and I may as well say
it first as last, that I do not understand your adorable Mrs. Haddo. Why
should she make such a fuss over common-looking girls like those?"

"Do you call the Vivians common-looking girls?" was Martha West's
response.

"Of course I do, and even worse. Why, judging from their dress, they
might have come out of a laborer's cottage."

"Granted," replied Martha; "but then," she added, "they have something
else, each of them, better than dress."

"Oh, if you begin to talk in enigmas I for one shall cease to be your
friend," answered Sibyl. "What have they got that is so wonderful?"

"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
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
same time of being annoyed. What did Fanny's conduct mean? But one girl,
however much she may wish to do so, cannot quite spoil the fun of six
others. Margaret, therefore, was prepared to be as amiable and merry and
gay as possible.

Was there ever a more delicious supper? Did ever cake taste quite so
nice? Were chocolate creams and Turkish delight ever quite so good? And
was not Margaret's lemonade even more admirable than her delicate cups
of cocoa? And were not the dried fruits which were presently handed
round quite wonderful in flavor? And, above all things, were not the
sandwiches which Margaret had provided as a sort of surprise (for as a
rule they had no sandwiches at these gatherings) the greatest success of
all?

The merry supper came to an end, and the girls now clustered in a wide
circle round the fire; and Margaret, as president, took the book of
rules and began to read aloud.

"There are," she said, opening the book, which was bound beautifully in
white vellum, "certain rules which each member receives a copy of, and
which she takes to heart and obeys. If she deliberately breaks any
single one of these rules, and such a lapse of principle is discovered,
she is expected to withdraw from the Specialities. This club was first
set on foot by a girl who has long left the school, and who was very
much loved when she was here. Up to the present it has been a success,
although its numbers have varied according to the tone of the girls who
belong to the upper school. No girl belonging to the lower school has
ever yet been asked to join. We have had at one time in the Speciality
Club as many as one dozen members. At present we are six; although we
hope that if you, Betty, decide to join us, we shall have seven members.
That will be very nice," continued Margaret, smiling and looking across
the room at Betty, whose eyes were fixed on her face, "for seven is the
mystic, the perfect number. Now, I will begin to read the rules aloud to
you. If you decide to think matters over, we will ask you to come to our
next gathering this day week, when you will receive the badge of
membership, and a copy of the rules would be made by me and sent to you
to your room.

"Now I will begin by telling you that the great object of our club is to
encourage the higher thought. Its object is to discourage and, if
possible, put a stop to low, small, mean, foolish, uncharitable
thoughts. Its object is to set kindness before each member as the best
thing in life. You can judge for yourself, Betty, that we aim high.
Yes, what were you going to say?"

"I was thinking," said Betty, whose eyes were now very wide open indeed,
while her cheeks grew paler than ever with some concealed emotion, "that
the girl who first thought of this club must have sat on a Scotch moor
one day, with the purple heather all round her, and that to her it was
vouchsafed to hear the fairies speak when they rang the little purple
bells of the heather."

"That may have been the case, dear," said Margaret in her kindest tone.
"Now, I will read you the rules. They are quite short and to the point:

     "'RULE I.--Each girl who is a member of the Specialities gives
     perfect confidence to her fellow-members, keeps no secret to
     herself which those members ought to know, is ready to consider
     each member as though she were her own sister, to help her in time
     of trouble, and to rejoice with her in periods of joy.'

"That is Rule I., and I need not say, Betty, that it is a very important
rule."

Betty's eyes were now lowered, so that only her very black lashes were
seen as they rested against her pale cheeks.

"Rule II. is this:

     "'RULE II.--That the Specialities read each day, for one quarter of
     an hour, a book of great thoughts.'

"The books are generally selected at the beginning of term, and each
member is expected to read the same amount and from the same book. This
term, for instance, we occupy one quarter of an hour daily in reading
Jeremy Taylor's 'Holy Living.' It is not very long, but there's a vast
amount of thought in it. If we feel puzzled about anything in this
wonderful book we discuss it with each other at the next meeting of the
Specialities, and if, after such a discussion, the whole matter does not
seem quite clear, we ask Mr. Fairfax to help us. He is most kind,
although of course he is not in the secret of our club.

"Rule III. is quite different. It is this:

     "'RULE III.--Each day we give ourselves up, every one of us, to
     real, genuine fun--to having what may be called a jolly time.'

"We never miss this part of the Speciality life. We get our fun either
by chatting gaily to each other, or by enjoying the society of a
favorite schoolfellow.

"Rule IV. does not come into every day life; nevertheless it is
important:

     "'RULE IV.--We meet once a week in one of our bedrooms; but four
     times during the term we all subscribe together, and get up as big
     a party as ever we can of girls who are not Specialities. These
     girls have supper with us, and afterwards we have round games or
     music or anything that gives us pleasure.'

"Rule V. is this:

     "'RULE V.--That whoever else we are cross with, we are always very
     careful to show respect to our teachers, and, if possible, to love
     them. We also try to shut our eyes to their faults, even if we see
     them.'

"Rule VI. is perhaps the most difficult of all to follow completely. It
is the old, old rule, Betty Vivian, of forgetting ourselves and living
for others. It is a rule that makes the secret of happiness. It is
impossible to keep it in its fullness in this world; but our aim is to
have a good try for it, and I think, on the whole, we succeed.

"Now, these are the six rules. When you read them over, you will see
that they are comprehensive, that they mean a vast lot. They are, every
one of them, rules which tend to discipline--the sort of discipline that
will help us when we leave the school and enter into the big school of
the world. Betty, do you feel inclined to join the club or not?"

"I don't know," replied Betty. "It is impossible to answer your
question on the spur of the moment. But I should greatly like to see a
copy of the rules."

"I will have them copied and sent to your bedroom, Betty. Then if you
decide to join, you will be admitted formally this day week, and will
receive the badge of the Specialities--a little true-lovers' knot made
of silver--which you will wear when the Specialities give their
entertainments, and which will remind you that we are bound together in
one sisterhood of love for our fellow-creatures."

Betty got up somewhat nervously. "I must think a great deal; and if I
may come to whichever room the Specialities are to meet in this day
week, I will let you know what I have decided."

"Very well, dear," said Margaret, shutting the book and completely
altering her tone. "That is all, I think to-night. Now, you must sit
down and enjoy yourself. Which girl would you like to sit close to? We
are going to have some round games, and they are quite amusing."

"I should like to sit close to you, Margaret, if I may."

"You certainly may, Betty; and there is a seat near mine, just by that
large bowl of white chrysanthemums."

Betty took the seat; and now all the girls began to chat, each of them
talking lovingly and kindly to the other. There was a tone about their
conversation which was as different from the way they spoke in their
ordinary life as though they were girls in a nunnery who had made solemn
vows to forsake the world. Even Fanny's face looked wonderfully kind and
softened. She did not even glance at Betty; but Betty looked at her once
or twice, and was astonished at the expression that Fanny wore.

"Just one minute, girls, before we begin our fun," said Margaret.
"Martha West is most anxious to join the Specialities. Betty, of course,
has no vote, as she is not yet a member. But the rest of us know Martha
well, and I think we would all like her to join. Those who are opposed
to her, will they keep down their hands? Those who wish for her as a
member, will they hold them up?"

All hands were held up on this occasion, and Fanny held hers the
straightest and highest of all.

"Three cheers for Martha West!" said Susie Rushworth.

"It will be splendid to have Martha!" said both the Bertrams; while
Olive, always gay, spirited, and full of fun, laughed from sheer
delight.

The usual formula was then gone through, and Fanny Crawford was deputed
to take a note to Martha inviting her to be present at the next meeting.

"Now, we shall have about half an hour for different sorts of fun," said
Margaret. "By the way, Betty," she continued, "sometimes our meetings
are rather solemn affairs; we want to discuss the book we are reading,
or something has happened that we wish to talk over. On the other hand,
there are times when we have nothing but fun and frolic. We're not a bit
solemn on these occasions; we loosen all the tension, so to speak, and
enjoy ourselves to the utmost."

"And there are times, also," said Olive, "when we are just as busy as
bees planning out our next entertainment. Oh Margaret, we can't have one
this day week because of Betty and Martha. But don't you think we might
have one this day three weeks? And don't you think it might be a very
grand affair? And supposing Betty becomes a member--which, of course,
you will, Betty, for you couldn't disappoint us now--supposing we have
it in Betty's palatial mansion of a bedroom! We can ask no end of girls
to that. Oh, won't it be fun?"

"If you ask my sisters, I don't mind at all--that is, _if_ I am a
member," said Betty.

"Of course we'll ask the dear twins," said Margaret. She took Betty's
hand as she spoke and squeezed it with sudden affection.

Betty pressed a little nearer to her. It was worth even giving up the
Scotch moors, and the society of Donald and Jean, and the dogs and the
horse, to have such a friend as Margaret Grant.

But now the fun began in earnest, and very good fun it was; for every
girl had a considerable sense of humor, so much so that their games were
carried on with great spirit. Their laughter was so merry as to be quite
infectious; and no one was more amazed than Betty herself when the
ordeal of this first visit to the Specialities was over and she was
walking quickly downstairs, with Olive by her side, on her way to the
chapel.

How beautifully Mr. Fairfax read the evening prayers that night! How
lovely it was to listen to his melodious voice and to look at his
earnest, intelligent face! How sweet, how wonderful, was the soft, soft
music which Mrs. Haddo herself played on the organ!

"Oh yes," thought Betty, "one could be good here, and with the sort of
help that Margaret talks about; and high thoughts are nice thoughts,
they seem to be what I might call close to the angels. Nevertheless----"

A cloud seemed to fall on the little girl's spirit. She thought of
Fanny, and, raising her eyes at the moment, observed that Fanny's eyes
were fixed on her. Fanny's eyes were full of queer warning, even of
menace; and Betty suddenly experienced a revulsion of all those noble
feelings which had animated her a short time ago. Were there two Fanny
Crawfords? Or could she possibly look as she looked now, and also as she
had done when Margaret Grant read the rules of the Speciality Club
aloud?



CHAPTER IX

STRIVING FOR A DECISION


The week passed without anything very special occurring. The weather was
still warm and perfect. September had no idea of giving up her mantle of
late summer. But September was drawing to a close, and October, with
gusty winds and whirling, withered leaves, and much rain, would soon
take her place. October was certainly not nearly such a pleasant month
as September. Nevertheless, the young and healthy girls who lived their
regular life at Haddo Court were indifferent to the weather. They were
always busy. Each minute was planned out and fully occupied. There was
time for work, and time for play, and time for happy, confidential talks
in that bright and pleasant school. There were all kinds of surprises,
too; now an unexpected tea-party with Mrs. Haddo, given to a few select
girls; then, again, to another few who unexpectedly found themselves
select. There were also delightful cocoa-parties in the big private
sitting-room of the upper school, as well as games of every description,
outdoor and indoor. Night came all too soon in this happy family, and
each girl retired to bed wondering what could have made the day so very
short.

But during this week Betty was not quite happy. She had received a copy
of the rules, and had studied them very carefully. She was, in her heart
of hearts, most anxious to become a Speciality. The higher life appealed
to her. It appealed to her strong sense of imagination; to her
passionate and really unworldly nature; to that deep love which dwelt in
her heart, and which, just at present, she felt inclined to bestow on
Margaret Grant. But there was Rule I. The rules had been sent, as
Margaret had promised, neatly copied and in a sealed envelope, to
Betty's room. She had read them upstairs all alone in the Vivians'
attic. She had read them while the queer, uncanny eyes of Dickie looked
at her. She certainly was not afraid of Dickie; on the contrary, she
admired him. She and her sisters were very proud of his increasing size,
and each day it was the turn of one girl or the other to take Dickie out
of his cage and give him exercise. He was rather alarming in his
movements, going at a tremendous rate, and giving more than one uncanny
glance at the Vivian girl who was his jailer for the time.

On this special occasion, when Betty brought the rules to the Vivian
attic, she forgot all about Dickie. He was out, running round and round
the attic, rushing up the walls, peering at Betty from over the top of
the door, creeping as far as the ceiling and then coming down again. He
was, as a rule, easily caught, for Sylvia and Hetty always kept his meal
of raw meat till after he had had his exercise. But Betty had now
forgotten that it was necessary to have a bait to bring Dickie once more
into the shelter of his cage. She had consequently fed him first, then
let him free, and then stood by the small window of the attic reading
the rules of the Specialities. It was Rule I. which troubled her. Rule
I. ran as follows: "Each girl gives perfect confidence to her fellow
members, keeps no secret to herself which those members ought to know,
is ready to consider each member as though she were her own sister, to
help her in time of trouble and to rejoice with her in periods of joy."

To be quite frank, Betty did not like this rule. She was willing to give
a certain amount of affection to most of the girls who belonged to the
Specialities; but as to considering even nice girls like the Bertrams as
her own sisters, and Susie Rushworth (who was quite agreeable and gay
and kind) in that relationship, and Olive Repton also, as she would
Sylvia and Hetty, she did not think she could do it. She could be kind
to them--she would love to be kind to them; she would love to help each
and all in times of trouble, and to rejoice with them in periods of joy;
but to feel that they were her sisters--that certainly _was_ difficult.
She believed it possible that she could admit Margaret Grant into a
special and close relationship; into a deep friendship which partook
neither of sisterhood nor of anything else, but stood apart and
alone--the sort of friendship that a young, enthusiastic girl will give
to a friend of strong character a little older than herself. But as to
Fanny--she could never love Fanny. From the very first moment she had
set eyes on her--away, far away, in Scotland--she had disliked her, she
had pronounced her at once in her own mind as "niminy-priminy." She had
told her sisters frankly what she felt about Fanny. She had said in her
bold, independent way, "Fanny is too good for the likes of me. She is
the sort of girl who would turn me into a bad un. I don't want to have
anything to do with her."

Fanny, however, had taken no notice of Betty's all too evident
antagonism. Fanny was, in her heart of hearts, essentially good-natured;
but Betty was as impossible for her to understand as it was impossible
for the moon to comprehend the brightness of the sun. Fanny had been
shocked at what she had witnessed when she saw Betty take the sealed
packet from the drawer. She remembered the whole thing with great
distress of mind, and had felt a sense of shock when she heard that the
Vivian girls were coming to the school. But her feelings were very much
worse when her father had informed her that the packet could nowhere be
found--that he had specially mentioned it to Betty, who declared that
she knew nothing about it. Oh yes, Fanny and Betty were as the poles
apart; and Betty knew now that were she to take the vows of the
Specialities fifty times over she could never keep them, as far as Fanny
Crawford was concerned. Then there was another unpleasant part of the
same rule: "Each girl gives perfect confidence to her fellow-members,
keeps no secret to herself which those members ought to know." Betty
undoubtedly had a secret--a very precious one. She had even told a lie
in order to hug that secret to her breast. She had brought it away with
her to the school, and now it was safe--only Betty knew where.

What puzzled her was this: was it necessary for the members to know her
secret? It had nothing to do with any of them. Nevertheless, she was an
honest sort of girl and could not dismiss the feeling from her own mind
that Rule I. was practically impossible to her. The Specialities had met
on Thursday in Margaret Grant's room. The next meeting was to be held in
Susie Rushworth's. Susie's room was in another wing of the building, and
was not so large or luxurious as that of Margaret. The next meeting
would, however, be quite formal--except for the admission of Betty to
the full privileges of the club, and the reading aloud of the rules to
Martha West. During the course of the week the Specialities seldom or
never spoke of their meeting-day. Nevertheless, Betty from time to time
caught Fanny's watchful eyes fixed on her.

On the next Thursday morning she awoke with a slight headache. Miss
Symes noticed when she came downstairs that Betty was not quite herself,
and at once insisted on her going back to her room to lie down and be
coddled. Betty hated being coddled. She was never coddled in the gray
stone house; she was never coddled on the Scotch moors. She had
occasional headaches, like every one else, and occasional colds; but
they had to take care of themselves, and get well as best they could.
Betty used to shake herself with anger when she thought of any one
making a fuss about her when she was ill, and was consequently rather
cross when Miss Symes took her upstairs, made her lie down, and put a
wrap over her.

"You must lie down and try to sleep, Betty. I hope you will be quite
well by dinner-time. Don't stir till I come for you, dear."

"Oh, but I will!" said Betty, raising her head and fixing her bright,
almost feverish eyes on Miss Symes's face.

"What do you mean, dear? I have desired you to stay quiet."

"And I cannot obey," replied Betty. "Please, Miss Symes, don't be angry.
If I were a low-down sort of girl, I'd sneak out without telling you;
but as I happen to be Betty Vivian, I can't do that. I want to get into
the fresh air. Nothing will take away my headache like a walk. I want to
get as far as that dreadful piece of common land you have here, and
which you imagine is like a moor. I want to walk about there for a
time."

"Very well, Betty; you are a good girl to have confided in me. You have
exactly two hours. Stay quiet for one hour. If at the end of that time
your head is no better, out for an hour; then return to your usual
duties."

Betty lay very still for the whole of that hour. Her thoughts were busy.
She was haunted by Rule I., and by the passionate temptation to ignore
it and yet pretend that she would keep it--in short, to be a member of
the Specialities under false colors. One minute she was struggling hard
with the trouble which raged within her, the next minute she was making
up her mind to decline to be associated with the Specialities.

When the hour had quite expired she sprang to her feet. Oh yes, her head
still ached! But what did that matter? She could not be bothered with a
trifling thing like a mere headache. She ran upstairs to the Vivian
attic. Dickie was in his cage. Betty remembered what terrible trouble
she had had to catch him on the day when she received a copy of the
rules. She shook her head at him now, and said, "Ah Dickie, you're a bad
boy! I am not going to let you out of your cage again in a hurry." Then
she went out.

The wind had changed during the night, and heavy clouds were coming up
from the north. Betty felt herself much colder than she had ever done in
Scotland. She shivered, and walked very fast. She passed the celebrated
oak-tree where she and her sisters had hidden during their first day at
school. She went on to the place where the three little gardens were
marked for their benefit. But up to the present no Vivian had touched
the gardens, and there were the black remains of the bonfire where the
poor Scotch heather had been burnt almost in the center of Betty's
patch of ground.

Oh, the school was horrible--the life was horrible! Oh why had she ever
come here? She wanted to be a Speciality; but she could not, it was not
in her. She hated--yes, she hated--Fanny Crawford more each minute, and
she could never love those other uninteresting girls as though they were
her sisters. In analyzing her feelings very carefully, she came to the
conclusion that she only wanted to join the Specialities in order to be
Margaret's friend. She knew quite well what privileges would be accorded
to her were she a member; and she also knew--for she had been told--that
it was a rare thing to allow a girl so lately come to the school to take
such an important position.

Betty had a natural love of power. With a slight shudder she walked past
the little patches of ground and across what she contemptuously called
the miserable common. This common marked the boundaries of Mrs. Haddo's
school. There were iron railings at least six feet high guarding it from
the adjacent land. The sight of these railings was absolute torture to
Betty. She said aloud, "Didn't I know the whole place was a prison? But
prison-bars sha'n't keep me long in restraint!"

She took out her handkerchief, and, pulling up some weedy grass, put the
handkerchief on one spiked bar and the grass on the other, and thus
protecting herself, made a light bound over the fence. The exercise and
the sense of freedom did her good. She laughed aloud, and continued her
walk through unexplored regions. She could not go very fast, however;
for she was hindered here by and there by a gateway, and here again by a
farmstead, and yet again by a cottage, with little children running
about amongst the autumn flowers.

"How can people live in a place like this?" thought Betty.

Then, all of a sudden, two ferocious dogs rushed out upon the girl,
clamored round her, and tried to stop her way. Betty laughed softly.
There was a delightful sound in her laugh. Probably those dogs had never
heard its like before. It was also possible, notwithstanding the fact
that Betty was wearing a new dress, that something of that peculiar
instinct which is imparted to dogs told these desperate champions that
Betty had loved a dog before.

"Down, silly creature!" said Betty, and she patted one on the head and
put her arm on the neck of the other. Soon they were fawning about her
and jumping on her and licking her hands. She felt thoroughly happy now.
Her headache had quite vanished. The dogs, the darlings, were her true
friends! There was a little piece of grass quite close to where they had
attacked her, and she squatted deliberately down on it and invited the
dogs to stretch themselves by her side. They did so without a minute's
delay. They were in raptures with her, and one dog only growled when she
paid too much attention to the other.

She began to whisper alternately in the shaggy ears of each. "Ah, you
must have come from Scotland! You must, anyhow, have met Andrew! Do you
think you are as brave as Andrew, for I doubt it?"

Then she continued to the other dog, "And you must have been born in the
same litter with Fritz. Did you ever look into the eyes of Fritz and see
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
comfort, or would you like me to sit with you for a little?"

"Oh, thanks so much!" replied Betty; "but I really would rather be
alone. I have a good deal to think over."

"I am afraid, my dear child, you are not very well."

"On the contrary, I never was better," was Betty's response.

"Your headache quite gone?"

"Quite," said Betty with an emphatic nod.

"Well, dear, I am sorry you have had to undergo this unpleasant time of
solitary confinement. But our dear Mrs. Haddo is not really angry; she
knows quite well that you did not consider. She takes the deepest
interest in you, Betty, my child."

"Oh, don't speak of her now, please!" said Betty with a sort of groan.
"I would rather be alone."

"Haven't you a book of any sort? I will go and fetch one for you; and
you can turn on the electric light when it gets dark."

"If you have something really interesting--that will make me forget
everything in the world except what I am reading--I should like it."

Miss Symes went away, and returned in a few minutes with "Treasure
Island." Strange as it may seem, Betty had not yet read this wonderful
book.

Without glancing at the girl, Miss Symes again left the room. In the
corridor she met Fanny Crawford. "Fanny," she said, "do you know what is
the matter with Betty Vivian?"

Fanny smiled. "I have been to see her," she said. "Is she in bad
spirits? It didn't occur to me that she was."

"Oh, you have been to see her, have you?"

"Yes, only a short time ago. She looked very cold when I entered the
room; but I took the liberty to light the fire, and sat with her until
suddenly she got cross and turned me out. She is a very queer girl is
Betty."

"A very fine girl, my dear!"

Fanny made no response of any sort. She waited respectfully in case Miss
Symes should wish to say anything further. But Miss Symes had nothing
more to say; she only guessed that the change between the Betty in whom
Mrs. Haddo had been so interested, and the Betty she had found, must be
caused in some inexplicable way by Fanny Crawford. What was the matter
with Fanny? It seemed to Miss Symes that, since the day when she had
taken the girl into her full confidence with regard to the coming of the
Vivians, she was changed, and not for the better. There was a coldness,
an impatience, a want of spontaneity about her, which the teacher's
observant eye noticed, but, being in the dark as to the cause, could not
account for.

Meanwhile Betty ate her tea ravenously, and when it was finished turned
on the electric light and read "Treasure Island." This book was so
fascinating that she forgot everything else in its perusal: the sealed
packet in its safe hiding-place, the Specialities themselves, the odious
Fanny Crawford, Rule I.--everything was forgotten. Presently she raised
her head with a start. It was half-past seven. Olive Repton was coming
to fetch her at five minutes to eight, when the Specialities were all
expected to assemble in Susie Rushworth's room.

Betty put on a black dress that evening. It was made of a soft and
clinging material, and was sufficiently open at the neck to show the
rounded purity of the young girl's throat, and short in the sleeves to
exhibit the moldings of her arms. She was a beautifully made creature,
and black suited her almost better than white. Her curiously pale
face--which never had color, and yet never showed the slightest
indication of weak health--was paler than usual to-night; but her eyes
were darker and brighter, and there was a determination about her which
slightly altered the character of her expression.

The twins came rushing in at ten minutes to eight.

"Oh, Bet, you are ready!" exclaimed Sylvia. "You are going to become a
real Speciality! What glorious fun! How honored we'll be! I suppose you
won't let us into any of the secrets?"

"Of course not, silly Sylvia!" replied Betty, smiling again at sight of
her sisters. "But I tell you what," she added; "if you both happen to be
awake when I come back, which I think very doubtful, I am going to tell
you what happened this morning--something too wonderful. Don't be too
excited about it, for it will keep until to-morrow; but think that I had
a marvelous adventure, and, oh, my dears, it had to do with dogs!"

"Dogs!" cried both twins simultaneously.

"Yes, such glorious darlings! Oh, I've no time now--I must be off!
Good-bye, both of you. Go to sleep if you like; I can tell you
everything in the morning."

"I think we'll lie awake if it has anything to do with dogs," said
Hetty. "We have been starving for them ever since we came here."

But Betty was gone. Olive took her hand. "Betty," she said as they
walked very quickly towards the other wing of the house, "I like you
better in black than in white. Black seems to bring out the
wonderful--oh, I don't know what to call it!--the wonderful difference
between you and other people."

"Don't talk about me now," said Betty. "I am only one, and we shall be
seven in a very short time. Seven in one! Isn't it curious? A sort of
body composed of seven people!"

"There'll be eight before long. The Specialities are going to be the
most important people this term, that I am quite sure of," said Olive.
"Well, here's Susie's room, and it wants two minutes to eight."

Susie greeted her guests with much cordiality. They all found seats.
Supper was laid on a round table in one corner of the room. Olive, being
an old member, was quite at home, and handed round cups of cocoa and
delicious cakes to each of the girls. They ate and chatted, and when
Martha West made her appearance there was a shout of welcome from every
one.

"Hail to the new Speciality!" exclaimed each girl in the room, Betty
Vivian alone excepted.

Martha was a heavily made girl, with a big, sallow face; quantities of
black hair, which grew low on her forehead, and which, as no effort on
her part would keep it from falling down on one side, gave her a
somewhat untidy appearance; she had heavy brows, too, which were in
keeping with the general contour of her face, and rather small gray
eyes. There was no one, however, in the whole school who was better
loved than Martha West. Big and ungainly though she was, her voice was
one of the sweetest imaginable. She had also great force of character,
and was regarded as one of the strong girls of the school. She was
always helping others, was the soul of unselfishness, and although not
exactly clever, was plodding and persevering. She was absolutely without
self-consciousness; and when her companions welcomed her in this cheery
manner she smiled broadly, showing a row of pearly white teeth, and then
sat down on the nearest chair.

When supper was over, Margaret Grant came forward and stood by the
little center-table, on which lay the vellum-bound book of the rules of
the club. Margaret opened it with great solemnity, and called to Betty
Vivian to stand up.

"Betty Vivian," she said, "we agreed a week ago to-day to admit you to
the full membership of a Speciality. According to our usual custom, we
sent you a copy of the rules in order that you might study them in their
fullness. We now ask you if you have done so?"

"I have," replied Betty. "I have read them, I should think, thirty or
forty times."

"Are you prepared, Betty Vivian, to accept our rules and become a member
of the Specialities, or do you prefer your full liberty and to return to
the ordinary routine of the school? We, none of us, wish you to adopt
the rules as part of your daily life unless you are prepared to keep
them in their entirety."

"I wish to be a Speciality," replied Betty. Then she added slowly--and
as she spoke she raised her brilliant eyes and fixed them on Fanny
Crawford's face--"I am prepared to keep the rules."

"Thank you, Betty! Then I think, members, Betty Vivian can be admitted
as a member of our little society. Betty, simple as our rules are, they
comprise much: openness of heart, sisterly love, converse with great
thoughts, pleasure in its truest sense (carrying that pleasure still
further by seeing that others enjoy it as well as ourselves), respect to
all our teachers, and, above all things, forgetting ourselves and living
for others. You see, Betty Vivian, that though the rules are quite
simple, they are very comprehensive. You have had a week to study them.
Again I ask, are you prepared to accept them?"

"Yes, I am prepared," said Betty; and again she flashed a glance at
Fanny Crawford.

"Then I, as head of this little society for the time being, admit you as
a member. Please, Betty, accept this little true-lovers' knot, and wear
it this evening in your dress. Now, girls, let us every one cheer Betty
Vivian, and take her to our hearts as our true sister in the highest
sense of the word."

The girls flocked round Betty and shook hands with her. Amongst those
who did so was Fanny Crawford. She squeezed Betty's hand significantly,
and at the same moment put her finger to her lips. This action was so
quick that only Betty observed it; but it told the girl that, now that
she had "crossed the Rubicon," Fanny would not be the one to betray her.

Betty sank down on a chair. She felt excited, elated, pleased, and
horrified. The rest of the evening passed as a sort of dream. She could
scarcely comprehend what she had done. She was a Speciality. She was
bound by great and holy rules, and yet in reality she was a far lower
girl than she had ever been in all her life before.

The rules were read aloud in their fullness to Martha West, and the
usual week's grace was accorded her. Then followed the fun, during the
whole of which time Betty was made the heroine of the occasion, as
Martha would doubtless be that day week. The girls chatted a great deal
to-night, and Betty was told of all the privileges which would now be
hers. She had never known until that moment that Mrs. Haddo, when she
found what excellent work the Speciality Club did in the school, had
fitted up a charming sitting-room for its members. Here, in winter, the
fire burned all day. Fresh flowers were always to be seen. Here were to
be found such books as those of Ruskin, Tennyson, Browning--in short, a
fine collection of the greater writers. Betty was told that she was now
free to enter this room; that, being a Speciality, she would be exempt
from certain small and irksome duties in order to give her more time to
attend to those broad rules of life which she had now adopted as her
code.

Betty listened, and all the time, as she listened, her heart sank lower
and lower. Fanny did not even pretend to watch Betty now. She had, so to
speak, done with her. Fanny felt as sure as though some angel in the
room were recording the fact that Betty was now well started on the
downward track. She felt ashamed of her as a cousin. She felt the
greatest possible contempt for her. But if she was herself to keep Rule
I., she must force these feelings out of sight, and tolerate Betty until
she saw the error of her ways.

"The less I have to do with her in the future the better," thought
Fanny. "It would be exceedingly unpleasant for me if it were known that
I had allowed her to be admitted without telling Margaret what I knew.
But, somehow, I couldn't do it. I thought Betty herself would be great
enough to withstand a paltry temptation of this sort. How different
Martha West is! She will be a famous stand-by for us all."

The evening came to an end. The girls went down to prayers.

Betty was now a Speciality. She wore the beautiful little silver badge
shining in the folds of her black evening frock. But she did not enjoy
the music in the chapel nor Mr. Fairfax's rendering of the evening
prayers as she had done when last she was there. Betty had a curious
faculty, however, which she now exercised. Hers was a somewhat complex
nature, and she could shut away unpleasant thoughts when she so desired.
She was a Speciality. She might not have become one but for Fanny. Mrs.
Haddo's influence, though unspoken, might have held her back. Margaret
Grant might have kept her from doing what she herself would have
scorned to do. But Fanny! Fanny had managed to bring out the worst in
Betty; and the worst in a character like hers was very vigorous, very
strong, very determined while it was in the ascendant. Instead of
praying to-night, she turned her thoughts to the various and delightful
things which would now be hers in the school. She would be regarded on
all hands with added respect. She would have the entrée to the
Specialities' delightful sitting-room. She would be consulted by the
other girls of the upper school, for every one consulted the
Specialities on all manner of subjects. People would cease to speak of
her as "that new girl Betty Vivian;" but they would say when they saw
her approach, "Oh, she is one of the Specialities!" Her position in the
school to-night was assured. She was safe; and Fanny, with that swift
gesture, had indicated to her that she need not fear anything from her
lips. Fanny would be silent. No one else knew what Fanny knew. And,
after all, she had done no wrong, because her secret had nothing
whatever to do with the other members of the club. The wrong--the one
wrong--which she felt she had committed was in promising to love each
member as though she were her sister, especially as she had to include
Fanny Crawford in that number. But she would be kind to all, and perhaps
love might come--she was not sure. Fanny would be kind to her, of
course. In a sort of way they must be friends in the future. Oh, yes, it
was all right.

She was startled when Olive Repton touched her. She rose from her knees
with a hot blush on her face. She had forgotten chapel, she had not
heard the words of the benediction. The girls streamed out, and went at
once to their respective bedrooms.

Betty was glad to find her sisters asleep. After the exciting events of
that evening, even Dan and Beersheba had lost their charm. So weary was
she at that moment that she dropped her head on her pillow and fell
sound asleep.



CHAPTER XI

A SPECIALITY ENTERTAINMENT


Certainly it was nice to be a Speciality. Even Fanny Crawford completely
altered her manner to Betty Vivian. There were constant and earnest
consultations amongst the members of the club in that charming
sitting-room. Betty, of course, was eagerly questioned, and Betty was
able to give daring and original advice. Whenever Betty spoke some one
laughed, or some one looked with admiration at her; and when she was
silent one or other of the girls said anxiously, "But do you approve,
Betty? If you don't approve we must think out something else."

Betty soon entered into the full spirit of the thing, and one and all of
the girls--Fanny excepted--said that she was the most delightful
Speciality who had ever come to Haddo Court. During this time she was
bravely trying to keep her vows. She had bought a little copy of Jeremy
Taylor's "Holy Living," and read the required portion every day, but she
did not like it; it had to do with a life which at one time she would
have adored, but which now did not appeal to her. She liked that part of
each day which was given up to fun and frolic, and she dearly loved the
respect and consideration and admiration shown her by the other girls of
the school.

It was soon decided that the next great entertainment of the
Specialities was to be given in Betty Vivian's bedroom. Each girl was to
subscribe three shillings, and the supper, in consequence, was to be
quite sumptuous. Fanny Crawford, as the most practical member, was to
provide the viands. She was to go into the village, accompanied by one
of the teachers, two days before the date arranged in order to secure
the most tempting cakes and pastry, and ginger-beer, and cocoa, and
potted meat for sandwiches. Betty wondered how the provisions could be
procured for so small a sum; but Fanny was by no means doubtful.

Now, Betty had of worldly wealth the exact sum of two pounds ten
shillings; and when it is said that Betty possessed two pounds ten
shillings, this money was really not Betty's at all, but had to be
divided into three portions, for it was equally her sisters'. But as
Sylvia and Hester always looked upon Betty as their chief, and as
nothing mattered to them provided Betty was pleased, she gave three
shillings from this minute fund without even telling them that she had
done so. Then the invitations were sent round, and very neatly were they
penned by Susie Rushworth and Olive Repton. It was impossible to ask all
the girls of the school; but a select list from the girls in the upper
school was carefully made, each Speciality being consulted on this
point.

Martha West, who was now a full-blown member, suggested Sibyl Ray at
once.

Fanny gave a little frown of disapproval. "Martha," she said, "I must
say that I don't care for your Sibyl."

"And I like her," replied Martha. "She is not your style, Fan; but she
just needs the sort of little help we can give her. We cannot expect
every one to be exactly like every one else, and Sibyl is not half bad.
It would hurt her frightfully if she were not invited to the first
entertainment after I have become a Speciality."

"Well, that settles it," said Fanny in a cheerful tone; "she gets an
invitation of course."

The teachers were never invited to these assemblies, but there was a
murmur of anticipation in the whole school when the invitations went
round. Who were to be the lucky ones? Who was to go? Who was not to go?
As a rule, it was so managed by the Specialities that the whole of the
upper school was invited once during the term to a delightful evening in
one of the special bedrooms. But the first invitation of the season--the
one after the admission of two new members, that extraordinary Betty
Vivian and dear, good old Martha West--oh, it was of intense interest to
know who were to go and who to stay behind!

"I've got my invitation," said a fat young girl of the name of Sarah
Butt.

"And I," "And I," "And I," said others.

"I am left out," said a fifth.

"Well, Janie, don't fret," said Sarah Butt; "your turn will come next
time."

"But I did so want to see Betty Vivian! They say she is the life of the
whole club."

"Silly!" exclaimed Sarah; "why, you see her every day."

"Yes, but not as she is in the club. They all say that she is too
wonderful! Sometimes she sits down cross-legged and tells them stories,
and they get so excited they can't move. Oh, I say, do--do look! look
what is in the corner of your card, Sarah! 'After supper, story-telling
by Betty Vivian. Most of the lights down.' There, isn't it maddening! I
do call it a shame; they might have asked me!"

"Well, I will tell you all the stories to-morrow," said Sarah.

"You!" The voice was one of scorn. "Why, you can't tell a story to save
your life; whereas Betty, she looks a story herself all the time. She
has it in her face. I can never take my eyes off her when she is in the
room."

"Well, I can't help it," answered Sarah. "I am glad I'm going, that is
all. The whole school could not be asked, for the simple reason that the
room wouldn't hold us. I shall be as green as grass when your invitation
comes, and now you must bear your present disappointment."

Fanny Crawford made successful and admirable purchases. On the nights
when the Specialities entertained, unless it was midsummer, the girls
met at six-thirty, and the entertainment continued until nine.

On that special evening Mrs. Haddo, for wise reasons all her own,
excused the Specialities and their guests from attending prayers in the
chapel. She had once made a little speech about this. "You will pray
earnestly in your rooms, dears, and thank God for your happy evening,"
she had said; and from that moment the Specialities knew that they might
continue their enjoyment until nine o'clock.

Oh, it was all fascinating! Betty was very grave. Her high spirits
deserted her that morning, and she went boldly to Mrs. Haddo--a thing
which few girls dared to do.

Mrs. Haddo was seated by her fire. She was reading a new book which had
just been sent to her by post. "Betty, what do you want?" she said when
the girl entered.

"May I take a very long walk all alone? Do you mind, Mrs. Haddo?"

"Anywhere you like, dear, provided you do not leave the grounds."

"But I want to leave the grounds, Mrs. Haddo."

"No, dear Betty--not alone."

Betty avoided the gaze of Mrs. Haddo, who looked up at her. Betty's
brilliant eyes were lowered, and the black, curling lashes lay on her
cheeks.

Mrs. Haddo wanted to catch Betty's soul by means of her eyes, and so
draw her into communion with herself. "Betty, why do you want to walk
outside the grounds, and all alone?"

"Restless, I suppose," answered Betty.

"Is this club too exciting for you, my child?"

"Oh no, I love it!" said Betty. Her manner changed at the moment. "And,
please, don't take my hand. I--oh, it isn't that I don't want to hold
your hand; but I--I am not worthy! Of course I will stay in the grounds
to please you. Good-bye."



CHAPTER XII

A VERY EVENTFUL DAY


Having got leave to take her walk, Betty started off with vigor. The
fresh, keen air soothed her depressed spirits; and soon she was racing
wildly against the gale, the late autumn leaves falling against her
dress and face as she ran. She would certainly keep her word to Mrs.
Haddo, although her desire--if she had a very keen desire at that
moment--was again to vault over those hideous prison-bars, and reach the
farm, and receive the caresses of Dan and Beersheba. But a promise is a
promise, and this could not be thought of. She determined, therefore, to
tire herself out by walking.

She had managed to avoid all her companions. The Specialities were very
much occupied making arrangements for the evening. The twins had found
friends of their own, and were happily engaged. No one noticed Betty as
she set forth. She walked as far as the deserted gardens. Then she
crossed the waste land, and stood for a minute looking at that poor
semblance of Scotch heather which grew in an exposed corner. She felt
inclined to kick it, so great was her contempt for the flower which
could not bloom out of its native soil. Then suddenly her mood changed.
She fell on her knees, found a bit of heather which still had a few
nearly withered bells on it; and, raising it tenderly to her lips,
kissed it. "Poor little exile!" she said. "Well, I am an exile too!"

She rose and skirted the waste land; at one side there was a somewhat
steep incline which led through a plantation to a more cultivated part
of the extensive grounds. Betty had never been right round the grounds
of Haddo Court before, and was pleased at their size, and, on a day like
this, at their wildness. She tried to picture herself back in Scotland.
Once she shut her eyes for a minute, and bringing her vivid imagination
to her aid, seemed to see Donald Macfarlane and Jean Macfarlane in their
cosy kitchen; while Donald said, "It'll be a braw day to-morrow;" or
perhaps it was the other way round, and Jean remarked, "There'll be a
guid sprinklin' o' snaw before mornin', or I am much mistook."

Betty sighed, and walked faster. By-and-by, however, she stood still.
She had come suddenly to the stump of an old tree. It was a broken and
very aged stump, and hollow inside. Betty stood close to it. The next
moment, prompted by an uncontrollable instinct, she thrust in her hand
and pulled out a little sealed packet. She looked at it wildly for a
minute, then put it back again. It was quite safe in this hiding-place,
for she had placed it in a corner of the old stump where it was
sheltered from the weather, and yet could never by any possibility be
seen unless the stump was cut down. She had scarcely completed this
action before a voice from behind caused her to jump and start.

"Whatever are you doing by that old stump of a tree, Betty?"

Betty turned swiftly. The color rushed to her face, leaving it the next
instant paler than ever. She was confronted by the uninteresting and
very small personality of Sibyl Ray.

"I am doing nothing," said Betty. "What affair is it of yours?"

"Oh, I am not interested," said Sibyl. "I was just taking a walk all
alone, and I saw you in the distance; and I rushed up that steep path
yonder as fast as I could, hoping you would let me join you and talk to
you. You know I am going to be present at your Speciality party
to-night. I do admire you so very much, Betty! Then, just as I was
coming near, you thrust your hand down into that old stump, and you
certainly did take something out. Was it a piece of wood, or what? I saw
you looking at it, and then you dropped it in again. It looked like a
square piece of wood, as far as I could tell from the distance. What
were you doing with it? It was wood, was it not?"

"If you like to think it was wood, it was wood," replied Betty. Here was
another lie! Betty's heart sank very low. "I wish you would go away,
Sibyl," she said, "and not worry me."

"Oh, but mayn't I walk with you? What harm can I do? And I do admire you
so immensely! And won't you take the thing out of the tree again and let
me see it? I want to see it ever so badly."

"No, I am sure I won't. You can poke for it yourself whenever you
please," said Betty. "Now, come on, if you are coming."

"Oh, may I come with you really?"

"I can't prevent you, Sibyl. As a matter of fact, I was going out for a
walk all alone; but as you are determined to bear me company, you must."

Betty felt seriously alarmed. She must take the first possible
opportunity to get the precious packet out of its present hiding-place
and dispose of it elsewhere. But where? That was the puzzle. And how
soon could she manage this? How quickly could she get rid of Sibyl Ray?

Sibyl's small, pale-blue eyes were glittering with curiosity. Betty felt
she must manage her. Then suddenly, by one of those quick transitions of
thought, Rule VI. occurred to her. It was her duty to be kind to Sibyl,
even though she did not like her. She would, therefore, now put forth
her charm for the benefit of this small, unattractive girl. She
accordingly began to chatter in her wildest and most fascinating way.
Sibyl was instantly convulsed with laughter, and forgot all about the
old stump of tree and the bit of wood that Betty had fished out, looked
at, and put back again. The whole matter would, of course, recur to
Sibyl by-and by; but at present she was absorbed in the great delight of
Betty's conversation.

"Oh, Betty, I do admire you!" she said.

"Well, now, listen to one thing," said Betty. "I hate flattery."

"But it isn't flattery if I mean what I say. If I do admire a person I
say so. Now, I admire our darling Martha West. She has always been kind
to me. Martha is a dear, a duck; but, of course, she doesn't fascinate
in the way you do. Several of the other girls in my form--I'm in the
upper fifth, you know--have been talking about you and wondering where
your charm lay. For you couldn't be called exactly pretty; although, of
course, that very black hair of yours, and those curious eyes which are
no color in particular, and yet seem to be every color, and your pale
face, make you quite out of the common. We love your sisters too; they
are darlings, but neither of them is like you. Still, you're not exactly
pretty. You haven't nearly such straight and regular features as Olive
Repton; you're not as pretty, even, as Fanny Crawford. Of course Fan's a
dear old thing--one of the very best girls in the school; and she is
your cousin, isn't she, Betty?"

"Yes."

"Betty, it is delightful to walk with you! And isn't it just wonderful
to think that you've not been more than a few weeks in the school before
you are made a Speciality, and with all the advantages of one? Oh, it
does seem quite too wonderful!"

"I am glad you think so," said Betty.

"But it is very extraordinary. I don't think it has ever been done
before. You see, your arrival at the school and everything else was
completely out of the common. You didn't come at the beginning of term,
as most new girls do; you came when term was quite a fortnight old; and
you were put straight away into the upper school without going through
the drudgery, or whatever you may like to call it, of the lower school.
Oh, I do--yes, I do--call it perfectly wonderful! I suppose you are
eaten up with conceit?"

"No, I am not," said Betty. "I am not conceited at all. Now listen,
Sibyl. You are to be a guest, are you not, at our Speciality party
to-night?"

"Of course I am; and I am so fearfully excited, more particularly as you
are going to tell stories with the lights down. I'm going to wear a
green dress; it's a gauzy sort of stuff that my aunt has just sent me,
and I think it will suit me very well indeed. Oh, it is fun to think of
this evening!"

"Yes, of course it's fun," said Betty. "Now, I tell you what. Why don't
you go into the front garden and ask the gardener for permission to get
a few small marguerite daisies, and then make them into a very simple
wreath to twine round your hair? The daisies would suit you so well; you
don't know how nice they'll make you look."

"Will they?" said Sibyl, her eyes sparkling. "Do you really think so?"

"Of course I think so. I have pictures of all the girls in my mind; and
I often shut my eyes and think how such a girl would look if she were
dressed in such a way, and how such another girl would look if she wore
something else."

"And when you think of me?" said Sibyl.

But Betty had never thought of Sibyl. She was silent.

"And when you think of me?" repeated Sibyl, her face beaming all over
with delight. "You think of me, do you, darling Betty, as wearing green,
with a wreath of marguerites in my hair?"

"Yes, that is how I think of you," said Betty.

"Very well, I'll go and find the gardener. Mrs. Haddo always allows us
to have cut flowers that the gardener gives us."

"Don't have the wreath too big," said Betty; "and be sure you get the
gardener to choose small marguerites. Now, be off--won't you?--for I
want to continue my walk."

Sibyl, in wild delight, rushed into one of the flower-gardens. Betty
watched her till she was quite out of sight. Then, quick as thought, she
retraced her steps. She must find another hiding-place for the packet.
With Sibyl's knowledge, her present position was one of absolute danger.
Sibyl would tell every girl she knew all about Betty's action when she
stood by the broken stump of the old tree. She would describe how Betty
thrust in her hand and took something out, looked at it, and put it back
again. The girls would go in a body, and poke, and examine, and try to
discover for themselves what Betty had taken out of the trunk of the old
oak-tree. Betty must remove the sealed packet at once, or it would be
discovered.

"What a horrible danger!" thought the girl. "But I am equal to it."

She ran with all her might and main, and presently, reaching the tree,
thrust her hand in, found the brown packet carefully tied up and sealed,
and slipped it into her pocket. Quite close by was a little broken
square of wood. Betty, hating herself for doing so, dropped it into the
hollow of the tree. The bit of wood would satisfy the girls, for Sibyl
had said that Betty had doubtless found some wood. Having done this, she
set off to retrace her steps again, going now in the direction of the
deserted gardens and the patch of common. She had no spade with her,
but that did not matter. She went to the corner where the heather was
growing. Very carefully working round a piece with her fingers, she
loosened the roots; they had gone deep down, as is the fashion with
heather. She slipped the packet underneath, replaced the heather, kissed
it, said, "I am sorry to disturb you, darling, but you are doing a great
work now;" and then, wiping the mud from her fingers, she walked slowly
home.

The packet would certainly be safe for a day or two under the Scotch
heather, which, as a matter of fact, no one thought of interfering with
from one end of the year to another. Before Betty left this corner of
the common she took great care to remove all trace of having disturbed
the heather. Then she walked back to the Court, her heart beating high.
The tension within her was so great as to be almost unendurable. But she
would not swerve from the path she had chosen.

On the occasion of the Specialities' first entertainment, Betty Vivian,
by request, wore white. Her sisters, who of course would be amongst the
guests, also wore white. The little beds had been removed to a distant
part of the room, where a screen was placed round them. All the toilet
apparatus was put out of sight. Easy-chairs and elegant bits of
furniture were brought from the other rooms. Margaret Grant lent her own
lovely vases, which were filled with flowers from the gardens. The
beautiful big room looked fresh and fragrant when the Specialities
assembled to welcome their guests. Betty stood behind Margaret. Martha
West--a little ungainly as usual, but with her strong, firm, reliable
face looking even stronger and more reliable since she had joined the
great club of the school--was also in evidence. Fanny Crawford stood
close to Betty. Just once she looked at her, and then smiled. Betty
turned when she did so, and greeted that smile with a distinct frown of
displeasure. Yet every one knew that Betty was to be the heroine of the
evening.

Punctual to the minute the guests arrived--Sibyl Ray in her vivid-green
dress, with the marguerites in her hair.

No one made any comment as the little girl came forward; only, a minute
later, Fanny whispered to Betty, "What a ridiculous and conceited idea!
I wonder who put it into her head?"

"I did," said Betty very calmly; "But she hasn't arranged them quite
right." She left her place, and going up to Sibyl, said a few words to
her. Sibyl flushed and looked lovingly into Betty's face. Betty then
took Sibyl behind the screen, and, lo and behold! her deft fingers put
the tiny wreath into a graceful position; arranged the soft, light hair
so as to produce the best possible effect; twisted a white sash round
the gaudy green dress, to carry out the idea of the marguerites; and
brought Sibyl back, charmed with her appearance, and looking for once
almost pretty.

"What a wonder you are, Betty!" said Martha West in a pleased tone.
"Poor little Sib, she doesn't understand how to manage the flowers!"

"She looks very nice now," said Betty.

"It was sweet of you to do it for her," said Martha. "And, you know, she
quite worships you; she does, really."

"There was nothing in my doing it," replied Betty. She felt inclined to
add, "For she was particularly obliging to me to-day;" but she changed
these words into, "I suggested the idea, so of course I had to see it
carried out properly."

"The white sash makes all the difference," said Martha. "You are quite a
genius, Betty!"

"Oh no," said Betty. She looked for a minute into Martha's small, gray,
very honest eyes, and wished with all her heart and soul that she could
change with her.

The usual high-jinks and merriment went on while the eatables were
being discussed. But when every one had had as much as she could consume
with comfort, and the oranges, walnuts, and crackers were put aside for
the final entertainment, Margaret (being at present head-girl of the
Specialities) proposed round games for an hour. "After that," she said,
"we will ask Betty Vivian to tell us stories."

"Oh, but we all want the stories now!" exclaimed several voices.

Margaret laughed. "Do you know," she said, "it is only a little past
seven o'clock, and we cannot expect poor Betty to tell stories for close
on two hours? We'll play all sorts of pleasant and exciting games until
eight o'clock, and then perhaps Betty will keep her word."

Betty had purposely asked to be excused from joining in these games, and
every one said she understood the reason. Betty was too precious and
valuable and altogether fascinating to be expected to rush about playing
Blind-Man's Buff, and Puss-in-the-Corner, and Charades, and Telegrams,
and all those games which schoolgirls love.

The sound from the Vivians' bedroom was very hilarious for the next
three-quarters of an hour; but presently Margaret came forward and asked
all the girls if they would seat themselves, as Betty was going to tell
stories.

"With the lights down! Oh, please, please, don't forget that! All the
lights down except one," said Susie Rushworth.

"Yes, with all the lights down except one," said Margaret. "Betty, will
you come and sit here? We will cluster round in a semi-circle. We shall
be in shadow, but there must be sufficient light for us to see your
face."

The lights were arranged to produce this effect. There was now only one
light in the room, and that streamed over Betty as she sat cross-legged
on the floor, her customary attitude when she was thoroughly at home and
excited. There was not a scrap of self-consciousness about Betty at
these moments. She had been working herself up all day for the time when
she might pour out her heart. At home she used to do so for the benefit
of Donald and Jean Macfarlane and of her little sisters. But, up to the
present, no one at school had heard of Betty's wild stories. At last,
however, an opportunity had come. She forgot all her pain in the
exercise of her strong faculty for narrative.

"I see something," she began. She had rather a thrilling voice--not
high, but very clear, and with a sweet ring in it. "I see," she
continued, looking straight before her as she spoke, "a great, great, a
very great plain. And it is night, or nearly so--I mean it is dusk; for
there is never actual night in my Scotland in the middle of summer. I
see the great plain, and a girl sitting in the middle of it, and the
heather is beginning to come out. It has been asleep all the winter; but
it is coming out now, and the air is full of music. For, of course, you
all understand," she continued--bending forward so that her eyes shone,
growing very large, and at the same moment black and bright--"you all
know that the great heather-plants are the last homes left in England
for the fairies. The fairies live in the heather-bells; and during the
winter, when the heather is dead, the poor fairies are cold, being
turned out of their homes."

"Where do they go, then, I wonder?" asked a muffled voice in the
darkened circle of listeners.

"Back to the fairies' palace, of course, underground," said Betty. "But
they like the world best, they're such sociable little darlings; and
when the heather-bells are coming out they all return, and each fairy
takes possession of a bell and lives there. She makes it her home. And
the brownies--they live under the leaves of the heather, and attend to
the fairies, and dance with them at night just over the vast heather
commons. Then, by a magical kind of movement, each little fairy sets her
own heather-bell ringing, and you can't by any possibility imagine what
the music is like. It is so sweet--oh, it is so sweet that no music one
has ever heard, made by man, can compare to it! You can imagine for
yourselves what it is like--millions upon millions of bells of heather,
and millions upon millions of fairies, and each little bell ringing its
own sweet chime, but all in the most perfect harmony. Well, that is what
the fairies do."

"Have you ever seen them?" asked the much-excited voice of Susie
Rushworth.

"I see them now," said Betty. She shut her eyes as she spoke.

"Oh, do tell us what they are like?" asked a girl in the background.

Betty opened her eyes wide. "I couldn't," she answered. "No one can
describe a fairy. You've got to see it to know what it is like."

"Tell us more, please, Betty?" asked an eager voice.

"Give me a minute," said Betty. She shut her eyes. Her face was deadly
white. Presently she opened her eyes again. "I see the same great, vast
moor, and it is winter-time, and the moor from one end to the other is
covered--yes, covered--with snow. And there's a gray house built of
great blocks of stone--a very strong house, but small; and there's a
kitchen in that house, and an old man with grizzled hair sits by the
fire, and a dear old woman sits near him, and there are two dogs lying
by the hearth. I won't tell you their names, for their names are--well,
sacred. The old man and woman talk together, and presently girls come in
and join them and talk to them for a little bit. Then one of the girls
goes out all alone, for she wants air and freedom, and she is never
afraid on the vast white moor. She walks and walks and walks. Presently
she loses sight of the gray house; but she is not afraid, for fear never
enters her breast. She walks so fast that her blood gets very warm and
tingles within her, and she feels her spirits rising higher and higher;
and she thinks that the moor covered with snow is even more lovely and
glorious than the moor was in summer, when the fairy bells were ringing
and the fairies were dancing all over the place.

"I see her," continued Betty; "she is tired, and yet not tired. She has
walked a very long way, and has not met one soul. She is very glad of
that; she loves great solitudes, and she passionately loves nature and
cold cannot hurt her when her heart is so warm and so happy. But
by-and-by she thinks of the old couple by the fireside and of the girls
she has left behind. She turns to go back. I see her when she turns."
Betty paused a minute. "The sky is very still," she continued. "The sky
has millions of stars blazing in its blue, and there isn't a cloud
anywhere; and she clasps her hands with ecstasy, and thanks God for
having made such a beautiful world. Then she starts to go home; but----"

Up to this point Betty's voice was glad and triumphant. Now its tone
altered. "I see her. She is warm still, and her heart glows with
happiness; and she does not want anything else in all the world except
the gray house and the girls she left behind, and the dogs by the
fireside, and the old couple in the kitchen. But presently she discovers
that, try as she will, and walk as hard as she may, she cannot find the
gray stone house. She is not frightened--that isn't a bit her way; but
she knows at once what has happened, for she has heard of such things
happening to others.

"It is midnight--a bitterly cold midnight--and she is lost in the snow!
She knows it. She does not hesitate for a single minute what to do, for
the old man in the gray house has told her so many stories about other
people who have been lost in the snow. He has told her how they fell
asleep and died, and she knows quite well that she must not fall asleep.
When the morning dawns she will find her way back right enough; but
there are long, long hours between now and the morning. She finds a
place where the snow is soft, and she digs and digs in it, and then lies
down in it and covers herself up. The snow is so dry that even with the
heat of her body it hardly melts at all, and the great weight of snow
over her keeps her warm. So now she knows she is all right, provided
always she does not go to sleep.

"She is the sort of girls who will never, by any possibility, give in
while there is the most remote chance of her saving the situation. She
has covered every scrap of herself except her face, and she is--oh,
quite warm and comfortable! And she knows that if she keeps her thoughts
very busy she may not sleep. There is no clock anywhere near, there is
no sound whatever to break the deep stillness. The only way she can keep
herself awake is by thinking. So she thinks very hard. That girl has
often had a hard think--a very hard think--in the course of her life;
but never, never one like this before, when she buries herself in the
snow and forces her brain to keep her body awake.

"She tries first of all to count the minutes as they pass; but that is
sleepy work, more particularly as she is tired, and really sometimes
almost forgets herself for a minute. So she works away at some stiff,
long sums in arithmetic, doing mental arithmetic as rapidly as ever she
can. And so one hour passes, perhaps two. At the end of the second hour
something very strange happens. All of a sudden she feels that
arithmetic is pure nonsense--that it never leads anywhere nor does any
one any good; and she feels also that never in the whole course of her
life has she lain in a snugger bed than her snow-bed. And she remembers
the fairies and their music in the middle of the summer night;
and--hark! hark!--she hears them again! Why have they left their palace
underground to come and see her? It is sweet of them, it is beautiful!
They sit on her chest, they press close to her face, they kiss her with
their wee lips, they bring comforting thoughts into her heart, they
whisper lovely things into her ears. She has not felt alone from the
very first; but now that the fairies have come she never, never could be
happier than she is now. And then, away from the fairies (who stay close
to her all the time), she lifts her eyes and looks at the stars; and oh,
the stars are so bright! And, somehow, she remembers that God is up
there; and she thinks about white-clad angels who came down once,
straight from the stars, by means of a ladder, to help a good man in a
Bible story; and she really sees the ladder again, and the angels going
up and coming down--going up and coming down--and she gives a cry and
says, 'Oh, take me too! Oh, take me too!' One angel more beautiful than
she could possibly describe comes towards her, and the fairies give a
little cry--for, sweet as they are, they have nothing to do with
angels--and disappear. The angel has his strong arms round her, and he
says, 'Your bed of snow is not so beautiful as where you shall lie in
the land where no trouble can come.' Then she remembers no more."

At this point in her narrative Betty made a dramatic pause. Then she
continued abruptly and in an ordinary tone, "It is the dogs who find
her, and they dig her out of the snow, and the dear old shepherd and his
wife and some other people come with them; and so she is brought back to
the gray house, and never reaches the open doors where the angels ladder
would have led her through. She is sorry--for days she is terribly
sorry; for she is ill, and suffers a good bit of pain. But she is all
right again now; only, somehow, she can never forget that experience. I
think I have told you all I can tell you to-night."

Instantly, at a touch, the lights were turned on again, and the room was
full of brilliancy. Betty jumped up from her posture on the floor. The
girls flocked round her.

"But, oh Betty! Betty! say, please say, was it you?"

"I am going to reveal no secrets," said Betty. "I said I saw the girl.
Well, I did see her."

"Then she must have been you! She must have been you!" echoed voice
after voice. "And were you really nearly killed in the snow? And did you
fall asleep in your snow-bed? And did--oh, did the fairies come, and
afterwards the angels? Oh Betty, do tell!"

But Betty's lips were mute.



CHAPTER XIII

A SPOKE IN HER WHEEL


If Betty Vivian really wished to keep her miserable secret, she had done
wisely in removing the little packet from its shelter in the trunk of
the old oak-tree; for of course Sibyl remembered it in the night,
although Betty's wonderful story had carried her thoughts far away from
such trivial matters for the time being. Nevertheless, when she awoke in
the night, and thought of the fairies in the heather, and of the girl
lying in the snow-bed, she thought also of Betty standing by the stump
of a tree and removing something from within, looking at it, and putting
it back again.

Sibyl, therefore, took the earliest opportunity of telling her special
friends that there was a treasure hidden in the stump of the old tree.
In short, she repeated Betty's exact action, doing so in the presence of
Martha West.

Martha was a girl who invariably kept in touch with the younger girls.
There are girls who in being removed from a lower to an upper school
cannot stand their elevation, and are apt to be a little queer and
giddy; they have not quite got their balance. Such girls could not fall
into more excellent hands than those of Martha. She heard Sibyl now
chatting to a host of these younger girls, and, catching Betty's name,
asked immediately what it was all about. Sibyl repeated the story with
much gusto.

"And Betty did look queer!" she added. "I asked her if it was a piece of
wood, and she said 'Yes;' but, all the same, she didn't like me to see
her. Of course she's a darling--there's no one like her; and she
recovered herself in a minute, and walked with me a long way, and then
suggested that I should wear the marguerites. Of course I had to go into
the flower-garden to find Birchall and coax him to cut enough for me.
Then I had to get Sarah Butt to help me to make the wreath, for I never
made a wreath before in my life. But Sarah would do anything in the
world that Betty suggested, she is so frightfully fond of her."

"We are all fond of her, I think," said Martha.

"Well, then she went off for a walk by herself, and I don't think she
came in until quite late."

"You don't know anything about it," said Martha. "Now, look here, girls,
don't waste your time talking rubbish. You are very low down in the
school compared to Betty Vivian, and, compared to Betty Vivian, you are
of no account whatever, for she is a Speciality, and therefore holds a
position all her own. Love her as much as you like, and admire her, for
she is worthy of admiration. But if I were you, Sibyl, I wouldn't tell
tales out of school. Let me tell you frankly that you had no right to
rush up to Betty when she was alone and ask her what she was doing. She
was quite at liberty to thrust her hand into an old tree as often as
ever she liked, and take some rubbish out, and look at it, and drop it
in again. You are talking sheer folly. Do attend to your work, or you'll
be late for Miss Skeene when she comes to give her lecture on English
literature."

No girl could ever be offended by Martha, and the work continued
happily. But during recess that day Sibyl beckoned her companions away
with her; and she, followed by five or six girls of the lower fifth,
visited the spot where Betty had stood on the previous evening. Betty
was much taller than any of these girls, and they found when they
reached the old stump that it was impossible for them to thrust their
hands in. But this difficulty was overcome by Sibyl volunteering to sit
on Mabel Lee's shoulders--and, if necessary, even to stand on her
shoulders while the other girls held her firm--in order that she might
thrust her hand into the hollow of the oak-tree. This feat was
accomplished with some difficulty, but nothing whatever was brought up
except withered leaves and débris and a broken piece of wood much
saturated with rain.

"This must have been what she saw," said Sibyl. "I asked her if it was
wood, and I think she said it was. Only, why did she look so very
queer?"

The girls continued their walk, but Martha West stayed at home.
She had hushed the remarks made by the younger girls that morning,
nevertheless she could not get them out of her mind. Sibyl's story was
circumstantial. She had described Betty's annoyance and distress when
they met, Betty's almost confusion. She had then said that it was Betty
who suggested that she was to wear the marguerites.

Now Martha, in her heart of hearts, thought this suggestion of Betty's
very far-fetched; and being a very shrewd, practical sort of girl, there
came an awful moment when she almost made up her mind that Betty had
done this in order to get rid of Sibyl. Why did she want to get rid of
her? Martha began to believe that she was growing quite uncharitable.

At that moment, who should appear in sight, who should utter a cry of
satisfaction and seat herself cosily by Martha's side, but Fanny
Crawford!

"This is nice," said Fanny with a sigh. "I did so want to chat with you,
Martha. I so seldom see you quite all by yourself."

"I am always to be seen if you really wish to find me, Fanny," replied
Martha. "I am never too busy not to be delighted to see my friends."

"Well, of course we are friends, being Specialities," was Fanny's
remark.

"Yes," answered Martha, "and I think we were friends before. I always
liked you just awfully, Fan."

"Ditto, ditto," replied Fanny. "It is curious," she continued, speaking
in a somewhat sententious voice, "how one is drawn irresistibly to one
girl and repelled by another. Now, I was always drawn to you, Matty; I
always liked you from the very, very first. I was more than delighted
when I heard that you were to become one of us."

Martha was silent. It was not her habit to praise herself, nor did she
care to hear herself praised. She was essentially downright and honest.
She did not think highly of herself, for she knew quite well that she
had very few outward charms.

Fanny, however, who was the essence of daintiness, looked at her now
with blue-gray eyes full of affection. "Martha," she said, "I have such
a lot to talk over! What did you think of last night?"

"I thought it splendid," replied Martha.

"And Betty--what did you think of Betty?"

"Your cousin? She is very dramatic," said Martha.

"Yes, that is it," replied Fanny; "she is dramatic in everything. I
doubt if she is ever natural or her true self."

"Fanny!"

"Oh, dear old Martha, don't be so frightfully prim! I don't intend to
break Rule No. I. Of course I love Betty. As a matter of fact, I have
loved her before any of you set eyes on her. She is my very own cousin,
and but for father's strong influence would never have been at this
school at all. Still, I repeat that she is dramatic and hardly ever
herself."

"She puzzles me, I confess," said Martha, a little dubiously; "but
then," she added, "I can't help yielding to her charm."

"That is it," said Fanny--"her charm. But look down deep into your
heart, Martha, and tell me if you think her charm healthy."

"Well, I see nothing wrong about it." Then Martha became abruptly
silent.

"For instance," said Fanny, pressing a little closer to her companion,
"why ever did she make your special protégé Sibyl Ray such a figure of
fun last night?"

"I thought Sibyl looked rather pretty."

"When she entered the room, Martha?"

"Oh no; she was quite hideous then, poor little thing! But Betty soon
put that all right; she had very deft fingers."

"I know," said Fanny. "But what I want to have explained is this: why
Betty, a girl who is more or less worshiped by half the girls in the
school, should trouble herself with such a very unimportant person as
Sibyl Ray, I want to know. Can you tell me?"

"Even if I could tell you, remembering Rule No. I., I don't think I
would," said Martha.

Fanny sat very still for a minute or two. Then she got up. "I don't
see," she remarked, "why Rule No. I. should make us unsociable each with
the other. The very object of our club is that we should have no
secrets, but should be quite open and above-board. Now, Martha West,
look me straight in the face!"

"I will, Fanny Crawford. What in the world are you accusing me of?"

"Of keeping something back from me which, as a member of the
Specialities, you have no right whatever to do."

A slow, heavy blush crept over Martha's face. She got up. "I am going to
look over my German lesson," she said. "Fräulein will want me almost
immediately." Then she left Fanny, who stared after her retreating
figure.

"I will find out," thought Fanny, "what Martha is keeping to herself.
That little horror Betty will sow all kinds of evil seed in the school
if I don't watch her. I did wrong to promise her, by putting my finger
to my lips, that I would be silent with regard to her conduct. I see it
now. But if Betty supposes that she can keep her secret to herself she
is vastly mistaken. Hurrah, there's Sibyl Ray! Sib, come here, child; I
want to have a chat with you."

It was a bitterly cold and windy day outside; there were even
sleet-showers falling at intervals. Winter was coming on early, and with
a vengeance.

"Why have you come in?" asked Fanny.

"It's so bitterly cold out, Fanny."

"Well, sit down now you are in. You are a nice little thing, you know,
Sib, although at present you are very unimportant. You know that, of
course?"

"Yes," said Sibyl; "I am told it nearly every hour of the day." She
spoke in a wistful tone. "Sometimes," she added, "I could almost wish I
were back in the lower school, where I was looked up to by the smaller
girls and had a right good time."

"We can never go back, Sib; that is the law of life."

"Of course not."

"Well, sit down and talk to me. Now, I have something to say to you. Do
you know that I am devoured with curiosity, and all about a small girl
like yourself?"

"Oh Fanny," said Sibyl, immensely flattered, "I am glad you take an
interest in me!"

"I must be frank," said Fanny. "Up to the present I have taken no
special interest in you, except in so far as you are Martha's protégé;
but when I saw you in that extraordinary dress last night I singled you
out at once as a girl with original ideas. Do look me in the face, Sib!"

Sibyl turned. Fanny's face was exquisitely chiselled. Each neat little
feature was perfect. Her eyes were large and well-shaped, her brows
delicately marked, her complexion pure lilies and roses; her hair was
thick and smooth, and yet there were little ripples about it which gave
it, even in its schoolgirl form, a look of distinction. Sibyl, on the
contrary, was an undersized girl, with the fair, colorless face,
pale-blue eyes, the lack of eyebrows and eyelashes, the hair thin and
small in quantity, which make the most hopeless type of all as regards
good looks.

"I wonder, Sib," said Fanny, "if you, you little mite, are really eaten
up with vanity?"

"I--vain! Why should you say so?"

"I only thought it from your peculiar dress last night."

Sibyl colored and spoke eagerly. "Oh, but that wasn't me at all; it was
that quite too darling Betty!"

"Do you mean my cousin, Betty Vivian?"

"Of course, who else?"

"Well, what had she to do with it?"

"I will tell you if you like, Fanny. She didn't expect me to keep it a
secret. I met her when I was out----"

"You--met Betty--when you were out?"

"Yes." There was a kind of reserve in Sibyl's tone which made Fanny
scent a possible mystery.

"Where did you meet her?" was the next inquiry.

"Well, she was standing by the stump of an old tree which is hollow
inside. It is just at the top of the hill by the bend, exactly where the
hill goes down towards the 'forest primeval.'"

"Can't say I remember it," said Fanny. "Go on, Sib. So Betty was
standing there?"

"Yes, oh yes. I saw her in the distance. I was expecting to meet Clarice
and Mary Moss; but they failed me, although they had faithfully promised
to come. So when I saw Betty I could not resist running up to her; but
when I got quite close I stood still."

"Well, you stood still. Why?"

"Oh Fan, she was doing such a funny thing! She was bending down and
looking over into the hollow of the tree. Then, all of a sudden, she
thrust her hand in--far down--and took something out of the tree and
looked at it. I could just catch sight of what it was----"

"Yes, go on. What was it? Don't be afraid of me, Sib. I have a lot of
chocolates in my pocket that I will give you presently."

"Oh thank you, Fanny! It is nice to talk to you. I couldn't see very
distinctly what she had in her hand, only she was staring at it, and
staring at it; and then she dropped it in again, right down into the
depths of the tree; and I saw her bending more than ever, as though she
were covering it up."

"But you surely saw what it was like?"

"It might have been anything--I wasn't very near then. I ran up to her,
and asked her what it was."

"And what did she say?"

"Oh, she said it was a piece of wood, and that she had dropped it into
the tree."

Fanny sat very still. A coldness came over her. She was nearly stunned
with what she considered the horror of Betty's conduct.

"What is the matter?" asked Sibyl.

"Nothing at all, Sib; nothing at all. And then, what happened?"

"Betty was very cross at being disturbed."

"That is quite probable," said Fanny with a laugh.

"She certainly was, and I--I--I am afraid I annoyed her; but after a
minute or two she got up and allowed me to walk with her. We walked
towards the house, and she told me all kinds of funny stories; she
really made me scream with laughter. She is the jolliest girl! Then, all
of a sudden, we came in sight of the flower-gardens; and she asked me
what I was going to wear last night, and I told her about the green
chiffon dress which auntie had sent me; and then she suggested a wreath
of small marguerites, and told me to get Birchall to cut some for me.
She said they would be very becoming, and of course I believed her.
There's nothing in my story, is there, Fanny?"

"That depends on the point of view," answered Fanny.

"I don't understand you."

"Nor do I mean you to, kiddy."

"Well, there's one thing more," continued Sibyl, who felt much elated at
being allowed to talk to one of the most supercilious of all the
Specialities. "I couldn't get out of my head about Betty and the
oak-tree; so just now--a few minutes ago--I got some of my friends to
come with me, and we went to the oak-tree, and I stood on Mabel Lee's
shoulder, and I poked and poked amongst the débris and rubbish in the
hollow of the trunk, and there was nothing there at all--nothing except
just a piece of wood. So, of course, Betty spoke the truth--it was
wood."

"How many chocolates would you like?" was Fanny's rejoinder.

"Oh Fanny, are you going to give me some?"

"Yes, if you are a good girl, and don't tell any one that you repeated
this very harmless and uninteresting little story to me about my Cousin
Betty. Of course she is my cousin, and I don't like anything said
against her."

"But I wasn't speaking against darling Betty!" Sibyl's eyes filled with
tears.

"Of course not, monkey; but you were telling me a little tale which
might be construed in different ways."

"Yes, yes; only I don't understand. Betty had a perfect right to poke
her hand into the hollow of the tree, and to bring up a piece of wood,
and look at it, and put it back again; and I don't understand your
expression, Fanny, that it all depends on the point of view."

"Keep this to yourself, and I will give you some more chocolates
sometime," was Fanny's answer. "I can be your friend as well as
Martha--that is, if you are nice, and don't repeat every single thing
you hear. The worst sin in a schoolgirl--at least, the worst minor
sin--is to be breaking confidences. No schoolgirl with a shade of honor
in her composition would ever do that, and certainly no girl trained at
Haddo Court ought to be noted for such a characteristic. Now, Sibyl, you
are no fool; and, when I talk to you, you are not to repeat things. I
may possibly want to talk to you again, and then there'll be more
chocolates and--and--other things; and as you are in the upper school,
and are really quite a nice girl, I shouldn't be at all surprised if I
invited you to have tea with me in my bedroom some night--oh, not quite
yet, but some evening not far off. Now, off with you, and let me see how
well you can keep an innocent little confidence between you and me!"

Sibyl ran off, munching her chocolates, wondering a good deal at Fanny's
manner, but in the excitement of her school-life, soon forgetting both
her and Betty Vivian. For, after all, there was no story worth thinking
about. There was nothing in the hollow of the old tree but the piece of
wood, and nothing--nothing in the wide world--could be made interesting
out of that.

Meanwhile, Fanny thought for a time. The first great entertainment of
the Specialities was over. Betty was now a full-blown member, and as
such must be treated in a manner which Fanny could not possibly have
assumed towards her before this event took place. Fanny blamed herself
for her weakness in consenting to keep Betty's secret. She had done so
on the spur of the moment, influenced by the curious look in the girl's
eyes, and wondering if she would turn to her with affection if she,
Fanny, were so magnanimous. But Betty had not turned to her with either
love or affection. Betty was precisely the Betty she had been before she
joined the club. It is true she was very much sought after and consulted
on all sorts of matters, and her name was whispered in varying notes of
admiration among the girls, and she was likely (unless a spoke were put
in her wheel) to rise to one of the highest positions in the great
school. Betty had committed one act of flagrant wickedness. Fanny was
not going to mince matters; she could not call it by any other name.
There were no extenuating circumstances, in her opinion, to excuse this
act of Betty's. The fact that she had first stolen the packet, and then
told Sir John Crawford a direct lie with regard to it, was the sort of
thing that Fanny could never get over.

"One act of wickedness leads to another," thought Fanny. "Contrary to my
advice, my beseechings, she has joined our club. She has taken a vow
which she cannot by any possibility keep, which she breaks every hour of
every day; for she holds a secret which, according to Rule No. I., the
other Specialities ought to know. What was she doing by the old stump?
What did she take out and look at so earnestly? It was not a piece of
wood. That idea is sheer nonsense."

Fanny thought and thought, and the more she thought the more
uncomfortable did she grow. "It is perfectly horrible!" she kept saying
to herself. "I loathe myself for even thinking about it, but I am afraid
I must put a spoke in her wheel. The whole school may be contaminated at
this rate. If Betty could do what she did she may do worse, and there
isn't a girl in the place who isn't prepared to worship her. Oh, of
course I'm not jealous; why should I be? I should be a very unworthy
member of the Specialities if I were. Nevertheless----"

Just then Sylvia and Hetty Vivian walked through the great
recreation-hall arm in arm.

Fanny called them to her. "Where's Betty?" she asked.

"She told us she'd be very busy for half an hour in our room, and that
then she was going downstairs to have a sort of conference--with you, I
suppose, Fanny, and the rest of the Specialities."

Sylvia gave a very impatient shrug of her shoulders.

"Why do you look like that, Sylvia?" asked Fanny.

"Well, the fact is, Hetty and I do hate our own Betty belonging to your
club. Whenever we want her now she is engaged; and she has such funny
talk all about committee meetings and private conferences in your odious
sitting-room. We don't like it a bit. We much, much preferred our Betty
before she joined the Specialities."

"All the same," said Fanny, "you must have felt very proud of your Betty
last night."

Hester laughed. "She wasn't half her true self," said the girl. "Oh, of
course she was wonderful, and much greater than others; but I wish you
could have heard her tell stories in Scotland. We used to have just one
blink of light from the fire, and we sat and held each other's hands,
and I tell you Betty made us thrill."

"Well, now that you have reminded me," said Fanny, rising as she spoke,
"I must go and attend that committee meeting. I really forgot it, so I
am greatly obliged to you girls for reminding me. And you mustn't be
jealous of your sister; that is a very wrong feeling."

The girls laughed and ran off, while Fanny slowly walked down the
recreation-hall and then ascended some stairs, until she found herself
in that particularly cosy and bright sitting-room which was set apart
for the Specialities.

Martha West was there, also Susie Rushworth, the two Bertrams, and
Olive Repton. But Margaret Grant had not yet appeared, nor had Betty
Vivian. Fanny took her seat near Olive. The girls began to chat, and the
subject of last night's entertainment was discussed pretty fully. Most
of the girls present agreed that it was remarkably silly of Sibyl Ray to
wear marguerites in her hair, that they were very sorry for her, and
hoped she would not be so childish again. It was just at that moment
that Margaret Grant appeared, and immediately afterwards Betty Vivian.
The minutes of the last committee meeting were read aloud, and then
Margaret turned and asked the girls if they were thoroughly satisfied
with the entertainment of the previous night. They all answered in the
affirmative except Fanny, who was silent. Neither did Betty speak, for
she had been the chief contributor to the entertainment.

"Well," continued Margaret, "I may as well say at once that I was
delighted. Betty, I didn't know that you possessed so great a gift. I
wish you would improvise as you did last night one evening for Mrs.
Haddo."

Betty turned a little whiter than usual. Then she said slowly, "Alone
with her--and with you--I could."

"I think she would love it," said Margaret. "It would surprise her just
to picture the scene as you threw yourself into it last night."

"I could do it," said Betty, "alone with her and with you."

There was not a scrap of vanity in Betty's manner. She spoke seriously,
just as one who, knowing she possesses a gift, accepts it and is
thankful.

"I couldn't get it out of my head all night," continued Margaret, "more
particularly that part where the angels came. It was a very beautiful
idea, Betty dear, and I congratulate you on being able to conjure up
such fine images in your mind."

It was with great difficulty that Fanny could suppress her feelings,
but the next instant an opportunity occurred for her to give vent to
them.

"Now," said Margaret, "as the great object of our society is in all
things to be in harmony, I want to put it to the vote: How did the
entertainment go off last night?"

"I liked every single thing about it," said Susie Rushworth; "the
supper, the games, and, above all things, the story-telling."

The same feeling was expressed in more or less different words by each
girl in succession, until Fanny's turn came.

"And you, Fanny--what did you think?"

"I liked the supper and the games, of course," said Fanny.

"And the story-telling, Fanny? You ought to be proud of having such a
gifted cousin."

"I didn't like the story-telling, and Betty knows why I didn't like it."

The unmistakable look of hatred on Fanny's face, the queer flash in her
eyes as she glanced at Betty, and Betty's momentary quiver as she looked
back at her, could not fail to be observed by each girl present.

"Fanny, I am astonished at you!" said Margaret Grant in a voice of
marked displeasure.

"You asked a plain question, Margaret. I should have said nothing if
nothing had been asked; but you surely don't wish me to commit myself to
a lie?"

"Oh no, no!" said Margaret. "But sisterly love, and--and your own cousin
too!"

"I want to say something in private to Betty Vivian; and I would
earnestly beg of you, Margaret, not to propose to Mrs. Haddo that Betty
should tell her any story until after I have spoken. I have my reasons
for doing this; and I do not think, all things considered, that I am
really breaking Rule No. I. in adopting this course of action."

"This is most strange!" said Margaret.

Betty rose and came straight up to Fanny. "Where and when do you want to
speak to me, Fanny?" she asked.

"I will go with you now," said Fanny.

"Then I think," said Margaret, "our meeting has broken up. The next
meeting of the Specialities will be held in Olive Repton's room on
Thursday next. There are several days between now and then; but
to-morrow at four o'clock I mean to give a tea to all the club here. I
invite you, one and all, to be present; and afterwards we can talk folly
to our hearts' content. Listen, please, girls: the next item on my
programme is that we invite dear Mr. Fairfax to tea with us, and ask him
a few questions with regard to the difficulties we find in the reading
of Jeremy Taylor's 'Holy Living.'"

"I don't suppose, Margaret, it is absolutely necessary for me to attend
that meeting?" said Betty.

"Certainly not, Betty. No one is expected to attend who does not wish
to."

"You see, I have no difficulties to speak about," said Betty with a
light laugh.

Margaret glanced at her with surprise.

"Come, Betty," said Fanny; and the two left the room.

"Where am I to go to?" asked Betty when they found themselves outside.

"Out, if you like," said Fanny.

"No, thank you. The day is very cold."

"Then come to my room with me, will you, Betty?"

"No," said Betty, "I don't want to go to your room."

"I must see you somewhere by yourself," said Fanny. "I have something
important to say to you."

"Oh, all right then," said Betty, shrugging her shoulders. "Your room
will do as well as any other place. Let's get it over."

The girls ran upstairs. They presently entered Fanny's bedroom, which
was a small apartment, but very neat and cheerful. It was next door to
the Vivians' own spacious one.

The moment they were inside Betty turned and faced Fanny. "Do you always
intend to remain my enemy, Fanny?" she asked.

"Far from that, Betty; I want to be your truest friend."

"Oh, for heaven's sake, don't talk humbug! If you are my truest friend
you will act as such. Now, what is the matter--what is up?"

"I will tell you."

"I am all attention," said Betty. "Pray begin."

"I hurt your feelings downstairs just now by saying that I did not care
for your story-telling."

"You didn't hurt them in the least, for I never expected you to care.
The story-telling wasn't meant for you."

"But I must mention now why I didn't care," continued Fanny, speaking as
quickly as she could. "Had you been the Betty the rest of the school
think you I could have lost myself, too, in your narrative, and I could
have seen the picture you endeavored to portray. But knowing you as you
are, Betty Vivian, I could only look down into your wicked heart----"

"What an agreeable occupation!" said Betty with a laugh which she tried
to make light, but did not quite succeed.

Fanny was silent.

After a minute Betty spoke again. "Do you spend all your time, Fanny,
gazing into my depraved heart?"

"Whenever I think of you, Betty--and I confess I do think of you very
often--I remember the sin you have sinned, the lack of repentance you
have shown, and, above all things, your daring spirit in joining our
club. It is true that when you joined--after all my advice to you to the
contrary, my beseeching of you to withstand this temptation--I gave you
to understand that I would be silent. But my conscience torments me
because of that tacit promise I gave you. Nevertheless I will keep it.
But remember, you are in danger. You know perfectly well where the
missing packet is. It is--or was, at least--in the hollow stump of the
old oak-tree at the top of the hill, and you positively told Sibyl Ray a
lie about it when she saw you looking at it yesterday. Afterwards, in
order to divert her attention from yourself, you sent her to gather
marguerites to make a wreath for her hair--a most ridiculous thing for
the child to wear. What you did afterwards I don't know, and don't care
to inquire. But, Betty, the fact is that you, instead of being an
inspiring influence in this school, will undermine it--will ruin its
morals. You are a dangerous girl, Betty Vivian; and I tell you so to
your face. You are bound--bound to come to grief. Now, I will say no
more. I leave it to your conscience what to do and what not to do. There
are some fine points about you; and you could be magnificent, but you
are not. There, I have spoken!"

"Thank you, Fanny," replied Betty in a very gentle tone. She waited for
a full minute; then she said, "Is that all?"

"Yes, that is all."

Betty went away to her own room. As soon as ever she entered, she went
straight to the looking-glass and gazed at her reflection. She then
turned a succession of somersaults from one end of the big apartment to
the other. Having done this, she washed her face and hands in ice-cold
water, rubbed her cheeks until they glowed, brushed her black hair, and
felt better. She ran downstairs, and a few minutes later was in the
midst of a very hilarious group, who were all chatting and laughing and
hailing Betty Vivian as the best comrade in the wide world.

Betty was not only brilliant socially; at the same time she had fine
intellectual powers. She was the delight of her teachers, for she could
imbibe knowledge as a sponge absorbs water. On this particular day she
was at her best during a very difficult lesson at the piano from a
professor who came from London. Betty had always a passionate love of
music, and to-day she revelled in it. She had been learning one of
Chopin's Nocturnes, and now rendered it with exquisite pathos. The
professor was delighted, and in the midst of the performance Mrs. Haddo
came into the music-room. She listened with approval, and when the girl
rose, said, "Well done!"

Another girl took her place; and Betty, running up to Mrs. Haddo, said,
"Oh, may I speak to you?"

"Yes, dear; what is it? Come to my room for a minute, if you wish,
Betty."

"It isn't important enough for that. Dear Mrs. Haddo, it's just that I
am mad for a bit of frolic."

"Frolic, my child! You seem to have plenty."

"Not enough--not enough--not nearly enough for a wild girl of
Aberdeenshire, a girl who has lived on the moors and loved them."

"What do you want, dear child?"

"I want most awfully, with your permission, to go with my two sisters
Sylvia and Hester to have tea with the Mileses. I want to pet those dogs
again, and I want to go particularly badly between now and next
Thursday."

"And why especially between now and next Thursday?"

"Ah, I can't quite give you the reason. There is a reason.
Please--please--please say yes!"

"It is certainly against my rules."

"But, dear Mrs. Haddo, it isn't against your rules if you give leave,"
pleaded the girl.

"You are very clever at arguing, Betty. I certainly have liberty to
break rules in individual cases. Well, dear child, it shall be so. I
will send a line to Mrs. Miles to ask her to expect you and your sisters
to-morrow. A servant shall accompany you, and will call again later on.
You can only stay about one hour at the farm. To-morrow is a
half-holiday, so it will be all right."

"Oh, how kind of you!" said Betty.

But again Mrs. Haddo noticed that Betty avoided looking into her eyes.
"Betty," she said, "this is a small matter--my yielding to the whim of
an impetuous girl in whom I take an interest. But, my dear child, I have
to congratulate you. You made a marvellous success--a marvellous
success--last night. Several of the girls in the school have spoken of
it, and in particular dear Margaret Grant. I wonder if you would
improvise for me some evening?"

"Gladly!" replied Betty. And now for one minute her brilliant eyes were
raised and fixed on those of Mrs. Haddo. "Gladly," she repeated--and she
shivered slightly--"if you will hear me after next Thursday."



CHAPTER XIV

TEA AT FARMER MILES'S


"It's all right, girls!" said Betty in her most joyful tone.

"What is all right, Betty and Bess?" asked Sylvia saucily.

"Oh, kiss me, girls," said Betty, "and let's have a real frolic!
To-morrow is Saturday--a half-holiday, of course--and we're going to the
Mileses' to have tea."

"The Mileses'!"

"Yes, you silly children; those dear farmer-folk who keep the dogs."

"Dan and Beersheba?" cried Hetty.

"Yes, Dan and Beersheba; and we're going to have a real jolly time, and
we're going to forget dull care. It'll be quite the most delightful
sport we've had since we came to Haddo Court. What I should love most
would be to vault over the fence and go all by our lonesome selves. But
we must have a maid--a horrid, stupid maid; only, of course, she'll walk
behind, and she'll leave us alone when we get to the farm. She'll fetch
us again by-and-by--that'll be another nuisance. Still, somehow, I don't
know what there is about school, but I'm not game enough to go without
leave."

"You are changed a good bit," said Hetty. "I think myself it's since you
were made a Speciality."

"Perhaps so," said Betty thoughtfully.

Sylvia nestled close to her sister; while Hetty knelt down beside her,
laid her elbows on Betty's knee, and looked up into her face.

"I wonder," said Sylvia, "if you like being a Special, or whatever they
call themselves, Betty mine?"

Betty did not speak.

"Do you like it?" said Hester, giving her sister a poke in the side as
she uttered the words.

"I can't quite tell you, girls; it's all new to me at present.
Everything is new and strange. Oh girls, England is a cold, cold
country!"

"But it is declared by all the geography-books to be warmer than
Scotland," said Sylvia, speaking in a thoughtful voice.

"I don't mean physical cold," said Betty, half-laughing as she spoke.

"I begin to like school," said Hetty. "Lessons aren't really a bit
hard."

"I think school is very stimulating," said Sylvia. "The teachers are all
so kind, and we are making friends by degrees. The only thing that Hetty
and I don't like is this, Bet, that we see so very little of you."

"Although I see little of you I never forget you," was Betty's answer.

"And then," continued Sylvia, "we sleep in the same room, which is a
great blessing. That is something to be thankful for."

"And perhaps," said Betty, "we'll see more of each other in the future."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, nothing--nothing."

"Betty, you are growing very mysterious."

"I hope not," replied Betty. "I should just hate to be mysterious."

"Well, you are growing it, all the same," said Hester. "But, oh Bet,
you're becoming the most wonderful favorite in the school! I can't tell
you what the other girls say about you, for I really think it would make
you conceited. It does us a lot of good to have a sister like you; for
whenever we are spoken to or introduced to a new girl--I mean a girl we
haven't spoken to before--the remark invariably is, 'Oh, are you related
to Betty Vivian, the Speciality?' And then--and then everything is all
right, and the girls look as if they would do anything for us. We are
the moon and stars, you are the sun; and it's very nice to have a sister
like you."

"Well, listen, girls. We're going to have a real good time to-morrow,
and we'll forget all about school and the lessons and the chapel."

"Oh, but I do like the chapel!" said Sylvia in a thoughtful voice. "I
love to hear Mr. Fairfax when he reads the lessons; and I think if I
were in trouble about anything I could tell him, somehow."

"Could you?" said Betty. She started slightly, and stared very hard at
her sister. "Perhaps one could," she said after a moment's pause. "Mr.
Fairfax is very wonderful."

"Oh yes, isn't he?" said Hester.

"But we won't think of him to-night or to-morrow," continued Betty,
rising to her feet as she spoke. "We must imagine ourselves back in
Scotland again. Oh, it will be splendid to have that time at the
Mileses' farm!"

The rest of the evening passed without anything remarkable occurring.
Betty, as usual, was surrounded by her friends. The younger Vivian girls
chatted gaily with others. Every one was quite kind and pleasant to
Betty, and Fanny Crawford left her alone. As this was quite the very
best thing Fanny could do, Betty thanked her in her heart. But that
evening, just before prayer-time, Betty crossed the hall, where she had
been sitting surrounded by a group of animated schoolfellows, and went
up to Miss Symes. "Have I your permission, Miss Symes," she said, "not
to attend prayers in chapel to-night?"

"Aren't you well, Betty dear?" asked Miss Symes a little anxiously.

Betty remained silent for a minute. Then she said, "Physically I am
quite well; mentally I am not."

"Dear Betty!"

"I can't explain it," said Betty. "I would just rather not attend
prayers to-night. Do you mind?"

"No, dear. You haven't perhaps yet been acquainted with the fact that
the Specialities are never coerced to attend prayers. They are expected
to attend; but if for any reason they prefer not, questions are not
asked."

"Oh, thank you!" said Betty. She turned and went slowly and thoughtfully
upstairs. When she got to her own room she sat quite still, evidently
thinking very hard. But when her sisters joined her (and they all went
to bed earlier than usual), Betty was the first to drop asleep.

As has already been stated, Betty's pretty little bed was placed between
Sylvia's and Hetty's; and now, as she slept, the two younger girls bent
across, clasped hands, and looked down at her small white face. They
could just get a glimmer of that face in the moonlight, which happened
to be shining brilliantly through the three big windows.

All of a sudden, Sylvia crept very softly out of bed, and, running round
to Hester's side, whispered to her, "What is the matter?"

"I don't know," replied Hester.

"But something is," remarked Sylvia.

"Yes, something is," said Hester. "Best not worry her."

Sylvia nodded and returned to her own bed.

On the following morning, however, all Betty's apparent low spirits had
vanished. She was in that wild state of hilarity when she seemed to
carry all before her. Her sisters could not help laughing every time
Betty opened her lips, and it was the same during recess. When many
girls clustered round her with their gay jokes, they became convulsed
with laughter at her comic replies.

It was arranged by Mrs. Haddo that Betty and her two sisters were to
start for the Mileses' farm at three o'clock exactly. It would not take
them more than half an hour to walk there. Mrs. Miles was requested to
give them tea not later than four o'clock, and they were to be called
for at half-past four. Thus they would be back at Haddo Court about
five.

"Only two hours!" thought Betty to herself. "But one can get a great
deal of pleasure into two hours."

Betty felt highly excited. Her sisters' delight at being able to go
failed to interest her. As a rule, with all her fun and nonsense and
hilarity, Betty possessed an abundance of self-control. But to-day she
seemed to have lost it.

The very staid-looking maid, Harris by name, who accompanied them, could
scarcely keep pace with the Vivian girls. They ran, they shouted, they
laughed. When they were about half-way to the Mileses' farm they came to
a piece of common which had not yet been inclosed. The day was dry and
comparatively warm, and the grass on the common was green, owing to the
recent rains.

"Harris," said Betty, turning to the maid, "would you like to see some
Catharine wheels?"

Harris stared in some amazement at the young lady.

"Come along, girls, do!" said Betty. "Harris must have fun as well as
the rest of us. You like fun, don't you Harris?"

"Love it, miss!" said Harris.

"Well, then, here goes!" said Betty. "Harris, please hold our hats."

The next instant the three were turning somersaults on the green grass
of the common, to the unbounded amazement of the maid, who felt quite
shocked, and shouted to the young ladies to come back and behave
themselves. Betty stopped at once when she heard the pleading note in
Harris's voice.

"You hadn't ought to have done it," said Harris; "and if my missis was
to know! Oh, what shows you all three do look! Now, let me put your hats
on tidy-like. There, that's better!"

"I feel much happier in my mind now, Harris--and that's a good thing,
isn't it?" said Betty.

"Yes, miss, it's a very good thing. But I shouldn't say, to look at you,
that you knew the meaning of the least bit of unhappiness."

"Of course I don't," said Betty; "nor does my sister Sylvia, nor does my
sister Hester."

"We did up in Scotland for a time," said Hester, who could not
understand Betty at all, and felt more and more puzzled at her queer
behavior.

"Well, now, we'll walk sober and steady," said Harris. "You may reckon
on one thing, missies--that I won't tell what you done on the common,
for if I did you'd be punished pretty sharp."

"You may tell if you like, Harris," said Betty. "I shouldn't dream of
asking you to keep a secret."

"I won't, all the same," said Harris.

The walk continued without any more exciting occurrences; and when the
girls reached the farm they were greeted by Mrs. Miles, her two big
boys, and the farmer himself. Here Harris dropped a curtsy and
disappeared.

"Oh, I must kiss you, Mrs. Miles!" said Betty. "And, please, this is my
sister Sylvia, and this is Hester. They are twins; but, having two sets
yourself, you said you did not mind seeing them and giving them tea,
even though they are twins."

"'Tain't no disgrace, missie, as I've heerd tell on," said the farmer.

"Oh Farmer Miles, I am glad to see you!" said Betty. "Fancy dear, kind
Mrs. Haddo giving us leave to come and have tea with you!--I do hope,
Mrs. Miles, you've got a very nice tea, for I can tell you I am hungry.
I've given myself an appetite on purpose; for I would hardly touch any
breakfast, and at dinner I took the very teeniest bit."

"And so did I," said Sylvia in a low tone.

"And I also," remarked Hester.

"Well, missies, I ha' got the best tea I could think of, and right glad
we are to see you. You haven't spoken to poor Ben yet, missie."

Here Mrs. Miles indicated her eldest son, an uncouth-looking lad of
about twelve years of age.

"Nor Sammy neither," said the farmer, laying his hand on Sammy's broad
shoulder, and bringing the red-haired and freckled boy forward.

"I am just delighted to see you, Ben; and to see you, Sammy. And these
are my sisters. And, please, Mrs. Miles, where are the twins?"

"The twinses are upstairs, sound asleep; but they'll be down by
tea-time," said Mrs. Miles.

"And, above all things, where are the dogs?" said Betty.

"Now, missie," said the farmer, "them dogs has been very rampageous
lately, and, try as we would, we couldn't tame 'em; so we have 'em
fastened up in their kennels, and only lets 'em out at night. You shall
come and see 'em in their kennels, missie."

"Oh, but they must be let out!" said Betty, tears brimming to her eyes.
"My sisters love dogs just as much as I do. They must see the dogs. Oh,
we must have a game with them!"

"I wouldn't take it upon me, I wouldn't really," said the farmer, "to
let them dogs free to-day. They're that remarkable rampageous."

"Well, take me to them anyhow," said Betty.

The farmer, his wife, Ben and Sammy, and the three Vivian girls tramped
across the yard, and presently arrived opposite the kennels where Dan
and Beersheba were straining at the end of their chains. When they heard
footsteps they began to bark vociferously, but the moment they saw Betty
their barking ceased; they whined and strained harder than ever in their
wild rapture. Betty instantly flung herself on her knees by Dan's side
and kissed him on the forehead. The dog licked her little hand, and was
almost beside himself with delight. As to poor Beersheba, he very nearly
went mad with jealousy over the attention paid to Dan.

"You see for yourself," said Betty, looking into the farmer's face, "the
dogs will be all right with me. You must let them loose while I am
here."

"It do seem quite wonderful," said the farmer. "Now, don't it, wife?"

"A'most uncanny, I call it," said Mrs. Miles.

"But before you let them loose I must introduce my sisters to them,"
said Betty. "Sylvia, come here. Sylvia, kneel by me."

The girl did so. The dogs were not quite so much excited over Sylvia as
they were over Betty, but they also licked their hands and wagged their
tails in great delight. Hester went through the same form of
introduction; and then, somewhat against his will, the farmer gave the
dogs their liberty. Betty said, in a commanding tone, "To heel, good
boys, at once!" and the wild and savage dogs obeyed her.

She paced up and down the yard in a state of rapture at her conquest
over these fierce animals. Then she whispered something to Sylvia, who
in her turn whispered to Mrs. Miles, who in her turn whispered to Ben;
the result of which was that three wicker chairs were brought from the
house, Betty and her sisters seated themselves, and the dogs sprawled in
ecstasy at their side.

"Oh, we are happy!" said Betty. "Mrs. Miles, was your heart ever very
starvingly empty?"

"Times, maybe," said Mrs. Miles, who had gone, like most of her sex,
through a chequered career.

"And weren't you glad when it got filled up to the brim again?"

"That I was," said Mrs. Miles.

"My heart was a bit starved this morning," said Betty; "but it feels
full to the brim now. Please, dear, good Mrs. Miles, leave us five alone
together. Go all of you away, and let us stay alone together."

"Meanin' by that you three ladies and them dogs?"

"Yes, that is what I mean."

The farmer bent and whispered something to his wife, the result of which
was that a minute later Betty and her sisters were alone with the
animals. They did not know, however, that the farmer had hidden himself
in the big barn ready to spring out should "them fierce uns," as he
termed the animals, become refractory. Then began an extraordinary
scene. Betty whispered in the dogs' ears, and they grovelled at her
feet. Then she sang a low song to them; and they stood upright,
quivering with rapture. The two girls kept behind Betty, who was
evidently the first in the hearts of these extraordinary dogs.

"I could teach them no end of tricks. They could be almost as lively
and delightful as Andrew and Fritz," said Betty, turning to her sisters.

"Oh yes," they replied. Then Sylvia burst out crying.

"Silly Sylvia! What is the matter?" said Betty.

"It's only that I didn't know my heart was hungry until--until this very
minute," said Sylvia. "Oh, it is awful to live in a house without dogs!"

"I have felt that all along," said Betty. "But I suppose, after a
fashion, we've got to endure. Oh do stop crying, Sylvia! Let's make the
most of a happy time."

The culmination of that happy time was when Mrs. Miles appeared on the
scene, accompanied by four little children--two very pretty little
girls, dressed in white, their short sleeves tied up with blue ribbons
for the occasion; and two little boys a year or two older.

"These be the twinses," said Mrs. Miles. "These two be Moses and
Ephraim, and these two be Deborah and Anna. The elder of the twinses are
Moses and Ephraim, and the younger Deborah and Anna. Now, then children,
you jest drop your curtsies to the young ladies, and say you are glad to
see them."

"But, indeed, they shall do nothing of the kind," said Betty. "Oh,
aren't they the sweetest darlings! Deborah, I must kiss you. Anna, put
your sweet little arms round my neck."

The children were in wild delight, for all children took immediately to
Betty. But, lo and behold! one of the dogs gave an ominous growl. Was
not his idol devoting herself to some one else? In one instant the brute
might have sprung upon poor little Deborah had not Betty turned and laid
her hand on his forehead. Instantly he gave a sound between a groan and
a moan, and crouched at her feet.

"There! I never!" said Mrs. Miles. "You be a reg'lar out-and-out
lion-tamer, miss."

"I'm getting more and more hungry every minute," said Betty. "Will--will
tea be ready soon, Mrs. Miles?"

"I was coming out to fetch you in, my loves."

The whole party then migrated to the kitchen, which was ornamented
especially for the occasion. The long center-table was covered with a
snowy cloth, and on it were spread all sorts of appetizing viands--great
slabs of honey in the comb, cakes of every description, hot
griddle-cakes, scones, muffins, cold chicken, cold ham, and the most
delicious jams of every variety. Added to these good things was a great
bowl full of Devonshire cream, which Mrs. Miles had made herself from a
well-known Devonshire recipe that morning.

"Oh, but doesn't this look good!" said Betty. She sat down with a twin
girl at each side of her, and with a dog resting his head on the lap of
each of the twins, and their beseeching eyes fixed on Betty's face.

"I ha' got a treat for 'em afterwards, missie," said Mrs. Miles; "two
strong beef-bones. They shall eat 'em, and they'll never forget you
arter that."

Betty became so lively now that at a whispered word from Sylvia she
began to tell stories--by no means the sort of stories she had told at
the Specialities' entertainment, but funny tales, sparkling with wit and
humor--tales quite within the comprehension of her intelligent but
unlearned audience. Even the farmer roared with laughter, and said over
and over to his wife, as he wiped the tears of enjoyment from his eyes,
"Well, that do cap all!"

Meanwhile the important ceremony of eating the many good things provided
went steadily on, until at last even Betty had to own that she was
satisfied.

All rose from their seats, and as they did so Mrs. Miles put a pretty
little basket into each girl's hand. "A few new-laid eggs, dearies," she
said, "and a comb of honey for each of you. You must ask Mrs. Haddo's
leave afore you eats 'em, but I know she won't mind. And there's some
very late roses, the last of the season, that I've put into the top of
your basket, Miss Betty."

Alack and alas, how good it all was! How pleasant was the air, how
genial the simple life! How Betty and Sylvia and Hester rejoiced in it,
and how quickly it was over!

Harris appeared, and at this signal the girls knew they must go. Betty
presented her canine darlings with a beef-bone each; and then, with a
hug to Mrs. Miles, a hearty hand-clasp to the farmer and the boys, and
further hugs to both sets of twins, the girls returned to Haddo Court.



CHAPTER XV

A GREAT DETERMINATION


The visit to the farm was long remembered by Betty Vivian. It was the
one bright oasis, the one brilliant spark of intense enjoyment, in a
dark week. For each day the shadow of what lay before her--and of what
she, Betty Vivian, had made up her mind to do--seemed to creep lower and
lower over her horizon, until, when Thursday morning dawned, it seemed
to Betty that there was neither sun, moon, nor stars in her heaven.

But if Betty lacked much and was full of grave and serious thoughts,
there was one quality, admirable in itself, which she had to perfection,
and that was her undoubted bravery. To make up her mind to do a certain
thing was, with Betty Vivian, to do it. She had not quite made up her
mind on Saturday; but on Sunday morning she had very nearly done so, and
on Sunday evening she had quite done so. On Sunday evening, therefore,
she knelt rather longer than the others, struggling and praying in the
beautiful chapel; and when she raised her small white face, and met the
eyes of the chaplain fixed on her, a thrill went through her. He, at
least, would understand, and, if necessary, give her sympathy. But just
at present she did not need sympathy, or rather she would not ask for
it. She had great self-control, and she kept her emotions so absolutely
to herself that no one guessed what she was suffering. Every day, every
hour, she was becoming more and more the popular girl of the school; for
Betty had nothing mean in her nature, and could love frankly and
generously. She could listen to endless confidences without dreaming of
betraying them, and the girls got to know that Betty Vivian invariably
meant what she said. One person, however, she avoided, and that person
was Fanny Crawford.

Thursday passed in its accustomed way: school in the morning, with
recess; school in the afternoon, followed by play, games of all sorts,
and many another delightful pastime. Betty went for a walk with her two
sisters; and presently, almost before they knew, they found themselves
surveying their three little plots of ground in the gardens, which they
had hitherto neglected. While they were so employed, Mrs. Haddo quite
unexpectedly joined them.

"Oh, my dear girls, why, you have done nothing here--nothing at all!"

Sylvia said, "We are going to almost immediately, Mrs. Haddo."

And Hetty said, "I quite love gardening. I was only waiting until Betty
gave the word."

"So you two little girls obey Betty in all things?" said Mrs. Haddo,
glancing at the elder girl's face.

"We only do it because we love to," was the response.

"Well, my dears, I am surprised! Why, there isn't a sight of your Scotch
heather! Has it died? What has happened to it?"

"We made a burnt-offering of it," said Betty suddenly.

"You did what?" said Mrs. Haddo in some astonishment.

"You see," said Betty, "it was this way." She now looked full up at her
mistress. "The Scotch heather could not live in exile. So we burnt it,
and set all the fairies free. They are in Aberdeenshire now, and quite
happy."

"What a quaint idea!" said Mrs. Haddo. "You must tell me more about this
by-and-by, Betty."

Betty made no answer.

"Meanwhile," continued Mrs. Haddo, who felt puzzled at the girl's
manner, she scarcely knew why, "I will tell a gardener to have the
gardens well dug and laid out in little walks. I will also have the beds
prepared, and then you must consult Birchall about the sort of things
that grow best in this special plot of ground. Let me see, this is
Thursday. I have no doubt Birchall could have a consultation with you on
the subject this very minute if you like to see him."

"Oh yes, please!" said Sylvia.

But Betty drew back. "Do you greatly mind if we do nothing about our
gardens until next week?" she asked.

"If you prefer it, certainly," answered Mrs. Haddo. "The plots of ground
are your property while you stay at Haddo Court. You can neglect them,
or you can tend them. Some of the girls of this school have very
beautiful gardens, full of sweet, smiling flowers; others, again, do
nothing at all in them. I never praise those who cultivate their little
patch of garden-ground, and I never blame those who neglect it. It is
all a matter of feeling. In my opinion, the garden is meant to be a
delight; those who do not care for it miss a wonderful joy, but I don't
interfere." As Mrs. Haddo spoke she nodded to the girls, and then walked
quietly back towards the house.

"Wasn't it funny of her to say that a garden was meant to be a
delight?" said Sylvia. "Oh Betty, don't you love her very much?"

"Don't ask me," said Betty, and her voice was a little choked.

"Betty," said Sylvia, "you seem to get paler and paler. I am sure you
miss Aberdeenshire."

"Miss it!" said Betty; "miss it! Need you ask?"

This was the one peep that her sisters were permitted to get into Betty
Vivian's heart before the meeting of the Specialities that evening.

Olive Repton was quite excited preparing for her guests. School had
become much more interesting to her since Betty's arrival. Martha was
also a sort of rock of comfort to lean upon. Margaret, of course, was
always charming. Margaret Grant was Margaret Grant, and there never
could be her second; but the two additional members gave undoubted
satisfaction to the others--that is, with the exception of Fanny
Crawford, who had, however, been most careful not to say one word
against Betty since she became a Speciality.

Olive's room was not very far from the Vivians', and as Betty on this
special night was hurrying towards the appointed meeting-place she came
across Fanny. Between Fanny and herself not a word had been exchanged
for several days.

Fanny stopped her now. "Are you ill, Betty?" she said.

Betty shook her head.

"I wish to tell you," said Fanny, "that, after very carefully
considering everything, I have made up my mind that it is not my place
to interfere with you. If your conscience allows you to keep silent I
shall not speak. That is all."

"Thank you, Fanny," replied Betty. She stood aside and motioned to Fanny
to pass her. Fanny felt, for some unaccountable reason, strangely
uncomfortable. The cloud which had been hanging over Betty seemed to
visit Fanny's heart also. For the first time since her cousin's arrival
she almost pitied her.

Olive's room was very bright. She had a good deal of individual taste,
and as the gardeners were always allowed to supply the Specialities with
flowers for their weekly meetings and their special entertainments,
Olive had her room quite gaily decorated. Smilax hung in graceful
festoons from several vases and trailed in a cunning pattern round the
little supper-table; cyclamen, in pots, further added to the
decorations; and there were still some very beautiful white
chrysanthemums left in the green-house, a careful selection of which had
been made by Birchall that day for the young ladies' festivities.

And now all the girls were present, and supper began. Hitherto, during
the few meetings of the Specialities that had taken place since she
became a member, Betty's voice had sounded brisk and lively; Betty's
merry, sweet laugh had floated like music in the air; and Betty's
charming face had won all hearts, except that of her cousin. But
to-night she was quite grave. She sat a little apart from the others,
hardly eating or speaking. Suddenly she got up, took a book from a
shelf, and began to read. This action on her part caused the other girls
to gaze at her in astonishment.

Margaret said, "Is anything the matter, Betty? You neither eat nor
speak. You are not at all like our dear, lively Speciality to-night."

"I don't want to eat, and I have nothing to say just yet," answered
Betty. "Please don't let me spoil sport. I saw this book of yours,
Olive, and I wanted to find a certain verse in it. Ah, here it is!"

"What is the verse?" asked Olive. "Please read it aloud, Betty."

Betty obeyed at once.

    "Does the road wind uphill all the way?
       Yes, to the very end.
    Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
       From morn to night, my friend."

There was a dead silence after Betty had read these few words of
Christina Rossetti. The girls glanced from one to another. For a minute
or so, at least, they could not be frivolous. Then Olive made a pert
remark; another girl laughed; and the cloud, small at present as a man's
hand, seemed to vanish. Betty replaced her book on Olive's book-shelf,
and sat quite still and quiet. She knew she was a wet blanket--not the
life and soul of the meeting, as was generally the case. She knew well
that Margaret Grant was watching her with anxiety, that Martha West and
also Fanny Crawford were puzzled at her conduct. As to the rest of the
Specialities, it seemed to Betty that they did not go as far down into
the root of things as did Margaret and Martha.

This evening was to be one of the ordinary entertainments of the guild
or club. There was nothing particular to discuss. The girls were,
therefore, to enjoy themselves by innocent chatter and happy
confidences, and games if necessary.

When, therefore, they all left the supper-table, Margaret, as president,
said, "We have no new member to elect to-night, therefore our six rules
need not be read aloud; and we have no entertainment to talk over, for
our next entertainment will not take place for some little time. I say,
therefore, girls, that the club is open to the amusement of all the
members. We are free agents, and can do what we like. Our object, of
course, will be to promote the happiness of each and all. Now, Susie
Rushworth, what do you propose that we shall do this evening?"

Susie said in an excited voice that she would like to spend a good hour
over that exceedingly difficult and delightful game of "telegrams" and
added further that she had brought slips of paper and pencils for the
purpose.

A similar question was asked of each girl, and each girl made a proposal
according to her state of mind.

Betty was about the fourth girl to be asked. She rose to her feet and
said gravely, "I would propose that Susie Rushworth and the other
members of the Specialities have their games and fun afterwards; but I
have a short story to tell, and I should like to tell it first, if those
present are agreeable."

Margaret felt that the little cloud as big as a man's hand had returned,
and that it had grown much bigger. A curious sense of alarm stole over
her. Martha, meanwhile, stared full at Betty, wondering what the girl
was going to do. Her whole manner was strange, aloof, and mysterious.

"We will, of course, allow you to speak, Betty dear. We are always
interested in what you say," said Margaret in her gentlest tone.

Betty came forward into the room. She stood almost in the center,
unsupported by any chair, her hands clasped in front of her, her eyes
fixed on Margaret Grant's face. Just for a minute there was a dead
silence, for the girl's face expressed tragedy; and it was impossible
for any one to think of "telegrams," or frivolous games, or of anything
in the world but Betty Vivian at the present moment.

"I have something to say," she began. "It has only come to me very
gradually that it is necessary for me to say it. I think the necessity
for speech arose when I found I could not go to chapel."

"My dear Betty!" said Margaret.

"There were one or two nights," continued Betty, "when I could not
attend."

"Betty," said the voice of Fanny Crawford, "don't you think this room is
a little hot, and that you are feeling slightly hysterical? Wouldn't
you rather--rather go away?"

"No, Fanny," said Betty as she almost turned her back on the other girl.
Her nervousness had now left her, and she began to speak with her old
animation. "May I repeat a part of Rule No. I.: 'Each girl who is a
member of the Specialities keeps no secret to herself which the other
members ought to know'?"

"That is perfectly true," said Margaret.

"I _have_ a secret," said Betty. After having uttered these words she
looked straight before her. "At one time," she continued, "I thought I'd
tell. Then I thought I wouldn't. Now I am going to tell. I could have
told Mrs. Haddo had I seen enough of her--and you, Margaret, if ever you
had drawn me out. I could have told you two quite differently from the
manner in which I am going to tell that which I ought to speak of. I
stand now before the rest of you members of the Speciality Club as
guilty, for I have deliberately broken Rule No. I."

"Go on, Betty," said Margaret. She pushed a chair towards the girl,
hoping she would put her hand upon it in order to steady herself.

But Betty seemed to have gathered firmness and strength from her
determination to speak out. She was trembling no longer, nor was her
face so deadly pale. "I will tell you all my secret," she said. "Before
I came here I had great trouble. One I loved most dearly and who was a
mother to me, died. She died in a little lonely house in Scotland. She
was poor, and could not do much either for my sisters or myself. Before
her death she sent for me one day, and told me that we should be poor,
but she hoped we would be well-educated; and then she said that she was
leaving us girls something of value which was in a small, brown, sealed
packet, and that the packet was to be found in a certain drawer in her
writing-table. She told me that it would be of great use to us three
when we most needed it.

"We were quite heartbroken when she died. I left her room feeling
stunned. Then I thought of the packet, and I went into the little
drawing-room where all my aunt's treasures were kept. It was dusk when I
went in. I found the packet, and took it away. I meant to keep it
carefully. I did keep it carefully. I still keep it carefully. I don't
know what is in it.

"I have told you as much as I can tell you with regard to the packet,
but there is something else to follow. I had made up my mind to keep the
packet, being fully persuaded in my heart that Aunt Frances meant me to
do so; but when Sir John Crawford came to Aberdeenshire, and visited
Craigie Muir, and spent a night with us in the little gray house
preparatory to bringing us to Haddo Court, he mentioned that he had
received, amongst different papers of my aunt's, a document or letter--I
forget which--alluding to this packet. He said she was anxious that the
packet should be carefully kept for me and for my sisters, and he asked
me boldly and directly if I knew anything about it. I don't excuse
myself in the least, and, as a matter of fact, I don't blame myself. I
told him I didn't know anything about it. He believed me. You see,
girls, that I told a lie, and was not at all sorry.

"We came here. I put the packet away into a safe hiding-place. Then,
somehow or other, you all took me up and were specially kind to me, and
I think my head was a bit turned; it seemed so charming to be a
Speciality and to have a great deal to do with you, Margaret, and indeed
with you all more or less. So I said to myself, I haven't broken Rule
No. I., for that rule says that 'no secret is to be kept by one
Speciality from another if the other ought really to know about it.' I
tried to persuade myself that you need not know about the packet--that
it was no concern of yours. But, somehow, I could not go on. There was
something about the life here, and--and Mrs. Haddo, and the chapel, and
you, Margaret, which made the whole thing impossible. I have not been
one scrap frightened into telling you this. But now I have told you. I
do possess the packet, and I did tell a lie about it. That is all."

Betty ceased speaking. There was profound stillness in the room.

Then Margaret said very gently, "Betty, I am sure that I am speaking in
the interests of all who love you. You will tell this story to-morrow
morning to dear Mrs. Haddo, and it will rest with her whether you remain
a member of the Specialities or not. Your frank confession to us,
although it is a little late in the day, and the peculiar circumstances
attending your gaining possession of the packet, incline us to be
lenient to you--if only, Betty, you will now do the one thing left to
you, and give the packet up--put it, in short, into Mrs. Haddo's hands,
so that she may keep it until Sir John Crawford, who is your guardian,
returns."

Betty's face had altered in expression. The sweetness and penitence had
gone. "I have told you everything," she said. "I should have told you
long ago. I blame myself bitterly for not doing so. But I may as well
add that this story is not for Mrs. Haddo; that what I tell you in
confidence you cannot by any possibility relate to her--for that,
surely, must be against the rules of the club; also, that I will not
give the packet up, nor will I tell any one in this room where I have
hidden it."

If Betty Vivian had looked interesting, and in the opinion of some of
the girls almost penitent, up to this moment, she now looked so no
longer. The expression on her face was bold and defiant. Her curious
eyes flashed fire, and a faint color came into her usually pale cheeks.
She had never looked more beautiful, but the spirit of defiance was in
her. She was daring the school. She meant to go on daring it.

The girls were absolutely silent. Never before in their sheltered and
quiet lives had they come across a character like Betty's. Such a
character was bound to interest them from the very first. It interested
them now up to a point that thrilled them. They could scarcely contain
themselves. They considered Betty extremely wicked; but in their hearts
they admired her for this, and wondered at her amazing courage.

Margaret, who saw deeper, broke the spell. "Betty," she said, "will you
go away now? You have told us, and we understand. We will talk this
matter over, and let you know our decision to-morrow. But, first, just
say once again what you have said already--that you will not give the
packet up, nor tell any one where you have hidden it."

"I have spoken," answered Betty; "further words are useless."

She walked towards the door. Susie Rushworth sprang to open it for her.
She passed out, and walked proudly down the corridor. The remaining
girls were left to themselves.

Margaret said, "Well, I am bewildered!"

The others said nothing at all. This evening was one of the most
exciting they had ever spent. What were "telegrams" or any stupid games
compared to that extraordinary girl and her extraordinary revelation?

Margaret was, of course, the first to recover her self-control. "Now,
girls," she said, "we must talk about this; and, first, I want to ask a
question: Was there any member of the Specialities who knew of this--I
am afraid I must call it by its right name--this crime of Betty
Vivian's?"

"I knew," said Fanny. Her voice was very low and subdued.

"Then, Fanny, please come forward and tell us what you knew."

"I don't think I can add to Betty's own narrative," said Fanny, "only I
happened to be a witness to the action. I was lying down on the sofa in
the little drawing-room at Craigie Muir when Betty stole in and took the
packet out of Miss Vivian's writing-table drawer. She did not see me,
and went away at once, holding the packet in her hand. I thought it
queer of her at the time, but did not feel called upon to make any
remark. You must well remember, girls, that I alone of all the
Specialities was unwilling to have Betty admitted as a member of the
club. I could see by your faces that you were surprised at my conduct.
You were amazed that I, her cousin, should have tried to stop Betty's
receiving this extreme honor. I did so because of that packet. The
knowledge that she had taken it oppressed me in a strange way at the
time, but it oppressed me much more strongly when my father said to me
that there was a little sealed packet belonging to Miss Vivian which
could not be found. I immediately remembered that Betty had taken away a
sealed packet. I asked him if he had spoken about it, and he said he
had; in especial he had spoken to Betty, who had denied all knowledge of
it."

"Well," said Margaret, "she told us that herself to-night. You have not
added to or embellished her story or strengthened it in any way, Fanny."

"I know that," said Fanny. "But I have to add now that I did not wish
her to join the club, and did my very utmost to dissuade her. When I saw
that it was useless I held my tongue; but you must all have noticed
that, although she is my cousin, we have not been special friends."

"Yes, we have noticed it," said Olive gloomily, "and--and wondered at
it," she continued.

"I am sorry for Betty, of course," continued Fanny.

"It was very fine of her to confess when she did," said Margaret.

"It would have been fine of her," replied Fanny, "if she had carried her
confession to its right conclusion--if what she told us she had told to
Mrs. Haddo and given up the packet. Now, you see, she refuses to do
either of these things; so I don't see that her confession amounts to
anything more than a mere spirit of bravado."

"Oh no, I cannot agree with you there," said Margaret. "It is my opinion
(of course, not knowing all the circumstances) that Betty's sin
consisted in telling your father a lie--not in taking the little packet,
which she believed she had a right to keep. But we need not discuss her
sins, for we all of us have many--perhaps many more than poor dear Betty
Vivian. What we must consider is what we are to do at the present time.
The Specialities have hitherto kept constantly to their rules. I greatly
fear, girls, that we cannot keep Betty as a member of the club unless
she changes her mind with regard to the packet. If she does, I think I
must put it to the vote whether we will overlook this sin of hers and
keep her as one of the members, for we love her notwithstanding her
sin."

"Yes, put it to the vote--put it to the vote!" said Susie Rushworth.

Again all hands were raised except Fanny's.

"Fan--Fanny Crawford, you surely agree with us?" said Margaret.

"No, I do not," said Fanny. "I think if the club is worth anything we
ought not to have a girl in it who told a lie."

"Ah," said Margaret, "don't you remember that very old story: 'Let him
who is without sin among you cast the first stone'?" Then she continued,
speaking in her sweet and noble voice, "I will own there is something
about Betty which most wonderfully attracts me."

"That sort of charm is fatal," said Fanny.

"But," continued Margaret, taking no notice of Fanny's remark, "that
sort of charm which she possesses, that sort of fascination--call it
what you will--may be at once her ruin or her salvation. If we
Specialities are unkind to her now, if we don't show her all due
compassion and tenderness, she may grow hard. We are certainly bound by
every honorable rule not to mention one word of this to Mrs. Haddo or to
any of the teachers. Are we, or are we not, to turn our backs on Betty
Vivian?"

"If she confesses," said Fanny, "and returns the packet, you have
already decided by a majority of votes to allow her to retain her
position in the club."

"Yes," said Margaret, "that is quite true. But suppose she does not
confess, suppose she sticks to her resolve to keep the packet and not
tell any one where she has hidden it, what then?"

"Ah, what then?" said they all.

Olive, the Bertrams, Susie, Martha, Margaret herself, looked full of
trouble. Fanny's cheeks were pink with excitement. She had never liked
Betty. In her heart of hearts she knew that she was full of uncharitable
thoughts against her own cousin. And how was it, notwithstanding Betty's
ignoble confession, the other girls still loved her?

"What do you intend to do, supposing she does not confess?" said Fanny
after a pause.

"In that case," answered Margaret, "having due regard to the rules of
the club, I fear we have no alternative--she must resign her membership,
she must cease to be a Speciality. We shall miss her, and beyond doubt
we shall still love her. But she must not continue to be a Speciality
unless she restores the packet."

Fanny simulated a slight yawn. She knew well that Betty's days as a
Speciality were numbered.

"She was so brilliant, so vivid!" exclaimed Susie.

"There was no one like her," said Olive, "for suggesting all kinds of
lovely things. And then her story-telling--wasn't she just glorious!"

"We mustn't think of any of those things," said Margaret. "But I think
we may all pray--yes, pray--for Betty herself. I, for one, love her
dearly. I love her notwithstanding what she said to-night."

"I think it was uncommonly plucky of her to stand up and tell us what
she did," remarked Martha, speaking for the first time. "She needn't
have done it, you know. It was entirely a case of conscience."

"Yes, that is it; it was fine of her," said Margaret. "Now, girls,
suppose we have a Speciality meeting to-morrow night? You know by our
rules we are allowed to have particular meetings. I will give my room
for the purpose; and suppose we ask Betty to join us there?"

"Agreed!" said they all; and after a little more conversation the
Specialities separated, having no room in their hearts for games or any
other frivolous nonsense that evening.



CHAPTER XVI

AFTERWARDS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh Bet, who do you mean?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Are you going to attend?" asked Fanny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I told you so," said Betty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It is true, alas!" said Margaret.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Poor darling Betty indeed!" said Fanny.

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

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

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

Fanny was silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes."

"She went towards the house with you?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, believe it or not as you please; I know it to have been a fact.
And now I'll just tell you something. You must never, never repeat it;
if you do, I sha'n't speak to you again. I know what I am saying to be a
fact: I know the reason why Betty Vivian is no longer a Speciality."

"Oh! oh!" said Sibyl. She colored deeply.

"No longer a Speciality," repeated Fanny; "and I know the reason why;
only, of course, I can never say. But there's a vacancy in the
Speciality Club now for a girl who is faithful and zealous, and who can
prove herself my friend."

Sibyl's heart began to beat very fast. "A vacancy in the Specialities!"
she said in a low tone.

Fanny turned quickly round and faced her. "I could get you in if I
liked," she said. "Would it suit you to be a Speciality?"

"Would it suit me?" said Sibyl. "Oh Fanny, it sounds like heaven! I
don't know what I wouldn't do--I don't know what I wouldn't do to become
a member of that club."

"And Martha West would second any suggestions I made," continued Fanny.
"Of course I don't know that I could get you in; but I'd have a good
try, provided you help me now."

"Fanny, what is it you want me to do?"

"I want you, Sibyl, to use your intelligence; and I want you, all alone
and without consulting any one, to find out where Betty Vivian has put
the treasure which she told you was a piece of wood and which she hid in
the old oak stump. You can manage it quite well if you like."

"I don't understand!" gasped Sibyl.

"If you repeat a word of this conversation I shall use my influence to
have you boycotted in the school," said Fanny. "My power is great to
help or to mar your career in the school. If you do what I want--well,
my dear, all I can say is this, that I shall do my utmost to get you
into the club. You cannot imagine how nice it is when you are a member.
Think what poor Betty has lost, and think how you will feel when you are
a Speciality and she is not."

"I don't know that I shall feel anything," replied Sibyl. "Somehow or
other, I don't like this thing you want me to do, Fanny."

"Well, don't do it. I will get some one else."

"And, in the second place," continued Sibyl, "even if I were willing to
do it, I don't know how. If Betty chooses to hide things--parcels or
anything of that sort--I can't find out where she puts them."

"You can watch her," said Fanny. "Now, if you have any gumption about
you--and it is my strong belief that you have--you will be able to tell
me this time to-morrow something about Betty Vivian and her movements.
If by this time to-morrow you know nothing--why, I will relieve you of
the task, and you will be as you were before. But if, on the other hand,
you help me to save the honor of a great school--which is, I assure you,
at the present moment in serious peril--I shall do my utmost to get you
admitted to the Speciality Club. Now, I think that is all."

As Fanny concluded she shouted to Susie Rushworth, who was going towards
the arbor at the top of the grounds, and Sibyl found herself all alone.
Fanny had taken her a good long way. They had passed through a
plantation of young fir-trees to one of the vegetable-gardens, and
thence through an orchard, where the grass was long and dank at this
time of year. Somehow or other, Sibyl felt chilled to the bone and very
miserable. She had never liked Fanny less than she did at this moment.
But she was not strong-minded, and Fanny was one of the most important
girls in the school. She was rich, her father was a man of great
distinction; she might be head-girl of the school, and probably would
when Margaret Grant left; she was also quite an old member of the
Specialities. Besides Fanny, even Martha West seemed to fade into
insignificance. It was as though the friend of the Prime Minister--the
greatest possible friend--had held out a helping hand to a struggling
nobody, and offered that nobody a dazzling position. Sibyl was that poor
little nobody, and Fanny's words were weighted with such power that the
girl trembled and felt herself shaking all over.

Sibyl's love for Martha was innocent, pure, and good. Her admiration for
Betty was the generous and romantic affection which a little schoolgirl
gives to another girl older than herself who is both brilliant and
captivating. But, after all, Betty had lost her sceptre and laid down
her crown. Betty, for some extraordinary reason, was in disgrace, and
Fanny was in the zenith of her power. It would be magnificent to be a
Speciality! How those girls who thought little or nothing of Sibyl now
would admire her when she passed into that glorious state! She thought
of herself as joining the other Specialities in arranging programmes, in
devising entertainments; she thought of the privileges which would be
hers; she thought of that delightful private sitting-room into which she
had once dared to peep, and then shot out her little face again,
half-terrified at her own audacity. There was no one in the room at the
moment; but it did look cosy--the chairs so easy and comfortable, and
all covered with such a delicate shade of blue. Sibyl knew that blue
became her. She thought how nice she would look sitting in one of those
chairs and being hail-fellow-well-met with Margaret Grant, and Martha
her own friend, and all the others. Even Betty would envy her then. She
and Betty would change places. It would be her part to advise Betty what
to do and what to wear. Oh, it was a very dazzling prospect! And she
could gain the coveted distinction--but how?

Sibyl felt her heart beating very fast. She had not been trained in a
high school of morals. Her father was a very hard-working clergyman with
a large family of eight children. Her mother was dead; her elder sisters
were earning their own living. Mrs. Haddo had heard of Sibyl, and had
taken her into the school on special terms, feeling sure that charity
was well expended in such a case. Mr. Ray was far too busy over his
numerous duties to look after Sibyl as her mother would have done had
she lived. The little girl was brought up anyhow, and her new life at
Haddo Court was a revelation to her in more ways than one. She was not
pretty; she was not clever; she was not strong-minded; she was very
easily influenced. A good girl could have done much for her--Martha had
done her very best; but a bad girl could do even more.

While Sibyl was dallying with temptation, thinking to herself how
attractive it would be to feel such an important person as Fanny
Crawford, she looked down from the height where she was standing and saw
Betty Vivian walking slowly across the common.

Betty was alone. Her head was slightly bent, but the rest of her young
figure was bolt upright. She was going towards the spot where those
sparse clumps of heather occupied their neglected position at one side
of the "forest primeval."

When first Sibyl saw Betty her heart gave a great throb of longing to
rush to her, to fling her arms round her, to kiss her, to cling to her
side. But she suppressed that impulse. She loved Betty, but she was
afraid of her. Betty was the last sort of girl to put up with what she
considered liberties; Sibyl was a person to whom she was utterly
indifferent, and she would by no means have liked Sibyl to kiss her.
From Sibyl's vantage-ground, therefore, she watched Betty, herself
unseen. Then it suddenly occurred to her that she might continue to
watch her, but from a more favorable point of view.

There was a little knoll at one end of the orchard, and there was a very
old gnarled apple-tree at the edge of the knoll. If Sibyl ran fast she
could climb into the apple-tree and look right down on to the common. No
sooner did the thought come to her than she resolved to act on it.
Knowledge is always power, and she need not tell Fanny anything at all
unless she liked. She could be faithful to poor Betty, who was in
disgrace, and at the same time she might know something about her. It
was so very odd that Betty was expelled from the Specialities. She could
not possibly have resigned, for had she done so there would have been a
great fuss, and everything would have been explained to the satisfaction
of the school; whereas that mysterious sentence on the blackboard left
the whole thing involved in darkest night. What had Betty done? Had she
really told a lie about what she had found in the old stump of oak? Was
it not a piece of wood after all? Had she really sent Sibyl into the
flower-garden to gather marguerites and make herself a figure of fun at
the Specialities' entertainment? Had she done it to get rid of her just
because--because she wanted--she wanted to remove something from the
stump of the old oak-tree? Oh, if Betty were that sort--if it were
possible--even Sibyl Ray felt that she could not love her any longer! It
was Fanny, after all, who was a noble girl. Fanny wanted to get to the
bottom of things. Fanny herself could not do what an unimportant little
girl like Sibyl could do. After all, there was nothing shabby in it. If
it were shabby, Fanny Crawford, the last girl in the school to do wrong,
would not have asked her to attend to the matter.

Sibyl therefore climbed into the old apple-tree and perched amongst its
branches, and gazed eagerly down on the bit of common land. She was far
nearer to Betty than Betty had the least idea of. She saw her walk
towards the pieces of heather, but could not, from her point of view,
see what the plants were. She had really no idea that there was any
special heather in the grounds; she was not interested in a stupid thing
like heather. But she did see Betty go on her knees, and she did see her
pull up a root of some sort or other, and she did see her take something
out and look at it and put it back again. Then Betty returned very
slowly across the common towards the house.

Sibyl was fairly panting now with excitement. Was there ever, ever in
all the world, such an easy way of becoming a Speciality? Betty had a
secret; and she, Sibyl, had found it out without the slightest
difficulty. Betty had hidden something in the old oak, and now she had
buried it under some plants at the edge of the common. Sibyl forgot
pretence, she forgot honor, she forgot everything but the luring voice
of Fanny Crawford and her keen desire to perfect her quest. At that time
of year few girls troubled themselves to walk across the "forest
primeval." It was a sort of place that was pleasant enough in warm days
of summer, but damp and dull and dreary at this season, when the girls
of Haddo Court preferred the upper walks, or the hockey-ground, or the
different places where the various games were played. Certainly the
"forest primeval" did not occupy much of their attention.

It was getting a little dusk; but Sibyl, too excited to care, scrambled
down from her tree, and a few minutes later had dashed across the
common, and had discovered by the loosened earth the exact spot where
Betty had stooped. She was now beside herself with excitement. It was
her turn to go on her knees. She was doing good work; she was, according
to Fanny Crawford, saving the honor of the school. She poked and poked
with her fingers, and soon got up the already loosened roots of the
piece of heather. Down went her hard little hands into the cold clay
until at last they touched the tiny packet, which was sealed and tied
firmly with strong string.

"Eureka! I have found it!" was Sibyl's exclamation. She slipped the
packet into her pocket, put the heather back into its place, tried to
give the disturbed earth the appearance of not having been disturbed at
all, and went back to the house. She was so excited she could scarcely
contain herself.

The days were getting shorter. Tea was at half-past four, and a kind of
light supper at seven o'clock. The girls of the lower school had this
meal a little earlier. Sibyl was just in time for tea, which was always
served in the great refectory; and here the various members of the upper
school were all assembled--except the Specialities, who had tea in their
own private room.

"Well, Sibyl, you are late!" said Sarah Butt. "I wanted to take a long
walk with you. Where have you been?"

"I have been for a walk with Fanny Crawford," replied Sibyl with an
important air.

Betty, who was helping herself to a cup of tea, glanced up at that
moment and fixed her eyes on Sibyl. Sibyl colored furiously and looked
away. Betty took no further notice of her, but began to chat with a girl
near her. Soon a crowd of girls collected round Betty, and laughed
heartily at her remarks.

On any other occasion Sibyl would have joined this group, and been the
first to giggle over Betty's witticisms. But the little parcel in her
pocket seemed to weigh like lead. It was a weight on her spirits too.
She was most anxious to deliver it over to Fanny Crawford, and to keep
Fanny to her word, in order that she might be proposed as a Speciality
at the next meeting. She knew this would not be until Thursday. Oh, it
was all too long to wait! But she could put on airs already, for would
she not very soon cease to be drinking this weak tea in the refectory?
Would she not be having her own dainty meal in the Specialities' private
room?

"How red you are, Sibyl!" was Sarah Butt's remark. "I suppose the cold
wind has caught your cheeks."

"I wish you wouldn't remark on my appearance," said Sibyl.

"Dear, dear! Hoity-toity! How grand we are getting all of a sudden!"

"You needn't snub me in the way you do, Sarah. You'll be treating me
very differently before long."

"Indeed, your Royal Highness! And may I ask how and why?"

"You may neither ask how nor why; but events will prove," said Sibyl.
She raised her voice a little incautiously, and once again Betty looked
at her. There was something about Betty's glance, at once sorrowful and
aloof, which stung Sibyl. Just because she had done Betty a wrong she no
longer loved her half as much as she had done. After a pause, she said
in a distinct voice, "I am a very great friend of Fanny Crawford, and I
am going to see her now on special business." With these words she
marched out of the refectory.

Some of the girls laughed. Betty was quite silent. No one dared question
Betty Vivian with regard to her withdrawal from the Speciality Club,
nor did she enlighten them. But when tea was over she went up to Sylvia
and Hetty and said a few words to them both. They looked at her in
amazement, but made no kind of protest. After speaking to her sisters,
Betty left the refectory.

"What can be the matter with your Betty?" asked one of the girls,
addressing the twins.

"There's nothing the matter with her," said Sylvia in a stout voice.

"Why are your eyes so red, then?"

"My eyes are red because Dickie's lost."

"Who's Dickie?"

"He is the largest spider I ever saw, and he grows bigger and fatter
every day. But he is lost. We brought him from Scotland. He'd sting any
one who tried to hurt him; so if any of you see him in your bedrooms or
hiding under your pillows you'd best shriek out, for he is a dangerous
sort, and ought not to be interfered with."

"How perfectly appalling!" said the girl now addressed. "You really
oughtn't to keep horrid pets of that sort. And I loathe spiders."

"Oh, well, you're not Scotch," replied Sylvia with a disdainful gesture.
"Dickie is a darling to those he loves, but very fierce to those he
hates."

"And is that really why your eyes are so red?" continued the girl--Hilda
Morton by name. "Has it nothing to do with that wonderful sister of
yours, and the strange fact that she has been expelled from the
Speciality Club?"

"She hasn't been expelled!" said Sylvia in a voice of fury.

"Don't talk nonsense! The fact was mentioned on the blackboard. If you
don't believe it, you can come and see for yourself."

"She has left the club, but was not expelled," said Sylvia. "And I hate
you, Hilda! You have no right to speak of my sister like that."

Meanwhile two girls were pursuing their different ways. Betty was going
towards that wing of the building where Mr. Fairfax's suite of rooms was
to be found. She had never yet spoken to him. She wished to speak to him
now. The rooms occupied by the Fairfaxes formed a complete little
dwelling, with its own kitchen and special servants. These rooms
adjoined the chapel; but his family lived apart from the school. It was
understood, however, that any girl at Haddo Court was at liberty to ask
the chaplain a question in a moment of difficulty.

Betty now rang the bell of the little house. A neat servant opened the
door. On inquiring if Mr. Fairfax were within, Betty was told "Yes," and
was admitted at once into that gentleman's study.

The clergyman rose at her entrance. He recognized her face, spoke to her
kindly, said he was glad she had come to see him, and asked her to sit
down. "Is anything the matter, my dear? Is there any way in which I can
help you?"

"I don't know," answered the girl. "I thought perhaps you could; it
flashed through my mind to-day that perhaps you could. You have seen me
in the chapel?"

"Oh yes; yours is not the sort of face one is likely to forget."

"I am not happy," said Betty.

"I am sorry to hear that. But don't you agree with me that we poor human
creatures think too much of our own individual happiness and too little
of the happiness of others? It seems to me that the golden rule to live
by in this: Provided my brother is happy, all is well with me."

"That is true to a certain extent," said Betty; "but--" She paused a
minute. Then she said abruptly, "I am not at all the cringing sort, and
I am not the girl to grumble, and I love Mrs. Haddo; and, sir, there
have been moments when your voice in chapel has given me great
consolation. I also love one or two of my schoolfellows. But the fact
is, there is something weighing on my conscience, and I cannot tell you
what it is. I cannot do the right thing, sir; and I do not see my way
ever to do what I suppose you would say was the right thing. I will tell
you this much about myself. You have heard of our Speciality Club?"

"Of course I have."

"The girls were very good to me when I came here--for I am a comparative
stranger in the school--and they elected me to be a Speciality."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Fairfax. "That is a very great honor."

"I know it is; and I was given the rules, and I read them all carefully.
But, sir, in a sudden moment of temptation, before I came to Haddo
Court, I did something which was wrong, and I am determined not to mend
my ways with regard to that matter. Nevertheless, I became a Speciality,
knowing that by so doing I should break the first rule of the club."

Mr. Fairfax was too courteous ever to interrupt any one who came to him
to talk over a difficulty. He was silent now, his hands clasped tightly
together, his deep-set eyes fixed on Betty's vivid face.

"I was a Speciality for about a fortnight," she continued--"perhaps a
little longer. But at the last meeting I made up my mind that I could
not go on, so I told the girls what I had done. It is unnecessary to
trouble you with those particulars, sir. After I had told them they
asked me to leave the room, and I went. They had a special meeting of
the club last night to consult over my case, and I was invited to be
present. I was then told that, notwithstanding the fact that I had
broken Rule No. I., I might continue to be a member of the club if I
would give up something which I possess and to which I believe I have a
full right, and if I would relate my story in detail to Mrs. Haddo. I
absolutely refused to do either of these things. I was then _expelled_
from the club, sir--that is the only word to use; and the fact was
notified on the blackboard in the great hall to-day."

"Well," said Mr. Fairfax when Betty paused, "I understand that you
repent, and you do not repent, and that you are no longer a Speciality."

"That is the case, sir."

"Can you not take me further into your confidence?"

"There is no use," said Betty, shaking her head.

"I am not surprised, Miss Vivian, that you are unhappy."

"I am accustomed to that," said Betty.

"May I ask what you have come to see me about?"

"I wanted to know this: ought I, or ought I not, being unrepentant of my
sin, to come to the chapel with the other girls, to kneel with them, to
pray with them, and to listen to your words?"

"I must leave that to yourself. If your conscience says, 'Come,' it is
not for me to turn you out. But it is a very dangerous thing to trifle
with conscience. Of course you know that. I can see, too, that you are
peculiarly sensitive. Forgive me, but I have often noticed your face,
and with extreme interest. You have good abilities, and a great future
before you in the upward direction--that is, if you choose. Although you
won't take me into your confidence, I am well aware that the present is
a turning-point in your career. You must at least know that I, as a
clergyman, would not repeat to any one a word of what you say to me. Can
you not trust me?"

"No, no; it is too painful!" said Betty. "I see that, in your heart of
hearts, you think that I--I ought not--I ought _not_ to come to chapel.
I am indeed outcast!"

"No, child, you are not. Kneel down now, and let me pray with you."

"I cannot stand it--no, I cannot!" said Betty; and she turned away.

When she had gone Mr. Fairfax dropped on his knees. He prayed for a long
time with fervor. But that night he missed Betty Vivian at prayers in
the beautiful little chapel.

Meanwhile Betty--struggling, battling with herself, determined not to
yield, feeling fully convinced that the only wrong thing she had done
was telling the lie to Sir John Crawford and prevaricating to Sibyl--was
nothing like so much to be pitied as Sibyl Ray herself.

Sibyl had lingered about the different corridors and passages until she
found Fanny, who was talking to Martha West. Sibyl was so startled when
the two girls came out of the private sitting-room that she almost
squinted, and Fanny at once perceived that the girl had something
important to tell her. She must not, however, appear to notice Sibyl
specially in the presence of Martha.

Martha, on the contrary, went up at once to Sibyl and said in her
pleasant voice, "Why, my dear child, it is quite a long time since we
have met! And now, I wonder what I can do for you or how I can possibly
help you. Would you like to come and have a cosy chat with me in my
bedroom for a little? The fact is this," continued Martha: "we
Specialities are so terribly spoilt in the school that we hardly know
ourselves. Fancy having a fire in one's bedroom, not only at night, but
at this hour! Would you like to come with me, Sib?"

At another moment Sibyl would have hailed this invitation with rapture.
On the present occasion she was about to refuse it; but Fanny said with
a quick glance, which was not altogether lost on Martha, "Of course go
with Martha, Sibyl. You are in great luck to have such a friend."

Sibyl departed, therefore, very unwillingly, with the friend she had
once adored. Martha's bedroom was very plain and without ornaments, but
there were snug easy-chairs and the fire burned brightly. Martha invited
the little girl to sit down, and asked her how she was.

"Oh, I am all right," said Sibyl.

Martha looked at her attentively. "I don't quite understand you, Sib.
You have rather avoided me during the last day or two. Is it because I
am a Speciality? I do hope that will make no difference with my old
friends."

"Oh no," said Sibyl. "There's nothing so wonderful in being a
Speciality, is there?"

Martha stared. "Well, to me it is very wonderful," she said; "and I
cannot imagine how those other noble-minded girls think me good enough
to join them."

"Oh Martha, are they so good as all that?"

"They are," said Martha; and her tone was very gloomy. She was thinking
of Betty, whom she longed to comfort, whom she earnestly longed to help.

"It's so queer about Betty," said Sibyl after a pause. "She seemed to be
such a very popular Speciality. Then, all of a sudden, she ceased to be
one at all. I can't understand it."

"And you are never likely to, Sibyl. What happens in the club is only
known to its members."

Sibyl grew red. What was coming over her? Two or three hours ago she was
a girl--weak, it is true; insignificant, it is true--with a passion for
Martha West and a most genuine love and admiration for Betty Vivian. Now
she almost disliked Betty; and she could not make out what charm she had
ever discovered in poor, plain Martha. She got up impatiently. "You will
forgive me, Martha," she said; "but I have lots of things I want to do.
I don't think I will stay just now. Perhaps you will ask me to come and
talk to you another day."

"No, Sibyl, I sha'n't. When you want me you must try to find me
yourself. I don't understand what is the matter with you to-day."

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
rules."

"Whom in the world do you mean?" asked Susie.

"I suppose you will be surprised at my choice; but although seven is the
perfect number, there is no rule whatever against our having eight,
nine, ten, or even more members of the club."

"There is no rule against our having twenty members, if those members
are worthy," said Margaret Grant. "But whom have you in the back of your
head, Fanny? You look so mysterious."

"I cannot think of any one myself," said Martha West.

When Martha said this Fanny made a little gesture of despair. "Well,"
she said, "I have taken a fancy to her. I think she is very nice; and I
know she is poor, and I know she wants help, and I know that Mrs. Haddo
takes a great interest in her. I allude to that dear little thing, Sibyl
Ray. You, Martha, surely will support me?"

"Sibyl Ray!" The girls looked at each other in unbounded astonishment.
Martha was quite silent, and her cheeks turned pale.

After a long pause Margaret spoke, "May I ask, Fanny, what one single
qualification Sibyl Ray has for election to membership in the Speciality
Club?"

"But what possible reason is there against her being a member?" retorted
Fanny.

"A great many, I should say," was Margaret's answer. "In the first
place, she is too young; in the second place, she has only just been
admitted to the upper school."

"You can't keep her out on that account," objected Fanny, "for she has
been longer in the upper school than Betty Vivian."

"Oh, please don't mention Betty and Sibyl in the same breath!" was
Margaret's answer.

"I do not," said Fanny, who was fast losing her temper. "Sibyl is a
good, straightforward, honorable girl. Betty is the reverse."

"Oh Fanny," exclaimed Martha, "I wouldn't abuse my own cousin if I were
you!"

"Nonsense!" said Fanny. "Whether she is a cousin, or even a sister, I
cannot be blind to her most flagrant faults."

"Of course you have a right to propose Sibyl Ray as a possible member of
this club," said Margaret, "for it is one of our by-laws that any member
can propose the election of another. But I don't really think you will
carry the thing through. In the first place, what do you know about
Sibyl? I have observed you talking to her once or twice lately; but
until the last week or so, I think, you hardly knew of her existence."

"That is quite true," said Fanny boldly; "but during the last few days I
have discovered that Sibyl is a sweet girl--most charming, most
unselfish, most obliging. She is very timid, however, and lacks
self-confidence; and I have observed that she is constantly snubbed by
girls who are not fit to hold a candle to her and yet look down upon
her, just because she is poor. Now, if she were made a member of the
club all that would be put a stop to, and she would have a great chance
of doing her utmost in the school. We should be holding out a helping
hand to a girl who certainly is neither beautiful nor clever, but who
can be made a fine character. Martha, you at least will stand up for
Sibyl? You have always been her close friend."

"And I am fond of her still," said Martha; "but I don't look upon her at
all in the light in which you do, Fanny. Sibyl, at present, would be
injured, not improved, by her sudden elevation to the rank of a
Speciality. The only thing I would suggest is that you propose her again
in a year's time; and if during the course of that year she has proved
in any sense of the word what you say, I for one will give her my
cordial support. At present I cannot honestly feel justified in voting
for her, and I will not."

"Well spoken, Martha!" said Margaret. "Fanny, your suggestion is really
ill-timed. We are all unhappy about Betty just now; and to see poor
little Sibyl--of course, no one wants to say a word against her--in
Betty's shoes would make our loss seem more irreparable than ever."

Fanny saw that her cause was lost. She had the grace not to say anything
more, but sat back in her chair with her eyes fixed on Margaret's face.
Fanny began to perceive for the first time that some of the girls in
this club had immensely strong characters. Margaret Grant and Martha
West had, for instance, characters so strong that Fanny discovered
herself to be a very unimportant little shadow beside them. The Bertrams
were the sort of girls to take sides at once and firmly with what was
good and noble, Susie Rushworth was devoted to Margaret, and Olive had
been the prime favorite in the club until Betty's advent. Now it seemed
to Fanny that each one of the Specialities was opposed to her, that she
stood alone. She did not like the situation. She was so exceedingly
anxious; for, strong in the belief that she herself was a person of
great importance, and in the further belief that Martha would support
her, she had been practically sure of getting Sibyl admitted to the
club. Now Sibyl had no chance whatever, and Sibyl knew things which
might make Fanny's position in the school the reverse of comfortable.

Fanny Crawford on this occasion sat lost in thought, by no means
inclined to add her quota to the entertainment of the others, and
looking eagerly for the first moment when she might escape from the
meeting. Games were proposed; but games went languidly, and once again
Betty and Betty's illness became the subject of conversation.

When this took place Fanny rose impatiently. "There are no further
questions to be discussed to-night?" she asked, turning to Margaret.

"None that I know of."

"Then, if you will excuse me, girls, I will go. I must tell poor little
Sibyl----"

"You don't mean to say you spoke to Sibyl about it?" interrupted Martha.

"Well, yes, I did." Fanny could almost have bitten out her tongue for
having made this unwary admission. "She was so keen, poor little thing,
that I told her I would do my best for her. I must say, once and for
all, that I have never seen my sister members so hard and cold and
indifferent to the interests of a very deserving little girl before. I
am, of course, sorry I spoke to her on the matter."

"You really did very wrong, Fan," said Margaret in an annoyed voice.
"You know perfectly well that we never allude to the possibility of a
girl being proposed for membership to that girl herself until we have
first made up our minds whether she is worthy or not. Now, you have
placed us at a great disadvantage; but, of course, you forgot yourself,
Fan. You must tell Sibyl that the thing is not to be thought of. You can
put it down to her age or any other cause you like."

"Of course I must speak the truth," said Fanny, raising her voice to a
somewhat insolent tone. "The club does not permit the slightest vestige
of prevarication. Is that not so?"

"Yes, it is certainly so."

The next minute Fanny had left the room. It was one of the rules of the
club that gossip, in the ordinary sense of the world, with regard to any
member was strictly forbidden; so no one made any comment when Fanny had
taken her departure. There was a sense of relief, however, felt by the
girls who remained behind. The meeting was a sorrowful one, and broke up
rather earlier than usual.

At prayers that night in the chapel Margaret Grant and the other girls
of the Specialities were startled when Mr. Fairfax made special mention
of Betty Vivian, praying God to comfort her in sore distress and to heal
her sickness. The prayer was extempore, and roused the girls to amazed
attention.

Fanny was not present that night at chapel. She was so angry that she
felt she must give vent to her feelings to some one; therefore, why not
speak to Sibyl at once?

Sibyl was not considered very strong, and though she did belong to the
upper school, usually went to bed before prayers. She was in her small
room to-night. It was a pretty, neatly furnished room in the west
wing--one of those usually given to a lower-school girl on first
entering the upper school. Sibyl had no intention, however, of going to
bed. She sat by her fire, her heart beating high, her thoughts full of
the privileges which would so soon be hers. She was composing, in her
own mind, a wonderful letter to send to her people at home; she pictured
to herself their looks of delight when they heard that this great honor
had been bestowed upon her. For, of course, Sibyl, as a member of the
lower school at Haddo Court, had heard much of the Specialities, and
what she had heard she had repeated; so that when she wanted to amuse
her select friends in her father's parish, she frequently gave them
some information on this most interesting subject. Now she was on the
point of being a member herself! How she would enjoy her Christmas
holidays! How she would be feted and fussed over and petted! How
carefully she would guard the secrets of the club, and how very high she
would hold her own small head! She a member of the great Haddo Court
School, and also a Speciality!

While Sibyl was thus engaged, seeing pictures in the fire and smiling
quietly to herself, she suddenly heard a light tap at her room door. She
started to her feet, and the next minute she had flown across the room
and opened the door. Fanny stood without.

"Oh, you dear, darling Fan!" exclaimed Sibyl. "You are good! Come in--do
come in! Is the meeting over? And--and--oh, Fanny! what have they said?
Has my name been put to the vote? Of course you and Martha would be on
my side, and you and Martha are so strong that you would carry the rest
of the members with you. Fan, am I to have a copy of the rules?
And--and--oh, Fan! is it settled? Do--do tell me!"

"I wish you weren't quite so excited, Sibyl! Let me sit down; I have a
bad headache."

Fanny sank languidly into the chair which Sibyl herself had been
occupying. There was only one easy-chair in this tiny room. Sibyl had,
therefore, to draw forward a hard and high one for herself. But she was
far too excited to mind this at the present moment.

"And what a fearful blaze of light you have!" continued Fanny, looking
round fretfully. "Don't you know, Sibyl, that, unless we are occupied
over our studies, we are not allowed to turn on such a lot of light?
Here, let me put the room in shadow."

"Let's have firelight only," laughed Sibyl, who was not quick at
guessing things, and felt absolute confidence in Fanny's powers. The
next instant she had switched off the light and was kneeling by Fanny's
side. "Now, Fanny--now, do put me out of suspense!"

"I will," said Fanny. "I have come here for the purpose. I did what I
could for you, Sib. You must bear your disappointment as best you can. I
am truly sorry for you, but things can't be helped."

"You are truly sorry for me--and--and--things can't be helped!"
exclaimed Sibyl, amazement in her voice. "What do you mean?"

"Well, they won't have you at any price as a member of the Specialities;
and the person who spoke most strongly against you was your dear and
special friend, Martha West. I am not at liberty to quote a single word
of what she did say; but you are not to be a Speciality--at least, not
for a year. If at the end of a year you have done something
wonderful--the sort of thing which you, poor Sibyl, could never possibly
do--the matter may be brought up again for reconsideration. As things
stand, you are not to be elected; so the sooner you put the matter out
of your head the better."

Sibyl turned very white. Then her face became suffused with small
patches of vivid color.

Fanny was not looking at her; had she looked she might have perceived
that Sibyl's expression was anything but amiable at that moment. The
girl's extraordinary silence, however--the absence of all remark--the
absence, even, of any expression of sorrow--presently caused Fanny to
glance round at her. "Well," she said, "I thought I'd tell you at once.
You must put it out of your head. I think I will go to bed now.
Good-night, Sibyl. Sorry I couldn't do more for you."

"Don't go!" said Sibyl. "What do you mean?"

There was a quality in Sibyl's voice which made Fanny feel
uncomfortable.

"I am much too tired," Fanny said, "to stay up any longer chatting with
an insignificant little girl like you. I could not even stay to the
conclusion of our meeting, and I certainly don't want to be seen in your
room. I did my best for you. I have failed. I am sorry, and there's an
end of it."

"Oh no, there isn't an end of it!" said Sibyl.

"What do you mean, Sibyl?"

"I mean," said Sibyl, "that you have got to reward me for doing your
horrid--_horrid_, dirty work!"

"You odious little creature! what do you mean? My dirty work! Sibyl, I
perceive that I was mistaken in you. I also perceive that Martha West
and the others were right. You are indeed unworthy to be a Speciality."

"If all were known," said Sibyl, "I don't think I am half as unworthy as
you are, Fanny Crawford. Anyhow, if I am not to be made a Speciality,
and if every one is going to despise me and look down on me, why, I have
nothing to lose, and I may as well make an example of you."

"You odious child! what _do_ you mean?"

"Why, I can tell Mrs. Haddo as well as anybody else. Every one in the
school knows that Betty is ill to-night. Something seems to have gone
wrong with her head, and she is crying out about a packet--a lost
packet. Now, _you_ know how the packet was lost. You and I both know how
it was found--and lost again. You have it, Fanny. You are the one who
can cure Betty Vivian--Betty, who never was unkind to any one; Betty,
who did not mean me to be a figure of fun, as you suggested, on the
night of the entertainment; Betty, who has been kind to me, as she has
been kind to every one else since she came to the school. _You_ have
done nothing for me, Fanny; so I--I can take care of myself in future,
and perhaps Betty too."

To say that Fanny was utterly amazed and horrified at Sibyl's speech--to
say that Fanny was thunderstruck when she perceived that this poor
little worm, as she considered Sibyl Ray, had turned at last--would be
but very inadequately to describe the situation. Fanny lost her headache
on the spot. Here was danger, grave and imminent; here was the
possibility of her immaculate character being dragged through the mud;
here was the terrible possibility of Fanny Crawford being seen in her
true colors. She had now to collect her scattered senses--in short, to
pull herself together.

"Oh Sibyl," she said after a pause, "you frightened me for a minute--you
really did! Who would suppose that you were such a spirited girl?"

"I am not spirited, Fanny; but I love Betty, notwithstanding all you
have tried to do to put me against her. And if I am not to be a
Speciality I would ever so much rather be Betty's friend than yours.
There! Now I have spoken. Perhaps you would like to go now, Fan, as your
head is aching so badly?"

"It doesn't ache now," said Fanny; "your conduct has frightened all the
aches away. Sibyl, you really are the very queerest girl! I came here
to-night full of the kindest feelings towards you. You can ask Martha
West how I spoke of you at the club."

"But she won't tell me. Anything that you say in the club isn't allowed
to be breathed outside it."

"I know that. Anyhow, I have been doing my utmost to get the school to
see you in your true light. I have taken great notice of you, and you
have been proud to receive my notice. It is certainly true that I have
failed to get you what I hoped I could manage; but there are other
things----"

"Other things!" said Sibyl. She stood in a defiant attitude quite
foreign to her usual manner.

"Oh yes, my dear child, lots and lots of other things! For instance, in
the Christmas holidays I can have you to stay with me at Brighton. What
do you say to that? Don't you think that would be a feather in your cap?
I have an aunt who lives there, Aunt Amelia Crawford; and she generally
allows me--that is, when father cannot have me--to bring one of my
school-friends with me to stay in her lovely house. I had a letter from
her only yesterday, asking me which girl I would like to bring with me
this year. I thought of Olive--Olive is such fun; but I'd just as soon
have you--that is, if you would like to come."

Alas for poor Sibyl! She was not proof against such a tempting bait.

"As far as you are concerned," continued Fanny, who saw that she was
making way with Sibyl, and breaking down, as she expressed it, her silly
little defences, "you would gain far more prestige in being Aunt
Amelia's guest than if you belonged to twenty Speciality Clubs. Aunt
Amelia is good to the girls who come to stay with her as my friends. And
I'd help you, Sib; I'd make the best of your dresses. We'd go to the
theatre, and the pantomime, and all kinds of jolly things. We'd have a
rattling fine time."

"Do you really mean it?" said Sibyl.

"Yes--that is, if you will give me your solemn word that you will refer
no more to that silly matter about Betty Vivian. Betty Vivian had no
right to that packet. It belonged to my father, and I have got it back
for him. Don't think of it any more, Sibyl, and you shall be my guest
this Christmas. But if you prefer to make a fuss, and drag me into an
unpleasant position, and get yourself, in all probability, expelled from
the school, then you must do as you please."

"But if I were expelled, you'd be expelled too," said Sibyl.

Fanny laughed. "I think not," she said. "I think, without any undue
pride, that my position in the school is sufficiently strong to prevent
such a catastrophe. No; you would be cutting off your nose to spite your
face--that is all you would be doing with this nice little scheme of
yours. Give it up, Sibyl, and you shall come to Brighton."

"It is dull at home at Christmas," said Sibyl. "We are so dreadfully
poor, and father has such a lot to do; and there are always those
half-starved, smelly sort of people coming to the house--the sort that
want coal-tickets, you know, and grocery-tickets; and--and--we have to
help to give great big Christmas dinners. We are all day long getting up
entertainments for those dull sort of people. I often think they are not
a bit grateful, and after being at a school like this I really feel
quite squeamish about them."

Fanny laughed. She saw, or believed she saw, that her cause was won.
"You'll have nothing to make you squeamish at Aunt Amelia's," she said.
"And now I must say good-night. Sorry about the Specialities; but, after
the little exhibition you have just made of yourself, I agree with the
other girls that you are not fit to be a member. Now, ta-ta for the
present."



CHAPTER XIX

"IT'S DICKIE!"


Fanny went straight to her own room. "What a nasty time I have lived
through!" she thought as she was about to enter. Then she opened the
door and started back.

The whole room had undergone a metamorphosis. There was a shaded light
in one corner, and the door between Fanny's room and Betty's was thrown
open. A grave, kind-looking nurse was seated by a table, on which was a
shaded lamp; and on seeing Fanny enter she held up her hand with a
warning gesture. The next minute she had beckoned the girl out on the
landing.

"What is the meaning of this?" asked Fanny. "What are you doing in my
room?"

"The doctor wished the door to be opened and the room to be given up to
me," replied the nurse. "My name is Sister Helen, and I am looking after
dear little Miss Vivian. We couldn't find you to tell you about the
necessary alterations, which were made in a hurry. Ah, I mustn't leave
my patient! I hear her calling out again. She is terribly troubled about
something she has lost. Do you hear her?"

"I won't give it up! I won't give it up!" called poor Betty's voice.

"I was asked to tell you," said Sister Helen, "to go straight to Miss
Symes, who has arranged another room for you to sleep in--that is, if
you _are_ Miss Crawford."

"Yes, that is my name. Have my things been removed?"

"I suppose so, but I don't know. I am going back to my patient."

The nurse re-entered the room, closing the door on Fanny, who stood by
herself in the corridor. She heard Betty's voice, and Betty's voice
sounded so high and piercing and full of pain that her first feeling was
one of intense thankfulness that she had been moved from close proximity
to the girl. The next minute she was speeding down the corridor in the
direction of Miss Symes's room. Half-way there she met St. Cecilia coming
to meet her.

"Ah, Fanny, dear," said Miss Symes, "I thought your little meeting would
have been over by now. Do you greatly mind sharing my room with me
to-night? I cannot get another ready for you in time. Dr. Ashley wishes
the nurse who is looking after Betty to have your room for the present.
There was no time to tell you, dear; but I have collected the few things
I think you will want till the morning. To-morrow we will arrange
another room for you. In the meantime I hope you will put up with me. I
have had a bed put into a corner of my room and a screen around it, so
you will be quite comfortable."

"Thank you," said Fanny. She wondered what further unpleasantness was
about to happen to her on that inauspicious night.

"You would like to go to bed, dear, wouldn't you?" said Miss Symes.

"Yes, thank you."

"Well, you shall do so. I cannot go for a couple of hours, as Mrs. Haddo
wants me to sit up with her until the specialist arrives from London."

"The specialist from London!" exclaimed Fanny, turning first red and
then white. "Do you mean that Mrs. Haddo has sent for a London doctor?"

"Indeed she has. My dear, poor little Betty is dangerously ill. Dr.
Ashley is by no means satisfied about her."

By this time the two had reached Miss Symes's beautiful room. Fanny gave
a quick sigh. Then, like a flash, a horrible thought occurred to her.
Her room had to be given up to-morrow. Her things would be removed.
Among her possessions--put safely away, it is true, but still not _too_
safely--was the little sealed packet. If that packet were found, Fanny
felt that the world would be at an end as far as she was concerned.

"You don't look well yourself, Fanny," said Miss Symes, glancing kindly
at the girl. "Of course you are sorry about Betty; we are all sorry, for
we all love her. If you had been at prayers to-night you would have been
astonished at the gloom which was felt in our beautiful little chapel
when Mr. Fairfax prayed for her."

"But she can't be as ill as all that?" said Fanny.

"She is--very, very ill, dear. The child has evidently got a bad chill,
together with a most severe mental shock. We none of us can make out
what is the matter; but it is highly probable that the specialist--Dr.
Jephson of Harley Street--will insist on the Specialities being
questioned as to the reason why Betty was expelled from the club. It is
absolutely essential that the girl's mind should be relieved, and that
as soon as possible. She is under the influence now of a composing
draught, and, we greatly trust, may be more like herself in the morning.
Don't look too sad, dear Fanny! I can quite understand that you must
feel this very deeply, for Betty is your cousin; and somehow,
dear--forgive me for saying it--but you do not act quite the cousin's
part to that poor, sweet child. Now I must leave you. Go to bed, dear.
Pray for Betty, and then sleep all you can."

"Where are the twins?" suddenly asked Fanny.

"They are sleeping to-night in the lower school. It was necessary to put
the poor darlings as far from Betty as possible, for they are in a
fearful state about her. Now I will leave you, Fanny. I am wanted
elsewhere. When I do come to bed I will be as quiet as possible, so as
not to disturb you."

Fanny made no answer, and the next minute Miss Symes had left her.

Fanny now went over to the corner of the room where a snug little white
bed had been put up, a washhand-stand was placed and where a small chest
of drawers stood--empty at present, for only a few of Fanny's things had
been taken out of her own room. The girl looked round her in a
bewildered way. The packet!--the sealed packet! To-morrow all her
possessions would be removed into a room which would be got ready for
her. There were always one or two rooms to spare at Haddo Court, and
Fanny would be given a room to herself again. She was far too important
a member of that little community not to have the best possible done for
her. Deft and skillful servants would take her things out of the various
drawers and move them to another room. They would find the packet. Fanny
knew quite well where she had placed it. She had put it under a pile of
linen which she herself took charge of, and which was always kept in the
bottom drawer of her wardrobe. Fanny had put the packet there in a
moment of excitement and hurry. She had not yet decided what to do with
it; she had to make a plan in her own mind, and in the meantime it was
safe enough among Fanny's various and pretty articles of toilet. For it
was one of the rules of Haddo Court that each girl, be she rich or poor,
should take care of her own underclothing. All that the servants had to
do was to see that the things were properly aired; but the girls had to
mend their own clothes and keep them tidy.

Absolute horror filled Fanny's mind now. What was she to do? She was so
bewildered that for a time she could scarcely think coherently. Then she
made up her mind that, come what would, she must get that packet out of
her own bedroom before the servants came in on the following day. She
was so absorbed with the thought of her own danger that she had no time
to think of the very grave danger which assailed poor little Betty
Vivian. If she had disliked Betty before, she hated her now. Oh, how
right she had been when, in her heart of hearts, she had opposed Betty's
entrance into the school! What trouble those three tiresome, wild,
uncontrollable girls had brought in their wake! And now Betty--Betty,
who was so adored--Betty, who, in Fanny's opinion, was both a thief and
a liar--was dangerously ill; and she (Fanny) would in all probability
have to appear in a most sorry position. For, whatever Betty's sin,
Fanny knew well that nothing could excuse her own conduct. She had spied
on Betty; she had employed Sibyl Ray as a tool; she had got Sibyl to
take the packet from under the piece of heather; and that very night she
had excited the astonishment of her companions in the Speciality Club by
proposing a ridiculously unsuitable person for membership as poor Sibyl.

"Things look as black as night," thought Fanny to herself. "I don't want
to go to bed. I wish I could get out of this. How odious things are!"

Just then she heard footsteps outside her door--footsteps that came up
close and waited. Then, all of a sudden, the door was flung violently
open, and Sylvia and Hester entered. They had been crying so hard that
their poor little faces were disfigured almost beyond recognition.
Sylvia held a small tin box in her hand.

"What are you doing, girls? You had better go to bed," said Fanny.

Neither girl took the slightest notice of this injunction. They looked
round the room, noting the position of the different articles of
furniture. Then Sylvia walked straight up to the screen behind which
Fanny's bed was placed. With a sudden movement she pulled down the
bedclothes, opened the little tin box, and put something into Fanny's
bed.

"It's Dickie!" said Sylvia. "I hope you will like his company. Come,
Hetty."

Before Fanny could find words the girls had vanished. But the look of
hatred on Sylvia's face, the look of defiance and horror on Hetty's,
Fanny was not likely to forget. They shut the door somewhat noisily
behind them. Then, all of a sudden, Hetty opened it again, pushed in her
small face, and said, "You had better be careful. His bite is
dangerous!"

The next instant quick feet were heard running away from Miss Symes's
room, in the center of which Fanny stood stunned and really frightened.
What had those awful children put into her bed? She had heard vague
rumors of a pet of theirs called Dickie, but had never been interested
enough even to inquire about him. Who was Dickie? What was Dickie? Why
was his bite dangerous? Why was he put into her bed? Fanny, for all her
careful training, for all her airs and graces, was by no means
remarkable for physical courage. She approached the bed once or twice,
and went back again. She was really afraid to pull down the bedclothes.
At last, summoning up courage, she did so. To her horror, she saw an
enormous spider, the largest she had ever beheld, in the center of the
bed! This, then, was Dickie! He was curled up as though he were asleep.
But as Fanny ventured to approach a step nearer it seemed to her that
one wicked, protruding eye fastened itself on her face. The next instant
Dickie began to run, and when Dickie ran he ran towards her. Fanny
uttered a shriek. It was the culmination of all she had lived through
during that miserable evening. One shriek followed another, and in a
minute Susie Rushworth and Olive Repton ran into the room.

"Oh, save me! Save me!" said Fanny. "Those little horrors have done it!
I don't know where it is! Oh, it is such an odious, dangerous, awful
kind of reptile! It's the biggest spider I ever saw in all my life, and
those horrible twins came and put it into my bed! Oh, girls, what I am
suffering! Do have pity on me! Do help me to find it! Do help me to kill
it!"

"To kill Dickie!" said Susie. "Why, the poor little twins were
heartbroken for two or three days because they thought he was lost. I
for one certainly won't kill Dickie."

"Nor I," said Olive.

"Oh, dear! what shall I do?" said poor Fanny. "I really never was in
such miserable confusion and wretchedness in my life."

"Do, Fanny, cease to be such a coward!" said Susie. "I must say I am
surprised at you. The poor little twins are almost beside
themselves--that is, on account of darling Betty. Betty is so ill; and
they think--the twins do----I mean, they have got it into their heads
that you--you don't like Betty, although she is your cousin and the very
sweetest girl in all the world. But as to your being afraid of a spider!
We'll have a good hunt for him, and find him. Fanny, I never thought you
could scream out as you did. What a mercy that Miss Symes's room is a
good way off from poor darling Betty's!"

"Do try to think of some one besides Betty for a minute!" said Fanny;
"and you find that horror and put him into his box, or put him into
anything, only don't have him loose in the room."

"Well, we'll have a good search," said both the girls, "and we may find
him."

But this was a thing easier said than done; for if there was a knowing
spider anywhere in the world, that spider was Dickie of Scotland. Dickie
was not going to be easily caught. Perhaps Dickie had a secret sense of
humor and enjoyed the situation--the terror of the one girl, the efforts
of the others to put him back into captivity. In vain Susie laid baits
for Dickie all over the room--bits of raw meat, even one or two dead
flies which she found in a corner. But Dickie had secured a hiding-place
for himself, and would not come out at present.

"I can't sleep in the room--that's all!" said Fanny. "I really
can't--that's flat."

"Oh, stop talking for a minute!" said Olive suddenly. "There! didn't you
hear it? Yes, that is the sound of the carriage coming back from the
station. Dr. Jephson has come. Oh, I wonder what he will say about her!"

"Don't leave me, girls, please!" said Fanny. "I never was so utterly
knocked to bits in my whole life!"

"Well, we must go to bed or we'll be punished," said Susie.

"Susie, you are not a bit afraid of reptiles; won't you change rooms
with me?" asked Fanny.

"I would, only it's against the rules," said Susie at once.

Olive also shook her head. "It's against the rules, Fanny; and, really,
if I were you I'd pull myself together, and on a night like this, when
the whole house is in such a state of turmoil, I'd try to show a spark
of courage and not be afraid of a poor little spider."

"A _little_ spider! You haven't seen him," said Fanny. "Why, he's nearly
as big as an egg! I tell you he is most dangerous."

"That's the doctor! Oh, I wonder what he is going to say!" exclaimed
Olive. "Come, Susie," she continued, turning to her companion, "we must
go to bed. Good-night, Fanny; good-night."



CHAPTER XX

A TIME OF DANGER


Fanny was left alone with Dickie. It was really awful to be quite alone
in a room where a spider nearly the size of an egg had concealed
himself. If Dickie would only come out and show himself Fanny thought
she could fight him; but he was at once big enough to bite and terrify
her up to the point of danger, and small enough effectually to hide his
presence. Fanny was really nervous; all the events of the day had
conspired to make her so. She, who, as a rule, knew nothing whatever
about nerves, was oppressed by them now. There had been the meeting of
the Specialities; there had been the blunt refusal to make Sibyl one of
their number. Then there was the appalling fact that she (Fanny) was
turned out of her bedroom. There was also the unpleasantness of Sibyl's
insurrection; and last, but not least, a spider had been put into her
bed by those wicked girls.

Oh, what horrors all the Vivians were! What turmoil they had created in
the hitherto orderly, happy school! "No wonder I hate them!" thought
Fanny. "Well, I can't sleep here--that's plain." She stood by the fire.
The fire began to get low; the hour waxed late. There was no sound
whatever in the house. Betty's beautiful room was in a distant wing. The
doctors might consult in the adjoining room that used to be Fanny's as
much as they pleased, but not one sound of their voices or footsteps
could reach the girl. The other schoolgirls had gone to bed. They were
all anxious, all more or less unhappy; but, compared to Fanny, they were
blessed with sweet peace, and could slumber without any sense of
reproach.

Fanny found herself turning cold. She was also hungry. She looked at the
clock on the mantelpiece; the hour was past midnight. As a rule, she was
in bed and sound asleep long before this time. Her cold and hunger made
her look at the fire; it was getting low.

Mrs. Haddo was so determined to give the girls of her school every
possible comfort that she never allowed them to feel cold in the house.
The passages were therefore heated in winter-time with steam, and each
bedroom had its own cheery fire. The governesses were treated almost
better than the pupils. But then people were not expected to sit up all
night.

Fanny opened the coal-hod, intending to put fresh coals on the dying
fire; but, to her distress, found that the hod was empty. This happened
to be a mistake on the part of the housemaid who had charge of this
special room.

Fanny felt herself growing colder and colder, and yet she dared not go
to bed. She had turned on all the electric lights, and the room itself
was bright as day. Suddenly she heard the sound of wheels crunching on
the gravel outside. She rushed to the window, and was relieved to
observe that the doctor's carriage was bowling down the avenue. The
doctors had therefore gone. Miss Symes would come to bed very soon now.
Perhaps Miss Symes would know how to catch Dickie. Anyhow, Fanny would
not be alone. She crouched in her chair near the dying embers of the
fire. The minutes ticked slowly on until at last it was a quarter to one
o'clock. Then Miss Symes opened the door and came in. She hardly noticed
the fact that Fanny was up, and the further fact that her fire was
nothing but embers did not affect her in the very least. Her eyes were
very bright, and there were red spots on each cheek. The expression on
her face brought Fanny to the momentary consciousness that they were all
in a house where the great Angel of Death might enter at any moment.

Miss Symes sat down on the nearest chair, folded her hands on her lap,
and looked at Fanny. "Well," she said, "have you nothing to ask me?"

"I am a very miserable girl!" said Fanny. "To begin with, I am hungry,
for I scarcely ate any supper to-night; I did not care for the food
provided by the Specialities. Hours and hours have passed by, and I
could not go to bed."

"And why not, Fanny?" asked Miss Symes. "Why did you stay up against the
rules? And why do you think of yourself in a moment like the present?"

"I am sorry," said Fanny; "but one must always think of one's self--at
least, I am afraid _I_ must. Not that I mean to be selfish," she added,
seeing a look of consternation spread over Miss Symes's face. "The fact
is this, St. Cecilia, I have had the most horrible fright. Those ghastly
little creatures the twins--the Vivian twins--brought a most enormous
spider into your room, hid it in the center of my bed, and then ran away
again. I never saw such a monster! I was afraid to go near the creature
at first; and when I did it looked at me--yes, absolutely looked at me!
I turned cold with horror. Then, before I could find my voice, it began
to run--and towards me! Oh, St. Cecilia, I screamed! I did. Susie and
Olive heard me, and came to the rescue. Of course they knew that the
spider was Dickie, that horrid reptile those girls brought from
Scotland. He has hidden himself somewhere in the room. The twins
themselves said that his bite was dangerous, so I am quite afraid to go
to bed; I am, really."

"Come, Fanny, don't talk nonsense!" said Miss Symes. "The poor little
twins are to be excused to-night, for they are really beside themselves.
I have just left the poor little children, and Martha West is going to
spend the night with them. Martha is a splendid creature!"

"I cannot possibly go to bed, Miss Symes."

"But you really must turn in. We don't want to have more illnesses in
the house than we can help; so, my dear Fanny, get between the sheets
and go to sleep."

"And you really think that Dickie won't hurt me?"

"Of course not; and you surely can take care of yourself. If you are
nervous you can keep one of the electric lights on. Now, do go to bed. I
am going to change into a warm dressing-gown, for I want to help the
nurse in Betty's room."

"And how is Betty?" asked Fanny in a low tone. "Why is there such a
frightful fuss about her? Is she so very ill?"

"Yes, Fanny; your cousin, Betty Vivian, is dangerously ill. No one can
quite account for what is wrong; but that her brain is affected there is
not the slightest doubt, and the doctor from London says that unless she
gets relief soon he fears very much for the result. The child is
suffering from a very severe shock, and to-morrow Mrs. Haddo intends to
make most urgent inquiries as to the nature of what went wrong. But I
needn't talk to you any longer about her now. Go to bed and to sleep."

While Miss Symes was speaking she was changing her morning-dress and
putting on a very warm woolen dressing-gown. The next minute she had
left the room without taking any further notice of Fanny. Fanny,
terrified, cold, afraid to undress, but unable from sheer sleepiness to
stay up any longer, got between the sheets and soon dropped into
undisturbed slumber. If Dickie watched her in the distance he left her
alone. There were worse enemies waiting to spy on poor Fanny than even
Dickie.

In a school like Haddo Court dangerous illness must affect each member
of the large and as a rule deeply attached family. Betty Vivian had come
like a bright meteor into the midst of the school. She had delighted
her companions; she had fascinated them; she had drawn forth love. She
could do what no other girl had ever done in the school. No one supposed
Betty to be free from faults, but every one also knew that her faults
were exceeded by her virtues. She was loved because she was lovable. The
only one who really hated her was her cousin Fanny.

Now, Fanny knew well that inquiries would be made; for the favorite must
not be ill if anything could be done to save her, nor must a stone be
left unturned to effect her recovery.

Fanny awoke the next morning with a genuine headache, fearing she knew
not what. The great gong which always awoke the school was not sounded
that day; but a servant came in and brought Fanny's hot water, waking
her at the same time. Fanny rubbed her eyes, tried to recall where she
was, and then asked the woman how Miss Vivian was.

"I don't know, miss. It's a little late, but if you are quick you'll be
down in hall at the usual time."

Fanny felt that she hated the woman. As she dressed, however, she forgot
all about her, so intensely anxious was she to recover the packet from
its hiding-place in her own bedroom. She wondered much if she could
accomplish this, and presently, prompted by the motto, "Nothing venture,
nothing win," tidied her dress, smoothed back her hair, washed her face,
tried to look as she might have looked on an ordinary morning, and
finding that she had quite ten minutes to spare before she must appear
in hall, ran swiftly in the direction of her own room.

She was sufficiently early to know that there was very little chance of
her meeting another girl en route, and even if she did she could easily
explain that she was going to her room to fetch some article of wardrobe
which had been forgotten.

She reached the room. The door was shut. Very softly she turned the
handle; it yielded to her pressure, and she went in.

The nurse turned at once to confront her. "You mustn't come in here,
miss."

"I just want to fetch something from one of my drawers; I won't make the
slightest noise," said Fanny. "Please let me in."

Sister Helen said nothing further. Fanny softly opened one of the
drawers. She knew the exact spot where the packet lay hidden. A moment
later she had folded it up in some of her under-linen and conveyed it
outside the room without Sister Helen suspecting anything. As soon as
she found herself in the corridor she removed the packet from its
wrappings and slipped it into her inner pocket. It must stay on her
person for the present, for in no other place could it possibly be safe.
When she regained Miss Symes's room she found that lady already there.
She was making her toilet.

"Why, Fanny," she said, "what have you been doing? You haven't, surely,
been to your own room! Did Sister Helen let you in?"

"She didn't want to; but I required some--some handkerchiefs and things
of that sort," said Fanny.

"Well, you haven't brought any handkerchiefs," said Miss Symes. "You
have only brought a couple of night-dresses."

"Sister Helen rather frightened me, and I just took these and ran away,"
answered the girl. Then she added, lowering her voice, "How is Betty
to-day?"

"You will hear all about Betty downstairs. It is time for you to go into
the hall. Don't keep me, Fanny."

Fanny, only too delighted, left the room. Now she was safe. The worst of
all could not happen to her. When she reached the great central hall,
where the girls usually met for a few minutes before breakfast, she
immediately joined a large circle of girls of the upper school. They
were talking about Betty. Among the group was Sibyl Ray. Sibyl was
crying, and when Fanny appeared she turned abruptly aside as though she
did not wish to be seen. Fanny, who had been almost jubilant at having
secured the packet, felt a new sense of horror at Sibyl's tears. Sibyl
was the sort of girl to be very easily affected.

As Fanny came near she heard Susie Rushworth say to Sibyl, "Yes, it is
true; Betty has lost something, and if she doesn't find it she will--the
doctor, the great London doctor, says that she will--die."

Sibyl gave another great, choking sob.

Fanny took her arm. "Sibyl," she said, "don't you want to come for a
walk with me during recess this morning?"

"Oh, I don't know, Fanny!" said poor Sibyl, raising her eyes, streaming
with tears, to Fanny's face.

"Well, I want you," said Fanny. Then she added in a low tone, "Don't
forget Brighton and Aunt Amelia, and the excellent time you will have,
and the positive certainty that before a year is up you will be a
Speciality. Don't lose all these things for the sake of a little
sentiment. Understand, too, that doctors are often wrong about people.
It is ridiculous to suppose that a strong, hearty girl like Betty Vivian
should have her life in danger because you happened to find----"

"Oh, don't!" said Sibyl. "I--I _can't_ bear it! I saw Sylvia and Hetty
last night. I can't bear it!"

"You are a little goose, Sibyl! It's my opinion you are not well. You
must cling to me, dear, and I will pull you through--see if I don't."

As Fanny took her usual place at the breakfast-table Susie Rushworth
said to her, "You really are kind to that poor little Sibyl, Fan. After
all, we must have been a little hard on her last night. She certainly
shows the greatest distress and affection for poor dear Betty."

"I said she was a nice child. I shouldn't be likely to propose her for
the club if she were not," said Fanny.

Susie said nothing more. All the girls were dull, grave, distressed. The
twins were nowhere to be seen. Betty's sweet face, Betty's sparkling
eyes, Betty's gay laugh, were conspicuous by their absence. Miss Symes
did not appear at all.

When breakfast was over, and the brief morning prayers had been gone
through by Mr. Fairfax--for these prayers were not said in the
chapel--Mrs. Haddo rose and faced the school. "Girls," she said, "I wish
to let you all know that one of your number--one exceedingly dear to us
all--is lying now at the point of death. Whether God will spare her or
not depends altogether on her mind being given a certain measure of
relief. I need not tell you her name, for you all know it, and I believe
you are all extremely grieved at what has occurred. It is impossible for
any of you to help her at this moment except by being extra quiet, and
by praying to God to be good to her and her two little sisters. I
propose, therefore, to make a complete alteration in the arrangements of
to-day. I am going to send the whole of the upper school--with the
exception of the members of the Speciality Club--to London by train. Two
of the teachers, Mademoiselle and Miss Oxley, will accompany you. You
will all be driven to the station, and win return to-night--having, I
hope, enjoyed a pleasant day. By that time there may be good news to
greet you. No lessons to-day for any of the upper school; so, girls, go
at once and get ready."

All the girls began now to leave the great hall, with the exception of
the Specialities and Sibyl Ray.

"Go, Sibyl!" said Fanny. "What are you lingering for?"

"Yes, Sibyl, be quick; don't delay!" said Mrs. Haddo, speaking rather
sharply. "You will all be back in time to-night to hear the latest
report of dear Betty, and we trust we may have good news to tell you."

Sibyl went with extreme slowness and extreme unwillingness. But for the
fact that Fanny kept her eye fixed on Sibyl she might have refused to
budge. As it was, she left the hall; and a very few minutes later
wagonettes and motors appeared in view, and the girls of the upper
school drove to the railway station.

As Fanny saw Sibyl driving off with the others she became conscious of a
new sense of relief. She had been so anxious with regard to Sibyl that
she had not had time to wonder why the Specialities were not included in
the entertainment. Now, however, her thoughts were turned into a
different channel.

Susie Rushworth came up to Fanny. "Fanny," she said, "you and I, and the
Bertrams, and Olive, and Margaret, and Martha are all to go immediately
to Mrs. Haddo's private sitting-room."

"What for?" asked Fanny.

"I expect that she will explain. We are to go, and at once."

Fanny did not dare to say any more. They all went slowly together in the
direction of that beautiful room where Mrs. Haddo, usually so bright, so
cheery, so full of enthusiasm, invited her young pupils to meet her. But
there was no smile of welcome on that lady's fine face on the present
occasion. She did not even shake hands with the girls as they
approached. All she did was to ask them to sit down.

Fanny took her place between Olive and one of the Bertrams. She could
not help noticing a great change in their manner towards her. As a rule
she was a prime favorite, and to sit next Fanny Crawford was considered
a very rare honor. On this occasion, however, the girls rather edged
away from Fanny.

Mrs. Haddo seated herself near the fire. Then she turned and spoke to
Margaret Grant. "Margaret," she said, "I ask you, in the name of the
other members of your club, to give me full and exact particulars with
regard to your expulsion of Betty Vivian. I must know, and fully, why
Betty was expelled. Pause a minute before you speak, dear. For long
years I have allowed this club to exist in the school, believing much in
its good influence--in its power to ennoble and raise the impressionable
character of a young girl. I have not interfered with it; on the
contrary, I have been proud of it. To each girl who became a Speciality
I immediately granted certain privileges, knowing well that no girl
would be lightly admitted to a club with so high an aim and so noble a
standard.

"When Betty first came I perceived at once that she was fearless, very
affectionate, and possessed a strong, pronounced, willful character; I
saw, in short, that she was worth winning and loving. I liked her
sisters also; but Betty was superior to her sisters. I departed from
several established customs when I admitted the Vivians to this school,
and I will own that I had my qualms of conscience notwithstanding the
fact that my old friend Sir John Crawford was so anxious for me to have
them here. Nevertheless, when first I saw Betty I knew that he was right
and I was wrong. That such a girl might stir up deep interest, and
perhaps even bring sorrow into the school, I knew was within the bounds
of probability; but I did not think it possible that she could ever
disgrace it. I own I was a little surprised when I was told that so new
a girl was made a member of your club; but as you, Margaret, were
secretary, and as Susie Rushworth and my dear friend Fanny were members,
I naturally had not a word to say, and only admired your discernment in
reading aright that young character.

"Then there came the news--the terrible news--that Betty was expelled;
and since then there has been confusion, sorrow, and now this most
alarming illness. The girl is dying of a broken heart. She has lost
something that she treasures. Margaret, the rules of the club must give
place to the greater rules of the school; and I demand a full
explanation from you of the exact reason why Betty Vivian is no longer a
member of the Specialities."

Margaret looked round at the other members. All their faces were white.
No one spoke for a minute.

Then Fanny rose and said, "Is it fair, for Betty's sake, that we should
break our own rules? The reason of her being no longer a member is at
present known only to the rest of us. Is it right that it should be made
public property?"

"It must be made _my_ property, Fanny Crawford; and I do not ask you,
much as I esteem your father's friendship, to dictate to me in this
matter."

Fanny sat down again. She felt the little packet in her pocket. That, at
least, was secure; that, at least, would not rise up and betray her.

Margaret gave a very simple explanation of the reason why Betty could
not remain in the club. She said that Betty had taken the rules and
studied them carefully; had most faithfully promised to obey them; and
then, a fortnight later, had stood up and stated that she had broken
Rule No. I., for she had a secret which she had not divulged to the
other members.

"And that secret, Margaret?" asked Mrs. Haddo.

"She had, she said, a packet--a sealed packet of great value--that she
did not wish any one in the school to know about. It had been given to
her by one she loved. She was extremely reticent about it, and seemed to
be in great trouble. She explained why she had not spoken of it at first
by saying that she did not think that the secret concerned any one in
the school, but since she had joined the club she had felt that she
ought to tell. We asked her all the questions we could; and she
certainly gave us to understand that the packet was hers by right, but
that, rather than give it up, she had told an untruth about it to
Fanny's father, Sir John Crawford. We were very much stunned and
distressed at her revelation, and we begged of her to go with the story
to you, and also to put the packet in your charge, and tell you what she
had already told us. This she emphatically refused to do, saying that
she would never give the packet up under any conditions whatever. We had
a special meeting of the club on the following night, when we again
asked Betty what she meant to do. She said her intention was to keep
firmly to her resolve that she would never give up the packet nor tell
where she had hidden it. We then felt it to be our bounden duty to ask
her to withdraw from the club. She did so. I think that is all."

"Only," said Mrs. Haddo, speaking in a voice of great distress, "that
the poor, unhappy child seems to have lost the packet--which contained
nobody knows what, but some treasure which she prized--and that the loss
and the shock together are affecting her life to the point of danger.
Girls, do any of you know--have you any clue whatsoever to--where the
packet is now? Please remember, dear girls, that Betty's life--that
beautiful, vivid young life--depends on that packet being restored.
Don't keep it a secret if you have any clue whatsoever to give me, for I
am miserable about this whole thing."

"Indeed we wouldn't keep it a secret," said Margaret. "How could we?
We'd give all the world to find it for her. Who can have taken it?"

"Some one has, beyond doubt," said Mrs. Haddo. "Children, this is a
terrible day for me. I have tried to be kind to you all. Won't you help
me now in my sorrow?"

The girls crowded round her, some of them kneeling by her side, some of
them venturing to kiss her hand; but from every pair of lips came the
same words, "We know nothing of the packet." Even Fanny, who kept it in
her pocket, and who heartily wished that it was lying at the bottom of
the sea, repeated the same words as her companions.



CHAPTER XXI

A RAY OF HOPE


A few minutes later the Speciality girls had left Mrs. Haddo's room.
There were to be no lessons that day; therefore they could spend their
time as they liked best. But an enforced holiday of this kind was no
pleasure to any of them.

Martha said at once that she was going to seek the twins. "I have left
them in my room," she said. "They hardly slept all night. I never saw
such dear, affectionate little creatures. They are absolutely
broken-hearted. I promised to come to them as soon as I could."

"Have you asked them to trust you--to treat you as a true friend?" asked
Fanny Crawford.

"I have, Fanny; and the strange thing is, that although beyond doubt
they know pretty nearly as much about Betty's secret and about the lost
packet as she does herself, poor child, they are just as reticent with
regard to it. They will not tell. Nothing will induce them to betray
Betty. Over and over again I have implored of them, for the sake of her
life, to take me into their confidence; but I might as well have spoken
to adamant. They will not do it."

"They have exactly the same stubborn nature," said Fanny.

The other girls looked reproachfully at her.

Then Olive said, "You have never liked your cousins, Fanny; and it does
pain us all that you should speak against them at a moment like the
present."

"Then I will go away," said Fanny. "I can see quite well that my
presence is uncongenial to you all. I will find my own amusements. But I
may as well state that if I am to be tortured and looked down on in the
school, I shall write to Aunt Amelia and ask her to take me in until
father writes to Mrs. Haddo about me. You must admit, all of you, that
it has been a miserable time for me since the Vivians came to the
school."

"You have made it miserable yourself, Fanny," was Susie's retort.

Then Fanny got up and went away. A moment later she was joined by Martha
West.

"Fanny, dear Fanny," said Martha, "won't you tell me what is changing
you so completely?"

"There is nothing changing me," said Fanny in some alarm. "What do you
mean, Martha?"

"Oh, but you look so changed! You are not a bit what you used to be--so
jolly, so bright, so--so very pretty. Now you have a careworn, anxious
expression. I don't understand you in the very least."

"And I don't want you to," said Fanny. "You are all bewitched with
regard to that tiresome girl; even I, your old and tried friend, have no
chance against her influence. When I tell you I know her far better than
any of you can possibly do, you don't believe me. You suspect me of
harboring unkind and jealous thoughts against her; as if I, Fanny
Crawford, could be jealous of a nobody like Betty Vivian!"

"Fanny, you know perfectly well that Betty will never be a nobody. There
is something in her which raises her altogether above the low standard
to which you assign her. Oh, Fanny, what is the matter with you?"

"Please leave me alone, Martha. If you had spent the wretched night I
have spent you might look tired and worn out too. I was turned out of my
bedroom, to begin with, because Sister Helen required it."

"Well, surely there was no hardship in that?" said Martha. "I, for
instance, spent the night gladly with dear little Sylvia and Hester; we
all had a room together in the lower school. Do you think I grumbled?"

"Oh, of course you are a saint!" said Fanny with a sneer.

"I am not, but I think I am human; and just at present, for some
extraordinary reason, you are not."

"Well, you haven't heard the history of my woes. I had to share Miss
Symes's room with her."

"St. Cecilia's delightful room! Surely that was no great hardship?"

"Wait until you hear. St. Cecilia was quite kind, as she always is; and
I was told that I could have a room to myself to-night. I found, to
begin with, however, that most of the clothes I wanted had been left
behind in my own room. Still, I made no complaint; although, of course,
it was not comfortable, particularly as Miss Symes intended to sit up in
order to see the doctors. But as I was preparing to get into bed, those
twins--those horrid girls that you make such a fuss about,
Martha--rushed into the room and put an awful spider into the center of
my bed, and when I tried to get rid of it, it rushed towards me. Then I
screamed out, and Susie and Olive came in. But we couldn't catch the
spider nor find it anywhere. You don't suppose I was likely to go to bed
with _that_ thing in the room? The fire went nearly out. I was hungry,
sleepy, cold. I assure you I have my own share of misery. Then Miss
Symes came in and ordered me to bed. I went, but hardly slept a wink.
And now you expect me to be as cheerful and bright and busy as a bee
this morning!"

"Oh, not cheerful, poor Fanny!--we can none of us be that with Betty in
such great danger; but you can at least be busy, you can at least help
others."

"Thank you," replied Fanny; "self comes first now and then, and it does
on the present occasion;" and Fanny marched to Miss Symes's room.

Martha looked after her until she disappeared from view; then, with a
heavy sigh, she went towards her own room. Here a fire was burning. Some
breakfast had been brought up for the twins, for they were not expected
to appear downstairs that morning. The untasted breakfast, however,
remained on the little, round table beside the fire, and Sylvia and
Hetty were nowhere to be seen.

"Where have they gone?" thought Martha. "Oh, I trust they haven't been
so mad as to go to Betty's room!"

She considered for a few minutes. She must find the children, and she
must not trouble any one else in the school about them. Dr. Ashley had
paid his morning visit, and there was quietness in the corridor just
outside Betty's room. Martha went there and listened. The high-strung,
anxious voice was no longer heard crying aloud piteously for what it
could not obtain. The door of the room was slightly ajar. Martha
ventured to peep in. Betty was lying with her face towards the wall, her
long, thick black hair covering the pillow, and one small hand flung
restlessly outside the counterpane.

Sister Helen saw Martha, and with a wave of her hand, beckoned the girl
not to come in. Martha retreated to the corridor. Sister Helen followed
her.

"What do you want, dear?" said the nurse. "You cannot possibly disturb
Betty. She is asleep. Both the doctor and I most earnestly hope that she
may awake slightly better. Dr. Jephson is coming to see her again this
evening. If by that time her symptoms have not improved he is going to
bring another brain specialist down with him. Dr. Ashley is to wire him
in the middle of the day, stating exactly how Betty Vivian is. If she is
the least bit better, Dr. Jephson will come alone; if worse, he will
bring Dr. Stephen Reynolds with him. Why, what is the matter? How pale
you look!"

"You think badly of Betty, Sister Helen?"

Sister Helen did not speak for a moment except by a certain look
expressed in her eyes. "Another nurse will arrive within an hour," she
said, "and then I shall be off duty for a short time. What can I do for
you? I mustn't stay whispering here."

"I have come to find dear Betty's little sisters."

"Oh, they left the room some time ago."

"Left the room!" said Martha. "Oh, Sister Helen, have they been here?"

"Yes, both of them, poor children. I went away to fetch some hot water.
Betty was lying very quiet; she had not spoken for nearly an hour. I
hoped she was dropping asleep. When I came back I saw a sight which
would bring tears to any eyes. Her two little sisters had climbed on to
the bed and were lying close to her, one on each side. They didn't
notice me at all; but as I came in I heard one of them say, 'Don't fret,
Bettina; we are going now, at once, to find it.' And then the other
said, 'And we won't come back until we've got it.' There came the ghost
of a smile over my poor little patient's face. She tried to speak, but
was too weak. I went up to one of the little girls and took her arm, and
whispered to her gently; and then they both got up at once, as meekly as
mice, and said, 'Betty, we won't come back until we've found it.' And
poor little Betty smiled again. For some extraordinary reason their
visit seemed to comfort her; for she sighed faintly, turned on her side,
and dropped asleep, just as she is now. I must go back to her at once,
Miss--Miss----"

"West," replied Martha. "Martha West is my name."

The nurse said nothing further, but returned to the sickroom. Martha
went very quickly back to her own. She felt she had a task cut out for
her. The twins had in all probability gone out. Their curious reticence
had been the most painful part of poor Martha's night-vigil. She had to
try to comfort the little girls who would not confide one particle of
their trouble to her. At intervals they had broken into violent fits of
sobbing, but they had never spoken; they had not even mentioned Betty's
name. By and by, towards morning, they each allowed Martha to clasp one
arm around them, and had dropped off into an uneasy slumber.

Now they were doubtless out of doors. But where? Martha was by no means
acquainted with the haunts of the twins. She knew Sibyl Ray fairly well,
and had always been kind to her; but up to the present the younger
Vivian girls had not seemed to need any special kindness. They were
hearty, merry children; they were popular in the school, and had made
friends of their own. She wanted to seek for them now, but it never
occurred to her for a single moment where they might possibly be
discovered.

The grounds round Haddo Court were very extensive, and Martha did not
leave a yard of these grounds unexplored, yet nowhere could she find the
twins. At last she came back to the house, tired out and very miserable.
She ran once more to her own room, wondering if they were now there. The
room was quite empty. The housemaid had removed the breakfast-things and
built up the fire. Martha had been told as a great secret that the
Vivians possessed an attic, where they kept their pets. She found the
attic, but it was empty. Even Dickie had forsaken it, and the different
caterpillars were all buried in their chrysalis state. Martha quickly
left the Vivians' attic. She wandered restlessly and miserably through
the lower school, and visited the room where she had slept, or tried to
sleep, the night before. Nowhere could she find them.

Meanwhile Sylvia and Hester had done a very bold deed. They were
reckless of school rules at a moment like the present. Their one and
only desire was to save Betty at any cost. They knew quite well that
Betty had hidden the packet, but where they could not tell. Betty had
said to them in her confident young voice, "The less you know the
better;" and they had trusted her, as they always would trust her as
long as they lived, for Betty, to them, meant all that was noble and
great and magnificent in the world.

It flashed now, however, through Sylvia's little brain that perhaps
Betty had taken the lost treasure to Mrs. Miles to keep. She whispered
her thought to Hester, who seized it with sudden rapture.

"We can, at least, confide in Mrs. Miles," said Hetty; "and we can tell
the dogs. Perhaps the dogs could scent it out; dogs are such wonders."

"We will go straight to Mrs. Miles," said Sylvia.

Betty had told them with great glee--ah, how merry Betty was in those
days!--how she had first reached the farm, of her delightful time with
Dan and Beersheba, of her dinner, of her drive back. Had not they
themselves also visited Stoke Farm? What a delightful, what a glorious,
time they had had there! That indeed was a time of joy. Now was a time
of fearful trouble. But they felt, poor little things! though they could
not possibly confide either in kind Martha West or in any of their
school-friends, that they might confide in Mrs. Miles.

Accordingly they managed to vault over the iron railings, get on to the
roadside, and in course of time to reach Stoke Farm. The dogs rushed out
to meet them. But Dan and Beersheba were sagacious beasts. They hated
frivolity, they hated unfeeling people, but they respected great sorrow;
and when Hetty said with a burst of tears, "Oh, Dan, Dan, darling Dan,
Betty, your Betty and ours, is so dreadfully ill!" Dan fawned upon the
little girl, licked her hands, and looked into her face with all the
pathos in the world in his brown doggy eyes. Beersheba, of course,
followed his brother's example. So the poor little twins, accompanied by
the dogs, entered Mrs. Miles's kitchen.

Mrs. Miles sprang up with a cry of rapture and surprise at the sight of
them. "Why, my dears! my dears!" she said. "And wherever is the elder of
you? Where do she be? Oh, then it's me is right glad to see you both!"

"We want to talk to you, Mrs. Miles," said Sylvia.

"And we want to kiss you, Mrs. Miles," said Hester.

Then they flung themselves upon her and burst into floods of most bitter
weeping.

Mrs. Miles had not brought up a large family of children for nothing.
She was accustomed to childish griefs. She knew how violent, how
tempestuous, such griefs might be, and yet how quickly the storms would
pass, the sunshine come, and how smiles would replace tears. She treated
the twins, therefore, now, just as though they were her own children.
She allowed them to cry on her breast, and murmured, "Dear, dear! Poor
lambs! poor lambs! Now, this is dreadful bad, to be sure! But don't you
mind how many tears you shed when you've got Mrs. Miles close to you.
Cry on, pretties, cry on, and God comfort you!"

So the children, who felt so lonely and desolate, did cry until they
could cry no longer. Then Mrs. Miles immediately did the sort of thing
she invariably found effectual in the case of her own children. She put
the exhausted girls into a comfortable chair each by the fire, and
brought them some hot milk and a slice of seed-cake, and told them they
must sip the milk and eat the cake before they said any more.

Now, as a matter of fact, Sylvia and Hetty were, without knowing it in
the least, in a starving condition. From the instant that Betty's
serious illness was announced they had absolutely refused all food,
turning from it with loathing. Supper the night before was not for them,
and breakfast had remained untasted that morning. Mrs. Miles had
therefore done the right thing when she provided them with a comforting
and nourishing meal. They would have refused to touch the cake had one
of their schoolfellows offered it, but they obeyed Mrs. Miles just as
though she were their real mother.

And while they ate, and drank their hot milk, the good woman went on
with her cooking operations. "I am having a fine joint to-day," she
said: "corned beef that couldn't be beat in any county in England, and
that's saying a good deal. It'll be on the table, with dumplings to
match and a big apple-tart, sharp at one o'clock. I might ha' guessed
that some o' them dear little missies were coming to dinner, for I
don't always have a hot joint like this in the middle o' the week."

The girls suddenly felt that of all things in the world they would like
corned beef best; that dumplings would be a delicious accompaniment; and
that apple-tart, eaten with Mrs. Miles's rich cream, would go well with
such a dinner. They became almost cheerful. Matters were not quite so
black, and they had a sort of feeling that Mrs. Miles would certainly
help them to find the lost treasure.

Having got her dinner into perfect order, and laid the table, and put
everything right for the arrival of her good man, Mrs. Miles shut the
kitchen door and drew her chair close to the children.

"Now you are warm," she said, "and fed, you don't look half so miserable
as you did when you came in. I expect the good food nourished you up a
bit. And now, whatever's the matter? And where is that darling, Miss
Betty? Bless her heart! but she twined herself round us all entirely,
that she did."

It would be wrong to say that Sylvia did not burst into fresh weeping at
the sound of Betty's name.

But Hester was of stronger mettle. "We have come to you," she said--"Oh,
Sylvia, do stop crying! it does no manner of good to cry all the
time--we have come to you, Mrs. Miles, to help us to save Betty."

"Lawk-a-mercy! and whatever's wrong with the dear lamb?"

"We are going to tell you everything," said Hester. "We have quite made
up our minds. Betty is very, very ill."

"Yes," said Sylvia, "she is so ill that Dr. Ashley came to see her twice
yesterday, and then again a third time with a great, wonderful special
doctor from London; and we were not allowed to sleep in her room last
night, and she's--oh, she's dreadfully bad!

"They whispered in the school," continued Sylvia in a low tone--"I
heard them; they _did_ whisper it in the school--that perhaps Betty
would--would _die_. Mrs. Miles, that can't be true! God doesn't take
away young, young girls like our Betty. God couldn't be so cruel."

"We won't call it cruelty," said Mrs. Miles; "but God does do it, all
the same, for His own wise purposes, no doubt. We'll not talk o' that,
my lambs; we'll let that pass by. The thing is for you to tell me what
has gone wrong with that bonny, strong-looking girl. Why, when she was
here last, although she was a bit pale, she looked downright healthy and
strong enough for anything. Eh, my dear dears! you can't mention her
name even now to Dan and Beersheba that they ain't took with fits o'
delight about her, dancing and scampering like half-mad dogs, and
whining for her to come to them. There, to be sure! they know you belong
to her, and they're lying down as contented as anything at your feet. I
don't expect, somehow, your sister will die, my loves, although gels as
young as she have passed into the Better Land. Oh, dear, I'm making you
cry again! It's good corned beef and dumplings you want. You mustn't
give way, my dears; people who give way in times o' trouble ain't worth
their salt."

"We thought perhaps you'd help us," said Sylvia.

"Help you, darlings! That I will! I'd help you to this extent--I'd help
you even to the giving up o' the custom o' Haddo Court. Now, what can I
do more than that?"

"Oh, but your help--the help you can give us--won't do you any harm,"
said Hester. "We'll tell you about Betty, for we know that you'll never
let it out--except, indeed, to your husband. We don't mind a bit his
knowing. Now, this is what has happened. You know we had great
trouble--or perhaps you don't know. Anyhow, we had great trouble--away,
away in beautiful Scotland. One we loved died. Before she died she left
something for Betty to take care of, and Betty took what she had left
her. It was only a little packet, quite small, tied up in brown paper,
and sealed with a good many seals. We don't know what the packet
contained; but we thought perhaps it might be money, and Betty said to
us that it would be a very good thing for us to have some money to fall
back upon in case we didn't like the school."

"Now, whatever for?" asked Mrs. Miles. "And who could dislike a school
like Haddo Court?"

"Of course we couldn't tell," said Sylvia, "not having been there; but
Betty, who is always very wise, said it was best be on the safe side,
and that perhaps the packet contained money, and if it did we'd have
enough to live on in case we chose to run away."

"Oh, missies, did I ever hear tell o' the like! To run away from a
beautiful school like Haddo Court! Why, there's young ladies all over
England trying to get into it! But you didn't know, poor lambs! Well, go
on; tell me the rest."

"There was a man who was made our guardian," continued Sylvia, "and he
was quite kind, and we had nothing to say against him. His name is Sir
John Crawford."

"Miss Fanny's father, bless her!" said Mrs. Miles; "and a pretty young
lady she do be."

"Fanny Crawford is our cousin," said Sylvia, "and we hate her most
awfully."

"Oh, my dear young missies! but hate is a weed--a noxious weed that
ought to be pulled up out o' the ground o' your hearts."

"It is taking deep root in mine," said Sylvia.

"And in mine," said Hester.

"But please let us tell you the rest, Mrs. Miles. Sir John Crawford had
a letter from our dear aunt, who left the packet for Betty; and we
cannot understand it, but she seemed to wish Sir John Crawford to take
care of the packet for the present. He looked for it everywhere, and
could not find it. Was he likely to when Betty had taken it? Then he
asked Betty quite suddenly if she knew anything about it, and Betty
stood up and said 'No.' She told a huge, monstrous lie, and she didn't
even change color, and he believed her. So we came here. Well, Betty was
terribly anxious for fear the packet should be found, and one night we
helped her to climb down from the balcony out of our bedroom. No one saw
her go, and no one saw her return, and she put the packet away
somewhere--we don't know where. Well, after that, wonderful things
happened, and Betty was made a tremendous fuss of in the school. There
was no one like her, and she was loved like anything, and we were as
proud as Punch of her. But all of a sudden everything changed, and our
Betty was disgraced. There were horrid things written on a blackboard
about her. She was quite innocent, poor darling! But the things
were written, and Betty is the sort of girl to feel such disgrace
frightfully. We were quite preparing to run away with her, for
we thought she wouldn't care to stay much longer in the
school--notwithstanding your opinion of it, Mrs. Miles. But all of a
sudden Betty seemed to go right down, as though some one had felled her
with an awful blow. She kept crying out, and crying out, that the packet
was lost. Anyhow, she thinks it is lost; she hasn't an idea where it can
be. And the doctors say that Betty's brain is in such a curious state
that unless the packet is found she--she may die.

"So we went to her, both of us, and we told her we would go and find
it," continued Sylvia. "We have got to find it. That is what we have
come about. We don't suppose for a minute that it was right of Betty to
tell the lie; but that was the only thing she did wrong. Anyhow, we
don't care whether she did right or wrong; she is our Betty, the most
splendid, the very dearest girl in all the world, and she sha'n't die.
We thought perhaps you would help us to find the packet."

"Well," said Mrs. Miles, "that's a wonderful story, and it's a queer
sort o' job to put upon a very busy farmer's wife. _Me_ to find the
packet?"

"Yes; you or your husband, whichever of you can or will do it. It is
Betty's life that depends upon it. Couldn't your dogs help us? In
Scotland we have dogs that scent anything. Are yours that sort?"

"They haven't been trained," said Mrs. Miles, "and that's the simple
truth. Poor darlings! you must bear up as best you can. It's a very
queer story, but of course the packet must be found. You stay here for
the present, and I'll go out and meet my husband as he comes along to
his dinner. I reckon, when all's said and done, I'm a right good wife
and a right good mother, and that there ain't a farm kept better than
ours anywhere in the neighborhood, nor finer fowls for the table, nor
better ducks, nor more tender geese and turkeys. Then as to our
pigs--why, the pigs themselves be a sight. And we rears horses, too, and
very good many o' them turn out. And in the spring-time we have young
lambs and young heifers; in fact, there ain't a young thing that can be
born that don't seem to have a right to take up its abode at Stoke Farm.
And I does for 'em all, the small twinses being too young and the old
twinses too rough and big for the sort o' work. Well, my dears, I'm good
at all that sort o' thing; but when it comes to dertective business I am
nowhere, and I may as well confess it. I am sorry for you, my loves; but
this is a job for the farmer and not for me, for he's always down on the
poachers, and very bitter he feels towards 'em. He has to be sharp and
sudden and swift and knowing, whereas I have to be tender and loving and
petting and true. That's the differ between us. He's more the person for
this 'ere job, and I'll go and speak to him while you sit by the kitchen
fire."

"Do, please, please, Mrs. Miles!" said both the twins.

Then she left them, and they sat very still in the warm, silent kitchen;
and by and by Sylvia, worn out with grief, and not having slept at all
during the previous night, dropped into an uneasy slumber, while Hetty
stroked her sister's hand and Dan's head until she also fell asleep.

The dogs, seeing that the girls were asleep, thought that they might do
the same. When, therefore, Farmer Miles and his wife entered the
kitchen, it was to find the two girls and the dogs sound asleep.

"Poor little lambs! Do look at 'em!" said Mrs. Miles. "They be wore out,
and no mistake."

"Let's lay 'em on the sofa along here," said Miles. "While they're
having their sleep out you get the dinner up, wife, and I'll go out and
put on my considering-cap."

The farmer had no sooner said this than--whispering to the dogs, who
very unwillingly accompanied him--he left the kitchen. He went into the
farmyard and began to pace up and down. Mrs. Miles had told her story
with some skill, the farmer having kept his attention fixed on the
salient points.

Miss Betty--even he had succumbed utterly to the charms of Miss
Betty--had lost a packet of great value. She had hidden it, doubtless in
the grounds of Haddo Court. She had gone had gone to look for it, and it
was no longer there. Some one had stolen it. Who that person could be
was what the farmer wanted to "get at," as he expressed it. "Until you
can get at the thief," he muttered under his breath, "you are nowhere at
all."

But at present he was without any clue, and, true man of business that
he was, he felt altogether at a loose end. Meanwhile, as he was pacing
up and down towards the farther edge of the prosperous-looking farmyard,
Dan uttered a growl and sprang into the road. The next minute there was
a piercing cry, and Farmer Miles, brandishing his long whip, followed
the dog. Dan was holding the skirts of a very young girl and shaking
them ferociously in his mouth. His eyes glared into the face of the
girl, and his whole aspect was that of anger personified. Luckily,
Beersheba was not present, or the girl might have had a sorry time of
it. With a couple of strides the farmer advanced towards her; dealt some
swift lashes with his heavy whip on the dog's head, which drove him
back; then, taking the girl's small hand, he said to her kindly, "Don't
you be frightened, miss; his bark's a sight worse nor his bite."

"Oh, he did terrify me so!" was the answer; "and I've been running for
such a long time, and I'm very, very tired."

"Well, miss, I don't know your name nor anything about you; but this
land happens to be private property--belonging to me, and to me alone.
Of course, if it weren't for that I'd have no right to have fierce dogs
about ready to molest human beings. It was a lucky thing for you, miss,
that I was so close by. And whatever be your name, if I may be so bold
as to ask, and where be you going now?"

"My name is Sibyl Ray, and I belong to Haddo Court."

"Dear, dear, dear! seems to me, somehow, that Haddo Court and Stoke Farm
are going to have a right good connection. I don't complain o' the
butter, and the bread, and the cheese, and the eggs, and the fowls as we
sarve to the school; but I never counted on the young ladies taking
their abode in my quarters."

"What do you mean, and who are you?" said Sibyl in great amazement.

"My name, miss, is Farmer Miles; and this house"--he pointed to his
dwelling--"is my homestead; and there are two young ladies belonging to
your school lying fast asleep at the present moment in my wife's
kitchen, and they has given me a problem to think out. It's a mighty
stiff one, but it means life or death; so of course I have, so to speak,
my knife in it, and I'll get the kernel out afore I'm many hours older."

Sibyl, who had been very miserable before she started, who had endured
her drive with what patience she could, and whose heart was burning
with hatred to Fanny and passionate, despairing love for Betty Vivian,
was so exhausted now that she very nearly fainted.

The farmer looked at her out of his shrewd eyes. "Being a member o' the
school, Miss Ray," he said, "you doubtless are acquainted with them
particularly charming young ladies, the Misses Vivian?"

"Indeed I know them all, and love them all," said Sibyl.

"Now, that's good hearing; for they be a pretty lot, that they be. And
as to the elder, I never see'd a face like hers--so wonderful, and with
such a light about it; and her courage--bless you, miss! the dogs
wouldn't harm _her_. It was fawning on her, and licking her hand, and
petting her they were. Is it true, miss, that Miss Betty is so mighty
bad?"

"It is true," said Sibyl; "and I wonder----Oh; please don't leave me
standing here alone on the road. I am so miserable and frightened! I
wonder if it's Sylvia and Hester who are in your house?"

"Yes, they be the missies, and dear little things they be."

"And have they told you anything?" asked Sibyl.

"Well, yes; they have set me a conundrum--a mighty stiff one. It seems
that Miss Betty Vivian has lost a parcel, and she be that fretted about
it that she's nigh to death, and the little uns have promised to get it
back for her; and, poor children! they've set me on the job, and how
ever I'm to do it I don't know."

"I think perhaps I can help you," said Sibyl suddenly. "I'll tell you
this much, Farmer Miles. I can get that packet back, and I'd much rather
get it back with your help than without it."

"Shake hands on that, missie. I wouldn't like to be, so to speak, in a
thing, and then cast out o' it again afore the right moment. But
whatever do you mean?"

"You shall know all at the right time," said Sibyl. "Mrs. Haddo is so
unhappy about Betty that she wouldn't allow any of the upper-school
girls to have lessons to-day, so she sent them off to spend the day in
London. I happened to be one of them, and was perfectly wretched at
having to go; so while I was driving to the railway station in one of
the wagonettes I made up my mind. I settled that whatever happened I'd
never, never, never endure another night like the last; and I couldn't
go to London and see pictures or museums or whatever places we were to
be taken to while Betty was lying at death's door, and when I knew that
it was possible for me to save her. So when we got to the station there
was rather a confusion--that is, while the tickets were being
bought--and I suddenly slipped away by myself and got outside the
station, and ran, and ran, and ran--oh, so fast!--until at last I got
quite beyond the town, and then I found myself in the country; and all
the time I kept saying, and saying, 'I will tell. She sha'n't die;
nothing else matters; Betty shall not die.'"

"Then what do you want me to help you for, missie?"

"Because," said Sibyl, holding out her little hand, "I am very weak and
you are very strong, and you will keep me up to it. Please do come with
me straight back to the school!"

"Well, there's a time for all things," said the farmer; "and I'm willing
to give up my arternoon's work, but I'm by no means willing to give up
my midday meal, for we farmers don't work for nothing--as doubtless you
know, missie. So, if you'll come along o' me and eat a morsel, we'll set
off afterwards, sure and direct, to Haddo Court; and I'll keep you up to
the mark if you're likely to fail."



CHAPTER XXII

FARMER MILES TO THE RESCUE


Sylvia and Hetty had awakened when the farmer brought Sibyl Ray into the
pleasant farmhouse kitchen. The twin-boys were absent at school, and
only the little twins came down to dinner. The beef, potatoes,
dumplings, apple-tart and cream were all A1, and Sibyl was just as glad
of the meal as were the two Vivian girls.

The Vivians did not know Sibyl very well, and had not the least idea
that she guessed their secret. She rather avoided glancing at them, and
was very shy and retiring, and stole up close to the farmer when the
dogs were admitted. But Dan and Beersheba knew what was expected of
them. Any one in the Stoke Farm kitchen had a right to be there; and
were they going to waste their precious time and affection on the sort
of girl they would love to bite, when Sylvia and Hetty were present? So
they fawned on the twin-girls, taking up a good deal of their attention;
and by and by the dinner came to an end.

When it was quite over the farmer got up, wiped his mouth with a big,
red-silk handkerchief, and, going up to the Vivian twins, said quietly,
"You can go home, whenever you like; and I think the job you have put
upon me will be managed. Meanwhile, me and this young party will make
off to Haddo Court as fast as we can."

As this "young party" happened to be Sibyl Ray, the girls looked up in
astonishment; but the farmer gave no information of any kind, not even
bestowing a wink on his wife, who told the little twins when he had left
the kitchen accompanied by Sibyl that she would be ready to walk back
with them to the school in about half an hour.

"You need have no frets now, my loves," she said. "The farmer would
never have said words like he've spoken to you if he hadn't got his
knife right down deep into the kernel. He's fond o' using that
expression, dears, when he's nailed a poacher, and he wouldn't say no
less nor no more for a job like you've set him to."

During their walk the farmer and Sibyl hardly exchanged a word. As they
went up the avenue they saw that the place was nearly empty. The day was
a fine one; but the girls of the lower school had one special
playground some distance away, and the girls of the upper school were
supposed to be in London. Certainly no one expected Sibyl Ray to put in
an appearance here at this hour.

As they approached quite close to the mansion, Sibyl turned her very
pale face and stole her small hand into that of the farmer. "I am so
frightened!" she said; "and I know quite well this is going to ruin me,
and I shall have to go back home to be a burden to father, who is very
poor, and who thinks so much of my being educated here. But I--I will do
it all the same."

"Of course you will, missie; and poverty don't matter a mite."

"Perhaps it doesn't," said Sibyl.

"Compared to a light heart, it don't matter a gossoon, as they say in
Ireland," remarked the farmer.

Sibyl felt suddenly uplifted.

"I'll see you through, missie," he added as they came up to the wide
front entrance.

A doctor's carriage was standing there, and it was quite evident that
one or two doctors were in the house.

"Oh," said Sibyl with a gasp, "suppose we are betrayed!"

"No, we won't be that," said the farmer.

Sibyl pushed open the door, and then, standing in the hall, she rang a
bell. A servant presently appeared.

Before Sibyl could find her voice Farmer Miles said, "Will you have the
goodness to find Mrs. Haddo and tell her that I, Farmer Miles of the
Stoke Farm, have come here accompanied by one o' her young ladies, who
has something o' great importance to tell her at once?"

"Perhaps you will both come into Mrs. Haddo's private sitting-room?"
said the girl.

The farmer nodded assent, and he and Sibyl entered. When they were
inside the room Sibyl uttered a faint sigh. The farmer took out his
handkerchief and wiped his forehead.

"What a lot o' fal-lals, to be sure!" he said, looking round in a by no
means appreciative manner.

Sibyl and the farmer had to wait for some little time before Mrs. Haddo
made her appearance. When she did so a great change was noticeable in
her face; it was exceedingly pale. Her lips had lost their firm, their
even noble, expression of self-restraint; they were tremulous, as though
she had been suffering terribly. Her eyes were slightly red, as though
some of those rare tears which she so seldom shed had visited them. She
looked first at Farmer Miles and then in great amazement at Sibyl.

"Why are you here, Sibyl Ray?" she said. "I sent you to London with the
other girls of the upper school this morning. What are you doing here?"

"Perhaps I can tell you best, ma'am, if you will permit me to speak,"
said the farmer.

"I hope you will be very brief, Farmer Miles. I could not refuse your
request, but we are all in great trouble to-day at the school. One of
our young ladies--one greatly beloved by us all--is exceedingly, indeed
I must add most dangerously, ill."

"It's about her we've come," said the farmer.

Here Mrs. Haddo sank into a seat. "Why, what do you know about Miss
Betty Vivian?"

"Ah, I met her myself, not once, but twice," said Miles; "and I love
her, too, just as the wife loves her, and the big twins, and the little
twins, and the dogs--bless 'em! We all love Miss Betty Vivian. And now,
ma'am, I must tell you that Miss Betty's little sisters came to see the
good wife this morning."

Mrs. Haddo was silent.

"They told their whole story to the good wife. A packet has been lost,
and Miss Betty lies at death's door because o' the grief o' that loss.
The little uns--bless 'em!--thought that the wife could find the packet.
That ain't in her line; it's mothering and coddling and loving as is in
her line. So she put the job on me; and, to be plain, ma'am, I never
were more flabbergasted in the whole o' my life. For to catch a poacher
is one thing, and to catch a lost packet--nobody knowing where it be nor
how it were lost--is another."

"Well, why have you come to me?" said Mrs. Haddo.

"Because, ma'am, I've got a clue, and a big one; and this young lady's
the clue."

"You, Sibyl Ray--you?"

"Yes," said Sibyl.

"Speak out now, missie; don't be frightened. There are miles worse
things than poverty; there's disgrace and heart-burnings. Speak you out
bold, missie, and don't lose your courage."

"I was miserable," said Sibyl. "I didn't want to go to town, and when I
got to the station I slipped away; and I got into the lane outside Stoke
Farm and a dog came out and frightened me, and--and--then this man
came--this kind man----"

"Well, go on, Sibyl," said Mrs. Haddo; "moments are precious just now."

"I--took the packet," said Sibyl.

"_You_--took--the packet?"

"Yes. I don't want to speak against another. It was my fault--or mostly
my fault. I did love Betty, and it didn't matter at all to me that she
was expelled from the Specialities; I should love her just as much if
she were expelled from fifty Specialities. But Fanny--she--she--put me
against her."

"Fanny! What Fanny do you mean?"

"Fanny Crawford."

Mrs. Haddo rose at once and rang her bell. When the servant appeared she
said, "Send Miss Crawford here immediately, and don't mention that any
one is in my study. Now, Sibyl, keep the rest of your story until Fanny
Crawford is present."

In about five minutes' time Fanny appeared. She was very white, and
looked rather worn and miserable. "Oh, dear!" she said as she entered,
"I am so glad you have sent for me, Mrs. Haddo; and I do trust I shall
have a room to myself to-night, for I didn't sleep at all last night,
and----Why, whatever is the matter? Sibyl, what are you doing here? And
who--who is that man?"

"Sit down, Fanny--or stand, just as you please," said Mrs. Haddo; "only
have the goodness not to speak until Sibyl has finished her story. Now,
Sibyl, go on. You had come to that part where you explained that Fanny
put you against Betty Vivian. No, Fanny, you do not go towards the door.
Stay quietly where you are."

Fanny, seeing that all chance of exit was cut off, stood perfectly
still, her eyes fixed on the ground.

"Now, Sibyl, go on."

"Fanny was very anxious about the packet, and she wanted me to watch,"
continued Sibyl, "so that I might discover where Betty had hidden it. I
did watch, and I found that Betty had put it under one of the plants of
wild-heather in the 'forest primeval.' I saw her take it out and look at
it and put it back again, and when she was gone I went to the place and
took the packet out myself and brought it to Fanny. I don't know where
the packet is now."

"Fanny, where is the packet?" said Mrs. Haddo.

"Sibyl is talking the wildest nonsense," said Fanny. "How can you
possibly believe her? I know nothing about Betty Vivian or her
concerns."

"Perhaps, miss," said the farmer, coming forward at that moment, "that
pointed thing sticking out o' your pocket might have something to do
with it. You will permit me, miss, seeing that the young lady's life is
trembling in the balance."

Before either Mrs. Haddo or Fanny could utter a word Farmer Miles had
strode across the room, thrust his big, rough hand into Fanny's neat
little pocket, and taken out the brown paper-packet.

"There, now," he said, "that's the kernel of the nut. I thought I'd do
it somehow. Thank you kindly, ma'am, for listening to me. Miss Sibyl
Ray, you may be poor in the future, but at least you'll have a light
heart; and as to the dirty trick you did, I guess you won't do a second,
for you have learned your lesson. I'll be wishing you good-morning now,
ma'am," he added, turning to Mrs. Haddo, "for I must get back to my
work. It's twelve pounds o' butter the cook wants sent up without fail
to-night, ma'am; and I'm much obliged for the order."

The farmer left the room. Fanny had flung herself on a chair and covered
her face with her hands. Sibyl stood motionless, awaiting Mrs. Haddo's
verdict.

Once again Mrs. Haddo rang the bell. "Send Miss Symes to me," she said.

Miss Symes appeared.

"The doctor's last opinion, please, Miss Symes?"

"Dr. Ashley says that Betty is much the same. The question now is how to
keep up her strength. He thinks it better to have two specialists from
London, as, if she continues in such intense excitement, further
complications may arise."

"Do you know where Betty's sisters are?" was Mrs. Haddo's next inquiry.

"I haven't seen them for some time, but I will find out where they are."

"As soon as ever you find them, send them straight to me. I shall be
here for the present."

Miss Symes glanced in some wonder from Sibyl to Fanny; then she went out
of the room without further comment.

When she was quite alone with the girls Mrs. Haddo said, "Fanny, a fresh
bedroom has been prepared for you, and I shall be glad if you will go
and spend the rest of this day there. I do not feel capable of speaking
to you at present. As to you, Sibyl, your conduct has been bad enough;
but at the eleventh hour--and, we may hope, in time--you have made
restitution. You may, therefore, rejoin the girls of the lower school."

"Of the lower school?" said Sibyl.

"Yes. Your punishment is that you return to the lower school for at
least a year, until you are more capable of guiding your own conduct,
and less likely to be influenced by the wicked passions of girls who
have had more experience than yourself. You can go to your room also for
the present, and to-morrow morning you will resume your duties in the
lower school."

Fanny and Sibyl both turned away, neither of them saying a word to the
other. They had scarcely done so before Miss Symes came in, her face
flushed with excitement, and accompanied by the twins.

"My dear girls, where have you been?" said Mrs. Haddo.

"With Mrs. Miles," said Sylvia.

"I cannot blame you, under the circumstances, although you have broken a
rule. My dears, thank God for His mercies. Here is the lost packet."

Sylvia grasped it.

Hester rushed towards Sylvia and laid her hand over her sister's. "Oh!
oh!" she said.

"Now, girls, can I trust you? I was told what took place this
morning--how you went to Betty without leave, and promised to return
with the packet. Is Betty awake at present, Miss Symes?"

"Yes," said Miss Symes, "she has been awake for a long time."

"Will you take the girls up to Betty's room? Do not go in yourself. Now,
girls, I trust to your wisdom, and to your love of Betty, to do this
thing very quietly."

"You may trust us," said Hetty.

They left the room. They followed Miss Symes upstairs. They entered the
beautiful room where Betty was lying, her eyes shining brightly, fever
high on her cheeks.

It was Hetty who put the packet into her hand. "Here it is, Betty
darling. We said we'd find it for you."

Then a wonderful thing happened; for Betty looked at the packet, then
she smiled, then she raised it to her lips and kissed it, then she put
it under her pillow. Finally she said, "Oh, I am sleepy! Oh, I am
tired!"



CHAPTER XXIII

RESTORATION


Notwithstanding the fact that the lost packet was restored, Betty's life
hung in the balance for at least another twenty-four hours. During that
time she tossed and sighed and groaned. The fever ran high, and her
little voice kept on saying, "Oh, that I could find the packet!"

It was in this emergency that Miss Symes came to the rescue. She called
Sylvia and Hester to her, and desired Hester to stand at one side of
Betty's little, narrow, white bed, and Sylvia to place herself at the
other.

Betty did not seem even to know her sisters. Her eyes were glassy, her
cheeks deeply flushed, and there was a look of intense restlessness and
great pain in her face. "Oh, that I might find the packet!" she
murmured.

"Do what your heart prompts you, Sylvia," said Miss Symes.

Sylvia immediately pushed her hand under Betty's pillow, and, taking up
the lost packet, took one of the girl's little, feverish hands and
closed her fingers round the brown-paper parcel.

"It is found, Bettina! it is found!" said Sylvia. "Here it is. You need
not fret any more."

"What! what!" said Betty. Into her eyes there crept a new expression,
into her voice a new note. "Oh, I can't believe it!" she exclaimed.

But here Hetty threw in a word of affection and entreaty. "Why,
Bettina," she said, "it is in your hand. Feel it, darling! feel it! We
got it back for you, just as we said we would. Feel it, Bettina! feel
it!"

Betty felt. Her fingers were half-numbed; but she was able to perceive
the difference between the brown paper and the thick, strong cord, and
again the difference between the thick cord and the sealing-wax. "How
many seals are there?" she asked in a breathless, eager voice, turning
and looking full at her sisters.

"Eight in all," said Sylvia, speaking rapidly: "two in front, two at
each side, and two, again, fastening down the naps at the back."

"I knew there were eight," said Betty. "Let me feel them."

Sylvia conducted Betty's fingers over the unbroken seals.

"Count for me, darling, silly Sylvia!" said Betty.

Sylvia began to count: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

"It is my lost packet!" said Betty with a cry.

"It is, Betty! it is!"

"And is any one going to take it from me?"

"No one, Betty, ever again."

"Let me hold it in my hand," said Betty.

Sister Helen came up with a restorative; and when Betty had taken the
nourishing contents of the little, white china cup, she again made use
of that extraordinary expression, "Oh, I am so sleepy! Oh, I am tired!"

Still holding the packet in her hand, Betty dropped off into slumber;
and when she came to herself the doctors said that the crisis was past.

Betty Vivian recovered very slowly, during which time the rules of the
school were altogether relaxed, not only in her favor, but also in favor
of the twins, Sylvia and Hetty. They were allowed to spend some hours
every day with Betty, and although they spoke very little, they were
able to comfort their sister immensely. At last Betty was well enough to
leave her bed and creep to any easy-chair, where she would sit, feeling
more dead than alive; and, by slow degrees, the girls of the school whom
she loved best came to see her and comfort her and fuss over her.
Margaret Grant looked very strong and full of sympathy; Martha West had
that delightful voice which could not but attract all who heard her
speak. Susie Rushworth, the Bertrams, Olive, and all the other
Specialities, with the exception of Fanny, came to visit Betty, who, in
her turn, loved to see them, and grew better each day, and stronger, and
more inclined to eat the good, nourishing food which was provided for
her.

All this time she had never once spoke of Fanny Crawford. The other
Speciality girls were rather nervous on this account. They wondered how
Betty would feel when she heard what had happened to Fanny; for Fanny,
after spending a whole day and night in the small and somewhat dismal
bedroom prepared for her by Mrs. Haddo's orders, refused to appear at
prayers the following morning, and, further, requested that her
breakfast should be taken up to her.

Betty's life was still hanging in the balance, although the doctors were
not nearly so anxious as they had been the day before. Fanny was biding
her time. She knew all the rules of the school, having spent so many
years there. She also knew well what desolation awaited her in the
future in this bright and pleasant school; for, during that painful day
and that terrible night, and this, if possible, more dreadful morning,
no one had come near her but the servant who brought her meals, no one
had spoken to her. To all appearance she, one of the prime favorites of
the school and Sir John Crawford's only daughter, was forgotten as
though she had never existed. To Fanny's proud heart this sense of
desertion was almost intolerable. She could have cried aloud but that
she did not dare to give way; she could have set aside Mrs. Haddo's
punishment, but in her heart of hearts she felt convinced that none of
the girls would take her part. All the time, however, she was making up
her mind. Her nicely assorted garments--her pretty evening frocks, her
day-dresses of summer and winter, her underclothing, her jackets, her
hats, gloves, and handkerchiefs--had all been conveyed to the small,
dull room which she was now occupying. To herself she called it
Punishment Chamber, and felt that she could not endure the life there
even for another hour.

Being well acquainted with the usual routine of the school, Fanny busied
herself immediately after breakfast in packing her different belongings
into two neat cane trunks which she had desired a servant to bring to
her from the box-room. Having done this, she changed the dress she was
wearing for a coat and skirt of neat blue serge and a little cap to
match. She wrote out labels at her desk and gummed them on the trunks.
She examined the contents of her purse; she had two or three pounds of
her own. She could, therefore, do pretty much what she pleased.

But although Fanny Crawford had acted perhaps worse than any other girl
had acted in the school before, she scorned to run away. She would go
openly; she would defy Mrs. Haddo. Mrs. Haddo could not possibly keep a
girl of Fanny's age--for she would soon be seventeen--against her will.
Having packed her trunks, Fanny went downstairs. The rest of the upper
school were busy at their lessons. Sibyl Ray, who had returned to the
lower school, was of course nowhere in sight. Fanny marched bravely down
the corridor, along which she had hurried yesterday in nameless fear
and trepidation. She knocked at Mrs. Haddo's door. Mrs. Haddo said,
"Come in," and she entered.

"Oh, it's you, Fanny Crawford! I haven't sent for you."

"I know that," replied Fanny. "But I cannot stay any longer in disgrace
in one room. I have had enough of it. I wish to tell you, Mrs. Haddo,
that Haddo Court is no longer the place for me. I suppose I ought to
repent of what I have done; and, of course, I never for a moment thought
that Betty would be so absurd and silly to get an illness which would
nearly kill her. As a matter of fact, I do not repent. The wicked person
was Betty Vivian. She first stole the packet, and then told a lie about
it. I happened to see her steal it, for I was saying at Craigie Muir at
the time. When Miss Symes told me that the Vivians were coming to the
school I disliked the idea, and said so; but I wouldn't complain, and my
dislike received no attention whatsoever. Betty has great powers of
fascination, and she won hearts here at once. She was asked to join the
Specialities--an unheard-of-thing for a new girl at the school. I begged
and implored of her not to join, referring her to Rule No. I., which
prohibits any girl who is in possession of such a secret as Betty had to
become a member. She would not listen to me; she _would_ join. Then she
became miserable, and confessed what she had done, but would not carry
her confession to its logical conclusion--namely, confession to you and
restoration of the lost packet."

"I wish to interrupt you for a minute here, Fanny," said Mrs. Haddo.
"Since your father left he has sent me several letters of the late Miss
Vivian's to read. In one of them she certainly did allude to a packet
which was to be kept safely until Betty was old enough to appreciate it;
but in another, which I do not think your father ever read, Miss Vivian
said that she had changed her mind, and had put the packet altogether
into Betty's charge. I do not wish to condone Betty's sins; but her only
sin in this affair was the lie she told, which was evidently uttered in
a moment of swift temptation. She had a right to the packet, according
to this letter of Miss Frances Vivian's."

Fanny stood very still. "I didn't know that," she replied.

"I dare say you didn't; but had you treated Betty differently, and been
kind to her from the first, she would probably have explained things to
you."

"I never liked her, and I never shall," said Fanny with a toss of her
head. "She may suit you, Mrs. Haddo, but she doesn't suit me. And I wish
to say that I want you to send me, at once, to stay with my aunt Amelia
at Brighton until I can hear from my father with regard to my future
arrangements. If you don't send me, I have money in my pocket, and will
go in spite of you. I don't like your school any longer. I did love it,
but now I hate it; and it is all--all because of Betty Vivian."

"Oh, Fanny, what a pity!" said Mrs. Haddo. Tears filled her eyes. But
Fanny would not look up.

"May I go?" said Fanny.

"Yes, my dear. Anderson shall take you, and I will write a note to your
aunt. Fanny, is there no chance of your turning to our Divine Father to
ask Him to forgive you for your sins of cruelty to one unhappy but very
splendid girl?"

"Oh, don't talk to me of her splendor!" said Fanny. "I am sick of it."

"Very well, I will say no more."

Mrs. Haddo sank into the nearest chair. After a minute's pause she
turned to her writing-table and wrote a letter. She then rang her bell,
and desired Anderson to get ready for a short journey.

About three o'clock that day Fanny, accompanied by Anderson, with her
trunks and belongings heaped on top of a station-cab, drove from Haddo
Court never to return. There were no girls to say farewell; in fact, not
one of her friends even knew of her departure until Mrs. Haddo mentioned
it on the following morning.

"Fanny did right to go," she said. "And now we will try to live down all
that has been so painful, and turn our faces once again towards the
light."

       *       *       *       *       *

Betty recovered all in good time; but it was not until Christmas had
long passed that she first asked for Fanny Crawford. When she heard that
Fanny had gone, a queer look--half of pleasure, half of pain--flitted
across her little face.

"You're glad, aren't you? You're very, very glad, Bettina?" whispered
Sylvia in her sister's ear.

"No, I am not glad," replied Betty. "If I had known she was going I
might have spoken to her just once. As it is, I am sorry."

"Oh Bettina, why?"

"Because she has lost the influence of so noble a woman as dear Mrs.
Haddo, and of so faithful a friend as Margaret Grant, and of so dear a
girl as Martha West. Oh, why did I ever come here to upset things? And
why did I ever tell that wicked, wicked lie?"

"You have repented now, poor darling, if any one ever did!" said both
the twins.

As they spoke Mrs. Haddo entered the room. "Betty," she said, "I wish to
tell you something. You certainly did exceedingly wrong when you told
Sir John Crawford that you knew nothing of the packet. But I know you
did not steal it, dear, for I hold a letter in my hand from your aunt,
in which she told Sir John that she had given the packet absolutely into
your care. Sir John could never have read that letter; but I have read
it, dear, and I have written to him on the subject."

"Then I may keep the packet?" asked Betty in a very low voice.

"Yes, Betty."

"And it will read me a lesson," said Betty. "Oh, thank you! thank you!"
Then she sprang to her feet and kissed Mrs. Haddo's white hands first,
and then pressed a light kiss on that good lady's beautiful lips. "God
will help me to do better in the future," she added.

And she was helped.

                         THE END



The Girl Scouts Series

BY EDITH LAVELL

A new copyright series of Girl Scouts stories by an author of wide
experience in Scouts' craft, as Director of Girl Scouts of Philadelphia.

Clothbound, with Attractive Color Designs

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH.

 THE GIRL SCOUTS AT MISS ALLEN'S SCHOOL
 THE GIRL SCOUTS AT CAMP
 THE GIRL SCOUTS' GOOD TURN
 THE GIRL SCOUTS' CANOE TRIP
 THE GIRL SCOUTS' RIVALS


The Camp Fire Girls Series

By HILDEGARD G. FREY

A Series of Outdoor Stories for Girls 12 to 16 Years.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE MAINE WOODS;
     or, The Winnebagos go Camping.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SCHOOL;
     or, The Wohelo Weavers.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT ONOWAY HOUSE;
     or, The Magic Garden.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS GO MOTORING;
     or, Along the Road That Leads the Way.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS' LARKS AND PRANKS;
     or, The House of the Open Door.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ON ELLEN'S ISLE;
     or, The Trail of the Seven Cedars.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ON THE OPEN ROAD;
     or, Glorify Work.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS DO THEIR BIT;
     or, Over the Top with the Winnebagos.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS SOLVE A MYSTERY;
     or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House.

 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT CAMP KEEWAYDIN;
     or, Down Paddles.


The Blue Grass Seminary Girls Series

BY CAROLYN JUDSON BURNETT

For Girls 12 to 16 Years

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

Splendid stories of the Adventures of a Group of Charming Girls.

 THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS' VACATION ADVENTURES;
     or Shirley Willing to the Rescue.

 THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS' CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS;
     or, A Four Weeks' Tour with the Glee Club.

 THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS IN THE MOUNTAINS;
     or, Shirley Willing on a Mission of Peace.

 THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS ON THE WATER;
     or, Exciting Adventures on a Summerer's Cruise Through the Panama
     Canal.


The Mildred Series

BY MARTHA FINLEY

For Girls 12 to 16 Years.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

A Companion Series to the famous "Elsie" books by the same author.

 MILDRED KEITH
 MILDRED AT ROSELAND
 MILDRED AND ELSIE
 MILDRED'S MARRIED LIFE
 MILDRED AT HOME
 MILDRED'S BOYS AND GIRLS
 MILDRED'S NEW DAUGHTER


Marjorie Dean High School Series

BY PAULINE LESTER

Author of the Famous Marjorie Dean College Series

These are clean, wholesome stories that will be of great interest to all
girls of high school age.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

 MARJORIE DEAN, HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN
 MARJORIE DEAN, HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE
 MARJORIE DEAN, HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR
 MARJORIE DEAN, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR


Marjorie Dean College Series

BY PAULINE LESTER.

Author of the Famous Marjorie Dean High School Series.

Those who have read the Marjorie Dean High School Series will be eager
to read this new series, as Marjorie Dean continues to be the heroine in
these stories.

All Clothbound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH.

 MARJORIE DEAN, COLLEGE FRESHMAN
 MARJORIE DEAN, COLLEGE SOPHOMORE
 MARJORIE DEAN, COLLEGE JUNIOR
 MARJORIE DEAN, COLLEGE SENIOR


The Radio Boys Series

BY GERALD BRECKENRIDGE

A new series of copyright titles for boys of all ages.

Cloth Bound, with Attractive Cover Designs

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

 THE RADIO BOYS ON THE MEXICAN BORDER
 THE RADIO BOYS ON SECRET SERVICE DUTY
 THE RADIO BOYS WITH THE REVENUE GUARDS
 THE RADIO BOYS' SEARCH FOR THE INCA'S TREASURE
 THE RADIO BOYS RESCUE THE LOST ALASKA EXPEDITION


The Ranger Boys Series

BY CLAUDE H. LA BELLE

A new series of copyright titles telling of the adventures of three boys
with the Forest Rangers in the state of Maine.

Handsome Cloth Binding

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

 THE RANGER BOYS TO THE RESCUE
 THE RANGER BOYS FIND THE HERMIT
 THE RANGER BOYS AND THE BORDER SMUGGLERS
 THE RANGER BOYS OUTWIT THE TIMBER THIEVES
 THE RANGER BOYS AND THEIR REWARD


The Boy Troopers Series

BY CLAIR W. HAYES

Author of the Famous "Boy Allies" Series.

The adventures of two boys with the Pennsylvania State Police.

All Copyrighted Titles

Cloth Bound, with Attractive Cover Designs

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH.

 THE BOY TROOPERS ON THE TRAIL
 THE BOY TROOPERS IN THE NORTHWEST
 THE BOY TROOPERS ON STRIKE DUTY
 THE BOY TROOPERS AMONG THE WILD MOUNTAINEERS


The Golden Boys Series

BY L. P. WYMAN, PH.D.

Dean of Pennsylvania Military College.

A new series of instructive copyright stories for boys of High School
Age.

Handsome Cloth Binding

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

 THE GOLDEN BOYS AND THEIR NEW ELECTRIC CELL
 THE GOLDEN BOYS AT THE FORTRESS
 THE GOLDEN BOYS IN THE MAINE WOODS
 THE GOLDEN BOYS WITH THE LUMBER JACKS
 THE GOLDEN BOYS ON THE RIVER DRIVE


The Boy Allies

(Registered in the United States Patent Office)

With the Navy

BY ENSIGN ROBERT L. DRAKE

For Boys 12 to 16 Years.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

Frank Chadwick and Jack Templeton, young American lads, meet each other
in an unusual way soon after the declaration of war. Circumstances place
them on board the British cruiser, "The Sylph," and from there on, they
share adventures with the sailors of the Allies. Ensign Robert L. Drake,
the author, is an experienced naval officer, and he describes admirably
the many exciting adventures of the two boys.

 THE BOY ALLIES ON THE NORTH SEA PATROL; or, Striking the First Blow
     at the German Fleet.

 THE BOY ALLIES UNDER TWO FLAGS; or, Sweeping the Enemy from the
     Sea.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE FLYING SQUADRON; or, The Naval Raiders of
     the Great War.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE TERROR OF THE SEA; or, The Last Shot of
     Submarine D-16.

 THE BOY ALLIES UNDER THE SEA; or, The Vanishing Submarine.

 THE BOY ALLIES IN THE BALTIC; or, Through Fields of Ice to Aid the
     Czar.

 THE BOY ALLIES AT JUTLAND: or, The Greatest Naval Battle of
     History.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH UNCLE SAM'S CRUISERS; or, Convoying the
     American Army Across the Atlantic.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE SUBMARINE D-32; or, The Fall of the Russian
     Empire.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE VICTORIOUS FLEETS; or, The Fall of the
     German Navy.


The Boy Allies

(Registered in the United States Patent Office)

With the Army

BY CLAIR W. HAYES

For Boys 12 to 16 Years.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

In this series we follow the fortunes of two American lads unable to
leave Europe after war is declared. They meet the soldiers of the
Allies, and decide to cast their lot with them. Their experiences and
escapes are many, and furnish plenty of good, healthy action that every
boy loves.

 THE BOY ALLIES AT LIEGE; or, Through Lines of Steel.

 THE BOY ALLIES ON THE FIRING LINE; or, Twelve Days Battle Along the
     Marne.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE COSSACKS; or, A Wild Dash Over the
     Carpathians.

 THE BOY ALLIES IN THE TRENCHES; or, Midst Shot and Shell Along the
     Aisne.

 THE BOY ALLIES IN GREAT PERIL; or, With the Italian Army in the
     Alps.

 THE BOY ALLIES IN THE BALKAN CAMPAIGN; or, The Struggle to Save a
     Nation.

 THE BOY ALLIES ON THE SOMME; or, Courage and Bravery Rewarded.

 THE BOY ALLIES AT VERDUN; or, Saving France from the Enemy.

 THE BOY ALLIES UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES; or, Leading the
     American Troops to the Firing Line.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH HAIG IN FLANDERS; or, The Fighting Canadians of
     Vimy Ridge.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH PERSHING IN FRANCE; or, Over the Top at Chateau
     Thierry.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE GREAT ADVANCE; or, Driving the Enemy
     Through France and Belgium.

 THE BOY ALLIES WITH MARSHAL FOCH; or, The Closing Days of the Great
     World War.


The Boy Scouts Series

BY HERBERT CARTER

For Boys 12 to 16 Years

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

New Stories of Camp Life

 THE BOY SCOUTS' FIRST CAMPFIRE; or, Scouting with the Silver Fox
     Patrol.

 THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE BLUE RIDGE; or, Marooned Among the
     Moonshiners.

 THE BOY SCOUTS ON THE TRAIL; or, Scouting through the Big Game
     Country.

 THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE MAINE WOODS; or, The New Test for the Silver
     Fox Patrol.

 THE BOY SCOUTS THROUGH THE BIG TIMBER; or, The Search for the Lost
     Tenderfoot.

 THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE ROCKIES; or, The Secret of the Hidden Silver
     Mine.

 THE BOY SCOUTS ON STURGEON ISLAND; or, Marooned Among the Game-Fish
     Poachers.

 THE BOY SCOUTS DOWN IN DIXIE; or, The Strange Secret of Alligator
     Swamp.

 THE BOY SCOUTS AT THE BATTLE OF SARATOGA; A story of Burgoyne's
     Defeat in 1777.

 THE BOY SCOUTS ALONG THE SUSQUEHANNA; or, The Silver Fox Patrol
     Caught in a Flood.

 THE BOY SCOUTS ON WAR TRAILS IN BELGIUM; or, Caught Between Hostile
     Armies.

 THE BOY SCOUTS AFOOT IN FRANCE; or, With The Red Cross Corps at the
     Marne.


The Jack Lorimer Series

BY WINN STANDISH

For Boys 12 to 16 Years.

All Cloth Bound Copyright Titles

PRICE, 65 CENTS EACH

CAPTAIN JACK LORIMER; or, The Young Athlete of Millvale High.

Jack Lorimer is a fine example of the all-around American high-school
boys. His fondness for clean, honest sport of all kinds will strike a
chord of sympathy among athletic youths.

JACK LORIMER'S CHAMPIONS; or, Sports on Land and Lake.

There is a lively story woven in with the athletic achievements, which
are all right, since the book has been O. K.'d by Chadwick, the Nestor
of American Sporting journalism.

JACK LORIMER'S HOLIDAYS; or, Millvale High in Camp.

It would be well not to put this book into a boy's hands until the
chores are finished, otherwise they might be neglected.

JACK LORIMER'S SUBSTITUTE; or, The Acting Captain of the Team.

On the sporting side, this book takes up football, wrestling, and
tobogganing. There is a good deal of fun in this book and plenty of
action.

JACK LORIMER, FRESHMAN; or, From Millvale High to Exmouth.

Jack and some friends he makes crowd innumerable happenings into an
exciting freshman year at one of the leading Eastern colleges. The book
is typical of the American college boy's life, and there is a lively
story, interwoven with feats on the gridiron, hockey, basketball and
other clean honest sports for which Jack Lorimer stands.

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
Publishers


A. L. BURT COMPANY

114-120 EAST 23rd STREET NEW YORK



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

1. Chapter VIII, A New Member, had a major typesetter's error in the
edition this etext was done from--the text for Rule I. was inadvertently
inserted for Rule IV. The staff of the Rare Books Collection at Marriott
Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City were kind enough to research
their version of the text, and provide the correction, from the original
1909 edition from W. & R. Chambers, Edinburgh.

2. Minor changes have been made to ensure consistent usage of
punctuation.

3. A Table of Contents has been added for the reader's convenience.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Betty Vivian - A Story of Haddo Court School" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home