Friday, August 25, 2017

Found: One Beagle

Betty Keira considered the name of her temporary dog for several minutes. "Blot!" she said. 
"Escutcheon or landscape?" came the inevitable voice in her head.

Today, several of my children were off to visit their grandmother (the Dowager Baroness van Voorhees) and it was just me at home with Pledge One, who was diligently studying the finer points of English grammar in anticipation of his SATs.

"Is that a dog?" I asked, gazing across the back expanse of sweeping green lawn abutting the Professor Baron's ancestral home. "And without a collar too...Oh the poor dear."

Pledge One sprang into action, checking on the pup and offering a dish of water, as I trotted out to the drive, holding one well-manicured hand over my brow and looking across the flat, Dutch countryside for any sign of the owner. Alas. Not so much as a bicycling tour of British nurses was to be seen. 

After attending to Blot's needs, I sent a letter to my near neighbor in a tight, elegant hand. My Dutch, you see, is lacking (Professor Wit seems to think I am coming along nicely but my verbs do get in such a tangle. Oh what a beastly language Dutch is!) and she would know just what to do. Mevrouw Alberts is the dearest woman. She looks so bland when the Professor Baron is late for our dinner parties, is always a font of knowledge and never attempts to poach my husband.

Meanwhile, Blot was on his finest behavior--padding around the lawn, sniffing and inspecting, waiting most patiently in a sitting position when food was offered.
When attending his business, I am happy to report that Blot did not compromise
the dignity of the Professor Baron, the tulip beds or the ancestral mansion.

Mevrouw Alberts directed me to the local animal shelter and they popped over in a trice, discovered that Blot had been microchipped and delivered him directly to his owners. 

All's well that ends well. Pledge One was sorry to see him go and it's just as well that Pledges Two through Five were away, as the mighty tsunami of sentiment would have been difficult to stand athwart. 

During my adventure today, I discovered that any Beckys or Aramintas looking to perform a similar spot of animal rescue should keep the following in mind:

If you decide not to bring the dog/cat to the shelter, you are required to take several steps. These steps include:
1. Notify the shelter that you have the dog/cat so that we can connect possible owners of the lost pet to you. You must leave a description of the dog/cat with us. You must also leave contact information with us so we can make sure that people who think the pet you have found may be theirs can talk with you. You can report the dog/cat as "found" by calling us at 503-846-7039 or by coming down and filling out a short "Found Pet" form.
2. By law, you must advertise that you have found the dog/cat in a general circulation newspaper once a week for two consecutive weeks. (For specific information about the legal responsibilities of finding property, refer to
the Oregon Revised Statutes section 98.005.) 
3. After you have listed the dog/cat with us and advertised in a general circulation newspaper twice, you are still not the lawful owner of the animal until 90 days have passed. If the owner comes during that time, you are required to surrender the animal back to their owner.
4. You will then need to contact us a second time to let us know that it has been  over 90 days, you have done all of the above and you are now taking ownership of the animal. 

That is Oregon, USA law, of course, and just applies to dogs. Last month, another neighbor and I were chatting across the street when her grandson found that a tiny newborn squirrel had fallen from its nest and onto her lawn. Ten minutes later, we discovered another just a few feet away, well-hidden in the grass and barely alive. With that, it was a simple matter of popping them into shoe boxes and keeping them hydrated long enough for her daughter's mother-in-law (who does animal rescue professionally) to come pick them up. 

The Canon is rife with instances of saved kittens and rescued dogs--of small scissors or pen knives being used to extricate animals from danger. Do any of our Betties have any stories of that sort to share?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Betty of Bettys

Your winner, Betties:

The Promise of Happiness 
(or, as we have been affectionately calling it for years: Becky and the Baron, the Hot, Hot Baron)

(Do you think we need a soundtrack on this? Yes. Definitely. Let's have a soundtrack. Feel free to dance around the kitchen.)

It was a hard-fought contest of titles and The Promise of Happiness only beat out A Gentle Awakening by FOUR votes. So it seems fitting to pause a moment and give the runner-up a moment in the sun.

I like what Betty Janice had to say about A Gentle Awakening: "...she leaves her mean father, earns Nanny's respect and devotion, teaches Pauline to bake, gets Sir William to eat his daughter's attempts, responds to fiancee Wanda's slap with an entire jug of lemonade, nurses the sick household, speaks Dutch... delicious book!"

Florina is such a sweet and unassuming heroine and I writhe for her, having jumped from the frying pan of her father's house (Is there a more loutish father in Neelsdom?) and into the fire of Sir William's employ. She's top over tail in love before she knows what's hit her and the prospects look dire. But her sterling qualities (fluent Dutch, Grade A cookery and a real affection for his daughter, Pauline) coupled with Sir William's willingness to do menial housework (make coffee, bring morning tea, deliver trays of food, hoover (!), scrape potatoes and wash dishes in the midst of the measles epidemic) make me sure that these crazy kids will go together like vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

Now, on to our winner. The Promise of Happiness is often my favorite Betty (Always top five but these things shift around like the sands of an outgoing tide. You feel me.) because of the indomitable spirit of the heroine. Though running away from the only home she has with two pets and no real luggage or money is dramatic, the part that gets me by the throat is when she regrets that the Baron only sees her as "a dowdy girl who wore cheap clothes and didn't know how to make the best of herself--and she wasn't really like was difficult to splash out...and he was so secure himself that he would never have known the insecurity that not having money brought with it." 

There is an entire library filled with things Doctor Baron Tiele Raukema van den Eck doesn't know but, by the end, he's taken a seat in the front row of the Becky Saunders Memorial Lecture Hall, composition book open, pencil at the ready. He sees her at last.

Tiele wondered if there was extra-credit labs offered or opportunities for field trips.
He'd offer to drive the instructor in his Rolls Royce Corniche...take it in easy stages...stop off at every handy lay-by.
He was a very dilligent student.

I do think it's interesting that both of our top finalists had instances where the hero (A Rich British Doctor in one and a Rich Dutch Doctor in the other, as has been noted.) did not scruple of be slightly caddish in pursuit of his ends. 

Sir William's fiancee, Wanda the Wicked, gets marched through briar patches so she'll run back to London in her laddered tights, flinging her engagement ring (in a modern setting, you just know) over her shoulder.

Nina van Doorn gets dragged to a chamber concert to provide the flimsiest cover to Tiele as he stares at the back of Becky's head all night. It was perhaps as flimsy as Nina's evening gown that, no doubt, exposed far too much bosom of the salt cellar variety. (He would have disapproved of it if he'd bothered to glance at her even once.) 

This has been such a fun ride, Betties, and I'm so happy you all took it with me. The final vote, as we all know, hasn't settled anything at all. I'd love to hear your Top Five books in the comments section and whether any of your favorites changed over the last months as you've reread the selections.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Betty in the Wild

Eclipse Day here on the Oregon coast could not have been more idyllic. No crowds, beautiful weather and all the science-y guages and sensors you could ever hope to have. Something was missing though...
I feel really lucky to have been close enough to the path of totality to see this event. I feel fluttery and kind of in awe and, dare I say, like a vast Dutch doctor has swooped down and kissed me soundly. Here's hoping his kids like me!

Midnight Sun's Magic feels particularly appropriate since my brother ended up running a little scientific outpost for the eclipse. No broken bones occured in the carrying out of these experiments.

While the moon was covering the sun entirely and the corona was a brilliant gold circle (no heirloom sapphire to set it off), whisps of light were coming off it like chiffon dragonfly wings. And Pledge Four said, "The first star of night!" Venus. Our own midsummer star.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review of The Rose-Garden Husband (1915)

One of the Betties (Betty Amanda, I think?) recommended The Rose-Garden Husband sometime ago and I finally got around to reading it. It was a treasure.

Here is the text of the poem I read from in the video. It's lovely:
HAVE shut my little sister in from life and light 
  (For a rose, for a ribbon, for a wreath across my hair), 
I have made her restless feet still until the night, 
  Locked from sweets of summer and from wild spring air; 
I who ranged the meadowlands, free from sun to sun,         5
  Free to sing and pull the buds and watch the far wings fly, 
I have bound my sister till her playing time was done— 
  Oh, my little sister, was it I? Was it I? 
I have robbed my sister of her day of maidenhood 
  (For a robe, for a feather, for a trinket's restless spark),  10
Shut from love till dusk shall fall, how shall she know good, 
  How shall she go scatheless through the sin-lit dark? 
I who could be innocent, I who could be gay, 
  I who could have love and mirth before the light went by, 
I have put my sister in her mating-time away—  15
  Sister, my young sister, was it I? Was it I? 
I have robbed my sister of the lips against her breast, 
  (For a coin, for the weaving of my children's lace and lawn), 
Feet that pace beside the loom, hands that cannot rest— 
  How can she know motherhood, whose strength is gone?  20
I who took no heed of her, starved and labor-worn, 
  I, against whose placid heart my sleepy gold-heads lie, 
Round my path they cry to me, little souls unborn— 
  God of Life! Creator! It was I! It was I!

*I whiffed the name of the hero. He's Allan Harrington, of course. Not Allan Braithwaite.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Betty on the Brain

I once heard a story about a man who worked as a janitor on a night-shift for a large office building and the tedium was difficult so he invented a game for himself. In his away-from-work life he enjoyed fly fishing and spotting a trout in a stream so he migrated this skill to the office and, as he cleaned, he'd be on the lookout for unrecycled cans of pop (In Huis VanVoorhees, the Professor grew up saying soda and I grew up saying pop and every time I slip and say soda it feels like I'm surrendering my sacred I write pop.) that he could 'fish' out of the trash and redeem.

I find myself doing that with Betty Neels.

Yesterday, we returned home but stopped at the High Desert Museum (which was really wonderful). As I was wandering around the exhibits, Betty Neels was in the back of my mind as I went. I found all sorts of little links to The Canon.

There was an exhibit about Interior Western States contributions to the WWII effort. For instance, I found out that the Hanford Nuclear Site was integral to the development of nuclear weapons and that the need for secrecy was so great that the nearby town was entirely made up of employees and their families and that the police had a key to every single house in town. Shudder. Anyway, the exhibit included a replica of a war-era kitchen and Pledge Five went to town with all the play food. It reminded me of cottage kitchens in The Canon. The range above looks like a low-rent version of an Aga and I imagine that Florina is keeping Sir William's daughter happy at the table, rolling out her piece of dough with grubby hands.

Susannah Lightfoot, red-headed docent from The Chain of Destiny, was on my mind as this red-headed lady took us around the Oregon Trail displays. Here, she is standing in front of the Hudson's Bay Company exhibit, speaking excitedly about beaver pelts and top hats. I hope that someone swoops down from his vast height to kiss her from time to time.

Cowboy art and pictures made up the displays in one hall and I saw a quote that I liked quite well:

"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief...For a time I rest in the grace of the world and am free" --Wendell Berry

Often, our heroes and heroines are off tramping into the teeth of a fine gale to clear their minds. The Great Betty seems very approving of long walks.

This is a bead bag from the Indian Peoples of the Columbia Plateau exhibit and it was so exquisite that it reminded me of the 'bits and pieces' that Arabella of Dearest Love is able to save from the foreclosure of her family home. (A tea chest, old damask curtains, chenille tablecloth, Coalport china, a Worcester teapot, a silver pepperpot and salt cellar, and the Waterford crystal jug.) Of course, the work is so fine that it also reminded me of heroines in The Canon who take up needlework to pass the time and vent their frustrations about being married but not MARRIED-married.

Does anyone else go along making these Betty connections...on the fly, as it were? We should have a name for this game. Suggest yours in the comments!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Vote of Votes

Let's rip off the Band-Aid and get to the results from our last vote, right out of the gate.

A Gentle Awakening (18) beat out Dearest Love (13).
The Promise of Happiness (20) beat Henrietta's Own Castle (11).  

This is when, if you were a booster of another title, I slap you on a sweaty shoulder and give you a pep talk about how the greatest reward is a fight well fought and how it wasn't your day and how you left everything on the field and how winners never quit and quitters never win...
Henrietta missed the free throws that would have won the game
but #45 volunteered to carry her off the court on his shoulders anyway.
I hope you won't feel too forlorn to vote for our finalists. Remember when Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed became best friends and ran together on the beach with improbably bulky muscles? Time to dig deep, Betties, and show some love for your former rivals.
Arabella wasn't too upset to lose the crown. She could hold
her head high and return to her hometown to headline a parade,
wear overalls and throw bubble gum to children lining the parade route,
her trusty plunger at her side.
Our final vote is between:

A Gentle Awakening 
The Promise of Happiness

See you on the other side, Betties.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Final Four Voting!

Are we ready for this? That isn't a rhetorical question. I'm not at all sure I'm ready for this! Below, we have the four novels that made it (clawing through a thicket of novels) to the semi-finals, winning their own brackets. 

As the young Hollywood ingenue might say, "It was an honor even to be nominated." (But she says so with her enameled teeth tightly clenched, vowing to take the crown next year (but not if it means working with that handsy art-house director.))

Below, we introduce each of the books (Thanks to the Betties who volunteered to speak on behalf of each title!) and at the end of the post, I've given the match-ups. So, just to make it clear, there will be four books in two match-ups, meaning we will have TWO books that make it into the next round. Best of luck, Bettties!

Representing The Barfing on His Brogues Bracket:
Dearest Love  
Betty Melissa
Arabella is a resourceful girl with a plunger.
Be a pity for it to whack you in the kneecaps.

Oh, Dearest Love! Betty at the height of her later years! It is the book that famously begins with a letter, and ends with a letter. And what letters! Betty gives us beautiful word portraits in these letters. First we have Arabella, writing to apply for a job. From her letter we learn that she is polite, ladylike, accomplished, and matter of fact. Then we have the letter at the end of the book. And we see the passion beneath the aloof veneer Titus has been showing us (and Arabella) throughout the book. Anybody who wonders about the warmth of the marriages of Betty's characters only has to read that letter to know Betty's men are definitely not monks! And so many quotable quotes from this book. "I can only hope that one day before it's too late you will meet a woman who will turn you sides to middle and then tramp all over you". "He's what one would call a magnificent figure of a man...and also a very rude one!" And the immortal "I should like a plunger sir." And those are just from the first few pages of this delightful book. Dearest Love is not my favorite Betty. It isn't the Betty that made me realize I'd stumbled upon a great author. But it was the first Betty I began to go to again and again when I want to spend some time with the lovely people of Betty's world.

Representing The Handful of A Levels Bracket:
A Gentle Awakening 
Betty Donna
That scene! Best scene in all of Bettydom: “Cool off, Miss Fortesque.” Florina, who hadn’t realized that she could feel so royally angry, picked up the jug of lemonade on the table by Wanda’s chair, and poured it slowly over the top of her head. Reading this book again after a long time, it came to me. Satisfying. This is classic Betty on steroids. Florina is an Araminta, plain with sandy/ginger hair, BUT she is a Cordon Bleu chef. She has no false modesty about her cooking. She is an excellent cook and knows she could get a job anywhere. She has the classic awful parent, but this is no die-away voiced mother. No, this is a verbally abusive father and Florina makes no bones about the fact that she feels a duty towards him, but does not love him. He doesn’t deserve it. Once the doctor says her father is healthy enough to do for himself, Florina is gone. Sir William Sedley is the classic Betty doctor with a daughter from his first marriage, but he is not bitter and heartbroken. His daughter is delightful and loves Florina from the beginning. This is a man and a daughter Florina can fall in love with right away, and she does. Satisfying. Of course, this is a Betty, so we need a Veronica. Miss Wanda Fortescue, Sir William’s fiancĂ©e. But this is no languid, vague Diana from Judith. No, Wanda is VICIOUS. She comes out with guns blazing from the first time she meets Florina. Does Florina back down? No way. She turns on her mixer and spatters the front of Wanda’s dress with oily salad dressing. She doesn’t just think about doing it, she does it. Satisfying. Florina is an outlier in Betty’s world. She is English, but had a Dutch mother. When Sir William takes her to Holland, it is HER family she visits. She speaks Dutch fluently. Satisfying. Felix, the equivalent of the handsy houseman in this book, is given short shrift by Florina. She doesn’t fall for his smarmy manner as so many other Aramintas do. Satisfying. Then, of course, there is THE SCENE. I had forgotten that Wanda actually slapped Florina and that was the catalyst for the infamous lemonade pour. Nanny and Jolly heard and saw everything. They have Florina’s back, but she doesn’t need their support. Sir William asks her what happened and she won’t say, but he doesn’t make her apologize as we’ve seen in other Betty novels. He knows Wanda must have had it coming and he lets it go (while his daughter howls with laughter in the next room) Satisfying. Finally, the ending. Sir William doesn’t just find a millionaire to take Wanda, he pulls a “Parent Trap” on her. “He had, for his own purposes, taken her for a walk that afternoon; a long walk along bridle paths and over fields of rough grass… climbing any number of gates. Wanda, her tights laddered, stung by nettles and unsuitably shod in high heels, almost spat at him…” So, so satisfying. Having tied up all the loose ends, he goes to get her and tells her he loves her while driving in the fast lane. Back home to beautiful Wheel House with plenty of kisses. Satisfying.

Representing The Hocked Locket Bracket:
Henrietta's Own Castle
Betty Christina
Marnix isn't here to insult you with offers of his undying love and a garnet necklace.
Surely the garnet necklace will be enough for your vote.

It is interesting to me that I love Henrietta’s Castle so much, because in some ways it has features I hate – our heroine and her RDD spend a fair amount of time being rude to each other, the Veronica is an implausible youngster, etc, but it also has some absolutely wonderful aspects that far, far outweigh the bad ones. In chronological order, they are: - The premise. Who hasn’t ever wished some unknown relative (since we wouldn’t want our known ones to die off) would leave them a house in a foreign county, with enough money to go on for a little while? I absolutely love the descriptions of her packing up in Charlie, her decrepit Mini, and leaving everything she knows to move, and then exploring her new home. - He brings her a kitten. And she puts the kitten in her tea cosy. - While they are both snippy or rude some of the time, there are also several cozy scenes of them talking and getting to know each other pleasantly. I never quite believe the books where they fight until the absolute last page. - A sufficient amount of drama – the plane crash! And the horse giving birth in a field in the snow! - The ending where he climbs the wall of her garden “with the agility of a much younger man” because she had told him she would never open her door to him. This scene is one of my favorites in the entire cannon. - And, best of all, a satisfyingly long ending where they both explain their confusions and their love. Too many Betties get wrapped up in a single paragraph, and this one gives you all you could want.

Representing The Imperiled Poppets Bracket:
The Promise of Happiness
Betty Pam
Bertie and Pooch aren't going to tell you how to vote, okay?
Bertie and Pooch are just going to drip all over your Bentley and
look mournful until you do what you know you should have done all along.

Why The Promise of Happiness Deserves to be Crowned “The Best Betty Book” 1. You run away at 4AM in the pouring rain with £30.06 to save your dog and cat from being put down by your step-brother. 2. You’re rescued by a handsome Baron in a Rolls. But later you hear him tell his nice sister that you aren’t his cup of tea. 3. He gives you a job, helps you find a place to live and dives into a nasty canal to free your wire-entangled dog who ran away in a storm. 4. He invites you to dinner, but you truly have nothing to wear, so he pretends that he really meant a picnic and gives his housekeeper 15 minutes to get it ready. 5. He drinks a sweet Moselle that he detests because he knows you’ll like it. 6. When you remind him of the “not my cup of tea” insult, he turns it around with “but you’re my glass of champagne.” 7. He drags Veronica to a dreary chamber music concert just to stare at the back of your head whilst you’re on a date with a houseman (not the Handsy type). 8. Then he offers you and your date a ride home with him and Veronica. He cleverly maneuvers so he ends up alone with you. Takes you to eat pancakes. Kisses you and says “goodnight, my pretty little mouse.” 9. Rescues you from Basil again, this time in London. Gives you tea, holds your hand and refuses to give it back. Says: “"I've been wanting to hold your hand for a long time, and now that I have it, I don't intend to let it go." 10. When you remind him that you have yet been asked to marry him, he says "dare to say no," and kisses you.

Now, that your mind is spinning with possibilities, here are the voting match-ups:

Dearest Love vs. 
A Gentle Awakening 


Henrietta's Own Castle vs.
The Promise of Happiness

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thoughts From a Founding Betty

Dear Betties,

I'm trying something new and trying also not to be to persnickity about the blunders I'm making. I know my list of missing and mourned books is incomplete. Tell me yours in the comments!

Love and lardy cakes,

Betty Keira