The Education of Bet

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547550244
  • ISBN-10: 0547550243
  • Pages: 192
  • Publication Date: 04/18/2011
  • Carton Quantity: 48

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About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    Bet feels confined by her place—neither family nor servant—in the home of her wealthy benefactor. Will, the boy who’s been like a brother to her since they were four, is unhappy with his fate as well. So Bet makes a plan: She’ll pretend she’s a boy and take Will’s place at school. 

    When she arrives at school, Bet finds boys act rather brutish when they don’t think there’s a girl in their midst. But brutish Bet can handle it. It’s the stirrings of attraction for her roommate that get Bet into real trouble.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts


    Everything I needed to wear beneath my clothes was already in place.
     I selected a shirt the color of unspoiled snow, eased my arms into
    the sleeves, slowly did up the buttons from narrow waist to chest and
    finally to neck. It felt peculiar to wear something on my upper body,
    in particular my waist, that did not bind my skin like a glove. How
    odd not to feel constricted where one expected to. The trousers that I
    slid up over the slight swell of my hips were made of black superfine
    wool, and I buttoned these as well. This was even more peculiar, the
    sensation of the expensive fabric against my calves and thighs.
     A sound in the outer hallway brought me up short. Was someone
    coming? The threat of intrusion, of discovery before I’d finished,
    terrified me. It was a danger I lived with daily, as natural to my new
    life as a lack of danger had been to my old one. But after a long
    moment spent stock-still, hearing no more noises, I concluded that
    the sounds were of my imagination’s making, a product of my fears.
     I was well practiced in the art of tying ties, and I commenced
    doing so now, taking up the length of black silk and fitting it around
    my collar. Then I took the ends and fashioned a knot that I knew
    without looking would fall at a slightly rakish angle. My intention
    was to convey that perfect mix of convention (I was wearing a tie)
    and indifference to convention (I did not care how that tie looked).
    Over all, I put on a black superfine wool coat that matched the
     Only then, when I was fully dressed except for shoes, did I turn to
    confront my reflection in the looking glass.
     And what did I see there?
     A clean-shaven young gentleman about sixteen years of age, with
    thick black hair so wavy there was almost a curl to it—there would
    be, on humid days—and eyes nearly as dark; pale skin; generous lips;
    a fine straight nose. The young man looking back at me was handsome
    and gave offan air of self-confidence.
     There was just one problem; two, actually.
     The barely discernible bulge in the front of the trousers had been
    created by a carefully balled-up pair of stockings.
     And the young gentleman—I—was a girl.

    Chapter One

    “William, I am so disappointed in you!”
     Paul Gardener always addressed his great-nephew as William when
    he was displeased with something he had done.
     I was seated on a chair by the fireplace, sewing, my long skirts
    around me, as I had been just a moment before when a servant at the
    door to the drawing room had announced Will. The drawing room
    ran the length of the house, from front to back, and had large
    windows at either end that cast long shadows now that night was
    nearly upon us. The ceiling was a blinding white, while the walls were
    painted scarlet, punctuated with well-placed brass candle fixtures; the
    master of the house and I were seated at the room’s far end. There was
    an enormous area rug, also in scarlet but accented with cream, and a
    large bookcase containing all of the master’s favorite volumes, of
    which I’d read more than a few.
     “Bet.” Will acknowledged me with a nod after first greeting his
    great-uncle, as was proper.
     “Will.” I returned the nod but saw no reason to rise for the
    occasion, although I was happy to see him. I was always happy to see
    Will, no matter what the circumstances.
     Paul Gardener did not rise either. It was difficult for him to do so
    without assistance. In the past few years, he had aged a great deal.
    Indeed, both eyes, formerly a sharp blue, were now so fogged by
    cataracts that he glimpsed only flashes of the world through thick
    clouds, and it was one of my jobs to read to him from the papers or
    from books when he was of a mind to be read to. Still, despite his
    many infirmities, Paul Gardener took great care in his dress and
    appearance; his proud mane of hair was white and thick. I had seen
    artists’ renderings of him when he was younger and knew that in his
    youth he had been nearly as handsome as Will.
     “I had somewhat hoped you would be happy to see me, Uncle,”
    Will said with a wry smile.
     I dared look at Will no longer for fear I would break out into
    laughter, so I cast my gaze back down upon my sewing. It was not so
    much that the sewing needed to be done as that I needed something
    to do.
     “Of course I am happy to see you!” the old man sputtered. He
    looked befuddled for a moment as he corrected himself, “Well, that
    is, if I could
    see you.” After that brief moment of befuddlement, he
    recalled his outrage. Raising a gnarled fist, he shook the sheet of paper
    he held clenched in his hand. It was a letter, and ever since I’d read its
    contents to him last week, he’d been holding it pretty much every
    moment I had seen him. “What,” he thundered, “is the meaning
    of this?”
     Without needing to look at what his great-uncle was holding, Will
    knew to what he was referring.
     “It means,” he said, “that I have been sent down from school.”
     Which is a nice way, I thought, of saying that you have been expelled.
     “I understand that!” the old man said. “I may be blind, or near
    enough, but I am not stupid. But what I don’t understand—what I
    cannot understand, William—is why? ”
     Will’s expression softened from its usual air of studied indifference.
    Whatever else Will was, he did not like to hurt his great-uncle;
    still, he would not do what was against his nature merely to please.
    He opened his mouth to speak—perhaps even to make an effort to
    sound contrite—but he was stopped by the grandfather clock at the
    other end of the room banging out the hour.
     “Oh.” Paul Gardener lowered his fist. “It is time for dinner.”
     No matter what was going on around him—including storms
    outside or within the house—Paul Gardener would have his meals
    on time.
     “The Boers could show up here in London,” Will had said to me
    on his last visit home, “they could march up right to our door and
    enter, weapons drawn, and Uncle would say, ‘You may kill me in half
    an hour, but first I must finish my supper.’ ”
     Will approached his great-uncle’s chair and, placing his strong
    hand under the elderly man’s elbow, helped him to his feet. “Uncle?”
    Will invited, holding his own elbow out so that he might escort the
    old man to the dining room.
     They were nearly through the doorway when Paul Gardener
    paused and cocked his head, listening. His eyesight may have been
    awful, but his hearing was perfect.
     “Elizabeth?” he called back to me, having detected the absence of
    any following footsteps. “Aren’t you dining with us this evening?”
     He said this as though I were always welcome at the table, and yet
    I always waited to be asked, never assuming anything. I knew that
    indeed my presence was not always welcome.
     “Of course, sir,” I said, at once setting aside my sewing. It would
    never have occurred to me to say no.
     As I followed behind them, I saw Will turn his head and glance
    back at me over his great-uncle’s shoulder. His smile was devilish, and
    I returned it in full.
     You, Will, I thought, have just been saved by the bell.

    But that saving did not last long, not even through the soup course.

  • Reviews
    "With nods to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy," Bet’s descriptive, intimate, first-person narrative incorporates historical details and diverse characters, including adult female allies at school...historical-fiction fans will likely find Bet an appealingly lively heroine as she pursues her dreams and makes unexpected discoveries in learning, life, and love."--Booklist