Reading Comprehension - Literature: 'The Secret Garden'

Contributed by:
After her parents die of cholera, Mary Lennox, a complex and sickly little girl, is brought from India to her mysterious uncle's sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Mary continues in her self-absorbed ways until one day, she discovers a hidden and neglected garden adjoining her uncle's mansion. When she meets Ben Weatherstaff, a curt but gentle gardener, and finds her hidden-away invalid cousin, Colin Craven, the three come together to tend the garden, and Mary's life--as well as the lives of those around her--beg.
Author of
"The Shuttle,"
"The Making of a Marchioness,"
"The Methods of Lady
"The Lass o' Lowries,"
"Through One Administration,"
"Little Lord Fauntleroy,"
"A Lady of Quality," etc.
When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor
to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most
disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too.
She had a little thin face and a little thin body,
thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow,
and her face was yellow because she had been born in
India and had always been ill in one way or another.
Her father had held a position under the English
Government and had always been busy and ill himself,
and her mother had been a great beauty who cared only
to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people.
She had not wanted a little girl at all, and when Mary
was born she handed her over to the care of an Ayah,
who was made to understand that if she wished to please
the Mem Sahib she must keep the child out of sight as much
as possible. So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little
baby she was kept out of the way, and when she became
a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was kept out of
the way also. She never remembered seeing familiarly
anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other
native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave
her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib
would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying,
by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical
3. and selfish a little pig as ever lived. The young English
governess who came to teach her to read and write disliked
her so much that she gave up her place in three months,
and when other governesses came to try to fill it they
always went away in a shorter time than the first one.
So if Mary had not chosen to really want to know how
to read books she would never have learned her letters at all.
One frightfully hot morning, when she was about nine
years old, she awakened feeling very cross, and she became
crosser still when she saw that the servant who stood
by her bedside was not her Ayah.
"Why did you come?" she said to the strange woman.
"I will not let you stay. Send my Ayah to me."
The woman looked frightened, but she only stammered
that the Ayah could not come and when Mary threw herself
into a passion and beat and kicked her, she looked only
more frightened and repeated that it was not possible
for the Ayah to come to Missie Sahib.
There was something mysterious in the air that morning.
Nothing was done in its regular order and several of the
native servants seemed missing, while those whom Mary
saw slunk or hurried about with ashy and scared faces.
But no one would tell her anything and her Ayah did not come.
She was actually left alone as the morning went on,
and at last she wandered out into the garden and began
to play by herself under a tree near the veranda.
She pretended that she was making a flower-bed, and she stuck
big scarlet hibiscus blossoms into little heaps of earth,
all the time growing more and more angry and muttering
to herself the things she would say and the names she
would call Saidie when she returned.
"Pig! Pig! Daughter of Pigs!" she said, because to call
a native a pig is the worst insult of all.
She was grinding her teeth and saying this over and over
again when she heard her mother come out on the veranda
with some one. She was with a fair young man and they stood
talking together in low strange voices. Mary knew the fair
young man who looked like a boy. She had heard that he
was a very young officer who had just come from England.
4. The child stared at him, but she stared most at her mother.
She always did this when she had a chance to see her,
because the Mem Sahib--Mary used to call her that oftener
than anything else--was such a tall, slim, pretty person
and wore such lovely clothes. Her hair was like curly
silk and she had a delicate little nose which seemed
to be disdaining things, and she had large laughing eyes.
All her clothes were thin and floating, and Mary said they
were "full of lace." They looked fuller of lace than ever
this morning, but her eyes were not laughing at all.
They were large and scared and lifted imploringly to the fair
boy officer's face.
"Is it so very bad? Oh, is it?" Mary heard her say.
"Awfully," the young man answered in a trembling voice.
"Awfully, Mrs. Lennox. You ought to have gone to the hills
two weeks ago."
The Mem Sahib wrung her hands.
"Oh, I know I ought!" she cried. "I only stayed to go
to that silly dinner party. What a fool I was!"
At that very moment such a loud sound of wailing broke
out from the servants' quarters that she clutched the young
man's arm, and Mary stood shivering from head to foot.
The wailing grew wilder and wilder. "What is it? What is it?"
Mrs. Lennox gasped.
"Some one has died," answered the boy officer. "You did
not say it had broken out among your servants."
"I did not know!" the Mem Sahib cried. "Come with me!
Come with me!" and she turned and ran into the house.
After that, appalling things happened, and the mysteriousness
of the morning was explained to Mary. The cholera had
broken out in its most fatal form and people were dying
like flies. The Ayah had been taken ill in the night,
and it was because she had just died that the servants
had wailed in the huts. Before the next day three other
servants were dead and others had run away in terror.
There was panic on every side, and dying people in all
the bungalows.
5. During the confusion and bewilderment of the second day Mary
hid herself in the nursery and was forgotten by everyone.
Nobody thought of her, nobody wanted her, and strange things
happened of which she knew nothing. Mary alternately cried
and slept through the hours. She only knew that people were
ill and that she heard mysterious and tightening sounds.
Once she crept into the dining-room and found it empty,
though a partly finished meal was on the table and chairs
and plates looked as if they had been hastily pushed
back when the diners rose suddenly for some reason.
The child ate some fruit and biscuits, and being thirsty
she drank a glass of wine which stood nearly filled.
It was sweet, and she did not know how strong it was.
Very soon it made her intensely drowsy, and she went back
to her nursery and shut herself in again, frightened by cries
she heard in the huts and by the hurrying sound of feet.
The wine made her so sleepy that she could scarcely keep her
eyes open and she lay down on her bed and knew nothing more
for a long time.
Many things happened during the hours in which she slept
so heavily, but she was not disturbed by the wails and the
sound of things being carried in and out of the bungalow.
When she awakened she lay and stared at the wall.
The house was perfectly still. She had never known
it to be so silent before. She heard neither voices
nor footsteps, and wondered if everybody had got well of
the cholera and all the trouble was over. She wondered
also who would take care of her now her Ayah was dead.
There would be a new Ayah, and perhaps she would know
some new stories. Mary had been rather tired of the
old ones. She did not cry because her nurse had died.
She was not an affectionate child and had never cared much
for any one. The noise and hurrying about and wailing
over the cholera had frightened her, and she had been angry
because no one seemed to remember that she was alive.
Everyone was too panic-stricken to think of a little
girl no one was fond of. When people had the cholera
it seemed that they remembered nothing but themselves.
But if everyone had got well again, surely some one would
remember and come to look for her.
But no one came, and as she lay waiting the house seemed
6. to grow more and more silent. She heard something rustling
on the matting and when she looked down she saw a little
snake gliding along and watching her with eyes like jewels.
She was not frightened, because he was a harmless little
thing who would not hurt her and he seemed in a hurry
to get out of the room. He slipped under the door as she
watched him.
"How queer and quiet it is," she said. "It sounds as
if there were no one in the bungalow but me and the snake."
Almost the next minute she heard footsteps in the compound,
and then on the veranda. They were men's footsteps,
and the men entered the bungalow and talked in low voices.
No one went to meet or speak to them and they seemed
to open doors and look into rooms. "What desolation!"
she heard one voice say. "That pretty, pretty woman!
I suppose the child, too. I heard there was a child,
though no one ever saw her."
Mary was standing in the middle of the nursery when they
opened the door a few minutes later. She looked an ugly,
cross little thing and was frowning because she was
beginning to be hungry and feel disgracefully neglected.
The first man who came in was a large officer she had once
seen talking to her father. He looked tired and troubled,
but when he saw her he was so startled that he almost
jumped back.
"Barney!" he cried out. "There is a child here! A child
alone! In a place like this! Mercy on us, who is she!"
"I am Mary Lennox," the little girl said, drawing herself
up stiffly. She thought the man was very rude to call her
father's bungalow "A place like this!" "I fell asleep when
everyone had the cholera and I have only just wakened up.
Why does nobody come?"
"It is the child no one ever saw!" exclaimed the man,
turning to his companions. "She has actually been forgotten!"
"Why was I forgotten?" Mary said, stamping her foot.
"Why does nobody come?"
The young man whose name was Barney lookedat her very sadly.
7. Mary even thought she saw him wink his eyes as if to wink
tears away.
"Poor little kid!" he said. "There is nobody left to come."
It was in that strange and sudden way that Mary found
out that she had neither father nor mother left;
that they had died and been carried away in the night,
and that the few native servants who had not died also had
left the house as quickly as they could get out of it,
none of them even remembering that there was a Missie Sahib.
That was why the place was so quiet. It was true that there
was no one in the bungalow but herself and the little
rustling snake.
Chapter II
Mary had liked to look at her mother from a distance
and she had thought her very pretty, but as she knew
very little of her she could scarcely have been expected
to love her or to miss her very much when she was gone.
She did not miss her at all, in fact, and as she was a
self-absorbed child she gave her entire thought to herself,
as she had always done. If she had been older she would
no doubt have been very anxious at being left alone in
the world, but she was very young, and as she had always
been taken care of, she supposed she always would be.
What she thought was that she would like to know if she was
going to nice people, who would be polite to her and give
her her own way as her Ayah and the other native servants
had done.
She knew that she was not going to stay at the English
clergyman's house where she was taken at first. She did
not want to stay. The English clergyman was poor and he
had five children nearly all the same age and they wore
shabby clothes and were always quarreling and snatching
toys from each other. Mary hated their untidy bungalow
and was so disagreeable to them that after the first day
or two nobody would play with her. By the second day
8. they had given her a nickname which made her furious.
It was Basil who thought of it first. Basil was a little
boy with impudent blue eyes and a turned-up nose, and Mary
hated him. She was playing by herself under a tree,
just as she had been playing the day the cholera broke out.
She was making heaps of earth and paths for a garden
and Basil came and stood near to watch her. Presently he
got rather interested and suddenly made a suggestion.
"Why don't you put a heap of stones there and pretend
it is a rockery?" he said. "There in the middle,"
and he leaned over her to point.
"Go away!" cried Mary. "I don't want boys. Go away!"
For a moment Basil looked angry, and then he began to tease.
He was always teasing his sisters. He danced round
and round her and made faces and sang and laughed.
"Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And marigolds all in a row."
He sang it until the other children heard and laughed, too;
and the crosser Mary got, the more they sang "Mistress Mary,
quite contrary"; and after that as long as she stayed
with them they called her "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary"
when they spoke of her to each other, and often when they
spoke to her.
"You are going to be sent home," Basil said to her,
"at the end of the week. And we're glad of it."
"I am glad of it, too," answered Mary. "Where is home?"
"She doesn't know where home is!" said Basil,
with seven-year-old scorn. "It's England, of course.
Our grandmama lives there and our sister Mabel was sent
to her last year. You are not going to your grandmama.
You have none. You are going to your uncle. His name is
Mr. Archibald Craven."
"I don't know anything about him," snapped Mary.
9. "I know you don't," Basil answered. "You don't know anything.
Girls never do. I heard father and mother talking about him.
He lives in a great, big, desolate old house in the
country and no one goes near him. He's so cross he won't
let them, and they wouldn't come if he would let them.
He's a hunchback, and he's horrid." "I don't believe you,"
said Mary; and she turned her back and stuck her fingers
in her ears, because she would not listen any more.
But she thought over it a great deal afterward; and when
Mrs. Crawford told her that night that she was going
to sail away to England in a few days and go to her uncle,
Mr. Archibald Craven, who lived at Misselthwaite Manor,
she looked so stony and stubbornly uninterested that
they did not know what to think about her. They tried
to be kind to her, but she only turned her face away
when Mrs. Crawford attempted to kiss her, and held
herself stiffly when Mr. Crawford patted her shoulder.
"She is such a plain child," Mrs. Crawford said pityingly,
afterward. "And her mother was such a pretty creature.
She had a very pretty manner, too, and Mary has the most
unattractive ways I ever saw in a child. The children
call her `Mistress Mary Quite Contrary,' and though
it's naughty of them, one can't help understanding it."
"Perhaps if her mother had carried her pretty face
and her pretty manners oftener into the nursery Mary
might have learned some pretty ways too. It is very sad,
now the poor beautiful thing is gone, to remember that
many people never even knew that she had a child at all."
"I believe she scarcely ever looked at her,"
sighed Mrs. Crawford. "When her Ayah was dead there
was no one to give a thought to the little thing.
Think of the servants running away and leaving her all
alone in that deserted bungalow. Colonel McGrew said he
nearly jumped out of his skin when he opened the door
and found her standing by herself in the middle of the room."
Mary made the long voyage to England under the care of
an officer's wife, who was taking her children to leave
them in a boarding-school. She was very much absorbed
in her own little boy and girl, and was rather glad to hand
10. the child over to the woman Mr. Archibald Craven sent
to meet her, in London. The woman was his housekeeper
at Misselthwaite Manor, and her name was Mrs. Medlock.
She was a stout woman, with very red cheeks and sharp
black eyes. She wore a very purple dress, a black
silk mantle with jet fringe on it and a black bonnet
with purple velvet flowers which stuck up and trembled
when she moved her head. Mary did not like her at all,
but as she very seldom liked people there was nothing
remarkable in that; besides which it was very evident
Mrs. Medlock did not think much of her.
"My word! she's a plain little piece of goods!" she said.
"And we'd heard that her mother was a beauty. She hasn't
handed much of it down, has she, ma'am?" "Perhaps she
will improve as she grows older," the officer's wife
said good-naturedly. "If she were not so sallow and had
a nicer expression, her features are rather good.
Children alter so much."
"She'll have to alter a good deal," answered Mrs. Medlock.
"And, there's nothing likely to improve children at
Misselthwaite--if you ask me!" They thought Mary was not
listening because she was standing a little apart from them
at the window of the private hotel they had gone to.
She was watching the passing buses and cabs and people,
but she heard quite well and was made very curious about
her uncle and the place he lived in. What sort of a place
was it, and what would he be like? What was a hunchback?
She had never seen one. Perhaps there were none in India.
Since she had been living in other people's houses
and had had no Ayah, she had begun to feel lonely
and to think queer thoughts which were new to her.
She had begun to wonder why she had never seemed to belong
to anyone even when her father and mother had been alive.
Other children seemed to belong to their fathers and mothers,
but she had never seemed to really be anyone's little girl.
She had had servants, and food and clothes, but no one
had taken any notice of her. She did not know that this
was because she was a disagreeable child; but then,
of course, she did not know she was disagreeable.
She often thought that other people were, but she did not
know that she was so herself.
11. She thought Mrs. Medlock the most disagreeable person
she had ever seen, with her common, highly colored face
and her common fine bonnet. When the next day they set
out on their journey to Yorkshire, she walked through
the station to the railway carriage with her head up
and trying to keep as far away from her as she could,
because she did not want to seem to belong to her.
It would have made her angry to think people imagined she
was her little girl.
But Mrs. Medlock was not in the least disturbed by her
and her thoughts. She was the kind of woman who would
"stand no nonsense from young ones." At least, that is
what she would have said if she had been asked. She had
not wanted to go to London just when her sister Maria's
daughter was going to be married, but she had a comfortable,
well paid place as housekeeper at Misselthwaite Manor
and the only way in which she could keep it was to do
at once what Mr. Archibald Craven told her to do.
She never dared even to ask a question.
"Captain Lennox and his wife died of the cholera,"
Mr. Craven had said in his short, cold way. "Captain Lennox
was my wife's brother and I am their daughter's guardian.
The child is to be brought here. You must go to London
and bring her yourself."
So she packed her small trunk and made the journey.
Mary sat in her corner of the railway carriage and looked
plain and fretful. She had nothing to read or to look at,
and she had folded her thin little black-gloved hands in
her lap. Her black dress made her look yellower than ever,
and her limp light hair straggled from under her black
crepe hat.
"A more marred-looking young one I never saw in my life,"
Mrs. Medlock thought. (Marred is a Yorkshire word and
means spoiled and pettish.) She had never seen a child
who sat so still without doing anything; and at last she
got tired of watching her and began to talk in a brisk,
hard voice.
"I suppose I may as well tell you something about where
you are going to," she said. "Do you know anything
12. about your uncle?"
"No," said Mary.
"Never heard your father and mother talk about him?"
"No," said Mary frowning. She frowned because she
remembered that her father and mother had never talked
to her about anything in particular. Certainly they
had never told her things.
"Humph," muttered Mrs. Medlock, staring at her queer,
unresponsive little face. She did not say any more for
a few moments and then she began again.
"I suppose you might as well be told something--to
prepare you. You are going to a queer place."
Mary said nothing at all, and Mrs. Medlock looked rather
discomfited by her apparent indifference, but, after taking
a breath, she went on.
"Not but that it's a grand big place in a gloomy way,
and Mr. Craven's proud of it in his way--and that's
gloomy enough, too. The house is six hundred years old
and it's on the edge of the moor, and there's near a hundred
rooms in it, though most of them's shut up and locked.
And there's pictures and fine old furniture and things
that's been there for ages, and there's a big park round
it and gardens and trees with branches trailing to the
ground--some of them." She paused and took another breath.
"But there's nothing else," she ended suddenly.
Mary had begun to listen in spite of herself. It all sounded
so unlike India, and anything new rather attracted her.
But she did not intend to look as if she were interested.
That was one of her unhappy, disagreeable ways. So she
sat still.
"Well," said Mrs. Medlock. "What do you think of it?"
"Nothing," she answered. "I know nothing about such places."
That made Mrs. Medlock laugh a short sort of laugh.
13. "Eh!" she said, "but you are like an old woman.
Don't you care?"
"It doesn't matter" said Mary, "whether I care or not."
"You are right enough there," said Mrs. Medlock.
"It doesn't. What you're to be kept at Misselthwaite Manor
for I don't know, unless because it's the easiest way.
He's not going to trouble himself about you, that's sure
and certain. He never troubles himself about no one."
She stopped herself as if she had just remembered something
in time.
"He's got a crooked back," she said. "That set him wrong.
He was a sour young man and got no good of all his money
and big place till he was married."
Mary's eyes turned toward her in spite of her intention
not to seem to care. She had never thought of the
hunchback's being married and she was a trifle surprised.
Mrs. Medlock saw this, and as she was a talkative woman
she continued with more interest. This was one way
of passing some of the time, at any rate.
"She was a sweet, pretty thing and he'd have walked
the world over to get her a blade o' grass she wanted.
Nobody thought she'd marry him, but she did,
and people said she married him for his money.
But she didn't--she didn't," positively. "When she died--"
Mary gave a little involuntary jump.
"Oh! did she die!" she exclaimed, quite without meaning to.
She had just remembered a French fairy story she had once
read called "Riquet a la Houppe." It had been about a poor
hunchback and a beautiful princess and it had made her
suddenly sorry for Mr. Archibald Craven.
"Yes, she died," Mrs. Medlock answered. "And it
made him queerer than ever. He cares about nobody.
He won't see people. Most of the time he goes away,
and when he is at Misselthwaite he shuts himself up in
the West Wing and won't let any one but Pitcher see him.
Pitcher's an old fellow, but he took care of him when he
14. was a child and he knows his ways."
It sounded like something in a book and it did not make
Mary feel cheerful. A house with a hundred rooms,
nearly all shut up and with their doors locked--a house on
the edge of a moor--whatsoever a moor was--sounded dreary.
A man with a crooked back who shut himself up also! She
stared out of the window with her lips pinched together,
and it seemed quite natural that the rain should have begun
to pour down in gray slanting lines and splash and stream
down the window-panes. If the pretty wife had been alive
she might have made things cheerful by being something
like her own mother and by running in and out and going
to parties as she had done in frocks "full of lace."
But she was not there any more.
"You needn't expect to see him, because ten to one you won't,"
said Mrs. Medlock. "And you mustn't expect that there
will be people to talk to you. You'll have to play
about and look after yourself. You'll be told what rooms
you can go into and what rooms you're to keep out of.
There's gardens enough. But when you're in the house
don't go wandering and poking about. Mr. Craven won't
have it."
"I shall not want to go poking about," said sour little
Mary and just as suddenly as she had begun to be rather
sorry for Mr. Archibald Craven she began to cease to be
sorry and to think he was unpleasant enough to deserve
all that had happened to him.
And she turned her face toward the streaming panes of the
window of the railway carriage and gazed out at the gray
rain-storm which looked as if it would go on forever and ever.
She watched it so long and steadily that the grayness
grew heavier and heavier before her eyes and she fell asleep.
She slept a long time, and when she awakened Mrs. Medlock
15. had bought a lunchbasket at one of the stations and they
had some chicken and cold beef and bread and butter and
some hot tea. The rain seemed to be streaming down more
heavily than ever and everybody in the station wore wet
and glistening waterproofs. The guard lighted the lamps
in the carriage, and Mrs. Medlock cheered up very much
over her tea and chicken and beef. She ate a great deal
and afterward fell asleep herself, and Mary sat and stared
at her and watched her fine bonnet slip on one side until she
herself fell asleep once more in the corner of the carriage,
lulled by the splashing of the rain against the windows.
It was quite dark when she awakened again. The train
had stopped at a station and Mrs. Medlock was shaking her.
"You have had a sleep!" she said. "It's time to open
your eyes! We're at Thwaite Station and we've got a long
drive before us."
Mary stood up and tried to keep her eyes open while
Mrs. Medlock collected her parcels. The little
girl did not offer to help her, because in India
native servants always picked up or carried things
and it seemed quite proper that other people should wait on one.
The station was a small one and nobody but themselves
seemed to be getting out of the train. The station-master
spoke to Mrs. Medlock in a rough, good-natured way,
pronouncing his words in a queer broad fashion which Mary
found out afterward was Yorkshire.
"I see tha's got back," he said. "An' tha's browt th'
young 'un with thee."
"Aye, that's her," answered Mrs. Medlock, speaking with
a Yorkshire accent herself and jerking her head over
her shoulder toward Mary. "How's thy Missus?"
"Well enow. Th' carriage is waitin' outside for thee."
A brougham stood on the road before the little
outside platform. Mary saw that it was a smart carriage
and that it was a smart footman who helped her in.
His long waterproof coat and the waterproof covering of his
hat were shining and dripping with rain as everything was,
the burly station-master included.
16. When he shut the door, mounted the box with the coachman,
and they drove off, the little girlfound herself seated
in a comfortably cushioned corner, but she was not inclined
to go to sleep again. She sat and looked out of the window,
curious to see something of the road over which she
was being driven to the queer place Mrs. Medlock had
spoken of. She was not at all a timid child and she was
not exactly frightened, but she felt that there was no
knowing what might happen in a house with a hundred rooms
nearly all shut up--a house standing on the edge of a moor.
"What is a moor?" she said suddenly to Mrs. Medlock.
"Look out of the window in about ten minutes and you'll see,"
the woman answered. "We've got to drive five miles across
Missel Moor before we get to the Manor. You won't see
much because it's a dark night, but you can see something."
Mary asked no more questions but waited in the darkness
of her corner, keeping her eyes on the window. The carriage
lamps cast rays of light a little distance ahead of them
and she caught glimpses of the things they passed.
After they had left the station they had driven through a
tiny village and she had seen whitewashed cottages and the
lights of a public house. Then they had passed a church
and a vicarage and a little shop-window or so in a cottage
with toys and sweets and odd things set our for sale.
Then they were on the highroad and she saw hedges and trees.
After that there seemed nothing different for a long
time--or at least it seemed a long time to her.
At last the horses began to go more slowly, as if they
were climbing up-hill, and presently there seemed to be
no more hedges and no more trees. She could see nothing,
in fact, but a dense darkness on either side. She leaned
forward and pressed her face against the window just
as the carriage gave a big jolt.
"Eh! We're on the moor now sure enough," said Mrs. Medlock.
The carriage lamps shed a yellow light on a rough-looking
road which seemed to be cut through bushes and low-growing
things which ended in the great expanse of dark apparently
spread out before and around them. A wind was rising
17. and making a singular, wild, low, rushing sound.
"It's--it's not the sea, is it?" said Mary, looking round
at her companion.
"No, not it," answered Mrs. Medlock. "Nor it isn't fields
nor mountains, it's just miles and miles and miles of wild
land that nothing grows on but heather and gorse and broom,
and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep."
"I feel as if it might be the sea, if there were water
on it," said Mary. "It sounds like the sea just now."
"That's the wind blowing through the bushes," Mrs. Medlock said.
"It's a wild, dreary enough place to my mind, though there's
plenty that likes it--particularly when the heather's in bloom."
On and on they drove through the darkness, and though
the rain stopped, the wind rushed by and whistled and made
strange sounds. The road went up and down, and several
times the carriage passed over a little bridge beneath
which water rushed very fast with a great deal of noise.
Mary felt as if the drive would never come to an end
and that the wide, bleak moor was a wide expanse of black
ocean through which she was passing on a strip of dry land.
"I don't like it," she said to herself. "I don't like it,"
and she pinched her thin lips more tightly together.
The horses were climbing up a hilly piece of road
when she first caught sight of a light. Mrs. Medlock
saw it as soon as she did and drew a long sigh of relief.
"Eh, I am glad to see that bit o' light twinkling,"
she exclaimed. "It's the light in the lodge window.
We shall get a good cup of tea after a bit, at all events."
It was "after a bit," as she said, for when the carriage
passed through the park gates there was still two miles
of avenue to drive through and the trees (which nearly
met overhead) made it seem as if they were driving
through a long dark vault.
They drove out of the vault into a clear space
and stopped before an immensely long but low-built
18. house which seemed to ramble round a stone court.
At first Mary thought that there were no lights at all
in the windows, but as she got out of the carriage
she saw that one room in a corner upstairs showed a dull glow.
The entrance door was a huge one made of massive, curiously
shaped panels of oak studded with big iron nails and bound
with great iron bars. It opened into an enormous hall,
which was so dimly lighted that the faces in the portraits
on the walls and the figures in the suits of armor
made Mary feel that she did not want to look at them.
As she stood on the stone floor she looked a very small,
odd little black figure, and she felt as small and lost
and odd as she looked.
A neat, thin old man stood near the manservant who opened
the door for them.
"You are to take her to her room," he said in a husky voice.
"He doesn't want to see her. He's going to London
in the morning."
"Very well, Mr. Pitcher," Mrs. Medlock answered.
"So long as I know what's expected of me, I can manage."
"What's expected of you, Mrs. Medlock," Mr. Pitcher said,
"is that you make sure that he's not disturbed and that he
doesn't see what he doesn't want to see."
And then Mary Lennox was led up a broad staircase
and down a long corridor and up a short flight
of steps and through another corridor and another,
until a door opened in a wall and she found herself
in a room with a fire in it and a supper on a table.
Mrs. Medlock said unceremoniously:
"Well, here you are! This room and the next are where you'll
live--and you must keep to them. Don't you forget that!"
It was in this way Mistress Mary arrived at Misselthwaite
Manor and she had perhaps never felt quite so contrary
in all her life.
When she opened her eyes in the morning it was because
a young housemaid had come into her room to light
the fire and was kneeling on the hearth-rug raking
out the cinders noisily. Mary lay and watched her for
a few moments and then began to look about the room.
She had never seen a room at all like it and thought it
curious and gloomy. The walls were covered with tapestry
with a forest scene embroidered on it. There were
fantastically dressed people under the trees and in the
distance there was a glimpse of the turrets of a castle.
There were hunters and horses and dogs and ladies.
Mary felt as if she were in the forest with them.
Out of a deep window she could see a great climbing
stretch of land which seemed to have no trees on it,
and to look rather like an endless, dull, purplish sea.
"What is that?" she said, pointing out of the window.
Martha, the young housemaid, who had just risen to her feet,
looked and pointed also. "That there?" she said.
"That's th' moor," with a good-natured grin. "Does tha'
like it?"
"No," answered Mary. "I hate it."
"That's because tha'rt not used to it," Martha said,
going back to her hearth. "Tha' thinks it's too big an'
bare now. But tha' will like it."
"Do you?" inquired Mary.
"Aye, that I do," answered Martha, cheerfully polishing
away at the grate. "I just love it. It's none bare.
It's covered wi' growin' things as smells sweet.
It's fair lovely in spring an' summer when th' gorse an'
broom an' heather's in flower. It smells o' honey an'
20. there's such a lot o' fresh air--an' th' sky looks
so high an' th' bees an' skylarks makes such a nice
noise hummin' an' singin'. Eh! I wouldn't live away from th'
moor for anythin'."
Mary listened to her with a grave, puzzled expression.
The native servants she had been used to in India
were not in the least like this. They were obsequious
and servile and did not presume to talk to their masters
as if they were their equals. They made salaams and called
them "protector of the poor" and names of that sort.
Indian servants were commanded to do things, not asked.
It was not the custom to say "please" and "thank you"
and Mary had always slapped her Ayah in the face when she
was angry. She wondered a little what this girl would
do if one slapped her in the face. She was a round,
rosy, good-natured-looking creature, but she had a sturdy
way which made Mistress Mary wonder if she might not
even slap back--if the person who slapped her was only a
little girl.
"You are a strange servant," she said from her pillows,
rather haughtily.
Martha sat up on her heels, with her blackingbrush in her hand,
and laughed, without seeming the least out of temper.
"Eh! I know that," she said. "If there was a grand Missus
at Misselthwaite I should never have been even one of th'
under house-maids. I might have been let to be scullerymaid
but I'd never have been let upstairs. I'm too common an'
I talk too much Yorkshire. But this is a funny house for
all it's so grand. Seems like there's neither Master nor
Mistress except Mr. Pitcher an' Mrs. Medlock. Mr. Craven,
he won't be troubled about anythin' when he's here, an'
he's nearly always away. Mrs. Medlock gave me th'
place out o' kindness. She told me she could never have
done it if Misselthwaite had been like other big houses."
"Are you going to be my servant?" Mary asked, still in her
imperious little Indian way.
Martha began to rub her grate again.
"I'm Mrs. Medlock's servant," she said stoutly.
"An' she's Mr. Craven's--but I'm to do the housemaid's
21. work up here an' wait on you a bit. But you won't need
much waitin' on."
"Who is going to dress me?" demanded Mary.
Martha sat up on her heels again and stared. She spoke
in broad Yorkshire in her amazement.
"Canna' tha' dress thysen!" she said.
"What do you mean? I don't understand your language,"
said Mary.
"Eh! I forgot," Martha said. "Mrs. Medlock told me I'd
have to be careful or you wouldn't know what I was sayin'.
I mean can't you put on your own clothes?"
"No," answered Mary, quite indignantly. "I never did
in my life. My Ayah dressed me, of course."
"Well," said Martha, evidently not in the least aware
that she was impudent, "it's time tha' should learn.
Tha' cannot begin younger. It'll do thee good to wait
on thysen a bit. My mother always said she couldn't
see why grand people's children didn't turn out fair
fools--what with nurses an' bein' washed an' dressed an'
took out to walk as if they was puppies!"
"It is different in India," said Mistress Mary disdainfully.
She could scarcely stand this.
But Martha was not at all crushed.
"Eh! I can see it's different," she answered almost
sympathetically. "I dare say it's because there's such
a lot o' blacks there instead o' respectable white people.
When I heard you was comin' from India I thought you was a black too."
Mary sat up in bed furious.
"What!" she said. "What! You thought I was a native.
You--you daughter of a pig!"
Martha stared and looked hot.
22. "Who are you callin' names?" she said. "You needn't be
so vexed. That's not th' way for a young lady to talk.
I've nothin' against th' blacks. When you read about 'em
in tracts they're always very religious. You always read
as a black's a man an' a brother. I've never seen a black an'
I was fair pleased to think I was goin' to see one close.
When I come in to light your fire this mornin' I crep'
up to your bed an' pulled th' cover back careful to look
at you. An' there you was," disappointedly, "no more black
than me--for all you're so yeller."
Mary did not even try to control her rage and humiliation.
"You thought I was a native! You dared! You don't know
anything about natives! They are not people--they're servants
who must salaam to you. You know nothing about India.
You know nothing about anything!"
She was in such a rage and felt so helpless before the girl's
simple stare, and somehow she suddenly felt so horribly
lonely and far away from everything she understood
and which understood her, that she threw herself face
downward on the pillows and burst into passionate sobbing.
She sobbed so unrestrainedly that good-natured Yorkshire
Martha was a little frightened and quite sorry for her.
She went to the bed and bent over her.
"Eh! you mustn't cry like that there!" she begged.
"You mustn't for sure. I didn't know you'd be vexed.
I don't know anythin' about anythin'--just like you said.
I beg your pardon, Miss. Do stop cryin'."
There was something comforting and really friendly in her
queer Yorkshire speech and sturdy way which had a good effect
on Mary. She gradually ceased crying and became quiet.
Martha looked relieved.
"It's time for thee to get up now," she said.
"Mrs. Medlock said I was to carry tha' breakfast an'
tea an' dinner into th' room next to this. It's been
made into a nursery for thee. I'll help thee on with thy
clothes if tha'll get out o' bed. If th' buttons are at th'
back tha' cannot button them up tha'self."
When Mary at last decided to get up, the clothes Martha
took from the wardrobe were not the ones she had worn
23. when she arrived the night before with Mrs. Medlock.
"Those are not mine," she said. "Mine are black."
She looked the thick white wool coat and dress over,
and added with cool approval:
"Those are nicer than mine."
"These are th' ones tha' must put on," Martha answered.
"Mr. Craven ordered Mrs. Medlock to get 'em in London.
He said `I won't have a child dressed in black wanderin'
about like a lost soul,' he said. `It'd make the place
sadder than it is. Put color on her.' Mother she said she
knew what he meant. Mother always knows what a body means.
She doesn't hold with black hersel'."
"I hate black things," said Mary.
The dressing process was one which taught them both something.
Martha had "buttoned up" her little sisters and brothers but she
had never seen a child who stood still and waited for another
person to do things for her as if she had neither hands nor feet of her own.
"Why doesn't tha' put on tha' own shoes?" she said
when Mary quietly held out her foot.
"My Ayah did it," answered Mary, staring. "It was the custom."
She said that very often--"It was the custom." The native
servants were always saying it. If one told them to do
a thing their ancestors had not done for a thousand years
they gazed at one mildly and said, "It is not the custom"
and one knew that was the end of the matter.
It had not been the custom that Mistress Mary should
do anything but stand and allow herself to be dressed
like a doll, but before she was ready for breakfast she
began to suspect that her life at Misselthwaite Manor
would end by teaching her a number of things quite
new to her--things such as putting on her own shoes
and stockings, and picking up things she let fall.
If Martha had been a well-trained fine young lady's maid
she would have been more subservient and respectful and
would have known that it was her business to brush hair,
24. and button boots, and pick things up and lay them away.
She was, however, only an untrained Yorkshire rustic
who had been brought up in a moorland cottage with a
swarm of little brothers and sisters who had never
dreamed of doing anything but waiting on themselves
and on the younger ones who were either babies in arms
or just learning to totter about and tumble over things.
If Mary Lennox had been a child who was ready to be amused
she would perhaps have laughed at Martha's readiness to talk,
but Mary only listened to her coldly and wondered at her
freedom of manner. At first she was not at all interested,
but gradually, as the girl rattled on in her good-tempered,
homely way, Mary began to notice what she was saying.
"Eh! you should see 'em all," she said. "There's twelve
of us an' my father only gets sixteen shilling a week. I can
tell you my mother's put to it to get porridge for 'em all.
They tumble about on th' moor an' play there all day an'
mother says th' air of th' moor fattens 'em. She says she
believes they eat th' grass same as th' wild ponies do.
Our Dickon, he's twelve years old and he's got a young pony
he calls his own."
"Where did he get it?" asked Mary.
"He found it on th' moor with its mother when it was
a little one an' he began to make friends with it an'
give it bits o' bread an' pluck young grass for it.
And it got to like him so it follows him about an'
it lets him get on its back. Dickon's a kind lad an'
animals likes him."
Mary had never possessed an animal pet of her own
and had always thought she should like one. So she
began to feel a slight interest in Dickon, and as she
had never before been interested in any one but herself,
it was the dawning of a healthy sentiment. When she went
into the room which had been made into a nursery for her,
she found that it was rather like the one she had slept in.
It was not a child's room, but a grown-up person's room,
with gloomy old pictures on the walls and heavy old
oak chairs. A table in the center was set with a good
substantial breakfast. But she had always had a very
small appetite, and she looked with something more than
25. indifference at the first plate Martha set before her.
"I don't want it," she said.
"Tha' doesn't want thy porridge!" Martha exclaimed incredulously.
"Tha' doesn't know how good it is. Put a bit o'
treacle on it or a bit o' sugar."
"I don't want it," repeated Mary.
"Eh!" said Martha. "I can't abide to see good victuals
go to waste. If our children was at this table they'd
clean it bare in five minutes."
"Why?" said Mary coldly. "Why!" echoed Martha. "Because they
scarce ever had their stomachs full in their lives.
They're as hungry as young hawks an' foxes."
"I don't know what it is to be hungry," said Mary,
with the indifference of ignorance.
Martha looked indignant.
"Well, it would do thee good to try it. I can see
that plain enough," she said outspokenly. "I've no
patience with folk as sits an' just stares at good
bread an' meat. My word! don't I wish Dickon and Phil an'
Jane an' th' rest of 'em had what's here under their pinafores."
"Why don't you take it to them?" suggested Mary.
"It's not mine," answered Martha stoutly. "An' this
isn't my day out. I get my day out once a month same
as th' rest. Then I go home an' clean up for mother an'
give her a day's rest."
Mary drank some tea and ate a little toast and some marmalade.
"You wrap up warm an' run out an' play you," said Martha.
"It'll do you good and give you some stomach for your meat."
Mary went to the window. There were gardens and paths
26. and big trees, but everything looked dull and wintry.
"Out? Why should I go out on a day like this?" "Well, if tha'
doesn't go out tha'lt have to stay in, an' what has tha'
got to do?"
Mary glanced about her. There was nothing to do.
When Mrs. Medlock had prepared the nursery she had not
thought of amusement. Perhaps it would be better to go
and see what the gardens were like.
"Who will go with me?" she inquired.
Martha stared.
"You'll go by yourself," she answered. "You'll have to
learn to play like other children does when they haven't
got sisters and brothers. Our Dickon goes off on th'
moor by himself an' plays for hours. That's how he made
friends with th' pony. He's got sheep on th' moor that
knows him, an' birds as comes an' eats out of his hand.
However little there is to eat, he always saves a bit o'
his bread to coax his pets."
It was really this mention of Dickon which made Mary decide
to go out, though she was not aware of it. There would be,
birds outside though there would not be ponies or sheep.
They would be different from the birds in India and it
might amuse her to look at them.
Martha found her coat and hat for her and a pair of stout
little boots and she showed her her way downstairs.
"If tha' goes round that way tha'll come to th' gardens,"
she said, pointing to a gate in a wall of shrubbery.
"There's lots o' flowers in summer-time, but there's
nothin' bloomin' now." She seemed to hesitate a second
before she added, "One of th' gardens is locked up.
No one has been in it for ten years."
"Why?" asked Mary in spite of herself. Here was another
locked door added to the hundred in the strange house.
"Mr. Craven had it shut when his wife died so sudden.
He won't let no one go inside. It was her garden.
27. He locked th' door an' dug a hole and buried th' key.
There's Mrs. Medlock's bell ringing--I must run."
After she was gone Mary turned down the walk which led
to the door in the shrubbery. She could not help thinking
about the garden which no one had been into for ten years.
She wondered what it would look like and whether there
were any flowers still alive in it. When she had passed
through the shrubbery gate she found herself in great gardens,
with wide lawns and winding walks with clipped borders.
There were trees, and flower-beds, and evergreens clipped
into strange shapes, and a large pool with an old gray
fountain in its midst. But the flower-beds were bare
and wintry and the fountain was not playing. This was not
the garden which was shut up. How could a garden be shut
up? You could always walk into a garden.
She was just thinking this when she saw that, at the end
of the path she was following, there seemed to be a
long wall, with ivy growing over it. She was not familiar
enough with England to know that she was coming upon the
kitchen-gardens where the vegetables and fruit were growing.
She went toward the wall and found that there was a green
door in the ivy, and that it stood open. This was
not the closed garden, evidently, and she could go into it.
She went through the door and found that it was a garden
with walls all round it and that it was only one of several
walled gardens which seemed to open into one another.
She saw another open green door, revealing bushes and
pathways between beds containing winter vegetables.
Fruit-trees were trained flat against the wall,
and over some of the beds there were glass frames.
The place was bare and ugly enough, Mary thought, as she
stood and stared about her. It might be nicer in summer
when things were green, but there was nothing pretty about
it now.
Presently an old man with a spade over his shoulder walked
through the door leading from the second garden. He looked
startled when he saw Mary, and then touched his cap.
He had a surly old face, and did not seem at all pleased
to see her--but then she was displeased with his garden
and wore her "quite contrary" expression, and certainly
did not seem at all pleased to see him.
28. "What is this place?" she asked.
"One o' th' kitchen-gardens," he answered.
"What is that?" said Mary, pointing through the other
green door.
"Another of 'em," shortly. "There's another on t'other
side o' th' wall an' there's th' orchard t'other side o' that."
"Can I go in them?" asked Mary.
"If tha' likes. But there's nowt to see."
Mary made no response. She went down the path and through
the second green door. There, she found more walls
and winter vegetables and glass frames, but in the second
wall there was another green door and it was not open.
Perhaps it led into the garden which no one had seen for
ten years. As she was not at all a timid child and always
did what she wanted to do, Mary went to the green door
and turned the handle. She hoped the door would not open
because she wanted to be sure she had found the mysterious
garden--but it did open quite easily and she walked
through it and found herself in an orchard. There were
walls all round it also and trees trained against them,
and there were bare fruit-trees growing in the winter-browned
grass--but there was no green door to be seen anywhere.
Mary looked for it, and yet when she had entered the
upper end of the garden she had noticed that the wall
did not seem to end with the orchard but to extend
beyond it as if it enclosed a place at the other side.
She could see the tops of trees above the wall,
and when she stood still she saw a bird with a bright
red breast sitting on the topmost branch of one of them,
and suddenly he burst into his winter song--almost
as if he had caught sight of her and was calling to her.
She stopped and listened to him and somehow his cheerful,
friendly little whistle gave her a pleased feeling--even
a disagreeable little girl may be lonely, and the big closed
house and big bare moor and big bare gardens had made this
one feel as if there was no one left in the world but herself.
If she had been an affectionate child, who had been
29. used to being loved, she would have broken her heart,
but even though she was "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary"
she was desolate, and the bright-breasted little bird
brought a look into her sour little face which was almost
a smile. She listened to him until he flew away.
He was not like an Indian bird and she liked him and
wondered if she should ever see him again. Perhaps he
lived in the mysterious garden and knew all about it.
Perhaps it was because she had nothing whatever to do
that she thought so much of the deserted garden. She was
curious about it and wanted to see what it was like.
Why had Mr. Archibald Craven buried the key? If he
had liked his wife so much why did he hate her garden?
She wondered if she should ever see him, but she knew
that if she did she should not like him, and he would
not like her, and that she should only stand and stare
at him and say nothing, though she should be wanting
dreadfully to ask him why he had done such a queer thing.
"People never like me and I never like people," she thought.
"And I never can talk as the Crawford children could.
They were always talking and laughing and making noises."
She thought of the robin and of the way he seemed to sing
his song at her, and as she remembered the tree-top he
perched on she stopped rather suddenly on the path.
"I believe that tree was in the secret garden--I feel sure
it was," she said. "There was a wall round the place
and there was no door."
She walked back into the first kitchen-garden she had entered
and found the old man digging there. She went and stood beside
him and watched him a few moments in her cold little way.
He took no notice of her and so at last she spoke to him.
"I have been into the other gardens," she said.
"There was nothin' to prevent thee," he answered crustily.
"I went into the orchard."
"There was no dog at th' door to bite thee," he answered.
30. "There was no door there into the other garden,"
said Mary.
"What garden?" he said in a rough voice, stopping his
digging for a moment.
"The one on the other side of the wall," answered Mistress Mary.
"There are trees there--I saw the tops of them. A bird
with a red breast was sitting on one of them and he sang."
To her surprise the surly old weather-beaten face
actually changed its expression. A slow smile spread
over it and the gardener looked quite different. It made
her think that it was curious how much nicer a person
looked when he smiled. She had not thought of it before.
He turned about to the orchard side of his garden and began
to whistle--a low soft whistle. She could not understand
how such a surly man could make such a coaxing sound.
Almost the next moment a wonderful thing happened.
She heard a soft little rushing flight through the air--and
it was the bird with the red breast flying to them,
and he actually alighted on the big clod of earth quite near
to the gardener's foot.
"Here he is," chuckled the old man, and then he spoke
to the bird as if he were speaking to a child.
"Where has tha' been, tha' cheeky little beggar?"
he said. "I've not seen thee before today. Has tha,
begun tha' courtin' this early in th' season? Tha'rt
too forrad."
The bird put his tiny head on one side and looked up at him
with his soft bright eye which was like a black dewdrop.
He seemed quite familiar and not the least afraid.
He hopped about and pecked the earth briskly, looking for
seeds and insects. It actually gave Mary a queer feeling
in her heart, because he was so pretty and cheerful
and seemed so like a person. He had a tiny plump body
and a delicate beak, and slender delicate legs.
"Will he always come when you call him?" she asked almost
in a whisper.
31. "Aye, that he will. I've knowed him ever since he was
a fledgling. He come out of th' nest in th' other garden an'
when first he flew over th' wall he was too weak to fly
back for a few days an' we got friendly. When he went
over th' wall again th' rest of th' brood was gone an'
he was lonely an' he come back to me."
"What kind of a bird is he?" Mary asked.
"Doesn't tha' know? He's a robin redbreast an'
they're th' friendliest, curiousest birds alive.
They're almost as friendly as dogs--if you know how to get
on with 'em. Watch him peckin' about there an' lookin'
round at us now an' again. He knows we're talkin' about him."
It was the queerest thing in the world to see the old fellow.
He looked at the plump little scarlet-waistcoated bird
as if he were both proud and fond of him.
"He's a conceited one," he chuckled. "He likes to hear
folk talk about him. An' curious--bless me, there never
was his like for curiosity an' meddlin'. He's always comin'
to see what I'm plantin'. He knows all th' things Mester
Craven never troubles hissel' to find out. He's th'
head gardener, he is."
The robin hopped about busily pecking the soil and now
and then stopped and looked at them a little. Mary thought
his black dewdrop eyes gazed at her with great curiosity.
It really seemed as if he were finding out all about her.
The queer feeling in her heart increased. "Where did the
rest of the brood fly to?" she asked.
"There's no knowin'. The old ones turn 'em out o' their nest an'
make 'em fly an' they're scattered before you know it.
This one was a knowin' one an, he knew he was lonely."
Mistress Mary went a step nearer to the robin and looked
at him very hard.
"I'm lonely," she said.
She had not known before that this was one of the things
which made her feel sour and cross. She seemed to find
it out when the robin looked at her and she looked
32. at the robin.
The old gardener pushed his cap back on his bald head
and stared at her a minute.
"Art tha' th' little wench from India?" he asked.
Mary nodded.
"Then no wonder tha'rt lonely. Tha'lt be lonlier before
tha's done," he said.
He began to dig again, driving his spade deep into
the rich black garden soil while the robin hopped
about very busily employed.
"What is your name?" Mary inquired.
He stood up to answer her.
"Ben Weatherstaff," he answered, and then he added with a
surly chuckle, "I'm lonely mysel' except when he's with me,"
and he jerked his thumb toward the robin. "He's th'
only friend I've got."
"I have no friends at all," said Mary. "I never had.
My Ayah didn't like me and I never played with any one."
It is a Yorkshire habit to say what you think with
blunt frankness, and old Ben Weatherstaff was a Yorkshire
moor man.
"Tha' an' me are a good bit alike," he said.
"We was wove out of th' same cloth. We're neither of us
good lookin' an' we're both of us as sour as we look.
We've got the same nasty tempers, both of us, I'll warrant."
This was plain speaking, and Mary Lennox had never heard
the truth about herself in her life. Native servants
always salaamed and submitted to you, whatever you did.
She had never thought much about her looks, but she wondered
if she was as unattractive as Ben Weatherstaff and she
also wondered if she looked as sour as he had looked
before the robin came. She actually began to wonder
also if she was "nasty tempered." She felt uncomfortable.
33. Suddenly a clear rippling little sound broke out near
her and she turned round. She was standing a few feet
from a young apple-tree and the robin had flown on to one
of its branches and had burst out into a scrap of a song.
Ben Weatherstaff laughed outright.
"What did he do that for?" asked Mary.
"He's made up his mind to make friends with thee,"
replied Ben. "Dang me if he hasn't took a fancy to thee."
"To me?" said Mary, and she moved toward the little tree
softly and looked up.
"Would you make friends with me?" she said to the robin
just as if she was speaking to a person. "Would you?"
And she did not say it either in her hard little voice
or in her imperious Indian voice, but in a tone so soft
and eager and coaxing that Ben Weatherstaff was as surprised
as she had been when she heard him whistle.
"Why," he cried out, "tha' said that as nice an' human as
if tha' was a real child instead of a sharp old woman.
Tha' said it almost like Dickon talks to his wild things on th' moor."
"Do you know Dickon?" Mary asked, turning round rather
in a hurry.
"Everybody knows him. Dickon's wanderin' about everywhere.
Th' very blackberries an' heather-bells knows him.
I warrant th' foxes shows him where their cubs
lies an' th' skylarks doesn't hide their nests from him."
Mary would have liked to ask some more questions.
She was almost as curious about Dickon as she was about
the deserted garden. But just that moment the robin,
who had ended his song, gave a little shake of his wings,
spread them and flew away. He had made his visit and had
other things to do.
"He has flown over the wall!" Mary cried out, watching him.
"He has flown into the orchard--he has flown across the
other wall--into the garden where there is no door!"
34. "He lives there," said old Ben. "He came out o' th' egg there.
If he's courtin', he's makin' up to some young madam
of a robin that lives among th' old rose-trees there."
"Rose-trees," said Mary. "Are there rose-trees?"
Ben Weatherstaff took up his spade again and began to dig.
"There was ten year' ago," he mumbled.
"I should like to see them," said Mary. "Where is
the green door? There must be a door somewhere."
Ben drove his spade deep and looked as uncompanionable
as he had looked when she first saw him.
"There was ten year' ago, but there isn't now," he said.
"No door!" cried Mary. "There must be." "None as any
one can find, an' none as is any one's business.
Don't you be a meddlesome wench an' poke your nose where
it's no cause to go. Here, I must go on with my work.
Get you gone an' play you. I've no more time."
And he actually stopped digging, threw his spade over
his shoulder and walked off, without even glancing
at her or saying good-by.
At first each day which passed by for Mary Lennox
was exactly like the others. Every morning she awoke
in her tapestried room and found Martha kneeling upon
the hearth building her fire; every morning she ate her
breakfast in the nursery which had nothing amusing in it;
and after each breakfast she gazed out of the window
across to the huge moor which seemed to spread out on all
sides and climb up to the sky, and after she had stared
for a while she realized that if she did not go out she
would have to stay in and do nothing--and so she went out.
35. She did not know that this was the best thing she could
have done, and she did not know that, when she began to walk
quickly or even run along the paths and down the avenue,
she was stirring her slow blood and making herself stronger
by fighting with the wind which swept down from the moor.
She ran only to make herself warm, and she hated the wind
which rushed at her face and roared and held her back
as if it were some giant she could not see. But the big
breaths of rough fresh air blown over the heather filled
her lungs with something which was good for her whole
thin body and whipped some red color into her cheeks and
brightened her dull eyes when she did not know anything
about it.
But after a few days spent almost entirely out of doors
she wakened one morning knowing what it was to be hungry,
and when she sat down to her breakfast she did not glance
disdainfully at her porridge and push it away, but took
up her spoon and began to eat it and went on eating it
until her bowl was empty.
"Tha' got on well enough with that this mornin', didn't tha'?"
said Martha.
"It tastes nice today," said Mary, feeling a little
surprised her self.
"It's th' air of th' moor that's givin' thee stomach
for tha' victuals," answered Martha. "It's lucky
for thee that tha's got victuals as well as appetite.
There's been twelve in our cottage as had th' stomach an'
nothin' to put in it. You go on playin' you out o'
doors every day an' you'll get some flesh on your bones an'
you won't be so yeller."
"I don't play," said Mary. "I have nothing to play with."
"Nothin' to play with!" exclaimed Martha. "Our children
plays with sticks and stones. They just runs about an'
shouts an' looks at things." Mary did not shout,
but she looked at things. There was nothing else to do.
She walked round and round the gardens and wandered
about the paths in the park. Sometimes she looked for
Ben Weatherstaff, but though several times she saw him
at work he was too busy to look at her or was too surly.
36. Once when she was walking toward him he picked up his spade
and turned away as if he did it on purpose.
One place she went to oftener than to any other.
It was the long walk outside the gardens with the walls
round them. There were bare flower-beds on either
side of it and against the walls ivy grew thickly.
There was one part of the wall where the creeping dark
green leaves were more bushy than elsewhere. It seemed
as if for a long time that part had been neglected.
The rest of it had been clipped and made to look neat,
but at this lower end of the walk it had not been trimmed
at all.
A few days after she had talked to Ben Weatherstaff,
Mary stopped to notice this and wondered why it was so.
She had just paused and was looking up at a long spray of ivy
swinging in the wind when she saw a gleam of scarlet and
heard a brilliant chirp, and there, on the top of the wall,
forward perched Ben Weatherstaff's robin redbreast,
tilting forward to look at her with his small head on
one side.
"Oh!" she cried out, "is it you--is it you?" And it
did not seem at all queer to her that she spoke to him
as if she were sure that he would understand and answer her.
He did answer. He twittered and chirped and hopped along
the wall as if he were telling her all sorts of things.
It seemed to Mistress Mary as if she understood him, too,
though he was not speaking in words. It was as if he
"Good morning! Isn't the wind nice? Isn't the sun nice? Isn't
everything nice? Let us both chirp and hop and twitter.
Come on! Come on!"
Mary began to laugh, and as he hopped and took little flights
along the wall she ran after him. Poor little thin, sallow,
ugly Mary--she actually looked almost pretty for a moment.
"I like you! I like you!" she cried out, pattering down the walk;
and she chirped and tried to whistle, which last she did
not know how to do in the least. But the robin seemed
to be quite satisfied and chirped and whistled back at her.
37. At last he spread his wings and made a darting flight
to the top of a tree, where he perched and sang loudly.
That reminded Mary of the first time she had seen him.
He had been swinging on a tree-top then and she had been
standing in the orchard. Now she was on the other side
of the orchard and standing in the path outside a wall--much
lower down--and there was the same tree inside.
"It's in the garden no one can go into," she said to herself.
"It's the garden without a door. He lives in there.
How I wish I could see what it is like!"
She ran up the walk to the green door she had entered
the first morning. Then she ran down the path through
the other door and then into the orchard, and when she
stood and looked up there was the tree on the other side
of the wall, and there was the robin just finishing his
song and, beginning to preen his feathers with his beak.
"It is the garden," she said. "I am sure it is."
She walked round and looked closely at that side of the
orchard wall, but she only found what she had found
before--that there was no door in it. Then she ran
through the kitchen-gardens again and out into the walk
outside the long ivy-covered wall, and she walked to
the end of it and looked at it, but there was no door;
and then she walked to the other end, looking again,
but there was no door.
"It's very queer," she said. "Ben Weatherstaff said
there was no door and there is no door. But there must
have been one ten years ago, because Mr. Craven buried
the key."
This gave her so much to think of that she began to be
quite interested and feel that she was not sorry that she
had come to Misselthwaite Manor. In India she had always
felt hot and too languid to care much about anything.
The fact was that the fresh wind from the moor had begun
to blow the cobwebs out of her young brain and to waken
her up a little.
She stayed out of doors nearly all day, and when she sat
down to her supper at night she felt hungry and drowsy
38. and comfortable. She did not feel cross when Martha
chattered away. She felt as if she rather liked to hear her,
and at last she thought she would ask her a question.
She asked it after she had finished her supper and had sat
down on the hearth-rug before the fire.
"Why did Mr. Craven hate the garden?" she said.
She had made Martha stay with her and Martha had not
objected at all. She was very young, and used to a crowded
cottage full of brothers and sisters, and she found it
dull in the great servants' hall downstairs where the
footman and upper-housemaids made fun of her Yorkshire
speech and looked upon her as a common little thing,
and sat and whispered among themselves. Martha liked
to talk, and the strange child who had lived in India,
and been waited upon by "blacks," was novelty enough
to attract her.
She sat down on the hearth herself without waiting
to be asked.
"Art tha' thinkin' about that garden yet?" she said.
"I knew tha' would. That was just the way with me when I
first heard about it."
"Why did he hate it?" Mary persisted.
Martha tucked her feet under her and made herself
quite comfortable.
"Listen to th' wind wutherin' round the house," she said.
"You could bare stand up on the moor if you was out on
it tonight."
Mary did not know what "wutherin'" meant until she listened,
and then she understood. It must mean that hollow
shuddering sort of roar which rushed round and round the
house as if the giant no one could see were buffeting it
and beating at the walls and windows to try to break in.
But one knew he could not get in, and somehow it made
one feel very safe and warm inside a room with a red
coal fire.
"But why did he hate it so?" she asked, after she
39. had listened. She intended to know if Martha did.
Then Martha gave up her store of knowledge.
"Mind," she said, "Mrs. Medlock said it's not to be
talked about. There's lots o' things in this place that's
not to be talked over. That's Mr. Craven's orders.
His troubles are none servants' business, he says.
But for th' garden he wouldn't be like he is. It was
Mrs. Craven's garden that she had made when first they
were married an' she just loved it, an' they used to 'tend
the flowers themselves. An' none o' th' gardeners was
ever let to go in. Him an' her used to go in an'
shut th' door an' stay there hours an' hours, readin'
and talkin'. An, she was just a bit of a girl an'
there was an old tree with a branch bent like a seat
on it. An' she made roses grow over it an' she used
to sit there. But one day when she was sittin' there th'
branch broke an' she fell on th' ground an' was hurt
so bad that next day she died. Th' doctors thought he'd
go out o' his mind an' die, too. That's why he hates it.
No one's never gone in since, an' he won't let any one talk
about it."
Mary did not ask any more questions. She looked at
the red fire and listened to the wind "wutherin'."
It seemed to be "wutherin'" louder than ever.
At that moment a very good thing was happening to her.
Four good things had happened to her, in fact, since she
came to Misselthwaite Manor. She had felt as if she
had understood a robin and that he had understood her;
she had run in the wind until her blood had grown warm;
she had been healthily hungry for the first time in her life;
and she had found out what it was to be sorry for some one.
But as she was listening to the wind she began to listen
to something else. She did not know what it was,
because at first she could scarcely distinguish it from
the wind itself. It was a curious sound--it seemed almost
as if a child were crying somewhere. Sometimes the wind
sounded rather like a child crying, but presently Mistress
Mary felt quite sure this sound was inside the house,
not outside it. It was far away, but it was inside.
She turned round and looked at Martha.
40. "Do you hear any one crying?" she said.
Martha suddenly looked confused.
"No," she answered. "It's th' wind. Sometimes it
sounds like as if some one was lost on th' moor an'
wailin'. It's got all sorts o' sounds."
"But listen," said Mary. "It's in the house--down one
of those long corridors."
And at that very moment a door must have been opened
somewhere downstairs; for a great rushing draft blew along
the passage and the door of the room they sat in was blown
open with a crash, and as they both jumped to their feet
the light was blown out and the crying sound was swept down
the far corridor so that it was to be heard more plainly than ever.
"There!" said Mary. "I told you so! It is some one
crying--and it isn't a grown-up person."
Martha ran and shut the door and turned the key, but before
she did it they both heard the sound of a door in some far
passage shutting with a bang, and then everything was quiet,
for even the wind ceased "wutherin'" for a few moments.
"It was th' wind," said Martha stubbornly.
"An' if it wasn't, it was little Betty Butterworth,
th' scullery-maid. She's had th' toothache all day."
But something troubled and awkward in her manner made
Mistress Mary stare very hard at her. She did not believe
she was speaking the truth.
The next day the rain poured down in torrents again,
and when Mary looked out of her window the moor was almost
hidden by gray mist and cloud. There could be no going
out today.
41. "What do you do in your cottage when it rains like this?"
she asked Martha.
"Try to keep from under each other's feet mostly,"
Martha answered. "Eh! there does seem a lot of us then.
Mother's a good-tempered woman but she gets fair moithered.
The biggest ones goes out in th' cow-shed and plays there.
Dickon he doesn't mind th' wet. He goes out just th'
same as if th' sun was shinin'. He says he sees things
on rainy days as doesn't show when it's fair weather.
He once found a little fox cub half drowned in its hole and he
brought it home in th' bosom of his shirt to keep it warm.
Its mother had been killed nearby an' th' hole was swum
out an' th' rest o' th' litter was dead. He's got it at
home now. He found a half-drowned young crow another time an'
he brought it home, too, an' tamed it. It's named Soot
because it's so black, an' it hops an' flies about with
him everywhere."
The time had come when Mary had forgotten to resent
Martha's familiar talk. She had even begun to find it
interesting and to be sorry when she stopped or went away.
The stories she had been told by her Ayah when she lived
in India had been quite unlike those Martha had to tell about
the moorland cottage which held fourteen people who lived
in four little rooms and never had quite enough to eat.
The children seemed to tumble about and amuse themselves
like a litter of rough, good-natured collie puppies.
Mary was most attracted by the mother and Dickon.
When Martha told stories of what "mother" said or did they
always sounded comfortable.
"If I had a raven or a fox cub I could play with it,"
said Mary. "But I have nothing."
Martha looked perplexed.
"Can tha' knit?" she asked.
"No," answered Mary.
"Can tha'sew?"
42. "Can tha' read?"
"Then why doesn't tha, read somethin', or learn a bit o'
spellin'? Tha'st old enough to be learnin' thy book a good
bit now."
"I haven't any books," said Mary. "Those I had were left
in India."
"That's a pity," said Martha. "If Mrs. Medlock'd let thee
go into th' library, there's thousands o' books there."
Mary did not ask where the library was, because she was
suddenly inspired by a new idea. She made up her mind
to go and find it herself. She was not troubled about
Mrs. Medlock. Mrs. Medlock seemed always to be in her
comfortable housekeeper's sitting-room downstairs.
In this queer place one scarcely ever saw any one at all.
In fact, there was no one to see but the servants,
and when their master was away they lived a luxurious
life below stairs, where there was a huge kitchen hung
about with shining brass and pewter, and a large servants'
hall where there were four or five abundant meals eaten
every day, and where a great deal of lively romping went on
when Mrs. Medlock was out of the way.
Mary's meals were served regularly, and Martha waited on her,
but no one troubled themselves about her in the least.
Mrs. Medlock came and looked at her every day or two,
but no one inquired what she did or told her what to do.
She supposed that perhaps this was the English way of
treating children. In India she had always been attended
by her Ayah, who had followed her about and waited on her,
hand and foot. She had often been tired of her company.
Now she was followed by nobody and was learning to dress
herself because Martha looked as though she thought she was
silly and stupid when she wanted to have things handed to her
and put on.
"Hasn't tha' got good sense?" she said once, when Mary
had stood waiting for her to put on her gloves for her.
"Our Susan Ann is twice as sharp as thee an' she's only
43. four year' old. Sometimes tha' looks fair soft in th' head."
Mary had worn her contrary scowl for an hour after that,
but it made her think several entirely new things.
She stood at the window for about ten minutes this morning
after Martha had swept up the hearth for the last time
and gone downstairs. She was thinking over the new idea
which had come to her when she heard of the library.
She did not care very much about the library itself,
because she had read very few books; but to hear of it brought
back to her mind the hundred rooms with closed doors.
She wondered if they were all really locked and what
she would find if she could get into any of them.
Were there a hundred really? Why shouldn't she go and see
how many doors she could count? It would be something
to do on this morning when she could not go out.
She had never been taught to ask permission to do things,
and she knew nothing at all about authority, so she would
not have thought it necessary to ask Mrs. Medlock if she
might walk about the house, even if she had seen her.
She opened the door of the room and went into the corridor,
and then she began her wanderings. It was a long corridor
and it branched into other corridors and it led her up
short flights of steps which mounted to others again.
There were doors and doors, and there were pictures
on the walls. Sometimes they were pictures of dark,
curious landscapes, but oftenest they were portraits
of men and women in queer, grand costumes made of satin
and velvet. She found herself in one long gallery
whose walls were covered with these portraits. She had
never thought there could be so many in any house.
She walked slowly down this place and stared at the faces
which also seemed to stare at her. She felt as if they
were wondering what a little girl from India was doing
in their house. Some were pictures of children--little
girls in thick satin frocks which reached to their feet
and stood out about them, and boys with puffed sleeves
and lace collars and long hair, or with big ruffs around
their necks. She always stopped to look at the children,
and wonder what their names were, and where they had gone,
and why they wore such odd clothes. There was a stiff,
plain little girl rather like herself. She wore a green
brocade dress and held a green parrot on her finger.
44. Her eyes had a sharp, curious look.
"Where do you live now?" said Mary aloud to her.
"I wish you were here."
Surely no other little girl ever spent such a queer morning.
It seemed as if there was no one in all the huge rambling
house but her own small self, wandering about upstairs
and down, through narrow passages and wide ones, where it
seemed to her that no one but herself had ever walked.
Since so many rooms had been built, people must have lived
in them, but it all seemed so empty that she could not quite
believe it true.
It was not until she climbed to the second floor that she
thought of turning the handle of a door. All the doors
were shut, as Mrs. Medlock had said they were, but at last she
put her hand on the handle of one of them and turned it.
She was almost frightened for a moment when she felt
that it turned without difficulty and that when she pushed
upon the door itself it slowly and heavily opened.
It was a massive door and opened into a big bedroom.
There were embroidered hangings on the wall, and inlaid
furniture such as she had seen in India stood about the room.
A broad window with leaded panes looked out upon the moor;
and over the mantel was another portrait of the stiff,
plain little girl who seemed to stare at her more curiously
than ever.
"Perhaps she slept here once," said Mary. "She stares
at me so that she makes me feel queer."
After that she opened more doors and more. She saw
so many rooms that she became quite tired and began
to think that there must be a hundred, though she had not
counted them. In all of them there were old pictures
or old tapestries with strange scenes worked on them.
There were curious pieces of furniture and curious
ornaments in nearly all of them.
In one room, which looked like a lady's sitting-room,
the hangings were all embroidered velvet, and in a cabinet
were about a hundred little elephants made of ivory.
They were of different sizes, and some had their mahouts
or palanquins on their backs. Some were much bigger than the
45. others and some were so tiny that they seemed only babies.
Mary had seen carved ivory in India and she knew all
about elephants. She opened the door of the cabinet
and stood on a footstool and played with these for quite
a long time. When she got tired she set the elephants
in order and shut the door of the cabinet.
In all her wanderings through the long corridors and the
empty rooms, she had seen nothing alive; but in this
room she saw something. Just after she had closed the
cabinet door she heard a tiny rustling sound. It made
her jump and look around at the sofa by the fireplace,
from which it seemed to come. In the corner of the sofa
there was a cushion, and in the velvet which covered
it there was a hole, and out of the hole peeped a tiny
head with a pair of tightened eyes in it.
Mary crept softly across the room to look. The bright eyes
belonged to a little gray mouse, and the mouse had eaten
a hole into the cushion and made a comfortable nest there.
Six baby mice were cuddled up asleep near her. If there
was no one else alive in the hundred rooms there were
seven mice who did not look lonely at all.
"If they wouldn't be so frightened I would take them back
with me," said Mary.
She had wandered about long enough to feel too tired
to wander any farther, and she turned back. Two or three
times she lost her way by turning down the wrong corridor
and was obliged to ramble up and down until she found
the right one; but at last she reached her own floor again,
though she was some distance from her own room and did
not know exactly where she was.
"I believe I have taken a wrong turning again," she said,
standing still at what seemed the end of a short passage
with tapestry on the wall. "I don't know which way to go.
How still everything is!"
It was while she was standing here and just after she
had said this that the stillness was broken by a sound.
It was another cry, but not quite like the one she had heard
last night; it was only a short one, a fretful childish
whine muffled by passing through walls.
46. "It's nearer than it was," said Mary, her heart beating
rather faster. "And it is crying."
She put her hand accidentally upon the tapestry near her,
and then sprang back, feeling quite startled. The tapestry
was the covering of a door which fell open and showed
her that there was another part of the corridor behind it,
and Mrs. Medlock was coming up it with her bunch of keys
in her hand and a very cross look on her face.
"What are you doing here?" she said, and she took Mary
by the arm and pulled her away. "What did I tell you?"
"I turned round the wrong corner," explained Mary.
"I didn't know which way to go and I heard some one crying."
She quite hated Mrs. Medlock at the moment, but she hated
her more the next.
"You didn't hear anything of the sort," said the housekeeper.
"You come along back to your own nursery or I'll box
your ears."
And she took her by the arm and half pushed, half pulled
her up one passage and down another until she pushed
her in at the door of her own room.
"Now," she said, "you stay where you're told to stay
or you'll find yourself locked up. The master had
better get you a governess, same as he said he would.
You're one that needs some one to look sharp after you.
I've got enough to do."
She went out of the room and slammed the door after her,
and Mary went and sat on the hearth-rug, pale with rage.
She did not cry, but ground her teeth.
"There was some one crying--there was--there was!"
she said to herself.
She had heard it twice now, and sometime she would find out.
She had found out a great deal this morning. She felt
as if she had been on a long journey, and at any rate
she had had something to amuse her all the time, and she
had played with the ivory elephants and had seen the gray
47. mouse and its babies in their nest in the velvet cushion.
Two days after this, when Mary opened her eyes she sat
upright in bed immediately, and called to Martha.
"Look at the moor! Look at the moor!"
The rainstorm had ended and the gray mist and clouds
had been swept away in the night by the wind. The wind
itself had ceased and a brilliant, deep blue sky arched
high over the moorland. Never, never had Mary dreamed
of a sky so blue. In India skies were hot and blazing;
this was of a deep cool blue which almost seemed to
sparkle like the waters of some lovely bottomless lake,
and here and there, high, high in the arched blueness
floated small clouds of snow-white fleece. The far-reaching
world of the moor itself looked softly blue instead
of gloomy purple-black or awful dreary gray.
"Aye," said Martha with a cheerful grin. "Th' storm's
over for a bit. It does like this at this time o'
th' year. It goes off in a night like it was pretendin'
it had never been here an' never meant to come again.
That's because th' springtime's on its way. It's a long
way off yet, but it's comin'."
"I thought perhaps it always rained or looked dark
in England," Mary said.
"Eh! no!" said Martha, sitting up on her heels among
her black lead brushes. "Nowt o' th' soart!"
"What does that mean?" asked Mary seriously. In India
the natives spoke different dialects which only a few
people understood, so she was not surprised when Martha
used words she did not know.
Martha laughed as she had done the first morning.
48. "There now," she said. "I've talked broad Yorkshire again
like Mrs. Medlock said I mustn't. `Nowt o' th' soart'
means `nothin'-of-the-sort,'" slowly and carefully,
"but it takes so long to say it. Yorkshire's th'
sunniest place on earth when it is sunny. I told thee
tha'd like th' moor after a bit. Just you wait till you
see th' gold-colored gorse blossoms an' th' blossoms o'
th' broom, an' th' heather flowerin', all purple bells, an'
hundreds o' butterflies flutterin' an' bees hummin' an'
skylarks soarin' up an' singin'. You'll want to get out on
it as sunrise an' live out on it all day like Dickon does."
"Could I ever get there?" asked Mary wistfully,
looking through her window at the far-off blue.
It was so new and big and wonderful and such a heavenly color.
"I don't know," answered Martha. "Tha's never used tha'
legs since tha' was born, it seems to me. Tha' couldn't walk
five mile. It's five mile to our cottage."
"I should like to see your cottage."
Martha stared at her a moment curiously before she took
up her polishing brush and began to rub the grate again.
She was thining that the small plain face did not look quite
as sour at this moment as it had done the first morning
she saw it. It looked just a trifle like little Susan
Ann's when she wanted something very much.
"I'll ask my mother about it," she said. "She's one o'
them that nearly always sees a way to do things.
It's my day out today an' I'm goin' home. Eh! I am glad.
Mrs. Medlock thinks a lot o' mother. Perhaps she could talk
to her."
"I like your mother," said Mary.
"I should think tha' did," agreed Martha, polishing away.
"I've never seen her," said Mary.
"No, tha' hasn't," replied Martha.
She sat up on her heels again and rubbed the end of her
nose with the back of her hand as if puzzled for a moment,
49. but she ended quite positively.
"Well, she's that sensible an' hard workin' an' goodnatured an'
clean that no one could help likin' her whether they'd
seen her or not. When I'm goin' home to her on my day
out I just jump for joy when I'm crossin' the moor."
"I like Dickon," added Mary. "And I've never seen him."
"Well," said Martha stoutly, "I've told thee that th'
very birds likes him an' th' rabbits an' wild sheep an'
ponies, an' th' foxes themselves. I wonder," staring at
her reflectively, "what Dickon would think of thee?"
"He wouldn't like me," said Mary in her stiff,
cold little way. "No one does."
Martha looked reflective again.
"How does tha' like thysel'?" she inquired, really quite
as if she were curious to know.
Mary hesitated a moment and thought it over.
"Not at all--really," she answered. "But I never thought
of that before."
Martha grinned a little as if at some homely recollection.
"Mother said that to me once," she said. "She was at her
wash- tub an' I was in a bad temper an' talkin' ill of folk,
an' she turns round on me an' says: `Tha' young vixen,
tha'! There tha' stands sayin' tha' doesn't like this one an'
tha' doesn't like that one. How does tha' like thysel'?'
It made me laugh an' it brought me to my senses in a minute."
She went away in high spirits as soon as she had given
Mary her breakfast. She was going to walk five miles
across the moor to the cottage, and she was going to help
her mother with the washing and do the week's baking
and enjoy herself thoroughly.
Mary felt lonelier than ever when she knew she was no longer
in the house. She went out into the garden as quickly
as possible, and the first thing she did was to run
50. round and round the fountain flower garden ten times.
She counted the times carefully and when she had finished
she felt in better spirits. The sunshine made the
whole place look different. The high, deep, blue sky
arched over Misselthwaite as well as over the moor,
and she kept lifting her face and looking up into it,
trying to imagine what it would be like to lie down on
one of the little snow-white clouds and float about.
She went into the first kitchen-garden and found Ben
Weatherstaff working there with two other gardeners.
The change in the weather seemed to have done him good.
He spoke to her of his own accord. "Springtime's comin,'"
he said. "Cannot tha' smell it?"
Mary sniffed and thought she could.
"I smell something nice and fresh and damp," she said.
"That's th' good rich earth," he answered, digging away.
"It's in a good humor makin' ready to grow things.
It's glad when plantin' time comes. It's dull in th'
winter when it's got nowt to do. In th' flower gardens out
there things will be stirrin' down below in th' dark. Th'
sun's warmin' 'em. You'll see bits o' green spikes stickin'
out o' th' black earth after a bit."
"What will they be?" asked Mary.
"Crocuses an' snowdrops an' daffydowndillys. Has tha'
never seen them?"
"No. Everything is hot, and wet, and green after the
rains in India," said Mary. "And I think things grow
up in a night."
"These won't grow up in a night," said Weatherstaff.
"Tha'll have to wait for 'em. They'll poke up a bit
higher here, an' push out a spike more there, an' uncurl a
leaf this day an' another that. You watch 'em."
"I am going to," answered Mary.
Very soon she heard the soft rustling flight of wings
again and she knew at once that the robin had come again.
He was very pert and lively, and hopped about so close
51. to her feet, and put his head on one side and looked at
her so slyly that she asked Ben Weatherstaff a question.
"Do you think he remembers me?" she said.
"Remembers thee!" said Weatherstaff indignantly.
"He knows every cabbage stump in th' gardens, let
alone th' people. He's never seen a little wench
here before, an' he's bent on findin' out all about thee.
Tha's no need to try to hide anything from him."
"Are things stirring down below in the dark in that garden
where he lives?" Mary inquired.
"What garden?" grunted Weatherstaff, becoming surly again.
"The one where the old rose-trees are." She could
not help asking, because she wanted so much to know.
"Are all the flowers dead, or do some of them come again
in the summer? Are there ever any roses?"
"Ask him," said Ben Weatherstaff, hunching his shoulders
toward the robin. "He's the only one as knows.
No one else has seen inside it for ten year'."
Ten years was a long time, Mary thought. She had been
born ten years ago.
She walked away, slowly thinking. She had begun to
like the garden just as she had begun to like the robin
and Dickon and Martha's mother. She was beginning
to like Martha, too. That seemed a good many people
to like--when you were not used to liking. She thought
of the robin as one of the people. She went to her walk
outside the long, ivy-covered wall over which she could
see the tree-tops; and the second time she walked up
and down the most interesting and exciting thing happened
to her, and it was all through Ben Weatherstaff's robin.
She heard a chirp and a twitter, and when she looked
at the bare flower-bed at her left side there he was
hopping about and pretending to peck things out of the
earth to persuade her that he had not followed her.
But she knew he had followed her and the surprise so filled
her with delight that she almost trembled a little.
52. "You do remember me!" she cried out. "You do! You are
prettier than anything else in the world!"
She chirped, and talked, and coaxed and he hopped,
and flirted his tail and twittered. It was as if he
were talking. His red waistcoat was like satin and he
puffed his tiny breast out and was so fine and so grand
and so pretty that it was really as if he were showing her
how important and like a human person a robin could be.
Mistress Mary forgot that she had ever been contrary
in her life when he allowed her to draw closer and closer
to him, and bend down and talk and try to make something
like robin sounds.
Oh! to think that he should actually let her come as near
to him as that! He knew nothing in the world would make
her put out her hand toward him or startle him in the
least tiniest way. He knew it because he was a real
person--only nicer than any other person in the world.
She was so happy that she scarcely dared to breathe.
The flower-bed was not quite bare. It was bare of flowers
because the perennial plants had been cut down for their
winter rest, but there were tall shrubs and low ones which grew
together at the back of the bed, and as the robin hopped
about under them she saw him hop over a small pile of freshly
turned up earth. He stopped on it to look for a worm.
The earth had been turned up because a dog had been trying
to dig up a mole and he had scratched quite a deep hole.
Mary looked at it, not really knowing why the hole was there,
and as she looked she saw something almost buried in the
newly-turned soil. It was something like a ring of rusty
iron or brass and when the robin flew up into a tree
nearby she put out her hand and picked the ring up.
It was more than a ring, however; it was an old key
which looked as if it had been buried a long time.
Mistress Mary stood up and looked at it with an almost
frightened face as it hung from her finger.
"Perhaps it has been buried for ten years," she said
in a whisper. "Perhaps it is the key to the garden!"
She looked at the key quite a long time. She turned it
over and over, and thought about it. As I have said before,
she was not a child who had been trained to ask permission
or consult her elders about things. All she thought about
the key was that if it was the key to the closed garden,
and she could find out where the door was, she could
perhaps open it and see what was inside the walls,
and what had happened to the old rose-trees. It was because
it had been shut up so long that she wanted to see it.
It seemed as if it must be different from other places
and that something strange must have happened to it
during ten years. Besides that, if she liked it she
could go into it every day and shut the door behind her,
and she could make up some play of her own and play it
quite alone, because nobody would ever know where she was,
but would think the door was still locked and the key
buried in the earth. The thought of that pleased her
very much.
Living as it were, all by herself in a house with a hundred
mysteriously closed rooms and having nothing whatever
to do to amuse herself, had set her inactive brain
to working and was actually awakening her imagination.
There is no doubt that the fresh, strong, pure air from the
moor had a great deal to do with it. Just as it had given
her an appetite, and fighting with the wind had stirred
her blood, so the same things had stirred her mind.
In India she had always been too hot and languid and weak
to care much about anything, but in this place she
was beginning to care and to want to do new things.
Already she felt less "contrary," though she did not
know why.
She put the key in her pocket and walked up and down
her walk. No one but herself ever seemed to come there,
so she could walk slowly and look at the wall, or, rather,
at the ivy growing on it. The ivy was the baffling thing.
Howsoever carefully she looked she could see nothing
54. but thickly growing, glossy, dark green leaves. She was
very much disappointed. Something of her contrariness
came back to her as she paced the walk and looked over it
at the tree-tops inside. It seemed so silly, she said
to herself, to be near it and not be able to get in.
She took the key in her pocket when she went back to
the house, and she made up her mind that she would always
carry it with her when she went out, so that if she ever
should find the hidden door she would be ready.
Mrs. Medlock had allowed Martha to sleep all night at
the cottage, but she was back at her work in the morning
with cheeks redder than ever and in the best of spirits.
"I got up at four o'clock," she said. "Eh! it was pretty on th'
moor with th' birds gettin' up an' th' rabbits scamperin'
about an' th' sun risin'. I didn't walk all th' way. A man
gave me a ride in his cart an' I did enjoy myself."
She was full of stories of the delights of her day out.
Her mother had been glad to see her and they had got the
baking and washing all out of the way. She had even made
each of the children a doughcake with a bit of brown sugar
in it.
"I had 'em all pipin' hot when they came in from playin'
on th' moor. An' th' cottage all smelt o' nice, clean hot bakin'
an' there was a good fire, an' they just shouted for joy.
Our Dickon he said our cottage was good enough for a king."
In the evening they had all sat round the fire,
and Martha and her mother had sewed patches on torn
clothes and mended stockings and Martha had told them
about the little girl who had come from India and who had
been waited on all her life by what Martha called "blacks"
until she didn't know how to put on her own stockings.
"Eh! they did like to hear about you," said Martha.
"They wanted to know all about th' blacks an' about th'
ship you came in. I couldn't tell 'em enough."
Mary reflected a little.
"I'll tell you a great deal more before your next day out,"
she said, "so that you will have more to talk about.