Part 2 out of 6
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 frightened 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.
"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
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
mouse and its babies in their nest in the velvet cushion.
THE KEY TO THE GARDEN
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.
"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 thinking 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
"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,
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
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
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.
"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!"
THE ROBIN WHO SHOWED THE WAY
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
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
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
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
"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.
I dare say they would like to hear about riding on elephants
and camels, and about the officers going to hunt tigers."
"My word!" cried delighted Martha. "It would set 'em
clean off their heads. Would tha' really do that,
Miss? It would be same as a wild beast show like we heard
they had in York once."
"India is quite different from Yorkshire," Mary said slowly,
as she thought the matter over. "I never thought of that.
Did Dickon and your mother like to hear you talk about me?"
"Why, our Dickon's eyes nearly started out o' his head,
they got that round," answered Martha. "But mother, she was
put out about your seemin' to be all by yourself like.
She said, 'Hasn't Mr. Craven got no governess for her,
nor no nurse?' and I said, 'No, he hasn't, though Mrs. Medlock
says he will when he thinks of it, but she says he mayn't
think of it for two or three years.'"
"I don't want a governess," said Mary sharply.
"But mother says you ought to be learnin' your book by this time
you ought to have a woman to look after you, an' she says:
`Now, Martha, you just think how you'd feel yourself, in a big
place like that, wanderin' about all alone, an' no mother.
You do your best to cheer her up,' she says, an' I said I would."
Mary gave her a long, steady look.
"You do cheer me up," she said. "I like to hear you talk."
Presently Martha went out of the room and came back
with something held in her hands under her apron.
"What does tha' think," she said, with a cheerful grin.
"I've brought thee a present."
"A present!" exclaimed Mistress Mary. How could a cottage
full of fourteen hungry people give any one a present!
"A man was drivin' across the moor peddlin'," Martha explained.
"An' he stopped his cart at our door. He had pots an'
pans an' odds an' ends, but mother had no money to buy
anythin'. Just as he was goin' away our 'Lizabeth Ellen
called out, `Mother, he's got skippin'-ropes with red an'
blue handles.' An' mother she calls out quite sudden,
`Here, stop, mister! How much are they?' An' he says
`Tuppence', an' mother she began fumblin' in her pocket an'
she says to me, `Martha, tha's brought me thy wages like
a good lass, an' I've got four places to put every penny,
but I'm just goin' to take tuppence out of it to buy
that child a skippin'-rope,' an' she bought one an'
here it is."
She brought it out from under her apron and exhibited
it quite proudly. It was a strong, slender rope
with a striped red and blue handle at each end,
but Mary Lennox had never seen a skipping-rope before.
She gazed at it with a mystified expression.
"What is it for?" she asked curiously.
"For!" cried out Martha. "Does tha' mean that they've not
got skippin'-ropes in India, for all they've got elephants
and tigers and camels! No wonder most of 'em's black.
This is what it's for; just watch me."
And she ran into the middle of the room and, taking a
handle in each hand, began to skip, and skip, and skip,
while Mary turned in her chair to stare at her, and the
queer faces in the old portraits seemed to stare at her,
too, and wonder what on earth this common little cottager
had the impudence to be doing under their very noses.
But Martha did not even see them. The interest and curiosity
in Mistress Mary's face delighted her, and she went on skipping
and counted as she skipped until she had reached a hundred.
"I could skip longer than that," she said when she stopped.
"I've skipped as much as five hundred when I was twelve,
but I wasn't as fat then as I am now, an' I was in practice."
Mary got up from her chair beginning to feel excited herself.
"It looks nice," she said. "Your mother is a kind woman.
Do you think I could ever skip like that?"
"You just try it," urged Martha, handing her the skipping-rope.
"You can't skip a hundred at first, but if you practice
you'll mount up. That's what mother said. She says,
`Nothin' will do her more good than skippin' rope. It's th'
sensiblest toy a child can have. Let her play out in th'
fresh air skippin' an' it'll stretch her legs an' arms an'
give her some strength in 'em.'"
It was plain that there was not a great deal of strength
in Mistress Mary's arms and legs when she first began
to skip. She was not very clever at it, but she liked
it so much that she did not want to stop.
"Put on tha' things and run an' skip out o' doors,"
said Martha. "Mother said I must tell you to keep out o'
doors as much as you could, even when it rains a bit,
so as tha' wrap up warm."
Mary put on her coat and hat and took her skipping-rope
over her arm. She opened the door to go out, and then
suddenly thought of something and turned back rather slowly.
"Martha," she said, "they were your wages. It was your
two-pence really. Thank you." She said it stiffly
because she was not used to thanking people or noticing
that they did things for her. "Thank you," she said,
and held out her hand because she did not know what else
Martha gave her hand a clumsy little shake, as if she
was not accustomed to this sort of thing either.
Then she laughed.
"Eh! th' art a queer, old-womanish thing," she said.
"If tha'd been our 'Lizabeth Ellen tha'd have given me
Mary looked stiffer than ever.
"Do you want me to kiss you?"
Martha laughed again.
"Nay, not me," she answered. "If tha' was different,
p'raps tha'd want to thysel'. But tha' isn't. Run off
outside an' play with thy rope."
Mistress Mary felt a little awkward as she went out of
the room. Yorkshire people seemed strange, and Martha was
always rather a puzzle to her. At first she had disliked
her very much, but now she did not. The skipping-rope
was a wonderful thing. She counted and skipped,
and skipped and counted, until her cheeks were quite red,
and she was more interested than she had ever been since
she was born. The sun was shining and a little wind was
blowing--not a rough wind, but one which came in delightful
little gusts and brought a fresh scent of newly turned
earth with it. She skipped round the fountain garden,
and up one walk and down another. She skipped at last
into the kitchen-garden and saw Ben Weatherstaff digging
and talking to his robin, which was hopping about him.
She skipped down the walk toward him and he lifted
his head and looked at her with a curious expression.
She had wondered if he would notice her. She wanted him
to see her skip.
"Well!" he exclaimed. "Upon my word. P'raps tha'
art a young 'un, after all, an' p'raps tha's got
child's blood in thy veins instead of sour buttermilk.
Tha's skipped red into thy cheeks as sure as my name's
Ben Weatherstaff. I wouldn't have believed tha'
could do it."
"I never skipped before," Mary said. "I'm just beginning.
I can only go up to twenty."
"Tha' keep on," said Ben. "Tha' shapes well enough at it
for a young 'un that's lived with heathen. Just see how
he's watchin' thee," jerking his head toward the robin.
"He followed after thee yesterday. He'll be at it again today.
He'll be bound to find out what th' skippin'-rope is.
He's never seen one. Eh!" shaking his head at the bird,
"tha' curiosity will be th' death of thee sometime if tha'
doesn't look sharp."
Mary skipped round all the gardens and round the orchard,
resting every few minutes. At length she went to her
own special walk and made up her mind to try if she
could skip the whole length of it. It was a good long
skip and she began slowly, but before she had gone
half-way down the path she was so hot and breathless
that she was obliged to stop. She did not mind much,
because she had already counted up to thirty.
She stopped with a little laugh of pleasure, and there,
lo and behold, was the robin swaying on a long branch of ivy.
He had followed her and he greeted her with a chirp.
As Mary had skipped toward him she felt something heavy
in her pocket strike against her at each jump, and when she
saw the robin she laughed again.
"You showed me where the key was yesterday," she said.
"You ought to show me the door today; but I don't believe
The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the
top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud,
lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world
is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows
off--and they are nearly always doing it.
Mary Lennox had heard a great deal about Magic in her
Ayah's stories, and she always said that what happened
almost at that moment was Magic.
One of the nice little gusts of wind rushed down
the walk, and it was a stronger one than the rest.
It was strong enough to wave the branches of the trees,
and it was more than strong enough to sway the trailing
sprays of untrimmed ivy hanging from the wall. Mary had
stepped close to the robin, and suddenly the gust of wind
swung aside some loose ivy trails, and more suddenly
still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand.
This she did because she had seen something under it--a round
knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it.
It was the knob of a door.
She put her hands under the leaves and began to pull
and push them aside. Thick as the ivy hung, it nearly
all was a loose and swinging curtain, though some had crept
over wood and iron. Mary's heart began to thump and her
hands to shake a little in her delight and excitement.
The robin kept singing and twittering away and tilting
his head on one side, as if he were as excited as she was.
What was this under her hands which was square and made
of iron and which her fingers found a hole in?
It was the lock of the door which had been closed ten
years and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key
and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and
turned it. It took two hands to do it, but it did turn.
And then she took a long breath and looked behind
her up the long walk to see if any one was coming.
No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed,
and she took another long breath, because she could not
help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy
and pushed back the door which opened slowly--slowly.
Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her,
and stood with her back against it, looking about her
and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder,
She was standing inside the secret garden.
THE STRANGEST HOUSE ANY ONE EVER LIVED IN
It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place
any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it
in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses
which were so thick that they were matted together.
Mary Lennox knew they were roses because she had seen
a great many roses in India. All the ground was covered
with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps
of bushes which were surely rosebushes if they were alive.
There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread
their branches that they were like little trees.
There were other trees in the garden, and one of the
things which made the place look strangest and loveliest
was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung
down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains,
and here and there they had caught at each other or
at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree
to another and made lovely bridges of themselves.
There were neither leaves nor roses on them now and Mary
did not know whether they were dead or alive, but their
thin gray or brown branches and sprays looked like a sort
of hazy mantle spreading over everything, walls, and trees,
and even brown grass, where they had fallen from their
fastenings and run along the ground. It was this hazy tangle
from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious.
Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens
which had not been left all by themselves so long;
and indeed it was different from any other place she had
ever seen in her life.
"How still it is!" she whispered. "How still!"
Then she waited a moment and listened at the stillness.
The robin, who had flown to his treetop, was still
as all the rest. He did not even flutter his wings;
he sat without stirring, and looked at Mary.
"No wonder it is still," she whispered again. "I am
the first person who has spoken in here for ten years."
She moved away from the door, stepping as softly as if she
were afraid of awakening some one. She was glad that there
was grass under her feet and that her steps made no sounds.
She walked under one of the fairy-like gray arches
between the trees and looked up at the sprays and tendrils
which formed them. "I wonder if they are all quite dead,"
she said. "Is it all a quite dead garden? I wish it wasn't."
If she had been Ben Weatherstaff she could have told
whether the wood was alive by looking at it, but she
could only see that there were only gray or brown sprays
and branches and none showed any signs of even a tiny
But she was inside the wonderful garden and she could
come through the door under the ivy any time and she
felt as if she had found a world all her own.
The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch
of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite
seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over
the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and
hopped about or flew after her from one bush to another.
He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he
were showing her things. Everything was strange and
silent and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from
any one, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all.
All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether
all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had
lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather
got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden.
If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be,
and what thousands of roses would grow on every side!
Her skipping-rope had hung over her arm when she came
in and after she had walked about for a while she thought
she would skip round the whole garden, stopping when she
wanted to look at things. There seemed to have been
grass paths here and there, and in one or two corners
there were alcoves of evergreen with stone seats or tall
moss-covered flower urns in them.
As she came near the second of these alcoves she
stopped skipping. There had once been a flowerbed in it,
and she thought she saw something sticking out of the
black earth--some sharp little pale green points.
She remembered what Ben Weatherstaff had said and she
knelt down to look at them.
"Yes, they are tiny growing things and they might be
crocuses or snowdrops or daffodils," she whispered.
She bent very close to them and sniffed the fresh scent
of the damp earth. She liked it very much.
"Perhaps there are some other ones coming up in other places,"
she said. "I will go all over the garden and look."
She did not skip, but walked. She went slowly and kept
her eyes on the ground. She looked in the old border
beds and among the grass, and after she had gone round,
trying to miss nothing, she had found ever so many more sharp,
pale green points, and she had become quite excited again.
"It isn't a quite dead garden," she cried out softly to herself.
"Even if the roses are dead, there are other things alive."
She did not know anything about gardening, but the grass
seemed so thick in some of the places where the green
points were pushing their way through that she thought
they did not seem to have room enough to grow.
She searched about until she found a rather sharp piece
of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds
and grass until she made nice little clear places around them.
"Now they look as if they could breathe," she said,
after she had finished with the first ones. "I am
going to do ever so many more. I'll do all I can see.
If I haven't time today I can come tomorrow."
She went from place to place, and dug and weeded,
and enjoyed herself so immensely that she was led on
from bed to bed and into the grass under the trees.
The exercise made her so warm that she first threw her
coat off, and then her hat, and without knowing it she
was smiling down on to the grass and the pale green points
all the time.
The robin was tremendously busy. He was very much
pleased to see gardening begun on his own estate.
He had often wondered at Ben Weatherstaff. Where gardening
is done all sorts of delightful things to eat are turned
up with the soil. Now here was this new kind of creature
who was not half Ben's size and yet had had the sense
to come into his garden and begin at once.
Mistress Mary worked in her garden until it was time
to go to her midday dinner. In fact, she was rather
late in remembering, and when she put on her coat
and hat, and picked up her skipping-rope, she could not
believe that she had been working two or three hours.
She had been actually happy all the time; and dozens
and dozens of the tiny, pale green points were to be seen
in cleared places, looking twice as cheerful as they had
looked before when the grass and weeds had been smothering them.
"I shall come back this afternoon," she said, looking all
round at her new kingdom, and speaking to the trees
and the rose-bushes as if they heard her.
Then she ran lightly across the grass, pushed open
the slow old door and slipped through it under the ivy.
She had such red cheeks and such bright eyes and ate such
a dinner that Martha was delighted.
"Two pieces o' meat an' two helps o' rice puddin'!" she said.
"Eh! mother will be pleased when I tell her what th'
skippin'-rope's done for thee."
In the course of her digging with her pointed stick
Mistress Mary had found herself digging up a sort of white
root rather like an onion. She had put it back in its
place and patted the earth carefully down on it and just
now she wondered if Martha could tell her what it was.
"Martha," she said, "what are those white roots that look
"They're bulbs," answered Martha. "Lots o' spring flowers
grow from 'em. Th' very little ones are snowdrops an'
crocuses an' th' big ones are narcissuses an' jonquils
and daffydowndillys. Th' biggest of all is lilies an'
purple flags. Eh! they are nice. Dickon's got a whole
lot of 'em planted in our bit o' garden."
"Does Dickon know all about them?" asked Mary, a new idea
taking possession of her.
"Our Dickon can make a flower grow out of a brick walk.
Mother says he just whispers things out o' th' ground."
"Do bulbs live a long time? Would they live years and
years if no one helped them?" inquired Mary anxiously.
"They're things as helps themselves," said Martha. "That's why
poor folk can afford to have 'em. If you don't trouble 'em,
most of 'em'll work away underground for a lifetime an'
spread out an' have little 'uns. There's a place in th'
park woods here where there's snowdrops by thousands.
They're the prettiest sight in Yorkshire when th'
spring comes. No one knows when they was first planted."
"I wish the spring was here now," said Mary. "I want
to see all the things that grow in England."
She had finished her dinner and gone to her favorite seat
on the hearth-rug.
"I wish--I wish I had a little spade," she said.
"Whatever does tha' want a spade for?" asked Martha, laughing.
"Art tha' goin' to take to diggin'? I must tell mother that,
Mary looked at the fire and pondered a little. She must
be careful if she meant to keep her secret kingdom.
She wasn't doing any harm, but if Mr. Craven found out
about the open door he would be fearfully angry and get
a new key and lock it up forevermore. She really could
not bear that.
"This is such a big lonely place," she said slowly, as if she
were turning matters over in her mind. "The house is lonely,
and the park is lonely, and the gardens are lonely.
So many places seem shut up. I never did many things
in India, but there were more people to look at--natives
and soldiers marching by--and sometimes bands playing,
and my Ayah told me stories. There is no one to talk to
here except you and Ben Weatherstaff. And you have to do
your work and Ben Weatherstaff won't speak to me often.
I thought if I had a little spade I could dig somewhere
as he does, and I might make a little garden if he would
give me some seeds."
Martha's face quite lighted up.
"There now!" she exclaimed, "if that wasn't one of th'
things mother said. She says, `There's such a lot o'
room in that big place, why don't they give her a
bit for herself, even if she doesn't plant nothin'
but parsley an' radishes? She'd dig an' rake away an'
be right down happy over it.' Them was the very words
"Were they?" said Mary. "How many things she knows,
"Eh!" said Martha. "It's like she says: `A woman as
brings up twelve children learns something besides her A
B C. Children's as good as 'rithmetic to set you findin'
"How much would a spade cost--a little one?" Mary asked.
"Well," was Martha's reflective answer, "at Thwaite
village there's a shop or so an' I saw little garden sets
with a spade an' a rake an' a fork all tied together for
two shillings. An' they was stout enough to work with, too."
"I've got more than that in my purse," said Mary.
"Mrs. Morrison gave me five shillings and Mrs. Medlock
gave me some money from Mr. Craven."
"Did he remember thee that much?" exclaimed Martha.
"Mrs. Medlock said I was to have a shilling a week to spend.
She gives me one every Saturday. I didn't know what to
spend it on."
"My word! that's riches," said Martha. "Tha' can buy
anything in th' world tha' wants. Th' rent of our
cottage is only one an' threepence an' it's like pullin'
eye-teeth to get it. Now I've just thought of somethin',"
putting her hands on her hips.
"What?" said Mary eagerly.
"In the shop at Thwaite they sell packages o'
flower-seeds for a penny each, and our Dickon he knows
which is th' prettiest ones an, how to make 'em grow.
He walks over to Thwaite many a day just for th' fun of it.
Does tha' know how to print letters?" suddenly.
"I know how to write," Mary answered.
Martha shook her head.
"Our Dickon can only read printin'. If tha' could print we
could write a letter to him an' ask him to go an' buy th'
garden tools an' th' seeds at th' same time."
"Oh! you're a good girl!" Mary cried. "You are, really! I
didn't know you were so nice. I know I can print letters
if I try. Let's ask Mrs. Medlock for a pen and ink and some
"I've got some of my own," said Martha. "I bought 'em
so I could print a bit of a letter to mother of a Sunday.
I'll go and get it." She ran out of the room, and Mary stood
by the fire and twisted her thin little hands together
with sheer pleasure.
"If I have a spade," she whispered, "I can make the earth
nice and soft and dig up weeds. If I have seeds and can
make flowers grow the garden won't be dead at all--it
will come alive."
She did not go out again that afternoon because when Martha
returned with her pen and ink and paper she was obliged
to clear the table and carry the plates and dishes
downstairs and when she got into the kitchen Mrs. Medlock
was there and told her to do something, so Mary waited
for what seemed to her a long time before she came back.
Then it was a serious piece of work to write to Dickon.
Mary had been taught very little because her governesses
had disliked her too much to stay with her. She could
not spell particularly well but she found that she could
print letters when she tried. This was the letter Martha
dictated to her: "My Dear Dickon:
This comes hoping to find you well as it leaves me at present.
Miss Mary has plenty of money and will you go to Thwaite
and buy her some flower seeds and a set of garden tools
to make a flower-bed. Pick the prettiest ones and easy
to grow because she has never done it before and lived
in India which is different. Give my love to mother
and every one of you. Miss Mary is going to tell me a lot
more so that on my next day out you can hear about elephants
and camels and gentlemen going hunting lions and tigers.
"Your loving sister,
Martha Phoebe Sowerby."
"We'll put the money in th' envelope an' I'll get th'
butcher boy to take it in his cart. He's a great
friend o' Dickon's," said Martha.
"How shall I get the things when Dickon buys them?"
"He'll bring 'em to you himself. He'll like to walk
over this way."
"Oh!" exclaimed Mary, "then I shall see him! I never
thought I should see Dickon."
"Does tha' want to see him?" asked Martha suddenly,
for Mary had looked so pleased.
"Yes, I do. I never saw a boy foxes and crows loved.
I want to see him very much."
Martha gave a little start, as if she remembered something.
"Now to think," she broke out, "to think o' me forgettin'
that there; an' I thought I was goin' to tell you first
thing this mornin'. I asked mother--and she said she'd ask
Mrs. Medlock her own self."
"Do you mean--" Mary began.
"What I said Tuesday. Ask her if you might be driven over
to our cottage some day and have a bit o' mother's hot
oat cake, an' butter, an' a glass o' milk."
It seemed as if all the interesting things were happening
in one day. To think of going over the moor in the
daylight and when the sky was blue! To think of going
into the cottage which held twelve children!
"Does she think Mrs. Medlock would let me go?" she asked,
"Aye, she thinks she would. She knows what a tidy woman
mother is and how clean she keeps the cottage."
"If I went I should see your mother as well as Dickon,"
said Mary, thinking it over and liking the idea very much.
"She doesn't seem to be like the mothers in India."
Her work in the garden and the excitement of the afternoon
ended by making her feel quiet and thoughtful. Martha stayed
with her until tea-time, but they sat in comfortable
quiet and talked very little. But just before Martha
went downstairs for the tea-tray, Mary asked a question.
"Martha," she said, "has the scullery-maid had the
toothache again today?"
Martha certainly started slightly.
"What makes thee ask that?" she said.
"Because when I waited so long for you to come back I
opened the door and walked down the corridor to see if you
were coming. And I heard that far-off crying again,
just as we heard it the other night. There isn't
a wind today, so you see it couldn't have been the wind."
"Eh!" said Martha restlessly. "Tha' mustn't go walkin'
about in corridors an' listenin'. Mr. Craven would be
that there angry there's no knowin' what he'd do."
"I wasn't listening," said Mary. "I was just waiting
for you--and I heard it. That's three times."
"My word! There's Mrs. Medlock's bell," said Martha,
and she almost ran out of the room.
"It's the strangest house any one ever lived in,"
said Mary drowsily, as she dropped her head on the cushioned
seat of the armchair near her. Fresh air, and digging,
and skipping-rope had made her feel so comfortably tired
that she fell asleep.
The sun shone down for nearly a week on the secret garden.
The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was
thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still
more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut
her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like
being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few
books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books,
and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories.
Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years,
which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no
intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming
wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite.
She was beginning to like to be out of doors; she no longer
hated the wind, but enjoyed it. She could run faster,
and longer, and she could skip up to a hundred. The bulbs
in the secret garden must have been much astonished.
Such nice clear places were made round them that they
had all the breathing space they wanted, and really,
if Mistress Mary had known it, they began to cheer up
under the dark earth and work tremendously. The sun could
get at them and warm them, and when the rain came down
it could reach them at once, so they began to feel very
Mary was an odd, determined little person, and now she
had something interesting to be determined about,
she was very much absorbed, indeed. She worked and dug
and pulled up weeds steadily, only becoming more pleased
with her work every hour instead of tiring of it.
It seemed to her like a fascinating sort of play.
She found many more of the sprouting pale green points than
she had ever hoped to find. They seemed to be starting up
everywhere and each day she was sure she found tiny new ones,
some so tiny that they barely peeped above the earth.
There were so many that she remembered what Martha had
said about the "snowdrops by the thousands," and about
bulbs spreading and making new ones. These had been left
to themselves for ten years and perhaps they had spread,
like the snowdrops, into thousands. She wondered how long
it would be before they showed that they were flowers.
Sometimes she stopped digging to look at the garden and
try to imagine what it would be like when it was covered
with thousands of lovely things in bloom. During that week
of sunshine, she became more intimate with Ben Weatherstaff.
She surprised him several times by seeming to start
up beside him as if she sprang out of the earth.
The truth was that she was afraid that he would pick up
his tools and go away if he saw her coming, so she always
walked toward him as silently as possible. But, in fact,
he did not object to her as strongly as he had at first.
Perhaps he was secretly rather flattered by her evident
desire for his elderly company. Then, also, she was more
civil than she had been. He did not know that when she
first saw him she spoke to him as she would have spoken
to a native, and had not known that a cross, sturdy old
Yorkshire man was not accustomed to salaam to his masters,
and be merely commanded by them to do things.
"Tha'rt like th' robin," he said to her one morning
when he lifted his head and saw her standing by him.
"I never knows when I shall see thee or which side tha'll
"He's friends with me now," said Mary.
"That's like him," snapped Ben Weatherstaff. "Makin' up
to th' women folk just for vanity an' flightiness.
There's nothin' he wouldn't do for th' sake o' showin'
off an' flirtin' his tail-feathers. He's as full o'
pride as an egg's full o' meat."
He very seldom talked much and sometimes did not even answer
Mary's questions except by a grunt, but this morning he
said more than usual. He stood up and rested one hobnailed
boot on the top of his spade while he looked her over.
"How long has tha' been here?" he jerked out.
"I think it's about a month," she answered.
"Tha's beginnin' to do Misselthwaite credit," he said.
"Tha's a bit fatter than tha' was an' tha's not quite
so yeller. Tha' looked like a young plucked crow when tha'
first came into this garden. Thinks I to myself I never set
eyes on an uglier, sourer faced young 'un."
Mary was not vain and as she had never thought much
of her looks she was not greatly disturbed.
"I know I'm fatter," she said. "My stockings
are getting tighter. They used to make wrinkles.
There's the robin, Ben Weatherstaff."
There, indeed, was the robin, and she thought he looked
nicer than ever. His red waistcoat was as glossy as satin
and he flirted his wings and tail and tilted his head
and hopped about with all sorts of lively graces.
He seemed determined to make Ben Weatherstaff admire him.
But Ben was sarcastic.
"Aye, there tha' art!" he said. "Tha' can put up with
me for a bit sometimes when tha's got no one better.
Tha's been reddenin' up thy waistcoat an' polishin'
thy feathers this two weeks. I know what tha's up to.
Tha's courtin' some bold young madam somewhere tellin'
thy lies to her about bein' th' finest cock robin on Missel
Moor an' ready to fight all th' rest of 'em."
"Oh! look at him!" exclaimed Mary.
The robin was evidently in a fascinating, bold mood.
He hopped closer and closer and looked at Ben Weatherstaff
more and more engagingly. He flew on to the nearest
currant bush and tilted his head and sang a little song
right at him.
"Tha' thinks tha'll get over me by doin' that," said Ben,
wrinkling his face up in such a way that Mary felt sure he
was trying not to look pleased. "Tha' thinks no one can
stand out against thee--that's what tha' thinks."
The robin spread his wings--Mary could scarcely believe
her eyes. He flew right up to the handle of Ben
Weatherstaff's spade and alighted on the top of it.
Then the old man's face wrinkled itself slowly into
a new expression. He stood still as if he were afraid
to breathe--as if he would not have stirred for the world,
lest his robin should start away. He spoke quite in a whisper.
"Well, I'm danged!" he said as softly as if he were saying
something quite different. "Tha' does know how to get at
a chap--tha' does! Tha's fair unearthly, tha's so knowin'."
And he stood without stirring--almost without drawing
his breath--until the robin gave another flirt to his
wings and flew away. Then he stood looking at the handle
of the spade as if there might be Magic in it, and then
he began to dig again and said nothing for several minutes.
But because he kept breaking into a slow grin now and then,
Mary was not afraid to talk to him.
"Have you a garden of your own?" she asked.
"No. I'm bachelder an' lodge with Martin at th' gate."
"If you had one," said Mary, "what would you plant?"
"Cabbages an' 'taters an' onions."
"But if you wanted to make a flower garden," persisted Mary,
"what would you plant?"
"Bulbs an' sweet-smellin' things--but mostly roses."
Mary's face lighted up.
"Do you like roses?" she said.
Ben Weatherstaff rooted up a weed and threw it aside
before he answered.
"Well, yes, I do. I was learned that by a young lady I
was gardener to. She had a lot in a place she was fond
of, an' she loved 'em like they was children--or robins.
I've seen her bend over an' kiss 'em." He dragged out another
weed and scowled at it. "That were as much as ten year' ago."
"Where is she now?" asked Mary, much interested.
"Heaven," he answered, and drove his spade deep into
the soil, "'cording to what parson says."
"What happened to the roses?" Mary asked again,
more interested than ever.
"They was left to themselves."
Mary was becoming quite excited.
"Did they quite die? Do roses quite die when they are
left to themselves?" she ventured.
"Well, I'd got to like 'em--an' I liked her--an'
she liked 'em," Ben Weatherstaff admitted reluctantly.
"Once or twice a year I'd go an' work at 'em a bit--prune
'em an' dig about th' roots. They run wild, but they was
in rich soil, so some of 'em lived."
"When they have no leaves and look gray and brown and dry,
how can you tell whether they are dead or alive?"
"Wait till th' spring gets at 'em--wait till th' sun shines
on th' rain and th' rain falls on th' sunshine an'
then tha'll find out."
"How--how?" cried Mary, forgetting to be careful.
"Look along th' twigs an' branches an' if tha' see a bit
of a brown lump swelling here an' there, watch it after th'
warm rain an' see what happens." He stopped suddenly
and looked curiously at her eager face. "Why does tha'
care so much about roses an' such, all of a sudden?"
Mistress Mary felt her face grow red. She was almost
afraid to answer.
"I--I want to play that--that I have a garden of my own,"
she stammered. "I--there is nothing for me to do.
I have nothing--and no one."
"Well," said Ben Weatherstaff slowly, as he watched her,
"that's true. Tha' hasn't."
He said it in such an odd way that Mary wondered if he
was actually a little sorry for her. She had never felt
sorry for herself; she had only felt tired and cross,
because she disliked people and things so much.
But now the world seemed to be changing and getting nicer.
If no one found out about the secret garden, she should
enjoy herself always.
She stayed with him for ten or fifteen minutes longer and
asked him as many questions as she dared. He answered every
one of them in his queer grunting way and he did not seem
really cross and did not pick up his spade and leave her.
He said something about roses just as she was going away
and it reminded her of the ones he had said he had been
"Do you go and see those other roses now?" she asked.
"Not been this year. My rheumatics has made me too stiff
in th' joints."
He said it in his grumbling voice, and then quite suddenly
he seemed to get angry with her, though she did not see
why he should.
"Now look here!" he said sharply. "Don't tha'
ask so many questions. Tha'rt th' worst wench for askin'
questions I've ever come a cross. Get thee gone an'
play thee. I've done talkin' for today."
And he said it so crossly that she knew there was not
the least use in staying another minute. She went
skipping slowly down the outside walk, thinking him over
and saying to herself that, queer as it was, here was
another person whom she liked in spite of his crossness.
She liked old Ben Weatherstaff. Yes, she did like him.
She always wanted to try to make him talk to her.
Also she began to believe that he knew everything in the
world about flowers.
There was a laurel-hedged walk which curved round the secret
garden and ended at a gate which opened into a wood,
in the park. She thought she would slip round this walk
and look into the wood and see if there were any rabbits
hopping about. She enjoyed the skipping very much and
when she reached the little gate she opened it and went
through because she heard a low, peculiar whistling
sound and wanted to find out what it was.
It was a very strange thing indeed. She quite caught her
breath as she stopped to look at it. A boy was sitting
under a tree, with his back against it, playing on a rough
wooden pipe. He was a funny looking boy about twelve.
He looked very clean and his nose turned up and his
cheeks were as red as poppies and never had Mistress Mary
seen such round and such blue eyes in any boy's face.
And on the trunk of the tree he leaned against, a brown
squirrel was clinging and watching him, and from behind
a bush nearby a cock pheasant was delicately stretching
his neck to peep out, and quite near him were two rabbits
sitting up and sniffing with tremulous noses--and actually
it appeared as if they were all drawing near to watch him
and listen to the strange low little call his pipe seemed
When he saw Mary he held up his hand and spoke to her
in a voice almost as low as and rather like his piping.
"Don't tha' move," he said. "It'd flight 'em." Mary
remained motionless. He stopped playing his pipe and began
to rise from the ground. He moved so slowly that it scarcely
seemed as though he were moving at all, but at last he
stood on his feet and then the squirrel scampered back
up into the branches of his tree, the pheasant withdrew
his head and the rabbits dropped on all fours and began
to hop away, though not at all as if they were frightened.
"I'm Dickon," the boy said. "I know tha'rt Miss Mary."
Then Mary realized that somehow she had known at first that
he was Dickon. Who else could have been charming rabbits
and pheasants as the natives charm snakes in India? He had
a wide, red, curving mouth and his smile spread all over his
"I got up slow," he explained, "because if tha' makes a
quick move it startles 'em. A body 'as to move gentle an'
speak low when wild things is about."
He did not speak to her as if they had never seen
each other before but as if he knew her quite well.
Mary knew nothing about boys and she spoke to him a little
stiffly because she felt rather shy.
"Did you get Martha's letter?" she asked.
He nodded his curly, rust-colored head. "That's why
He stooped to pick up something which had been lying
on the ground beside him when he piped.
"I've got th' garden tools. There's a little spade an'
rake an' a fork an' hoe. Eh! they are good 'uns. There's
a trowel, too. An' th' woman in th' shop threw in a packet o'
white poppy an' one o' blue larkspur when I bought th'
"Will you show the seeds to me?" Mary said.
She wished she could talk as he did. His speech
was so quick and easy. It sounded as if he liked her
and was not the least afraid she would not like him,
though he was only a common moor boy, in patched clothes
and with a funny face and a rough, rusty-red head.
As she came closer to him she noticed that there was a clean
fresh scent of heather and grass and leaves about him,
almost as if he were made of them. She liked it very much
and when she looked into his funny face with the red
cheeks and round blue eyes she forgot that she had felt shy.
"Let us sit down on this log and look at them," she said.
They sat down and he took a clumsy little brown paper
package out of his coat pocket. He untied the string
and inside there were ever so many neater and smaller
packages with a picture of a flower on each one.
"There's a lot o' mignonette an' poppies," he said.
"Mignonette's th' sweetest smellin' thing as grows, an'
it'll grow wherever you cast it, same as poppies will.
Them as'll come up an' bloom if you just whistle to 'em,
them's th' nicest of all." He stopped and turned his
head quickly, his poppy-cheeked face lighting up.
"Where's that robin as is callin' us?" he said.
The chirp came from a thick holly bush, bright with
scarlet berries, and Mary thought she knew whose it was.
"Is it really calling us?" she asked.
"Aye," said Dickon, as if it was the most natural thing
in the world, "he's callin' some one he's friends with.
That's same as sayin' `Here I am. Look at me.
I wants a bit of a chat.' There he is in the bush.
Whose is he?"
"He's Ben Weatherstaff's, but I think he knows me a little,"
"Aye, he knows thee," said Dickon in his low voice again.
"An' he likes thee. He's took thee on. He'll tell me all
about thee in a minute."
He moved quite close to the bush with the slow movement Mary
had noticed before, and then he made a sound almost like
the robin's own twitter. The robin listened a few seconds,
intently, and then answered quite as if he were replying to a
"Aye, he's a friend o' yours," chuckled Dickon.
"Do you think he is?" cried Mary eagerly. She did so want
to know. "Do you think he really likes me?"
"He wouldn't come near thee if he didn't," answered Dickon.
"Birds is rare choosers an' a robin can flout a body worse
than a man. See, he's making up to thee now. `Cannot tha'
see a chap?' he's sayin'."
And it really seemed as if it must be true. He so sidled
and twittered and tilted as he hopped on his bush.
"Do you understand everything birds say?" said Mary.
Dickon's grin spread until he seemed all wide, red,
curving mouth, and he rubbed his rough head.
"I think I do, and they think I do," he said. "I've lived on th'
moor with 'em so long. I've watched 'em break shell an'
come out an' fledge an' learn to fly an' begin to sing,
till I think I'm one of 'em. Sometimes I think p'raps
I'm a bird, or a fox, or a rabbit, or a squirrel,
or even a beetle, an' I don't know it."
He laughed and came back to the log and began to talk
about the flower seeds again. He told her what they looked
like when they were flowers; he told her how to plant them,
and watch them, and feed and water them.
"See here," he said suddenly, turning round to look at her.
"I'll plant them for thee myself. Where is tha' garden?"
Mary's thin hands clutched each other as they lay on
her lap. She did not know what to say, so for a whole
minute she said nothing. She had never thought of this.
She felt miserable. And she felt as if she went red
and then pale.
"Tha's got a bit o' garden, hasn't tha'?" Dickon said.
It was true that she had turned red and then pale.
Dickon saw her do it, and as she still said nothing,
he began to be puzzled.
"Wouldn't they give thee a bit?" he asked. "Hasn't tha'
got any yet?"
She held her hands tighter and turned her eyes toward him.
"I don't know anything about boys," she said slowly.
"Could you keep a secret, if I told you one? It's a great secret.
I don't know what I should do if any one found it out.
I believe I should die!" She said the last sentence
Dickon looked more puzzled than ever and even rubbed
his hand over his rough head again, but he answered quite
good-humoredly. "I'm keepin' secrets all th' time," he said.
"If I couldn't keep secrets from th' other lads,
secrets about foxes' cubs, an' birds' nests, an' wild things'
holes, there'd be naught safe on th' moor. Aye, I can
Mistress Mary did not mean to put out her hand and clutch
his sleeve but she did it.
"I've stolen a garden," she said very fast. "It isn't mine.
It isn't anybody's. Nobody wants it, nobody cares for it,
nobody ever goes into it. Perhaps everything is dead in
it already. I don't know."
She began to feel hot and as contrary as she had ever
felt in her life.
"I don't care, I don't care! Nobody has any right
to take it from me when I care about it and they
don't. They're letting it die, all shut in by itself,"
she ended passionately, and she threw her arms over
her face and burst out crying-poor little Mistress Mary.
Dickon's curious blue eyes grew rounder and rounder.
"Eh-h-h!" he said, drawing his exclamation out slowly,
and the way he did it meant both wonder and sympathy.
"I've nothing to do," said Mary. "Nothing belongs to me.
I found it myself and I got into it myself. I was only just
like the robin, and they wouldn't take it from the robin."
"Where is it?" asked Dickon in a dropped voice.
Mistress Mary got up from the log at once. She knew she
felt contrary again, and obstinate, and she did not care
at all. She was imperious and Indian, and at the same
time hot and sorrowful.
"Come with me and I'll show you," she said.
She led him round the laurel path and to the walk where the
ivy grew so thickly. Dickon followed her with a queer,
almost pitying, look on his face. He felt as if he were
being led to look at some strange bird's nest and must
move softly. When she stepped to the wall and lifted
the hanging ivy he started. There was a door and Mary
pushed it slowly open and they passed in together,
and then Mary stood and waved her hand round defiantly.
"It's this," she said. "It's a secret garden, and I'm
the only one in the world who wants it to be alive."
Dickon looked round and round about it, and round
and round again.
"Eh!" he almost whispered, "it is a queer, pretty place!
It's like as if a body was in a dream."
THE NEST OF THE MISSEL THRUSH
For two or three minutes he stood looking round him,
while Mary watched him, and then he began to walk
about softly, even more lightly than Mary had walked the
first time she had found herself inside the four walls.
His eyes seemed to be taking in everything--the gray trees
with the gray creepers climbing over them and hanging
from their branches, the tangle on the walls and among
the grass, the evergreen alcoves with the stone seats
and tall flower urns standing in them.
"I never thought I'd see this place," he said at last,
in a whisper.
"Did you know about it?" asked Mary.
She had spoken aloud and he made a sign to her.
"We must talk low," he said, "or some one'll hear us an'
wonder what's to do in here."
"Oh! I forgot!" said Mary, feeling frightened and putting
her hand quickly against her mouth. "Did you know about
the garden?" she asked again when she had recovered herself.
"Martha told me there was one as no one ever went inside,"
he answered. "Us used to wonder what it was like."
He stopped and looked round at the lovely gray tangle
about him, and his round eyes looked queerly happy.
"Eh! the nests as'll be here come springtime," he said.
"It'd be th' safest nestin' place in England.
No one never comin' near an' tangles o' trees an'
roses to build in. I wonder all th' birds on th'
moor don't build here."
Mistress Mary put her hand on his arm again without
"Will there be roses?" she whispered. "Can you tell? I
thought perhaps they were all dead."
"Eh! No! Not them--not all of 'em!" he answered.
He stepped over to the nearest tree--an old, old one with
gray lichen all over its bark, but upholding a curtain
of tangled sprays and branches. He took a thick knife
out of his Pocket and opened one of its blades.
"There's lots o' dead wood as ought to be cut out," he said.
"An' there's a lot o' old wood, but it made some new
last year. This here's a new bit," and he touched a shoot
which looked brownish green instead of hard, dry gray.
Mary touched it herself in an eager, reverent way.
"That one?" she said. "Is that one quite alive quite?"
Dickon curved his wide smiling mouth.
"It's as wick as you or me," he said; and Mary remembered
that Martha had told her that "wick" meant "alive"
"I'm glad it's wick!" she cried out in her whisper.
"I want them all to be wick. Let us go round the garden
and count how many wick ones there are."
She quite panted with eagerness, and Dickon was as eager
as she was. They went from tree to tree and from bush
to bush. Dickon carried his knife in his hand and showed
her things which she thought wonderful.
"They've run wild," he said, "but th' strongest ones
has fair thrived on it. The delicatest ones has
died out, but th' others has growed an' growed, an'
spread an' spread, till they's a wonder. See here!"
and he pulled down a thick gray, dry-looking branch.
"A body might think this was dead wood, but I don't believe
it is--down to th' root. I'll cut it low down an' see."
He knelt and with his knife cut the lifeless-looking
branch through, not far above the earth.
"There!" he said exultantly. "I told thee so.
There's green in that wood yet. Look at it."
Mary was down on her knees before he spoke, gazing with
all her might.
"When it looks a bit greenish an' juicy like that,
it's wick," he explained. "When th' inside is dry an'
breaks easy, like this here piece I've cut off,
it's done for. There's a big root here as all this live
wood sprung out of, an' if th' old wood's cut off an'
it's dug round, and took care of there'll be--"
he stopped and lifted his face to look up at the climbing
and hanging sprays above him--"there'll be a fountain o'
roses here this summer."
They went from bush to bush and from tree to tree.
He was very strong and clever with his knife and knew
how to cut the dry and dead wood away, and could tell when
an unpromising bough or twig had still green life in it.
In the course of half an hour Mary thought she could tell too,
and when he cut through a lifeless-looking branch she would
cry out joyfully under her breath when she caught sight
of the least shade of moist green. The spade, and hoe,
and fork were very useful. He showed her how to use the
fork while he dug about roots with the spade and stirred
the earth and let the air in.
They were working industriously round one of the biggest
standard roses when he caught sight of something which
made him utter an exclamation of surprise.
"Why!" he cried, pointing to the grass a few feet away.
"Who did that there?"
It was one of Mary's own little clearings round the pale
"I did it," said Mary.
"Why, I thought tha' didn't know nothin' about gardenin',"
"I don't," she answered, "but they were so little, and the
grass was so thick and strong, and they looked as if they
had no room to breathe. So I made a place for them.
I don't even know what they are."
Dickon went and knelt down by them, smiling his wide smile.
"Tha' was right," he said. "A gardener couldn't have told
thee better. They'll grow now like Jack's bean-stalk. They're
crocuses an' snowdrops, an' these here is narcissuses,"
turning to another patch, "an here's daffydowndillys.
Eh! they will be a sight."
He ran from one clearing to another.
"Tha' has done a lot o' work for such a little wench,"
he said, looking her over.
"I'm growing fatter," said Mary, "and I'm growing stronger.
I used always to be tired. When I dig I'm not tired at all.
I like to smell the earth when it's turned up."
"It's rare good for thee," he said, nodding his
head wisely. "There's naught as nice as th' smell o'
good clean earth, except th' smell o' fresh growin'
things when th' rain falls on 'em. I get out on th'
moor many a day when it's rainin' an' I lie under a bush an'
listen to th' soft swish o' drops on th' heather an,
I just sniff an, sniff. My nose end fair quivers like a
rabbit's, mother says."
"Do you never catch cold?" inquired Mary, gazing at
him wonderingly. She had never seen such a funny boy,
or such a nice one.
"Not me," he said, grinning. "I never ketched cold
since I was born. I wasn't brought up nesh enough.
I've chased about th' moor in all weathers same as th'
rabbits does. Mother says I've sniffed up too much fresh
air for twelve year' to ever get to sniffin' with cold.
I'm as tough as a white-thorn knobstick."
He was working all the time he was talking and Mary was
following him and helping him with her fork or the trowel.
"There's a lot of work to do here!" he said once,
looking about quite exultantly.
"Will you come again and help me to do it?" Mary begged.
"I'm sure I can help, too. I can dig and pull up weeds,
and do whatever you tell me. Oh! do come, Dickon!"
"I'll come every day if tha' wants me, rain or shine,"
he answered stoutly. "It's the best fun I ever had in my
life--shut in here an' wakenin' up a garden."
"If you will come," said Mary, "if you will help me
to make it alive I'll--I don't know what I'll do,"
she ended helplessly. What could you do for a boy like that?
"I'll tell thee what tha'll do," said Dickon, with his
happy grin. "Tha'll get fat an' tha'll get as hungry
as a young fox an' tha'll learn how to talk to th'
robin same as I do. Eh! we'll have a lot o' fun."
He began to walk about, looking up in the trees and at
the walls and bushes with a thoughtful expression.
"I wouldn't want to make it look like a gardener's
garden, all clipped an' spick an' span, would you?"
he said. "It's nicer like this with things runnin'
wild, an' swingin' an' catchin' hold of each other."
"Don't let us make it tidy," said Mary anxiously.
"It wouldn't seem like a secret garden if it was tidy."
Dickon stood rubbing his rusty-red head with a rather
puzzled look. "It's a secret garden sure enough," he said,
"but seems like some one besides th' robin must have been
in it since it was shut up ten year' ago."
"But the door was locked and the key was buried," said Mary.
"No one could get in."
"That's true," he answered. "It's a queer place.
Seems to me as if there'd been a bit o' prunin' done here an'
there, later than ten year' ago."
"But how could it have been done?" said Mary.
He was examining a branch of a standard rose and he shook
"Aye! how could it!" he murmured. "With th'
door locked an' th' key buried."
Mistress Mary always felt that however many years
she lived she should never forget that first morning
when her garden began to grow. Of course, it did seem
to begin to grow for her that morning. When Dickon
began to clear places to plant seeds, she remembered
what Basil had sung at her when he wanted to tease her.
"Are there any flowers that look like bells?" she inquired.
"Lilies o' th' valley does," he answered, digging away
with the trowel, "an' there's Canterbury bells, an' campanulas."
"Let's plant some," said Mary. "There's lilies o' th,
valley here already; I saw 'em. They'll have growed too
close an' we'll have to separate 'em, but there's plenty.
Th' other ones takes two years to bloom from seed, but I
can bring you some bits o' plants from our cottage garden.
Why does tha' want 'em?"
Then Mary told him about Basil and his brothers
and sisters in India and of how she had hated them
and of their calling her "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary."
"They used to dance round and sing at me. They sang--
`Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And marigolds all in a row.'
I just remembered it and it made me wonder if there
were really flowers like silver bells."
She frowned a little and gave her trowel a rather spiteful
dig into the earth.
"I wasn't as contrary as they were."
But Dickon laughed.
"Eh!" he said, and as he crumbled the rich black soil she
saw he was sniffing up the scent of it. "There doesn't
seem to be no need for no one to be contrary when there's
flowers an' such like, an' such lots o' friendly wild
things runnin' about makin' homes for themselves, or buildin'
nests an' singin' an' whistlin', does there?"
Mary, kneeling by him holding the seeds, looked at him
and stopped frowning.
"Dickon," she said, "you are as nice as Martha said
you were. I like you, and you make the fifth person.
I never thought I should like five people."
Dickon sat up on his heels as Martha did when she was
polishing the grate. He did look funny and delightful,
Mary thought, with his round blue eyes and red cheeks
and happy looking turned-up nose.
"Only five folk as tha' likes?" he said. "Who is th'
"Your mother and Martha," Mary checked them off
on her fingers, "and the robin and Ben Weatherstaff."
Dickon laughed so that he was obliged to stifle the sound
by putting his arm over his mouth.
"I know tha' thinks I'm a queer lad," he said, "but I
think tha' art th' queerest little lass I ever saw."
Then Mary did a strange thing. She leaned forward
and asked him a question she had never dreamed of asking
any one before. And she tried to ask it in Yorkshire
because that was his language, and in India a native
was always pleased if you knew his speech.
"Does tha' like me?" she said.
"Eh!" he answered heartily, "that I does. I likes
thee wonderful, an' so does th' robin, I do believe!"
"That's two, then," said Mary. "That's two for me."
And then they began to work harder than ever and more joyfully.
Mary was startled and sorry when she heard the big clock
in the courtyard strike the hour of her midday dinner.
"I shall have to go," she said mournfully. "And you
will have to go too, won't you?"
"My dinner's easy to carry about with me," he said.
"Mother always lets me put a bit o' somethin' in my pocket."
He picked up his coat from the grass and brought out of
a pocket a lumpy little bundle tied up in a quite clean,
coarse, blue and white handkerchief. It held two thick
pieces of bread with a slice of something laid between them.
"It's oftenest naught but bread," he said, "but I've got
a fine slice o' fat bacon with it today."
Mary thought it looked a queer dinner, but he seemed
ready to enjoy it.
"Run on an' get thy victuals," he said. "I'll be done
with mine first. I'll get some more work done before I
start back home."
He sat down with his back against a tree.
"I'll call th' robin up," he said, "and give him th'
rind o' th' bacon to peck at. They likes a bit o'
Mary could scarcely bear to leave him. Suddenly it
seemed as if he might be a sort of wood fairy who
might be gone when she came into the garden again.
He seemed too good to be true. She went slowly half-way
to the door in the wall and then she stopped and went back.
"Whatever happens, you--you never would tell?" she said.
His poppy-colored cheeks were distended with his first big
bite of bread and bacon, but he managed to smile encouragingly.
"If tha' was a missel thrush an' showed me where thy nest was,
does tha' think I'd tell any one? Not me," he said.
"Tha' art as safe as a missel thrush."
And she was quite sure she was.
"MIGHT I HAVE A BIT OF EARTH?"
Mary ran so fast that she was rather out of breath when she
reached her room. Her hair was ruffled on her forehead
and her cheeks were bright pink. Her dinner was waiting
on the table, and Martha was waiting near it.
"Tha's a bit late," she said. "Where has tha' been?"
"I've seen Dickon!" said Mary. "I've seen Dickon!"
"I knew he'd come," said Martha exultantly. "How does tha'
"I think--I think he's beautiful!" said Mary in a determined
Martha looked rather taken aback but she looked pleased, too.
"Well," she said, "he's th' best lad as ever was born,
but us never thought he was handsome. His nose turns up
"I like it to turn up," said Mary.
"An' his eyes is so round," said Martha, a trifle doubtful.
"Though they're a nice color." "I like them round,"
said Mary. "And they are exactly the color of the sky
over the moor."
Martha beamed with satisfaction.
"Mother says he made 'em that color with always lookin'
up at th' birds an' th' clouds. But he has got a big mouth,
hasn't he, now?"
"I love his big mouth," said Mary obstinately. "I wish
mine were just like it."
Martha chuckled delightedly.
"It'd look rare an' funny in thy bit of a face," she said.
"But I knowed it would be that way when tha' saw him.