If you are looking for some high interest activities to enhance your lessons, try using animated shorts to teach reading skills. This post contains the animated short “Oktapodi” found on Youtube and inserted in this post.
If you are looking for some high interest activities to enhance your lessons, try using animated shorts to teach reading skills. This post contains the animated short “Oktapodi” found on Youtube and inserted in this post.
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The Secret Garden
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
And it was like that with Colin when he first saw and heard and felt the Springtime inside the four high walls of a hidden garden. That afternoon the whole world seemed to devote itself to being perfect and radiantly beautiful and kind to one boy. Perhaps out of pure heavenly goodness the spring came and crowned everything it possibly could into that one place. More than once Dickon paused in what he was doing and stood still with a sort of growing wonder in his eyes, shaking his head softly.
“Eh! it is graidely,” he said. “I’m twelve goin’ on thirteen an’ there’s a lot o’ afternoons in thirteen years, but seems to me like I never seed one as graidely as this ‘ere.”
“Aye, it is a graidely one,” said Mary, and she sighed for mere joy. “I’ll warrant it’s the graidelest one as ever was in this world.”
“Does tha’ think,” said Colin with dreamy carefulness, “as happen it was made loike this ‘ere all o’ purpose for me?”
“My word!” cried Mary admiringly, “that there is a bit o’ good Yorkshire. Tha’rt shapin’ first-rate—that tha’ art.”
And delight reigned. They drew the chair under the plum-tree, which was snow-white with blossoms and musical with bees. It was like a king’s canopy, a fairy king’s. There were flowering cherry-trees near and apple-trees whose buds were pink and white, and here and there one had burst open wide. Between the blossoming branches of the canopy bits of blue sky looked down like wonderful eyes.
Mary and Dickon worked a little here and there and Colin watched them. They brought him things to look at—buds which were opening, buds which were tight closed, bits of twig whose leaves were just showing green, the feather of a woodpecker which had dropped on the grass, the empty shell of some bird early hatched. Dickon pushed the chair slowly round and round the garden, stopping every other moment to let him look at wonders springing out of the earth or trailing down from trees. It was like being taken in state round the country of a magic king and queen and shown all the mysterious riches it contained.
“I wonder if we shall see the robin?” said Colin.
“Tha’ll see him often enow after a bit,” answered Dickon. “When th’ eggs hatches out th’ little chap he’ll be kep’ so busy it’ll make his head swim. Tha’ll see him flyin’ backward an’ for’ard carryin’ worms nigh as big as himsel’ an’ that much noise goin’ on in th’ nest when he gets there as fair flusters him so as he scarce knows which big mouth to drop th’ first piece in. An’ gapin’ beaks an’ squawks on every side. Mother says as when she sees th’ work a robin has to keep them gapin’ beaks filled, she feels like she was a lady with nothin’ to do. She says she’s seen th’ little chaps when it seemed like th’ sweat must be droppin’ off ’em, though folk can’t see it.”
This made them giggle so delightedly that they were obliged to cover their mouths with their hands, remembering that they must not be heard. Colin had been instructed as to the law of whispers and low voices several days before. He liked the mysteriousness of it and did his best, but in the midst of excited enjoyment it is rather difficult never to laugh above a whisper.
Every moment of the afternoon was full of new things and every hour the sunshine grew more golden. The wheeled chair had been drawn back under the canopy and Dickon had sat down on the grass and had just drawn out his pipe when Colin saw something he had not had time to notice before.
“That’s a very old tree over there, isn’t it?” he said. Dickon looked across the grass at the tree and Mary looked and there was a brief moment of stillness.
“Yes,” answered Dickon, after it, and his low voice had a very gentle sound.
Mary gazed at the tree and thought.
“The branches are quite gray and there’s not a single leaf anywhere,” Colin went on. “It’s quite dead, isn’t it?”
“Aye,” admitted Dickon. “But them roses as has climbed all over it will near hide every bit o’ th’ dead wood when they’re full o’ leaves an’ flowers. It won’t look dead then. It’ll be th’ prettiest of all.”
Mary still gazed at the tree and thought.
“It looks as if a big branch had been broken off,” said Colin. “I wonder how it was done.”
“It’s been done many a year,” answered Dickon. “Eh!” with a sudden relieved start and laying his hand on Colin. “Look at that robin! There he is! He’s been foragin’ for his mate.”
Colin was almost too late but he just caught sight of him, the flash of red-breasted bird with something in his beak. He darted through the greenness and into the close-grown corner and was out of sight. Colin leaned back on his cushion again, laughing a little. “He’s taking her tea to her. Perhaps it’s five o’clock. I think I’d like some tea myself.”
And so they were safe.
“It was Magic which sent the robin,” said Mary secretly to Dickon afterward. “I know it was Magic.” For both she and Dickon had been afraid Colin might ask something about the tree whose branch had broken off ten years ago and they had talked it over together and Dickon had stood and rubbed his head in a troubled way.
“We mun look as if it wasn’t no different from th’ other trees,” he had said. “We couldn’t never tell him how it broke, poor lad. If he says anything about it we mun—we mun try to look cheerful.”
“Aye, that we mun,” had answered Mary.
But she had not felt as if she looked cheerful when she gazed at the tree. She wondered and wondered in those few moments if there was any reality in that other thing Dickon had said. He had gone on rubbing his rust-red hair in a puzzled way, but a nice comforted look had begun to grow in his blue eyes.
“Mrs. Craven was a very lovely young lady,” he had gone on rather hesitatingly. “An’ mother she thinks maybe she’s about Misselthwaite many a time lookin’ after Mester Colin, same as all mothers do when they’re took out o’ th’ world. They have to come back, tha’ sees. Happen she’s been in the garden an’ happen it was her set us to work, an’ told us to bring him here.”
Mary had thought he meant something about Magic. She was a great believer in Magic. Secretly she quite believed that Dickon worked Magic, of course good Magic, on everything near him and that was why people liked him so much and wild creatures knew he was their friend. She wondered, indeed, if it were not possible that his gift had brought the robin just at the right moment when Colin asked that dangerous question. She felt that his Magic was working all the afternoon and making Colin look like an entirely different boy. It did not seem possible that he could be the crazy creature who had screamed and beaten and bitten his pillow. Even his ivory whiteness seemed to change. The faint glow of color which had shown on his face and neck and hands when he first got inside the garden really never quite died away. He looked as if he were made of flesh instead of ivory or wax.
They saw the robin carry food to his mate two or three times, and it was so suggestive of afternoon tea that Colin felt they must have some.
“Go and make one of the men servants bring some in a basket to the rhododendron walk,” he said. “And then you and Dickon can bring it here.”
It was an agreeable idea, easily carried out, and when the white cloth was spread upon the grass, with hot tea and buttered toast and crumpets, a delightfully hungry meal was eaten, and several birds on domestic errands paused to inquire what was going on and were led into investigating crumbs with great activity. Nut and Shell whisked up trees with pieces of cake and Soot took the entire half of a buttered crumpet into a corner and pecked at and examined and turned it over and made hoarse remarks about it until he decided to swallow it all joyfully in one gulp.
The afternoon was dragging towards its mellow hour. The sun was deepening the gold of its lances, the bees were going home and the birds were flying past less often. Dickon and Mary were sitting on the grass, the tea-basket was repacked ready to be taken back to the house, and Colin was lying against his cushions with his heavy locks pushed back from his forehead and his face looking quite a natural color.
“I don’t want this afternoon to go,” he said; “but I shall come back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and the day after.”
“You’ll get plenty of fresh air, won’t you?” said Mary. “I’m going to get nothing else,” he answered. “I’ve seen the spring now and I’m going to see the summer. I’m going to see everything grow here. I’m going to grow here myself.”
“That tha’ will,” said Dickon. “Us’ll have thee walkin’ about here an’ diggin’ same as other folk afore long.”
Colin flushed tremendously.
“Walk!” he said. “Dig! Shall I?”
Dickon’s glance at him was delicately cautious. Neither he nor Mary had ever asked if anything was the matter with his legs.
“For sure tha’ will,” he said stoutly. “Tha—tha’s got legs o’ thine own, same as other folks!”
Mary was rather frightened until she heard Colin’s answer.
“Nothing really ails them,” he said, “but they are so thin and weak. They shake so that I’m afraid to try to stand on them.”
Both Mary and Dickon drew a relieved breath.
“When tha’ stops bein’ afraid tha’lt stand on ’em,” Dickon said with renewed cheer. “An’ tha’lt stop bein’ afraid in a bit.”
“I shall?” said Colin, and he lay still as if he were wondering about things.
They were really very quiet for a little while. The sun was dropping lower. It was that hour when everything stills itself, and they really had had a busy and exciting afternoon. Colin looked as if he were resting luxuriously. Even the creatures had ceased moving about and had drawn together and were resting near them. Soot had perched on a low branch and drawn up one leg and dropped the gray film drowsily over his eyes. Mary privately thought he looked as if he might snore in a minute.
In the midst of this stillness it was rather startling when Colin half lifted his head and exclaimed in a loud suddenly alarmed whisper:
“Who is that man?” Dickon and Mary scrambled to their feet.
“Man!” they both cried in low quick voices.
Colin pointed to the high wall. “Look!” he whispered excitedly. “Just look!”
Mary and Dickon wheeled about and looked. There was Ben Weatherstaff’s indignant face glaring at them over the wall from the top of a ladder! He actually shook his fist at Mary.
“If I wasn’t a bachelder, an’ tha’ was a wench o’ mine,” he cried, “I’d give thee a hidin’!”
He mounted another step threateningly as if it were his energetic intention to jump down and deal with her; but as she came toward him he evidently thought better of it and stood on the top step of his ladder shaking his fist down at her.
“I never thowt much o’ thee!” he harangued. “I couldna’ abide thee th’ first time I set eyes on thee. A scrawny buttermilk-faced young besom, allus askin’ questions an’ pokin’ tha’ nose where it wasna, wanted. I never knowed how tha’ got so thick wi’ me. If it hadna’ been for th’ robin— Drat him—”
“Ben Weatherstaff,” called out Mary, finding her breath. She stood below him and called up to him with a sort of gasp. “Ben Weatherstaff, it was the robin who showed me the way!”
Then it did seem as if Ben really would scramble down on her side of the wall, he was so outraged.
“Tha’ young bad ‘un!” he called down at her. “Layin’ tha’ badness on a robin—not but what he’s impidint enow for anythin’. Him showin’ thee th’ way! Him! Eh! tha’ young nowt”—she could see his next words burst out because he was overpowered by curiosity—”however i’ this world did tha’ get in?”
“It was the robin who showed me the way,” she protested obstinately. “He didn’t know he was doing it but he did. And I can’t tell you from here while you’re shaking your fist at me.”
He stopped shaking his fist very suddenly at that very moment and his jaw actually dropped as he stared over her head at something he saw coming over the grass toward him.
At the first sound of his torrent of words Colin had been so surprised that he had only sat up and listened as if he were spellbound. But in the midst of it he had recovered himself and beckoned imperiously to Dickon.
“Wheel me over there!” he commanded. “Wheel me quite close and stop right in front of him!”
And this, if you please, this is what Ben Weatherstaff beheld and which made his jaw drop. A wheeled chair with luxurious cushions and robes which came toward him looking rather like some sort of State Coach because a young Rajah leaned back in it with royal command in his great black-rimmed eyes and a thin white hand extended haughtily toward him. And it stopped right under Ben Weatherstaff’s nose. It was really no wonder his mouth dropped open.
“Do you know who I am?” demanded the Rajah.
How Ben Weatherstaff stared! His red old eyes fixed themselves on what was before him as if he were seeing a ghost. He gazed and gazed and gulped a lump down his throat and did not say a word. “Do you know who I am?” demanded Colin still more imperiously. “Answer!”
Ben Weatherstaff put his gnarled hand up and passed it over his eyes and over his forehead and then he did answer in a queer shaky voice.
“Who tha’ art?” he said. “Aye, that I do—wi’ tha’ mother’s eyes starin’ at me out o’ tha’ face. Lord knows how tha’ come here. But tha’rt th’ poor cripple.”
Colin forgot that he had ever had a back. His face flushed scarlet and he sat bolt upright.
“I’m not a cripple!” he cried out furiously. “I’m not!”
“He’s not!” cried Mary, almost shouting up the wall in her fierce indignation. “He’s not got a lump as big as a pin! I looked and there was none there—not one!”
Ben Weatherstaff passed his hand over his forehead again and gazed as if he could never gaze enough. His hand shook and his mouth shook and his voice shook. He was an ignorant old man and a tactless old man and he could only remember the things he had heard.
“Tha’—tha’ hasn’t got a crooked back?” he said hoarsely.
“No!” shouted Colin.
“Tha’—tha’ hasn’t got crooked legs?” quavered Ben more hoarsely yet. It was too much. The strength which Colin usually threw into his tantrums rushed through him now in a new way. Never yet had he been accused of crooked legs—even in whispers—and the perfectly simple belief in their existence which was revealed by Ben Weatherstaff’s voice was more than Rajah flesh and blood could endure. His anger and insulted pride made him forget everything but this one moment and filled him with a power he had never known before, an almost unnatural strength.
“Come here!” he shouted to Dickon, and he actually began to tear the coverings off his lower limbs and disentangle himself. “Come here! Come here! This minute!”
Dickon was by his side in a second. Mary caught her breath in a short gasp and felt herself turn pale.
“He can do it! He can do it! He can do it! He can!” she gabbled over to herself under her breath as fast as ever she could.
There was a brief fierce scramble, the rugs were tossed on the ground, Dickon held Colin’s arm, the thin legs were out, the thin feet were on the grass. Colin was standing upright—upright—as straight as an arrow and looking strangely tall—his head thrown back and his strange eyes flashing lightning. “Look at me!” he flung up at Ben Weatherstaff. “Just look at me—you! Just look at me!”
“He’s as straight as I am!” cried Dickon. “He’s as straight as any lad i’ Yorkshire!”
What Ben Weatherstaff did Mary thought queer beyond measure. He choked and gulped and suddenly tears ran down his weather-wrinkled cheeks as he struck his old hands together.
“Eh!” he burst forth, “th’ lies folk tells! Tha’rt as thin as a lath an’ as white as a wraith, but there’s not a knob on thee. Tha’lt make a mon yet. God bless thee!”
Dickon held Colin’s arm strongly but the boy had not begun to falter. He stood straighter and straighter and looked Ben Weatherstaff in the face.
“I’m your master,” he said, “when my father is away. And you are to obey me. This is my garden. Don’t dare to say a word about it! You get down from that ladder and go out to the Long Walk and Miss Mary will meet you and bring you here. I want to talk to you. We did not want you, but now you will have to be in the secret. Be quick!”
Ben Weatherstaff’s crabbed old face was still wet with that one queer rush of tears. It seemed as if he could not take his eyes from thin straight Colin standing on his feet with his head thrown back.
“Eh! lad,” he almost whispered. “Eh! my lad!” And then remembering himself he suddenly touched his hat gardener fashion and said, “Yes, sir! Yes, sir!” and obediently disappeared as he descended the ladder.
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The Secret Garden
I Shall Live Forever-And Ever-And Ever
But they were obliged to wait more than a week because first there came some very windy days and then Colin was threatened with a cold, which two things happening one after the other would no doubt have thrown him into a rage but that there was so much careful and mysterious planning to do and almost every day Dickon came in, if only for a few minutes, to talk about what was happening on the moor and in the lanes and hedges and on the borders of streams. The things he had to tell about otters’ and badgers’ and water-rats’ houses, not to mention birds’ nests and field-mice and their burrows, were enough to make you almost tremble with excitement when you heard all the intimate details from an animal charmer and realized with what thrilling eagerness and anxiety the whole busy underworld was working.
“They’re same as us,” said Dickon, “only they have to build their homes every year. An’ it keeps ’em so busy they fair scuffle to get ’em done.”
The most absorbing thing, however, was the preparations to be made before Colin could be transported with sufficient secrecy to the garden. No one must see the chair-carriage and Dickon and Mary after they turned a certain corner of the shrubbery and entered upon the walk outside the ivied walls. As each day passed, Colin had become more and more fixed in his feeling that the mystery surrounding the garden was one of its greatest charms. Nothing must spoil that. No one must ever suspect that they had a secret. People must think that he was simply going out with Mary and Dickon because he liked them and did not object to their looking at him. They had long and quite delightful talks about their route. They would go up this path and down that one and cross the other and go round among the fountain flower-beds as if they were looking at the “bedding-out plants” the head gardener, Mr. Roach, had been having arranged. That would seem such a rational thing to do that no one would think it at all mysterious. They would turn into the shrubbery walks and lose themselves until they came to the long walls. It was almost as serious and elaborately thought out as the plans of march made by great generals in time of war.
Rumors of the new and curious things which were occurring in the invalid’s apartments had of course filtered through the servants’ hall into the stable yards and out among the gardeners, but notwithstanding this, Mr. Roach was startled one day when he received orders from Master Colin’s room to the effect that he must report himself in the apartment no outsider had ever seen, as the invalid himself desired to speak to him.
“Well, well,” he said to himself as he hurriedly changed his coat, “what’s to do now? His Royal Highness that wasn’t to be looked at calling up a man he’s never set eyes on.”
Mr. Roach was not without curiosity. He had never caught even a glimpse of the boy and had heard a dozen exaggerated stories about his uncanny looks and ways and his insane tempers. The thing he had heard oftenest was that he might die at any moment and there had been numerous fanciful descriptions of a humped back and helpless limbs, given by people who had never seen him.
“Things are changing in this house, Mr. Roach,” said Mrs. Medlock, as she led him up the back staircase to the corridor on to which opened the hitherto mysterious chamber.
“Let’s hope they’re changing for the better, Mrs. Medlock,” he answered.
“They couldn’t well change for the worse,” she continued; “and queer as it all is there’s them as finds their duties made a lot easier to stand up under. Don’t you be surprised, Mr. Roach, if you find yourself in the middle of a menagerie and Martha Sowerby’s Dickon more at home than you or me could ever be.”
There really was a sort of Magic about Dickon, as Mary always privately believed. When Mr. Roach heard his name he smiled quite leniently.
“He’d be at home in Buckingham Palace or at the bottom of a coal mine,” he said. “And yet it’s not impudence, either. He’s just fine, is that lad.”
It was perhaps well he had been prepared or he might have been startled. When the bedroom door was opened a large crow, which seemed quite at home perched on the high back of a carven chair, announced the entrance of a visitor by saying “Caw—Caw” quite loudly. In spite of Mrs. Medlock’s warning, Mr. Roach only just escaped being sufficiently undignified to jump backward.
The young Rajah was neither in bed nor on his sofa. He was sitting in an armchair and a young lamb was standing by him shaking its tail in feeding-lamb fashion as Dickon knelt giving it milk from its bottle. A squirrel was perched on Dickon’s bent back attentively nibbling a nut. The little girl from India was sitting on a big footstool looking on.
“Here is Mr. Roach, Master Colin,” said Mrs. Medlock.
The young Rajah turned and looked his servitor over—at least that was what the head gardener felt happened.
“Oh, you are Roach, are you?” he said. “I sent for you to give you some very important orders.”
“Very good, sir,” answered Roach, wondering if he was to receive instructions to fell all the oaks in the park or to transform the orchards into water-gardens.
“I am going out in my chair this afternoon,” said Colin. “If the fresh air agrees with me I may go out every day. When I go, none of the gardeners are to be anywhere near the Long Walk by the garden walls. No one is to be there. I shall go out about two o’clock and everyone must keep away until I send word that they may go back to their work.”
“Very good, sir,” replied Mr. Roach, much relieved to hear that the oaks might remain and that the orchards were safe. “Mary,” said Colin, turning to her, “what is that thing you say in India when you have finished talking and want people to go?”
“You say, ‘You have my permission to go,'” answered Mary.
The Rajah waved his hand.
“You have my permission to go, Roach,” he said. “But, remember, this is very important.”
“Caw—Caw!” remarked the crow hoarsely but not impolitely.
“Very good, sir. Thank you, sir,” said Mr. Roach, and Mrs. Medlock took him out of the room.
Outside in the corridor, being a rather good-natured man, he smiled until he almost laughed.
“My word!” he said, “he’s got a fine lordly way with him, hasn’t he? You’d think he was a whole Royal Family rolled into one—Prince Consort and all.”.
“Eh!” protested Mrs. Medlock, “we’ve had to let him trample all over every one of us ever since he had feet and he thinks that’s what folks was born for.”
“Perhaps he’ll grow out of it, if he lives,” suggested Mr. Roach.
“Well, there’s one thing pretty sure,” said Mrs. Medlock. “If he does live and that Indian child stays here I’ll warrant she teaches him that the whole orange does not belong to him, as Susan Sowerby says. And he’ll be likely to find out the size of his own quarter.”
Inside the room Colin was leaning back on his cushions.
“It’s all safe now,” he said. “And this afternoon I shall see it—this afternoon I shall be in it!”
Dickon went back to the garden with his creatures and Mary stayed with Colin. She did not think he looked tired but he was very quiet before their lunch came and he was quiet while they were eating it. She wondered why and asked him about it.
“What big eyes you’ve got, Colin,” she said. “When you are thinking they get as big as saucers. What are you thinking about now?”
“I can’t help thinking about what it will look like,” he answered.
“The garden?” asked Mary.
“The springtime,” he said. “I was thinking that I’ve really never seen it before. I scarcely ever went out and when I did go I never looked at it. I didn’t even think about it.”
“I never saw it in India because there wasn’t any,” said Mary.
Shut in and morbid as his life had been, Colin had more imagination than she had and at least he had spent a good deal of time looking at wonderful books and pictures.
“That morning when you ran in and said ‘It’s come! It’s come!’, you made me feel quite queer. It sounded as if things were coming with a great procession and big bursts and wafts of music. I’ve a picture like it in one of my books—crowds of lovely people and children with garlands and branches with blossoms on them, everyone laughing and dancing and crowding and playing on pipes. That was why I said, ‘Perhaps we shall hear golden trumpets’ and told you to throw open the window.”
“How funny!” said Mary. “That’s really just what it feels like. And if all the flowers and leaves and green things and birds and wild creatures danced past at once, what a crowd it would be! I’m sure they’d dance and sing and flute and that would be the wafts of music.”
They both laughed but it was not because the idea was laughable but because they both so liked it.
A little later the nurse made Colin ready. She noticed that instead of lying like a log while his clothes were put on he sat up and made some efforts to help himself, and he talked and laughed with Mary all the time.
“This is one of his good days, sir,” she said to Dr. Craven, who dropped in to inspect him. “He’s in such good spirits that it makes him stronger.”
“I’ll call in again later in the afternoon, after he has come in,” said Dr. Craven. “I must see how the going out agrees with him. I wish,” in a very low voice, “that he would let you go with him.”
“I’d rather give up the case this moment, sir, than even stay here while it’s suggested,” answered the nurse. With sudden firmness.
“I hadn’t really decided to suggest it,” said the doctor, with his slight nervousness. “We’ll try the experiment. Dickon’s a lad I’d trust with a new-born child.”
The strongest footman in the house carried Colin down stairs and put him in his wheeled chair near which Dickon waited outside. After the manservant had arranged his rugs and cushions the Rajah waved his hand to him and to the nurse.
“You have my permission to go,” he said, and they both disappeared quickly and it must be confessed giggled when they were safely inside the house.
Dickon began to push the wheeled chair slowly and steadily. Mistress Mary walked beside it and Colin leaned back and lifted his face to the sky. The arch of it looked very high and the small snowy clouds seemed like white birds floating on outspread wings below its crystal blueness. The wind swept in soft big breaths down from the moor and was strange with a wild clear scented sweetness. Colin kept lifting his thin chest to draw it in, and his big eyes looked as if it were they which were listening—listening, instead of his ears.
“There are so many sounds of singing and humming and calling out,” he said. “What is that scent the puffs of wind bring?”
“It’s gorse on th’ moor that’s openin’ out,” answered Dickon. “Eh! th’ bees are at it wonderful today.”
Not a human creature was to be caught sight of in the paths they took. In fact every gardener or gardener’s lad had been witched away. But they wound in and out among the shrubbery and out and round the fountain beds, following their carefully planned route for the mere mysterious pleasure of it. But when at last they turned into the Long Walk by the ivied walls the excited sense of an approaching thrill made them, for some curious reason they could not have explained, begin to speak in whispers.
“This is it,” breathed Mary. “This is where I used to walk up and down and wonder and wonder.” “Is it?” cried Colin, and his eyes began to search the ivy with eager curiousness. “But I can see nothing,” he whispered. “There is no door.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Mary.
Then there was a lovely breathless silence and the chair wheeled on.
“That is the garden where Ben Weatherstaff works,” said Mary.
“Is it?” said Colin.
A few yards more and Mary whispered again.
“This is where the robin flew over the wall,” she said.
“Is it?” cried Colin. “Oh! I wish he’d come again!”
“And that,” said Mary with solemn delight, pointing under a big lilac bush, “is where he perched on the little heap of earth and showed me the key.”
Then Colin sat up.
“Where? Where? There?” he cried, and his eyes were as big as the wolf’s in Red Riding-Hood, when Red Riding-Hood felt called upon to remark on them. Dickon stood still and the wheeled chair stopped.
“And this,” said Mary, stepping on to the bed close to the ivy, “is where I went to talk to him when he chirped at me from the top of the wall. And this is the ivy the wind blew back,” and she took hold of the hanging green curtain.
“Oh! is it—is it!” gasped Colin.
“And here is the handle, and here is the door. Dickon push him in—push him in quickly!”
And Dickon did it with one strong, steady, splendid push.
But Colin had actually dropped back against his cushions, even though he gasped with delight, and he had covered his eyes with his hands and held them there shutting out everything until they were inside and the chair stopped as if by magic and the door was closed. Not till then did he take them away and look round and round and round as Dickon and Mary had done. And over walls and earth and trees and swinging sprays and tendrils the fair green veil of tender little leaves had crept, and in the grass under the trees and the gray urns in the alcoves and here and there everywhere were touches or splashes of gold and purple and white and the trees were showing pink and snow above his head and there were fluttering of wings and faint sweet pipes and humming and scents and scents. And the sun fell warm upon his face like a hand with a lovely touch. And in wonder Mary and Dickon stood and stared at him. He looked so strange and different because a pink glow of color had actually crept all over him—ivory face and neck and hands and all.
“I shall get well! I shall get well!” he cried out. “Mary! Dickon! I shall get well! And I shall live forever and ever and ever!”
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The Gift of the Magi
The Gift of the Magi is a heartwarming story of a young married couple who each sell his or her most prized possession to have money to buy a gift for his or her spouse. It makes a wonderful mini-unit to teach during the Christmas season.
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The Secret Garden
It Has Come!
Of course Dr. Craven had been sent for the morning after Colin had had his tantrum. He was always sent for at once when such a thing occurred and he always found, when he arrived, a white shaken boy lying on his bed, sulky and still so hysterical that he was ready to break into fresh sobbing at the least word. In fact, Dr. Craven dreaded and detested the difficulties of these visits. On this occasion he was away from Misselthwaite Manor until afternoon.
“How is he?” he asked Mrs. Medlock rather irritably when he arrived. “He will break a blood-vessel in one of those fits some day. The boy is half insane with hysteria and self-indulgence.”
“Well, sir,” answered Mrs. Medlock, “you’ll scarcely believe your eyes when you see him. That plain sour-faced child that’s almost as bad as himself has just bewitched him. How she’s done it there’s no telling. The Lord knows she’s nothing to look at and you scarcely ever hear her speak, but she did what none of us dare do. She just flew at him like a little cat last night, and stamped her feet and ordered him to stop screaming, and somehow she startled him so that he actually did stop, and this afternoon—well just come up and see, sir. It’s past crediting.”
The scene which Dr. Craven beheld when he entered his patient’s room was indeed rather astonishing to him. As Mrs. Medlock opened the door he heard laughing and chattering. Colin was on his sofa in his dressing-gown and he was sitting up quite straight looking at a picture in one of the garden books and talking to the plain child who at that moment could scarcely be called plain at all because her face was so glowing with enjoyment.
“Those long spires of blue ones—we’ll have a lot of those,” Colin was announcing. “They’re called Del-phin-iums.”
“Dickon says they’re larkspurs made big and grand,” cried Mistress Mary. “There are clumps there already.”
Then they saw Dr. Craven and stopped. Mary became quite still and Colin looked fretful.
“I am sorry to hear you were ill last night, my boy,” Dr. Craven said a trifle nervously. He was rather a nervous man.
“I’m better now—much better,” Colin answered, rather like a Rajah. “I’m going out in my chair in a day or two if it is fine. I want some fresh air.”
Dr. Craven sat down by him and felt his pulse and looked at him curiously.
“It must be a very fine day,” he said, “and you must be very careful not to tire yourself.”
“Fresh air won’t tire me,” said the young Rajah.
As there had been occasions when this same young gentleman had shrieked aloud with rage and had insisted that fresh air would give him cold and kill him, it is not to be wondered at that his doctor felt somewhat startled.
“I thought you did not like fresh air,” he said.
“I don’t when I am by myself,” replied the Rajah; “but my cousin is going out with me.”
“And the nurse, of course?” suggested Dr. Craven.
“No, I will not have the nurse,” so magnificently that Mary could not help remembering how the young native Prince had looked with his diamonds and emeralds and pearls stuck all over him and the great rubies on the small dark hand he had waved to command his servants to approach with salaams and receive his orders.
“My cousin knows how to take care of me. I am always better when she is with me. She made me better last night. A very strong boy I know will push my carriage.”
Dr. Craven felt rather alarmed. If this tiresome hysterical boy should chance to get well he himself would lose all chance of inheriting Misselthwaite; but he was not an unscrupulous man, though he was a weak one, and he did not intend to let him run into actual danger.
“He must be a strong boy and a steady boy,” he said. “And I must know something about him. Who is he? What is his name?”
“It’s Dickon,” Mary spoke up suddenly. She felt somehow that everybody who knew the moor must know Dickon. And she was right, too. She saw that in a moment Dr. Craven’s serious face relaxed into a relieved smile.
“Oh, Dickon,” he said. “If it is Dickon you will be safe enough. He’s as strong as a moor pony, is Dickon.”
“And he’s trusty,” said Mary. “He’s th’ trustiest lad i’ Yorkshire.” She had been talking Yorkshire to Colin and she forgot herself.
“Did Dickon teach you that?” asked Dr. Craven, laughing outright.
“I’m learning it as if it was French,” said Mary rather coldly. “It’s like a native dialect in India. Very clever people try to learn them. I like it and so does Colin.” “Well, well,” he said. “If it amuses you perhaps it won’t do you any harm. Did you take your bromide last night, Colin?”
“No,” Colin answered. “I wouldn’t take it at first and after Mary made me quiet she talked me to sleep—in a low voice—about the spring creeping into a garden.”
“That sounds soothing,” said Dr. Craven, more perplexed than ever and glancing sideways at Mistress Mary sitting on her stool and looking down silently at the carpet. “You are evidently better, but you must remember—”
“I don’t want to remember,” interrupted the Rajah, appearing again. “When I lie by myself and remember I begin to have pains everywhere and I think of things that make me begin to scream because I hate them so. If there was a doctor anywhere who could make you forget you were ill instead of remembering it I would have him brought here.” And he waved a thin hand which ought really to have been covered with royal signet rings made of rubies. “It is because my cousin makes me forget that she makes me better.”
Dr. Craven had never made such a short stay after a “tantrum”; usually he was obliged to remain a very long time and do a great many things. This afternoon he did not give any medicine or leave any new orders and he was spared any disagreeable scenes. When he went downstairs he looked very thoughtful and when he talked to Mrs. Medlock in the library she felt that he was a much puzzled man.
“Well, sir,” she ventured, “could you have believed it?”
“It is certainly a new state of affairs,” said the doctor. “And there’s no denying it is better than the old one.”
“I believe Susan Sowerby’s right—I do that,” said Mrs. Medlock. “I stopped in her cottage on my way to Thwaite yesterday and had a bit of talk with her. And she says to me, ‘Well, Sarah Ann, she mayn’t be a good child, an’ she mayn’t be a pretty one, but she’s a child, an’ children needs children.’ We went to school together, Susan Sowerby and me.”
“She’s the best sick nurse I know,” said Dr. Craven. “When I find her in a cottage I know the chances are that I shall save my patient.”
Mrs. Medlock smiled. She was fond of Susan Sowerby.
“She’s got a way with her, has Susan,” she went on quite volubly. “I’ve been thinking all morning of one thing she said yesterday. She says, ‘Once when I was givin’ th’ children a bit of a preach after they’d been fightin’ I ses to ’em all, “When I was at school my jography told as th’ world was shaped like a orange an’ I found out before I was ten that th’ whole orange doesn’t belong to nobody. No one owns more than his bit of a quarter an’ there’s times it seems like there’s not enow quarters to go round. But don’t you—none o’ you—think as you own th’ whole orange or you’ll find out you’re mistaken, an’ you won’t find it out without hard knocks.” ‘What children learns from children,’ she says, ‘is that there’s no sense in grabbin’ at th’ whole orange—peel an’ all. If you do you’ll likely not get even th’ pips, an’ them’s too bitter to eat.'”
“She’s a shrewd woman,” said Dr. Craven, putting on his coat.
“Well, she’s got a way of saying things,” ended Mrs. Medlock, much pleased. “Sometimes I’ve said to her, ‘Eh! Susan, if you was a different woman an’ didn’t talk such broad Yorkshire I’ve seen the times when I should have said you was clever.'”
That night Colin slept without once awakening and when he opened his eyes in the morning he lay still and smiled without knowing it—smiled because he felt so curiously comfortable. It was actually nice to be awake, and he turned over and stretched his limbs luxuriously. He felt as if tight strings which had held him had loosened themselves and let him go. He did not know that Dr. Craven would have said that his nerves had relaxed and rested themselves. Instead of lying and staring at the wall and wishing he had not awakened, his mind was full of the plans he and Mary had made yesterday, of pictures of the garden and of Dickon and his wild creatures. It was so nice to have things to think about. And he had not been awake more than ten minutes when he heard feet running along the corridor and Mary was at the door. The next minute she was in the room and had run across to his bed, bringing with her a waft of fresh air full of the scent of the morning.
“You’ve been out! You’ve been out! There’s that nice smell of leaves!” he cried.
She had been running and her hair was loose and blown and she was bright with the air and pink-cheeked, though he could not see it.
“It’s so beautiful!” she said, a little breathless with her speed. “You never saw anything so beautiful! It has come! I thought it had come that other morning, but it was only coming. It is here now! It has come, the Spring! Dickon says so!”
“Has it?” cried Colin, and though he really knew nothing about it he felt his heart beat. He actually sat up in bed.
“Open the window!” he added, laughing half with joyful excitement and half at his own fancy. “Perhaps we may hear golden trumpets!”
And though he laughed, Mary was at the window in a moment and in a moment more it was opened wide and freshness and softness and scents and birds’ songs were pouring through.
“That’s fresh air,” she said. “Lie on your back and draw in long breaths of it. That’s what Dickon does when he’s lying on the moor. He says he feels it in his veins and it makes him strong and he feels as if he could live forever and ever. Breathe it and breathe it.”
She was only repeating what Dickon had told her, but she caught Colin’s fancy.
“‘Forever and ever’! Does it make him feel like that?” he said, and he did as she told him, drawing in long deep breaths over and over again until he felt that something quite new and delightful was happening to him.
Mary was at his bedside again.
“Things are crowding up out of the earth,” she ran on in a hurry. “And there are flowers uncurling and buds on everything and the green veil has covered nearly all the gray and the birds are in such a hurry about their nests for fear they may be too late that some of them are even fighting for places in the secret garden. And the rose-bushes look as wick as wick can be, and there are primroses in the lanes and woods, and the seeds we planted are up, and Dickon has brought the fox and the crow and the squirrels and a new-born lamb.”
And then she paused for breath. The new-born lamb Dickon had found three days before lying by its dead mother among the gorse bushes on the moor. It was not the first motherless lamb he had found and he knew what to do with it. He had taken it to the cottage wrapped in his jacket and he had let it lie near the fire and had fed it with warm milk. It was a soft thing with a darling silly baby face and legs rather long for its body. Dickon had carried it over the moor in his arms and its feeding bottle was in his pocket with a squirrel, and when Mary had sat under a tree with its limp warmness huddled on her lap she had felt as if she were too full of strange joy to speak. A lamb—a lamb! A living lamb who lay on your lap like a baby!
She was describing it with great joy and Colin was listening and drawing in long breaths of air when the nurse entered. She started a little at the sight of the open window. She had sat stifling in the room many a warm day because her patient was sure that open windows gave people cold.
“Are you sure you are not chilly, Master Colin?” she inquired.
“No,” was the answer. “I am breathing long breaths of fresh air. It makes you strong. I am going to get up to the sofa for breakfast. My cousin will have breakfast with me.”
The nurse went away, concealing a smile, to give the order for two breakfasts. She found the servants’ hall a more amusing place than the invalid’s chamber and just now everybody wanted to hear the news from upstairs. There was a great deal of joking about the unpopular young recluse who, as the cook said, “had found his master, and good for him.” The servants’ hall had been very tired of the tantrums, and the butler, who was a man with a family, had more than once expressed his opinion that the invalid would be all the better “for a good hiding.”
When Colin was on his sofa and the breakfast for two was put upon the table he made an announcement to the nurse in his most Rajah-like manner.
“A boy, and a fox, and a crow, and two squirrels, and a new-born lamb, are coming to see me this morning. I want them brought upstairs as soon as they come,” he said. “You are not to begin playing with the animals in the servants’ hall and keep them there. I want them here.” The nurse gave a slight gasp and tried to conceal it with a cough.
“Yes, sir,” she answered.
“I’ll tell you what you can do,” added Colin, waving his hand. “You can tell Martha to bring them here. The boy is Martha’s brother. His name is Dickon and he is an animal charmer.”
“I hope the animals won’t bite, Master Colin,” said the nurse.
“I told you he was a charmer,” said Colin austerely. “Charmers’ animals never bite.”
“There are snake-charmers in India,” said Mary. “And they can put their snakes’ heads in their mouths.”
“Goodness!” shuddered the nurse.
They ate their breakfast with the morning air pouring in upon them. Colin’s breakfast was a very good one and Mary watched him with serious interest.
“You will begin to get fatter just as I did,” she said. “I never wanted my breakfast when I was in India and now I always want it.”
“I wanted mine this morning,” said Colin. “Perhaps it was the fresh air. When do you think Dickon will come?”
He was not long in coming. In about ten minutes Mary held up her hand.
“Listen!” she said. “Did you hear a caw?”
Colin listened and heard it, the oddest sound in the world to hear inside a house, a hoarse “caw-caw.”
“Yes,” he answered.
“That’s Soot,” said Mary. “Listen again. Do you hear a bleat—a tiny one?”
“Oh, yes!” cried Colin, quite flushing.
“That’s the new-born lamb,” said Mary. “He’s coming.”
Dickon’s moorland boots were thick and clumsy and though he tried to walk quietly they made a clumping sound as he walked through the long corridors. Mary and Colin heard him marching—marching, until he passed through the tapestry door on to the soft carpet of Colin’s own passage.
“If you please, sir,” announced Martha, opening the door, “if you please, sir, here’s Dickon an’ his creatures.”
Dickon came in smiling his nicest wide smile. The new-born lamb was in his arms and the little red fox trotted by his side. Nut sat on his left shoulder and Soot on his right and Shell’s head and paws peeped out of his coat pocket.
Colin slowly sat up and stared and stared—as he had stared when he first saw Mary; but this was a stare of wonder and delight. The truth was that in spite of all he had heard he had not in the least understood what this boy would be like and that his fox and his crow and his squirrels and his lamb were so near to him and his friendliness that they seemed almost to be part of himself. Colin had never talked to a boy in his life and he was so overwhelmed by his own pleasure and curiosity that he did not even think of speaking.
But Dickon did not feel the least shy or awkward. He had not felt embarrassed because the crow had not known his language and had only stared and had not spoken to him the first time they met. Creatures were always like that until they found out about you. He walked over to Colin’s sofa and put the new-born lamb quietly on his lap, and immediately the little creature turned to the warm velvet dressing-gown and began to nuzzle and nuzzle into its folds and butt its tight-curled head with soft impatience against his side. Of course no boy could have helped speaking then.
“What is it doing?” cried Colin. “What does it want?”
“It wants its mother,” said Dickon, smiling more and more. “I brought it to thee a bit hungry because I knowed tha’d like to see it feed.”
He knelt down by the sofa and took a feeding-bottle from his pocket.
“Come on, little ‘un,” he said, turning the small woolly white head with a gentle brown hand. “This is what tha’s after. Tha’ll get more out o’ this than tha’ will out o’ silk velvet coats. There now,” and he pushed the rubber tip of the bottle into the nuzzling mouth and the lamb began to suck it with ravenous ecstasy.
After that there was no wondering what to say. By the time the lamb fell asleep questions poured forth and Dickon answered them all. He told them how he had found the lamb just as the sun was rising three mornings ago. He had been standing on the moor listening to a skylark and watching him swing higher and higher into the sky until he was only a speck in the heights of blue.
“I’d almost lost him but for his song an’ I was wonderin’ how a chap could hear it when it seemed as if he’d get out o’ th’ world in a minute—an’ just then I heard somethin’ else far off among th’ gorse bushes. It was a weak bleatin’ an’ I knowed it was a new lamb as was hungry an’ I knowed it wouldn’t be hungry if it hadn’t lost its mother somehow, so I set off searchin’. Eh! I did have a look for it. I went in an’ out among th’ gorse bushes an’ round an’ round an’ I always seemed to take th’ wrong turnin’. But at last I seed a bit o’ white by a rock on top o’ th’ moor an’ I climbed up an’ found th’ little ‘un half dead wi’ cold an’ clemmin’.” While he talked, Soot flew solemnly in and out of the open window and cawed remarks about the scenery while Nut and Shell made excursions into the big trees outside and ran up and down trunks and explored branches. Captain curled up near Dickon, who sat on the hearth-rug from preference.
They looked at the pictures in the gardening books and Dickon knew all the flowers by their country names and knew exactly which ones were already growing in the secret garden.
“I couldna’ say that there name,” he said, pointing to one under which was written “Aquilegia,” “but us calls that a columbine, an’ that there one it’s a snapdragon and they both grow wild in hedges, but these is garden ones an’ they’re bigger an’ grander. There’s some big clumps o’ columbine in th’ garden. They’ll look like a bed o’ blue an’ white butterflies flutterin’ when they’re out.”
“I’m going to see them,” cried Colin. “I am going to see them!”
“Aye, that tha’ mun,” said Mary quite seriously. “An’ tha’ munnot lose no time about it.”
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The Secret Garden
Tha’ Munnot Waste No Time
Of course Mary did not waken early the next morning. She slept late because she was tired, and when Martha brought her breakfast she told her that though. Colin was quite quiet he was ill and feverish as he always was after he had worn himself out with a fit of crying. Mary ate her breakfast slowly as she listened.
“He says he wishes tha’ would please go and see him as soon as tha’ can,” Martha said. “It’s queer what a fancy he’s took to thee. Tha’ did give it him last night for sure—didn’t tha? Nobody else would have dared to do it. Eh! poor lad! He’s been spoiled till salt won’t save him. Mother says as th’ two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way—or always to have it. She doesn’t know which is th’ worst. Tha’ was in a fine temper tha’self, too. But he says to me when I went into his room, ‘Please ask Miss Mary if she’ll please come an’ talk to me?’ Think o’ him saying please! Will you go, Miss?” “I’ll run and see Dickon first,” said Mary. “No, I’ll go and see Colin first and tell him—I know what I’ll tell him,” with a sudden inspiration.
She had her hat on when she appeared in Colin’s room and for a second he looked disappointed. He was in bed. His face was pitifully white and there were dark circles round his eyes.
“I’m glad you came,” he said. “My head aches and I ache all over because I’m so tired. Are you going somewhere?”
Mary went and leaned against his bed.
“I won’t be long,” she said. “I’m going to Dickon, but I’ll come back. Colin, it’s—it’s something about the garden.”
His whole face brightened and a little color came into it.
“Oh! is it?” he cried out. “I dreamed about it all night I heard you say something about gray changing into green, and I dreamed I was standing in a place all filled with trembling little green leaves—and there were birds on nests everywhere and they looked so soft and still. I’ll lie and think about it until you come back.”
In five minutes Mary was with Dickon in their garden. The fox and the crow were with him again and this time he had brought two tame squirrels. “I came over on the pony this mornin’,” he said. “Eh! he is a good little chap—Jump is! I brought these two in my pockets. This here one he’s called Nut an’ this here other one’s called Shell.”
When he said “Nut” one squirrel leaped on to his right shoulder and when he said “Shell” the other one leaped on to his left shoulder.
When they sat down on the grass with Captain curled at their feet, Soot solemnly listening on a tree and Nut and Shell nosing about close to them, it seemed to Mary that it would be scarcely bearable to leave such delightfulness, but when she began to tell her story somehow the look in Dickon’s funny face gradually changed her mind. She could see he felt sorrier for Colin than she did. He looked up at the sky and all about him.
“Just listen to them birds—th’ world seems full of ’em—all whistlin’ an’ pipin’,” he said. “Look at ’em dartin’ about, an’ hearken at ’em callin’ to each other. Come springtime seems like as if all th’ world’s callin’. The leaves is uncurlin’ so you can see ’em—an’, my word, th’ nice smells there is about!” sniffing with his happy turned-up nose. “An’ that poor lad lyin’ shut up an’ seein’ so little that he gets to thinkin’ o’ things as sets him screamin’. Eh! my! we mun get him out here—we mun get him watchin’ an listenin’ an’ sniffin’ up th’ air an’ get him just soaked through wi’ sunshine. An’ we munnot lose no time about it.”
When he was very much interested he often spoke quite broad Yorkshire though at other times he tried to modify his dialect so that Mary could better understand. But she loved his broad Yorkshire and had in fact been trying to learn to speak it herself. So she spoke a little now.
“Aye, that we mun,” she said (which meant “Yes, indeed, we must”). “I’ll tell thee what us’ll do first,” she proceeded, and Dickon grinned, because when the little wench tried to twist her tongue into speaking Yorkshire it amused him very much. “He’s took a graidely fancy to thee. He wants to see thee and he wants to see Soot an’ Captain. When I go back to the house to talk to him I’ll ax him if tha’ canna’ come an’ see him tomorrow mornin’—an’. bring tha’ creatures wi’ thee—an’ then—in a bit, when there’s more leaves out, an’ happen a bud or two, we’ll get him to come out an’ tha’ shall push him in his chair an’ we’ll bring him here an’ show him everything.”
When she stopped she was quite proud of herself. She had never made a long speech in Yorkshire before and she had remembered very well.
“Tha’ mun talk a bit o’ Yorkshire like that to Mester Colin,” Dickon chuckled. “Tha’ll make him laugh an’ there’s nowt as good for ill folk as laughin’ is. Mother says she believes as half a hour’s good laugh every mornin’ ‘ud cure a chap as was makin’ ready for typhus fever.”
“I’m going to talk Yorkshire to him this very day,” said Mary, chuckling herself.
The garden had reached the time when every day and every night it seemed as if Magicians were passing through it drawing loveliness out of the earth and the boughs with wands. It was hard to go away and leave it all, particularly as Nut had actually crept on to her dress and Shell had scrambled down the trunk of the apple-tree they sat under and stayed there looking at her with inquiring eyes. But she went back to the house and when she sat down close to Colin’s bed he began to sniff as Dickon did though not in such an experienced way.
“You smell like flowers and—and fresh things,” he cried out quite joyously. “What is it you smell of? It’s cool and warm and sweet all at the same time.”
“It’s th’ wind from th’ moor,” said Mary. “It comes o’ sittin’ on th’ grass under a tree wi’ Dickon an’ wi’ Captain an’ Soot an’ Nut an’ Shell. It’s th’ springtime an’ out o’ doors an’ sunshine as smells so graidely.”
She said it as broadly as she could, and you do not know how broadly Yorkshire sounds until you have heard some one speak it. Colin began to laugh.
“What are you doing?” he said. “I never heard you talk like that before. How funny it sounds.”
“I’m givin’ thee a bit o’ Yorkshire,” answered Mary triumphantly. “I canna’ talk as graidely as Dickon an’ Martha can but tha’ sees I can shape a bit. Doesn’t tha’ understand a bit o’ Yorkshire when tha’ hears it? An’ tha’ a Yorkshire lad thysel’ bred an’ born! Eh! I wonder tha’rt not ashamed o’ thy face.”
And then she began to laugh too and they both laughed until they could not stop themselves and they laughed until the room echoed and Mrs. Medlock opening the door to come in drew back into the corridor and stood listening amazed.
“Well, upon my word!” she said, speaking rather broad Yorkshire herself because there was no one to hear her and she was so astonished. “Whoever heard th’ like! Whoever on earth would ha’ thought it!”
There was so much to talk about. It seemed as if Colin could never hear enough of Dickon and Captain and Soot and Nut and Shell and the pony whose name was Jump. Mary had run round into the wood with Dickon to see Jump. He was a tiny little shaggy moor pony with thick locks hanging over his eyes and with a pretty face and a nuzzling velvet nose. He was rather thin with living on moor grass but he was as tough and wiry as if the muscle in his little legs had been made of steel springs. He had lifted his head and whinnied softly the moment he saw Dickon and he had trotted up to him and put his head across his shoulder and then Dickon had talked into his ear and Jump had talked back in odd little whinnies and puffs and snorts. Dickon had made him give Mary his small front hoof and kiss her on her cheek with his velvet muzzle.
“Does he really understand everything Dickon says?” Colin asked.
“It seems as if he does,” answered Mary. “Dickon says anything will understand if you’re friends with it for sure, but you have to be friends for sure.”
Colin lay quiet a little while and his strange gray eyes seemed to be staring at the wall, but Mary saw he was thinking.
“I wish I was friends with things,” he said at last, “but I’m not. I never had anything to be friends with, and I can’t bear people.”
“Can’t you bear me?” asked Mary.
“Yes, I can,” he answered. “It’s funny but I even like you.”
“Ben Weatherstaff said I was like him,” said Mary. “He said he’d warrant we’d both got the same nasty tempers. I think you are like him too. We are all three alike—you and I and Ben Weatherstaff. He said we were neither of us much to look at and we were as sour as we looked. But I don’t feel as sour as I used to before I knew the robin and Dickon.”
“Did you feel as if you hated people?”
“Yes,” answered Mary without any affectation. “I should have detested you if I had seen you before I saw the robin and Dickon.”
Colin put out his thin hand and touched her.
“Mary,” he said, “I wish I hadn’t said what I did about sending Dickon away. I hated you when you said he was like an angel and I laughed at you but—but perhaps he is.”
“Well, it was rather funny to say it,” she admitted frankly, “because his nose does turn up and he has a big mouth and his clothes have patches all over them and he talks broad Yorkshire, but—but if an angel did come to Yorkshire and live on the moor—if there was a Yorkshire angel—I believe he’d understand the green things and know how to make them grow and he would know how to talk to the wild creatures as Dickon does and they’d know he was friends for sure.”
“I shouldn’t mind Dickon looking at me,” said Colin; “I want to see him.”
“I’m glad you said that,” answered Mary, “because—because—”
Quite suddenly it came into her mind that this was the minute to tell him. Colin knew something new was coming.
“Because what?” he cried eagerly.
Mary was so anxious that she got up from her stool and came to him and caught hold of both his hands.
“Can I trust you? I trusted Dickon because birds trusted him. Can I trust you—for sure—for sure?” she implored.
Her face was so solemn that he almost whispered his answer.
“Well, Dickon will come to see you tomorrow morning, and he’ll bring his creatures with him.”
“Oh! Oh!” Colin cried out in delight.
“But that’s not all,” Mary went on, almost pale with solemn excitement. “The rest is better. There is a door into the garden. I found it. It is under the ivy on the wall.”
If he had been a strong healthy boy Colin would probably have shouted “Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!” but he was weak and rather hysterical; his eyes grew bigger and bigger and he gasped for breath.
“Oh! Mary!” he cried out with a half sob. “Shall I see it? Shall I get into it? Shall I live to get into it?” and he clutched her hands and dragged her toward him.
“Of course you’ll see it!” snapped Mary indignantly. “Of course you’ll live to get into it! Don’t be silly!”
And she was so un-hysterical and natural and childish that she brought him to his senses and he began to laugh at himself and a few minutes afterward she was sitting on her stool again telling him not what she imagined the secret garden to be like but what it really was, and Colin’s aches and tiredness were forgotten and he was listening enraptured.
“It is just what you thought it would be,” he said at last. “It sounds just as if you had really seen it. You know I said that when you told me first.”
Mary hesitated about two minutes and then boldly spoke the truth.
“I had seen it—and I had been in,” she said. “I found the key and got in weeks ago. But I daren’t tell you—I daren’t because I was so afraid I couldn’t trust you—for sure!”
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The Secret Garden
She had got up very early in the morning and had worked hard in the garden and she was tired and sleepy, so as soon as Martha had brought her supper and she had eaten it, she was glad to go to bed. As she laid her head on the pillow she murmured to herself:
“I’ll go out before breakfast and work with Dickon and then afterward—I believe—I’ll go to see him.”
She thought it was the middle of the night when she was awakened by such dreadful sounds that she jumped out of bed in an instant. What was it—what was it? The next minute she felt quite sure she knew. Doors were opened and shut and there were hurrying feet in the corridors and some one was crying and screaming at the same time, screaming and crying in a horrible way.
“It’s Colin,” she said. “He’s having one of those tantrums the nurse called hysterics. How awful it sounds.”
As she listened to the sobbing screams she did not wonder that people were so frightened that they gave him his own way in everything rather than hear them. She put her hands over her ears and felt sick and shivering.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” she kept saying. “I can’t bear it.”
Once she wondered if he would stop if she dared go to him and then she remembered how he had driven her out of the room and thought that perhaps the sight of her might make him worse. Even when she pressed her hands more tightly over her ears she could not keep the awful sounds out. She hated them so and was so terrified by them that suddenly they began to make her angry and she felt as if she should like to fly into a tantrum herself and frighten him as he was frightening her. She was not used to any one’s tempers but her own. She took her hands from her ears and sprang up and stamped her foot.
“He ought to be stopped! Somebody ought to make him stop! Somebody ought to beat him!” she cried out.
Just then she heard feet almost running down the corridor and her door opened and the nurse came in. She was not laughing now by any means. She even looked rather pale.
“He’s worked himself into hysterics,” she said in a great hurry. “He’ll do himself harm. No one can do anything with him. You come and try, like a good child. He likes you.”
“He turned me out of the room this morning,” said Mary, stamping her foot with excitement.
The stamp rather pleased the nurse. The truth was that she had been afraid she might find Mary crying and hiding her head under the bed-clothes.
“That’s right,” she said. “You’re in the right humor. You go and scold him. Give him something new to think of. Do go, child, as quick as ever you can.”
It was not until afterward that Mary realized that the thing had been funny as well as dreadful—that it was funny that all the grown-up people were so frightened that they came to a little girl just because they guessed she was almost as bad as Colin himself.
She flew along the corridor and the nearer she got to the screams the higher her temper mounted. She felt quite wicked by the time she reached the door. She slapped it open with her hand and ran across the room to the four-posted bed.
“You stop!” she almost shouted. “You stop! I hate you! Everybody hates you! I wish everybody would run out of the house and let you scream yourself to death! You will scream yourself to death in a minute, and I wish you would!” A nice sympathetic child could neither have thought nor said such things, but it just happened that the shock of hearing them was the best possible thing for this hysterical boy whom no one had ever dared to restrain or contradict.
He had been lying on his face beating his pillow with his hands and he actually almost jumped around, he turned so quickly at the sound of the furious little voice. His face looked dreadful, white and red and swollen, and he was gasping and choking; but savage little Mary did not care an atom.
“If you scream another scream,” she said, “I’ll scream too—and I can scream louder than you can and I’ll frighten you, I’ll frighten you!”
He actually had stopped screaming because she had startled him so. The scream which had been coming almost choked him. The tears were streaming down his face and he shook all over.
“I can’t stop!” he gasped and sobbed. “I can’t—I can’t!”
“You can!” shouted Mary. “Half that ails you is hysterics and temper—just hysterics—hysterics—hysterics!” and she stamped each time she said it.
“I felt the lump—I felt it,” choked out Colin. “I knew I should. I shall have a hunch on my back and then I shall die,” and he began to writhe again and turned on his face and sobbed and wailed but he didn’t scream.
“You didn’t feel a lump!” contradicted Mary fiercely. “If you did it was only a hysterical lump. Hysterics makes lumps. There’s nothing the matter with your horrid back—nothing but hysterics! Turn over and let me look at it!”
She liked the word “hysterics” and felt somehow as if it had an effect on him. He was probably like herself and had never heard it before.
“Nurse,” she commanded, “come here and show me his back this minute!”
The nurse, Mrs. Medlock and Martha had been standing huddled together near the door staring at her, their mouths half open. All three had gasped with fright more than once. The nurse came forward as if she were half afraid. Colin was heaving with great breathless sobs.
“Perhaps he—he won’t let me,” she hesitated in a low voice.
Colin heard her, however, and he gasped out between two sobs:
“Sh-show her! She-she’ll see then!”
It was a poor thin back to look at when it was bared. Every rib could be counted and every joint of the spine, though Mistress Mary did not count them as she bent over and examined them with a solemn savage little face. She looked so sour and old-fashioned that the nurse turned her head aside to hide the twitching of her mouth. There was just a minute’s silence, for even Colin tried to hold his breath while Mary looked up and down his spine, and down and up, as intently as if she had been the great doctor from London.
“There’s not a single lump there!” she said at last. “There’s not a lump as big as a pin—except backbone lumps, and you can only feel them because you’re thin. I’ve got backbone lumps myself, and they used to stick out as much as yours do, until I began to get fatter, and I am not fat enough yet to hide them. There’s not a lump as big as a pin! If you ever say there is again, I shall laugh!”
No one but Colin himself knew what effect those crossly spoken childish words had on him. If he had ever had any one to talk to about his secret terrors—if he had ever dared to let himself ask questions—if he had had childish companions and had not lain on his back in the huge closed house, breathing an atmosphere heavy with the fears of people who were most of them ignorant and tired of him, he would have found out that most of his fright and illness was created by himself. But he had lain and thought of himself and his aches and weariness for hours and days and months and years. And now that an angry unsympathetic little girl insisted obstinately that he was not as ill as he thought he was he actually felt as if she might be speaking the truth.
“I didn’t know,” ventured the nurse, “that he thought he had a lump on his spine. His back is weak because he won’t try to sit up. I could have told him there was no lump there.” Colin gulped and turned his face a little to look at her.
“C-could you?” he said pathetically.
“There!” said Mary, and she gulped too.
Colin turned on his face again and but for his long-drawn broken breaths, which were the dying down of his storm of sobbing, he lay still for a minute, though great tears streamed down his face and wet the pillow. Actually the tears meant that a curious great relief had come to him. Presently he turned and looked at the nurse again and strangely enough he was not like a Rajah at all as he spoke to her.
“Do you think—I could—live to grow up?” he said.
The nurse was neither clever nor soft-hearted but she could repeat some of the London doctor’s words.
“You probably will if you will do what you are told to do and not give way to your temper, and stay out a great deal in the fresh air.”
Colin’s tantrum had passed and he was weak and worn out with crying and this perhaps made him feel gentle. He put out his hand a little toward Mary, and I am glad to say that, her own tantum having passed, she was softened too and met him half-way with her hand, so that it was a sort of making up.
“I’ll—I’ll go out with you, Mary,” he said. “I shan’t hate fresh air if we can find—” He remembered just in time to stop himself from saying “if we can find the secret garden” and he ended, “I shall like to go out with you if Dickon will come and push my chair. I do so want to see Dickon and the fox and the crow.”
The nurse remade the tumbled bed and shook and straightened the pillows. Then she made Colin a cup of beef tea and gave a cup to Mary, who really was very glad to get it after her excitement. Mrs. Medlock and Martha gladly slipped away, and after everything was neat and calm and in order the nurse looked as if she would very gladly slip away also. She was a healthy young woman who resented being robbed of her sleep and she yawned quite openly as she looked at Mary, who had pushed her big footstool close to the four-posted bed and was holding Colin’s hand.
“You must go back and get your sleep out,” she said. “He’ll drop off after a while—if he’s not too upset. Then I’ll lie down myself in the next room.”
“Would you like me to sing you that song I learned from my Ayah?” Mary whispered to Colin.
His hand pulled hers gently and he turned his tired eyes on her appealingly.
“Oh, yes!” he answered. “It’s such a soft song. I shall go to sleep in a minute.”
“I will put him to sleep,” Mary said to the yawning nurse. “You can go if you like.”
“Well,” said the nurse, with an attempt at reluctance. “If he doesn’t go to sleep in half an hour you must call me.”
“Very well,” answered Mary.
The nurse was out of the room in a minute and as soon as she was gone Colin pulled Mary’s hand again.
“I almost told,” he said; “but I stopped myself in time. I won’t talk and I’ll go to sleep, but you said you had a whole lot of nice things to tell me. Have you—do you think you have found out anything at all about the way into the secret garden?”
Mary looked at his poor little tired face and swollen eyes and her heart relented.
“Ye-es,” she answered, “I think I have. And if you will go to sleep I will tell you tomorrow.” His hand quite trembled.
“Oh, Mary!” he said. “Oh, Mary! If I could get into it I think I should live to grow up! Do you suppose that instead of singing the Ayah song—you could just tell me softly as you did that first day what you imagine it looks like inside? I am sure it will make me go to sleep.”
“Yes,” answered Mary. “Shut your eyes.”
He closed his eyes and lay quite still and she held his hand and began to speak very slowly and in a very low voice.
“I think it has been left alone so long—that it has grown all into a lovely tangle. I think the roses have climbed and climbed and climbed until they hang from the branches and walls and creep over the ground—almost like a strange gray mist. Some of them have died but many—are alive and when the summer comes there will be curtains and fountains of roses. I think the ground is full of daffodils and snowdrops and lilies and iris working their way out of the dark. Now the spring has begun—perhaps—perhaps—”
The soft drone of her voice was making him stiller and stiller and she saw it and went on.
“Perhaps they are coming up through the grass—perhaps there are clusters of purple crocuses and gold ones—even now. Perhaps the leaves are beginning to break out and uncurl—and perhaps—the gray is changing and a green gauze veil is creeping—and creeping over—everything. And the birds are coming to look at it—because it is—so safe and still. And perhaps—perhaps—perhaps—” very softly and slowly indeed, “the robin has found a mate—and is building a nest.”
And Colin was asleep.
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