Mr Craven comes home

While the secret garden was returning to life, a man with high crooked shoulders was wandering round the most beautiful places in Europe. For ten years he had lived this lonely life his heart full of sadness and his head full of dark dreams. Everywhere he went, he carried his unhappiness with him like a black cloud. Other travelers thought he was half mad or a man who could not forget some terrible crime. His name was Archibald Craven.

But one day, as he sat by a mountain stream, he actually looked at a flower, and for the first time in ten years he realized how beautiful something living could be. The valley seemed very quiet as he sat there, staring at the Mower. He felt strangely calm.

‘What is happening to me?’ he whispered. ‘I feel different — I almost feel I’m alive again!’

At that moment, hundreds of miles away in Yorkshire, Colin was seeing the secret garden for the first time, and saying, ‘I’m going to live for ever and ever and ever!’ But Mr Craven did not know this.

That night, in his hotel room, he slept better than usual. As the weeks passed, he even began to think a little about his home and his son. One evening in late summer, as he was sitting quietly beside a lake, he felt the strange calmness again. He fell asleep, and had a dream that seemed very real. He heard a voice calling him. It was sweet and clear and happy, the voice of his young wife.

‘Archie! Archie! Archie!’

‘My dear!’ He jumped up. ‘Where are you?’

‘In the garden!’ called the beautiful voice.

And then the dream ended. In the morning, when he woke, he remembered the dream.

‘She says she’s in the garden!’ he thought. ‘But the door’s locked and the key’s buried.’

That morning he received a letter from Susan Sowerby. In it she asked him to come home, but she did not give a reason. Mr Craven thought of his dream, and decided to return to England immediately. On the long journey back to Yorkshire, he was thinking about Colin.

‘I wonder how he is! I wanted to forget him, because he makes me think of his mother. He lived, and she died! But perhaps I’ve been wrong. Susan Sowerby says I should go home, so perhaps she thinks I can help him.’

When he arrived home, he found the housekeeper very confused about Colin’s health.

‘He’s very strange, sir,’ said Mrs Medlock. ‘He looks better, it’s true, but some days he eats nothing at all, and other days he eats just like a healthy boy. He used to scream even at the idea of fresh air, but now he spends all his time outside in his wheelchair, with Miss Mary and Dickon Sowerby. He’s in the garden at the moment.’

‘In the garden!’ repeated Mr Craven. Those were the words of the dream! He hurried out of the house and towards the place which he had not visited for so long. He found the door with the climbing plant over it, and stood outside, listening, for a moment.

‘Surely I can hear voices inside the garden?’ he thought. ‘Aren’t there children whispering, laughing, running in there? Or am I going mad?’

And then the moment came, when the children could not stay quiet. There was wild laughing and shouting, and the door was thrown open. A boy ran out, a tall, healthy, handsome boy, straight into the man’s arms. Mr Craven stared into the boy’s laughing eyes. ‘Who — What? Who?’ he cried.

Colin had not planned to meet his father like this. But perhaps this was the best way, to come running out with his cousin and his friend.

‘Father,’ he said, ‘I’m Colin. You can’t believe it! I can’t believe it myself. It was the garden, and Mary and Dickon and the magic, that made me well. We’ve kept it a secret up to now. Aren’t you happy, Father? I’m going to live for ever and ever and ever!’

Mr Craven put his hands on the boy’s shoulders. For a moment he could not speak. ‘Take me into the garden, my boy,’ he said at last, ‘and tell me all about it.’

And in the secret garden, where the roses were at their best, and the butterflies were flying from flower to flower in the summer sunshine, they told Colin’s father their story. Sometimes he laughed and sometimes he cried, but most of the time he just looked, unbelieving, into the handsome face of the son that he had almost forgotten.

‘Now,’ said Colin at the end, ‘it isn’t a secret any more. I’ll never use the wheelchair again. I’m going to walk back with you, Father — to the house.’

And so, that afternoon, Mrs Medlock, Martha, and the other servants had the greatest shock of their lives. Through the gardens towards the house came Mr Craven, looking happier than they had ever seen him. And by his side, with his shoulders straight, his head held high and a smile on his lips, walked young Colin!


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