Marry in Yorkshire

They arrived at a very large old house. It looked dark and unfriendly from the outside. Inside, Mary looked around the big shadowy hall, and felt very small and lost. They went straight upstairs. Mary was shown to a room where there was a warm fire and food on the table.

‘This is your room,’ said Mrs Medlock. ‘Go to bed when you’ve had some supper. And remember, you must stay in your room! Mr Craven doesn’t want you to wander all over the house!’

When Mary woke up the next morning, she saw a young servant girl cleaning the fireplace. The room seemed dark and rather strange, with pictures of dogs and horses and ladies on the walls. It was not a child’s room at all. From the window she could not see any trees or houses, only wild land, which looked like a kind of purple sea.

‘Who are you?’ she asked the servant coldly.

‘Martha, miss?’ answered the girl with a smile.

‘And what’s that outside?’ Mary continued.

‘That’s the moor’ smiled Martha. ‘Do you like it?’

‘No,’ replied Mary immediately. ‘I hate it.’

‘That’s because you don’t know it. You will like it. I love it. It’s lovely in spring and summer when there are flowers. It always smells so sweet. The air’s so fresh, and the birds sing so beautifully, I never want to leave the moor.’

Mary was feeling very bad-tempered. ‘You’re a strange servant,’ she said. ‘In India we don’t have conversations with servants. We give orders, and they obey, and that’s that.’

Martha did not seem to mind Mary’s crossness.

‘I know I talk too much!’ she laughed.

‘Are you going to be my servant?’ asked Mary.

‘Well, not really. I work for Mrs Medlock. I’m going to clean your room and bring you your food, but you won’t need a servant except for those things.’

‘But who’s going to dress me?’

Martha stopped cleaning, and stared at Mary.

‘Tha’ canna’ dress thysen?’ she asked, shocked.

‘What do you mean? I don’t understand your language!’

‘Oh, I forgot. We all speak the Yorkshire dialect here, but of course you don’t understand the… I meant to say, can’t you put on your own clothes?’

‘Of course not! My servant always used to dress me.’

‘Well! I think you should learn to dress yourself. My mother always says people should be able to take care of themselves, even if they’re rich and important.’

Little Miss Mary was furious with Martha. ‘It’s different in India where I come from! You don’t know anything about India, or about servants, or about anything! You … you…’ She could not explain what she meant. Suddenly she felt very confused and lonely. She threw herself down on the bed and started crying wildly.

‘Now, now, don’t cry like that’ Martha said gently. ‘I’m very sorry. You’re right, I don’t know anything about anything. Please stop crying, miss.’

She sounded kind and friendly, and Mary began to feel better and soon stopped crying. Martha went on talking as she finished her cleaning, but Mary looked out of the window in a bored way, and pretended not to listen.

‘I’ve got eleven brothers and sisters, you know, miss. There’s not much money in our house. And they all eat so much food! Mother says it’s the good fresh air on the moor that makes them so hungry. My brother Dickon, he’s always out on the moor. He’s twelve, and he’s got a horse which he rides sometimes.’

‘Where did he get it?’ asked Mary. She had always wanted an animal of her own, and so she began to feel a little interest in Dickon.

‘Oh, it’s a wild horse, but he’s a kind boy, and animals like him, you see. Now you must have your breakfast, miss. Here it is on the table.’

‘I don’t want it,’ said Mary. ‘I’m not hungry.’

‘What!’ cried Martha. ‘My little brothers and sisters would eat all this in five minutes!’

‘Why?’ asked Mary coldly.

‘Because they don’t get enough to eat, that’s why, and they’re always hungry. You’re very lucky to have the food, miss.’ Mary said nothing, but she drank some tea and ate a little bread.

‘Now put a coat on and run outside to play,’ said Martha. ‘It’ll do you good to be in the fresh air.’

Mary looked out of the window at the cold grey sky. ‘Why should I go out on a day like this?’ she asked. ‘Well, there’s nothing to play with indoors, is there?’ Mary realized Martha was right. ‘But who will go with me?’ she said.

Martha stared at her. ‘Nobody. You’ll have to learn to play by yourself. Dickon plays by himself on the moors for hours, with the wild birds, and the sheep, and the other animals.’ She looked away for a moment. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you this, but — but one of the walled gardens is locked up. Nobody’s been in it for ten years. It was Mrs Craven’s garden, and when she died so suddenly, Mr Craven locked it and buried the key — Oh, I must go, I can hear Mrs Medlock’s bell ringing for me.’

Mary went downstairs and wandered through the great empty gardens. Many of the fruit and vegetable gardens had walls round them, but there were no locked doors. She saw an old man digging in one of the vegetable gardens, but he looked cross and unfriendly, so she walked on.


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