Finding the secret garden
When Mary woke up two days later, the wind and rain had all disappeared, and the sky was a beautiful blue.
‘Spring will be here soon,’ said Martha happily. ‘You’ll love the moor then, when it’s full of flowers and birds.’
‘Could I get to the moor?’ asked Mary.
‘You’ve never done much walking, have you? I don’t think you could walk the five miles to our cottage!’
‘But I’d like to meet your family,’ Mary said.
Martha looked at the little girl for a moment. She remembered how disagreeable Mary had been when she first arrived. But now, Mary looked interested and friendly.
‘I’ll ask Mother,’ said Martha. ‘She can always think of a good plan. She’s sensible and hardworking and kind — I know you’ll like her.’
‘I like Dickon, although I’ve never seen him.’
‘I wonder what Dickon will think of you?’
‘He won’t like me’ said Mary, ‘No one does.’
‘But do you like yourself? That’s what Mother would ask.’
‘No, not really. I’ve never thought of that.’
‘Well, I must go now. It’s my day off, so I’m going home to help Mother with the housework. Goodbye, miss. See you tomorrow.’
Mary felt lonelier than ever when Martha had gone, so she went outside. The sunshine made the gardens look different. And the change in the weather had even made Ben Weather staff easier to talk to.
‘Can you smell spring in the air?’ he asked her. Things are growing, deep down in the ground. Soon you’ll see little green shoots coming up — young plants, they are. You watch them.’
‘I will’ replied Mary. ‘Oh, there’s the robin!’
The little bird hopped on to Ben’s spade, ‘Are things growing in the garden where he lives?’
‘What garden?’ said Ben, in his bad-tempered voice.
‘You know, the secret garden. Are the flowers dead there?’ She really wanted to know the answer.
‘Ask the robin,’ said Ben crossly. ‘He’s the only one who’s been in there for the last ten years.’
Ten years was a long time, Mary thought. She had been born ten years ago. She walked away, thinking. She had begun to like the gardens, and the robin, and Martha and Dickon and their mother. Before she came to Yorkshire, she had not liked anybody.
She was walking beside the long wall of the secret garden, when a most wonderful thing happened. She suddenly realized the robin was following her. She felt very pleased and excited by this, and cried out, ‘You like me, don’t you? And I like you too!’ As he hopped along beside her, she hopped and sang too, to show him that she was his friend. Just then he stopped at a place where a dog had dug a hole in the ground. As Mary looked at the hole, she noticed something almost buried there. She put her hand in and pulled it out. It was an old key.
‘Perhaps it’s been buried for ten years,’ she whispered to herself. ‘Perhaps it’s the key to the secret garden!’
She looked at it for a long time. How lovely it would be to find the garden, and see what had happened to it in the last ten years! She could play in it all by herself, and nobody would know she was there. She put the key safely in her pocket.
The next morning Martha was back at Misselthwaite Manor, and told Mary all about her day with her family.
‘I really enjoyed myself. I helped Mother with the whole week’s washing and baking. And I told the children about you. They wanted to know about your servants, and the ship that brought you to England, and everything!’
‘I can tell you some more for next time,’ offered Mary. ‘They’d like to hear about riding on elephants and camels wouldn’t they?’
‘Oh, that would be kind of you, miss! And look, Mother has sent you a present!’
‘A present!’ repeated Mary. How could a family of fourteen hungry people give anyone a present!
‘Mother bought it from a man who came to the door to sell things. She told me, «Martha, you’ve brought me your pay, like a good girl, and we need it all, but I’m going to buy something for that lonely child at the Manor,» and she bought one, and here it is!’
It was a skipping-rope. Mary stared at it.
‘What is it?’ she asked.
‘Don’t they have skipping-ropes in India? Well, this is how you use it. Just watch me.’
Martha took the rope and ran into the middle of the room. She counted up to a hundred as she skipped.
‘That looks lovely,’ said Mary. ‘Your mother is very kind. Do you think I could ever skip like that?’
‘Just try,’ said Martha. ‘Mother says it’ll make you strong and healthy. Skip outside in the fresh air.’
Mary put her coat on and took the skipping-rope. As she was opening the door, she thought of something and turned round.
‘Martha, it was your money really. Thank you.’ She never thanked people usually and she did not know how to do it. So she held out her hand, because she knew that adults did that.
Martha shook her hand and laughed. ‘You’re a strange child,’ she said. ‘Like an old woman! Now run away and play!’
The skipping-rope was wonderful. Mary counted and skipped, skipped and counted, until her face was hot and red. She was having more fun than she had ever had before. She skipped through the gardens until she found Ben Weatherstaff, who was digging and talking to his robin. She wanted them both to see her skip.