Meeting Dickon

Mary spent nearly a week working in the secret garden. Each day she found new shoots coming out of the ground. Soon, there would be flowers everywhere — thousands of them. It was an exciting game to her. When she was inside those beautiful old walls, no one knew where she was.

During that week she became more friendly with Ben, who was often digging in one of the vegetable gardens.

‘What are your favorite flowers, Ben?’ she asked him one day.

‘Roses. I used to work for a young lady who loved roses, you see, and she had a lot in her garden. That was ten years ago. But she died. Very sad, it was.’

‘What happened to the roses?’ asked Mary.

‘They were left there, in the garden.’

‘If rose branches look dry and grey, are they still alive?’ asked Mary. It was so important to know!

‘In the spring they’ll show green shoots, and then — But why are you so interested in roses?’ he asked.

Mary’s face went red. ‘I just… wanted to pretend I’ve got a garden. I haven’t got anyone to play with.’

‘Well, that’s true,’ said Ben. He seemed to feel sorry for her. Mary decided she liked old Ben, although he was sometimes bad-tempered.

She skipped along and into the wood at the end of the gardens. Suddenly she heard a strange noise, and there in front of her was a boy. He was sitting under a tree, playing on a wooden pipe. He was about twelve, with a healthy red face and bright blue eyes. There was a squirrel and a crow in the tree, and two rabbits sitting on the grass near him.

‘They’re listening to the music!’ thought Mary. ‘I mustn’t frighten them!’ She stood very still.

The boy stopped playing. ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘Animals don’t like it if you move suddenly. I’m Dickon and you must be Miss Mary. I’ve brought you the spade and the seeds.’

He spoke in an easy, friendly way. Mary liked him at once. As they were looking at the seed packets together, the robin hopped on to a branch near them. Dickon listened carefully to the robin’s song.

‘He’s saying he’s your friend,’ he told Mary.

‘Really? Oh, I am pleased he likes me. Can you understand everything that birds say?’

‘I think I do, and they think I do. I’ve lived on the moor with them for so long. Sometimes I think I am a bird or an animal, not a boy at all!’ His smile was the widest she had ever seen.

He explained how to plant the seeds. Suddenly he said, ‘I can help you plant them! Where’s your garden?’

Mary went red, then white. She had never thought of this. What was she going to say?

‘Could you keep a secret? It’s a great secret. If anyone discovers it, I’ll… I’ll die!’

‘I keep secrets for all the wild birds and animals on the moor. So I can keep yours too,’ he replied.

‘I’ve stolen a garden,’ she said very fast. ‘Nobody goes into it, nobody wants it. I love it and nobody takes care of it! They’re letting it die!’ And she threw her arms over her face and started crying.

‘Don’t cry’ said Dickon gently. ‘Where is it?’

‘Come with me and I’ll show you’ said Miss Mary.

They went to the secret garden and entered it together. Dickon walked round, looking at everything.

‘Martha told me about this place, but I never thought I’d see it,’ he said. ‘It’s wonderful!’

‘What about the roses?’ asked Mary worriedly. ‘Are they still alive? What do you think?’

‘Look at these shoots on the branches. Most of them are alive all right.’ He took out his knife and cut away some of the dead wood from the rose trees. Mary showed him the work she had done in the garden, and they talked as they cut and cleared.

‘Dickon,’ said Mary suddenly, ‘I like you. I never thought I’d like as many as five people!’

‘Only five!’ laughed Dickon.

He did look funny when he laughed, thought Mary.

‘Yes, your mother, Martha, the robin, Ben, and you.’ Then she asked him a question in Yorkshire dialect, because that was his language.

‘Does that like me?’ was her question.

‘Of course! I likes thee wonderful!’ replied Dickon, a big smile on his round face. Mary had never been so happy.

When she went back to the house for her lunch, she told Martha about Dickson’s visit.

‘I’ve got news for you too,’ said Martha. ‘Mr Craven’s come home, and wants to see you! He’s going away again tomorrow, for several months’

‘Oh!’ said Mary. That was good news. She would have all summer in the secret garden before he came back. But she must be careful. He mustn’t guess her secret now.

Just then Mrs Medlock arrived, in her best black dress, to take Mary down to Mr Craven’s room.

Mary’s uncle had black hair with some white in it, and high, crooked shoulders. His face was not ugly, but very sad. During their conversation he watched her in a worried way. Perhaps he was thinking of other things at the same time.

He looked at the thin child. ‘Are you well?’ he asked. Mary tried to keep her voice calm as she replied, ‘I’m getting stronger and healthier.’

‘What do you want to do, in this big empty house?’

‘I… I just want to play outside -I enjoy that.’

‘Yes, Martha’s mother, Susan Sowerby, spoke to me the other day. She’s a sensible woman — and she said you needed fresh air. But where do you play?’

‘Everywhere! I just skip and run — and look for green shoots. I don’t damage anything!’

‘Don’t look so frightened! Of course a child like you couldn’t damage anything. Play where you like. Is there anything that you want?’

Mary came a step nearer to him, and her voice shook a little as she spoke. ‘Could I — could I have a bit of garden?’

Mr Craven looked very surprised.

‘To plant seeds in… to make them come alive!’ Mary went on bravely. ‘It was too hot in India, so I was always ill and tired there. But here it’s different. I… I love the garden!’

He passed a hand quickly over his eyes. Then he looked kindly at Mary. ‘I knew someone once who loved growing things, like you. Yes, child, take as much of the garden as you want.’ He smiled gently at her. ‘Now leave me. I’m very tired.’

Mary ran all the way back to her room.

‘Martha!’ she shouted. ‘Mr Craven’s really a nice man, but he looks very unhappy, He said I can have my own garden!’

She was planning to work in the garden with Dickon every day, to make it beautiful for the summer.


next page