Meeting Colin

In the middle of the night Mary woke up. Heavy rain had started falling again, and the wind was blowing violently round the walls of the old house. Suddenly she heard crying again. This time she decided to discover who it was. She left her room, and in the darkness followed the crying sound, round corners and through doors, up and down stairs, to the other side of the big house. At last she found the right room. She pushed the door open and went in.

It was a big room with beautiful old furniture and pictures. In the large bed was a boy, who looked tired and cross, with a thin, white, tearful face. He stared at Mary.

‘Who are you?’ he whispered. Are you a dream?’

‘No, I’m not. I’m Mary Lennox. Mr Craven’s my uncle.’

‘He’s my father’ said the boy. ‘I’m Colin Craven.’

‘No one ever told me he had a son!’ said Mary, very surprised.

‘Well, no one ever told me you’d come to live here. I’m ill, you see. I don’t want people to see me and talk about me. If I live, I may have a crooked back like my father, but I’ll probably die.’

‘What a strange house this is!’ said Mary. ‘So many secrets! Does your father come and see you often?’

‘Not often. He doesn’t like seeing me because it makes him remember my mother. She died when I was born, so he almost hates me, I think.’

‘Why do you say you’re going to die?’ asked Mary.

‘I’ve always been ill. I’ve nearly died several times, and my back’s never been strong. My doctor feels sure that I’m going to die. But he’s my father’s cousin, and very poor, so he’d like me to die. Then he’d get all the money when my father dies. He gives me medicine and tells me to rest. We had a grand doctor from London once, who told me to go out in the fresh air and try to get well. But I hate fresh air. And another thing, all the servants have to do what I want, because if I’m angry, I become ill.’

Mary thought she liked this boy, although he seemed so strange. He asked her lots of questions, and she told him all about her life in India.

‘How old are you?’ he asked suddenly.

‘I’m ten, and so are you?’ replied Mary, forgetting to be careful, ‘because when you were born the garden door was locked and the key was buried. And I know that was ten years ago.’

Colin sat up in bed and looked very interested. ‘What door? Who locked it? Where’s the key? I want to see it. I’ll make the servants tell me where it is. They’ll take me there and you can come too.’

‘Oh, please! Don’t — don’t do that!’ cried Mary. Colin stared at her. ‘Don’t you want to see it?’

‘Yes, but if you make them open the door, it will never be a secret again. You see, if only we know about it, if we — if we can find the key, we can go and play there every day. We can help the garden come alive again. And no one will know about it — except us!’

‘I see,’ said Colin slowly. ‘Yes, I’d like that. It’ll be our secret. I’ve never had a secret before.’

‘And perhaps,’ added Mary cleverly, ‘we can find a boy to push you in your wheelchair, if you can’t walk, and we can go there together without any other people. You’ll feel better outside. I know I do.’

‘I’d like that,’ he said dreamily. ‘I think I’d like fresh air, in a secret garden.’

Then Mary told him about the moor, and Dickon, and Ben Weatherstaff, and the robin, and Colin listened to it all with great interest. He began to smile and look much happier.

‘I like having you here,’ he said. ‘You must come and see me every day. But I’m tired now.’

‘I’ll sing you a song. My servant Kamala used to do that in India,’ said Mary, and very soon Colin was asleep.

The next afternoon Mary visited Colin again, and he seemed very pleased to see her. He had sent his nurse away and had told nobody about Mary’s visit. Mary had not told anybody either. They read some of his books together, and told each other stories. They were enjoying themselves and laughing loudly when suddenly the door opened. Dr Craven and Mrs Medlock came in. They almost fell over in surprise.

‘What’s happening here?’ asked Dr Craven.

Colin sat up straight. To Mary he looked just like an Indian prince. ‘This is my cousin, Mary Lennox,’ he said calmly. ‘I like her. She must visit me often.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry, sir,’ said poor Mrs Medlock to the doctor. ‘I don’t know how she discovered him. I told the servants to keep it a secret.’

‘Don’t be stupid, Medlock,’ said the Indian prince coldly. ‘Nobody told her. She heard me crying and found me herself. Bring our tea up now.’

‘I’m afraid you’re getting too hot and excited, my boy,’ said Dr Craven. ‘That’s not good for you. Don’t forget you’re ill.’

‘I want to forget!’ said Colin. ‘I’ll be angry if Mary doesn’t visit me! She makes me feel better.’

Dr Craven did not look happy when he left the room.

‘What a change in the boy, sir!’ said the housekeeper. ‘He’s usually so disagreeable with all of us. He really seems to like that strange little girl. And he does look better.’ Dr Craven had to agree.


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