‘Don’t be stupid!’ cried Mary. ‘There’s nothing the matter with your horrid back! Martha, come here and help me look at his back!’

Martha and Mrs Medlock were standing at the door, staring at Mary, their mouths half open. They both looked very frightened. Martha came forward to help, and Miss Mary looked carefully at Colin’s thin white back, up and down. Her face was serious and angry at the same time. The room was very quiet.

‘There’s nothing wrong with your back!’ she said at last. ‘Nothing at all! It’s as straight as mine!’

Only Colin knew how important those crossly spoken, childish words were. All his life he had been afraid to ask about his back, and his terrible fear had made him ill. Now an angry little girl told him his back was straight, and he believed her. He was no longer afraid.

They were both calmer now. He gave Mary his hand. ‘I think — I’m almost sure I will live, if we can go out in the garden together sometimes. I’m very tired now. Will you stay with me until I go to sleep?’ The servants went out very quietly.

‘I’ll tell you all about the secret garden,’ whispered Mary. ‘I think it’s full of roses and beautiful flowers. Birds like making their nests there because it’s so quiet and safe. And perhaps our robin…’ But Colin was already asleep.

The next day Mary met Dickon as usual in the secret garden, and told him about Colin. Mary loved Dickon’s Yorkshire dialect and was trying to learn it herself. She spoke a little now.

‘We mun get poor Colin out here in th’ sunshine — an’ we munnot lose no time about it!’

Dickon laughed. ‘Well done! I didn’t know you could speak Yorkshire! You’re right. We must bring Colin to the garden as soon as we can,’

So that afternoon she went to see Colin.

‘I’m sorry I said I’d send Dickon away,’ he said. ‘I hated you when you said he was like an angel!’

‘Well, he’s a funny kind of angel, but he understands wild animals better than anyone.’ Suddenly, Mary knew that this was the right moment to tell him. She caught hold of his hands. ‘Colin, this is important. Can you keep a secret?’

‘Yes-yes!’ he whispered excitedly. ‘What is it?’

‘We’ve found the door into the secret garden!’

‘Oh Mary! Will I live long enough to see it?’

‘Of course you will! Don’t be stupid!’ said Mary crossly. But it was a very natural thing to say, and they both laughed.

Colin told Mrs Medlock and the doctor that he wanted to go out in his wheelchair. At first the doctor was worried the boy would get too tired, but when he heard that Dickon would push the wheelchair, he agreed.

‘Dickon’s a sensible boy,’ he told Colin. ‘But don’t forgot-‘

‘I’ve told you, I want to forget that I’m ill,’ said Colin in his prince’s voice. ‘Don’t you understand? It’s because my cousin makes me forget that I feel better when I’m with her.’


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