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The secret garden: the door to the garden was locked and the key buried. The young girl was the only one who wanted it to be alive.

Condensed and adapted by Nancy S. Axelrad

When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, she wondered why she never seemed to belong to anyone even when her father and mother had been alive. She did not know it was because she was disagreeable and wore such a sour expression.

Mrs. Medlock, her uncle's housekeeper, had never met a child like Mary. All the way from London, Mary sat still without doing a thing. "Do you know about your uncle?" asked Mrs. Medlock.

"No," said Mary, frowning because she was never told anything. "You are going to a grand place in a gloomy way, and your gloomy uncle, Mr. Craven, is proud of it. The house is 600 years old and it's on the edge of a moor. It has nearly a hundred rooms, and most are locked. There's also a big park with gardens and trees, nothing else.

"Mr. Craven is not going to bother about you. When his wife died so sudden--"

Mary gave a start, though she did not intend to look interested.

"Most of the time he's away, but when he comes home, he shuts himself up in the West Wing."

How dreary, Mary thought ruefully.

When they reached the house, she was led up a broad staircase and down a long corridor to a room with a fire in the hearth and supper on a table.

"This room and the next are where you'll live," Mrs. Medlock said. "See that you don't go wandering about."

"I will not want to wander about," said sour little Mary.

Yet when she arose the next morning, and a young housemaid brought her breakfast, Mary began to look around the room, Through the window she saw a great climbing stretch of land which looked like a dull, purplish sea.

"That's the moor," Martha said. "It's lovely when it's warm and the heather's in flower. It smells of honey and there is such a lot of fresh air. My sisters and brothers play there all day. Our Dickon likes to play with the animals for hours."

Mary had never possessed a pet of her own and thought she would like one.

"Now you wrap up warm and run out to play after you finish your porridge," said Martha. "You'll have to learn to play by yourself here."

In a little while, she showed Mary the way downstairs and pointed to a gate. "Go round that way, and you'll come to the gardens," she said. "One of them is locked. No one's been in it for ten years. Mr. Craven shut it when his wife died. He locked the door, dug a hole, and buried the key."

Mary wondered about the locked garden and whether any flowers were alive in it. She set off down the long walk at the end of which stretched a wall with ivy growing over it.

An old man carrying a spade walked through a door at the far end. He did not seem pleased to see Mary, but then she was still wearing her sour expression.

"What's over there?" she asked.

"A garden. The orchard's behind it." Mary went through two other doors. Above the orchard wall, she could see the tops of trees and a robin sitting on a branch. He burst into song, as if calling to her, then alighted under some shrubs and paused on a small pile of earth to look for a worm. Watching him, Mary saw something buried in the soil. It looked like a ring of rusty iron.

Her heart thumped quickly, as she snatched it up. It was an old key, perhaps the key to the garden! The robin flew to a branch of ivy. "You ought to show me the door, too," said Mary.

As if the wind had heard her, a gust swept aside an ivy curtain to reveal a doorknob. She put the key in the keyhole and turned it. The door opened slowly, and Mary stepped through the secret garden! Everywhere walls and trees were covered with thick, leafless stems of climbing roses, and sticking out of the black earth were pale green points which might be crocuses or daffodils.

Mary dug and weeded and enjoyed herself immensely, as the robin chirped. Later, she ate such a dinner that Martha was also delighted.

"I wish I had a little spade," Mary said.

"Whatever for?" asked Martha.

"I thought I could make my own garden," Mary replied.

Martha's face lighted up. "At Thwaite village there's a shop where you can buy garden tools all tied together for two shillings."

"I have more money than that," Mary said. "Mrs. Medlock gave me some from Mr. Craven."

"Dickon can go to the shop for you," Martha said eagerly. "He'll bring you the tools and some flower seeds, too."

The sun shone down for nearly a week on the secret garden. That's what Mary called it now. She liked the name, and still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in, no one knew where she was.

When she saw a boy coming through the park, she hurried to meet him. "I'm Dickon, and you must be Mary," he said. "I've got the garden tools and seeds. I can plant them for you, if you like. Where's the garden?"

Mary clutched her hands. "Can you keep a secret?" she asked.

"Aye."

"All right then, follow me."

Mary told about the robin and led the boy to where the ivy grew over the door. "It's a secret garden. I'm the only one in the world who wants it to be alive," she said.

Reverently, Dickon followed her inside to the nearest tree, which held up a veil of rose branches. "There's a lot of dead wood here," he said, "but some new wood, too. Shall I come every day? It's the best fun I could have, waking up a garden." He looked up in the trees and at the walls and bushes.

"Do you like me?" Mary asked.

"That I do, and robin, too."

"There, that's two for me," Mary said happily.

Hearing that Mr. Craven would be going away for a long time, she was happier yet. If he did not come back until winter or autumn, she could watch the secret garden come alive.

It was all she could think of until, lying awake in her bed one night, she heard far-off crying. She took up the candle by her bedside and followed the sound through the long, dark corridor to a door covered with tapestry. Pushing it gently, she found herself standing in a large, handsome room. A candle was burning low next to a four-poster bed on which a boy lay crying pitifully. He looked as if he had been ill.

As Mary drew near, he turned his head. "Who are you?" he asked. "Are you a ghost?"

"No, I am not. I am Mary Lennox. Mr. Craven is my uncle. Who are you?"

"I am Colin Craven, and he is my father."

"Your father!" gasped Mary.

"It makes him wretched to look at me," said the boy, "because my mother died when I was born--"

"And the door to her garden was locked and the key was buried," Mary interrupted.

Colin half sat up. "Who did it?" he asked, as if very interested. "I will make the gardeners take me there."

"Oh, don't--don't!" exclaimed Mary. "I mean, if no one knows but ourselves, and we could make it come alive--"

Colin fell back on his pillow. "I never had a secret, except one about not living to grow up."

"Do you want to live?" inquired Mary.

"No," he answered crossly. "But I don't want to die."

"Good, because I'm almost sure that I can find out how to get into the garden sometime."

"I should--like--that," the boy said drowsily. "I should not mind fresh air in a secret garden."

The next morning, Mary hurried to meet Dickon. She found him digging in the grass. "Oh, Dickon!" she panted. "I saw Colin!"

The boy stared at her. "I knew I must say nothing about him," he said, "and I don't like having to hide things."

"He says I make him forget about being ill," Mary continued. "Do you think we could bring him here? He likes so to hear about the secret garden."

"It'd be good for him," Dickon replied. "We'd be watching the garden grow, all three of us together."

Days passed as the children made secret plans to transport Colin outside. When the time finally arrived, he was carried downstairs to a wheelchair, near which Dickon waited. He pushed the chair slowly and steadily. Mary walked beside it, and Colin leaned back, lifting his face to the sky to draw in the air's clear scent. In and out among the shrubbery, they followed the carefully planned route to the ivy-covered walls. When they reached the door, Mary felt for the handle.

"Go quickly, Dickon," she said.

Colin shut his eyes. When he opened them, wings fluttered and the sun fell softly warm on his face. Gold, purple, and white--and trees showing pink--were all around him.

"I shall get well!" he cried out. Mary and Dickon brought him buds which were opening and little twigs with leaves showing green.

"Look!" Colin whispered, pointing a moment later toward the wall.

Mary and Dickon wheeled about to see an old, surly-faced man glaring down at them from a ladder. She explained that a robin had led her to the garden, and Colin shouted, "Do you know who I am?"

"With your mother's eyes starin' up at me, Ben Weatherstaff, o' course I know. You're the cripple."

"I'm not!" Colin insisted. The thin legs and feet stood up on the grass as Dickon held the boy's arm. "This is my garden. Don't you dare say a word to anyone."

"Yes, sir!" The old man's face twisted in a smile. "I come over the wall to do some prunin'. Your mother asked me to take care of her roses if she ever went away."

Colin reached for a trowel lying on the grass and scratched at the earth. Dickon took his spade and dug the hole deeper, while Mary fetched a watering can and the gardener brought a rose in a pot from the greenhouse. "Go ahead. You put it in the earth same as a king does when he goes to a new place."

He broke the pot from the mold and gave it to Colin. His hands shook as he knelt to set the rose in place and held it while old Ben patted the soft. "It's planted!" Colin exclaimed. "And the sun is only slipping over the edge. Help me up, Dickon. I want to be standing when it goes."

From that day on, when it didn't rain, the children spent every hour of daylight in the garden. Buds opened, showing every shade of blue and purple, and Colin was soon walking and running about, shouting that he was well.

The servants were full of tales about the peculiar change in the boy when Mr. Craven returned from his journey.

"Where is Master Colin now?" he asked.

"In the garden, sir. He's always there," came the reply.

Mr. Craven scarcely heard the words. He hurried off toward the ivy walls as the door to the secret garden flung open. Colin burst through almost into his father's arms. "It's the garden that did it!" Colin exclaimed.

The man put his hands on the boy's shoulders and held him still. "Yell me all about it."

The children led him to the garden, while Colin told the story. The listener laughed until tears came into his eyes. When the boy finished, he said, "It need not be a secret anymore, Father. I shall walk back to the house with you."

Mrs. Medlock gave a shriek as soon as she saw them. There, across the lawn, came the Master of Misselthwaite, and by his side, with eyes full of laughter and walking steadily as any boy in England--Master Colin!
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:READ ALOUD FOR CHILDREN
Author:Burnett, Frances Hodgson
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Fictional work
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:2020
Previous Article:Where in the world? Mermaids, stone cliffs, and a villa in ancient Rome: no matter where you travel, there's no place like home.
Next Article:The perfect squelch.


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