B1 Intermediate 329 Folder Collection
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CHAPTER XX "I SHALL LIVE FOREVER--AND EVER--AND EVER!"
But they were obliged to wait more than a week because first there came some very
windy days and then Colin was threatened with a cold, which two things happening one
after the other would no doubt have thrown
him into a rage but that there was so much careful and mysterious planning to do and
almost every day Dickon came in, if only for a few minutes, to talk about what was
happening on the moor and in the lanes and hedges and on the borders of streams.
The things he had to tell about otters' and badgers' and water-rats' houses, not to
mention birds' nests and field-mice and their burrows, were enough to make you
almost tremble with excitement when you
heard all the intimate details from an animal charmer and realized with what
thrilling eagerness and anxiety the whole busy underworld was working.
"They're same as us," said Dickon, "only they have to build their homes every year.
An' it keeps 'em so busy they fair scuffle to get 'em done."
The most absorbing thing, however, was the preparations to be made before Colin could
be transported with sufficient secrecy to the garden.
No one must see the chair-carriage and Dickon and Mary after they turned a certain
corner of the shrubbery and entered upon the walk outside the ivied walls.
As each day passed, Colin had become more and more fixed in his feeling that the
mystery surrounding the garden was one of its greatest charms.
Nothing must spoil that.
No one must ever suspect that they had a secret.
People must think that he was simply going out with Mary and Dickon because he liked
them and did not object to their looking at him.
They had long and quite delightful talks about their route.
They would go up this path and down that one and cross the other and go round among
the fountain flower-beds as if they were looking at the "bedding-out plants" the
head gardener, Mr. Roach, had been having arranged.
That would seem such a rational thing to do that no one would think it at all
mysterious.
They would turn into the shrubbery walks and lose themselves until they came to the
long walls.
It was almost as serious and elaborately thought out as the plans of march made by
great generals in time of war.
Rumors of the new and curious things which were occurring in the invalid's apartments
had of course filtered through the servants' hall into the stable yards and
out among the gardeners, but
notwithstanding this, Mr. Roach was startled one day when he received orders
from Master Colin's room to the effect that he must report himself in the apartment no
outsider had ever seen, as the invalid himself desired to speak to him.
"Well, well," he said to himself as he hurriedly changed his coat, "what's to do
now?
His Royal Highness that wasn't to be looked at calling up a man he's never set eyes
on." Mr. Roach was not without curiosity.
He had never caught even a glimpse of the boy and had heard a dozen exaggerated
stories about his uncanny looks and ways and his insane tempers.
The thing he had heard oftenest was that he might die at any moment and there had been
numerous fanciful descriptions of a humped back and helpless limbs, given by people
who had never seen him.
"Things are changing in this house, Mr. Roach," said Mrs. Medlock, as she led him
up the back staircase to the corridor on to which opened the hitherto mysterious
chamber.
"Let's hope they're changing for the better, Mrs. Medlock," he answered.
"They couldn't well change for the worse," she continued; "and queer as it all is
there's them as finds their duties made a lot easier to stand up under.
Don't you be surprised, Mr. Roach, if you find yourself in the middle of a menagerie
and Martha Sowerby's Dickon more at home than you or me could ever be."
There really was a sort of Magic about Dickon, as Mary always privately believed.
When Mr. Roach heard his name he smiled quite leniently.
"He'd be at home in Buckingham Palace or at the bottom of a coal mine," he said.
"And yet it's not impudence, either. He's just fine, is that lad."
It was perhaps well he had been prepared or he might have been startled.
When the bedroom door was opened a large crow, which seemed quite at home perched on
the high back of a carven chair, announced the entrance of a visitor by saying "Caw--
Caw" quite loudly.
In spite of Mrs. Medlock's warning, Mr. Roach only just escaped being sufficiently
undignified to jump backward. The young Rajah was neither in bed nor on
his sofa.
He was sitting in an armchair and a young lamb was standing by him shaking its tail
in feeding-lamb fashion as Dickon knelt giving it milk from its bottle.
A squirrel was perched on Dickon's bent back attentively nibbling a nut.
The little girl from India was sitting on a big footstool looking on.
"Here is Mr. Roach, Master Colin," said Mrs. Medlock.
The young Rajah turned and looked his servitor over--at least that was what the
head gardener felt happened.
"Oh, you are Roach, are you?" he said. "I sent for you to give you some very
important orders."
"Very good, sir," answered Roach, wondering if he was to receive instructions to fell
all the oaks in the park or to transform the orchards into water-gardens.
"I am going out in my chair this afternoon," said Colin.
"If the fresh air agrees with me I may go out every day.
When I go, none of the gardeners are to be anywhere near the Long Walk by the garden
walls. No one is to be there.
I shall go out about two o'clock and everyone must keep away until I send word
that they may go back to their work."
"Very good, sir," replied Mr. Roach, much relieved to hear that the oaks might remain
and that the orchards were safe.
"Mary," said Colin, turning to her, "what is that thing you say in India when you
have finished talking and want people to go?"
"You say, 'You have my permission to go,'" answered Mary.
The Rajah waved his hand. "You have my permission to go, Roach," he
said.
"But, remember, this is very important." "Caw--Caw!" remarked the crow hoarsely but
not impolitely. "Very good, sir.
Thank you, sir," said Mr. Roach, and Mrs. Medlock took him out of the room.
Outside in the corridor, being a rather good-natured man, he smiled until he almost
laughed.
"My word!" he said, "he's got a fine lordly way with him, hasn't he?
You'd think he was a whole Royal Family rolled into one--Prince Consort and all.".
"Eh!" protested Mrs. Medlock, "we've had to let him trample all over every one of us
ever since he had feet and he thinks that's what folks was born for."
"Perhaps he'll grow out of it, if he lives," suggested Mr. Roach.
"Well, there's one thing pretty sure," said Mrs. Medlock.
"If he does live and that Indian child stays here I'll warrant she teaches him
that the whole orange does not belong to him, as Susan Sowerby says.
And he'll be likely to find out the size of his own quarter."
Inside the room Colin was leaning back on his cushions.
"It's all safe now," he said.
"And this afternoon I shall see it--this afternoon I shall be in it!"
Dickon went back to the garden with his creatures and Mary stayed with Colin.
She did not think he looked tired but he was very quiet before their lunch came and
he was quiet while they were eating it. She wondered why and asked him about it.
"What big eyes you've got, Colin," she said.
"When you are thinking they get as big as saucers.
What are you thinking about now?"
"I can't help thinking about what it will look like," he answered.
"The garden?" asked Mary. "The springtime," he said.
"I was thinking that I've really never seen it before.
I scarcely ever went out and when I did go I never looked at it.
I didn't even think about it."
"I never saw it in India because there wasn't any," said Mary.
Shut in and morbid as his life had been, Colin had more imagination than she had and
at least he had spent a good deal of time looking at wonderful books and pictures.
"That morning when you ran in and said 'It's come!
It's come!', you made me feel quite queer.
It sounded as if things were coming with a great procession and big bursts and wafts
of music.
I've a picture like it in one of my books-- crowds of lovely people and children with
garlands and branches with blossoms on them, everyone laughing and dancing and
crowding and playing on pipes.
That was why I said, 'Perhaps we shall hear golden trumpets' and told you to throw open
the window." "How funny!" said Mary.
"That's really just what it feels like.
And if all the flowers and leaves and green things and birds and wild creatures danced
past at once, what a crowd it would be! I'm sure they'd dance and sing and flute
and that would be the wafts of music."
They both laughed but it was not because the idea was laughable but because they
both so liked it. A little later the nurse made Colin ready.
She noticed that instead of lying like a log while his clothes were put on he sat up
and made some efforts to help himself, and he talked and laughed with Mary all the
time.
"This is one of his good days, sir," she said to Dr. Craven, who dropped in to
inspect him. "He's in such good spirits that it makes
him stronger."
"I'll call in again later in the afternoon, after he has come in," said Dr. Craven.
"I must see how the going out agrees with him.
I wish," in a very low voice, "that he would let you go with him."
"I'd rather give up the case this moment, sir, than even stay here while it's
suggested," answered the nurse.
With sudden firmness. "I hadn't really decided to suggest it,"
said the doctor, with his slight nervousness.
"We'll try the experiment.
Dickon's a lad I'd trust with a new-born child."
The strongest footman in the house carried Colin down stairs and put him in his
wheeled chair near which Dickon waited outside.
After the manservant had arranged his rugs and cushions the Rajah waved his hand to
him and to the nurse.
"You have my permission to go," he said, and they both disappeared quickly and it
must be confessed giggled when they were safely inside the house.
Dickon began to push the wheeled chair slowly and steadily.
Mistress Mary walked beside it and Colin leaned back and lifted his face to the sky.
The arch of it looked very high and the small snowy clouds seemed like white birds
floating on outspread wings below its crystal blueness.
The wind swept in soft big breaths down from the moor and was strange with a wild
clear scented sweetness.
Colin kept lifting his thin chest to draw it in, and his big eyes looked as if it
were they which were listening--listening, instead of his ears.
"There are so many sounds of singing and humming and calling out," he said.
"What is that scent the puffs of wind bring?"
"It's gorse on th' moor that's openin' out," answered Dickon.
"Eh! th' bees are at it wonderful today." Not a human creature was to be caught sight
of in the paths they took.
In fact every gardener or gardener's lad had been witched away.
But they wound in and out among the shrubbery and out and round the fountain
beds, following their carefully planned route for the mere mysterious pleasure of
it.
But when at last they turned into the Long Walk by the ivied walls the excited sense
of an approaching thrill made them, for some curious reason they could not have
explained, begin to speak in whispers.
"This is it," breathed Mary. "This is where I used to walk up and down
and wonder and wonder." "Is it?" cried Colin, and his eyes began to
search the ivy with eager curiousness.
"But I can see nothing," he whispered. "There is no door."
"That's what I thought," said Mary. Then there was a lovely breathless silence
and the chair wheeled on.
"That is the garden where Ben Weatherstaff works," said Mary.
"Is it?" said Colin. A few yards more and Mary whispered again.
"This is where the robin flew over the wall," she said.
"Is it?" cried Colin. "Oh! I wish he'd come again!"
"And that," said Mary with solemn delight, pointing under a big lilac bush, "is where
he perched on the little heap of earth and showed me the key."
Then Colin sat up.
"Where? Where?
There?" he cried, and his eyes were as big as the wolf's in Red Riding-Hood, when Red
Riding-Hood felt called upon to remark on them.
Dickon stood still and the wheeled chair stopped.
"And this," said Mary, stepping on to the bed close to the ivy, "is where I went to
talk to him when he chirped at me from the top of the wall.
And this is the ivy the wind blew back," and she took hold of the hanging green
curtain. "Oh! is it--is it!" gasped Colin.
"And here is the handle, and here is the door.
Dickon push him in--push him in quickly!" And Dickon did it with one strong, steady,
splendid push.
But Colin had actually dropped back against his cushions, even though he gasped with
delight, and he had covered his eyes with his hands and held them there shutting out
everything until they were inside and the
chair stopped as if by magic and the door was closed.
Not till then did he take them away and look round and round and round as Dickon
and Mary had done.
And over walls and earth and trees and swinging sprays and tendrils the fair green
veil of tender little leaves had crept, and in the grass under the trees and the gray
urns in the alcoves and here and there
everywhere were touches or splashes of gold and purple and white and the trees were
showing pink and snow above his head and there were fluttering of wings and faint
sweet pipes and humming and scents and scents.
And the sun fell warm upon his face like a hand with a lovely touch.
And in wonder Mary and Dickon stood and stared at him.
He looked so strange and different because a pink glow of color had actually crept all
over him--ivory face and neck and hands and all.
"I shall get well!
I shall get well!" he cried out. "Mary!
Dickon! I shall get well!
And I shall live forever and ever and ever!"
>
CHAPTER XXI BEN WEATHERSTAFF
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then
one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever.
One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out
and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the
pale sky slowly changing and flushing and
marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's
heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the
sun--which has been happening every morning
for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.
One knows it then for a moment or so.
And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the
mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be
saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries.
Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars
waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it
true; and sometimes a look in some one's eyes.
And it was like that with Colin when he first saw and heard and felt the Springtime
inside the four high walls of a hidden garden.
That afternoon the whole world seemed to devote itself to being perfect and
radiantly beautiful and kind to one boy.
Perhaps out of pure heavenly goodness the spring came and crowned everything it
possibly could into that one place.
More than once Dickon paused in what he was doing and stood still with a sort of
growing wonder in his eyes, shaking his head softly.
"Eh! it is graidely," he said.
"I'm twelve goin' on thirteen an' there's a lot o' afternoons in thirteen years, but
seems to me like I never seed one as graidely as this 'ere."
"Aye, it is a graidely one," said Mary, and she sighed for mere joy.
"I'll warrant it's the graidelest one as ever was in this world."
"Does tha' think," said Colin with dreamy carefulness, "as happen it was made loike
this 'ere all o' purpose for me?" "My word!" cried Mary admiringly, "that
there is a bit o' good Yorkshire.
Tha'rt shapin' first-rate--that tha' art." And delight reigned.
They drew the chair under the plum-tree, which was snow-white with blossoms and
musical with bees.
It was like a king's canopy, a fairy king's.
There were flowering cherry-trees near and apple-trees whose buds were pink and white,
and here and there one had burst open wide.
Between the blossoming branches of the canopy bits of blue sky looked down like
wonderful eyes. Mary and Dickon worked a little here and
there and Colin watched them.
They brought him things to look at--buds which were opening, buds which were tight
closed, bits of twig whose leaves were just showing green, the feather of a woodpecker
which had dropped on the grass, the empty shell of some bird early hatched.
Dickon pushed the chair slowly round and round the garden, stopping every other
moment to let him look at wonders springing out of the earth or trailing down from
trees.
It was like being taken in state round the country of a magic king and queen and shown
all the mysterious riches it contained. "I wonder if we shall see the robin?" said
Colin.
"Tha'll see him often enow after a bit," answered Dickon.
"When th' eggs hatches out th' little chap he'll be kep' so busy it'll make his head
swim.
Tha'll see him flyin' backward an' for'ard carryin' worms nigh as big as himsel' an'
that much noise goin' on in th' nest when he gets there as fair flusters him so as he
scarce knows which big mouth to drop th' first piece in.
An' gapin' beaks an' squawks on every side.
Mother says as when she sees th' work a robin has to keep them gapin' beaks filled,
she feels like she was a lady with nothin' to do.
She says she's seen th' little chaps when it seemed like th' sweat must be droppin'
off 'em, though folk can't see it."
This made them giggle so delightedly that they were obliged to cover their mouths
with their hands, remembering that they must not be heard.
Colin had been instructed as to the law of whispers and low voices several days
before.
He liked the mysteriousness of it and did his best, but in the midst of excited
enjoyment it is rather difficult never to laugh above a whisper.
Every moment of the afternoon was full of new things and every hour the sunshine grew
more golden.
The wheeled chair had been drawn back under the canopy and Dickon had sat down on the
grass and had just drawn out his pipe when Colin saw something he had not had time to
notice before.
"That's a very old tree over there, isn't it?" he said.
Dickon looked across the grass at the tree and Mary looked and there was a brief
moment of stillness.
"Yes," answered Dickon, after it, and his low voice had a very gentle sound.
Mary gazed at the tree and thought. "The branches are quite gray and there's
not a single leaf anywhere," Colin went on.
"It's quite dead, isn't it?" "Aye," admitted Dickon.
"But them roses as has climbed all over it will near hide every bit o' th' dead wood
when they're full o' leaves an' flowers.
It won't look dead then. It'll be th' prettiest of all."
Mary still gazed at the tree and thought. "It looks as if a big branch had been
broken off," said Colin.
"I wonder how it was done." "It's been done many a year," answered
Dickon. "Eh!" with a sudden relieved start and
laying his hand on Colin.
"Look at that robin! There he is!
He's been foragin' for his mate."
Colin was almost too late but he just caught sight of him, the flash of red-
breasted bird with something in his beak.
He darted through the greenness and into the close-grown corner and was out of
sight. Colin leaned back on his cushion again,
laughing a little.
"He's taking her tea to her. Perhaps it's five o'clock.
I think I'd like some tea myself." And so they were safe.
"It was Magic which sent the robin," said Mary secretly to Dickon afterward.
"I know it was Magic."
For both she and Dickon had been afraid Colin might ask something about the tree
whose branch had broken off ten years ago and they had talked it over together and
Dickon had stood and rubbed his head in a troubled way.
"We mun look as if it wasn't no different from th' other trees," he had said.
"We couldn't never tell him how it broke, poor lad.
If he says anything about it we mun--we mun try to look cheerful."
"Aye, that we mun," had answered Mary.
But she had not felt as if she looked cheerful when she gazed at the tree.
She wondered and wondered in those few moments if there was any reality in that
other thing Dickon had said.
He had gone on rubbing his rust-red hair in a puzzled way, but a nice comforted look
had begun to grow in his blue eyes. "Mrs. Craven was a very lovely young lady,"
he had gone on rather hesitatingly.
"An' mother she thinks maybe she's about Misselthwaite many a time lookin' after
Mester Colin, same as all mothers do when they're took out o' th' world.
They have to come back, tha' sees.
Happen she's been in the garden an' happen it was her set us to work, an' told us to
bring him here." Mary had thought he meant something about
Magic.
She was a great believer in Magic.
Secretly she quite believed that Dickon worked Magic, of course good Magic, on
everything near him and that was why people liked him so much and wild creatures knew
he was their friend.
She wondered, indeed, if it were not possible that his gift had brought the
robin just at the right moment when Colin asked that dangerous question.
She felt that his Magic was working all the afternoon and making Colin look like an
entirely different boy.
It did not seem possible that he could be the crazy creature who had screamed and
beaten and bitten his pillow. Even his ivory whiteness seemed to change.
The faint glow of color which had shown on his face and neck and hands when he first
got inside the garden really never quite died away.
He looked as if he were made of flesh instead of ivory or wax.
They saw the robin carry food to his mate two or three times, and it was so
suggestive of afternoon tea that Colin felt they must have some.
"Go and make one of the men servants bring some in a basket to the rhododendron walk,"
he said. "And then you and Dickon can bring it
here."
It was an agreeable idea, easily carried out, and when the white cloth was spread
upon the grass, with hot tea and buttered toast and crumpets, a delightfully hungry
meal was eaten, and several birds on
domestic errands paused to inquire what was going on and were led into investigating
crumbs with great activity.
Nut and Shell whisked up trees with pieces of cake and Soot took the entire half of a
buttered crumpet into a corner and pecked at and examined and turned it over and made
hoarse remarks about it until he decided to swallow it all joyfully in one gulp.
The afternoon was dragging towards its mellow hour.
The sun was deepening the gold of its lances, the bees were going home and the
birds were flying past less often.
Dickon and Mary were sitting on the grass, the tea-basket was repacked ready to be
taken back to the house, and Colin was lying against his cushions with his heavy
locks pushed back from his forehead and his face looking quite a natural color.
"I don't want this afternoon to go," he said; "but I shall come back tomorrow, and
the day after, and the day after, and the day after."
"You'll get plenty of fresh air, won't you?" said Mary.
"I'm going to get nothing else," he answered.
"I've seen the spring now and I'm going to see the summer.
I'm going to see everything grow here. I'm going to grow here myself."
"That tha' will," said Dickon.
"Us'll have thee walkin' about here an' diggin' same as other folk afore long."
Colin flushed tremendously. "Walk!" he said.
"Dig! Shall I?"
Dickon's glance at him was delicately cautious.
Neither he nor Mary had ever asked if anything was the matter with his legs.
"For sure tha' will," he said stoutly.
"Tha--tha's got legs o' thine own, same as other folks!"
Mary was rather frightened until she heard Colin's answer.
"Nothing really ails them," he said, "but they are so thin and weak.
They shake so that I'm afraid to try to stand on them."
Both Mary and Dickon drew a relieved breath.
"When tha' stops bein' afraid tha'lt stand on 'em," Dickon said with renewed cheer.
"An' tha'lt stop bein' afraid in a bit."
"I shall?" said Colin, and he lay still as if he were wondering about things.
They were really very quiet for a little while.
The sun was dropping lower.
It was that hour when everything stills itself, and they really had had a busy and
exciting afternoon. Colin looked as if he were resting
luxuriously.
Even the creatures had ceased moving about and had drawn together and were resting
near them.
Soot had perched on a low branch and drawn up one leg and dropped the gray film
drowsily over his eyes. Mary privately thought he looked as if he
might snore in a minute.
In the midst of this stillness it was rather startling when Colin half lifted his
head and exclaimed in a loud suddenly alarmed whisper:
"Who is that man?"
Dickon and Mary scrambled to their feet. "Man!" they both cried in low quick voices.
Colin pointed to the high wall. "Look!" he whispered excitedly.
"Just look!"
Mary and Dickon wheeled about and looked. There was Ben Weatherstaff's indignant face
glaring at them over the wall from the top of a ladder!
He actually shook his fist at Mary.
"If I wasn't a bachelder, an' tha' was a wench o' mine," he cried, "I'd give thee a
hidin'!"
He mounted another step threateningly as if it were his energetic intention to jump
down and deal with her; but as she came toward him he evidently thought better of
it and stood on the top step of his ladder shaking his fist down at her.
"I never thowt much o' thee!" he harangued. "I couldna' abide thee th' first time I set
eyes on thee.
A scrawny buttermilk-faced young besom, allus askin' questions an' pokin' tha' nose
where it wasna, wanted. I never knowed how tha' got so thick wi'
me.
If it hadna' been for th' robin-- Drat him--"
"Ben Weatherstaff," called out Mary, finding her breath.
She stood below him and called up to him with a sort of gasp.
"Ben Weatherstaff, it was the robin who showed me the way!"
Then it did seem as if Ben really would scramble down on her side of the wall, he
was so outraged. "Tha' young bad 'un!" he called down at
her.
"Layin' tha' badness on a robin--not but what he's impidint enow for anythin'.
Him showin' thee th' way!
Him! Eh! tha' young nowt"--she could see his next words burst out because he was
overpowered by curiosity--"however i' this world did tha' get in?"
"It was the robin who showed me the way," she protested obstinately.
"He didn't know he was doing it but he did. And I can't tell you from here while you're
shaking your fist at me."
He stopped shaking his fist very suddenly at that very moment and his jaw actually
dropped as he stared over her head at something he saw coming over the grass
toward him.
At the first sound of his torrent of words Colin had been so surprised that he had
only sat up and listened as if he were spellbound.
But in the midst of it he had recovered himself and beckoned imperiously to Dickon.
"Wheel me over there!" he commanded. "Wheel me quite close and stop right in
front of him!"
And this, if you please, this is what Ben Weatherstaff beheld and which made his jaw
drop.
A wheeled chair with luxurious cushions and robes which came toward him looking rather
like some sort of State Coach because a young Rajah leaned back in it with royal
command in his great black-rimmed eyes and
a thin white hand extended haughtily toward him.
And it stopped right under Ben Weatherstaff's nose.
It was really no wonder his mouth dropped open.
"Do you know who I am?" demanded the Rajah. How Ben Weatherstaff stared!
His red old eyes fixed themselves on what was before him as if he were seeing a
ghost. He gazed and gazed and gulped a lump down
his throat and did not say a word.
"Do you know who I am?" demanded Colin still more imperiously.
"Answer!"
Ben Weatherstaff put his gnarled hand up and passed it over his eyes and over his
forehead and then he did answer in a queer shaky voice.
"Who tha' art?" he said.
"Aye, that I do--wi' tha' mother's eyes starin' at me out o' tha' face.
Lord knows how tha' come here. But tha'rt th' poor cripple."
Colin forgot that he had ever had a back.
His face flushed scarlet and he sat bolt upright.
"I'm not a cripple!" he cried out furiously.
"I'm not!"
"He's not!" cried Mary, almost shouting up the wall in her fierce indignation.
"He's not got a lump as big as a pin! I looked and there was none there--not
one!"
Ben Weatherstaff passed his hand over his forehead again and gazed as if he could
never gaze enough. His hand shook and his mouth shook and his
voice shook.
He was an ignorant old man and a tactless old man and he could only remember the
things he had heard. "Tha'--tha' hasn't got a crooked back?" he
said hoarsely.
"No!" shouted Colin. "Tha'--tha' hasn't got crooked legs?"
quavered Ben more hoarsely yet. It was too much.
The strength which Colin usually threw into his tantrums rushed through him now in a
new way.
Never yet had he been accused of crooked legs--even in whispers--and the perfectly
simple belief in their existence which was revealed by Ben Weatherstaff's voice was
more than Rajah flesh and blood could endure.
His anger and insulted pride made him forget everything but this one moment and
filled him with a power he had never known before, an almost unnatural strength.
"Come here!" he shouted to Dickon, and he actually began to tear the coverings off
his lower limbs and disentangle himself. "Come here!
Come here!
This minute!" Dickon was by his side in a second.
Mary caught her breath in a short gasp and felt herself turn pale.
"He can do it!
He can do it! He can do it!
He can!" she gabbled over to herself under her breath as fast as ever she could.
There was a brief fierce scramble, the rugs were tossed on the ground, Dickon held
Colin's arm, the thin legs were out, the thin feet were on the grass.
Colin was standing upright--upright--as straight as an arrow and looking strangely
tall--his head thrown back and his strange eyes flashing lightning.
"Look at me!" he flung up at Ben Weatherstaff.
"Just look at me--you! Just look at me!"
"He's as straight as I am!" cried Dickon.
"He's as straight as any lad i' Yorkshire!" What Ben Weatherstaff did Mary thought
queer beyond measure.
He choked and gulped and suddenly tears ran down his weather-wrinkled cheeks as he
struck his old hands together. "Eh!" he burst forth, "th' lies folk tells!
Tha'rt as thin as a lath an' as white as a wraith, but there's not a knob on thee.
Tha'lt make a mon yet. God bless thee!"
Dickon held Colin's arm strongly but the boy had not begun to falter.
He stood straighter and straighter and looked Ben Weatherstaff in the face.
"I'm your master," he said, "when my father is away.
And you are to obey me. This is my garden.
Don't dare to say a word about it!
You get down from that ladder and go out to the Long Walk and Miss Mary will meet you
and bring you here. I want to talk to you.
We did not want you, but now you will have to be in the secret.
Be quick!"
Ben Weatherstaff's crabbed old face was still wet with that one queer rush of
tears.
It seemed as if he could not take his eyes from thin straight Colin standing on his
feet with his head thrown back. "Eh! lad," he almost whispered.
"Eh! my lad!"
And then remembering himself he suddenly touched his hat gardener fashion and said,
"Yes, sir! Yes, sir!" and obediently disappeared as he
descended the ladder.
>
CHAPTER XXII WHEN THE SUN WENT DOWN
When his head was out of sight Colin turned to Mary.
"Go and meet him," he said; and Mary flew across the grass to the door under the ivy.
Dickon was watching him with sharp eyes.
There were scarlet spots on his cheeks and he looked amazing, but he showed no signs
of falling. "I can stand," he said, and his head was
still held up and he said it quite grandly.
"I told thee tha' could as soon as tha' stopped bein' afraid," answered Dickon.
"An' tha's stopped." "Yes, I've stopped," said Colin.
Then suddenly he remembered something Mary had said.
"Are you making Magic?" he asked sharply. Dickon's curly mouth spread in a cheerful
grin.
"Tha's doin' Magic thysel'," he said. "It's same Magic as made these 'ere work
out o' th' earth," and he touched with his thick boot a clump of crocuses in the
grass.
Colin looked down at them. "Aye," he said slowly, "there couldna' be
bigger Magic than that there--there couldna' be."
He drew himself up straighter than ever.
"I'm going to walk to that tree," he said, pointing to one a few feet away from him.
"I'm going to be standing when Weatherstaff comes here.
I can rest against the tree if I like.
When I want to sit down I will sit down, but not before.
Bring a rug from the chair." He walked to the tree and though Dickon
held his arm he was wonderfully steady.
When he stood against the tree trunk it was not too plain that he supported himself
against it, and he still held himself so straight that he looked tall.
When Ben Weatherstaff came through the door in the wall he saw him standing there and
he heard Mary muttering something under her breath.
"What art sayin'?" he asked rather testily because he did not want his attention
distracted from the long thin straight boy figure and proud face.
But she did not tell him.
What she was saying was this: "You can do it!
You can do it! I told you you could!
You can do it!
You can do it! You can!"
She was saying it to Colin because she wanted to make Magic and keep him on his
feet looking like that.
She could not bear that he should give in before Ben Weatherstaff.
He did not give in.
She was uplifted by a sudden feeling that he looked quite beautiful in spite of his
thinness. He fixed his eyes on Ben Weatherstaff in
his funny imperious way.
"Look at me!" he commanded. "Look at me all over!
Am I a hunchback? Have I got crooked legs?"
Ben Weatherstaff had not quite got over his emotion, but he had recovered a little and
answered almost in his usual way. "Not tha'," he said.
"Nowt o' th' sort.
What's tha' been doin' with thysel'--hidin' out o' sight an' lettin' folk think tha'
was cripple an' half-witted?" "Half-witted!" said Colin angrily.
"Who thought that?"
"Lots o' fools," said Ben. "Th' world's full o' jackasses brayin' an'
they never bray nowt but lies. What did tha' shut thysel' up for?"
"Everyone thought I was going to die," said Colin shortly.
"I'm not!"
And he said it with such decision Ben Weatherstaff looked him over, up and down,
down and up. "Tha' die!" he said with dry exultation.
"Nowt o' th' sort!
Tha's got too much pluck in thee. When I seed thee put tha' legs on th'
ground in such a hurry I knowed tha' was all right.
Sit thee down on th' rug a bit young Mester an' give me thy orders."
There was a queer mixture of crabbed tenderness and shrewd understanding in his
manner.
Mary had poured out speech as rapidly as she could as they had come down the Long
Walk.
The chief thing to be remembered, she had told him, was that Colin was getting well--
getting well. The garden was doing it.
No one must let him remember about having humps and dying.
The Rajah condescended to seat himself on a rug under the tree.
"What work do you do in the gardens, Weatherstaff?" he inquired.
"Anythin' I'm told to do," answered old Ben.
"I'm kep' on by favor--because she liked me."
"She?" said Colin. "Tha' mother," answered Ben Weatherstaff.
"My mother?" said Colin, and he looked about him quietly.
"This was her garden, wasn't it?" "Aye, it was that!" and Ben Weatherstaff
looked about him too.
"She were main fond of it." "It is my garden now.
I am fond of it. I shall come here every day," announced
Colin.
"But it is to be a secret. My orders are that no one is to know that
we come here. Dickon and my cousin have worked and made
it come alive.
I shall send for you sometimes to help--but you must come when no one can see you."
Ben Weatherstaff's face twisted itself in a dry old smile.
"I've come here before when no one saw me," he said.
"What!" exclaimed Colin. "When?"
"Th' last time I was here," rubbing his chin and looking round, "was about two
year' ago." "But no one has been in it for ten years!"
cried Colin.
"There was no door!" "I'm no one," said old Ben dryly.
"An' I didn't come through th' door. I come over th' wall.
Th' rheumatics held me back th' last two year'."
"Tha' come an' did a bit o' prunin'!" cried Dickon.
"I couldn't make out how it had been done."
"She was so fond of it--she was!" said Ben Weatherstaff slowly.
"An' she was such a pretty young thing.
She says to me once, 'Ben,' says she laughin', 'if ever I'm ill or if I go away
you must take care of my roses.' When she did go away th' orders was no one
was ever to come nigh.
But I come," with grumpy obstinacy. "Over th' wall I come--until th' rheumatics
stopped me--an' I did a bit o' work once a year.
She'd gave her order first."
"It wouldn't have been as wick as it is if tha' hadn't done it," said Dickon.
"I did wonder." "I'm glad you did it, Weatherstaff," said
Colin.
"You'll know how to keep the secret." "Aye, I'll know, sir," answered Ben.
"An' it'll be easier for a man wi' rheumatics to come in at th' door."
On the grass near the tree Mary had dropped her trowel.
Colin stretched out his hand and took it up.
An odd expression came into his face and he began to scratch at the earth.
His thin hand was weak enough but presently as they watched him--Mary with quite
breathless interest--he drove the end of the trowel into the soil and turned some
over.
"You can do it! You can do it!" said Mary to herself.
"I tell you, you can!" Dickon's round eyes were full of eager
curiousness but he said not a word.
Ben Weatherstaff looked on with interested face.
Colin persevered.
After he had turned a few trowelfuls of soil he spoke exultantly to Dickon in his
best Yorkshire.
"Tha' said as tha'd have me walkin' about here same as other folk--an' tha' said
tha'd have me diggin'. I thowt tha' was just leein' to please me.
This is only th' first day an' I've walked- -an' here I am diggin'."
Ben Weatherstaff's mouth fell open again when he heard him, but he ended by
chuckling.
"Eh!" he said, "that sounds as if tha'd got wits enow.
Tha'rt a Yorkshire lad for sure. An' tha'rt diggin', too.
How'd tha' like to plant a bit o' somethin'?
I can get thee a rose in a pot." "Go and get it!" said Colin, digging
excitedly.
"Quick! Quick!"
It was done quickly enough indeed. Ben Weatherstaff went his way forgetting
rheumatics.
Dickon took his spade and dug the hole deeper and wider than a new digger with
thin white hands could make it. Mary slipped out to run and bring back a
watering-can.
When Dickon had deepened the hole Colin went on turning the soft earth over and
over.
He looked up at the sky, flushed and glowing with the strangely new exercise,
slight as it was. "I want to do it before the sun goes quite-
-quite down," he said.
Mary thought that perhaps the sun held back a few minutes just on purpose.
Ben Weatherstaff brought the rose in its pot from the greenhouse.
He hobbled over the grass as fast as he could.
He had begun to be excited, too. He knelt down by the hole and broke the pot
from the mould.
"Here, lad," he said, handing the plant to Colin.
"Set it in the earth thysel' same as th' king does when he goes to a new place."
The thin white hands shook a little and Colin's flush grew deeper as he set the
rose in the mould and held it while old Ben made firm the earth.
It was filled in and pressed down and made steady.
Mary was leaning forward on her hands and knees.
Soot had flown down and marched forward to see what was being done.
Nut and Shell chattered about it from a cherry-tree.
"It's planted!" said Colin at last.
"And the sun is only slipping over the edge.
Help me up, Dickon. I want to be standing when it goes.
That's part of the Magic."
And Dickon helped him, and the Magic--or whatever it was--so gave him strength that
when the sun did slip over the edge and end the strange lovely afternoon for them there
he actually stood on his two feet-- laughing.
>
CHAPTER XXIII MAGIC
Dr. Craven had been waiting some time at the house when they returned to it.
He had indeed begun to wonder if it might not be wise to send some one out to explore
the garden paths.
When Colin was brought back to his room the poor man looked him over seriously.
"You should not have stayed so long," he said.
"You must not overexert yourself."
"I am not tired at all," said Colin. "It has made me well.
Tomorrow I am going out in the morning as well as in the afternoon."
"I am not sure that I can allow it," answered Dr. Craven.
"I am afraid it would not be wise." "It would not be wise to try to stop me,"
said Colin quite seriously.
"I am going."
Even Mary had found out that one of Colin's chief peculiarities was that he did not
know in the least what a rude little brute he was with his way of ordering people
about.
He had lived on a sort of desert island all his life and as he had been the king of it
he had made his own manners and had had no one to compare himself with.
Mary had indeed been rather like him herself and since she had been at
Misselthwaite had gradually discovered that her own manners had not been of the kind
which is usual or popular.
Having made this discovery she naturally thought it of enough interest to
communicate to Colin. So she sat and looked at him curiously for
a few minutes after Dr. Craven had gone.
She wanted to make him ask her why she was doing it and of course she did.
"What are you looking at me for?" he said. "I'm thinking that I am rather sorry for
Dr. Craven."
"So am I," said Colin calmly, but not without an air of some satisfaction.
"He won't get Misselthwaite at all now I'm not going to die."
"I'm sorry for him because of that, of course," said Mary, "but I was thinking
just then that it must have been very horrid to have had to be polite for ten
years to a boy who was always rude.
I would never have done it." "Am I rude?"
Colin inquired undisturbedly.
"If you had been his own boy and he had been a slapping sort of man," said Mary,
"he would have slapped you." "But he daren't," said Colin.
"No, he daren't," answered Mistress Mary, thinking the thing out quite without
prejudice.
"Nobody ever dared to do anything you didn't like--because you were going to die
and things like that. You were such a poor thing."
"But," announced Colin stubbornly, "I am not going to be a poor thing.
I won't let people think I'm one. I stood on my feet this afternoon."
"It is always having your own way that has made you so queer," Mary went on, thinking
aloud. Colin turned his head, frowning.
"Am I queer?" he demanded.
"Yes," answered Mary, "very. But you needn't be cross," she added
impartially, "because so am I queer--and so is Ben Weatherstaff.
But I am not as queer as I was before I began to like people and before I found the
garden." "I don't want to be queer," said Colin.
"I am not going to be," and he frowned again with determination.
He was a very proud boy.
He lay thinking for a while and then Mary saw his beautiful smile begin and gradually
change his whole face. "I shall stop being queer," he said, "if I
go every day to the garden.
There is Magic in there--good Magic, you know, Mary.
I am sure there is." "So am I," said Mary.
"Even if it isn't real Magic," Colin said, "we can pretend it is.
Something is there--something!" "It's Magic," said Mary, "but not black.
It's as white as snow."
They always called it Magic and indeed it seemed like it in the months that followed-
-the wonderful months--the radiant months-- the amazing ones.
Oh! the things which happened in that garden!
If you have never had a garden you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden
you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass
there.
At first it seemed that green things would never cease pushing their way through the
earth, in the grass, in the beds, even in the crevices of the walls.
Then the green things began to show buds and the buds began to unfurl and show
color, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson.
In its happy days flowers had been tucked away into every inch and hole and corner.
Ben Weatherstaff had seen it done and had himself scraped out mortar from between the
bricks of the wall and made pockets of earth for lovely clinging things to grow
on.
Iris and white lilies rose out of the grass in sheaves, and the green alcoves filled
themselves with amazing armies of the blue and white flower lances of tall delphiniums
or columbines or campanulas.
"She was main fond o' them--she was," Ben Weatherstaff said.
"She liked them things as was allus pointin' up to th' blue sky, she used to
tell.
Not as she was one o' them as looked down on th' earth--not her.
She just loved it but she said as th' blue sky allus looked so joyful."
The seeds Dickon and Mary had planted grew as if fairies had tended them.
Satiny poppies of all tints danced in the breeze by the score, gaily defying flowers
which had lived in the garden for years and which it might be confessed seemed rather
to wonder how such new people had got there.
And the roses--the roses!
Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sun-dial, wreathing the tree trunks and
hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long
garlands falling in cascades--they came alive day by day, hour by hour.
Fair fresh leaves, and buds--and buds--tiny at first but swelling and working Magic
until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over
their brims and filling the garden air.
Colin saw it all, watching each change as it took place.
Every morning he was brought out and every hour of each day when it didn't rain he
spent in the garden.
Even gray days pleased him. He would lie on the grass "watching things
growing," he said. If you watched long enough, he declared,
you could see buds unsheath themselves.
Also you could make the acquaintance of strange busy insect things running about on
various unknown but evidently serious errands, sometimes carrying tiny scraps of
straw or feather or food, or climbing
blades of grass as if they were trees from whose tops one could look out to explore
the country.
A mole throwing up its mound at the end of its burrow and making its way out at last
with the long-nailed paws which looked so like elfish hands, had absorbed him one
whole morning.
Ants' ways, beetles' ways, bees' ways, frogs' ways, birds' ways, plants' ways,
gave him a new world to explore and when Dickon revealed them all and added foxes'
ways, otters' ways, ferrets' ways,
squirrels' ways, and trout' and water-rats' and badgers' ways, there was no end to the
things to talk about and think over. And this was not the half of the Magic.
The fact that he had really once stood on his feet had set Colin thinking
tremendously and when Mary told him of the spell she had worked he was excited and
approved of it greatly.
He talked of it constantly. "Of course there must be lots of Magic in
the world," he said wisely one day, "but people don't know what it is like or how to
make it.
Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make
them happen. I am going to try and experiment."
The next morning when they went to the secret garden he sent at once for Ben
Weatherstaff.
Ben came as quickly as he could and found the Rajah standing on his feet under a tree
and looking very grand but also very beautifully smiling.
"Good morning, Ben Weatherstaff," he said.
"I want you and Dickon and Miss Mary to stand in a row and listen to me because I
am going to tell you something very important."
"Aye, aye, sir!" answered Ben Weatherstaff, touching his forehead.
(One of the long concealed charms of Ben Weatherstaff was that in his boyhood he had
once run away to sea and had made voyages.
So he could reply like a sailor.) "I am going to try a scientific
experiment," explained the Rajah.
"When I grow up I am going to make great scientific discoveries and I am going to
begin now with this experiment."
"Aye, aye, sir!" said Ben Weatherstaff promptly, though this was the first time he
had heard of great scientific discoveries.
It was the first time Mary had heard of them, either, but even at this stage she
had begun to realize that, queer as he was, Colin had read about a great many singular
things and was somehow a very convincing sort of boy.
When he held up his head and fixed his strange eyes on you it seemed as if you
believed him almost in spite of yourself though he was only ten years old--going on
eleven.
At this moment he was especially convincing because he suddenly felt the fascination of
actually making a sort of speech like a grown-up person.
"The great scientific discoveries I am going to make," he went on, "will be about
Magic.
Magic is a great thing and scarcely any one knows anything about it except a few people
in old books--and Mary a little, because she was born in India where there are
fakirs.
I believe Dickon knows some Magic, but perhaps he doesn't know he knows it.
He charms animals and people.
I would never have let him come to see me if he had not been an animal charmer--which
is a boy charmer, too, because a boy is an animal.
I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold
of it and make it do things for us--like electricity and horses and steam."
This sounded so imposing that Ben Weatherstaff became quite excited and
really could not keep still. "Aye, aye, sir," he said and he began to
stand up quite straight.
"When Mary found this garden it looked quite dead," the orator proceeded.
"Then something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of
nothing.
One day things weren't there and another they were.
I had never watched things before and it made me feel very curious.
Scientific people are always curious and I am going to be scientific.
I keep saying to myself, 'What is it? What is it?'
It's something.
It can't be nothing! I don't know its name so I call it Magic.
I have never seen the sun rise but Mary and Dickon have and from what they tell me I am
sure that is Magic too.
Something pushes it up and draws it.
Sometimes since I've been in the garden I've looked up through the trees at the sky
and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and
drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.
Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing.
Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes
and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us.
In this garden--in all the places.
The Magic in this garden has made me stand up and know I am going to live to be a man.
I am going to make the scientific experiment of trying to get some and put it
in myself and make it push and draw me and make me strong.
I don't know how to do it but I think that if you keep thinking about it and calling
it perhaps it will come. Perhaps that is the first baby way to get
it.
When I was going to try to stand that first time Mary kept saying to herself as fast as
she could, 'You can do it! You can do it!' and I did.
I had to try myself at the same time, of course, but her Magic helped me--and so did
Dickon's.
Every morning and evening and as often in the daytime as I can remember I am going to
say, 'Magic is in me! Magic is making me well!
I am going to be as strong as Dickon, as strong as Dickon!'
And you must all do it, too. That is my experiment Will you help, Ben
Weatherstaff?"
"Aye, aye, sir!" said Ben Weatherstaff. "Aye, aye!"
"If you keep doing it every day as regularly as soldiers go through drill we
shall see what will happen and find out if the experiment succeeds.
You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they
stay in your mind forever and I think it will be the same with Magic.
If you keep calling it to come to you and help you it will get to be part of you and
it will stay and do things."
"I once heard an officer in India tell my mother that there were fakirs who said
words over and over thousands of times," said Mary.
"I've heard Jem Fettleworth's wife say th' same thing over thousands o' times--callin'
Jem a drunken brute," said Ben Weatherstaff dryly.
"Summat allus come o' that, sure enough.
He gave her a good hidin' an' went to th' Blue Lion an' got as drunk as a lord."
Colin drew his brows together and thought a few minutes.
Then he cheered up.
"Well," he said, "you see something did come of it.
She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her.
If she'd used the right Magic and had said something nice perhaps he wouldn't have got
as drunk as a lord and perhaps--perhaps he might have bought her a new bonnet."
Ben Weatherstaff chuckled and there was shrewd admiration in his little old eyes.
"Tha'rt a clever lad as well as a straight- legged one, Mester Colin," he said.
"Next time I see Bess Fettleworth I'll give her a bit of a hint o' what Magic will do
for her. She'd be rare an' pleased if th' sinetifik
'speriment worked--an' so 'ud Jem."
Dickon had stood listening to the lecture, his round eyes shining with curious
delight.
Nut and Shell were on his shoulders and he held a long-eared white rabbit in his arm
and stroked and stroked it softly while it laid its ears along its back and enjoyed
itself.
"Do you think the experiment will work?" Colin asked him, wondering what he was
thinking.
He so often wondered what Dickon was thinking when he saw him looking at him or
at one of his "creatures" with his happy wide smile.
He smiled now and his smile was wider than usual.
"Aye," he answered, "that I do. It'll work same as th' seeds do when th'
sun shines on 'em.
It'll work for sure. Shall us begin it now?"
Colin was delighted and so was Mary.
Fired by recollections of fakirs and devotees in illustrations Colin suggested
that they should all sit cross-legged under the tree which made a canopy.
"It will be like sitting in a sort of temple," said Colin.
"I'm rather tired and I want to sit down." "Eh!" said Dickon, "tha' mustn't begin by
sayin' tha'rt tired.
Tha' might spoil th' Magic." Colin turned and looked at him--into his
innocent round eyes. "That's true," he said slowly.
"I must only think of the Magic."
It all seemed most majestic and mysterious when they sat down in their circle.
Ben Weatherstaff felt as if he had somehow been led into appearing at a prayer-
meeting.
Ordinarily he was very fixed in being what he called "agen' prayer-meetin's" but this
being the Rajah's affair he did not resent it and was indeed inclined to be gratified
at being called upon to assist.
Mistress Mary felt solemnly enraptured.
Dickon held his rabbit in his arm, and perhaps he made some charmer's signal no
one heard, for when he sat down, cross- legged like the rest, the crow, the fox,
the squirrels and the lamb slowly drew near
and made part of the circle, settling each into a place of rest as if of their own
desire. "The 'creatures' have come," said Colin
gravely.
"They want to help us." Colin really looked quite beautiful, Mary
thought.
He held his head high as if he felt like a sort of priest and his strange eyes had a
wonderful look in them. The light shone on him through the tree
canopy.
"Now we will begin," he said. "Shall we sway backward and forward, Mary,
as if we were dervishes?" "I canna' do no swayin' back'ard and
for'ard," said Ben Weatherstaff.
"I've got th' rheumatics." "The Magic will take them away," said Colin
in a High Priest tone, "but we won't sway until it has done it.
We will only chant."
"I canna' do no chantin'" said Ben Weatherstaff a trifle testily.
"They turned me out o' th' church choir th' only time I ever tried it."
No one smiled.
They were all too much in earnest. Colin's face was not even crossed by a
shadow. He was thinking only of the Magic.
"Then I will chant," he said.
And he began, looking like a strange boy spirit.
"The sun is shining--the sun is shining. That is the Magic.
The flowers are growing--the roots are stirring.
That is the Magic. Being alive is the Magic--being strong is
the Magic.
The Magic is in me--the Magic is in me. It is in me--it is in me.
It's in every one of us. It's in Ben Weatherstaff's back.
Magic!
Magic! Come and help!"
He said it a great many times--not a thousand times but quite a goodly number.
Mary listened entranced.
She felt as if it were at once queer and beautiful and she wanted him to go on and
on. Ben Weatherstaff began to feel soothed into
a sort of dream which was quite agreeable.
The humming of the bees in the blossoms mingled with the chanting voice and
drowsily melted into a doze.
Dickon sat cross-legged with his rabbit asleep on his arm and a hand resting on the
lamb's back.
Soot had pushed away a squirrel and huddled close to him on his shoulder, the gray film
dropped over his eyes. At last Colin stopped.
"Now I am going to walk round the garden," he announced.
Ben Weatherstaff's head had just dropped forward and he lifted it with a jerk.
"You have been asleep," said Colin.
"Nowt o' th' sort," mumbled Ben. "Th' sermon was good enow--but I'm bound to
get out afore th' collection." He was not quite awake yet.
"You're not in church," said Colin.
"Not me," said Ben, straightening himself. "Who said I were?
I heard every bit of it. You said th' Magic was in my back.
Th' doctor calls it rheumatics."
The Rajah waved his hand. "That was the wrong Magic," he said.
"You will get better. You have my permission to go to your work.
But come back tomorrow."
"I'd like to see thee walk round the garden," grunted Ben.
It was not an unfriendly grunt, but it was a grunt.
In fact, being a stubborn old party and not having entire faith in Magic he had made up
his mind that if he were sent away he would climb his ladder and look over the wall so
that he might be ready to hobble back if there were any stumbling.
The Rajah did not object to his staying and so the procession was formed.
It really did look like a procession.
Colin was at its head with Dickon on one side and Mary on the other.
Ben Weatherstaff walked behind, and the "creatures" trailed after them, the lamb
and the fox cub keeping close to Dickon, the white rabbit hopping along or stopping
to nibble and Soot following with the
solemnity of a person who felt himself in charge.
It was a procession which moved slowly but with dignity.
Every few yards it stopped to rest.
Colin leaned on Dickon's arm and privately Ben Weatherstaff kept a sharp lookout, but
now and then Colin took his hand from its support and walked a few steps alone.
His head was held up all the time and he looked very grand.
"The Magic is in me!" he kept saying. "The Magic is making me strong!
I can feel it!
I can feel it!" It seemed very certain that something was
upholding and uplifting him.
He sat on the seats in the alcoves, and once or twice he sat down on the grass and
several times he paused in the path and leaned on Dickon, but he would not give up
until he had gone all round the garden.
When he returned to the canopy tree his cheeks were flushed and he looked
triumphant. "I did it!
The Magic worked!" he cried.
"That is my first scientific discovery.". "What will Dr. Craven say?" broke out Mary.
"He won't say anything," Colin answered, "because he will not be told.
This is to be the biggest secret of all.
No one is to know anything about it until I have grown so strong that I can walk and
run like any other boy. I shall come here every day in my chair and
I shall be taken back in it.
I won't have people whispering and asking questions and I won't let my father hear
about it until the experiment has quite succeeded.
Then sometime when he comes back to Misselthwaite I shall just walk into his
study and say 'Here I am; I am like any other boy.
I am quite well and I shall live to be a man.
It has been done by a scientific experiment.'"
"He will think he is in a dream," cried Mary.
"He won't believe his eyes." Colin flushed triumphantly.
He had made himself believe that he was going to get well, which was really more
than half the battle, if he had been aware of it.
And the thought which stimulated him more than any other was this imagining what his
father would look like when he saw that he had a son who was as straight and strong as
other fathers' sons.
One of his darkest miseries in the unhealthy morbid past days had been his
hatred of being a sickly weak-backed boy whose father was afraid to look at him.
"He'll be obliged to believe them," he said.
"One of the things I am going to do, after the Magic works and before I begin to make
scientific discoveries, is to be an athlete."
"We shall have thee takin' to boxin' in a week or so," said Ben Weatherstaff.
"Tha'lt end wi' winnin' th' Belt an' bein' champion prize-fighter of all England."
Colin fixed his eyes on him sternly.
"Weatherstaff," he said, "that is disrespectful.
You must not take liberties because you are in the secret.
However much the Magic works I shall not be a prize-fighter.
I shall be a Scientific Discoverer." "Ax pardon--ax pardon, sir" answered Ben,
touching his forehead in salute.
"I ought to have seed it wasn't a jokin' matter," but his eyes twinkled and secretly
he was immensely pleased.
He really did not mind being snubbed since the snubbing meant that the lad was gaining
strength and spirit.
>
CHAPTER XXIV "LET THEM LAUGH"
The secret garden was not the only one Dickon worked in.
Round the cottage on the moor there was a piece of ground enclosed by a low wall of
rough stones.
Early in the morning and late in the fading twilight and on all the days Colin and Mary
did not see him, Dickon worked there planting or tending potatoes and cabbages,
turnips and carrots and herbs for his mother.
In the company of his "creatures" he did wonders there and was never tired of doing
them, it seemed.
While he dug or weeded he whistled or sang bits of Yorkshire moor songs or talked to
Soot or Captain or the brothers and sisters he had taught to help him.
"We'd never get on as comfortable as we do," Mrs. Sowerby said, "if it wasn't for
Dickon's garden. Anything'll grow for him.
His 'taters and cabbages is twice th' size of any one else's an' they've got a flavor
with 'em as nobody's has." When she found a moment to spare she liked
to go out and talk to him.
After supper there was still a long clear twilight to work in and that was her quiet
time. She could sit upon the low rough wall and
look on and hear stories of the day.
She loved this time. There were not only vegetables in this
garden.
Dickon had bought penny packages of flower seeds now and then and sown bright sweet-
scented things among gooseberry bushes and even cabbages and he grew borders of
mignonette and pinks and pansies and things
whose seeds he could save year after year or whose roots would bloom each spring and
spread in time into fine clumps.
The low wall was one of the prettiest things in Yorkshire because he had tucked
moorland foxglove and ferns and rock-cress and hedgerow flowers into every crevice
until only here and there glimpses of the stones were to be seen.
"All a chap's got to do to make 'em thrive, mother," he would say, "is to be friends
with 'em for sure.
They're just like th' 'creatures.' If they're thirsty give 'em drink and if
they're hungry give 'em a bit o' food. They want to live same as we do.
If they died I should feel as if I'd been a bad lad and somehow treated them
heartless."
It was in these twilight hours that Mrs. Sowerby heard of all that happened at
Misselthwaite Manor.
At first she was only told that "Mester Colin" had taken a fancy to going out into
the grounds with Miss Mary and that it was doing him good.
But it was not long before it was agreed between the two children that Dickon's
mother might "come into the secret." Somehow it was not doubted that she was
"safe for sure."
So one beautiful still evening Dickon told the whole story, with all the thrilling
details of the buried key and the robin and the gray haze which had seemed like
deadness and the secret Mistress Mary had planned never to reveal.
The coming of Dickon and how it had been told to him, the doubt of Mester Colin and
the final drama of his introduction to the hidden domain, combined with the incident
of Ben Weatherstaff's angry face peering
over the wall and Mester Colin's sudden indignant strength, made Mrs. Sowerby's
nice-looking face quite change color several times.
"My word!" she said.
"It was a good thing that little lass came to th' Manor.
It's been th' makin' o' her an' th' savin, o' him.
Standin' on his feet!
An' us all thinkin' he was a poor half- witted lad with not a straight bone in
him." She asked a great many questions and her
blue eyes were full of deep thinking.
"What do they make of it at th' Manor--him being so well an' cheerful an' never
complainin'?" she inquired. "They don't know what to make of it,"
answered Dickon.
"Every day as comes round his face looks different.
It's fillin' out and doesn't look so sharp an' th' waxy color is goin'.
But he has to do his bit o' complainin'," with a highly entertained grin.
"What for, i' Mercy's name?" asked Mrs. Sowerby.
Dickon chuckled.
"He does it to keep them from guessin' what's happened.
If the doctor knew he'd found out he could stand on his feet he'd likely write and
tell Mester Craven.
Mester Colin's savin' th' secret to tell himself.
He's goin' to practise his Magic on his legs every day till his father comes back
an' then he's goin' to march into his room an' show him he's as straight as other
lads.
But him an' Miss Mary thinks it's best plan to do a bit o' groanin' an' frettin' now
an' then to throw folk off th' scent."
Mrs. Sowerby was laughing a low comfortable laugh long before he had finished his last
sentence. "Eh!" she said, "that pair's enjoyin'
their-selves I'll warrant.
They'll get a good bit o' actin' out of it an' there's nothin' children likes as much
as play actin'. Let's hear what they do, Dickon lad."
Dickon stopped weeding and sat up on his heels to tell her.
His eyes were twinkling with fun. "Mester Colin is carried down to his chair
every time he goes out," he explained.
"An' he flies out at John, th' footman, for not carryin' him careful enough.
He makes himself as helpless lookin' as he can an' never lifts his head until we're
out o' sight o' th' house.
An' he grunts an' frets a good bit when he's bein' settled into his chair.
Him an' Miss Mary's both got to enjoyin' it an' when he groans an' complains she'll
say, 'Poor Colin!
Does it hurt you so much? Are you so weak as that, poor Colin?'--but
th' trouble is that sometimes they can scarce keep from burstin' out laughin'.
When we get safe into the garden they laugh till they've no breath left to laugh with.
An' they have to stuff their faces into Mester Colin's cushions to keep the
gardeners from hearin', if any of, 'em's about."
"Th' more they laugh th' better for 'em!" said Mrs. Sowerby, still laughing herself.
"Good healthy child laughin's better than pills any day o' th' year.
That pair'll plump up for sure."
"They are plumpin' up," said Dickon. "They're that hungry they don't know how to
get enough to eat without makin' talk.
Mester Colin says if he keeps sendin' for more food they won't believe he's an
invalid at all.
Miss Mary says she'll let him eat her share, but he says that if she goes hungry
she'll get thin an' they mun both get fat at once."
Mrs. Sowerby laughed so heartily at the revelation of this difficulty that she
quite rocked backward and forward in her blue cloak, and Dickon laughed with her.
"I'll tell thee what, lad," Mrs. Sowerby said when she could speak.
"I've thought of a way to help 'em.
When tha' goes to 'em in th' mornin's tha' shall take a pail o' good new milk an' I'll
bake 'em a crusty cottage loaf or some buns wi' currants in 'em, same as you children
like.
Nothin's so good as fresh milk an' bread. Then they could take off th' edge o' their
hunger while they were in their garden an' th, fine food they get indoors 'ud polish
off th' corners."
"Eh! mother!" said Dickon admiringly, "what a wonder tha' art!
Tha' always sees a way out o' things. They was quite in a pother yesterday.
They didn't see how they was to manage without orderin' up more food--they felt
that empty inside." "They're two young 'uns growin' fast, an'
health's comin' back to both of 'em.
Children like that feels like young wolves an' food's flesh an' blood to 'em," said
Mrs. Sowerby. Then she smiled Dickon's own curving smile.
"Eh! but they're enjoyin' theirselves for sure," she said.
She was quite right, the comfortable wonderful mother creature--and she had
never been more so than when she said their "play actin'" would be their joy.
Colin and Mary found it one of their most thrilling sources of entertainment.
The idea of protecting themselves from suspicion had been unconsciously suggested
to them first by the puzzled nurse and then by Dr. Craven himself.
"Your appetite.
Is improving very much, Master Colin," the nurse had said one day.
"You used to eat nothing, and so many things disagreed with you."
"Nothing disagrees with me now" replied Colin, and then seeing the nurse looking at
him curiously he suddenly remembered that perhaps he ought not to appear too well
just yet.
"At least things don't so often disagree with me.
It's the fresh air." "Perhaps it is," said the nurse, still
looking at him with a mystified expression.
"But I must talk to Dr. Craven about it." "How she stared at you!" said Mary when she
went away. "As if she thought there must be something
to find out."
"I won't have her finding out things," said Colin.
"No one must begin to find out yet." When Dr. Craven came that morning he seemed
puzzled, also.
He asked a number of questions, to Colin's great annoyance.
"You stay out in the garden a great deal," he suggested.
"Where do you go?"
Colin put on his favorite air of dignified indifference to opinion.
"I will not let any one know where I go," he answered.
"I go to a place I like.
Every one has orders to keep out of the way.
I won't be watched and stared at. You know that!"
"You seem to be out all day but I do not think it has done you harm--I do not think
so. The nurse says that you eat much more than
you have ever done before."
"Perhaps," said Colin, prompted by a sudden inspiration, "perhaps it is an unnatural
appetite." "I do not think so, as your food seems to
agree with you," said Dr. Craven.
"You are gaining flesh rapidly and your color is better."
"Perhaps--perhaps I am bloated and feverish," said Colin, assuming a
discouraging air of gloom.
"People who are not going to live are often--different."
Dr. Craven shook his head. He was holding Colin's wrist and he pushed
up his sleeve and felt his arm.
"You are not feverish," he said thoughtfully, "and such flesh as you have
gained is healthy. If you can keep this up, my boy, we need
not talk of dying.
Your father will be happy to hear of this remarkable improvement."
"I won't have him told!" Colin broke forth fiercely.
"It will only disappoint him if I get worse again--and I may get worse this very night.
I might have a raging fever. I feel as if I might be beginning to have
one now.
I won't have letters written to my father-- I won't--I won't!
You are making me angry and you know that is bad for me.
I feel hot already.
I hate being written about and being talked over as much as I hate being stared at!"
"Hush-h! my boy," Dr. Craven soothed him. "Nothing shall be written without your
permission.
You are too sensitive about things. You must not undo the good which has been
done."
He said no more about writing to Mr. Craven and when he saw the nurse he privately
warned her that such a possibility must not be mentioned to the patient.
"The boy is extraordinarily better," he said.
"His advance seems almost abnormal.
But of course he is doing now of his own free will what we could not make him do
before. Still, he excites himself very easily and
nothing must be said to irritate him."
Mary and Colin were much alarmed and talked together anxiously.
From this time dated their plan of "play actin'."
"I may be obliged to have a tantrum," said Colin regretfully.
"I don't want to have one and I'm not miserable enough now to work myself into a
big one.
Perhaps I couldn't have one at all. That lump doesn't come in my throat now and
I keep thinking of nice things instead of horrible ones.
But if they talk about writing to my father I shall have to do something."
He made up his mind to eat less, but unfortunately it was not possible to carry
out this brilliant idea when he wakened each morning with an amazing appetite and
the table near his sofa was set with a
breakfast of home-made bread and fresh butter, snow-white eggs, raspberry jam and
clotted cream.
Mary always breakfasted with him and when they found themselves at the table--
particularly if there were delicate slices of sizzling ham sending forth tempting
odors from under a hot silver cover--they
would look into each other's eyes in desperation.
"I think we shall have to eat it all this morning, Mary," Colin always ended by
saying.
"We can send away some of the lunch and a great deal of the dinner."
But they never found they could send away anything and the highly polished condition
of the empty plates returned to the pantry awakened much comment.
"I do wish," Colin would say also, "I do wish the slices of ham were thicker, and
one muffin each is not enough for any one."
"It's enough for a person who is going to die," answered Mary when first she heard
this, "but it's not enough for a person who is going to live.
I sometimes feel as if I could eat three when those nice fresh heather and gorse
smells from the moor come pouring in at the open window."
The morning that Dickon--after they had been enjoying themselves in the garden for
about two hours--went behind a big rosebush and brought forth two tin pails and
revealed that one was full of rich new milk
with cream on the top of it, and that the other held cottage-made currant buns folded
in a clean blue and white napkin, buns so carefully tucked in that they were still
hot, there was a riot of surprised joyfulness.
What a wonderful thing for Mrs. Sowerby to think of!
What a kind, clever woman she must be!
How good the buns were! And what delicious fresh milk!
"Magic is in her just as it is in Dickon," said Colin.
"It makes her think of ways to do things-- nice things.
She is a Magic person. Tell her we are grateful, Dickon--extremely
grateful."
He was given to using rather grown-up phrases at times.
He enjoyed them. He liked this so much that he improved upon
it.
"Tell her she has been most bounteous and our gratitude is extreme."
And then forgetting his grandeur he fell to and stuffed himself with buns and drank
milk out of the pail in copious draughts in the manner of any hungry little boy who had
been taking unusual exercise and breathing
in moorland air and whose breakfast was more than two hours behind him.
This was the beginning of many agreeable incidents of the same kind.
They actually awoke to the fact that as Mrs. Sowerby had fourteen people to provide
food for she might not have enough to satisfy two extra appetites every day.
So they asked her to let them send some of their shillings to buy things.
Dickon made the stimulating discovery that in the wood in the park outside the garden
where Mary had first found him piping to the wild creatures there was a deep little
hollow where you could build a sort of tiny
oven with stones and roast potatoes and eggs in it.
Roasted eggs were a previously unknown luxury and very hot potatoes with salt and
fresh butter in them were fit for a woodland king--besides being deliciously
satisfying.
You could buy both potatoes and eggs and eat as many as you liked without feeling as
if you were taking food out of the mouths of fourteen people.
Every beautiful morning the Magic was worked by the mystic circle under the plum-
tree which provided a canopy of thickening green leaves after its brief blossom-time
was ended.
After the ceremony Colin always took his walking exercise and throughout the day he
exercised his newly found power at intervals.
Each day he grew stronger and could walk more steadily and cover more ground.
And each day his belief in the Magic grew stronger--as well it might.
He tried one experiment after another as he felt himself gaining strength and it was
Dickon who showed him the best things of all.
"Yesterday," he said one morning after an absence, "I went to Thwaite for mother an'
near th' Blue Cow Inn I seed Bob Haworth. He's the strongest chap on th' moor.
He's the champion wrestler an' he can jump higher than any other chap an' throw th'
hammer farther. He's gone all th' way to Scotland for th'
sports some years.
He's knowed me ever since I was a little 'un an' he's a friendly sort an' I axed him
some questions.
Th' gentry calls him a athlete and I thought o' thee, Mester Colin, and I says,
'How did tha' make tha' muscles stick out that way, Bob?
Did tha' do anythin' extra to make thysel' so strong?'
An' he says 'Well, yes, lad, I did.
A strong man in a show that came to Thwaite once showed me how to exercise my arms an'
legs an' every muscle in my body.
An' I says, 'Could a delicate chap make himself stronger with 'em, Bob?' an' he
laughed an' says, 'Art tha' th' delicate chap?' an' I says, 'No, but I knows a young
gentleman that's gettin' well of a long
illness an' I wish I knowed some o' them tricks to tell him about.'
I didn't say no names an' he didn't ask none.
He's friendly same as I said an' he stood up an' showed me good-natured like, an' I
imitated what he did till I knowed it by heart."
Colin had been listening excitedly.
"Can you show me?" he cried. "Will you?"
"Aye, to be sure," Dickon answered, getting up.
"But he says tha' mun do 'em gentle at first an' be careful not to tire thysel'.
Rest in between times an' take deep breaths an' don't overdo."
"I'll be careful," said Colin.
"Show me! Show me!
Dickon, you are the most Magic boy in the world!"
Dickon stood up on the grass and slowly went through a carefully practical but
simple series of muscle exercises. Colin watched them with widening eyes.
He could do a few while he was sitting down.
Presently he did a few gently while he stood upon his already steadied feet.
Mary began to do them also.
Soot, who was watching the performance, became much disturbed and left his branch
and hopped about restlessly because he could not do them too.
From that time the exercises were part of the day's duties as much as the Magic was.
It became possible for both Colin and Mary to do more of them each time they tried,
and such appetites were the results that but for the basket Dickon put down behind
the bush each morning when he arrived they would have been lost.
But the little oven in the hollow and Mrs. Sowerby's bounties were so satisfying that
Mrs. Medlock and the nurse and Dr. Craven became mystified again.
You can trifle with your breakfast and seem to disdain your dinner if you are full to
the brim with roasted eggs and potatoes and richly frothed new milk and oatcakes and
buns and heather honey and clotted cream.
"They are eating next to nothing," said the nurse.
"They'll die of starvation if they can't be persuaded to take some nourishment.
And yet see how they look."
"Look!" exclaimed Mrs. Medlock indignantly. "Eh! I'm moithered to death with them.
They're a pair of young Satans.
Bursting their jackets one day and the next turning up their noses at the best meals
Cook can tempt them with.
Not a mouthful of that lovely young fowl and bread sauce did they set a fork into
yesterday--and the poor woman fair invented a pudding for them--and back it's sent.
She almost cried.
She's afraid she'll be blamed if they starve themselves into their graves."
Dr. Craven came and looked at Colin long and carefully, He wore an extremely worried
expression when the nurse talked with him and showed him the almost untouched tray of
breakfast she had saved for him to look at-
-but it was even more worried when he sat down by Colin's sofa and examined him.
He had been called to London on business and had not seen the boy for nearly two
weeks.
When young things begin to gain health they gain it rapidly.
The waxen tinge had left, Colins skin and a warm rose showed through it; his beautiful
eyes were clear and the hollows under them and in his cheeks and temples had filled
out.
His once dark, heavy locks had begun to look as if they sprang healthily from his
forehead and were soft and warm with life. His lips were fuller and of a normal color.
In fact as an imitation of a boy who was a confirmed invalid he was a disgraceful
sight. Dr. Craven held his chin in his hand and
thought him over.
"I am sorry to hear that you do not eat anything," he said.
"That will not do. You will lose all you have gained--and you
have gained amazingly.
You ate so well a short time ago." "I told you it was an unnatural appetite,"
answered Colin.
Mary was sitting on her stool nearby and she suddenly made a very queer sound which
she tried so violently to repress that she ended by almost choking.
"What is the matter?" said Dr. Craven, turning to look at her.
Mary became quite severe in her manner.
"It was something between a sneeze and a cough," she replied with reproachful
dignity, "and it got into my throat." "But," she said afterward to Colin, "I
couldn't stop myself.
It just burst out because all at once I couldn't help remembering that last big
potato you ate and the way your mouth stretched when you bit through that thick
lovely crust with jam and clotted cream on it."
"Is there any way in which those children can get food secretly?"
Dr. Craven inquired of Mrs. Medlock.
"There's no way unless they dig it out of the earth or pick it off the trees," Mrs.
Medlock answered. "They stay out in the grounds all day and
see no one but each other.
And if they want anything different to eat from what's sent up to them they need only
ask for it."
"Well," said Dr. Craven, "so long as going without food agrees with them we need not
disturb ourselves. The boy is a new creature."
"So is the girl," said Mrs. Medlock.
"She's begun to be downright pretty since she's filled out and lost her ugly little
sour look. Her hair's grown thick and healthy looking
and she's got a bright color.
The glummest, ill-natured little thing she used to be and now her and Master Colin
laugh together like a pair of crazy young ones.
Perhaps they're growing fat on that."
"Perhaps they are," said Dr. Craven. "Let them laugh."
>
CHAPTER XXV THE CURTAIN
And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.
In the robin's nest there were Eggs and the robin's mate sat upon them keeping them
warm with her feathery little breast and careful wings.
At first she was very nervous and the robin himself was indignantly watchful.
Even Dickon did not go near the close-grown corner in those days, but waited until by
the quiet working of some mysterious spell he seemed to have conveyed to the soul of
the little pair that in the garden there
was nothing which was not quite like themselves--nothing which did not
understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them--the immense, tender,
terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs.
If there had been one person in that garden who had not known through all his or her
innermost being that if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl
round and crash through space and come to
an end--if there had been even one who did not feel it and act accordingly there could
have been no happiness even in that golden springtime air.
But they all knew it and felt it and the robin and his mate knew they knew it.
At first the robin watched Mary and Colin with sharp anxiety.
For some mysterious reason he knew he need not watch Dickon.
The first moment he set his dew-bright black eye on Dickon he knew he was not a
stranger but a sort of robin without beak or feathers.
He could speak robin (which is a quite distinct language not to be mistaken for
any other). To speak robin to a robin is like speaking
French to a Frenchman.
Dickon always spoke it to the robin himself, so the queer gibberish he used
when he spoke to humans did not matter in the least.
The robin thought he spoke this gibberish to them because they were not intelligent
enough to understand feathered speech. His movements also were robin.
They never startled one by being sudden enough to seem dangerous or threatening.
Any robin could understand Dickon, so his presence was not even disturbing.
But at the outset it seemed necessary to be on guard against the other two.
In the first place the boy creature did not come into the garden on his legs.
He was pushed in on a thing with wheels and the skins of wild animals were thrown over
him. That in itself was doubtful.
Then when he began to stand up and move about he did it in a queer unaccustomed way
and the others seemed to have to help him.
The robin used to secrete himself in a bush and watch this anxiously, his head tilted
first on one side and then on the other.
He thought that the slow movements might mean that he was preparing to pounce, as
cats do. When cats are preparing to pounce they
creep over the ground very slowly.
The robin talked this over with his mate a great deal for a few days but after that he
decided not to speak of the subject because her terror was so great that he was afraid
it might be injurious to the Eggs.
When the boy began to walk by himself and even to move more quickly it was an immense
relief.
But for a long time--or it seemed a long time to the robin--he was a source of some
anxiety. He did not act as the other humans did.
He seemed very fond of walking but he had a way of sitting or lying down for a while
and then getting up in a disconcerting manner to begin again.
One day the robin remembered that when he himself had been made to learn to fly by
his parents he had done much the same sort of thing.
He had taken short flights of a few yards and then had been obliged to rest.
So it occurred to him that this boy was learning to fly--or rather to walk.
He mentioned this to his mate and when he told her that the Eggs would probably
conduct themselves in the same way after they were fledged she was quite comforted
and even became eagerly interested and
derived great pleasure from watching the boy over the edge of her nest--though she
always thought that the Eggs would be much cleverer and learn more quickly.
But then she said indulgently that humans were always more clumsy and slow than Eggs
and most of them never seemed really to learn to fly at all.
You never met them in the air or on tree- tops.
After a while the boy began to move about as the others did, but all three of the
children at times did unusual things.
They would stand under the trees and move their arms and legs and heads about in a
way which was neither walking nor running nor sitting down.
They went through these movements at intervals every day and the robin was never
able to explain to his mate what they were doing or tying to do.
He could only say that he was sure that the Eggs would never flap about in such a
manner; but as the boy who could speak robin so fluently was doing the thing with
them, birds could be quite sure that the actions were not of a dangerous nature.
Of course neither the robin nor his mate had ever heard of the champion wrestler,
Bob Haworth, and his exercises for making the muscles stand out like lumps.
Robins are not like human beings; their muscles are always exercised from the first
and so they develop themselves in a natural manner.
If you have to fly about to find every meal you eat, your muscles do not become
atrophied (atrophied means wasted away through want of use).
When the boy was walking and running about and digging and weeding like the others,
the nest in the corner was brooded over by a great peace and content.
Fears for the Eggs became things of the past.
Knowing that your Eggs were as safe as if they were locked in a bank vault and the
fact that you could watch so many curious things going on made setting a most
entertaining occupation.
On wet days the Eggs' mother sometimes felt even a little dull because the children did
not come into the garden. But even on wet days it could not be said
that Mary and Colin were dull.
One morning when the rain streamed down unceasingly and Colin was beginning to feel
a little restive, as he was obliged to remain on his sofa because it was not safe
to get up and walk about, Mary had an inspiration.
"Now that I am a real boy," Colin had said, "my legs and arms and all my body are so
full of Magic that I can't keep them still.
They want to be doing things all the time.
Do you know that when I waken in the morning, Mary, when it's quite early and
the birds are just shouting outside and everything seems just shouting for joy--
even the trees and things we can't really
hear--I feel as if I must jump out of bed and shout myself.
If I did it, just think what would happen!" Mary giggled inordinately.
"The nurse would come running and Mrs. Medlock would come running and they would
be sure you had gone crazy and they'd send for the doctor," she said.
Colin giggled himself.
He could see how they would all look--how horrified by his outbreak and how amazed to
see him standing upright. "I wish my father would come home," he
said.
"I want to tell him myself. I'm always thinking about it--but we
couldn't go on like this much longer. I can't stand lying still and pretending,
and besides I look too different.
I wish it wasn't raining today." It was then Mistress Mary had her
inspiration.
"Colin," she began mysteriously, "do you know how many rooms there are in this
house?" "About a thousand, I suppose," he answered.
"There's about a hundred no one ever goes into," said Mary.
"And one rainy day I went and looked into ever so many of them.
No one ever knew, though Mrs. Medlock nearly found me out.
I lost my way when I was coming back and I stopped at the end of your corridor.
That was the second time I heard you crying."
Colin started up on his sofa. "A hundred rooms no one goes into," he
said.
"It sounds almost like a secret garden. Suppose we go and look at them.
Wheel me in my chair and nobody would know we went."
"That's what I was thinking," said Mary.
"No one would dare to follow us. There are galleries where you could run.
We could do our exercises. There is a little Indian room where there
is a cabinet full of ivory elephants.
There are all sorts of rooms." "Ring the bell," said Colin.
When the nurse came in he gave his orders. "I want my chair," he said.
"Miss Mary and I are going to look at the part of the house which is not used.
John can push me as far as the picture- gallery because there are some stairs.
Then he must go away and leave us alone until I send for him again."
Rainy days lost their terrors that morning.
When the footman had wheeled the chair into the picture-gallery and left the two
together in obedience to orders, Colin and Mary looked at each other delighted.
As soon as Mary had made sure that John was really on his way back to his own quarters
below stairs, Colin got out of his chair.
"I am going to run from one end of the gallery to the other," he said, "and then I
am going to jump and then we will do Bob Haworth's exercises."
And they did all these things and many others.
They looked at the portraits and found the plain little girl dressed in green brocade
and holding the parrot on her finger.
"All these," said Colin, "must be my relations.
They lived a long time ago. That parrot one, I believe, is one of my
great, great, great, great aunts.
She looks rather like you, Mary--not as you look now but as you looked when you came
here. Now you are a great deal fatter and better
looking."
"So are you," said Mary, and they both laughed.
They went to the Indian room and amused themselves with the ivory elephants.
They found the rose-colored brocade boudoir and the hole in the cushion the mouse had
left, but the mice had grown up and run away and the hole was empty.
They saw more rooms and made more discoveries than Mary had made on her first
pilgrimage.
They found new corridors and corners and flights of steps and new old pictures they
liked and weird old things they did not know the use of.
It was a curiously entertaining morning and the feeling of wandering about in the same
house with other people but at the same time feeling as if one were miles away from
them was a fascinating thing.
"I'm glad we came," Colin said. "I never knew I lived in such a big queer
old place. I like it.
We will ramble about every rainy day.
We shall always be finding new queer corners and things."
That morning they had found among other things such good appetites that when they
returned to Colin's room it was not possible to send the luncheon away
untouched.
When the nurse carried the tray down-stairs she slapped it down on the kitchen dresser
so that Mrs. Loomis, the cook, could see the highly polished dishes and plates.
"Look at that!" she said.
"This is a house of mystery, and those two children are the greatest mysteries in it."
"If they keep that up every day," said the strong young footman John, "there'd be
small wonder that he weighs twice as much to-day as he did a month ago.
I should have to give up my place in time, for fear of doing my muscles an injury."
That afternoon Mary noticed that something new had happened in Colin's room.
She had noticed it the day before but had said nothing because she thought the change
might have been made by chance.
She said nothing today but she sat and looked fixedly at the picture over the
mantel. She could look at it because the curtain
had been drawn aside.
That was the change she noticed. "I know what you want me to tell you," said
Colin, after she had stared a few minutes. "I always know when you want me to tell you
something.
You are wondering why the curtain is drawn back.
I am going to keep it like that." "Why?" asked Mary.
"Because it doesn't make me angry any more to see her laughing.
I wakened when it was bright moonlight two nights ago and felt as if the Magic was
filling the room and making everything so splendid that I couldn't lie still.
I got up and looked out of the window.
The room was quite light and there was a patch of moonlight on the curtain and
somehow that made me go and pull the cord.
She looked right down at me as if she were laughing because she was glad I was
standing there. It made me like to look at her.
I want to see her laughing like that all the time.
I think she must have been a sort of Magic person perhaps."
"You are so like her now," said Mary, "that sometimes I think perhaps you are her ghost
made into a boy." That idea seemed to impress Colin.
He thought it over and then answered her slowly.
"If I were her ghost--my father would be fond of me."
"Do you want him to be fond of you?" inquired Mary.
"I used to hate it because he was not fond of me.
If he grew fond of me I think I should tell him about the Magic.
It might make him more cheerful."
>
CHAPTER XXVI "IT'S MOTHER!"
Their belief in the Magic was an abiding thing.
After the morning's incantations Colin sometimes gave them Magic lectures.
"I like to do it," he explained, "because when I grow up and make great scientific
discoveries I shall be obliged to lecture about them and so this is practise.
I can only give short lectures now because I am very young, and besides Ben
Weatherstaff would feel as if he were in church and he would go to sleep."
"Th' best thing about lecturin'," said Ben, "is that a chap can get up an' say aught he
pleases an' no other chap can answer him back.
I wouldn't be agen' lecturin' a bit mysel' sometimes."
But when Colin held forth under his tree old Ben fixed devouring eyes on him and
kept them there.
He looked him over with critical affection.
It was not so much the lecture which interested him as the legs which looked
straighter and stronger each day, the boyish head which held itself up so well,
the once sharp chin and hollow cheeks which
had filled and rounded out and the eyes which had begun to hold the light he
remembered in another pair.
Sometimes when Colin felt Ben's earnest gaze meant that he was much impressed he
wondered what he was reflecting on and once when he had seemed quite entranced he
questioned him.
"What are you thinking about, Ben Weatherstaff?" he asked.
"I was thinkin'" answered Ben, "as I'd warrant tha's, gone up three or four pound
this week.
I was lookin' at tha' calves an' tha' shoulders.
I'd like to get thee on a pair o' scales." "It's the Magic and--and Mrs. Sowerby's
buns and milk and things," said Colin.
"You see the scientific experiment has succeeded."
That morning Dickon was too late to hear the lecture.
When he came he was ruddy with running and his funny face looked more twinkling than
usual. As they had a good deal of weeding to do
after the rains they fell to work.
They always had plenty to do after a warm deep sinking rain.
The moisture which was good for the flowers was also good for the weeds which thrust up
tiny blades of grass and points of leaves which must be pulled up before their roots
took too firm hold.
Colin was as good at weeding as any one in these days and he could lecture while he
was doing it. "The Magic works best when you work,
yourself," he said this morning.
"You can feel it in your bones and muscles. I am going to read books about bones and
muscles, but I am going to write a book about Magic.
I am making it up now.
I keep finding out things." It was not very long after he had said this
that he laid down his trowel and stood up on his feet.
He had been silent for several minutes and they had seen that he was thinking out
lectures, as he often did.
When he dropped his trowel and stood upright it seemed to Mary and Dickon as if
a sudden strong thought had made him do it.
He stretched himself out to his tallest height and he threw out his arms
exultantly. Color glowed in his face and his strange
eyes widened with joyfulness.
All at once he had realized something to the full.
"Mary! Dickon!" he cried.
"Just look at me!"
They stopped their weeding and looked at him.
"Do you remember that first morning you brought me in here?" he demanded.
Dickon was looking at him very hard.
Being an animal charmer he could see more things than most people could and many of
them were things he never talked about. He saw some of them now in this boy.
"Aye, that we do," he answered.
Mary looked hard too, but she said nothing.
"Just this minute," said Colin, "all at once I remembered it myself--when I looked
at my hand digging with the trowel--and I had to stand up on my feet to see if it was
real.
And it is real! I'm well--I'm well!"
"Aye, that th' art!" said Dickon. "I'm well!
I'm well!" said Colin again, and his face went quite red all over.
He had known it before in a way, he had hoped it and felt it and thought about it,
but just at that minute something had rushed all through him--a sort of rapturous
belief and realization and it had been so strong that he could not help calling out.
"I shall live forever and ever and ever!" he cried grandly.
"I shall find out thousands and thousands of things.
I shall find out about people and creatures and everything that grows--like Dickon--and
I shall never stop making Magic.
I'm well! I'm well!
I feel--I feel as if I want to shout out something--something thankful, joyful!"
Ben Weatherstaff, who had been working near a rose-bush, glanced round at him.
"Tha' might sing th' Doxology," he suggested in his dryest grunt.
He had no opinion of the Doxology and he did not make the suggestion with any
particular reverence. But Colin was of an exploring mind and he
knew nothing about the Doxology.
"What is that?" he inquired. "Dickon can sing it for thee, I'll
warrant," replied Ben Weatherstaff. Dickon answered with his all-perceiving
animal charmer's smile.
"They sing it i' church," he said. "Mother says she believes th' skylarks
sings it when they gets up i' th' mornin'." "If she says that, it must be a nice song,"
Colin answered.
"I've never been in a church myself. I was always too ill.
Sing it, Dickon. I want to hear it."
Dickon was quite simple and unaffected about it.
He understood what Colin felt better than Colin did himself.
He understood by a sort of instinct so natural that he did not know it was
understanding. He pulled off his cap and looked round
still smiling.
"Tha' must take off tha' cap," he said to Colin, "an' so mun tha', Ben--an' tha' mun
stand up, tha' knows."
Colin took off his cap and the sun shone on and warmed his thick hair as he watched
Dickon intently.
Ben Weatherstaff scrambled up from his knees and bared his head too with a sort of
puzzled half-resentful look on his old face as if he didn't know exactly why he was
doing this remarkable thing.
Dickon stood out among the trees and rose- bushes and began to sing in quite a simple
matter-of-fact way and in a nice strong boy voice:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen."
When he had finished, Ben Weatherstaff was standing quite still with his jaws set
obstinately but with a disturbed look in his eyes fixed on Colin.
Colin's face was thoughtful and appreciative.
"It is a very nice song," he said. "I like it.
Perhaps it means just what I mean when I want to shout out that I am thankful to the
Magic." He stopped and thought in a puzzled way.
"Perhaps they are both the same thing.
How can we know the exact names of everything?
Sing it again, Dickon. Let us try, Mary.
I want to sing it, too.
It's my song. How does it begin?
'Praise God from whom all blessings flow'?"
And they sang it again, and Mary and Colin lifted their voices as musically as they
could and Dickon's swelled quite loud and beautiful--and at the second line Ben
Weatherstaff raspingly cleared his throat
and at the third line he joined in with such vigor that it seemed almost savage and
when the "Amen" came to an end Mary observed that the very same thing had
happened to him which had happened when he
found out that Colin was not a cripple--his chin was twitching and he was staring and
winking and his leathery old cheeks were wet.
"I never seed no sense in th' Doxology afore," he said hoarsely, "but I may change
my mind i' time. I should say tha'd gone up five pound this
week Mester Colin--five on 'em!"
Colin was looking across the garden at something attracting his attention and his
expression had become a startled one. "Who is coming in here?" he said quickly.
"Who is it?"
The door in the ivied wall had been pushed gently open and a woman had entered.
She had come in with the last line of their song and she had stood still listening and
looking at them.
With the ivy behind her, the sunlight drifting through the trees and dappling her
long blue cloak, and her nice fresh face smiling across the greenery she was rather
like a softly colored illustration in one of Colin's books.
She had wonderful affectionate eyes which seemed to take everything in--all of them,
even Ben Weatherstaff and the "creatures" and every flower that was in bloom.
Unexpectedly as she had appeared, not one of them felt that she was an intruder at
all. Dickon's eyes lighted like lamps.
"It's mother--that's who it is!" he cried and went across the grass at a run.
Colin began to move toward her, too, and Mary went with him.
They both felt their pulses beat faster.
"It's mother!" Dickon said again when they met halfway.
"I knowed tha' wanted to see her an' I told her where th' door was hid."
Colin held out his hand with a sort of flushed royal shyness but his eyes quite
devoured her face.
"Even when I was ill I wanted to see you," he said, "you and Dickon and the secret
garden. I'd never wanted to see any one or anything
before."
The sight of his uplifted face brought about a sudden change in her own.
She flushed and the corners of her mouth shook and a mist seemed to sweep over her
eyes.
"Eh! dear lad!" she broke out tremulously. "Eh! dear lad!" as if she had not known she
were going to say it. She did not say, "Mester Colin," but just
"dear lad" quite suddenly.
She might have said it to Dickon in the same way if she had seen something in his
face which touched her. Colin liked it.
"Are you surprised because I am so well?" he asked.
She put her hand on his shoulder and smiled the mist out of her eyes.
"Aye, that I am!" she said; "but tha'rt so like thy mother tha' made my heart jump."
"Do you think," said Colin a little awkwardly, "that will make my father like
me?"
"Aye, for sure, dear lad," she answered and she gave his shoulder a soft quick pat.
"He mun come home--he mun come home." "Susan Sowerby," said Ben Weatherstaff,
getting close to her.
"Look at th' lad's legs, wilt tha'? They was like drumsticks i' stockin' two
month' ago--an' I heard folk tell as they was bandy an' knock-kneed both at th' same
time.
Look at 'em now!" Susan Sowerby laughed a comfortable laugh.
"They're goin' to be fine strong lad's legs in a bit," she said.
"Let him go on playin' an' workin' in the garden an' eatin' hearty an' drinkin'
plenty o' good sweet milk an' there'll not be a finer pair i' Yorkshire, thank God for
it."
She put both hands on Mistress Mary's shoulders and looked her little face over
in a motherly fashion. "An' thee, too!" she said.
"Tha'rt grown near as hearty as our 'Lisabeth Ellen.
I'll warrant tha'rt like thy mother too. Our Martha told me as Mrs. Medlock heard
she was a pretty woman.
Tha'lt be like a blush rose when tha' grows up, my little lass, bless thee."
She did not mention that when Martha came home on her "day out" and described the
plain sallow child she had said that she had no confidence whatever in what Mrs.
Medlock had heard.
"It doesn't stand to reason that a pretty woman could be th' mother o' such a fou'
little lass," she had added obstinately. Mary had not had time to pay much attention
to her changing face.
She had only known that she looked "different" and seemed to have a great deal
more hair and that it was growing very fast.
But remembering her pleasure in looking at the Mem Sahib in the past she was glad to
hear that she might some day look like her.
Susan Sowerby went round their garden with them and was told the whole story of it and
shown every bush and tree which had come alive.
Colin walked on one side of her and Mary on the other.
Each of them kept looking up at her comfortable rosy face, secretly curious
about the delightful feeling she gave them- -a sort of warm, supported feeling.
It seemed as if she understood them as Dickon understood his "creatures."
She stooped over the flowers and talked about them as if they were children.
Soot followed her and once or twice cawed at her and flew upon her shoulder as if it
were Dickon's.
When they told her about the robin and the first flight of the young ones she laughed
a motherly little mellow laugh in her throat.
"I suppose learnin' 'em to fly is like learnin' children to walk, but I'm feared I
should be all in a worrit if mine had wings instead o' legs," she said.
It was because she seemed such a wonderful woman in her nice moorland cottage way that
at last she was told about the Magic. "Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin
after he had explained about Indian fakirs.
"I do hope you do." "That I do, lad," she answered.
"I never knowed it by that name but what does th' name matter?
I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany.
Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee a well lad
an' it's th' Good Thing.
It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names.
Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee.
It goes on makin' worlds by th' million-- worlds like us.
Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it--
an' call it what tha' likes.
Tha' wert singin' to it when I come into th' garden."
"I felt so joyful," said Colin, opening his beautiful strange eyes at her.
"Suddenly I felt how different I was--how strong my arms and legs were, you know--and
how I could dig and stand--and I jumped up and wanted to shout out something to
anything that would listen."
"Th' Magic listened when tha' sung th' Doxology.
It would ha' listened to anything tha'd sung.
It was th' joy that mattered.
Eh! lad, lad--what's names to th' Joy Maker," and she gave his shoulders a quick
soft pat again.
She had packed a basket which held a regular feast this morning, and when the
hungry hour came and Dickon brought it out from its hiding place, she sat down with
them under their tree and watched them
devour their food, laughing and quite gloating over their appetites.
She was full of fun and made them laugh at all sorts of odd things.
She told them stories in broad Yorkshire and taught them new words.
She laughed as if she could not help it when they told her of the increasing
difficulty there was in pretending that Colin was still a fretful invalid.
"You see we can't help laughing nearly all the time when we are together," explained
Colin. "And it doesn't sound ill at all.
We try to choke it back but it will burst out and that sounds worse than ever."
"There's one thing that comes into my mind so often," said Mary, "and I can scarcely
ever hold in when I think of it suddenly.
I keep thinking suppose Colin's face should get to look like a full moon.
It isn't like one yet but he gets a tiny bit fatter every day--and suppose some
morning it should look like one--what should we do!"
"Bless us all, I can see tha' has a good bit o' play actin' to do," said Susan
Sowerby. "But tha' won't have to keep it up much
longer.
Mester Craven'll come home." "Do you think he will?" asked Colin.
"Why?" Susan Sowerby chuckled softly.
"I suppose it 'ud nigh break thy heart if he found out before tha' told him in tha'
own way," she said. "Tha's laid awake nights plannin' it."
"I couldn't bear any one else to tell him," said Colin.
"I think about different ways every day, I think now I just want to run into his
room."
"That'd be a fine start for him," said Susan Sowerby.
"I'd like to see his face, lad. I would that!
He mun come back--that he mun."
One of the things they talked of was the visit they were to make to her cottage.
They planned it all. They were to drive over the moor and lunch
out of doors among the heather.
They would see all the twelve children and Dickon's garden and would not come back
until they were tired. Susan Sowerby got up at last to return to
the house and Mrs. Medlock.
It was time for Colin to be wheeled back also.
But before he got into his chair he stood quite close to Susan and fixed his eyes on
her with a kind of bewildered adoration and he suddenly caught hold of the fold of her
blue cloak and held it fast.
"You are just what I--what I wanted," he said.
"I wish you were my mother--as well as Dickon's!"
All at once Susan Sowerby bent down and drew him with her warm arms close against
the bosom under the blue cloak--as if he had been Dickon's brother.
The quick mist swept over her eyes.
"Eh! dear lad!" she said. "Thy own mother's in this 'ere very garden,
I do believe. She couldna' keep out of it.
Thy father mun come back to thee--he mun!"
>
CHAPTER XXVII IN THE GARDEN
In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been
discovered. In the last century more amazing things
were found out than in any century before.
In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to
light.
At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they
begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done--then it is done and all the
world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.
One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts--
just mere thoughts--are as powerful as electric batteries--as good for one as
sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison.
To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a
scarlet fever germ get into your body.
If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you
live.
So long as Mistress Mary's mind was full of disagreeable thoughts about her dislikes
and sour opinions of people and her determination not to be pleased by or
interested in anything, she was a yellow- faced, sickly, bored and wretched child.
Circumstances, however, were very kind to her, though she was not at all aware of it.
They began to push her about for her own good.
When her mind gradually filled itself with robins, and moorland cottages crowded with
children, with queer crabbed old gardeners and common little Yorkshire housemaids,
with springtime and with secret gardens
coming alive day by day, and also with a moor boy and his "creatures," there was no
room left for the disagreeable thoughts which affected her liver and her digestion
and made her yellow and tired.
So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and
weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps
and early death, he was a hysterical half-
crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring and also did
not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it.
When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to
come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins and strength poured into
him like a flood.
His scientific experiment was quite practical and simple and there was nothing
weird about it at all.
Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or
discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and
push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one.
Two things cannot be in one place. "Where, you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle
cannot grow."
While the secret garden was coming alive and two children were coming alive with it,
there was a man wandering about certain far-away beautiful places in the Norwegian
fiords and the valleys and mountains of
Switzerland and he was a man who for ten years had kept his mind filled with dark
and heart-broken thinking.
He had not been courageous; he had never tried to put any other thoughts in the
place of the dark ones.
He had wandered by blue lakes and thought them; he had lain on mountain-sides with
sheets of deep blue gentians blooming all about him and flower breaths filling all
the air and he had thought them.
A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him when he had been happy and he had let his soul
fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to
pierce through.
He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties.
When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sight of him was a wrong
done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom.
Most strangers thought he must be either half mad or a man with some hidden crime on
his soul.
He, was a tall man with a drawn face and crooked shoulders and the name he always
entered on hotel registers was, "Archibald Craven, Misselthwaite Manor, Yorkshire,
England."
He had traveled far and wide since the day he saw Mistress Mary in his study and told
her she might have her "bit of earth."
He had been in the most beautiful places in Europe, though he had remained nowhere more
than a few days. He had chosen the quietest and remotest
spots.
He had been on the tops of mountains whose heads were in the clouds and had looked
down on other mountains when the sun rose and touched them with such light as made it
seem as if the world were just being born.
But the light had never seemed to touch himself until one day when he realized that
for the first time in ten years a strange thing had happened.
He was in a wonderful valley in the Austrian Tyrol and he had been walking
alone through such beauty as might have lifted, any man's soul out of shadow.
He had walked a long way and it had not lifted his.
But at last he had felt tired and had thrown himself down to rest on a carpet of
moss by a stream.
It was a clear little stream which ran quite merrily along on its narrow way
through the luscious damp greenness.
Sometimes it made a sound rather like very low laughter as it bubbled over and round
stones.
He saw birds come and dip their heads to drink in it and then flick their wings and
fly away. It seemed like a thing alive and yet its
tiny voice made the stillness seem deeper.
The valley was very, very still. As he sat gazing into the clear running of
the water, Archibald Craven gradually felt his mind and body both grow quiet, as quiet
as the valley itself.
He wondered if he were going to sleep, but he was not.
He sat and gazed at the sunlit water and his eyes began to see things growing at its
edge.
There was one lovely mass of blue forget- me-nots growing so close to the stream that
its leaves were wet and at these he found himself looking as he remembered he had
looked at such things years ago.
He was actually thinking tenderly how lovely it was and what wonders of blue its
hundreds of little blossoms were.
He did not know that just that simple thought was slowly filling his mind--
filling and filling it until other things were softly pushed aside.
It was as if a sweet clear spring had begun to rise in a stagnant pool and had risen
and risen until at last it swept the dark water away.
But of course he did not think of this himself.
He only knew that the valley seemed to grow quieter and quieter as he sat and stared at
the bright delicate blueness.
He did not know how long he sat there or what was happening to him, but at last he
moved as if he were awakening and he got up slowly and stood on the moss carpet,
drawing a long, deep, soft breath and wondering at himself.
Something seemed to have been unbound and released in him, very quietly.
"What is it?" he said, almost in a whisper, and he passed his hand over his forehead.
"I almost feel as if--I were alive!"
I do not know enough about the wonderfulness of undiscovered things to be
able to explain how this had happened to him.
Neither does any one else yet.
He did not understand at all himself--but he remembered this strange hour months
afterward when he was at Misselthwaite again and he found out quite by accident
that on this very day Colin had cried out as he went into the secret garden:
"I am going to live forever and ever and ever!"
The singular calmness remained with him the rest of the evening and he slept a new
reposeful sleep; but it was not with him very long.
He did not know that it could be kept.
By the next night he had opened the doors wide to his dark thoughts and they had come
trooping and rushing back. He left the valley and went on his
wandering way again.
But, strange as it seemed to him, there were minutes--sometimes half-hours--when,
without his knowing why, the black burden seemed to lift itself again and he knew he
was a living man and not a dead one.
Slowly--slowly--for no reason that he knew of--he was "coming alive" with the garden.
As the golden summer changed into the deep golden autumn he went to the Lake of Como.
There he found the loveliness of a dream.
He spent his days upon the crystal blueness of the lake or he walked back into the soft
thick verdure of the hills and tramped until he was tired so that he might sleep.
But by this time he had begun to sleep better, he knew, and his dreams had ceased
to be a terror to him. "Perhaps," he thought, "my body is growing
stronger."
It was growing stronger but--because of the rare peaceful hours when his thoughts were
changed--his soul was slowly growing stronger, too.
He began to think of Misselthwaite and wonder if he should not go home.
Now and then he wondered vaguely about his boy and asked himself what he should feel
when he went and stood by the carved four- posted bed again and looked down at the
sharply chiseled ivory-white face while it
slept and, the black lashes rimmed so startlingly the close-shut eyes.
He shrank from it.
One marvel of a day he had walked so far that when he returned the moon was high and
full and all the world was purple shadow and silver.
The stillness of lake and shore and wood was so wonderful that he did not go into
the villa he lived in.
He walked down to a little bowered terrace at the water's edge and sat upon a seat and
breathed in all the heavenly scents of the night.
He felt the strange calmness stealing over him and it grew deeper and deeper until he
fell asleep.
He did not know when he fell asleep and when he began to dream; his dream was so
real that he did not feel as if he were dreaming.
He remembered afterward how intensely wide awake and alert he had thought he was.
He thought that as he sat and breathed in the scent of the late roses and listened to
the lapping of the water at his feet he heard a voice calling.
It was sweet and clear and happy and far away.
It seemed very far, but he heard it as distinctly as if it had been at his very
side.
"Archie! Archie!
Archie!" it said, and then again, sweeter and clearer than before, "Archie!
Archie!"
He thought he sprang to his feet not even startled.
It was such a real voice and it seemed so natural that he should hear it.
"Lilias!
Lilias!" he answered. "Lilias! where are you?"
"In the garden," it came back like a sound from a golden flute.
"In the garden!"
And then the dream ended. But he did not awaken.
He slept soundly and sweetly all through the lovely night.
When he did awake at last it was brilliant morning and a servant was standing staring
at him.
He was an Italian servant and was accustomed, as all the servants of the
villa were, to accepting without question any strange thing his foreign master might
do.
No one ever knew when he would go out or come in or where he would choose to sleep
or if he would roam about the garden or lie in the boat on the lake all night.
The man held a salver with some letters on it and he waited quietly until Mr. Craven
took them.
When he had gone away Mr. Craven sat a few moments holding them in his hand and
looking at the lake.
His strange calm was still upon him and something more--a lightness as if the cruel
thing which had been done had not happened as he thought--as if something had changed.
He was remembering the dream--the real-- real dream.
"In the garden!" he said, wondering at himself.
"In the garden!
But the door is locked and the key is buried deep."
When he glanced at the letters a few minutes later he saw that the one lying at
the top of the rest was an English letter and came from Yorkshire.
It was directed in a plain woman's hand but it was not a hand he knew.
He opened it, scarcely thinking of the writer, but the first words attracted his
attention at once.
"Dear Sir: I am Susan Sowerby that made bold to speak
to you once on the moor. It was about Miss Mary I spoke.
I will make bold to speak again.
Please, sir, I would come home if I was you.
I think you would be glad to come and--if you will excuse me, sir--I think your lady
would ask you to come if she was here.
Your obedient servant, Susan Sowerby."
Mr. Craven read the letter twice before he put it back in its envelope.
He kept thinking about the dream. "I will go back to Misselthwaite," he said.
"Yes, I'll go at once."
And he went through the garden to the villa and ordered Pitcher to prepare for his
return to England.
In a few days he was in Yorkshire again, and on his long railroad journey he found
himself thinking of his boy as he had never thought in all the ten years past.
During those years he had only wished to forget him.
Now, though he did not intend to think about him, memories of him constantly
drifted into his mind.
He remembered the black days when he had raved like a madman because the child was
alive and the mother was dead.
He had refused to see it, and when he had gone to look at it at last it had been,
such a weak wretched thing that everyone had been sure it would die in a few days.
But to the surprise of those who took care of it the days passed and it lived and then
everyone believed it would be a deformed and crippled creature.
He had not meant to be a bad father, but he had not felt like a father at all.
He had supplied doctors and nurses and luxuries, but he had shrunk from the mere
thought of the boy and had buried himself in his own misery.
The first time after a year's absence he returned to Misselthwaite and the small
miserable looking thing languidly and indifferently lifted to his face the great
gray eyes with black lashes round them, so
like and yet so horribly unlike the happy eyes he had adored, he could not bear the
sight of them and turned away pale as death.
After that he scarcely ever saw him except when he was asleep, and all he knew of him
was that he was a confirmed invalid, with a vicious, hysterical, half-insane temper.
He could only be kept from furies dangerous to himself by being given his own way in
every detail.
All this was not an uplifting thing to recall, but as the train whirled him
through mountain passes and golden plains the man who was "coming alive" began to
think in a new way and he thought long and steadily and deeply.
"Perhaps I have been all wrong for ten years," he said to himself.
"Ten years is a long time.
It may be too late to do anything--quite too late.
What have I been thinking of!" Of course this was the wrong Magic--to
begin by saying "too late."
Even Colin could have told him that. But he knew nothing of Magic--either black
or white. This he had yet to learn.
He wondered if Susan Sowerby had taken courage and written to him only because the
motherly creature had realized that the boy was much worse--was fatally ill.
If he had not been under the spell of the curious calmness which had taken possession
of him he would have been more wretched than ever.
But the calm had brought a sort of courage and hope with it.
Instead of giving way to thoughts of the worst he actually found he was trying to
believe in better things.
"Could it be possible that she sees that I may be able to do him good and control
him?" he thought. "I will go and see her on my way to
Misselthwaite."
But when on his way across the moor he stopped the carriage at the cottage, seven
or eight children who were playing about gathered in a group and bobbing seven or
eight friendly and polite curtsies told him
that their mother had gone to the other side of the moor early in the morning to
help a woman who had a new baby.
"Our Dickon," they volunteered, was over at the Manor working in one of the gardens
where he went several days each week.
Mr. Craven looked over the collection of sturdy little bodies and round red-cheeked
faces, each one grinning in its own particular way, and he awoke to the fact
that they were a healthy likable lot.
He smiled at their friendly grins and took a golden sovereign from his pocket and gave
it to "our 'Lizabeth Ellen" who was the oldest.
"If you divide that into eight parts there will be half a crown for each of, you," he
said.
Then amid grins and chuckles and bobbing of curtsies he drove away, leaving ecstasy and
nudging elbows and little jumps of joy behind.
The drive across the wonderfulness of the moor was a soothing thing.
Why did it seem to give him a sense of homecoming which he had been sure he could
never feel again--that sense of the beauty of land and sky and purple bloom of
distance and a warming of the heart at
drawing, nearer to the great old house which had held those of his blood for six
hundred years?
How he had driven away from it the last time, shuddering to think of its closed
rooms and the boy lying in the four-posted bed with the brocaded hangings.
Was it possible that perhaps he might find him changed a little for the better and
that he might overcome his shrinking from him?
How real that dream had been--how wonderful and clear the voice which called back to
him, "In the garden--In the garden!" "I will try to find the key," he said.
"I will try to open the door.
I must--though I don't know why."
When he arrived at the Manor the servants who received him with the usual ceremony
noticed that he looked better and that he did not go to the remote rooms where he
usually lived attended by Pitcher.
He went into the library and sent for Mrs. Medlock.
She came to him somewhat excited and curious and flustered.
"How is Master Colin, Medlock?" he inquired.
"Well, sir," Mrs. Medlock answered, "he's-- he's different, in a manner of speaking."
"Worse?" he suggested.
Mrs. Medlock really was flushed. "Well, you see, sir," she tried to explain,
"neither Dr. Craven, nor the nurse, nor me can exactly make him out."
"Why is that?"
"To tell the truth, sir, Master Colin might be better and he might be changing for the
worse. His appetite, sir, is past understanding--
and his ways--"
"Has he become more--more peculiar?" her master, asked, knitting his brows
anxiously. "That's it, sir.
He's growing very peculiar--when you compare him with what he used to be.
He used to eat nothing and then suddenly he began to eat something enormous--and then
he stopped again all at once and the meals were sent back just as they used to be.
You never knew, sir, perhaps, that out of doors he never would let himself be taken.
The things we've gone through to get him to go out in his chair would leave a body
trembling like a leaf.
He'd throw himself into such a state that Dr. Craven said he couldn't be responsible
for forcing him.
Well, sir, just without warning--not long after one of his worst tantrums he suddenly
insisted on being taken out every day by Miss Mary and Susan Sowerby's boy Dickon
that could push his chair.
He took a fancy to both Miss Mary and Dickon, and Dickon brought his tame
animals, and, if you'll credit it, sir, out of doors he will stay from morning until
night."
"How does he look?" was the next question. "If he took his food natural, sir, you'd
think he was putting on flesh--but we're afraid it may be a sort of bloat.
He laughs sometimes in a queer way when he's alone with Miss Mary.
He never used to laugh at all. Dr. Craven is coming to see you at once, if
you'll allow him.
He never was as puzzled in his life." "Where is Master Colin now?"
Mr. Craven asked. "In the garden, sir.
He's always in the garden--though not a human creature is allowed to go near for
fear they'll look at him." Mr. Craven scarcely heard her last words.
"In the garden," he said, and after he had sent Mrs. Medlock away he stood and
repeated it again and again. "In the garden!"
He had to make an effort to bring himself back to the place he was standing in and
when he felt he was on earth again he turned and went out of the room.
He took his way, as Mary had done, through the door in the shrubbery and among the
laurels and the fountain beds.
The fountain was playing now and was encircled by beds of brilliant autumn
flowers. He crossed the lawn and turned into the
Long Walk by the ivied walls.
He did not walk quickly, but slowly, and his eyes were on the path.
He felt as if he were being drawn back to the place he had so long forsaken, and he
did not know why.
As he drew near to it his step became still more slow.
He knew where the door was even though the ivy hung thick over it--but he did not know
exactly where it lay--that buried key.
So he stopped and stood still, looking about him, and almost the moment after he
had paused he started and listened--asking himself if he were walking in a dream.
The ivy hung thick over the door, the key was buried under the shrubs, no human being
had passed that portal for ten lonely years--and yet inside the garden there were
sounds.
They were the sounds of running scuffling feet seeming to chase round and round under
the trees, they were strange sounds of lowered suppressed voices--exclamations and
smothered joyous cries.
It seemed actually like the laughter of young things, the uncontrollable laughter
of children who were trying not to be heard but who in a moment or so--as their
excitement mounted--would burst forth.
What in heaven's name was he dreaming of-- what in heaven's name did he hear?
Was he losing his reason and thinking he heard things which were not for human ears?
Was it that the far clear voice had meant?
And then the moment came, the uncontrollable moment when the sounds
forgot to hush themselves.
The feet ran faster and faster--they were nearing the garden door--there was quick
strong young breathing and a wild outbreak of laughing shows which could not be
contained--and the door in the wall was
flung wide open, the sheet of ivy swinging back, and a boy burst through it at full
speed and, without seeing the outsider, dashed almost into his arms.
Mr. Craven had extended them just in time to save him from falling as a result of his
unseeing dash against him, and when he held him away to look at him in amazement at his
being there he truly gasped for breath.
He was a tall boy and a handsome one. He was glowing with life and his running
had sent splendid color leaping to his face.
He threw the thick hair back from his forehead and lifted a pair of strange gray
eyes--eyes full of boyish laughter and rimmed with black lashes like a fringe.
It was the eyes which made Mr. Craven gasp for breath.
"Who--What? Who!" he stammered.
This was not what Colin had expected--this was not what he had planned.
He had never thought of such a meeting. And yet to come dashing out--winning a
race--perhaps it was even better.
He drew himself up to his very tallest. Mary, who had been running with him and had
dashed through the door too, believed that he managed to make himself look taller than
he had ever looked before--inches taller.
"Father," he said, "I'm Colin. You can't believe it.
I scarcely can myself. I'm Colin."
Like Mrs. Medlock, he did not understand what his father meant when he said
hurriedly: "In the garden!
In the garden!"
"Yes," hurried on Colin. "It was the garden that did it--and Mary
and Dickon and the creatures--and the Magic.
No one knows.
We kept it to tell you when you came. I'm well, I can beat Mary in a race.
I'm going to be an athlete."
He said it all so like a healthy boy--his face flushed, his words tumbling over each
other in his eagerness--that Mr. Craven's soul shook with unbelieving joy.
Colin put out his hand and laid it on his father's arm.
"Aren't you glad, Father?" he ended. "Aren't you glad?
I'm going to live forever and ever and ever!"
Mr. Craven put his hands on both the boy's shoulders and held him still.
He knew he dared not even try to speak for a moment.
"Take me into the garden, my boy," he said at last.
"And tell me all about it."
And so they led him in.
The place was a wilderness of autumn gold and purple and violet blue and flaming
scarlet and on every side were sheaves of late lilies standing together--lilies which
were white or white and ruby.
He remembered well when the first of them had been planted that just at this season
of the year their late glories should reveal themselves.
Late roses climbed and hung and clustered and the sunshine deepening the hue of the
yellowing trees made one feel that one, stood in an embowered temple of gold.
The newcomer stood silent just as the children had done when they came into its
grayness. He looked round and round.
"I thought it would be dead," he said.
"Mary thought so at first," said Colin. "But it came alive."
Then they sat down under their tree--all but Colin, who wanted to stand while he
told the story.
It was the strangest thing he had ever heard, Archibald Craven thought, as it was
poured forth in headlong boy fashion.
Mystery and Magic and wild creatures, the weird midnight meeting--the coming of the
spring--the passion of insulted pride which had dragged the young Rajah to his feet to
defy old Ben Weatherstaff to his face.
The odd companionship, the play acting, the great secret so carefully kept.
The listener laughed until tears came into his eyes and sometimes tears came into his
eyes when he was not laughing.
The Athlete, the Lecturer, the Scientific Discoverer was a laughable, lovable,
healthy young human thing. "Now," he said at the end of the story, "it
need not be a secret any more.
I dare say it will frighten them nearly into fits when they see me--but I am never
going to get into the chair again. I shall walk back with you, Father--to the
house."
Ben Weatherstaff's duties rarely took him away from the gardens, but on this occasion
he made an excuse to carry some vegetables to the kitchen and being invited into the
servants' hall by Mrs. Medlock to drink a
glass of beer he was on the spot--as he had hoped to be--when the most dramatic event
Misselthwaite Manor had seen during the present generation actually took place.
One of the windows looking upon the courtyard gave also a glimpse of the lawn.
Mrs. Medlock, knowing Ben had come from the gardens, hoped that he might have caught
sight of his master and even by chance of his meeting with Master Colin.
"Did you see either of them, Weatherstaff?" she asked.
Ben took his beer-mug from his mouth and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.
"Aye, that I did," he answered with a shrewdly significant air.
"Both of them?" suggested Mrs. Medlock. "Both of 'em," returned Ben Weatherstaff.
"Thank ye kindly, ma'am, I could sup up another mug of it."
"Together?" said Mrs. Medlock, hastily overfilling his beer-mug in her excitement.
"Together, ma'am," and Ben gulped down half of his new mug at one gulp.
"Where was Master Colin? How did he look?
What did they say to each other?"
"I didna' hear that," said Ben, "along o' only bein' on th' stepladder lookin, over
th' wall. But I'll tell thee this.
There's been things goin' on outside as you house people knows nowt about.
An' what tha'll find out tha'll find out soon."
And it was not two minutes before he swallowed the last of his beer and waved
his mug solemnly toward the window which took in through the shrubbery a piece of
the lawn.
"Look there," he said, "if tha's curious. Look what's comin' across th' grass."
When Mrs. Medlock looked she threw up her hands and gave a little shriek and every
man and woman servant within hearing bolted across the servants' hall and stood looking
through the window with their eyes almost starting out of their heads.
Across the lawn came the Master of Misselthwaite and he looked as many of them
had never seen him.
And by his, side with his head up in the air and his eyes full of laughter walked as
strongly and steadily as any boy in Yorkshire--Master Colin.
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Part 3 - The Secret Garden Audiobook by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Chs 20-27)

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capt.izutsu3336 published on January 25, 2017
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