The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Part 6 out of 6
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!"
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,
"What is it?" he said, almost in a whisper, and he passed
his hand over his forehead. "I almost feel as if--I
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
"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.
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,
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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.
Back to Full Books