The story becomes yet more mysterious. Mary’s curiosity gets her into trouble when she begins to explore the house. She meets a mouse, and hears a strange sound again.
Natasha continues her enchanting reading of this classic novel .
“THERE WAS SOME ONE CRYING–THERE WAS!”
The next day the rain poured down in torrents again, and when Mary
looked out of her window the moor was almost hidden by gray mist and
cloud. There could be no going out today.
“What do you do in your cottage when it rains like this?” she asked
“Try to keep from under each other’s feet mostly,” Martha answered.
“Eh! there does seem a lot of us then. Mother’s a good-tempered woman
but she gets fair moithered. The biggest ones goes out in th’ cow-shed
and plays there. Dickon he doesn’t mind th’ wet. He goes out just th’
same as if th’ sun was shinin’. He says he sees things on rainy days as
doesn’t show when it’s fair weather. He once found a little fox cub
half drowned in its hole and he brought it home in th’ bosom of his
shirt to keep it warm. Its mother had been killed nearby an’ th’ hole
was swum out an’ th’ rest o’ th’ litter was dead. He’s got it at home
now. He found a half-drowned young crow another time an’ he brought it
home, too, an’ tamed it. It’s named Soot because it’s so black, an’ it
hops an’ flies about with him everywhere.”
The time had come when Mary had forgotten to resent Martha’s familiar
talk. She had even begun to find it interesting and to be sorry when
she stopped or went away. The stories she had been told by her Ayah
when she lived in India had been quite unlike those Martha had to tell
about the moorland cottage which held fourteen people who lived in four
little rooms and never had quite enough to eat. The children seemed to
tumble about and amuse themselves like a litter of rough, good-natured
collie puppies. Mary was most attracted by the mother and Dickon.
When Martha told stories of what “mother” said or did they always
“If I had a raven or a fox cub I could play with it,” said Mary. “But
I have nothing.”
Martha looked perplexed.
“Can tha’ knit?” she asked.
“No,” answered Mary.
“Can tha’ sew?”
“Can tha’ read?”
“Then why doesn’t tha, read somethin’, or learn a bit o’ spellin’?
Tha’st old enough to be learnin’ thy book a good bit now.”
“I haven’t any books,” said Mary. “Those I had were left in India.”
“That’s a pity,” said Martha. “If Mrs. Medlock’d let thee go into th’
library, there’s thousands o’ books there.”
Mary did not ask where the library was, because she was suddenly
inspired by a new idea. She made up her mind to go and find it
herself. She was not troubled about Mrs. Medlock. Mrs. Medlock seemed
always to be in her comfortable housekeeper’s sitting-room downstairs.
In this queer place one scarcely ever saw any one at all. In fact,
there was no one to see but the servants, and when their master was
away they lived a luxurious life below stairs, where there was a huge
kitchen hung about with shining brass and pewter, and a large servants’
hall where there were four or five abundant meals eaten every day, and
where a great deal of lively romping went on when Mrs. Medlock was out
of the way.
Mary’s meals were served regularly, and Martha waited on her, but no
one troubled themselves about her in the least. Mrs. Medlock came and
looked at her every day or two, but no one inquired what she did or
told her what to do. She supposed that perhaps this was the English
way of treating children. In India she had always been attended by her
Ayah, who had followed her about and waited on her, hand and foot. She
had often been tired of her company. Now she was followed by nobody
and was learning to dress herself because Martha looked as though she
thought she was silly and stupid when she wanted to have things handed
to her and put on.
“Hasn’t tha’ got good sense?” she said once, when Mary had stood
waiting for her to put on her gloves for her. “Our Susan Ann is twice
as sharp as thee an’ she’s only four year’ old. Sometimes tha’ looks
fair soft in th’ head.”
Mary had worn her contrary scowl for an hour after that, but it made
her think several entirely new things.
She stood at the window for about ten minutes this morning after Martha
had swept up the hearth for the last time and gone downstairs. She was
thinking over the new idea which had come to her when she heard of the
library. She did not care very much about the library itself, because
she had read very few books; but to hear of it brought back to her mind
the hundred rooms with closed doors. She wondered if they were all
really locked and what she would find if she could get into any of
them. Were there a hundred really? Why shouldn’t she go and see how
many doors she could count? It would be something to do on this morning
when she could not go out. She had never been taught to ask permission
to do things, and she knew nothing at all about authority, so she would
not have thought it necessary to ask Mrs. Medlock if she might walk
about the house, even if she had seen her.
She opened the door of the room and went into the corridor, and then
she began her wanderings. It was a long corridor and it branched into
other corridors and it led her up short flights of steps which mounted
to others again. There were doors and doors, and there were pictures
on the walls. Sometimes they were pictures of dark, curious
landscapes, but oftenest they were portraits of men and women in queer,
grand costumes made of satin and velvet. She found herself in one long
gallery whose walls were covered with these portraits. She had never
thought there could be so many in any house. She walked slowly down
this place and stared at the faces which also seemed to stare at her.
She felt as if they were wondering what a little girl from India was
doing in their house. Some were pictures of children–little girls in
thick satin frocks which reached to their feet and stood out about
them, and boys with puffed sleeves and lace collars and long hair, or
with big ruffs around their necks. She always stopped to look at the
children, and wonder what their names were, and where they had gone,
and why they wore such odd clothes. There was a stiff, plain little
girl rather like herself. She wore a green brocade dress and held a
green parrot on her finger. Her eyes had a sharp, curious look.
“Where do you live now?” said Mary aloud to her. “I wish you were
Surely no other little girl ever spent such a queer morning. It seemed
as if there was no one in all the huge rambling house but her own small
self, wandering about upstairs and down, through narrow passages and
wide ones, where it seemed to her that no one but herself had ever
walked. Since so many rooms had been built, people must have lived in
them, but it all seemed so empty that she could not quite believe it
It was not until she climbed to the second floor that she thought of
turning the handle of a door. All the doors were shut, as Mrs. Medlock
had said they were, but at last she put her hand on the handle of one
of them and turned it. She was almost frightened for a moment when she
felt that it turned without difficulty and that when she pushed upon
the door itself it slowly and heavily opened. It was a massive door
and opened into a big bedroom. There were embroidered hangings on the
wall, and inlaid furniture such as she had seen in India stood about
the room. A broad window with leaded panes looked out upon the moor;
and over the mantel was another portrait of the stiff, plain little
girl who seemed to stare at her more curiously than ever.
“Perhaps she slept here once,” said Mary. “She stares at me so that
she makes me feel queer.”
After that she opened more doors and more. She saw so many rooms that
she became quite tired and began to think that there must be a hundred,
though she had not counted them. In all of them there were old
pictures or old tapestries with strange scenes worked on them. There
were curious pieces of furniture and curious ornaments in nearly all of
In one room, which looked like a lady’s sitting-room, the hangings were
all embroidered velvet, and in a cabinet were about a hundred little
elephants made of ivory. They were of different sizes, and some had
their mahouts or palanquins on their backs. Some were much bigger than
the others and some were so tiny that they seemed only babies. Mary
had seen carved ivory in India and she knew all about elephants. She
opened the door of the cabinet and stood on a footstool and played with
these for quite a long time. When she got tired she set the elephants
in order and shut the door of the cabinet.
In all her wanderings through the long corridors and the empty rooms,
she had seen nothing alive; but in this room she saw something. Just
after she had closed the cabinet door she heard a tiny rustling sound.
It made her jump and look around at the sofa by the fireplace, from
which it seemed to come. In the corner of the sofa there was a
cushion, and in the velvet which covered it there was a hole, and out
of the hole peeped a tiny head with a pair of frightened eyes in it.
Mary crept softly across the room to look. The bright eyes belonged to
a little gray mouse, and the mouse had eaten a hole into the cushion
and made a comfortable nest there. Six baby mice were cuddled up
asleep near her. If there was no one else alive in the hundred rooms
there were seven mice who did not look lonely at all.
“If they wouldn’t be so frightened I would take them back with me,”
She had wandered about long enough to feel too tired to wander any
farther, and she turned back. Two or three times she lost her way by
turning down the wrong corridor and was obliged to ramble up and down
until she found the right one; but at last she reached her own floor
again, though she was some distance from her own room and did not know
exactly where she was.
“I believe I have taken a wrong turning again,” she said, standing
still at what seemed the end of a short passage with tapestry on the
wall. “I don’t know which way to go. How still everything is!”
It was while she was standing here and just after she had said this
that the stillness was broken by a sound. It was another cry, but not
quite like the one she had heard last night; it was only a short one, a
fretful childish whine muffled by passing through walls.
“It’s nearer than it was,” said Mary, her heart beating rather faster.
“And it is crying.”
She put her hand accidentally upon the tapestry near her, and then
sprang back, feeling quite startled. The tapestry was the covering of
a door which fell open and showed her that there was another part of
the corridor behind it, and Mrs. Medlock was coming up it with her
bunch of keys in her hand and a very cross look on her face.
“What are you doing here?” she said, and she took Mary by the arm and
pulled her away. “What did I tell you?”
“I turned round the wrong corner,” explained Mary. “I didn’t know
which way to go and I heard some one crying.” She quite hated Mrs.
Medlock at the moment, but she hated her more the next.
“You didn’t hear anything of the sort,” said the housekeeper. “You
come along back to your own nursery or I’ll box your ears.”
And she took her by the arm and half pushed, half pulled her up one
passage and down another until she pushed her in at the door of her own
“Now,” she said, “you stay where you’re told to stay or you’ll find
yourself locked up. The master had better get you a governess, same as
he said he would. You’re one that needs some one to look sharp after
you. I’ve got enough to do.”
She went out of the room and slammed the door after her, and Mary went
and sat on the hearth-rug, pale with rage. She did not cry, but ground
“There was some one crying–there was–there was!” she said to herself.
She had heard it twice now, and sometime she would find out. She had
found out a great deal this morning. She felt as if she had been on a
long journey, and at any rate she had had something to amuse her all
the time, and she had played with the ivory elephants and had seen the
gray mouse and its babies in their nest in the velvet cushion.