The Secret Garden Chapter 13

Several times already, Mary has heard crying in the corridor. Who could it be who is crying? In this chapter she discovers another child who is, in some ways, rather like herself.

“I AM COLIN”

Secret Garden Illustration I am Colin

Mary took the picture back to the house when she went to her supper and
she showed it to Martha.

“Eh!” said Martha with great pride. “I never knew our Dickon was as
clever as that. That there’s a picture of a missel thrush on her nest,
as large as life an’ twice as natural.”

Then Mary knew Dickon had meant the picture to be a message. He had
meant that she might be sure he would keep her secret. Her garden was
her nest and she was like a missel thrush. Oh, how she did like that
queer, common boy!

She hoped he would come back the very next day and she fell asleep
looking forward to the morning.

But you never know what the weather will do in Yorkshire, particularly
in the springtime. She was awakened in the night by the sound of rain
beating with heavy drops against her window. It was pouring down in
torrents and the wind was “wuthering” round the corners and in the
chimneys of the huge old house. Mary sat up in bed and felt miserable
and angry.

“The rain is as contrary as I ever was,” she said. “It came because it
knew I did not want it.”

She threw herself back on her pillow and buried her face. She did not
cry, but she lay and hated the sound of the heavily beating rain, she
hated the wind and its “wuthering.” She could not go to sleep again.
The mournful sound kept her awake because she felt mournful herself.
If she had felt happy it would probably have lulled her to sleep. How
it “wuthered” and how the big raindrops poured down and beat against
the pane!

“It sounds just like a person lost on the moor and wandering on and on
crying,” she said.

She had been lying awake turning from side to side for about an hour,
when suddenly something made her sit up in bed and turn her head toward
the door listening. She listened and she listened.

“It isn’t the wind now,” she said in a loud whisper. “That isn’t the
wind. It is different. It is that crying I heard before.”

The door of her room was ajar and the sound came down the corridor, a
far-off faint sound of fretful crying. She listened for a few minutes
and each minute she became more and more sure. She felt as if she must
find out what it was. It seemed even stranger than the secret garden
and the buried key. Perhaps the fact that she was in a rebellious mood
made her bold. She put her foot out of bed and stood on the floor.

“I am going to find out what it is,” she said. “Everybody is in bed
and I don’t care about Mrs. Medlock–I don’t care!”

There was a candle by her bedside and she took it up and went softly
out of the room. The corridor looked very long and dark, but she was
too excited to mind that. She thought she remembered the corners she
must turn to find the short corridor with the door covered with
tapestry–the one Mrs. Medlock had come through the day she lost
herself. The sound had come up that passage. So she went on with her
dim light, almost feeling her way, her heart beating so loud that she
fancied she could hear it. The far-off faint crying went on and led
her. Sometimes it stopped for a moment or so and then began again.
Was this the right corner to turn? She stopped and thought. Yes it
was. Down this passage and then to the left, and then up two broad
steps, and then to the right again. Yes, there was the tapestry door.

She pushed it open very gently and closed it behind her, and she stood
in the corridor and could hear the crying quite plainly, though it was
not loud. It was on the other side of the wall at her left and a few
yards farther on there was a door. She could see a glimmer of light
coming from beneath it. The Someone was crying in that room, and it
was quite a young Someone.

So she walked to the door and pushed it open, and there she was
standing in the room!

It was a big room with ancient, handsome furniture in it. There was a
low fire glowing faintly on the hearth and a night light burning by the
side of a carved four-posted bed hung with brocade, and on the bed was
lying a boy, crying fretfully.

Mary wondered if she was in a real place or if she had fallen asleep
again and was dreaming without knowing it.

The boy had a sharp, delicate face the color of ivory and he seemed to
have eyes too big for it. He had also a lot of hair which tumbled over
his forehead in heavy locks and made his thin face seem smaller. He
looked like a boy who had been ill, but he was crying more as if he
were tired and cross than as if he were in pain.

Mary stood near the door with her candle in her hand, holding her
breath. Then she crept across the room, and, as she drew nearer, the
light attracted the boy’s attention and he turned his head on his
pillow and stared at her, his gray eyes opening so wide that they
seemed immense.

“Who are you?” he said at last in a half-frightened whisper. “Are you
a ghost?”

“No, I am not,” Mary answered, her own whisper sounding half
frightened. “Are you one?”

He stared and stared and stared. Mary could not help noticing what
strange eyes he had. They were agate gray and they looked too big for
his face because they had black lashes all round them.

“No,” he replied after waiting a moment or so. “I am Colin.”

“Who is Colin?” she faltered.

“I am Colin Craven. Who are you?”

“I am Mary Lennox. Mr. Craven is my uncle.”

“He is my father,” said the boy.

“Your father!” gasped Mary. “No one ever told me he had a boy! Why
didn’t they?”

“Come here,” he said, still keeping his strange eyes fixed on her with
an anxious expression.

She came close to the bed and he put out his hand and touched her.

“You are real, aren’t you?” he said. “I have such real dreams very
often. You might be one of them.”

Mary had slipped on a woolen wrapper before she left her room and she
put a piece of it between his fingers.

“Rub that and see how thick and warm it is,” she said. “I will pinch
you a little if you like, to show you how real I am. For a minute I
thought you might be a dream too.”

“Where did you come from?” he asked.

“From my own room. The wind wuthered so I couldn’t go to sleep and I
heard some one crying and wanted to find out who it was. What were you
crying for?”

“Because I couldn’t go to sleep either and my head ached. Tell me your
name again.”

“Mary Lennox. Did no one ever tell you I had come to live here?”

He was still fingering the fold of her wrapper, but he began to look a
little more as if he believed in her reality.

“No,” he answered. “They daren’t.”

“Why?” asked Mary.

“Because I should have been afraid you would see me. I won’t let
people see me and talk me over.”

“Why?” Mary asked again, feeling more mystified every moment.

“Because I am like this always, ill and having to lie down. My father
won’t let people talk me over either. The servants are not allowed to
speak about me. If I live I may be a hunchback, but I shan’t live. My
father hates to think I may be like him.”

“Oh, what a queer house this is!” Mary said. “What a queer house!
Everything is a kind of secret. Rooms are locked up and gardens are
locked up–and you! Have you been locked up?”

“No. I stay in this room because I don’t want to be moved out of it.
It tires me too much.”

“Does your father come and see you?” Mary ventured.

“Sometimes. Generally when I am asleep. He doesn’t want to see me.”

“Why?” Mary could not help asking again.

A sort of angry shadow passed over the boy’s face.

“My mother died when I was born and it makes him wretched to look at
me. He thinks I don’t know, but I’ve heard people talking. He almost
hates me.”

“He hates the garden, because she died,” said Mary half speaking to
herself.

“What garden?” the boy asked.

“Oh! just–just a garden she used to like,” Mary stammered. “Have you
been here always?” “Nearly always. Sometimes I have been taken to
places at the seaside, but I won’t stay because people stare at me. I
used to wear an iron thing to keep my back straight, but a grand doctor
came from London to see me and said it was stupid. He told them to
take it off and keep me out in the fresh air. I hate fresh air and I
don’t want to go out.”

“I didn’t when first I came here,” said Mary. “Why do you keep looking
at me like that?”

“Because of the dreams that are so real,” he answered rather fretfully.
“Sometimes when I open my eyes I don’t believe I’m awake.”

“We’re both awake,” said Mary. She glanced round the room with its
high ceiling and shadowy corners and dim fire-light. “It looks quite
like a dream, and it’s the middle of the night, and everybody in the
house is asleep–everybody but us. We are wide awake.”

“I don’t want it to be a dream,” the boy said restlessly.

Mary thought of something all at once.

“If you don’t like people to see you,” she began, “do you want me to go
away?”

He still held the fold of her wrapper and he gave it a little pull.

“No,” he said. “I should be sure you were a dream if you went. If you
are real, sit down on that big footstool and talk. I want to hear
about you.”

Mary put down her candle on the table near the bed and sat down on the
cushioned stool. She did not want to go away at all. She wanted to
stay in the mysterious hidden-away room and talk to the mysterious boy.

“What do you want me to tell you?” she said.

He wanted to know how long she had been at Misselthwaite; he wanted to
know which corridor her room was on; he wanted to know what she had
been doing; if she disliked the moor as he disliked it; where she had
lived before she came to Yorkshire. She answered all these questions
and many more and he lay back on his pillow and listened. He made her
tell him a great deal about India and about her voyage across the
ocean. She found out that because he had been an invalid he had not
learned things as other children had. One of his nurses had taught him
to read when he was quite little and he was always reading and looking
at pictures in splendid books.

Though his father rarely saw him when he was awake, he was given all
sorts of wonderful things to amuse himself with. He never seemed to
have been amused, however. He could have anything he asked for and was
never made to do anything he did not like to do. “Everyone is obliged
to do what pleases me,” he said indifferently. “It makes me ill to be
angry. No one believes I shall live to grow up.”

He said it as if he was so accustomed to the idea that it had ceased to
matter to him at all. He seemed to like the sound of Mary’s voice. As
she went on talking he listened in a drowsy, interested way. Once or
twice she wondered if he were not gradually falling into a doze. But
at last he asked a question which opened up a new subject.

“How old are you?” he asked.

“I am ten,” answered Mary, forgetting herself for the moment, “and so
are you.”

“How do you know that?” he demanded in a surprised voice.

“Because when you were born the garden door was locked and the key was
buried. And it has been locked for ten years.”

Colin half sat up, turning toward her, leaning on his elbows.

“What garden door was locked? Who did it? Where was the key buried?” he
exclaimed as if he were suddenly very much interested.

“It–it was the garden Mr. Craven hates,” said Mary nervously. “He
locked the door. No one–no one knew where he buried the key.” “What
sort of a garden is it?” Colin persisted eagerly.

“No one has been allowed to go into it for ten years,” was Mary’s
careful answer.

But it was too late to be careful. He was too much like herself. He
too had had nothing to think about and the idea of a hidden garden
attracted him as it had attracted her. He asked question after
question. Where was it? Had she never looked for the door? Had she
never asked the gardeners?

“They won’t talk about it,” said Mary. “I think they have been told
not to answer questions.”

“I would make them,” said Colin.

“Could you?” Mary faltered, beginning to feel frightened. If he could
make people answer questions, who knew what might happen!

“Everyone is obliged to please me. I told you that,” he said. “If I
were to live, this place would sometime belong to me. They all know
that. I would make them tell me.”

Mary had not known that she herself had been spoiled, but she could see
quite plainly that this mysterious boy had been. He thought that the
whole world belonged to him. How peculiar he was and how coolly he
spoke of not living.

“Do you think you won’t live?” she asked, partly because she was
curious and partly in hope of making him forget the garden.

“I don’t suppose I shall,” he answered as indifferently as he had
spoken before. “Ever since I remember anything I have heard people say
I shan’t. At first they thought I was too little to understand and now
they think I don’t hear. But I do. My doctor is my father’s cousin.
He is quite poor and if I die he will have all Misselthwaite when my
father is dead. I should think he wouldn’t want me to live.”

“Do you want to live?” inquired Mary.

“No,” he answered, in a cross, tired fashion. “But I don’t want to
die. When I feel ill I lie here and think about it until I cry and
cry.”

“I have heard you crying three times,” Mary said, “but I did not know
who it was. Were you crying about that?” She did so want him to forget
the garden.

“I dare say,” he answered. “Let us talk about something else. Talk
about that garden. Don’t you want to see it?”

“Yes,” answered Mary, in quite a low voice.

“I do,” he went on persistently. “I don’t think I ever really wanted
to see anything before, but I want to see that garden. I want the key
dug up. I want the door unlocked. I would let them take me there in
my chair. That would be getting fresh air. I am going to make them
open the door.”

He had become quite excited and his strange eyes began to shine like
stars and looked more immense than ever.

“They have to please me,” he said. “I will make them take me there and
I will let you go, too.”

Mary’s hands clutched each other. Everything would be
spoiled–everything! Dickon would never come back. She would never
again feel like a missel thrush with a safe-hidden nest.

“Oh, don’t–don’t–don’t–don’t do that!” she cried out.

He stared as if he thought she had gone crazy!

“Why?” he exclaimed. “You said you wanted to see it.”

“I do,” she answered almost with a sob in her throat, “but if you make
them open the door and take you in like that it will never be a secret
again.”

He leaned still farther forward.

“A secret,” he said. “What do you mean? Tell me.”

Mary’s words almost tumbled over one another.

“You see–you see,” she panted, “if no one knows but ourselves–if
there was a door, hidden somewhere under the ivy–if there was–and we
could find it; and if we could slip through it together and shut it
behind us, and no one knew any one was inside and we called it our
garden and pretended that–that we were missel thrushes and it was our
nest, and if we played there almost every day and dug and planted seeds
and made it all come alive–”

“Is it dead?” he interrupted her.

“It soon will be if no one cares for it,” she went on. “The bulbs will
live but the roses–”

He stopped her again as excited as she was herself.

“What are bulbs?” he put in quickly.

“They are daffodils and lilies and snowdrops. They are working in the
earth now–pushing up pale green points because the spring is coming.”

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like? You don’t see it in
rooms if you are ill.”

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the
sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth,” said
Mary. “If the garden was a secret and we could get into it we could
watch the things grow bigger every day, and see how many roses are
alive. Don’t you see? Oh, don’t you see how much nicer it would be
if it was a secret?”

He dropped back on his pillow and lay there with an odd expression on
his face.

“I never had a secret,” he said, “except that one about not living to
grow up. They don’t know I know that, so it is a sort of secret. But
I like this kind better.”

“If you won’t make them take you to the garden,” pleaded Mary,
“perhaps–I feel almost sure I can find out how to get in sometime.
And then–if the doctor wants you to go out in your chair, and if you
can always do what you want to do, perhaps–perhaps we might find some
boy who would push you, and we could go alone and it would always be a
secret garden.”

“I should–like–that,” he said very slowly, his eyes looking dreamy.
“I should like that. I should not mind fresh air in a secret garden.”

Mary began to recover her breath and feel safer because the idea of
keeping the secret seemed to please him. She felt almost sure that if
she kept on talking and could make him see the garden in his mind as
she had seen it he would like it so much that he could not bear to
think that everybody might tramp in to it when they chose.

“I’ll tell you what I think it would be like, if we could go into it,”
she said. “It has been shut up so long things have grown into a tangle
perhaps.”

He lay quite still and listened while she went on talking about the
roses which might have clambered from tree to tree and hung down–about
the many birds which might have built their nests there because it was
so safe. And then she told him about the robin and Ben Weatherstaff,
and there was so much to tell about the robin and it was so easy and
safe to talk about it that she ceased to be afraid. The robin pleased
him so much that he smiled until he looked almost beautiful, and at
first Mary had thought that he was even plainer than herself, with his
big eyes and heavy locks of hair.

“I did not know birds could be like that,” he said. “But if you stay
in a room you never see things. What a lot of things you know. I feel
as if you had been inside that garden.”

She did not know what to say, so she did not say anything. He
evidently did not expect an answer and the next moment he gave her a
surprise.

“I am going to let you look at something,” he said. “Do you see that
rose-colored silk curtain hanging on the wall over the mantel-piece?”

Mary had not noticed it before, but she looked up and saw it. It was a
curtain of soft silk hanging over what seemed to be some picture.

“Yes,” she answered.

“There is a cord hanging from it,” said Colin. “Go and pull it.”

Mary got up, much mystified, and found the cord. When she pulled it
the silk curtain ran back on rings and when it ran back it uncovered a
picture. It was the picture of a girl with a laughing face. She had
bright hair tied up with a blue ribbon and her gay, lovely eyes were
exactly like Colin’s unhappy ones, agate gray and looking twice as big
as they really were because of the black lashes all round them.

“She is my mother,” said Colin complainingly. “I don’t see why she
died. Sometimes I hate her for doing it.”

“How queer!” said Mary.

“If she had lived I believe I should not have been ill always,” he
grumbled. “I dare say I should have lived, too. And my father would
not have hated to look at me. I dare say I should have had a strong
back. Draw the curtain again.”

Mary did as she was told and returned to her footstool.

“She is much prettier than you,” she said, “but her eyes are just like
yours–at least they are the same shape and color. Why is the curtain
drawn over her?”

He moved uncomfortably.

“I made them do it,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t like to see her
looking at me. She smiles too much when I am ill and miserable.
Besides, she is mine and I don’t want everyone to see her.” There were
a few moments of silence and then Mary spoke.

“What would Mrs. Medlock do if she found out that I had been here?” she
inquired.

“She would do as I told her to do,” he answered. “And I should tell
her that I wanted you to come here and talk to me every day. I am glad
you came.”

“So am I,” said Mary. “I will come as often as I can, but”–she
hesitated–“I shall have to look every day for the garden door.”

“Yes, you must,” said Colin, “and you can tell me about it afterward.”

He lay thinking a few minutes, as he had done before, and then he spoke
again.

“I think you shall be a secret, too,” he said. “I will not tell them
until they find out. I can always send the nurse out of the room and
say that I want to be by myself. Do you know Martha?”

“Yes, I know her very well,” said Mary. “She waits on me.”

He nodded his head toward the outer corridor.

“She is the one who is asleep in the other room. The nurse went away
yesterday to stay all night with her sister and she always makes Martha
attend to me when she wants to go out. Martha shall tell you when to
come here.”

Then Mary understood Martha’s troubled look when she had asked
questions about the crying.

“Martha knew about you all the time?” she said.

“Yes; she often attends to me. The nurse likes to get away from me and
then Martha comes.”

“I have been here a long time,” said Mary. “Shall I go away now? Your
eyes look sleepy.”

“I wish I could go to sleep before you leave me,” he said rather shyly.

“Shut your eyes,” said Mary, drawing her footstool closer, “and I will
do what my Ayah used to do in India. I will pat your hand and stroke
it and sing something quite low.”

“I should like that perhaps,” he said drowsily.

Somehow she was sorry for him and did not want him to lie awake, so she
leaned against the bed and began to stroke and pat his hand and sing a
very low little chanting song in Hindustani.

“That is nice,” he said more drowsily still, and she went on chanting
and stroking, but when she looked at him again his black lashes were
lying close against his cheeks, for his eyes were shut and he was fast
asleep. So she got up softly, took her candle and crept away without
making a sound.

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