The Secret Garden Chapter 20

Secret Garden Fountain

“I SHALL LIVE FOREVER–AND EVER–AND EVER!”

Read by Natasha.

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!”

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