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The Secret Garden Chapter 23
Read by Natasha.
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“The ‘creatures’ have come,” said Colin gravely. “They want to help
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
“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
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
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
“I did it! The Magic worked!” he cried. “That is my first scientific
“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
“He will think he is in a dream,” cried Mary. “He won’t believe his
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.