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The Secret Garden Chapter 26

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Secret Garden Rose

Read by Natasha.


“IT’S MOTHER!”

Their belief in the Magic was an abiding thing. After the morning’s
incantations Colin sometimes gave them Magic lectures.

“I like to do it,” he explained, “because when I grow up and make great
scientific discoveries I shall be obliged to lecture about them and so
this is practise. I can only give short lectures now because I am very
young, and besides Ben Weatherstaff would feel as if he were in church
and he would go to sleep.”

“Th’ best thing about lecturin’,” said Ben, “is that a chap can get up
an’ say aught he pleases an’ no other chap can answer him back. I
wouldn’t be agen’ lecturin’ a bit mysel’ sometimes.”

But when Colin held forth under his tree old Ben fixed devouring eyes
on him and kept them there. He looked him over with critical
affection. It was not so much the lecture which interested him as the
legs which looked straighter and stronger each day, the boyish head
which held itself up so well, the once sharp chin and hollow cheeks
which had filled and rounded out and the eyes which had begun to hold
the light he remembered in another pair. Sometimes when Colin felt
Ben’s earnest gaze meant that he was much impressed he wondered what he
was reflecting on and once when he had seemed quite entranced he
questioned him.

“What are you thinking about, Ben Weatherstaff?” he asked.

“I was thinkin’” answered Ben, “as I’d warrant tha’s, gone up three or
four pound this week. I was lookin’ at tha’ calves an’ tha’ shoulders.
I’d like to get thee on a pair o’ scales.”

“It’s the Magic and–and Mrs. Sowerby’s buns and milk and things,” said
Colin. “You see the scientific experiment has succeeded.”

That morning Dickon was too late to hear the lecture. When he came he
was ruddy with running and his funny face looked more twinkling than
usual. As they had a good deal of weeding to do after the rains they
fell to work. They always had plenty to do after a warm deep sinking
rain. The moisture which was good for the flowers was also good for
the weeds which thrust up tiny blades of grass and points of leaves
which must be pulled up before their roots took too firm hold. Colin
was as good at weeding as any one in these days and he could lecture
while he was doing it. “The Magic works best when you work, yourself,”
he said this morning. “You can feel it in your bones and muscles. I
am going to read books about bones and muscles, but I am going to write
a book about Magic. I am making it up now. I keep finding out things.”

It was not very long after he had said this that he laid down his
trowel and stood up on his feet. He had been silent for several
minutes and they had seen that he was thinking out lectures, as he
often did. When he dropped his trowel and stood upright it seemed to
Mary and Dickon as if a sudden strong thought had made him do it. He
stretched himself out to his tallest height and he threw out his arms
exultantly. Color glowed in his face and his strange eyes widened with
joyfulness. All at once he had realized something to the full.

“Mary! Dickon!” he cried. “Just look at me!”

They stopped their weeding and looked at him.

“Do you remember that first morning you brought me in here?” he
demanded.

Dickon was looking at him very hard. Being an animal charmer he could
see more things than most people could and many of them were things he
never talked about. He saw some of them now in this boy. “Aye, that
we do,” he answered.

Mary looked hard too, but she said nothing.

“Just this minute,” said Colin, “all at once I remembered it
myself–when I looked at my hand digging with the trowel–and I had to
stand up on my feet to see if it was real. And it is real! I’m
well–I’m well!”

“Aye, that th’ art!” said Dickon.

“I’m well! I’m well!” said Colin again, and his face went quite red all
over.

He had known it before in a way, he had hoped it and felt it and
thought about it, but just at that minute something had rushed all
through him–a sort of rapturous belief and realization and it had been
so strong that he could not help calling out.

“I shall live forever and ever and ever!” he cried grandly. “I shall
find out thousands and thousands of things. I shall find out about
people and creatures and everything that grows–like Dickon–and I
shall never stop making Magic. I’m well! I’m well! I feel–I feel as
if I want to shout out something–something thankful, joyful!”

Ben Weatherstaff, who had been working near a rose-bush, glanced round
at him.

“Tha’ might sing th’ Doxology,” he suggested in his dryest grunt. He
had no opinion of the Doxology and he did not make the suggestion with
any particular reverence.

But Colin was of an exploring mind and he knew nothing about the
Doxology.

“What is that?” he inquired.

“Dickon can sing it for thee, I’ll warrant,” replied Ben Weatherstaff.

Dickon answered with his all-perceiving animal charmer’s smile.

“They sing it i’ church,” he said. “Mother says she believes th’
skylarks sings it when they gets up i’ th’ mornin’.”

“If she says that, it must be a nice song,” Colin answered. “I’ve
never been in a church myself. I was always too ill. Sing it, Dickon.
I want to hear it.”

Dickon was quite simple and unaffected about it. He understood what
Colin felt better than Colin did himself. He understood by a sort of
instinct so natural that he did not know it was understanding. He
pulled off his cap and looked round still smiling.

“Tha’ must take off tha’ cap,” he said to Colin, “an’ so mun tha’,
Ben–an’ tha’ mun stand up, tha’ knows.”

Colin took off his cap and the sun shone on and warmed his thick hair
as he watched Dickon intently. Ben Weatherstaff scrambled up from his
knees and bared his head too with a sort of puzzled half-resentful look
on his old face as if he didn’t know exactly why he was doing this
remarkable thing.

Dickon stood out among the trees and rose-bushes and began to sing in
quite a simple matter-of-fact way and in a nice strong boy voice:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.”

When he had finished, Ben Weatherstaff was standing quite still with
his jaws set obstinately but with a disturbed look in his eyes fixed on
Colin. Colin’s face was thoughtful and appreciative.

“It is a very nice song,” he said. “I like it. Perhaps it means just
what I mean when I want to shout out that I am thankful to the Magic.”
He stopped and thought in a puzzled way. “Perhaps they are both the
same thing. How can we know the exact names of everything? Sing it
again, Dickon. Let us try, Mary. I want to sing it, too. It’s my
song. How does it begin? ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

And they sang it again, and Mary and Colin lifted their voices as
musically as they could and Dickon’s swelled quite loud and
beautiful–and at the second line Ben Weatherstaff raspingly cleared
his throat and at the third line he joined in with such vigor that it
seemed almost savage and when the “Amen” came to an end Mary observed
that the very same thing had happened to him which had happened when he
found out that Colin was not a cripple–his chin was twitching and he
was staring and winking and his leathery old cheeks were wet.

“I never seed no sense in th’ Doxology afore,” he said hoarsely, “but I
may change my mind i’ time. I should say tha’d gone up five pound this
week Mester Colin–five on ‘em!”

Colin was looking across the garden at something attracting his
attention and his expression had become a startled one.

“Who is coming in here?” he said quickly. “Who is it?”

The door in the ivied wall had been pushed gently open and a woman had
entered. She had come in with the last line of their song and she had
stood still listening and looking at them. With the ivy behind her,
the sunlight drifting through the trees and dappling her long blue
cloak, and her nice fresh face smiling across the greenery she was
rather like a softly colored illustration in one of Colin’s books. She
had wonderful affectionate eyes which seemed to take everything in–all
of them, even Ben Weatherstaff and the “creatures” and every flower
that was in bloom. Unexpectedly as she had appeared, not one of them
felt that she was an intruder at all. Dickon’s eyes lighted like lamps.

“It’s mother–that’s who it is!” he cried and went across the grass at
a run.

Colin began to move toward her, too, and Mary went with him. They both
felt their pulses beat faster.

“It’s mother!” Dickon said again when they met halfway. “I knowed tha’
wanted to see her an’ I told her where th’ door was hid.”

Colin held out his hand with a sort of flushed royal shyness but his
eyes quite devoured her face.

“Even when I was ill I wanted to see you,” he said, “you and Dickon and
the secret garden. I’d never wanted to see any one or anything before.”

The sight of his uplifted face brought about a sudden change in her
own. She flushed and the corners of her mouth shook and a mist seemed
to sweep over her eyes.

“Eh! dear lad!” she broke out tremulously. “Eh! dear lad!” as if she
had not known she were going to say it. She did not say, “Mester
Colin,” but just “dear lad” quite suddenly. She might have said it to
Dickon in the same way if she had seen something in his face which
touched her. Colin liked it.

“Are you surprised because I am so well?” he asked. She put her hand
on his shoulder and smiled the mist out of her eyes. “Aye, that I am!”
she said; “but tha’rt so like thy mother tha’ made my heart jump.”

“Do you think,” said Colin a little awkwardly, “that will make my
father like me?”

“Aye, for sure, dear lad,” she answered and she gave his shoulder a
soft quick pat. “He mun come home–he mun come home.”

“Susan Sowerby,” said Ben Weatherstaff, getting close to her. “Look at
th’ lad’s legs, wilt tha’? They was like drumsticks i’ stockin’ two
month’ ago–an’ I heard folk tell as they was bandy an’ knock-kneed
both at th’ same time. Look at ‘em now!”

Susan Sowerby laughed a comfortable laugh.

“They’re goin’ to be fine strong lad’s legs in a bit,” she said. “Let
him go on playin’ an’ workin’ in the garden an’ eatin’ hearty an’
drinkin’ plenty o’ good sweet milk an’ there’ll not be a finer pair i’
Yorkshire, thank God for it.”

She put both hands on Mistress Mary’s shoulders and looked her little
face over in a motherly fashion.

“An’ thee, too!” she said. “Tha’rt grown near as hearty as our
‘Lisabeth Ellen. I’ll warrant tha’rt like thy mother too. Our Martha
told me as Mrs. Medlock heard she was a pretty woman. Tha’lt be like a
blush rose when tha’ grows up, my little lass, bless thee.”

She did not mention that when Martha came home on her “day out” and
described the plain sallow child she had said that she had no
confidence whatever in what Mrs. Medlock had heard. “It doesn’t stand
to reason that a pretty woman could be th’ mother o’ such a fou’ little
lass,” she had added obstinately.

Mary had not had time to pay much attention to her changing face. She
had only known that she looked “different” and seemed to have a great
deal more hair and that it was growing very fast. But remembering her
pleasure in looking at the Mem Sahib in the past she was glad to hear
that she might some day look like her.

Susan Sowerby went round their garden with them and was told the whole
story of it and shown every bush and tree which had come alive. Colin
walked on one side of her and Mary on the other. Each of them kept
looking up at her comfortable rosy face, secretly curious about the
delightful feeling she gave them–a sort of warm, supported feeling.
It seemed as if she understood them as Dickon understood his
“creatures.” She stooped over the flowers and talked about them as if
they were children. Soot followed her and once or twice cawed at her
and flew upon her shoulder as if it were Dickon’s. When they told her
about the robin and the first flight of the young ones she laughed a
motherly little mellow laugh in her throat.

“I suppose learnin’ ‘em to fly is like learnin’ children to walk, but
I’m feared I should be all in a worrit if mine had wings instead o’
legs,” she said.

It was because she seemed such a wonderful woman in her nice moorland
cottage way that at last she was told about the Magic.

“Do you believe in Magic?” asked Colin after he had explained about
Indian fakirs. “I do hope you do.”

“That I do, lad,” she answered. “I never knowed it by that name but
what does th’ name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i’
France an’ a different one i’ Germany. Th’ same thing as set th’ seeds
swellin’ an’ th’ sun shinin’ made thee a well lad an’ it’s th’ Good
Thing. It isn’t like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called
out of our names. Th’ Big Good Thing doesn’t stop to worrit, bless
thee. It goes on makin’ worlds by th’ million–worlds like us. Never
thee stop believin’ in th’ Big Good Thing an’ knowin’ th’ world’s full
of it–an’ call it what tha’ likes. Tha’ wert singin’ to it when I
come into th’ garden.”

“I felt so joyful,” said Colin, opening his beautiful strange eyes at
her. “Suddenly I felt how different I was–how strong my arms and legs
were, you know–and how I could dig and stand–and I jumped up and
wanted to shout out something to anything that would listen.”

“Th’ Magic listened when tha’ sung th’ Doxology. It would ha’ listened
to anything tha’d sung. It was th’ joy that mattered. Eh! lad,
lad–what’s names to th’ Joy Maker,” and she gave his shoulders a quick
soft pat again.

She had packed a basket which held a regular feast this morning, and
when the hungry hour came and Dickon brought it out from its hiding
place, she sat down with them under their tree and watched them devour
their food, laughing and quite gloating over their appetites. She was
full of fun and made them laugh at all sorts of odd things. She told
them stories in broad Yorkshire and taught them new words. She laughed
as if she could not help it when they told her of the increasing
difficulty there was in pretending that Colin was still a fretful
invalid.

“You see we can’t help laughing nearly all the time when we are
together,” explained Colin. “And it doesn’t sound ill at all. We try
to choke it back but it will burst out and that sounds worse than ever.”

“There’s one thing that comes into my mind so often,” said Mary, “and I
can scarcely ever hold in when I think of it suddenly. I keep thinking
suppose Colin’s face should get to look like a full moon. It isn’t
like one yet but he gets a tiny bit fatter every day–and suppose some
morning it should look like one–what should we do!”

“Bless us all, I can see tha’ has a good bit o’ play actin’ to do,”
said Susan Sowerby. “But tha’ won’t have to keep it up much longer.
Mester Craven’ll come home.”

“Do you think he will?” asked Colin. “Why?”

Susan Sowerby chuckled softly.

“I suppose it ‘ud nigh break thy heart if he found out before tha’ told
him in tha’ own way,” she said. “Tha’s laid awake nights plannin’ it.”

“I couldn’t bear any one else to tell him,” said Colin. “I think about
different ways every day, I think now I just want to run into his
room.” “That’d be a fine start for him,” said Susan Sowerby. “I’d like
to see his face, lad. I would that! He mun come back–that he mun.”

One of the things they talked of was the visit they were to make to her
cottage. They planned it all. They were to drive over the moor and
lunch out of doors among the heather. They would see all the twelve
children and Dickon’s garden and would not come back until they were
tired.

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!”

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