When she opened her eyes in the morning
it was because a young housemaid had come into her room to light the fire and
was kneeling on the hearth-rug raking out the cinders noisily. Mary lay and
watched her for a few moments and then began to look about the room. She had
never seen a room at all like it and thought it curious and gloomy. The walls
were covered with tapestry with a forest scene embroidered on it. There were
fantastically dressed people under the trees and in the distance there was a
glimpse of the turrets of a castle. There were hunters and horses and dogs and
ladies. Mary felt as if she were in the forest with them. Out of a deep window
she could see a great climbing stretch of land which seemed to have no trees on
it, and to look rather like an endless, dull, purplish sea.
"What is that?" she said, pointing out
of the window.
Martha, the young housemaid, who had just risen to
her feet, looked and pointed also. "That there?" she said.
"That's th' moor," with a good-natured
grin. "Does tha' like it?"
"No," answered Mary. "I hate
"That's because tha'rt not used to it,"
Martha said, going back to her hearth. "Tha' thinks it's too big an' bare
now. But tha' will like it."
"Do you?" inquired Mary.
"Aye, that I do," answered Martha,
cheerfully polishing away at the grate. "I just love it. It's none bare.
It's covered wi' growin' things as smells sweet. It's fair lovely in spring an'
summer when th' gorse an' broom an' heather's in flower. It smells o' honey an'
there's such a lot o' fresh air--an' th' sky looks so high an' th' bees an'
skylarks makes such a nice noise hummin' an' singin'. Eh! I wouldn't live away
from th' moor for anythin'."
Mary listened to her with a grave, puzzled expression.
The native servants she had been used to in India were not in the least like
this. They were obsequious and servile and did not presume to talk to their
masters as if they were their equals. They made salaams and called them
"protector of the poor" and names of that sort. Indian servants were
commanded to do things, not asked. It was not the custom to say
"please" and "thank you" and Mary had always slapped her
Ayah in the face when she was angry. She wondered a little what this girl would
do if one slapped her in the face. She was a round, rosy, good-natured-looking
creature, but she had a sturdy way which made Mistress Mary wonder if she might
not even slap back--if the person who slapped her was only a little girl.
"You are a strange servant," she said
from her pillows, rather haughtily.
Martha sat up on her heels, with her blackingbrush
in her hand, and laughed, without seeming the least out of temper.
"Eh! I know that," she said. "If
there was a grand Missus at Misselthwaite I should never have been even one of
th' under house-maids. I might have been let to be scullerymaid but I'd never
have been let upstairs. I'm too common an' I talk too much Yorkshire.
But this is a funny house for all it's so grand. Seems like there's neither
Master nor Mistress except Mr. Pitcher an' Mrs. Medlock. Mr. Craven, he won't
be troubled about anythin' when he's here, an' he's nearly always away. Mrs.
Medlock gave me th' place out o' kindness. She told me she could never have
done it if Misselthwaite had been like other big houses." "Are you
going to be my servant?" Mary asked, still in her imperious little Indian
Martha began to rub her grate again.
"I'm Mrs. Medlock's servant," she said
stoutly. "An' she's Mr. Craven's--but I'm to do the housemaid's work up
here an' wait on you a bit. But you won't need much waitin' on."
"Who is going to dress me?" demanded
Martha sat up on her heels again and stared. She
spoke in broad Yorkshire in her amazement.
"Canna' tha' dress thysen!" she said.
"What do you mean? I don't understand your
language," said Mary.
"Eh! I forgot," Martha said. "Mrs.
Medlock told me I'd have to be careful or you wouldn't know what I was sayin'.
I mean can't you put on your own clothes?"
"No," answered Mary, quite indignantly. "I
never did in my life. My Ayah dressed me, of course."
"Well," said Martha, evidently not in
the least aware that she was impudent, "it's time tha' should learn. Tha'
cannot begin younger. It'll do thee good to wait on thysen a bit. My mother
always said she couldn't see why grand people's children didn't turn out fair
fools--what with nurses an' bein' washed an' dressed an' took out to walk as if
they was puppies!"
"It is different in India,"
said Mistress Mary disdainfully. She could scarcely stand this.
But Martha was not at all crushed.
"Eh! I can see it's different," she
answered almost sympathetically. "I dare say it's because there's such a
lot o' blacks there instead o' respectable white people. When I heard you was
comin' from India
I thought you was a black too."
Mary sat up in bed furious.
"What!" she said. "What! You
thought I was a native. You--you daughter of a pig!"
Martha stared and looked hot.
"Who are you callin' names?" she said.
"You needn't be so vexed. That's not th' way for a young lady to talk.
I've nothin' against th' blacks. When you read about 'em in tracts they're
always very religious. You always read as a black's a man an' a brother. I've
never seen a black an' I was fair pleased to think I was goin' to see one
close. When I come in to light your fire this mornin' I crep' up to your bed
an' pulled th' cover back careful to look at you. An' there you was,"
disappointedly, "no more black than me--for all you're so yeller."
Mary did not even try to control her rage and
humiliation. "You thought I was a native! You dared! You don't know
anything about natives! They are not people--they're servants who must salaam
to you. You know nothing about India.
You know nothing about anything!"
She was in such a rage and felt so helpless before
the girl's simple stare, and somehow she suddenly felt so horribly lonely and
far away from everything she understood and which understood her, that she
threw herself face downward on the pillows and burst into passionate sobbing.
She sobbed so unrestrainedly that good-natured Yorkshire Martha was a little
frightened and quite sorry for her. She went to the bed and bent over her.
"Eh! you mustn't cry like that there!"
she begged. "You mustn't for sure. I didn't know you'd be vexed. I don't
know anythin' about anythin'--just like you said. I beg your pardon, Miss. Do
There was something comforting and really friendly
in her queer Yorkshire speech and sturdy way
which had a good effect on Mary. She gradually ceased crying and became quiet.
Martha looked relieved.
"It's time for thee to get up now," she
said. "Mrs. Medlock said I was to carry tha' breakfast an' tea an' dinner
into th' room next to this. It's been made into a nursery for thee. I'll help
thee on with thy clothes if tha'll get out o' bed. If th' buttons are at th'
back tha' cannot button them up tha'self."
When Mary at last decided to get up, the clothes
Martha took from the wardrobe were not the ones she had worn when she arrived
the night before with Mrs. Medlock.
"Those are not mine," she said. "Mine
She looked the thick white wool coat and dress
over, and added with cool approval:
"Those are nicer than mine."
"These are th' ones tha' must put on,"
Martha answered. "Mr. Craven ordered Mrs. Medlock to get 'em in London. He said `I won't
have a child dressed in black wanderin' about like a lost soul,' he said. `It'd
make the place sadder than it is. Put color on her.' Mother she said she knew
what he meant. Mother always knows what a body means. She doesn't hold with
"I hate black things," said Mary.
The dressing process was one which taught them
both something. Martha had "buttoned up" her little sisters and
brothers but she had never seen a child who stood still and waited for another
person to do things for her as if she had neither hands nor feet of her own.
"Why doesn't tha' put on tha' own
shoes?" she said when Mary quietly held out her foot.
"My Ayah did it," answered Mary,
staring. "It was the custom."
She said that very often--"It was the
custom." The native servants were always saying it. If one told them to do
a thing their ancestors had not done for a thousand years they gazed at one
mildly and said, "It is not the custom" and one knew that was the end
of the matter.
It had not been the custom that Mistress Mary
should do anything but stand and allow herself to be dressed like a doll, but
before she was ready for breakfast she began to suspect that her life at
Misselthwaite Manor would end by teaching her a number of things quite new to
her--things such as putting on her own shoes and stockings, and picking up
things she let fall. If Martha had been a well-trained fine young lady's maid
she would have been more subservient and respectful and would have known that
it was her business to brush hair, and button boots, and pick things up and lay
them away. She was, however, only an untrained Yorkshire
rustic who had been brought up in a moorland cottage with a swarm of little
brothers and sisters who had never dreamed of doing anything but waiting on
themselves and on the younger ones who were either babies in arms or just
learning to totter about and tumble over things.
If Mary Lennox had been a child who was ready to
be amused she would perhaps have laughed at Martha's readiness to talk, but
Mary only listened to her coldly and wondered at her freedom of manner. At
first she was not at all interested, but gradually, as the girl rattled on in
her good-tempered, homely way, Mary began to notice what she was saying.
"Eh! you should see 'em all," she said.
"There's twelve of us an' my father only gets sixteen shilling a week. I
can tell you my mother's put to it to get porridge for 'em all. They tumble
about on th' moor an' play there all day an' mother says th' air of th' moor
fattens 'em. She says she believes they eat th' grass same as th' wild ponies
do. Our Dickon, he's twelve years old and he's got a young pony he calls his
"Where did he get it?" asked Mary.
"He found it on th' moor with its mother when
it was a little one an' he began to make friends with it an' give it bits o'
bread an' pluck young grass for it. And it got to like him so it follows him
about an' it lets him get on its back. Dickon's a kind lad an' animals likes
Mary had never possessed an animal pet of her own
and had always thought she should like one. So she began to feel a slight
interest in Dickon, and as she had never before been interested in any one but
herself, it was the dawning of a healthy sentiment. When she went into the room
which had been made into a nursery for her, she found that it was rather like
the one she had slept in. It was not a child's room, but a grown-up person's
room, with gloomy old pictures on the walls and heavy old oak chairs. A table
in the center was set with a good substantial breakfast. But she had always had
a very small appetite, and she looked with something more than indifference at
the first plate Martha set before her.
"I don't want it," she said.
"Tha' doesn't want thy porridge!" Martha
"Tha' doesn't know how good it is. Put a bit
o' treacle on it or a bit o' sugar."
"I don't want it," repeated Mary.
"Eh!" said Martha. "I can't abide
to see good victuals go to waste. If our children was at this table they'd
clean it bare in five minutes."
"Why?" said Mary coldly.
"Why!" echoed Martha. "Because they scarce ever had their
stomachs full in their lives. They're as hungry as young hawks an' foxes."
"I don't know what it is to be hungry,"
said Mary, with the indifference of ignorance.
Martha looked indignant.
"Well, it would do thee good to try it. I can
see that plain enough," she said outspokenly. "I've no patience with
folk as sits an' just stares at good bread an' meat. My word! don't I wish
Dickon and Phil an' Jane an' th' rest of 'em had what's here under their
"Why don't you take it to them?"
"It's not mine," answered Martha stoutly.
"An' this isn't my day out. I get my day out once a month same as th'
rest. Then I go home an' clean up for mother an' give her a day's rest."
Mary drank some tea and ate a little toast and
"You wrap up warm an' run out an' play
you," said Martha. "It'll do you good and give you some stomach for
Mary went to the window. There were gardens and
paths and big trees, but everything looked dull and wintry.
"Out? Why should I go out on a day like
this?" "Well, if tha' doesn't go out tha'lt have to stay in, an' what
has tha' got to do?"
Mary glanced about her. There was nothing to do.
When Mrs. Medlock had prepared the nursery she had not thought of amusement.
Perhaps it would be better to go and see what the gardens were like.
"Who will go with me?" she inquired.
"You'll go by yourself," she answered.
"You'll have to learn to play like other children does when they haven't
got sisters and brothers. Our Dickon goes off on th' moor by himself an' plays
for hours. That's how he made friends with th' pony. He's got sheep on th' moor
that knows him, an' birds as comes an' eats out of his hand. However little
there is to eat, he always saves a bit o' his bread to coax his pets."
It was really this mention of Dickon which made
Mary decide to go out, though she was not aware of it. There would be, birds
outside though there would not be ponies or sheep. They would be different from
the birds in India
and it might amuse her to look at them.
Martha found her coat and hat for her and a pair
of stout little boots and she showed her her way downstairs.
"If tha' goes round that way tha'll come to
th' gardens," she said, pointing to a gate in a wall of shrubbery.
"There's lots o' flowers in summer-time, but there's nothin' bloomin'
now." She seemed to hesitate a second before she added, "One of th'
gardens is locked up. No one has been in it for ten years."
"Why?" asked Mary in spite of herself.
Here was another locked door added to the hundred in the strange house.
"Mr. Craven had it shut when his wife died so
sudden. He won't let no one go inside. It was her garden. He locked th' door
an' dug a hole and buried th' key. There's Mrs. Medlock's bell ringing--I must
After she was gone Mary turned down the walk which
led to the door in the shrubbery. She could not help thinking about the garden
which no one had been into for ten years. She wondered what it would look like
and whether there were any flowers still alive in it. When she had passed
through the shrubbery gate she found herself in great gardens, with wide lawns
and winding walks with clipped borders. There were trees, and flower-beds, and
evergreens clipped into strange shapes, and a large pool with an old gray
fountain in its midst. But the flower-beds were bare and wintry and the
fountain was not playing. This was not the garden which was shut up. How could
a garden be shut up? You could always walk into a garden.
She was just thinking this when she saw that, at
the end of the path she was following, there seemed to be a long wall, with ivy
growing over it. She was not familiar enough with England to know that she was coming
upon the kitchen-gardens where the vegetables and fruit were growing. She went
toward the wall and found that there was a green door in the ivy, and that it
stood open. This was not the closed garden, evidently, and she could go into
She went through the door and found that it was a
garden with walls all round it and that it was only one of several walled
gardens which seemed to open into one another. She saw another open green door,
revealing bushes and pathways between beds containing winter vegetables.
Fruit-trees were trained flat against the wall, and over some of the beds there
were glass frames. The place was bare and ugly enough, Mary thought, as she
stood and stared about her. It might be nicer in summer when things were green,
but there was nothing pretty about it now.
Presently an old man with a spade over his
shoulder walked through the door leading from the second garden. He looked
startled when he saw Mary, and then touched his cap. He had a surly old face,
and did not seem at all pleased to see her--but then she was displeased with
his garden and wore her "quite contrary" expression, and certainly
did not seem at all pleased to see him.
"What is this place?" she asked.
"One o' th' kitchen-gardens," he
"What is that?" said Mary, pointing
through the other green door.
"Another of 'em," shortly. "There's
another on t'other side o' th' wall an' there's th' orchard t'other side o'
"Can I go in them?" asked Mary.
"If tha' likes. But there's nowt to
Mary made no response. She went down the path and
through the second green door. There, she found more walls and winter
vegetables and glass frames, but in the second wall there was another green
door and it was not open. Perhaps it led into the garden which no one had seen
for ten years. As she was not at all a timid child and always did what she
wanted to do, Mary went to the green door and turned the handle. She hoped the
door would not open because she wanted to be sure she had found the mysterious
garden--but it did open quite easily and she walked through it and found
herself in an orchard. There were walls all round it also and trees trained
against them, and there were bare fruit-trees growing in the winter-browned
grass--but there was no green door to be seen anywhere. Mary looked for it, and
yet when she had entered the upper end of the garden she had noticed that the
wall did not seem to end with the orchard but to extend beyond it as if it
enclosed a place at the other side. She could see the tops of trees above the
wall, and when she stood still she saw a bird with a bright red breast sitting
on the topmost branch of one of them, and suddenly he burst into his winter
song--almost as if he had caught sight of her and was calling to her.
She stopped and listened to him and somehow his
cheerful, friendly little whistle gave her a pleased feeling--even a
disagreeable little girl may be lonely, and the big closed house and big bare
moor and big bare gardens had made this one feel as if there was no one left in
the world but herself. If she had been an affectionate child, who had been used
to being loved, she would have broken her heart, but even though she was
"Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" she was desolate, and the
bright-breasted little bird brought a look into her sour little face which was
almost a smile. She listened to him until he flew away. He was not like an
Indian bird and she liked him and wondered if she should ever see him again.
Perhaps he lived in the mysterious garden and knew all about it.
Perhaps it was because she had nothing whatever to
do that she thought so much of the deserted garden. She was curious about it
and wanted to see what it was like. Why had Mr. Archibald Craven buried the
key? If he had liked his wife so much why did he hate her garden? She wondered
if she should ever see him, but she knew that if she did she should not like
him, and he would not like her, and that she should only stand and stare at him
and say nothing, though she should be wanting dreadfully to ask him why he had
done such a queer thing.
"People never like me and I never like
people," she thought. "And I never can talk as the Crawford children
could. They were always talking and laughing and making noises."
She thought of the robin and of the way he seemed
to sing his song at her, and as she remembered the tree-top he perched on she
stopped rather suddenly on the path.
"I believe that tree was in the secret
garden--I feel sure it was," she said. "There was a wall round the
place and there was no door."
She walked back into the first kitchen-garden she
had entered and found the old man digging there. She went and stood beside him
and watched him a few moments in her cold little way. He took no notice of her
and so at last she spoke to him.
"I have been into the other gardens,"
"There was nothin' to prevent thee," he
"I went into the orchard."
"There was no dog at th' door to bite
thee," he answered.
"There was no door there into the other
garden," said Mary.
"What garden?" he said in a rough voice,
stopping his digging for a moment.
"The one on the other side of the wall,"
answered Mistress Mary. "There are trees there--I saw the tops of them. A
bird with a red breast was sitting on one of them and he sang."
To her surprise the surly old weather-beaten face
actually changed its expression. A slow smile spread over it and the gardener
looked quite different. It made her think that it was curious how much nicer a
person looked when he smiled. She had not thought of it before.
He turned about to the orchard side of his garden
and began to whistle--a low soft whistle. She could not understand how such a
surly man could make such a coaxing sound. Almost the next moment a wonderful
thing happened. She heard a soft little rushing flight through the air--and it
was the bird with the red breast flying to them, and he actually alighted on
the big clod of earth quite near to the gardener's foot.
"Here he is," chuckled the old man, and
then he spoke to the bird as if he were speaking to a child.
"Where has tha' been, tha' cheeky little
beggar?" he said. "I've not seen thee before today. Has tha, begun
tha' courtin' this early in th' season? Tha'rt too forrad."
The bird put his tiny head on one side and looked
up at him with his soft bright eye which was like a black dewdrop. He seemed
quite familiar and not the least afraid. He hopped about and pecked the earth
briskly, looking for seeds and insects. It actually gave Mary a queer feeling
in her heart, because he was so pretty and cheerful and seemed so like a
person. He had a tiny plump body and a delicate beak, and slender delicate
"Will he always come when you call him?"
she asked almost in a whisper.
"Aye, that he will. I've knowed him ever
since he was a fledgling. He come out of th' nest in th' other garden an' when
first he flew over th' wall he was too weak to fly back for a few days an' we
got friendly. When he went over th' wall again th' rest of th' brood was gone
an' he was lonely an' he come back to me."
"What kind of a bird is he?" Mary asked.
"Doesn't tha' know? He's a robin redbreast
an' they're th' friendliest, curiousest birds alive. They're almost as friendly
as dogs--if you know how to get on with 'em. Watch him peckin' about there an'
lookin' round at us now an' again. He knows we're talkin' about him."
It was the queerest thing in the world to see the
old fellow. He looked at the plump little scarlet-waistcoated bird as if he
were both proud and fond of him.
"He's a conceited one," he chuckled.
"He likes to hear folk talk about him. An' curious--bless me, there never
was his like for curiosity an' meddlin'. He's always comin' to see what I'm
plantin'. He knows all th' things Mester Craven never troubles hissel' to find
out. He's th' head gardener, he is."
The robin hopped about busily pecking the soil and
now and then stopped and looked at them a little. Mary thought his black
dewdrop eyes gazed at her with great curiosity. It really seemed as if he were
finding out all about her. The queer feeling in her heart increased.
"Where did the rest of the brood fly to?" she asked.
"There's no knowin'. The old ones turn 'em
out o' their nest an' make 'em fly an' they're scattered before you know it.
This one was a knowin' one an, he knew he was lonely."
Mistress Mary went a step nearer to the robin and
looked at him very hard.
"I'm lonely," she said.
She had not known before that this was one of the
things which made her feel sour and cross. She seemed to find it out when the
robin looked at her and she looked at the robin.
The old gardener pushed his cap back on his bald
head and stared at her a minute.
"Art tha' th' little wench from India?" he
"Then no wonder tha'rt lonely. Tha'lt be
lonlier before tha's done," he said.
He began to dig again, driving his spade deep into
the rich black garden soil while the robin hopped about very busily employed.
"What is your name?" Mary inquired.
He stood up to answer her.
"Ben Weatherstaff," he answered, and
then he added with a surly chuckle, "I'm lonely mysel' except when he's
with me," and he jerked his thumb toward the robin. "He's th' only
friend I've got."
"I have no friends at all," said Mary.
"I never had. My Ayah didn't like me and I never played with any
It is a Yorkshire habit to say what you think with
blunt frankness, and old Ben Weatherstaff was a Yorkshire
"Tha' an' me are a good bit alike," he
said. "We was wove out of th' same cloth. We're neither of us good lookin'
an' we're both of us as sour as we look. We've got the same nasty tempers, both
of us, I'll warrant."
This was plain speaking, and Mary Lennox had never
heard the truth about herself in her life. Native servants always salaamed and
submitted to you, whatever you did. She had never thought much about her looks,
but she wondered if she was as unattractive as Ben Weatherstaff and she also
wondered if she looked as sour as he had looked before the robin came. She
actually began to wonder also if she was "nasty tempered." She felt
Suddenly a clear rippling little sound broke out
near her and she turned round. She was standing a few feet from a young
apple-tree and the robin had flown on to one of its branches and had burst out
into a scrap of a song. Ben Weatherstaff laughed outright.
"What did he do that for?" asked Mary.
"He's made up his mind to make friends with
thee," replied Ben. "Dang me if he hasn't took a fancy to thee."
"To me?" said Mary, and she moved toward
the little tree softly and looked up.
"Would you make friends with me?" she
said to the robin just as if she was speaking to a person. "Would
you?" And she did not say it either in her hard little voice or in her
imperious Indian voice, but in a tone so soft and eager and coaxing that Ben
Weatherstaff was as surprised as she had been when she heard him whistle.
"Why," he cried out, "tha' said
that as nice an' human as if tha' was a real child instead of a sharp old
woman. Tha' said it almost like Dickon talks to his wild things on th'
"Do you know Dickon?" Mary asked,
turning round rather in a hurry.
"Everybody knows him. Dickon's wanderin'
about everywhere. Th' very blackberries an' heather-bells knows him. I warrant
th' foxes shows him where their cubs lies an' th' skylarks doesn't hide their
nests from him."
Mary would have liked to ask some more questions.
She was almost as curious about Dickon as she was about the deserted garden.
But just that moment the robin, who had ended his song, gave a little shake of
his wings, spread them and flew away. He had made his visit and had other
things to do.
"He has flown over the wall!" Mary cried
out, watching him. "He has flown into the orchard--he has flown across the
other wall--into the garden where there is no door!"
"He lives there," said old Ben. "He
came out o' th' egg there. If he's courtin', he's makin' up to some young madam
of a robin that lives among th' old rose-trees there."
"Rose-trees," said Mary. "Are there
Ben Weatherstaff took up his spade again and began
"There was ten year' ago," he mumbled.
"I should like to see them," said Mary.
"Where is the green door? There must be a door somewhere."
Ben drove his spade deep and looked as
uncompanionable as he had looked when she first saw him.
"There was ten year' ago, but there isn't
now," he said.
"No door!" cried Mary. "There must
be." "None as any one can find, an' none as is any one's business.
Don't you be a meddlesome wench an' poke your nose where it's no cause to go.
Here, I must go on with my work. Get you gone an' play you. I've no more
And he actually stopped digging, threw his spade
over his shoulder and walked off, without even glancing at her or saying