Chapters 1-3

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by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This story is about the power of love to change even the most hopeless situations and the most difficult people. This abridged version (shorter and with simpler words) was done for English Language Learners by InterestEng.



      (Chapter 1)  NO ONE LEFT

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WHEN Mary Lennox was sent to England to live with her uncle, everyone said she was the most ugly child anyone ever saw.  She had a little thin face, a little thin body, thin hair and a sad face. She was born in India. Her father worked for the English Government in India and was always very busy. Her mother was very, very beautiful. But all she wanted to do was go to parties. She did not want a little girl. Mary was cared for by a nanny and not by her mother. The nanny gave Mary everything she wanted so Mary would not cry. By the time she was six years old, she was very selfish. Everyone said she was as selfish as “a pig”.  “Pig” is the worst name you can call someone in India, or any country. 

     One very hot morning, when Mary was about nine years old, she woke up and became very angry. The servant who stood by her bedside was not her favorite nanny.
     “Why did you come?” she said to the strange woman. “I will not let you stay. Send my nanny to me!”
     There was something strange going on that morning. Nothing was done in its regular way. Everyone had scared faces, but no one would tell Mary anything. She was left alone all morning. At last she went out into the garden and began to play by herself under a tree. She tried to play, but she became more and more angry because her nanny did not come to her. She thought of all the bad things she would say to her nanny when she came. No one ever stopped her from saying awful things.
     Then Mary heard her mother come out to the garden with someone. She was with a young man and they stood talking together in low voices. The young man was an officer from England. Mary stared at them. 
     “Is it really so bad?” Mary heard her mother say.
     “Very bad,” the young man answered in a sad voice. “You should have gone to the hills two weeks ago.”
     At that very moment there was a loud sound of crying. The crying grew louder and louder. “What is it? What is it?” Mary’s mother cried.
     “Someone has died,” answered the young officer. 
     After that, awful things happened. People began to get sick and die.  The next day, Mary was so afraid that she hid in her room. She was forgotten by everyone. Nobody thought of her, nobody wanted her. At first she cried and then she slept many hours to forget her sorrow. When she woke up, the house was completely quiet.  She wondered if everybody was well now and the trouble gone. She wondered who would take care of her? She wondered if someone would remember her and come to look for her.
    Then she heard footsteps and men’s voices. “There’s no one left!” she heard one voice say. “Even that beautiful woman has died! I suppose the child, too. I heard there was a child, but no one saw her.”
     Mary was standing in the middle of her room when the men opened the door a few minutes later. When they saw her they were so shocked, they almost fell over.
    “O, my! How awful!” one man said. “Who are you?!”
    “I am Mary Lennox,” the little girl said proudly. “I fell asleep when everyone was sick. I just now woke up. Why doesn’t anyone come to me? Why was I forgotten?” asked Mary.
    “Poor little girl!” said the other man. “There is nobody left to come to you.”
    It was in this strange, sad way that Mary found out that she now had neither father nor mother left. Her nanny was gone too, and all the servants. That was why everything was so quiet. There was no one in the house but herself.

             ***


      (Chapter 2)  NEVER LOVED

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MARY did not miss her mother because she never knew her mother and her mother never loved her. She was not scared because she had always been taken care of. And so she knew she would always be taken care of.
     At first she was sent to live with a clergy man [a man who works in a church] in England. She did not like this man or his family because they were poor. The children in the poor family tried to be nice, but when they saw that she did not like them they said to her, “You have no home!” They said this to make her feel sad, because she had made them feel bad because they were poor. “You are going to your uncle’s house!  His name is Mr. Craven and he is very, very scary!”
    “I don’t know him,” said Mary angrily.
    “You don’t know anything! Girls never do,” answered the oldest boy. “Your uncle lives in a big empty old house in the country and no one goes near him. He’s a hunchback and he’s awful.”
    “I don’t believe you,” said Mary. And she ran off by herself.

     What would her uncle be like? What was a hunchback? She had never seen one. She felt very lonely. Why did she not belong to anyone? Other children belonged to their fathers and mothers, but she was no one’s little girl. She had servants and food and clothes, but no one loved her. She did not know that this was because she was difficult. She thought that other people were difficult. She did not know that she was so herself.
     Soon after this, someone came to get Mary to take her to her uncle’s house. It was a servant of her uncle’s. The servant’s name was Mrs. Medlock. Mary did not like Mrs. Medlock and Mrs. Medlock did not like Mary. Right away, Mrs. Medlock told Mary the worst things about her uncle. 

      “You are going to a very strange place!”
      Mary said nothing.  Mrs. Medlock went on.
      “The house is 600 years old.  It is on the edge of a moor. [moor: a place where the ground is very wet.] There are over 100 rooms in the house, but most of them are shut up and locked. There are gardens and trees of every kind. But there’s nothing else there. There will be no one for you to play with.”
     Mary said nothing. It sounded so unlike India.
    “Well,” said Mrs. Medlock. “What do you think of it?”
    “Nothing,” answered Mary. “I know nothing about such places.”
    “Don’t you care about where you are going?!”
    “It doesn’t matter whether I care or not.”
    “You are right,” said Mrs. Medlock unkindly. “It doesn’t.”  Then she said, “You should also know that your uncle has a bent back. That made him an angry man. Even marriage didn’t help him.”
    Mary was surprised. A man with a crooked back could be married?
   “She was a sweet, pretty woman,” said Mrs. Medlock. “Nobody thought she would marry him, but she did. And it was not for his money! She loved him. When she died ...”
    Mary jumped in surprise at these words.
    “Yes, she died,” Mrs. Medlock replied. “Now he does not care about anyone. He won’t see people. Most of the time he goes away, and when he is at his house he shuts himself up in the West Wing and won’t let any one but his servant Pitcher see him. Pitcher took care of him when he was a child.”
    Mary looked out of the train window and wanted to cry. Mrs. Medlock kept talking:
    “You’ll have to play by yourself. You will be told what rooms you can go into and what rooms you are to keep out of. You can play in the gardens. But when you’re in the house don’t go into any rooms but the ones you are told you can go into. Mr. Craven will be very angry if you do not obey.”

         ***

    

           (Chapter 3)  MARTHA

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MARY woke up in the morning when a young house maid came into her room to light the fire. Mary watched her for a few moments and then began to look around her room. Through the window Mary saw lots and lots of empty land.  “What is that?” she asked. Martha, the young house maid, said, “That’s the moor. Isn’t it beautiful?”

     “No,” answered Mary. “I hate it.”

     “That's because you’re not used to it,” Martha said. “It’s big and bare now. But you will like it in the spring. I love it all the time. It’s never really empty even though it seems to be. It’s covered with all sorts of growing things! In spring and summer it’s covered with heather. Then it smells like honey. And the sky is endless.  The bees and skylarks [a beautiful bird] make such wonderful noises. Oh! I wouldn’t live apart from the moor for anything.”

     Mary listened to her with surprise. The servants in India were not like this. They didn’t talk to their masters as if they were their equals! Servants were commanded to do things. Masters never said “please” and “thank you” to their servants. And Mary even slapped her servant in the face when she was angry. She wondered what this girl would do if she slapped her in the face.
    “You are a strange servant,” said Mary suddenly.
    Martha only laughed, not the least offended.
    “Are you going to be my servant?” asked Mary.  “And are you going to dress me?”
    Martha looked at her in amazement.  “You don't know how to put on your own clothes?!”
    “No,” answered Mary, angrily. “I never put them on in my life. My servant dressed me, of course.”
    “Well,” said Martha, “it’s time you learn!”
    “I won’t,” replied Mary. She was very angry at Martha’s reply. Then Mary said very rudely, “You—you daughter of a pig! How dare you tell me what to do!”
    Martha’s face turned red. “Who are you calling names?” she said. “You don’t need to be so angry. That’s not the way for a young lady to talk.”
    With these words Mary did not even try to control her anger. “You know nothing at all!” But suddenly Mary felt so helpless and lonely. She threw herself face down on her pillows and began to cry.  Martha went to the bed and bent over her.
    “You must not cry like that! I didn’t know you were so sad. Please stop crying.  Come now, it’s time for you to get up,” Martha said. “I’ll help you with your clothes.”  Mary got up and looked at this strange servant who was so kind to her. No one had ever been kind to her.

    Then Martha said to her, “You should see all my brothers and sisters get dressed! There’s 12 of us. The younger ones hurry to get dressed and then run out on the moor and play there all day. Mother says the air of the moor fattens them up. Our Dickon, is 12 years old, and he has his own pony [small horse].”
    “Where did he get it?” asked Mary.
    “He found it on the moor when it was little and he began to make friends with it and give it bits of bread. Now the pony follows him about and he lets Dickon get on his back. Dickon is a kind boy and animals like him.”
    When Martha finished helping Mary dress, she then brought her breakfast. Mary looked at it and said, “I don’t want to eat that!”
    “You don’t want porridge!” Martha said amazed. “You don’t know how good it is, that’s all.”
    “I don’t want it,” repeated Mary.
    “How awful to let this go to waste. If my brothers and sisters were at this table they would eat it all in five minutes! Their stomachs have never been full in their lives. They’re always hungry! I have no patience, Miss Mary, with someone who refuses good bread and meat! I wish my brothers could eat what’s here!” But Mary was not listening to Martha.

    Mary drank some tea and ate a little bread. She didn’t know anything about hungry children.
    When Mary ate all she was going to Martha said to her, “You run out and play now. It will do you good. You’ll have to learn to play like other children who don’t have sisters and brothers.  If you go around to the right, you will come to gardens. One of the gardens is locked up. No one has been in it for ten years.”
    “Why?” asked Mary very surprised to think there could be a locked garden.
    “Mr. Craven locked it when his wife died. He won’t let anyone go inside. It was her garden. He locked the door and dug a hole and buried the key.”

chapters4-6
 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - July 2021 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com