Chapters 19-21

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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 19)  QUESTIONS

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DR. CRAVEN still came to check up on Colin and was becoming more and more frightened. No one knew if Colin was really getting better or worse, because no one was told that he could walk now. “You stay out in the garden a long time,” said Dr. Craven on his next visit. “Where do you go?”

     Colin put on his favorite face of pride and said, “I will not let any one know where I go. I go to a place I like. Every one has orders to keep out of the way. I won't be watched and stared at. You know that!

     “The nurse says that you eat more now. Your father will be happy to hear that you are getting better.

     “I won't have him told! Colin said fiercely. “It will only disappoint him if I get worse again—and I may get worse this very night. I won't have letters written to my father—I won't—I won't! You are making me angry and you know that is bad for me. I feel hot already. I hate being written about and being talked about as much as I hate being stared at!

     “Quite, quiet, my boy, Dr. Craven replied calmly. “Nothing will be written without your permission. You are too sensitive about things. You must not undo the good which has been done.” He said no more about writing to Mr. Craven. Still, Mary, Colin and Dickon were worried.  If Dr. Craven thought Colin was getting better, he was sure to write Colin's father and that would ruin everything. Colin was determined that his father know nothing.  It was his surprise to share with his father. So, Colin made up his mind to eat less. But unfortunately it was not possible to carry out this idea. When he got up each morning the table was set with a breakfast of homemade bread and fresh butter, snow-white eggs, raspberry jam and clotted cream. Mary always ate with him. They would look at all the wonderful things to eat and then look into each other's eyes in desperation.

     “I think we should eat the most in the morning, Mary, Colin said. “We can send away some of the lunch and then not eat dinner.” But they never found the strength to leave anything and continued to eat three very big meals each day to the surprise of everyone.

     “I do wish, Colin began to say, “I do wish the slices of ham were thicker, and one muffin each is not enough for any one.  How frustrating! The more I eat, the more I want to live, and the more questions everyone begins to ask!

     But then Dickon came up with a great idea!  Out on the moor he knew how to fix the most delicious roasted potatoes. He also knew how to heat fresh cow's milk, until the top became like caramel. There was nothing better on earth. So the children once again fooled the adults. They ate heartily on the moor, and at home next to nothing, which made the nurse and Dr. Craven very worried. But it made the children laugh until their sides hurt!

     “They are eating next to nothing, said the nurse. “They'll die of starvation if they can't be made to take more food. And yet see how they look. It's very strange!

     Dr. Craven came and looked at Colin long and carefully. He had a very worried look when the nurse talked with him and told him that the children were not eating.

     “I am sorry to hear that you do not eat anything, he said. “That will not do. You will lose all you have gained. You ate so well a short time ago.

     “I told you it was an unnatural appetite, answered Colin. Mary was sitting on her stool nearby and she suddenly made a very strange sound that she tried very hard to stop. She ended by almost choking. How hard it was not to laugh at fooling all the adults!

     “Is there any way the children can get food secretly? Dr. Craven asked Mrs. Medlock later.

     “There's no way! They stay outside all day and see no one but each other. And if they want anything different to eat from what's sent up to them they need only ask for it.

     “Well, said Dr. Craven, “something very strange is going on here and I don't know what it is.”

    ***


     (Chapter 20)  THE CURTAIN

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EVEN on rainy days Mary and Colin were not bored. But one morning when the rain streamed down without end, Colin was tired of sitting still. “I wish my father would come home,” said Colin. “I want to tell him myself that I am well. I'm always thinking about it. I can't stand lying still and pretending I'm still sick. Besides I look too different. I wish it wasn't raining today.”

     Then Mary had an idea. “Colin, she said suddenly and mysteriously, “do you know how many rooms there are in this house?

     “About a thousand, I suppose, he answered.

     “There's about a hundred no one ever goes into, said Mary. “And one rainy day I went and looked into many of them. No one ever knew, though Mrs. Medlock nearly found me out. I lost my way when I was coming back and I stopped at the end of your hall. That was the second time I heard you crying.

     Colin started up on his sofa. “A hundred rooms no one goes into, he said. “It sounds almost like a secret garden. Suppose we go and look at them. Wheel me in my chair and nobody would know we went.

     “That's what I was thinking, said Mary. “No one would dare to follow us. There are galleries where you could run. We could do our exercises. There is a little Indian room where there is a cabinet full of ivory elephants. There are all sorts of rooms.

     “Ring the bell, said Colin. When the nurse came in Colin gave his orders. “I want my chair,” he said. “Miss Mary and I are going to look at the part of the house which is not used. John can push me as far as the picture-gallery because there are some stairs. Then he must go away and leave us alone until I send for him again.” As soon as Mary made sure that John was really gone, Colin got out of his chair. “I am going to run from one end of the gallery to the other,” he said, “and then I am going to jump and then we will do exercises.” And they did all these things and many others. They looked at the portraits and found the plain little girl dressed in green.

     “All these, said Colin, “must be our relatives. They lived a long time ago. The little girl, I believe, is our great, great, great aunt. She looks like you, Mary.

     They went to the Indian room and amused themselves with the ivory elephants. They found the rose-colored sofa and the hole in the cushion the mouse had left, but the mice had grown up and run away and the hole was empty. They saw more rooms and made more discoveries than Mary made alone. They found new corridors and corners and flights of steps and old pictures they liked and strange old things they did not know the use of. The feeling of wandering about in the same house with other people but at the same time feeling as if one were miles away from them was a wonderful thing.

     That afternoon Mary noticed that something new had happened in Colin's room. She noticed it the day before but said nothing because she thought the change might have been made by chance. She said nothing today but she sat and looked a long time at the picture over the mantel. She could look at it because the curtain was drawn aside. That was the change she noticed.

     “I know what you want me to tell you, said Colin, after she stared a few minutes. “I always know when you want me to tell you something. You are wondering why the curtain is drawn back. I am going to keep it like that.

     “Why? asked Mary.

     “Because it doesn't make me angry any more to see her laughing. I want to see her laughing like that all the time. I think mother must have been a sort of angel person perhaps.

     “You are so like her now, said Mary, “that sometimes I think perhaps you are her ghost made into a boy.

     “If I were her ghost—my father would love me.

     “Do you want him to love you? asked Mary.

     “I used to hate it because my father did not love me. But if he could learn to love me, I think it might make him more cheerful.”

   ***


     (Chapter 21)  “IT’S MOTHER!”

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ONE morning when Dickon, Mary and Colin were working in the garden, Colin suddenly  looked across the garden at something attracting his attention. His expression became very frightened. “Who is coming? he said quickly. “Who is it?” The door to the garden pushed gently open and a woman entered. She came in with the last line of a song and stood still listening, and looking at them. She had wonderful affectionate eyes.

     “It's mother! cried Dickon and ran across the garden to her. 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. Colin held out his hand with a sort of royal shyness. “Even when I was ill I wanted to see you,” he said, “you and Dickon and the secret garden. I never wanted to see anyone or anything before.”

    “Oh! dear lad! she said. “Oh! dear lad! She did not say, “Master Colin, but just “dear lad. Colin liked it. “Are you surprised because I am so well?” he asked. She put her hand on his shoulder and smiled. “I am!” she said. “You are so like your mother that it made my heart jump.”

     “Do you think, said Colin shyly, “that will make my father like me?

     “For sure, dear lad, she answered and she gave his shoulder a soft quick pat. She put both hands on Mary's shoulders and looked her little face over in a motherly fashion. “And you, too! she said. “You will be as pretty as a rose when you grow up, my little lass! Bless you.

     Susan Sowerby, Dickon's mother, went around the garden with them listening to the whole story of all they did to bring the garden alive. Colin walked on one side of her and Mary on the other. Each of them kept looking up at her rosy face, 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 [little animals]. She talked to the flowers and animals as if they were children. Finally, it was time for Colin to be wheeled back to the house. But before he got into his chair he stood quite close to Dickon's mother and fixed his eyes on her.

     “You are just what I—what I wanted, he said. “I wish you were my mother—as well as Dickon's!” All at once she drew him to her with her gentle arms—as if he had been Dickon's brother. A mist swept over her eyes as if she might cry.

     “Oh! dear lad! she said. “Your own mother is in this very garden, I do believe. Even death couldn't keep her out of it.

   ***



THE LAST CHAPTER: IN THE GARDEN

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WHO knows how things happen, but at the very time the Secret Garden was coming alive, something was happening to Colin's father. He spent months traveling across Europe, looking for happiness, but finding none.  His soul remained as cold as winter. But quite unexplainably, he began to change.  He thought that it was just the weather, for he had long ago lost all faith in people being able to change and come alive like a garden.  Still, more and more often he began to think of his home and wonder if it was time to return. He wondered about his boy and asked himself what he should feel when he went and stood by his bed again and looked down at the frail white face. He couldn't stand to think of it. But soon after this, while he was in Italy, his servant brought him several letters.  The one lying on top came from Yorkshire. It was written in a plain woman's hand. He could not imagine who it was from. It began:


    Dear Sir,

    I am Susan Sowerby that made bold to speak to you once on the moor. It was about Miss Mary I spoke. I will make bold to speak again. Please, sir,come home. I think you would be glad to come and—if you will excuse me,sir—I think your lady would ask you to come if she was here.

     Your obedient servant,
      

     Susan Sowerby, Dickon's mother.


      Mr. Craven read the letter twice before he put it back in its envelope. “I will go back,
 he said. “Yes, I'll go at once.” And so, in a few days he began his journey back to Yorkshire. On his long railroad journey he found himself thinking of his boy. He didn't want to be a bad father. “Perhaps I have been wrong for ten years,” he said to himself. “Ten years is a long time. It may be too late to do anything. What have I been thinking of all this time!”  Still, when he arrived in England there was fear in his heart about how he would feel once he was at home. The drive across the moor was a comforting thing—the beauty of land and sky always gave one the feeling of hope. The moor was full of purple flowers. The air was light and sweet now, and every bird alive was singing from morning until evening.

     “I will try to find the key to the garden, he said suddenly to himself. “I will try to open the door. I must—though I don't know why.” When he arrived at the Manor the servants met him with much surprise. He went into the library and sent for Mrs. Medlock. She came to him excited and fearful, for no one expected his return.

     “How is Master Colin? he asked. “Well, sir, Mrs. Medlock answered, “he's—he's different, in a manner of speaking.

     “Worse?

     Mrs. Medlock didn't know what to say. Her heart pounded inside her. “Well, you see, sir,” she tried to explain, “neither Dr. Craven, nor the nurse, nor me can exactly understand him.”

     “Why is that?

     “To tell the truth, sir, Master Colin might be better or he might be changing for the worse.

     “Has he become more strange? asked Colin's father anxiously [fearfully].

     “Well, sir. He's growing very strange—when you compare him with what he used to be. He used to eat nothing and then suddenly he began to eat everything. But then he stopped again. Not long after one of his worst tantrums he suddenly insisted on being taken out every day by Miss Mary and Susan Sowerby's boy Dickon that could push his chair. He likes both Miss Mary and Dickon. You see, Dickon brought his tame animals and now Master Colin stays outside from morning until night.

     “Where is Master Colin now? Mr. Craven asked.

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     “In the garden, sir. He's always in the garden—though not a human creature is allowed to go near for fear they'll look at him.”  Mr. Craven barely heard her last words. “In the garden,” he said, and after he sent Mrs. Medlock away. He repeated it again and again. “In the garden!” He left the library and ran across the lawn. Then he began to walk slowly down the long walk. He felt as if he were being pulled down the path. He knew where the door was even though ivy now hung thickly over it—but he did not know exactly where the buried key was.  All the time he felt as if he was walking in a dream. The ivy still hung over the door—and yet inside the garden there were sounds! There were sounds of running feet, chasing round and round under the trees.  There were strange sounds of lowered voices—and joyous laughter. It sounded like the uncontrollable [not able to control] laughter of children who were trying not to be heard. Was he dreaming?

     And then the moment came, the moment when the sounds forgot to be quiet. The feet ran faster and faster—they were nearing the garden door—and then the door in the wall was flung wide open and a boy burst through it at full speed and, without seeing someone there, almost ran into his arms. Mr. Craven had put his arms out just in time to keep Colin from falling against him. When he held him away to look at him, he gasped [cried out]! He was a tall boy and a handsome one. He was glowing with life and his running had sent warm color leaping to his face. He threw the thick hair back from his forehead and lifted a pair of beautiful gray eyes. It was the eyes which made Mr. Craven cry out.    

     “Who—What? How? he stammered. This was not what Colin expected or planned. He never thought of such a meeting. And yet to come running out was perhaps even better.

     “Father, he said, “I'm Colin. You can't believe it. I'm Colin!

     “In the garden? In the garden!

     “Yes, hurried on Colin. “It was the garden that did it—and Mary and Dickon and the creatures. No one knows. We kept it a secret to tell you when you came. I'm well. I can beat Mary in a race. I'm going to be an athlete.”  He said it all so like a healthy boy—his words tumbling over each other in his eagerness—that Mr. Craven's soul shook with unbelieving joy. Colin put out his hand and laid it on his father's arm.

     “Are you happy, Father? he asked. “Are you happy? I'm going to live forever and ever and ever!” Mr. Craven put his hands on both the boy's shoulders and held him still. He did not even try to speak for a moment. “Take me into the garden, my boy,” he said at last. “And tell me all about it.”

     And so they led him in and began to tell him the whole long story. “Now, said Colin, “the garden doesn't need to be a secret any more. Then Colin laughed and said, “It will frighten the servants into fits when they see me—but I am NEVER going to get into the chair again!” 

     When Colin looked up at his father’s face, it was full of life.


THE END 

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