[ 1 ] Mary Lennox was a skinny
little 10-year old girl who was used to living in India all her life. She
had thin yellow hair and an ugly yellow face with an angry look. She was
always upset with something or somebody. Her father was always busy and
her mother cared more for going to parties than for looking after her
only child. So, when Mary was born, she was given to an Indian servant
called Ayah, who was told to keep the child out of sight. Mary became
a rude, spoilt and selfish child, used to always being obeyed by her
servants. She never liked anybody, and so she had nobody to play with her
because there was not a single person who liked her.
[ 2 ] One
extremely hot morning she woke up, and, instead of seeing her Ayah she
saw another servant. She asked:
[ 3 ] ‘Why have you come? I will not let you stay. Send my Ayah
[ 4 ] The
servant looked frightened but replied that her Ayah couldn’t
come. This made Mary so angry that she started kicking and hitting the
poor woman. But her Ayah did not come back.
[ 5 ] There was definitely something strange about that
morning. Nothing seemed to be done the way it had always been done:
no Ayah, no morning wash, no help with getting dressed, no one to play
with. In fact, most of the servants seemed to be missing. So Mary decided
to walk around the house. She found her mother on the veranda, talking
to a young man. The man looked very worried. Mary overheard her mother
[ 6 ] ‘Is it really so very bad?’
[ 7 ] ‘Awful, you should have left two weeks
[ 8 ] ‘I know but I had to go to this silly
[ 9 ] ‘You never said that it had broken out among your
servants,’ he said.
[ 10 ] ‘Because I didn’t know,’ replied Mary’s
[ 11 ] Nobody had told Mary that cholera had broken out, and
that her Ayah had died, and that people around her were dying very
suddenly. Everyone was panicking and they had completely forgotten
about Mary. In a few days, all the servants had either died or run
away. Mary’s parents had died too.
[ 12 ] But
Mary knew nothing. She suspected she was the only person left in the
house because it was very quiet around. The only thing she could do
was wait for someone to come and look after her. She was tired and
she slept most of the time. When she finally woke up, she heard two
male voices. They were talking about what had happened. They thought
that everyone had died. Suddenly they noticed Mary sitting on her bed.
[ 13 ] ‘That’s the kid!’ said one of them. ‘They
must have forgotten all about her.’
[ 14 ] ‘Why was I forgotten?’ asked Mary. ‘Why has nobody
come for me?’
[ 15 ] ‘Poor little kid! Because there is nobody left to
[ 16 ] Although many had died, Mary didn’t feel sorry for anyone
but herself. She could not stay in India because no one could and no one
wanted to look after her there. So she was sent to England, to her uncle,
Mr. Archibald Craven.
[ 17 ] Mary never cared much about who she was living with as
long as she had somebody to look after her. So now the only thing that
interested her was what her new Ayah would be like, and if she would
treat her like her old Ayah did. But sometimes her heart felt strangely
heavy with loneliness, and she wondered why she had never belonged
to anybody, not even to her father or mother.
[ 18 ] Mary was sent to England with an officer’s wife, and in
London she was met by Mrs Medlock, Mr Craven’s housekeeper. Mary
didn’t like Mrs Medlock very much and she wasn’t at all
interested in the new place she was going to. She did not even
bother to ask any questions about her uncle.
[ 19 ] ‘Do you know anything about your uncle?’ Mrs Medlock
asked Mary when they had sat down in the train.
[ 20 ] ‘No.’
[ 21 ] ‘You’ve never heard your father and mother talk about
[ 22 ] ‘No.’
[ 23 ] ‘Humph,’ Mrs Medlock was surprised, ‘I suppose you
should be told something. You are going to a strange place. Mr Craven
lives in a very old and very big house – it’s about 600 years old,
and there are nearly 100 rooms in it. Most of them are locked though. The
manor is at the edge of the moor and is surrounded by gardens and
a park. What do you think?’
[ 24 ] ‘Nothing.’
[ 25 ] ‘Don’t you care?’
[ 26 ] ‘It doesn’t matter whether I care or not,’ Mary
[ 27 ] ‘Mr Craven has a crooked back. He was a very sour man
before he got married. But his wife was as kind and delicate as
[ 28 ] ‘Why was?’ asked Mary who started listening despite
[ 29 ] ‘The poor woman died,’ said Mrs
[ 30 ] ‘Did she?’ said Mary.
[ 31 ] ‘Since her death Mr Craven has lived on his own. He travels
abroad a lot, and if he is at home, he never meets other people. So
don’t expect him to talk to you. You’ll be told which room is yours
and which gardens you are allowed to play in.’
[ 32 ] Not
a word was spoken during the rest of their journey together, and it was
dark when they reached the station. A man in a carriage was waiting to
take them both to the manor.
[ 33 ] ‘What is the moor?’ Mary suddenly remembered the word
Mrs Medlock used.
[ 34 ] ‘It’s dark outside now,’ said Mrs Medlock, ‘But if
you look out of the window, you’ll see it soon.’
[ 35 ] But
Mary could not see anything apart from the darkness covering the endless
wild land. She didn’t like it.
[ 36 ] When they arrived, Mary was taken to her room. It had been
a long day and she quickly fell asleep.
[ 37 ] In
the morning, Mary woke up to find a village girl sitting by the fireplace
with a smile on her face. It was Martha, a servant girl helping in the
house. Mary, who was used to being washed and dressed by her Indian
servants, got angry with Martha for not helping her to get dressed
and to put on her shoes. Martha, on the other hand, could not believe
her own eyes – she had never seen a grown girl who needed help with
her clothes and shoes. But when Mary got so angry that she burst into
tears, Martha finally helped her to put on her dress. Then she showed
her into the next room, where breakfast was already waiting for her
on the table. It was porridge. Mary looked at it and said she wasn’t
[ 38 ] ‘Not hungry?’ asked Martha with surprise. ‘My! If my
little brothers and sisters were here, this plate would be clean in
[ 39 ] ‘Why?’ asked Mary.
[ 40 ] ‘Because they don’t often get the chance to have such
a good meal.’
[ 41 ] Mary tried a little of the porridge.
[ 42 ] ‘They would never waste such good food.’ Martha went
[ 43 ] Why? If they didn’t eat, they wouldn’t have the strength
to run around the moor all day.’
[ 44 ] Mary picked up her spoon again and started to eat slowly as
she listened to Martha talking about her family, and especially about
her brother Dickon, who spent most of his time on the moor playing with
[ 45 ] Mary was so intrigued by Martha’s stories that she
decided to go out and have a walk around Mr. Craven’s gardens. She
became even more curious when Martha mentioned a garden which had
been locked up since Mrs. Craven died. Martha didn’t know where it
was a secret garden.
[ 46 ] Mary took a long walk around
the gardens. She looked at the birds and animals, which were so different
from the ones she used to see in India. But what she was really interested
in were the many doors she saw. Each of them led to a garden. One of them
led to the secret garden. But which one? Mary tried to open every door
she saw. She visited the kitchen gardens, where vegetables were grown,
and an orchard, where there were fruit trees. Although the gardens were
big it was still winter and none of the flowers were in bloom – the
gardens, therefore, did not look all that impressive.
[ 47 ] While walking around one of the orchards she saw a small bird
with a red breast sitting on a tree top. It was singing as if calling out
to her. She stopped for a while, listening to his winter song, and noticed
something strange: although she could see the tree top, she could not find
a door in the wall beyond which the bird was singing its tune. Perhaps
she could ask someone.
[ 48 ] She
looked around and saw a strange old man. He stood there with a spade in
his hands digging in the ground. It was Ben, the gardener. Mary came up
[ 49 ] ‘I have been into the other gardens,’ she started. ‘And
I went into the orchard, but there was no door to the garden next to
[ 50 ] ‘What garden?’ Ben replied in a rough voice and stopped
[ 51 ] ‘The one on the other side of the wall. There are
trees there, I saw the tops of them. A bird with a red breast was
sitting on one of them and was singing.’
[ 52 ] Ben’s face suddenly changed, he smiled and started to
whistle. He looked very different with a smile on his face. He looked
almost nice, Mary thought. She watched surprised as the small redbreast
bird flew over and landed on the ground next to Ben.
[ 53 ] ‘Where have