Mary Lennox was a spoilt, rude and bad-tempered child. She was never really well, and she was thin, miserable and sour-faced. No one liked her at all.
None of this was really Mary's own fault. She was born in India, where her father worked. He was always busy with his work, and paid no attention to his daughter. Her mother was very pretty, and cared only for parties and pleasure. She left Mary in the care of an Indian nursemaid, who gave the little girl everything she wanted so that she would not cry and upset her mother. So, not surprisingly, Mary grew up into a spoilt and most unpleasant girl.

One hot morning, when Mary was nine years old, she had a strange feeling that something was wrong. From her room she heard shouts and cries and the patter of hurrying feet, but no one came to her. She lay back on her bed and fell asleep.
When she awoke, the house was silent. Still no one came to her, and she was angry that she had been forgotten. Suddenly the door opened, and two Englishmen came in.
'Why was I forgotten?' Mary asked, stamping her foot. 'Why does nobody come?'
'Poor little kid,' said one of the men. There's nobody left to come.'

That was how Mary learned that her father and mother had been killed by a disease sweeping the country. The servants had died, too. Mary was alone. There was no one in India to look after her, so she was sent all the way to England to live with her uncle, Mr Craven, at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire.

In London, Mary was met by Mrs Medlock, her uncle's housekeeper. Mary disliked her at once. But then, Mary disliked everyone. Mrs Medlock thought Mary was a plain, rude child - and she was quite right. As they travelled north, she told Mary about the house. It sounded very grand and gloomy, and stood on the edge of a moor.
'There'll be nothing for you to do, and your uncle won't bother with you,' said Mrs Medlock. 'He's got a crooked back. He was a sour young man until he married. His wife was very pretty, and he worshipped her. When she died, it made him more strange than ever. He's away most of the time, so you'll have to look after yourself.'

It was dark when they got out of the train. A carriage took them to the house, but Mary could see nothing outside in the rainy blackness.
'What's the moor like?' she asked.
'It's just miles and miles of wild land,' replied Mrs Medlock. 'Nothing grows there but gorse and heather, and nothing lives on it but wild ponies and sheep.'
At last the carriage stopped in a courtyard. A butler opened a huge oak door. 'You're to take her to her room,' he said to Mrs Medlock. 'The Master is going to London tomorrow, and he doesn't want to see her.'

Mary followed Mrs Medlock upstairs and through many corridors to a room with a fire burning and supper on the table.
This is where you'll live,' Mrs Medlock told Mary. 'Just see you stay here and don't go poking round the rest of the house.'
This was Mary's welcome to Misselthwaite Manor. It made her feel cross and unwanted and lonely.

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