THE GARDENS


The next morning, Mary awakened to find a housemaid lighting her fire. She was called Martha, and she chatted as she worked.

Mary was not used to friendly servants. In India, she had never said 'Please' or 'Thank you', and once she had slapped her nurse's face when she was angry. Somehow she knew that she must not treat Martha this way. At first Mary had no interest in Martha's chatter, but little by little she began to listen to the friendly Yorkshire voice.
'Eh! You should see all my brothers and sisters in our little cottage on the moor,' Martha said. 'There's twelve of us, and my father only gets sixteen shillings a week. My mother has a job to feed 'em all for that. The fresh air on th' moor makes 'em strong and healthy. Our Dickon, he's twelve, he's always out on th' moor. He's good wi' animals. He's tamed a wild pony.'

When Martha left, Mary went out to play.
'Go and look at the gardens,' Martha had said. There's not much growing now, but it's lovely in summer!' She had stopped for a second and then said softly, 'One garden has been shut up for ten years, ever since Mrs Craven died. Mr Craven locked the door and buried the key. He hates that garden.'
The grounds of Misselthwaite Manor were huge. They were divided by high walls, so there were many gardens. In some there were flowers and trees and fountains. Vegetables grew in others. Doors led from one garden to the next, and every garden looked bare and wintry.

Presently an old man came through one of the doors. He had a surly old face and did not seem at all pleased to see Mary.
"Can I go through that door?" asked Mary.
'If tha likes,' he replied. 'There's nowt to see.'
Mary was hoping to find the door to the locked garden. She tried many doors, but they all opened easily. There was one wall covered with ivy that seemed to have no door at all. She could see trees behind the wall. A robin on a high branch burst into song. She stopped to listen, and the cheerful notes brought a little smile to her unhappy face. She wandered back to the old man, who ignored her and went on digging.

At last she said, There's a garden over there without a door.'
'What garden?' he asked gruffly.
'On the other side of that wall,' she replied. I heard a robin in the trees there.'
The old man stood up and a smile spread across his face. Mary saw how much nicer he looked when he smiled. He whistled very softly. The robin landed by the man's foot.
'Here he is,' he said quietly. 'He always comes when I whistle. Isn't he a grand little chap? Look, he knows we're talking about him.' The robin, plump and scarlet-breasted, hopped about, pecking at the earth. Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener, went on digging. 'He's the only friend I've got,' he said. 'When he's not with me, I'm lonely.'
'I'm lonely, too,' said Mary. 'I've never had any friends.'
Ben stopped and looked at her. 'I reckon we're a good bit alike,' he said. 'We're not good-looking and we're as sour as we look.'

Mary had never thought before about her sour face or bad temper. Now that she did, it made her feel uncomfortable. Just then, the robin flew up into a tree and sang with all his voice.
'He's taken a fancy to thee,' said Ben. 'He wants to be your friend.'
Mary looked up at the robin. 'Would you be my friend?' she asked. She spoke softly and kindly, instead of in her usual hard, little voice.
'Why,' said Ben, gently 'tha said that like a real child instead of a sharp old woman. It was nearly like Dickon when he talks to th' wild things on th' moor.'
The robin flew over the wall.

There must be a door to that garden,' Mary said with determination.
'Well, there's none to be found now,' snapped Ben. 'Don't go poking your nose in places where you don't belong.' And he walked off without saying goodbye.


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