The Secret Garden/Boy Version

Author's Note: I decided to have a little fun and twist a story around that I have read a lot when I was little. I've kept some stuff the same but change other stuff around. Hope you enjoy it.


13. "I Am Gwendolen"

Toby took the picture back to the house when he went to his supper and he showed it to Mark.

"Eh!" said Mark with great pride. "I never knew our Destiny was as clever as that. That there's a picture of a missel thrush on her nest, as large as life an' twice as natural."

Then Toby knew Destiny had meant the picture to be a message. She had meant that he might be sure she would keep his secret. His garden was his nest and he was like a missel thrush. Oh, how he did like that queer, common girl!

He hoped she would come back the very next day and he fell asleep looking forward to the morning.

But you never know what the weather will do in Yorkshire, particularly in the springtime. He was awakened in the night by the sound of rain beating with heavy drops against his window. It was pouring down in torrents and the wind was "wuthering" round the corners and in the chimneys of the huge old house. Toby sat up in bed and felt miserable and angry.

"The rain is as contrary as I ever was," he said. "It came because it knew I did not want it."

He threw himself back on his pillow and buried his face. He did not cry, but he lay and hated the sound of the heavily beating rain, he hated the wind and its "wuthering." He could not go to sleep again. The mournful sound kept him awake because he felt mournful himself. If he had felt happy it would probably have lulled him to sleep. How it "wuthered" and how the big raindrops poured down and beat against the pane!

"It sounds just like a person lost on the moor and wandering on and on crying," he said.

He had been lying awake turning from side to side for about an hour, when suddenly something made him sit up in bed and turn his head toward the door listening. He listened and he listened.

"It isn't the wind now," he said in a loud whisper. "That isn't the wind. It is different. It is that crying I heard before."

The door of his room was ajar and the sound came down the corridor, a far-off faint sound of fretful crying. He listened for a few minutes and each minute he became more and more sure. He felt as if he must find out what it was. It seemed even stranger than the secret garden and the buried key. Perhaps the fact that he was in a rebellious mood made him bold. He put his foot out of bed and stood on the floor.

"I am going to find out what it is," he said. "Everybody is in bed and I don't care about Mr. Medlock--I don't care!"

There was a candle by his bedside and he took it up and went softly out of the room. The corridor looked very long and dark, but he was too excited to mind that. He thought he remembered the corners he must turn to find the short corridor with the door covered with tapestry--the one Mr. Medlock had come through the day he lost himself. The sound had come up that passage. So he went on with his dim light, almost feeling his way, his heart beating so loud that he fancied he could hear it. The far-off faint crying went on and led him. Sometimes it stopped for a moment or so and then began again. Was this the right corner to turn? He stopped and thought. Yes it was. Down this passage and then to the left, and then up two broad steps, and then to the right again. Yes, there was the tapestry door.

He pushed it open very gently and closed it behind him, and he stood in the corridor and could hear the crying quite plainly, though it was not loud. It was on the other side of the wall at his left and a few yards farther on there was a door. He could see a glimmer of light coming from beneath it. The Someone was crying in that room, and it was quite a young Someone.

So he walked to the door and pushed it open, and there he was standing in the room!

It was a big room with ancient, handsome furniture in it. There was a low fire glowing faintly on the hearth and a night light burning by the side of a carved four-posted bed hung with brocade, and on the bed was lying a girl, crying fretfully.

Toby wondered if he was in a real place or if he had fallen asleep again and was dreaming without knowing it.

The girl had a sharp, delicate face the color of ivory and she seemed to have eyes too big for it. She had also a lot of hair which tumbled over her forehead in heavy locks and made her thin face seem smaller. She looked like a girl who had been ill, but she was crying more as if she were tired and cross than as if she were in pain.

Toby stood near the door with his candle in his hand, holding his breath. Then he crept across the room, and, as he drew nearer, the light attracted the girl's attention and she turned her head on her pillow and stared at him, her gray eyes opening so wide that they seemed immense.

"Who are you?" she said at last in a half-frightened whisper. "Are you a ghost?"

"No, I am not," Toby answered, his own whisper sounding half frightened. "Are you one?"

She stared and stared and stared. Toby could not help noticing what strange eyes she had. They were agate gray and they looked too big for her face because they had black lashes all round them.

"No," she replied after waiting a moment or so. "I am Gwendolen."

"Who is Gwendolen?" he faltered.

"I am Gwendolen Craven. Who are you?"

"I am Toby Drake. Mrs. Craven is my aunt."

"She is my mother," said the girl.

"Your mother!" gasped Toby. "No one ever told me she had a girl! Why didn't they?"

"Come here," she said, still keeping her strange eyes fixed on him with an anxious expression.

He came close to the bed and she put out her hand and touched him.

"You are real, aren't you?" she said. "I have such real dreams very often. You might be one of them."

Toby had slipped on a woolen robe before he left his room and he put a piece of it between her fingers.

"Rub that and see how thick and warm it is," he said. "I will pinch you a little if you like, to show you how real I am. For a minute I thought you might be a dream too."

"Where did you come from?" she asked.

"From my own room. The wind wuthered so I couldn't go to sleep and I heard some one crying and wanted to find out who it was. What were you crying for?"

"Because I couldn't go to sleep either and my head ached. Tell me your name again."

"Toby Drake. Did no one ever tell you I had come to live here?"

She was still fingering the fold of his robe, but she began to look a little more as if she believed in his reality.

"No," she answered. "They daren't."

"Why?" asked Toby.

"Because I should have been afraid you would see me. I won't let people see me and talk me over."

"Why?" Toby asked again, feeling more mystified every moment.

"Because I am like this always, ill and having to lie down. My mother won't let people talk me over either. The servants are not allowed to speak about me. If I live I may be a hunchback, but I shan't live. My mother hates to think I may be like her."

"Oh, what a queer house this is!" Toby said. "What a queer house! Everything is a kind of secret. Rooms are locked up and gardens are locked up--and you! Have you been locked up?"

"No. I stay in this room because I don't want to be moved out of it. It tires me too much."

"Does your mother come and see you?" Toby ventured.

"Sometimes. Generally when I am asleep. She doesn't want to see me."

"Why?" Toby could not help asking again.

A sort of angry shadow passed over the girl's face.

"My father died when I was born and it makes her wretched to look at me. She thinks I don't know, but I've heard people talking. She almost hates me."

"She hates the garden, because he died," said Toby half speaking to himself.

"What garden?" the girl asked.

"Oh! just--just a garden he used to like," Toby stammered. "Have you been here always?" 

"Nearly always. Sometimes I have been taken to places at the seaside, but I won't stay because people stare at me. I used to wear an iron thing to keep my back straight, but a grand doctor came from London to see me and said it was stupid. He told them to take it off and keep me out in the fresh air. I hate fresh air and I don't want to go out."

"I didn't when first I came here," said Toby. "Why do you keep looking at me like that?"

"Because of the dreams that are so real," she answered rather fretfully. "Sometimes when I open my eyes I don't believe I'm awake."

"We're both awake," said Toby. He glanced round the room with its high ceiling and shadowy corners and dim fire-light. "It looks quite like a dream, and it's the middle of the night, and everybody in the house is asleep--everybody but us. We are wide awake."

"I don't want it to be a dream," the girl said restlessly.

Toby thought of something all at once.

"If you don't like people to see you," he began, "do you want me to go away?"

She still held the fold of his robe and she gave it a little pull.

"No," she said. "I should be sure you were a dream if you went. If you are real, sit down on that big footstool and talk. I want to hear about you."

Toby put down his candle on the table near the bed and sat down on the cushioned stool. He did not want to go away at all. He wanted to stay in the mysterious hidden-away room and talk to the mysterious girl.

"What do you want me to tell you?" he said.

She wanted to know how long he had been at Misselthwaite; she wanted to know which corridor his room was on; she wanted to know what he had been doing; if he disliked the moor as she disliked it; where he had lived before he came to Yorkshire. He answered all these questions and many more and she lay back on her pillow and listened. She made him tell her a great deal about Antarctica and about his voyage across the ocean. He found out that because she had been an invalid she had not learned things as other children had. One of her nurses had taught her to read when she was quite little and she was always reading and looking at pictures in splendid books.

Though her mother rarely saw her when she was awake, she was given all sorts of wonderful things to amuse herself with. She never seemed to have been amused, however. She could have anything she asked for and was never made to do anything she did not like to do. "Everyone is obliged to do what pleases me," she said indifferently. "It makes me ill to be angry. No one believes I shall live to grow up."

She said it as if she was so accustomed to the idea that it had ceased to matter to her at all. She seemed to like the sound of Toby's voice. As he went on talking she listened in a drowsy, interested way. Once or twice he wondered if she were not gradually falling into a doze. But at last she asked a question which opened up a new subject.

"How old are you?" she asked.

"I am ten," answered Toby, forgetting himself for the moment, "and so are you."

"How do you know that?" she demanded in a surprised voice.

"Because when you were born the garden door was locked and the key was buried. And it has been locked for ten years."

Gwendolen half sat up, turning toward him, leaning on her elbows.

"What garden door was locked? Who did it? Where was the key buried?" she exclaimed as if she were suddenly very much interested.

"It--it was the garden Mrs. Craven hates," said Toby nervously. "She locked the door. No one--no one knew where she buried the key." 

"What sort of a garden is it?" Gwendolen persisted eagerly.

"No one has been allowed to go into it for ten years," was Toby's careful answer.

But it was too late to be careful. She was too much like himself. She too had had nothing to think about and the idea of a hidden garden attracted her as it had attracted him. She asked question after question. Where was it? Had he never looked for the door? Had he never asked the gardeners?

"They won't talk about it," said Toby. "I think they have been told not to answer questions."

"I would make them," said Gwendolen.

"Could you?" Toby faltered, beginning to feel frightened. If she could make people answer questions, who knew what might happen!

"Everyone is obliged to please me. I told you that," she said. "If I were to live, this place would sometime belong to me. They all know that. I would make them tell me."

Toby had not known that he himself had been spoiled, but he could see quite plainly that this mysterious girl had been. She thought that the whole world belonged to her. How peculiar she was and how coolly she spoke of not living.

"Do you think you won't live?" he asked, partly because he was curious and partly in hope of making her forget the garden.

"I don't suppose I shall," she answered as indifferently as she had spoken before. "Ever since I remember anything I have heard people say I shan't. At first they thought I was too little to understand and now they think I don't hear. But I do. My doctor is my mother's cousin. He is quite poor and if I die he will have all Misselthwaite when my mother is dead. I should think he wouldn't want me to live."

"Do you want to live?" inquired Toby.

"No," she answered, in a cross, tired fashion. "But I don't want to die. When I feel ill I lie here and think about it until I cry and cry."

"I have heard you crying three times," Toby said, "but I did not know who it was. Were you crying about that?" He did so want her to forget the garden.

"I dare say," she answered. "Let us talk about something else. Talk about that garden. Don't you want to see it?"

"Yes," answered Toby, in quite a low voice.

"I do," she went on persistently. "I don't think I ever really wanted to see anything before, but I want to see that garden. I want the key dug up. I want the door unlocked. I would let them take me there in my chair. That would be getting fresh air. I am going to make them open the door."

She had become quite excited and her strange eyes began to shine like stars and looked more immense than ever.

"They have to please me," she said. "I will make them take me there and I will let you go, too."

Toby's hands clutched each other. Everything would be spoiled--everything! Destiny would never come back. He would never again feel like a missel thrush with a safe-hidden nest.

"Oh, don't--don't--don't--don't do that!" he cried out.

She stared as if she thought he had gone crazy!

"Why?" she exclaimed. "You said you wanted to see it."

"I do," he answered almost with a sob in his throat, "but if you make them open the door and take you in like that it will never be a secret again."

She leaned still farther forward.

"A secret," she said. "What do you mean? Tell me."

Toby's words almost tumbled over one another.

"You see--you see," he panted, "if no one knows but ourselves--if there was a door, hidden somewhere under the ivy--if there was--and we could find it; and if we could slip through it together and shut it behind us, and no one knew any one was inside and we called it our garden and pretended that--that we were missel thrushes and it was our nest, and if we played there almost every day and dug and planted seeds and made it all come alive--"

"Is it dead?" she interrupted him.

"It soon will be if no one cares for it," he went on. "The bulbs will live but the roses--"

She stopped him again as excited as he was himself.

"What are bulbs?" she put in quickly.

"They are daffodils and lilies and snowdrops. They are working in the earth now--pushing up pale green points because the spring is coming."

"Is the spring coming?" she said. "What is it like? You don't see it in rooms if you are ill."

"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth," said Toby. "If the garden was a secret and we could get into it we could watch the things grow bigger every day, and see how many roses are alive. Don't you. see? Oh, don't you see how much nicer it would be if it was a secret?"

She dropped back on her pillow and lay there with an odd expression on her face.

"I never had a secret," she said, "except that one about not living to grow up. They don't know I know that, so it is a sort of secret. But I like this kind better."

"If you won't make them take you to the garden," pleaded Toby, "perhaps--I feel almost sure I can find out how to get in sometime. And then--if the doctor wants you to go out in your chair, and if you can always do what you want to do, perhaps--perhaps we might find some girl who would push you, and we could go alone and it would always be a secret garden."

"I should--like--that," she said very slowly, her eyes looking dreamy. "I should like that. I should not mind fresh air in a secret garden."

Toby began to recover his breath and feel safer because the idea of keeping the secret seemed to please her. He felt almost sure that if he kept on talking and could make her see the garden in her mind as he had seen it she would like it so much that she could not bear to think that everybody might tramp in to it when they chose.

"I'll tell you what I think it would be like, if we could go into it," he said. "It has been shut up so long things have grown into a tangle perhaps."

She lay quite still and listened while he went on talking about the roses which might have clambered from tree to tree and hung down--about the many birds which might have built their nests there because it was so safe. And then he told her about the robin and Beth Weatherstaff, and there was so much to tell about the robin and it was so easy and safe to talk about it that he ceased to be afraid. The robin pleased her so much that she smiled until she looked almost beautiful, and at first Toby had thought that she was even plainer than himself, with her big eyes and heavy locks of hair.

"I did not know birds could be like that," she said. "But if you stay in a room you never see things. What a lot of things you know. I feel as if you had been inside that garden."

He did not know what to say, so he did not say anything. She evidently did not expect an answer and the next moment she gave him a surprise.

"I am going to let you look at something," she said. "Do you see that rose-colored silk curtain hanging on the wall over the mantel-piece?"

Toby had not noticed it before, but he looked up and saw it. It was a curtain of soft silk hanging over what seemed to be some picture.

"Yes," he answered.

"There is a cord hanging from it," said Gwendolen. "Go and pull it."

Toby got up, much mystified, and found the cord. When he pulled it the silk curtain ran back on rings and when it ran back it uncovered a picture. It was the picture of a boy with a laughing face. He had dark hair and his gay, lovely eyes were exactly like Gwendolen's unhappy ones, agate gray and looking twice as big as they really were because of the black lashes all round them.

"He is my father," said Gwendolen complainingly. "I don't see why he died. Sometimes I hate him for doing it."

"How queer!" said Toby.

"If he had lived I believe I should not have been ill always," she grumbled. "I dare say I should have lived, too. And my mother would not have hated to look at me. I dare say I should have had a strong back. Draw the curtain again."

Toby did as he was told and returned to his footstool.

"He is much prettier than you," he said, "but his eyes are just like yours--at least they are the same shape and color. Why is the curtain drawn over him?"

She moved uncomfortably.

"I made them do it," she said. "Sometimes I don't like to see him looking at me. He smiles too much when I am ill and miserable. Besides, he is mine and I don't want everyone to see him." There were a few moments of silence and then Toby spoke.

"What would Mr. Medlock do if he found out that I had been here?" he inquired.

"He would do as I told him to do," she answered. "And I should tell him that I wanted you to come here and talk to me every day. I am glad you came."

"So am I," said Toby. "I will come as often as I can, but"--he hesitated--"I shall have to look every day for the garden door."

"Yes, you must," said Gwendolen, "and you can tell me about it afterward."

She lay thinking a few minutes, as she had done before, and then she spoke again.

"I think you shall be a secret, too," she said. "I will not tell them until they find out. I can always send the nurse out of the room and say that I want to be by myself. Do you know Mark?"

"Yes, I know him very well," said Toby. "He waits on me."

She nodded her head toward the outer corridor.

"He is the one who is asleep in the other room. The nurse went away yesterday to stay all night with her sister and she always makes Mark attend to me when she wants to go out. Mark shall tell you when to come here."

Then Toby understood Mark's troubled look when he had asked questions about the crying.

"Mark knew about you all the time?" he said.

"Yes; he often attends to me. The nurse likes to get away from me and then Mark comes."

"I have been here a long time," said Toby. "Shall I go away now? Your eyes look sleepy."

"I wish I could go to sleep before you leave me," she said rather shyly.

"Shut your eyes," said Toby, drawing her footstool closer, "and I will do what my nurse used to do in Antarctica. I will pat your hand and stroke it and sing something quite low."

"I should like that perhaps," she said drowsily.

Somehow he was sorry for her and did not want her to lie awake, so he leaned against the bed and began to stroke and pat her hand and to hum very low.

"That is nice," she said more drowsily still, and he went on humming and stroking, but when he looked at her again her black lashes were lying close against her cheeks, for her eyes were shut and she was fast asleep. So he got up softly, took his candle and crept away without making a sound.

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