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.


9. The Strangest House Any One Ever Lived In

It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together. Toby Drake knew they were roses because he saw them one time in a book. All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rosebushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees.

There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves. There were neither leaves nor roses on them now and Toby did not know whether they were dead or alive, but their thin gray or brown branches and sprays looked like a sort of hazy mantle spreading over everything, walls, and trees, and even brown grass, where they had fallen from their fastenings and run along the ground. It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious. Toby had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long; and indeed it was different from any other place he had ever seen in his life.

"How still it is!" he whispered. "How still!"

Then he waited a moment and listened at the stillness. The robin, who had flown to his treetop, was still as all the rest. He did not even flutter his wings; he sat without stirring, and looked at Toby.

"No wonder it is still," he whispered again. "I am the first person who has spoken in here for ten years."

He moved away from the door, stepping as softly as if he were afraid of awakening some one. He was glad that there was grass under his feet and that his steps made no sounds. He walked under one of the fairy-like gray arches between the trees and looked up at the sprays and tendrils which formed them.

 "I wonder if they are all quite dead," he said. "Is it all a quite dead garden? I wish it wasn't."

If he had been Beth Weatherstaff he could have told whether the wood was alive by looking at it, but he could only see that there were only gray or brown sprays and branches and none showed any signs of even a tiny leaf-bud anywhere. But he was inside the wonderful garden and he could come through the door under the ivy any time and he felt as if he had found a world all his own.

The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after Toby from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing him things. Everything was strange and silent and he seemed to be hundreds of miles away from any one, but somehow he did not feel lonely at all. All that troubled him was his wish that he knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. He did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side!

He held his whine up car in his hands when he came in and after he had walked about for a while he thought he would wind up the car and chase it round the whole garden, stopping when he wanted to look at things. There seemed to have been grass paths here and there, and in one or two corners there were alcoves of evergreen with stone seats or tall moss-covered flower urns in them.

As he came near the second of these alcoves he stopped running. There had once been a flowerbed in it, and he thought he saw something sticking out of the black earth- -some sharp little pale green points. He remembered what Beth Weatherstaff had said and he knelt down to look at them.

"Yes, they are tiny growing things and they might be crocuses or snowdrops or daffodils," he whispered.

He bent very close to them and sniffed the fresh scent of the damp earth. He liked it very much.

"Perhaps there are some other ones coming up in other places," he said. "I will go all over the garden and look."

He did not run, but walked. He went slowly and kept his eyes on the ground. He looked in the old border beds and among the grass, and after he had gone round, trying to miss nothing, he had found ever so many more sharp, pale green points, and he had become quite excited again.

"It isn't a quite dead garden," he cried out softly to himself. "Even if the roses are dead, there are other things alive."

He did not know anything about gardening, but the grass seemed so thick in some of the places where the green points were pushing their way through that he thought they did not seem to have room enough to grow. He searched about until he found a rather sharp piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds and grass until he made nice little clear places around them.

"Now they look as if they could breathe," he said, after he had finished with the first ones. "I am going to do ever so many more. I'll do all I can see. If I haven't time today I can come tomorrow."

He went from place to place, and dug and weeded, and enjoyed himself so immensely that he was led on from bed to bed and into the grass under the trees. The exercise made him so warm that he first threw his coat off, and then his hat, and without knowing it he was smiling down on to the grass and the pale green points all the time.

The robin was tremendously busy. He was very much pleased to see gardening begun on his own estate. He had often wondered at Beth Weatherstaff. Where gardening is done all sorts of delightful things to eat are turned up with the soil. Now here was this new kind of creature who was not half Beth's size and yet had had the sense to come into his garden and begin at once.

Master Toby worked in his garden until it was time to go to his midday dinner. In fact, he was rather late in remembering, and when he put on his coat and hat, and picked up his whine up car, he could not believe that he had been working two or three hours. He had been actually happy all the time; and dozens and dozens of the tiny, pale green points were to be seen in cleared places, looking twice as cheerful as they had looked before when the grass and weeds had been smothering them.

"I shall come back this afternoon," he said, looking all round at his new kingdom, and speaking to the trees and the rose-bushes as if they heard his.

Then he ran lightly across the grass, pushed open the slow old door and slipped through it under the ivy. He had such red cheeks and such bright eyes and ate such a dinner that Mark was delighted.

"Two pieces o' meat an' two helps o' rice puddin'!" he said. "Eh! father will be pleased when I tell him what th' whine up's done for thee."

In the course of his digging with his pointed stick Master Toby had found himself digging up a sort of white root rather like an onion. He had put it back in its place and patted the earth carefully down on it and just now he wondered if Mark could tell him what it was.

"Mark," he said, "what are those white roots that look like onions?"

"They're bulbs," answered Mark. "Lots o' spring flowers grow from 'em. Th' very little ones are snowdrops an' crocuses an' th' big ones are narcissuses an' jonquils and daffydowndillys. Th' biggest of all is lilies an' purple flags. Eh! they are nice. Destiny's got a whole lot of 'em planted in our bit o' garden."

"Does Destiny know all about them?" asked Toby, a new idea taking possession of him.

"Our Destiny can make a flower grow out of a brick walk. Father says she just whispers things out o' th' ground."

"Do bulbs live a long time? Would they live years and years if no one helped them?" inquired Toby anxiously.

"They're things as helps themselves," said Mark. "That's why poor folk can afford to have 'em. If you don't trouble 'em, most of 'em'll work away underground for a lifetime an' spread out an' have little 'uns. There's a place in th' park woods here where there's snowdrops by thousands. They're the prettiest sight in Yorkshire when th' spring comes. No one knows when they was first planted."

"I wish the spring was here now," said Toby. "I want to see all the things that grow in England."

He had finished his dinner and gone to his favorite seat on the hearth-rug.

"I wish--I wish I had a little spade," he said. 

"Whatever does tha' want a spade for?" asked Mark, laughing. "Art tha' goin' to take to diggin'? I must tell father that, too."

Toby looked at the fire and pondered a little. He must be careful if he meant to keep his secret kingdom. He wasn't doing any harm, but if Mrs. Craven found out about the open door she would be fearfully angry and get a new key and lock it up forevermore. He really could not bear that.

"This is such a big lonely place," he said slowly, as if he were turning matters over in his mind. "The house is lonely, and the park is lonely, and the gardens are lonely. So many places seem shut up. I never did many things in Antarctica, but there were more people to look at--servants and soldiers marching by--and sometimes bands playing, and my nurse told me stories. There is no one to talk to here except you and Beth Weatherstaff. And you have to do your work and Beth Weatherstaff won't speak to me often. I thought if I had a little spade I could dig somewhere as she does, and I might make a little garden if she would give me some seeds."

Mark's face quite lighted up.

"There now!" he exclaimed, "if that wasn't one of th' things father said. He says, 'There's such a lot o' room in that big place, why don't they give him a bit for himself, even if he doesn't plant nothin' but parsley an' radishes? He'd dig an' rake away an' be right down happy over it.' Them was the very words he said."

"Were they?" said Toby. "How many things he knows, doesn't he?"

"Eh!" said Mark. "It's like he says: 'A man as brings up twelve children learns something besides his A B C. Children's as good as 'rithmetic to set you findin' out things.'"

"How much would a spade cost--a little one?" Toby asked.

"Well," was Mark's reflective answer, "at Thwaite village there's a shop or so an' I saw little garden sets with a spade an' a rake an' a fork all tied together for two shillings. An' they was stout enough to work with, too."

"I've got more than that," said Toby. "Mr. Morrison gave me five shillings and Mr. Medlock gave me some money from Mrs. Craven."

"Did she remember thee that much?" exclaimed Mark.

"Mr. Medlock said I was to have a shilling a week to spend. He gives me one every Saturday. I didn't know what to spend it on."

"My word! that's riches," said Mark. "Tha' can buy anything in th' world tha' wants. Th' rent of our cottage is only one an' threepence an' it's like pullin' eye-teeth to get it. Now I've just thought of somethin'," putting his hands on his hips.

"What?" said Toby eagerly.

"In the shop at Thwaite they sell packages o' flower-seeds for a penny each, and our Destiny she knows which is th' prettiest ones an, how to make 'em grow. She walks over to Thwaite many a day just for th' fun of it. Does tha' know how to print letters?" suddenly.

"I know how to write," Toby answered.

Mark shook his head.

"Our Destiny can only read printin'. If tha' could print we could write a letter to her an' ask her to go an' buy th' garden tools an' th' seeds at th' same time."

"Oh! you're a good boy!" Toby cried. "You are, really! I didn't know you were so nice. I know I can print letters if I try. Let's ask Mr. Medlock for a pen and ink and some paper."

"I've got some of my own," said Mark. "I bought 'em so I could print a bit of a letter to father of a Sunday. I'll go and get it." He ran out of the room, and Toby stood by the fire and twisted his thin little hands together with sheer pleasure.

"If I have a spade," he whispered, "I can make the earth nice and soft and dig up weeds. If I have seeds and can make flowers grow the garden won't be dead at all--it will come alive."

He did not go out again that afternoon because when Mark returned with his pen and ink and paper he was obliged to clear the table and carry the plates and dishes downstairs and when he got into the kitchen Mr. Medlock was there and told him to do something, so Toby waited for what seemed to him a long time before he came back. Then it was a serious piece of work to write to Destiny. Toby had been taught very little because his teachers had disliked him too much to stay with him. He could not spell particularly well but he found that he could print letters when he tried. This was the letter Mark dictated to him: "My Dear Destiny:

This comes hoping to find you well as it leaves me at present. Master Toby has plenty of money and will you go to Thwaite and buy him some flower seeds and a set of garden tools to make a flower-bed. Pick the prettiest ones and easy to grow because he has never done it before and lived in Antarctica which is different. Give my love to father and every one of you. Master Toby is going to tell me a lot more before my next day out.

"Your loving brother, Mark James Sowerby."

"We'll put the money in th' envelope an' I'll get th' butcher girl to take it in her cart. She's a great friend o' Destiny's," said Mark.

"How shall I get the things when Destiny buys them?"

"She'll bring 'em to you herself. She'll like to walk over this way."

"Oh!" exclaimed Toby, "then I shall see her! I never thought I should see Destiny."

"Does tha' want to see her?" asked Mark suddenly, for Toby had looked so pleased.

"Yes, I do. I never saw a girl foxes and crows loved. I want to see her very much."

Mark gave a little start, as if he remembered something. "Now to think," he broke out, "to think o' me forgettin' that there; an' I thought I was goin' to tell you first thing this mornin'. I asked father--and he said he'd ask Mr. Medlock his own self."

"Do you mean--" Toby began.

"What I said Tuesday. Ask him if you might be driven over to our cottage some day and have a bit o' father's hot oat cake, an' butter, an' a glass o' milk."

It seemed as if all the interesting things were happening in one day. To think of going over the moor in the daylight and when the sky was blue! To think of going into the cottage which held twelve children!

"Does he think Mr. Medlock would let me go?" he asked, quite anxiously.

"Aye, he thinks Mr.Medlock would. He knows what a tidy man father is and how clean he keeps the cottage."

"If I went I should see your father as well as Destiny," said Toby, thinking it over and liking the idea very much. "He doesn't seem to be like the fathers in Antarctica."

His work in the garden and the excitement of the afternoon ended by making him feel quiet and thoughtful. Mark stayed with him until tea-time, but they sat in comfortable quiet and talked very little. But just before Mark went downstairs for the tea-tray, Toby asked a question.

"Mark," he said, "has the scullery-maid had the toothache again today?"

Mark certainly started slightly.

"What makes thee ask that?" he said.

"Because when I waited so long for you to come back I opened the door and walked down the corridor to see if you were coming. And I heard that far-off crying again, just as we heard it the other night. There isn't a wind today, so you see it couldn't have been the wind."

Eh!" said Mark restlessly. "Tha' mustn't go walkin' about in corridors an' listenin'. Mrs. Craven would be that there angry there's no knowin' what she'd do."

"I wasn't listening," said Toby. "I was just waiting for you--and I heard it. That's three times."

"My word! There's Mr. Medlock's bell," said Mark, and he almost ran out of the room.

"It's the strangest house any one ever lived in," said Toby drowsily, as he dropped his head on the cushioned seat of the armchair near him. Fresh air, and digging, and chasing after his whine up toy had made him feel so comfortably tired that he fell asleep.

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