The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One frightfully hot morning, when she was about nine
years old, she awakened feeling very cross, and she became
crosser still when she saw that the servant who stood
by her bedside was not her Ayah.
"Why did you come?" she said to the strange woman.
"I will not let you stay. Send my Ayah to me."
The woman looked frightened, but she only stammered
that the Ayah could not come and when Mary threw herself
into a passion and beat and kicked her, she looked only
more frightened and repeated that it was not possible
for the Ayah to come to Missie Sahib.
There was something mysterious in the air that morning.
Nothing was done in its regular order and several of the
native servants seemed missing, while those whom Mary
saw slunk or hurried about with ashy and scared faces.
But no one would tell her anything and her Ayah did not come.
She was actually left alone as the morning went on,
and at last she wandered out into the garden and began
to play by herself under a tree near the veranda.
She pretended that she was making a flower-bed, and she stuck
big scarlet hibiscus blossoms into little heaps of earth,
all the time growing more and more angry and muttering
to herself the things she would say and the names she
would call Saidie when she returned.
"Pig! Pig! Daughter of Pigs!" she said, because to call
a native a pig is the worst insult of all.
She was grinding her teeth and saying this over and over
again when she heard her mother come out on the veranda
with some one. She was with a fair young man and they stood
talking together in low strange voices. Mary knew the fair
young man who looked like a boy. She had heard that he
was a very young officer who had just come from England.
The child stared at him, but she stared most at her mother.
She always did this when she had a chance to see her,
because the Mem Sahib--Mary used to call her that oftener
than anything else--was such a tall, slim, pretty person
and wore such lovely clothes. Her hair was like curly
silk and she had a delicate little nose which seemed
to be disdaining things, and she had large laughing eyes.
All her clothes were thin and floating, and Mary said they
were "full of lace." They looked fuller of lace than ever
this morning, but her eyes were not laughing at all.
They were large and scared and lifted imploringly to the fair
boy officer's face.
"Is it so very bad? Oh, is it?" Mary heard her say.
"Awfully," the young man answered in a trembling voice.
"Awfully, Mrs. Lennox. You ought to have gone to the hills
two weeks ago."
The Mem Sahib wrung her hands.
"Oh, I know I ought!" she cried. "I only stayed to go
to that silly dinner party. What a fool I was!"
At that very moment such a loud sound of wailing broke
out from the servants' quarters that she clutched the young
man's arm, and Mary stood shivering from head to foot.
The wailing grew wilder and wilder. "What is it? What is it?"
Mrs. Lennox gasped.
"Some one has died," answered the boy officer. "You did
not say it had broken out among your servants."
"I did not know!" the Mem Sahib cried. "Come with me!
Come with me!" and she turned and ran into the house.
After that, appalling things happened, and the mysteriousness
of the morning was explained to Mary. The cholera had
broken out in its most fatal form and people were dying
like flies. The Ayah had been taken ill in the night,
and it was because she had just died that the servants
had wailed in the huts. Before the next day three other
servants were dead and others had run away in terror.
There was panic on every side, and dying people in all