The Secret Garden
1. There Is No One Left
When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody
said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a
little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was
yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been
ill in one way or another. Her father had held a position under the English Government
and had always been busy and ill himself, and her mother had been a great beauty who
cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people. She had not wanted a little
girl at all, and when Mary was born she handed her over to the care of an Ayah, who was
made to understand that if she wished to please the Mem Sahib she must keep the child
out of sight as much as possible. So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby she
was kept out of the way, and when she became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was
kept out of the way also. She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark
faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave
her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was
disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and
selfish a little pig as ever lived. The young English governess who came to teach her to
read and write disliked her so much that she gave up her place in three months, and when
other governesses came to try to fill it they always went away in a shorter time than the
first one. So if Mary had not chosen to really want to know how to read books she would
never have learned her letters at all.
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.