The Secret Garden
2. Mistress Mary Quite Contrary
Mary had liked to look at her mother from a distance and she had thought her very pretty,
but as she knew very little of her she could scarcely have been expected to love her or to
miss her very much when she was gone. She did not miss her at all, in fact, and as she
was a self-absorbed child she gave her entire thought to herself, as she had always done.
If she had been older she would no doubt have been very anxious at being left alone in
the world, but she was very young, and as she had always been taken care of, she
supposed she always would be. What she thought was that she would like to know if she
was going to nice people, who would be polite to her and give her her own way as her
Ayah and the other native servants had done.
She knew that she was not going to stay at the English clergyman's house where she was
taken at first. She did not want to stay. The English clergyman was poor and he had five
children nearly all the same age and they wore shabby clothes and were always
quarreling and snatching toys from each other. Mary hated their untidy bungalow and
was so disagreeable to them that after the first day or two nobody would play with her.
By the second day they had given her a nickname which made her furious.
It was Basil who thought of it first. Basil was a little boy with impudent blue eyes and a
turned-up nose, and Mary hated him. She was playing by herself under a tree, just as she
had been playing the day the cholera broke out. She was making heaps of earth and paths
for a garden and Basil came and stood near to watch her. Presently he got rather
interested and suddenly made a suggestion.
"Why don't you put a heap of stones there and pretend it is a rockery?" he said. "There in
the middle," and he leaned over her to point.
"Go away!" cried Mary. "I don't want boys. Go away!"
For a moment Basil looked angry, and then he began to tease. He was always teasing his
sisters. He danced round and round her and made faces and sang and laughed.
"Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And marigolds all in a row."
He sang it until the other children heard and laughed, too; and the crosser Mary got, the
more they sang "Mistress Mary, quite contrary"; and after that as long as she stayed with
them they called her "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" when they spoke of her to each
other, and often when they spoke to her.
"You are going to be sent home," Basil said to her, "at the end of the week. And we're
glad of it."
"I am glad of it, too," answered Mary. "Where is home?"