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"Is it dead?" he interrupted her.
"It soon will be if no one cares for it," she went on. "The bulbs will live but the roses--"
He stopped her again as excited as she was herself.
"What are bulbs?" he 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?" he 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 Mary. "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?"
He dropped back on his pillow and lay there with an odd expression on his face.
"I never had a secret," he 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 Mary, "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 boy who would push you, and we could go alone and it would always be a secret garden."
"I should--like--that," he said very slowly, his eyes looking dreamy. "I should like that. I should not mind fresh air in a secret garden."
Mary began to recover her breath and feel safer because the idea of keeping the secret seemed to please him. She felt almost sure that if she kept on talking and could make him see the garden in his mind as she had seen it he would like it so much that he 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," she said. "It has been shut up so long things have grown into a tangle perhaps."
He lay quite still and listened while she 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 she told him about the robin and Ben Weatherstaff, and there was so much to tell about the robin and it was so easy and safe to talk about it that she ceased to be afraid. The robin pleased him so much that he smiled until he looked almost beautiful, and at first Mary had thought that he was even plainer than herself, with his big eyes and heavy locks of hair.
"I did not know birds could be like that," he 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."
She did not know what to say, so she did not say anything. He evidently did not expect an answer and the next moment he gave her a surprise.
"I am going to let you look at something," he said. "Do you see that rose-colored silk curtain hanging on the wall over the mantel-piece?"
Mary had not noticed it before, but she looked up and saw it. It was a curtain of soft silk hanging over what seemed to be some picture.
"Yes," she answered.
"There is a cord hanging from it," said Colin. "Go and pull it."
Mary got up, much mystified, and found the cord. When she pulled it the silk curtain ran back on rings and when it ran back it uncovered a picture. It was the picture of a girl with a laughing face. She had bright hair tied up with a blue ribbon and her gay, lovely eyes were exactly like Colin's unhappy ones, agate gray and looking twice as big as they really were because of the black lashes all round them.
"She is my mother," said Colin complainingly. "I don't see why she died. Sometimes I hate her for doing it."
"How queer!" said Mary.
"If she had lived I believe I should not have been ill always," he grumbled. "I dare say I should have lived, too. And my father would not have hated to look at me. I dare say I should have had a strong back. Draw the curtain again."
Mary did as she was told and returned to her footstool.
"She is much prettier than you," she said, "but her eyes are just like yours--at least they are the same shape and color. Why is the curtain drawn over her?"
He moved uncomfortably.
"I made them do it," he said. "Sometimes I don't like to see her looking at me. She smiles too much when I am ill and miserable. Besides, she is mine and I don't want everyone to see her." There were a few moments of silence and then Mary spoke.
"What would Mrs. Medlock do if she found out that I had been here?" she inquired.
"She would do as I told her to do," he answered. "And I should tell her that I wanted you to come here and talk to me every day. I am glad you came."
"So am I," said Mary. "I will come as often as I can, but"--she hesitated--"I shall have to look every day for the garden door."
"Yes, you must," said Colin, "and you can tell me about it afterward."
He lay thinking a few minutes, as he had done before, and then he spoke again.
"I think you shall be a secret, too," he 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 Martha?"
"Yes, I know her very well," said Mary. "She waits on me."
He nodded his head toward the outer corridor.
"She 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 Martha attend to me when she wants to go out. Martha shall tell you when to come here."
Then Mary understood Martha's troubled look when she had asked questions about the crying.
"Martha knew about you all the time?" she said.
"Yes; she often attends to me. The nurse likes to get away from me and then Martha comes."
"I have been here a long time," said Mary. "Shall I go away now? Your eyes look sleepy."
"I wish I could go to sleep before you leave me," he said rather shyly.
"Shut your eyes," said Mary, drawing her footstool closer, "and I will do what my Ayah used to do in India. I will pat your hand and stroke it and sing something quite low."
"I should like that perhaps," he said drowsily.
Somehow she was sorry for him and did not want him to lie awake, so she leaned against the bed and began to stroke and pat his hand and sing a very low little chanting song in Hindustani.
"That is nice," he said more drowsily still, and she went on chanting and stroking, but when she looked at him again his black lashes were lying close against his cheeks, for his eyes were shut and he was fast asleep. So she got up softly, took her candle and crept away without making a sound.
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The Secret Garden -by- Frances Hodgson Burnett