"I'm not as selfish as you, because I'm always ill, and I'm sure there is a lump coming on my back," he said. "And I am going to die besides."
"You're not!" contradicted Mary unsympathetically.
He opened his eyes quite wide with indignation. He had never heard such a thing said before. He was at once furious and slightly pleased, if a person could be both at one time.
"I'm not?" he cried. "I am! You know I am! Everybody says so."
"I don't believe it!" said Mary sourly. "You just say that to make people sorry. I believe you're proud of it. I don't believe it! If you were a nice boy it might be true--but you're too nasty!"
In spite of his invalid back Colin sat up in bed in quite a healthy rage.
"Get out of the room!" he shouted and he caught hold of his pillow and threw it at her. He was not strong enough to throw it far and it only fell at her feet, but Mary's face looked as pinched as a nutcracker.
"I'm going," she said. "And I won't come back!" She walked to the door and when she reached it she turned round and spoke again.
"I was going to tell you all sorts of nice things," she said. "Dickon brought his fox and his rook and I was going to tell you all about them. Now I won't tell you a single thing!"
She marched out of the door and closed it behind her, and there to her great astonishment she found the trained nurse standing as if she had been listening and, more amazing still--she was laughing. She was a big handsome young woman who ought not to have been a trained nurse at all, as she could not bear invalids and she was always making excuses to leave Colin to Martha or any one else who would take her place. Mary had never liked her, and she simply stood and gazed up at her as she stood giggling into her handkerchief..
"What are you laughing at?" she asked her.
"At you two young ones," said the nurse. "It's the best thing that could happen to the sickly pampered thing to have some one to stand up to him that's as spoiled as himself;" and she laughed into her handkerchief again. "If he'd had a young vixen of a sister to fight with it would have been the saving of him."
"Is he going to die?"
"I don't know and I don't care," said the nurse. "Hysterics and temper are half what ails him."
"What are hysterics?" asked Mary.
"You'll find out if you work him into a tantrum after this--but at any rate you've given him something to have hysterics about, and I'm glad of it."
Mary went back to her room not feeling at all as she had felt when she had come in from the garden. She was cross and disappointed but not at all sorry for Colin. She had looked forward to telling him a great many things and she had meant to try to make up her mind whether it would be safe to trust him with the great secret. She had been beginning to think it would be, but now she had changed her mind entirely. She would never tell him and he could stay in his room and never get any fresh air and die if he liked! It would serve him right! She felt so sour and unrelenting that for a few minutes she almost forgot about Dickon and the green veil creeping over the world and the soft wind blowing down from the moor.
Martha was waiting for her and the trouble in her face had been temporarily replaced by interest and curiosity. There was a wooden box on the table and its cover had been removed and revealed that it was full of neat packages.
"Mr. Craven sent it to you," said Martha. "It looks as if it had picture-books in it."
Mary remembered what he had asked her the day she had gone to his room. "Do you want anything--dolls--toys --books?" She opened the package wondering if he had sent a doll, and also wondering what she should do with it if he had. But he had not sent one. There were several beautiful books such as Colin had, and two of them were about gardens and were full of pictures. There were two or three games and there was a beautiful little writing-case with a gold monogram on it and a gold pen and inkstand.
Everything was so nice that her pleasure began to crowd her anger out of her mind. She had not expected him to remember her at all and her hard little heart grew quite warm.
"I can write better than I can print," she said, "and the first thing I shall write with that pen will be a letter to tell him I am much obliged."
If she had been friends with Colin she would have run to show him her presents at once, and they would have looked at the pictures and read some of the gardening books and perhaps tried playing the games, and he would have enjoyed himself so much he would never once have thought he was going to die or have put his hand on his spine to see if there was a lump coming. He had a way of doing that which she could not bear. It gave her an uncomfortable frightened feeling because he always looked so frightened himself. He said that if he felt even quite a little lump some day he should know his hunch had begun to grow. Something he had heard Mrs. Medlock whispering to the nurse had given him the idea and he had thought over it in secret until it was quite firmly fixed in his mind. Mrs. Medlock had said his father's back had begun to show its crookedness in that way when he was a child. He had never told any one but Mary that most of his "tantrums" as they called them grew out of his hysterical hidden fear. Mary had been sorry for him when he had told her.
"He always began to think about it when he was cross or tired," she said to herself. "And he has been cross today. Perhaps--perhaps he has been thinking about it all afternoon."
She stood still, looking down at the carpet and thinking.
"I said I would never go back again--" she hesitated, knitting her brows--"but perhaps, just perhaps, I will go and see--if he wants me--in the morning. Perhaps he'll try to throw his pillow at me again, but--I think--I'll go."
The Secret Garden -by- Frances Hodgson Burnett