Chapters 16-18


by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This story is about the power of love to change even the most hopeless situations and the most difficult people. This abridged version (shorter and with simpler words) was done for English Language Learners by InterestEng.

(Chapter 16)  THE LAST TANTRUM


IN THE middle of the night Mary heard awful sounds. She jumped out of bed and said, “What was it—what was it?” Doors were opened and shut and there were running feet in the halls. Someone was crying and screaming.

     It's Colin, she said. “How awful. She put her hands over her ears and felt sick. “I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do, she kept saying. I can't bear it.” But then she took her hands from her ears and stamped her foot. “He should be stopped! Somebody should make him stop! she cried out. Just then her door opened and the nurse came in. She looked very pale. “He's worked himself into hysterics [crazy],” she said in a great hurry. “He'll do himself harm. No one can do anything with him. You come and try. He likes you. You go. Do go, child, as quick as you can.”

     Mary ran down the corridor. The nearer she got to the screams the more angry she became. She felt quite wicked [not kind] by the time she reached the door. She ran across the room to his bed. “You stop!” she shouted. “You stop! I hate you! Everybody hates you! I wish everybody would run out of the house and let you scream yourself to death! You will scream yourself to death in a minute, and I wish you would!”

     He had been lying on his face beating his pillow with his hands and he actually jumped around at the sound of the furious little voice.

     If you scream another scream, Mary said, “I'll scream too—and I can scream louder than you can and I'll frighten you!” Colin stopped screaming because what Mary said so surprised him. “I felt the lump—I felt it, cried Colin. I will have a hunch on my back and then I will die.

     You didn't feel a lump! said Mary fiercely. “There's nothing the matter with your back! Turn over and let me look at it!” Mary looked up and down as if she was a great doctor from London. “There's not a single lump there! she said at last. “There's not a lump as big as a pin! If you ever say there is again, I will laugh!

Colin felt that Mary was speaking the truth.  I'll—I'll go out with you, Mary, he said. “I won't hate fresh air. I will go out with you if Dickon will come and push my chair. I do so want to see Dickon and the fox and the crow.” Finally, when Colin went to sleep Mary left. She knew exactly what she was going to do the next morning! As soon as Mary finished breakfast, she put her hat on and went to Colin's room. He was in bed. His face was white with dark circles round his eyes.

     I'm glad you came, he said. I'm so tired. Are you going somewhere?

     Mary went and leaned against his bed.  I won't be long, she said. “I'm going to Dickon, but I'll come back.” His whole face brightened and a little color came into it. Thirty minutes later the nurse appeared at the door and said, “If you please, Master Colin, here is Mary and  Dickon and his creatures [animals]!

     Dickon came in smiling his nicest smile. A new-born lamb was in his arms and the little red fox trotted by his side. Nut, the squirrel, sat on his left shoulder and Soot, the crow, on his right. And another creature peeped out of his coat pocket! Colin slowly sat up and stared and stared. Colin had never talked to a boy in his life and he was so full of feelings that he did not know what to say.

     But Dickon was not the least shy. He walked over to Colin's bed and put the new-born lamb on his lap. The lamb fell asleep on Colin's lap. For the first time in his life, Colin was happy. The three children then began to plan how they could secretly take Colin to the Secret Garden. No one must know they had a secret. People must think that Colin was simply going out with Mary and Dickon for a walk.

     A little later the nurse made Colin ready to go out. She noticed that instead of lying like a log while his clothes were put on he sat up and made some efforts to help himself, and he talked and laughed with Mary all the time. The strongest footman in the house carried Colin downstairs and put him in his wheelchair while Dickon waited outside. Dickon began to push the wheelchair slowly out into the bright world of the outdoors. Colin leaned back and lifted his face to the sky. The small snowy clouds seemed like white birds floating on outspread wings. The wind came in soft breaths down from the moor. Colin kept lifting his thin chest to draw it in.

     After ten minutes, Mary whispered excitedly, “We're here! We've come   to the Secret Garden, Colin! Please, Dickon, push him in quickly, so no one sees us!" Dickon did it with one strong, steady, good push. Colin dropped back against his cushions and he covered his eyes with his hands and held them there until the door was closed. Not till then did he take them away and look around. Where was he?  What magic hand could have made such beauty? The sun fell warm upon his face like a hand. In wonder Mary and Dickon stood and stared at him. He looked so strange and different because a pink glow of color had actually crept all over him.

      “I will get well! I will get well! cried out Colin. “Mary! Dickon! I will get well!


              (Chapter 17)  BEN 



MARY and Dickon worked a little here and there in the garden while Colin watched. They gave him things to look at—the feather of a woodpecker, the empty shell of some bird early hatched [when a baby bird breaks open his shell]. Dickon pushed the chair slowly around the garden. Every moment of the afternoon was full of new things and every hour the sunshine grew more golden. Then Colin saw something. That's a very old tree over there, isn't it?” he said. Dickon looked at Mary. There was a brief moment of stillness.  The branches are gray and there's not a single leaf anywhere, Colin went on. Is it dead?

     Yes, said Dickon. “But the roses will climb all over it and hide all the dead wood when they're full of leaves and flowers. It won't look dead then. It will be the prettiest of all.

     I don't want this afternoon to end, said Colin; “but I will come back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. I'm going to grow here myself.

     That you will,” said Dickon. “We'll have you walking about here and digging same as everyone before long.

     Colin's eyes became huge. Walk?! he said. Dig?!

     Dickon suddenly became afraid. Maybe it was wrong to say that Colin could not walk. He quickly  answered, “For sure you will walk! You have legs of your own, the same as everyone else!

     Nothing is really the matter with them, he said, “but they are so thin and weak. They shake when I try to stand on them.

     When you stop being afraid you will stand, Dickon said. “And you'll stop being afraid soon.

     I will? said Colin as he lay looking at all the life around him. Then Colin lifted his head and said in a loud whisper, Who is that man? Dickon and Mary jumped to their feet.

     Man?! they both cried in low quick voices. Colin pointed to the high wall. Look! he whispered excitedly. Just look!” Mary and Dickon turned about and looked. There was Ben's angry face staring at them over the wall from the top of a ladder. He actually shook his fist at Mary.

     If I wasn't a servant, he cried, I would beat you!” He wanted to jump down and frighten her, but he just stood on the top step of his ladder shaking his fist at her. “I never thought much of you! he continued. I couldn't stand [I didn’t like] you the first time I set eyes on you.” But he stopped shaking his fist very suddenly when he saw Colin.

     Do you know who I am? demanded Colin. Ben looked at Colin as if he was seeing a ghost. He did not say a word. “Do you know who I am?” demanded Colin still more firmly. “Answer!”

     Ben put his old hand up and passed it over his eyes and then answered in a frightened voice. “Yes. You are the poor cripple [someone who cannot walk].”

     Colin forgot everything that had ever been wrong with him and sat up straight in his wheelchair. “I'm not a cripple! he cried out with much anger. “I'm not! I’m not! Come here! shouted Colin to Dickon. “Come here! Come here this minute!” Dickon was by his side in a second. Mary felt herself turn white. There was a brief struggle as Dickon held Colin's arm. Colin's thin legs were out of his chair and suddenly his thin feet were on the grass. Colin was standing upright—as straight as an arrow and looking very tall—his head thrown back and his eyes flashing lightning. “Look at me!” he said to Ben. “Just look at me! Look at me, you miserable old man!”

     What Ben did next surprised them all. He swallowed hard and then tears began to run down his old cheeks. Dickon held Colin's arm, but the boy was strong. He stood straighter and straighter and looked Ben in the face. “I'm your master,” he said, “when my father is away. You are to obey me. This is my garden. Don't you ever say a word about it to anyone! Get down from that ladder this minute! Go to the gate. Mary will meet you and bring you in here. Be quick!”

     When his head was out of sight, Colin turned to Dickon and said, “I'm going to walk to that tree,” pointing to one a few feet away from him. “I'm going to be standing there when Ben comes in. I can rest against the tree if I like. When I want to sit down I will sit down, but not before.” He walked to the tree and, though Dickon held his arm, he was very steady. When he stood against the tree trunk you could not see that he supported himself against it, he stood so straight and tall. When Ben came through the gate he saw him standing there.

     “Look at me! commanded Colin. “Am I a hunchback? Have I got crooked legs?

     “No, Ben said frightened.

     “What work do you do in the gardens? asked Colin.

     “Anything I'm told to do, answered old Ben. “I'm kept on because she liked me.

     “She? said Colin.

     “Your mother, answered Ben.

     “My mother? said Colin and he looked about him quietly. “This was her garden, wasn't it?

     “Yes it was, Master Colin!

     “It is my garden now. I will come here every day, said Colin. “But it is to be a secret. My orders are that no one is to know that we come here. Dickon and my cousin have worked and made it come alive. I will send for you sometimes to help, but you must come when no one can see you.

     “Would you like to plant something? asked Ben suddenly.  “I can get you a rose in a pot.

     “Go and get it! said Colin, happily. “Quick! Quick!” 

Ben brought the rose in a pot from the greenhouse. “Here, lad, he said, handing the plant to Colin. “Set it in the earth yourself, the same as the master of his own house does when he moves to a new house.” The thin white hands shook a little. Colin set the rose in the ground and held it while old Ben made the earth firm around it. It was pressed down and made steady. Mary leaned forward on her hands and knees watching everything so happily.

     “It's planted! said Colin as the sun disappeared behind the wall. It was the end of a perfect day.


             (Chapter 18) MAGIC



DR. CRAVEN had been waiting some time at the house when the children returned. When Colin was brought back to his room the doctor looked him over seriously, almost as if he was angry. “You should not have stayed so long,” he said.

     “I am not tired at all, said Colin. “It has made me well. Tomorrow I am going out in the morning as well as in the afternoon.

     “I am not sure I can allow it,” answered Dr. Craven. “I am afraid it would not be wise.

     “It would not be wise to try to stop me, said Colin seriously. “I am going.

      When Dr. Craven left, he knew he could no longer control the boy. As soon as he closed the door Mary said, “I'm a little sorry for Dr. Craven.

     “So am I, said Colin. “But not completely. He won't get this big house now that I'm not going to die!

     “I was not thinking about that,” answered Mary. “I was thinking that it must very hard to have to be polite to a ten-year-old boy who is always rude.

     “Am I rude? Colin asked.

     “Always having your own way has made you rude, Mary answered.

     Colin turned his head, frowning [looking angry].  “I don't want to be rude. Maybe I don't have to be.” And soon it was so, for a garden can make even a mean and rude person, gentle. Each morning Colin was brought out and every day it didn't rain, he spent in the garden. He would lie on the grass watching things grow. Then one morning when they went to the secret garden Colin sent for Ben. Ben came as quickly as he could and found Colin standing on his feet under a tree and looking very strong.

     “Good morning, Ben, Colin said. “I want you and Dickon and Mary to stand in a row and listen to me because I am going to tell you something important. I am going to do an experiment [a test to learn facts], explained Colin. “When I grow up I am going to make scientific discoveries and I am going to begin now with this experiment. I am going to walk around the garden.

    Colin started out with Dickon on one side and Mary on the other. Ben walked behind, and all of Dickon's little animals walked quietly after them: the lamb, the fox, the white rabbit and Soot, the big black crow [bird]. Every few minutes Colin stopped to rest. When he returned to where he started he cried, “I did it! This is my first scientific discovery: You can do something if you really want to!

     “What will Dr. Craven say? asked Mary.

     “He won't say anything, Colin answered, “because he will not be told. This is to be the biggest secret of all. No one is to know anything about it until I have grown so strong that I can walk and run like any other boy. I will come here every day in my chair and I'll be taken back in my chair. I won't let my father hear about it until the experiment has succeeded. Then when he comes back home I will walk into his study and say ‘Here I am. I am like any other boy. I am well and I will live to be an old man. It has been done by a scientific experiment.’ 

    Colin was so happy. He made himself believe that he was going to get well, which was really more than half the battle.


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