Chapters 4-6


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 4)  TEN YEARS EMPTY


MARY wondered about the garden no one had gone into for ten years. How could a garden be shut up? You could always walk into a garden!  She was just thinking this when she came to a garden wall with ivy growing over it. There was a wooden door and the door was open. 
    She went through the door and found that it was only one of many walled gardens. Each garden led to another garden. At the end of this garden she saw another door leading to another garden. Soon an old man with a spade over his shoulder walked through the garden door. He looked surprised when he saw Mary. He had a firm old face and did not seem pleased to see her. 
Before she could say anything to him, a bird with a bright red breast began to sing his winter song. It was as if he saw her and was calling to her. His cheerful, friendly song gave her a pleasant feeling. She listened to him until he flew away. 

    Then she remembered the old man and went and stood beside him where he was working. He took no notice of her, so she spoke to him.
    “Did you see that little bird who was singing to me?” 

The old gardener almost smiled. He turned about and began to whistle—a low soft whistle. Almost the next moment a wonderful thing happened. The bird with the red breast came flying to them!
    “Here he is,” laughed the old man. Then he spoke to the bird as if he were speaking to a child.  It gave Mary a strange feeling because the bird seemed to understand. 
    “Will he always come when you call him?” she asked in a whisper.
    “Aye [yes], that he will.  He’s a robin redbreast and they’re the friendliest, and most curious birds alive.”  Then the old man said this bird didn’t live with a family, but all alone. He thought the bird was lonely. Mary went a step nearer to the robin.
    “I’m lonely too,” she said.

    The old gardener pushed his cap back on his bald head and stared at her a minute. “Are you the little girl from India?” he asked.  No wonder you’re lonely,” he said.

    “What is your name?” asked Mary.
    “Ben,” he answered, and then he added, “I’m lonely myself except when my little friend is with me.” He pointed to the robin. “He’s the only friend I’ve got.”
    “I have no friends at all,” said Mary. “I never played with any one.”
    Suddenly the little bird began to sing loudly. “What did he do that for?” asked Mary.
     “He’s made up his mind to make friends with you!” replied Ben. 
     “Would you make friends with me?” Mary said to the robin just as if she was speaking to a person. “Would you?” 
    But just at that moment the robin flew away. 
    “I think he flew to the secret garden!” said Mary. 
    “Don’t you poke your nose where it shouldn’t be. The secret garden is none of your business! Go play now. I’ve no more time for you.”




Robin photo: Scott Weiman

Scott Weiman

EACH day passed by for Mary exactly like the others. “I have no one to play with and nothing to do,” said Mary to Martha one morning. 

     “Nothing to play with!” exclaimed Martha. “Our children play with sticks and stones. They run about and shout and look at things.” 

     Mary only walked in the gardens. She didn’t know what else to do. She often saw her robin there. Mary loved the robin. She was sure he lived in the secret garden.  Some days she stayed outdoors nearly all day looking for the door into the secret garden. One day, after looking all day, when she returned home she said to Martha, “Why did Mr. Craven hate the garden?”

     “Promise,” said Martha, “that you don’t tell Mrs. Medlock we talked about it! If Mrs. Medlock finds out that we talked about it, I’ll be in trouble! But I’ll tell you what I know. It was Mrs. Craven’s garden. She made it when first they were married and they both loved it. They used to take care of the flowers themselves. They shut the door and stayed there hours and hours, reading and talking, laughing and enjoying all the beauty of the garden. There was an old tree with a branch that was bent. It was like a seat you could sit on. She made roses grow over it and she used to sit there. But one day when she was sitting there the branch broke. She fell on the ground and was hurt so badly that the next day she died. That’s why he hates the garden.”
     Mary did not ask any more questions. For the first time in her life she understood what it meant to feel sorry for someone. Then she heard something. She did not know what it was. At first it sounded like the wind. It was a strange sound. It was almost as if a child were crying somewhere. Soon Mary was sure the sound was inside the house. It was far away, but it was inside. 
     “Do you hear someone crying?” she said to Martha.
     Martha suddenly looked confused. “It’s just the wind.”
     “But listen,” said Mary. “It’s in the house!”
     “It was the wind!” said Martha firmly [with a strong voice]. 
     But Mary did not believe that Martha was telling the truth.





THE next day the rain poured down very hard. There would be no going out today. “What do you do in your cottage when it rains like this?” Mary asked Martha.

  “The big children go out in the cow shed and play there. Dickon he doesn’t mind being wet. He goes out just as if the sun was shining. He says he sees things on rainy days that you don’t see when it’s good weather. He once found a little fox soaked to the skin in its hole. He brought it home in his shirt to keep it warm. It lives at home now. It follows him everywhere.”
     Mary loved to hear about Martha’s mother and Dickon. When Martha told stories about her mother, they always sounded wonderful.
     “If I had a bird or a fox I would play with them,” said Mary. “But I have nothing.”
     Martha looked surprised.
     “Can you knit?” she asked.
No, answered Mary.
Can you sew?
Can you read?
Then why don’t you read something?
I don't have any books," said Mary. They were all left in India.
How sad, said Martha. If only Mrs. Medlock would let you go into the library! There are thousands of books there.
     Mary did not ask where the library was, because she suddenly had an idea. She would find it herself without anyone’s help!  She did not care about the library itself.  But finding it made her think of the hundreds of rooms with closed doors. She wondered if all the rooms were really locked and what she would find if she could get into any of them. Why not go and see how many doors she could count? It would be something to do on a rainy day. She did not think to ask anyone if it was O.K., because all her life she always did what she wanted.  

   Mary opened the door of her room and went out into the corridor [hall]. It led to a short group of steps which then led to another corridor. There were doors everywhere and pictures on the walls. The walls were covered with portraits that stared at Mary, as if they were watching her. Some were pictures of children. She wondered what their names were and where they were now. There was one portrait of a little girl. She wore a dark green dress.  Where do you live now? said Mary to the picture. “I wish you were here. 

      It seemed as if there was no one in the huge house but her.  She walked all alone upstairs and downstairs, through narrow passages and wide ones.  All the doors were shut, as Mrs. Medlock said they would be. But at last she put her hand on the handle of one door and turned it. When she pushed on the door it slowly opened. It was a big, heavy door and opened into a huge bedroom. Over the fireplace was another portrait of the young girl she saw earlier.  “Maybe she slept here once,” said Mary. 
     After that she opened more and more doors. Every room was empty, she saw nothing alive. But in one room she finally did see something. In the corner of the room was a sofa with a big pillow. In the center of the pillow was a hole. Out of the hole a tiny head with frightened eyes looked at her. Mary walked softly across the room to look. The bright eyes belonged to a little gray mouse. The mouse lived in the hole in the pillow and made a nest there. Six baby mice were asleep near her. 
I wish I could take them back with me, said Mary. “They are the only things alive in this whole house.”
     She began to feel too tired to explore any more and went back to find her room. Two or three times she lost her way.  She was not sure where she was now. “I believe I have taken a wrong turn again,
 she said. “I don’t know which way to go. How still everything is! It’s horrible!

      It was while she was standing there that the stillness was broken by a sound. It was another cry. “Someone is crying!” said Mary, her heart beating faster.  She put her hand on a tapestry on the wall and then jumped back, afraid. The tapestry was covering a secret door! The door opened and showed her a long, narrow corridor. At that moment Mrs. Medlock was coming up the corridor with a very angry look on her face.
What are you doing here? she said. She took Mary by the arm and pulled her away. What did I tell you?
I didn’t know which way to go and I heard someone crying, explained Mary. 
You did not hear crying! said Mrs. Medlock. “You go back to your room or I’ll hit you.  She then took her by the arm and pulled her down the corridor until she pushed Mary into her own room.
Now, said Mrs. Medlock, you stay where you’re told to stay or I will lock you in your room. She went out of the room and closed the door with a loud bang.  Mary did not cry.  She was too angry to cry. 

     There was someone crying—there was—there was! she said to herself.  She would find out who it was! She would! 

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 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - April 2022 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us: