Wednesday, May 19, 2010

As Retold by Sadako: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden, or Yorkshire, the True Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire

Mistress Mary Quite Contrary

Once there was a spoiled little girl called Mary Lennox. She and her parents were English, but she was born and grew up in India, under the care of servants as was the wont of her rich and attractive parents. Because Indian servants are so servile, giving the girl everything she wanted, living only to make the Sahib happy, Mary grew up a selfish little pig as ever there was.

One day illness broke out among everyone at Mary's house. It killed them all, until she was the only one left. She was sent under to live with her uncle at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire, a beautiful manor beloved by gardeners worldwide (and hated by lispers). Mary's uncle was a rich invalid with a large hunchback and a mysteriously beautiful dead wife.

Mary was brought to Misselthwaite by Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper, an austere woman who dressed in black. Mrs. Danvers, still in embryonic stages, stirred.

When Mary woke up that first morning at Misselthwaite, she saw a housemaid there.

The housemaid said, "H'llo there, I'm Martha. Pleased t' make yer acquaintance. Isn't Yorkshire grand? There are b'rds 'n trees and h'ther and moors."

Mary looked at her with a puzzled expression. In India, the servants never went on like this. One never said please or thank you to them because serving the sons and daughter of Empire was a privilege. Mary often slapped her Ayah, who merely bowed and said, "Thank you, memsahib, may I have another?" But in England, even the servants seemed imbued with spirit that made the Empire great.

Martha laughed. "When I heard y' w'ere fr'm India, I expected y'to be a black! With a wee monkey face an' flea infested locks and the b'ginnings of a wee tail! I was so disappointed when you were a regular little girl!"

"You thought I was a native?! How dare you!" Mary screamed. "You-you daughter of pigs!" For in India, the worst thing to call a native was a pig. Ireland Baldwin, reading her old childhood favorite, shuddered with a barely suppressed memory and reached for some more Repressitol.

But Martha just looked at Mary coolly. "Y'needn't be s'vexed. I've n'thing 'ginst th' blacks. I've heard ev'r s'many stories about them--walk'ng on coals 'n ch'rming sn'kes and pr'viding us on the b'ttom of English social 'ierarchy someone t'feel superior to."

Mary felt foolish and curiously, as though she were about to learn a lesson about the dangers of being cross and rude.

The Secret Garden

"G'n and play," said Martha. "One of the g'rdens is locked up--been that way for nigh on ten years! Mr. Craven's wife fell off a branch ten years ago in that garden, and now n' one's t' go in!"

A beautiful but secret garden? With a death that was intriguing but not too frightening for a seven to ten year old girl, as well as appropriately bereft of any scandalous details? How very English Gothic. Young Daphne DuMaurier, following along, took careful notes.

Mary met a chattering robin redbreast and old Ben Weatherstaff, a gruff old gardener.

How she longed to find the secret garden! "My stereotype collection will be complete," she thought.

One day while digging, she found a key in the earth. The robin chirped at her. And though by Real Magic(TM), a covering of leaves was blown up by the wind, revealing a hidden door. When Mary went inside, she discovered the Secret Garden. Everything was cold and dark but beautiful. And perhaps--perhaps, it could be made to grow!

Dickon, or the Joys of Slumming

Martha told Mary about her younger brother, Dickon, who was twelve and whom the animals all loved. Dickon came to Mary and she showed him the garden. They made plans to buy seeds and plant and make it as beautiful as it had been years ago.

"It's wick," said Dickon, gesturing to the wood. "It's al've, and it'll gr'w as long as we care for it. Tha was right to weed the flowers to help them grow. Tha mun plant if tha wants the g'rden to gr'w."

"You must come back!" said Mary. "You must come and help me. And then you must let me mimic your sweet accent. It's ever so much more fun than imitating Hindustani--my servants in India sounded like so many monkeys gibbering."

Dickon agreed to keep coming back, bringing his tame fox and raven, too.

"I do so love Dickon," said Mary to Martha. "He's ever so quaint and never complains about having to walk five miles to the manor every day and back to work with me. I expect that when I grow up and inherit this house, I shall keep him on to bring his animals and speak in his funny Yorkshire accent for my amusement."

All of a sudden, there was a strange sound in the corridor like someone crying. "Why, what is that queer sound?" asked Mary.

"That? Er...why...that's n'thing 't all. I mun go now." Martha ran off.

A Cry in the Night

That night, Mary woke up hearing rain. "Oh, it would rain when Dickon and I were planning on planting in the secret garden. And I had come up with some special rhymes for Dickon to say in Yorkshire dialect!"

Vexed, she frowned. But she heard the noise again and decided to find out the source of the queer sound.

She walked down several long corridors into a room where she saw a small pale boy with dark eyes lying in bed. He stared back at her. " a ghost?" he asked.

"No, I'm not. Are you?"

The boy introduced himself as Colin. "I'm Mr. Craven's son." Mary told him that Mr. Craven was her uncle. "No one ever told me he had a son!"

"It's because I'm going to die. I'm an invalid and my mother died right after I was born and my father hates the sight of me because of my illness and because I remind him of her. It's all frightfully romantic."

"Why were you crying?" asked Mary.

"Because I was tired and had a headache and wanted to convey a sense of mysterious foreboding to the reader," replied Colin. "I hate most people in this wretched house--but I don't hate you. Will you come back and see me again?"

"Won't Mrs. Medlock be angry?" said Mary nervously.

But Colin explained that he always got his way because everyone was afraid he'd die if he wasn't given what he wanted. It was agreed that Mary would go on seeing Colin as long as they wanted.

Soon after, it was a nice day, and Mary decided to put off seeing Colin. "I'm going slumming in the garden with Dickon, and that's that!"

A Tantrum

When Mary came back, Colin had thrown a fit. Martha called her to come quiet down Colin.

Mary stamped her foot in rage when she saw Colin screaming and crying. But Colin said, "You're to be nice to me! Why, I'm going to grow a hump one day, you know! Just like my father. It's my inheritance along with this house and everyone in it!"

"No!" screamed Mary. "It's hysterics! That's all it is." Mary had the nurse examine his back and revealed that the back was startlingly free of humps.

"All you really need is fresh air," ventured the nurse. "That would do you a world of good."

"I once went out in the fresh air. To the seaside. But people looked at me. With their eyes. So I screamed and cried," Colin told them.

When the nurse had left, Colin asked Mary about the secret garden, and whether being there would help him. "I'm sure it would. Dickon could push you in his chair. No one would have to see us--we could be alone."

"I Shall Live Forever and Ever!"

The children made the arrangements and Colin went outside with Dickon and Mary. Dickon pushed him in his chair to the secret garden--after Colin had told every gardener to stay away so no one would discover their secret.

Colin looked at the garden. He stared in wonder at Dickon's animals, at the tame lamb, at the roses, and the daisies, and the uniquely British countryside. He marveled.

"Wench!" A scream came from beyond the wall. Ben Weatherstaff was standing on a ladder, shaking his fist. "If ye w'ere a wench o'mine, I'd give ye a hiding!" But Ben's face changed when he saw Colin. "Ye--a cripple?"

"I am NOT a cripple!" Colin gestured to Dickon to help him stand. "You see? My back is straight. And I'm as fit as an Indian rajah today and one day I'll perhaps be as fit and healthy as a right minded forward thinking Englishman. I shall live forever and ever!"

Ben took his hat off in shock. "M'ester Colin. F'rgive me."

From then on, it was decided that everyday, the children would come into the garden and help Colin get stronger and more fit. Every day Colin was brought out in his chair and Dickon and Mary took him to the secret garden. They decided they would keep Colin's condition a secret until his father came back--they did not want Mrs. Medlock or the doctor writing to tell him.

"I am sure Father will love me when he sees how strong and healthy I am!" said Colin.

"Conditional love is the best kind," agreed Dickon.

"No," Mary corrected. "Say it in Yorkshire!"

Dickon sighed. "Must I?"

The Power of Magic, or the Stirrings of Rhonda Byrne's Career

Colin was growing stronger and stronger. His face was becoming ruddier and he looked more animated. The doctor and Mrs. Medlock marveled at the change, though Colin warned that he did not want his father told.

Both Mary and Colin were eating more and more, too. "You've put on such weight, Master Colin," said the doctor. "If I didn't know that you were the invalid archetype, I'd swear on my clockwork vibrating cure for hysterical women that you were as well as myself or Mistress Mary!"

"Well, perhaps it is an unnatural appetite," said Colin haughtily.

When they were alone, Colin looked at Mary. "We'll have to eat less--I don't want them writing to my father and telling him I'm well. It is so dreadfully hard, though."

"I never wanted to eat before either. In India, I was always so hot and lazy, but since coming here I always want my breakfast."

"That must be why they never made anything great in India," said Colin, "like gardens or topiary animals or shooting weekends in the country."

Later, in the garden, the children practiced the exercises that Ben Weatherstaff had told them about, so that Colin could get stronger.

"Magic," Colin declared, "is all around us. It's simply a matter of getting hold of it. Every morning I am going to say, Magic is in me, magic is making me well! And I will use this Science when I grow older to help others. I'll tell people crippled by polio and consumption to simply feel the Magic coursing through their bodies."

"But Colin," said Mary, "what if that doesn't work?"

"It will just mean that they don't believe in the Magic strongly enough. Why, thinking is enough to make it so. I've proven that!"

In the Garden

One day, old Mr. Craven was on one of his long trips abroad when he had a funny feeling that he should return to the Manor. His trip had not yet wound down. "Yet," mused author Frances Hodgson Burnett, "I can't come up with any descriptions of ivy and roses and grass. I shall have to bring back old Mr. Craven and conclude the book."

Mr. Craven returned to the manor. He asked to know where the children were and when he was told they were all in the garden he went there straight away. He heard the children laughing. Colin ran straight out of the secret garden followed by Mary. When he saw his father, he gasped.

"Father! Look at me! I can walk! I can run and jump and play! I won't have to sit in bed and write dour Jane Eyre fan fiction! And I'm going to grow older and go to boarding school and visit India to accumulate heaps of noble titles and shoot tigers!"

Mr. Craven put his hand on Colin's fine strong shoulder and the two of them walked across the lawn together. The rest of the household shrieked in amazement to see young Master Craven walking.

Mary ran to catch up, hoping that Mr. Craven wouldn't turn her out on the streets to become a governess.

"Dickon!" said Colin, suddenly remembering, and turning back to the garden. "Don't forget to finish weeding this row of plants before you go home for the night, that's a good lad."