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|The Secret Garden||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
|Page 3 of 7||
"Well, I'm danged!" he said as softly as if he were saying something quite different. "Tha' does know how to get at a chap--tha' does! Tha's fair unearthly, tha's so knowin'."
And he stood without stirring--almost without drawing his breath--until the robin gave another flirt to his wings and flew away. Then he stood looking at the handle of the spade as if there might be Magic in it, and then he began to dig again and said nothing for several minutes.
But because he kept breaking into a slow grin now and then, Mary was not afraid to talk to him.
"Have you a garden of your own?" she asked.
"No. I'm bachelder an' lodge with Martin at th' gate."
"If you had one," said Mary, "what would you plant?"
"Cabbages an' 'taters an' onions."
"But if you wanted to make a flower garden," persisted Mary, "what would you plant?"
"Bulbs an' sweet-smellin' things--but mostly roses."
Mary's face lighted up.
"Do you like roses?" she said.
Ben Weatherstaff rooted up a weed and threw it aside before he answered.
"Well, yes, I do. I was learned that by a young lady I was gardener to. She had a lot in a place she was fond of, an' she loved 'em like they was children--or robins. I've seen her bend over an' kiss 'em." He dragged out another weed and scowled at it. "That were as much as ten year' ago."
"Where is she now?" asked Mary, much interested.
"Heaven," he answered, and drove his spade deep into the soil, "'cording to what parson says."
"What happened to the roses?" Mary asked again, more interested than ever.
"They was left to themselves."
Mary was becoming quite excited.
"Did they quite die? Do roses quite die when they are left to themselves?" she ventured.
"Well, I'd got to like 'em--an' I liked her--an' she liked 'em," Ben Weatherstaff admitted reluctantly. "Once or twice a year I'd go an' work at 'em a bit--prune 'em an' dig about th' roots. They run wild, but they was in rich soil, so some of 'em lived."
"When they have no leaves and look gray and brown and dry, how can you tell whether they are dead or alive?" inquired Mary.
"Wait till th' spring gets at 'em--wait till th' sun shines on th' rain and th' rain falls on th' sunshine an' then tha'll find out."
"How--how?" cried Mary, forgetting to be careful. "Look along th' twigs an' branches an' if tha' see a bit of a brown lump swelling here an' there, watch it after th' warm rain an' see what happens." He stopped suddenly and looked curiously at her eager face. "Why does tha' care so much about roses an' such, all of a sudden?" he demanded.
Mistress Mary felt her face grow red. She was almost afraid to answer.
"I--I want to play that--that I have a garden of my own," she stammered. "I--there is nothing for me to do. I have nothing--and no one."
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|The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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