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|The Secret Garden||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
"MIGHT I HAVE A BIT OF EARTH"
|Page 4 of 5||
Her anxious little face seemed to worry him more than ever.
"Don't look so frightened," he exclaimed. "Of course you may. I am your guardian, though I am a poor one for any child. I cannot give you time or attention. I am too ill, and wretched and distracted; but I wish you to be happy and comfortable. I don't know anything about children, but Mrs. Medlock is to see that you have all you need. I sent for you to-day because Mrs. Sowerby said I ought to see you. Her daughter had talked about you. She thought you needed fresh air and freedom and running about."
"She knows all about children," Mary said again in spite of herself.
"She ought to," said Mr. Craven. "I thought her rather bold to stop me on the moor, but she said--Mrs. Craven had been kind to her." It seemed hard for him to speak his dead wife's name. "She is a respectable woman. Now I have seen you I think she said sensible things. Play out of doors as much as you like. It's a big place and you may go where you like and amuse yourself as you like. Is there anything you want?" as if a sudden thought had struck him. "Do you want toys, books, dolls?"
"Might I," quavered Mary, "might I have a bit of earth?"
In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.
"Earth!" he repeated. "What do you mean?"
"To plant seeds in--to make things grow--to see them come alive," Mary faltered.
He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.
"Do you--care about gardens so much," he said slowly.
"I didn't know about them in India," said Mary. "I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made littlebeds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different."
Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room.
"A bit of earth," he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.
"You can have as much earth as you want," he said. "You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want," with something like a smile, "take it, child, and make it come alive."
"May I take it from anywhere--if it's not wanted?"
"Anywhere," he answered. "There! You must go now, I am tired." He touched the bell to call Mrs. Medlock. "Good-by. I shall be away all summer."
Mrs. Medlock came so quickly that Mary thought she must have been waiting in the corridor.
"Mrs. Medlock," Mr. Craven said to her, "now I have seen the child I understand what Mrs. Sowerby meant. She must be less delicate before she begins lessons. Give her simple, healthy food. Let her run wild in the garden. Don't look after her too much. She needs liberty and fresh air and romping about. Mrs. Sowerby is to come and see her now and then and she may sometimes go to the cottage."
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|The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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