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|The Secret Garden||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
|Page 2 of 5||
It was not until afterward that Mary realized that the thing had been funny as well as dreadful--that it was funny that all the grown-up people were so frightened that they came to a little girl just because they guessed she was almost as bad as Colin himself.
She flew along the corridor and the nearer she got to the screams the higher her temper mounted. She felt quite wicked by the time she reached the door. She slapped it open with her hand and ran across the room to the four-posted bed.
"You stop!" she almost 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!" A nice sympathetic child could neither have thought nor said such things, but it just happened that the shock of hearing them was the best possible thing for this hysterical boy whom no one had ever dared to restrain or contradict.
He had been lying on his face beating his pillow with his hands and he actually almost jumped around, he turned so quickly at the sound of the furious little voice. His face looked dreadful, white and red and swollen, and he was gasping and choking; but savage little Mary did not care an atom.
"If you scream another scream," she said, "I'll scream too --and I can scream louder than you can and I'll frighten you, I'll frighten you!"
He actually had stopped screaming because she had startled him so. The scream which had been coming almost choked him. The tears were streaming down his face and he shook all over.
"I can't stop!" he gasped and sobbed. "I can't--I can't!"
"You can!" shouted Mary. "Half that ails you is hysterics and temper--just hysterics--hysterics--hysterics!" and she stamped each time she said it.
"I felt the lump--I felt it," choked out Colin. "I knew I should. I shall have a hunch on my back and then I shall die," and he began to writhe again and turned on his face and sobbed and wailed but he didn't scream.
"You didn't feel a lump!" contradicted Mary fiercely. "If you did it was only a hysterical lump. Hysterics makes lumps. There's nothing the matter with your horrid back--nothing but hysterics! Turn over and let me look at it!"
She liked the word "hysterics" and felt somehow as if it had an effect on him. He was probably like herself and had never heard it before.
"Nurse," she commanded, "come here and show me his back this minute!"
The nurse, Mrs. Medlock and Martha had been standing huddled together near the door staring at her, their mouths half open. All three had gasped with fright more than once. The nurse came forward as if she were half afraid. Colin was heaving with great breathless sobs.
"Perhaps he--he won't let me," she hesitated in a low voice.
Colin heard her, however, and he gasped out between two sobs:
"Sh-show her! She-she'll see then!"
It was a poor thin back to look at when it was bared. Every rib could be counted and every joint of the spine, though Mistress Mary did not count them as she bent over and examined them with a solemn savage little face. She looked so sour and old-fashioned that the nurse turned her head aside to hide the twitching of her mouth. There was just a minute's silence, for even Colin tried to hold his breath while Mary looked up and down his spine, and down and up, as intently as if she had been the great doctor from London.
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|The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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