The Robin Who Showed the Way

Oh how I love The Secret Garden! I haven't read the book in well over a decade, but I still have a distinctly fond memory of watching the film in primary school. The curtains were drawn, we were sitting on the floor (this seemed an exciting luxury for some reason!) and I was sitting next to a friend's younger sister, Tina, who was visiting our school that day...unfortunately her near-complete blindness meant that my school wasn't equipped to care for her. She had quite attuned light perception but little else.

Watching The Secret Garden with Tina is one of those long-forgotten memories that brought tears to my eyes once it re-emerged, because describing the beauty of the imagery in the film to her, and sharing her excitement and vivid imagination is something that will never fade, no matter how forgetful I may be! This is a little slice of what our Secret Garden looked like (along with a few excerpts if you need a refresher!)


Mary went to the window. There were gardens and paths and big trees, but everything looked dull and wintry.

"If tha' goes round that way tha'll come to th' gardens," she said, pointing to a gate in a wall of shrubbery. "There's lots o' flowers in summer-time, but there's nothin' bloomin' now." She seemed to hesitate a second before she added, "One of th' gardens is locked up. No one has been in it for ten years."

"Why?" asked Mary in spite of herself. Here was another locked door added to the hundred in the strange house.

"Mr. Craven had it shut when his wife died so sudden. He won't let no one go inside. It was her garden. He locked th' door an' dug a hole and buried th' key.


Very soon she heard the soft rustling flight of wings again and she knew at once that the robin had come again. He was very pert and lively, and hopped about so close to her feet, and put his head on one side and looked at her so slyly that she asked Ben Weatherstaff a question.

"Do you think he remembers me?" she said.

"Are things stirring down below in the dark in that garden where he lives?" Mary inquired.



"What garden?" grunted Weatherstaff, becoming surly again.

"The one where the old rose-trees are." She could not help asking, because she wanted so much to know. "Are all the flowers dead, or do some of them come again in the summer? Are there ever any roses?"

"Ask him," said Ben Weatherstaff, hunching his shoulders toward the robin. "He's the only one as knows. No one else has seen inside it for ten year'."



She saw something almost buried in the newly-turned soil. It was something like a ring of rusty iron or brass and when the robin flew up into a tree nearby she put out her hand and picked the ring up. It was more than a ring, however; it was an old key which looked as if it had been buried a long time.

"Perhaps it has been buried for ten years," she said in a whisper. "Perhaps it is the key to the garden!"

She looked at the key quite a long time. She turned it over and over, and thought about it. All she thought about the key was that if it was the key to the closed garden, and she could find out where the door was, she could perhaps open it and see what was inside the walls, and what had happened to the old rose-trees.


Mary skipped round all the gardens and round the orchard, resting every few minutes. She stopped with a little laugh of pleasure, and there, lo and behold, was the robin swaying on a long branch of ivy. He had followed her and he greeted her with a chirp. As Mary had skipped toward him she felt something heavy in her pocket strike against her at each jump, and when she saw the robin she laughed again.


"You showed me where the key was yesterday," she said. "You ought to show me the door today; but I don't believe you know!"

The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it.



One of the nice little gusts of wind rushed down the walk, and it was a stronger one than the rest. It was strong enough to wave the branches of the trees, and it was more than strong enough to sway the trailing sprays of untrimmed ivy hanging from the wall. Mary had stepped close to the robin, and suddenly the gust of wind swung aside some loose ivy trails, and more suddenly still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand. This she did because she had seen something under it—a round knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it. It was the knob of a door.



She put her hands under the leaves and began to pull and push them aside. Thick as the ivy hung, it nearly all was a loose and swinging curtain, though some had crept over wood and iron. Mary's heart began to thump and her hands to shake a little in her delight and excitement. The robin kept singing and twittering away and tilting his head on one side, as if he were as excited as she was. What was this under her hands which was square and made of iron and which her fingers found a hole in?



And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if any one was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly—slowly.



Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.

She was standing inside the secret garden.



It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together. Mary Lennox knew they were roses because she had seen a great many roses in India. All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rosebushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees.



There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves. There were neither leaves nor roses on them now and Mary did not know whether they were dead or alive, but their thin gray or brown branches and sprays looked like a sort of hazy mantle spreading over everything, walls, and trees, and even brown grass, where they had fallen from their fastenings and run along the ground. It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious. Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long; and indeed it was different from any other place she had ever seen in her life.


Mary thought that perhaps the sun held back a few minutes just on purpose. Ben Weatherstaff brought the rose in its pot from the greenhouse. He hobbled over the grass as fast as he could. He had begun to be excited, too. He knelt down by the hole and broke the pot from the mould.

"Here, lad," he said, handing the plant to Colin. "Set it in the earth thysel' same as th' king does when he goes to a new place."

The thin white hands shook a little and Colin's flush grew deeper as he set the rose in the mould and held it while old Ben made firm the earth. It was filled in and pressed down and made steady. Mary was leaning forward on her hands and knees. Soot had flown down and marched forward to see what was being done. Nut and Shell chattered about it from a cherry-tree.

"It's planted!" said Colin at last. "And the sun is only slipping over the edge. Help me up, Dickon. I want to be standing when it goes. That's part of the Magic."


And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles. In the robin's nest there were Eggs and the robin's mate sat upon them keeping them warm with her feathery little breast and careful wings.



The place was a wilderness of autumn gold and purple and violet blue and flaming scarlet and on every side were sheaves of late lilies standing together—lilies which were white or white and ruby. He remembered well when the first of them had been planted that just at this season of the year their late glories should reveal themselves.



Late roses climbed and hung and clustered and the sunshine deepening the hue of the yellowing trees made one feel that one, stood in an embowered temple of gold. The newcomer stood silent just as the children had done when they came into its grayness.



"I thought it would be dead," he said.

"Mary thought so at first," said Colin. "But it came alive."



Then they sat down under their tree—all but Colin, who wanted to stand while he told the story.

It was the strangest thing he had ever heard, Archibald Craven thought, as it was poured forth in headlong boy fashion. Mystery and Magic and wild creatures, the weird midnight meeting—the coming of the spring—the passion of insulted pride which had dragged the young Rajah to his feet to defy old Ben Weatherstaff to his face.



The odd companionship, the play acting, the great secret so carefully kept. The listener laughed until tears came into his eyes and sometimes tears came into his eyes when he was not laughing. The Athlete, the Lecturer, the Scientific Discoverer was a laughable, lovable, healthy young human thing.

Swoon! Thanks to Frances Hodgson Burnett's exquisite tale, myself and millions of others have grown up with the dream (and fervent hope) that some day, somewhere, we'll find our own magical place. What would your Secret Garden look like?


[Excerpts of The Secret Garden via Project Gutenberg.
Images via moi, Nishe, WeHeartIt, yyellowbird, Tea for Two, Lolitas, kayceeus, Lolitas again, Tenteri, tiger lily and tiny teeth, more WeHeartIt, thenesmiths, i.anton, incredi, IrenaS and Thumbelina]

13 comments:

Belle said...

I just adored the secret garden when I was younger.
I used to be in love with Dickon! haha

It is so nice that you can enjoy the memory of watching it with Tina!

Have a lovely day darling xx

loupita said...

Great post and very pretty pictures. :)

Evy said...

Thank you for the excerpt! I seem to recall reading the book, but I really can't say for sure if I did or not... isn't that weird? I'll have to dig through my library and see!

The photos you put up are beautiful! Thank you so much.

Vanya @ Endless Inspiration said...

divine, Divine, DIVINE!!!

Chantal said...

It's realy beautiful. :-)

Char said...

I love that book, it's one of my most favorite from childhood.

My name is Erin. said...

It is one of my most favorite stories! Thank you for the brief retelling. We just bought our first home and I'm absolutely inspired to create my own Secret Garden.

Thank you!

jonas wunderman said...

That was a wonderful post ... loved all the images too. Thanks!

diamondsinchampagne said...

Omg what magical photos. They are so dream like, makes me want to be right there.
LOVE the one with the robins, so gorgeous!

Alchemy Diva said...

What a wonderful pictorial depiction of a lovely story. I see my secret garden now.

The King Family said...

wow
the world
is full of
wonder

Mrs.French said...

so gorgeous I can barely stand it...wow...xo t

Beatriz Kim said...

Oh...There's tears in my eyes! It's the first book my mom ever bought me. It's also the first novel I read in English (learned English when I was 8). It took me a long time to read it, but I was riveted. Between the lovely pics and and the excerpt...I feel nostalgic. Aah!