Chapter one: Mary comes to England
Mary Lennox was born in India. When she was nine years old, her mother and father died of cholera. Mary did not miss her mother very much when she was gone. She had not seen or spoken to her very much when she was alive.
Mary’s mother had not wanted a child at all. She had been very beautiful, and she had only been interested in going to parties and meeting people. Mary’s father was always busy with his work, too. So when Mary was born, a servant looked after her. Her mother told the servant to make sure that Mary did not cry or make too much noise. So the servant always gave Mary whatever she asked for and Mary quickly became a very difficult and selfish little girl.
Mary was a plain-looking child, too. She had a thin little face and body, and she always looked cross.
Because Mary was such a selfish little girl, she only really thought about herself. She wanted to know who would look after her now that her parents had died. She hoped they would let her do what she wanted.
At first, Mary went to stay with a family called the Crawfords, in India. But Mary was so disagreeable that none of the Crawford children wanted to play with her. After she had been there for a week, one of the Crawfords’ little boys told her that she was going to go back to England.
‘You are going to live with your uncle,’ the boy said. ‘He lives in a great big old house in the country. He’s so cross, he won’t let people come and see him. And no one would want to see him anyway. He’s a hunchback, and he’s horrible.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ said Mary, and she turned her back and put her fingers in her ears.
But that night, Mrs Crawford told her that she would sail to England in a few days’ time. She said that Mary would live with her uncle, Mr Archibald Craven, at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire.
‘Mary is such a
plain child – and so disagreeable,’ said Mrs Crawford afterwards. ‘And yet her mother was so pretty, and so delightful. Perhaps if Mary’s mother had spent a little more time with her, she might have learned to be delightful too. But most people didn’t even know that she had a child.’
When Mary arrived in England, she was met in London by Mr Craven’s housekeeper, Mrs Medlock. Mrs Medlock took Mary up to Yorkshire by train. Mrs Medlock was a large woman, with very red cheeks and sharp black eyes. She was not a very patient woman, and she was not interested in young children.
Mary did not like Mrs Medlock at all. In the train, she sat as far as possible from her, looking bored and unhappy. Her black dress made her look more yellow than ever, and her hair hung down messily underneath her hat.
‘I’ve never seen such a spoilt-looking child in my life,’ Mrs Medlock thought
After a while, the housekeeper began to talk to Mary in a hard, sharp voice.
‘I suppose I had better tell you something about where you are going to,’ she said. She waited for Mary to reply, but Mary said nothing at all. ‘It’s a very strange place,’ Mrs Medlock went on. ‘It’s big and grand, of course, but very gloomy. The house is six hundred years old, and it’s on the edge of the moor. There are nearly a hundred rooms, with pictures and beautiful old furniture, but most of them are shut up and locked. There’s a big park around the house, with gardens and big trees. But there’s nothing else,’ she ended suddenly.
Mary had begun to listen. It all sounded very different from India, and she liked new things. But she tried to look as if she wasn’t interested.