Study Guide

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden Summary

Honestly, The Secret Garden has such a straightforward plot that we can almost sum it up as follows: Girl loses parents, girl finds friends, girl finds garden, boy joins girl in garden, boy learns to walk on his own, the end. Actually, that isn't quite as straightforward as we thought; let us explain in a bit more detail.

Mary Lennox is a nine-year-old British girl growing up in colonial India in the care of a sequence of nannies. Since her father is an officer in the British army and her mom is super-busy with the vital business of dinner parties and nice clothes, Mary barely knows her own parents. And since she spends all of her time alone, she's selfish, demanding, and self-absorbed. Her parents die suddenly of cholera, leaving her in the care of her mother's brother, Archibald Craven.

Mary's uncle doesn't care much about her, so he brings her to his huge mansion in England, Misselthwaite Manor, and basically leaves her there, more or less on her own. Mary's maid Martha is a cheerful Yorkshire woman who won't stand for Mary's spoiled tantrums and fits. She tells Mary all about two things that change Mary's life: (1) There is a walled garden on the grounds that has been sealed off since the death of Archibald Craven's wife ten years before; and (2) Martha has a little brother named Dickon who loves gardening and wild things.

Of course, Mary discovers the walled garden (since the title of this book is The Secret Garden). With the help of a local robin (this isn't Mary Poppins, so the robin doesn't actually talk, but it's smarter than your average bird), Mary stumbles on the long-lost key to the garden and opens it up.

With the kindly help of nature-smart Dickon, Mary begins secretly working in the garden to bring its many roses back to life. The exercise and outdoor time improves both her physical and her mental health, and Mary stops being quite so much the spoiled princess that she was at the beginning of the novel.

Ever since she first arrived at Misselthwaite Manor, Mary has been hearing the sound of a crying child late at night. She finally discovers the secret of the Manor (well, besides the Secret Garden) one night: Archibald Craven has a son. The boy, Colin, is even more sheltered and spoiled than Mary. He's been told his whole life that he is sickly, so he believes it—even though there is actually nothing physically wrong with him. Since he gets so little exercise and he spends so much time about his own (imaginary) illnesses, he has a rotten temper and horrible manners.

Now that Mary is around to give Colin some straight talk about his bullying behavior and his needless self-pity, though, he begins to grow out of his selfishness. The two of them (again, with the help of Dickon and his green thumb) decide to work in the Secret Garden together. Colin decides that he is going to make himself better so that when his father arrives back in England, Colin can surprise Archibald with his transformation.

But wait… You may ask: Why does Colin's father spend so little time at home with Colin? There are two important details to this tragedy that you have to know: (1) Archibald has a deformed spine, which has had a huge emotional effect on him; and (2) he was deeply in love with his wife Lilias. Lilias was pregnant with Colin when she fell from a tree in the walled garden, went into labor, and died. That's when the walled garden becomes the Secret Garden: Archibald ordered it sealed up, since Lilias was horribly injured there.

Colin survived this terrible start in life, but Archibald can't stand to look at him. Archibald hates that Colin is all he has left of Lilias, and he also worries that Colin is going to deal with the same physical difficulties with which Archibald struggles. So Archibald has spent most of Colin's life traveling in Europe and leaving Colin in the care of his doctor and housekeeper. It's only with the help of Mary and Dickon that Colin begins to imagine that he might survive, and even thrive, despite his mother's untimely death.

As Colin begins to think less and less about himself and more and more about the Secret Garden and the natural world around him, he realizes that he is not going to die. Colin resolves to spend his life exploring the wonders of Nature. With the strength he gets from this new appreciation for life, Colin slowly learns to walk on his own two feet.

Meanwhile, as Colin's health (and behavior) improves, Archibald has a strange dream in which his deceased wife tells him to go back to the garden. Archibald rushes back home to Misselthwaite Manor at once, only to find that his son has grown into a fine, sturdy young man whom Archibald barely recognizes. As Colin shows his father around the reborn Secret Garden, father and son begin to build a relationship they've never been able to have before.

  • Chapter 1

    "There Is No One Left"

    • The narrator seems to hate Mary Lennox, our main character.
    • Apparently, she is ugly, constantly sick, spoiled, selfish, and generally a monster to be around.
    • But it's not all Mary's fault: Her mother is a selfish woman who mostly ignores Mary, and her father is busy with Important Government Biznez all the time.
    • Basically, Mary has the worst kind of upbringing you can have as a kid without actual violence: She gets everything she needs physically but nothing at all that she needs emotionally.
    • One morning, when Mary is nine, she wakes up to see that her Ayah—her Indian nanny—is not there.
    • Mary spots her mother talking in a low voice to a man outside.
    • They are talking about something "very bad" (1.8) that should have sent them to the "hills two weeks ago" (1.9).
    • Mrs. Lennox seems frightened and helpless.
    • It turns out that the horrible disease cholera has broken out nearby, and lots of people are dying from it.
    • Everyone in the neighborhood is panicking, and nobody has time to check in on Mary while they are dealing with this sickness.
    • Mary sips at some wine left over on the dinner table and falls into a deep sleep.
    • When she wakes up, the house is empty.
    • Two men come walking in, commenting that it's sad that "that pretty, pretty woman" (1.23) (Mrs. Lennox) should have died. (So—they think her death would have been less sad if she had been less pretty? Jerks.)
    • They are totally surprised to see Mary standing on her own in the middle of this abandoned house.
    • Both Mary's father and mother have died of cholera without Mary even knowing it.
  • Chapter 2

    "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary"

    • Mary is a cold-hearted little brat: She doesn't really miss her dead mother, because she barely knew her.
    • She hates the temporary family she's staying with because there are lots of other kids and they won't let her have her own way all the time.
    • In fact, one of them comes up with a nickname for her from a famous English nursery rhyme: "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" (2.6).
    • Mary sails over from India to London to live with her strange uncle Archibald Craven.
    • Archibald Craven's housekeeper Mrs. Medlock doesn't exactly fall for Mary at first sight, either: she calls her "a plain piece of goods" (2.19).
    • Mrs. Medlock explains that Archibald Craven lives in Misselthwaite Manor, a huge old place in the bleak Yorkshire countryside with over a hundred rooms, most of them locked.
    • There isn't much else around.
    • Archibald Craven also has a deformed back, which made his life pretty miserable until he met the right woman.
    • He got married and lived happily until his wife died, leaving him an isolated, lonely man.
    • He refuses to see people or to leave his house.
    • All of this news—weird hermit uncle; giant, mostly empty house; gloomy, marshy countryside—does not leave Mary with a lot of confidence in her new home.
  • Chapter 3

    "Across the Moor"

    • And as Mary and Mrs. Medlock get closer to Misselthwaite Manor, things definitely don't get more hopeful.
    • It's all rainy and gloomy—not exactly the most cheerful start to Mary's new life in Yorkshire.
    • As they drive in a horse-drawn carriage, they go past a large, barren patch of ground without any trees or anything. It's a moor.
    • Mary takes one look at this big, empty, bleak stretch of land and decides, "I don't like it" (3.20).
    • Approaching the large, low, dark house that will be Mary's new home, Mary only sees one light lit upstairs.
    • A big set of doors leads to an enormous hall.
    • A thin old man named Mr. Pitcher talks to Mrs. Medlock like Mary isn't even there.
    • Mr. Pitcher tells Mrs. Medlock that it's her job to "make sure that he's not disturbed and that he doesn't see what he doesn't want to see" (3.30).
    • We don't know who this "he" is yet, but one thing's pretty clear: "He" doesn't want to see Misstress Mary Quite Contrary any time soon.
  • Chapter 4


    • Mary wakes up to find a housemaid making a fire in her fireplace.
    • Mary has never met a servant like Martha—she's so friendly and so not scared by Mary's bad temper.
    • Mary is shocked to learn that, at nine years old, Martha expects Mary to get dressed on her own.
    • Martha helps get Mary dressed (even though she obviously thinks Mary is an idiot for being unable to put on her own shoes).
    • Martha chats to Mary about her family: She's one of twelve brothers and sisters, and her family is so poor that they have trouble feeding everybody.
    • One of her brothers, Dickon, is twelve (so, not that far off from Mary's age).
    • When Martha suggests that Mary go off and play on her own in the moors, Mary is like, um, no. It's gloomy, damp, and there's nothing to do.
    • But then when she hears that Dickon might be out there she decides to go out after all.
    • Martha also suggests that Mary keep her eyes open for the locked, walled garden.
    • Apparently, it used to belong to Mr. Craven's wife, but when she died, Mr. Craven had the garden locked up.
    • As Mary walks through the grounds and gardens of Misselthwaite Manor, she finds a wall so covered in ivy that it doesn't seem to have a door at all.
    • As she goes looking for a door through the ivy, Mary meets an old man gardening.
    • Even though he is not the friendliest guy in the world, Mary takes to him—it's nice to have another human being around. Mary may be a grouch, but she is still a human being who likes company.
    • As they are talking, the gardener smiles and calls a robin over to him.
    • Mary tells the robin that she is lonely, and the gardener seems to feel sudden sympathy for her. He introduces himself as Ben.
    • Ben gives Mary some frank, straight talk: "Tha' an' me are a good bit alike […] We're neither of us good lookin' an' we're both of us as sour as we look. We've got the same nasty tempers, both of us, I'll warrant" (4.132).
    • (In other words, we're both bad-looking and bad-tempered, so let's be sort-of-friends.)
    • Mary wonders, for the first time ever, if she actually is nasty-tempered. (Short answer: yes.)
    • Ben warns her not to go looking for the entrance to the locked garden.
  • Chapter 5

    "The Cry in the Corridor"

    • Every day of Mary's life is the same: wake up, get bored inside, go outside, run around. Wash, rinse, repeat.
    • All of this outdoorsy stuff makes her appetite better, so her health seems to be improving.
    • She goes looking around all the gardens, but she keeps going back to the wall covered in thick ivy that doesn't seem to have a door.
    • As she looks up at the ivy one day, she hears a chirp from Ben's robin.
    • This isn't a Chronicles-of-Narnia-style talking robin, but it still seems to have something to say to Mary.
    • The robin chirps at her and she runs after him all along the wall, until she realizes that it's the enclosed garden Mr. Craven had locked up. The robin must live inside the garden.
    • Mary asks Martha about why Mr. Craven hates the walled garden so much.
    • Martha tells her the (actually really tragic) backstory: Mr. Craven and his wife used to garden there together.
    • Mrs. Craven had a favorite old tree with a bent branch where she liked to sit and read, but one day, the branch broke, and she fell and died of her injuries.
    • So Mr. Craven, mad with grief, had the garden sealed off in her memory.
    • As Mary sits thinking this story over, she hears a sound over the wind.
    • It sounds like somebody's crying somewhere in the house—a child.
    • Martha insists that it's no one—or if it is someone, it's the maid Betty Butterworth.
    • Martha's not exactly a great liar, and it's clear Mary isn't satisfied by this answer.
  • Chapter 6

    "There Was Some One Crying—There Was!"

    • It's pouring down rain, and Mary has nothing to do.
    • Martha suggests reading—oh, but Mrs. Medlock won't want Mary in the library.
    • Mary doesn't really understand about things like authority and not doing what you're not supposed to, so she goes wandering in the giant Misselthwaite Manor on her own in spite of being forbidden.
    • She finds portraits of people in many different types of clothing.
    • There are rooms filled with strange collections of things, which she plays with for a bit.
    • Mary finds a tiny family of six baby mice, but she doesn't want to frighten them.
    • And at last, she hears that crying voice from the night before.
    • It's quite nearby. (The plot thickens…)
    • Mrs. Medlock finds Mary, yanks her away from the passage, and threatens to hit her if she doesn't stay put in her nursery.
    • Mrs. Medlock thinks it's high time that Mary had a governess (which is an old-fashioned kind of private tutor for young children) to keep an eye on her.
  • Chapter 7

    "The Key of the Garden"

    • The next morning after the rainstorm, the whole moor has changed: The sky is bright and blue, the sun is shining, and the moor looks softer than before. Spring is coming.
    • Mary decides that she wants to visit Martha's cottage someday, to meet her mother and her brother Dickon.
    • Even so, Mary is sure that Dickon won't like her—after all, no one does. (Wow, Mary is getting kind of emo here.)
    • Martha asks Mary if she likes herself, and Mary agrees that she doesn't like herself at all.
    • Mary goes out to find Ben Weatherstaff working.
    • He says that the spring flowers will soon be blooming.
    • Mary sees the robin and decides to follow it.
    • The robin leads her to a hole in the ground where some dog has been digging.
    • In the hole is an old keyring—and Mary realizes that it might be the key to the locked garden.
  • Chapter 8

    "The Robin Who Showed the Way"

    • The Secret Garden sometimes reads like a PSA for fresh air and exercise: The more time Mary spends outside, the better she feels about life in general.
    • The next morning, Martha comes back from a visit with her family.
    • Martha has a present for Mary from her mother: a jump rope, so she'll have something to play with.
    • Mary isn't very strong, so she can't skip for long, but she likes her new toy.
    • Mary takes her new jump rope out to the garden to show Ben Weatherstaff how much she can skip.
    • He's impressed to see Mary acting like a kid instead of a sour old woman.
    • As Mary is skipping about, she sees the robin again, and a gust of wind exposes the hidden knob of a door in the ivy-covered wall.
    • Mary puts the key in the door and turns the knob.
    • She opens the door to the secret garden. (Hey there, major plot point.)
  • Chapter 9

    "The Strangest House Any One Ever Lived In"

    • Even though it's still winter, Mary can see that the secret garden is full of all kinds of roses: climbing roses, rose bushes, more roses than you can shake a stick at.
    • Mary has the creepy thought that she is the first person to speak inside the garden in ten years.
    • Even though everything is overgrown, Mary sees little green shoots poking up here and there; she starts clearing away the dead leaves from these new shoots.
    • Mary is actually enjoying herself, for once—and smiling the whole time. (Probably for the first time in her life.)
    • As Mary is chatting with Martha over dinner, she has a brilliant idea: Martha's brother Dickon is great with living things.
    • And Mary has this secret garden she wants to bring back to life.
    • So maybe Dickon can help her with the garden (as long as he won't tell anyone).
    • Martha (who still doesn't know about Mary's great secret) offers to send Dickon a letter asking him to buy gardening tools and seeds and whatever he needs to help Mary do some gardening.
    • Dickon will walk over to Misselthwaite Manor himself to make the delivery.
    • Martha's mother has also invited Mary to come over to their cottage for tea.
    • Mary is thrilled that she is finally going to meet new people.
    • As Mary as drowsing off, she asks Martha about the crying—she heard a crying voice again that day.
    • Martha dodges the question.
  • Chapter 10


    • Mary spends as much time as she can in the Secret Garden clearing away old, dead sticks.
    • She also chats often with Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener.
    • Ben seems flattered that Mary actually wants to listen to what a crusty old guy has to say.
    • She starts asking Ben about roses: If you have a rose that's been left on its own for years and years, will it come back? (Answer: Yep, once the weather gets warm.)
    • As Mary is walking, she sees a boy playing a pipe. There are two rabbits at his feet and a squirrel watching him—clearly, this is Dickon the strange Nature Boy.
    • He's brought Mary's garden tools and a few flower seeds.
    • When Dickon hears the robin calling, he translates to Mary: "he's callin' some one he's friends with" (9.75). Dickon continues, "he likes thee. He's took thee on. He'll tell me all about thee in a minute" (9.77).
    • Now, most people would be just a bit surprised to find out that Dickon can apparently talk to animals, but Mary's used to the idea of snake charmers from India, so this doesn't seem that weird to her.
    • Dickon offers to help Mary plant her garden.
    • Mary immediately gets weird—she doesn't know if she wants to reveal her secret—but finally, she's got no choice, so she brings Dickon into the Secret Garden. Dickon describes it as "a queer, pretty place! It's like as if a body was in a dream" (10.109).
  • Chapter 11

    "The Nest of the Missel Thrush"

    • Dickon knows about the existence of the Secret Garden, of course—Martha told him about it, the same way she told Mary back in Chapter 5. But he never thought he'd see inside.
    • Dickon says there is a lot of dead wood that needs to be cut away, but the strongest roses have kept growing all along.
    • Weirdly, Dickon notices that there are some signs that someone has been cleaning it up in the last ten years—not regularly, but now and again. So there is still a mystery about the Secret Garden.
    • Mary confesses to Dickon about the kids who called her Mistress Mary Quite Contrary back in India, but Dickon promises that he "likes [Mary] wonderful, an' so does the robin" (11.78). Aw.
    • So now Mary has two whole people who like her (which is a much better figure than her previous zero).
    • Mary makes Dickon promise he won't tell about the Secret Garden, and Dickon swears that he'll keep her secret safe.
  • Chapter 12

    "Might I Have a Bit of Earth?"

    • When Mary arrives at lunch, she tells Martha that Dickon is "beautiful" (12.5).
    • Martha is a bit surprised since, gosh, she loves him, he's her kid brother—but he's a bit funny-looking.
    • Mary's like, nope, he's perfect, and she is so happy to have met him.
    • Martha has some news for Mary: Mr. Craven is home briefly, and he wants to meet Mary.
    • Mrs. Medlock arrives to bring Mary to Mr. Craven.
    • The biggest thing Mary notices about Mr. Craven is that he has a deeply unhappy face. He's not ugly, but his face is just miserable.
    • Mr. Craven agrees with Mrs. Sowerby (Martha's mother) that Mary needs to build up her strength before she starts school with a governess.
    • Mr. Craven asks if Mary wants anything—books? Toys?
    • All Mary wants is a bit of earth where she can grow things. (She doesn't specify that she already knows exactly where this bit of earth is going to be—Mr. Craven doesn't need to know the details.)
    • Mr. Craven says that there was once someone he really loved who also liked to make plants grow, so he gives Mary permission to take some land and grow things in it.
    • Mary runs down to the Secret Garden to find Dickon with the good news.
    • He's gone, but he leaves a note with a drawing of a missel thrush and a promise to come back.
    • Mary understands what Dickon means: He's going to keep her garden a secret, the same way he would keep a bird's nest safe by keeping it a secret.
  • Chapter 13

    "I Am Colin"

    • Mary wakes up excited to start another day of gardening—only to find that it's the middle of the night, and the rain is so loud that it woke her up.
    • Mary sulks. How dare the weather turn bad when she finally has something to look forward to?
    • But obviously, if you're living in a house with over a hundred rooms, there is probably something to look at.
    • She hears that quiet crying sound again, and she decides to go find it, even though it's late at night.
    • She turns down a number of passages and finds a big room with a low fire and expensive furniture.
    • There is a boy lying in bed, looking tired and annoyed. His name is Colin.
    • There's a lot of confusion between Colin and Mary: Are they both sure that the other isn't a ghost? How is it possible that they can both be real? Two unknown, lonely children in the same house? What's going on here?
    • It turns out that Colin is Mr. Craven's son.
    • Colin was born when Mrs. Craven died, and Mr. Craven can't stand to look at him because he reminds Mr. Craven too much of his beloved dead wife.
    • Mr. Craven is also worried that Colin is doomed to be "a hunchback" (13.42) since Mr. Craven's shoulders are crooked, and that Colin is too sickly to live to adulthood.
    • So Colin spends most (or all, in fact) of his time inside his giant mansion being fussed over.
    • All of the servants have to do exactly what he tells them, or he'll throw the most over-the-top tantrums. (This sounds a lot like pre-garden Mistress Mary Quite Contrary…)
    • But he doesn't really enjoy any of his hissy fits—in fact, he doesn't enjoy anything.
    • Colin admits that some great doctor said he would be fine if he got out more in the fresh air and was less spoiled.
    • But Colin hates going outside, so that's the end of that.
    • Mary tells Colin about the Secret Garden (which she pretends is just a story—Mary is about as secretive as they come) and Colin seems interested at last. Colin decides that he would be willing to give fresh air a try if it's in the Secret Garden.
    • Colin shows Mary a portrait hanging behind a curtain.
    • It's of a beautiful woman who looks a lot like Colin. In fact, it's Colin's mother.
    • Colin had the portrait covered because he's mad at her for dying and leaving him alone.
    • Mary promises to come back to talk to Colin, and to tell him if she finds the Secret Garden
    • Colin asks Mary to stay while he falls asleep, and she sings him a lullaby her Ayah used to sing to her.
  • Chapter 14

    "A Young Rajah"

    • The next day, Mary tells Martha that she has seen the secret of Misselthwaite Manor: Colin Craven.
    • Martha freaks out: She thinks she'll lose her job, or that Colin will throw a fit now that a stranger has seen him.
    • Mary promises Martha that it's okay. Colin likes her, after all.
    • A bell rings summoning Martha, who comes back to bring Mary to Colin.
    • Colin behaves toward Martha like some young king or lord or something; Mary compares him to a "Rajah," which is a Sanskrit term for a prince. (We have a slightly more direct way of saying it: He's a spoiled jerk).
    • Watching his bratty behavior, Mary tells Colin he is nothing at all like Dickon (which is about the worst insult possible in Mary's world).
    • (Of course, it's also true, since Dickon likes to crawl around with foxes and rabbits and things, and Colin never leaves his room.)
    • As Mary and Colin sit together, Mrs. Medlock and Colin's doctor, Dr. Craven, come in.
    • Dr. Craven thinks that Mary is exciting Colin too much, and that Colin should basically just lie there and think about being sick.
    • Colin thinks that's stupid—Mary helps him forget about being sick, which is why he wants her there.
  • Chapter 15

    "Nest Building"

    • As the rain goes on for a week and she doesn't really have any other options, Mary spends hours a day bonding with Colin.
    • Colin hates having people look at him, because whenever they do, he knows what they're thinking: that he's going to die.
    • Still, he thinks that he could stand to meet Dickon.
    • The next morning, Mary gets up at dawn to find that it is spring.
    • The weather is warm, and the moor is covered with green shoots, so she throws on her clothes and runs down to the Secret Garden, only to find that Dickon has already beaten her there.
    • Dickon introduces her to a tame fox cub named Captain and a rook (a kind of crow) named Soot, who sits on Dickon's shoulder.
    • The Secret Garden has clumps of blooming spring crocuses, and everything seems filled with joy and life.
    • Even the robin is busy building a nest.
    • Mary tells Dickon all about Colin. It turns out that Dickon already knows that Colin exists, but he's never seen him.
    • Dickon thinks that Colin's problem is that he spends all of his time cooped up worrying.
    • If Colin were outside watching the Secret Garden grow, he'd be too distracted by the surprises of nature to fret so much about himself. (Hello, moral of the story—so nice to see you.)
  • Chapter 16

    "I Won't! Said Mary

    • Colin throws a fit when Mary spends both the morning and the afternoon away from him. (Um, is it just us, or is Colin verging on creepy-possessive territory here?)
    • When Mary gets back to the Manor, she's all excited to tell Colin about the fox cub and Dickon and everything, but when she sees what a brat he's being, she immediately gets angry.
    • Colin complains that his back and head are aching and Mary didn't visit, and then he accuses Dickon of being selfish by keeping Mary away from him.
    • Colin says he's not selfish because he's sick and he's going to be a hunchback and he's going to die—so there.
    • Mary yells that it's all a lie, that he just uses all of these worries to bully people into doing what he wants.
    • Mary stomps off in a rage, swearing she'll never come back.
    • She finds Colin's nurse laughing herself sick at the whole scene.
    • The nurse, for the record, thinks that most of Colin's trouble is that no one stands up to him when he's hysterical.
    • When Mary gets back to her rooms, she finds that Mr. Craven has sent her a bunch of picture books about gardening.
    • She starts to soften toward Colin. Mary realizes that he often acts up like he does because he is really, honestly fearful that his back is going to grow wrong. And the more time he spends alone with his fear, the worse it gets.
  • Chapter 17

    "A Tantrum"

    • It's the middle of the night, and Mary hears horrible noises, like someone crying and screaming at the same time.
    • It's Colin, and if his hissy fits have been bad before now, he's in the middle of a real doozy this time.
    • Colin's tantrum is so bad that his nurse comes running to find Mary.
    • The nurse is worried that he'll hurt himself if he won't stop.
    • Mary is annoyed at all of this terrible fuss, especially since she doesn't exactly know what to do.
    • She's angry at Colin for being so out of control, so she marches right over and gives him a piece of her mind.
    • She warns Colin that if he keeps screaming, she'll scream louder.
    • She demands that he turn over and show his back, and she'll prove that he's fine—just a crybaby.
    • And indeed, Colin's back is perfectly straight, if a bit thin and nobbly.
    • Colin is comforted by Mary's no-nonsense manner.
    • This terrible, secret fear he's had all of this time—that his back isn't growing straight, just like his father's—turns out to be totally untrue.
    • (Our heart goes out to the poor kid on this one—how awful that no one actually bothered to tell him he's okay.)
    • The nurse confirms that his back is fine, and that he will live to grow up if he gets some fresh air and controls his temper.
    • Colin is so weak from relief that he is ready to go right to sleep.
    • Mary offers to stay and sing to him the nursery song she sang before, so the nurse goes off to bed, and Mary sits with Colin telling him all of the things she thinks they would find if they opened the door to the Secret Garden.
    • (That Mary is a tough nut to crack—even now, after poor Colin's meltdown, she still doesn't tell him that she's been inside the Secret Garden.)
  • Chapter 18

    "Tha' Munnot Waste No Time"

    • The next morning, Mary tells Colin that she's going to meet Dickon and that, "it's something about the garden" (18.7).
    • Colin is so glad to hear it that he's willing to wait patiently until she comes back.
    • Dickon brings his fox, his rook, and two new animal friends: tame squirrels named Nut and Shell. (Dickon isn't exactly great with names, but anyone who can get squirrels to live quietly in their pockets probably deserves a pass for lack of creativity in naming.)
    • Back at the Manor, Mary tells Colin all about Dickon, his tame animals, and his moor horse named Jump.
    • Colin tells Mary that he wants to see Dickon—a huge personal breakthrough, since, of course, Colin hates everybody.
    • Mary promises Colin that Dickon will come the next day, with all his animals.
    • And Mary finally brings Colin in on the secret: They have found the door to the walled garden and seen inside.
    • Colin is overjoyed: He will live to see the inside of the Secret Garden.
  • Chapter 19

    "It Has Come"

    • Dr. Craven arrives the morning after Colin's tantrum to check in on him—to make sure that he hasn't simply exploded in rage during the night, we guess.
    • Mrs. Medlock tells Dr. Craven he won't believe it: That unpleasant little girl (Mary) has shaken Colin right out of his tantrum. He's fine now.
    • When Dr. Craven gets to Colin's room, he sees Colin happily chatting with Mary about flowers for the garden.
    • Remember how we said that Dr. Craven is Mr. Craven's cousin? He's actually a little disappointed to hear that Colin's health is better, since he is next in line to inherit Misselthwaite Manor if Colin dies.
    • Still, Dr. Craven isn't a bad guy, and he doesn't want to hurt Colin actively (even if he wouldn't mind if Colin died off on his own).
    • He's impressed that Colin hasn't needed any medicine that day.
    • The next morning, Mary comes running in to Colin's room to say that spring has officially sprung.
    • And Dickon's on his way, with his squirrels and his rook and his fox and a newborn lamb he's raising since its mother died.
    • Dickon shows Colin how he feeds his baby lamb out of a bottle.
    • Colin is thrilled that he is going to see the Secret Garden in person at last.
  • Chapter 20

    "I Shall Live Forever—And Ever—And Ever"

    • Colin, Dickon, and Mary can't just go to the Secret Garden without any preparation—first, the weather's too cold, and then they need to prepare a wheelchair for Colin.
    • During this delay, Colin gets really into the idea of keeping the Secret Garden, well, secret. Clearly, the mystery is part of the garden's fascination for him.
    • So Colin demands that the head gardener, Mr. Roach, come to his rooms.
    • Mr. Roach has never actually met Colin, but he's surprised to find "the young Rajah" (20.15)—in other words, the holy terror who has been bossing around the household since birth—sitting feeding a baby lamb with a bottle. (Dickon is visiting, of course.)
    • Colin orders Mr. Roach to keep the gardeners away from the Long Walk by the garden walls when Colin is out there in his wheelchair.
    • As Colin waits for afternoon to come, he realizes that he has never been outside to see springtime before.
    • The nurse gets Colin ready to go outside, and he seems eager and happy—another big change from his earlier habits.
    • Outside, Dickon pushes Colin's wheelchair as he takes breaths of fresh air and stares out at the moor.
    • Mary tells the step-by-step story of how the robin showed her the key and the hidden door to the garden.
    • Dickon pushes Colin into the Secret Garden and he sees its green beauty.
    • And Colin exclaims: "I shall get well! I shall get well!" (20.71)
  • Chapter 21

    "Ben Weatherstaff"

    • That afternoon, the weather is so perfect and Colin is so happy that he feels as though everything in the world was just made for him.
    • The sky is blue, the fruit trees are flowering—basically, everything is beautiful and amazing in the Secret Garden.
    • Colin notices a very old tree with a broken branch in one corner; he wonders aloud how the branch might have broken.
    • (If you remember Martha's story in Chapter 5, that's the branch that broke and killed Colin's mom.)
    • The robin appears and starts singing, distracting Colin from this line of questioning just in time.
    • Needless to say, Mary and Dickon are relieved not to have to explain.
    • As the sun is getting lower, Colin suddenly looks up and asks, "Who is that man?" (21.52).
    • Mary and Dickon look up to see Ben Weatherstaff on top of a ladder, looking over the garden wall.
    • Ben shakes his fist at Mary and yells at her, saying that she has no business being in there.
    • Dickon wheels Colin's chair over to Ben so Colin can have his say.
    • Colin asks if Ben realizes who he is.
    • Ben sees Colin's resemblance to his tragically deceased mom, but he calls Colin "th'poor cripple" (21.73).
    • Colin is so offended at Ben's assumption that his back and legs are crooked that he finally stands up on his own.
    • Colin's legs are thin and weak because he has never used them, but there is nothing really wrong with him except fear.
    • Now Colin has the confidence to tell Ben to leave them alone with their Secret Garden.
    • For his part, Ben is quite overcome with emotion by the sight of Colin standing tall on his own.
  • Chapter 22

    "When the Sun Went Down"

    • As Mary goes off to bring Ben into the garden, Colin practices walking.
    • Colin meets Ben standing on his own two feet.
    • Ben admits that there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Colin—he's certainly not at death's door.
    • Ben seems fond of Colin when he asks what Colin's orders are.
    • In fact, Ben has also been taking care of the Secret Garden.
    • Sure, Mr. Craven may have ordered the garden sealed off, but even so, Ben had been fond of Mrs. Craven, and she made him promise to take care of her roses if ever she couldn't.
    • So he's been using his trusty ladder to climb over the wall a couple of times a year to do a bit of pruning (except the last two years, when his health hasn't been good enough).
    • Colin is glad that Ben has been helping—and that he can keep a secret, since Colin still wants to guard this as the Secret Garden.
    • Colin is feeling so strong and garden-happy that he decides to plant a rose before the sun goes down.
    • Ben and Dickon help Colin to dig a hole, and Colin stands and puts the rose in its new home just as the sun sets.
    • Obviously, all of this is having a big psychological healing effect on young Colin.
  • Chapter 23


    • Dr. Craven tells Colin he's pushing himself too hard, and Colin basically tells him to back off.
    • Mary points out that Colin is a rude little brat, which people have put up with up until now because they thought he was dying.
    • Colin seems to take this criticism to heart, but we think he keeps on being pretty rude and high-handed—we guess it's hard to get over the habits of a lifetime …
    • Over the months of the spring and summer, the garden really comes into its own.
    • Ben starts telling more stories about Colin's mother.
    • Colin decides that all of this—the quick growth of the garden, Dickon's ability with animals, Colin's own physical improvement—must be proof of Magic.
    • He wants to do scientific experiments in Magic, and he wants Mary, Dickon, and Ben to help him.
    • The Magic Colin describes is a kind of life force that makes everything happen: It makes the sun rise, the flowers bloom, all of that. When Colin began to walk, it was thanks to the Magic of Mary and Dickon insisting, "You can do it! You can do it!" (23.41).
    • So now Colin wants to do his own Magic—if he thinks as often as possible, "Magic is making me well! I am going to be as strong as Dickon!" (23.41), it will come true—and Colin wants Ben, Mary, and Dickon to repeat these positive thoughts as well.
    • They sit in a circle and Colin calls on the Magic, recognizing it in the world around them and calling on it for help.
    • After this ritual, Colin walks around the garden confidently.
    • But he decides to keep his recovery a secret from Dr. Craven.
    • He wants to keep using his wheelchair up until the moment that he can cramatically reveal his new health.
    • Most of all, Colin wants to impress his father.
  • Chapter 24

    "Let Them Laugh"

    • Dickon also keeps up a garden for his mother, which he works on in the late evenings when Colin and Mary are inside.
    • Mrs. Sowerby (Dickon's mother) likes to come and spend time there when she can.
    • Unlike Mary and Colin's garden, this one is mostly functional—it helps to feed Dickon's family—but he adds flowers in the corners to keep it cheerful.
    • Mary and Colin give Dickon permission to tell his mom all about the Secret Garden, which he does.
    • Mrs. Sowerby thinks this is all hilarious, especially when she hears that Colin pretends he still needs his wheelchair to keep up the air of mystery.
    • Mrs. Sowerby offers to bake them some bread and buns so that when Mary and Colin are home, they don't have to eat huge meals—that will really convince Dr. Craven and the rest that Mary and especially Colin are still kind of sickly.
    • Colin almost throws a real tantrum when Dr. Craven offers to write to his father about Colin's improving health, since it's the one surprise Colin really cares about.
    • In the Secret Garden, they keep up their rituals of thinking of the Magic. And Colin gets stronger and stronger every day.
    • Dickon shows Colin some exercises to improve his muscle strength. This Dickon kid can do anything: gardener, animal tamer, and now amateur physiotherapist.
    • Dr. Craven and Mrs. Medlock can't figure out where all this newfound health is coming from, but as long as Mary and Colin are improving without any work from them, it's probably fine to just leave them alone.
  • Chapter 25

    "The Curtain"

    • Just in case you've been wondering how all of this action look from a bird's-eye view, we start off this chapter from the perspective of the robin and his mate. They are watching Colin suspiciously in case he does something to their eggs.
    • They can't figure out why Colin doesn't behave the way the other kids do, but gradually they realize that he is learning to walk, the same way their children will learn to fly.
    • On days when it rains, it seems like Mary and Colin can't continue the good work they are doing in the Secret Garden. But no… It suddenly seems to dawn on them that they live in a giant, amazing mansion.
    • They decide to go exploring (after ordering the servants to stay away, of course—these kids and their secrets).
    • They run around the picture galleries and play with the weird things they find in the distant rooms.
    • All in all, they realize that it is pretty fun to live in a house with a hundred richly furnished rooms. (We find this less surprising than they seem to…)
    • Back in Colin's room, Mary notices that the curtain is gone from the portrait of Colin's mother.
    • Colin notices her noticing, and he explains that now he likes to look at her portrait.
    • A few nights ago, he woke up suddenly to feel his room full of Magic.
    • When he looked at her face in the portrait, it seemed as though she was laughing from joy over his improved health. Now Colin thinks that she is happy for him, and he wants to see her portrait all the time.
    • Mary observes that Colin looks more and more like his mother.
    • Colin wonders if that resemblance will make his dad love him. Colin wants to tell his father about the Magic to cheer him up a bit.
  • Chapter 26

    "It's Mother!"

    • Colin has found a new hobby: He likes to lecture about the Magic to anyone who will listen (and even to some, like Ben Weatherstaff, who mostly zone out).
    • As Colin is weeding and working in the garden, he suddenly realizes that he is doing as good a job as Mary and Dickon.
    • In fact, Colin has become completely well. He is so happy that he wants to sing—something.
    • Ben Weatherstaff isn't religious, but he suggests the "Doxology" (26.23).
    • (The Doxology is a short song praising God in different Christian worship services.)
    • Colin has never actually been to church, since he's been too sick, so Dickon does the singing.
    • And Colin decides that his Magic and the God of the Doxology might be the same thing.
    • As they are finishing up their singing, a woman walks into the garden: Mrs. Sowerby, Dickon's mother.
    • As soon as Mrs. Sowerby sees Colin, she tells him that he is just like his mother, and that Mr. Craven has to come home right away to see.
    • She also admires Mary, who is growing into a pretty girl. (We're glad Mrs. Sowerby notices Mary—she's kind of dropped out of the story by now.)
    • Mrs. Sowerby agrees that the Magic is just one name for what she calls "the Good Thing" (26.63). It doesn't matter what people call it, as long as they have faith.
    • Mrs. Sowerby says they won't have to keep up this act of Colin's ill health for much longer—Mr. Craven will come home soon.
    • As Colin is leaving that afternoon, he tells Mrs. Sowerby that he wishes she were his mother as well as Dickon's.
    • Mrs. Sowerby is so moved that she promises Colin that his mother is in this garden with him—and, again, Mr. Craven will be home soon.
  • Chapter 27

    "In the Garden"

    • The narrator jumps in to tell us that thoughts have a huge amount of power—let a bad thought get stuck in your head, and it's as dangerous as poison.
    • Both Mary and Colin began to improve when their selfish, dark thoughts were replaced with positive thinking.
    • Meanwhile, as these two have been improving their minds in the Secret Garden, Mr. Craven has been wandering around Europe.
    • He has seen many beautiful places, but none of these regions have made any difference to his deep sadness.
    • Yet suddenly—at just the same time that Colin is shouting, "I am going to live forever and ever and ever!" (27.10) back in the Secret Garden—Mr. Craven begins to feel some burden lifting from him.
    • One night, as he is dreaming, he hears the voice of his wife calling him from the garden.
    • That day, he gets a letter from Mrs. Sowerby saying that his wife would want to come home.
    • So Mr. Craven travels back to Misselthwaite Manor right away.
    • All of this time, Mr. Craven has been thinking (based on what Dr. Craven and Mrs. Medlock have been telling him) that Colin is basically a vicious brat, "so like and yet so horribly unlike" (27.29) his dead wife.
    • When he arrives at the Manor, he sends for Mrs. Medlock and asks how Colin is.
    • Mrs. Medlock's report is so confused that Mr. Craven thinks Colin has become worse.
    • But as soon as Mr. Craven hears that Colin is in the garden, he walks out there immediately.
    • He hears the sound of running feet and laughing children, and he thinks that he is in a dream as a tall boy runs through the door of the "locked" garden.
    • Of course, it's Colin—he's just beaten Mary in a race.
    • Colin leads Mr. Craven into the Secret Garden and tells his father everything that's been happening.
    • And as Mr. Craven and Colin walk back to the house, Colin finally gives up his wheelchair to show that he can walk as well as any kid in Yorkshire.