A TANTRUM She had got up very early in the morning and had workedhard in the garden and she was tired and sleepy, so as soonas Martha had brought her supper and she had eaten it,she was glad to go to bed. As she laid her head onthe pillow she murmured to herself: "I'll go out before breakfast and work with Dickonand then afterward--I believe--I'll go to see him." She thought it was the middle of the night when she wasawakened by such dreadful sounds that she jumped out ofbed in an instant. What was it--what was it? The nextminute she felt quite sure she knew. Doors were openedand shut and there were hurrying feet in the corridorsand some one was crying and screaming at the same time,screaming and crying in a horrible way. "It's Colin," she said. "He's having one of those tantrumsthe nurse called hysterics. How awful it sounds." As she listened to the sobbing screams she did notwonder that people were so frightened that they gavehim his own way in everything rather than hear them.She put her hands over her ears and felt sick and shivering. "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do,"she kept saying. "I can't bear it." Once she wondered if he would stop if she dared goto him and then she remembered how he had driven her outof the room and thought that perhaps the sight of hermight make him worse. Even when she pressed her handsmore tightly over her ears she could not keep the awfulsounds out. She hated them so and was so terrifiedby them that suddenly they began to make her angryand she felt as if she should like to fly into a tantrumherself and frighten him as he was frightening her.She was not used to any one's tempers but her own. She tookher hands from her ears and sprang up and stamped her foot. "He ought to be stopped! Somebody ought to make him stop!Somebody ought to beat him!" she cried out. Just then she heard feet almost running down the corridorand her door opened and the nurse came in. She was notlaughing now by any means. She even looked rather pale. "He's worked himself into hysterics," she said in a great hurry."He'll do himself harm. No one can do anything with him.You come and try, like a good child. He likes you." "He turned me out of the room this morning," said Mary,stamping her foot with excitement. The stamp rather pleased the nurse. The truth was that shehad been afraid she might find Mary crying and hidingher head under the bed-clothes. "That's right," she said. "You're in the right humor.You go and scold him. Give him something new to think of.Do go, child, as quick as ever you can." It was not until afterward that Mary realized that the thinghad been funny as well as dreadful--that it was funny that allthe grown-up people were so frightened that they came to a littlegirl just because they guessed she was almost as bad as Colinhimself. She flew along the corridor and the nearer she gotto 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 roomto the four-posted bed. "You stop!" she almost shouted. "You stop! I hate you!Everybody hates you! I wish everybody would run out of thehouse and let you scream yourself to death! You will screamyourself to death in a minute, and I wish you would!"A nice sympathetic child could neither have thought norsaid such things, but it just happened that the shock ofhearing them was the best possible thing for this hystericalboy whom no one had ever dared to restrain or contradict. He had been lying on his face beating his pillow with hishands and he actually almost jumped around, he turnedso 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 didnot care an atom. "If you scream another scream," she said, "I'll screamtoo --and I can scream louder than you can and I'llfrighten you, I'll frighten you!" He actually had stopped screaming because she had startledhim so. The scream which had been coming almost choked him.The tears were streaming down his face and he shookall over. "I can't stop!" he gasped and sobbed. "I can't--I can't!" "You can!" shouted Mary. "Half that ails you is hystericsand 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 thenI shall die," and he began to writhe again and turnedon his face and sobbed and wailed but he didn't scream. "You didn't feel a lump!" contradicted Mary fiercely. "If youdid it was only a hysterical lump. Hysterics makes lumps.There's nothing the matter with your horrid back--nothingbut hysterics! Turn over and let me look at it!" She liked the word "hysterics" and felt somehow as if ithad an effect on him. He was probably like herselfand had never heard it before. "Nurse," she commanded, "come here and show me his backthis minute!" The nurse, Mrs. Medlock and Martha had been standinghuddled together near the door staring at her, their mouthshalf 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 twosobs: "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 overand examined them with a solemn savage little face.She looked so sour and old-fashioned that the nurse turnedher head aside to hide the twitching of her mouth.There was just a minute's silence, for even Colin triedto hold his breath while Mary looked up and down his spine,and down and up, as intently as if she had been the greatdoctor from London. "There's not a single lump there!" she said at last."There's not a lump as big as a pin--except backbone lumps,and you can only feel them because you're thin.I've got backbone lumps myself, and they used to stickout as much as yours do, until I began to get fatter,and I am not fat enough yet to hide them. There's nota lump as big as a pin! If you ever say there is again,I shall laugh!" No one but Colin himself knew what effect those crosslyspoken childish words had on him. If he had everhad any one to talk to about his secret terrors--if hehad ever dared to let himself ask questions--if he hadhad childish companions and had not lain on his backin the huge closed house, breathing an atmosphere heavywith the fears of people who were most of them ignorantand tired of him, he would have found out that mostof his fright and illness was created by himself.But he had lain and thought of himself and his achesand weariness for hours and days and months and years.And now that an angry unsympathetic little girl insistedobstinately that he was not as ill as he thought he washe actually felt as if she might be speaking the truth. "I didn't know," ventured the nurse, "that he thought hehad a lump on his spine. His back is weak because hewon't try to sit up. I could have told him there was nolump there." Colin gulped and turned his face a littleto look at her. "C-could you?" he said pathetically. "Yes, sir." "There!" said Mary, and she gulped too. Colin turned on his face again and but for his long-drawnbroken breaths, which were the dying down of his stormof sobbing, he lay still for a minute, though great tearssrteamed down his face and wet the pillow. Actually thetears meant that a curious great relief had come to him.Presently he turned and looked at the nurse again andstrangely enough he was not like a Rajah at all as hespoke to her. "Do you think--I could--live to grow up?" he said. The nurse was neither clever nor soft-hearted but shecould repeat some of the London doctor's words. "You probably will if you will do what you are toldto do and not give way to your temper, and stayout a great deal in the fresh air." Colin's tantrum had passed and he was weak and wornout with crying and this perhaps made him feel gentle.He put out his hand a little toward Mary, and I am gladto say that, her own tantum having passed, she was softenedtoo and met him half-way with her hand, so that it wasa sort of making up. "I'll--I'll go out with you, Mary," he said. "I shan'thate fresh air if we can find--" He remembered justin time to stop himself from saying "if we can findthe secret garden" and he ended, "I shall like to goout with you if Dickon will come and push my chair.I do so want to see Dickon and the fox and the crow." The nurse remade the tumbled bed and shook and straightenedthe pillows. Then she made Colin a cup of beef teaand gave a cup to Mary, who really was very glad to getit after her excitement. Mrs. Medlock and Martha gladlyslipped away, and after everything was neat and calmand in order the nurse looked as if she would very gladlyslip away also. She was a healthy young woman who resentedbeing robbed of her sleep and she yawned quite openlyas she looked at Mary, who had pushed her big footstoolclose to the four-posted bed and was holding Colin's hand. "You must go back and get your sleep out," she said."He'll drop off after a while--if he's not too upset.Then I'll lie down myself in the next room." "Would you like me to sing you that song I learned frommy Ayah?" Mary whispered to Colin. His hand pulled hers gently and he turned his tired eyeson her appealingly. "Oh, yes!" he answered. "It's such a soft song.I shall go to sleep in a minute." "I will put him to sleep," Mary said to the yawning nurse."You can go if you like." "Well," said the nurse, with an attempt at reluctance."If he doesn't go to sleep in half an hour you mustcall me." "Very well," answered Mary. The nurse was out of the room in a minute and as soonas she was gone Colin pulled Mary's hand again. "I almost told," he said; "but I stopped myself in time.I won't talk and I'll go to sleep, but you said you hada whole lot of nice things to tell me. Have you--do youthink you have found out anything at all about the wayinto the secret garden?" Mary looked at his poor little tired face and swolleneyes and her heart relented. "Ye-es," she answered, "I think I have. And if youwill go to sleep I will tell you tomorrow." His handquite trembled. "Oh, Mary!" he said. "Oh, Mary! If I could get into itI think I should live to grow up! Do you suppose thatinstead of singing the Ayah song--you could just tellme softly as you did that first day what you imagine itlooks like inside? I am sure it will make me go to sleep." "Yes," answered Mary. "Shut your eyes." He closed his eyes and lay quite still and she held hishand and began to speak very slowly and in a very low voice. "I think it has been left alone so long--that it has grownall into a lovely tangle. I think the roses have climbed andclimbed and climbed until they hang from the branches and wallsand creep over the ground--almost like a strange gray mist.Some of them have died but many--are alive and when thesummer comes there will be curtains and fountains of roses.I think the ground is full of daffodils and snowdropsand lilies and iris working their way out of the dark.Now the spring has begun--perhaps--perhaps--" The soft drone of her voice was making him stillerand stiller and she saw it and went on. "Perhaps they are coming up through the grass--perhaps thereare clusters of purple crocuses and gold ones--even now.Perhaps the leaves are beginning to break out and uncurl--andperhaps--the gray is changing and a green gauze veil iscreeping--and creeping over--everything. And the birds arecoming to look at it--because it is--so safe and still.And perhaps--perhaps--perhaps--" very softly and slowly indeed,"the robin has found a mate--and is building a nest." And Colin was asleep.