THE CURTAIN And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and everymorning revealed new miracles. In the robin's nest therewere Eggs and the robin's mate sat upon them keeping themwarm with her feathery little breast and careful wings.At first she was very nervous and the robin himselfwas indignantly watchful. Even Dickon did not gonear the close-grown corner in those days, but waiteduntil by the quiet working of some mysterious spell heseemed to have conveyed to the soul of the little pairthat in the garden there was nothing which was not quitelike themselves--nothing which did not understand thewonderfulness of what was happening to them--the immense,tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnityof Eggs. If there had been one person in that gardenwho had not known through all his or her innermost beingthat if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole worldwould whirl round and crash through space and come toan end--if there had been even one who did not feel itand act accordingly there could have been no happinesseven in that golden springtime air. But they all knewit and felt it and the robin and his mate knew they knew it. At first the robin watched Mary and Colin with sharp anxiety.For some mysterious reason he knew he need not watch Dickon.The first moment he set his dew-bright black eye on Dickonhe knew he was not a stranger but a sort of robin withoutbeak or feathers. He could speak robin (which is a quitedistinct language not to be mistaken for any other). To speakrobin to a robin is like speaking French to a Frenchman.Dickon always spoke it to the robin himself, so the queergibberish he used when he spoke to humans did not matterin the least. The robin thought he spoke this gibberishto them because they were not intelligent enough tounderstand feathered speech. His movements also were robin.They never startled one by being sudden enough to seemdangerous or threatening. Any robin could understand Dickon,so his presence was not even disturbing. But at the outset it seemed necessary to be on guardagainst the other two. In the first place the boycreature did not come into the garden on his legs.He was pushed in on a thing with wheels and the skinsof wild animals were thrown over him. That in itselfwas doubtful. Then when he began to stand up and moveabout he did it in a queer unaccustomed way and theothers seemed to have to help him. The robin usedto secrete himself in a bush and watch this anxiously,his head tilted first on one side and then on the other.He thought that the slow movements might mean that he waspreparing to pounce, as cats do. When cats are preparingto pounce they creep over the ground very slowly.The robin talked this over with his mate a great dealfor a few days but after that he decided not to speakof the subject because her terror was so great that hewas afraid it might be injurious to the Eggs. When the boy began to walk by himself and even to move morequickly it was an immense relief. But for a long time--or itseemed a long time to the robin--he was a source of some anxiety.He did not act as the other humans did. He seemed veryfond of walking but he had a way of sitting or lying downfor a while and then getting up in a disconcerting manner tobegin again. One day the robin remembered that when he himself hadbeen made to learn to fly by his parents he had donemuch the same sort of thing. He had taken short flightsof a few yards and then had been obliged to rest.So it occurred to him that this boy was learning to fly--orrather to walk. He mentioned this to his mate and when hetold her that the Eggs would probably conduct themselvesin the same way after they were fledged she was quitecomforted and even became eagerly interested and derivedgreat pleasure from watching the boy over the edge of hernest--though she always thought that the Eggs would bemuch cleverer and learn more quickly. But then she saidindulgently that humans were always more clumsy and slowthan Eggs and most of them never seemed really to learnto fly at all. You never met them in the air or on tree-tops. After a while the boy began to move about as the others did,but all three of the children at times did unusual things.They would stand under the trees and move their arms and legsand heads about in a way which was neither walking norrunning nor sitting down. They went through these movementsat intervals every day and the robin was never able toexplain to his mate what they were doing or tying to do.He could only say that he was sure that the Eggs wouldnever flap about in such a manner; but as the boy who couldspeak robin so fluently was doing the thing with them,birds could be quite sure that the actions were notof a dangerous nature. Of course neither the robinnor his mate had ever heard of the champion wrestler,Bob Haworth, and his exercises for making the musclesstand out like lumps. Robins are not like human beings;their muscles are always exercised from the firstand so they develop themselves in a natural manner.If you have to fly about to find every meal you eat,your muscles do not become atrophied (atrophied means wastedaway through want of use). When the boy was walking and running about and diggingand weeding like the others, the nest in the corner wasbrooded over by a great peace and content. Fears forthe Eggs became things of the past. Knowing that yourEggs were as safe as if they were locked in a bank vaultand the fact that you could watch so many curious thingsgoing on made setting a most entertaining occupation.On wet days the Eggs' mother sometimes felt even a littledull because the children did not come into the garden. But even on wet days it could not be said that Mary andColin were dull. One morning when the rain streamed downunceasingly and Colin was beginning to feel a little restive,as he was obliged to remain on his sofa because it wasnot safe to get up and walk about, Mary had an inspiration. "Now that I am a real boy," Colin had said, "my legs and armsand all my body are so full of Magic that I can't keepthem still. They want to be doing things all the time.Do you know that when I waken in the morning, Mary,when it's quite early and the birds are just shoutingoutside and everything seems just shouting for joy--eventhe trees and things we can't really hear--I feel as if Imust jump out of bed and shout myself. If I did it,just think what would happen!" Mary giggled inordinately. "The nurse would come running and Mrs. Medlock wouldcome running and they would be sure you had gone crazyand they'd send for the doctor," she said. Colin giggled himself. He could see how they wouldall look--how horrified by his outbreak and how amazedto see him standing upright. "I wish my father would come home," he said. "I wantto tell him myself. I'm always thinking about it--but wecouldn't go on like this much longer. I can't stand lyingstill and pretending, and besides I look too different.I wish it wasn't raining today." It was then Mistress Mary had her inspiration. "Colin," she began mysteriously, "do you know how manyrooms there are in this house?" "About a thousand, I suppose," he answered. "There's about a hundred no one ever goes into," said Mary."And one rainy day I went and looked into ever so many of them.No one ever knew, though Mrs. Medlock nearly found me out.I lost my way when I was coming back and I stopped atthe end of your corridor. That was the second time Iheard you crying." Colin started up on his sofa. "A hundred rooms no one goes into," he said. "It soundsalmost like a secret garden. Suppose we go and look at them.wheel me in my chair and nobody would know we went" "That's what I was thinking," said Mary. "No one would dareto follow us. There are galleries where you could run.We could do our exercises. There is a little Indianroom where there is a cabinet full of ivory elephants.There are all sorts of rooms." "Ring the bell," said Colin. When the nurse came in he gave his orders. "I want my chair," he said. "Miss Mary and I are goingto look at the part of the house which is not used.John can push me as far as the picture-gallery because thereare some stairs. Then he must go away and leave us aloneuntil I send for him again." Rainy days lost their terrors that morning. When thefootman had wheeled the chair into the picture-galleryand left the two together in obedience to orders,Colin and Mary looked at each other delighted. As soonas Mary had made sure that John was really on his way backto his own quarters below stairs, Colin got out of his chair. "I am going to run from one end of the gallery to the other,"he said, "and then I am going to jump and then we willdo Bob Haworth's exercises." And they did all these things and many others. They lookedat the portraits and found the plain little girl dressedin green brocade and holding the parrot on her finger. "All these," said Colin, "must be my relations.They lived a long time ago. That parrot one, I believe,is one of my great, great, great, great aunts. She looksrather like you, Mary--not as you look now but as youlooked when you came here. Now you are a great dealfatter and better looking." "So are you," said Mary, and they both laughed. They went to the Indian room and amused themselves withthe ivory elephants. They found the rose-colored brocadeboudoir and the hole in the cushion the mouse had left,but the mice had grown up and run away and the hole was empty.They saw more rooms and made more discoveries than Maryhad made on her first pilgrimage. They found new corridorsand corners and flights of steps and new old pictures theyliked and weird old things they did not know the use of.It was a curiously entertaining morning and the feelingof wandering about in the same house with other peoplebut at the same time feeling as if one were miles awayfrom them was a fascinating thing. "I'm glad we came," Colin said. "I never knew Ilived in such a big queer old place. I like it.We will ramble about every rainy day. We shall alwaysbe finding new queer corners and things." That morning they had found among other things suchgood appetites that when they returned to Colin's roomit was not possible to send the luncheon away untouched. When the nurse carried the tray down-stairs she slapped itdown on the kitchen dresser so that Mrs. Loomis, the cook,could see the highly polished dishes and plates. "Look at that!" she said. "This is a house of mystery,and those two children are the greatest mysteries in it." "If they keep that up every day," said the strongyoung footman John, "there'd be small wonder that heweighs twice as much to-day as he did a month ago.I should have to give up my place in time, for fearof doing my muscles an injury." That afternoon Mary noticed that something new had happenedin Colin's room. She had noticed it the day before buthad said nothing because she thought the change mighthave been made by chance. She said nothing today but shesat and looked fixedly at the picture over the mantel.She could look at it because the curtain had been drawn aside.That was the change she noticed. "I know what you want me to tell you," said Colin,after she had stared a few minutes. "I always know whenyou want me to tell you something. You are wondering whythe curtain is drawn back. I am going to keep it like that." "Why?" asked Mary. "Because it doesn't make me angry any more to see her laughing.I wakened when it was bright moonlight two nights agoand felt as if the Magic was filling the room and makingeverything so splendid that I couldn't lie still.I got up and looked out of the window. The room was quitelight and there was a patch of moonlight on the curtainand somehow that made me go and pull the cord. She lookedright down at me as if she were laughing because she was gladI was standing there. It made me like to look at her.I want to see her laughing like that all the time.I think she must have been a sort of Magic person perhaps." "You are so like her now," said Mary, "that sometimes Ithink perhaps you are her ghost made into a boy." That idea seemed to impress Colin. He thought it overand then answered her slowly. "If I were her ghost--my father would be fond of me." "Do you want him to be fond of you?" inquired Mary. "I used to hate it because he was not fond of me. If hegrew fond of me I think I should tell him about the Magic.It might make him more cheerful."