"Mary's First Friend" (8 X 10 Watercolor)
The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett, the
Robin was Mary Lennox's first friend. If you have never read the book, she was a contrary orphan, relocated to the English countryside, to live in a mysterious mansion with a hidden garden and strange (to her) people. The story is about her transformation as she interacts with her new home and surrounds, and the people she lives with.
"The Secret Place" (8 X 10 Watercolor)
Our family loved this book. More than once, we read the hard copy, listened to the audio version, and watched the movie. It is a story that we quote. When I showed the painting to my daughter in Florida, via Skype, her first comment was "It's the cheeky little beggar!"
These two paintings are the first in a series of four. I'm offering Note Card Sets and Mother's Day Cards online here:
or direct from me at
2 cards of each scene
"Mary's Friend" 4 Card Set ($12)
"Happy Nest" Mother's Day Cards ($4)
If you've never read this classic, maybe this Spring will be the perfect time to do so. Here's a bit to whet your appetite, or conjure up some fond memories:
He turned about to the orchard side of his garden and began to whistle--a low soft whistle. She could not understand how such a surly man could make such a coaxing sound. Almost the next moment a wonderful thing happened. She heard a soft little rushing flight through the air--and it was the bird with the red breast flying to them, and he actually alighted on the big clod of earth quite near to the gardener's foot.
"Here he is," chuckled the old man, and then he spoke to the bird as if he were speaking to a child.
"Where has tha' been, tha' cheeky little beggar?" he said. "I've not seen thee before today. Has tha, begun tha' courtin' this early in th' season? Tha'rt too forrad."
The bird put his tiny head on one side and looked up at him with his soft bright eye which was like a black dewdrop. He seemed quite familiar and not the least afraid. He hopped about and pecked the earth briskly, looking for seeds and insects. It actually gave Mary a queer feeling in her heart, because he was so pretty and cheerful and seemed so like a person. He had a tiny plump body and a delicate beak, and slender delicate legs.
"Will he always come when you call him?" she asked almost in a whisper.
"Aye, that he will. I've knowed him ever since he was a fledgling. He come out of th' nest in th' other garden an' when first he flew over th' wall he was too weak to fly back for a few days an' we got friendly. When he went over th' wall again th' rest of th' brood was gone an' he was lonely an' he come back to me."
"What kind of a bird is he?" Mary asked.
"Doesn't tha' know? He's a robin redbreast an' they're th' friendliest, curiousest birds alive. They're almost as friendly as dogs--if you know how to get on with 'em. Watch him peckin' about there an' lookin' round at us now an' again. He knows we're talkin' about him."
It was the queerest thing in the world to see the old fellow. He looked at the plump little scarlet-waistcoated bird as if he were both proud and fond of him.
"He's a conceited one," he chuckled. "He likes to hear folk talk about him. An' curious--bless me, there never was his like for curiosity an' meddlin'. He's always comin' to see what I'm plantin'. He knows all th' things Mester Craven never troubles hissel' to find out. He's th' head gardener, he is."
The robin hopped about busily pecking the soil and now and then stopped and looked at them a little. Mary thought his black dewdrop eyes gazed at her with great curiosity. It really seemed as if he were finding out all about her. The queer feeling in her heart increased. "Where did the rest of the brood fly to?" she asked.
"There's no knowin'. The old ones turn 'em out o' their nest an' make 'em fly an' they're scattered before you know it. This one was a knowin' one an, he knew he was lonely."
Mistress Mary went a step nearer to the robin and looked at him very hard.
"I'm lonely," she said.
She had not known before that this was one of the things which made her feel sour and cross. She seemed to find it out when the robin looked at her and she looked at the robin.
The old gardener pushed his cap back on his bald head and stared at her a minute.
"Art tha' th' little wench from India?" he asked.
He began to dig again, driving his spade deep into the rich black garden soil while the robin hopped about very busily employed.
"What is your name?" Mary inquired.
He stood up to answer her.
"Ben Weatherstaff," he answered, and then he added with a surly chuckle, "I'm lonely mysel' except when he's with me," and he jerked his thumb toward the robin. "He's th' only friend I've got."
"I have no friends at all," said Mary. "I never had. My Ayah didn't like me and I never played with any one."
It is a Yorkshire habit to say what you think with blunt frankness, and old Ben Weatherstaff was a Yorkshire moor man.
"Tha' an' me are a good bit alike," he said. "We was wove out of th' same cloth. 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."
This was plain speaking, and Mary Lennox had never heard the truth about herself in her life. Native servants always salaamed and submitted to you, whatever you did. She had never thought much about her looks, but she wondered if she was as unattractive as Ben Weatherstaff and she also wondered if she looked as sour as he had looked before the robin came. She actually began to wonder also if she was "nasty tempered." She felt uncomfortable.
Suddenly a clear rippling little sound broke out near her and she turned round. She was standing a few feet from a young apple-tree and the robin had flown on to one of its branches and had burst out into a scrap of a song. Ben Weatherstaff laughed outright.
"What did he do that for?" asked Mary.
"He's made up his mind to make friends with thee," replied Ben. "Dang me if he hasn't took a fancy to thee."
"To me?" said Mary, and she moved toward the little tree softly and looked up.
"Would you make friends with me?" she said to the robin just as if she was speaking to a person. "Would you?" And she did not say it either in her hard little voice or in her imperious Indian voice, but in a tone so soft and eager and coaxing that Ben Weatherstaff was as surprised as she had been when she heard him whistle.
"Why," he cried out, "tha' said that as nice an' human as if tha' was a real child instead of a sharp old woman. Tha' said it almost like Dickon talks to his wild things on th' moor."
"Do you know Dickon?" Mary asked, turning round rather in a hurry.
"Everybody knows him. Dickon's wanderin' about everywhere. Th' very blackberries an' heather-bells knows him. I warrant th' foxes shows him where their cubs lies an' th' skylarks doesn't hide their nests from him."
Mary would have liked to ask some more questions. She was almost as curious about Dickon as she was about the deserted garden. But just that moment the robin, who had ended his song, gave a little shake of his wings, spread them and flew away. He had made his visit and had other things to do.
"He has flown over the wall!" Mary cried out, watching him. "He has flown into the orchard--he has flown across the other wall--into the garden where there is no door!"
"He lives there," said old Ben. "He came out o' th' egg there. If he's courtin', he's makin' up to some young madam of a robin that lives among th' old rose-trees there."
"Rose-trees," said Mary. "Are there rose-trees?"
Ben Weatherstaff took up his spade again and began to dig.