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COMPREHENSION WEEK 16 Q8

When she awakened she lay and stared at the wall. The house was perfectly still. She had never known it to be so silent before. She heard neither voices nor footsteps, and wondered if everybody had got well of the cholera and all the trouble was over. She wondered also who would take care of her now her Ayah was dead. There would be a new Ayah, and perhaps she would know some new stories. Mary had been rather tired of the old ones. She did not cry because her nurse had died. She was not an affectionate child and had never cared much for anyone. The noise and hurrying about and wailing over the cholera* had frightened her, and she had been angry because no one seemed to remember that she was alive. Everyone was too panic-stricken to think of a little girl no one was fond of. When people had the cholera it seemed that they remembered nothing but themselves. But if everyone had got well again, surely someone would remember and come to look for her.

But no one came, and as she lay waiting the house seemed to grow more and more silent. She heard something rustling on the matting and when she looked down she saw a little snake gliding along and watching her with eyes like jewels. She was not frightened, because he was a harmless little thing who would not hurt her and he seemed in a hurry to get out

of the room. He slipped under the door as she watched him.

“How queer and quiet it is,” she said. “It sounds as if there was no one in the bungalow but me and the snake.”

Almost the next minute she heard footsteps in the compound, and then on the veranda. They were men’s footsteps, and the men entered the bungalow and talked in low voices. No one went to meet or speak to them and they seemed to open doors and look into rooms.

“What desolation!” she heard one voice say. “That pretty, pretty woman! I suppose the child, too. I heard there was a child, though no one ever saw her.”

Mary was standing in the middle of the nursery when they opened the door a few minutes later. She looked an ugly, cross little thing and was frowning because she was beginning to be hungry and feel disgracefully neglected. The first man who came in was a large officer she had once seen talking to her father. He looked tired and troubled, but when he saw her he was so startled that he almost jumped back.

“Barney!” he cried out. “There is a child here! A child alone! In a place like this! Mercy on us, who is she!”

“I am Mary Lennox,” the little girl said, drawing herself up stiffly.

She thought the man was very rude to call her father’s bungalow “A place like this!” “I fell asleep when every one had the cholera and I have only just wakened up. Why does nobody come?”

“It is the child no one ever saw!” exclaimed the man, turning to his companions. “She has actually been forgotten!”

“Why was I forgotten?” Mary said, stamping her foot. “Why does nobody

come?”

 

Text adapted from The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which is in the public domain.

* cholera – a dangerous disease

 

Why do you think ‘pretty’ gets repeated in line 22?