CHAPTER I - THERE IS NO ONE LEFT
When Mary Lennox was sent to
Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most
disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin
face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair
was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had
always been ill in one way or another. Her father had held a position under the
English Government and had always been busy and ill himself, and her mother had
been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay
people. She had not wanted a little girl at all, and when Mary was born she
handed her over to the care of an Ayah, who was made to understand that if she
wished to please the Mem Sahib she must keep the child out of sight as much as
possible. So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby she was kept out
of the way, and when she became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was kept
out of the way also. She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the
dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed
her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be
angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she
was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived. The young English
governess who came to teach her to read and write disliked her so much that she
gave up her place in three months, and when other governesses came to try to
fill it they always went away in a shorter time than the first one. So if Mary
had not chosen to really want to know how to read books she would never have
learned her letters at all.
One frightfully hot morning, when
she was about nine years old, she awakened feeling very cross, and she became
crosser still when she saw that the servant who stood by her bedside was not
"Why did you come?" she
said to the strange woman. "I will not let you stay. Send my Ayah to
The woman looked frightened, but
she only stammered that the Ayah could not come and when Mary threw herself
into a passion and beat and kicked her, she looked only more frightened and
repeated that it was not possible for the Ayah to come to Missie Sahib.
There was something mysterious in
the air that morning. Nothing was done in its regular order and several of the
native servants seemed missing, while those whom Mary saw slunk or hurried
about with ashy and scared faces. But no one would tell her anything and her
Ayah did not come. She was actually left alone as the morning went on, and at
last she wandered out into the garden and began to play by herself under a tree
near the veranda. She pretended that she was making a flower-bed, and she stuck
big scarlet hibiscus blossoms into little heaps of earth, all the time growing
more and more angry and muttering to herself the things she would say and the
names she would call Saidie when she returned.
"Pig! Pig! Daughter of
Pigs!" she said, because to call a native a pig is the worst insult of
She was grinding her teeth and
saying this over and over again when she heard her mother come out on the
veranda with some one. She was with a fair young man and they stood talking
together in low strange voices. Mary knew the fair young man who looked like a
boy. She had heard that he was a very young officer who had just come from
England. The child stared at him, but she stared most at her mother. She always
did this when she had a chance to see her, because the Mem Sahib—Mary used to
call her that oftener than anything else—was such a tall, slim, pretty person
and wore such lovely clothes. Her hair was like curly silk and she had a
delicate little nose which seemed to be disdaining things, and she had large
laughing eyes. All her clothes were thin and floating, and Mary said they were
"full of lace." They looked fuller of lace than ever this morning,
but her eyes were not laughing at all. They were large and scared and lifted
imploringly to the fair boy officer's face.
"Is it so very bad? Oh, is
it?" Mary heard her say.
"Awfully," the young
man answered in a trembling voice. "Awfully, Mrs. Lennox. You ought to
have gone to the hills two weeks ago."
The Mem Sahib wrung her hands.
"Oh, I know I ought!"
she cried. "I only stayed to go to that silly dinner party. What a fool I
At that very moment such a loud
sound of wailing broke out from the servants' quarters that she clutched the
young man's arm, and Mary stood shivering from head to foot. The wailing grew
wilder and wilder.
"What is it? What is
it?" Mrs. Lennox gasped.
"Some one has died,"
answered the boy officer. "You did not say it had broken out among your
"I did not know!" the
Mem Sahib cried. "Come with me! Come with me!" and she turned and ran
into the house.
After that appalling things happened,
and the mysteriousness of the morning was explained to Mary. The cholera had
broken out in its most fatal form and people were dying like flies. The Ayah
had been taken ill in the night, and it was because she had just died that the
servants had wailed in the huts. Before the next day three other servants were
dead and others had run away in terror. There was panic on every side, and
dying people in all the bungalows.
During the confusion and
bewilderment of the second day Mary hid herself in the nursery and was
forgotten by every one. Nobody thought of her, nobody wanted her, and strange
things happened of which she knew nothing. Mary alternately cried and slept
through the hours. She only knew that people were ill and that she heard
mysterious and frightening sounds. Once she crept into the dining-room and
found it empty, though a partly finished meal was on the table and chairs and
plates looked as if they had been hastily pushed back when the diners rose
suddenly for some reason. The child ate some fruit and biscuits, and being
thirsty she drank a glass of wine which stood nearly filled. It was sweet, and
she did not know how strong it was. Very soon it made her intensely drowsy, and
she went back to her nursery and shut herself in again, frightened by cries she
heard in the huts and by the hurrying sound of feet. The wine made her so
sleepy that she could scarcely keep her eyes open and she lay down on her bed
and knew nothing more for a long time.
Many things happened during the
hours in which she slept so heavily, but she was not disturbed by the wails and
the sound of things being carried in and out of the bungalow.
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 any one. 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. Every one 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 every
one had got well again, surely some one would remember and come to look for
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
"It is the child no one ever
saw!" exclaimed the man, turning to his companions. "She has actually
"Why was I forgotten?"
Mary said, stamping her foot. "Why does nobody come?"
The young man whose name was
Barney looked at her very sadly. Mary even thought she saw him wink his eyes as
if to wink tears away.
"Poor little kid!" he
said. "There is nobody left to come."
It was in that strange and sudden
way that Mary found out that she had neither father nor mother left; that they
had died and been carried away in the night, and that the few native servants
who had not died also had left the house as quickly as they could get out of
it, none of them even remembering that there was a Missie Sahib. That was why
the place was so quiet. It was true that there was no one in the bungalow but
herself and the little rustling snake.