“During the confusion and bewilderment of the
second day Mary hid herself in the nursery and was forgotten by
everyone. 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 tightening sounds. Once she crept into the dinning-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 se 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…”
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 her Ayah.
“Why did you come?” she said to the strange woman.
“I will not let you stay. Send my Ayah to me.”
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 all.
She was grinding her teeth and saying this over and over again when she
heard her mother come out on the veranda with someone. 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 Sahi-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 was!”
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.
“Someone has died,” answered the boy officer. “You did not say it had
broken out among your servants.”
“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....