At the age of ten, Mary Lennox was sent to live with her maternal uncle, Archibald Craven, in Yorkshire, in Misselthwaite Manor. Till then, she had lived with her parents in India, but she hardly ever saw them. Mary was brought up by servants who heeded to all her demands. This turned her into an ill-tempered, angry girl who cared for no one. Due to constant sickness she was thin, pale and ugly to look at.
Upon reaching the Manor, Mary did not meet her uncle Mr Craven but Mrs Medlock, the housekeeper. Mrs Medlock showed her the room and warned her to stay in her room and not wander around.
Mary looked around the gloomy room, felt lonely and started crying. Martha, who was one of the servants in the Manor, consoled her and told her stories about her (Martha’s) brother Dickon and their mother Mrs Sowerby. She advised her to go out into the gardens but warned her, “You can play in any garden except the one that is locked up. Mr Craven locked it and buried the key when his wife died.”
This sparked off Mary’s curiosity. So, every day, she went out alone into the gardens. She started roaming in the gardens in search of the locked garden. This exercise made her hungry; she started eating and became healthy. During her exploration, for the first time in her life, she made two friends–the gardener, Mr Ben; and the bird, Robin. She was happier and less angry.
On one rainy day, when Mary was unable to go out into the gardens, she heard a child crying. But Martha told her that it must be the wind and that she should not go wandering around.
Next day, when the weather was fine, Mary forgot about the crying sound and went out into the gardens. Following Robin, she found the buried key and the hidden door of the secret garden. She entered the garden and started weeding and caring for the plants.
One day, Mary met Martha’s brother Dickon and told him about the secret garden. He promised to keep her secret and help her tend the garden. Mary and Dickon became good friends.
After a few nights, Mary once again heard a distant cry. Ignoring all the warnings, she went out searching and saw a boy lying in bed, crying fretfully. He had a delicate and pale face. Mary crept across the room. Hearing her footsteps, the boy got up. He told Mary that he was Colin, Mr Craven’s invalid son. He further told her that he would not live long.
Colin’s mother died soon after he was born. His father Mr Craven was so grieved that he hardly visited him. Colin asked Mary to stay with him. She talked to him about her life in India, about her journey to Misselthwaite and her life here. Colin and Mary became good friends. But Colin did not like when Mary spent more time in the garden with Dickon.
One day, Colin threw such a tantrum that everyone was scared. The doctor examined him. That day, Mary told Colin that his sickness was in his mind. If he learnt to control his temper and came out into the garden, he would be healthy. Colin agreed to go out with Mary. Mary wondered how she would take him to the secret garden without anyone finding out about it.
Mary with the help of Dickon carried Colin on his chair to the garden. Colin saw the blue sky, cloudsand green grass for the first time. As the sun shone warmly on Colin’s face, he said happily, “I shall get well. I shall live forever.”
Mr Ben, who was also secretly tending the locked garden, was shocked to see Mary, Dickon and Colin in the garden. He scolded them. When Colin shouted at him and asked him if he knew who he was talking to, Ben replied that he was talking to the crippled Colin.
Colin’s pride was hurt. He stood up straight and steady. Everyone was shocked. They made Ben promise that he would not tell anyone about their discovery of the secret garden and of Colin’s recovery
The three children along with Mr Ben, enjoyed the summer in the secret garden. Only Mrs Sowerby, Dickon’s mother, knew about their secret. She wrote to Mr Craven and asked him to come back home to see his son.
As soon as Mr Craven received the letter, he returned to the Manor, regretting he had not paid much attention to his son.
Walking towards the Manor, Mr Craven heard the sounds of laughing children coming from the secret garden. As he opened the gate to the garden, Colin ran into his arms. Mr Craven was astounded to see his son healthy and happy. He embraced his son and walked into the Manor with the children. Soon the news of Colin’s good health spread all around the town.