The Secret Garden | Study Guide

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden | Chapter 18 : "Tha' Munnot Waste No Time" | Summary



The next morning, Mary stops by and sees Colin before she goes outside. She tells him she'll be back in a little while to tell him something about the garden. Mary meets Dickon in the garden. In addition to Soot, his crow, and Captain, his fox, he has with him his pony, Jump, and two tame squirrels, Nut and Shell. Mary tells Dickon about Colin. Dickon says they must get Colin out into the fresh air, where the springtime is making everything come alive, and they "munnot lose no time about it." Speaking Yorkshire, Mary outlines her plan: Dickon and his animals can meet Colin in his room the next day. Then in a bit, Dickon can push his chair and take him outside, and they will show him the garden.

Dickon laughs at Mary's attempt at Yorkshire speech and shares some of his mother's wisdom: Mrs. Sowerby believes "half a hour's good laugh every mornin' 'ud cure a chap" of catching typhoid. He recommends she speak Yorkshire to Colin. Although she does not want to leave the garden, she goes to visit Colin. As Dickon recommended, Mary speaks Yorkshire to him. Colin breaks out laughing, and so does she. Mrs. Medlock overhears them and listens in amazement. Speaking Yorkshire herself, "because there was no one to hear her," she expresses her wonder at hearing Colin laugh.

Mary tells Colin all about Dickon and how animals seem to understand everything he says. She explains Dickon's belief that "anything will understand if you're friends with it for sure." Colin expresses his wish to be friends with things but acknowledges he has no friends because he "can't bear people." Mary asks if he can bear her. He says he can and even likes her. Mary explains she used to feel like she hated people, but since knowing Dickon and the tame robin she has changed. Colin says he would like to see Dickon and would not mind him looking at him. Mary asks if she can trust him, and he says she can. She tells him Dickon will visit the next day. She finally admits that she found the key to the garden several weeks before and has been inside it. Colin asks if he will live to visit the secret garden, and Mary replies in a no-nonsense way that of course he will.


When Colin asks Mary to visit him, rather than ordering it, he drops his imperious ways and is learning consideration for others. Mary, too, continues to become even less self-absorbed. While her immediate thought is to go outside to see Dickon, she changes her mind and decides to first visit Colin. She is learning how to be responsive to others without forfeiting her own desires. Colin is learning the same thing, and he apologizes to Mary for saying he would send Dickon away.

Colin and Mary's relationship morphs from one in which they both express their extreme dislike for each other to one of mutual trust and concern. She confides her deepest secret to Colin, knowing she can trust him "for sure." He, in turn, is not about to betray that trust because of his deep desire to get into the garden. They are now co-conspirators who have respect for each other's best interests. Mary also recognizes that there is a connection between herself, Colin, and Ben Weatherstaff, all of whom have "the same nasty tempers." But she also knows that she is not that person anymore: "I don't feel as sour as I used to before I knew the robin and Dickon."

The fact that animals trust Dickon is the litmus test for Mary and Colin. Mary is changing so much the animals are beginning to be as comfortable around her as they are with Dickon. Nut creeps onto her dress, and the other squirrel, Shell, sits and watches her with "inquiring eyes." Perhaps the fact that animals trust her makes Colin feel he can trust her. Colin is willing to trust her—and Dickon, whom he has never met—to do two things he has opposed his entire life: they can help him go outside and they can look at him.

Mrs. Sowerby continues to nurture Mary even though she is not physically present in her life. Dickon frequently comments on things his mother says, such as how laughing helps keep illness away. In this way, Dickon is his mother's agent and transmits her mothering to Mary. Mary, in turn, transfers that mothering to Colin when she follows Mrs. Sowerby's advice and gets Colin laughing.

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