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
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 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. 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 some one 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 were 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 everyone 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
"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.