Authors: Edward Eager
The Time Garden
AN ODYSSEY/HARCOURT YOUNG CLASSIC
ORLANDO AUSTIN NEW YORK SAN DIEGO LONDON
Copyright © 1958 by Harcourt, Inc.
Copyright renewed 1986 by Jane Eager
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First Harcourt Young Classics edition 1999
First Odyssey Classics edition 1990
First published 1958
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The time garden/by Edward Eager; illustrated by N. M. Bodecker.
"An Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic."
Sequel to: Knight's castle.
Summary: While spending the summer in a house by the sea, four cousins,
Roger, Ann, Eliza, and Jack, discover a bank of wild thyme whose magic
propels them on a series of adventures back and forth through time.
[1. Magic—Fiction. 2. Space and time—Fiction. 3. Cousins—Fiction.]
I. Bodecker, N. M., ill. II. Title.
ISBN 978-0-15-202075-0 ISBN 978-0-15-202070-5 (pb)
Printed in the United States of America
B D F H J K I G E C
MV P R T U'S Q O
For Cindy Packard,
a persuasive persuader
1. All the Time in the World
The house and the garden were waiting.
The house had been waiting a long time now, three hundred years, and the garden nearly as long, if you believed Old Henry, who should know. The first garden was planted by the same Robert Whiton who built the house, and it had gone on and on, renewing itself, as gardens do if there are owners who care about them, and the owners of this one did. All the Whitons had green thumbs.
Old Mrs. Whiton, who lived all alone in the house now, didn't, or at least Old Henry said she didn't, but then she was only a Whiton by marriage. She had been born a Miss Peterson, of Passaic, New Jersey. Even though she had lived in the house for over fifty years, Old Henry still considered her a foreigner.
As for the bank of thyme that led down from the garden to the sea, Old Henry said that his grandfather had said that
grandfather had said that it had been there when he was a boy.
What the Natterjack would have said, no one could tell, for no one had asked him. The Natterjack did riot mind. He bided his time. He could wait.
He and the house and the garden were waiting. They were waiting for four children. They didn't care how long they waited. They had all the time in the world.
Right now the four children were on a train. How they happened to be there is a long story. It is longest for Roger and Ann.
It all started when their father, who had never done anything unusual before, suddenly surprised everybody by writing a play. Of course it was a good play, because everything their father did with his mind was good (though his swings fell down and his rabbit hutches came apart).
And it must have been good, because the first man who read it wanted to put it on the stage right away. Only he wanted to put it on in England first and see how it went, before putting it on in America.
When Ann and Roger heard the news, they were jubilant.
"We can see the Tower of London!" said Roger.
"And Blackheath, where the Bastable children lived!" said Ann.
Their father and mother exchanged a look. It was the kind of look Roger and Ann had seen and grown to know in the past, and it usually meant that something could not be afforded.
"You see," said their father slowly, as though he didn't want to say it, "
all like the play, but maybe the audiences won't. And until we know..."
"Yes, of course," said Roger.
"We understand," said Ann.
"If it's a big hit, we'll send for you right away, and all have a wonderful time," said their mother.
There was a silence.
"What about the meantime?" said Roger. "Where'll we be?"
"That," said their father, "will take some working out."
"I think," said their mother, "I'll put in a call to Baltimore right now."
"Jack and Eliza?" said Ann, and her eyes danced, for she and Roger had had a wonderful yeomanly magic summer in Baltimore, Maryland, the year before, with the cousins of those names.
"No, Martha," said their father. "We can't go running to your sister Katharine to help us every time we have a problem!"
"I think," said their mother, "I'll put in a call anyway, just in case."
And it turned out it was a lucky thing she did. Because it turned out that Aunt Katharine and Uncle John were planning a trip to England this summer, too, and they'd been wondering what to do about Jack and Eliza.
"It's just a quick business trip," said Aunt Katharine into the phone. "We wouldn't have time to take them places. It wouldn't be fair."
After that the wires buzzed almost every night between Baltimore, Maryland, and Toledo, Ohio (where Ann and Roger lived), as one parent or another had a wonderful new idea about where to send the four children for the summer.
Only for one reason or another all the wonderful ideas fell through.
It was getting to be the middle of May and summer was fast approaching when Aunt Katharine thought of old Mrs. Whiton.
"It's the perfect solution," she said into the phone that night to Ann and Roger's mother. "She's kind of a great-aunt of John's. She lives in a wonderful historic old house on the South Shore near Boston and she loves having children stay with her. She writes children's books or something."
"It'll be ghastly," said Eliza to Jack, when she heard the news. "She'll keep wanting to draw us out. She'll keep wanting to get at the content of the child mind!"
"Really, Eliza," said Aunt Katharine.
"That's enough, Eliza," said Uncle John. And that was that.
And the next thing that happened was June, and school closed its hideous doors, and all was trunks and tickets, and in practically no time Roger and Ann found themselves with their father and mother on the train to New York City.
Roger didn't bring his model soldiers and knights with him this time, because he had outgrown all that (except for an occasional sliding back now and then, and strictly in private). But he hadn't outgrown some other things, and when Ann looked at him in a certain expectant, excited way, he knew perfectly well what she was thinking, and winked at her across the dining-car table.
What Ann was thinking was that maybe this summer would turn out to be a wonderful magic one like the summer before. It had a lot of magic-seeming things in it already—parents being called away and four children sent to stay in an old house by the sea. Lots of magic adventures in books started out that way.
But the next morning came New York City, which has a magic of its own, and Ann and Roger's first sight of it was enough to blot out all thought of summer adventures, or indeed of anything else.
Jack and Eliza and Aunt Katharine and Uncle John met them in the station and took them back to their hotel, and for the next three days they looked at tall buildings, and battled with shopping crowds, and went round Manhattan Island on a ferryboat, and saw wonderful plays called
The Pajama Game
The Teahouse of the August Moon,
only Roger and Ann knew all along that their father's play would be even better than any of them.
And then came the day of the sailing, and there was the great steamer to explore, and Eliza was spoken to severely by a man in uniform who might have been the captain, for running and sliding on the floor of the ship's ballroom. And all too soon the ship's whistle thrillingly blew, and there came the age-old cry of "All ashore that's going ashore."
Everybody kissed everybody, and some cried (I will not say which ones), and the four children made their way down the gangplank. Ann stood with sinking heart on the pier and watched the watery gulf grow wider and her mother's smiling face go farther and farther away till she couldn't make it out anymore, but still there were waving hands to be seen, and she waved back at them till at last her arm grew tired and stopped of its own accord.
The four children turned away from the water. Nobody looked at anybody else, and Ann could tell that the others must be having that same sinking feeling, too.
Jack was the first to recover. "Now then," he said importantly. "Find a taxi and go straight to Grand Central Station." For those were the instructions that had been gone over and repeated again and again till all four children could have said them in their sleep.
Grand Central Station turned out to be even more interesting than Ann and Roger had thought when they first arrived there three days before. They and Eliza could have lingered for hours looking at tropical fruit and magazine stands and gentlemen's haberdashery, but Jack would have none of this, hustling them along, finding the right gate and tipping redcaps in a lordly way, till soon Roger and Ann were sitting in their seats in the parlor car, and Eliza was running back and forth looking out of windows and comparing the car unfavorably with others she had ridden in in the past.
This train would take them as far as Boston. Their parents had decided it would be all right for them to go that far alone, because Jack was old enough now to take care of the others.
"Though a lot of care he'll take, if I know him," Eliza had said to Ann. "Not with this new horrible side of him that's beginning to show!"
And sure enough, hardly had they left the station and gone through the tunnel than Jack broke off in the middle of a conversation he was having with Roger about the Brooklyn Dodgers, and sat staring up the car and across the aisle, his eyes taking on a glazed expression.