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The Gardener - Rudyard Kipling

"The Gardener" is the story to be read in between lines. It was written by Rudyard Kipling. It well-written story with such a great craftsmanship and surprise ending that the readers find it necessary to go through the second reading and make readjustment in the relation between one and the other character. In other words, the end of the story acts as a switchback to the beginning of the story for the re-reading.

The story deals with the life of Michael who is said to have been the child of unmarried couple George Turell, an inspector of Indian police and the daughter of a retired non-commissioned officer. It is said that George Turell died of a fall from a horse in India a few weeks before Michael was born. After that, as admitted by George’s sister Miss Helen Turell, who had been to south of France for her lung trouble took the charge of the child. The baby was brought to her hometown from India. Later she took the whole responsibility on her shoulders by cutting all the connection with the mother and the non-commissioned officer. These were the details known to all including the public for Helen was quite frank. According to her, scandals would only increase if one tried to hush them up. She vowed that the boy resembled his father George all over. She also explained to the public that the boy could call her ‘Mummy’ if it delighted him. Michael was provoked to see the things made public and declared that he would die soon. However they were instantly reconciled with tears as their attachment was not skin-deep.

Although he was disturbed to know that his status was not regular due to his birth, he recovered the balance. He decided not to talk of it with Helen any more for it would make her cry. Later the war began and he was directly enlisted in the army, which was a great shock to Helen. In the battle-field while writhing a letter to Helen, he was killed by a Shell-Splinter and his body lay covered by a barn wall that was laid down by another shell. With his death, her world stood still having no concern to her. Later she got an official intimation about Michael’s body being found, identified and re-interred in Hagenzeele third Military cemetery. She set for the cemetery. On the way a stolid, plain-featured English woman volunteered to come with her. The woman, Mrs. Scarsforth, was visiting the place for the ninth time. She would visit many graves which were commissions. Yet she confessed to Helen that she had come there to visit a particular grave. After that Helen looked for the tomb of Michael. A gardener came to help for while looking at her with infinite compassion. To the surprise of the readers, he told her that he would show her where her son was lying. The mysterious presence of the gardener in the graveyard reminds readers of Jesus Christ and makes them feel that it was him. His words induce the readers for the second reading and help them find out that a great deal of information about Michael was supplied by Helen, for which there was no evidence. Her so-called visit to France, death of her brother with a son being born in India, her deep attachment with Michael and above all, her attempts to over-expose their relation throw the light on the hidden aspect of the story. In the end, readers find Helen emerging as another Madonna, the mother of Jesus Christ.

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