The Gardener

– Rudyard Kipling

Summary

The story, “The Gardener”, written by Rudyard Kipling presents Kipling’s scorn of organized society’s shallowness of feeling and his conviction of depth and purity of individual feelings. In this story, Kipling has given priority to the purity of an individual in place of the shallowness or doubt of the so-called society. The relationship between Helen and Michael has been made the public property. They have suffered from society’s unnecessary concern regarding their relationship.

Everyone in the village has doubt about the relationship between Helen and Michael. There was a scandal about them. Helen was unmarried but still she had a baby named Michael. Whenever the society raised the question against their relationship, Helen responded them by telling that Michael was not her own son, but the son of her brother George Turrell. George Turrell was an Indian inspector who had been entangled with the daughter of an officer. George Turrell was father of Michael. Michael was born just after the death of George Turrell who died when he fell off the horse. Then onward, Helen started taking the responsibility of that baby. She even took the baby away from his grandfather so that she could look after the baby properly. Even though the society kept on asking questions about Michael-Helen relationship, they loved each other very much. Helen kept on responding the same thing to quieten the scandal. But later on, when Michael became six years of old, he himself felt uneasy with that relationship. He even asked a question to Helen that why he couldn’t call her “mummy”. Helen tried to persuade him by telling him that she was not his mother but only his aunt. She further told that she didn’t have any problem if Michael called her “mummy” at bed time. When Michael became very much disappointed, he threatened Helen that very soon he would die and she would be hurt forever. On hearing that, Helen cried bitterly but Michael consoled her and made a promise that he would never raise any questions regarding their relationship.

Michael completed his public school and he was about to join Oxford but quite surprisingly, he joined army. That news made Helen shocked. But Michael persuaded Helen by telling that he was interested in army and it was his family line. He fought in war but he became safe but later on, his luck didn’t favour him and he was killed in war. That news brought extreme sorrow towards Helen. She wandered from here to there to find the place where the dead body of Michael had been buried. Later on, she got a letter where it was mentioned an address “Hagenzeele Third Military Cemetery”. Once she became confirmed, she caught a train and moved towards that cemetery. On the way, she met with a lady named Mrs. Scarsworth who at first told that she was going to the same cemetery to take photographs of her relatives. But later on, she herself revealed the secret that this was her ninth visit to that cemetery. She keeps on going to that cemetery to meet her lover who is dead over there.

Helen reached that cemetery where she saw an old man who was kneeling down behind the lines of graves. The old man (gardener) didn’t need any introduction of Helen. He directly asked the question who she was searching for instead of who she was. Helen responded that she was searching for her nephew, Michael Turrell. The gardener lifted his eyes up and looked towards Helen. There was infinite compassion for Helen in the eyes of the gardener. The gardener told her that he would show where her son had been buried.

 

Probable Questions from this chapter:

  • Who do you think is the Gardener is?
  • What is the real relationship between Helen and Michael?
  • Why does Helen keep on telling lies to her neighbours?
  • Who do you think Mrs. Scarsworth is?

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