280 THE SECRET GARDEN
" Do you know who I am? " demanded Colin still more imperiously. " Answer! "
Ben Weatherstaff put his gnarled hand up and passed it over his eyes and over his forehead and then he did answer in a queer shaky voice.
"Who tha' art?" he said. "Aye, that I do — wi' tha' mother's eyes starin' at me out o' tha' face. Lord knows how tha' come here. But tha'rt th' poor cripple."
Colin forgot that he had ever had a back. His face flushed scarlet and he sat bolt upright.
" I'm not a cripple! " he cried out furiously. " I'm not!"
" He's not! " cried Mary, almost shouting up the wall in her fierce indignation. " He's not got a lump as big as a pin! I looked and there was none there — not one ! "
Ben Weatherstaff passed his hand over his forehead again and gazed as if he could never gaze enough. His hand shook and his mouth shook and his voice shook. He was an ignorant old man and a tactless old man and he could only remember the things he had heard.
"Tha'—tha' hasn't got a crooked back?" he said hoarsely.
"No! "shouted Colin.
" Tha'—tha' hasn't got crooked legs? " quavered Ben more hoarsely yet.