Cover image for The time garden
The time garden
Eager, Edward.
Personal Author:
First Harcourt Brace Young Classics edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego, CA : Harcourt Brace, 1999.

Physical Description:
193 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
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.
General Note:
"An Odyssey/Harcourt Brace young classic."

Sequel to: Knight's castle.
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.0 5.0 51867.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.9 10 Quiz: 20548 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Time and again, the children from Knight's Castle have longed for another magic adventure. But you can't find magic just anywhere. It doesn't just grow like grass. It requires the right place and the right time--
Or thyme, as the case may be.
For at Mrs. Whiton's house, magic grows wild as the fragrant banks of thyme in her garden. Eliza insists that time doesn't grow, it flies --yet growing in the garden is olden time, future time, and common time. Or so says the Natterjack, the odd toadlike creature who presides over the garden and accompanies the kids on a series of perilous, hilarious, always unpredictable adventures. "Anything can happen," the Natterjack says with a wink, "when you have all the time in the world."

Author Notes

EDWARD EAGER(1911-1964) worked primarily as a playwright and lyricist. It wasn't until 1951, while searching for books to read to his young son, Fritz, that he began writing children's stories. His classic Tales of Magic series started with the best-selling Half Magic, published in 1954. In each of his books he carefully acknowledges his indebtedness to E. Nesbit, whom he considered the best children's writer of all time-"so that any child who likes my books and doesn't know hers may be led back to the master of us all.""



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 his 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 not 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, " we 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 Kismet and The Pajama Game and 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.      What he was staring at was a female form that had just taken its seat halfway up the car. A few seconds later he got up and went into the washroom and slicked down his hair, and came back and sat on the arm of the female form's chair, and started muttering to her in a husky monotone that went up an octave every so often, when his voice broke. Each time this happened, the female form uttered a titter.      "Honestly!" said Eliza to Ann. "To think we'll all come to that some day! If there's one thing I despise, it's a teenage girl!"      "Disgusting," Ann agreed.      "He won't be a bit of use to us all summer, you mark my words!" said Eliza.      Roger's heart sank. What was he going to do with himself in a strange house with just two hapless females and a cousin who liked teenage girls?      When lunchtime came, Jack sat with his new friend, and acted as if he'd never seen the other three before in his life, and sent their lunch money over to them by a waiter.      And when the afternoon had dragged its weary length along, and they pulled into the South Station in Boston, his behavior was even more insulting.      "Well, so long," he said regretfully to the teenage girl. "I have to manage these helpless infants now."      "How too sickening for you," said the teenage girl.      The blood of Ann and Roger and Eliza boiled.      There was a slight delay at the South Station, because no one was quite sure what to do next. Old Mrs. Whiton had written that she would try to have Old Henry meet them, but that he was very difficult, and might refuse.      "He'd better not try being difficult with me! " Eliza had muttered darkly, when she heard those words.      But as five minutes passed, and nobody who looked as though he might be called Old Henry came up to them, it seemed that he was trying it.      So then Jack got out old Mrs. Whiton's letter, and read the instructions in it, and found the right platform, and there was the train for the South Shore. Only it wasn't much of a train, being only one car long.      They had to wait quite a while for the train to start. Jack made conversation.      "That was some keen girl," he said. "Her name was Betsy Johnson. She goes to Dana Hall."      "Does she?" said Roger.      By the time the train started, Ann was too sleepy and hungry to care much what was happening, but Roger sat staring interestedly out on the passing New England countryside, and reading the names of the different stations, till it got too dark to see.      As for Eliza, she bounced over to the opposite seat and tried the window to see whether it would open or not, and it did, and after that she hung her head out, sniffing for the first scent of the sea, till the conductor came by and asked if she wanted to get herself killed.      "Ha!" said Eliza. "By a mere train? Not very likely!" But she shut the window.      Their station was the last on the line, and by the time they got there it was almost completely dark. The four children jumped down to the platform and stood looking around.      A figure approached, and a grizzled face regarded them without affection.      "So it's you, is it?" said the figure. There didn't seem to be any answer to this. "Come along then, if that's the way it's going to be," it went on. And it shuffled away into the night without offering to help them with their luggage, and the four children agreed that if difficult was the word for Old Henry, this must be he.      They followed him, lugging the heavy suitcases, and came to what must be the oldest black sedan in the world. Jack, who knew about such things, said it was a Willys-Knight, and they were extinct, and it ought to be in a museum.      Old Henry hardly gave them time to get loaded before he stepped on the gas, and the car slithered away, over smooth highway at first, but then they turned into a woods, over a rocky road that bumped.      And at last the bumping ended and they came out onto cleared land, and there was the house, standing bleak and severe and beautiful, the cold moonlight turning its weathered boards to silver.      Old Henry slithered the car to a stop, and started shuffling off into the night again, but a deep, gruff voice called from the open doorway.      "Come back here and help with those bags, you old ruffian," said the voice. And that was the four children's first introduction to old Mrs. Whiton.      The rest of that evening was a confusion of unpacking and exploring, and abrupt steep staircases, and long rambling corridors that went up and down sudden unexpected steps and never seemed to lead where you thought they were leading. And always in the background was the boom of the sea, and yet the four children couldn't see it from any of the windows, because it lay far below, at the foot of the cliff on which the house was built, so old Mrs. Whiton told them.      Old Mrs. Whiton didn't talk much or smile much, and what she did say sounded rather grim and forbidding, but that may have been because her voice was so deep. And she didn't try to draw them out or get at the content of the child mind, either.      She gave them a supper of baked beans and hot Boston brown bread, and then she said they would have plenty of time for exploring tomorrow, and now they had better go to bed, because the waves were sure to wake them early, till they got used to them. And she showed the four children to their rooms.      There were two rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls, at the end of a long corridor, with their doors directly facing each other. Both rooms had huge fireplaces at one end, big enough to walk into. Over the fireplace in Jack and Roger's room hung two ancient flintlock guns.      "Touch those at your peril," said old Mrs. Whiton.      In Ann and Eliza's room were two immense double four-poster beds, and the beds had canopies over them that were called testers, Mrs. Whiton said.      "Testing. Testing," said Eliza, starting to climb up her canopy to see if it would hold her weight.      "Any more of that," said old Mrs. Whiton, plucking her down, "and you'll rue the day." And she left the room.      "Isn't she an old grenadier?" said Eliza. "I like her!"      Ann didn't answer. She was feeling rather small and lonely. And she felt smaller still when she had undressed and climbed into the middle of her vast bed.      Eliza was at the window, flinging the casements wide and peering out. And at last she saw the sea, curling whitely on the rocks below. A thrill went through her. "This," she announced, "is a wonderful house. Spies could land here, and nobody'd ever know. Smugglers probably used it, in the olden days. It's probably honeycombed with secret passages. Indians could come down through the woods and slaughter everybody!"      There was no answer from Ann's bed. Ann was asleep.      Eliza wandered across the corridor and paused at the door of Jack and Roger's room. Through the door she could hear Jack's voice, telling Roger all about a keen girl he knew called Susan Snook. Roger wasn't answering.      Eliza gave a sniff of disdain, and wandered back to her own room. And standing at the window again, she swore a vow to herself.      "I vow," she swore, "that I'll be the first one up tomorrow and really explore this whole place. Anything could happen here!" And she got into bed and turned out the light.      But it was Ann who woke up first the next morning.      She woke up and got dressed quietly and went downstairs, losing her way several times. In the big front hall she met old Mrs. Whiton. Old Mrs. Whiton was wearing an old-fashioned bathing dress that ought to have looked very funny, but somehow on old Mrs. Whiton it didn't.      "So it's you, is it?" she said. "Get your bathing things and follow me."      Ann ran back for her bathing things, still not waking Eliza, and followed Mrs. Whiton. They went down, not through the garden, but by a hidden flight of steps, cut in the face of the cliff.      "My ancestors built this stairway," said old Mrs. Whiton. "Stone by stone."      At the foot of the stairway was a tiny beach. The morning was bright and sunny, but there was a wind, and the waves that pounded on the sand were big ones. Ann hung back, but old Mrs. Whiton did not. She plunged boldly in, and after a bit Ann followed. Once the first cold shock was past, the waves were glorious, and the salt taste and the tingling. Ann could have stayed for hours at least, but such was not the order of the day.      "Breakfast now," said old Mrs. Whiton in her deep voice, after what seemed like only a few seconds had passed. She strode up the beach toward the stone steps, and Ann could only follow.      In the hall they met Eliza, in bathrobe and slippers.      "Wretch," she said to Ann. "How dare you get there before me? Wait a minute and I'll fetch my things and we'll go in together."      "You will not," said old Mrs. Whiton. "Breakfast is in five minutes. See that you appear properly dressed. And wake those slothful boys. Tardiness will not be excused." And she stalked away in the direction of her ground-floor bedroom.      Eliza made a face behind her back, but she obeyed. Five minutes later all four children were scrubbed and neatly dressed and at the table, which goes to show the power of a strong mind.      Breakfast was served by an elderly maid called Mrs. Annable, who seemed to be a maid of few words. She did not smile or speak when the four children were introduced. But the breakfast was hearty and delicious, with applesauce and toasted cornbread and cocoa, and oatmeal that was properly stiff and porridgey.      "No quick-cooking messes," said old Mrs. Whiton. "Inventions of the devil!"      "Not in my kitchen!" said Mrs. Annable. "Nor none of your nasty frozen vegetables, neither!" Which was her one remark of the morning.      "And now, " said Eliza, when the last crumb had been eaten, and the last drop of buttery cream scraped from the bottom of the last porridge-bowl, "the open sea calls."      "It may call in vain for the next hour and a half," said old Mrs. Whiton. "No one has had cramps and drowned at this beach yet, and I don't intend one of you to be the first!"      Four faces fell. Naturally Eliza was the first to say what all the others were thinking. "But we can't wait! " she said.      "Oh, I think you can," said old Mrs. Whiton. "You've all the time in the world." She started for her room, but in the doorway she seemed to relent a little, and turned. "You can go into the garden while you're waiting," she said. "You may find something to interest you." And she stalked away. A few seconds later the click of a typewriter was heard.      "Whatever those books are that she writes," said Roger, "they must be for Spartan children."      "The garden!" said Eliza, in tones of contempt. "What are we supposed to do, make daisy chains?"      But when the four children wandered willy-nilly out into the sun and through an opening in a boxwood hedge, Ann caught her breath, and Jack wished he had brought his color camera, and even Eliza admitted that it wasn't so dusty.      The garden was long and rectangular, and every bloom of June brightened its borders. Fragrance hung on the air, birds sang, and from somewhere nearby came a drowsy, humming sound.      "The murmur of innumerable bees," said Ann, who was liking poetry and big words that year.      "Though I don't see any immemorial elms," said Roger, who was the family nature-lover. "That's a copper beech." He pointed to the end of the garden.      Beyond the copper beech was another opening in the boxwood hedge. And in the opening stood a sundial.      "Look," said Ann, going closer. "There's something written on it, down at the bottom."      "Don't bother," said Eliza. "It'll just say 'It is later than you think.' They always do."      "If they don't say 'I count only the sunny hours,'" said Jack.      But Ann and Roger had never seen a real sundial before, and Ann had to be shown how it worked, and Roger, who had read all about sundials in a book, showed her. Then they bent over the base of the pedestal. The lettering was old and crumbly and hard to read, but Roger finally made it out.      "It says . . ." He broke off and looked at the others. "It says 'Anything Can Happen!'"      "That isn't all," said Ann, who had wandered around to the back of the sundial. "The lettering goes on, around here. It says . . ." She leaned over to make out the final words. "It says, 'Anything Can Happen When You've All the Time in the World!'"      "What did I tell you?" Eliza's eyes were glowing now. "That old Mrs. Whiton sent us here on purpose! She's probably a witch! It all connects! It's true! I feel it in my bones! Anything could happen here! Something probably will any minute!"      As she spoke something flashed through the air and disappeared in the grass at their feet.      "What was that?" said Ann.      "It came from the sundial," said Roger. "Something live must have been sitting there, and then it hopped off."      "There it goes!" said Jack, pointing through the opening in the hedge.      "Come on!" said Eliza.      The four children raced through the opening after the hopping thing. Then they stopped short.      From where they stood a bank led down to the sea, and the bank was all covered with little flat creeping plants that flowed over rock ledges and turned boulders to flowery cushions, for the plants were studded all over with tiny starry blossoms, purple and lavender and white. The smell of the bank was like all the sweetness and spice of the world mixed together. And it was here that the innumerable bees hummed.      The thing they were following gave another hop and landed just ahead of them. " There it is!" said Ann.      "Never mind, it's just an old toad," said Eliza. "What's all this wonderful smelly stuff?" And she threw herself down on its redolent pillowiness, and the others followed her example.      "It smells like turkey stuffing," said Jack.      "It's some kind of herb," said Roger. He tasted one of the tiny dark green leaves of the purple-flowering kind. "I think maybe it's thyme."      "You mean it's a bank whereon the wild thyme grows?" said Ann. "That's Shakespeare."      "That's silly," said Eliza, who was not a botanical girl, nor a poetical one, either. "Time doesn't grow. Time flies."      "Not this kind of thyme," said Roger.      "Thyme with an 'h,'" said Jack.      "T, h, y, m, e," said Ann.      "The 'h' is silent," said a fifth voice, "as in 'ospital, 'awthorn and 'edge'og."      The four children looked at each other.      "Who said that?" said Jack.      The hopping thing they had been chasing hopped nearer. "I did," it said. "You see," it went on, "anything can 'appen, when you've all the thyme in the world!" And staring at the four children, it slowly winked one eye. Excerpted from The Time Garden by Edward Eager All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.