On the following day, the storm has passed, and Martha tells Mary that spring will soon come to the moor. Martha is planning to go home to visit her family, as it is her only free day of the month. Mary asks Martha if she might someday visit her family's cottage. Martha is not certain if it will be possible, but says that she will ask her mother, who is quite clever about such things. After a pause, Mary remarks that she likes both Martha's mother and Dickon, though she has seen neither of them; she bitterly adds that she suspects that they would not like her, because no one does. Martha asks the girl if she likes herself, and Mary surprises both of them by saying, "Not at all." After Martha sets out for home, Mary goes out into the gardens, where she finds Ben Weatherstaff in a good humor. Ben tells her that the earth itself is glad, as it has been eagerly waiting for spring. As the two stand talking, the robin appears and lights at their feet. Mary tentatively asks Ben Weatherstaff if anything is still living in the secret garden, and he replies that only the robin knows, as no one else has been inside in ten years. It occurs to Mary that she was born ten years ago, at around the same time that the garden was bolted shut. Mary wanders off, following the wall of the garden without a door. She realizes that she is fond of a number of people for the first time in her life—of Martha, and Dickon, and Martha's mother, and of the robin, whom she thinks of as a person. The robin follows her, and Mary again tries to talk to him in chirps and twitters. The bird leads her to a mound of freshly turned earth, which, when Mary examines it closely, contains a tarnished key that has long been buried. It may, Mary thinks, be the key to the secret garden.
Mary determines to search for the door of the secret garden. She desperately wishes to find the garden because it has been locked for so long—if she could only go inside, she thinks, she could invent her own games and play them there alone, and no one would ever know where she was, nor how and where to find her. It is this thought that so compels her. That Mary is compelled at all, by anything, signals quite a change in her character, since she had always been entirely passive during her life in India. At Misselthwaite, in the fresh air of the moor, she is beginning to be involved in the world around her, and her imagination is reviving. Though Mary closely examines the thick ivy that grows upon the stone walls of the garden, she cannot find the door, and, at length, returns to the manor. There, Martha announces that her family was thoroughly spellbound by her stories of the child from India. In fact, Martha's mother is terribly concerned about Mary, and has sent her a skipping rope as a present. Though she is grateful for the gift (particularly from a family as impoverished as Martha's), Mary does not quite know how to thank Martha for it. She is very formal, shaking Martha's hand rather than kissing her, as it is more common for a child to do. Mary goes out into the garden to practice with the skipping rope, and there runs into Ben Weatherstaff and the robin. As Mary is skipping down the path with the robin beside her, a gust of wind disturbs some of the ivy growing upon the stone wall. Beneath the ivy is a door, which Mary unlocks with the key she unearthed the day before. She finds herself standing inside the secret garden.
This section is largely given over to the idea of rebirth. This rebirth takes two forms: the first coming of the spring to the moor, and Mary's first entrance into the secret garden. Both of these events contribute to Mary's own rebirth: she is quickening, coming alive, due to the healing properties of the moor. Just as the landscape is coming awake at the advent of spring, Mary will as well; the natural environment and its inhabitants are again shown to be in harmony. Nature itself, in the form of the robin redbreast and the "magical" gust of wind that blows the ivy away from the door, seems to approve of and conspire with Mary's wish to enter the secret garden. The robin, who was born in the secret garden, is thus an agent of both its and Mary's eventual "unlocking." Another important agent of Mary's rebirth can be found in the Sowerby family: the housemaid Martha, Dickon, and their mother, Susan. These people, as a result of their poverty and simplicity, are represented as being part of the moor in a way the residents of the manor can never be. Due to their lack of refinement and education, they are believed to be closer to the purity of nature. Susan Sowerby's ability to bear numerous children is one subtle indication of her closesness to nature, as is Dickon's unique sympathy with the animals of the moor. Mary's affection for them therefore emerges out of her affection for the moor. The gift of the jump rope provides an example of Mrs. Sowerby's singular motherliness: it functions almost as an act of adoption, in that she has concerned herself with Mary's welfare almost as if Mary were her own child. The gift also, however, reintroduces the specter of racism to Mary's relationship with the Sowerbys. Both Martha and Ben Weatherstaff speak of the rope as a uniquely English toy, one that will rid Mary of her last traces of "Indianness." Martha, in fact, says, "They've not got skipping-ropes in India! No wonder most of em's black...." India's "blackness" and godlessness are once again denounced as unfit for an English child like Mary. The skipping rope will both make her stronger and more like the people of the moor: it will bring her back to her innate Englishness, and to the strength of that position.