Chapter 4 – The Flight
That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head.
At first his companions trusted him implicitly, and so great were the delights of flying that they wasted time circling round church spires or any other tall objects on the way that took their fancy.
John and Michael raced, Michael getting a start.
They recalled with contempt that not so long ago they had thought themselves fine fellows for being able to fly round a room.
Not long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea before this thought began to disturb Wendy seriously. John thought it was their second sea and their third night.
Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were very cold and again too warm. Did they really feel hungry at times, or were they merely pretending, because Peter had such a jolly new way of feeding them? His way was to pursue birds who had food in their mouths suitable for humans and snatch it from them; then the birds would follow and snatch it back; and they would all go chasing each other gaily for miles, parting at last with mutual expressions of good-will. But Wendy noticed with gentle concern that Peter did not seem to know that this was rather an odd way of getting your bread and butter, nor even that there are other ways.
Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy; and that was a danger, for the moment they popped off, down they fell. The awful thing was that Peter thought this funny.
“There he goes again!” he would cry gleefully, as Michael suddenly dropped like a stone.
“Save him, save him!” cried Wendy, looking with horror at the cruel sea far below. Eventually Peter would dive through the air, and catch Michael just before he could strike the sea, and it was lovely the way he did it; but he always waited till the last moment, and you felt it was his cleverness that interested him and not the saving of human life. Also he was fond of variety, and the sport that engrossed him one moment would suddenly cease to engage him, so there was always the possibility that the next time you fell he would let you go.
He could sleep in the air without falling, by merely lying on his back and floating, but this was, partly at least, because he was so light that if you got behind him and blew he went faster.
“Do be more polite to him,” Wendy whispered to John, when they were playing “Follow my Leader.”
“Then tell him to stop showing off,” said John.
When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the water and touch each shark’s tail in passing, just as in the street you may run your finger along an iron railing. They could not follow him in this with much success, so perhaps it was rather like showing off, especially as he kept looking behind to see how many tails they missed.
“You must be nice to him,” Wendy impressed on her brothers. “What could we do if he were to leave us!”
“We could go back,” Michael said.
“How could we ever find our way back without him?”
“Well, then, we could go on,” said John.
“That is the awful thing, John. We should have to go on, for we don’t know how to stop.”
This was true, Peter had forgotten to show them how to stop.
John said that if the worst came to the worst, all they had to do was to go straight on, for the world was round, and so in time they must come back to their own window.
“And who is to get food for us, John?”
“I nipped a bit out of that eagle’s mouth pretty neatly, Wendy.”
“After the twentieth try,” Wendy reminded him. “And even though we became good a picking up food, see how we bump against clouds and things if he is not near to give us a hand.”
Indeed they were constantly bumping. They could now fly strongly, though they still kicked far too much; but if they saw a cloud in front of them, the more they tried to avoid it, the more certainly did they bump into it. If Nana had been with them, she would have had a bandage round Michael’s forehead by this time.
Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather lonely up there by themselves. He could go so much faster than they that he would suddenly shoot out of sight, to have some adventure in which they had no share. He would come down laughing over something fearfully funny he had been saying to a star, but he had already forgotten what it was, or he would come up with mermaid scales still sticking to him, and yet not be able to say for certain what had been happening. It was really rather irritating to children who had never seen a mermaid.
“And if he forgets them so quickly,” Wendy argued, “how can we expect that he will go on remembering us?”
Indeed, sometimes when he returned he did not remember them, at least not well. Wendy was sure of it. She saw recognition come into his eyes as he was about to pass them the time of day and go on; once even she had to call him by name.
“I’m Wendy,” she said agitatedly.
He was very sorry. “I say, Wendy,” he whispered to her, “always if you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying ‘I’m Wendy,’ and then I’ll remember.”
Of course this was rather unsatisfactory. However, to make amends he showed them how to lie out flat on a strong wind that was going their way, and this was such a pleasant change that they tried it several times and found that they could sleep thus with security. Indeed they would have slept longer, but Peter tired quickly of sleeping, and soon he would cry in his captain voice, “We get off here.” So with occasional tiffs, but on the whole rollicking, they drew near the Neverland; for after many moons they did reach it, and, what is more, they had been going pretty straight all the time, not perhaps so much owing to the guidance of Peter or Tink as because the island was looking for them. It is only thus that any one may sight those magic shores.
“There it is,” said Peter calmly.
“Where all the arrows are pointing.”
Indeed a million golden arrows were pointing it out to the children, all directed by their friend the sun, who wanted them to be sure of their way before leaving them for the night.
Wendy and John and Michael stood on tip-toe in the air to get their first sight of the island. Strange to say, they all recognized it at once, and until fear fell upon them they hailed it, not as something long dreamt of and seen at last, but as a familiar friend to whom they were returning home for the holidays.
“John, there’s the lagoon.”
“Wendy, look at the turtles burying their eggs in the sand.”
“I say, John, I see your flamingo with the broken leg!”
“Look, Michael, there’s your cave!”
“John, what’s that in the brushwood?”
“It’s a wolf with her whelps. Wendy, I do believe that’s your little whelp!”
“There’s my boat, John, with her sides stove in!”
“No, it isn’t. Why, we burned your boat.”
“That’s her, at any rate. I say, John, I see the smoke of the redskin camp!”
“Where? Show me, and I’ll tell you by the way smoke curls whether they are on the war-path.”
“There, just across the Mysterious River.”
“I see now. Yes, they are on the war-path right enough.”
Peter was a little annoyed with them for knowing so much, but if he wanted to lord it over them his triumph was at hand, for have I not told you that anon fear fell upon them?
It came as the arrows went, leaving the island in gloom.
In the old days at home the Neverland had always begun to look a little dark and threatening by bedtime. Then unexplored patches arose in it and spread, black shadows moved about in them, the roar of the beasts of prey was quite different now, and above all, you lost the certainty that you would win. You were quite glad that the night-lights were on. You even liked Nana to say that this was just the mantelpiece over here, and that the Neverland was all make-believe.
Of course the Neverland had been make-believe in those days, but it was real now, and there were no night-lights, and it was getting darker every moment, and where was Nana?
They had been flying apart, but they huddled close to Peter now. His careless manner had gone at last, his eyes were sparkling, and a tingle went through them every time they touched his body. They were now over the fearsome island, flying so low that sometimes a tree grazed their feet. Nothing horrid was visible in the air, yet their progress had become slow and laboured, exactly as if they were pushing their way through hostile forces. Sometimes they hung in the air until Peter had beaten on it with his fists.
“They don’t want us to land,” he explained.
“Who are they?” Wendy whispered, shuddering.
But he could not or would not say. Tinker Bell had been asleep on his shoulder, but now he wakened her and sent her on in front.
Sometimes he poised himself in the air, listening intently, with his hand to his ear, and again he would stare down with eyes so bright that they seemed to bore two holes to earth. Having done these things, he went on again.
His courage was almost appalling. “Would you like an adventure now,” he said casually to John, “or would you like to have your tea first?”
Wendy said “tea first” quickly, and Michael pressed her hand in gratitude, but the braver John hesitated.
“What kind of adventure?” he asked cautiously.
“There’s a pirate asleep in the pampas just beneath us,” Peter told him. “If you like, we’ll go down and kill him.”
“I don’t see him,” John said after a long pause.
“Suppose,” John said, a little huskily, “he were to wake up.”
Peter spoke indignantly. “You don’t think I would kill him while he was sleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That’s the way I always do.”
“I say! Do you kill many?”
John said “How ripping,” but decided to have tea first. He asked if there were many pirates on the island just now, and Peter said he had never known so many.
“Who is captain now?”
“Hook,” answered Peter, and his face became very stern as he said that hated word.
Then indeed Michael began to cry, and even John could speak in gulps only, for they knew Hook’s reputation.
“He was Blackbeard’s bo’sun,” John whispered huskily. “He is the worst of them all. He is the only man of whom Barbecue was afraid.”
“That’s him,” said Peter.
“What is he like? Is he big?”
“He is not so big as he was.”
“How do you mean?”
“I cut off a bit of him.”
“Yes, me,” said Peter sharply.
“I wasn’t meaning to be disrespectful.”
“Oh, all right.”
“But, I say, what bit?”
“His right hand.”
“Then he can’t fight now?”
“Oh, can’t he just!”
“He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and he claws with it.”
“I say, John,” said Peter.
“Say, ‘Ay, ay, sir.'”
“Ay, ay, sir.”
“There is one thing,” Peter continued, “that every boy who serves under me has to promise, and so must you.”
“It is this, if we meet Hook in open fight, you must leave him to me.”
“I promise,” John said loyally.
For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was flying with them, and in her light they could distinguish each other. Unfortunately she could not fly so slowly as they, and so she had to go round and round them in a circle in which they moved as in a halo. Wendy quite liked it, until Peter pointed out the drawbacks.
“She tells me,” he said, “that the pirates sighted us before the darkness came, and got Long Tom out.”
“The big gun?”
“Yes. And of course they must see her light, and if they guess we are near it they are sure to let fly.”
“Tell her to go away at once, Peter,” the three cried simultaneously, but he refused.
“She thinks we have lost the way,” he replied stiffly, “and she is rather frightened. You don’t think I would send her away all by herself when she is frightened!”
For a moment the circle of light was broken, and something gave Peter a loving little pinch.
“Then tell her,” Wendy begged, “to put out her light.”
“She can’t put it out. That is about the only thing fairies can’t do. It just goes out of itself when she falls asleep, same as the stars.”
“Then tell her to sleep at once,” John almost ordered.
“She can’t sleep except when she’s sleepy. It is the only other thing fairies can’t do.”
“Seems to me,” growled John, “these are the only two things worth doing.”
Here he got a pinch, but not a loving one.
“If only one of us had a pocket,” Peter said, “we could carry her in it.” However, they had set off in such a hurry that there was not a pocket between the four of them.
He had a happy idea. John’s hat!
Tink agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in the hand. John carried it, though she had hoped to be carried by Peter. Presently Wendy took the hat, because John said it struck against his knee as he flew; and this, as we shall see, led to mischief, for Tinker Bell hated to be under an obligation to Wendy.
In the black topper the light was completely hidden, and they flew on in silence. It was the stillest silence they had ever known, broken once by a distant lapping, which Peter explained was the wild beasts drinking at the ford, and again by a rasping sound that might have been the branches of trees rubbing together, but he said it was the redskins sharpening their knives.
Even these noises ceased. To Michael the loneliness was dreadful. “If only something would make a sound!” he cried.
As if in answer to his request, the air was rent by the most tremendous crash he had ever heard. The pirates had fired Long Tom at them.
The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes seemed to cry savagely, “Where are they, where are they, where are they?”
Thus sharply did the terrified three learn the difference between an island of make-believe and the same island come true.
When at last the heavens were steady again, John and Michael found themselves alone in the darkness. John was treading the air mechanically, and Michael without knowing how to float was floating.
“Are you shot?” John whispered tremulously.
“I haven’t tried [myself out] yet,” Michael whispered back.
We know now that no one had been hit. Peter, however, had been carried by the wind of the shot far out to sea, while Wendy was blown upwards with no companion but Tinker Bell.
It would have been well for Wendy if at that moment she had dropped the hat.
I don’t know whether the idea came suddenly to Tink, or whether she had planned it on the way, but she at once popped out of the hat and began to lure Wendy to her destruction.
Tink was not all bad; or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy. What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand, and I believe some of it was bad words, but it sounded kind, and she flew back and forward, plainly meaning “Follow me, and all will be well.”
What else could poor Wendy do? She called to Peter and John and Michael, and got only mocking echoes in reply. She did not yet know that Tink hated her with the fierce hatred of a very woman. And so, bewildered, and now staggering in her flight, she followed Tink to her doom.
CHAPTER 5: THE ISLAND COME TRUE
Feeling that Peter was on his way back, the Neverland had again woke into life. We ought to use the pluperfect and say wakened, but woke is better and was always used by Peter.
In his absence things are usually quiet on the island. The fairies take an hour longer in the morning, the beasts attend to their young, the redskins feed heavily for six days and nights, and when pirates and lost boys meet they merely bite their thumbs at each other. But with the coming of Peter, who hates lethargy, they are under way again: if you put your ear to the ground now, you would hear the whole island seething with life.
On this evening the chief forces of the island were disposed as follows. The lost boys were out looking for Peter, the pirates were out looking for the lost boys, the redskins were out looking for the pirates, and the beasts were out looking for the redskins. They were going round and round the island, but they did not meet because all were going at the same rate.
All wanted blood except the boys, who liked it as a rule, but to-night were out to greet their captain. The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two. Let us pretend to lie here among the sugar-cane and watch them as they steal by in single file, each with his hand on his dagger.
They are forbidden by Peter to look in the least like him, and they wear the skins of the bears slain by themselves, in which they are so round and furry that when they fall they roll. They have therefore become very sure-footed.
The first to pass is Tootles, not the least brave but the most unfortunate of all that gallant band. He had been in fewer adventures than any of them, because the big things constantly happened just when he had stepped round the corner; all would be quiet, he would take the opportunity of going off to gather a few sticks for firewood, and then when he returned the others would be sweeping up the blood. This ill-luck had given a gentle melancholy to his countenance, but instead of souring his nature had sweetened it, so that he was quite the humblest of the boys. Poor kind Tootles, there is danger in the air for you to-night. Take care lest an adventure is now offered you, which, if accepted, will plunge you in deepest woe. Tootles, the fairy Tink, who is bent on mischief this night is looking for a tool [for doing her mischief], and she thinks you are the most easily tricked of the boys. ‘Ware Tinker Bell.
Would that he could hear us, but we are not really on the island, and he passes by, biting his knuckles.
Next comes Nibs, the gay and debonair, followed by Slightly, who cuts whistles out of the trees and dances ecstatically to his own tunes. Slightly is the most conceited of the boys. He thinks he remembers the days before he was lost, with their manners and customs, and this has given his nose an offensive tilt. Curly is fourth; he is a pickle, [a person who gets in pickles-predicaments] and so often has he had to deliver up his person when Peter said sternly, “Stand forth the one who did this thing,” that now at the command he stands forth automatically whether he has done it or not. Last come the Twins, who cannot be described because we should be sure to be describing the wrong one. Peter never quite knew what twins were, and his band were not allowed to know anything he did not know, so these two were always vague about themselves, and did their best to give satisfaction by keeping close together in an apologetic sort of way.
The boys vanish in the gloom, and after a pause, but not a long pause, for things go briskly on the island, come the pirates on their track. We hear them before they are seen, and it is always the same dreadful song:
“Avast belay, yo ho, heave to,
A-pirating we go,
And if we’re parted by a shot
We’re sure to meet below!”
A more villainous-looking lot never hung in a row on Execution dock. Here, a little in advance, ever and again with his head to the ground listening, his great arms bare, pieces of eight in his ears as ornaments, is the handsome Italian Cecco, who cut his name in letters of blood on the back of the governor of the prison at Gao. That gigantic black behind him has had many names since he dropped the one with which dusky mothers still terrify their children on the banks of the Guadjo-mo. Here is Bill Jukes, every inch of him tattooed, the same Bill Jukes who got six dozen on the WALRUS from Flint before he would drop the bag of moidores [Portuguese gold pieces]; and Cookson, said to be Black Murphy’s brother (but this was never proved), and Gentleman Starkey, once an usher in a public school and still dainty in his ways of killing; and Skylights (Morgan’s Skylights); and the Irish bo’sun Smee, an oddly genial man who stabbed, so to speak, without offence, and was the only Non-conformist in Hook’s crew; and Noodler, whose hands were fixed on backwards; and Robt. Mullins and Alf Mason and many another ruffian long known and feared on the Spanish Main.
In the midst of them, the blackest and largest in that dark setting, reclined James Hook, or as he wrote himself, Jas. Hook, of whom it is said he was the only man that the Sea-Cook feared. He lay at his ease in a rough chariot drawn and propelled by his men, and instead of a right hand he had the iron hook with which ever and anon he encouraged them to increase their pace. As dogs this terrible man treated and addressed them, and as dogs they obeyed him. In person he was cadaverous [dead looking] and blackavized [dark faced], and his hair was dressed in long curls, which at a little distance looked like black candles, and gave a singularly threatening expression to his handsome countenance. His eyes were of the blue of the forget-me-not, and of a profound melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly. In manner, something of the grand seigneur still clung to him, so that he even ripped you up with an air, and I have been told that he was a RACONTEUR [storyteller] of repute. He was never more sinister than when he was most polite, which is probably the truest test of breeding; and the elegance of his diction, even when he was swearing, no less than the distinction of his demeanour, showed him one of a different cast from his crew. A man of indomitable courage, it was said that the only thing he shied at was the sight of his own blood, which was thick and of an unusual colour. In dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of Charles II, having heard it said in some earlier period of his career that he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts; and in his mouth he had a holder of his own contrivance which enabled him to smoke two cigars at once. But undoubtedly the grimmest part of him was his iron claw.
Let us now kill a pirate, to show Hook’s method. Skylights will do. As they pass, Skylights lurches clumsily against him, ruffling his lace collar; the hook shoots forth, there is a tearing sound and one screech, then the body is kicked aside, and the pirates pass on. He has not even taken the cigars from his mouth.
Such is the terrible man against whom Peter Pan is pitted. Which will win?
On the trail of the pirates, stealing noiselessly down the war-path, which is not visible to inexperienced eyes, come the redskins, every one of them with his eyes peeled. They carry tomahawks and knives, and their naked bodies gleam with paint and oil. Strung around them are scalps, of boys as well as of pirates, for these are the Piccaninny tribe, and not to be confused with the softer-hearted Delawares or the Hurons. In the van, on all fours, is Great Big Little Panther, a brave of so many scalps that in his present position they somewhat impede his progress. Bringing up the rear, the place of greatest danger, comes Tiger Lily, proudly erect, a princess in her own right. She is the most beautiful of dusky Dianas [Diana = goddess of the woods] and the belle of the Piccaninnies, coquettish [flirting], cold and amorous [loving] by turns; there is not a brave who would not have the wayward thing to wife, but she staves off the altar with a hatchet. Observe how they pass over fallen twigs without making the slightest noise. The only sound to be heard is their somewhat heavy breathing. The fact is that they are all a little fat just now after the heavy gorging, but in time they will work this off. For the moment, however, it constitutes their chief danger.
The redskins disappear as they have come like shadows, and soon their place is taken by the beasts, a great and motley procession: lions, tigers, bears, and the innumerable smaller savage things that flee from them, for every kind of beast, and, more particularly, all the man-eaters, live cheek by jowl on the favoured island. Their tongues are hanging out, they are hungry to-night.
When they have passed, comes the last figure of all, a gigantic crocodile. We shall see for whom she is looking presently.
The crocodile passes, but soon the boys appear again, for the procession must continue indefinitely until one of the parties stops or changes its pace. Then quickly they will be on top of each other.
All are keeping a sharp look-out in front, but none suspects that the danger may be creeping up from behind. This shows how real the island was.
The first to fall out of the moving circle was the boys. They flung themselves down on the sward [turf], close to their underground home.
“I do wish Peter would come back,” every one of them said nervously, though in height and still more in breadth they were all larger than their captain.
“I am the only one who is not afraid of the pirates,” Slightly said, in the tone that prevented his being a general favourite; but perhaps some distant sound disturbed him, for he added hastily, “but I wish he would come back, and tell us whether he has heard anything more about Cinderella.”
They talked of Cinderella, and Tootles was confident that his mother must have been very like her.
It was only in Peter’s absence that they could speak of mothers, the subject being forbidden by him as silly.
“All I remember about my mother,” Nibs told them, “is that she often said to my father, ‘Oh, how I wish I had a cheque-book of my own!’ I don’t know what a cheque-book is, but I should just love to give my mother one.”
While they talked they heard a distant sound. You or I, not being wild things of the woods, would have heard nothing, but they heard it, and it was the grim song:
“Yo ho, yo ho, the pirate life,
The flag o’ skull and bones,
A merry hour, a hempen rope,
And hey for Davy Jones.”
At once the lost boys—but where are they? They are no longer there. Rabbits could not have disappeared more quickly.
I will tell you where they are. With the exception of Nibs, who has darted away to reconnoitre [look around], they are already in their home under the ground, a very delightful residence of which we shall see a good deal presently. But how have they reached it? for there is no entrance to be seen, not so much as a large stone, which if rolled away, would disclose the mouth of a cave. Look closely, however, and you may note that there are here seven large trees, each with a hole in its hollow trunk as large as a boy. These are the seven entrances to the home under the ground, for which Hook has been searching in vain these many moons. Will he find it tonight?
As the pirates advanced, the quick eye of Starkey sighted Nibs disappearing through the wood, and at once his pistol flashed out. But an iron claw gripped his shoulder.
“Captain, let go!” he cried, writhing.
Now for the first time we hear the voice of Hook. It was a black voice. “Put back that pistol first,” it said threateningly.
“It was one of those boys you hate. I could have shot him dead.”
“Ay, and the sound would have brought Tiger Lily’s redskins upon us. Do you want to lose your scalp?”
“Shall I after him, Captain,” asked pathetic Smee, “and tickle him with Johnny Corkscrew?” Smee had pleasant names for everything, and his cutlass was Johnny Corkscrew, because he wiggled it in the wound. One could mention many lovable traits in Smee. For instance, after killing, it was his spectacles he wiped instead of his weapon.
“Johnny’s a silent fellow,” he reminded Hook.
“Not now, Smee,” Hook said darkly. “He is only one, and I want to mischief all the seven. Scatter and look for them.”
The pirates disappeared among the trees, and in a moment their Captain and Smee were alone. Hook heaved a heavy sigh, and I know not why it was, perhaps it was because of the soft beauty of the evening, but there came over him a desire to confide to his faithful bo’sun the story of his life. He spoke long and earnestly, but what it was all about Smee, who was rather stupid, did not know in the least.
Anon [later] he caught the word Peter.
“Most of all,” Hook was saying passionately, “I want their captain, Peter Pan. ‘Twas he cut off my arm.” He brandished the hook threateningly. “I’ve waited long to shake his hand with this. Oh, I’ll tear him!”
“And yet,” said Smee, “I have often heard you say that hook was worth a score of hands, for combing the hair and other homely uses.”
“Ay,” the captain answered, “if I was a mother I would pray to have my children born with this instead of that,” and he cast a look of pride upon his iron hand and one of scorn upon the other. Then again he frowned.
“Peter flung my arm,” he said, wincing, “to a crocodile that happened to be passing by.”
“I have often,” said Smee, “noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.”
“Not of crocodiles,” Hook corrected him, “but of that one crocodile.” He lowered his voice. “It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.”
“In a way,” said Smee, “it’s sort of a compliment.”
“I want no such compliments,” Hook barked petulantly. “I want Peter Pan, who first gave the brute its taste for me.”
He sat down on a large mushroom, and now there was a quiver in his voice. “Smee,” he said huskily, “that crocodile would have had me before this, but by a lucky chance it swallowed a clock which goes tick tick inside it, and so before it can reach me I hear the tick and bolt.” He laughed, but in a hollow way.
“Some day,” said Smee, “the clock will run down, and then he’ll get you.”
Hook wetted his dry lips. “Ay,” he said, “that’s the fear that haunts me.”
Since sitting down he had felt curiously warm. “Smee,” he said, “this seat is hot.” He jumped up. “Odds bobs, hammer and tongs I’m burning.”
They examined the mushroom, which was of a size and solidity unknown on the mainland; they tried to pull it up, and it came away at once in their hands, for it had no root. Stranger still, smoke began at once to ascend. The pirates looked at each other. “A chimney!” they both exclaimed.
They had indeed discovered the chimney of the home under the ground. It was the custom of the boys to stop it with a mushroom when enemies were in the neighbourhood.
Not only smoke came out of it. There came also children’s voices, for so safe did the boys feel in their hiding-place that they were gaily chattering. The pirates listened grimly, and then replaced the mushroom. They looked around them and noted the holes in the seven trees.
“Did you hear them say Peter Pan’s from home?” Smee whispered, fidgeting with Johnny Corkscrew.
Hook nodded. He stood for a long time lost in thought, and at last a curdling smile lit up his swarthy face. Smee had been waiting for it. “Unrip your plan, captain,” he cried eagerly.
“To return to the ship,” Hook replied slowly through his teeth, “and cook a large rich cake of a jolly thickness with green sugar on it. There can be but one room below, for there is but one chimney. The silly moles had not the sense to see that they did not need a door apiece. That shows they have no mother. We will leave the cake on the shore of the Mermaids’ Lagoon. These boys are always swimming about there, playing with the mermaids. They will find the cake and they will gobble it up, because, having no mother, they don’t know how dangerous ’tis to eat rich damp cake.” He burst into laughter, not hollow laughter now, but honest laughter. “Aha, they will die.”
Smee had listened with growing admiration.
“It’s the wickedest, prettiest policy ever I heard of!” he cried, and in their exultation they danced and sang:
“Avast, belay, when I appear,
By fear they’re overtook;
Nought’s left upon your bones when you
Have shaken claws with Hook.”
They began the verse, but they never finished it, for another sound broke in and stilled them. There was at first such a tiny sound that a leaf might have fallen on it and smothered it, but as it came nearer it was more distinct.
Tick tick tick tick!
Hook stood shuddering, one foot in the air.
“The crocodile!” he gasped, and bounded away, followed by his bo’sun.
It was indeed the crocodile. It had passed the redskins, who were now on the trail of the other pirates. It oozed on after Hook.
Once more the boys emerged into the open; but the dangers of the night were not yet over, for presently Nibs rushed breathless into their midst, pursued by a pack of wolves. The tongues of the pursuers were hanging out; the baying of them was horrible.
“Save me, save me!” cried Nibs, falling on the ground.
“But what can we do, what can we do?”
It was a high compliment to Peter that at that dire moment their thoughts turned to him.
“What would Peter do?” they cried simultaneously.
Almost in the same breath they cried, “Peter would look at them through his legs.”
And then, “Let us do what Peter would do.”
It is quite the most successful way of defying wolves, and as one boy they bent and looked through their legs. The next moment is the long one, but victory came quickly, for as the boys advanced upon them in the terrible attitude, the wolves dropped their tails and fled.
Now Nibs rose from the ground, and the others thought that his staring eyes still saw the wolves. But it was not wolves he saw.
“I have seen a wonderfuller thing,” he cried, as they gathered round him eagerly. “A great white bird. It is flying this way.”
“What kind of a bird, do you think?”
“I don’t know,” Nibs said, awestruck, “but it looks so weary, and as it flies it moans, ‘Poor Wendy,'”
“I remember,” said Slightly instantly, “there are birds called Wendies.”
“See, it comes!” cried Curly, pointing to Wendy in the heavens.
Wendy was now almost overhead, and they could hear her plaintive cry. But more distinct came the shrill voice of Tinker Bell. The jealous fairy had now cast off all disguise of friendship, and was darting at her victim from every direction, pinching savagely each time she touched.
“Hullo, Tink,” cried the wondering boys.
Tink’s reply rang out: “Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy.”
It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. “Let us do what Peter wishes!” cried the simple boys. “Quick, bows and arrows!”
All but Tootles popped down their trees. He had a bow and arrow with him, and Tink noted it, and rubbed her little hands.
“Quick, Tootles, quick,” she screamed. “Peter will be so pleased.”
Tootles excitedly fitted the arrow to his bow. “Out of the way, Tink,” he shouted, and then he fired, and Wendy fluttered to the ground with an arrow in her breast.
CHAPTER 6: THE LITTLE HOUSE
Foolish Tootles was standing like a conqueror over Wendy’s body when the other boys sprang, armed, from their trees.
“You are too late,” he cried proudly, “I have shot the Wendy. Peter will be so pleased with me.”
Overhead Tinker Bell shouted “Silly ass!” and darted into hiding. The others did not hear her. They had crowded round Wendy, and as they looked a terrible silence fell upon the wood. If Wendy’s heart had been beating they would all have heard it.
Slightly was the first to speak. “This is no bird,” he said in a scared voice. “I think this must be a lady.”
“A lady?” said Tootles, and fell a-trembling.
“And we have killed her,” Nibs said hoarsely.
They all whipped off their caps.
“Now I see,” Curly said: “Peter was bringing her to us.” He threw himself sorrowfully on the ground.
“A lady to take care of us at last,” said one of the twins, “and you have killed her!”
They were sorry for him, but sorrier for themselves, and when he took a step nearer them they turned from him.
Tootles’ face was very white, but there was a dignity about him now that had never been there before.
“I did it,” he said, reflecting. “When ladies used to come to me in dreams, I said, ‘Pretty mother, pretty mother.’ But when at last she really came, I shot her.”
He moved slowly away.
“Don’t go,” they called in pity.
“I must,” he answered, shaking; “I am so afraid of Peter.”
It was at this tragic moment that they heard a sound which made the heart of every one of them rise to his mouth. They heard Peter crow.
“Peter!” they cried, for it was always thus that he signalled his return.
“Hide her,” they whispered, and gathered hastily around Wendy. But Tootles stood aloof.
Again came that ringing crow, and Peter dropped in front of them. “Greetings, boys,” he cried, and mechanically they saluted, and then again was silence.
“I am back,” he said hotly, “why do you not cheer?”
They opened their mouths, but the cheers would not come. He overlooked it in his haste to tell the glorious tidings.
“Great news, boys,” he cried, “I have brought at last a mother for you all.”
Still no sound, except a little thud from Tootles as he dropped on his knees.
“Have you not seen her?” asked Peter, becoming troubled. “She flew this way.”
“Ah me!” once voice said, and another said, “Oh, mournful day.”
Tootles rose. “Peter,” he said quietly, “I will show her to you,” and when the others would still have hidden her he said, “Back, twins, let Peter see.”
So they all stood back, and let him see, and after he had looked for a little time he did not know what to do next.
“She is dead,” he said uncomfortably. “Perhaps she is frightened at being dead.”
He thought of hopping off in a comic sort of way till he was out of sight of her, and then never going near the spot any more. They would all have been glad to follow if he had done this.
But there was the arrow. He took it from her heart and faced his band.
“Whose arrow?” he demanded sternly.
“Mine, Peter,” said Tootles on his knees.
“Oh, dastard hand,” Peter said, and he raised the arrow to use it as a dagger.
Tootles did not flinch. He bared his breast. “Strike, Peter,” he said firmly, “strike true.”
Twice did Peter raise the arrow, and twice did his hand fall. “I cannot strike,” he said with awe, “there is something stays my hand.”
All looked at him in wonder, save Nibs, who fortunately looked at Wendy.
“It is she,” he cried, “the Wendy lady, see, her arm!”
Wonderful to relate [tell], Wendy had raised her arm. Nibs bent over her and listened reverently. “I think she said, ‘Poor Tootles,'” he whispered.
“She lives,” Peter said briefly.
Slightly cried instantly, “The Wendy lady lives.”
Then Peter knelt beside her and found his button. You remember she had put it on a chain that she wore round her neck.
“See,” he said, “the arrow struck against this. It is the kiss I gave her. It has saved her life.”
“I remember kisses,” Slightly interposed quickly, “let me see it. Ay, that’s a kiss.”
Peter did not hear him. He was begging Wendy to get better quickly, so that he could show her the mermaids. Of course she could not answer yet, being still in a frightful faint; but from overhead came a wailing note.
“Listen to Tink,” said Curly, “she is crying because the Wendy lives.”
Then they had to tell Peter of Tink’s crime, and almost never had they seen him look so stern.
“Listen, Tinker Bell,” he cried, “I am your friend no more. Begone from me for ever.”
She flew on to his shoulder and pleaded, but he brushed her off. Not until Wendy again raised her arm did he relent sufficiently to say, “Well, not for ever, but for a whole week.”
Do you think Tinker Bell was grateful to Wendy for raising her arm? Oh dear no, never wanted to pinch her so much. Fairies indeed are strange, and Peter, who understood them best, often cuffed [slapped] them.
But what to do with Wendy in her present delicate state of health?
“Let us carry her down into the house,” Curly suggested.
“Ay,” said Slightly, “that is what one does with ladies.”
“No, no,” Peter said, “you must not touch her. It would not be sufficiently respectful.”
“That,” said Slightly, “is what I was thinking.”
“But if she lies there,” Tootles said, “she will die.”
“Ay, she will die,” Slightly admitted, “but there is no way out.”
“Yes, there is,” cried Peter. “Let us build a little house round her.”
They were all delighted. “Quick,” he ordered them, “bring me each of you the best of what we have. Gut our house. Be sharp.”
In a moment they were as busy as tailors the night before a wedding. They skurried this way and that, down for bedding, up for firewood, and while they were at it, who should appear but John and Michael. As they dragged along the ground they fell asleep standing, stopped, woke up, moved another step and slept again.
“John, John,” Michael would cry, “wake up! Where is Nana, John, and mother?”
And then John would rub his eyes and mutter, “It is true, we did fly.”
You may be sure they were very relieved to find Peter.
“Hullo, Peter,” they said.
“Hullo,” replied Peter amicably, though he had quite forgotten them. He was very busy at the moment measuring Wendy with his feet to see how large a house she would need. Of course he meant to leave room for chairs and a table. John and Michael watched him.
“Is Wendy asleep?” they asked.
“John,” Michael proposed, “let us wake her and get her to make supper for us,” but as he said it some of the other boys rushed on carrying branches for the building of the house. “Look at them!” he cried.
“Curly,” said Peter in his most captainy voice, “see that these boys help in the building of the house.”
“Ay, ay, sir.”
“Build a house?” exclaimed John.
“For the Wendy,” said Curly.
“For Wendy?” John said, aghast. “Why, she is only a girl!”
“That,” explained Curly, “is why we are her servants.”
“You? Wendy’s servants!”
“Yes,” said Peter, “and you also. Away with them.”
The astounded brothers were dragged away to hack and hew and carry. “Chairs and a fender [fireplace] first,” Peter ordered. “Then we shall build a house round them.”
“Ay,” said Slightly, “that is how a house is built; it all comes back to me.”
Peter thought of everything. “Slightly,” he cried, “fetch a doctor.”
“Ay, ay,” said Slightly at once, and disappeared, scratching his head. But he knew Peter must be obeyed, and he returned in a moment, wearing John’s hat and looking solemn.
“Please, sir,” said Peter, going to him, “are you a doctor?”
The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.
If they broke down in their make-believe he rapped them on the knuckles.
“Yes, my little man,” Slightly anxiously replied, who had chapped knuckles.
“Please, sir,” Peter explained, “a lady lies very ill.”
She was lying at their feet, but Slightly had the sense not to see her.
“Tut, tut, tut,” he said, “where does she lie?”
“In yonder glade.”
“I will put a glass thing in her mouth,” said Slightly, and he made-believe to do it, while Peter waited. It was an anxious moment when the glass thing was withdrawn.
“How is she?” inquired Peter.
“Tut, tut, tut,” said Slightly, “this has cured her.”
“I am glad!” Peter cried.
“I will call again in the evening,” Slightly said; “give her beef tea out of a cup with a spout to it;” but after he had returned the hat to John he blew big breaths, which was his habit on escaping from a difficulty.
In the meantime the wood had been alive with the sound of axes; almost everything needed for a cosy dwelling already lay at Wendy’s feet.
“If only we knew,” said one, “the kind of house she likes best.”
“Peter,” shouted another, “she is moving in her sleep.”
“Her mouth opens,” cried a third, looking respectfully into it. “Oh, lovely!”
“Perhaps she is going to sing in her sleep,” said Peter. “Wendy, sing the kind of house you would like to have.”
Immediately, without opening her eyes, Wendy began to sing:
“I wish I had a pretty house,
The littlest ever seen,
With funny little red walls
And roof of mossy green.”
They gurgled with joy at this, for by the greatest good luck the branches they had brought were sticky with red sap, and all the ground was carpeted with moss. As they rattled up the little house they broke into song themselves:
“We’ve built the little walls and roof
And made a lovely door,
So tell us, mother Wendy,
What are you wanting more?”
To this she answered greedily:
“Oh, really next I think I’ll have
Gay windows all about,
With roses peeping in, you know,
And babies peeping out.”
With a blow of their fists they made windows, and large yellow leaves were the blinds. But roses—?
“Roses,” cried Peter sternly.
Quickly they made-believe to grow the loveliest roses up the walls.
To prevent Peter ordering babies they hurried into song again:
“We’ve made the roses peeping out,
The babes are at the door,
We cannot make ourselves, you know,
‘cos we’ve been made before.”
Peter, seeing this to be a good idea, at once pretended that it was his own. The house was quite beautiful, and no doubt Wendy was very cosy within, though, of course, they could no longer see her. Peter strode up and down, ordering finishing touches. Nothing escaped his eagle eyes. Just when it seemed absolutely finished:
“There’s no knocker on the door,” he said.
They were very ashamed, but Tootles gave the sole of his shoe, and it made an excellent knocker.
Absolutely finished now, they thought.
Not of bit of it. “There’s no chimney,” Peter said; “we must have a chimney.”
“It certainly does need a chimney,” said John importantly. This gave Peter an idea. He snatched the hat off John’s head, knocked out the bottom [top], and put the hat on the roof. The little house was so pleased to have such a capital chimney that, as if to say thank you, smoke immediately began to come out of the hat.
Now really and truly it was finished. Nothing remained to do but to knock.
“All look your best,” Peter warned them; “first impressions are awfully important.”
He was glad no one asked him what first impressions are; they were all too busy looking their best.
He knocked politely, and now the wood was as still as the children, not a sound to be heard except from Tinker Bell, who was watching from a branch and openly sneering.
What the boys were wondering was, would any one answer the knock? If a lady, what would she be like?
The door opened and a lady came out. It was Wendy. They all whipped off their hats.
She looked properly surprised, and this was just how they had hoped she would look.
“Where am I?” she said.
Of course Slightly was the first to get his word in. “Wendy lady,” he said rapidly, “for you we built this house.”
“Oh, say you’re pleased,” cried Nibs.
“Lovely, darling house,” Wendy said, and they were the very words they had hoped she would say.
“And we are your children,” cried the twins.
Then all went on their knees, and holding out their arms cried, “O Wendy lady, be our mother.”
“Ought I?” Wendy said, all shining. “Of course it’s frightfully fascinating, but you see I am only a little girl. I have no real experience.”
“That doesn’t matter,” said Peter, as if he were the only person present who knew all about it, though he was really the one who knew least. “What we need is just a nice motherly person.”
“Oh dear!” Wendy said, “you see, I feel that is exactly what I am.”
“It is, it is,” they all cried; “we saw it at once.”
“Very well,” she said, “I will do my best. Come inside at once, you naughty children; I am sure your feet are damp. And before I put you to bed I have just time to finish the story of Cinderella.”
In they went; I don’t know how there was room for them, but you can squeeze very tight in the Neverland. And that was the first of the many joyous evenings they had with Wendy. By and by she tucked them up in the great bed in the home under the trees, but she herself slept that night in the little house, and Peter kept watch outside with drawn sword, for the pirates could be heard carousing far away and the wolves were on the prowl. The little house looked so cosy and safe in the darkness, with a bright light showing through its blinds, and the chimney smoking beautifully, and Peter standing on guard. After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter’s nose and passed on.
CHAPTER 7: THE HOME UNDER THE GROUND
One of the first things Peter did next day was to measure Wendy and John and Michael for hollow trees. Hook, you remember, had sneered at the boys for thinking they needed a tree apiece, but this was ignorance, for unless your tree fitted you it was difficult to go up and down, and no two of the boys were quite the same size. Once you fitted, you drew in [let out] your breath at the top, and down you went at exactly the right speed, while to ascend you drew in and let out alternately, and so wriggled up. Of course, when you have mastered the action you are able to do these things without thinking of them, and nothing can be more graceful.
But you simply must fit, and Peter measures you for your tree as carefully as for a suit of clothes: the only difference being that the clothes are made to fit you, while you have to be made to fit the tree. Usually it is done quite easily, as by your wearing too many garments or too few, but if you are bumpy in awkward places or the only available tree is an odd shape, Peter does some things to you, and after that you fit. Once you fit, great care must be taken to go on fitting, and this, as Wendy was to discover to her delight, keeps a whole family in perfect condition.
Wendy and Michael fitted their trees at the first try, but John had to be altered a little.
After a few days’ practice they could go up and down as gaily as buckets in a well. And how ardently they grew to love their home under the ground; especially Wendy. It consisted of one large room, as all houses should do, with a floor in which you could dig [for worms] if you wanted to go fishing, and in this floor grew stout mushrooms of a charming colour, which were used as stools. A Never tree tried hard to grow in the centre of the room, but every morning they sawed the trunk through, level with the floor. By tea-time it was always about two feet high, and then they put a door on top of it, the whole thus becoming a table; as soon as they cleared away, they sawed off the trunk again, and thus there was more room to play. There was an enormous fireplace which was in almost any part of the room where you cared to light it, and across this Wendy stretched strings, made of fibre, from which she suspended her washing. The bed was tilted against the wall by day, and let down at 6:30, when it filled nearly half the room; and all the boys slept in it, except Michael, lying like sardines in a tin. There was a strict rule against turning round until one gave the signal, when all turned at once. Michael should have used it also, but Wendy would have [desired] a baby, and he was the littlest, and you know what women are, and the short and long of it is that he was hung up in a basket.
It was rough and simple, and not unlike what baby bears would have made of an underground house in the same circumstances. But there was one recess in the wall, no larger than a bird-cage, which was the private apartment of Tinker Bell. It could be shut off from the rest of the house by a tiny curtain, which Tink, who was most fastidious [particular], always kept drawn when dressing or undressing. No woman, however large, could have had a more exquisite boudoir [dressing room] and bed-chamber combined. The couch, as she always called it, was a genuine Queen Mab, with club legs; and she varied the bedspreads according to what fruit-blossom was in season. Her mirror was a Puss-in-Boots, of which there are now only three, unchipped, known to fairy dealers; the washstand was Pie-crust and reversible, the chest of drawers an authentic Charming the Sixth, and the carpet and rugs the best (the early) period of Margery and Robin. There was a chandelier from Tiddlywinks for the look of the thing, but of course she lit the residence herself. Tink was very contemptuous of the rest of the house, as indeed was perhaps inevitable, and her chamber, though beautiful, looked rather conceited, having the appearance of a nose permanently turned up.
I suppose it was all especially entrancing to Wendy, because those rampagious boys of hers gave her so much to do. Really there were whole weeks when, except perhaps with a stocking in the evening, she was never above ground. The cooking, I can tell you, kept her nose to the pot, and even if there was nothing in it, even if there was no pot, she had to keep watching that it came aboil just the same. You never exactly knew whether there would be a real meal or just a make-believe, it all depended upon Peter’s whim: he could eat, really eat, if it was part of a game, but he could not stodge [cram down the food] just to feel stodgy [stuffed with food], which is what most children like better than anything else; the next best thing being to talk about it. Make-believe was so real to him that during a meal of it you could see him getting rounder. Of course it was trying, but you simply had to follow his lead, and if you could prove to him that you were getting loose for your tree he let you stodge.
Wendy’s favourite time for sewing and darning was after they had all gone to bed. Then, as she expressed it, she had a breathing time for herself; and she occupied it in making new things for them, and putting double pieces on the knees, for they were all most frightfully hard on their knees.
When she sat down to a basketful of their stockings, every heel with a hole in it, she would fling up her arms and exclaim, “Oh dear, I am sure I sometimes think spinsters are to be envied!”
Her face beamed when she exclaimed this.
You remember about her pet wolf. Well, it very soon discovered that she had come to the island and it found her out, and they just ran into each other’s arms. After that it followed her about everywhere.
As time wore on did she think much about the beloved parents she had left behind her? This is a difficult question, because it is quite impossible to say how time does wear on in the Neverland, where it is calculated by moons and suns, and there are ever so many more of them than on the mainland. But I am afraid that Wendy did not really worry about her father and mother; she was absolutely confident that they would always keep the window open for her to fly back by, and this gave her complete ease of mind. What did disturb her at times was that John remembered his parents vaguely only, as people he had once known, while Michael was quite willing to believe that she was really his mother. These things scared her a little, and nobly anxious to do her duty, she tried to fix the old life in their minds by setting them examination papers on it, as like as possible to the ones she used to do at school. The other boys thought this awfully interesting, and insisted on joining, and they made slates for themselves, and sat round the table, writing and thinking hard about the questions she had written on another slate and passed round. They were the most ordinary questions—”What was the colour of Mother’s eyes? Which was taller, Father or Mother? Was Mother blonde or brunette? Answer all three questions if possible.” “(A) Write an essay of not less than 40 words on How I spent my last Holidays, or The Characters of Father and Mother compared. Only one of these to be attempted.” Or “(1) Describe Mother’s laugh; (2) Describe Father’s laugh; (3) Describe Mother’s Party Dress; (4) Describe the Kennel and its Inmate.”
They were just everyday questions like these, and when you could not answer them you were told to make a cross; and it was really dreadful what a number of crosses even John made. Of course the only boy who replied to every question was Slightly, and no one could have been more hopeful of coming out first, but his answers were perfectly ridiculous, and he really came out last: a melancholy thing.
Peter did not compete. For one thing he despised all mothers except Wendy, and for another he was the only boy on the island who could neither write nor spell; not the smallest word. He was above all that sort of thing.
By the way, the questions were all written in the past tense. What was the colour of Mother’s eyes, and so on. Wendy, you see, had been forgetting, too.
Adventures, of course, as we shall see, were of daily occurrence; but about this time Peter invented, with Wendy’s help, a new game that fascinated him enormously, until he suddenly had no more interest in it, which, as you have been told, was what always happened with his games. It consisted in pretending not to have adventures, in doing the sort of thing John and Michael had been doing all their lives, sitting on stools flinging balls in the air, pushing each other, going out for walks and coming back without having killed so much as a grizzly. To see Peter doing nothing on a stool was a great sight; he could not help looking solemn at such times, to sit still seemed to him such a comic thing to do. He boasted that he had gone walking for the good of his health. For several suns these were the most novel of all adventures to him; and John and Michael had to pretend to be delighted also; otherwise he would have treated them severely.
He often went out alone, and when he came back you were never absolutely certain whether he had had an adventure or not. He might have forgotten it so completely that he said nothing about it; and then when you went out you found the body; and, on the other hand, he might say a great deal about it, and yet you could not find the body. Sometimes he came home with his head bandaged, and then Wendy cooed over him and bathed it in lukewarm water, while he told a dazzling tale. But she was never quite sure, you know. There were, however, many adventures which she knew to be true because she was in them herself, and there were still more that were at least partly true, for the other boys were in them and said they were wholly true. To describe them all would require a book as large as an English-Latin, Latin-English Dictionary, and the most we can do is to give one as a specimen of an average hour on the island. The difficulty is which one to choose. Should we take the brush with the redskins at Slightly Gulch? It was a sanguinary [cheerful] affair, and especially interesting as showing one of Peter’s peculiarities, which was that in the middle of a fight he would suddenly change sides. At the Gulch, when victory was still in the balance, sometimes leaning this way and sometimes that, he called out, “I’m redskin to-day; what are you, Tootles?” And Tootles answered, “Redskin; what are you, Nibs?” and Nibs said, “Redskin; what are you Twin?” and so on; and they were all redskins; and of course this would have ended the fight had not the real redskins fascinated by Peter’s methods, agreed to be lost boys for that once, and so at it they all went again, more fiercely than ever.
The extraordinary upshot of this adventure was—but we have not decided yet that this is the adventure we are to narrate. Perhaps a better one would be the night attack by the redskins on the house under the ground, when several of them stuck in the hollow trees and had to be pulled out like corks. Or we might tell how Peter saved Tiger Lily’s life in the Mermaids’ Lagoon, and so made her his ally.
Or we could tell of that cake the pirates cooked so that the boys might eat it and perish; and how they placed it in one cunning spot after another; but always Wendy snatched it from the hands of her children, so that in time it lost its succulence, and became as hard as a stone, and was used as a missile, and Hook fell over it in the dark.
Or suppose we tell of the birds that were Peter’s friends, particularly of the Never bird that built in a tree overhanging the lagoon, and how the nest fell into the water, and still the bird sat on her eggs, and Peter gave orders that she was not to be disturbed. That is a pretty story, and the end shows how grateful a bird can be; but if we tell it we must also tell the whole adventure of the lagoon, which would of course be telling two adventures rather than just one. A shorter adventure, and quite as exciting, was Tinker Bell’s attempt, with the help of some street fairies, to have the sleeping Wendy conveyed on a great floating leaf to the mainland. Fortunately the leaf gave way and Wendy woke, thinking it was bath-time, and swam back. Or again, we might choose Peter’s defiance of the lions, when he drew a circle round him on the ground with an arrow and dared them to cross it; and though he waited for hours, with the other boys and Wendy looking on breathlessly from trees, not one of them dared to accept his challenge.
Which of these adventures shall we choose? The best way will be to toss for it.
I have tossed, and the lagoon has won. This almost makes one wish that the gulch or the cake or Tink’s leaf had won. Of course I could do it again, and make it best out of three; however, perhaps fairest to stick to the lagoon.
Chapter 8 coming tomorrow…
About the author
Matthew James Barrie
9 May 1860 – 19 June 1937
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan.
The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him in writing about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about this ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland.
This play quickly overshadowed his previous work and although he continued to write successfully, it became his best-known work, credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents. Before his death, he gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which continues to benefit from them.