Peter Pan [for US only]**, by James M. Barrie
Part 2 out of 4
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"It was one of those boys you hate. I could have shot him
"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
"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
"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
Hook wetted his dry lips. "Ay," he said, "that's the fear that
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 Cook."
They began the verse, but they never finished it, for another
sound broke in and stilled them. The 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
It was indeed the crocodile. It had passed the redskins, who
were now on the trail of the other pirates. It oozed on after
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
"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
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.
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!" they cried, for it was always thus that he signalled
"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
"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
All looked at him in wonder, save Nibs, who fortunately looked
"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
"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
"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
"Yes, there is," cried Peter. "Let us build a little house
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
"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
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
"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
"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
If they broke down in their make-believe he rapped them on the
"Yes, my little man," Slightly anxiously replied, who had
"Please, sir," Peter explained, "a lady lies very ill."
She was lying at their feet, but Slightly had the sense not to
"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
"If only we knew," said one, "the kind of house she likes
"Peter," shouted another, "she is moving in her sleep."
"Her mouth opens," cried a third, looking respectfully into it.
"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
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
"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
Now really and truly it was finished. Nothing remained to do
but to knock.
"All look your best," Peter warned them; "first impressions are
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
"Oh dear!" Wendy said, "you see, I feel that is exactly what I
"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
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.
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
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
enourmous 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
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
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.
THE MERMAIDS' LAGOON
If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times
a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the
darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins
to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another
squeeze they must go on fire. But just before they go on fire
you see the lagoon. This is the nearest you ever get to it on
the mainland, just one heavenly moment; if there could be two
moments you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing.
The children often spent long summer days on this lagoon,
swimming or floating most of the time, playing the mermaid games
in the water, and so forth. You must not think from this that
the mermaids were on friendly terms with them: on the contrary,
it was among Wendy's lasting regrets that all the time she was on
the island she never had a civil word from one of them. When she
stole softly to the edge of the lagoon she might see them by the
score, especially on Marooners' Rock, where they loved to bask,
combing out their hair in a lazy way that quite irritated her; or
she might even swim, on tiptoe as it were, to within a yard of
them, but then they saw her and dived, probably splashing her
with their tails, not by accident, but intentionally.
They treated all the boys in the same way, except of course
Peter, who chatted with them on Marooners' Rock by the hour, and
sat on their tails when they got cheeky. He gave Wendy one of
The most haunting time at which to see them is at the turn of
the moon, when they utter strange wailing cries; but the lagoon
is dangerous for mortals then, and until the evening of which we
have now to tell, Wendy had never seen the lagoon by moonlight,
less from fear, for of course Peter would have accompanied her,
than because she had strict rules about every one being in bed by
seven. She was often at the lagoon, however, on sunny days after
rain, when the mermaids come up in extraordinary numbers to play
with their bubbles. The bubbles of many colours made in rainbow
water they treat as balls, hitting them gaily from one to another
with their tails, and trying to keep them in the rainbow till
they burst. The goals are at each end of the rainbow, and the
keepers only are allowed to use their hands. Sometimes a dozen
of these games will be going on in the lagoon at a time, and it
is quite a pretty sight.
But the moment the children tried to join in they had to play
by themselves, for the mermaids immediately disappeared.
Nevertheless we have proof that they secretly watched the
interlopers, and were not above taking an idea from them; for
John introduced a new way of hitting the bubble, with the head
instead of the hand, and the mermaids adopted it. This is the
one mark that John has left on the Neverland.
It must also have been rather pretty to see the children
resting on a rock for half an hour after their mid-day meal.
Wendy insisted on their doing this, and it had to be a real rest
even though the meal was make-believe. So they lay there in the
sun, and their bodies glistened in it, while she sat beside them
and looked important.
It was one such day, and they were all on Marooners' Rock. The
rock was not much larger than their great bed, but of course they
all knew how not to take up much room, and they were dozing, or
at least lying with their eyes shut, and pinching occasionally
when they thought Wendy was not looking. She was very busy,
While she stitched a change came to the lagoon. Little shivers
ran over it, and the sun went away and shadows stole across the
water, turning it cold. Wendy could no longer see to thread her
needle, and when she looked up, the lagoon that had always
hitherto been such a laughing place seemed formidable and
It was not, she knew, that night had come, but something as
dark as night had come. No, worse than that. It had not come,
but it had sent that shiver through the sea to say that it was
coming. What was it?
There crowded upon her all the stories she had been told of
Marooners' Rock, so called because evil captains put sailors on
it and leave them there to drown. They drown when the tide
rises, for then it is submerged.
Of course she should have roused the children at once; not
merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them, but
because it was no longer good for them to sleep on a rock grown
chilly. But she was a young mother and she did not know this;
she thought you simply must stick to your rule about half an hour
after the mid-day meal. So, though fear was upon her, and she
longed to hear male voices, she would not waken them. Even when
she heard the sound of muffled oars, though her heart was in her
mouth, she did not waken them. She stood over them to let them
have their sleep out. Was it not brave of Wendy?
It was well for those boys then that there was one among them
who could sniff danger even in his sleep. Peter sprang erect, as
wide awake at once as a dog, and with one warning cry he roused
He stood motionless, one hand to his ear.
"Pirates!" he cried. The others came closer to him. A strange
smile was playing about his face, and Wendy saw it and shuddered.
While that smile was on his face no one dared address him; all
they could do was to stand ready to obey. The order came sharp
There was a gleam of legs, and instantly the lagoon seemed
deserted. Marooners' Rock stood alone in the forbidding waters
as if it were itself marooned.
The boat drew nearer. It was the pirate dinghy, with three
figures in her, Smee and Starkey, and the third a captive, no
other than Tiger Lily. Her hands and ankles were tied, and she
knew what was to be her fate. She was to be left on the rock to
perish, an end to one of her race more terrible than death by
fire or torture, for is it not written in the book of the tribe
that there is no path through water to the happy hunting-ground?
Yet her face was impassive; she was the daughter of a chief, she
must die as a chief's daughter, it is enough.
They had caught her boarding the pirate ship with a knife in
her mouth. No watch was kept on the ship, it being Hook's boast
that the wind of his name guarded the ship for a mile around.
Now her fate would help to guard it also. One more wail would go
the round in that wind by night.
In the gloom that they brought with them the two pirates did
not see the rock till they crashed into it.
"Luff, you lubber," cried an Irish voice that was Smee's;
"here's the rock. Now, then, what we have to do is to hoist the
redskin on to it and leave her here to drown."
It was the work of one brutal moment to land the beautiful girl
on the rock; she was too proud to offer a vain resistance.
Quite near the rock, but out of sight, two heads were bobbing
up and down, Peter's and Wendy's. Wendy was crying, for it was
the first tragedy she had seen. Peter had seen many tragedies,
but he had forgotten them all. He was less sorry than Wendy for
Tiger Lily: it was two against one that angered him, and he
meant to save her. An easy way would have been to wait until the
pirates had gone, but he was never one to choose the easy way.
There was almost nothing he could not do, and he now imitated
the voice of Hook.
"Ahoy there, you lubbers!" he called. It was a marvellous
"The captain!" said the pirates, staring at each other in
"He must be swimming out to us," Starkey said, when they had
looked for him in vain.
"We are putting the redskin on the rock," Smee called out.
"Set her free," came the astonishing answer.
"Yes, cut her bonds and let her go."
"But, captain -- "
"At once, d'ye hear," cried Peter, "or I'll plunge my hook in
"This is queer!" Smee gasped.
"Better do what the captain orders," said Starkey nervously.
"Ay, ay." Smee said, and he cut Tiger Lily's cords. At once
like an eel she slid between Starkey's legs into the water.
Of course Wendy was very elated over Peter's cleverness; but
she knew that he would be elated also and very likely crow and
thus betray himself, so at once her hand went out to cover his
mouth. But it was stayed even in the act, for "Boat ahoy!" rang
over the lagoon in Hook's voice, and this time it was not Peter
who had spoken.
Peter may have been about to crow, but his face puckered in a
whistle of surprise instead.
"Boat ahoy!" again came the voice.
Now Wendy understood. The real Hook was also in the water.
He was swimming to the boat, and as his men showed a light to
guide him he had soon reached them. In the light of the lantern
Wendy saw his hook grip the boat's side; she saw his evil swarthy
face as he rose dripping from the water, and, quaking, she would
have liked to swim away, but Peter would not budge. He was
tingling with life and also top-heavy with conceit. "Am I not a
wonder, oh, I am a wonder!" he whispered to her, and though she
thought so also, she was really glad for the sake of his
reputation that no one heard him except herself.
He signed to her to listen.
The two pirates were very curious to know what had brought
their captain to them, but he sat with his head on his hook in a
position of profound melancholy.
"Captain, is all well?" they asked timidly, but he answered
with a hollow moan.
"He sighs," said Smee.
"He sighs again," said Starkey.
"And yet a third time he sighs," said Smee.
Then at last he spoke passionately.
"The game's up," he cried, "those boys have found a mother."
Affrighted though she was, Wendy swelled with pride.
"O evil day!" cried Starkey.
"What's a mother?" asked the ignorant Smee.
Wendy was so shocked that she exclaimed. "He doesn't know!"
and always after this she felt that if you could have a pet
pirate Smee would be her one.
Peter pulled her beneath the water, for Hook had started up,
crying, "What was that?"
"I heard nothing," said Starkey, raising the lantern over the
waters, and as the pirates looked they saw a strange sight. It
was the nest I have told you of, floating on the lagoon, and the
Never bird was sitting on it.
"See," said Hook in answer to Smee's question, "that is a
mother. What a lesson! The nest must have fallen into the
water, but would the mother desert her eggs? No."
There was a break in his voice, as if for a moment he recalled
innocent days when -- but he brushed away this weakness with his
Smee, much impressed, gazed at the bird as the nest was borne
past, but the more suspicious Starkey said, "If she is a mother,
perhaps she is hanging about here to help Peter."
Hook winced. "Ay," he said, "that is the fear that haunts me."
He was roused from this dejection by Smee's eager voice.
"Captain," said Smee, "could we not kidnap these boys' mother
and make her our mother?"
"It is a princely scheme," cried Hook, and at once it took
practical shape in his great brain. "We will seize the children
and carry them to the boat: the boys we will make walk the
plank, and Wendy shall be our mother."
Again Wendy forgot herself.
"Never!" she cried, and bobbed.
"What was that?"
But they could see nothing. They thought it must have been a
leaf in the wind. "Do you agree, my bullies?" asked Hook.
"There is my hand on it," they both said.
"And there is my hook. Swear."
They all swore. By this time they were on the rock, and
suddenly Hook remembered Tiger Lily.
"Where is the redskin?" he demanded abruptly.
He had a playful humour at moments, and they thought this was
one of the moments.
"That is all right, captain," Smee answered complacently; "we
let her go."
"Let her go!" cried Hook.
"'Twas your own orders," the bo'sun faltered.
"You called over the water to us to let her go," said Starkey.
"Brimstone and gall," thundered Hook, "what cozening [cheating]
is going on here!" His face had gone black with rage, but he saw
that they believed their words, and he was startled. "Lads," he
said, shaking a little, "I gave no such order."
"It is passing queer," Smee said, and they all fidgeted
uncomfortably. Hook raised his voice, but there was a quiver in
"Spirit that haunts this dark lagoon to-night," he cried, "dost
Of course Peter should have kept quiet, but of course he did
not. He immediately answered in Hook's voice:
"Odds, bobs, hammer and tongs, I hear you."
In that supreme moment Hook did not blanch, even at the gills,
but Smee and Starkey clung to each other in terror.
"Who are you, stranger? Speak!" Hook demanded.
"I am James Hook," replied the voice, "captain of the JOLLY
"You are not; you are not," Hook cried hoarsely.
"Brimstone and gall," the voice retorted, "say that again, and
I'll cast anchor in you."
Hook tried a more ingratiating manner. "If you are Hook," he
said almost humbly, "come tell me, who am I?"
"A codfish," replied the voice, "only a codfish."
"A codfish!" Hook echoed blankly, and it was then, but not till
then, that his proud spirit broke. He saw his men draw back from
"Have we been captained all this time by a codfish!" they
muttered. "It is lowering to our pride."
They were his dogs snapping at him, but, tragic figure though
he had become, he scarcely heeded them. Against such fearful
evidence it was not their belief in him that he needed, it was
his own. He felt his ego slipping from him. "Don't desert me,
bully," he whispered hoarsely to it.
In his dark nature there was a touch of the feminine, as in all
the great pirates, and it sometimes gave him intuitions.
Suddenly he tried the guessing game.
"Hook," he called, "have you another voice?"
Now Peter could never resist a game, and he answered blithely
in his own voice, "I have."
"And another name?"
"Vegetable?" asked Hook.
"No!" This answer rang out scornfully.
To Wendy's pain the answer that rang out this time was "Yes."
"Are you in England?"
"Are you here?"
Hook was completely puzzled. "You ask him some questions," he
said to the others, wiping his damp brow.
Smee reflected. "I can't think of a thing," he said
"Can't guess, can't guess!" crowed Peter. "Do you give it up?"
Of course in his pride he was carrying the game too far, and
the miscreants [villains] saw their chance.
"Yes, yes," they answered eagerly.
"Well, then," he cried, "I am Peter Pan."
In a moment Hook was himself again, and Smee and Starkey were
his faithful henchmen.
"Now we have him," Hook shouted. "Into the water, Smee.
Starkey, mind the boat. Take him dead or alive!"
He leaped as he spoke, and simultaneously came the gay voice of
"Are you ready, boys?"
"Ay, ay," from various parts of the lagoon.
"Then lam into the pirates."
The fight was short and sharp. First to draw blood was John,
who gallantly climbed into the boat and held Starkey. There was
fierce struggle, in which the cutlass was torn from the pirate's
grasp. He wriggled overboard and John leapt after him. The
dinghy drifted away.
Here and there a head bobbed up in the water, and there was a
flash of steel followed by a cry or a whoop. In the confusion
some struck at their own side. The corkscrew of Smee got Tootles
in the fourth rib, but he was himself pinked [nicked] in turn by
Curly. Farther from the rock Starkey was pressing Slightly and
the twins hard.
Where all this time was Peter? He was seeking bigger game.
The others were all brave boys, and they must not be blamed for
backing from the pirate captain. His iron claw made a circle of
dead water round him, from which they fled like affrighted
But there was one who did not fear him: there was one prepared
to enter that circle.
Strangely, it was not in the water that they met. Hook rose to
the rock to breathe, and at the same moment Peter scaled it on
the opposite side. The rock was slippery as a ball, and they had
to crawl rather than climb. Neither knew that the other was
coming. Each feeling for a grip met the other's arm: in
surprise they raised their heads; their faces were almost
touching; so they met.
Some of the greatest heroes have confessed that just before
they fell to [began combat] they had a sinking [feeling in the
stomach]. Had it been so with Peter at that moment I would admit
it. After all, he was the only man that the Sea-Cook had
feared. But Peter had no sinking, he had one feeling only,
gladness; and he gnashed his pretty teeth with joy. Quick
as thought he snatched a knife from Hook's belt and was about to
drive it home, when he saw that he was higher up the rock that
his foe. It would not have been fighting fair. He gave the
pirate a hand to help him up.
It was then that Hook bit him.
Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter.
It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified.
Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated
unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you
to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he
will love you again, but will never afterwards be quite the same
boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except
Peter. He often met it, but he always forgot it. I suppose that
was the real difference between him and all the rest.
So when he met it now it was like the first time; and he could
just stare, helpless. Twice the iron hand clawed him.
A few moments afterwards the other boys saw Hook in the water
striking wildly for the ship; no elation on the pestilent face
now, only white fear, for the crocodile was in dogged pursuit of
him. On ordinary occasions the boys would have swum alongside
cheering; but now they were uneasy, for they had lost both Peter
and Wendy, and were scouring the lagoon for them, calling them by
name. They found the dinghy and went home in it, shouting
"Peter, Wendy" as they went, but no answer came save mocking
laughter from the mermaids. "They must be swimming back or
flying," the boys concluded. They were not very anxious, because
they had such faith in Peter. They chuckled, boylike, because they
would be late for bed; and it was all mother Wendy's fault!
When their voices died away there came cold silence over the
lagoon, and then a feeble cry.
Two small figures were beating against the rock; the girl had
fainted and lay on the boy's arm. With a last effort Peter
pulled her up the rock and then lay down beside her. Even as he
also fainted he saw that the water was rising. He knew that they
would soon be drowned, but he could do no more.
As they lay side by side a mermaid caught Wendy by the feet,
and began pulling her softly into the water. Peter, feeling her
slip from him, woke with a start, and was just in time to draw
her back. But he had to tell her the truth.
"We are on the rock, Wendy," he said, "but it is growing
smaller. Soon the water will be over it."
She did not understand even now.
"We must go," she said, almost brightly.
"Yes," he answered faintly.
"Shall we swim or fly, Peter?"
He had to tell her.
"Do you think you could swim or fly as far as the island,
Wendy, without my help?"
She had to admit that she was too tired.
"What is it?" she asked, anxious about him at once.
"I can't help you, Wendy. Hook wounded me. I can neither fly
"Do you mean we shall both be drowned?"
"Look how the water is rising."
They put their hands over their eyes to shut out the sight.
They thought they would soon be no more. As they sat thus
something brushed against Peter as light as a kiss, and stayed
there, as if saying timidly, "Can I be of any use?"
It was the tail of a kite, which Michael had made some days
before. It had torn itself out of his hand and floated away.
"Michael's kite," Peter said without interest, but next moment
he had seized the tail, and was pulling the kite toward him.
"It lifted Michael off the ground," he cried; "why should it
not carry you?"
"Both of us!"
"It can't lift two; Michael and Curly tried."
"Let us draw lots," Wendy said bravely.
"And you a lady; never." Already he had tied the tail round her.
She clung to him; she refused to go without him; but with a
"Good-bye, Wendy," he pushed her from the rock; and in a few minutes
she was borne out of his sight. Peter was alone on the lagoon.
The rock was very small now; soon it would be submerged. Pale
rays of light tiptoed across the waters; and by and by there was
to be heard a sound at once the most musical and the most
melancholy in the world: the mermaids calling to the moon.
Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last.
A tremour ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea;
but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are
hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he
was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face
and a drum beating within him. It was saying, "To die will be an
awfully big adventure."
THE NEVER BIRD
The last sound Peter heard before he was quite alone were the
mermaids retiring one by one to their bedchambers under the sea.
He was too far away to hear their doors shut; but every door in
the coral caves where they live rings a tiny bell when it opens
or closes (as in all the nicest houses on the mainland), and he
heard the bells.
Steadily the waters rose till they were nibbling at his feet;
and to pass the time until they made their final gulp, he watched
the only thing on the lagoon. He thought it was a piece of
floating paper, perhaps part of the kite, and wondered idly how
long it would take to drift ashore.
Presently he noticed as an odd thing that it was undoubtedly
out upon the lagoon with some definite purpose, for it was
fighting the tide, and sometimes winning; and when it won, Peter,
always sympathetic to the weaker side, could not help clapping;
it was such a gallant piece of paper.
It was not really a piece of paper; it was the Never bird,
making desperate efforts to reach Peter on the nest. By working
her wings, in a way she had learned since the nest fell into the
water, she was able to some extent to guide her strange craft,
but by the time Peter recognised her she was very exhausted. She
had come to save him, to give him her nest, though there were
eggs in it. I rather wonder at the bird, for though he had been
nice to her, he had also sometimes tormented her. I can suppose
only that, like Mrs. Darling and the rest of them, she was melted
because he had all his first teeth.
She called out to him what she had come for, and he called out
to her what she was doing there; but of course neither of them
understood the other's language. In fanciful stories people can
talk to the birds freely, and I wish for the moment I could
pretend that this were such a story, and say that Peter replied
intelligently to the Never bird; but truth is best, and I want to
tell you only what really happened. Well, not only could they
not understand each other, but they forgot their manners.
"I -- want -- you -- to -- get -- into -- the -- nest," the
bird called, speaking as slowly and distinctly as possible, "and
-- then -- you -- can -- drift -- ashore, but -- I -- am -- too -
- tired -- to -- bring -- it -- any -- nearer -- so -- you --
must -- try -- to -- swim -- to -- it."
"What are you quacking about?" Peter answered. "Why don't you
let the nest drift as usual?"
"I -- want -- you -- " the bird said, and repeated it all over.
Then Peter tried slow and distinct.
"What -- are -- you -- quacking -- about?" and so on.
The Never bird became irritated; they have very short tempers.
"You dunderheaded little jay," she screamed, "Why don't you do
as I tell you?"
Peter felt that she was calling him names, and at a venture he
"So are you!"
Then rather curiously they both snapped out the same remark:
Nevertheless the bird was determined to save him if she could,
and by one last mighty effort she propelled the nest against the
rock. Then up she flew; deserting her eggs, so as to make her
Then at last he understood, and clutched the nest and waved
his thanks to the bird as she fluttered overhead. It was not to
receive his thanks, however, that she hung there in the sky; it
was not even to watch him get into the nest; it was to see what
he did with her eggs.
There were two large white eggs, and Peter lifted them up and
reflected. The bird covered her face with her wings, so as not
to see the last of them; but she could not help peeping between
I forget whether I have told you that there was a stave on the
rock, driven into it by some buccaneers of long ago to mark the
site of buried treasure. The children had discovered the
glittering hoard, and when in a mischievous mood used to fling
showers of moidores, diamonds, pearls and pieces of eight to the
gulls, who pounced upon them for food, and then flew away, raging
at the scurvy trick that had been played upon them. The stave
was still there, and on it Starkey had hung his hat, a deep
tarpaulin, watertight, with a broad brim. Peter put the eggs
into this hat and set it on the lagoon. It floated beautifully.
The Never bird saw at once what he was up to, and screamed her
admiration of him; and, alas, Peter crowed his agreement with
her. Then he got into the nest, reared the stave in it as a
mast, and hung up his shirt for a sail. At the same moment the
bird fluttered down upon the hat and once more sat snugly on her
eggs. She drifted in one direction, and he was borne off in
another, both cheering.
Of course when Peter landed he beached his barque [small ship,
actually the Never Bird's nest in this particular case in point]
in a place where the bird would easily find it; but the hat was
such a great success that she abandoned the nest. It drifted about
till it went to pieces, and often Starkey came to the shore of the
lagoon, and with many bitter feelings watched the bird sitting
on his hat. As we shall not see her again, it may be worth
mentioning here that all Never birds now build in that shape of
nest, with a broad brim on which the youngsters take an airing.
Great were the rejoicings when Peter reached the home under the
ground almost as soon as Wendy, who had been carried hither and
thither by the kite. Every boy had adventures to tell; but
perhaps the biggest adventure of all was that they were several
hours late for bed. This so inflated them that they did various
dodgy things to get staying up still longer, such as demanding
bandages; but Wendy, though glorying in having them all home
again safe and sound, was scandalised by the lateness of the
hour, and cried, "To bed, to bed," in a voice that had to be
obeyed. Next day, however, she was awfully tender, and gave out
bandages to every one, and they played till bed-time at limping
about and carrying their arms in slings.
THE HAPPY HOME
One important result of the brush [with the pirates] on the
lagoon was that it made the redskins their friends. Peter had
saved Tiger Lily from a dreadful fate, and now there was nothing
she and her braves would not do for him. All night they sat
above, keeping watch over the home under the ground and awaiting
the big attack by the pirates which obviously could not be much
longer delayed. Even by day they hung about, smoking the pipe of
peace, and looking almost as if they wanted tit-bits to eat.
They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating
themselves [lying down] before him; and he liked this
tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.
"The great white father," he would say to them in a very lordly
manner, as they grovelled at his feet, "is glad to see the
Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates."
"Me Tiger Lily," that lovely creature would reply. "Peter Pan
save me, me his velly nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him."
She was far too pretty to cringe in this way, but Peter thought
it his due, and he would answer condescendingly, "It is good.
Peter Pan has spoken."
Always when he said, "Peter Pan has spoken," it meant that they
must now shut up, and they accepted it humbly in that spirit; but
they were by no means so respectful to the other boys, whom they
looked upon as just ordinary braves. They said "How-do?" to
them, and things like that; and what annoyed the boys was that
Peter seemed to think this all right.
Secretly Wendy sympathised with them a little, but she was far
too loyal a housewife to listen to any complaints against father.
"Father knows best," she always said, whatever her private
opinion must be. Her private opinion was that the redskins
should not call her a squaw.
We have now reached the evening that was to be known among them
as the Night of Nights, because of its adventures and their
upshot. The day, as if quietly gathering its forces, had been
almost uneventful, and now the redskins in their blankets were at
their posts above, while, below, the children were having their
evening meal; all except Peter, who had gone out to get the time.
The way you got the time on the island was to find the crocodile,
and then stay near him till the clock struck.
The meal happened to be a make-believe tea, and they sat around
the board, guzzling in their greed; and really, what with their
chatter and recriminations, the noise, as Wendy said, was
positively deafening. To be sure, she did not mind noise, but
she simply would not have them grabbing things, and then excusing
themselves by saying that Tootles had pushed their elbow. There
was a fixed rule that they must never hit back at meals, but
should refer the matter of dispute to Wendy by raising the right
arm politely and saying, "I complain of so-and-so;" but what
usually happened was that they forgot to do this or did it too
"Silence," cried Wendy when for the twentieth time she had told
them that they were not all to speak at once. "Is your mug empty,
"Not quite empty, mummy," Slightly said, after looking into an
"He hasn't even begun to drink his milk," Nibs interposed.
This was telling, and Slightly seized his chance.
"I complain of Nibs," he cried promptly.
John, however, had held up his hand first.
"May I sit in Peter's chair, as he is not here?"
"Sit in father's chair, John!" Wendy was scandalised.
"He is not really our father," John answered. "He didn't even
know how a father does till I showed him."
This was grumbling. "We complain of John," cried the twins.
Tootles held up his hand. He was so much the humblest of them,
indeed he was the only humble one, that Wendy was specially
gentle with him.
"I don't suppose," Tootles said diffidently [bashfully or
timidly], "that I could be father.
Once Tootles began, which was not very often, he had a silly
way of going on.
"As I can't be father," he said heavily, "I don't suppose,
Michael, you would let me be baby?"
"No, I won't," Michael rapped out. He was already in his
"As I can't be baby," Tootles said, getting heavier and heavier
and heavier, "do you think I could be a twin?"
"No, indeed," replied the twins; "it's awfully difficult to be
"As I can't be anything important," said Tootles, "would any of
you like to see me do a trick?"
"No," they all replied.
Then at last he stopped. "I hadn't really any hope," he said.
The hateful telling broke out again.
"Slightly is coughing on the table."
"The twins began with cheese-cakes."
"Curly is taking both butter and honey."
"Nibs is speaking with his mouth full."
"I complain of the twins."
"I complain of Curly."
"I complain of Nibs."
"Oh dear, oh dear," cried Wendy, "I'm sure I sometimes think
that spinsters are to be envied."
She told them to clear away, and sat down to her work-basket,
a heavy load of stockings and every knee with a hole in it as
"Wendy," remonstrated [scolded] Michael, "I'm too big for a
"I must have somebody in a cradle," she said almost tartly,
"and you are the littlest. A cradle is such a nice homely thing
to have about a house."
While she sewed they played around her; such a group of happy
faces and dancing limbs lit up by that romantic fire. It had
become a very familiar scene, this, in the home under the
ground, but we are looking on it for the last time.
There was a step above, and Wendy, you may be sure, was the
first to recognize it.
"Children, I hear your father's step. He likes you to meet him
at the door."
Above, the redskins crouched before Peter.
"Watch well, braves. I have spoken."
And then, as so often before, the gay children dragged him from
his tree. As so often before, but never again.
He had brought nuts for the boys as well as the correct time
"Peter, you just spoil them, you know," Wendy simpered
[exaggerated a smile].
"Ah, old lady," said Peter, hanging up his gun.
"It was me told him mothers are called old lady," Michael
whispered to Curly.
"I complain of Michael," said Curly instantly.
The first twin came to Peter. "Father, we want to dance."
"Dance away, my little man," said Peter, who was in high good
"But we want you to dance."
Peter was really the best dancer among them, but he pretended
to be scandalised.
"Me! My old bones would rattle!"
"And mummy too."
"What," cried Wendy, "the mother of such an armful, dance!"
"But on a Saturday night," Slightly insinuated.
It was not really Saturday night, at least it may have been,
for they had long lost count of the days; but always if they
wanted to do anything special they said this was Saturday night,
and then they did it.
"Of course it is Saturday night, Peter," Wendy said, relenting.
"People of our figure, Wendy!"
"But it is only among our own progeny [children]."
So they were told they could dance, but they must put on their
"Ah, old lady," Peter said aside to Wendy, warming himself by
the fire and looking down at her as she sat turning a heel,
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