Peter Pan [for US only]**, by James M. Barrie
Part 3 out of 4
"there is nothing more pleasant of an evening for you and me when
the day's toil is over than to rest by the fire with the little
ones near by."
"It is sweet, Peter, isn't it?" Wendy said, frightfully
gratified. "Peter, I think Curly has your nose."
"Michael takes after you."
She went to him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"Dear Peter," she said, "with such a large family, of course, I
have now passed my best, but you don't want to [ex]change me, do
Certainly he did not want a change, but he looked at her
uncomfortably, blinking, you know, like one not sure whether he
was awake or asleep.
"Peter, what is it?"
"I was just thinking," he said, a little scared. "It is only
make-believe, isn't it, that I am their father?"
"Oh yes," Wendy said primly [formally and properly].
"You see," he continued apologetically, "it would make me seem
so old to be their real father."
"But they are ours, Peter, yours and mine."
"But not really, Wendy?" he asked anxiously.
"Not if you don't wish it," she replied; and she distinctly
heard his sigh of relief. "Peter," she asked, trying to speak
firmly, "what are your exact feelings to [about] me?"
"Those of a devoted son, Wendy."
"I thought so," she said, and went and sat by herself at the
extreme end of the room.
"You are so queer," he said, frankly puzzled, "and Tiger Lily
is just the same. There is something she wants to be to me, but
she says it is not my mother."
"No, indeed, it is not," Wendy replied with frightful emphasis.
Now we know why she was prejudiced against the redskins.
"Then what is it?"
"It isn't for a lady to tell."
"Oh, very well," Peter said, a little nettled. "Perhaps Tinker
Bell will tell me."
"Oh yes, Tinker Bell will tell you," Wendy retorted scornfully.
"She is an abandoned little creature."
Here Tink, who was in her bedroom, eavesdropping, squeaked out
"She says she glories in being abandoned," Peter interpreted.
He had a sudden idea. "Perhaps Tink wants to be my mother?"
"You silly ass!" cried Tinker Bell in a passion.
She had said it so often that Wendy needed no translation.
"I almost agree with her," Wendy snapped. Fancy Wendy
snapping! But she had been much tried, and she little knew what
was to happen before the night was out. If she had known she
would not have snapped.
None of them knew. Perhaps it was best not to know. Their
ignorance gave them one more glad hour; and as it was to be
their last hour on the island, let us rejoice that there were
sixty glad minutes in it. They sang and danced in their night-
gowns. Such a deliciously creepy song it was, in which they
pretended to be frightened at their own shadows, little witting
that so soon shadows would close in upon them, from whom they
would shrink in real fear. So uproariously gay was the dance,
and how they buffeted each other on the bed and out of it! It
was a pillow fight rather than a dance, and when it was finished,
the pillows insisted on one bout more, like partners who know
that they may never meet again. The stories they told, before it
was time for Wendy's good-night story! Even Slightly tried to
tell a story that night, but the beginning was so fearfully dull
that it appalled not only the others but himself, and he said happily:
"Yes, it is a dull beginning. I say, let us pretend that it is
And then at last they all got into bed for Wendy's story, the
story they loved best, the story Peter hated. Usually when she
began to tell this story he left the room or put his hands over
his ears; and possibly if he had done either of those things this
time they might all still be on the island. But to-night he
remained on his stool; and we shall see what happened.
"Listen, then," said Wendy, settling down to her story, with
Michael at her feet and seven boys in the bed. "There was once a
gentleman -- "
"I had rather he had been a lady," Curly said.
"I wish he had been a white rat," said Nibs.
"Quiet," their mother admonished [cautioned] them. "There was
a lady also, and -- "
"Oh, mummy," cried the first twin, "you mean that there is a
lady also, don't you? She is not dead, is she?"
"I am awfully glad she isn't dead," said Tootles. "Are you
"Of course I am."
"Are you glad, Nibs?"
"Are you glad, Twins?"
"We are glad."
"Oh dear," sighed Wendy.
"Little less noise there," Peter called out, determined that
she should have fair play, however beastly a story it might be in
"The gentleman's name," Wendy continued, "was Mr. Darling, and
her name was Mrs. Darling."
"I knew them," John said, to annoy the others.
"I think I knew them," said Michael rather doubtfully.
"They were married, you know," explained Wendy, "and what do
you think they had?"
"White rats," cried Nibs, inspired.
"It's awfully puzzling," said Tootles, who knew the story by
"Quiet, Tootles. They had three descendants."
"What is descendants?"
"Well, you are one, Twin."
"Did you hear that, John? I am a descendant."
"Descendants are only children," said John.
"Oh dear, oh dear," sighed Wendy. "Now these three children
had a faithful nurse called Nana; but Mr. Darling was angry with
her and chained her up in the yard, and so all the children flew
"It's an awfully good story," said Nibs.
"They flew away," Wendy continued, "to the Neverland, where the
lost children are."
"I just thought they did," Curly broke in excitedly. "I don't
know how it is, but I just thought they did!"
"O Wendy," cried Tootles, "was one of the lost children called
"Yes, he was."
"I am in a story. Hurrah, I am in a story, Nibs."
"Hush. Now I want you to consider the feelings of the unhappy
parents with all their children flown away."
"Oo!" they all moaned, though they were not really considering
the feelings of the unhappy parents one jot.
"Think of the empty beds!"
"It's awfully sad," the first twin said cheerfully.
"I don't see how it can have a happy ending," said the second
twin. "Do you, Nibs?"
"I'm frightfully anxious."
"If you knew how great is a mother's love," Wendy told them
triumphantly, "you would have no fear." She had now come to the
part that Peter hated.
"I do like a mother's love," said Tootles, hitting Nibs with a
pillow. "Do you like a mother's love, Nibs?"
"I do just," said Nibs, hitting back.
"You see," Wendy said complacently, "our heroine knew that the
mother would always leave the window open for her children to fly
back by; so they stayed away for years and had a lovely time."
"Did they ever go back?"
"Let us now," said Wendy, bracing herself up for her finest
effort, "take a peep into the future"; and they all gave
themselves the twist that makes peeps into the future easier.
"Years have rolled by, and who is this elegant lady of uncertain
age alighting at London Station?"
"O Wendy, who is she?" cried Nibs, every bit as excited as if
he didn't know.
"Can it be -- yes -- no -- it is -- the fair Wendy!"
"And who are the two noble portly figures accompanying her, now
grown to man's estate? Can they be John and Michael? They are!"
"`See, dear brothers,' says Wendy pointing upwards, `there is
the window still standing open. Ah, now we are rewarded for our
sublime faith in a mother's love.' So up they flew to their
mummy and daddy, and pen cannot describe the happy scene, over
which we draw a veil."
That was the story, and they were as pleased with it as the
fair narrator herself. Everything just as it should be, you see.
Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is
what children are, but so attractive; and we have an entirely
selfish time, and then when we have need of special attention we
nobly return for it, confident that we shall be rewarded instead
So great indeed was their faith in a mother's love that they
felt they could afford to be callous for a bit longer.
But there was one there who knew better, and when Wendy
finished he uttered a hollow groan.
"What is it, Peter?" she cried, running to him, thinking he was
ill. She felt him solicitously, lower down than his chest.
"Where is it, Peter?"
"It isn't that kind of pain," Peter replied darkly.
"Then what kind is it?"
"Wendy, you are wrong about mothers."
They all gathered round him in affright, so alarming was his
agitation; and with a fine candour he told them what he had
"Long ago," he said, "I thought like you that my mother would
always keep the window open for me, so I stayed away for moons
and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window was
barred, for mother had forgotten all about me, and there was
another little boy sleeping in my bed."
I am not sure that this was true, but Peter thought it was
true; and it scared them.
"Are you sure mothers are like that?"
So this was the truth about mothers. The toads!
Still it is best to be careful; and no one knows so quickly as
a child when he should give in. "Wendy, let us [let's] go home,"
cried John and Michael together.
"Yes," she said, clutching them.
"Not to-night?" asked the lost boys bewildered. They knew in
what they called their hearts that one can get on quite well
without a mother, and that it is only the mothers who think you
"At once," Wendy replied resolutely, for the horrible thought
had come to her: "Perhaps mother is in half mourning by this
This dread made her forgetful of what must be Peter's feelings,
and she said to him rather sharply, "Peter, will you make the
"If you wish it," he replied, as coolly as if she had asked him
to pass the nuts.
Not so much as a sorry-to-lose-you between them! If she did
not mind the parting, he was going to show her, was Peter, that
neither did he.
But of course he cared very much; and he was so full of wrath
against grown-ups, who, as usual, were spoiling everything, that
as soon as he got inside his tree he breathed intentionally quick
short breaths at the rate of about five to a second. He did this
because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you
breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off
vindictively as fast as possible.
Then having given the necessary instructions to the redskins he
returned to the home, where an unworthy scene had been enacted in
his absence. Panic-stricken at the thought of losing Wendy the
lost boys had advanced upon her threateningly.
"It will be worse than before she came," they cried.
"We shan't let her go."
"Let's keep her prisoner."
"Ay, chain her up."
In her extremity an instinct told her to which of them to turn.
"Tootles," she cried, "I appeal to you."
Was it not strange? She appealed to Tootles, quite the
Grandly, however, did Tootles respond. For that one moment he
dropped his silliness and spoke with dignity.
"I am just Tootles," he said, "and nobody minds me. But the
first who does not behave to Wendy like an English gentleman I
will blood him severely."
He drew back his hanger; and for that instant his sun was at
noon. The others held back uneasily. Then Peter returned, and
they saw at once that they would get no support from him. He
would keep no girl in the Neverland against her will.
"Wendy," he said, striding up and down, "I have asked the
redskins to guide you through the wood, as flying tires you so."
"Thank you, Peter."
"Then," he continued, in the short sharp voice of one
accustomed to be obeyed, "Tinker Bell will take you across the
sea. Wake her, Nibs."
Nibs had to knock twice before he got an answer, though Tink
had really been sitting up in bed listening for some time.
"Who are you? How dare you? Go away," she cried.
"You are to get up, Tink," Nibs called, "and take Wendy on a
Of course Tink had been delighted to hear that Wendy was going;
but she was jolly well determined not to be her courier, and she
said so in still more offensive language. Then she pretended to
be asleep again.
"She says she won't!" Nibs exclaimed, aghast at such
insubordination, whereupon Peter went sternly toward the young
"Tink," he rapped out, "if you don't get up and dress at once I
will open the curtains, and then we shall all see you in your
This made her leap to the floor. "Who said I wasn't getting
up?" she cried.
In the meantime the boys were gazing very forlornly at Wendy,
now equipped with John and Michael for the journey. By this time
they were dejected, not merely because they were about to lose
her, but also because they felt that she was going off to
something nice to which they had not been invited. Novelty was
beckoning to them as usual.
Crediting them with a nobler feeling Wendy melted.
"Dear ones," she said, "if you will all come with me I feel
almost sure I can get my father and mother to adopt you."
The invitation was meant specially for Peter, but each of the
boys was thinking exclusively of himself, and at once they jumped
"But won't they think us rather a handful?" Nibs asked in the
middle of his jump.
"Oh no," said Wendy, rapidly thinking it out, "it will only
mean having a few beds in the drawing-room; they can be hidden
behind the screens on first Thursdays."
"Peter, can we go?" they all cried imploringly. They took it
for granted that if they went he would go also, but really they
scarcely cared. Thus children are ever ready, when novelty
knocks, to desert their dearest ones.
"All right," Peter replied with a bitter smile, and immediately
they rushed to get their things.
"And now, Peter," Wendy said, thinking she had put everything
right, "I am going to give you your medicine before you go." She
loved to give them medicine, and undoubtedly gave them too much.
Of course it was only water, but it was out of a bottle, and
she always shook the bottle and counted the drops, which gave
it a certain medicinal quality. On this occasion, however, she
did not give Peter his draught [portion], for just as she had
prepared it, she saw a look on his face that made her heart sink.
"Get your things, Peter," she cried, shaking.
"No," he answered, pretending indifference, "I am not going
with you, Wendy."
To show that her departure would leave him unmoved, he skipped
up and down the room, playing gaily on his heartless pipes. She
had to run about after him, though it was rather undignified.
"To find your mother," she coaxed.
Now, if Peter had ever quite had a mother, he no longer missed
her. He could do very well without one. He had thought them
out, and remembered only their bad points.
"No, no," he told Wendy decisively; "perhaps she would say I
was old, and I just want always to be a little boy and to have
"But, Peter -- "
And so the others had to be told.
"Peter isn't coming."
Peter not coming! They gazed blankly at him, their sticks over
their backs, and on each stick a bundle. Their first thought was
that if Peter was not going he had probably changed his mind
about letting them go.
But he was far too proud for that. "If you find your mothers,"
he said darkly, "I hope you will like them."
The awful cynicism of this made an uncomfortable impression,
and most of them began to look rather doubtful. After all, their
faces said, were they not noodles to want to go?
"Now then," cried Peter, "no fuss, no blubbering; good-bye,
Wendy"; and he held out his hand cheerily, quite as if they must
really go now, for he had something important to do.
She had to take his hand, and there was no indication that he
would prefer a thimble.
"You will remember about changing your flannels, Peter?" she
said, lingering over him. She was always so particular about
"And you will take your medicine?"
That seemed to be everything, and an awkward pause followed.
Peter, however, was not the kind that breaks down before other
people. "Are you ready, Tinker Bell?" he called out.
"Then lead the way."
Tink darted up the nearest tree; but no one followed
her, for it was at this moment that the pirates made their
dreadful attack upon the redskins. Above, where all had been so
still, the air was rent with shrieks and the clash of steel.
Below, there was dead silence. Mouths opened and remained open.
Wendy fell on her knees, but her arms were extended toward Peter.
All arms were extended to him, as if suddenly blown in his
direction; they were beseeching him mutely not to desert them.
As for Peter, he seized his sword, the same he thought he had
slain Barbecue with, and the lust of battle was in his eye.
THE CHILDREN ARE CARRIED OFF
The pirate attack had been a complete surprise: a sure proof
that the unscrupulous Hook had conducted it improperly, for to
surprise redskins fairly is beyond the wit of the white man.
By all the unwritten laws of savage warfare it is always the
redskin who attacks, and with the wiliness of his race he does it
just before the dawn, at which time he knows the courage of the
whites to be at its lowest ebb. The white men have in the
meantime made a rude stockade on the summit of yonder undulating
ground, at the foot of which a stream runs, for it is destruction
to be too far from water. There they await the onslaught, the
inexperienced ones clutching their revolvers and treading on
twigs, but the old hands sleeping tranquilly until just before
the dawn. Through the long black night the savage scouts
wriggle, snake-like, among the grass without stirring a blade.
The brushwood closes behind them, as silently as sand into which
a mole has dived. Not a sound is to be heard, save when they
give vent to a wonderful imitation of the lonely call of the
coyote. The cry is answered by other braves; and some of them do
it even better than the coyotes, who are not very good at it.
So the chill hours wear on, and the long suspense is horribly
trying to the paleface who has to live through it for the first
time; but to the trained hand those ghastly calls and still
ghastlier silences are but an intimation of how the night is
That this was the usual procedure was so well known to Hook
that in disregarding it he cannot be excused on the plea of
The Piccaninnies, on their part, trusted implicitly to his
honour, and their whole action of the night stands out in marked
contrast to his. They left nothing undone that was consistent
with the reputation of their tribe. With that alertness of the
senses which is at once the marvel and despair of civilised
peoples, they knew that the pirates were on the island from the
moment one of them trod on a dry stick; and in an incredibly
short space of time the coyote cries began. Every foot of ground
between the spot where Hook had landed his forces and the home
under the trees was stealthily examined by braves wearing their
mocassins with the heels in front. They found only one hillock
with a stream at its base, so that Hook had no choice; here he
must establish himself and wait for just before the dawn.
Everything being thus mapped out with almost diabolical cunning,
the main body of the redskins folded their blankets around them,
and in the phlegmatic manner that is to them, the pearl of manhood
squatted above the children's home, awaiting the cold moment when
they should deal pale death.
Here dreaming, though wide-awake, of the exquisite tortures to
which they were to put him at break of day, those confiding
savages were found by the treacherous Hook. From the accounts
afterwards supplied by such of the scouts as escaped the
carnage, he does not seem even to have paused at the rising
ground, though it is certain that in that grey light he must have
seen it: no thought of waiting to be attacked appears from first
to last to have visited his subtle mind; he would not even hold
off till the night was nearly spent; on he pounded with no policy
but to fall to [get into combat]. What could the bewildered
scouts do, masters as they were of every war-like artifice save
this one, but trot helplessly after him, exposing themselves
fatally to view, while they gave pathetic utterance to the
Around the brave Tiger Lily were a dozen of her stoutest
warriors, and they suddenly saw the perfidious pirates bearing
down upon them. Fell from their eyes then the film through which
they had looked at victory. No more would they torture at the
stake. For them the happy hunting-grounds was now. They knew it;
but as their father's sons they acquitted themselves. Even then
they had time to gather in a phalanx [dense formation] that would
have been hard to break had they risen quickly, but this they
were forbidden to do by the traditions of their race. It is
written that the noble savage must never express surprise in the
presence of the white. Thus terrible as the sudden appearance of
the pirates must have been to them, they remained stationary for
a moment, not a muscle moving; as if the foe had come by
invitation. Then, indeed, the tradition gallantly upheld, they
seized their weapons, and the air was torn with the war-cry; but
it was now too late.
It is no part of ours to describe what was a massacre rather
than a fight. Thus perished many of the flower of the
Piccaninny tribe. Not all unavenged did they die, for with Lean
Wolf fell Alf Mason, to disturb the Spanish Main no more, and
among others who bit the dust were Geo. Scourie, Chas. Turley,
and the Alsatian Foggerty. Turley fell to the tomahawk of the
terrible Panther, who ultimately cut a way through the pirates
with Tiger Lily and a small remnant of the tribe.
To what extent Hook is to blame for his tactics on this
occasion is for the historian to decide. Had he waited on the
rising ground till the proper hour he and his men would probably
have been butchered; and in judging him it is only fair to take
this into account. What he should perhaps have done was to
acquaint his opponents that he proposed to follow a new method.
On the other hand, this, as destroying the element of surprise,
would have made his strategy of no avail, so that the whole
question is beset with difficulties. One cannot at least
withhold a reluctant admiration for the wit that had conceived
so bold a scheme, and the fell [deadly] genius with which it was
What were his own feelings about himself at that triumphant
moment? Fain [gladly] would his dogs have known, as breathing
heavily and wiping their cutlasses, they gathered at a discreet
distance from his hook, and squinted through their ferret eyes at
this extraordinary man. Elation must have been in his heart, but
his face did not reflect it: ever a dark and solitary enigma, he
stood aloof from his followers in spirit as in substance.
The night's work was not yet over, for it was not the redskins
he had come out to destroy; they were but the bees to be smoked,
so that he should get at the honey. It was Pan he wanted, Pan
and Wendy and their band, but chiefly Pan.
Peter was such a small boy that one tends to wonder at the
man's hatred of him. True he had flung Hook's arm to the
crocodile, but even this and the increased insecurity of life to
which it led, owing to the crocodile's pertinacity [persistance],
hardly account for a vindictiveness so relentless and malignant.
The truth is that there was a something about Peter which goaded
the pirate captain to frenzy. It was not his courage, it was not
his engaging appearance, it was not --. There is no beating about
the bush, for we know quite well what it was, and have got to
tell. It was Peter's cockiness.
This had got on Hook's nerves; it made his iron claw twitch,
and at night it disturbed him like an insect. While Peter lived,
the tortured man felt that he was a lion in a cage into which a
sparrow had come.
The question now was how to get down the trees, or how to get
his dogs down? He ran his greedy eyes over them, searching for
the thinnest ones. They wriggled uncomfortably, for they knew he
would not scruple [hesitate] to ram them down with poles.
In the meantime, what of the boys? We have seen them at the
first clang of the weapons, turned as it were into stone figures,
open-mouthed, all appealing with outstretched arms to Peter; and
we return to them as their mouths close, and their arms fall to
their sides. The pandemonium above has ceased almost as suddenly
as it arose, passed like a fierce gust of wind; but they know
that in the passing it has determined their fate.
Which side had won?
The pirates, listening avidly at the mouths of the trees,
heard the question put by every boy, and alas, they also heard
"If the redskins have won," he said, "they will beat the tom-
tom; it is always their sign of victory."
Now Smee had found the tom-tom, and was at that moment sitting
on it. "You will never hear the tom-tom again," he muttered, but
inaudibly of course, for strict silence had been enjoined
[urged]. To his amazement Hook signed him to beat the tom-tom,
and slowly there came to Smee an understanding of the dreadful
wickedness of the order. Never, probably, had this simple man
admired Hook so much.
Twice Smee beat upon the instrument, and then stopped to listen
"The tom-tom," the miscreants heard Peter cry; "an Indian
The doomed children answered with a cheer that was music to the
black hearts above, and almost immediately they repeated their
good-byes to Peter. This puzzled the pirates, but all their
other feelings were swallowed by a base delight that the enemy
were about to come up the trees. They smirked at each other and
rubbed their hands. Rapidly and silently Hook gave his orders:
one man to each tree, and the others to arrange themselves in a
line two yards apart.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN FAIRIES?
The more quickly this horror is disposed of the better. The
first to emerge from his tree was Curly. He rose out of it into
the arms of Cecco, who flung him to Smee, who flung him to
Starkey, who flung him to Bill Jukes, who flung him to Noodler,
and so he was tossed from one to another till he fell at the feet
of the black pirate. All the boys were plucked from their trees
in this ruthless manner; and several of them were in the air
at a time, like bales of goods flung from hand to hand.
A different treatment was accorded to Wendy, who came last.
With ironical politeness Hook raised his hat to her, and,
offering her his arm, escorted her to the spot where the others
were being gagged. He did it with such an air, he was so
frightfully DISTINGUE [imposingly distinguished], that she was
too fascinated to cry out. She was only a little girl.
Perhaps it is tell-tale to divulge that for a moment Hook
entranced her, and we tell on her only because her slip led to
strange results. Had she haughtily unhanded him (and we should
have loved to write it of her), she would have been hurled
through the air like the others, and then Hook would probably not
have been present at the tying of the children; and had he not
been at the tying he would not have discovered Slightly's
secret, and without the secret he could not presently have made
his foul attempt on Peter's life.
They were tied to prevent their flying away, doubled up with
their knees close to their ears; and for the trussing of them the
black pirate had cut a rope into nine equal pieces. All went
well until Slightly's turn came, when he was found to be like
those irritating parcels that use up all the string in going
round and leave no tags [ends] with which to tie a knot. The
pirates kicked him in their rage, just as you kick the parcel
(though in fairness you should kick the string); and strange to
say it was Hook who told them to belay their violence. His lip
was curled with malicious triumph. While his dogs were merely
sweating because every time they tried to pack the unhappy lad
tight in one part he bulged out in another, Hook's master mind
had gone far beneath Slightly's surface, probing not for effects
but for causes; and his exultation showed that he had found them.
Slightly, white to the gills, knew that Hook had surprised
[discovered] his secret, which was this, that no boy so blown out
could use a tree wherein an average man need stick. Poor
Slightly, most wretched of all the children now, for he was in a
panic about Peter, bitterly regretted what he had done. Madly
addicted to the drinking of water when he was hot, he had swelled
in consequence to his present girth, and instead of reducing
himself to fit his tree he had, unknown to the others, whittled
his tree to make it fit him.
Sufficient of this Hook guessed to persuade him that Peter at
last lay at his mercy, but no word of the dark design that now
formed in the subterranean caverns of his mind crossed his lips; he
merely signed that the captives were to be conveyed to the ship,
and that he would be alone.
How to convey them? Hunched up in their ropes they might
indeed be rolled down hill like barrels, but most of the way lay
through a morass. Again Hook's genius surmounted difficulties.
He indicated that the little house must be used as a conveyance.
The children were flung into it, four stout pirates raised it on
their shoulders, the others fell in behind, and singing the
hateful pirate chorus the strange procession set off through the
wood. I don't know whether any of the children were crying; if
so, the singing drowned the sound; but as the little house
disappeared in the forest, a brave though tiny jet of smoke
issued from its chimney as if defying Hook.
Hook saw it, and it did Peter a bad service. It dried up any
trickle of pity for him that may have remained in the pirate's
The first thing he did on finding himself alone in the fast
falling night was to tiptoe to Slightly's tree, and make sure
that it provided him with a passage. Then for long he remained
brooding; his hat of ill omen on the sward, so that any gentle
breeze which had arisen might play refreshingly through his hair.
Dark as were his thoughts his blue eyes were as soft as the
periwinkle. Intently he listened for any sound from the nether
world, but all was as silent below as above; the house under the
ground seemed to be but one more empty tenement in the void. Was
that boy asleep, or did he stand waiting at the foot of
Slightly's tree, with his dagger in his hand?
There was no way of knowing, save by going down. Hook let his
cloak slip softly to the ground, and then biting his lips till a
lewd blood stood on them, he stepped into the tree. He was a
brave man, but for a moment he had to stop there and wipe his brow,
which was dripping like a candle. Then, silently, he let himself
go into the unknown.
He arrived unmolested at the foot of the shaft, and stood still
again, biting at his breath, which had almost left him. As his
eyes became accustomed to the dim light various objects in the
home under the trees took shape; but the only one on which his
greedy gaze rested, long sought for and found at last, was the
great bed. On the bed lay Peter fast asleep.
Unaware of the tragedy being enacted above, Peter had
continued, for a little time after the children left, to play
gaily on his pipes: no doubt rather a forlorn attempt to prove
to himself that he did not care. Then he decided not to take his
medicine, so as to grieve Wendy. Then he lay down on the bed
outside the coverlet, to vex her still more; for she had always
tucked them inside it, because you never know that you may not
grow chilly at the turn of the night. Then he nearly cried; but
it struck him how indignant she would be if he laughed instead;
so he laughed a haughty laugh and fell asleep in the middle of
Sometimes, though not often, he had dreams, and they were more
painful than the dreams of other boys. For hours he could not be
separated from these dreams, though he wailed piteously in them.
They had to do, I think, with the riddle of his existence. At
such times it had been Wendy's custom to take him out of bed and
sit with him on her lap, soothing him in dear ways of her own
invention, and when he grew calmer to put him back to bed before
he quite woke up, so that he should not know of the indignity to
which she had subjected him. But on this occasion he had fallen
at once into a dreamless sleep. One arm dropped over the edge of
the bed, one leg was arched, and the unfinished part of his laugh
was stranded on his mouth, which was open, showing the little
Thus defenceless Hook found him. He stood silent at the foot
of the tree looking across the chamber at his enemy. Did no
feeling of compassion disturb his sombre breast? The man was not
wholly evil; he loved flowers (I have been told) and sweet music
(he was himself no mean performer on the harpsichord); and, let
it be frankly admitted, the idyllic nature of the scene stirred
him profoundly. Mastered by his better self he would have
returned reluctantly up the tree, but for one thing.
What stayed him was Peter's impertinent appearance as he slept.
The open mouth, the drooping arm, the arched knee: they were
such a personification of cockiness as, taken together, will
never again, one may hope, be presented to eyes so sensitive to
their offensiveness. They steeled Hook's heart. If his rage had
broken him into a hundred pieces every one of them would have
disregarded the incident, and leapt at the sleeper.
Though a light from the one lamp shone dimly on the bed, Hook
stood in darkness himself, and at the first stealthy step forward
he discovered an obstacle, the door of Slightly's tree. It did
not entirely fill the aperture, and he had been looking over it.
Feeling for the catch, he found to his fury that it was low down,
beyond his reach. To his disordered brain it seemed then that
the irritating quality in Peter's face and figure visibly
increased, and he rattled the door and flung himself against it.
Was his enemy to escape him after all?
But what was that? The red in his eye had caught sight of
Peter's medicine standing on a ledge within easy reach. He
fathomed what it was straightaway, and immediately knew that the
sleeper was in his power.
Lest he should be taken alive, Hook always carried about his
person a dreadful drug, blended by himself of all the death-
dealing rings that had come into his possession. These he had
boiled down into a yellow liquid quite unknown to science, which
was probably the most virulent poison in existence.
Five drops of this he now added to Peter's cup. His hand
shook, but it was in exultation rather than in shame. As he did
it he avoided glancing at the sleeper, but not lest pity should
unnerve him; merely to avoid spilling. Then one long gloating
look he cast upon his victim, and turning, wormed his way with
difficulty up the tree. As he emerged at the top he looked the
very spirit of evil breaking from its hole. Donning his hat at
its most rakish angle, he wound his cloak around him, holding one
end in front as if to conceal his person from the night, of which
it was the blackest part, and muttering strangely to himself,
stole away through the trees.
Peter slept on. The light guttered [burned to edges] and
went out, leaving the tenement in darkness; but still he slept.
It must have been not less than ten o'clock by the crocodile,
when he suddenly sat up in his bed, wakened by he knew not what.
It was a soft cautious tapping on the door of his tree.
Soft and cautious, but in that stillness it was sinister.
Peter felt for his dagger till his hand gripped it. Then he
"Who is that?"
For long there was no answer: then again the knock.
"Who are you?"
He was thrilled, and he loved being thrilled. In two strides
he reached the door. Unlike Slightly's door, it filled the
aperture [opening], so that he could not see beyond it, nor could
the one knocking see him.
"I won't open unless you speak," Peter cried.
Then at last the visitor spoke, in a lovely bell-like voice.
"Let me in, Peter."
It was Tink, and quickly he unbarred to her. She flew in
excitedly, her face flushed and her dress stained with mud.
"What is it?"
"Oh, you could never guess!" she cried, and offered him three
guesses. "Out with it!" he shouted, and in one ungrammatical
sentence, as long as the ribbons that conjurers [magicians] pull
from their mouths, she told of the capture of Wendy and the boys.
Peter's heart bobbed up and down as he listened. Wendy bound,
and on the pirate ship; she who loved everything to be just so!
"I'll rescue her!" he cried, leaping at his weapons. As he
leapt he thought of something he could do to please her. He
could take his medicine.
His hand closed on the fatal draught.
"No!" shrieked Tinker Bell, who had heard Hook mutter about his
deed as he sped through the forest.
"It is poisoned."
"Poisoned? Who could have poisoned it?"
"Don't be silly. How could Hook have got down here?"
Alas, Tinker Bell could not explain this, for even she did not
know the dark secret of Slightly's tree. Nevertheless Hook's
words had left no room for doubt. The cup was poisoned.
"Besides," said Peter, quite believing himself "I never fell
He raised the cup. No time for words now; time for deeds; and
with one of her lightning movements Tink got between his lips and
the draught, and drained it to the dregs.
"Why, Tink, how dare you drink my medicine?"
But she did not answer. Already she was reeling in the air.
"What is the matter with you?" cried Peter, suddenly afraid.
"It was poisoned, Peter," she told him softly; "and now I am
going to be dead."
"O Tink, did you drink it to save me?"
"But why, Tink?"
Her wings would scarcely carry her now, but in reply she
alighted on his shoulder and gave his nose a loving bite. She
whispered in his ear "You silly ass," and then, tottering to her
chamber, lay down on the bed.
His head almost filled the fourth wall of her little room as he
knelt near her in distress. Every moment her light was growing
fainter; and he knew that if it went out she would be no more.
She liked his tears so much that she put out her beautiful finger
and let them run over it.
Her voice was so low that at first he could not make out what
she said. Then he made it out. She was saying that she thought
she could get well again if children believed in fairies.
Peter flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it
was night time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the
Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think:
boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their
baskets hung from trees.
"Do you believe?" he cried.
Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate.
She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then
again she wasn't sure.
"What do you think?" she asked Peter.
"If you believe," he shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't
let Tink die."
A few beasts hissed.
The clapping stopped suddenly; as if countless mothers had
rushed to their nurseries to see what on earth was happening; but
already Tink was saved. First her voice grew strong, then she
popped out of bed, then she was flashing through the room more
merry and impudent than ever. She never thought of thanking
those who believed, but she would have like to get at the ones
who had hissed.
"And now to rescue Wendy!"
The moon was riding in a cloudy heaven when Peter rose from his
tree, begirt [belted] with weapons and wearing little else, to
set out upon his perilous quest. It was not such a night as he
would have chosen. He had hoped to fly, keeping not far from the
ground so that nothing unwonted should escape his eyes; but in
that fitful light to have flown low would have meant trailing his
shadow through the trees, thus disturbing birds and acquainting a
watchful foe that he was astir.
He regretted now that he had given the birds of the island such
strange names that they are very wild and difficult of approach.
There was no other course but to press forward in redskin
fashion, at which happily he was an adept [expert]. But in what
direction, for he could not be sure that the children had been
taken to the ship? A light fall of snow had obliterated all
footmarks; and a deathly silence pervaded the island, as if for a
space Nature stood still in horror of the recent carnage. He had
taught the children something of the forest lore that he had
himself learned from Tiger Lily and Tinker Bell, and knew that in
their dire hour they were not likely to forget it. Slightly, if
he had an opportunity, would blaze [cut a mark in] the trees, for
instance, Curly would drop seeds, and Wendy would leave her
handkerchief at some important place. The morning was needed to
search for such guidance, and he could not wait. The upper world
had called him, but would give no help.
The crocodile passed him, but not another living thing, not a
sound, not a movement; and yet he knew well that sudden death
might be at the next tree, or stalking him from behind.
He swore this terrible oath: "Hook or me this time."
Now he crawled forward like a snake, and again erect, he
darted across a space on which the moonlight played, one finger
on his lip and his dagger at the ready. He was frightfully
THE PIRATE SHIP
One green light squinting over Kidd's Creek, which is near the
mouth of the pirate river, marked where the brig, the JOLLY
ROGER, lay, low in the water; a rakish-looking [speedy-looking]
craft foul to the hull, every beam in her detestable, like ground
strewn with mangled feathers. She was the cannibal of the seas,
and scarce needed that watchful eye, for she floated immune in
the horror of her name.
She was wrapped in the blanket of night, through which no sound
from her could have reached the shore. There was little sound,
and none agreeable save the whir of the ship's sewing machine at
which Smee sat, ever industrious and obliging, the essence of the
commonplace, pathetic Smee. I know not why he was so infinitely
pathetic, unless it were because he was so pathetically unaware
of it; but even strong men had to turn hastily from looking at
him, and more than once on summer evenings he had touched the
fount of Hook's tears and made it flow. Of this, as of almost
everything else, Smee was quite unconscious.
A few of the pirates leant over the bulwarks, drinking in the
miasma [putrid mist] of the night; others sprawled by barrels over
games of dice and cards; and the exhausted four who had carried
the little house lay prone on the deck, where even in their sleep
they rolled skillfully to this side or that out of Hook's reach,
lest he should claw them mechanically in passing.
Hook trod the deck in thought. O man unfathomable. It was his
hour of triumph. Peter had been removed for ever from his path,
and all the other boys were in the brig, about to walk the plank.
It was his grimmest deed since the days when he had brought
Barbecue to heel; and knowing as we do how vain a tabernacle is
man, could we be surprised had he now paced the deck unsteadily,
bellied out by the winds of his success?
But there was no elation in his gait, which kept pace with the
action of his sombre mind. Hook was profoundly dejected.
He was often thus when communing with himself on board ship in
the quietude of the night. It was because he was so terribly
alone. This inscrutable man never felt more alone than when
surrounded by his dogs. They were socially inferior to him.
Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would
even at this date set the country in a blaze; but as those who
read between the lines must already have guessed, he had been at
a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him
like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned.
Thus it was offensive to him even now to board a ship in the
same dress in which he grappled [attacked] her, and he still
adhered in his walk to the school's distinguished slouch. But
above all he retained the passion for good form.
Good form! However much he may have degenerated, he still knew
that this is all that really matters.
From far within him he heard a creaking as of rusty portals,
and through them came a stern tap-tap-tap, like hammering in the
night when one cannot sleep. "Have you been good form to-day?"
was their eternal question.
"Fame, fame, that glittering bauble, it is mine," he cried.
"Is it quite good form to be distinguished at anything?" the
tap-tap from his school replied.
"I am the only man whom Barbecue feared," he urged, "and Flint
"Barbecue, Flint -- what house?" came the cutting retort.
Most disquieting reflection of all, was it not bad form to
think about good form?
His vitals were tortured by this problem. It was a claw within
him sharper than the iron one; and as it tore him, the
perspiration dripped down his tallow [waxy] countenance and
streaked his doublet. Ofttimes he drew his sleeve across his
face, but there was no damming that trickle.
Ah, envy not Hook.
There came to him a presentiment of his early dissolution
[death]. It was as if Peter's terrible oath had boarded the
ship. Hook felt a gloomy desire to make his dying speech, lest
presently there should be no time for it.
"Better for Hook," he cried, "if he had had less ambition!"
It was in his darkest hours only that he referred to himself
in the third person.
"No little children to love me!"
Strange that he should think of this, which had never troubled
him before; perhaps the sewing machine brought it to his mind.
For long he muttered to himself, staring at Smee, who was
hemming placidly, under the conviction that all children feared
Feared him! Feared Smee! There was not a child on board the
brig that night who did not already love him. He had said horrid
things to them and hit them with the palm of his hand, because he
could not hit with his fist, but they had only clung to him the
more. Michael had tried on his spectacles.
To tell poor Smee that they thought him lovable! Hook itched
to do it, but it seemed too brutal. Instead, he revolved this
mystery in his mind: why do they find Smee lovable? He pursued
the problem like the sleuth-hound that he was. If Smee was
lovable, what was it that made him so? A terrible answer
suddenly presented itself--"Good form?"
Had the bo'sun good form without knowing it, which is the best
form of all?
He remembered that you have to prove you don't know you have it
before you are eligible for Pop [an elite social club at Eton].
With a cry of rage he raised his iron hand over Smee's head;
but he did not tear. What arrested him was this reflection:
"To claw a man because he is good form, what would that be?"
The unhappy Hook was as impotent [powerless] as he was damp,
and he fell forward like a cut flower.
His dogs thinking him out of the way for a time, discipline
instantly relaxed; and they broke into a bacchanalian [drunken]
dance, which brought him to his feet at once, all traces of human
weakness gone, as if a bucket of water had passed over him.
"Quiet, you scugs," he cried, "or I'll cast anchor in you"; and
at once the din was hushed. "Are all the children chained, so
that they cannot fly away?"
"Then hoist them up."
The wretched prisoners were dragged from the hold, all except
Wendy, and ranged in line in front of him. For a time he seemed
unconscious of their presence. He lolled at his ease, humming,
not unmelodiously, snatches of a rude song, and fingering a pack
of cards. Ever and anon the light from his cigar gave a touch of
colour to his face.
"Now then, bullies," he said briskly, "six of you walk the
plank to-night, but I have room for two cabin boys. Which of you
is it to be?"
"Don't irritate him unnecessarily," had been Wendy's
instructions in the hold; so Tootles stepped forward politely.
Tootles hated the idea of signing under such a man, but an
instinct told him that it would be prudent to lay the
responsibility on an absent person; and though a somewhat silly
boy, he knew that mothers alone are always willing to be the
buffer. All children know this about mothers, and despise them
for it, but make constant use of it.
So Tootles explained prudently, "You see, sir, I don't think my
mother would like me to be a pirate. Would your mother like you
to be a pirate, Slightly?"
He winked at Slightly, who said mournfully, "I don't think so,"
as if he wished things had been otherwise. "Would your mother
like you to be a pirate, Twin?"
"I don't think so," said the first twin, as clever as the
others. "Nibs, would -- "
"Stow this gab," roared Hook, and the spokesmen were dragged
back. "You, boy," he said, addressing John, "you look as if you
had a little pluck in you. Didst never want to be a pirate, my
Now John had sometimes experienced this hankering at maths.
prep.; and he was struck by Hook's picking him out.
"I once thought of calling myself Red-handed Jack," he said
"And a good name too. We'll call you that here, bully, if you
"What do you think, Michael?" asked John.
"What would you call me if I join?" Michael demanded.
Michael was naturally impressed. "What do you think, John?"
He wanted John to decide, and John wanted him to decide.
"Shall we still be respectful subjects of the King?" John
Through Hook's teeth came the answer: "You would have to
swear, `Down with the King.'"
Perhaps John had not behaved very well so far, but he shone out
"Then I refuse," he cried, banging the barrel in front of Hook.
"And I refuse," cried Michael.
"Rule Britannia!" squeaked Curly.
The infuriated pirates buffeted them in the mouth; and Hook
roared out, "That seals your doom. Bring up their mother. Get
the plank ready."
They were only boys, and they went white as they saw Jukes and
Cecco preparing the fatal plank. But they tried to look brave
when Wendy was brought up.
No words of mine can tell you how Wendy despised those pirates.
To the boys there was at least some glamour in the pirate
calling; but all that she saw was that the ship had not been
tidied for years. There was not a porthole on the grimy glass
of which you might not have written with your finger "Dirty pig";
and she had already written it on several. But as the boys
gathered round her she had no thought, of course, save for them.
"So, my beauty," said Hook, as if he spoke in syrup, "you are
to see your children walk the plank."
Fine gentlemen though he was, the intensity of his communings
had soiled his ruff, and suddenly he knew that she was gazing at
it. With a hasty gesture he tried to hide it, but he was too late.
"Are they to die?" asked Wendy, with a look of such frightful
contempt that he nearly fainted.
"They are," he snarled. "Silence all," he called gloatingly,
"for a mother's last words to her children."
At this moment Wendy was grand. "These are my last words, dear
boys," she said firmly. "I feel that I have a message to you
from your real mothers, and it is this: `We hope our sons will
die like English gentlemen.'"
Even the pirates were awed, and Tootles cried out hysterically,
"I am going to do what my mother hopes. What are you to do, Nibs?"
"What my mother hopes. What are you to do, Twin?"
"What my mother hopes. John, what are -- "
But Hook had found his voice again.
"Tie her up!" he shouted.
It was Smee who tied her to the mast. "See here, honey," he
whispered, "I'll save you if you promise to be my mother."
But not even for Smee would she make such a promise. "I would
almost rather have no children at all," she said disdainfully
It is sad to know that not a boy was looking at her as Smee
tied her to the mast; the eyes of all were on the plank: that
last little walk they were about to take. They were no longer
able to hope that they would walk it manfully, for the capacity
to think had gone from them; they could stare and shiver only.
Hook smiled on them with his teeth closed, and took a step
toward Wendy. His intention was to turn her face so that she
should see they boys walking the plank one by one. But he never
reached her, he never heard the cry of anguish he hoped to wring
from her. He heard something else instead.
It was the terrible tick-tick of the crocodile.
They all heard it -- pirates, boys, Wendy; and immediately
every head was blown in one direction; not to the water whence
the sound proceeded, but toward Hook. All knew that what was
about to happen concerned him alone, and that from being actors
they were suddenly become spectators.
Very frightful was it to see the change that came over him. It
was as if he had been clipped at every joint. He fell in a
The sound came steadily nearer; and in advance of it came this
ghastly thought, "The crocodile is about to board the ship!"
Even the iron claw hung inactive; as if knowing that it was no
intrinsic part of what the attacking force wanted. Left so
fearfully alone, any other man would have lain with his eyes shut
where he fell: but the gigantic brain of Hook was still working,
and under its guidance he crawled on the knees along the deck as
far from the sound as he could go. The pirates respectfully
cleared a passage for him, and it was only when he brought up
against the bulwarks that he spoke.
"Hide me!" he cried hoarsely.
They gathered round him, all eyes averted from the thing that
was coming aboard. They had no thought of fighting it. It was
Only when Hook was hidden from them did curiosity loosen the
limbs of the boys so that they could rush to the ship's side to
see the crocodile climbing it. Then they got the strangest
surprise of the Night of Nights; for it was no crocodile that was
coming to their aid. It was Peter.
He signed to them not to give vent to any cry of admiration
that might rouse suspicion. Then he went on ticking.
"HOOK OR ME THIS TIME"
Odd things happen to all of us on our way through life without
our noticing for a time that they have happened. Thus, to take
an instance, we suddenly discover that we have been deaf in one
ear for we don't know how long, but, say, half an hour. Now such
an experience had come that night to Peter. When last we saw him
he was stealing across the island with one finger to his lips and
his dagger at the ready. He had seen the crocodile pass by
without noticing anything peculiar about it, but by and by he
remembered that it had not been ticking. At first he thought
this eerie, but soon concluded rightly that the clock had run
Without giving a thought to what might be the feelings of a
fellow-creature thus abruptly deprived of its closest companion,
Peter began to consider how he could turn the catastrophe to his
own use; and he decided to tick, so that wild beasts should
believe he was the crocodile and let him pass unmolested. He
ticked superbly, but with one unforeseen result. The crocodile
was among those who heard the sound, and it followed him, though
whether with the purpose of regaining what it had lost, or
merely as a friend under the belief that it was again ticking
itself, will never be certainly known, for, like slaves to a
fixed idea, it was a stupid beast.
Peter reached the shore without mishap, and went straight on,
his legs encountering the water as if quite unaware that they had
entered a new element. Thus many animals pass from land to
water, but no other human of whom I know. As he swam he had but
one thought: "Hook or me this time." He had ticked so long that
he now went on ticking without knowing that he was doing it. Had
he known he would have stopped, for to board the brig by help of
the tick, though an ingenious idea, had not occurred to him.
On the contrary, he thought he had scaled her side as noiseless
as a mouse; and he was amazed to see the pirates cowering from
him, with Hook in their midst as abject as if he had heard the
The crocodile! No sooner did Peter remember it than he heard
the ticking. At first he thought the sound did come from the
crocodile, and he looked behind him swiftly. They he realised
that he was doing it himself, and in a flash he understood the
situation. "How clever of me!" he thought at once, and signed
to the boys not to burst into applause.
It was at this moment that Ed Teynte the quartermaster emerged
from the forecastle and came along the deck. Now, reader, time
what happened by your watch. Peter struck true and deep. John
clapped his hands on the ill-fated pirate's mouth to stifle the
dying groan. He fell forward. Four boys caught him to prevent
the thud. Peter gave the signal, and the carrion was cast
overboard. There was a splash, and then silence. How long has
"One!" (Slightly had begun to count.)
None too soon, Peter, every inch of him on tiptoe, vanished
into the cabin; for more than one pirate was screwing up his
courage to look round. They could hear each other's distressed
breathing now, which showed them that the more terrible sound had
"It's gone, captain," Smee said, wiping off his spectacles.
"All's still again."
Slowly Hook let his head emerge from his ruff, and listened so
intently that he could have caught the echo of the tick. There
was not a sound, and he drew himself up firmly to his full
"Then here's to Johnny Plank!" he cried brazenly, hating the
boys more than ever because they had seen him unbend. He broke
into the villainous ditty:
"Yo ho, yo ho, the frisky plank,
You walks along it so,
Till it goes down and you goes down
To Davy Jones below!"
To terrorize the prisoners the more, though with a certain loss
of dignity, he danced along an imaginary plank, grimacing at them
as he sang; and when he finished he cried, "Do you want a touch
of the cat [`o nine tails] before you walk the plank?"
At that they fell on their knees. "No, no!" they cried so
piteously that every pirate smiled.
"Fetch the cat, Jukes," said Hook; "it's in the cabin."
The cabin! Peter was in the cabin! The children gazed at each
"Ay, ay," said Jukes blithely, and he strode into the cabin.
They followed him with their eyes; they scarce knew that Hook had
resumed his song, his dogs joining in with him:
"Yo ho, yo ho, the scratching cat,
Its tails are nine, you know,
And when they're writ upon your back -- "
What was the last line will never be known, for of a sudden the
song was stayed by a dreadful screech from the cabin. It wailed
through the ship, and died away. Then was heard a crowing sound
which was well understood by the boys, but to the pirates was
almost more eerie than the screech.
"What was that?" cried Hook.
"Two," said Slightly solemnly.
The Italian Cecco hesitated for a moment and then swung into
the cabin. He tottered out, haggard.
"What's the matter with Bill Jukes, you dog?" hissed Hook,
towering over him.
"The matter wi' him is he's dead, stabbed," replied Cecco in a
"Bill Jukes dead!" cried the startled pirates.
"The cabin's as black as a pit," Cecco said, almost gibbering,
"but there is something terrible in there: the thing you heard
The exultation of the boys, the lowering looks of the pirates,
both were seen by Hook.
"Cecco," he said in his most steely voice, "go back and fetch
me out that doodle-doo."
Cecco, bravest of the brave, cowered before his captain, crying
"No, no"; but Hook was purring to his claw.
"Did you say you would go, Cecco?" he said musingly.
Cecco went, first flinging his arms despairingly. There was no
more singing, all listened now; and again came a death-screech
and again a crow.
No one spoke except Slightly. "Three," he said.
Hook rallied his dogs with a gesture. "'S'death and odds
fish," he thundered, "who is to bring me that doodle-doo?"
"Wait till Cecco comes out," growled Starkey, and the others took
up the cry.
"I think I heard you volunteer, Starkey," said Hook, purring
"No, by thunder!" Starkey cried.
"My hook thinks you did," said Hook, crossing to him. "I
wonder if it would not be advisable, Starkey, to humour the hook?"
"I'll swing before I go in there," replied Starkey doggedly,
and again he had the support of the crew.
"Is this mutiny?" asked Hook more pleasantly than ever.
"Captain, mercy!" Starkey whimpered, all of a tremble now.
"Shake hands, Starkey," said Hook, proffering his claw.
Starkey looked round for help, but all deserted him. As he
backed up Hook advanced, and now the red spark was in his eye.
With a despairing scream the pirate leapt upon Long Tom and
precipitated himself into the sea.
"Four," said Slightly.
"And now," Hook said courteously, "did any other gentlemen say
mutiny?" Seizing a lantern and raising his claw with a menacing
gesture, "I'll bring out that doodle-doo myself," he said, and
sped into the cabin.
"Five." How Slightly longed to say it. He wetted his lips to
be ready, but Hook came staggering out, without his lantern.
"Something blew out the light," he said a little unsteadily.
"Something!" echoed Mullins.
"What of Cecco?" demanded Noodler.
"He's as dead as Jukes," said Hook shortly.
His reluctance to return to the cabin impressed them all
unfavourably, and the mutinous sounds again broke forth. All
pirates are superstitious, and Cookson cried, "They do say the
surest sign a ship's accurst is when there's one on board more
than can be accounted for."
"I've heard," muttered Mullins, "he always boards the pirate
craft last. Had he a tail, captain?"
"They say," said another, looking viciously at Hook, "that when
he comes it's in the likeness of the wickedest man aboard."
"Had he a hook, captain?" asked Cookson insolently; and one
after another took up the cry, "The ship's doomed!" At this the
children could not resist raising a cheer. Hook had well-nigh
forgotten his prisoners, but as he swung round on them now his
face lit up again.
"Lads," he cried to his crew, "now here's a notion. Open the
cabin door and drive them in. Let them fight the doodle-doo for
their lives. If they kill him, we're so much the better; if he
kills them, we're none the worse."
For the last time his dogs admired Hook, and devotedly they did
his bidding. The boys, pretending to struggle, were pushed into
the cabin and the door was closed on them.
"Now, listen!" cried Hook, and all listened. But not one dared
to face the door. Yes, one, Wendy, who all this time had been
bound to the mast. It was for neither a scream nor a crow that
she was watching, it was for the reappearance of Peter.
She had not long to wait. In the cabin he had found the thing
for which he had gone in search: the key the would free the
children of their manacles, and now they all stole forth, armed
with such weapons as they could find. First signing them to
hide, Peter cut Wendy's bonds, and then nothing could have been
easier than for them all to fly off together; but one thing
barred the way, an oath, "Hook or me this time." So when he had
freed Wendy, he whispered for her to conceal herself with the
others, and himself took her place by the mast, her cloak around
him so that he should pass for her. Then he took a great breath
To the pirates it was a voice crying that all the boys lay
slain in the cabin; and they were panic-stricken. Hook tried to
hearten them; but like the dogs he had made them they showed him
their fangs, and he knew that if he took his eyes off them now
they would leap at him.
"Lads," he said, ready to cajole or strike as need be, but
never quailing for an instant, "I've thought it out. There's a
"Ay," they snarled, "a man wi' a hook."
"No, lads, no, it's the girl. Never was luck on a pirate ship
wi' a woman on board. We'll right the ship when she's gone."
Some of them remembered that this had been a saying of
Flint's. "It's worth trying," they said doubtfully.
"Fling the girl overboard," cried Hook; and they made a rush at
the figure in the cloak.
"There's none can save you now, missy," Mullins hissed
"There's one," replied the figure.
"Peter Pan the avenger!" came the terrible answer; and as he
spoke Peter flung off his cloak. Then they all knew who 'twas
that had been undoing them in the cabin, and twice Hook essayed
to speak and twice he failed. In that frightful moment I think
his fierce heart broke.
At last he cried, "Cleave him to the brisket!" but without
"Down, boys, and at them!" Peter's voice rang out; and in
another moment the clash of arms was resounding through the ship.
Had the pirates kept together it is certain that they would have
won; but the onset came when they were still unstrung, and they
ran hither and thither, striking wildly, each thinking himself
the last survivor of the crew. Man to man they were the
stronger; but they fought on the defensive only, which enabled
the boys to hunt in pairs and choose their quarry. Some of the
miscreants leapt into the sea; others hid in dark recesses, where
they were found by Slightly, who did not fight, but ran about
with a lantern which he flashed in their faces, so that they were
half blinded and fell as an easy prey to the reeking swords of
the other boys. There was little sound to be heard but the clang
of weapons, an occasional screech or splash, and Slightly
monotonously counting -- five -- six -- seven -- eight -- nine --
ten -- eleven.
I think all were gone when a group of savage boys surrounded
Hook, who seemed to have a charmed life, as he kept them at bay
in that circle of fire. They had done for his dogs, but this man
alone seemed to be a match for them all. Again and again they
closed upon him, and again and again he hewed a clear space. He
had lifted up one boy with his hook, and was using him as a
buckler [shield], when another, who had just passed his sword
through Mullins, sprang into the fray.
"Put up your swords, boys," cried the newcomer, "this man is
Thus suddenly Hook found himself face to face with Peter. The
others drew back and formed a ring around them.
For long the two enemies looked at one another, Hook shuddering
slightly, and Peter with the strange smile upon his face.
"So, Pan," said Hook at last, "this is all your doing."
"Ay, James Hook," came the stern answer, "it is all my doing."
"Proud and insolent youth," said Hook, "prepare to meet thy
"Dark and sinister man," Peter answered, "have at thee."
Without more words they fell to, and for a space there was no
advantage to either blade. Peter was a superb swordsman, and
parried with dazzling rapidity; ever and anon he followed up a
feint with a lunge that got past his foe's defence, but his
shorter reach stood him in ill stead, and he could not drive the
steel home. Hook, scarcely his inferior in brilliancy, but not
quite so nimble in wrist play, forced him back by the weight of
his onset, hoping suddenly to end all with a favourite thrust,
taught him long ago by Barbecue at Rio; but to his astonishment he
found this thrust turned aside again and again. Then he sought to
close and give the quietus with his iron hook, which all this time
had been pawing the air; but Peter doubled under it and, lunging
fiercely, pierced him in the ribs. At the sight of his own blood,
whose peculiar colour, you remember, was offensive to him,
the sword fell from Hook's hand, and he was at Peter's mercy.
"Now!" cried all the boys, but with a magnificent gesture Peter
invited his opponent to pick up his sword. Hook did so instantly,
but with a tragic feeling that Peter was showing good form.
Hitherto he had thought it was some fiend fighting him, but
darker suspicions assailed him now.
"Pan, who and what art thou?" he cried huskily.
"I'm youth, I'm joy," Peter answered at a venture, "I'm a
little bird that has broken out of the egg."
This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy
Hook that Peter did not know in the least who or what he was,
which is the very pinnacle of good form.
"To't again," he cried despairingly.
He fought now like a human flail, and every sweep of that
terrible sword would have severed in twain any man or boy who
obstructed it; but Peter fluttered round him as if the very wind
it made blew him out of the danger zone. And again and again he
darted in and pricked.
Hook was fighting now without hope. That passionate breast no
longer asked for life; but for one boon it craved: to see Peter
show bad form before it was cold forever.
Abandoning the fight he rushed into the powder magazine and
"In two minutes," he cried, "the ship will be blown to pieces."
Now, now, he thought, true form will show.
But Peter issued from the powder magazine with the shell in his
hands, and calmly flung it overboard.
What sort of form was Hook himself showing? Misguided man
though he was, we may be glad, without sympathising with him,
that in the end he was true to the traditions of his race. The
other boys were flying around him now, flouting, scornful; and he
staggered about the deck striking up at them impotently, his mind
was no longer with them; it was slouching in the playing fields
of long ago, or being sent up [to the headmaster] for good, or
watching the wall-game from a famous wall. And his shoes were
right, and his waistcoat was right, and his tie was right, and
his socks were right.
James Hook, thou not wholly unheroic figure, farewell.
For we have come to his last moment.
Seeing Peter slowly advancing upon him through the air with
dagger poised, he sprang upon the bulwarks to cast himself into
the sea. He did not know that the crocodile was waiting for
him; for we purposely stopped the clock that this knowledge might
be spared him: a little mark of respect from us at the end.
He had one last triumph, which I think we need not grudge him.
As he stood on the bulwark looking over his shoulder at Peter
gliding through the air, he invited him with a gesture to use his
foot. It made Peter kick instead of stab.
At last Hook had got the boon for which he craved.
"Bad form," he cried jeeringly, and went content to the
Thus perished James Hook.
"Seventeen," Slightly sang out; but he was not quite correct in
his figures. Fifteen paid the penalty for their crimes that
night; but two reached the shore: Starkey to be captured by the
redskins, who made him nurse for all their papooses, a melancholy
come-down for a pirate; and Smee, who henceforth wandered about
the world in his spectacles, making a precarious living by saying
he was the only man that Jas. Hook had feared.
Wendy, of course, had stood by taking no part in the fight,
though watching Peter with glistening eyes; but now that all was
over she became prominent again. She praised them equally, and
shuddered delightfully when Michael showed her the place where he
had killed one; and then she took them into Hook's cabin and
pointed to his watch which was hanging on a nail. It said "half-
The lateness of the hour was almost the biggest thing of all.
She got them to bed in the pirates' bunks pretty quickly, you may
be sure; all but Peter, who strutted up and down on the deck,
until at last he fell asleep by the side of Long Tom. He had one
of his dreams that night, and cried in his sleep for a long time,
and Wendy held him tightly.
THE RETURN HOME
By three bells that morning they were all stirring their stumps
[legs]; for there was a big sea running; and Tootles, the bo'sun,
was among them, with a rope's end in his hand and chewing
tobacco. They all donned pirate clothes cut off at the knee,
shaved smartly, and tumbled up, with the true nautical roll and
hitching their trousers.
It need not be said who was the captain. Nibs and John were
first and second mate. There was a woman aboard. The rest were
tars [sailors] before the mast, and lived in the fo'c'sle. Peter
had already lashed himself to the wheel; but he piped all hands
and delivered a short address to them; said he hoped they would
do their duty like gallant hearties, but that he knew they were
the scum of Rio and the Gold Coast, and if they snapped at him he
would tear them. The bluff strident words struck the note
sailors understood, and they cheered him lustily. Then a few
sharp orders were given, and they turned the ship round, and nosed
her for the mainland.
Captain Pan calculated, after consulting the ship's chart, that
if this weather lasted they should strike the Azores about the
21st of June, after which it would save time to fly.
Some of them wanted it to be an honest ship and others were in
favour of keeping it a pirate; but the captain treated them as
dogs, and they dared not express their wishes to him even in a
round robin [one person after another, as they had to Cpt. Hook].
Instant obedience was the only safe thing. Slightly got a dozen
for looking perplexed when told to take soundings. The general
feeling was that Peter was honest just now to lull Wendy's
suspicions, but that there might be a change when the new suit
was ready, which, against her will, she was making for him out of
some of Hook's wickedest garments. It was afterwards whispered
among them that on the first night he wore this suit he sat long
in the cabin with Hook's cigar-holder in his mouth and one hand
clenched, all but for the forefinger, which he bent and held
threateningly aloft like a hook.
Instead of watching the ship, however, we must now return to
that desolate home from which three of our characters had taken
heartless flight so long ago. It seems a shame to have neglected
No. 14 all this time; and yet we may be sure that Mrs. Darling
does not blame us. If we had returned sooner to look with
sorrowful sympathy at her, she would probably have cried, "Don't
be silly; what do I matter? Do go back and keep an eye on the
children." So long as mothers are like this their children will
take advantage of them; and they may lay to [bet on] that.
Even now we venture into that familiar nursery only because its
lawful occupants are on their way home; we are merely hurrying on
in advance of them to see that their beds are properly aired and
that Mr. and Mrs. Darling do not go out for the evening. We are
no more than servants. Why on earth should their beds be
properly aired, seeing that they left them in such a thankless
hurry? Would it not serve them jolly well right if they came
back and found that their parents were spending the week-end in
the country? It would be the moral lesson they have been in need
of ever since we met them; but if we contrived things in this way
Mrs. Darling would never forgive us.
One thing I should like to do immensely, and that is to tell
her, in the way authors have, that the children are coming back,
that indeed they will be here on Thursday week. This would spoil
so completely the surprise to which Wendy and John and Michael
are looking forward. They have been planning it out on the ship:
mother's rapture, father's shout of joy, Nana's leap through the
air to embrace them first, when what they ought to be prepared
for is a good hiding. How delicious to spoil it all by breaking
the news in advance; so that when they enter grandly Mrs. Darling
may not even offer Wendy her mouth, and Mr. Darling may exclaim
pettishly, "Dash it all, here are those boys again." However, we
should get no thanks even for this. We are beginning to know
Mrs. Darling by this time, and may be sure that she would upbraid
us for depriving the children of their little pleasure.
"But, my dear madam, it is ten days till Thursday week; so that
by telling you what's what, we can save you ten days of
"Yes, but at what a cost! By depriving the children of ten
minutes of delight."
"Oh, if you look at it in that way!"
"What other way is there in which to look at it?"
You see, the woman had no proper spirit. I had meant to say
extraordinarily nice things about her; but I despise her, and not
one of them will I say now. She does not really need to be told
to have things ready, for they are ready. All the beds are aired,
and she never leaves the house, and observe, the window is open.
For all the use we are to her, we might well go back to the ship.
However, as we are here we may as well stay and look on. That is
all we are, lookers-on. Nobody really wants us. So let us watch
and say jaggy things, in the hope that some of them will hurt.
The only change to be seen in the night-nursery is that between
nine and six the kennel is no longer there. When the children
flew away, Mr. Darling felt in his bones that all the blame was
his for having chained Nana up, and that from first to last she
had been wiser than he. Of course, as we have seen, he was quite
a simple man; indeed be might have passed for a boy again if he
had been able to take his baldness off; but he had also a noble
sense of justice and a lion's courage to do what seemed right to
him; and having thought the matter out with anxious care after
the flight of the children, he went down on all fours and crawled
into the kennel. To all Mrs. Darling's dear invitations to him
to come out he replied sadly but firmly:
"No, my own one, this is the place for me."
In the bitterness of his remorse he swore that he would never
leave the kennel until his children came back. Of course this
was a pity; but whatever Mr. Darling did he had to do in excess,
otherwise he soon gave up doing it. And there never was a more
humble man than the once proud George Darling, as he sat in the
kennel of an evening talking with his wife of their children and
all their pretty ways.
Very touching was his deference to Nana. He would not let her
come into the kennel, but on all other matters he followed her
Every morning the kennel was carried with Mr. Darling in it to
a cab, which conveyed him to his office, and he returned home in
the same way at six. Something of the strength of character of
the man will be seen if we remember how sensitive he was to the
opinion of neighbours: this man whose every movement now
attracted surprised attention. Inwardly he must have suffered
torture; but he preserved a calm exterior even when the young
criticised his little home, and he always lifted his hat
courteously to any lady who looked inside.
It may have been Quixotic, but it was magnificent. Soon the
inward meaning of it leaked out, and the great heart of the
public was touched. Crowds followed the cab, cheering it
lustily; charming girls scaled it to get his autograph;
interviews appeared in the better class of papers, and society
invited him to dinner and added, "Do come in the kennel."
On that eventful Thursday week, Mrs. Darling was in the night-
nursery awaiting George's return home; a very sad-eyed woman.
Now that we look at her closely and remember the gaiety of her in
the old days, all gone now just because she has lost her babes, I
find I won't be able to say nasty things about her after all. If
she was too fond of her rubbishy children, she couldn't help it.
Look at her in her chair, where she has fallen asleep. The
corner of her mouth, where one looks first, is almost withered
up. Her hand moves restlessly on her breast as if she had a
pain there. Some like Peter best, and some like Wendy best, but
I like her best. Suppose, to make her happy, we whisper to her
in her sleep that the brats are coming back. They are really
within two miles of the window now, and flying strong, but all
we need whisper is that they are on the way. Let's.
It is a pity we did it, for she has started up, calling their
names; and there is no one in the room but Nana.
"O Nana, I dreamt my dear ones had come back."
Nana had filmy eyes, but all she could do was put her paw
gently on her mistress's lap; and they were sitting together thus
when the kennel was brought back. As Mr. Darling puts his head
out to kiss his wife, we see that his face is more worn than of
yore, but has a softer expression.
He gave his hat to Liza, who took it scornfully; for she had no
imagination, and was quite incapable of understanding the motives
of such a man. Outside, the crowd who had accompanied the cab
home were still cheering, and he was naturally not unmoved.
"Listen to them," he said; "it is very gratifying."
"Lots of little boys," sneered Liza.
"There were several adults to-day," he assured her with a faint
flush; but when she tossed her head he had not a word of reproof for
her. Social success had not spoilt him; it had made him sweeter.
For some time he sat with his head out of the kennel, talking with
Mrs. Darling of this success, and pressing her hand reassuringly
when she said she hoped his head would not be turned by it.
"But if I had been a weak man," he said. "Good heavens, if I
had been a weak man!"
"And, George," she said timidly, "you are as full of remorse as
ever, aren't you?"
"Full of remorse as ever, dearest! See my punishment: living
in a kennel."
"But it is punishment, isn't it, George? You are sure you are
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