Infomotions, Inc.Peter Pan / Barrie, James Matthew



Author: Barrie, James Matthew
Title: Peter Pan
Publisher: Eris Etext Project
Tag(s): wendy; peter; hook; darling; tinker bell; michael; peter pan; john; english literature
Contributor(s): Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.)
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 47,023 words (really short) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 77 (easy)
Identifier: barrie-peter-277
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                                      1904

                                   PETER PAN

                               by James M. Barrie

                            CHAPTER I.

                        PETER BREAKS THROUGH.

  All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will
grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two
years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another
flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked
rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and
cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all
that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew
that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the
beginning of the end.

  Of course they lived at 14, and until Wendy came her mother was
the chief one. She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such
a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes,
one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many
you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had
one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was,
perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.

  The way Mr. Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had
been boys when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they
loved her, and they all ran to her house to propose to her except
Mr. Darling, who took a cab and nipped in first, and so he got her. He
got all of her, except the innermost box and the kiss. He never knew
about the box, and in time he gave up trying for the kiss. Wendy
thought Napoleon could have got it, but I can picture him trying,
and then going off in a passion, slamming the door.

  Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved
him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about
stocks and shares. Of course no one really knows, but he quite
seemed to know, and he often said stocks were up and shares were
down in a way that would have made any woman respect him.

  Mrs. Darling was married in white, and at first she kept the books
perfectly, almost gleefully, as if it were a game, not so much as a
Brussels sprout was missing; but by and by whole cauliflowers
dropped out, and instead of them there were pictures of babies without
faces. She drew them when she should have been totting up. They were
Mrs. Darling's guesses.

  Wendy came first, then John, then Michael.

  For a week or two after Wendy came it was doubtful whether they
would be able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed. Mr.
Darling was frightfully proud of her, but he was very honourable,
and he sat on the edge of Mrs. Darling's bed, holding her hand and
calculating expenses, while she looked at him imploringly. She
wanted to risk it, come what might, but that was not his way; his
way was with a pencil and a piece of paper, and if she confused him
with suggestions he had to begin at the beginning again.

  "Now don't interrupt," he would beg of her.

  "I have one pound seventeen here, and two and six at the office; I
can cut off my coffee at the office, say ten shillings, making two
nine and six, with your eighteen and three makes three nine seven,
with five naught naught in my cheque-book makes eight nine seven,- who
is that moving?- eight nine seven, dot and carry seven- don't speak,
my own- and the pound you lent to that man who came to the door-
quiet, child- dot and carry child- there, you've done it!- did I say
nine nine seven? yes, I said nine nine seven; the question is, can
we try it for a year on nine nine seven?"

  "Of course we can, George," she cried. But she was prejudiced in
Wendy's favour, and he was really the grander character of the two.

  "Remember mumps," he warned her almost threateningly, and off he
went again. "Mumps one pound, that is what I have put down, but I
daresay it will be more like thirty shillings- don't speak- measles
one five, German measles half a guinea, makes two fifteen six- don't
waggle your finger- whooping-cough, say fifteen shillings"- and so
on it went, and it added up differently each time, but at last Wendy
just got through, with mumps reduced to twelve six, and the two
kinds of measles treated as one.

  There was the same excitement over John, and Michael had even a
narrower squeak; but both were kept, and soon, you might have seen the
three of them going in a row to Miss Fulsom's Kindergarten school,
accompanied by their nurse.

  Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a
passion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they had
a nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the children
drank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who had
belonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. She
had always thought children important, however, and the Darlings had
become acquainted with her in Kensington Gardens, where she spent most
of her spare time peeping into perambulators, and was much hated by
careless nursemaids, whom she followed to their homes and complained
of to their mistresses. She proved to be quite a treasure of a
nurse. How thorough she was at bath-time, and up at any moment of
the night if one of her charges made the slightest cry. Of course
her kennel was in the nursery. She had a genius for knowing when a
cough is a thing to have no patience with and when it needs stocking
round your throat. She believed to her last day in old-fashioned
remedies like rhubarb leaf, and made sounds of contempt over all
this new-fangled talk about germs, and so on. It was a lesson in
propriety to see her escorting the children to school, walking
sedately by their side when they were well behaved, and butting them
back into line if they strayed. On John's footer days she never once
forgot his sweater, and she usually carried an umbrella in her mouth
in case of rain. There is a room in the basement of Miss Fulsom's
school where the nurses wait. They sat on forms, while Nana lay on the
floor, but that was the only difference. They affected to ignore her
as of an inferior social status to themselves, and she despised
their light talk. She resented visits to the nursery from Mrs.
Darling's friends, but if they did come she first whipped off
Michael's pinafore and put him into the one with blue braiding, and
smoothed out Wendy and made a dash at John's hair.

  No nursery could possibly have been conducted more correctly, and
Mr. Darling knew it, yet he sometimes wondered uneasily whether the
neighbours talked.

  He had his position in the city to consider.

  Nana also troubled him in another way. He had sometimes a feeling
that she did not admire him. "I know she admires you tremendously,
George," Mrs. Darling would assure him, and then she would sign to the
children to be specially nice to father. Lovely dances followed, in
which the only other servant, Liza, was sometimes allowed to join.
Such a midget she looked in her long skirt and maid's cap, though
she had sworn, when engaged, that she would never see ten again. The
gaiety of those romps! And gayest of all was Mrs. Darling, who would
pirouette so wildly that all you could see of her was the kiss, and
then if you had dashed at her you might have got it. There never was a
simpler happier family until the coming of Peter Pan.

  Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her
children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother
after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things
straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many
articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake
(but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this,
and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite
like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect,
lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on
earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not
so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a
kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in
the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went
to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your
mind, and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your
prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

  I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's mind.
Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map
can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a
map of a child's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going
round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your
temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for
the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing
splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and
rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs,
and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river
runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to
decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be
an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school,
religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings,
verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into
braces, say ninety-nine, threepence for pulling out your tooth
yourself, and so on, and either are part of the island or they are
another map showing through, it is all rather confusing, especially as
nothing will stand still.

  Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John's for instance,
had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it at which John was
shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with
lagoons flying over it. John lived in a boat turned upside down on the
sands, Michael in a wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn
together. John had no friends, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had
a pet wolf forsaken by its parents. But on the whole the Neverlands
have a family resemblance, and if they stood still in a row you
could say of them that they have each other's nose, and so forth. On
these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their
coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the
surf, though we shall land no more.

  Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the suggest and most
compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances
between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play
at it by day with the chairs and tablecloth, it is not in the least
alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes
very nearly real. That is why there are night-lights.

  Occasionally in her travels through her children's minds Mrs.
Darling found things she could not understand, and of these quite
the most perplexing was the word Peter. She knew of no Peter, and
yet he was here and there in John and Michael's minds, while Wendy's
began to be scrawled all over with him. The name stood out in bolder
letters than any of the other words, and as Mrs. Darling gazed she
felt that it had an oddly cocky appearance.

  "Yes, he is rather cocky," Wendy admitted with regret. Her mother
had been questioning her.

  "But who is he, my pet?"

  "He is Peter Pan, you know, mother."

  At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into her
childhood she just remembered a Peter Pan who was said to live with
the fairies. There were odd stories about him, as that when children
died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be
frightened. She had believed in him at the time, but now that she
was married and full of sense she quite doubted whether there was
any such person.

  "Besides," she said to Wendy, "he would be grown up by this time."

  "Oh no, he isn't grown up," Wendy assured her confidently, "and he
is just my size." She meant that he was her size in both mind and
body; she didn't know how she knew it, she just knew it.

  Mrs. Darling consulted Mr. Darling, but he smiled pooh-pooh. "Mark
my words," he said, "it is some nonsense Nana has been putting into
their heads; just the sort of idea a dog would have. Leave it alone,
and it will blow over."

  But it would not blow over, and soon the troublesome boy gave Mrs.
Darling quite a shock.

  Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by
them. For instance, they may remember to mention, a week after the
event happened, that when they were in the wood they met their dead
father and had a game with him. It was in this casual way that Wendy
one morning made a disquieting revelation. Some leaves of a tree had
been found on the nursery floor, which certainly were not there when
the children went to bed, and Mrs. Darling was puzzling over them when
Wendy said with a tolerant smile:

  "I do believe it is that Peter again!"

  "Whatever do you mean, Wendy?"

  "It's so naughty of him not to wipe," Wendy said, sighing. She was a
tidy child.

  She explained in quite a matter-of-fact way that she thought Peter
sometimes came to the nursery in the night and sat on the foot of
her bed and played on his pipes to her. Unfortunately she never
woke, so she didn't know how she knew, she just knew.

  "What nonsense you talk, precious! No one can get into the house
without knocking."

  "I think he comes in by the window," she said.

  "My love, it is three floors up."

  "Weren't the leaves at the foot of the window, mother?"

  It was quite true; the leaves had been found very near the window.

  Mrs. Darling did not know what to think, for it all seemed so
natural to Wendy that you could not dismiss it by saying she had
been dreaming.

  "My child," the mother cried, "why did you not tell me of this
before?"

  "I forgot," said Wendy lightly. She was in a hurry to get her
breakfast.

  Oh, surely she must have been dreaming.

  But, on the other hand, there were the leaves. Mrs. Darling examined
them carefully; they were skeleton leaves, but she was sure they did
not come from any tree that grew in England. She crawled about the
floor, peering at it with a candle for marks of a strange foot. She
rattled the poker up the chimney and tapped the walls. She let down
a tape from the window to the pavement, and it was a sheer drop of
thirty feet, without so much as a spout to climb up by.

  Certainly Wendy had been dreaming.

  But Wendy had not been dreaming, as the very next night showed,
the night on which the extraordinary adventures of these children
may be said to have begun.

  On the night we speak of all the children were once more in bed.
It happened to be Nana's evening off, and Mrs. Darling had bathed them
and sung to them till one by one they had let go her hand and slid
away into the land of sleep.

  All were looking so safe and cosy that she smiled at her fears now
and sat down tranquilly by the fire to sew.

  It was something for Michael, who on his birthday was getting into
shirts. The fire was warm, however, and the nursery dimly lit by three
night-lights, and presently the sewing lay on Mrs. Darling's lap. Then
her head nodded, oh, so gracefully. She was asleep. Look at the four
of them, Wendy and Michael over there, John here, and Mrs. Darling
by the fire. There should have been a fourth night-light.

  While she slept she had a dream. She dreamt that the Neverland had
come too near and that a strange boy had broken through from it. He
did not alarm her, for she thought she had seen him before in the
faces of many women who have no children. Perhaps he is to be found in
the faces of some mothers also. But in her dream he had rent the
film that obscures the Neverland, and she saw Wendy and John and
Michael peeping through the gap.

  The dream by itself would have been a trifle, but while she was
dreaming the window of the nursery blew open, and a boy did drop on
the floor. He was accompanied by a strange light, no bigger than
your fist, which darted about the room like a living thing, and I
think it must have been this light that wakened Mrs. Darling.

  She started up with a cry, and saw the boy, and somehow she knew
at once that he was Peter Pan. If you or I or Wendy had been there
we should have seen that he was very like Mrs. Darling's kiss. He
was a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out
of trees, but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had
all his first teeth. When he saw she was a grown-up, he gnashed the
little pearls at her.

                             CHAPTER II.

                             THE SHADOW.

  Mrs. Darling screamed, and, as if in answer to a bell, the door
opened, and Nana entered, returned from her evening out. She growled
and sprang at the boy, who leapt lightly through the window. Again
Mrs. Darling screamed, this time in distress for him, for she
thought he was killed, and she ran down into the street to look for
his little body, but it was not there; and she looked up, and in the
black night she could see nothing but what she thought was a
shooting star.

  She returned to the nursery, and found Nana with something in her
mouth, which proved to be the boy's shadow. As he leapt at the
window Nana had closed it quickly, too late to catch him, but his
shadow had not had time to get out; slam went the window and snapped
it off.

  You may be sure Mrs. Darling examined the shadow carefully, but it
was quite the ordinary kind.

  Nana had no doubt of what was the best thing to do with this shadow.
She hung it out at the window, meaning "He is sure to come back for
it; let us put it where he can get it easily without disturbing the
children."

  But unfortunately Mrs. Darling could not leave it hanging out at the
window, it looked so like the washing and lowered the whole tone of
the house. She thought of showing it to Mr. Darling, but he was
totting up winter great-coats for John and Michael, with a wet towel
round his head to keep his brain clear, and it seemed a shame to
trouble him; besides, she knew exactly what he would say: "It all
comes of having a dog for a nurse."

  She decided to roll the shadow up and put it away carefully in a
drawer, until a fitting opportunity came for telling her husband. Ah
me!

  The opportunity came a week later, on that never-to-be-forgotten
Friday. Of course it was a Friday.

  "I ought to have been specially careful on a Friday," she used to
say afterwards to her husband, while perhaps Nana was on the other
side of her, holding her hand.

  "No, no," Mr. Darling always said, "I am responsible for it all.
I, George Darling, did it. Mea culpa, mea culpa." He had had a
classical education.

  They sat thus night after night recalling that fatal Friday, till
every detail of it was stamped on their brains and came through on the
other side like the faces on a bad coinage.

  "If only I had not accepted that invitation to dine at 27," Mrs.
Darling said.

  "If only I had not poured my medicine into Nana's bowl," said Mr.
Darling.

  "If only I had pretended to like the medicine," was what Nana's
wet eyes said.

  "My liking for parties, George."

  "My fatal gift of humour, dearest."

  "My touchiness about trifles, dear master and mistress."

  Then one or more of them would break down altogether; Nana at the
thought, "It's true, it's true, they ought not to have had a dog for a
nurse." Many a time it was Mr. Darling who put the handkerchief to
Nana's eyes.

  "That fiend!" Mr. Darling would cry, and Nana's bark was the echo of
it, but Mrs. Darling never upbraided Peter; there was something in the
right-hand corner of her mouth that wanted her not to call Peter
names.

  They would sit there in the empty nursery, recalling fondly every
smallest detail of that dreadful evening. It had begun so
uneventfully, so precisely like a hundred other evenings, with Nana
putting on the water for Michael's bath and carrying him to it on
her back.

  "I won't go to bed," he had shouted, like one who still believed
that he had the last word on the subject, "I won't, I won't. Nana,
it isn't six o'clock yet. Oh dear, oh dear, I shan't love you any
more, Nana. I tell you I won't be bathed, I won't, I won't!"

  Then Mrs. Darling had come in, wearing her white evening-gown. She
had dressed early because Wendy so loved to see her in her
evening-gown, with the necklace George had given her. She was
wearing Wendy's bracelet on her arm; she had asked for the loan of it.
Wendy so loved to lend her bracelet to her mother.

  She had found her two older children playing at being herself and
father on the occasion of Wendy's birth, and John was saying:

  "I am happy to inform you, Mrs. Darling, that you are now a mother,"
in just such a tone as Mr. Darling himself may have used on the real
occasion.

  Wendy had danced with joy, just as the real Mrs. Darling must have
done.

  Then John was born, with the extra pomp that he conceived due to the
birth of a male, and Michael came from his bath to ask to be born
also, but John said brutally that they did not want any more.

  Michael had nearly cried. "Nobody wants me," he said, and of
course the lady in evening-dress could not stand that.

  "I do," she said, "I so want a third child."

  "Boy or girl?" asked Michael, not too hopefully.

  "Boy."

  Then he had leapt into her arms. Such a little thing for Mr. and
Mrs. Darling and Nana to recall now, but not so little if that was
to be Michael's last night in the nursery.

  They go on with their recollections.

  "It was then that I rushed in like a tornado, wasn't it?" Mr.
Darling would say, scorning himself; and indeed he had been like a
tornado.

  Perhaps there was some excuse for him. He, too, had been dressing
for the party, and all had gone well with him until he came to his
tie. It is an astounding thing to have to tell, but this man, though
he knew about stocks and shares, had no real mastery of his tie.
Sometimes the thing yielded to him without a contest, but there were
occasions when it would have been better for the house if he had
swallowed his pride and used a made-up tie.

  This was such an occasion. He came rushing into the nursery with the
crumpled little brute of a tie in his hand.

  "Why, what is the matter, father dear?"

  "Matter!" he yelled; he really yelled. "This tie, it will not
tie." He became dangerously sarcastic. "Not round my neck! Round the
bed-post! Oh yes, twenty times have I made it up round the bed-post,
but round my neck, no! Oh dear no! begs to be excused!"

  He thought Mrs. Darling was not sufficiently impressed, and he
went on sternly, "I warn you of this, mother, that unless this tie
is round my neck we don't go out to dinner to-night, and if I don't go
out to dinner tonight, I never go to the office again, and if I
don't go to the office again, you and I starve, and our children
will be flung into the streets."

  Even then Mrs. Darling was placid. "Let me try, dear," she said, and
indeed that was what he had come to ask her to do, and with her nice
cool hands she tied his tie for him, while the children stood around
to see their fate decided. Some men would have resented her being able
to do it so easily, but Mr. Darling was far too fine a nature for
that; he thanked her carelessly, at once forgot his rage, and in
another moment was dancing round the room with Michael on his back.

  "How wildly we romped!" says Mrs. Darling now, recalling it.

  "Our last romp!" Mr. Darling groaned.

  "O George, do you remember Michael suddenly said to me, 'How did you
get to know me, mother?'"

  "I remember!"

  "They were rather sweet, don't you think, George?"

  "And they were ours, ours! and now they are gone?"

  The romp had ended with the appearance of Nana, and most unluckily
Mr. Darling collided against her, covering his trousers with hairs.
They were not only new trousers, but they were the first he had ever
had with braid on them, and he had to bite his lip to prevent the
tears coming. Of course Mrs. Darling brushed him, but he began to talk
again about its being a mistake to have a dog for a nurse.

  "George, Nana is a treasure."

  "No doubt, but I have an uneasy feeling at times that she looks upon
the children as puppies."

  "Oh no, dear one, I feel sure she knows they have souls."

  "I wonder," Mr. Darling said thoughtfully, "I wonder." It was an
opportunity, his wife felt, for telling him about the boy. At first he
pooh-poohed the story, but he became thoughtful when she showed him
the shadow.

  "It is nobody I know," he said, examining it carefully, "but he does
look a scoundrel."

  "We were still discussing it, you remember," says Mr. Darling, "when
Nana came in with Michael's medicine. You will never carry the
bottle in your mouth again, Nana, and it is all my fault."

  Strong man though he was, there is no doubt that he had behaved
rather foolishly over the medicine. If he had a weakness, it was for
thinking that all his life he had taken medicine boldly, and so now,
when Michael dodged the spoon in Nana's mouth, he had said
reprovingly, "Be a man, Michael."

  "Won't; won't!" Michael cried naughtily. Mrs. Darling left the
room to get a chocolate for him, and Mr. Darling thought this showed
want of firmness.

  "Mother, don't pamper him," he called after her. "Michael, when I
was your age I took medicine without a murmur. I said 'Thank you, kind
parents, for giving me bottles to make me well.'"

  He really thought this was true, and Wendy, who was now in her
night-gown, believed it also, and she said, to encourage Michael,
"That medicine you sometimes take, father, is much nastier, isn't it?"

  "Ever so much nastier," Mr. Darling said bravely, "and I would
take it now as an example to you, Michael, if I hadn't lost the
bottle."

  He had not exactly lost it; he had climbed in the dead of night to
the top of the wardrobe and hidden it there. What he did not know
was that the faithful Liza had found it, and put it back on his
wash-stand.

  "I know where it is, father," Wendy cried, always glad to be of
service. "I'll bring it," and she was off before he could stop her.
Immediately his spirits sank in the strangest way.

  "John," he said, shuddering, "it's most beastly stuff. It's that
nasty, sticky, sweet kind."

  "It will soon be over, father," John said cheerily, and then in
rushed Wendy with the medicine in a glass.

  "I have been as quick as I could," she panted.

  "You have been wonderfully quick," her father retorted, with a
vindictive politeness that was quite thrown away upon her. "Michael
first," he said doggedly.

  "Father first," said Michael, who was of a suspicious nature.

  "I shall be sick, you know," Mr. Darling said threateningly.

  "Come on, father," said John.

  "Hold your tongue, John," his father rapped out.

  Wendy was quite puzzled. "I thought you took it quite easily,
father."

  "That is not the point," he retorted. "The point is, that there is
more in my glass than in Michael's spoon." His proud heart was
nearly bursting. "And it isn't fair; I would say it though it were
with my last breath; it isn't fair."

  "Father, I am waiting," said Michael coldly.

  "It's all very well to say you are waiting; so am I waiting."

  "Father's a cowardy custard."

  "So are you a cowardy custard."

  "I'm not frightened?"

  "Neither am I frightened."

  "Well, then, take it."

  "Well, then, you take it."

  Wendy had a splendid idea. "Why not both take it at the same time?"

  "Certainly," said Mr. Darling. "Are you ready, Michael?"

  Wendy gave the words, one, two, three, and Michael took his
medicine, but Mr. Darling slipped his behind his back.

  There was a yell of rage from Michael, and "O father!" Wendy
exclaimed.

  "What do you mean by 'O father?'" Mr. Darling demanded. "Stop that
row, Michael. I meant to take mine, but I- I missed it."

  It was dreadful the way all the three were looking at him, just as
if they did not admire him. "Look here, all of you," he said
entreatingly, as soon as Nana had gone into the bathroom, "I have just
thought of a splendid joke. I shall pour my medicine into Nana's bowl,
and she will drink it, thinking it is milk!"

  It was the colour of milk; but the children did not have their
father's sense of humour, and they looked at him reproachfully as he
poured the medicine into Nana's bowl. "What fun!" he said
doubtfully, and they did not dare expose him when Mrs. Darling and
Nana returned.

  "Nana, good dog," he said, patting her, "I have put a little milk
into your bowl, Nana."

  Nana wagged her tail, ran to the medicine, and began lapping it.
Then she gave Mr. Darling such a look, not an angry look: she showed
him the great red tear that makes us so sorry for noble dogs, and
crept into her kennel.

  Mr. Darling was frightfully ashamed of himself, but he would not
give in. In a horrid silence Mrs. Darling smelt the bowl. "O
George," she said, "it's your medicine!"

  "It, was only a joke," he roared, while she comforted her boys,
and Wendy hugged Nana. "Much good," he said bitterly, "my wearing
myself to the bone trying to be funny in this house."

  And still Wendy hugged Nana. "That's right," he shouted. "Coddle
her! Nobody coddles me. Oh dear no! I am only the breadwinner, why
should I be coddled- why, why, why!"

  "George," Mrs. Darling entreated him, "not so loud; the servants
will hear you." Somehow they had got into the way of calling Liza
the servants.

  "Let them!" he answered recklessly. "Bring in the whole world. But I
refuse to allow that dog to lord it in my nursery for an hour longer."

  The children wept, and Nana ran to him beseechingly, but he waved
her back. He felt he was a strong man again. "In vain, in vain," he
cried; "the: proper place for you is the yard, and there you go to
be tied up this instant."

  "George, George," Mrs. Darling whispered, "remember what I told
you about that boy."

  Alas, he would not listen. He was determined to show who was
master in that house, and when commands would not draw Nana from the
kennel, he lured her out of it with honeyed words, and seizing her
roughly, dragged her from the nursery. He was ashamed of himself,
and yet he did it. It was all owing to his too affectionate nature,
which craved for admiration. When he had tied her up in the back-yard,
the wretched father went and sat in the passage, with his knuckles
to his eyes.

  In the meantime Mrs. Darling had put the children to bed in unwonted
silence and lit their night-lights. They could hear Nana barking,
and John whimpered, "It is because he is chaining her up in the yard,"
but Wendy was wiser.

  "That is not Nana's unhappy bark," she said, little guessing what
was about to happen; "that is her bark when she smells danger."

  Danger!

  "Are you sure, Wendy?"

  "Oh yes?."

  Mrs. Darling quivered and went to the window. It was securely
fastened. She looked out, and the night was peppered with stars.
They were crowding round the house, as if curious to see what was to
take place there, but she did not notice this, nor that one or two
of the smaller ones winked at her. Yet a nameless fear clutched at her
heart and made her cry, "Oh, how I wish that I wasn't going to a party
to-night!"

  Even Michael, already half asleep, knew that she was perturbed,
and he asked, "Can anything harm us, mother, after the night-lights
are lit?"

  "Nothing, precious," she said; "they are the eyes a mother leaves
behind her to guard her children."

  She went from bed to bed singing enchantments over them, and
little Michael flung his arms round her. "Mother," he cried, "I'm glad
of you." They were the last words she was to hear from him for a
long time.

  No. 27 was only a few yards distant, but there had been a slight
fall of snow, and Father and Mother Darling picked their way over it
deftly not to soil their shoes. They were already the only persons
in the street, and all the stars were watching them. Stars are
beautiful, but they may not take an active part in anything, they must
just look on forever. It is a punishment put on them for something
they did so long ago that no star now knows what it was. So the
older ones have become glassy-eyed and seldom speak (winking is the
star language), but the little ones still wonder. They are not
really friendly to Peter, who has a mischievous way of stealing up
behind them and trying to blow them out; but they are so fond of fun
that they were on his side to-night, and anxious to get the
grown-ups out of the way. So as soon as the door of 27 closed on Mr.
and Mrs. Darling there was a commotion in the firmament, and the
smallest of all the stars in the Milky Way screamed out:

  "Now, Peter!"

                             CHAPTER III.

                        COME AWAY, COME AWAY!

  For a moment after Mr. and Mrs. Darling left the house the
night-lights by the beds of the three children continued to burn
clearly. They were awfully nice little night-lights, and one cannot
help wishing that they could have kept awake to see Peter; but Wendy's
light blinked and gave such a yawn that the other two yawned also, and
before they could close their mouths all the three went out.

  There was another light in the room now, a thousand times brighter
than the night-lights, and in the time we have taken to say this, it
has been in all the drawers in the nursery, looking for Peter's
shadow, rummaged the wardrobe and turned every pocket inside out. It
was not really a light; it made this light by flashing about so
quickly, but when it came to rest for a second you saw it was a fairy,
no longer than your hand, but still growing. It was a girl called
Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square,
through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She
was slightly inclined to embonpoint.

  A moment after the fairy's entrance the window was blown open by the
breathing of the little stars, and Peter dropped in. He had carried
Tinker Bell part of the way, and his hand was still messy with the
fairy dust.

  "Tinker Bell," he called softly, after making sure that the children
were asleep. "Tink, where are you?" She was in a jug for the moment,
and liking it extremely; she had never been in a jug before.

  "Oh, do come out of that jug, and tell me, do you know where they
put my shadow?"

  The loveliest tinkle as of golden bells answered him. It is the
fairy language. You ordinary children can never hear it, but if you
were to hear it you would know that you had heard it once before.

  Tink said that the shadow was in the big box. She meant the chest of
drawers, and Peter jumped at the drawers, scattering their contents to
the floor with both hands, as kings toss ha'pence to the crowd. In a
moment he had recovered his shadow, and in his delight he forgot
that he had shut Tinker Bell up in the drawer.

  If he thought at all, but I don't believe he ever thought, it was
that he and his shadow, when brought near each other, would join
like drops of water, and when they did not he was appalled. He tried
to stick it on with soap from the bathroom, but that also failed. A
shudder passed through Peter, and he sat on the floor and cried.

  His sobs woke Wendy, and she sat up in bed. She was not alarmed to
see a stranger crying on the nursery floor; she was only pleasantly
interested.

  "Boy," she said courteously, "why are you crying?"

  Peter could be exceedingly polite also, having learned the grand
manner at fairy ceremonies, and he rose and bowed to her
beautifully. She was much pleased, and bowed beautifully to him from
the bed.

  "What's your name?" he asked.

  "Wendy Moira Angela Darling," she replied with some satisfaction.
"What's your name?"

  "Peter Pan."

  She was already sure that he must be Peter, but it did seem a
comparatively short name.

  "Is that all?"

  "Yes," he said rather sharply. He felt for the first time that it
was a shortish name.

  "I'm so sorry," said Wendy Moira Angela.

  "It doesn't matter," Peter gulped.

  She asked where he lived.

  "Second to the right," said Peter, "and then straight on till
morning."

  "What a funny address!"

  Peter had a sinking. For the first time he felt that perhaps it
was a funny address.

  "No, it isn't," he said.

  "I mean," Wendy said nicely, remembering that she was hostess, "is
that what they put on the letters?"

  He wished she had not mentioned letters.

  "Don't get any letters," he said contemptuously.

  "But your mother gets letters?"

  "Don't have a mother," he said. Not only had he no mother, but he
had not the slightest desire to have one. He thought them very
over-rated persons. Wendy, however, felt at once that she was in the
presence of a tragedy.

  "O Peter, no wonder you were crying," she said, and got out of bed
and ran to him.

  "I wasn't crying about mothers," he said rather indignantly. "I
was crying because I can't get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I
wasn't crying."

  "It has come off?"

  "Yes."

  Then Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, and she
was frightfully sorry for Peter. "How awful!" she said, but she
could not help smiling when she saw that he had been trying to stick
it on with soap. How exactly like a boy!

  Fortunately she knew at once what to do. "It must be sewn on," she
said, just a little patronisingly.

  "What's sewn?" he asked.

  "You're dreadfully ignorant."

  "No, I'm not."

  But she was exulting in his ignorance. "I shall sew it on for you,
my little man," she said, though he was as tall as herself, and she
got out her house-wife, and sewed the shadow on to Peter's foot.

  "I daresay it will hurt a little," she warned him.

  "Oh, I shan't cry," said Peter, who was already of opinion that he
had never cried in his life. And he clenched his teeth and did not
cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a
little creased.

  "Perhaps I should have ironed it," Wendy said thoughtfully, but
Peter, boylike, was indifferent to appearances, and he was now jumping
about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed
his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself.
"How clever I am!" he crowed rapturously, "oh, the cleverness of me!"

  It is humiliating to have to confess that this conceit of Peter
was one of his most fascinating qualities. To put it with brutal
frankness, there never was a cockier boy.

  But for the moment Wendy was shocked. "You conceit," she
exclaimed, with frightful sarcasm; "of course I did nothing!"

  "You did a little," Peter said carelessly, and continued to dance.

  "A little!" she replied with hauteur. "If I am no use I can at least
withdraw," and she sprang in the most dignified way into bed and
covered her face with the blankets.

  To induce her to look up he pretended to be going away, and when
this failed he sat on the end of the bed and tapped her gently with
his foot. "Wendy," he said, "don't withdraw. I can't help crowing,
Wendy, when I'm pleased with myself." Still she would not look up,
though she was listening eagerly. "Wendy," he continued, in a voice
that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, "Wendy, one girl is
more use than twenty boys."

  Now Wendy was every inch a woman, though there were not very many
inches, and she peeped out of the bed-clothes.

  "Do you really think so, Peter?"

  "Yes, I do."

  "I think it's perfectly sweet of you," she declared, "and I'll get
up again," and she sat with him on the side of the bed. She also
said she would give him a kiss if he liked, but Peter did not know
what she meant, and he held out his hand expectantly.

  "Surely you know what a kiss is?" she asked, aghast.

  "I shall know when you give it to me," he replied stiffly, and not
to hurt his feelings she gave him a thimble.

  "Now," said he, "shall I give you a kiss?" and she replied with a
slight primness, "If you please." She made herself rather cheap by
inclining her face toward him, but he merely dropped an acorn button
into her hand, so she slowly returned her face to where it had been
before, and said nicely that she would wear his kiss on the chain
round her neck. It was lucky that she did put it on that chain, for it
was afterwards to save her life.

  When people in our set are introduced, it is customary for them to
ask each other's age, and so Wendy, who always liked to do the correct
thing, asked Peter how old he was. It was not really a happy
question to ask him; it was like an examination paper that asks
grammar, when what you want to be asked is Kings of England.

  "I don't know," he replied uneasily, "but I am quite young." He
really knew nothing about it, he had merely suspicions, but he said at
a venture, "Wendy, I ran away the day I was born."

  Wendy was quite surprised, but interested; and she indicated in
the charming drawing-room manner, by a touch on her night-gown, that
he could sit nearer her.

  "It was because I heard father and mother," he explained in a low
voice, "talking about what I was to be when I became a man." He was
extraordinarily agitated now. "I don't want ever to be a man," he said
with passion. "I want always to be a little boy and to have fun. So
I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long long time among
the fairies."

  She gave him a look of the most intense admiration, and he thought
it was because he had run away, but it was really because he knew
fairies. Wendy had lived such a home life that to know fairies
struck her as quite delightful. She poured out questions about them,
to his surprise, for they were rather a nuisance to him, getting in
his way and so on, and indeed he sometimes had to give them a
hiding. Still, he liked them on the whole, and he told her about the
beginning of fairies.

  "You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its
laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping
about, and that was the beginning of fairies."

  Tedious talk this, but being a stay-at-home she liked it.

  "And so," he went on good-naturedly, "there ought to be one fairy
for every boy and girl."

  "Ought to be? Isn't there?"

  "No. You see children know such a lot now, they soon don't believe
in fairies, and every time a child says, 'I don't believe in fairies,'
there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead."

  Really, he thought they had now talked enough about fairies, and
it struck him that Tinker Bell was keeping very quiet. "I can't
think where she has gone to," he said, rising, and he called Tink by
name. Wendy's heart went flutter with a sudden thrill.

  "Peter," she cried, clutching him, "you don't mean to tell me that
there is a fairy in this room!"

  "She was here just now," he said a little impatiently. "You don't
hear her, do you?" and they both listened.

  "The only sound I hear," said Wendy, "is like a tinkle of bells."

  "Well, that's Tink, that's the fairy language. I think I hear her
too."

  The sound came from the chest of drawers, and Peter made a merry
face. No one could ever look quite so merry as Peter, and the
loveliest of gurgles was his laugh. He had his first laugh still.

  "Wendy," he whispered gleefully, "I do believe I shut her up in
the drawer!"

  He let poor Tink out of the drawer, and she flew about the nursery
screaming with fury. "You shouldn't say such things," Peter
retorted. "Of course I'm very sorry, but how could I know you were
in the drawer?"

  Wendy was not listening to him. "O Peter," she cried, "if she
would only stand still and let me see her!"

  "They hardly ever stand still," he said, but for one moment Wendy
saw the romantic figure come to rest on the cuckoo clock. "O the
lovely!" she cried, though Tink's face was still distorted with
passion.

  "Tink," said Peter amiably, "this lady says she wishes you were
her fairy."

  Tinker Bell answered insolently.

  "What does she say, Peter?"

  He had to translate. "She is not very polite. She says you are a
great ugly girl, and that she is my fairy."

  He tried to argue with Tink. "You know you can't be my fairy,
Tink, because I am a gentleman and you are a lady."

  To this Tink replied in these words, "You silly ass," and
disappeared into the bathroom. "She is quite a common fairy," Peter
explained apologetically, "she is called Tinker Bell because she mends
the pots and kettles."

  They were together in the armchair by this time, and Wendy plied him
with more questions.

  "If you don't live in Kensington Gardens now-"

  "Sometimes I do still."

  "But where do you live mostly now?"

  "With the lost boys."

  "Who are they?"

  "They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when
the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven
days they are sent far away to the Neverland to defray expenses. I'm
captain."

  "What fun it must be!"

  "Yes," said cunning Peter, "but we are rather lonely. You see we
have no female companionship."

  "Are none of the others girls?"

  "Oh no; girls, you know, are much too clever to fall out of their
prams."

  This flattered Wendy immensely. "I think," she said, "it is
perfectly lovely the way you talk about girls; John there just
despises us."

  For reply Peter rose and kicked John out of bed, blankets and all;
one kick. This seemed to Wendy rather forward for a first meeting, and
she told him with spirit that he was not captain in her house.
However, John continued to sleep so placidly on the floor that she
allowed him to remain there. "And I know you meant to be kind," she
said, relenting, "so you may give me a kiss."

  For the moment she had forgotten his ignorance about kisses. "I
thought you would want it back," he said a little bitterly, and
offered to return her thimble.

  "Oh dear," said the nice Wendy, "I don't mean a kiss, I mean a
thimble."

  "What's that?"

  "It's like this." She kissed him.

  "Funny!" said Peter gravely. "Now shall I give you a thimble?"

  "If you wish to," said Wendy, keeping her head erect this time.

  Peter thimbled her, and almost immediately she screeched. "What is
it, Wendy?"

  "It was exactly as if some one were pulling my hair."

  "That must have been Tink. I never knew her so naughty before."

  And indeed Tink was darting about again, using offensive language.

  "She says she will do that to you, Wendy, every time I give you a
thimble."

  "But why?"

  "Why, Tink?"

  Again Tink replied, "You silly ass." Peter could not understand why,
but Wendy understood, and she was just slightly disappointed when he
admitted that he came to the nursery window not to see her but to
listen to stories.

  "You see I don't know any stories. None of the lost boys know any
stories."

  "How perfectly awful," Wendy said.

  "Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of
houses? It is to listen to the stories. O Wendy, your mother was
telling you such a lovely story."

  "Which story was it?"

  "About the prince who couldn't find the lady who wore the glass
slipper."

  "Peter," said Wendy excitedly, "that was Cinderella, and he found
her, and they lived happy ever after."

  Peter was so glad that he rose from the floor, where they had been
sitting, and hurried to the window. "Where are you going?" she cried
with misgiving.

  "To tell the other boys."

  "Don't go Peter," she entreated, "I know such lots of stories."

  Those were her precise words, so there can be no denying that it was
she who first tempted him.

  He came back, and there was a greedy look in his eyes now which
ought to have alarmed her, but did not.

  "Oh, the stories I could tell to the boys!" she cried, and then
Peter gripped her and began to draw her toward the window.

  "Let me go!" she ordered him.

  "Wendy, do come with me and tell the other boys."

  Of course she was very pleased to be asked, but she said, "Oh
dear, I can't. Think of mummy! Besides, I can't fly."

  "I'll teach you."

  "Oh, how lovely to fly."

  "I'll teach you how to jump on the wind's back, and then away we
go."

  "Oo!" she exclaimed rapturously.

  "Wendy, Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed you might
be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars."

  "Oo!"

  "And, Wendy, there are mermaids."

  "Mermaids! With tails?"

  "Such long tails."

  "Oh," cried Wendy, "to see a mermaid!"

  He had become frightfully cunning. "Wendy," he said, "how we
should all respect you."

  She was wriggling her body in distress. It was quite as if she
were trying to remain on the nursery floor.

  But he had no pity for her.

  "Wendy," he said, the sly one, "you could tuck us in at night."

  "Oo!"

  "None of us has ever been tucked in at night."

  "Oo," and her arms went out to him.

  "And you could darn our clothes, and make pockets for us. None of us
has any pockets."

  How could she resist. "Of course it's awfully fascinating!" she
cried. "Peter, would you teach John and Michael to fly too?"

  "If you like," he said indifferently, and she ran to John and
Michael and shook them. "Wake up," she cried, "Peter Pan has come
and he is to teach us to fly."

  John rubbed his eyes. "Then I shall get up," he said. Of course he
was on the floor already. "Hallo," he said, "I am up!"

  Michael was up by this time also, looking as sharp as a knife with
six blades and a saw, but Peter suddenly signed silence. Their faces
assumed the awful craftiness of children listening for sounds from the
grown-up world. All was as still as salt. Then everything was right.
No, stop! Everything was wrong. Nana, who had been barking
distressfully all the evening, was quiet now. It was her silence
they had heard!

  "Out with the light! Hide! Quick!" cried John, taking command for
the only time throughout the whole adventure. And thus when Liza
entered, holding Nana, the nursery seemed quite its old self, very
dark, and you could have sworn you heard its three wicked inmates
breathing angelically as they slept. They were really doing it
artfully from behind the window curtains.

  Liza was in a bad temper, for she was mixing the Christmas
puddings in the kitchen, and had been drawn away from them, with a
raisin still on her cheek, by Nana's absurd suspicions. She thought
the best way of getting a little quiet was to take Nana to the nursery
for a moment, but in custody of course.

  "There, you suspicious brute," she said, not sorry that Nana was
in disgrace. "They are perfectly safe, aren't they? Every one of the
little angels sound asleep in bed. Listen to their gentle breathing."

  Here Michael, encouraged by his success, breathed so loudly that
they were nearly detected. Nana knew that kind of breathing, and she
tried to drag herself out of Liza's clutches.

  But Liza was dense. "No more of it, Nana," she said sternly, pulling
her out of the room. "I warn you if you bark again I shall go straight
for master and missus and bring them home from the party, and then,
oh, won't master whip you, just."

  She tied the unhappy dog up again, but do you think Nana ceased to
bark? Bring master and missus home from the party? Why, that was
just what she wanted. Do you think she cared whether she was whipped
so long as her charges were safe? Unfortunately Liza returned to her
puddings, and Nana, seeing that no help would come from her,
strained and strained at the chain until at last she broke it. In
another moment she had burst into the dining-room of 27 and flung up
her paws to heaven, her most expressive way of making a communication.
Mr. and Mrs. Darling knew at once that something terrible was
happening in their nursery, and without a good-bye to their hostess
they rushed into the street.

  But it was now ten minutes since three scoundrels had been breathing
behind the curtains, and Peter Pan can do a great deal in ten minutes.

  We now return to the nursery.

  "It's all right," John announced, emerging from his hiding-place. "I
say, Peter, can you really fly?"

  Instead of troubling to answer him Peter flew round the room, taking
the mantelpiece on the way.

  "How topping!" said John and Michael.

  "How sweet!" cried Wendy.

  "Yes, I'm sweet, oh, I am sweet!" said Peter, forgetting his manners
again.

  It looked delightfully easy, and they tried it first from the
floor and then from the beds, but they always went down instead of up.

  "I say, how do you do it?" asked John, rubbing his knee. He was
quite a practical boy.

  "You just think lovely wonderful thoughts," Peter explained, "and
they lift you up in the air."

  He showed them again.

  "You're so nippy at it," John said, "couldn't you do it very
slowly once?"

  Peter did it both slowly and quickly. "I've got it now, Wendy!"
cried John, but soon he found he had not. Not one of them could fly an
inch, though even Michael was in words of two syllables, and Peter did
not know A from Z.

  Of course Peter had been trifling with them, for no one can fly
unless the fairy dust has been blown on him. Fortunately, as we have
mentioned, one of his hands was messy with it, and he blew some on
each of them, with the most superb results.

  "Now just wriggle your shoulders this way," he said, "and let go."

  They were all on their beds, and gallant Michael let go first. He
did not quite mean to let go, but he did it, and immediately he was
borne across the room.

  "I flewed!" he screamed while still in mid-air. John let go and
met Wendy near the bathroom.

  "Oh, lovely!"

  "Oh, ripping!"

  "Look at me!"

  "Look at me!"

  "Look at me!"

  They were not nearly so elegant as Peter, they could not help
kicking a little, but their heads were bobbing against the ceiling,
and there is almost nothing so delicious as that. Peter gave Wendy a
hand at first, but had to desist, Tink was so indignant.

  Up and down they went, and round and round. Heavenly was Wendy's
word.

  "I say," cried John, "why shouldn't we all go out!"

  Of course it was to this that Peter had been luring them.

  Michael was ready: he wanted to see how long it took him to do a
billion miles. But Wendy hesitated.

  "Mermaids!" said Peter again.

  "Oo!"

  "And there are pirates."

  "Pirates," cried John, seizing his Sunday hat, "let us go at once!"

  It was just at this moment that Mr. and Mrs. Darling hurried with
Nana out of 27. They ran into the middle of the street to look up at
the nursery window; and, yes, it was still shut, but the room was
ablaze with light, and most heart-gripping sight of all, they could
see in shadow on the curtain three little figures in night attire
circling round and round, not on the floor but in the air.

  Not three figures, four!

  In a tremble they opened the street door. Mr. Darling would have
rushed upstairs, but Mrs. Darling signed to him to go softly. She even
tried to make her heart go softly.

  Will they reach the nursery in time? If so, how delightful for them,
and we shall all breathe a sigh of relief, but there will be no story.
On the other hand, if they are not in time, I solemnly promise that it
will all come right in the end.

  They would have reached the nursery in time had it not been that the
little stars were watching them. Once again the stars blew the
window open, and that smallest star of all called out:

  "Cave, Peter!"

  Peter knew that there was not a moment to lose. "Come," he cried
imperiously, and soared out at once into the night, followed by John
and Michael and Wendy.

  Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Nana rushed into the nursery too late.
The birds were flown.

                             CHAPTER IV.

                             THE FLIGHT.

  "Second to the right, and straight on till morning!"

  That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even
birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not
have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said
anything that came into his head.

  At first his companions trusted him implicitly, and so great were
the delights of flying that they wasted time circling round church
spires or any other tall objects on the way that took their fancy.

  John and Michael raced, Michael getting a start.

  They recalled with contempt that not so long ago they had thought
themselves fine fellows for being able to fly round a room.

  Not so long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea
before this thought began to disturb Wendy seriously. John thought
it was their second sea and their third night.

  Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were very
cold and again too warm. Did they really feel hungry at times, or were
they merely pretending, because Peter had such a jolly new way of
feeding them? His way was to pursue birds who had food in their mouths
suitable for humans and snatch it from them; then the birds would
follow and snatch it back; and they would all go chasing each other
gaily for miles, parting at last with mutual expressions of good-will.
But Wendy noticed with gentle concern that Peter did not seem to
know that this was rather an odd way of getting your bread and butter,
nor even that there are other ways.

  Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy; and
that was a danger, for the moment they popped off, down they fell. The
awful thing was that Peter thought this funny.

  "There he goes again!" he would cry gleefully, as Michael suddenly
dropped like a stone.

  "Save him, save him!" cried Wendy, looking with horror at the
cruel sea far below. Eventually Peter would dive through the air,
and catch Michael just before he could strike the sea, and it was
lovely the way he did it; but he always waited till the last moment,
and you felt it was his cleverness that interested him and not the
saving of human life. Also he was fond of variety, and the sport
that engrossed him one moment would suddenly cease to engage him, so
there was always the possibility that the next time you fell he
would let you go.

  He could sleep in the air without falling, by merely lying on his
back and floating, but this was, partly at least, because he was so
light that if you got behind him and blew he went faster.

  "Do be more polite to him," Wendy whispered to John, when they
were playing "Follow my Leader."

  "Then tell him to stop showing off," said John.

  When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the water
and touch each shark's tail in passing, just as in the street you
may run your finger along an iron railing. They could not follow him
in this with much success, so perhaps it was rather like showing
off, especially as he kept looking behind to see how many tails they
missed.

  "You must be nice to him," Wendy impressed on her brothers. "What
could we do if he were to leave us!"

  "We could go back," Michael said.

  "Well, then, we could go on," said John.

  "That is the awful thing, John. We should have to go on, for we
don't know how to stop."

  This was true, Peter had forgotten to show them how to stop.

  John said that if the worst came to the worst, all they had to do
was to go straight on, for the world was round, and so in time they
must come back to their own window.

  "And who is to get food for us, John?"

  "I nipped a bit out of that eagle's mouth pretty neatly, Wendy."

  "After the twentieth try," Wendy reminded him. "And even though we
became good at picking up food, see how we bump against clouds and
things if he is not near to give us a hand."

  Indeed they were constantly bumping. They could now fly strongly,
though they still kicked far too much; but if they saw a cloud in
front of them, the more they tried to avoid it, the more certainly did
they bump into it. If Nana had been with them, she would have had a
bandage round Michael's forehead by this time.

  Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather
lonely up there by themselves. He could go so much faster than they
that he would suddenly shoot out of sight, to have some adventure in
which they had no share. He would come down laughing over something
fearfully funny he had been saying to a star, but he had already
forgotten what it was, or he would come up with mermaid scales still
sticking to him, and yet not be able to say for certain what had
been happening. It was really rather irritating to children who had
never seen a mermaid.

  "And if he forgets them so quickly," Wendy argued, "how can we
expect that he will go on remembering us?"

  Indeed, sometimes when he returned he did not remember them, at
least not well. Wendy was sure of it. She saw recognition come into
his eyes as he was about to pass them the time of day and go on;
once even she had to call him by name.

  "I'm Wendy," she said agitatedly.

  He was very sorry. "I say, Wendy," he whispered to her, "always if
you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying 'I'm Wendy,' and then
I'll remember."

  Of course this was rather unsatisfactory. However, to make amends he
showed them how to lie out flat on a strong wind that was going
their way, and this was such a pleasant change that they tried it
several times and found they could sleep thus with security. Indeed
they would have slept longer, but Peter tired quickly of sleeping, and
soon he would cry in his captain voice, "We get off here." So with
occasional tiffs, but on the whole rollicking, they drew near the
Neverland; for after many moons they did reach it, and, what is
more, they had been going pretty straight all the time, not perhaps so
much owing to the guidance of Peter or Tink as because the island
was out looking for them. It is only thus that any one may sight those
magic shores.

  "There it is," said Peter calmly.

  "Where, where?"

  "Where all the arrows are pointing."

  Indeed a million golden arrows were pointing it out to the children,
all directed by their friend the sun, who wanted them to be sure of
their way before leaving them for the night.

  Wendy and John and Michael stood on tip-toe in the air to get
their first sight of the island. Strange to say, they all recognised
it at once, and until fear fell upon them they hailed it, not as
something long dreamt of and seen at last, but as a familiar friend to
whom they were returning home for the holidays.

  "John, there's the lagoon!"

  "Wendy, look at the turtles burying their eggs in the sand."

  "I say, John, I see your flamingo with the broken leg!"

  "Look, Michael, there's your cave!"

  "John, what's that in the brushwood?"

  "It's a wolf with her whelps. Wendy, I do believe that's your little
whelp!"

  "There's my boat, John, with her sides stove in!"

  "No, it isn't! Why, we burned your boat."

  "That's her, at any rate. I say, John, I see the smoke of the
redskin camp!"

  "Where? Show me, and I'll tell you by the way the smoke curls
whether they are on the war-path."

  "There, just across the Mysterious River."

  "I see now. Yes, they are on the war-path right enough."

  Peter was a little annoyed with them for knowing so much, but if
he wanted to lord it over them his triumph was at hand, for have I not
told you that anon fear fell upon them?

  It came as the arrows went, leaving the island in gloom.

  In the old days at home the Neverland had always begun to look a
little dark and threatening by bedtime. Then unexplored patches
arose in it and spread, black shadows moved about in them, the roar of
the beasts of prey was quite different now, and above all, you lost
the certainty that you would win. You were quite glad that the
night-lights were in. You even liked Nana to say that this was just
the mantelpiece over here, and that the Neverland was all
make-believe.

  Of course the Neverland had been make-believe in those days, but
it was real now, and there were no night-lights, and it was getting
darker every moment, and where was Nana?

  They had been flying apart, but they huddled close to Peter now. His
careless manner had gone at last, his eyes were sparkling, and a
tingle went through them every time they touched his body. They were
now over the fearsome island, flying so low that sometimes a tree
grazed their feet. Nothing horrid was visible in the air, yet their
progress had become slow and laboured, exactly as if they were pushing
their way through hostile forces. Sometimes they hung in the air until
Peter had beaten on it with his fists.

  "They don't want us to land," he explained.

  "Who are they?" Wendy whispered, shuddering.

  But he could not or would not say. Tinker Bell had been asleep on
his shoulder, but now he wakened her and sent her on in front.

  Sometimes he poised himself in the air, listening intently, with his
hand to his ear, and again he would stare down with eyes so bright
that they seemed to bore two holes to earth. Having done these things,
he went on again.

  His courage was almost appalling. "Would you like an adventure now,"
he said casually to John, "or would you like to have your tea first?"

  Wendy said "tea first" quickly, and Michael pressed her hand in
gratitude, but the braver John hesitated.

  "What kind of adventure?" he asked cautiously.

  "There's a pirate asleep in the pampas just beneath us," Peter
told him. "If you like, we'll go down and kill him."

  "I don't see him," John said after a long pause.

  "I do."

  "Suppose," John said, a little huskily, "he were to wake up."

  Peter spoke indignantly. "You don't think I would kill him while
he was sleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That's the
way I always do."

  "I say! Do you kill many?"

  "Tons."

  John said "how ripping," but decided to have tea first. He asked
if there were many pirates on the island just now, and Peter said he
had never known so many.

  "Who is captain now?"

  "Hook," answered Peter, and his face became very stern as he said
that hated word.

  "Jas. Hook?"

  "Ay."

  Then indeed Michael began to cry, and even John could speak in gulps
only, for they knew Hook's reputation.

  "He was Blackbeard's bo'sun," John whispered huskily. "He is the
worst of them all. He is the only man of whom Barbecue was afraid."

  "That's him," said Peter.

  "What is he like?- Is he big?"

  "He is not so big as he was"

  "How do you mean?"

  "I cut off a bit of him."

  "You!"

  "Yes, me," said Peter sharply.

  "I wasn't meaning to be disrespectful."

  "Oh, all right."

  "But, I say, what bit?"

  "His right hand."

  "Then he can't fight now?"

  "Oh, can't he just!"

  "Left-hander?"

  "He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and he claws with it."

  "Claws!"

  "I say, John," said Peter.

  "Yes."

  "Say, 'Ay, ay, sir.'"

  "Ay, ay, sir."

  "There is one thing," Peter continued, "that every boy who serves
under me has to promise, and so must you."

  John paled.

  "It is this, if we meet Hook in open fight, you must leave him to
me."

  "I promise," John said loyally.

  For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was flying
with them, and in her light they could distinguish each other.
Unfortunately she could not fly so slowly as they, and so she had to
go round and round them in a circle in which they moved as in a
halo. Wendy quite liked it, until Peter pointed out the drawback.

  "She tells me," he said, "that the pirates sighted us before the
darkness came, and got Long Tom out."

  "The big gun?"

  "Yes. And of course they must see her light, and if they guess we
are near it they are sure to let fly."

  "Wendy!"

  "John!"

  "Michael!"

  "Tell her to go away at once, Peter," the three cried
simultaneously, but he refused.

  "She thinks we have lost the way," he replied stiffly, "and she is
rather frightened. You don't think I would send her away all by
herself when she is frightened!"

  For a moment the circle of light was broken, and something gave
Peter a loving little pinch.

  "Then tell her," Wendy begged, "to put out her light."

  "She can't put it out. That is about the only thing fairies can't
do. It just goes out of itself when she falls asleep, same as the
stars."

  "Then tell her to sleep at once," John almost ordered.

  "She can't sleep except when she's sleepy. It's the only other thing
fairies can't do."

  "Seems to me," growled John, "these are the only two things worth
doing."

  Here he got a pinch, but not a loving one.

  "If only one of us had a pocket," Peter said, "we could carry her in
it." However, they had set off in such a hurry that there was not a
pocket between the four of them.

  He had a happy idea. John's hat!

  Tink agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in the hand. John
carried it, though she had hoped to be carried by Peter. Presently
Wendy took the hat, because John said it struck against his knee as he
flew; and this, as we shall see, led to mischief, for Tinker Bell
hated to be under an obligation to Wendy.

  In the black topper the light was completely hidden, and they flew
on in silence. It was the stillest silence they had ever known, broken
once by a distant lapping, which Peter explained was the wild beasts
drinking at the ford, and again by a rasping sound that might have
been the branches of trees rubbing together, but he said it was the
redskins sharpening their knives.

  Even these noises ceased. To Michael the loneliness was dreadful.
"If only something would make a sound!" he cried.

  As if in answer to his request, the air was rent by the most
tremendous crash he had ever heard. The pirates had fired Long Tom
at them.

  The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes seemed
to cry savagely, "Where are they, where are they, where are they?"

  Thus sharply did the terrified three learn the difference between an
island of make-believe and the same island come true.

  When at last the heavens were steady again, John and Michael found
themselves alone in the darkness. John was treading the air
mechanically, and Michael without knowing how to float was floating.

  "Are you shot?" John whispered tremulously.

  "I haven't tried yet," Michael whispered back.

  We know now that no one had been hit. Peter, however, had been
carried by the wind of the shot far out to sea, while Wendy was
blown upwards with no companion but Tinker Bell.

  It would have been well for Wendy if at that moment she had
dropped the hat.

  I don't know whether the idea came suddenly to Tink, or whether
she had planned it on the way, but she at once popped out of the hat
and began to lure Wendy to her destruction.

  Tink was not all bad: or, rather, she was all bad just now, but,
on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be
one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have
room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to
change, only it must be a complete change. At present she was full
of jealousy of Wendy. What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could
not of course understand, and I believe some of it was bad words,
but it sounded kind, and she flew back and forward, plainly meaning
"Follow me, and all will be well."

  What else could poor Wendy do? She called to Peter and John and
Michael, and got only mocking echoes in reply. She did not yet know
that Tink hated her with the fierce hatred of a very woman. And so,
bewildered, and now staggering in her flight, she followed Tink to her
doom.

                              CHAPTER V.

                        THE ISLAND COME TRUE.

  Feeling that Peter was on his way back, the Neverland had again woke
into life. We ought to use the pluperfect and say wakened, but woke is
better and was always used by Peter.

  In his absence things are usually quiet on the island. The fairies
take an hour longer in the morning, the beasts attend to their
young, the redskins feed heavily for six days and nights, and when
pirates and lost boys meet they merely bite their thumbs at each
other. But with the coming of Peter, who hates lethargy, they are
all under way again: if you put your ear to the ground now, you
would hear the whole island seething with life.

  On this evening the chief forces of the island were disposed as
follows. The lost boys were out looking for Peter, the pirates were
out looking for the lost boys, the redskins were out looking for the
pirates, and the beasts were out looking for the redskins. They were
going round and round the island, but they did not meet because all
were going at the same rate.

  All wanted blood except the boys, who liked it as a rule, but
to-night were out to greet their captain. The boys on the island vary,
of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and
when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter
thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting
the twins as two. Let us pretend to he here among the sugarcane and
watch them as they steal by in single file, each with his hand on
his dagger.

  They are forbidden by Peter to look in the least like him, and
they wear the skins of bears slain by themselves, in which they are so
round and furry that when they fall they roll. They have therefore
become very sure-footed.

  The first to pass is Tootles, not the least brave but the most
unfortunate of all that gallant band. He had been in fewer
adventures than any of them, because the big things constantly
happened just when he had stepped round the corner; all would be
quiet, he would take the opportunity of going off to gather a few
sticks for firewood, and then when he returned the others would be
sweeping up the blood. This ill-luck had given a gentle melancholy
to his countenance, but instead of souring his nature had sweetened
it, so that he was quite the humblest of the boys. Poor kind
Tootles, there is danger in the air for you to-night. Take care lest
an adventure is now offered you, which, if accepted, will plunge you
in deepest woe. Tootles, the fairy Tink who is bent on mischief this
night is looking for a tool, and she thinks you the most easily
tricked of the boys. 'Ware Tinker Bell.

  Would that he could hear us, but we are not really on the island,
and he passes by, biting his knuckles.

  Next comes Nibs, the gay and debonair, followed by Slightly, who
cuts whistles out of the trees and dances ecstatically to his own
tunes. Slightly is the most conceited of the boys. He thinks he
remembers the days before he was lost, with their manners and customs,
and this has given his nose an offensive tilt. Curly is fourth; he
is a pickle, and so often has he had to deliver up his person when
Peter said sternly, "Stand forth the one who did this thing," that now
at the command he stands forth automatically whether he has done it or
no. Last come the Twins, who cannot be described because we should
be sure to be describing the wrong one. Peter never quite knew what
twins were, and his band were not allowed to know anything he did
not know, so these two were always vague about themselves, and did
their best to give satisfaction by keeping close together in an
apologetic sort of way.

  The boys vanish in the gloom, and after a pause, but not a long
pause, for things go briskly on the island, come the pirates on
their track. We hear them before they are seen, and it is always the
same dreadful song:

                 "Avast belay, yo ho, heave to,

                     A-pirating we go,

                 And if we're parted by a shot

                   We're sure to meet below!"

  A more villainous-looking lot never hung in a row on Execution dock.
Here, a little in advance, ever and again with his head to the
ground listening, his great arms bare, pieces of eight in his ears
as ornaments, is the handsome Italian Cecco, who cut his name in
letters of blood on the back of the governor of the prison at Gao.
That gigantic black behind him has had many names since he dropped the
one with which dusky mothers still terrify their children on the banks
of the Guadjomo. 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; 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 jewel 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 and blackavized, 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 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 caste from his crew. A man of indomitable
courage, it was said of him that the only thing he shied at was the
sight of his own blood, which was thick and of an unusual colour. In
dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of
Charles II, having heard it said in some earlier period of his
career that he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts;
and in his mouth he had a holder of his own contrivance which
enabled him to smoke two cigars at once. But undoubtedly the
grimmest part of him was his iron claw.

  Let us now kill a pirate, to show Hook's method. Skylights will
do. As they pass, Skylights lurches clumsily against him, ruffling his
lace collar; the hook shoots forth, there is a tearing sound and one
screech, then the body is kicked aside, and the pirates pass on. He
has not even taken the cigars from his mouth.

  Such is the terrible man against whom Peter Pan is pitted. Which
will win?

  On the trail of the pirates, stealing noiselessly down the war-path,
which is not visible to inexperienced eyes, come the redskins, every
one of them with his eyes peeled. They carry tomahawks and knives, and
their naked bodies gleam with paint and oil. Strung around them are
scalps, of boys as well as of pirates, for these are the Piccaninny
tribe, and not to be confused with the softer-hearted Delawares or the
Hurons. In the van, on all fours, is Great Big Little Panther, a brave
of so many scalps that in his present position they somewhat impede
his progress. Bringing up the rear, the place of greatest danger,
comes Tiger Lily, proudly erect, a princess in her own right. She is
the most beautiful of dusky Dianas and the belle of the
Piccaninnies, coquettish, cold and amorous by turns; there is not a
brave who would not have the wayward thing to wife, but she staves off
the altar with a hatchet. Observe how they pass over fallen twigs
without making the slightest noise. The only sound to be heard is
their somewhat heavy breathing. The fact is that they are all a little
fat just now after the heavy gorging, but in time they will work
this off. For the moment, however, it constitutes their chief danger.

  The redskins disappear as they have come like shadows, and soon
their place is taken by the beasts, a great and motley procession:
lions, tigers, bears, and the innumerable smaller savage things that
flee from them, for every kind of beast, and, more particularly, all
the man-eaters, live cheek by jowl on the favoured island. Their
tongues are hanging out, they are hungry to-night.

  When they have passed, comes the last figure of all, a gigantic
crocodile. We shall see for whom she is looking presently.

  The crocodile passes, but soon the boys appear again, for the
procession must continue indefinitely until one of the parties stops
or changes its pace. Then quickly they will be on top of each other.

  All are keeping a sharp look-out in front, but none suspects that
the danger may be creeping up from behind. This shows how real the
island was.

  The first to fall out of the moving circle was the boys. They
flung themselves down on the sward, close to their underground home.

  "I do wish Peter would come back," every one of them said nervously,
though in height and still more in breadth they were all larger than
their captain.

  "I am the only one who is not afraid of the pirates," Slightly said,
in the tone that prevented his being a general favourite, but
perhaps some distant sound disturbed him, for he added hastily, "but I
wish he would come back, and tell us whether he has heard anything
more about Cinderella."

  They talked of Cinderella, and Tootles was confident that his mother
must have been very like her.

  It was only in Peter's absence that they could speak of mothers, the
subject being forbidden by him as silly.

  "All I remember about my mother," Nibs told them, "is that she often
said to 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, 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 to-night?

  As the pirates advanced, the quick eye of Starkey sighted Nibs
disappearing through the wood, and at once his pistol flashed out. But
an iron claw gripped his shoulder.

  "Captain, let go!" he cried, writhing.

  Now for the first time we hear the voice of Hook. It was a black
voice. "Put back that pistol first," it said threateningly.

  "It was one of those boys you hate. I could have shot him dead."

  "Ay, and the sound would have brought Tiger Lily's redskins upon us.
Do you want to lose your scalp?"

  "Shall I after him, captain," asked pathetic Smee, "and tickle him
with Johnny Corkscrew?" Smee had pleasant names for everything, and
his cutlass was Johnny Corkscrew, because he wriggled 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 he caught the word Peter.

  "Most of all," Hook was saying passionately, "I want their
captain, Peter Pan. 'Twas he cut off my arm." He brandished the hook
threateningly. "I've waited long to shake his hand with this. Oh, I'll
tear him!"

  "And yet," said Smee, "I have often heard you say that hook was
worth a score of hands, for combing the hair and other homely uses."

  "Ay," the captain answered, "if I was a mother I would pray to
have my children born with this instead of that," and he cast a look
of pride upon his iron hand and one of scorn upon the other. Then
again he frowned.

  "Peter flung my arm," he said, wincing, "to a crocodile that
happened to be passing by."

  "I have often," said Smee, "noticed your strange dread of
crocodiles."

  "Not of crocodiles," Hook corrected him, "but of that one
crocodile." He lowered his voice. "It liked my arm so much, Smee, that
it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to
land, licking its lips for the rest of me."

  "In a way," said Smee, "it's a sort of compliment."

  "I want no such compliments," Hook barked petulantly. "I want
Peter Pan, who first gave the brute its taste for me."

  He sat down on a large mushroom, and now there was a quiver in his
voice. "Smee," he said huskily, "that crocodile would have had me
before this, but by a lucky chance it swallowed a clock which goes
tick tick inside it, and so before it can reach me I hear the tick and
bolt." He laughed, but in a hollow way.

  "Some day," said Smee, "the clock will run down, and then he'll
get you."

  Hook wetted his dry lips. "Ay," he said, "that's the fear that
haunts me."

  Since sitting down he had felt curiously warm. "Smee," he said,
"this seat is hot." He jumped up. "Odds bobs, hammer and tongs, I'm
burning."

  They examined the mushroom, which was of a size and solidity unknown
on the mainland; they tried to pull it up, and it came away at once in
their hands, for it had no root. Stranger still, smoke began at once
to ascend. The pirates looked at each other. "A chimney!" they both
exclaimed.

  They had indeed discovered the chimney of the home under the ground.
It was the custom of the boys to stop it with a mushroom when
enemies were in the neighbourhood.

  Not only smoke came out of it. There came also children's voices,
for so safe did the boys feel in their hiding-place that they were
gaily chattering. The pirates listened grimly, and then replaced the
mushroom. They looked around them and noted the holes in the seven
trees.

  "Did you hear them say Peter Pan's from home?" Smee whispered,
fidgeting with Johnny Corkscrew.

  Hook nodded. He stood for a long time lost in thought, and at last a
curdling smile lit up his swarthy face. Smee had been waiting for
it. "Unrip your plan, captain," he cried eagerly.

  "To return to the ship," Hook replied slowly through his teeth, "and
cook a large rich cake of a jolly thickness with green sugar on it.
There can be but one room below, for there is but one chimney. The
silly moles had not the sense to see that they did not need a door
apiece. That shows they have no mother. We will leave the cake on
the shore of the Mermaids' Lagoon. These boys are always swimming
about there, playing with the mermaids. They will find the cake and
they will gobble it up, because, having no mother, they don't know how
dangerous 'tis to eat rich damp cake." He burst into laughter, not
hollow laughter now, but honest laughter. "Aha, they will die!"

  Smee had listened with growing admiration.

  "It's the wickedest, prettiest policy ever I heard of!" he cried,
and in their exultation they danced and sang:

                 "Avast, belay, when I appear,

                   By fear they're overtook,

             Nought's left upon your bones when you

               Have shaken claws with Cook."

  They began the verse, but they never finished it, for another
sound broke in and stilled them. It was at first such a tiny sound
that a leaf might have fallen on it and smothered it, but as it came
nearer it was more distinct.

  Tick tick tick tick!

  Hook stood shuddering, one foot in the air.

  "The crocodile!" he gasped, and bounded away, followed by his
bo'sun.

  It was indeed the crocodile. It had passed the redskins, who were
now on the trail of the other pirates. It oozed on after Hook.

  Once more the boys emerged into the open; but the dangers of the
night were not yet over, for presently Nibs rushed breathless into
their midst, pursued by a pack of wolves. The tongues of the
pursuers were hanging out; the baying of them was horrible.

  "Save me, save me!" cried Nibs, falling on the ground.

  "But what can we do, what can we do?"

  It was a high compliment to Peter that at that dire moment their
thoughts turned to him.

  "What would Peter do?" they cried simultaneously.

  Almost in the same breath they cried, "Peter would look at them
through his legs."

  And then, "Let us do what Peter would do."

  It is quite the most successful way of defying wolves, and as one
boy they bent and looked through their legs. The next moment is the
long one, but victory came quickly, for as the boys advanced upon them
in this 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.'"

  "Poor Wendy?"

  "I remember," said Slightly instantly, "there are birds called
Wendies."

  "See, it comes!" cried Curly, pointing to Wendy in the heavens.

  Wendy was now almost overhead, and they could hear her plaintive
cry. But more distinct came the shrill voice of Tinker Bell. The
jealous fairy had now cast off all disguise of friendship, and was
darting at her victim from every direction, pinching savagely each
time she touched.

  "Hullo, Tink," cried the wondering boys.

  Tink's reply rang out: "Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy."

  It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. "Let us
do what Peter wishes," cried the simple boys. "Quick, bows and
arrows!"

  All but Tootles popped down their trees. He had a bow and arrow with
him, and Tink noted it, and rubbed her little hands.

  "Quick, Tootles, quick," she screamed. "Peter will be so pleased."

  Tootles excitedly fitted the arrow to his bow. "Out of the way,
Tink," he shouted, and then he fired, and Wendy fluttered to the
ground with an arrow in her breast.

                             CHAPTER VI.

                          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 it must be a lady."

  "A lady?" said Tootles, and fell a-trembling.

  "And we have killed her," Nibs said hoarsely.

  They all whipped off their caps.

  "Now I see," Curly said; "Peter was bringing her to us." He threw
himself sorrowfully on the ground.

  "A lady to take care of us at last," said one of the twins, "and you
have killed her!"

  They were sorry for him, but sorrier for themselves, and when he
took a step nearer them they turned from him.

  Tootles' face was very white, but there was a dignity about him
now that had never been there before.

  "I did it," he said, reflecting. "When ladies used to come to me
in dreams, I said, 'Pretty mother, pretty mother.' But when at last
she really came, I shot her."

  He moved slowly away.

  "Don't go," they called in pity.

  "I must," he answered, shaking; "I am so afraid of Peter."

  It was at this tragic moment that they heard a sound which made
the heart of every one of them rise to his mouth. They heard Peter
crow.

  "Peter!" they cried, for it was always thus that he signalled his
return.

  "Hide her," they whispered, and gathered hastily around Wendy. But
Tootles stood aloof.

  Again came that ringing crow, and Peter dropped in front of them.
"Greeting, boys," he cried, and mechanically they saluted, and then
again was silence.

  He frowned.

  "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!" one voice said, and another said, "Oh, mournful day!"

  Tootles, rose. "Peter," he said quietly, "I will show her to you,"
and when the others would still have hidden her he said, "Back, twins,
let Peter see."

  So they all stood back, and let him see, and after he had looked for
a little time he did not know what to do next.

  "She is dead," he said uncomfortably. "Perhaps she is frightened
at being dead."

  He thought of hopping off in a comic sort of way till he was out
of sight of her, and then never going near the spot any more. They
would all have been glad to follow if he had done this.

  But there was the arrow. He took it from her heart and faced his
band.

  "Whose arrow?" he demanded sternly.

  "Mine, Peter," said Tootles on his knees.

  "Oh, dastard hand," Peter said, and he raised the arrow to use it as
a dagger.

  Tootles did not flinch. He bared his breast. "Strike, Peter," he
said firmly, "strike true."

  Twice did Peter raise the arrow, and twice did his hand fall. "I
cannot strike," he said with awe, "there is something stays my hand."

  All looked at him in wonder, save Nibs, who fortunately looked at
Wendy.

  "It is she," he cried, "the Wendy lady, see, her arm!"

  Wonderful to relate, 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 forever."

  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 forever, 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 them.

  But what to do with Wendy in her present delicate state of health?

  "Let us carry her down into the house," Curly suggested.

  "Ay," said Slightly, "that is what one does with ladies."

  "No, no," Peter said, "you must not touch her. It would not be
sufficiently respectful."

  "That," said Slightly, "is what I was thinking."

  "But if she lies there," Tootles said, "she will die."

  "Ay, she will die," Slightly admitted, "but there is no way out."

  "Yes, there is," cried Peter. "Let us build a little house round
her."

  They were all delighted. "Quick," he ordered them, "bring me each of
you the best of what we have. Gut our house. Be sharp."

  In a moment they were as busy as tailors the night before a wedding.
They skurried this way and that, down for bedding, up for firewood,
and while they were at it, who should appear but John and Michael.
As they dragged along the ground they fell asleep standing, stopped,
woke up, moved another step and slept again.

  "John, John," Michael would cry, "wake up! Where is Nana, John,
and mother?"

  And then John would rub his eyes and mutter, "It is true, we did
fly."

  You may be sure they were very relieved to find Peter.

  "Hullo, Peter," they said.

  "Hullo," replied Peter amicably, though he had quite forgotten them.
He was very busy at the moment measuring Wendy with his feet to see
how large a house she would need. Of course he meant to leave room for
chairs and a table. John and Michael watched him.

  "Is Wendy asleep?" they asked.

  "Yes."

  "John," Michael proposed, "let us wake her and get her to make
supper for us," and 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 first," Peter ordered. "Then we shall
build the house round them."

  "Ay," said Slightly, "that is how a house is built; it all comes
back to me."

  Peter thought of everything. "Slightly," he cried, "fetch a doctor."

  "Ay, ay," said Slightly at once, and disappeared, scratching his
head. But he knew Peter must be obeyed, and he returned in a moment,
wearing John's hat and looking solemn.

  "Please, sir," said Peter, going to him, "are you a doctor?"

  The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was
that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true
were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when
they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.

  If they broke down in their make-believe he rapped them on the
knuckles.

  "Yes, my little man," anxiously replied Slightly, who had chapped
knuckles.

  "Please, sir," Peter explained, "a lady lies very ill."

  She was lying at their feet, but Slightly had the sense not to see
her.

  "Tut, tut, tut," he said, "where does she lie?"

  "In yonder glade."

  "I will put a glass thing in her mouth," said Slightly, and he
made-believe to do it, while Peter waited. It was an anxious moment
when the glass thing was withdrawn.

  "How is she?" inquired Peter.

  "Tut, tut, tut," said Slightly, "this has cured her."

  "I am glad!" Peter cried.

  "I will call again in the evening," Slightly said; "give her beef
tea out of a cup with a spout to it"; but after he had returned the
hat to John he blew big breaths, which was his habit on escaping
from a difficulty.

  In the meantime the wood had been alive with the sound of axes;
almost everything needed for a cosy dwelling already lay at Wendy's
feet.

  "If only we knew," said one, "the kind of house she likes best."

  "Peter," shouted another, "she is moving in her sleep."

  "Her mouth opens," cried a third, looking respectfully into it. "Oh,
lovely!"

  "Perhaps she is going to sing in her sleep," said Peter. "Wendy,
sing the kind of house you would like to have."

  Immediately, without opening her eyes, Wendy began to sing:

                  "I wish I had a pretty house,

                    The littlest ever seen,

                  With funny little red walls

                  And roof of mossy green."

  They gurgled with joy at this, for by the greatest good luck the
branches they had brought were sticky with red sap, and all the ground
was carpeted with moss. As they rattled up the little house they broke
into song themselves:

             "We've built the little walls and roof

                   And made a lovely door,

                 So tell us, mother Wendy,

               What are you wanting more?"

  To this she answered rather greedily:

               "Oh, really next I think I'll have

                 Gay windows all about,

               With roses peeping in, you know,

                 And babies peeping out"

  With a blow of their fists they made windows, and large yellow
leaves were the blinds. But roses-?

  "Roses!" cried Peter sternly.

  Quickly they made-believe to grow the loveliest roses up the walls.

  Babies?

  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 eye. Just when it seemed absolutely finished,

  "There's no knocker on the door," he said.

  They were very ashamed, but Tootles gave the sole of his shoe, and
it made an excellent knocker.

  Absolutely finished now, they thought.

  Not a 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, and put the hat on the roof. The little house was so pleased
to have such a capital chimney that, as if to say thank you, smoke
immediately began to come out of the hat.

  Now really and truly it was finished. Nothing remained to do but
to knock.

  "All look your best," Peter warned them; "first impressions are
awfully important."

  He was glad no one asked him what first impressions are; they were
all too busy looking their best.

  He knocked politely, and now the wood was as still as the
children, not a sound to be heard except from Tinker Bell, who was
watching from a branch and openly sneering.

  What the boys were wondering was, would anyone answer the knock?
If a lady, what would she be like?

  The door opened and a lady came out. It was Wendy. They all
whipped off their hats.

  She looked properly surprised, and this was just how they had
hoped she would look.

  "Where am I?" she said.

  Of course Slightly was the first to get his word in. "Wendy lady,"
he said rapidly, "for you we built this house."

  "Oh, say you're pleased," cried Nibs.

  "Lovely, darling house," Wendy said, and they were the very words
they had hoped she would say.

  "And we are your children," cried the twins.

  Then all went on their knees, and holding out their arms cried, "O
Wendy lady, be our mother."

  "Ought I?" Wendy said, all shining. "Of course it's frightfully
fascinating, but you see I am only a little girl. I have no real
experience."

  "That doesn't matter," said Peter, as if he were the only person
present who knew all about it, though he was really the one who knew
least. "What we need is just a nice motherly person."

  "Oh dear!" Wendy said, "you see I feel that is exactly what I am."

  "It is, it is," they all cried; "we saw it at once."

  "Very well," she said, "I will do my best. Come inside at once,
you naughty children; I am sure your feet are damp. And before I put
you to bed I have just time to finish the story of Cinderella."

  In they went; I don't know how there was room for them, but you
can squeeze very tight in the Neverland. And that was the first of the
many joyous evenings they had with Wendy. By and by she tucked them up
in the great bed in the home under the trees, but she herself slept
that night in the little house, and Peter kept watch outside with
drawn sword, for the pirates could be heard carousing far away and the
wolves were on the prowl. The little house looked so cosy and safe
in the darkness, with a bright light showing through its blinds, and
the chimney smoking beautifully, and Peter standing on guard. After
a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him
on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing
the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just
tweaked Peter's nose and passed on.

                             CHAPTER VII.

                      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 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
then nothing can be more graceful.

  But you simply must fit, and Peter measures you for your tree as
carefully as for a suit of clothes: the only difference being that the
clothes are made to fit you, while you have to be made to fit the
tree. Usually it is done quite easily, as by your wearing too many
garments or too few, but if you are bumpy in awkward places or the
only available tree is an odd shape, Peter does some things to you,
and after that you fit. Once you fit, great care must be taken to go
on fitting, and this, as Wendy was to discover to her delight, keeps a
whole family in perfect condition.

  Wendy and Michael fitted their trees at the first try, but John
had to be altered a little.

  After a few days' practice they could go up and down as gaily as
buckets in a well. And how ardently they grew to love their home under
the ground; especially Wendy! It consisted of one large room, as all
houses should do, with a floor in which you could dig if you wanted to
go fishing, and in this floor grew stout mushrooms of a charming
colour, which were used as stools. A Never tree tried hard to grow
in the centre of the room, but every morning they sawed the trunk
through, level with the floor. By tea-time it was always about two
feet high, and then they put a door on top of it, the whole thus
becoming a table; as soon as they cleared away, they sawed off the
trunk again, and thus there was more room to play. There was an
enormous fireplace which was in almost any part of the room where
you cared to light it, and across this Wendy stretched strings, made
of fibre, from which she suspended her washing. The bed was tilted
against the wall by day, and let down at 6:30, when it filled nearly
half the room; and all the boys slept in it, except Michael, lying
like sardines in a tin. There was a strict rule against turning
round until one gave the signal, when all turned at once. Michael
should have used it also, but Wendy would have a baby, and he was
the littlest, and you know what women are, and the short and the
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 home by a tiny curtain, which Tink, who was most
fastidious, always kept drawn when dressing or undressing. No woman,
however large, could have had a more exquisite boudoir 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 the fairy dealers;
the wash-stand was Pie-crust and reversible, the chest of drawers an
authentic Charming the Sixth, and the carpet and rugs of 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 though 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 just
to feel stodgy, 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 found her out, and they just ran into
each other's arms. After that it followed her about everywhere.

  As time wore on did she think much about the beloved parents she had
left behind her? This is a difficult question, because it is quite
impossible to say how time does wear on in the Neverland, where it
is calculated by moons and suns, and there are ever so many more of
them than on the mainland. But I am afraid that Wendy did not really
worry about her father and mother, she was absolutely confident that
they would always keep the window open for her to fly back by, and
this gave her complete ease of mind. What did disturb her at times was
that John remembered his parents vaguely only, as people he had once
known, while Michael was quite willing to believe that she was
really his mother. These things scared her a little, and nobly anxious
to do her duty, she tried to fix the old life in their minds by
setting them examination papers on it, as like as possible to the ones
she used to do at school. The other boys thought this awfully
interesting, and insisted on joining, and they made slates for
themselves, and sat round the table, writing and thinking hard about
the questions she had written on another slate and passed round.
They were the most ordinary questions- "What was the colour of
Mother's eyes? Which was taller, Father or Mother? Was Mother blonde
or brunette? Answer all three questions if possible." "(A) Write an
essay of not less than 40 words on How I spent my last Holidays, or
The Carakters of Father and Mother compared. Only one of these to be
attempted." Or "(1) Describe Mother's laugh; (2) Describe Father's
laugh; (3) Describe Mother's Party Dress; (4) Describe the Kennel
and its Inmate."

  They were just everyday questions like these, and when you could not
answer them you were told to make a cross; and it was really
dreadful what a number of crosses even John made. Of course the only
boy who replied to every question was Slightly, and no one could
have been more hopeful of coming out first, but his answers were
perfectly ridiculous, and he really came out last: a melancholy thing.

  Peter did not compete. For one thing he despised all mothers
except Wendy, and for another he was the only boy on the island who
could neither write nor spell; not the smallest word. He was above all
that sort of thing.

  By the way, the questions were all written in the past tense. What
was the colour of Mother's eyes, and so on. Wendy, you see, had been
forgetting too.

  Adventures, of course, as we shall see, were of daily occurrence;
but about this time Peter invented, with Wendy's help, a new game that
fascinated him enormously, until he suddenly had no more interest in
it, which, as you have been told, was what always happened with his
games. It consisted in pretending not to have adventures, in doing the
sort of thing John and Michael had been doing all their lives, sitting
on stools flinging balls in the air, pushing each other, going out for
walks and coming back without having killed so much as a grizzly. To
see Peter doing nothing on a stool was a great sight; he could not
help looking solemn at such times, to sit still seemed to him such a
comic thing to do. He boasted that he had gone a walk 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 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 redskin; 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 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 would accept his challenge.

  Which of these adventures shall we choose? The best way will be to
toss for it.

  I have tossed, and the lagoon has won. This almost makes one wish
that the gulch or the cake or Tink's leaf had won. Of course I could
do it again, and make it best out of three; however, perhaps fairest
to stick to the lagoon.

                            CHAPTER VIII.

                        THE MERMAID'S 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 their combs.

  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 stitching.

  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 unfriendly.

  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 the others.

  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 and incisive.

  "Dive!"

  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 wall 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 there 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 imitation.

  "The captain!" said the pirates, staring at each other in surprise.

  "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.

  "Free!"

  "Yes, cut her bonds and let her go."

  "But, captain-"

  "At once, d'ye hear," cried Peter, "or I'll plunge my hook in you."

  "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, but 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.

  "What's up, captain?"

  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 hook.

  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 but 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 is 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 it.

  "Spirit that haunts this dark lagoon to-night," he cried, "dost hear
me?"

  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 Roger"

  "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 him.

  "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 greatest 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?"

  "Ay, ay."

  "Vegetable?" asked Hook.

  "No."

  "Mineral?"

  "No."

  "Animal?"

  "Yes."

  "Man?"

  "No!" This answer rang out scornfully.

  "Boy?"

  "Yes."

  "Ordinary boy?"

  "No!"

  "Wonderful boy?"

  To Wendy's pain the answer that rang out this time was "Yes."

  "Are you in England?"

  "No."

  "Are you here?"

  "Yes."

  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 regretfully.

  "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 saw their chance.

  "Yes, yes," they answered eagerly.

  "Well, then," he cried, "I am Peter Pan!"

  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
Peter.

  "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 a 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 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 fishes.

  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 they had a sinking. Had it been so with Peter at that moment I
would admit it. After all, this 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 than 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 he
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 minutes afterwards the other boys saw Hook in the water
striking wildly for the ship; no elation on his 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, 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.

  "Help, help!"

  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.

  He moaned.

  "What is it?" she asked, anxious about him at once.

  "I can't help you, Wendy. Hook wounded me. I can neither fly nor
swim."

  "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
tremor 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."

                             CHAPTER IX.

                           THE NEVER BIRD.

  The last sounds 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 moving 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 her 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 was she 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 was such a
story, and say that Peter replied intelligently to the Never bird; but
truth is best, and I want to tell 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
retorted hotly:

  "So are you!"

  Then rather curiously they both snapped out the same remark.

  "Shut up!"

  "Shut up!"

  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 meaning clear.

  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 the
feathers.

  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 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 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.

                              CHAPTER X.

                           THE HAPPY HOME.

  One important result of the brush 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
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 to
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.

  This meal happened to be a make-believe tea, and they sat round
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 much.

  "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,
Slightly darling?"

  "Not quite empty, mummy," Slightly said, after looking into an
imaginary mug.

  "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.

  "Well, John?"

  "May I sit in Peter's chair, as he is not here?"

  "Sit in father's chair, John!" Wendy was scandalised. "Certainly
not."

  "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, "that I could be
father."

  "No, Tootles."

  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 basket.

  "As I can't be baby," Tootles said, getting heavier and heavier, "do
you think I could be a twin?"

  "No, indeed," replied the twins; "it's awfully difficult to be a
twin."

  "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 usual.

  "Wendy," remonstrated Michael, "I'm too big for a cradle."

  "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
recognise 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 for
Wendy.

  "Peter, you just spoil them, you know," Wendy simpered.

  "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
humour.

  "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."

  "True, true."

  So they were told they could dance, but they must put on their
nighties first.

  "Ah, old lady," Peter said aside to Wendy, warming himself by the
fire and looking down at her as she sat turning a heel, "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 change me, do you?"

  "No, Wendy."

  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.

  "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 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
something impudent.

  "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, and 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 the
end."

  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.

                             CHAPTER XI.

                            WENDY'S STORY.

  "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 them. "There was a lady also, and-"

  "O mummy," cried the first twin, "you mean that there is a lady
also, don't you? She is not dead, is she?"

  "Oh no."

  "I am awfully glad she isn't dead," said Tootles. "Are you glad,
John?"

  "Of course I am."

  "Are you glad, Nibs?"

  "Rather."

  "Are you glad, Twins?"

  "We are just 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 his
opinion.

  "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.

  "No."

  "It's awfully puzzling," said Tootles, who knew the story by heart.

  "Quiet, Tootles. They had three descendants."

  "What is descendants?"

  "Well, you are one, Twin."

  "Do 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 away."

  "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
Tootles?"

  "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!"

  "Oo!"

  "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!"

  "Oh!"

  "And who are the two noble portly figures accompanying her, now
grown to man's estate? Can they be John and Michael? They are!"

  "Oh!"

  "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 of smacked.

  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 hitherto
concealed.

  "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?"

  "Yes."

  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 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 can't.

  "At once," Wendy replied resolutely, for the horrible thought had
come to her: "Perhaps mother is in half mourning by this time."

  This dread made her forgetful of what must be Peter's feelings,
and she said to him rather sharply, "Peter, will you make the
necessary arrangements?"

  "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 silliest one.

  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 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
journey."

  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
lady's chamber.

  "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 negligee."

  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 with joy.

  "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
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, 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."

  "Yes, Peter."

  "No."

  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 fun."

  "But, Peter-"

  "No."

  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, as 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 their flannels.

  "Yes."

  "And you will take your medicine?"

  "Yes."

  That seemed to be everything, and an awkward pause followed.
Peter, however, was not the kind that breaks down before people.
"Are you ready, Tinker Bell?" he called out.

  "Ay! ay!"

  "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.

                             CHAPTER XII.

                    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 marching.

  That this was the usual procedure was so well-known to Hook that
in disregarding it he cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance.

  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 moccasins 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 the
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. 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, the while they gave pathetic utterance to the coyote cry.

  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 now. They knew it; but as their fathers' sons they
acquitted themselves. Even then they had time to gather in a phalanx
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 genius
with which it was carried out.

  What were his own feelings about himself at the triumphant moment?
Fain 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, 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 to ram them down with poles.

  In the meantime, what of the boys? We have seen them at the first
clang of 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 Peter's
answer.

  "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. To his
amazement Hook signed to 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
gleefully.

  "The tom-tom," the miscreants heard Peter cry; "an Indian victory!"

  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.

                            CHAPTER XIII.

                      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,
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 this job the black pirate had cut a
rope into nine equal pieces. All went well with the trussing 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
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 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 infuriated
breast.

  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 a 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 it.

  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 pearls.

  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 stir 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 shook 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 straightway, and immediately he 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 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 spoke.

  "Who is that?"

  For long there was no answer: then again the knock.

  "Who are you?"

  No answer.

  He was thrilled, and he loved being thrilled. In two strides he
reached his door. Unlike Slightly's door it filled the aperture, 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 conjurers 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 muttering about his
deed as he sped through the forest.

  "Why not?"

  "It is poisoned."

  "Poisoned! Who could have poisoned it?"

  "Hook."

  "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
asleep."

  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?"

  "Yes."

  "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."

  Many clapped.

  Some didn't.

  A few little 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 liked 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 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 the 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. But in what direction, for he
could not be sure that the children had been taken to the ship? A
slight 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 the
trees, for instance, Curly would drop seeds, and Wendy would leave her
handkerchief at some important place. But 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 happy.

                             CHAPTER XIV.

                           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 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 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 skilfully
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 forever from his path, and all
the other boys were on 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 so 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
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
himself feared Barbecue"

  "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 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. 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 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 him.

  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.

  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?"

  "Bad form!"

  The unhappy Hook was as impotent 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 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?"

  "Ay, ay."

  "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
tonight, 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 hearty?"

  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
diffidently.

  "And a good name too. We'll call you that here, bully, if you join."

  "What do you think, Michael?" asked John.

  "What would you call me if I join?" Michael demanded.

  "Blackbeard Joe"

  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 inquired.

  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 now.

  "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 gentleman 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 the
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 little heap.

  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 his 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 Fate.

  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 this
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 arouse suspicion. Then he went on ticking.

                             CHAPTER XV.

                       "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 he concluded rightly
that the clock had run down.

  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 all 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 the 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 crocodile.

  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. Then he realized 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 it taken?

  "One!" (Slightly had begun to count.)

  None too soon, Peter, every inch of him on tip-toe, 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 passed.

  "It's gone, captain," Smee said, wiping 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 height.

  "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 terrorise 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
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 other.

  "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
hollow voice.

  "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
crowing."

  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 up 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 again.

  "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 it mutiny?" asked Hook more pleasantly than ever. "Starkey's
ringleader!"

  "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
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 asked courteously, "did any other gentleman 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
at 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, "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 that would free the children of
their manacles, and now they all stole forth, armed with such
weapons as they could find. First signing to 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 to
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 and crowed.

  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 Jonah
aboard."

  "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 jeeringly.

  "There's one," replied the figure.

  "Who's that?"

  "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
conviction.

  "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 all 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 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, 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 mine"

  Thus suddenly Hook found himself face to face with Peter. The others
drew back and formed a ring round 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 doom."

  "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 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 bad form
before it was cold forever.

  Abandoning the fight he rushed into the powder magazine and fired
it.

  "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 as 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 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 crocodile.

  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-past one"!

  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 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 tight.

                             CHAPTER XVI.

                           THE RETURN HOME.

  By three bells next morning they were all stirring their stumps. 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 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. His bluff
strident words struck the note sailors understand, 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. 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 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 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 preparing for is a good hiding. How
delicious to spoil it all by breaking the news in advance; so that
when they enter 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 unhappiness."

  "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 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 he
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
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 wishes
implicitly.

  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 to 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 at it 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."

  "Lot 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 not
enjoying it?"

  "My love!"

  You may be sure she begged his pardon; and then, feeling drowsy,
he curled round in the kennel.

  "Won't you play me to sleep," he asked, "on the nursery piano?"
and as she was crossing to the day-nursery he added thoughtlessly,
"and shut that window. I feel a draught."

  "O George, never ask me to do that. The window must always be left
open for them, always, always."

  Now it was his turn to beg her pardon; and she went into the
day-nursery and played, and soon he was asleep; and while he slept,
Wendy and John and Michael flew into the room.

  Oh no. We have written it so, because that was the charming
arrangement planned by them before we left the ship; but something
must have happened since then, for it is not they who have flown in,
it is Peter and Tinker Bell.

  Peter's first words tell all.

  "Quick, Tink," he whispered, "close the window; bar it! That's
right. Now you and I must get away by the door; and when Wendy comes
she will think her mother has barred her out, and she will have to
go back with me."

  Now I understand what had hitherto puzzled me, why when Peter had
exterminated the pirates he did not return to the island and leave
Tink to escort the children to the mainland. This trick had been in
his head all the time.

  Instead of feeling that he was behaving badly he danced with glee;
then he peeped into the day-nursery to see who was playing. He
whispered to Tink, "It's Wendy's mother! She is a pretty lady, but not
so pretty as my mother. Her mouth is full of thimbles, but not so full
as my mother's was."

  Of course he knew nothing whatever about his mother; but he
sometimes bragged about her.

  He did not know the tune, which was "Home, Sweet Home," but he
knew it was saying, "Come back, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy"; and he cried
exultantly. "You will never see Wendy again, lady, for the window is
barred!"

  He peeped in again to see why the music had stopped, and now he
saw that Mrs. Darling had laid her head on the box, and that two tears
were sitting on her eyes.

  "She wants me to unbar the window," thought Peter, "but I won't, not
I!"

  He peeped again, and the tears were still there, or another two
had taken their place.

  "She's awfully fond of Wendy," he said to himself. He was angry with
her now for not seeing why she could not have Wendy.

  The reason was so simple: "I'm fond of her too. We can't both have
her, lady."

  But the lady would not make the best of it, and he was unhappy. He
ceased to look at her, but even then she would not let go of him. He
skipped about and made funny faces, but when he stopped it was just as
if she were inside him, knocking.

  "Oh, all right," he said at last, and gulped. Then he unbarred the
window. "Come on, Tink," he cried, with a frightful sneer at the
laws of nature: "we don't want any silly mothers"; and he flew away.

  Thus Wendy and John and Michael found the window open for them after
all, which of course was more than they deserved. They alighted on the
floor, quite unashamed of themselves, and the youngest one had already
forgotten his home.

  "John," he said looking around him doubtfully, "I think I have
been here before."

  "Of course you have, you silly. There is your old bed."

  "So it is," Michael said, but not with much conviction.

  "I say," cried John, "the kennel!" and he dashed across to look into
it.

  "Perhaps Nana is inside it," Wendy said.

  But John whistled. "Hullo," he said, "there's a man inside it."

  "It's father!" exclaimed Wendy.

  "Let me see father." Michael begged eagerly, and he took a good
look. "He is not so big as the pirate I killed," he said with such
frank disappointment that I am glad Mr. Darling was asleep; it would
have been sad if those had been the first words he heard his little
Michael say.

  Wendy and John had been taken aback somewhat at finding their father
in the kennel.

  "Surely," said John, like one who had lost faith in his memory,
"he used not to sleep in the kennel?"

  "John," Wendy said falteringly, "perhaps we don't remember the old
life as well as we thought we did."

  A chill fell upon them; and serve them right.

  "It is very careless of mother," said the young scoundrel John, "not
to be here when we come back."

  It was then that Mrs. Darling began playing again.

  "It's mother!" cried Wendy, peeping.

  "So it is!" said John.

  "Then are you not really our mother, Wendy?" asked Michael, who
was surely sleepy.

  "Oh dear!" exclaimed Wendy, with her first real twinge of remorse,
"it was quite time we came back."

  "Let us creep in," John suggested, "and put our hands over her
eyes."

  But Wendy, who saw that they must break the joyous news more gently,
had a better plan.

  "Let us all slip into our beds, and be there when she comes in, just
as if we had never been away."

  And so when Mrs. Darling went back to the night-nursery to see if
her husband was asleep, all the beds were occupied. The children
waited for her cry of joy, but it did not come. She saw them, but
she did not believe they were there. You see, she saw them in their
beds so often in her dreams that she thought this was just the dream
hanging around her still.

  She sat down in the chair by the fire, where in the old days she had
nursed them.

  They could not understand this, and a cold fear fell upon all the
three of them.

  "Mother!" Wendy cried.

  "That's Wendy," she said, but still she was sure it was a dream.

  "Mother!"

  "That's John," she said.

  "Mother!" cried Michael. He knew her now.

  "That's Michael," she said, and she stretched out her arms for the
three little selfish children they would never envelop again. Yes,
they did, they went round Wendy and John and Michael, who had
slipped out of bed and run to her.

  "George, George!" she cried when she could speak; and Mr. Darling
woke to share her bliss, and Nana came rushing in. There could not
have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a
little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies
innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking
through the window at the one joy from which he must be forever
barred.

                            CHAPTER XVII.

                         WHEN WENDY GREW UP.

  I hope you want to know what became of the other boys. They were
waiting below to give Wendy time to explain about them, and when
they had counted five hundred they went up. They went up by the stair,
because they thought this would make a better impression. They stood
in a row in front of Mrs. Darling, with their hats off, and wishing
they were not wearing their pirate clothes. They said nothing, but
their eyes asked her to have them. They ought to have looked at Mr.
Darling also, but they forgot about him.

  Of course Mrs. Darling said at once that she would have them; but
Mr. Darling was curiously depressed, and they saw that he considered
six a rather large number.

  "I must say," he said to Wendy, "that you don't do things by
halves," a grudging remark which the twins thought was pointed at
them.

  The first twin was the proud one, and he asked, flushing, "Do you
think we should be too much of a handful, sir? Because if so we can go
away."

  "Father!" Wendy cried, shocked; but still the cloud was on him. He
knew he was behaving unworthily, but he could not help it.

  "We could lie doubled up," said Nibs.

  "I always cut their hair myself," said Wendy.

  "George!" Mrs. Darling exclaimed, pained to see her dear one showing
himself in such an unfavourable light.

  Then he burst into tears, and the truth came out. He was as glad
to have them as she was, he said, but he thought they should have
asked his consent as well as hers, instead of treating him as a cypher
in his own house.

  "I don't think he is a cypher," Tootles cried instantly. "Do you
think he is a cypher, Curly?"

  "No I don't. Do you think he is a cypher, Slightly?"

  "Rather not. Twin, what do you think?"

  It turned out that not one of them thought him a cypher; and he
was absurdly gratified, and said he would find space for them all in
the drawing-room if they fitted in.

  "We'll fit in, sir," they assured him.

  "Then follow the leader," he cried gaily. "Mind you, I am not sure
that we have a drawing-room, but we pretend we have, and it's all
the same. Hoop la!"

  He went off dancing through the house, and they all cried "Hoop la!"
and danced after him, searching for the drawing-room; and I forget
whether they found it, but at any rate they found corners, and they
all fitted in.

  As for Peter, he saw Wendy once again before he flew away. He did
not exactly come to the window, but he brushed against it in
passing, so that she could open it if she liked and call to him.
That was what she did.

  "Hullo, Wendy, good-bye," he said.

  "Oh dear, are you going away?"

  "Yes."

  "You don't feel, Peter," she said falteringly, "that you would
like to say anything to my parents about a very sweet subject?"

  "No."

  "About me, Peter?"

  "No."

  Mrs. Darling came to the window, for at present she was keeping a
sharp eye on Wendy. She told Peter that she had adopted all the
other boys, and would like to adopt him also.

  "Would you send me to school?" he inquired craftily.

  "Yes."

  "And then to an office?"

  "I suppose so."

  "Soon I should be a man?"

  "Very soon."

  "I don't want to go to school and learn solemn things," he told
her passionately. "I don't want to be a man. O Wendy's, mother, if I
was to wake up and feel there was a beard!"

  "Peter," said Wendy the comforter, "I should love you in a beard;"
and Mrs. Darling stretched out her arms to him, but he repulsed her.

  "Keep back, lady, no one is going to catch me and make me a man."

  "But where are you going to live?"

  "With Tink in the house we built for Wendy. The fairies are to put
it high up among the tree tops where they sleep at nights."

  "How lovely," cried Wendy so longingly that Mrs. Darling tightened
her grip.

  "I thought all the fairies were dead," Mrs. Darling said.

  "There are always a lot of young ones," explained Wendy, who was now
quite an authority, "because you see when a new baby laughs for the
first time a new fairy is born, and as there are always new babies
there are always new fairies. They live in nests on the tops of trees;
and the mauve ones are boys and the white ones are girls, and the blue
ones are just little sillies who are not sure what they are."

  "I shall have such fun," said Peter, with one eye on Wendy.

  "It will be rather lonely in the evening," she said, "sitting by the
fire."

  "I shall have Tink."

  "Tink can't go a twentieth part of the way round," she reminded
him a little tartly.

  "Sneaky tell-tale!" Tink called out from somewhere round the corner.

  "It doesn't matter," Peter said.

  "O Peter, you know it matters."

  "Well, then, come with me to the little house."

  "May I, mummy?"

  "Certainly not. I have got you home again, and I mean to keep you."

  "But he does so need a mother."

  "So do you, my love."

  "Oh, all right," Peter said, as if he had asked her from
politeness merely; but Mrs. Darling saw his mouth twitch, and she made
this handsome offer: to let Wendy go to him for a week every year
and do his spring cleaning. Wendy would have preferred a more
permanent arrangement, and it seemed to her that spring would be
long in coming, but this promise sent Peter away quite gay again. He
had no sense of time, and was so full of adventures that all I have
told you about him is only a half-penny worth of them. I suppose it
was because Wendy knew this that her last words to him were these
rather plaintive ones:

  "You won't forget me, Peter, will you, before spring-cleaning time
comes?"

  Of course Peter promised, and then he flew away. He took Mrs.
Darling's kiss with him. The kiss that had been for no one else
Peter took quite easily. Funny. But she seemed satisfied.

  Of course all the boys went to school; and most of them got into
Class III, but Slightly was put first into Class IV and then into
Class V. Class I is the top class. Before they had attended school a
week they saw what goats they had been not to remain on the island;
but it was too late now, and soon they settled down to being as
ordinary as you or me or Jenkins minor. It is sad to have to say
that the power to fly gradually left them. At first Nana tied their
feet to the bed-posts so that they should not fly away in the night;
and one of their diversions by day was to pretend to fall off buses;
but by and by they ceased to tug at their bonds in bed, and found that
they hurt themselves when they let go of the bus. In time they could
not even fly after their hats. Want of practice, they called it; but
what it really meant was that they no longer believed.

  Michael believed longer than the other boys, though they jeered at
him; so he was with Wendy when Peter came for her at the end of the
first year. She flew away with Peter in the frock she had woven from
leaves and berries in the Neverland, and her one fear was that he
might notice how short it had become, but he never noticed, he had
so much to say about himself.

  She had looked forward to thrilling talks with him about old
times, but new adventures had crowded the old ones from his mind.

  "Who is Captain Hook?" he asked with interest when she spoke of
the arch enemy.

  "Don't you remember," she asked, amazed, "how you killed him and
saved all our lives?"

  "I forget them after I kill them," he replied carelessly.

  When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to
see her he said, "Who is Tinker Bell?"

  "O Peter!" she said, shocked; but even when she explained he could
not remember.

  "There are such a lot of them," he said. "I expect she is no more."

  I expect he was right, for fairies don't live long, but they are
so little that a short time seems a good while to them.

  Wendy was pained too to find that the past year was but as yesterday
to Peter; it had seemed such a long year of waiting to her. But he was
exactly as fascinating as ever, and they had a lovely spring
cleaning in the little house on the tree tops.

  Next year he did not come for her. She waited in a new frock because
the old one simply would not meet, but he never came.

  "Perhaps he is ill," Michael said.

  "You know he is never ill."

  Michael came close to her and whispered, with a shiver, "Perhaps
there is no such person, Wendy!" and then Wendy would have cried if
Michael had not been crying.

  Peter came next spring cleaning; and the strange thing was that he
never knew he had missed a year.

  That was the last time the girl Wendy ever saw him. For a little
longer she tried for his sake not to have growing pains; and she
felt she was untrue to him when she got a prize for general knowledge.
But the years came and went without bringing the careless boy; and
when they met again Wendy was a married woman, and Peter was no more
to her than a little dust in the box in which she had kept her toys.
Wendy was grown up. You need not be sorry for her. She was one of
the kind that likes to grow up. In the end she grew up of her own free
will a day quicker than other girls.

  All the boys were grown up and done for by this time; so it is
scarcely worth while saying anything more about them. You may see
the twins and Nibs and Curly any day going to an office, each carrying
a little bag and an umbrella. Michael is an engine-driver. Slightly
married a lady of title, and so he became a lord. You see that judge
in a wig coming out at the iron door? That used to be Tootles. The
bearded man who doesn't know any story to tell his children was once
John.

  Wendy was married in white with a pink sash. It is strange to
think that Peter did not alight in the church and forbid the banns.

  Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter. This ought not to
be written in ink but in a golden splash.

  She was called Jane, and always had an odd inquiring look, as if
from the moment she arrived on the mainland she wanted to ask
questions. When she was old enough to ask them they were mostly
about Peter Pan. She loved to hear of Peter, and Wendy told her all
she could remember in the very nursery from which the famous flight
had taken place. It was Jane's nursery now, for her father had
bought it at the three percents from Wendy's father, who was no longer
fond of stairs. Mrs. Darling was now dead and forgotten.

  There were only two beds in the nursery now, Jane's and her nurse's;
and there was no kennel, for Nana also had passed away. She died of
old age, and at the end she had been rather difficult to get on
with, being very firmly convinced that no one knew how to look after
children except herself.

  Once a week Jane's nurse had her evening off, and then it was
Wendy's part to put Jane to bed. That was the time for stories. It was
Jane's invention to raise the sheet over her mother's head and her
own, thus making a tent, and in the awful darkness to whisper:-

  "What do we see now?"

  "I don't think I see anything to-night," says Wendy, with a
feeling that if Nana were here she would object to further
conversation.

  "Yes, you do," says Jane, "you see when you were a little girl."

  "That is a long time ago, sweetheart," says Wendy. "Ah me, how
time flies!"

  "Does it fly," asks the artful child, "the way you flew when you
were a little girl?"

  "The way I flew! Do you know, Jane, I sometimes wonder whether I
ever did really fly."

  "Yes, you did."

  "The dear old days when I could fly!"

  "Why can't you fly now, mother?"

  "Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the
way."

  "Why do they forget the way?"

  "Because they are no longer gay and innocent and heartless. It is
only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly."

  "What is gay and innocent and heartless? I do wish I was gay and
innocent and heartless."

  Or perhaps Wendy admits she does see something. "I do believe,"
she says, "that it is this nursery!"

  "I do believe it is!" says Jane. "Go on."

  They are now embarked on the great adventure of the night when Peter
flew in looking for his shadow.

  "The foolish fellow," says Wendy, "tried to stick it on with soap,
and when he could not he cried, and that woke me, and I sewed it on
for him."

  "You have missed a bit," interrupts Jane, who now knows the story
better than her mother. "When you saw him sitting on the floor
crying what did you say?"

  "I sat up in bed and I said, 'Boy, why are you crying?'"

  "Yes, that was it," says Jane, with a big breath.

  "And then he flew us all away to the Neverland and the fairies and
the pirates and the redskins and the mermaids' lagoon, and the home
under the ground, and the little house."

  "Yes! which did you like best of all?"

  "I think I liked the home under the ground best of all."

  "Yes, so do I. What was the last thing Peter ever said to you?"

  "The last thing he ever said to me was, 'Just always be waiting
for me, and then some night you will hear me crowing.'"

  "Yes!"

  "But, alas, he forgot all about me." Wendy said it with a smile. She
was as grown up as that.

  "What did his crow sound like?" Jane asked one evening.

  "It was like this," Wendy said, trying to imitate Peter's crow.

  "No, it wasn't," Jane said gravely, "it was like this"; and she
did it ever so much better than her mother.

  Wendy was a little startled. "My darling, how can you know?"

  "I often hear it when I am sleeping," Jane said.

  "Ah yes, many girls hear it when they are sleeping, but I was the
only one who heard it awake."

  "Lucky you!" said Jane.

  And then one night came the tragedy. It was the spring of the
year, and the story had been told for the night, and Jane was now
asleep in her bed. Wendy was sitting on the floor, very close to the
fire so as to see to darn, for there was no other light in the
nursery; and while she sat darning she heard a crow. Then the window
blew open as of old, and Peter dropped on the floor.

  He was exactly the same as ever, and Wendy saw at once that he still
had all his first teeth.

  He was a little boy, and she was grown up. She huddled by the fire
not daring to move, helpless and guilty, a big woman.

  "Hullo, Wendy," he said, not noticing any difference, for he was
thinking chiefly of himself; and in the dim light her white dress
might have been the nightgown in which he had seen her first.

  "Hullo, Peter," she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as
possible. Something inside her was crying "Woman, woman, let go of
me."

  "Hullo, where is John?" he asked, suddenly missing the third bed.

  "John is not here now," she gasped.

  "Is Michael asleep?" he asked, with a careless glance at Jane.

  "Yes," she answered; and now she felt that she was untrue to Jane as
well as to Peter.

  "That is not Michael," she said quickly, lest a judgment should fall
on her.

  Peter looked. "Hullo, is it a new one?"

  "Yes"

  "Boy or girl?"

  "Girl."

  Now surely he would understand; but not a bit of it.

  "Peter," she said, faltering, "are you expecting me to fly away with
you?"

  "Of course; that is why I have come" He added a little sternly,
"Have you forgotten that this is spring-cleaning time?"

  She knew it was useless to say that he had let many
spring-cleaning times pass.

  "I can't come," she said apologetically, "I have forgotten how to
fly."

  "I'll soon teach you again."

  "O, Peter, don't waste the fairy dust on me."

  She had risen, and now at last a fear assailed him. "What is it?" he
cried, shrinking.

  "I will turn up the light," she said, "and then you can see for
yourself."

  For almost the only time in his life that I know of, Peter was
afraid. "Don't turn up the light," he cried.

  She let her hands play in the hair of the tragic boy. She was not
a little girl heart-broken about him; she was a grown woman smiling at
it all, but they were wet smiles.

  Then she turned up the light, and Peter saw. He gave a cry of
pain; and when the tall beautiful creature stooped to lift him in
her arms he drew back sharply.

  "What is it?" he cried again.

  She had to tell him.

  "I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up long
ago."

  "You promised not to!"

  "I couldn't help it. I am a married woman, Peter."

  "No, you're not"

  "Yes, and the little girl in the bed is my baby."

  "No, she's not."

  But he supposed she was; and he took a step towards the sleeping
child with his fist upraised. Of course he did not strike her. He
sat down on the floor and sobbed, and Wendy did not know how to
comfort him, though she could have done it so easily once. She was
only a woman now, and she ran out of the room to try to think.

  Peter continued to cry, and soon his sobs woke Jane. She sat up in
bed, and was interested at once.

  "Boy," she said, "why are you crying?"

  Peter rose and bowed to her, and she bowed to him from the bed.

  "Hullo," he said.

  "Hullo," said Jane.

  "My name is Peter Pan," he told her.

  "Yes, I know."

  "I came back for my mother," he explained, "to take her to the
Neverland."

  "Yes, I know," Jane said, "I been waiting for you."

  When Wendy returned diffidently she found Peter sitting on the
bedpost crowing gloriously, while Jane in her nighty was flying
round the room in solemn ecstasy.

  "She is my mother," Peter explained; and Jane descended and stood by
his side, with the look on her face that he liked to see on ladies
when they gazed at him.

  "He does so need a mother," Jane said.

  "Yes, I know," Wendy admitted, rather forlornly; "no one knows it so
well as I."

  "Good-bye," said Peter to Wendy; and he rose in the air, and the
shameless Jane rose with him; it was already her easiest way of moving
about.

  Wendy rushed to the window.

  "No, no!" she cried.

  "It is just for spring-cleaning time," Jane said; "he wants me
always to do his spring cleaning."

  "If only I could go with you!" Wendy sighed.

  "You see you can't fly," said Jane.

  Of course in the end Wendy let them fly away together. Our last
glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into
the sky until they were as small as stars.

  As you look at Wendy you may see her hair becoming white, and her
figure little again, for all this happened long ago. Jane is now a
common grown-up, with a daughter called Margaret; and every
spring-cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret
and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about
himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she
will have a daughter, who is to be Peter's mother in turn; and so it
will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.

                            THE END
.

Colophon

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