Original version rephrased- might contain errors
This tale is 53 pages long.
Country or culture of the tale:England.
Written by James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937)
|Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Peter Pan is coming
Chapter 1: Peter Pan is coming
All the children grow up. All but one. They know this early on, and even though Wendy has known this for a very long time, she didn’t think much of it until the day she met Peter Pan. Wendy lived in a big house in London with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Darling, and her two brothers, John and Michael. They were very happy surrounded by their parents’ love. Mrs. DARLING loved them dearly. Mr. DARLING loved them too, but he was very busy with his money problems. The maid who took care of the children was not what Mr. Darling wanted, but it was all he could afford. She was a Newfoundland dog named Nana. They had found her in the Kensington Gardens and since she seemed abandoned, they had hired her. Nana was no ordinary dog. She was actually a real gem. She could tell at a glance if one of her charges was suffering. And when Mrs. DARLING brought unexpected visitors to the children’s room, even before they reached the threshold, the children would find themselves freshly dressed, hair slicked back. Like all maids, Nana was entitled to one night off a week. It was then Madame DARLING who replaced her. One evening when Madame DARLING was putting the sleeping children’s minds in order, as every mother does every night everywhere on earth, she discovered an incomprehensible word in each of the three children: PETER. She did not know any Peter. The next day, Mrs. DARLING, very intrigued by this whole story, asked Wendy:
– Who is this Peter, dear?
And Wendy tells of the fantasy land where she lives in a house of leaves and has a wolf for a pet. John even added that there is a lagoon flown over by flamingos. Mrs. DARLING is overwhelmed by this conversation. Searching deep in her memory, she thinks she remembers that Peter Pan lives with the fairies. That night, Mrs. Darling is worried. The children’s room, so calm, so restful, presents something strange. The toys are however arranged in their trunk, the books are put down in the library. She takes her work and starts to embroider. Little by little, her head tilts and slowly, very slowly, she falls asleep. She is dreaming… In her dream, the land of the imagination that Wendy spoke of is approaching. The strange little boy is there; he has come out of Neverland to visit her! Suddenly, the window opens and the child from her dream falls soundlessly to the ground. He is not alone. A bright, even blinding light accompanies him. It is undoubtedly this sparkling light that wakes up Mrs. DARLING. She is startled, cries out, and when she sees the child, something inside her tells her that it is Peter Pan. He is like all the other children, although dressed in leaves. Mrs. DARLING can’t take her eyes off him and when he sees her – as he does every time he sees an adult – he makes a horrible face.
Chapter 2: The Shadow
Nana, who was returning from her night out, upon hearing Mrs. DARLING’s scream rushes into the children’s room and with a terrible growl pounces on the intruder who had dared to enter her domain. But it was without counting on the speed of Peter who fled by the window.
– Your father and I are going to have dinner tonight at number 27, she said, so we won’t be far away.
Mr. DARLING enters in his turn. He holds his tie in his hand and seems to be in a very bad mood:
– I can’t tie this damned tie! I warn you, if I don’t manage to put it on, we won’t go out tonight!
Mrs. DARLING very calmly ties his tie. The bad mood seemed to pass and she was preparing to speak to him about the strange little boy, when Nana entered the room. While passing near Mr. DARLING, she brushes him. The beautiful pants are covered with hair. Mr. DARLING gets very angry and says that it was a mistake to have a dog for a maid. Mrs. DARLING then decides to tell him about Peter Pan and he bursts out laughing. When she shows him the shadow, he looks more pensive. It is at this moment that Nana comes back with Michael’s syrup who usually refuses to take it.
– When I was your age, says Mr. DARLING, I always took my medicine without making a fuss… (which of course was not true) If I had not misplaced my syrup bottle, I would have shown you the example.
She goes out and comes back a few moments later holding the precious bottle in her hand. Mr. DARLING is pale. It is that it is very bad this syrup. He feels trapped. He then has the idea to pour the syrup in Nana’s bowl thinking that her children would laugh at the good joke played on the dog. Nana laps up the infamous drink and goes back to her kennel, crying. Wendy would like to console her dog, but Mr. DARLING is angry again and says:
– This dog does not belong here. He belongs in the yard and I’m going to tie him up there immediately.
He grabs her by her collar and takes her away roughly. Tied up in the courtyard, Nana barks, smelling danger. Mrs. DARLING does not feel very reassured either. She checks the window and turns on the night lights saying to Michael:
– Nightlights are the eyes that mothers leave behind to protect their children.
She kisses them and leaves the room with one last look, not suspecting that she won’t see them again for a long time. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. DARLING entered 27, the smallest star in the Milky Way said:
– You can go, Peter!
A command that launches Peter and Tink on their way to the children’s room.
Chapter 3: Let’s go…
All is quiet and peaceful in the children’s room. Suddenly, a tiny ball of light darts into the room followed almost immediately by Peter Pan.
– Tink, do you know where my shadow is?” he asks.
Peter opens the drawer of the chest of drawers and takes his shadow without paying attention to Tink who had entered and closes the drawer, imprisoning the little fairy. How do you tie a shadow when you are a small child. Of course, it doesn’t stick by itself; soap doesn’t work either. So Peter sits down on the floor and starts to cry. His sobs woke Wendy up.
– Why are you crying, little boy?” she asked Peter. My name is Wendy, Wendy, Moira, Angela DARLING.
Peter makes a face. A needle and thread… it might hurt a little but as a brave little boy, he won’t say anything.
– That’s it!” said Wendy. Since you didn’t say anything, I’ll give you a kiss.
Seeing that he’s holding out his hand, Wendy realizes that Peter doesn’t know what a kiss is, and she hands him the thimble she’s just used to sew. Peter in turn wants to give her something and he gives her an acorn.
– How old are you, Peter?” Wendy asks him.
While talking, Peter remembers Tinkerbell. He looks for her and finds her in the dresser drawer. The words she says to him when she comes out, are really not to be reported here. Tinkerbell is a very unusual fairy. Wendy only has eyes for the fairy. How she would like to have a fairy like this one too, but Tinkerbell doesn’t seem to think so.
– Where are you living now?” Wendy asks Peter.
This is more than Wendy needs. She wakes up her brothers John and Michael so they can come with her. All three are excited to see mermaids, pirates and Indians. But how do you fly? Peter blows some of the fairy pollen he still has on his hand and they soar through the air and spin around the room. Mr. and Mrs. DARLING, whom Nana had gone to look for after breaking her chain, have just enough time to catch a glimpse of four shadows flying into the children’s room from outside, because when they finally arrive upstairs in the children’s room, all three of them have left with Peter for the land of imagination.
Chapter 4: The Journey
“Second right and straight on till morning” is the path Wendy, John, Michael, Peter and Tinkerbell take to the land of nowhere. It’s so much fun to fly that they lose a lot of time along the way and fatigue sets in. It is very dangerous to fall asleep while flying, as soon as the eyes close, the bodies fall down and Peter finds it all quite funny. He catches up with Michael just as he is about to sink into the sea. Peter likes to brag; he strokes the back of a shark, steals some food from a bird of prey, disappears to have mysterious adventures and comes back to the others with a burst of laughter and forgets what happened to him. Wendy is worried. Will Peter forget them? How can we stop? Where is the island hidden? They have been flying for so long.
– Here we are, says Peter.
Indeed, in a last ray of sunlight, the children see the Island appear. They recognize it at first glance: the mermaid lagoon, the Redskins’ camp, Wendy’s cub – just like in their dreams. Peter is quite annoyed that the children know his island so well. As they get closer and closer, they have more and more difficulty as if invisible hands are holding them back from landing. Peter doesn’t want to tell them that he was fighting the fairies and asks John with a detached air:
– Do you want to have tea first or have an adventure right away?
Wendy and Michael prefer tea, but John, intrigued, would like to have his first adventure.
– Look below us, there’s a sleeping pirate. If you want, we can go kill him,” says Peter.
As he says these last words, Peter’s face hardens. He doesn’t seem to like him very much and tells the children how he cut off his right hand and replaced it with an iron hook. He also makes them promise that in case of a battle with Hook, they would leave it to him. At this point, Tinkerbell warns Peter that the pirates have taken out their big cannon and are about to send a cannonball at them.
– It’s because of Tink’s light, she can’t turn it off. She has to hide it.
The solution is found in the top hat that John took with him. Tinkerbell finds herself in Wendy’s hands and she really doesn’t like it. All is quiet when suddenly a huge blast throws the children into the air. Tinkerbell gets out of the hat and drags Wendy away. Tink is not a bad person.
Chapter 5: The Island
As Peter approaches, the island comes alive again. While he’s away, the fairies are stretching out their fat mornings, the Redskins are feasting, the lost children and the pirates aren’t thinking in the least about going to war with each other. But when he arrives, everyone goes back to their roles. That night, the lost children wait for Peter; the pirates look for the lost children; the Redskins track the pirates; and the wild animals follow the Redskins. All of them, however, circle around the island without one group ever catching up to the other. The lost children have come to greet their captain. The number of children varies according to those who are killed in battle but also those that Peter removes because they have grown up. For the moment, they are six. They wear skins of bears killed by their own hands: there is The Jinx who always misses a good part of the adventures because his back is turned at the right moment; there is Good Zig, always cheerful; there is The Feather who carves wooden whistles and dances to his own music; there is The Curly who, even if innocent, always accuses himself of all the misdeeds and there are the twins always one against the other with an air that begs forgiveness. Just behind the children come the pirates, armed to the teeth and singing the same horrible refrain:
“Hold on, hoist the sail! We are the pirates, If death do us part, We’ll meet in hell!”
Their leader, Jacques Crochet is wallowing on a wagon pulled and pushed by his men prodded from time to time by his horrible harpoon. He is dressed in the fashion of the time of Charles II. He wears an ingenious cigar holder on his lips that allows him to smoke two cigars at the same time. Following the pirates, come the Redskins. They are on their way to war glistening with paint and oil, holding knives or tomahawks in their hands and proudly wearing the scalps of pirates or lost children on their belts. The last of their group is Lis Tigré, their coquettish, icy and fiery princess. They walk without making any noise and only their breathing can betray them. Finally, come the wild animals: lions, bears, tigers all hungry. The last animal to appear is a gigantic crocodile. This parade could last forever but the children stop. They wish Peter was already back to learn the rest of Cinderella’s story. The children stop talking. In the distance they hear a song they know well:
“The skull and crossbones pavilion! The good life, a rope of hemp! And the big cup we’ll drink!”
Like rabbits, they scamper off and disappear into their underground home through the seven passages cut into the trees. The pirates set out to find the children while Hook tells his first mate his life story and why he is so afraid of the crocodile that has been chasing him from sea to sea since Peter gave him his hand to eat. The crocodile has swallowed an alarm clock so that as soon as he comes around, he can hear it. While talking, he sits on a huge mushroom.
– It’s hot,” he said, jumping up and examining it. It was a chimney; Hook had just discovered the lair of the lost children. He just had to find out where Peter was.
Hook and his first mate then start dancing and singing:
“Cast off the laughter when I appear, They die of fear! There’s no flesh left on your bones, When Hook has shaken your hand.”
Suddenly they stop as a familiar ticking sound approaches… Hook recognizes the sound of the crocodile swallowing his alarm clock and runs off at full speed, shaking with fear. Bon Zigue, pursued by a pack of wolves, arrives near the lost children and explains that he has seen a large white bird that seems exhausted and repeats “Poor Wendy” with each flap of its wing. It is at this moment that the children in turn see this strange bird called a Wendy and Tinkerbell appears and shouts to the boys:
– Peter wants you to kill the Wendy! Quickly La Guigne!
La Guigne adjusts his arrow and fires. Wendy falls to the ground, an arrow in her chest.
Chapter 6: The Little House
The children arrive near the white bird.
– But it is not a bird, says The Feather, it is a lady.
Then they heard Peter’s shrill crowing and soon after he landed near them.
– Hi guys, I have a big surprise for you. I have brought you a mother. You haven’t seen her yet?
The boys don’t answer, but they take a step back, leaving Peter to discover Wendy lying on the ground with an arrow through her heart. He removes the arrow and asks:
– Whose arrow is this?
Peter is about to pierce Jinx with the arrow but his arm is held up. Wendy has raised her arm and is holding Peter’s.
– I think she just said Poor Jinx,” said Bon Zigue.
A plaintive note is heard. Tink is crying because Wendy is alive. The boys then tell Peter about Tink’s treachery. He becomes very angry and banishes Tink from the island. She must go away forever. Wendy raises her arm again and Peter softens the sentence: Tink will only be punished for one week. The boys can’t leave Wendy like this, and it’s impossible to get her down to the underground house. So they decide to build a small house around her. Everyone pitched in and even John and Michael were hired as lumberjacks. They also needed a doctor for Wendy. The Feather takes on this role; he examines Wendy and diagnoses her: With meat broth in a cup, she will be cured.
– If only I knew what she likes! sighs Peter.
And then Wendy begins to sing softly:
“I’d like to have a pretty house The smallest one ever seen, With funny little red walls, And a moss roof all green.”
The children hurry to fulfill Wendy’s wish and sing:
“We built the walls and the roof, And made a the pretty door. Now tell us Mama Wendy, What else would please you?”
Wendy answers them:
“I would like to have now Very cheerful windows With roses on the outside And babies on the inside!”
There are no roses or babies. You just have to imagine and sing:
“The roses are outside And the babies are waiting at the door. We cannot make ourselves For we have already been made.”
The house looks great but it lacks a fireplace. Peter takes John’s hat and after loosening the bottom, he puts it on the roof. With joy, the little hut begins to smoke. Peter approaches the door and knocks. The door opens and Wendy appears on the threshold looking very surprised. The lost boys surround her and ask:
– Mrs. Wendy, will you be our mommy?
When the story is over, she tucks them into the big bed in the underground house and goes home to bed. Peter decides to stand guard outside Wendy’s door to protect her from pirates and wild animals but soon falls asleep. The fairies returning from the party have to climb over Peter’s sleeping body and pull his nose before continuing on their way.
Chapter 7: The Underground House
The next morning, the first thing Peter has to do is measure Wendy and her brothers to find them some hollow trees. Peter is indeed convinced that they will be safer in the underground house. Finding a tree that exactly matches the children’s measurements is not easy. For Wendy and Michael, there is no problem. John’s, on the other hand, needs to be modified slightly. The technique for descending and ascending is quite simple; as soon as you get into the trunk, you hold your breath and descend at a reasonable speed. To go back up, things are a little more complicated. You have to exhale and inhale alternately while contorting yourself. After three days, they have all acquired the technique and can enter and exit without difficulty.
They love their new home, especially Wendy. It is a very simple house, with only one room. On the floor, there are stubby mushrooms that serve as stools. In the center of the room, an imaginary tree is trying to grow. It is sawn down each morning so that it is just the right size for the tea party where it is covered with a door that serves as a tray. It is then sawed again to allow the children to play.
In the wall, there is a niche, not much bigger than a bird cage. This is Tink’s apartment. No one could have dreamed of such an exquisite place. It is separated from the rest of the room by a light curtain and is furnished with beautiful carpets, a chandelier and expensive furniture that makes the whole place look pretentious and old-fashioned.
Wendy, in her new role, doesn’t have a second to herself. She has to cook, sew, mend and tell stories to the children, so that weeks go by and she hardly finds time to go upstairs to take a breath of fresh air, or only with her work. Sometimes she thinks about her parents and is sure that they have left the bedroom window open for their return. What grieves her most is that John only vaguely remembers his parents and that Michael has come to think of her as his real mother. To engrave the memory in their minds, she submits them to written questions on the subject. The results are not brilliant, but all the children participate, except Peter who considers himself well above such childishness. It must be said that Peter can neither read nor write.
To pass the time, Peter has invented a new game. He engages in the same activities that John and Michael had practiced during their lives: he sits on a stool without moving, he throws a ball in the air, he goes out for a walk and comes back without seeing killed much other than a grizzly. Of course, Peter forces everyone to be delighted with this new activity. After a few days, he doesn’t like this game anymore and goes on an adventure by himself. Are the adventures he claims to have had real or imaginary? No one knows. Some of them are, at least in part, because the children have also lived them. To tell them all, however, would take far too much time and space. That is why we will have to limit ourselves to a few highlights of life on the island.
There is the bloody battle against the Indians during which Peter suddenly decided to change sides and become a Redskin: the fight would have been short-lived if the real Redskins had not decided to reverse the roles and to be, for this time, the lost children. There is the story of how the Redskins attacked the underground house: they got stuck in the hollow tree trunks and had to be pulled out like corks.
The one where Peter rescued, in the mermaid lagoon, Tiger Lily, the beautiful Indian princess who had fallen into the hands of pirates. The one where Hook tripped over the green sugar cake that he had put down for the children but that Wendy always managed to take out of their hands at the last moment.
There’s also the one about the imaginary bird that built its nest on a tree branch overlooking the lagoon. The nest fell into the water and Peter demanded that the bird be left alone to hatch.
There is the one where Tink and the other fairies found Wendy asleep on a leaf and tried to chase her off the island. Fortunately the leaf broke and Wendy swam back to shore.
The one where Peter challenged the lions and none of them dared to cross a circle drawn by Peter on the ground.
Which one to choose? The best way is to draw lots… It’s done and it will be… the mermaid lagoon!
Chapter 8: The mermaid lagoon
The mermaid lagoon is a favorite place for children. They spend long hours there playing, swimming, floating. When they were tired, they would lie down on the sand or on the Islet of the Forsaken, which emerged only at low tide. In the lagoon, there are hundreds of real mermaids but, and this is a great sorrow for Wendy, they are not very friendly. They treat all the children with contempt, except Peter. They hate Wendy too, and as soon as she appears in the lagoon, the mermaids splash her with their tails. The most exciting time to watch the mermaids is at night when there is a full moon. They make strange moaning sounds when the moon rises in the sky. At this time, the place is dangerous for mortals.
One day, while the boys are sleeping on the islet, the sun disappears, the surface of the water wrinkles and sinister shadows spread out. It is cold and dark. Wendy is frightened, scared to death. She should wake the boys, but she does not.
Fortunately, Peter sensed the danger in his sleep. He leaps to his feet, his ear to the ground, and cries out:
– Pirates, dive in.
The boat is approaching.
– Ahoy there, ye freshwater sailors! Release the princess.
The pirates don’t have to be told twice and they cut the bonds of the princess who slips like an eel and dives into the sea. Another “Ship ahoy” sounded. This time, it is the real Captain Hook swimming towards the boat. His men help him into the boat.
– Are you all right, Captain?” the pirates asked.
For all answer, they get a sigh and then the captain declares:
– Nothing is wrong, the boys have found a mother.
Remembering the Redskin, Hook asked his men where she was.
– We released her as you ordered,” replied the mate. We heard your voice.
Peter doesn’t know how to hold back and starts a question and answer game with Hook by borrowing his voice. Hook absolutely wants to know who he is dealing with. Peter cannot resist the temptation and answers each question. His foolish pride once again takes him too far and Peter gives his real name.
– We’ve got him,” shouts Hook. Take him dead or alive.
In response, Peter calls out to the children:
– Attack, get into their cabbage.
The battle is short but bitter. The clash takes place on the rock. Peter and Hook climb the islet on opposite sides and while looking for a hold, their arms meet. They find themselves nose to nose. Peter grabs the dagger from Hook’s belt and is about to stab him in the body when he realizes that his enemy is lower than him. Then, he reaches out his hand and the captain without honor bites him. Peter stands there, eyes wide open in front of this betrayal, petrified like all children when they feel the first betrayal of adults. Hook takes the opportunity to scratch him twice with his iron hand. It is the ticking of the crocodile that saves Peter. Hook swims desperately towards his boat, gripped by a terrible fear and pursued by the crocodile.
The boys find the pirates’ boat and head back to shore, calling for Peter and Wendy. But they are so confident in Peter that they don’t worry about him. He must have flown home.
The lagoon is silent again. Peter hoists the fainting Wendy onto the rock. The tide covers the rock more and more.
– We are on the rock, Wendy,” says Peter, “but soon the water will cover it completely. We have to leave.
Wendy has to admit that she is too tired. They stand there waiting for death to come when something lighter than a kiss touches Peter. It is the tail of Michael’s kite. Peter pulls on the string and ties it around Wendy’s waist. He pushes her off the rock and Wendy flies away, carried away by the kite.
Peter is all alone. The reef is getting smaller and smaller and soon it will be completely submerged. Peter is a little scared and then suddenly he smiles, “Dying, now that’s an adventure.
Chapter 9: The Imaginary Bird
The mermaids retreat to their rooms under the sea. The sea is rising and already licking Peter’s feet. To pass the time, while waiting, for death, Peter stares at a paper floating on the waves. The paper struggles against the waves and Peter applauds each time it wins a victory over the wave. The paper is heading towards Peter because he is none other than the imaginary bird. He has learned to use his wings as oars and he comes to save Peter by offering him his nest where his eggs are still.
As soon as Peter recognizes the bird, he starts to ask him what he is doing there.
Despite her tiredness, the bird brings the nest close to the rock and flies away to make Peter understand better what she has been shouting at him for many minutes.
Peter takes the two eggs in his hands. What will he do with them? The bird hides its head under its wings. On the rock stands a peg. A pirate lost his hat in the fight. It is made of tar cloth, waterproof with a wide brim. Peter deposits the eggs in the hat, which is floating. The bird now has a new nest. She goes down and starts to incubate again. Peter climbs into the real nest, plants the peg and ties his shirt as a veil. Each one leaves towards his destiny by wishing each other good trip.
Peter lands in a place where the bird can easily find its nest. Unfortunately for the pirate, his hat was definitely adopted by the bird. Even today, imaginary birds build hat-shaped nests with a wide brim where their young can hang out.
The party is in full swing in the underground house. Everyone has an adventure to tell, but the amazing thing is that it’s long past bedtime. To buy a little more time, the kids are clamoring for bandages and dressings. However, Wendy is not fooled and puts them to bed without delay. The next day, however, everyone gets a bandage and the children can limp along or wear their arms in a sling.
Chapter 10: A Happy Home
Thanks to Peter’s rescue of Tigger Lily, the Redskins become the children’s best friends. At night, they keep watch over the underground house to protect it from the pirate attack that is sure to come. By day, they prowl around, smoking the peace pipe with the air of waiting for sweets. They named Peter Pan the “White Grandfather” and they bow down to him, which does not help his character.
While they worship Peter, they have less regard for the children, who are seen as mere braves. Wendy, the housekeeper and mother, will not listen to any complaint against Peter who is called “father” by the children. She herself is called a squaw – which does not please her.
One evening, when the day has gone smoothly, the Redskins are at their post above the house. The children are having their imaginary meal and Peter is looking for the crocodile to find out the time. The children are particularly rowdy and the noise is deafening. Each one has to complain about his neighbor because it is a rule in the house not to return the blows but to say: “I have to complain about so-and-so”… A step that Wendy recognizes immediately approaches. Peter arrives with nuts for the children and time for her.
One of the twins approaches Peter:
– Dad, we’d like to dance but we’d like you to dance with us and Mom.
The kids always pretend it’s Saturday night when they want to do something special. They put on their nightgowns and start dancing.
Wendy is sewing, Peter is warming himself by the fire. She puts her hand on his shoulder and asks him:
– Peter darling, with such a large family, of course, I’m not what I used to be, but you wouldn’t trade me for another one would you?
He confidently replied that he had the feelings of a devoted son for her. Wendy had guessed right, all she had to do was be his mother; Peter didn’t want to grow up…
– It’s strange,” Peter said, “you’re like Tiger Lily. She doesn’t want to be my mother either. Maybe Tink will agree…
The little fairy, who had heard everything, made an answer that needed no translation.
Wendy puts the children to bed and sings them a scary song; they start dancing again, not imagining that above them much more menacing shadows will soon close in on them. Once in bed, Wendy tells them their favorite story and Peter, who usually hates this story, leaves the room or covers his ears.
Chapter 11: The Story
“Once upon a time there was a gentleman,” Wendy tells immediately interrupted by the lost boys.
– I would have preferred a lady.
She continues her story, “and a lady named Mr. and Mrs. DARLING. They had three children who had a faithful nanny named Nana. One day, Mr. DARLING got angry with Nana and chained her up in the yard. And so the children flew away to the land of imagination. The sadness of the parents was immense; imagine the three small empty beds…
– It’s so sad to cry,” said one of the twins.
Don’t be afraid,” Wendy continued. A mother’s love can be immense. The bedroom window was always left open because Mom knew they would return one day. The children stayed away for years and had a great time.”
– Are they back now,” asks the other twin? Wendy didn’t answer right away, but explained how the scene of happiness when they returned was indescribable.
Peter lets out an unhappy sigh.
– You’re completely wrong about mothers,” he says. I thought my mother would always leave the window open, too, but when I came home I found bars on the window because my mother had forgotten me and another little boy was sleeping in my bed. All mothers are like that.
– Wendy, let’s go home!” said John and Michael in unison.
He went upstairs to make the arrangements, trying to breathe as hard as he could, for there is an Island saying that every time you breathe a big person drops dead. He gives instructions to the Redskins and goes back down to the underground house. While he is gone, the lost children try to confine Wendy because her departure is a real disaster for them. Peter cannot accept to keep a girl against her will and asks to wake up Tinkerbell who will help Wendy cross the sea. Tink doesn’t want to hear this and she has to be threatened to be seen by everyone in negligee so that she finally gets up.
The boys look at Wendy and her brothers with sad eyes. They are going to a wonderful country and no one has invited them.
– Friends,” said Wendy, “if you all want to come with me, I’m sure Mom and Dad will adopt you.
The invitation was extended to Peter, of course, but everyone took it as their own, and the children jumped for joy.
– Before you leave, I’ll give you your medicine, Peter,” said Wendy, “and then pack your things.
Wendy tried to coax him, he could find his mother…
– No, Wendy, she’d probably tell me that I’m grown up and I want to stay a little boy and have fun.
The lost boys look at each other; Peter is not coming… Will he let them go? They are reassured when they hear him say:
– If you find your moms, I hope you like them. Now don’t get emotional, are you ready Tinkerbell? Then lead the way.
Clo darts into the nearest tree but no one follows her because at the same moment, the pirates launch their attack on the Redskins. The air is torn with screams and clanking steel. In the house, there is an icy silence. Everyone reaches out to Peter in a gesture that says, “Don’t leave us. He grips his sword and in his eyes shines a warlike ardor.
Chapter 12: Trapped
The pirates’ attack surprised everyone. It was of course not carried out according to the rules, because in order to surprise the Redskins, the whites must get up early. According to the unwritten laws of savage warfare, it is always the Redskins who attack first, just before dawn, because that is when the whites’ courage is at a standstill. For their part, the whites must wait behind a palisade. The novices stand guard while the veterans sleep quietly awaiting the battle. All night long, Indian scouts crawl like snakes through the tall grass, imitating the call of coyotes.
Many Redskins joined the heavenly hunting grounds during this sudden and vile attack imagined by Hook against the laws of war, however, bringing in their wake many pirates. Hook feels no triumph from this easy victory. His work is not done. It’s Peter he wants. Pan, Wendy and all their gang, but first: Pan!
The question now is to descend into the underground house, or rather to get the men down through the tree trunks. He inspects his men one by one to distinguish the skinniest. The men wiggle around knowing that their captain will not hesitate to shove them down to the bottom with a pole if necessary.
Meanwhile, the children who had become statues, mouths open, have pulled themselves together. They listen. The hustle and bustle has stopped and the children are wondering which side won the battle. The pirates have heard the question … but they have also heard the answer.
– “If the Indians won, it won’t be long before they beat the tom-tom in victory…”
Hook asks one of his men to beat the drum.
– The tom-tom,” says Peter! The Redskins have won.
The children respond to this statement with shouts of joy that sound like divine music to the scurrilous ears listening above. The children renew their farewell to Peter, which surprises the pirates but comforts them: they won’t have to go down since the enemy is preparing to come up. They rub their hands. Hook gives his orders: one man at each tree and the others in a line two meters apart.
Chapter 13: Do you believe in fairies?
The sooner we’re done with these horrors, the better. The first to emerge from his tree was The Curly. He was snatched up by Cecco who passed him to Smee, who passed him to Starkey, who passed him to Truand who passed him to Plat-de-Nouilles and, catapulted from one to the other, he landed at the feet of the terrible captain. All the boys were picked up without mercy on the way out; several were in the air at once, like bundles of goods thrown from hand to hand.
Wendy, who came out last, was given special treatment. With feigned gallantry, Hook greeted her with a wave of his hat and then, offering her his arm, escorted her to the place where her companions were being gagged. He did so with such a distinguished air that Wendy, fascinated, forgot to cry. After all, she was just a little girl.
Let us be forgiven for revealing that she was under Hook’s spell for a moment: if we denounce this weakness, it is because it must have had strange consequences. Had Wendy refused Hook’s arm with height (which we would have been happy to write), she would have been thrown in the air like the others, Hook would not have been present when the children were tied up, he would not have discovered the secret of The Feather, and without this secret, he would not have been able to treacherously attempt Peter’s life.
In order to prevent the boys from flying away, they were folded in half, with their knees bent up to their ears, and were about to be bound in bundles; for this purpose, the captain had cut a rope of nine equal lengths. All went well until it was the turn of La Plume, who proved to be as exasperating as those parcels that take up all the string and leave nothing left to tie the knot. In rage, the pirates kicked him, just as they would kick a package when it would be more appropriate to kick the string. Ironically, it was Hook who told them to restrain their brutality. A look of malicious triumph curled his lip. While his companions sweated blood and water to pack the unfortunate Feather on one side, which immediately overflowed on the other, the shrewd Hook searched with an inquisitive eye the interior of this refractory parcel, looking for causes, not effects, and his jubilation showed that he had found them. The Feather realized that Hook had discovered his secret, namely that a boy, no matter how swollen, needs no tree where an average man is content with a stick.
Pity La Plume! How he now regretted his inveterate taste for drink! From drinking so much water when he was hot, he had become so bloated that he had had to secretly widen the trunk of his tree to squeeze through.
Now the pirate captain knew enough to be sure he could keep Peter at his mercy. Not a word of the dark scheme that was germinating in the dark caverns of his mind passed his lips; he simply signaled to take the captives to the ship. As for himself, he wished to remain alone.
But how to transport them?
The latter took this challenge very well. It dried up the last drop of pity that still remained in his cursed buccaneer’s heart.
Left alone, he tiptoed to the Feather tree, and made sure he could climb down the trunk. For a long time he stood there, brooding on his thoughts, his felt lying on the grass like an ominous bird, so that a light breeze played in his hair. However dark his purpose, his blue eyes kept the softness of the periwinkle. He spied with all his ears the bowels of the earth, but all was silent above and below; the underground house seemed perfectly empty. Was Peter asleep, or was he waiting at the foot of the Feather Tree, his dagger in his hand?
The only way to find out was to go down. Hook gently slid his coat to the ground and then, biting his lips to the quick, he stepped inside the tree. He was undoubtedly a brave man. Yet he had to stop for a moment to mop his forehead, which was dripping like a candle. Then, silently, he dashed towards the unknown.
He arrived safely at the end of the trunk and stopped again to catch his breath. As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light of the place, they gradually made out the shape of objects. But the only one on which his greedy glance stopped after having sought it a long time and found it finally, it was the large bed. And on the bed, Peter deeply asleep.
Unaware of the tragedy that had taken place up there, Peter, after the children had left, continued to play his flute happily, no doubt to prove to himself that he didn’t care. Then he decided not to take his medicine, as if to annoy Wendy. Then he lay down on the blanket, not under it, just to offend her more. (Wendy always tucked them in dutifully, because you can catch a cold without noticing during the night.) Finally, he almost cried, but suddenly realizing how disappointed she would be if, instead of crying, he burst out laughing, in the middle of which he fell asleep.
Sometimes, but rarely, he dreamed, and his dreams were more painful than those of the other boys. For hours he could not get out of these nightmares in which he moaned pitifully, and which I thought must have had to do with the mystery of his existence. At such times, Wendy used to pull him out of bed and sit him on her lap, and she would invent all sorts of cuddly things to comfort him. When he calmed down, she would put him back to bed without waking him, so that he would not know about the humiliating treatment she had given him.
But at this moment Peter was sleeping a dreamless sleep. One of his arms was hanging out of bed, one of his legs was bent upwards, and the rest of his laughter was still floating on his half-open mouth, which was revealing the little white beads.
It was in this helpless attitude that Hook found him. He stood silently in the hollow of the tree, staring at his deadly enemy across the room. Would no pity soften that hardened heart? The man was not entirely bad; he liked flowers (I was assured of that) and light music (he was not bad at the harpsichord); and, to be sincere, the idyllic character of the scene stirred him deeply. If he had listened to the voice of his better self, he would have been up.
But one thing stopped him: the impertinent air that Peter kept even in his sleep. That half-open mouth, that nonchalantly hanging arm, that bent leg taunted you with such offensive aplomb that Hook’s heart hardened like a rock. If in his rage the captain had exploded into a thousand pieces, each of those pieces, indifferent to the catastrophe, would have thrown themselves on the sleeper.
The lamp that dimly lit the bed left the captain himself in darkness. At the first step he took forward, his foot met an obstacle: the door of the tree. Upward, it did not entirely fill the opening in the trunk, and up to that point, Hook had looked over it.
But what was this? His eyes had just fallen on Peter’s medicine, lying on a shelf perfectly within his reach. He immediately guessed what it was and knew that the sleeper was in his power.
For fear of being taken alive, Hook always carried a horrible concoction made by himself from all the poison rings that had fallen into his hands. This yellowish decoction, unknown to science, was undoubtedly the most virulent of all poisonous substances.
Hook poured five drops of this liquid into the cup. As he did so, his hand trembled, more from joy than from shame, and if he avoided looking at the sleeper, it was for fear of spilling it next to him. For a long time he contemplated his victim with evil joy, then turned around and went back up into the open air at the cost of a thousand contortions. When he reappeared at the other end of the trunk, he looked like the evil himself emerging from his lair. Pulling his hat down over his eyes, he wrapped his coat around himself as if to hide the darkest part of him from the darkness of the night, and made his way through the forest while muttering strange things to himself.
Peter continued to sleep. The light from the lamp flickered and then went out, leaving the room in darkness; but Peter was still sleeping. The crocodile must have been ringing at ten o’clock when at last he sat up suddenly in his bed, awakened by who knows what. Someone was knocking very softly on the door of his tree. These cautious little knocks had an eerie resonance in the silence of the place. Peter reached for his dagger, then spoke.
– Who is there?
There was no answer, except that after a fairly long time, the little knocks started again against the door.
– Who is there?
There was no answer.
This made him flutter with emotion, which he loved, by the way. In two strides he reached the door. Unlike La Plume’s, his door was completely closed, so that he could neither see who was knocking nor be seen by them.
– I won’t open the door until you tell me who you are,” he said.
Finally, the visitor decided to speak, in a voice that tinkled prettily.
– Let me in, Peter.
It was Tink. Quickly, Peter opened the door. She rushed into the room, red with excitement and her dress covered in mud.
– What’s wrong?
So, in one grammatically incorrect sentence, but as long as a magician’s tape, she told him about the capture of Wendy and the boys.
Peter’s heart leapt in his chest. Wendy trapped on a pirate ship, she who so loved order and cleanliness!
– I’ll free her!” he cried.
As he leapt to his weapons, he saw his medicine: Wendy would be pleased if he drank it. And he stretched out his hand towards the fatal beverage.
– No!” shouted Clo in his piercing voice.
She had heard Hook talking loudly in the forest, boasting of having poisoned Peter.
– Why not?” asked Peter.
Alas! Tink couldn’t explain it, since she didn’t know the secret of the Feather Tree. But the Captain’s words left no room for doubt. There was poison in Peter’s cup.
– If Hook had come, I would have seen him,” the boy protested. I never sleep. He raised the cup to his lips. This was not the time to argue, but to act: quick as a flash, Clo placed herself between his mouth and the cup and drank the beverage to the dregs.
– You dare to drink my medicine!
But instead of answering, the fairy flapped her wings, wavering.
– Clo! What’s wrong?
Her wings barely carried her, yet she came to rest on his shoulder, nibbled tenderly on his chin and whispered in his ear.
– You fool.
And she dragged herself to her bed where she collapsed. Peter knelt sadly by Clo’s little room. The little fairy’s light was fading by the minute; if it went out, it would be gone forever, and Peter knew it. His tears gave Tink such pleasure that she put a finger on his cheek to feel them roll down.
She spoke in such a faint voice that he did not immediately understand what she was saying.
Then he understood.
Peter immediately held out his arms. There were no children here, and it was night, but Peter was speaking to all those who dreamed in the land of imagination and therefore were closer to him than you might think: boys and girls in nightgowns, baby Redskins hanging from trees in their cribs.
– Do you believe in fairies?” shouted Peter.
Tink sat up quickly on her bed, anxious to know her fate. At first she thought she heard affirmative answers, but she wasn’t sure.
– What do you think?” she asked Peter.
Many clapped. Some did not. And some of the kids whistled. Then the clapping stopped abruptly, as if all the mothers in the world had rushed to the children’s rooms at once to see what was going on. But Clo was saved. First her voice rang out again. Then she jumped out of her bed. Finally she fluttered around the room again, more joyful and bold than ever. She forgot to thank those who had applauded, but she would have loved to hold the thugs who had dared to whistle!
– And now, let’s go rescue Wendy!
The moon sailed through a cloud-heavy sky as Peter emerged from his tree, covered in weapons but otherwise scantily clad. This kind of night was not so suitable for his perilous enterprise, for he planned to fly very closely over the terrain, so as not to lose any clues. But, with this intermittent light, to fly low would have obliged him to drag his shadow among the trees, which might have disturbed the birds and alerted the enemy to his presence.
At the same time, he regretted having given the island’s birds such barbaric names that these fierce birds were difficult to approach.
There was no other solution than to make his way in the Redskin way, of which he was fortunately a fervent follower. But which way to look? There was nothing to assure him that the children had been taken aboard the ship. The snow had fallen and covered any trace of footsteps with a light layer. A deathly silence hung over the island as if nature was still reeling from the recent carnage.
Peter had introduced the children to some of the customs of the forest that he himself had learned from Tiger Lily and Clo. He hoped that in this hour of trial, the children had remembered them. The Feather had probably not missed an opportunity to make a dent in the trees, for example, Curly had probably planted seeds, or Wendy had left her handkerchief in a prominent place. But to spot such clues, one would have had to wait until morning, and time was short. The powers above had chosen Peter for this mission, but they had no intention of helping him. Except for the crocodile, which at one point passed him, no living creature manifested its presence.
Yet death, he knew, could be waiting for him at the next tree, or it could come up from behind to surprise him.
He threw down his terrible challenge:
– To us both, Captain Hook!
Sometimes he crawled through the grasses like a snake, sometimes he leapt across the moonlit glades, a finger over his mouth and his dagger ready to strike. He was supremely happy.
Chapter 14: On the Pirate Ship
A green glow leering over the Kidd’s roadstead, at the mouth of the Pirate River, signaled where that infamous den of crime, the Jolly-Roger, filthy to the hull and as repulsive as a floor stained with bloody feathers, was sailing. This terror of the seas did not need a lookout, so much so that the horror of its reputation protected it from any attack.
The night enveloped her in its thick cloak which did not let any sound filter through, except for the hum of Smee’s sewing machine. Pathetic Smee, so hardworking and helpful, the cream of the crop! I don’t know what made him so pathetic, perhaps his complete ignorance of being pathetic? Whatever it was, the manliest of men had to turn away from him to avoid the emotion that his sight inspired; and on some summer evenings he had moved Hook to tears. But of this, as of the rest, he was far from suspecting.
Some of the pirates, leaning against the railings, were drinking in the miasma of the night; others were wallowing on the barrels, playing dice or cards; the four lads who had carried the little hut were slumped on the deck, where, even in their sleep, they were skilfully rolling to one side or the other, to avoid the clawing blows that Hook was distributing as he passed. Hook thoughtfully paced the deck.
Yet there was no joy in his walk, which was regulated by the mechanism of his dark mind. Hook felt deeply downcast.
This feeling that seized him when he gathered in himself in the quiet of the night came from his painful isolation. Never did this enigmatic man feel more alone than when surrounded by his creeping servants. No, they did not belong to the same world.
Hook was not his real name. Even today, revealing his true identity would set the country on fire. But those who can read between the lines will have already guessed, he had attended one of the best schools; he had kept the customs that stuck to him like clothes (with which they have indeed more than one connection). So it was unpleasant for him, even at this late stage of his career, to take a boat on board without first having groomed himself. He affected this shuffling gait, a privilege of the education he had received. But above all, he had preserved the cult of good taste.
The right tone! At the worst of his decline, he never forgot that it was the only thing that really mattered.
From the depths of his soul came a creaking of rusty hinges, then a harsh tap-tap-tap, pounding through the night like someone who can’t sleep.
– Didn’t you get a little out of place today? That was the eternal question.
More alarmingly, wasn’t it bad form to care so much about good form? These thoughts tortured him to the core, like a thorn in his side, sharper than his iron claw. As long as this torment lasted, sweat trickled down from his waxy face to his vest. It was all very well for him to sponge his face with his sleeves, but nothing could stop the flow.
Ah, don’t envy the unfortunate Hook.
Suddenly, he had a premonition of his impending ruin, as if Peter’s terrible challenge had already hit its target. A melancholy urge to utter his last words seized him, lest later he should not be allowed to do so.
Wretched Hook!” he cried. His ambition will have lost him! (In his darkest hours he quoted himself in the third person).
– No child loves me.
He had never been troubled by this nonsensical reflection before. Was it inspired by the hum of Smee’s sewing machine? Monologuing aloud, Hook gazed longingly at Smee placidly sewing hems: the boatswain firmly believed that children were afraid of him.
Afraid of him! Who was afraid of Smee? Especially not the kids who had loved him from the start. He’d said some awful things to them, hit them with his palm, because he could never hit them with his fist, but the kids had clung to him more than ever, and Michael had even tried on his glasses.
To tell poor Smee that the kids found him sympathetic? Hook was dying to, but it would have been too cruel. So he turned the mystery over in his mind: why did they like him? He hunted down this enigma with the relentlessness of a bloodhound. What was it that made Smee so sympathetic? The answer sprang up, terrible:
– “The right tone?”
Did the Irishman possess this quality without knowing it, which is the highest of all tones? With a cry of rage, the captain raised his iron hand above Smee’s head, but a thought suspended his gesture: “Scratching someone on the pretext that he is displaying good tone, what is that?”
– “Evidence of bad tone!”
As helpless as he was clammy with sweat, the unfortunate Hook fell forward like a mown flower.
The crewmen thought he was out of it for a while, so discipline was immediately relaxed. They engaged in a frantic bacchanal, which immediately put him back on his feet. All traces of human weakness were erased from his person, as if he had been given a bucket of water.
– Peace, dunces! Or I’ll curry you!
The heckling stopped immediately.
The boys were pulled out of the hold and lined up in front of the captain, but he did not seem to notice their presence. He strolled nonchalantly along, humming a few bars of a polite chorus, while his fingers played with a deck of cards. From time to time, his cigar threw a reddish glow on his face.
– Now, my sweethearts,” he said briskly, “six of you will go on the board, but I need two cabin boys. Who will volunteer?
“Don’t irritate him unnecessarily,” Wendy had advised them in the hold. So La Guigne took a step forward with a polite air. The idea of serving as such a master did not appeal to him, and his instincts told him that in the circumstances it would be wise to blame his refusal on someone who was not present; although he was a bit of a ninny, he knew that only mothers accept to play the role of buffer. All children know this, and while they despise them for it, they do not hesitate to abuse it.
So La Guigne carefully explained:
– You see, sir, I don’t think my mother would have liked to see me become a pirate. And yours, La Plume?
He winked at La Plume, who answered as if reluctantly:
– I don’t think so either. And you, the Twins?
And the spokesmen were brutally put back in line.
– And you, my boy,” said Hook to John. You look a little more wild than the rest. Didn’t you ever dream of being a pirate, little boy? John had already experienced this kind of temptation in math class, and it flattered him to be noticed by Hook.
He wanted John to make the decision, just as John wanted him to.
– Shall we remain His Majesty’s respectful subjects?” asked John.
So far, John may not have been very well behaved, but his courage suddenly shone through.
Furious, the pirates hit them on the mouth, while Hook roared:
– You have just signed your death warrant! Let their mother be brought up, and let the plank be prepared!
The boys turned pale as they saw Truand Bill and Cecco preparing the instrument of their torment, but they put on a brave face when Wendy appeared. Words cannot describe the contempt Wendy had for the pirates. To the boys, the title of pirate might hold some prestige, but all she could see was that the ship had not been cleaned in centuries. There wasn’t a single porthole that couldn’t be written “Pigs!” on with her finger! And Wendy hadn’t minded doing it. But as the boys surrounded her, she thought only of them.
– So, honey,” Hook said in a syrupy voice, “we’re going to see her children walk the plank.
Although refined in his maintenance, his recollections had made him sweat so abundantly that his lace strawberry was all stained. He saw that Wendy fixed her glance on it, and he tried to make it disappear but too late.
– Are they doomed to die?” Wendy asked in such a tone of contempt that he almost felt bad.
Wendy was heroic.
– These are my last words, my dear children,” she said in a firm voice. I will tell you what your real mothers would have told you:
The pirates themselves listened reverently, and La Guigne cried out nervously:
– I will do what my mother wishes. And you, Zigue, what will you do?
But Hook found his voice and ordered Smee to tie Wendy to the mast. Smee obeyed.
– Listen, my sweet,” he whispered to the girl, “I will save you if you promise to be my mother.
Hook smiled at them, teeth clenched, and walked over to Wendy, intending to force her to watch the boys step one by one onto the fatal board. But he did not go to her; he did not hear the cry of anguish he had hoped to wring from her. Another sound struck his ear. Tick tock tick tock…
Pirates, boys, Wendy – all heard it and all heads turned in the same direction, not towards the sea where the sound came from, but towards Hook. Everyone knew that what was about to happen was their own business; they had gone from being actors to being spectators.
The captain was horribly changed, dislocated, as if all his joints had been dislocated. He collapsed in one small step. The ticking came steadily closer, preceded by this frightening prognosis: “The crocodile is preparing to climb aboard.”
Even the iron claw hung inert, as if aware that the enemy was not intrinsically angry with her. Thus abandoned by all, another man than Hook would have let himself go to despair, lying with his eyes closed at the very place of his fall. But Hook’s superhuman brain still struggled, and at his direction, the captain dragged himself on his knees along the deck, fleeing as far as possible from the ticking clock. The pirates respectfully led the way.
When he reached the rail, he cried out in a hoarse voice:
– Hide me!
They surrounded him at once; all eyes were turned away from the creature who was coming on board. No one had any intention of fighting it. It was Fate.
When Hook had disappeared entirely, curiosity loosened the limbs of the boys, who rushed to the other side of the boat to see the crocodile climb aboard. Then they had the strangest surprise of all on this Night of Nights. It wasn’t the crocodile that came to their rescue, but… Peter.
He signaled them to refrain from shouting in admiration, so as not to arouse the enemy’s suspicions. And he continued to tickle.
Chapter 15: “To us both, Captain Hook”
Strange things happen to all of us, on our way through life, without us taking notice of them right away. So, for example, we suddenly discover that, for an undetermined period of time, say half an hour, we can only hear with one ear. This is the kind of experience Peter had that night. When we last saw him, he was stealthily crossing the island with a finger on his lips and a dagger ready to strike. When the crocodile passed him, he noticed nothing in particular; it was only a little later that he remembered not hearing its familiar ticking. At first he found this disturbing, but then he correctly concluded that the alarm clock must have stopped.
Without wondering for a moment how a creature brutally deprived of its closest companion might feel, Peter considered how he might use the catastrophe to his own advantage; and he decided to tick so that the wild beasts, mistaking him for the crocodile, would let him pass unhindered. He ticked wonderfully, but the result was unexpected. The crocodile being one of those who heard him, began to follow him, either in order to recover what he had lost, or simply as a friend who thought he was ticking again (we will never know), for, like all people enslaved by a fixed idea, he was a stupid creature.
Peter reached the shore safely, and continued on his way; his legs entered the water as if unaware that they were entering a different element. So do many animals that move from land to water, but not a human of my acquaintance.
As he swam, Peter had only one thought: “This time it will be Hook or me!” He had gotten so used to his ticking that he did it mechanically now, without even realizing it. Had he noticed, he would have stopped at once, for it did not occur to him to board the ship using the ticking – though it was an ingenious procedure.
On the contrary, he was convinced that he had climbed the side of the brig without making more noise than a mouse. So he was quite surprised to see the pirates trembling before him, and Hook in their midst, as pitiful as if he heard the crocodile.
The crocodile! No sooner had Peter thought of him than he heard its ticking, and he glanced briefly behind him. Then he realized that he himself was the author of this noise and grasped in a flash the whole situation.
At that moment, Ed Teynte the quartermaster emerged from the forecastle and walked onto the deck. Now, reader, look at your watch and time the action. Peter strikes hard and true. With his hands, John gagged the unfortunate pirate and stifled his cry of agony. He collapses forward. Four boys rush in and muffle the sound of his fall. Peter gave the signal and the corpse was thrown overboard. A splash! then silence. How long did it last?
– One!” said The Feather. (The counting has begun.)
Peter tiptoed into the cabin. It was about time, for more than one pirate took courage to look around. Each could now hear the other’s gasping for breath, which proved that the terrible sound had stopped.
– He’s gone, Captain,” said Smee, wiping his glasses. All is quiet. Slowly, Hook poked his head out from under his burr, and strained his ear so hard that he could have heard the ticking echo. Hearing nothing, he got back on his feet firmly.
For now that the boys had seen him soften, he hated them more than ever. And he sang the following infamous verse:
“Yo ho, yo ho, the pretty board! Let’s stroll along in small steps Till it bends and sends us Drinking from the big cup!”
To further terrorize his prisoners, though his dignity suffered, he began to dance on an imaginary plank while singing and grimacing. When he had finished, he shouted:
– Would you like a pat from the cat of nine tails, before you walk the plank?
Everyone fell to their knees.
– No! no!” they begged in a pitiful voice that brought a smile to the pirates’ cruel faces.
The cabin! Peter was in the cabin too! The children exchanged glances.
– The boys followed him with their eyes as he entered the cabin; they hardly noticed that Hook had resumed his song, accompanied by his servile dogs
“Yo ho, yo ho, the clawed cat! Don’t forget he’s got nine tails, And when they write on your back…”
What happened next, we’ll never know, for a horrible howl from the cabin interrupted the singers. The wail spread across the deck before being lost in the distance. It was followed by a song of victory, one that the boys knew well, and which frightened the pirates even more than the howl.
– What was that?” asked Hook.
After a minute’s hesitation, the Italian Cecco rushed into the cabin. He came out staggering and haggard.
Well, you dog! What happened to the Truand?” hissed Hook, standing in front of him.
– What happened to him is that he’s dead, stabbed!” said Cecco in a white voice.
The look of jubilation on the boys’ faces, the looks of distress on the pirates’ faces, none of this escaped Hook’s notice.
– Cecco,” he said in his firmest tone, “go back to the cabin, and bring me that crower!
Cecco, the brave of the brave, refused, trembling; but Hook stroked his claw with a sinister air.
– Did you say you would go, Cecco?” he said dreamily.
Cecco left, raising his arms in despair. This time there was no more singing, everyone was listening. Again there was a cry of agony, then another of victory. No one breathed a word, except the Feather.
– And that’s three!” he said.
With a gesture, Hook gathered his troops.
– Stupid bleeding herrings!” he thundered. Which one of you is going to bring me back this cockamamie pusher?
Mutiny?” asked Hook, friendlier than ever. And Starkey leads the way!
– Please, Captain,” moaned Starkey, shaking from head to toe.
He grabbed a lantern and brandished his hook with a threatening air:
– I’ll get that animal myself!
And he resolutely entered the cabin.
“And five!” Oh, how the Quill was stamping his feet in anticipation. He moistened his lips to get ready to say it, but Hook stumbled out of the cabin without his lantern.
– Something blew out the flame,” he said in an uncertain voice.
His unwillingness to return to the cabin made an unfavorable impression on the crew, and new calls for mutiny arose. All pirates are superstitious. And Cookson observed.
– They say that the surest sign of a cursed ship is when there is one more person on board than you can count.
I’ve heard,” Mullins muttered, “that pirate ships are haunted near their end. Did he have a tail, Captain? They say that when ‘he’ comes,” added a third with a look of hatred for Hook, “he” takes on the appearance of the meanest man on board.
Did he have a hook?” scoffed Cookson insolently.
And one after another, everyone repeated: This ship is doomed. At this, the children could not help but cheer. Hook had almost forgotten his prisoners; as he swayed from one foot to the other, circling around them, his eyes suddenly lit up.
– Guys!” he called out to the crew, “I have an idea. Open the cabin door, and push the kids in there. Let them deal with the crower. If they kill him, good for us; if he kills them, too bad for them and not bad for us.
For the last time, these crawling dogs admired their captain and faithfully carried out his orders. The boys, pretending to balk, were pushed into the cabin and the door closed on them.
– And now, let’s listen!” shouted Hook.
Everyone listened, but no one dared to look at the door. Only one dared, Wendy, who had been tied to the mast the whole time. She expected neither a cry of agony nor a crow of triumph, but to see Peter reappear.
She didn’t wait long. Peter had finally found what he was looking for: the key that would free the children from their chains.
As they slipped out of the cabin, armed with whatever weapons they could find, Peter signaled for them to stay hidden until he had cut the bonds that bound Wendy. This was soon done, and then nothing would have been easier than to fly away together. But Peter’s challenge, “Together, Captain Hook,” stood in their way. Peter whispered in Wendy’s ear to go hide with the rest of the gang and he himself took his place at the foot of the mast, wrapped in the girl’s coat. Then, taking a breath, he let out his victory cheer.
The pirates thought for a moment that all the boys were lying dead in the cabin. Hook tried to revive their courage. But he had turned them into dogs, and the dogs showed him their fangs. If he looked away, they would jump on him.
– Guys,” he said, ready to cajole or strike as the cause required, but not in the least abdicating, “I know what it’s like. There’s a bird of misfortune on board.
They rushed to what they thought was Wendy.
– No one can save you now, missy!” scoffed Mullins.
Yes, there is!” replied the figure wrapped in the coat.
– Who is he?
The next thing I knew, the whole ship was clanging with weapons. If the pirates had banded together, they could have won.
When there was not a single one left on board, a group of eager boys surrounded Hook, who seemed delighted with the opportunity as he held them at bay in his circle of fire. They had defeated his men, but he alone was a match for them all. Every time they came back, he pushed them away from him. He had lifted one boy with his hook and was using him as a shield, when another, who had just run his sword through Mullins, jumped into the fray.
– Raise your swords, boys!” cried the newcomer, “this man belongs to me! And suddenly Hook found himself face to face with Peter. The others stepped back and formed a circle around them.
The two exchanged a long look; Hook shivered slightly, and Peter wore his strange smile.
– So, Pan,” said Hook at last, “this is all your doing!
Without exchanging further words, they set to work, and for a while there was no advantage on either side. Peter was a magnificent fencer, and parried the blows with lightning speed; he feinted, then extended a boot that surprised the opposing defense.
Unfortunately, the insufficient range of his blows handicapped him since he could not hit the enemy. Hook, as brilliant if not as quick in the wrist game, forced him to retreat under the momentum of his assaults, hoping to finish quickly with a secret boot that Barbecue had taught him, another time in Rio. But to his great disappointment, the boot was diverted at each of his attempts. He then wanted to strike the coup de grace with his iron hook that tore the air. Peter dodged, ducked underneath, and delivered a decisive blow that pierced the captain between the ribs. At the sight of his own blood, whose unusual color, as you will recall, was unbearable to him, the sword fell from his hand and he found himself at Peter’s mercy.
– Finish him off!” the boys shouted.
But with a sublime gesture, Peter invited his enemy to pick up his sword.
Hook was not told twice, but with the tragic feeling that Peter was giving him a lesson in manners.
Until then, he thought he was fighting a demon, but darker suspicions assailed him.
– Who are you, Pan?” he shouted.
This absurd answer nevertheless proved that Peter had no idea what he was, which is the highest degree of good taste.
– En garde!” shouted Hook, desperate.
He was now fighting like a scythe made man, each stroke of his terrible blade would have cut in two any opponent, adult or child. But Peter fluttered around him, as if the wind of the swords cleaving the air was driving him out of the danger zone. And he was pointing, stabbing, relentlessly. Hook felt lost. This passionate heart did not ask to beat anymore. It only asked for one more favor before it froze to always see Peter commit a villainy.
Giving up the fight, he rushed to the ammunition locker and set it on fire.
– In two minutes, he cried, the ship will explode!
“For the time being, nature will come back at a gallop!” he presumed.
But Peter came out of the hold holding the flaming wick in his hands and threw it overboard.
Hook himself, how did he behave in this supreme moment? Corrupt as he was, we rejoice, though we do not sympathize with him, that he knew how to end in beauty, true to the traditions of his race. The boys flew around him, mocking and scorning. As he staggered about the deck, dealing random, impotent blows, his mind was no longer with them; he was slumped on the playing fields of yesteryear, dismissed for good and watching the game like a player on the sidelines, but what a sideline!
Farewell, O Jacques Crochet, we salute you, although you are not quite a hero!
For here he is in his last hour.
As Peter flew slowly towards him, dagger raised, he jumped over the rail and plunged into the water. He did not know that the crocodile was waiting for him there; we stopped the alarm clock on purpose, so as to spare him this painful information: isn’t it the least we can do to show him some respect at the moment of his death?
He had a last triumph that we will recognize without skimping. As he stepped over the rail, with a gesture he invited Peter to use his foot rather than his dagger. So instead of striking, Peter shot. Hook had obtained the favor he so desired!
– Shocking!” he exclaimed happily, and he surrendered himself with a happy heart to the crocodile.
Thus perished James Hook.
– Seventeen!” proclaimed La Plume.
But he was wrong in his calculations. Only fifteen paid for their crimes that night and two made it to shore.
Starkey, who was to be captured by the Redskins and condemned to serve as their nanny, a melancholy downfall for a pirate; and Smee, who henceforth wandered the world in spectacles, earning a meager living by pretending he was the only man James Hook had ever feared.
Meanwhile, Wendy had stood outside the fight, watching Peter with shining eyes. Now that it was over, she regained her importance. She admired them all equally, and shivered delightfully when Michael showed her the spot where he had killed a pirate. Then she led them into Hook’s cabin, and pointing a finger at the dead captain’s watch hanging on a nail, said:
– Half past one!” she said.
The late hour mattered more to her than anything else. Quickly, she installed them in the pirate bunks, and we can be sure that it didn’t drag. Peter was allowed to roam the deck until he fell asleep at the foot of the cannon. One of his nightmares visited him, he cried for a long time in his sleep, and Wendy had to hold him close.
Chapter 16: The Return
Two blasts of the bell that morning invited them to shake their gibbets, for the sea was big. La Guigne, promoted to boatswain, was with them, a piece of rope in his hand and a chew of tobacco in his mouth. All of them had put on their pirate clothes, shortened to the knees, had shaved fresh, and were walking on deck with an authentic swaying gait, pulling up their pants.
Needless to say, who was the captain? Bon Zigue and John were first and second mates respectively. There was one woman on board. The rest of the crew were simple maturines and stood on the forecastle. Peter was still at the helm, but he gathered the crew together to give a brief address. He hoped they would all do their duty as valiant little fellows, but he made no secret of the fact that they were the scum of Rio and the Gold Coast, and warned them that if they tried to bite him, he would tear them apart without mercy. This harsh language went straight to the hearts of the sailors, who cheered him vigorously. A few curt orders were given, and they turned the ship toward the mainland.
After consulting the chart, Captain Pan calculated that, if this weather held, they would reach the Azores around June 21, after which they would have plenty of time to finish the voyage by flying.
Some wanted the ship to return to the law, others wanted it to remain a pirate ship; but the captain treated them like dogs, and they dared not express their wishes to him, not even by petition. It was safer to stick to strict obedience. Feather was given a dozen lashes for looking puzzled as he was ordered to raise the probe. The general opinion was that Peter was behaving properly at the moment only to allay Wendy’s suspicions, but it was felt that he would soon change his attitude, as soon as the new costume the girl was cutting for him against his will from Hook’s nastiest clothes was ready. Afterwards, it was rumored that the first night he wore this costume, he sat in the cabin for a long time with Hook’s cigarette holder to his lips, and all the fingers of one hand bent, except for the index finger, which he held curved up menacingly like a hook.
Instead of watching the boat, however, we had better now return to the home so long deserted by our three heartless.
So we venture into this familiar room only because its legal occupants are already on their way home. We simply go ahead of them to make sure the beds are all made up and that Mr. and Mrs. Darling have no plans to go out that night. We are nothing more than servants. But why should the beds be all ready, when their owners have left them in such an ungracious hurry? They would be caught if, on returning home, they discovered that their parents had gone to the country. Such is the lesson they deserve since we met them. But if we arranged things that way, Mrs. Darling would never forgive us.
Above all, what we would like to do is to tell her, in the way the authors do, that the children are on their way and will arrive Thursday in eight. That would completely ruin the surprise that Wendy, John and Michael have planned. They’ve got it all worked out on the boat: Mom’s happiness, Dad’s squeal of delight, Nana’s leaping in the air to be the first to kiss them, when they’d better get ready for a good beating. Ah, how exquisite it would be to spoil this pleasure for them by revealing the news in advance! So that when they made their grand entrance, Mrs. Darling would not even offer Wendy a kiss, and Mr. Darling would exclaim grumpily, “Blast it, here come the boys again!” But we wouldn’t get a thank you for that. We are getting to know Mrs. Darling by now, and are sure she would blame us for depriving the children of their little pleasure.
But, dear lady, Thursday in eight is only ten days away. By telling you now, we can save you ten days of sadness!
– Yes, but at what price! Frustrating the children with ten minutes of joy.
As you can see, this woman has no character. We, who intended to say extraordinarily nice things about her, despise her and will keep our praise to ourselves. Does she really need to be told to have everything ready, when everything is already ready? The beds are made, she never leaves the house, and, mind you, the window is open. Since we are of no use to her, we might as well go back to the boat. However, we are here, so let’s stay and watch. That’s what we are, just spectators. Since no one really needs us, let’s just watch and try to say offensive things in the hope that a few will hurt.
The only change in the children’s room is that between nine in the morning and six in the evening, the doghouse is not there.
When the children flew away, Mr. Darling felt that all the blame fell on him for having chained up Nana, who, from beginning to end, had been more reasonable than he. As we have seen, he was a very simple man. He could even have passed for a boy, if he had been able to cure himself of his baldness. But, on the other hand, he had a sense of justice, and the courage of a lion to do what he believed to be his duty. After the children had left, he thought long and hard about the whole affair and crawled into the doghouse. No matter how tenderly Mrs. Darling urged him to come out, he always gave her a sad but firm answer:
– No, my dear, this is my place.
Bitterly remorseful, he swore that he would not leave the kennel until the children returned. It was a pity, of course. But Mr. Darling, no matter what he did, pushed everything to the limit; otherwise, he would soon give up. Never was there a more humble man than George Darling, who was once so proud as he stood in his kennel in the evening, chatting with his wife about their children and their delightful habits.
He was touchingly solicitous of Nana. He would never allow her to return to her kennel, but for the rest, he did his bidding.
Every morning the kennel with Mr. Darling in it was carried to a carriage which took them to the office and brought them home at six o’clock in the same way.
It could have been grotesque, in truth it was full of grandeur. Soon the deep meaning of his conduct was understood, and the generous hearts of the public were moved. Cohorts of onlookers followed his carriage, cheering warmly; charming young girls stormed him to ask for an autograph. Interviews appeared in the best newspapers, good people invited him to dinner and added:
– Be nice, come to your doghouse.
During this eventful week, Mrs. Darling sat in the children’s room waiting for George to return. She was once so cheerful, she looked like a sad person. All her cheerfulness had vanished with the loss of her children. And we no longer feel the strength to sarcasm her. If she loved those damn kids too much, could she help it? Look at her, she’s fallen asleep in her chair. The corner of her mouth, the first thing we look at, is almost withered. Her hand nervously hugs her heart, as if it hurts. Some people prefer Peter, others Wendy; we prefer her. Let’s suppose that, to please her, we whisper to her in her sleep that the mustards will soon return.
They’re only a few miles from the window now, and they’re flying fast, but we won’t say it, we’ll only whisper that they’re on their way. Only that…
Too bad, we shouldn’t have! For Mrs. Darling jumped up, calling her children’s names, and there is no one in the room but Nana.
– Oh Nana! I dreamed my darlings were back.
Nana’s eyes mist up with tears. All she can do is to gently put her paw on her mistress’ lap. Just then, the doghouse arrived. Mr. Darling pokes his head out to kiss his wife. His face is more weary than before, but his expression is softer. He hands his hat to Liza, who takes it with contempt. This girl has no imagination, she is unable to understand the motives of such a man. Outside, the crowd that had accompanied the carriage to the door continued to cheer. Naturally, Mr. Darling could not remain insensitive.
– Listen,” he says. It’s comforting all the same.
Liza shrugs, but Mr. Darling has no word of reproach. His worldly successes have not spoiled his character, they have softened it. For the moment, he sits half in the doghouse, half out, talking about these successes with his wife. he presses her hand to reassure her, for she fears that it has turned her head.
– How weak I have been,” he sighs. Oh my God, how weak I have been!
Mrs. Darling begs his pardon; and, as he feels himself dozing off, he lies down in a circle in the doghouse.
– Play me something to put me to sleep, please,” he begs her. Mr. Darling moves to the piano next door in the playroom, but her husband adds dazedly:
In turn, he asked her to forgive him, and she went to the piano. He soon falls asleep. And while he is sleeping, Wendy, John and Michael fly into the room.
No, no! That was the lovely program they had planned before we left the ship, which is why we wrote it. But something must have happened since then, because instead of them, Peter and Tinkerbell are flying in.
Peter’s first words explain everything.
– Quick, Clo!” he whispers, “close the window, put the wheel in. All right, Clo. We’ll have to go back through the door. And when Wendy arrives, she’ll think her mother doesn’t want her. She’ll have to go back with me.
Now we understand what has puzzled us up to now: why Peter, after having exterminated the pirates, stayed on the boat in the
instead of returning to the Island and letting Clo escort the children to the mainland.
Now, far from feeling any remorse, he dances and jumps for joy. Then he sneaks a peek into the other room to see who is playing.
– That’s Wendy’s mom,” he whispered to Tink. She’s pretty, but mine is prettier. Her mouth is full of dice, but not as full as my mom’s.
He loves to brag about his mother, although he doesn’t know anything about her, of course. Mrs. Darling is playing “Home, Sweet Home”; Peter doesn’t know the tune, but he guesses it means, “Come back, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. And he says, triumphantly:
– You’ll never see Wendy again, ma’am, because the window is securely shut.
Again he glanced to the side, where the music had fallen silent; he saw that Mr. Darling had laid his head on the piano wood, two tears were beading in his eyes.
“She wants me to remove the bar,” thinks Peter, “but I won’t do it, not me anyway!” Another glance: the tears are still there, unless two others have replaced them.
“She loves Wendy passionately,” Peter thinks to himself, and he is angry with her for not understanding that he cannot give Wendy back to her. The reason is simple: “I love her passionately too. We can’t both have her, ma’am.”
But the lady doesn’t seem to accept this reason, and Peter is unhappy. Even when he stops looking at her, she doesn’t let him go. He skips here and there, makes faces, but when he stops, it’s as if she’s inside him, banging on the window.
– Well, that’s fine!” he finally says, his throat tight. And he removes the bar from the window.
We don’t want any of these silly mothers.
And he flies away.
And so Wendy, John and Michael found the window open after all, and it was more than they deserved. They landed shamelessly on the floor. The youngest of the three had forgotten all about the house.
– John,” he said, looking around doubtfully, “it seems to me that I have been here before.
And he rushed to look inside.
– Maybe Nana is in there?” asked Wendy.
John hissed in surprise.
– He said, “There’s a man in the doghouse.
What a blow to him if those were the first words he had to hear from his little Michael! Wendy and John, meanwhile, were a little disconcerted to discover their father in the doghouse.
– Surely,” said John, as one who no longer trusted his memory, “he wasn’t used to sleeping in the doghouse.
All the same,” said that bandit John, “how careless of Mother! Not to be here for our return! At that moment, Mrs. Darling began to play again.
– It’s Mama!” cried Wendy, glancing around.
But such joyous news should be delivered gently and carefully, thought Wendy, who had a better plan.
– Let’s get into bed, so that when Mother comes into the room, it will be as if we had never left.
Indeed, when Mrs. Darling returned to the room to make sure her husband was asleep, all the beds were occupied. The children expected her to cry out, but she did not. She saw them, but didn’t think they were there. She had seen them in their beds so often in her dreams that she thought her dream was just coming back to haunt her.
She sat in her chair by the fire, where she had so often cradled them in her arms. They no longer understood, and fear gripped all three of them.
– Mama!” cried Wendy.
But they did! They surrounded Wendy, John, Michael, who had jumped out of bed to throw themselves against her.
And Mr. Darling awoke to share his happiness, and Nana came storming in. One could not have dreamed of a more charming picture, but there was no one to see it but a strange boy peering out of the window. Sometimes he experienced unheard-of bliss, forbidden to other children, but at this moment he was looking through the glass at the only joy that was forever denied him.
Chapter 17: Many years have passed…
I hope you want to know what happened to the other boys. They waited on the first floor, to give Wendy time to explain about them; and, when they had counted to five hundred, they went upstairs. They went up the stairs, thinking it would make a better impression. They lined up in front of Mrs. Darling, bareheaded, and would have given anything not to be dressed as pirates. They were silent, but their eyes spoke for them and implored Mrs. Darling to keep them. They should have looked at Mr. Darling too, but they forgot to do so.
Naturally, Mr. Darling said at once that she would keep them. But Mr. Darling seemed strangely demoralized, and they could see that six was a very large number to him.
– I must admit,” he said to Wendy, “you don’t do things by halves.
A petty remark that the Twins took personally. The first of the Twins was not lacking in pride, and said with a blush:
– If you think we’re a nuisance, sir, we can leave.
But the storm was still roaring over him: he knew he was misbehaving but couldn’t help it.
– We could sleep folded in half,” suggested Bon Zigue.
Then Mr. Darling burst into tears and the truth came out. He was as glad as she was to keep them, he said, but he thought he might have been asked for her consent, too, instead of treating him as a zero under his own roof.
– I do not find that he is a zero! exclaimed at once La Guigne. And you, Curly?
It turned out that none of them looked at him as a loser; ridiculously satisfied, he declared that he would find room for them all in the living room, provided they could fit.
We’ll fit,” they assured him.
In that case, follow the guide! he said cheerfully. I warn you, I’m not sure we have a living room, but we pretend to have one, which is the same thing. Here we go!
He danced off through the house, and everyone shouted and danced after him, looking for the lounge. I don’t know if they found it. In any case, they found corners where they fit very well.
As for Peter, he saw Wendy once more before flying away. He didn’t exactly come to the window, but he brushed past it, so that if Wendy wanted, she could open it and call him. Which she did.
– Hi, Wendy, goodbye,” he said.
And… don’t you want to say a few words to my parents, about… a delicate matter?
Mrs. Darling moved to the window, for she was now watching her Wendy with a watchful eye. She told Peter that she was adopting the lost boys and would gladly keep him, too.
– And you’d send me to school?” he asked cautiously.
And Mrs. Darling held out her arms to him, but he pushed her away.
– Back off, my good woman! No one will have me! No one will make a man of me!
Peter promised not to forget, and he flew away. He took Mrs. Darling’s kiss with him. The kiss that no one else could take, it was Peter who took it, and without any difficulty. Strange, isn’t it? And she didn’t even seem angry.
Of course, all the boys had to go to school. Most of them went to the third grade, but La Plume was put in the fourth and then the fifth. First grade was the highest.
After a week of school, they realized how foolish they had been not to stay in school, but it was too late; soon they settled down and became as ordinary as you or I or Dupont Junior. Sad to say, they gradually lost the gift of flying. At first, Nana would tie their feet to the bars of the bed so they wouldn’t fly away at night; during the day, one of their favorite amusements was to pretend to fall off the bus. But little by little, they stopped pulling on their bonds in bed and realized that it was painful to fall off a bus. In the end, they couldn’t even fly after their hats. They called it lack of exercise, but in truth, it meant they didn’t believe in it anymore.
Michael believed it longer than the others, despite the ridicule it brought. So he was there when Peter came to pick up Wendy at the end of first grade. She flew away in the very dress she had woven in Neverland from wild leaves and berries. His only fear was that he would notice how short the dress had become, but he paid no attention to it, so much so that he had to say about himself.
She had hoped they would shiver together at the memory of the good old days, but new adventures had driven the old ones from her mind.
– Who is Captain Hook?” he asked curiously when she told him about ex-enemy number one.
When, without really believing it, she asked if the fairy Clo would be happy to see her again, he answered:
– Who is the fairy Clo ?
But no matter how much she explained it to him, he had forgotten everything.
– You understand, he said, they are so numerous. I suppose that one is dead.
He was probably right, because fairies don’t live long, but they are so small that a very short time seems like an eternity to them.
Wendy was still saddened to discover that for Peter, last year was closer than yesterday. This year had seemed so long to her. But he was as handsome as ever, and the spring cleaning of the tree house went delightfully well.
The next year, he didn’t show up. She waited for him, wearing a new dress because the old one would not have been suitable. But he did not come.
– Maybe he’s sick,” said Michael.
Michael moved closer and whispered to him, with a shiver
– What if he doesn’t exist?
Wendy would have cried if Michael hadn’t beaten her to it. Peter came back the next year and, oddly enough, he didn’t realize he had skipped a year.
That was the last time Wendy saw him as a girl.
When they finally met again, Wendy was a married woman and Peter was just a bit of dust on the chest where she had kept her toys. Wendy had become a grown-up. There was no need to moan about her fate. She was one of those girls who liked to grow up, and even became an adult of her own free will, a day earlier than the other girls.
In the meantime, all the boys had become stale adults, so it’s hardly worth dwelling on them. You could see the Twins, Bon Zigue and Le Frisé going to the office every day, each carrying a briefcase and an umbrella. Michael drives a locomotive; The Feather has married a lady of title, he has become a lord. Do you see that judge in the wig coming out of that iron door? Formerly, it was La Guigne. And that bearded man who doesn’t have a story to tell his children was once John. Wendy got married in a white dress and pink veil. It is strange that Peter did not come to the church to prevent the banns from being published.
More years have passed. Now Wendy has a daughter. This should be written not in ink but in gold letters.
The child’s name is Jane. She has always had a strangely questioning look in her eyes, as if from the moment she arrived on the mainland, she already had questions to ask. And when she was old enough to ask them, almost all of them were about Peter Pan. Jane loves to be told about it, and Wendy tells her everything she can remember, in the very room where the famous flight took place. That room is now Jane’s because her father bought it at three percent from Wendy’s father, who has no taste for stairs. Mrs. Darling is dead already, and forgotten.
There are only two beds left in the room, Jane’s and her maid’s, for Nana too has lived. She died at an advanced age and, in the end, it became difficult to get along with her, firmly convinced that she was the only one who knew how to deal with children.
Once a week, Jane’s maid has the day off, so Wendy puts the child to bed. It was a blessed time for stories. Jane has invented a tent by lifting her sheet over her mother’s head and her own. And in that dreaded darkness, she whispers:
– Tell me what you see.
Other times, Wendy admits that she does indeed see something.
– I think it’s this room.
They embarked on the great adventure of the night when Peter returned to find his shadow.
– Stupid boy!” said Wendy, “He was trying to glue it back together with soap! When he couldn’t, he started crying, which woke me up. So I sewed up his shadow for him.
Wendy said this with a smile. It shows how grown up she is.
– What did her song sound like?
Wendy tried to imitate Peter’s victory cry.
– No, it wasn’t like this,” Jane said gravely, “but like this.
And she did it so much better than her mother that Wendy was a little taken aback.
– How do you know it was like that, dear?
Then one night the drama happened. It was springtime. Jane had had her story and was now asleep in bed. Wendy was sitting on the floor, close to the fire that lit her mending, for there was no other light in the room; and as she mended, she heard a triumphant song. Then the window opened, as of old, and Peter landed on the floor.
He had not changed at all, and Wendy saw at once that he still had his baby teeth.
He was a little boy, and she was a big person. She huddled by the fire, not daring to make a move, distraught and as if she, the big woman, was at fault.
– Hi, Wendy!
He didn’t notice any difference, being mostly occupied with himself, and in the dim light he could mistake Wendy’s white dress for the nightgown in which he had first seen her.
– Hi, Peter,” she said in a muffled voice, settling down to look smaller.
Something in her was crying, “Woman, woman, leave me.”
– Here, where’s John?” asked Peter, realizing that a third bed was missing.
But immediately she reproached herself for being disloyal to him as well as to Jane.
– It’s not Michael,” she hastened to correct, lest some punishment come upon her head.
Peter looked on.
– Is that a new child?
Surely, he would understand now. But no, not in the least!
– ‘Peter,’ she said hesitantly, ‘you don’t expect me to fly away with you?
He added in a tone of slight reproach
– Have you forgotten that it is time to do the spring cleaning?
What’s the point of reminding him that he’s let more than one go?
– I can’t come,” she apologized, “I can’t fly at all.
She had risen; and fear at last assailed the boy.
– What is it?” he cried, backing away.
As far as I know, this was the only time in his life that Peter was afraid.
– Don’t turn on the light, he begged.
She gently stroked the tragic little orphan’s hair. She was not a little girl with a heart broken with grief for him; she was a grown woman, whom all this made smile, yet her smiles were wet. Then she lit the lamp, and Peter saw. He gave a cry of pain; and when this beautiful creature bent over him to lift him in her arms, he recoiled fiercely.
– What is it?” he asked again.
This time she could no longer evade him.
– I’m old, Peter. I’m already over twenty. I grew up a long time ago.
But he believed her, and took a step towards the sleeping child, his dagger raised. Of course, he didn’t hit her. Instead of striking, he sat on the floor and sobbed. And Wendy didn’t know how to comfort him, she who used to do it so well. She was just a woman now, and she rushed out of the room to sort out her thoughts.
Peter was still crying his eyes out, and his sobs finally woke Jane up. She sat up in bed, immediately interested.
– Why are you crying, little boy?
Peter got up and bowed to her, which she returned from her bed.
– Good morning,” he said.
When Wendy returned, embarrassed, she found Peter sitting on the wood of the bed, crowing victoriously, while Jane in her nightgown fluttered across the room in solemn ecstasy.
– That’s my mother,” said Peter.
Jane came downstairs and stood beside him with that expression on her face that he liked to see in the ladies who looked at him.
– He needs a mother so badly,” said Jane. – I know,” Wendy admitted unhappily.
He rose into the air and so did impudent little Jane. Already she was flying better than she was walking. Wendy rushed to the window.
– No! No!” she shouted.
Of course, Wendy finally gave in and let them fly away together.
The last vision we have of her shows her at the window, watching the children drift away into the sky until they are no bigger than the stars. And as you gaze at Wendy, you see her hair turn white, her figure become small again, for all that happened long ago. Jane is now an ordinary grown-up with a little girl named Margaret. And every spring cleaning season, Peter (except in years when he forgets) picks Margaret up and takes her to the land of imagination, where she tells him stories of which he is the hero and to which he listens passionately. When Margaret grows up, she will have a daughter, destined to be Peter’s mother in turn; and so it will go on, as long as the children are happy, innocent and heartless.
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D’AUTRES CONTES QUI POURRAIENT VOUS PLAIRE:
LE DICTACONTE (BETA)
2) Réduisez l’enregistreur pour lire le conte en recliquant sur l’icône en bas de l’écran.
3) Éditez et sauvegardez en recliquant sur en bas.
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IMPORTANT: Vous devrez accepter l'accès au microphoneActiver le dictaconte
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