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| Home | Reading Room PETER PAN

[James Matthew Barrie]

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Chapter 4


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

That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but

even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners,

could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you

see, just said anything that came into his head.

At first his companions trusted him implicitly, and so great

were the delights of flying that they wasted time circling round

church spires or any other tall objects on the way that took

their fancy.

John and Michael raced, Michael getting a start.

They recalled with contempt that not so long ago they had

thought themselves fine fellows for being able to fly round a room.

Not long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea

before this thought began to disturb Wendy seriously. John

thought it was their second sea and their third night.

Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were

very cold and again too warm. Did they really feel hungry at

times, or were they merely pretending, because Peter had such a

jolly new way of feeding them? His way was to pursue birds who

had food in their mouths suitable for humans and snatch it from

them; then the birds would follow and snatch it back; and they

would all go chasing each other gaily for miles, parting at last

with mutual expressions of good-will. But Wendy noticed with

gentle concern that Peter did not seem to know that this was

rather an odd way of getting your bread and butter, nor even

that there are other ways.

Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy;

and that was a danger, for the moment they popped off, down they

fell. The awful thing was that Peter thought this funny.

"There he goes again!" he would cry gleefully, as Michael

suddenly dropped like a stone.

"Save him, save him!" cried Wendy, looking with horror at the

cruel sea far below. Eventually Peter would dive through the air,

and catch Michael just before he could strike the sea, and it was

lovely the way he did it; but he always waited till the last

moment, and you felt it was his cleverness that interested him

and not the saving of human life. Also he was fond of variety,

and the sport that engrossed him one moment would suddenly cease

to engage him, so there was always the possibility that the next

time you fell he would let you go.

He could sleep in the air without falling, by merely lying on

his back and floating, but this was, partly at least, because he

was so light that if you got behind him and blew he went faster.

"Do be more polite to him," Wendy whispered to John, when they

were playing "Follow my Leader."

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

When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the

water and touch each shark's tail in passing, just as in the

street you may run your finger along an iron railing. They

could not follow him in this with much success, so perhaps it was

rather like showing off, especially as he kept looking behind to

see how many tails they missed.

"You must be nice to him," Wendy impressed on her brothers.

"What could we do if he were to leave us!"

"We could go back," Michael said.

"How could we ever find our way back without him?"

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

"That is the awful thing, John. We should have to go on, for

we don't know how to stop."

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

John said that if the worst came to the worst, all they had to

do was to go straight on, for the world was round, and so in time

they must come back to their own window.

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

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

"After the twentieth try," Wendy reminded him. "And even

though we became good a picking up food, see how we bump against

clouds and things if he is not near to give us a hand."

Indeed they were constantly bumping. They could now fly

strongly, though they still kicked far too much; but if they saw

a cloud in front of them, the more they tried to avoid it, the

more certainly did they bump into it. If Nana had been with them,

she would have had a bandage round Michael's forehead by this time.

Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather

lonely up there by themselves. He could go so much faster than

they that he would suddenly shoot out of sight, to have some

adventure in which they had no share. He would come down

laughing over something fearfully funny he had been saying to a

star, but he had already forgotten what it was, or he would come

up with mermaid scales still sticking to him, and yet not be able

to say for certain what had been happening. It was really rather

irritating to children who had never seen a mermaid.

"And if he forgets them so quickly," Wendy argued, "how can we

expect that he will go on remembering us?"

Indeed, sometimes when he returned he did not remember them, at

least not well. Wendy was sure of it. She saw recognition come

into his eyes as he was about to pass them the time of day and go

on; once even she had to call him by name.

"I'm Wendy," she said agitatedly.

He was very sorry. "I say, Wendy," he whispered to her,

"always if you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying `I'm

Wendy,' and then I'll remember."

Of course this was rather unsatisfactory. However, to make

amends he showed them how to lie out flat on a strong wind that

was going their way, and this was such a pleasant change that

they tried it several times and found that could sleep thus with

security. Indeed they would have slept longer, but Peter tired

quickly of sleeping, and soon he would cry in his captain voice,

"We get off here." So with occasional tiffs, but on the whole

rollicking, they drew near the Neverland; for after many moons

they did reach it, and, what is more, they had been going pretty

straight all the time, not perhaps so much owing to the guidance

of Peter or Tink as because the island was looking for them. It

is only thus that any one may sight those magic shores.

"There it is," said Peter calmly.

"Where, where?"

"Where all the arrows are pointing."

Indeed a million golden arrows were pointing it out to the

children, all directed by their friend the sun, who wanted

them to be sure of their way before leaving them for the night.

Wendy and John and Michael stood on tip-toe in the air to get

their first sight of the island. Strange to say, they all

recognized it at once, and until fear fell upon them they hailed

it, not as something long dreamt of and seen at last, but as a

familiar friend to whom they were returning home for the holidays.

"John, there's the lagoon."

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

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

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

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

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

little whelp!"

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

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

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

redskin camp!"

"Where? Show me, and I'll tell you by the way smoke curls

whether they are on the war-path."

"There, just across the Mysterious River."

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

Peter was a little annoyed with them for knowing so much, but

if he wanted to lord it over them his triumph was at hand, for

have I not told you that anon fear fell upon them?

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

In the old days at home the Neverland had always begun to look

a little dark and threatening by bedtime. Then unexplored

patches arose in it and spread, black shadows moved about in

them, the roar of the beasts of prey was quite different now, and

above all, you lost the certainty that you would win. You were

quite glad that the night-lights were on. You even liked Nana to

say that this was just the mantelpiece over here, and that the

Neverland was all make-believe.

Of course the Neverland had been make-believe in those days,

but it was real now, and there were no night-lights, and it was

getting darker every moment, and where was Nana?

They had been flying apart, but they huddled close to Peter

now. His careless manner had gone at last, his eyes were

sparkling, and a tingle went through them every time they touched

his body. They were now over the fearsome island, flying so low

that sometimes a tree grazed their feet. Nothing horrid was

visible in the air, yet their progress had become slow and

laboured, exactly as if they were pushing their way through

hostile forces. Sometimes they hung in the air until Peter had

beaten on it with his fists.

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

"Who are they?" Wendy whispered, shuddering.

But he could not or would not say. Tinker Bell had been asleep

on his shoulder, but now he wakened her and sent her on in front.

Sometimes he poised himself in the air, listening intently, with

his hand to his ear, and again he would stare down with eyes so

bright that they seemed to bore two holes to earth. Having done

these things, he went on again.

His courage was almost appalling. "Would you like an adventure

now," he said casually to John, "or would you like to have your

tea first?"

Wendy said "tea first" quickly, and Michael pressed her hand

in gratitude, but the braver John hesitated.

"What kind of adventure?" he asked cautiously.

"There's a pirate asleep in the pampas just beneath us," Peter

told him. "If you like, we'll go down and kill him."

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

"I do."

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

Peter spoke indignantly. "You don't think I would kill him

while he was sleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill

him. That's the way I always do."

"I say! Do you kill many?"


John said "How ripping," but decided to have tea first. He

asked if there were many pirates on the island just now, and

Peter said he had never known so many.

"Who is captain now?"

"Hook," answered Peter, and his face became very stern as he

said that hated word.

"Jas. Hook?"


Then indeed Michael began to cry, and even John could speak in

gulps only, for they knew Hook's reputation.

"He was Blackbeard's bo'sun," John whispered huskily. "He is

the worst of them all. He is the only man of whom Barbecue was


"That's him," said Peter.

"What is he like? Is he big?"

"He is not so big as he was."

"How do you mean?"

"I cut off a bit of him."


"Yes, me," said Peter sharply.

"I wasn't meaning to be disrespectful."

"Oh, all right."

"But, I say, what bit?"

"His right hand."

"Then he can't fight now?"

"Oh, can't he just!"


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


"I say, John," said Peter.


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

"Ay, ay, sir."

"There is one thing," Peter continued, "that every boy who

serves under me has to promise, and so must you."

John paled.

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

"I promise," John said loyally.

For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was

flying with them, and in her light they could distinguish each

other. Unfortunately she could not fly so slowly as they, and

so she had to go round and round them in a circle in which they

moved as in a halo. Wendy quite liked it, until Peter pointed

out the drawbacks.

"She tells me," he said, "that the pirates sighted us before

the darkness came, and got Long Tom out."

"The big gun?"

"Yes. And of course they must see her light, and if they guess

we are near it they are sure to let fly."




"Tell her to go away at once, Peter," the three cried

simultaneously, but he refused.

"She thinks we have lost the way," he replied stiffly, "and she

is rather frightened. You don't think I would send her away all

by herself when she is frightened!"

For a moment the circle of light was broken, and something gave

Peter a loving little pinch.

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

"She can't put it out. That is about the only thing fairies

can't do. It just goes out of itself when she falls asleep, same

as the stars."

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

"She can't sleep except when she's sleepy. It is the only

other thing fairies can't do."

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

worth doing."

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

"If only one of us had a pocket," Peter said, "we could carry

her in it." However, they had set off in such a hurry that there

was not a pocket between the four of them.

He had a happy idea. John's hat!

Tink agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in the hand.

John carried it, though she had hoped to be carried by Peter.

Presently Wendy took the hat, because John said it struck against

his knee as he flew; and this, as we shall see, led to mischief,

for Tinker Bell hated to be under an obligation to Wendy.

In the black topper the light was completely hidden, and they

flew on in silence. It was the stillest silence they had ever

known, broken once by a distant lapping, which Peter explained

was the wild beasts drinking at the ford, and again by a rasping

sound that might have been the branches of trees rubbing

together, but he said it was the redskins sharpening their knives.

Even these noises ceased. To Michael the loneliness was

dreadful. "If only something would make a sound!" he cried.

As if in answer to his request, the air was rent by the most

tremendous crash he had ever heard. The pirates had fired Long

Tom at them.

The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes

seemed to cry savagely, "Where are they, where are they, where

are they?"

Thus sharply did the terrified three learn the difference

between an island of make-believe and the same island come true.

When at last the heavens were steady again, John and Michael

found themselves alone in the darkness. John was treading the

air mechanically, and Michael without knowing how to float was


"Are you shot?" John whispered tremulously.

"I haven't tried [myself out] yet," Michael whispered back.

We know now that no one had been hit. Peter, however, had been

carried by the wind of the shot far out to sea, while Wendy was

blown upwards with no companion but Tinker Bell.

It would have been well for Wendy if at that moment she had

dropped the hat.

I don't know whether the idea came suddenly to Tink, or whether

she had planned it on the way, but she at once popped out of the

hat and began to lure Wendy to her destruction.

Tink was not all bad; or, rather, she was all bad just now,

but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have

to be one thing or the other, because being so small they

unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They

are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete

change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy. What she

said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand,

and I believe some of it was bad words, but it sounded kind, and

she flew back and forward, plainly meaning "Follow me, and all

will be well."

What else could poor Wendy do? She called to Peter and John

and Michael, and got only mocking echoes in reply. She did not

yet know that Tink hated her with the fierce hatred of a very

woman. And so, bewildered, and now staggering in her flight, she

followed Tink to her doom.



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