Mrs. Darling screamed, and,
as if in answer to a bell, the
door opened, and Nana entered,
returned from her evening out.
She growled and sprang at the
boy, who leapt lightly through
the window. Again Mrs. Darling
screamed, this time in distress
for him, for she thought he was
killed, and she ran down into
the street to look for his little
body, but it was not there; and
she looked up, and in the black
night she could see nothing but
what she thought was a shooting
She returned to the nursery,
and found Nana with something
in her mouth, which proved to
be the boy's shadow. As he leapt
at the window Nana had closed
it quickly, too late to catch
him, but his shadow had not had
time to get out; slam went the
window and snapped it off.
You may be sure Mrs. Darling
examined the shadow carefully,
but it was quite the ordinary
Nana had no
doubt of what was the best
thing to do with this
shadow. She hung it out at the
window, meaning "He is sure to
come back for it; let us put
it where he can get it easily
without disturbing the children."
Mrs. Darling could not leave
it hanging out
at the window, it looked so like
the washing and lowered the whole
tone of the house. She thought
of showing it to Mr. Darling,
but he was totting up winter
great-coats for John and Michael,
with a wet towel around his head
to keep his brain clear, and
it seemed a shame to trouble
him; besides, she knew exactly
what he would say: "It all comes
of having a dog for a nurse."
She decided to roll the shadow
up and put it away carefully
in a drawer, until a fitting
opportunity came for telling
her husband. Ah me!
The opportunity came a week
later, on that never-to-be- forgotten
Friday. Of course it was a Friday.
"I ought to have been specially
careful on a Friday," she used
to say afterwards to her husband,
while perhaps Nana was on the
other side of her, holding her
"No, no," Mr. Darling always
said, "I am responsible for it
all. I, George Darling, did it.
MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA." He had
had a classical education.
They sat thus night after night
recalling that fatal Friday,
till every detail of it was stamped
on their brains and came through
on the other side like the faces
on a bad coinage.
"If only I had not accepted
that invitation to dine at 27," Mrs.
"If only I had not poured my
medicine into Nana's bowl," said
"If only I had pretended to
like the medicine," was what
Nana's wet eyes said.
for parties, George."
"My fatal gift
of humour, dearest."
about trifles, dear master
Then one or
more of them would break down
altogether; Nana at
the thought, "It's true, it's
true, they ought not to have
had a dog for a nurse." Many
a time it was Mr. Darling who
put the handkerchief to Nana's
"That fiend!" Mr.
Darling would cry, and Nana's
bark was the
echo of it, but Mrs. Darling
never upbraided Peter; there
was something in the right-hand
corner of her mouth that wanted
her not to call Peter names.
They would sit there in the
empty nursery, recalling fondly
every smallest detail of that
dreadful evening. It had begun
so uneventfully, so precisely
like a hundred other evenings,
with Nana putting on the water
for Michael's bath and carrying
him to it on her back.
"I won't go to bed," he had
shouted, like one who still believed
that he had the last word on
the subject, "I won't, I won't.
Nana, it isn't six o'clock yet.
Oh dear, oh dear, I shan't love
you any more, Nana. I tell you
I won't be bathed, I won't, I
Then Mrs. Darling had come
in, wearing her white evening-gown.
She had dressed early because
Wendy so loved to see her in
her evening-gown, with the necklace
George had given her. She was
wearing Wendy's bracelet on her
arm; she had asked for the loan
of it. Wendy loved to lend her
bracelet to her mother.
She had found her two older
children playing at being herself
and father on the occasion of
Wendy's birth, and John was saying:
"I am happy to inform you,
Mrs. Darling, that you are now
a mother," in just such a tone
as Mr. Darling himself may have
used on the real occasion.
Wendy had danced with joy,
just as the real Mrs. Darling
must have done.
Then John was born, with the
extra pomp that he conceived
due to the birth of a male, and
Michael came from his bath to
ask to be born also, but John
said brutally that they did not
want any more.
nearly cried. "Nobody
wants me," he said, and of course
the lady in the evening-dress
could not stand that.
"I do," she said, "I
so want a third child."
"Boy or girl?" asked
Michael, not too hopefully.
Then he had leapt into her
arms. Such a little thing for
Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Nana
to recall now, but not so little
if that was to be Michael's last
night in the nursery.
They go on with their recollections.
"It was then that I rushed
in like a tornado, wasn't it?" Mr.
Darling would say, scorning himself;
and indeed he had been like a
Perhaps there was some excuse
for him. He, too, had been dressing
for the party, and all had gone
well with him until he came to
his tie. It is an astounding
thing to have to tell, but this
man, though he knew about stocks
and shares, had no real mastery
of his tie. Sometimes the thing
yielded to him without a contest,
but there were occasions when
it would have been better for
the house if he had swallowed
his pride and used a made-up
This was such an occasion.
He came rushing into the nursery
with the crumpled little brute
of a tie in his hand.
is the matter, father dear?"
"Matter!" he yelled; he really
yelled. "This tie, it will not
tie." He became dangerously sarcastic. "Not
round my neck! Round the bed-post!
Oh yes, twenty times have I made
it up round the bed-post, but
round my neck, no! Oh dear no!
begs to be excused!"
Mrs. Darling was not sufficiently
he went on sternly, "I warn you
of this, mother, that unless
this tie is round my neck we
don't go out to dinner to-night,
and if I don't go out to dinner
to-night, I never go to the office
again, and if I don't go to the
office again, you and I starve,
and our children will be flung
into the streets."
Even then Mrs.
Darling was placid. "Let me try, dear," she
said, and indeed that was what
he had come to ask her to do,
and with her nice cool hands
she tied his tie for him, while
the children stood around to
see their fate decided. Some
men would have resented her being
able to do it so easily, but
Mr. Darling had far too fine
a nature for that; he thanked
her carelessly, at once forgot
his rage, and in another moment
was dancing round the room with
Michael on his back.
"How wildly we romped!" says
Mrs. Darling now, recalling it.
"Our last romp!" Mr.
do you remember Michael suddenly
said to me,
`How did you get to know me,
rather sweet, don't you think,
"And they were
ours, ours! and now they are
The romp had ended with the
appearance of Nana, and most
unluckily Mr. Darling collided
against her, covering his trousers
with hairs. They were not only
new trousers, but they were the
first he had ever had with braid
on them, and he had had to bite
his lip to prevent the tears
coming. Of course Mrs. Darling
brushed him, but he began to
talk again about its being a
mistake to have a dog for a nurse.
is a treasure."
but I have an uneasy feeling
at times that she looks
upon the children as puppies.
"Oh no, dear
one, I feel sure she knows
they have souls."
"I wonder," Mr. Darling said
thoughtfully, "I wonder." It
was an opportunity, his wife
felt, for telling him about the
boy. At first he pooh-poohed
the story, but he became thoughtful
when she showed him the shadow.
"It is nobody I know," he said,
examining it carefully, "but
it does look a scoundrel."
"We were still discussing it,
you remember," says Mr. Darling, "when
Nana came in with Michael's medicine.
You will never carry the bottle
in your mouth again, Nana, and
it is all my fault."
though he was, there is no
doubt that he had behaved
rather foolishly over the medicine.
If he had a weakness, it was
for thinking that all his life
he had taken medicine boldly,
and so now, when Michael dodged
the spoon in Nana's mouth, he
had said reprovingly, "Be a man,
"Won't; won't!" Michael
cried naughtily. Mrs. Darling
the room to get a chocolate for
him, and Mr. Darling thought
this showed want of firmness.
"Mother, don't pamper him," he
called after her. "Michael, when
I was your age I took medicine
without a murmur. I said, `Thank
you, kind parents, for giving
me bottles to make we well.'"
He really thought
this was true, and Wendy, who
in her night-gown, believed it
also, and she said, to encourage
Michael, "That medicine you sometimes
take, father, is much nastier,
"Ever so much nastier," Mr.
Darling said bravely, "and I
would take it now as an example
to you, Michael, if I hadn't
lost the bottle."
He had not exactly lost it;
he had climbed in the dead of
night to the top of the wardrobe
and hidden it there. What he
did not know was that the faithful
Liza had found it, and put it
back on his wash-stand.
"I know where it is, father," Wendy
cried, always glad to be of service. "I'll
bring it," and she was off before
he could stop her. Immediately
his spirits sank in the strangest
"John," he said, shuddering, "it's
most beastly stuff. It's that
nasty, sticky, sweet kind."
"It will soon be over, father," John
said cheerily, and then in rushed
Wendy with the medicine in a
"I have been as quick as I
could," she panted.
"You have been wonderfully
quick," her father retorted,
with a vindictive politeness
that was quite thrown away upon
her. "Michael first," he said
"Father first," said
Michael, who was of a suspicious
"I shall be sick, you know," Mr.
Darling said threateningly.
"Come on, father," said
"Hold your tongue, John," his
father rapped out.
Wendy was quite
thought you took it quite easily,
"That is not the point," he
retorted. "The point is, that
there is more in my glass that
in Michael's spoon." His proud
heart was nearly bursting. "And
it isn't fair: I would say it
though it were with my last breath;
it isn't fair."
"Father, I am waiting," said
"It's all very
well to say you are waiting;
so am I waiting."
"So are you
a cowardly custard."
"I'm not frightened."
you take it."
Wendy had a
splendid idea. "Why
not both take it at the same
"Certainly," said Mr. Darling. "Are
you ready, Michael?"
Wendy gave the words, one,
two, three, and Michael took
his medicine, but Mr. Darling
slipped his behind his back.
There was a
yell of rage from Michael,
and "O father!" Wendy
"What do you mean by `O father'?" Mr.
Darling demanded. "Stop that
row, Michael. I meant to take
mine, but I -- I missed it."
It was dreadful
the way all the three were
looking at him,
just as if they did not admire
him. "Look here, all of you," he
said entreatingly, as soon as
Nana had gone into the bathroom. "I
have just thought of a splendid
joke. I shall pour my medicine
into Nana's bowl, and she will
drink it, thinking it is milk!"
It was the
colour of milk; but the children
did not have
their father's sense of humour,
and they looked at him reproachfully
as he poured the medicine into
Nana's bowl. "What fun!" he said
doubtfully, and they did not
dare expose him when Mrs. Darling
and Nana returned.
"Nana, good dog," he said,
patting her, "I have put a little
milk into your bowl, Nana."
Nana wagged her tail, ran to
the medicine, and began lapping
it. Then she gave Mr. Darling
such a look, not an angry look:
she showed him the great red
tear that makes us so sorry for
noble dogs, and crept into her
was frightfully ashamed of
himself, but he would
not give in. In a horrid silence
Mrs. Darling smelt the bowl. "O
George," she said, "it's your
"It was only a joke," he roared,
while she comforted her boys,
and Wendy hugged Nana. "Much
good," he said bitterly, "my
wearing myself to the bone trying
to be funny in this house."
And still Wendy
hugged Nana. "That's
right," he shouted. "Coddle her!
Nobody coddles me. Oh dear no!
I am only the breadwinner, why
should I be coddled--why, why,
"George," Mrs. Darling entreated
him, "not so loud; the servants
will hear you." Somehow they
had got into the way of calling
Liza the servants.
"Let them!" he answered recklessly. "Bring
in the whole world. But I refuse
to allow that dog to lord it
in my nursery for an hour longer."
wept, and Nana ran to him beseechingly,
he waved her back. He felt he
was a strong man again. "In vain,
in vain," he cried; "the proper
place for you is the yard, and
there you go to be tied up this
"George, George," Mrs. Darling
whispered, "remember what I told
you about that boy."
Alas, he would not listen.
He was determined to show who
was master in that house, and
when commands would not draw
Nana from the kennel, he lured
her out of it with honeyed words,
and seizing her roughly, dragged
her from the nursery. He was
ashamed of himself, and yet he
did it. It was all owing to his
too affectionate nature, which
craved for admiration. When he
had tied her up in the back-yard,
the wretched father went and
sat in the passage, with his
knuckles to his eyes.
In the meantime
Mrs. Darling had put the children
to bed in
unwonted silence and lit their
night-lights. They could hear
Nana barking, and John whimpered, "It
is because he is chaining her
up in the yard," but Wendy was
"That is not Nana's unhappy
bark," she said, little guessing
what was about to happen; "that
is her bark when she smells danger."
"Are you sure,
quivered and went to the window.
It was securely
fastened. She looked out, and
the night was peppered with stars.
They were crowding round the
house, as if curious to see what
was to take place there, but
she did not notice this, nor
that one or two of the smaller
ones winked at her. Yet a nameless
fear clutched at her heart and
made her cry, "Oh, how I wish
that I wasn't going to a party
already half asleep, knew that
she was perturbed,
and he asked, "Can anything harm
us, mother, after the night-
lights are lit?"
"Nothing, precious," she said; "they
are the eyes a mother leaves
behind her to guard her children."
She went from
bed to bed singing enchantments
over them, and little
Michael flung his arms round
her. "Mother," he cried, "I'm
glad of you." They were the last
words she was to hear from him
for a long time.
No. 27 was
only a few yards distant, but
there had been a
slight fall of snow, and Father
and Mother Darling picked their
way over it deftly not to soil
their shoes. They were already
the only persons in the street,
and all the stars were watching
them. Stars are beautiful, but
they may not take an active part
in anything, they must just look
on for ever. It is a punishment
put on them for something they
did so long ago that no star
now knows what it was. So the
older ones have become glassy-eyed
and seldom speak (winking is
the star language), but the little
ones still wonder. They are not
really friendly to Peter, who
had a mischievous way of stealing
up behind them and trying to
blow them out; but they are so
fond of fun that they were on
his side to-night, and anxious
to get the grown-ups out of the
way. So as soon as the door of
27 closed on Mr. and Mrs. Darling
there was a commotion in the
firmament, and the smallest of
all the stars in the Milky Way