If you shut your eyes and are
a lucky one, you may see at times
a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the
darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins
to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another
squeeze they must go on fire. But just before they go on fire
you see the lagoon. This is the nearest you ever get to it on
the mainland, just one heavenly moment; if there could be two
moments you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing.
The children often spent long
summer days on this lagoon, swimming
or floating most of the time,
playing the mermaid games in
the water, and so forth. You
must not think from this that
the mermaids were on friendly
terms with them: on the contrary,
it was among Wendy's lasting
regrets that all the time she
was on the island she never had
a civil word from one of them.
When she stole softly to the
edge of the lagoon she might
see them by the score, especially
on Marooners' Rock, where they
loved to bask, combing out their
hair in a lazy way that quite
irritated her; or she might even
swim, on tiptoe as it were, to
within a yard of them, but then
they saw her and dived, probably
splashing her with their tails,
not by accident, but intentionally.
They treated all the boys in
the same way, except of course
Peter, who chatted with them
on Marooners' Rock by the hour,
and sat on their tails when they
got cheeky. He gave Wendy one
of their combs.
The most haunting time at which
to see them is at the turn of
the moon, when they utter strange
wailing cries; but the lagoon
is dangerous for mortals then,
and until the evening of which
we have now to tell, Wendy had
never seen the lagoon by moonlight,
less from fear, for of course
Peter would have accompanied
her, than because she had strict
rules about every one being in
bed by seven. She was often at
the lagoon, however, on sunny
days after rain, when the mermaids
come up in extraordinary numbers
to play with their bubbles. The
bubbles of many colours made
in rainbow water they treat as
balls, hitting them gaily from
one to another with their tails,
and trying to keep them in the
rainbow till they burst. The
goals are at each end of the
rainbow, and the keepers only
are allowed to use their hands.
Sometimes a dozen of these games
will be going on in the lagoon
at a time, and it is quite a
But the moment the children
tried to join in they had to
play by themselves, for the mermaids
immediately disappeared. Nevertheless
we have proof that they secretly
watched the interlopers, and
were not above taking an idea
from them; for John introduced
a new way of hitting the bubble,
with the head instead of the
hand, and the mermaids adopted
it. This is the one mark that
John has left on the Neverland.
It must also have been rather
pretty to see the children resting
on a rock for half an hour after
their mid-day meal. Wendy insisted
on their doing this, and it had
to be a real rest even though
the meal was make-believe. So
they lay there in the sun, and
their bodies glistened in it,
while she sat beside them and
It was one such day, and they
were all on Marooners' Rock.
The rock was not much larger
than their great bed, but of
course they all knew how not
to take up much room, and they
were dozing, or at least lying
with their eyes shut, and pinching
occasionally when they thought
Wendy was not looking. She was
very busy, stitching.
While she stitched a change
came to the lagoon. Little shivers
ran over it, and the sun went
away and shadows stole across
the water, turning it cold. Wendy
could no longer see to thread
her needle, and when she looked
up, the lagoon that had always
hitherto been such a laughing
place seemed formidable and unfriendly.
It was not, she knew, that
night had come, but something
as dark as night had come. No,
worse than that. It had not come,
but it had sent that shiver through
the sea to say that it was coming.
What was it?
There crowded upon her all
the stories she had been told
of Marooners' Rock, so called
because evil captains put sailors
on it and leave them there to
drown. They drown when the tide
rises, for then it is submerged.
Of course she should have roused
the children at once; not merely
because of the unknown that was
stalking toward them, but because
it was no longer good for them
to sleep on a rock grown chilly.
But she was a young mother and
she did not know this; she thought
you simply must stick to your
rule about half an hour after
the mid-day meal. So, though
fear was upon her, and she longed
to hear male voices, she would
not waken them. Even when she
heard the sound of muffled oars,
though her heart was in her mouth,
she did not waken them. She stood
over them to let them have their
sleep out. Was it not brave of
It was well for those boys
then that there was one among
them who could sniff danger even
in his sleep. Peter sprang erect,
as wide awake at once as a dog,
and with one warning cry he roused
He stood motionless, one hand
to his ear.
closer to him.
smile was playing about his face,
and Wendy saw it and shuddered.
While that smile was on his face
no one dared address him; all
they could do was to stand ready
to obey. The order came sharp
There was a gleam of legs,
and instantly the lagoon seemed
deserted. Marooners' Rock stood
alone in the forbidding waters
as if it were itself marooned.
The boat drew nearer. It was
the pirate dinghy, with three
figures in her, Smee and Starkey,
and the third a captive, no other
than Tiger Lily. Her hands and
ankles were tied, and she knew
what was to be her fate. She
was to be left on the rock to
perish, an end to one of her
race more terrible than death
by fire or torture, for is it
not written in the book of the
tribe that there is no path through
water to the happy hunting-ground?
Yet her face was impassive; she
was the daughter of a chief,
she must die as a chief's daughter,
it is enough.
They had caught her boarding
the pirate ship with a knife
in her mouth. No watch was kept
on the ship, it being Hook's
boast that the wind of his name
guarded the ship for a mile around.
Now her fate would help to guard
it also. One more wail would
go the round in that wind by
In the gloom that they brought
with them the two pirates did
not see the rock till they crashed
"Luff, you lubber," cried an
Irish voice that was Smee's; "here's
the rock. Now, then, what we
have to do is to hoist the redskin
on to it and leave her here to
It was the work of one brutal
moment to land the beautiful
girl on the rock; she was too
proud to offer a vain resistance.
Quite near the rock, but out
of sight, two heads were bobbing
up and down, Peter's and Wendy's.
Wendy was crying, for it was
the first tragedy she had seen.
Peter had seen many tragedies,
but he had forgotten them all.
He was less sorry than Wendy
for Tiger Lily: it was two against
one that angered him, and he
meant to save her. An easy way
would have been to wait until
the pirates had gone, but he
was never one to choose the easy
There was almost nothing he
could not do, and he now imitated
the voice of Hook.
"Ahoy there, you lubbers!" he
called. It was a marvellous imitation.
"The captain!" said
staring at each other in surprise.
"He must be swimming out to
us," Starkey said, when they
had looked for him in vain.
"We are putting the redskin
on the rock," Smee called out.
"Set her free," came
cut her bonds
and let her
captain -- "
"At once, d'ye hear," cried
Peter, "or I'll plunge my hook
"This is queer!" Smee
"Better do what the captain
orders," said Starkey nervously.
"Ay, ay." Smee
said, and he
cut Tiger Lily's cords. At once
like an eel she slid between
Starkey's legs into the water.
was very elated
over Peter's cleverness; but
she knew that he would be elated
also and very likely crow and
thus betray himself, so at once
her hand went out to cover his
mouth. But it was stayed even
in the act, for "Boat ahoy!" rang
over the lagoon in Hook's voice,
and this time it was not Peter
who had spoken.
Peter may have been about to
crow, but his face puckered in
a whistle of surprise instead.
"Boat ahoy!" again
came the voice.
Now Wendy understood. The real
Hook was also in the water.
to the boat,
and as his men showed a light
to guide him he had soon reached
them. In the light of the lantern
Wendy saw his hook grip the boat's
side; she saw his evil swarthy
face as he rose dripping from
the water, and, quaking, she
would have liked to swim away,
but Peter would not budge. He
was tingling with life and also
top-heavy with conceit. "Am I
not a wonder, oh, I am a wonder!" he
whispered to her, and though
she thought so also, she was
really glad for the sake of his
reputation that no one heard
him except herself.
He signed to her to listen.
The two pirates were very curious
to know what had brought their
captain to them, but he sat with
his head on his hook in a position
of profound melancholy.
"Captain, is all well?" they
asked timidly, but he answered
with a hollow moan.
"He sighs," said
"He sighs again," said
"And yet a third time he sighs," said
Then at last he spoke passionately.
"The game's up," he cried, "those
boys have found a mother."
Affrighted though she was,
Wendy swelled with pride.
"O evil day!" cried
"What's a mother?" asked
was so shocked
that she exclaimed. "He doesn't know!" and
always after this she felt that
if you could have a pet pirate
Smee would be her one.
water, for Hook had started up,
crying, "What was that?"
"I heard nothing," said
waters, and as the pirates looked
they saw a strange sight. It
was the nest I have told you
of, floating on the lagoon, and
the Never bird was sitting on
"See," said Hook in answer
to Smee's question, "that is
a mother. What a lesson! The
nest must have fallen into the
water, but would the mother desert
her eggs? No."
There was a break in his voice,
as if for a moment he recalled
innocent days when -- but he
brushed away this weakness with
gazed at the
bird as the
nest was borne
past, but the more suspicious
Starkey said, "If she is a mother,
perhaps she is hanging about
here to help Peter."
winced. "Ay," he said, "that
is the fear that haunts me."
He was roused from this dejection
by Smee's eager voice.
"Captain," said Smee, "could
we not kidnap these boys' mother
and make her our mother?"
"It is a princely scheme," cried
Hook, and at once it took practical
shape in his great brain. "We
will seize the children and carry
them to the boat: the boys we
will make walk the plank, and
Wendy shall be our mother.
Again Wendy forgot herself.
They thought it must have been
a leaf in the wind. "Do you agree,
my bullies?" asked Hook.
"There is my hand on it," they
there is my
They all swore. By this time
they were on the rock, and suddenly
Hook remembered Tiger Lily.
"Where is the redskin?" he
He had a playful humour at
moments, and they thought this
was one of the moments.
"That is all right, captain," Smee
answered complacently; "we let
"Let her go!" cried
"'Twas your own orders," the
"You called over the water
to us to let her go," said Starkey.
"Brimstone and gall," thundered
Hook, "what cozening [cheating]
is going on here!" His face had
gone black with rage, but he
saw that they believed their
words, and he was startled. "Lads," he
said, shaking a little, "I gave
no such order."
"It is passing queer," Smee
said, and they all fidgeted uncomfortably.
Hook raised his voice, but there
was a quiver in it.
"Spirit that haunts this dark
lagoon to-night," he cried, "dost
Of course Peter should have
kept quiet, but of course he
did not. He immediately answered
in Hook's voice:
I hear you."
In that supreme moment Hook
did not blanch, even at the gills,
but Smee and Starkey clung to
each other in terror.
"Who are you, stranger? Speak!" Hook
"I am James Hook," replied
the voice, "captain of the JOLLY
"You are not; you are not," Hook
"Brimstone and gall," the voice
retorted, "say that again, and
I'll cast anchor in you."
tried a more
manner. "If you are Hook," he
said almost humbly, "come tell
me, who am I?"
"A codfish," replied the voice, "only
"A codfish!" Hook
and it was then, but not till
then, that his proud spirit broke.
He saw his men draw back from
"Have we been captained all
this time by a codfish!" they
muttered. "It is lowering to
were his dogs
him, but, tragic
he had become, he scarcely heeded
them. Against such fearful evidence
it was not their belief in him
that he needed, it was his own.
He felt his ego slipping from
him. "Don't desert me, bully," he
whispered hoarsely to it.
In his dark nature there was
a touch of the feminine, as in
all the great pirates, and it
sometimes gave him intuitions.
Suddenly he tried the guessing
"Hook," he called, "have
a game, and he answered blithely
in his own voice, "I have."
that rang out
this time was "Yes."
you in England?"
ask him some questions," he said
to the others, wiping his damp
reflected. "I can't think
of a thing," he said regretfully.
"Can't guess, can't guess!" crowed
Peter. "Do you give it up?"
Of course in his pride he was
carrying the game too far, and
the miscreants [villains] saw
"Yes, yes," they
"Well, then," he cried, "I
am Peter Pan."
In a moment Hook was himself
again, and Smee and Starkey were
his faithful henchmen.
"Now we have him," Hook shouted. "Into
the water, Smee. Starkey, mind
the boat. Take him dead or alive!"
He leaped as he spoke, and
simultaneously came the gay voice
"Ay, ay," from
of the lagoon.
lam into the
The fight was short and sharp.
First to draw blood was John,
who gallantly climbed into the
boat and held Starkey. There
was fierce struggle, in which
the cutlass was torn from the
pirate's grasp. He wriggled overboard
and John leapt after him. The
dinghy drifted away.
Here and there a head bobbed
up in the water, and there was
a flash of steel followed by
a cry or a whoop. In the confusion
some struck at their own side.
The corkscrew of Smee got Tootles
in the fourth rib, but he was
himself pinked [nicked] in turn
by Curly. Farther from the rock
Starkey was pressing Slightly
and the twins hard.
Where all this time was Peter?
He was seeking bigger game.
The others were all brave boys,
and they must not be blamed for
backing from the pirate captain.
His iron claw made a circle of
dead water round him, from which
they fled like affrighted fishes.
But there was one who did not
fear him: there was one prepared
to enter that circle.
Strangely, it was not in the
water that they met. Hook rose
to the rock to breathe, and at
the same moment Peter scaled
it on the opposite side. The
rock was slippery as a ball,
and they had to crawl rather
than climb. Neither knew that
the other was coming. Each feeling
for a grip met the other's arm:
in surprise they raised their
heads; their faces were almost
touching; so they met.
Some of the greatest heroes
have confessed that just before
they fell to [began combat] they
had a sinking [feeling in the
stomach]. Had it been so with
Peter at that moment I would
admit it. After all, he was the
only man that the Sea-Cook had
feared. But Peter had no sinking,
he had one feeling only, gladness;
and he gnashed his pretty teeth
with joy. Quick as thought he
snatched a knife from Hook's
belt and was about to drive it
home, when he saw that he was
higher up the rock that his foe.
It would not have been fighting
fair. He gave the pirate a hand
to help him up.
It was then that Hook bit him.
Not the pain of this but its
unfairness was what dazed Peter.
It made him quite helpless. He
could only stare, horrified.
Every child is affected thus
the first time he is treated
unfairly. All he thinks he has
a right to when he comes to you
to be yours is fairness. After
you have been unfair to him he
will love you again, but will
never afterwards be quite the
same boy. No one ever gets over
the first unfairness; no one
except Peter. He often met it,
but he always forgot it. I suppose
that was the real difference
between him and all the rest.
So when he met it now it was
like the first time; and he could
just stare, helpless. Twice the
iron hand clawed him.
the other boys
saw Hook in
striking wildly for the ship;
no elation on the pestilent face
now, only white fear, for the
crocodile was in dogged pursuit
of him. On ordinary occasions
the boys would have swum alongside
cheering; but now they were uneasy,
for they had lost both Peter
and Wendy, and were scouring
the lagoon for them, calling
them by name. They found the
dinghy and went home in it, shouting "Peter,
Wendy" as they went, but no answer
came save mocking laughter from
the mermaids. "They must be swimming
back or flying," the boys concluded.
They were not very anxious, because
they had such faith in Peter.
They chuckled, boylike, because
they would be late for bed; and
it was all mother Wendy's fault!
When their voices died away
there came cold silence over
the lagoon, and then a feeble
Two small figures were beating
against the rock; the girl had
fainted and lay on the boy's
arm. With a last effort Peter
pulled her up the rock and then
lay down beside her. Even as
he also fainted he saw that the
water was rising. He knew that
they would soon be drowned, but
he could do no more.
As they lay side by side a
mermaid caught Wendy by the feet,
and began pulling her softly
into the water. Peter, feeling
her slip from him, woke with
a start, and was just in time
to draw her back. But he had
to tell her the truth.
"We are on the rock, Wendy," he
said, "but it is growing smaller.
Soon the water will be over it."
She did not understand even
"We must go," she
we swim or
He had to tell her.
you think you
or fly as far
as the island,
Wendy, without my help?"
She had to admit that she was
"What is it?" she
about him at once.
me. I can neither
you mean we
how the water
put their hands
eyes to shut
out the sight.
thought they would soon be no
more. As they sat thus something
brushed against Peter as light
as a kiss, and stayed there,
as if saying timidly, "Can I
be of any use?"
It was the tail of a kite,
which Michael had made some days
before. It had torn itself out
of his hand and floated away.
"Michael's kite," Peter
he had seized the tail, and was
pulling the kite toward him.
"It lifted Michael off the
ground," he cried; "why should
it not carry you?"
and Curly tried."
"Let us draw lots," Wendy
"And you a lady; never." Already
he had tied the tail round her.
She clung to him; she refused
to go without him; but with a "Good-bye,
Wendy," he pushed her from the
rock; and in a few minutes she
was borne out of his sight. Peter
was alone on the lagoon.
The rock was very small now;
soon it would be submerged. Pale
rays of light tiptoed across
the waters; and by and by there
was to be heard a sound at once
the most musical and the most
melancholy in the world: the
mermaids calling to the moon.
was not quite
boys; but he
A tremour ran through him, like
a shudder passing over the sea;
but on the sea one shudder follows
another till there are hundreds
of them, and Peter felt just
the one. Next moment he was standing
erect on the rock again, with
that smile on his face and a
drum beating within him. It was
saying, "To die will be an awfully