THE NEVER-NEVER-NEVER LAND
Far away in the Never-Never-Never Land the Lost Boys lived in the depths of the forest, on the banks of a lake now covered with ice. The trees were bare without their summer dress, and wolves prowled and howled in the distance, and wild beasts snarled in the undergrowth, and Pirates sailed villainously up the lake, and Red Indians, who were friends of the boys, lived secretly in their wigwams hidden in the glades of the woods.
The Lost Boys, who, in their fur
coats, looked more like bears than boys, were anxiously awaiting Peter's
were six of them: Slightly Soiled, the eldest; then came Tootles, and Nibs, and Curly, and the Twins, who were so much alike that one name did for both of them, so each was called Twin. They lived like moles under the ground, for fear of the Pirates and the wolves. Each one had a special staircase hollowed in a tree-trunk, so that they could easily run down among the roots of the trees into their home. They were playing about happily, although they were beginning to be a little anxious that Peter was so long away. Slightly was tootling on a whistle, and dancing quite merrily, with an ostrich for partner (a queer companion, you will say), when suddenly the gruff voices of the Pirates were heard. Nibs, who was very brave, slipped away through the trees to scout, but the others had only just time to scuttle down the stairs in the hollow trees before the big ugly buccaneers came tramping up, hauling their captain, who was sitting in state upon a sledge.
You could not imagine a more dreadful-looking villain than that man was. His name was James Hook, and it suited him! He had two most evil-looking black eyes, his face was seamed with lines which seemed to express his wicked thoughts, his hideous chin, all unshaven, was as black as ink and as prickly as a furze-bush, his hair was long and black, and it hung around his face in greasy curls. He was singing a horrible song about himself, keeping time by swinging in the air the gruesome stump of his right arm, on which a double iron-pronged hook was fixed instead of a hand. Hence his name. That man was the most wicked pirate who ever lived! He simply wallowed in wickedness! Even his own crew dreaded him; and they were as bad as could be! So no wonder the Lost Boys darted like rabbits to their cave.
Now Captain Hook most of all wanted to find Peter Pan, for it was Peter who, a long time before, in an encounter between the Pirates and the Lost Boys, had cut off his right arm and flung it to a passing crocodile. The crocodile had liked the taste of it so much that ever since he had wandered from land to land and from sea to sea licking his lips for the rest of the Captain.
The Captain had naturally some reason for hating Peter, for he had a dreadful time in eluding the pursuit of the voracious crocodile, but still the beast dogged his footsteps, and followed him on and on and on by land and sea wherever he went. The Captain only got a start when the crocodile was asleep, and with that and a swift ship he had managed so far to escape. It was an awful life!
Fortunately for Hook, the crocodile had once, in an ill-advised moment, swallowed an alarum clock (one of those patent ninety-nine-years clocks, warranted to go any time, anywhere and anyhow). Go it did, and it ticked so loudly that the Captain could always hear it coming, and it was the signal for him to bolt!
Hook sat down on one of the enormous forest mushrooms (in the Never-Never-Never Land mushrooms grow to a gigantic size) to deliberate about his mode of revenge. He was in the middle of a torrent of braggings and boastings when he felt his seat getting not only warm, but much too warm, and little wonder in that, for when he furiously leapt up he found that he had really been sitting on a chimney of the underground home which Peter had cleverly disguised. He realised at once that the Lost Boys must be living in safety down below.
Very soon he had a wicked, treacherous plan settled. He determined to cook a huge rich cake, with beautiful green icing and a poisoned inside. He was sure that the Lost Boys, who had no mother to look after them, would eat it greedily, and die with awful pains inside. Smee, as the Captain's wily lieutenant was called, was overjoyed at this plan, and chuckled loudly.
"Shake hands on't," said Hook, but Smee did not want to, and begged to be excused.
"Paw, Smee, paw," said the Captain in an awful voice, so Smee had to take the horrid hook in his hand, and they both danced round while Hook sang with diabolical grimaces:
"Yo ho, yo ho, when I say 'Paw'
By fear they're overtook;
Naught's left upon your bones when you
Have shaken hands with Hook."
Just as he was gloating over his pleasant scheme a queer sound was heard, like a corncrake coming nearer and nearer through a barley field. "Tick, tack, tick, tack, tick, tack."
"The Crocodile! the Crocodile!" the Pirate Captain yelled, and in a moment was flying for his life.
The Pirates had scarcely disappeared
in the depths of the forest when the Indians crept silently up in pursuit of
them. Tiger Lily, their chieftainess, was at their head, now running swiftly
under the trees, now listening with her ear to the ground, to know where her
enemies had gone. For, like Tinker Bell and Wendy, she loved
Peter Pan, and his enemies were her enemies.
The Redskins slid along, following the Pirates with steps as quiet as those of a beetle crawling through the grass. They soon passed far out of sight, and then, one by one, the Lost Boys peeped from their tree-trunks and, seeing that all was quiet, came out again to their playground in the woods.
But their safety did not last for long. A fierce barking of wolves was heard, and Nibs, who had gone off by himself, rushed, quite out of breath, into the midst of the Boys, closely pursued by a pack of lean and hungry wolves with glittering fiery eyes. What were the Lost Boys to do in this terrible plight, when their leader was far away? Fortunately, one of them remembered Peter's plan. Whenever he was attacked by wild beasts Peter used to run at them backwards, jumping along the ground, squinting at them through his legs. The Lost Boys did this all together, and really, it was so astonishing that the wolves fled with terrified howls to the thickets where they lived.
This is a good way of scaring away mad bulls and wild animals, but it is always safer to practice on cows or in the Zoo first.
Then Nibs told the Boys how he had seen the loveliest white bird you could imagine.
"It was flying this way," he said, "it looked so wearied, and as it flew it moaned 'Poor Wendy'."
"Are you sure it was a bird?" they asked.
Nibs was quite sure, and almost at
once they saw Wendy flying through the trees in her white nightgown. Tinker
Bell was by her side, darting at her, and telling the Boys that Peter wanted
her shot, for Tinker was rather a bad little fairy sometimes. She
said this because she was jealous of Wendy, since Peter and Wendy had kissed each other.
Instantly, Tootles seized his bow and arrow, and shot at the bird, as he thought, and she fell fainting to the ground.
At once the Boys saw that she was no bird, but a little girl, and perhaps the very mother whom Peter had promised to bring them. They were very frightened, and soon were sure that they had done a dreadful thing, for Peter came flying down with John and Michael, and immediately inquired after Wendy.
"She flew this way, haven't you seen her?" he asked.
"Yes," said Tootles, and pointed to her as she lay motionless on the ground.
Peter bent over her and took the arrow, and, in his anger, would have killed Tootles with it, if Wendy had not stayed him by feebly moving her hand. Then they were all glad, for Wendy was not dead, as they had thought, but only stunned. The arrow had fortunately struck the button which Peter had given her in mistake for a kiss. Soon she was quite well again, but so faint and tired after her long flight through the air.
The Boys did not know what to do. They did not like to carry her down into the cave, as it might not be sufficiently respectful, so they planned to build a house over her. Only they did not know what kind of house to build.
Then Wendy sang in her half-sleep the kind of house she wanted:
I wish I had a dar-ling house, The
seen. With fun-ny lit-tle red walls, And roof of mos-sy green;
and the Boys fetched logs out of the forest, and a grate and a rug from the underground cave, and built a beautiful home for her out of wood, and tarpaulin, and make-believe. They made a chimney out of John's tall hat, which he had been Londony enough to bring with him, and they made a splendid knocker out of the sole of one of Tootles' boots.
When it was finished—it was built round Wendy as she lay on the ground—Peter knocked solemnly at the door, and Wendy opened it and came out, very pleased and happy. The Lost Boys knelt before her, and begged her to be their Mother, and tuck them in at night-time, and tell them stories before they went to bed. She said that she was not quite sure if she could, but she would do her best, if only Peter would be Father, and that now, if they liked to come in, she would tell them the story of Cinderella.
In they bundled, one after the other, to listen to the tale. And they were so big, and the house was so small, that they must have been packed like sardines inside. But a sort of cosy feeling like that was, I expect, just what they wanted, and they were very happy.
The evening fell softly down on the forest, and the shadows rose, so that everything was dark and still, save for the occasional baying of a wolf. Lights were lit in the little house, and at last, when it was quite night, Peter came out with his sword, and walked up and down like a sentry, to guard the new little mother he had brought for the Lost Boys.