THE MERMAIDS' LAGOON
One fine summer evening Peter, with Wendy and their little family, went down to the Lagoon where the Mermaids lived. The Never-Never-Never Land, as you see, is full of the most strange and interesting creatures; some of them dreadful, like the Pirates, wolves, and crocodiles; others, like the fairies and the mermaids, altogether beautiful and charming. Wendy and her brothers, who had never seen a real mermaid with a tail, were very much excited, and, as luck would have it, just as they arrived at the lagoon, one of them, seated on a rock, was combing her long tresses, on which the sunlight gleamed, until they shone like a mixture of gold and bronze, for they had a beautiful greenish tinge. As she combed her hair she sang such a wonderful melody that the boys longed to catch her. They instantly dashed into the water, but with a piercing cry of "Mortals!" the Mermaid dived out of their reach into the lowest depths.
"But look! here is another little mermaid! Surely we can catch her!" said John Napoleon Darling, and he very nearly did. Mermaids, however, are hard to catch, and when caught, are still harder to hold. John succeeded in getting the little sprite in his hands but, wriggling like an eel, she slipped out of his grasp. Breathless with excitement, the whole band of children clambered on to the rocks, when all at once a cry went up: "The Pirates!" Sure enough a boat was approaching, and in it were seated the two pirate lieutenants, Smee and Starkey. The boys were already swimming to the shore as fast as they could, when to his horror Peter recognised Tiger Lily sitting in the stern, tightly bound with ropes. In a flash he guessed what was their intention. The wretches meant to leave her, all bound as she was, upon the rock, until the tide came up and drowned her.
Determined to save her, Peter thought of a clever trick. Imitating the wicked Captain's voice he called out: "Cut her bonds and let her go!" The effect was marvellous: the astonished buccaneers, fearing to disobey their Captain, instantly released Tiger Lily, who leapt into the water and swam towards the boys.
The Pirates had turned and were rowing back, when they saw Hook swimming towards them, and learnt from him how they had been duped. Horribly enraged, he chased them out of the boat, leaving them to swim back to the ship as best they might, while he himself set about recapturing Tiger Lily.
But the Pirates once safely out of the way, Peter and his friends went back to the rock to attack the Captain, who was now single-handed. A fierce fight ensued, Hook using his iron prong to some purpose on poor Peter, while the boys, seizing Hook's boat, rowed off with Tiger Lily in it. At last, finding himself outdone, the Captain gave up the fight, and in all haste swam back to his ship.
Peter, left alone on the rock with Wendy, found her so exhausted that she could neither swim nor fly any farther. With difficulty he managed to help her to a firm footing, but the tide was rising, and they were both in great danger. As he watched the water silently creeping nearer, Peter almost despaired. But all at once a large kite came flying slowly over the lagoon. In a second Peter had seized its tail and, binding it tightly round Wendy, he sent her sailing away in safety, bravely calling, "Good-bye Wendy!" until she was out of sight.
Then indeed, as the tide rose
steadily, Peter was in great peril. The water reached his feet, and he was
beginning to think it would be a "tremendous adventure to die," when
who should come sailing by but a great sea-bird on its nest, which had been
blown off the cliffs by the rising storm. "Hurrah!" cried Peter,
"there's a lovely boat for me!" and chasing the
bird off, in he stepped, curled himself round and, spreading out his coat to the wind, sailed swiftly and merrily after Wendy.