In one of the nicest nurseries in the world there were beds for three young people called John Napoleon, and Wendy Moira Angela, and Michael, the children of Mr. and Mrs. Darling. The nursery was wide and airy, with a large window, and a bright fire with a high fire-guard round it, and a big clock, and prettily-colored nursery-rhyme pictures over the walls. It was in many ways a most interesting household. For one thing, although there was a pretty little parlor-maid called Liza, the children were bathed and dressed by a big dog called Nana, whose kennel was kept in the nursery.
On the evening on which our story begins, Nana was dozing peacefully by the fireside, with her head between her paws. Mr. and Mrs. Darling were getting ready to go out to dinner and Nana was to be left in sole charge of the children. Presently the clock went off with a whirr, and struck—one, two, three, four, five, six—time to begin to put the children to bed.
Nana got up, and stretched herself, and carefully switched on the electric light. You would have been surprised to see how cleverly she managed to do that with her mouth. Then she turned the bedclothes neatly down and hung the little pajamas over the fire-guard. She then trotted up to the bathroom and turned on the water; after feeling it with her paw to make sure that it was not too hot, she went off to look for Michael, who, being the youngest of the three children, must go to bed first. She returned immediately with him sitting astride on her back as though she were a pony. Michael, of course, did not want to be bathed, but Nana was firm and, taking him to the bathroom, shut the door so that he should not be in a draught. Then Mrs. Darling came to peep at him as he splashed about in the nice warm water.
Whilst Mrs. Darling was in the nursery she heard a wee noise outside the window, as a tiny figure, no bigger than a little boy, tried the window-latch, and vanished suddenly at her cry of surprise. She flung the window open, but there was nothing to be seen, nothing but the dim roofs of the neighboring houses, and the deep blue sky above. She began to frighten herself with eerie bogie tales, for the same thing had happened the day before, when Nana had gone to the window and shut it down so quickly that she had cut off the boy's shadow. Mrs. Darling had found it in Nana's mouth, and had carefully folded it and put it away. But she soon felt reassured when her children came in together in answer to her call. John Napoleon and Wendy were playing at their favorite game of being Father and Mother, and Mrs. Darling's beautiful face beamed with delight as she listened to them. Suddenly, in rushed Mr. Darling, very much excited because he could not fasten his evening tie (evening ties are difficult things to fasten, you know). Mrs. Darling easily managed that for him, and he was soon skipping about the room with Michael on his back, dropping him finally into his bed with a big "bump-ah!"——
Unfortunately, in going to the bathroom, Nana accidentally brushed against Mr. Darling's beautifully pressed black trousers, and left some of her grey clinging hairs upon them. Now no grown-up person likes hairy trousers, so Mr. Darling was very cross with Nana, and spoke of dismissing her. But Mrs. Darling told him about the weird apparition at the window, how Nana had barked at it and shut the window down so fast that its shadow had been cut clean off and left behind. She showed him the shadow, and told him how glad she was to have such a treasure as Nana for a nurse. "You see how very useful Nana is," concluded Mrs. Darling, as the faithful dog came in with Michael's bottle of cough mixture. But Michael was naughty, and would not take it; there was a fine fuss over it, when Wendy, being a clever little girl, hit on a brilliant idea.
"Father should take some of his medicine to keep Michael company."
"Very well," said Mr. Darling, "we shall see who is the braver." Two glasses were fetched and filled in a moment. "One, two, three," cried Wendy; Michael took his like a man, but Mr. Darling only pretended to, and quietly hid the glass behind his back. John caught him in the act: "Father hasn't taken his!" he cried, and Michael, seeing that he had been tricked, burst into a loud "Boo-hoo-oo!" Mr. Darling, to appease Michael, thought of what seemed to him an excellent joke. He poured his medicine into Nana's drinking-bowl, and when poor Nana, thinking that it was something nice, ran eagerly to lap it up, he roared with laughter to see the reproachful eyes she turned upon him. The children, who loved their old nurse very dearly, were terribly distressed as she slunk to her kennel, looking as woeful and as hurt in her feelings as ever a dog did. Mr. Darling, angry that they did not enjoy his joke in the least, coaxed Nana out of her kennel, seized her by the collar and dragged her off in disgrace, to be chained up in the yard, "the proper place for dogs," he said, in spite of the persuasions and pleadings of them all. Mrs. Darling comforted the children, kissing them very tenderly as mothers always do, tucked them up in their beds, sang them to sleep and, leaving the night-lights burning for company, crept softly out of the room to go to the dinner-party with Mr. Darling.
Everything in the big nursery was now still and quiet. Suddenly the night-lights flickered, waned, and went out one by one, and there darted into the room a tiny ball of fire, which flitted uneasily about and finally vanished into a jug. Then the same slender graceful figure that had so startled Mrs. Darling leapt from the darkness outside the window. There was just one click, the window was open, and the little creature stepped cautiously in. He seemed to be looking for something; and you will easily guess that what he was looking for was his shadow. "Tink, where are you?" he whispered, and as then the light shone on the jug he went on: "Tink, do you know where they have put it?"
Now this little ball of light was really a fairy girl who knew everything worth knowing. Most fairies do. All you could see of her was the little flame, but you could hear her distinctly, she made a tinkling noise like a little silver bell, and that was why she was called Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell at last rested a few moments on the second drawer of the nursery dresser; instantly the boy ran joyfully to it, and pulling open the drawer snatched out his shadow neatly rolled up, just as Mrs. Darling had left it. He had found it certainly, but the next trouble was to put it on again. A happy thought struck him; he would stick it on with soap! Sitting on the hearthrug, he soaped his feet and then he soaped his shadow, but whichever way he soaped they would not stick together. There is no use in having a shadow if it will not stick to you. After trying and trying in vain the poor little fellow gave up the attempt, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed despairingly.
It was then that Wendy awoke. She sat right up in bed, and, not at all frightened, said: "Little boy, why are you crying?"
The elfin creature sprang to his feet, and taking off his cap, bowed very politely. Wendy curtsied in return, though she found it a difficult thing to do in bed.
"What's your name?" asked the little boy.
"Wendy Moira Angela Darling. What's yours?"
"Where do you live?"
"Second turning to the right, and straight on till morning."
This seemed to Wendy a very funny address, but she was all sympathy when she heard that Peter had no mother. No wonder he was crying! But that was not the reason for Peter's tears; he was crying because he could not get his shadow to stick on. This made Wendy smile, and she emphatically declared that soap was no good. It must be sewn on.
"Shall I do it for you?" she suggested, and, jumping out of bed to get her work-basket, she set to work at once. It hurts a good deal to have a shadow sewn on to your feet, but Peter bore it bravely. It was the right thing to do, for the shadow held on beautifully, and Peter was so delighted that he danced up and down the nursery watching it making patterns on the floor as he flung his arms and legs about.
"Oh! the cleverness of me!" cried Peter, overcome with joy, and he crowed with pleasure, for all the world just as a cock would crow.
"You conceit," exclaimed Wendy indignantly, "of course I did nothing!"
"Oh! you did a little!"
"A little! If I am no use I can at least withdraw," she said, jumping back into bed and covering her head in a dignified way with the bedclothes.
"Oh! Wendy, please don't withdraw," Peter exclaimed in great distress. "I can't help crowing when I'm pleased with myself. One girl is more use than twenty boys."
This was rather clever of Peter, and at these sensible words Wendy got up again. She even offered to give Peter a kiss if he liked. Peter looked puzzled, but seeing the thimble on Wendy's finger he thought she meant to give him that, and held out his hand for it. Now Wendy saw at a glance that the poor boy did not even know what a kiss was, but being a nice little girl of motherly disposition, she did not hurt his feelings by laughing at him, but simply placed the thimble on his finger.
Peter admired the thimble very much. "Shall I give you a kiss?" he asked and, jerking a button off his coat, solemnly presented it to her.
Wendy at once fastened it on a chain which she wore round her neck, and, forgetting the puzzle in his mind, she once more asked him for a kiss.
Immediately he returned the thimble. "Oh! I didn't mean a kiss, I meant a thimble!"
"What's that?" he asked.
"It's like this," replied Wendy, and gently kissed his cheek.
"Oh!" cried Peter, "how nice!" and he began to give her thimbles in return, and ever afterwards he called a kiss a thimble, and a thimble a kiss.
"But Peter, how old are you?" continued Wendy.
"I don't know, but quite young. I ran away the day I was born."
"Because I heard my father and mother talking about what I was to be when I became a man. I don't want to be a man. I want always to be a little boy and have fun. So I ran away and lived among the fairies."
Wendy was almost speechless with delight at the thought of sitting beside a boy who knew fairies, and after a minute said: "Peter, do you really know fairies?"
"Yes, but they're nearly all dead now. You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies. And now, whenever a new baby is born, its first laugh becomes a fairy. So there ought to be a fairy for every little boy and girl, but there isn't. You see children know such a lot now. They soon won't believe in fairies, and whenever a child says: 'I don't believe in fairies,' there's a fairy somewhere that falls down dead."
Peter suddenly looked about the room, as though he were searching for something. Tinker Bell had disappeared! Before he could grow anxious, however, a tinkling of bells was heard, and Peter, who knew the fairy language, of course understood it. He pulled open the drawer in which his shadow had been hidden, and out sprang Tinker Bell, very angry with him for shutting her up accidentally in the drawer. She skipped about the room, but Wendy gave such a cry of delight that Tink was frightened and hid behind the clock.
"But Peter," continued Wendy, "if you don't live with the fairies, where do you live?"
"I live with the Lost Boys."
"Who are they?"
"Why, they are the children who fall out of their perambulators when their nurses are looking the other way. If they are not claimed within seven days, they are sent far away to the Never-Never-Never Land to defray expenses. I'm their Captain."
"Oh! what fun! But, Peter, why did you come to our nursery window?"
Peter told her that he came to listen to the lovely stories Wendy's mother related to her children, for the Lost Boys had no mothers, and no one to tell them any stories. He also told her how he led them against their enemies, the pirates and the wolves, and how they enjoyed bathing in the Lagoon, where beautiful mermaids sang and swam all day long.
"I must go back now," he went on, "the boys will be anxious to hear the end of the story about the Prince and the Glass Slipper. I told them as much as I knew, and they're longing to hear the rest."
Wendy begged him to stay.
"I'll tell you lots more," she promised, "ever so many stories if you'll only stay."
"Come, Wendy!" exclaimed Peter, struck with a new idea. "You can tell us all the stories there, and darn our clothes, and tuck us in at night. None of us has ever been tucked in. All the boys long for a mother. Oh, Wendy, do come!"
It was a tempting idea to Wendy, but a sudden thought came across her mind. "Peter, I can't! Think of Mummy! Besides, I can't fly."
"I'll teach you, Wendy."
This was too much for her. "Peter, will you teach John and Michael to fly as well?"
"Yes, if you like."
So John and Michael were awakened, and directly they heard that there were pirates in the Never-Never-Never Land they began to clamor to go at once. They watched Peter fly about the room, and tried to imitate him, flapping their arms clumsily at first like unfledged birds, and flopping about all over the place.
"That will never do," Peter said, "I must blow the fairy dust on you. Now waggle your shoulders as I do."
So they tried, and found that they could fly; just a little at first, from the bed to the floor and back again; then over the bed and across the room, and then, as they grew braver, almost as freely and easily as Peter himself.
"Tink, lead the way!" called Peter, and the fairy shot out like a little star. None of the children had time to put on their day clothes, but John snatched his top hat as he flew out of the window, followed by Michael. Peter Pan held Wendy's hand, and away they floated into the dark blue depths of the starry night.
A minute afterwards Mrs. Darling, who had just returned from the party, rushed into the nursery with Nana at her heels, for Nana had been anxious about her charges, and had just succeeded in breaking her chain. But it was too late. The children were already on their way to the Never-Never-Never Land.