Peter pan, p.4
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       Peter Pan, p.4

           J. M. Barrie
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  Chapter 4 THE FLIGHT

  "Second to the right, and straight on till morning."

  That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but evenbirds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could nothave sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just saidanything that came into his head.

  At first his companions trusted him implicitly, and so great were thedelights of flying that they wasted time circling round church spires orany other tall objects on the way that took their fancy.

  John and Michael raced, Michael getting a start.

  They recalled with contempt that not so long ago they had thoughtthemselves fine fellows for being able to fly round a room.

  Not long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea beforethis thought began to disturb Wendy seriously. John thought it was theirsecond sea and their third night.

  Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were very coldand again too warm. Did they really feel hungry at times, or were theymerely pretending, because Peter had such a jolly new way of feedingthem? His way was to pursue birds who had food in their mouths suitablefor humans and snatch it from them; then the birds would follow andsnatch it back; and they would all go chasing each other gaily formiles, parting at last with mutual expressions of good-will. But Wendynoticed with gentle concern that Peter did not seem to know that thiswas rather an odd way of getting your bread and butter, nor even thatthere are other ways.

  Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy; and thatwas a danger, for the moment they popped off, down they fell. The awfulthing was that Peter thought this funny.

  "There he goes again!" he would cry gleefully, as Michael suddenlydropped like a stone.

  "Save him, save him!" cried Wendy, looking with horror at the cruelsea far below. Eventually Peter would dive through the air, and catchMichael just before he could strike the sea, and it was lovely the wayhe did it; but he always waited till the last moment, and you felt itwas his cleverness that interested him and not the saving of human life.Also he was fond of variety, and the sport that engrossed him one momentwould suddenly cease to engage him, so there was always the possibilitythat the next time you fell he would let you go.

  He could sleep in the air without falling, by merely lying on his backand floating, but this was, partly at least, because he was so lightthat if you got behind him and blew he went faster.

  "Do be more polite to him," Wendy whispered to John, when they wereplaying "Follow my Leader."

  "Then tell him to stop showing off," said John.

  When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the water andtouch each shark's tail in passing, just as in the street you may runyour finger along an iron railing. They could not follow him in thiswith much success, so perhaps it was rather like showing off, especiallyas he kept looking behind to see how many tails they missed.

  "You must be nice to him," Wendy impressed on her brothers. "What couldwe do if he were to leave us!"

  "We could go back," Michael said.

  "How could we ever find our way back without him?"

  "Well, then, we could go on," said John.

  "That is the awful thing, John. We should have to go on, for we don'tknow how to stop."

  This was true, Peter had forgotten to show them how to stop.

  John said that if the worst came to the worst, all they had to do was togo straight on, for the world was round, and so in time they must comeback to their own window.

  "And who is to get food for us, John?"

  "I nipped a bit out of that eagle's mouth pretty neatly, Wendy."

  "After the twentieth try," Wendy reminded him. "And even though webecame good at picking up food, see how we bump against clouds and thingsif he is not near to give us a hand."

  Indeed they were constantly bumping. They could now fly strongly, thoughthey still kicked far too much; but if they saw a cloud in front ofthem, the more they tried to avoid it, the more certainly did they bumpinto it. If Nana had been with them, she would have had a bandage roundMichael's forehead by this time.

  Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather lonely upthere by themselves. He could go so much faster than they that he wouldsuddenly shoot out of sight, to have some adventure in which they had noshare. He would come down laughing over something fearfully funny he hadbeen saying to a star, but he had already forgotten what it was, or hewould come up with mermaid scales still sticking to him, and yet not beable to say for certain what had been happening. It was really ratherirritating to children who had never seen a mermaid.

  "And if he forgets them so quickly," Wendy argued, "how can we expectthat he will go on remembering us?"

  Indeed, sometimes when he returned he did not remember them, at leastnot well. Wendy was sure of it. She saw recognition come into his eyesas he was about to pass them the time of day and go on; once even shehad to call him by name.

  "I'm Wendy," she said agitatedly.

  He was very sorry. "I say, Wendy," he whispered to her, "always if yousee me forgetting you, just keep on saying 'I'm Wendy,' and then I'llremember."

  Of course this was rather unsatisfactory. However, to make amends heshowed them how to lie out flat on a strong wind that was going theirway, and this was such a pleasant change that they tried it severaltimes and found that they could sleep thus with security. Indeed theywould have slept longer, but Peter tired quickly of sleeping, and soonhe would cry in his captain voice, "We get off here." So with occasionaltiffs, but on the whole rollicking, they drew near the Neverland; forafter many moons they did reach it, and, what is more, they had beengoing pretty straight all the time, not perhaps so much owing to theguidance of Peter or Tink as because the island was looking for them. Itis only thus that any one may sight those magic shores.

  "There it is," said Peter calmly.

  "Where, where?"

  "Where all the arrows are pointing."

  Indeed a million golden arrows were pointing it out to the children, alldirected by their friend the sun, who wanted them to be sure of theirway before leaving them for the night.

  Wendy and John and Michael stood on tip-toe in the air to get theirfirst sight of the island. Strange to say, they all recognized it atonce, and until fear fell upon them they hailed it, not as somethinglong dreamt of and seen at last, but as a familiar friend to whom theywere returning home for the holidays.

  "John, there's the lagoon."

  "Wendy, look at the turtles burying their eggs in the sand."

  "I say, John, I see your flamingo with the broken leg!"

  "Look, Michael, there's your cave!"

  "John, what's that in the brushwood?"

  "It's a wolf with her whelps. Wendy, I do believe that's your littlewhelp!"

  "There's my boat, John, with her sides stove in!"

  "No, it isn't. Why, we burned your boat."

  "That's her, at any rate. I say, John, I see the smoke of the redskincamp!"

  "Where? Show me, and I'll tell you by the way smoke curls whether theyare on the war-path."

  "There, just across the Mysterious River."

  "I see now. Yes, they are on the war-path right enough."

  Peter was a little annoyed with them for knowing so much, but if hewanted to lord it over them his triumph was at hand, for have I not toldyou that anon fear fell upon them?

  It came as the arrows went, leaving the island in gloom.

  In the old days at home the Neverland had always begun to look a littledark and threatening by bedtime. Then unexplored patches arose in itand spread, black shadows moved about in them, the roar of the beasts ofprey was quite different now, and above all, you lost the certainty thatyou would win. You were quite glad that the night-lights were on. Youeven liked Nana to say that this was just the mantelpiece over here, andthat the Neverland was all make-believe.

  Of course the Neverland had been make-believe in those days, but itwas real now, and there were no night-lights, and it was get
ting darkerevery moment, and where was Nana?

  They had been flying apart, but they huddled close to Peter now. Hiscareless manner had gone at last, his eyes were sparkling, and a tinglewent through them every time they touched his body. They were now overthe fearsome island, flying so low that sometimes a tree grazed theirfeet. Nothing horrid was visible in the air, yet their progress hadbecome slow and laboured, exactly as if they were pushing their waythrough hostile forces. Sometimes they hung in the air until Peter hadbeaten on it with his fists.

  "They don't want us to land," he explained.

  "Who are they?" Wendy whispered, shuddering.

  But he could not or would not say. Tinker Bell had been asleep on hisshoulder, but now he wakened her and sent her on in front.

  Sometimes he poised himself in the air, listening intently, with hishand to his ear, and again he would stare down with eyes so bright thatthey seemed to bore two holes to earth. Having done these things, hewent on again.

  His courage was almost appalling. "Would you like an adventure now," hesaid casually to John, "or would you like to have your tea first?"

  Wendy said "tea first" quickly, and Michael pressed her hand ingratitude, but the braver John hesitated.

  "What kind of adventure?" he asked cautiously.

  "There's a pirate asleep in the pampas just beneath us," Peter told him."If you like, we'll go down and kill him."

  "I don't see him," John said after a long pause.

  "I do."

  "Suppose," John said, a little huskily, "he were to wake up."

  Peter spoke indignantly. "You don't think I would kill him while he wassleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That's the way Ialways do."

  "I say! Do you kill many?"

  "Tons."

  John said "How ripping," but decided to have tea first. He asked ifthere were many pirates on the island just now, and Peter said he hadnever known so many.

  "Who is captain now?"

  "Hook," answered Peter, and his face became very stern as he said thathated word.

  "Jas. Hook?"

  "Ay."

  Then indeed Michael began to cry, and even John could speak in gulpsonly, for they knew Hook's reputation.

  "He was Blackbeard's bo'sun," John whispered huskily. "He is the worstof them all. He is the only man of whom Barbecue was afraid."

  "That's him," said Peter.

  "What is he like? Is he big?"

  "He is not so big as he was."

  "How do you mean?"

  "I cut off a bit of him."

  "You!"

  "Yes, me," said Peter sharply.

  "I wasn't meaning to be disrespectful."

  "Oh, all right."

  "But, I say, what bit?"

  "His right hand."

  "Then he can't fight now?"

  "Oh, can't he just!"

  "Left-hander?"

  "He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and he claws with it."

  "Claws!"

  "I say, John," said Peter.

  "Yes."

  "Say, 'Ay, ay, sir.'"

  "Ay, ay, sir."

  "There is one thing," Peter continued, "that every boy who serves underme has to promise, and so must you."

  John paled.

  "It is this, if we meet Hook in open fight, you must leave him to me."

  "I promise," John said loyally.

  For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was flyingwith them, and in her light they could distinguish each other.Unfortunately she could not fly so slowly as they, and so she had to goround and round them in a circle in which they moved as in a halo. Wendyquite liked it, until Peter pointed out the drawbacks.

  "She tells me," he said, "that the pirates sighted us before thedarkness came, and got Long Tom out."

  "The big gun?"

  "Yes. And of course they must see her light, and if they guess we arenear it they are sure to let fly."

  "Wendy!"

  "John!"

  "Michael!"

  "Tell her to go away at once, Peter," the three cried simultaneously,but he refused.

  "She thinks we have lost the way," he replied stiffly, "and she israther frightened. You don't think I would send her away all by herselfwhen she is frightened!"

  For a moment the circle of light was broken, and something gave Peter aloving little pinch.

  "Then tell her," Wendy begged, "to put out her light."

  "She can't put it out. That is about the only thing fairies can't do. Itjust goes out of itself when she falls asleep, same as the stars."

  "Then tell her to sleep at once," John almost ordered.

  "She can't sleep except when she's sleepy. It is the only other thingfairies can't do."

  "Seems to me," growled John, "these are the only two things worthdoing."

  Here he got a pinch, but not a loving one.

  "If only one of us had a pocket," Peter said, "we could carry her init." However, they had set off in such a hurry that there was not apocket between the four of them.

  He had a happy idea. John's hat!

  Tink agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in the hand. John carriedit, though she had hoped to be carried by Peter. Presently Wendy tookthe hat, because John said it struck against his knee as he flew; andthis, as we shall see, led to mischief, for Tinker Bell hated to beunder an obligation to Wendy.

  In the black topper the light was completely hidden, and they flew on insilence. It was the stillest silence they had ever known, broken once bya distant lapping, which Peter explained was the wild beasts drinking atthe ford, and again by a rasping sound that might have been the branchesof trees rubbing together, but he said it was the redskins sharpeningtheir knives.

  Even these noises ceased. To Michael the loneliness was dreadful. "Ifonly something would make a sound!" he cried.

  As if in answer to his request, the air was rent by the most tremendouscrash he had ever heard. The pirates had fired Long Tom at them.

  The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes seemed tocry savagely, "Where are they, where are they, where are they?"

  Thus sharply did the terrified three learn the difference between anisland of make-believe and the same island come true.

  When at last the heavens were steady again, John and Michaelfound themselves alone in the darkness. John was treading the airmechanically, and Michael without knowing how to float was floating.

  "Are you shot?" John whispered tremulously.

  "I haven't tried [myself out] yet," Michael whispered back.

  We know now that no one had been hit. Peter, however, had been carriedby the wind of the shot far out to sea, while Wendy was blown upwardswith no companion but Tinker Bell.

  It would have been well for Wendy if at that moment she had dropped thehat.

  I don't know whether the idea came suddenly to Tink, or whether she hadplanned it on the way, but she at once popped out of the hat and beganto lure Wendy to her destruction.

  Tink was not all bad; or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on theother hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing orthe other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for onefeeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only itmust be a complete change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy.What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand,and I believe some of it was bad words, but it sounded kind, and sheflew back and forward, plainly meaning "Follow me, and all will bewell."

  What else could poor Wendy do? She called to Peter and John and Michael,and got only mocking echoes in reply. She did not yet know that Tinkhated her with the fierce hatred of a very woman. And so, bewildered,and now staggering in her flight, she followed Tink to her doom.

 
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