Adventuresses Club Press 2: The Nun Ensign

That’s correct, we have another book out! This time I’ve delved back to the 16-17th centuries, to bring you the impossibly block-busteresque life of Catalina de Erauso, the Nun Ensign. 


Deciding that the life of a nun in Spain was not for her, in 1600 Catalina escaped the nunnery, dressed as a man, and sailed to the New World. There she got into fights, seduced women, enlisted as a soldier, and… murdered a lot of people. Her scrapes with death and escapes from the authorities defy belief, and the events are told with a truly economical approach to words, which is occasionally infuriating, as you wonder what possible subtext could have ignited a given incident. 

Try a sample here:

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Adventuresses Club Press 1: The Conquest of Mount Cook, Freda du Faur

Greetings, fellow readers! A brief project update, which I’m sure you will all be as excited about as I am.

Firstly: I have a new website to host my Very Exciting Project: Women on Adventure. I’ve spent the last couple of years researching obscure accounts of women travellers, whose professions run the gamut from soldier, to cartographer, to spy. My limitation is simple: if it was published prior to 1918, I’m interested in it!

As part of this, I’ve been aiming at publishing a number of different accounts by these women each week (and, eventually, I would like to collate these into manuscript form). You can view the updates on Facebook, or go directly to the source of goodness that is my website: http://womenonadventure.net/.

Secondly: Because I quite sincerely can’t get enough of encouraging everyone to read about these fantastic ladies’ exploits, I’ve also started up The Adventuresses’ Club Press, dedicated to popularising them. It also gives me the opportunity to write forewords to analyse their adventures from a historical and contemporary perspective — bring on the intersectionalism, sisters!

The first book published by The Adventuresses’ Club Press is The Conquest of Mount Cook, by Freda Du Faur, Australia’s first female mountaineer. As I come from a family of rock climbers and mountaineers, I was ecstatic to find an edition of her autobiographical work to share online! You can try a sample on Amazon:

Australia

United States


The second book will be out soon–here’s your hint: it involves a nun, conquistadors, and significant amounts of swash-buckling.

Thirdly: I have a (new, first edition) niece, and over the weekend adored the opportunity to read Rebecca Solnit’s essay “The Ocean around the Archipelago” to her while she slept on me. Life goals achieved.

That’s all for now!

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Kill a Mockingbird

I realise that this novel has been ruined for many people through the education system: I am sorry for that. Many otherwise blameless and enjoyable experiences have been destroyed via injudicious application of essay questions, and the resentful hunt for textual symbolism. I was lucky to have my honest enjoyment of To Kill a Mockingbird unscarred by such schooling experiences. As a result, I found it a beautifully voiced, well-written, gravely significant novel.

Culturally I found it one-sided; written from the perspective of Scout, a comparatively affluent white child, it ignores the presence of members of the black community (barring Calpurnia) for most of the book. The wrongfully accused Tom Robinson is a rarely-seen or heard fulcrum upon which the action of the novel pivots, and arguably these impressions are what Harper Lee intended when she wrote the novel, based loosely upon events from her childhood. Winning the Pulitzer prize in its first year of publication, To Kill a Mockingbird explores issues of racial and class inequality, rape, gender roles, courage and innocence, in what has been the author’s only written work to date.

It is so famous a work… I feel that its story has leaked into the public consciousness, becoming part of that core of literary works which, when named, nine out of ten passersby will say, “I know that. It’s about…”, in much the same way that everyone knows Romeo and Juliet is about unlucky lovers, and the necessity of not jumping the gun (and learning how to take a pulse) when mired in apparently-tragic circumstances.

 

K.L gives To Kill a Mockingbird 5 out of 5. Nothing less could be said of it. The novel was brilliant: reading it won’t be a literary struggle, only an emotional one.

That’s what we read for, isn’t it?

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

 

 

Like reading? K.L. has published her first novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Be entertained!

Like poetry? K.L. has also published a collection of poems, The Loaded Brush. Find it here. I promise not to make you search for metaphors.

Daughters of a Coral Dawn – Katherine .V. Forrest

Daughters of a Coral Da

Entertaining, lesbian-themed escapist science fiction. A few tens of thousand of part-alien, genius-level women  (all descended from the Vernan alien whom they call Mother) steal a spaceship and flee the repressive, 70’s-era patriarchal Earth territories (where a woman using reproductive technology without a husband is a legal crime) to establish their own utopian colony.

Fifteen years later, they respond to the distress call of a crippled Terran ship. But now that their location has been compromised, what will they do with the chauvanistic survivors? And how will Megan, leader of the colony on Maternas, respond to the presence of the bewitching earthling Lieutenant Laurel Meredith?

I loved this humorously cheesy novel, and have been disappointed to find that Amazon.com only sells (currently) the first of this series. Worse still, it isn’t present in any of the local library catalogues. Woe! Daughters of a Coral Dawn works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, but the presence of a lesbian science fiction novel reminiscent of the webcomic I was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space makes me eager to track down further novels in the genre. That it is unashamedly queer sci-fi, rather than brief lesbianism acting as a aperitif to the actions of a heterosexual hero, make me extremely happy.

“ “Six thousand I’ve spawned,” Mother grumbled, “and I’m the only heterosexual left.” “

The subject of a society of women bereft of men is both intriguing and appealing – witness the women of Whileaway in The Female Man, the civilisation of women in The Sultana’s Dream, the inhabitants of Jeep in Ammonite (review forthcoming), and of course our very own Amazons – and personally, a subject I can’t get enough of. Before you cry foul, cast a glance over many of the adventure stories throughout history, from the older: The Lost World, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Old Man and the Sea to the more recent action novels, such as Ice Station, where women are either entirely absent, or present only as foils for heterosexual conquest. Turn-about is fair play, and long overdue!

“Once we completed our home-based education and ventured out into the world we thought it would be more difficult to hide our gifts, especially when  we all performed spectacularly well scholastically, and later, professionally. But we had one overwhelming advantage: We were women. Scant significance was attached to any of our accomplishments.”

K.L gives Daughters of a Coral Dawn 4 out of 5 winning references to emerald eyes, cantaloupe-sized breasts, and Sapphic passion.

 

And one, final quote:

“Father was furious when he learned of her pregnancy. “Great James Garfield, how could you let that happen!” he bellowed. “We’ve been married only six weeks! You said you’d take ovavoid!”

“No I didn’t, you just gave me the pills,” Mother informed him coolly. “I did what all Vernan females do when their males leave it up to them. Each time before we made love I concentrated hard and thought negative thoughts.” ”

 

 

 

Like reading? K.L. has published her first novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Be entertained!

Like poetry? K.L. has also published a collection of poems, The Loaded Brush. Find it here.

My Novel is published!

Friends, Romans, Countrypeople of all genders, lend me your kindles…

…My first novel, The Fall of Peter Pan, is now available online! I’m so excited! It’s been published on Amazon (say what you will, their range of eBooks makes me happy), and is available here.

Three years of writing later, and here we are, surveying the vast new world of internet publishing which expands before us, reaching out to the very horizon…! Yes, I am excited, and a little euphoric, not least because I never need edit that particular manuscript again.

What is The Fall of Peter Pan about, I hear you cry? This:

All children have to grow up. All bar one – or so he says. But can you trust Peter Pan?

The iconic, classic tale of one boy’s refusal to ever grow up has been darkly adapted with humour and spirit. Discover J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan as you’ve never yet read it.

Wendy Darling is the unhappy eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Darling. She is being slowly, inevitably pushed towards adulthood and a life that she does not fit. Peter Pan is the ruler of Neverland, an island stranded between universes and peopled by castaway philosophers, becalmed pirates, imprisoned Indians and lost children. Restless, he roams the many universes, eavesdropping upon the adult world from which he has fled.

They meet, and Wendy bargains with Peter to take her and her brothers away from the adult world forever.

She is unprepared for what she discovers in Neverland, and her emerging ability to control the very fabric of reality develops hand in hand with a burgeoning animosity between her and Peter. Lost in the mountains, forgotten by her brothers and the lost boys, Wendy begins to uncover the roots of an ancient magic which will change everything.

Wendy must choose her allies carefully on Neverland, because worse things are coming than pirates… And one of them might just be Peter Pan himself.

And if you are interested, and haven’t seen my blog before, you can sample the preliminary chapters, starting with the prologue, here.

 

Hugs, kisses, scatterings of flowers, teary-eyed waving of hands to the crowd. Muah! Muah! My darlings! Thank you all!

Exeunt.

Fall of PeterPan

Book reviews will shortly resume on their irregular schedule.

 

The Fall of Peter Pan – Chapter 4

I have been writing my own novel over the last three years, and it is going to be published in eBook format on Amazon.com this week! For your delectation and delight, I will be posting up the initial chapters of The Fall of Peter Pan here first

This novel is an adaptation of the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Fall of PeterPan

 

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 even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter simply said anything that came into his head. Really, it was that blind lady, Luck, who let a child reach Neverland, or a star or a fairy guide, for they are a part of magic, and cannot get lost while traveling between the worlds even if they close their eyes, spin in a circle and try.

Sometimes just being lost might bring one to Neverland’s shores, or one might be tricked onto it, and thereafter entrapped.

Hook, Captain of the JOLLY ROGER, was one of the former; Scar Faced Woman Who Slew the Tiger Hiding in the Lilies and her braves were of the latter camp. What could trick an entire war canoe of seasoned Haida warriors from the coast of Canada and their young leader into those gloomy shadows? Nothing less than the machinations of Yaahl the raven. The story is theirs to tell; suffice to say that they fled the adult world in the middle of the eighteenth century, desperate to avoid the spirit of pestilence – smallpox – which was reaching epidemic proportions across all the indigenous nations.

Trapped on Neverland, the Haida made their secret paths through the forests, climbing high in the pines and setting traps for the devilish lost boys, who plagued them as much as that mongrel mix of pirates who competed with them for resources.

The pirates and Haida were each other’s enemies, it is true. But in a heartbeat they would string their arrows with the same bow, and stand side by side, raising club and sabre as one, to strike down their true nemesis: Peter Pan.

That spritely spirit, the laughing, arrogant Puck with whom we have been only recently acquainted ourselves, carries within him darker taints. The Neverland is his hunting preserve, and he does not hunt mere animals.

Unlike the Haida, the pirates were not tricked into Neverland, but sought it out, if one can seek a destination whilst desperately lost. The fierce men of the crew had cowered beneath a shooting sky filled with frosty stars that denied any navigation known to man. A month they endured, lost, lost far from any land of Earth and far from the light of day. A month of night, during which the cycle of standing watch and sleep, served as the only timepiece.

They had steered betwixt battling behemoths, and round slumbering turtles the size of Venice, Hook’s eyes ever fixed upon some point over the curve of the horizon.

“Where are we, Captain?” cried the first mate, Gentleman Starkey, almost despairing as a ship-killing storm came upon them: the third such. Even then, the crew were labouring desperately over the bilge-pumps below the deck, emptying the water that the strained timbers of the ship were allowing in.

“Compass unknown,” snarled the Captain, wrestling with the wheel as the ships’ timbers creaked, and a spar broke loose to whip past him with a malevolent partridge whir. “Light my cigar, man!”

The only man that the Sea-Cook had ever feared, Hook stood firm upon the deck, two strong hands grasping the wheel, cigarette holder clenched between his teeth. He had taken command of the ship after the Sea-Cook’s death, and with a hold full of supplies, sent them off the face of the Earth through a gate made of storms and uncertainty. The last land they had seen was the disappearing Ivory Coast; from there, Hook had steered them down to the Horn and straight into a maelstrom.

“But where are we going, Captain?” Gentleman Starkey demanded desperately, filled with fear.

Hook laughed, blackly, and would not answer him. He was navigating towards a certain winking star; one with a reddish hue, which a mother’s voice had told him about, many years ago, in the strictest confidence. In the lantern strapped to the prow, a small pinprick of fading light strained for that magical island, where it might be freed. The captured fairy expired as they crossed out of the Ocean, fading away entirely, like the last ember of a dying fire.

Canvas groaning under the pressure, the storm drove them into Neverland’s waters, and nearly broke them upon the shoals, as the white wave horses screamed and beat their foamy hooves across the deck. The JOLLY ROGER wallowed dangerously, until they managed to fight their way around the island to shelter in the lee, out of the wind.

As soon as the weather grew calm enough to make land, Captain Hook began searching the island. The discovery of treasure appeased many of those whose faith in him had been shaken by the long, mysterious voyage through darkness. He found in the land an active adversary; but it also revealed to him many of the markers his mother had spoken of.

Of the Lady Niamh herself, there was no sign. Eventually, James Hook was forced to accept that she had likely not been able to return to the island. Taking on stores of fresh water, he attempted to pilot the JOLLY ROGER away, back into the ocean. He did not like the island, and if he attempted to force his crew to stay there, away from cities and major shipping lanes, he would have a mutiny on his hands. Regardless of what his mother had promised, he refused to become a castaway for her sake.

The JOLLY ROGER was steered out into the open waters around Neverland, towards the midnight of the horizon…only to find contrary winds pushing them firmly back, no matter how hard they tacked back and forth. Contrary winds turned to gales, which forced them almost against the rocks. After weeks of futile efforts, the pirates began to give up. Though they might sail around the deeper waters of the island, they could not leave its sphere of influence, like a toy boat spinning about the whirlpool of an emptying drain.

They were marooned, each man among them, imprisoned in this cruel little paradise. The JOLLY ROGER was no more than a raft which served as their shelter; they could not steer it to any real purpose, and may as well have been floating in a lake, the borders of which they could neither sail nor row across.

A trio of the pirates had attempted, under Hook’s instructions, to pilot a small dinghy out into the midnight ocean. Every member of crew had crowded along the rail to watch, muttering superstitious prayers. Hook and Gentleman Starkey had squinted through their spyglasses for hours, the hot sun reflecting in glassy streaks from the bouncing waves.

“They’re nearing it!” called down Smee, who was watching aloft from the crows’ nest.

Indeed they were. And then, before the eyes of the crew, the men had stopped rowing. The small craft bobbed, motionless.

“What are they looking at?” muttered Captain Hook into his moustache. They were very nearly there, in that deepening zone of twilight, which taunted them with the promise of free sailing. Yet they had stopped, and were staring as though hypnotised at a patch of water near them.

There were oaths and cries of horror as the crew witnessed the three unfortunate men stand in the rocking dinghy, and leap overboard. Like most sailors, pirates could not swim. Though they watched for long, agonizing minutes, not a one of them ever surfaced.

“Cap’n!” cried Cecco, his fingers clenching and unclenching convulsively into fists, “What did you see?”

Captain Hook and Gentleman Starkey shared a glance.

“Mermaids,” Hook said hollowly, still disbelieving what he had seen through the spyglass. “It was mermaids, the devil take them.”

Against such supernatural forces, he could not expect any more men to mount expeditions to the edge of the Neverland Sea. They stayed, stuck firmly in the centre of the web of influence that was the magical isle. With every moon that passed, the pirates grew more restless, and Hook resorted to ever-bloodier cruelties in order to retain the captaincy.

And so they stayed, waiting, and so Peter found them, returning from his adventures. What happened then? A cockerel’s crow split the air, and the bemused buccaneers found themselves attacked by a posse of small children. Their amusement turned swiftly to shock, and then hatred, as their number fell to the flashing little blades and piercing arrows. Attack from the natives who dwelt on the island was a matter of course to the crew of the JOLLY ROGER; but this wicked band of children, with their supernaturally lucky and vicious leader, was not an eventuality they had imagined even in their wildest nightmares.

Hook mused darkly on his most humiliating confrontation with the boy as he stared at the gleaming hook affixed to his wrist. Even now, he thought, if I close my eyes, I can feel my hand, clench my fist. The phantom pains sometimes awoke him in the night, sending him to the solace of dark amber spirits whose harsh smokiness soothed and befuddled his canker of a heart. The sun beat down, and he stretched out his legs before him to examine the rich, liquid sheen of the polished leather of his boots. His greatcoat was of exquisite velvet – blue today, to match his eyes – and an embroidered silk waistcoat danced down the long planes of his stomach to the solid gold buckle of his belt.

Ever since his childhood of deprivation in the boarding schools of England’s finest, he had emulated the manners of the grand gentlemen whose sons were his tormentors and unwilling companions. If not for his parents’ indiscretion, he might have been their peer, rather than their plaything. Despite this, he had always taken pride in being better dressed than any of the common herd, except possibly, the son of the Italian ambassador. Hook had seduced the boy into committing crimes, and then exposed him, so machinating the boy’s expulsion in disgrace, leaving Hook in command of the field. This unerring sense for the finer things in life had guided him unfailingly; had he stayed true to such fashion, he might have made his name in the rarefied halls of privilege and state. He had, however, made something of a mistake in turning to the ocean waves for his fortune.

 

That morning, when Peter was still abroad and the island therefore relatively peaceful, the mysterious currents that wend their way into Neverland brought with them a strange piece of flotsam.

Hook’s lookout called the news down the length of the ship—

“Castaway!”

A longboat was duly dispatched to bring in the unfortunate. When the pirates reached their target, they hauled him unceremoniously into the boat.

“Oh, don’t neglect my belongings, gentlemen! I beseech you!” cried the skinny man in tones of deep distress.

“Shuddup you,” snarled Bill Jukes, shoving the man down with the point of a scimitar.

Despite their naturally contrary inclinations, there was such a scarcity of items upon Neverland that every part of the makeshift raft was brought in for examination.

Hook, resplendent in his velvet coat, stared down at the miserable specimen of humanity that was cast to its knees before him on the quarterdeck.

“And what be your name, bully?” Hook asked, blowing smoke out through his nostrils languorously.

“Well,” said the slender man, climbing to his feet nimbly, before Bill Jukes could force him down again, “I am Professor Basil Rathbone, shipwrecked philosopher, and let me say that I am deeply delighted to meet with human company again! You would not be that gentleman generally known as James Hook, would you?”

Captain James Hook,” responded that person, his face darkening. “How, Professor, do you know who I am?”

“You have the most amazing blue eyes,” said Rathbone with frank admiration, “it must be a dominant gene in your family, for I’ve never seen it before.”

Against his will, Hook found himself intrigued, and carefully examined the figure, bronzed by the sun, the muscles lean and corded like a long distance runner. Professor Rathbone was a man of older middle years, his hair long and braided neatly behind him. His ragged garb and deep tan were a far cry from the imperious, be-robed figures that Hook associated with university alumni, but he bore himself with both dignity and vivacity.

Oddities of appearance aside, he was explaining himself neither quickly nor clearly enough for satisfaction. “Speak simply!”

Professor Basil Rathbone cleared his throat a little. “You yourself may not be aware of this, but there is a lady adrift out beyond the reaches of this isle. I am afraid that she declined to give me any other name than that of Niamh, but she must be a relation of some sort. You both have the same underlying structure in the face and hair, and the colour of your eyes is unique. It would be statistically unlikely if you were not related. Correct me if this deduction is incorrect.”

This declaration fairly electrified Hook, so that his afore-mentioned eyes seemed to blaze like two comets.

“Bring him to my quarters,” snapped Hook, and turned to stride thence himself. Two bulky pirates at once seized the castaway.

“I am quite capable of bearing myself whither you may ask me to go,” said Professor Basil Rathbone with quiet dignity.

Hook paused for an instant, then acknowledged his own rudeness with a brief nod. “Very well. This way, Professor.”

From amidst the crowd of gawking pirates, Smee glared, and rubbed his bulbous nose with back of one hand. He did not like anyone who might draw the Cap’n’s attention away from Smee, who himself fawned over the man when allowed. Hook’s every word and gesture were subjects of open admiration for Smee, who had once wished to be feared as cruel and vicious, but who was now content to worship in the shadow of such a man.

Conversely, this meant that anyone who might sway Hook’s actions towards kindness, manners, mercy or any other such weaknesses, was a threat, whom Smee must eliminate.

 

Within Hook’s chambers, Professor Basil Rathbone stopped and stared about him, suddenly paling, and seeming to sway in his tracks for a moment.

Hook watched him, like a snake might a small bird.

“Do you mind if I sit for a moment? It’s all rather overwhelming,” said Rathbone, who was looking pale.

“Take the quince-coloured one,” ordered Hook.

“Thank you. My apologies for the state of my clothes, but,” Professor Basil Rathbone laughed weakly, “I have not had access to enough freshwater to bathe for some time.”

They sat in silence for a time, Rathbone with his hand over his face, Hook examining him all the while.

“You spoke of a woman named Niamh,” Hook prompted, after Smee had come in on tiptoes, bringing a tray of tea implements and foul glares for the intruder.

Professor Basil Rathbone roused himself with difficulty. “Yes. A most curious woman, so very self-sufficient! I was very impressed with her ingenuity. Clearly, she had prepared for a long voyage, but still, the innovations that she had made humbled me. I thought I was getting along rather well, making use of squid ink, drying fish and storing fresh water, but it was nothing as to her cleverness. Your sister, you said?” Rathbone was a slightly weak-chinned man whose visage belied great personal courage and fortitude.

“I said no such thing,” Hook retorted, cuttingly, and declined to divulge any further information.

Though his sentences belittled his own achievements, Professor Basil Rathbone had calmly weathered the unexpected sinking of the ship that he had embarked upon to explore the world, nursing his research assistant (the only other survivor) until the young man had succumbed to injuries sustained in the tragedy. A full year had passed alone on the ocean waves, during which he had industriously and with unquenchable spirit maintained the connection between mind and body.

He had once been a contentedly fat gentleman. “But now, necessarily, I am quite restored to the physique of my rowing days.” He chuckled quietly, and took a little tea with a sigh of unrestrained gladness, ignoring the sound of Hook grating his claw across the arm of the chair, a noise which had intimidated many a lesser man.

Indeed, a lesser man would by now be dead; Hook would have killed him, frustrated by his continual evasion of the point that he wished most to know. Professor Rathbone, so long without companionship, ignored or did not notice the warning signs which would have sent Smee grovelling for cover on his belly.

“I am intrigued by your choice of vessel, Captain. I admire your faithfulness in keeping such an antique ship afloat, but I am surprised there does not appear to be a steam engine aboard somewhere, if only for convenience when becalmed.”

“She is a top of the line sailing ship,” snapped Hook, “and I ensured that she should bear every piece of contemporary equipment when last we left port!”

“Ah, an anachronist then,” nodded Professor Basil Rathbone wisely, quite missing the point.

“Tell me of my mother!” Hook snarled.

“My word yes, you must stop me when I charge ahead in conversation, otherwise I’ll never reach the point. Do try and keep me focussed my dear fellow. Your mother, you say?”

Basil sipped some more tea placidly, quite ignoring the fuming captain, terror of the seas, who hunched across from him, glaring threateningly.

“I don’t wish to insult your sense of filial pride, but have you seen the Lady Niamh recently?”

“Not since I was a boy,” Hook said through gritted teeth.

“Well… I don’t mean to be rude, in any sense, but she seems to be channelling the spirit of some earlier age in her general presentation. She’s a little er, unkempt. It’s odd, she doesn’t look much older than you yourself, your family must age very well—”

“Her appearance is not my concern,” Hook said, with sinister politeness. “One last time. She spoke to you. What did she say?”

Professor Rathbone wrinkled his forehead a little. “I am not certain, either, that she was fully in touch with reality when we spoke. Her only words to me, aside of her name and the request (more an order – is that also a family trait?) to find you, were that the Pan must be killed for her to return.”

Hook was struck silent by this revelation.

“Does that make any sense to you?” asked Rathbone, innocent of the import of his words.

“It makes very much sense, professor,” said Hook quietly. And for all Basil’s obliviousness to the world around him, he knew when to let a topic fall. The innocent castaway will be safe enough for now. He has excited Hook’s interest, but not to boiling point. Safe, for now.

 

Meanwhile, where are the Darling children? They are flying, and have been so for some time, though not long enough to be wearied with it.

At first Peter’s companions trusted him implicitly, with his orchestration of their daring escape from the stale nursery. They could fly, and heard the ring of command in his voice when he yelled for them to flee; it was enough. For Wendy, it was what she had been waiting for her entire life.

The children raced, Michael getting a head start.

They recalled with half-embarrassed contempt that not so long ago they had thought themselves fine fellows for being able to fly round a room.

Not long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea before this thought began to prickle Wendy seriously. John thought it was their second ocean and their third night.

Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were very cold and again too warm, but the sensation of time seemed to evade them, as did the other natural rhythms. Did they really feel hungry at times, or were they merely pretending, because Peter had fun ways of finding them a meal? His way was to pursue birds who had food in their mouths suitable for humans and snatch it from them; then the birds would follow and snatch it back; it was all a wonderful chase for the children that went on for miles, until eventually the hungry birds, cheated and angry, returned to easier pickings. But Wendy noticed with curiosity that Peter did not seem to know that this was rather an odd way of getting your bread and butter, nor even that there are other ways. She personally would have recommended stopping to ask a shop assistant if they might have something to eat, though they would have been turned away, having no money.

Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy; and that was a danger, for the moment they drifted off to sleep, the flying stopped and down they fell. The awful thing was that Peter thought this funny.

“There he goes again!” he would cry gleefully, as Michael suddenly dropped like a stone, dangling from one arm as Wendy clutched at him, bobbing and foundering awkwardly. Or sometimes they would simply drop off to sleep out of arms-reach, and then they would plummet.

“Save him!” shouted Wendy, looking with horror at the distantly glittering sea far below. Eventually Peter would bend into a steep dive through the air, and catch Michael just before he could strike the sea, and it was grand to see the way he did it; but he always waited till the very last moment, as it was his cleverness that interested him and not any concern for saving someone’s life.

Also he was fond of variety, and the sport that engrossed him one moment would suddenly cease to engage him, so there was always the possibility that the next time you fell he would let you go. Wendy watched him narrowly at these occasions, and would pat absently at her pouch, for the neglectful murder of a sibling would be a blooding offense at the very least.

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

“Do be more polite to him,” Wendy muttered to John, when they were playing “Follow my Leader.” It was some time after they had flown through and with a gigantic flock of butterflies, all tawny and dark-spotted. Normally you cannot hear a butterfly in flight, but with that many all together, the sound of their wings became a whispering flitter on the very edge of perception. If they had known how to interpret such sounds, they would have been able to foretell, with complete certainty, the weather on Earth for the next year.

“Then tell him to stop showing off,” said John grumpily. He was not nearly so graceful or capable in the air, and it irritated him. Through trial and error, he had also discovered that he could not think too closely about how it was that he was flying, or the magic would begin to splutter and not work. This was upsetting to logical John.

When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the water and touch each shark’s tail in passing, just as in the street you may run your hand along an iron railing. The Darling children could not follow him in this with much success, which pleased him tremendously. Peter was rather proud of himself, and liked to crow whenever they missed a tail.

“You must be nice to him, at least until we reach Neverland,” Wendy impressed on her brothers. “What could we do if he were to leave us because you two were annoying him?”

“We could go back,” Michael said.

“How could we find our way back without him?”

“Well, then, we could go on,” said John.

“That is the thing, John. We should have to go on, for we don’t know how to stop, unless we fall asleep. So quit grizzling like Nana’s little pet, and go along with him.”

Truthfully, Peter had forgotten to show them how to stop, and there had not yet been any need for it.

John said that if the worst came to the worst, all they had to do was to go straight on, for the world was round, and so in time they must come back to their own window. Wendy and Michael were not so sure of this; after all, they had been flying in such strange directions that they did not think the spherical nature of the world was going to be a particularly helpful guide.

“And who is to get food for us while we fly home, John?”

“I nipped a bit out of that eagle’s mouth pretty neatly, Wendy.”

“After the twentieth try,” Wendy reminded him. She huffed a sigh, crossing her arms, which made her wobble a little in flight. If only her silly brothers had stayed at home! It would stop them from jeopardizing her chance to live in Neverland. Though, if they had stayed behind, she would have been alone in the sky, which might scare her in her less-brave moments.

Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather lonely up there by themselves, cruising on aimlessly. He could go so much faster than they that he would suddenly zip off out of sight, to have some adventure in which they had no share. Then he would come down laughing over some fearfully funny trick he had played on a star, but he had already forgotten what it was, or he would come up with mermaid scales still sticking to him, and yet not be able to say for certain what occurred. It was really rather infuriating.

“And if he forgets them so quickly,” Wendy argued, “how can we expect that he will go on remembering us?”

Indeed, sometimes when he returned he did not remember them, at least not well. Wendy was sure of it. She saw recognition come into his eyes as he was about to nod at them in a friendly manner and go on alone; once even she had to call him by name.

“I’m Wendy, Wendy Moira Angela Darling,” she said agitatedly, grabbing at his hand.

He was very sorry. “I say, Wendy,” he whispered to her, “if you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying ‘I’m Wendy,’ and then I’ll remember. I don’t seem to have the habit of remembering things.”

Of course this was a rather unsatisfactory explanation, and a little unnerving to be told. However, to make amends he showed them how to lie out flat on a strong wind that was going their way, and they could sleep then without falling. Indeed they would have slept longer, but Peter tired quickly of the game of sleeping, and soon he would cry in his loud captain’s voice, “We get off here.”

So with occasional tiffs, but on the whole a good deal of fun (the sailors on that strange, purple-sailed junk could not believe a flock of children circled low overhead laughing, before disappearing into the distance, and reported it confusedly at port), they drew near the Neverland, despite Peter’s haphazard guidance.

“There it is,” said Peter calmly.

“Where, where?”

“Where all the arrows are pointing.”

Indeed it seemed like a million golden arrows were pointing it out to the children, for the fat, friendly sun was setting behind the island, and casting out honey-coloured light to guide them in.

Wendy and John and Michael stood on tiptoe in the air to get their first good look at the island. Despite its shape, quite different to their own, personal Neverlands, they all recognized it at once, and until the Fear fell upon them they hailed it, like a familiar friend to whom they were returning home for the holidays.

“John, look, there’s the lagoon. O, the mermaids will all be there!”

“Wendy, look at the leatherback turtles laying 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 little cub!”

“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 Haida settlement!”

“Where? Show me, and I’ll tell you by the amount of smoke rising whether they are out on the war-path or not.”

“There, just across the Mysterious River.”

“I see now. Yes, they are out on the war-path right enough – that’s the smoke of a banked fire, left unattended.”

Peter was a little annoyed with them for knowing so much, but if he wanted to lord it over them his opportunity was at hand, for have we not told you that very shortly that the Fear of darkness would consume them? It came as the last shafts of light were extinguished, leaving the island in a sudden gloom.

In the old days at home the Neverland had always begun to look a little dark and threatening by bedtime. Unexplored patches arose in it and spread, black shadows moved about in them. The old stone circle, homely and covered in moss by day, loomed menacingly. The roar of the beasts was quite different, and above all, children lost the certainty that they would win. It was easy to be brave and daring in daylight, but not when you unable to see what vast, dark threat was sneaking closer through the gloom. Then you were quite glad that the night-lights were on. You even liked Nana to say that this was just the mantelpiece over here, that the Neverland was all make-believe, and to stop being silly.

Of course the Neverland had been make-believe in those days. But they were here, and it was real now. There were no night-lights, it was getting darker every moment, and Nana was far away, left behind with their parents at Number 14.

They had been flying apart in a casual V formation, like a migrating flock, but they huddled close to Peter now. His careless manner had gone at last, his eyes were sparkling, and a tingle went through them every time they touched his body, as though something more electric than mere blood was circulating within him. They were now over the fearsome island, flying so low that sometimes a branch would grab at their feet. Nothing horrid was visible in the air, Tinker Bell’s swift revolutions were proof of that; yet their progress had become slow and laboured, as though they were pushing their way forward through hostile forces. Sometimes the children hung in the air until Peter had beaten on it with his fists and forced it to relent another foot.

“They don’t want us to land,” he explained.

“Who are they?” Wendy whispered, shuddering and clutching hard at little Michael’s hand, that he might not fall behind and be lost in the gloaming.

But he could not or would not say. Tinker Bell was roused to action and sent on in front, a sharp-eyed little sentry, glowing like a sulphur lamp.

Sometimes Peter poised himself in the air, listening intently, one hand cupped to his ear, and again he would stare down with eyes so bright that they seemed to bore through the darkness. Having done these things, he went on again, humming softly to himself. Peter found it all very good fun.

His courage was almost appalling. “Would you like an adventure now,” he asked Wendy casually, “or would you like to have your tea first?”

John said, “Tea first,” quickly, and Michael pressed her hand hard, but the braver Wendy hesitated.

“What kind of adventure?” she asked cautiously.

“There’s a pirate asleep in the trees 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. He’s there, just where the branches fork to the right.”

“Suppose,” Wendy said, a little huskily, “he was to wake up.”

Peter spoke indignantly. “You don’t think I would kill him while he was sleeping, do you?! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That’s the way I always do it. It’s not sporting otherwise.”

“I say! Do you kill many?”

“Tons.”

Wendy said “How ripping,” but decided to have tea first. She asked if there were many pirates on the island just now, and Peter said he had never known so many, for when they got lost roaming on the seas of Earth, they would often wash up on the shores of Neverland, and be absorbed into the crew.

“Who is Captain now?”

“Hook,” answered Peter, and his face became very stern as he said that hated word, for they were sworn enemies. Peter was always sworn enemies with pirate captains; it made for the most fun.

“Captain James Hook?”

“Ay.”

Then Michael began to cry, and even John could speak in gulps only, for they knew Hook’s reputation. He had been the most barbarous buccaneer known to humankind, until (it was assumed) his ship went down in a killing storm off the Horn of Africa. It was all very fun to read of his dastardly exploits in school… but now all that knowledge welled up inside them, more real than ever before. Captain James Hook was alive, here, on Neverland.

“He was Blackbeard’s bo’sun,” John whispered huskily. “He is the worst of 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.” There was satisfaction in Peter’s voice.

“How do you mean?”

“I cut off a bit of him.”

“You!” Exclaimed Wendy.

“Yes, me,” said Peter sharply.

“I wasn’t meaning to be disrespectful.”

“O, all right.”

“What bit did you cut off, Peter?”

“His right hand.”

“Then he can’t fight anymore?” John asked hopefully.

“O, can’t he just!”

There was a pause, then Wendy asked, “Left-handed?”

“He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and he claws with it, while he flails a sword in the other.”

“Claws!” the three children gasped as one, recoiling.

“I say,” said Peter.

“Yes?”

“Say, ‘Aye, aye, sir.’“

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“There is one thing,” Peter continued to them sternly, “Which every boy who serves under me has to promise, and so must you.”

John paled, but Wendy nodded once, stoically.

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

“I promise,” John said loyally. Wendy murmured something under her breath that could have been interpreted as a promise, but could have been a wordless sound.

For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was flying with them, and in her light they could distinguish one other. Unfortunately she could not fly so slowly as they, and so she had to go round and round them in a circle in which they moved as in a halo. Wendy quite liked it, until Peter pointed out a major drawback.

“Tink tells me,” he said, “that the pirates sighted us before the darkness came, and got Long Tom out.”

“The big gun?”

“Yes. And of course they must see her light, and if they guess we are near it they are sure to let fly. At this range they’ll probably get pretty close.”

“Wendy!” wailed 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 is rather frightened. You don’t think I would send her away all by herself when she is scared!”

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

“Then tell her,” Wendy begged, in an agony of fear, “to put out her light.”

“She can’t put it out. That is about the only thing fairies can’t do. It just goes out of itself when she falls asleep, same as the stars.”

“Then tell her to go to sleep at once,” John almost ordered.

“She can’t sleep except when she’s sleepy. It’s something else fairies can’t do.” Neither can people, for that matter; but this did not mollify John.

“Seems to me,” growled John, “these are the only two things worth doing.”

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

“If only one of us had a pocket,” Peter said, “we could carry her in it.” However, they had set off in such a hurry that there was not a pocket between the four of them, and Tinker Bell refused absolutely to be stuffed into Wendy’s satchel.

He had a happy idea. John’s hat!

Tink agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in the hand. John carried it, though she had really intended for it to be carried by Peter. Presently Wendy took the hat, because John said it struck against his knee as he flew, a turn of events which was to lead to mischief.

In the black top hat Tink’s light was mostly hidden, and they flew on in silence. It was the stillest silence they had ever known, broken once by a distant lapping, which Peter explained was wild beasts drinking at the ford, and again by a rasping sound that might have been the branches of trees rubbing together, but which he claimed was the Haida sharpening their knives. Peter might have been teasing them a little.

Presently, even these noises ceased. To Michael the loneliness was dreadful. “If only something would make a sound!” he cried.

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

The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes seemed to cry savagely, “Where are they, where are they, where are they?”

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

 

Down on the deck of the JOLLY ROGER, Professor Basil Rathbone started up, crying out, “For the love of Plato, what are you shooting at?”

“Take him away below,” Hook enunciated in a low growl, “and lock him in my cabin.”

Smee leapt to obey, hustling the castaway down the steps, banging him against every wall and post as they went. The force of the explosion was still ringing in the air like a struck bell.

 

When at last the heavens were steady again, John and Michael found themselves alone in the darkness, their ears clamouring with the percussion of that horrible blast. John was treading the air mechanically, and Michael without knowing how to float was floating, his legs curled up beneath him as though to shrink himself as a target.

“Are you shot?” John whispered tremulously.

“I haven’t tried yet,” Michael whispered back, too scared to move in case something fell off.

No one had been hit by the cannonball. Peter, however, had been carried by the wind of the shot far out to sea, while Wendy was blown upwards and whirled away with no companion but that of Tinker Bell.

It would have been well for Wendy if at that moment she had dropped the hat, to fly solo through the darkness.

It is unknown whether the idea came suddenly to Tink, or whether she had planned it on the way, but she at once popped out of the hat with a fizzle of her wings, and began to lure Wendy to her destruction.

Tink was not all bad; or, rather, she was all bad just now, but to be fair, sometimes she was all good, or more often, all mischievous. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they only have space inside them to experience one emotion at a time. They are able to change their nature, but it must be a complete change. At present Tinker Bell was full of a violent and jealous dislike of Wendy. What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand. Most of it was horrible abuse, but it sounded kind, and she fluttered back and forth in front of Wendy, pantomiming: “Follow me, and all will be well.”

What else could Wendy do? She shouted her loudest to Peter and John and Michael, and got only mocking echoes in reply, and from below the grunting cough of a lion. She did not yet know that Tink hated her with the fierce hatred of one defending her territory against all interlopers. And so, bewildered, ears ringing and now wavering unsteadily in her flight, she followed Tink to her doom.

 

 

 

Like reading? Like poetry? K.L. has recently published a collection of poems, along with a preview of her upcoming novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Find it here.

 

The Fall of Peter Pan is now available as an eBook!

The Fall of Peter Pan – Chapter 3

I have been writing my own novel over the last three years, and it is going to be published in eBook format on Amazon.com this week! For your delectation and delight, I will be posting up the initial chapters of The Fall of Peter Pan here first

This novel is an adaptation of the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Fall of PeterPan

Chapter 3 COME AWAY, COME AWAY!

For a moment after Mr. and Mrs. Darling left the house the night-lights by the beds of the three children continued to burn clearly. They were awfully nice little night-lights, and one cannot help wishing that they could have kept awake to see Peter; but Wendy’s light blinked and gave such a yawn that the other two yawned also, and before they could close their mouths all the three went out, dreaming that they were Suns, in their own land of Nod.

There was another light in the room now, much brighter than the night-lights, and in the time we have taken to say this, it had been in all the drawers in the nursery, looking for Peter’s shadow, rummaged the wardrobe and turned every pocket inside out, pausing to knot the belts and shoelaces together in an horrible mess, despite how neatly they had been set down. It was not really a light; it made this light by flashing about so quickly, but when it came to rest for a second you saw it was a fairy, no longer than your hand. It was a girl fairy called Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a shirt made of white flowers, cut low and square, and golden spider-silk leggings. She revelled in her silhouette, feeling that the garments showed off her embonpoint figure to the best of advantages.

A moment after the fairy’s entrance the window was blown open by the breathing of the little stars, and Peter dropped in. He had carried Tinker Bell part of the way, and his hand was still messy with the fairy dust, which made it glow like a candle in the darkness.

“Tinker Bell,” he called softly, after making sure that the children were asleep, “Tink, where are you?” She was in a jug for the moment, and liking it extremely well; she had never been in a jug before. It reminded her a little of being inside a huge conch shell, but instead of a fleshy pink, the walls were as white as bone, and perfect for reflecting her light.

“Oh, do come out of that jug; tell me, do you know where they put my shadow?”

The loveliest tinkle as of golden bells answered him. It is the fairy language. You ordinary children rarely hear it these days, but if you were to hear it you would know that you had heard it once before.

Tink said that the shadow was in the big box, and led him over to the chest of drawers. Peter jumped at the drawers, scattering their contents to the floor with both hands, as kings toss pennies to the crowd. In a moment he had recovered his shadow, and in his delight he forgot that he had shut Tinker Bell up in the drawer.

If he thought at all (but I don’t believe he ever thought), it was that he and his shadow, when brought near each other, would join like drops of water, and when they did not he was frightfully appalled. He tried to stick it on with soap from the bathroom, but that also failed. A shudder of horror passed through Peter, and he sat on the floor and cried. He was not used to things being uncooperative, unless they were pirates or Haida.

His sobs woke Wendy, and she sat up in bed. She was not alarmed to see a stranger crying on the nursery floor; she was only interested, for her dreams were often much stranger than this.

“Boy,” she said, “why are you crying?”

Peter could be exceeding polite, having learned the grand manner at fairy ceremonies in Kensington Gardens, and he rose and bowed to her beautifully. She was much pleased, and standing, bowed regally to him from the bed. Wendy did not curtsey to anyone.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Wendy Moira Angela Darling, or Madcap Wendy,” she replied with some satisfaction. “What is your name?”

“Peter Pan.”

She was already certain that he must be Peter, but it did seem a comparatively short name.

“Is that all?”

“Yes,” he said rather sharply. He felt for the first time that it was a shortish name, and that there might be something wrong with it.

“I’m so sorry,” said ‘Madcap’ Wendy Moira Angela, looking down her nose at him a little. The fire poker was still a comforting lump bumping against her feet.

“It doesn’t matter,” Peter gulped, crossing his arms. This criticism compounded with the misery of his independent shadow to make him feel approximately a foot shorter.

She asked where he lived.

“Second star to the right,” said Peter, “and then straight on till morning.”

“What a funny address!”

Peter had a sinking. For the first time he felt that perhaps it was a funny address, and the sensation of embarrassment made him angry.

“No it isn’t,” he disagreed.

“I mean,” Wendy said, trying to be nice, “is that what they put on the letters?” She wondered for a moment whether there was a special type of postman required to deliver to such strange addresses.

He wished she had not mentioned letters.

“Don’t get any letters,” he said, taking refuge in a momentarily genuine sense of contempt.

“But your mother gets letters?” Mrs. Darling received basketfuls, every other week. Even though securely married to Mr. Darling, she was still the life and soul of every event, and a goodly number of men, who ought to know better, still fancied themselves in love with her.

“Don’t have a mother,” he retorted. Not only had he no mother, but he had not the slightest desire to have one. He thought them very over-rated persons, always trying to control a child. Wendy, however, felt at once that she was in the presence of some great and legendary figure.

“O Peter, no wonder you were crying,” she said, and got out of bed and joined him barefoot on the floor.

“I wasn’t crying about mothers,” he said rather indignantly. “I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.”

“It has come off?”

“Yes.” Then Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, that she was instantly a little sorry for Peter.

“How awful!” she said, looking at her own obedient shadow, but she could not help smiling when she saw that he had been trying to stick it on with soap.

Fortunately she knew at once what to do. “It must be sewn on,” she said, just a little patronisingly. “Soap won’t work. That’s only good for cleaning things.”

“What’s sewn?” he asked.

“You’re dreadfully ignorant, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Well, it will need needles and thread to make everything join properly.”

Peter bit at his lip with his tiny teeth. “I don’t know what that means!” he burst out. “Tink!” He shouted, “Come and sewn my shadow and I together!”

“Sew, silly,” said Wendy. “Sewn is the past tense. Who’s Tink?”

“I don’t care if it’s past the tents or before them,” Peter retorted. “Tinker Bell is my fairy, and she will help me fix my shadow.”

Wendy’s heart went flutter with a sudden thrill.

“Peter,” she cried, catching at his arm, “you don’t mean to say that there is a real, actual fairy in this room!”

“She was here just now,” he said a little impatiently. “You don’t hear her, do you?” and they both listened.

“The only sound I hear,” said Wendy, “is like a tinkle of bells.”

“Well, that’s Tink talking, that’s the fairy language. I think I hear her too.”

The sound came from the chest of drawers, and Peter made a merry face. No one could ever look quite so merry as Peter, and the loveliest of gurgles was his laugh. He still had his first laugh, which could be quite infectious.

“Wendy,” he whispered gleefully, “I do believe I shut her up in the drawer!” They giggled together.

He let poor Tink out of the drawer, and she flew about the nursery screaming with fury. “You shouldn’t say such things,” Peter retorted. “Of course I’m very sorry, but how could I know you were in the drawer?”

Wendy was not listening to him. “Peter,” she cried, “make her stand still and let me see her!”

“They hardly ever stand still,” he said, but for one moment Wendy saw the tiny figure come to rest on the cuckoo clock.

“O the lovely!” she cried, though Tink’s face was still distorted with rage.

“Tink,” said Peter amiably, “this lady says she wishes you were her fairy.”

Tinker Bell answered insolently.

“What does she say, Peter?”

He had to translate, and was foolish enough to do so with complete accuracy. “She is not very polite. She says you are a great ugly girl, and that she is my fairy.”

He tried to argue with Tink. “You know you can’t be my fairy, Tink, because I am Peter Pan and you are a just a pixie.”

To this Tink replied in these words, “You silly ass,” and disappeared into the bathroom to tug the towels to the ground and clog the drains with them.

“She is quite a common fairy,” Peter explained apologetically, “she is called Tinker Bell because she mends pots and kettles, when she is employed. But she followed me from Neverland and found my shadow, so I shan’t pull her wings tonight.”

“Where is Neverland?”

Peter wrinkled his nose. “I told you, Wendy, second star from the right and straight on until morning.”

Wendy’s hazel eyes narrowed in thought for a moment. “I can put you and your shadow back together, Peter,” she said, “but you have to take me to Neverland in exchange.”

“I could just find someone else to join us together, and I wouldn’t have to lug them along with me.”

“They wouldn’t be able to do it properly, and it would fall off and get lost forever. It would look painfully strange.”

“What’s the proper way?” Peter demanded. He didn’t want to look painfully strange.

“Say you’ll take me with you, and I’ll do it.” She spoke the words with a carefully calculated air of boredom, but watched closely from the corners of her eyes.

“All right then, I will.”

Wendy immediately spat on her palm and presented it. “Shake on it.”

The deal was duly made in a sacred, unbreakable clasp.

Wendy was exulting in his ignorance. “I shall perform surgery on you, Peter Pan!” she said, and she promptly went and found her first aid bag, for she wished to be a roving battlefield medic if a position as first girl on a merchantman ship could not be got. Pulling loose her long, curly hair, she began sawing at it with her scissors, until the locks scattered about their feet on the floor.

“How will this help my shadow?” Peter demanded, dancing with impatience.

Wendy turned her head to and fro delightedly, enjoying the short swishing sensation of her new, albeit crooked, bob.

“I needed thread for my needle,” she informed him wisely, “and human hair is the best for this sort of thing.” Collecting up a few of the longest strands, she pressed Peter’s shadow close to his foot.

“I daresay it will hurt a little,” she warned him.

“O, I shan’t cry,” said Peter, who was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life. So he clenched his teeth and did not cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a little creased, and his cheeks were mostly dry.

“Perhaps I should have flattened it under a book,” Wendy mused, but Peter, indifferent to appearances was now jumping about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed thanks for his re-joined body to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. “How clever I am!” he crowed rapturously, “O, the cleverness of me!”

It is humiliating to have to confess that this conceit of Peter was one of his most fascinating qualities. To put it with brutal honesty, there never was a cockier boy; and a good thing it is, too. Many more of them, and the world might have given up on children altogether.

But for the moment Wendy was furious. “You little braggart,” she exclaimed, with frightful sarcasm; “of course I did nothing!”

“You did a little,” Peter said carelessly, and continued to dance, admiring himself.

“A little!” she replied with hauteur; “I see there’s no further use talking to you then, you ungrateful little monkey,” and she turned away, packing up her scissors and needle with the homemade bandages. Her stiff shoulders rebuked him most poignantly, and she refused to glance even once in his direction. She sprang in the most dignified way into bed and presented her back to him, crossing her arms furiously under the blankets.

To induce her to look up he pretended to be going away, and when this failed he sat on the end of the bed and tapped her gently with his foot. “Wendy,” he said, “don’t ignore me. I can’t help crowing, Wendy, when I’m pleased with myself.” Still she would not look up, though she was listening keenly, for her thoughts were still fixed upon Neverland.

“Wendy,” he continued, in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”

Now Wendy was every inch a woman, though there were not very many inches, and she turned her head slightly, to favour him with her profile.

“Do you really think so, Peter?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I think it’s perfectly sweet of you,” she declared, “I’ll speak to you again now,” and she sat with him on the side of the bed.

When children are introduced, it is customary for them to ask each other’s age, often before they swap such unimportant and temporal things as names, and so Wendy, who always liked to know as much as possible about everything in particular, asked Peter how old he was. It was not really a happy question to ask him; it was like an examination paper that asks grammar, when what you want to be asked is about the pharaohs.

“I don’t know,” he replied uneasily, “but I am quite young.” He really knew nothing about it, he merely had some vague suspicions, but he said at a venture, “Wendy, I ran away the day I was born.”

Wendy was quite surprised, but interested; and she indicated with a jerk of her chin, that he could sit nearer her. Their feet dangled and kicked over the edge of the bed, as small fishes might do when at rest in a bed of weeds.

“It was because I heard Father and Mother,” he explained in a low voice, “talking about what I was to be when I grew up and became a man.” He was extraordinarily agitated now. “I don’t want ever to be a man,” he said with passion. “I will always be a boy and have fun. So I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long, long time among the wild birds and fairies.”

She gave him a look of the most intense admiration. “I knew when Mother said that I must grow up that I wouldn’t, and I was planning to run away with a gypsy caravan to avoid it, but I could never find one idling by at the right moment.”

“Huh,” said Peter, “travellers are fun all right, but even their children are expected to grow up. No, fairies are the crowd you want to run with, if you want to remain not-a-grownup.”

To know fairies struck Wendy as quite delightful, for Nana had been sure to tell the children of all the mischief they were prone to (as a means of ensuring they avoided bad sorts), although it had had rather the opposite effect.

She poured out questions about them, to his surprise, for they were rather a nuisance to him, getting in his way and so on. Indeed he sometimes had to flick them out of his way, which sent them cartwheeling all over the place. Still, he liked them on the whole, and he told her about the beginning of fairies.

“You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went fluttering about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”

“And so,” he went on good-naturedly, “There ought to be at least a hundred fairies for every boy and girl’s first laugh.”

“Ought to be? Isn’t there?”

“No. You see children know such a lot now, they soon don’t believe in fairies, and every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”

Wendy pondered this grand process for a moment, and a questioning thought occurred to her. “But what about bad fairies?” she asked.

Really, he thought they had now talked enough about fairies, and Peter said shortly, “Well, of course they are all the same.”

They were together in the armchair by this time, and Wendy plied him with more questions.

“If you don’t live in Kensington Gardens now—”

“Sometimes I do still. Especially at Easter, when all the silly fat children lose chocolate eggs amongst the flowers, and we steal them away from under their noses.”

“But where do you live mostly?”

“With the lost boys.”

“Who are they?”

“They are the children who fall out of their prams when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Neverland, for the Kensington fairies won’t keep them. I’m captain.”

“What fun it must be! I’m glad I’m coming with you.”

“Why, whatever gave you that idea?” Peter said.

Wendy widened her jaguar eyes at him. “We shook on it,” she said innocently, “and I sewed you back together using my own hair, so now you’re rather stuck with me.”

“For how long?” demanded Peter, “I already have Tinker Bell following me around, I don’t need another silly girl!”

There was an angry chiming from the fairy, who had returned from her explorations of the gazunder, and been listening with enthusiasm to all this talk of fairies. She had, I am afraid to say, been preening under the attention, even if it was only second-hand. Tink was like that. It is just possible that she was entirely as vain as Peter was cocky.

“Forever,” Wendy said flatly, “just like Tink, only not so sparkly. And you needn’t say girls in that tone of voice, either. I’m as handy as any silly lost boy.”

“But you’d be lonely,” said cunning Peter, “for you see, we have no girls in the lost troupe.”

“Then I shall be the first,” she said with some spirit, and then; “why are there no girls?”

“ Girls, you know, are much too clever to fall out of their prams.”

This flattered Wendy immensely, but she was by no means distracted from her aim. “I think,” she said, “it is perfectly contradictory the way you talk about girls; for you see we’re so much cleverer than mere lost boys; if a girl wants to be lost, she will go out of her way to make it happen, not find herself lost by mistake. You ought to be grateful a girl would want to join you, with all your adventures with pirates,” her voice dropped a little in yearning, “and Indians, and wild animals.”

For reply Peter rose and kicked John out of bed, blankets and all: one kick. This seemed to Wendy rather forward for a first meeting, and she told him loudly that he was not captain in her house. However, John continued to sleep so placidly on the floor that she allowed him to remain there.

“Kicking him won’t dissuade me one jot,” she said stoutly – “indeed, it’s quite the thing I do to them regularly.” She indicated her unfortunate brothers with a princely disregard.

“Why, I’ll kick him all the way into next week if it means you leave me alone.”

“Well, it won’t. I’m quite set, you realise. I won’t stay here a moment longer, to be turned into a silly, bleating adult. I won’t stay, even for the stories!”

“Do you know very many stories?” Peter asked, hesitating with a kind of longing.

“Buckets full. None of them any good, but I know all sorts of military triumphs, and they’re far better to tell.”

Peter admitted that he came to the nursery window not to see her but to listen to stories. “You see, I don’t know any stories. None of the lost boys knows any stories of any sort.”

“How perfectly awful,” Wendy said.

“Do you know,” Peter asked “Why birds nest in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories. O Wendy, your mother was telling you such a lovely story. It’s why I snuck away here from Neverland, to come and listen to her while you snuggled in close by the fire. But then the tide changed again, and I was drawn back.”

“Let me come with you,” she entreated, “for you promised it, and we’re joined now – if you want to leave me behind, you’ll have to cut your shadow off and be foresworn a liar.”

Peter hesitated.

“Also, I will try and tell some stories, in the quiet times between fighting pirates and burying the dead.”

Those were her precise words, and he came back with a greedy look in his eyes which ought to have alarmed her, but did not.

“O, the thousands of stories I could tell to the boys!” she cried, and then Peter gripped her by the hand and began to draw her toward the window, the medicine bag bumping against her leg.

“Let me go!” she ordered him, as contrary a cat as ever scorned fresh cream. Also, the window was open, and she knew from past experience how it yawned down into the cobbled street, some thirty yards below.

“Wendy, you must come with me and join the other boys.”

“Slow down, Peter! I can’t fly yet!”

“I’ll teach you. I’ll teach you how to jump on the wind’s back, and say funny things to the stars and make them giggle – they flicker so!”

“O, how jolly!”

“And, Wendy, in Neverland there are mermaids.”

“Mermaids! With tails?”

“Such long, shiny tails!”

“O,” cried Wendy, “to see a mermaid!”

He had become cruel, and was now teasing her with all the things she wanted and lacked. “Wendy,” he said, “How we should all respect you, in Neverland. You’d be the only storyteller. If only you can fly there…”

She was wriggling her body in distress. It was quite as if she were trying to float off the nursery floor. “Peter, teach me how to fly, come along, do!”

In all this ruckus, John and Michael were roused from slumber.

“Wendy, who is this?” demanded John, and: “did I fall out of bed?”

Peter and Tinker Bell both gurgled a little laugh. Wendy put her hands on her hips.

“Go back to sleep John, and you too, Michael. I’m talking with Peter Pan, and he is going to take me away to Neverland.”

“How awfully fascinating!” John cried. “Peter, would you take us too?”

“If you like,” he said indifferently, and Wendy stamped her foot, sulking a little for having to share her adventure.

Michael was up by this time also, looking as sharp as a knife with six blades and a saw, but Peter suddenly raised a hand for silence. Their faces assumed the craftiness of children listening for sounds from the grown-up world. All was as still as salt, which meant all was right. No, stop! Everything was wrong. Nana, who had been barking in distress all the evening, was quiet now. It was her silence they had heard.

“Out with the light! Hide! Quick!” cried John, taking command for the only time in his short life so far. And thus when Liza entered, holding Nana, the nursery seemed quite its normal self, very dark, and you would have sworn you heard its three wicked inmates breathing angelically as they slept. They were really doing it artfully from behind the window curtains. Tinker Bell had slipped inside Wendy’s sleeve to hid her glow from the grown-ups, and Wendy could feel the dragonfly quiver of her wings against the inside of her wrist.

Liza was in a bad temper, for she was mixing a batch of Christmas puddings in the kitchen, and had been drawn from them, with a raisin still on her cheek, by Nana’s absurd suspicions. She thought the best way of getting a little quiet was to take Nana to the nursery for a moment, but in custody of course.

“There, you suspicious brute,” she said, not sorry that Nana was in disgrace. “They are perfectly safe, aren’t they? Every one of the little wretches sound asleep in bed. Listen to their breathing.”

Here Michael, encouraged by his success, breathed so loudly that they were nearly detected. Nana knew that kind of breathing, and she tried to drag herself out of Liza’s clutches.

But Liza was preoccupied and unobservant. “No more of it, Nana,” she said sternly, pulling her out of the room. “I warn you if you bark again I shall go straight for master and missus and bring them home from the party, and then, oh, won’t master beat you, just. He might even let you go, and find another nurse for the children. A proper nurse,” as she hauled her down the stairs. “A human nurse,” as she tied the rope firm, imprisoning the unhappy dog in the yard.

Do you think Nana ceased to bark? Bring Mr. and Mrs. Darling home from the party? Why, that was exactly what she wanted! Do you think she cared whether she was whipped or cast out so long as her charges were safe?

Unfortunately Liza returned to her puddings, turning up the wireless so as to drown out Nana’s howls, and Nana, seeing that no help would come from her, strained and strained at the leash until at last she broke her collar. In another moment she had burst into the dining room of 27 and flung up her paws to heaven, whining in distress. Mr. and Mrs. Darling knew at once that something terrible was happening in the nursery, and without any more than a shouted good-bye to their hostess they rushed into the street.

But it is ten minutes since three scoundrels and their ringleader had been breathing deceitfully behind the curtains, and Peter Pan can do a great deal in ten minutes.

We now return to the nursery.

“It’s all right,” John announced, emerging from his hiding-place. “I say, Peter, can you really fly?”

Instead of troubling to answer him Peter flew around the room, taking in the mantelpiece on the way.

“How topping!” said Wendy, clapping her hands.

“How amazing!” cried John (he did not like to use slang).

“Yes, I’m amazing, O, I am wondrous!” said Peter, forgetting his manners again and executing a barrel roll of triumph in the air.

It looked delightfully easy, and they tried it first from the floor and then from the beds, but they always went down instead of up. After some discussion, they agreed that bouncing did not count. Only the real thing would do.

“I say, how do you do it?” asked John, rubbing his knee. He was quite a practical boy, already showing some of his father’s unimaginative lumpishness. Wendy often felt rather sorry for him, when she wasn’t busy being annoyed.

“You just think lovely wonderful thoughts,” Peter explained, with a deadpan face, “and they lift you up in the air.”

Once again, he showed them. Then he did it slowly, and quickly, until the children each cried that they had it; of course they did not. Not one of them could fly an inch, though even Michael was in words of two syllables or more, and Peter did not know A from Z.

Of course Peter had been taking his amusement at their expense, for no one can fly unless fairy dust has been blown on them. Fortunately, as we have mentioned, one of his hands was messy with it, and he blew some on each of them, with the most superb results.

“Now just wiggle your shoulders this way,” he said, “then let go of the floor.”

They were all on their beds, and gallant Michael let go first. He did not quite mean to let go, but he did it, and immediately he was borne across the room.

“I flewed!” he screamed while still in mid-air.

John let go and met Wendy above the kennel.

“O, how fantastic!”

“O, ripping!”

“Look at me!”

“Look at me!”

“Look at me!”

They were not nearly so elegant as Peter. They could not help kicking a little, but their heads were bobbing against the ceiling, and there is almost nothing so delicious as that. Peter gave Wendy a hand at first, but had to desist, Tink was so indignant.

Up and down they went, and round and round. “Smashing,” was Wendy’s word for it.

“I say,” cried Wendy, “why are we waiting around here? Let’s all go out!”

Of course it was to this that Peter had been luring them.

Michael was ready: he wanted to see how long it took him to do a billion miles. But John hesitated.

“There are pirates,” said Peter encouragingly.

“Pirates,” cried John, seizing his Sunday hat, “then let us go at once!”

It was just at this moment that Mr. and Mrs. Darling hurried with Nana out of 27. They ran into the middle of the street to look up at the nursery window; it was open, the room was ablaze with light, and most heart-stopping of all, they could see in the shadows on the curtain three little figures in night attire circling round and round, not on the floor but up in the air.

No, not three figures, four!

In a tremble they opened the front door. Mr. Darling would have rushed upstairs, but Mrs. Darling signed him to go softly. She even tried to make her heart go softly, that they might sneak upon the children and the intruder.

They would have reached the nursery in time had it not been that the little stars were maintaining a lookout for Peter. Once again the stars blew the window open, and that smallest star of all called out:

“Run, Peter!”

Then Peter knew that there was not a moment to lose. “Come,” he cried imperiously, and soared out at once into the night, followed by Wendy, Michael and John.

Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Nana rushed into the nursery seconds too late. The birds had flown from the nest, joyously free.

 

 

The Fall of Peter Pan is now available as an eBook!

Like reading? Like poetry? K.L. has recently published a collection of poems, along with a preview of her upcoming novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Find it here.