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.

 

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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.

The Fall of Peter Pan – Chapter 2

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.

Chapter 2 THE SHADOW

Fall of PeterPan

Mrs. Darling gave another squeak of fear, and as if in answer to a bell, the nursery door opened and Nana entered, returned from her evening out. She had been indulging herself by watching the greyhound races. Nana snarled and sprang at the boy, who hurled himself away through the window, the little light following at his heels. Again Mrs. Darling screamed, this time in distress, for she thought he was killed, and she ran down into the street with a lit taper to look for his crumpled little corpse. It was not there. She searched around, and in the black sky she could see nothing but what she thought was a shooting star, though it would have to have been very bright to shine through the smoky air of London that night.

She returned to the nursery, and found Nana holding something in her teeth, which proved to be the boy’s shadow. As he leapt out the window Nana had closed it quickly, and his shadow had not had time to get out; slam went the window and snapped it cleanly off. Together they examined the shadow, but it was quite ordinary, and Nana suggested they hang it out at the high nursery window, so that the strange boy could come back to claim it without troubling the children.

But Mrs. Darling could not leave it hanging out at the window; it looked so like washing and lowered the whole tone of the house. She thought of showing it to Mr. Darling, but he was not yet due home, and it seemed a shame to trouble him; besides, she knew exactly what he would say: “It all comes of having a dog for a nurse.” And then they would chase that conversation back and forth, battling Mr. Darling’s social insecurities on the one hand, and their monetary ones on the other, until the ideas were quite tired again and desired to be put aside till later.

She decided to roll the shadow up and put it away carefully in a drawer, until a fitting opportunity came for telling her husband, though as with many things we place in a safe place, it was almost instantly lost and forgotten.

The opportunity came a week later, on that never-to-be-forgotten Friday.

“I ought to have been specially careful on a Friday,” Mrs. Darling used to say afterwards to her husband, while perhaps Nana was on the other side of her, holding her hand with one work-roughened paw. “It was the thirteenth, after all. I should have taken precautions.”

“No, no,” Mr. Darling always said, “I am responsible for it all. I, George Darling, did it. Mea culpa, mea culpa.” He had had a classical education, and a love of reading histories of the martyrs.

“If only I had not accepted that invitation to dinner at 27,” Mrs. Darling said, “but I had been wanting to see them socially for some time.”

“If only I had not poured my medicine into Nana’s bowl,” said Mr. Darling, “though it is so very loathsome.”

“If only I had pretended to like the medicine,” was what Nana’s wet eyes said.

“My abominable liking for parties, George.”

“My fatal lack of humour, dearest.”

“My touchiness about trifles, dearest master and mistress.”

Then one or more of them would break down altogether into broken sobbing; Nana at the thought, “It’s true, they should not have employed a dog for a nurse.” Many a time it was Mr. Darling who put the handkerchief to Nana’s weeping old eyes.

“That fiend!” Mr. Darling would cry, and Nana’s bark was the very echo of it, but Mrs. Darling never upbraided Peter; there was something in the right-hand corner of her mouth that wanted her not to call Peter names. There is even the possibility that she had rediscovered the secret place in her mind, and was again using it as she should.

They would sit there in the empty nursery, their faces haggard, recalling every smallest detail of that dreadful evening. It had begun so uneventfully, so precisely like a hundred other evenings, with Nana putting on the water for Michael’s bath and carrying him to it on her back.

“I won’t go to bed,” he had shouted, still believing sincerely at three years old that his opinion was the deciding factor on a subject, “I won’t, I won’t. Nana, it isn’t six o’clock yet. I shan’t love you ever, Nana. I tell you I won’t be bathed! No! No, no, no!”

Then Mrs. Darling had come in, wearing her white evening gown. She had dressed early because John so loved to see her in her gowns, with the necklace George had given her. She was wearing Wendy’s bracelet on her arm; she had asked for the loan of it. Wendy loved to lend her bracelet to her mother, for it was no use to her unless they were playing at pirates and treasure. When Mrs. Darling had it, it was sure not to be lost, and then Wendy would be saved sitting through a scolding.

She had found her two older children playing at being herself and Father on the occasion of Wendy’s birth, and John was saying:

“I am happy to inform you, Mrs. Darling, that you are now a mother,” in just such a pompous tone as Mr. Darling himself may have used on the real occasion. Wendy pulled a face at him, but had obligingly danced with joy, just as the real Mrs. Darling must have done, if she were at all capable of dancing.

Then John was born, with the extra pomp that he received due to the birth of a boy, and Michael came from his bath to ask to be born also, but John said quite brutally that they did not want any more. Wendy boxed his ears, mainly for the pomp and a little for making Michael sad.

Michael had begun to cry. “Nobody wants me,” he despaired, snub nose running, and of course the lady in the evening dress could not stand that.

“I do,” Mrs. Darling said, “I so want a third child.”

“Boy or girl?” Asked Michael, looking up hopefully.

“Boy.”

Then he had leapt into her arms. Such a little thing for Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Nana to recall now, but not so little when it was etched in their memories as Michael’s last night in the nursery.

They labour on with their recollections, against the contrary winds of emotion.

“It was then that I rushed in like a storm, wasn’t it?” Mr. Darling would say, scorning himself; and indeed he had been like a tornado.

He, too, had been dressing for the party, and all had gone well with him until he came to his tie. It is an astounding thing to confess, but this man, though he knew about long-term interest rates and shares, had no actual mastery of his tie. Sometimes the thing yielded to him without a contest, but there were occasions when it would have been better for the house if he had swallowed his pride and used a clip-on tie, for it would have spared them all a real fit of temper.

This was such an occasion. He came rushing into the nursery with the crumpled little brute of a tie in his hand.

“Why, whatever is the matter, Father dear?” Mrs. Darling asked.

“Matter!” He yelled; he really yelled. “This tie, it will not tie.” He became dangerously sarcastic. “Not round my neck! Round the bedpost! Oh yes, twenty times have I made it up round the bedpost, but round my neck, no! Oh dear no!”

He thought Mrs. Darling was not sufficiently impressed, and he went on threateningly, “I warn you of this, Mother, that unless this tie is round my neck we don’t go out to dinner to-night, and if I don’t go out to dinner to-night, I never go to the office again, and if I don’t go to the office again, you and I shall starve, and our children will be flung out into the streets to beg for crusts.”

Even in the face of this dangerous man-child, Mrs. Darling was placid. “Let me try, my dear,” she simply said, and indeed that was what he had come to ask her to do. With her nice cool hands she tied his tie for him, while the children stood around all owl-eyed to see their fate decided. Some men would have resented her being able to achieve what they could not so easily, but Mr. Darling was far too distractible for that; he thanked her carelessly, at once forgot his rage, and in another moment was dancing round the room with Michael on his back.

“Our last romp!” Mr. Darling groaned.

“O George, do you remember when Michael asked me, ‘How did you get to know me, Mother?’”

“I remember!”

“They were rather sweet, don’t you think, George?”

“And they were ours, all ours! And now…they are gone.”

The romp had ended with the appearance of Nana, and most unluckily Mr. Darling collided against her, covering his trousers with hairs. They were not only new trousers, but they were also the first he had ever had with braid on them, and he had had to bite his lip to prevent from shouting at the unfortunate Nana. Of course Mrs. Darling brushed him clean, but he began to talk again about its being a mistake to have a dog for a nurse.

“George, Nana is a treasure.”

“No doubt, but I have an uneasy feeling at times that she looks upon the children as puppies.”

“Oh no, dear one, I feel sure she knows they have souls.” Wendy from her corner glanced up with interest at this. She rather felt that children had no souls, just like puppies. Anything else seemed unfair to the puppies. Having a soul appeared to burden one with all kinds of responsibilities, which were best avoided.

“I wonder,” Mr. Darling said thoughtfully, “I wonder.” It was an opportunity, his wife suddenly recalled, for telling him about the boy. At first he pooh-poohed the story, but he became thoughtful when she showed him the shadow.

“It is nobody I know,” he said, examining it carefully, “but it does look as though it belongs to some shade of scoundrel or dirty urchin.”

“Nana and I may well have scared him off for good; but I am glad she is here to guard the children in case he comes back,” Mrs. Darling said.

“We were still discussing it, you remember,” says Mr. Darling, “when Nana came in with Michael’s medicine. You will never need to carry that bottle in your mouth again, Nana, and it is all my fault.”

Strong man though he was, there is no doubt that he had behaved rather foolishly over the medicine. If he had a weakness (he had many, but did not recognise them, so we shall avoid the subject), it was for thinking that all his life he had taken medicine boldly, and so now, when Michael dodged the spoon in Nana’s mouth, he had said reprovingly, “Be a man, Michael.”

“Won’t! No! Won’t!” Michael cried naughtily. Mrs. Darling left the room to get a chocolate for him. Mr. Darling thought this showed want of firmness towards the children.

“Mother, don’t pamper him,” he called after her. “Michael Darling, when I was your age I took my medicine without a murmur. I drank it down and said, ‘Thank you, kind parents, for giving me bottles to make me well.’”

He really thought this was true, and Wendy, who was now in her night-gown, rolled her eyes, though she said, to encourage Michael, “That medicine you sometimes take, Father, is much nastier, isn’t it?”

“Ever so much nastier,” Mr. Darling said bravely, “And I would take it now as an example to you, Michael, if I hadn’t lost the bottle. I can’t find it anywhere.“

He had not exactly lost it; he had climbed in the dead of night to the top of the wardrobe and hidden it there. What he did not know was that the efficient Liza had found it, and put it back on his washstand.

“I know where it is, Father,” Wendy cried, always glad to be of service. “I’ll bring it,” and she was off before he could stop her. Immediately his spirits sank.

“John,” he said, shuddering, “it’s the most disgusting, nasty, sticky stuff.”

“It will soon be over, Father,” John said cheerily, and then in rushed Wendy with the medicine in a glass.

“I have been as quick as I could,” she panted.

“You have been wonderfully quick,” her father retorted, with a vindictive politeness that was quite lost on her. “Michael first,” he said doggedly.

“Father first,” said Michael, who was of a suspicious nature.

“I shall be sick, you know,” Mr. Darling threatened, “then you’ll feel bad, won’t you?”

“No,” said Michael truthfully.

“Come on, Father,” said John.

“Hold your tongue, John,” his father rapped out.

Wendy hid a smile that was entirely mischievous. “I thought you took it quite easily, Father.”

“That is not the point,” he retorted. “The point is, there is more in my glass than in Michael’s little spoon. And it isn’t fair: I would say it though it were with my last breath; it isn’t fair.”

“You are bigger than Michael, father. I think it’s rather fair you should have more of it,” Wendy said, crossing her arms. Even John, his faithful shadow and compatriot, sensing the direction this was going in, stood closer to Michael than Mr. Darling.

“Father, I am waiting,” said Michael coldly.

“It’s all very well to say you are waiting; so am I waiting.”

“Father’s a cowardly custard.”

“I’m not frightened.”

“Well, then, take it.”

“You take it first.”

Wendy sighed. “Why not both take it at the same time?”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Darling. “Are you ready, Michael?”

Wendy gave the words, one, two, three, and Michael took his medicine, but Mr. Darling slipped his behind his back.

There was a sputtering yell of rage from Michael, and “O Father!” Wendy exclaimed in disappointment.

“What do you mean by ‘O Father’?” Mr. Darling demanded. “Stop that row, Michael. I meant to take mine, but I—I missed it.”

It was dreadful the way all the three were looking at him, just as if they did not admire him. “Look here, all of you,” he said entreatingly, as soon as Nana had gone into the bathroom. “I have just thought of a splendid joke. I shall pour my medicine into Nana’s bowl, and she will drink it, thinking it is milk!”

It was the colour of milk; but the children did not have their father’s sense of humour, and they looked at him reproachfully as he poured the medicine into Nana’s bowl. “What fun!” he said doubtfully, and they did not dare expose him when Mrs. Darling and Nana returned.

“Nana, good dog,” he said, patting her, “I have put a little milk into your bowl, Nana.”

Nana wagged her tail, for milk was a rare treat, ran to the medicine, and began lapping it. Then she shuddered, gagged, and gave Mr. Darling such a look, not an angry look: she showed him the great reproachful eyes that make us so sorry for bothering noble dogs, and crept into her kennel quite crushed. It was all very well for Mr. Darling to doubt her abilities as a nursemaid because she was a dog, but to mock her so…! She whimpered quietly.

Mr. Darling was frightfully ashamed of himself, but he would not give in. In a horrid silence Mrs. Darling smelt the bowl. “O George,” she said, “It’s your medicine! Why on earth would you do such a thing?”

“It was only a joke,” he roared, while she comforted her boys, and Wendy hugged as much of Nana as she could reach from outside the kennel. “Much good,” he said bitterly, “my wearing myself to the bone trying to be funny in this house.”

And still Wendy hugged Nana. “That’s right,” he shouted. “Coddle her! Nobody coddles me. Oh dear no! I am only the breadwinner, why should I be coddled—why, why, why!”

“George,” Mrs. Darling entreated him, “not so loud; the servants will hear you, you know how they talk.” Somehow they had got into the way of calling Liza the servants, particularly in front of company. Company were always careful not to comment on it when with the Darlings, but would occasionally snigger about it with their friends later on.

“Let them!” he answered recklessly. “Bring in the whole world to see how I am rewarded for my labour! But I refuse to allow that dog to lord it in my nursery for an hour longer.”

The children wept, and Nana fawned at his feet beseechingly, but he waved her back. He felt he was a strong man again. “In vain, in vain,” he cried; “the proper place for you is the yard, dog, and there you go to be tied up this instant.”

Wendy stared at him in hurt and dismay as the facade of greatness he had so carefully cultivated fell in ruins around him. Nana fled into her kennel.

“George, George,” Mrs. Darling whispered, “remember what I told you about that boy. Nana must stay in the nursery to guard the children!”

He was determined to show who was master in that house, and when commands would not draw Nana from the kennel, he lured her out of it with honeyed words, and seizing her roughly, dragged her by force from the nursery, bumping her down the stairs as she scrabbled for a footing. He was ashamed of himself, and yet he could not stop himself; his pride and need for admiration so bruised that he required a firm show of mastery to restore self-respect. When he had tied Nana up in the backyard, the wretched father went and sat in the passage, with his knuckles to his eyes, his head chiming with a sudden migraine.

In the meantime Mrs. Darling had put the children to bed in unwonted silence and lit their night-lights. They could hear Nana barking, and John whimpered, “It is because he is chaining her up in the yard,” but Wendy was cleverer, and she touched the fire poker, which had been hidden in her bedclothes (in case of robbers, you see) before the events of that horrible evening.

“That is not Nana’s unhappy bark,” she said, little guessing what was about to occur; “that is her bark when she senses danger.”

Danger! The word thrilled through Mrs. Darling with a cold shiver of dread.

“Are you sure, Wendy?”

“Yes.”

Mrs. Darling put a trembling hand to her mouth and went to the window. It was securely fastened. She looked out, and the unusually clear night sky was peppered with stars. They were crowding round the house, as if curious to see what was to take place there, but she did not notice this, nor that one or two of the smaller ones winked at her. Yet a nameless despair clutched at her heart and made her cry, “Oh, how I wish that I wasn’t going to a party tonight! I no longer have the heart for it.”

Even Michael, already half asleep, knew that she was perturbed, and he asked, “Can anything harm us, Mother, after the night-lights are lit?”

“Nothing, precious,” she said; “they are the eyes a mother leaves behind her to guard her children.”

She went from bed to bed singing over them, and little Michael flung his arms round her. “Mother,” he cried, “I’m glad of you.” They were the last words she was to hear from him for a long time.

Wendy would not lift her face for a kiss, but gave her the dangerous eyes of a wild cat. “You didn’t stand up for Nana,” she said, turning over to show one reproachful shoulder heaped in the comforter. Mrs. Darling bit her lip, and laid a hand on the cold shoulder for a moment.

The children heard her light step in the hall, and then she was gone from them, for much longer than any of them suspected.

No. 27 was only a few yards distant, but there had been a slight fall of snow, and Mr. and Mrs. Darling picked their way over it deftly so as not to soil their shoes. At that hour, they were the only persons in the street, and all the stars were watching them. Stars are beautiful, but they may not take an active part in anything, they are only able to observe. It is a punishment put on them for something they did so long ago that no one now knows what it was. As a result, many of the older ones have become glassy-eyed and seldom speak (winking is the star language), but the little ones still wonder and twinkle. They are not really friendly to Peter, who had a mischievous way of stealing up behind them and trying to blow them out; but they are so fond of witnessing mischief that they were on his side tonight, and anxious to see the grown-ups gotten out of the way. So as soon as the door of 27 closed on Mr. and Mrs. Darling, there was a commotion in the firmament, and the smallest of all the stars in the Milky Way screamed out with a brilliant flicker:

“Now, Peter!”

 

 

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.

The Fall of Peter Pan – Chapter 1

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.

 

Chapter 1 PETER BREAKS THROUGH

Fall of PeterPan

“Nana, I’m going out for coffee. Make sure the children get to school on time after breakfast.”

Wendy stared dolefully at her mother’s retreating back, as Mrs. Darling sashayed out of the dining room. It was her birthday, but aside from a perfunctory word of congratulation from her parents at breakfast, before Mr. Darling left for the office, nothing special had occurred.

No presents had been given… except for the dress. She could feel its presence needling her, despite its absence from the room. All those stiff ruffles and delicate bits of lacework. Hideous.

“What kind of a stupid person gets me a present they know I’ll hate?” She demanded, poking at her toast, “I didn’t ask for a dress, I wanted a compass!”

Nana, her head barely reaching above the table, gave her a stern look that said little girls ought to be grateful for such nice presents as dresses, and her brother John only shrugged a little. “You are a girl. It’s what you do.”

“Why?” Wendy shouted, “Why do I have to? You got a pocket knife for your birthday, and even Michael got a train set—”

“I wanted a microscope,” John said dryly.

Wendy pushed back her chair and stormed out of the dining room, up the stairs to the nursery with what she considered an appropriate amount of stamping.

There the children were sequestered away to play and sleep, so as to keep the hallways clean and uncluttered. And there, in pride of place, was the loathsome gift. She stared at it, her eyes fairly sparking with anger.

“This is the most miserable birthday ever,” she muttered, pacing the room restlessly. She had objected to birthdays on principle, ever since Mrs. Darling told her she was going to grow up, as all children must.

Of course, Mrs. Darling had not meant to let this secret of the adult world slip out, but when two-year-old Wendy had innocently run to her with a freshly-picked flower as an offering, she had touched one hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!”

Henceforth Wendy knew, with a horrible sinking sensation, that she was expected to grow up. You always know after you are two. Two, for most people, is the beginning of the end. But in Wendy’s heart, she began to mutiny against the idea, and it seemed to Wendy that Mrs. Darling, since that day, had had little time for her only daughter. Instead, she brushed off Wendy’s earnest, “But why must I grow up, Mother?” with an uneasy laugh, and turned her attentions and affection elsewhere, to younger children who did not ask such difficult questions.

Wendy always claimed that this is her earliest memory; and if memories direct a person’s footsteps in the great game of life, then it was. For it gave her the steely determination to avoid becoming boring and preoccupied and loving like her mother, and all the other adults she had met. Until she comes to Neverland, however, we are not to see her true strengths emerge. Instead, she will be introduced much as any other young girl, who has two littler brothers to contend with, and a pair of silly, distractible parents.

Wendy stamped the nursery, restless with disappointment.

It didn’t help that their mother, Mrs. Darling, had spared not more than a moment out of her day to give her daughter a pat on the head and say, “Happy birthday, my dear little darling,” (a kiss would have smudged her lipstick), before going out to a café with one of her friends, leaving the children to eat their breakfasts alone in the house, but for the dog. She had received even less from Mr. Darling, who had already calculated the cost of her wedding, and was deducting it from all her birthday and Christmas presents. He had muttered something congratulatory, checked his pocket watch, and marched out the door.

Mrs. Darling was a lovely woman, with a romantic mind and a sweet, mocking mouth. A hundred close acquaintances fancied themselves half in love with her, and she throve under the attention. Her romantic mind was perpetually a-flutter with the latest ideas and fashions. These fluttering trivialities were all most people ever saw of her, and any disagreeable personal opinions were boxed away from view, obscured even from Mrs. Darling herself amongst a jumble of silk prices and chinaware patterns in that colourful kaleidoscope of the senses. She was always pleasant to be with, a witty and agreeable conversationalist; and most tempting of all, her clever mouth had one kiss on it that no one ever got, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner. In short, she was as kind-hearted and butterfly-witted a product of good breeding as ever failed to amount to anything much. She loved her children dearly from a distance (when they were well-behaved), but had an unshakeable fondness for parties, and it was mere chance that she had been at home long enough for Mr. Darling to catch at her hand and propose.

We suppose it was sheer surprise that led her to say yes, and after that her fate was sealed. If Mrs. Darling didn’t love him to begin with, she found it rather more easy to learn to do so, than to make any changes later on.

The way Mr. Darling won her was this: the many men who had been boys when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her now that she was a woman, and they all ran to her house to propose. It was a grand dash, all the way from an unnameable club in the High Street to her Father’s home in Kensington. It is regrettable to say that in the ruckus, a great many enthusiastic men were rather poor sports, and took the opportunity to trip one another up as they sailed over shrubberies in their finest of fine suits. Still more were barged, rugby-style, into unassuming gardens (to the rage of the gardeners the next morning). It was a delightful mess, and a rather close race. They all stood to arrive sweaty and dishevelled, their clothes torn and dirty, and it is rather evenly balanced as to whether the future Mrs. Darling’s father would have approved a match to any of them, regardless of their yearly income.

All of them that is, except Mr. Darling. He did not join the stampede, but paid his tab, strolled out of the club, and cleverly hailed a cab. Thus he nipped in first, managing to arrive looking composed into the bargain, and so got her. She was on her way out at the time he caught her, so she looked rather good for being proposed to on the spot. When the other men panted their way up to the front door, it was all over but for the ceremony and champagne.

Mr. Darling got all of her, except the secret box of thoughts and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying for the kiss, and contented himself with normal, everyday kisses. Wendy thought Napoleon could have got it, if he were to stand on a chair, but I can picture him trying, failing, and then going off in a passion, slamming the door on his way to Elba. The unsurpassable lure of Mrs. Darling’s kiss could have sent Helen of Troy home in a snit, but she never used it on anyone. Possibly she was not fully aware that it was there, smiling in the corner of her mouth.

Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know all about the share market. Of course no one really knows, but he quite seemed to know, and he often said stocks were up and shares were down in such an impressive way that it would have made any woman respect him, if only to make him shut up for a little while.

Mr. Darling was frightfully clever (in his own mind), but rather a bore. He used Mrs. Darling in his life as much as a cook uses spice in the porridge to liven its flavour, and they got along very well in this manner.

Mrs. Darling was married all in white in a wedding that was a little beyond their means to afford, and at first she kept the domestic books perfectly, almost gleefully, as if it were a game she were determined to win. Not so much as a Brussels sprout was discovered missing (she could be rather insufferable); but by and by whole cauliflowers dropped out, and instead of them there were pictures of babies without faces, crawling about the page or holding their toes. She drew them when she should have been adding up. They were Mrs. Darling’s guesses, all tangled up with the prices of eggs, milk and sapphire Bombay gin.

Wendy came first, then John, then Michael. It is important to remember this, for like all children, they are aware of their order in the family to an almost painful degree, and they would be appalled if one were to forget.

In the beginning, before Wendy came it was doubtful whether they would be able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed. Mr. Darling was frightfully proud that he might be a father, but he sat on the edge of Mrs. Darling’s bed, holding her hand and calculating expenses, while she looked at him and implored him to let her keep the little bundle. She wanted to risk it, come what may, hell or high water, but that was not his way; his way was with a pencil and a piece of paper, and if she confused him with suggestions he had to turn back and begin at the beginning again. This meant that it was an excruciatingly slow process, for Mrs. Darling could not hold back her urge to comment or make suggestions.

“Now don’t interrupt, Mrs. Darling,” he would beg of her when she interrupted his calculations.

There was the same excitement over John, and Michael had even a narrower squeak; but both were kept, and soon, if you lived at numbers 2 through to 12, you might have seen the three of them going in a row to Miss Fulsom’s Primary School, accompanied by their nurse. Of course, they were let out at lunchtime to go home and eat a sandwich with the crusts cut off, and drink a glass of milk.

While the children were young enough not to question their mother’s infrequent appearances, she lavished them at times with Turkish delight affection; but when they were old enough to say things like, “No,” and “Why?” she turned them over to the care of Nana, the Newfoundland dog, and quietly washed her hands of them. This allowed her more time for the theatre, and intriguing with her friends over coffee.

The Darlings lived at number 14, and until Wendy arrived, her mother was the centre of attention there; the arrival of children changed this but a little, and allowed them to talk to all sorts of people who, beforehand, had only orbited in the distant periphery of their social circles. “Oh, you have children? So do we, isn’t it jolly?” And so on.

Of course, their children’s actual friendships were never considered, except for their social merit, and they were variously encouraged and forbidden as a consequence. And so it was that John was friends with the son of the local chief banker, with whom he played rugby at lunchtimes, though he confided to Wendy, “He’s such a pig. I think he has a pork pie for a brain,” whilst Wendy was encouraged, pointedly, to socialise only with the horrible, spoilt daughters of society matrons.

Her sworn comradeship with poor Samantha Hawkins, who had insisted on being allowed to wear trousers at school, was very nearly banned outright for its oddness. Only her father’s position as Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at a notable university had stayed Mr. and Mrs. Darling’s hands.

This begrudging tolerance was not extended by the other children, and both Samantha and Wendy were the constant butt of teasing and unpleasant practical jokes, until one day Sam’s father whisked her back to America, forever. Ever since then, school had been an unhappy place. This was, in reality, Wendy’s first birthday without her companion. Wendy retrieved the letter, and unfolded it from around the plate photograph carefully, her throat aching with missing her friend.

Dearest Madcap,

Very happy here, but I miss you. Helping out on the ranch with Father and the men, everything perfect – no silly girly things! Wish you and Uncle Basil were here, you must come and live with me in America!

Your Sam Hawkins

The picture, slightly blurry and unfocussed, showed Sam and her father standing against a slip rail fence. The huge smile on Sam’s face helped to buoy Wendy’s spirits, and she smiled a little in spite of herself.

When Sam’s letter had arrived in the post a week before Wendy’s birthday, she had wanted to reply immediately, but Mrs. Darling, aware of the wider scandal surrounding Professor Hawkins’ separation from his wife, and his subsequent disappearance from both the university staff and polite society, forbade her doing so in no uncertain terms.

Which, of course, Wendy had ignored, stealing the envelope, paper and stamps from Mr. Darling’s study. She had poured out her heart in the letter, finishing the missive with a stern warning not to reply. And then, she had posted it. The illicit message sent, Wendy had to be satisfied.

Now that Sam was gone, however, school had lost what last little particle of appeal it had once possessed. Wendy would have been happy to never go to school again. She leant against the window and sighed.

“Nana says we have to go now,” said John, poking his nose around the door warily. Wendy huffed another sigh. A dog for a nurse! How many other ridiculous torments must their parents put them through?

Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a passion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they had a nurse, to take care of the raising of the children. After their excesses they were poorer than they had been, though they explained this as being due to the amount of milk the children drank and the clothes they were always outgrowing. As a consequence however, the nurse they retained was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana (she was paid in biscuits and bones). She was quite a treasure, and of course her kennel was in the nursery (to attend to the children at all hours), cunningly disguised as a children’s play-fort so that visitors would not know she was allowed to sleep in the house. She had a genius for knowing when a complaint is a thing to have no patience with and when it needs hot tea with honey and lemon in it. She believed to her last day in folk remedies, and made sounds of contempt over all this new-fangled talk of germs. It was a lesson in good conduct to see her escorting the children to school, walking sedately by their side when they behaved, and butting them back into line rather sternly if they strayed. On John’s football days she never once forgot his sweater, and she usually carried an umbrella in her mouth in case of rain; the hooked handle was also useful for retrieving children who might be inclined to wander.

Being only a dog, Nana had to endure all sorts of social injustices from the other nurses, who affected to ignore her as inferior to themselves. In turn, she despised their light talk of pictures and beaus, and sneaking out after the children were abed. Nana can be reasonably assumed to dislike any sort of frivolity at all, unless it came from the children. She especially resented visits to the nursery from Mrs. Darling and her friends, between cafe lunches and evenings out at the pictures, but if they did come she first whipped off Michael’s messy play clothes for some a little smarter, smoothed out Wendy (she was perpetually rumpled) and made a dash at John’s hair.

No nursery could possibly have been conducted more correctly, and Mr. Darling knew it, yet he sometimes wondered uneasily whether the neighbours talked, behind their imposing closed doors.

He had his position in the city to consider, and that in his firm. One day, he planned to be a card-carrying, respectable senior partner, with his own car and chauffeur. This would never happen if rumours leaked out about his unconventional living arrangements. A dog as nanny! He could only imagine what might be said, and it very often gave him a headache.

Nana also troubled him in another way. He had sometimes a feeling that she did not admire him (this was true). “I know in my heart that she admires you tremendously, George,” Mrs. Darling would assure him, and then she would signal subtly to the children to be especially nice to their father. Nana would retire at these times, stiff and dignified, to her little castle kennel.

Lovely dances followed, in which the only other servant, Liza, was sometimes allowed to join, if she had completed her myriad of duties. Such a midget she looked in her long skirt and maid’s cap, though she had sworn, when engaged, that she would never see fifteen again (in fact she was twelve, little older than Wendy herself, of an impoverished family. Mr. Darling had hired her because he was certain she would be too timid to ever ask for an increase in her wage). The gaiety of those romps! And most dashing of all was Mrs. Darling, who would pirouette so wildly to the music of the wireless that all you could see of her was the kiss, and then if you dashed at her you might have got it. Wendy attempted to despise these falsely jolly occasions, for she could smell out her father’s insecurity as a rat smells ripe cheese, but the laughter would eventually bubble out of her, and she would join in as wildly as her mother in the dancing.

She always dreaded the moment that the play would end, for then the adults would forget them again, and go away about their own affairs, leaving them with the dog. On the whole though, they all muddled along well enough, until the coming of Peter Pan, a little after Wendy’s birthday, and well before Michael’s.

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children’s minds. It was her custom, when she was not out dancing with Mr. Darling, or being seen, gaily decorated, promenading with friends, to rummage in the childrens’ minds and belongings and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that had wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you might see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is less like tidying up drawers, and even more like breaking into someone’s diary. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of the contents of your open mind, making discoveries sweet and less so. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your brain and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready to be put on until you begin to choose them yourself, out of habit.

Now Wendy knew about this practice, though how she came by the knowledge we cannot say. Perhaps her toy monkey whispered it to her, for monkeys are devious, and those with button eyes more so than most. So she schooled herself in making and creating a secret mind, where she could hide all her deep thoughts in a puzzle-box that only she could open, and view the world with wide hazel eyes of liquid innocence.

She would have been surprised to learn that Mrs. Darling also had a secret box in her mind; accurately, she would point out to us that it had been so little utilized since girlhood that even Mrs. Darling had forgotten about it. For Mrs. Darling had stopped having secret thoughts, and had instead become only what she appeared to be, the poor, pretty thing.

So, when she was not out doing adult things, Mrs. Darling rummaged and poked through her children’s minds, which each resembled maps of little islands, overlaid with coral reefs and sturdy canoes, and elves who can be friendly or very cruel, and caves through which a river runs, and one tiny old lady with a hooked nose, who is just like the grandmother you never had. Sometimes secrets would be buried under the coral reefs, and guarded by mermaids, or disguised as trees in the landscape, just to show that children are not entirely defenceless. Even a poking, prying adult would not uncover all their child’s secrets, though they might guess at some of them.

It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also your first day at school, fathers, the round pond where you tossed a rock, pinkie-swears, murders, rhymes, times tables, chocolates, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing ever stands still. Mountains one day are volcanic calderas the next.

Of course the children’s Neverlands varied a good deal. John’s, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingos flying over it at which John was shooting with a gun that fired marshmallows, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it. John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael in a hide yurt, Wendy in a house of leaves alone in the high mountains. John had no friends at all, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had a pet wolf forsaken by its parents, but on the whole the Darlings’ Neverlands possessed a family resemblance, and if they were made to line up in a row one might see this. On these magic shores children at play are forever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more. This is not to say that there are no Neverlands for grownups; but they are separate places, with their own adventures and accompanying maps.

Of all delectable islands Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly with tedious distances between one adventure and another like Middle Earth, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and tablecloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very real. That is why there are night-lights, for the Fear which slumbers during the day in deep, still pools on the island awakes in the darkness, and it can span the universe in a thought.

Occasionally in her travels through her children’s minds Mrs. Darling found things she could not understand, and of these quite the most perplexing was the word Peter. She knew of no friend of theirs called Peter, and yet he was here and there in John and Michael’s minds, while Wendy’s began to be scrawled all over with him. The name stood out in bolder letters than any of the other words, and as Mrs. Darling gazed she felt that it had an oddly cocky appearance.

“Yes, he is rather cocky,” Wendy admitted, thinking with regret of her secret mind. She was not yet so good at hiding all her thoughts away in it, and Mrs. Darling had been questioning her.

“But who is he, my pet? Please, have a mind for your stitches, you are making them all crooked.”

“He is Peter Pan, you know, Mother,” and, presently, “please, let me do it. I can do it!”

At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into her childhood she just remembered talk of a Peter Pan who was said to live with the fairies. There were odd stories about him, such as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened; or perhaps he was a dead boy himself? No one ever knew for certain. She had believed in him at the time, but now that she was married and full of common sense she quite doubted whether there was any such person. Presumably some unhappy child had invented him to salve a loss; or even a bereaved parent could have made him up.

“Besides,” she said to Wendy, “he would be grown up by this time.”

“Oh no, he isn’t grown up,” Wendy assured her confidently, “he is just my size.” She meant that he was her size in both mind and body; she just knew it, the same as she knew that her stomach was about half-empty, and that Liza would not allow her a biscuit if she went down to the kitchen.

Mrs. Darling consulted Mr. Darling, but he smiled pooh-pooh. “Mark my words,” he said, “It is just some nonsense Nana has been putting into their heads; just the sort of silly idea a dog would have. Leave it alone, and it will blow over soon enough. Don’t encourage them by talking more about it.”

But it would not blow over and soon the troublesome boy gave Mrs. Darling quite a shock.

Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them; it is a chief strength of theirs that they are not so limited by causality and a varying grasp of physics as adults are. It was due to this that Mrs. Darling one morning made a disquieting revelation. Some leaves of a tree had been found on the nursery floor, which certainly were not there when the children went to bed. Mrs. Darling was puzzling over who had put them there when Wendy said casually, smiling:

“I do believe it has been Peter again!”

“Whatever do you mean, Wendy?”

“It is so naughty of him not to wipe his feet,” Wendy said, sighing, “He should know that we will be blamed for his mess, but he is so capricious. I can’t tell him anything.”

She explained in quite a matter-of-fact way, as she pulled on her shoes, that she thought Peter sometimes came to the nursery in the night and sat on the foot of her bed and played on his pipes to her. The sound led her into strange, wonderful dreams, but she always knew that he was sitting there, looking over her shoulder into the dream and piping the song. Unfortunately she never woke, so she didn’t know how she knew, she just knew. Sometimes, if she awoke early enough, she would find the warm patch from where he had sat, or dirt where there had been none before.

“What nonsense you talk, precious. No one can get into the house without knocking.” Absently, she untied and retied Wendy’s sash, for it was untidily done.

“I think he comes in by the window,” Wendy said, wriggling away from the hand of maternal control.

“My love, it is three floors up. Let me fix your hair. You’re big enough now to do it properly yourself.”

“Ouch! Be careful Mother, you’re pulling! Were not the leaves at the foot of the window?”

It was quite true; the leaves had been found very near to the open casement.

Mrs. Darling did not know what to think, for Wendy spoke of it all so naturally that it could not be dismissed by saying she had been dreaming.

“My child,” the mother cried, “why did you not tell me of this before?”

“I forgot,” said Wendy lightly, waving the question away. She was in a hurry to get her breakfast, for it was fresh bread day.

Oh, surely she must have been dreaming. She was such an odd child.

But, on the other hand, there were the leaves. Mrs. Darling examined them very carefully; they were skeleton leaves, all decayed except for the fine tracery of veins holding them together, but she was sure they did not come from any tree that grew in England. She delayed a stroll in the park with a bosom friend, and instead crawled about the nursery floor once the children had gone to school, peering at it with a candle for marks of a strange foot. She rattled the poker up the chimney and tapped the walls. She let down a tape from the window to the pavement, and it was a sheer drop of thirty feet, without so much as a spout to climb up by.

Wendy must have been dreaming.

But Wendy had not, as the very next night showed.

On the night we speak of all the children were once more in bed. It happened to be Nana’s evening off, Mr. Darling was at his club, and Mrs. Darling had tucked the children into bed and sung to them till one by one they had let go her hand and slid away into the realms of Morpheus. She sang beautifully; some evenings it was quite a long time before the children could be convinced to sleep, for they enjoyed listening to her far too much to miss it by slumbering.

All were looking so safe and cosy that she smiled at her fears now and sat down tranquilly by the fire to read through a magazine, for even ladies as socially active as she desired a quiet night at home on occasion.

The fire was warm, however, and the nursery dimly lit by night-lights, and presently the paper lay on Mrs. Darling’s lap. Then her head nodded, and she was also asleep, one of four peacefully slumbering in the warm nursery.

While she slept she had a dream. She dreamt that the Neverland had come too near to the adult, everyday world, and that a strange boy had broken through from it, coming down from a sort of highroad near the stars. In her dream he had rent the film that obscures the Neverland, and she saw Wendy and John and Michael peeping through the gap. Wendy, she noticed, was leaning most of the way through it, in the most unbecoming fashion.

I must tell her not to do that, she thought to herself, it is a quite unladylike thing to do.

This would have been nothing more than an odd dream, but that whilst it occurred, the window of the nursery opened, and a little boy dropped lightly to the floor, accompanied by a tiny, glowing, yellow light. The orb darted about the living room like a living creature, and it was the chaos of shadows it cast which woke Mrs. Darling from her nap.

She started up with an arrested cry of surprise, and saw the boy, Somehow she knew at once that he was Peter Pan, whom she had told stories about as a little girl herself. If anyone else had been there, they would have observed that he was very like Mrs. Darling’s unattainable kiss. He was a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves all glued together with tree sap, and was so little that he still had all his first teeth. When he saw a grown-up, he gnashed the little pearls at her and snarled.

 

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.

 

The Fall of Peter Pan – Prologue

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

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

Prologue: ONCE THERE WAS A BOY

Fall of PeterPan

There is a woman, telling her young son a story, and like many adults, she is using the story to say something else.

In this case, goodbye.

He is the bastard, unacknowledged, unrecognised son of a great man – the public scandal, were his name known! They would disrupt the very foundations of the government! This heritage is evident in his aquiline nose and strong jaw; his hair, eyes and skin belong irrevocably to his mother.

Their eyes are summer-sky blue; and their matching inky hair, which in the boy’s case is neatly clipped for school (he starts tomorrow), falls in wild tresses down the woman’s back to tangle at her waist.

She shakes it back over one milky shoulder as she leans down to kiss him goodnight for one last time. Soon it will be tied back, and tucked beneath the collar of her men’s greatcoat.

“Where are you going, Mother?” asks the boy.

“To seek out the Ocean, my sweet James.”

He clutches at her arm.

“Please, please don’t leave me!”

She bends, kissing his brow again. “Everyone leaves, my little love, you will have to get used to it sometime. Now don’t cry, you must be brave without me, and strong enough to stand on your own two feet in all the worlds.”

“But why do you have to go?”

“Because it was a part of the bargain, my love. You shall be raised and educated a fine gentleman, whilst I obtain the wherewithal to depart these meagre shores. When you grow up, prove yourself and seek me out on the Ocean that stands between all things. You will find me taking back the land I ruled as Queen, when I was a girl. Come to me there, with men for conquering, and I will make of you a god. You shall stand beside my throne.” Her lips are the colour of crushed berries, and fire dances in her eyes as she smiles. There are flecks of blue paint in the edge of her hairline, and the imperious arch of her eyebrows.

One hand cradling his face, she whispers many secrets to him, on that last night; of the truths of dreams, and a strange sea where all the stars are smeared in one vast nebula, and how those burning lights whispered, in the great dark reaches of the night, before they were chained to silence. The Lady Niamh tells her son how to command and manipulate men, and bequeaths to him the rules of her own, merciless philosophies throughout the darkest hours of their last night together.

 

The following morning, a beautiful, serious-faced boy named James Hook presented himself at the gates of learning beside a disapproving secretary (who had turned out to see the potential embarrassment of Lady Niamh’s person departed, and faith kept), his steamer trunk in tow.

“Now study hard,” said the bespectacled fellow, “and you may come to something yet, despite your unfortunate beginnings.”

James turned the blue flames of his eyes upon the virtuous man, until he shifted with discomfort, thinking of the father he so resembled.

“Yes. I shall.”

 

 

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.