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 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?”
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.”
“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!”
“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:
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.
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.