an enigma wrapped in a schizophrenic (karabou) wrote in everydayreader,
an enigma wrapped in a schizophrenic
karabou
everydayreader

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, part 4


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, you
see, just said anything that came into his head.

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

John and Michael raced, Michael getting a start.

They recalled with contempt that not so long ago they had
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 disturb Wendy seriously. John
thought it was their second sea and their third night.

Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were
very cold and again too warm. Did they really feel hungry at
times, or were they merely pretending, because Peter had such a
jolly new way of feeding them? 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; and they
would all go chasing each other gaily for miles, parting at last
with mutual expressions of good-will. But Wendy noticed with
gentle concern 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.

Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy;
and that was a danger, for the moment they popped off, 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.

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

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 whispered to John, when they
were playing "Follow my Leader."

"Then tell him to stop showing off," said 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 finger along an iron railing. They
could not follow him in this with much success, so perhaps it was
rather like showing off, especially as he kept looking behind to
see how many tails they missed.

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

"We could go back," Michael said.

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

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

"That is the awful thing, John. We should have to go on, for
we don't know how to stop."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather
lonely up there by themselves. He could go so much faster than
they that he would suddenly shoot out of sight, to have some
adventure in which they had no share. He would come down
laughing over something fearfully funny he had been saying to 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 had been happening. It was really rather
irritating to children who had never seen a mermaid.

"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 pass them the time of day and go
on; once even she had to call him by name.

"I'm Wendy," she said agitatedly.

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

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

"There it is," said Peter calmly.

"Where, where?"

"Where all the arrows are pointing."

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

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

"John, there's the lagoon."

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

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

"Look, Michael, there's your cave!"

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

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

"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
redskin camp!"

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

"There, just across the Mysterious River."

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

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

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

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

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

They had been flying apart, 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. They were now over the fearsome island, flying so low
that sometimes a tree grazed their feet. Nothing horrid was
visible in the air, yet their progress had become slow and
laboured, exactly as if they were pushing their way through
hostile forces. Sometimes they hung in the air until Peter had
beaten on it with his fists.

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

"Who are they?" Wendy whispered, shuddering.

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

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

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

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

"What kind of adventure?" he asked cautiously.

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

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

"I do."

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

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

"I say! Do you kill many?"

"Tons."

John said "How ripping," but decided to have tea first. He
asked if there were many pirates on the island just now, and
Peter said he had never known so many.

"Who is captain now?"

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

"Jas. Hook?"

"Ay."

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

"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."

"How do you mean?"

"I cut off a bit of him."

"You!"

"Yes, me," said Peter sharply.

"I wasn't meaning to be disrespectful."

"Oh, all right."

"But, I say, what bit?"

"His right hand."

"Then he can't fight now?"

"Oh, can't he just!"

"Left-hander?"

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

"Claws!"

"I say, John," said Peter.

"Yes."

"Say, `Ay, ay, sir.'"

"Ay, ay, sir."

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

John paled.

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

"I promise," John said loyally.

For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was
flying with them, and in her light they could distinguish each
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 the drawbacks.

"She 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."

"Wendy!"

"John!"

"Michael!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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.

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 hoped to be carried by Peter.
Presently Wendy took the hat, because John said it struck against
his knee as he flew; and this, as we shall see, led to mischief,
for Tinker Bell hated to be under an obligation to Wendy.

In the black topper the light was completely 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 the wild beasts drinking at the ford, and again by a rasping
sound that might have been the branches of trees rubbing
together, but he said it was the redskins sharpening their
knives.

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.

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

"Are you shot?" John whispered tremulously.

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

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

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

I don't know 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 and began to lure Wendy to her destruction.

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

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