All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will growup, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years oldshe was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran withit to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, forMrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't youremain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them onthe subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You alwaysknow after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.
Of course they lived at 14 [their house number on their street], anduntil Wendy came her mother was the chief one. She was a lovely lady,with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romanticmind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from thepuzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; andher sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get,though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.
The way Mr. Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had beenboys when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her,and they all ran to her house to propose to her except Mr. Darling, whotook a cab and nipped in first, and so he got her. He got all of her,except the innermost box and the kiss. He never knew about the box, andin time he gave up trying for the kiss. Wendy thought Napoleon couldhave got it, but I can picture him trying, and then going off in apassion, slamming the door.
Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved himbut respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about stocksand shares. Of course no one really knows, but he quite seemed to know,and he often said stocks were up and shares were down in a way thatwould have made any woman respect him.
Mrs. Darling was married in white, and at first she kept the booksperfectly, almost gleefully, as if it were a game, not so much as aBrussels sprout was missing; but by and by whole cauliflowers droppedout, and instead of them there were pictures of babies without faces.She drew them when she should have been totting up. They were Mrs.Darling's guesses.
Wendy came first, then John, then Michael.
For a week or two after Wendy came it was doubtful whether they wouldbe able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed. Mr. Darling wasfrightfully proud of her, but he was very honourable, and he sat on theedge of Mrs. Darling's bed, holding her hand and calculating expenses,while she looked at him imploringly. She wanted to risk it, come whatmight, but that was not his way; his way was with a pencil and a pieceof paper, and if she confused him with suggestions he had to begin atthe beginning again.
"Now don't interrupt," he would beg of her.
"I have one pound seventeen here, and two and six at the office; I cancut off my coffee at the office, say ten shillings, making two nineand six, with your eighteen and three makes three nine seven, with fivenaught naught in my cheque-book makes eight nine seven--who is thatmoving?--eight nine seven, dot and carry seven--don't speak, my own--andthe pound you lent to that man who came to the door--quiet, child--dotand carry child--there, you've done it!--did I say nine nine seven? yes,I said nine nine seven; the question is, can we try it for a year onnine nine seven?"
"Of course we can, George," she cried. But she was prejudiced in Wendy'sfavour, and he was really the grander character of the two.
"Remember mumps," he warned her almost threateningly, and off he wentagain. "Mumps one pound, that is what I have put down, but I daresayit will be more like thirty shillings--don't speak--measles one five,German measles half a guinea, makes two fifteen six--don't waggle yourfinger--whooping-cough, say fifteen shillings"--and so on it went, andit added up differently each time; but at last Wendy just got through,with mumps reduced to twelve six, and the two kinds of measles treatedas one.
There was the same excitement over John, and Michael had even a narrowersqueak; but both were kept, and soon, you might have seen the three ofthem going in a row to Miss Fulsom's Kindergarten school, accompanied bytheir nurse.
Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had apassion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they hada nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the childrendrank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who hadbelonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. She hadalways thought children important, however, and the Darlings had becomeacquainted with her in Kensington Gardens, where she spent most of herspare time peeping into perambulators, and was much hated by carelessnursemaids, whom she followed to their homes and complained of to theirmistresses. She proved to be quite a treasure of a nurse. How thoroughshe was at bath-time, and up at any moment of the night if one of hercharges made the slightest cry. Of course her kennel was in the nursery.She had a genius for knowing when a cough is a thing to have no patiencewith and when it needs stocking around your throat. She believed to herlast day in old-fashioned remedies like rhubarb leaf, and made sounds ofcontempt over all this new-fangled talk about germs, and so on. It was alesson in propriety to see her escorting the children to school, walkingsedately by their side when they were well behaved, and butting themback into line if they strayed. On John's footer [in England soccerwas called football, "footer" for short] days she never once forgot hissweater, and she usually carried an umbrella in her mouth in case ofrain. There is a room in the basement of Miss Fulsom's school where thenurses wait. They sat on forms, while Nana lay on the floor, but thatwas the only difference. They affected to ignore her as of an inferiorsocial status to themselves, and she despised their light talk. Sheresented visits to the nursery from Mrs. Darling's friends, but if theydid come she first whipped off Michael's pinafore and put him into theone with blue braiding, and smoothed out Wendy and made a dash at John'shair.
No nursery could possibly have been conducted more correctly, andMr. Darling knew it, yet he sometimes wondered uneasily whether theneighbours talked.
He had his position in the city to consider.
Nana also troubled him in another way. He had sometimes a feeling thatshe did not admire him. "I know she admires you tremendously, George,"Mrs. Darling would assure him, and then she would sign to the childrento be specially nice to father. Lovely dances followed, in which theonly other servant, Liza, was sometimes allowed to join. Such a midgetshe looked in her long skirt and maid's cap, though she had sworn, whenengaged, that she would never see ten again. The gaiety of those romps!And gayest of all was Mrs. Darling, who would pirouette so wildly thatall you could see of her was the kiss, and then if you had dashed at heryou might have got it. There never was a simpler happier family untilthe coming of Peter Pan.
Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children'sminds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her childrenare asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for nextmorning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that havewandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course youcan't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find itvery interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. Youwould see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some ofyour contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up,making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek asif it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight.When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions withwhich you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottomof your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out yourprettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.
I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's mind.Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map canbecome intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of achild's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round a
llthe time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on acard, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland isalways more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour hereand there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, andsavages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and cavesthrough which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and ahut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first dayat school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders,hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, gettinginto braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your toothyourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they areanother map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especiallyas nothing will stand still.
Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John's, for instance, had alagoon with flamingoes flying over it at which John was shooting, whileMichael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying overit. John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael ina wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn together. John had nofriends, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had a pet wolf forsaken byits parents, but on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance,and if they stood still in a row you could say of them that they haveeach other's nose, and so forth. On these magic shores children at playare for ever beaching their coracles [simple boat]. We too have beenthere; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land nomore.
Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and mostcompact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances betweenone adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it byday with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming,but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very real. Thatis why there are night-lights.
Occasionally in her travels through her children's minds Mrs. Darlingfound things she could not understand, and of these quite the mostperplexing was the word Peter. She knew of no Peter, and yet he washere and there in John and Michael's minds, while Wendy's began to bescrawled all over with him. The name stood out in bolder letters thanany of the other words, and as Mrs. Darling gazed she felt that it hadan oddly cocky appearance.
"Yes, he is rather cocky," Wendy admitted with regret. Her mother hadbeen questioning her.
"But who is he, my pet?"
"He is Peter Pan, you know, mother."
At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into herchildhood she just remembered a Peter Pan who was said to live with thefairies. There were odd stories about him, as that when children died hewent part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened.She had believed in him at the time, but now that she was married andfull of sense she quite doubted whether there was any such person.
"Besides," she said to Wendy, "he would be grown up by this time."
"Oh no, he isn't grown up," Wendy assured her confidently, "and he isjust my size." She meant that he was her size in both mind and body; shedidn't know how she knew, she just knew it.
Mrs. Darling consulted Mr. Darling, but he smiled pooh-pooh. "Mark mywords," he said, "it is some nonsense Nana has been putting into theirheads; just the sort of idea a dog would have. Leave it alone, and itwill blow over."
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.For instance, they may remember to mention, a week after the eventhappened, that when they were in the wood they had met their deadfather and had a game with him. It was in this casual way that Wendy onemorning made a disquieting revelation. Some leaves of a tree had beenfound on the nursery floor, which certainly were not there when thechildren went to bed, and Mrs. Darling was puzzling over them when Wendysaid with a tolerant smile:
"I do believe it is that Peter again!"
"Whatever do you mean, Wendy?"
"It is so naughty of him not to wipe his feet," Wendy said, sighing. Shewas a tidy child.
She explained in quite a matter-of-fact way that she thought Petersometimes came to the nursery in the night and sat on the foot of herbed and played on his pipes to her. Unfortunately she never woke, so shedidn't know how she knew, she just knew.
"What nonsense you talk, precious. No one can get into the house withoutknocking."
"I think he comes in by the window," she said.
"My love, it is three floors up."
"Were not the leaves at the foot of the window, mother?"
It was quite true; the leaves had been found very near the window.
Mrs. Darling did not know what to think, for it all seemed so natural toWendy that you could not dismiss it 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. She was in a hurry to get her breakfast.
Oh, surely she must have been dreaming.
But, on the other hand, there were the leaves. Mrs. Darling examinedthem very carefully; they were skeleton leaves, but she was sure theydid not come from any tree that grew in England. She crawled about thefloor, peering at it with a candle for marks of a strange foot. Sherattled the poker up the chimney and tapped the walls. She let down atape from the window to the pavement, and it was a sheer drop of thirtyfeet, without so much as a spout to climb up by.
Certainly Wendy had been dreaming.
But Wendy had not been dreaming, as the very next night showed, thenight on which the extraordinary adventures of these children may besaid to have begun.
On the night we speak of all the children were once more in bed. Ithappened to be Nana's evening off, and Mrs. Darling had bathed them andsung to them till one by one they had let go her hand and slid away intothe land of sleep.
All were looking so safe and cosy that she smiled at her fears now andsat down tranquilly by the fire to sew.
It was something for Michael, who on his birthday was getting intoshirts. The fire was warm, however, and the nursery dimly lit by threenight-lights, and presently the sewing lay on Mrs. Darling's lap. Thenher head nodded, oh, so gracefully. She was asleep. Look at the four ofthem, Wendy and Michael over there, John here, and Mrs. Darling by thefire. There should have been a fourth night-light.
While she slept she had a dream. She dreamt that the Neverland had cometoo near and that a strange boy had broken through from it. He did notalarm her, for she thought she had seen him before in the faces of manywomen who have no children. Perhaps he is to be found in the faces ofsome mothers also. But in her dream he had rent the film that obscuresthe Neverland, and she saw Wendy and John and Michael peeping throughthe gap.
The dream by itself would have been a trifle, but while she was dreamingthe window of the nursery blew open, and a boy did drop on the floor.He was accompanied by a strange light, no bigger than your fist, whichdarted about the room like a living thing and I think it must have beenthis light that wakened Mrs. Darling.
She started up with a cry, and saw the boy, and somehow she knew at oncethat he was Peter Pan. If you or I or Wendy had been there we shouldhave seen that he was very like Mrs. Darling's kiss. He was a lovelyboy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees butthe most entrancing thing about him was that he had all his first teeth.When he saw she was a grown-up, he gnashed the little pearls at her.