This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Chapter 2 – The Shadow
Mrs. Darling screamed and Nana came running into the room. Nana growled and jumped at the boy, who leaped out the window. Again, Mrs. Darling screamed, this time in distress for the boy. Thinking he was killed, she ran downstairs and out to the street to look for his little body. But it was not there. She looked up, but she couldn’t see anything but a small light. A shooting star?
She ran back to the bedroom, and she saw Nana struggling with something. Nana had slammed the window shut when the boy jumped. She didn’t catch the boy, but she did catch his shadow. It was stuck in the window.
Mrs. Darling went to the window to examine the shadow. The boy was nowhere to be found, but the shadow was still there, caught in the window.
Nana knew just what to do with the shadow. “Keep it hanging out the window,” she said. “The boy will surely come back for it. It won’t disturb the children.”
But unfortunately, Mrs. Darling could not leave the shadow hanging from the window. The neighbors would think they were hanging laundry, and that wouldn’t be acceptable. She considered showing it to Mr. Darling, but he was already worried about the cost of winter coats and she didn’t want to bother him. Besides, she knew what he would say: “It’s all because we have a dog for a nanny.”
She decided to roll up the shadow and put it away in a drawer. If the chance came up, she would tell her husband about it.
The chance came a week later, on a Friday. The Friday that would never be forgotten.
On that Friday evening, Nana filled the bathtub with water and carried Michael to it.
“I won’t go to bed,” he shouted. All boys are so stubborn at that age. “I won’t. I won’t. Nana, it isn’t six o’clock yet. Oh no. Oh no. I won’t love you anymore, Nana. I won’t take a bath. I won’t. I won’t!”
Then Mrs. Darling came in, wearing her white evening dress for a party later that night. She got dressed early because Wendy loved to see her in her dress, with the necklace that George had given her. She was wearing Wendy’s bracelet on her arm. Wendy loved to lend her bracelet to her mother.
She found Wendy and John pretending to be Mrs. and Mr. Darling. They were acting out the scene of Wendy’s birth.
John was saying, “I am happy to say, Mrs. Darling, that you are now a mother.” His tone of voice was just like the real Mr. Darling.
Wendy danced with joy, just as the real Mrs. Darling had done.
Then John was born. And when Michael came back from his bath, he asked to be born, too. But John said that they didn’t want any more children.
Michael almost started crying. “Nobody wants me,” he said. And of course, the mother in the evening dress couldn’t stand that.
“I do,” said the real Mrs. Darling, “I want a third child so much.”
“Boy or girl?” asked Michael meekly.
Then he jumped into her arms. He was such a cute little boy.
Then, Mr. Darling rushed into the room like a tornado. He was getting ready for the party and he couldn’t put on his necktie. Even though Mr. Darling knew all about stocks and shares, he was terrible at ties. Sometimes he could put it on right on the first try, but other times he struggled with his tie until he went crazy. He came rushing into the bedroom with a crumpled necktie in his hand.
“What’s the matter, father?”
“Matter!” he yelled. He really yelled. “This tie will not tie! It won’t tie around my neck! It will tie around a bedpost. Oh yes, I’ve tied it around the bedpost twenty times perfectly. But around my neck? No!”
Mrs. Darling didn’t seem to be sufficiently impressed, so he went on, “I warn you, dear, if I can’t get this tie around my neck, we won’t go out to dinner tonight. And if we don’t go out to dinner tonight, I’ll never go to the office again. And if I don’t go to the office again, you and I will starve, and our children will be living on the streets.”
Even then, Mrs. Darling’s face was expressionless. “Let me try, dear,” she said. Of course, Mr. Darling wanted her to put the tie on for him, but he didn’t want to ask for help.
With her cool hands, she tied his tie for him. The children watched attentively because they did not want to live on the streets.
Some men would have resented her for being able to tie it so easily, but Mr. Darling was too kind for that. He thanked her and immediately forgot his anger. And in the next moment, he was dancing around the room with Michael on his back.
Nana came into the room and Mr. Darling collided into her, covering his pants with dog hair. They were new pants and they were expensive. He bit his lip to stop himself from crying. Of course, Mrs. Darling brushed the hair off his pants, but he began to complain about having a dog for a nanny again.
“George, Nana is our treasure.”
“Yes, but I have an uneasy feeling sometimes. She treats our children as if they were her own puppies.”
“What’s wrong with that, dear? She knows they have souls.”
“I wonder,” Mr. Darling said thoughtfully. “I wonder.”
This was the chance. Mrs. Darling thought that this was the chance to tell him about the boy and the shadow.
At first, he laughed at the story, but he became thoughtful again when she showed him the shadow.
“A shadow? It’s not the shadow of anyone I know,” he said as he examined it. “But it does look like the shadow of a troublemaker.”
As Mr. and Mrs. Darling were discussing it, Nana came in with Michael’s medicine. Nana poured the medicine into a spoon and tried to give it to Michael. He dodged the spoon.
“Be a man, Michael!” said Mr. Darling angrily.
“Won’t. Won’t!” Michael cried. Mrs. Darling left the room to get some chocolate to tempt him, but Mr. Darling decided to be strict with him.
“Dear, don’t pamper him,” he called after her. “Michael, when I was your age, I took medicine without complaining. I said, ‘Thank you, kind parents, for giving me medicine for my health.’”
Wendy, who was now wearing her pajamas, also tried to encourage Michael. “That medicine you sometimes take, father, tastes much worse, doesn’t it?”
“Very nasty,” Mr. Darling said bravely. “I would give you a drop to try, but unfortunately, I’ve lost it.”
The truth was that Mr. Darling hated taking medicine, too. In fact, he only pretended he lost his medicine, but actually, he hid it on the bottom shelf of the closet. He didn’t realize that Nana had found it and put it back on the bathroom sink.
“I know where it is, father,” Wendy cried, always happy to help. “I’ll bring it!” And she ran off before he could stop her.
“John,” he said, shaking, “it’s the most horrible medicine. It’s that nasty, sticky, sweet kind.”
“It will soon be over, father,” John said cheerfully. Then Wendy rushed in with the medicine in a glass.
“I came as quickly as I could,” she said.
“You have been very quick,” her father said stiffly. “Michael first.”
“Father first,” said Michael. They looked at each other suspiciously.
“I’ll throw up, you know,” Mr. Darling warned.
“Come on father,” said John.
“Hold your tongue, John,” his father scolded.
Wendy was confused. “I thought you took your medicine easily, father.”
“That is not the point,” he retorted. “The point is that there is more medicine in my glass than in Michael’s spoon.” His proud heart was nearly bursting. “And it isn’t fair. It just isn’t fair.”
“Father, I am waiting,” said Michael coldly.
“Oh, you’re waiting, are you? Well, so am I.”
“Father is coward.”
“No, you are a coward.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“Neither am I.”
“Well, then, take it.”
“Well, then, you take it.”
Wendy had a splendid idea. “Why don’t you both take it at the same time?”
“Certainly,” said Mr. Darling. “Are you ready, Michael?”
Wendy counted: one, two, three! Michael took his medicine, but Mr. Darling put the glass behind his back.
Michael yelled out in rage and Wendy exclaimed, “Oh father!”
“What do you mean, ‘Oh father’?” Mr. Darling demanded. “Stop yelling, Michael. I meant to take my medicine, but I—I missed it.”
The three children looked at their father dreadfully, as if they did not admire him.
“Now listen, all of you,” he said as soon as Nana had gone to the bathroom. “I just thought of a funny joke. I will pour my medicine into Nana’s bowl, and she will think it’s milk and drink it all!”
It was the color of milk. But the children did not have their father’s sense of humor. They looked at him angrily as he poured the medicine into Nana’s bowl. “Isn’t this fun?” he said.
When Mrs. Darling and Nana returned, they were afraid to expose their father, so they kept quiet.
“Nana, good dog,” he said, patting her. “I put a little milk into your bowl, Nana.”
Nana wagged her tail, ran to the medicine and began drinking it. Then she gave Mr. Darling such a look. It wasn’t an angry look, but there was a great tear in her eyes. It was the kind of expression that makes us all feel sorry for noble dogs. She crept into her kennel.
Mr. Darling was very ashamed of himself, but he wouldn’t give in.
In the awkward silence, Mrs. Darling leaned toward the bowl and smelled it. “Oh George,” she said. “It’s your medicine!”
“It was only a joke,” he roared. Mrs. Darling comforted her boys, and Wendy hugged Nana.
“Well,” he said bitterly, “I try so hard to bring humor to this house.”
And Wendy kept hugging Nana.
“That’s right,” he shouted. “Coddle her! Nobody coddles me! Oh no, of course not! I am the only person in this house who makes money. Why should I be coddled? Why? Why? Why?”
“George,” Mrs. Darling said, “not so loud. The neighbors will hear you.”
“Let them!” he answered recklessly. “Let the whole world hear! I refuse to let that dog be the master of my house!”
The children cried and Nana went up to Mr. Darling angrily.
But Mr. Darling felt like a strong man again. “A dog’s proper place is outside! I’m going to tie you up in the yard!”
“George, George,” Mrs. Darling whispered, “remember what I told you about that boy.”
But, he would not listen. He was determined to show that he was the master of his house. He grabbed her roughly and dragged her out of the bedroom. He was ashamed of himself as he did it, but he did it anyway. He tied her up in the backyard.
He went back inside and sat in the hallway with his hands over his eyes.
In the meantime, Mrs. Darling put the children to bed in silence and lit their lamps. They could hear Nana barking.
John whimpered, “Is she barking because father is chaining her up in the yard?”
But Wendy was wiser. “That is not Nana’s unhappy bark,” she said. “That is her bark when she smells danger.”
“Are you sure, Wendy?”
Mrs. Darling quivered. She went to check the window. It was secure. She looked out and the night sky was peppered with stars. Everything seemed normal, but a nameless fear crept into her heart. “Oh, I wish that I wasn’t going to a party tonight!”
Even Michael, already half asleep, knew that she was worried. He asked, “Can anything harm us, mother, after the lamps are lit?”
“Nothing, my love,” she said.
She went to each of their beds and sang to them. Little Michael gave his mother a big hug. “Mother, I love you.”
Those were the last words she heard from him.
Mr. and Mrs. Darling headed out for the party, which was only a few blocks away. The streets were quiet and the stars were bright.
Stars are beautiful creatures, but they aren’t active. They just look down on the world. The older stars hardly speak; they only wink. But the younger stars are curious. They don’t really like Peter (he always tried to blow out their light), but they want to have fun. So on this night, when Mr. and Mrs. Darling went to the party, a little star called out, “Now is your chance, Peter!”