This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Chapter 10 – The Happy Home
One important result of the adventure on the lagoon was that the natives became their friends. Peter had saved Tiger Lily from a dreadful fate, and now there was nothing she and her tribe wouldn’t do for him. All night, they sat above, keeping watch over the home under the ground. Even by day, they hung about, smoking pipes and having snacks.
They called Peter “The Great Father,” and bowed deeply to him. He liked this tremendously, so it made him even more cocky.
Peter even started calling himself by the name. “The Great Father,” he said, “is glad to see the warriors protecting the home under the ground from the pirates.”
“I am Tiger Lily,” the lovely princess replied. “Peter Pan saved me. I am his friend. I don’t let pirates hurt him.”
Peter accepted her words. “It is good,” he said. “Peter Pan has spoken.”
When he said, “Peter Pan has spoken,” it meant that the conversation had ended. The natives accepted it humbly, but they were not as respectful to the other boys. The boys were annoyed that Peter didn’t see anything wrong with that.
Secretly, Wendy sympathized with the boys, but she was a loyal housewife to Peter and she didn’t listen to their complaints. “Father knows best,” she always said, whatever her private opinion was.
We have now reached an important part of the story. This is the evening that became known as “The Night of Nights,” because of the wonderful adventures that happened.
The day had been very uneventful, as if it was quietly gathering its forces for later. When daytime ended, the natives, in their blankets, were keeping watch above. Below, the children were having their evening meal—all except Peter, who had gone out to find out the time. You see, in Neverland, the only way to check the time was to find the crocodile, and then stay near him until the clock struck the hour.
This evening’s meal was a make-believe tea. They sat around the table and guzzled their empty cups. Their chatting and laughing, as Wendy described, was absolutely deafening. Of course, Wendy didn’t mind noise, but she didn’t like when they grabbed things and pushed each other.
There was a rule that they must never hit back during meals. They are supposed to raise their hand and tell Wendy saying, “I complain about so-and-so.” But the boys usually forgot to do this and ended up fighting at the table.
“Silence,” Wendy cried after they had ignored her twenty times. “Is your mug empty, Slightly darling?”
“Not quite empty, mommy,” Slightly said, after looking at his imaginary tea.
“He hasn’t even begun to drink his milk,” Nibs shouted.
This broke the tattling rule, so Slightly decided to complain.
“I complain about Nibs,” he cried promptly.
John, however, had held up his hand first.
“May I sit in Peter’s chair, since he is not here?”
“Sit in father’s chair!” Wendy was scandalized. “Certainly not.”
“He is not really our father,” John answered. “He didn’t even know what a father does until I showed him.”
This broke the grumbling rule. “We complain about John,” cried the twins.
Tootles held up his hand. He was the humblest of them all. In fact, he was the only humble one, so Wendy was especially gentle with him.
“I don’t suppose,” Tootles said, “that I could be father.”
But when Tootles began something (which was not very often), he couldn’t stop.
“Since I can’t be father,” he said heavily, “I don’t suppose, Michael, that you would let me be the baby?”
“No, I won’t,” Michael said. He was already in his basket.
“Since I can’t be the baby,” Tootles said, getting heavier and heavier and heavier, “do you think I could be a twin?”
“No, way,” replied the twins; “it’s awfully difficult to be a twin.”
“Since I can’t be anything important,” said Tootles, “would any of you like to see me do a trick?”
“No,” they all replied.
Then at last he stopped. “I have no more hope,” he said.
Then suddenly, the boys erupted with tattling.
“Slightly is coughing on the table.”
“The twins are eating all the cheesecake.”
“Curly is putting both butter and honey on his bread.”
“Nibs is speaking with his mouth full.”
“I complain about the twins.”
“I complain about Curly.”
“I complain about Nibs.”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” cried Wendy, “I envy old women who never had any children.”
She told them to clear the table, and then she sat down to do her work: mending a large pile of stockings which had a hole in every knee.
“Wendy,” said Michael, “I’m too big for this basket.”
“I must have somebody in the basket,” she said sourly, “and you are the littlest. A cradle basket is such a nice thing to have in a house.”
And this is the familiar scene of the home under the ground: Wendy sits and sews while the happy boys dance around the romantic fire. But, we are looking at this scene for the last time.
There was a sound of footsteps above, and Wendy, of course, was the first to recognize it.
“Children, I hear your father’s footsteps. He likes you to meet him at the door.”
Above, the natives greeted Peter as he stepped down into the tree door.
And then, as always, the happy children dragged him from his tree. But this joyful scene will never be seen again.
He had brought nuts for the boys, as well as the correct time for Wendy.
“Peter, you just spoil them, you know,” Wendy said.
“Ah, old lady,” said Peter, hanging up his gun.
“I told him that mothers are called old lady,” Michael whispered to Curly.
“I complain about Michael,” said Curly instantly.
The first twin came to Peter. “Father, we want to dance.”
“Dance away, my little man,” said Peter, who was in good spirits.
“But we want you to dance.”
Peter was really the best dancer among them, but he pretended to be offended.
“Me! My old bones would rattle!”
“And mommy too.”
“What,” cried Wendy, “the busy mother? Dance?”
“But it’s a Saturday night,” Slightly insisted.
It was not really Saturday night, because they had lost count of the days long ago; but whenever they wanted to do anything special they said it was a Saturday night, and then they did it.
“Of course it is Saturday night, Peter,” Wendy said.
So they were allowed to dance, but they had to put on their pajamas first.
“Ah, old lady,” Peter said to Wendy, warming himself by the fire and looking down at her, “there isn’t a better evening for you and me than to rest by the fire with the little ones near by.”
“It is sweet, Peter, isn’t it?” Wendy said, frightfully gratified. “Peter, I think Curly has your nose.”
“And Michael looks just like you.”
She went to him and put her hand on his shoulder.
“Dear Peter,” she said, “with such a large family, of course, I don’t look as beautiful as I used to. But you don’t want to change me, do you?”
Certainly he did not want a change, but he looked at her uncomfortably, blinking, you know, as if he didn’t know whether he was awake or asleep.
“Peter, what is it?”
“I was just thinking,” he said, a little scared. “It is only make believe, isn’t it, that I am their father?”
“Oh yes,” Wendy said.
“You see,” he continued apologetically, “if I were their real father, I would be so old.”
“But they are ours, Peter, yours and mine.”
“But not really, right?” he asked anxiously.
“Not if you don’t wish it,” she replied; and she distinctly heard his sigh of relief. “Peter,” she asked, trying to speak firmly, “what are your exact feelings towards me?”
“I am your devoted son, Wendy.”
“I thought so,” she said, and went and sat by herself at the other end of the room.
“You are so weird,” he said, frankly puzzled, “and Tiger Lily is just the same. There is some relationship that she wants to have, but she says she doesn’t want to be my mother.”
“No, of course not,” Wendy replied harshly.
Now you can see why Wendy doesn’t like Tiger Lily.
“Then what is it?”
“Ladies shouldn’t say it.”
“Oh, very well,” Peter said, a little annoyed. “Perhaps Tinker Bell will tell me.”
“Oh yes, Tinker Bell will tell you,” Wendy retorted. “She is not a lady.”
Tinker Bell, who was eavesdropping from her bedroom, squeaked out.
“She says she enjoys being unladylike,” Peter translated.
He had a sudden idea. “Perhaps Tink wants to be my mother?”
“You idiot!” cried Tinker Bell in a passion.
Tinker Bell said “idiot” so often that Wendy needed no translation.
“I almost agree with her,” Wendy snapped. (Can you imagine Wendy snapping?) It was not good for Wendy to get angry. She didn’t know what was going to happen tonight. If she had known, she wouldn’t have gotten angry at Peter.
None of them knew. Perhaps, it was best not to know. Their ignorance let them enjoy one more carefree hour. It was going to be their last hour on the island. They sang and danced in their pajamas. They became more and more excited as they danced. And when the song ended, it turned into a pillow fight. And they told stories even before Wendy’s goodnight story.
And then, at last, they all got into bed for Wendy’s story. It was the story that they loved the most and the story that Peter hated. Usually, when she began to tell this story, he put his hands over his ears. But tonight, he sat obediently on his stool and listened.
And now, let me tell you what happened next.