This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Chapter 11 – Wendy’s Story
“Listen,” said Wendy, settling down to her story with Michael at her feet and seven boys in the bed. “Once upon a time, there was a gentleman—“
“I wish he was a lady,” Curly said.
“I wish he was a white rat,” said Nibs.
“Quiet,” their mother admonished them. There was also a lady, and—“
“Oh, mummy,” cried the first twin, “why did you say ‘was?’ Is she dead?”
“Oh, no. She isn’t dead.”
“I am awfully glad she isn’t dead,” said Tootles. “Are you glad, John?”
“Of course I am.”
“Are you glad, Nibs?”
“Are you glad, Twins?”
“We are glad.”
“Oh dear,” sighed Wendy.
“Be quiet,” Peter called out. He was determined to let Wendy tell her story, however awful a story it might be.
“The gentleman’s name,” Wendy continued, “was Mr. Darling, and the lady’s name was Mrs. Darling.”
“I knew them,” John said, to annoy the others.
“I think I knew them,” said Michael rather doubtfully.
“They were married, you know,” explained Wendy, “and what do you think they had?”
“White rats,” cried Nibs, inspired.
“It’s awfully puzzling,” said Tootles, who knew the story by heart.
“Quiet, Tootles. They had three descendants.”
“What does ‘descendants’ mean?”
“Well, you are one, Twin.”
“Did you hear that, John? I am a descendant.”
“‘Descendants’ only means ‘children,’” said John.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” sighed Wendy. “Now these three children had a faithful nanny called Nana; but Mr. Darling was angry with her and chained her up in the yard, and so all the children flew away.”
“It’s an awfully good story,” said Nibs.
“They flew away,” Wendy continued, “to Neverland, where the lost children are.”
“I knew you were going to say that,” Curly broke in excitedly. “I don’t know how, but I just knew it!”
“Oh Wendy,” cried Tootles, “was one of the lost children called Tootles?”
“Yes, he was.”
“I am in a story. Hurrah, I am in a story, Nibs.”
“Hush. Now I want you to consider the feelings of the unhappy parents after all their children flew away.”
“Oo!” they all moaned, though they were not really considering the feelings of the unhappy parents.
“Think of the empty beds!”
“It’s awfully sad,” the first twin said cheerfully.
“I don’t see how it can have a happy ending,” said the second twin. “Do you, Nibs?”
“I’m very anxious.”
“If you knew how great a mother’s love is,” Wendy told them, “you would have no fear.” She had now come to the part that Peter hated.
“I do like a mother’s love,” said Tootles, hitting Nibs with a pillow. “Do you like a mother’s love, Nibs?”
“I do,” said Nibs, hitting back.
“You see,” Wendy said, “our story’s heroine knew that the mother would always leave the window open for her children to fly back, so they stayed away for years without worrying and had a lovely time.”
“Did they ever go back?”
Wendy sat up straight. “Let us now take a peek into the future…” The boys all sat up straight, too, to look into the future. “Years have passed by. Look! Who is that elegant lady coming off the train at London Station?”
“Oh Wendy, who is she?” cried Nibs.
“Can it be—yes—no—it is—the fair Wendy!”
“And who are the two noble gentlemen accompanying her? Could they be John and Michael? They are!”
Wendy continued, “And the lady points upwards. She says, ‘See, dear brothers. There is the window! It is still open. Ah, and now we are rewarded for our faith in a mother’s love.’ So the lady and the two gentlemen flew up and into the window. They flew to their mommy and daddy. And I cannot describe the happy scene, so I will end the story here.”
And that was the story. They were very pleased with it. Everything was perfect, you see. Children can be carefree and even heartless. They can have a selfish experience, and then after a long time, when they crave the attention of a mother, they can return, confident that they will be rewarded instead of punished.
But there was one boy who didn’t believe it. When Wendy finished, he groaned loudly.
“What is it, Peter?” Wendy cried, running to him, thinking he was ill. She checked his head, his chest, and his stomach. “Where does it hurt, Peter?”
“It isn’t that kind of pain,” Peter replied darkly.
“Then what kind is it?”
“Wendy, you are wrong about mothers.”
They all gathered around him in surprise because they were so alarmed by his agitation. With dignity, Peter told them what he had long been hiding.
“Long ago,” he said, “I also thought that my mother would always keep the window open for me, so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons. And then I flew back. But the window was locked and mother had forgotten all about me. And there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.”
Now, of course, you and I can’t be sure whether this was actually true or not, but Peter thought it was true. And it scared the boys.
“Are you sure mothers are like that?”
So this was the truth about mothers. The toads!
“Wendy, let’s go home,” cried John and Michael together.
“Yes,” she said, clutching them.
“Not tonight?” asked the lost boys, bewildered. They knew in their hearts that children can live quite well without a mother. They knew that it is only the mothers who think you can’t.
“At once,” Wendy replied resolutely. A horrible thought had come to her: “Perhaps mother is already mourning us by now.”
This dread made her forget to consider Peter’s feelings, and she said to him rather sharply, “Peter, will you make the necessary arrangements for us to go home?”
“If you wish,” he replied as calmly as if she had asked him to pass the salt.
Neither of them said so much as a “sorry” or “miss you.” If Wendy wasn’t going to be sad, then Peter wouldn’t act sad either.
But of course, he cared very much. And he was so full of anger against grownups, who, as usual, were to blame. As soon as he got inside his tree and started breathing short, quick breaths. He forced himself to breath at about five breaths per second. He did this because there is a saying in Neverland: Every time you breathe, a grownup dies. And Peter was killing them off as fast as possible.
Then, after he gave the necessary instructions to the natives, he returned home, where the lost boys were surrounding Wendy.
“She can’t go!” they cried.
“It will be worse than before she came.”
“We won’t let her go.”
“Let’s keep her prisoner.”
“Yes! Chain her up.”
Out of desperation, her instinct told her which boy to turn to.
“Tootles,” she cried, “Help me.”
Wasn’t it strange? She asked Tootles for help, even though he is the silliest one.
Grandly, however, Tootles responded. For that one moment, he dropped his silliness and spoke with dignity.
“I am just Tootles,” he said, “and nobody cares about me. But if you don’t behave like a gentleman to Wendy, I will make you bleed.”
Tootles put up his fists, ready for a fight, and for that instant, he looked like a shining knight. The others stepped back uneasily.
It was at that moment when Peter returned, and then the boys knew at once that their plan was hopeless. Peter would never keep a girl in Neverland against her will.
“Wendy,” he said, pacing back and forth, “I have asked the natives to guide you through the woods, since flying tires you out so quickly.”
“Thank you, Peter.”
“Then,” he continued, in the short sharp voice of one accustomed to being obeyed, “Tinker Bell will take you across the sea. Wake her up, Nibs.”
Nibs had to knock twice before he got an answer, even though Tinker Bell had actually been sitting up in bed listening for some time.
“Who are you? How dare you? Go away,” she cried.
“You must wake up, Tink,” Nibs called, “and take Wendy on a journey.”
Of course, Tinker Bell had been delighted to hear that Wendy was leaving, but she was very determined not to be her courier. And she said so in very offensive language. Then, she pretended to go back to sleep.
“She says she won’t!” Nibs exclaimed, aghast at Tinker Bell’s insubordination.
Peter went toward Tinker Bell’s chamber sternly.
“Tink!” He knocked on her door. “If you don’t get up and get dressed immediately, I will open the curtains, and then everyone will see you in your night gown!”
This made her leap to the floor. “Who said I wasn’t getting up?” she cried.
In the meantime, the boys were gazing at Wendy, who now had John and Michael by her side for the journey. Now, the lost boys looked dejected, not only because they were about to lose Wendy, but also because they felt like she was going somewhere nice without them. They wanted to be invited to go to a new place.
Wendy interpreted their gaze as noble. “Dear boys,” she said, “if you all come along with me, I am sure that I can get my father and mother to adopt all of you.”
The invitation was especially meant for Peter, but each of the boys was thinking exclusively of himself, and at once, they jumped with joy.
“But won’t they think that we are a handful?” Nibs asked in the middle of his jump.
“Oh no,” said Wendy, rapidly thinking it out, “we’ll put some extra beds in the living room and kitchen and it will be fine.”
“Peter, can we go?” they all cried. They took it for granted that if they went, Peter would go, too. But really, did they care? Children are always ready to desert their dearest ones when something excites them.
“All right,” Peter replied with a bitter smile, and immediately they rushed to get their things.
“And now, Peter,” Wendy said, thinking she had done everything perfectly, “I am going to give you your medicine before you go.” She loved to give them medicine, and undoubtedly gave them too much. Of course it was only water, but it was out of a bottle, and she always shook the bottle and counted the drops. As always, the boys lined up and took their medicine. This time, however, she did not give Peter his medicine. Just when she prepared it, she looked at his face and her heart sank.
“Get your things, Peter,” she cried, shaking.
“No,” he answered, pretending indifference, “I am not going with you, Wendy.”
“Yes you are, Peter.”
To show that her departure would leave him unmoved, he skipped up and down the room, happily playing a make believe flute. She had to run around after him, though it was rather undignified.
“We have to go to find your mother,” she coaxed.
If Peter ever had a mother, he no longer missed her. He didn’t need one. He had thought about having a mother, but he could only remember their bad points.
“No, no,” he told Wendy decisively. “She will say I am too old. She will complain that I always have fun like a little boy.”
And so, Wendy had to tell the others. “Peter isn’t coming.”
Peter not coming! They gazed blankly at him, carrying their sticks and travel bags. Their first thought was that if Peter was not going he had probably changed his mind about letting them go.
But he was far too proud for that. “If you find your mothers,” he said darkly, “I hope you will like them.”
Peter’s awful cynicism made them uncomfortable, and they started to look doubtful.
“Now then,” cried Peter, “no fuss, no blubbering. Goodbye, Wendy,” and he held out his hand cheerfully, as if he wanted them to leave.
She took his hand. There was no indication that he would prefer a thimble.
“You will remember to change into your pajamas before sleeping, Peter?” she said, lingering. She was always so particular about their pajamas.
“And you will take your medicine?”
That seemed to be everything, and an awkward pause followed. Peter, however, was not the kind that shows sadness in front of other people. “Are you ready, Tinker Bell?” he called out.
“Then lead the way.”
Tinker Bell darted up the nearest tree. But no one followed her, because at this moment, the pirates made their dreadful attack on the natives. Above, where all had been so peaceful, the air was suddenly filled with shrieks and the clash of swords. Below, there was dead silence. Mouths opened and stayed open. Wendy fell down on her knees, but her arms were extended toward Peter. All arms were extended to Peter; they were silently begging him not to leave them.
Peter seized his sword. The lust of battle was in his eyes.