This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Chapter 13 – Do You Believe in Fairies?
The first to emerge from his tree was Curly. He rose out of it into the arms of Cecco, who flung the poor boy down the line of pirates. He was flung from Smee, to Starkey, to Bill Jukes, to Noodler, and so on until he was at the feet of the captain pirate. All of the boys were plucked from their trees in this ruthless manner, like luggage being flung from one hand to another.
A different treatment was given to Wendy, who came last. With ironic politeness, Hook raised his hat to her, and, offering her his arm, escorted her to the spot where the other boys were being gagged. He escorted her with such good manners that she was too fascinated to cry out. She was only a little girl.
It’s possible that, for just a moment, Wendy was entranced by Hook. I wish she hadn’t been. I would love to tell you a story in which she scolded him or arrogantly refused his arm, but she didn’t. If she had, she might have been flung into the air like the others.
So Hook escorted Wendy to the place where the boys were being tied up. And that is when he discovered Slightly’s secret.
They were tied up to prevent them from flying away. One by one, they were tied into a very uncomfortable ball shape, with their knees close to their ears. All was going well until it was Slightly’s turn to be tied up. He was quite difficult to tie and the pirates kicked him in their rage. And it was strange, but Hook was the one who warned them not to be violent. His lips were curled in a triumphant smile. His men were sweating because each time they tried to tie up Slightly tightly, one part of him bulged out, like a package that is too big for its wrapping. Hook inspected Slightly, poking him to find out the reason for this. At last, he found the reason, and Slightly turned white when he realized that Hook found his secret.
Hook was certain that Slightly was too big for his tree. Poor Slightly was very ashamed. He was addicted to drinking water when he was hot, and had become very plump. To fit perfectly in his tree, Slightly had gradually (and secretly!) whittled his tree to make it fit him.
Hook ordered the pirates to bring the children to the ship, and to leave him alone.
But the pirates had questions. How should they bring the children to the ship? In their ball shapes, they could indeed be rolled downhill like barrels. Unfortunately, most of the way was through muddy swamps. In the end, Hook told them to carry the children on their shoulders. They set off towards the ship, singing their pirate songs.
I don’t know whether any of the children were crying or not. If so, the singing drowned out the sound.
Now that Hook was alone, the first thing he did was tiptoe to Slightly’s tree, and make sure that the hole was big enough for him to pass through. Then, for a long time, he remaining brooding. Even though his thoughts were dark, his blue eyes were as soft as periwinkle. Intently, he listened for any sound, but all was silent below and above. The house under the ground seemed to be empty. Was Peter Pan asleep? Or did he stand waiting at the foot of Slightly’s tree, with his dagger in his hand?
There was no way of knowing, except by going down. Hook let his cloak slip softly to the ground. And then, biting his lips until a drop of blood stood on them, he stepped into the tree. He was a brave man, but for a moment, he had to stop and wipe his forehead, which was dripping like a candle. Then, silently, he let himself go down into the unknown.
He arrived safely at the foot of the tree, and stood still again, holding in his breath. As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light, various objects in the home under the trees took shape. His greedy eyes rested on only one object: the great bed. On the bed, Peter was fast asleep.
Unaware of the tragedy that happened above, Peter had continued playing music for a short time (probably to prove to himself that he did not care that the children had left him). Then, as a way to grieve Wendy, he took his medicine. Then, he lay down on the bed (on top of the blankets, as Wendy often scolded him for—children should be tucked in under the blankets so that they don’t catch a cold). He nearly cried, but then, he thought of how mad Wendy would be if he laughed instead of cried. So he laughed deeply and fell asleep in the middle of it.
Sometimes, though not often, he had dreams. His dreams were more painful than the dreams of other boys. For hours, he could not be separated from these dreams, even when he screamed out during them. At such times, Wendy took him out of bed and sat with him on her lap, soothing him in a motherly way. And when he grew calmer, she would put him back to bed before he woke up, so that he would not know the indignity of what she did.
But on this occasion, Peter fell into a dreamless sleep. One arm dropped over the edge of the bed, and one leg was arched, and the unfinished laugh was still in his open mouth.
Thus, he was defenseless when Hook found him. Hook stood silently at the foot of the tree looking across the chamber at his enemy. Did he feel any compassion in his heart? The man was not entirely evil; he loved flowers (I’ve been told) and sweet music (he, himself, was quite good on the piano). Frankly speaking, the innocent nature of the scene was moving to Hook. If Hook was taken over by his good nature, he might have returned reluctantly up the tree. But that did not happen.
What affected Hook the most was Peter’s cocky appearance as he slept. His open mouth, his drooping arm, his arched knee: they were such a personification of arrogance. All together, it burned Hook’s eyes. It cut Hook’s heart. It broke him into a hundred pieces of rage.
Though there was one lamp that shone dimly over the bed, Hook stood in darkness himself. At the first stealthy step forward, he discovered an obstacle: the door of Slightly’s tree. It was a short door that he had been looking over the top of. Feeling for the handle, he realized, to his fury, that the handle was so low that he couldn’t reach it while standing up straight in the tight tree.
To his disordered brain, his temper got the best of him, and he rattled the door and flung himself at it until it opened. With all that noise, would Peter wake up and escape Hook? No. The boy continued to sleep.
But what was that? Hook’s raging red eyes had caught sight of something. Peter’s medicine was standing on the bedside table. He imagined what it was straightway, and immediately devised a new cunning plan.
In case he was ever taken prisoner, Hook always carried around a dreadful poison. He blended it himself from all the deadly substances that had come into his possession. It was boiled down into a yellow liquid that even scientists couldn’t describe. It was probably the most powerful poison in existence.
He added five drops of this to Peter’s cup of medicine. His hand trembled, but it wasn’t from fear. It was from excitement. While he poured the poison, he avoided glancing at the sleeper. He wasn’t afraid of suddenly finding pity, but rather, he avoided looking at Peter so that he could concentrate on pouring without making a mess.
Then, he took one last look at his victim, turned, and wormed his way up the tree.
When he emerged at the top, he looked like a demon coming out of his cave. He put on his hat at an angle and put his cloak back on. He muttered to himself strangely as he ran through the woods.
Peter slept on. The lamp burned out, leaving the room in darkness, and he slept on.
It must have been about ten o’clock at night when he suddenly sat up in his bed, awakened by a soft, cautious tapping on the door of his tree.
Soft and cautious, but somehow sinister. Peter felt around for his dagger until his hand gripped it. Then, he spoke.
For a long time, there was no answer: then again, the knock.
“What are you?”
He was thrilled, and he loved being thrilled. In two steps, he reached the door. Unlike Slightly’s door, it completely covered the opening, so he could not see who was knocking on the door.
“I won’t open the door unless you speak,” Peter cried.
Then, at last, the visitor spoke, in a lovely, bell-like voice.
“Let me in, Peter.”
It was Tinker Bell, and he quickly opened the door for her. She flew in excitedly. Her face was flushed and her dress was stained with mud.
“What is it?”
“Oh, you could never guess!” she cried. “Ok, you have three chances to guess!”
“Just tell me!” he shouted.
And in one long, ungrammatical sentence, Tinker Bell told Peter about the capture of Wendy and the boys.
Peter’s heart bobbed up and down as he listened. He imagined Wendy tied up on the pirate ship. How unhappy she must be!
“I’ll rescue her!” he cried, leaping at his weapons. As he leapt, he thought he should do something responsible that would make her happy. He could take his medicine.
His hand grabbed the fatal cup.
“No!” shrieked Tinker Bell. Luckily, she had heard Hook muttering about his plan as he ran through the forest.
“It is poisoned.”
“Poisoned? Who could have poisoned it?”
“Don’t be silly. How could Hook have got down here?”
Alas, Tinker Bell could not explain this, because even she did not know the dark secret of Slightly’s tree. Nevertheless, Hook’s words had left no room for doubt in her mind. The cup was poisoned.
“Besides,” said Peter, becoming quite arrogant again, “I never fell asleep.”
He raised the cup. No time for words now; it was time for action. With one lightning movement, Tinker Bell got between his lips and the cup, and she drank all of the liquid before Peter could.
“Tink! How dare you drink my medicine!”
But she did not answer. Already she was twitching and reeling in the air.
“What is the matter with you?” cried Peter, suddenly afraid.
“It was poisoned, Peter,” she told him softly; “and now I am going to be dead.”
“Oh Tink, did you drink it to save me?”
“But why, Tink?”
Her wings would scarcely carry her now. In reply, she landed on his shoulder and gave his nose a loving bite. She whispered in his ear, “You idiot.” And then, tottering to her chamber, she lay down on the bed.
His head almost filled her little room as he knelt near her in distress. Every moment, her light was growing fainter. He knew that if her light went out, she would be dead. Tinker Bell liked Peter’s tears. She put out her beautiful finger and touched the tears.
Her voice was so low that, at first, he could not understand what she said. Then he made it out. She was saying that she thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies.
Peter flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it was night time. But he prayed to all the children who might be dreaming of Neverland. He prayed to all the boys and girls in their pajamas and all the naked babies in their baskets.
“Do you believe?” he cried.
Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate.
She wanted to believe that she heard many voices answering, “Yes.” But she wasn’t sure.
“What do you think?” she asked Peter.
“If you believe,” he shouted to them, “clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.”
A few beasts hissed.
The clapping stopped suddenly, as if countless mothers had rushed into their children’s bedrooms to see what on earth was happening. But already, Tinker Bell was saved. First, her voice grew strong. Then, she popped out of bed. Then, she was flashing through the room, more merry and impudent than ever. She never thought of thanking those children who believed in her, but she would have like to slap the ones who had hissed.
“And now to rescue Wendy!”
The moon was riding the clouds in the night sky when Peter rose from his tree, armed with weapons, to set out on his quest. It wasn’t the perfect night for such an adventure. He had hoped to fly low to the ground so that he could keep a lookout without been seen. Unfortunately, when he tried to do so, his shadow trailed through the trees and disturbed the birds.
There was no other choice but to continue forward on foot. But in what direction? He wasn’t sure whether the children had been taken to the ship or not. After Hook’s escape, a light fall of snow had covered all footprints, and there was a deathly silence on the island.
He had taught the children some tricks in case something like this ever happened. Slightly, for example, would scratch the trees if he could. Curly would drop seeds. And Wendy would leave her handkerchief at some important place. But to search for these signs, Peter would need the morning light, which he didn’t have time to wait for.
The crocodile passed him, but not another living thing. No sound, no movement. And yet, he knew that sudden death might be waiting at the next tree, or stalking him from behind.
He swore this terrible oath: “It will be death for either Hook or me this time.”
Now, he crawled forward like a snake, and then stood up straight again, and darted across a moonlit field, with one finger on his lips and one hand on his dagger. He was incredibly happy.