This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
One green light squinted over the pirate river, where the Jolly Roger lay. The Jolly Roger wasn’t just an ordinary ship. It was the cannibal of the seas. She hardly needed the pirates to watch over her because she floated immune, with the horror of her name.
She was wrapped in the darkness of the night. There was little sound. The only agreeable noise was the whir of the ship’s sewing machine, where Smee sat, obediently working away. Oh, pathetic Smee. I do not know why he was so immensely pathetic. He was even pathetically unaware of it.
A few of the pirates were on the deck, drinking alcohol in the night. Some others were sprawled out next to the barrels, playing games of dice and cards. And the exhausted pirates who carried the children were sleeping out of the way so they would not be clawed by Hook in their sleep.
Hook walked around the deck while deep in thought. Oh, it was his hour of triumph. Peter had been removed forever, and all the other boys were locked up under the deck. His plan was to make them walk the plank. It was his grimmest act since the days when he had defeated Barbecue the Pirate.
But now, as he walked, there was no happiness in his step. He seemed profoundly dejected. It was because he felt terribly alone. He never felt more alone than when he was surrounded by his men. They were socially inferior to him.
Hook was not his real name. I’m sorry, but I can not reveal his real name. Even today, revealing such a fact would start a war in the country. But, he went to a famous public school, where he was taught good manners. And even in his adulthood, he walked with good posture.
Good form! No matter how evil he had become, he knew that appearance was the most important thing of all.
Tap, tap, tap. In his mind, he heard the voice of his old teacher:
“Have you been good today?”
“Fame. Fame! It is mine!” he cried out.
“It is good form to be famous for something,” the internal voice said.
“I am the only man whom Barbecue feared,” he urged, “and even Flint feared Barbecue.”
“Barbecue… Flint… what school are they from?” the voice replied.
Hook didn’t answer. He remember that it is bad manners to brag about good form.
Then, Hook felt a gloomy desire to make a speech, as if he might die soon.
“It would be better for me,” he cried, “if I had had less ambition! And it would be better if no children loved me!”
It is strange that he made such a speech now, because these thoughts had never troubled him before. Maybe it was the sound of the sewing machine that brought this strange thoughts into his head.
And Smee, who was still sewing, muttered to himself. Pathetic Smee believed that all the children feared him.
Feared Smee! How silly! No child feared Smee. In fact, all the children loved him. Smee had said horrible things to the children, and he ht them with the palm of his hand (because he did not want to hit them with his fist), but they only clung to him more. Michael even tried on Smee’s glasses.
Hook wanted to tell Smee that the children thought he was lovable! Hook itched to say it, but it seemed too brutal. Instead, he thought about the mystery in his mind: why do they think Smee is so lovable? If Smee was lovable, why?
A terrible answer suddenly came into his mind: “Good form?”
With a cry of rage, he raised his iron claw over Smee’s head. But, he did not strike. Again, he reflected:
“If I clawed a man because he has good form, would that be…”
“Bad form!” cried the voice inside his head.
Hook fell forward like a cut flower. He felt weak and angry.
“Quiet, you trash,” he cried at his men, “or I’ll throw an anchor at you!” All at once, the ship was hushed. “Are all the children chained, so that they cannot fly away?”
“Then hoist them up.”
The prisoners were dragged up to the deck, all except Wendy, and lined up in front of Hook. For a time, he seemed unconscious of their presence. He was humming a rude song and fingering a pack of cards while smoking a cigar.
“Now then, bullies,” he said briskly, “six of you walk the plank tonight. I still have room for two boys to become pirates. Which of you will it be?”
“Don’t irritate him unnecessarily,” Wendy had warned them when they were tied up together under the deck. So Tootles stepped forward politely.
Tootles hated the idea of submitting to such a man, but instinct told him what Wendy would think.
Tootles explained. “You see, sir, I don’t think my mother would like me to be a pirate. Would your mother like you to be a pirate, Slighty?”
He winked at Slightly, who said mournfully, “I don’t think so,” as if he wished things had been otherwise. “Would your mother like you to be a pirate, Twin?”
“I don’t think so,” said the first twin, as clever as the others. “Nibs, would—”
“Enough!” roared Hook, and the boys were dragged back into the line. “You, boy,” he said, addressing John, “you look as if you have spirit. Didn’t you ever want to be a pirate, my boy?”
Now, John had sometimes had this experience in math class, when the teacher would pick him out to answer a question. So, he wasn’t nervous to answer.
“I once thought of calling myself Red-Handed Jack,” he said.
“And a good name, too. We’ll call you that name, boy, if you join.”
“What do you think, Michael?” asked John.
“What would you call me if I join?” Michael demanded.
“Blackbeard Joe,” said Hook.
Michael was naturally impressed. “What do you think, John?” He wanted John to decide, and John wanted him to decide.
“Can we still be respectful subjects of the King of England?” John inquired.
Through Hook’s teeth came the answer: “You would have to swear, ‘Down with the King.’”
Perhaps John had not behaved very well so far, but he was good now.
“Then I refuse,” he cried, stomping his feet.
“And I refuse,” cried Michael.
“King of England!” squeaked Curly.
The infuriated pirates hit them in the mouth; and Hook roared out, “That seals your doom. Bring up their mother. Get the plank ready.”
They were only little boys, so they went white with fear when they saw Jukes and Cecco preparing the plank. But they tried to look brave when Wendy was brought up to the deck.
I cannot write with words how much Wendy despised those pirates. To the boys, there was at least some glamour in the idea of pirates. But to Wendy, all she could see was that the ship had not been cleaned for years. The windows on the ship were so grimy that you could write “Dirty pigs” with your fingers on the glass. And indeed, she had already written that on several windows.
But as the boys gathered around her, should couldn’t think of anything except them.
“So, my beauty,” said Hook, sweetly, “you will watch your children walk the plank.”
Hook was a fine gentleman, but his collar was a little dirty. When he saw her staring at the soiled collar, he became self-conscious. He tried to hide it, but he was too late.
“Are they going to die?” asked Wendy, with such a deep look of hatred that he nearly fainted.
“They are,” he snarled. “Silence all! Let the mother give last words to her children.”
At this moment, Wendy was grand. “These are my last words, dear boys,” she said firmly. “I feel that I have a message to you from your real mothers, and it is this: ‘We hope that our sons will die like English gentlemen.’”
Even the pirates were awed, and Tootles cried out hysterically, “I am going to do what my mother hopes. What are you going to do, Nibs?”
“What my mother hopes. What are you going to do, Twin?”
“What my mother hopes. John, what are—”
But Hook had found his voice again. “Tie her up!” he shouted.
It was Smee who tied her to the mast. “See here, honey,” he whispered, “I’ll save you if you promise to be my mother.”
But not even for Smee would she make such a promise. “I would almost rather have no children at all,” she said disdainfully.
As Smee tied her to the mast, not a single boy was looking at her. All of their eyes were on the plank. It would be their last walk before their death. They were no longer able to hope that they would walk it like a gentleman. All capacity to think had disappeared. They could only stare and shiver.
Hook smiled at them with his teeth closed, and took a step toward Wendy. His intention was to turn her face so that she would be forced to watch the boys walking the plank one by one. But he never reached her. He stopped when he heard it.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock, Tick, tock.
It was the terrible ticking of the crocodile.
They all heard it—the pirates, the boys, and Wendy. Immediately, every head turned in one direction—not to the water, but towards Hook. Everyone knew that the ticking crocodile was only concerned with Hook, so they all became the spectators.
It was very frightful to see the change that came over Hook. It was as if he had been clipped at every joint. He fell down in a heap.
The sound came steadily nearer. “The crocodile is about to board the ship!”
Even the iron claw hung limply at his side. Left alone, any other man would have shut his eyes where he fell. But the gigantic brain of Hook was still working. He crawled on his knees along the deck as far from the sound as he could go. The pirates respectfully cleared a path for him, and when he got to the other end of the ship, he spoke:
They gathered around him, all eyes averted from the thing that was coming aboard. They had no thought of fighting it. It was fate.
When Hook was hidden, the boys’ curiosity got the better of them. They rushed to the ship’s side to see the crocodile climbing it. Then, they got the strangest surprise of the Night of Nights. What was climbing up the side of the ship was no crocodile. It was Peter.
He gestured to them not to let out a cry of admiration that might arouse suspicion. Then, he went on making a ticking noise.