This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Odd things happen to all of us on our way through life without us noticing that they have happened.
For example, if we suddenly discover that we have been deaf in one ear, we have trouble guessing when our hearing had started to fade.
Such an experience had come to Peter that night. When we last saw him, he was running across the island with a finger on his lips and his dagger ready. He had run past the crocodile without noticing anything peculiar about it, but as he ran, he started to realize that the crocodile had not been ticking. At first, he thought this was very strange. But soon, he concluded that the clock must have finally run down and stopped working.
Don’t you wonder what the feelings of the crocodile were, now that the clock had finally stopped ticking?
Without thinking about the feelings of the crocodile, Peter began to consider how he could turn the catastrophe to his advantage. And he decided to tick, so that the wild beasts would believe that he was the crocodile and let him pass without harassment. He ticked beautifully, but with one unforeseen result: The crocodile also heard the sound, and it followed after him. It is impossible to guess whether the crocodile was trying to get back his ticking clock, or if he was merely seeking out a ticking companion.
Peter reached the shore without any mishaps, and went straight on as if his body were unaware that it had entered a new element. Many animals can easily pass from land to water, but I don’t know any humans that can do it as gracefully as Peter. As he swam, he only thought one thing: “Hook or me this time.” He had ticked for so long that he now went on ticking without even realizing that he was doing it. If he had realized, he might have stopped. The genius idea of pretending to be the crocodile while sneaking aboard the ship hadn’t even occurred to Peter.
To his mind, he thought he was scaling the side of the Jolly Rancher as noiseless as a mouse. He was amazed to see the pirates cowering away from him, with Hook hidden behind them, as if he had heard the crocodile.
The crocodile! As soon as Peter remembered the crocodile, he heard the ticking. He looked behind him swiftly, and all around, for the crocodile. Then, when he didn’t see any crocodiles, he realized that he was making the noise himself. In a flash, he understood the situation. “How clever of me!” he thought at once. He gestured to the boys not to burst into applause. Peter hid behind the cabin, out of sight of the pirates.
It was at this moment that Ed Teynte, a tall pirate, emerged from the cabin and came along the deck.
Now, you won’t believe how fast this all happened. You should time it with your watch.
Peter struck true and deep. John clapped his hands on the pirate’s mouth to stifle the dying groan. He fell forward. Four boys caught him to prevent the thud. Peter gave the signal, and the pirate’s body was thrown overboard. There was a splash, and then silence.
Did you time it? How long did it take?
Slightly started counting, “One.”
Peter, on tiptoe, vanished into the cabin because some of the pirates were working up their courage to look around for the crocodile. They could hear each other’s distressed breathing now.
“It’s gone, captain,” Smee said, wiping off his spectacles. “All is still again.”
Slowly, Hook let his head emerge from his ruffled collar, and listened so intently that he could have heard the echo of the tick. There was not a sound, and he stood up firmly to his full height.
“Then let’s continue with the plank!” he cried brazenly, hating the boys more than ever because they had seen him in his moment of weakness. He broke into a villainous song:
“Yo ho, yo ho, the frisky plank,
You walk along it so,
Till it goes down and you go down
To the deep, dark sea below!”
To terrorize the prisoners more, he danced along an imaginary plank, smirking at them as he sang. When he finished, he cried, “Do you want a touch of the cat before you walk the plank?”
When they heard that, they all fell on their knees. “No, no!” they cried so piteously that every pirate smiled.
“Fetch the cat, Jukes,” said Hook; “it’s in the cabin.”
The cabin! Peter was in the cabin! The children gazed at each other.
“Ay, ay,” said Jukes blithely, and he strode into the cabin. They followed him with their eyes; they didn’t even notice that Hook had resumed his song, his men joining in with him:
“Yo ho, yo ho, the scratching cat,
With eight long tails, you know,
And when they’re writ upon your back—”
What was the last line of the song? We will never know, because the song was ended by a dreadful screech from the cabin. The screech wailed through the ship, and died away. Then, there was a crowing sound which was well understood by the boys, but to the pirates, it was even more eerie than the screech.
“Two,” whispered Slightly.
The Italian pirate, Cecco, hesitated for a moment and then swung into the cabin. He tottered out, haggard.
“What’s the matter with Bill Jukes, you dog?” hissed Hook, towering over him.
“What’s the matter with him? The matter is that he’s dead. Stabbed,” replied Cecco in a hollow voice.
“Bill Jukes dead!” cried the startled pirates.
“The cabin’s as black as a pit,” Cecco said, almost gibbering, “but there is something terrible in there: the thing you heard crowing.”
Hook saw both the happy faces of the boys, and the lowering looks of the pirates.
“Cecco,” he said in his most steely voice, “go back and fetch me that crowing thing.”
Cecco, bravest of the brave, cowered before his captain, crying “No, no”; but Hook was holding up his claw.
“Did you say you would go, Cecco?” he said musingly.
Cecco went. There was no more singing. All were listening now. And again came a death screech and again came a crowing.
No one spoke except Slightly. “Three,” he said.
Hook rallied his men together with a gesture. “Death and odd fish,” he thundered. “Who is going to bring me that crowing doodle-doo?”
“Wait until Cecco comes out,” growled Starkey, and the others cried out in agreement.
“I think I heard you volunteer, Starkey,” said Hook, purring.
“No, I didn’t!” Starkey cried.
“My hook thinks you did,” said Hook, walking over to him. “I wonder if it would be a good idea, Starkey, to obey the hook?”
“No way! I’ll fight before I go in there,” replied Starkey angrily. And again, he had the support of the crew.
“Is this mutiny?” asked Hook, more pleasantly than ever. “Starkey is the ringleader!”
“Captain, mercy!” Starkey whimpered, starting to tremble.
“Shake hands, Starkey,” said Hook, offering his claw.
Starkey looked round for help, but all deserted him. As he backed up Hook advanced, and now the red spark was in his eye. With a despairing scream the pirate leapt upon the Long Tom cannon and threw himself into the sea.
“Four,” said Slightly.
“And now,” Hook said courteously, “did any other gentlemen say mutiny?” Seizing a lantern and raising his claw with a menacing gesture, “I’ll bring out that crowing doodle-doo myself,” he said, and sped into the cabin.
“Five.” How Slightly longed to say it. He wetted his lips to be ready, but Hook came staggering out, without his lantern.
“Something blew out the light,” he said a little uneasily.
“Something!” echoed Mullins.
“What happened to Cecco?” demanded Noodler.
“He’s as dead as Jukes,” said Hook shortly.
His reluctance to return to the cabin gave them all an unfavorable impression, and the grumbles of mutiny broke out again. All pirates are superstitious, you know. So, Cookson cried, “They say the surest sign that a ship is cursed is when there is one extra soul on board that can’t be accounted for.”
“I’ve heard,” muttered Mullins, “that the extra soul always boards the pirate ship last. Did he have a tail, captain?”
“They say,” said another, looking viciously at Hook, “that when the extra soul comes, it takes on the appearance of the wickedest man aboard.”
“Did he have a hook, captain?” asked Cookson rudely.
One after another, the pirates cried out, “The ship is doomed!”
At this, the children could not resist cheering. Hook had well forgotten his prisoners, but now, he swung around to look at them and his face lit up again.
“Lads,” he cried to his crew. “Now, here is an idea. Open the cabin door and push the children in. Let them fight the crowing doodle-doo for their lives. If they kill him, we’re so much better off. If he kills them, nothing bad will have happened to us.”
Finally, the men’s loyalty returned. They admired Hook and devotedly followed his orders. The boys, pretending to struggle, were pushed into the cabin and the door was closed on them.
“Now, listen!” cried Hook. And all of them listened. But not one of them dared to face the door. Oh wait! Yes, one of them faced the door. It was Wendy, who all this time had been bound to the mast. She wasn’t watching and waiting for a scream or a crow. She was watching for the reappearance of Peter.
She did not have to wait long. In the cabin, he had found the thing which he had been searching for: the key that would free the children of their chains.
And now, they all picked up as many weapons as they could find in the cabin.
They opened the cabin door silently and found that all of the pirates were looking away, with only their ears turned towards the door. Peter gestured for all the children to hide while Peter cut Wendy free.
Now, nothing could have been easier than for all of them to fly off together to freedom.
But one thing prevented that: Peter’s oath. “Hook or me this time.”
So when he had freed Wendy, he whispered for her to hide with the others. Peter took her place by the mast, and put her cloak around him so that the pirates would think that he was Wendy.
Then, he took a great breath and crowed.
To the pirates, it was the crow that told them all the boys were dead in the cabin, and they were stricken with panic. Hook tried to hearten them, but like dogs, they showed their fangs. He knew that if he took his eyes off of them now, they would leap at him.
“Lads,” he said, ready to flatter them or fight them as needed. But he never hesitated for a moment. “I’ve thought it out. There must be a cursed one on our ship.”
“Ay,” they snarled, “a man with a hook.”
“No, lads. No! It’s the girl. You know the superstition. There was never luck on a pirate ship with a woman on board. We’ll fix everything when she’s gone.”
Some of them remembered this saying. “It’s worth trying,” they said doubtfully.
“Fling the girl overboard,” cried Hook. They made a rush at the figure in the cloak.
“There’s no one who can save you now, missy,” Mullins hissed.
“There’s one,” replied the figure.
“Peter Pan the avenger!” came the terrible answer. And as he spoke, Peter flung off Wendy’s cloak.
The pirates were hit with the realization that it had been Peter Pan who was playing tricks on them in the cabin.
Twice, Hook opened his mouth to speak, and twice, he failed. In that frightful moment, I think his fierce heart broke.
At last he cried, “Cut him into pieces!”
“Get ‘em boys!” Peter’s voice rang out. In the next moment, the clash of weapons was resounding through the ship. If the pirates had kept together, they might have won. But once the lost boys unveiled themselves, they were caught off guard and started running back and forth, striking wilding. Each of the pirates fought like he was the last survivor of the crew. Comparing the pirates and the boys, of course, the pirates were stronger. But in this battle, they fought on the defensive only, which enabled the boys to hunt in pairs and choose their targets. Some of the pirates leapt into the sea to escape. Others hid in dark corners where they were soon found by Slightly. Slightly didn’t fight, but he ran around with a lantern and flashed it in their faces so that they were half blinded and became easy prey to the other boys. There was little sound besides the clang of weapons, an occasional screech or splash, and Slightly’s counting. “Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven…”
I think all were gone when a group of boys surrounded Hook, who kept them at a distance with his hook.
They had finished Hook’s men, but this man alone seemed to be too strong for the boys. Again and again, they closed in on him, and again and again, he backed them down and cleared a space around him.
He caught one boy and lifted him up with his hook. He used the boy as a shield. Another boy, who had just passed his sword through Mullins, sprang into the fight.
Suddenly, Hook found himself face to face with Peter.
“Put your swords down, boys,” cried Peter. “This man is mine.”
The boys drew back and formed a ring around them. For long, the two enemies looked at one another. Hook shuddered slightly, and Peter had a strange smile on his face.
“So, Pan,” said Hook at last, “this is all your fault.”
“Ay, James Hook,” came the stern answer, “it is all my fault.”
“Proud and arrogant youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet your doom.”
“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “try your best.”
Without any more words, they fought. And for a while, there was no advantage to either side. Peter was a superb swordsman, and he fought with dazzling speed. He swung his sword, feinted, and then lunged again and again. He broke past Hook’s defense, but his arms were shorter than Hook’s, and so he could not pierce Hook.
Hook, who was not inferior in intelligence, but no quite so nimble in wrist movements, forced Peter back by the weight of his blows. He used a special thrust, taught to him long ago by Barbecue at Rio, but to his astonishment, his special move was turned aside again and again. Then, he tried to close the space and give his opponent his iron hook, but Peter ducked under it and, lunging fiercely, pierced Hook in the ribs. At the sight of his own blood, the sword fell from Hook’s hand. He was at Peter’s mercy.
“Now!” cried all the boys. But with a magnificent gesture, Peter stopped the boys, and he invited his opponent to pick up his sword. Hook picked up his weapon instantly, but with a tragic feeling that Peter was showing good form.
“Pan, who and what are you?” he cried suddenly.
“I’m youth. I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy Hook that Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very pinnacle of good form.
“Let’s fight again,” he cried despairingly.
He fought now harder than before, and every sweep of that terrible sword would have severed any man or boy in its path. But Peter fluttered around him and danced out of reach. And again and again, he darted in and pricked.
Now, Hook was fighting without hope. That passionate heart no longer asked for life. It only craved one thing: to see Peter show bad form before it was cold forever.
Abandoning the fight he rushed toward a barrel that was filled with dynamite and he lit it.
“In two minutes,” he cried, “the ship will be blown to pieces.”
Now, now, he thought, true form will show.
But Peter flew to the barrel and picked up the lit dynamite in his hands. He calmly flung it overboard into the sea.
The other boys were flying around Hook now, rebelliously. He staggered around the deck, swiping his sword at them. His mind was not focused. He was remembering the school days when he had good form. His shoes were right. His waistcoat was right. His tie was right. Even his socks were right.
James Hook. You were not a completely unheroic figure. Farewell.
And so, we have come to witness his last moment.
Seeing Peter slowly advancing on him through the air with his dagger read, he sprang up and threw himself overboard into the sea. He did not know that the crocodile was waiting for him. Perhaps it was better that he didn’t know he was jumping to his doom.
But he did have one last triumph, which we won’t ignore. Before he jumped overboard, he looked over his shoulder at Peter. He invited him to attack. This is what made Peter decide to kick instead of stab.
At last, Hook was able to say what he wanted: “Bad form!” he cried jeeringly. And he went contently to the crocodile.
And this is how James Hook perished.
“Seventeen,” Slightly sang out. But he was not quite correct with his numbers. Fifteen pirates paid the penalty for their crimes that night, but two had safely reached the shore: Starkey, who was immediately captured by the natives, and Smee, who lived out his life wandering the world and pretending that he was the only man that Captain Hook had feared.
Wendy, of course, had stood by without taking any part in the fight (although she watched Peter with glistening eyes). But now that it was all over, she became active again. She praised them equally, and she shuddered delightfully when Michael shower her the place where he had killed one. And then she took them into Hook’s cabin and pointed to his watch which was hanging on a nail. It said 1:30.
The lateness of the night was the biggest problem of all. Wendy didn’t want to waste any time getting the boys into bed, so she tucked them into the pirates’ bunks very quickly. Everyone except Peter. He strutted up and down on the deck, until at last, he fell asleep next to the Long Tom cannon. He had one of his nightmares again that night. He cried in his sleep for a long time, and Wendy held him tightly.