J. M. Barrie

From FireBlade Fiction on Negative Space.

by

“I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty.”—Wendy Moira Angela Darling (Peter and Wendy)

Peter Pan, or, The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up

To the Five
A Dedication

Some disquieting confessions must be made in printing at last the play of Peter Pan; among them this, that I have no recollection of having written it. Of that, however, anon. What I want to do first is to give Peter to the Five without whom he never would have existed. I hope, my dear sirs, that in memory of what we have been to each other you will accept this dedication with your friend's love. The play of Peter is streaky with you still, though none may see this save ourselves. A score of Acts had to be left out, and you were in them all. We first brought Peter down, didn’t we, with a blunt-headed arrow in Kensington Gardens? I seem to remember that we believed we had killed him, though he was only winded, and that after a spasm of exultation in our prowess the more soft-hearted among us wept and all of us thought of the police. There was not one of you who would not have sworn as an eye-witness to this occurrence; no doubt I was abetting, but you used to provide corroboration that was never given to you by me. As for myself, I suppose I always knew that I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. That is all he is, the spark I got from you.

We had good sport of him before we clipped him small to make him fit the boards. Some of you were not born when the story began and yet were hefty figures before we saw that the game was up. Do you remember a garden at Burpham and the initiation there of No. 4 when he was six weeks old, and three of you grudged letting him in so young? Have you, No. 3, forgotten the white violets at the Cistercian abbey in which we cassocked our first fairies (all little friends of St. Benedict), or your cry to the Gods, ‘Do I just kill one pirate all the time?’ Do you remember Marooners’ Hut in the haunted groves of Waverley, and the St. Bernard dog in a tiger’s mask who so frequently attacked you, and the literary record of that summer, The Boy Castaways, which is so much the best and the rarest of this author’s works? What was it that made us eventually give to the public in the thin form of a play that which had been woven for ourselves alone? Alas, I know what it was, I was losing my grip. One by one as you swung monkey-wise from branch to branch in the wood of make-believe you reached the tree of knowledge. Sometimes you swung back into the wood, as the unthinking may at a cross-road take a familar path that no longer leads to home; or you perched ostentatiously on its boughs to please me, pretending that you still belonged; soon you knew it only as the vanished wood, for it vanishes if one needs to look for it. A time came when I saw that No. 1, the most gallant of you all, ceased to believe that he was ploughing woods incarnadine, and with an apologetic eye for me derided the lingering faith of No. 2; when even No. 3 questioned gloomily whether he did not really spend his nights in bed. There were still two who knew no better, but their day was dawning. In these circumstances, I suppose, was begun the writing of the play of Peter. That was a quarter of a century ago, and I clutch my brows in vain to remember whether it was a last desperate throw to retain the five of you for a little longer, or merely a cold decision to turn you into bread and butter.

This brings us back to my uncomfortable admission that I have no recollection of writing the play of Peter Pan, now being published for the first time so long after he made his bow upon the stage. You had played it until you tired of it, and tossed it in the air and gored it and left it derelict in the mud and went on your way singing other songs; and then I stole back and sewed some of the gory fragments together with a pen-nib. That is what must have happened, but I cannot remember doing it. I remember writing the story of Peter and Wendy many years after the production of the play, but I might have cribbed that from some typed copy. I can haul back to mind the writing of almost every other assay of mine, however forgotten by the pretty public; but this play of Peter, no. Even my beginning as an amateur playwright, that noble mouthful, Bandelero the Bandit, I remember every detail of its composition in my school days at Dumfries. Not less vivid is my first little piece, produced by Mr. Toole. It was called Ibsen’s Ghost, and was a parody of the mightiest craftsman that ever wrote for our kind friends in front. To save the management the cost of typing I wrote out the ‘parts,’ after being told what parts were, and I can still recall my first words, spoken so plaintively by a now famous acress,—‘To run away from my second husband just as I ran away from my first, it feels quite like old times.’ On the first night a man in the pit found Ibsen’s Ghost so diverting that he had to be removed in hysterics. After that no one seems to have thought of it at all. But what a man to carry about with one! How odd, too, that these trifles should adhere to the mind that cannot remember the long job of writing Peter. It does seem almost suspicious, especially as I have not the original MS. of Peter Pan (except a few stray pages) with which to support my claim. I have indeed another MS., lately made, but that ‘proves nothing.’ I know not whether I lost that original MS. or destroyed it or happily gave it away. I talk ot dedicating the play to you, but how can I prove it is mine? How ought I to act if some other hand, who could also have made a copy, thinks it worth while to contest the cold rights? Cold they are to me now as that laughter of yours in which Peter came into being long before he was caught and written down. There is Peter still, but to me he lies sunk in the gay Black Lake.

Any one of you five brothers has a better claim to the authorship than most, and I would not fight you for it, but yo should have launched your case long ago in the days when you most admired me, which were in the first year of the play, owing to a rumnour’s reaching you that my spoils were one-and-sixpence a night. This was untrue, but it did give me a standing among you. You watched for my next play with peeled eyes, not for entertainment but lest it contained some chance witticism of yours that could be challenged as collaboration; indeed I believe there still exists a legal document, full of the Aforesaid and Henceforward to be called Part-Author, in which for some such snatching I was tied down to pay No. 2 one halfpenny daily throughout the run of the piece.

During the rehearsals of Peter (and it is evidence in my favour that I was admitted to them) a depressed man in overalls, carrying a mug of tea or a paint-pot, used often to appear by my side in the shadowy stalls and say to me, ‘The gallery boys won’t stand it.’ He then mysteriously faded away as if he were the theatre ghost. This hopelessness of his is what all dramatists are said to feel at such times, so perhaps he was the author. Again, a large number of children whom I have seen playing Peter in their homes with careless mastership, constantly putting in beter words, could have thrown it off with ease. It was for such as they that after the first production I had to add something to the play at the request of parents (who thus showed that they thought me the responsible person) about no one being able to fly until the fairy dust had been blown on him; so many chldren having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention.

Notwithstanding other possibilities, I think I wrote Peter, and if so it must have been in the usual inky way. Some of it, I like to think, was done in that native place which is the dearest spot on earth to me, though my last heart-beats shall be with my beloved solitary London that was so hard to reach. I must have sat at a table with that great dog waiting for me to stop, not complaining, for he knew it was thus we made our living, but giving me a look when he found he was to be in the play, with his sex changed. In after years when the actor who was Nana had to go to the wars hje first taught his wife how to take his place as the dog till he came back, and I am glad that I see nothing funny in this; it seems to me to belong to the play. I offer this obtuseness on my part as my first proof that I am the author.

Some say that we are different people at different periods of our lives, changing not through effort of will, which is a brave affair, but in the easy course of nature every ten years or so. I suppose this theory might explain my present trouble, but I don’t hold with it; I think one remains the same person throughout, merely passing, as it were, in these lapses of time from one room to another, but all in the same house. If we unlock the rooms of the far past we can peer in and see ourselves, busily occupied in beginning to become you and me. Thus, if I am the author in question the way he is to go should already be showing in the occupant of my first compartment, at whom I now take the liberty to peep. Here he is at the age of seven or so with his fellow-conspirator Robb, both in glengarry bonnets. They are giving an entertainment in a tiny old washing-house that still stands. The charge for admission is preens, a bool, or a peerie (I taught you a good deal of Scotch, so possibly you can follow that), and apparently the culminating Act consists in our trying to put each other into the boiler, though some say that I also addressed the spell-bound audience. This washing-house is not only the theatre of my first play, but has a still closer connection with Peter. It is the original of the little house the Lost Boys built in the Never Land for Wendy, the chief difference being that it never wore John’s tall hat as a chimney. If Robb had owned a lum hat I have no doubt that it would have been placed on the washing-house.

Here is that boy again some four years older, and the reading he is munching feverishly is about desert islands; he calls them wrecked islands. He buys his sanguinary tales surreptitiously in penny numbers. I see a change coming over him; he is blanching as he reads in the high-class magazine, Chatterbox, a fulmination against such literature, and sees that unless his greed for islands is quenched he is for ever lost. With gloaming he steals out of the house, his library bulging beneath his palpitating waistcoat. I follow like his shadow, as indeed I am, and watch him dig a hole in a field at Pathhead farm and bury his islands in it; it was ages ago, but I could walk straight to that hole in the field now and delve for the remains. I peep into the next compartment. There he is again, ten years older, and undergraduate now and craving to be a real explorer, one of those who do things instead of prating of them, but otherwise unaltered; he might be painted at twenty on top of a mast, in his hand a spy-glass through which he rakes the horizon for an elusive strand. I go from room to room, and he is now a man, real exploration abandoned (though only because no one would have him). Soon he is even concocting other plays, and quaking a little lest some low person counts how many islands there are in them. I note that with the years the islands grow more sinister, but it is only because he has now to write with the left hand, the right having given out; evidently one thinks more darkly down the left arm. go to the keyhole of the compartment where he and I join up, and you may see us wondering whether they would stand one more island. This journey through the house may not convince any one that I wrote Peter, but it does suggest me as a likely person. I pause to ask myself whether I read Chatterbox again, suffered the old agony, and buried that MS. of the play in a hole in a field.

Of course this is over-charged. Perhaps we do change; except a little something in us which is no larger than a mote in the eye, and that, like it, dances in front of us beguiling us all our days. I cannot cut the hair by which it hangs.

The strongest evidence that I am the author is to be found, I think, in a now melancholy volume, the aforementioned The Boy Castaways; so you must excuse me for parading that work here. Officer of the Court, call The Boy Castaways. The witness steps forward and proves to be a book you remember well though you have not glanced at it these many years. I pulled it out of a bookcase just now not without difficulty, for its recent occupation has been to support the shelf above. I suppose, though I am uncertain, that it was I and not you who hammered it into that place of utility. It is a little battered and bent after the manner of those who shoulder burdens, and ought (to our shame) to remind us of the witnesses who sometimes get an hour off from the cells to give evidence before his Lordship. I have said that it is the rarest of my printed works, as it must be, for the only edition was limited to two copies, of which one (there was always some devilry in any matter connected with Peter) instantly lost itself in a railway carriage. This is the survivor. The idlers in court may have assumed that it is a handwritten screed, and are impressed by its bulk. It is printed by Constable’s (how handsomely you did us, dear Blaikie), it contains thirty-five illustrations and is bound in cloth with a picture stamped on the cover of the three eldest of you ‘setting ot to be wrecked.’ This record is supposed to be edited by the youngest of the three, and I must have granted him that honour to make up for his being so often lifted bodily out of our adventures by his nurse, who kept breaking into them for the fell purpose of giving him a midday rest. No. 4 rested so much at this period that he was merely an honorary member of the band, waving his foot to you for luck when you set off with bow and arrow to shoot his dinner for him; and one may rummage the book in vain for any trace of No. 5. Here is the title-page, except that you are numbered instead of named—

THE BOY
CASTAWAYS
OF BLACK LAKE ISLAND

Being a record of the Terrible
Adventures of Three Brothers
in the summer of 1901
faithfully set forth
by No. 3.

LONDON
Published by J. M. Barrie
in the Gloucester Road
1901

There is a long preface by No. 3 in which we gather your ages at this first flight. ‘No. 1 was eight and a month, No. 2 was approaching his seventh lustrum, and I was a good bit past four.’ Of his two elders, while commending their fearless dispositions, the editor complains that they wanted to do all the shooting and carried the whole equipment of arrows inside their shirts. he is attractively modest about himself, ‘Of No. 3 I prefer to say nothing, hoping that the tale as it is unwound will show that he was a boy of deeds rather than of words,’ a quality which he hints did not unduly protrude upon the brows of Nos. 1 and 2. His preface ends on a high note, ‘I should say that the work was in the first instance compiled as a record simply at which we could whet our memories, and that it is now published for No. 4’s benefit. If it teaches him by example lessons in fortitude and manly endurance we shall consider that we were not wrecked in vain.’

Published to whet your memories. Does it whet them? Do you hear once more, like some long-forgotten whistle beneath your window (Robb at dawn calling me to the fishing!) the not quite mortal blows that still echo in some of the chapter headings?—‘Chapter II, No. 1 teaches Wilkinson (his master) a Stern Lesson—We Run away to Sea. Chapter III, A Fearful Hurricane—Wreck of the “Anna Pink”—We go crazy from Want of Food—Proposal to eat No. 3—Land Ahoy.’ Such are two chapers out of sixteen. Are these again your javelins cutting tunes in the blue haze of the pines; do you sweat as you scale the dreadful Valley of Rolling Stones, and cleanse your hands of pirate blood by scouring them carelessly in Mother Earth? Can you still make a fire (you could do it once, Mr. Seton-Thompson taught us in, surely an odd place, the Reform Club) by rubbing those sticks together? Was it the travail of hut-building that subsequently advised Peter to find a ‘home under the ground’? The bottle and mugs in that lurid picture, ‘Last night on the Island,’ seem to suggest that you had changed from Lost Boys into pirates, which was probably also a tendency of Peter’s. Listen again to our stolen saw-mill, man’s proudest invention; when he made the saw-mill he beat the birds for music in a wood.

The illustrations (full-paged) in The Boy Castaways are all photographs taken by myself; some of them indeed of phenomena that had to be invented afterwards, for you were always off doing the wrong things when I pressed the button. I see that we combined instruction with amusement; perhaps we had given our kingly word to that effect. How otherwise account for such wording to the pictures as these: ‘It is undoubtedly,’ says No. 1 in a fir tree that is bearing unwonted fruit, recently tied to it, ‘the Cocos nucifera, for observe the slender columns supporting the crown of leaves which fall with a grace that no art can imitate.’ ‘Truly,’ continues No. 1 under the same tree in another forest as he leans upon his trusty gun, ‘though the perils of these happenings are great, yet would I rejoice to endure still greater privations to be thus rewarded by such wondrous studies of Nature.’ He is soon back to the practical, however, ‘recognising the Mango (Magnifera indica) by its lancet-shaped leaves and the cucumber-shaped fruit.’ No. 1 was certainly the right sort of voyager to be wrecked with, though if my memory fails me not, No. 2, to whom these strutting observations were addressed, sometimes protested because none of them was given to him. No. 3 being the author is in surprisingly few of the pictures, but this, you may remember, was because the lady already darkly referred to used to pluck him from our midst for his siesta at 12 o’clock, which was the hour that best suited the camera. With a skill on which he has never been complimented the photographer sometimes got No. 3 nominally included in a wild-life picture when he was really in a humdrum house kicking on the sofa. Thus in a scene representing Nos. 1 and 2 sitting scowling outside the hut it is untruly written that they scowled because ‘their brother was within singing and playing on a barbaric instrument. The music,’ the unseen No. 3 is represented as saying (obviously forestalling No. 1), ‘is rude and to a cultured ear discordant, but the songs like those of the Arabs are full of poetic imagery.’ He was perhaps allowed to say this sulkily on the sofa.

Though The Boy Castaways has sixteen chapter-headings, there is no other letterpress; an absence which possible purchasers might complain of, though there are surely worse ways of writing a book than this. These headings anticipate much of the play of Peter Pan, but there were many incidents of our Kensington Gardens days that never got into the book, such as our Antarctic exploits when we reached the Pole in advance of our friend Captain Scott and cut our initials on it for him to find, a strange foreshadowing of what was really to happen. In The Boy Castaways Captain Hook has arrived but is called Captain Swarthy, and he seems from the pictures to have been a black man. This character, as you do not need to be told, is held by those in the know to be autobiographical. You had many tussles with him (though you never, I think, got his right arm) before you reached the terrible chapter (which might be taken from the play) entitled ‘We Board the Pirate Ship at Dawn—A Rakish Craft—No. 1 Hew-them-Down and No. 2 of the Red Hatchet—A Holocaust of Pirates—Rescue of Peter.’ (Hullo, Peter rescued instead of rescuing others? I know what that means and so do you, but we are not going to give away all our secrets.) The scene of the Holocaust is the Black Lake (afterwards, when we let women in, the Mermaids’ Lagoon). The pirate captain’s end was not in the mouth of a crocodile though we had crocodiles on the spot (‘while No. 2 was removing the crocodiles from the stream No. 1 shot a few parrots, Psittacidae, for our evening meal’). I think our captain had divers deaths owing to unseemly competition among you, each wanting to slay him single-handed. On a special occasion, such as when No. 3 pulled out the tooth himself, you gave the deed to him, but took it from him while he rested. The only pictorial representation in the book of Swarthy’s fate is in two parts. In one, called briefly ‘We string him up,’ Nos. 1 and 2, stern as Athos, are hauling him up a tree by a rope, his face snarling as if it were a grinning mask (which indeed it was), and his garments very like some of my own stuffed with bracken. The other, the same scene next day, is called ‘The Vultures had Picked him Clean,’ and tells its own tale.

The dog in The Boy Castaways seems never to have been called Nana but was evidently in training for that post. He originally belonged to Swarthy (or to Captain Marryat?), and the first picture of him, lean, skulking, and hunched (how did I get that effect?), ‘patrolling the island’ in that monster’s interests, gives little indication of the domestic paragon he was to become. We lured him away to the better life, and there is, later, a touching picture, a clear forecast of the Darling nursery, entitled ‘We trained the dog to watch over us while we slept.’ In this he also is sleeping, in a position that is a careful copy of his charges; indeed any trouble we had with him was because, once he knew he was in a story, he thought his safest course was to imitate you in everything you did. How anxious he was to show that he understood the game, and more generous than you, he never pretended that he was the one who killed Captain Swarthy. I must not imply that he was entirely without initiative, for it was his own idea to bark warningly a minute or two before twelve o’clock as a signal to No. 3 that his keeper was probably on her way for him (Disappearance of No. 3); and he became so used to living in the world of Pretend that when we reached the hut of a morning he was often there waiting for us, looking, it is true, rather idiotic, but with a new bark he had invented which puzzled us until we decided that he was demanding the password. He was always willing to do any extra jobs, such as becoming the tiger in mask, and when after a fierce engagement you carried home that mask in triumph, he joined in the procession proudly and never let on that the trophy had ever been part of him. Long afterwards he saw the play from a box in the theatre, and as familiar scenes were unrolled before his eyes I have never seen a dog so bothered. At one matinee we even let him for a moment take the place of the actor who played Nana, and I don’t know that any members of the audience ever noticed the change, though he introduced some ‘business’ that was new to them but old to you and me. Heigh-ho, I suspect that in this reminiscence I am mixing him up with his successor, for such a one there had to be, the loyal Newfoundland who, perhaps in the following year, applied, so to say, for the part by bringing hedgehogs to the hut in his mouth as offerings for our evening repasts. The head and coat of him were copied for the Nana of the play.

They do seem to be emerging out of our island, don’t they, the little people of the play, all except that sly one, the chief figure, who draws farther and farther into the wood as we advance upon him? He so dislikes being tracked, as if there were something odd about him, that when he dies he means to get up and blow away the particle that will be his ashes.

Wendy has not yet appeared, but she has been trying to come ever since that loyal nurse cast the humorous shadow of woman upon the scene and made us feel that it might be fun to let in a disturbing element. Perhaps she would have bored her way in at last whether we wanted her or not. It may be that even Peter did not really bring her to the Never Land of his free will, but merely pretended to do so because she would not stay away. Even Tinker Bell had reached our island before we left it. It was one evening when we climbed the wood carrying No. 4 to show him what the trail was like by twilight. As our lanterns twinkled among the leaves No. 4 saw a twinkle stand still for a moment and he waved his foot gaily to it, thus creating Tink. It must not be thought, however, that there were any other sentimental passages between No. 4 and Tink; indeed, as he got to know her better he suspected her of frequenting the hut to see what we had been having for supper, and to partake of the same, and he pursued her with malignancy.

A safe but sometimes chilly way of recalling the past is to force open a crammed drawer. If you are searching for anything in particular you don’t find it, but something falls out at the back that is often more interesting. It is in this way that I get my desultory reading, which includes the few stray leaves of the original MS. of Peter that I have said I do possess, though even they, when returned to the drawer, are gone again, as if that touch of devilry lurked in them still. They show that in early days I hacked at and added to the play. In the drawer I find some scraps of Mr. Crook’s delightful music, and other incomplete matter relating to Peter. Here is the reply of a boy whom I favoured with a seat in my box and injudiciously asked at the end what he had liked best. ‘What I think I liked best,’ he said, ‘was tearing up the programme and dropping the bits on people’s heads.’ Thus am I often laid low. A copy of my favourite programme of the play is still in the drawer. In the first or second year of Peter No. 4 could not attend through illness, so we took the play to his nursery, far away in the country, an array of vehicles almost as glorious as a travelling circus; the leading parts were played by the younghest children in the London company, and No. 4, aged five, looked on solemnly at the performance from his bed and never smiled once. That was my first and only appearance on the real stage, and this copy of the programme shows I was thought so meanly of as an actor that they printed my name in smaller letters than the others.

I have said little here of Nos. 4 and 5, and it is high time I had finished. They had a long summer day, and I turn round twice and now they are off to school. On Monday, as it seems, I was escorting No. 5 to a children’s party and brushing his hair in the ante-room; and by Thursday he is placing me against the wall of an underground station and saying, ‘Now I am going to get the tickets; don’t move till I come back for you or you’ll lose yourself.’ No. 4 jumps from being astride my shoulders fishing, I knee-deep in the stream, to becoming, while still a schoolboy, the sternest of my literary critics. Anything he shook his head over I abandoned, and conceivably the world has thus been deprived of masterpieces. There was for instance an unfortunate little tragedy which I liked until I foolishly told No. 4 its subject, when he frowned and said he had better have a look at it. He read it, and then, patting me on the back, as only he and No. 1 could touch me, said, ‘You know you can’t do this sort of thing.’ End of a tragedian. Sometimes, however, No. 4 liked my efforts, and I walked in the azure that day when he returned Dear Brutus to me with the comment ‘Not so bad.’ In earlier days, when he was ten, I offered him the MS. of my book Margaret Ogilvy. ‘Oh, thanks,’ he said almost immediately, and added, ‘Of course my desk is awfully full.’ I reminded him that he could take out some of its more ridiculous contents. He said, ‘I have read it already in the book.’ This I had not known, and I was secretly elated, but I said that people sometimes liked to preserve this kind of thing as a curiosity. He said ‘Oh’ again. I said tartly that he was not compelled to take it if he didn’t want it. He said, ‘Of course I want it, but my desk—’ Then he wriggled out of the room and came back in a few minutes dragging in No. 5 and announcing triumphantly, ‘No. 5 will have it.’

The rebuffs I have got from all of you! They were especially crushing in those early days when one by one you came out of your belief in fairies and lowered on me as the deceiver. My grandest triumpth, the best thing in the play of Peter Pan (though it is not in it), is that long after No. 4 had ceased to believe, I brought him back to the faith for at least two minutes. We were on our way in a boat to fish the Outer Hebrides (where we caught Mary Rose), and though it was a journey of days he wore his fishing basket on his back all the time, so as to be able to begin at once. His one pain was the absence of Johnny Mackay, for Johnny was the loved gillie of the previous summer who had taught him everything that is worth knowing (which is a matter of flies) but could not be with us this time as he would have had to cross and re-cross Scotland to reach us. As the boat drew near the Kyle of Lochalsh pier I told Nos. 4 and 5 it was such a famous wishing pier that they had now but to wish and they should have. No. 5 believed at once and expressed a wish to meet himself (I afterwards found him on the pier searching faces confidently), but No. 4 thought it more of my untimely nonsense and doggedly declined to humour me. ‘Whom do you want to see most, No. 4?’ ‘Of course I would like most to see Johnny Mackay.’ ‘Well, then, wish for him.’ ‘Oh, rot.’ ‘It can’t do any harm to wish.’ Contemptuously he wished, and as the ropes were thrown on the pier he saw Johnny waiting for him, loaded with angling paraphernalia. I know no one less like a fairy than Johnny Mackay, but for two minutes No. 4 was quivering in another world than ours. When he came to he gave me a smile which meant that we understood each other, and thereafter neglected me for a month, being always with Johnny. As I have said, this episode is not in the play; so though I dedicate Peter Pan to you I keep the smile, with the few other broken fragments of immortality that have come my way.

Peter and Wendy

Peter Breaks Through

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

Of course they lived at 14, and until Wendy came her mother was the chief one. She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.

The way Mr. Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had been boys when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her, and they all ran to her house to propose to her except Mr. Darling, who took a cab and nipped in first, and so he got her. He got all of her, except the innermost box and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying for the kiss. Wendy thought Napoleon could have got it, but I can picture him trying, and then going off in a passion, slamming the door.

Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about stocks and shares. Of course no one really knows, but he quite seemed to know, and he often said stocks were up and shares were down in a way that would have made any woman respect him.

Mrs. Darling was married in white, and at first she kept the books perfectly, almost gleefully, as if it were a game, not so much as a Brussels sprout was missing; but by and by whole cauliflowers dropped out, and instead of them there were pictures of babies without faces. She drew them when she should have been totting up. They were Mrs. Darling’s guesses.

Wendy came first, then John, then Michael.

For a week or two after Wendy came it was doubtful whether they would be able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed. Mr. Darling was frightfully proud of her, but he was very honourable, and he sat on the edge of Mrs. Darling’s bed, holding her hand and calculating expenses, while she looked at him imploringly. She wanted to risk it, come what might, but that was not his way; his way was with a pencil and a piece of paper, and if she confused him with suggestions he had to begin at the beginning again.

“Now don’t interrupt,” he would beg of her. “I have one pound seventeen here, and two and six at the office; I can cut off my coffee at the office, say ten shillings, making two nine and six, with your eighteen and three makes three nine seven, with five naught naught in my cheque-book makes eight nine seven--who is that moving?--eight nine seven, dot and carry seven--don’t speak, my own--and the pound you lent to that man who came to the door--quiet, child--dot and carry child--there, you’ve done it!--did I say nine nine seven? yes, I said nine nine seven; the question is, can we try it for a year on nine nine seven?”

“Of course we can, George,” she cried. But she was prejudiced in Wendy’s favour, and he was really the grander character of the two.

“Remember mumps,” he warned her almost threateningly, and off he went again. “Mumps one pound, that is what I have put down, but I daresay it will be more like thirty shillings--don’t speak--measles one five, German measles half a guinea, makes two fifteen six--don’t waggle your finger--whooping-cough, say fifteen shillings”--and so on it went, and it added up differently each time; but at last Wendy just got through, with mumps reduced to twelve six, and the two kinds of measles treated as one.

There was the same excitement over John, and Michael had even a narrower squeak; but both were kept, and soon, you might have seen the three of them going in a row to Miss Fulsom’s Kindergarten school, accompanied by their nurse.

Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a passion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they had a nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the children drank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who had belonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. She had always thought children important, however, and the Darlings had become acquainted with her in Kensington Gardens, where she spent most of her spare time peeping into perambulators, and was much hated by careless nursemaids, whom she followed to their homes and complained of to their mistresses. She proved to be quite a treasure of a nurse. How thorough she was at bath-time, and up at any moment of the night if one of her charges made the slightest cry. Of course her kennel was in the nursery. She had a genius for knowing when a cough is a thing to have no patience with and when it needs stocking around your throat. She believed to her last day in old-fashioned remedies like rhubarb leaf, and made sounds of contempt over all this new-fangled talk about germs, and so on. It was a lesson in propriety to see her escorting the children to school, walking sedately by their side when they were well behaved, and butting them back into line if they strayed. On John’s footer days she never once forgot his sweater, and she usually carried an umbrella in her mouth in case of rain. There is a room in the basement of Miss Fulsom’s school where the nurses wait. They sat on forms, while Nana lay on the floor, but that was the only difference. They affected to ignore her as of an inferior social status to themselves, and she despised their light talk. She resented visits to the nursery from Mrs. Darling’s friends, but if they did come she first whipped off Michael’s pinafore and put him into the one with blue braiding, and smoothed out Wendy and made a dash at John’s hair.

No nursery could possibly have been conducted more correctly, and Mr. Darling knew it, yet he sometimes wondered uneasily whether the neighbours talked.

He had his position in the city to consider.

Nana also troubled him in another way. He had sometimes a feeling that she did not admire him. “I know she admires you tremendously, George,” Mrs. Darling would assure him, and then she would sign to the children to be specially nice to father. Lovely dances followed, in which the only other servant, Liza, was sometimes allowed to join. Such a midget she looked in her long skirt and maid’s cap, though she had sworn, when engaged, that she would never see ten again. The gaiety of those romps! And gayest of all was Mrs. Darling, who would pirouette so wildly that all you could see of her was the kiss, and then if you had dashed at her you might have got it. There never was a simpler happier family until the coming of Peter Pan.

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children’s minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

I don’t know whether you have ever seen a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John’s, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it. John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael in a wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn together. John had no friends, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had a pet wolf forsaken by its parents, but on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood still in a row you could say of them that they have each other’s nose, and so forth. On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.

Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very real. That is why there are night-lights.

Occasionally in her travels through her children’s minds Mrs. Darling found things she could not understand, and of these quite the most perplexing was the word Peter. She knew of no Peter, and yet he was here and there in John and Michael’s minds, while Wendy’s began to be scrawled all over with him. The name stood out in bolder letters than any of the other words, and as Mrs. Darling gazed she felt that it had an oddly cocky appearance.

“Yes, he is rather cocky,” Wendy admitted with regret. Her mother had been questioning her.

“But who is he, my pet?”

“He is Peter Pan, you know, mother.”

At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into her childhood she just remembered a Peter Pan who was said to live with the fairies. There were odd stories about him, as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened. She had believed in him at the time, but now that she was married and full of sense she quite doubted whether there was any such person.

“Besides,” she said to Wendy, “he would be grown up by this time.”

“Oh no, he isn’t grown up,” Wendy assured her confidently, “and he is just my size.” She meant that he was her size in both mind and body; she didn’t know how she knew, she just knew it.

Mrs. Darling consulted Mr. Darling, but he smiled pooh-pooh. “Mark my words,” he said, “it is some nonsense Nana has been putting into their heads; just the sort of idea a dog would have. Leave it alone, and it will blow over.”

But it would not blow over and soon the troublesome boy gave Mrs. Darling quite a shock.

Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them. For instance, they may remember to mention, a week after the event happened, that when they were in the wood they had met their dead father and had a game with him. It was in this casual way that Wendy one morning made a disquieting revelation. Some leaves of a tree had been found on the nursery floor, which certainly were not there when the children went to bed, and Mrs. Darling was puzzling over them when Wendy said with a tolerant smile:

“I do believe it is that Peter again!”

“Whatever do you mean, Wendy?”

“It is so naughty of him not to wipe his feet,” Wendy said, sighing. She was a tidy child.

She explained in quite a matter-of-fact way that she thought Peter sometimes came to the nursery in the night and sat on the foot of her bed and played on his pipes to her. Unfortunately she never woke, so she didn’t know how she knew, she just knew.

“What nonsense you talk, precious. No one can get into the house without knocking.”

“I think he comes in by the window,” she said.

“My love, it is three floors up.”

“Were not the leaves at the foot of the window, mother?”

It was quite true; the leaves had been found very near the window.

Mrs. Darling did not know what to think, for it all seemed so natural to Wendy that you could not dismiss it by saying she had been dreaming.

“My child,” the mother cried, “why did you not tell me of this before?”

“I forgot,” said Wendy lightly. She was in a hurry to get her breakfast.

Oh, surely she must have been dreaming.

But, on the other hand, there were the leaves. Mrs. Darling examined them very carefully; they were skeleton leaves, but she was sure they did not come from any tree that grew in England. She crawled about the floor, peering at it with a candle for marks of a strange foot. She rattled the poker up the chimney and tapped the walls. She let down a tape from the window to the pavement, and it was a sheer drop of thirty feet, without so much as a spout to climb up by.

Certainly Wendy had been dreaming.

But Wendy had not been dreaming, as the very next night showed, the night on which the extraordinary adventures of these children may be said to have begun.

On the night we speak of all the children were once more in bed. It happened to be Nana’s evening off, and Mrs. Darling had bathed them and sung to them till one by one they had let go her hand and slid away into the land of sleep.

All were looking so safe and cosy that she smiled at her fears now and sat down tranquilly by the fire to sew.

It was something for Michael, who on his birthday was getting into shirts. The fire was warm, however, and the nursery dimly lit by three night-lights, and presently the sewing lay on Mrs. Darling’s lap. Then her head nodded, oh, so gracefully. She was asleep. Look at the four of them, Wendy and Michael over there, John here, and Mrs. Darling by the fire. There should have been a fourth night-light.

While she slept she had a dream. She dreamt that the Neverland had come too near and that a strange boy had broken through from it. He did not alarm her, for she thought she had seen him before in the faces of many women who have no children. Perhaps he is to be found in the faces of some mothers also. But in her dream he had rent the film that obscures the Neverland, and she saw Wendy and John and Michael peeping through the gap.

The dream by itself would have been a trifle, but while she was dreaming the window of the nursery blew open, and a boy did drop on the floor. He was accompanied by a strange light, no bigger than your fist, which darted about the room like a living thing and I think it must have been this light that wakened Mrs. Darling.

She started up with a cry, and saw the boy, and somehow she knew at once that he was Peter Pan. If you or I or Wendy had been there we should have seen that he was very like Mrs. Darling’s kiss. He was a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had all his first teeth. When he saw she was a grown-up, he gnashed the little pearls at her.

The Shadow

Mrs. Darling screamed, and, as if in answer to a bell, the door opened, and Nana entered, returned from her evening out. She growled and sprang at the boy, who leapt lightly through the window. Again Mrs. Darling screamed, this time in distress for him, for she thought he was killed, and she ran down into the street to look for his little body, but it was not there; and she looked up, and in the black night she could see nothing but what she thought was a shooting star.

She returned to the nursery, and found Nana with something in her mouth, which proved to be the boy’s shadow. As he leapt at the window Nana had closed it quickly, too late to catch him, but his shadow had not had time to get out; slam went the window and snapped it off.

You may be sure Mrs. Darling examined the shadow carefully, but it was quite the ordinary kind.

Nana had no doubt of what was the best thing to do with this shadow. She hung it out at the window, meaning “He is sure to come back for it; let us put it where he can get it easily without disturbing the children.”

But unfortunately Mrs. Darling could not leave it hanging out at the window, it looked so like the washing and lowered the whole tone of the house. She thought of showing it to Mr. Darling, but he was totting up winter great-coats for John and Michael, with a wet towel around his head to keep his brain clear, and it seemed a shame to trouble him; besides, she knew exactly what he would say: “It all comes of having a dog for a nurse.”

She decided to roll the shadow up and put it away carefully in a drawer, until a fitting opportunity came for telling her husband. Ah me!

The opportunity came a week later, on that never-to-be-forgotten Friday. Of course it was a Friday.

“I ought to have been specially careful on a Friday,” she used to say afterwards to her husband, while perhaps Nana was on the other side of her, holding her hand.

“No, no,” Mr. Darling always said, “I am responsible for it all. I, George Darling, did it. Mea culpa, mea culpa.” He had had a classical education.

They sat thus night after night recalling that fatal Friday, till every detail of it was stamped on their brains and came through on the other side like the faces on a bad coinage.

“If only I had not accepted that invitation to dine at 27,” Mrs. Darling said.

“If only I had not poured my medicine into Nana’s bowl,” said Mr. Darling.

“If only I had pretended to like the medicine,” was what Nana’s wet eyes said.

“My liking for parties, George.”

“My fatal gift of humour, dearest.”

“My touchiness about trifles, dear master and mistress.”

Then one or more of them would break down altogether; Nana at the thought, “It’s true, it’s true, they ought not to have had a dog for a nurse.” Many a time it was Mr. Darling who put the handkerchief to Nana’s eyes.

“That fiend!” Mr. Darling would cry, and Nana’s bark was the echo of it, but Mrs. Darling never upbraided Peter; there was something in the right-hand corner of her mouth that wanted her not to call Peter names.

They would sit there in the empty nursery, recalling fondly every smallest detail of that dreadful evening. It had begun so uneventfully, so precisely like a hundred other evenings, with Nana putting on the water for Michael’s bath and carrying him to it on her back.

“I won’t go to bed,” he had shouted, like one who still believed that he had the last word on the subject, “I won’t, I won’t. Nana, it isn’t six o’clock yet. Oh dear, oh dear, I shan’t love you any more, Nana. I tell you I won’t be bathed, I won’t, I won’t!”

Then Mrs. Darling had come in, wearing her white evening-gown. She had dressed early because Wendy so loved to see her in her evening-gown, with the necklace George had given her. She was wearing Wendy’s bracelet on her arm; she had asked for the loan of it. Wendy loved to lend her bracelet to her mother.

She had found her two older children playing at being herself and father on the occasion of Wendy’s birth, and John was saying:

“I am happy to inform you, Mrs. Darling, that you are now a mother,” in just such a tone as Mr. Darling himself may have used on the real occasion.

Wendy had danced with joy, just as the real Mrs. Darling must have done.

Then John was born, with the extra pomp that he conceived due to the birth of a male, and Michael came from his bath to ask to be born also, but John said brutally that they did not want any more.

Michael had nearly cried. “Nobody wants me,” he said, and of course the lady in the evening-dress could not stand that.

“I do,” she said, “I so want a third child.”

“Boy or girl?” asked Michael, not too hopefully.

“Boy.”

Then he had leapt into her arms. Such a little thing for Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Nana to recall now, but not so little if that was to be Michael’s last night in the nursery.

They go on with their recollections.

“It was then that I rushed in like a tornado, wasn’t it?” Mr. Darling would say, scorning himself; and indeed he had been like a tornado.

Perhaps there was some excuse for him. He, too, had been dressing for the party, and all had gone well with him until he came to his tie. It is an astounding thing to have to tell, but this man, though he knew about stocks and shares, had no real mastery of his tie. Sometimes the thing yielded to him without a contest, but there were occasions when it would have been better for the house if he had swallowed his pride and used a made-up tie.

This was such an occasion. He came rushing into the nursery with the crumpled little brute of a tie in his hand.

“Why, what is the matter, father dear?”

“Matter!” he yelled; he really yelled. “This tie, it will not tie.” He became dangerously sarcastic. “Not round my neck! Round the bed-post! Oh yes, twenty times have I made it up round the bed-post, but round my neck, no! Oh dear no! begs to be excused!”

He thought Mrs. Darling was not sufficiently impressed, and he went on sternly, “I warn you of this, mother, that unless this tie is round my neck we don’t go out to dinner to-night, and if I don’t go out to dinner to-night, I never go to the office again, and if I don’t go to the office again, you and I starve, and our children will be flung into the streets.”

Even then Mrs. Darling was placid. “Let me try, dear,” she said, and indeed that was what he had come to ask her to do, and with her nice cool hands she tied his tie for him, while the children stood around to see their fate decided. Some men would have resented her being able to do it so easily, but Mr. Darling had far too fine a nature for that; he thanked her carelessly, at once forgot his rage, and in another moment was dancing round the room with Michael on his back.

“How wildly we romped!” says Mrs. Darling now, recalling it.

“Our last romp!” Mr. Darling groaned.

“O George, do you remember Michael suddenly said to me, ‘How did you get to know me, mother?’”

“I remember!”

“They were rather sweet, don’t you think, George?”

“And they were ours, ours! and now they are gone.”

The romp had ended with the appearance of Nana, and most unluckily Mr. Darling collided against her, covering his trousers with hairs. They were not only new trousers, but they were the first he had ever had with braid on them, and he had had to bite his lip to prevent the tears coming. Of course Mrs. Darling brushed him, but he began to talk again about its being a mistake to have a dog for a nurse.

“George, Nana is a treasure.”

“No doubt, but I have an uneasy feeling at times that she looks upon the children as puppies.

“Oh no, dear one, I feel sure she knows they have souls.”

“I wonder,” Mr. Darling said thoughtfully, “I wonder.” It was an opportunity, his wife felt, for telling him about the boy. At first he pooh-poohed the story, but he became thoughtful when she showed him the shadow.

“It is nobody I know,” he said, examining it carefully, “but it does look a scoundrel.”

“We were still discussing it, you remember,” says Mr. Darling, “when Nana came in with Michael’s medicine. You will never carry the bottle in your mouth again, Nana, and it is all my fault.”

Strong man though he was, there is no doubt that he had behaved rather foolishly over the medicine. If he had a weakness, it was for thinking that all his life he had taken medicine boldly, and so now, when Michael dodged the spoon in Nana’s mouth, he had said reprovingly, “Be a man, Michael.”

“Won’t; won’t!” Michael cried naughtily. Mrs. Darling left the room to get a chocolate for him, and Mr. Darling thought this showed want of firmness.

“Mother, don’t pamper him,” he called after her. “Michael, when I was your age I took medicine without a murmur. I said, ‘Thank you, kind parents, for giving me bottles to make we well.’”

He really thought this was true, and Wendy, who was now in her night-gown, believed it also, and she said, to encourage Michael, “That medicine you sometimes take, father, is much nastier, isn’t it?”

“Ever so much nastier,” Mr. Darling said bravely, “and I would take it now as an example to you, Michael, if I hadn’t lost the bottle.”

He had not exactly lost it; he had climbed in the dead of night to the top of the wardrobe and hidden it there. What he did not know was that the faithful Liza had found it, and put it back on his wash-stand.

“I know where it is, father,” Wendy cried, always glad to be of service. “I’ll bring it,” and she was off before he could stop her. Immediately his spirits sank in the strangest way.

“John,” he said, shuddering, “it’s most beastly stuff. It’s that nasty, sticky, sweet kind.”

“It will soon be over, father,” John said cheerily, and then in rushed Wendy with the medicine in a glass.

“I have been as quick as I could,” she panted.

“You have been wonderfully quick,” her father retorted, with a vindictive politeness that was quite thrown away upon her. “Michael first,” he said doggedly.

“Father first,” said Michael, who was of a suspicious nature.

“I shall be sick, you know,” Mr. Darling said threateningly.

“Come on, father,” said John.

“Hold your tongue, John,” his father rapped out.

Wendy was quite puzzled. “I thought you took it quite easily, father.”

“That is not the point,” he retorted. “The point is, that there is more in my glass that in Michael’s spoon.” His proud heart was nearly bursting. “And it isn’t fair: I would say it though it were with my last breath; it isn’t fair.”

“Father, I am waiting,” said Michael coldly.

“It’s all very well to say you are waiting; so am I waiting.”

“Father’s a cowardly custard.”

“So are you a cowardly custard.”

“I’m not frightened.”

“Neither am I frightened.”

“Well, then, take it.”

“Well, then, you take it.”

Wendy had a splendid idea. “Why not both take it at the same time?”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Darling. “Are you ready, Michael?”

Wendy gave the words, one, two, three, and Michael took his medicine, but Mr. Darling slipped his behind his back.

There was a yell of rage from Michael, and “O father!” Wendy exclaimed.

“What do you mean by ‘O father’?” Mr. Darling demanded. “Stop that row, Michael. I meant to take mine, but I--I missed it.”

It was dreadful the way all the three were looking at him, just as if they did not admire him. “Look here, all of you,” he said entreatingly, as soon as Nana had gone into the bathroom. “I have just thought of a splendid joke. I shall pour my medicine into Nana’s bowl, and she will drink it, thinking it is milk!”

It was the colour of milk; but the children did not have their father’s sense of humour, and they looked at him reproachfully as he poured the medicine into Nana’s bowl. “What fun!” he said doubtfully, and they did not dare expose him when Mrs. Darling and Nana returned.

“Nana, good dog,” he said, patting her, “I have put a little milk into your bowl, Nana.”

Nana wagged her tail, ran to the medicine, and began lapping it. Then she gave Mr. Darling such a look, not an angry look: she showed him the great red tear that makes us so sorry for noble dogs, and crept into her kennel.

Mr. Darling was frightfully ashamed of himself, but he would not give in. In a horrid silence Mrs. Darling smelt the bowl. “O George,” she said, “it’s your medicine!”

“It was only a joke,” he roared, while she comforted her boys, and Wendy hugged Nana. “Much good,” he said bitterly, “my wearing myself to the bone trying to be funny in this house.”

And still Wendy hugged Nana. “That’s right,” he shouted. “Coddle her! Nobody coddles me. Oh dear no! I am only the breadwinner, why should I be coddled--why, why, why!”

“George,” Mrs. Darling entreated him, “not so loud; the servants will hear you.” Somehow that had got into the way of calling Liza the servants.

“Let them!” he answered recklessly. “Bring in the whole world. But I refuse to allow that dog to lord it in my nursery for an hour longer.”

The children wept, and Nana ran to him beseechingly, but he waved her back. He felt he was a strong man again. “In vain, in vain,” he cried; “the proper place for you is the yard, and there you go to be tied up this instant.”

“George, George,” Mrs. Darling whispered, “remember what I told you about that boy.”

Alas, he would not listen. He was determined to show who was master in that house, and when commands would not draw Nana from the kennel, he lured her out of it with honeyed words, and seizing her roughly, dragged her from the nursery. He was ashamed of himself, and yet he did it. It was all owing to his too affectionate nature, which craved for admiration. When he had tied her up in the back-yard, the wretched father went and sat in the passage, with his knuckles to his eyes.

In the meantime Mrs. Darling had put the children to bed in unwonted silence and lit their night-lights. They could hear Nana barking, and John whimpered, “It is because he is chaining her up in the yard,” but Wendy was wiser.

“That is not Nana’s unhappy bark,” she said, little guessing what was about to happen; “that is her bark when she smells danger.”

Danger!

“Are you sure, Wendy?”

“Oh, yes.”

Mrs. Darling quivered and went to the window. It was securely fastened. She looked out, and the night was peppered with stars. They were crowding round the house, as if curious to see what was to take place there, but she did not notice this, nor that one or two of the smaller ones winked at her. Yet a nameless fear clutched at her heart and made her cry, “Oh, how I wish that I wasn’t going to a party to-night!”

Even Michael, already half asleep, knew that she was perturbed, and he asked, “Can anything harm us, mother, after the night-lights are lit?”

“Nothing, precious,” she said; “they are the eyes a mother leaves behind her to guard her children.”

She went from bed to bed singing enchantments over them, and little Michael flung his arms round her. “Mother,” he cried, “I’m glad of you.” They were the last words she was to hear from him for a long time.

No. 27 was only a few yards distant, but there had been a slight fall of snow, and Father and Mother Darling picked their way over it deftly not to soil their shoes. They were already the only persons in the street, and all the stars were watching them. Stars are beautiful, but they may not take an active part in anything, they must just look on for ever. It is a punishment put on them for something they did so long ago that no star now knows what it was. So the older ones have become glassy-eyed and seldom speak (winking is the star language), but the little ones still wonder. They are not really friendly to Peter, who had a mischievous way of stealing up behind them and trying to blow them out; but they are so fond of fun that they were on his side to-night, and anxious to get the grown-ups out of the way. So as soon as the door of 27 closed on Mr. and Mrs. Darling there was a commotion in the firmament, and the smallest of all the stars in the Milky Way screamed out:

“Now, Peter!”

Come Away, Come Away!

For a moment after Mr. and Mrs. Darling left the house the night-lights by the beds of the three children continued to burn clearly. They were awfully nice little night-lights, and one cannot help wishing that they could have kept awake to see Peter; but Wendy’s light blinked and gave such a yawn that the other two yawned also, and before they could close their mouths all the three went out.

There was another light in the room now, a thousand times brighter than the night-lights, and in the time we have taken to say this, it had been in all the drawers in the nursery, looking for Peter’s shadow, rummaged the wardrobe and turned every pocket inside out. It was not really a light; it made this light by flashing about so quickly, but when it came to rest for a second you saw it was a fairy, no longer than your hand, but still growing. It was a girl called Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to embonpoint.

A moment after the fairy’s entrance the window was blown open by the breathing of the little stars, and Peter dropped in. He had carried Tinker Bell part of the way, and his hand was still messy with the fairy dust.

“Tinker Bell,” he called softly, after making sure that the children were asleep, “Tink, where are you?” She was in a jug for the moment, and liking it extremely; she had never been in a jug before.

“Oh, do come out of that jug, and tell me, do you know where they put my shadow?”

The loveliest tinkle as of golden bells answered him. It is the fairy language. You ordinary children can never hear it, but if you were to hear it you would know that you had heard it once before.

Tink said that the shadow was in the big box. She meant the chest of drawers, and Peter jumped at the drawers, scattering their contents to the floor with both hands, as kings toss ha’pence to the crowd. In a moment he had recovered his shadow, and in his delight he forgot that he had shut Tinker Bell up in the drawer.

If he thought at all, but I don’t believe he ever thought, it was that he and his shadow, when brought near each other, would join like drops of water, and when they did not he was appalled. He tried to stick it on with soap from the bathroom, but that also failed. A shudder passed through Peter, and he sat on the floor and cried.

His sobs woke Wendy, and she sat up in bed. She was not alarmed to see a stranger crying on the nursery floor; she was only pleasantly interested.

“Boy,” she said courteously, “why are you crying?”

Peter could be exceeding polite also, having learned the grand manner at fairy ceremonies, and he rose and bowed to her beautifully. She was much pleased, and bowed beautifully to him from the bed.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Wendy Moira Angela Darling,” she replied with some satisfaction. “What is your name?”

“Peter Pan.”

She was already sure that he must be Peter, but it did seem a comparatively short name.

“Is that all?”

“Yes,” he said rather sharply. He felt for the first time that it was a shortish name.

“I’m so sorry,” said Wendy Moira Angela.

“It doesn’t matter,” Peter gulped.

She asked where he lived.

“Second to the right,” said Peter, “and then straight on till morning.”

“What a funny address!’

Peter had a sinking. For the first time he felt that perhaps it was a funny address.

“No, it isn’t,” he said.

“I mean,” Wendy said nicely, remembering that she was hostess, “is that what they put on the letters?”

He wished she had not mentioned letters.

“Don’t get any letters,” he said contemptuously.

“But your mother gets letters?”

“Don’t have a mother,” he said. Not only had he no mother, but he had not the slightest desire to have one. He thought them very over-rated persons. Wendy, however, felt at once that she was in the presence of a tragedy.

“O Peter, no wonder you were crying,” she said, and got out of bed and ran to him.

“I wasn’t crying about mothers,” he said rather indignantly. “I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.”

“It has come off?”

“Yes.”

Then Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, and she was frightfully sorry for Peter. “How awful!” she said, but she could not help smiling when she saw that he had been trying to stick it on with soap. How exactly like a boy!

Fortunately she knew at once what to do. “It must be sewn on,” she said, just a little patronisingly.

“What’s sewn?” he asked.

“You’re dreadfully ignorant.”

“No, I’m not.”

But she was exulting in his ignorance. “I shall sew it on for you, my little man,” she said, though he was tall as herself, and she got out her housewife, and sewed the shadow on to Peter’s foot.

“I daresay it will hurt a little,” she warned him.

“Oh, I shan’t cry,” said Peter, who was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life. And he clenched his teeth and did not cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a little creased.

“Perhaps I should have ironed it,” Wendy said thoughtfully, but Peter, boylike, was indifferent to appearances, and he was now jumping about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. “How clever I am!” he crowed rapturously, “oh, the cleverness of me!”

It is humiliating to have to confess that this conceit of Peter was one of his most fascinating qualities. To put it with brutal frankness, there never was a cockier boy.

But for the moment Wendy was shocked. “You conceit,” she exclaimed, with frightful sarcasm; “of course I did nothing!”

“You did a little,” Peter said carelessly, and continued to dance.

“A little!” she replied with hauteur; “if I am no use I can at least withdraw,” and she sprang in the most dignified way into bed and covered her face with the blankets.

To induce her to look up he pretended to be going away, and when this failed he sat on the end of the bed and tapped her gently with his foot. “Wendy,” he said, “don’t withdraw. I can’t help crowing, Wendy, when I’m pleased with myself.” Still she would not look up, though she was listening eagerly. “Wendy,” he continued, in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”

Now Wendy was every inch a woman, though there were not very many inches, and she peeped out of the bed-clothes.

“Do you really think so, Peter?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I think it’s perfectly sweet of you,” she declared, “and I’ll get up again,” and she sat with him on the side of the bed. She also said she would give him a kiss if he liked, but Peter did not know what she meant, and he held out his hand expectantly.

“Surely you know what a kiss it?” she asked, aghast.

“I shall know when you give it to me,” he replied stiffly, and not to hurt his feeling she gave him a thimble.

“Now,” said he, “shall I give you a kiss?” and she replied with a slight primness, “If you please.” She made herself rather cheap by inclining her face toward him, but he merely dropped an acorn button into her hand, so she slowly returned her face to where it had been before, and said nicely that she would wear his kiss on the chain around her neck. It was lucky that she did put it on that chain, for it was afterwards to save her life.

When people in our set are introduced, it is customary for them to ask each other’s age, and so Wendy, who always liked to do the correct thing, asked Peter how old he was. It was not really a happy question to has him; it was like an examination paper that asks grammar, when what you want to be asked is Kings of England.

“I don’t know,” he replied uneasily, “but I am quite young.” He really knew nothing about it, he had merely suspicions, but he said at a venture, “Wendy, I ran away the day I was born.”

Wendy was quite surprised, but interested; and she indicated in the charming drawing-room manner, by a touch on her night-gown, that he could sit nearer her.

“It was because I heard father and mother,” he explained in a low voice, “talking about what I was to be when I became a man.” He was extraordinarily agitated now. “I don’t want ever to be a man,” he said with passion. “I want always to be a little boy and to have fun. So I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long long time among the fairies.”

She gave him a look of the most intense admiration, and he thought it was because he had run away, but it was really because he knew fairies. Wendy had lived such a home life that to know fairies struck her as quite delightful. She poured out questions about them, to his surprise, for they were rather a nuisance to him, getting in his way and so on, and indeed he sometimes had to give them a hiding. Still, he liked them on the whole, and he told her about the beginning of fairies.

“You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”

Tedious talk this, but being a stay-at-home she liked it.

“And so,” he went on good-naturedly, “there ought to be one fairy for every boy and girl.”

“Ought to be? Isn’t there?”

“No. You see children know such a lot now, they soon don’t believe in fairies, and every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”

Really, he thought they had now talked enough about fairies, and it struck him that Tinker Bell was keeping very quiet. “I can’t think where she has gone to,” he said, rising, and he called Tink by name. Wendy’s heart went flutter with a sudden thrill.

“Peter,” she cried, clutching him, “you don’t mean to tell me that there is a fairy in this room!”

“She was here just now,” he said a little impatiently. “You don’t hear her, do you?” and they both listened.

“The only sound I hear,” said Wendy, “is like a tinkle of bells.”

“Well, that’s Tink, that’s the fairy language. I think I hear her too.”

The sound come from the chest of drawers, and Peter made a merry face. No one could ever look quite so merry as Peter, and the loveliest of gurgles was his laugh. He had his first laugh still.

“Wendy,” he whispered gleefully, “I do believe I shut her up in the drawer!”

He let poor Tink out of the drawer, and she flew about the nursery screaming with fury. “You shouldn’t say such things,” Peter retorted. “Of course I’m very sorry, but how could I know you were in the drawer?”

Wendy was not listening to him. “O Peter,” she cried, “if she would only stand still and let me see her!”

“They hardly ever stand still,” he said, but for one moment Wendy saw the romantic figure come to rest on the cuckoo clock. “O the lovely!” she cried, though Tink’s face was still distorted with passion.

“Tink,” said Peter amiably, “this lady ways she wishes you were her fairy.”

Tinker Bell answered insolently.

“What does she say, Peter?”

He had to translate. “She is not very polite. She says you are a great ugly girl, and that she is my fairy.

He tried to argue with Tink. “You know you can’t be my fairy, Tink, because I am an gentleman and you are a lady.”

To this Tink replied in these words, “You silly ass,” and disappeared into the bathroom. “She is quite a common fairy,” Peter explained apologetically, “she is called Tinker Bell because she mends the pots and kettles.”

They were together in the armchair by this time, and Wendy plied him with more questions.

“If you don’t live in Kensington Gardens now--”

“Sometimes I do still.”

“But where do you live mostly now?”

“With the lost boys.”

“Who are they?”

“They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Neverland to defray expenses. I’m captain.”

“What fun it must be!”

“Yes,” said cunning Peter, “but we are rather lonely. You see we have no female companionship.”

“Are none of the others girls?”

“Oh, no; girls, you know, are much too clever to fall out of their prams.”

This flattered Wendy immensely. “I think,” she said, “it is perfectly lovely the way you talk about girls; John there just despises us.”

For reply Peter rose and kicked John out of bed, blankets and all; one kick. This seemed to Wendy rather forward for a first meeting, and she told him with spirit that he was not captain in her house. However, John continued to sleep so placidly on the floor that she allowed him to remain there. “And I know you meant to be kind,” she said, relenting, “so you may give me a kiss.”

For the moment she had forgotten his ignorance about kisses. “I thought you would want it back,” he said a little bitterly, and offered to return her the thimble.

“Oh dear,” said the nice Wendy, “I don’t mean a kiss, I mean a thimble.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s like this.” She kissed him.

“Funny!” said Peter gravely. “Now shall I give you a thimble?”

“If you wish to,” said Wendy, keeping her head erect this time.

Peter thimbled her, and almost immediately she screeched. “What is it, Wendy?”

“It was exactly as if someone were pulling my hair.”

“That must have been Tink. I never knew her so naughty before.”

And indeed Tink was darting about again, using offensive language.

“She says she will do that to you, Wendy, every time I give you a thimble.”

“But why?”

“Why, Tink?”

Again Tink replied, “You silly ass.” Peter could not understand why, but Wendy understood, and she was just slightly disappointed when he admitted that he came to the nursery window not to see her but to listen to stories.

“You see, I don’t know any stories. None of the lost boys knows any stories.”

“How perfectly awful,” Wendy said.

“Do you know,” Peter asked “why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories. O Wendy, your mother was telling you such a lovely story.”

“Which story was it?”

“About the prince who couldn’t find the lady who wore the glass slipper.”

“Peter,” said Wendy excitedly, “that was Cinderella, and he found her, and they lived happily ever after.”

Peter was so glad that he rose from the floor, where they had been sitting, and hurried to the window.

“Where are you going?” she cried with misgiving.

“To tell the other boys.”

“Don’t go Peter,” she entreated, “I know such lots of stories.”

Those were her precise words, so there can be no denying that it was she who first tempted him.

He came back, and there was a greedy look in his eyes now which ought to have alarmed her, but did not.

“Oh, the stories I could tell to the boys!” she cried, and then Peter gripped her and began to draw her toward the window.

“Let me go!” she ordered him.

“Wendy, do come with me and tell the other boys.”

Of course she was very pleased to be asked, but she said, “Oh dear, I can’t. Think of mummy! Besides, I can’t fly.”

“I’ll teach you.”

“Oh, how lovely to fly.”

“I’ll teach you how to jump on the wind’s back, and then away we go.”

“Oo!” she exclaimed rapturously.

“Wendy, Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed you might be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars.”

“Oo!”

“And, Wendy, there are mermaids.”

“Mermaids! With tails?”

“Such long tails.”

“Oh,” cried Wendy, “to see a mermaid!”

He had become frightfully cunning. “Wendy,” he said, “how we should all respect you.”

She was wriggling her body in distress. It was quite as if she were trying to remain on the nursery floor.

But he had no pity for her.

“Wendy,” he said, the sly one, “you could tuck us in at night.”

“Oo!”

“None of us has ever been tucked in at night.”

“Oo,” and her arms went out to him.

“And you could darn our clothes, and make pockets for us. None of us has any pockets.”

How could she resist. “Of course it’s awfully fascinating!” she cried. “Peter, would you teach John and Michael to fly too?”

“If you like,” he said indifferently, and she ran to John and Michael and shook them. “Wake up,” she cried, “Peter Pan has come and he is to teach us to fly.”

John rubbed his eyes. “Then I shall get up,” he said. Of course he was on the floor already. “Hallo,” he said, “I am up!”

Michael was up by this time also, looking as sharp as a knife with six blades and a saw, but Peter suddenly signed silence. Their faces assumed the awful craftiness of children listening for sounds from the grown-up world. All was as still as salt. Then everything was right. No, stop! Everything was wrong. Nana, who had been barking distressfully all the evening, was quiet now. It was her silence they had heard.

“Out with the light! Hide! Quick!” cried John, taking command for the only time throughout the whole adventure. And thus when Liza entered, holding Nana, the nursery seemed quite its old self, very dark, and you would have sworn you heard its three wicked inmates breathing angelically as they slept. They were really doing it artfully from behind the window curtains.

Liza was in a bad temper, for she was mixing the Christmas puddings in the kitchen, and had been drawn from them, with a raisin still on her cheek, by Nana’s absurd suspicions. She thought the best way of getting a little quiet was to take Nana to the nursery for a moment, but in custody of course.

“There, you suspicious brute,” she said, not sorry that Nana was in disgrace. “They are perfectly safe, aren’t they? Every one of the little angels sound asleep in bed. Listen to their gentle breathing.”

Here Michael, encouraged by his success, breathed so loudly that they were nearly detected. Nana knew that kind of breathing, and she tried to drag herself out of Liza’s clutches.

But Liza was dense. “No more of it, Nana,” she said sternly, pulling her out of the room. “I warn you if bark again I shall go straight for master and missus and bring them home from the party, and then, oh, won’t master whip you, just.”

She tied the unhappy dog up again, but do you think Nana ceased to bark? Bring master and missus home from the party! Why, that was just what she wanted. Do you think she cared whether she was whipped so long as her charges were safe? Unfortunately Liza returned to her puddings, and Nana, seeing that no help would come from her, strained and strained at the chain until at last she broke it. In another moment she had burst into the dining-room of 27 and flung up her paws to heaven, her most expressive way of making a communication. Mr. and Mrs. Darling knew at once that something terrible was happening in their nursery, and without a good-bye to their hostess they rushed into the street.

But it was now ten minutes since three scoundrels had been breathing behind the curtains, and Peter Pan can do a great deal in ten minutes.

We now return to the nursery.

“It’s all right,” John announced, emerging from his hiding-place. “I say, Peter, can you really fly?”

Instead of troubling to answer him Peter flew around the room, taking the mantelpiece on the way.

“How topping!” said John and Michael.

“How sweet!” cried Wendy.

“Yes, I’m sweet, oh, I am sweet!” said Peter, forgetting his manners again.

It looked delightfully easy, and they tried it first from the floor and then from the beds, but they always went down instead of up.

“I say, how do you do it?” asked John, rubbing his knee. He was quite a practical boy.

“You just think lovely wonderful thoughts,” Peter explained, “and they lift you up in the air.”

He showed them again.

“You’re so nippy at it,” John said, “couldn’t you do it very slowly once?”

Peter did it both slowly and quickly. “I’ve got it now, Wendy!” cried John, but soon he found he had not. Not one of them could fly an inch, though even Michael was in words of two syllables, and Peter did not know A from Z.

Of course Peter had been trifling with them, for no one can fly unless the fairy dust has been blown on him. Fortunately, as we have mentioned, one of his hands was messy with it, and he blew some on each of them, with the most superb results.

“Now just wiggle your shoulders this way,” he said, “and let go.”

They were all on their beds, and gallant Michael let go first. He did not quite mean to let go, but he did it, and immediately he was borne across the room.

“I flewed!” he screamed while still in mid-air.

John let go and met Wendy near the bathroom.

“Oh, lovely!”

“Oh, ripping!”

“Look at me!”

“Look at me!”

“Look at me!”

They were not nearly so elegant as Peter, they could not help kicking a little, but their heads were bobbing against the ceiling, and there is almost nothing so delicious as that. Peter gave Wendy a hand at first, but had to desist, Tink was so indignant.

Up and down they went, and round and round. Heavenly was Wendy’s word.

“I say,” cried John, “why shouldn’t we all go out?”

Of course it was to this that Peter had been luring them.

Michael was ready: he wanted to see how long it took him to do a billion miles. But Wendy hesitated.

“Mermaids!” said Peter again.

“Oo!”

“And there are pirates.”

“Pirates,” cried John, seizing his Sunday hat, “let us go at once.”

It was just at this moment that Mr. and Mrs. Darling hurried with Nana out of 27. They ran into the middle of the street to look up at the nursery window; and, yes, it was still shut, but the room was ablaze with light, and most heart-gripping sight of all, they could see in shadow on the curtain three little figures in night attire circling round and round, not on the floor but in the air.

Not three figures, four!

In a tremble they opened the street door. Mr. Darling would have rushed upstairs, but Mrs. Darling signed him to go softly. She even tried to make her heart go softly.

Will they reach the nursery in time? If so, how delightful for them, and we shall all breathe a sign of relief, but there will be no story. On the other hand, if they are not in time, I solemnly promise that it will all come right in the end.

They would have reached the nursery in time had it not been that the little stars were watching them. Once again the stars blew the window open, and that smallest star of all called out:

“Cave, Peter!”

Then Peter knew that there was not a moment to lose. “Come,” he cried imperiously, and soared out at once into the night, followed by John and Michael and Wendy.

Mr. and Mrs. Darling and Nana rushed into the nursery too late. The birds were flown.

The Flight

“Second to the right, and straight on till morning.”

That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head.

At first his companions trusted him implicitly, and so great were the delights of flying that they wasted time circling round church spires or any other tall objects on the way that took their fancy.

John and Michael raced, Michael getting a start.

They recalled with contempt that not so long ago they had thought themselves fine fellows for being able to fly round a room.

Not long ago. But how long ago? They were flying over the sea before this thought began to disturb Wendy seriously. John thought it was their second sea and their third night.

Sometimes it was dark and sometimes light, and now they were very cold and again too warm. Did they really feel hungry at times, or were they merely pretending, because Peter had such a jolly new way of feeding them? His way was to pursue birds who had food in their mouths suitable for humans and snatch it from them; then the birds would follow and snatch it back; and they would all go chasing each other gaily for miles, parting at last with mutual expressions of good-will. But Wendy noticed with gentle concern that Peter did not seem to know that this was rather an odd way of getting your bread and butter, nor even that there are other ways.

Certainly they did not pretend to be sleepy, they were sleepy; and that was a danger, for the moment they popped off, down they fell. The awful thing was that Peter thought this funny.

“There he goes again!” he would cry gleefully, as Michael suddenly dropped like a stone.

“Save him, save him!” cried Wendy, looking with horror at the cruel sea far below. Eventually Peter would dive through the air, and catch Michael just before he could strike the sea, and it was lovely the way he did it; but he always waited till the last moment, and you felt it was his cleverness that interested him and not the saving of human life. Also he was fond of variety, and the sport that engrossed him one moment would suddenly cease to engage him, so there was always the possibility that the next time you fell he would let you go.

He could sleep in the air without falling, by merely lying on his back and floating, but this was, partly at least, because he was so light that if you got behind him and blew he went faster.

“Do be more polite to him,” Wendy whispered to John, when they were playing “Follow my Leader.”

“Then tell him to stop showing off,” said John.

When playing Follow my Leader, Peter would fly close to the water and touch each shark’s tail in passing, just as in the street you may run your finger along an iron railing. They could not follow him in this with much success, so perhaps it was rather like showing off, especially as he kept looking behind to see how many tails they missed.

“You must be nice to him,” Wendy impressed on her brothers. “What could we do if he were to leave us!”

“We could go back,” Michael said.

“How could we ever find our way back without him?”

“Well, then, we could go on,” said John.

“That is the awful thing, John. We should have to go on, for we don’t know how to stop.”

This was true, Peter had forgotten to show them how to stop.

John said that if the worst came to the worst, all they had to do was to go straight on, for the world was round, and so in time they must come back to their own window.

“And who is to get food for us, John?”

“I nipped a bit out of that eagle’s mouth pretty neatly, Wendy.”

“After the twentieth try,” Wendy reminded him. “And even though we became good at picking up food, see how we bump against clouds and things if he is not near to give us a hand.”

Indeed they were constantly bumping. They could now fly strongly, though they still kicked far too much; but if they saw a cloud in front of them, the more they tried to avoid it, the more certainly did they bump into it. If Nana had been with them, she would have had a bandage round Michael’s forehead by this time.

Peter was not with them for the moment, and they felt rather lonely up there by themselves. He could go so much faster than they that he would suddenly shoot out of sight, to have some adventure in which they had no share. He would come down laughing over something fearfully funny he had been saying to a star, but he had already forgotten what it was, or he would come up with mermaid scales still sticking to him, and yet not be able to say for certain what had been happening. It was really rather irritating to children who had never seen a mermaid.

“And if he forgets them so quickly,” Wendy argued, “how can we expect that he will go on remembering us?”

Indeed, sometimes when he returned he did not remember them, at least not well. Wendy was sure of it. She saw recognition come into his eyes as he was about to pass them the time of day and go on; once even she had to call him by name.

“I’m Wendy,” she said agitatedly.

He was very sorry. “I say, Wendy,” he whispered to her, “always if you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying ‘I’m Wendy,’ and then I’ll remember.”

Of course this was rather unsatisfactory. However, to make amends he showed them how to lie out flat on a strong wind that was going their way, and this was such a pleasant change that they tried it several times and found that could sleep thus with security. Indeed they would have slept longer, but Peter tired quickly of sleeping, and soon he would cry in his captain voice, “We get off here.” So with occasional tiffs, but on the whole rollicking, they drew near the Neverland; for after many moons they did reach it, and, what is more, they had been going pretty straight all the time, not perhaps so much owing to the guidance of Peter or Tink as because the island was looking for them. It is only thus that any one may sight those magic shores.

“There it is,” said Peter calmly.

“Where, where?”

“Where all the arrows are pointing.”

Indeed a million golden arrows were pointing it out to the children, all directed by their friend the sun, who wanted them to be sure of their way before leaving them for the night.

Wendy and John and Michael stood on tip-toe in the air to get their first sight of the island. Strange to say, they all recognized it at once, and until fear fell upon them they hailed it, not as something long dreamt of and seen at last, but as a familiar friend to who they were returning home for the holidays.

“John, there’s the lagoon.”

“Wendy, look at the turtles burying their eggs in the sand.”

“I say, John, I see your flamingo with the broken leg!”

“Look, Michael, there’s your cave.”

“John, what’s that in the brushwood?”

“It’s a wolf with her whelps. Wendy, I do believe that’s your little whelp!”

“There’s my boat, John, with her sides stove in!”

“No, it isn’t. Why, we burned your boat.”

“That’s her, at any rate. I say, John, I see the smoke of the redskin camp!”

“Where? Show me, and I’ll tell you by the way smoke curls whether they are on the war-path.”

“There, just across the Mysterious River.”

“I see now. Yes, they are on the war-path right enough.”

Peter was a little annoyed with them for knowing so much, but if he wanted to lord it over them his triumph was at hand, for have I not told you that anon fear fell upon them?

It came as the arrows went, leaving the island in gloom.

In the old days at home the Neverland had always begun to look a little dark and threatening by bedtime. Then unexplored patches arose in it and spread, black shadows moved about in them, the roar of the beasts of prey was quite different now, and above all, you lost the certainty that you would win. You were quite glad that the night-lights were on. You even liked Nana to say that this was just the mantelpiece over here, and that the Neverland was all make-believe.

Of course the Neverland had been make-believe in those days, but it was real now, and there were no night-lights, and it was getting darker every moment, and where was Nana?

They had been flying apart, but they huddled close to Peter now. His careless manner had gone at last, his eyes were sparkling, and a tingle went through them every time they touched his body. They were now over the fearsome island, flying so low that sometimes a tree grazed their feet. Nothing horrid was visible in the air, yet their progress had become slow and laboured, exactly as if they were pushing their way through hostile forces. Sometimes they hung in the air until Peter had beaten on it with his fists.

“They don’t want us to land,” he explained.

“Who are they?” Wendy whispered, shuddering.

But he could not or would not say. Tinker Bell had been asleep on his shoulder, but now he wakened her and sent her on in front.

Sometimes he poised himself in the air, listening intently, with his hand to his ear, and again he would stare down with eyes so bright that they seemed to bore two holes to earth. Having done these things, he went on again.

His courage was almost appalling. “Would you like an adventure now,” he said casually to John, “or would you like to have your tea first?”

Wendy said “tea first” quickly, and Michael pressed her hand in gratitude, but the braver John hesitated.

“What kind of adventure?” he asked cautiously.

“There’s a pirate asleep in the pampas just beneath us,” Peter told him. “If you like, we’ll go down and kill him.”

“I don’t see him,” John said after a long pause.

“I do.”

“Suppose,” John said, a little huskily, “he were to wake up.”

Peter spoke indignantly. “You don’t think I would kill him while he was sleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That’s the way I always do.”

“I say! Do you kill many?”

“Tons.”

John said “How ripping,” but decided to have tea first. He asked if there were many pirates on the island just now, and Peter said he had never known so many.

“Who is captain now?”

“Hook,” answered Peter, and his face became very stern as he said that hated word.

“Jas. Hook?”

“Ay.”

Then indeed Michael began to cry, and even John could speak in gulps only, for they knew Hook’s reputation.

“He was Blackbeard’s bo’sun,” John whispered huskily. “He is the worst of them all. He is the only man of whom Barbecue was afraid.”

“That’s him,” said Peter.

“What is he like? Is he big?”

“He is not so big as he was.”

“How do you mean?”

“I cut off a bit of him.”

“You!”

“Yes, me,” said Peter sharply.

“I wasn’t meaning to be disrespectful.”

“Oh, all right.”

“But, I say, what bit?”

“His right hand.”

“Then he can’t fight now?”

“Oh, can’t he just!”

“Left-hander?”

He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and he claws with it.”

“Claws!”

“I say, John,” said Peter.

“Yes.”

“Say, ‘Ay, ay, sir.’”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

“There is one thing,” Peter continued, “that every boy who serves under me has to promise, and so must you.”

John paled.

“It is this, if we meet Hook in open fight, you must leave him to me.”

“I promise,” John said loyally.

For the moment they were feeling less eerie, because Tink was flying with them, and in her light they could distinguish each other. Unfortunately she could not fly so slowly as they, and so she had to go round and round them in a circle in which they moved as in a halo. Wendy quite liked it, until Peter pointed out the drawbacks.

“She tells me,” he said, “that the pirates sighted us before the darkness came, and got Long Tom out.”

“The big gun?”

“Yes. And of course they must see her light, and if they guess we are near it they are sure to let fly.”

“Wendy!”

“John!”

“Michael!”

“Tell her to go away at once, Peter,” the three cried simultaneously, but he refused.

“She thinks we have lost the way,” he replied stiffly, “and she is rather frightened. You don’t think I would send her away all by herself when she is frightened!”

For a moment the circle of light was broken, and something gave Peter a loving little pinch.

“Then tell her,” Wendy begged, “to put out her light.”

“She can’t put it out. That is about the only thing fairies can’t do. It just goes out of itself when she falls asleep, same as the stars.”

“Then tell her to sleep at once,” John almost ordered.

“She can’t sleep except when she’s sleepy. It is the only other thing fairies can’t do.”

“Seems to me,” growled John, “these are the only two things worth doing.”

Here he got a pinch, but not a loving one.

“If only one of us had a pocket,” Peter said, “we could carry her in it.” However, they had set off in such a hurry that there was not a pocket between the four of them.

He had a happy idea. John’s hat!

Tink agreed to travel by hat if it was carried in the hand. John carried it, though she had hoped to be carried by Peter. Presently Wendy took the hat, because John said it struck against his knee as he flew; and this, as we shall see, led to mischief, for Tinker Bell hated to be under an obligation to Wendy.

In the black topper the light was completely hidden, and they flew on in silence. It was the stillest silence they had ever known, broken once by a distant lapping, which Peter explained was the wild beasts drinking at the ford, and again by a rasping sound that might have been the branches of trees rubbing together, but he said it was the redskins sharpening their knives.

Even these noises ceased. To Michael the loneliness was dreadful. “If only something would make a sound!” he cried.

As if in answer to his request, the air was rent by the most tremendous crash he had ever heard. The pirates had fired Long Tom at them.

The roar of it echoed through the mountains, and the echoes seemed to cry savagely, “Where are they, where are they, where are they?”

Thus sharply did the terrified three learn the difference between an island of make-believe and the same island come true.

When at last the heavens were steady again, John and Michael found themselves alone in the darkness. John was treading the air mechanically, and Michael without knowing how to float was floating.

“Are you shot?” John whispered tremulously.

“I haven’t tried yet,” Michael whispered back.

We know now that no one had been hit. Peter, however, had been carried by the wind of the shot far out to sea, while Wendy was blown upwards with no companion but Tinker Bell.

It would have been well for Wendy if at that moment she had dropped the hat.

I don’t know whether the idea came suddenly to Tink, or whether she had planned it on the way, but she at once popped out of the hat and began to lure Wendy to her destruction.

Tink was not all bad; or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy. What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand, and I believe some of it was bad words, but it sounded kind, and she flew back and forward, plainly meaning “Follow me, and all will be well.”

What else could poor Wendy do? She called to Peter and John and Michael, and got only mocking echoes in reply. She did not yet know that Tink hated her with the fierce hatred of a very woman. And so, bewildered, and now staggering in her flight, she followed Tink to her doom.

The Island Come True

Feeling that Peter was on his way back, the Neverland had again woke into life. We ought to use the pluperfect and say wakened, but woke is better and was always used by Peter.

In his absence things are usually quiet on the island. The fairies take an hour longer in the morning, the beasts attend to their young, the redskins feed heavily for six days and nights, and when pirates and lost boys meet they merely bite their thumbs at each other. But with the coming of Peter, who hates lethargy, they are under way again: if you put your ear to the ground now, you would hear the whole island seething with life.

On this evening the chief forces of the island were disposed as follows. The lost boys were out looking for Peter, the pirates were out looking for the lost boys, the redskins were out looking for the pirates, and the beasts were out looking for the redskins. They were going round and round the island, but they did not meet because all were going at the same rate.

All wanted blood except the boys, who liked it as a rule, but to-night were out to greet their captain. The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two. Let us pretend to lie here among the sugar-cane and watch them as they steal by in single file, each with his hand on his dagger.

They are forbidden by Peter to look in the least like him, and they wear the skins of the bears slain by themselves, in which they are so round and furry that when they fall they roll. They have therefore become very sure-footed.

The first to pass is Tootles, not the least brave but the most unfortunate of all that gallant band. He had been in fewer adventures than any of them, because the big things constantly happened just when he had stepped round the corner; all would be quiet, he would take the opportunity of going off to gather a few sticks for firewood, and then when he returned the others would be sweeping up the blood. This ill-luck had given a gentle melancholy to his countenance, but instead of souring his nature had sweetened it, so that he was quite the humblest of the boys. Poor kind Tootles, there is danger in the air for you to-night. Take care lest an adventure is now offered you, which, if accepted, will plunge you in deepest woe. Tootles, the fairy Tink, who is bent on mischief this night is looking for a tool, and she thinks you are the most easily tricked of the boys. ‘Ware Tinker Bell.

Would that he could hear us, but we are not really on the island, and he passes by, biting his knuckles.

Next comes Nibs, the gay and debonair, followed by Slightly, who cuts whistles out of the trees and dances ecstatically to his own tunes. Slightly is the most conceited of the boys. He thinks he remembers the days before he was lost, with their manners and customs, and this his given his nose an offensive tilt. Curly is fourth; he is a pickle, and so often has he had to deliver up his person when Peter said sternly, “Stand forth the one who did this thing,” that now at the command he stands forth automatically whether he has done it or not. Last come the Twins, who cannot be described because we should be sure to be describing the wrong one. Peter never quite knew what twins were, and his band were not allowed to know anything he did not know, so these two were always vague about themselves, and did their best to give satisfaction by keeping close together in a apologetic sort of way.

The boys vanish in the gloom, and after a pause, but not a long pause, for things go briskly on the island, come the pirates on their track. We hear them before they are seen, and it is always the same dreadful song:

“Avast belay, yo ho, heave to,
A-pirating we go,
And if we’re parted by a shot
We’re sure to meet below!”

A more villainous-looking lot never hung in a row on Execution dock. Here, a little in advance, ever and again with his head to the ground listening, his great arms bare, pieces of eight in his ears as ornaments, is the handsome Italian Cecco, who cut his name in letters of blood on the back of the governor of the prison at Gao. That gigantic black behind him has had many names since he dropped the one with which dusky mothers still terrify their children on the banks of the Guadjo-mo. Here is Bill Jukes, every inch of him tattooed, the same Bill Jukes who got six dozen on the Walrus from Flint before he would drop the bag of moidores; and Cookson, said to be Black Murphy’s brother (but this was never proved), and Gentleman Starkey, once an usher in a public school and still dainty in his ways of killing; and Skylights (Morgan’s Skylights); and the Irish bo’sun Smee, an oddly genial man who stabbed, so to speak, without offence, and was the only Non-conformist in Hook’s crew; and Noodler, whose hands were fixed on backwards; and Robt. Mullins and Alf Mason and many another ruffian long known and feared on the Spanish Main.

In the midst of them, the blackest and largest in that dark setting, reclined James Hook, or as he wrote himself, Jas. Hook, of whom it is said he was the only man that the Sea-Cook feared. He lay at his ease in a rough chariot drawn and propelled by his men, and instead of a right hand he had the iron hook with which ever and anon he encouraged them to increase their pace. As dogs this terrible man treated and addressed them, and as dogs they obeyed him. In person he was cadaverous and blackavized, and his hair was dressed in long curls, which at a little distance looked like black candles, and gave a singularly threatening expression to his handsome countenance. His eyes were of the blue of the forget-me-not, and of a profound melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly. In manner, something of the grand seigneur still clung to him, so that he even ripped you up with an air, and I have been told that he was a raconteur of repute. He was never more sinister than when he was most polite, which is probably the truest test of breeding; and the elegance of his diction, even when he was swearing, no less than the distinction of his demeanour, showed him one of a different cast from his crew. A man of indomitable courage, it was said that the only thing he shied at was the sight of his own blood, which was thick and of an unusual colour. In dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of Charles II, having heard it said in some earlier period of his career that he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts; and in his mouth he had a holder of his own contrivance which enabled him to smoke two cigars at once. But undoubtedly the grimmest part of him was his iron claw.

Let us now kill a pirate, to show Hook’s method. Skylights will do. As they pass, Skylights lurches clumsily against him, ruffling his lace collar; the hook shoots forth, there is a tearing sound and one screech, then the body is kicked aside, and the pirates pass on. He has not even taken the cigars from his mouth.

Such is the terrible man against whom Peter Pan is pitted. Which will win?

On the trail of the pirates, stealing noiselessly down the war-path, which is not visible to inexperienced eyes, come the redskins, every one of them with his eyes peeled. They carry tomahawks and knives, and their naked bodies gleam with paint and oil. Strung around them are scalps, of boys as well as of pirates, for these are the Piccaninny tribe, and not to be confused with the softer-hearted Delawares or the Hurons. In the van, on all fours, is Great Big Little Panther, a brave of so many scalps that in his present position they somewhat impede his progress. Bringing up the rear, the place of greatest danger, comes Tiger Lily, proudly erect, a princess in her own right. She is the most beautiful of dusky Dianas and the belle of the Piccaninnies, coquettish, cold and amorous by turns; there is not a brave who would not have the wayward thing to wife, but she staves off the altar with a hatchet. Observe how they pass over fallen twigs without making the slightest noise. The only sound to be heard is their somewhat heavy breathing. The fact is that they are all a little fat just now after the heavy gorging, but in time they will work this off. For the moment, however, it constitutes their chief danger.

The redskins disappear as they have come like shadows, and soon their place is taken by the beasts, a great and motley procession: lions, tigers, bears, and the innumerable smaller savage things that flee from them, for every kind of beast, and, more particularly, all the man-eaters, live cheek by jowl on the favoured island. Their tongues are hanging out, they are hungry to-night.

When they have passed, comes the last figure of all, a gigantic crocodile. We shall see for whom she is looking presently.

The crocodile passes, but soon the boys appear again, for the procession must continue indefinitely until one of the parties stops or changes its pace. Then quickly they will be on top of each other.

All are keeping a sharp look-out in front, but none suspects that the danger may be creeping up from behind. This shows how real the island was.

The first to fall out of the moving circle was the boys. They flung themselves down on the sward, close to their underground home.

“I do wish Peter would come back,” every one of them said nervously, though in height and still more in breadth they were all larger than their captain.

“I am the only one who is not afraid of the pirates,” Slightly said, in the tone that prevented his being a general favourite; but perhaps some distant sound disturbed him, for he added hastily, “but I wish he would come back, and tell us whether he has heard anything more about Cinderella.”

They talked of Cinderella, and Tootles was confident that his mother must have been very like her.

It was only in Peter’s absence that they could speak of mothers, the subject being forbidden by him as silly.

“All I remember about my mother,” Nibs told them, “is that she often said to my father, ‘Oh, how I wish I had a cheque-book of my own!’ I don’t know what a cheque-book is, but I should just love to give my mother one.”

While they talked they heard a distant sound. You or I, not being wild things of the woods, would have heard nothing, but they heard it, and it was the grim song:

“Yo ho, yo ho, the pirate life,
The flag o’ skull and bones,
A merry hour, a hempen rope,
And hey for Davy Jones.”

At once the lost boys--but where are they? They are no longer there. Rabbits could not have disappeared more quickly.

I will tell you where they are. With the exception of Nibs, who has darted away to reconnoitre, they are already in their home under the ground, a very delightful residence of which we shall see a good deal presently. But how have they reached it? for there is no entrance to be seen, not so much as large stone, which if rolled away, would disclose the mouth of a cave. Look closely, however, and you may note that there are here seven large trees, each with a hole in its hollow trunk as large as a boy. These are the seven entrances to the home under the ground, for which Hook has been searching in vain these many moons. Will he find it tonight?

As the pirates advanced, the quick eye of Starkey sighted Nibs disappearing through the wood, and at once his pistol flashed out. But an iron claw gripped his shoulder.

“Captain, let go!” he cried, writhing.

Now for the first time we hear the voice of Hook. It was a black voice. “Put back that pistol first,” it said threateningly.

“It was one of those boys you hate. I could have shot him dead.”

“Ay, and the sound would have brought Tiger Lily’s redskins upon us. Do you want to lose your scalp?”

“Shall I after him, Captain,” asked pathetic Smee, “and tickle him with Johnny Corkscrew?” Smee had pleasant names for everything, and his cutlass was Johnny Corkscrew, because he wiggled it in the wound. One could mention many lovable traits in Smee. For instance, after killing, it was his spectacles he wiped instead of his weapon.

“Johnny’s a silent fellow,” he reminded Hook.

“Not now, Smee,” Hook said darkly. “He is only one, and I want to mischief all the seven. Scatter and look for them.”

The pirates disappeared among the trees, and in a moment their Captain and Smee were alone. Hook heaved a heavy sigh, and I know not why it was, perhaps it was because of the soft beauty of the evening, but there came over him a desire to confide to his faithful bo’sun the story of his life. He spoke long and earnestly, but what it was all about Smee, who was rather stupid, did not know in the least.

Anon he caught the word Peter.

“Most of all,” Hook was saying passionately, “I want their captain, Peter Pan. ’Twas he cut off my arm.” He brandished the hook threateningly. “I’ve waited long to shake his hand with this. Oh, I’ll tear him!”

“And yet,” said Smee, “I have often heard you say that hook was worth a score of hands, for combing the hair and other homely uses.”

“Ay,” the captain answered. “if I was a mother I would pray to have my children born with this instead of that,” and he cast a look of pride upon his iron hand and one of scorn upon the other. Then again he frowned.

“Peter flung my arm,” he said, wincing, “to a crocodile that happened to be passing by.”

“I have often,” said Smee, “noticed your strange dread of crocodiles.”

“Not of crocodiles,” Hook corrected him, “but of that one crocodile.” He lowered his voice. “It liked my arm so much, Smee, that it has followed me ever since, from sea to sea and from land to land, licking its lips for the rest of me.”

“In a way,” said Smee, “it’s sort of a compliment.”

“I want no such compliments,” Hook barked petulantly. “I want Peter Pan, who first gave the brute its taste for me.”

He sat down on a large mushroom, and now there was a quiver in his voice. “Smee,” he said huskily, “that crocodile would have had me before this, but by a lucky chance it swallowed a clock which goes tick tick inside it, and so before it can reach me I hear the tick and bolt.” He laughed, but in a hollow way.

“Some day,” said Smee, “the clock will run down, and then he’ll get you.”

Hook wetted his dry lips. “Ay,” he said, “that’s the fear that haunts me.”

Since sitting down he had felt curiously warm. “Smee,” he said, “this seat is hot.” He jumped up. “Odds bobs, hammer and tongs I’m burning.”

They examined the mushroom, which was of a size and solidity unknown on the mainland; they tried to pull it up, and it came away at once in their hands, for it had no root. Stranger still, smoke began at once to ascend. The pirates looked at each other. “A chimney!” they both exclaimed.

They had indeed discovered the chimney of the home under the ground. It was the custom of the boys to stop it with a mushroom when enemies were in the neighbourhood.

Not only smoke came out of it. There came also children’s voices, for so safe did the boys feel in their hiding-place that they were gaily chattering. The pirates listened grimly, and then replaced the mushroom. They looked around them and noted the holes in the seven trees.

“Did you hear them say Peter Pan’s from home?” Smee whispered, fidgeting with Johnny Corkscrew.

Hook nodded. He stood for a long time lost in thought, and at last a curdling smile lit up his swarthy face. Smee had been waiting for it. “Unrip your plan, captain,” he cried eagerly.

“To return to the ship,” Hook replied slowly through his teeth, “and cook a large rich cake of a jolly thickness with green sugar on it. There can be but one room below, for there is but one chimney. The silly moles had not the sense to see that they did not need a door apiece. That shows they have no mother. We will leave the cake on the shore of the Mermaids’ Lagoon. These boys are always swimming about there, playing with the mermaids. They will find the cake and they will gobble it up, because, having no mother, they don’t know how dangerous ’tis to eat rich damp cake.” He burst into laughter, not hollow laughter now, but honest laughter. “Aha, they will die.”

Smee had listened with growing admiration.

“It’s the wickedest, prettiest policy ever I heard of!” he cried, and in their exultation they danced and sang:

“Avast, belay, when I appear,
By fear they’re overtook;
Nought’s left upon your bones when you
Have shaken claws with Cook.”

They began the verse, but they never finished it, for another sound broke in and stilled them. The was at first such a tiny sound that a leaf might have fallen on it and smothered it, but as it came nearer it was more distinct.

Tick tick tick tick.

Hook stood shuddering, one foot in the air.

“The crocodile!” he gasped, and bounded away, followed by his bo’sun.

It was indeed the crocodile. It had passed the redskins, who were now on the trail of the other pirates. It oozed on after Hook.

Once more the boys emerged into the open; but the dangers of the night were not yet over, for presently Nibs rushed breathless into their midst, pursued by a pack of wolves. The tongues of the pursuers were hanging out; the baying of them was horrible.

“Save me, save me!” cried Nibs, falling on the ground.

“But what can we do, what can we do?”

It was a high compliment to Peter that at that dire moment their thoughts turned to him.

“What would Peter do?” they cried simultaneously.

Almost in the same breath they cried, “Peter would look at them through his legs.”

And then, “Let us do what Peter would do.”

It is quite the most successful way of defying wolves, and as one boy they bent and looked through their legs. The next moment is the long one, but victory came quickly, for as the boys advanced upon them in the terrible attitude, the wolves dropped their tails and fled.

Now Nibs rose from the ground, and the others thought that his staring eyes still saw the wolves. But it was not wolves he saw.

“I have seen a wonderfuller thing,” he cried, as they gathered round him eagerly. “A great white bird. It is flying this way.”

“What kind of a bird, do you think?”

“I don’t know,” Nibs said, awestruck, “but it looks so weary, and as it flies it moans, ‘Poor Wendy,’”

“Poor Wendy?”

“I remember,” said Slightly instantly, “there are birds called Wendies.”

“See, it comes!” cried Curly, pointing to Wendy in the heavens.

Wendy was now almost overhead, and they could hear her plaintive cry. But more distinct came the shrill voice of Tinker Bell. The jealous fairy had now cast off all disguise of friendship, and was darting at her victim from every direction, pinching savagely each time she touched.

“Hullo, Tink,” cried the wondering boys.

Tink’s reply rang out: “Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy.”

It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. “Let us do what Peter wishes!” cried the simple boys. “Quick, bows and arrows!”

All but Tootles popped down their trees. He had a bow and arrow with him, and Tink noted it, and rubbed her little hands.

“Quick, Tootles, quick,” she screamed. “Peter will be so pleased.”

Tootles excitedly fitted the arrow to his bow. “Out of the way, Tink,” he shouted, and then he fired, and Wendy fluttered to the ground with an arrow in her breast.

The Little House

Foolish Tootles was standing like a conqueror over Wendy’s body when the other boys sprang, armed, from their trees.

“You are too late,” he cried proudly, “I have shot the Wendy. Peter will be so pleased with me.”

Overhead Tinker Bell shouted “Silly ass!” and darted into hiding. The others did not hear her. They had crowded round Wendy, and as they looked a terrible silence fell upon the wood. If Wendy’s heart had been beating they would all have heard it.

Slightly was the first to speak. “This is no bird,” he said in a scared voice. “I think this must be a lady.”

“A lady?” said Tootles, and fell a-trembling.

“And we have killed her,” Nibs said hoarsely.

They all whipped off their caps.

“Now I see,” Curly said: “Peter was bringing her to us.” He threw himself sorrowfully on the ground.

“A lady to take care of us at last,” said one of the twins, “and you have killed her!”

They were sorry for him, but sorrier for themselves, and when he took a step nearer them they turned from him.

Tootles’ face was very white, but there was a dignity about him now that had never been there before.

“I did it,” he said, reflecting. “When ladies used to come to me in dreams, I said, ‘Pretty mother, pretty mother.’ But when at last she really came, I shot her.”

He moved slowly away.

“Don’t go,” they called in pity.

“I must,” he answered, shaking; “I am so afraid of Peter.”

It was at this tragic moment that they heard a sound which made the heart of every one of them rise to his mouth. They heard Peter crow.

“Peter!” they cried, for it was always thus that he signalled his return.

“Hide her,” they whispered, and gathered hastily around Wendy. But Tootles stood aloof.

Again came that ringing crow, and Peter dropped in front of them. “Greetings, boys,” he cried, and mechanically they saluted, and then again was silence.

He frowned.

“I am back,” he said hotly, “why do you not cheer?”

They opened their mouths, but the cheers would not come. He overlooked it in his haste to tell the glorious tidings.

“Great news, boys,” he cried, “I have brought at last a mother for you all.”

Still no sound, except a little thud from Tootles as he dropped on his knees.

“Have you not seen her?” asked Peter, becoming troubled. “She flew this way.”

“Ah me!” once voice said, and another said, “Oh, mournful day.”

Tootles rose. “Peter,” he said quietly, “I will show her to you,” and when the others would still have hidden her he said, “Back, twins, let Peter see.”

So they all stood back, and let him see, and after he had looked for a little time he did not know what to do next.

“She is dead,” he said uncomfortably. “Perhaps she is frightened at being dead.”

He thought of hopping off in a comic sort of way till he was out of sight of her, and then never going near the spot any more. They would all have been glad to follow if he had done this.

But there was the arrow. He took it from her heart and faced his band.

“Whose arrow?” he demanded sternly.

“Mine, Peter,” said Tootles on his knees.

“Oh, dastard hand,” Peter said, and he raised the arrow to use it as a dagger.

Tootles did not flinch. He bared his breast. “Strike, Peter,” he said firmly, “strike true.”

Twice did Peter raise the arrow, and twice did his hand fall. “I cannot strike,” he said with awe, “there is something stays my hand.”

All looked at him in wonder, save Nibs, who fortunately looked at Wendy.

“It is she,” he cried, “the Wendy lady, see, her arm!”

Wonderful to relate, Wendy had raised her arm. Nibs bent over her and listened reverently. “I think she said, ‘Poor Tootles,’” he whispered.

“She lives,” Peter said briefly.

Slightly cried instantly, “The Wendy lady lives.”

Then Peter knelt beside her and found his button. You remember she had put it on a chain that she wore round her neck.

“See,” he said, “the arrow struck against this. It is the kiss I gave her. It has saved her life.”

“I remember kisses,” Slightly interposed quickly, “let me see it. Ay, that’s a kiss.”

Peter did not hear him. He was begging Wendy to get better quickly, so that he could show her the mermaids. Of course she could not answer yet, being still in a frightful faint; but from overhead came a wailing note.

“Listen to Tink,” said Curly, “she is crying because the Wendy lives.”

Then they had to tell Peter of Tink’s crime, and almost never had they seen him look so stern.

“Listen, Tinker Bell,” he cried, “I am your friend no more. Begone from me for ever.”

She flew on to his shoulder and pleaded, but he brushed her off. Not until Wendy again raised her arm did he relent sufficiently to say, “Well, not for ever, but for a whole week.”

Do you think Tinker Bell was grateful to Wendy for raising her arm? Oh dear no, never wanted to pinch her so much. Fairies indeed are strange, and Peter, who understood them best, often cuffed them.

But what to do with Wendy in her present delicate state of health?

“Let us carry her down into the house,” Curly suggested.

“Ay,” said Slightly, “that is what one does with ladies.”

“No, no,” Peter said, “you must not touch her. It would not be sufficiently respectful.”

“That,” said Slightly, “is was I was thinking.”

“But if she lies there,” Tootles said, “she will die.”

“Ay, she will die,” Slightly admitted, “but there is no way out.”

“Yes, there is,” cried Peter. “Let us build a little house round her.”

They were all delighted. “Quick,” he ordered them, “bring me each of you the best of what we have. Gut our house. Be sharp.”

In a moment they were as busy as tailors the night before a wedding. They skurried this way and that, down for bedding, up for firewood, and while they were at it, who should appear but John and Michael. As they dragged along the ground they fell asleep standing, stopped, woke up, moved another step and slept again.

“John, John,” Michael would cry, “wake up! Where is Nana, John, and mother?”

And then John would rub his eyes and mutter, “It is true, we did fly.”

You may be sure they were very relieved to find Peter.

“Hullo, Peter,” they said.

“Hullo,” replied Peter amicably, though he had quite forgotten them. He was very busy at the moment measuring Wendy with his feet to see how large a house she would need. Of course he meant to leave room for chairs and a table. John and Michael watched him.

“Is Wendy asleep?” they asked.

“Yes.”

“John,” Michael proposed, “let us wake her and get her to make supper for us,” but as he said it some of the other boys rushed on carrying branches for the building of the house. “Look at them!” he cried.

“Curly,” said Peter in his most captainy voice, “see that these boys help in the building of the house.”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

“Build a house?” exclaimed John.

“For the Wendy,” said Curly.

“For Wendy?” John said, aghast. “Why, she is only a girl!”

“That,” explained Curly, “is why we are her servants.”

“You? Wendy’s servants!”

“Yes,” said Peter, “and you also. Away with them.”

The astounded brothers were dragged away to hack and hew and carry. “Chairs and a fender first,” Peter ordered. “Then we shall build a house round them.”

“Ay,” said Slightly, “that is how a house is built; it all comes back to me.”

Peter thought of everything. “Slightly,” he cried, “fetch a doctor.”

“Ay, ay,” said Slightly at once, and disappeared, scratching his head. But he knew Peter must be obeyed, and he returned in a moment, wearing John’s hat and looking solemn.

“Please, sir,” said Peter, going to him, “are you a doctor?”

The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.

If they broke down in their make-believe he rapped them on the knuckles.

“Yes, my little man,” anxiously replied Slightly, who had chapped knuckles.

“Please, sir,” Peter explained, “a lady lies very ill.”

She was lying at their feet, but Slightly had the sense not to see her.

“Tut, tut, tut,” he said, “where does she lie?”

“In yonder glade.”

“I will put a glass thing in her mouth,” said Slightly, and he made-believe to do it, while Peter waited. It was an anxious moment when the glass thing was withdrawn.

“How is she?” inquired Peter.

“Tut, tut, tut,” said Slightly, “this has cured her.”

“I am glad!” Peter cried.

“I will call again in the evening,” Slightly said; “give her beef tea out of a cup with a spout to it”; but after he had returned the hat to John he blew big breaths, which was his habit on escaping from a difficulty.

In the meantime the wood had been alive with the sound of axes; almost everything needed for a cosy dwelling already lay at Wendy’s feet.

“If only we knew,” said one, “the kind of house she likes best.”

“Peter,” shouted another, “she is moving in her sleep.”

“Her mouth opens,” cried a third, looking respectfully into it. “Oh, lovely!”

“Perhaps she is going to sing in her sleep,” said Peter. “Wendy, sing the kind of house you would like to have.”

Immediately, without opening her eyes, Wendy began to sing:

“I wish I had a pretty house,
The littlest ever seen,
With funny little red walls
And roof of mossy green.”

They gurgled with joy at this, for by the greatest good luck the branches they had brought were sticky with red sap, and all the ground was carpeted with moss. As they rattled up the little house they broke into song themselves:

“We’ve built the little walls and roof
And made a lovely door,
So tell us, mother Wendy,
What are you wanting more?”

To this she answered greedily:

“Oh, really next I think I’ll have
Gay windows all about,
With roses peeping in, you know,
And babies peeping out.”

With a blow of their fists they made windows, and large yellow leaves were the blinds. But roses--?

“Roses,” cried Peter sternly.

Quickly they made-believe to grow the loveliest roses up the walls.

Babies?

To prevent Peter ordering babies they hurried into song again:

“We’ve made the roses peeping out,
The babes are at the door,
We cannot make ourselves, you know,
‘cos we’ve been made before.”

Peter, seeing this to be a good idea, at once pretended that it was his own. The house was quite beautiful, and no doubt Wendy was very cosy within, though, of course, they could no longer see her. Peter strode up and down, ordering finishing touches. Nothing escaped his eagle eyes. Just when it seemed absolutely finished:

“There’s no knocker on the door,” he said.

They were very ashamed, but Tootles gave the sole of his shoe, and it made an excellent knocker.

Absolutely finished now, they thought.

Not of bit of it. “There’s no chimney,” Peter said; “we must have a chimney.”

“It certainly does need a chimney,” said John importantly. This gave Peter an idea. He snatched the hat off John’s head, knocked out the bottom, and put the hat on the roof. The little house was so pleased to have such a capital chimney that, as if to say thank you, smoke immediately began to come out of the hat.

Now really and truly it was finished. Nothing remained to do but to knock.

“All look your best,” Peter warned them; “first impressions are awfully important.”

He was glad no one asked him what first impressions are; they were all too busy looking their best.

He knocked politely, and now the wood was as still as the children, not a sound to be heard except from Tinker Bell, who was watching from a branch and openly sneering.

What the boys were wondering was, would any one answer the knock? If a lady, what would she be like?

The door opened and a lady came out. It was Wendy. They all whipped off their hats.

She looked properly surprised, and this was just how they had hoped she would look.

“Where am I?” she said.

Of course Slightly was the first to get his word in. “Wendy lady,” he said rapidly, “for you we built this house.”

“Oh, say you’re pleased,” cried Nibs.

“Lovely, darling house,” Wendy said, and they were the very words they had hoped she would say.

“And we are your children,” cried the twins.

Then all went on their knees, and holding out their arms cried, “O Wendy lady, be our mother.”

“Ought I?” Wendy said, all shining. “Of course it’s frightfully fascinating, but you see I am only a little girl. I have no real experience.”

“That doesn’t matter,” said Peter, as if he were the only person present who knew all about it, though he was really the one who knew least. “What we need is just a nice motherly person.”

“Oh dear!” Wendy said, “you see, I feel that is exactly what I am.”

“It is, it is,” they all cried; “we saw it at once.”

“Very well,” she said, “I will do my best. Come inside at once, you naughty children; I am sure your feet are damp. And before I put you to bed I have just time to finish the story of Cinderella.

In they went; I don’t know how there was room for them, but you can squeeze very tight in the Neverland. And that was the first of the many joyous evenings they had with Wendy. By and by she tucked them up in the great bed in the home under the trees, but she herself slept that night in the little house, and Peter kept watch outside with drawn sword, for the pirates could be heard carousing far away and the wolves were on the prowl. The little house looked so cosy and safe in the darkness, with a bright light showing through its blinds, and the chimney smoking beautifully, and Peter standing on guard. After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter’s nose and passed on.

The Home Under the Ground

One of the first things Peter did next day was to measure Wendy and John and Michael for hollow trees. Hook, you remember, had sneered at the boys for thinking they needed a tree apiece, but this was ignorance, for unless your tree fitted you it was difficult to go up and down, and no two of the boys were quite the same size. Once you fitted, you drew in your breath at the top, and down you went at exactly the right speed, while to ascend you drew in and let out alternately, and so wriggled up. Of course, when you have mastered the action you are able to do these things without thinking of them, and nothing can be more graceful.

But you simply must fit, and Peter measures you for your tree as carefully as for a suit of clothes: the only difference being that the clothes are made to fit you, while you have to be made to fit the tree. Usually it is done quite easily, as by your wearing too many garments or too few, but if you are bumpy in awkward places or the only available tree is an odd shape, Peter does some things to you, and after that you fit. Once you fit, great care must be taken to go on fitting, and this, as Wendy was to discover to her delight, keeps a whole family in perfect condition.

Wendy and Michael fitted their trees at the first try, but John had to be altered a little.

After a few days’ practice they could go up and down as gaily as buckets in a well. And how ardently they grew to love their home under the ground; especially Wendy. It consisted of one large room, as all houses should do, with a floor in which you could dig if you wanted to go fishing, and in this floor grew stout mushrooms of a charming colour, which were used as stools. A Never tree tried hard to grow in the centre of the room, but every morning they sawed the trunk through, level with the floor. By tea-time it was always about two feet high, and then they put a door on top of it, the whole thus becoming a table; as soon as they cleared away, they sawed off the trunk again, and thus there was more room to play. There was an enourmous fireplace which was in almost any part of the room where you cared to light it, and across this Wendy stretched strings, made of fibre, from which she suspended her washing. The bed was tilted against the wall by day, and let down at 6:30, when it filled nearly half the room; and all the boys slept in it, except Michael, lying like sardines in a tin. There was a strict rule against turning round until one gave the signal, when all turned at once. Michael should have used it also, but Wendy would have a baby, and he was the littlest, and you know what women are, and the short and long of it is that he was hung up in a basket.

It was rough and simple, and not unlike what baby bears would have made of an underground house in the same circumstances. But there was one recess in the wall, no larger than a bird-cage, which was the private apartment of Tinker Bell. It could be shut off from the rest of the house by a tiny curtain, which Tink, who was most fastidious , always kept drawn when dressing or undressing. No woman, however large, could have had a more exquisite boudoir and bed-chamber combined. The couch, as she always called it, was a genuine Queen Mab, with club legs; and she varied the bedspreads according to what fruit-blossom was in season. Her mirror was a Puss-in-Boots, of which there are now only three, unchipped, known to fairy dealers; the washstand was Pie-crust and reversible, the chest of drawers an authentic Charming the Sixth, and the carpet and rugs the best (the early) period of Margery and Robin. There was a chandelier from Tiddlywinks for the look of the thing, but of course she lit the residence herself. Tink was very contemptuous of the rest of the house, as indeed was perhaps inevitable, and her chamber, though beautiful, looked rather conceited, having the appearance of a nose permanently turned up.

I suppose it was all especially entrancing to Wendy, because those rampagious boys of hers gave her so much to do. Really there were whole weeks when, except perhaps with a stocking in the evening, she was never above ground. The cooking, I can tell you, kept her nose to the pot, and even if there was nothing in it, even if there was no pot, she had to keep watching that it came aboil just the same. You never exactly knew whether there would be a real meal or just a make-believe, it all depended upon Peter’s whim: he could eat, really eat, if it was part of a game, but he could not stodge just to feel stodgy , which is what most children like better than anything else; the next best thing being to talk about it. Make-believe was so real to him that during a meal of it you could see him getting rounder. Of course it was trying, but you simply had to follow his lead, and if you could prove to him that you were getting loose for your tree he let you stodge.

Wendy’s favourite time for sewing and darning was after they had all gone to bed. Then, as she expressed it, she had a breathing time for herself; and she occupied it in making new things for them, and putting double pieces on the knees, for they were all most frightfully hard on their knees.

When she sat down to a basketful of their stockings, every heel with a hole in it, she would fling up her arms and exclaim, “Oh dear, I am sure I sometimes think spinsters are to be envied!”

Her face beamed when she exclaimed this.

You remember about her pet wolf. Well, it very soon discovered that she had come to the island and it found her out, and they just ran into each other’s arms. After that it followed her about everywhere.

As time wore on did she think much about the beloved parents she had left behind her? This is a difficult question, because it is quite impossible to say how time does wear on in the Neverland, where it is calculated by moons and suns, and there are ever so many more of them than on the mainland. But I am afraid that Wendy did not really worry about her father and mother; she was absolutely confident that they would always keep the window open for her to fly back by, and this gave her complete ease of mind. What did disturb her at times was that John remembered his parents vaguely only, as people he had once known, while Michael was quite willing to believe that she was really his mother. These things scared her a little, and nobly anxious to do her duty, she tried to fix the old life in their minds by setting them examination papers on it, as like as possible to the ones she used to do at school. The other boys thought this awfully interesting, and insisted on joining, and they made slates for themselves, and sat round the table, writing and thinking hard about the questions she had written on another slate and passed round. They were the most ordinary questions--”What was the colour of Mother’s eyes? Which was taller, Father or Mother? Was Mother blonde or brunette? Answer all three questions if possible.” “(A) Write an essay of not less than 40 words on How I spent my last Holidays, or The Carakters of Father and Mother compared. Only one of these to be attempted.” Or “(1) Describe Mother’s laugh; (2) Describe Father’s laugh; (3) Describe Mother’s Party Dress; (4) Describe the Kennel and its Inmate.”

They were just everyday questions like these, and when you could not answer them you were told to make a cross; and it was really dreadful what a number of crosses even John made. Of course the only boy who replied to every question was Slightly, and no one could have been more hopeful of coming out first, but his answers were perfectly ridiculous, and he really came out last: a melancholy thing.

Peter did not compete. For one thing he despised all mothers except Wendy, and for another he was the only boy on the island who could neither write nor spell; not the smallest word. He was above all that sort of thing.

By the way, the questions were all written in the past tense. What was the colour of Mother’s eyes, and so on. Wendy, you see, had been forgetting, too.

Adventures, of course, as we shall see, were of daily occurrence; but about this time Peter invented, with Wendy’s help, a new game that fascinated him enormously, until he suddenly had no more interest in it, which, as you have been told, was what always happened with his games. It consisted in pretending not to have adventures, in doing the sort of thing John and Michael had been doing all their lives, sitting on stools flinging balls in the air, pushing each other, going out for walks and coming back without having killed so much as a grizzly. To see Peter doing nothing on a stool was a great sight; he could not help looking solemn at such times, to sit still seemed to him such a comic thing to do. He boasted that he had gone walking for the good of his health. For several suns these were the most novel of all adventures to him; and John and Michael had to pretend to be delighted also; otherwise he would have treated them severely.

He often went out alone, and when he came back you were never absolutely certain whether he had had an adventure or not. He might have forgotten it so completely that he said nothing about it; and then when you went out you found the body; and, on the other hand, he might say a great deal about it, and yet you could not find the body. Sometimes he came home with his head bandaged, and then Wendy cooed over him and bathed it in lukewarm water, while he told a dazzling tale. But she was never quite sure, you know. There were, however, many adventures which she knew to be true because she was in them herself, and there were still more that were at least partly true, for the other boys were in them and said they were wholly true. To describe them all would require a book as large as an English-Latin, Latin-English Dictionary, and the most we can do is to give one as a specimen of an average hour on the island. The difficulty is which one to choose. Should we take the brush with the redskins at Slightly Gulch? It was a sanguinary affair, and especially interesting as showing one of Peter’s peculiarities, which was that in the middle of a fight he would suddenly change sides. At the Gulch, when victory was still in the balance, sometimes leaning this way and sometimes that, he called out, “I’m redskin to-day; what are you, Tootles?” And Tootles answered, “Redskin; what are you, Nibs?” and Nibs said, “Redskin; what are you Twin?” and so on; and they were all redskins; and of course this would have ended the fight had not the real redskins fascinated by Peter’s methods, agreed to be lost boys for that once, and so at it they all went again, more fiercely than ever.

The extraordinary upshot of this adventure was--but we have not decided yet that this is the adventure we are to narrate. Perhaps a better one would be the night attack by the redskins on the house under the ground, when several of them stuck in the hollow trees and had to be pulled out like corks. Or we might tell how Peter saved Tiger Lily’s life in the Mermaids’ Lagoon, and so made her his ally.

Or we could tell of that cake the pirates cooked so that the boys might eat it and perish; and how they placed it in one cunning spot after another; but always Wendy snatched it from the hands of her children, so that in time it lost its succulence, and became as hard as a stone, and was used as a missile, and Hook fell over it in the dark.

Or suppose we tell of the birds that were Peter’s friends, particularly of the Never bird that built in a tree overhanging the lagoon, and how the nest fell into the water, and still the bird sat on her eggs, and Peter gave orders that she was not to be disturbed. That is a pretty story, and the end shows how grateful a bird cam be; but if we tell it we must also tell the whole adventure of the lagoon, which would of course be telling two adventures rather than just one. A shorter adventure, and quite as exciting, was Tinker Bell’s attempt, with the help of some street fairies, to have the sleeping Wendy conveyed on a great floating leaf to the mainland. Fortunately the leaf gave way and Wendy woke, thinking it was bath-time, and swam back. Or again, we might choose Peter’s defiance of the lions, when he drew a circle round him on the ground with an arrow and dared them to cross it; and though he waited for hours, with the other boys and Wendy looking on breathlessly from trees, not one of them dared to accept his challenge.

Which of these adventures shall we choose? The best way will be to toss for it.

I have tossed, and the lagoon has won. This almost makes one wish that the gulch or the cake or Tink’s leaf had won. Of course I could do it again, and make it best out of three; however, perhaps fairest to stick to the lagoon.

The Mermaid’s Lagoon

If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another squeeze they must go on fire. But just before they go on fire you see the lagoon. This is the nearest you ever get to it on the mainland, just one heavenly moment; if there could be two moments you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing.

The children often spent long summer days on this lagoon, swimming or floating most of the time, playing the mermaid games in the water, and so forth. You must not think from this that the mermaids were on friendly terms with them: on the contrary, it was among Wendy’s lasting regrets that all the time she was on the island she never had a civil word from one of them. When she stole softly to the edge of the lagoon she might see them by the score, especially on Marooners’ Rock, where they loved to bask, combing out their hair in a lazy way that quite irritated her; or she might even swim, on tiptoe as it were, to within a yard of them, but then they saw her and dived, probably splashing her with their tails, not by accident, but intentionally.

They treated all the boys in the same way, except of course Peter, who chatted with them on Marooners’ Rock by the hour, and sat on their tails when they got cheeky. He gave Wendy one of their combs.

The most haunting time at which to see them is at the turn of the moon, when they utter strange wailing cries; but the lagoon is dangerous for mortals then, and until the evening of which we have now to tell, Wendy had never seen the lagoon by moonlight, less from fear, for of course Peter would have accompanied her, than because she had strict rules about every one being in bed by seven. She was often at the lagoon, however, on sunny days after rain, when the mermaids come up in extraordinary numbers to play with their bubbles. The bubbles of many colours made in rainbow water they treat as balls, hitting them gaily from one to another with their tails, and trying to keep them in the rainbow till they burst. The goals are at each end of the rainbow, and the keepers only are allowed to use their hands. Sometimes a dozen of these games will be going on in the lagoon at a time, and it is quite a pretty sight.

But the moment the children tried to join in they had to play by themselves, for the mermaids immediately disappeared. Nevertheless we have proof that they secretly watched the interlopers, and were not above taking an idea from them; for John introduced a new way of hitting the bubble, with the head instead of the hand, and the mermaids adopted it. This is the one mark that John has left on the Neverland.

It must also have been rather pretty to see the children resting on a rock for half an hour after their mid-day meal. Wendy insisted on their doing this, and it had to be a real rest even though the meal was make-believe. So they lay there in the sun, and their bodies glistened in it, while she sat beside them and looked important.

It was one such day, and they were all on Marooners’ Rock. The rock was not much larger than their great bed, but of course they all knew how not to take up much room, and they were dozing, or at least lying with their eyes shut, and pinching occasionally when they thought Wendy was not looking. She was very busy, stitching.

While she stitched a change came to the lagoon. Little shivers ran over it, and the sun went away and shadows stole across the water, turning it cold. Wendy could no longer see to thread her needle, and when she looked up, the lagoon that had always hitherto been such a laughing place seemed formidable and unfriendly.

It was not, she knew, that night had come, but something as dark as night had come. No, worse than that. It had not come, but it had sent that shiver through the sea to say that it was coming. What was it?

There crowded upon her all the stories she had been told of Marooners’ Rock, so called because evil captains put sailors on it and leave them there to drown. They drown when the tide rises, for then it is submerged.

Of course she should have roused the children at once; not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them, but because it was no longer good for them to sleep on a rock grown chilly. But she was a young mother and she did not know this; she thought you simply must stick to your rule about half an hour after the mid-day meal. So, though fear was upon her, and she longed to hear male voices, she would not waken them. Even when she heard the sound of muffled oars, though her heart was in her mouth, she did not waken them. She stood over them to let them have their sleep out. Was it not brave of Wendy?

It was well for those boys then that there was one among them who could sniff danger even in his sleep. Peter sprang erect, as wide awake at once as a dog, and with one warning cry he roused the others.

He stood motionless, one hand to his ear.

“Pirates!” he cried. The others came closer to him. A strange smile was playing about his face, and Wendy saw it and shuddered. While that smile was on his face no one dared address him; all they could do was to stand ready to obey. The order came sharp and incisive.

“Dive!”

There was a gleam of legs, and instantly the lagoon seemed deserted. Marooners’ Rock stood alone in the forbidding waters as if it were itself marooned.

The boat drew nearer. It was the pirate dinghy, with three figures in her, Smee and Starkey, and the third a captive, no other than Tiger Lily. Her hands and ankles were tied, and she knew what was to be her fate. She was to be left on the rock to perish, an end to one of her race more terrible than death by fire or torture, for is it not written in the book of the tribe that there is no path through water to the happy hunting-ground? Yet her face was impassive; she was the daughter of a chief, she must die as a chief’s daughter, it is enough.

They had caught her boarding the pirate ship with a knife in her mouth. No watch was kept on the ship, it being Hook’s boast that the wind of his name guarded the ship for a mile around. Now her fate would help to guard it also. One more wail would go the round in that wind by night.

In the gloom that they brought with them the two pirates did not see the rock till they crashed into it.

“Luff, you lubber,” cried an Irish voice that was Smee’s; “here’s the rock. Now, then, what we have to do is to hoist the redskin on to it and leave her here to drown.”

It was the work of one brutal moment to land the beautiful girl on the rock; she was too proud to offer a vain resistance.

Quite near the rock, but out of sight, two heads were bobbing up and down, Peter’s and Wendy’s. Wendy was crying, for it was the first tragedy she had seen. Peter had seen many tragedies, but he had forgotten them all. He was less sorry than Wendy for Tiger Lily: it was two against one that angered him, and he meant to save her. An easy way would have been to wait until the pirates had gone, but he was never one to choose the easy way.

There was almost nothing he could not do, and he now imitated the voice of Hook.

“Ahoy there, you lubbers!” he called. It was a marvellous imitation.

“The captain!” said the pirates, staring at each other in surprise.

“He must be swimming out to us,” Starkey said, when they had looked for him in vain.

“We are putting the redskin on the rock,” Smee called out.

“Set her free,” came the astonishing answer.

“Free!”

“Yes, cut her bonds and let her go.”

“But, captain--”

“At once, d’ye hear,” cried Peter, “or I’ll plunge my hook in you.”

“This is queer!” Smee gasped.

“Better do what the captain orders,” said Starkey nervously.

“Ay, ay.” Smee said, and he cut Tiger Lily’s cords. At once like an eel she slid between Starkey’s legs into the water.

Of course Wendy was very elated over Peter’s cleverness; but she knew that he would be elated also and very likely crow and thus betray himself, so at once her hand went out to cover his mouth. But it was stayed even in the act, for “Boat ahoy!” rang over the lagoon in Hook’s voice, and this time it was not Peter who had spoken.

Peter may have been about to crow, but his face puckered in a whistle of surprise instead.

“Boat ahoy!” again came the voice.

Now Wendy understood. The real Hook was also in the water.

He was swimming to the boat, and as his men showed a light to guide him he had soon reached them. In the light of the lantern Wendy saw his hook grip the boat’s side; she saw his evil swarthy face as he rose dripping from the water, and, quaking, she would have liked to swim away, but Peter would not budge. He was tingling with life and also top-heavy with conceit. “Am I not a wonder, oh, I am a wonder!” he whispered to her, and though she thought so also, she was really glad for the sake of his reputation that no one heard him except herself.

He signed to her to listen.

The two pirates were very curious to know what had brought their captain to them, but he sat with his head on his hook in a position of profound melancholy.

“Captain, is all well?” they asked timidly, but he answered with a hollow moan.

“He sighs,” said Smee.

“He sighs again,” said Starkey.

“And yet a third time he sighs,” said Smee.

Then at last he spoke passionately.

“The game’s up,” he cried, “those boys have found a mother.”

Affrighted though she was, Wendy swelled with pride.

“O evil day!” cried Starkey.

“What’s a mother?” asked the ignorant Smee.

Wendy was so shocked that she exclaimed. “He doesn’t know!” and always after this she felt that if you could have a pet pirate Smee would be her one.

Peter pulled her beneath the water, for Hook had started up, crying, “What was that?”

“I heard nothing,” said Starkey, raising the lantern over the waters, and as the pirates looked they saw a strange sight. It was the nest I have told you of, floating on the lagoon, and the Never bird was sitting on it.

“See,” said Hook in answer to Smee’s question, “that is a mother. What a lesson! The nest must have fallen into the water, but would the mother desert her eggs? No.”

There was a break in his voice, as if for a moment he recalled innocent days when--but he brushed away this weakness with his hook.

Smee, much impressed, gazed at the bird as the nest was borne past, but the more suspicious Starkey said, “If she is a mother, perhaps she is hanging about here to help Peter.”

Hook winced. “Ay,” he said, “that is the fear that haunts me.”

He was roused from this dejection by Smee’s eager voice.

“Captain,” said Smee, “could we not kidnap these boys’ mother and make her our mother?”

“It is a princely scheme,” cried Hook, and at once it took practical shape in his great brain. “We will seize the children and carry them to the boat: the boys we will make walk the plank, and Wendy shall be our mother.

Again Wendy forgot herself.

“Never!” she cried, and bobbed.

“What was that?”

But they could see nothing. They thought it must have been a leaf in the wind. “Do you agree, my bullies?” asked Hook.

“There is my hand on it,” they both said.

“And there is my hook. Swear.”

They all swore. By this time they were on the rock, and suddenly Hook remembered Tiger Lily.

“Where is the redskin?” he demanded abruptly.

He had a playful humour at moments, and they thought this was one of the moments.

“That is all right, captain,” Smee answered complacently; “we let her go.”

“Let her go!” cried Hook.

“‘Twas your own orders,” the bo’sun faltered.

“You called over the water to us to let her go,” said Starkey.

“Brimstone and gall,” thundered Hook, “what cozening is going on here!” His face had gone black with rage, but he saw that they believed their words, and he was startled. “Lads,” he said, shaking a little, “I gave no such order.”

“It is passing queer,” Smee said, and they all fidgeted uncomfortably. Hook raised his voice, but there was a quiver in it.

“Spirit that haunts this dark lagoon to-night,” he cried, “dost hear me?”

Of course Peter should have kept quiet, but of course he did not. He immediately answered in Hook’s voice:

“Odds, bobs, hammer and tongs, I hear you.”

In that supreme moment Hook did not blanch, even at the gills, but Smee and Starkey clung to each other in terror.

“Who are you, stranger? Speak!” Hook demanded.

“I am James Hook,” replied the voice, “captain of the Jolly Roger.”

“You are not; you are not,” Hook cried hoarsely.

“Brimstone and gall,” the voice retorted, “say that again, and I’ll cast anchor in you.”

Hook tried a more ingratiating manner. “If you are Hook,” he said almost humbly, “come tell me, who am I?”

“A codfish,” replied the voice, “only a codfish.”

“A codfish!” Hook echoed blankly, and it was then, but not till then, that his proud spirit broke. He saw his men draw back from him.

“Have we been captained all this time by a codfish!” they muttered. “It is lowering to our pride.”

They were his dogs snapping at him, but, tragic figure though he had become, he scarcely heeded them. Against such fearful evidence it was not their belief in him that he needed, it was his own. He felt his ego slipping from him. “Don’t desert me, bully,” he whispered hoarsely to it.

In his dark nature there was a touch of the feminine, as in all the great pirates, and it sometimes gave him intuitions. Suddenly he tried the guessing game.

“Hook,” he called, “have you another voice?”

Now Peter could never resist a game, and he answered blithely in his own voice, “I have.”

“And another name?”

“Ay, ay.”

“Vegetable?” asked Hook.

“No.”

“Mineral?”

“No.”

“Animal?”

“Yes.”

“Man?”

“No!” This answer rang out scornfully.

“Boy?”

“Yes.”

“Ordinary boy?”

“No!”

“Wonderful boy?”

To Wendy’s pain the answer that rang out this time was “Yes.”

“Are you in England?”

“No.”

“Are you here?”

“Yes.”

Hook was completely puzzled. “You ask him some questions,” he said to the others, wiping his damp brow.

Smee reflected. “I can’t think of a thing,” he said regretfully.

“Can’t guess, can’t guess!” crowed Peter. “Do you give it up?”

Of course in his pride he was carrying the game too far, and the miscreants saw their chance.

“Yes, yes,” they answered eagerly.

“Well, then,” he cried, “I am Peter Pan.”

Pan!

In a moment Hook was himself again, and Smee and Starkey were his faithful henchmen.

“Now we have him,” Hook shouted. “Into the water, Smee. Starkey, mind the boat. Take him dead or alive!”

He leaped as he spoke, and simultaneously came the gay voice of Peter.

“Are you ready, boys?”

“Ay, ay,” from various parts of the lagoon.

“Then lam into the pirates.”

The fight was short and sharp. First to draw blood was John, who gallantly climbed into the boat and held Starkey. There was fierce struggle, in which the cutlass was torn from the pirate’s grasp. He wriggled overboard and John leapt after him. The dinghy drifted away.

Here and there a head bobbed up in the water, and there was a flash of steel followed by a cry or a whoop. In the confusion some struck at their own side. The corkscrew of Smee got Tootles in the fourth rib, but he was himself pinked in turn by Curly. Farther from the rock Starkey was pressing Slightly and the twins hard.

Where all this time was Peter? He was seeking bigger game.

The others were all brave boys, and they must not be blamed for backing from the pirate captain. His iron claw made a circle of dead water round him, from which they fled like affrighted fishes.

But there was one who did not fear him: there was one prepared to enter that circle.

Strangely, it was not in the water that they met. Hook rose to the rock to breathe, and at the same moment Peter scaled it on the opposite side. The rock was slippery as a ball, and they had to crawl rather than climb. Neither knew that the other was coming. Each feeling for a grip met the other’s arm: in surprise they raised their heads; their faces were almost touching; so they met.

Some of the greatest heroes have confessed that just before they fell to they had a sinking. Had it been so with Peter at that moment I would admit it. After all, he was the only man that the Sea-Cook had feared. But Peter had no sinking, he had one feeling only, gladness; and he gnashed his pretty teeth with joy. Quick as thought he snatched a knife from Hook’s belt and was about to drive it home, when he saw that he was higher up the rock that his foe. It would not have been fighting fair. He gave the pirate a hand to help him up.

It was then that Hook bit him.

Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter. He often met it, but he always forgot it. I suppose that was the real difference between him and all the rest.

So when he met it now it was like the first time; and he could just stare, helpless. Twice the iron hand clawed him.

A few moments afterwards the other boys saw Hook in the water striking wildly for the ship; no elation on the pestilent face now, only white fear, for the crocodile was in dogged pursuit of him. On ordinary occasions the boys would have swum alongside cheering; but now they were uneasy, for they had lost both Peter and Wendy, and were scouring the lagoon for them, calling them by name. They found the dinghy and went home in it, shouting “Peter, Wendy” as they went, but no answer came save mocking laughter from the mermaids. “They must be swimming back or flying,” the boys concluded. They were not very anxious, because they had such faith in Peter. They chuckled, boylike, because they would be late for bed; and it was all mother Wendy’s fault!

When their voices died away there came cold silence over the lagoon, and then a feeble cry.

“Help, help!”

Two small figures were beating against the rock; the girl had fainted and lay on the boy’s arm. With a last effort Peter pulled her up the rock and then lay down beside her. Even as he also fainted he saw that the water was rising. He knew that they would soon be drowned, but he could do no more.

As they lay side by side a mermaid caught Wendy by the feet, and began pulling her softly into the water. Peter, feeling her slip from him, woke with a start, and was just in time to draw her back. But he had to tell her the truth.

“We are on the rock, Wendy,” he said, “but it is growing smaller. Soon the water will be over it.”

She did not understand even now.

“We must go,” she said, almost brightly.

“Yes,” he answered faintly.

“Shall we swim or fly, Peter?”

He had to tell her.

“Do you think you could swim or fly as far as the island, Wendy, without my help?”

She had to admit that she was too tired.

He moaned.

“What is it?” she asked, anxious about him at once.

“I can’t help you, Wendy. Hook wounded me. I can neither fly nor swim.”

“Do you mean we shall both be drowned?”

“Look how the water is rising.”

They put their hands over their eyes to shut out the sight. They thought they would soon be no more. As they sat thus something brushed against Peter as light as a kiss, and stayed there, as if saying timidly, “Can I be of any use?”

It was the tail of a kite, which Michael had made some days before. It had torn itself out of his hand and floated away.

“Michael’s kite,” Peter said without interest, but next moment he had seized the tail, and was pulling the kite toward him.

“It lifted Michael off the ground,” he cried; “why should it not carry you?”

“Both of us!”

“It can’t lift two; Michael and Curly tried.”

“Let us draw lots,” Wendy said bravely.

“And you a lady; never.” Already he had tied the tail round her. She clung to him; she refused to go without him; but with a “Good-bye, Wendy,” he pushed her from the rock; and in a few minutes she was borne out of his sight. Peter was alone on the lagoon.

The rock was very small now; soon it would be submerged. Pale rays of light tiptoed across the waters; and by and by there was to be heard a sound at once the most musical and the most melancholy in the world: the mermaids calling to the moon.

Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremour ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”

The Never Bird

The last sound Peter heard before he was quite alone were the mermaids retiring one by one to their bedchambers under the sea. He was too far away to hear their doors shut; but every door in the coral caves where they live rings a tiny bell when it opens or closes (as in all the nicest houses on the mainland), and he heard the bells.

Steadily the waters rose till they were nibbling at his feet; and to pass the time until they made their final gulp, he watched the only thing on the lagoon. He thought it was a piece of floating paper, perhaps part of the kite, and wondered idly how long it would take to drift ashore.

Presently he noticed as an odd thing that it was undoubtedly out upon the lagoon with some definite purpose, for it was fighting the tide, and sometimes winning; and when it won, Peter, always sympathetic to the weaker side, could not help clapping; it was such a gallant piece of paper.

It was not really a piece of paper; it was the Never bird, making desperate efforts to reach Peter on the nest. By working her wings, in a way she had learned since the nest fell into the water, she was able to some extent to guide her strange craft, but by the time Peter recognised her she was very exhausted. She had come to save him, to give him her nest, though there were eggs in it. I rather wonder at the bird, for though he had been nice to her, he had also sometimes tormented her. I can suppose only that, like Mrs. Darling and the rest of them, she was melted because he had all his first teeth.

She called out to him what she had come for, and he called out to her what she was doing there; but of course neither of them understood the other’s language. In fanciful stories people can talk to the birds freely, and I wish for the moment I could pretend that this were such a story, and say that Peter replied intelligently to the Never bird; but truth is best, and I want to tell you only what really happened. Well, not only could they not understand each other, but they forgot their manners.

“I--want--you--to--get--into--the--nest,” the bird called, speaking as slowly and distinctly as possible, “and --then--you--can--drift--ashore, but--I--am--too--tired--to--bring--it--any--nearer--so--you--must--try--to--swim--to--it.”

“What are you quacking about?” Peter answered. “Why don’t you let the nest drift as usual?”

“I--want--you--” the bird said, and repeated it all over.

Then Peter tried slow and distinct.

“What--are--you--quacking--about?” and so on.

The Never bird became irritated; they have very short tempers.

“You dunderheaded little jay,” she screamed, “Why don’t you do as I tell you?”

Peter felt that she was calling him names, and at a venture he retorted hotly:

“So are you!”

Then rather curiously they both snapped out the same remark:

“Shut up!”

“Shut up!”

Nevertheless the bird was determined to save him if she could, and by one last mighty effort she propelled the nest against the rock. Then up she flew; deserting her eggs, so as to make her meaning clear.

Then at last he understood, and clutched the nest and waved his thanks to the bird as she fluttered overhead. It was not to receive his thanks, however, that she hung there in the sky; it was not even to watch him get into the nest; it was to see what he did with her eggs.

There were two large white eggs, and Peter lifted them up and reflected. The bird covered her face with her wings, so as not to see the last of them; but she could not help peeping between the feathers.

I forget whether I have told you that there was a stave on the rock, driven into it by some buccaneers of long ago to mark the site of buried treasure. The children had discovered the glittering hoard, and when in a mischievous mood used to fling showers of moidores, diamonds, pearls and pieces of eight to the gulls, who pounced upon them for food, and then flew away, raging at the scurvy trick that had been played upon them. The stave was still there, and on it Starkey had hung his hat, a deep tarpaulin, watertight, with a broad brim. Peter put the eggs into this hat and set it on the lagoon. It floated beautifully.

The Never bird saw at once what he was up to, and screamed her admiration of him; and, alas, Peter crowed his agreement with her. Then he got into the nest, reared the stave in it as a mast, and hung up his shirt for a sail. At the same moment the bird fluttered down upon the hat and once more sat snugly on her eggs. She drifted in one direction, and he was borne off in another, both cheering.

Of course when Peter landed he beached his barque in a place where the bird would easily find it; but the hat was such a great success that she abandoned the nest. It drifted about till it went to pieces, and often Starkey came to the shore of the lagoon, and with many bitter feelings watched the bird sitting on his hat. As we shall not see her again, it may be worth mentioning here that all Never birds now build in that shape of nest, with a broad brim on which the youngsters take an airing.

Great were the rejoicings when Peter reached the home under the ground almost as soon as Wendy, who had been carried hither and thither by the kite. Every boy had adventures to tell; but perhaps the biggest adventure of all was that they were several hours late for bed. This so inflated them that they did various dodgy things to get staying up still longer, such as demanding bandages; but Wendy, though glorying in having them all home again safe and sound, was scandalised by the lateness of the hour, and cried, “To bed, to bed,” in a voice that had to be obeyed. Next day, however, she was awfully tender, and gave out bandages to every one, and they played till bed-time at limping about and carrying their arms in slings.

The Happy Home

One important result of the brush on the lagoon was that it made the redskins their friends. Peter had saved Tiger Lily from a dreadful fate, and now there was nothing she and her braves would not do for him. All night they sat above, keeping watch over the home under the ground and awaiting the big attack by the pirates which obviously could not be much longer delayed. Even by day they hung about, smoking the pipe of peace, and looking almost as if they wanted tit-bits to eat.

They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.

“The great white father,” he would say to them in a very lordly manner, as they grovelled at his feet, “is glad to see the Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates.”

“Me Tiger Lily,” that lovely creature would reply. “Peter Pan save me, me his velly nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him.”

She was far too pretty to cringe in this way, but Peter thought it his due, and he would answer condescendingly, “It is good. Peter Pan has spoken.”

Always when he said, “Peter Pan has spoken,” it meant that they must now shut up, and they accepted it humbly in that spirit; but they were by no means so respectful to the other boys, whom they looked upon as just ordinary braves. They said “How-do?” to them, and things like that; and what annoyed the boys was that Peter seemed to think this all right.

Secretly Wendy sympathised with them a little, but she was far too loyal a housewife to listen to any complaints against father. “Father knows best,” she always said, whatever her private opinion must be. Her private opinion was that the redskins should not call her a squaw.

We have now reached the evening that was to be known among them as the Night of Nights, because of its adventures and their upshot. The day, as if quietly gathering its forces, had been almost uneventful, and now the redskins in their blankets were at their posts above, while, below, the children were having their evening meal; all except Peter, who had gone out to get the time. The way you got the time on the island was to find the crocodile, and then stay near him till the clock struck.

The meal happened to be a make-believe tea, and they sat around the board, guzzling in their greed; and really, what with their chatter and recriminations, the noise, as Wendy said, was positively deafening. To be sure, she did not mind noise, but she simply would not have them grabbing things, and then excusing themselves by saying that Tootles had pushed their elbow. There was a fixed rule that they must never hit back at meals, but should refer the matter of dispute to Wendy by raising the right arm politely and saying, “I complain of so-and-so;” but what usually happened was that they forgot to do this or did it too much.

“Silence,” cried Wendy when for the twentieth time she had told them that they were not all to speak at once. “Is your mug empty, Slightly darling?”

“Not quite empty, mummy,” Slightly said, after looking into an imaginary mug.

“He hasn’t even begun to drink his milk,” Nibs interposed.

This was telling, and Slightly seized his chance.

“I complain of Nibs,” he cried promptly.

John, however, had held up his hand first.

“Well, John?”

“May I sit in Peter’s chair, as he is not here?”

“Sit in father’s chair, John!” Wendy was scandalised. Certainly not.”

“He is not really our father,” John answered. “He didn’t even know how a father does till I showed him.”

This was grumbling. “We complain of John,” cried the twins.

Tootles held up his hand. He was so much the humblest of them, indeed he was the only humble one, that Wendy was specially gentle with him.

“I don’t suppose,” Tootles said diffidently , that I could be father.

“No, Tootles.”

Once Tootles began, which was not very often, he had a silly way of going on.

“As I can’t be father,” he said heavily, “I don’t suppose, Michael, you would let me be baby?”

“No, I won’t,” Michael rapped out. He was already in his basket.

“As I can’t be baby,” Tootles said, getting heavier and heavier and heavier, “do you think I could be a twin?”

“No, indeed,” replied the twins; “it’s awfully difficult to be a twin.”

“As 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 hadn’t really any hope,” he said.

The hateful telling broke out again.

“Slightly is coughing on the table.”

“The twins began with cheese-cakes.”

“Curly is taking both butter and honey.”

“Nibs is speaking with his mouth full.”

“I complain of the twins.”

“I complain of Curly.”

“I complain of Nibs.”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” cried Wendy, “I’m sure I sometimes think that spinsters are to be envied.”

She told them to clear away, and sat down to her work-basket, a heavy load of stockings and every knee with a hole in it as usual.

“Wendy,” remonstrated Michael, “I’m too big for a cradle.”

“I must have somebody in a cradle,” she said almost tartly, “and you are the littlest. A cradle is such a nice homely thing to have about a house.”

While she sewed they played around her; such a group of happy faces and dancing limbs lit up by that romantic fire. It had become a very familiar scene, this, in the home under the ground, but we are looking on it for the last time.

There was a step above, and Wendy, you may be sure, was the first to recognize it.

“Children, I hear your father’s step. He likes you to meet him at the door.”

Above, the redskins crouched before Peter.

“Watch well, braves. I have spoken.”

And then, as so often before, the gay children dragged him from his tree. As so often before, but never again.

He had brought nuts for the boys as well as the correct time for Wendy.

“Peter, you just spoil them, you know,” Wendy simpered.

“Ah, old lady,” said Peter, hanging up his gun.

“It was me told him mothers are called old lady,” Michael whispered to Curly.

“I complain of 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 high good humour.

“But we want you to dance.”

Peter was really the best dancer among them, but he pretended to be scandalised.

“Me! My old bones would rattle!”

“And mummy too.”

“What,” cried Wendy, “the mother of such an armful, dance!”

“But on a Saturday night,” Slightly insinuated.

It was not really Saturday night, at least it may have been, for they had long lost count of the days; but always if they wanted to do anything special they said this was Saturday night, and then they did it.

“Of course it is Saturday night, Peter,” Wendy said, relenting.

“People of our figure, Wendy!”

“But it is only among our own progeny.”

“True, true.”

So they were told they could dance, but they must put on their nighties first.

“Ah, old lady,” Peter said aside to Wendy, warming himself by the fire and looking down at her as she sat turning a heel, “there is nothing more pleasant of an evening for you and me when the day’s toil is over 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.”

“Michael takes after you.”

She went to him and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Dear Peter,” she said, “with such a large family, of course, I have now passed my best, but you don’t want to change me, do you?”

“No, Wendy.”

Certainly he did not want a change, but he looked at her uncomfortably, blinking, you know, like one not sure 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 primly.

“You see,” he continued apologetically, “it would make me seem so old to be their real father.”

“But they are ours, Peter, yours and mine.”

“But not really, Wendy?” 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 for me?”

“Those of a devoted son, Wendy.”

“I thought so,” she said, and went and sat by herself at the extreme end of the room.

“You are so queer,” he said, frankly puzzled, “and Tiger Lily is just the same. There is something she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.”

“No, indeed, it is not,” Wendy replied with frightful emphasis. Now we know why she was prejudiced against the redskins.

“Then what is it?”

“It isn’t for a lady to tell.”

“Oh, very well,” Peter said, a little nettled. “Perhaps Tinker Bell will tell me.”

“Oh yes, Tinker Bell will tell you,” Wendy retorted scornfully. “She is an abandoned little creature.”

Here Tink, who was in her bedroom, eavesdropping, squeaked out something impudent.

“She says she glories in being abandoned,” Peter interpreted.

He had a sudden idea. “Perhaps Tink wants to be my mother?”

“You silly ass!” cried Tinker Bell in a passion.

She had said it so often that Wendy needed no translation.

“I almost agree with her,” Wendy snapped. Fancy Wendy snapping! But she had been much tried, and she little knew what was to happen before the night was out. If she had known she would not have snapped.

None of them knew. Perhaps it was best not to know. Their ignorance gave them one more glad hour; and as it was to be their last hour on the island, let us rejoice that there were sixty glad minutes in it. They sang and danced in their night-gowns. Such a deliciously creepy song it was, in which they pretended to be frightened at their own shadows, little witting that so soon shadows would close in upon them, from whom they would shrink in real fear. So uproariously gay was the dance, and how they buffeted each other on the bed and out of it! It was a pillow fight rather than a dance, and when it was finished, the pillows insisted on one bout more, like partners who know that they may never meet again. The stories they told, before it was time for Wendy’s good-night story! Even Slightly tried to tell a story that night, but the beginning was so fearfully dull that it appalled not only the others but himself, and he said happily:

“Yes, it is a dull beginning. I say, let us pretend that it is the end.”

And then at last they all got into bed for Wendy’s story, the story they loved best, the story Peter hated. Usually when she began to tell this story he left the room or put his hands over his ears; and possibly if he had done either of those things this time they might all still be on the island. But to-night he remained on his stool; and we shall see what happened.

Wendy’s Story

“Listen, then,” said Wendy, settling down to her story, with Michael at her feet and seven boys in the bed. “There was once a gentleman--”

“I had rather he had been a lady,” Curly said.

“I wish he had been a white rat,” said Nibs.

“Quiet,” their mother admonished them. “There was a lady also, and--”

“Oh, mummy,” cried the first twin, “you mean that there is a lady also, don’t you? She is not dead, is she?”

“Oh, no.”

“I am awfully glad she isn’t dead,” said Tootles. “Are you glad, John?”

“Of course I am.”

“Are you glad, Nibs?”

“Rather.”

“Are you glad, Twins?”

“We are glad.”

“Oh dear,” sighed Wendy.

“Little less noise there,” Peter called out, determined that she should have fair play, however beastly a story it might be in his opinion.

“The gentleman’s name,” Wendy continued, “was Mr. Darling, and her 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.

“No.”

“It’s awfully puzzling,” said Tootles, who knew the story by heart.

“Quiet, Tootles. They had three descendants.”

“What is descendants?”

“Well, you are one, Twin.”

“Did you hear that, John? I am a descendant.”

“Descendants are only children,” said John.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” sighed Wendy. “Now these three children had a faithful nurse 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 the Neverland, where the lost children are.”

“I just thought they did,” Curly broke in excitedly. “I don’t know how it is, but I just thought they did!”

“O 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 with all their children flown away.”

“Oo!” they all moaned, though they were not really considering the feelings of the unhappy parents one jot.

“Think of the empty beds!”

“Oo!”

“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 frightfully anxious.”

“If you knew how great is a mother’s love,” Wendy told them triumphantly, “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 just,” said Nibs, hitting back.

“You see,” Wendy said complacently, “our heroine knew that the mother would always leave the window open for her children to fly back by; so they stayed away for years and had a lovely time.”

“Did they ever go back?”

“Let us now,” said Wendy, bracing herself up for her finest effort, “take a peep into the future”; and they all gave themselves the twist that makes peeps into the future easier. “Years have rolled by, and who is this elegant lady of uncertain age alighting at London Station?”

“O Wendy, who is she?” cried Nibs, every bit as excited as if he didn’t know.

“Can it be--yes--no--it is--the fair Wendy!”

“Oh!”

“And who are the two noble portly figures accompanying her, now grown to man’s estate? Can they be John and Michael? They are!”

“Oh!”

“‘See, dear brothers,’ says Wendy pointing upwards, ‘there is the window still standing open. Ah, now we are rewarded for our sublime faith in a mother’s love.’ So up they flew to their mummy and daddy, and pen cannot describe the happy scene, over which we draw a veil.”

That was the story, and they were as pleased with it as the fair narrator herself. Everything just as it should be, you see. Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is what children are, but so attractive; and we have an entirely selfish time, and then when we have need of special attention we nobly return for it, confident that we shall be rewarded instead of smacked.

So great indeed was their faith in a mother’s love that they felt they could afford to be callous for a bit longer.

But there was one there who knew better, and when Wendy finished he uttered a hollow groan.

“What is it, Peter?” she cried, running to him, thinking he was ill. She felt him solicitously, lower down than his chest. “Where is it, 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 round him in affright, so alarming was his agitation; and with a fine candour he told them what he had hitherto concealed.

“Long ago,” he said, “I thought like you that my mother would always keep the window open for me, so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window was barred, for mother had forgotten all about me, and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.”

I am not sure that this was true, but Peter thought it was true; and it scared them.

“Are you sure mothers are like that?”

“Yes.”

So this was the truth about mothers. The toads!

Still it is best to be careful; and no one knows so quickly as a child when he should give in. “Wendy, let us go home,” cried John and Michael together.

“Yes,” she said, clutching them.

“Not to-night?” asked the lost boys bewildered. They knew in what they called their hearts that one can get on quite well without a mother, and that it is only the mothers who think you can’t.

“At once,” Wendy replied resolutely, for the horrible thought had come to her: “Perhaps mother is in half mourning by this time.”

This dread made her forgetful of what must be Peter’s feelings, and she said to him rather sharply, “Peter, will you make the necessary arrangements?”

“If you wish it,” he replied, as coolly as if she had asked him to pass the nuts.

Not so much as a sorry-to-lose-you between them! If she did not mind the parting, he was going to show her, was Peter, that neither did he.

But of course he cared very much; and he was so full of wrath against grown-ups, who, as usual, were spoiling everything, that as soon as he got inside his tree he breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five to a second. He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible.

Then having given the necessary instructions to the redskins he returned to the home, where an unworthy scene had been enacted in his absence. Panic-stricken at the thought of losing Wendy the lost boys had advanced upon her threateningly.

“It will be worse than before she came,” they cried.

“We shan’t let her go.”

“Let’s keep her prisoner.”

“Ay, chain her up.”

In her extremity an instinct told her to which of them to turn.

“Tootles,” she cried, “I appeal to you.”

Was it not strange? She appealed to Tootles, quite the silliest one.

Grandly, however, did Tootles respond. For that one moment he dropped his silliness and spoke with dignity.

“I am just Tootles,” he said, “and nobody minds me. But the first who does not behave to Wendy like an English gentleman I will blood him severely.”

He drew back his hanger; and for that instant his sun was at noon. The others held back uneasily. Then Peter returned, and they saw at once that they would get no support from him. He would keep no girl in the Neverland against her will.

“Wendy,” he said, striding up and down, “I have asked the redskins to guide you through the wood, as flying tires you so.”

“Thank you, Peter.”

“Then,” he continued, in the short sharp voice of one accustomed to be obeyed, “Tinker Bell will take you across the sea. Wake her, Nibs.”

Nibs had to knock twice before he got an answer, though Tink had really been sitting up in bed listening for some time.

“Who are you? How dare you? Go away,” she cried.

“You are to get up, Tink,” Nibs called, “and take Wendy on a journey.”

Of course Tink had been delighted to hear that Wendy was going; but she was jolly well determined not to be her courier, and she said so in still more offensive language. Then she pretended to be asleep again.

“She says she won’t!” Nibs exclaimed, aghast at such insubordination, whereupon Peter went sternly toward the young lady’s chamber.

“Tink,” he rapped out, “if you don’t get up and dress at once I will open the curtains, and then we shall all see you in your negligee.”

This made her leap to the floor. “Who said I wasn’t getting up?” she cried.

In the meantime the boys were gazing very forlornly at Wendy, now equipped with John and Michael for the journey. By this time they were dejected, not merely because they were about to lose her, but also because they felt that she was going off to something nice to which they had not been invited. Novelty was beckoning to them as usual.

Crediting them with a nobler feeling Wendy melted.

“Dear ones,” she said, “if you will all come with me I feel almost sure I can get my father and mother to adopt you.”

The invitation was meant specially for Peter, but each of the boys was thinking exclusively of himself, and at once they jumped with joy.

“But won’t they think us rather a handful?” Nibs asked in the middle of his jump.

“Oh no,” said Wendy, rapidly thinking it out, “it will only mean having a few beds in the drawing-room; they can been hidden behind the screens on first Thursdays.”

“Peter, can we go?” they all cried imploringly. They took it for granted that if they went he would go also, but really they scarcely cared. Thus children are ever ready, when novelty knocks, to desert their dearest ones.

“All right,” Peter replied with a bitter smile, and immediately they rushed to get their things.

“And now, Peter,” Wendy said, thinking she had put everything right, “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, which gave it a certain medicinal quality. On this occasion, however, she did not give Peter his draught , for just as she had prepared it, she saw a look on his face that made her heart sink.

“Get your things, Peter,” she cried, shaking.

“No,” he answered, pretending indifference, “I am not going with you, Wendy.”

“Yes, Peter.”

“No.”

To show that her departure would leave him unmoved, he skipped up and down the room, playing gaily on his heartless pipes. She had to run about after him, though it was rather undignified.

“To find your mother,” she coaxed.

Now, if Peter had ever quite had a mother, he no longer missed her. He could do very well without one. He had thought them out, and remembered only their bad points.

“No, no,” he told Wendy decisively; “perhaps she would say I was old, and I just want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”

“But, Peter--”

“No.”

And so the others had to be told.

“Peter isn’t coming.”

Peter not coming! They gazed blankly at him, their sticks over their backs, and on each stick a bundle. 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.”

The awful cynicism of this made an uncomfortable impression, and most of them began to look rather doubtful. After all, their faces said, were they not noodles to want to go?

“Now then,” cried Peter, “no fuss, no blubbering; good-bye, Wendy”; and he held out his hand cheerily, quite as if they must really go now, for he had something important to do.

She had to take his hand, and there was no indication that he would prefer a thimble.

“You will remember about changing your flannels, Peter?” she said, lingering over him. She was always so particular about their flannels.

“Yes.”

“And you will take your medicine?”

“Yes.”

That seemed to be everything, and an awkward pause followed. Peter, however, was not the kind that breaks down before other people. “Are you ready, Tinker Bell?” he called out.

“Ay, ay.”

“Then lead the way.”

Tink darted up the nearest tree; but no one followed her, for it was at this moment that the pirates made their dreadful attack upon the redskins. Above, where all had been so still, the air was rent with shrieks and the clash of steel. Below, there was dead silence. Mouths opened and remained open. Wendy fell on her knees, but her arms were extended toward Peter. All arms were extended to him, as if suddenly blown in his direction; they were beseeching him mutely not to desert them. As for Peter, he seized his sword, the same he thought he had slain Barbecue with, and the lust of battle was in his eye.

The Children Are Carried Off

The pirate attack had been a complete surprise: a sure proof that the unscrupulous Hook had conducted it improperly, for to surprise redskins fairly is beyond the wit of the white man.

By all the unwritten laws of savage warfare it is always the redskin who attacks, and with the wiliness of his race he does it just before the dawn, at which time he knows the courage of the whites to be at its lowest ebb. The white men have in the meantime made a rude stockade on the summit of yonder undulating ground, at the foot of which a stream runs, for it is destruction to be too far from water. There they await the onslaught, the inexperienced ones clutching their revolvers and treading on twigs, but the old hands sleeping tranquilly until just before the dawn. Through the long black night the savage scouts wriggle, snake-like, among the grass without stirring a blade. The brushwood closes behind them, as silently as sand into which a mole has dived. Not a sound is to be heard, save when they give vent to a wonderful imitation of the lonely call of the coyote. The cry is answered by other braves; and some of them do it even better than the coyotes, who are not very good at it. So the chill hours wear on, and the long suspense is horribly trying to the paleface who has to live through it for the first time; but to the trained hand those ghastly calls and still ghastlier silences are but an intimation of how the night is marching.

That this was the usual procedure was so well known to Hook that in disregarding it he cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance.

The Piccaninnies, on their part, trusted implicitly to his honour, and their whole action of the night stands out in marked contrast to his. They left nothing undone that was consistent with the reputation of their tribe. With that alertness of the senses which is at once the marvel and despair of civilised peoples, they knew that the pirates were on the island from the moment one of them trod on a dry stick; and in an incredibly short space of time the coyote cries began. Every foot of ground between the spot where Hook had landed his forces and the home under the trees was stealthily examined by braves wearing their mocassins with the heels in front. The found only one hillock with a stream at its base, so that Hook had no choice; here he must establish himself and wait for just before the dawn. Everything being thus mapped out with almost diabolical cunning, the main body of the redskins folded their blankets around them, and in the phlegmatic manner that is to them, the pearl of manhood squatted above the children’s home, awaiting the cold moment when they should deal pale death.

Here dreaming, though wide-awake, of the exquisite tortures to which they were to put him at break of day, those confiding savages were found by the treacherous Hook. From the accounts afterwards supplied by such of the scouts as escaped the carnage, he does not seem even to have paused at the rising ground, though it is certain that in that grey light he must have seen it: no thought of waiting to be attacked appears from first to last to have visited his subtle mind; he would not even hold off till the night was nearly spent; on he pounded with no policy but to fall to. What could the bewildered scouts do, masters as they were of every war-like artifice save this one, but trot helplessly after him, exposing themselves fatally to view, the while they gave pathetic utterance to the coyote cry.

Around the brave Tiger Lily were a dozen of her stoutest warriors, and they suddenly saw the perfidious pirates bearing down upon them. Fell from their eyes then the film through which they had looked at victory. No more would they torture at the stake. For them the happy hunting-grounds now. They knew it; but as their father’s sons they acquitted themselves. Even then they had time to gather in a phalanx that would have been hard to break had they risen quickly, but this they were forbidden to do by the traditions of their race. It is written that the noble savage must never express surprise in the presence of the white. Thus terrible as the sudden appearance of the pirates must have been to them, they remained stationary for a moment, not a muscle moving; as if the foe had come by invitation. Then, indeed, the tradition gallantly upheld, they seized their weapons, and the air was torn with the war-cry; but it was now too late.

It is no part of ours to describe what was a massacre rather than a fight. Thus perished many of the flower of the Piccaninny tribe. Not all unavenged did they die, for with Lean Wolf fell Alf Mason, to disturb the Spanish Main no more, and among others who bit the dust were Geo. Scourie, Chas. Turley, and the Alsatian Foggerty. Turley fell to the tomahawk of the terrible Panther, who ultimately cut a way through the pirates with Tiger Lily and a small remnant of the tribe.

To what extent Hook is to blame for his tactics on this occasion is for the historian to decide. Had he waited on the rising ground till the proper hour he and his men would probably have been butchered; and in judging him it is only fair to take this into account. What he should perhaps have done was to acquaint his opponents that he proposed to follow a new method. On the other hand, this, as destroying the element of surprise, would have made his strategy of no avail, so that the whole question is beset with difficulties. One cannot at least withhold a reluctant admiration for the wit that had conceived so bold a scheme, and the fell genius with which it was carried out.

What were his own feelings about himself at that triumphant moment? Fain would his dogs have known, as breathing heavily and wiping their cutlasses, they gathered at a discreet distance from his hook, and squinted through their ferret eyes at this extraordinary man. Elation must have been in his heart, but his face did not reflect it: ever a dark and solitary enigma, he stood aloof from his followers in spirit as in substance.

The night’s work was not yet over, for it was not the redskins he had come out to destroy; they were but the bees to be smoked, so that he should get at the honey. It was Pan he wanted, Pan and Wendy and their band, but chiefly Pan.

Peter was such a small boy that one tends to wonder at the man’s hatred of him. True he had flung Hook’s arm to the crocodile, but even this and the increased insecurity of life to which it led, owing to the crocodile’s pertinacity , hardly account for a vindictiveness so relentless and malignant. The truth is that there was a something about Peter which goaded the pirate captain to frenzy. It was not his courage, it was not his engaging appearance, it was not--. There is no beating about the bush, for we know quite well what it was, and have got to tell. It was Peter’s cockiness.

This had got on Hook’s nerves; it made his iron claw twitch, and at night it disturbed him like an insect. While Peter lived, the tortured man felt that he was a lion in a cage into which a sparrow had come.

The question now was how to get down the trees, or how to get his dogs down? He ran his greedy eyes over them, searching for the thinnest ones. They wriggled uncomfortably, for they knew he would not scruple to ram them down with poles.

In the meantime, what of the boys? We have seen them at the first clang of the weapons, turned as it were into stone figures, open-mouthed, all appealing with outstretched arms to Peter; and we return to them as their mouths close, and their arms fall to their sides. The pandemonium above has ceased almost as suddenly as it arose, passed like a fierce gust of wind; but they know that in the passing it has determined their fate.

Which side had won?

The pirates, listening avidly at the mouths of the trees, heard the question put by every boy, and alas, they also heard Peter’s answer.

“If the redskins have won,” he said, “they will beat the tom-tom; it is always their sign of victory.”

Now Smee had found the tom-tom, and was at that moment sitting on it. “You will never hear the tom-tom again,” he muttered, but inaudibly of course, for strict silence had been enjoined . To his amazement Hook signed him to beat the tom-tom, and slowly there came to Smee an understanding of the dreadful wickedness of the order. Never, probably, had this simple man admired Hook so much.

Twice Smee beat upon the instrument, and then stopped to listen gleefully.

“The tom-tom,” the miscreants heard Peter cry; “an Indian victory!”

The doomed children answered with a cheer that was music to the black hearts above, and almost immediately they repeated their good-byes to Peter. This puzzled the pirates, but all their other feelings were swallowed by a base delight that the enemy were about to come up the trees. They smirked at each other and rubbed their hands. Rapidly and silently Hook gave his orders: one man to each tree, and the others to arrange themselves in a line two yards apart.

Do You Believe in Fairies?

The more quickly this horror is disposed of the better. The first to emerge from his tree was Curly. He rose out of it into the arms of Cecco, who flung him to Smee, who flung him to Starkey, who flung him to Bill Jukes, who flung him to Noodler, and so he was tossed from one to another till he fell at the feet of the black pirate. All the boys were plucked from their trees in this ruthless manner; and several of them were in the air at a time, like bales of goods flung from hand to hand.

A different treatment was accorded to Wendy, who came last. With ironical politeness Hook raised his hat to her, and, offering her his arm, escorted her to the spot where the others were being gagged. He did it with such an air, he was so frightfully distingué, that she was too fascinated to cry out. She was only a little girl.

Perhaps it is tell-tale to divulge that for a moment Hook entranced her, and we tell on her only because her slip led to strange results. Had she haughtily unhanded him (and we should have loved to write it of her), she would have been hurled through the air like the others, and then Hook would probably not have been present at the tying of the children; and had he not been at the tying he would not have discovered Slightly’s secret, and without the secret he could not presently have made his foul attempt on Peter’s life.

They were tied to prevent their flying away, doubled up with their knees close to their ears; and for the trussing of them the black pirate had cut a rope into nine equal pieces. All went well until Slightly’s turn came, when he was found to be like those irritating parcels that use up all the string in going round and leave no tags with which to tie a knot. The pirates kicked him in their rage, just as you kick the parcel (though in fairness you should kick the string); and strange to say it was Hook who told them to belay their violence. His lip was curled with malicious triumph. While his dogs were merely sweating because every time they tried to pack the unhappy lad tight in one part he bulged out in another, Hook’s master mind had gone far beneath Slightly’s surface, probing not for effects but for causes; and his exultation showed that he had found them. Slightly, white to the gills, knew that Hook had surprised his secret, which was this, that no boy so blown out could use a tree wherein an average man need stick. Poor Slightly, most wretched of all the children now, for he was in a panic about Peter, bitterly regretted what he had done. Madly addicted to the drinking of water when he was hot, he had swelled in consequence to his present girth, and instead of reducing himself to fit his tree he had, unknown to the others, whittled his tree to make it fit him.

Sufficient of this Hook guessed to persuade him that Peter at last lay at his mercy, but no word of the dark design that now formed in the subterranean caverns of his mind crossed his lips; he merely signed that the captives were to be conveyed to the ship, and that he would be alone.

How to convey them? Hunched up in their ropes they might indeed be rolled down hill like barrels, but most of the way lay through a morass. Again Hook’s genius surmounted difficulties. He indicated that the little house must be used as a conveyance. The children were flung into it, four stout pirates raised it on their shoulders, the others fell in behind, and singing the hateful pirate chorus the strange procession set off through the wood. I don’t know whether any of the children were crying; if so, the singing drowned the sound; but as the little house disappeared in the forest, a brave though tiny jet of smoke issued from its chimney as if defying Hook.

Hook saw it, and it did Peter a bad service. It dried up any trickle of pity for him that may have remained in the pirate’s infuriated breast.

The first thing he did on finding himself alone in the fast falling night was to tiptoe to Slightly’s tree, and make sure that it provided him with a passage. Then for long he remained brooding; his hat of ill omen on the sward, so that any gentle breeze which had arisen might play refreshingly through his hair. Dark as were his thoughts his blue eyes were as soft as the periwinkle. Intently he listened for any sound from the nether world, but all was as silent below as above; the house under the ground seemed to be but one more empty tenement in the void. Was that boy 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, save by going down. Hook let his cloak slip softly to the ground, and then biting his lips till a lewd blood stood on them, he stepped into the tree. He was a brave man, but for a moment he had to stop there and wipe his brow, which was dripping like a candle. Then, silently, he let himself go into the unknown.

He arrived unmolested at the foot of the shaft, and stood still again, biting at his breath, which had almost left him. As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light various objects in the home under the trees took shape; but the only one on which his greedy gaze rested, long sought for and found at last, was the great bed. On the bed lay Peter fast asleep.

Unaware of the tragedy being enacted above, Peter had continued, for a little time after the children left, to play gaily on his pipes: no doubt rather a forlorn attempt to prove to himself that he did not care. Then he decided not to take his medicine, so as to grieve Wendy. Then he lay down on the bed outside the coverlet, to vex her still more; for she had always tucked them inside it, because you never know that you may not grow chilly at the turn of the night. Then he nearly cried; but it struck him how indignant she would be if he laughed instead; so he laughed a haughty laugh and fell asleep in the middle of it.

Sometimes, though not often, he had dreams, and they were more painful than the dreams of other boys. For hours he could not be separated from these dreams, though he wailed piteously in them. They had to do, I think, with the riddle of his existence. At such times it had been Wendy’s custom to take him out of bed and sit with him on her lap, soothing him in dear ways of her own invention, and when he grew calmer to put him back to bed before he quite woke up, so that he should not know of the indignity to which she had subjected him. But on this occasion he had fallen at once into a dreamless sleep. One arm dropped over the edge of the bed, one leg was arched, and the unfinished part of his laugh was stranded on his mouth, which was open, showing the little pearls.

Thus defenceless Hook found him. He stood silent at the foot of the tree looking across the chamber at his enemy. Did no feeling of compassion disturb his sombre breast? The man was not wholly evil; he loved flowers (I have been told) and sweet music (he was himself no mean performer on the harpsichord); and, let it be frankly admitted, the idyllic nature of the scene stirred him profoundly. Mastered by his better self he would have returned reluctantly up the tree, but for one thing.

What stayed him was Peter’s impertinent appearance as he slept. The open mouth, the drooping arm, the arched knee: they were such a personification of cockiness as, taken together, will never again, one may hope, be presented to eyes so sensitive to their offensiveness. They steeled Hook’s heart. If his rage had broken him into a hundred pieces every one of them would have disregarded the incident, and leapt at the sleeper.

Though a light from the one lamp shone dimly on the bed, Hook stood in darkness himself, and at the first stealthy step forward he discovered an obstacle, the door of Slightly’s tree. It did not entirely fill the aperture, and he had been looking over it. Feeling for the catch, he found to his fury that it was low down, beyond his reach. To his disordered brain it seemed then that the irritating quality in Peter’s face and figure visibly increased, and he rattled the door and flung himself against it. Was his enemy to escape him after all?

But what was that? The red in his eye had caught sight of Peter’s medicine standing on a ledge within easy reach. He fathomed what it was straightaway, and immediately knew that the sleeper was in his power.

Lest he should be taken alive, Hook always carried about his person a dreadful drug, blended by himself of all the death-dealing rings that had come into his possession. These he had boiled down into a yellow liquid quite unknown to science, which was probably the most virulent poison in existence.

Five drops of this he now added to Peter’s cup. His hand shook, but it was in exultation rather than in shame. As he did it he avoided glancing at the sleeper, but not lest pity should unnerve him; merely to avoid spilling. Then one long gloating look he cast upon his victim, and turning, wormed his way with difficulty up the tree. As he emerged at the top he looked the very spirit of evil breaking from its hole. Donning his hat at its most rakish angle, he wound his cloak around him, holding one end in front as if to conceal his person from the night, of which it was the blackest part, and muttering strangely to himself, stole away through the trees.

Peter slept on. The light guttered and went out, leaving the tenement in darkness; but still he slept. It must have been not less than ten o’clock by the crocodile, when he suddenly sat up in his bed, wakened by he knew not what. It was a soft cautious tapping on the door of his tree.

Soft and cautious, but in that stillness it was sinister. Peter felt for his dagger till his hand gripped it. Then he spoke.

“Who is that?”

For long there was no answer: then again the knock.

“Who are you?”

No answer.

He was thrilled, and he loved being thrilled. In two strides he reached the door. Unlike Slightly’s door, it filled the aperture, so that he could not see beyond it, nor could the one knocking see him.

“I won’t open unless you speak,” Peter cried.

Then at last the visitor spoke, on a lovely bell-like voice.

“Let me in, Peter.”

It was Tink, and quickly he unbarred to her. She flew in excitedly, her face flushed and her dress stained with mud.

“What is it?”

“Oh, you could never guess!” she cried, and offered him three guesses. “Out with it!” he shouted, and in one ungrammatical sentence, as long as the ribbons that conjurers pull from their mouths, she told of the capture of Wendy and the boys.

Peter’s heart bobbed up and down as he listened. Wendy bound, and on the pirate ship; she who loved everything to be just so!

“I’ll rescue her!” he cried, leaping at his weapons. As he leapt he thought of something he could do to please her. He could take his medicine.

His hand closed on the fatal draught.

“No!” shrieked Tinker Bell, who had heard Hook mutter about his deed as he sped through the forest.

“Why not?”

“It is poisoned.”

“Poisoned? Who could have poisoned it?”

“Hook.”

“Don’t be silly. How could Hook have got down here?”

Alas, Tinker Bell could not explain this, for even she did not know the dark secret of Slightly’s tree. Nevertheless Hook’s words had left no room for doubt. The cup was poisoned.

“Besides,” said Peter, quite believing himself “I never fell asleep.”

He raised the cup. No time for words now; time for deeds; and with one of her lightning movements Tink got between his lips and the draught, and drained it to the dregs.

“Why, Tink, how dare you drink my medicine?”

But she did not answer. Already she was 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.”

“O Tink, did you drink it to save me?”

“Yes.”

“But why, Tink?”

Her wings would scarcely carry her now, but in reply she alighted on his shoulder and gave his nose a loving bite. She whispered in his ear “You silly ass,” and then, tottering to her chamber, lay down on the bed.

His head almost filled the fourth wall of her little room as he knelt near her in distress. Every moment her light was growing fainter; and he knew that if it went out she would be no more. She liked his tears so much that she put out her beautiful finger and let them run over it.

Her voice was so low that at first he could not make out 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 addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees.

“Do you believe?” he cried.

Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate.

She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then again 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.”

Many clapped.

Some didn’t.

A few beasts hissed.

The clapping stopped suddenly; as if countless mothers had rushed to their nurseries to see what on earth was happening; but already Tink 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 who believed, but she would have liked to get at the ones who had hissed.

“And now to rescue Wendy!”

The moon was riding in a cloudy heaven when Peter rose from his tree, begirt with weapons and wearing little else, to set out upon his perilous quest. It was not such a night as he would have chosen. He had hoped to fly, keeping not far from the ground so that nothing unwonted should escape his eyes; but in that fitful light to have flown low would have meant trailing his shadow through the trees, thus disturbing birds and acquainting a watchful foe that he was astir.

He regretted now that he had given the birds of the island such strange names that they are very wild and difficult of approach.

There was no other course but to press forward in redskin fashion, at which happily he was an adept. But in what direction, for he could not be sure that the children had been taken to the ship? A light fall of snow had obliterated all footmarks; and a deathly silence pervaded the island, as if for a space Nature stood still in horror of the recent carnage. He had taught the children something of the forest lore that he had himself learned from Tiger Lily and Tinker Bell, and knew that in their dire hour they were not likely to forget it. Slightly, if he had an opportunity, would blaze the trees, for instance, Curly would drop seeds, and Wendy would leave her handkerchief at some important place. The morning was needed to search for such guidance, and he could not wait. The upper world had called him, but would give no help.

The crocodile passed him, but not another living thing, not a sound, not a movement; and yet he knew well that sudden death might be at the next tree, or stalking him from behind.

He swore this terrible oath: “Hook or me this time.”

Now he crawled forward like a snake, and again erect, he darted across a space on which the moonlight played, one finger on his lip and his dagger at the ready. He was frightfully happy.

The Pirate Ship

One green light squinting over Kidd’s Creek, which is near the mouth of the pirate river, marked where the brig, the Jolly Roger, lay, low in the water; a rakish-looking craft foul to the hull, every beam in her detestable, like ground strewn with mangled feathers. She was the cannibal of the seas, and scarce needed that watchful eye, for she floated immune in the horror of her name.

She was wrapped in the blanket of night, through which no sound from her could have reached the shore. There was little sound, and none agreeable save the whir of the ship’s sewing machine at which Smee sat, ever industrious and obliging, the essence of the commonplace, pathetic Smee. I know not why he was so infinitely pathetic, unless it were because he was so pathetically unaware of it; but even strong men had to turn hastily from looking at him, and more than once on summer evenings he had touched the fount of Hook’s tears and made it flow. Of this, as of almost everything else, Smee was quite unconscious.

A few of the pirates leant over the bulwarks, drinking in the miasma of the night; others sprawled by barrels over games of dice and cards; and the exhausted four who had carried the little house lay prone on the deck, where even in their sleep they rolled skillfully to this side or that out of Hook’s reach, lest he should claw them mechanically in passing.

Hook trod the deck in thought. O man unfathomable. It was his hour of triumph. Peter had been removed for ever from his path, and all the other boys were on the brig, about to walk the plank. It was his grimmest deed since the days when he had brought Barbecue to heel; and knowing as we do how vain a tabernacle is man, could we be surprised had he now paced the deck unsteadily, bellied out by the winds of his success?

But there was no elation in his gait, which kept pace with the action of his sombre mind. Hook was profoundly dejected.

He was often thus when communing with himself on board ship in the quietude of the night. It was because he was so terribly alone. This inscrutable man never felt more alone than when surrounded by his dogs. They were socially inferior to him.

Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze; but as those who read between the lines must already have guessed, he had been at a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned. Thus it was offensive to him even now to board a ship in the same dress in which he grappled her, and he still adhered in his walk to the school’s distinguished slouch. But above all he retained the passion for good form.

Good form! However much he may have degenerated, he still knew that this is all that really matters.

From far within him he heard a creaking as of rusty portals, and through them came a stern tap-tap-tap, like hammering in the night when one cannot sleep. “Have you been good form to-day?” was their eternal question.

“Fame, fame, that glittering bauble, it is mine,” he cried.

“Is it quite good form to be distinguished at anything?” the tap-tap from his school replied.

“I am the only man whom Barbecue feared,” he urged, “and Flint feared Barbecue.”

“Barbecue, Flint--what house?” came the cutting retort.

Most disquieting reflection of all, was it not bad form to think about good form?

His vitals were tortured by this problem. It was a claw within him sharper than the iron one; and as it tore him, the perspiration dripped down his tallow countenance and streaked his doublet. Ofttimes he drew his sleeve across his face, but there was no damming that trickle.

Ah, envy not Hook.

There came to him a presentiment of his early dissolution. It was as if Peter’s terrible oath had boarded the ship. Hook felt a gloomy desire to make his dying speech, lest presently there should be no time for it.

“Better for Hook,” he cried, “if he had had less ambition!” It was in his darkest hours only that he referred to himself in the third person.

“No little children to love me!”

Strange that he should think of this, which had never troubled him before; perhaps the sewing machine brought it to his mind. For long he muttered to himself, staring at Smee, who was hemming placidly, under the conviction that all children feared him.

Feared him! Feared Smee! There was not a child on board the brig that night who did not already love him. He had said horrid things to them and hit them with the palm of his hand, because he could not hit with his fist, but they had only clung to him the more. Michael had tried on his spectacles.

To tell poor Smee that they thought him lovable! Hook itched to do it, but it seemed too brutal. Instead, he revolved this mystery in his mind: why do they find Smee lovable? He pursued the problem like the sleuth-hound that he was. If Smee was lovable, what was it that made him so? A terrible answer suddenly presented itself--”Good form?”

Had the bo’sun good form without knowing it, which is the best form of all?

He remembered that you have to prove you don’t know you have it before you are eligible for Pop.

With a cry of rage he raised his iron hand over Smee’s head; but he did not tear. What arrested him was this reflection:

“To claw a man because he is good form, what would that be?”

“Bad form!”

The unhappy Hook was as impotent as he was damp, and he fell forward like a cut flower.

His dogs thinking him out of the way for a time, discipline instantly relaxed; and they broke into a bacchanalian dance, which brought him to his feet at once, all traces of human weakness gone, as if a bucket of water had passed over him.

“Quiet, you scugs,” he cried, “or I’ll cast anchor in you”; and at once the din was hushed. “Are all the children chained, so that they cannot fly away?”

“Ay, ay.”

“Then hoist them up.”

The wretched prisoners were dragged from the hold, all except Wendy, and ranged in line in front of him. For a time he seemed unconscious of their presence. He lolled at his ease, humming, not unmelodiously, snatches of a rude song, and fingering a pack of cards. Ever and anon the light from his cigar gave a touch of colour to his face.

“Now then, bullies,” he said briskly, “six of you walk the plank to-night, but I have room for two cabin boys. Which of you is it to be?”

“Don’t irritate him unnecessarily,” had been Wendy’s instructions in the hold; so Tootles stepped forward politely. Tootles hated the idea of signing under such a man, but an instinct told him that it would be prudent to lay the responsibility on an absent person; and though a somewhat silly boy, he knew that mothers alone are always willing to be the buffer. All children know this about mothers, and despise them for it, but make constant use of it.

So Tootles explained prudently, “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, Slightly?”

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--”

“Stow this gab,” roared Hook, and the spokesmen were dragged back. “You, boy,” he said, addressing John, “you look as if you had a little pluck in you. Didst never want to be a pirate, my hearty?”

Now John had sometimes experienced this hankering at maths. prep.; and he was struck by Hook’s picking him out.

“I once thought of calling myself Red-handed Jack,” he said diffidently.

“And a good name too. We’ll call you that here, bully, if you join.”

“What do you think, Michael?” asked John.

“What would you call me if I join?” Michael demanded.

“Blackbeard Joe.”

Michael was naturally impressed. “What do you think, John?” He wanted John to decide, and John wanted him to decide.

“Shall we still be respectful subjects of the King?” 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 shone out now.

“Then I refuse,” he cried, banging the barrel in front of Hook.

“And I refuse,” cried Michael.

“Rule Britannia!” squeaked Curly.

The infuriated pirates buffeted them in the mouth; and Hook roared out, “That seals your doom. Bring up their mother. Get the plank ready.”

They were only boys, and they went white as they saw Jukes and Cecco preparing the fatal plank. But they tried to look brave when Wendy was brought up.

No words of mine can tell you how Wendy despised those pirates. To the boys there was at least some glamour in the pirate calling; but all that she saw was that the ship had not been tidied for years. There was not a porthole on the grimy glass of which you might not have written with your finger “Dirty pig”; and she had already written it on several. But as the boys gathered round her she had no thought, of course, save for them.

“So, my beauty,” said Hook, as if he spoke in syrup, “you are to see your children walk the plank.”

Fine gentleman though he was, the intensity of his communings had soiled his ruff, and suddenly he knew that she was gazing at it. With a hasty gesture he tried to hide it, but he was too late.

“Are they to die?” asked Wendy, with a look of such frightful contempt that he nearly fainted.

“They are,” he snarled. “Silence all,” he called gloatingly, “for a mother’s 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 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 to do, Nibs?”

“What my mother hopes. What are you 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.

It is sad to know that not a boy was looking at her as Smee tied her to the mast; the eyes of all were on the plank: that last little walk they were about to take. They were no longer able to hope that they would walk it manfully, for the capacity to think had gone from them; they could stare and shiver only.

Hook smiled on them with his teeth closed, and took a step toward Wendy. His intention was to turn her face so that she should see the boys walking the plank one by one. But he never reached her, he never heard the cry of anguish he hoped to wring from her. He heard something else instead.

It was the terrible tick-tick of the crocodile.

They all heard it--pirates, boys, Wendy--and immediately every head was blown in one direction; not to the water whence the sound proceeded, but toward Hook. All knew that what was about to happen concerned him alone, and that from being actors they were suddenly become spectators.

Very frightful was it to see the change that came over him. It was as if he had been clipped at every joint. He fell in a little heap.

The sound came steadily nearer; and in advance of it came this ghastly thought, “The crocodile is about to board the ship!”

Even the iron claw hung inactive; as if knowing that it was no intrinsic part of what the attacking force wanted. Left so fearfully alone, any other man would have lain with his eyes shut where he fell: but the gigantic brain of Hook was still working, and under its guidance he crawled on he knees along the deck as far from the sound as he could go. The pirates respectfully cleared a passage for him, and it was only when he brought up against the bulwarks that he spoke.

“Hide me!” he cried hoarsely.

They gathered round him, all eyes averted from the thing that was coming aboard. They had no thought of fighting it. It was Fate.

Only when Hook was hidden from them did curiosity loosen the limbs of the boys so that they could rush to the ship’s side to see the crocodile climbing it. Then they got the strangest surprise of the Night of Nights; for it was no crocodile that was coming to their aid. It was Peter.

He signed to them not to give vent to any cry of admiration that might rouse suspicion. Then he went on ticking.

“Hook or Me This Time”

Odd things happen to all of us on our way through life without our noticing for a time that they have happened. Thus, to take an instance, we suddenly discover that we have been deaf in one ear for we don’t know how long, but, say, half an hour. Now such an experience had come that night to Peter. When last we saw him he was stealing across the island with one finger to his lips and his dagger at the ready. He had seen the crocodile pass by without noticing anything peculiar about it, but by and by he remembered that it had not been ticking. At first he thought this eerie, but soon concluded rightly that the clock had run down.

Without giving a thought to what might be the feelings of a fellow-creature this abruptly deprived of its closest companion, Peter began to consider how he could turn the catastrophe to his own use; and he decided to tick, so that wild beasts should believe he was the crocodile and let him pass unmolested. He ticked superbly, but with one unforeseen result. The crocodile was among those who heard the sound, and it followed him, though whether with the purpose of regaining what it had lost, or merely as a friend under the belief that it was again ticking itself, will never be certainly known, for, like slaves to a fixed idea, it was a stupid beast.

Peter reached the shore without mishap, and went straight on, his legs encountering the water as if quite unaware that they had entered a new element. Thus many animals pass from land to water, but no other human of whom I know. As he swam he had but one thought: “Hook or me this time.” He had ticked so long that he now went on ticking without knowing that he was doing it. Had he known he would have stopped, for to board the brig by help of the tick, though an ingenious idea, had not occurred to him.

On the contrary, he thought he had scaled her side as noiseless as a mouse; and he was amazed to see the pirates cowering from him, with Hook in their midst as abject as if he had heard the crocodile.

The crocodile! No sooner did Peter remember it than he heard the ticking. At first he thought the sound did come from the crocodile, and he looked behind him swiftly. They he realised that he was doing it himself, and in a flash he understood the situation. “How clever of me!” he thought at once, and signed to the boys not to burst into applause.

It was at this moment that Ed Teynte the quartermaster emerged from the forecastle and came along the deck. Now, reader, time what happened by your watch. Peter struck true and deep. John clapped his hands on the ill-fated 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 carrion was cast overboard. There was a splash, and then silence. How long has it taken?

“One!” (Slightly had begun to count.)

None too soon, Peter, every inch of him on tiptoe, vanished into the cabin; for more than one pirate was screwing up his courage to look round. They could hear each other’s distressed breathing now, which showed them that the more terrible sound had passed.

“It’s gone, captain,” Smee said, wiping off his spectacles. “All’s still again.”

Slowly Hook let his head emerge from his ruff, and listened so intently that he could have caught the echo of the tick. There was not a sound, and he drew himself up firmly to his full height.

“Then here’s to Johnny Plank!” he cried brazenly, hating the boys more than ever because they had seen him unbend. He broke into the villainous ditty:

“Yo ho, yo ho, the frisky plank,
You walks along it so,
Till it goes down and you goes down
To Davy Jones below!”

To terrorize the prisoners the more, though with a certain loss of dignity, he danced along an imaginary plank, grimacing at them as he sang; and when he finished he cried, “Do you want a touch of the cat before you walk the plank?”

At that they 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 scarce knew that Hook had resumed his song, his dogs joining in with him:

“Yo ho, yo ho, the scratching cat,
Its tails are nine, you know,
And when they’re writ upon your back--”

What was the last line will never be known, for of a sudden the song was stayed by a dreadful screech from the cabin. It wailed through the ship, and died away. Then was heard a crowing sound which was well understood by the boys, but to the pirates was almost more eerie than the screech.

“What was that?” cried Hook.

“Two,” said Slightly solemnly.

The Italian 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 home.

“The matter wi’ him is 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.”

The exultation of the boys, the lowering looks of the pirates, both were seen by Hook.

“Cecco,” he said in his most steely voice, “go back and fetch me out that doodle-doo.”

Cecco, bravest of the brave, cowered before his captain, crying “No, no”; but Hook was purring to his claw.

“Did you say you would go, Cecco?” he said musingly.

Cecco went, first flinging his arms despairingly. There was no more singing, all listened now; and again came a death-screech and again a crow.

No one spoke except Slightly. “Three,” he said.

Hook rallied his dogs with a gesture. “‘S’death and odds fish,” he thundered, “who is to bring me that doodle-doo?”

“Wait till Cecco comes out,” growled Starkey, and the others took up the cry.

“I think I heard you volunteer, Starkey,” said Hook, purring again.

“No, by thunder!” Starkey cried.

“My hook thinks you did,” said Hook, crossing to him. “I wonder if it would not be advisable, Starkey, to humour the hook?”

“I’ll swing before I go in there,” replied Starkey doggedly, and again he had the support of the crew.

“Is this mutiny?” asked Hook more pleasantly than ever. “Starkey’s ringleader!”

“Captain, mercy!” Starkey whimpered, all of a tremble now.

“Shake hands, Starkey,” said Hook, proffering 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 Long Tom and precipitated 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 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 unsteadily.

“Something!” echoed Mullins.

“What of Cecco?” demanded Noodler.

“He’s as dead as Jukes,” said Hook shortly.

His reluctance to return to the cabin impressed them all unfavourably, and the mutinous sounds again broke forth. All pirates are superstitious, and Cookson cried, “They do say the surest sign a ship’s accurst in when there’s one on board more than can be accounted for.”

“I’ve heard,” muttered Mullins, “he always boards the pirate craft last. Had he a tail, captain?”

“They say,” said another, looking viciously at Hook, “that when he comes it’s in the likeness of the wickedest man aboard.”

“Had he a hook, captain?” asked Cookson insolently; and one after another took up the cry, “The ship’s doomed!” At this the children could not resist raising a cheer. Hook had well-nigh forgotten his prisoners, but as he swung round on them now his face lit up again.

“Lads,” he cried to his crew, “now here’s a notion. Open the cabin door and drive them in. Let them fight the doodle-doo for their lives. If they kill him, we’re so much the better; if he kills them, we’re none the worse.”

For the last time his dogs admired Hook, and devotedly they did his bidding. The boys, pretending to struggle, were pushed into the cabin and the door was closed on them.

“Now, listen!” cried Hook, and all listened. But not one dared to face the door. Yes, one, Wendy, who all this time had been bound to the mast. It was for neither a scream nor a crow that she was watching, it was for the reappearance of Peter.

She had not long to wait. In the cabin he had found the thing for which he had gone in search: the key that would free the children of their manacles, and now they all stole forth, armed with such weapons as they could find. First signing them to hide, Peter cut Wendy’s bonds, and then nothing could have been easier than for them all to fly off together; but one thing barred the way, an oath, “Hook or me this time.” So when he had freed Wendy, he whispered for to her to conceal herself with the others, and himself took her place by the mast, her cloak around him so that he should pass for her. Then he took a great breath and crowed.

To the pirates it was a voice crying that all the boys lay slain in the cabin; and they were panic-stricken. Hook tried to hearten them; but like the dogs he had made them they showed him their fangs, and he knew that if he took his eyes off them now they would leap at him.

“Lads,” he said, ready to cajole or strike as need be, but never quailing for an instant, “I’ve thought it out. There’s a Jonah aboard.”

“Ay,” they snarled, “a man wi’ a hook.”

“No, lads, no, it’s the girl. Never was luck on a pirate ship wi’ a woman on board. We’ll right the ship when she’s gone.”

Some of them remembered that this had been a saying of Flint’s. “It’s worth trying,” they said doubtfully.

“Fling the girl overboard,” cried Hook; and they made a rush at the figure in the cloak.

“There’s none can save you now, missy,” Mullins hissed jeeringly.

“There’s one,” replied the figure.

“Who’s that?”

“Peter Pan the avenger!” came the terrible answer; and as he spoke Peter flung off his cloak. Then they all knew who ’twas that had been undoing them in the cabin, and twice Hook essayed to speak and twice he failed. In that frightful moment I think his fierce heart broke.

At last he cried, “Cleave him to the brisket!” but without conviction.

“Down, boys, and at them!” Peter’s voice rang out; and in another moment the clash of arms was resounding through the ship. Had the pirates kept together it is certain that they would have won; but the onset came when they were still unstrung, and they ran hither and thither, striking wildly, each thinking himself the last survivor of the crew. Man to man they were the stronger; but they fought on the defensive only, which enabled the boys to hunt in pairs and choose their quarry. Some of the miscreants leapt into the sea; others hid in dark recesses, where they were found by Slightly, who did not fight, but ran about with a lantern which he flashed in their faces, so that they were half blinded and fell as an easy prey to the reeking swords of the other boys. There was little sound to be heard but the clang of weapons, an occasional screech or splash, and Slightly monotonously counting--five--six--seven--eight--nine--ten--eleven.

I think all were gone when a group of savage boys surrounded Hook, who seemed to have a charmed life, as he kept them at bay in that circle of fire. They had done for his dogs, but this man alone seemed to be a match for them all. Again and again they closed upon him, and again and again he hewed a clear space. He had lifted up one boy with his hook, and was using him as a buckler , when another, who had just passed his sword through Mullins, sprang into the fray.

“Put up your swords, boys,” cried the newcomer, “this man is mine.”

Thus suddenly Hook found himself face to face with Peter. The others drew back and formed a ring around them.

For long the two enemies looked at one another, Hook shuddering slightly, and Peter with the strange smile upon his face.

“So, Pan,” said Hook at last, “this is all your doing.”

“Ay, James Hook,” came the stern answer, “it is all my doing.”

“Proud and insolent youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet thy doom.”

“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “have at thee.”

Without more words they fell to, and for a space there was no advantage to either blade. Peter was a superb swordsman, and parried with dazzling rapidity; ever and anon he followed up a feint with a lunge that got past his foe’s defence, but his shorter reach stood him in ill stead, and he could not drive the steel home. Hook, scarcely his inferior in brilliancy, but not quite so nimble in wrist play, forced him back by the weight of his onset, hoping suddenly to end all with a favourite thrust, taught him long ago by Barbecue at Rio; but to his astonishment he found this thrust turned aside again and again. Then he sought to close and give the quietus with his iron hook, which all this time had been pawing the air; but Peter doubled under it and, lunging fiercely, pierced him in the ribs. At the sight of his own blood, whose peculiar colour, you remember, was offensive to him, the sword fell from Hook’s hand, and he was at Peter’s mercy.

“Now!” cried all the boys, but with a magnificent gesture Peter invited his opponent to pick up his sword. Hook did so instantly, but with a tragic feeling that Peter was showing good form.

Hitherto he had thought it was some fiend fighting him, but darker suspicions assailed him now.

“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.

“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.

“To’t again,” he cried despairingly.

He fought now like a human flail, and every sweep of that terrible sword would have severed in twain any man or boy who obstructed it; but Peter fluttered round him as if the very wind it made blew him out of the danger zone. And again and again he darted in and pricked.

Hook was fighting now without hope. That passionate breast no longer asked for life; but for one boon it craved: to see Peter show bad form before it was cold forever.

Abandoning the fight he rushed into the powder magazine and fired it.

“In two minutes,” he cried, “the ship will be blown to pieces.”

Now, now, he thought, true form will show.

But Peter issued from the powder magazine with the shell in his hands, and calmly flung it overboard.

What sort of form was Hook himself showing? Misguided man though he was, we may be glad, without sympathising with him, that in the end he was true to the traditions of his race. The other boys were flying around him now, flouting, scornful; and he staggered about the deck striking up at them impotently, his mind was no longer with them; it was slouching in the playing fields of long ago, or being sent up for good, or watching the wall-game from a famous wall. And his shoes were right, and his waistcoat was right, and his tie was right, and his socks were right.

James Hook, thou not wholly unheroic figure, farewell.

For we have come to his last moment.

Seeing Peter slowly advancing upon him through the air with dagger poised, he sprang upon the bulwarks to cast himself into the sea. He did not know that the crocodile was waiting for him; for we purposely stopped the clock that this knowledge might be spared him: a little mark of respect from us at the end.

He had one last triumph, which I think we need not grudge him. As he stood on the bulwark looking over his shoulder at Peter gliding through the air, he invited him with a gesture to use his foot. It made Peter kick instead of stab.

At last Hook had got the boon for which he craved.

“Bad form,” he cried jeeringly, and went content to the crocodile.

Thus perished James Hook.

“Seventeen,” Slightly sang out; but he was not quite correct in his figures. Fifteen paid the penalty for their crimes that night; but two reached the shore: Starkey to be captured by the redskins, who made him nurse for all their papooses, a melancholy come-down for a pirate; and Smee, who henceforth wandered about the world in his spectacles, making a precarious living by saying he was the only man that Jas. Hook had feared.

Wendy, of course, had stood by taking no part in the fight, though watching Peter with glistening eyes; but now that all was over she became prominent again. She praised them equally, and shuddered delightfully when Michael showed 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 “half-past one!”

The lateness of the hour was almost the biggest thing of all. She got them to bed in the pirates’ bunks pretty quickly, you may be sure; all but Peter, who strutted up and down on the deck, until at last he fell asleep by the side of Long Tom. He had one of his dreams that night, and cried in his sleep for a long time, and Wendy held him tightly.

The Return Home

By three bells that morning they were all stirring their stumps; for there was a big sea running; and Tootles, the bo’sun, was among them, with a rope’s end in his hand and chewing tobacco. They all donned pirate clothes cut off at the knee, shaved smartly, and tumbled up, with the true nautical roll and hitching their trousers.

It need not be said who was the captain. Nibs and John were first and second mate. There was a woman aboard. The rest were tars before the mast, and lived in the fo’c’sle. Peter had already lashed himself to the wheel; but he piped all hands and delivered a short address to them; said he hoped they would do their duty like gallant hearties, but that he knew they were the scum of Rio and the Gold Coast, and if they snapped at him he would tear them. The bluff strident words struck the note sailors understood, and they cheered him lustily. Then a few sharp orders were given, and they turned the ship round, and nosed her for the mainland.

Captain Pan calculated, after consulting the ship’s chart, that if this weather lasted they should strike the Azores about the 21st of June, after which it would save time to fly.

Some of them wanted it to be an honest ship and others were in favour of keeping it a pirate; but the captain treated them as dogs, and they dared not express their wishes to him even in a round robin. Instant obedience was the only safe thing. Slightly got a dozen for looking perplexed when told to take soundings. The general feeling was that Peter was honest just now to lull Wendy’s suspicions, but that there might be a change when the new suit was ready, which, against her will, she was making for him out of some of Hook’s wickedest garments. It was afterwards whispered among them that on the first night he wore this suit he sat long in the cabin with Hook’s cigar-holder in his mouth and one hand clenched, all but for the forefinger, which he bent and held threateningly aloft like a hook.

Instead of watching the ship, however, we must now return to that desolate home from which three of our characters had taken heartless flight so long ago. It seems a shame to have neglected No. 14 all this time; and yet we may be sure that Mrs. Darling does not blame us. If we had returned sooner to look with sorrowful sympathy at her, she would probably have cried, “Don’t be silly; what do I matter? Do go back and keep an eye on the children.” So long as mothers are like this their children will take advantage of them; and they may lay to that.

Even now we venture into that familiar nursery only because its lawful occupants are on their way home; we are merely hurrying on in advance of them to see that their beds are properly aired and that Mr. and Mrs. Darling do not go out for the evening. We are no more than servants. Why on earth should their beds be properly aired, seeing that they left them in such a thankless hurry? Would it not serve them jolly well right if they came back and found that their parents were spending the week-end in the country? It would be the moral lesson they have been in need of ever since we met them; but if we contrived things in this way Mrs. Darling would never forgive us.

One thing I should like to do immensely, and that is to tell her, in the way authors have, that the children are coming back, that indeed they will be here on Thursday week. This would spoil so completely the surprise to which Wendy and John and Michael are looking forward. They have been planning it out on the ship: mother’s rapture, father’s shout of joy, Nana’s leap through the air to embrace them first, when what they ought to be prepared for is a good hiding. How delicious to spoil it all by breaking the news in advance; so that when they enter grandly Mrs. Darling may not even offer Wendy her mouth, and Mr. Darling may exclaim pettishly, “Dash it all, here are those boys again.” However, we should get no thanks even for this. We are beginning to know Mrs. Darling by this time, and may be sure that she would upbraid us for depriving the children of their little pleasure.

“But, my dear madam, it is ten days till Thursday week; so that by telling you what’s what, we can save you ten days of unhappiness.”

“Yes, but at what a cost! By depriving the children of ten minutes of delight.”

“Oh, if you look at it in that way!”

“What other way is there in which to look at it?”

You see, the woman had no proper spirit. I had meant to say extraordinarily nice things about her; but I despise her, and not one of them will I say now. She does not really need to be told to have things ready, for they are ready. All the beds are aired, and she never leaves the house, and observe, the window is open. For all the use we are to her, we might well go back to the ship. However, as we are here we may as well stay and look on. That is all we are, lookers-on. Nobody really wants us. So let us watch and say jaggy things, in the hope that some of them will hurt.

The only change to be seen in the night-nursery is that between nine and six the kennel is no longer there. When the children flew away, Mr. Darling felt in his bones that all the blame was his for having chained Nana up, and that from first to last she had been wiser than he. Of course, as we have seen, he was quite a simple man; indeed be might have passed for a boy again if he had been able to take his baldness off; but he had also a noble sense of justice and a lion’s courage to do what seemed right to him; and having thought the matter out with anxious care after the flight of the children, he went down on all fours and crawled into the kennel. To all Mrs. Darling’s dear invitations to him to come out he replied sadly but firmly:

“No, my own one, this is the place for me.”

In the bitterness of his remorse he swore that he would never leave the kennel until his children came back. Of course this was a pity; but whatever Mr. Darling did he had to do in excess, otherwise he soon gave up doing it. And there never was a more humble man than the once proud George Darling, as he sat in the kennel of an evening talking with his wife of their children and all their pretty ways.

Very touching was his deference to Nana. He would not let her come into the kennel, but on all other matters he followed her wishes implicitly.

Every morning the kennel was carried with Mr. Darling in it to a cab, which conveyed him to his office, and he returned home in the same way at six. Something of the strength of character of the man will be seen if we remember how sensitive he was to the opinion of neighbours: this man whose every movement now attracted surprised attention. Inwardly he must have suffered torture; but he preserved a calm exterior even when the young criticised his little home, and he always lifted his hat courteously to any lady who looked inside.

It may have been Quixotic, but it was magnificent. Soon the inward meaning of it leaked out, and the great heart of the public was touched. Crowds followed the cab, cheering it lustily; charming girls scaled it to get his autograph; interviews appeared in the better class of papers, and society invited him to dinner and added, “Do come in the kennel.”

On that eventful Thursday week, Mrs. Darling was in the night-nursery awaiting George’s return home; a very sad-eyed woman. Now that we look at her closely and remember the gaiety of her in the old days, all gone now just because she has lost her babes, I find I won’t be able to say nasty things about her after all. If she was too fond of her rubbishy children, she couldn’t help it. Look at her in her chair, where she has fallen asleep. The corner of her mouth, where one looks first, is almost withered up. Her hand moves restlessly on her breast as if she had a pain there. Some like Peter best, and some like Wendy best, but I like her best. Suppose, to make her happy, we whisper to her in her sleep that the brats are coming back. They are really within two miles of the window now, and flying strong, but all we need whisper is that they are on the way. Let’s.

It is a pity we did it, for she has started up, calling their names; and there is no one in the room but Nana.

“O Nana, I dreamt my dear ones had come back.”

Nana had filmy eyes, but all she could do was put her paw gently on her mistress’s lap; and they were sitting together thus when the kennel was brought back. As Mr. Darling puts his head out to kiss his wife, we see that his face is more worn than of yore, but has a softer expression.

He gave his hat to Liza, who took it scornfully; for she had no imagination, and was quite incapable of understanding the motives of such a man. Outside, the crowd who had accompanied the cab home were still cheering, and he was naturally not unmoved.

“Listen to them,” he said; “it is very gratifying.”

“Lots of little boys,” sneered Liza.

“There were several adults to-day,” he assured her with a faint flush; but when she tossed her head he had not a word of reproof for her. Social success had not spoilt him; it had made him sweeter. For some time he sat with his head out of the kennel, talking with Mrs. Darling of this success, and pressing her hand reassuringly when she said she hoped his head would not be turned by it.

“But if I had been a weak man,” he said. “Good heavens, if I had been a weak man!”

“And, George,” she said timidly, “you are as full of remorse as ever, aren’t you?”

“Full of remorse as ever, dearest! See my punishment: living in a kennel.”

“But it is punishment, isn’t it, George? You are sure you are not enjoying it?”

“My love!”

You may be sure she begged his pardon; and then, feeling drowsy, he curled round in the kennel.

“Won’t you play me to sleep,” he asked, “on the nursery piano?” and as she was crossing to the day-nursery he added thoughtlessly, “And shut that window. I feel a draught.”

“O George, never ask me to do that. The window must always be left open for them, always, always.”

Now it was his turn to beg her pardon; and she went into the day-nursery and played, and soon he was asleep; and while he slept, Wendy and John and Michael flew into the room.

Oh no. We have written it so, because that was the charming arrangement planned by them before we left the ship; but something must have happened since then, for it is not they who have flown in, it is Peter and Tinker Bell.

Peter’s first words tell all.

“Quick Tink,” he whispered, “close the window; bar it! That’s right. Now you and I must get away by the door; and when Wendy comes she will think her mother has barred her out; and she will have to go back with me.”

Now I understand what had hitherto puzzled me, why when Peter had exterminated the pirates he did not return to the island and leave Tink to escort the children to the mainland. This trick had been in his head all the time.

Instead of feeling that he was behaving badly he danced with glee; then he peeped into the day-nursery to see who was playing. He whispered to Tink, “It’s Wendy’s mother! She is a pretty lady, but not so pretty as my mother. Her mouth is full of thimbles, but not so full as my mother’s was.”

Of course he knew nothing whatever about his mother; but he sometimes bragged about her.

He did not know the tune, which was “Home, Sweet Home,” but he knew it was saying, “Come back, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy”; and he cried exultantly, “You will never see Wendy again, lady, for the window is barred!”

He peeped in again to see why the music had stopped, and now he saw that Mrs. Darling had laid her head on the box, and that two tears were sitting on her eyes.

“She wants me to unbar the window,” thought Peter, “but I won’t, not I!”

He peeped again, and the tears were still there, or another two had taken their place.

“She’s awfully fond of Wendy,” he said to himself. He was angry with her now for not seeing why she could not have Wendy.

The reason was so simple: “I’m fond of her too. We can’t both have her, lady.”

But the lady would not make the best of it, and he was unhappy. He ceased to look at her, but even then she would not let go of him. He skipped about and made funny faces, but when he stopped it was just as if she were inside him, knocking.

“Oh, all right,” he said at last, and gulped. Then he unbarred the window. “Come on, Tink,” he cried, with a frightful sneer at the laws of nature; “we don’t want any silly mothers”; and he flew away.

Thus Wendy and John and Michael found the window open for them after all, which of course was more than they deserved. They alighted on the floor, quite unashamed of themselves, and the youngest one had already forgotten his home.

“John,” he said, looking around him doubtfully, “I think I have been here before.”

“Of course you have, you silly. There is your old bed.”

“So it is,” Michael said, but not with much conviction.

“I say,” cried John, “the kennel!” and he dashed across to look into it.

“Perhaps Nana is inside it,” Wendy said.

But John whistled. “Hullo,” he said, “there’s a man inside it.”

“It’s father!” exclaimed Wendy.

“Let me see father,” Michael begged eagerly, and he took a good look. “He is not so big as the pirate I killed,” he said with such frank disappointment that I am glad Mr. Darling was asleep; it would have been sad if those had been the first words he heard his little Michael say.

Wendy and John had been taken aback somewhat at finding their father in the kennel.

“Surely,” said John, like one who had lost faith in his memory, “he used not to sleep in the kennel?”

“John,” Wendy said falteringly, “perhaps we don’t remember the old life as well as we thought we did.”

A chill fell upon them; and serve them right.

“It is very careless of mother,” said that young scoundrel John, “not to be here when we come back.”

It was then that Mrs. Darling began playing again.

“It’s mother!” cried Wendy, peeping.

“So it is!” said John.

“Then are you not really our mother, Wendy?” asked Michael, who was surely sleepy.

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Wendy, with her first real twinge of remorse , “it was quite time we came back,”

“Let us creep in,” John suggested, “and put our hands over her eyes.”

But Wendy, who saw that they must break the joyous news more gently, had a better plan.

“Let us all slip into our beds, and be there when she comes in, just as if we had never been away.”

And so when Mrs. Darling went back to the night-nursery to see if her husband was asleep, all the beds were occupied. The children waited for her cry of joy, but it did not come. She saw them, but she did not believe they were there. You see, she saw them in their beds so often in her dreams that she thought this was just the dream hanging around her still.

She sat down in the chair by the fire, where in the old days she had nursed them.

They could not understand this, and a cold fear fell upon all the three of them.

“Mother!” Wendy cried.

“That’s Wendy,” she said, but still she was sure it was the dream.

“Mother!”

“That’s John,” she said.

“Mother!” cried Michael. He knew her now.

“That’s Michael,” she said, and she stretched out her arms for the three little selfish children they would never envelop again. Yes, they did, they went round Wendy and John and Michael, who had slipped out of bed and run to her.

“George, George!” she cried when she could speak; and Mr. Darling woke to share her bliss, and Nana came rushing in. There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

When Wendy Grew Up

I hope you want to know what became of the other boys. They were waiting below to give Wendy time to explain about them; and when they had counted five hundred they went up. They went up by the stair, because they thought this would make a better impression. They stood in a row in front of Mrs. Darling, with their hats off, and wishing they were not wearing their pirate clothes. They said nothing, but their eyes asked her to have them. They ought to have looked at Mr. Darling also, but they forgot about him.

Of course Mrs. Darling said at once that she would have them; but Mr. Darling was curiously depressed, and they saw that he considered six a rather large number.

“I must say,” he said to Wendy, “that you don’t do things by halves,” a grudging remark which the twins thought was pointed at them.

The first twin was the proud one, and he asked, flushing, “Do you think we should be too much of a handful, sir? Because, if so, we can go away.”

“Father!” Wendy cried, shocked; but still the cloud was on him. He knew he was behaving unworthily, but he could not help it.

“We could lie doubled up,” said Nibs.

“I always cut their hair myself,” said Wendy.

“George!” Mrs. Darling exclaimed, pained to see her dear one showing himself in such an unfavourable light.

Then he burst into tears, and the truth came out. He was as glad to have them as she was, he said, but he thought they should have asked his consent as well as hers, instead of treating him as a cypher in his own house.

“I don’t think he is a cypher,” Tootles cried instantly. “Do you think he is a cypher, Curly?”

“No, I don’t. Do you think he is a cypher, Slightly?”

“Rather not. Twin, what do you think?”

It turned out that not one of them thought him a cypher; and he was absurdly gratified, and said he would find space for them all in the drawing-room if they fitted in.

“We’ll fit in, sir,” they assured him.

“Then follow the leader,” he cried gaily. “Mind you, I am not sure that we have a drawing-room, but we pretend we have, and it’s all the same. Hoop la!”

He went off dancing through the house, and they all cried “Hoop la!” and danced after him, searching for the drawing-room; and I forget whether they found it, but at any rate they found corners, and they all fitted in.

As for Peter, he saw Wendy once again before he flew away. He did not exactly come to the window, but he brushed against it in passing so that she could open it if she liked and call to him. That is what she did.

“Hullo, Wendy, good-bye,” he said.

“Oh dear, are you going away?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t feel, Peter,” she said falteringly, “that you would like to say anything to my parents about a very sweet subject?”

“No.”

“About me, Peter?”

“No.”

Mrs. Darling came to the window, for at present she was keeping a sharp eye on Wendy. She told Peter that she had adopted all the other boys, and would like to adopt him also.

“Would you send me to school?” he inquired craftily.

“Yes.”

“And then to an office?”

“I suppose so.”

“Soon I would be a man?”

“Very soon.”

“I don’t want to go to school and learn solemn things,” he told her passionately. “I don’t want to be a man. O Wendy’s mother, if I was to wake up and feel there was a beard!”

“Peter,” said Wendy the comforter, “I should love you in a beard”; and Mrs. Darling stretched out her arms to him, but he repulsed her.

“Keep back, lady, no one is going to catch me and make me a man.”

“But where are you going to live?”

“With Tink in the house we built for Wendy. The fairies are to put it high up among the tree tops where they sleep at nights.”

“How lovely,” cried Wendy so longingly that Mrs. Darling tightened her grip.

“I thought all the fairies were dead,” Mrs. Darling said.

“There are always a lot of young ones,” explained Wendy, who was now quite an authority, “because you see when a new baby laughs for the first time a new fairy is born, and as there are always new babies there are always new fairies. They live in nests on the tops of trees; and the mauve ones are boys and the white ones are girls, and the blue ones are just little sillies who are not sure what they are.”

“I shall have such fun,” said Peter, with eye on Wendy.

“It will be rather lonely in the evening,” she said, “sitting by the fire.”

“I shall have Tink.”

“Tink can’t go a twentieth part of the way round,” she reminded him a little tartly.

“Sneaky tell-tale!” Tink called out from somewhere round the corner.

“It doesn’t matter,” Peter said.

“O Peter, you know it matters.”

“Well, then, come with me to the little house.”

“May I, mummy?”

“Certainly not. I have got you home again, and I mean to keep you.”

“But he does so need a mother.”

“So do you, my love.”

“Oh, all right,” Peter said, as if he had asked her from politeness merely; but Mrs. Darling saw his mouth twitch, and she made this handsome offer: to let Wendy go to him for a week every year to do his spring cleaning. Wendy would have preferred a more permanent arrangement; and it seemed to her that spring would be long in coming; but this promise sent Peter away quite gay again. He had no sense of time, and was so full of adventures that all I have told you about him is only a halfpenny-worth of them. I suppose it was because Wendy knew this that her last words to him were these rather plaintive ones:

“You won’t forget me, Peter, will you, before spring cleaning time comes?”

Of course Peter promised; and then he flew away. He took Mrs. Darling’s kiss with him. The kiss that had been for no one else, Peter took quite easily. Funny. But she seemed satisfied.

Of course all the boys went to school; and most of them got into Class III, but Slightly was put first into Class IV and then into Class V. Class I is the top class. Before they had attended school a week they saw what goats they had been not to remain on the island; but it was too late now, and soon they settled down to being as ordinary as you or me or Jenkins minor. It is sad to have to say that the power to fly gradually left them. At first Nana tied their feet to the bed-posts so that they should not fly away in the night; and one of their diversions by day was to pretend to fall off buses; but by and by they ceased to tug at their bonds in bed, and found that they hurt themselves when they let go of the ‘bus. In time they could not even fly after their hats. Want of practice, they called it; but what it really meant was that they no longer believed.

Michael believed longer than the other boys, though they jeered at him; so he was with Wendy when Peter came for her at the end of the first year. She flew away with Peter in the frock she had woven from leaves and berries in the Neverland, and her one fear was that he might notice how short it had become; but he never noticed, he had so much to say about himself.

She had looked forward to thrilling talks with him about old times, but new adventures had crowded the old ones from his mind.

“Who is Captain Hook?” he asked with interest when she spoke of the arch enemy.

“Don’t you remember,” she asked, amazed, “how you killed him and saved all our lives?”

“I forget them after I kill them,” he replied carelessly.

When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to see her he said, “Who is Tinker Bell?”

“O Peter,” she said, shocked; but even when she explained he could not remember.

“There are such a lot of them,” he said. “I expect she is no more.”

I expect he was right, for fairies don’t live long, but they are so little that a short time seems a good while to them.

Wendy was pained too to find that the past year was but as yesterday to Peter; it had seemed such a long year of waiting to her. But he was exactly as fascinating as ever, and they had a lovely spring cleaning in the little house on the tree tops.

Next year he did not come for her. She waited in a new frock because the old one simply would not meet; but he never came.

“Perhaps he is ill,” Michael said.

“You know he is never ill.”

Michael came close to her and whispered, with a shiver, “Perhaps there is no such person, Wendy!” and then Wendy would have cried if Michael had not been crying.

Peter came next spring cleaning; and the strange thing was that he never knew he had missed a year.

That was the last time the girl Wendy ever saw him. For a little longer she tried for his sake not to have growing pains; and she felt she was untrue to him when she got a prize for general knowledge. But the years came and went without bringing the careless boy; and when they met again Wendy was a married woman, and Peter was no more to her than a little dust in the box in which she had kept her toys. Wendy was grown up. You need not be sorry for her. She was one of the kind that likes to grow up. In the end she grew up of her own free will a day quicker than other girls.

All the boys were grown up and done for by this time; so it is scarcely worth while saying anything more about them. You may see the twins and Nibs and Curly any day going to an office, each carrying a little bag and an umbrella. Michael is an engine-driver. Slightly married a lady of title, and so he became a lord. You see that judge in a wig coming out at the iron door? That used to be Tootles. The bearded man who doesn’t know any story to tell his children was once John.

Wendy was married in white with a pink sash. It is strange to think that Peter did not alight in the church and forbid the banns.

Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter. This ought not to be written in ink but in a golden splash.

She was called Jane, and always had an odd inquiring look, as if from the moment she arrived on the mainland she wanted to ask questions. When she was old enough to ask them they were mostly about Peter Pan. She loved to hear of Peter, and Wendy told her all she could remember in the very nursery from which the famous flight had taken place. It was Jane’s nursery now, for her father had bought it at the three per cents. from Wendy’s father, who was no longer fond of stairs. Mrs. Darling was now dead and forgotten.

There were only two beds in the nursery now, Jane’s and her nurse’s; and there was no kennel, for Nana also had passed away. She died of old age, and at the end she had been rather difficult to get on with; being very firmly convinced that no one knew how to look after children except herself.

Once a week Jane’s nurse had her evening off; and then it was Wendy’s part to put Jane to bed. That was the time for stories. It was Jane’s invention to raise the sheet over her mother’s head and her own, thus making a tent, and in the awful darkness to whisper:

“What do we see now?”

“I don’t think I see anything to-night,” says Wendy, with a feeling that if Nana were here she would object to further conversation.

“Yes, you do,” says Jane, “you see when you were a little girl.”

“That is a long time ago, sweetheart,” says Wendy. “Ah me, how time flies!”

“Does it fly,” asks the artful child, “the way you flew when you were a little girl?”

“The way I flew? Do you know, Jane, I sometimes wonder whether I ever did really fly.”

“Yes, you did.”

“The dear old days when I could fly!”

“Why can’t you fly now, mother?”

“Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.”

“Why do they forget the way?”

“Because they are longer gay and innocent and heartless. It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.”

“What is gay and innocent and heartless? I do wish I were gay and innocent and heartless.”

Or perhaps Wendy admits she does see something.

“I do believe,” she says, “that it is this nursery.”

“I do believe it is,” says Jane. “Go on.”

They are now embarked on the great adventure of the night when Peter flew in looking for his shadow.

“The foolish fellow,” says Wendy, “tried to stick it on with soap, and when he could not he cried, and that woke me, and I sewed it on for him.”

“You have missed a bit,” interrupts Jane, who now knows the story better than her mother. “When you saw him sitting on the floor crying, what did you say?”

“I sat up in bed and I said, ‘Boy, why are you crying?’”

“Yes, that was it,” says Jane, with a big breath.

“And then he flew us all away to the Neverland and the fairies and the pirates and the redskins and the mermaid’s lagoon, and the home under the ground, and the little house.”

“Yes! which did you like best of all?”

“I think I liked the home under the ground best of all.”

“Yes, so do I. What was the last thing Peter ever said to you?”

“The last thing he ever said to me was, ‘Just always be waiting for me, and then some night you will hear me crowing.’”

“Yes,”

“But, alas, he forgot all about me.” Wendy said it with a smile. She was as grown up as that.

“What did his crow sound like?” Jane asked one evening.

“It was like this,” Wendy said, trying to imitate Peter’s crow.

“No, it wasn’t,” Jane said gravely, “it was like this”; and she did it ever so much better than her mother.

Wendy was a little startled. “My darling, how can you know?”

“I often hear it when I am sleeping,” Jane said.

“Ah yes, many girls hear it when they are sleeping, but I was the only one who heard it awake.”

“Lucky you,” said Jane.

And then one night came the tragedy. It was the spring of the year, and the story had been told for the night, and Jane was now asleep in her bed. Wendy was sitting on the floor, very close to the fire, so as to see to darn, for there was no other light in the nursery; and while she sat darning she heard a crow. Then the window blew open as of old, and Peter dropped in on the floor.

He was exactly the same as ever, and Wendy saw at once that he still had all his first teeth.

He was a little boy, and she was grown up. She huddled by the fire not daring to move, helpless and guilty, a big woman.

“Hullo, Wendy,” he said, not noticing any difference, for he was thinking chiefly of himself; and in the dim light her white dress might have been the nightgown in which he had seen her first.

“Hullo, Peter,” she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying “Woman, Woman, let go of me.”

“Hullo, where is John?” he asked, suddenly missing the third bed.

“John is not here now,” she gasped.

“Is Michael asleep?” he asked, with a careless glance at Jane.

“Yes,” she answered; and now she felt that she was untrue to Jane as well as to Peter.

“That is not Michael,” she said quickly, lest a judgment should fall on her.

Peter looked. “Hullo, is it a new one?”

“Yes.”

“Boy or girl?”

“Girl.”

Now surely he would understand; but not a bit of it.

“Peter,” she said, faltering, “are you expecting me to fly away with you?”

“Of course; that is why I have come.” He added a little sternly, “Have you forgotten that this is spring cleaning time?”

She knew it was useless to say that he had let many spring cleaning times pass.

“I can’t come,” she said apologetically, “I have forgotten how to fly.”

“I’ll soon teach you again.”

“O Peter, don’t waste the fairy dust on me.”

She had risen; and now at last a fear assailed him. “What is it?” he cried, shrinking.

“I will turn up the light,” she said, “and then you can see for yourself.”

For almost the only time in his life that I know of, Peter was afraid. “Don’t turn up the light,” he cried.

She let her hands play in the hair of the tragic boy. She was not a little girl heart-broken about him; she was a grown woman smiling at it all, but they were wet smiles.

Then she turned up the light, and Peter saw. He gave a cry of pain; and when the tall beautiful creature stooped to lift him in her arms he drew back sharply.

“What is it?” he cried again.

She had to tell him.

“I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up long ago.”

“You promised not to!”

“I couldn’t help it. I am a married woman, Peter.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, and the little girl in the bed is my baby.”

“No, she’s not.”

But he supposed she was; and he took a step towards the sleeping child with his dagger upraised. Of course he did not strike. He sat down on the floor instead and sobbed; and Wendy did not know how to comfort him, though she could have done it so easily once. She was only a woman now, and she ran out of the room to try to think.

Peter continued to cry, and soon his sobs woke Jane. She sat up in bed, and was interested at once.

“Boy,” she said, “why are you crying?”

Peter rose and bowed to her, and she bowed to him from the bed.

“Hullo,” he said.

“Hullo,” said Jane.

“My name is Peter Pan,” he told her.

“Yes, I know.”

“I came back for my mother,” he explained, “to take her to the Neverland.”

“Yes, I know,” Jane said, “I have been waiting for you.”

When Wendy returned diffidently she found Peter sitting on the bed-post crowing gloriously, while Jane in her nighty was flying round the room in solemn ecstasy.

“She is my mother,” Peter explained; and Jane descended and stood by his side, with the look in her face that he liked to see on ladies when they gazed at him.

“He does so need a mother,” Jane said.

“Yes, I know.” Wendy admitted rather forlornly; “no one knows it so well as I.”

“Good-bye,” said Peter to Wendy; and he rose in the air, and the shameless Jane rose with him; it was already her easiest way of moving about.

Wendy rushed to the window.

“No, no,” she cried.

“It is just for spring cleaning time,” Jane said, “he wants me always to do his spring cleaning.”

“If only I could go with you,” Wendy sighed.

“You see you can’t fly,” said Jane.

Of course in the end Wendy let them fly away together. Our last glimpse of her shows her at the window, watching them receding into the sky until they were as small as stars.

As you look at Wendy, you may see her hair becoming white, and her figure little again, for all this happened long ago. Jane is now a common grown-up, with a daughter called Margaret; and every spring cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.

The End

Margaret Ogilvy

How My Mother Got Her Soft Face

On the day I was born we bought six hair-bottomed chairs, and in our little house it was an event, the first great victory in a woman’s long campaign; how they had been laboured for, the pound- note and the thirty threepenny-bits they cost, what anxiety there was about the purchase, the show they made in possession of the west room, my father’s unnatural coolness when he brought them in (but his face was white) - I so often heard the tale afterwards, and shared as boy and man in so many similar triumphs, that the coming of the chairs seems to be something I remember, as if I had jumped out of bed on that first day, and run ben to see how they looked. I am sure my mother’s feet were ettling to be ben long before they could be trusted, and that the moment after she was left alone with me she was discovered barefooted in the west room, doctoring a scar (which she had been the first to detect) on one of the chairs, or sitting on them regally, or withdrawing and re- opening the door suddenly to take the six by surprise. And then, I think, a shawl was flung over her (it is strange to me to think it was not I who ran after her with the shawl), and she was escorted sternly back to bed and reminded that she had promised not to budge, to which her reply was probably that she had been gone but an instant, and the implication that therefore she had not been gone at all. Thus was one little bit of her revealed to me at once: I wonder if I took note of it. Neighbours came in to see the boy and the chairs. I wonder if she deceived me when she affected to think that there were others like us, or whether I saw through her from the first, she was so easily seen through. When she seemed to agree with them that it would be impossible to give me a college education, was I so easily taken in, or did I know already what ambitions burned behind that dear face? when they spoke of the chairs as the goal quickly reached, was I such a newcomer that her timid lips must say ‘They are but a beginning’ before I heard the words? And when we were left together, did I laugh at the great things that were in her mind, or had she to whisper them to me first, and then did I put my arm round her and tell her that I would help? Thus it was for such a long time: it is strange to me to feel that it was not so from the beginning.

It is all guess-work for six years, and she whom I see in them is the woman who came suddenly into view when they were at an end. Her timid lips I have said, but they were not timid then, and when I knew her the timid lips had come. The soft face - they say the face was not so soft then. The shawl that was flung over her - we had not begun to hunt her with a shawl, nor to make our bodies a screen between her and the draughts, nor to creep into her room a score of times in the night to stand looking at her as she slept. We did not see her becoming little then, nor sharply turn our heads when she said wonderingly how small her arms had grown. In her happiest moments - and never was a happier woman - her mouth did not of a sudden begin to twitch, and tears to lie on the mute blue eyes in which I have read all I know and would ever care to write. For when you looked into my mother’s eyes you knew, as if He had told you, why God sent her into the world - it was to open the minds of all who looked to beautiful thoughts. And that is the beginning and end of literature. Those eyes that I cannot see until I was six years old have guided me through life, and I pray God they may remain my only earthly judge to the last. They were never more my guide than when I helped to put her to earth, not whimpering because my mother had been taken away after seventy-six glorious years of life, but exulting in her even at the grave.

She had a son who was far away at school. I remember very little about him, only that he was a merry-faced boy who ran like a squirrel up a tree and shook the cherries into my lap. When he was thirteen and I was half his age the terrible news came, and I have been told the face of my mother was awful in its calmness as she set off to get between Death and her boy. We trooped with her down the brae to the wooden station, and I think I was envying her the journey in the mysterious wagons; I know we played around her, proud of our right to be there, but I do not recall it, I only speak from hearsay. Her ticket was taken, she had bidden us goodbye with that fighting face which I cannot see, and then my father came out of the telegraph-office and said huskily, ‘He’s gone!’ Then we turned very quietly and went home again up the little brae. But I speak from hearsay no longer; I knew my mother for ever now.

That is how she got her soft face and her pathetic ways and her large charity, and why other mothers ran to her when they had lost a child. ‘Dinna greet, poor Janet,’ she would say to them; and they would answer, ‘Ah, Margaret, but you’re greeting yoursel.’ Margaret Ogilvy had been her maiden name, and after the Scotch custom she was still Margaret Ogilvy to her old friends. Margaret Ogilvy I loved to name her. Often when I was a boy, ‘Margaret Ogilvy, are you there?’ I would call up the stair.

She was always delicate from that hour, and for many months she was very ill. I have heard that the first thing she expressed a wish to see was the christening robe, and she looked long at it and then turned her face to the wall. That was what made me as a boy think of it always as the robe in which he was christened, but I knew later that we had all been christened in it, from the oldest of the family to the youngest, between whom stood twenty years. Hundreds of other children were christened in it also, such robes being then a rare possession, and the lending of ours among my mother’s glories. It was carried carefully from house to house, as if it were itself a child; my mother made much of it, smoothed it out, petted it, smiled to it before putting it into the arms of those to whom it was being lent; she was in our pew to see it borne magnificently (something inside it now) down the aisle to the pulpit-side, when a stir of expectancy went through the church and we kicked each other’s feet beneath the book-board but were reverent in the face; and however the child might behave, laughing brazenly or skirling to its mother’s shame, and whatever the father as he held it up might do, look doited probably and bow at the wrong time, the christening robe of long experience helped them through. And when it was brought back to her she took it in her arms as softly as if it might be asleep, and unconsciously pressed it to her breast: there was never anything in the house that spoke to her quite so eloquently as that little white robe; it was the one of her children that always remained a baby. And she had not made it herself, which was the most wonderful thing about it to me, for she seemed to have made all other things. All the clothes in the house were of her making, and you don’t know her in the least if you think they were out of the fashion; she turned them and made them new again, she beat them and made them new again, and then she coaxed them into being new again just for the last time, she let them out and took them in and put on new braid, and added a piece up the back, and thus they passed from one member of the family to another until they reached the youngest, and even when we were done with them they reappeared as something else. In the fashion! I must come back to this. Never was a woman with such an eye for it. She had no fashion-plates; she did not need them. The minister’s wife (a cloak), the banker’s daughters (the new sleeve) - they had but to pass our window once, and the scalp, so to speak, was in my mother’s hands. Observe her rushing, scissors in hand, thread in mouth, to the drawers where her daughters’ Sabbath clothes were kept. Or go to church next Sunday, and watch a certain family filing in, the boy lifting his legs high to show off his new boots, but all the others demure, especially the timid, unobservant- looking little woman in the rear of them. If you were the minister’s wife that day or the banker’s daughters you would have got a shock. But she bought the christening robe, and when I used to ask why, she would beam and look conscious, and say she wanted to be extravagant once. And she told me, still smiling, that the more a woman was given to stitching and making things for herself, the greater was her passionate desire now and again to rush to the shops and ‘be foolish.’ The christening robe with its pathetic frills is over half a century old now, and has begun to droop a little, like a daisy whose time is past; but it is as fondly kept together as ever: I saw it in use again only the other day.

My mother lay in bed with the christening robe beside her, and I peeped in many times at the door and then went to the stair and sat on it and sobbed. I know not if it was that first day, or many days afterwards, that there came to me, my sister, the daughter my mother loved the best; yes, more I am sure even than she loved me, whose great glory she has been since I was six years old. This sister, who was then passing out of her ‘teens, came to me with a very anxious face and wringing her hands, and she told me to go ben to my mother and say to her that she still had another boy. I went ben excitedly, but the room was dark, and when I heard the door shut and no sound come from the bed I was afraid, and I stood still. I suppose I was breathing hard, or perhaps I was crying, for after a time I heard a listless voice that had never been listless before say, ‘Is that you?’ I think the tone hurt me, for I made no answer, and then the voice said more anxiously ‘Is that you?’ again. I thought it was the dead boy she was speaking to, and I said in a little lonely voice, ‘No, it’s no him, it’s just me.’ Then I heard a cry, and my mother turned in bed, and though it was dark I knew that she was holding out her arms.

After that I sat a great deal in her bed trying to make her forget him, which was my crafty way of playing physician, and if I saw any one out of doors do something that made the others laugh I immediately hastened to that dark room and did it before her. I suppose I was an odd little figure; I have been told that my anxiety to brighten her gave my face a strained look and put a tremor into the joke (I would stand on my head in the bed, my feet against the wall, and then cry excitedly, ‘Are you laughing, mother?’) - and perhaps what made her laugh was something I was unconscious of, but she did laugh suddenly now and then, whereupon I screamed exultantly to that dear sister, who was ever in waiting, to come and see the sight, but by the time she came the soft face was wet again. Thus I was deprived of some of my glory, and I remember once only making her laugh before witnesses. I kept a record of her laughs on a piece of paper, a stroke for each, and it was my custom to show this proudly to the doctor every morning. There were five strokes the first time I slipped it into his hand, and when their meaning was explained to him he laughed so boisterously, that I cried, ‘I wish that was one of hers!’ Then he was sympathetic, and asked me if my mother had seen the paper yet, and when I shook my head he said that if I showed it to her now and told her that these were her five laughs he thought I might win another. I had less confidence, but he was the mysterious man whom you ran for in the dead of night (you flung sand at his window to waken him, and if it was only toothache he extracted the tooth through the open window, but when it was something sterner he was with you in the dark square at once, like a man who slept in his topcoat), so I did as he bade me, and not only did she laugh then but again when I put the laugh down, so that though it was really one laugh with a tear in the middle I counted it as two.

It was doubtless that same sister who told me not to sulk when my mother lay thinking of him, but to try instead to get her to talk about him. I did not see how this could make her the merry mother she used to be, but I was told that if I could not do it nobody could, and this made me eager to begin. At first, they say, I was often jealous, stopping her fond memories with the cry, ‘Do you mind nothing about me?’ but that did not last; its place was taken by an intense desire (again, I think, my sister must have breathed it into life) to become so like him that even my mother should not see the difference, and many and artful were the questions I put to that end. Then I practised in secret, but after a whole week had passed I was still rather like myself. He had such a cheery way of whistling, she had told me, it had always brightened her at her work to hear him whistling, and when he whistled he stood with his legs apart, and his hands in the pockets of his knickerbockers. I decided to trust to this, so one day after I had learned his whistle (every boy of enterprise invents a whistle of his own) from boys who had been his comrades, I secretly put on a suit of his clothes, dark grey they were, with little spots, and they fitted me many years afterwards, and thus disguised I slipped, unknown to the others, into my mother’s room. Quaking, I doubt not, yet so pleased, I stood still until she saw me, and then - how it must have hurt her! ‘Listen!’ I cried in a glow of triumph, and I stretched my legs wide apart and plunged my hands into the pockets of my knickerbockers, and began to whistle.

She lived twenty-nine years after his death, such active years until toward the end, that you never knew where she was unless you took hold of her, and though she was frail henceforth and ever growing frailer, her housekeeping again became famous, so that brides called as a matter of course to watch her ca’ming and sanding and stitching: there are old people still, one or two, to tell with wonder in their eyes how she could bake twenty-four bannocks in the hour, and not a chip in one of them. And how many she gave away, how much she gave away of all she had, and what pretty ways she had of giving it! Her face beamed and rippled with mirth as before, and her laugh that I had tried so hard to force came running home again. I have heard no such laugh as hers save from merry children; the laughter of most of us ages, and wears out with the body, but hers remained gleeful to the last, as if it were born afresh every morning. There was always something of the child in her, and her laugh was its voice, as eloquent of the past to me as was the christening robe to her. But I had not made her forget the bit of her that was dead; in those nine-and-twenty years he was not removed one day farther from her. Many a time she fell asleep speaking to him, and even while she slept her lips moved and she smiled as if he had come back to her, and when she woke he might vanish so suddenly that she started up bewildered and looked about her, and then said slowly, ‘My David’s dead!’ or perhaps he remained long enough to whisper why he must leave her now, and then she lay silent with filmy eyes. When I became a man and he was still a boy of thirteen, I wrote a little paper called ‘Dead this Twenty Years,’ which was about a similar tragedy in another woman’s life, and it is the only thing I have written that she never spoke about, not even to that daughter she loved the best. No one ever spoke of it to her, or asked her if she had read it: one does not ask a mother if she knows that there is a little coffin in the house. She read many times the book in which it is printed, but when she came to that chapter she would put her hands to her heart or even over her ears.

What She Had Been

What she had been, what I should be, these were the two great subjects between us in my boyhood, and while we discussed the one we were deciding the other, though neither of us knew it.

Before I reached my tenth year a giant entered my native place in the night, and we woke to find him in possession. He transformed it into a new town at a rate with which we boys only could keep up, for as fast as he built dams we made rafts to sail in them; he knocked down houses, and there we were crying ‘Pilly!’ among the ruins; he dug trenches, and we jumped them; we had to be dragged by the legs from beneath his engines, he sunk wells, and in we went. But though there were never circumstances to which boys could not adapt themselves in half an hour, older folk are slower in the uptake, and I am sure they stood and gaped at the changes so suddenly being worked in our midst, and scarce knew their way home now in the dark. Where had been formerly but the click of the shuttle was soon the roar of ‘power,’ handlooms were pushed into a corner as a room is cleared for a dance; every morning at half-past five the town was wakened with a yell, and from a chimney-stack that rose high into our caller air the conqueror waved for evermore his flag of smoke. Another era had dawned, new customs, new fashions sprang into life, all as lusty as if they had been born at twenty-one; as quickly as two people may exchange seats, the daughter, till now but a knitter of stockings, became the breadwinner, he who had been the breadwinner sat down to the knitting of stockings: what had been yesterday a nest of weavers was to-day a town of girls.

I am not of those who would fling stones at the change; it is something, surely, that backs are no longer prematurely bent; you may no more look through dim panes of glass at the aged poor weaving tremulously for their little bit of ground in the cemetery. Rather are their working years too few now, not because they will it so but because it is with youth that the power-looms must be fed. Well, this teaches them to make provision, and they have the means as they never had before. Not in batches are boys now sent to college; the half-dozen a year have dwindled to one, doubtless because in these days they can begin to draw wages as they step out of their fourteenth year. Here assuredly there is loss, but all the losses would be but a pebble in a sea of gain were it not for this, that with so many of the family, young mothers among them, working in the factories, home life is not so beautiful as it was. So much of what is great in Scotland has sprung from the closeness of the family ties; it is there I sometimes fear that my country is being struck. That we are all being reduced to one dead level, that character abounds no more and life itself is less interesting, such things I have read, but I do not believe them. I have even seen them given as my reason for writing of a past time, and in that at least there is no truth. In our little town, which is a sample of many, life is as interesting, as pathetic, as joyous as ever it was; no group of weavers was better to look at or think about than the rivulet of winsome girls that overruns our streets every time the sluice is raised, the comedy of summer evenings and winter firesides is played with the old zest and every window-blind is the curtain of a romance. Once the lights of a little town are lit, who could ever hope to tell all its story, or the story of a single wynd in it? And who looking at lighted windows needs to turn to books? The reason my books deal with the past instead of with the life I myself have known is simply this, that I soon grow tired of writing tales unless I can see a little girl, of whom my mother has told me, wandering confidently through the pages. Such a grip has her memory of her girlhood had upon me since I was a boy of six.

Those innumerable talks with her made her youth as vivid to me as my own, and so much more quaint, for, to a child, the oddest of things, and the most richly coloured picture-book, is that his mother was once a child also, and the contrast between what she is and what she was is perhaps the source of all humour. My mother’s father, the one hero of her life, died nine years before I was born, and I remember this with bewilderment, so familiarly does the weather-beaten mason’s figure rise before me from the old chair on which I was nursed and now write my books. On the surface he is as hard as the stone on which he chiselled, and his face is dyed red by its dust, he is rounded in the shoulders and a ‘hoast’ hunts him ever; sooner or later that cough must carry him off, but until then it shall not keep him from the quarry, nor shall his chapped hands, as long as they can grasp the mell. It is a night of rain or snow, and my mother, the little girl in a pinafore who is already his housekeeper, has been many times to the door to look for him. At last he draws nigh, hoasting. Or I see him setting off to church, for he was a great ‘stoop’ of the Auld Licht kirk, and his mouth is very firm now as if there were a case of discipline to face, but on his way home he is bowed with pity. Perhaps his little daughter who saw him so stern an hour ago does not understand why he wrestles so long in prayer to-night, or why when he rises from his knees he presses her to him with unwonted tenderness. Or he is in this chair repeating to her his favourite poem, ‘The Cameronian’s Dream,’ and at the first lines so solemnly uttered,

‘In a dream of the night I was wafted away,’

she screams with excitement, just as I screamed long afterwards when she repeated them in his voice to me. Or I watch, as from a window, while she sets off through the long parks to the distant place where he is at work, in her hand a flagon which contains his dinner. She is singing to herself and gleefully swinging the flagon, she jumps the burn and proudly measures the jump with her eye, but she never dallies unless she meets a baby, for she was so fond of babies that she must hug each one she met, but while she hugged them she also noted how their robes were cut, and afterwards made paper patterns, which she concealed jealously, and in the fulness of time her first robe for her eldest born was fashioned from one of these patterns, made when she was in her twelfth year.

She was eight when her mother’s death made her mistress of the house and mother to her little brother, and from that time she scrubbed and mended and baked and sewed, and argued with the flesher about the quarter pound of beef and penny bone which provided dinner for two days (but if you think that this was poverty you don’t know the meaning of the word), and she carried the water from the pump, and had her washing-days and her ironings and a stocking always on the wire for odd moments, and gossiped like a matron with the other women, and humoured the men with a tolerant smile - all these things she did as a matter of course, leaping joyful from bed in the morning because there was so much to do, doing it as thoroughly and sedately as if the brides were already due for a lesson, and then rushing out in a fit of childishness to play dumps or palaulays with others of her age. I see her frocks lengthening, though they were never very short, and the games given reluctantly up. The horror of my boyhood was that I knew a time would come when I also must give up the games, and how it was to be done I saw not (this agony still returns to me in dreams, when I catch myself playing marbles, and look on with cold displeasure); I felt that I must continue playing in secret, and I took this shadow to her, when she told me her own experience, which convinced us both that we were very like each other inside. She had discovered that work is the best fun after all, and I learned it in time, but have my lapses, and so had she.

I know what was her favourite costume when she was at the age that they make heroines of: it was a pale blue with a pale blue bonnet, the white ribbons of which tied aggravatingly beneath the chin, and when questioned about this garb she never admitted that she looked pretty in it, but she did say, with blushes too, that blue was her colour, and then she might smile, as at some memory, and begin to tell us about a man who - but it ended there with another smile which was longer in departing. She never said, indeed she denied strenuously, that she had led the men a dance, but again the smile returned, and came between us and full belief. Yes, she had her little vanities; when she got the Mizpah ring she did carry that finger in such a way that the most reluctant must see. She was very particular about her gloves, and hid her boots so that no other should put them on, and then she forgot their hiding-place, and had suspicions of the one who found them. A good way of enraging her was to say that her last year’s bonnet would do for this year without alteration, or that it would defy the face of clay to count the number of her shawls. In one of my books there is a mother who is setting off with her son for the town to which he had been called as minister, and she pauses on the threshold to ask him anxiously if he thinks her bonnet ‘sets’ her. A reviewer said she acted thus, not because she cared how she looked, but for the sake of her son. This, I remember, amused my mother very much.

I have seen many weary on-dings of snow, but the one I seem to recollect best occurred nearly twenty years before I was born. It was at the time of my mother’s marriage to one who proved a most loving as he was always a well-loved husband, a man I am very proud to be able to call my father. I know not for how many days the snow had been falling, but a day came when the people lost heart and would make no more gullies through it, and by next morning to do so was impossible, they could not fling the snow high enough. Its back was against every door when Sunday came, and none ventured out save a valiant few, who buffeted their way into my mother’s home to discuss her predicament, for unless she was ‘cried’ in the church that day she might not be married for another week, and how could she be cried with the minister a field away and the church buried to the waist? For hours they talked, and at last some men started for the church, which was several hundred yards distant. Three of them found a window, and forcing a passage through it, cried the pair, and that is how it came about that my father and mother were married on the first of March.

That would be the end, I suppose, if it were a story, but to my mother it was only another beginning, and not the last. I see her bending over the cradle of her first-born, college for him already in her eye (and my father not less ambitious), and anon it is a girl who is in the cradle, and then another girl - already a tragic figure to those who know the end. I wonder if any instinct told my mother that the great day of her life was when she bore this child; what I am sure of is that from the first the child followed her with the most wistful eyes and saw how she needed help and longed to rise and give it. For of physical strength my mother had never very much; it was her spirit that got through the work, and in those days she was often so ill that the sand rained on the doctor’s window, and men ran to and fro with leeches, and ‘she is in life, we can say no more’ was the information for those who came knocking at the door. ‘I am sorrow to say,’ her father writes in an old letter now before me, ‘that Margaret is in a state that she was never so bad before in this world. Till Wednesday night she was in as poor a condition as you could think of to be alive. However, after bleeding, leeching, etc., the Dr. says this morning that he is better hoped now, but at present we can say no more but only she is alive and in the hands of Him in whose hands all our lives are. I can give you no adequate view of what my feelings are, indeed they are a burden too heavy for me and I cannot describe them. I look on my right and left hand and find no comfort, and if it were not for the rock that is higher than I my spirit would utterly fall, but blessed be His name who can comfort those that are cast down. O for more faith in His supporting grace in this hour of trial.’

Then she is ‘on the mend,’ she may ‘thole thro’’ if they take great care of her, ‘which we will be forward to do.’ The fourth child dies when but a few weeks old, and the next at two years. She was her grandfather’s companion, and thus he wrote of her death, this stern, self-educated Auld Licht with the chapped hands:-

‘I hope you received my last in which I spoke of Dear little Lydia being unwell. Now with deep sorrow I must tell you that yesterday I assisted in laying her dear remains in the lonely grave. She died at 7 o’clock on Wednesday evening, I suppose by the time you had got the letter. The Dr. did not think it was croup till late on Tuesday night, and all that Medical aid could prescribe was done, but the Dr. had no hope after he saw that the croup was confirmed, and hard indeed would the heart have been that would not have melted at seeing what the dear little creature suffered all Wednesday until the feeble frame was quite worn out. She was quite sensible till within 2 hours of her death, and then she sunk quite low till the vital spark fled, and all medicine that she got she took with the greatest readiness, as if apprehensive they would make her well. I cannot well describe my feelings on the occasion. I thought that the fountain-head of my tears had now been dried up, but I have been mistaken, for I must confess that the briny rivulets descended fast on my furrowed cheeks, she was such a winning Child, and had such a regard for me and always came and told me all her little things, and as she was now speaking, some of her little prattle was very taking, and the lively images of these things intrude themselves more into my mind than they should do, but there is allowance for moderate grief on such occasions. But when I am telling you of my own grief and sorrow, I know not what to say of the bereaved Mother, she hath not met with anything in this world before that hath gone so near the quick with her. She had no handling of the last one as she was not able at the time, for she only had her once in her arms, and her affections had not time to be so fairly entwined around her. I am much afraid that she will not soon if ever get over this trial. Although she was weakly before, yet she was pretty well recovered, but this hath not only affected her mind, but her body is so much affected that she is not well able to sit so long as her bed is making and hath scarcely tasted meat [i.e. food] since Monday night, and till some time is elapsed we cannot say how she may be. There is none that is not a Parent themselves that can fully sympathise with one in such a state. David is much affected also, but it is not so well known on him, and the younger branches of the family are affected but it will be only momentary. But alas in all this vast ado, there is only the sorrow of the world which worketh death. O how gladdening would it be if we were in as great bitterness for sin as for the loss of a first-born. O how unfitted persons or families is for trials who knows not the divine art of casting all their cares upon the Lord, and what multitudes are there that when earthly comforts is taken away, may well say What have I more? all their delight is placed in some one thing or another in the world, and who can blame them for unwillingly parting with what they esteem their chief good? O that we were wise to lay up treasure for the time of need, for it is truly a solemn affair to enter the lists with the king of terrors. It is strange that the living lay the things so little to heart until they have to engage in that war where there is no discharge. O that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for my own and others’ stupidity in this great matter. O for grace to do every day work in its proper time and to live above the tempting cheating train of earthly things. The rest of the family are moderately well. I have been for some days worse than I have been for 8 months past, but I may soon get better. I am in the same way I have often been in before, but there is no security for it always being so, for I know that it cannot be far from the time when I will be one of those that once were. I have no other news to send you, and as little heart for them. I hope you will take the earliest opportunity of writing that you can, and be particular as regards Margaret, for she requires consolation.’

He died exactly a week after writing this letter, but my mother was to live for another forty-four years. And joys of a kind never shared in by him were to come to her so abundantly, so long drawn out that, strange as it would have seemed to him to know it, her fuller life had scarce yet begun. And with the joys were to come their sweet, frightened comrades pain and grief; again she was to be touched to the quick, again and again to be so ill that ‘she is in life, we can say no more,’ but still she had attendants very ‘forward’ to help her, some of them unborn in her father’s time.

She told me everything, and so my memories of our little red town are coloured by her memories. I knew it as it had been for generations, and suddenly I saw it change, and the transformation could not fail to strike a boy, for these first years are the most impressionable (nothing that happens after we are twelve matters very much); they are also the most vivid years when we look back, and more vivid the farther we have to look, until, at the end, what lies between bends like a hoop, and the extremes meet. But though the new town is to me a glass through which I look at the old, the people I see passing up and down these wynds, sitting, nightcapped, on their barrow-shafts, hobbling in their blacks to church on Sunday, are less those I saw in my childhood than their fathers and mothers who did these things in the same way when my mother was young. I cannot picture the place without seeing her, as a little girl, come to the door of a certain house and beat her bass against the gav’le-end, or there is a wedding to-night, and the carriage with the white-eared horse is sent for a maiden in pale blue, whose bonnet-strings tie beneath the chin.

What I Should Be

My mother was a great reader, and with ten minutes to spare before the starch was ready would begin the ‘Decline and Fall’ - and finish it, too, that winter. Foreign words in the text annoyed her and made her bemoan her want of a classical education - she had only attended a Dame’s school during some easy months - but she never passed the foreign words by until their meaning was explained to her, and when next she and they met it was as acquaintances, which I think was clever of her. One of her delights was to learn from me scraps of Horace, and then bring them into her conversation with ‘colleged men.’ I have come upon her in lonely places, such as the stair-head or the east room, muttering these quotations aloud to herself, and I well remember how she would say to the visitors, ‘Ay, ay, it’s very true, Doctor, but as you know, “Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, labuntur anni,”‘ or ‘Sal, Mr. So-and-so, my lassie is thriving well, but would it no’ be more to the point to say, “O matra pulchra filia pulchrior”?’ which astounded them very much if she managed to reach the end without being flung, but usually she had a fit of laughing in the middle, and so they found her out.

Biography and exploration were her favourite reading, for choice the biography of men who had been good to their mothers, and she liked the explorers to be alive so that she could shudder at the thought of their venturing forth again; but though she expressed a hope that they would have the sense to stay at home henceforth, she gleamed with admiration when they disappointed her. In later days I had a friend who was an African explorer, and she was in two minds about him; he was one of the most engrossing of mortals to her, she admired him prodigiously, pictured him at the head of his caravan, now attacked by savages, now by wild beasts, and adored him for the uneasy hours he gave her, but she was also afraid that he wanted to take me with him, and then she thought he should be put down by law. Explorers’ mothers also interested her very much; the books might tell her nothing about them, but she could create them for herself and wring her hands in sympathy with them when they had got no news of him for six months. Yet there were times when she grudged him to them - as the day when he returned victorious. Then what was before her eyes was not the son coming marching home again but an old woman peering for him round the window curtain and trying not to look uplifted. The newspaper reports would be about the son, but my mother’s comment was ‘She’s a proud woman this night.’

We read many books together when I was a boy, ‘Robinson Crusoe’ being the first (and the second), and the ‘Arabian Nights’ should have been the next, for we got it out of the library (a penny for three days), but on discovering that they were nights when we had paid for knights we sent that volume packing, and I have curled my lips at it ever since. ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ we had in the house (it was as common a possession as a dresser-head), and so enamoured of it was I that I turned our garden into sloughs of Despond, with pea-sticks to represent Christian on his travels and a buffet-stool for his burden, but when I dragged my mother out to see my handiwork she was scared, and I felt for days, with a certain elation, that I had been a dark character. Besides reading every book we could hire or borrow I also bought one now and again, and while buying (it was the occupation of weeks) I read, standing at the counter, most of the other books in the shop, which is perhaps the most exquisite way of reading. And I took in a magazine called ‘Sunshine,’ the most delicious periodical, I am sure, of any day. It cost a halfpenny or a penny a month, and always, as I fondly remember, had a continued tale about the dearest girl, who sold water-cress, which is a dainty not grown and I suppose never seen in my native town. This romantic little creature took such hold of my imagination that I cannot eat water- cress even now without emotion. I lay in bed wondering what she would be up to in the next number; I have lost trout because when they nibbled my mind was wandering with her; my early life was embittered by her not arriving regularly on the first of the month. I know not whether it was owing to her loitering on the way one month to an extent flesh and blood could not bear, or because we had exhausted the penny library, but on a day I conceived a glorious idea, or it was put into my head by my mother, then desirous of making progress with her new clouty hearthrug. The notion was nothing short of this, why should I not write the tales myself? I did write them - in the garret - but they by no means helped her to get on with her work, for when I finished a chapter I bounded downstairs to read it to her, and so short were the chapters, so ready was the pen, that I was back with new manuscript before another clout had been added to the rug. Authorship seemed, like her bannock-baking, to consist of running between two points. They were all tales of adventure (happiest is he who writes of adventure), no characters were allowed within if I knew their like in the flesh, the scene lay in unknown parts, desert islands, enchanted gardens, with knights (none of your nights) on black chargers, and round the first corner a lady selling water-cress.

At twelve or thereabout I put the literary calling to bed for a time, having gone to a school where cricket and football were more esteemed, but during the year before I went to the university, it woke up and I wrote great part of a three-volume novel. The publisher replied that the sum for which he would print it was a hundred and - however, that was not the important point (I had sixpence): where he stabbed us both was in writing that he considered me a ‘clever lady.’ I replied stiffly that I was a gentleman, and since then I have kept that manuscript concealed. I looked through it lately, and, oh, but it is dull! I defy any one to read it.

The malignancy of publishers, however, could not turn me back. From the day on which I first tasted blood in the garret my mind was made up; there could be no hum-dreadful-drum profession for me; literature was my game. It was not highly thought of by those who wished me well. I remember being asked by two maiden ladies, about the time I left the university, what I was to be, and when I replied brazenly, ‘An author,’ they flung up their hands, and one exclaimed reproachfully, ‘And you an M.A.!’ My mother’s views at first were not dissimilar; for long she took mine jestingly as something I would grow out of, and afterwards they hurt her so that I tried to give them up. To be a minister - that she thought was among the fairest prospects, but she was a very ambitious woman, and sometimes she would add, half scared at her appetite, that there were ministers who had become professors, ‘but it was not canny to think of such things.’

I had one person only on my side, an old tailor, one of the fullest men I have known, and quite the best talker. He was a bachelor (he told me all that is to be known about woman), a lean man, pallid of face, his legs drawn up when he walked as if he was ever carrying something in his lap; his walks were of the shortest, from the tea- pot on the hob to the board on which he stitched, from the board to the hob, and so to bed. He might have gone out had the idea struck him, but in the years I knew him, the last of his brave life, I think he was only in the open twice, when he ‘flitted’ - changed his room for another hard by. I did not see him make these journeys, but I seem to see him now, and he is somewhat dizzy in the odd atmosphere; in one hand he carries a box-iron, he raises the other, wondering what this is on his head, it is a hat; a faint smell of singed cloth goes by with him. This man had heard of my set of photographs of the poets and asked for a sight of them, which led to our first meeting. I remember how he spread them out on his board, and after looking long at them, turned his gaze on me and said solemnly,

What can I do to be for ever known,
And make the age to come my own?

These lines of Cowley were new to me, but the sentiment was not new, and I marvelled how the old tailor could see through me so well. So it was strange to me to discover presently that he had not been thinking of me at all, but of his own young days, when that couplet sang in his head, and he, too, had thirsted to set off for Grub Street, but was afraid, and while he hesitated old age came, and then Death, and found him grasping a box-iron.

I hurried home with the mouthful, but neighbours had dropped in, and this was for her ears only, so I drew her to the stair, and said imperiously,

What can I do to be for ever known,
And make the age to come my own?

It was an odd request for which to draw her from a tea-table, and she must have been surprised, but I think she did not laugh, and in after years she would repeat the lines fondly, with a flush on her soft face. ‘That is the kind you would like to be yourself!’ we would say in jest to her, and she would reply almost passionately, ‘No, but I would be windy of being his mother.’ It is possible that she could have been his mother had that other son lived, he might have managed it from sheer love of her, but for my part I can smile at one of those two figures on the stair now, having long given up the dream of being for ever known, and seeing myself more akin to my friend, the tailor, for as he was found at the end on his board, so I hope shall I be found at my handloom, doing honestly the work that suits me best. Who should know so well as I that it is but a handloom compared to the great guns that reverberate through the age to come? But she who stood with me on the stair that day was a very simple woman, accustomed all her life to making the most of small things, and I weaved sufficiently well to please her, which has been my only steadfast ambition since I was a little boy.

Not less than mine became her desire that I should have my way - but, ah, the iron seats in that park of horrible repute, and that bare room at the top of many flights of stairs! While I was away at college she drained all available libraries for books about those who go to London to live by the pen, and they all told the same shuddering tale. London, which she never saw, was to her a monster that licked up country youths as they stepped from the train; there were the garrets in which they sat abject, and the park seats where they passed the night. Those park seats were the monster’s glaring eyes to her, and as I go by them now she is nearer to me than when I am in any other part of London. I daresay that when night comes, this Hyde Park which is so gay by day, is haunted by the ghosts of many mothers, who run, wild-eyed, from seat to seat, looking for their sons.

But if we could dodge those dreary seats she longed to see me try my luck, and I sought to exclude them from the picture by drawing maps of London with Hyde Park left out. London was as strange to me as to her, but long before I was shot upon it I knew it by maps, and drew them more accurately than I could draw them now. Many a time she and I took our jaunt together through the map, and were most gleeful, popping into telegraph offices to wire my father and sister that we should not be home till late, winking to my books in lordly shop-windows, lunching at restaurants (and remembering not to call it dinner), saying, ‘How do?’ to Mr. Alfred Tennyson when we passed him in Regent Street, calling at publishers’ offices for cheque, when ‘Will you take care of it, or shall I?’ I asked gaily, and she would be certain to reply, ‘I’m thinking we’d better take it to the bank and get the money,’ for she always felt surer of money than of cheques; so to the bank we went (’Two tens, and the rest in gold’), and thence straightway (by cab) to the place where you buy sealskin coats for middling old ladies. But ere the laugh was done the park would come through the map like a blot.

‘If you could only be sure of as much as would keep body and soul together,’ my mother would say with a sigh.

‘With something over, mother, to send to you.’

‘You couldna expect that at the start.’

The wench I should have been courting now was journalism, that grisette of literature who has a smile and a hand for all beginners, welcoming them at the threshold, teaching them so much that is worth knowing, introducing them to the other lady whom they have worshipped from afar, showing them even how to woo her, and then bidding them a bright God-speed - he were an ingrate who, having had her joyous companionship, no longer flings her a kiss as they pass. But though she bears no ill-will when she is jilted, you must serve faithfully while you are hers, and you must seek her out and make much of her, and, until you can rely on her good- nature (note this), not a word about the other lady. When at last she took me in I grew so fond of her that I called her by the other’s name, and even now I think at times that there was more fun in the little sister, but I began by wooing her with contributions that were all misfits. In an old book I find columns of notes about works projected at this time, nearly all to consist of essays on deeply uninteresting subjects; the lightest was to be a volume on the older satirists, beginning with Skelton and Tom Nash - the half of that manuscript still lies in a dusty chest - the only story was about Mary Queen of Scots, who was also the subject of many unwritten papers. Queen Mary seems to have been luring me to my undoing ever since I saw Holyrood, and I have a horrid fear that I may write that novel yet. That anything could be written about my native place never struck me. We had read somewhere that a novelist is better equipped than most of his trade if he knows himself and one woman, and my mother said, ‘You know yourself, for everybody must know himself’ (there never was a woman who knew less about herself than she), and she would add dolefully, ‘But I doubt I’m the only woman you know well.’

‘Then I must make you my heroine,’ I said lightly.

‘A gey auld-farrant-like heroine!’ she said, and we both laughed at the notion - so little did we read the future.

Thus it is obvious what were my qualifications when I was rashly engaged as a leader-writer (it was my sister who saw the advertisement) on an English provincial paper. At the moment I was as uplifted as the others, for the chance had come at last, with what we all regarded as a prodigious salary, but I was wanted in the beginning of the week, and it suddenly struck me that the leaders were the one thing I had always skipped. Leaders! How were they written? what were they about? My mother was already sitting triumphant among my socks, and I durst not let her see me quaking. I retired to ponder, and presently she came to me with the daily paper. Which were the leaders? she wanted to know, so evidently I could get no help from her. Had she any more newspapers? I asked, and after rummaging, she produced a few with which her boxes had been lined. Others, very dusty, came from beneath carpets, and lastly a sooty bundle was dragged down the chimney. Surrounded by these I sat down, and studied how to become a journalist.

An Editor

A devout lady, to whom some friend had presented one of my books, used to say when asked how she was getting on with it, ‘Sal, it’s dreary, weary, uphill work, but I’ve wrastled through with tougher jobs in my time, and, please God, I’ll wrastle through with this one.’ It was in this spirit, I fear, though she never told me so, that my mother wrestled for the next year or more with my leaders, and indeed I was always genuinely sorry for the people I saw reading them. In my spare hours I was trying journalism of another kind and sending it to London, but nearly eighteen months elapsed before there came to me, as unlooked for as a telegram, the thought that there was something quaint about my native place. A boy who found that a knife had been put into his pocket in the night could not have been more surprised. A few days afterwards I sent my mother a London evening paper with an article entitled ‘An Auld Licht Community,’ and they told me that when she saw the heading she laughed, because there was something droll to her in the sight of the words Auld Licht in print. For her, as for me, that newspaper was soon to have the face of a friend. To this day I never pass its placards in the street without shaking it by the hand, and she used to sew its pages together as lovingly as though they were a child’s frock; but let the truth be told, when she read that first article she became alarmed, and fearing the talk of the town, hid the paper from all eyes. For some time afterwards, while I proudly pictured her showing this and similar articles to all who felt an interest in me, she was really concealing them fearfully in a bandbox on the garret stair. And she wanted to know by return of post whether I was paid for these articles as much as I was paid for real articles; when she heard that I was paid better, she laughed again and had them out of the bandbox for re-reading, and it cannot be denied that she thought the London editor a fine fellow but slightly soft.

When I sent off that first sketch I thought I had exhausted the subject, but our editor wrote that he would like something more of the same, so I sent him a marriage, and he took it, and then I tried him with a funeral, and he took it, and really it began to look as if we had him. Now my mother might have been discovered, in answer to certain excited letters, flinging the bundle of undarned socks from her lap, and ‘going in for literature’; she was racking her brains, by request, for memories I might convert into articles, and they came to me in letters which she dictated to my sisters. How well I could hear her sayings between the lines: ‘But the editor-man will never stand that, it’s perfect blethers’ - ‘By this post it must go, I tell you; we must take the editor when he’s hungry - we canna be blamed for it, can we? he prints them of his free will, so the wite is his’ - ‘But I’m near terrified. - If London folk reads them we’re done for.’ And I was sounded as to the advisability of sending him a present of a lippie of shortbread, which was to be her crafty way of getting round him. By this time, though my mother and I were hundreds of miles apart, you may picture us waving our hands to each other across country, and shouting ‘Hurrah!’ You may also picture the editor in his office thinking he was behaving like a shrewd man of business, and unconscious that up in the north there was an elderly lady chuckling so much at him that she could scarcely scrape the potatoes.

I was now able to see my mother again, and the park seats no longer loomed so prominent in our map of London. Still, there they were, and it was with an effort that she summoned up courage to let me go. She feared changes, and who could tell that the editor would continue to be kind? Perhaps when he saw me -

She seemed to be very much afraid of his seeing me, and this, I would point out, was a reflection on my appearance or my manner.

No, what she meant was that I looked so young, and - and that would take him aback, for had I not written as an aged man?

‘But he knows my age, mother.’

‘I’m glad of that, but maybe he wouldna like you when he saw you.’

‘Oh, it is my manner, then!’

‘I dinna say that, but - ’

Here my sister would break in: ‘The short and the long of it is just this, she thinks nobody has such manners as herself. Can you deny it, you vain woman?’ My mother would deny it vigorously.

‘You stand there,’ my sister would say with affected scorn, ‘and tell me you don’t think you could get the better of that man quicker than any of us?’

‘Sal, I’m thinking I could manage him,’ says my mother, with a chuckle.

‘How would you set about it?’

Then my mother would begin to laugh. ‘I would find out first if he had a family, and then I would say they were the finest family in London.’

‘Yes, that is just what you would do, you cunning woman! But if he has no family?’

‘I would say what great men editors are!’

‘He would see through you.’

‘Not he!’

‘You don’t understand that what imposes on common folk would never hoodwink an editor.’

‘That’s where you are wrong. Gentle or simple, stupid or clever, the men are all alike in the hands of a woman that flatters them.’

‘Ah, I’m sure there are better ways of getting round an editor than that.’

‘I daresay there are,’ my mother would say with conviction, ‘but if you try that plan you will never need to try another.’

‘How artful you are, mother - you with your soft face! Do you not think shame?’

‘Pooh!’ says my mother brazenly.

‘I can see the reason why you are so popular with men.’

‘Ay, you can see it, but they never will.’

‘Well, how would you dress yourself if you were going to that editor’s office?’

‘Of course I would wear my silk and my Sabbath bonnet.’

‘It is you who are shortsighted now, mother. I tell you, you would manage him better if you just put on your old grey shawl and one of your bonny white mutches, and went in half smiling and half timid and said, “I am the mother of him that writes about the Auld Lichts, and I want you to promise that he will never have to sleep in the open air.”‘

But my mother would shake her head at this, and reply almost hotly, ‘I tell you if I ever go into that man’s office, I go in silk.’

I wrote and asked the editor if I should come to London, and he said No, so I went, laden with charges from my mother to walk in the middle of the street (they jump out on you as you are turning a corner), never to venture forth after sunset, and always to lock up everything (I who could never lock up anything, except my heart in company). Thanks to this editor, for the others would have nothing to say to me though I battered on all their doors, she was soon able to sleep at nights without the dread that I should be waking presently with the iron-work of certain seats figured on my person, and what relieved her very much was that I had begun to write as if Auld Lichts were not the only people I knew of. So long as I confined myself to them she had a haunting fear that, even though the editor remained blind to his best interests, something would one day go crack within me (as the mainspring of a watch breaks) and my pen refuse to write for evermore. ‘Ay, I like the article brawly,’ she would say timidly, ‘but I’m doubting it’s the last - I always have a sort of terror the new one may be the last,’ and if many days elapsed before the arrival of another article her face would say mournfully, ‘The blow has fallen - he can think of nothing more to write about.’ If I ever shared her fears I never told her so, and the articles that were not Scotch grew in number until there were hundreds of them, all carefully preserved by her: they were the only thing in the house that, having served one purpose, she did not convert into something else, yet they could give her uneasy moments. This was because I nearly always assumed a character when I wrote; I must be a country squire, or an undergraduate, or a butler, or a member of the House of Lords, or a dowager, or a lady called Sweet Seventeen, or an engineer in India, else was my pen clogged, and though this gave my mother certain fearful joys, causing her to laugh unexpectedly (so far as my articles were concerned she nearly always laughed in the wrong place), it also scared her. Much to her amusement the editor continued to prefer the Auld Licht papers, however, as was proved (to those who knew him) by his way of thinking that the others would pass as they were, while he sent these back and asked me to make them better. Here again she came to my aid. I had said that the row of stockings were hung on a string by the fire, which was a recollection of my own, but she could tell me whether they were hung upside down. She became quite skilful at sending or giving me (for now I could be with her half the year) the right details, but still she smiled at the editor, and in her gay moods she would say, ‘I was fifteen when I got my first pair of elastic-sided boots. Tell him my charge for this important news is two pounds ten.’

‘Ay, but though we’re doing well, it’s no’ the same as if they were a book with your name on it.’ So the ambitious woman would say with a sigh, and I did my best to turn the Auld Licht sketches into a book with my name on it. Then perhaps we understood most fully how good a friend our editor had been, for just as I had been able to find no well-known magazine - and I think I tried all - which would print any article or story about the poor of my native land, so now the publishers, Scotch and English, refused to accept the book as a gift. I was willing to present it to them, but they would have it in no guise; there seemed to be a blight on everything that was Scotch. I daresay we sighed, but never were collaborators more prepared for rejection, and though my mother might look wistfully at the scorned manuscript at times and murmur, ‘You poor cold little crittur shut away in a drawer, are you dead or just sleeping?’ she had still her editor to say grace over. And at last publishers, sufficiently daring and far more than sufficiently generous, were found for us by a dear friend, who made one woman very ‘uplifted.’ He also was an editor, and had as large a part in making me a writer of books as the other in determining what the books should be about.

Now that I was an author I must get into a club. But you should have heard my mother on clubs! She knew of none save those to which you subscribe a pittance weekly in anticipation of rainy days, and the London clubs were her scorn. Often I heard her on them - she raised her voice to make me hear, whichever room I might be in, and it was when she was sarcastic that I skulked the most: ‘Thirty pounds is what he will have to pay the first year, and ten pounds a year after that. You think it’s a lot o’ siller? Oh no, you’re mista’en - it’s nothing ava. For the third part of thirty pounds you could rent a four-roomed house, but what is a four- roomed house, what is thirty pounds, compared to the glory of being a member of a club? Where does the glory come in? Sal, you needna ask me, I’m just a doited auld stock that never set foot in a club, so it’s little I ken about glory. But I may tell you if you bide in London and canna become member of a club, the best you can do is to tie a rope round your neck and slip out of the world. What use are they? Oh, they’re terrible useful. You see it doesna do for a man in London to eat his dinner in his lodgings. Other men shake their heads at him. He maun away to his club if he is to be respected. Does he get good dinners at the club? Oh, they cow! You get no common beef at clubs; there is a manzy of different things all sauced up to be unlike themsels. Even the potatoes daurna look like potatoes. If the food in a club looks like what it is, the members run about, flinging up their hands and crying, “Woe is me!” Then this is another thing, you get your letters sent to the club instead of to your lodgings. You see you would get them sooner at your lodgings, and you may have to trudge weary miles to the club for them, but that’s a great advantage, and cheap at thirty pounds, is it no’? I wonder they can do it at the price.’

My wisest policy was to remain downstairs when these withering blasts were blowing, but probably I went up in self-defence.

‘I never saw you so pugnacious before, mother.’

‘Oh,’ she would reply promptly, ‘you canna expect me to be sharp in the uptake when I am no’ a member of a club.’

‘But the difficulty is in becoming a member. They are very particular about whom they elect, and I daresay I shall not get in.’

‘Well, I’m but a poor crittur (not being member of a club), but I think I can tell you to make your mind easy on that head. You’ll get in, I’se uphaud - and your thirty pounds will get in, too.’

‘If I get in it will be because the editor is supporting me.’

‘It’s the first ill thing I ever heard of him.’

‘You don’t think he is to get any of the thirty pounds, do you?’

‘’Deed if I did I should be better pleased, for he has been a good friend to us, but what maddens me is that every penny of it should go to those bare-faced scoundrels.’

‘What bare-faced scoundrels?’

‘Them that have the club.’

‘But all the members have the club between them.’

‘Havers! I’m no’ to be catched with chaff.’

‘But don’t you believe me?’

‘I believe they’ve filled your head with their stories till you swallow whatever they tell you. If the place belongs to the members, why do they have to pay thirty pounds?’

‘To keep it going.’

‘They dinna have to pay for their dinners, then?’

‘Oh yes, they have to pay extra for dinner.’

‘And a gey black price, I’m thinking.’

‘Well, five or six shillings.’

‘Is that all? Losh, it’s nothing, I wonder they dinna raise the price.’

Nevertheless my mother was of a sex that scorned prejudice, and, dropping sarcasm, she would at times cross-examine me as if her mind was not yet made up. ‘Tell me this, if you were to fall ill, would you be paid a weekly allowance out of the club?’

No, it was not that kind of club.

‘I see. Well, I am just trying to find out what kind of club it is. Do you get anything out of it for accidents?’

Not a penny.

‘Anything at New Year’s time?’

Not so much as a goose.

‘Is there any one mortal thing you get free out of that club?’

There was not one mortal thing.

‘And thirty pounds is what you pay for this?’

If the committee elected me.

‘How many are in the committee?’

About a dozen, I thought.

‘A dozen! Ay, ay, that makes two pound ten apiece.’

When I was elected I thought it wisdom to send my sister upstairs with the news. My mother was ironing, and made no comment, unless with the iron, which I could hear rattling more violently in its box. Presently I heard her laughing - at me undoubtedly, but she had recovered control over her face before she came downstairs to congratulate me sarcastically. This was grand news, she said without a twinkle, and I must write and thank the committee, the noble critturs. I saw behind her mask, and maintained a dignified silence, but she would have another shot at me. ‘And tell them,’ she said from the door, ‘you were doubtful of being elected, but your auld mother had aye a mighty confidence they would snick you in.’ I heard her laughing softly as she went up the stair, but though I had provided her with a joke I knew she was burning to tell the committee what she thought of them.

Money, you see, meant so much to her, though even at her poorest she was the most cheerful giver. In the old days, when the article arrived, she did not read it at once, she first counted the lines to discover what we should get for it - she and the daughter who was so dear to her had calculated the payment per line, and I remember once overhearing a discussion between them about whether that sub-title meant another sixpence. Yes, she knew the value of money; she had always in the end got the things she wanted, but now she could get them more easily, and it turned her simple life into a fairy tale. So often in those days she went down suddenly upon her knees; we would come upon her thus, and go away noiselessly. After her death I found that she had preserved in a little box, with a photograph of me as a child, the envelopes which had contained my first cheques. There was a little ribbon round them.

A Day Of Her Life

I should like to call back a day of her life as it was at this time, when her spirit was as bright as ever and her hand as eager, but she was no longer able to do much work. It should not be difficult, for she repeated herself from day to day and yet did it with a quaint unreasonableness that was ever yielding fresh delight. Our love for her was such that we could easily tell what she would do in given circumstances, but she had always a new way of doing it.

Well, with break of day she wakes and sits up in bed and is standing in the middle of the room. So nimble was she in the mornings (one of our troubles with her) that these three actions must be considered as one; she is on the floor before you have time to count them. She has strict orders not to rise until her fire is lit, and having broken them there is a demure elation on her face. The question is what to do before she is caught and hurried to bed again. Her fingers are tingling to prepare the breakfast; she would dearly love to black-lead the grate, but that might rouse her daughter from whose side she has slipped so cunningly. She catches sight of the screen at the foot of the bed, and immediately her soft face becomes very determined. To guard her from draughts the screen had been brought here from the lordly east room, where it was of no use whatever. But in her opinion it was too beautiful for use; it belonged to the east room, where she could take pleasant peeps at it; she had objected to its removal, even become low-spirited. Now is her opportunity. The screen is an unwieldy thing, but still as a mouse she carries it, and they are well under weigh when it strikes against the gas-bracket in the passage. Next moment a reproachful hand arrests her. She is challenged with being out of bed, she denies it - standing in the passage. Meekly or stubbornly she returns to bed, and it is no satisfaction to you that you can say, ‘Well, well, of all the women!’ and so on, or ‘Surely you knew that the screen was brought here to protect you,’ for she will reply scornfully, ‘Who was touching the screen?’

By this time I have wakened (I am through the wall) and join them anxiously: so often has my mother been taken ill in the night that the slightest sound from her room rouses the house. She is in bed again, looking as if she had never been out of it, but I know her and listen sternly to the tale of her misdoings. She is not contrite. Yes, maybe she did promise not to venture forth on the cold floors of daybreak, but she had risen for a moment only, and we just t’neaded her with our talk about draughts - there were no such things as draughts in her young days - and it is more than she can do (here she again attempts to rise but we hold her down) to lie there and watch that beautiful screen being spoilt. I reply that the beauty of the screen has ever been its miserable defect: ho, there! for a knife with which to spoil its beauty and make the bedroom its fitting home. As there is no knife handy, my foot will do; I raise my foot, and then - she sees that it is bare, she cries to me excitedly to go back to bed lest I catch cold. For though, ever careless of herself, she will wander the house unshod, and tell us not to talk havers when we chide her, the sight of one of us similarly negligent rouses her anxiety at once. She is willing now to sign any vow if only I will take my bare feet back to bed, but probably she is soon after me in hers to make sure that I am nicely covered up.

It is scarcely six o’clock, and we have all promised to sleep for another hour, but in ten minutes she is sure that eight has struck (house disgraced), or that if it has not, something is wrong with the clock. Next moment she is captured on her way downstairs to wind up the clock. So evidently we must be up and doing, and as we have no servant, my sister disappears into the kitchen, having first asked me to see that ‘that woman’ lies still, and ‘that woman’ calls out that she always does lie still, so what are we blethering about?

She is up now, and dressed in her thick maroon wrapper; over her shoulders (lest she should stray despite our watchfulness) is a shawl, not placed there by her own hands, and on her head a delicious mutch. O that I could sing the paean of the white mutch (and the dirge of the elaborate black cap) from the day when she called witchcraft to her aid and made it out of snow-flakes, and the dear worn hands that washed it tenderly in a basin, and the starching of it, and the finger-iron for its exquisite frills that looked like curls of sugar, and the sweet bands with which it tied beneath the chin! The honoured snowy mutch, how I love to see it smiling to me from the doors and windows of the poor; it is always smiling - sometimes maybe a wavering wistful smile, as if a tear- drop lay hidden among, the frills. A hundred times I have taken the characterless cap from my mother’s head and put the mutch in its place and tied the bands beneath her chin, while she protested but was well pleased. For in her heart she knew what suited her best and would admit it, beaming, when I put a mirror into her hands and told her to look; but nevertheless the cap cost no less than so-and-so, whereas - Was that a knock at the door? She is gone, to put on her cap!

She begins the day by the fireside with the New Testament in her hands, an old volume with its loose pages beautifully refixed, and its covers sewn and resewn by her, so that you would say it can never fall to pieces. It is mine now, and to me the black threads with which she stitched it are as part of the contents. Other books she read in the ordinary manner, but this one differently, her lips moving with each word as if she were reading aloud, and her face very solemn. The Testament lies open on her lap long after she has ceased to read, and the expression of her face has not changed.

I have seen her reading other books early in the day but never without a guilty look on her face, for she thought reading was scarce respectable until night had come. She spends the forenoon in what she calls doing nothing, which may consist in stitching so hard that you would swear she was an over-worked seamstress at it for her life, or you will find her on a table with nails in her mouth, and anon she has to be chased from the garret (she has suddenly decided to change her curtains), or she is under the bed searching for band-boxes and asking sternly where we have put that bonnet. On the whole she is behaving in a most exemplary way to- day (not once have we caught her trying to go out into the washing- house), and we compliment her at dinner-time, partly because she deserves it, and partly to make her think herself so good that she will eat something, just to maintain her new character. I question whether one hour of all her life was given to thoughts of food; in her great days to eat seemed to her to be waste of time, and afterwards she only ate to boast of it, as something she had done to please us. She seldom remembered whether she had dined, but always presumed she had, and while she was telling me in all good faith what the meal consisted of, it might be brought in. When in London I had to hear daily what she was eating, and perhaps she had refused all dishes until they produced the pen and ink. These were flourished before her, and then she would say with a sigh, ‘Tell him I am to eat an egg.’ But they were not so easily deceived; they waited, pen in hand, until the egg was eaten.

She never ‘went for a walk’ in her life. Many long trudges she had as a girl when she carried her father’s dinner in a flagon to the country place where he was at work, but to walk with no end save the good of your health seemed a very droll proceeding to her. In her young days, she was positive, no one had ever gone for a walk, and she never lost the belief that it was an absurdity introduced by a new generation with too much time on their hands. That they enjoyed it she could not believe; it was merely a form of showing off, and as they passed her window she would remark to herself with blasting satire, ‘Ay, Jeames, are you off for your walk?’ and add fervently, ‘Rather you than me!’ I was one of those who walked, and though she smiled, and might drop a sarcastic word when she saw me putting on my boots, it was she who had heated them in preparation for my going. The arrangement between us was that she should lie down until my return, and to ensure its being carried out I saw her in bed before I started, but with the bang of the door she would be at the window to watch me go: there is one spot on the road where a thousand times I have turned to wave my stick to her, while she nodded and smiled and kissed her hand to me. That kissing of the hand was the one English custom she had learned.

In an hour or so I return, and perhaps find her in bed, according to promise, but still I am suspicious. The way to her detection is circuitous.

‘I’ll need to be rising now,’ she says, with a yawn that may be genuine.

‘How long have you been in bed?’

‘You saw me go.’

‘And then I saw you at the window. Did you go straight back to bed?’

‘Surely I had that much sense.’

‘The truth!’

‘I might have taken a look at the clock first.’

‘It is a terrible thing to have a mother who prevaricates. Have you been lying down ever since I left?’

‘Thereabout.’

‘What does that mean exactly?’

‘Off and on.’

‘Have you been to the garret?’

‘What should I do in the garret?’

‘But have you?’

‘I might just have looked up the garret stair.’

‘You have been redding up the garret again!’

‘Not what you could call a redd up.’

‘O, woman, woman, I believe you have not been in bed at all!’

‘You see me in it.’

‘My opinion is that you jumped into bed when you heard me open the door.’

‘Havers.’

‘Did you?’

‘No.’

‘Well, then, when you heard me at the gate?’

‘It might have been when I heard you at the gate.’

As daylight goes she follows it with her sewing to the window, and gets another needleful out of it, as one may run after a departed visitor for a last word, but now the gas is lit, and no longer is it shameful to sit down to literature. If the book be a story by George Eliot or Mrs. Oliphant, her favourites (and mine) among women novelists, or if it be a Carlyle, and we move softly, she will read, entranced, for hours. Her delight in Carlyle was so well known that various good people would send her books that contained a page about him; she could place her finger on any passage wanted in the biography as promptly as though she were looking for some article in her own drawer, and given a date she was often able to tell you what they were doing in Cheyne Row that day. Carlyle, she decided, was not so much an ill man to live with as one who needed a deal of managing, but when I asked if she thought she could have managed him she only replied with a modest smile that meant ‘Oh no!’ but had the face of ‘Sal, I would have liked to try.’

One lady lent her some scores of Carlyle letters that have never been published, and crabbed was the writing, but though my mother liked to have our letters read aloud to her, she read every one of these herself, and would quote from them in her talk. Side by side with the Carlyle letters, which show him in his most gracious light, were many from his wife to a friend, and in one of these a romantic adventure is described - I quote from memory, and it is a poor memory compared to my mother’s, which registered everything by a method of her own: ‘What might be the age of Bell Tibbits? Well, she was born the week I bought the boiler, so she’ll be one-and- fifty (no less!) come Martinmas.’ Mrs. Carlyle had got into the train at a London station and was feeling very lonely, for the journey to Scotland lay before her and no one had come to see her off. Then, just as the train was starting, a man jumped into the carriage, to her regret until she saw his face, when, behold, they were old friends, and the last time they met (I forget how many years before) he had asked her to be his wife. He was very nice, and if I remember aright, saw her to her journey’s end, though he had intended to alight at some half-way place. I call this an adventure, and I am sure it seemed to my mother to be the most touching and memorable adventure that can come into a woman’s life. ‘You see he hadna forgot,’ she would say proudly, as if this was a compliment in which all her sex could share, and on her old tender face shone some of the elation with which Mrs. Carlyle wrote that letter.

But there were times, she held, when Carlyle must have made his wife a glorious woman. ‘As when?’ I might inquire.

‘When she keeked in at his study door and said to herself, “The whole world is ringing with his fame, and he is my man!”‘

‘And then,’ I might point out, ‘he would roar to her to shut the door.’

‘Pooh!’ said my mother, ‘a man’s roar is neither here nor there.’ But her verdict as a whole was, ‘I would rather have been his mother than his wife.’

So we have got her into her chair with the Carlyles, and all is well. Furthermore, ‘to mak siccar,’ my father has taken the opposite side of the fireplace and is deep in the latest five columns of Gladstone, who is his Carlyle. He is to see that she does not slip away fired by a conviction, which suddenly overrides her pages, that the kitchen is going to rack and ruin for want of her, and she is to recall him to himself should he put his foot in the fire and keep it there, forgetful of all save his hero’s eloquence. (We were a family who needed a deal of watching.) She is not interested in what Mr. Gladstone has to say; indeed she could never be brought to look upon politics as of serious concern for grown folk (a class in which she scarcely included man), and she gratefully gave up reading ‘leaders’ the day I ceased to write them. But like want of reasonableness, a love for having the last word, want of humour and the like, politics were in her opinion a mannish attribute to be tolerated, and Gladstone was the name of the something which makes all our sex such queer characters. She had a profound faith in him as an aid to conversation, and if there were silent men in the company would give him to them to talk about, precisely as she divided a cake among children. And then, with a motherly smile, she would leave them to gorge on him. But in the idolising of Gladstone she recognised, nevertheless, a certain inevitability, and would no more have tried to contend with it than to sweep a shadow off the floor. Gladstone was, and there was an end of it in her practical philosophy. Nor did she accept him coldly; like a true woman she sympathised with those who suffered severely, and they knew it and took counsel of her in the hour of need. I remember one ardent Gladstonian who, as a general election drew near, was in sore straits indeed, for he disbelieved in Home Rule, and yet how could he vote against ‘Gladstone’s man’? His distress was so real that it gave him a hang-dog appearance. He put his case gloomily before her, and until the day of the election she riddled him with sarcasm; I think he only went to her because he found a mournful enjoyment in seeing a false Gladstonian tortured.

It was all such plain-sailing for him, she pointed out; he did not like this Home Rule, and therefore he must vote against it.

She put it pitiful clear, he replied with a groan.

But she was like another woman to him when he appeared before her on his way to the polling-booth.

‘This is a watery Sabbath to you, I’m thinking,’ she said sympathetically, but without dropping her wires - for Home Rule or no Home Rule that stocking-foot must be turned before twelve o’clock.

A watery Sabbath means a doleful day, and ‘A watery Sabbath it is,’ he replied with feeling. A silence followed, broken only by the click of the wires. Now and again he would mutter, ‘Ay, well, I’ll be going to vote - little did I think the day would come,’ and so on, but if he rose it was only to sit down again, and at last she crossed over to him and said softly, (no sarcasm in her voice now), ‘Away with you, and vote for Gladstone’s man!’ He jumped up and made off without a word, but from the east window we watched him strutting down the brae. I laughed, but she said, ‘I’m no sure that it’s a laughing matter,’ and afterwards, ‘I would have liked fine to be that Gladstone’s mother.’

It is nine o’clock now, a quarter-past nine, half-past nine - all the same moment to me, for I am at a sentence that will not write. I know, though I can’t hear, what my sister has gone upstairs to say to my mother:-

‘I was in at him at nine, and he said, “In five minutes,” so I put the steak on the brander, but I’ve been in thrice since then, and every time he says, “In five minutes,” and when I try to take the table-cover off, he presses his elbows hard on it, and growls. His supper will be completely spoilt.’

‘Oh, that weary writing!’

‘I can do no more, mother, so you must come down and stop him.’

‘I have no power over him,’ my mother says, but she rises smiling, and presently she is opening my door.

‘In five minutes!’ I cry, but when I see that it is she I rise and put my arm round her. ‘What a full basket!’ she says, looking at the waste-paper basket, which contains most of my work of the night and with a dear gesture she lifts up a torn page and kisses it. ‘Poor thing,’ she says to it, ‘and you would have liked so fine to be printed!’ and she puts her hand over my desk to prevent my writing more.

‘In the last five minutes,’ I begin, ‘one can often do more than in the first hour.’

‘Many a time I’ve said it in my young days,’ she says slowly.

‘And proved it, too!’ cries a voice from the door, the voice of one who was prouder of her even than I; it is true, and yet almost unbelievable, that any one could have been prouder of her than I.

‘But those days are gone,’ my mother says solemnly, ‘gone to come back no more. You’ll put by your work now, man, and have your supper, and then you’ll come up and sit beside your mother for a whiley, for soon you’ll be putting her away in the kirk-yard.’

I hear such a little cry from near the door.

So my mother and I go up the stair together. ‘We have changed places,’ she says; ‘that was just how I used to help you up, but I’m the bairn now.’

She brings out the Testament again; it was always lying within reach; it is the lock of hair she left me when she died. And when she has read for a long time she ‘gives me a look,’ as we say in the north, and I go out, to leave her alone with God. She had been but a child when her mother died, and so she fell early into the way of saying her prayers with no earthly listener. Often and often I have found her on her knees, but I always went softly away, closing the door. I never heard her pray, but I know very well how she prayed, and that, when that door was shut, there was not a day in God’s sight between the worn woman and the little child.

Her Maid Of All Work

And sometimes I was her maid of all work.

It is early morn, and my mother has come noiselessly into my room. I know it is she, though my eyes are shut, and I am only half awake. Perhaps I was dreaming of her, for I accept her presence without surprise, as if in the awakening I had but seen her go out at one door to come in at another. But she is speaking to herself.

‘I’m sweer to waken him - I doubt he was working late - oh, that weary writing - no, I maunna waken him.’

I start up. She is wringing her hands. ‘What is wrong?’ I cry, but I know before she answers. My sister is down with one of the headaches against which even she cannot fight, and my mother, who bears physical pain as if it were a comrade, is most woebegone when her daughter is the sufferer. ‘And she winna let me go down the stair to make a cup of tea for her,’ she groans.

‘I will soon make the tea, mother.’

‘Will you?’ she says eagerly. It is what she has come to me for, but ‘It is a pity to rouse you,’ she says.

‘And I will take charge of the house to-day, and light the fires and wash the dishes - ’

‘Na, oh no; no, I couldna ask that of you, and you an author.’

‘It won’t be the first time, mother, since I was an author.’

‘More like the fiftieth!’ she says almost gleefully, so I have begun well, for to keep up her spirits is the great thing to-day.

Knock at the door. It is the baker. I take in the bread, looking so sternly at him that he dare not smile.

Knock at the door. It is the postman. (I hope he did not see that I had the lid of the kettle in my other hand.)

Furious knocking in a remote part. This means that the author is in the coal cellar.

Anon I carry two breakfasts upstairs in triumph. I enter the bedroom like no mere humdrum son, but after the manner of the Glasgow waiter. I must say more about him. He had been my mother’s one waiter, the only manservant she ever came in contact with, and they had met in a Glasgow hotel which she was eager to see, having heard of the monstrous things, and conceived them to resemble country inns with another twelve bedrooms. I remember how she beamed - yet tried to look as if it was quite an ordinary experience - when we alighted at the hotel door, but though she said nothing I soon read disappointment in her face. She knew how I was exulting in having her there, so would not say a word to damp me, but I craftily drew it out of her. No, she was very comfortable, and the house was grand beyond speech, but - but - where was he? he had not been very hearty. ‘He’ was the landlord; she had expected him to receive us at the door and ask if we were in good health and how we had left the others, and then she would have asked him if his wife was well and how many children they had, after which we should all have sat down together to dinner. Two chambermaids came into her room and prepared it without a single word to her about her journey or on any other subject, and when they had gone, ‘They are two haughty misses,’ said my mother with spirit. But what she most resented was the waiter with his swagger black suit and short quick steps and the ‘towel’ over his arm. Without so much as a ‘Welcome to Glasgow!’ he showed us to our seats, not the smallest acknowledgment of our kindness in giving such munificent orders did we draw from him, he hovered around the table as if it would be unsafe to leave us with his knives and forks (he should have seen her knives and forks), when we spoke to each other he affected not to hear, we might laugh but this uppish fellow would not join in. We retired, crushed, and he had the final impudence to open the door for us. But though this hurt my mother at the time, the humour of our experiences filled her on reflection, and in her own house she would describe them with unction, sometimes to those who had been in many hotels, often to others who had been in none, and whoever were her listeners she made them laugh, though not always at the same thing.

So now when I enter the bedroom with the tray, on my arm is that badge of pride, the towel; and I approach with prim steps to inform Madam that breakfast is ready, and she puts on the society manner and addresses me as ‘Sir,’ and asks with cruel sarcasm for what purpose (except to boast) I carry the towel, and I say ‘Is there anything more I can do for Madam?’ and Madam replies that there is one more thing I can do, and that is, eat her breakfast for her. But of this I take no notice, for my object is to fire her with the spirit of the game, so that she eats unwittingly.

Now that I have washed up the breakfast things I should be at my writing, and I am anxious to be at it, as I have an idea in my head, which, if it is of any value, has almost certainly been put there by her. But dare I venture? I know that the house has not been properly set going yet, there are beds to make, the exterior of the teapot is fair, but suppose some one were to look inside? What a pity I knocked over the flour-barrel! Can I hope that for once my mother will forget to inquire into these matters? Is my sister willing to let disorder reign until to-morrow? I determine to risk it. Perhaps I have been at work for half an hour when I hear movements overhead. One or other of them is wondering why the house is so quiet. I rattle the tongs, but even this does not satisfy them, so back into the desk go my papers, and now what you hear is not the scrape of a pen but the rinsing of pots and pans, or I am making beds, and making them thoroughly, because after I am gone my mother will come (I know her) and look suspiciously beneath the coverlet.

The kitchen is now speckless, not an unwashed platter in sight, unless you look beneath the table. I feel that I have earned time for an hour’s writing at last, and at it I go with vigour. One page, two pages, really I am making progress, when - was that a door opening? But I have my mother’s light step on the brain, so I ‘yoke’ again, and next moment she is beside me. She has not exactly left her room, she gives me to understand; but suddenly a conviction had come to her that I was writing without a warm mat at my feet. She carries one in her hands. Now that she is here she remains for a time, and though she is in the arm-chair by the fire, where she sits bolt upright (she loved to have cushions on the unused chairs, but detested putting her back against them), and I am bent low over my desk, I know that contentment and pity are struggling for possession of her face: contentment wins when she surveys her room, pity when she looks at me. Every article of furniture, from the chairs that came into the world with me and have worn so much better, though I was new and they were second- hand, to the mantle-border of fashionable design which she sewed in her seventieth year, having picked up the stitch in half a lesson, has its story of fight and attainment for her, hence her satisfaction; but she sighs at sight of her son, dipping and tearing, and chewing the loathly pen.

‘Oh, that weary writing!’

In vain do I tell her that writing is as pleasant to me as ever was the prospect of a tremendous day’s ironing to her; that (to some, though not to me) new chapters are as easy to turn out as new bannocks. No, she maintains, for one bannock is the marrows of another, while chapters - and then, perhaps, her eyes twinkle, and says she saucily, ‘But, sal, you may be right, for sometimes your bannocks are as alike as mine!’

Or I may be roused from my writing by her cry that I am making strange faces again. It is my contemptible weakness that if I say a character smiled vacuously, I must smile vacuously; if he frowns or leers, I frown or leer; if he is a coward or given to contortions, I cringe, or twist my legs until I have to stop writing to undo the knot. I bow with him, eat with him, and gnaw my moustache with him. If the character be a lady with an exquisite laugh, I suddenly terrify you by laughing exquisitely. One reads of the astounding versatility of an actor who is stout and lean on the same evening, but what is he to the novelist who is a dozen persons within the hour? Morally, I fear, we must deteriorate - but this is a subject I may wisely edge away from.

We always spoke to each other in broad Scotch (I think in it still), but now and again she would use a word that was new to me, or I might hear one of her contemporaries use it. Now is my opportunity to angle for its meaning. If I ask, boldly, what was chat word she used just now, something like ‘bilbie’ or ‘silvendy’? she blushes, and says she never said anything so common, or hoots! it is some auld-farrant word about which she can tell me nothing. But if in the course of conversation I remark casually, ‘Did he find bilbie?’ or ‘Was that quite silvendy?’ (though the sense of the question is vague to me) she falls into the trap, and the words explain themselves in her replies. Or maybe to-day she sees whither I am leading her, and such is her sensitiveness that she is quite hurt. The humour goes out of her face (to find bilbie in some more silvendy spot), and her reproachful eyes - but now I am on the arm of her chair, and we have made it up. Nevertheless, I shall get no more old-world Scotch out of her this forenoon, she weeds her talk determinedly, and it is as great a falling away as when the mutch gives place to the cap.

I am off for my afternoon walk, and she has promised to bar the door behind me and open it to none. When I return, - well, the door is still barred, but she is looking both furtive and elated. I should say that she is burning to tell me something, but cannot tell it without exposing herself. Has she opened the door, and if so, why? I don’t ask, but I watch. It is she who is sly now.

‘Have you been in the east room since you came in?’ she asks, with apparent indifference.

‘No; why do you ask?’

‘Oh, I just thought you might have looked in.’

‘Is there anything new there?’

‘I dinna say there is, but - but just go and see.’

‘There can’t be anything new if you kept the door barred,’ I say cleverly.

This crushes her for a moment; but her eagerness that I should see is greater than her fear. I set off for the east room, and she follows, affecting humility, but with triumph in her eye. How often those little scenes took place! I was never told of the new purchase, I was lured into its presence, and then she waited timidly for my start of surprise.

‘Do you see it?’ she says anxiously, and I see it, and hear it, for this time it is a bran-new wicker chair, of the kind that whisper to themselves for the first six months.

‘A going-about body was selling them in a cart,’ my mother begins, and what followed presents itself to my eyes before she can utter another word. Ten minutes at the least did she stand at the door argy-bargying with that man. But it would be cruelty to scold a woman so uplifted.

‘Fifteen shillings he wanted,’ she cries, ‘but what do you think I beat him down to?’

‘Seven and sixpence?’

She claps her hands with delight. ‘Four shillings, as I’m a living woman!’ she crows: never was a woman fonder of a bargain.

I gaze at the purchase with the amazement expected of me, and the chair itself crinkles and shudders to hear what it went for (or is it merely chuckling at her?). ‘And the man said it cost himself five shillings,’ my mother continues exultantly. You would have thought her the hardest person had not a knock on the wall summoned us about this time to my sister’s side. Though in bed she has been listening, and this is what she has to say, in a voice that makes my mother very indignant, ‘You drive a bargain! I’m thinking ten shillings was nearer what you paid.’

‘Four shillings to a penny!’ says my mother.

‘I daresay,’ says my sister; ‘but after you paid him the money I heard you in the little bedroom press. What were you doing there?’

My mother winces. ‘I may have given him a present of an old topcoat,’ she falters. ‘He looked ill-happit. But that was after I made the bargain.’

‘Were there bairns in the cart?’

‘There might have been a bit lassie in the cart.’

‘I thought as much. What did you give her? I heard you in the pantry.’

‘Four shillings was what I got that chair for,’ replies my mother firmly. If I don’t interfere there will be a coldness between them for at least a minute. ‘There is blood on your finger,’ I say to my mother.

‘So there is,’ she says, concealing her hand.

‘Blood!’ exclaims my sister anxiously, and then with a cry of triumph, ‘I warrant it’s jelly. You gave that lassie one of the jelly cans!’

The Glasgow waiter brings up tea, and presently my sister is able to rise, and after a sharp fight I am expelled from the kitchen. The last thing I do as maid of all work is to lug upstairs the clothes-basket which has just arrived with the mangling. Now there is delicious linen for my mother to finger; there was always rapture on her face when the clothes-basket came in; it never failed to make her once more the active genius of the house. I may leave her now with her sheets and collars and napkins and fronts. Indeed, she probably orders me to go. A son is all very well, but suppose he were to tread on that counterpane!

My sister is but and I am ben - I mean she is in the east end and I am in the west - tuts, tuts! let us get at the English of this by striving: she is in the kitchen and I am at my desk in the parlour. I hope I may not be disturbed, for to-night I must make my hero say ‘Darling,’ and it needs both privacy and concentration. In a word, let me admit (though I should like to beat about the bush) that I have sat down to a love-chapter. Too long has it been avoided, Albert has called Marion ‘dear’ only as yet (between you and me these are not their real names), but though the public will probably read the word without blinking, it went off in my hands with a bang. They tell me - the Sassenach tell me - that in time I shall be able without a blush to make Albert say ‘darling,’ and even gather her up in his arms, but I begin to doubt it; the moment sees me as shy as ever; I still find it advisable to lock the door, and then - no witness save the dog - I ‘do’ it dourly with my teeth clenched, while the dog retreats into the far corner and moans. The bolder Englishman (I am told) will write a love-chapter and then go out, quite coolly, to dinner, but such goings on are contrary to the Scotch nature; even the great novelists dared not. Conceive Mr. Stevenson left alone with a hero, a heroine, and a proposal impending (he does not know where to look). Sir Walter in the same circumstances gets out of the room by making his love- scenes take place between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, but he could afford to do anything, and the small fry must e’en to their task, moan the dog as he may. So I have yoked to mine when, enter my mother, looking wistful.

‘I suppose you are terrible thrang,’ she says.

‘Well, I am rather busy, but - what is it you want me to do?’

‘It would be a shame to ask you.’

‘Still, ask me.’

‘I am so terrified they may be filed.’

‘You want me to - ?’

‘If you would just come up, and help me to fold the sheets!’

The sheets are folded and I return to Albert. I lock the door, and at last I am bringing my hero forward nicely (my knee in the small of his back), when this startling question is shot by my sister through the key-hole-

‘Where did you put the carrot-grater?’

It will all have to be done over again if I let Albert go for a moment, so, gripping him hard, I shout indignantly that I have not seen the carrot-grater.

‘Then what did you grate the carrots on?’ asks the voice, and the door-handle is shaken just as I shake Albert.

‘On a broken cup,’ I reply with surprising readiness, and I get to work again but am less engrossed, for a conviction grows on me that I put the carrot-grater in the drawer of the sewing-machine.

I am wondering whether I should confess or brazen it out, when I hear my sister going hurriedly upstairs. I have a presentiment that she has gone to talk about me, and I basely open my door and listen.

‘Just look at that, mother!’

‘Is it a dish-cloth?’

‘That’s what it is now.’

‘Losh behears! it’s one of the new table-napkins.’

‘That’s what it was. He has been polishing the kitchen grate with it!’

(I remember!)

‘Woe’s me! That is what comes of his not letting me budge from this room. O, it is a watery Sabbath when men take to doing women’s work!’

‘It defies the face of clay, mother, to fathom what makes him so senseless.’

‘Oh, it’s that weary writing.’

‘And the worst of it is he will talk to-morrow as if he had done wonders.’

‘That’s the way with the whole clanjam-fray of them.’

‘Yes, but as usual you will humour him, mother.’

‘Oh, well, it pleases him, you see,’ says my mother, ‘and we can have our laugh when his door’s shut.’

‘He is most terribly handless.’

‘He is all that, but, poor soul, he does his best.’

R. L. S.

These familiar initials are, I suppose, the best beloved in recent literature, certainly they are the sweetest to me, but there was a time when my mother could not abide them. She said ‘That Stevenson man’ with a sneer, and, it was never easy to her to sneer. At thought of him her face would become almost hard, which seems incredible, and she would knit her lips and fold her arms, and reply with a stiff ‘oh’ if you mentioned his aggravating name. In the novels we have a way of writing of our heroine, ‘she drew herself up haughtily,’ and when mine draw themselves up haughtily I see my mother thinking of Robert Louis Stevenson. He knew her opinion of him, and would write, ‘My ears tingled yesterday; I sair doubt she has been miscalling me again.’ But the more she miscalled him the more he delighted in her, and she was informed of this, and at once said, ‘The scoundrel!’ If you would know what was his unpardonable crime, it was this: he wrote better books than mine.

I remember the day she found it out, which was not, however, the day she admitted it. That day, when I should have been at my work, she came upon me in the kitchen, ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ beside me, but I was not reading: my head lay heavy on the table, and to her anxious eyes, I doubt not, I was the picture of woe. ‘Not writing!’ I echoed, no, I was not writing, I saw no use in ever trying to write again. And down, I suppose, went my head once more. She misunderstood, and thought the blow had fallen; I had awakened to the discovery, always dreaded by her, that I had written myself dry; I was no better than an empty ink-bottle. She wrung her hands, but indignation came to her with my explanation, which was that while R. L. S. was at it we others were only ‘prentices cutting our fingers on his tools. ‘I could never thole his books,’ said my mother immediately, and indeed vindictively.

‘You have not read any of them,’ I reminded her.

‘And never will,’ said she with spirit.

And I have no doubt that she called him a dark character that very day. For weeks too, if not for months, she adhered to her determination not to read him, though I, having come to my senses and seen that there is a place for the ‘prentice, was taking a pleasure, almost malicious, in putting ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ in her way. I would place it on her table so that it said good- morning to her when she rose. She would frown, and carrying it downstairs, as if she had it in the tongs, replace it on its book- shelf. I would wrap it up in the cover she had made for the latest Carlyle: she would skin it contemptuously and again bring it down. I would hide her spectacles in it, and lay it on top of the clothes-basket and prop it up invitingly open against her tea-pot. And at last I got her, though I forget by which of many contrivances. What I recall vividly is a key-hole view, to which another member of the family invited me. Then I saw my mother wrapped up in ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ and muttering the music to herself, nodding her head in approval, and taking a stealthy glance at the foot of each page before she began at the top. Nevertheless she had an ear for the door, for when I bounced in she had been too clever for me; there was no book to be seen, only an apron on her lap and she was gazing out at the window. Some such conversation as this followed:-

‘You have been sitting very quietly, mother.’

‘I always sit quietly, I never do anything, I’m just a finished stocking.’

‘Have you been reading?’

‘Do I ever read at this time of day?’

‘What is that in your lap?’

‘Just my apron.’

‘Is that a book beneath the apron?’

‘It might be a book.’

‘Let me see.’

‘Go away with you to your work.’

But I lifted the apron. ‘Why, it’s “The Master of Ballantrae!”‘ I exclaimed, shocked.

‘So it is!’ said my mother, equally surprised. But I looked sternly at her, and perhaps she blushed.

‘Well what do you think: not nearly equal to mine?’ said I with humour.

‘Nothing like them,’ she said determinedly.

‘Not a bit,’ said I, though whether with a smile or a groan is immaterial; they would have meant the same thing. Should I put the book back on its shelf? I asked, and she replied that I could put it wherever I liked for all she cared, so long as I took it out of her sight (the implication was that it had stolen on to her lap while she was looking out at the window). My behaviour may seem small, but I gave her a last chance, for I said that some people found it a book there was no putting down until they reached the last page.

‘I’m no that kind,’ replied my mother.

Nevertheless our old game with the haver of a thing, as she called it, was continued, with this difference, that it was now she who carried the book covertly upstairs, and I who replaced it on the shelf, and several times we caught each other in the act, but not a word said either of us; we were grown self-conscious. Much of the play no doubt I forget, but one incident I remember clearly. She had come down to sit beside me while I wrote, and sometimes, when I looked up, her eye was not on me, but on the shelf where ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ stood inviting her. Mr. Stevenson’s books are not for the shelf, they are for the hand; even when you lay them down, let it be on the table for the next comer. Being the most sociable that man has penned in our time, they feel very lonely up there in a stately row. I think their eye is on you the moment you enter the room, and so you are drawn to look at them, and you take a volume down with the impulse that induces one to unchain the dog. And the result is not dissimilar, for in another moment you two are at play. Is there any other modern writer who gets round you in this way? Well, he had given my mother the look which in the ball-room means, ‘Ask me for this waltz,’ and she ettled to do it, but felt that her more dutiful course was to sit out the dance with this other less entertaining partner. I wrote on doggedly, but could hear the whispering.

‘Am I to be a wall-flower?’ asked James Durie reproachfully. (It must have been leap-year.)

‘Speak lower,’ replied my mother, with an uneasy look at me.

‘Pooh!’ said James contemptuously, ‘that kail-runtle!’

‘I winna have him miscalled,’ said my mother, frowning.

‘I am done with him,’ said James (wiping his cane with his cambric handkerchief), and his sword clattered deliciously (I cannot think this was accidental), which made my mother sigh. Like the man he was, he followed up his advantage with a comparison that made me dip viciously.

‘A prettier sound that,’ said he, clanking his sword again, ‘than the clack-clack of your young friend’s shuttle.’

‘Whist!’ cried my mother, who had seen me dip.

‘Then give me your arm,’ said James, lowering his voice.

‘I dare not,’ answered my mother. ‘He’s so touchy about you.’

‘Come, come,’ he pressed her, ‘you are certain to do it sooner or later, so why not now?’

‘Wait till he has gone for his walk,’ said my mother; ‘and, forbye that, I’m ower old to dance with you.’

‘How old are you?’ he inquired.

‘You’re gey an’ pert!’ cried my mother.

‘Are you seventy?’

‘Off and on,’ she admitted.

‘Pooh,’ he said, ‘a mere girl!’

She replied instantly, ‘I’m no’ to be catched with chaff’; but she smiled and rose as if he had stretched out his hand and got her by the finger-tip.

After that they whispered so low (which they could do as they were now much nearer each other) that I could catch only one remark. It came from James, and seems to show the tenor of their whisperings, for his words were, ‘Easily enough, if you slip me beneath your shawl.’

That is what she did, and furthermore she left the room guiltily, muttering something about redding up the drawers. I suppose I smiled wanly to myself, or conscience must have been nibbling at my mother, for in less than five minutes she was back, carrying her accomplice openly, and she thrust him with positive viciousness into the place where my Stevenson had lost a tooth (as the writer whom he most resembled would have said). And then like a good mother she took up one of her son’s books and read it most determinedly. It had become a touching incident to me, and I remember how we there and then agreed upon a compromise: she was to read the enticing thing just to convince herself of its inferiority.

‘The Master of Ballantrae’ is not the best. Conceive the glory, which was my mother’s, of knowing from a trustworthy source that there are at least three better awaiting you on the same shelf. She did not know Alan Breck yet, and he was as anxious to step down as Mr. Bally himself. John Silver was there, getting into his leg, so that she should not have to wait a moment, and roaring, ‘I’ll lay to that!’ when she told me consolingly that she could not thole pirate stories. Not to know these gentlemen, what is it like? It is like never having been in love. But they are in the house! That is like knowing that you will fall in love to-morrow morning. With one word, by drawing one mournful face, I could have got my mother to abjure the jam-shelf - nay, I might have managed it by merely saying that she had enjoyed ‘The Master of Ballantrae.’ For you must remember that she only read it to persuade herself (and me) of its unworthiness, and that the reason she wanted to read the others was to get further proof. All this she made plain to me, eyeing me a little anxiously the while, and of course I accepted the explanation. Alan is the biggest child of them all, and I doubt not that she thought so, but curiously enough her views of him are among the things I have forgotten. But how enamoured she was of ‘Treasure Island,’ and how faithful she tried to be to me all the time she was reading it! I had to put my hands over her eyes to let her know that I had entered the room, and even then she might try to read between my fingers, coming to herself presently, however, to say ‘It’s a haver of a book.’

‘Those pirate stories are so uninteresting,’ I would reply without fear, for she was too engrossed to see through me. ‘Do you think you will finish this one?’

‘I may as well go on with it since I have begun it,’ my mother says, so slyly that my sister and I shake our heads at each other to imply, ‘Was there ever such a woman!’

‘There are none of those one-legged scoundrels in my books,’ I say.

‘Better without them,’ she replies promptly.

‘I wonder, mother, what it is about the man that so infatuates the public?’

‘He takes no hold of me,’ she insists. ‘I would a hantle rather read your books.’

I offer obligingly to bring one of them to her, and now she looks at me suspiciously. ‘You surely believe I like yours best,’ she says with instant anxiety, and I soothe her by assurances, and retire advising her to read on, just to see if she can find out how he misleads the public. ‘Oh, I may take a look at it again by-and- by,’ she says indifferently, but nevertheless the probability is that as the door shuts the book opens, as if by some mechanical contrivance. I remember how she read ‘Treasure Island,’ holding it close to the ribs of the fire (because she could not spare a moment to rise and light the gas), and how, when bed-time came, and we coaxed, remonstrated, scolded, she said quite fiercely, clinging to the book, ‘I dinna lay my head on a pillow this night till I see how that laddie got out of the barrel.’

After this, I think, he was as bewitching as the laddie in the barrel to her - Was he not always a laddie in the barrel himself, climbing in for apples while we all stood around, like gamins, waiting for a bite? He was the spirit of boyhood tugging at the skirts of this old world of ours and compelling it to come back and play. And I suppose my mother felt this, as so many have felt it: like others she was a little scared at first to find herself skipping again, with this masterful child at the rope, but soon she gave him her hand and set off with him for the meadow, not an apology between the two of them for the author left behind. But near to the end did she admit (in words) that he had a way with him which was beyond her son. ‘Silk and sacking, that is what we are,’ she was informed, to which she would reply obstinately, ‘Well, then, I prefer sacking.’

‘But if he had been your son?’

‘But he is not.’

‘You wish he were?’

‘I dinna deny but what I could have found room for him.’

And still at times she would smear him with the name of black (to his delight when he learned the reason). That was when some podgy red-sealed blue-crossed letter arrived from Vailima, inviting me to journey thither. (His directions were, ‘You take the boat at San Francisco, and then my place is the second to the left.’) Even London seemed to her to carry me so far away that I often took a week to the journey (the first six days in getting her used to the idea), and these letters terrified her. It was not the finger of Jim Hawkins she now saw beckoning me across the seas, it was John Silver, waving a crutch. Seldom, I believe, did I read straight through one of these Vailima letters; when in the middle I suddenly remembered who was upstairs and what she was probably doing, and I ran to her, three steps at a jump, to find her, lips pursed, hands folded, a picture of gloom.

‘I have a letter from - ’

‘So I have heard.’

‘Would you like to hear it?’

‘No.’

‘Can you not abide him?’

‘I cauna thole him.’

‘Is he a black?’

‘He is all that.’

Well, Vailima was the one spot on earth I had any great craving to visit, but I think she always knew I would never leave her. Sometime, she said, she should like me to go, but not until she was laid away. ‘And how small I have grown this last winter. Look at my wrists. It canna be long now.’ No, I never thought of going, was never absent for a day from her without reluctance, and never walked so quickly as when I was going back. In the meantime that happened which put an end for ever to my scheme of travel. I shall never go up the Road of Loving Hearts now, on ‘a wonderful clear night of stars,’ to meet the man coming toward me on a horse. It is still a wonderful clear night of stars, but the road is empty. So I never saw the dear king of us all. But before he had written books he was in my part of the country with a fishing-wand in his hand, and I like to think that I was the boy who met him that day by Queen Margaret’s burn, where the rowans are, and busked a fly for him, and stood watching, while his lithe figure rose and fell as he cast and hinted back from the crystal waters of Noran-side.

A Panic In The House

I was sitting at my desk in London when a telegram came announcing that my mother was again dangerously ill, and I seized my hat and hurried to the station. It is not a memory of one night only. A score of times, I am sure, I was called north thus suddenly, and reached our little town trembling, head out at railway-carriage window for a glance at a known face which would answer the question on mine. These illnesses came as regularly as the backend of the year, but were less regular in going, and through them all, by night and by day, I see my sister moving so unwearyingly, so lovingly, though with failing strength, that I bow my head in reverence for her. She was wearing herself done. The doctor advised us to engage a nurse, but the mere word frightened my mother, and we got between her and the door as if the woman was already on the stair. To have a strange woman in my mother’s room - you who are used to them cannot conceive what it meant to us.

Then we must have a servant. This seemed only less horrible. My father turned up his sleeves and clutched the besom. I tossed aside my papers, and was ready to run the errands. He answered the door, I kept the fires going, he gave me a lesson in cooking, I showed him how to make beds, one of us wore an apron. It was not for long. I was led to my desk, the newspaper was put into my father’s hand. ‘But a servant!’ we cried, and would have fallen to again. ‘No servant, comes into this house,’ said my sister quite fiercely, and, oh, but my mother was relieved to hear her! There were many such scenes, a year of them, I daresay, before we yielded.

I cannot say which of us felt it most. In London I was used to servants, and in moments of irritation would ring for them furiously, though doubtless my manner changed as they opened the door. I have even held my own with gentlemen in plush, giving one my hat, another my stick, and a third my coat, and all done with little more trouble than I should have expended in putting the three articles on the chair myself. But this bold deed, and other big things of the kind, I did that I might tell my mother of them afterwards, while I sat on the end of her bed, and her face beamed with astonishment and mirth.

From my earliest days I had seen servants. The manse had a servant, the bank had another; one of their uses was to pounce upon, and carry away in stately manner, certain naughty boys who played with me. The banker did not seem really great to me, but his servant - oh yes. Her boots cheeped all the way down the church aisle; it was common report that she had flesh every day for her dinner; instead of meeting her lover at the pump she walked him into the country, and he returned with wild roses in his buttonhole, his hand up to hide them, and on his face the troubled look of those who know that if they take this lady they must give up drinking from the saucer for evermore. For the lovers were really common men, until she gave them that glance over the shoulder which, I have noticed, is the fatal gift of servants.

According to legend we once had a servant - in my childhood I could show the mark of it on my forehead, and even point her out to other boys, though she was now merely a wife with a house of her own. But even while I boasted I doubted. Reduced to life-size she may have been but a woman who came in to help. I shall say no more about her, lest some one comes forward to prove that she went home at night.

Never shall I forget my first servant. I was eight or nine, in velveteen, diamond socks (’Cross your legs when they look at you,’ my mother had said, ‘and put your thumb in your pocket and leave the top of your handkerchief showing’), and I had travelled by rail to visit a relative. He had a servant, and as I was to be his guest she must be my servant also for the time being - you may be sure I had got my mother to put this plainly before me ere I set off. My relative met me at the station, but I wasted no time in hoping I found him well. I did not even cross my legs for him, so eager was I to hear whether she was still there. A sister greeted me at the door, but I chafed at having to be kissed; at once I made for the kitchen, where, I knew, they reside, and there she was, and I crossed my legs and put one thumb in my pocket, and the handkerchief was showing. Afterwards I stopped strangers on the highway with an offer to show her to them through the kitchen window, and I doubt not the first letter I ever wrote told my mother what they are like when they are so near that you can put your fingers into them.

But now when we could have servants for ourselves I shrank from the thought. It would not be the same house; we should have to dissemble; I saw myself speaking English the long day through. You only know the shell of a Scot until you have entered his home circle; in his office, in clubs, at social gatherings where you and he seem to be getting on so well he is really a house with all the shutters closed and the door locked. He is not opaque of set purpose, often it is against his will - it is certainly against mine, I try to keep my shutters open and my foot in the door but they will bang to. In many ways my mother was as reticent as myself, though her manners were as gracious as mine were rough (in vain, alas! all the honest oiling of them), and my sister was the most reserved of us all; you might at times see a light through one of my chinks: she was double-shuttered. Now, it seems to be a law of nature that we must show our true selves at some time, and as the Scot must do it at home, and squeeze a day into an hour, what follows is that there he is self-revealing in the superlative degree, the feelings so long dammed up overflow, and thus a Scotch family are probably better acquainted with each other, and more ignorant of the life outside their circle, than any other family in the world. And as knowledge is sympathy, the affection existing between them is almost painful in its intensity; they have not more to give than their neighbours, but it is bestowed upon a few instead of being distributed among many; they are reputed niggardly, but for family affection at least they pay in gold. In this, I believe, we shall find the true explanation why Scotch literature, since long before the days of Burns, has been so often inspired by the domestic hearth, and has treated it with a passionate understanding.

Must a woman come into our house and discover that I was not such a dreary dog as I had the reputation of being? Was I to be seen at last with the veil of dourness lifted? My company voice is so low and unimpressive that my first remark is merely an intimation that I am about to speak (like the whir of the clock before it strikes): must it be revealed that I had another voice, that there was one door I never opened without leaving my reserve on the mat? Ah, that room, must its secrets be disclosed? So joyous they were when my mother was well, no wonder we were merry. Again and again she had been given back to us; it was for the glorious to-day we thanked God; in our hearts we knew and in our prayers confessed that the fill of delight had been given us, whatever might befall. We had not to wait till all was over to know its value; my mother used to say, ‘We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it,’ and there can be few truer sayings, but during her last years we exulted daily in the possession of her as much as we can exult in her memory. No wonder, I say, that we were merry, but we liked to show it to God alone, and to Him only our agony during those many night-alarms, when lights flickered in the house and white faces were round my mother’s bedside. Not for other eyes those long vigils when, night about, we sat watching, nor the awful nights when we stood together, teeth clenched - waiting - it must be now. And it was not then; her hand became cooler, her breathing more easy; she smiled to us. Once more I could work by snatches, and was glad, but what was the result to me compared to the joy of hearing that voice from the other room? There lay all the work I was ever proud of, the rest is but honest craftsmanship done to give her coal and food and softer pillows. My thousand letters that she so carefully preserved, always sleeping with the last beneath the sheet, where one was found when she died - they are the only writing of mine of which I shall ever boast. I would not there had been one less though I could have written an immortal book for it.

How my sister toiled - to prevent a stranger’s getting any footing in the house! And how, with the same object, my mother strove to ‘do for herself’ once more. She pretended that she was always well now, and concealed her ailments so craftily that we had to probe for them:-

‘I think you are not feeling well to-day?’

‘I am perfectly well.’

‘Where is the pain?’

‘I have no pain to speak of.’

‘Is it at your heart?’

‘No.’

‘Is your breathing hurting you?’

‘Not it.’

‘Do you feel those stounds in your head again?’

‘No, no, I tell you there is nothing the matter with me.’

‘Have you a pain in your side?’

‘Really, it’s most provoking I canna put my hand to my side without your thinking I have a pain there.’

‘You have a pain in your side!’

‘I might have a pain in my side.’

‘And you were trying to hide it! Is it very painful?’

‘It’s - it’s no so bad but what I can bear it.’

Which of these two gave in first I cannot tell, though to me fell the duty of persuading them, for whichever she was she rebelled as soon as the other showed signs of yielding, so that sometimes I had two converts in the week but never both on the same day. I would take them separately, and press the one to yield for the sake of the other, but they saw so easily through my artifice. My mother might go bravely to my sister and say, ‘I have been thinking it over, and I believe I would like a servant fine - once we got used to her.’

‘Did he tell you to say that?’ asks my sister sharply.

‘I say it of my own free will.’

‘He put you up to it, I am sure, and he told you not to let on that you did it to lighten my work.’

‘Maybe he did, but I think we should get one.’

‘Not for my sake,’ says my sister obstinately, and then my mother comes ben to me to say delightedly, ‘She winna listen to reason!’

But at last a servant was engaged; we might be said to be at the window, gloomily waiting for her now, and it was with such words as these that we sought to comfort each other and ourselves:-

‘She will go early to her bed.’

‘She needna often be seen upstairs.’

‘We’ll set her to the walking every day.’

‘There will be a many errands for her to run. We’ll tell her to take her time over them.’

‘Three times she shall go to the kirk every Sabbath, and we’ll egg her on to attending the lectures in the hall.’

‘She is sure to have friends in the town. We’ll let her visit them often.’

‘If she dares to come into your room, mother!’

‘Mind this, every one of you, servant or no servant, I fold all the linen mysel.’

‘She shall not get cleaning out the east room.’

‘Nor putting my chest of drawers in order.’

‘Nor tidying up my manuscripts.’

‘I hope she’s a reader, though. You could set her down with a book, and then close the door canny on her.’

And so on. Was ever servant awaited so apprehensively? And then she came - at an anxious time, too, when her worth could be put to the proof at once - and from first to last she was a treasure. I know not what we should have done without her.

My Heroine.

When it was known that I had begun another story my mother might ask what it was to be about this time.

‘Fine we can guess who it is about,’ my sister would say pointedly.

‘Maybe you can guess, but it is beyond me,’ says my mother, with the meekness of one who knows that she is a dull person.

My sister scorned her at such times. ‘What woman is in all his books?’ she would demand.

‘I’m sure I canna say,’ replies my mother determinedly. ‘I thought the women were different every time.’

‘Mother, I wonder you can be so audacious! Fine you know what woman I mean.’

‘How can I know? What woman is it? You should bear in mind that I hinna your cleverness’ (they were constantly giving each other little knocks).

‘I won’t give you the satisfaction of saying her name. But this I will say, it is high time he was keeping her out of his books.’

And then as usual my mother would give herself away unconsciously. ‘That is what I tell him,’ she says chuckling, ‘and he tries to keep me out, but he canna; it’s more than he can do!’

On an evening after my mother had gone to bed, the first chapter would be brought upstairs, and I read, sitting at the foot of the bed, while my sister watched to make my mother behave herself, and my father cried H’sh! when there were interruptions. All would go well at the start, the reflections were accepted with a little nod of the head, the descriptions of scenery as ruts on the road that must be got over at a walking pace (my mother did not care for scenery, and that is why there is so little of it in my books). But now I am reading too quickly, a little apprehensively, because I know that the next paragraph begins with - let us say with, ‘Along this path came a woman’: I had intended to rush on here in a loud bullying voice, but ‘Along this path came a woman’ I read, and stop. Did I hear a faint sound from the other end of the bed? Perhaps I did not; I may only have been listening for it, but I falter and look up. My sister and I look sternly at my mother. She bites her under-lip and clutches the bed with both hands, really she is doing her best for me, but first comes a smothered gurgling sound, then her hold on herself relaxes and she shakes with mirth.

‘That’s a way to behave!’ cries my sister.

‘I cannot help it,’ my mother gasps.

‘And there’s nothing to laugh at.’

‘It’s that woman,’ my mother explains unnecessarily.

‘Maybe she’s not the woman you think her,’ I say, crushed.

‘Maybe not,’ says my mother doubtfully. ‘What was her name?’

‘Her name,’ I answer with triumph, ‘was not Margaret’; but this makes her ripple again. ‘I have so many names nowadays,’ she mutters.

‘H’sh!’ says my father, and the reading is resumed.

Perhaps the woman who came along the path was of tall and majestic figure, which should have shown my mother that I had contrived to start my train without her this time. But it did not.

‘What are you laughing at now?’ says my sister severely. ‘Do you not hear that she was a tall, majestic woman?’

‘It’s the first time I ever heard it said of her,’ replies my mother.

‘But she is.’

‘Ke fy, havers!’

‘The book says it.’

‘There will be a many queer things in the book. What was she wearing?’

I have not described her clothes. ‘That’s a mistake,’ says my mother. ‘When I come upon a woman in a book, the first thing I want to know about her is whether she was good-looking, and the second, how she was put on.’

The woman on the path was eighteen years of age, and of remarkable beauty.

‘That settles you,’ says my sister.

‘I was no beauty at eighteen,’ my mother admits, but here my father interferes unexpectedly. ‘There wasna your like in this countryside at eighteen,’ says he stoutly.

‘Pooh!’ says she, well pleased.

‘Were you plain, then?’ we ask.

‘Sal,’ she replies briskly, ‘I was far from plain.’

‘H’sh!’

Perhaps in the next chapter this lady (or another) appears in a carriage.

‘I assure you we’re mounting in the world,’ I hear my mother murmur, but I hurry on without looking up. The lady lives in a house where there are footmen - but the footmen have come on the scene too hurriedly. ‘This is more than I can stand,’ gasps my mother, and just as she is getting the better of a fit of laughter, ‘Footman, give me a drink of water,’ she cries, and this sets her off again. Often the readings had to end abruptly because her mirth brought on violent fits of coughing.

Sometimes I read to my sister alone, and she assured me that she could not see my mother among the women this time. This she said to humour me. Presently she would slip upstairs to announce triumphantly, ‘You are in again!’

Or in the small hours I might make a confidant of my father, and when I had finished reading he would say thoughtfully, ‘That lassie is very natural. Some of the ways you say she had - your mother had them just the same. Did you ever notice what an extraordinary woman your mother is?’

Then would I seek my mother for comfort. She was the more ready to give it because of her profound conviction that if I was found out - that is, if readers discovered how frequently and in how many guises she appeared in my books - the affair would become a public scandal.

‘You see Jess is not really you,’ I begin inquiringly.

‘Oh no, she is another kind of woman altogether,’ my mother says, and then spoils the compliment by adding naively, ‘She had but two rooms and I have six.’

I sigh. ‘Without counting the pantry, and it’s a great big pantry,’ she mutters.

This was not the sort of difference I could greatly plume myself upon, and honesty would force me to say, ‘As far as that goes, there was a time when you had but two rooms yourself - ’

‘That’s long since,’ she breaks in. ‘I began with an up-the-stair, but I always had it in my mind - I never mentioned it, but there it was - to have the down-the-stair as well. Ay, and I’ve had it this many a year.’

‘Still, there is no denying that Jess had the same ambition.’

‘She had, but to her two-roomed house she had to stick all her born days. Was that like me?’

‘No, but she wanted - ’

‘She wanted, and I wanted, but I got and she didna. That’s the difference betwixt her and me.’

‘If that is all the difference, it is little credit I can claim for having created her.’

My mother sees that I need soothing. ‘That is far from being all the difference,’ she would say eagerly. ‘There’s my silk, for instance. Though I say it mysel, there’s not a better silk in the valley of Strathmore. Had Jess a silk of any kind - not to speak of a silk like that?’

‘Well, she had no silk, but you remember how she got that cloak with beads.’

‘An eleven and a bit! Hoots, what was that to boast of! I tell you, every single yard of my silk cost - ’

‘Mother, that is the very way Jess spoke about her cloak!’

She lets this pass, perhaps without hearing it, for solicitude about her silk has hurried her to the wardrobe where it hangs.

‘Ah, mother, I am afraid that was very like Jess!’

‘How could it be like her when she didna even have a wardrobe? I tell you what, if there had been a real Jess and she had boasted to me about her cloak with beads, I would have said to her in a careless sort of voice, “Step across with me, Jess and I’ll let you see something that is hanging in my wardrobe.” That would have lowered her pride!’

‘I don’t believe that is what you would have done, mother.’

Then a sweeter expression would come into her face. ‘No,’ she would say reflectively, ‘it’s not.’

‘What would you have done? I think I know.’

‘You canna know. But I’m thinking I would have called to mind that she was a poor woman, and ailing, and terrible windy about her cloak, and I would just have said it was a beauty and that I wished I had one like it.’

‘Yes, I am certain that is what you would have done. But oh, mother, that is just how Jess would have acted if some poorer woman than she had shown her a new shawl.’

‘Maybe, but though I hadna boasted about my silk I would have wanted to do it.’

‘Just as Jess would have been fidgeting to show off her eleven and a bit!’

It seems advisable to jump to another book; not to my first, because - well, as it was my first there would naturally be something of my mother in it, and not to the second, as it was my first novel and not much esteemed even in our family. (But the little touches of my mother in it are not so bad.) Let us try the story about the minister.

My mother’s first remark is decidedly damping. ‘Many a time in my young days,’ she says, ‘I played about the Auld Licht manse, but I little thought I should live to be the mistress of it!’

‘But Margaret is not you.’

‘N-no, oh no. She had a very different life from mine. I never let on to a soul that she is me!’

‘She was not meant to be you when I began. Mother, what a way you have of coming creeping in!’

‘You should keep better watch on yourself.’

‘Perhaps if I had called Margaret by some other name - ’

‘I should have seen through her just the same. As soon as I heard she was the mother I began to laugh. In some ways, though, she’s no’ so very like me. She was long in finding out about Babbie. I’se uphaud I should have been quicker.’

‘Babbie, you see, kept close to the garden-wall.’

‘It’s not the wall up at the manse that would have hidden her from me.’

‘She came out in the dark.’

‘I’m thinking she would have found me looking for her with a candle.’

‘And Gavin was secretive.’

‘That would have put me on my mettle.’

‘She never suspected anything.’

‘I wonder at her.’

But my new heroine is to be a child. What has madam to say to that?

A child! Yes, she has something to say even to that. ‘This beats all!’ are the words.

‘Come, come, mother, I see what you are thinking, but I assure you that this time - ’

‘Of course not,’ she says soothingly, ‘oh no, she canna be me’; but anon her real thoughts are revealed by the artless remark, ‘I doubt, though, this is a tough job you have on hand - it is so long since I was a bairn.’

We came very close to each other in those talks. ‘It is a queer thing,’ she would say softly, ‘that near everything you write is about this bit place. You little expected that when you began. I mind well the time when it never entered your head, any more than mine, that you could write a page about our squares and wynds. I wonder how it has come about?’

There was a time when I could not have answered that question, but that time had long passed. ‘I suppose, mother, it was because you were most at home in your own town, and there was never much pleasure to me in writing of people who could not have known you, nor of squares and wynds you never passed through, nor of a country-side where you never carried your father’s dinner in a flagon. There is scarce a house in all my books where I have not seemed to see you a thousand times, bending over the fireplace or winding up the clock.’

‘And yet you used to be in such a quandary because you knew nobody you could make your women-folk out of! Do you mind that, and how we both laughed at the notion of your having to make them out of me?’

‘I remember.’

‘And now you’ve gone back to my father’s time. It’s more than sixty years since I carried his dinner in a flagon through the long parks of Kinnordy.’

‘I often go into the long parks, mother, and sit on the stile at the edge of the wood till I fancy I see a little girl coming toward me with a flagon in her hand.’

‘Jumping the burn (I was once so proud of my jumps!) and swinging the flagon round so quick that what was inside hadna time to fall out. I used to wear a magenta frock and a white pinafore. Did I ever tell you that?’

‘Mother, the little girl in my story wears a magenta frock and a white pinafore.’

‘You minded that! But I’m thinking it wasna a lassie in a pinafore you saw in the long parks of Kinnordy, it was just a gey done auld woman.’

‘It was a lassie in a pinafore, mother, when she was far away, but when she came near it was a gey done auld woman.’

‘And a fell ugly one!’

‘The most beautiful one I shall ever see.’

‘I wonder to hear you say it. Look at my wrinkled auld face.’

‘It is the sweetest face in all the world.’

‘See how the rings drop off my poor wasted finger.’

‘There will always be someone nigh, mother, to put them on again.’

‘Ay, will there! Well I know it. Do you mind how when you were but a bairn you used to say, “Wait till I’m a man, and you’ll never have a reason for greeting again?”‘

I remembered.

‘You used to come running into the house to say, “There’s a proud dame going down the Marywellbrae in a cloak that is black on one side and white on the other; wait till I’m a man, and you’ll have one the very same.” And when I lay on gey hard beds you said, “When I’m a man you’ll lie on feathers.” You saw nothing bonny, you never heard of my setting my heart on anything, but what you flung up your head and cried, “Wait till I’m a man.” You fair shamed me before the neighbours, and yet I was windy, too. And now it has all come true like a dream. I can call to mind not one little thing I ettled for in my lusty days that hasna been put into my hands in my auld age; I sit here useless, surrounded by the gratification of all my wishes and all my ambitions, and at times I’m near terrified, for it’s as if God had mista’en me for some other woman.’

‘Your hopes and ambitions were so simple,’ I would say, but she did not like that. ‘They werena that simple,’ she would answer, flushing.

I am reluctant to leave those happy days, but the end must be faced, and as I write I seem to see my mother growing smaller and her face more wistful, and still she lingers with us, as if God had said, ‘Child of mine, your time has come, be not afraid.’ And she was not afraid, but still she lingered, and He waited, smiling. I never read any of that last book to her; when it was finished she was too heavy with years to follow a story. To me this was as if my book must go out cold into the world (like all that may come after it from me), and my sister, who took more thought for others and less for herself than any other human being I have known, saw this, and by some means unfathomable to a man coaxed my mother into being once again the woman she had been. On a day but three weeks before she died my father and I were called softly upstairs. My mother was sitting bolt upright, as she loved to sit, in her old chair by the window, with a manuscript in her hands. But she was looking about her without much understanding. ‘Just to please him,’ my sister whispered, and then in a low, trembling voice my mother began to read. I looked at my sister. Tears of woe were stealing down her face. Soon the reading became very slow and stopped. After a pause, ‘There was something you were to say to him,’ my sister reminded her. ‘Luck,’ muttered a voice as from the dead, ‘luck.’ And then the old smile came running to her face like a lamp-lighter, and she said to me, ‘I am ower far gone to read, but I’m thinking I am in it again!’ My father put her Testament in her hands, and it fell open - as it always does - at the Fourteenth of John. She made an effort to read but could not. Suddenly she stooped and kissed the broad page. ‘Will that do instead?’ she asked.

Art Thou Afraid His Power Shall Fail?

For years I had been trying to prepare myself for my mother’s death, trying to foresee how she would die, seeing myself when she was dead. Even then I knew it was a vain thing I did, but I am sure there was no morbidness in it. I hoped I should be with her at the end, not as the one she looked at last but as him from whom she would turn only to look upon her best-beloved, not my arm but my sister’s should be round her when she died, not my hand but my sister’s should close her eyes. I knew that I might reach her too late; I saw myself open a door where there was none to greet me, and go up the old stair into the old room. But what I did not foresee was that which happened. I little thought it could come about that I should climb the old stair, and pass the door beyond which my mother lay dead, and enter another room first, and go on my knees there.

My mother’s favourite paraphrase is one known in our house as David’s because it was the last he learned to repeat. It was also the last thing she read-

Art thou afraid his power shall fail
When comes thy evil day?
And can an all-creating arm
Grow weary or decay?

I heard her voice gain strength as she read it, I saw her timid face take courage, but when came my evil day, then at the dawning, alas for me, I was afraid.

In those last weeks, though we did not know it, my sister was dying on her feet. For many years she had been giving her life, a little bit at a time, for another year, another month, latterly for another day, of her mother, and now she was worn out. ‘I’ll never leave you, mother.’ - ‘Fine I know you’ll never leave me.’ I thought that cry so pathetic at the time, but I was not to know its full significance until it was only the echo of a cry. Looking at these two then it was to me as if my mother had set out for the new country, and my sister held her back. But I see with a clearer vision now. It is no longer the mother but the daughter who is in front, and she cries, ‘Mother, you are lingering so long at the end, I have ill waiting for you.’

But she knew no more than we how it was to be; if she seemed weary when we met her on the stair, she was still the brightest, the most active figure in my mother’s room; she never complained, save when she had to depart on that walk which separated them for half an hour. How reluctantly she put on her bonnet, how we had to press her to it, and how often, having gone as far as the door, she came back to stand by my mother’s side. Sometimes as we watched from the window, I could not but laugh, and yet with a pain at my heart, to see her hasting doggedly onward, not an eye for right or left, nothing in her head but the return. There was always my father in the house, than whom never was a more devoted husband, and often there were others, one daughter in particular, but they scarce dared tend my mother - this one snatched the cup jealously from their hands. My mother liked it best from her. We all knew this. ‘I like them fine, but I canna do without you.’ My sister, so unselfish in all other things, had an unwearying passion for parading it before us. It was the rich reward of her life.

The others spoke among themselves of what must come soon, and they had tears to help them, but this daughter would not speak of it, and her tears were ever slow to come. I knew that night and day she was trying to get ready for a world without her mother in it, but she must remain dumb; none of us was so Scotch as she, she must bear her agony alone, a tragic solitary Scotchwoman. Even my mother, who spoke so calmly to us of the coming time, could not mention it to her. These two, the one in bed, and the other bending over her, could only look long at each other, until slowly the tears came to my sister’s eyes, and then my mother would turn away her wet face. And still neither said a word, each knew so well what was in the other’s thoughts, so eloquently they spoke in silence, ‘Mother, I am loath to let you go,’ and ‘Oh my daughter, now that my time is near, I wish you werena quite so fond of me.’ But when the daughter had slipped away my mother would grip my hand and cry, ‘I leave her to you; you see how she has sown, it will depend on you how she is to reap.’ And I made promises, but I suppose neither of us saw that she had already reaped.

In the night my mother might waken and sit up in bed, confused by what she saw. While she slept, six decades or more had rolled back and she was again in her girlhood; suddenly recalled from it she was dizzy, as with the rush of the years. How had she come into this room? When she went to bed last night, after preparing her father’s supper, there had been a dresser at the window: what had become of the salt-bucket, the meal-tub, the hams that should be hanging from the rafters? There were no rafters; it was a papered ceiling. She had often heard of open beds, but how came she to be lying in one? To fathom these things she would try to spring out of bed and be startled to find it a labour, as if she had been taken ill in the night. Hearing her move I might knock on the wall that separated us, this being a sign, prearranged between us, that I was near by, and so all was well, but sometimes the knocking seemed to belong to the past, and she would cry, ‘That is my father chapping at the door, I maun rise and let him in.’ She seemed to see him - and it was one much younger than herself that she saw - covered with snow, kicking clods of it from his boots, his hands swollen and chapped with sand and wet. Then I would hear - it was a common experience of the night - my sister soothing her lovingly, and turning up the light to show her where she was, helping her to the window to let her see that it was no night of snow, even humouring her by going downstairs, and opening the outer door, and calling into the darkness, ‘Is anybody there?’ and if that was not sufficient, she would swaddle my mother in wraps and take her through the rooms of the house, lighting them one by one, pointing out familiar objects, and so guiding her slowly through the sixty odd years she had jumped too quickly. And perhaps the end of it was that my mother came to my bedside and said wistfully, ‘Am I an auld woman?’

But with daylight, even during the last week in which I saw her, she would be up and doing, for though pitifully frail she no longer suffered from any ailment. She seemed so well comparatively that I, having still the remnants of an illness to shake off, was to take a holiday in Switzerland, and then return for her, when we were all to go to the much-loved manse of her much-loved brother in the west country. So she had many preparations on her mind, and the morning was the time when she had any strength to carry them out. To leave her house had always been a month’s work for her, it must be left in such perfect order, every corner visited and cleaned out, every chest probed to the bottom, the linen lifted out, examined and put back lovingly as if to make it lie more easily in her absence, shelves had to be re-papered, a strenuous week devoted to the garret. Less exhaustively, but with much of the old exultation in her house, this was done for the last time, and then there was the bringing out of her own clothes, and the spreading of them upon the bed and the pleased fingering of them, and the consultations about which should be left behind. Ah, beautiful dream! I clung to it every morning; I would not look when my sister shook her head at it, but long before each day was done I too knew that it could never be. It had come true many times, but never again. We two knew it, but when my mother, who must always be prepared so long beforehand, called for her trunk and band-boxes we brought them to her, and we stood silent, watching, while she packed.

The morning came when I was to go away. It had come a hundred times, when I was a boy, when I was an undergraduate, when I was a man, when she had seemed big and strong to me, when she was grown so little and it was I who put my arms round her. But always it was the same scene. I am not to write about it, of the parting and the turning back on the stair, and two people trying to smile, and the setting off again, and the cry that brought me back. Nor shall I say more of the silent figure in the background, always in the background, always near my mother. The last I saw of these two was from the gate. They were at the window which never passes from my eyes. I could not see my dear sister’s face, for she was bending over my mother, pointing me out to her, and telling her to wave her hand and smile, because I liked it so. That action was an epitome of my sister’s life.

I had been gone a fortnight when the telegram was put into my hands. I had got a letter from my sister, a few hours before, saying that all was well at home. The telegram said in five words that she had died suddenly the previous night. There was no mention of my mother, and I was three days’ journey from home.

The news I got on reaching London was this: my mother did not understand that her daughter was dead, and they were waiting for me to tell her.

I need not have been such a coward. This is how these two died - for, after all, I was too late by twelve hours to see my mother alive.

Their last night was almost gleeful. In the old days that hour before my mother’s gas was lowered had so often been the happiest that my pen steals back to it again and again as I write: it was the time when my mother lay smiling in bed and we were gathered round her like children at play, our reticence scattered on the floor or tossed in sport from hand to hand, the author become so boisterous that in the pauses they were holding him in check by force. Rather woful had been some attempts latterly to renew those evenings, when my mother might be brought to the verge of them, as if some familiar echo called her, but where she was she did not clearly know, because the past was roaring in her ears like a great sea. But this night was a last gift to my sister. The joyousness of their voices drew the others in the house upstairs, where for more than an hour my mother was the centre of a merry party and so clear of mental eye that they, who were at first cautious, abandoned themselves to the sport, and whatever they said, by way of humorous rally, she instantly capped as of old, turning their darts against themselves until in self-defence they were three to one, and the three hard pressed. How my sister must have been rejoicing. Once again she could cry, ‘Was there ever such a woman!’ They tell me that such a happiness was on the daughter’s face that my mother commented on it, that having risen to go they sat down again, fascinated by the radiance of these two. And when eventually they went, the last words they heard were, ‘They are gone, you see, mother, but I am here, I will never leave you,’ and ‘Na, you winna leave me; fine I know that.’ For some time afterwards their voices could be heard from downstairs, but what they talked of is not known. And then came silence. Had I been at home I should have been in the room again several times, turning the handle of the door softly, releasing it so that it did not creak, and standing looking at them. It had been so a thousand times. But that night, would I have slipped out again, mind at rest, or should I have seen the change coming while they slept?

Let it be told in the fewest words. My sister awoke next morning with a headache. She had always been a martyr to headaches, but this one, like many another, seemed to be unusually severe. Nevertheless she rose and lit my mother’s fire and brought up her breakfast, and then had to return to bed. She was not able to write her daily letter to me, saying how my mother was, and almost the last thing she did was to ask my father to write it, and not to let on that she was ill, as it would distress me. The doctor was called, but she rapidly became unconscious. In this state she was removed from my mother’s bed to another. It was discovered that she was suffering from an internal disease. No one had guessed it. She herself never knew. Nothing could be done. In this unconsciousness she passed away, without knowing that she was leaving her mother. Had I known, when I heard of her death, that she had been saved that pain, surely I could have gone home more bravely with the words,

Art thou afraid His power fail
When comes thy evil day?

Ah, you would think so, I should have thought so, but I know myself now. When I reached London I did hear how my sister died, but still I was afraid. I saw myself in my mother’s room telling her why the door of the next room was locked, and I was afraid. God had done so much, and yet I could not look confidently to Him for the little that was left to do. ‘O ye of little faith!’ These are the words I seem to hear my mother saying to me now, and she looks at me so sorrowfully.

He did it very easily, and it has ceased to seem marvellous to me because it was so plainly His doing. My timid mother saw the one who was never to leave her carried unconscious from the room, and she did not break down. She who used to wring her hands if her daughter was gone for a moment never asked for her again, they were afraid to mention her name; an awe fell upon them. But I am sure they need not have been so anxious. There are mysteries in life and death, but this was not one of them. A child can understand what happened. God said that my sister must come first, but He put His hand on my mother’s eyes at that moment and she was altered.

They told her that I was on my way home, and she said with a confident smile, ‘He will come as quick as trains can bring him.’ That is my reward, that is what I have got for my books. Everything I could do for her in this life I have done since I was a boy; I look back through the years and I cannot see the smallest thing left undone.

They were buried together on my mother’s seventy-sixth birthday, though there had been three days between their deaths. On the last day, my mother insisted on rising from bed and going through the house. The arms that had so often helped her on that journey were now cold in death, but there were others only less loving, and she went slowly from room to room like one bidding good-bye, and in mine she said, ‘The beautiful rows upon rows of books, and he said every one of them was mine, all mine!’ and in the east room, which was her greatest triumph, she said caressingly, ‘My nain bonny room!’ All this time there seemed to be something that she wanted, but the one was dead who always knew what she wanted, and they produced many things at which she shook her head. They did not know then that she was dying, but they followed her through the house in some apprehension, and after she returned to bed they saw that she was becoming very weak. Once she said eagerly, ‘Is that you, David?’ and again she thought she heard her father knocking the snow off his boots. Her desire for that which she could not name came back to her, and at last they saw that what she wanted was the old christening robe. It was brought to her, and she unfolded it with trembling, exultant hands, and when she had made sure that it was still of virgin fairness her old arms went round it adoringly, and upon her face there was the ineffable mysterious glow of motherhood. Suddenly she said, ‘Wha’s bairn’s dead? is a bairn of mine dead?’ but those watching dared not speak, and then slowly as if with an effort of memory she repeated our names aloud in the order in which we were born. Only one, who should have come third among the ten, did she omit, the one in the next room, but at the end, after a pause, she said her name and repeated it again and again and again, lingering over it as if it were the most exquisite music and this her dying song. And yet it was a very commonplace name.

They knew now that she was dying. She told them to fold up the christening robe and almost sharply she watched them put it away, and then for some time she talked of the long lovely life that had been hers, and of Him to whom she owed it. She said good-bye to them all, and at last turned her face to the side where her best- beloved had lain, and for over an hour she prayed. They only caught the words now and again, and the last they heard were ‘God’ and ‘love.’ I think God was smiling when He took her to Him, as He had so often smiled at her during those seventy-six years.

I saw her lying dead, and her face was beautiful and serene. But it was the other room I entered first, and it was by my sister’s side that I fell upon my knees. The rounded completeness of a woman’s life that was my mother’s had not been for her. She would not have it at the price. ‘I’ll never leave you, mother.’ - ‘Fine I know you’ll never leave me.’ The fierce joy of loving too much, it is a terrible thing. My sister’s mouth was firmly closed, as if she had got her way.

And now I am left without them, but I trust my memory will ever go back to those happy days, not to rush through them, but dallying here and there, even as my mother wanders through my books. And if I also live to a time when age must dim my mind and the past comes sweeping back like the shades of night over the bare road of the present it will not, I believe, be my youth I shall see but hers, not a boy clinging to his mother’s skirt and crying, ‘Wait till I’m a man, and you’ll lie on feathers,’ but a little girl in a magenta frock and a white pinafore, who comes toward me through the long parks, singing to herself, and carrying her father’s dinner in a flagon.

The Little White Bird

David and I Set Forth Upon a Journey

Sometimes the little boy who calls me father brings me an invitation from his mother: “I shall be so pleased if you will come and see me,” and I always reply in some such words as these: “Dear madam, I decline.” And if David asks why I decline, I explain that it is because I have no desire to meet the woman.

“Come this time, father,” he urged lately, “for it is her birthday, and she is twenty-six,” which is so great an age to David, that I think he fears she cannot last much longer.

“Twenty-six, is she, David?” I replied. “Tell her I said she looks more.”

I had my delicious dream that night. I dreamt that I too was twenty-six, which was a long time ago, and that I took train to a place called my home, whose whereabouts I see not in my waking hours, and when I alighted at the station a dear lost love was waiting for me, and we went away together. She met me in no ecstasy of emotion, nor was I surprised to find her there; it was as if we had been married for years and parted for a day. I like to think that I gave her some of the things to carry.

Were I to tell my delightful dream to David’s mother, to whom I have never in my life addressed one word, she would droop her head and raise it bravely, to imply that I make her very sad but very proud, and she would be wishful to lend me her absurd little pocket handkerchief. And then, had I the heart, I might make a disclosure that would startle her, for it is not the face of David’s mother that I see in my dreams.

Has it ever been your lot, reader, to be persecuted by a pretty woman who thinks, without a tittle of reason, that you are bowed down under a hopeless partiality for her? It is thus that I have been pursued for several years now by the unwelcome sympathy of the tender-hearted and virtuous Mary A-----. When we pass in the street the poor deluded soul subdues her buoyancy, as if it were shame to walk happy before one she has lamed, and at such times the rustle of her gown is whispered words of comfort to me, and her arms are kindly wings that wish I was a little boy like David. I also detect in her a fearful elation, which I am unaware of until she has passed, when it comes back to me like a faint note of challenge. Eyes that say you never must, nose that says why don’t you? and a mouth that says I rather wish you could: such is the portrait of Mary A----- as she and I pass by.

Once she dared to address me, so that she could boast to David that I had spoken to her. I was in the Kensington Gardens, and she asked would I tell her the time please, just as children ask, and forget as they run back with it to their nurse. But I was prepared even for this, and raising my hat I pointed with my staff to a clock in the distance. She should have been overwhelmed, but as I walked on listening intently, I thought with displeasure that I heard her laughing.

Her laugh is very like David’s, whom I could punch all day in order to hear him laugh. I dare say she put this laugh into him. She has been putting qualities in David, altering him, turning him for ever on a lathe since the day she first knew him, and indeed long before, and all so deftly that he is still called a child of nature. When you release David’s hand he is immediately lost like an arrow from the bow. No sooner do you cast eyes on him than you are thinking of birds. It is difficult to believe that he walks to the Kensington Gardens; he always seems to have alighted there: and were I to scatter crumbs I opine he would come and peck. This is not what he set out to be; it is all the doing of that timid-looking lady who affects to be greatly surprised by it. He strikes a hundred gallant poses in a day; when he tumbles, which is often, he comes to the ground like a Greek god; so Mary A----- has willed it. But how she suffers that he may achieve! I have seen him climbing a tree while she stood beneath in unutterable anguish; she had to let him climb, for boys must be brave, but I am sure that, as she watched him, she fell from every branch.

David admires her prodigiously; he thinks her so good that she will be able to get him into heaven, however naughty he is. Otherwise he would trespass less light-heartedly. Perhaps she has discovered this; for, as I learn form him, she warned him lately that she is not such a dear as he thinks her.

“I am very sure of it,” I replied.

“Is she such a dear as you think her?” he asked me.

“Heaven help her,” I said, “if she be not dearer than that.”

Heaven help all mothers if they be not really dears, for their boy will certainly know it in that strange short hour of the day when every mother stands revealed before her little son. That dread hour ticks between six and seven; when children go to bed later the revelation has ceased to come. He is lapt in for the night now and lies quietly there, madam, with great, mysterious eyes fixed upon his mother. He is summing up your day. Nothing in the revelations that kept you together and yet apart in playtime can save you now; you two are of no age, no experience of life separates you; it is the boy’s hour, and you have come up for judgment. “Have I done well to-day, my son?” You have got to say it, and nothing may you hide from him; he knows all. How like your voice has grown to his, but more tremulous, and both so solemn, so unlike the voice of either of you by day.

“You were a little unjust to me to-day about the apple; were you not, mother?”

Stand there, woman, by the foot of the bed and cross your hands and answer him.

“Yes, my son, I was. I thought--”

But what you thought will not affect the verdict.

“Was it fair, mother, to say that I could stay out till six, and then pretend it was six before it was quite six?”

“No, it was very unfair. I thought--”

“Would it have been a lie if I had said it was quite six?”

“Oh, my son, my son! I shall never tell you a lie again.”

“No, mother, please don’t.”

“My boy, have I done well to-day on the whole?”

Suppose he were unable to say yes.

These are the merest peccadilloes, you may say. Is it then a little thing to be false to the agreement you signed when you got the boy? There are mothers who avoid their children in that hour, but this will not save them. Why is it that so many women are afraid to be left alone with their thoughts between six and seven? I am not asking this of you, Mary. I believe that when you close David’s door softly there is a gladness in your eyes, and the awe of one who knows that the God to whom little boys say their prayers has a face very like their mother’s.

I may mention here that David is a stout believer in prayer, and has had his first fight with another young Christian who challenged him to the jump and prayed for victory, which David thought was taking an unfair advantage.

“So Mary is twenty-six! I say, David, she is getting on. Tell her that I am coming in to kiss her when she is fifty-two.”

He told her, and I understand that she pretended to be indignant. When I pass her in the street now she pouts. Clearly preparing for our meeting. She has also said, I learn, that I shall not think so much of her when she is fifty-two, meaning that she will not be so pretty then. So little does the sex know of beauty. Surely a spirited old lady may be the prettiest sight in the world. For my part, I confess that it is they, and not the young ones, who have ever been my undoing. Just as I was about to fall in love I suddenly found that I preferred the mother. Indeed, I cannot see a likely young creature without impatiently considering her chances for, say, fifty-two. Oh, you mysterious girls, when you are fifty-two we shall find you out; you must come into the open then. If the mouth has fallen sourly yours the blame: all the meannesses your youth concealed have been gathering in your face. But the pretty thoughts and sweet ways and dear, forgotten kindnesses linger there also, to bloom in your twilight like evening primroses.

Is it not strange that, though I talk thus plainly to David about his mother, he still seems to think me fond of her? How now, I reflect, what sort of bumpkin is this, and perhaps I say to him cruelly: “Boy, you are uncommonly like your mother.”

To which David: “Is that why you are so kind to me?”

I suppose I am kind to him, but if so it is not for love of his mother, but because he sometimes calls me father. On my honour as a soldier, there is nothing more in it than that. I must not let him know this, for it would make him conscious, and so break the spell that binds him and me together. Oftenest I am but Captain W----- to him, and for the best of reasons. He addresses me as father when he is in a hurry only, and never have I dared ask him to use the name. He says, “Come, father,” with an accursed beautiful carelessness. So let it be, David, for a little while longer.

I like to hear him say it before others, as in shops. When in shops he asks the salesman how much money he makes in a day, and which drawer he keeps it in, and why his hair is red, and does he like Achilles, of whom David has lately heard, and is so enamoured that he wants to die to meet him. At such times the shopkeepers accept me as his father, and I cannot explain the peculiar pleasure this gives me. I am always in two minds then, to linger that we may have more of it, and to snatch him away before he volunteers the information, “He is not really my father.”

When David meets Achilles I know what will happen. They little boy will take the hero by the hand, call him father, and drag him away to some Round Pond.

One day, when David was about five, I sent him the following letter: “Dear David: If you really want to know how it began, will you come and have a chop with me to-day at the club?”

Mary, who, I have found out, opens all his letters, gave her consent, and, I doubt not, instructed him to pay heed to what happened so that he might repeat it to her, for despite her curiosity she knows not how it began herself. I chuckled, guessing that she expected something romantic.

He came to me arrayed as for a mighty journey, and looking unusually solemn, as little boys always do look when they are wearing a greatcoat. There was a shawl round his neck. “You can take some of them off,” I said, “when we come to summer.”

“Shall we come to summer?” he asked, properly awed.

“To many summers,” I replied, “for we are going away back, David, to see your mother as she was in the days before there was you.”

We hailed a hansom. “Drive back six years,” I said to the cabby, “and stop at the Junior Old Fogies’ Club.”

He was a stupid fellow, and I had to guide him with my umbrella.

The streets were not quite as they had been in the morning. For instance, the bookshop at the corner was now selling fish. I dropped David a hint of what was going on.

“It doesn’t make me littler, does it?” he asked anxiously; and then, with a terrible misgiving: “It won’t make me too little, will it, father?” by which he meant that he hoped it would not do for him altogether. He slipped his hand nervously into mine, and I put it in my pocket.

You can’t think how little David looked as we entered the portals of the club.

The Little Nursery Governess

As I enter the club smoking-room you are to conceive David vanishing into nothingness, and that it is any day six years ago at two in the afternoon. I ring for coffee, cigarette, and cherry brandy, and take my chair by the window, just as the absurd little nursery governess comes tripping into the street. I always feel that I have rung for her.

While I am lifting the coffee-pot cautiously lest the lid fall into the cup, she is crossing to the post-office; as I select the one suitable lump of sugar she is taking six last looks at the letter; with the aid of William I light my cigarette, and now she is re-reading the delicious address. I lie back in my chair, and by this time she has dropped the letter down the slit. I toy with my liqueur, and she is listening to hear whether the postal authorities have come for her letter. I scowl at a fellow-member who has had the impudence to enter the smoking-room, and her two little charges are pulling her away from the post-office. When I look out at the window again she is gone, but I shall ring for her to-morrow at two sharp.

She must have passed the window many times before I noticed her. I know not where she lives, though I suppose it to be hard by. She is taking the little boy and girl, who bully her, to the St. James’s Park, as their hoops tell me, and she ought to look crushed and faded. No doubt her mistress overworks her. It must enrage the other servants to see her deporting herself as if she were quite the lady.

I noticed that she had sometimes other letters to post, but that the posting of the one only was a process. They shot down the slit, plebeians all, but it followed pompously like royalty. I have even seen her blow a kiss after it.

Then there was her ring, of which she was as conscious as if it rather than she was what came gaily down the street. She felt it through her glove to make sure that it was still there. She took off the glove and raised the ring to her lips, though I doubt not it was the cheapest trinket. She viewed it from afar by stretching out her hand; she stooped to see how it looked near the ground; she considered its effect on the right of her and on the left of her and through one eye at a time. Even when you saw that she had made up her mind to think hard of something else, the little silly would take another look.

I give any one three chances to guess why Mary was so happy.

No and no and no. The reason was simply this, that a lout of a young man loved her. And so, instead of crying because she was the merest nobody, she must, forsooth, sail jauntily down Pall Mall, very trim as to her tackle, and ticketed with the insufferable air of an engaged woman. At first her complacency disturbed me, but gradually it became part of my life at two o’clock with the coffee, the cigarette, and the liqueur. Now comes the tragedy.

Thursday is her great day. She has from two to three every Thursday for her very own; just think of it: this girl, who is probably paid several pounds a year, gets a whole hour to herself once a week. And what does she with it? Attend classes for making her a more accomplished person? Not she. This is what she does: sets sail for Pall Mall, wearing all her pretty things, including the blue feathers, and with such a sparkle of expectation on her face that I stir my coffee quite fiercely. On ordinary days she at least tries to look demure, but on a Thursday she has had the assurance to use the glass door of the club as a mirror in which to see how she likes her engaging trifle of a figure to-day.

In the meantime a long-legged oaf is waiting for her outside the post-office, where they meet every Thursday, a fellow who always wears the same suit of clothes, but has a face that must ever make him free of the company of gentlemen. He is one of your lean, clean Englishmen, who strip so well, and I fear me he is handsome; I say fear, for your handsome men have always annoyed me, and had I lived in the duelling days I swear I would have called every one of them out. He seems to be quite unaware that he is a pretty fellow, but Lord, how obviously Mary knows it. I conclude that he belongs to the artistic classes, he is so easily elated and depressed; and because he carries his left thumb curiously, as if it were feeling for the hole of a palette, I have entered his name among the painters. I find pleasure in deciding that they are shocking bad pictures, for obviously no one buys them. I feel sure Mary says they are splendid, she is that sort of woman. Hence the rapture with which he greets her. Her first effect upon him is to make him shout with laughter. He laughs suddenly haw from an eager exulting face, then haw again, and then, when you are thanking heaven that it is at last over, comes a final haw, louder than the others. I take them to be roars of joy because Mary is his, and they have a ring of youth about them that is hard to bear. I could forgive him everything save his youth, but it is so aggressive that I have sometimes to order William testily to close the window.

How much more deceitful than her lover is the little nursery governess. The moment she comes into sight she looks at the post-office and sees him. Then she looks straight before her, and now she is observed, and he rushes across to her in a glory, and she starts--positively starts--as if he had taken her by surprise. Observe her hand rising suddenly to her wicked little heart. This is the moment when I stir my coffee violently. He gazes down at her in such rapture that he is in everybody’s way, and as she takes his arm she gives it a little squeeze, and then away they strut, Mary doing nine-tenths of the talking. I fall to wondering what they will look like when they grow up.

What a ludicrous difference do these two nobodies make to each other. You can see that they are to be married when he has twopence.

Thus I have not an atom of sympathy with this girl, to whom London is famous only as the residence of a young man who mistakes her for some one else, but her happiness had become part of my repast at two P.M., and when one day she walked down Pall Mall without gradually posting a letter I was most indignant. It was as if William had disobeyed orders. Her two charges were as surprised as I, and pointed questioningly to the slit, at which she shook her head. She put her finger to her eyes, exactly like a sad baby, and so passed from the street.

Next day the same thing happened, and I was so furious that I bit through my cigarette. Thursday came, when I prayed that there might be an end of this annoyance, but no, neither of them appeared on that acquainted ground. Had they changed their post-office? No, for her eyes were red every day, and heavy was her foolish little heart. Love had put out his lights, and the little nursery governess walked in darkness.

I felt I could complain to the committee.

Oh, you selfish young zany of a man, after all you have said to her, won’t you make it up and let me return to my coffee? Not he.

Little nursery governess, I appeal to you. Annoying girl, be joyous as of old during the five minutes of the day when you are anything to me, and for the rest of the time, so far as I am concerned, you may be as wretched as you list. Show some courage. I assure you he must be a very bad painter; only the other day I saw him looking longingly into the window of a cheap Italian restaurant, and in the end he had to crush down his aspirations with two penny scones.

You can do better than that. Come, Mary.

All in vain. She wants to be loved; can’t do without love from morning till night; never knew how little a woman needs till she lost that little. They are all like this.

Zounds, madam, if you are resolved to be a drooping little figure till you die, you might at least do it in another street.

Not only does she maliciously depress me by walking past on ordinary days, but I have discovered that every Thursday from two to three she stands afar off, gazing hopelessly at the romantic post-office where she and he shall meet no more. In these windy days she is like a homeless leaf blown about by passers-by.

There is nothing I can do except thunder at William.

At last she accomplished her unworthy ambition. It was a wet Thursday, and from the window where I was writing letters I saw the forlorn soul taking up her position at the top of the street: in a blast of fury I rose with the one letter I had completed, meaning to write the others in my chambers. She had driven me from the club.

I had turned out of Pall Mall into a side street, when whom should I strike against but her false swain! It was my fault, but I hit out at him savagely, as I always do when I run into any one in the street. Then I looked at him. He was hollow-eyed; he was muddy; there was not a haw left in him. I never saw a more abject young man; he had not even the spirit to resent the testy stab I had given him with my umbrella. But this is the important thing: he was glaring wistfully at the post-office, and thus in a twink I saw that he still adored my little governess. Whatever had been their quarrel he was as anxious to make it up as she, and perhaps he had been here every Thursday while she was round the corner in Pall Mall, each watching the post-office for an apparition. But from where they hovered neither could see the other.

I think what I did was quite clever. I dropped my letter unseen at his feet, and sauntered back to the club. Of course, a gentleman who finds a letter on the pavement feels bound to post it, and I presumed that he would naturally go to the nearest office.

With my hat on I strolled to the smoking-room window, and was just in time to see him posting my letter across the way. Then I looked for the little nursery governess. I saw her as woe-begone as ever; then, suddenly--oh, you poor little soul, and has it really been as bad as that!

She was crying outright, and he was holding both her hands. It was a disgraceful exhibition. The young painter would evidently explode if he could not make use of his arms. She must die if she could not lay her head upon his breast. I must admit that he rose to the occasion; he hailed a hansom.

“William,” said I gaily, “coffee, cigarette, and cherry brandy.”


As I sat there watching that old play David plucked my sleeve to ask what I was looking at so deedily; and when I told him he ran eagerly to the window, but he reached it just too late to see the lady who was to become his mother. What I told him of her doings, however, interested him greatly; and he intimated rather shyly that he was acquainted with the man who said, “Haw-haw-haw.” On the other hand, he irritated me by betraying an idiotic interest in the two children, whom he seemed to regard as the hero and heroine of the story. What were their names? How old were they? Had they both hoops? Were they iron hoops, or just wooden hoops? Who gave them their hoops?

“You don’t seem to understand, my boy,” I said tartly, “that had I not dropped that letter, there would never have been a little boy called David A----.” But instead of being appalled by this he asked, sparkling, whether I meant that he would still be a bird flying about in the Kensington Gardens.

David knows that all children in our part of London were once birds in the Kensington Gardens; and that the reason there are bars on nursery windows and a tall fender by the fire is because very little people sometimes forget that they have no longer wings, and try to fly away through the window or up the chimney.

Children in the bird stage are difficult to catch. David knows that many people have none, and his delight on a summer afternoon is to go with me to some spot in the Gardens where these unfortunates may be seen trying to catch one with small pieces of cake.

That the birds know what would happen if they were caught, and are even a little undecided about which is the better life, is obvious to every student of them. Thus, if you leave your empty perambulator under the trees and watch from a distance, you will see the birds boarding it and hopping about from pillow to blanket in a twitter of excitement; they are trying to find out how babyhood would suit them.

Quite the prettiest sight in the Gardens is when the babies stray from the tree where the nurse is sitting and are seen feeding the birds, not a grown-up near them. It is first a bit to me and then a bit to you, and all the time such a jabbering and laughing from both sides of the railing. They are comparing notes and inquiring for old friends, and so on; but what they say I cannot determine, for when I approach they all fly away.

The first time I ever saw David was on the sward behind the Baby’s Walk. He was a misselthrush, attracted thither that hot day by a hose which lay on the ground sending forth a gay trickle of water, and David was on his back in the water, kicking up his legs. He used to enjoy being told of this, having forgotten all about it, and gradually it all came back to him, with a number of other incidents that had escaped my memory, though I remember that he was eventually caught by the leg with a long string and a cunning arrangement of twigs near the Round Pond. He never tires of this story, but I notice that it is now he who tells it to me rather than I to him, and when we come to the string he rubs his little leg as if it still smarted.

So when David saw his chance of being a misselthrush again he called out to me quickly: “Don’t drop the letter!” and there were tree-tops in his eyes.

“Think of your mother,” I said severely.

He said he would often fly in to see her. The first thing he would do would be to hug her. No, he would alight on the water-jug first, and have a drink.

“Tell her, father,” he said with horrid heartlessness, “always to have plenty of water in it, ’cos if I had to lean down too far I might fall in and be drownded.”

“Am I not to drop the letter, David? Think of your poor mother without her boy!”

It affected him, but he bore up. When she was asleep, he said, he would hop on to the frilly things of her night-gown and peck at her mouth.

“And then she would wake up, David, and find that she had only a bird instead of a boy.”

This shock to Mary was more than he could endure. “You can drop it,” he said with a sigh. So I dropped the letter, as I think I have already mentioned; and that is how it all began.

Her Marriage, Her Clothes, Her Appetite, and an Inventory of Her Furniture

A week or two after I dropped the letter I was in a hansom on my way to certain barracks when loud above the city’s roar I heard that accursed haw-haw-haw, and there they were, the two of them, just coming out of a shop where you may obtain pianos on the hire system. I had the merest glimpse of them, but there was an extraordinary rapture on her face, and his head was thrown proudly back, and all because they had been ordering a piano on the hire system.

So they were to be married directly. It was all rather contemptible, but I passed on tolerantly, for it is only when she is unhappy that this woman disturbs me, owing to a clever way she has at such times of looking more fragile than she really is.

When next I saw them, they were gazing greedily into the window of the sixpenny-halfpenny shop, which is one of the most deliciously dramatic spots in London. Mary was taking notes feverishly on a slip of paper while he did the adding up, and in the end they went away gloomily without buying anything. I was in high feather. “Match abandoned, ma’am,” I said to myself; “outlook hopeless; another visit to the Governesses’ Agency inevitable; can’t marry for want of a kitchen shovel.”

But I was imperfectly acquainted with the lady.

A few days afterward I found myself walking behind her. There is something artful about her skirts by which I always know her, though I can’t say what it is. She was carrying an enormous parcel that might have been a bird-cage wrapped in brown paper, and she took it into a bric-a-brac shop and came out without it. She then ran rather than walked in the direction of the sixpenny-halfpenny shop. Now mystery of any kind is detestable to me, and I went into the bric-a-brac shop, ostensibly to look at the cracked china; and there, still on the counter, with the wrapping torn off it, was the article Mary had sold in order to furnish on the proceeds. What do you think it was? It was a wonderful doll’s house, with dolls at tea downstairs and dolls going to bed upstairs, and a doll showing a doll out at the front door. Loving lips had long ago licked most of the paint off, but otherwise the thing was in admirable preservation; obviously the joy of Mary’s childhood, it had now been sold by her that she might get married.

“Lately purchased by us,” said the shopwoman, seeing me look at the toy, “from a lady who has no further use for it.”

I think I have seldom been more indignant with Mary. I bought the doll’s house, and as they knew the lady’s address (it was at this shop that I first learned her name) I instructed them to send it back to her with the following letter, which I wrote in the shop: “Dear madam, don’t be ridiculous. You will certainly have further use for this. I am, etc., the Man Who Dropped the Letter.”

It pained me afterward, but too late to rescind the order, to reflect that I had sent her a wedding present; and when next I saw her she had been married for some months. The time was nine o’clock of a November evening, and we were in a street of shops that has not in twenty years decided whether to be genteel or frankly vulgar; here it minces in the fashion, but take a step onward and its tongue is in the cup of the ice-cream man. I usually rush this street, which is not far from my rooms, with the glass down, but to-night I was walking. Mary was in front of me, leaning in a somewhat foolish way on the haw-er, and they were chatting excitedly. She seemed to be remonstrating with him for going forward, yet more than half admiring him for not turning back, and I wondered why.

And after all what was it that Mary and her painter had come out to do? To buy two pork chops. On my honour. She had been trying to persuade him, I decided, that they were living too lavishly. That was why she sought to draw him back. But in her heart she loves audacity, and that is why she admired him for pressing forward.

No sooner had they bought the chops than they scurried away like two gleeful children to cook them. I followed, hoping to trace them to their home, but they soon out-distanced me, and that night I composed the following aphorism: It is idle to attempt to overtake a pretty woman carrying pork chops. I was now determined to be done with her. First, however, to find out their abode, which was probably within easy distance of the shop. I even conceived them lured into taking their house by the advertisement, “Conveniently situated for the Pork Emporium.”

Well, one day--now this really is romantic and I am rather proud of it. My chambers are on the second floor, and are backed by an anxiously polite street between which and mine are little yards called, I think, gardens. They are so small that if you have the tree your neighbour has the shade from it. I was looking out at my back window on the day we have come to when whom did I see but the whilom nursery governess sitting on a chair in one of these gardens. I put up my eye-glass to make sure, and undoubtedly it was she. But she sat there doing nothing, which was by no means my conception of the jade, so I brought a field-glass to bear and discovered that the object was merely a lady’s jacket. It hung on the back of a kitchen chair, seemed to be a furry thing, and, I must suppose, was suspended there for an airing.

I was chagrined, and then I insisted stoutly with myself that, as it was not Mary, it must be Mary’s jacket. I had never seen her wear such a jacket, mind you, yet I was confident, I can’t tell why. Do clothes absorb a little of the character of their wearer, so that I recognised this jacket by a certain coquetry? If she has a way with her skirts that always advertises me of her presence, quite possibly she is as cunning with jackets. Or perhaps she is her own seamstress, and puts in little tucks of herself.

Figure it what you please; but I beg to inform you that I put on my hat and five minutes afterward saw Mary and her husband emerge from the house to which I had calculated that garden belonged. Now am I clever, or am I not?

When they had left the street I examined the house leisurely, and a droll house it is. Seen from the front it appears to consist of a door and a window, though above them the trained eye may detect another window, the air-hole of some apartment which it would be just like Mary’s grandiloquence to call her bedroom. The houses on each side of this bandbox are tall, and I discovered later that it had once been an open passage to the back gardens. The story and a half of which it consists had been knocked up cheaply, by carpenters I should say rather than masons, and the general effect is of a brightly-coloured van that has stuck for ever on its way through the passage.

The low houses of London look so much more homely than the tall ones that I never pass them without dropping a blessing on their builders, but this house was ridiculous; indeed it did not call itself a house, for over the door was a board with the inscription “This space to be sold,” and I remembered, as I rang the bell, that this notice had been up for years. On avowing that I wanted a space, I was admitted by an elderly, somewhat dejected-looking female, whose fine figure was not on scale with her surroundings. Perhaps my face said so, for her first remark was explanatory.

“They get me cheap,” she said, “because I drink.”

I bowed, and we passed on to the drawing-room. I forget whether I have described Mary’s personal appearance, but if so you have a picture of that sunny drawing-room. My first reflection was, How can she have found the money to pay for it all! which is always your first reflection when you see Mary herself a-tripping down the street.

I have no space (in that little room) to catalogue all the whim-whams with which she had made it beautiful, from the hand-sewn bell-rope which pulled no bell to the hand-painted cigar-box that contained no cigars. The floor was of a delicious green with exquisite oriental rugs; green and white, I think, was the lady’s scheme of colour, something cool, you observe, to keep the sun under. The window-curtains were of some rare material and the colour of the purple clematis; they swept the floor grandly and suggested a picture of Mary receiving visitors. The piano we may ignore, for I knew it to be hired, but there were many dainty pieces, mostly in green wood, a sofa, a corner cupboard, and a most captivating desk, which was so like its owner that it could have sat down at her and dashed off a note. The writing-paper on this desk had the word Mary printed on it, implying that if there were other Marys they didn’t count. There were many oil-paintings on the walls, mostly without frames, and I must mention the chandelier, which was obviously of fabulous worth, for she had encased it in a holland bag.

“I perceive, ma’am,” said I to the stout maid, “that your master is in affluent circumstances.”

She shook her head emphatically, and said something that I failed to catch.

“You wish to indicate,” I hazarded, “that he married a fortune.”

This time I caught the words. They were “Tinned meats,” and having uttered them she lapsed into gloomy silence.

“Nevertheless,” I said, “this room must have cost a pretty penny.”

“She done it all herself,” replied my new friend, with concentrated scorn.

“But this green floor, so beautifully stained--”

“Boiling oil,” said she, with a flush of honest shame, “and a shillingsworth o’ paint.”

“Those rugs--”

“Remnants,” she sighed, and showed me how artfully they had been pieced together.

“The curtains--”

“Remnants.”

“At all events the sofa--”

She raised its drapery, and I saw that the sofa was built of packing-cases.

“The desk--”

I really thought that I was safe this time, for could I not see the drawers with their brass handles, the charming shelf for books, the pigeon-holes with their coverings of silk?

“She made it out of three orange-boxes,” said the lady, at last a little awed herself.

I looked around me despairingly, and my eye alighted on the holland covering. “There is a fine chandelier in that holland bag,” I said coaxingly.

She sniffed and was raising an untender hand, when I checked her. “Forbear, ma’am,” I cried with authority, “I prefer to believe in that bag. How much to be pitied, ma’am, are those who have lost faith in everything.” I think all the pretty things that the little nursery governess had made out of nothing squeezed my hand for letting the chandelier off.

“But, good God, ma’am,” said I to madam, “what an exposure.”

She intimated that there were other exposures upstairs.

“So there is a stair,” said I, and then, suspiciously, “did she make it?”

No, but how she had altered it.

The stair led to Mary’s bedroom, and I said I would not look at that, nor at the studio, which was a shed in the garden.

“Did she build the studio with her own hands?”

No, but how she had altered it.

“How she alters everything,” I said. “Do you think you are safe, ma’am?”

She thawed a little under my obvious sympathy and honoured me with some of her views and confidences. The rental paid by Mary and her husband was not, it appeared, one on which any self-respecting domestic could reflect with pride. They got the house very cheap on the understanding that they were to vacate it promptly if any one bought it for building purposes, and because they paid so little they had to submit to the indignity of the notice-board. Mary A---- detested the words “This space to be sold,” and had been known to shake her fist at them. She was as elated about her house as if it were a real house, and always trembled when any possible purchaser of spaces called.

As I have told you my own aphorism I feel I ought in fairness to record that of this aggrieved servant. It was on the subject of art. “The difficulty,” she said, “is not to paint pictures, but to get frames for them.” A home thrust this.

She could not honestly say that she thought much of her master’s work. Nor, apparently, did any other person. Result, tinned meats.

Yes, one person thought a deal of it, or pretended to do so; was constantly flinging up her hands in delight over it; had even been caught whispering fiercely to a friend, “Praise it, praise it, praise it!” This was when the painter was sunk in gloom. Never, as I could well believe, was such a one as Mary for luring a man back to cheerfulness.

“A dangerous woman,” I said, with a shudder, and fell to examining a painting over the mantelshelf. It was a portrait of a man, and had impressed me favourably because it was framed.

“A friend of hers,” my guide informed me, “but I never seed him.”

I would have turned away from it, had not an inscription on the picture drawn me nearer. It was in a lady’s handwriting, and these were the words: “Fancy portrait of our dear unknown.” Could it be meant for me? I cannot tell you how interested I suddenly became.

It represented a very fine-looking fellow, indeed, and not a day more than thirty.

“A friend of hers, ma’am, did you say?” I asked quite shakily. “How do you know that, if you have never seen him?”

“When master was painting of it,” she said, “in the studio, he used to come running in here to say to her such like as, ‘What colour would you make his eyes?’”

“And her reply, ma’am?” I asked eagerly.

“She said, ‘Beautiful blue eyes.’ And he said, ‘You wouldn’t make it a handsome face, would you?’ and she says, ‘A very handsome face.’ And says he, ‘Middle-aged?’ and says she, ‘Twenty-nine.’ And I mind him saying, ‘A little bald on the top?’ and she says, says she, ‘Not at all.’”

The dear, grateful girl, not to make me bald on the top.

“I have seed her kiss her hand to that picture,” said the maid.

Fancy Mary kissing her hand to me! Oh, the pretty love!

Pooh!

I was staring at the picture, cogitating what insulting message I could write on it, when I heard the woman’s voice again. “I think she has known him since she were a babby,” she was saying, “for this here was a present he gave her.”

She was on her knees drawing the doll’s house from beneath the sofa, where it had been hidden away; and immediately I thought, “I shall slip the insulting message into this.” But I did not, and I shall tell you why. It was because the engaging toy had been redecorated by loving hands; there were fresh gowns for all the inhabitants, and the paint on the furniture was scarcely dry. The little doll’s house was almost ready for further use.

I looked at the maid, but her face was expressionless. “Put it back,” I said, ashamed to have surprised Mary’s pretty secret, and I left the house dejectedly, with a profound conviction that the little nursery governess had hooked on to me again.

A Night-Piece

There came a night when the husband was alone in that street waiting. He can do nothing for you now, little nursery governess, you must fight it out by yourself; when there are great things to do in the house the man must leave. Oh, man, selfish, indelicate, coarse-grained at the best, thy woman’s hour has come; get thee gone.

He slouches from the house, always her true lover I do believe, chivalrous, brave, a boy until to-night; but was he ever unkind to her? It is the unpardonable sin now; is there the memory of an unkindness to stalk the street with him to-night? And if not an unkindness, still might he not sometimes have been a little kinder?

Shall we make a new rule of life from to-night: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?

Poor youth, she would come to the window if she were able, I am sure, to sign that the one little unkindness is long forgotten, to send you a reassuring smile till you and she meet again; and, if you are not to meet again, still to send you a reassuring, trembling smile.

Ah, no, that was for yesterday; it is too late now. He wanders the streets thinking of her to-night, but she has forgotten him. In her great hour the man is nothing to the woman; their love is trivial now.

He and I were on opposite sides of the street, now become familiar ground to both of us, and divers pictures rose before me in which Mary A---- walked. Here was the morning after my only entry into her house. The agent had promised me to have the obnoxious notice-board removed, but I apprehended that as soon as the letter announcing his intention reached her she would remove it herself, and when I passed by in the morning there she was on a chair and a footstool pounding lustily at it with a hammer. When it fell she gave it such a vicious little kick.

There were the nights when her husband came out to watch for the postman. I suppose he was awaiting some letter big with the fate of a picture. He dogged the postman from door to door like an assassin or a guardian angel; never had he the courage to ask if there was a letter for him, but almost as it fell into the box he had it out and tore it open, and then if the door closed despairingly the woman who had been at the window all this time pressed her hand to her heart. But if the news was good they might emerge presently and strut off arm in arm in the direction of the pork emporium.

One last picture. On summer evenings I had caught glimpses of them through the open window, when she sat at the piano singing and playing to him. Or while she played with one hand, she flung out the other for him to grasp. She was so joyously happy, and she had such a romantic mind. I conceived her so sympathetic that she always laughed before he came to the joke, and I am sure she had filmy eyes from the very start of a pathetic story.

And so, laughing and crying, and haunted by whispers, the little nursery governess had gradually become another woman, glorified, mysterious. I suppose a man soon becomes used to the great change, and cannot recall a time when there were no babes sprawling in his Mary’s face.

I am trying to conceive what were the thoughts of the young husband on the other side of the street. “If the barrier is to be crossed to-night may I not go with her? She is not so brave as you think her. When she talked so gaily a few hours ago, O my God, did she deceive even you?”

Plain questions to-night. “Why should it all fall on her? What is the man that he should be flung out into the street in this terrible hour? You have not been fair to the man.”

Poor boy, this wife has quite forgotten him and his trumpery love. If she lives she will come back to him, but if she dies she will die triumphant and serene. Life and death, the child and the mother, are ever meeting as the one draws into harbour and the other sets sail. They exchange a bright “All’s well,” and pass on.

But afterward?

The only ghosts, I believe, who creep into this world, are dead young mothers, returned to see how their children fare. There is no other inducement great enough to bring the departed back. They glide into the acquainted room when day and night, their jailers, are in the grip, and whisper, “How is it with you, my child?” but always, lest a strange face should frighten him, they whisper it so low that he may not hear. They bend over him to see that he sleeps peacefully, and replace his sweet arm beneath the coverlet, and they open the drawers to count how many little vests he has. They love to do these things.

What is saddest about ghosts is that they may not know their child. They expect him to be just as he was when they left him, and they are easily bewildered, and search for him from room to room, and hate the unknown boy he has become. Poor, passionate souls, they may even do him an injury. These are the ghosts that go wailing about old houses, and foolish wild stories are invented to explain what is all so pathetic and simple. I know of a man who, after wandering far, returned to his early home to pass the evening of his days in it, and sometimes from his chair by the fire he saw the door open softly and a woman’s face appear. She always looked at him very vindictively, and then vanished. Strange things happened in this house. Windows were opened in the night. the curtains of his bed were set fire to. A step on the stair was loosened. The covering of an old well in a corridor where he walked was cunningly removed. And when he fell ill the wrong potion was put in the glass by his bedside, and he died. How could the pretty young mother know that this grizzled interloper was the child of whom she was in search?

All our notions about ghosts are wrong. It is nothing so petty as lost wills or deeds of violence that brings them back, and we are not nearly so afraid of them as they are of us.

One by one the lights of the street went out, but still a lamp burned steadily in the little window across the way. I know not how it happened, whether I had crossed first to him or he to me, but, after being for a long time as the echo of each other’s steps, we were together now, I can have had no desire to deceive him, but some reason was needed to account for my vigil, and I may have said something that he misconstrued, for above my words he was always listening for other sounds. but however it came about he had conceived the idea that I was an outcast for a reason similar to his own, and I let his mistake pass, it seemed to matter so little and to draw us together so naturally. We talked together of many things, such as worldly ambition. For long ambition has been like an ancient memory to me, some glorious day recalled from my springtime, so much a thing of the past that I must make a railway journey to revisit it as to look upon the pleasant fields in which that scene was laid. But he had been ambitious yesterday.

I mentioned worldly ambition. “Good God!” he said, with a shudder.

There was a clock hard by that struck the quarters, and one o’clock passed and two. What time is it now? Twenty past two. And now? It is still twenty past two.

I asked him about his relatives, and neither he nor she had any. “We have a friend--” he began and paused, and then rambled into a not very understandable story about a letter and a doll’s house and some unknown man who had bought one of his pictures, or was supposed to have done so, in a curiously clandestine manner. I could not quite follow the story.

“It is she who insists that it is always the same person,” he said. “She thinks he will make himself known to me if anything happens to her.” His voice suddenly went husky. “She told me,” he said, “if she died and I discovered him, to give him her love.”

At this point we parted abruptly, as we did at intervals throughout the night, to drift together again presently. He tried to tell me of some things she had asked him to do should she not get over this, but what they were I know not, for they engulfed him at the first step. He would draw back from them as ill-omened things, and next moment he was going over them to himself like a child at lessons. A child! In that short year she had made him entirely dependent on her. It is ever thus with women: their first deliberate act is to make their husband helpless. There are few men happily married who can knock in a nail.

But it was not of this that I was thinking. I was wishing I had not degenerated so much.

Well, as you know, the little nursery governess did not die. At eighteen minutes to four we heard the rustle of David’s wings. He boasts about it to this day, and has the hour to a syllable as if the first thing he ever did was to look at the clock.

An oldish gentleman had opened the door and waved congratulations to my companion, who immediately butted at me, drove me against a wall, hesitated for a second with his head down as if in doubt whether to toss me, and then rushed away. I followed slowly. I shook him by the hand, but by this time he was haw-haw-hawing so abominably that a disgust of him swelled up within me, and with it a passionate desire to jeer once more at Mary A----.

“It is little she will care for you now,” I said to the fellow; “I know the sort of woman; her intellectuals (which are all she has to distinguish her from the brutes) are so imperfectly developed that she will be a crazy thing about that boy for the next three years. She has no longer occasion for you, my dear sir; you are like a picture painted out.”

But I question whether he heard me. I returned to my home. Home! As if one alone can build a nest. How often as I have ascended the stairs that lead to my lonely, sumptuous rooms, have I paused to listen to the hilarity of the servants below. that morning I could not rest: I wandered from chamber to chamber, followed by my great dog, and all were alike empty and desolate. I had nearly finished a cigar when I thought I heard a pebble strike the window, and looking out I saw David’s father standing beneath. I had told him that I lived in this street, and I suppose my lights had guided him to my window.

“I could not lie down,” he called up hoarsely, “until I heard your news. Is it all right?”

For a moment I failed to understand him. Then I said sourly: “Yes, all is right.”

“Both doing well?” he inquired.

“Both,” I answered, and all the time I was trying to shut the window. It was undoubtedly a kindly impulse that had brought him out, but I was nevertheless in a passion with him.

“Boy or girl?” persisted the dodderer with ungentlemanlike curiousity.

“Boy,” I said, very furiously.

“Splendid,” he called out, and I think he added something else, but by that time I had closed the window with a slam.

The Fight for Timothy

Mary’s poor pretentious babe screamed continually, with a note of exultation in his din, as if he thought he was devoting himself to a life of pleasure, and often the last sound I heard as I got me out of the street was his haw-haw-haw, delivered triumphantly as if it were some entirely new thing, though he must have learned it like a parrot. I had not one tear for the woman, but Poor father, thought I; to know that every time your son is happy you are betrayed. Phew, a nauseous draught.

I have the acquaintance of a deliciously pretty girl, who is always sulky, and the thoughtless beseech her to be bright, not witting wherein lies her heroism. She was born the merriest of maids, but, being a student of her face, learned anon that sulkiness best becomes it, and so she has struggled and prevailed. A woman’s history. Brave Margaret, when night falls and thy hair is down, dost thou return, I wonder, to thy natural state, or, dreading the shadow of indulgence, sleepest thou even sulkily?

But will a male child do as much for his father? This remains to be seen, and so, after waiting several months, I decided to buy David a rocking-horse. My St. Bernard dog accompanied me, though I have always been diffident of taking him to toy-shops, which over-excite him. Hitherto the toys I had bought had always been for him, and as we durst not admit this to the saleswoman we were both horribly self-conscious when in the shop. A score of times I have told him that he had much better not come, I have announced fiercely that he is not to come. He then lets go of his legs, which is how a St. Bernard sits down, making the noise of a sack of coals suddenly deposited, and, laying his head between his front paws, stares at me through the red haws that make his eyes so mournful. He will do this for an hour without blinking, for he knows that in time it will unman me. My dog knows very little, but what little he does know he knows extraordinarily well. One can get out of my chambers by a back way, and I sometimes steal softly--but I can’t help looking back, and there he is, and there are those haws asking sorrowfully, “Is this worthy of you?”

“Curse you,” I say, “get your hat,” or words to that effect.

He has even been to the club, where he waddles up the stairs so exactly like some respected member that he makes everybody most uncomfortable. I forget how I became possessor of him. I think I cut him out of an old number of Punch. He costs me as much as an eight-roomed cottage in the country.

He was a full-grown dog when I first, most foolishly, introduced him to toys. I had bought a toy in the street for my own amusement. It represented a woman, a young mother, flinging her little son over her head with one hand and catching him in the other, and I was entertaining myself on the hearth-rug with this pretty domestic scene when I heard an unwonted sound from Porthos, and, looking up, I saw that noble and melancholic countenance on the broad grin. I shuddered and was for putting the toy away at once, but he sternly struck down my arm with his, and signed that I was to continue. The unmanly chuckle always came, I found, when the poor lady dropped her babe, but the whole thing entranced him; he tried to keep his excitement down by taking huge draughts of water; he forgot all his niceties of conduct; he sat in holy rapture with the toy between his paws, took it to bed with him, ate it in the night, and searched for it so longingly next day that I had to go out and buy him the man with the scythe. After that we had everything of note, the bootblack boy, the toper with bottle, the woolly rabbit that squeaks when you hold it in your mouth; they all vanished as inexplicably as the lady, but I dared not tell him my suspicions, for he suspected also and his gentle heart would have mourned had I confirmed his fears.

The dame in the temple of toys which we frequent thinks I want them for a little boy and calls him “the precious” and “the lamb,” the while Porthos is standing gravely by my side. She is a motherly soul, but over-talkative.

“And how is the dear lamb to-day?” she begins, beaming.

“Well, ma’am, well,” I say, keeping tight grip on his collar.

“This blighty weather is not affecting his darling appetite?”

“No, ma’am, not at all.” (She would be considerably surprised if informed that he dined to-day on a sheepshead, a loaf, and three cabbages, and is suspected of a leg of mutton.)

“I hope he loves his toys?”

“He carries them about with him everywhere, ma’am.” (Has the one we bought yesterday with him now, though you might not think it to look at him.)

“What do you say to a box of tools this time?”

“I think not, ma’am.”

“Is the deary fond of digging?”

“Very partial to digging.” (We shall find the leg of mutton some day.)

“Then perhaps a weeny spade and a pail?”

She got me to buy a model of Canterbury Cathedral once, she was so insistent, and Porthos gave me his mind about it when we got home. He detests the kindergarten system, and as she is absurdly prejudiced in its favour we have had to try other shops. We went to the Lowther Arcade for the rocking-horse. Dear Lowther Arcade! Ofttimes have we wandered agape among thy enchanted palaces, Porthos and I, David and I, David and Porthos and I. I have heard that thou art vulgar, but I cannot see how, unless it be that tattered children haunt thy portals, those awful yet smiling entrances to so much joy. To the Arcade there are two entrances, and with much to be sung in laudation of that which opens from the Strand I yet on the whole prefer the other as the more truly romantic, because it is there the tattered ones congregate, waiting to see the Davids emerge with the magic lamp. We have always a penny for them, and I have known them, before entering the Arcade with it, retire (but wither?) to wash; surely the prettiest of all the compliments that are paid to the home of toys.

And now, O Arcade, so much fairer than thy West End brother, we are told that thou art doomed, anon to be turned into an eatinghouse or a hive for usurers, something rankly useful. All thy delights are under notice to quit. The Noah’s arks are packed one within another, with clockwork horses harnessed to them; the soldiers, knapsack on back, are kissing their hands to the dear foolish girls, who, however, will not be left behind them; all the four-footed things gather around the elephant, who is overful of drawing-room furniture; they birds flutter their wings; the man with the scythe mows his way through the crowed; the balloons tug at their strings; the ships rock under a swell of sail, everything is getting ready for the mighty exodus into the Strand. Tears will be shed.

So we bought the horse in the Lowther Arcade, Porthos, who thought it was for him, looking proud but uneasy, and it was sent to the bandbox house anonymously. About a week afterward I had the ill-luck to meet Mary’s husband in Kensington, so I asked him what he had called his little girl.

“It is a boy,” he replied, with intolerable good-humour, “we call him David.”

And then with a singular lack of taste he wanted the name of my boy.

I flicked my glove. “Timothy,” said I.

I saw a suppressed smile on his face, and said hotly that Timothy was as good a name as David. “I like it,” he assured me, and expressed a hope that they would become friends. I boiled to say that I really could not allow Timothy to mix with boys of the David class, but I refrained, and listened coldly while he told me what David did when you said his toes were pigs going to market or returning from it, I forget which. He also boasted of David’s weight (a subject about which we are uncommonly touchy at the club), as if children were for throwing forth for a wager.

But no more about Timothy. Gradually this vexed me. I felt what a forlorn little chap Timothy was, with no one to say a word for him, and I became his champion and hinted something about teething, but withdrew it when it seemed too surprising, and tried to get on to safer ground, such as bibs and general intelligence, but the painter fellow was so willing to let me have my say, and knew so much more about babies than is fitting for men to know, that I paled before him and wondered why the deuce he was listening to me so attentively.

You may remember a story he had told me about some anonymous friend. “His latest,” said he now, “is to send David a rocking-horse!”

I must say I could see no reason for his mirth. “Picture it,” said he, “a rocking-horse for a child not three months old!”

I was about to say fiercely: “The stirrups are adjustable,” but thought it best to laugh with him. But I was pained to hear that Mary had laughed, though heaven knows I have often laughed at her.

“But women are odd,” he said unexpectedly, and explained. It appears that in the middle of her merriment Mary had become grave and said to him quite haughtily, “I see nothing to laugh at.” Then she had kissed the horse solemnly on the nose and said, “I wish he was here to see me do it.” There are moments when one cannot help feeling a drawing to Mary.

But moments only, for the next thing he said put her in a particularly odious light. He informed me that she had sworn to hunt Mr. Anon down.

“She won’t succeed,” I said, sneering but nervous.

“Then it will be her first failure,” said he.

“But she knows nothing about the man.”

“You would not say that if you heard her talking of him. She says he is a gentle, whimsical, lonely old bachelor.”

“Old?” I cried.

“Well, what she says is that he will soon be old if he doesn’t take care. He is a bachelor at all events, and is very fond of children, but has never had one to play with.”

“Could not play with a child though there was one,” I said brusquely; “has forgotten the way; could stand and stare only.”

“Yes, if the parents were present. But he thinks that if he were alone with the child he could come out strong.”

“How the deuce--” I began.

“That is what she says,” he explained, apologetically. “I think she will prove to be too clever for him.”

“Pooh,” I said, but undoubtedly I felt a dizziness, and the next time I met him he quite frightened me. “Do you happen to know any one,” he said, “who has a St. Bernard dog?”

“No,” said I picking up my stick.

“He has a St. Bernard dog.”

“How have you found that out?”

“She has found it out.”

“But how?”

“I don’t know.”

I left him at once, for Porthos was but a little way behind me. The mystery of it scared me, but I armed promptly for battle. I engaged a boy to walk Porthos in Kensington Gardens, and gave him these instructions: “Should you find yourself followed by a young woman wheeling a second-hand perambulator, instantly hand her over to the police on the charge of attempting to steal the dog.”

Now then, Mary.

“By the way,” her husband said at our next meeting, “that rocking-horse I told you of cost three guineas.”

“She has gone to the shop to ask?”

“No, not to ask that, but for a description of the purchaser’s appearance.”

Oh, Mary, Mary.

Here is the appearance of purchaser as supplied at the Arcade:--looked like a military gentleman; tall, dark, and rather dressy; fine Roman nose (quite so), carefully trimmed moustache going gray (not at all); hair thin and thoughtfully distributed over the head like fiddlestrings, as if to make the most of it (pah!); dusted chair with handkerchief before sitting down on it, and had other old-maidish ways (I should like to know what they are); tediously polite, but no talker; bored face; age forty-five if a day (a lie); was accompanied by an enormous yellow dog with sore eyes. (They always think the haws are sore eyes.)

“Do you know any one who is like that?” Mary’s husband asked me innocently.

“My dear man,” I said, “I know almost no one who is not like that,” and it was true, so like each other do we grow at the club. I was pleased, on the whole, with this talk, for it at least showed me how she had come to know of the St. Bernard, but anxiety returned when one day from behind my curtains I saw Mary in my street with an inquiring eye on the windows. She stopped a nurse who was carrying a baby and went into pretended ecstasies over it. I was sure she also asked whether by any chance it was called Timothy. And if not, whether that nurse knew any other nurse who had charge of a Timothy.

Obviously Mary suspicioned me, but nevertheless, I clung to Timothy, though I wished fervently that I knew more about him; for I still met that other father occasionally, and he always stopped to compare notes about the boys. And the questions he asked were so intimate, how Timothy slept, how he woke up, how he fell off again, what we put in his bath. It is well that dogs and little boys have so much in common, for it was really of Porthos I told him; how he slept (peacefully), how he woke up (supposed to be subject to dreams), how he fell off again (with one little hand on his nose), but I glided past what we put in his bath (carbolic and a mop).

The man had not the least suspicion of me, and I thought it reasonable to hope that Mary would prove as generous. Yet was I straitened in my mind. For it might be that she was only biding her time to strike suddenly, and this attached me the more to Timothy, as if I feared she might soon snatch him from me. As was indeed to be the case.

A Shock

It was on a May day, and I saw Mary accompany her husband as far as the first crossing, whence she waved him out of sight as if he had boarded an Atlantic-liner. All this time she wore the face of a woman happily married who meant to go straight home, there to await her lord’s glorious return; and the military-looking gentleman watching her with a bored smile saw nothing better before him than a chapter on the Domestic Felicities. Oh, Mary, can you not provide me with the tiniest little plot?

Hallo!

No sooner was she hid from him than she changed into another woman; she was now become a calculating purposeful madam, who looked around her covertly and, having shrunk in size in order to appear less noticeable, set off nervously on some mysterious adventure.

“The deuce!” thought I, and followed her.

Like one anxious to keep an appointment, she frequently consulted her watch, looking long at it, as if it were one of those watches that do not give up their secret until you have made a mental calculation. Once she kissed it. I had always known that she was fond of her cheap little watch, which he gave her, I think, on the day I dropped the letter, but why kiss it in the street? Ah, and why then replace it so hurriedly in your leather-belt, Mary, as if it were guilt to you to kiss to-day, or any day, the watch your husband gave you?

It will be seen that I had made a very rapid journey from light thoughts to uneasiness. I wanted no plot by the time she reached her destination, a street of tawdry shops. She entered none of them, but paced slowly and shrinking from observation up and down the street, a very figure of shame; and never had I thought to read shame in the sweet face of Mary A----. Had I crossed to her and pronounced her name I think it would have felled her, and yet she remained there, waiting. I, too, was waiting for him, wondering if this was the man, or this, or this, and I believe I clutched my stick.

Did I suspect Mary? Oh, surely not for a moment of time. But there was some foolishness here; she was come without the knowledge of her husband, as her furtive manner indicated, to a meeting she dreaded and was ashamed to tell him of; she was come into danger; then it must be to save, not herself but him; the folly to be concealed could never have been Mary’s. yet what could have happened in the past of that honest boy from the consequences of which she might shield him by skulking here? could that laugh of his have survived a dishonour? the open forehead, the curly locks, the pleasant smile, the hundred ingratiating ways which we carry with us out of childhood, they may all remain when the innocence has fled, but surely the laugh of the morning of life must go. I have never known the devil retain his grip on that.

But Mary was still waiting. She was no longer beautiful; shame had possession of her face, she was an ugly woman. Then the entanglement was her husband’s, and I cursed him for it. But without conviction, for, after all, what did I know of women? I have some distant memories of them, some vain inventions. But of men--I have known one man indifferent well for over forty years, have exulted in him (odd to think of it), shuddered at him, wearied of him, been willing (God forgive me) to jog along with him tolerantly long after I have found him out; I know something of men, and, on my soul, boy, I believe I am wronging you.

Then Mary is here for some innocent purpose, to do a good deed that were better undone, as it so scares her. Turn back, you foolish, soft heart, and I shall say no more about it. Obstinate one, you saw the look on your husband’s face as he left you. It is the studio light by which he paints and still sees to hope, despite all the disappointments of his not ignoble ambitions. That light is the dower you brought him, and he is a wealthy man if it does not flicker.

So anxious to be gone, and yet she would not go. Several times she made little darts, as if at last resolved to escape from that detestable street, and faltered and returned like a bird to the weasel. Again she looked at her watch and kissed it.

Oh, Mary, take flight. What madness is this? Woman, be gone.

Suddenly she was gone. With one mighty effort and a last terrified look round, she popped into a pawnshop.

Long before she emerged I understood it all, I think even as the door rang and closed on her; why the timid soul had sought a street where she was unknown, why she crept so many times past that abhorred shop before desperately venturing in, why she looked so often at the watch she might never see again. So desperately cumbered was Mary to keep her little house over her head, and yet the brave heart was retaining a smiling face for her husband, who must not even know where her little treasures were going.

It must seem monstrously cruel of me, but I was now quite light-hearted again. Even when Mary fled from the shop where she had left her watch, and I had peace of mind to note how thin and worn she had become, as if her baby was grown too big for her slight arms, even then I was light-hearted. Without attempting to follow her, I sauntered homeward humming a snatch of song with a great deal of fal-de-lal-de-riddle-o in it, for I can never remember words. I saw her enter another shop, baby linen shop or some nonsense of that sort, so it was plain for what she had popped her watch; but what cared I? I continued to sing most beautifully. I lunged gaily with my stick at a lamp-post and missed it, whereat a street-urchin grinned, and I winked at him and slipped two-pence down his back.


I presume I would have chosen the easy way had time been given me, but fate willed that I should meet the husband on his homeward journey, and his first remark inspired me to a folly.

“How is Timothy?” he asked; and the question opened a way so attractive that I think no one whose dull life craves for colour could have resisted it.

“He is no more,” I replied impulsively.

The painter was so startled that he gave utterance to a very oath of pity, and I felt a sinking myself, for in these hasty words my little boy was gone, indeed; all my bright dreams of Timothy, all my efforts to shelter him from Mary’s scorn, went whistling down the wind.

The Last of Timothy

So accomplished a person as the reader must have seen at once that I made away with Timothy in order to give his little vests and pinafores and shoes to David, and, therefore, dear sir or madam, rail not overmuch at me for causing our painter pain. Know, too, that though his sympathy ran free I soon discovered many of his inquiries to be prompted by a mere selfish desire to save his boy from the fate of mine. Such are parents.

He asked compassionately if there was anything he could do for me, and, of course, there was something he could do, but were I to propose it I doubted not he would be on his stilts at once, for already I had reason to know him for a haughty, sensitive dog, who ever became high at the first hint of help. So the proposal must come from him. I spoke of the many little things in the house that were now hurtful to me to look upon, and he clutched my hand, deeply moved, though it was another house with its little things he saw. I was ashamed to harass him thus, but he had not a sufficiency of the little things, and besides my impulsiveness had plunged me into a deuce of a mess, so I went on distastefully. Was there no profession in this age of specialism for taking away children’s garments from houses where they were suddenly become a pain? Could I sell them? Could I give them to the needy, who would probably dispose of them for gin? I told him of a friend with a young child who had already refused them because it would be unpleasant to him to be reminded of Timothy, and I think this was what touched him to the quick, so that he made the offer I was waiting for.

I had done it with a heavy foot, and by this time was in a rage with both him and myself, but I always was a bungler, and, having adopted this means in a hurry, I could at the time see no other easy way out. Timothy’s hold on life, as you may have apprehended, was ever of the slightest, and I suppose I always knew that he must soon revert to the obscure. He could never have penetrated into the open. It was no life for a boy.

Yet now, that his time had come, I was loath to see him go. I seem to remember carrying him that evening to the window with uncommon tenderness (following the setting sun that was to take him away), and telling him with not unnatural bitterness that he had got to leave me because another child was in need of all his pretty things; and as the sun, his true father, lapt him in its dancing arms, he sent his love to a lady of long ago whom he called by the sweetest of names, not knowing in his innocence that the little white birds are the birds that never have a mother. I wished (so had the fantasy of Timothy taken possession of me) that before he went he could have played once in the Kensington Gardens, and have ridden on the fallen trees, calling gloriously to me to look; that he could have sailed one paper-galleon on the Round Pond; fain would I have had him chase one hoop a little way down the laughing avenues of childhood, where memory tells us we run but once, on a long summer-day, emerging at the other end as men and women with all the fun to pay for; and I think (thus fancy wantons with me in these desolate chambers) he knew my longings, and said with a boy-like flush that the reason he never did these things was not that he was afraid, for he would have loved to do them all, but because he was not quite like other boys; and, so saying, he let go my finger and faded from before my eyes into another and golden ether; but I shall ever hold that had he been quite like other boys there would have been none braver than my Timothy.

I fear I am not truly brave myself, for though when under fire, so far as I can recollect, I behaved as others, morally I seem to be deficient. So I discovered next day when I attempted to buy David’s outfit, and found myself as shy of entering the shop as any Mary at the pawnbroker’s. The shop for little garments seems very alarming when you reach the door; a man abruptly become a parent, and thus lost to a finer sense of the proprieties, may be able to stalk in unprotected, but apparently I could not. Indeed, I have allowed a repugnance to entering shops of any kind, save my tailor’s to grow on me, and to my tailor’s I fear I go too frequently.

So I skulked near the shop of the little garments, jeering at myself, and it was strange to me to reflect at, say, three o’clock that if I had been brazen at half-past two all would now be over.

To show what was my state, take the case of the very gentleman-like man whom I detected gazing fixedly at me, or so I thought, just as I had drawn valiantly near the door. I sauntered away, but when I returned he was still there, which seemed conclusive proof that he had smoked my purpose. Sternly controlling my temper I bowed, and said with icy politeness, “You have the advantage of me, sir.”

“I beg your pardon,” said he, and I am now persuaded that my words turned his attention to me for the first time, but at the moment I was sure some impertinent meaning lurked behind his answer.

“I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance,” I barked.

“No one regrets it more than I do,” he replied, laughing.

“I mean, sir,” said I, “that I shall wait here until you retire,” and with that I put my back to a shop-window.

By this time he was grown angry, and said he, “I have no engagement,” and he put his back to the shop-window. Each of us was doggedly determined to tire the other out, and we must have looked ridiculous. We also felt it, for ten minutes afterward, our passions having died away, we shook hands cordially and agreed to call hansoms.

Must I abandon the enterprise? Certainly I knew divers ladies who would make the purchases for me, but first I must explain, and, rather than explain, it has ever been my custom to do without. I was in this despondency when a sudden recollection of Irene and Mrs. Hicking heartened me like a cordial, for I saw in them at once the engine and decoy by which David should procure his outfit.

You must be told who they were.

The Inconsiderate Waiter

They were the family of William, one of our club waiters who had been disappointing me grievously of late. Many a time have I deferred dining several minutes that I might have the attendance of this ingrate. His efforts to reserve the window-table for me were satisfactory, and I used to allow him privileges, as to suggest dishes; I have given him information, as that some one had startled me in the reading-room by slamming a door; I have shown him how I cut my finger with a piece of string. William was none of your assertive waiters. We could have plotted a murder safely before him. It was one member who said to him that Saucy Sarah would win the Derby and another who said that Saucy Sarah had no chance, but it was William who agreed with both. The excellent fellow (as I thought him) was like a cheroot which may be smoked from either end.

I date his lapse from one evening when I was dining by the window. I had to repeat my order “Devilled kidney,” and instead of answering brightly, “Yes, sir,” as if my selection of devilled kidney was a personal gratification to him, which is the manner one expects of a waiter, he gazed eagerly out at the window, and then, starting, asked, “Did you say devilled kidney, sir?” A few minutes afterward I became aware that some one was leaning over the back of my chair, and you may conceive my indignation on discovering that this rude person was William. Let me tell, in the measured words of one describing a past incident, what next took place. To get nearer the window he pressed heavily on my shoulder. “William,” I said, “you are not attending to me!”

To be fair to him, he shook, but never shall I forget his audacious apology, “Beg pardon, sir, but I was thinking of something else.”

And immediately his eyes resought the window, and this burst from him passionately, “For God’s sake, sir, as we are man and man, tell me if you have seen a little girl looking up at the club-windows.”

Man and man! But he had been a good waiter once, so I pointed out the girl to him. As soon as she saw William she ran into the middle of Pall Mall, regardless of hansoms (many of which seemed to pass over her), nodded her head significantly three times and then disappeared (probably on a stretcher). She was the tawdriest little Arab of about ten years, but seemed to have brought relief to William. “Thank God!” said he fervently, and in the worst taste.

I was as much horrified as if he had dropped a plate on my toes. “Bread, William,” I said sharply.

“You are not vexed with me, sir?” he had the hardihood to whisper.

“It was a liberty,” I said.

“I know, sir, but I was beside myself.”

“That was a liberty again.”

“It is my wife, sir, she--”

So William, whom I had favoured in so many ways, was a married man. I felt that this was the greatest liberty of all.

I gathered that the troublesome woman was ailing, and as one who likes after dinner to believe that there is no distress in the world, I desired to be told by William that the signals meant her return to health. He answered inconsiderately, however, that the doctor feared the worst.

“Bah, the doctor,” I said in a rage.

“Yes, sir,” said William.

“What is her confounded ailment?”

“She was allus one of the delicate kind, but full of spirit, and you see, sir, she has had a baby-girl lately--”

“William, how dare you,” I said, but in the same moment I saw that this father might be useful to me. “How does your baby sleep, William?” I asked in a low voice, “how does she wake up? what do you put in her bath?”

I saw surprise in his face, so I hurried on without waiting for an answer. “That little girl comes here with a message from your wife?”

“Yes, sir, every evening; she’s my eldest, and three nods from her means that the missus is a little better.”

“There were three nods to-day?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I suppose you live in some low part, William?”

The impudent fellow looked as if he could have struck me. “Off Drury Lane,” he said, flushing, “but it isn’t low. And now,” he groaned, “she’s afeared she will die without my being there to hold her hand.”

“She should not say such things.”

“She never says them, sir. She allus pretends to be feeling stronger. But I knows what is in her mind when I am leaving the house in the morning, for then she looks at me from her bed, and I looks at her from the door--oh, my God, sir!”

“William!”

At last he saw that I was angry, and it was characteristic of him to beg my pardon and withdraw his wife as if she were some unsuccessful dish. I tried to forget his vulgar story in billiards, but he had spoiled my game, and next day to punish him I gave my orders through another waiter. As I had the window-seat, however, I could not but see that the little girl was late, and though this mattered nothing to me and I had finished my dinner, I lingered till she came. She not only nodded three times but waved her hat, and I arose, having now finished my dinner.

William came stealthily toward me. “Her temperature has gone down, sir,” he said, rubbing his hands together.

“To whom are you referring?” I asked coldly, and retired to the billiard-room, where I played a capital game.

I took pains to show William that I had forgotten his maunderings, but I observed the girl nightly, and once, instead of nodding, she shook her head, and that evening I could not get into a pocket. Next evening there was no William in the dining-room, and I thought I knew what had happened. But, chancing to enter the library rather miserably, I was surprised to see him on a ladder dusting books. We had the room practically to ourselves, for though several members sat on chairs holding books in their hands they were all asleep, and William descended the ladder to tell me his blasting tale. He had sworn at a member!

“I hardly knew what I was doing all day, sir, for I had left her so weakly that--”

I stamped my foot.

“I beg your pardon for speaking of her,” he had the grace to say. “But Irene had promised to come every two hours; and when she came about four o’clock and I saw she was crying, it sort of blinded me, sir, and I stumbled against a member, Mr. B----, and he said, ‘Damn you!’ Well, sir, I had but touched him after all, and I was so broken it sort of stung me to be treated so, and I lost my senses, and I said, ‘Damn you!’”

His shamed head sunk on his chest, and I think some of the readers shuddered in their sleep.

“I was turned out of the dining-room at once, and sent here until the committee have decided what to do with me. Oh, sir, I am willing to go on my knees to Mr. B----”

How could I but despise a fellow who would be thus abject for a pound a week?

“For if I have to tell her I have lost my place she will just fall back and die.”

“I forbid your speaking to me of that woman,” I cried wryly, “unless you can speak pleasantly,” and I left him to his fate and went off to look for B----. “What is this story about your swearing at one of the waiters?” I asked him.

“You mean about his swearing at me,” said B----, reddening.

“I am glad that was it,” I said, “for I could not believe you guilty of such bad form. The version which reached me was that you swore at each other, and that he was to be dismissed and you reprimanded.

“Who told you that?” asked B----, who is a timid man.

“I am on the committee,” I replied lightly, and proceeded to talk of other matters, but presently B----, who had been reflecting, said: “Do you know I fancy I was wrong in thinking that the waiter swore at me, and I shall withdraw the charge to-morrow.”

I was pleased to find that William’s troubles were near an end without my having to interfere in his behalf, and I then remembered that he would not be able to see the girl Irene from the library windows, which are at the back of the club. I was looking down at her, but she refrained from signalling because she could not see William, and irritated by her stupidity I went out and asked her how her mother was.

“My,” she ejaculated after a long scrutiny of me, “I b’lieve you are one of them!” and she gazed at me with delighted awe. I suppose William tells them of our splendid doings.

The invalid, it appeared, was a bit better, and this annoying child wanted to inform William that she had took all the tapiocar. She was to indicate this by licking an imaginary plate in the middle of Pall Mall. I gave the little vulgarian a shilling, and returned to the club disgusted.

“By the way, William,” I said, “Mr. B---- is to inform the committee that he was mistaken in thinking you used improper language to him, so you will doubtless be restored to the dining-room to-morrow.”

I had to add immediately, “Remember your place, William.”

“But Mr. B---- knows I swore,” he insisted.

“A gentleman,” I replied stiffly, “cannot remember for many hours what a waiter has said to him.”

“No, sir, but--”

To stop him I had to say, “And--ah--William, your wife is decidedly better. She has eaten the tapioca--all of it.”

“How can you know, sir?”

“By an accident.”

“Irene signed to the window?”

“No.”

“Then you saw her and went out and--”

“How dare you, William?”

“Oh, sir to do that for me! May God bl--”

“William.”

He was reinstated in the dining-room, but often when I looked at him I seemed to see a dying wife in his face, and so the relations between us were still strained. But I watched the girl, and her pantomime was so illuminating that I knew the sufferer had again cleaned the platter on Tuesday, had attempted a boiled egg on Wednesday (you should have seen Irene chipping it in Pall Mall, and putting in the salt), but was in a woeful state of relapse on Thursday.

“Is your mother very ill to-day, Miss Irene?” I asked, as soon as I had drawn her out of range of the club-windows.

“My!” she exclaimed again, and I saw an ecstatic look pass between her and a still smaller girl with her, whom she referred to as a neighbour.

I waited coldly. William’s wife, I was informed had looked like nothing but a dead one till she got the brandy.

“Hush, child,” I said, shocked. “You don’t know how the dead look.”

“Bless yer!” she replied.

Assisted by her friend, who was evidently enormously impressed by Irene’s intimacy with me, she gave me a good deal of miscellaneous information, as that William’s real name was Mr. Hicking, but that he was known in their street, because of the number of his shirts, as Toff Hicking. That the street held he should get away from the club before two in the morning, for his missus needed him more than the club needed him. That William replied (very sensibly) that if the club was short of waiters at supper-time some of the gentlemen might be kept waiting for their marrow-bone. That he sat up with his missus most of the night, and pretended to her that he got some nice long naps at the club. That what she talked to him about mostly was the kid. That the kid was in another part of London (in charge of a person called the old woman), because there was an epidemic in Irene’s street.

“And what does the doctor say about your mother?”

“He sometimes says she would have a chance if she could get her kid back.”

“Nonsense.”

“And if she was took to the country.”

“Then why does not William take her?”

“My! And if she drank porty wine.”

“Doesn’t she?”

“No. But father, he tells her ’bout how the gentlemen drinks it.”

I turned from her with relief, but she came after me.

“Ain’t yer going to do it this time?” she demanded with a falling face. “You done it last time. I tell her you done it”--she pointed to her friend who was looking wistfully at me--“ain’t you to let her see you doing of it?”

For a moment I thought that her desire was another shilling, but by a piece of pantomime she showed that she wanted me to lift my hat to her. So I lifted it, and when I looked behind she had her head in the air and her neighbour was gazing at her awestruck. These little creatures are really not without merit.

About a week afterward I was in a hired landau, holding a newspaper before my face lest any one should see me in company of a waiter and his wife. William was taking her into Surrey to stay with an old nurse of mine, and Irene was with us, wearing the most outrageous bonnet.

I formed a mean opinion of Mrs. Hicking’s intelligence from her pride in the baby, which was a very ordinary one. She created a regrettable scene when it was brought to her, because “she had been feared it would not know her again.” I could have told her that they know no one for years had I not been in terror of Irene, who dandled the child on her knees and talked to it all the way. I have never known a bolder little hussy than this Irene. She asked the infant improper questions, such as “Oo know who gave me this bonnet?” and answered them herself. “It was the pretty gentleman there,” and several times I had to affect sleep, because she announced, “Kiddy wants to kiss the pretty gentleman.”

Irksome as all this necessarily was to a man of taste, I suffered still more acutely when we reached our destination, where disagreeable circumstances compelled me to drink tea with a waiter’s family. William knew that I regarded thanks from persons of his class as an outrage, yet he looked them though he dared not speak them. Hardly had he sat down at the table by my orders than he remembered that I was a member of the club and jumped up. Nothing is in worse form than whispering, yet again and again he whispered to his poor, foolish wife, “How are you now? You don’t feel faint?” and when she said she felt like another woman already, his face charged me with the change. I could not but conclude from the way she let the baby pound her that she was stronger than she pretended.

I remained longer than was necessary because I had something to say to William which I feared he would misunderstand, but when he announced that it was time for him to catch a train back to London, at which his wife paled, I delivered the message.

“William,” I said, backing away from him, “the head-waiter asked me to say that you could take a fortnight’s holiday. Your wages will be paid as usual.”

Confound him.

“William,” I cried furiously, “go away.”

Then I saw his wife signing to him, and I knew she wanted to be left alone with me.

“William,” I cried in a panic, “stay where you are.”

But he was gone, and I was alone with a woman whose eyes were filmy. Her class are fond of scenes. “If you please, ma’am!” I said imploringly.

But she kissed my hand; she was like a little dog.

“It can be only the memory of some kind woman,” said she, “that makes you so kind to me and mine.”

Memory was the word she used, as if all my youth were fled. I suppose I really am quite elderly.

“I should like to know her name, sir,” she said, “that I may mention her with loving respect in my prayers.”

I raised the woman and told her the name. It was not Mary. “But she has a home,” I said, “as you have, and I have none. Perhaps, ma’am, it would be better worth your while to mention me.”


It was this woman, now in health, whom I intrusted with the purchase of the outfits, “one for a boy of six months,” I explained to her, “and one for a boy of a year,” for the painter had boasted to me of David’s rapid growth. I think she was a little surprised to find that both outfits were for the same house; and she certainly betrayed an ignoble curiousity about the mother’s Christian name, but she was much easier to brow-beat than a fine lady would have been, and I am sure she and her daughter enjoyed themselves hugely in the shops, from one of which I shall never forget Irene emerging proudly with a commissionaire, who conducted her under an umbrella to the cab where I was lying in wait. I think that was the most celestial walk of Irene’s life.

I told Mrs. Hicking to give the articles a little active ill-treatment that they might not look quite new, at which she exclaimed, not being in my secret, and then to forward them to me. I then sent them to Mary and rejoiced in my devilish cunning all the evening, but chagrin came in the morning with a letter from her which showed she knew all, that I was her Mr. Anon, and that there never had been a Timothy. I think I was never so gravelled. Even now I don’t know how she had contrived it.

Her cleverness raised such a demon in me that I locked away her letter at once and have seldom read it since. No married lady should have indited such an epistle to a single man. It said, with other things which I decline to repeat, that I was her good fairy. As a sample of the deliberate falsehoods in it, I may mention that she said David loved me already. She hoped that I would come in often to see her husband, who was very proud of my friendship, and suggested that I should pay him my first visit to-day at three o’clock, an hour at which, as I happened to know, he is always away giving a painting-lesson. In short, she wanted first to meet me alone, so that she might draw the delicious, respectful romance out of me, and afterward repeat it to him, with sighs and little peeps at him over her pocket handkerchief.

She had dropped what were meant to look like two tears for me upon the paper, but I should not wonder though they were only artful drops of water.

I sent her a stiff and tart reply, declining to hold any communication with her.

A Confirmed Spinster

I am in danger, I see, of being included among the whimsical fellows, which I so little desire that I have got me into my writing-chair to combat the charge, but, having sat for an unconscionable time with pen poised, I am come agitatedly to the fear that there may be something in it.

So long a time has elapsed, you must know, since I abated of the ardours of self-inquiry that I revert in vain (through many rusty doors) for the beginning of this change in me, if changed I am; I seem ever to see this same man until I am back in those wonderful months which were half of my life, when, indeed, I know that I was otherwise than I am now; no whimsical fellow then, for that was one of the possibilities I put to myself while seeking for the explanation of things, and found to be inadmissible. Having failed in those days to discover why I was driven from the garden, I suppose I ceased to be enamoured of myself, as of some dull puzzle, and then perhaps the whimsicalities began to collect unnoticed.

It is a painful thought to me to-night, that he could wake up glorious once, this man in the elbow-chair by the fire, who is humourously known at the club as a “confirmed spinster.” I remember him well when his years told four and twenty; on my soul the proudest subaltern of my acquaintance, and with the most reason to be proud. There was nothing he might not do in the future, having already done the biggest thing, this toddler up club-steps to-day.

Not, indeed, that I am a knave; I am tolerably kind, I believe, and most inoffensive, a gentleman, I trust, even in the eyes of the ladies who smile at me as we converse; they are an ever-increasing number, or so it seems to me to-night. Ah, ladies, I forget when I first began to notice that smile and to be made uneasy by it. I think I understand it now, and in some vague way it hurts me. I find that I watch for it nowadays, but I hope I am still your loyal, obedient servant.

You will scarcely credit it, but I have just remembered that I once had a fascinating smile of my own. What has become of my smile? I swear I have not noticed that it was gone till now; I am like one who revisiting his school feels suddenly for his old knife. I first heard of my smile from another boy, whose sisters had considered all the smiles they knew and placed mine on top. My friend was scornful, and I bribed him to mention the plebiscite to no one, but secretly I was elated and amazed. I feel lost to-night without my smile. I rose a moment ago to look for it in my mirror.

I like to believe that she has it now. I think she may have some other forgotten trifles of mine with it that make the difference between that man and this. I remember her speaking of my smile, telling me it was my one adornment, and taking it from me, so to speak, for a moment to let me see how she looked in it; she delighted to make sport of me when she was in a wayward mood, and to show me all my ungainly tricks of voice and gesture, exaggerated and glorified in her entrancing self, like a star calling to the earth: “See, I will show you how you hobble round,” and always there was a challenge to me in her eyes to stop her if I dared, and upon them, when she was most audacious, lay a sweet mist.

They all came to court, as is the business of young fellows, to tell her what love is, and she listened with a noble frankness, having, indeed, the friendliest face for all engaged in this pursuit that can ever have sat on woman. I have heard ladies call her coquette, not understanding that she shone softly upon all who entered the lists because, with the rarest intuition, she foresaw that they must go away broken men and already sympathised with their dear wounds. All wounds incurred for love were dear to her; at every true utterance about love she exulted with grave approval, or it might be with a little “ah!” or “oh!” like one drinking deliciously. Nothing could have been more fair, for she was for the first comer who could hit the target, which was her heart.

She adored all beautiful things in their every curve and fragrance, so that they became part of her. Day by day, she gathered beauty; had she had no heart (she who was the bosom of womanhood) her thoughts would still have been as lilies, because the good is the beautiful.

And they all forgave her; I never knew of one who did not forgive her; I think had there been one it would have proved that there was a flaw in her. Perhaps, when good-bye came she was weeping because all the pretty things were said and done with, or she was making doleful confessions about herself, so impulsive and generous and confidential, and so devoid of humour, that they compelled even a tragic swain to laugh. She made a looking-glass of his face to seek wofully in it whether she was at all to blame, and when his arms went out for her, and she stepped back so that they fell empty, she mourned, with dear sympathy, his lack of skill to seize her. For what her soft eyes said was that she was always waiting tremulously to be won. They all forgave her, because there was nothing to forgive, or very little, just the little that makes a dear girl dearer, and often afterward, I believe, they have laughed fondly when thinking of her, like boys brought back. You ladies who are everything to your husbands save a girl from the dream of youth, have you never known that double-chinned industrious man laugh suddenly in a reverie and start up, as if he fancied he were being hailed from far-away?

I hear her hailing me now. She was so light-hearted that her laugh is what comes first across the years; so high-spirited that she would have wept like Mary of Scots because she could not lie on the bare plains like the men. I hear her, but it is only as an echo; I see her, but it is as a light among distant trees, and the middle-aged man can draw no nearer; she was only for the boys. There was a month when I could have shown her to you in all her bravery, but then the veil fell, and from that moment I understood her not. For long I watched her, but she was never clear to me again, and for long she hovered round me, like a dear heart willing to give me a thousand chances to regain her love. She was so picturesque that she was the last word of art, but she was as young as if she were the first woman. The world must have rung with gallant deeds and grown lovely thoughts for numberless centuries before she could be; she was the child of all the brave and wistful imaginings of men. She was as mysterious as night when it fell for the first time upon the earth. She was the thing we call romance, which lives in the little hut beyond the blue haze of the pine-woods.

No one could have looked less elfish. She was all on a noble scale, her attributes were so generous, her manner unconquerably gracious, her movements indolently active, her face so candid that you must swear her every thought lived always in the open. Yet, with it all, she was a wild thing, alert, suspicious of the lasso, nosing it in every man’s hand, more curious about it than about aught else in the world; her quivering delight was to see it cast for her, her game to elude it; so mettlesome was she that she loved it to be cast fair that she might escape as it was closing round her; she scorned, however, her heart might be beating, to run from her pursuers; she took only the one step backward, which still left her near them but always out of reach; her head on high now, but her face as friendly, her manner as gracious as before, she is yours for the catching. That was ever the unspoken compact between her and the huntsmen.

It may be but an old trick come back to me with these memories, but again I clasp my hands to my brows in amaze at the thought that all this was for me could I retain her love. For I won it, wonder of the gods, but I won it. I found myself with one foot across the magic circle wherein she moved, and which none but I had entered; and so, I think, I saw her in revelation, not as the wild thing they had all conceived her, but as she really was. I saw no tameless creature, nothing wild or strange. I saw my sweet love placid as a young cow browsing. As I brushed aside the haze, and she was truly seen for the first time, she raised her head, like one caught, and gazed at me with meek affrighted eyes. I told her what had been revealed to me as I looked upon her, and she trembled, knowing she was at last found, and fain would she have fled away, but that her fear was less than her gladness. She came to me slowly; no incomprehensible thing to me now, but transparent as a pool, and so restful to look upon that she was a bath to the eyes, like banks of moss.

Because I knew the maid, she was mine. Every maid, I say, is for him who can know her. The others had but followed the glamour in which she walked, but I had pierced it and found the woman. I could anticipate her every thought and gesture, I could have flashed and rippled and mocked for her, and melted for her and been dear disdain for her. She would forget this and be suddenly conscious of it as she began to speak, when she gave me a look with a shy smile in it which meant that she knew I was already waiting at the end of what she had to say. I call this the blush of the eye. She had a look and a voice that were for me alone; her very finger-tips were charged with caresses for me. And I loved even her naughtinesses, as when she stamped her foot at me, which she could not do without also gnashing her teeth, like a child trying to look fearsome. How pretty was that gnashing of her teeth! All her tormentings of me turned suddenly into sweetnesses, and who could torment like this exquisite fury, wondering in sudden flame why she could give herself to any one, while I wondered only why she could give herself to me. It may be that I wondered overmuch. Perhaps that was why I lost her.

It was in the full of the moon that she was most restive, but I brought her back, and at first she could have bit my hand, but then she came willingly. Never, I thought, shall she be wholly tamed, but he who knows her will always be able to bring her back.

I am not that man, for, mystery of mysteries, I lost her. I know not how it was, though in the twilight of my life that then began I groped for reasons until I wearied of myself; all I know is that she had ceased to love me; I had won her love, but I could not keep it. The discovery came to me slowly, as if I were a most dull-witted man; at first I knew only that I no longer understood her as of old. I found myself wondering what she had meant by this and that; I did not see that when she began to puzzle me she was already lost to me. It was as if, unknowing, I had strayed outside the magic circle.

When I did understand I tried to cheat myself into the belief that there was no change, and the dear heart bleeding for me assisted in that poor pretence. She sought to glide to me with swimming eyes as before, but it showed only that this caressing movement was still within her compass, but never again for me. With the hands she had pressed to her breast she touched mine, but no longer could they convey the message. The current was broken, and soon we had to desist miserably from our pretences. She could tell no more than I why she had ceased to love me; she was scarcely less anxious than I that I should make her love me again, and, as I have said, she waited with a wonderful tolerance while I strove futilely to discover in what I was lacking and to remedy it. And when, at last, she had to leave me, it was with compassionate cries and little backward flights.

The failure was mine alone, but I think I should not have been so altered by it had I known what was the defect in me through which I let her love escape. This puzzle has done me more harm than the loss of her. Nevertheless, you must know (if I am to speak honestly to you) that I do not repent me those dallyings in enchanted fields. It may not have been so always, for I remember a black night when a poor lieutenant lay down in an oarless boat and let it drift toward the weird. But his distant moans do not greatly pain me now; rather am I elated to find (as the waters bring him nearer) that this boy is I, for it is something to know that, once upon a time, a woman could draw blood from me as from another.

I saw her again, years afterward, when she was a married woman playing with her children. She stamped her foot at a naughty one, and I saw the gleam of her teeth as she gnashed them in the dear pretty way I can’t forget; and then a boy and girl, fighting for her shoulders, brought the whole group joyously to the ground. she picked herself up in the old leisurely manner, lazily active, and looked around her benignantly, like a cow: our dear wild one safely tethered at last with a rope of children. I meant to make her my devoirs, but, as I stepped forward, the old wound broke out afresh, and I had to turn away. They were but a few poor drops, which fell because I found that she was even a little sweeter than I had thought.

Sporting Reflections

I have now told you (I presume) how I became whimsical, and I fear it would please Mary not at all. But speaking of her, and as the cat’s light keeps me in a ruminating mood, suppose, instead of returning Mary to her lover by means of the letter, I had presented a certain clubman to her consideration? Certainly no such whimsical idea crossed my mind when I dropped the letter, but between you and me and my night-socks, which have all this time been airing by the fire because I am subject to cold feet, I have sometimes toyed with it since.

Why did I not think of this in time? Was it because I must ever remain true to the unattainable she?

I am reminded of a passage in the life of a sweet lady, a friend of mine, whose daughter was on the eve of marriage, when suddenly her lover died. It then became pitiful to watch that trembling old face trying to point the way of courage to the young one. In time, however, there came another youth, as true, I dare say, as the first, but not so well known to me, and I shrugged my shoulders cynically to see my old friend once more a matchmaker. She took him to her heart and boasted of him; like one made young herself by the great event, she joyously dressed her pale daughter in her bridal gown, and, with smiles upon her face, she cast rice after the departing carriage. But soon after it had gone, I chanced upon her in her room, and she was on her knees in tears before the spirit of the dead lover. “Forgive me,” she besought him, “for I am old, and life is gray to friendless girls.” The pardon she wanted was for pretending to her daughter that women should act thus.

I am sure she felt herself soiled.

But men are of a coarser clay. At least I am, and nearly twenty years had elapsed, and here was I burdened under a load of affection, like a sack of returned love-letters, with no lap into which to dump them.

“They were all written to another woman, ma’am, and yet I am in hopes that you will find something in them about yourself.” It would have sounded oddly to Mary, but life is gray to friendless girls, and something might have come of it.

On the other hand, it would have brought her for ever out of the wood of the little hut, and I had but to drop the letter to send them both back there. The easiness of it tempted me.

Besides, she would tire of me when I was really known to her. They all do, you see.

And, after all, why should he lose his laugh because I had lost my smile?

And then, again, the whole thing was merely a whimsical idea.

I dropped the letter, and shouldered my burden.

The Runaway Perambulator

I sometimes met David in public places such as the Kensington Gardens, where he lorded it surrounded by his suite and wearing the blank face and glass eyes of all carriage-people. On these occasions I always stalked by, meditating on higher things, though Mary seemed to think me very hard-hearted, and Irene, who had become his nurse (I forget how, but fear I had something to do with it), ran after me with messages, as, would I not call and see him in his home at twelve o’clock, at which moment, it seemed, he was at his best.

No, I would not.

“He says tick-tack to the clock,” Irene said, trying to snare me.

“Pooh!” said I.

“Other little ’uns jest says ‘tick-tick,’” she told me, with a flush of pride.

“I prefer ‘tick-tick,’” I said, whereat she departed in dudgeon.

Had they had the sense to wheel him behind a tree and leave him, I would have looked, but as they lacked it, I decided to wait until he could walk, when it would be more easy to waylay him. However, he was a cautious little gorbal who, after many threats to rise, always seemed to come to the conclusion that he might do worse than remain where he was, and when he had completed his first year I lost patience with him.

“When I was his age,” I said to Irene, “I was running about.” I consulted them casually about this matter at the club, and they had all been running about at a year old.

I made this nurse the following offer: If she would bring the dilatory boy to my rooms and leave him there for half-an-hour I would look at him. At first Mary, to whom the offer was passed on, rejected it with hauteur, but presently she wavered, and the upshot was that Irene, looking scornful and anxious, arrived one day with the perambulator. Without casting eyes on its occupant, I pointed Irene to the door: “In half-an-hour,” I said.

She begged permission to remain, and promised to turn her back, and so on, but I was obdurate, and she then delivered herself of a passionately affectionate farewell to her charge, which was really all directed against me, and ended with these powerful words: “And if he takes off your socks, my pretty, may he be blasted for evermore.”

“I shall probably take off her socks,” I said carelessly to this.

Her socks. Do you see what made Irene scream?

“It is a girl, is it not?” I asked, thus neatly depriving her of coherent speech as I pushed her to the door. I then turned round to--to begin, and, after reflecting, I began by sitting down behind the hood of his carriage. My plan was to accustom him to his new surroundings before bursting on the scene myself.

I had various thoughts. Was he awake? If not, better let him wake naturally. Half-an-hour was a long time. Why had I not said quarter-of-an-hour? Anon, I saw that if I was to sit there much longer I should have said an hour, so I whistled softly; but he took no notice. I remember trying to persuade myself that if I never budged till Irene’s return, it would be an amusing triumph over Mary. I coughed, but still there was no response. Abruptly, the fear smote me, perhaps he is not there.

I rose hastily, and was striding forward, when I distinctly noticed a covert movement somewhere near the middle of the carriage, and heard a low gurgle, which was instantly suppressed. I stopped dead at this sharp reminder that I was probably not the only curious person in the room, and for a long moment we both lay low, after which, I am glad to remember, I made the first advance. Earlier in the day I had arranged some likely articles on a side-table: my watch and chain, my bunch of keys, and two war-medals for plodding merit, and with a glance at these (as something to fall back upon), I stepped forward doggedly, looking (I fear now) a little like a professor of legerdemain. David was sitting up, and he immediately fixed his eyes upon me.

It would ill become me to attempt to describe this dear boy to you, for of course I know really nothing about children, so I shall say only this, that I thought him very like what Timothy would have been had he ever had a chance.

I to whom David had been brought for judgment, now found myself being judged by him, and this rearrangement of the pieces seemed so natural that I felt no surprise; I felt only a humble craving to hear him signify that I would do. I have stood up before other keen judges and deceived them all, but I made no effort to deceive David; I wanted to, but dared not. Those unblinking eyes were too new to the world to be hooded by any of its tricks. In them I saw my true self. They opened for me that pedler’s pack of which I have made so much ado, and I found that it was weighted less with pretty little sad love-tokens than with ignoble thoughts and deeds and an unguided life. I looked dejectedly at David, not so much, I think, because I had such a sorry display for him, as because I feared he would not have me in his service. I seemed to know that he was making up his mind once and for all.

And in the end he smiled, perhaps only because I looked so frightened, but the reason scarcely mattered to me, I felt myself a fine fellow at once. It was a long smile, too, opening slowly to its fullest extent (as if to let me in), and then as slowly shutting.

Then, to divert me from sad thoughts, or to rivet our friendship, or because the time had come for each of us to show the other what he could do, he immediately held one foot high in the air. This made him slide down the perambulator, and I saw at once that it was very necessary to replace him. But never before had I come into such close contact with a child; the most I had ever done was, when they were held up to me, to shut my eyes and kiss a vacuum. David, of course, though no doubt he was eternally being replaced, could tell as little as myself how it was contrived, and yet we managed it between us quite easily. His body instinctively assumed a certain position as I touched him, which compelled my arms to fall into place, and the thing was done. I felt absurdly pleased, but he was already considering what he should do next.

He again held up his foot, which had a gouty appearance owing to its being contained in a dumpy little worsted sack, and I thought he proposed to repeat his first performance, but in this I did him an injustice, for, unlike Porthos, he was one who scorned to do the same feat twice; perhaps, like the conjurors, he knew that the audience were more on the alert the second time.

I discovered that he wanted me to take off his sock!

Remembering Irene’s dread warnings on this subject I must say that I felt uneasy. Had he heard her, and was he daring me? And what dire thing could happen if the sock was removed? I sought to reason with him, but he signed to me to look sharp, and I removed the sock. The part of him thus revealed gave David considerable pleasure, but I noticed, as a curious thing, that he seemed to have no interest in the other foot.

However, it was not there merely to be looked at, for after giving me a glance which said “Now observe!” he raised his bare foot and ran his mouth along the toes, like one playing on a barbaric instrument. He then tossed his foot aside, smiled his long triumphant smile and intimated that it was now my turn to do something. I thought the best thing I could do would be to put his sock on him again, but as soon as I tried to do so I discovered why Irene had warned me so portentously against taking it off. I should say that she had trouble in socking him every morning.

Nevertheless I managed to slip it on while he was debating what to do with my watch. I bitterly regretted that I could do nothing with it myself, put it under a wine-glass, for instance, and make it turn into a rabbit, which so many people can do. In the meantime David, occupied with similar thoughts, very nearly made it disappear altogether, and I was thankful to be able to pull it back by the chain.

“Haw-haw-haw!

Thus he commented on his new feat, but it was also a reminder to me, a trifle cruel, that he was not my boy. After all, you see, Mary had not given him the whole of his laugh. The watch said that five and twenty minutes had passed, and looking out I saw Irene at one end of the street staring up at my window, and at the other end Mary’s husband staring up at my window, and beneath me Mary staring up at my window. They had all broken their promise.

I returned to David, and asked him in a low voice whether he would give me a kiss. He shook his head about six times, and I was in despair. Then the smile came, and I knew that he was teasing me only. He now nodded his head about six times.

This was the prettiest of all his exploits. It was so pretty that, contrary to his rule, he repeated it. I had held out my arms to him, and first he shook his head, and then after a long pause (to frighten me), he nodded it.

But no sooner was he in my arms than I seemed to see Mary and her husband and Irene bearing down upon my chambers to take him from me, and acting under an impulse I whipped him into the perambulator and was off with it without a license down the back staircase. To the Kensington Gardens we went; it may have been Manitoba we started for, but we arrived at the Kensington Gardens, and it had all been so unpremeditated and smartly carried out that I remember clapping my hand to my head in the street, to make sure that I was wearing a hat.

I watched David to see what he thought of it, and he had not yet made up his mind. Strange to say, I no longer felt shy. I was grown suddenly indifferent to public comment, and my elation increased when I discovered that I was being pursued. They drew a cordon round me near Margot Meredith’s tree, but I broke through it by a strategic movement to the south, and was next heard of in the Baby’s Walk. They held both ends of this passage, and then thought to close on me, but I slipped through their fingers by doubling up Bunting’s Thumb into Picnic Street. Cowering at St. Govor’s Well, we saw them rush distractedly up the Hump, and when they had crossed to the Round Pond we paraded gaily in the Broad Walk, not feeling the tiniest bit sorry for anybody.

Here, however, it gradually came into David’s eyes that, after all, I was a strange man, and they opened wider and wider, until they were the size of my medals, and then, with the deliberation that distinguishes his smile, he slowly prepared to howl. I saw all his forces gathering in his face, and I had nothing to oppose to them; it was an unarmed man against a regiment.

Even then I did not chide him. He could not know that it was I who had dropped the letter.

I think I must have stepped over a grateful fairy at that moment, for who else could have reminded me so opportunely of my famous manipulation of the eyebrows, forgotten since I was in the fifth form? I alone of boys had been able to elevate and lower my eyebrows separately; when one was climbing my forehead the other descended it, like the two buckets in the well.

Most diffidently did I call this accomplishment to my aid now, and immediately David checked his forces and considered my unexpected movement without prejudice. His face remained as it was, his mouth open to emit the howl if I did not surpass expectation. I saw that, like the fair-minded boy he has always been, he was giving me my chance, and I worked feverishly, my chief fear being that, owing to his youth, he might not know how marvellous was this thing I was doing. It is an appeal to the intellect, as well as to the senses, and no one on earth can do it except myself.

When I paused for a moment exhausted he signed gravely, with unchanged face, that though it was undeniably funny, he had not yet decided whether it was funny enough, and, taking this for encouragement, at it I went once more, till I saw his forces wavering, when I sent my left eyebrow up almost farther than I could bring it back, and with that I had him: the smile broke through the clouds.

In the midst of my hard-won triumph I heard cheering.

I had been vaguely conscious that we were not quite alone, but had not dared to look away from David; I looked now, and found to my annoyance that I was the centre of a deeply interested gathering of children. There was, in particular, one vulgar little street-boy--

However, if that damped me in the moment of victory, I was soon to triumph gloriously in what began like defeat. I had sat me down on one of the garden-seats in the Figs, with one hand resting carelessly on the perambulator, in imitation of the nurses--it was so pleasant to assume the air of one who walked with David daily--when to my chagrin I saw Mary approaching with quick stealthy steps, and already so near me that flight would have been ignominy.l Porthos, of whom she had hold, bounded toward me, waving his traitorous tail, but she slowed on seeing that I had observed her. She had run me down with my own dog.

I have not mentioned that Porthos had for some time now been a visitor at her house, though never can I forget the shock I got the first time I saw him strolling out of it like an afternoon caller. Of late he has avoided it, crossing to the other side when I go that way, and rejoining me farther on, so I conclude that Mary’s husband is painting him.

I waited her coming stiffly, in great depression of spirits, and noted that her first attentions were for David, who, somewhat shabbily, gave her the end of a smile which had been begun for me. It seemed to relieve her, for what one may call the wild maternal look left her face, and trying to check little gasps of breath, the result of unseemly running, she signed to her confederates to remain in the background, and turned curious eyes on me. Had she spoken as she approached, I am sure her words would have been as flushed as her face, but now her mouth puckered as David’s does before he sets forth upon his smile, and I saw that she thought she had me in a parley at last.

“I could not help being a little anxious,” she said craftily, but I must own, with some sweetness.

I merely raised my hat, and at that she turned quickly to David--I cannot understand why the movement was so hasty--and lowered her face to his. Oh, little trump of a boy! Instead of kissing her, he seized her face with one hand and tried to work her eyebrows up and down with the other. He failed, and his obvious disappointment in his mother was as nectar to me.

“I don’t understand what you want, darling,” said she in distress, and looked at me inquiringly, and I understood what he wanted, and let her see that I understood. Had I been prepared to converse with her, I should have said elatedly that, had she known what he wanted, still she could not have done it, though she had practised for twenty years.

I tried to express all this by another movement of my hat.

It caught David’s eye and at once he appealed to me with the most perfect confidence. She failed to see what I did, for I shyly gave her my back, but the effect on David was miraculous; he signed to her to go, for he was engaged for the afternoon.

What would you have done then, reader? I didn’t. In my great moment I had strength of character to raise my hat for the third time and walk away, leaving the child to judge between us. I walked slowly, for I knew I must give him time to get it out, and I listened eagerly, but that was unnecessary, for when it did come it was a very roar of anguish. I turned my head, and saw David fiercely pushing the woman aside, that he might have one last long look at me. He held out his wistful arms and nodded repeatedly, and I faltered, but my glorious scheme saved me, and I walked on. It was a scheme conceived in a flash, and ever since relentlessly pursued, to burrow under Mary’s influence with the boy, expose her to him in all her vagaries, take him utterly from her and make him mine.

The Pleasantest Club in London

All perambulators lead to Kensington Gardens.

Not, however, that you will see David in his perambulator much longer, for soon after I first shook his faith in his mother, it came to him to be up and doing, and he up and did in the Broad Walk itself, where he would stand alone most elaborately poised, signing imperiously to the British public to time him, and looking his most heavenly just before he fell. He fell with a dump, and as they always laughed then, he pretended that this was his funny way of finishing.

That was on a Monday. On Tuesday he climbed the stone stair of the Gold King, looking over his shoulder gloriously at each step, and on Wednesday he struck three and went into knickerbockers. For the Kensington Gardens, you must know, are full of short cuts, familiar to all who play there; and the shortest leads from the baby in long clothes to the little boy of three riding on the fence. It is called the Mother’s Tragedy.

If you are a burgess of the gardens (which have a vocabulary of their own), the faces of these quaint mothers are a clock to you, in which you may read the ages of their young. When he is three they are said to wear the knickerbocker face, and you may take it from me that Mary assumed that face with a sigh; fain would she have kept her boy a baby longer, but he insisted on his rights, and I encouraged him that I might notch up another point against her. I was now seeing David once at least every week, his mother, who remained culpably obtuse to my sinister design, having instructed Irene that I was to be allowed to share him with her, and we had become close friends, though the little nurse was ever a threatening shadow in the background. Irene, in short, did not improve with acquaintance. I found her to be high and mighty, chiefly, I think, because she now wore a nurse’s cap with streamers, of which the little creature was ludicrously proud. She assumed the airs of an official person, and always talked as if generations of babies had passed through her hands. She was also extremely jealous, and had a way of signifying disapproval of my methods that led to many coldnesses and even bickerings between us, which I now see to have been undignified. I brought the following accusations against her:

That she prated too much about right and wrong.

That she was a martinet.

That she pretended it was a real cap, with real streamers, when she knew Mary had made the whole thing out of a muslin blind. I regret having used this argument, but it was the only one that really damped her.

On the other hand, she accused me of spoiling him.

Of not thinking of his future.

Of never asking him where he expected to go to if he did such things.

Of telling him tales that had no moral application.

Of saying that the handkerchief disappeared into nothingness, when it really disappeared into a small tin cup, attached to my person by a piece of elastic.

To this last charge I plead guilty, for in those days I had a pathetic faith in legerdemain, and the eyebrow feat (which, however, is entirely an affair of skill) having yielded such good results, I naturally cast about for similar diversions when it ceased to attract. It lost its hold on David suddenly, as I was to discover was the fate of all of them; twenty times would he call for my latest, and exult in it, and the twenty-first time (and ever afterward) he would stare blankly, as if wondering what the man meant. He was like the child queen who, when the great joke was explained to her, said coldly, “We are not amused,” and, I assure you, it is a humiliating thing to perform before an infant who intimates, after giving you ample time to make your points, that he is not amused. I hoped that when David was able to talk--and not merely to stare at me for five minutes and then say “hat”--his spoken verdict, however damning, would be less expressive than his verdict without words, but I was disillusioned. I remember once in those later years, when he could keep up such spirited conversations with himself that he had little need for any of us, promising him to do something exceedingly funny with a box and two marbles, and after he had watched for a long time he said gravely, “Tell me when it begins to be funny.”

I confess to having received a few simple lessons in conjuring, in a dimly lighted chamber beneath a shop, from a gifted young man with a long neck and a pimply face, who as I entered took a barber’s pole from my pocket, saying at the same time, “Come, come, sir, this will never do.” Whether because he knew too much, or because he wore a trick shirt, he was the most depressing person I ever encountered; he felt none of the artist’s joy, and it was sad to see one so well calculated to give pleasure to thousands not caring a dump about it.

The barber’s pole I successfully extracted from David’s mouth, but the difficulty (not foreseen) of knowing how to dispose of a barber’s pole in the Kensington Gardens is considerable, there always being polite children hovering near who run after you and restore it to you. The young man, again, had said that any one would lend me a bottle or a lemon, but though these were articles on which he seemed ever able to lay his hand, I found (what I had never noticed before) that there is a curious dearth of them in the Gardens. The magic egg-cup I usually carried about with me, and with its connivance I did some astonishing things with pennies, but even the penny that costs sixpence is uncertain, and just when you are saying triumphantly that it will be found in the egg-cup, it may clatter to the ground, whereon some ungenerous spectator, such as Irene, accuses you of fibbing and corrupting youthful minds. It was useless to tell her, through clenched teeth, that the whole thing was a joke, for she understood no jokes except her own, of which she had the most immoderately high opinion, and that would have mattered little to me had not David liked them also. There were times when I could not but think less of the boy, seeing him rock convulsed over antics of Irene that have been known to every nursemaid since the year One. While I stood by, sneering, he would give me the ecstatic look that meant, “Irene is really very entertaining, isn’t she?”

We were rivals, but I desire to treat her with scrupulous fairness, and I admit that she had one good thing, to wit, her gutta-percha tooth. In earlier days one of her front teeth, as she told me, had fallen out, but instead of then parting with it, the resourceful child had hammered it in again with a hair-brush, which she offered to show me, with the dents on it. This tooth having in time passed away, its place was supplied by one of gutta-percha, made by herself, which seldom came out except when she sneezed, and if it merely fell at her feet this was a sign that the cold was to be a slight one, but if it shot across the room she knew she was in for something notable. Irene’s tooth was very favourably known in the Gardens, where the perambulators used to gather round her to hear whether it had been doing anything to-day, and I would not have grudged David his proprietary pride in it, had he seemed to understand that Irene’s one poor little accomplishment, though undeniably showy, was without intellectual merit. I have sometimes stalked away from him, intimating that if his regard was to be got so cheaply I begged to retire from the competition, but the Gardens are the pleasantest club in London, and I soon returned. How I scoured the Gardens looking for him, and how skilful I became at picking him out far away among the trees, though other mothers imitated the picturesque attire of him, to Mary’s indignation. I also cut Irene’s wings (so to speak) by taking her to a dentist.

And David did some adorable things. For instance, he used my pockets as receptacles into which he put any article he might not happen to want at the moment. He shoved it in, quite as if they were his own pockets, without saying, By your leave, and perhaps I discovered it on reaching home--a tin-soldier, or a pistol--when I put it on my mantel-shelf and sighed. And here is another pleasant memory. One day I had been over-friendly to another boy, and, after enduring it for some time, David up and struck him. It was exactly as Porthos does when I favour other dogs (he knocks them down with his foot and stands over them, looking very noble and stern), so I knew its meaning at once; it was David’s first public intimation that he knew I belonged to him.

Irene scolded him for striking that boy, and made him stand in disgrace at the corner of a seat in the Broad Walk. The seat at the corner of which David stood suffering for love of me, is the one nearest to the Round Pond to persons coming from the north.

You may be sure that she and I had words over this fiendish cruelty. When next we met I treated her as one who no longer existed, and at first she bridled and then was depressed, and as I was going away she burst into tears. She cried because neither at meeting nor parting had I lifted my hat to her, a foolish custom of mine, of which, as I now learned to my surprise, she was very proud. She and I still have our tiffs, but I have never since then forgotten to lift my hat to Irene. I also made her promise to bow to me, at which she affected to scoff, saying I was taking my fun of her, but she was really pleased, and I tell you, Irene has one of the prettiest and most touching little bows imaginable; it is half to the side (if I may so express myself), which has always been my favourite bow, and, I doubt not, she acquired it by watching Mary.

I should be sorry to have it thought, as you may now be thinking, that I look on children as on puppy-dogs, who care only for play. Perhaps that was my idea when first I tried to lure David to my unaccustomed arms, and even for some time after, for if I am to be candid, I must own that until he was three years old I sought merely to amuse him. God forgive me, but I had only one day a week in which to capture him, and I was very raw at the business.

I was about to say that David opened my eyes to the folly of it, but really I think this was Irene’s doing. Watching her with children I learned that partial as they are to fun they are moved almost more profoundly by moral excellence. So fond of babes was this little mother that she had always room near her for one more, and often have I seen her in the Gardens, the centre of a dozen mites who gazed awestruck at her while she told them severely how little ladies and gentlemen behave. They were children of the well-to-pass, and she was from Drury Lane, but they believed in her as the greatest of all authorities on little ladies and gentlemen, and the more they heard of how these romantic creatures keep themselves tidy and avoid pools and wait till they come to a gate, the more they admired them, though their faces showed how profoundly they felt that to be little ladies and gentlemen was not for them. You can’t think what hopeless little faces they were.

Children are not at all like puppies, I have said. But do puppies care only for play? That wistful look, which the merriest of them sometimes wear, I wonder whether it means that they would like to hear about the good puppies?

As you shall see, I invented many stories for David, practising the telling of them by my fireside as if they were conjuring feats, while Irene knew only one, but she told it as never has any other fairy-tale been told in my hearing. It was the prettiest of them all, and was recited by the heroine.

“Why were the king and queen not at home?” David would ask her breathlessly.

“I suppose,” said Irene, thinking it out, “they was away buying the victuals.”

She always told the story gazing into vacancy, so that David thought it was really happening somewhere up the Broad Walk, and when she came to its great moments her little bosom heaved. Never shall I forget the concentrated scorn with which the prince said to the sisters, “Neither of you ain’t the one what wore the glass slipper.”

“And then--and then--and then--” said Irene, not artistically to increase the suspense, but because it was all so glorious to her.

“Tell me--tell me quick,” cried David, though he knew the tale by heart.

“She sits down like,” said Irene, trembling in second-sight, “and she tries on the glass slipper, and it fits her to a T, and then the prince, he cries in a ringing voice, ‘This here is my true love, Cinderella, what now I makes my lawful wedded wife.’”

Then she would come out of her dream, and look round at the grandees of the Gardens with an extraordinary elation. “her, as was only a kitchen drudge,” she would say in a strange soft voice and with shining eyes, “but was true and faithful in word and deed, such was her reward.”

I am sure that had the fairy godmother appeared just then and touched Irene with her wand, David would have been interested rather than astonished. As for myself, I believe I have surprised this little girl’s secret. She knows there are no fairy godmothers nowadays, but she hopes that if she is always true and faithful she may some day turn into a lady in word and deed, like the mistress whom she adores.

It is a dead secret, a Drury Lane child’s romance; but what an amount of heavy artillery will be brought to bear against it in this sad London of ours. Not much chance for her, I suppose.

Good luck to you, Irene.

The Grand Tour of the Gardens

You must see for yourselves that it will be difficult to follow our adventures unless you are familiar with the Kensington Gardens, as they now became known to David. They are in London, where the King lives, and you go to them every day unless you are looking decidedly flushed, but no one has ever been in the whole of the Gardens, because it is so soon time to turn back. The reason it is soon time to turn back is that you sleep from twelve to one. If your mother was not so sure that you sleep from twelve to one, you could most likely see the whole of them.

The Gardens are bounded on one side by a never-ending line of omnibuses, over which Irene has such authority that if she holds up her finger to any one of them it stops immediately. She then crosses with you in safety to the other side. There are more gates to the Gardens than any one gate, but that is the one you go in at, and before you go in you speak to the lady with the balloons, who sits just outside. This is as near to being inside as she may venture, because, if she were to let go her hold of the railings for one moment, the balloons would lift her up, and she would be flown away. She sits very squat, for the balloons are always tugging at her, and the strain has given her quite a red face. Once she was a new one, because the old one had let go, and David was very sorry for the old one, but as she did let go, he wished he had been there to see.

The Gardens are a tremendous big place, with millions and hundreds of trees, and first you come to the Figs, but you scorn to loiter there, for the Figs is the resort of superior little persons, who are forbidden to mix with the commonalty, and is so named, according to legend, because they dress in full fig. These dainty ones are themselves contemptuously called Figs by David and other heroes, and you have a key to the manners and customs of this dandiacal section of the Gardens when I tell you that cricket is called crickets here. Occasionally a rebel Fig climbs over the fence into the world, and such a one was Miss Mabel Grey, of whom I shall tell you when we come to Miss Mabel Grey’s gate. She was the only really celebrated Fig.

The Broad Walk from The Little White Bird

We are now in the Broad Walk, and it is as much bigger than the other walks as your father is bigger than you. David wondered if it began little, and grew and grew, till it was quite grown up, and whether the other walks are its babies, and he drew a picture, which diverted him very much, of the Broad Walk giving a tiny walk an airing in a perambulator. In the Broad Walk you meet all the people who are worth knowing, and there is usually a grown-up with them to prevent their going on the damp grass, and to make them stand disgraced at the corner of a seat if they have been mad-dog or Mary-Annish. To be Mary-Annish is to behave like a girl, whimpering because nurse won’t carry you, or simpering with your thumb in your mouth, and it is a hateful quality, but to be mad-dog is to kick out at everything, and there is some satisfaction in that.

If I were to point out all the notable places as we pass up the Broad Walk, it would be time to turn back before we reach them, and I simply wave my stick at Cecco’s Tree, that memorable spot where a boy called Cecco lost his penny, and, looking for it, found twopence. There has been a good deal of excavation going on there ever since. Farther up the walk is the little wooden house in which Marmaduke Perry hid. There is no more awful story of the Gardens by day than this of Marmaduke Perry, who had been Mary-Annish three days in succession, and was sentenced to appear in the Broad Walk dressed in his sister’s clothes. He hid in the little wooden house, and refused to emerge until they brought him knickerbockers with pockets.

You now try to go to the Round Pond, but nurses hate it, because they are not really manly, and they make you look the other way, at the Big Penny and the Baby’s Palace. She was the most celebrated baby of the Gardens, and lived in the palace all alone, with ever so many dolls, so people rang the bell, and up she got out of her bed, though it was past six o’clock, and she lighted a candle and opened the door in her nighty, and then they all cried with great rejoicings, “Hail, Queen of England!” What puzzled David most was how she knew where the matches were kept. The Big Penny is a statue about her.

Next we come to the Hump, which is the part of the Broad Walk where all the big races are run, and even though you had no intention of running you do run when you come to the Hump, it is such a fascinating, slide-down kind of place. Often you stop when you have run about half-way down it, and then you are lost, but there is another little wooden house near here, called the Lost House, and so you tell the man that you are lost and then he finds you. It is glorious fun racing down the Hump, but you can’t do it on windy days because then you are not there, but the fallen leaves do it instead of you. There is almost nothing that has such a keen sense of fun as a fallen leaf.

From the Hump we can see the gate that is called after Miss Mabel Grey, the Fig I promised to tell you about. There were always two nurses with her, or else one mother and one nurse, and for a long time she was a pattern-child who always coughed off the table and said, “How do you do?” to the other Figs, and the only game she played at was flinging a ball gracefully and letting the nurse bring it back to her. Then one day she tired of it all and went mad-dog, and, first, to show that she really was mad-dog, she unloosened both her boot-laces and put out her tongue east, west, north, and south. She then flung her sash into a puddle and danced on it till dirty water was squirted over her frock, and after which she climbed the fence and had a series of incredible adventures, one of the least of which was that she kicked off both her boots. At last she came to the gate that is now called after her, out of which she ran into streets David and I have never been in though we have heard them roaring, and still she ran on and would never again have been heard of had not her mother jumped into a bus and thus overtaken her. It all happened, I should say, long ago, and this is not the Mabel Grey whom David knows.

Returning up the Broad Walk we have on our right the Baby Walk, which is so full of perambulators that you could cross from side to side stepping on babies, but the nurses won’t let you do it. From this walk a passage called Bunting’s Thumb, because it is that length, leads into Picnic Street, where there are real kettles, and chestnut-blossom falls into your mug as you are drinking. Quite common children picnic here also, and the blossom falls into their mugs just the same.

Next comes St. Gover’s Well, which was full of water when Malcolm the Bold fell into it. He was his mother’s favourite, and he let her put her arm round his neck in public because she was a widow, but he was also partial to adventures and liked to play with a chimney-sweep who had killed a good many bears. The sweep’s name was Sooty, and one day when they were playing near the well, Malcolm fell in and would have been drowned had not Sooty dived in and rescued him, and the water had washed Sooty clean and he now stood revealed as Malcolm’s long-lost father. So Malcolm would not let his mother put her arm round his neck any more.

Between the well and the Round Pond are the cricket-pitches, and frequently the choosing of sides exhausts so much time that there is scarcely any cricket. Everybody wants to bat first, and as soon as he is out he bowls unless you are the better wrestler, and while you are wrestling with him the fielders have scattered to play at something else. The Gardens are noted for two kinds of cricket: boy cricket, which is real cricket with a bat, and girl cricket, which is with a racquet and the governess. Girls can’t really play cricket, and when you are watching their futile efforts you make funny sounds at them. Nevertheless, there was a very disagreeable incident one day when some forward girls challenged David’s team, and a disturbing creature called Angela Clare sent down so many yorkers that-- However, instead of telling you the result of that regrettable match I shall pass on hurriedly to the Round Pond, which is the wheel that keeps all the Gardens going.

It is round because it is in the very middle of the Gardens, and when you are come to it you never want to go any farther. You can’t be good all the time at the Round Pond, however much you try. You can be good in the Broad Walk all the time, but not at the Round Pond, and the reason is that you forget, and, when you remember, you are so wet that you may as well be wetter. There are men who sail boats on the Round Pond, such big boats that they bring them in barrows and sometimes in perambulators, and then the baby has to walk. The bow-legged children in the Gardens are these who had to walk too soon because their father needed the perambulator.

You always want to have a yacht to sail on the Round Pond, and in the end your uncle gives you one; and to carry it to the pond the first day is splendid, also to talk about it to boys who have no uncle is splendid, but soon you like to leave it at home. For the sweetest craft that slips her moorings in the Round Pond is what is called a stick-boat, because she is rather like a stick until she is in the water and you are holding the string. Then as you walk round, pulling her, you see little men running about her deck, and sails rise magically and catch the breeze, and you put in on dirty nights at snug harbours which are unknown to the lordly yachts. Night passes in a twink, and again your rakish craft noses for the wind, whales spout, you glide over buried cities, and have brushes with pirates and cast anchor on coral isles. You are a solitary boy while all this is taking place, for two boys together cannot adventure far upon the Round Pond, and though you may talk to yourself throughout the voyage, giving orders and executing them with dispatch, you know not, when it it is time to go home, where you have been or what swelled your sails; your treasure-trove is all locked away in your hold, so to speak, which will be opened, perhaps, by another little boy many years afterward.

But those yachts have nothing in their hold. Does any one return to this haunt of his youth because of the yachts that used to sail it? Oh, no. It is the stick-boat that is freighted with memories. The yachts are toys, their owner a fresh-water mariner, they can cross and recross a pond only while the stick-boat goes to sea. You yachtsmen with your wants, who think we are all there to gaze on you, your ships are only accidents of this place, and were they all to be boarded and sunk by the ducks the real business of the Round Pond would be carried on as usual.

Paths from everywhere crowed like children to the pond. Some of them are ordinary paths, which have a rail on each side, and are made by men with their coats off, but others are vagrants, wide at one spot and at another so narrow that you can stand astride them. They are called Paths that have Made Themselves, and David did wish he could see them doing it. But, like all the most wonderful things that happen in the Gardens, it is done, we concluded, at night after the gates are closed. We have also decided that the paths make themselves because it is their only chance of getting to the Round Pond.

One of these gypsy paths comes from the place where the sheep get their hair cut. When David shed his curls at the hair-dresser’s, I am told, he said good-bye to them without a tremor, though Mary has never been quite the same bright creature since, so he despises the sheep as they run from their shearer and calls out tauntingly, “Cowardy, cowardy custard!” But when the man grips them between his legs David shakes a fist at him for using such big scissors. Another startling moment is when the man turns back the grimy wool from the sheeps’ shoulders and they look suddenly like ladies in the stalls of a theatre. The sheep are so frightened by the shearing that it makes them quite white and thin, and as soon as they are set free they begin to nibble the grass at once, quite anxiously, as if they feared that they would never be worth eating. David wonders whether they know each other, now that they are so different, and if it makes them fight with the wrong ones. They are great fighters, and thus so unlike country sheep that every year they give Porthos a shock. He can make a field of country sheep fly by merely announcing his approach, but these town sheep come toward him with no promise of gentle entertainment, and then a light from last year breaks upon Porthos. He cannot with dignity retreat, but he stops and looks about him as if lost in admiration of the scenery, and presently he strolls away with a fine indifference and a glint at me from the corner of his eye.

The Serpentine begins near here. It is a lovely lake, and there is a drowned forest at the bottom of it. If you peer over the edge you can see the trees all growing upside down, and they say that at night there are also drowned stars in it. If so, Peter Pan sees them when he is sailing across the lake in the Thrush’s Nest. A small part only of the Serpentine is in the Gardens, for soon it passes beneath a bridge to far away where the island is on which all the birds are born that become baby boys and girls. No one who is human, except Peter Pan (and he is only half human), can land on the island, but you may write what you want (boy or girl, dark or fair) on a piece of paper, and then twist it into the shape of a boat and slip it into the water, and it reaches Peter Pan’s island after dark.

We are on our way home now, though, of course, it is all pretence that we can go to so many of the places in one day. I should have had to be carrying David long ago and resting on every seat like old Mr. Salford. That was what we called him, because he always talked to us of a lovely place called Salford where he had been born. He was a crab-apple of an old gentleman who wandered all day in the gardens from seat to seat trying to fall in with somebody who was acquainted with the town of Salford, and when we had known him for a year or more we actually did meet another aged solitary who had once spent Saturday to Monday in Salford. He was meek and timid and carried his address inside his hat, and whatever part of London he was in search of he always went to the General Post-office first as a starting-point. Him we carried in triumph to our other friend, with the story of that Saturday to Monday, and never shall I forget the gloating joy with which Mr. Salford leapt at him. They have been cronies ever since, and I notice that Mr. Salford, who naturally does most of the talking, keeps tight grip of the other old man’s coat.

The two last places before you come to our gate are the Dog’s Cemetery and the chaffinch’s nest, but we pretend not to know what the Dog’s Cemetery is, as Porthos is always with us. The nest is very sad. It is quite white, and the way we found it was wonderful. We were having another look among the bushes for David’s lost worsted ball, and instead of the ball we found a lovely nest made of the worsted, and containing four eggs, with scratches on them very like David’s handwriting, so we think they must have been the mother’s love-letters to the little ones inside. Every day we were in the gardens we paid a call at the nest, taking care that no cruel boy should see us, and we dropped crumbs, and soon the bird knew us as friends, and sat in the nest looking at us kindly with her shoulders hunched up. but one day when we went, there were only two eggs in the nest, and the next time there were none. The saddest part of it was that the poor little chaffinch fluttered about the bushes, looking so reproachfully at us that we knew she thought we had done it, and though David tried to explain to her, it was so long since he had spoken the bird language that I fear she did not understand. He and I left the Gardens that day with our knuckles in our eyes.

Peter Pan

If you ask your mother whether she knew about Peter Pan when she was a little girl, she will say, “Why, of course, I did, child,” and if you ask her whether he rode on a goat in those days, she will say, “What a foolish question to ask; certainly he did.” Then if you ask your grandmother whether she knew about Peter Pan when she was a girl, she also says, “Why, of course, I did, child,” but if you ask her whether he rode on a goat in those days, she says she never heard of his having a goat. Perhaps she has forgotten, just as she sometimes forgets your name and calls you Mildred, which is your mother’s name. Still, she could hardly forget such an important thing as the goat. Therefore there was no goat when your grandmother was a little girl. This shows that, in telling the story of Peter Pan, to begin with the goat (as most people do) is as silly as to put on your jacket before your vest.

Of course, it also shows that Peter is ever so old, but he is really always the same age, so that does not matter in the least. His age is one week, and though he was born so long ago he has never had a birthday, nor is there the slightest chance of his ever having one. The reason is that he escaped from being a human when he was seven days old; he escaped by the window and flew back to the Kensington Gardens.

If you think he was the only baby who ever wanted to escape, it shows how completely you have forgotten your own young days. When David heard this story first he was quite certain that he had never tried to escape, but I told him to think back hard, pressing his hands to his temples, and when he had done this hard, and even harder, he distinctly remembered a youthful desire to return to the tree-tops, and with that memory came others, as that he had lain in bed planning to escape as soon as his mother was asleep, and how she had once caught him half-way up the chimney. All children could have such recollections if they would press their hands hard to their temples, for, having been birds before they were human, they are naturally a little wild during the first few weeks, and very itchy at the shoulders, where their wings used to be. So David tells me.

I ought to mention here that the following is our way with a story: First, I tell it to him, and then he tells it to me, the understanding being that it is quite a different story; and then I retell it with his additions, and so we go on until no one could say whether it is more his story or mine. In this story of Peter Pan, for instance, the bald narrative and most of the moral reflections are mine, though not all, for this boy can be a stern moralist, but the interesting bits about the ways and customs of babies in the bird-stage are mostly reminiscences of David’s, recalled by pressing his hands to his temples and thinking hard.

Well, Peter Pan got out by the window, which had no bars. Standing on the ledge he could see trees far away, which were doubtless the Kensington Gardens, and the moment he saw them he entirely forgot that he was now a little boy in a night-gown, and away he flew, right over the houses to the Gardens. It is wonderful that he could fly without wings, but the place itched tremendously, and perhaps w could all fly if we were as dead-confident-sure of our capacity to do it as was bold Peter Pan that evening.

He alighted gaily on the open sward, between the Baby’s Palace and the Serpentine, and the first thing he did was to lie on his back and kick. He was quite unaware already that he had ever been human, and thought he was a bird, even in appearance, just the same as in his early days, and when he tried to catch a fly he did not understand that the reason he missed it was because he had attempted to seize it with his hand, which, of course, a bird never does. He saw, however, that it must be past Lock-out Time, for there were a good many fairies about, all too busy to notice him; they were getting breakfast ready, milking their cows, drawing water, and so on, and the sight of the water-pails made him thirsty, so he flew over to the Round Pond to have a drink. He stooped, and dipped his beak in the pond; he thought it was his beak, but, of course, it was only his nose, and, therefore, very little water came up, and that not so refreshing as usual, so next he tried a puddle, and he fell flop into it. When a real bird falls in flop, he spreads out his feathers and pecks them dry, but Peter could not remember what was the thing to do, and he decided, rather sulkily, to go to sleep on the weeping beech in the Baby Walk.

At first he found some difficulty in balancing himself on a branch, but presently he remembered the way, and fell asleep. He awoke long before morning, shivering, and saying to himself, “I never was out in such a cold night”; he had really been out in colder nights when he was a bird, but, of course, as everybody knows, what seems a warm night to a bird is a cold night to a boy in a night-gown. Peter also felt strangely uncomfortable, as if his head was stuffy; he heard loud noises that made him look round sharply, though they were really himself sneezing. There was something he wanted very much, but, though he knew he wanted it, he could not think what it was. What he wanted so much was his mother to blow his nose, but that never struck him, so he decided to appeal to the fairies for enlightenment. They are reputed to know a good deal.

There were two of them strolling along the Baby Walk, with their arms round each other’s waists, and he hopped down to address them. The fairies have their tiffs with the birds, but they usually give a civil answer to a civil question, and he was quite angry when these two ran away the moment they saw him. Another was lolling on a garden-chair, reading a postage-stamp which some human had let fall, and when he heard Peter’s voice he popped in alarm behind a tulip.

to Peter’s bewilderment he discovered that every fairy he met fled from him. A band of workmen, who were sawing down a toadstool, rushed away, leaving their tools behind them. A milkmaid turned her pail upside down and hid in it. Soon the Gardens were in an uproar. Crowds of fairies were running this way and that, asking each other stoutly, who was afraid; lights were extinguished, doors barricaded, and from the grounds of Queen Mab’s palace came the rubadub of drums, showing that the royal guard had been called out. A regiment of Lancers came charging down the Broad Walk, armed with holly-leaves, with which they jog the enemy horribly in passing. Peter heard the little people crying everywhere that there was a human in the Gardens after Lock-out Time, but he never thought for a moment that he was the human. He was feeling stuffier and stuffier, and more and more wistful to learn what he wanted done to his nose, but he pursued them with the vital question in vain; the timid creatures ran from him, and even the Lancers, when he approached them up the Hump, turned swiftly into a side-walk, on the pretence that they saw him there.

Despairing of fairies, he resolved to consult the birds, but now he remembered, as an odd thing, that all the birds on the weeping beech had flown away when he alighted on it, and though that had not troubled him at the time, he saw its meaning now. Every living thing was shunning him. Poor little Peter Pan, he sat down and cried, and even then he did not know that, for a bird, he was sitting on his wrong part. It is a blessing that he did not know, for otherwise he would have lost faith in his power to fly, and the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it. The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.

Now, except by flying, no one can reach the island in the Serpentine, for the boats of humans are forbidden to land there, and there are stakes round it, standing up in the water, on each of which a bird-sentinel sits by day and night. It was to the island that Peter now flew to put his strange case before old Solomon Caw, and he alighted on it with relief, much heartened to find himself at last at home, as the birds call the island. All of them were asleep, including the sentinels, except Solomon, who was wide awake on one side, and he listened quietly to Peter’s adventures, and then told him their true meaning.

“Look at your night-gown, if you don’t believe me,” Solomon said, and with staring eyes Peter looked at his night-gown, and then at the sleeping birds. Not one of them wore anything.

“How many of your toes are thumbs?” said Solomon a little cruelly, and Peter saw, to his consternation, that all his toes were fingers. The shock was so great that it drove away his cold.

“Ruffle your feathers,” said that grim old Solomon, and Peter tried most desperately hard to ruffle his feathers, but he had none. Then he rose up, quaking, and for the first time since he stood on the window-ledge, he remembered a lady who had been very fond of him.

“I think I shall go back to mother,” he said timidly.

“Good-bye,” replied Solomon Caw with a queer look.

But Peter hesitated. “Why don’t you go?” the old one asked politely.

“I suppose,” said Peter huskily, “I suppose I can still fly?”

You see, he had lost faith.

“Poor little half-and-half,” said Solomon, who was not really hard-hearted, “you will never be able to fly again, not even on windy days. You must live here on the island always.”

“And never even go to the Kensington Gardens?” Peter asked tragically.

“How could you get across?” said Solomon. He promised very kindly, however, to teach Peter as many of the bird ways as could be learned by one of such an awkward shape.

“Then I sha’n’t be exactly a human?” Peter asked.

“No.”

“Nor exactly a bird?”

“No.”

“What shall I be?”

“You will be a Betwixt-and-Between,” Solomon said, and certainly he was a wise old fellow, for that is exactly how it turned out.

The birds on the island never got used to him. His oddities tickled them every day, as if they were quite new, though it was really the birds that were new. They came out of the eggs daily, and laughed at him at once, then off they soon flew to be humans, and other birds came out of other eggs, and so it went on for ever. The crafty mother-birds, when they tired of sitting on their eggs, used to get the young ones to break their shells a day before the right time by whispering to them that now was their chance to see Peter washing or drinking or eating. Thousands gathered round him daily to watch him do these things, just as you watch the peacocks, and they screamed with delight when he lifted the crusts they flung him with his hands instead of in the usual way with the mouth. All his food was brought to him from the Gardens at Solomon’s orders by the birds. He would not eat worms or insects (which they thought very silly of him), so they brought him bread in their beaks. Thus, when you cry out, “Greedy! Greedy!” to the bird that flies away with the big crust, you know now that you ought not to do this, for he is very likely taking it to Peter Pan.

Peter wore no night-gown now. You see, the birds were always begging him for bits of it to line their nests with, and, being very good-natured, he could not refuse, so by Solomon’s advice he had hidden what was left of it. But though he was now quite naked, you must not think that he was cold or unhappy. He was usually very happy and gay, and the reason was that Solomon had kept his promise and taught him many of the bird ways. To be easily pleased, for instance, and always to be really doing something, and to think that whatever he was doing was a thing of vast importance. Peter became very clever at helping the birds to build their nests; soon he could build better than a wood-pigeon, and nearly as well as a blackbird, though never did he satisfy the finches, and he made nice little water-troughs near the nests and dug up worms for the young ones with his fingers. He also became very learned in bird-lore, and knew an east-wind from a west-wind by its smell, and he could see the grass growing and hear the insects walking about inside the tree-trunks. But the best thing Solomon had done was to teach him to have a glad heart. All birds have glad hearts unless you rob their nests, and so as they were the only kind of heart Solomon knew about, it was easy to him to teach Peter how to have one.

Peter’s heart was so glad that he felt he must sing all day long, just as the birds sing for joy, but, being partly human, he needed an instrument, so he made a pipe of reeds, and he used to sit by the shore of the island of an evening, practising the sough of the wind and the ripple of the water, and catching handfuls of the shine of the moon, and he put them all in his pipe and played them so beautifully that even the birds were deceived, and they would say to each other, “Was that a fish leaping in the water or was it Peter playing leaping fish on his pipe?” and sometimes he played the birth of birds, and then the mothers would turn round in their nests to see whether they had laid an egg. If you are a child of the Gardens you must know the chestnut-tree near the bridge, which comes out in flower first of all the chestnuts, but perhaps you have not heard why this tree leads the way. It is because Peter wearies for summer and plays that it has come, and the chestnut, being so near, hears him and is cheated.

But as Peter sat by the shore tootling divinely on his pipe he sometimes fell into sad thoughts, and then the music became sad also, and the reason of all this sadness was that he could not reach the Gardens, though he could see them through the arch of the bridge. He knew he could never be a real human again, and scarcely wanted to be one, but oh, how he longed to play as other children play, and of course there is no such lovely place to play in as the Gardens. The birds brought him news of how boys and girls play, and wistful tears started in Peter’s eyes.

Perhaps you wonder why he did not swim across. The reason was that he could not swim. He wanted to know how to swim, but no one on the island knew the way except the ducks, and they are so stupid. They were quite willing to teach him, but all they could say about it was, “You sit down on the top of the water in this way, and then you kick out like that.” Peter tried it often, but always before he could kick out he sank. What he really needed to know was how you sit on the water without sinking, and they said it was quite impossible to explain such an easy thing as that. Occasionally swans touched on the island, and he would give them all his day’s food and then ask them how they sat on the water, but as soon as he had no more to give them the hateful things hissed at him and sailed away.

Once he really thought he had discovered a way of reaching the Gardens. A wonderful white thing, like a runaway newspaper, floated high over the island and then tumbled, rolling over and over after the manner of a bird that has broken its wing. Peter was so frightened that he hid, but the birds told him it was only a kite, and what a kite is, and that it must have tugged its string out of a boy’s hand, and soared away. After that they laughed at Peter for being so fond of the kite; he loved it so much that he even slept with one hand on it, and I think this was pathetic and pretty, for the reason he loved it was because it had belonged to a real boy.

To the birds this was a very poor reason, but the older ones felt grateful to him at this time because he had nursed a number of fledglings through the German measles, and they offered to show him how birds fly a kite. So six of them took the end of the string in their beaks and flew away with it; and to his amazement, it flew after them and went even higher than they.

Peter screamed out, “Do it again!” and with great good-nature they did it several times, and always instead of thanking them he cried, “Do it again!” which shows that even now he had not quite forgotten what it was to be a boy.

At last, with a grand design burning within his brave heart, he begged them to do it once more with him clinging to the tail, and now a hundred flew off with the string, and Peter clung to the tail, meaning to drop off when he was over the Gardens. But the kite broke to pieces in the air, and he would have drowned in the Serpentine had he not caught hold of two indignant swans and made them carry him to the island. After this the birds said that they would help him no more in his mad enterprise.

Nevertheless, Peter did reach the Gardens at last by the help of Shelley’s boat, as I am now to tell you.

The Thrush’s Nest

Shelley was a young gentleman and as grown-up as he need ever expect to be. He was a poet; and they are never exactly grown-up. They are people who despise money except what you need for to-day, and he had all that and five pounds over. So, when he was walking in the Kensington Gardens, he made a paper boat of his bank-note, and sent it sailing on the Serpentine.

It reached the island at night; and the look-out brought it to Solomon Caw, who thought at first that it was the usual thing, a message from a lady, saying she would be obliged if he could let her have a good one. They always ask for the best one he has, and if he likes the letter he sends on from Class A; but if it ruffles him he sends very funny ones indeed. Sometimes he sends none at all, and at another time he sends a nestful; it all depends on the mood you catch him in. He likes you to leave it all to him, and if you mention particularly that you hope he will see his way to making it a boy this time, he is almost sure to send another girl. And whether you are a lady or only a little boy who wants a baby-sitter, always take pains to write your address clearly. You can’t think what a lot of babies Solomon has sent to the wrong house.

Shelley’s boat, when opened, completely puzzled Solomon, and he took counsel of his assistants, who having walked over it twice, first with their toes pointed out, and then with their toes pointed in, decided that it came from some greedy person who wanted five. They thought this because there was a large five printed on it. “Preposterous!” cried Solomon in a rage, and he presented it to Peter; anything useless which drifted upon the island was usually given to Peter as a plaything.

But he did not play with his precious bank-note, for he knew what it was at once, having been very observant during the week when he was an ordinary boy. With so much money, he reflected, he could surely at last contrive to reach the Gardens, and he considered all the possible ways, and decided (wisely, I think) to choose the best way. But, first, he had to tell the birds of the value of Shelley’s boat; and though they were too honest to demand it back, he saw that they were galled, and they cast such black looks at Solomon, who was rather vain of his cleverness, that he flew away to the end of the island, and sat there very depressed with his head buried in his wings. Now Peter knew that unless Solomon was on your side, you never got anything done for you in the island, so he followed him and tried to hearten him.

Nor was this all that Peter did to gain the powerful old fellow’s good-will. You must know that Solomon had no intention of remaining in office all his life. He looked forward to retiring by-and-by, and devoting his green old age to a life of pleasure on a certain yew-stump in the Figs which had taken his fancy, and for years he had been quietly filling his stocking. It was a stocking belonging to some bathing person which had been cast upon the island, and at the time I speak of it contained a hundred and eighty crumbs, thirty-four nuts, sixteen crusts, a pen-wiper and a boot-lace. When his stocking was full, Solomon calculated that he would be able to retire on a competency. Peter now gave him a pound. He cut it off his bank-note with a sharp stick.

This made Solomon his friend for ever, and after the two had consulted together they called a meeting of the thrushes. You will see presently why thrushes only were invited.

The scheme to be put before them was really Peter’s, but Solomon did most of the talking, because he soon became irritable if other people talked. He began by saying that he had been much impressed by the superior ingenuity shown by the thrushes in nest-building, and this put them into good-humour at once, as it was meant to do; for all the quarrels between birds are about the best way of building nests. Other birds, said Solomon, omitted to line their nests with mud, and as a result they did not hold water. Here he cocked his head as if he had used an unanswerable argument; but, unfortunately, a Mrs. Finch had come to the meeting uninvited, and she squeaked out, “We don’t build nests to hold water, but to hold eggs,” and then the thrushes stopped cheering, and Solomon was so perplexed that he took several sips of water.

“Consider,” he said at least, “how warm the mud makes the nest.”

“Consider,” cried Mrs. Finch, “that when water gets into the nest it remains there and your little ones are drowned.”

The thrushes begged Solomon with a look to say something crushing in reply to this, but again he was perplexed.

“Try another drink,” suggested Mrs. Finch pertly. Kate was her name, and all Kates are saucy.

Solomon did try another drink, and it inspired him. “If,” said he, “a finch’s nest is placed on the Serpentine it fills and breaks to pieces, but a thrush’s nest is still as dry as the cup of a swan’s back.”

How the thrushes applauded! Now they knew why they lined their nests with mud, and when Mrs. Finch called out, “We don’t place our nests on the Serpentine,” they did what they should have done at first: chased her from the meeting. After this it was most orderly. What they had been brought together to hear, said Solomon, was this: their young friend, Peter Pan, as they well knew, wanted very much to be able to cross to the Gardens, and he now proposed, with their help, to build a boat.

At this the thrushes began to fidget, which made Peter tremble for his scheme.

Solomon explained hastily that what he meant was not one of the cumbrous boats that humans use; the proposed boat was to be simply a thrush’s nest large enough to hold Peter.

But still, to Peter’s agony, the thrushes were sulky. “We are very busy people,” they grumbled, “and this would be a big job.”

“Quite so,” said Solomon, “and, of course, Peter would not allow you to work for nothing. You must remember that he is now in comfortable circumstances, and he will pay you such wages as you have never been paid before. Peter Pan authorises me to say that you shall all be paid sixpence a day.”

Then all the thrushes hopped for joy, and that very day was begun the celebrated Building of the Boat. All their ordinary business fell into arrears. It was the time of year when they should have been pairing, but not a thrush’s nest was built except this big one, and so Solomon soon ran short of thrushes with which to supply the demand from the mainland. The stout, rather greedy children, who look so well in perambulators but get puffed easily when they walk, were all young thrushes once, and ladies often ask specially for them. What do you think Solomon did? He sent over to the house-tops for a lot of sparrows and ordered them to lay their eggs in old thrushes’ nests and sent their young to the ladies and swore they were all thrushes! It was known afterward on the island as the Sparrows’ Year, and so, when you meet, as you doubtless sometimes do, grown-up people who puff and blow as if they thought themselves bigger than they are, very likely they belong to that year. You ask them.

Peter was a just master, and paid his work-people every evening. They stood in rows on the branches, waiting politely while he cut the paper sixpences out of his bank-note, and presently he called the roll, and then each bird, as the names were mentioned, flew down and got sixpence. It must have been a fine site.

And at last, after months of labor, the boat was finished, Oh, the deportment of Peter as he saw it growing more and more like a great thrush’s nest! From the very beginning of the building of it he slept by its side, and often woke up to say sweet things to it, and after it was lined with mud and the mud had dried he always slept in it. He sleeps in his nest still, and has a fascinating way of curling round in it, for it is just large enough to hold him comfortably when he curls round like a kitten. It is brown inside, of course, but outside it is mostly green, being woven of grass and twigs, and when these wither or snap the walls are thatched afresh. There are also a few feathers here and there, which came off the thrushes while they were building.

The other birds were extremely jealous and said that the boat would not balance on the water, but it lay most beautifully steady; they said the water would come into it, but no water came into it. Next they said that Peter had no oars, and this caused the thrushes to look at each other in dismay, but Peter replied that he had no need of oars, for he had a sail, and with such a proud, happy face he produced a sail which he had fashioned out of his night-gown, and though it was still rather like a night-gown it made a lovely sail. And that night, the moon being full, and all the birds asleep, he did enter his coracle (as Master Francis Pretty would have said) and depart out of the island. And first, he knew not why, he looked upward, with his hands clasped, and from that moment his eyes were pinned to the west.

He had promised the thrushes to begin by making short voyages, with them to his guides, but far away he saw the Kensington Gardens beckoning to him beneath the bridge, and he could not wait. His face was flushed, but he never looked back; there was an exultation in his little breast that drove out fear. Was Peter the least gallant of the English mariners who have sailed westward to meet the Unknown?

At first, his boat turned round and round, and he was driven back to the place of his starting, whereupon he shortened sail, by removing one of the sleeves, and was forthwith carried backward by a contrary breeze, to his no small peril. He now let go the sail, with the result that he was drifted toward the far shore, where are black shadows he knew not the dangers of, but suspected them, and so once more hoisted his night-gown and went roomer of the shadows until he caught a favouring wind, which bore him westward, but at so great a speed that he was like to be broke against the bridge. Which having avoided, he passed under the bridge and came, to his great rejoicing, within full sight of the delectable Gardens. But having tried to cast anchor, which was a stone at the end of a piece of the kite-string, he found no bottom, and was fain to hold off, seeking for moorage, and, feeling his way, he buffeted against a sunken reef that cast him overboard by the greatness of the shock, and he was near to being drowned, but clambered back into the vessel. There now arose a mighty storm, accompanied by roaring of waters, such as he had never heard the like, and he was tossed this way and that, and his hands so numbed with the cold that he could not close them. Having escaped the danger of which, he was mercifully carried into a small bay, where his boat rode at peace.

Nevertheless, he was not yet in safety; for, on pretending to disembark, he found a multitude of small people drawn up on the shore to contest his landing, and shouting shrilly to him to be off, for it was long past Lock-out Time. This, with much brandishing of their holly-leaves, and also a company of them carried an arrow which some boy had left in the Gardens, and this they were prepared to use as a battering-ram.

Then Peter, who knew them for the fairies, called out that he was not an ordinary human and had no desire to do them displeasure, but to be their friend; nevertheless, having found a jolly harbour, he was in no temper to draw off therefrom, and he warned them if they sought to mischief him to stand to their harms.

So saying, he boldly leapt ashore, and they gathered around him with intent to slay him, but there then arose a great cry among the women, and it was because they had now observed that his sail was a baby’s night-gown. Whereupon, they straightway loved him, and grieved that their laps were too small, the which I cannot explain, except by saying that such is the way of women. The men-fairies now sheathed their weapons on observing the behaviour of their women, on whose intelligence they set great store, and they led him civilly to their Queen, who conferred upon him the courtesy of the Gardens after Lock-out Time, and henceforth Peter could go whither he chose, and the fairies had orders to put him in comfort.

Such was his first voyage to the Gardens, and you may gather from the antiquity of the language that it took place a long time ago. But Peter never grows any older, and if we could be watching for him under the bridge to-night (but, of course, we can’t), I daresay we should see him hoisting his night-gown and sailing or paddling toward us in the Thrush’s Nest. When he sails, he sits down, but he stands up to paddle. I shall tell you presently how he got his paddle.

Long before the time for the opening of the gates comes he steals back to the island, for people must not see him (he is not so human as all that), but this gives him hours for play, and he plays exactly as real children play. At least he thinks so, and it is one of the pathetic things about him that he often plays quite wrongly.

You see, he had no one to tell him how children really play, for the fairies were all more or less in hiding until dusk, and so know nothing, and though the birds pretended that they could tell him a great deal, when the time for telling came, it was wonderful how little they really knew. They told him the truth about hide-and-seek, and he often plays it by himself, but even the ducks on the Round Pond could not explain to him what it is that makes the pond so fascinating to boys. Every night the ducks have forgotten all the events of the day, except the number of pieces of cake thrown to them. They are gloomy creatures, and say that cake is not what it was in their young days.

So Peter had to find out many things for himself. He often played ships at the Round Pond, but his ship was only a hoop which he had found on the grass. Of course, he had never seen a hoop, and he wondered what you play at with them, and decided that you play at pretending they are boats. This hoop always sank at once, but he waded in for it, and sometimes he dragged it gleefully round the rim of the pond, and he was quite proud to think that he had discovered what boys do with hoops.

Another time, when he found a child’s pail, he thought it was for sitting in, and he sat so hard in it that he could scarcely get out of it. Also he found a balloon. It was bobbing about on the Hump, quite as if it was having a game by itself, and he caught it after an exciting chase. But he thought it was a ball, and Jenny Wren had told him that boys kick balls, so he kicked it; and after that he could not find it anywhere.

Perhaps the most surprising thing he found was a perambulator. It was under a lime-tree, near the entrance to the Fairy Queen’s Winter Palace (which is within the circle of the seven Spanish chestnuts), and Peter approached it warily, for the birds had never mentioned such things to him. Lest it was alive, he addressed it politely, and then, as it gave no answer, he went nearer and felt it cautiously. He gave it a little push, and it ran from him, which made him think it must be alive after all; but, as it had run from him, he was not afraid. So he stretched out his hand to pull it to him, but this time it ran at him, and he was so alarmed that he leapt the railing and scudded away to his boat. You must not think, however, that he was a coward, for he came back next night with a crust in one hand and a stick in the other, but the perambulator had gone, and he never saw another one. I have promised to tell you also about his paddle. It was a child’s spade which he had found near St. Govor’s Well, and he thought it was a paddle.

Do you pity Peter Pan for making these mistakes? If so, I think it rather silly of you. What I mean is that, of course, one must pity him now and then, but to pity him all the time would be impertinence. He thought he had the most splendid time in the Gardens, and to think you have it is almost quite as good as really to have it. He played without ceasing, while you often waste time by being mad-dog or Mary-Annish. He could be neither of these things, for he had never heard of them, but do you think he is to be pitied for that?

Oh, he was merry. He was as much merrier than you, for instance, as you are merrier than your father. Sometimes he fell, like a spinning-top, from sheer merriment. Have you seen a greyhound leaping the fences of the Gardens? That is how Peter leaps them.

And think of the music of his pipe. Gentlemen who walk home at night write to the papers to say they heard a nightingale in the Gardens, but it is really Peter’s pipe they hear. Of course, he had no mother--at least what use was she to him? You can be sorry for him for that, but don’t be too sorry, for the next thing I mean to tell you is how he revisited her. It was the fairies who gave him the chance.

Lock-out Time

It is frightfully difficult to know much about the fairies, and almost the only thing known for certain is that there are fairies wherever there are children. Long ago children were forbidden the Gardens, and at that time there was not a fairy in the place; then the children were admitted, and the fairies came trooping in that very evening. They can’t resist following the children, but you seldom see them, partly because they live in the daytime behind the railings, where you are not allowed to go, and also partly because they are so cunning. They are not a bit cunning after Lock-out, but until Lock-out, my word!

When you were a bird you knew the fairies pretty well, and you remember a good deal about them in your babyhood, which it is a great pity you can’t write down, for gradually you forget, and I have heard of children who declared that they had never once seen a fairy. Very likely if they said this in the Kensington Gardens, they were standing looking at a fairy all the time. The reason they were cheated was that she pretended to be something else. This is one of their best tricks. They usually pretend to be flowers, because the court sits in the Fairies’ Basin, and there are so many flowers there, and all along the Baby Walk, that a flower is the thing least likely to attract attention. They dress exactly like flowers, and change with the seasons, putting on white when lilies are in and blue for blue-bells, and son on. They like crocus and hyacinth time best of all, as they are partial to a bit of colour, but tulips (except white ones, which are the fairy-cradles) they consider garish, and they sometimes put off dressing like tulips for days, so that the beginning of the tulip weeks is almost the best time to catch them.

When they think you are not looking they skip along pretty lively, but if you look and they fear there is no time to hide, they stand quite still, pretending to be flowers. Then, after you have passed without knowing that they were fairies, they rush home and tell their mothers they have had such an adventure. The Fairy Basin, you remember, is all covered with ground-ivy (from which they make their castor-oil), with flowers growing in it here and there. Most of them really are flowers, but some of them are fairies. You never can be sure of them, but a good plan is to walk by looking the other way, and then turn round sharply. Another good plan, which David and I sometimes follow, is to stare them down. After a long time they can’t help winking, and then you know for certain that they are fairies.

There are also numbers of them along the Baby Walk, which is a famous gentle place, as spots frequented by fairies are called. Once twenty-four of them had an extraordinary adventure. They were a girls school out for a walk with the governess, and all wearing hyacinth gowns, when she suddenly put her finger to her mouth, and then they all stood still on an empty bed and pretended to be hyacinths. Unfortunately, what the governess had heard was two gardeners coming to plant new flowers in that very bed. They were wheeling a handcart with the flowers in it, and were quite surprised to find the bed occupied. “Pity to lift them hyacinths,” said the one man. “Duke’s orders,” replied the other, and, having emptied the cart, they dug up the boarding-school and put the poor, terrified things in it in five rows. Of course, neither the governess nor the girls dare let on that they were fairies, so they were carted far away to a potting-shed, out of which they escaped in the night without their shoes, but there was a great row about it among the parents, and the school was ruined.

As for their houses, it is no use looking for them, because they are the exact opposite of our houses. You can see our houses by day, but you can’t see them by dark. Well, you can see their houses by dark, but you can’t see them by day, for they are the colour of night, and I never heard of any one yet who could see night in the daytime. This does not mean that they are black, for night has its colours just as day has, but ever so much brighter. Their blues and reds and greens are like ours with a light behind them. The palace is entirely built of many-coloured glasses, and is quite the loveliest of all royal residences, but the Queen sometimes complains because the common people will peep in to see what she is doing. They are very inquisitive folk, and press quite hard against the glass, and that is why their noses are mostly snubby. The streets are miles long and very twisty, and have paths on each side made of bright worsted. The birds used to steal the worsted for their nests, but a policeman has been appointed to hold on at the other end.

One of the great differences between the fairies and us is that they never do anything useful. When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies. They look tremendously busy, you know, as if they had not a moment to spare, but if you were to ask them what they are doing, they could not tell you in the least. They are frightfully ignorant, and everything they do is make-believe. They have a postman, but he never calls except at Christmas with his little box, and though they have beautiful schools, nothing is taught in them; the youngest child being chief person is always elected mistress, and when she has called the roll, they all go out for a walk and never come back. It is a very noticeable thing that, in fairy families, the youngest is always chief person, and usually becomes a prince or princess; and children remember this, and think it must be so among humans also, and that is why they are often made uneasy when they come upon their mother furtively putting new frills on the basinette.

You have probably observed that your baby-sister wants to do all sorts of things that your mother and her nurse want her not to do: to stand up at sitting-down time, and to sit down at standing-up time, for instance, or to wake up when she should fall asleep, or to crawl on the floor when she is wearing her best frock, and so on, and perhaps you put this down to naughtiness. But it is not; it simply means that she is doing as she has seen the fairies do; she begins by following their ways, and it takes about two years to get her into the human ways. Her first of passion, which are awful to behold, and are usually called teething, are no such thing; they are her natural exasperation, because we don’t understand her, though she is talking an intelligible language. She is talking fairy. The reason mothers and nurses know what her remarks mean, before other people know, as that “Guch” means “Give it to me at once,” while “Wa” is “Why do you wear such a funny hat?” is because, mixing so much with babies, they have picked up a little of the fairy language.

Of late David has been thinking back hard about the fairy tongue, with his hands clutching his temples, and he has remembered a number of their phrases which I shall tell you some day if I don’t forget. He had heard them in the days when he was a thrush, and though I suggested to him that perhaps it is really bird language he is remembering, he says not, for these phrases are about fun and adventures, and the birds talked about nothing but nest-building. He distinctly remembers that the birds used to go from spot to spot like ladies at shop-windows, looking at the different nests and saying, “Not my colour, my dear,” and “How would that do with a soft lining?” and “But will it wear?” and “What hideous trimming!” and so on.

The fairies are exquisite dancers, and that is why one of the first things the baby does is to sign to you to dance to him and then to cry when you do it. They hold their great balls in the open air, in what is called a fairy-ring. For weeks afterward you can see the ring on the grass. It is not there when they begin, but they make it by waltzing round and round. Sometimes you will find mushroom inside the ring, and these are fairy-chairs that the servants have forgotten to clear away. The chairs and the rings are the only tell-tale marks these little people leave behind them, and they would remove even these were they not so fond of dancing that they toe it till the very moment of the opening of the gates. David and I once found a fairy-ring quite warm.

But there is also a way of finding out about the ball before it takes place. You know the boards which tell at what time the Gardens are to close to-day. Well, those tricky fairies sometimes slyly change the board on a ball night, so that it says the Gardens are to close at six-thirty for instance, instead of at seven. This enables them to get begun half an hour earlier.

If on such a night we could remain behind in the Gardens, as the famous Maimie Mannering did, we might see delicious sights, hundreds of lovely fairies hastening to the ball, the married ones wearing their wedding-rings round their waists, the gentlemen, all in uniform, holding up the ladies’ trains, and linkmen running in front carrying winter cherries, which are the fairy-lanterns, the cloak-room where they put on their silver slippers and get a ticket for their wraps, the flowers streaming up from the Baby Walk to look on, and always welcome because they can lend a pin, the supper-table, with Queen Mab at the head of it, and behind her chair the Lord Chamberlain, who carries a dandelion on which he blows when Her Majesty wants to know the time.

The table-cloth varies according to the seasons, and in May it is made of chestnut-blossom. The way the fairy-servants do is this: The men, scores of them, climb up the trees and shake the branches, and the blossom falls like snow. Then the lady servants sweep it together by whisking their skirts until it is exactly like a table-cloth, and that is how they get their table-cloth.

They have real glasses and real wine of three kinds, namely, blackthorn wine, berberis wine, and cowslip wine, and the Queen pours out, but the bottles are so heavy that she just pretends to pour out. There is bread and butter to begin with, of the size of a threepenny bit; and cakes to end with, and they are so small that they have no crumbs. The fairies sit round on mushrooms, and at first they are very well-behaved and always cough off the table, and so on, but after a bit they are not so well-behaved and stick their fingers into the butter, which is got from the roots of old trees, and the really horrid ones crawl over the table-cloth chasing sugar or other delicacies with their tongues. When the Queen sees them doing this she signs to the servants to wash up and put away, and then everybody adjourns to the dance, the Queen walking in front while the Lord Chamberlain walks behind her, carrying two little pots, one of which contains the juice of wall-flower and the other the juice of Solomon’s Seals. Wall-flower juice is good for reviving dancers who fall to the ground in a fit, and Solomon’s Seals juice is for bruises. They bruise very easily, and when Peter plays faster and faster they foot it till they fall down in fits. For, as you know without my telling you, Peter Pan is the fairies’ orchestra. He sits in the middle of the ring, and they would never dream of having a smart dance nowadays without him. “P. P.” is written on the corner of the invitation-cards sent out by all really good families. They are grateful little people, too, and at the princess’s coming-of-age ball (they come of age on their second birthday and have a birthday every month) they gave him the wish of his heart.

The way it was done was this. The Queen ordered him to kneel, and then said that for playing so beautifully she would give him the wish of his heart. Then they all gathered round Peter to hear what was the wish of his heart, but for a long time he hesitated, not being certain what it was himself.

“If I chose to go back to mother,” he asked at last, “could you give me that wish?”

Now this question vexed them, for were he to return to his mother they should lose his music, so the Queen tilted her nose contemptuously and said, “Pooh, ask for a much bigger wish than that.”

“Is that quite a little wish?” he inquired.

“As little as this,” the Queen answered, putting her hands near each other.

“What size is a big wish?” he asked.

She measured it off on her skirt and it was a very handsome length.

Then Peter reflected and said, “Well, then, I think I shall have two little wishes instead of one big one.”

Of course, the fairies had to agree, though his cleverness rather shocked them, and he said that his first wish was to go to his mother, but with the right to return to the Gardens if he found her disappointing. His second wish he would hold in reserve.

They tried to dissuade him, and even put obstacles in the way.

“I can give you the power to fly to her house,” the Queen said, “but I can’t open the door for you.”

“The window I flew out at will be open,” Peter said confidently. “Mother always keeps it open in the hope that I may fly back.”

“How do you know?” they asked, quite surprised, and, really, Peter could not explain how he knew.

“I just do know,” he said.

So as he persisted in his wish, they had to grant it. The way they gave him power to fly was this: They all tickled him on the shoulder, and soon he felt a funny itching in that part, and then up he rose higher and higher and flew away out of the Gardens and over the house-tops.

It was so delicious that instead of flying straight to his old home he skimmed away over St. Paul’s to the Crystal Palace and back by the river and Regent’s Park, and by the time he reached his mother’s window he had quite made up his mind that his second wish should be to become a bird.

The window was wide open, just as he knew it would be, and in he fluttered, and there was his mother lying asleep. Peter alighted softly on the wooden rail at the foot of the bed and had a good look at her. She lay with her head on her hand, and the hollow in the pillow was like a nest lined with her brown wavy hair. He remembered, though he had long forgotten it, that she always gave her hair a holiday at night. How sweet the frills of her night-gown were. He was very glad she was such a pretty mother.

But she looked sad, and he knew why she looked sad. One of her arms moved as if it wanted to go round something, and he knew what it wanted to go round.

“Oh, mother,” said Peter to himself, “if you just knew who is sitting on the rail at the foot of the bed.”

Very gently he patted the little mound that her feet made, and he could see by her face that she liked it. He knew he had but to say “Mother” ever so softly, and she would wake up. They always wake up at once if it is you that says their name. Then she would give such a joyous cry and squeeze him tight. How nice that would be to him, but oh, how exquisitely delicious it would be to her! That I am afraid is how Peter regarded it. In returning to his mother he never doubted that he was giving her the greatest treat a woman can have. Nothing can be more splendid, he thought, than to have a little boy of your own. How proud of him they are; and very right and proper, too.

But why does Peter sit so long on the rail, why does he not tell his mother that he has come back?

I quite shrink from the truth, which is that he sat there in two minds. Sometimes he looked longingly at his mother, and sometimes he looked longingly at the window. Certainly it would be pleasant to be her boy again, but, on the other hand, what times those had been in the Gardens! Was he so sure that he would enjoy wearing clothes again? He popped off the bed and opened some drawers to have a look at his old garments. They were still there, but he could not remember how you put them on. The socks, for instance, were they worn on the hands or on the feet? He was about to try one of them on his hand, when he had a great adventure. Perhaps the drawer had creaked; at any rate, his mother woke up, for he heard her say “Peter,” as if it was the most lovely word in the language. He remained sitting on the floor and held his breath, wondering how she knew that he had come back. If she said “Peter” again, he meant to cry “Mother” and run to her. But she spoke no more, she made little moans only, and when next he peeped at her she was once more asleep, with tears on her face.

It made Peter very miserable, and what do you think was the first thing he did? Sitting on the rail at the foot of the bed, he played a beautiful lullaby to his mother on his pipe. He had made it up himself out of the way she said “Peter,” and he never stopped playing until she looked happy.

He thought this so clever of him that he could scarcely resist wakening her to hear her say, “Oh, Peter, how exquisitely you play.” However, as she now seemed comfortable, he again cast looks at the window. You must not think that he meditated flying away and never coming back. He had quite decided to be his mother’s boy, but hesitated about beginning to-night. It was the second wish which troubled him. He no longer meant to make it a wish to be a bird, but not to ask for a second wish seemed wasteful, and, of course, he could not ask for it without returning to the fairies. Also, if he put off asking for his wish too long it might go bad. He asked himself if he had not been hard-hearted to fly away without saying good-bye to Solomon. “I should like awfully to sail in my boat just once more,” he said wistfully to his sleeping mother. He quite argued with her as if she could hear him. “It would be so splendid to tell the birds of this adventure,” he said coaxingly. “I promise to come back,” he said solemnly and meant it, too.

And in the end, you know, he flew away. Twice he came back from the window, wanting to kiss his mother, but he feared the delight of it might waken her, so at last he played her a lovely kiss on his pipe, and then he flew back to the Gardens.

Many nights and even months passed before he asked the fairies for his second wish; and I am not sure that I quite know why he delayed so long. One reason was that he had so many good-byes to say, not only to his particular friends, but to a hundred favourite spots. Then he had his last sail, and his very last sail, and his last sail of all, and so on. Again, a number of farewell feasts were given in his honour; and another comfortable reason was that, after all, there was no hurry, for his mother would never weary of waiting for him. This last reason displeased old Solomon, for it was an encouragement to the birds to procrastinate. Solomon had several excellent mottoes for keeping them at their work, such as “Never put off laying to-day because you can lay to-morrow,” and “In this world there are no second chances,” and yet here was Peter gaily putting off and none the worse for it. The birds pointed this out to each other, and fell into lazy habits.

But, mind you, though Peter was so slow in going back to his mother, he was quite decided to go back. The best proof of this was his caution with the fairies. They were most anxious that he should remain in the Gardens to play to them, and to bring this to pass they tried to trick him into making such a remark as “I wish the grass was not so wet,” and some of them danced out of time in the hope that he might cry, “I do wish you would keep time!” Then they would have said that this was his second wish. But he smoked their design, and though on occasions he began, “I wish--” he always stopped in time. So when at last he said to them bravely, “I wish now to go back to mother for ever and always,” they had to tickle his shoulders and let him go.

He went in a hurry in the end because he had dreamt that his mother was crying, and he knew what was the great thing she cried for, and that a hug from her splendid Peter would quickly make her to smile. Oh, he felt sure of it, and so eager was he to be nestling in her arms that this time he flew straight to the window, which was always to be open for him.

But the window was closed, and there were iron bars on it, and peering inside he saw his mother sleeping peacefully with her arm round another little boy.

Peter called, “Mother! mother!” but she heard him not; in vain he beat his little limbs against the iron bars. He had to fly back, sobbing, to the Gardens, and he never saw his dear again. What a glorious boy he had meant to be to her. Ah, Peter, we who have made the great mistake, how differently we should all act at the second chance. But Solomon was right; there is no second chance, not for most of us. When we reach the window it is Lock-out Time. The iron bars are up for life.

The Little House

Everybody has heard of the Little House in the Kensington Gardens, which is the only house in the whole world that the fairies have built for humans. But no one has really seen it, except just three or four, and they have not only seen it but slept in it, and unless you sleep in it you never see it. This is because it is not there when you lie down, but it is there when you wake up and step outside.

In a kind of way every one may see it, but what you see is not really it, but only the light in the windows. You see the light after Lock-out Time. David, for instance, saw it quite distinctly far away among the trees as we were going home from the pantomime, and Oliver Bailey saw it the night he stayed so late at the Temple, which is the name of his father’s office. Angela Clare, who loves to have a tooth extracted because then she is treated to tea in a shop, saw more than one light, she saw hundreds of them all together, and this must have been the fairies building the house, for they build it every night and always in a different part of the Gardens. She thought one of the lights was bigger than the others, though she was not quite sure, for they jumped about so, and it might have been another one that was bigger. But if it was the same one, it was Peter Pan’s light. Heaps of children have seen the light, so that is nothing. But Maimie Mannering was the famous one for whom the house was first built.

Maimie was always rather a strange girl, and it was at night that she was strange. She was four years of age, and in the daytime she was the ordinary kind. She was pleased when her brother Tony, who was a magnificent fellow of six, took notice of her, and she looked up to him in the right way, and tried in vain to imitate him and was flattered rather than annoyed when he shoved her about. Also, when she was batting she would pause though the ball was in the air to point out to you that she was wearing new shoes. She was quite the ordinary kind in the daytime.

But as the shades of night fell, Tony, the swaggerer, lost his contempt for Maimie and eyed her fearfully, and no wonder, for with dark there came into her face a look that I can describe only as a leary look. It was also a serene look that contrasted grandly with Tony’s uneasy glances. Then he would make her presents of his favourite toys (which he always took away from her next morning), and she accepted them with a disturbing smile. The reason he was now become so wheedling and she so mysterious was (in brief) that they knew they were about to be sent to bed. It was then that Maimie was terrible. Tony entreated her not to do it to-night, and the mother and their coloured nurse threatened her, but Maimie merely smiled her agitating smile. And by-and-by when they were alone with their night-light she would start up in bed crying “Hsh! what was that?” Tony beseeches her: “It was nothing--don’t, Maimie, don’t!” and pulls the sheet over his head. “It is coming hearer!” she cries. “Oh, look at it, Tony! It is feeling your bed with its horns--it is boring for you, oh, Tony, oh!” and she desists not until he rushes downstairs in his combinations, screeching. When they came up to whip Maimie they usually found her sleeping tranquilly, not shamming, you know, but really sleeping, and looking like the sweetest little angel, which seems to me to make it almost worse.

But of course it was daytime when they were in the Gardens, and then Tony did most of the talking. You could gather from his talk that he was a very brave boy, and no one was so proud of it as Maimie. She would have loved to have a ticket on her saying that she was his sister. And at no time did she admire him more than when he told her, as he often did with splendid firmness, that one day he meant to remain behind in the Gardens after the gates were closed.

“Oh, Tony,” she would say, with awful respect, “but the fairies will be so angry!”

“I daresay,” replied Tony, carelessly.

“Perhaps,” she said, thrilling, “Peter Pan will give you a sail in his boat!”

“I shall make him,” replied Tony; no wonder she was proud of him.

But they should not have talked so loudly, for one day they were overheard by a fairy who had been gathering skeleton leaves, from which the little people weave their summer curtains, and after that Tony was a marked boy. They loosened the rails before he sat on them, so that down he came on the back of his head; they tripped him up by catching his boot-lace and bribed the ducks to sink his boat. Nearly all the nasty accidents you meet with in the Gardens occur because the fairies have taken an ill-will to you, and so it behoves you to be careful what you say about them.

Maimie was one of the kind who like to fix a day for doing things, but Tony was not that kind, and when she asked him which day he was to remain behind in the Gardens after Lock-out he merely replied, “Just some day”; he was quite vague about which day except when she asked “Will it be to-day?” and then he could always say for certain that it would not be to-day. So she saw that he was waiting for a real good chance.

This brings us to an afternoon when the Gardens were white with snow, and there was ice on the Round Pond, not thick enough to skate on, but at least you could spoil it for to-morrow by flinging stones, and many bright little boys and girls were doing that.

When Tony and his sister arrived they wanted to go straight to the pond, but their ayah said they must take a sharp walk first, and as she said this she glanced at the time-board to see when the Gardens closed that night. It read half-past five. Poor ayah! she is the one who laughs continuously because there are so many white children in the world, but she was not to laugh much more that day.

Well, they went up the Baby Walk and back, and when the returned to the time-board she was surprised to see that it now read five o’clock for closing time. But she was unacquainted with the tricky ways of the fairies, and so did not see (as Maimie and Tony saw at once) that they had changed the hour because there was to be a ball to-night. She said there was only time now to walk to the top of the Hump and back, and as they trotted along with her she little guessed what was thrilling their little breasts. You see the chance had come of seeing a fairy ball. Never, Tony felt, could he hope for a better chance.

He had to feel this, for Maimie so plainly felt it for him. Her eager eyes asked the question, “Is it to-day?” and he gasped and then nodded. Maimie slipped her hand into Tony’s, and hers was hot, but his was cold. She did a very kind thing; she took off her scarf and gave it to him! “In case you should feel cold,” she whispered. Her face was aglow, but Tony’s was very gloomy.

As they turned on the top of the Hump he whispered to her, “I’m afraid Nurse would see me, so I sha’n’t be able to do it.”

Maimie admired him more than ever for being afraid of nothing but their ayah, when there were so many unknown terrors to fear, and she said aloud, “Tony, I shall race you to the gate,” and in a whisper, “Then you can hide,” and off they ran.

Tony could always outdistance her easily, but never had she known him speed away so quickly as now, and she was sure he hurried that he might have more time to hide. “Brave, brave!” her doting eyes were crying when she got a dreadful shock; instead of hiding, her hero had run out at the gate! At this bitter site Maimie stopped blankly, as if all her lapful of darling treasures were suddenly spilled, and then for very disdain she could not sob; in a swell of protest against all puling cowards she ran to St. Govor’s Well and hid in Tony’s stead.

When the ayah reached the gate and saw Tony far in front she thought her other charge was with him and passed out. Twilight came on, and scores and hundreds of people passed out, including the last one, who always has to run for it, but Maimie saw them not. She had shut her eyes tight and glued them with passionate tears. When she opened them something very cold ran up her legs and up her arms and dropped into her heart. It was the stillness of the Gardens. Then she heard clang, then from another part clang, then clang, clang far away. It was the Closing of the Gates.

Immediately the last clang had died away Maimie distinctly heard a voice say, “So that’s all right.” It had a wooden sound and seemed to come from above, and she looked up in time to see an elm-tree stretching out its arms and yawning.

She was about to say, “I never knew you could speak!” when a metallic voice that seemed to come from the ladle at the well remarked to the elm, “I suppose it is a bit coldish up there?” and the elm replied, “Not particularly, but you do get numb standing so long on one leg,” and he flapped his arms vigorously just as the cabmen do before they drive off. Maimie was quite surprised to see that a number of other tall trees were doing the same sort of thing, and she stole away to the Baby Walk and crouched observantly under a Minorca Holly which shrugged its shoulders but did not seem to mind her.

She was not in the least cold. She was wearing a russet-coloured pelisse and had the hood over her head, so that nothing of her showed except her dear little face and her curls. The rest of her real self was hidden far away inside so many warm garments that in shape she seemed rather like a ball. She was about forty round the waist.

There was a good deal going on in the Baby Walk, when Maimie arrived in time to see a magnolia nd a Persian lilac step over the railing and set off for a smart walk. They moved in a jerky sort of way certainly, but that was because they used crutches. An elderberry hobbled across the walk, and stood chatting with some young quinces, and they all had crutches. The crutches were the sticks that are tied to young trees and shrubs. they were quite familiar objects to Maimie, but she had never known what they were for until to-night.

She peeped up the walk and saw her first fairy. He was a street-boy fairy who was running up the walk closing the weeping trees. The way he did it was this, he pressed a spring in the trunk and they shut like umbrellas, deluging the little plants beneath with snow. “Oh, you naughty, naughty child!” Maimie cried indignantly, for she knew what it was to have a dripping umbrella about your ears.

Fortunately the mischievous fellow was out of earshot, but the chrysanthemums heard her, and they all said so pointedly “Hoity-toity, what is this?” that she had to come out and show herself. Then the whole vegetable kingdom was rather puzzled what to do.

“Of course it is no affair of ours,” a spindle-tree said after they had whispered together, “but you know quite well you ought not to be here, and perhaps our duty is to report you to the fairies; what do you think yourself?”

“I think you should not,” Maimie replied, which so perplexed them that they said petulantly there was no arguing with her. “I wouldn’t ask it of you,” she assured them, “if I thought it was wrong,” and of course after this they could not well carry tales. They then said, “Well-a-day,” and “Such is life!” for they can be frightfully sarcastic, but she felt sorry for those of them who had no crutches, and she said good-naturedly, “Before I go to the fairies’ ball, I should like to take you for a walk one at a time; you can lean on me, you know.”

At this they clapped their hands, and she escorted them up to the Baby Walk and back again, one at a time, putting an arm or a finger round the very frail, setting their leg right when it got too ridiculous, and treating the foreign ones quite as courteously as the English, though she could not understand a word they said.

They behaved well on the whole, though some whimpered that she had not taken them as far as she took Nancy or Grace or Dorothy, and others jagged her, but it was quite unintentional, and she was too much of a lady to cry out. So much walking tired her, and she was anxious to be off to the ball, but she no longer felt afraid. The reason she felt no more fear was that it was now night-time, and in the dark, you remember, Maimie was always rather strange.

They were now loath to let her go, for “If the fairies see you,” they warned her, “they will mischief you, stab you to death or compel you to nurse their children or turn you into something tedious, like an evergreen oak.” As they said this they looked with affected pity at an evergreen oak, for in winter they are very envious of the evergreens.

“Oh, la!” replied the oak bitingly, “how deliciously cosy it is to stand her buttoned to the neck and watch you poor naked creatures shivering!”

This made them sulky though they had really brought it on themselves, and they drew for Maimie a very gloomy picture of the perils that faced her if she insisted on going to the ball.

She learned from a purple filbert that the court was not in its usual good temper at present, the cause being the tantalising heart of the Duke of Christmas Daisies. He was an oriental fairy, very poorly of a dreadful complaint, namely, inability to love, and though he had tried many ladies in many lands he could not fall in love with one of them. Queen Mab, who rules in the Gardens, had been confident that her girls would bewitch him, but alas, his heart, the doctor said, remained cold. This rather irritating doctor, who was his private physician, felt the Duke’s heart immediately after any lady was presented, and then always shook his bald head and murmured, “Cold, quite cold!” Naturally Queen Mab felt disgraced, and first she tried the effect of ordering the court into tears for nine minutes, and then she blamed the Cupids and decreed that they should wear fools’ caps until they thawed the Duke’s frozen heart.

“How I should love to see the Cupids in their dear little fools’ caps!” Maimie cried, and away she ran to look for them very recklessly, for the Cupids hate to be laughed at.

It is always easy to discover where a fairies’ ball is being held, as ribbons are stretched between it and all the populous parts of the Gardens, on which those invited may walk to the dance without wetting their pumps. This night the ribbons were red and looked very pretty on the snow.

Maimie walked alongside one of them for some distance without meeting anybody, but at last she saw a fairy cavalcade approaching. To her surprise they seemed to be returning from the ball, and she had just time to hide from them by bending her knees and holding out her arms and pretending to be a garden-chair. There were six horsemen in front and six behind, in the middle walked a prim lady wearing a long train held up by two pages, and on the train, as if it were a couch, reclined a lovely girl, for in this way to aristocratic fairies travel about. She was dressed in golden rain, but the most enviable part of her was her neck, which was blue in colour and of a velvet texture, and of course showed off her diamond necklace as no white throat could have glorified it. The high-born fairies obtain this admired effect by pricking their skin, which lets the blue blood come out and dye them, and you cannot imagine anything so dazzling unless you have seen the ladies’ busts in the jewellers’ windows.

Maimie also noticed that the whole cavalcade seemed to be in a passion, tilting their noses higher than it can be safe for even fairies to tilt them, and she concluded that this must be another case in which the doctor had said “Cold, quite cold!”

Well, she followed the ribbon to a place where it became a bridge over a dry puddle into which another fairy had fallen and been unable to climb out. At first this little damsel was afraid of Maimie, who most kindly went to her aid, but soon she sat in her hand chatting gaily and explaining that her name was Brownie, and that though only a poor street singer she was on her way to the ball to see if the Duke would have her.

“Of course,” she said, “I am rather plain,” and this made Maimie uncomfortable, for indeed the simple little creature was almost quite plain for a fairy.

It was difficult to know what to reply.

“I see you think I have no chance,” Brownie said falteringly.

“I don’t say that,” Maimie answered politely, “of course your face is just a tiny bit homely, but--” Really it was quite awkward for her.

Fortunately she remembered about her father and the bazaar. He had gone to a fashionable bazaar where all the most beautiful ladies in London were on view for half-a-crown the second day, but on his return home instead of being dissatisfied with Maimie’s mother he had said, “You can’t think, my dear, what a relief it is to see a homely face again.”

Maimie repeated this story, and it fortified Brownie tremendously, indeed she had no longer the slightest doubt that the Duke would choose her. So she scudded away up the ribbon, calling out to Maimie not to follow lest the Queen should mischief her.

But Maimie’s curiosity tugged her forward, and presently, at the seven Spanish chestnuts, she saw a wonderful light. She crept forward until she was quite near it, and then she peeped from behind a tree.

The light, which was as high as your head above the ground, was composed of myriads of glow-worms all holding on to each other, and so forming a dazzling canopy over the fairy-ring. There were thousands of little people looking on, but they were in shadow and drab in colour compared to the glorious creatures within that luminous circle who were so bewilderingly bright that Maimie had to wink hard all the time she looked at them.

It was amazing and even irritating to her that the Duke of Christmas Daisies should be able to keep out of love for a moment: yet out of love his dusky grace still was: you could see it by the shamed looks of the Queen and court (though they pretended not to care), by the way darling ladies brought forward for his approval burst into tears as they were told to pass on, and by his own most dreary face.

Maimie could also see the pompous doctor feeling the Duke’s heart and hear him give utterance to his parrot cry, and she was particularly sorry for the Cupids, who stood in their fools’ caps in obscure places and, every time they heard that “Cold, quite cold,” bowed their disgraced little heads.

She was disappointed not to see Peter Pan, and I may as well tell you now why he was so late that night. It was because his boat had got wedged on the Serpentine between fields of floating ice, through which he had to break a perilous passage with his trusty paddle.

The fairies had as yet scarcely missed him, for they could not dance, so heavy were their hearts. They forget all the steps when they are sad and remember them again when they are merry. David tells me that fairies never say “We feel happy”: what they say is, “We feel dancey.”

Well, they were looking very undancey indeed, when sudden laughter broke out among the on-lookers, caused by Brownie, who had just arrived and was insisting on her right to be presented to the Duke.

Maimie craned forward eagerly to see how her friend fared, though she had really no hope; no one seemed to have the least hope except Brownie herself, who, however, was absolutely confident. She was led before his grace, and the doctor putting a finger carelessly on the ducal heart, which for convenience sake was reached by a little trap-door in his diamond shirt, had begun to say mechanically, “Cold, qui--,” when he stopped abruptly.

“What’s this?” he cried, and first he shook the heart like a watch, and then put his ear to it.

“Bless my soul!” cried the doctor, and by this time of course the excitement among the spectators was tremendous, fairies fainting right and left.

Everybody stared breathlessly at the Duke, who was very much startled and looked as if he would like to run away. “Good gracious me!” the doctor was heard muttering, and now the heart was evidently on fire, for he had to jerk his fingers away from it and put them in his mouth.

The suspense was awful!

Then in a loud voice, and bowing low, “My Lord Duke,” said the physician elatedly, “I have the honour to inform your excellency that your grace is in love.”

You can’t conceive the effect of it. Brownie held out her arms to the Duke and he flung himself into them, the Queen leapt into the arms of the Lord Chamberlain, and the ladies of the court leapt into the arms of her gentlemen, for it is etiquette to follow her example in everything. Thus in a single moment about fifty marriages took place, for if you leap into each other’s arms it is a fairy wedding. Of course a clergyman has to be present.

How the crowd cheered and leapt! Trumpets brayed, the moon came out, and immediately a thousand couples seized hold of its rays as if they were ribbons in a May dance and waltzed in wild abandon round the fairy-ring. Most gladsome sight of all, the Cupids plucked the hated fools’ caps from their heads and cast them high in the air. And then Maimie went and spoiled everything. She couldn’t help it. She was crazy with delight over her little friend’s good fortune, so she took several steps forward and cried in an ecstasy, “Oh, Brownie, how splendid!”

Everybody stood still, the music ceased, the lights went out, and all in the time you may take to say “Oh dear!” An awful sense of her peril came upon Maimie, too late she remembered that she was a lost child in a place where no human must be between the locking and the opening of the gates, she heard the murmur of an angry multitude, she saw a thousand swords flashing for her blood, and she uttered a cry of terror and fled.

How she ran! and all the time her eyes were starting out of her head. Many times she lay down, and then quickly jumped up and ran on again. Her little mind was so entangled in terrors that she no longer knew she was in the Gardens. The one thing she was sure of was that she must never cease to run, and she thought she was still running long after she had dropped in the Figs and gone to sleep. She thought the snowflakes falling on her face were her mother kissing her good-night. She thought her coverlet of snow was a warm blanket, and tried to pull it over her head. And when she heard talking through her dreams she thought it was mother bringing father to the nursery door to look at her as she slept. But it was the fairies.

I am very glad to be able to say that they no longer desired to mischief her. When she rushed away they had rent the air with such cries as “Slay her!” “Turn her into something extremely unpleasant!” and so on, but the pursuit was delayed while they discussed who should march in front, and this gave Duchess Brownie time to cast herself before the Queen and demand a boon.

Every bride has a right to a boon, and what she asked for was Maimie’s life. “Anything except that,” replied Queen Mab sternly, and all the fairies chanted “Anything except that.” But when they learned how Maimie had befriended Brownie and so enabled her to attend the ball to their great glory and renown, they gave three huzzas for the little human, and set off, like an army, to thank her, the court advancing in front and the canopy keeping step with it. They traced Maimie easily by her footprints in the snow.

But though they found her deep in snow in the Figs, it seemed impossible to thank Maimie, for they could not waken her. They went through the form of thanking her, that is to say, the new King stood on her body and read her a long address of welcome, but she heard not a word of it. They also cleared the snow off her, but soon she was covered again, and they saw she was in danger of perishing of cold.

“Turn her into something that does not mind the cold,” seemed a good suggestion of the doctor’s, but the only thing they could think of that does not mind cold was a snowflake. “And it might melt,” the Queen pointed out, so that idea had to be given up.

A magnificent attempt was made to carry her to a sheltered spot, but though there were so many of them she was too heavy. By this time all the ladies were crying in their handkerchiefs, but presently the Cupids had a lovely idea. “Build a house round her,” they cried, and at once everybody perceived that this was the thing to do; in a moment a hundred fairy sawyers were among the branches, architects were running round Maimie, measuring her; a bricklayer’s yard sprang up at her feet, seventy-five masons rushed up with the foundation stone and the Queen laid it, overseers were appointed to keep the boys off, scaffoldings were run up, the whole place rang with hammers and chisels and turning lathes, and by this time the roof was on and the glaziers were putting in the windows.

The house was exactly the size of Maimie and perfectly lovely. One of her arms was extended and this had bothered them for a second, but they built a verandah round it, leading to the front door. The windows were the size of a coloured picture-book and the door rather smaller, but it would be easy for her to get out by taking off the roof. The fairies, as is their custom, clapped their hands with delight over their cleverness, and they were all so madly in love with the little house that they could not bear to think they had finished it. So they gave it ever so many little extra touches, and even then they added more extra touches.

For instance, two of them ran up a ladder and put on a chimney.

“Now we fear it is quite finished,” they sighed.

But no, for another two ran up the ladder, and tied some smoke to the chimney.

“that certainly finished it,” they cried reluctantly.

“Not at all,” cried a glow-worm; “if she were to wake without seeing a night-light she might be frightened, so I shall be her night-light.”

Wait one moment,” said a china merchant, “and I shall make you a saucer.”

Now, alas, it was absolutely finished.

Oh, dear no!

“Gracious me,” cried a brass manufacturer, “there’s no handle on the door,” and he put one on.

An ironmonger added a scraper and an old lady ran up with a door-mat. Carpenters arrived with a water-butt, and the painters insisted on painting it.

Finished at last!

“Finished! how can it be finished,” the plumber demanded scornfully, “before hot and cold are put in?” and he put in hot and cold. Then an army of gardeners arrived with fairy carts and spades and seeds and bulbs and forcing-houses, and soon they had a flower garden to the right of the verandah and a vegetable garden to the left, and roses and clematis on the walls of the house, and in less time than five minutes all these dear things were in full bloom.

Oh, how beautiful the little house was now! But it was at last finished true as true, and they had to leave it and return to the dance. They all kissed their hands to it as they went away, and the last to go was Brownie. She stayed a moment behind the others to drop a pleasant dream down the chimney.

All through the night the exquisite little house stood there in the Figs taking care of Maimie, and she never knew. She slept until the dream was quite finished and woke feeling deliciously cosy just as morning was breaking from its egg, and then she almost fell asleep again, and then she called out, “Tony,” for she thought she was at home in the nursery. As Tony made no answer, she sat up, whereupon her head hit the roof, and it opened like the lid of a box, and to her bewilderment she saw all around her the Kensington Gardens lying deep in snow. As she was not in the nursery she wondered whether this was really herself, so she pinched her cheeks, and then she knew it was herself, and this reminded her that she was in the middle of a great adventure. She remembered now everything that had happened to her from the closing of the gates up to her running away from the fairies, but however, she asked herself, had she got into this funny place? She stepped out by the roof, right over the garden, and then she saw the dear house in which she had passed the night. It so entranced her that she could think of nothing else.

“Oh, you darling, oh, you sweet, oh, you love!” she cried.

Perhaps a human voice frightened the little house, or maybe it now knew that its work was done, for no sooner had Maimie spoken than it began to grow smaller; it shrank so slowly that she could scarce believe it was shrinking, yet she soon knew that it could not contain her now. It always remained as complete as ever, but it became smaller and smaller, and the garden dwindled at the same time, and the snow crept closer, lapping house and garden up. Now the house was the size of a little dog’s kennel, and now of a Noah’s ark, but still you could see the smoke and the door-handle and the roses on the wall, every one complete. The flow-worm light was waning too, but it was still there. “Darling, loveliest, don’t go!” Maimie cried, falling on her knees, for the little house was now the size of a reel of thread, but still quite complete. But as she stretched out her arms imploringly the snow crept up on all sides until it met itself, and where the little house had been was now one unbroken expanse of snow.

Maimie stamped her foot naughtily, and was putting her fingers to her eyes, when she heard a kind voice say, “Don’t cry, pretty human, don’t cry,” and then she turned round and saw a beautiful little naked boy regarding her wistfully. She knew at once that he must be Peter Pan.

Peter’s Goat

Maimie felt quite shy, but Peter knew not what shy was.

“I hope you have had a good night,” he said earnestly.

“Thank you,” she replied, “I was so cosy and warm. But you”--and she looked at his nakedness awkwardly--“don’t you feel the least bit cold?”

Now cold was another word Peter had forgotten, so he answered, “I think not, but I may be wrong; you see I am rather ignorant. I am not exactly a boy, Solomon says I am a Betwixt-and-Between.”

“So that is what it is called,” said Maimie thoughtfully.

“That’s not my name,” he explained; “my name is Peter Pan.”

“Yes, of course,” she said, “I know, everybody knows.”

You can’t think how pleased Peter was to learn that all the people outside the gates knew about him. He begged Maimie to tell him what they knew and what they said, and she did so. They were sitting by this time on a fallen tree; Peter had cleared off the snow for Maimie, but he sat on a snowy bit himself.

“Squeeze closer,” Maimie said.

“What is that?” he asked, and she showed him, and then he did it. They talked together and he found that people knew a great deal about him, but not everything, not that he had gone back to his mother and been barred out, for instance, and he said nothing of this to Maimie, for it still humiliated him.

“Do they know that I play games exactly like real boys?” he asked very proudly. “Oh, Maimie, please tell them!” But when he revealed how he played, by sailing his hoop on the Round Pond, and so on, she was simply horrified.

“All your ways of playing,” she said with her big eyes on him, “are quite, quite wrong, and not in the least like how boys play!”

Poor Peter uttered a little moan at this, and he cried for the first time for I know not how long. Maimie was extremely sorry for him, and lent him her handkerchief, but he didn’t know in the least what to do with it, so she showed him, that is to say, she wiped her eyes, and then gave it back to him, saying “Now you do it,” but instead of wiping his own eyes he wiped hers, and she thought it best to pretend that this was what she had meant.

She said, out of pity for him, “I shall give you a kiss if you like,” but though he once knew he had long forgotten what kisses are, and he replied, “Thank you,” and held out his hand, thinking she had offered to put something into it. This was a great shock to her, but she felt she could not explain without shaming him, so with charming delicacy she gave Peter a thimble which happened to be in her pocket, and pretended that it was a kiss. Poor little boy! he quite believed her, and to this day he wears it on his finger, though there can be scarcely any one who needs a thimble so little. You see, though still a tiny child, it was really years and years since he had seen his mother, and I daresay the baby who had supplanted him was now a man with whiskers.

But you must not think that Peter Pan was a boy to pity rather than to admire; if Maimie began by thinking this, she soon found she was very much mistaken. Her eyes glistened with admiration when he told her of his adventures, especially of how he went to and fro between the island and the Gardens in the Thrush’s Nest.

“How romantic,” Maimie exclaimed, but it was another unknown word, and he hung his head thinking she was despising him.

“I suppose Tony would not have done that?” he said very humbly.

“Never, never!” she answered with conviction, “he would have been afraid.”

“What is afraid?” asked Peter longingly. He thought it must be some splendid thing. “I do wish you would teach me how to be afraid, Maimie,” he said.

“I believe no one could teach that to you,” she answered adoringly, but Peter thought she meant that he was stupid. She had told him about Tony and of the wicked thing she did in the dark to frighten him (she knew quite well that it was wicked), but Peter misunderstood her meaning and said, “Oh, how I wish I was as brave as Tony.”

It quite irritated her. “You are twenty thousand times braver than Tony,” she said, “you are ever so much the bravest boy I ever knew!”

He could scarcely believe she meant it, but when he did believe he screamed with joy.

“And if you want very much to give me a kiss,” Maimie said, “you can do it.”

Very reluctantly Peter began to take the thimble off his finger. He thought she wanted it back.

“I don’t mean a kiss,” she said hurriedly, “I mean a thimble.”

“What’s that?” Peter asked.

“It’s like this,” she said, and kissed him.

“I should love to give you a thimble,” Peter said gravely, so he gave her one. He gave her quite a number of thimbles, and then a delightful idea came into his head. “Maimie,” he said, “will you marry me?”

Now, strange to tell, the same idea had come at exactly the same time into Maimie’s head. “I should like to,” she answered, “but will there be room in your boat for two?”

“If you squeeze close,” he said eagerly.

“Perhaps the birds would be angry?”

He assured her that the birds would love to have her, though I am not so certain of it myself. Also that there were very few birds in winter. “Of course they might want your clothes,” he had to admit rather falteringly.

She was somewhat indignant at this.

“They are always thinking of their nests,” he said apologetically, “and there are some bits of you”--he stroked the fur on her pelisse--“would excite them very much.”

“They sha’n’t have my fur,” she said sharply.

“No,” he said, still fondling it, however, “no! Oh, Maimie,” he said rapturously, “do you know why I love you? It is because you are like a beautiful nest.”

Somehow this made her uneasy. “I think you are speaking more like a bird than a boy now,” she said, holding back, and indeed he was even looking rather like a bird. “After all,” she said, “you are only a Betwixt-and-Between.” But it hurt him so much that she immediately added, “It must be a delicious thing to be.”

“Come and be one then, dear Maimie,” he implored her, and they set off for the boat, for it was now very near Open-Gate time. “And you are not a bit like a nest,” he whispered to please her.

Serpentine, from The Little White Bird

“But I think it is rather nice to be like one,” she said in a woman’s contradictory way. “And, Peter, dear, though I can’t give them my fur, I wouldn’t mind their building in it. Fancy a nest in my neck with little spotty eggs in it! Oh, Peter, how perfectly lovely!”

But, as they drew near the Serpentine, she shivered a little, and said, “Of course I shall go and see mother often, quite often. It is not as if I was saying good-bye for ever to mother, it is not in the least like that.”

“Oh, no,” answered Peter, but in his heart he knew it was very like that, and he would have told her so had he not been in a quaking fear of losing her. He was so fond of her, he felt he could not live without her. “She will forget her mother in time, and be happy with me,” he kept saying to himself, and he hurried her on, giving her thimbles by the way.

But even when she had seen the boat and exclaimed ecstatically over its loveliness, she still talked tremblingly about her mother. “You know quite well, Peter, don’t you,” she said, “that I wouldn’t come unless I knew for certain I could go back to mother whenever I want to? Peter, say it!”

He said it, but he could no longer look her in the face.

“If you are sure your mother will always want you,” he added rather sourly.

“The idea of mother’s not always wanting me!” Maimie cried, and her face glistened.

“If she doesn’t bar you out,” said Peter huskily.

“The door,” replied Maimie, “will always, always be open, and mother will always be waiting at it for me.”

“Then,” said Peter, not without grimness, “step in, if you feel so sure of her,” and he helped Maimie into the Thrush’s Nest.

“But why don’t you look at me?” she asked, taking him by the arm.

Peter tried hard not to look, he tried to push off, then he gave a great gulp and jumped ashore and sat down miserably in the snow.

She went to him. “What is it, dear, dear, Peter?” she said, wondering.

“Oh, Maimie,” he cried, “it isn’t fair to take you with me if you think you can go back. Your mother”--he gulped again--“you don’t know them as well as I do.”

And then he told her the woful story of how he had been barred out, and she gasped all the time.

“But my mother,” she said, “my mother--”

“Yes, she would,” said Peter, “they are all the same. I daresay she is looking for another one already.”

Maimie said aghast, “I can’t believe it. You see, when you went away your mother had none, but my mother has Tony, and surely they are satisfied when they have one.”

Peter replied bitterly, “You should see the letters Solomon gets from ladies who have six.”

Just then they heard a grating creak, followed by creak, creak, all around the Gardens. It was the Opening of the Gates, and Peter jumped nervously into his boat. He knew Maimie would not come with him now, and he was trying bravely not to cry. But Maimie was sobbing painfully.

“If I should be too late,” she called in agony, “oh, Peter, if she has got another one already!”

Again he sprang ashore as if she had called him back. “I shall come and look for you to-night,” he said, squeezing close, “but if you hurry away I think you will be in time.”

Then he pressed a last thimble on her sweet little mouth, and covered his face with his hands so that he might not see her go.

“Dear Peter!” she cried.

“Dear Maimie!” cried the tragic boy.

She leapt into his arms, so that it was a sort of fairy wedding, and then she hurried away. Oh, how she hastened to the gates! Peter, you may be sure, was back in the Gardens that night as soon as Lock-out sounded, but he found no Maimie, and so he knew she had been in time. For long he hoped that some night she would come back to him; often he thought he saw her waiting for him by the shore of the Serpentine as his bark drew to land, but Maimie never went back. She wanted to, but she was afraid that if she saw her dear Betwixt-and-Between again she would linger with him too long, and besides the ayah now kept a sharp eye on her. But she often talked lovingly of Peter, and she knitted a kettle-holder for him, and one day when she was wondering what Easter present he would like, her mother made a suggestion.

“Nothing,” she said thoughtfully, “would be so useful to him as a goat.”

“He could ride on it,” cried Maimie, “and play on his pipe at the same time!”

“Then,” her mother asked, “won’t you give him your goat, the one you frighten Tony with at night?”

“But it isn’t a real goat,” Maimie said.

“It seems very real to Tony,” replied her mother.

“It seems frightfully real to me too,” Maimie admitted, “but how could I give it to Peter?”

Her mother knew a way, and next day, accompanied by Tony (who was really quite a nice boy, though of course he could not compare), they went to the Gardens, and Maimie stood alone within a fairy-ring, and then her mother, who was a rather gifted lady, said,

“My daughter, tell me, if you can,
What have you got for Peter Pan?”

To which Maimie replied,

“I have a goat for him to ride,
Observe me cast it far and wide.”

She then flung her arms about as if she were sowing seed, and turned round three times.

Next Tony said,

“If P. doth find it waiting here,
Wilt ne’er again make me to fear?”

And Maimie answered,

“By dark or light I fondly swear
Never to see goats anywhere.”

She also left a letter to Peter in a likely place, explaining what she had done, and begging him to ask the fairies to turn the goat into one convenient for riding on. Well, it all happened just as she hoped, for Peter found the letter, and of course nothing could be easier for the fairies than to turn the goat into a real one, and so that is how Peter got the goat on which he now rides round the Gardens every night playing sublimely on his pipe. And Maimie kept her promise and never frightened Tony with a goat again, though I have heard that she created another animal. Until she was quite a big girl she continued to leave presents for Peter in the Gardens (with letters explaining how humans play with them), and she is not the only one who has done this. David does it, for instance, and he and I know the likeliest place for leaving them in, and we shall tell you if you like, but for mercy’s sake don’t ask us before Porthos, for were he to find out the place he would take every one of them.

Though Peter still remembers Maimie he is become as gay as ever, and often in sheer happiness he jumps off his goat and lies kicking merrily on the grass. Oh, he has a joyful time! But he has still a vague memory that he was a human once, and it makes him especially kind to the house-swallows when they revisit the island, for house-swallows are the spirits of little children who have died. They always build in the eaves of the houses where they lived when they were humans, and sometimes they try to fly in at a nursery window, and perhaps that is why Peter loves them best of all the birds.

And the little house? Every lawful night (that is to say, every night except ball nights) the fairies now build the little house lest there should be a human child lost in the Gardens, and Peter rides the marshes looking for lost ones, and if he finds them he carries them on his goat to the little house, and when they wake up they are in it and when they step out they see it. The fairies build the house merely because it is so pretty, but Peter rides round in memory of Maimie and because he still loves to do just as he believes real boys would do.

But you must not think that, because somewhere among the trees the little house is twinkling, it is a safe thing to remain in the Gardens after Lock-out Time. If the bad ones among the fairies happen to be out that night they will certainly mischief you, and even though they are not, you may perish of cold and dark before Peter Pan comes round. He has been too late several times, and when he sees he is too late he runs back to the Thrush’s Nest for his paddle, of which Maimie had told him the true use, and he digs a grave for the child and erects a little tombstone and carves the poor thing’s initials on it. He does this at once because he thinks it is what real boys would do, and you must have noticed the little stones and that there are always two together. he puts them in twos because it seems less lonely. I think that quite the most touching sight in the Gardens is the two tombstones of Walter Stephen Matthews and Phœbe Phelps. they stand together at the spot where the parish of Westminster St. Mary’s is said to meet the parish of Paddington. Here Peter found the two babes, who had fallen unnoticed from their perambulators, Phœbe aged thirteen months and Walter probably still younger, for Peter seems to have felt a delicacy about putting any age on his stone. They lie side by side, and the simple inscriptions read:

W.
St. M.

and

13a
P.P.
1841.

David sometimes places white flowers on these two innocent graves.

But how strange for parents, when they hurry into the Gardens at the opening of the gates looking for their lost one, to find the sweetest little tombstone instead. I do hope that Peter is not too ready with his spade. It is all rather sad.

An Interloper

David and I had a tremendous adventure. It was this, he passed the night with me. We had often talked of it as a possible thing, and at last Mary consented to our having it.

The adventure began with David’s coming to me at the unwonted hour of six P.M., carrying what looked like a packet of sandwiches, but proved to be his requisites for the night done up in a neat paper parcel. We were both so excited that, at the moment of greeting, neither of us could be apposite to the occasion in words, so we communicated our feelings by signs; as thus, David half sat down in a place where there was no chair, which is his favourite preparation for being emphatic, and is borrowed, I think, from the frogs, and we then made the extraordinary faces which mean, “What a tremendous adventure!”

We were to do all the important things precisely as they are done every evening at his own home, and so I am in a puzzle to know how it was such an adventure to David. But I have now said enough to show you what an adventure it was to me.

For a little while we played with my two medals, and, with the delicacy of a sleeping companion, David abstained on this occasion from asking why one of them was not a Victoria Cross. He is very troubled because I never won the Victoria Cross, for it lowers his status in the Gardens. He never says in the Gardens that I won it, but he fights any boy of his year who says I didn’t. Their fighting consists of challenging each other.

At twenty-five past six I turned on the hot water in the bath, and covertly swallowed a small glass of brandy. I then said, “Half-past six; time for little boys to be in bed.” I said it in the matter-of-fact voice of one made free of the company of parents, as if I had said it often before, and would have to say it often again, and as if there was nothing particularly delicious to me in hearing myself say it. I tried to say it in that way.

And David was deceived. To my exceeding joy he stamped his little foot, and was so naughty that, in gratitude, I gave him five minutes with a match-box. Matches, which he drops on the floor when lighted, are the greatest treat you can give David; indeed, I think his private heaven is a place with a roaring bonfire.

Then I placed my hand carelessly on his shoulder, like one a trifle bored by the dull routine of putting my little boys to bed, and conducted him to the night nursery, which had lately been my private chamber. There was an extra bed in it to-night, very near my own, but differently shaped, and scarcely less conspicuous was the new mantel-shelf ornament: a tumbler of milk, with a biscuit on top of it, and a chocolate riding on the biscuit. To enter the room without seeing the tumbler at once was impossible. I had tried it several times, and David saw and promptly did his frog business, the while, with an indescribable emotion, I produced a night-light from my pocket and planted it in a saucer on the wash-stand.

David watched my preparations with distasteful levity, but anon made a noble amend by abruptly offering me his foot as if he had no longer use for it, and I knew by intuition that he expected me to take off his boots. I took them off with all the coolness of an old hand, and then I placed him on my knee and removed his blouse. This was a delightful experience, but I think I remained wonderfully calm until I came somewhat too suddenly to his little braces, which agitated me profoundly.

I cannot proceed in public with the disrobing of David.

Soon the night nursery was in darkness, but for the glimmer from the night-light, and very still save when the door creaked as a man peered in at the little figure on the bed. However softly I opened the door, an inch at a time, his bright eyes turned to me at once, and he always made the face which means, “What a tremendous adventure!”

“Are you never to fall asleep, David?” I always said.

“When are you coming to bed?” he always replied, very brave but in a whisper, as if he feared the bears and wolves might have him. When little boys are in bed there is nothing between them and bears and wolves but the night-light.

I returned to my chair to think, and at last he fell asleep with his face to the wall, but even then I stood many times at the door, listening.

Long after I had gone to bed a sudden silence filled the chamber, and I knew that David had awaked. I law motionless, and, after what seemed a long time of waiting, a little far-away voice said in a cautious whisper, “Irene!”

“You are sleeping with me to-night, you know, David,” I said.

“I didn’t know,” he replied, a little troubled but trying not to be a nuisance.

“You remember you are with me?” I asked.

After a moment’s hesitation he replied, “I nearly remember,” and presently he added very gratefully, as if to some angel who had whispered to him, “I remember now.”

I think he had nigh fallen asleep again when he stirred and said, “Is it going on now?”

“What?”

“The adventure.”

“Yes, David.”

Perhaps this disturbed him, for by-and-by I had to inquire, “You are not frightened, are you?”

“Am I not?” he answered politely, and I knew his hand was groping in the darkness, so I put out mine and he held on tightly to one finger.

“I am not frightened now,” he whispered.

“And there is nothing else you want?”

“Is there not?” he again asked politely. “Are you sure there’s not?” he added.

“What can it be, David?”

“I don’t take up very much room,” the far-away voice said.

“Why, David,” said I, sitting up, “do you want to come into my bed?”

“Mother said I wasn’t to want it unless you wanted it first,” he squeaked.

“It is what I have been wanting all the time,” said I, and then without more ado the little white figure rose and flung itself at me. For the rest of the night he lay on me and across me, and sometimes his feet were at the bottom of the bed and sometimes on the pillow, but he always retained possession of my finger, and occasionally he woke me to say that he was sleeping with me. I had not a good night. I lay thinking.

Of this little boy, who, in the midst of his play while I undressed him, had suddenly buried his head on my knees.

Of the woman who had been for him who could be sufficiently daring.

Of David’s dripping little form in the bath, and how when I essayed to catch him he had slipped from my arms like a trout.

Of how I had stood by the open door listening to his sweet breathing, had stood so long that I forgot his name and called him Timothy.

David and Porthos Compared

But Mary spoilt it all, when I sent David back to her in the morning, by inquiring too curiously into his person and discovering that I had put his combinations on him with the buttons to the front. For this I wrote her the following insulting letter. When Mary does anything that specially annoys me I send her an insulting letter. I once had a photograph taken of David being hanged on a tree. I sent her that. You can’t think of all the subtle ways of grieving her I have. No woman with the spirit of a crow would stand it.

“Dear Madam [I wrote]: It has come to my knowledge that when you walk in the Gardens with the boy David you listen avidly for encomiums of him and of your fanciful dressing of him by passers-by, storing them in your heart the while you make vain pretence to regard them not: wherefore lest you be swollen by these very small things I, who now know David both by day and by night, an minded to compare him and Porthos the one with the other, both in this matter and in other matters of graver account. And touching this matter of outward show, they are both very lordly, and neither of them likes it to be referred to, but they endure in different ways. For David says ‘Oh, bother!’ and even at times hits out, but Porthos droops his tail and lets them have their say. yet is he extolled as beautiful and a darling ten times for the once that David is extolled.

“The manners of Porthos are therefore prettier than the manners of David, who when he has sent me to hide from him behind a tree sometimes comes not in search, and on emerging tamely from my concealment I find him playing other games entirely forgetful of my existence. Whereas Porthos always comes in search. Also if David wearies of you he scruples not to say so, but Porthos, in like circumstances, offers you his paw, meaning ‘Farewell,’ and t o bearded men he does this all the time (I think because of a hereditary distaste for goats), so that they conceive him to be enamoured of them when he is only begging them courteously to go. Thus while the manners of Porthos are more polite it may be argued that those of David are more efficacious.

“In gentleness David compares ill with Porthos. For whereas the one shoves and has been known to kick on slight provocation, the other, who is noisily hated of all small dogs by reason of his size, remonstrates not, even when they cling in froth and fury to his chest, but carries them along tolerantly until they drop off from fatigue. Again, David will not unbend when in the company of babies, expecting them unreasonably to rise to his level, but contrariwise Porthos, though terrible to tramps, suffers all things of babies, even to an exploration of his mouth in an attempt to discover what his tongue is like at the other end. The comings and goings of David are unnoticed by perambulators, which lie in wait for the advent of Porthos. The strong and wicked fear Porthos but no little creature fears him, not the hedgehogs he conveys from place to place in his mouth, nor the sparrows that steal his straw from under him.

“In proof of which gentleness I adduce his adventure with the rabbit. Having gone for a time to reside in a rabbit country Porthos was elated to discover at last something small that ran from him, and developing at once into an ecstatic sportsman he did pound hotly in pursuit, though always overshooting the mark by a hundred yards or so and wondering very much what had become of the rabbit. There was a steep path, from the top of which the rabbit suddenly came into view, and the practice of Porthos was to advance up it on tiptoe, turning near the summit to give me a knowing look and then bounding forward. The rabbit here did something tricky with a hole in the ground, but Porthos tore onwards in full faith that the game was being played fairly, and always returned panting and puzzling but glorious.

“I sometimes shuddered to think of his perplexity should he catch the rabbit, which however was extremely unlikely; nevertheless he did catch it, I know not how, but presume it to have been another than the one of which he was in chase. I found him with it, his brows furrowed in the deepest thought. The rabbit, terrified but uninjured, cowered beneath him. Porthos gave me a happy look and again dropped into a weighty frame of mind. ‘What is the next thing one does?’ was obviously the puzzle with him, and the position was scarcely less awkward for the rabbit, which several times made a move to end this intolerable suspense. Whereupon Porthos immediately gave it a warning tap with his foot, and again fell to pondering. The strain on me was very great.

“At last they seemed to hit upon a compromise. Porthos looked over his shoulder very self- consciously, and the rabbit at first slowly and then in a flash withdrew. Porthos pretended to make a search for it, but you cannot think how relieved he looked. He even tried to brazen out his disgrace before me and waved his tail appealingly. But he could not look me in the face, and when he saw that this was what I insisted on he collapsed at my feet and moaned. There were real tears in his eyes, and I was touched, and swore to him that he had done everything a dog could do, and though he knew I was lying he became happy again. For so long as I am pleased with him, ma’am, nothing else greatly matters to Porthos. I told this story to David, having first extracted a promise from him that he would not think the less of Porthos, and now I must demand the same promise of you. Also, an admission that in innocence of heart, for which David has been properly commended, he can nevertheless teach Porthos nothing, but on the contrary may learn much from him.

“And now to come to those qualities in which David excels over Porthos--the first is that he is no snob but esteems the girl Irene (pretentiously called his nurse) more than any fine lady, and envies every ragged boy who can hit to leg. Whereas Porthos would have every class keep its place, and though fond of going down into the kitchen, always barks at the top of the stairs for a servile invitation before he graciously descends. Most of the servants in our street have had the loan of him to be photographed with, and I have but now seen him stalking off for that purpose with a proud little housemaid who is looking up to him as if he were a warrior for whom she had paid a shilling.

“Again, when David and Porthos are in their bath, praise is due to the one and must be withheld from the other. For David, as I have noticed, loves to splash in his bath and to slip back into it from the hands that would transfer him to a towel. But Porthos stands in his bath drooping abjectly like a shamed figure cut out of some limp material.

“Furthermore, the inventiveness of David is beyond that of Porthos, who cannot play by himself, and knows not even how to take a solitary walk, while David invents playfully all day long. Lastly, when David is discovered of some offence and expresses sorrow therefor, he does that thing no more for a time, but looks about him for other offences, whereas Porthos incontinently repeats his offence, in other words, he again buries his bone in the back-yard, and marvels greatly that I know it, although his nose be crusted with earth.

“Touching these matters, therefore, let it be granted that David excels Porthos; and in divers similar qualities the one is no more than a match for the other, as in the quality of curiosity; for, if a parcel comes into my chambers Porthos is miserable until it is opened, and I have noticed the same thing of David.

“Also there is the taking of medicine. For at production of the vial all gaiety suddenly departs from Porthos and he looks the other way, but if I say I have forgotten to have the vial refilled he skips joyfully, yet thinks he still has a right to a chocolate, and when I remarked disparagingly on this to David he looked so shy that there was revealed to me a picture of a certain lady treating him for youthful maladies.

“A thing to be considered of in both is their receiving of punishments, and I am now reminded that the girl Irene (whom I take in this matter to be your mouthpiece) complains that I am not sufficiently severe with David, and do leave the chiding of him for offences against myself to her in the hope that he will love her less and me more thereby. Which we have hotly argued in the Gardens to the detriment of our dignity. And I here say that if I am slow to be severe to David, the reason thereof is that I dare not be severe to Porthos, and I have ever sought to treat the one the same as the other.

“Now I refrain from raising hand or voice to Porthos because his great heart is night to breaking if he so much as suspects that all is not well between him and me, and having struck him once some years ago never can I forget the shudder which passed through him when he saw it was I who had struck, and I shall strike him, ma’am, no more. But when he is detected in any unseemly act now, it is my stern practice to cane my writing-table in his presence, and even this punishment is almost more than he can bear. Wherefore if such chastisement inflicted on David encourages him but to enter on fresh trespasses (as the girl Irene avers), the reason must be that his heart is not like unto that of the noble Porthos.

“And if you retort that David is naturally a depraved little boy, and so demands harsher measure, I have still my answer, to wit, what is the manner of severity meted out to him at home? And lest you should shuffle in your reply I shall mention a notable passage that has come to my ears.

“As thus, that David having heard a horrid word in the street, uttered it with unction in the home. That the mother threatened corporal punishment, whereat the father tremblingly intervened. That David continuing to rejoice exceedingly in his word, the father spoke darkly of a cane, but the mother rushed between the combatants. That the problematical chastisement became to David an object of romantic interest. That this darkened the happy home. That casting from his path a weeping mother, the goaded father at last dashed from the house yelling that he was away to buy a cane. That he merely walked the streets white to the lips because of the terror David must now be feeling. And that when he returned, it was David radiant with hope who opened the door and then burst into tears because there was no cane. Truly, ma’am, you are a fitting person to tax me with want of severity. Rather should you be giving thanks that it is not you I am comparing with Porthos.

“But to make an end of this comparison, I mention that Porthos is ever wishful to express gratitude for my kindness to him, so that looking up from my book I see his mournful eyes fixed upon me with a passionate attachment, and then I know that the well-night unbearable sadness which comes into the face of dogs is because they cannot say Thank you to their masters. Whereas David takes my kindness as his right. But for this, while I should chide him I cannot do so, for of all the ways David has of making me to love him the most poignant is that he expects it of me as a matter of course. David is all for fun, but none may plumb the depths of Porthos. Nevertheless I am most nearly doing so when I lie down beside him on the floor and he puts an arm about my neck. On my soul, ma’am, a protecting arm. At such times it is as if each of us knew what was the want of the other.

“Thus weighing Porthos with David it were hard to tell which is the worthier. Wherefore do you keep your boy while I keep my dog, and so we shall both be pleased.”

William Paterson

We had been together, we three, in my rooms, David telling me about the fairy language and Porthos lolling on the sofa listening, as one may say. It is his favourite place of a dull day, and under him were some sheets of newspaper, which I spread there at such times to deceive my house-keeper, who thinks dogs should lie on the floor.

Fairy me tribber is what you say to the fairies when you want them to give you a cup of tea, but it is not so easy as it looks, for all the r’s should be pronounced as w’s, and I forget this so often that David believes I should find difficulty in making myself understood.

“What would you say,” he asked me, “if you wanted them to turn you into a hollyhock?” He thinks the ease with which they can turn you into things is their most engaging quality.

The answer is Fairy me lukka, but though he had often told me this I again forgot the lukka.

“I should never dream,” I said (to cover my discomfiture), “of asking them to turn me into anything. If I was a hollyhock I should soon wither, David.”

He himself had provided me with this objection not long before, but now he seemed to think it merely silly. “Just before the time to wither begins,” he said airily, “you say to them Fairy me bola.”

Fairy me bola means “Turn me back again,” and David’s discovery made me uncomfortable, for I knew he had hitherto kept his distance of the fairies mainly because of a feeling that their conversions are permanent.

So I returned him to his home. I send him home from my rooms under the care of Porthos. I may walk on the other side unknown to them, but they have no need of me, for at such times nothing would induce Porthos to depart from the care of David. If any one addresses them he growls softly and shows the teeth that crunch bones as if they were biscuits. Thus amicably the two pass on to Mary’s house, where Porthos barks his knock-and-ring bark till the door is opened. Sometimes he goes in with David, but on this occasion he said good-bye on the step. Nothing remarkable in this, but he did not return to me, not that day nor next day nor in weeks and months. I was a man distraught; and David wore his knuckles in his eyes. Conceive it, we had lost our dear Porthos--at least--well--something disquieting happened. I don’t quite know what to think of it even now. I know what David thinks. However, you shall think as you choose.

My first hope was that Porthos had strolled to the Gardens and got locked in for the night, and almost as soon as Lock-out was over I was there to make inquiries. But there was no news of Porthos, though I learned that some one was believed to have spent the night in the Gardens, a young gentleman who walked out hastily the moment the gates were opened. He had said nothing, however, of having seen a dog. I feared an accident now, for I knew no thief could steal him, yet even an accident seemed incredible, he was always so cautious at crossings; also there could not possibly have been an accident to Porthos without there being an accident to something else.

David in the middle of his games would suddenly remember the great blank and step aside to cry. It was one of his qualities that when he knew he was about to cry he turned aside to do it, and I always respected his privacy and waited for him. Of course being but a little boy he was soon playing again, but his sudden floods of feeling, of which we never spoke, were dear to me in those desolate days.

We had a favourite haunt, called the Story-seat, and we went back to that, meaning not to look at the grass near it where Porthos used to squat, but we could not help looking at it sideways, and to our distress a man was sitting on the acquainted spot. He rose at our approach and took two steps toward us, so quick that they were almost jumps, then as he saw that we were passing indignantly I thought I heard him give a little cry.

I put him down for one of your garrulous fellows who try to lure strangers into talk, but next day, when we found him sitting on the Story-seat itself, I had a longer scrutiny of him. He was dandiacally dressed, seemed to tell something under twenty years, and had a handsome wistful face atop of a heavy, lumbering, almost corpulent figure, which however did not betoken inactivity; for David’s purple hat (a conceit of his mother’s of which we were both heartily ashamed) blowing off as we neared him he leapt the railings without touching them and was back with it in three seconds; only instead of delivering it straightway he seemed to expect David to chase him for it.

You have introduced yourself to David when you jump the railings without touching them, and William Paterson (as proved to be his name) was at once our friend. We often found him waiting for us at the Story-seat, and the great stout fellow laughed and wept over our tales like a three-year-old. Often he said with extraordinary pride, “You are telling the story to me quite as much as to David, ar’n’t you?” He was of an innocence such as you shall seldom encounter, and believed stories at which even David blinked. Often he looked at me in quick alarm if David said that of course these things did not really happen, and unable to resist that appeal I would reply that they really did. I never saw him irate except when David was still sceptical, but then he would say quite warningly “He says it is true, so it must be true.” This brings me to that one of his qualities which at once gratified and pained me, his admiration for myself. His eyes, which at times had a rim of red, were ever fixed upon me fondly except perhaps when I told him of Porthos and said that death alone could have kept him so long from my side. Then Paterson’s sympathy was such that he had to look away. He was shy of speaking of himself, so I asked him no personal questions, but concluded that his upbringing must have been lonely, to account for his ignorance of affairs, and loveless, else how could he have felt such a drawing to me?

I remember very well the day when the strange, and surely monstrous, suspicion first made my head tingle. We had been blown, the three of us, to my rooms by a gust of rain; it was also, I think, the first time Paterson had entered them. “Take the sofa, Mr. Paterson,” I said, as I drew a chair nearer to the fire, and for the moment my eyes were off him. Then I saw that, before sitting down on the sofa, he was spreading the day’s paper over it. “Whatever makes you do that?” I asked, and he started like one bewildered by the question, then went white and pushed the paper aside.

David had noticed nothing, but I was strangely uncomfortable, and, despite my efforts at talk, often lapsed into silence, to be roused from it by a feeling that Paterson was looking at me covertly. Pooh! what vapours of the imagination were these. I blew them from me, and to prove to myself, so to speak, that they were dissipated, I asked him to see David home. As soon as I was along, I flung me down on the floor laughing, then as quickly jumped up and was after them, and very sober too, for it was come to me abruptly as an odd thing that Paterson had set off without asking where David lived.

Seeing them in front of me, I crossed the street and followed. They were walking side by side rather solemnly, and perhaps nothing remarkable happened until they reached David’s door. I saw perhaps, for something did occur. A lady, who has several pretty reasons for frequenting the Gardens, recognised David in the street, and was stooping to address him, when Paterson did something that alarmed her. I was too far off to see what it was, but had he growled “Hands off!” she could not have scurried away more precipitately. He then ponderously marched his charge to the door, where, assuredly, he did a strange thing. Instead of knocking or ringing, he stood on the step and called out sharply, “Hie, hie, hie!” until the door was opened.

The whimsy, for it could be nothing more, curtailed me of my sleep that night, and you may picture me trying both sides of the pillow.

I recalled other queer things of Paterson, and they came back to me charged with new meanings. There was his way of shaking hands. He now did it in the ordinary way, but when first we knew him his arm had described a circle, and the hand had sometimes missed mine and come heavily upon my chest instead. His walk, again, might more correctly have been called a waddle.

There were his perfervid thanks. He seldom departed without thanking me with an intensity that was out of proportion to the little I had done for him. In the Gardens, too, he seemed ever to take the sward rather than the seats, perhaps a wise preference, but he had an unusual way of sitting down. I can describe it only by saying that he let go of himself and went down with a thud.

I reverted to the occasion when he lunched with me at the club. We had cutlets, and I noticed that he ate his in a somewhat finicking manner; yet having left the table for a moment to consult the sweets-card, I saw, when I returned, that there was now no bone on his plate. The waiters were looking at him rather curiously.

David was very partial to him, but showed it in a somewhat singular manner, used to pat his head, for instance. I remembered, also, that while David shouted to me or Irene to attract our attention, he usually whistled to Paterson, he could not explain why.

These ghosts made me to sweat in bed, not merely that night, but often when some new shock brought them back in force, yet, unsupported, they would have disturbed me little by day. Day, however, had its reflections, and they came to me while I was shaving, that ten minutes when, brought face to face with the harsher realities of life, we see things most clearly as they are. Then the beautiful nature of Paterson loomed offensively, and his honest eyes insulted over me. No one come to nigh twenty years had a right to such faith in his fellow-creatures. He could not backbite, nor envy, nor prevaricate, nor jump at mean motives for generous acts. He had not a single base story about women. It all seemed inhuman.

What creatures we be! I was more than half ashamed of Paterson’s faith in me, but when I saw it begin to shrink I fought for it. An easy task, you may say, but it was a hard one, for gradually a change had come over the youth. I am now arrived at a time when the light-heartedness had gone out of him; he had lost his zest for fun, and dubiety sat in the eyes that were once so certain. He was not doubtful of me, not then, but of human nature in general; that whilom noble edifice was tottering. He mixed with boys in the Gardens; ah, mothers, it is hard to say, but how could he retain his innocence when he had mixed with boys? He heard your talk of yourselves, and so, ladies, that part of the edifice went down. I have not the heart to follow him in all his discoveries. Sometimes he went in flame at them, but for the most part he stood looking on, bewildered and numbed, like one moaning inwardly.

He saw all, as one fresh to the world, before he had time to breathe upon the glass. So would your child be, madam, if born with a man’s powers, and when disillusioned of all else, he would cling for a moment longer to you, the woman of whom, before he saw you, he had heard so much. How you would strive to cheat him, even as I strove to hide my real self from Paterson, and still you would strive as I strove after you knew the game was up.

The sorrowful eyes of Paterson stripped me bare. There were days when I could not endure looking at him, though surely I have long ceased to be a vain man. He still met us in the Gardens, but for hours he and I would be together without speaking. It was so upon the last day, one of those innumerable dreary days when David, having sneezed the night before, was kept at home in flannel, and I sat alone with Paterson on the Storyseat. At least I turned to address him. Never had we spoken of what chained our tongues, and I meant only to say now that we must go, for soon the gates would close, but when I looked at him I saw that he was more mournful than ever before; he shut his eyes so tightly that a drop of blood fell from them.

“It was all over, Paterson, long ago,” I broke out harshly, “why do we linger?”

He beat his hands together miserably, and yet cast me appealing looks that had much affection in them.

“You expected too much of me,” I told him, and he bowed his head. “I don’t know where you brought your grand ideas of men and women from. I don’t want to know,” I added hastily.

“But it must have been from a prettier world than this,” I said: “are you quite sure that you were wise in leaving it?”

He rose and sat down again. “I wanted to know you,” he replied slowly, “I wanted to be like you.”

“And now you know me,” I said, “do you want to be like me still? I am a curious person to attach oneself to, Paterson; don’t you see that even David often smiles at me when he thinks he is unobserved? I work very hard to retain that little boy’s love; but I shall lose him soon; even now I am not what I was to him; in a year or two at longest, Paterson, David will grow out of me.”

The poor fellow shot out his hand to me, but “No,” said I, “you have found me out. Everybody finds me out except my dog, and that is why the loss of him makes such a difference to me. Shall we go, Paterson?”

He would not come with me, and I left him on the seat; when I was far away I looked back, and he was still sitting there forlornly.

For long I could not close my ears that night: I lay listening, I knew not what for. A scare was on me that made me dislike the dark, and I switched on the light and slept at last. I was roused by a great to-do in the early morning, servants knocking excitedly, and my door opened, and the dear Porthos I had mourned so long tore in. They had heard his bark, but whence he came no one knew. He was in excellent condition, and after he had leaped upon me from all points I flung him on the floor by a trick I know, and lay down beside him, while he put his protecting arm round me and looked at me with the old adoring eyes.

But we never saw Paterson again. You may think as you choose.

Joey

Wise children always choose a mother who was a shocking flirt in her maiden days, and so had several offers before she accepted their fortunate papa. The reason they do this is because every offer refused by their mother means another pantomime to them. You see you can’t trust to your father’s taking you to the pantomime, but you can trust to every one of the poor frenzied gentlemen for whom that lady has wept a delicious little tear on her lovely little cambric handkerchief. It is pretty (but dreadfully affecting) to see them on Boxing Night gathering together the babies of their old loves. Some knock at but one door and bring a hansom, but others go from street to street in private buses, and even wear false noses to conceal the sufferings you inflict upon them as you grow more and more like your sweet cruel mamma.

So I took David to the pantomime, and I hope you follow my reasoning, for I don’t. He went with the fairest anticipations, pausing on the threshold to peer through the hole in the little house called “Pay Here,” which he thought was Red Riding Hood’s residence, and asked politely whether he might see her, but they said she had gone to the wood, and it was quite true, for there she was in the wood gathering a stick for her grandmother’s fire. She sang a beautiful song about the Boys and their dashing ways, which flattered David considerably, but she forgot to take away the stick after all. Other parts of the play were not so nice, but David thought it all lovely, he really did.

Yet he left the place in tears. All the way home he sobbed in the darkest corner of the growler, and if I tried to comfort him he struck me.

The clown had done it, that man of whom he expected things so fair. He had asked in a loud voice of the middling funny gentleman (then in the middle of a song) whether he thought Joey would be long in coming, and when at last Joey did come he screamed out, “How do you do, Joey!” and went into convulsions of mirth.

Joey and his father were shadowing a pork-butcher’s shop, pocketing the sausages for which their family had such a fatal weakness, and so when the butcher engaged Joey as his assistant there was soon not a sausage left. However, this did not matter, for there was a box rather like an ice-cream machine, and you put chunks of pork in at one end and turned a handle, and they came out as sausages at the other end. Joey quite enjoyed doing this, and you could see that the sausages were excellent by the way he licked his fingers after touching them, but soon there were no more pieces of pork, and just then a dear little Irish terrier-dog came trotting down the street, so what did Joey do but pop it into the machine and it came out at the other end as sausages.

It was this callous act that turned all David’s mirth to woe, and drove us weeping to our growler.

Heaven knows I have no wish to defend this cruel deed, but as Joey told me afterward, it is very difficult to say what they will think funny and what barbarous. I was forced to admit to him that David had perceived only the joyous in the pokering of the policemen’s legs, and had called out heartily “Do it again!” every time Joey knocked the pantaloon down with one kick and helped him up with another.

“It hurts the poor chap,” I was told by Joey, whom I was agreeably surprised to find by no means wanting in the more humane feelings, “and he wouldn’t stand it if there wasn’t the laugh to encourage him.”

He maintained that the dog got that laugh to encourage him also.

However, he had not got it from David, whose mother and father and nurse combined could not comfort him, though they swore that the dog was still alive and kicking, which might all have been very well had not David seen the sausages. It was to inquire whether anything could be done to atone that in considerable trepidation I sent in my card to the clown, and the result of our talk was that he invited me and David to have tea with him on Thursday next at his lodgings.

“I sha’n’t laugh,” David said, nobly true to the memory of the little dog, “I sha’n’t laugh once,” and he closed his jaws very tightly as we drew near the house in Soho where Joey lodged. But he also gripped my hand, like one who knew that it would be an ordeal not to laugh.

The house was rather like the ordinary kind, but there was a convenient sausage-shop exactly opposite (trust Joey for that), and we saw a policeman in the street looking the other way, as they always do look just before you rub them. A woman wearing the same kind of clothes as people in other houses wear, told us to go up to the second floor, and she grinned at David, as if she had heard about him; so up we went, David muttering through his clenched teeth, “I sha’n’t laugh,” and as soon as we knocked a voice called out, “Here we are again!” at which a shudder passed through David as if he feared that he had set himself an impossible task. In we went, however, and though the voice had certainly come from this room we found nobody there. I looked in bewilderment at David, and he quickly put his hand over his mouth.

It was a funny room, of course, but not so funny as you might expect; there were droll things in it, but they did nothing funny, you could see that they were just waiting for Joey. There were padded chairs with friendly-looking rents down the middle of them, and a table and a horse-hair sofa but nothing happened to us.

The biggest piece of furniture was an enormous wicker trunk, with a very lively-coloured stocking dangling out at a hole in it, and a notice on the top that Joey was the funniest man on earth. David tried to pull the stocking out of the hole, but it was so long that it never came to an end, and when it measured six times the length of the room he had to cover his mouth again.

“I’m not laughing,” he said to me, quite fiercely. He even managed not to laugh (though he did gulp) when we discovered on the mantelpiece a photograph of Joey in ordinary clothes, the garments he wore before he became a clown. You can’t think how absurd he looked in them. But David didn’t laugh.

Suddenly Joey was standing beside us, it could not have been more sudden though he had come from beneath the table, and he was wearing his pantomime clothes (which he told us afterward were the only clothes he had) and his red and white face was so funny that David made gurgling sounds, which were his laugh trying to force a passage.

I introduced David, who offered his hand stiffly, but Joey, instead of taking it, put out his tongue and waggled it, and this was so droll that David had again to save himself by clapping his hand over his mouth. Joey thought he had toothache, so I explained what it really meant, and then Joey said, “Oh, I shall soon make him laugh,” whereupon the following conversation took place between them:

“No, you sha’n’t,” said David doggedly.

“Yes, I shall.”

“No, you sha’n’t not.”

“Yes, I shall so.”

“Sha’n’t, sha’n’t, sha’n’t.”

“Shall, shall, shall.”

“You shut up.”

“You’re another.”

By this time Joey was in a frightful way (because he saw he was getting the worst of it), and he boasted that he had David’s laugh in his pocket, and David challenged him to produce it, and Joey searched his pockets and brought out the most unexpected articles, including a duck and a bunch of carrots; and you could see by his manner that the simple soul thought these were things which all boys carried loose in their pockets.

I daresay David would have had to laugh in the end, had there not been a half-gnawed sausage in one of the pockets, and the sight of it reminded him so cruelly of the poor dog’s fate that he howled, and Joey’s heart was touched at last, and he also wept, but he wiped his eyes with the duck.

It was at this touching moment that the pantaloon hobbled in, also dressed as we had seen him last, and carrying, unfortunately, a trayful of sausages, which at once increased the general gloom, for he announced, in his squeaky voice, that they were the very sausages that had lately been the dog.

Then Joey seemed to have a great idea, and his excitement was so impressive that we stood gazing at him. First, he counted the sausages, and said that they were two short, and he found the missing two up the pantaloon’s sleeve. Then he ran out of the room and came back with the sausage-machine; and what do you think he did? He put all the sausages into the end of the machine that they had issued from, and turned the handle backward, and then out came the dog at the other end!

Can you picture the joy of David?

He clasped the dear little terrier in his arms; and then we noticed that there was a sausage adhering to its tail. The pantaloon said we must have put in a sausage too many, but Joey said the machine had not worked quite smoothly and that he feared this sausage was the dog’s bark, which distressed David, for he saw how awkward it must be to a dog to have its bark outside, and we were considering what should be done when the dog closed the discussion by swallowing the sausage.

After that, David had the most hilarious hour of his life, entering into the childish pleasures of this family as heartily as if he had been brought up on sausages, and knocking the pantaloon down repeatedly. You must not think that he did this viciously; he did it to please the old gentleman, who begged him to do it, and always shook hands warmly and said “Thank you,” when he had done it. They are quite a simple people.

Joey called David and me “Sonny,” and asked David, who addressed him as “Mr. Clown,” to call him Joey. He also told us that the pantaloon’s name was old Joey, and the columbine’s Josy, and the harlequin’s Joeykin.

We were sorry to hear that old Joey gave him a good deal of trouble. This was because his memory is so bad that he often forgets whether it is your head or your feet you should stand on, and he usually begins the day by standing on the end that happens to get out of bed first. Thus he requires constant watching, and the worst of it is, you dare not draw attention to his mistake, he is so shrinkingly sensitive about it. No sooner had Joey told us this than the poor old fellow began to turn upside down and stood on his head; but we pretended not to notice, and talked about the weather until he came to.

Josy and Joeykin, all skirts and spangles, were with us by this time, for they had been invited to tea. They came in dancing, and danced off and on most of the time. Even in the middle of what they were saying they would begin to flutter; it was not so much that they meant to dance as that the slightest thing set them going, such as sitting in a draught; and David found he could blow them about the room like pieces of paper. You could see by the shortness of Josy’s dress that she was very young indeed, and at first this made him shy, as he always is when introduced formally to little girls, and he stood sucking his thumb, and so did she, but soon the stiffness wore off and they sat together on the sofa, holding each other’s hands.

All this time the harlequin was rotating like a beautiful fish, and David requested him to jump through the wall, at which he is such an adept, and first he said he would, and then he said better not, for the last time he did it the people in the next house made such a fuss. David had to admit that it must be rather startling to the people on the other side of the wall, but he was sorry.

By this time tea was ready, and Josy, who poured out, remembered to ask if you took milk with just one drop of tea in it, exactly as her mother would have asked. There was nothing to eat, of course, except sausages, but what a number of them there were! hundreds at least, strings of sausages, and every now and then Joey jumped up and played skipping rope with them. David had been taught not to look greedy, even though he felt greedy, and he was shocked to see the way in which Joey and old Joey and even Josy eyed the sausages they had given him. Soon Josy developed nobler feelings, for she and Joeykin suddenly fell madly in love with each other across the table, but unaffected by this pretty picture, Joey continued to put whole sausages in his mouth at a time, and then rubbed himself a little lower down, while old Joey secreted them about his person; and when David wasn’t looking they both pounced on his sausages, and yet as they gobbled they were constantly running to the top of the stair and screaming to the servant to bring up more sausages.

You could see that Joey (if you caught him with his hand in your plate) was a bit ashamed of himself, and he admitted to us that sausages were a passion with him.

He said he had never once in his life had a sufficient number of sausages. They had maddened him since he was the smallest boy. He told us how, even in those days, his mother had feared for him, though fond of a sausage herself; how he had bought a sausage with his first penny, and hoped to buy one with his last (if they could not be got in any other way), and that he always slept with a string of them beneath his pillow.

While he was giving us these confidences, unfortunately, his eyes came to rest, at first accidentally, then wistfully, then with a horrid gleam in them, on the little dog, which was fooling about on the top of the sausage-machine, and his hands went out toward it convulsively, whereat David, in sudden fear, seized the dog in one arm and gallantly clenched his other fist, and then Joey begged his pardon and burst into tears, each one of which he flung against the wall, where it exploded with a bang.

David refused to pardon him unless he promised on wood never to look in that way at the dog again, but Joey said promises were nothing to him when he was short of sausages, and so his wisest course would be to present the dog to David. Oh, the joy of David when he understood that the little dog he had saved was his very own! I can tell you he was now in a hurry to be off before Joey had time to change his mind.

“All I ask of you,” Joey said with a break in his voice, “is to call him after me, and always to give him a sausage, sonny, of a Saturday night.”

There was a quiet dignity about Joey at the end, which showed that he might have risen to high distinction but for his fatal passion.

The last we saw of him was from the street. He was waving his tongue at us in his attractive, foolish way, and Josy was poised on Joeykin’s hand like a butterfly that had alighted on a flower. We could not exactly see old Joey, but we saw his feet, and so feared the worst. Of course they are not everything they should be, but one can’t help liking them.

Pilkington’s

On attaining the age of eight, or thereabout, children fly away from the Gardens, and never come back. When next you meet them they are ladies and gentlemen holding up their umbrellas to hail a hansom.

Where the girls go to I know not, to some private place, I suppose, to put up their hair, but the boys have gone to Pilkington’s. He is a man with a cane. You may not go to Pilkington’s in knickerbockers made by your mother, make she ever so artfully. They must be real knickerbockers. It is his stern rule. Hence the fearful fascination of Pilkington’s.

He may be conceived as one who, baiting his hook with real knickerbockers, fishes all day in the Gardens, which are to him but a pool swarming with small fry.

Abhorred shade! I know not what manner of man thou art in the flesh, sir, but figure thee bearded and blackavised, and of a lean tortuous habit of body, that moves ever with a swish. Every morning, I swear, thou readest avidly the list of male births in thy paper, and then are thy hands rubbed gloatingly the one upon the other. ’Tis fear of thee and thy gown and they cane, which are part of thee, that makes the fairies to hide by day; wert thou to linger but once among their haunts between the hours of Lock-out and Open Gates there would be left not one single gentle place in all the Gardens. The little people would flit. How much wiser they than the small boys who swim glamoured to thy crafty hook. Thou devastator of the Gardens, I know thee, Pilkington.

I first heard of Pilkington from David, who had it from Oliver Bailey.

This Oliver Bailey was one of the most dashing figures in the Gardens, and without apparent effort was daily drawing nearer the completion of his seventh year at a time when David seemed unable to get beyond half-past five. I have to speak of him in the past tense, for gone is Oliver from the Gardens (gone to Pilkington’s), but he is still a name among us, and some lordly deeds are remembered of him, as that his father shaved twice a day. Oliver himself was all on that scale.

His not ignoble ambition seems always to have been to be wrecked upon an island, indeed I am told that he mentioned it insinuatingly in his prayers, and it was perhaps inevitable that a boy with such an outlook should fascinate David. I am proud, therefore, to be able to state on wood that it was Oliver himself who made the overture.

On first hearing, from some satellite of Oliver’s, of Wrecked Islands, as they are called in the Gardens, David said wistfully that he supposed you needed to be very very good before you had any chance of being wrecked, and the remark was conveyed to Oliver, on whom it made an uncomfortable impression. For a time he tried to evade it, but ultimately David was presented to him and invited gloomily to say it again. The upshot was that Oliver advertised the Gardens of his intention to be good until he was eight, and if he had not been wrecked by that time, to be as jolly bad as a boy could be. He was naturally so bad that at the Kindergarten Academy, when the mistress ordered whoever had done the last naughty deed to step forward, Oliver’s custom had been to step forward, not necessarily because he had done it, but because he presumed he very likely had.

The friendship of the two dated from this time, and at first I thought Oliver discovered generosity in hasting to David as to an equal; he also walked hand in hand with him, and even reproved him for delinquencies like a loving elder brother. But ’tis a gray world even in the Gardens, for I found that a new arrangement had been made which reduced Oliver to life-size. He had wearied of well-doing, and passed it on, so to speak, to his friend. In other words, on David now devolved the task of being good until he was eight, while Oliver clung to him so closely that the one could not be wrecked without the other.

When this was made known to me it was already too late to break the spell of Oliver, David was top-heavy with pride in him, and, faith, I began to find myself very much in the cold, for Oliver was frankly bored by me and even David seemed to think it would be convenient if I went and sat with Irene. Am I affecting to laugh? I was really distressed and lonely, and rather bitter; and how humble I became. Sometimes when the dog Joey is unable, by frisking, to induce Porthos to play with him, he stands on his hind legs and begs it of him, and I do believe I was sometimes as humble as Joey. Then David would insist on my being suffered to join them, but it was plain that he had no real occasion for me.

It was an unheroic trouble, and I despised myself. For years I had been fighting Mary for David, and had not wholly failed though she was advantaged by the accident of relationship; was I now to be knocked out so easily by a seven-year-old? I reconsidered my weapons, and I fought Oliver and beat him. Figure to yourself those two boys become as faithful to me as my coat-tails.

With wrecked islands I did it. I began in the most unpretentious way by telling them a story which might last an hour, and favoured by many an unexpected wind it lasted eighteen months. It started as the wreck of the simple Swiss family who looked up and saw the butter-tree, but soon a glorious inspiration of the night turned it into the wreck of David A---- and Oliver Bailey. At first it was what they were to do when they were wrecked, but imperceptibly it became what they had done. I spent much of my time staring reflectively at the titles of the boys’ stories in the booksellers’ windows, whistling for a breeze, so to say, for I found that the titles were even more helpful than the stories. We wrecked everybody of note, including all Homer’s most taking characters and the hero of Paradise Lost. But we suffered them not to land. We stripped them of what we wanted and left them to wander the high seas naked of adventure. And all this was merely the beginning.

By this time I had been cast upon the island. It was not my own proposal, but David knew my wishes, and he made it all right for me with Oliver. They found me among the breakers with a large dog, which had kept me afloat throughout that terrible night. I was the sole survivor of the ill-fated Anna Pink. So exhausted was I that they had to carry me to their hut, and great was my gratitude when, on opening my eyes, I found myself in that romantic edifice instead of in Davy Jones’s locker. As we walked in the Gardens I told them of the hut they had built; and they were inflated but not surprised. On the other hand, they looked for surprise from me.

“Did we tell you about the turtle we turned on its back?” asked Oliver, reverting to deeds of theirs of which I had previously told them.

“You did.”

“Who turned it?” demanded David, not as one who needed information but after the manner of a schoolmaster.

“It was turned,” I said, “by David A----, the younger of the two youths.”

“Who made the monkeys fling cocoa-nuts at him?” asked the older of the two youths.

“Oliver Bailey,” I replied.

“Was it Oliver,” asked David sharply, “that found the cocoa-nut tree first?”

“On the contrary,” I answered, “it was first observed by David, who immediately climbed it, remarking, ‘This is certainly the Cocos nucifera, for, see, dear Oliver, the slender columns supporting the crown of leaves which fall with a grace that no art can imitate.’”

“That’s what I said,” remarked David with a wave of his hand.

“I said things like that, too,” Oliver insisted.

“No, you didn’t then,” said David.

“Yes, I did so.”

“No, you didn’t so.”

“Shut up.”

“Well, then, let’s hear one you said.”

Oliver looked appealingly at me. “The following,” I announced, “is one that Oliver said: ‘Truly, dear comrade, though the perils of these happenings are great, and our privations calculated to break the stoutest heart, yet to be rewarded by such fair sights I would endure still greater trials and still rejoice even as the bird on yonder bough.’”

“That’s one I said!” crowed Oliver.

“I shot the bird,” said David instantly.

“What bird?”

“The yonder bird.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Did I not shoot the bird?”

“It was David who shot the bird,” I said, “but it was Oliver who saw by its multi-coloured plumage that it was one of the Psittacidæ, an excellent substitute for partridge.”

“You didn’t see that,” said Oliver, rather swollen.

“Yes, I did.”

“What did you see?”

“I saw that.”

“What?”

“You shut up.”

“David shot it,” I summed up, “and Oliver knew its name, but I ate it. Do you remember how hungry I was?”

“Rather!” said David.

“I cooked it,” said Oliver.

“It was served up on toast,” I reminded them.

“I toasted it,” said David.

“Toast from the bread-fruit-tree,” I said, “which (as you both remarked simultaneously) bears two and sometimes three crops in a year, and also affords a serviceable gum for the pitching of canoes.”

“I pitched mine best,” said Oliver.

“I pitched mine farthest,” said David.

“And when I had finished my repast,” said I, “you amazed me by handing me a cigar from the tobacco-plant.”

“I handed it,” said Oliver.

“I snicked off the end,” said David.

“And then,” said I, “you gave me a light.”

“Which of us?” they cried together.

“Both of you,” I said. “Never shall I forget my amazement when I saw you get that light by rubbing two sticks together.”

At this they waggled their heads. “You couldn’t have done it!” said David.

“No, David,” I admitted, “I can’t do it, but of course I know that all wrecked boys do it quite easily. Show me how you did it.”

But after consulting apart they agreed not to show me. I was not shown everything.

David was now firmly convinced that he had once been wrecked on an island, while Oliver passed his days in dubiety. They used to argue it out together and among their friends. As I unfolded the story Oliver listened with an open knife in his hand, and David, who was not allowed to have a knife, wore a pirate-string round his waist. Irene in her usual interfering way objected to this bauble and dropped disparaging remarks about wrecked islands which were little to her credit. I was for defying her, but David, who had the knack of women, knew a better way; he craftily proposed that we “should let Irene in,” in short, should wreck her, and though I objected, she proved a great success and recognised the Yucca filamentosa by its long narrow leaves the very day she joined us. Thereafter we had no more scoffing from Irene, who listened to the story as hotly as anybody.

This encouraged us in time to let in David’s father and mother, though they never knew it unless he told them, as I have no doubt he did. They were admitted primarily to gratify David, who was very soft-hearted and knew that while he was on the island they must be missing him very much at home. So we let them in, and there was no part of the story he liked better than that which told of the joyous meeting. We were in need of another woman at any rate, some one more romantic-looking than Irene, and Mary, I can assure her now, had a busy time of it. She was constantly being carried off by cannibals, and David became quite an adept at plucking her from the very pot itself and springing from cliff to cliff with his lovely burden in his arms. There was seldom a Saturday in which David did not kill his man.

I shall now provide the proof that David believed it all to be as true as true. It was told me by Oliver, who had it from our hero himself. I had described to them how the savages had tattooed David’s father, and Oliver informed me that one night shortly afterward David was discovered softly lifting the blankets off his father’s legs to have a look at the birds and reptiles etched thereon.

Thus many months passed with no word of Pilkington, and you may be asking where he was all this time. Ah, my friends, he was very busy fishing, though I was as yet unaware of his existence. Most suddenly I heard the whirr of his hated reel, as he struck a fish. I remember that grim day with painful vividness; it was a wet day, indeed I think it has rained for me more or less ever since. As soon as they joined me I saw from the manner of the two boys that they had something to communicate. Oliver nudged David and retired a few paces, whereupon David said to me solemnly,

“Oliver is going to Pilkington’s.”

I immediately perceived that it was some school, but so little did I understand the import of David’s remark that I called out jocularly, “I hope he won’t swish you, Oliver.”

Evidently I had pained both of them, for they exchanged glances and retired for consultation behind a tree, whence David returned to say with emphasis,

“He has two jackets and two shirts and two knickerbockers, all real ones.”

“Well done, Oliver!” said I, but it was the wrong thing again, and once more they disappeared behind the tree. Evidently they decided that the time for plain speaking was come, for now David announced bluntly:

“He wants you not to call him Oliver any longer.”

“What shall I call him?”

“Bailey.”

“But why?”

“He’s going to Pilkington’s. And he can’t play with us any more after next Saturday.”

“Why not?”

“He’s going to Pilkington’s.”

So now I knew the law about the thing, and we moved on together, Oliver stretching himself consciously, and methought that even David walked with a sedater air.

“David,” said I, with a sinking, “are you going to Pilkington’s?”

“When I am eight,” he replied.

“And sha’n’t I call you David then, and won’t you play with me in the Gardens any more?”

He looked at Bailey, and Bailey signalled him to be firm.

“Oh, no,” said David cheerily.

Thus sharply did I learn how much longer I was to have of him. Strange that a little boy can give so much pain. I dropped his hand and walked on in silence, and presently I did my most churlish to hurt him by ending the story abruptly in a very cruel way. “Ten years have elapsed,” said I, “since I last spoke, and our two heroes, now gay young men, are revisiting the wrecked island of their childhood. ‘Did we wreck ourselves,’ said one, ‘or was there some one to help us?’ And the other, who was the younger, replied, ‘I think there was some one to help us, a man with a dog. I think he used to tell me stories in the Kensington Gardens, but I forget all about him; I don’t remember even his name.’”

This tame ending bored Bailey, and he drifted away from us, but David still walked by my side, and he was grown so quiet that I knew a storm was brewing. Suddenly he flashed lightning on me. “It’s not true,” he cried, “it’s a lie!” He gripped my hand. “I sha’n’t never forget you, father.”

Strange that a little boy can give so much pleasure.

Yet I could go on. “You will forget, David, but there was once a boy who would have remembered.”

“Timothy?” said he at once. He thinks Timothy was a real boy, and is very jealous of him. He turned his back to me, and stood alone and wept passionately, while I waited for him. You may be sure I begged his pardon, and made it all right with him, and had him laughing and happy again before I let him go. But nevertheless what I said was true. David is not my boy, and he will forget. But Timothy would have remembered.

Barbara

Another shock was waiting for me farther down the story, for we had resumed our adventures, though we seldom saw Bailey now. At long intervals we met him on our way to or from the Gardens, and, if there was none from Pilkington’s to mark him, methought he looked at us somewhat longingly, as if beneath his real knickerbockers a morsel of egg-shell still adhered. Otherwise he gave David a not unfriendly kick in passing, and called him “youngster”. That was about all.

When Oliver disappeared from the life of the Gardens we had lofted him out of the story, and did very well without him, extending our operations to the mainland, where they were on so vast a scale that we were rapidly depopulating the earth. And then said David one day,

“Shall we let Barbara in?”

We had occasionally considered the giving of Bailey’s place to some other child of the Gardens, divers of David’s year having sought election, even with bribes; but Barbara was new to me.

“Who is she?” I asked.

“She’s my sister.”

You may imagine how I gaped.

“She hasn’t come yet,” David said lightly, “but she’s coming.”


I was shocked, not perhaps so much shocked as disillusioned, for though I had always suspicioned Mary A---- as one who harboured the craziest ambitions when she looked most humble, of such presumption as this I had never thought her capable.

I wandered across the Broad Walk to have a look at Irene, and she was wearing an unmistakable air. It set me reflecting about Mary’s husband and his manner the last time we met, for though I have had no opportunity to say so, we still meet now and again, and he has even dined with me at the club. On these occasions the subject of Timothy is barred, and if by any unfortunate accident Mary’s name is mentioned, we immediately look opposite ways and a silence follows, in which I feel sure he is smiling, and wonder what the deuce he is smiling at. I remembered now that I had last seen him when I was dining with him at his club (for he is become member of a club of painter fellows, and Mary is so proud of this that she has had it printed on his card), when undoubtedly he had looked preoccupied. It had been the look, I saw now, of one who shared a guilty secret.

As all was thus suddenly revealed to me I laughed unpleasantly at myself, for, on my soul, I had been thinking well of Mary of late. Always foolishly inflated about David, she had been grudging him even to me during these last weeks, and I had forgiven her, putting it down to a mother’s love. I knew from the poor boy of unwonted treats she had been giving him; I had seen her embrace him furtively in a public place; her every act, in so far as they were known to me, had been a challenge to whoever dare assert that she wanted any one but David. How could I, not being a woman, have guessed that she was really saying good-bye to him?

Reader, picture to yourself that simple little boy playing about the house at this time, on the understanding that everything was gong on as usual. Have not his toys acquired a new pathos, especially the engine she bought him yesterday?

Did you look him in the face, Mary, as you gave him that engine? I envy you not your feelings, ma’am, when with loving arms he wrapped you round for it. That childish confidence of his to me, in which unwittingly he betrayed you, indicates that at last you have been preparing him for the great change, and I suppose you are capable of replying to me that David is still happy, and even interested. But does he know from you what it really means to him? Rather, I do believe, you are one who would not scruple to give him to understand that B (which you may yet find stands for Benjamin) is primarily a gift for him. In your heart, ma’am, what do you think of this tricking of a little boy?

Suppose David had known what was to happen before he came to you, are you sure he would have come? Undoubtedly there is an unwritten compact in such matters between a mother and her first-born, and I desire to point out to you that he never breaks it. Again, what will the other boys say when they know? You are outside the criticism of the Gardens, but David is not. Faith, madam, I believe you would have been kinder to wait and let him run the gauntlet at Pilkington’s.

You think your husband is a great man now because they are beginning to talk of his foregrounds and middle distances in the newspaper columns that nobody reads. I know you have bought him a velvet coat, and that he has taken a large, airy and commodious studio in Mews Lane, where you are to be found in a soft material on first and third Wednesdays. Times are changing, but shall I tell you a story here, just to let you see that I am acquainted with it?

Three years ago a certain gallery accepted from a certain artist a picture which he and his wife knew to be monstrous fine. But no one spoke of the picture, no one wrote of it, and no one made an offer for it. Crushed was the artist, sorry for the denseness of connoisseurs was his wife, till the work was bought by a dealer for an anonymous client, and then elated were they both, and relieved also to discover that I was not the buyer. he came to me at once to make sure of this, and remained to walk the floor gloriously as he told me what recognition means to gentlemen of the artistic callings. O, the happy boy!

But months afterward, rummaging at his home in a closet that is usually kept locked, he discovered the picture, there hidden away. His wife backed into a corner and made trembling confession. How could she submit to see her hear’s masterpiece ignored by the idiot public, and her dear himself plunged into gloom thereby? She knew as well as he (for had they not been married for years?) how the artistic instinct hungers for recognition, and so with her savings she bought the great work anonymously and stored it away in a closet. At first, I believe, the man raved furiously, but by-and-by he was on his knees at the feet of this little darling. You know who she was, Mary, but, bless me, I seem to be praising you, and that was not the enterprise on which I set out. What I intended to convey was that though you can now venture on small extravagances, you seem to be going too fast. Look at it how one may, this Barbara idea is undoubtedly a bad business.

How to be even with her? I cast about for a means, and on my lucky day I did conceive my final triumph over Mary, at which I have scarcely as yet dared to hint, lest by discovering it I should spoil my plot. For there has been a plot all the time.

For long I had known that Mary contemplated the writing of a book, my informant being David, who, because I have published a little volume on Military tactics, and am preparing a larger one on the same subject (which I shall never finish), likes to watch my methods of composition, how I dip, and so on, his desire being to help her. He may have done this on his own initiative, but it is also quite possible that in her desperation she urged him to it; he certainly implied that she had taken to book-writing because it must be easy if I could do it. She also informed him (very inconsiderately) that I did not print the books myself, and this lowered me in the eyes of David, for it was for the printing he admired me and boasted of me in the Gardens.

“I suppose you didn’t make the boxes neither, nor yet the labels,” he said to me in the voice of one shorn of belief in everything.

I should say here that my literary labours are abstruse, the token whereof is many rows of boxes nailed against my walls, each labelled with a letter of the alphabet. When I take a note in A, I drop it into the A box, and so on, much to the satisfaction of David, who likes to drop them in for me. I had now to admit that Wheeler & Gibb made the boxes.

“But I made the labels myself, David.”

“They are not so well made as the boxes,” he replied.

Thus I had reason to wish ill to Mary’s work of imagination, as I presumed it to be, and I said to him with easy brutality, “Tell her about the boxes, David, and that no one can begin a book until they are all full. That will frighten her.”

Soon thereafter he announced to me that she had got a box.

“One box!” I said with a sneer.

“She made it herself,” retorted David hotly.

I got little real information from him about the work, partly because David loses his footing when he descends to the practical, and perhaps still more because he found me unsympathetic. But when he blurted out the title, “The Little White Bird,” I was like one who had read the book to its last page. I knew at once that the white bird was the little daughter Mary would fain have had. Somehow I had always known that she would like to have a little daughter, she was that kind of woman, and so long as she had the modesty to see that she could not have one, I sympathised with her deeply, whatever I may have said about her book to David.

In those days Mary had the loveliest ideas for her sad little book, and they came to her mostly in the morning when she was only three-parts awake, but as she stepped out of bed they all flew away like startled birds. I gathered from David that this depressed her exceedingly.

Oh, Mary, your thoughts are much too pretty and holy to show themselves to any one but yourself. The shy things are hiding within you. If they could come into the open they would not be a book, they would be little Barbara.

But that was not the message I sent her. “She will never be able to write it,” I explained to David. “She has not the ability. Tell her I said that.”

I remembered now that for many months I had heard nothing of her ambitious project, so I questioned David and discovered that it was abandoned. He could not say why, nor was it necessary that he should, the trivial little reason was at once so plain to me. From that moment all my sympathy with Mary was spilled, and I searched for some means of exulting over her until I found it. It was this. I decided, unknown even to David, to write the book “The Little White Bird,” of which she had proved herself incapable, and then when, in the fulness of time, she held her baby on high, implying that she had done a big thing, I was to hold up the book. I venture to think that such a devilish revenge was never before planned and carried out.

Yes, carried out, for this is the book, rapidly approaching completion. She and I are running a neck-and-neck race.

I have also once more brought the story of David’s adventures to an abrupt end. “And it really is the end this time, David,” I said severely. (I always say that.)

It ended on the coast of Patagonia, whither we had gone to shoot the great Sloth, known to be the largest of animals, though we found his size to have been under-estimated. David, his father and I had flung our limbs upon the beach and were having a last pipe before turning in, while Mary, attired in barbaric splendour, sang and danced before us. It was a lovely evening, and we lolled manlike, gazing, well-content, at the pretty creature.

The night was absolutely still save for the roaring of the Sloths in the distance.

By-and-by Irene came to the entrance of our cave, where by the light of her torch we could see her exploring a shark that had been harpooned by David earlier in the day.

Everything conduced to repose, and a feeling of gentle peace crept over us, from which we were roused by a shrill cry. It was uttered by Irene, who came speeding to us, bearing certain articles, a watch, a pair of boots, a newspaper, which she had discovered in the interior of the shark. What was our surprise to find in the newspaper intelligence of the utmost importance to all of us. It was nothing less than this, the birth of a new baby in London to Mary.

How strange a method had Solomon chosen of sending us the news.

The bald announcement at once plunged us into a fever of excitement, and next morning we set sail for England. Soon we came within sight of the white cliffs of Albion. Mary could not sit down for a moment, so hot was she to see her child. She paced the deck in uncontrollable agitation.

“So did I!” cried David, when I had reached this point in the story.

On arriving at the docks we immediately hailed a cab.

“Never, David,” I said, “shall I forget your mother’s excitement. She kept putting her read out of the window and calling to the cabby to go quicker, quicker. How he lashed his horse! At last he drew up at your house, and then your mother, springing out, flew up the steps and beat with her hands upon the door.”

David was quite carried away by the reality of it. “Father has the key!” he screamed.

“He opened the door,” I said grandly, “and your mother rushed in, and next moment her Benjamin was in her arms.”

There was a pause.

“Barbara,” corrected David.

“Benjamin,” said I doggedly.

“Is that a girl’s name?”

“No, it’s a boy’s name.”

“But mother wants a girl,” he said, very much shaken.

“Just like her presumption,” I replied testily. “It is to be a boy, David, and you can tell her I said so.”

He was in a deplorable but most unselfish state of mind. A boy would have suited him quite well, but he put self aside altogether and was pertinaciously solicitous that Mary should be given her fancy.

“Barbara,” he repeatedly implored me.

“Benjamin,” I replied firmly.

For long I was obdurate, but the time was summer, and at last I agreed to play him for it, a two-innings match. If he won it was to be a girl, and if I won it was to be a boy.

The Cricket Match

I think there has not been so much on a cricket match since the day when Sir Horace Mann walked about Broad Ha’penny agitatedly cutting down the daisies with his stick. And, be it remembered, the heroes of Hambledon played for money and renown only, while David was champion of a lady. A lady! May we not prettily say of two ladies? There were no spectators of our contest except now and again some loiterer in the Gardens who little thought what was the stake for which we played, but cannot we conceive Barbara standing at the ropes and agitatedly cutting down the daisies every time David missed the ball? I tell you, this was the historic match of the Gardens.

David wanted to play on a pitch near the Round Pond with which he is familiar, but this would have placed me at a disadvantage, so I insisted on unaccustomed ground, and we finally pitched stumps in the Figs. We could not exactly pitch stumps, for they are forbidden in the Gardens, but there are trees here and there which have chalk-marks on them throughout the summer, and when you take up your position with a bat near one of these you have really pitched stumps. The tree we selected is a ragged yew which consists of a broken trunk and one branch, and I viewed the ground with secret satisfaction, for it falls slightly at about four yards’ distance from the tree, and this exactly suits my style of bowling.

I won the toss and after examining the wicket decided to take first knock. As a rule when we play the wit at first flows free, but on this occasion I strode to the crease in an almost eerie silence. David had taken off his blouse and rolled up his shirt-sleeves, and his teeth were set, so I knew he would begin by sending me down some fast ones.

His delivery is underarm and not inelegant, but he sometimes tries a round-arm ball, which I have seen double up the fielder at square leg. He has not a good length, but he varies his action bewilderingly, and has one especially teasing ball which falls from the branches just as you have stepped out of your ground to look for it. It was not, however, with his teaser that he bowled me that day. I had notched a three and two singles, when he sent me down a medium to fast which got me in two minds and I played back to it too late. Now, I am seldom out on a really grassy wicket for such a meagre score, and as David and I changed places without a word, there was a cheery look on his face that I found very galling. He ran in to my second ball and cut it neatly to the on for a single, and off my fifth and sixth he had two pretty drivers for three, both behind the wicket. This, however, as I hoped, proved the undoing of him, for he now hit out confidently at everything, and with his score at nine I beat him with my shooter.

The look was now on my face.

I opened my second innings by treating him with uncommon respect, for I knew that his little arm soon tired if he was unsuccessful, and then when he sent me loose ones I banged him to the railings. What cared I though David’s lips were twitching?

When he ultimately got past my defence, with a jumpy one which broke awkwardly from the off, I had fetched twenty-three, so that he needed twenty to win, a longer hand than he had ever made. As I gave him the bat he looked brave, but something wet fell on my hand, and then a sudden fear seized me lest David should not win.

At the very outset, however, he seemed to master the bowling, and soon fetched about ten runs in a classic manner. Then I tossed him a Yorker which he missed and it went off at a tangent as soon as it had reached the tree. “Not out,” I cried hastily, for the face he turned to me was terrible.

Soon thereafter another incident happened, which I shall always recall with pleasure. He had caught the ball too high on the bat, and I just missed the catch. “Dash it all!” said I irritably, and was about to resume bowling, when I noticed that he was unhappy. He hesitated, took up his position at the wicket, and then came to me manfully. “I am a cad,” he said in distress, “for when the ball was in the air I prayed.” He had prayed that I should miss the catch, and as I think I have already told you, it is considered unfair in the Gardens to pray for victory.

My splendid David! He has the faults of other little boys, but he has a noble sense of fairness. “We shall call it a no-ball, David,” I said gravely.

I suppose the suspense of the reader is now painful, and therefore I shall say at once that David won the match with two lovely fours, the one over my head and the other to leg all along the ground. When I came back from fielding this last ball I found him embracing his bat, and to my sour congratulations he could at first reply only with hysterical sounds. But soon he was pelting home to his mother with the glorious news.

And that is how we let Barbara in.

The Dedication

It was only yesterday afternoon, dear reader, exactly three weeks after the birth of Barbara, that I finished the book, and even then it was not quite finished, for there remained the dedication, at which I set to elatedly. I think I have never enjoyed myself more; indeed, it is my opinion that I wrote the book as an excuse for writing the dedication.

“Madam” (I wrote wittily), “I have no desire to exult over you, yet I should show a lamentable obtuseness to the irony of things were I not to dedicate this little work to you. For its inception was yours, and in your more ambitious days you thought to write the tale of the little white bird yourself. Why you so early deserted the nest is not for me to inquire. It now appears that you were otherwise occupied. In fine, madam, you chose the lower road, and contented yourself with obtaining the Bird. May I point out, by presenting you with this dedication, that in the meantime I am become the parent of the Book? To you the shadow, to me the substance. Trusting that you will accept my little offering in a Christian spirit, I am, dear madam,” etc.

It was heady work, for the saucy words showed their design plainly through the varnish, and I was re-reading in an ecstasy, when, without warning, the door burst open and a little boy entered, dragging in a faltering lady.

“Father,” said David, “this is mother.”

Having thus briefly introduced us, he turned his attention to the electric light, and switched it on and off so rapidly that, as was very fitting, Mary and I may be said to have met for the first time to the accompaniment of flashes of lightning. I think she was arrayed in little blue feathers, but if such a costume is not seemly, I swear, there were, at least, little blue feathers in her too coquettish cap, and that she was carrying a muff to match. No part of a woman is more dangerous than her muff, and as muffs are not worn in early autumn, even by invalids, I saw in a twink that she had put on all her pretty things to wheedle me. I am also of opinion that she remembered she had worn blue in the days when I watched her from the club-window. Undoubtedly Mary is an engaging little creature, though not my style. She was paler than is her wont, and had the touching look of one whom it would be easy to break. I daresay this was a trick. Her skirts made music in my room, but perhaps this was only because no lady had ever rustled in it before. It was disquieting to me to reflect that despite her obvious uneasiness, she was a very artful woman.

With the quickness of David at the switch, I slipped a blotting-pad over the dedication, and then, “Pray be seated,” I said coldly, but she remained standing, all in a twitter and very much afraid of me, and I know that her hands were pressed together within the muff. Had there been any dignified means of escape, I think we would both have taken it.

“I should not have come,” she said nervously, and then seemed to wait for some response, so I bowed.

“I was terrified to come, indeed I was,” she assured me with obvious sincerity.

“But I have come,” she finished rather baldly.

“It is an epitome, ma’am,” said I, seeing my chance, “of your whole life,” and with that I put her into my elbow-chair.

She began to talk of my adventures with David in the Gardens, and of some little things I have not mentioned here, that I may have done for her when I was in a wayward mood, and her voice was as soft as her muff. She had also an affecting way of pronouncing all her r’s as w’s, just as the fairies do. “And so,” she said, “as you would not come to me to be thanked, I have come to you to thank you.” Whereupon she thanked me most abominably. She also slid one of her hands out of the muff, and though she was smiling her eyes were wet.

“Pooh, ma’am,” said I in desperation, but I did not take her hand.

“I am not very strong yet,” she said with low cunning. She said this to make me take her hand, so I took it, and perhaps I patted it a little. Then I walked brusquely to the window. The truth is, I begun to think uncomfortably of the dedication.

I went to the window because, undoubtedly, it would be easier to address her severely from behind, and I wanted to say something that would sting her.

“When you have quite done, ma’am,” I said, after a long pause, “perhaps you will allow me to say a word.”

I could see the back of her head only, but I knew, from David’s face, that she had given him a quick look which did not imply that she was stung. Indeed I felt now, as I had felt before, that though she was agitated and in some fear of me, she was also enjoying herself considerably.

In such circumstances I might as well have tried to sting a sand-bank, so I said, rather off my watch, “If I have done all this for you, why did I do it?”

She made no answer in words, but seemed to grow taller in the chair, so that I could see her shoulders, and I knew from this that she was now holding herself conceitedly and trying to look modest. “Not a bit of it, ma’am,” said I sharply, “that was not the reason at all.”

I was pleased to see her whisk round, rather indignant at last.

“I never said it was,” she retorted with spirit, “I never thought for a moment that it was.” She added, a trifle too late in the story, “Besides, I don’t know what you are talking of.”

I think I must have smiled here, for she turned from me quickly, and became quite little in the chair again.

“David,” said I mercilessly, “did you ever see your mother blush?”

“What is blush?”

“She goes a beautiful pink colour.”

David, who had by this time broken my connection with the head office, crossed to his mother expectantly.

“I don’t, David,” she cried.

“I think,” said I, “she will do it now,” and with the instinct of a gentleman I looked away. Thus I cannot tell what happened, but presently David exclaimed adoringly, “Oh, mother, do it again!”

As she would not, he stood on the fender to see in the mantel-piece whether he could do it himself, and then Mary turned a most candid face on me, in which was maternity rather than reproach. Perhaps no look given by woman to man affects him quite so much. “You see,” she said radiantly and with a gesture that disclosed herself to me, “I can forgive even that. You long ago earned the right to hurt me if you want to.”

It weaned me of all further desire to rail at Mary, and I felt an uncommon drawing to her.

“And if I did think that for a little while--” she went on, with an unsteady smile.

“Think what?” I asked, but without the necessary snap.

“What we were talking of,” she replied wincing, but forgiving me again. “If I once thought that, it was pretty to me while it lasted and it lasted but a little time. I have long been sure that your kindness to me was due to some other reason.”

“Ma’am,” said I very honestly, “I know not what was the reason. My concern for you was in the beginning a very fragile and even a selfish thing, yet not altogether selfish, for I think that what first stirred it was the joyous sway of the little nursery governess as she walked down Pall Mall to meet her love. It seemed such a mighty fine thing to you to be loved that I thought you had better continue to be loved for a little longer. And perhaps having helped you once by dropping a letter I was charmed by the ease with which you could be helped, for you must know that I am one who has chosen the easy way for more than twenty years.”

She shook her head and smiled. “On my soul,” I assured her, “I can think of no other reason.”

“A kind heart,” said she.

“More likely a whim,” said I.

“Or another woman,” said she.

I was very much taken aback.

“More than twenty years ago,” she said with a soft huskiness in her voice, and with a tremor and a sweetness, as if she did not know that in twenty years all love stories are grown mouldy.

On my honour as a soldier this explanation of my early solicitude for Mary was one that had never struck me, but the more I pondered it now-- I raised her hand and touched it with my lips, as we whimsical old fellows do when some gracious girl makes us to hear the key in the lock of long ago. “Why, ma’am,” I said, “it is a pretty notion, and there may be something in it. Let us leave it at that.”

But there was still that accursed dedication, lying, you remember, beneath the blotting-pad. I had no longer any desire to crush her with it. I wished that she had succeeded in writing the book on which her longings had been so set.

“If only you had been less ambitious,” I said, much troubled that she should be disappointed in her heart’s desire.

“I wanted all the dear delicious things,” she admitted contritely.

“It was unreasonable,” I said eagerly, appealing to her intellect. “Especially this last thing.”

“Yes,” she agreed frankly, “I know.” And then to my amazement she added triumphantly, “But I got it.”

I suppose my look admonished her, for she continued apologetically but still as if she really thought hers had been a romantic career, “I know I have not deserved it, but I got it.”

“Oh, ma’am,” I cried reproachfully, “reflect. You have not got the great thing.” I saw her counting the great things in her mind, her wondrous husband and his obscure success, David, Barbara, and the other trifling contents of her jewel-box.

“I think I have,” said she.

“Come, madam,” I cried a little nettled, “you know that there is lacking the one thing you craved for most of all.”

Will you believe me that I had to tell her what it was? And when I had told her she exclaimed with extraordinary callousness, “The book? I had forgotten all about the book!” And then after reflection she added, “Pooh!” Had she not added Pooh I might have spared her, but as it was I raised the blotting-pad rather haughtily and presented her with the sheet beneath it.

“What is this?” she asked.

“Ma’am,” said I, swelling, “it is a Dedication,” and I walked majestically to the window.

There is no doubt that presently I heard an unexpected sound. Yet if indeed it had been a laugh she clipped it short, for in almost the same moment she was looking large-eyed at me and tapping my sleeve impulsively with her fingers, just as David does when he suddenly likes you.

“How characteristic of you,” she said at the window.

“Characteristic,” I echoed uneasily. “Ha!”

“And how kind.”

“Did you say kind, ma’am?”

“But it is I who have the substance and you who have the shadow, as you know very well,” said she.

Yes, I had always known that this was the one flaw in my dedication, but how could I have expected her to have the wit to see it? I was very depressed.

“And there is another mistake,” said she.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but that is the only one.”

“It was never of my little white bird I wanted to write,” she said.

I looked politely incredulous, and then indeed she overwhelmed me. “It was of your little white bird,” she said, “it was of a little boy whose name was Timothy.”

She had a very pretty way of saying Timothy, so David and I went into another room to leave her along with the manuscript of this poor little book, and when we returned she had the greatest surprise of the day for me. She was both laughing and crying, which was no surprise, for all of us would laugh and cry over a book about such an interesting subject as ourselves, but said she, “How wrong you are in thinking this book is about me and mine; it is really all about Timothy.”

At first I deemed this to be uncommon nonsense, but as I considered I saw that she was probably right again, and I gazed crestfallen at this very clever woman.

“And so,” said she, clapping her hands after the manner of David when he makes a great discovery, “it proves to be my book after all.”

“With all your pretty thoughts left out,” I answered, properly humbled.

She spoke in a lower voice as if David must not hear. “I had only one pretty thought for the book,” she said, “I was to give it a happy ending.” She said this so timidly that I was about to melt to her when she added with extraordinary boldness, “The little white bird was to bear an olive-leaf in its mouth.”

For a long time she talked to me earnestly of a grand scheme on which she had set her heart, and ever and anon she tapped on me as if to get admittance for her ideas. I listened respectfully, smiling at this young thing for carrying it so motherly to me, and in the end I had to remind her that I was forty-seven years of age.

“It is quite young for a man,” she said brazenly.

“My father,” said I, “was not forty-seven when he died, and I remember thinking him an old man.”

“But you don’t think so now, do you?” she persisted, “you feel young occasionally, don’t you? Sometimes when you are playing with David in the Gardens your youth comes swinging back, does it not?”

“Mary A----,” I cried, grown afraid of the woman, “I forbid you to make any more discoveries to-day.”

But still she hugged her scheme, which I doubt not was what had brought her to my rooms. “They are very dear women,” said she coaxingly.

“I am sure,” I said, “that they must be dear women if they are friends of yours.”

“They are not exactly young,” she faltered, “and perhaps they are not very pretty--”

But she had been reading so recently about the darling of my youth that she halted abashed at least, feeling, I apprehend, a stop in her mind against proposing this thing to me, who, in those presumptuous days, had thought to be content with nothing less than the loveliest lady in all the land.

My thoughts had reverted also, and for the last time my eyes saw the little hut through the pine-wood haze. I met Mary there, and we came back to the present together.

I have already told you, reader, that this conversation took place no longer ago than yesterday.

“Very well, ma’am,” I said, trying to put a brave face on it, “I will come to your tea-parties, and we shall see what we shall see.”

It was really all she had asked for, but now that she had got what she wanted of me the foolish soul’s eyes became wet, she knew so well that the youthful romances are the best.

It was now my turn to comfort her. “In twenty years,” I said, smiling at her tears, “a man grows humble, Mary. I have stored within me a great fund of affection, with nobody to give it to, and I swear to you, on the word of a soldier, that if there is one of those ladies who can be got to care for me I shall be very proud.” Despite her semblance of delight I knew that she was wondering at me, and I wondered at myself, but it was true.