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Chapter 1 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 [their house number on their street], 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
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
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
"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
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 [in England soccer was called football,
"footer" for short] 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
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
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 [simple boat]. 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
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
"Yes, he is rather cocky," Wendy admitted with regret. Her mother had been
"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
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
"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
"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
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.