This is the story of the boy who never grew up.
Chapter 6 – The Little House
Tootles was standing like a conqueror over Wendy’s body when the other boys sprang from their trees, armed with weapons.
“You are too late,” he cried proudly, “I have shot the Wendy. Peter will be so happy with me.”
Overhead, Tinker Bell shouted, “Stupid boy!” and darted away into hiding. The others did not hear her. They had crowded around Wendy. As they looked down at her, a terrible silence fell.
Slightly was the first to speak. “This is not a bird,” he said in a scared voice. “I think this is a lady.”
“A lady?” said Tootles, trembling.
“And we have killed her,” Nibs said hoarsely.
They all took off their caps.
“Now I see,” Curly said. “Peter was bringing her to us.” He threw himself 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 Tootles, but even sorrier for themselves. When he took a step nearer, they turned their backs on 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 now, when at last she really came, I shot her.”
He moved away slowly.
“Don’t go,” they called.
“I must,” he answered, shaking. “I am so afraid of Peter.”
It was at this tragic moment that they heard a sound that made the heart of each of them stop in their throats. They heard Peter crow.
“Peter!” they cried. This was the signal that Peter always gave when he returned: a crowing like a rooster.
“Hide her,” they whispered, and gathered hastily around Wendy. But Tootles didn’t move.
Again came the crowing, and Peter dropped in front of them. “Greetings, boys,” he cried. Mechanically, the boys saluted, and then again, there was silence.
He frowned. “I’m back,” he said hotly. “How come you don’t cheer?”
They opened their mouths, but the cheers wouldn’t come out. But Peter overlooked it because he was excited to tell them.
“Great news, boys,” he cried. “At last, I have brought a mother for you all.”
Still, no sound, except a little thud as Tootles dropped on his knees.
“Have you seen her?” asked Peter, becoming troubled. “She flew in this direction.”
“Oh, no,” one voice said. And another said, “Oh, what a mournful day!”
Tootles stood up. “Peter,” he said quietly. “I will show her to you.” The boys didn’t move, still trying to hide the girl. He said, “Stand back, Twins. Let Peter see.”
So they all stood back and let Peter 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 scared at being dead.”
He thought about what to do. His first thought was to hop away in a comedic sort of way until he couldn’t see her anymore, and then he would never return to that spot again. 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 again.
“Oh, you dishonorable boy,” Peter said. He raised the arrow like a dagger.
Tootles did not flinch. He bared his chest. “Strike, Peter,” he said firmly. “Strike me dead.”
Twice, Peter raised the arrow. And twice, his hand fell. “I cannot strike,” he said. “Something is stopping my hand.”
Everyone looked at Peter, in wonder. Only Nibs looked down at Wendy.
“It is her,” he cried. “The Wendy lady! See! Her arm!”
Wendy had raised her arm. Nibs bent over her and listened closely. “I think she said, ‘Poor Tootles’,” he whispered.
“She’s alive,” Peter said.
Slightly started crying. “The Wendy lady is alive.”
Then Peter knelt beside her and found his button. Do you remember when he put it on a chain and gave it to her?
“See,” he said, “the arrow struck against this. It is the kiss I gave her. My kiss saved her life.”
“I think I remember what a kiss is,” Slightly said quickly. “Let me see it. Oh yes, 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 fright. But from overhead, there was a wailing sound.
“Listen to Tink,” said Curly, “she is crying because the Wendy is alive.”
Then they told Peter of Tink’s crime, and almost never had they seen him look so angry.
“Listen, Tinker Bell,” he cried, “I am your friend no more. Never come to me again!”
She flew onto his shoulder and pleaded, but he brushed her off.
Again, Wendy raised her arm. Peter softened a little and said, “Well, not never. But don’t come to me for a whole week.”
Wendy is a very kind child, isn’t she? And do you think Tinker Bell was grateful to Wendy for raising her arm? Oh, dear no! Tinker Bell had never wanted to pinch her so much! Fairies are indeed strange. And Peter, who understood their nature, often punished them.
But what to do with Wendy in her present state of health?
“Let’s carry her down into the house,” Curly suggested.
“Ay,” said Slightly, “that’s right! That’s what you should do with ladies.”
“No, no,” Peter said, “You must not touch her. It wouldn’t be respectful.”
“Yes,” said Slightly, “that’s what I was thinking.”
“But if she lies there,” Tootles said, “she will die.”
“Ay, she will die,” Slightly admitted, “but there is no other way.”
“Yes, there is,” cried Peter. “Let’s build a little house around her.”
They were all delighted. “Quick, each of you,” he ordered them, “bring me the best of what we have. Take it from our own house. Be quick!”
In a moment, they were as busy as tailors the night before a wedding. They ran this way and that. They went down for blankets, up for firewood.
And while they were at it, John and Michael appeared. They had taken a long time to arrived because as they dragged along the ground, they fell asleep standing, stopped, woke up, moved another step, and fell asleep again.
“John! John!” Michael would cry. “Wake up! Where is Nana, John, and mother?”
And then John would rub his eyes and mutter, “I had a dream I could fly.”
When they finally reached Peter, they were very relieved.
“Hello, Peter,” they said.
“Hello,” replied Peter politely, though he had forgotten them. He was very busy at the moment measuring Wendy with his feet to see how large the house should be. Of course, he intended to leave room for chairs and a table, too. John and Michael watched him.
“Is Wendy asleep?” they asked.
“John,” Michael proposed. “Let’s wake her up and get her to make dinner for us.” But as he said it, some of the other boys rushed past carrying branches for building the house. “What are they doing?” he cried.
“Curly,” said Peter in his most captain-like voice, “make sure that these boys help build the house.”
“Ay, ay, sir.”
“Build a house?” exclaimed John.
“For the Wendy,” said Curly.
“For Wendy?” John said. “But, she is only a girl!”
“That,” explained Curly, “is why we are her servants.”
“You? Wendy’s servants!”
“Yes,” said Peter, “and you also. Get to work.”
The astounded brothers were dragged away to do work. “Chairs and a table first,” Peter ordered. “Then, we will build a house around them.”
“Ay,” said Slightly, “that is how a house is built. I know just how to do it.”
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 serious.
“Please, sir,” said Peter, going to him, “are you a doctor?”
You see, Peter was different from the other boys. The boys knew it was make-believe. But to Peter, make-believe and real were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, because there were times that they had to make-believe they had dinner. And if they ever broke down in their make-believe, Peter would get angry and smack their knuckles.
“Yes, my little man,” Slightly anxiously replied. He had chapped knuckles from making mistakes in the past.
“Please, sir,” Peter explained, “a lady is very ill.”
She was lying at their feet, but Slightly had the sense to pretend not to know her.
“Tut, tut, tut,” he said, “where does she lie?”
“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 come again in the evening,” Slightly said. “Give her beef soup out of a cup.” 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 forest had been alive with the sound of axes. They had almost everything they needed for a cozy house.
“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 a roof of mossy green.” 🎵
They squealed with joy at this, because by the greatest luck, the branches they had brought were sticky with red sap, and all the ground was carpeted with moss. As they built up the little house, they started singing their own song:
🎵 “We’ve built the little walls and roof, And made a lovely door, So tell us, mother Wendy, Do you want some more?” 🎵
To this, she answered greedily:
🎵 “Oh, next I think I want to have, Cute windows all about, With roses peeping in, you know, And babies peeping out.” 🎵
They rushed to make windows and they put up large yellow leaves for curtains. But roses—?
“Roses,” cried Peter sternly.
Quickly they made-believe to grow the loveliest roses up the walls.
To prevent Peter ordering babies, they hurried into song again:
🎵 “We’ve made the roses peeping out, But babies at the door? We cannot make them by ourselves, ‘cause we’ve never made them before.” 🎵
Peter, seeing the house, pretended that it was all his idea. The house was quite beautiful, and no doubt Wendy was very cozy within, though, of course, they could no longer see her. Peter walked 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 that they had forgotten to add a knocker. Tootles took off the sole of his shoe and hung it on the door. It made an excellent knocker.
Absolutely finished now, they thought.
Nope! “There’s no chimney,” Peter said. “We must have a chimney.”
“It definitely needs a chimney,” said John importantly. This gave Peter an idea. He snatched the hat off John’s head, put a hole through the top of it, and put the hat on the roof. The little house was so happy to have such a nice chimney that, as if to say thank you, smoke immediately began to come out of the hat.
Now, really and truly, it was finished. There was nothing left to do but to knock.
“Everyone, look your best,” Peter warned them. “First impressions are very important.”
He was glad no one asked him what first impressions were. They were all too busy trying to look their best.
He knocked politely, and now the door was as still as the children. There wasn’t a sound except from Tinker Bell, who was watching from a branch and snickering.
The boys were wondering if anyone would answer the door? If a lady answered, what would she be like?
The door opened and a lady came out. It was Wendy. They all took off their hats.
She pretended to look surprised, and that made everyone happy.
“Where am I?” she said.
Of course, Slightly was the first to speak. “Wendy lady,” he said quickly, “we built this house for you.”
“Oh, please say you like it,” cried Nibs.
“Oh, what a lovely, darling house!” Wendy said. And that made everyone happy.
“And we are your children,” cried the Twins.
Then they all got on their knees, holding out their arms. “Oh Wendy lady, be our mother.”
“Your mother?” Wendy said, shining. “Of course it’s wonderful, but you see, I’m only a little girl. I have no real experience as a mother.”
“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 knew 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 wet. And before I put you to bed I have just enough time to finish the story of Cinderella.”
And they all went into the little house.
How? Well, I don’t know how. There definitely wasn’t enough room for all of them in that little house. But you see, in Neverland, you can squeeze very tight.
And so, that was the first of the many joyous evenings they had with Wendy. Every night, she tucked them in the great bed in the little home under the ground. But she, herself, slept that night in the little house. Peter kept watch outside with a sword, because he could hear the pirates singing far away, and the wolves were on the hunt.
The little house looked so cozy and safe in the darkness, with a bright light showing through the curtains, and the chimney smoking beautifully, and Peter standing guard. After some time, he fell asleep.