Chapter II_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
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 5}
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
round 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
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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 10}
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.
“If only I had pretended to like the medicine,” was what Nana’s
wet eyes said.
“My liking for parties, George.”
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 15}
“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
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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 20}
“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 so 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
Wendy had danced with joy, just as the real Mrs. Darling must have
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 25}
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 evening-dress could not stand that.
“I do,” she said, “I so want a third child.”
“Boy or girl?” asked Michael, not too hopefully.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 30}
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
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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 35}
“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 tonight, 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 was 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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 40}
“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?”
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 45}
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 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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 50}
“It is nobody I know,” he said, examining it carefully, “but he 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 me well.'”
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 55}
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
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
“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.”
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 60}
“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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 65}
“Come on, father,” said John.
“Hold your tongue, John,” his father rapped out.
Wendy was quite puzzled. “I thought you took it quite easily,
“That is not the point,” he retorted. “The point is, that there is
more in my glass than 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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 70}
“It’s all very well to say you are waiting; so am I waiting.”
“Father’s a cowardy custard.”
“So are you a cowardy custard.”
“I’m not frightened?”
“Neither am I frightened.”
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 75}
“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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 80}
There was a yell of rage from Michael, and “O father!” Wendy
“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.”
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 85}
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 they had got into the way of calling Liza
the servants.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 90}
“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.
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 95}
“That is not Nana’s unhappy bark,” she said, little guessing what
was about to happen; “that is her bark when she smells 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
{CHAPTER_II ^paragraph 100}
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 forever. 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 has 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!”