Chapter XVI The Return Home


By three bells next 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. His bluff
strident words struck the note sailors understand, 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 the
forefinger, which he bent and held threateningly aloft like a hook.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 5}
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 preparing for is a good hiding. How
delicious to spoil it all by breaking the news in advance; so that
when they enter 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
“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
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 10}
“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 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 he
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
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.”
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 15}
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
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.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 20}
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 to 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 at it 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.”
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 25}
“Lot 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
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 30}
“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.”
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 35}
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.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 40}
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
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
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 45}
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.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 50}
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
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 55}
“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.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 60}
“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 the young scoundrel John, “not
to be here when we come back.”
It was then that Mrs. Darling began playing again.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 65}
“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
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 70}
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.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 75}
“Mother!” Wendy cried.
“That’s Wendy,” she said, but still she was sure it was a dream.
“That’s John,” she said.
“Mother!” cried Michael. He knew her now.
{CHAPTER_XVI ^paragraph 80}
“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 ecstasies
innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking
through the window at the one joy from which he must be forever