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,'"
"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.