"Don't go," they called in pity.
"I must," he answered, shaking; "I am so afraid of Peter."
It was at this tragic moment that they heard a sound which made the heart of every one of them rise to his mouth. They heard Peter crow.
"Peter!" they cried, for it was always thus that he signalled his return.
"Hide her," they whispered, and gathered hastily around Wendy. But Tootles stood aloof.
Again came that ringing crow, and Peter dropped in front of them. "Greetings, boys," he cried, and mechanically they saluted, and then again was silence.
"I am back," he said hotly, "why do you not cheer?"
They opened their mouths, but the cheers would not come. He overlooked it in his haste to tell the glorious tidings.
"Great news, boys," he cried, "I have brought at last a mother for you all."
Still no sound, except a little thud from Tootles as he dropped on his knees.
"Have you not seen her?" asked Peter, becoming troubled. "She flew this way."
"Ah me!" once voice said, and another said, "Oh, mournful day."
Tootles rose. "Peter," he said quietly, "I will show her to you," and when the others would still have hidden her he said, "Back, twins, let Peter see."
So they all stood back, and let him 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 frightened at being dead."
He thought of hopping off in a comic sort of way till he was out of sight of her, and then never going near the spot any more. 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.
"Oh, dastard hand," Peter said, and he raised the arrow to use it as a dagger.
Tootles did not flinch. He bared his breast. "Strike, Peter," he said firmly, "strike true."
Twice did Peter raise the arrow, and twice did his hand fall. "I cannot strike," he said with awe, "there is something stays my hand."
All looked at him in wonder, save Nibs, who fortunately looked at Wendy.
"It is she," he cried, "the Wendy lady, see, her arm!"
Wonderful to relate [tell], Wendy had raised her arm. Nibs bent over her and listened reverently. "I think she said, `Poor Tootles,'" he whispered.
"She lives," Peter said briefly.
Slightly cried instantly, "The Wendy lady lives."
Then Peter knelt beside her and found his button. You remember she had put it on a chain that she wore round her neck.
"See," he said, "the arrow struck against this. It is the kiss I gave her. It has saved her life."
"I remember kisses," Slightly interposed quickly, "let me see it. Ay, 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 frightful faint; but from overhead came a wailing note.
"Listen to Tink," said Curly, "she is crying because the Wendy lives."
Then they had to tell Peter of Tink's crime, and almost never had they seen him look so stern.
"Listen, Tinker Bell," he cried, "I am your friend no more. Begone from me for ever."
She flew on to his shoulder and pleaded, but he brushed her off. Not until Wendy again raised her arm did he relent sufficiently to say, "Well, not for ever, but for a whole week."
Do you think Tinker Bell was grateful to Wendy for raising her arm? Oh dear no, never wanted to pinch her so much. Fairies indeed are strange, and Peter, who understood them best, often cuffed [slapped] them.
But what to do with Wendy in her present delicate state of health?
"Let us carry her down into the house," Curly suggested.
"Ay," said Slightly, "that is what one does with ladies."
"No, no," Peter said, "you must not touch her. It would not be sufficiently respectful."
"That," said Slightly, "is what I was thinking."
"But if she lies there," Tootles said, "she will die."
"Ay, she will die," Slightly admitted, "but there is no way out."
"Yes, there is," cried Peter.