"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 kennel."
"But it is punishment, isn't it, George? You are sure you are not enjoying it?"
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."
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.
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 barred!"
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 I!"
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.
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.