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XVIII

Peter's Goat



Maimie felt quite shy, but Peter knew not what shy was.

"I hope you have had a good night," he said earnestly.

"Thank you," she replied, "I was so cosy and warm. But you"--and
she looked at his nakedness awkwardly--"don't you feel the least
bit cold?"

Now cold was another word Peter had forgotten, so he answered, "I
think not, but I may be wrong: you see I am rather ignorant. I
am not exactly a boy, Solomon says I am a Betwixt-and-Between."

"So that is what it is called," said Maimie thoughtfully.

"That's not my name," he explained, "my name is Peter Pan."

"Yes, of course," she said, "I know, everybody knows."

You can't think how pleased Peter was to learn that all the
people outside the gates knew about him. He begged Maimie to
tell him what they knew and what they said, and she did so. They
were sitting by this time on a fallen tree; Peter had cleared off
the snow for Maimie, but he sat on a snowy bit himself.

"Squeeze closer," Maimie said.

"What is that?" he asked, and she showed him, and then he did it.
They talked together and he found that people knew a great deal
about him, but not everything, not that he had gone back to his
mother and been barred out, for instance, and he said nothing of
this to Maimie, for it still humiliated him.

"Do they know that I play games exactly like real boys?" he asked
very proudly. "Oh, Maimie, please tell them!" But when he
revealed how he played, by sailing his hoop on the Round Pond,
and so on, she was simply horrified.

"All your ways of playing," she said with her big eyes on him,
"are quite, quite wrong, and not in the least like how boys
play!"

Poor Peter uttered a little moan at this, and he cried for the
first time for I know not how long. Maimie was extremely sorry
for him, and lent him her handkerchief, but he didn't know in the
least what to do with it, so she showed him, that is to say, she
wiped her eyes, and then gave it back to him, saying "Now you do
it," but instead of wiping his own eyes he wiped hers, and she
thought it best to pretend that this was what she had meant.

She said, out of pity for him, "I shall give you a kiss if you
like," but though he once knew he had long forgotten what kisses
are, and he replied, "Thank you," and held out his hand, thinking
she had offered to put something into it. This was a great shock
to her, but she felt she could not explain without shaming him,
so with charming delicacy she gave Peter a thimble which happened
to be in her pocket, and pretended that it was a kiss. Poor
little boy! he quite believed her, and to this day he wears it on
his finger, though there can be scarcely anyone who needs a
thimble so little. You see, though still a tiny child, it was
really years and years since he had seen his mother, and I
daresay the baby who had supplanted him was now a man with
whiskers.

But you must not think that Peter Pan was a boy to pity rather
than to admire; if Maimie began by thinking this, she soon found
she was very much mistaken. Her eyes glistened with admiration
when he told her of his adventures, especially of how he went to
and fro between the island and the Gardens in the Thrush's Nest.

"How romantic," Maimie exclaimed, but it was another unknown
word, and he hung his head thinking she was despising him.

"I suppose Tony would not have done that?" he said very humbly.

"Never, never!" she answered with conviction, "he would have been
afraid."

"What is afraid?" asked Peter longingly. He thought it must be
some splendid thing. "I do wish you would teach me how to be
afraid, Maimie," he said.

"I believe no one could teach that to you," she answered
adoringly, but Peter thought she meant that he was stupid. She
had told him about Tony and of the wicked thing she did in the
dark to frighten him (she knew quite well that it was wicked),
but Peter misunderstood her meaning and said, "Oh, how I wish I
was as brave as Tony."

It quite irritated her. "You are twenty thousand times braver
than Tony," she said, "you are ever so much the bravest boy I
ever knew!"

He could scarcely believe she meant it, but when be did believe
he screamed with joy.

"And if you want very much to give me a kiss," Maimie said, "you
can do it."

Very reluctantly Peter began to take the thimble off his finger.
He thought she wanted it back.

"I don't mean a kiss," she said hurriedly, "I mean a thimble."

"What's that?" Peter asked.

"It's like this," she said, and kissed him.

"I should love to give you a thimble," Peter said gravely, so he
gave her one. He gave her quite a number of thimbles, and then a
delightful idea came into his head! "Maimie," he said, "will you
marry me?"

Now, strange to tell, the same idea had come at exactly the same
time into Maimie's head. "I should like to," she answered, "but
will there be room in your boat for two?"

"If you squeeze close," he said eagerly.

"Perhaps the birds would be angry?"

He assured her that the birds would love to have her, though I am
not so certain of it myself. Also that there were very few birds
in winter. "Of course they might want your clothes," he had to
admit rather falteringly.

She was somewhat indignant at this.

"They are always thinking of their nests," he said
apologetically, "and there are some bits of you"--he stroked the
fur on her pelisse--"that would excite them very much."

"They sha'n't have my fur," she said sharply.

"No," he said, still fondling it, however, "no! Oh, Maimie," he
said rapturously, "do you know why I love you? It is because you
are like a beautiful nest."

Somehow this made her uneasy. "I think you are speaking more
like a bird than a boy now," she said, holding back, and indeed
he was even looking rather like a bird. "After all," she said,
"you are only a Betwixt-and-Between." But it hurt him so much
that she immediately added, "It must be a delicious thing to be."

"Come and be one then, dear Maimie," he implored her, and they
set off for the boat, for it was now very near Open-Gate time.
"And you are not a bit like a nest," he whispered to please her.

"But I think it is rather nice to be like one," she said in a
woman's contradictory way. "And, Peter, dear, though I can't
give them my fur, I wouldn't mind their building in it. Fancy a
nest in my neck with little spotty eggs in it! Oh, Peter, how
perfectly lovely!"

But as they drew near the Serpentine, she shivered a little, and
said, "Of course I shall go and see mother often, quite often.
It is not as if I was saying good-bye for ever to mother, it is
not in the least like that."

"Oh, no," answered Peter, but in his heart he knew it was very
like that, and he would have told her so had he not been in a
quaking fear of losing her. He was so fond of her, he felt he
could not live without her. "She will forget her mother in time,
and be happy with me," he kept saying to himself, and he hurried
her on, giving her thimbles by the way.

But even when she had seen the boat and exclaimed ecstatically
over its loveliness, she still talked tremblingly about her
mother. "You know quite well, Peter, don't you," she said, "that
I wouldn't come unless I knew for certain I could go back to
mother whenever I want to? Peter, say it!"

He said it, but he could no longer look her in the face.

"If you are sure your mother will always want you," he added
rather sourly.

"The idea of mother's not always wanting me!" Maimie cried, and
her face glistened.

"If she doesn't bar you out," said Peter huskily.

"The door," replied Maimie, "will always, always be open, and
mother will always be waiting at it for me."

"Then," said Peter, not without grimness, "step in, if you feel
so sure of her," and he helped Maimie into the Thrush's Nest.

"But why don't you look at me?" she asked, taking him by the arm.

Peter tried hard not to look, he tried to push off, then he gave
a great gulp and jumped ashore and sat down miserably in the
snow.

She went to him. "What is it, dear, dear Peter?" she said,
wondering.

"Oh, Maimie," he cried, "it isn't fair to take you with me if you
think you can go back. Your mother"--he gulped again--"you don't
know them as well as I do."

And then he told her the woful story of how he had been barred
out, and she gasped all the time. "But my mother," she said, "my
mother"--

"Yes, she would," said Peter, "they are all the same. I daresay
she is looking for another one already."

Maimie said aghast, "I can't believe it. You see, when you went
away your mother had none, but my mother has Tony, and surely
they are satisfied when they have one."

Peter replied bitterly, "You should see the letters Solomon gets
from ladies who have six."

Just then they heard a grating creak, followed by creak, creak,
all round the Gardens. It was the Opening of the Gates, and
Peter jumped nervously into his boat. He knew Maimie would not
come with him now, and he was trying bravely not to cry. But
Maimie was sobbing painfully.

"If I should be too late," she called in agony, "oh, Peter, if
she has got another one already!"

Again he sprang ashore as if she had called him back. "I shall
come and look for you to-night," he said, squeezing close, "but
if you hurry away I think you will be in time."

Then he pressed a last thimble on her sweet little mouth, and
covered his face with his hands so that he might not see her go.

"Dear Peter!" she cried.

"Dear Maimie!" cried the tragic boy.

She leapt into his arms, so that it was a sort of fairy wedding,
and then she hurried away. Oh, how she hastened to the gates!
Peter, you may be sure, was back in the Gardens that night as
soon as Lock-out sounded, but he found no Maimie, and so he knew
she had been in time. For long he hoped that some night she
would come back to him; often he thought he saw her waiting for
him by the shore of the Serpentine as his bark drew to land, but
Maimie never went back. She wanted to, but she was afraid that
if she saw her dear Betwixt-and-Between again she would linger
with him too long, and besides the ayah now kept a sharp eye on
her. But she often talked lovingly of Peter and she knitted a
kettle- holder for him, and one day when she was wondering what
Easter present he would like, her mother made a suggestion.

"Nothing," she said thoughtfully, "would be so useful to him as a
goat."

"He could ride on it," cried Maimie, "and play on his pipe at the
same time!"

"Then," her mother asked, "won't you give him your goat, the one
you frighten Tony with at night?"

"But it isn't a real goat," Maimie said.

"It seems very real to Tony," replied her mother.

"It seems frightfully real to me too," Maimie admitted, "but how
could I give it to Peter?"

Her mother knew a way, and next day, accompanied by Tony (who was
really quite a nice boy, though of course he could not compare),
they went to the Gardens, and Maimie stood alone within a fairy
ring, and then her mother, who was a rather gifted lady, said,

"My daughter, tell me, if you can,
What have you got for Peter Pan?"

To which Maimie replied,

"I have a goat for him to ride,
Observe me cast it far and wide."

She then flung her arms about as if she were sowing seed, and
turned round three times.

Next Tony said,

"If P. doth find it waiting here,
Wilt ne'er again make me to fear?"

And Maimie answered,

"By dark or light I fondly swear
Never to see goats anywhere."

She also left a letter to Peter in a likely place, explaining
what she had done, and begging him to ask the fairies to turn the
goat into one convenient for riding on. Well, it all happened
just as she hoped, for Peter found the letter, and of course
nothing could be easier for the fairies than to turn the goat
into a real one, and so that is how Peter got the goat on which
he now rides round the Gardens every night playing sublimely on
his pipe. And Maimie kept her promise and never frightened Tony
with a goat again, though I have heard that she created another
animal. Until she was quite a big girl she continued to leave
presents for Peter in the Gardens (with letters explaining how
humans play with them), and she is not the only one who has done
this. David does it, for instance, and he and I know the
likeliest place for leaving them in, and we shall tell you if you
like, but for mercy's sake don't ask us before Porthos, for were
he to find out the place he would take every one of them.

Though Peter still remembers Maimie he is become as gay as ever,
and often in sheer happiness he jumps off his goat and lies
kicking merrily on the grass. Oh, he has a joyful time! But he
has still a vague memory that he was a human once, and it makes
him especially kind to the house-swallows when they revisit the
island, for house-swallows are the spirits of little children who
have died. They always build in the eaves of the houses where
they lived when they were humans, and sometimes they try to fly
in at a nursery window, and perhaps that is why Peter loves them
best of all the birds.

And the little house? Every lawful night (that is to say, every
night except ball nights) the fairies now build the little house
lest there should be a human child lost in the Gardens, and Peter
rides the marshes looking for lost ones, and if he finds them he
carries them on his goat to the little house, and when they wake
up they are in it and when they step out they see it. The
fairies build the house merely because it is so pretty, but Peter
rides round in memory of Maimie and because he still loves to do
just as he believes real boys would do.

But you must not think that, because somewhere among the trees
the little house is twinkling, it is a safe thing to remain in
the Gardens after Lock-out Time. If the bad ones among the
fairies happen to be out that night they will certainly mischief
you, and even though they are not, you may perish of cold and
dark before Peter Pan comes round. He has been too late several
times, and when he sees he is too late he runs back to the
Thrush's Nest for his paddle, of which Maimie had told him the
true use, and he digs a grave for the child and erects a little
tombstone and carves the poor thing's initials on it. He does
this at once because he thinks it is what real boys would do, and
you must have noticed the little stones and that there are always
two together. He puts them in twos because it seems less lonely.
I think that quite the most touching sight in the Gardens is the
two tombstones of Walter Stephen Matthews and Phoebe Phelps. They
stand together at the spot where the parishes of Westminster St.
Mary's is said to meet the parish of Paddington. Here Peter
found the two babes, who had fallen unnoticed from their
perambulators, Phoebe aged thirteen months and Walter probably
still younger, for Peter seems to have felt a delicacy about
putting any age on his stone. They lie side by side, and the
simple inscriptions read

+-----------+ +-----------+
| | | |
| W | | 13a. |
| | | P.P. |
| St. M | | 1841 |
| | | |
+-----------+ +-----------+

David sometimes places white flowers on these two innocent
graves.

But how strange for parents, when they hurry into the Gardens at
the opening of the gates looking for their lost one, to find the
sweetest little tombstone instead. I do hope that Peter is not
too ready with his spade. It is all rather sad.