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.
“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.