Chapter 15 “HOOK OR ME THIS TIME”
Odd things happen to all of us on our way through life without our
noticing for a time that they have happened. Thus, to take an instance,
we suddenly discover that we have been deaf in one ear for we don’t know
how long, but, say, half an hour. Now such an experience had come that
night to Peter. When last we saw him he was stealing across the island
with one finger to his lips and his dagger at the ready. He had seen the
crocodile pass by without noticing anything peculiar about it, but by
and by he remembered that it had not been ticking. At first he thought
this eerie, but soon concluded rightly that the clock had run down.
Without giving a thought to what might be the feelings of a
fellow-creature thus abruptly deprived of its closest companion, Peter
began to consider how he could turn the catastrophe to his own use;
and he decided to tick, so that wild beasts should believe he was the
crocodile and let him pass unmolested. He ticked superbly, but with one
unforeseen result. The crocodile was among those who heard the sound,
and it followed him, though whether with the purpose of regaining what
it had lost, or merely as a friend under the belief that it was again
ticking itself, will never be certainly known, for, like slaves to a
fixed idea, it was a stupid beast.
Peter reached the shore without mishap, and went straight on, his legs
encountering the water as if quite unaware that they had entered a new
element. Thus many animals pass from land to water, but no other human
of whom I know. As he swam he had but one thought: “Hook or me this
time.” He had ticked so long that he now went on ticking without knowing
that he was doing it. Had he known he would have stopped, for to board
the brig by help of the tick, though an ingenious idea, had not occurred
On the contrary, he thought he had scaled her side as noiseless as a
mouse; and he was amazed to see the pirates cowering from him, with Hook
in their midst as abject as if he had heard the crocodile.
The crocodile! No sooner did Peter remember it than he heard the
ticking. At first he thought the sound did come from the crocodile,
and he looked behind him swiftly. They he realised that he was doing it
himself, and in a flash he understood the situation. “How clever of me!”
he thought at once, and signed to the boys not to burst into applause.
It was at this moment that Ed Teynte the quartermaster emerged from the
forecastle and came along the deck. Now, reader, time what happened by
your watch. Peter struck true and deep. John clapped his hands on the
ill-fated pirate’s mouth to stifle the dying groan. He fell forward.
Four boys caught him to prevent the thud. Peter gave the signal, and the
carrion was cast overboard. There was a splash, and then silence. How
long has it taken?
“One!” (Slightly had begun to count.)
None too soon, Peter, every inch of him on tiptoe, vanished into the
cabin; for more than one pirate was screwing up his courage to look
round. They could hear each other’s distressed breathing now, which
showed them that the more terrible sound had passed.
“It’s gone, captain,” Smee said, wiping off his spectacles. “All’s still
Slowly Hook let his head emerge from his ruff, and listened so intently
that he could have caught the echo of the tick. There was not a sound,
and he drew himself up firmly to his full height.
“Then here’s to Johnny Plank!” he cried brazenly, hating the boys more
than ever because they had seen him unbend. He broke into the villainous
“Yo ho, yo ho, the frisky plank,
You walks along it so,
Till it goes down and you goes down
To Davy Jones below!”
To terrorize the prisoners the more, though with a certain loss of
dignity, he danced along an imaginary plank, grimacing at them as he
sang; and when he finished he cried, “Do you want a touch of the cat [o’
nine tails] before you walk the plank?”
At that they fell on their knees. “No, no!” they cried so piteously that
every pirate smiled.
“Fetch the cat, Jukes,” said Hook; “it’s in the cabin.”
The cabin! Peter was in the cabin! The children gazed at each other.
“Ay, ay,” said Jukes blithely, and he strode into the cabin. They
followed him with their eyes; they scarce knew that Hook had resumed his
song, his dogs joining in with him:
“Yo ho, yo ho, the scratching cat, Its tails are nine, you know, And
when they’re writ upon your back–”
What was the last line will never be known, for of a sudden the song was
stayed by a dreadful screech from the cabin. It wailed through the ship,
and died away. Then was heard a crowing sound which was well understood
by the boys, but to the pirates was almost more eerie than the screech.
“What was that?” cried Hook.
“Two,” said Slightly solemnly.
The Italian Cecco hesitated for a moment and then swung into the cabin.
He tottered out, haggard.
“What’s the matter with Bill Jukes, you dog?” hissed Hook, towering over
“The matter wi’ him is he’s dead, stabbed,” replied Cecco in a hollow
“Bill Jukes dead!” cried the startled pirates.
“The cabin’s as black as a pit,” Cecco said, almost gibbering, “but
there is something terrible in there: the thing you heard crowing.”
The exultation of the boys, the lowering looks of the pirates, both were
seen by Hook.
“Cecco,” he said in his most steely voice, “go back and fetch me out
Cecco, bravest of the brave, cowered before his captain, crying “No,
no”; but Hook was purring to his claw.
“Did you say you would go, Cecco?” he said musingly.
Cecco went, first flinging his arms despairingly. There was no more
singing, all listened now; and again came a death-screech and again a
No one spoke except Slightly. “Three,” he said.
Hook rallied his dogs with a gesture. “‘S’death and odds fish,” he
thundered, “who is to bring me that doodle-doo?”
“Wait till Cecco comes out,” growled Starkey, and the others took up the
“I think I heard you volunteer, Starkey,” said Hook, purring again.
“No, by thunder!” Starkey cried.
“My hook thinks you did,” said Hook, crossing to him. “I wonder if it
would not be advisable, Starkey, to humour the hook?”
“I’ll swing before I go in there,” replied Starkey doggedly, and again
he had the support of the crew.
“Is this mutiny?” asked Hook more pleasantly than ever. “Starkey’s
“Captain, mercy!” Starkey whimpered, all of a tremble now.
“Shake hands, Starkey,” said Hook, proffering his claw.
Starkey looked round for help, but all deserted him. As he backed up
Hook advanced, and now the red spark was in his eye. With a despairing
scream the pirate leapt upon Long Tom and precipitated himself into the
“Four,” said Slightly.
“And now,” Hook said courteously, “did any other gentlemen say mutiny?”
Seizing a lantern and raising his claw with a menacing gesture, “I’ll
bring out that doodle-doo myself,” he said, and sped into the cabin.
“Five.” How Slightly longed to say it. He wetted his lips to be ready,
but Hook came staggering out, without his lantern.
“Something blew out the light,” he said a little unsteadily.
“Something!” echoed Mullins.
“What of Cecco?” demanded Noodler.
“He’s as dead as Jukes,” said Hook shortly.
His reluctance to return to the cabin impressed them all unfavourably,
and the mutinous sounds again broke forth. All pirates are
superstitious, and Cookson cried, “They do say the surest sign a ship’s
accurst is when there’s one on board more than can be accounted for.”
“I’ve heard,” muttered Mullins, “he always boards the pirate craft last.
Had he a tail, captain?”
“They say,” said another, looking viciously at Hook, “that when he comes
it’s in the likeness of the wickedest man aboard.”
“Had he a hook, captain?” asked Cookson insolently; and one after
another took up the cry, “The ship’s doomed!” At this the children could
not resist raising a cheer. Hook had well-nigh forgotten his prisoners,
but as he swung round on them now his face lit up again.
“Lads,” he cried to his crew, “now here’s a notion. Open the cabin door
and drive them in. Let them fight the doodle-doo for their lives. If
they kill him, we’re so much the better; if he kills them, we’re none
For the last time his dogs admired Hook, and devotedly they did his
bidding. The boys, pretending to struggle, were pushed into the cabin
and the door was closed on them.
“Now, listen!” cried Hook, and all listened. But not one dared to face
the door. Yes, one, Wendy, who all this time had been bound to the mast.
It was for neither a scream nor a crow that she was watching, it was for
the reappearance of Peter.
She had not long to wait. In the cabin he had found the thing for which
he had gone in search: the key that would free the children of their
manacles, and now they all stole forth, armed with such weapons as they
could find. First signing them to hide, Peter cut Wendy’s bonds,
and then nothing could have been easier than for them all to fly off
together; but one thing barred the way, an oath, “Hook or me this time.”
So when he had freed Wendy, he whispered for her to conceal herself with
the others, and himself took her place by the mast, her cloak around him
so that he should pass for her. Then he took a great breath and crowed.
To the pirates it was a voice crying that all the boys lay slain in the
cabin; and they were panic-stricken. Hook tried to hearten them; but
like the dogs he had made them they showed him their fangs, and he knew
that if he took his eyes off them now they would leap at him.
“Lads,” he said, ready to cajole or strike as need be, but never
quailing for an instant, “I’ve thought it out. There’s a Jonah aboard.”
“Ay,” they snarled, “a man wi’ a hook.”
“No, lads, no, it’s the girl. Never was luck on a pirate ship wi’ a
woman on board. We’ll right the ship when she’s gone.”
Some of them remembered that this had been a saying of Flint’s. “It’s
worth trying,” they said doubtfully.
“Fling the girl overboard,” cried Hook; and they made a rush at the
figure in the cloak.
“There’s none can save you now, missy,” Mullins hissed jeeringly.
“There’s one,” replied the figure.
“Peter Pan the avenger!” came the terrible answer; and as he spoke Peter
flung off his cloak. Then they all knew who ‘twas that had been undoing
them in the cabin, and twice Hook essayed to speak and twice he failed.
In that frightful moment I think his fierce heart broke.
At last he cried, “Cleave him to the brisket!” but without conviction.
“Down, boys, and at them!” Peter’s voice rang out; and in another moment
the clash of arms was resounding through the ship. Had the pirates kept
together it is certain that they would have won; but the onset came
when they were still unstrung, and they ran hither and thither, striking
wildly, each thinking himself the last survivor of the crew. Man to man
they were the stronger; but they fought on the defensive only, which
enabled the boys to hunt in pairs and choose their quarry. Some of the
miscreants leapt into the sea; others hid in dark recesses, where they
were found by Slightly, who did not fight, but ran about with a lantern
which he flashed in their faces, so that they were half blinded and
fell as an easy prey to the reeking swords of the other boys. There was
little sound to be heard but the clang of weapons, an occasional
screech or splash, and Slightly monotonously counting–five–six–seven
I think all were gone when a group of savage boys surrounded Hook, who
seemed to have a charmed life, as he kept them at bay in that circle
of fire. They had done for his dogs, but this man alone seemed to be a
match for them all. Again and again they closed upon him, and again and
again he hewed a clear space. He had lifted up one boy with his hook,
and was using him as a buckler [shield], when another, who had just
passed his sword through Mullins, sprang into the fray.
“Put up your swords, boys,” cried the newcomer, “this man is mine.”
Thus suddenly Hook found himself face to face with Peter. The others
drew back and formed a ring around them.
For long the two enemies looked at one another, Hook shuddering
slightly, and Peter with the strange smile upon his face.
“So, Pan,” said Hook at last, “this is all your doing.”
“Ay, James Hook,” came the stern answer, “it is all my doing.”
“Proud and insolent youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet thy doom.”
“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “have at thee.”
Without more words they fell to, and for a space there was no advantage
to either blade. Peter was a superb swordsman, and parried with dazzling
rapidity; ever and anon he followed up a feint with a lunge that got
past his foe’s defence, but his shorter reach stood him in ill stead,
and he could not drive the steel home. Hook, scarcely his inferior in
brilliancy, but not quite so nimble in wrist play, forced him back by
the weight of his onset, hoping suddenly to end all with a favourite
thrust, taught him long ago by Barbecue at Rio; but to his astonishment
he found this thrust turned aside again and again. Then he sought to
close and give the quietus with his iron hook, which all this time had
been pawing the air; but Peter doubled under it and, lunging fiercely,
pierced him in the ribs. At the sight of his own blood, whose peculiar
colour, you remember, was offensive to him, the sword fell from Hook’s
hand, and he was at Peter’s mercy.
“Now!” cried all the boys, but with a magnificent gesture Peter invited
his opponent to pick up his sword. Hook did so instantly, but with a
tragic feeling that Peter was showing good form.
Hitherto he had thought it was some fiend fighting him, but darker
suspicions assailed him now.
“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird
that has broken out of the egg.”
This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy Hook that
Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very
pinnacle of good form.
“To’t again,” he cried despairingly.
He fought now like a human flail, and every sweep of that terrible sword
would have severed in twain any man or boy who obstructed it; but Peter
fluttered round him as if the very wind it made blew him out of the
danger zone. And again and again he darted in and pricked.
Hook was fighting now without hope. That passionate breast no longer
asked for life; but for one boon it craved: to see Peter show bad form
before it was cold forever.
Abandoning the fight he rushed into the powder magazine and fired it.
“In two minutes,” he cried, “the ship will be blown to pieces.”
Now, now, he thought, true form will show.
But Peter issued from the powder magazine with the shell in his hands,
and calmly flung it overboard.
What sort of form was Hook himself showing? Misguided man though he was,
we may be glad, without sympathising with him, that in the end he was
true to the traditions of his race. The other boys were flying around
him now, flouting, scornful; and he staggered about the deck striking up
at them impotently, his mind was no longer with them; it was slouching
in the playing fields of long ago, or being sent up [to the headmaster]
for good, or watching the wall-game from a famous wall. And his shoes
were right, and his waistcoat was right, and his tie was right, and his
socks were right.
James Hook, thou not wholly unheroic figure, farewell.
For we have come to his last moment.
Seeing Peter slowly advancing upon him through the air with dagger
poised, he sprang upon the bulwarks to cast himself into the sea. He
did not know that the crocodile was waiting for him; for we purposely
stopped the clock that this knowledge might be spared him: a little mark
of respect from us at the end.
He had one last triumph, which I think we need not grudge him. As he
stood on the bulwark looking over his shoulder at Peter gliding through
the air, he invited him with a gesture to use his foot. It made Peter
kick instead of stab.
At last Hook had got the boon for which he craved.
“Bad form,” he cried jeeringly, and went content to the crocodile.
Thus perished James Hook.
“Seventeen,” Slightly sang out; but he was not quite correct in his
figures. Fifteen paid the penalty for their crimes that night; but two
reached the shore: Starkey to be captured by the redskins, who made him
nurse for all their papooses, a melancholy come-down for a pirate; and
Smee, who henceforth wandered about the world in his spectacles, making
a precarious living by saying he was the only man that Jas. Hook had
Wendy, of course, had stood by taking no part in the fight, though
watching Peter with glistening eyes; but now that all was over she
became prominent again. She praised them equally, and shuddered
delightfully when Michael showed her the place where he had killed one;
and then she took them into Hook’s cabin and pointed to his watch which
was hanging on a nail. It said “half-past one!”
The lateness of the hour was almost the biggest thing of all. She got
them to bed in the pirates’ bunks pretty quickly, you may be sure; all
but Peter, who strutted up and down on the deck, until at last he fell
asleep by the side of Long Tom. He had one of his dreams that night, and
cried in his sleep for a long time, and Wendy held him tightly.