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Chapter 18 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 any one 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 he 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--“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 does............

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