I recently moved into an apartment with a friend of mine who, equally to my detriment and delight, has excellent taste in literature.
She has a bookshelf full of books, many of which I haven’t read, in the hallway. I have caught a cold, and I think that lack of sleep due to reading until the crack of dawn has something to do with that! In honor of my cold, I have selected an excerpt from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.
Peter Pan is a delicious book, belonging to one of my very favorite genres, magical realism. I think what I admire most about Peter Pan is how distinct and how internally consistent each of the characters are. I think you could read a page of dialogue from Peter Pan with all of the descriptors like “Wendy protested, Peter crowed, Mrs. Darling cooed,” removed, and you would still know which character was speaking at all times. Every word and action fits Barrie’s characters to a tee.
Without further ado…
If [Mr. Darling] had a weakness, it was for thinking that all his life he had taken medicine boldly, and so now, when Michael dodged the spoon in Nana’s mouth, he had said reprovingly, “Be a man, Michael.”
“Won’t; won’t!” Michael cried naughtily. Mrs. Darling left the room to get a chocolate for him, and Mr. Darling thought this showed want of firmness.
“Mother, don’t pamper him,” he called after her. “Michael, when I was your age I took medicine without a murmur. I said ‘Thank you, kind parents, for giving me bottles to make me well.’”
He really thought this was true, and Wendy, who was now in her night-gown, believed it also, and she said, to encourage Michael, “That medicine you sometimes take, father, is much nastier, isn’t it?”
“Ever so much nastier,” Mr. Darling said bravely, “and I would take it now as an example to you, Michael, if I hadn’t lost the bottle.”
He had not exactly lost it; he had climbed in the dead of night to the top of the wardrobe and hidden it there. What he did not know was that the faithful Liza had found it, and put it back on his wash-stand.
“I know where it is, father,” Wendy cried, always glad to be of service. “I’ll bring it,” and she was off before he could stop her.
Immediately his spirits sank in the strangest way. “John,” he said, shuddering, “it’s most beastly stuff. It’s that nasty, sticky, sweet kind.”
“It will soon be over, father,” John said cheerily, and then in rushed Wendy with the medicine in a glass.
“I have been as quick as I could,” she panted.
“You have been wonderfully quick,” her father retorted, with a vindictive politeness that was quite thrown away upon her.“Michael first,” he said doggedly.
“Father first,” said Michael, who was of a suspicious nature.
“I shall be sick, you know,” Mr. Darling said threateningly.
“Come on, father,” said John.
“Hold your tongue, John,” his father rapped out.
Wendy was quite puzzled. “I thought you took it quite easily, father.”
“That is not the point,” he retorted. “The point is, that there is more in my glass than in Michael’s spoon.” His proud heart was nearly bursting. “And it isn’t fair; I would say it though it were with my last breath; it isn’t fair.”
“Father, I am waiting,” said Michael coldly.
“It’s all very well to say you are waiting; so am I waiting.”
“Father’s a cowardy custard.”
“So are you a cowardy custard.”
“I’m not frightened.”
“Neither am I frightened.”
“Well, then, take it.”
“Well, then, you take it.”
Wendy had a splendid idea. “Why not both take it at the same time?”
“Certainly,” said Mr. Darling. “Are you ready, Michael?”
Wendy gave the words, one, two, three, and Michael took his medicine, but Mr. Darling slipped his behind his back. There was a yell of rage from Michael, and “O father!” Wendy exclaimed.
“What do you mean by ‘O father?’” Mr. Darling demanded. “Stop that row, Michael. I meant to take mine, but I- I missed it.” It was dreadful the way all the three were looking at him, just as if they did not admire him.