This story takes place only a few years after Wendy's first visit to Neverland with Peter Pan, so it is considered a follow-up to the 2003 P.J. Hogan film Peter Pan (with some references to the original Barrie novel 1911 and his own Peter Pan prequel, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens 1904).
I'm still here!
I had received some comments after the previous chapter inquiring if it was the end of the story, and some people even commented that perhaps it should be. It is NOT the end (obviously), but I will give readers this option: You can continue to read and see what happens, or, if you prefer, you may take the previous chapter as the end of the story as far as your concerned. Either way is fine with me, though I do hope y'all will continue to take this (long, I know) journey with me. :-)
If this chapter seems kind of hastily put together, it's no accident. It ends rather abruptly because I figured I should get at least SOMETHING out there! So, the longer chapter has been divided into 2 shorter ones.
Again, I have no ownership of any of the characters or actors who portrayed them…J.V. Hart, however, apparently owns Captain Hook now (grumble)….
Here's Chapter XXIII …..please review:-)XXIII. LONDON, PART 1
'Twas neither the welcoming breeze nor the warmth against her cheek which stirred Wendy to open her eyes. This task was left instead to a single runaway leaf, freshly fallen from the chestnut tree under which the young lady lay, that settled upon her forehead.
Only hence did her lids oblige to part, but just a little ways, for the glaring sunshine that met her gaze was one which she had grown quite accustomed without. She lay half-blinded for a long moment before she remembered her arms and beckoned them to shade her brow. But only one heeded the call, for the other was pinned beneath something large.
As Wendy squinted into the brightness, she became aware of her surroundings. She was outside – this was quite clear – perhaps in some sort of park. A rolling stream she could just discern in the shaded distance, and she knew then with utmost certainly her location. And quickly she came to realize that the object which held down her arm was no object at all; it was a man. It was Captain Hook.
They had made it – together!
"James! James!" She nudged the napping pirate, the precious wishing stone still clutched in her hand. "Wake up! We're here!"
He shifted then groaned, and when his blue eyes met with the Sun, he too cast an elbow across his face.
"Sweet Lucifer!" he exclaimed. "What is this?"
"'Tis the sun, James," Wendy beamed. "We've made it!"
She found her way to her feet and stood blissfully within the inviting daylight. She donned her old patchy nightdress once again, whilst Hook, managing his way upright and near to his mistress, wore not much more than black shirtsleeves, a gold-trimmed waistcoat, and black trousers (and his rapier of course, just in case). A rucksack which he had hid under his coat just prior to their journey now lay beneath the chestnut tree and forgotten for the time being.
The timid wind that tousled his inky curls was a familiar one. Even the scent of the grass beneath his feet could not be mistaken. He took two heavy steps forward, his head darting in every direction, and then let out a great laugh.
"Yes, we are home!"
"Then you know this place?" Wendy scurried up to him, holding his hand.
He engaged a deep breath. "How could I not know the Kensington Gardens? C'est tres raisonnable, ma cherie…for this is where it all began for Hook."
"Why, yes!" Wendy remembered. "This is where you saved the little fairy who would repay you with a magic potion."
"Funny…" Hook muttered distantly, bending down and caressing a bed of hyacinths at before him with his new right hand. "So curious indeed how the Fates can steer our footsteps as if we were not more than toothless schooners. 'Tis clearer than ever now…"
He stood again brusquely and began to pace the clandestine little spot in the park where they found themselves, taking in every leaf, flower, tree, and blade of grass.
"I had just come from speaking to my father by the Broad Walk. He was sending me away…I was so desperate for him to reconsider, but he could be swayed by none but his own predilections. I skulked off, miserable, and found a quiet place along the Serpentine in which to stew in my depression."
Speaking of the tranquil waters led him to amble in its direction, and Wendy followed keenly.
"I heard a disturbance in the flowerbeds to my left, and when I looked, I did but see a stray cat having at some poor, wee creature. Always one to champion an underdog, I rushed quickly to its aid. I shooed off the hissing beast, which dropped its bedraggled pray right into my palms."
"Our heroic James to the rescue just in the nick of time!" Wendy clucked.
"Not wholly unheroic, I suppose," Hook smirked. "A few cuts and scraps was all the hearty little fellow came away with. He expressed a knowledge of my person, which was alarming at the very least…"
Wendy's ears perked. "You say you could understand him? The fairy language I mean?"
"Scurvy beasts," snickered Hook. "They speak our language quite well, you know…When it suits them."
He continued: "When the little pixie granted me the rewards which he did, he did so with a strange foresight. As if he knew they would be of great use to me in the near future."
"The potion, you mean?"
"Then you did use it after all?"
"It saved my life." Hook's wandering halted. "Or rather, it returned it to me."
He stood silent then, from a thousand miles away staring at the glittering Serpentine and biting at his lower lip. Wendy came to his side and put her arms about him.
"James," she implored gently, "Who was your father?"
At this, he blinked and smiled upon her. "Now, now, darling, were I to tell you that, 'twould give away the entire secret."
"But why must it be a secret?" she pouted.
Hook returned her cuddle. "Worry not. When the rest know, you will know as well. And once all is revealed, it shall set the whole country ablaze…"
Wendy did not detect the ruthlessness in his eyes as he leaned in to kiss her passionately. If she had, she would have been wise to flee right then and there.
"All right, we'll 'ave none of that 'ere!" suddenly invaded a thick Cockney voice.
The embracing couple broke from their kiss to see what appeared to be a disheveled groundskeeper scuttling by, broom in hand.
"They 'ave special inns for that sort of thing, you know!"
Hook took a step from Wendy and put a hand to his menacing steel. "What say you, sir?"
Wendy touched his arm to stay his temper.
"Now now, mate," the man retreated, "We don't need to resort to such measures, eh?"
"That is entirely up to you, 'mate'," Hook challenged.
"Oh, no, no, not necessary," bumbled the man with a nervous laugh. "I'll just be on my way then. Leaves won't sweep themselves, eh, Jack? Erm, I mean, Sir!"
Hook's Cheshire smile grew wider. The groveling groundsman tipped his cap to Wendy.
"Begging your pardon, madam. Carry on! Good day to you both!"
And with a speed unexpected for one of his stature, the man disappeared into the flora.
Standing erect and satisfied, Hook was pleased to see that the journey from Neverland hadn't affected his clout. But Wendy, the more level-headed, put a cramp in his private gloat as she began to draw him back toward the chestnut tree.
"James," she began sternly, "I think it most prudent that we find some lodgings straight away, and from thence we shall decide how to explain ourselves to others for the time being."
"Ah, my Wonderful Wendy of Wisdom wending our way with words of wary…."
"Please be serious."
"I am constantly serious."
"We'll need to find some money."
"And find you shall…." Crouching before his rucksack, he retrieved a heavy cloth pouch inside, which jingled happily at his touch. Still grinning, he handed it her.
"Oh dear," Wendy's brow furrowed at the bag. "I'm afraid very few landlords would be prepared to accept Spanish doubloons or Venetian ducats as payment for a room."
Hook had figured as much. "Well then…perhaps we may exchange them for some of your modern currency."
"Oh yes, that's it!" Wendy exclaimed. "We shall take them to the bank!"
But then that nasty little crease in her forehead returned. "Oh, but it will have to be a bank outside the city."
"Why's this, my dear?"
She faltered. "Just for safety's sake."
"Ah, now who is being cagey?" Hook cocked an amused eyebrow.
Having recalled vaguely several secret shortcuts leading to a less populated road, the roving pirate captain led Wendy by the hand through the Kensington Gardens. They sought to make themselves inconspicuous, but there was little hope in that.
Sadly, Hook's memory still had but a few cobwebs to be dusted off, for his shrewd getaway scheme led them not to a quiet London back road but right onto the Broad Walk, teeming this day with its normal influx of afternoon strollers.
"Oh blast," Hook muttered, his stride halted.
"I say, you look rather lost," commented a jovial man's voice nearest to them.
Wishing not for a repeat of the run-in with the groundskeeper, Wendy immediately blocked Hook's rapier from his own grasp. But the gentleman whom addressed them had no hint of malevolence about his person that she could discern. He was a stout fellow, much like penguin in his neat suit, with spectacles and a lit cigar protruding from his mouth.
When he received no response from the peculiar couple, it occurred to him perhaps they knew no English.
"My, but that is a remarkable outfit," he said, surveying the waistcoat of the dark, cautious man before him. "Off to a masquerade are we?"
Feeling Hook's hand twitch for his steel, Wendy heard herself blurt out: "He's an actor."
The man's eyes twinkled eagerly. "Is that right?"
"Erm…..Yes, quite so," Hook acquiesced.
"But not from around here," the man stated as if quite sure of it.
"No," Hook stood his guard. "Just in from the north."
"Yes? Where north?"
"Ah, of course," the man took a jolly drag off his cigar. "The enigmatic type. All of you thespians are quite the same. But I do hope you shall do me the courtesy of telling me your name, sir."
Hook, having long not been addressed by a grown man in such a casual manner, was instantly aroused to put this one in his place, and quite forgot himself. Or rather, he quite remembered himself, but once more, Wendy was to save the day.
"Very well," Hook sneered, straightening his waistcoat pretentiously. "I am James – "
"Scott!" Wendy nearly shrieked.
Hook went mum and his eyes bore a hole in Wendy's face.
Wendy's own eyes came away from the older gentleman in the kilt and tam o'shanter who had just meandered by.
"He is James Scott," she insisted, threading her arm through his, which felt rather limp of a sudden. "He is my…uncle."
"Well, pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Scott," the man tipped his bowler cap to Hook, who now seemed, once more, thousands of miles away. "And who might you be, young miss?"
"I…I….am…" Wendy struggled, her eyes again darting about in search of a solution. "I am…his niece…."
She tugged at Hook's arm for help, but he was lost in a reverie. He'd heard the word "name", thus all he could think to say at the moment in reply was:
"Anne!" Wendy exclaimed with much relief, quickly knocking Hook from his trance. "I am Anne, his niece!"
"Excellent," the man consented. "Are you a Scott as well?"
"No!" quickly came Hook's booming voice. "She is no Scott! She is….a Smythe!"
"Well then, what a merry little family," said the man. "Have you others in the city?"
"No, we are….quite all we have," Hook affirmed, getting a feel for the charade. "Her parents are long gone, so I am her charge. She is expecting."
"James!" Wendy pinched him. "Erm, I mean….Uncle James!"
Hook offered his first smile since encountering the little man, though a forced one. "My dear, you'll hardly be able to hide it from anyone soon enough."
Catching the man's dubious stare, Hook was fast to the task. "She is widowed."
"Oh, you don't say," the man frowned. "For such tragedies to befall one so young. 'Tis a shame. You are quite a saint, my good man, to take her under your care. I assume there is no Mrs. Scott to speak of?"
Hook's smile was gone. "No."
"Ah, yes, the life of a bachelor! I do envy you!" He gave a great laugh laced with a hoarseness from years spent with his cigars.
"And who exactly might you be, sir?" Hook was keen to steer the subject from himself.
The man gave one last cough. "Oh, dash it all, where have my manners gone? I am Arthur Gadsbury. But you may call me Gads if you like. Everyone seems to."
"If I shall call you at all…" Hook dismissed, growing bored.
"Well, perhaps you shall," insisted Mr. Gadsbury. "You are an actor you say?"
"Tell me, do you know Moliére?"
"Why, I was a personal acquaintance of his!"
Mr. Gadsbury gave another of his dreadful laughs. "Oh, indeed, indeed! I often feel just the same toward the lad!" He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a small white rectangle. "Here is my calling card. I am an investor with the Royal Shakespeare Company."
Hook studied the card. He'd never seen such a thing; but he knew right away he had to have one for himself. "Shakespeare Company?"
"Perhaps you've not heard of us being from so far north as you say. We are fairly new. We've been searching high and low for someone to be our Tartuffe. You know the play I imagine?"
"As I stand before you now, sir, having always been an excellent judge of character, I can see that you would make a most splendid Tartuffe."
A smirk crawled across Hook's lips. "I strike you as an 'imposter', do I?"
"You strike me as a man who can slip easily into any identity he wishes. And you have a most pleasant voice for the stage. I think you ought to pay a visit to our directors and introduce yourself. They will adore you, I'm sure of it."
Oh the dulcet sounds of Flattery. How long it had been since it last danced about the Captain's ears? And he did not even need to shake a fist or his sword to obtain it!
"We will consider your offer, Mr. Gadsbury," stepped in Wendy pragmatically. "But we really must be on our way now."
"I do like a woman with direction!" Gadsbury smiled. "Please, do ring me with your decision, Mr. Scott. I'll be most anxious to hear of it."
"'Ring' you?" Hook cocked a brow.
"At any hour! And if I am not about, my secretary will take a message." He tipped his hat once more. "Good day to you, Mr. Scott. Miss Smythe."
"Mrs. Smythe," Wendy corrected him.
"Pardon me, ma'am," Gadsbury chuckled. "Ciao!"
"Jolly fun," said Wendy facetiously once Gadsbury had gone, "What are we to do now, 'Uncle' dear?"
"I believe you were to show us to a bank, 'Anne'."
"Why do you say it like that then? 'Twas your suggestion! I think it's a very fine name."
Hook pursed his lips. "Well…perhaps you can bring to it some much-needed humour."
To understand what transpired next, one must take into account that an entire culture of people who had lived most their lives in an era named for the primmest queen the country could recall would reasonably find the collective appearance of Wendy Darling and her rogue pirate captain to be quite a spectacle. Hook was no novice to gaping stares in his direction, but even he found little fondness in it now. And Wendy was, of course, highly discomfited, clinging to Hook's shirtsleeves.
But Hook took it in his stride. "Hmph. As if they'd not seen a 300-year-old pirate before."
Which reminded him…
"That is correct, is it not, darling? In which century are we?"
"We've just entered the 20th."
"Indeed? My word…"
But the keenest delights of the Industrial Age were soon to come.
With great relief did Wendy and Hook at last manage their way out of the park. And Hook, expecting the moderate pace of London street traffic which he had been accustomed to, was nearly knocked back onto his heels upon a noisy steel beast blasting past him on the road.
"Brimstone and gall!" he shouted, his sword unsheathed. "What devilry is THIS?"
"Stay your sword, James, 'tis quite alright," Wendy explained. "They are only automobiles."
Hook stood staring, eyes and mouth agape. "Auto-WHAT?"
"The 'horseless carriage' as some liken to call them instead. A very efficient means of travel nowadays."
As the Captain continued to watch these shiny miracles of machinery whiz by here and there, the corners of his open mouth curled upward. "Oh, oh…I MUST have one!"
Wendy rolled her eyes, all too familiar with the male preoccupation with these clattering motorcars. "Perhaps later…After we have secured some finances."
Thus began the long walk to find a bank outside the bustling city. It was everything Wendy could do to keep her companion's eyes toward where his feet tread instead of greedily affixed to every auto which drove past. She even had to dissuade him from spontaneously trying to commandeer one poor old man's vehicle!
Having thankfully found the bank in one piece a stone's throw later, Hook plopped his satchel of doubloons in front of the first available clerk with an expectant smile.
The clerk peered up from his balance sheets and over his aquiline nose to the strange couple.
"Can I help you?"
"I require an exchange," said Hook. "I hold some foreign coin, and I would like an equal amount of British pounds in return."
The clerk untied the satchel and let the coinage spill out onto the counter before him.
"I say!" He adjusted his reading specs and held up a shiny gold piece. "These must be worth a fortune!"
If Hook did not know any better – and he did not – he thought he saw a flicker of avarice in the old clerk's eyes at his booty.
"They are," said Hook firmly, plucking the coin from the man's fingers and tossing it back onto the pile. "Now then, go and fetch me my share of local currency, if you please."
Suddenly the clerk snapped back to reality. "Oh dear….I'm sorry, sir, but we wouldn't possibly have that much money in our entire vault!"
Hook shifted menacingly, and Wendy stepped in once more.
"Well, that's alright. We'll just take whatever you have and be on our way…."
"Absolutely not!" Hook snapped. "I shall not be short-shrifted of my spoils!"
The clerk trembled visibly under the Captain's ire. "No, indeed not, sir…..Erm, well, we can obtain the extra money for you, but I'm afraid it would take at least…two weeks."
"Two weeks!" Hook and Wendy exclaimed in unison.
"These are very rare pieces…It would break us and every other bank in London to exchange them. We would need some time to sort through them, examine them, and come up with an accurate amount for compensation."
"What are we to do until then?" Wendy moaned.
"I have an idea," said the clerk eagerly. "I can give you a loan, just enough to get you by comfortably for the next month. And when you receive your exchange, you can pay back the bank at any time."
"Oh, how lovely of you!" said Wendy, poking Hook in the arm. "Is that not lovely of him, Uncle James?"
"Yes, simply divine," mumbled Hook. "If that is the best you can do…"
With their generous loan in hand, Hook and Wendy left the bank with their own individual misgivings.
"I don't trust them a bit," griped Hook of his separation from his loot, looking over the freshly minted pounds.
"I'm not any happier about it than you," said Wendy. "I was hoping we could leave London sooner…"
She then sighed, taking his arm. "Well…I do think it's time to get us some proper attire, don't you?"