Okay I wrote this a couple of months ago for a friend and liked it so much that I just had to post it. Hope you all like it too. WARNING: it's quite long for a one shot
St Bartholomew's School For Boys was a large brown-stone building in one of the more respectable suburbs of London. It was the kind of place where lower middle class families sent their children so that they could grow up to be bank clerks and department store floor managers.
The headmaster was one Mr William Small and never was a name better suited to a person. Mr Small was indeed small in every sense of the word; he was short and thin with little watery eyes a tight little mouth and neat little feet in sensible brown laced shoes. His hands were small, his head was small and even the gold pocket watch he kept on a chain at his waist was smaller than the average. The only thing about Mr Small which was not small was his voice, as one might expect from the master of a school of rowdy boys. Mr Small also had a big problem.
At the beginning of the summer Mr Boyd the English Master had retired and it was now only one week until the beginning of the autumn term and he still had no replacement. He was sitting at his desk on a rainy August Monday when there came a timid tap at the door and his secretary Miss Oakshot appeared. The poor girl looked a little dazed as she poked her head around the door.
"What is it Miss Oakshot?" he asked tiredly.
"There's a gentleman to see you headmaster."
"Who is he?"
"I don't know sir."
Mr Small looked at the young woman in visible irritation.
"Then do you know why he is here Miss Oakshot?"
"He didn't say sir."
Mr Small frowned deeply. Normally Miss Oakshot was a thoroughly reliable lady. It was then that he noticed her dazed look and the slight flush on her cheeks.
"I suppose you better show him in," he sighed, waving a hand at her.
She withdrew and Mr Small cast his eyes back down to the paper he had been studying when there came a hearty knock and the door opened to reveal a most unusual man indeed.
He was tall and broad shouldered with a head of thick dark curls cut quite short which only seemed to make them thicker and curlier like a bull's forelock. He also had a moustache and small beard of the same colour and delicately arched eyebrows. His face was rather tanned with high cheek bones, full lips and a long aquiline nose. Beneath his dark brows his eyes were a most entrancing shade of blue and shaded by thick lashes. He was dressed in a dark suit of heavy expensive cloth in a most excellent cut and he radiated a certain power so that he dominated the small office completely.
"Good afternoon sir. I trust that you are Mr Small?"
His voice was pleasant and cultured with round vowels and clipped consonants but with a certain relaxed drawl to it. It was a voice which commanded as much attention as his physical presence.
"I am sir," replied Mr Small, standing to meet his visitor. "And may I ask who you are?"
The man gave a deep bow.
"My name is Captain James Frederick Hook sir. I hear that you are in need of an English Master."
"Indeed we are sir, please sit down."
The man took the chair before Mr Small's desk, crossing his legs elegantly, his hands in his lap. There was a moment's silence while Mr Small considered what to say next.
"Captain? May I ask if that is a military or a naval title?" he said eventually.
"You may, however it is neither. I was in the service of the navy for a short time but was not appointed Captain until after I had resigned my commission."
The Captain smiled pleasantly at Mr Small who nodded.
"I see. Now tell me sir, what are your qualifications?"
The Captain handed over a thin folder which Mr Small opened and scanned carefully. Educated at Eton, graduate of Cambridge University, Masters Degree in English Literature and History; it was certainly an impressive resume. A summery of his naval record too, yes it was most impressive.
The little man closed the folder and laid it down on his desk to find Captain Hook watching him with sharp eyes and a broad smile upon his handsome face. It was rather like being smiled at by a shark Mr Small thought.
"And tell me, do you have any teaching experience?" asked the little man slightly nervously.
"During my time in the navy I spent some time educating some of my subordinates in both English and History, although I will admit that English is my special passion."
"And since then?"
Mr Small suppressed the shudder which ran up his spine as the corner of the Captain's mouth twitched with something akin to humour at this.
"Since then I have taught many people many things," he said softly.
The headmaster licked his lips nervously. Captain Hook watched him and then threw back his head and laughed a rich pleasant laugh that set the little man at ease.
"Do forgive me Headmaster," said Hook when he had finished laughing. "My sense of humour can be a little dark at times."
Mr Small nodded and held out his hand.
"I think we can make an exception for such humour considering your excellent record."
The Captain looked down at the hand stretched out to him and made an apologetic gesture with his head.
"Please excuse me sir but I cannot easily accept your kind gesture."
Mr Small frowned, not entirely understanding until the Captain raised his right hand from his lap where it had lain hidden by the edge of the desk. Instead of a graceful hand with long elegant fingers such as graced his other arm, protruding from his starched white shirt cuff was a great iron hook. It was large and heavy, smooth on the sides and forged to a wicked point at the end. The whole thing glinted in the grey watery sunlight of the office windows.
Mr Small stared at the appendage, a tiny ball of fear forming in his chest.
"A minor nautical accident sir," said the Captain's voice from somewhere across the room but the little man could only focus on the hook. His mind was revolving at twice its normal speed. The man was the perfect and indeed the only candidate and school started back in only a week. There was not nearly enough time to find someone else to do the job, but could he really release this man onto the boys with that thing attached to him?
"It is easily removed," said Hook pleasantly, his voice breaking through Small's reverie. "And it can be replaced with various tools, I simply find a hook most useful for day to day tasks. Besides," here he gave the headmaster another of his wide smiles, "it rather suits my name, don't you think?"
Mr Small looked up at him, his mind finally made up. He withdrew his right hand before extending his left and returning the Captain's smile.
"It certainly does captain."
It was known throughout the school that 2B were a problem class. St Bartholomew's was a relatively small school and news like 2B travelled fast.
They were a class of around twenty five lads who's ages ranged from eleven at the one end to fifteen at the other. They had been thrown together in their first year at school and because Mr Small believed in keeping friends together they had been kept together over the ensuing years. Unfortunately this one class had managed to include within itself all of the rowdiest elements in the school. Even the clever ones were trouble makers in 2B. This class was the reason for the sudden departure of the previous English Master and on the first day back at school they filed noisily into the English room only to find it empty.
As with any group of young boys left alone together for any length of time they quickly got down to trouble. There were shouts and screams and things flying through the air in no time at all when all of a sudden a great cry rang out through the room.
"Brimstone and gall! Desist in this racket immediately!"
A figure had risen from the large high backed chair at the front of the room which was facing away from the rest of the class and turned slightly towards the window. The figure towered over the slightly cowering boys, wrath burning through his cold blue eyes, his stance and manner brooking no argument.
"Sit!" he ordered fiercely and the boys all scrambled to find a seat as quickly as possible.
He surveyed the class in stony silence for a moment before smiling broadly around the room.
"That is better. Now, as you may have guessed, I am your new English Master. My name is Captain Hook."
There was a quiet snort from somewhere near the back of the room and someone muttered, "Bloody hell what a name," under their breath.
Hook's pleasant smile stilled on his face.
"Would the young gentleman who finds my name so interesting please stand up."
The whole room could sense that it was not a request and that his was a voice used to being obeyed. Silently one boy stood and licked his lips a little nervously.
"What is your name boy?" asked the Captain sweetly.
"Walker sir, Jason Walker."
"Come here Master Jason Walker."
Walker made his slow way to the front of the room, eyes on the floor. There was that in this man which told him that to insult him was not the cleverest of moves. When he reached the front of the room he glanced upwards into the blue eyes of his teacher.
"Well now Jason Walker, would you like to shake my hand?"
The boy looked up in confusion.
"Shake your hand sir?"
"Yes. It is really rather simple. Extend you right hand forward."
Walker hesitated for a moment before holding out his hand.
"Very good," said Hook kindly. "And now I shall extend my hand."
He drew his right hand out from behind his back where it had been sitting all this time. The classroom went suddenly still and very quiet at the sight of the terrible hook. The colour slowly seeped out of Walker's face and his hand began to tremble.
"Take my hand then," prompted the teacher and Walker stared up at him to see if he were joking but there was no mirth in the man's face.
The young boy's hand shook terribly as he reached out carefully and brushed the tips of his fingers against the flat side of the hook. He caught his breath at the touch of the cold metal and then, keeping out of the way of the vicious tip he grasped the hook more firmly.
"And now you say "How do you do sir?"" said Hook smoothly as he slowly shook the boy's hand.
"How do you do sir?" mumbled Walker.
"I do very well, thank you Walker. And how do you do?"
"Um very well sir."
"Excellent. You may sit down now Master Walker."
Walker released his grip on the iron hook and practically ran back to his chair. The other boys continued to stare at their new teacher in awe as he turned to face them all once more.
"I do not care if you are the son of a lord or that of a fishmonger, while you remain in this classroom you will obey my every word and will try to act like gentlemen," he smiled wickedly. "Unless you all wish to shake my hand as well."
So it was that class 2B were introduced to their new English Master, Captain James Hook.
The first two weeks went by in a kind of nervous calm. Dreadfully afraid of their new teacher the boys of 2B kept their mischief to a minimum for fear of angering him too greatly. However after his initial outburst Hook had been nothing but charming and friendly towards them. By the third week of the new term the boys had begun to relax around him enough to talk a little more in class.
Hook was an excellent teacher, of that there could be no doubt. He read books and poems to the class and asked for their opinions. He let them act out the gory scenes from Shakespeare and encouraged them to write their own short tales. They became very fond of the new teacher and his rather odd manner. But they were soon to discover that there was even more to the Captain than they had at first supposed.
It was a dreary Friday afternoon in mid September and Hook had handed out a sheet of questions on the poem they had been studying. However the weather had affected the class and they were more interested in watching the rain trail down the grey window pains than in concentrating on their work. A small boy named Jacobs gave a heavy sigh that seemed to echo around the still room.
"Is something wrong Jacobs?" enquired the teacher in his worryingly gentle voice.
Jacobs frowned at him and shrugged lightly. "It is just the weather sir."
"I see. The weather makes you disinclined to work does it?"
"Just a little sir," murmured the boy. "Please could we do something else?"
Hook raised one elegant eyebrow. "And what would you rather do Master Jacobs?"
The little boy thought about this for a while.
"When I was small my mother used to tell me stories on rainy afternoons," he said after a moment.
There was a snort of laughter from one of the older boys and Jacobs went red.
"Would you like me to tell you a story Jacobs?" asked the Captain softly.
Jacobs eyes lit up slightly.
"Would you sir?"
"If you would like." He looked around the room. "Would you like me to tell you a story boys?"
There were open mouths and silent nods from the class. Teachers did not tell stories as a rule.
"Very well, put away your books and tell me what kind of story you would like to hear."
"Tell us how you lost your hand sir!" said one boy.
"No, tell us about being a Captain!"
"Yes, tell us that," called Walker.
"Were you in the navy sir?"
Hook laughed at the sudden flurry of questions and requests. He stood from his great chair and came to stand before the class, perching himself on the edge of his desk.
"Yes Thompson, I was in the navy for a while, but that is not where I became a Captain."
There was quiet for a minute while the boys tried to think of how else one could become a ship's Captain. It was Walker who made the suggestion.
"Were you a pirate sir?" he asked enthusiastically.
"And what makes you think that I would be a pirate Walker?" he asked, his bright blue eyes sparkling.
"Well you look like a pirate sir," replied the boy unashamedly.
Hook threw back his head and laughed heartily.
"Well then," he said when he was finished, "I suppose if I look like a pirate then I must have been a pirate."
The boys nodded in approval; being a pirate was a lot better than being in the navy.
"And I'll bet you were the most ferocious pirate on the seven seas," continued Walker.
"Indeed I was lad. From Brighton to Bombay, everyone knew the name of Captain James Hook." He brandished his metal claw as he spoke and the class all grinned widely, imagining their teacher at the wheel of a great pirate galleon.
"No other pirate ever approached the dizzy heights of my villainy," announced the Captain, striking a dramatic pose to cheers and applause from the class. He put up his hand for silence and they hushed immediately. When he spoke next his voice was low as though imparting some great secret to them.
"But any true pirate will tell you that it is not the Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean where the greatest adventures are to be had."
"But where then?" whispered one excited boy.
"Come closer and I shall tell you."
The boys crept closer to the Captain's desk, entranced by his voice.
"The greatest adventures," he said, even lower so that they had to lean all the way forward to hear him, "are to be had in the waters which surround the Neverland."
"The Neverland," breathed the class. "But where is that?"
"Oh far, far away from here. It is a place not easily found, save by children. It was quite by accident that I ended up there, headed as I was for Tripoli."
"Is it an island?" asked Jacobs.
"Yes boy, a most wondrous island. There are forests and jungles and beaches and mountains all filled with the most amazing beasts you have ever seen. Animals and birds and insects and fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. And besides them the whole place is alive with faeries and sprites and gnomes and all manner of other magical creatures."
As he spoke he waved his hands through the air, conjuring fantastic images before the eyes of the enrapt boys. He smiled faintly at the effect his words had upon them.
"But," said one boy, coming out of his reverie, "surely you were not there alone sir?"
"Oh no, I had my crew with me."
"Your crew!" The boys practically bounced upon their chairs.
"My crew, quite the most terrible band of cut throats and villains as ever sailed the seas."
"Who were they?"
Hook smiled at the sea of eager faces looking up at him. Then he thrust his great hook towards one of the bigger boys with a long face and thick dark hair.
"There was Cecco," he said, "with pieces of eight in his ears, who once cut his name in letters of blood on the back of the prison governor of Goa."
The boy, who's real name was Paul Brodie, grinned widely at his being named a pirate.
"Who else?" called the boys.
Hook swirled around and pointed at another boy.
"Bill Jukes, with tattoos all over him."
This boy also grinned.
"Who else?" came the cry again.
"Cookson, said to be the evil Black Murphy's brother," said Hook, singling out another boy.
He did not wait for the cry this time but began to point out more boys, calling out names and terrible deeds that made their faces glow with roguish pride.
"Gentleman Starkey, a man with many dainty ways of killing his enemies. Noodler, who's hands always appear to be on backwards. Skylights, Alf Mason, Robert Mullins, the great Blackamoor!"
The Captain paused. "And last but not least," he said before turning on little Jacobs with his tubby belly and little round glasses. "Smee, my bo'sun, with the friendly and apologetic manner."
Jacobs seemed mightily pleased to have been included in the Captain's crew and he and the other chosen boys shared slightly smug looks over the heads of the others. However many of the smaller boys who had not been chosen for Hooks crew pouted and one called out, "But what about us little ones? Have you no place for us sir?"
"Certainly not," sneered the Captain, drawing himself up to his full height. "There are no children in my crew."
"But are there no children at all?" pleaded another boy.
Hook held up his hand for sudden silence as though he had just heard a noise. He peered around the room carefully before leaning forward and whispering surreptitiously.
"Pan!" he hissed.
"Pan?" the boys answered.
"Yes, Peter Pan. A boy of roughly the same age and impudence as young master Walker," he said indicating Jason who gave a suitably impish grin in return.
"Pan it was who robbed me of my hand, he and his little band of lost boys."
"And who were they?"
The Captain smiled again, showing all his white teeth.
"As I remember there were six of them. Tootles," he indicated a little brown haired boy with delicate features and large eyes. "The gentlest and saddest of the boys and perhaps the most easily tricked although he was very brave."
The boy seemed just as pleased to be one the lost boys as the others had been to be pirates.
"There was Nibs, a cheerful little lad," continued the Captain, turning to another boy, "and Slightly who was a bit conceited and always thought he could remember when he was a baby, before he came to the Neverland."
"Then there was Curly, who was forever in trouble," he nodded to another boy before coming to a halt again. He glanced around the room before he found what he was looking for. "Of course, I almost forgot… the twins."
Everyone turned to look at two fair haired young boys near the back of the class. They were indeed twins, not quite identical but close enough as to fool someone who did not know them well. They smiled similar smiles at the rest of the class.
But still the boys were not satisfied. There were about ten boys left who had not been singled out as either pirates or lost boys and were currently feeling very left out indeed.
"Were there no others on the island?" asked one.
The Captain seemed to consider this for a moment.
"There were, as I recall a tribe of redskins."
"And who were they?"
"They were lead by a chief called Great Big Little Panther," he said nodding to the boy who had asked about them. He whooped loudly in reply. "But there was also Running Bear, Swooping Eagle, Little Dancing Bull and Whispering Deer."
The little tribe of redskins whooped and called out their names, now there were only five boys left.
"And so we come to the most fearsome group to inhabit the island," said the Captain darkly. All the others turned to look at him as he gave a dramatic whisper. "The beasts!"
"What kind of beasts were they?"
"Oh there were lions and tigers and bears and elephants and one giant, evil crocodile. And they all would tramp around the island at night, hunting each other but never really meeting up. First would be the lost boys and their leader."
Hook indicated Walker once more who laughed merrily and, gathering his little tribe around him, began to lead them around the room and in and out between the desks.
"Behind them would come the pirates."
And the rag tag crew of bigger boys and little Jacobs began to creep along after Walker and his men.
"And then would come the redskins," called the Captain as he watched the five braves slink around, close to the floor, hot on the trail of the pirates. "And finally the beasts who were being followed by the boys."
And so the whole class circled the room, following one another but still keeping within their groups. As he watched the Captain allowed a little affectionate smile to catch the corner of his mouth before he continued.
"Round and around the island they would go. But all too soon it would be nearly sunrise. Peter and the lost boys would grow tired and go back to their home beneath the ground to sleep."
The small band of boys crawled under the desks in the back corner of the room.
"And all the pirates, realising that the boys were no longer around to be caught would come back to their ship," and he patted his desk where the pirates congregated and pretended to sleep.
"Then the redskins would see that they could no longer hunt under the cover of darkness and would return to their camp."
The tribe made a little circle by the window.
"And all the beasts of the island simply lay down where they were and slept in the early morning sunshine."
The beast boys who had been crawling and growling and trumpeting happily all lay down in the middle of the room and pretended to snore.
"And so," murmured the Captain softly, "the island would be quiet for a few hours before the adventures of the day began."
The boys all sat up again, waiting to hear what kinds of adventures these would be but at that moment they heard the clanging of the school bell and the teacher stood up.
"Time to go home boys," he said but they all looked rather disappointed.
"Will you tell us another story next week sir?" asked Brodie.
Hook put his head on one side and considered this.
"Perhaps," he said eventually, "if you behave yourselves. Now get going before I have to throw you out."
2B ran out of the class and left their teacher watching them as they spilled out into the school yard and home. He was smiling gently; he did so love to tell stories. Perhaps he would indulge both them and himself again.
All the next week 2B worked especially hard. They hoped that if they were on their best behaviour that the Captain would continue their game of last week. And so when Friday came they trotted eagerly into the class. However there was that in the manner of their teacher which still bothered them and so it took some minutes before anyone worked up the courage to ask him for another story. It was Walker who finally spoke.
Walker had fairly taken to his role as the impudent leader of the lost boys and felt that if anyone were to ask it might as well be him.
"Sir," he called, halfway through the lesson.
"Yes Walker, what can I do for you?"
"I was wondering if you might tell us another story sir?"
2B held their breath and watched the Captain's face. He remained still and silent for a while before nodding.
"Very well, you have been most diligent this week and so I will continue my tale if you wish."
There was a cheer from the class as they put away their books.
"Tell us about how you lost your hand," called Thompson, who had been made the redskin chief the week before.
"Oh yes, you said it was Peter Pan who cut it off," chimed in another boy.
"Very well," said the Captain, trying to keep his grin in check. "You see when I and my crew first arrived at the Neverland we went ashore to look around. While we were there we were spotted by one of Pan's men, I believe it was Slightly."
The lad who had been appointed as Slightly beamed.
"He went straight to Pan and told him all about it."
"And what did Pan say?" asked Walker curiously.
Hook quirked an eyebrow at him. "What do you think he said Walker?"
The boy thought for a moment. "I think he would have said, let us go fight these pirates for it will be a very grand adventure!"
Hook smiled. "Yes, that sounds about right. And so that afternoon, while we sat basking in the sunshine the little brat and his band attacked us."
As he described the ensuing battle Hook's voice rose and fell in a hypnotic tempo and his bright eyes flashed vibrantly. It was his strength as an orator which gave him so much power for there have been men in the past of impressive appearance who are completely useless when it comes to matters of speech and so lose favour. James Hook was quite the opposite and his voice could transport you farther than you ever thought your imagination could reach.
"I had the lad by the front of his shirt, my cutlass in my left hand pulled back and ready for the strike. I had rid him of his sword and thought he had no other weapon but just as I was about to strike he drew forth a dagger from his pocket and sliced at the hand which held him. I cried out in pain and lashed at the air with my sword, allowing him another strike at my arm. He flew up into the air to escape me then but my hand had not relinquished its grip on him and as he rose into the air he tore the last of the flesh he had not sawn through and thus tore my hand from my body."
All around there were gasps from the boys as they imagined the scene as their gallant teacher was maimed in such a brutal yet exciting way.
"Pan rose high into the air, laughing all the while. As he hovered over the sea he happened to spy a fearsome crocodile languishing in the shallows. "You there!" he called to it. "I have something for you!" And before I could so much as order the canon fired at the wretched scamp he had tossed my right hand down to the beast which swallowed it whole and sat there in the water, licking its lips in the hopes of getting a larger sample. Pan crowd in delight and called his men to him as they flew back to the mainland and left me on deck bleeding and with only one fist to shake in rage."
Hook sat back and watched the faces of the class as they digested the tale. Their scrubbed countenances showed horror, excitement and a little touch of awe. He allowed himself a little smile, he was enjoying himself tremendously.
"And so I ended up with my lovely hook," he finished smoothly. "And a feral croc on my tail, looking for another taste of me. And now it is quite time for you to finish your lesson before the bell. Get along with you."
Moaning loudly that they wanted another story the boys trudged back to their desks.
"Quiet you scabrous dogs!" he called over their complaints. "Or there will be no story next week."
There was sudden studious silence. The Captain settled back in his chair and watched them work for a while. It had been a good story, much better than the actual mundane event but then that is why we have stories after all.
They became known as Hook's Crew although they themselves would have pointed out the divisions within the class. However the name was a good one; Hook was their Captain and as his men they worshipped him.
When other boys and teachers mocked his deformity they were treated with the most sullen and terrible contempt that they often begged for forgiveness. When he was made rugby coach for the younger boys most of 2B managed to get into the team and nicknamed themselves the Pirates. They spoke of his stories only to each other, going over the most exciting and adventurous elements and acting them out in a shady corner of the school yard. Friday was their official day for stories when very little work was done.
"Do you tell your stories to other classes sir?" asked Brodie one day.
The Captain shook his head like a bull ridding himself of a fly on his nose.
"No I do not," he replied.
"Why not sir?"
"Because they have never asked me to," was all he said.
Apparently satisfied that they alone were the recipients of his tales the class went back to work.
Another day they he had just finished reciting yet another adventure when one of the lost boys raised his hand. He was Tootles, although his real name was Jim Horner.
"Please sir," he said. "Are there no girls in the Neverland?"
"Of course there are Horner," scoffed Thompson. "Do you not remember Princess Tiger Lily of my tribe?"
"And there are the mermaids," chimed in one of the miniature pirates, "who drown you if you get too close."
"And the faeries of course," rounded off Walker. "Like Tinkerbell."
"Yes," said Horner, his face contorted in youthful concentration. "But there are no girls amongst the lost boys. Why is that?"
"Because girls do not like adventures," said a boy called Alberts, a precocious child who had been allotted the role of Slightly.
"No, no Alberts," said Hook smiling kindly at Horner. He had been rather amused by the argument, amazed at how quickly even the older boys had accepted his stories as a kind of alternate reality to London where they themselves existed in the innocence of youthful games and dreams.
"The reason why there are no lost girls is that girls are far too clever to fall out of their prams as boys do. That is how they get to Neveralnd. When a boy falls out of his pram, if he is not claimed in seven days then he is sent to the Neverland."
Horner looked a little sad at this. He flinched a little as the Captain reached out towards him, patting him lightly on the shoulder.
"Perhaps," said the Captain softly, "I should tell you about the Wendy-lady."
"The Wendy-lady," breathed Horner who really was a sweet boy and by far the littlest in the class. "But what is that?"
Hook glanced at the clock then.
"Remind me next week and I shall tell you all about her," he said gently even as the bell began to ring.
All that next week the boys could think of only one thing; the Wendy-lady. Whatever it was it sounded terribly exotic and exciting. They were simply bursting at the seams by the time it came to Friday. This time they did not even pretend to start working but instead sat around Hook's desk, waiting expectantly.
"Did you want something boys?" he asked, feigning ignorance.
"You promised to tell us about the Wendy-lady sir," said Horner bravely.
"Did I?" he asked innocently. "Are you sure boy?"
"You most certainly did," said Walker defiantly, standing up for the little lost boy.
The teacher's face broke into one of those wide handsome grins and his eyes flashed with glee.
"Well then if I promised then I must do as I said. I am a man of my word after all."
And so Hook settled himself back in his large comfortable chair and began to tell the story.
"Well it so happened that a rumour swept through the island that Peter Pan was leaving the Neverland every night in order to go to London."
"What was he doing?"
"He had found a story teller."
"A story teller," repeated the boys.
"Yes. Peter had come across a certain nursery window in London where he could listen to stories every night, stories he could tell the lost boys."
"What kind of stories were they sir?"
"Oh there were many different stories. There were stories about princes and princesses, about magic and adventure and great monsters and brave heroes. But most of the stories were about the adventures of a boy named Peter and his great nemesis, a pirate captain named,"
"Hook!" provided the boys joyously. It never bothered them that their teacher was the villain in most of these tales. He was their hero and a dashing pirate Captain to boot so it never really mattered to them.
Hook smiled at their cry. "Yes, that was his name. Well one night Peter spoke to the story teller and convinced she and her brothers to come to the Neverland and be a mother to the lost boys and tell stories about him. Her name was Wendy Moira Angela Darling and her brothers were called John and Michael."
Hook had pronounced the name carefully and all the boys could sense the importance of this girl through her name alone.
"What did she look like sir?" asked little Horner with wide eyed seriousness.
Hook thought carefully for minute. "She was quite small, but then she was no older than you Horner. She had long golden hair, a little bud of a mouth and very large very blue eyes the colour of the sky on a summer's day."
The boys took this in and Horner nodded sagely.
"She sounds a very excellent lady," he said matter-of-factly.
"Yes she was," continued the Captain. "A very excellent lady indeed. But when the small party reached the Neverland they were spotted by the pirates."
"What did you do sir?"
"We opened fire of course, dispersing them. I couldn't have Pan bringing even more stupid brats to the island to annoy me with could I?"
" Peter and the boys went one way and Wendy went the other. Of course Pan sent that jealous little firefly Tinkerbell after the girl to see that she got safely to the lost boys. But Tinkerbell did not like Wendy and so she played a trick. She found the boys first and told them that there was a great white bird heading in their direction called a Wendy-bird and that Peter had ordered them to shoot it down."
The six lost boys got excitedly to their feet.
"Of course we would do anything that Peter told us," said Alberts proudly.
"Of course," said Hook. "And so they took their little bows and arrows and aimed high into the sky where they could see the Wendy-bird coming."
The boys threaded their imaginary bows, aiming out of the window.
"Fire!" called the Captain and they fired all at once.
"I got it!" cried little Horner gleefully then stopped when he realised what he had done. "Oh no."
"Yes," said Hook softly. "Tootles got the Wendy-bird but when it fell to the ground they saw that it was not a bird at all but a lady and Tootles was very sorry indeed for what he had done."
"Was she dead sir?" murmured Horner, almost in tears.
The Captain smiled kindly down at the little lad before picking him up easily and settling him in his lap.
"No Horner she was not dead. She had a lucky escape but Pan was very angry and banished the jealous faerie for playing such a hateful trick."
"Was Tinkerbell banished forever sir?" asked Walker.
"No, not forever, Pan could not quite bring himself to that. She was banished for a week as punishment for what she had done."
The boys cheered in relief both that the naughty faerie was not gone for good and that the Wendy-lady had not died by Tootles arrow.
From then on Hook told more stories with the Wendy-lady and she quickly became as favourite a character as Hook himself or the infamous Pan.
Time passed quickly at St Bartholomew's and before the boys knew it Christmas had come and gone and Easter too. Hook's rugby team were the pride of the school and had won several trophies and a formidable reputation, although that hadn't stopped other teachers complaining about 2B.
"Mr Cribbins the Chemistry Master is almost at his wits end, or so he tells me," Mr Small told the Captain.
The Headmaster had called Hook into his office for a little chat about 2B although they kept getting interrupted by Miss Oakshot who kept finding excuses to poke her head around the door in order to stare at the back of the Captain's head.
"I'm afraid that what they get up to in chemistry lessons is no affair of mine headmaster," said Hook levelly. "I can honestly say that I never have any trouble with them."
"So I've noticed," muttered Mr Small. "In fact I am tempted to say that that is part of the problem."
Mr Small shifted uncomfortably under the Captain's keen gaze, his pleasant smile doing little to relax the older man.
"Well it's just that they talk of nothing but you," he said. "It's always Captain Hook or rugby or something along those lines. I hear that they have secret code names and sit in distinct groups. It is all highly disconcerting."
Hook gave an easy shrug.
"They like me," was his simple reply. "They are good enough boys and they do their lessons so I let them play their little games."
"Hmm," was all the headmaster said. He was beginning to regret having ever hired Hook. It was not that the man was a nuisance or a bad teacher, indeed it was not just 2B's marks which had improved since he had become English Master. There was just something off-putting about him and the more polite he was the more disconcerting he became.
However Mr Small had a plan that ought to see out the end of the year in relative sanity without having any more staff leave in a hurry.
"At the end of term," he said, changing the subject, "it is our custom to have a little show for the parents and a few special guests. You know; musical recitals, readings, physical demonstrations, things like that. To show all the splendid work that the boys have been doing throughout the year. Occasionally there is a short play, written and performed by the boys. I wondered if we might give such a little project to 2B? It will keep their spirits up now that there are no more scheduled rugby matches for the rest of the term. What do you think?"
If Mr Small had thought that this announcement would somehow annoy or upset the Captain he was very much mistaken. Hook merely nodded in agreement.
"I think it is an excellent idea Headmaster," he replied. "2B are such an imaginative bunch, I'm sure they can come up with something which will be of interest."
As the Captain left his office Mr Small watched him go and bit his lip.
"I'm sure they will," he said to himself. "The question is will it be suitable to show the parents?"
Hook announced the new project that very day when he had finished telling them their story. It was the one about how he lost his hand again as it was one of their favourites and each time he told it the battle grew wilder and more and more frenzied, causing the boys to jump about and shout and cheer as punctuation to each sword thrust or burst of cannon fire.
When they had quite calmed down and were once more seated at their desks he informed them of the Headmaster's plan.
"I will give you over the weekend to think about it and you can start work on Monday. You have no more tests to take so I see no reason why you can't work on it in class time."
"What is it supposed to be about sir?" asked Walker.
"Anything you like boys, anything you like."
"How long does it have to be?"
"I wouldn't stretch it much more than half an hour if I were you. Forty five minutes if you really have to."
There was a general nodding of heads before Hook released them for the weekend.
When they came back on Monday Hook asked them if they had decided what they were going to write about and they said they had. However when he asked them what it was they shook their heads and told him it was to be a surprise. So he merely handed them paper and allowed them to huddle together on the floor in order to begin writing their play.
A low level muttering escaped the group as they dictated and argued quietly amongst themselves. However there was an odd determination about them that rather unnerved the Captain and he began to wonder exactly what it was they were writing about.
This pattern of behaviour continued for some weeks, interrupted only for the Friday story and the occasional request to the Captain for the correct spelling of one or two of the more difficult words.
The play-writing spilled over into their other classes too as they surreptitiously penned odd pages between lines of arithmetic or passed plot notes across the desks when they were supposed to be watching an experiment. Some of the teachers complained but the Headmaster was unwilling to punish 2B as he feared it would be pointed out that this had all been his idea in the first place.
Four weeks before the play was due to be performed 2B filed into English on a bright and sunny Friday and confounded their teacher by informing him that they did not wish to hear a story that day.
"Do you not care for my tales any longer?" asked the Captain in surprise and with a touch of sadness in his voice. His fine eyebrows arched and his firm mouth drooped slightly at the corners at their announcement.
"Of course we do sir," said Jacobs, adjusting his glasses. "But we have a surprise for you."
As he spoke there was a rummaging behind backs and finally a slim A4 folio was placed on his desk. It was tied with red string and neatly printed on its light green cover were the words, "The Adventures of Peter Pan and the Pirates, by Class 2B".
"It's our script sir," piped up Walker enthusiastically. "We typed it all up specially. Miss Oakshot let us use her type-writer, she was ever so nice about it sir."
Hook had remained silent, staring at the script. Then he picked it up and flipped it open, carefully turning the pages as his eyes skimmed the neatly typed print. Here it was, perfectly captured in their childish imaginations; the Neverland and all it entailed. There were lost boys and pirates and the Wendy-lady and Tinkerbell and the redskins and the wild beasts. All the stories he had told them set down in carefully considered prose and offered up for his consideration.
"Do you like it sir?" asked Jacobs nervously.
He looked up at them, his blue eyes shinning with an odd light so that he seemed about to cry.
"Oh boys," he murmured. "It is quite the most marvellous thing I have ever seen."
"Do you really mean that sir?"
"I do, with all my heart I do."
There was a comfortable silence while most of the class blushed. It had taken such a long time to piece together all of the Captain's stories and turn them into something they could perform on stage that they were most pleased to see that their hard work had been recognised.
When a suitable period of silence had elapsed the Captain spoke again. His voice had returned to its usual business-like tone and he smiled broadly at the class.
"And who is to perform this masterpiece may I ask?"
"Why us of course!" said Alberts indignantly. "We already know all our parts."
"I see." The Captain frowned. "But you have here in your script a Wendy-lady and yet I do not see a girl amongst you. How then are you to achieve that?"
A smile spread from one side of the class to the other. It was Brodie who explained.
"Mr Summers the Music Master has a daughter aged eleven who quite fits your description of the Wendy-lady sir. He has already agreed that she might take part in our play."
"Most ingenious," replied the teacher. "But there is a narrator too, who is to play him?"
"I am sir," said a boy called Jenkins.
"You Jenkins? But I thought you were the great redskin brave Running Bear?"
The boy nodded. "Yes sir I am he but for the purposes of the play I am to be the narrator and there are only to be three redskin braves."
"And no Tiger Lily," said Hook, scanning the pages once more.
"No sir. We decided we couldn't stage most of the stories with her in. Besides we didn't have another girl to play her and the Wendy-lady is much more important."
Hook nodded solemnly. "Who will paint the scenery and make the costumes?"
"Us," chorused the boys.
"And who is to direct this little work?"
There was quiet again for a while before Jacobs spoke up.
"Actually we were hoping that you might direct it sir," he said.
Hook looked suddenly quite emotional again and he smiled beautifully at his class.
"I can think of no greater honour," he said.
"Really?" said Walker, scratching his head. "Because there's something else we were hoping you might do which we thought you'd enjoy even more."
The show, mused Mr Small, had been decidedly dull so far. It was not that the boys of his school were not talented in their many fields, it was simply that he had seen it all several times before. As apparently had the parents who all looked bored out of their minds, only to plaster on an encouraging smile when their own son approached the footlights.
He glanced down at his flimsy paper programme and saw that the time was rapidly approaching when 2B were to perform their play. That worried him. No one had been allowed to witness the rehearsals for this play and although Captain Hook had assured him that he had the production well in hand Mr Small could not help but feel uneasy. He glanced around the room and wondered if a call of "fire" at an appropriate moment might call a halt to the whole thing without too much scandal.
As he was attempting to calculate a good escape strategy the currant turn left the stage to slightly apathetic applause and there was a good deal of rustling behind the curtain. Finally a sandy haired boy that Mr Small thought was called Jenkins walked out onto the stage and the Headmaster closed his eyes.
"The Adventures of Peter Pan and the Pirates, A play by Class 2B," announced the lad before going to stand in the bottom right hand corner of the stage.
"If you could see the mind of a child," said the little boy, barely glancing at the script in his hands, "it would be like looking into a chest of drawers, full of strange bits and pieces; childish secrets, memories of your first day of school and thoughts about when mother is going to serve your favourite chocolate pudding for tea."
Jenkins paused to observe the faces of the audience who all seemed slightly puzzled by this introduction. After a moment he continued.
"Hidden away in a corner of all of that jumble is the make-believe world of Neverland."
As he spoke the curtain drew back to reveal a brightly painted backdrop. The cloth stretched across the wide stage and showed a beach at one end with golden sands and crystal blue waters with great grey rocks and a pirate ship in the distance. This merged into the vivid shapes of a jungle, with tall grasses and trailing creepers all in warm shades of green. This in turn became a thick leafy forest with the high brown trunks of many trees and the hulking forms of misty purple mountains in the background and dotted all over the canvas were the sparkling blue and white trails of faeries. The audience gasped as they stared, for not since their own childhoods had they seen anything so magnificent.
Jenkins gave them a moment to drink it all in before he continued.
"This island is inhabited by many strange people, constantly on the move. If you put your ear to the ground you can hear the whole island buzzing with activity. Lost boys out looking for beasts to play with and torment, pirates looking for lost boys, redskins looking for pirates and beasts looking for redskins and all of them looking for adventure."
Just as the audience had become accustomed to looking at an empty stage it suddenly began to fill with people as 2B in their hand-made costumes began to appear. Jenkins introduced them all in much the same words as Hook had introduced them to the class. The redskins were first, the three boys slinking across the stage in war paint and with feathers in their hair. Then came the beasts; a lion, a tiger, a bear, an elephant and a great and terrible crocodile. They milled about the stage before disappearing into the wings to be replaced by the lost boys dressed in little bear skins and quite adorable, even with daggers clutched in their fists and with Walker at their head in a suit of green leaves. They too disappeared only to be replaced by the pirates in torn shirts and ripped trousers with scarves on their heads and swords in their belts.
Jenkins read out their names and their bloody deeds. But unlike the others the pirates paused in their travel across the stage.
"And at the back of this gang of villains," intoned Jenkins, "is the blackest and most terrifying of all the pirates. He treats his men like dogs and as dogs they obey him utterly. His name is Captain James Hook."
Mr Small nearly rocketed out of his chair as the English Master himself appeared on stage beside his class. He wore a coat of blood red with fine gold frogging and a hat to match with a great white plume in it. His hair reached past his shoulders and was dressed in long tight curls. He wore a white silk shirt with many ruffles at both the cuffs and the neck and britches of sapphire blue. On his feet he wore wide topped leather boots and at his side, glinting in the glare of the footlights was the hook. He gave a deep and slightly mocking bow to the audience.
The poor headmaster glanced around to see if anyone looked likely to call the police but they all seemed quite entranced. The spell only deepened when Hook opened his mouth.
"Sing up lads," he called to his men. "Let me hear you!"
The boys at once began to sing a rag tag pirate chorus.
"Avast below, yo ho, heave to,
A pirating we go,
And if we're parted by a shot,
We're sure to meet below!"
"Yo ho, yo ho, the pirates life,
The flag of skull and bones,
A merry hour, a hempen rope,
And hey for Davey Jones."
"Avast below, when I appear,
By fear they're overtook,
Nothing's left upon the bones when you,
Have shaken hands with Hook."
When they had finished the audience applauded wildly and Mr Small felt himself clapping alongside them. They were all well and truly hooked. But no sooner had the song finished than the lost boys were back with their own captain and there was a battle for, as Jenkins explained to the eager parents, Hook and Pan were great enemies.
There were many battles after that; some between boys and pirates, others between pirates and redskins, redskins and boys, boys and beasts and other such things. There were games and adventures and songs and stories, oh so many stories!
Little Miss Summers was quite lovely in her little blue nightgown and when it was all done and the fearsome pirate had been chased away by the crocodile the audience let their applause come from the soles of their feet as they stood as one. They clapped even harder when Miss Summers awarded brave Peter Pan a kiss on the cheek and even harder if possible when Captain Hook returned to take his bow and swept off his plumed hat, kissing the little girl's hand and applauding the boys himself.
As the curtain closed the show ended and an open mouthed Mr Small found himself surrounded by delighted parents who had no idea that St Bartholomew's was capable of inspiring such imagination.
But there was one member of the audience who did not stay behind to drink sherry and chatter with the other parents. She slipped quietly away behind the scenes without notice.
The boys were in the rugby changing rooms which had been turned into a dressing room for this evening's performance. They were running around shouting and laughing and fighting, half in and half out of costume.
Jacobs and one of the twins had slipped outside into the corridor with the intention of going to clear away some of the props when they met a lady coming down the passageway. She was quite the loveliest lady that either of them thought they had ever seen. She was tall and slim with long golden hair all piled up on her head. She had a very pretty face with a little bud of a mouth, a delicate nose and bright blue eyes. She wore a pale blue gown trimmed with white and she was smiling at them.
"Well now," she said when she saw them. "Would you happen to be two of the boys who just put on that marvellous play?"
Her voice was soft and warm and her words made the boys blush.
"Um yes ma'm," murmured the twin, looking at the ground.
"Wonderful," she said. "In that case could you tell me where I might find the gallant Captain?"
"You want to see Captain Hook?" asked Jacobs.
"If that wouldn't be too much trouble."
Jacobs thought about it for a minute.
"Well we can't let just anyone talk to the Captain," he told her. "You will have to be our prisoner."
"I see," said the lady. "Very well then. If, as a prisoner I may see the Captain then a prisoner I shall have to be."
"We shall have to bind you," warned the twin.
"Then please do so."
She regarded them with soft eyes as they wound an imaginary cord around her wrists, tying them behind her.
"Follow me," said Jacobs when they were done and so the two boys led the lady back to the changing room.
When they reached the door Jacobs knocked and it was answered by Brodie.
"We have captured a lady," Jacobs told him. "She says she wants to talk to the Captain. Do we have permission to come aboard?"
Brody stuck his head back inside a moment then returned.
"The Captain says bring in the prisoner Mr Smee."
Jacobs and the twin led the lady inside. Boys lined either side of the room, watching carefully as she moved towards the far end of the room where the Captain sat, like a king. He was more or less returned to his normal self now except that he still wore his plumed hat. As the little party approached him he regarded Jacobs solemnly.
"You have a prisoner Mr Smee?" he said.
"Yes sir. We caught her trying to sneak aboard ship. She says she wants to talk to you."
The Captain turned his gaze to the lady.
"Is this true?" he asked.
"I'm afraid so," she replied airily.
"And why Madam were you attempting to board my ship?"
"Why, so that I might offer my heartiest congratulations to you and your crew."
She beamed around the room as she spoke, making several boys blush.
"I see," said the Captain. "Well that is an entirely different matter."
He stood suddenly and moved towards her with a brilliant smile.
"Boys," he said, "who do you think this is?"
"A lady," piped Horner.
"That's right, but what kind of lady?"
"A beautiful lady," suggested someone and she coloured a little while the Captain grinned.
"Yes, but what else?"
"Um, a kind lady?"
"That too. Anything more?"
"A lovely lady?"
There was silence while they tried to think of what else she could be. It was Horner who finally got it.
"She is a Wendy-lady!" he exclaimed.
"Exactly right Horner," beamed the Captain, though he was only looking at the lady. "And not just any Wendy-lady." He leaned forward and placed a kiss on her cheek. "This is my Wendy-lady. Boys I would like you all to meet my wife, Mrs Wendy Hook."
All the boys looked suitably impressed. They had not known that their teacher was married but if he was then it made perfect sense that he be married to her.
"Would you care to meet the crew my dear?" asked Hook and his wife nodded.
"Most certainly," she replied.
"Line up lads!" called the Captain and there was a scramble while 2B got themselves in order.
Hook turned to his wife and held out his arm.
"Madam," he said but she only shook her head.
"I'm afraid I cannot take your arm Captain," she said sadly.
"But why not?" he asked in puzzlement.
"Well when I was taken prisoner my guards found need to bind me and I am not able to free myself from their ropes."
Hook threw back his head and laughed heartily.
"Excellent!" he cried. "Most excellent. You see madam, my boys are thorough if nothing else," and leaning down he pretended to cut the ropes with a swipe of his claw.
Her hands now free Wendy was able to take her husband's arm and be introduced to his troops. They all bowed to the Wendy-lady and she smiled sweetly on them all, from the smallest lost boy to the grubbiest pirate. When they reached the end of the line the precocious little Alberts tugged on her arm and she turned to him.
"What is it?" she asked kindly.
"Please ma'm, do you tell stories too?" he asked.
"Indeed she does my lad," boomed Hook cheerily. "And what is more, her stories are one hundred times better than mine."
"It can't be true sir!" chorused the boys loyally.
"Oh but it is," he said.
"Will you tell us a story Wendy-lady?" asked Walker.
Wendy looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.
"Well that depends on the kind of story you wish to hear," she told him sweetly.
"Tell us about how Peter brought the Wendy-lady the Neverland!" shouted someone and a broad smile spread across her pretty features.
"Oh but that is one of my favourite stories," she said and settling herself down on one of the benches she began to tell the story, the boys on the floor at her feet and her husband behind them, watching her with proud and loving eyes.
Wendy's story was different from the way Hook told it. For one thing she knew more about what had transpired in that London nursery before the fateful flight to Neverland. Her voice was soft and pleasant and reminded the boys of their mothers, if their mothers had ever been any good at telling stories. When she told of flying through the sky to that magical island her voice was full of joy and she laughed freely and when she told of how poor Tootles was tricked by the wily Tinkerbell her eyes were filled with tears.
"But the Wendy was not dead," she said softly. "For the arrow had struck off the kiss which Peter had given to her and as we all know, a kiss is a powerful thing. And so the Wendy-lady became the lost boys mother and they all had many adventures together."
A cheer went up around the changing room and as Wendy stood she scolded them into silence.
"Shush now," she said. "What would your parents think if they heard such a racket? Now off with you for everyone is waiting to take you home."
She herded them towards the door and the loving arms of their parents and guardians.
"But," said Alberts above the rabble, "how did the Wendy-lady end up marrying the Captain?"
Wendy went bright red at the question and was about to reply when Hook slid his arm around her waist.
"That is quite a different story, and one for another occasion I think," he said softly, making her blush more.
The boy frowned at them before running out the door behind his friends.
"Will you visit us again and tell more stories lady?" enquired Horner from the doorway.
"Of course I shall," said Wendy gently and he too disappeared with a broad smile.
Alone in the changing room Hook turned to his wife and smiled at her.
"You are quite the story teller my dear," he said softly.
"And you are quite the dashing pirate captain," she replied as he kissed her cheek.
"Did Jane enjoy herself?" he asked.
"Oh yes, she was quite beside herself with excitement. I left her with Smee."
"Good, I'm glad."
There was an odd silence for a few moments before Wendy spoke once more.
"James," she said.
"Yes my dear?"
"What happens when they grow up and forget?"
He looked around the room a little wistfully. There were still bits of costume lying in corners, consorting with left-over rugby socks and muddy and misplaced boots. He took them all in before drawing his wife more closely to him.
"There will always be people in need of a story and an adventure," he murmured into her hair.
She laughed. "You know sometimes my darling I think that you are more Peter Pan than grown up."
"And sometimes," he replied, "you are too good at seeing things which are not really there." He sighed theatrically. "However I shall forgive you on one condition."
"And what is that?" She looked up at him through her eyelashes.
"That you stop talking and give me a kiss," he said.
She chuckled softly in the back of her throat. "You soppy old codfish," she scolded before standing on tiptoe to kiss him sweetly on the mouth.
When they broke apart she threaded her arm through his.
"It's time to go home," she murmured and he nodded, extinguishing the lamp as he left.
Neither of them saw the twinkling little white light that darted past the window or the shadow which flitted there for a moment before disappearing into the evening darkness of London. But as Captain Hook sat in his carriage on the way home, his little daughter asleep in his arms and his wife curled into his side he was sure he faintly heard, somewhere in the distance the sound of someone crowing and he smiled.