The Little White Bird
Sometimes the little boy who calls me father brings me an invitation from his mother: "I shall be so pleased if you will come and see me," and I always reply in some such words as these: "Dear madam, I decline." And if David asks why I decline, I explain that it is because I have no desire to meet the woman.
"Come this time, father," he urged lately, "for it is her birthday, and she is twenty-six," which is so great an age to David, that I think he fears she cannot last much longer.
"Twenty-six, is she, David?" I replied. "Tell her I said she looks more."
I had my delicious dream that night. I dreamt that I too was twenty-six, which was a long time ago, and that I took train to a place called my home, whose whereabouts I see not in my waking hours, and when I alighted at the station a dear lost love was waiting for me, and we went away together. She met me in no ecstasy of emotion, nor was I surprised to find her there; it was as if we had been married for years and parted for a day. I like to think that I gave her some of the things to carry.
The Little White Bird is a British novel by J. M. Barrie, ranging in tone from fantasy and whimsy to social comedy with dark, aggressive undertones. It was published in November 1902 by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and Scribner's in the US, although the latter had released it serially in the monthly Scribner's Magazine from August to November. The book attained prominence and longevity thanks to several chapters written in a softer tone than the rest of the book, which introduced the character and mythology of Peter Pan. In 1906 those chapters were published separately as a children's book, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. The Peter Pan story began as one chapter and grew to an "elaborate book-within-a-book" of more than one hundred pages during the four years Barrie worked on The Little White Bird.
The complete book has also been published under the title The Little White Bird, or Adventures in Kensington Gardens.
I ought to mention here that the following is our way with a story: First, I tell it to him, and then he tells it to me, the understanding being that it is quite a different story; and then I retell it with his additions, and so we go on until no one could say whether it is more his story or mine. In this story of Peter Pan, for instance, the bald narrative and most of the moral reflections are mine, though not all, for this boy can be a stern moralist, but the interesting bits about the ways and customs of babies in the bird-stage are mostly reminiscences of David's, recalled by pressing his hands to his temples and thinking hard.
Well, Peter Pan got out by the window, which had no bars. Standing on the ledge he could see trees far away, which were doubtless the Kensington Gardens, and the moment he saw them he entirely forgot that he was now a little boy in a nightgown, and away he flew, right over the houses to the Gardens. It is wonderful that he could fly without wings, but the place itched tremendously, and, perhaps we could all fly if we were as dead- confident-sure of our capacity to do it as was bold Peter Pan that evening.
He alighted gaily on the open sward, between the Baby's Palace and the Serpentine, and the first thing he did was to lie on his back and kick. He was quite unaware already that he had ever been human, and thought he was a bird, even in appearance, just the same as in his early days, and when he tried to catch a fly he did not understand that the reason he missed it was because he had attempted to seize it with his hand, which, of course, a bird never does. He saw, however, that it must be past Lock-out Time, for there were a good many fairies about, all too busy to notice him; they were getting breakfast ready, milking their cows, drawing water, and so on, and the sight of the water-pails made him thirsty, so he flew over to the Round Pond to have a drink. He stooped, and dipped his beak in the pond; he thought it was his beak, but, of course, it was only his nose, and, therefore, very little water came up, and that not so refreshing as usual, so next he tried a puddle, and he fell flop into it. When a real bird falls in flop, he spreads out his feathers and pecks them dry, but Peter could not remember what was the thing to do, and he decided, rather sulkily, to go to sleep on the weeping beech in the Baby Walk.
- I David and I Set Forth Upon a Journey
- II The Little Nursery Governess
- III Her Marriage, Her Clothes, Her Appetite, and an Inventory of Her Furniture
- IV A Night-Piece
- V The Fight For Timothy
- VI A Shock
- VII The Last of Timothy
- VIII The Inconsiderate Waiter
- IX A Confirmed Spinster
- X Sporting Reflections
- XI The Runaway Perambulator
- XII The Pleasantest Club in London
- XIII The Grand Tour of the Gardens
- XIV Peter Pan
- XV The Thrush's Nest
- XVI Lock-Out Time
- XVII The Little House
- XVIII Peter's Goat
- XIX An Interloper
- XX David and Porthos Compared
- XXI William Paterson
- XXII Joey
- XXIII Pilkington's
- XXIV Barbara
- XXV The Cricket Match
- XXVI The Dedication