The Adventures of Peter Pan
Chapter 8. The Mermaids' Lagoon
If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely
pale colours suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool
begins to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another squeeze they
must go on fire. But just before they go on fire you see the lagoon. This is the nearest you
ever get to it on the mainland, just one heavenly moment; if there could be two moments
you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing.
The children often spent long summer days on this lagoon, swimming or floating most
of the time, playing the mermaid games in the water, and so forth. You must not think
from this that the mermaids were on friendly terms with them: on the contrary, it was
among Wendy's lasting regrets that all the time she was on the island she never had a
civil word from one of them. When she stole softly to the edge of the lagoon she might
see them by the score, especially on Marooners' Rock, where they loved to bask, combing
out their hair in a lazy way that quite irritated her; or she might even swim, on tiptoe as it
were, to within a yard of them, but then they saw her and dived, probably splashing her
with their tails, not by accident, but intentionally.
They treated all the boys in the same way, except of course Peter, who chatted with
them on Marooners' Rock by the hour, and sat on their tails when they got cheeky. He
gave Wendy one of their combs.
The most haunting time at which to see them is at the turn of the moon, when they utter
strange wailing cries; but the lagoon is dangerous for mortals then, and until the evening
of which we have now to tell, Wendy had never seen the lagoon by moonlight, less from
fear, for of course Peter would have accompanied her, than because she had strict rules
about every one being in bed by seven. She was often at the lagoon, however, on sunny
days after rain, when the mermaids come up in extraordinary numbers to play with their
bubbles. The bubbles of many colours made in rainbow water they treat as balls, hitting
them gaily from one to another with their tails, and trying to keep them in the rainbow till
they burst. The goals are at each end of the rainbow, and the keepers only are allowed to
use their hands. Sometimes a dozen of these games will be going on in the lagoon at a
time, and it is quite a pretty sight.
But the moment the children tried to join in they had to play by themselves, for the
mermaids immediately disappeared. Nevertheless we have proof that they secretly
watched the interlopers, and were not above taking an idea from them; for John
introduced a new way of hitting the bubble, with the head instead of the hand, and the
mermaids adopted it. This is the one mark that John has left on the Neverland.
It must also have been rather pretty to see the children resting on a rock for half an hour
after their mid-day meal. Wendy insisted on their doing this, and it had to be a real rest