The Adventures of Peter Pan HTML version

Chapter 12. The Children Are Carried Off
The pirate attack had been a complete surprise: a sure proof that the unscrupulous Hook
had conducted it improperly, for to surprise redskins fairly is beyond the wit of the white
By all the unwritten laws of savage warfare it is always the redskin who attacks, and
with the wiliness of his race he does it just before the dawn, at which time he knows the
courage of the whites to be at its lowest ebb. The white men have in the meantime made a
rude stockade on the summit of yonder undulating ground, at the foot of which a stream
runs, for it is destruction to be too far from water. There they await the onslaught, the
inexperienced ones clutching their revolvers and treading on twigs, but the old hands
sleeping tranquilly until just before the dawn. Through the long black night the savage
scouts wriggle, snake-like, among the grass without stirring a blade. The brushwood
closes behind them, as silently as sand into which a mole has dived. Not a sound is to be
heard, save when they give vent to a wonderful imitation of the lonely call of the coyote.
The cry is answered by other braves; and some of them do it even better than the coyotes,
who are not very good at it. So the chill hours wear on, and the long suspense is horribly
trying to the paleface who has to live through it for the first time; but to the trained hand
those ghastly calls and still ghastlier silences are but an intimation of how the night is
That this was the usual procedure was so well known to Hook that in disregarding it he
cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance.
The Piccaninnies, on their part, trusted implicitly to his honour, and their whole action
of the night stands out in marked contrast to his. They left nothing undone that was
consistent with the reputation of their tribe. With that alertness of the senses which is at
once the marvel and despair of civilised peoples, they knew that the pirates were on the
island from the moment one of them trod on a dry stick; and in an incredibly short space
of time the coyote cries began. Every foot of ground between the spot where Hook had
landed his forces and the home under the trees was stealthily examined by braves wearing
their mocassins with the heels in front. They found only one hillock with a stream at its
base, so that Hook had no choice; here he must establish himself and wait for just before
the dawn. Everything being thus mapped out with almost diabolical cunning, the main
body of the redskins folded their blankets around them, and in the phlegmatic manner
that is to them, the pearl of manhood squatted above the children's home, awaiting the
cold moment when they should deal pale death.
Here dreaming, though wide-awake, of the exquisite tortures to which they were to put
him at break of day, those confiding savages were found by the treacherous Hook. From
the accounts afterwards supplied by such of the scouts as escaped the carnage, he does
not seem even to have paused at the rising ground, though it is certain that in that grey
light he must have seen it: no thought of waiting to be attacked appears from first to last