Here comes Tiger Lily, proudly erect, a princess in her own right. She is the most beautiful of dusky Dianas and the belle of the Piccaninnies, coquettish, cold and amorous by turns; there is not a brave who would not have the wayward thing to wife, but she staves off the altar with a hatchet.
Peter sprang erect, as wide awake at once as a dog, and with one warning cry he roused the others.
He stood motionless, one hand to his ear.
"Pirates!" he cried. The others came closer to him. A strange smile was playing about his face, and Wendy saw it and shuddered. While that smile was on his face no one dared address him; all they could do was to stand ready to obey. The order came sharp and incisive.
It was the pirate dinghy, with a captive, no other than Tiger Lily. Her hands and ankles were tied, and she knew what was to be her fate. She was to be left on the rock to perish, an end to one of her race more terrible than death by fire or torture, for is it not written in the book of the tribe that there is no path through water to the happy hunting-ground? Yet her face was impassive; she was the daughter of a chief, she must die as a chief's daughter, it is enough.
They had caught her boarding the pirate ship with a knife in her mouth. No watch was kept on the ship, it being Hook's boast that the wind of his name guarded the ship for a mile around. Now her fate would help to guard it also. One more wail would go the round in that wind by night.
Peter now imitated the voice of Hook.
"Ahoy there, you lubbers!" he called. It was a marvellous imitation.
"He must be swimming out to us," Starkey said, when they had looked for him in vain.
"We are putting the redskin on the rock," Smee called out.
The two pirates were very curious to know what had brought their captain to them, but he sat with his head on his hook in a position of profound melancholy.
"The game's up," he cried, "those boys have found a mother."
"What's a mother?" asked the ignorant Smee.
"See," said Hook in answer to Smee's question, "that is a mother. What a lesson! The nest must have fallen into the water, but would the mother desert her eggs? No."
There was a break in his voice, as if for a moment he recalled innocent days when -- but he brushed away this weakness with his hook.
"Where is the redskin?" he demanded abruptly.
He had a playful humour at moments, and they thought this was one of the moments.
"That is all right, captain," Smee answered complacently; "we let her go."
"'Twas your own orders," the bo'sun faltered.
"You called over the water to us to let her go," said Starkey.
"Brimstone and gall," thundered Hook, "what cozening is going on here!" His face had gone black with rage, but he saw that they believed their words, and he was startled. "Lads," he said, shaking a little, "I gave no such order."
"It is passing queer," Smee said, and they all fidgeted uncomfortably.