Because Peter Pan saved Princess Tiger Lily, the boys are now friends with the tribe, who all keep watch outside the boys’ home. The boys don’t like the way the tribe idolizes Peter, but Wendy doesn’t want to speak against him: “father knows best.”
Peter Pan ran away from home so that he’d never have to become an adult, and so that he could remain a child. But when he escapes adulthood he escapes childhood too, and becomes a strange ageless “father” by becoming a kind of uber-child.
One night, which will come to be called the Night of Nights, the boys are eating dinner while Peter is out getting the time from the crocodile, whose clock regularly rings out the hour. The meal is a make-believe meal, and the boys are edgy. Peter comes home, and the boys crowd happily around him. They insist on dancing, despite Wendy and Peter’s dignified protests, so the whole family sings and dances.
Peter and Wendy pretend to be something other than children when the lost boys ask them to dance. It’s not because they dislike being children, but because they instinctively want to be something other than what they are, something strange and important. It’s a child’s desire, but it reaches beyond the boundaries of childhood.
Before the dance, though, Peter and Wendy have an odd conversation. They talk about the boys exactly as though they were their children for a pleasant moment, but then Peter asks Wendy to confirm that he is not really their father: “it would make me seem so old,” he says nervously. Wendy confirms this coldly. She asks Peter what he feels for her, and he replies that his feelings are those of a son’s, which makes Wendy sit as far from him as possible. “Frankly puzzled,” Peter wonders what it is that Wendy and Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily all want him to be.
In the human world, to follow that desire is to go willingly into adulthood. Wendy has linked her desire to adulthood (as she understands it), but Peter Pan has followed the desire elsewhere. In Neverland, the adulthood and the elsewhere seem briefly to become one thing: the way to both places is an adventurous way. But adulthood is a game one can’t stop playing, and Peter does not like to play any one game for too long.
Soon, though, they forget their differences and have a wonderful time. It is all the more lovely, says the narrator, because they don’t know that it is to be their last. Wendy settles everyone into bed and begins to tell their favorite story. It is a story Peter hates, but he listens anyway.
The evening is lovely because it must end, and its brevity becomes its most significant quality in retrospect: its brevity becomes inextricable from its loveliness. The same could be said of childhood – for all children but Peter.