The Lost Journal of J.M. Barrie

16th of November, 1955.

Dear Mr Peter Llewelyn Davies,

My name is George Robertson, a perfect stranger to you, I’m aware.  However, I hope that during the discourse of my letter you realise the seriousness of the subject of which I write to you, and forgive me for my being so forward.  I trust that you will find enclosed within the envelope containing this letter you are now reading, yet another envelope, containing the very reason I write to you.  Before I divulge the contents of the second envelope, I must impress upon you how very affected I have been by the discovery of said contents.  Only three weeks ago, upon my wife and I’s arrival in our new home, an old tenement flat near the city centre of Edinburgh, whilst unpacking our belongings we discovered several pieces of parchment (we later realised were segments of a journal entry) hidden within a small broom cupboard.  Our landlord had previously decided against revealing to us the name of a famous former occupant of our flat, but after approaching him again with our suspicions, he thought it right to undeceive us.  We were extremely unsure as to what to do with our discovery; it crossed our minds to approach a museum or library with our findings, and, please forgive us, it occurred to us to send it to a newspaper, but after much consideration, our consciences persuaded us that to hand our findings into your possession was the only right thing to do.  When you read the contents of the second envelope you will understand my meaning in this next sentence; the short journal entry is your rightful property, it belongs to you more than it does to anyone living in this world today , therefore the decision as to what to do with it should lie only with you.  By this point you may have guessed that the author of the mysterious journal to be your dearly departed friend, Sir James Matthew Barrie.  The contents of his journal entry recall a strange and fantastical childhood experience.  Following several readings of the narrative, I find the rendering of the recalled story as untrue an incomprehensible feat; although an account of events which took place during his early childhood, Mr Barrie’s tale, according to the date of the journal, written when he was thirty-three years of age, is told with an air of such rhapsodising sincerity and beauty, that the reader can only conclude that even Mr Barrie himself is somewhat in awe of the memories he is forcing himself to re-visit.   As well as the truthful and convincing manner in which the tale is written, the inconclusive and abrupt finale to the adventure also adds an air of reality; why, if simply a work of fiction, would the author not have concluded his tale with an exciting or revealing revelation such as the unquestionable discovery of something supernatural or fantastic as opposed to the mysterious and ambiguous ending offered to us?  The entire narrative leads one to question if Mr Barrie himself was convinced of the truth of what his young eyes had perceived that day.  If his tale be true, then, dear God, my good Sir, all truth in life is up-turned!  It would also be necessary to question, if true, the significance of this experience and the effects it had upon Mr Barrie himself and also his works; once you have read the tale for yourself, Sir Llewelyn Davies, you will fully comprehend my meaning.

But alas, we will never know if the tale is truth or simply another work of fiction by a great and wondrous mind, as, sadly, no one will ever have the opportunity to question Mr Barrie himself on the matter.  I will now quit my communication to you, my good Sir, and leave you to the far more eloquent words of your dear companion.  I feel obligated to make you aware, Sir that I hand full responsibility and ownership of the valuable text over to you completely.  I will never speak of it to anyone other than my wife; the personal importance of the journal to you and the memory of the deceased Mr Barrie, I feel, is inestimable.  What comes of these findings is your business alone and no one else’s.

Kindest Regards,

Mr George Robertson.

December 2nd, 1893.

I find as I sit here at my bedroom window, as I often do, gazing out over a dusky, frost-covered Edinburgh, that to reflect upon certain events that have taken place during my life is an inevitable occurrence.  The awe-inspiring beauty of the glistening scene that lies before me calls forth many a distant memory, many fond and cherished, many painful and on the brink of being lost forever in my disordered and troubled mind.  The memory of which I am about to write, falls into the category of the latter.  A number of times over the years have I tried and failed to write of this experience; this failure is due, in part, to the fact that this event took place when I was but five years old and much of the reminiscence has remained for a long time lost as a result of the decay of time.  The strange happening has long failed to achieve print also because of the painful and uneasy effect contemplating, not only this very experience, but this period of my life, has upon me.  Indeed, when I reflect upon that day, the look upon his face…  the sharp intake of breath and stab of pain in my chest when he screamed, when I lost sight of him…  I am struggling, even now, when I have vowed to transcribe the event in my journal, to maintain composure and must take a moment to regain my train of thought, and also my breath, as the shock of thinking of this day leaves me short of it.

As much as this reflection pains me, I feel that while I am, as best I can, attempting to narrate an accurate account of this experience, that I must impress, for the benefit of any future reader, that this day was one of the most wonderful of my life.  Regrettably, much of the happiness of this day is what pains me the most.  However, it is the paranormal and enchanting encounter which took place that day which I feel a certain responsibility to chronicle.  However close I am to almost completely forgetting, I refuse to let myself do so, which is why I find myself here today, urging myself to delve into the darkest crevices of my memory, and seize, with all my strength, these remembrances.

It was one of the most beautiful days I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, this I will never forget.  Never has a brisk, green-hewed autumn morning in London, or a sunny day spent amidst the timeless beauty of Edinburgh been worthy of rivalling the day I account.  My family and I were, at this time, living in Kirriemuir, and I find, even now, the beauty of Kirriemuir and the surrounding countryside during winter almost impossible to convey in words.  The snow, perfectly and evenly quilted upon the cottage roofs, untouched and flawless concealing the greenery of the fields and gardens, at a simple glance brought ecstatic joy to the hearts of me and my brothers and sisters.  When we went on our long afternoon walks just outside the village, when looking back at it from a distance, it seemed to glisten beneath the dim sunlight; a sublime, fairy-tale scene.  It was on the day of the event I speak of that my brother David and I awoke to a scene like this.  After hours of pestering our mother we were finally allowed out to play in the snow, as long as we promised to “stay away from Wanderer’s Cove.”  Forgive me, as I will now digress slightly from the narrative of my tale.  It is necessary for me to speak of the history of Wanderer’s Cove, for the benefit of any reader unfamiliar with my past, or the past of Kirriemuir.  Some of the earliest memories I have, ones preceding even the fateful day this tale encircles, are of my mother’s warnings against us going anywhere near the coves, which were renound not only for the reasons I am about to tell of, but for their beautiful interior of innumerable stalactites and rock pools.  They were located about a mile outside of the village and were almost completely veiled by one of the largest waterfalls of Marywell Brae.

My mother’s warnings came as a result of several myths, myths which may have been based on distant truth or simply on the superstitions of the townsfolk of Kirriemuir; from which basis these myths had developed, I am unaware.  Anyway, the first of these ancient parables told of a small village child who, against his mother’s wishes, had visited the coves alone.  It is told that after several hours the child failed to return home, igniting the anxiety of his mother who gathered a group of village people to search for the lad.  Guessing where he might have run off to, the search party scoured the coves, finding only the child’s scarf next to one of the rock pools.  The boy was never seen or heard of again.  Following this event, (which, according to my mother and the other villagers, happened so long ago that not even the oldest members of the village knew of the boy or his mother,) many stories emerged of wanderers visiting the coves and becoming lost after having seen and chased a distant, glimmering light, and emerging after several days having eventually found their way out of the labyrinth of caves.  The source of this glimmering light nobody, at this time, knew.  And so it was that any village child going out to play unsupervised was warned against approaching Wanderer’s Cove.  These warnings did succeed in inspiring fear and deterring many children from daring to visit the coves, but in my brother and me these discouragements excited deep curiosity and a longing for some kind of adventure.

It was these interests that led us, that day, to Wanderer’s Cove.  Our day of playing in the snow had begun as just that, several hours of snowball fights with the other village children in the nearby fields and sledging down the steepest hills on the outskirts of the town.  It was whilst David and I were walking home that he suggested we quickly sneak away to the coves before returning home.  ‘Mother will never know!’ he insisted excitedly.  We had only been allowed one previous and very brief visit to the coves with our father many years before this day and the idea of secretly returning there ourselves had become something of a fantasy, a possibility so fraught with mystery and foreboding that on this day, when our young hearts had already been exhilarated with childish excitement, it was simply irresistible.  David had always been more inclined towards danger and risk than me, but I admired him so greatly, he was…  I…

Forgive me if the next chapter of my narrative is somewhat disjointed or lacking in clarity; the upset this remembrance causes me is difficult to overcome.  David and I, after reaching the furthest outskirts of the village, eager and intoxicated with the thrill of secret disobedience and adventure, broke into a run.  However, when we reached the coves, we were struck by an ominous disinclination to enter the caves.  Our frantic running slowed to a tentative stroll as the mouth of the first cave came into view.  Once facing the waterfall, David turned to me, a fearful look in his eyes.  I prayed he would suggest abandoning our foolish plan and insist on returning home, but, after swallowing his fear, he turned back determinedly towards the caves and once again broke into an eager sprint.  I, of course, followed.  However, David was running with such speed that when I was only half-way down the slippery stone steps leading towards the coves, he had already entered the mouth of the cave.  I shouted after him in fear, pleading with him to wait for me but my cries were unheeded and he continued to run ahead.  As soon as I lost sight of him, my fear reached fever-pitch.  I ran to the cave’s entrance, desperate to catch-up with David.  What happened next is somewhat blurred in my memory.  I remember entering the caves and feeling extremely fearful and helpless without my dear brother, and I remember becoming lost amongst the deep labyrinth of coves, but the exact details of these horrific moments are lost to me.  What remains prominent in my memory is David’s scream; it chilled my blood, and remembering it has the same effect on me to this day.  One long, high-pitched, bloodcurdling scream.  I ran, I ran as fast as my tiny legs would allow me too.  I don’t know how long I ran for, all I remember thinking is that if I just kept on running, I would find him and everything would somehow be alright.  Sprawled across the damp stone floor of the cave, his face was turned away from me. One momentary glimpse was enough to convince me that he dead.  I stood frozen to the spot, unable to move a muscle.  Dazed, unaware of what was happening, that is all I remember feeling.  How long I remained in this state, I have no clue.  I was so still, I doubt that I was even breathing.  When he moved, it was so sudden, that it wasn’t until he was sitting upright, staring at me blankly, trance-like, his face white as a ghost, that I realised he was alive.  I think I was crying, shaking, I definitely felt nauseous.  I sank to my knees, struggling to breathe.  Through all my tears and heaving intakes of breath, I think I must have managed to ask David if he was alright.  He didn’t say a word.  All he did was lift his right arm and point towards the far wall of the cave.  My eyes followed his finger.  I caught sight of it for only one split-second, even less than that in fact.  Exactly what I saw, I am unable to detail for as soon as I’d managed to lay my eyes on it, it was gone in a quick, glimmering flash.  All I remember my eyes focusing on is a pair of wings, so bright and radiating it was as if a torch had been placed on the wall of the cave.  A pair of wings, each wing the size of one adult hand.  I had no opportunity of noticing any details of the wings, or what it was that they were attached to.  Over the years, in the moments I have allowed myself to think of this day, I have formed an image in my mind of what it was that I saw that day.  In fact, if I’m being honest, I have formed more than an image of it; it has formed a character in my mind.  If it was indeed some kind of sprite or fairy, I believe it was completely harmless, and oblivious to the alluring effect it had on any humans who encountered it.

David and I never spoke to one another of this day ever again, but I gathered that he must have slipped on the cave floor whilst chasing whatever it was, knocked his head on the ground and laid there unconscious for a short period of time.  He was so dazed and unsteady as I led him home, he didn’t say a word.  It is my belief that David had no recollection of what took place in the coves that day; if he did then he chose not to share any of it with me.

During the year following that day, I entertained the thought of returning to the cave and searching for the creature, but after David’s death (almost precisely a year, in fact, after that day at Wanderer’s Cove) the idea was banished forever from my mind.  As I have said previously, just thinking of this day is almost too much to bear.  In fact, I must quit this narrative now, and retire to my bed.  My emotions have succeeded in exhausting me.  Perhaps I will return to this journal one day and write a little more of that day or what I saw.  It is unlikely, however.  I may never even share this document with anyone, I simply felt it necessary to grasp hold of this memory and immortalise it somehow, before I forgot.  That day, as coalesced with pain and fear as it was, was quite possibly, the most beautiful day of my life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s