After their mother's death, the five boys were alone. Who would take them in? Be a parent to them? Provide for their financial needs? Neither side of the family was really able to help.
In 1976, Nico recalled the relief with which his uncles and aunts greeted Barrie's offer of assistance:
...none of them [the children's uncles and aunts] could really do anything approaching the amount that this little Scots wizard could do round the corner. He'd got more money than any of us and he's an awfully nice little man. He's a kind man. They all liked him a good deal. And he quite clearly had adored both my father and mother and was very fond of us boys. I think it was a wonderful relief to them...to know that we can leave...all this business...to Barrie.
Not only did Barrie provide for the general financial needs of the family, he made sure the boys each had an excellent education. The tab at Eaton College could not have been small.
One of Nico's fondest childhood memories was walking around Round Pond (between the ages of ten and twelve) with his hand in Barrie's. As they walked together, Nico would either listen to "Uncle Jim's stories" or, on occasion, he'd answer Barrie's questions about The Black Arrow.
To Nico, at least, Barrie was "a perfect uncle who left us all in fits of laughter." (The link is to Sheridan Morley's BBC interview with Nico Llewelyn Davies in September of 1978.)
Five years after Sylvia's death, Europe plunged into World War I. George and Jack knew they would be called upon to serve their country. Peter was not far behind. England, allied with France, was soon embroiled in the conflict. Jack served in the Royal Navy. George was sent to the trenches of France.
Sylvia's older brother Guy du Maurier, a professional soldier, wrote to his wife about life in the trenches. It is a wonder his words passed muster with the Army censor:
The trenches are full of dead Frenchmen. When one is killed they let him lie in the squelching mud and water at the bottom; and when you try and drain or dig you unearth them in an advanced state of decomposition...All the filth of an Army lies around rotting...The stink is awful. There are many dead Highlanders just in front - killed in December [of 1915] I think - and they aren't pleasant. One gets used to smells...Two hundred of my men went to hospital today - mostly frost-bitten feet; bad cases are called gangrene and very bad cases the toes drop off...When we've done our four days I'll try and go over and see George who I think is only two miles off. I haven't seen anyone I know lately. I fancy most of the Army I know are killed or wounded. (Quoted in Lost Boys, page 236.)
For his part, George was appalled - but realistic - about what he saw at the Western Front. Barrie sent him supplies and had the sad job of telling him his Uncle Guy had died. With poignant words, "Uncle Jim" expressed his own desires:
...I don't have any little iota of desire for you to get military glory. I do not care a farthing for anything of the kind, but I have the one passionate desire that we may all be together again once at least. You would not mean a feather-weight more to me tho' you came back a General. I just want yourself. There may be some moments when a knowledge of all you are to me will make you a little more careful, and so I can't help going on saying these things. (Quoted in Lost Boys, page 242.)
It was, of course, not only the Llewelyn Davies boys, and their friends, who were at risk during the first part of the war. People throughout Europe were dying. Those who succumbed became members of a lost generation.
In May of 1915, before America joined the war, Charles Frohman, Barrie's trusted producer, needed to get to London quickly. The only way for him to make the crossing was on a ship - called the Lusitania.