James And The Giant Peach

written by Sona

James' parents died and he was adopted by his gruesome aunts. How does he escape?

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Chapter Twelve

Chapter 12
James decided that this was most certainly not a time to be disagreeable, so he crossed the room to where the Centipede was sitting and knelt down beside him.
‘Thank you so much,’ the Centipede said. ‘You are very kind.’
‘You have a lot of boots,’ James murmured.
‘I have a lot of legs,’ the Centipede answered proudly. ‘And a lot of feet. One hundred, to be exact.’
‘There he goes again!’ the Earthworm cried, speaking for the first time. ‘He simply cannot stop telling lies about his legs! He doesn’t have anything like a hundred of them! He’s only got forty-two! The trouble is that most people don’t bother to count them. They just take his word. And anyway, there is nothing marvellous, you know, Centipede, about having a lot of legs.’
‘Poor fellow,’ the Centipede said, whispering in James’s ear. ‘He’s blind. He can’t see how splendid I look.’
‘In my opinion,’ the Earthworm said, ‘the reallymarvellous thing is to have no legs at all and to be able to walk just the same.’

‘You call that walking!’ cried the Centipede. ‘You’re a slitherer, that’s all you are! You just slither along!’
‘I glide,’ said the Earthworm primly.
‘You are a slimy beast,’ answered the Centipede.
‘I am not a slimy beast,’ the Earthworm said. ‘I am a useful and much loved creature. Ask any gardener you like. And as for you…’
‘I am a pest!’ the Centipede announced, grinning broadly and looking round the room for approval.
‘He is so proud of that,’ the Ladybird said, smiling at James. ‘Though for the life of me I cannot understand why.’
‘I am the only pest in this room!’ cried the Centipede, still grinning away. ‘Unless you count Old-Green-Grasshopper over there. But he is long past it now. He is too old to be a pest any more.’
The Old-Green-Grasshopper turned his huge black eyes upon the Centipede and gave him a withering look. ‘Young fellow,’ he said, speaking in a deep, slow, scornful voice, ‘I have never been a pest in my life. I am a musician.’
‘Hear, hear!’ said the Ladybird.
‘James,’ the Centipede said. ‘Your name is James, isn’t it?’
‘Well, James, have you ever in your life seen such a marvellous colossal Centipede as me?’
‘I certainly haven‘t,’ James answered. ‘How on earth did you get to be like that?’
‘Very peculiar,’ the Centipede said. ‘Very, very peculiar indeed. Let me tell you what happened. I was messing about in the garden under the old peach tree and suddenly a funny little green thing came wriggling past my nose. Bright green it was, and extraordinarily beautiful, and it looked like some kind of a tiny stone or crystal…’
‘Oh, but I know what that was!’ cried James.
‘It happened to me, too!’ said the Ladybird.
‘And me!’ Miss Spider said. ‘Suddenly there were little green things everywhere! The soil was full of them!’
‘I actually swallowed one!’ the Earthworm declared proudly.
‘So did I!’ the Ladybird said.
‘I swallowed three!’ the Centipede cried. ‘But who’s telling this story anyway? Don’t interrupt!’
‘It’s too late to tell stories now,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper announced. ‘It’s time to go to sleep.’
‘I refuse to sleep in my boots!’ the Centipede cried. ‘How many more are there to come off, James?’
‘I think I‘ve done about twenty so far,’ James told him.
‘Then that leaves eighty to go,’ the Centipede said.
‘Twenty-two, not eighty!’ shrieked the Earthworm. ‘He’s lying again.’
The Centipede roared with laughter.
‘Stop pulling the Earthworm’s leg,’ the Ladybird said.
This sent the Centipede into hysterics. ‘Pulling his leg!’ he cried, wriggling with glee and pointing at the Earthworm. ‘Which leg am I pulling? You tell me that!’
James decided that he rather liked the Centipede. He was obviously a rascal, but what a change it was to hear somebody laughing once in a while. He had never heard Aunt Sponge or Aunt Spiker laughing aloud in all the time he had been with them.
‘We really must get some sleep,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said. ‘We‘ve got a tough day ahead of us tomorrow. So would you be kind enough, Miss Spider, to make the beds?’
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