James And The Giant Peach

written by Sona

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

Last Updated






Chapter Eighteen

Chapter 18
A minute later, they were out in the open, standing on the very top of the peach, near the stem, blinking their eyes in the strong sunlight and peering nervously around.
‘What happened?’
‘Where are we?’
‘But this is impossible!’
‘I told you we were bobbing up and down,’ the Ladybird said.
‘We’re in the middle of the sea!’ cried James.
And indeed they were. A strong current and a high wind had carried the peach so quickly away from the shore that already the land was out of sight. All around them lay the vast black ocean, deep and hungry. Little waves were bibbling against the sides of the peach.
‘But how did it happen?’ they cried. ‘Where are the fields? Where are the woods? Where is England?’ Nobody, not even James, could understand how in the world a thing like this could have come about.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said, trying very hard to keep the fear and disappointment out of his voice, ‘I am afraid that we find ourselves in a rather awkward situation.’
‘Awkward!’ cried the Earthworm. ‘My dear Old Grasshopper, we are finished! Every one of us is about to perish! I may be blind, you know, but that much I can see quite clearly.’
‘Off with my boots!’ shouted the Centipede. ‘I cannot swim with my boots on!’
‘I can’t swim at all!’ cried the Ladybird.
‘Nor can I,’ wailed the Glow-worm.
‘Nor I!’ said Miss Spider. ‘None of us three girls can swim a single stroke.’
‘But you won’t have to swim,’ said James calmly. ‘We are floating beautifully. And sooner or later a ship is bound to come along and pick us up.’
They all stared at him in amazement.
‘Are you quite sure that we are not sinking?’ the Ladybird asked.
‘Of course I‘m sure,’ answered James. ‘Go and look for yourselves.’
They all ran over to the side of the peach and peered down at the water below.
‘The boy is quite right,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said. ‘We are floating beautifully. Now we must all sit down and keep perfectly calm. Everything will be all right in the end.’
‘What absolute nonsense!’ cried the Earthworm. ‘Nothing is ever all right in the end, and well you know it!’
‘Poor Earthworm,’ the Ladybird said, whispering in James’s ear. ‘He loves to make everything into a disaster. He hates to be happy. He is only happy when he is gloomy. Now isn’t that odd? But then, I suppose just being an Earthworm is enough to make a person pretty gloomy, don’t you agree?’
‘If this peach is not going to sink,’ the Earthworm was saying, ‘and if we are not going to be drowned, then every one of us is going to starve to death instead. Do you realize that we haven’t had a thing to eat since yesterday morning?’
‘By golly, he’s right!’ cried the Centipede. ‘For once, Earthworm is right!’
‘Of course I‘m right,’ the Earthworm said. ‘And we’re not likely to find anything around here either. We shall get thinner and thinner and thirstier and thirstier, and we shall all die a slow and grisly death from starvation. I am dying already. I am slowly shrivelling up for want of food. Personally, I would rather drown.’
‘But good heavens, you must be blind!’ said James.
‘You know very well I‘m blind,’ snapped the Earthworm. ‘There’s no need to rub it in.’
‘I didn’t mean that,’ said James quickly. ‘I‘m sorry. But can’t you see that – ’
’See?’ shouted the poor Earthworm. ‘How can I see if I am blind?’
James took a deep, slow breath. ‘Can’t you real ize,’ he said patiently, ‘that we have enough food here to last us for weeks and weeks?’
‘Where?’ they said. ‘Where?’
‘Why, the peach of course! Our whole ship is made of food!’
‘Jumping Jehoshophat!’ they cried. ‘We never thought of that!’
‘My dear James,’ said the Old-Green-Grasshopper, laying a front leg affectionately on James’s shoulder, ‘I don’t know what we’d do without you.

You are so clever. Ladies and gentlemen – we are saved again!’
‘We are most certainly not!’ said the Earthworm. ‘You must be crazy! You can’t eat the ship! It’s the only thing that is keeping us up!’
‘We shall starve if we don‘t!’ said the Centipede.
‘And we shall drown if we do!’ cried the Earthworm.
‘Oh dear, oh dear,’ said the Old-Green-Grasshopper. ‘Now we’re worse off than before!’
‘Couldn’t we just eat a little bit of it?’ asked Miss Spider. ‘I am so dreadfully hungry.’
‘You can eat all you want,’ James answered. ‘It would take us weeks and weeks to make any sort of a dent in this enormous peach. Surely you can see that?’
‘Good heavens, he’s right again!’ cried the Old-Green-Grasshopper, clapping his hands. ‘It would take weeks and weeks! Of course it would! But let’s not go making a lot of holes all over the deck. I think we’d better simply scoop it out of that tunnel over there – the one that we‘ve just come up by.’
‘An excellent idea,’ said the Ladybird.
‘What are you looking so worried about, Earthworm?’ the Centipede asked. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘The problem is…’ the Earthworm said, ‘the problem is…well, the problem is that there is no problem!’
Everyone burst out laughing. ‘Cheer up, Earthworm!’ they said. ‘Come and eat!’ And they all went over to the tunnel entrance and began scooping out great chunks of juicy, golden-coloured peach flesh.
‘Oh, marvellous!’ said the Centipede, stuffing it into his mouth.
‘Dee-licious!’ said the Old-Green-Grasshopper.
‘Just fabulous!’ said the Glow-worm.
‘Oh my!’ said the Ladybird primly. ‘What a heavenly taste!’ She looked up at James, and she smiled, and James smiled back at her. They sat down on the deck together, both of them chewing away happily. ‘You know, James,’ the Ladybird said, ‘up until this moment, I have never in my life tasted anything except those tiny little green flies that live on rosebushes. They have a perfectly delightful flavour. But this peach is even better.’
‘Isn’t it glorious!’ Miss Spider said, coming over to join them. ‘Personally, I had always thought that a big, juicy, caught-in-the-web bluebottle was the finest dinner in the world – until I tasted this.’
‘What a flavour!’ the Centipede cried. ‘It’s terrific! There’s nothing like it! There never has been! And I should know because I personally have tasted all the finest foods in the world!’ Whereupon, the Centipede, with his mouth full of peach and with juice running down all over his chin, suddenly burst into song:

‘I‘ve eaten many strange and scrumptious dishes in my time,
Like jellied gnats and dandyprats and earwigs cooked in slime,
And mice with rice – they’re really nice
When roasted in their prime.
(But don’t forget to sprinkle them with just a pinch of grime.)
‘I‘ve eaten fresh mudburgers by the greatest cooks there are,
And scrambled dregs and stinkbugs’ eggs and hornets stewed in tar,
And pails of snails and lizards’ tails, And beetles by the jar.
(A beetle is improved by just a splash of vinegar.)
‘I often eat boiled slobbages They’re grand when served beside
Minced doodlebugs and curried slugs. And have you ever tried
Mosquitoes’ toes and wampfish roes Most delicately fried?
(The only trouble is they disagree with my inside.)
‘I‘m mad for crispy wasp-stings on a piece of buttered toast,
And pickled spines of porcupines. And then a gorgeous roast
Of dragon’s flesh, well hung, not fresh –
It costs a pound at most.
(And comes to you in barrels if you order it by post.)
‘I crave the tasty tentacles of octopi for tea
I like hot-dogs, I LOVE hot-frogs, and surely you’ll agree
A plate of soil with engine oil’s
A super recipe.
(I hardly need to mention that if s practically free.)
‘For dinner on my birthday shall I tell you what I chose:
Hot noodles made from poodles on a slice of garden hose –
And a rather smelly jelly
Made of armadillo’s toes.
(The jelly is delicious, but you have to hold your nose.)
‘Now comes,’ the Centipede declared, ‘the burden of my speech:
These foods are rare beyond compare – some are right out of reach;
But there’s no doubt I’d go without
A million plates of each
For one small mite,
One tiny bite,
Everybody was feeling happy now. The sun was shining brightly out of a soft blue sky and the day was calm. The giant peach, with the sunlight glinting on its side, was like a massive golden ball sailing upon a silver sea.
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