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 Twenty Three

Chapter 23
In a flash, everybody was up on top.
‘Oh, isn’t it beautiful!’ they cried.
‘What a marvellous feeling!’
‘Good-bye, sharks!’
‘Oh, boy, this is the way to travel!’
Miss Spider, who was literally squealing with excitement, grabbed the Centipede by the waist and the two of them started dancing round and round the peach stem together. The Earthworm stood up on his tail and did a sort of wriggle of joy all by himself. The Old-Green-Grasshopper kept hopping higher and higher in the air. The Ladybird rushed over and shook James warmly by the hand. The Glow-worm, who at the best of times was a very shy and silent creature, sat glowing with pleasure near the tunnel entrance. Even the Silkworm, looking white and thin and completely exhausted, came creeping out of the tunnel to watch this miraculous ascent.
Up and up they went, and soon they were as high as the top of a church steeple above the ocean.
‘I‘m a bit worried about the peach,’ James said to the others as soon as all the dancing and the shouting had stopped. ‘I wonder how much damage those sharks have done to it underneath. It’s quite impossible to tell from up here.’
‘Why don’t I go over the side and make an inspection?’ Miss Spider said. ‘It’ll be no trouble at all, I assure you.’ And without waiting for an answer, she quickly produced a length of silk thread and attached the end of it to the peach stem. ‘I’ll be back in a jiffy,’ she said, and then she walked calmly over to the edge of the peach and jumped off, paying out the thread behind her as she fell.

The others crowded anxiously around the place where she had gone over.
‘Wouldn’t it be dreadful if the thread broke,’ the Ladybird said.
There was a rather long silence.
‘Are you all right, Miss Spider?’ shouted the Old-Green-Grasshopper.
‘Yes, thank you!’ her voice answered from below. ‘I‘m coming up now!’ And up she came, climbing foot over foot up the silk thread, and at the same time tucking the thread back cleverly into her body as she climbed past it.
‘Is it awful?’ they asked her. ‘Is it all eaten away? Are there great holes in it everywhere?’
Miss Spider clambered back on to the deck with a pleased but also a rather puzzled look on her face. ‘You won’t believe this,’ she said, ‘but actually there’s hardly any damage down there at all! The peach is almost untouched! There are just a few tiny pieces out of it here and there, but nothing more.’
‘You must be mistaken,’ James told her.
‘Of course she’s mistaken!’ the Centipede said.
‘I promise you I‘m not,’ Miss Spider answered.
‘But there were hundreds of sharks around us!’
‘They churned the water into a froth!’
‘We saw their great mouths opening and shutting!’
‘I don’t care what you saw,’ Miss Spider answered. ‘They certainly didn’t do much damage to the peach.’
‘Then why did we start sinking?’ the Centipede asked.
‘Perhaps we didn’t start sinking,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper suggested. ‘Perhaps we were all so frightened that we simply imagined it.’
This, in point of fact, was closer to the truth than any of them knew. A shark, you see, has an extremely long sharp nose, and its mouth is set very awkwardly underneath its face and a long way back. This makes it more or less impossible for it to get its teeth into a vast smooth curving surface such as the side of a peach. Even if the creature turns on to its back it still can’t do it, because the nose always gets in the way. If you have ever seen a small dog trying to get its teeth into an enormous ball, then you will be able to imagine roughly how it was with the sharks and the peach.
‘It must have been some kind of magic,’ the Ladybird said. ‘The holes must have healed up by themselves.’
‘Oh, look! There’s a ship below us!’ shouted James.
Everybody rushed to the side and peered over. None of them had ever seen a ship before.
‘It looks like a big one.’
‘It’s got three funnels.’
‘You can even see the people on the decks!’
‘Let’s wave to them. Do you think they can see us?’
Neither James nor any of the others knew it, but the ship that was now passing beneath them was actually the Queen Mary sailing out of the English Channel on her way to America. And on the bridge of the Queen Mary, the astonished Captain was standing with a group of his officers, all of them gaping at the great round ball hovering overhead.
‘I don’t like it,’ the Captain said.
‘Nor do I,’ said the First Officer.
‘Do you think it’s following us?’ said the Second Officer.
‘I tell you I don’t like it,’ muttered the Captain.
‘It could be dangerous,’ the First Officer said.
‘That’s it!’ cried the Captain. ‘It’s a secret weapon! Holy cats! Send a message to the Queen at once! The country must be warned! And give me ray telescope.’
The First Officer handed the telescope to the Captain. The Captain put it to his eye.
‘There’s birds everywhere!’ he cried. ‘The whole sky is teeming with birds! What in the world are they doing? And wait! Wait a second! There are people on it! I can see them moving! There’s a – a – do I have this darned thing focused right? It looks like a little boy in short trousers! Yes, I can distinctly see a little boy in short trousers standing up there! And there’s a – there’s a – there’s a – a – a – a sort of giant ladybird!’
‘Now just a minute, Captain!’ the First Officer said.
‘And a colossal green grasshopper!’
‘Captain!’ the First Officer said sharply. ‘Captain, please!’
‘And a mammoth spider!’
‘Oh dear, he’s been at the whisky again,’ whispered the Second Officer.
‘And an enormous – a simply enormous centipede!’ screamed the Captain.
‘Call the Ship’s Doctor,’ the First Officer said. ‘Our Captain is not well.’
A moment later, the great round ball disappeared into a cloud, and the people on the ship never saw it again.
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