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 Seven

Chapter 27
James Henry Trotter and his companions crouched close together on top of the peach as the night began closing in around them. Clouds like mountains towered high above their heads on all sides, mysterious, menacing, overwhelming. Gradually it grew darker and darker, and then a pale three-quarter moon came up over the tops of the clouds and cast an eerie light over the whole scene. The giant peach swayed gently from side to side as it floated along, and the hundreds of silky white strings going upward from its stem were beautiful in the moonlight. So also was the great flock of seagulls overhead.
There was not a sound anywhere. Travelling upon the peach was not in the least like travelling in an aeroplane. The aeroplane comes clattering and roaring through the sky, and whatever might be lurking secretly up there in the great cloud-mountains goes running for cover at its approach. That is why people who travel in aeroplanes never see anything.
But the peach… ah, yes… the peach was a soft, stealthy traveller, making no noise at all as it floated along. And several times during that long silent night ride high up over the middle of the ocean in the moonlight, James and his friends saw things that no one had ever seen before.

Once, as they drifted silently past a massive white cloud, they saw on the top of it a group of strange, tall, wispy-looking things that were about twice the height of ordinary men. They were not easy to see at first because they were almost as white as the cloud itself, but as the peach sailed closer, it became obvious that these ‘things’ were actually living creatures – tall, wispy, wraithlike, shadowy, white creatures who looked as though they were made out of a mixture of cotton-wool and candyfloss and thin white hairs.
‘Oooooooooooooh!’ the Ladybird said. ‘I don’t like this at all!’
‘Ssshh!’ James whispered back. ‘Don’t let them hear you! They must be Cloud-Men!’
‘Cloud-Men!’ they murmured, huddling closer together for comfort. ‘Oh dear, oh dear!’

‘I‘m glad I‘m blind and can’t see them,’ the Earthworm said, ‘or I would probably scream.’
‘I hope they don’t turn round and see us,’ Miss Spider stammered.
‘Do you think they would eat us?’ the Earthworm asked.
‘They would eat you,’ the Centipede answered, grinning. ‘They would cut you up like a salami and eat you in thin slices.’
The poor Earthworm began to quiver all over with fright.
‘But what are they doing?’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper whispered.
‘I don’t know,’ James answered softly. ‘Let’s watch and see.’
The Cloud-Men were all standing in a group, and they were doing something peculiar with their hands. First, they would reach out (all of them at once) and grab handfuls of cloud. Then they would roll these handfuls of cloud in their fingers until they turned into what looked like large white marbles. Then they would toss the marbles to one side and quickly grab more bits of cloud and start over again.
It was all very silent and mysterious. The pile of marbles beside them kept growing larger and larger. Soon there was a truckload of them there at least.
‘They must be absolutely mad!’ the Centipede said. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of here!’
‘Be quiet, you pest!’ the Earthworm whispered. ‘We shall all be eaten if they see us!’
But the Cloud-Men were much too busy with what they were doing to have noticed the great peach floating silently up behind them.
Then the watchers on the peach saw one of the Cloud-Men raising his long wispy arms above his head and they heard him shouting, ‘All right, boys! That’s enough! Get the shovels!’ And all the other Cloud-Men immediately let out a strange high-pitched whoop of joy and started jumping up and down and waving their arms in the air. Then they picked up enormous shovels and rushed over to the pile of marbles and began shovelling them as fast as they could over the side of the cloud, into space. ‘Down they go!’ they chanted as they worked.

‘Down they go!
Hail and snow!
Freezes and sneezes and noses will blow!’
‘It’s hailstones!’ whispered James excitedly. ‘They‘ve been making hailstones and now they are showering them down on to the people in the world below!’
‘Hailstones?’ the Centipede said. ‘That’s ridiculous! This is summertime. You don’t have hailstones in summertime.’
‘They are practising for the winter,’ James told him.
‘I don’t believe it!’ shouted the Centipede, raising his voice.
‘Ssshh!’ the others whispered. And James said softly, ‘For heaven’s sake, Centipede, don’t make so much noise.’
The Centipede roared with laughter. ‘Those imbeciles couldn’t hear anything!’ he cried. ‘They’re deaf as doorknobs! You watch!’ And before anyone could stop him, he had cupped his front feet to his mouth and was yelling at the Cloud-Men as loud as he could. ‘Idiots!’ he yelled. ‘Nincompoops! Half-wits! Blunderheads! Asses! What on earth do you think you’re doing over there!’
The effect was immediate. The Cloud-Men jumped round as if they had been stung by wasps. And when they saw the great golden peach floating past them not fifty yards away in the sky, they gave a yelp of surprise and dropped their shovels to the ground. And there they stood with the moonlight streaming down all over them, absolutely motionless, like a group of tall white hairy statues, staring and staring at the gigantic fruit as it went sailing by.
The passengers on the peach (all except the Centipede) sat frozen with terror, looking back at the Cloud-Men and wondering what was going to happen next.
‘Now you‘ve done it, you loathsome pest!’ whispered the Earthworm to the Centipede.
‘I‘m not frightened of them!’ shouted the Centipede, and to show everybody once again that he wasn‘t, he stood up to his full height and started dancing about and making insulting signs at the Cloud-Men with all forty-two of his legs.
This evidently infuriated the Cloud-Men beyond belief. All at once, they spun round and grabbed great handfuls of hailstones and rushed to the edge of the cloud and started throwing them at the peach, shrieking with fury all the time.
‘Look out!’ cried James. ‘Quick! Lie down! Lie flat on the deck!’
It was lucky they did! A large hailstone can hurt you as much as a rock or a lump of lead if it is thrown hard enough – and my goodness, how those Cloud-Men could throw! The hailstones came whizzing through the air like bullets from a machine-gun, and James could hear them smashing against the sides of the peach and burying themselves in the peach flesh with horrible squelching noises – plop! plop! plop! plop! And then ping! ping! ping! as they bounced off the poor Ladybird’s shell because she couldn’t lie as flat as the others. And then crack! as one of them hit the Centipede right on the nose and crack! again as another one hit him somewhere else.
‘Ow!’ he cried. ‘Ow! Stop! Stop! Stop!’
But the Cloud-Men had no intention of stopping. James could see them rushing about on the cloud like a lot of huge hairy ghosts, picking up hailstones from the pile, dashing to the edge of the cloud, hurling the hailstones at the peach, dashing back again to get more, and then, when the pile of stones was all gone, they simply grabbed handfuls of cloud and made as many more as they wanted, and much bigger ones now, some of them as large as cannon balls.
‘Quickly!’ cried James. ‘Down the tunnel or we’ll all be wiped out!’
There was a rush for the tunnel entrance, and half a minute later everybody was safely downstairs inside the stone of the peach, trembling with fright and listening to the noise of the hailstones as they came crashing against the side of the peach.
‘I‘m a wreck!’ groaned the Centipede. ‘I am wounded all over!’
‘It serves you right,’ said the Earthworm.
‘Would somebody kindly look and see if my shell is cracked?’ the Ladybird said.
‘Give us some light!’ shouted the Old-Green-Grasshopper.
‘I can‘t!’ wailed the Glow-worm. ‘They‘ve broken my bulb!’
‘Then put in another one!’ the Centipede said.
‘Be quiet a moment,’ said James. ‘Listen! I do believe they’re not hitting us any more!’
They all stopped talking and listened. Yes – the noise had ceased. The hailstones were no longer smashing against the peach.
‘We‘ve left them behind!’
‘The seagulls must have pulled us away out of danger.
‘Hooray! Let’s go up and see!’
Cautiously, with James going first, they all climbed back up the tunnel. James poked his head out and looked around. ‘It’s all clear!’ he called. ‘I can’t see them anywhere!’
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