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 Eight

Chapter 28
One by one, the travellers came out again on to the top of the peach and gazed carefully around. The moon was still shining as brightly as ever, and there were still plenty of huge shimmering cloud-mountains on all sides. But there were no Cloud-Men in sight now.
‘The peach is leaking!’ shouted the Old-Green-Grasshopper, peering over the side. ‘It’s full of holes and the juice is dripping out everywhere!’
‘That does it!’ cried the Earthworm. ‘If the peach is leaking then we shall surely sink!’
‘Don’t be an ass!’ the Centipede told him. ‘We’re not in the water now!’
‘Oh, look!’ shouted the Ladybird. ‘Look, look, look! Over there!’
Everybody swung round to look.
In the distance and directly ahead of them, they now saw a most extraordinary sight. It was a kind of arch, a colossal curvy-shaped thing that reached high up into the sky and came down again at both ends. The ends were resting upon a huge flat cloud that was as big as a desert.
‘Now what in the world is that?’ asked James.
‘It’s a bridge!’
‘It’s an enormous hoop cut in half!’
‘It’s a giant horseshoe standing upside down!’
‘Stop me if I‘m wrong,’ murmured the Centipede, going white in the face, ‘but might those not be Cloud-Men climbing all over it?’
There was a dreadful silence. The peach floated closer and closer.
‘They are Cloud-Men!’
‘There are hundreds of them!’
‘I don’t want to hear about it!’ shrieked the poor blind Earthworm. ‘I’d rather be on the end of a fish hook and used as bait than come up against those terrible creatures again!’
‘I’d rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican!’ wailed the Old-Green-Grasshopper.
‘Please keep quiet,’ whispered James. ‘It’s our only hope.’
They crouched very still on top of the peach, staring at the Cloud-Men. The whole surface of the cloud was literally swarming with them, and there were hundreds more up above climbing about on that monstrous crazy arch.
‘But what is that thing?’ whispered the Ladybird. ‘And what are they doing to it?’
‘I don’t care what they’re doing to it!’ the Centipede said, scuttling over to the tunnel entrance. ‘I‘m not staying up here! Good-bye!’
But the rest of them were too frightened or too hypnotized by the whole affair to make a move.
‘Do you know what?’ James whispered.
‘What?’ they said. ‘What?’
‘That enormous arch – they seem to be painting it! They‘ve got pots of paint and big brushes! You look!’
And he was quite right. The travellers were close enough now to see that this was exactly what the Cloud-Men were doing. They all had huge brushes in their hands and they were splashing the paint on to the great curvy arch in a frenzy of speed, so fast, in fact, that in a few minutes the whole of the arch became covered with the most glorious colours – reds, blues, greens, yellows, and purples.
‘It’s a rainbow!’ everyone said at once. ‘They are making a rainbow!’
‘Oh, isn’t it beautiful!’
‘Just look at those colours!’
‘Centipede!’ they shouted. ‘You must come up and see this!’ They were so enthralled by the beauty and brilliance of the rainbow that they forgot to keep their voices low any longer. The Centipede poked his head cautiously out of the tunnel entrance.
‘Well, well, well,’ he said. ‘I‘ve always wondered how those things were made. But why all the ropes? What are they doing with those ropes?’
‘Good heavens, they are pushing it off the cloud!’ cried James. ‘There it goes! They are lowering it down to the earth with ropes!’
‘And I’ll tell you something else,’ the Centipede said sharply. ‘If I‘m not greatly mistaken, we ourselves are going to bump right into it!’
‘Bless my soul, he’s right!’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper exclaimed.
The rainbow was now dangling in the air below the cloud. The peach was also just below the level of the cloud, and it was heading directly towards the rainbow, travelling rather fast.
‘We are lost!’ Miss Spider cried, wringing her feet again. ‘The end has come!’
‘I can’t stand it!’ wailed the Earthworm. ‘Tell me what’s happening!’
‘We’re going to miss it!’ shouted the Ladybird.
‘No, we’re not!’
‘Yes, we are!’
‘Yes! – Yes! – No! – Oh, my heavens!’
‘Hold on, everybody!’ James called out, and suddenly there was a tremendous thud as the peach went crashing into the top of the rainbow. This was followed by an awful splintering noise as the enormous rainbow snapped right across the middle and became two separate pieces.

The next thing that happened was extremly unfortunate. The ropes that the Cloud-Men had been using for lowering the rainbow got tangled up with the silk strings that went up from the peach to the seagulls! The peach was trapped! Panic and pandemonium broke out among the travellers, and James Henry Trotter, glancing up quickly, saw the faces of a thousand furious Cloud-Men peering down at him over the edge of the cloud. The faces had almost no shape at all because of the long white hairs that covered them. There were no noses, no mouths, no ears, no chins – only the eyes were visible in each face, two small black eyes glinting malevolently through the hairs.
Then came the most frightening thing of all. One Cloud-Man, a huge hairy creature who must have been fourteen feet tall at least, suddenly stood up and made a tremendous leap off the side of the cloud, trying to get to one of the silk strings above the peach. James and his friends saw him go flying through the air above them, his arms outstretched in front of him, reaching for the nearest string, and they saw him grab it and cling to it with his hands and legs. And then, very very slowly, hand over hand, he began to come down the string.
‘Mercy! Help! Save us!’ cried the Ladybird.
‘He’s coming down to eat us!’ wailed the Old-Green-Grasshopper. ‘Jump overboard!’
‘Then eat the Earthworm first!’ shouted the Centipede. ‘It’s no good eating me, I‘m full of bones like a kipper!’

‘Centipede!’ yelled James. ‘Quickly! Bite through that string, the one he’s coming down on!’
The Centipede rushed over to the stem of the peach and took the silk string in his teeth and bit through it with one snap of his jaws. Immediately, far above them, a single seagull was seen to come away from the rest of the flock and go flying off with a long string trailing from its neck. And clinging desperately to the end of the string, shouting and cursing with fury, was the huge hairy Cloud-Man. Up and up he went, swinging across the moonlit sky, and James Henry Trotter, watching him with delight, said, ‘My goodness, he must weigh almost nothing at all for one seagull to be able to pull him up like that! He must be all hair and air!’
The rest of the Cloud-Men were so flabbergasted at seeing one of their company carried away in this manner that they let go the ropes they were holding and then of course down went the rainbow, both halves of it together, tumbling towards the earth below. This freed the peach, which at once began sailing away from that terrible cloud.
But the travellers were not in the clear yet. The infuriated Cloud-Men jumped up and ran after them along the cloud, pelting them mercilessly with all sorts of hard and horrible objects. Empty paint buckets, paint brushes, stepladders, stools, saucepans, frying-pans, rotten eggs, dead rats, bottles of hair-oil – anything those brutes could lay their hands on came raining down upon the peach. One Cloud-Man, taking very careful aim, tipped a gallon of thick purple paint over the edge of the cloud right on to the Centipede himself.
The Centipede screamed with anger. ‘My legs!’ he cried. ‘They are all sticking together! I can’t walk! And my eyelids won’t open! I can’t see! And my boots! My boots are ruined!’
But for the moment everyone was far too busy dodging the things that the Cloud-Men were throwing to pay any attention to the Centipede.
‘The paint is drying!’ he moaned. ‘It’s going hard! I can’t move my legs! I can’t move anything!’
‘You can still move your mouth,’ the Earthworm said. ‘And that is a great pity.’
‘James!’ bawled the Centipede. ‘Please help me! Wash off this paint! Scrape it off! Anything!’
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