James’s large frightened eyes travelled slowly round the room.
The creatures, some sitting on chairs, others reclining on a sofa, were all watching him intently.
Or were they insects?
An insect is usually something rather small, is it not? A grasshopper, for example, is an insect.
So what would you call it if you saw a grasshopper as large as a dog? As large as a large dog. You could hardly call that an insect, could you?
There was an Old-Green-Grasshopper as large as a large dog sitting directly across the room from James now.
And next to the Old-Green-Grasshopper, there was an enormous Spider.
And next to the Spider, there was a giant Ladybird with nine black spots on her scarlet shell.
Each of these three was squatting upon a magnificent chair.
On a sofa near by, reclining comfortably in curled-up positions, there were a Centipede and an Earthworm.
On the floor over in the far corner, there was something thick and white that looked as though it might be a Silkworm. But it was sleeping soundly and nobody was paying any attention to it.
Every one of these ‘creatures’ was at least as big as James himself, and in the strange greenish light that shone down from somewhere in the ceiling, they were absolutely terrifying to behold.
‘I’m hungry!’ the Spider announced suddenly, staring hard at James.
‘I’m famished!’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said.
‘So am I!’ the Ladybird cried.
The Centipede sat up a little straighter on the sofa. ‘Everyone’s famished!’ he said. ‘We need food!’
Four pairs of round black glassy eyes were all fixed upon James.
The Centipede made a wriggling movement with his body as though he were about to glide off the sofa – but he didn’t.
There was a long pause – and a long silence.
The Spider (who happened to be a female spider) opened her mouth and ran a long black tongue delicately over her lips. ‘Aren’t you hungry?’ she asked suddenly, leaning forward and addressing herself to James.
Poor James was backed up against the far wall, shivering with fright and much too terrified to answer.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ the Old-Green- Grasshopper asked. ‘You look positively ill!’
‘He looks as though he’s going to faint any second,’ the Centipede said.
‘Oh, my goodness, the poor thing!’ the Ladybird cried. ‘I do believe he thinks it’s him that we are wanting to eat!’
There was a roar of laughter from all sides.
‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ they said. ‘What an awful thought!’
‘You mustn’t be frightened,’ the Ladybird said kindly. ‘We wouldn’t dream of hurting you. You are one of us now, didn’t you know that? You are one of the crew. We’re all in the same boat.’
‘We’ve been waiting for you all day long,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said. ‘We thought you were never going to turn up. I’m glad you made it.’
‘So cheer up, my boy, cheer up!’ the Centipede said. ‘And meanwhile I wish you’d come over here and give me a hand with these boots. It takes me hours to get them all off by myself.’