At this point, a “rather peculiar thing” happens to James. An old man in a green suit comes out of the bushes. The man is bald, with a bristly beard and moustache. He stops, stares at James, and then calls James to him—he has something wonderful to share with him. James is terrified, but the old man approaches and offers James a bag filled with tiny green crystals. They’re luminous and make a quiet rustling noise. Softly, the old man says that the crystals contain more power and magic than anything else. When James asks what the crystals are, the man gets closer and closer. When his nose touches James’s forehead, the old man leaps back and shouts about crocodile tongues, lizards’ eyeballs, and the juice of a porcupine. He shoves the bag at James.
James’s terror when he sees the old man suggests that it’s not just his aunts’ exaggerated bodies that are frightening to a young child—in a way, it’s all adult bodies. It’s telling, though, that the old man is the one to give James these magic crystals. Adults may be strange and even scary, the novel seems to imply, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still offer children amazing opportunities. And for that matter, the fact that the crystals are made of crocodiles’ tongues suggests that the world of adults can be just as wild and absurd as the imaginative world of a child.