James races back to the house. He decides that if he can get into the kitchen undetected, he’ll drink his potion in there. But as James passes the peach tree to get around Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge, he slips. When James hits the ground, the bag bursts open and the tiny green crystals scatter. Though James tries to pick them up, they burrow into the ground faster than he can snatch them, and they disappear in moments. James feels like crying, especially since he knows there’s nothing in the dirt for the crystals to work on. There’s just the roots of the peach tree and, no doubt, an assortment of bugs. James wonders what the crystals will do if they meet bugs or the peach tree’s roots.
It’s telling that James thinks there’s “nothing” in the ground to work on—after all, he mentions that there are bugs and tree roots there. In other words, James assumes that the bugs in the ground aren’t anything worth mentioning. The sentient nature of the crystals, meanwhile, adds to the sense that life is absurd and not something people can control. James can’t control the crystals; he can only adapt to whatever comes next.
Suddenly, James hears a shriek. He looks up to see Aunt Spiker standing over him. As she orders James to finish chopping the wood, Aunt Sponge waddles over. She suggests they put James in the well overnight to cure him of his laziness. Aunt Spiker thinks this is a brilliant idea, but she wants James to finish chopping wood first. James sadly picks his ax back up, still upset that he dropped the bag. Now, there’s no hope of ever finding happiness. As James begins to chop, he hears a shout behind him.
Aunt Spiker’s and Aunt Sponge’s selfishness shines through here: they want to punish James, but they want to make sure they squeeze a little more work out of him first.