'A lot of little girlsies and boysies is no longer sleeping in their beds tonight,' the BFG said.

Sophie felt quite ill.

But this grim encounter made her more than ever determined to go through with her mission.

It must have been about an hour or so later that the BFG began to slow his pace. 'We is in England now,'

he said suddenly.

Dark though it was, Sophie could see that they were in a country of green fields with neat hedges in between the fields. There were hil s with trees al over them and occasional y there were roads with the lights of cars moving along. Each time they came to a road, the BFG was over it and away, and no motorist could possibly have seen anything except a quick black shadow flashing overhead.

Al at once, a curious orange-coloured glow appeared in the night sky ahead of them.

'We is coming close to London,' the BFG said.

He slowed to a trot. He began looking about cautiously.

Groups of houses were now appearing on al sides. But there were stil no lights in their windows. It was too early for anyone to be getting up yet.

'Someone's bound to see us,' Sophie said.

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'Never is they seeing me,' the BFG said confidently. 'You is forgetting that I is doing this sort of thing for years and years and years. No human bean is ever catching even the smal est wink of me.'

'I did,' Sophie whispered.

'Ah,' he said. 'Yes. But you was the very first.'

During the next half-hour, things moved so swiftly and so silently that Sophie, crouching in the giant's ear, was unable to understand exactly what was going on. They were in streets. There were houses everywhere. Sometimes there were shops. There were bright lamps in the streets. There were quite a few people about and there were cars with lights on. But nobody ever noticed the BFG. It was impossible to understand quite how he did it. There was a kind of magic in his movements. He seemed to melt into the shadows. He would glide — that was the only word to describe his way of moving — he would glide noiselessly from one dark place to another, always moving, always gliding forward through the streets of London, his black cloak blending with the shadows of the night.

It is quite possible that one or two late-night wanderers might have thought they saw a tal black shadow skimming swiftly down a murky sidestreet, but even if they had, they would never have believed their own eyes. They would have dismissed it as an il usion and blamed themselves for seeing things that weren't there.

Sophie and the BFG came at last to a large place ful of trees. There was a road running through it, and a lake. There were no people in this place and the BFG stopped for the first time since they had set out from his cave many hours before.

'What's the matter?' Sophie whispered in her under-the-breath voice.

'I is in a bit of a puddle,' he said.

'You're doing marvel ously,' Sophie whispered.

'No, I isn't,' he said. 'I is now completely boggled. I is lost.'

'But why?'

'Because we is meant to be in the middle of London and suddenly we is in green pastures.'

'Don't be sil y,' Sophie whispered. 'This is the middle of London. It's cal ed Hyde Park. I know exactly where we are.'

'You is joking.'

'I'm not. I swear I'm not. We're almost there.'

'You mean we is nearly at the Queen's Palace?' cried the BFG.

'It's just across the road,' Sophie whispered. 'This is where I take over.'

'Which way?' the BFG asked.

'Straight ahead.'

The BFG trotted forward through the deserted park.

'Now stop.'

The BFG stopped.

'You see that huge roundabout ahead of us just outside the Park?' Sophie whispered.

'I see it.'

'That is Hyde Park Corner.'

Even now, when it was stil an hour before dawn, there was quite a lot of traffic moving around Hyde Park Corner.

Then Sophie whispered, 'In the middle of the roundabout there is an enormous stone arch with a statue of a horse and rider on top of it. Can you see that?'

The BFG peered through the trees. 'I is seeing it,' he said.

'Do you think that if you took a very fast run at it, you could jump clear over Hyde Park Corner, over the arch and over the horse and rider and land on the pavement the other side?'

'Easy,' the BFG said.

'You're sure? You're absolutely sure?'

'I promise,' the BFG said.

'Whatever you do, you mustn't land in the middle of Hyde Park Corner.'

'Don't get so flussed,' the BFG said. 'To me that is a snitchy little jump. There's not a thingalingaling to it.'

'Then go ! ' Sophie whispered.

The BFG broke into a ful gal op. He went scorching across the Park and just before he reached the railings that divided it from the street, he took off. It was a gigantic leap. He flew high over Hyde Park Corner and landed as softly as a cat on the pavement the other side.

'Well done! ' Sophie whispered. 'Now quick! Over that wal !'

Directly in front of them, bordering the pavement, there was a brick wall with fearsome-looking spikes all along the top of it. A swift crouch, a little leap and the BFG was over it.

'We're there!' Sophie whispered excitedly. 'We're in the Queen's back garden!'

The Palace

'By gumdrops!' whispered the Big Friendly Giant. 'Is this real y it?'

'There's the Palace,' Sophie whispered back.

Not more than a hundred yards away, through the tal trees in the garden, across the mown lawns and the tidy flower-beds, the massive shape of the Palace itself loomed through the darkness. It was made of whitish stone. The sheer size of it staggered the BFG.

'But this place is having a hundred bedrooms at least!' he said.

'Easily, I should think,' Sophie whispered.

'Then I is boggled,' the BFG said. 'How is I possibly finding the one where the Queen is sleeping?'

'Let's go a bit closer and have a look,' Sophie whispered.

The BFG glided forward among the trees. Suddenly he stopped dead. The great ear in which Sophie was sitting began to swivel round. 'Hey!' Sophie whispered. 'You're going to tip me out!'

'Ssshh!' the BFG whispered back. 'I is hearing something!' He stopped behind a clump of bushes. He waited. The ear was stil swinging this way and that. Sophie had to hang on tight to the side of it to save herself from tumbling out. The BFG pointed through a gap in the bushes, and there, not more than fifty yards away, she saw a man padding softly across the lawn. He had a guard-dog with him on a leash.

The BFG stayed as stil as a stone. So did Sophie. The man and the dog walked on and disappeared into the darkness.

'You was tel ing me they has no soldiers in the back garden,' the BFG whispered.

'He wasn't a soldier,' Sophie whispered. 'He was some sort of a watchman. We'l have to be careful.'

'I is not too worried,' the BFG said. 'These wacksey big ears of mine is picking up even the noise of a man breathing the other side of this garden.'