Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(4)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(4)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“He’s gone too far!” complained Mrs. Sally over goat-rump sandwiches in the fancy new restaurant the village had built.

Her friends agreed.

“How does he plan to enjoy his three-floor house,” said Mrs. Wannamaker, “if he can’t even walk up the stairs?”

It was just at that moment that Mister Bettelheim came into the restaurant—carried by a burly man from the neighboring village. “I’ve hired a man to carry me up and down the stairs, and anywhere else I want to go,” he said proudly. “I don’t need legs!”

The ladies were astounded. But soon they had sold their legs, too, and all across the village brick houses were being torn down and replaced by giant houses made of limestone.

The cannibals, by this time, had abandoned the coast of Meek to live in the forest near Swampmuck. There was no point anymore in subsisting on a meager diet of hanged criminals and accident victims’ limbs when the villagers’ limbs were fresher, tastier, and more plentiful than anything available in Meek. Their forest homes were modest because they gave so much of their money to the villagers, but the cannibals were nevertheless content, much happier to live in huts with full bellies than to go hungry in mansions.

As the villagers and the cannibals came to depend on one another, the appetites of each continued to grow. The cannibals became fat. Having exhausted every recipe they had for arms and legs, they began to wonder what the villagers’ ears tasted like. But the villagers would not sell them their ears, because ears did not grow back. That is until Mister Bachelard, carried in the arms of his burly servant, paid a secret visit to the cannibals’ forest and asked them how much they’d be willing to pay. He’d still be able to hear without his ears, he reasoned, and though it would make him a bit ugly, the fine house of white marble he’d be able to construct with the proceeds would be beautiful enough to compensate. (Now, the financially astute among you may be asking: why didn’t Mister Bachelard just save up money from the ongoing sale of his arms and legs until he could afford a marble house? It’s because he couldn’t save money, because he’d taken out a very large loan from a bank in order to buy the land upon which his limestone house was built, and now he owed the bank an arm and a leg every month just to pay interest on the loan. So, he needed to sell his ears.)

The cannibals offered Mister Bachelard an exorbitant sum. Mister Bachelard snipped off his ears, happy to be rid of them, and replaced his limestone house with the marble home of his dreams. It was the most beautiful house in the village, and perhaps in all of Oddfordshire. Though the villagers of Swampmuck talked behind Bachelard’s back about how ugly he’d made himself and how foolish it was to sell ears that would never grow back, they all paid him visits and had their servants carry them through the marble rooms and up and down the marble staircases, and by the time they left, each was green with envy.

By this time, none of the villagers but Farmer Hayworth had legs, and very few had arms. For a while they all insisted on keeping one arm so that they could point at things and feed themselves, but then they realized that a servant could lift a spoon or a glass to their lips just as easily, and it was not much more trouble to say “fetch this for me” or “fetch that for me” than to point across a room at something. So arms became seen as needless luxuries, and the villagers, reduced to limbless torsos, would travel from place to place in silken sacks slung across their servants’ shoulders.

Ears soon went the way of arms. The villagers pretended they had not called Mister Bachelard ugly.

“He doesn’t look so bad,” said Mister Bettelheim.

“We could wear earmuffs,” suggested Mister Anderson.

And so their ears were snipped and sold, and marble houses were built. The village gained a reputation for its architectural beauty, and what had once been a backwater visited only by accident became a tourist destination. A hotel was built and several more restaurants. Goat-rump sandwiches were not even on the menu. The people of Swampmuck pretended they had never even heard of goat-rump sandwiches.

Tourists sometimes lingered near Farmer Hayworth’s modest, flat-roofed house of wood, curious about the contrast between his simple home and the palaces that surrounded it. He would explain that he preferred the simple life of a four-limbed swampweed farmer and show them around his patch of swamp. His was the last bit of swamp in Swampmuck, as all the others had been filled in with dirt to make room for houses.

The eyes of the country were on Swampmuck and its beautiful marble homes. The homes’ owners loved the attention but were desperate to stand out in some way, as every house was nearly identical. Each wanted to be known as the owner of the most beautiful house in Swampmuck, but they were already using their arms and legs every month just to pay interest on their enormous loans, and they had already sold their ears.

They began to approach the cannibals with new ideas.

“Would you loan me money with my nose as collateral?” asked Mrs. Sally.

“No,” the cannibals said, “but we would happily buy your nose outright.”

“But if I cut my nose off I’ll look like a monster!” she said.

“You could wear a scarf around your face,” they suggested.

Mrs. Sally refused, and from her sack she instructed her servant to take her home.

Next Mister Bettelheim came to see the cannibals.

“Would you buy my nephew?” he whispered, his servant pushing an eight-year-old boy before the cannibals.

“Absolutely not!” the cannibals replied, and gave the terrified boy a candy before sending him home.

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