Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(3)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(3)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“You could use the money to paper the walls,” said Farmer Anderson.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Farmer Sally piped up. “Just buy a new house!”

And that’s exactly what Hayworth did: he built a house made of wood, the first ever constructed in Swampmuck. It was small but sturdy and kept out the wind, and it even had a door that swung open and shut on hinges. Farmer Hayworth was very proud, and his house was the envy of the entire village.

Some days later, another group of visitors arrived. There were four of them, three men and a woman, and because they were dressed in fine clothes and rode on Arabian horses, the villagers knew right away who they were—law-abiding cannibals from the coast of Meek.3 These cannibals, however, did not appear to be starving.

Again the villagers gathered round to marvel at them. The cannibal woman, who wore a shirt spun with gold thread, pants buttoned with pearls, and boots trimmed with fox fur, said: “Friends of ours came to your village some weeks ago, and you showed them great kindness. Because we are not a people accustomed to kindness, we have come to thank you in person.”

And the cannibals got down from their horses and bowed to the villagers, then went about shaking the villagers’ hands. The villagers were amazed at the softness of the cannibals’ skin.

“One more thing before we go!” said the cannibal woman. “We heard you have a unique talent. Is it true you regrow lost limbs?”

The villagers told them it was true.

“In that case,” the woman said, “we have a modest proposal for you. The limbs we eat on the coast of Meek are rarely fresh, and we’re tired of rotten food. Would you sell us some of yours? We would pay handsomely, of course.”

She opened her saddlepack to reveal a wad of money and jewels. The villagers goggled at the money, but they felt uncertain and turned away to whisper amongst themselves.

“We can’t sell our limbs,” Farmer Pullman reasoned. “I need my legs for walking!”

“Then only sell your arms,” said Farmer Bachelard.

“But we need our arms for swamp-mucking!” said Farmer Hayworth.

“If we’re being paid for our arms, we won’t need to grow swampweed anymore,” said Farmer Anderson. “We hardly earn anything from farming, anyway.”

“It doesn’t seem right, selling ourselves that way,” said Farmer Hayworth.

“Easy for you to say!” said Farmer Bettelheim. “You’ve got a house made of wood!”

And so the villagers made a deal with the cannibals: those who were right-handed would sell their left arms, and those who were left-handed would sell their right arms, and they’d keep on selling them as they grew back. That way they’d have a steady source of income and would never again have to spend all day mucking or endure a difficult harvest. Everyone seemed pleased with the arrangement except Farmer Hayworth, who rather enjoyed swamp-mucking, and was sorry to see the village give up its traditional trade, even if it wasn’t very profitable compared to selling one’s limbs to cannibals.

But there was nothing Farmer Hayworth could do, and he watched helplessly as all his neighbors gave up farming, let their swamps go fallow, and hacked their arms off. (Their peculiarity was such that it didn’t hurt much, and the limbs came off rather easily, like a lizard’s tail.) They used the money they earned to buy food from the market at Chipping Whippet—goat-rump became a dish eaten daily rather than annually—and to build houses made of wood, like Farmer Hayworth’s. Everyone wanted a door that swung on hinges, of course. Then Farmer Pullman built a house with two floors, and soon everyone wanted a house with two floors. Then Farmer Sally built a house with two floors and a gabled roof, and soon everyone wanted houses with two floors and a gabled roof. Every time the villagers’ arms regrew and were hacked off and sold again, they would use the money to add to their houses. Finally the houses grew so big that there was hardly any room between them, and the village square, once wide and open, was reduced to a narrow alley.

Farmer Bachelard was the first one to hit upon a solution. He would buy a big plot of land on the outskirts of the village and build a new house there, even larger than his current one (which had, incidentally, three doors that swung on hinges, two floors, a gabled roof, and a porch). This was around the time when the villagers stopped going by “Farmer this” and “Farmer that” and started calling themselves “Mister this” and “Mrs. that,” because they were no longer farmers—except for Farmer Hayworth, who kept on mucking his swamp and refused to sell any more limbs to the cannibals. He liked his simple house just fine, he insisted, and didn’t even use it that much because he still enjoyed sleeping in his swamp after a hard day’s work. His friends thought him silly and old-fashioned, and stopped coming by to see him.

The once-humble village of Swampmuck expanded rapidly as villagers bought larger and larger tracts of land upon which they built larger and more ornate houses. To finance this, they began selling the cannibals both an arm and a leg (the leg always on the opposite side from the arm, to make balancing easier), and learned to get around on crutches. The cannibals, whose hunger and wealth both seemed inexhaustible, were very happy with this. Then Mister Pullman tore down his wooden house and replaced it with one made of brick, which touched off a race amongst the villagers to see who could build the grandest brick house. But Mister Bettelheim bested them all: he built a beautiful house made of honey-colored limestone, the sort of home only the richest merchants in Chipping Whippet lived in. He had afforded it by selling his arm and both of his legs.

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