Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(5)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(5)
Author: Ransom Riggs

Mrs. Sally returned a few days later. “Okay,” she said with a sigh. “I’ll sell you my nose.”

She had it replaced with a false one made of gold and, with the money she earned, built an enormous gold dome on top of her marble house.

You may have guessed where this is going. The whole village sold their noses and built gold domes and turrets and towers. Then they sold their eyes—just one each—and used the money to dig moats around their houses, which they filled with wine and exotic, drunken fish. They said that binocular vision was a luxury anyway and needed mainly for throwing and catching things which, lacking arms, they didn’t do anymore. And it only took one eye to appreciate the beauty of their homes.

Now, the cannibals were civilized and law-abiding, but they weren’t saints. They were living in huts in the forest and cooking their food over campfires while the villagers lived in manors and palaces, waited on by servants. So the cannibals moved into the villagers’ houses. There were so many rooms in the houses that it took the villagers some time to notice, but when they finally did, they were angry.

“We never said you could live with us!” the villagers said. “You’re dirty cannibals who eat human flesh! Go stay in the woods!”

“If you don’t let us live in your houses,” the cannibals replied, “we’ll stop buying your limbs and go back to Meek. Then you won’t be able to pay your loans and you’ll lose everything.”

The villagers didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want cannibals in their houses, but neither could they imagine going back to the way they used to live. In fact, things would be worse than before: not only would they be homeless, disfigured, and half blind, but they wouldn’t even have swamps to farm because they’d filled them all in. It was unthinkable.

Grudgingly, they let the cannibals stay. The cannibals spread out among all the houses in the village (except Farmer Hayworth’s—no one wanted to live in his crude wooden shack). They took the master suites and largest bedrooms and made the villagers move into their own guest rooms, some of which did not even have en-suite bathrooms! Mister Bachelard was forced to live in his chicken coop. Mister Anderson moved into his cellar. (It was very nice for a cellar, but still.)

The villagers complained incessantly about the new arrangement. (They still had tongues, after all.)

“Your cooking smells make me sick!” Mrs. Sally said to her cannibals.

“The tourists keep asking about you, and it’s embarrassing!” Mister Pullman shouted at his cannibals, startling them as they read quietly in the study.

“If you don’t move out, I’ll tell the authorities you’ve been kidnapping children and cooking them into quiches!” Mister Bettelheim threatened.

“One doesn’t cook a quiche, one bakes a quiche,” replied his cannibal, a cultivated Spaniard named Héctor.

“I don’t care!” shouted Mister Bettelheim, going quite red in the face.

After some weeks of this, Héctor decided he couldn’t take it anymore. He offered Mister Bettelheim every penny he had left on earth if he would just sell Héctor his tongue.

Mister Bettelheim did not reject the offer out of hand. He gave it careful thought and consideration. Without his tongue, he’d no longer be able to complain or make threats against Héctor. But with the money Héctor was promising, he could build a second house on his property and live there, away from Héctor, and he’d no longer have anything to complain about. And who else in the village would have not one but two golden-domed marble houses?

Now, if Mister Bettelheim had asked Farmer Hayworth’s advice, his old friend would have told him not to take the cannibal’s deal. If the smell of Héctor’s cooking bothers you, come and live with me, Hayworth would have offered. I have more than enough room in my house. But Mister Bettelheim had shunned Farmer Hayworth, as had the rest of the village, so he didn’t ask—and even if he had, Bettelheim was too proud, and would rather live without a tongue than in Hayworth’s sad little house.

So Bettelheim went to Héctor and said, “Okay.”

Héctor drew his carving knife, which was always sheathed at his side. “Yes?”

“Yes,” Bettelheim said, and stuck out his tongue.

Héctor did the deed. He stuffed Bettelheim’s mouth with cotton to stop the bleeding. He carried the tongue into the kitchen, fried it in truffle oil with a pinch of salt, and ate it. Then he took all the money he’d promised Bettelheim, gave it to Bettelheim’s servants, and dismissed them. Limbless, tongueless, and very angry, Bettelheim grunted and wiggled around on the floor. Héctor picked him up, carried him outside, and tied him to a stake in a shady part of the back garden. He watered and fed Bettelheim twice a day, and like a fruiting vine Bettelheim grew limbs for Héctor to eat. Héctor felt a little bad about it, but not too bad. Eventually he married a nice cannibal girl and together they raised a cannibal family, all fed by the peculiar man in the back garden.

Such was the fate of all the villagers—all but Farmer Hayworth, who kept his limbs and lived in his little house and farmed his swamp like he always had. He didn’t bother his new neighbors, and they didn’t bother him. He had everything he needed, and so did they.

And they lived happily ever after.

The Fork-Tongued Princess

In the ancient kingdom of Frankenbourg there was a princess who had a peculiar secret: in her mouth hid a long, forked tongue and across her back lay shimmering, diamond-patterned scales. Because she had developed these serpentine characteristics during her teenage years and rarely opened her mouth for fear of being found out, she had been able to keep them secret from everyone but her handmaiden. Not even her father, the king, knew.

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