This chapter is inspired by the old man in dark glasses (credited to as Uncle Oggie), who told Jake that Miss Peregrine's home had been bombed. Over 70 years later, how did he still remember the exact day it happened? And what made him describe Miss Peregrine and her children as "lovely"? Here's my take on an encounter he might've had with them in Miss P's loop.
My entry for the August Song Challenge at the Plight of the Little-Known Fandom forum.
"But where did they go after? The headmistress and the children?"
"Not one survived, poor little buggers. And they were lovely, too."
The park in Cairnholm was small and simple, like everything else in the village. The metal slide became too hot to touch on sunny days, and the swingset creaked as if it might break apart. But today, the park seemed quite an exciting place to Auggie, for today was the first time he'd been allowed to go there by himself. He'd pleaded and pleaded with Mum, and at last, she'd relented and said he might go to the park while she ran errands. Auggie had puffed up as proud as a peacock at that, but Tegan scoffed, "Big deal." Tegan was off larking with his friends on the docks over the harbor, watching the ferries sail in and out. He always acted so high-and-mighty just because he was twelve now.
Auggie stopped short when he saw the two little girls just inside the park entrance, playing on the grass. Cairnholm was so small that he knew practically every other child, but he didn't recognize these girls right away. They didn't live in the village or go to school. After a moment, Auggie realized that they were from the children's home near the edge of the island. He crept closer, curious. The children at the home were real-live war refugees and orphans from different parts of Europe – he'd heard grown-ups say so – and they didn't come into the village often. Seeing them was almost as exciting as going to the park by himself!
It would be something to tell Tegan that he had seen girls from the children's home... but wouldn't it be even better to say that he'd played with them? They were playing fly, a game of laying sticks on the ground, further and further apart, and jumping over them. Auggie was good at fly. He took a deep breath and boldly walked right over to them and asked to play.
They smiled and nodded, their curls bobbing. Their names were Claire and Bronwyn, they said, and they were both six.
"Oh, I'm seven," Auggie said, bragging.
"I can tell time," Claire bragged back, sticking out one arm. Fastened around her wrist was a little wristwatch.
Auggie tried not to act impressed, but he was. A younger girl who could tell time! He didn't know any children his age who knew what the big hand and the little hand were saying. "Can you really?" he asked, peering at the face of Claire's watch. He glanced at Bronwyn and saw that she wore a watch, too.
"Yes, Miss Peregrine taught us. She says knowing the time is very important. She's coming to take us home at three o'clock, and you ask to play with us at two forty-one."
"But only when we play fly," Bronwyn put in. "If we play jacks or jump-rope, you just walk past us."
But Auggie didn't notice what Bronwyn said. He was still thinking about what Claire had said. Miss Peregrine must be the headmistress of their children's home. Auggie had seen her in the village before, the strange lady with the long black fingernails, but like all the children in Cairnholm, he kept well away from her. Tegan said that she was a witch who cackled and flew about on a broomstick at night, and that was why she lived so far from the village. But lately, Auggie began to wonder if Tegan wasn't just trying to frighten him.
He scanned the benches under the trees where grown-ups sat, but Miss Peregrine wasn't there. If these girls were allowed to go to the park by themselves too, it would be even worse than their knowing how to tell time. "Where is she?" he asked.
Claire glanced up at the clouds. "Oh, she's about."
"She probably went to check on Fiona," Bronwyn said.
"Fiona's in the market, selling flowers," Claire told Auggie. She swung her arms back and forth as she talked, flouncing the skirt of her dress. "She can grow the prettiest flowers you ever saw, and sometimes Miss Peregrine lets her bring a bunch to the village and sell them. Horace says she would make more money selling vegetables, but Fiona says she likes selling flowers better. Sometimes we stay in the market with her and help."
But Auggie was more curious about Miss Peregrine than flowers. He wanted to tell them what Tegan had said about her being a witch, but he was afraid they might laugh at him. He didn't really think that she could be a witch – after all, he was seven, and much too old to believe in silly things like witches – but there was something very strange about the woman. It wasn't just that she smoked a pipe, which Auggie had never seen a woman do before. He thought back to the last time he had seen her in the village – the quick way she moved her head, the sharp look in her eyes.
"Miss Peregrine's sort of like a... a hawk, isn't she?" he blurted without meaning to.
It was a silly thing to say, but Bronwyn and Claire didn't laugh. They stared at each other, then at him, both blinking in surprise, as if he'd just guessed a secret.
"She's a falcon," Claire said, but Bronwyn shushed her.
"What?" Auggie asked.
"Nothing," Bronwyn answered, laying another stick down on the grass. "Come on, let's play fly," she said, and they did. Auggie was good at fly, but Bronwyn's legs were longer, and she won the first round.
Auggie didn't mind losing. He hoped that Tegan or someone else he knew would pass by the park and see him playing with these girls from the children's home. He'd wondered if perhaps they were strange too, somehow, like their Miss Peregrine, but as they played, they seemed like normal children to Auggie. Whenever Claire jumped, her curls bounced, and she was always smoothing them down and adjusting her headband with quick, fluttery little movements of her hands. But Bronwyn never bothered; her curls flew all about and flopped in her eyes.
They were playing their third round of fly when Auggie heard the sound of bird's wings, beating loudly close behind him. He turned and looked, but there was no bird nearby. When he turned back around, the woman from the children's home, Miss Peregrine, was walking across the grass towards them.
"Bronwyn, Claire," she called, "I hope you've been playing nicely with August."
Auggie's mouth fell open a bit. How could this woman know his name – his full name? How had she just come out of nowhere? Perhaps she really was a witch. He backed away, a bit frightened.
"We have, Miss P," Claire answered.
"Good girls. Tell him goodbye now, it's time for us to fetch Fiona and go home."
"Goodbye, Auggie," Bronwyn said politely, hurrying around their row of sticks. "Thank you for playing with us, it was jolly fun."
Miss Peregrine had reached them now, and as Claire and Bronwyn gathered to her, she bent down and brushed Bronwyn's curls out of her eyes. "You look flushed, Bronwyn. I hope you didn't play too hard."
"We didn't, Miss P," Claire answered, as they slipped their hands into one of each of hers.
Auggie knew then that no matter what Tegan said, no matter how strange she might seem, Miss Peregrine was no witch. Claire and Bronwyn loved her too much. He wasn't even frightened – only just a smidge nervous – when Miss Peregrine straightened up and looked right at him.
"August, it's nice to see you again," she said. Her eyes were very sharp, but he could see now that there was a kindess in them, too.
"Yes, ma'am," he managed to answer. There! He had done it! He had actually spoken to the woman from the children's home. He was quite certain that no other child in the village had ever done that. Certainly Tegan never had.
Claire turned and waved to him over her shoulder as they walked away. Just as they were leaving the park, another grown-up approached them. Auggie recongized her as Mrs. Gethin, who went to their church, and she held a bunch of purple flowers in her hand. He was still close enough to overhear their words.
"Are you the woman who runs the children's home?" Mrs. Gethin asked Miss Peregrine.
"The girl selling flowers in the market said she belongs to you."
Miss Peregrine smiled. "She does."
"I haven't seen any hyacinth on the island since May. How on earth did you get these to grow in September?"
"Fiona grows all her flowers herself, actually. She's a very good gardener."
Mrs. Gethin looked rather skeptical, but she said only, "Yes, I suppose she must be." After Miss Peregrine and her children had left the park, she shook her head and said, "Hyacinth in September!" Then she noticed Auggie standing there. "That bunch seems a bit... peculiar, don't they?" she asked him off-handedly.
Mum said it was rude to contradict grown-ups, but it had to be rude to call people peculiar behind their backs too, so Mrs. Gethin had done it first. Auggie raised his head and puffed out his chest. "I like them," he said proudly.