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The trouble with Jam
Not my characters, Tolkien's of course.†
It was very high up, but then so were most things in the Brandy Hall kitchen. The room was very big and filled with things that he couldnít reach. It didnít seem fair at all. Why was everything way up there when he was way down here? Pippin stared up at the cabinet above the counter longingly. Somewhere in that very cabinet was jam. All sorts of jam. All flavors. His favorite flavors. Well, he never had tried any jam that wasn't his favorite when you came down to it. He just dearly loved jam.
"What are you doing Master Took?" It was Silas. He helped in the kitchen sometimes, but mostly he worked outside somewhere. Pippin wasnít sure where, but he liked Silas. He smiled up at the old hobbit and put his hands behind his back. He tried to look innocent and he supposed that he was innocent so far.
"Nothing," Pippin said, smiling.
"Does any one know that you are in this kitchen all alone?" Silas asking leaning over and looking the small hobbit in the eye.
"You do," Pippin answered, reasonably.
"Anyone else?" Silas asked, smiling at the little oneís logic.
"Maybe not," Pippin admitted.
"Then go to where you are supposed to Master Took and donít be playiní in this kitchen," Silas said, firmly. He liked this one, but he knew trouble when he spotted it and a six-year-old hobbit lad alone in the kitchen was trouble.
"Silas, would you get me something aífor I go?" Pippin asked, hopefully.
"And what might it be that you want?" Silas asked.
"Just the jam," Pippin said. "They got all kinds but any kind is fine so you can get me the one that they donít hardly ever eat if you know which one it is. I donít mind."
"You go on and see Mistress Brandybuck about that jam," Silas chuckled. "Sheís the one that decides who has jam around here. You just tell her what you told me and maybe sheíll let you have some." He patted the child on the head and then turned him in the direction of the door. "Now, out of the kitchen, Master Took."
Pippin frowned and mumbled as he left. "I did ask her and she wonít let me have it."
"I thought as much," Silas smiled, watching the little one leave with his head down and his shoulders sagging in defeat. "That takes care of one problem for the Master and Mistress."
Silas had underestimated Pippin.
Some time later Pippin crept toward the kitchen and peered around the corner. He had to make sure that Silas was gone and that no one else was in there if he wanted to have a chance to get some of that delicious jam. Adult hobbits were always hiding the good food. There had to be some way to get jam around here without an adult.
Pippin slipped into the kitchen and looked up at the cabinet again. There had to be some way to get up there from down here. He looked around the kitchen until he saw what he needed. He could get a chair and climb up onto the counter from it. All he had to do was push the chair against the counter.
Pippin went over and got a firm grip on one of the chairs that surrounded the kitchen table and pulled it out. He was big enough to do that. He still had to sit on a wooden high seat that his Uncle Doc had made for him when he ate at the table, but he was big enough to move the chairs out. He had to slide the chair out carefully or someone would....
"What are you doing, Peregrin?" It was his much older cousin Bilbo.
"Nothing," Pippin lied, still holding onto the chair. The Brandybuckís kitchen was a very busy place it seemed. Today everyone seemed to be coming in here.
"It looks to me like you are trying to move this chair somewhere," Bilbo observed. He placed a hand on the back of the chair and leaned over to look at Pippin. "Itís an awfully big chair, lad. Do you need some help?" Bilbo asked, smiling.
This wasnít what Pippin had expected and so it caught him by surprise. He stood there for a moment with his mouth hanging open and stared at old cousin Bilbo. Then he snapped his mouth shut and nodded.
"Where are you trying to put the chair?" Bilbo asked, curiously, but still looking helpful.
"Over by that counter," Pippin said, pointing.
"All the way over there?" Bilbo asked and Pippin nodded in answer. Bilbo scratched his head for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders. "May I ask why?"
Pippin thought that it had been too good to be true. Now he was going to be sent from the kitchen again. Suddenly he hit upon an idea and he looked up at Bilbo with wide shining eyes and said, "Itís a secret."
"A secret is it, then," Bilbo smiled. "Who is it a secret from?"
"Everyone," Pippin said. "Iím having an explore in this kitchen. I just need the chair over by that counter so I can explore more better. I seem to be a bit short."
Bilbo nodded at the little Took before him and began to move the chair over to the counter. "I suppose that you are just a trifle short at present. I was short when I was your age also as I recall."
"Whatís a trifle?" Pippin asked, following Bilbo and the chair across the kitchen.
"Well, itís just another way to say a little bit or a small amount," Bilbo explained.
"So, Iím a trifle?" Pippin asked, wanting to know the word well enough to use it in front of his cousin Frodo later. Frodo used all sorts of very big words and he was always impressed when Pippin knew a big word. Trifle sounded like a big word that meant a small thing so it would be very good to know it.
Bilbo grinned. "Oh no, you are not a trifle, trifle is used to describe something small, but it is not something that you can be.† The word trifle can also mean that something is not worth very much and I suspect that you are worth a great deal."
Pippin frowned and wrinkled his nose. There must be a trick to some of these words. This one didnít seem to make any sense at all. Maybe old cousin Bilbo made it up, but in any case, he had moved the chair for him. "Thank you," Pippin said, as Bilbo placed the chair next to the counter.
"You are most welcome," Bilbo said, and he stood there watching Pippin.
"Well, thatís all I really need," Pippin said, giving Bilbo a very winning smile and patting the chair with his hand.
"Well then, please do continue with your exploring," Bilbo said. "Donít worry about me. I will just stand over here out of the way." He put his hands on his hips and smiled back at Pippin.
"You donít have to stay. I will be fine now," Pippin said, trying to sound pleasant but beginning to get annoyed with old Bilbo Baggins. He wondered why his old cousin didnít just go on about his own business.
"Oh, Iím in no particular hurry, my lad," Bilbo said. "I am just waiting in here for your Aunt Esmeralda. She and I are going out for a stroll."
This was not good at all. Aunt Esme thought that Pippin was in the nursery with the other children. The nurse thought that Pippin was with Merry and now if Aunt Esme caught him in the kitchen with Bilbo, heíd be in very big trouble. So, he yawned very wide and smiled. "I have to go sleep for a while," Pippin said. "I get tired sometimes. I will have to go on this explore later. Bye," and with that said, he darted from the room.
Bilbo chuckled as he watched the childís hasty retreat. Little ones really were no trouble at all if you knew how to handle them properly. Esmeralda was always saying what a handful this little imp of Paladinís was, but Bilbo really didnít see the difficulty. Younger folks just didnít know how to deal with little ones. Bilbo did have some experience even though he had no children of his own.
The problem was that Bilbo had very little experience with Pippin.
Pippin waited until he had heard his Aunt come into the kitchen and then listened until she and Bilbo had gone outside. Now, he would make his way back for another try at the jam. To his delight, the chair was still next to the counter. He looked around the kitchen carefully and then went over and climbed up on the chair. Now, he could stand on the chair and reach the counter. With a bit of effort he managed to pull himself up onto the counter. It was still difficult even with the chair. He lay on his stomach on the counter and caught his breath for a moment.
His stomach was getting a bit impatient with all of this and began to growl with hunger. He hadnít eaten since lunchtime and it must be getting late by now. Pippin couldnít tell time and so he didnít know for sure but if his stomach said it was time to eat then he trusted it completely. He didnít think that folks needed watches to tell them when to eat. His stomach always knew when.
He raised himself up onto his feet on the counter and stood slowly up. It was a long way to the floor. There was no reason for anyone to put jam up this high. His aunt Esme was very nice but he suspected that she could use someone to tell her where she should keep the jam.
Pippin scanned the kitchen one more time and then very slowly turned around to face the cabinet. He griped the handle on the cabinet door and carefully swung it open. It was a very deep cabinet and it had a great many shelves. Pippin could easily reach the first three shelves and he could touch the bottom of the fourth one with his finger tips if he stood on his toes. The jam jars were on the fifth shelf! This was not fair at all. Heíd been working on this for ages and he was still too short to reach the jam. Now what?
His cousin Merry was very tall and he would just bet that even Merry couldnít reach this jam. There had to be a way to get it because they had served it with first breakfast today. That was what had made him want it. He had finished off six slices of toast coated in jam and was getting ready to have a seventh when his Aunt Esme had taken away the jar. She had said that he needed to eat something else like the eggs or maybe some of the sausages. He didnít mind eating those things, but he had not been finished with the jam. It wasnít like Aunt Esme to be so selfish. She always wanted him to eat. Now, he was almost to the jam and still he couldnít reach it.
His stomach growled in case he had forgotten it which he most certainly had not. He tried to jump a bit now, but that didnít help either. He was a very good jumper but this was just too high even for him. He had to figure this out. It was a problem, but he had heard his father say that problems could be solved and he was sure that this was true. His father was a very important hobbit. He solved lots of problems all of the time. Pippin should be able to solve this problem if he thought about it.
He had come up with a plan but it had involved a great deal of work. He had to climb down from the counter again, onto the chair, down from the chair and over to the table again. What he needed was his little seat that Uncle Doc had made. He found it and with a bit of effort he managed to unfasten it from the chair in which it sat. It was heavy but he could move it. He carried it over to the chair and then sat it on the chair. At this point he had to rest.
Suddenly he heard the back door to the kitchen open and so he ran out of the kitchen and hid in the hall. He hoped that who ever this was would not move his chair or his special seat. He also hoped that they did not notice the open cabinet door. He listened and gave a sigh of relief when he realized that it was only Merry and Fatty. They wouldnít notice.
"I was thinking that we could see if your father when take us out fishing tomorrow," Fatty was saying.
"I donít see why we canít go on our own," Merry said. "I can swim and I can row a boat all on my own. I donít know why we arenít allowed to go alone."
"I canít swim," Fatty said, sounding slightly embarrassed. "My parents would never let me learn how. Mum is afraid of water."
"Well, I could save you if you fell in," Merry said. "Iím a very good swimmer."
Pippin was nodding in agreement out in the hallway. Merry was the best swimmer in all of Buckland and since hobbits in the rest of the Shire didnít swim then Merry was most likely the best swimmer in the whole Shire. His stomach growled. It didnít seem to care about Merryís swimming talent. It still wanted the jam.
"Get some of those apples, Fatty," Merry suggested. "and Iíll get us some cheese. Then we can go out and see if my father is in the barn. Maybe he will take us but I still donít see why we canít go alone."
"Merry?" Fatty asked. "Why do you suppose that cabinet is open?"
Pippin froze. Please donít let them start moving things. It was so hard to arrange things and his stomach couldnít wait much longer.
"Donít know, but I suppose someone will be coming back to get something or close it soon enough," Merry shrugged. "Come on, if we donít catch papa in the barn then heíll be gone out to the fields and weíll have a longer walk."
Pippin listened as the back door shut again and he slipped back into the kitchen. Good ole Merry! He wasnít nosey like Fatty Bolger was. It wasnít any of his business who was in that cabinet and so he just left it alone.
Some minutes later, Pippin was standing on his special seat which was on the counter and was up on his toes. His arm was stretched out to its full length and his fingers were wrapping about the jam jar nearest the edge of the shelf. He almost had it. A bit more stretching and wiggling about and the jar was in his hand. It was heavier than he had suspected that it would be and he barely managed to get it down without dropping it.
The hard part was over now. He carefully lowered himself down on his special seat and then scooted off onto the chair with his prize in hand. His stomach growled again and he frowned down at it. "I almost have it. Stay quiet or Iíll get caught," he warned.
He climbed down from the chair and raced from the room with the jar held tightly in both hands. He would hide somewhere and enjoy this jam all by himself. He was a problem-solver just like his papa. It was hard work too. No wonder papa was always busy. It was very hard solving problems but the jam would be worth it.
Just after Pippin left with his prize, one of the serving lasses came into the kitchen. She was puzzled by the odd arrangement with the chair and little Pippinís special seat and she was also wondering who had left the cabinet open. Thinking that one of the other lasses might have done this and not wishing to get anyone else into trouble with Mistress Brandybuck, she moved everything back into its proper place. The little foot-prints on the counter were a bit unusual, but she was not the sort to ask too many questions. Jobs were hard to find, especially jobs as good as this one. The Brandybucks were fine folks to work for. She took a cloth and wiped up the foot prints and decided to say nothing.
"Iíve just had the strangest conversation with Pippin," Frodo said, as he joined his cousin Saradoc and his cousin Bilbo in the parlor.
"I donít doubt it in the least," Saradoc smiled. "That one is full of surprises. What was it about?"
"Well, he seemed to be wanting me to explain how jars worked," Frodo frowned, still a bit confused. "He wanted to know how you get the lid off of them."
Saradoc chuckled. "That is odd."
Frodo smiled. "He seemed very annoyed about the entire thing. He kept on about how much work he had gone to and how jars werenít made right because they are suppose to open so that you can get stuff out of them."
Bilbo chuckled, eyes twinkling. The little trickster had managed something and he wondered what it might be.
Saradoc frowned and scratched his head. "I wonder what that was about?"
"I donít know but when I left him he was on to another topic and I didnít quite understand that either. He wanted to know where you kept your hammers," Frodo said, sitting down next to Bilbo as Saradoc got up and quickly left the room in search of Pippin.
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