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AUTHOR’S NOTE: Tanto and Largo Hornblower belong the great Lulleny, who used them in her story “The Prodigal Took”, and has kindly allowed me the use of them.
DISCLAIMER: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
THE STUBBORNESS OF TOOKS
“Ow!” Paladin Took put down his fork, and put his hand to his jaw. Several pairs of eyes looked up the breakfast table at him.
Eglantine narrowed her eyes. “Paladin! When are you going to have that tooth seen to?” she asked sharply.
His oldest daughter Pearl shook her head. “Father, your jaw is quite swollen, you know, and you do not look at all well.”
An angry glint came into his eyes, and his younger daughter Pervinca averted her face. His son-in-law Tanto wisely said nothing, though the irritated Took thought he saw a humorous flash in the brown eyes before the lad coughed and turned his attention to little Largo in his high chair. At least his middle daughter, Pimpernel and her husband were not there to pester him. Pimmie was nearing the end of her third confinement, and their little family was breakfasting in their own apartment.
He looked at his wife stubbornly. “I am just fine,” he said emphatically.
Eglantine glared at him. “Certainly you are,” she replied sarcastically. “You always stay awake all night moaning and clutching your jaw.”
She looked at him with an expression he had not seen on her face since Pippin was a small lad trying to explain to her why it had been necessary to eat an entire jar of cherry preserves.
Paladin threw down his napkin, rose suddenly, and stormed out of the family’s private dining room.
Behind him, he heard a long-suffering sigh. He stomped down to his study. Maybe he could get a bit of work done, and people would leave him alone for a while about this blasted tooth.
Behind his desk a short while later, he lay his head on his arms. He really did not feel so well. He was sweating, but he shivered. He was a bit light-headed, but he was sure that was because he had missed his breakfasts. First breakfast had ended when he stomped off, and he had never even rung for his second breakfast, usually eaten there at his desk, for the pain in his jaw made it impossible to think of eating.
There was a tap on the door, and he sat up abruptly, picking up some papers he had been vainly trying to concentrate on. “Come in” he snarled crossly.
His cousin Reginard, who served as his main assistant, came in. “I have the harvest reports from Tookbank, Paladin. Good heavens! You look terrible!”
“Thank you very much!” Paladin snapped. He held out his hands for the report. Reggie handed it to him reluctantly.
“Cousin, you really should have that tooth seen to--”
“I. Am. Just. Fine!” He gritted his teeth, and a wave of pain shot through him. He ignored it.
Reggie pursed his lips, and gave him a skeptical look. “Very well. I will check later and see if you need anything.”
“Do that!” Paladin snapped, wanting him to go away and leave him to his misery. Everybody after him about that tooth. If he had wanted anyone to be messing about with his teeth he would have taken himself to the barber in Tuckborough and had it seen to days ago. The very idea of someone pulling his tooth made him shudder in horror, in spite of the pain.
Reggie backed out carefully and shut the door. He hated to do this, but he was going to have to go over the Thain’s head. He headed for the small sitting room that Eglantine used as an office. She was there, answering correspondence with the help of her eldest daughter Pearl.
“Yes, Reggie, what is it?”
“Paladin really looks awful. He seems to be in a good deal of pain, and even though I couldn’t touch him to be sure, I think that he has a fever.”
She snorted in exasperation. “I have had enough of this. Pearl, if you would, send for Mistress Lavender.”
A few moments later, Eglantine, accompanied by the Took’s resident healer, Mistress Lavender Bunce and her apprentice Diamond North-Took, as well as Reggie and Pearl, marched to the Thain’s study. She’d had enough of her husband’s recalcitrance on this matter. Reggie knocked, but there was no reply.
Eglantine threw open the door and strode in, and then stopped with a gasp. Paladin’s jaw was even more swollen than it had been that morning at breakfast, and his face was flushed, his eyes glassy.
“Tina, my love,” he slurred “there are rabbits--”
“Rabbits?” she said alarmed.
“Giant rabbits, pink ones, taking the roof from the smial--”
Lavender hurried over to the desk, and place her hand on his brow. “He is burning up and delirious.” She gently touched the swollen jaw, and he flinched, tears coming to his eyes. “Hurts,” he said sadly, like a small child.
The healer looked decisively at his wife. “That tooth *has* to come out. It is spreading infection through his whole system. You need to send to Tuckborough at once, for Master Mungo Boffin, the barber. Tell him I said it was an emergency, that we need a tooth extracted, and to make all haste. Mistress Took, we must get him into bed, and see if we can get his fever down before the barber gets here.”
Pearl fetched a couple of servants to help, and they managed to get the Thain to his feet, as they half-carried him to his sleeping chamber. Between them his wife, daughter and healer managed to get him into his nightshirt and tucked into the bed, meanwhile at her mistress’ directions, young Diamond had mixed up some willow-bark tea, and then cooled it down to lukewarm. Eglantine and Pearl, also at Lavender’s orders, began the process of cooling his fevered brow with wet cloths.
Paladin grasped Egalantine’s hand once, as she changed the cloth. He was still burning up. “Tina, tell them to put the roof back on. There is no room for rabbits that size in here,” he mumbled.
“Oh, Paladin,” she said softly, torn between tears and laughter, worry and amusement. “I’ll not let the giant rabbits in.”
“Good,” he said, and then gave another moan of pain.
It seemed ages until Master Mungo hurried in, with a black case in his hand.
He flicked a quick and expert eye at the Thain, noting the swollen jaw.
“Mistress Took, Mistress Lavender,” he said with a nod.
Lavender wasted no time on niceties. “He’s got a bad tooth that has to come out now. As long as it is still spreading the poison through his body, we cannot get his fever down.”
Master Mungo nodded. “As weak as he is, he’ll not be able to put up much fight. But we need a sturdy hobbit to hold him down just in case.”
“I’ll do it,” said Reggie.
“Thank you,” said the healer. “Mistress Took, I think that everyone else needs to clear out of the room. Diamond and I will assist Master Mungo.”
Eglantine drew a deep breath and let it out. She was inclined to argue, but she knew she should not interfere with the healers at work. “Mistress Lavender,” she asked hesitantly, “should I send to Buckland for Pippin?”
The healer shook her head. “I do not think it is so grave as all that at the moment. Let us see how he fares once the tooth is out, shall we?” She sighed. “Poppy warned me about how stubborn the Thain is. He should have had this taken care of days ago.” Poppy Burrows had been the family healer for many years, but she had traveled out of the Shire to learn some new healing methods away south, and Lavender had been called upon to replace her during her absence.
“You’ve no idea,” said Eglantine.
Pervinca and Pimpernel and their husbands had joined Eglantine and Pearl in the family sitting room when Lavender opened the door and summoned Eglantine to enter the room.
Her husband seemed to be dozing lightly, and there was a sheen of sweat on his face, which was tied up with a length of white cloth. One side of his face still jutted out, no longer distended with swelling, but with the wadding that Master Mungo had packed in his mouth, to block the bleeding and hold in some of the herbs meant to draw out infection. A poultice was also against his face, held in place by the strip of cloth.
Mistress Lavender looked at her patient and then at his wife. “I dosed him rather heavily before the extraction was done. He should sleep for a good long while--six to eight hours at the least. When he wakens we can safely remove the wadding, and he may have nourishment--broths, teas and juices, at a lukewarm temperature: nothing hot or cold.”
Eglantine nodded. “How is his fever?”
“It seems to be abating. I am leaving a decoction which should help to draw off the rest of the infection. He should have a dose on waking, and again in twelve hours.” The healer glared at her patient. “You realize it should never have come to this. It would have been only a minor matter if that tooth had come out even a week ago.”
Eglantine chuckled ruefully. “He is nothing if not stubborn.” She pursed her lips, and considered her sleeping husband. “He is not going to be happy that we allowed him to be treated when he had no say on the matter.”
Lavender snorted, showing what she thought of that. “Call me again if he worsens, Mistress Took.”
It was his youngest daughter Pervinca who sat by his side when he awakened some seven hours later. He opened his eyes fuzzily, and stared until she came into focus.
He tried to say “Vinca?” but it came out rather muffled by the wadding, and the fact that his jaw was tied.
“Oh, Father!” she exclaimed. “You are awake! I’ll get Mother--”
“NN--nn--mmm--” he shook his head, frustrated.
She smiled. “I almost forgot, Father, Mistress Lavender said we could dispense with all that when you finally awakened.” She reached over, and slipped the cloth away from his head, and he reached in to take the wadding out of his mouth. She gave a grimace of distaste at the piece of blood and saliva covered fiber, and held up the basin for him to drop it into.
“What happened?” he asked finally, glaring at his daughter.
“You had to have your tooth out, Father. You were fevered and delirious.”
He snorted. She recognized the signs of impending temper. “I’ll fetch Mother, shall I?” she said with a nervous laugh. She got up hastily and went to the door.
Eglantine was napping on the sitting room settee, but she wakened instantly to her daughter’s soft call and came into the room.
“Well, Paladin, you are looking a good deal better.” She turned to Pervinca. “Did he take his medicine yet?”
“No, Mother, not yet.”
“I am not taking any foul healer’s brew of a medicine!” It was not a shout--Paladin was not up to shouting yet, but it was as close as he could come.
“Oh yes, you are!”
“No, I am not! And how dare anyone have my tooth yanked out without my permission!”
Pervinca wisely slipped from the room before the impending explosion.
Eglantine finally emerged victorious. But her husband had given in with bad grace, and had looked completely betrayed and furious, when the medicine turned out to taste even worse than he had imagined.
He spent the day complaining and napping. He complained about having to stay in bed; he complained about having nothing but lukewarm liquids for meals; he complained loudly and constantly about his tooth having been pulled without his permission.
When he awakened from another nap, twelve hours later, the apprentice healer, Miss Diamond was there. She poured out a spoonful of the decoction for him to take. He clamped his lips.
“Come now, sir. You know that you need to take this!”
He gave the spoon a swat that sent it flying, droplets of the medicine flying about the room.
Diamond sighed, and went to fetch her mistress.
Lavender stared him down, and he finally relented, sputtering and complaining the whole time about healers who tried to poison their patients. His tirade was interrupted by a stentorian female voice.
“Paladin Took!” It was his oldest sister, Primrose. “You are behaving like a spoiled little lad! Worse! Why even young Peregrin learned that he had to take his medicine--from the time he was twelve, he never put up a fuss or refused his medicine again, no matter how bad the taste! He knew it was necessary! You are supposed to be a grown hobbit, and you are supposed to set an example as Thain. Act your age!”
He flushed. “It tastes awful.” Then he winced. That sounded remarkably like whining.
“I am sure it does. Most medicine tastes awful. That is no excuse. Now, apologize!”
He glowered up at the healers. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. He didn’t sound sorry, but it satisfied his sister and the healers.
Lavender had removed her pendulum in the meantime, and was swinging it over his body. “Well, sir, it looks as if the infection has nearly burnt itself out. If you rest well tonight, by late tomorrow morning, you might be ready to get out of bed again.”
A few moments later Eglantine came in, and the healers and his sister left. She stood looking down at him with an unreadable expression. Then she sighed. “Oh, Paladin! What *am* I going to do with you? You scared us all to death! I do not believed I have *ever* seen you so ill before.” Tears sprang to her eyes.
He felt a shiver of guilt. Had he really been so very ill? It was clear that he had frightened his wife very badly. “I am sorry.” This time he sounded as though he meant it.
She sat down next to him on the bed, and they shared a brief embrace. “I do love you, you old fool of a Took,” she said.
He buried his face in her curls. “I know you do, my darling. I am so sorry to have frightened you so badly.” He squeezed her a bit harder, and then sat back and looked at her with a puzzled expression. “Tina? Why do I seem to remember giant pink rabbits?”
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