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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower

AUTHOR’S NOTES: [1] The flashback part of this story takes place the summer following Bilbo’s departure. Frodo will be 34 on his birthday, Sam is 22, Merry is 20, Pippin is 12 (21, 14, 13 and 7 ½ in Man-years). Pippin’s sisters: Pearl is 27, Pimpernel is 21, and Pervinca is 17 (17, 13 ½, and 11 in Man-years). And Hyacinth’s daughters: Amethyst is 18, Garnet is 16 and Opal is 12 (12, 10 and 7 ½ in Man-years.)

[2] Hyacinth Took is Reggie Took’s estranged wife. She previously made an appearance in "A New Reckoning". The "present" part of the story takes place in SR 1420, several months after the events in that story. (In my Shire universe, Reggie is a good deal older than he is on the family tree in Appendix C.)



"Hyacinth Took! Have you finished ironing those linens yet?" The cross voice of Hyacinth’s sister-in-law Euphorbia Brockhouse grated on Hyacinth’s nerves. She wanted nothing so much as to tell that supercilious social climber to iron them herself, but of course that would not do. Her brother had made it crystal clear that she was only under his roof on sufferance, and as a favor to the Thain.

Once she'd had a fine set of apartments at the Great Smials, a respectable marriage, and marriageable daughters. Once she would have sworn she would never have to do such menial tasks again. Now she was worse off than a maidservant. At least a maidservant received pay for doing all these distasteful things.

It was all Peregrin Took’s fault, of course. If he had never been born, she’d still have a chance of one day being the Thain’s Lady.

But of course, she’d had her own chances. If she had acted swiftly and decisively that one summer, all those years ago, she might still be in her former position, in fact she might even have gained what she had always hoped for…

It was the year Pippin had turned twelve. His summer visit to Buckland had been curtailed, when old Lalia, mother of Thain Ferumbras, had suffered an unfortunate demise. Accompanied by Merry, Uncle Sara and Aunt Esme, they went straight to the Great Smials, for the rest of the family was already there, to comfort poor Pearl, who'd had the misfortune to witness the whole tragedy.

Pippin was glum, in spite of Merry’s presence with him. He disliked visits to the Great Smials just as much as he liked visits to Brandy Hall. Old Mistress Lalia always smelled of herbs and sweat, and she was always disagreeable to his parents. For some reason, she did not like the idea that unless the Thain got married and had a son, Paladin Took would inherit the Thainship. Pippin hoped with all his heart that the Thain would wed soon, for if his father became Thain, then *he’d* have to be Thain after him, and that was a fate Pippin dreaded above all others.

And not only was she unkind to his parents, but she always talked to him as though he were half-witted, just because he was frightened silly to say anything in front of her.

But now he felt terrible, because he had not liked her, and she was dead. And it was so horrible, too--falling out of her chair and down the stairs And poor Pearl standing there to see it all.

And there were always servants underfoot at the Great Smials. Servants who did not seem to like children. They had servants at Whitwell--a cook, and a maidservant, and a hobbit-of-all-work, but these were more like family, familiar and pleasant. There were servants at Brandy Hall, too, but Aunt Esme never let them put on airs, and there were probably only about half as many as at the Great Smials, even though there were at least as many cousins and uncles and aunts there.

And there were Took cousins. The lads were pleasant enough, and he didn’t mind spending time with them if Merry were not along, but there were too many lass cousins, and they always giggled at him and teased him, most especially his cousin Reggie’s daughters. He felt bad about them, too. He liked Cousin Reggie, but he just couldn’t make himself like the lasses, though he tried very hard.

The only good thing about staying at the Great Smials was that he would get to spend time with Auntie Primrose and Auntie Peridot.

But that couldn’t make up for the fact that he was going to have to go to a funeral. He was too little to go the last time a relative died, but he couldn’t get out of this one.

Merry looked over at him. "Cheer up, Pip! I’ll be there, and Frodo will have to come, too! Once the funeral is over, we’ll have a good time together; maybe go to Pincup or something…"

"I suppose." But Merry’s words didn’t cheer him much. "It’s just…I didn’t like her, Merry, and now she’s dead."

Merry shook his head. "Pippin, nobody *liked* her. Don’t feel bad about that. She’s not dead because you didn’t like her, she’s dead because the servant didn’t set the brake properly on that old chair of hers."

"I know." He looked up. "We’re nearly there."

Esmeralda sat up; she had been dozing. "Make yourselves presentable, lads."

Merry just grinned. He’d never cared for old Lalia either, and it didn’t make him feel one bit guilty. And there was the prospect of seeing Frodo again--something that normally wouldn’t happen until after Frodo’s birthday in the fall.

The coach pulled to a stop. The Great Smials stretched before them, and Paladin, Pimpernel and Pervinca stood waiting to meet the coach. Paladin embraced his sister. She drew back and looked at his worried face. But she had little time to question him, for Pippin barreled into his father, hugging him tightly.

"Hello, son! It’s good to see you, lad." Paladin picked him up and returned the embrace, and then put him back down. "You are getting almost too heavy for me to be doing that!" He turned to Pimpernel. "Pimmie, you and Vinca take Pippin and Merry to the apartments; I want to talk to your aunt and uncle for a few minutes."

The children raced off, Vinca chatting a mile to the minute about everyone else who had arrived.

Saradoc and Esmeralda looked at Paladin with concern. "Brother, what is wrong? Your message said something about Pearl witnessing the accident?"

He nodded. "It’s a bit more complicated than that." They began to walk slowly towards the Smials as he talked. "You know that Pearl was to have her turn at being Lalia’s attendant this summer?" Of course, a few months’ waiting on the old matriarch hand and foot was a fate that befell most of the young female Took cousins and nieces during their tweens. Living at Whitwell, Paladin and Eglantine had hoped that Pearl would be overlooked, but a few weeks ago the summons had come, and apparently, Lalia'd had her mind set on Pearl. Paladin could not for the life of him understand why, as she heartily disliked him and his family, but there it was, and not to be denied without causing a severe rift in the ranks of the Took family.

"I don’t know why old Lalia was so set on Pearl. But Pearl received the news with good grace. She was not, of course, happy about it, but she felt that it had been bound to happen sooner or later, and she might as well get it over with."

His sister and brother-in-law nodded, and he continued. "Things were apparently going forth much as expected. Lalia was demanding and cross, but Pearl was coping fairly well. Naturally, she did not see to Lalia by herself. She’s only a tween, and has no skill in nursing, and Lalia’s weight would have made it impossible for her at any rate. But of course there was Lalia’s chambermaid, Begonia Diggle, to take care of the more difficult tasks." Begonia had been a fixture at the Great Smials as long as her mistress, having been a maid for the Clayhangers before Lalia’s marriage to Fortinbras II. She was an imposing sight; even as a lass, Begonia had been as tall and strong as most lads. In spite of Begonia’s loyalty, she was never spared the sharp edge of her mistress’ tongue any more than anyone else.

"At any rate," Paladin continued, "it always took the both of them to wrestle that old wheeled chair over the threshold at the Great Doors, so that Lalia could take the air."

He stopped walking. They were almost to the Smials, and he wanted to finish the tale before they went inside. "Apparently, just as they were getting ready to take her over the threshold and down the steps, she took it into her head that she needed her shawl. She insisted that Pearl was to go and fetch it. Poor Pearl was indecisive, for she knew that Begonia could not handle the chair alone. The maid promised her to set the brake and not try to move her mistress until Pearl returned. Pearl still hesitated however. This agitated Lalia, and she began to shout at Pearl to hurry up. She became excited, and her movements seem to have caused the brake to slip, or perhaps it was not properly set in the first place. At any rate, the chair began to move. Both Begonia and Pearl reached for it, but it continued to move and as they were at the top of the steps, she was tipped out, to go rolling down the steps and the hill. Pearl, I am afraid, became hysterical and began screaming; Begonia tried to run down after her mistress, but it was too late."

"Oh, dear!" breathed Esmeralda. "Poor Pearl, indeed!"

"That’s not the worst of it," said Paladin grimly. "Since we arrived, I’ve become aware of the gossip. There are those who are trying to say that Pearl was responsible for tipping the chair and causing the accident."

"That’s dreadful! Who on earth would try to harm a young tween’s reputation like that?"



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