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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower

Chapter 5.

“Hyacinth! *Hyacinth!*”

That guilty hobbit gave a start, caught red-handed as it were, just standing there with her armful of bedsheets, the bare mattress spread before her like a cat—or a hobbit—basking in the sun.


“Where’s Pippin, dear?” Paladin asked Eglantine as the luncheon began to wind down.

“He was getting a bit restless.  I told him that he could go outside and play after he finished eating.”

“Ah.”  If he was out playing they probably would not see him until teatime.  Paladin wondered what young hobbits Pippin might be playing with, since Merry was unavailable.  “I think that we should go back to our rooms; the lasses don’t need to be around any more of this talk.”

“Pearl already left with Primrose and Peridot,” Eglantine replied.  “I wish we could spend more time with her right now.”  They had placed her with Paladin’s sisters in order to shield her from the worst of the talk.  It would take a brave hobbit indeed to say anything untoward to Primrose Took’s niece in her presence.  She had even outfaced Lalia herself from time to time and lived to tell about it. 

“Why don’t we go to my sisters’ apartment, instead, dear?  Pimmie and Vinca would enjoy a chance to visit with them, and we can ask poor Frodo to join us.  He’s fond of my sisters, and with Merry not able to spend time with him, he’s a bit at loose ends. And then you and I will have some time with Pearl.” 

“So long as we are back in our own quarters by teatime.  I do not wish for Pippin to have to search for us.”

Frodo was quite glad to accompany them.   Merry was across the room with his parents, casting looks of pure misery in his direction, about which he could do nothing.  Saradoc hoped Merry would apologize, but Frodo knew that his younger cousin would never apologize for protecting Pippin.  He vividly remembered giving Lotho a bloody nose for shoving Merry once; Bilbo had been very understanding, but even had he not been so, Frodo would never have apologized for it. 

Still, it made a difference that Amethyst was a lass, and Frodo knew it.  Perhaps if he took himself out of Merry’s sight, it would be better.

As they made their way through the maze of passages to Primrose and Peridot’s apartment, he asked, “Where’s Pippin?”  Eglantine repeated what she had told Paladin. 

Frodo raised a brow at that.  As Paladin had before him, he wondered what playmates Pippin might have found.  He was one of the youngest children here, the youngest of the lads, in fact.  And the older lads were not likely to welcome his company without Merry along.  Probably he’d gone out and found a tree to climb.  Pippin enjoyed climbing trees even more than Frodo himself did.  He smiled to remember teaching the little one to clamber up after him.  The child had been totally fearless.

Primrose and Peridot shared a spacious set of apartments on the northwest side of the Great Smials, as far from the Thain--and thus Lalia--as possible.  They showed their brother’s family in, and Primrose went to open the sitting room curtains that overlooked the west garden.   Every time Frodo spent time in their company, he could recall the stories he'd often heard about their friendship with his mother.  Primrose had never wed, and Peridot was long widowed from another Took cousin, so they had been sharing these quarters for many years now.

“Please make yourselves comfortable,” said Peridot, looking at Frodo, for the others were already being seated.  It was Frodo’s first time visiting the elderly hobbitesses in their home.  He took a seat on one end of the settee, near the fireplace.  Pimpernel and Pervinca were sitting at the other end, being unusually quiet for them.  

Pearl did not sit down, but went instead to look out the window.

“Pearl,” said her mother, “are you all right, dear?”

She turned and looked at her family.  Her eyes filled, and her lower lip trembled. “You don’t think it was my fault, do you?”

“Of course not!” exclaimed Paladin, shocked that she thought she should have to ask.

“But, you see, if I had just hurried up to get her shawl, perhaps she would not have become angry and upset the chair.  Or if I had moved more quickly when she started to topple, perhaps I could have stopped it…”

She stopped abruptly, and put her fist to her mouth.

Eglantine went over and put her arms around her oldest daughter.  “It was an accident, Pearl, an accident and only an accident, and no one was to blame, least of all you.”

“It was dreadful, Mother.” 

Suddenly she began to sob.  “I didn’t like her; I hated her telling me what to do all the time, and she always was making sly remarks about Father.  And she said Pippin was slow-witted!  She would always pretend to get his name wrong, and she called him ’Poppet’.  She was cruel, Mother, and I didn’t like her, and now she’s dead!”

Eglantine held her tightly and rocked her back and forth, murmuring “Now, there, my chick.  It will be well, you’ll see.  You did *not* do anything wrong.”  

Frodo felt terribly embarrassed to stand witness to such an intimate moment between the mother and daughter.  It made him feel keenly his own lack of a mother.

After a few moments the storm passed, and Pearl blew her nose and looked over at the rest of them.  “I’m dreadfully sorry for making such a display of myself,” she said in a falsely bright voice.

“Think nothing of it, my dear,” said Primrose.  “You are overwrought, and under the circumstances, it is perfectly understandable if you give way now and then.  We are all family here, in any event.”  

Eglantine gave her eldest a pat on the back, rubbing it just a bit.   “Go and wash your face and comb your hair, dear, and come back and have a chat with us for a bit.”  

She nodded, and went off to the room she was staying in.

Eglantine sighed deeply and returned to her seat next to her husband. 

He reached over and took her hand.  Their fingers entwined, and Paladin squeezed her hand slightly.  Eglantine sighed and leaned into her husband’s side, grateful for his support.

She looked at Primrose.  “I have to thank you for keeping her here.” She drew a deep breath in through her nose, and let it out.  When she spoke again, her voice had hardened.   "I would like to find out who started these horrid rumors.”

Primrose shook her head.  “I am not certain exactly who *started* the talk.  Questions will always arise when the circumstances are so strange.”

Frodo felt a chill run up his spine as he recalled some of the things said about his own parents’ deaths.

“But,” the old hobbitess went on, “I daresay you can easily guess who is spreading some of the most poisonous talk.”

“Reggie needs to put a curb on the tongue of that wife of his,” said Paladin.  “Hyacinth hasn’t the sense of a goose, and the stupid--”  Paladin bit his tongue and looked at his younger daughters, who had been watching and listening in horrified fascination, “--*creature*will repeat anything.  And of course the more lurid the version, the better, so far as she’s concerned.”  

“Paladin!” Eglantine said sharply.

“Why don’t we talk of more pleasant things?” said Peridot, firmly changing the subject.  “How are young Pippin’s fiddle lessons coming?  Did he bring it with him?  I should not mind hearing him play.”  

The conversation turned general, and by the time Pearl returned to the room, they were discussing the upcoming Litheday celebrations.

“Frodo?” asked Primrose hopefully, “Do you think that Gandalf will be in the Shire this year...with fireworks?  It’s been years since we had any here at the Great Smials.” 

“I don’t know, I’m sorry to say,” he responded.  “Gandalf’s comings and goings are always unlooked for.  But I somehow doubt he will be returning to the Shire anytime soon.  Folk in Hobbiton were very cross with him for the way Uncle Bilbo’s Birthday Party turned out last year.”

Primrose laughed.  “It was quite a wonder.  Your Uncle played such a joke on everyone!  But he was a rascal in his youth as well.  Have you ever heard about the time he helped our father and your Uncle Rory steal some of Gandalf’s fireworks?”  

The conversation began to grow cheery, and even the young lasses were giggling at the thought of their Grandfather Adalgrim, Cousin Bilbo and Cousin Sigismond having to wash piles of dishes as a penance.*

Frodo contributed some anecdotes of a few things that Merry and Pippin had done on their recent visit to him in the spring, causing Paladin and Tina to raise their eyebrows.

“Speaking of Pippin,” said Eglantine, “it is nearly teatime, and we should get back to our own chambers, for Pippin will surely be coming there soon, ready to fill that insatiable tummy of his.”  

The Whitwell Tooks said farewell to their hostesses and to Pearl, and, with Frodo in tow, headed back.

“Do join us for tea, Frodo.”

Frodo nodded.  “Thank you, Cousin Tina, I believe that I will.”  Tea with Saradoc and Esmeralda would not be pleasant with Merry still in disgrace.  And he had no desire to join the many mourners that would be taking tea with the Thain.



* From my story "The Knight Has Been Unruly", written for Lindelea's group story, "To Tell a Tale"


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