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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower

CHAPTER 7

Euphorbia looked at her sister-in-law with an expression of disgust. "Haven't you yet begun to make that bed?" She gazed pointedly at the stack of sheets in Hyacinth's arms, and in an her worst patronizing and sarcastic tone of voice, said slowly, "Take the top set of bedsheets. Put one of them onto the mattress and carefully tuck in each corner. Take the other one. Spread it on top. Tuck it in at the bottom. Smooth it all out. Spread the blanket over it and tuck it in at the bottom. Spread the coverlet over that and smooth it out. Put the pillowslips over the pillows. That is called 'making up a bed'. Do. You. Understand?"

Hyacinth's eyes flashed, and her nostrils flared. To be spoken to as if one were a half-witted faunt was well-nigh unbearable. Then Euphorbia continued in a more normal, if no less irritating tone.

"Really, Hyacinth! After all the years you spent at the Great Smials, you know what a properly prepared guest room should look like. Make sure that there is fresh water in the ewer, and clean towels on the washstand. I know that it was swept and dusted yesterday, but give the tops of the furniture another light dusting. We certainly do not want any fault found with our hospitality."

Hyacinth drew in a deep breath to protest, but at her sister-in-lawís steely gaze, she let it out again. She lowered her eyes, so that Euphorbia could not see her glare. "Yes, Euphorbia," she said meekly.

No fool, Hyacinth knew that she was reaping the harvest of years of disdaining her brother and his wife. Euphorbia had been a mere Tunnelly before she married into the Brockhouses. Hyacinth had snubbed and scorned them for years, rarely accepting their invitations and treating them like mere twelve-mile-cousins when it came to birthdays and other gift-giving occasions. And she most certainly had never invited them to visit at the Great Smials. How could she ever have ever envisioned suddenly being thrown on their mercy?

And how she had wasted her opportunitiesÖ

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"Cousin Ferumbras, I tell you that the talk is getting worse. I am sure that there must be some reason behind it. Poor dear Pearl was never happy attending your mother."

The Thain sighed. "Hyacinth, none of the lasses who had the duty of being my motherís companion were happy about it. If mere unhappiness is enough to cause such a thing, it would have happened years ago." He sighed. "Still, I suppose that sooner or later I shall have to do something to put an end to the gossip."

Hyacinth looked away, to disguise the gleam of triumph. With a bit more effort, she could persuade him that the best way to end the talk was to banish Pearl from the Smials, and remove Paladin from the succession--after all, it was their presence that was causing all the talk, wasnít it? Out of sight, out of mind, would be her argument.

She stood. "I must return to our apartments, Cousin Ferumbras. Reggie will be expecting me to dine with the family tonight." She patted the Thainís arm sympathetically. "You know that you can count on me, and on Reggie, for anything you need in your time of trouble."

He sighed and nodded, but did not rise. Hyacinth saw herself out, drawing her handkerchief, and holding it up to hide her dry eyed state. Her condolence call, made after everyone else had left, was sure to leave more of an impression than when there were several people contending for his attention. Not that she really thought he was mourning his mother overmuch. He would miss her presence in one way or another, whether he found it to be a lack or a relief, for there was no doubt that Laliaís presence had been a formidable one, but she did not think he grieved.

As she was leaving, she passed the room that had once belonged to Lalia, and heard a sniffle. A glance through the open door showed her the dejected form of Begonia Diggle, sniffing and wiping her eyes as she went through her mistressesí garments and possessions for disposal. Now there was one who *did* mourn the old battleaxe. Of course, she was now without a position.

Perhaps, thought Hyacinth, dabbing at her dry eyes in case the maid should look up, once Reggie is named Heir, I could engage her for myself. It would only be appropriate for me to have a chambermaid, after all. And Begonia certainly has experience, and is well-trained in obeying orders.

_________________________________________

By the time Paladin entered the familyís apartment, Pippin was sobbing against his fatherís shoulder. His father desperately wanted to hug the lad close and assure him that he would be all right, but of course that would cause the child even more pain.

Eglantine stood up in alarm. "What is wrong with our son?"

For answer, Paladin shifted him, and letting the shirt fall away. Her eyes grew wide. "My poor baby!"

"Frodo has gone for the healer," said Paladin, "sheíll be here soon."

Pippin turned his face to his mother, his green eyes glassy and unfocussed. "M-mama?" he whispered.

Eglantine felt her heart turn over. Heíd not called her "mama" since he was just out of faunthood. Took children were taught to say "mother" and "father"--it had been the custom since the days of the Old Took, Gerontius.

She heaved out a deep breath, and blinked away her tears. "Letís take him to his bed," she said. "Weíll need to lay him on his stomach."

Just then Pimpernel and Pervinca returned, entering hurriedly. "Mother," Pimpernel started to say "Fatty says he hasnít seen Pippin since---Oh! Poor Pippin!"

Pervinca reached a comforting hand up to her baby brother, but her motherís sharp voice stopped her. "Donít touch him, Vinca, it will hurt him too much. Run and turn his bed down, my dears."

Pippinís sisters ran to do as they were bidden. Paladin carried his son into the little bedroom, and started to lay him down upon the cool sheets, when the child suddenly gave a little lurch in his arms, and was noisily sick all down his fatherís back.

Pervinca went a bit green, and putting her hand over her own mouth, darted from the room. Pimpernel was pale, but gamely stayed where she was.

"Mother?" she asked.

Eglantine gave her a distracted smile of approval. "Get a flannel from the washbasin to wash his face." She reached over and gingerly took Pippin from his father, sitting down on the bed as gently as she could to avoid jarring her little son. As Pimmie wrung out a flannel and took it to her mother, Paladin carefully took off his coat and held it away from himself with a look of distaste. "Poor lad, I know he couldnít help it, but I could have done without this. Tina, will this coat clean up?"

In a distracted tone, as she wiped her little ladís face carefully, wincing as she dabbed as delicately as a butterflyís caress at the sunburned portion of it, she said "Yes, dear. Go rinse it out, and have it sent to the laundresses immediately."

But Paladin wasnít about to leave the room while Pippin still needed attention. Folding the soiled portion to the inside, He laid the coat in the corner of the room instead, and went over to help his wife as they began to take Pippinís breeches off. Pimpernel went over, and picking up the coat, held it at arms length and took it from the room.

They were laying Pippin carefully on his stomach, on top of the cool sheets when Frodo entered with the healer.

Mistress Hollyhock went over to the bed. "Poor little mite," she said, "thatís just about the worst sunburn Iíve ever had the misfortune to see." She laid a hand on the unmarked portion of his brow, and frowned. The skin there was cool and clammy, while the burned portion radiated heat. It looked as though he had heat exhaustion as well as a sunburn. They needed to get some fluids into him. And they needed to cool him down.

"We need a tub," she said, "and cool water to fill it."

Just then Pippin looked up, briefly lucid, and met Frodoís gaze. "F-fro? I want my MerryÖ" he whispered.

Frodo glanced at Paladin. "Iíll go and tell Uncle Sara. I canít imagine heíll hold Merry to his punishment in these circumstances."

Paladin nodded absently, his gaze focused on Pippinís poor little half-burned face, and the big tears trickling down it.

Esmeralda answered Frodoís knock, and at the look on his face, said, "Frodo! Whatís wrong?"

He came in, trying to find a way to soften the news for his tender-hearted auntís sake. "Well, you know that we couldnít find Pippin at teatime?"

"Is he still lost?" she asked, in alarm.

"No. I found him up on the roof. But heíd fallen asleep in the sun with his shirt off, and he's dreadfully sunburned. Heís ill and feverish, and he wants Merry."

Saradoc and Merry had reached them in time to hear.

"Da?" said Merry with an agonized look on his face.

"Go, son. Pippin needs you. Weíll be right behind you."

Merry darted out the door without even waiting for Frodo.

When he came into the room, his aunt and uncle looked up hopefully. "Heís crying for you, Merry," said Eglantine.

Merry took one look at his cousinís red back, and the pain-filled eyes looking to him, and his heart gave a lurch. He quickly knelt beside the bed, and put a tentative hand out, but stopped short of touching Pippin. "Oh, Pip!"

At last he lightly touched his little cousinís white cheek on the unburned side of his face. "How did you do this to yourself, Pip?" but his reproach was gentle.

Pippin sniffed. "Diínít *mean* to fall asleep, Merry."

"Oh dear, I know you didnít." Merry longed to gather him up in a hug, but knew that he couldnít. He looked up at the adults in confusion. He was used to being able to touch Pippin to console or comfort him.

Mistress Hollyhock had been across the hall, preparing a bath. She entered at that moment. "Miss Pimpernel could use some help with filling the tub."

Frodo, who had followed Merry, nodded and went to help. They had not sent for any of the servants, most of whom were busy with other duties anyway. As it was, the Whitwell Tooks were used to doing for themselves. They had only two servants at the farm, and when it came to caring for the sick, that was a job for family.

The healer looked at Merry, and saw that his very presence was helping the little one. "Why donít you hold his right hand?" she suggested.

Merry nodded gratefully, and took the little white and surprisingly cold hand in both of his. Pippin was still weeping a bit in little hitching breaths, but he seemed to be calming in Merryís presence.

The healer took from her medical satchel a jar containing a thick green liquid; it had a strong smell of both mint and vinegar when she opened it. She poured a bit of the stuff into a cup, and then stirred in water nearly to the top.

"Master Pippin, do you think you can sit up? I have something you need to drink. "

Pippin made a face, but with Merryís assistance, he sat up carefully at the edge of the bed, and took the cup. He screwed up his face and took the first sip, and then his eyes went wide. "This tastes good."

She smiled. "Iím glad, as you need to drink at least three cups of this,--but slowly, mind. You were out in the heat for a long time, and had nothing to drink. This will help your thirst." She turned to Pippin's mother. Eglantine had hovered silently at her elbow the whole time. "We need to replace the fluids he lost to the heat." Eglantine nodded, realizing that in addition to being burned her child had been sweating in the heat, with nothing to drink. That was probably one reason he had been sick.

Pippin was sipping at the last of the third cup, when Frodo returned to let them know that†one of the tubs had now been filled with cool water.

Paladin once again carefully carried Pippin, as he, Frodo and Merry accompanied Mistress Hollyhock to the bathing room. While Mistress Hollyhock busied herself stirring the powdery contents of a packet into the water, his father and Frodo divested him of his smallclothes and then carefully lowered him into the tub. He shivered, but his eyes grew wide.

"This feels *good*," he said.

The healer smiled. "There is finely ground oatmeal,†with some soothing herbs mixed in. You need to soak in this for a while, Master Pippin, and it will help to take the sting from your burn."

Merry knelt next to the tub, and used a flannel to carefully trickle some of the water over his little cousin's†upper shoulders and neck.

"Let him soak for about a quarter of an hour. When you take him out, take care not to rub him with towels. Cautiously pat him dry, just as gently as you may."

She handed Paladin a bottle. "This is a soothing lotion. Slather it generously on his sunburn, but do not get any in his eyes. You do not need to completely rub it in; in fact, be as gentle as you can, for we do not wish to irritate the already damaged skin."

She turned to Pippin. "Iím going to go and make you some willow-bark tea, and you are to drink it *all* down, for it will help the discomfort, and will keep you from having a fever, which is very unpleasant."

He looked up with sad resignation. "Can I have honey in it, please?"

"A little," she said, smiling. Willow-bark was very bitter, if not to say disagreeable, and most children raised a fuss about it.

Frodo and Merry exchanged a look, and Frodo said "Pippinís a good lad about taking his medicine. He wonít give any problems."

Paladin raised a doubtful brow at this. It was the first he knew of it. Pippin had always done his best to avoid bad-tasting medicines before.

But Pippin just looked solemnly up solemnly at his cousins and nodded. He had been very ill at Bag End last spring, and had quite learned his lesson about taking his medicine.*

Mistress Hollyhock left the bathing room, and went to prepare the medicine and give instructions to his the ladís mother.

"He will stay on his stomach of course. I do not wish to risk his taking a chill on top of everything else, but heíll not be able to stand much covering, so just pull the bedsheet up over him. That should keep him comfortable enough. This room seems warm enough to prevent a chill, but it may grow cooler after sunset. If it does, it might be a good idea to have a small fire in the grate. I expect that his back will blister. It is burned the worst; but the blisters may not show up until later on, possibly tomorrow or the next day. Take care not to break the blisters or infection may possibly set in. I have given your husband a lotion. Be generous with it, and do not worry about staining the linens; itís more important to relieve his discomfort. Iíve added a few herbs to the willow-bark tea that should help him to rest. Iíll return to check on him on the morrow, but if he should show signs of fever or if there is a return of the nausea, please do not hesitate to send for me at once."

Eglantine nodded, taking all the instructions firmly in her mind.

Just then, the others returned. Paladin was carrying Pippin, loosely wrapped in a soft towel. Merry walked closely beside him, his hand on Pippinís knee. Frodo quickly turned the sheets down, and Pippinís father carefully sat him down on the edge of the bed.

Mistress Hollyhock nodded her approval, and handed Pippin the cup. "Here you are Master Pippin, with a little honey, as promised."

Pippin nodded and took the cup. He gave a little grimace of distaste at the first swallow, but screwed himself up and drank it the bitter stuff down as quickly as he could.

Merry smiled proudly at him, and patted his head. "Thatís my Pippin!" before exchanging another glance with Frodo. Paladin and Eglantine looked on with astonishment. Mistress Hollyhock just nodded in approval.

Merry helped Pippin to lie down on his stomach, and Eglantine pulled the soft cool linen sheet up to cover him to his shoulders.

Paladin went to walk the healer out, and Merry turned to Pippinís mother. "Iíll stay with him, shall I, Aunt Tina?"

Was there ever any doubt? Eglantine thought. Aloud, she said, "Of course, Merry. Iíll have a supper tray sent in to you."

__________________________________________________

*A reference, of course, to†the first Round Robin at the PippinHealers yahoo group, "Of Tonic and Tea".†

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