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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower


Euphorbia’s voice raised in song, and her daughter, Juniper’s, joined in cheerful harmony. One of the stems was too short for the vase, no, two stems were – and suddenly Hyacinth realized that the stems were snapping in her grip, that she was twisting the defenseless stalks between her fingers with about as much force as she was gritting her teeth. This would never do!

She put down the third stem that she’d picked up and clasped her shaking hands together. She *would* master herself. She *would*. She had always prided herself on her perfect control, even in the midst of others’ incompetence.

The following morning, Eglantine and Paladin looked at Pippin’s back. Some of the blisters had properly dried out, but a few had broken, and the area around them looked a bit inflamed. They sent for Mistress Hollyhock.

"I'm afraid," said Eglantine apologetically, as she showed the healer in, "that Pippin has been rubbing and scratching in his sleep. We've done our best, but..." she sighed.

"Hmm…" The healer looked at his back, and examined the other areas of the sunburn. "I am afraid that the broken blisters may be in danger of infection. The rest of it is coming along nicely, and the skin will probably begin to peel tomorrow or the next day. But he does not need to be scratching in his sleep." She noticed that the child had seemed a bit listless as she examined him, as well, and looked a bit tired.

She had brought some more of the soothing lotion, which she slathered generously over the lad--Pippin giggled at the cold tickle of the stuff, and when he lay back down he began to drift off to sleep once more.

Mistress Hollyhock looked at Paladin and Eglantine sympathetically. "He’s clearly restless and not sleeping well. Itching can sometimes be even more disturbing, to one’s sleep, than pain. Let him nap now until he wakens again. Then allow him to get up for a little while--someone can entertain him and play with him here in the room--I still don’t wish him to wear a shirt. That should help tire him out. And I will come by this evening and administer a mild soporific, one that will allow him to sleep deeply enough that he will not attempt to scratch in his sleep."

Eglantine smiled. "He’ll be glad to be able to get up, and to play for a while, I’ve no doubt. I’m sure his cousin Merry will be more than happy to entertain him."


Reggie thought over his talk with Begonia Diggle. The poor old spinster was going to need something to do, and somewhere to go, and soon. Once all this nonsense over the accident had been sorted out, of course. But it was quite clear that she no longer felt at home in the Great Smials.

Really, he doubted that she had ever felt comfortable here. Her position as Lalia’s chambermaid would have kept her from ever being popular or befriended by the other servants, who would have feared the possibility of her bearing tales to her mistress. And she was rather plain in looks, and had not much personal charm to overcome their doubts of her character. Now that she had no mistress, no one was making room for her to take up any other position or task. Poor old lass. For all Begonia’s devotion to her mistress, Lalia had been no fonder of Begonia than she had been of any other servant. She had often given her the sharp edge of her tongue.

Anyone else would have quit years ago. All Reggie could suppose was that the old chambermaid was devoted to Lalia’s family.

He pondered some of what Begonia had told him about her circumstances. Perhaps a letter to her nephew in Pincup? It would not be wise to let her stay long. Last night, Hyacinth had been dropping hints about a chambermaid--as if she had any need of such!

Meanwhile, he was headed to the cloakroom located near the Great Door. The pieces of the wheeled chair had been stowed there after the accident. He wanted to get a good look at them.


Pippin awakened to a lovely smell. What was that? He sat up, but then, in unconscious reflex, he started to reach toward his back.

"Stop that, Pip! No scratching," said Merry, as he carried a tray over and placed it on the bedside table.

Pippin scrunched his face up crossly. He *did* itch *so*! But then his tummy rumbled, and there was that delicious smell-- "Is it breakfast?" he asked.

"No, it’s elevenses, silly! You slept right through both breakfasts!" Merry grinned at Pippin’s look of dismay. That child just hated to miss any meal, and to miss two in a row would really upset him. "We have toasted cheese and some cold sliced ham and..." he paused dramatically and watched Pippin's eyes grow wide in anticipation, "strawberry tarts! And cold milk to drink!"

This recital cheered Pippin immensely, and the two young hobbits set to on the food.

Merry described the Thain’s feast for Pippin, who was cheered to learn that he and Pearl had indeed partaken of the best dishes that were served. "The Thain’s speech was *so* boring," Merry scoffed, "it’s just as well you didn’t have to be there! Lucky Pearl, not to have to listen to all that blather! And *afterwards* it was dire! But then Frodo told me something that made it funny." He told Pippin of Frodo’s advice to imagine dumping the trifle over the heads of various relations. This set Pippin into a paroxysm of giggles.

"And Frodo told me something else I’m going to remember, the next time I am supposed to apologize for doing something I’m not sorry for!"

"What’s that?" asked Pippin.

"Once, when I was about two years old, Frodo got mad at Cousin Laburnum for saying things about Bilbo--you know the usual sort of thing people say, about him being ‘Mad Baggins’ and ‘cracked’. Well, he decided to get back at her by putting ink in her tea. Dyed her lips and teeth black, and took her *days* before it wore off." He started to chuckle, and Pippin to giggle, imagining it, which was even funnier now, for Cousin Laburnum had married a Chubb, and was now a most prim and proper matron, and, as Merry had heard his father say regretfully one day, one could hardly tell she’d a drop of Brandybuck in her now.

"Anyway, Grandda Rory found out what he’d done, and told Frodo he was going to apologize whether he wished or no. Well, Frodo wasn’t any more wanting to do it than I wanted to apologize to Amethyst, but Cousin Bilbo was in Brandy Hall visiting at the time, and he told Frodo he could put up with any number of insults--but what Frodo had done was worse, for an insult is gone as soon as spoken--" Pippin looked highly indignant at this, and Merry nodded, "--I know, but that *is* what he said--and that having her mouth blackened for nearly a week was, he said ‘over-kill’."

Pippin looked puzzled. "Over-kill?"

"I think it must be something he picked up on his Adventure. Frodo says it means that you can only kill something once, and to keep on doing things to it after it is dead is useless."

"Eew!" Pippin said, scrunching up his face in disgust.

"Yes. Well. I think in this case, he meant that Frodo gave her worse than she deserved. Anyway, you know if *Bilbo* said it, then of course Frodo would apologize, but he *still* didn’t mean it, so he waited in Grandda’s study, and they brought Labernum in, and he said he nearly ruined it by laughing, she looked so funny. But he thought of a way to say he was sorry and still be truthful about the matter. He said, ‘I’m sorry I put ink in your tea, Laburnum,’ and then, inside his head, he said, ’I wish it had been dye in your bath. Green dye.’ Which, he said, he *did* mean, for it would have been a much better trick if he could have managed it. Anyway, he *sounded* sorry, and Grandda and Laburnum probably thought he meant it. But he said he was sure that Bilbo knew he didn’t, because Bilbo just rolled his eyes and chuckled."

Pippin giggled again. "So, if you had to say ‘sorry’ to Amethyst?"

"I would say, ‘I’m sorry I pulled your hair, Cousin Amethyst--’," with a dramatic flair that would have suited Cousin Bilbo (in the midst of telling a tale) well, Merry put the back of his hand to his forehead and dropped his voice to a tone that was appropriately serious and sad. When Pippin looked suitably impressed, the older lad grinned and added, "‘I wish I had put ink in your tea instead!’" He howled with laughter, and Pippin joined him.


Reggie finished making his report to Ferumbras, who nodded, satisfied.

"So, it’s as we thought all along, a pure accident."

"Yes, sir," Reggie replied. "I’ve proof enough. If any blame is to be laid, perhaps it lies with your mother herself, and maybe a *bit* with Begonia. But young Pearl had naught to do with it."

"I never really thought so; still, it is going to take at least two or three years for people to forget these circumstances. And we need to make Pearl’s innocence clear." Ferumbas thought privately that if he could do that, well, it might mean a delay in his plans, but he would still be able to carry them out. He had no intention of bearing the Thainship to his grave. But he had to make sure that Paladin did not realize what he planned--he was not going to have things ruined or further delayed by Paladin perhaps deciding to renounce his heirship. And he knew that even though Reggie would make an excellent Thain, the Tooks would never stand for someone as silly and air-headed as Hyacinth to be his Lady. He thought for a moment.

"Reggie, I believe the best way to handle this would be to bring everything forward this evening. We will have a little meeting here tonight. The Whitwell Tooks--all of them save the lad, who’s still abed--the Brandybucks, Frodo Baggins, Odovacar Bolger, Gundo Boffin, Hugo Proudfoot…" he continued, naming the various family representatives who had attended Lalia’s funeral, and who had not yet departed, about a dozen in all.


After luncheon, Frodo came to see how his two younger cousins were faring, and brought with him a board game. A complicated game called "Miggle", it could be played by as few as two or as many as four hobbits. Each player had sixteen flat disks of colored glass, which, by a series of moves they had to get to the opposite side of the board. The idea was to be the first to do so, while also trying to block your opponents from doing the same thing. Frodo was a pretty good player. Merry was brilliant at the game, and nearly always won. Pippin had just learned to play Miggle, and as a result was given the beginner’s privilege of three extra moves at the start.

Frodo took the blue tokens, Merry yellow, and Pippin red. Since Pippin was allowed to get out of the bed, Frodo spread a blanket on the floor, and they sprawled there as they played.

With his three "free" moves, Pippin at first had an advantage. Frodo, who was often soft-hearted when it came to playing with his younger cousins, did not press his advantage with Pippin, but this put him in conflict with Merry.

Merry retaliated immediately. The young Brandybuck took games very seriously, and gave no quarter, nor expected any; and it was not long before Frodo good-naturedly had to quit the field. Merry and Pippin played on to the foregone conclusion, but even as Merry was winning, he was explaining his moves to Pippin, and telling him how to counter them the next time. Pippin took his loss with his usual cheerfulness, and they set to playing again. This time, both Frodo and Pippin gave Merry more of a challenge, and he was hard- pressed, though he still won in the end.


In the outer room, Paladin and Saradoc and their wives were having a pleasant visit; Pimpernel and Pervinca had gone to the Aunties’ apartment to have luncheon with Pearl, and probably would not be back until teatime.

Just then there was a knock on the door, and Paladin called out. "Come in!"

It was one of the servants, with a message for Paladin. There was one for Saradoc and for Frodo, as well.

Paladin opened his, and his eyebrows rose. "Well, well, well. We are summoned to the Thain’s apartment this evening. All of us, including Pearl. It seems Ferumbras wishes to put our minds at rest concerning the death of his mother."


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