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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower

CHAPTER 14

Hyacinth turned from the flowers, most artfully and tastefully arranged, just as Euphorbia entered the dining room

"Hyacinth, our guest will be here at any minute. You should go get cleaned up and make yourself presentable before he gets here."

"Yes, Euphorbia." She kept her eyes downcast. It wouldnít do to have her sister-in-law see the contempt in them.

"After all, it is quite an honor to have such a visit," said Euphorbia importantly.

"If you will excuse me then, Euphorbia, Iíll go wash and change my clothing."

_______________________________________

Frodo had needed to leave, for he had to get ready for the evening, and he wished to have a couple of words with a few other relatives beforehand. Merry and Pippin had watched him leave with regret. It was so frustrating now that Frodo was "of age", and had all those boring duties.

Pippin had begun to fidget again. He was sitting on the floor next to his bed, and Merry had already found it necessary to rebuke him twice for trying to rub his back against the edge of his bed.

"Pippin, stop that, or Iím going to have to call Aunt Tina in here. I know that has to hurt."

Pippin scrunched his little face up. "Yes it hurts--but it feels good anyway, for it *itches* so, Merry!"

"I know it does, Pip, but you are going to make it worse. Lean forward."

Pippin sighed, but did as Merry said.

Merry looked at Pippinís back in dismay. One of the areas where Pippin had broken the blisters had bled slightly, and the other places were inflamed. It looked as though they might be getting infected.

"Pippin, Iím going to *have* to tell your mother. This is really not looking as it should."

"Oh, Merry! Please donít call Mother! Iíll be good,; I wonít rub it any more, I promise!"

Merry shook his head. "Itís too late, Pip. Youíve already done yourself damage. Iím sorry, but I canít help it. Itís for your own good--and you know if I *donít* tell, they wonít let me stay with you."

Tears sprang to the green eyes. "I know, Merry. But Mother will call the healer again, I just know it."

"Thatís very likely, Pippin. But itís like taking your tonic. We have to do whatís best, and not what youíd like."

The younger hobbit swallowed, sniffled just a bit, and then wiped his eyes. "I know," he said with resignation.

Merry patted his head sympathetically, stood up, and went over to the door.

Frodo was still there, speaking with Paladin and Saradoc, his hand on the doorknob, lingering as they talked. Eglantine and Esmeralda were on the settee, heads bent over a bit of needlework they were discussing.

"Aunt Tina?"

Eglantineís head jerked up at Merryís concerned tone.

"What is it, Merry?"

"I think that some of the places on Pippinís back are infected. And heís horribly fidgety. Heís itching like mad."

His aunt sighed, and both she and Esmeralda got up and, came into the room with Merry. Pippin was still sitting on the floor. He had both hands balled up into fists and tucked under his knees, and he was leaning away from the bed. He looked up as they entered.

"Iím not scratching or rubbing, Mother! I promise!"

Eglantine went to him, and bent over. He gave a shudder as her hands lightly touched his back. "Your hands are cold, Mother!"

She sighed and shook her head. "No, dearest, your back is warm, especially around the areas where the blisters have broken." She turned and looked at Merry who stood next to his own mother, the both of them looking worried. "Merry, would you mind fetching Mistress Hollyhock? She will need to see this."

Esmeralda looked at her sister-in-law, her green eyes anxious. "Itís very nearly teatime. And afterwards we shall have to go to the Thainís apartment."

"I know," sighed Eglantine. "Primrose and Peridot should be bringing the lasses back for tea at any time. I shall ask them to stay with Pippin while the rest of us are gone to this Ďmeetingí."

_________________________________________

Mistress Hollyhock was busy in the herb bed in front of her cottage when Merry came pounding up.

"Mistress Hollyhock?" he puffed.

"Yes, Master Meriadoc?" She dropped her trowel in her basket and stood up, well aware that his haste meant something was wrong.

"My Aunt Eglantine would like you to come and look at Pippinís back again. She thinks that some of the places have become infected. And heís itching so dreadfully."

"Very well." She sighed with relief that it was nothing worse. "I need to wash my hands and fetch my satchel. Wonít you come in with me for a moment?. You seem a bit hot and out of breath yourself, young hobbit."

Merry was more than a little red in the face. "Well, I ran, didnít I?"

She shook her head, and clucked a bit. Younglings had no idea sometimes how dangerous summer heat could be.

Merry followed her into the cottage, looking about curiously at the front room, where racks of herbs hung to dry, and at the work table, where small bottles and jars were scattered, along with a mortar and pestle. A couple of large leather-bound herbals were open on the table, and he glanced at them with interest as they passed into the kitchen.

He saw that part of the kitchen was outfitted as a stillroom, and he looked with fascination at the copper apparatus. Mistress Hollyhock went over to the small pump at the sink in front of the window, and washed her hands. Then she went into her larder, coming out with a metal pitcher, beads of condensation on it. She took down two small glass tumblers and poured them full of a liquid that was of a clear pale green color. It had a tart minty, vinegary smell, and Merry made a small face.

"I donít need any tonic," he said.

She laughed. "It is not a tonic," she replied. "It is just something to drink. Itís very refreshing, and it is good for you. But the only herb in it is mint, and it is there for flavor only." She picked up one of the tumblers, and drank about half of it. Merry watched her for a moment, and then picked the other one up. His eyes widened in surprise as he took a sip, and then he quickly drank it down.

"It smells like what you gave Pippin the other night."

"It is. But that is because it is a very light and refreshing drink, and easy on the stomach, so someone who is dehydrated--" she paused, "Do you know what that means?"

He nodded. "It means theyíve not had enough to drink."

"Well, not precisely, but that is close enough to the meaning if one is not a healer. At any rate, it goes down well, and because it tastes good, the patient will be sure to drink plenty of it."

She finished what was in her own tumbler, and placed both of them in the empty dishpan. "Well, let us be off, and see to your young cousin, shall we?"

As they made their way through the passages to the apartment where the Whitwell Tooks stayed, Merry saw Cousin Hyacinth approaching, all three of her daughters in tow.

For a moment it looked as though she were going to stop and speak to Merry, but apparently changed her mind, and went by them with not so much as a nod. Amethyst on the other hand, stuck her tongue out as they passed, and the two younger girls giggled. Merry, however, remembered what Frodo had told him, and gave a sly smile. He could just *see* Amethyst with her mouth all black.

Eglantine took the healer straight into Pippinís room, and Merry followed. His mum was there sitting with Pippin, who was back in the bed and lying on his stomach again.

The healer needed only one look. She sighed. It had been too much to hope that an active child like Pippin would manage not to break the blisters, and of course once broken they were very prone to infection, even when care was taken. Actually, she was surprised that things were not worse.

She took out another bottle of lotion.

"Master Pippin," she said gently, "because the blisters are broken, this is going to smart rather badly."

"Itís going to sting?" he asked in a plaintive voice, craning over his shoulder.

"Iím afraid so."

He nodded, and scrunched his face up.

She took from her satchel a small parchment wrapped packet, and removed from it a cloth of boiled linen. She put some of the lotion on that and began to apply it.

"Aahh, Merry!" Pippin cried out, and Merry flew to his side, and allowed Pippin to squeeze his hands. "It burns!"

Merryís eyes teared up in sympathy, as the healer said, "There now, Master Pippin, the burning will soon ease off, and it will feel much better in just a minute or so."

The lad just gave a shuddering sigh, and gripped his cousinís hands harder.

Merry didnít notice his own tears, or even that his mother was stroking his curls.

__________________________________________

Hyacinth had turned her head to watch as the young Brandybuck, healer in tow, disappeared around a corner. Another problem with young Peregrin? she wondered. Perhaps after tea, sheíd pay a call, and find out what was going on, maybe under the pretext of insisting on an apology for the Brandybuck bratís assault on Amethyst the other day.

But tea first. And she meant to grill Reggie about what he had been up to the last day or so. He was being even more tight-lipped than usual, for some reason.

_______________________________________

In only a moment, the agony passed, and Pippin breathed a sigh of relief. The itching had stopped. It had been worth the pain to get the itching to stop.

Merry remained with Pippin, while Mistress Hollyhock and the mothers went back out into the other room, though they left the door open. Mistress Hollyhock was concerned about Pippinís sleeping through the night without scratching, and she wished to talk to the ladís parents about giving him a mild soporific. She did not usually give sleeping draughts to children, but she was worried that his entire back would become infected, and maybe even scar, if he rubbed or scratched it further.

"We have to attend on the Thain after tea," said Eglantine, "but his aunts will be here momentarily, and they will sit with him while we are gone. Will you not take tea with us?"

The healer nodded. "I would be pleased to, thank you, Mistress Took. If his aunts are to watch him in your absence, I should probably speak to them of my concerns as well."

Just then, the door opened. It was Pearl, accompanied by Pimpernel and Pervinca. There was no sign of the aunts.

Paladin looked at his eldest daughter. "Where are Primrose and Peridot?"

"Oh, Father," said Pearl, "Aunt Peri got one of her sick headaches, and Auntie Prim said she would have to stay and take care of her."





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