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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower


Hyacinth dressed carefully, and then arranged her hair rather severely.

Her hair had always been her best feature, that and her eyes. There’d been a time when Reggie had delighted to take the hairpins out, one by one, slowly and languorously, dropping each of them on the floor as he gazed hungrily into her eyes. It had been difficult, rather unlike herself, to simper and giggle like a simple-minded fool, but that was what hobbits wanted, wasn’t it? Someone simple and trusting; when what they really *needed* was someone clear-headed, with a thought to the future. Hobbits were simpletons, really. Hyacinth, though it was not in her nature, had made herself sticky jam, a metaphor her mother had used more than once, when expounding on the topic of catching a husband. Oh yes, she’d stuck close to Reggie, and she’d caught him, too, and he’d actually loved her, the poor fool, licked her from his fingers...

She started at such thoughts, most improper they were, and tears came to her eyes as she viciously jabbed one of the hairpins home. Tears of anger, tears of frustration, most likely. It had all been within her grasp!*

Begonia looked miserable as she stood in front of all the assembled hobbits.

Reggie patted her on the shoulder. "Now, Begonia, you heard Miss Pearl’s story. Is that the way it happened?"

"Yes, sir." Her voice was little more than a whisper, so she repeated herself, this time too loudly. "Yes, sir!" She turned bright red, and ducked her head, abashed.

"Now, we heard that you told Mistress Lalia that the chair was unsafe?"

She nodded. "I did that, sir. Only a few days before, it set to rolling off by itself down the passage from the apartments to the dining hall, even though the brake had been set. Thain Ferumbras himself asked me to summon the wheelwright in from Tuckborough, to take a look at it."

"Did the wheelwright come?"

"Yes, sir." She blushed again.

"And what happened?"

"Well--he said the brake was worn, and weren’t connecting properly to," here she stumbled a little, not being familiar with the mysteries of machines, "er, the wheel when it was set sometimes and that he’d need to collect it up and take it back into town to work on it."

"But he did not do so?"

"No, sir. The Mistress wouldn’t allow it, as he said it might take up to a week to do the work. She didn’t want to be without it for that long. She was very cross with the wheelwright--she didn‘t seem to believe what he said."

Ferumbras looked up, startled. If he had known the chair had not been repaired--but no, he would no more have been able to persuade his mother than anyone else. Once she made her mind up, she only ever changed it for her own reasons. And not being able to get out of her room for a week would not sit well with her, no, not at all.

"So Mistress Lalia herself refused to have her chair repaired?"

"Yes, sir."

Reggie paused a moment, to let the fact sink in to the listener’s minds. When he saw young Merry’s mouth open in sudden shocked understanding, he nodded to himself and went on.

"What happened at the door?"

"Well, as Miss Pearl said, the Mistress got very upset. I did reach down to set the brake, but the way it was, it took a firm pull to get it to take at all. I was trying to do it proper, I really was, but with the way she kept moving about..." Begonia’s breath hitched a bit, but she continued bravely. "I think that was why Miss Pearl hesitated, knowing I needed to set it better. But there wasn‘t no time, sir." The old and faithful servant reached up to dash tears away from her eyes.

"Very well, Begonia, I think that we have heard all that we need. You may return to your seat."

She hesitated for a moment. "Mr. Reggie, sir?"

He looked at her in surprise.

"I just--well, I know as it’s not my place, but I just wanted to say as I think it’s not been right, what folks’ve been saying about Miss Pearl. Of all the lasses what come to stay with the Mistress, Miss Pearl was the kindest and most patient of them all, even when the Mistress was, well, not so kind and patient herself. She did all she could for the Mistress, in spite of everything. And she was ever so kind to me, sir, she was."

"Thank you very much, Begonia. That is indeed, good to know."

She bobbed her head, and with awkward dignity, made her way back to her chair at the back of the room.


Mistress Hollyhock and Rosamunda led the frightened mother-to-be into the room where Rosamunda and Odovocar had been staying.

"Let’s see if we can’t slow things down a bit, my dear. Mistress Bolger, if you could, bring some wine or brandy. Now, my child, we’ll have you lie down and put the pillows beneath your feet…" The healer was hopeful that they could perhaps get the contractions to stop. But if not, then they would prepare to help a new life into the world.

She spared a thought for her other young patient. There was no reason that he should wake, but she hoped if he did that he would not be startled to find someone else watching over him.


Hyacinth studied the sleeping child. There were things to think about. If she did anything, then she’d have to sit here and pretend she didn’t notice that he wasn’t merely sleeping. And what if he struggled? She shuddered again. What a disgusting thing that would be--and maybe it might take too much effort--and *that* might leave traces.

Yet here he was, under her hand, as though fate had given her a gift.

How could she not take advantage of it?

He stirred slightly, and she gave a start, but he soon relaxed again with a sigh.

She felt the cushion at her back, and took it into her lap, fondling it hesitantly. It was just a matter of nerve after all, she told herself. And no one would ever think her capable of having that much nerve. No one had any idea how much she hated this little... *brat*.


Primrose sat next to her sister’s bed, smoothing the grey curls away from the brow, so that they would not get damp from the cloth wrung with lavender water which she had just refreshed and laid across Peridot’s eyes.


"Yes, dear?"

"Do you suppose that Paladin and Tina found someone to watch little Pippin?"

"I am sure that they did, Peri. After all, even if all the family answered the Thain’s summons, they could always call a servant if necessary."

Peridot sighed. "I just find myself worried about the lad. We should have been there for him."

"Now, now!" reproached her sister, "I am sure that he is sleeping soundly, and does not care who is sitting by him. You must put such worries out of your mind, dearest, and let that tea do its work and send you off to sleep."

"Oh, I suppose you are right, Primmie, but still, I can’t get the poor child off my mind


Reggie turned to the Thain. "Thain Ferumbras, do you think that we have heard all that we need to hear?"

Ferumbras nodded. He was very pleased by Begonia’s spontaneous defense of young Pearl. It should go a very long way to dispelling the cloud hanging over the Whitwell Tooks.

His freedom was still within his grasp. He stood up.

"I believe that we now know beyond any doubt that not only was my mother’s death an unfortunate and ill-fated accident, but also one that those who cared for her had no hope of preventing. It has been a most distressing thing for Miss Pearl and her family, to have been subjected to such vile calumny and slander as has been spread about her in the last few days. Therefore, I wish to show that my confidence in her is fully restored."  He reached into an inside pocket of his jacket and brought forth a small box. "Miss Pearl, if you would please come up here for a moment."

Pearl had been leaning into her mother’s side, dry-eyed and weary. She gave a start at the sound of her name, and then looked at her mother. Eglantine nodded encouragingly, and so Pearl stepped up to where the Thain stood.

He handed her the box with a nervous smile. Of course this ought to make it up to her, he thought.

Curious, Pearl opened the box and lifted out the contents: a string of beautiful matched pearls, which had belonged to old Lalia. Suddenly, the numb hurt and despair which had hung over her the last few days was replaced by a sudden hot anger. How dare he think that *this* could make up for all she’d suffered? She felt a strong temptation to fling them back in his face.


Hyacinth felt her heart pounding with a fear she had never known before. How long would it take?

Her mouth was dry; she licked her lips and swallowed hard. If she dithered much longer she might lose her chance. She took a deep breath and raised the cushion.

Suddenly there was a knock at the outer door.


*Most all of this particular lovely "flash-forward" (as in all but the first sentence) was from my talented beta, Lindelea.

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