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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower


Hyacinth looked about her in disdain at the dismal room she had been given upon her arrival--so unexpected--last spring. How humiliating that had been, having to throw herself on her brother’s mercy in such a way, under the imperious and haughty gaze of Paladin’s sister Primrose, who had escorted her there. Primrose, whose untimely arrival all those years ago had foiled her greatest opportunity.

Merry had not waited while Frodo and Cousin Primrose were speaking to Cousin Hyacinth. He was not fond of the latter, anyway, and did not want to talk to her, lest she bring up what he had done to Amethyst.

He went on in to Pippin’s room; the shaft of light from the open door showed that his little cousin was sleeping peacefully. As he went over to the chair, he stepped on something soft. Reaching down he realized it was the cushion that was usually *in* the chair. He gave a snort of disgust. Hyacinth had probably been sleeping, herself, and had jumped up quickly when the knock at the door had disturbed her, causing her to dump the cushion on the floor. He picked it up and placed it back on the chair before he sat down next to Pippin.

It was such a relief to have all that nonsense about Pearl behind them. And if Pippin could rest through the night, then soon he’d be better, too. He wondered if his little cousin would be allowed to return to Brandy Hall to finish their interrupted visit. He hoped so--they had made so many plans for fishing and boating and swimming and pranking. He wondered what his chances were of coaxing Frodo for a visit as well. Probably not good, since Frodo had all the responsibility of Bag End now, and being Head of the Bagginses, and the Sackville-Bagginses to deal with on top of it all. And of course, it wasn't Frodo's usual time of year to visit anyway. But Merry worried--last year, after Bilbo had vanished--and wouldn't Merry have liked to catch him out with that clever ring of his--Frodo had not come for his autumn visit at all. What if he didn't come this year either? He wouldn't see Frodo again until Yule.

Merry relaxed, and let his mind drift; he was at the edge of drowsing himself, but he did not actually fall asleep. After a time he heard more voices in the outer room--the rest of the family had returned. He sat forward, and checked Pippin, who had not moved at all. That alone would have been enough for Merry to know the lad had been given a sleeping draught, for normally Pippin was a restless sleeper, tossing and turning. When Pippin crawled into Merry’s bed--which he did often enough--it was all sharp little knees and elbows in Merry’s back, and more than once a little hand flung out had rapped him in the nose.

The door opened a crack.

"Merry?" It was Esmeralda’s voice. "Son, your Aunt Tina says if you wish to stay with Pippin tonight, you may sleep in the bed with him. Since he’s been dosed, there’s no need for you to sit in the chair all night."

"Thanks, Mum. I think I will."

"Do you want me to bring you your nightshirt?"

"No, I’ll just sleep in my smallclothes tonight."

She came into the room. "Very well, son." She dropped a kiss on top of his head. "I shall see you in the morning, then."

In the sitting room, the others were talking over the events of the evening. Paladin and Eglantine were most pleased with the way things had turned out, although they wished, of course, that Pearl had never been exposed to the malicious gossip in the first place.

Pearl sat quietly as they talked, running the necklace back and forth between her hands, a troubled look upon her face. Finally she said, "But Mother, what am I to do with *these*?" She held the offending jewelry out with a look of distaste. "I know that they are costly and they are pretty enough. If I had come by them in any other way, I suppose that I would have been delighted. But now--" She stopped abruptly.

Eglantine leaned forward and placed a hand on her daughter’s arm. "Yet, you know, it is a gift and not to be refused. And if you never wear it, I am afraid that some will see that as the sign of a guilty conscience."

Primrose chuckled. "Pearl, my dear, my advice is that however much you may mislike it, you should wear them openly and obviously for a few weeks, so that all know you‘ve nothing to hide. After that put them away, and wear them only when you come here and will have to see Cousin Ferumbras--there’s no need to offend him. And in a year or two, there should be no reason that you cannot pass them on to someone else as a  mathom. If you can find no use for them, I am quite certain that you’ve a number of other cousins who would be thrilled."

Pearl smiled at her aunt’s wise advice, and then looked at her mother, who also smiled and gave a tiny nod. "Well, thank you, Auntie Prim! That’s very good advice--you are the wisest of aunts!"

Esmeralda laughed. "And what does that make me, my dear?"

Pearl blushed. "Oh, you know what I meant, Aunt Esme!"

"Indeed I do. And I happen to agree with your assessment of my oldest sister!"

Near the hearth, Paladin stood with Saradoc and Frodo, comfortably smoking their pipes as they talked quietly among themselves.

"I think," said Saradoc, "that tomorrow I must return to Buckland."

"Uncle Sara!" protested Frodo, "surely you won’t take Merry away now?"

Saradoc shook his head. "No, Esme and Merry will stay here until Pippin’s feeling better. Won’t you allow Pippin to come and finish his visit to Buckland, Paladin?"

Paladin drew on his pipe, and blew a small smoke ring. "I think that can be arranged. I know how disappointed he would be not to go back to Brandy Hall and finish his visit. We’ll meet here again at Lithe, the way we usually do."

Frodo raised a brow. "Paladin, I am surprised that you would consider coming back here so soon, after all that has occurred."

"Well, I’d rather not, to tell the truth. But I feel the need to keep an eye on Ferumbras. I’ve had the feeling more than once since I have been here that he has something planned which I might not approve of. And it would not do to give any further occasion for talk so far as Pearl is concerned. If we don‘t return for the holiday, it will seem as though we‘ve something to hide after all."

Saradoc nodded agreement at this sentiment, and then suppressed a yawn. "I am rather tired. If I am to leave tomorrow, I need to get some rest." He looked over at his wife. "Esme, dear, do you not think we should retire, and leave our kin to their own rest?"

"Very well," she said, rising to take her leave.



Reggie jumped at Hyacinth’s shrill tone. He had hoped to slip in and retire before Hyacinth even knew he was back. No such luck.

"What is it?" he asked wearily.

"What’s this I hear about some kind of investigation you did?"

She confronted him as she was still tying on her dressing gown, her fingers pulling the ties more tightly than was her custom. She did not look him in the face.

"You said nothing of it to me!"

He made his voice as expressionless as he could. "Cousin Ferumbras asked me to look into the circumstances of his mother’s death. I did so." He allowed himself the tiniest of smiles. "I had no idea that such a thing would be of interest to you," he lied.

"Why, of course I would be interested in such a thing, when it could possibly affect the succession of the Thainship!" Her eyes bulged out, and her face was quite red, and her voice rose an octave or two on the last word.

"I cannot imagine why you would think that this would have anything to do with the succession at all. There is no reason it should." He gave her a bland and puzzled look, daring her to say what he had suspected. He had no way to prove it, but he was sure that all the talk against Pearl had originated right here with his wife.

"Well, at any rate, I should think you would have told me!" She knew she could not say much more without giving herself away, and she was still a bit shaken by the events of the evening. If she had actually started to do--what she’d thought about doing--and been interrupted by Primrose--such a close call was more than a bit frightening. She shoved the thought out of her mind. If *anyone* should ever find out that she had even considered such a thing... She would just put it out of her thoughts and never ever run such a risk again.

"I am quite tired now, Hyacinth. Good night!" Reggie headed for his own room, surprised that Hyacinth seemed to be letting him off easily. Perhaps she had reason to feel guilty, he thought. If she’d been the one to slander Pearl, she ought to, though he thought her reaction was more likely to arise from chagrin at the failure of her scheme.

He smiled to himself as he got into his nightshirt, blew out the candle, and slipped into his bed.

He did not often have the satisfaction of putting one over on his overbearing wife. It made it all the sweeter when he did.

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