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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower


Euphorbia’s voice, calling her from the front of the cottage, was for once not unwelcome--distracting her as it did, from the unwanted memories.

After second breakfast, Merry returned to his parents’ guest quarters to get dressed. He wanted a chance to say farewell to his father, in any event. Pippin was going to get dressed also, and would finally be able to be up and about the Smials, though he’d not be allowed to go outside quite yet.

Esmeralda said farewell to her husband there at the apartment, and then Merry walked with Saradoc to the stables, where the Master had the loan of a riding pony for his return to Buckland. Merry, his mother and Pippin would take the carriage and follow along as soon as the healer had given permission for Pippin to travel--a day or two at most, Saradoc hoped.

While they waited for the groom to saddle the pony, Saradoc took the opportunity to have a quiet word with his son.

"Merry, because of what happened with Pippin and Pearl, most of your punishment was delayed.’ He held up a restraining hand as Merry opened his mouth to speak, and continued. ‘I do not wish you to answer me, but rather for you to think on this, between now and the time you leave here. You have a choice: You may yet make that apology to young Amethyst, in which case your punishment will be considered done, or when you arrive home you may spend a week in the kitchen, scrubbing pots. The decision is entirely yours, and if you decide to apologize, I will take your word for it that you have done so."

Merry bit his lip, and looked away, not meeting his father's eyes, before looking up with an uncertain smile. A couple of years ago, his father had realized that the common punishment for lads at Brandy Hall--mucking out the stables--was not particularly onerous to Merry. Merry loved spending time in the stables with the grooms and the ponies, and considered a bit of mucking out to be a fair exchange for the opportunity. So his father began to assign him to kitchen duty--the punishment usually allotted to lasses. The change was fairly effective, and Merry cut back drastically on pranks and other misbehaviors.

Still, he made no further objection, but nodded and said simply, "Thank you, Da."

Saradoc gave him a brief embrace; Merry hugged his father back tightly, taking in the smell of pipe-weed and wool. Then he stepped back and watched his father mount and ride off.

Saradoc looked back for a moment to call, "I’ll see you in a few days, son!"

Merry waved, watching until his father was out of sight, and then he headed back to the Great Smials. He wondered if he would apologize to Amethyst. In spite of what Frodo had said, the idea still did not sit well with him.


Hyacinth was extremely cross that morning. The memory of what she considered to be Reggie’s betrayal, in seeing that Pearl was exonerated of any wrongdoing in regards to Lalia, still rankled.

And she had missed a chance to berate the Brandybuck brat. She did not particularly wish to see him, or the Baggins right now. She wished a bit more distance between herself and the events of the last night, before she faced any of Peregrin’s family. Though she had gone a fair way towards convincing herself that *it* never would have happened, that moment of picking up the cushion still kept returning to her mind.

Now, in the cold light of day, she realized it would have been a disaster, and she never could have proved that she’d had nothing to do with it. Whoever came to relieve her of her watch over the child would have realized what was amiss, and she’d not have been free of suspicion for the rest of her life, whether anyone realized the exact truth or not. And unlike Pearl, she’d have no convenient witnesses to prove her guiltless.

Her daughters were getting on her nerves this morning as well. They had been quarrelsome since first breakfast, Garnet and Opal nearly coming to blows over a scarlet hair ribbon.

At least she would have them out of her hair after elevenses, for they were to go to their Aunt Miradonna for lessons, and on the days they had lessons they took luncheon with their aunt, so that Hyacinth could have a chance to recover her nerves. Perhaps she would have a gossip with Rosamunda Bolger, before the Bolgers took their leave to return to Budgeford.

She’d stop in after seeing her daughters to their lessons.


As Merry returned to the smial after seeing his father off, he occasionally passed a cousin or two, and gave a brief greeting. But suddenly he heard a shrill and unwelcome voice in the passageway. That was Cousin Hyacinth! Merry had not yet decided if he was going to apologize to her daughter, so he ducked around the corner to another corridor to avoid her.

She was escorting her three daughters, and was berating them loudly as they went. "I don’t know why I should have to put up with you!" she was saying. "This quarreling gives me a headache! Amethyst, I don’t know what use you are, when you cannot keep your younger sisters quiet!"

Merry caught a glimpse of the lasses’ miserable faces as they passed. He tried, and failed, to imagine his own mother or his Aunt Tina speaking to him that way. How dreadful! No wonder Amethyst was such a brat; she really could hardly help it with a mother like that.

As they disappeared down the hallway, Merry realized he had made up his mind. He’d give the dreaded apology. But he needed some support. He went to find Frodo.

Frodo was packing, as he intended to leave for Hobbiton after tea. Frodo liked walking at night under the stars, and unlike most of the guests at the Smials, he had arrived on foot.

"I wish you didn’t have to go yet, Frodo," said Merry wistfully. "We’re going to be here another two days at least. I was hoping we’d have some time together, now that all the unpleasantness is over with."

"I need to get back, Merry. I’ve responsibilities there now; you know that."

Merry sighed. "I know. I wish you weren’t the Master of Bag End. You never have much time for... for fun any more." Merry stopped. He had started to say "for me", but he knew, really that was not true. Frodo always found time for him.

Frodo smiled sadly. He sat down on the bed, and pulled Merry to sit next to him, giving him a hug. "I wish I weren’t Master of Bag End, either, Merry. It would mean Bilbo was still here."

"Oh, Frodo, I’m sorry!" Merry was stricken. He had not meant to remind Frodo of that loss.

They sat quietly for a moment, and then Merry said hesitantly, "Da said he would give me another chance to apologize to Amethyst." Merry paused briefly, and lowered his eyes. "Would you go with me?"

Frodo arched his brows in an expression of pleased surprise. He had hoped Merry would change his mind, but had not planned to push the issue. "Of course I will, Merry. But what made you change your mind?"

Merry sighed. "Cousin Hyacinth really is not a very kind mother, is she?"

"Ah," replied Frodo. "So you feel sorry for Amethyst, then?"

"Maybe a little."

"Do you want to go now and get it over with?"

"I don’t think they are at home right now." Merry explained the scene in the corridor.

"Well, I’m not leaving until sometime after tea, and as I’m walking, I don’t mind if we go right after tea to see them. Cousin Reggie will be at home by then as well, and it might be easier for you to face Amethyst when her father is there. In the meanwhile, why don’t you finish helping me pack, and then we’ll go see Pippin and have the afternoon together?"

The two of them, along with Merry’s mother, took luncheon with the Whitwell Tooks in their guest apartment. Pippin was in an especially silly mood, laughing wildly at Merry’s mildest jokes. Their mothers watched indulgently as the two lads chased about the front room a bit. Pippin had been confined to his bed long enough that he had energy to spare. Finally Frodo, with the help of Pimmie and Vinca, got both the younger lads down on the carpet, and began to tickle them mercilessly.

Thrashing about, Merry nearly upset the tea trolley that had held their luncheon, and Eglantine and Esmeralda called a halt to the horseplay. Pippin was breathless and flushed, and continued to break out in little bursts of giggles. Frodo, still sitting on the floor, took him on his lap, until he calmed a bit.

"Why don’t we go to the library?" the older cousin said. "Maybe I can find a new story to read to you."

So the three of them went to the library of the Great Smials. It was deserted this time of day. Frodo knew that he would not be finding any books of Elvish tales, such as he loved, there. But there were any number of volumes of Shire history to be found--there was one book, he recalled, that he’d not seen since a long ago midsummer visit with Bilbo, shortly after moving to Bag End. Pippin had been merely a faunt at the time, and Merry and his family had yet to arrive from Buckland, and Frodo had sought to while away the wait.

He glanced along the shelves--ah! there it was! He remembered that distinctive blue cover, which gleamed its invitation next to several bound volumes of the Yellowskin. He drew it down.

"Here," he said, opening the cover to show Merry and Pippin the first page. "The Journal of Ferumbold Took, 1147, Being an Account of the Great Battle of the Northfarthing, and the Deeds of Bandobras Took, Known as The Bullroarer. Ferumbold was a cousin of Bandobras, and accompanied him when he went to the Northfarthing."

The three of them sat down on one of the settees, Pippin comfortably snuggled up in Frodo’s lap, and Merry leaning into his older cousin’s side, and Frodo began to read.


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