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A Mother's Work  by Dreamflower

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Pearl is seventeen (11 in Man-years), Pimpernel is 13 (8 in Man-years) Pervinca is seven (4 ½ in Man-years) and Pippin is two and a half (about 16 months in Man-years) Eglantine finds herself counting each and every one of those years...



Eglantine rolled her eyes, and looking up from her task of changing Pippin’s nappy yet again (why *had* Paladin allowed the baby to eat all those fresh plums, anyway? *He* ought to be the one changing *these* nappies!) called out “What is it now, Pimmie?”

“Pervinca has my new doll!”

Vinca darted into the room, past her protesting sister, and holding the new doll precariously by one arm. “Pimmie wasn’t sharing!”

“Pervinca Took, give the doll back to your sister. It is her new birthday present from the Aunties. And be careful with it. If you break it, I will make you explain to Aunt Primrose what you did.”

Vinca’s eyes grew wide with horror, and she handed the doll back to her sister quickly. She certainly did not want to have to tell Aunt Primrose about her misbehavior.

She walked over to her baby brother. “He smells bad.” She wrinkled up her nose.

Eglantine looked at her daughter with amusement. “He smells no worse than you did when I had to change *your* nappies!”

Vinca made a face. “Ew!” Pimpernel was solicitously looking over her doll, making sure that nothing had been marred.

Pippin all clean and changed now giggled and reached for his mother, who picked him up. He laughed, and it made his sisters laugh as well--his good cheer was infectious. From his mother’s arms, he reached down to Pervinca, trying to grasp her curls, but with the quickness born of experience, she ducked her head, and reached her hand up instead.

Just then there was a call from the direction of the kitchen. “Mistress Eglantine!”

Eglantine’s brow rose in surprise; their cook, Buttercup, sounded distressed. She headed quickly for the kitchen, with Pippin in her arms and her two younger daughters at her heels.

There was a smell of scorching, and she entered to find Pearl in tears, and Buttercup, the cook looking distressed. “I’m so sorry Mistress,” said Buttercup, sounding forlorn. She pointed at the cake on the table, sadly fallen in the middle, and shrugged, as Pearl indicated a pot of scorched stew.

Pearl sniffed. “It’s my fault, Mother! I was supposed to keep watch on the stew! Buttercup told me to move it off the fire as soon as it started to boil, but she was getting the cake out of the oven…”

Pimpernel gave a little shriek. “My birthday cake! It’s ruined!” She looked at Eglantine. “Mother! What will we do?”

Eglantine shook her head. “First things first. Pearl, I know you didn’t mean to scorch the stew. We’ll have something else for luncheon. Take your little brother. Pimmie don’t worry about the cake; you lasses go with your sister now. Pearl take them out to play--I’ll call you when luncheon is ready.”

They left reluctantly, Pearl still sniffing, and Pimmie still bemoaning the state of her birthday cake.

Buttercup was shaking her head. “I’m ever so sorry, Mistress! I was just taking the cake out of the oven, and I had to put it down quicklike, and it just fell.” She looked very distressed--she was an excellent cook, and she never had disasters like this, not in all the time she had worked for the Tooks.

“Pearl was wool-gathering again, wasn’t she?”

“She’s at that age, Mistress--not too far off from being a tween.”

“Well, I don’t suppose she’ll be doing that in the kitchen again. I‘m sure she‘s learned her lesson.” A young hobbit would take spoiling food hard. Eglantine shook her head at the smell in the pot. “How’s the larder? Can we make a cold luncheon?”

“Yes, ma’am. There’s some ham. And a nice bit of Michel Delving cheese. And I baked extra bread this morning, what with the guests coming for tea. And I brought in some greens from the garden this morning; rocket and lettuce and some carrots--I could make a salad…”

Eglantine nodded. Luncheon would be just fine. “Well, we’ll whip up some cream, and get out the brambleberry preserves and no one will be able to tell that the cake fell.”

Just then Pervinca came darting into the kitchen. “Mother--do we have any more clean nappies? Pippin’s stinky again!”

There were indeed a couple of clean nappies still on the line, fortunately.

Pippin was cleaned up once more. Eglantine took the metal bucket full of soiled nappies out to the laundry shed. But she did not have time to tackle laundry today. But she was going to *have* to see to some of those nappies. She lit the boiler, and Pearl and Pimpernel went to the pump with buckets. Plums!

Pervinca entertained Pippin in the back garden as Eglantine, Pearl and Pimpernel saw to washing and hanging a couple of dozen clean nappies. It was a clear warm day in early autumn--it should not take them long to dry in the sunshine.

As Paladin came up from the barns, where they had been seeing to the last of the harvest, he looked in surprise at the activity. “Laundry? But it’s not Sunday!”

The glare he received from his wife startled him. What had he done wrong now?

“Lasses!” called Eglantine, “take your little brother in and watch him for a while. It’s almost time for luncheon.”

Oh dear! thought Paladin. I *did* do something wrong.

As soon as the children had vanished, she turned to him sternly. “Paladin Took, why in all Middle-earth did you allow Pippin to eat all those plums?

He blinked. “Tina, he *loves* plums! He was having so much fun eating them…”

“And it never occurred to you to wonder about his digestion?”

“But…” Oh. He looked at the nappies hanging on the line. Oh dear.

“After luncheon, *you* will watch after Pippin for a while! I have to help Pimpernel get ready for our guests and prepare her presents! Primrose and Peridot and Ferdinand and his children will all be here before tea. Sparrow will see to anything that still needs doing in the barn!” Sparrow Tunnelly was their farmhand, and Buttercup‘s younger brother.

Just then they were interrupted by a shriek of rage, and the lasses’ cry of “Moootherrr!”

Shaking her head, she headed inside, with Paladin at her heels.

The shouting was coming from the lasses’ room. They could hear Pimpernel yelling at Pippin, and Pippin’s wails.

“What is going on?” said Eglantine crossly, as they entered the room.

“Look!” said Pimpernel. “They’re ruined!” She held out a soggy handful of what had once been bright hair-ribbons, the gift she had the day before from Pearl. The colors had run together, and they were indeed ruined.

Pearl was holding Pippin, whose face was a riot of color: all round his mouth, blue, yellow, pink and green. Seeing his parents, he stopped his tears, and grinned at them. His usually pearly teeth were purple, as was his tongue.

“He got hold of Pimmie’s hair-ribbons, Mother! And then he *sucked* on them!” said Pervinca, in the smug tone of an older sister telling on a younger brother.

“So I see,” said Eglantine dryly.


Luncheon had been a rather quiet affair, except for Pippin who played with his slice of ham as much as he ate, and then sat in his high chair singing wordless nonsense. His face, though well-scrubbed, still bore traces of yellow and pink and blue. But the lasses were subdued, and Paladin was treading warily, lest he raise his wife’s ire. Now that it had been brought to his attention, he should have realized that it was not a good idea to allow the baby to eat his fill of fresh plums.

When they had finished eating, Eglantine said, “Now Paladin, Pimpernel and I have some party business to attend to. So you can watch over the others for me for a while.”

Paladin gave her a look, which she returned cooly, but he did not argue.

“Pimmie, dear, come with me.” Eglantine led her middle daughter away.

Pimpernel followed her mother into her parents’ room and went over to sit on their bed, where Eglantine had placed the mathoms that the two of them had selected the day before.

“Now,” said Eglantine, “we’ll put aside the things you have to send to Brandy Hall and Bag End. There were bookmarks for cousins Bilbo and Frodo, and a picture Pimmie had drawn for Uncle Sara and Aunt Esme, and a little story she had written for Merry. Eglantine would see to getting them in the post later.

They looked at the other presents chosen for the family members who would be there that evening: a small vase for Aunt Primrose; a handkerchief for Aunt Peridot; a small leaf pouch for Uncle Ferdinand. For Cousin Ferdi, a small leather ball, and for Cousin Donnabella, a small carved box.

She’d found a string of blue glass beads for Pearl, and one of her own lace collars for Pervinca. For Pippin there was a small box of wooden blocks which she had outgrown. And for her father, she and her mother had agreed on a nice scarf of green wool.

“Now, Pimmie, you can help me wrap them,” Eglantine went to the lower drawer and drew out the lengths of fabric scraps that she kept for such purpose along with some inexpensive ribbons for tying the packages up with. The two sat there and began to wrap the gifts in a companionable silence. After a few moments, Eglantine smiled at her. “You know, just about this exact time, thirteen years ago, Mistress Poppy and I were welcoming you into the world.”

Pimpernel’s eyes grew wide. “Really, Mother?”

“Yes, lambkin.” She gave Pimpernel a brief hug.

“Mother? Did--did I hurt you much? I remember, Pippin hurt you a lot. It was scary. Was it just because he was a lad?”

Eglantine looked startled at the question, and then, putting an arm around Pimpernel, drew her close. “All babies hurt their mothers some when they are being born. But it is quite worth it to have our very own new little one to love. As to Pippin, he did not hurt me any more than you lasses did, though it was for longer. We were trying to keep him from being born, you see, for it was too early. But he was ready then, and no stopping him.”

“I’m glad he was all right, Mother, even if he does slobber on my ribbons and make messes. I love him.” She gave her mother another hug. “And I love you, too! I’m glad that you had me.”

“Why, so am I, dearling, so am I.”

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