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A/N: Written for the Wee!Hobbits Community March Challenge.
“All in a Day’s Work”
“Hurry it up now, m’lad, daylight’s wasting!” Eglantine shooed her son to the washroom to shed his muddy clothing. “You’ve been making mud cakes again, haven’t you?”
Pippin nodded, a huge grin on his face. He pointed to his knitted piglet, tucked safely inside his shirt. “It was Tulip’s idea,” he confided and then giggled at her quick response. “Yes it was,” he whispered in her ear loudly enough for Eglantine to hear from across the big room. “You know it’s true.”
Pippin laughed again and his mother simply shook her head and busied herself gathering up the soiled clothing to wash. She paused to check the pockets of the trousers and frowned when her fingers brushed across something with a sharp edge. “Pippin,” she began, pulling out a rock that had a pointed tip. She reached inside again and dug out a number of odds and ends. Another stone, this one smooth and shiny, a penny, a broken yoyo, some bits of tangled string, a button from his shirt. Finally, with a frown of disgust, she extracted a half eaten biscuit and a brown apple core. Her eyes widened in shock and she held these two items out to her son. “You put an apple core in your pocket? Why?”
“Umm, I wasn’t quite finished with it.” Pippin looked down at the floor, rubbing his toes back and forth across the wood. He pulled Tulip from his shirt at the piglet’s snort of disapproval and plunked her on a shelf. “Well, you thought it was a good enough idea when I did it,” he told her with a sniff. “In case you wanted more later. Besides, it’s a perfectly good apple core and it only picked up a wee bit of lint,” he objected as he took the proffered item and brushed at it, “ and a few crumbs. See? Tulip said--”
“Och, for the love of…” Eglantine interrupted with another shake of her head. “Never mind.” She reached back in, this time making a face as she pulled out a sticky piece of toffee, holding it away from Pippin’s reach when he snatched for it.
“No. You may not have it back.” She batted his hand away. “Peregrin, do you want to get sick?”
“But Mum, that’s still good! I can wash it off and--” he stopped when he noticed his mother’s face beginning to flush. That was never a good sign.
Eglantine eyed the dusty and lint coated sweet with distaste as she pried it off her fingers and discarded it without further comment, and then continued her task. “There’s a hole, too,” she grumbled. “Why,” she felt around in the opposite pocket, eyes widening in dismay, “in both of them. Peregrin Took! These britches are practically new. Haven’t I told you a hundred times not to put sharp things into your pockets?” Pippin nodded, the sheepish little grin making her want to chuckle in spite of herself. “What am I going to do with you, lad?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to do with me”? He shrugged one shoulder carelessly, his response causing his mother to raise her brow and Tulip to scold him for his cheekiness.
“What I want you to do is finish taking off your dirty clothes and go have a wash before lunch!” Her voice rose slightly as she pointed to the door. “Straight away, now, whilst I put these things in some water to soak. And then, I’m going to show you how to mend your pockets so you’ll have a greater appreciation for the things I have to do when you disregard what I tell you.” She pointed at the door, “Now, march.”
Pippin shuffled past her muttering under his breath and reaching for Tulip on the way out. The hobbit lad in just his smallclothes, clutching a pink knitted piggy to his chest and grumbling in ill concealed consternation at his mother’s failure to understand him, gave Eglantine a hearty laugh as soon as he was out of earshot. “Oh my, what a wee scamp I have there,” she shook her head as she resumed her task, taking out a few more items, including two marbles, a handful of pebbles, and last of all, a grimy hair ribbon from his shirt pocket. She eyed the ribbon, puzzled, before dumping the handful of bits and pieces on the shelf next to the washtub.
Pippin continued down the hall at a leisurely pace, still holding a conversation with Tulip. As they debated the issue of the saved apple core, Pervinca rounded the corner and hurried toward them with purpose. Pippin immediately picked up his pace, suddenly motivated to make it to the privy in record time.
“Pippin! You stole my best hair ribbon, didn’t you!” she yelled as her brother streaked past. “Pippin!” The youngster reached his destination and slammed the door with a bang, leaving Pervinca with a scowl on her face and a determined look in her eye.
“Whew, that was close!” Pippin placed Tulip on the washstand while he tended to his business. “I know, I know. I shouldn’t have taken her ribbon. But I needed it because my string got all tangled up. Anyway, I was going to give it back. Besides, how was I supposed to know it was her best one?” Tulip told him that didn’t matter. And now Vinca would be on his tail until she got her own back at him for his mischief. And he should remember that she often got caught in the middle of their foolishness and didn’t like it one bit!
“Aww, I won’t let that happen, m’lass, I promise.” Pippin patted her head. “I’ll give it back. I can find something else to use to tie up my bag of marbles.” He frowned. “After I mend my silly pockets,” he muttered.
Tulip reminded him that was his own fault and he needn’t expect her to help! Still annoyed over the interruption in his plans, Pippin retorted, “Do you ever? Oof!” Tulip stamped her little knitted hoof on his shoulder in retaliation. He plucked her up and held her out in front of him. “What did you do that for? That wasn’t very nice, you know. What? I wasn’t the one being rude, you were!” Tulip begged to differ with him. Pippin sighed and decided not to argue. He hurried to finish washing his muddy hands and face.
“Let’s go get some clean clothes.” Pippin listened, ear to the door, then whispered, “I think it’s safe to go out now.” He cracked the door and made a beeline for his room.
“Pippin, lad – if you poke yourself one more time with that sharp needle you’re going to be so full of holes you’ll leak when you take a drink of water.” Eglantine patiently showed him again how to hold the pocket and insert the threaded needle. She rolled her eyes as her son huddled with the project in his lap, tongue poking out one side of his mouth, and practically cross-eyed with concentration. Tulip watched from her place on the side table, wincing in sympathy every time her lad pricked his fingers.
“OWW!” Pippin dropped both the needle and his britches and popped three fingers into his mouth.
Eglantine gently pulled his hand away and examined them. “Aye, you’re a wee hobbit pin cushion already, you are! Well, that’s enough of that for one day. Why don’t you take your piggy outside for some air? I’ll finish up mending your britches.”
Pippin nodded quickly, happy to be released from the disagreeable task. He snatched up Tulip and trotted for the door, turning to wave with a heartfelt “Thanks Mum,” and disappeared.
“Stay out of the mud,” his mother called after him. “And no more rocks in your pockets,” she sighed, retrieving her sewing and settling down to repair them herself.
Pippin headed out to the farmyard where Pimpernel was busy in the garden pulling weeds. “Do you want me to help, Nell?” His sister grinned and waved him towards her.
“Just whom I’ve been waiting for. Here, Pip. You can carry my basket into the kitchen for me. Put it on the table and I’ll be in to take care of it shortly.”
Pippin tucked Tulip into his shirt and grabbed the basket of assorted vegetables, trotting off towards the farmhouse. He made the mistake of going the long way round in order to peek underneath the steps by the woodshed to see if Dizzy was asleep in his favourite spot. A loud honk and the beating of a pair of large wings caught him totally by surprise and he swung around in a panic. Pansy was hot on his trail, half running, half flying in his direction, her great snapping bill ready for action, her glare one that meant business. What a time to be without his slingshot!
“Oh thunder, she must have some eggs under there today! Let’s go Tulip!” Pippin pressed her to his chest and ran as fast as his legs would carry him. If it hadn’t been for the basket he still clutched desperately at his side, he might have made it all the way to the door in time. A trail of carrots, onions, and potatoes were flung behind him as he fled the huge goose He finally reached the door and tore it open, then tripped over the threshold and fell on the basket, crunching it flat. Pippin yelped and Tulip squealed, and behind them Nell came running just as Pansy seized her opportunity and aimed straight for the frantic lad’s backside. Pippin tumbled inside the mudroom, catapulting Tulip out of his shirt and across the room, as he went skidding across the floor on his belly, bumping his chin on the edge of the door to the kitchen. The knitted piglet bounced once, flew up and spun head over hooves into the dustbin, squealing all the way.
“Are you all right, Pip?” Pimpernel knelt next to her brother after shooing the angry Pansy away, and pulled the shocked lad to his feet. Her mother and sisters appeared at the door then, followed by their cook.
“What’s all this racket about? Oh my, what happened?” Eglantine lifted her son into her arms and headed inside.
“Tuuuuliiiiip!” Pippin wailed, twisting around in his mother’s arms.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got her.” Pervinca pulled the toy out of the bin by her corkscrew tail and carried her held out in front, wrinkling her nose.
‘Don’t carry her like that! She doesn’t like it,” Pippin scolded her and grabbed for Tulip.
“She’s all dirty, and she needs a bath. And she smells bad, just like you,” Pervinca informed him, with all the self-assurance of an older sister as she dangled his toy just out of arm’s reach.
“Pervinca, give your brother his piggy,” Nell sighed.
Later on, and a little worse for the wear, but just as determined, Pippin managed to escape from the lasses that were overly concerned with his welfare. He headed outside again, this time looking for Periwinkle to see if he could help the cook’s assistant with the chickens. He rubbed crossly at the spot where Pansy had nipped him, but it wasn’t long before he was cheerful once more. Periwinkle had allowed him to gather all the eggs and then help her feed the chickens.
“After you’re finished raking out you can just spread some fresh straw around, Pippin, and that’ll be all. And thank you very much for being so sweet and wanting to help me!” Periwinkle laughed and ruffled his curls before picking up the egg basket and opening the gate.
“You’re welcome, Peri,” Pippin called out and waved, then went back to raking. He hummed a tune as he worked and was pleased with himself at last for finding a job he was good at.
He was almost done, but decided to fetch just one more armful of the sweet straw before declaring his task finished at last. Pippin leaned the rake up against the side of the chicken coop and moved away, failing to notice its slow tip. Before he could take more than two steps he heard a sickening thud followed by a loud squawk. Frozen in place, he forced himself to slowly turn around. To his utter horror, one of his mother’s prize fat hens lay under the rake handle, apparently knocked out cold. He drew a sharp breath and held it, but Ruby, the red hen, moved no more. Pippin pulled Tulip out of his shirt and stared at her. “Did you see that?” Tulip gave a high-pitched squeak of alarm; of course she had. He’d just managed to slay one of his mum’s favourite, and best laying hens! And it wasn’t even dinnertime…
Later that afternoon the downcast youngster sprawled in the grass beneath the oak that held his swing, his ever-present knitted friend perched on his shoulder trying to comfort him. He had failed at everything he’d tried today, even though he had given it his best effort. He studied his fingers, still sore from poking them with the sewing needle, and rubbed at the scratch on his forehead, received when he’d tried to encourage Lily to come back down from the tree. He had a scraped knee, a bruised shin, and a sore bum where Pansy had bit him. But all of that was nothing compared to his wounded dignity.
He’d made a mess of the mending, scattered his sister’s hard work in the garden all over the yard, not to mention destroying her basket by falling on it, and trampled his mother’s flower garden while trying to pull out some unrelenting weeds. Ones he’d discovered after the fact, were not weeds at all, but new seedlings placed there only the day before. He’d broken all the eggs, hit Dizzy with the pup’s own ball while playing fetch, scared Lily high up into the oak tree quite unintentionally, thrown Tulip into a rubbish bin…and to top it all off he had accidentally killed a prize chicken with a garden rake!
“Even you feel sorry for me,” he moaned, scratching behind Tulip’s ears. She responded by grunting and nuzzling his cheek. “Why can’t I do anything right?” Tulip’s heart melted and she hastened to remind him of all the things he had done well, but it seemed of little consolation to him. Pippin rolled over on his stomach, placed his face in the crook of his arm and began to sob. Distressed in the extreme, Tulip sat next to him patting his shoulder with her hoof and murmuring in his ear.
“Here now, what’s all this about?”
Pippin only cried harder at the sound of his father’s soothing voice. Paladin was on his way in from the fields and had no clue what a busy day his son had. “Pippin, what’s wrong, boy?” When he didn’t receive an answer he sat next to him and scooped the lad into his arms, rocking him back and forth until he calmed. Finally, he drew back and cupped the quivering chin in his hand, studying his face with concern. “What happened?”
Pippin burst into tears all over again and threw his arms around his father’s neck. “Daaa…” Pippin drew a great gulping breath and then the words came tumbling out nonstop, so fast that Paladin had difficulty understanding just what his son was trying to say. At last, the tears slowed and he had caught enough of his son’s distressed explanation to get the general idea of the problem.
“Ah, so my lad had a very difficult day then, I take it?” He felt the damp face nodding against his now equally damp shirt, and he smiled, pulling Pippin closer. “Well now, we all have days like that, m’lad. Not to worry. I guarantee you everything will look brighter in the morning.”
“But…but, I’m not good at anything! Everything I tried to do today turned out bad!” Pippin sniffed and wiped his face on his sleeve. Paladin withdrew a handkerchief and gave it to him.
“Now, I’ll just wager you’re exaggerating that, Pippin.”
“No, I’m not!”
“You had a very trying day, that’s all. We all do sometimes. No one’s going to hold what happened against you.”
“But Da – I killed Mum’s best chicken,” Pippin wailed.
“Aye, so you said.” Paladin rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Hmm. And what did your mother have to say about it?”
“We’re having chicken for supper,” the youngster wailed again.
Paladin laughed aloud and held his son close. “Ah, and so is the way of life on the farm, lad. You know that. Now dry your tears, eh? If all you’re worried about is finding a task you’ll be good at, then I’ve got just the thing in mind!”
Pippin drew back and sniffed, studying his father curiously. “What?”
“Well,” Paladin said, reaching down to scoop up Tulip and place her back inside his son’s shirt, “come with me and I’ll show you. It’s the same job I was given to do at around your age, and as I recall, I became quite expert at it.” Pippin took the hand he was offered and trotted along at his father’s side.
Several hours later Eglantine came out to tell them supper was being put on the table. She smiled at her beaming son as he looked up from his labor. “Why, it looks as though you’ve done a fine job cleaning all this tack, m’lad! Your father is going to be very pleased. Who showed you how to do it?”
Just then Paladin came around the corner of the barn, wiping his hands on a rag. “Da taught me,” Pippin declared with no small amount of pride. He ran to his father and put his arms around him and Paladin hoisted him up. “Da says I’m a natural. And I can help with cleaning the tack all the time.”
“Oh, is that so?” Eglantine chuckled. “Well, I’m certain everyone will be very happy to have your help, Pippin.”
“Oh, mercy yes! We can use all the help we can get. After all, there’s plenty of it to be tended to, isn’t there lad?” Paladin winked at his wife over Pippin’s shoulder. “Why, you’re going to be even better at it than I was at your age, I’m very sure.” Paladin put him down. “Now, go wash your hands and get Tulip and we’ll go in to supper. Hurry now, I’m as hungry as three grown hobbits tonight.”
“All right!” Pippin sprinted away.
“Ahem,” Paladin looked at his wife and grinned. “Is it really true we’re having chicken tonight, then?”
Eglantine threw her head back and laughed until the tears flowed.
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